In a long, narrow building at the end of a long, narrow street lived the Greatest Detective in the World. He had never solved a single crime, but in his long life he had read countless mysteries, and devoured every true crime novel and newspaper report he could get his hands on. And he had solved them all.
In truth, the Greatest Detective in the World had often found his literary counterparts unaccountably slow. Even Sherlock Holmes had his moments, and the less said about the little Belgian fellow the better. It was not their fault, of course. Mystery authors seldom played fair with their readers or their detectives, and newspaper reports were often devoid of helpful details. But more than once, he had heard about an arrest on the evening news and nodded smugly to himself. Knew it.
The neighbors were not fond of him, and his beady little eyes. From time to time they would catch him watching them, peeking through his rear window with a telescope or binoculars. Always eager to catch a glimpse of a crime. They had disappointed him for years, providing only a a litany of daily life, and the occasional watered down scandal, but no robberies or conveniently placed murders. He hated them for that nearly as much as they hated him.
“He’s just a harmless old man,” a new arrival would say and the old timers would shake their heads.
“You’ll see,” they said. “You’ll see.” And invariably they did. Invariably he learned all their little secrets and rejoiced in telling them their own life’s stories.
It was a quiet, brooding life on that long, narrow street as the Greatest Detective in the World wiled away the days and hours impatiently waiting for a mystery worthy of his talents. But as the years passed and his hair turned white, and his hands became brittle claws, he found that he had waited in vain. No one, it seemed, was willing to get themselves murdered on his behalf. It was very selfish of them. After all, they were going to die anyway. And he wasn’t getting any younger.
The Greatest Detective in the World was 83 when the coughing started. A slight tickle at first, but it lingered and deepened over the following months. And sometimes there was blood. Bedridden, he peered through the curtains desperately hoping against hope, that he would finally see a crime. But there was nothing. Only tedium and the long, slow slide into death.
A few of his neighbors did manage to pay him a visit from time to time—the retired actor downstairs, the young couple across the street, the nursing student three doors down. He wondered why they came. He had never been kind to any of them. They didn’t owe him a thing.
It was only later, as he lay in a hospital bed miles away half-listening as the doctors and nurses whispered among themselves about pesticides and rat poison, that he understood. He had always thought the Belgian had been an idiot for not seeing it sooner, but he had been just as slow. There had been a murder after all.