Yes, indeed, my first sequel, this to “Color Scheme”…
“The Unhinged Man”
“A puzzle for you, Mr. Lord,” said Alice Little, the famed poetess.
The Puzzlers, that select and secretive organization, was having its monthly meeting.
Geoffrey Lord, the detective-story writer, sighed, put down his magazine, removed his spectacles, and polished them with a handkerchief. “Already?” he murmured.
“Already,” snapped Lee Shapiro, the attorney. “Another test of wits—that ‘every color on the canvas’ business was a giveaway.”
“It’s your turn to provide us with a puzzle next week,” Sidney Malkin, the stockbroker, explained.
Alan Tewksbury, the Columbia classics professor, was as taciturn and aloof as ever.
“Ready when you are,” Mr. Lord said cheerfully.
Shapiro started: “There’s an undercover detective investigating an international oil smuggling ring…”
“Sounds like a pulp story to me,” Geoff put in.
“Let me finish, Lord! The police find him a few days later, floating in the East River—“
“Doesn’t he know it’s polluted?”
“—dead, of course. Shot. Now, he’s got a note in his pocket—soaked, but the police are able to make it out. Obviously the killer neglected to go through the detective’s pockets.”
“Awfully obliging of him.”
Mr. Shapiro’s face looked a bit like a tomato, so Miss Little did him the favor of picking up the slack: “Please, Mr. Lord. There are five suspects for the identity of the murderer—five criminals—”
“Hitmen,” Shapiro snapped.
“I believe that’s the term,” said Miss Little, blushing. “Well, they’re the five criminals whom the smuggling ring usually uses: William Cardinal, Edgar Swann, Terence Crane, Norman Crowley, and Sam Ravenwood. Now, the note in the detective’s pocket has these five names on it and then follows it up with this: ‘I now know that the killer is the unhinged man.’
“That’s your question, then, Mr. Lord: which of these five is the ‘unhinged man’—the detective’s murderer?”
“First things first,” Mr. Lord murmured. “None of the suspects was—er—crazy, I suppose? Unhinged as the word is most often used?”
“Not any more than any other hitman” came the response (from Shapiro, if I’m not mistaken).
“Didn’t think so. And none of the suspects has any particular connection to a door, a gate, or anything like that, I suppose?”
“Correct. No connection there.”
“Well, then, two more possibilities, before I have to do some actual pondering: no suspect had any knowledge of biology, did he? A hinge in biology is a ligamentous joint, as in a bivalve shell.”
“They’re all hitmen, Lord,” Shapiro shot out, “not eggheads! Oh, sorry, Professor.”
“The only other possibility, then,” Geoff continued, smiling: “was the note written on an envelope? Or on letter paper? A ‘hinge’ may refer to a piece of gummed paper used to fasten a stamp on an envelope or in an album.”
“No envelope, no letter, nothing like that, Mr. Lord.”
“I didn’t think so. Well, if the word hinge wasn’t used literally, I can suppose the detective was a wordsmith?”
“You can say that,” Malkin said, nodding.
“Hm. Well, you will permit me to write those volucrine names down, won’t you?”
“Volucrine, you said, Lord?” muttered Prof. Tewksbury, rising from his chair.
“Indeed, Professor—same trick you played with the names last time, except referring to birds rather than the alphabet. The solution has nothing to do with names—well, except for one name.”
“Ah,” said the Professor, who, seeming slightly annoyed, fell back in his seat.
“It helps,” said Mr. Lord cheerfully, after having written them down, “if you know the derivation of one word in particular. And that one word is…”
He stopped suddenly, all the cheer leaving his face. “I’m a fool. Damn! Apologies, Miss Little. Yes,” he snapped, looking at a certain member of the Puzzlers, “you clever devil, you clever devil…”
To which member was Geoffrey Lord referring?
What was the word?
What was the solution?
How did Geoffrey Lord know?