25 September 2012

A Bouchercon Mystery

    Bouchercon, the annual mystery-writers’ convention, convenes next week in Cleveland, Ohio, and runs from October 4 through 7.  John Floyd is the only SleuthSayer contributor that I know is attending.  I was at last year’s convention in St. Louis – and was on a short story writers’ panel with R.T. Lawton there the week before SleuthSayers first hit the internet.  I won’t be attending this year, but in honor of the event, and as a salute to John and Leigh, who have made their marks in the area of mini-mysteries, I offer up the following SleuthSayer Bouchercon mystery – not so much a “whodunit,” as a “how did that happen?”

                                         *           *           *           *           *           *           *

    The mid-day traffic on Huron Road finally eased enough for the Yellow Cab to swing into the driveway of the Radisson Hotel.  The car lumbered to a stop under the reception awning and the cabbie caught the eyes of the three passengers wedged shoulder to shoulder in the back seat. 

    “That’ll be twenty bucks, gents.”

    The slender man stuck in the middle of the rear seat already had his wallet in his hand.  He reached across the top of the front seat and pressed a twenty and a five into the outstretched hand of the cabbie.

    “Keep it and have a nice day.”

    The three men clambered out of the back seat, each grabbing a bag from the trunk that the cabbie had opened.  With their bags in hand the slender man turned to his two companions.

    “That works out to $8.33 each for the cab ride.”

    “You know, John,” one of the men noted, “it would have been easier if you had just tipped $4.00.  Then we would each owe only $8.00.”  The third man muttered his assent.

    John rolled his eyes.  “Look, Dale and Leigh, the guy deserved the five bucks.  If you have trouble making the change you can each just give me eight.”

    “Well, this whole thing is expensive,” Leigh grumbled.  “I mean, it’s not like mystery short story writers are raking in the dough.”

    The three men approached the check-in desk and gave their names to the uniformed attendant smiling over her computer.  “Yes,” she said.  “I see we have your reservation.  Three of you sharing a room, two twins and a pull-out sofa.  That will be $300.  Do you want this on a credit card?”

    John, Dale and Leigh shook their heads in unison.  Each pulled $100 in cash from their respective wallets and handed the bills to the receptionist. 

    “Thank you.  A bellhop will show you to your room.”

    The three writers dutifully followed the bellhop to the elevator.  On the 5th floor they exited and followed him down the hall to room 543, which the bellhop opened with a key card.  The bellhop handed a key card to each of the writers, showed them how the air conditioner worked and then paused at the door. 

    Dale spoke before the others could.  “Thanks.  We’ll call you if we need anything.”  A crestfallen look passed across the bellhop’s face as he nodded politely and left the room.

    “Guys,” John said, shaking his head.  “We should have tipped him something.  I mean, it’s expected.”  Dale and Leigh, already intent on claiming the single beds in the room, did not respond.

    Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door.  John, who had been trying to figure out how the fold-away sofabed worked, was closest to the door and answered the knock.  Standing in the hall was the bellhop.  Before the still-embarrassed John could say anything the bellhop spoke.

    “Hello, again, sir,” the bellhop began with an engaging smile, “Sorry to bother you folks.  But I overheard the receptionist check you guys in and charge you $300.  That didn’t seem right to me since there is a Bouchercon writers’ special of $250 per night.  So I mentioned that to the receptionist and said you were overcharged.  She checked the rate and found out that you are entitled to that discount.  Since you paid cash she sent me back up with $50 to give you.”  The bellhop handed five crisp ten dollar bills to John. 

    “This is greatly appreciated,” John stammered.  He took two of the ten dollar bills and thrust them toward the bellhop.  The boy smiled gratefully, eyes wide, and pocketed the bills.

    John closed the door and turned back into the room only to find Dale and Leigh hovering behind him. 

    “Pretty steep tip,” Dale muttered as John handed each of them a ten dollar bill, pocketing the remaining one himself.

    Leigh’s eyes narrowed, and it was obvious he was working something over in his head.  “Wait a minute,” Leigh finally said, a look of incredulity spreading across his face.  “When we checked in, and the room was $300, we each paid $100.  And now, with the special rate, we each got $10 back.  This means we each paid $90, and. $90 times three men equals $270. John just tipped the bellhop $20. That only equals $290!”

                 CHALLENGE TO THE READER

    So:  What happened to the extra $10?  And perhaps more importantly, why does John travel with these two cheapskates?



  1. VERY clever and amusing adaptation of a traditional math puzzle. As for why John travels with you and Leigh, it's because the two of you are so charming and talented!

  2. John kept the extra $10 for himself, right? Same as he gave the others back. Here's what I would have done differently:
    1. When we got out of the taxi, I would have said, "Why don't you guys just give me $8 each.
    2. I would NEVER pay cash for an expense at a conference. It's DEDUCTIBLE!!!

  3. That settles it--before I travel anywhere with you guys again, we're getting some advice from Liz.

  4. Two things: (1) never work a word problem backwards and (2) John, jump on one of the twin beds before the other two claim them first! Oh, and yes, get a receipt for tax purposes...

  5. Ah, the ladies! Eve's got the right idea and Fran the right sentiments. I'm taking Elizabeth to my next audit.

  6. What I am having a problem with is this. These guys didn't bother to tip the bellboy in the first place. But he is still upset that they were overcharged.

  7. The bellboy is the picture of pure, callow youth -- always expecting good to come around eventually.

    BTW, paying cash is fine. It's the RECEIPT that you need when the non-pure, non-callow Uncle Sam comes a'callin.

  8. Great story, Dale...and no, I don't know where the extra tenner is--I just know I don't have it. I love the picture of the bellhop--he has the look of a "Bruno" from "Strangers On A Train."

  9. Tsk, tsk... That Leigh! What was he thinking, adding twenty when he should have added thirty? Tsk, tsk.

  10. everytime i think i have it, it slips thru my fingers

  11. you are going to publish the solution?

  12. I'm still trying to figure where that $10 went.

    Could John have been trying to save money? But wouldn't that make him one of the cheapskates?

    Love the story.

  13. I plan to further address this issue in my next article. I think the plot of this (which is out there in various forms on the internet)is instructive on how to craft a fair play mystery. So see you in two weeks!

  14. Here's the solution:
    The original cost of the room was $300.00.
    Then the manager said, nope, it's $250.00.
    The bellboy comes back with $50.00.
    John gives each of the guys $10.00, and the bellboy $20.00.
    That adds up to $300.00, making the idea that somehow that $10.00 is missing all nothing but semantics.

  15. The actual cost isn't $300.00 it's $290. Consisting of
    $90 x 3 ($100 minus $10 refund per person)and increased with the bellboy tip of $20
    We're only led to believe the cost is $300... Looking forward to part II


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>