Neither side vulnerable

NORTH (D)

{spade} Q 8 2

{heart} J 10 7 2

{diam} A 5

{club} A 10 7 5

WEST

{spade} J 6 5

{heart} Q 6 3

{diam} J 9 7 6 3

{club} 4 2

EAST

{spade} 7

{heart} K 9 8 5 4

{diam} K 8 4 2

{club} K J 6

SOUTH

{spade} A K 10 9 4 3

{heart} A

{diam} Q 10

{club} Q 9 8 3

The bidding:

South

Pass

2 NT

4 {spade}

6 {spade}

West

Pass

Pass

Pass

All Pass

North

1 {spade}

3 {spade}

5 {heart}

East

Pass

Pass

Pass

Opening lead: {club} 4

Ellery Queen watched as South's body was carted out of the card room.

"We got the killer, son," Inspector Queen said. "He was North, and East and West saw it all. But we'll never get him for Murder One; his mouthpiece will claim he's a nut case."

"What happened, Dad?" Ellery asked.

"North had been upset all night at South's bidding," the old man said. "Then South went down at a slam, and North grabbed those fire tongs over there and conked him."

"The play?" Ellery murmured.

Inspector Queen consulted his notes. "East took the king of clubs and led a trump. South ran the trumps and clubs; but East kept a guard to the king of diamonds, and South lost a diamond. It'll look like South's overaggressive bidding drove North mad."

"South cashes the ace of hearts at Trick Three," Ellery sighed, "leads a trump to dummy, ruffs a heart and takes two more trumps, pitching a diamond from dummy. He next takes the queen, ace and ten of clubs.

"Dummy has two hearts and the ace of diamonds left, and South has the Q-10 of diamonds and a trump. If East bares the king of diamonds, South cashes the ace, ruffs a heart and scores the queen of diamonds; if instead East saves two diamonds and one heart, South ruffs a heart, and dummy is high.

"South was killed for booting the slam," Ellery said, "and North can't plead insanity. If he saw the winning play at the table, he's as sound of mind as you or I."

(c) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate