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Posted by on Jun 15, 2010 in WhoDunIt |

An Attack of Gas

An Attack of Gas

The island of Canary Rock had no police force and none was really needed—not until the fateful morning when Gerald Espy was found dead in his bed.

The millionaire had been laid up with a broken leg, and although the local doctor was adept at setting bones, he was not well versed in murder. It wasn’t until he saw the dead cat curled up in a corner that he even suspected foul play.

“Poison gas,” the inspector guessed when he arrived. An empty glass container on the table was the primary evidence. “Pour one chemical on another.” He pointed to the dead flies on the windowsill at the east end of the room. “In less than a minute everything in the room would be dead.”

The body had been discovered by Espy’s son, Melvin. “I was out with some friends on my boat. I dropped them off at about midnight, then motored back to Canary Rock. There were no lights on at the house, but every now and then the moon would peek through. I figured Dad was asleep. So I locked up the house and went straight to bed. This morning, I went to check up. He was dead.”

The last person to admit seeing Gerald Espy alive was his business partner, Frank Townly, another island resident. “Frank came in here around midnight,” the tavern owner testified. “He and Espy weren’t getting along. Business was bad and they were both threatening lawsuits. Frank drank down a slew of scotches. He told me he had just been over to Espy’s. When it came closing time, Frank was dead drunk and asleep. I just locked up and left him in there. He was still asleep at noon time when I opened up.”

“When I left Gerald’s house last night, he was alive,” the hung-over Frank Townly said. “Check the time of death.” “I don’t have to check the time of death,” the inspector replied. “I have a pretty good idea when it was done and who did it.”  Or, as we like to say: whodunit?


Question: Whodunit? What made the inspector suspicious?

Answer: The dead flies on the windowsill were solid evidence that Gerald Espy’s room had been gassed after sunrise. If it had been done during the dark of night, the flies would not have congregated by the light of the east-facing window. Only one of the suspects has a morning alibi— Frank Townly, who had been locked inside the tavern. That means it was Melvin who had sneaked into his father’s room that morning and committed the murderous act.