Short Stories in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series
Believing is Seeing
A locked-room mystery is a subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime, almost always murder, is committed under seemingly impossible circumstances. In other words, the perpetrator could not have committed the crime nor gotten in or out of the crime scene. The typical but not necessary example is a locked room. The reader is presented with the puzzle and all the clues and is encouraged to solve the mystery before the detective.
Miriam herself will tell you that solving the murder of that sailor in “Believing is Seeing” was the most baffling case of her career: “He couldn’t have died from any natural cause, but suicide and murder were also out of the question."
June’s own locked-room mystery, the short story “Believing is Seeing,” will play on What the Writers Wrote Podcast, beginning on May 17th. Listening is free. Just click here.
Get a Head Start on the Story Here:
The Eighth Year of the Reign of
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus [Nero]
62 CE, Mid-March
Alexandria ad Aegyptum
"But Miriam, how could someone be dead when every way he could have died was impossible?”
“That’s why the death of Calix was my most baffling case. He couldn’t have died from any natural cause, but suicide and murder were also out of the question. I had no explanation until I mixed in some intuition with the facts."
As usual on Shabbat, Phoebe had taken a break from helping her cherubic-faced husband, Bion, in his shop to pay me a lunchtime visit. Given the unusual warmth for an early spring day, I asked her to join me under the linen canopy of my family’s third-floor Egyptian-style roof garden.
We were sitting at a marble table across from each other on teak benches banked with cushions of cerulean and turquoise silk. Under the pinpricks of light, a rush of air grazed the nape of my neck and rippled Phoebe’s Chinese silk outer tunic, puffed out the ruffle along the lower edge of her inner tunic, and lifted the wispy feathers of dark hair that shade her brow. She giggled as she patted down her skirts with her dumpling-like hands, her fingers laden with massive rings glittering with precious gems in keeping with her status as the wife of a prosperous shopkeeper.
“So, what made you think of Calix today?” I asked. “That case was so long ago.”
“Bion hired an apprentice who is occupying our upstairs apartment with his younger brother. I already told you about that, right?”
I wasn’t sure.
“Well, the brother had been staying at that inn, you know, The Pegasus, where you solved the case of that jackal-faced slave who was bludgeoned to death in his own locked room.”
“Oh, that greasy place! Even the soup would saw off the roof of your mouth.”
“Well,” continued Phoebe, “both deaths—the slave’s and Calix’s—defied explanation, but I wasn’t paying much attention in those days. Little did I know you’d make a vocation out of this sleuthing business. So, when I was walking over here and saw a beggar with something like the face of a jackal, and then I passed the house on the corner—that’s where Calix was killed, right? The place with that neat little walk—I made a connection between the cases and wondered how you happened to get involved in the one about Calix.”
“You passed the house of Ira ben Baruch—”
“Yes, the house that used to belong to his father, that elder of your synagogue, the one who was crucified during the Riots.”
“Well, Calix was killed maybe ten years after the Riots. At the time, Ira ben Baruch was living downstairs in the front of the house, and his father’s elderly maid, Rhea, was staying in the room behind the kitchen. He’d rent out the two single rooms upstairs to sailors when the ports were closed for the season. Calix was one, and his shipmate—”
“So, how did you get involved in that case?”
The clues will be coming.