The Let's Play Archive

Murder off Miami

by SelenicMartian

Part 10: Pages 131 to 138. I killed him.

: It's time.

: Almost there...

: Ta-da!

: Oh, sorry, my hand's in the way.

: Most of you did note he was suspicious. Let's see the authors' explanation.


The time of the murder was set between 7.45 and 8.30, owing to a message, supposedly in the victim's handwriting, appearing on a leaf torn from Stodart's diary which was not in existence until 7.40.

Compare the share quotations supposedly written by Stodart, however, with other examples of handwriting known to have been written by Blane. The word "Rocksavage" in the share list also occurs twice in Blane's letter to Stodart and twice in his letter to the Bishop. The similarity of the first to the other four immediately springs to the eye, only the "s" and the "g" differing to any extent. Other similarities appear on closer inspection and there can be no doubt that all three documents were written by the same person.

: I don't remember people comparing the writing samples in the thread.

Not the victim, but the writer of the share quotations therefore wrote the alleged last message, so that there is no evidence as to when the murder was committed. The alibi of the man presumed to be Stodart begins only at 7.25 when he entered the lounge. If the crime was committed before that his alibi falls to the ground.

Examination of the evidence brings other points to light showing that the man known as Stodart throughout the investigation is in reality Bolitho Blane. There are as follows:

1. Photograph D. of Blane's bathroom shows a safety razor on the washstand, whereas photograph E of Stodart's cabin shows a cut-throat razor on the washstand. The photograph presumed to be of Stodart, flashed by Detective Officer Neame on the morning after the crime, shows a razor cut on the man's face. It is obvious that he had always been used to shaving with a safety razor but, as suite C was locked up after the murder, he could not get at this, and had to do the best he could to shave himself with the cut-throat razor that was in Stodart's cabin.

: Objection! I call bullshit.

Here's a close up shot of the photo of Stodart.

: That doesn't look like a straight razor cut to me, and I've been using one for years. Also, it's in the shade. If they wanted it to be noticeable they should have placed it as a dark line on the right side of the chin, because chins are kinda tricky to shave. Then Kettering should have noticed this gash when they were dining, while he was commenting on how distressed Stodart looked.

2. On examination of the photograph presumed to be of Stodart, it is apparent that the coat he is wearing is too big for him, as the sleeve is over long, and the garment must have been built for a slightly taller man. It is obvious that Blane, having changed identities with his secretary, had to wear his secretary's clothes which did not quite fit him.

: The thread did notice the poorly fitting clothes but discarded that as a fashion statement. In 80 years people will think everyone today wore their pants around their ankles.

3. It will be recalled that on the night of the 9th, when the man presumed to be Stodart dined with Kettering, he complained of an abscess which was causing him trouble with his false teeth and, as the upper set were slipping badly, he was unable to eat any solids. An examination of photograph D of Blane's bathroom shows a tooth brush and a plate brush, the latter being an indication that Blane had false teeth, whereas in photograph E of Stodart's cabin there is on the wash basin an ordinary tooth brush only. Further, in the inventory of Blane's belongings there appears a bottle of Gum Tragacanth powder, which is used for sprinkling upon dentures in order to keep these in position in the mouth. As suite C was locked after the crime, Blane was no longer able to get at this powder, hence his difficulty in keeping his false teeth in place on the following night.

: Sorry, there was no talk about the upper set slipping badly. Some parts of this book seem to contain glitches. Just watch Schwab skip number 4.

5. It will be recalled that, at the end of his first examination, on the morning after the crime, the Bishop of Bude fainted. At that time it was assumed, upon the Bishop's word, that his faint was caused by weak heart and the fact that he had had no breakfast. It is clear, however, that the true reason was the shock he sustained upon the man, presumed to be Stodart, coming into the cabin. As the Bishop had not breakfasted with the others it was he first time that morning he had seen the secretary and, as he knew him to be Blane, he must have thought at first that he was seeing a ghost. The reason for Blane's letter, written from New York to the Bishop, warning him that some very strange things might occur once the yacht put to sea, and that whatever might happen the Bishop was to keep his mouth shut for his own sake, now becomes apparent.

Blane's confession on his arrest confirms the above inductions.

: Now, for your amusement imagine that the following text is delivered by a man in a poorly fitting suit, with a wound on his cheek, and with his dentures falling out. All that while doing the evil voice as the standards of the genre require.


Yes, all right then, I killed him. Little sycophant, what use was he, anyway?

I've known since last December that I might have to get out any minute. In fact, I suppose I've realised it might have to come sometime ever since I started business. Big business is like that, but you wouldn't understand with your safe little job and pension at the end of it. I suppose that's why I never let myself come in personal contact with my staff, that and the fact that I hate people .... most people anyhow.

All I wanted was peace, and I knew if I could find someone to step into my shoes and leave me his to step into I could have it. I started looking in January for someone whom my shoes would fit. It was only a question of patience. Someone of the right height, build, age and with no friends would turn up.

Stodart turned up in Ipswich - - about the fifth place I had spent a week in, advertising and interviewing applicants. He was ideal, no friends, no family - just the sort of man I wanted to become myself, so I decided to let him do the first big thing he'd ever done -- go out with a bang.

When Rocksavage asked me to his conference I thought there was a faint possibility of pulling things together, and Stodart could have gone back to his clerking. By the time we got to New York, though, I knew my position was hopeless and I decided to put Stodart through the hoop.

I had a nasty shock in New York when I learnt that the Bishop of Bude was to be on board. Very few people know me by sight and it was rotten luck that one of them should chance to be among the party. Fortunately, however, I knew more about him than he did about me - a nasty business during the war which everyone's forgotten now and I knew that the Bishop would rather that they weren't reminded, so I wrote him a little warning that there was real trouble coming to him unless he kept his mouth shut.

I don't suppose you want to know how it was all done. Its pretty obvious now, but if some very bright bird hadn't been a little too clever I should have been in the South Sea Islands by this time. The details? Here they are:

I got some closing prices from New York by long distance before coming on board and wrote them in a disguised handwriting I had been practising a long time on a page of my diary. I wrote a message to Stodart in my own writing on the other side, and put it in my pocket.

As soon as we were on board I gave Stodart some work to do in our drawing room and went to see the Bishop. I found my note had had the desired effect, and although I told him nothing, I could see that as far as he was concerned I could bump off the whole Church of England so long as I didn't dig up that nasty business out of the past.

Then I went back to the drawing room and gave Stodart a little knock on the back of the head with a hammer I had with me for the job. He was sitting at the small round table, so I moved the writing table away from the window, and dragged him across to it and popped him out. It was quite dark by then so no-one could see from the deck. Then I threw the hammer and the gloves I wore while I was arranging the room to join him. I found I'd cracked his silly thin skull, so I had to sponge out a spot of blood on the carpet before I changed into evening dress in his room.

I got up to the lounge at half past seven and introduced myself as Stodart and after a while wrote the closing prices in my diary again in front of everyone, and in the same kind of handwriting. I told the steward to push it under the door on the cabin and stayed in the lounge until the bugle sounded for dinner. The Bishop, who was among the people who came up while I was there, showed he was safe for anything by not turning a hair when he was introduced to me as Stodart.

After that everything went according to plan. At eight thirty the Steward came up with the note I had left addressed to Stodart and I hurried down with him to the cabin. While he was in the bathroom I exchanged the note I had kept in my pocket with the one that had been pushed under the door. That proved the missing party was alive at seven forty-five, and you see although I'd worked this little thing out pretty carefully the difference between doing a thing just well and doing it properly is to make allowances for the unexpected. I didn't see why the suicide story shouldn't be accepted without question, but if they did prove a murder I didn't want to be in on it. It's one thing to go down for killing Stodart; it would have been very disagreeable to have been charged with killing Blane.

You know, it's almost worth it to have seen the Bishop's face when he saw me the next morning and realised I hadn't committed suicide. After thinking he was rid of me he must have realised what I had done. That's why he fainted.

Well, that's all, and since it hasn't come off I want to see it finished with as little delay and formality as possible.

: And that's it. Yes, the motive for a recluse hiring a man to kill the man to be alone is flimsy. No, the book doesn't explain how the steward who came in to clean the sodding cabin failed to notice a piece of paper right at his feet in the doorway. Blane could have at least propped a rug there, so that the note ended up under it. Anyway, that's not the silliest part of the sealed section of the book. Here's the silliest part

: Yes, all the publishing details including the year and the ISBN are inside the sealed area of the cover. Marvellous.
Thanks for dropping by, I hope you enjoyed this little trip into the early days of interactive crime fiction.