"Are you going to tell me what it is you're doing here?" my new chief asked.
Cop on the Edge, Episode 7M. Stanley Bubien
By His Own Logic
I dropped her dead cigarette into the wastebasket and slid into the chair. "You took me off homicide. I'm here to find out why."
She reached out to grab her cigarette pack from me, but I wasn't about to give it up---not after singeing my thumb-tip from snuffing her last one out---so I jammed them in my pants pocket.
"Okay mister," she said. "We'll play it your way. You take the role of oppressive male, and I'll be the submissive female, beaten down by your dominance."
Shrugging, I said, "I'm game for that."
She screwed her lips up. "I'm sure you are." Reaching into the desk drawer, she produced another pack, pulled a cigarette, lit it and blew the smoke in my direction. "But I'm not," she told me. "And I don't justify my orders to anyone."
Her breath reeked, drifting thickly toward me as she spoke, and I stood to get away from the stench, but it hung about me like so many flies on---
"You got me, Inspector?" she glared through the haze.
I sighed. The action caused the air to clear briefly and allowed me the opportunity to sniff the room's only pure oxygen into my lungs. Ah. A moment of clarity. It came and went in an instant, but it brought a realization---now was the time for me to change the subject.
"Seen any good detective movies lately?" I asked.
Smoke flared from her nostrils. "No. Why?"
"Well, there's this thing with detective movies these days. The murderer is always the least likely suspect. Just find the nicest one, or the one with the least motive, or one who's closest to the investigator, maybe his girlfriend or something. See? And bang!---you've got your man---or dame as the case may be."
She put her hands on waist. "Your point being?"
"The way I figure it, you're the one who took me off homicide for this arson investigation."
"So that makes you the least likely suspect."
She laughed aloud. "And therefore that makes me the criminal! Well, that's very entertaining, Inspector. Very entertaining. There's only one minor flaw in your otherwise perfect logic."
"You say I'm the least likely suspect?"
"That, then, makes me the most likely suspect."
I nodded again, slower this time as I started getting an idea where she was going with this.
"But! If I'm the most likely suspect, then---by your own logic---I can't be the one who committed the crime."
I sighed and shook my head. There's one thing about logic I've always hated. It's that, sooner or later, it's bound to come around and bite you in the butt.
Then again, she had a butt to bite too---lots of 'em.
I pulled her pack from my pocket. It was already crumbled, but I crushed it further, completely destroying the contents, and tossed it onto her desk before pushing my way out of her office.
Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, Usenet news, or ftp.