The Mystery Of The Locked Room
II. The Suspects
After their conversation got over, the two of them went to the place of the incident to have another thorough look. Jack looked around the area. The surrounding area had been cordoned off for about 10 meters on all sides from the house, so that, no public could enter the crime scene.
“Did you get the list of suspects?”
“Yeah! There are 4 of them!!!”
“Wait a second! You said the old man lived on his own and his maid came everyday to cook. Where did the other three come from?”
“Well, it seems Mr. Portman, that is, the old guy, had some friends who live in the neighborhood even though his two sons stay abroad. So, they used to meet regularly everyday to have chats and evening tea parties. The shocking thing is, all of them have motives for killing him!!!”
“How is that?”
“Well you see, Mr. Portman was a loan shark! He was a rich person and lent money to his friends but used to charge a very steep interest!”
“I see…so they all had loaned money from him and were pressurized to give huge amounts of interest!”
“Yes! All except for the maid!”
“Guess that leaves the maid without a motive to kill!”
“Not exactly! The maid , Mrs. Prescot couldn’t pay her interest, so, he made her his maid till she worked her debt off and was not allowed to take even a day off to visit her family next town! So, even she has a motive!”
“Hmmm…this really is a tight case! How about their alibis?”
“Well…. The three gentlemen came over to Mr. Portman’s place at about 6:00 in the evening and left at about 7:15 PM!.The three gentleman were Mr. Polski, Mr. Samuel & Mr. Dalton. Mr. Polski had to go out to buy groceries at the market, so he left early at about 7 PM. Mr. Samuel and Mr. Dalton left at about 7:15 together. The maid came at about 8 PM”
“Could anyone testify their alibis?”
“All of them! Mr. Polski reached the market at about 8 PM because his car broke down on the way. The car mechanic who repaired his car testified that he came pushing his car over to the mechanic’s place at about 7:45 PM! And the vegetable vendor also testified that Mr. Polski bought vegetables at around 8:10 PM!
Mr. Samuel and Mr. Dalton stay on the same street, so they went together to a fast food joint nearby before going home and the receptionist confirmed it with the receipt . They reached there at about 7:30 PM and left at around 8 PM. It usually takes 15-20 minutes from Mr. Portman’s place to reach there. So, they have a proper alibi.
Mrs. Prescot left her rented place at about 7 PM and was shopping for groceries till 7:30 PM and reached home at about 8PM. The seller testified that he saw her and identified the bill as well. I also verified it myself that it takes about 30 minutes to get to the market from here by walk”
“Hmmm…….so all of them have very solid alibis. This really is a confounding case! No wonder you came to me!” exclaimed Jack.
He looked around the house and found no abnormalities in its surroundings. The surroundings were clearly made of cement with amazing decorations on the window railings as usual. Jack was amused by the beauty of the house before he was interrupted by his friend, Brian “Shall we go inside?”
Nodding his head, Jack and Brian stepped inside into what was a really enormous house filled with many ornamental designs all over the place. A drawing caught Jack’s attention! It was a drawing of a Stork in a field of rice, raising its one leg and looking towards the observer! He touched it and felt the beautiful white canvas’s roughness. Brian led Jack into the room where they had found Mr. Portman’s body. It was a gigantic room of enormous height! The door had gaps neither from the outside nor the inside!
“When you first told me about the height of the room, I thought – how can an old man hang himself from a fan at this height? But now, it makes sense” said Jack.
The room was enormous. But the window was placed at about 10 feet above the ground. It was only about 2 feet in height and width making the ceiling at about 12-13 feet! Since the ceiling was so tall, the fan used was a long fan, the ones usually used during the 80s! It was about 2-3 feet long hanging from the ceiling. Mr. Portman was about 6 feet tall, the rope used to strangle Mr. Portman was about 1 foot in length and the chair was about 2-3 feet tall. Thus, all added up to 12-13 feet!
“How do you open a window at that height then?” asked Jack
“Well…there is a switch near the side of the wall; beneath the window used to open it. It is an electro-mechanical switch. Once you remove your hand from the switch, the window comes down on its own!”
“What if the switch doesn’t work or the electricity goes off? “
“Mr. Portman had that figured out and also had a lock installed below the window. And the key is along with the room key. You need to unlock and then push it up. And once you let go of it, it locks by itself again! But it hasn’t been used so far, according to the maid, since there is always a backup generator for power!” replied Brian.
Brian showed him the place where they had found the key lying and also the place where the papers pieces were strewn. Like Brian said, all the items were neatly arranged inside the room including the computer desk and mouse!
“Hmmm…It really IS strange that such a disciplined man would just throw away the key like this!” mused Jack. Suddenly something caught his eye! The side of the computer, which had a LCD monitor had dust everywhere except at one side where a very thin line of clean surface existed as if cleaned by a very fine outline brush! Jack wondered what it could be.
Jack then began investigating the place where lots of paper pieces were found. He asked Brian “Was there anything else other than paper pieces that you found?”
“Well. There were lots of shredded pieces of chart paper and there were a few tapes used to hold the sheets together. Nothing other than those.” replied Brian.
“How many sheets of chart paper would the pieces make approximately?”
“Hmm … never thought about that. There were lots of them. Maybe about 10 sheets! What difference does that make anyway?” retorted Brian.
“Well, just a count. That’s all!” smiled Jack.
“Where are the suspects now?” asked Jack.
“At the nearest station. I’ve detained them saying – I need to bring someone for further questioning! They are really angry and stunned at the same time! Better get going if you have seen whatever you want here.” replied Brian in a rather worried voice.
“There is just one more thing I need to ascertain. Just give me the location of the testifiers of all these people. I need to ask them something. You be on your way.” Said Jack as he took the note prepared by Brian and both left their separate ways.