Another Game of Wits

“Ruby Red”

“Damn all dying clues!”

(This from a policeman, viz. Lt. Christopher McKee of the NYPD, whose job it is to investigate said clues, or any clues.)

“That’s one way to put it,” murmured Mr. Geoffrey Lord softly. “What’s wrong, Chris?”

“Who the hell would do something like that right before dying?—Don’t answer that,” McKee snapped. “I was just talking to Pop O’Leary. He said you were pretty good with these riddles—finding patterns and that sorta thing.”

“I try.”

“Well, here goes nothing: hope I’m not bothering you while you’re working on your latest novel…”

“Not bothering me at all, in fact.” Geoff smiled at a private joke. “Paula—Miss Vale, my secretary, y’know—is off to visit her mother, and I’m a vehement procrastinator. Heaven knows when that book will be finished.”

McKee rubbed his hands and began explaining the case.

The victim was Georj Balchek, the well-known jeweller and rare gem expert. He’d been stabbed in his shop but had apparently lived long enough to drag himself to one of the glass cases, smash the case open, and grab a ruby—before expiring, the ruby grasped with the firmness of rigor mortis.

“Suspects?” said the Great Man, filling his pipe.

There were three, according to the Lieutenant: the store’s manager, Raymond Tallder; the other employee, Fred Mayne; and Balchek’s wife Agnes. All three had the only other keys to the jewellery shop and had not given their keys to anyone (by their own testimony); and the burglary alarm had not gone off. Motives? The usual ones—to wit, greed, hate, and jealousy. Mrs. Balchek, who had no interest in rare gems or any other part of her husband’s time-consuming profession, had long wanted a divorce, as she freely admitted, which Balchek had denied her for fear of scandal. She also benefited from the will—as Tallder did, as well, his motive. Mayne had been passed over for promotion in favor of Tallder, and by all accounts (especially Tallder’s), he was still fuming.

“Hm,” said Geoff. “Is Mayne an expert in gemology as well?”

“Not exactly,” said the annoyed Lieutenant. “In fact, not at all—he doesn’t know much about them. Only Tallder and Balchek are—were—experts. Tallder now works mainly in his own office, not behind the counter,  but he is a gemologist. Mayne, on the other hand, tends to focus more on the rings and watches.”

“Right. By the way, Chris”—Geoff paused for a minute—“was there a calendar anywhere around?”

“A calendar? What? There was one behind the counter.”

“And you have the suspects’ birthdates?”

Now McKee was very confused—his normal reaction when he brought a case to Geoffrey Lord—and he expressed this confusion with assorted expletives, which amused Geoff greatly. Then McKee’s face cleared, and he murmured:

“Of course, Geoff. How did I ever miss…? And a jeweller, too! Tallder was born in December, and Mrs. Balchek was born in March, and Mayne was born in July.”


“Well, then, Geoff, thanks, but I’ve got the murderer, then. All we need is proof.”

Geoff rose and puffed pensively on the pipe. “Ah–well!–Chris, there’s just one more point…”

Who is the murderer?

How did Geoffrey Lord know?

What is the meaning of the dying clue?

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14 Responses to Another Game of Wits

  1. inurhadi says:

    Znlar, gur xvyyre? Ovegufgbar sbe Whyl vf Ehol.

    be gur qlvat zrffntr pbhyq or snxrq ol Gnyyqre gb senzr Znlar.


  2. Pingback: I SUSPECT MICE: A Discourse on the Dying Message | ahsweetmysteryblog

  3. JJ says:

    Well, if Irfan’s not correct, all I’ve got is:

    Uvf jvsr xvyyrq uvz, vg’f Ghrfqnl (urapr gur vagrerfg va gur pnyraqne), ur’f tenoorq n ehol orpnhfr bs gur fbat:

    Tbbqolr Ehol Ghrfqnl
    Jub pbhyq unat n anzr ba lbh?
    Jura lbh punatr jvgu rirel arj qnl
    Fgvyy V’z tbaan zvff lbh

    Ab vqrn ubj gur ovegu qngrf svg va, hayrff gung’f n oyvaq gb guebj hf bss…

    But the more I think about it, the more embarrassingly wide of the mark I probably am!


    • Thanks for chiming in, JJ!

      Now, lest I confuse everyone more, it’s not so much that Inhardi is wrong as much as he doesn’t have all the clues to the solution—why X must (or, rather, is most likely to) be true, in other words.

      Very inventive solution, but, no, not what I was going for. Look more closely at that birthstone business… (I may unintentionally be confusing everyone with that, mea culpa.)


    • —let me also point out that my story has numerous similarities to points brought up in Brad’s superb dying clue lecture—pure coincidence, but quite remarkable—paging Keeler, as TomCat would say?


      • JJ says:

        In that case, only two theories remain:

        1) Ehovrf ner ERQ, fb vg’f S-ERQ Znlar jub’f gur xvyyre

        2) Gur sbyybjvat punva bs ernfbavat nccyvrf:

        Ehol…Ehol Zheenl…Pheel…Pheel’f (n HX ryrpgevpny ergnvyre)…Qvkba’f (nabgure HX ryrpgevpny ergnvyre)…Qvkba bs Qbpx Terra…Terra…Rzrenyqf ner terra…Rzrenyqf ner gur ovegufgbar sbe ZNL…fb Serq ZNLar vf gur xvyyre

        There is simply nothing else it could possibly be 😀


      • Hm!

        Perhaps I should post this:

        “…gurer’f whfg bar bgure cbvag,” Trbss svavfurq, “gung znxrf guvf pnfr n yvggyr ovg zber pbzcyvpngrq.”
        “Jung qb lbh zrna?” ZpXrr fanccrq, whzcvat hc sebz uvf frng. “Lbh whfg cebirq gb zr gung Znlar’f gur xvyyre. Onypurx yrsg bar bs lbhe qnzarq qlvat pyhrf jvgu gung ehol—gur ovegufgbar sbe Whyl, evtug? Gung’f gur fbyhgvba? Naq…”
        “Gur ehol vf vaqrrq gur ovegufgbar sbe Whyl, naq vg qbrf cbvag gbjneqf Znlar—ohg ur’f abg gur xvyyre, Puevf.”
        Phr gubfr nffbegrq rkcyrgvirf ntnva.

        That will probably point you towards the solution, albeit possibly not towards all the clues embedded in the story from which GL deduced that solution. 😉


      • JJ says:

        Well, I shall have to leave this to someone else, I’m afraid…!


      • But you’re so close!

        Gnxr bar bs Vaheunqv’f fbyhgvbaf naq ybbx sbe zber pyhrf gung jbhyq tb gb cebir vg zber.

        A little bit of a spoiler.


  4. inurhadi says:

    “…yvirq ybat rabhtu gb qent uvzfrys gb bar bs gur tynff pnfrf, fznfu gur pnfr bcra, naq teno n ehol—orsber rkcvevat..”
    “.. naq gur ohetynel nynez unq abg tbar bss.”
    Vs gur qlvat zrffntr jnf vaqrrq trahvar, gura jul gur nynez unq abg tbar bss? V guvax vg jnf orpnhfr Gnyyqre snxrq gur qlvat zrffntr. Ur znqr vg ybbx yvxr Onypurx fznfu gur pnfr bcra, ohg va ernyvgl vg jnf Gnyyqre. Ur fjvgpu bss gur nynez orsber qbvat fb, va beqre gb nibvq orvat pnhtug erq unaqrq.

    Ubj vf vg?


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