(Image credit: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith)
It was a beautiful afternoon. Dr. Ben Kramer's guests were roaming his country estate, enjoying themselves—until a series of growls and screams pierced the air. Robert Kelly grabbed a rifle from the den and followed the sounds, only to find the good doctor being mauled by a bear. A shot in the air scared the animal off.
"Go get Ben's medical bag," Jorey Abrams said as he bent over their unconscious host. From Ben's half-filled basket, they could see he'd been gathering wild strawberries.
Ursula Abrams and Rebecca Kelly returned together, having found the bag in their host's bedroom. Ursula, a nurse, took over, administering a vial of smelling salts. It was no use. Seconds later, Ben Kramer convulsed and died.
The local sheriff arrived and was about to call it an accident when he found a note caught on a thorny bush not far from the attack. It looked like a list of reminders.
"Be first to attend BK after attack. Death must look natural. Do everything to avoid autopsy. Seek quick cremation." The sheriff decided to investigate. Handwriting samples were taken from all four of the guests.
"This is ridiculous," Ursula said that evening as the two couples sat over a solemn dinner in the dead man's house. "There's no way anyone could plan a bear attack. Plus, none of us was anywhere near Ben."
The women had taken over the cooking, following the recipes Ben had laid out. "I didn't feel right about mixing his wild strawberries in the fruit tart," Rebecca sniffed. "Didn't seem right. Besides, Robert's terribly allergic." No one touched the dessert.
"Well, someone must have been out there," Jorey argued. "That note didn't appear by magic. Maybe they'll be able to match the handwriting."
But the note was written in block letters and there was no positive match. There also seemed to be no motive. The doctor had been generous to a fault, and it was actually difficult not to take advantage of him.
The police never solved this one. Can you? Who killed Dr. Kramer and how?
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.