Colonel Rollo's tour of the provinces was a necessary evil and the military dictator took every precaution to ensure his own safety. There had already been two assassination attempts this year, and he didn't want to try for three.
When the colonel's train pulled into the Gorganzuela station, the town officials were waiting to greet him. But the door to his windowless, bullet-proof carriage remained shut. Nervously, the mayor knocked. He heard some stumbling sounds from inside and finally the train door slid open.
Captain Corkran stumbled out. The dictator's second in command was usually a resplendent sight in his broad hat, bandana, and American cowboy boots. Now he looked weak and silly. 'Assassination," he coughed.
The mayor looked in and saw the lifeless body of Colonel Rollo dressed in his robe and slippers. A purple ring around his lifeless neck testified to murder by strangulation, probably with a long, strong, thin cord.
The dictator's bodyguard lay unconscious on the floor. He was revived and told his story. "We were all in different parts of the car. I was at my post by the door. Captain Corkran was at his desk, Colonel Rollo was napping, and Madam Rollo was in the bathroom putting on makeup." The bodyguard kicked the wall in frustration and his combat boots made a dent. "I don't know how it happened. All of a sudden, the car was filled with smoke. In mere seconds, we were all unconscious."
The train's engineer had seen nothing unusual and the three surviving passengers all told the same story. Each had been alone when the smoke bomb exploded.
A thorough search produced only one clue: a gas mask. There was no murder weapon and no clue to how the assassin got in and out. "A phantom," moaned the elegantly dressed widow with a shudder. "Like retribution from heaven."
"No," said the clever mayor. "It was a very real assassin, someone who must have brought the murder weapon on board. In fact, I think I see it now."
Who killed the dictator and what was the weapon?
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.