Professor Hatcher belonged to that class of individuals that values the intellect and the ability to think deeply over all other human virtues. An unusually gifted man with a deep knowledge of his subject, Professor Hatcher taught us philosophy – with a doctorate in that subject – while we were in college. Naturally, when a man of his abilities disappeared one fine day, it left us all more than a little puzzled. He seemed to have vanished into thin air while out on a sojourn at the great lakes.

The police were called in to investigate the unfortunate disappearance, and the more questions they asked the more flummoxed they were. If there was foul play, the crime certainly didn’t seem to have any clear motive. The detective assigned to the case was trying his best to gather as much information as he could, but clearly, he wasn’t making much headway. As he had never met the victim, he tried his best to build as good a profile of the unfortunate man as he could lest he happen upon some vital clue that he may have missed during the extensive questioning sessions he had had with the college staff.

“Oh, he was a such a deeply intelligent man,” said the librarian. “And he was always thinking. No one would dare approach him while he walked the campus grounds with that intense expression on his face. We all knew he was thinking, and thinking hard. Once a student made the mistake of asking him for directions, and Professor Hatcher turned around and looking intensely at him, said, ‘Can’t you see, young man, that I am thinking?’ Why, he even had a picture of The Thinker in his office.” The detective checked in the Professor’s cabin, and sure enough, there was a portrait of Rodin’s famous sculpture on Professor Hatcher’s office wall.

Amongst the staff, Ms Thornton from the anthropology department seemed to know the most about Professor Hatcher. “No matter what you asked him, he would think deeply before answering,” said Ms Thornton. “Once during lunch I made the mistake of asking him if he would prefer Indian or Japanese food for the upcoming centenary celebrations, and he went into deep thought for a full 3 minutes before he replied to me; And he presented me with a list of seventeen points why sushi can be bad for you, and why Indian food would be the better choice. Really!”

“Tell me, Ms Thornton, do you suspect anybody in his disappearance?” “Honestly, Detective, I don’t know why anybody would want to harm poor Professor Hatcher; the man was so gentle, and he wouldn’t think of hurting a fly. And it’s not as if he was monied; there are scions of business families studying here who would make better candidates for a ransom demand, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“And when was the last time you saw him?” asked the detective. “Oh, the last I spoke to him was the same day he disappeared. I had called him on his mobile phone. You see, he was out on the lake, rowing his boat – and he was alone because he disliked all company other than his own – and when I called him, he seemed to be quite excited. He kept saying – what else – I am thinking, I am thinking. I knew better than to spoil his fun, so I just smiled and hanged up. Can you imagine the sheer mental caliber of the man that even while in the middle of the lake he was thinking?”

“How about his wife? Wasn’t he married?” asked the detective. “Dear me, no, he wouldn’t dream of getting married. He would always say that he wouldn’t want his kids to inherit the disability in his genes,” replied Ms Thornton. Both puzzled and stirred, the detective asked, “And what exactly was his disability, Ms Thornton?”

“Oh,” she replied, “you see, he had a terrible lisp.”

[© 2020 Najeeb Shaikh. All Rights Reserved.]
Image courtesy: By Douglas Brien from Canada - IMGP2543, CC BY-SA 2.0,
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