sat in his favorite chair, sweating in the heat of his office. The ceiling fan
had broken down a few days ago, and Chicago
was experiencing one of the worst heat waves
since the start of the century. Fortunately, his office was in Boston
. It was still damn hot, though, and the individual room cooler
would not be invented for 16 years. Woodrow Wilson
has recently been elected president, and Webster couldn't help but wonder: did the American public vote for the better sounding name? Was this the beginning of a new trend in American society
? Little did Webster know, sitting in his office in 1913, that this would indeed be the deciding factor
in forthcoming elections
- candidates whose first
names start with the same letter winning three
times out of four in between 1913 and 1929.
Just as Webster was settling down to do the first crossword puzzle ever (the date being December 21, 1913, the newspaper being the New York World), a knock came at the door. A beautiful tall brunette walked in. A real head-turner, if ever he saw one. She was hotter than a coal in the furnace of an Alabama steam train. Her legs were long and sleek. Her hair flowed back on her shoulders in a way that could only mean one thing. She had recently worn a hat. And you could tell she was distraught.
"I can tell you are distraught," Webster said.
"Are you Webster, private eye?"
"The same. What can I do for you, miss..."
"Mrs. Daniels. It's my husband, he has been murdered," the leggy dame sobbed, and took the proferred handkerchief.
"Given a quietus, eh? Why come to me?" asked Webster. "Why not go to the police?"
"The police think my son did it. I want you to prove that he didn't."
Now Webster was not the man to turn his back on a damsel in distress. "I ween I'll take the case."
After offering Mrs. Daniels coffee, Webster settled once more into his chair. "I'd like you to tell me everything you can about your husband, Mrs. Daniels."
"He is... was a zookeeper. He took care of the birds, mostly feeding them and cleaning out their cages. Everybody who worked at the zoo liked him. Today morning he forgot to take his sandwiches, and Ralph, that's my son, went to take them to him. He found my husband lying in a pool of his own blood. He had been stabbed repeatedly all over his body. My son ran to get help. When they got to my husband, it was too late, but before he died, he managed to say 'Ralph did it'. Naturally the police arrested my son." and she buried herself in the kerchief.
"I think I may have a hunch. Just let me make a phone call."
"Is that a rotary dial phone you have there?" asked Mrs. Daniels.
"Not for another 10 years."
They were outside one of the bird cages. Webster, Mrs. Daniels, Harris the police inspector and Ralph. "Please check the bird's beak, inspector, I think you may be in for a little surprise," said Webster.
"Oh my, it's covered in blood," the inspector said. "But how did you know?"
"Have you seen Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds?"
"Of course not, that movie won't be made for another 50 years".
"Well, we all know birds are vicious little creatures. When I heard that Mr. Daniels had been stabbed repeatedly, I immediately suspected that a bird pecked him to death. It was just a question of figuring out which one. And as every schoolgirl knows, Ralph is a name sometimes given to the raven."