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Finally, quiet; but now I'll never know who is the murderer

Columnist Dan Conradt says a comfortable night gets interrupted by an insomniac and "Colombo."

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I tried pulling the bedspread up over my ears. It didn’t help.

Covering my head with the pillow only made it hard to breathe.

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Through the wall, Columbo said, “Oh, just one more thing …”

I glanced at the bedside clock: 12:43 a.m.

This is going to be one of those nights …

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We’d checked into the hotel after a long drive, had a nice dinner, soaked in the hot tub and got back to our room just before 10 o’clock. The bed was comfortable, the linens were fresh and the sheet was so tightly tucked you could have bounced a quarter off it.

It took me 10 minutes to fall asleep.

The sound of squealing tires jolted me awake, and it took a minute to get my bearings.

Crisp sheets? Too many pillows? Where … ?

Ah, the hotel. But squealing tires on the seventh floor?

Someone said, “The body’s in the den, Lieutenant.”

Great, I thought … an entire hotel, and my neighbor is an insomniac. A LOUD insomniac.

If he’d been watching anything but “Columbo” I’d have knocked on his door right away. But even “Columbo” got annoying after 10 minutes.

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I got dressed and stepped into the hallway. If it was possible, the blare from the television was even louder out there. I stood at the door to the adjoining room for a moment and considered my knocking strategy; too soft and whoever was watching TV in the middle of the night wouldn’t hear it. Too loud and I’d wake up everyone else on our floor.

The sound of gunfire and breaking glass came from behind the door, and I figured anyone close enough to hear my knock would already be awake.

I rapped on the door a couple of times. No one answered, so I rapped louder.

“Yes?”

“Could you turn down the TV?”

“Okay.”

The volume dropped by a few decibels; instead of sounding like a jet taking off, it only sounded like a jackhammer.

A commercial came on and a woman moaned, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”.

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I went back to my room and crawled into bed. The movie returned, and Columbo asked, “Why was the door locked from the INSIDE?”

Somehow Carla had fallen asleep, and I considered turning on my TV and channel-surfing until I found a guy with a rumpled raincoat and a soggy cigar; I could watch it on “mute” thanks to the guy in room 709.

But that would make our room loud AND bright, which isn’t really conducive to sleep. So I went to the bathroom, sat on the floor and read a Stephen King novel before deciding that it wasn’t exactly conducive to sleep, either.

I went back to bed. It was 1:19 a.m.

From the other side of the wall: “Oh, just one more thing …”

Someone pounded on the door of the room next door.

“Yes?”

The pounder didn’t sugar-coat his request the way I had: “Turn down the TV!” It wasn’t a shout, but it was close.

Through the wall, Columbo said in his bumbling yet perceptive way, “The answer was in front of me the whole time. The killer is …”

The sound disappeared.

Wait! You’re turning the sound down now? Turn it up! Turn it up!

The room was finally quiet but I lay awake for the next hour, sorting through the clues.

And even though I’ve been looking for it to learn whodunit, I’ve never found that episode of “Columbo.”

But I think the butler did it.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

Related Topics: PEOPLEDAN CONRADTAUSTIN
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