WHAT THE BUTLER SAW ......
WHO DONE IT?
A DENOUEMENT OF DENIAL
STOP IT! PLEASE STOP IT! MAKE IT STOP! STOP IT NOW!
"What's wrong with you people? Why do you always have to make everything so complicated? So mysterious? So farking wrong?"
"Why can't you just go with the blindingly obvious?"
Total silence descends. Everyone looks at everyone else. Eyebrows are raised quizzically. Shoulders are shrugged. Unkind circular gestures are made suggesting mental illness on the part of the speaker.
The previously silent recumbent figure was neither silent nor recumbent any longer. He stood center stage, foaming at the mouth, shaking his fists at the audience. A single spot-light snaps on and reveals:
A collective gasp causes every candle in the house to flicker. The sound of a hundred palms slapping a hundred foreheads in mute acknowledgment generates a thunder-clap as loud as a sonic boom.
Of course! It WAS so obvious! The butler did it! Just like in all those old mysteries. Everyone knows the butler always did it. How could they be so blind?
.... But wait a minute. Which butler? ....
The audience settles back complacent in their new-found ignorance. It's complicated again. It's still a mystery. There will have to be yet more explanations. Time for more popcorn.
Colonel Alex clears his throat and voices the thoughts of all:
"Errrr .... Well BOb, maybe you could just, you know, give us a little hint ... about ... well, you know, everything that did or didn't happen tonight. And to whom it did or didn't happen to. And why it might have happened ... or not. You know. Take your time now. Any time you're ready."
"And maybe provide some insight into that baffling message penned by the victim (or victims) onto the pages of that paperback."
"You still don't get it, do you?"
"Even after reading all those thousands of mysteries uploaded to the MobileRead Library, you didn't get it?"
The ensuing silence veritably shouted: "No! We don't understand a single thing that's happened here tonight. Please explain."
"OK, OK, let's do the big scene in the library, where the all-knowing detective assembles the suspects, explains the improbable series of events that led inexorably to the murder, and then identifies the killer in an outlandishly dramatic fashion."
Yes! The audience settles comfortably in for the promised treat. The suspects fidget in the wings, eying one another suspiciously. A virtual drum roll sounds in everyone's mind, signaling the beginning of the end.
"Cast your mind back to the previous murder mystery that occurred here. The one featuring Rock Lobster as the so-called brainy detective, aided by his beautiful moll. After showering you with red herrings and lies so that nobody could actually logically deduce the murderer's identity, Lobster invents a hare-brained solution just to collect his fee. And you all bought it! Just because he said so."
"Only the chicken had realized the truth, but you all ignored his repeated warning: 'It was the penguin wot done it!' And so the real murderer escaped "undetected," so to speak.
So if this same murderer were to succeed again here tonight, the chicken had
to die! Disguising the murder as a barbecue was a brilliant cover story. You were all so busy stuffing your faces on the victim -- your brains stopped working!"
"Bon sang mais c'est bien sūr ! Je le savais ! ...presque !"
"And besides," he added with a devilish grin, "all that murdering makes a bloke a wee bit 'peckish'!" (hehehehehehehehehehe!)
The suspects in the wings attempt to unobtrusively wipe the chicken grease off their guilty hands.
BOb fixed the audience with his beady black eyes and continued his narrative. "Let's consider then, hypothetically, how tonight's events might have come about."
"So, you want to plan the perfect murder .... again. First, you change your avatar so that no one will ever suspect you -- of anything. Heck, most people can't even describe what you look like now! You diligently do your research, reading volume after volume in the library, and find the same tired plot line over and over again. In every locked-room mystery, regardless of means, motive, or murder weapon -- the butler did it. And yet authors keep writing them and people keep reading them -- and being stumped! Again and again and again! So why not choose this same plot for your
murder! The solution will be so obvious no one will deduce or guess it. They'll all try to out-think you! Pretty fiendish, eh?"
"Next up: choose your victim."
"While you are in the library, doing your research, you notice Pshrynk is watching you. He's been on edge ever since the last time he got murdered and doesn't seem to trust folk anymore. He's been spending a lot of time in the library, preparing for his portrait sittings, and has noticed your choice of reading material. Then you see him picking up the last book (What The Butler Saw) you had lifted the plot from, errr, used as a research source. You watch the dawning light of comprehension appear on his face and realize -- he knows what you're planning to do! He alone knows the identity of the murderer BEFORE
the murder is committed! That decides the question of choosing a victim real quick!"
"Too obvious of a victim choice? Nah! Maybe they'll suspect the same (wrong) culprit again! Some members probably won't even notice he's dead again."
"So the murder goes just as you had planned.
You disguise yourself in your old avatar, that you've kept carefully hidden in the back of your closet. You look in the mirror and chuckle, realizing that now you look just like Jeeves! If anyone sees you, they'll think they've seen the butler! Not the face of a murderer! No one looks closely at the servants.
The weather is perfect -- storms, lightning, thunder, power loss! Everyone trapped in the MR building with no way out. Even better, right before you kill him, Pshrynk has a loud violent argument with another MR member -- while Jeeves is in the room. Perfect! A suspect -- seen by Jeeves -- the ultimate accurate witness! Things couldn't have gone better if you had scripted them. The perfect murder! Again!"
"Only -- you don't realize right away that Pshrynk had managed to scribble a clue to your identity in that blasted book. You have to find out what he's written before the so-called detectives decipher it, and then get that book back to the library before someone notices it's missing. That's where the fun begins!"
"Your only recourse is the trusty MobileRead Temporal Dysjunction Mechanism. You push that big red button to re-live the murder and remove the book before the body is discovered. But, unknown to you, Adrian's been tinkering in the lab again, and things begin going very strangely wrong. Every push of the button recreates the murder -- but with a new cast of characters -- and in a new location! The only thing that remains the same is the identity of the murderer! You panic and keep pushing the button! Temporal absurdities abound! MR members appear and disappear! Time lines are shredded!
And each and every time you're too late to the new scene of the crime to retrieve the book! Just as you get there and bend over the expiring Pshrynk (who always dies looking at a butler) and try to pry that one incriminating piece of evidence out of his death grip, you hear the approaching footsteps of Zelda and Jeeves. No matter how many times you push that farking button, you just can't recreate the original murder and steal back the book."
"Things are not boding well for you. Or are they?"
"You carefully observe each re-creation of the crime and gleefully note the disfigurement of the book caused by the spilled red fluid. Only a few words or letters are legible in each scenario. The detective team's puny intellects will never be able to re-create Pshyrnk's last words, let alone decipher his message. You're safe!"
"Even if Zelda had thought to copy down the words and letters each time and assemble them on a single page, which she hadn't, she and her side kicks would never be able to re-create Pshrynk's last message, and in it, the identity of his murderer."
Scratching noises fill the room as everyone tries to remember the various versions of page 202 and write them out on the nearest scrap of paper. Zelda and Lobster hunch together and argue fiercely over their re-creation.
Did YOU remember to do this?
Now - if this explanation made absolutely no sense to you, or you're thinking "I didn't know about any of this old stuff or about these people - how did you expect me to solve this murder?" ... here is the chain of reasoning that should have led you to pick pilotbob as the obvious and only culprit
, based on the clues provided in the story.
The key to solving the mystery is to notice that Zelda and her cronies ignore a key clue - they never try to recreate the message in the book. That is left for the readers to do - the message points to first the butlers, then to pilotbob specifically.
1. Given the title ... the obvious choice is the butler! but which one?
2. The same episode seems to have happened over & over & over .... only with some of the characters changing each time - but when questioned - all of them tell a coherent plausible story - which is supported by the physical evidence Zelda observes each time. Hmmmm.....some kind of time loop? Or parallel time lines?
Count out the ladies as suspects.
3. Other characters pop in and out discussing events that have happened or that will happen .... hmmmm...the time line is not linear.
4. Pshrynk is alive in one of the episodes - but definitely dead in all the other episodes ....hmmmm....multiple time lines again!
5. Rock Lobster has shadowed Zelda all night - so she couldn't have killed anyone without him seeing the murder - so she's out.
6. Rock Lobster dragged filip around with him all night - so Lobster couldn't have killed anyone without filip seeing the murder - so they're both out.
7. Catire is obviously insane and knows nothing about any murder - so he's out.
8. Col. Alex remains in his study, and is served his hot toddy by Jeeves, in all of the episodes - so he's out.
Remember - all the Jeeves describe seeing Pshrynk alive as they are leaving to take the hot toddy to the study.
9. That leaves the Jeeves and the mysterious scribbled clue in the book.
10. All of the Jeeves tell basically the same story - which is corroborated when Zelda questions the female suspects - EXCEPT pilotbob. Remember - he alone never described seeing Pshrynk alive that night. He alone never described witnessing a "fatal argument" between Pshrynk and another MR member. BUT he knows what has gone on that night.
In all respects, except for how he's dressed, pilotbob never behaved like the other Jeeves. In fact, he never claimed to be Jeeves - instead he lied about why Zelda saw so many versions of Jeeves that night.
11. Pshrynk's scribbled note directs Zelda to "ask pilotbob who did it" - to direct her attention to him alone - because the last thing Pshrynk saw in ALL the episodes - was pilotbob -- his killer - dressed as a butler, right after seeing Jeeves leave the room.
12. Super subtle clue for really close readers:
There were 6 incarnations of Jeeves (DaleDe, Nate, mtravellerh, montsnmags, pshrynk, and NatCh)
Pilotbob never uttered a *cough* -
Zelda drags "a formally dressed struggling figure into the spotlight" - obviously one of the butlers -
There are 6 *cough* at the end of the last episode -
Ergo - the 6 butlers coming onto stage are the the 6 butlers who had uttered *cough* during the story.
The butler under Zelda's foot must the the 7th butler (who never said *cough*) - pilotbob - the murderer - in plain sight all the time.