Detective Ted Sullivan surveyed the scene. A dead mime sprawled on the sidewalk, face down, knife in the back. Off to the side, the uniformed cops had corralled three witnesses who belonged to the same mime troupe as the victim. All wore black pants and black turtlenecks. All sported black berets. All had black smiles painted on their ghost-white faces. Sullivan strode over to begin his questioning.
He addressed the first mime. “Okay. Tell me what you saw.”
The mime made an “X” over his mouth and bugged out his eyes.
“Look, I need to know what happened here.”
The mime started working his arms, laying flat palms against walls in the air.
“The victim was being held, against his will?” Sullivan asked. “In a box?”
Three shakes of the head. Now the mime climbed an imaginary rope.
“He was trying to escape? Climbing out of a hole?” Sullivan glanced around. No boxes. No ropes. No holes. He turned to the second mime.
“Who killed your friend?”
The second mime frowned and knuckled away a pretend tear, then began eating a non-existent ice cream cone. And he was making a mess.
“Are you trying to tell me the victim was eating when he bought it?”
The mime shook his head, then leaned against a counter. Or a lamppost. Or a wall. It was hard to tell.
Sullivan had always hated cases involving mimes. He moved on to the third witness. “How about you, buddy? You got something to say?”
Another “X” across the mouth. Then the mime started to fight against a fierce wind. A moment later, he pulled out an invisible umbrella and tried to keep it from blowing away.
“Enough,” Sullivan bellowed. “Your mime friend is lying there, dead. And you’re not helping me one bit.”
The third mime stopped struggling with his umbrella. He laid it down on the sidewalk gently. He smoothed out his unwrinkled clothes, adjusted his beret, then faced the detective. “Okay. You cracked me,” he said, aloud. The other two mimes slapped their hands over their ears and recoiled in horror. The third mime continued, “I did it. I killed Marcello. I’m sorry.”
“You killed him?”
“Yes, yes, it was me. I stabbed him.”
The other two mimes shrank away farther, pretending to bawl.
“Why’d you do it?” Sullivan asked the mime murderer.
“Jealousy. He did the best walking-in-the-wind the industry has ever seen. I just couldn’t take being in his shadows any more. I do a great wind thing myself. You’ve seen it. But it didn’t measure up.” The mime started crying; this time, the tears were real. “Please, don’t put me in jail. Please. I won’t last long in the slammer.”
Sullivan simply shook his head. Don’t do the mime, if you can’t do the time.