Thanks to the inestimable (Unestimible? Inestimably? Unmentionable? Aw... doubleplusgood) help of Ravenne, I can now post my solution, presented in the voice of Rock Lobster himself. This is how I imagined he solved the case:
“The key,” I went on, “was Verencat’s statement that there were ten moderators in the room. And based on PilotBob’s statement, the only moderator missing at the moment of the murder was Neko.”
"So..." Netseeker kindly did the math. "There are eleven of us?"
"Well, what does that prove?" NatCh snapped.
"I'm starting to get a handle on how you jokers think," I explained. "For instance, that although Verencat said there were ten moderators in the room... at the moment of the killing, there were actually twelve people in the room."
"Anyone got a calculator?" DaleDe asked. Nate immediately whipped something out of his pocket, and began thumb-typing furiously.
I continued, ignoring the interruption. “Including the soon-to-be stiff, the ten moderators were here. But one of them was here… twice!
“Twice,” I replied smugly. “Thanks to that temporal thingie you all seem to be so familiar with. It would allow one of you to go back in time and commit the murder, with the incidental result of there being two of you here at the same time. Including pshrynk, that made twelve.” I looked at Verencat, but she turned away quickly, and I knew why.
Everyone looked to Nate. After a moment, he looked up and did one of those outrageous shrugs. "Checks out."
“But who?” Zippy demanded. “Who did it?”
"The killer was MTravelerH."
Across the room, a compass fell to the floor. MTravelerH blustered a moment, then said, “Preposterous!"
“You did not
just say that,” Patricia smirked.
"Not at all," I stated. "Uh
… I mean, yes, he did, and not at all is it preposterous. You happened to be closest to the stiff, pre-stiffened, as you were cleaning the cases... he was busy prying one open, and believed that you were too busy on another case to have noticed. Noticed you had, but you pretended not to."
"And why would I do that?"
"So that you could be conveniently looking elsewhere when, minutes later, you would go back in time to that precise moment. Verencat saw you there, but tried to hide the truth from me by being clever… in fact, her chasing Nate’s string probably took a part in distracting PilotBob and DaleDe from noticing the extra you in the room. In the meantime, future-you waited until past-you wasn’t looking, snatched the crowbar from pshrynk's hands, and bashed him with it!"
“You have no proof that I did that,” MtravelerH stated simply.
“No?” I said, flipping to another page of notes. This notepad was getting a workout today. “But what I do have is a comment you made, quote: ‘It can become so tedious at times with all of this spatio-temporal transpositioning going on.’ Unquote.”
, Zelda said she went back and cleaned the crowbar!”
“True… but Zippy mentioned her backwards jaunt to me after
I spoke to you, and I mentioned it just now
. You mentioned it first--back on page one.
MTravelerH started to work his mouth open and closed, looking much like the average beached trout… and his eyes were wide enough to make Nate’s eyes look squinty. And everyone else was now squinting at MTravelerH with contempt… well, maybe not contempt, but obvious satisfaction that the guilty party had been made.
“But why would Verencat hide the truth?” Neko asked.
“Well--” I started, before being forced to dance to the left and cut off MTravelerH as he sidled towards the door. “Adrian!” I shouted, pointing at the culprit. “Sit on ‘em!”
I started to reply to Neko’s answer then, when MTravelerH suddenly bolted in the other direction. Before he could escape, I cut him off and slapped the red button on the wall. At once, walls folded and unfolded, lights strobed, a miniature sperm whale briefly appeared and disappeared, and my hat popped off my head in a sudden decompression of the room.
When everything had settled down, I looked around. MTravelerH was trapped inside a transparent column, thumping the walls with his fists and screaming silently to be let out. Verencat was also inside, slumped listlessly against the wall.
“I do like that button of yours,” I smiled for the first time all day.
“What’s Verencat doing in there?” Neko asked.
“Oh, please,” DaleDe replied for me. “Like it isn’t obvious. She was helping MTravelerH because… they were lovers!”
“No!” Netseeker goggled. Then he looked critically at the two of them. “Really?”
“Uh… no,” I said. “More likely, MTravelerH saw her notice him, and bribed her to keep quiet. A few more pieces of string to play with ought to have been enough, I’d say.”
I turned to Zippy then. “Well, I believe that just about wraps it up.” I moved closer to her and lowered my voice. “And listen, doll… although I’m sure Turcic has already snagged my fee, I’d be happy to give you a little extra attention… eh?” Zippy looked at me through narrowed eyes. “Consider it a bonus,” I added. “I know I
She responded by slapping the red button.
Dames. Go figure.