Saturday, January 14, 2012
The Puzzle Lock - Austin Freeman
Story: The Puzzle Lock
Author: Austin Freeman
Source: The Puzzle Lock. All the stories can be downloaded from Gutenberg at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500391.txt
Story Number: 14
Dr. Thorndyke, creation of Austin Freeman is famous for his forensic/medical/scientific detective methods in his novels and short stories. This story however is not a typical story which will fit into these characteristics. Here, he tackles a chronogram which effectively leads the police to completely apprehend a big gang.
The story begins with Thorndyke and his companion Jervis observing Inspector Badger following a couple of men. A few days later, Superintendent Miller comes to the doctor’s house to narrate a strange case – the police force is on the track of a ‘managing director’ of a big gang which mainly deals in the burglary of jewels. Luttrell, the man they have been following in connection to this case has disappeared. It turns out that Luttrell was also one among the two whom Badger was following; both men have not been seen ever since they gave Badger the slip. Luttrell is a dealer who has built up a fortress like office with a strong room guarded by a Puzzle Lock – a lock without any keys and which can be opened only by providing a 15 digit code. The only clue which Miller can provide is a seal from the ring belonging to Luttrell – which shows a four line Latin poem.
A few days later, Miller requests Thorndyke to accompany him to check out Luttrell’s office as the owner has noticed a leakage on the utility meter but he can’t detect the source for this leakage. By this time, the doctor has already converted that poem into a chronogram and in solving that chronogram has obtained the 15 digit code to the lock. When the strong room is opened, they find the bodies of both the missing men along with a dairy of the list of the gang members. The doctor also identifies the mastermind for the police by explaining the clues which aptly point to the guilty party.