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  1. #1
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    Here is an ice skating mystery story from the Golden Skate archives. Match wits with Sherlock Holmes and bring the culprit to justice.

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    It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

    An A1 Skating Mystery

    Disclaimer: It is not my intention, in writing this story, to make fun of my favorite skaters.

    OK, it IS my intention to make fun of my favorite skaters.

    So, with due apologies to Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie,.....


    Chapter One. 21B Baker Street

    It was a grey and dismal morning. The dank London fog seemed to penetrate to the bone as I trudged up the 13 familiar steps to the front door at 21B Baker Street. I rapped sharply with my favorite walking stick -- a heavy brass-headed cudgel of the type once known as a Penang Lawyer back in those heady days of empire when I served Her Majesty in India. Immediately were my exertions rewarded by the pleasant face of Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of the establishment.

    “Ah, Dr. Watson,” the Goodwife exclaimed. “Tut, tut, and what do you mean, out in such weather without a hat! He has been asking after you all morning.”

    The good lady took my stick and greatcoat, and I showed myself into the sitting room of my old friend. The lanky frame of Mr. Sherlock Holmes was coiled into his upholstered chair. Wisps of pale smoke from his every-present opium pipe levitated above his head, mocking the fog outside.

    "There you are, Watson," he exclaimed testily. "I have been expecting you this morning."

    I have long since ceased being impressed at Holmes' uncanny ability to predict my every action. But in this case the explanation was quite simple. The Great Figure Skating Mystery had just broken in the Times of London that morning. Holmes, knowing of my passion for the sport, rightly anticipated the state of agitation into which the astonishing news had thrown me.

    “Dick Button Murdered,” blared the headline of the usually staid Times. “Figure Skating Guru Found Shot in His Country Home. Four Prominent Female Skaters Detained by Police.”

    “Well, Holmes,” I burst out. “Can you believe it? What do you make of this dreadful business?”

    Holmes took a long draw on his pipe.

    “I have only just glanced at the headlines, Watson,” said he. “I was counting on you to come round with the details. I’m sure that you have already formed a theory about the case?”

    Now as a matter of fact I had been thinking about some of the more baffling facts presented by the newspaper account. But I did not wish to give my friend the satisfaction of criticizing my methods so soon. So I simply replied:

    “There are some aspects of the case that need clarification. I had hoped that you might have found out something from your friends at Scotland Yard and Interpol.”

    “The case seems perfectly straightforward, my dear Watson,” was the reply. “I am certain that no further evidence will be required than what has been reported in the newspaper account. Thereafter simple deductive logic will lead us, I have no doubt, to the full truth of the matter.”

    My heart sank. Poor Sarah!

    “Well, read me the full story, Watson,” Holmes continued, “and we will see where we are.”

    I read from the headline story (twelve column inches, above the fold):

    “Police in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, responding to a telephone tip, arrived at the country home of Dick Button, two-time Olympic figure skating champion and long-time ABC television commentator, at 1:15 AM 29th April. Upon entering the premises they found Button, dressed in an outlandish costume and lying in a pool of blood, shot through the heart. Standing over the body, smoking gun in hand, was Olympic ladies gold medallist Sarah Hughes.

    “Upon examining the body, police discovered a message written in blood on the carpet, apparently by the dying man. The letters spelled out the name “Sarah,” and just below, “A1.“

    Holmes interrupted.

    “Highly significant, don’t you think, Watson? It’s the usual scenario. The poor fellow is gasping out his last, and just manages to summon the strength to oblige the police by writing the name of his killer. When he has finished, imagine his surprise to find himself not quite dead yet. So he decides to add a critique of her performance: ‘A1.’ As if to say, ‘Sarah, first rate! Sarah, simply the best!’ Very significant indeed. Pray, continue,” Holmes concluded with a chuckle.

    The Times report went on:

    “In a bizarre turn of events, after a thorough search of the house and grounds, three other young women prominent in the figure skating world were found hiding or attempting to flee. Russian Irina Slutskaya and Americans Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen were unable to give satisfactory accounts of their presence at the estate and were detained as material witnesses.

    “For background into a possible motive for the crime, the Times obtained the following statement from 1968 Olympic gold medallist Peggy Fleming, Button’s broadcast booth colleague. In response to the question, ‘Who could possibly have wanted to kill Dick Button in cold blood?’ Fleming replied:

    “’Everybody. I’ve been within two seconds of throttling him myself. All that yak, yak, yak, then he turns the microphone over to me to smooth it all over!’”

    Holmes closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his aquiline nose.

    “Hughes, Slutskaya, Kwan, Cohen,” he mused. “Gold, Silver, Bronze, and -- what’s the other thing, for fourth place?”

    “Pewter,” I replied.

    “Not so prestigious as the others, I believe,” mused Holmes.

    “True,” I offered. “But in this case it was the young lady’s first major international competition, and she acquitted herself quite respectably. Indeed, it was the bronze and silver winners who came away disappointed.”

    “How so?” my friend wanted to know.

    “Well,“ I explained, “the bronze medallist is a four time world champion who could not have been satisfied with anything less than the top prize. The second place winner came away believing herself to have been the victim of an illegal judging conspiracy. As you know, millions of dollars in commercial endorsement opportunities are at stake, even setting aside the “thrill of victory,” and all that.”

    “That is significant.” Holmes pondered for a moment and then asked. “And I suppose that the young ladies can try again in four years?”

    “Miss Hughes and Miss Cohen, at any rate,” I answered. “They are still in their teens.”

    Holmes drew on his pipe, nodding. For a moment I thought that he had drifted off to sleep. Suddenly he bolted upright and fixed me with a peculiar stare.

    “Well, Watson,” said he. “Don’t be modest now. I am sure that you have formed an opinion of the case. Some hunch or guess? Some Message from Beyond?”

    Holmes must have his little joke at my expense. It is well known, even to the general public, that the remarkable Mr. Sherlock Holmes never “guesses.” I can hear him now in my inner ear:

    “Observation and deduction, my dear Watson. Observation and deduction. I trust nothing less. I require nothing more.”

    Nonetheless, at that moment -- little suspecting then what would eventually come to light! -- I flattered myself that I had indeed made some headway in the case, and this without the assistance of the celebrated Mr. Holmes.

    “Well,” I began tentatively, “one thing seems clear to me. Miss Hughes is not the culprit.”

    “NOT the culprit?” Holmes raised his eyebrows. ”Miss Sarah ‘Smoking Gun’ Hughes, not the culprit?”

    “Certainly not,” I opined with growing confidence. “It is entirely too pat. The smoking gun, the name written in blood. It is obvious that she is being set up by the real killer. And don’t forget the phone call. Someone alerted the police just in time for the poor girl to be caught.”

    “Quite true,” Holmes mused. “And yet, Watson, we must never underestimate the cunning of the criminal mind. Could Miss Hughes have framed herself, expressly to obtain this very reaction? Is it possible that under that charming coltish exterior lurks an evil genius? Professor Moriarty in a sassy skirt? Don’t forget, this is a girl who aspires to a perfect 1600 on her SAT’s.”

    I found Holmes’ suggestion preposterous. But for the moment I said nothing further, hurrying on to the next point of my analysis:

    “Second, we certainly may cross the exquisite Miss Kwan off the list of suspects. Her moral character, her basic honesty, her friendly openness,...”

    “Her love of small children and animals,” Holmes interrupted, "her kind heart, her indomitable spirit, her spotless soul, the wonderful extension of her free leg on her inside-outside spiral. Yes, yes. All universally acknowledged. Off the list she goes!”

    Of course I knew that Holmes was mocking my infatuation. But how often are we privileged to see an angel from heaven walking amongst us! Oh! how could I have guessed how sorely my faith was about to be tested!

    I plowed doggedly forward: “That leaves the Russian girl, Miss Irina Slutskaya, and the third American, Miss Sasha Cohen. I have not worked out the details in my mind yet, Holmes. But I believe that there is some significance in the fact that Miss Cohen, too, is of Russian extraction.”

    “Quite so. Ukrainian actually,” said Holmes, “I congratulate you on your observation.”

    I never knew when Holmes spoke sincerely and when with sarcasm. But I took his words as encouragement.

    “My theory -- “ I was in full feather now “-- my theory -- we will call it the Russian Conspiracy Theory -- is that this whole affair is wrapped up somehow in the Olympic judging scandals. The late Mr. Button was a vocal and influential critic of bloc voting on the part of judges from the nations of the former Soviet Union. I’ll wager that we could crack this case like a walnut if we could get that French judge on the witness stand!”

    I sat down quickly after my outburst and mopped my brow with my handkerchief. Of course I realized that so far I had only the bare bones of a solution to the mystery. Holmes would certainly accuse me of letting my imagination gallop ahead of the facts. I spoke first, to head him off.

    “Of course,” I said calmly, “there is much more investigative work to be done.”

    Holmes templed his fingertips before him.

    “On the contrary, Watson,” he replied shortly. “We have before us at this moment all that we need to solve the case.”

    “I suppose, Holmes,” was my retort, “that this is your perennial boast that you can solve this mystery without ever leaving 21B Baker Street?”

    Holmes turned to his writing desk and took out a blank sheet of paper. I looked over his shoulder as he wrote, in a column:





    Then after these entries he wrote the names of the four suspects in order, Miss Hughes, Miss Slutskaya, Miss Kwan, and Miss Cohen. He folded the paper once and put it away in the pocket of his smoking jacket. Giving the jacket pocket a complacent tap, he turned back to me.

    “My dear Watson,” said Sherlock Holmes, “I have solved it already.”


    End of Chapter One.

    What is Holmes’ solution? If you KNOW (by observation and deduction, not by guessing), please don’t post a spoiler, but vote here. There are 5 more chapters to come.






  3. #3
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    Chapter 2: Irina

    Outside, it was a dark and stormy night. I tossed and turned in my bed, unable to find repose, mulling the strange case over in my mind. Sherlock Holmes had refused to say another word about it. Indeed, after his arrogant boast he had bustled me without ceremony out the door, telling me to think about the facts of the case and return on the morrow. He promised that he would have additional information for me to chew on by then. Immediately upon breaking my fast I hurried round.

    "Ah, Watson," Holmes greeted me. "Come into the parlour. Now that you have had a night to sleep on it, I have no doubt that you have reconstructed my line of reasoning and are prepared to second my conclusion in the Great First Rate Figure Skating Mystery."

    Of course he thought no such thing. And indeed, had not my friend proved his mettle on so many other occasions, I would have felt that he himself was now talking through his deerstalker.

    “Well, Watson,” he continued, “while you were tossing and turning I devoted my attention to a more useful task. I hacked into the police archives across the pond and downloaded transcripts of the statements given by the suspects.”

    (I must add parenthetically that although Mr. Sherlock Holmes is well over 150 years old, he keeps abreast of the times (I keep the other), and he scruples not a tittle about legal niceties when it comes to using the latest technology in his lifelong devotion to bringing scoundrels and blackguards to justice.)

    “Let us start with the statement of Miss Slutskaya,” Holmes went on. He passed the printout across the desk. “If you would just read aloud, we will see if any points particularly strike the ear.”

    The interview was three pages long. I include it here verbatim.


    Police Chief Alexander Rostropovich, Woonsocket, Rhode Island: “Ms. Slutskaya, please confirm for the record that you have been read and that you understand your Miranda rights, and that you have voluntarily waived your rights to be represented by an attorney and to be assisted by an interpreter.

    Ms. Irina Slutskaya: “Yes. What you said. Miranda rights. I have nothing to hide. Just don’t tell my husband. He is crazy jealous man. Crazy. OK? I co-operate with police, OK? We keep this just between secret police, yes?”

    AR: “We are only interested in the truth, Ms. Slutskaya. What you tell your husband is your own business. Just state now in your own words what happened on the night of April 28.”

    IS: “OK, so it is like this. I have just finished the Champions on Ice show in Boston. I skate pretty well. Double my triple flip, but is OK. Cotton-eyed Joe. Big applause.”

    AR: “Cotton-eyed Joe?”

    IS: “It is cowboy song. For my cowboy routine. Americans like it. Yippee-i-o-ki-ay, yes? Very patriotic. So then after the show I get in my car and drive to Rhode Island, to see Mr. Button. I already know the way. I get there about 1:00."

    AR: “And for what purpose were you visiting Mr. Button at this time of night.”

    IS: “Mr. Button, he says he will help me with my routine. There is too much Cossack in my cowboy. Mr. Button says come to his country house. Wear my cowboy outfit, bring my whip -- he was especially firm about the whip. He will teach me to play cowboy American style.”

    AR: “Let me be clear on this point, Ms. Slutskaya. Is it your testimony that you drove to the victim’s house on the night of the murder to 'play cowboy?'"

    IS: “Show business, Mr. Chief Policeman. In my country we call it ‘casting couch.’ Mr. Button, rich, powerful capitalist producer, he picks up telephone, calls Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezik -- voila! I am touring with Stars on Ice, make big money. My husband, he does not understand show business. He does not like America. Anyway, it is OK. Mr. Button is old man. He just wants to pinch my cheeks.”

    AR: “I see. And is this a common practice in the figure skating world. Do all the girls play the game?”

    IS: “Everyone except goody-goody Michelle Kwan. She sends bonsai tree.”

    AR: “Bonsai tree?”

    IS: “Bonsai. Japanese ornamental shrub. Like topiary. Only a tree. Small tree. Mr. Button is big-time gardener. Likes to grow roses. So Michelle sends him a bonsai tree. Gift. Mr. Button, he goes gaga, Michelle is this, Michelle is that, Michelle is so wonderful. Michelle, Michelle, Michelle!”

    AR: "I see. Well, what happened when you got to the house?"

    IS: “I ring the door bell. Mr. Button lets me in. I am still in my cowboy costume. Mr. Button, he is wearing cowboy costume also. Rhinestone vest. Cowboy leggings. Leggings, what American cowboys wear."

    AR: "Chaps, do you mean? Leather chaps over his trousers?"

    IS: "Chaps, yes. Fringed leather. I do not say so much about trousers."

    AR: "Do you mean...Oh, yes, I see from the report how the victim was dressed. Well, kindly proceed, Ms. Slutskaya. He met you at the door. Did you see anyone else about the house or grounds?"

    IS: "No, not then. Later comes Sarah. Sarah is last to skate in show. Gold medallist is last to skate. I should be next-to-last. But no. It must be Michelle Kwan. I drive fast."

    AR: "Just stick to what you saw and did, please, Ms. Slutskaya."

    IS: "So, we go into the study. Big desk. There is the stupid bonsai tree sitting on the desk in a stupid pot! Then I see the gun."

    AR: "Where was the revolver when you first saw it?"

    IS: "It lays on the desk. I do not touch it. I know nothing about guns. I know nothing about shooting. I have never touched a gun before."

    AR: "But you touched this one, didn't you."

    IS: "Maybe so later I accidentally brush against it.”

    AR: “I must warn you, Ms. Slutskaya, that any evasion of the truth will look very bad for you. What if I were to tell you that we have identified your fingerprints as among those on the revolver.”

    IS: “OK, so it is like this. Mr. Button, he has a cowboy rope. Lasso. Lariat. He must be tied up. He is bad man. He is Jesse James, yes? He must be punished for his crimes. Robbed trains. Shot 21 men. So I tie him up. He tells me what to do with the whip.”

    AR: “You mean he asked you to use your whip on him?”

    IS: “That, too. Then, anyway, I think then I pick up the gun. Bang, bang.”

    AR: “Do you mean that you fired?”

    IS: “No, no. I say ’bang, bang.’ It is funny play. Just then, it is loud knocking at the door. I do not know. I panic. It is my husband! He has followed me from Moscow! What do I do, you know?”

    AR: “And what did you do?”

    IS: “I am in panic. You do not know my husband. Crazy when he is jealous. Does not understand American ways. I do not know what to do. I run this way and that, I run to escape. No, it is a closet! Heavy door. I run into this closet. I hide. Squeeze down into a corner. Make myself small. I wait.”

    AR: “What happened then. What did you hear?”

    IS: “I hear nothing. I wait. Then I hear a sharp sound. A shot. Maybe like a gunshot, I don’t know. Maybe like a shot. Then more noise about the room, a door slams -- maybe back door, I do not know. More noise, confusion, sirens of police. I wait. Then police search, police find me. I am cool. I am, I say in French, nonchalant. I am fully dressed. I know nothing. I say nothing until now. I tell you because I trust you. I think you will help me, yes?”

    AR: “Telling the complete truth is what will help you, Irina. Do you have anything more to add to your statement? Any other details? Something more that you heard while you were in the closet?”

    IS: “No, I have told everything. I could not hear. I think I go home now, OK?”

    AR: “I’m afraid you will have to remain here for a while yet, Irina, until we complete our investigation.”

    IS: “So you will look out for me, yes, Sasha? I think you are a kind man. You will help me, yes, OK?”


    “Highly significant,” said Sherlock Holmes.

    Holmes had sat motionless with his eyes closed while I read the bizarre narrative aloud. Now he took a draw on his pipe and gazed up at the ceiling.

    “Tell me, Watson,” said he, “do you believe Miss Slutskaya’s unusual tale? Do you think that she might have omitted something perhaps?”

    “Like the fact that she killed Mr. Button, for instance!” I exclaimed. “Picture it like this, Holmes. Miss Slutskaya contrives to jolly up this powerful dotard in exchange for opportunities to advance her career. An old, if sordid, story. For a time the game proceeds without harm. But the gentleman becomes more insistent, more aggressive in his demands. The lady becomes frightened, she panics, she grabs up the gun which she has noticed earlier, and -- seeing no other way to defend her honour -- shots the old fool through the heart.

    “Now she returns to her senses. Hoping to cast blame elsewhere she seizes the dead man’s chill hand and traces out, with his own stiffening fingers and in his own congealing blood, the name “Sarah.” Sarah Hughes! the sixteen year old upstart who, in Miss Slutskaya’s estimation, had cheated her out of the gold medal and all of its attendant fame and riches. Delicious revenge for the hot-blooded Slavic woman.

    “Alas, now it is too late to make a getaway. Someone is at the door. The police have arrived. She attempts to hide. She is discovered, thanks to the quick and thorough search by Chief Rostropovich, and the game, so briefly afoot, is up!”

    “Interesting,” replied Holmes, “although I doubt that in those few seconds Mr. Button‘s hand had grown chill or his fingers stiff, or that his blood had congealed. However, let me call your attention to one detail. Miss Slutskaya is a strong, young athlete in peak physical condition. The victim was a man old enough to be her grandfather, still recovering from a serious head injury -- evidently it affected his brain more than we knew -- and he was bound hand and foot. I would not imagine that Ms. Slutskaya at any time felt that she was losing control of the situation.”

    I paused only for a moment.

    “An accident, then,” I improvised. “She is playing cowboy, she picks up the gun in jest. The lady being inexperienced with firearms, the revolver discharges. A dreadful accident. Miss Slutskaya flees to the closet, just as ANOTHER PLAYER enters upon the scene. The newcomer, seizing the day, writes the condemning “SARAH,” then herself escapes through the back door, even as the police arrive at the front!”

    “Indeed,” mused Holmes, “indeed. Well, Watson, I admire the fertility of your imagination. So now all we need to do is identify your sinister “other player.”

    A shudder of dread rippled through me. Could it be? Had my emotions overruled my intellect, preventing me from seeing the unwelcome truth?

    Sherlock Holmes now passed over a new packet of printouts. The first proved to be the forensic report on the firearm. According to the report the victim had been killed by a single shot from the revolver that had been recovered at the scene. The piece had been dusted for fingerprints. Four clean sets had been found, together with some smudges that police experts ascribed to the gun having been handled by a fifth person, who had worn gloves.

    The prints had been positively matched. They belonged to: Mr. Richard Button, the victim; Ms. Irina Slutskaya, who had already admitted to having touched the weapon; Ms. Sarah Hughes, who had been apprehended by the police holding said weapon in her hand. And the fourth set -- my mind knew it though my heart rebelled -- Ms. Michelle Kwan!

    The second and third documents were worse: a record of purchase of the weapon, a very distinctive Colt 45, dated November 18, 2001, from a Los Angeles gun dealer, and an application for a license to own a firearm, issued by the State of California in the county of Los Angeles, dated November 1, 2001. And both issued in the name:



    End of Chapter two.

    Does Dr. Watson’s theory hold water? Did Slutskaya kill the victim by accident, followed by an attempt on the part of “someone” to frame Hughes? Is Hughes as innocent as supposed? We haven’t heard from Cohen yet.

    Tune in next week for Chapter 3 -- Michelle’s Story.

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    Chapter 3: Michelle

    Feeling a need to fortify myself for what I dreaded was to come, I walked to the cabinet and poured myself a stiff shot of Irish whiskey, Holmes remaining content with his pipe. I had once tried to wean my friend from his addiction, by gradually reducing the strength of his poison from a seven per cent solution down to one. But the cruel poppy would not relinquish its fiendish grip.

    "Well, Holmes," I said, "I am prepared to hear the worst."

    Holmes passed over the next document. Sure enough, it was a transcript of Michelle Kwan's interview with the local police.


    Chief Alexander Rostropovich: "Ms. Kwan, for the record, you have not been charged with any crime. You are assisting the police in their investigation. Will you confirm now, for the record, that the statement that you are about to give is entirely voluntary, and that you waive your right to be represented by an attorney?"

    Ms. Michelle Kwan: "Yeah, right, whatever."

    AR: "Tell us about the gun. How did a gun, purchased by you in Los Angeles and registered in your name, end up involved in a homicide in Rhode Island?"

    MK: "Look here, Mac. What's your name? Al? Look here, Big Al, I want this to go away. I’m going to write down a figure. You give my people a call. Call Goldberg. Tell him Shelly says take care of Big Al. Just say it like that. Shelly says take care of Big Al. This goes away, you get something in your Christmas stocking, you know what I'm saying?"

    AR: "I am going to pretend that I don't, Ms. Kwan. I feel that it is my duty to urge you to consult your attorney before we proceed."

    MK: "Screw my attorney. I fired her last week anyway. I'll tell you about the gun."

    AR: "I caution you again that this conversation is being taped and that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

    MK: "Hah! Tell me another one. What Tarafan jury do you think you can find to convict Michelle Kwan? Does the phrase "America's sweetheart" mean anything to you?"

    AR: "Just tell me about the gun."

    MK: "Well, you know that September 11th thing? All that airport security? Do you know they won't let us take our skates with us on the airplane any more?"

    AR: "Yes, I remember reading something about that. So is that a big problem for you?"

    MK: "What do you think? You check your stuff, the morons lose it. You ship it, it doesn't get there on time. It’s a real drag.

    "So anyway, we're on tour with COI -- Houston, I think -- and me and Sarah are talking, just bitchin' about life in general, you know, and the topic comes up, about the skates. So Sarah says, 'You know what we ought to do? We ought to smuggle a gun on board, just to show them what we think of their so-called security.' It was, like, a joke, you know, but the more we goofed around with the idea, the more it started to sound pretty funny. You know how something can sound funny when you're high. So anyway, you know, we started talking like we were really going to do it, so then she started saying, I bet you wouldn't really, you wouldn't dare, I dare you -- a bunch of crap like that. Naturally I blew the silly twit off. But later on I got to thinking, you know, I wonder if I COULD pull it off. What a humpin' stunt! You know, just to see if I could do it.

    "Well, to cut to the chase, I knew I couldn't really smuggle a gun onto an airplane these days -- do you know that they even make you take off your shoes? Some idiot hid a fire cracker in his shoe, so now we've got to put up with dorky security guards who probably have a foot fetish. 'I touched Michelle Kwan's foot -- uhh, uhh, uhh!' But the idea stuck in my mind and after the tour was over I stared thinking about it again."

    AR: "You mean after you returned to school at UCLA in the fall?"

    MK: "Yeah, right. I got kicked out of UCLA my freshman year."

    AR: "You were expelled? On what grounds?"

    MK: "Oh, you know, the usual. Party all night, sleep all day, never go to class. Hey, this is UCLA -- gotta do my part to keep up our rep as a know-nothing party school, right? Goldberg hushed it up. But I still drop by campus for the parties."

    AR: "So when did you have time to practice your skating and prepare for the Olympics?"

    MK: "You know something, Big Al, you're a real comedian. You ought to go on stage. But, hey, I skated. I'd drag my carcass out onto the ice after being up all night, pop a couple of singles, listen to Frank run his mouth. You know.”

    AR: “You are referring to Frank Carroll, your coach?”

    MK: “Ex-coach. Are you starting to pick up on this?”

    AR: “Ms. Kwan, I happen to follow figure skating somewhat myself. A lot of people say that if you had kept your coach and choreographer you might have won the gold medal!”

    MK: “Who cares? I got a closet full of medals. U.S. this, World that. You name it, I’ve got four or five. It's all fixed anyway."

    AR: “Then you do not feel any particular animosity to Sarah Hughes for taking the prize that many people thought should have been yours?”

    MK: “Nah, good for the kid. She stated well. She deserved it. It's not like I fooled around and let Sasha beat me.”

    AR: “Well, this is useful background information, but I would like to get back to the gun.”

    MK: OK, now this is going to sound really stupid. I don't know what I was thinking of. But anyway, I had it in my head that I was going to find a way to ship a gun through the mail across the country. Just for the challenge of getting away with it, you know? So I went down to buy a gun. Found out I had to get a permit. Fourteen day waiting period, a lot of crap. But I finally got the thing -- I picked a really cool-looking one, it was huge, like a big cowboy gun, you know, like a six shooter."

    AR: "A Colt 45."

    MK: "Whatever. So now, OK, here's where you're going to laugh. I had decided to send Dick Button a little bonsai tree for the holidays. OK, yeah, I said you'd laugh. A bonsai tree. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? Anyway, the man has everything, he likes flowers and stuff, whatever. So I had this little tree in a big pot, and the idea came to me, I could hide the gun it the pot, ship it priority mail, and see if I could pull it off. I lined the pot with foil to trick the x-ray machines. I know, crazy. But that's me, you know? Once I get my mind set on something, it's hard to give it up."

    AR: "Like the Olympic gold, Ms. Kwan?"

    MK: "Shut up. I told you I didn't care about that. Just shut up, OK?"

    AR: "So you shipped the tree via priority mail on, let me see, November 20th. Did you receive confirmation of delivery?"

    MK: "Well, it was insured. And I got a call a few days later from Dick thanking me. For the plant, I mean. He didn't know about the gun."

    AR: "I have one further question. This is very important, Ms. Kwan. Was the gun loaded when you shipped it?"

    MK: "No. I don't know. I don't think so. It was just how it came from the gun shop. Could I have a pop? a soda? a soft drink? a tonic? an R and C? -- whatever you call it out here in the sticks.


    I paused. A feeling of relief swept over me. "She's innocent!" I exclaimed inwardly. Just a silly prank after all. Holmes pursed his lips.

    “A different view of the angelic Miss Kwan,” said he.

    What did he mean, a different view? Obviously this was a frail and frightened child, trying to talk tough to cope with a terrifying predicament. Anyone could see that.

    Holmes gave me a sidelong glance.

    “Well, Watson,” he continued at last. “every damsel in distress should have a Launcelot such as you in her train.”

    “I implore you, however, to consider the facts in the cold light of reason. Criminal psychology 101: when accused of a great crime, confess to a lesser. Everyone is guilty of something, everyone has something to hide. A determined and ruthless prosecutor will keep on probing until something turns up. The true felon knows to give something up right away, hoping to deflect attention from the real crime.

    "Do you think that this cockamamie tale has put the good Chief Constable off the scent?”

    I considered my answer carefully. Holmes may know all about the chemical composition of the seventeen kinds of clay to be found in the West Riding, but, if I say it who oughtn’t, he still relies on me to supply the psychological intuition on which a difficult case often hinges.

    “The very fact that Miss Kwan’s story is absurd on its face,” I rejoined, “is exactly why I believe every word of it. Surely anyone -- any guilty party -- with half a brain could come up with a more believable lie than this!”

    “You may be right, Watson” Holmes conceded. “And the bribery attempt? ‘Shelly says take care of Big Al?’ I suppose that ‘Shelly’ is a conventional diminutive for “Michelle?’

    “A childhood nickname, I believe,” I replied.

    “And a matter of some significance to this case, I shouldn’t doubt,” laughed Sherlock Holmes. “Nicknames! Just don’t start calling me ‘Sherly.' Well, Watson, if Miss Innocence Defined has finished her soda pop, pray continue with the transcript.”


    Chief Rostropovich: "Miss Kwan. I would like to turn your attention now to the night of the shooting. What were you doing at Mr. Button’s home on April 29th at 1:00 in the morning?"

    Michelle Kwan: "I went to get the gun back, of course. It finally dawned on me that I could get in trouble about all this. So when we played Boston, I thought I could just sneak out to Woonsocket -- what kind of a name is that, anyway? ‘There was a young girl from Woonsocket‘ -- give me the next line -- ha, ha. Anyway, sneak out to Rhode Island, slip into the house, get the gun out of the flower pot, and I’d be in the clear.”

    AR: “And what would Mr. Button be doing in the meantime, while you were breaking into his house?”

    MK: “He was at the ice show. He always hangs around afterward to schmooze. All I had to do was beat him home, piece of cake the way I drive.”

    AR: “What happened then?”

    MK: “I -- I guess I messed up. He was already there. And another car was in the driveway, the house lights were on, music was playing -- sounded like a party going on.”

    AR: “Did you make out any voices?”

    MK: “No, the music was blasting too loud. That stupid cowboy song Irina skates to. I didn’t know what to do. I snuck around to the back. I was on the back porch, trying to decide what to do. All of a sudden the back door flies open, somebody rushes out -- bam! -- runs right into me, knocks us both off the porch, we’re rolling around on the grass -- it’s Sasha! Then the police headlights come on, right in my face. I guess you know the rest. So, that’s it. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it."

    AR: “Is it your claim then that you were never in the house?”

    MK: “That’s right. I was never in the house.”

    AR: “What if I were to tell you that your fingerprints were found all over the Colt?”

    MK: “Fingerprints? Oh, well, sure. From before, you know. When I mailed it. Uh, can you tell the difference between old and fresh prints?”

    AR: “Sometimes we can. And what if I were to tell you that we also dusted the desktop in Mr. Button’s study?”

    MK: “You know something, Big Al? Never play poker, OK? You’re bluffing. You’re bluffing, right?”

    AR: “Ms. Kwan, I have in my hand a statement from Ms. Sasha Cohen in which she says that she was standing outside on the porch and that you rushed out of the house and ran into her.”

    MK: “That lying little witch! She ran into me! Everybody knows that. Ask anybody. Ask Christine Brennan! I changed my mind. I want to talk to my lawyer.”

    AR: “You fired your lawyer, remember?”

    MK. “Oh.... Yeah.”

    AR: “One last point, Ms. Kwan. Did anyone besides yourself and Ms. Hughes know about the gun?”

    MK: “No, just me and Sarah. She couldn’t believe it when I told her that I had actually done it.

    “You know something? I miss Brian Boitano on tour. This gun thing would be right up his alley. He was always playing practical jokes on everybody -- you know, trying your skates together, stuff like that. Everybody else thought it was stupid and annoying, but, you know, it just gets so boring on tour. Wait, wait, wait, nothing to do. Skate for four minutes, get on the bus, Gus. B-o-o-o-ring, you know? I guess I thought I ought to pick up Brian’s slack. Me and Rudy Galindo. I might have told Rudy about the gun. Yeah, I think I did. He thought it was a gas.

    "Well, that's it Chief. All I know. I don't suppose I can go now?"

    AR: "Not just yet, Ms. Kwan."

    MK: "You know something, Big Al? You're a real downer. You know what I wish? I wish I was on a plane to LA right now and you had a feather up your butt. That way we'd both be tickled."


    “Holmes!" I exclaimed. “Miss Kwan told Rudy Galindo about the gun! Telling Galindo is telling everyone. He’s the biggest gossip on tour! They all knew about the gun! Anyone could have done it. Surely, Holmes, you can’t suspect Miss Kwan now!’

    “The truth will out, Watson, the truth will out,” said he. “And don’t call me Sherly.”


    End of Chapter Three.

    Do you believe Michelle’s “cockamamie tale?" Does Michelle’s account cast suspicion on anyone else? Ready to vote? There are still 3 chapters to come.






  5. #5
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    Chapter 4: Sasha

    “Do you see, Watson,” queried Sherlock Holmes, “why it is important to settle the question of who knew about the revolver? Consider, Miss Kwan ships an unloaded Colt 45, supposing that we believe that part of her story. The killer, between then and the fatal moment, must obtain ammunition -- an unusual calibre -- and load the pistol before firing. Indeed, one of the four suspects must have brought the ammunition with her. This rules out accident and makes a case for pre-meditated murder.”

    “Unless,” I countered. I had to confess that by now all of my theories were running at sixes and sevens.

    “Unless,” I pursued, “the victim obtained the ammunition and loaded it himself. Clearly he had found the gun earlier. Miss Slutskaya testified that she saw it lying in plain site on the desk. He decides, since Miss Kwan was so thoughtful as to send him a six-shooter in his bonsai tree...” I trailed off, aware of the absurdity of what I was saying. Then it struck me:

    “Holmes!” I exclaimed, “could it have been suicide? Mr. Button’s fingerprints were found on the gun, along with those of Miss Kwan, Miss Slutskaya and Miss Hughes. Maybe Button was already dead when the girls arrived. And one of them -- or two of them acting in concert! -- tried to make it look like murder.”

    “For the purpose,” Holmes chimed in, “of embroiling themselves in a capital crime. Logic, my dear Watson, I beg you, master yourself, organize your thoughts before you speak.”

    “Well, Holmes,” said I, more than a little annoyed with his patronizing attitude, “if it's logic you want, here is logic irrefutable. The culprit is Sasha Cohen. Her account -- who ran into whom -- flatly contradicts that of Miss Kwan. They cannot both be telling the truth. That’s simple logic, if logic you must have!”

    “Watson, Watson, my poor Watson,” sighed Holmes. “Granted, Miss Kwan and Miss Cohen cannot both be telling the whole truth. But they might both be lying, or each lying in part. And a person may be a liar without being a murderer. Shall we at least hear what Miss Cohen has to say for herself before we haul her off to the gallows?”



    Alexander Rostropovich, Chief of Police: “Thank you for helping us with this investigation Ms. Cohen. This interview is being recorded. You have not been charged with any crime, but what you say here will become part of the permanent record of the case.”

    Ms. Sasha Cohen: “My teachers always warned my about that Permanent Record. I always thought it was like the Bogyman.”

    AR: “This is not the time for jokes, Ms. Cohen. We are investigating a serious crime. A capital crime, even. Do you know what that means?”

    S.C. “Off with his head!”

    A.R. “I see. Everybody’s a comedian. Ms. Cohen, I don’t think that you appreciate the gravity of your own situation here. At the very least there is the matter of criminal trespass.”

    S.C. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t trespass. Mr. Button invited me.”

    A.R. “And when did this invitation take place?”

    S.C. “It’s kind of a standing invitation, whenever we played in the area. Mr. Button wanted to work with me on my spins.”

    A.R. “Your spins?”

    S.C. “Yeah, there’s this one spin I do, Mr. Button doesn’t -- didn’t -- like it. Because my back wasn’t straight, you know? It’s like this. I put this leg way up here, then I grab my ankle, and stretch it up even farther, like this. See? It’s my Revolving Beaver Cleaver.”

    A.R. “You named it ’Cleaver?’”

    S.C. “The spin, silly.”

    A.R. “You can actually spin in that position?”

    S.C. “Sure. It’s my big climax. The audience loves it, especially the photographers."

    A.R. "I bet they do, Ms. Cohen."

    S.C. "But it would be better if I could keep my back straight, or even arch it a little. See how my shoulders are rounded, Mr. Rostropovich? Are you looking at my shoulders? Up here. Now just standing here I can arch my back good, see? But not when I spin."

    A.R. "Well, you may put your leg down, Ms. Cohen. So...where were we...oh yes. So you just showed up at Mr. Button's door on the basis of the 'standing invitation?'"

    S.C. "I called first. From my cell phone. I thought he would come to the show, but he didn’t. I called him after I skated and asked if it would be a good time. He said, sure, come on.”

    A.R. “Did Mr. Button say that he had any other plans for the evening?”

    S.C. "He just said, come on, the more the merrier."

    A.R. "I see. And the second call from your cell phone, when you called the police about one o'clock? Did you call from Mr. Button's home?"

    S.C. "What phone call? No. I never called the police. I never really got there. Well, I got there. But..."

    A.R. "Do you deny placing a call from your cell phone at 1:15 AM on the night in question, Ms. Cohen? We can subpoena the record of the telephone service provider if need be."

    S.C. "You can? I don't think they keep track of all those cell phone calls. Do they?"

    A.R. "Ms. Cohen, in this age of computers, everything you do leaves an electronic record. Now, did you, or did you not place a call to the police on the night of the murder?"

    S.C. "I -- I -- I don't remember. I don't think so."

    A.R. "And three days before, on the afternoon of April 25, did you or did you not place a call to Ms. Sarah Hughes, representing yourself as Mr. Button's secretary and inviting Ms. Hughes to a surprise party at Mr. Button's house after the Boston show -- supposedly a surprise birthday celebration for her coach, Ms. Robin Wagner?"

    S.C. "I -- I -- I -- I don't think so. I -- Michelle did it! Michelle called Sarah like that. Yeah, that's just like her these days. Michelle is always clowning it up, ever since Brian left the tour. I -- I think I lost my cell phone. I think somebody stole it. I want to report a stolen cell phone. I think Michelle stole my phone three days ago.”

    A.R. “Ms. Cohen, were you aware of the dare between Sarah Hughes and Michelle Kwan to smuggle a gun across the country? Did you know that Ms. Kwan had actually carried out this dare by sending a Colt 45 to Mr. Button in a potted plant.”

    S.C. “It wasn’t a plant so much as a miniature tree. I didn’t know anything about it. You are trying to put words in my mouth. I am going to call my friend Mr. George Bush. He’ll make you stop picking on me.”

    A.R. “Ms. Cohen, as perhaps the fourth-ranked ladies figure skater in the world, you certainly have a bright future. I would like to know your opinion as to which of your rivals you regard as the biggest threat. Who would you like to see out of the way?”

    S.C. “Well, you put me ahead of Fumie, so that’s good. Nobody is a threat to me, Mr. Rostropovich. Michelle and Irina are over the hill. Jenny? Anne-Patrice? Gimme a break."

    A.R. “And Sarah Hughes?”

    S.C. “Salt Lake was a fluke. What about the U.S. Nationals, which I won, but they gave it to Michelle? Since Sarah’s so smart, why don’t you ask her if she can spell 'underrotated fLutz'?”


    The interview went on for two more pages, but at this point Holmes waived his hand for me to stop.

    “I think we’ve heard enough, Watson,” said he, “to get the gist of Miss Cohen’s version of events.”

    “Indeed,” I said hotly, “quite enough to see through her innocent facade, with her Lookie Nookie, and her Watchie Crotchie and her convenient memory losses.”

    “I believe that would be her Beaver Cleaver,” Holmes corrected me. “Though as for that, all of the figure skating ladies have spins and spirals designed to put their...flexibility...on display. Your Miss Kwan is known for a lovely move called the 'See Everything I've Got' Charlotte, if I'm not mistaken.

    “And quite refined and lady-like it is,” I countered. “Further, there is the matter of dress. I have noticed that in Miss Kwan’s costumes the panty is always...adequate to the task. By no means the general case among female figure skaters.”

    “You’ve noticed that, have you,” Holmes rejoined. “Well. I’m sure that Miss Kwan’s costumers are greatly to be congratulated for the adequacy with which their creations cover Miss Kwan’s refined and lady-like bottom. But in the meantime, we have a mystery to solve.”

    I jerked myself out of my reverie.

    “Shall I continue with Miss Cohen’ statement, then,” I asked.

    “Unnecessary, Watson,” said Holmes. “In summary, Miss Cohen asserts that she arrived at the victim’s house about 1:15, parked in the back, and was just coming up the back steps when Miss Kwan rushed out the back door and bowled her over. Miss Cohen denies entering the house, hearing a gunshot, or seeing Miss Hughes, Miss Slutskaya, or for that matter, Mr. Button.

    “But wait,” Holmes continued. “Just read this part about the gloves.”

    I saw the paragraph to which Holmes alluded, and I read as follows.


    A.R. "Ms. Cohen, for the record will you affirm that after the collision on the porch, you and Ms. Kwan were apprehended by the police -- in fact, by me -- and placed in a locked police car while we finished our investigation of the house. I then drove you and Ms. Kwan to the police station, with Ms. Slutskaya and Ms. Hughes following in the second squad car. Is this your recollection of these events, Ms. Cohen?"

    S.C. "I don't know about 'apprehended,' but, yeah, about the police car. Yeah."

    A.R. "Ms. Cohen, do you see this pair of gloves?”

    S.C. "Where did you get those? I never saw them before."

    A.R. "These gloves were discovered the next morning in the back seat of my patrol car, wedged down between the cushions of the seat. I would like you to try them on. Now, Ms. Cohen."

    S.C. "They look too small. I think they're too small, don't you?"

    A.R. "That is what we are about to discover, Ms. Cohen. Just try them on now, if you please......They seem to be a perfect fit, Ms. Cohen."

    S.C. "I bet they fit Michelle, too. Try them on Michelle. I...I think I saw Michelle with some gloves on. Coming out of the house."

    A.R. "Well, Ms. Cohen, it is only fair to tell you, since you have waived your right to an attorney and since this evidence may be presented in court, that Ms. Kwan was able to squeeze her hands into the gloves. But the fit was not as good as yours. Her fingers are somewhat longer."


    "Somewhat longer," I interposed, "and gracefully tapering, like the wing of a long-feathered bird. I'm sure that you have noticed, Holmes, how exquisitely Miss Kwan positions her hands when she performs, with each finger on different level so that from whatever angle the hand is viewed, one sees five distinct digits."

    "To be sure," was Holmes' retort, "each on an ever higher plane of existence, as it were.”

    Holmes must have his joke at my expense.

    But not even the celebrated Sherlock Holmes could gainsay that cornerstone of American jurisprudence:

    "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!"


    Well, it's looking bad for Sasha. Or is it?


  6. #6
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    Chapter 5 -- Sarah

    Sherlock Holmes rose and stretched, and strode to the window, where he stood looking out into the London morning. The fog had lifted to show a glimpse of that rare sight this time of year, the sun. Holmes stood smoking for some minutes.

    "An instructive case, Watson," he said at last. "Not least in respect of what evidence must be discarded. Yet a simple case for all that. One must merely clear away the clutter to see straight to the heart of the matter. I hope that you are taking notes with your customary care."

    For all of Holmes' facade of disinterest, I knew him for the vain fellow that he was. As usual he was counting on me to write up an account of the case for the general public, heaping praise upon his sagacity and brilliance. Well, so be it. If Holmes really had a solution to the mystery, as he had claimed on our first meeting, then he deserved my respect, for I was still struggling against a swelling sea of contradictory clues that threatened momently to drown me. Of course Ms. Kwan could have nothing to do with this sorry business, and yet -- was that my logical faculties talking or my heart?

    There was one more document to peruse, a short one. Miss Sarah Hughes, acting on advice of her attorney, Ms. Robin Wagner, had declined a police interview, saying that the flurry of sudden publicity which had thrust her into the spotlight had left her with inadequate time to prepare a defense. Instead, the following statement was issued on her behalf by her publicist and business agent, Ms. Robin Wagner.


    "Ms. Hughes deposes and says: that on the afternoon of April 25th she received a telephone call purporting to be from the secretary of Mr. Richard Button of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, now deceased. The caller invited Ms. Hughes to attend a surprise party in honor of the birthday of Ms. Robin Wagner, Ms. Hughes coach, choreographer, confidant and cheerleader. The supposed party was to be held at Mr. Button’s country estate on the evening of April 28th, as soon as the celebrants could arrive after the Boston Champions on Ice show. Ms. Hughes was sworn to secrecy, in order not to spoil the surprise.

    "In consequence, on the evening of April 28th Ms. Hughes, having rented a car for the occasion, drove to Woonsocket. She arrived a short time after 1:00 A.M., the show having run long that night and Ms. Hughes having been the last to perform, as befits her status as reigning Olympic Ladies Figure Skating Gold Medallist. Seeing the front door standing open, she let herself in. Upon entering the study she saw Mr. Button lying face down in a pool of blood. In a daze at the shocking sight, Ms. Hughes abstractedly picked up the gun that was lying on the desk. At that moment the police burst in. Ms. Hughes was asked to wait in the police car for a time, after which she was taken to the Woonsocket police station, along with Ms. Irina Slutskaya, who was also discovered on the premises, under suspicious circumstances.

    "Ms. Hughes was allowed to call her legal representative, Ms. Robin Wagner, and was thereafter released into Ms. Wagner’s custody.

    "Ms. Hughes disavows knowledge of any supposed conspiracy between herself and Ms. Michelle Kwan in the matter of the illegal transportation of a firearm. She is uncertain at the present time whether she knows any person named Michelle Kwan. She categorically denies any acquaintance with the term ‘underrotated fLutz.’”


    Th-th-that’s all folks. No further clues will be presented. Vote now or forever hold your peace.



    Since chapter 5 was so short, you deserve another.

    Chapter 6 -- Holmes sums up.

    Hughes, Slutskaya, Kwan, Cohen. Whom did Holmes suspect? I regarded my remarkable friend over the tops of my reading glasses. More than suspect, he knew! Or so he had claimed on the occasion of our first conversation. It seemed long ago, but in fact only a day had passed since Sherlock Holmes had declared with conviction, “My dear Watson -- I have solved it already!”

    "I must confess, Holmes," I ventured tentatively, "that the testimony of the four suspects produces more smoke than light."

    "Indeed," said he. "I congratulate you. None of the four statements contributes anything of value to our understanding. None even mentions the point on which the entire matter hangs."

    "And that would be?" I asked.

    Holmes paused for dramatic effect.

    "Come, come, Holmes," I cried, "out with it. There are only we two in the room, and I am certain to be more impressed with a logical explanation than with your histrionics!"

    Holmes blew out a ring of foul yellow smoke.

    "A1," said he at last.

    "A1?" I parroted foolishly.

    "A1," he said again. "That is the alpha and omega of this case. Nothing else counts."

    Now I have to confess that I had pushed that cryptic message to the back of my mind, caught up as I had been by six shooters hidden in bonsai trees, mysterious phone calls and clandestine midnight assignations. I knew that Holmes, now in his natural element, would continue without prompting.

    "A1, Watson! he exclaimed again. "What does it mean? I think we can agree that the bloody message "Sarah" was nothing but a ruse. But the 'A1' beneath it. I should not be surprised to discover that these marks were at least partly covered by the body of the deceased, while "Sarah" was writ bold and in plain view.

    "Now cast yourself into the mind of the dying man, Watson. He has just been deliberately shot in cold blood, and by a person whom he knows and trusts. With his last gasp he summons the will to name his murderer, that the heinous deed will not go unpunished. With his bloody finger, hidden he hopes from view of the culprit, who even now stands over him gloating, he writes...what? Let us suppose for a moment that the culprit is indeed Miss Sarah Hughes, to my mind the least likely suspect in the mix. Suppose that he begins ‘S....’ and then his strength fails. Whom has he named? Sarah? Sasha? Slutskaya? Perhaps even ‘Shelly?’

    “No, no. Even if he could get as far as ‘Sa...’ blame still might fall upon the wrong person. He fears, rightly so in the event, that his allotted time is measured only in seconds. What should he write to declare the truth without ambiguity?”

    “A1?” I ventured in confusion.

    “Ridiculous,” snapped Holmes. “A1 means nothing. But is the second stroke a numeral one or is it the next letter, or anyway its start? Perhaps the second stroke is a capital letter I. Or a lower case L. Or the down stroke of a capital L. Or for that matter, the down stroke of any of a large number of capital letters. P, for instance. Was the dying man attempting to write ‘AP...’ and got only as far as the first stroke of the P before his consciousness fled?

    My mind leaped into high gear. AP! A-P McDonough? Anissina and Peizerat? Or AL? AL? Suddenly I had it!

    “Holmes,” I cried. “It is ‘AL,’ the first two letters of ‘ALL.’ All! They were all in it together!

    “Watson, Watson. Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem,” Holmes quoted.

    Of course I was familiar with Occam’s razor -- the injunction against contriving a complicated explanation when a simple one is at hand. Yet I had one last outburst of invention within me.

    “Holmes, I have it!” I said. “The second letter was to be a U. ‘AU!’ AU, the chemical symbol for gold. ‘Sarah, gold; Sarah, the gold medallist.’ It was Sarah all along!”

    Holmes raised a cautionary finger.

    “Consider, Watson,“ he said carefully. “You are dying. You have the briefest of moments to avenge yourself upon the killer by writing her name unmistakably in blood. You cannot write ‘S...’ lest it be misunderstood. You write “Al...,” and then your strength is spent. Whom have you named?”

    Holmes reached into the pocket of his smoking jacket and retrieved the paper that he had placed there the previous morning. He carefully unfolded it. Sherlock Holmes ran a bony index finger down the list of names:

    Gold: Sarah Hughes

    Silver: Irina Slutskaya

    Bronze: Michelle Kwan

    Pewter: ALEXANDRA Cohen



    Give yourself full credit if you duplicated Holmes reasoning and named Sasha as the culprit. Half credit for Sarah or Irina. And a big zero if you ever for a moment harbored the slightest doubt about La Divina, Ms. Michelle Kwan.



    It was a dark and stormy night. Big Al Rostropovich sat at his desk, absently shuffling a stack of papers. He couldn't believe that he had gotten away with it. How well he remembered being on neighborhood patrol that night, when he noticed the rented sports car pulling up in front of Dick Button's house. Of course he knew Button well. As Chief of Police of that small town he knew many of the residents on a first name basis. Besides, Rostropovich had a passionate interest in figure skating, and he especially followed the careers of skaters from his native Russia. He cast his mind back to the fateful evening:

    How surprised he was when the car door opened and out stepped non other than his idol, the incomparable Irina Slutskaya. Irina! the treasure of his secret heart! What was Irina Slutskaya doing there in the middle of the night? Big Al wondered.

    Coasting the police cruiser to a silent stop, he waited some minutes in uncertainty. Music began to play. At last he could suppress his curiosity no longer. He eased himself out of the patrol car and approached the front porch. Peering in through the window, he saw the most unexpected sight. Dick Button was threatening Irina with a pistol, while the beautiful Irina was doing her best to hold him off with a whip! Adrenalin coursed through his body as he hurled himself at the door, breaking it inward. With a single shot from his police issue 38, he dropped Button in his tracks.

    Irina screamed.

    "Who are you, what are you doing? No, no!"

    Too late. In the instant it was clear that this was merely some innocent play-acting that he had barged in on.

    "He was just helping me with my routine!" Irina sobbed over the dying man.

    The cover-up had been easy. Ms. Slutskaya, coming from a culture where one did not contradict the police, was quickly cowed into going along. Fortune seemed to smile upon him when Hughes arrived, just in time to be “caught” by Rostropovich, who circled around from the back when he first heard her approach. Then Kwan and Cohen, approaching the back porch from opposite sides, had accidentally collided, causing even more confusion. Back-up having now been called for, the girls waited in the squad cars while Rostropovich arranged the crime scene to suit his purposes. Later, it had been easy enough for him to prepare a phony ballistics report and to plant the gloves.

    Yes, he had gotten away with it. Nothing could go wrong now, as long as his beloved Irina remained intimidated into silence.

    Oh, Irina, Irina. I did it all for you!


    Epilogue to the epilogue.

    BAM! the door to Rostropovich’s office burst open, and in rushed the Gang of Four -- Sasha and Sarah, brandishing their skates as weapons, a la Cast Away; Irina with her whip; and Michelle, a graceful tapering finger curled delicately yet firmly around the trigger of the Colt 45!

    “Big Al,” they announced in unison. “you’re under citizens’ arrest!"

    Then the ladies stepped aside to reveal in the doorway the staunch figure of none other than Mr. Dick Button, a cherubic smile gracing his avuncular face. Yes, he had survived!

    “Well done, girls,” beamed Dick Button. “First rate, simply the best, A1. And as for you, Big Al,


    And they all lived happily ever after, except Peggy Fleming, who had to go back into the broadcast booth with him.

    Last edited by Mathman; 04-25-2006 at 07:06 AM.

  7. #7
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    This was great! Thank you so much for posting this again!

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    That was truly awesome!!!!!
    Thank you!

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