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Another Whisky Mystery!

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@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee started a discussion

The last Whisky Mystery went over pretty well, so here’s another as I promised for the holidays. This one is a little more complex (and, I hope, not too convoluted) and may require a bit of Internet research if you’re not an expert in…well, you’ll have to figure out what you might need to research. I’ll post the solution the day after Christmas, or when somebody figures everything out, whichever comes first. Hope you enjoy.

Inspector Drammer tried to stifle his yawn as best he could. It was nearly 4:00 a.m. and he and three other homicide investigators had been on the crime scene for nearly three hours. “Questioning witnesses, dusting for fingerprints…is all this really necessary, Inspector?” asked Sergeant Campbeltown. “After all, it’s as cut-and-dried as a case can be. That Duff dame even admitted to shooting her husband.”

“All is not as it seems, Sergeant,” replied Drammer. “Something Lady Duff said puzzles me. Yes, those bullets in Sir Craig Duff’s body were from her gun. And, yes, she fired that gun. But something tells me there is more than one guilty party here. And that other guilty party may be the real murderer.”

The butler, Chivas, entered the room and announced drolly, “A telephone call for you, Inspector. The coroner. You may take the call here in the parlour.”

“What’s the word, Lochdu?” grumbled Drammer into the phone. “Uh-huh. I see. Ha! Just as I thought.” The Inspector slammed down the receiver and announced to the investigators, “It was cyanide poisoning, men. I suspected as much when I saw the rash on the victim’s chest. Yes, this Duff chap was already dead when his wife shot him. And in this jurisdiction, shooting a dead body is a mere misdemeanor. Mutilating a corpse is the most serious of charges we can bring against her. Provided, of course, she knew beforehand that her husband was indeed dead. And I have reason to believe she did.”

Sir Craig and Lady Fanny Duff had participated in a whisky tasting earlier that night. They and four others had gathered at the estate of Lord Halpus for the monthly meeting of the Barley Buffs, a local Scotch-lovers’ aggregation. A tension in the form of forced politeness was noticed by all on this night. Their usual friendly banter seemed terse and obligatory, as if to maintain the pretense of another friendly gathering. Although there were discrepancies in the witness’s statements, all involved agreed on this point.

“All right, let’s review what we know,” said Drammer wearily as he opened his note pad. “One by one, let’s go over what we learned from the statements and see if we can discern some inconsistency, some slip of the tongue. Maybe there’s also a clue in the whiskies tasted tonight. Oh, Chivas, would you be so kind as to brew some strong tea for us bone-tired bloodhounds?”

In his notes, Drammer had scribbled “Most frustrating!” in the margin with regards to the disappearance of all of the bottles tasted that night. All, that is, except for a few shards from the shattered bottle found beside the corpse of Sir Craig Duff. That particular bottle had been blasted beyond recognition from a bullet that may or may not have gone astray. It was determined that the blasted bottle was made of clear glass, and that the whisky from that bottle contained traces of cyanide.

Drammer’s notes contained information on each of the Barley Buffs:

Lord Halpus: The long-standing leader of the group. A somewhat stuffy and dignified gent whose occasional confusion and disorientation had become a source of humor for all. Of his whisky expertise, however, there was no doubt. He could identify hundreds of whiskies from a mere quick pass under the nose, and he could often identify them by vintage, age, batch, and region as well. Questionable sense of humor; told a stale Irish joke (“Say, Inspector, did you hear about the winner of the Irish beauty contest? Me neither! Hawf, hawf, hawf, hawf!”) during his interview. Always approves of the whisky choices for the evening, and always responsible for pouring all the drams. Was reared on whisky when blends were preferred and single malts were scarce. Provided a Johnnie Walker Swing on this night, as it reminded him of his younger days when he cruised the world on luxury liners. Adores his much-younger wife, although has reason to suspect her of infidelity.

Lady Heavyn Halpus: Wife of Lord H. Attractive and coquettish. Owns four poorly trained, very spoiled Lhasa Apsos. The dogs nipped at the ankles of the homicide team until Lady Halpus asked that Chivas provide them with some leftover liver pâté from the evening meal. Makes a great show of affection towards her husband when all are gathered, but sometimes disappears for lengthy spells with one or another of the gentlemen in the group. Always plans the menu for the evening supper (with some occasional input from the others), which tonight featured a main course of salmon sautéed in sesame-seed oil, and garnished with almonds and sun-dried tomatoes. Likes her whisky strong and sweet and offered an Aberlour A’bundha, batch #19, on this evening.

Lady Fanny Duff: Wife of the murder victim. Likes strong peated whisky and impressed everyone with her choice of Ardbeg 1977 tonight. Admits to owning a vintage Smith & Wesson revolver, and to using that gun to fire at her husband (or his corpse, as the case may be) earlier that night. Said her husband was unscrupulous, a philanderer, and deserved what he got. All testified that Lady Duff was a main source of the tension for the evening. She was obviously in a foul mood and had directed several cold, dagger-eyed stares at her husband all night. Told Inspector Drammer in a desperate whisper to “please examine everything thoroughly before jumping to seemingly obvious conclusions.”

Mr. Bill Vinny: A master carpenter and an amateur magician whose dexterity with cards and coins was often enjoyed by all. He was coerced into reluctantly performing the classic cups-and-balls illusion on this night. However, his grumpy mood, stemming from a severe toothache, contributed to the dismal atmosphere of the evening. His limited conversation with the women and the victim also appeared to be perfunctory and strained. Had an appointment with Dr. Loch earlier in the afternoon. Brought a whisky nobody had yet tried: a Port Charlotte PC 8 Ar Duthchas, which everyone enjoyed for its tingly, nutty smokiness. Said to enjoy certain intoxicants other than whisky, but usually kept such indulgences to himself. Lady Duff whispered to the Inspector that Vinny had encouraged nearly everyone to partake in “a perfectly legal little something” on this evening, however.

Dr. Mort Loch: A wealthy oral surgeon with a reputation as a ladies’ man. Examined Mr. Vinny that afternoon, but could do nothing about his toothache at the time. “Bill needs a root canal and extraction, and there just wasn’t time today,” he stated. He was able to provide some temporary relief for the pain, however. Wowed everyone tonight with a Glenfarclas 40 year old, which he carried in his paraphernalia-filled black bag. Usually enjoys the company of all the Barley Buffs, although stated that “Bill and I never hit it off that well.” Claimed to be “on the balcony, looking at the stars” when others were indulging in the “perfectly legal” substance.

Sir Craig Duff, the victim, was well-liked by most of the members of the group, although he was never particularly close to either Lord Halpus or Bill Vinny. “As manly as Sean Connery and as lovable as a puppy dog,” gushed Lady Halpus. Something of a health nut and nutritionist who enjoyed whisky as his only indulgence. Never ate supper with the rest, as he preferred to keep his palate as clean as possible before a tasting evening. Had little tolerance for Bill’s vices and too-close relationship with Lady Halpus. His whisky choice for the evening was a Bunnahabhain 25 year old, which elicited raves from all except Bill, who proclaimed it merely “not bad.” Loved to laugh and swap naughty jokes with Lady Halpus, which always aroused the ire of Lady Duff.

After reading his notes aloud, Inspector Drammer paced up and down the lounge and mumbled softly to himself. Nearly twenty minutes passed before he announced to his investigative team that they should “Examine all the intricacies of the relationships. I believe that everyone sampled the whisky with the cyanide, but nobody noticed it, and nobody was affected by it except Sir Craig. Somebody made sure of that in advance, and that somebody also thought that someone else could be framed for planting the poison. The mastermind was clearly in cahoots with Lady Duff, who agreed to take the fall for the crime—temporarily, of course—with the belief that the framed one would eventually be charged with the murder. She felt this was a small price to pay in exchange for unloading a philandering husband. With a light sentence for her misdemeanor, and thinking that the framed party would eventually be charged with the murder, she also knew that she could still claim her inheritance. I believe I have the real killer narrowed down to two candidates. All that remains is which had the stronger motive. Someone else may have played a minor role in the setup, perhaps unknowingly so…or perhaps not.”

So who administered the poison, and how so? If everyone sampled the contaminated whisky, why didn’t anyone else die or feel any ill effects? What was the “perfectly legal something” that Bill Vinny shared with all? Into which whisky did the killer slip the poison, and why was that whisky chosen? Who was the “someone else” who may have played a minor role? What evidence did the guilty party think would frame someone else?

Finally, a little something that may or may not have anything to do with the mystery. For your entertainment pleasure, the classic cups-and-balls illusion, as performed by the great Ricky Jay: www.youtube.com/watch

10 years ago

24 replies

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

Some good pre-holiday entertainment @WhiskyBee ! Hmm... I'm not great with these and wasn't very good with the last one. I can't sort out the love triangle yet, and whether it involves the doctor, for instance. My very strong suspicion is that the poison was spiked in absinthe, and that-- well let's just say a prominent vitamin of salmon has a big role. But that's not offering much on the whiskies... I get that the bottles of the last 3 mentioned people were darker, but based on the clues the broken bottle was probably the "legal" concoction and not the whisky? Not sure on that one. Will have to come back to this later....

10 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown replied

You've outdone yourself @WhiskyBee! Good luck to all. I hope to have some time over Xmas to have a read and see what I can make of it!

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

Thanks, @vanPelt and @systemdown.@vanPetl, I'll only say that you're sort of right on a couple of things, but there's no absinthe involved. Keep following the leads on the bottles and salmon, however. Heh-heh. ;-)

10 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

@WhiskyBee at some point cheap absinthe was laced with cyanide and of course there are differing views on its legality. But good to know it's a red herring. Or salmon. Btw fascinating video.

10 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown replied

Managed to read the mystery tonight and I think I have it mostly figured it out, minus the "perfectly legal something", which I'm still working on. Hmmm...

10 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

SPOILER ALERTS OK @systemdown maybe we can collaborate.... On second reading,the "legal something" must be that common dentist's treatment sometimes inhaled at private parties. It can cause asphyxiation, but the question is where the cyanide comes in. It could be in the whisky as-bottled, either from cyanide used in the copper stills-- or more likely which is produced from the peat (probably more common in older peated whiskies). However, my suspicion is that the dentist's gas chemically reacted with the phenols that exist in heavy peat, which can produce cyanide. Of the two peated whiskies that evening, the Ardbeg bottle's glass is not clear, so it would have had to be the Port Charlotte-- which was supplied by the same person who brought the gaseous reactant. This person, possibly working with another... would only have to ensure that everyone else had ample vitamin B12 in their bloodstreams. (If that is not "too convoluted" as @WhiskyBee suggests.)

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

@vanPelt - You're on the right track, but peat has nothing to do with anything. (Or maybe it does. I didn't know about peat and cyanide. It might fit the facts, but only by coincidence. And what a coincidence!)

10 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown replied

SPOILERS BELOW

Oh good, my solution doesn't involve peat.

@vanPelt - I'll hold out until Xmas before posting further. Hopefully some others can contribute something!

10 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

STILL SPOILING.... I also will withhold my full hypothesis, but... yes my next guess was that the nuttiness was the factor rather than the peat. Which can really only mean one culprit by my reasoning... Unfortunately, while I can identify the most likely fram-ee, I cannot figure out why they would have a motive to frame that person.

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

@vanPelt - Yes, follow the nuts! And sometimes there need be no more motive than getting oneself off the hook.

10 years ago 0

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

I think it's the butler Chivas, aren't they always suppose to be guilty, and in his case guilty of being included with so many good single malts. :)

10 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

I don't think it's the vitamin B12 that is the antidote but its precursor hydroxocobalamin.

However, I am suspicious of Bill Vinny. He had the ability to give everyone the antidote, amyl nitrite, which comes in the form of pearls that are taken in by inhalation. They also have a hallucinogenic effect.

He could have used his magic tricks to ensure that the victim did not receive the antidote.

The toothache could have been a lie. Perhaps he colluded with the dentist, who took his own non-hallucinogenic antidote. This would leave everyone protected except the victim.

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

@Nozinan - Wrong on several things. But right on one very important thing!

10 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@WhiskyBee

I look forward to finding out what I was right about.

10 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

It was about the suspect, who had the laughing gas, the nuttiness-masked cyanide, and the close relationship to influence the menu. I'd glossed over the liver pate, which also provides a high concentration of antidote. The framee might have been expected to detect the poison, although his love interest was more deserving.

10 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@vanPelt

I don't think liver has the antidote. The hydroxocobalamin is the prodrug and it binds with cyanide to form vitamin B12. So the pate doesn't appear to figure into this in that way. Unless it was laced with cyanide which would not make sense as the victim don't eat it. Unless he was a closet eater...

10 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

I guess we'll find out...! My explanation would have to be that all forms of B12 can bind CN-- not just the bacterial hydroxy- form, but also the forms (eg adenosyl) naturally occurring in both the liver and salmon that were served. (As they are among the foods having highest levels.) If my hypothesis plays out, Lady Halpus was then the unknowing minor player. But let's see!

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

As I said, this one may have required some research. Looks like you guys did more research than I might have! I hope my solution is consistent with your findings.

The paraphernalia in Dr. Loch’s bag included syringes and a supply of amyl nitrate “poppers.” He brought the poppers at the request of Bill Vinny, who wanted them to help relieve his toothache. Loch was indeed on the balcony when Vinny stole the poppers and a syringe from the black bag. Using a pocket drill, Vinny used his carpentry and sleight-of-hand skills to bore a tiny unnoticeable hole through the cap and cork on the Port Charlotte PC 8, then used a syringe to inject the cyanide in the bottle. He convinced Lady Duff that Dr. Loch would be framed for the poisoning, as it was he who supplied the murderous paraphernalia.

Lady Halpus was having affairs with all the men in the Barley Buffs. Her dalliances with Sir Craig ignited Lady Duff’s homicidal fires. Her intimacy with Bill Vinny was such that she trusted him to suggest the dinner menu for the evening. And her close relationship with Dr. Loch allowed her to seduce him out to the balcony, where he would be oblivious to the goings-on. Whether she knew the extent of the murderous machinations remains unknown. She was a woman who never questioned the requests and desires of her dogs and lovers.

Salmon, sesame seeds, tomatoes, liver pâté, and amyl nitrate are all antidotes for cyanide. Because Sir Craig neither ate nor indulged in any of the above, he was the only one who had no resistance to the poison. The Port Charlotte has a nutty nose and palate, so Bill knew that cyanide, with its almond aroma, would go largely unnoticed by all. His jealousy of Lady Halpus’s relationship with Sir Craig motivated his murderous rage. Nobody noticed that he was the one who disposed of all the bottles, owing to his talents at misdirection and concealment.

Bill Vinny, therefore, was the murderer. He received a life sentence for his crime. Lady Duff served the maximum three-year sentence for accessory to murder. Lady Halpus was the one who unknowingly “played a minor role,” although the judge had little sympathy for her pleas of innocence and imposed a $50,000 fine on her.

Thanks to all for playing. Next mystery in another four months.

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Nolinske
Nolinske replied

@WhiskyBee stunning the complexity and quality of this mystery!

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

Glad I guessed the antidote, but I really thought Bill brought laughing gas canisters-- didnt suspect the nitrite. I guess the nitrite helped to cure everyone, along with the food. It must be really tough to put these mysteries together in a coherent way while still concealing the right salient information. Good literary work. I think I still just miss where the cyanide came from @WhiskyBee? The doctor brought cyanide too?

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

@vanPelt - Um...the cyanide shop?

I didn't question it, though perhaps I should have. Bill had the poison, and I didn't think it through beyond that.

Well, Raymond Chandler couldn't figure out who one of the killers was in his own "The Big Sleep." Good mysteries have gaping plot holes. Something to keep in mind if I should ever write a good one. ;-D

“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.” - Raymond Chandler

10 years ago 0

@vanPelt
vanPelt replied

@WhiskyBee apologies, all I meant to say was that it sounded like amyl nitrite and cyanide were one and the same thing or the doctor provided both of them. Like I originally said, I 'm not very good at these!

10 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

@vanPelt - No apologies, please! Constructive criticism is welcome and appreciated. I've never done anything like this, so it helps to know the things to consider for the next time!

10 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown replied

I wasn't able to get on during Xmas unfortunately. I had Bill Vinny as the culprit, with jealousy as the motive, but I got the whisky wrong.. thought it was the A'bunadh whose high strength masked the poison, didn't make the Port Charlotte (nutty) connection.

Got that Sir Craig (being a health nut) didn't partake in the fatty liver pate (at least - wasn't sure about the main course) thus rendering him more susceptible to the cyanide.

Thought that Bill had stolen something from the dentist but I had no idea what it was, but the posted solution (amyl nitrate poppers) makes sense (I had not known these existed and didn't come across anything like it whilst Googling) - I thought maybe the food alone was enough to dampen the effect of the cyanide.

Great mystery again @WhiskyBee, thanks for entertaining us and I look forward to your next one!

10 years ago 0

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@Nolinske@PMessinger