Mini Mysteries

  1. The Case of the Suspicious Hitchhiker

    The police sergeant stopped his patrol car next to the individual on the hot country road. The sun had been beating down mercilessly all day, and the sergeant could feel the sweat running down the back of his shirt as he strode over to the young man.

    "What are you doing all the way out here, young feller? You lost?"

    "No, Mister. I'm hitchhiking, or trying to. I've been here for hours." The man took a long lick at the ice lolly he had in his hand, then held it forward, offering to let the sergeant lick it, but the officer waved him away.

    "I'm chasing up a group of armed robbers," the sergeant explained. "They held up the local store in Bixby, about a mile down the road, and then escaped in this direction."

    Suddenly the young man became excited. "Yeah, I saw them," he explained. "A large black car rushed past here about half an hour ago, with several men in it, doing at least seventy miles an hour. I tried to wave it down to give me a lift, but they were going too fast."

    "Then you're just the man I need to speak to. If I give you a lift to the police station in Nasburg ..." Here the sergeant made a gesture down the road in the direction away from Bixby "... so that you can make an official statement, will that be on your way?"

    "Sure thing," the man said. "It sure beats standing out here in the hot sun for hours at a time watching vehicles going past." He willingly climbed in the back of the police car, while the sergeant resumed his seat behind the steering wheel.

    As soon as the patrol car had reached the police station at Nasburg, and the pair of them had entered the police station, the sergeant slapped the handcuffs on the unsupecting young man, and arrested him in connection with the robbery in Bixby.

    Why did the sergeant suspect the man had been involved in the robbery?



  2. The Case of the Ginger Beer Bet

    "I don't understand it," Bocelli said, "but I think I've just been swindled out of ten thousand pounds. Want to hear how it happened?"

    "I'm all ears," his friend, the police sergeant replied. "How do you think you've been swindled?"

    "Well, I made a bet with Fingers Freddie that he couldn't break into my safe while I sat in the same room." Bocelli nodded towards his large, steel safe, firmly bolted to the wall and floor over the other side of the room. "I watched him place a large glass of ice cubes in the safe, while he boasted that he could break in and replace the cubes with ginger beer without me even noticing that he was there."

    "You watched him put the glass in your safe?" the sergeant sneered. "That surprises me! You're so short sighted, you're almost blind."

    "That's true," Bocelli replied, taking off his thick spectacles in order to clean them on the hem of his shirt. "I'm virtually useless without these, and not much better with them on. But I took the precaution of putting my hand in the glass before Freddie placed it in the safe, and I can assure you it contained only ice cubes. Nothing but ice cubes. As soon as he had placed it in the safe, I closed the safe door and spun the dial, locking it firmly."

    Bocelli leaned forward to his friend. "All night I stayed up, determined to catch him breaking in. The bet was that if I could catch Freddie opening the safe and changing the contents, I would win the ten thousand. If he could change what was in the safe for ginger beer without me seeing him, he would win it. I saw nothing that night, absolutely nothing, but when I opened the safe the next morning, the glass contained ginger beer."

    "You're sure it was ginger beer?"

    "Absolutely. I tasted it myself. It was ginger beer and nothing more. I realise that my eyesight is very poor, but I think I would have noticed Fingers Freddie breaking into the safe right in front of me. And don't think that I must have fallen asleep. With ten thousand pounds at stake, I didn't sleep a wink that night."

    How did Fingers Freddie manage to win the bet?



  3. The Mystery of the Cave Paintings

    "Just look at them. Genuine cave paintings! Aren't they marvellous?" Peter leaned forward and shone his torch on the cave wall. The beam of the torch lit up a small circular section of the wall, covered with paintings very similar to the ones that had been discovered decades before in the French caves of Lascaux. One section showed cavemen dancing round a fire. Another showed them hunting a dinosaur and throwing spears at it. Yet a third section, showed the outlines of different hands. The painters had clearly placed their hands against the wall, then smeared some sort of colouring on them, so that when the hands were removed, a coloured outline remained.

    "Certainly very ... unusual." Peter's friend, the police sergeant, struggled for words. "How were they discovered?"

    "A group of boys decided to go exploring in the caves one day and found them." Peter replied. "They told their parents, who immediately got in touch with me. As curator of the local history museum in the area, they thought I ought to know about them straight away."

    The sergeant could almost hear the pride in Peter's voice. For years, he had fiercely defended his position as the most prominent historian in the town, and had been delighted that he had been one of the first people to see the cave paintings in many thousands of years.

    "A group of boys, you say? Do you happen to know how I can get in touch with them?"

    "Yes certainly. Why do you want to get in touch with them?"

    "To see how much they know about a stupid, childish prank that someone is playing on you." The sergeant nodded towards the paintings. "Those things are obviously completely fake, and I'm surprised you were taken in by them!"

    Why did the police sergeant believe that the cave paintings were a fake?



  4. The Case of the Falling Man

    When the police sergeant arrived at the bottom of the block of flats, a small crowd had already gathered round the body. From the large pool of blood surrounding it, it was obvious that the man had fallen from a great height. The sergeant looked up at the long column of windows in the tower block right next to them, ten of them in all, each with a simple white, plastic frame and no ledge, and each looking out from a different floor.

    "Has anything been touched?" the sergeant asked the crowd of people. They were all able to assure him that no, nothing had been touched and that the scene had stayed exactly the way it was when they found the body.

    "I see," the sergeant said. Then he beckoned to one of his colleagues, who had also arrived. "Constable, I want you to keep order down here. I'm going up that flight of stairs to see where the man might have fallen from. Make sure nobody touches the body or disturbs the scene."

    The sergeant climbed the stairs, opening each of the windows in turn and looking out of it before closing it again and moving on to the next. On reaching the top floor, he quickly took the lift back down to ground level, before walking out to address the ever-growing crowd.

    "Well, I now know one thing for certain. This man did not commit suicide. He was definitely murdered."

    Why was the police sergeant convinced that the man had been murdered?



  5. The Case of the Murdered Countess

    The body of Lady Belchington lay face down on the floor in her bedroom in a pool of blood. There was no murder weapon, but on turning the body over, it was obvious that the woman had been stabbed once in the chest.

    "Nasty way to go," the sergeant said. "Right. I'll interview the members of staff one by one in the library, if you don't mind, Constable. Please make sure they don't have a chance to talk to each other in the meantime. I don't want them comparing alibis and concocting some sort of story between them."

    It turned out that there were four other people in or near the house at the time: The butler, the chauffeur, the maid and the gardener.

    "Oh, it was terrible," the butler said. He'd naturally been seen first, because of his superior position in the household. "I was with Perkins, the chauffeur, in the kitchen at the time, when we both heard a loud scream. We ran upstairs to find Lady Belchington as you saw her."

    "You didn't touch the body?"

    "No, I was very careful to make sure nobody touched anything, although I was rather cross with Sally for taking a peek in through the door after I had closed it" the butler replied, "but while I was in the room, I did notice that the door to the back stairs was open. Whoever killed Her Ladyship must have escaped that way."

    "Sally didn't go into the room?"

    "Good heavens, no, sir. Once I had given her a piece of my mind, she ran off to the far side of the house, no doubt crying her eyes out, the silly girl."

    The gardener, Melchett, couldn't help much.

    "I'm sorry, Officer," he said. "I was in the garden at the time weeding the flower beds. I didn't see or hear anything at all until Perkins ran down to tell me that the lady of the house had been murdered."

    The chauffeur, on the other hand, was trying to be as helpful as he could.

    "Oh yes, I was with Hudson - he's the butler, you know - in the kitchen at the time, swapping jokes and tall tales, when we heard the scream. He was first up the stairs, but I followed him close behind, and Sally, the maid, came shortly afterwards. Then I ran out into the garden to tell Melchett what had happened."

    The last member of staff was the maid, a timid little thing who seemed very nervous in the presence of a police officer.

    "I had just started my break and was making myself a cup of tea when I heard the scream. I straight away heard people running along the corridor and up the stairs, and I followed them. It was Hudson and Perkins, and they were standing by the open door to Her Ladyship's room. Hudson said we weren't to touch anything, but a little while later I peeked in and saw that Her Ladyship had been stabbed and was lying in a pool of blood. It was horrible, absolutely horrible!"

    The sergeant and the police constable met in the hallway to discuss the situation and compare first impressions.

    "Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do, isn't it?" the constable said. "I wonder which one of them could have done it."

    "Not as difficult as you might think, Constable," replied his boss. "I think I know who the murderer is."

    Whom did the sergeant suspect and why?



  6. The Case of the Unidentified Body

    The sergeant looked at the dead body lying on the pavement. Even though the man was lying face down, it was clear that he had been beaten roughly about the face, probably to hinder identification. Indeed, what was left of the victim's head was very badly damaged.

    "You wouldn't know who that was, would you, Sergeant, if it weren't for the vital clues." The constable wrinkled his nose at the blood soaked mess in front of him.

    "What do you mean, Constable?"

    "Well, it's clearly Blind Bocelli, isn't it?" came the reply. Bocelli, who had always had very poor vision, had finally lost his battle against his failing eyesight a couple of years before. "I knew him well. That's his coat the victim is wearing and the glass on his wrist-watch had broken, no doubt as he hit the pavement, and the watch had stopped at three thirty, which was exactly the time that Bocelli always goes out for his afternoon walk. Oh, and we found his hat blowing in the wind a little way down the street."

    "Well, that seems conclusive," the sergeant answered, thoughtfully.

    "It all makes sense," the constable continued. "The back of Bocelli's head is almost untouched but his face is a wreck. Whoever attacked him must have approached him from the front, and, of course, Bocelli, being as blind as a bat, wouldn't have seen him coming." The man looked rather smug, delighted at his own cleverness. "Trust me, sergeant, that's Bocelli lying there."

    "It isn't," the sergeant said, "But someone is trying very hard to make us think it is."

    Why did the sergeant doubt that the dead man was Bocelli?



  7. The Case of the Mysterious Meeting

    "Sergeant, I have a missing person case for you that I want you to look into as your top priority. Professor Venables, the government scientist, has disappeared from his ground-floor flat. Get a cab and go round to the place and see what you can turn up. Here's the address." The inspector handed a roughly scribbled address on a piece of paper to his subordinate.

    "Can't I take a patrol car?" The sergeant didn't much like the idea of having to get a cab. Not only does it look wrong for a police officer to turn up to a possible crime scene in a taxi, but he wasn't at all sure that he would be reimbursed the cab fare.

    "All busy! Besides, that salary of yours is big enough to cope with the occasional travelling expense. Get on to it now!"

    Outside on the street, the sergeant was lucky enough to find a taxi waiting within fifty yards of the police station. He hailed it and got into it. "Please take me to this address," he said to the driver, handing him the piece of paper.

    "Will do, Mister," the man replied, and immediately put the cab into gear. Within five minutes, the cab drew up at a building. "There you go," the driver said, "that'll be ten dollars."

    The sergeant was still fuming about what daylight robbery taxi fares were as he knocked on the door. It was opened by a rather sour-faced woman.

    "Does Professor Venables live here?" the sergeant asked, flicking his police warrant card open for her to see.

    The woman nodded. "I'm his house-keeper."

    "You're probably aware that he's gone missing, and the police department has been given the task of finding him. Please could you show me to his room?"

    "Of course," she replied. "Follow me." She lead the sergeant to the bottom of the stairs and started climbing them. "It's just up here."

    At that moment the sergeant realised that the taxi driver had taken him to the wrong address and that he was walking into a trap.

    How did the sergeant know that he was being lead into a trap?