Whodunit: Looking for a Lookout

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

On a January night, one of the coldest of the new year, a foot patrolman was making his rounds of the downtown storefronts when a hissing cat ran past him into a nearby alley. Officer Greeley glanced after it, and the beam of a roaming flashlight caught his eye. It was coming from inside the alley window of Collins' Jewelry.

Greeley called for backup and a patrol car quickly arrived. With their guns drawn, the three officers covered the front and back exits. But it was already too late. The burglars were gone. A half-full display case made it obvious that the thieves had been alerted to the police presence.

"They must have had a lookout," Greeley said. Seconds later, his deduction was confirmed. A walkie-talkie lay on the jewelry store floor, right where the burglars had dropped it. "Quick," Greeley said. "I saw three guys loitering around. One of them has to be the lookout. If we hurry..."

The officers did hurry They spread out over a ten-block radius of the deserted downtown and brought in three loiterers. Greeley remembered each one.

"I was waiting for a bus," the man with the white cane and dark glasses told them. 'Tm blind. I work as an accountant next door to Collins' Jewelry. Tonight I stayed late working on taxes. I heard the usual street noise, but I obviously didn't see a thing."

The second was female. "My car broke down," she said, shivering in the frigid night air. "I got out to see where exactly I was. Then I called a garage on my cell phone. You can check my car. It still won't start."

The third was a homeless alcoholic. He clutched a half-empty bottle of bourbon, the contents beginning to crystallize from the sub-freezing temperature. "I was just minding my own business," he slurred. "Trying to find someplace warm to sleep."

"A drunk, a blind man, and a stranded motorist," Greeley whispered to his colleagues. "It's pretty clear who played lookout for the burglars."


Show Answer

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.

Currently, Hy is working on mystery novel series "Abel Adventures" as well as the Monk series of novels, starting with Mr. Monk Helps Himself (published by Penguin, order from Amazon here)

Check out Hy's official website and Facebook page - and stay tuned for more whodunits puzzlers on Neatorama from the master of whodunit mysteries himself!

Love games and puzzles? Visit NeatoPuzzles for more!

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Most alcoholic beverages freeze someplace between -6C and -34C. Bourbon being about 80 proof, it's going to be nearer to that -34 and it's still probably going to take a while, even though at that temperature, frost bite can set in in about 5 minutes. There won't be any cats wandering the streets at that temperature. Water, on the other hand, will take about an hour to freeze at 0C. This suggests that if the entire search took half an hour, and then the questioning took place outdoors in the order written, the water might just be beginning to freeze. Within the realm of plausibility, anyway.

The real question, though, is why on earth ANYONE would go to the trouble of finding a bottle of bourbon and filling it with dyed water rather than just buy a bottle of bourbon. If it's that cold, and you're celebrating a jewel heist, wouldn't you rather have a bottle of whiskey handy?
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1. A blind man as an accountant - suspicious.
2. If she was stranded, why did they have to canvas a 10 block area for her. She would have stayed in the same place - suspicious.
3. If bourbon does freeze as Artor states, the verbiage says it was just 'beginning' to crystalize - suspicious.
There is evidence that all 3 could have been the lookout.
Maybe the police should have looked for the other walkie-talkie.
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*sigh* Bourbon is not pure alcohol, so it does freeze, but it has to be really damned cold. Since the writer was hammering the idea that it was really cold, I read that as another "it's really cold!" detail. If you're going to offer clues, try to get them right.
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