Another world, another day, another dawn, as several billion trillion tons of superhot exploding hydrogen nuclei rose slowly above the horizon.
There is a moment in every dawn when light floats, and creation holds its breath, but then that moment passed as it regularly did on the planet Precinct 15, without incident.
The sun struggled feebly, tried to impart a little warmth here, shed a little light there, but clearly today was going to be just another long haul across the sky.
Very often on Precinct 15, whole days would go on like this, and this was going to be one of them.
Fourteen hours later the sun sank hopelessly beneath the opposite horizon with a sense of totally wasted effort, and a few hours after that it reappeared, squared its shoulders and started on up the sky again.
This time, however, something was happening.
Hugh Dunnit moved.
He hadn't been thinking of anything mysterious, nor had he been engaged in any long, lengthy political discussions about mixing Rice Krispies and paprika and why it should be better than regular coffee.
No, in fact, Hugh had been sleeping, but now he moved.
The sun shone brightly through the window above his cot, and roughly nudged him awake.
"Alright already, I'm up, jeez!"
He sat up on the edge of his makeshift bed and tried to rub away the sleep from his bulbous brown eyes. Craning his neck, he looked out through the sun-filled window upon another perfect day. "Man, not again!" he exclaimed. "Doesn't anything exciting ever happen around here?"
He rose to his feet and stretched, ruffled his shaggy green hair and went to the privy.
After freshening up, he called in to his office. His personal secretary, Monique answered after the first ring as if her nose were pinched by an alligator clip. "Detective Hugh Dunnit's office."
"Yeah, Monique, this is Hugh."
"Hugh, your boss, for gods-sake! Why do you always do that?"
"Oh, is that you, Hugh?"
Hugh slapped his left palm to his cheek. "Yeah, it's me, dammit. Anything new come in?"
"Oh, aren't we the grouchy one. Sleeping off another hangover, are we?" Monique queried.
"There's really nothing else to do on this perfect planet, is there?"
"Each to his own, Detective, but your life must get very boring."
"So, why . . ."
"Do I do it? Simple. It's because of my mother. She never calls."
"But isn't your mother dead?"
"That's no excuse!"
"She always loved you, Hugh . . . mostly."
"Ha! You're just saying that. You know she hated me after I became a detective. She said it was a big waste of time."
"Well . . . you have to admit, nothing exciting ever happens around here. There's not much to detect and you haven't solved a case in over five years."
"That's because there hasn't been a case in over five years."
"That's not my fault, Hugh. You don't have to take it out on me."
"I'm not taking anything out on you . . . it's just that . . . oh . . . forget it. Has anything new come in?"
"I dunno. Lemme check."
Time dripped by like a leaky faucet.
"Oh, here's something."
Hugh's excitement thumped against his beating heart. "What? What?"
"See if you can guess," Monique teased.
"No, Monique, just tell me!"
"Okay, okay, but you better sit down."
"Okay, geez . . . are you ready?
"Yes, I think so."
"Okay then, here it is . . . It's your Birthday!"
She then began to sing over the phone like a peacock gone mad. "Happy Birthday to Hugh. Happy Birthday to Hugh. Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you . . . Hugh."
"This can't be happening. I've never had a Birthday."
"I know, right? This is the greatest!"
"Wait a minute. That's it? That's all the message?"
"You betcha. Quite a mystery though, eh? I think I'm going to buy you a gift or something like that."
"No, I said, you what."
"Oh! No, me Monique. You Hugh.There's no What here."
He hung up the phone before his mind folded in upon itself, and then jumped out of the window.
The thing about falling is that you don't have a lot of time to think about things in general, just the really important stuff. There was the ground rushing up to meet him at thirty feet per second, but he would, he thought, deal with that problem when he got to it. First things first.
Ah, here it came. His childhood. Humdrum stuff, he'd been through it all before. Images flashed by. Boring times on Precinct 15. He wished he had some kind of fast forward button in his brain. Come on, come on.
He was twisting and turning downward, when he realized his life was like some sort of stupid travel documentary before the main feature. He had half a mind to just keep on falling and the finger to the lot of it.
He was having to think rather fast at the moment because the situation was becoming a little urgent. Okay, on and on about my life, and then . . . the new case he had been assigned. That's it, he thought. A new case! I have a new case!
He immediately jumped back in the window. "Phew, that was a close one."
Hugh knew, that in order to solve this Birthday Mystery he would have to speak with his mother. His mother would know when he was born. Case closed. Mystery solved. After acquiring a shovel, Hugh headed for the cemetery.
"I'm sorry to have to do this mom, but you gotta answer some questions for me." Hugh dug her up and split open the coffin. Mrs. Dunnit fell out upon the green lawn.
"Ah, there you are," he said, and then he propped her up against her headstone. "You're looking a little thin, ma, haven't you been eating?"
"Come on, mom, tell me the truth. When was I born?"
"Now, don't go giving me the silent treatment just for digging you up." He brushed some dirt from her death-robe. "Come clean, ma. When was I born?"
"That's it! I've had it up to here with you! You've never accepted the fact that I wanted to be a detective, and even now, in death, you won't talk about it."
In the distance, Hugh heard a large number of security cars approaching the cemetery, sirens wailing. Someone was digging up corpses. There hadn't been this much excitement in over five years.
Hugh picked up his mother and threw her back inside her coffin.
"Fine then!" he exclaimed. "You can just go ahead and rot for all I care!"
That was what the security people saw as they ran up over the hill.
After a long chase, they tackled and handcuffed Hugh. Going through his wallet, they pulled out his ID.
"Yes," said Hugh, sadly, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"You live at 612 Baker Street?"
"You were born September 15th, 2101?"
A light went on in Hugh's brain. "Yes, yes, yes, that's it! Another case solved! Today is MY BIRTHDAY!!!"