Every morning, the paperboy arrived at Harlequin Cottage to
deliver the morning’s paper at 9 O’clock. Mr Satterthwaite had always just
finished his breakfast by 9. But, one Sunday morning, the paperboy didn’t
arrive when Mr Satterthwaite had finished his toast. Nor had he arrived 30
minutes later. In fact, the paperboy had not even arrived by the time Mr
Satterthwaite had come home from church with Bruce Alcott, his neighbour. The
paperboy arrived at 2pm, with blood on his brown tweed waistcoat, with cries of
“Murder! Murder at Harlequin Apartments!”
Mr Satterthwaite leapt from his comfortable, leather chair by
the fire and ran along the road in the direction of the paperboy’s voice. The
voice that came in the direction of the Harlequin Apartments. By the time Mr
Satterthwaite arrived, him being an old man, most of the residents of Stoptide
had crowded round the young boy.
“I saw him! I saw him I tell you!” cried the young boy’s
squeaky voice “He was up in Apartment 27. I…I…I was knocked out wasn’t I. Woke
up and ran.” He carried on, but Mr Satterthwaite had gone inside of the
Apartments, and up to Number 27.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
caution and care, Mr Satterthwaite eased open the door. The sight that met him
was surprising, for it was not what Mr Satterthwaite intended. What he saw was
a room of extreme neatness and order. It was almost perfectly symmetrical.
Nothing seemed out of place. Mr Satterthwaite wouldn’t have known this was a
scene of crime but for the fact that the elderly man in the armchair, to the
left of the door, wasn’t moving. The table behind the armchair where the man
was sitting was pristine, except for the morning’s paper lying on it. The
corpse was lying back within the chair, and the chair was pulled up by the
fire. There was no sign of a struggle, and the only sign of murder was the thick
red line around the poor man’s neck. The man had been strangled.
Looking out the window, Mr Satterthwaite saw that the crowd
around the boy had dispersed. No one else had come towards the apartments, so Mr
Satterthwaite guessed that no one took the boy seriously. But, Bruce Alcott had
stayed behind and seemed to be thrusting money into the paperboy’s scrawny
hand, which the boy placed into a wallet. Then, Bruce left. But only after he
grabbed the boy by the cuff, lifted him up to his and murmured something in the
boy’s ear. It was only then that Mr Satterthwaite noticed that the paperboy,
who was only 4 foot 5 and was dwarfed by Mr Satterthwaite’s 6 foot neighbour,
looked smug. He looked like he had power over Bruce Alcott. He looked in
Sunday was Bridge Club night. Mr Satterthwaite played low,
but never lost. No one new ever joined. In fact, it was only ever Mr
Satterthwaite, Bruce Alcott, Hannah Alcott, Mrs Whitehall from the post office
and 4 other pensioners, with whom Mr Satterthwaite was not connected, who ever
played. But tonight, a man appeared, almost out thin air. A man Mr
Satterthwaite knew well. Harley Quin. “Good evening, Satterthwaite” said Mr
Quin placidly. “So it is, Quin” replied Mr Satterthwaite, slightly annoyed at
the man’s informality, “I take it that you know exactly what happened” his
voice dripping with sarcasm. “Well,” murmured Mr Quin, not picking up on Mr
Satterthwaite’s sarcasm, “I do have an idea of what went on in that apartment,
and it’s probably right. I think that the deceased man’s name will enlighten
you.” Mr Satterthwaite was about to ask what it was, and how it made any
difference, when he looked and saw that the enigmatic Mr Harley Quin had vanished
as mysteriously as he had come.
Later, as Mr Satterthwaite was putting the cards back in the
pack after a successful night, he noticed an incredible similarity between the
joker and Mr Harley Quin. With great care, Mr Satterthwaite turned over the
card to find the name ‘Calvin Alcott’ written in spindly multi-colours.
Suddenly, with the deceased’s name, Mr Satterthwaite thought he knew how Calvin
Alcott, the man in the armchair, was murdered.
The police station was sparse and bare. Constable Matthews
was a plump man, who spoke in loud, sharps sentences. “What do you want?” he
shouted, even though Mr Satterthwaite was only across the policeman’s small,
wooden desk. “I wish to report a murder in Number 27 of the Harlequin
Apartments” said Mr Satterthwaite, very calmly and very pleasantly. Constable Matthews spat the hot, steaming
coffee back into his cup. “What‽” Mr Satterthwaite repeated, just as calmly. “Tell
me everything you know” said Constable Matthews, reaching in to one of his desk
drawers for a pen and pencil. So Mr Satterthwaite began.
“…Bruce Alcott.” interjected a man who had appeared behind Mr
Satterthwaite. The man looked like the joker of a pack of cards. “And what is
your name?” barked Constable Matthews. “Mr Quin.” Replied Harley Quin, as if
that was enough. “So, Mr Quin” asked Constable Matthews “how you came to know
that Bruce Alcott is the vile killer.” “I will explain once Mr Satterthwaite
has left.” Mr Quin stated. So, reluctantly, Mr Satterthwaite left. Once
outside, he tried to work out how his next-door neighbour was the murderer. If
the paperboy wasn’t the murderer, how was he involved? After all, he had been
paid by Bruce. But what had he been paid to do?
after Bruce had been arrested, Harley Quin sat down in Mr Satterthwaite. When
he was told its name, Harlequin Cottage, he smiled. “You got it wrong, Satterthwaite” said a very grave Mr Quin. “How?” asked Mr
Satterthwaite “How did Bruce do it? What about the paper boy?” “I will
explain.” replied Mr Harley Quin.
“Yes.” replied Harley Quin. “You were
going to send an innocent boy to hang."