Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Friedrich Glauser's The Spoke

The interrupted wedding

Why had he given in? Why had he let his wife and daughter have their way? Now he was stuck here and might even get his knuckles rapped for having acted without authorization and not left the body in the garden behind the house, where it had been found …


The dead man was lying on the table, white with years of scrubbing, in the cellar of the Hôtel zum Hirschen, a thin trickle of blood winding across the wooden surface. Slowly the drops fell on the cement floor – it sounded like the ticking of a clock weary with age.

The dead man: young, tall, very slim, wearing light grey flannel trousers and a dark blue polo shirt, his long arms covered in blond hair sticking out of the short sleeves.

And beside his head the murder weapon. Not a knife, not a revolver, an unusual murder weapon, one he'd never seen before: the spoke of a bicycle wheel, filed to a point at one end. It hadn't been easy to find, stuck as it was in the dead man's body, the end hardly protruding at all. Studer had only noticed it when he ran his hand over the corpse's back. It had been thrust almost vertically down into the body from just below the left shoulder-blade and had not come out anywhere, neither at the chest nor the stomach. They wouldn't know how many vital organs the skewer had pierced until the doctor had performed the autopsy.

Such a small piece of the blunt end of the spoke had been sticking out that he'd had to use a pair of pliers to pull it out.

So the first question was, how had the murderer held the weapon? It must have had some kind of handle when the man was stabbed. Could it have been screwed off? Afterwards? That seemed a possibility, since there was an almost invisible spiral thread cut into the blunt end of the spoke. A real mechanic had been at work, no doubt about that.

Detective Sergeant Studer of the Bern Police would have dearly loved to light up a Brissago, but that wasn't on, not right beside the body. So there was nothing left for it but to pace up and down the narrow room, in the horribly bright light from the bulb dangling from a dusty wire, while he lectured Albert.