It was dinner time and tonight's offering was a sumptuous lasagne, baked for two hours in a moderate oven and loaded with gooey, melted cheese. 13-year-old Brax and his younger brother, 11- year-old Chuck, stared at the lasagne in exactly the way a Tyrannosaurus Rex might appraise a frolicking and tender lamb.
"Ok, boys, who's hungry?" Their father, Detective Kidd, still wore his jacket and shirt, his shiny badge pinned in punctilious position to the jacket's lapel.
"And me three!" Their mother, Inspector Willows, had finished her work early to assemble the superb lasagne, crowned with three different kinds of cheese and sprinkled with parsley grown in the family's herb garden out the back of the house. She was clearly some kind of wonder woman.
"Oh, this looks fabulous, darling!" Detective Kidd stared at his wife in awe. Although she was his boss, they had a respectful and loving relationship, underpinned by the fact that the two of them had somehow managed to produce two child prodigies between them.
Between ravenous mouthfuls, the boys told their parents about the events of their day. Brax's English teacher had been so impressed with the elegance of his creative writing, she had suggested he begin work on his first novel. Chuck's classroom teacher had awarded his viva voce on the scientific Periodic Table an A+++, especially impressed when he had listed each of the 118 elements in order.
"And how was your day, dear?" Inspector Willows turned to her husband and dabbed at a glob of cheese that was stuck in his beard with her serviette.
"Oh, this blasted case with the watercolour artist is proving quite the puzzle," he replied, brow furrowing. In an instant, both children pricked up their ears.
"Is it now?" his wife answered quizzically. "This is the one with the four suspects – all students of the watercolour artist who was found dead on the floor after teaching an art class. He was covered in paint, yes?"
"That's the one." Detective Kidd nodded. "We interviewed all four of them as they each had both motive and opportunity, but to be honest, we really haven't made much headway. None of them noticed the body behind the easel when they returned to the room after class, and all their stories check out."
"Well, now, why don't you run it by the kids." His wife gave him a tranquil smile, and Detective Kidd looked appalled. It wasn't the first time they had discussed gruesome cases at the dinner table, and if truth be told, their genius children had made it quite the habit to solve their cases for them. It probably wouldn't win the couple any major parenting awards, but it had certainly helped their Police Department close cases rather efficiently and win the acclaim and confidence of the Chief of Police. It also afforded their mother, Inspector Willows, the opportunity to leave early on occasion to go home and make spectacular lasagne. So perhaps it could be considered a win for everyone if the practice were to continue. Detective Kidd took a deep breath and put down his fork. His wife went to work on a spool of melted cheese which had wound its way through his beard like sparkly twine on a Christmas tree. She made a mental note to perhaps serve some more whisker-friendly options at the dinner table.
"Ok, Brax, Chuck, let's see what you make of this."
The boys, now into their second helping of lasagne and showing no signs of slowing down, responded with nonchalant glances and cool nods in his direction. Detective Kidd wasn't immediately sure they were listening but continued anyway.
"There are four suspects, all artistic types, students of a rather well-known watercolour artist called Henri Monteverdi. That big sunflower painting in the library is one of his, actually."
"Oh, that's a lovely grand landscape piece," enthused the Inspector. She turned her head towards Brax. "Do you remember, dear, when I used to take you after kindergarten class to the library? You'd sit underneath that painting all afternoon, reading Tolstoy." Brax nodded casually, helping himself to a third helping of cheesy deliciousness. His father continued.
"Well, there are four suspects. The first, Mr. Potter, is a tall, thin man who wears a bright pin-check suit and round blue-tinted glasses. He says he went back to the classroom that night to fetch his glasses case. He always takes them off to paint, you see. I checked the classroom and found it under one of the chairs, so he really had misplaced the case."
This utterance from Chuck could well have been a contemplation of this first suspect or a nod to his mother's excellent cooking. The Detective really couldn't tell which. He continued.
"The second suspect, Mrs. Fischer, is a part-time librarian who dabbles in art in her spare time. She says that she went back to the classroom to borrow one of Mr. Monteverdi's books on the artist Claude Monet, one that her own library didn't have. I checked with the head librarian there – indeed, they do not have a copy of this rare book in their collection."
"So yellow..." mused Brax in a dreamy voice. It wasn't clear whether he was thinking about the sunflower painting in the library or admiring his mother's choice of cheeses.
"Now, the third," continued the detective, "is a young university student named Seamus Tilby. The lad is only 19 and considering studying fine art next year, instead of electrical engineering. He swears he went back that night to apologise for paying his class fees so late in the term. I checked, and he had a rather large bill to afford after a motor vehicle accident - he really was quite destitute."
"How interesting." His wife was looking at him now, but her vigorous scrutiny of his beard made him wonder whether the comment pertained to the words he had just spoken or the grubbiness of his facial hair. Nevertheless, he continued, thinking he might as well finish the exposition of the case.
"Our fourth suspect is another well-known artist who paints in a more modern genre. Mr. Tattersall was once considered a rival of the watercolour master but then chose to pursue a different style of art. He said he went back to the room to use the bathroom as he had a lengthy drive home. I checked, and he does, indeed, live in one of the small villages outside the city."
When he finished speaking, two boys and one wife were all staring at him. Their gazes were cool, contemplative.
"Motive?" All three spoke at the same time.
"Well," the Detective paused, "it seems that all four had artwork rejected by the master artist for a huge exhibition he was putting on. It seems that Mr. Monteverdi has quite strong sentiments for the colour green, and it seemed that none of these four used enough of this colour palette in their submissions. And of course," he faltered, uncertain he should share this last ghastly detail with the boys. His wife gave him an encouraging smile, and because she was never wrong, he continued.
"Of course, whoever did it painted their objections over the dead man's body. It said, is this enough green for you? And the script was quite beautifully rendered. Certainly the hand of a talented artist. But the darndest thing..." Detective Kidd trailed off.
"What?" The boys' eyes were wide, and his wife's mouth hung slightly open.
"The colour," finished Detective Kidd. The colour it was painted in – it wasn't green – it was … it was yellow."
His wife dropped her fork with a clatter, and the boys gave each other a rueful smile.
"Oh, Dad, you're really not much of a detective, are you?" remarked Brax and scooped up another helping of lasagne from the plate.
"Yeah, Dad," Chuck chimed in, tapping his hands on the table for a dramatic drumroll effect. "It's obvious who did it."
Detective Kidd and Inspector Willows looked at each other. It was incredible to think that their boys had it all figured out.
"Ok, boys," said their father, "tell me who the murderer is. And why."
Brax and Chuck have it figured out – do you?
Answer: ˙ʍollǝʎ ʎllɐnʇɔɐ sı ʇnq ɯıɥ oʇ uǝǝɹƃ sɹɐǝddɐ ʎpoq suɐɯ pɐǝp ǝɥʇ uo sǝsn ǝɥ ʇuıɐd ʍollǝʎ ǝɥʇ os 'ɹǝpɹnɯ ǝɥʇ ɟo ǝɯıʇ ǝɥʇ ʇɐ sǝssɐlƃ pǝʇuıʇ-ǝnlq sıɥ ƃuıɹɐǝʍ sı ǝH ˙ɹǝɹǝpɹnɯ ǝɥʇ sı ɹǝʇʇoԀ ˙ɹW