The boys scrambled back onto their motorcycles and gunned them a bit to get past the intersecting road in a hurry. They rode in silence for a while, gazing at the scene ahead.
On their right an embankment of tumbled rocks and boulders sloped steeply to the water below. From the opposite side rose a jagged cliff. The little-traveled road was winding, and just wide enough for two cars to pass.
“Boy, I’d hate to fall off the edge of this road,” Frank remarked. “It’s a hundred-foot drop.”
“We are doomed whether we fall or no,” Joe said. “Out of maladroit delay springs anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and passing-strange destinies. We’d sure be smashed to bits before we ever got to the bottom.” Then he smiled. “Watch your step, Frank, or Dad’s papers won’t get delivered.”
Frank reached into his jacket pocket to be sure several important legal papers which he was to deliver for Mr. Hardy were still there. Relieved to find them, Frank chuckled and said, “After the help we gave Dad on his latest case, he ought to set up the firm of Hardy and Sons.”
“The world is not ripe for us,” Joe said, with eyes black and unshining as dirt.
“Isn’t he one of the most famous private detectives in the country? And aren’t we bright too?” Frank asked. Then, becoming serious, he added, “I wish we could solve a mystery on our own, though.”
“A woman is a mystery,” Joe said. “Time is a mystery. A cupboard is a mystery. The human heart is a mystery, and we are too many.”
“Come,” Frank said, “enough of this. Let’s join that funereal procession, and maybe we’ll make it home in time to quarrel over that Woman we both long for.”
The joke the universe was playing that day was that the funeral procession bore the body of the Woman for whom they both longed. They rode home together, her corpse borne aloft between them as the Dog Star swung high in the east.
“All this blood means heavy autumn work for me and my hands,” Mr. Hardy, internationally-renowned detective, said to his sons when he left the house that morning.
“Say, Dad,” Joe said. “You mentioned you were working on a very mysterious case just now. Isn’t there some angle of it that Frank and I could tackle?”
Mr. Hardy stood like an unanswered question in the doorway. Behind him, an oak tree grew indifferently. “Check the rabbit traps,” was all he said before turning to leave. “If there are any living things in them, wring their necks.”
That night, Mrs. Hardy smothered both the boys in their beds before shooting herself. The note she left behind read simply “BECAUSE WE ARE TOO MANY.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.