He’d seen it before. Years ago, it was, but it didn’t take an old gumshoe to read this scene. The crossword killer was back.
The victim was a large man, mid-to-late 50s probably, and was slumped face down on a small table in a small kitchen. A completed crossword puzzle from The New York Times lay open at his elbow. A handful of the easier clues had been answered in pencil, but the bulk of the puzzle had been completed—hurriedly, it appeared—in ink. Detective Sorghum knew that forensics would identify the pen that now lodged two inches deep in the victim’s back as the same pen that had been used to complete the puzzle. It wasn’t the murder weapon, though. No, the puzzle and the pen were the murderer’s “signature.” The pen had been placed carefully by the killer in the hole left by a single shot from a .38 caliber revolver.
These crimes—this would be the fourth, thought the detective—were never solved. Each of the earlier victims had lived alone south of Flushing Avenue, worked in Manhattan, and commuted on the number seven train. One of them, he remembered, lived just a few blocks west of this Jefferson Street tenement. Maybe someone will have noticed that this man was followed off of the train. He doubted it. After one of the earlier killings, one rider was able to report that she’d witnessed an argument between the victim and a “neatly-dressed” man who wore glasses. They’d had “cross words,” she said, when the victim refused to share his newspaper. Later, she saw the neatly-dressed man follow the victim off of the train.
But that was it. For five years now, he’d been looking for a neatly-dressed man in glasses who might be the type to follow a man home from a train, put a bullet in him, finish his crossword puzzle, and leave a pen sticking out of the wound in his back.
There couldn’t be many who would answer to that description.