Time to christen the revamped website like I do my apartment: with something really, really old and cheap. In this case, an old Gameboard!
Presenting for the second time: The Murder at High Noon.
It was said the wrath of God was upon the house of Dr. Jeremiah Snell, but that wasn’t entirely accurate; at least, not in the Western sense. There were no signs of the divine, or warnings from angels, or terrible preaching from men clothed in black; there were no apostasies or heresies or excommunications.
Instead, there was an unusual occurrence that made men wonder whether the rumors of heavenly wrath had a quality of truth. If it happened only once, few would pay heed; twice, one might wonder.
But when words are written in light upon a marble floor at high noon each day, deep within the barred iron walls of a fortress home, it becomes a legend; and legends are dangerous.
The date was June 19, 19XX, and Dr. Jeremiah Snell had trundled back to his home from an academic conference around nine in the morning. His home was a curious one, built less to protect himself as to protect everyone else: large walls of iron and steel ringed him with armed guards and cameras panning every angle; the house itself, of traditional brick and mortar, had a steel boxed section in its center: a cage of sorts, or massive panic room, containing a central living room (which held the sole entrance and exit to the steel-lined complex), a bedroom, bath, and workshop.
The only opening besides the front door to this “steel cage” was a square in the ceiling of the living room to let in the light; for Dr. Snell was a worshiper of the sun, according to the rumors, in the style of his studies of ancient Egypt—his love for archaeology gone a step too far.
It was through this square window that light fell into the otherwise dark room; and upon that patch of enlightened marble, as if a revelation from the sun itself, words would appear for but a few minutes, and then disappear…
Words cursing a man to die by a fire that forever burns.
The security team didn’t have a camera inside the heart of Dr. Snell’s stronghold, but they did most everywhere else; and it was by a camera facing the door to his living room that they could spot this occurrence, as the camera (at one point in its 30 second rotation cycle) angled straight down the center of the room, the square beam of light perfectly visible for a few moments.
In June, in this region of the world, high noon (more specifically called solar noon) was fairly close to actual noon, at 1200; solar noon can be estimated to happen between 1150 and 1200. Every day, without fail, the camera caught sight of that square beam of light, and those words were written within it, only to wither away by the next time the camera swept by.
And each time, they would also see Dr. Jeremiah Snell kneeling to one side of it, reading the words with a mix of horror and wonder.
As with all things mysterious, the guards were intrigued and alarmed for the first few days; but as weeks passed, and then months, they assumed it was naught but some fluke of the Professor’s and took no more notice of it.
Not till the slow-sweeping camera found Dr. Snell lying dead in that very square of light, an arrow piercing the center of his heart, with broken glass floating about the growing pool of blood.
Guards poured through the stronghold, securing the outer gates and moving in sector by sector; but it was no use. There were too many potential suspects; too many servants, too many workers, too many guests.
But once they checked the cameras, they had the opposite problem: there were too few suspects. Namely, none.
Everyone who entered that room that day had already left by 11:45, with the sole exception of the victim. Excluding the hole in the ceiling, there were no other entrances to the steel-ringed room but the front door; and while the front door itself wasn’t constantly watched, all paths to this inner sanctum were. No one from the outside could have snuck in.
The rooms themselves were bare: there was nothing of note besides his books, his bed, his blood, and his body. However, upon their examination of the glass littered upon the now bloodied marble floor, the guards realized its source: a glass panel had been slid over the square ceiling opening, and the light streaming through would make the words appear below. Said panel had been shattered and fell atop the doctor’s body, presumably by the arrow.
However, this still puzzled the guards. There was only one way to access the roof: through one of several secured staircases, leading to a single roof-access door which can only be unlocked by Dr. Snell’s personal keycard. Said keycard was found in his pocket at the crime scene, and the camera guaranteed that, from the moment Dr. Snell was found dead, no one could have slipped in and taken or replaced his keycard. Thus meaning no one could have unlocked the roof door to move said glass panel while Dr. Snell remained downstairs.
Second, the glass panel itself should not have been covering the ceiling hole, as the camera did not show the message in light before Dr. Snell’s murder; but the glass panel was certainly covering the ceiling hole before the murder. The shattered remains of glass about the body proves it. But that brings a contradiction with the previous point: if Dr. Snell was downstairs, dead, killed by the arrow, then his keycard was also there, preventing anyone from opening the door to get to the roof to slide the panel across. Furthermore, the guards found no machinery or mechanism to do it; it had to be done by hand. There just wasn’t any hand to do it.
Third, and most obvious, is the problem of the arrow: there didn’t seem to be any bow to fire it. How could a bow have been snuck into the compound? Is the unthinkable alternative really possible—for someone to fire an arrow from the outside at such an angle as to fall through the hole in the ceiling and pierce his heart? Or did someone sneak to the sealed roof with a bow for a much easier shot?
All else they had was the arrow, and upon its shaft was written in ancient Egyptian: “the wrath of Ra”. Everything else seemed to imply that neither a bow nor a bowman existed to fire it.
The bolt from heaven had fallen upon the cursed professor who dared dig up the secrets of the ancient religion…
The guards afterwards gathered up the guests and questioned them extensively. Of them, three testimonies stood out.
First was the doctor’s doctor: Dr. Kenneth James Arnold, M.D., of St. Mary’s Hospital in XXXX. He had arrived at ten that morning and greeted the professor upon his return.
"The late doctor had chronic back pains, which he oft called me over to treat—I believe from some sort of professional accident while over in Egypt. I had heard of the ‘curse,’ of course, from the gossips of the staff; such nonsense. My patient was certainly sick, but not sick in the head. I doubt he put much faith in such things. There’s a reason such curses are ancient; the attitudes that believe them are also ancient. The doctor was sound in mental health, even if he did dabble in…whatever it was he did in that room. I never quite knew his purpose in cutting a square hole in his ceiling, but it certainly wasn’t religion. Much more likely irreligion. He’s not so much of a man to prove a theory as to disprove someone else’s theory. But that’s another topic.
"In any case, this was one such morning. I received a call near eight from the university he was lecturing at, asking if I could meet him here upon his return for the usual treatment. I acquiesced; I arrived near ten for the usual check-in and waited in the entrance lobby, where I met that fiend General Hartmeyer. If anyone killed the poor doctor, it had to be him; he and his damned cohort of superstitious ilk kept rallying against the doctor all this past month, sending him pamphlets and books and all sorts of nonsense. They thought he was some kind of heretic, I believe. I’m not a criminal psychiatrist, so I can’t say much else of them.
“Regardless, he and Dr. Snell’s contemporary, Professor Jameson Wren, were also in the waiting room; I don’t recall exactly when they arrived and left. Not that it much matters; I simply hated sharing the room with the General. I don’t know much of Dr. Wren, besides the sense that he had a good head on his shoulders, much like Dr. Snell.
“I was called in near 10:30 and found the doctor in fine health. He didn’t appear to have any symptoms besides some minor back pain that soon subsided with a pinch of medication. We made small talk. I scheduled his physical therapy, and he sent me off. I left near 11 sharp and went straight out the door; didn’t bother to stop by the waiting room again. An hour later, I was called in to examine his corpse. He did indeed die by an arrow to the head; I’d swear on it!
“As for the murder: I haven’t a clue. Wait—I suppose this is less of a clue than a suspicion, but it just occurred to me that this whole ‘words of light’ nonsense might be the very heart to it all. Perhaps someone meant for him to become superstitious like this; perhaps this message was designed to convince him to become whatever it is he’s become. Though it’d be strange to do, given that he’s just made it harder to kill him… Unfortunately, there’s nothing else I know of the matter.”
“Yes, I’m Professor Jameson Wren. I worked with Dr. Snell on a good number of sites over in Egypt, though I can’t say we’re partners; our association is more akin to fellow researchers who enjoyed each other’s company. Our research, in general, remained our own.
“But, as stated, we did come to be friendly to one another; and a month or so back, I received an invitation to come visit the old Doctor, recently retired, to catch up on old times. I arrived near the turn of ten in the morning and was admitted rather quickly.
“I hadn’t seen the man in ages, so I was rather shocked to see him all bound up almost in a cage, with steel and cameras and walls; in a sense, I could see why. His injury in Egypt—I don’t believe I was there for the incident, so I myself don’t know how serious it was—apparently gave him some kind of superstition of the relics he was studying. He seemed to believe he was cursed; kept pushing books at me and talking about this message from the Sun he kept getting at every high noon.
“I left after only ten or so minutes, as I couldn’t stand to see how far he’d fallen; he used to be a superb intellectual. I don’t know what to make of it.
“As for his murder: I can’t really say. I certainly didn’t do it; I’ve never used a bow and arrow in my life. The General is a military man, but it was the doctor who had the deepest hate of superstition…”
“Thank you for coming, Inspector. It’s a tragedy. Truly. The poor Doctor was a good man, even if misguided. I had met him through our church many moons ago, and we grew to be good friends. But after his accident in Egypt, he grew bitter and angry. It’s been a rough few years…
“Anyway, onto the matter at hand; I will save my grief for later. The good Doctor had called me the evening before; he sounded off. Strained. He’s been like this before—but nothing had ever come of it. Regardless, I decided I’d pay him a visit. He hadn’t been in the best of places recently, as evidenced by his apparent attempt to turn his house into a fallout shelter.
“So I showed up a little after ten in the morning, unannounced. He was not happy. He kept me waiting, as I watched his associate, Dr. Wren, and his personal doctor go in and out. Eventually, almost near 11:30, he finally decided to meet with me, and I knew something was wrong.
“He had this giddy smile on his face, but the humor behind it was wrong. You know—a hostile kind of humor, wrapped up in hatred. I’ve known it well; my military career had its strain of mistakes, of mistaking the satisfaction of my hatred with joy. He smiled at me and laughed, and I was afraid for him.
“‘Finally,’ he had cried to me: ‘finally, it’s happening!’ I tried to get more out of him, but he just laughed and shook his head. ‘Only another half hour, and this whole damn thing will be worth it. Years of planning!’ He giggled again. ‘Ah, how sweet…’
“These past few months, I had been trying to get him away from doing whatever nonsense he was cooking up with the Sun and Egypt and the message in the light—I knew he didn’t believe any of it. Superstition is irreligion, and that man knew his religion damn well. I can’t say the same for his contemporary, Dr. Wren; I fancy he became an archaeologist precisely because he was fascinated by a belief in Egyptian curses and whatnot. But Dr. Snell was not such a man.
“In any case, my efforts were in vain. I was shooed out come 11:45. I walked out the door and back to my car, a tad depressed, till I heard this awful news. I wish I could help more…”
Given the length of the narrative:
In lieu of any beginning theories or back & forth to cover the obvious, I will simply give these Red:
No one can hide from a camera. If the story said a camera did not see anyone, whether it be in an area or passing through an area, then no one existed in that area or passed through that area during that period (respectively). For the purposes of this Game, the cameras see the truth and can be trusted as Red themselves.
Dr. Jeremiah Snell is dead.
The story’s narration can be trusted as Red (from the perspective of an impartial investigator), though the rumors and the suspects’ testimony therein are not necessarily so.
The Game has begun!