"Have you ever seen a man kill himself with a burrito?" asked Detective Cop, with a wry sideways glance.
Einstein Quirk knew Cop was trying to tantalize him, and he had made a habit of not being tantalized, especially by the official police force. "Maybe," he responded carelessly.
Detective Cop tossed a case file across Quirk's desk. "Well make that definitely," he said.
Quirk nonchalantly picked up the file and began to casually browse through it. The victim was John Richly, the richest man in town, who had earned a billion dollars through the hard work and effort he had manifested into the bodies of his thousands of employees. He had been found dead, alone in his locked office, with a burrito in his hand. There was a tentative finding of suicide by the coroner, or whatever it meant when the coroner wrote, "Suicide? Somehow? I guess?"
"Thought it might be of some interest to you," said Detective Cop, with a wink.
Detective Cop often brought cases to Quirk. He would belittle Quirk's abilities and the whole concept of his profession, and then Quirk would solve the cases for him. Cop called this "negging".
Quirk was not officially affiliated with the police despite this longstanding parasitic relationship. He worked independently as what he called a psychological detective. If you'd asked him what that was, he would have told you that he was a detective who used psychology to solve crimes. Instead of just looking at physical clues like photos and DNA and fingerprints, he also used psychology to think about what the criminal might have been thinking when they did the crime. If you asked him didn't regular detectives also do that, he would have said, "No." If you tried to follow up, he would have been very busy.
Right now he was thinking that Detective Cop had tantalized him well. A man who had killed himself somehow with a burrito would surely have a lot of psychology. He flipped further through the pages, but before he could get to the end, Detective Cop spoiled it for him.
"The only two other clues," said the detective, apparently not noticing Quirk's frantic gestures to avoid spoilers, "were a note we found on him, and a big stab wound in the heart."
"A note!" exclaimed Quirk. "Now that's fascinating. There's a lot of room for psychology in a note."
"Thought you might like that," said Cop with a grin. "It was a short note. It simply said, 'I died from farting too much.'"
Quirk frowned. "Quite an embarrassing admission."
"I thought so too," said Cop. "But he clearly knew he was on his deathbed. Dignity tends to go out the window at times like that."
Quirk stood up and began to pace back and forth while tugging on his ear, which was his signature tic. He would tug on his left ear while he was puzzling things out, and then when he had solved the problem, he would switch to tugging on his right ear.
He tugged on his left ear for a few minutes and then finally on his right. He turned briskly to an amused and expectant Cop. "This was no suicide," he said. "This was a murder."
"Because of the stab wound?"
"Because of the what?" Quirk blinked and then shook his head impatiently. "No, I won't be distracted by physical evidence. Everything comes from psychology." He turned toward the window, his hands folded behind his back. "Your murderer is a tall man aged 20-30. He killed Richly because he didn't like him very much. He has killed before, and he will kill again."
Detective Cop gasped and then laughed. "You're pulling my leg, Quirk."
Without turning around, Quirk said, "On my desk is today's newspaper. Take a look at the story on page A6."
Detective Cop did so. "Cheapskate Millennials Killing Restaurant Industry."
"Sorry, I meant A8."
"Opinion: Millennials Could Afford Houses If They Didn't Waste All Their Money At Restaurants."
"Maybe the bottom of that page."
"Senator Richard Politics Found Dead In His Office."
"That's the one."
Detective Cop skimmed it quickly, his eyes growing wide. "Says here he was found stabbed, with a 'FBI: Female Body Inspector' mug in his hand and a note that said simply, 'Duh I'm dumb.'"
Quirk spun around. "We're looking at a very dangerous man. A very psychologically healthy, but dangerous man."
"Healthy?" said Cop. "He's a serial killer!"
"He certainly has a problem with morals," agreed Quirk, "but his psychology isn't twisted, complex, or fascinating. It's as boring and healthy and mundane as yours or mine."
"Are you going to solve this case for me or not, idiot?"
"I'm getting to it," said Quirk hurriedly.
"I don't think you can do it," said Cop. "You're just stalling. Your job isn't real. You're no match for the official police."
"No, no, no," sputtered Quirk, tugging his ear, "I've got it, look, we need to get to the scene of the next murder, before it happens."
"You know who it's going to be already?" said Cop.
"Yes," said Quirk, regaining some composure. "It's going to be Brian Computer, CEO of ComputerCorp."
"How did you know?" asked Cop, astonished.
Quirk fed off his astonishment like an astonishment vampire, growing stronger and talking more slowly and casually. "It's quite simple really. There were four suitemates at college, these three men, and another guy."
"How do you know the other guy isn't the next victim?"
"Well, because he's the murderer."
Cop gasped. "Well, shouldn't we go find him instead?"
Quirk snorted. "If we could find him. Those three became famous and successful and he became a mere peon making probably no more than $200K a year."
"I -" began Detective Cop, mentally doing the math with his own salary.
"He probably lives alone in his disgrace, struggling along barely above the San Francisco poverty line."
Detective Cop thought about the 3 hour commute back to his home in Tracy that he could barely afford and said, "All right you fake detective, let's go to Brian Computer's office and prove you're wrong. You'll be so embarrassed."
"Oh ho ho, will I?" said Quirk eagerly. "Yes, let's go."
Moments later, they were waiting in Brian Computer's large empty office, decorated with a tasteful statue of a computer behind a waterfall.
"I wonder when Mr. Computer is going to show up," grumbled Detective Cop, checking his phone to see the traffic back to Tracy. It didn't look good.
Just then, Brian Computer stumbled into the room, panting and terrified.
"Oh, there you are," said Quirk.
Computer ignored them, rudely, and slammed the door behind him, locking it hurriedly. As he turned to them they could see a bright red stain was spreading across the front of his hoodie. He had been stabbed.
Cop and Quirk looked at each other.
"Ah, that explains the locked door!" said Cop.
Computer looked at them in bewilderment. "Help... me..." he choked out, before collapsing on the ground, his arms falling out to reveal he was holding a Dr. Who Funko Pop in one hand.
"The murderer must have put this in his hand!" exclaimed Cop.
"But why didn't he drop it?" asked Quirk, walking over to the body.
"Please... help..." sputtered Brian Computer.
"Ahh..." said Quirk, tugging at the item. "It's been glued to his hand."
"Dying..." said Brian Computer.
"Fine, fine," said Quirk, unlocking the door impatiently. He opened it and shouted out into the hallway, "Excuse me, your CEO has been stabbed, please call the paramedics." He turned back to Computer. "Are you happy now?"
"Can probably... still catch murderer..." gasped Computer.
"Sure, sure," said Detective Cop, "let me just finish my train of thought so I won't forget later. My detectives didn't find any trace of glue on the other victims' hands."
"Disappearing glue," said Quirk, picking up some on his fingertip and taking a sniff. "Oldest trick in the book."
"Of course," said Detective Cop. "Now, the murderer. You see?" he said to the dying man. "I was getting to it. No need to rush me." And with that, he sprinted out the door after the murderer.
Moments later, Quirk and Cop were sitting in the police station with the murderer.
"It's a good thing he stopped to get a Starbucks," said Cop.
Quirk shook his head at the young man in front of them. "Perhaps if you didn't spend so much money on these fancy coffees, you'd be able to afford a getaway car."
"I have a car," said the man.
"A car, in San Francisco, when there are so many public transit options? Do you care so little for our planet?"
"It's an electric car," said the man.
"Oh, congratulations, but maybe if you hadn't splurged so much on a luxury car you'd have the money to make something of yourself, and stop being jealous of your roommates."
"First of all," said the man, "it's a Nissan Leaf, and I bought it when there were still huge tax credits so it was about the same as a regular economy car. Secondly, I'm not jealous of my suitemates."
"Because they're dead?" asked Quirk.
"Are they?" said the man. "Well that's another reason."
"Can I interrupt," said Detective Cop, "and ask some boring detective questions? For example, what is your name?"
"Jeff," said the man.
"Very interesting," said Quirk, tugging his ear.
"Is that a signal?" asked Jeff.
"No, it's a tic," said Cop. "What is your last name?"
"Au," said Jeff.
"Great," said Cop, writing it down. "Third question, did you kill those men?"
"No," said Jeff. "Which men?"
"John Richly, Richard Politics, and Brian Computer."
"Oh wow, those are my suitemates."
"Well, they're dead."
Jeff sighed. "Not gonna lie, I won't miss them."
"Aha!" said Quirk, "so you were jealous."
"No," said Jeff. "They were very bad suitemates. They never once did the dishes."
They stared at him.
"We all got together and had a roommate meeting and came up with a system for who would do the dishes and taking out the garbage, and it should have split everything up evenly among us, taking turns, but every time it was their turn they always came up with a loophole, like they had a very important final tomorrow, or they thought they might be getting a food allergy to something so they shouldn't touch the dishes, or they promised if I took their turn this week, they would take my next two turns, but then when they were supposed to take my turn, they tried to make the deal with me again, except for four turns."
He leaned back in the chair, and took a deep breath.
"I think John ended up owing me 128 turns."
"Well, you agreed to the system, so -"
"Brian said he was going to build a robot to automate dishwashing and garbage collecting so none of us would have to do it. He said if I took his turns he'd have more time to work on the robot. He never did get it working but the parts started taking up more and more of my room. I had to sleep in the living room. The last time I saw it, it threw garbage onto the lady next door and she smashed it. He put all the smashed parts in my room and said he'd fix it up, but he never did."
"At least it seems like meant well -"
"I kept trying to call them on this during roommate meetings and Richard said he didn't agree with what they were doing but I was being divisive and taking a very aggressive tone, and that wasn't going to motivate them to change. John offered to double the turns he owed me to 256, for free, and Richard said that was a very generous olive branch and I was being unreasonable for not meeting him halfway.
"Eventually, they got me kicked out of the suite by telling the school administration I had called them racists."
Detective Cop gasped. "Did you?"
"No," said Jeff.
"Did you kill them?" asked Quirk suddenly.
"Well, I -" began Jeff, quickly cutting himself off. He grinned and pointed with both hands at Quirk. "Ahhhhh..."
"Ahhh..." said Quirk, pointing back and chuckling.
"You almost got me."
"It was worth a try."
"Look, just as a thought exercise, what if I had killed them, what would happen?"
"Well," said Detective Cop thoughtfully, "they do sound like dicks, but they were very rich, and very white, and so we'd probably have to put you in jail forever."
"And when you die, we'll study your brain," said Quirk.
"Hmm," said Jeff. "I think I'm going to keep going with I didn't do it."
"Well, we're going to have to let you go, then," said Detective Cop.
"Thanks," said Jeff. "Can I have my stuff back?"
"Sure," said Detective Cop. "Here's your keys, your wallet, and here's the knife you had on you - we had it cleaned up."
"Aw, thanks," said Jeff.
Quirk fumed as Jeff walked out the door. "It was him, I know it. The psychology was perfect. He didn't like them, he wanted them dead, but he didn't want to try very hard."
"I know," said Detective Cop, "I think you've nailed this one. But we can't do anything without evidence. He may just be too clever for the likes of us."
Weeks later, Detective Cop sauntered into Quirk's office. "Still thinking about the one that got away?"
Quirk looked up. "Got something new?"
Detective Cop threw a case file on Quirk's desk. "Edgeward Podcast, found dead in his home studio with a Reader's Digest in his hand."
Quirk leapt to his feet. "The hunt begins again, my friend."
"Shut up, you fraud," said Detective Cop.