The assembled dignitaries took their seats before a small lean man with an upward curled moustache.

“Messieurs et Mesdames,” began Hercule Poirot. “You all know the facts of this case. Over 190,000 Americans have been killed by the coronavirus. For six percent of the victims, local coroners listed COVID as the sole cause of death. But the death certificates for the other ninety-four percent enumerate more than one condition.”

C’est un mystère,” agreed Dr. Birx.

“There are two possible solutions to this case,” continued M. Poirot. “I shall put them both before you to judge which is right. But first, let me review the evidence. I began by interviewing the first suspect: M. Preexisting Conditions.”

At this, M. Preexisting Conditions shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“This gentleman was evasive at first. ‘See here, fella,’ he told me, ‘I’m not in perfect health, so let’s make it snappy.’ So I cut straight to the point, and asked him thus: ‘Monsieur, are you, in fact, nothing but a literary metaphor for hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and various other chronic conditions?’”

Ma foi!” exclaimed M. Pence.

Poirot pressed on. “M. Preexisting Conditions immediately admitted to me that he had wounded many of the deceased. But he denied having killed them. As he insisted, ‘My weapons are slow-acting. Millions of Americans have these conditions, yet most can live for years — even President Trump.’”

Everyone waited as Poirot paused to adjust his moustaches.

“Next,” he continued, “I interviewed Mme. Complications. Once again, I cut to the point. ‘Madame,’ I began, ‘you are la personnification of respiratory failure, sepsis, and other complications of severe infection.’ This she confirmed. I then asked her to explain why so many COVID victims died with such conditions. She answered me thus: ‘Suppose a man is shot with a gun. He bleeds to death. Did he die of “inexplicable bleeding”? Fool — he died from a bullet!’”

A murmur spread, but Mme. Complications only smiled.

“Finally,” Poirot concluded, “I spoke with M. Coronavirus. ‘Firstly,’ he said, ‘I admit I killed every last one of those 190,000 people. However, in many cases, M. Preexisting Conditions struck them first. In 25 or 30 years, they would have been dead anyway.’”

Là là,” muttered M. Preexisting Conditions vexedly.

Poirot ignored the interruption. “M. Coronavirus’s second claim was this, and please mark his words precisely. ‘Secondarily,’ he said, ‘the final strike was delivered by the Complications dame. Now suppose I shoot somebody ten, twelve times. Then he bleeds to death. The guy didn’t die of shooting — he died of bleeding!’”

The crowd was dumbfounded.

Eh bien,” concluded Poirot, “I put before you, ladies and gentlemen, our first theory: COVID is only responsible for 6% of the deaths. The other 94% are définitivement unrelated. Some suddenly died of previously well-managed chronic conditions; others died of extreme organ failures for no apparent reason.”

“But no!” cried Dr. Fauci. “The murders were not committed so — M. Poirot must know that perfectly well.”

“So,” agreed M. Poirot, “I shall give my second solution: First, M. Preexisting Conditions struck non-lethal blows against 6 in 10 Americans, who suffer chronic health conditions — or, as we may say, COVID risk factors.”

Diable!” exclaimed M. Hannity.

“Then,” continued Poirot, “M. Coronavirus attacked over six million Americans. Many resisted, but those already afflicted by M. Preexisting Conditions were more susceptible to M. Coronavirus’s assault. And once the patient was sick with COVID, but only then, M. Coronavirus invited Mme. Complications to deliver the final blow, which she could only do because M. Coronavirus had already struck. Thus, all three are involved — but the murderous mastermind is M. Coronavirus!”

M. @AnonPatriotQ cleared his throat. “In my opinion, M. Poirot,” he said, “your first theory was correct. That is the one I shall offer to le Président.”

“No need, Monsieur,” said M. Coronavirus, removing his hat to display a flourish of yellow hair. “I’ve been here all along. And did someone mention l’Orient?”