Murder at Zero Degrees

There always seems to be a drink in my hand. Why that is, I’m not quite sure. Every time I look down my fingers are clutched around a rocks glass or daintily hoisting a champagne flute. It’s like my hands have a mind of their own. They are always raising up the contents of some glass up to my lips, and then against my will I swallow the tasty burning liquid. Then things get wobbly. I don’t have any control over what my hands do to me.

            I swear I am not a drunk. I used to be a drunk, but I don’t think I am anymore. Though maybe I still am. I’m not sure. Moments ago, there was whiskey in this tumbler I am holding. It has since been replaced with melting ice and air. I’m not sure what happened to the whiskey. Maybe it sloshed onto my boots and ran down the grimy barstool to the floor. But I think, judging from my clouded vision and this wavering motion of mine at the moment, it probably went inside me. Now I just have air to drink from this glass. I get drunk on air from time to time. I can get drunk on just about anything if I put my mind to it. I suppose I am a drunk.

            I used to get drunk on murder. Still do, now that I think of it.

            Not committing murder, per se. Not your typical guns, poisons, bloody fingerprints on a dead body kind of murder. No. I get drunk on murdering other people’s chances of getting away with murder. That’s my livelihood. Detective Liam Parsons-Doyle, at your service. I solve murders. And I always get the job done.

            Interestingly enough, I always seem to do this job with a drink in my hand. I can remember what drink was in my hand with every murder I have solved. Sparkling brut champagne at Binley Hall the night I caught Nigel Everett, killer of the Hinkley twins. A half-empty pint of lager when I figured out Marie Shipton was the Boscombe Park Butcher (even I didn’t see that one coming). Gin and tonic that fateful evening five spoiled socialites each snuffed out their worst enemy at a dinner party in Bishop’s Stortford. Thank God I had no enemies before that night.

            There is one murder, though, now that I’m thinking of it, that I couldn’t solve. Strangely enough, I don’t even remember the drink I had the night of that murder. I was nearby. Very nearby, in fact. There was an early winter snow cascading down and covering the city in white. Just barely freezing out. Zero degrees Celsius at Zero degrees Longitude. How curious. A young girl was found dead in the alley just behind this pub. I was here, on my normal barstool. No one heard her scream or anything.

            She was found by some drunken bum who came bursting through the door, screaming, “Murderer! Murderer!” He was pointing a finger wildly at just about everyone in the pub. We all thought he did it at first, but careful deduction from yours truly proved he was too distraught upon finding the poor girl in a pool of her own blood that he couldn’t have done it.

            I wish I could solve that one. I wish I could remember what I was drinking, too. Perhaps the barman might remember what I had consumed that night.

            “Oh, barkeep.”

            “Yes, sir, detective?” There was a sigh in there. Interesting.

            “Remember the night that beautiful girl was found dead behind the pub?”

            “Of course, sir. How could anyone forget a night like that?”

            “Quite. Do you by any chance remember what I was drinking that night?”

            “Yes, I certainly do, sir. You were drinking Singapore Slings. I remember it distinctly as I thought it was such an odd drink for you to be having. Very out of the ordinary.”

            “Singapore Sling, eh? That sounds very good right now. Could you make me one now?”

            “Uh, certainly, sir.”

            What a magnificent drink, the Singapore Sling. Delicious London gin, cherry brandy, fruit juices. It’s simply tantalizing on the taste buds. Sipping on one right now might help me solve this baffling and all too familiar case. Maybe because it’s a drink I don’t normally have is the reason why I am clueless about this whole thing. There were very few clues, except some staggering footprints in the snow leading into the back door of the pub. Everyone inside was questioned but they were all either too drunk or too inside themselves to have noticed or recalled anything suspicious. I couldn’t even locate a home or family for the poor thing.

            “I thank you kindly, barman.”

            “Sir, you are in here every night, and I keep telling you to call me Colin. That is my name, you know. A little decency toward your fellow man would do you some good.”

            “Quite right, barkeep. Colin. Sorry. You know how formal I am.”

            “I know, sir. It takes away from your courtesy.”

            “I have no time for courtesy tonight. I am trying to solve this murder. What do you remember from that night?”

            Colin the barkeep has always been sort of a grimace, especially since that night. His typical frump of a frown has now turned into a scowl. He’s gone awfully silent. He knows something about that night. I can feel it.

            “Are you sure you want to know, sir? Wouldn’t you rather take a sip of your drink? You know how miraculous your deducing skills can be when soused.”

            “Quite right! You know me all too well!” A smile and a compliment can always make a barman more cordial to you. Most of them, anyways.

            A few quick glugs of the fruity elixir have already gone past my lips. My hands were forcing the drink down my throat leaving me unawares yet again. Those tricky devils.

            “You know something, I had quite a few of these that night. Candy in liquid form as I recall. My, my, several of these can certainly spell danger, wouldn’t you say?”

            “That’s all they can spell, sir.” Colin always had such a dry sort of humorless jest about him. He could so be capable of murder with that sort of demeanor.

            My glass is suddenly empty. “Well, look at that. I didn’t even realize. Kindly make me another, please, Colin?”

            “I don’t think so, sir. We don’t want a repeat of last time.”

            “Oh quite. Uh, what do you mean, last time?”

            “Are you starting to remember more of that evening, sir?” Colin’s face is twisting into a sinister grin. You never saw his teeth, but now he is smiling so wide I swear I can almost see tiny fangs in there. More importantly, the fog in my memory is starting to lift.

            “Yes, I do remember something now. I was outside in the snow. I was holding hands with a beautiful woman whose acquaintance I just met here at the bar. Then…then I staggered back in here and sat back down. Then that poor, crazed bum burst in here with the cold and the snow and all that shrieking.”

            “Is that all you can remember, sir?” A toothy grin, now. My, Colin, those definitely are some fangs.

            “Uh…yes I suppose that’s it. I wonder what happened to that woman. I must have her telephone number around here somewhere.”

            “It wouldn’t do you much good, sir.”

            “Why not, Colin? Has she been disconnected?”

            “She’s dead, sir.”

            “Dead? Surely you joke. She can’t possibly be dead. Unless she was—“

            Colin, you evil demon. What else was in this Singapore Sling besides my beloved alcohol? There must be some fabrication agent or something in here. Or maybe, that’s truly what happened. I do remember a knife in my hand, dripping blood onto the snow. I slipped it into the storm grate and heard it clatter in the sewers below where no one would find it. I killed that girl. Yes, it’s clear to me now. I suppose I must turn myself in, now. Let it be known that no matter how much of a scoundrel I could be, I have always done things by the book.

            A fog is falling over me again. I’m feeling a bit ill. Colin is just staring at me now with fire in his eyes and flames are jutting out of his face. This can’t be good. The fruit juices must not be agreeing with me. Suppose I should go to hospital. The legs don’t want to work. I need help, Colin. Why aren’t you helping me? I finally remember your name you bastard and you go ahead and poison me? You must have known all along. You’re the devil, Colin. If I ever open my eyes and make it off this floor again, you’ll be sorry!