Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Inspector Jeffery Lastrade greeted Philip Homes and Bruce Wattson at the entrance of the Metropolitan Police Headquarters in downtown London. “Thanks for coming on such short notice,” said Lastrade as he pumped Homes’ hand. “I desperately need your help. I’m at my wits end with last night’s murder of Regina Moriarty.”

“I thought it was an iron clad case,” remarked Homes. “The BBC reported that surveillance holocameras record Robert Moriarty vaporizing his wife whilst they were strolling in the park.”

Lastrade escorted his guests to the interrogation room, and paused. “Let’s just say that the case has become… complicated.” The door whooshed aside to reveal two identical suspects sitting at a table.

“My Lord,” exclaimed Wattson. “Twins!”

“Not quite,” replied Lastrade. “They’re both Robert Moriarty, but one of them is a time traveler. I need Professor Homes’ help figuring out which one is the actual murderer.”

“I say throw them both in jail,” suggested Wattson. “After all, they are the same person. What difference does it make which one actually fired the phaser?”

“I can’t imprison an innocent man,” pointed out Lastrade. “Only one of them committed the murder. The other may have known nothing about it.” Lastrade turned toward Homes. “Do you think you can figure out which one is the murderer?”

“Without a doubt,” Homes confidently stated. “It’s a simple matter of eliminating all that is impossible. Then, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. According to my experience, time travelers always create unambiguous inconsistencies it the fabric of space-time. By asking these gentlemen a series of probing questions, I will be able to irrefutably expose the Moriarty that doesn’t belong in this continuum. Then, through sheer deductive reasoning, I will be able to…”

“Confound it Homes,” interrupted Wattson angrily. “Why do you always insists on seeking a complex solution when a simpler one is readily at hand? I can solve this mystery in two seconds.” With that, Wattson drew a small phaser pistol from his coat pocket and blasted a one-inch diameter hole clean through the right hand of the nearest Robert Moriarty. The injured man clutched his smoldering hand and collapsed to the floor screaming like a banshee. Meanwhile, Wattson rhythmically bobbed up and down on the balls of his feet, smiling proudly.

“Good Lord, man. What have you done?”

“What?” questioned Wattson. “Surely you see that I’ve solved the case. Why, it’s obvious. Do I have to explain my simple solution to the Great Phillip Homes? Look at the right hand of this Moriarty,” he motioned toward the un-shot Moriarty trembling at the table. “There’s no scar. The Moriarty that I shot must have been the one from the future that committed the murder. If I had shot the one from the present, this one would now have a scar on his hand.”

“My dear Wattson,” said Homes as he confiscated the phaser, “you use reason like a politician uses the truth. What made you conclude that the time traveler came from the future? The past is the more obvious choice; there are far fewer paradoxes. You may have just shot the Moriarty from our time-line. Furthermore, it has yet to be proven that the time traveler is the actual murderer.”

“Oh, [cough]. Well, perhaps I may have been a bit hasty,” Wattson reluctantly acknowledged. “In that case Homes, if you don’t think you’ll be needing my assistance any longer, I shall wait for you in the pub. Good day, Inspector Lastrade.” As the emergency medical team burst into the interrogation room, Wattson unceremoniously scampered out the door, and down the hallway.


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows