Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Water-Bottle

Awhile back, I mentioned vague plans to make an adventure game out of The Eight Strokes of the Clock. It looks like those plans have fallen through, because someone else made a similarly-styled game.

But it's a good mystery book, so you readers won't mind if I summarize the mysteries, would you? I'll do that, for the rest of this week.

Story #2 is The Water-Bottle, and it's a straightforward murder mystery. Jacques Aubrieux was framed, for the murder of his cousin. He claims he was at home sleeping, when his wife and daughter were at the movies. But neighbors saw him leave and return on his motorcycle, with the tracks leading straight to the scene of the murder. At the crime scene, they found his handkerchief, gun and a wine bottle with his fingerprints on it.

Quite obviously, either it's a frame job, or a badly covered-up murder. The culprit stole 60,000 francs from the victim, which are still missing to this day.

Our hero, Arsene Lupin, quickly guesses that the real murderer is the man who took the wife and daughter to the movies. Since this is 1920's France, of course they had to have an escort. He learned the particulars of the situation when picking up the women, he sat a few rows behind them at the theater, and slipped out during the film to commit murder.

Lupin can't prove anything, so he bluffs like a maniac. He gets a detective on scene, saying he's found the murderer. This gets him as far as the culprit's apartment, which they search to no avail. The culprit puts a water-bottle--a water jug, really--on the windowsill, while ushering them out.

Lupin is stumped, until someone reports a fire from the culprit's room. He realizes that the culprit must have set fire to the francs, in order to hide the evidence. But how? It turns out that he put the water-bottle in a very exact spot, so it serves as a magnifying lens when the light hits it. The light went from there to the franc notes, hidden inside a hat box, starting a fire.

Lupin takes out some francs of his own, half-burns them, and puts them in the hat box. He pretends that some of the francs were not fully destroyed in the fire, and says the numbers match the stolen francs. The culprit is fooled and confesses.

The story is pretty good. I preferred the first half, which is the mystery of the murder. The second half is the challenge of bluffing the culprit and the mystery of the water-bottle, which was less interesting. People don't normally use hat boxes today, so I never would have figured it out on my own.

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