(Image credit: Flickr user Steve Garfield)
A homicide sergeant stood in the hotel suite, gazing down at the body of Bugsy Ferret. "He was a card sharp," the sergeant told the hotel manager. "Bugsy preyed on tourists. He'd lure them to a hotel, start a friendly poker game, and take them to the cleaners. I guess someone came back this time and took Bugsy."
Bugsy lay sprawled amid a carpet of scattered playing cards and a bottle of Blush gin. He'd been stabbed in the chest.
"Looks like he didn't die right away," said the sergeant as he pointed to the five cards held in the victim's stiff grip. All diamonds. "Maybe he was trying to tell us something."
"We got our suspects," came a voice from the bedroom. The sergeant's partner emerged, holding a handwritten list. "Benny King, Jack Lawrence, Joe Blush, Alan Spade. He listed their hotels, too. Let's check 'em out."
The Reverend Benny King denied knowing Bugsy and vehemently denied ever playing poker. "My parishioners know I would never risk their money—or mine—in such a sinful pursuit. I don't know how my name got on that list."
Jack Lawrence told a different story. "Sure, King was there. And Al Spade and Joe Flush. The four of us first met yesterday at a hotel bar. We got to talking about cards and this Ferret character talked us into a game. Hey, you live and learn."
Alan Spade was a tad more sanguine. "He was a stinking cheat and he deserved to die. I was livid, but we all paid up and we left the rat in one piece. Someone must've come back, but it wasn't me."
Joseph Blush, an English professor, seemed an unlikely gambler. "At first we all won our share. But as the evening progressed, we lost more. I don't suppose you can give me my money back." The police assured him that no money had been found in Bugsy Ferret's suite.
"We should bring one of them in for questioning," the sergeant said after the final interview.
Which card player did he suspect?
The whodunit above was provided by American mystery fiction author Hy Conrad.
In addition to his work in mystery and crime puzzles, Hy was also one of the original writers for the groundbreaking TV series Monk.