“Any fan of flower contests, I suppose.” I tried to imagine fans of flower contests: did they hold tailgate parties before events? Did they collect and trade cards with growers’ photos and statistics on contests won and species specialized in?
I thanked Mr. Tallman, wished him well on his forthcoming nuptials (despite my own marital disaster), and drove home to think about the case. Obviously only one of the… daffodillees would benefit from the destruction of his or her competitors’ flowers, but who? They all seemed to be such decent, flower-loving people. A bookie might profit, but I doubted that people wagered on flower contests. As things stood, Mr. Tallman stood to win by default. If only the criminal’s footprints had not been destroyed by raking. Then it hit me.
I drove to Tallman’s house and while I waited for him to return, I checked the tools in his shed. As I expected, he had an extensive collection of rakes, hoes, and shovels, as well as a hose and a wheelbarrow, all of which proved only that he was a keen gardener.
He returned. “Could we talk?”
He invited me in and offered me coffee or tea which I declined, not wanting to accept hospitality from someone I was about to accuse of a crime.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I think you are the one who destroyed everyone’s daffodils, including your own, except for two, enough to win the contest for you.”
“Interesting. Please continue.”
“Whoever is guilty had to be able to reach all of the rows of daffodils, except for the Stemsons’, of course. Only you are tall and agile enough to do so. Am I right?”
“Very clever, Mr. Tuff, but only partly right. You missed the real motive. I told you that I am getting married soon. My daffodils are a new type I have just bred. I was determined to win so that I would have the right to name the strain. I planned to name it in honour of my fiancée, a special wedding present. Now…”
I was dumbfounded at the things which love will drive people to do. Mr. Tallman sniffled. I realized that he was crying. He reached for a Kleenex; luckily we were not in my office, so that he used his own.
I telephoned the Mendels and they promised to tell Mr. Blundage and the other contestants who the guilty person was.
A couple of days later, when I arrived at my office, Hank said: “Those flower people left something for you.” On my desk was an envelope with a thank-you card and a cheque for my fee. Beside it was a pot with a small plant, fortunately a tiny cactus which, even with my limited horticultural knowledge, I knew required little watering.