Conspiracy on the Orient Express

By a show of hands, let’s see who’s willing to murder Lanfranco Cassetti.

Come in… come in, quickly, and whoever’s last, please shut the compartment door behind you. We don’t want anyone to see us all together tonight. We aren’t supposed to know each other, much less be plotting to kill someone tomorrow. If you’ll each find a place to sit — that isn’t my brand new Oshkosh wardrobe trunk, Cyrus, come on! — we can get started figuring out which of us will do the actual deed.

Okay, then. By a simple show of hands, let’s see who’s willing to murder Lanfranco Cassetti. Raise them high, and I’ll count. One, two, skip a few… eleven. And me. So, all of us. All right. That’s not necessarily a problem. Better to have too many choices than too few. There are plenty of fair ways to decide which of this group of a dozen angry individuals all seeking revenge on the same man will have the privilege.

Here: I’m writing the numbers 1 through 12 on these slips of cocktail napkin and putting the slips into a hat. Who has a hat I can use? Fräulein Schmidt, thank you. Now, everybody take one slip from the hat, and whoever has the number 7 is the winner. Who has number 7? Anyone? No one? Everyone hold up your numbers. Okay, that’s my fault. I wrote number 8 twice. I’m sorry. Just throw your pieces of napkin in the wastebasket and return Hildegarde’s hat.

What’s that? Well, sure, but I can’t just ask the porter to bring me a nightcap with twelve straws. That would be pretty suspicious, don’t you think? And anyway we couldn’t be sure that one straw would be shorter than the rest. Arm wrestling? No, that would put most of the women at a disadvantage. Wet T-shirt contest? Same problem.

Let’s try rock, paper, scissors. We’ll just need nine more options. Let’s see… rock, paper, scissors… boot, cannon, battleship, iron, lantern, race car, thimble, top hat, wheelbarrow. Perfect! Now, on the count of three. One, two, three, shoot… well, that’s just a mess. Never mind. Take your hands back. I see your finger, MacQueen. That was not one of the options.

Who’s got a deck of cards? No? Fine. Who’s got a coin? Any coin at all. Seriously? No one has a single coin? No, not everyone is in their pajamas, Your Highness. Let me ask you this, folks: Does anyone have a knife? Because it’s pretty important that we have a knife — —

Shh! Do you guys hear that? We’re pulling into Belgrade. Cassetti will be boarding here. And we’ve run out of… you know what? We’ll just all stab him once. How about that? We’ll take turns. In what order? I have no idea, Colonel. We can figure that out tomorrow, when the time comes.