Murder on the Uber Express: A Millennial Whodunnit

Of all the adventures in which I have had the white privilege of observing my good friend Sherlock Rents apply his liberal arts degree, the affair of the Uber Express oft springs to mind.

Mr. Rents and I were venturing to the cinema, a rather novel curiosity where a movie is streamed in a room full of strangers. I myself was averse to the idea, for, as it had been explained to me, the cinema did not let you pause the movie while your Doordash arrived.

But even though I was uncomfortable with the concept of watching a movie both in public and in pants, Mr. Rents convinced me. I suppose his therapist had done a more satisfactory job teaching him to set boundaries than mine. So we left our co-op at 110 Glutenfreebaker St, and hailed an Uber.

“I daresay,” Mr. Rents said, puffing mysteriously on a Juul he had recently confiscated from a minor, who was also his nephew.

“You daresay what?” I asked.

Mr. Rents’ voice-to-text interfaced dinged, and he shot me a wearied look.

“My bad,” I apologized, but it was too late. In his haste, Mr. Rents had accidentally tweeted “I daresay you deer say what” to the entire world.

I had just begun to write a blog about Student Loan Forgiveness, when a shadowy vehicle pulled up, its non-Prius exhaust pipe gently #me-too-ing the ice caps. Mr. Rents claimed the front passenger seat, which his therapist would have been proud of, and mine not so much.

“To the cinema!” Mr. Rents declared with the gusto of a tear-down-the-system Occupy Wall Street protester. (An older and rather gentlemanly reference, if you ask me)

As we drove away, we passed a boomer telling a homeless puppy to get a job.

Suddenly our Uber slowed without crashing, like the economy under a poorly set interest rate.

“What’s this?” Mr. Rents asked. Our driver didn’t respond; his AirPods were cancelling outside noise, much like his association with overpriced Apple products would one day cancel him.

“This is no mere Uber, this is an Uber Express!” Mr. Rents deduced quickly, after carefully examining the words ‘Uber Express’ on his smart phone.

A young woman climbed onboard. She was quite skilled at watching makeup tutorials. She wore just enough eyeliner to be empowering, but not so much as to harm the environment. She snacked on low-calorie frozen yogurt, and wore a lower-cut shirt.

“Damsel in distress?” Mr. Rents’ text made my phone buzz like the most expensive toothbrush I will ever own.

“Distress, fo sho. Or idk maybe the invisible pressure of being a confident yet acceptably feminine woman in a male-dominated Uber.” My message appeared green, because Mr. Rents was of Samsung, and I, Apple. Yet somehow we overcome our differences, in a way that would make Nelson Mandela effectively reblog us. 

Mr. Rents received my message, and his phone dinged loudly, because he never silenced it, because his mother had given him one too many vaccines as an infant.

As we drove, the girl pulled out a reusable coffee mug with one sticker that said ‘Co-Exist,’ underneath a vertical sticker that said ‘End Wars.’ The end result seemed to read

The Uber stopped again, and the plot thickened like a protein shake with a skin routine.

This next passenger was a man in a red ball cap with ostensibly xenophobic white lettering. He had a tattoo on his calf which read either ‘Pro-Life’ or ‘Private Prison 4 Lyfe’, or possibly both.

The girl with the coffee mug gasped.

Mr. Rents’ ears perked up, and he immediately sent me some savage memes. I put him on Do Not Disturb, and the therapist on my shoulder breathed a sigh of boundary-setting relief.

“Would you play some music?” Mr. Rents asked.

The Uber driver reached forward and play his own Spotify mixtape. As he did, the light of his phone illuminated a tattoo of a seemingly unnecessary semi-colon; it was on his wrist.

“Clue number five,” Mr. Rents messaged a group chat which he had just added me to. I left the group chat.

In that moment, our Uber driver announced to us that they were gender-fluid, but not in a way that meaningfully developed their character or furthered the storyline. Then the man in the red hat accused the driver of ruining his favorite restaurant franchise, Cracka Barrel.

The Uber stopped once more, and the final passenger joined. He was a racially ambiguous fellow with earring studs shaped like the Bitcoin logo.

Mr. Rents messaged me on Slack, even though I had muted him twice now. But his Slack was meaningful, prompting me to look at the destination on the driver’s GPS.

We were all going to the same cinema.

“Curious indeed,” muttered Mr. Rents into his Instagram story. “The game is afoot. The foot is an outdated and nationalist unit of measurement.”

As we passed the seventh consecutive Tapas bar, the man in the red hat suddenly groaned, and slumped forward.

“Is there a doctor in the house?” Mr. Rents gasped, feeling the man’s pulse after asking for consent.

“It wouldn’t matter, my startup doesn’t offer health insurance,” the man with the Bitcoin earrings lamented.

“Just as I surmised. This man’s chakras have been misaligned!” Mr. Rents deduced. He activated the flashlight on his phone, and in the bright glow we saw that the man’s skull was severely bleeding from a national epidemic of gun violence.

The girl with the coffee mug screamed, and sent several Tumblr posts to her followers.

“Murder most foul. But not as foul as the unregulated marketing of vape cartridges to minors,” Mr. Rents said between puffs of his nephew’s Juul. “Now, everyone must submit their alibis to my Doodle poll.”

No one answered him.

“Very well,” Mr. Rents said. “I will solve this the hard way. It couldn’t have been the Uber driver, because both his hands were on the steering wheel at the time of the murder.”

The Uber driver nodded along to the sick beat of his AirPods.

“We can rule out our Bitcoin-earringed friend, because I’d like to have just one case where I’m not accused of racial profiling,” Mr. Rents said.

The man with Bitcoin earrings nodded with appreciation, and became the first person of color to follow Mr. Rents on SnapChat.

Mr. Rents looked at me. “Watson couldn’t have done it, because murder requires a great deal of focus, and I know for a fact that his health insurance doesn’t cover Adderall. And the girl with the coffee mug is innocent because I recognize her as state-wide famous influencer marry_kate_68, who never commits murder unless a brand pays her to tag them in the obituary.”

“Who could the murderer possibly be?” I asked with trepidation. “And how did the gun go off without any of us hearing the shot?”

Mr. Rents puffed kombucha-scented Juul vapor with gravitas. “The second question is the easier of the two,” he said, with a complete mastery of comparative adjectives. “None of our favorite news sources have yet reported on the gunshot, so of course we were unaware of it. As to the first question, we must ask ourselves: what rationally minded individual would have the market incentive to shoot a man with a politically charged red cap?”

“I know!” the girl with the subversive makeup exclaimed. “Someone who feels disenfranchised by the American dream? Perhaps a marginalized person, or first-generational college student, or victim of systemic gentrification?”

“Tut tut!” the man with the Bitcoin earrings said. “I shall hear none of your thinly veiled racial profiling.”

The girl with the co-exist sticker repented of her ignorant remarks which were not intended to cause hurt, and canceled her social media platforms, resigning herself to a life of penitent reflection on her own privilege.

“Perhaps the gunman, gunwoman, or gunperson wasn’t politically motivated at all,” the racially ambiguous man with Bitcoin earrings hypothesized.

“Indeed! Remember when I texted you all, ‘Clue number seven’?” Mr. Rents asked.

“Ya, and i was going to reply but i got distracted lol,” I said, wondering glumly how many times I myself had been left on ‘Read.’

“Check the tattoo on the victim’s calf,” Mr. Rents shone his light onto the dead man’s leg.

“It said ‘Pro-Life’,” I remarked. “We all saw that when he first joined our Uber Express.”

“Wrong! It says ‘Pro-Lyft!’ The red MAGA hat was a red MAGA herring! This man is a Lyft customer attempting to infiltrate our Uber Express. But if you read Ars Technica, as I do, you’ll know that Lyft teams up with third party vendors to automatically terminate any Lyft customer who tries to switch riding platforms. You could say he was ‘lifted’ out of this world.”

“Murder most vowel!” I tweeted to both of my followers.

At that moment, an independent true crime podcast released an episode on the murder, featuring never-before-seen interviews with the victim’s closest influencers. As Lyft’s stock prices fell and consumers became aware of what happened, the fatal gunshot was finally heard.

“Like and subscribe!” Mr. Rents said, as our Uber Express pulled into the cinema parking lot. The man with earrings tipped the driver some Bitcoin.

“How did you know how to deduce all that?” I asked my friend in amazement.

Mr. Rents tossed his Juul in a recycling bin destined for a Chinese landfill. “The same way I know where to catch a predator: Elementary, my dear Watson! Under-funded, embarrassingly segregated Elementary!”