Seeing a murder on television can help work off one's antagonisms. And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some ~ Alfred Hitchcock (8/13/1899 to 4/29/1980) an English film director and producer who pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, billed as England's best director, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood in 1939 and became a U.S. citizen in 1955.
Larry was a aspiring novelist who taught a creative writing class for adults at a community college. One of his students was a short balding man named Owen. Owen wrote a story in which a man in a hat killed another man in a hat for no other reason except being insane. Larry read the story and told his student that the killer in the story would get caught because he had no alibi.
Larry suggested that Owen see a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. A movie that would show Owen the importance of writing characters that were believable, in that if one of them murdered the other one, it wouldn't be because the killer was insane. The killer must have a motive, and attempt to get away with the murder by establishing an albi. Those, Larry informed his student, were the keys to writing a good mystery.
Owen took his instructor's advice and saw Strangers on a Train. After viewing the movie Owen had an idea. On a prior occasion he overheard Larry say that he hated his ex-wife and wished she were dead. Owen had a similar problem with his mother. Owen's mother constantly belittled him and called him names. Owen decided that his life would be a lot better if his mother was not around anymore.
"Criss Cross", Owen told Larry, and explained to him his idea that he would kill Larry's ex-wife if Larry would kill Owen's mother. They would exchange murders just like the two characters in the movie. And each of them would then have an alibi when the murder they had a motive to commit took place. That way neither one would get caught.
Larry said he thought Owen's idea was not a good one. He explained that he did not really want his wife dead, but had only said he did because he was very angry at the time. This did not seem to sink in with Owen, and he left his meeting with Larry determined to kill Larry's ex-wife.
The next time Owen saw Larry he told Larry that he had killed his ex-wife. Larry was shocked, both by the news that his ex-wife was dead and by the realization that he did not have an alibi. At first he thought Owen was lying, but on the TV he saw a news report that said his ex-wife was missing. His ex-wife was on the news because she was a famous novelist, unlike Larry. That is why Larry hated her so much. Not only was she a successful writer while he was a failure, but it was his writing that she was famous for - his ex-wife had stolen his novel and published it as her own!
"The police will think I did it!", an angry Larry informed a clueless Owen. "I don't have an alibi for the night you murdered my ex-wife". It was then that my friend Larry contacted me and explained his problem. "I'll be your alibi", I told Larry, suggesting he tell the police that he and I spent the night together at my place playing cards and watching movies. I decided Larry was telling the truth because, in my estimation he was not capable of murdering anyone.
"Thanks, Dervish" Larry said. "Come over to my place right away so we can discuss in detail what we did on the night your ex-wife was killed", I said, recognizing the importance of getting our stories straight. Larry agreed with my plan and we carefully came up with a fictional account of what we did that night. Later, when the police questioned Larry our stories apparently matched up to their satisfaction, as they let Larry go.
"We're not out of the woods yet" Larry remarked when we met up later. "Right" I said, agreeing. "This Owen fellow is a weak link". "That is why we have to kill him" Larry said, shocking me. "We murder him, make it look like a suicide, and then plant evidence in his home to make it look like he was obsessed with my ex-wife. He was a crazed stalker who read her book - the one she stole from me - and decided to kill her".
"How about we break into his house and look for evidence first?" I said, trying to talk my friend out of murder. "OK", Larry said, thinking it over. "We can try that first". And so we did. I spent hours surveilling Owen's home in order to learn his comings and goings, but I never saw the mother Larry told me Owen lived with. After surveilling Owen's house for two weeks I told Larry I had observed him leaving his home every Thursday night carrying a bowling ball bag. "That is when we shall go then" Larry concluded. "You keep a lookout while I break into his house and look for evidence".
But I disagreed, telling my friend that I thought he should be the lookout while I looked for evidence. I was worried what Larry would do if Owen came home unexpectedly, given the fact that he had previously suggested we murder Owen. And so it was I who entered Owen's house that evening at dusk. Given the fact that I was a private detective, I was able to easily pick the lock on the back door.
"I thought you worked at a Progressive think tank", Larry said, not believing that I was a PI. "Yes, I work at the think tank, but I am also a PI" I informed my friend. It was true that I hadn't done any private investigative work in a while, but my license was current.
Where would Owen hide evidence of the murder? I decided to look in the basement. After a short search I found what I deduced was the right door, but when I tried it I found it was locked. No problem. I took out my tools again and opened the lock in short order. Creeping down the steps I was surprised by the sound of someone mumbling. I was about to run (thinking there was someone there) when I saw a person tied to a chair. I flipped on the light and was surprised to see a woman who looked exactly like a young Kathryn Janeway, the captain of the Starship Voyager. But, no, it was Larry's ex-wife Maggie. I remembered thinking she looked just like Janeway the last time I saw her, sometime before the divorce.
Quickly I removed her gag. "Dervish?" she said, recognizing me. As I loosened her bonds she explained to me that she had been kidnapped and held here by a crazed stalker she knew as Owen. Just then I received a call on my walkie. "Owen's car pulled into the driveway!", an alarmed Larry hissed. A few seconds later the door at the top of the steps flew open and a short man in a hat appeared, brandishing a gun. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my house?" an angry Owen demanded to know.
Owen held the gun on me as he descended the stairs. Suddenly Larry appeared behind Owen and bashed him in the head with a 2X4. Owen lost his footing and tumbled head over heels down the steps. A loud snap could be heard as he landed face first on the concrete. Owen lay there not moving, obviously dead. "I think I killed him!" Larry exclaimed. Then he saw his ex-wife. "Maggie, you're alive!" Larry cried, overjoyed. He ran down the steps, jumped over Owen's body, and embraced his stunned ex-wife.
"I'm so happy to see you" Larry sobbed. "The police thought I killed you", Larry added, still hugging Maggie tight. Then a shot rang out. I looked and saw Owen lying on the floor, a smoking gun in his extended hand. He had used his last bit of life to shoot Larry. Owen died immediately after firing the bullet that killed Larry; the shot to his head blew his hat (as well as a large portion of his head) clean off.
"The man in the hat killed the other man in the hat", the shocked Maggie whispered. "What's that?" I asked. "It's a story Owen kept reading to me over and over" Maggie explained. "He told me that Larry didn't like it, but that he didn't trust Larry's opinion and wanted mine. Given the fact that I'm a published author while Larry was a loser who taught creative writing at a community college. That's why he said he kidnapped me - to get the opinion of a real writer. And for revenge against the man who belittled his abilities".
"Makes sense" I concluded. Owen had killed Larry for no reason other than the fact that he was insane... and Larry had insulted his writing ability. I called the cops on my cell and they showed up a short while later. Maggie and I were held for questioning, but released a few hours later. Also, it turns out Owen killed his mother some time ago. The cops found her body buried in the basement, so in the end things turned out far differently than anyone might have expected. That is, given the similarity between how things began and a certain movie from 1987 in which it was suggested the mother character be killed by throwing her from a train.