SundayMorning Puzzle # 46 (A Murder Mystery)

SMP # 46 is another story puzzle. It’s entitled: She Ran…from Death! All of the sentences in this rather silly mystery have something in common. Your challenge is to track down this common factor, and then continue writing the story. You may feel free to introduce new characters, clues, and plot twists to the story, but please be sure each of your new sentences adheres to the common factor rule. The common factor has nothing whatsoever to do with the story being told. Well…nothing except that it may indicate where the killer was from, and what he/she was wearing at the time of the crime.

Detective Sergeant George Smith received a telephone call early on the crispy cool morning of January 28th. The famous, talented, and lovely actress Gail Jones had been found murdered on a spacious cattle ranch just outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Suspects were many and clues few, yet Smith never doubted his ability to determine the identity of the killer or killers. He planned to begin this decidedly difficult homicide investigation by interviewing everyone who had seen the unfortunate young starlet on the last night of her life.

First up was the woman’s brother Paul, an unassuming termite exterminator for Midwest Orkin. Paul Jones claimed he had last seen his eldest sister at around 8PM the previous evening, just after dinner. “Gail was simply bubbling over with excitement last evening because she had just landed a role in the upcoming Shakespeare sequel,” stated Paul. Detective Smith had, of course, heard of MacBeth II: Double the Toil, Double the Trouble because the movie was scheduled to be filmed right there in Nebraska. “Gail wanted me to share this experience with her and her partying movie friends, but I just went to bed,” sighed Paul with obvious regret.

The droopy brother left the interrogation room, and the fastidiously dapper Sir Barton Mallory entered. Smith had little time to ponder the significance of brother Paul’s statement because Mallory went right into speech. “She shouldn’t have told everyone about the two hundred and twenty grand cash advance she had gotten from the film producers,” said Mallory. “But no, she shouted it out so that every farmhand in this hayseed neighborhood would know how much her life was worth. At 8:30, as I looked toward yonder moonlit hill, Gail Jones rushed past me as if Beelzebub himself pursued her,” he continued.

Detective Smith tried to shut out the noise from this jabbering Englishman so that he could think. So, somewhere out there in the dark, star and cash carrier Gail Jones had run to or from Death. She had been found on the other side of that same hill with two long knitting needles thrust lethally deep into her neck. Next to her body on the freshly mown grass lay an empty coffee cup, a king of spades with one corner torn off, and a paperback copy of Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam left open to pages 8-9. All of her advance money, as well as her signature silver charm bracelet, had disappeared…

Can you find the common factor and continue the story?

OK, so I guess this is a toughie. Yet, I thought with 19 sentences to work with…well I still expect some Sherlock at the SDMB to be able to figure this out. To improve the odds, let me add another eight sentences. I’ll bet that will help. It will also make the story over 1/5 complete (unless we decide to write a mystery trilogy, that is!)

The design on the back of the playing card was a blazing pink star surrounded by a blue circle–not a bicycle card for certain. As the detective rubbed the stubbles on his whiskery chin and concentrated on this strangest of images, he suddenly became aware again of the rambling Barton Mallory.

“As I was saying…Elwood, Tom, Susan, and I were playing bridge. Gail wouldn’t even spend a buck or two of her many movie dollers to gamble on hand of contract bridge because she was so damned cheap. Just as I, in a move ever so grand, ever so spectacular, bid 6 no trumps we noticed that a playing card was missing.”

“Grandly and spectacularly stupid,” said Susan Riley Wilkins as she entered the room. “With our poor hands we’d have gone down faster than an Apollo spacecraft dropping into the Pacific Ocean,” sneered the former chorus girl. Ms. Wilkins had worked the Chorus Line from Missoula to Spokane to Seattle before making it big in “serious” movies…

Detective Smith then proceeded to interrogate long-time ranch hand Manuel Garcia-Fuentes. “Is it possible, Señor Garcia-Fuentes, that some drifter or vagrant was on the ranch the night of the murder?” The grizzled old-timer replied, “I wouldn’t know, sir, since I just got back from visiting relatives in Kingman, Arizona. The ranch here tends to get real quiet in the wintertime and I like to get out of town, if possible.”

Turning back to Ms Wilkins, Smith queried, “Your husband, Tom Buchanan, was part of your bridge foursome, was he not?” “Well, yes he was,” she said, turning suddenly pensive. “Are you aware that his name is the same as the happy-go-lucky, debonair character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby?”, Smith countered. “Yes, that’s just a stage name he adopted as a ploy to get on Cavalcade of Stars back in the fifties. He was born Ferdinand Tsiolkovsky. Not exactly the kind of name to generate unbridled enthusiasm in critics.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re right Ms Wilkins,” Smith muttered as his normally agile mind groped for a thread of continuity in the facts discovered so far. “And what does your charismatic husband do for a living now that his days of stardom are over?”

“Well, he’ll rise early, talk to his brokers, tip off close friends if the information is any good, and then call it a day. His brokers were once quite good, you know, and if I may be so bold, Forbes Magazine once singled them out for praise. That sort of plaudit is not easily achieved, I dare say. But their abilities have declined with time and the recent lack of winning colors my poor Tom’s moods to a rather deep shade of blue. So it is understandable if my husband tends to drink a bit much these days, usually a perfectly horrid little Australian table wine, Chateaugay San Wagga Wagga I believe it is.”


You did it! I had the second part of the mystery trilogy half written for this Sunday…but now it’s back to the drawing board.

Your additions to the story made me laugh out loud. Funny stuff! Way to mount the challenge!

MonkeyMensch…and others:

Can the entire story be written?

“Wagga Wagga Wagga…” continued the chant in poor Detective Smith’s mind. Then came the cry, “Lookout, He’s falling!”

The detective went down for the count…turf to nose.

When he awoke from his swirling mental whirlaway, Detective Smith found himself stretched out on the long uncomfortable sofa of the sitting room.

“I’m sorry that all I have are three wintergreen lifesavers and no Bayer aspirin,” said a voice.

"Who is that…Tim…Tam…Tom Bukeasomthing…"thought the still groggy detective.

As the inspector rose his hand slid beneath the couch cushions and brought out a silver bracelet with the letters “ZEV STE…” enscribed on the inside.

Though he now had a bandage on his nose, Inspector Smith knew he had to still keep it to the grindstone. Murders needed to be caught, there was no compromise, no middleground, no ifs, ands or buts.

“When I report back to Lieut. Gibson, I’m going to deliver him the killer, the motive, and the means,” announced Smith.

“It would take some sort of Hindoo mystic or Buddhist sage to discover the killer with so few clues,” retorted Barton Mallory.

Smith asked, “Isn’t it true you gave this bracelet to Gail Jones during the filming of *Hurricane III : The Awful Eye *last summer in Johnstown Pennsylvania?”

“That was actually Typhoon II: Wind of Woe, filmed in Miami, and so what if I did?” cursed Mallory heatedly. “That bracelet is just some cheap trinket I picked up at one of the clothes swaps that are so popular in Florida. I just figured I could carry back some small gift and she’d be…well…appreciative…if you know what I mean?”

“Good God, behave yourself and remember my sister is dead,” blurted Paul angrily.

“Dust, Commander?” asked the young policeman who had brought in a fingerprint kit.

“Yes, Ben – brush all the items found with the body, if you please,” replied his superior.

“And don’t go forging any evidence!” blurted Mallory. “I’ll have you know, I’m a personal friend of Judge Himes and and I won’t hesitate to call him and inform him of any irregularities.”

“Say,” interrupted Manuel, “do you think this could be the work of that outlaw ring I been hearing about? Word is, them thugs pulled off the robbery at Thunder Gulch. I also heard they done railroad hold-ups, too!”
(I bet you thought I wasn’t going to show. Sorry I’m late - I was visiting my mother. She’s a good sort although she can be a bit of a nag!)


Glad to see you back in the running. However, I must say I’m having difficulty with a couple of your sentences. How to put this…? I’m having trouble “pulling the plug”, at least in regard to the course the other sentences are on. Am I missing something…?

Guys… I don’t mean to interrupt your fun,but would you mind giving us a few clues… preferably BLATANT ones, as to what the theme is? Not ALL of us solved it in paragraph 1.


I’ll try to post a particularly blatant clue a little while later today, it’s just that I don’t know what it is yet.

Suddenly the old soldier Bill Murphy, who had neglected to be in the story until now, spoke up. “When I was in the Great War, Admiral Perry gave me a medal for bravery and brainery. Indeed, when one is at war, emblem, patch, stripe, medal…they all mean a great deal. But when that old sea hero gave me that medal, he whispered something to me.”

“I remembered his words when I thought to go for gin and tonic last night at a local watering hole. I was at the Old Rosebud Inn on 5th and Melrose when I saw something critical and remembered his words…”

Hee hee. They’re there, Bio - but if it makes you feel any better, I can provide years and you can check them yourself.
1994, 1903
1938, 1995, 1913

Blatant clue for astorian.

Why you sneaky…

I fear the day you start posting puzzles here aseymayo. I fear that day indeed!

Asemayo, you crack me up.

“He said, ‘Bill, we old army men take a foolish pleasure in war. But we can only strike the gold, the real gold, in peacetime.’ He never usually shared such personal thoughts to his men, so I felt really close to him, like the Alan-a-Dale to his Robin Hood. I’ll remember that day 'til the docs have affirmed me dead.”

“That’s very nice,” the inspector said, knowing that he had to take a genuine risk soon, and accuse someone, or risk losing the chance to collar his killer forever.

(BTW, I just want to say that Asemayo’s clue was entirely responsible in showing me the light. Good job! :))

And while I’m here, I’ll add another sentence:

As Smith pondered the case, and wondered how his rank suddenly changed from Detective Sergeant to Inspector a while back, he felt a little like a quarterback making a critical forward pass in the fourth quarter, down six with two seconds to play: in a word, desperate.