Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Consulting Detective - Won!

Written by Joe Pranevich

A mysterious murderer and his mysterious envelope.

Last week, we started the case of the “Tin Soldier”. General Armstead has been killed in a duel with an unknown assailant. While we know he was killed by an elderly Frenchman with a cane and a carpetbag, he left behind plenty of people that had a motive to kill him: the thieves of the Polar Star diamond who he was close to exposing, five other members of a death lottery (a “tontine”), plus his brother-in-law who may have stood to gain control of a number of shared assets. None of those are elderly Frenchmen so we have to dig deeper to discover the connection.

We spent most of last time working to track down the Polar Star diamond. We discovered that Armstead’s contact had been murdered, potentially by the guy who the diamond was stolen from. We also know that Armstead’s publisher was making moves for the information almost immediately after his death. My leads are exhausted and I’ll need to start this week by going down a different path. Thus far, I don’t have any theories that are panning out, but I am having a ton of fun with this case.

Get off my lawn!

With the Polar Star leads exhausted, my next step step will be to dig into the Waterloo Tontine survivors. While they seem like too “obvious” to be correct, they are roughly the right ages and have plenty of motives. If they served with him during the war, that could explain the “captain” on the envelope, plus they may know of an act of cowardice that might have led to the duel. It’s plausible but all I can do is take the survivors one at a time.

My first target is Captain Robert Juergens. He’s the only other tontine member with a military title so he best fits my theory. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be the one. When Holmes and Watson talk to him, he claims to barely know Armstead. He remembers sitting next to him in the ‘65 banquet and swapping stories of the war. I’m not sure what kinds of stories they were swapping, but Juergens revealed that while Armstead prefered “French damsels”, he was partial to “China ladies”. But while Juergens seems unlikely to have done the deed, he reveals that one of his relatives might have: his nephew, Boot Lacey. Captain Juergens fears that his nephew will kill him if he wins the tontine, so he’s planning to will whatever money is left to the Seaman’s Fund. If Mr. Lacey has designs on the money, he could be killing off the other survivors one by one.

Tracking down Boot turns out to be tricky. We head to his home from the directory, but his landlady tells us to look at the Red Bull Inn. We make that trip, but he’s not there either and the barman suggests the London Bridge Station. Only there do we find our man:

Boot to the head!

Boot Lacey is a con man. He pretends to be an amputee to convince generous people to give him money. He’s not an upstanding citizen, but I don’t think he has the patience to play a long game like this. That suggests that this whole sequence was a red herring, but it was a fun to explore. I wish that I didn’t feel punished for finding one of the game’s more humorous side characters!

With that, I take to just interviewing each of the other tontine survivors one by one. None of them seem immediately more suspicious than the others:
  • I visit William Roland next. He couldn’t have done it since he’s been laid up for the last two weeks with gout. He’s a “starving poet” with a son in the United States and a daughter in London. We move on.
  • Peter Dudley is our next target, but he doesn’t know Armstead at all. He’s covered from head to toe with dirt, but he lives in a nice house. I suspect that there’s a Mary Poppins joke in here someplace.
  • Sherlock and Watson visit the last two suspects together, the Thomas sisters. I made a mistake in the last post when I wrote down their names; they aren’t Clarence and Ned Thomas, there are Claire and Anita Thomas! All of the other tontine members were men, so I must have made that assumption. They seem to be nice old ladies who complete each other's’ sentences. They also seem oblivious to the fact that one of them has to die for the other to get the money. They tell me that they hope to donate the money to the Ladies’ League for the Preservation of Finches. 
Arsenic and Old Lace?

None of those leads panned out so I need to consider other motives. Would anyone else benefit from Armstead’s death? I dispatch an Irregular to check on Armstead’s will and learn that everything he owns will be donated to the “Armstead Foundation”. That’s not in the directory, but would that anger Lord Fitch? Does he expect to regain control of his sister’s assets? Let’s look more closely at him next.

I admit that Lord Fitch is a stretch. He couldn’t have done the deed himself because Armstead’s valet knows what he looks like, but he could have used a proxy. I send Holmes there we are treated to a deeper look at Armstead’s marriage. Fitch hated Armstead for making his sister’s life miserable. Even before the wedding, he tried to prevent the union. He discovered Armstead’s lover in France and tried to cause a scandal by leaking it to the papers, but his father the elder Lord Fitch was able to quash the story. He has an alibi for the time of Armstead’s death, but I can’t imagine he’d get his own hands dirty anyway.

The fact that more people knew about the scandal is a big break! What crime is more likely to cause a “matter of honor” than infidelity? I send Holmes and Watson off to Langdale Pike, their Regular who knows the London social scene. If there was a scandal, would he know about it? Pike gives us two great leads: First, a gem collector named Carson Cabot had attacked Armstead after he was included in the first edition of the book. Second, Lloyd Shoemaker, Pike’s predecessor at the paper, might be more knowledgeable about scandals of the past. Let’s keep pushing on that.

I thought you were bringing the condoms?

We talk with Mr. Shoemaker and learn the shocking truth: Armstead got the French woman pregnant! That is a scandal! But Lloyd doesn’t know her name or give us any way that we can track her down. At least for now, we have a dead end.

Thinking on this, here’s my new theory: Armstead’s illegitimate son was his killer. He’d be in his 50s at this point and the right age to appear infirm to Armstead’s valet while still packing a wallop. The letter he carried was the proof of his heritage; it’s easy to see why the general would let him into his private study. The man challenged his father in a duel to reclaim his honor and won. But why now? My guess is that the French opera is the key. Armstead’s son was at or in the opera and saw his father in the audience. This inspired him to track down his father and meet him at his home a few days later. This matches all the facts!

The problem is that I’m not sure how to proceed with investigating down that line. We know that Phillip Arneau was one of the leads, but he’s not at home when we go to chat with him. We’ll have to keep going to find the connection.

You can poke someone’s eye out with that thing!

I’m out of finesse. I’m just going to run down the rest of the Regulars to see if any of them have a pertinent clue:
  • Porky Shinwell, my underworld contact, tells us that there was a bet going on to see who would “win” the tontine. His money had been on Armstead. 
  • Henry Ellis, the foreign news editor, tells us that 200 tontine members have died in the last twenty-five years. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess why.
  • Quentin Hogg, the crime reporter, confirms that Andre Martin stole the Polar Star but reveals that he was recently murdered. He was strangled, just like his brother, and thrown into the Thames river. It looks like a fun side-case, but I doubt it is connected to Armstead. 
  • Jasper Meeks, the chief examiner, examined Armstead’s body. He was killed by a “strong upward thrust” and suggests that the old man that killed him wasn’t as frail as he looked.
  • H. R. Murray, the head chemist, analyzed the general’s sword. It was covered in dust from disuse, but a trace of blood on the point suggests that Armstead had wounded his opponent, but not fatally. 
  • Disraeli O’Brien, the clerk at the office of records, tells me that he found nothing incriminating on any of the other remaining ticket holders. Me, neither. 
My score keeps climbing higher and higher, but I’m not making progress. In desperation, I check the paper again and find a lead I missed: an ad for the French opera. It’s performed by Companie Arneau at the Princess Theater, managed by Eric Idler.

Alas, not an Eric Idle cameo.

I immediately head over to talk to Mr. Idler and we learn a great deal: Phillipe Arneau is the lead actor of the troop. In the current performance, he plays Napoleon from age 19 to his death. We also learn that his older sister died under tragic circumstances. Their mother was traumatized by her death and was placed into an asylum; she died just yesterday. Mr. Idler also tells us that Mr. Arneau is visiting the National Gallery today, but is staying at the Grand Hotel if we want to meet with him later.

This lead is promising so we head to the National Gallery but do not find Arneau. We go to his hotel room instead and somehow Holmes gets Lestrade’s permission to search it. I just wanted to talk to the guy! As usual, Holmes is right because we find a cane with a hidden sword inside plus the letter. The letter is it’s from Armstead’s lover in France and it reveals that Armstead had a daughter named Fleurette, but also that she had died. The woman must have been so saddened by her daughter’s death that she went into an asylum-- but was she there for 30 years? Something about the timeframe seems off, but it all seems to fit. My theory was wrong: Armstead wasn’t killed by his long-lost son, but rather by his long-lost daughter’s younger brother! I was close!

With that, we have enough to solve the case. I head to the judge and announce that Arneau was the killer. We’re then given our normal array of questions:

E. Because he “never wants a passerby to pass him by.”

The first one asks for Arneau’s motive. Immediately we know that it is the second option, avenging his sister’s death. We long since ruled out the tontine and the Polar Star as likely motives and there is nothing to link Fitch and Arneau. We select it and the judge is happy. Time for the second question:

War… war never changes.

We are asked why the Napoleon statue was turned around. This one also is easy as Arneau was the actor that played Napoleon in the opera that Armstead had seen only a few days before. None of the other answers were supported even by red herrings! The judge then asks us the least important question in the game so far: what was Armstead’s special nickname for his wife. We select “Horseface” and the case is over! Our score was 340, Holmes was 28.

I thought I was getting better!

Just as before, Holmes provides us with his more elegant solution:
  • Holmes deduced that because of the swordplay, it must have been a matter of honor. The general had time to climb on a chair to get the sword down from its place above the mantle; he wasn’t killed in cold blood.
  • Since the letter was for “Captain” Armstead, it was a matter related to the distant past.
  • The killer’s sword was, as we discovered, hidden in his cane. 
  • Holmes also deduced that the killer must have been able to climb over an eight-foot wall. That meant that he couldn’t have been as old as he appeared.
  • The reversed Napoleon was a deliberate clue. Armstead had recently been to a play about Napoleon played by Arneau and recognized his assailant as the actor.
  • Arneau did it to avenge his sister. He had only recently found the letter and the news of his mother’s death was the final blow.
Are you sure we can’t settle this over a game of whist?

I like this solution and I think this is my favorite case of the three, although I dislike that it was only solvable by coincidence. Arneau was coming for Armstead no matter what; his trip to the opera was irrelevant. The turned figure was a major clue but even that didn’t inspire Holmes to check all the French actors in the city. If Armstead had not gone to the opera, Holmes could not have known to check there and the killer would have gone free. My regret is that I missed the newspaper article about the theater. If I had found that, I could have avoided spending unnecessary time with the tontine survivors and the Regulars. Oh well.

This is the last case of the game. I’m a bit surprised that there was no crescendo here, no connection to the other cases. As such, it’s a bit of a letdown that we’re at the end. It’s like watching a sitcom all the way through only to learn that the final episode offered no closure. We’ll have some more cases in Volume Two (which we get to in 1992), but I fear that the disconnected nature of this game takes something away from the experience. But enough of that for now. The final rating is coming soon!

Time played: 1 hr 50 min
Total time: 8 hr 50 min

6 comments:

  1. Excellent. I knew this one would feel more satisfying than the other two. Track down Arnaud's lodgings, and the solution becomes evident.

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    1. It is more satisfying, but still not "perfect". Still, I enjoyed the heck out of these games. I just wish that they had formed a cohesive story or otherwise felt like we were getting somewhere. (Of course, the original Holmes stories have exactly the same episodic format so this is not a fair criticism, but the medium of computer games has certain expectations which are different.)

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    2. Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter had an overarching story of sorts. It wasn't that good.

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  2. It's a common trope in mysteries for the victim to "point to" his killer. So Armstead deliberately turned the Napoleon statue around so anyone investigating would know that "Napoleon" killed him. That's the sort of detail on which Holmes picks up instantly. Then he would just have to figure out how a long-dead French general could be the culprit.

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  3. Damn. I was hoping to beat you this time. I was quite pleased that this is the first case in which I succeeded with the Judge the first time I spoke to him.

    But I ended up with a score of 450, having followed a few more red herrings than you did.

    I spent a lot of time investigating both the Tontine members and the Polar Star angle and didn't bother checking out the theatre until much later, so spent much of the game without even the slightest clue who the murder was despite a fleeting thought that it was Boot Lacey.

    Like you, I did enjoy this episode the most out of the three, but would have probably enjoyed it less if I did it the 'right' way, and not investigate the other motives - the Tontine motive and tracking down Lacey were in many ways more interesting than following the real killer.

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