(Image credit: Flickr user Sean)
It was the day before Valentine's Day and the police in the small college town were unprepared for any crime beyond the amorous escapades of a few undergraduates.
Late that afternoon a patrol car canvassed Oakview, a small off-campus apartment building. The officers found the body of Gilly Tarpin, a homeless drifter. He was a nondescript man of normal build, lying in the shelter of an open garage bay. The officers made an inventory of Gilly's possessions: a wristwatch (looking new, except for a vertical crease on the leather band inside the clasp), a box of chocolates (with half the contents eaten), and a crumpled pre-printed note saying "Be My Valentine."
The authorities assumed it was a natural death, caused by exposure to the February chill. But then the mandatory autopsy came back. There was poison in the homeless man's system. An identical poison was found in the remaining candies.
"I used to talk to him," said Brick Darden, the school's star fullback. "He was always hanging around, bumming cigarettes and loose change. The guy had absolutely nothing, but he was harmless."
Sawyer Prescott III had a less charitable opinion. "He was a thief," sniffed the heavyset millionaire student. "A ring disappeared from my apartment. The very next day I saw it in a pawn shop. The shop owner said he forgot who sold it to him, but I know it was that Gilly character."
Peter Peaver held the opposite opinion. "Sure he begged money," said the featherweight math major. "But Gilly was basically honest. We often forget to lock our apartments, and I never found anything missing."
"A homeless guy is poisoned with candy chocolates on the day before Valentine's Day," the homicide captain thought aloud. "I have a hunch how it happened—and a pretty good idea who did it."
Whodunit? And what made the captain suspicious?
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.