A 60-Second Mystery
(Solving Times May Vary)
Chief Inspector Biff walked into the drawing room and stood looking about the crime scene, taking it all in. It was your typical overstuffed drawing room in your typical Victorian motif. He was mildly gratified when the two uniformed coppers, one posted at each door of the room, snapped suddenly to attention at his appearance.
“At ease, boys,” he said gruffly. They stood less at attention, but still eyed him warily.
In addition to the uniformed coppers, two plain-clothed inspectors were poking about with little plastic things that looked like pencils, but which were actually solid plastic Official Police Investigation Sticks™. Everyone just called them Opies. They prevented getting fingerprints or body oil all over everything. After all, one never knows what might actually turn out to be evidence. For instance, in The Case of the Compromised Crime Scene it turned out that one of the Opies themselves was a piece of evidence. It had been quite an ordeal to not get them all mixed up. The whole affair had been like a crazy game of Pick-Up Sticks.
“What have you got?” said Chief Inspector Biff to the two investigators who had not even looked up from their fine-toothed comb business.
They stopped crawling about on the floor and stood up to face him. “Not much, I’m afraid, Chief Inspector Biff,” said one of them, gesturing to a small collection of little plastic baggies sitting on one of the occasional tables in the room. “Just the usual assortment of hairs, lint, lipstick-stained cigarette butts, swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins, buttons, pearl earrings, cuff links, tie studs, gold teeth, monocles, cat toys, aglets, paper clips, hair bands, a cheese ball, and a single bullet casing.
The Chief Inspector raised his eyebrow slightly. “What was that you said?”
“No, before that.”
“Yes. That one.”
“I said ‘cheese ball‘, Sir,” confirmed the investigator.
“Very interesting,” said the Chief Inspector, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “And where was the murder committed?”
“Right there,” said the inspector, pointing at a body lying between the card table and the clavichord.
Chief Inspector Biff took a step towards the body and bent over slightly at the waist to get a better look at the deceased. After a moment, he straightened back up and turned back towards the inspectors. “Yes. Quite. Very interesting. And who is the deceased?”
“Sir Reginald Duke Lord Baron Earl of Wightsmith Downs-HamptonShire.”
The Chief Inspector raised his eyebrow just a bit higher than it was before. “That’s quite a mouthful. Cause of death?”
“According to the medical examiner, it appears Sir Reginald was done in by that candlestick lying next to him. Blunt trauma, most likely.”
Chief Inspector Biff stroked his chin again. “Sir Reginald . . . in the drawing room . . . with the candlestick.”
“Yes sir, Chief Inspector.”
“And I am sure you noticed the orange-ish smudge on the candlestick?”
“No, Sir.” The inspector looked sheepish.
“Yes. There. On the column, just below the knop.”
The inspector leaned down and looked closer. “Gosh, sir! You’re right. I hadn’t noticed that. I thought it was just a bit of wax.”
“And what is the butler’s name,” asked the Chief Inspector.
“Brimble, Sir. Nigel Brimble.”
“Sir Nigel Brimble?”
“No, sir. Just Nigel Brimble.”
“Go fetch him at once. And take a close look at his left index finger. I expect you will find it coated with an orange substance that is nearly impossible to wash off.”
“The cheese ball!” exclaimed the second investigator who, up to this moment, had not had any speaking parts.
“Precisely,” said Chief Inspector Biff, snapping his fingers to drive home his point. “There is no stain more indelible than synthetic cheese powder with a base of one or more of the following: corn oil, canola oil, coconut oil, or palm oil.”
“You’ve done it again, Sir,” said the first inspector, his voice full of awe.
“Posh,” said the Chief Inspector. “It was elementary.”
“That one’s taken, sir,” said the first inspector.
“Oh. Then it was … er … um … facile.”
Everyone was about to laugh, but the scene froze and the credits began scrolling by at a dizzying speed.