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Furious, the chief officer of London's police force stood in the foyer of the late Majesty's mansion, trying to compose himself. Sitting before him were the three suspects, Toby and Ned (whom he'd interviewed on Sunday), and Chad (whom he'd interviewed on Tuesday)... Ned was glaring at the other two.
"One of you," he began, "murdered both His Majesty and detective Dunnel."

"Can't prove it at all."
"And why not, mister Okeo?"
"Rumor has it all the evidence was destroyed, isn't that what someone saw?"
"Well, as your pal mister Arreg reported, our king was struck on the head with a blunt object. I found three possible weapons at the scene, each a tool used by one of you in your work here at the mansion: a garden rake, a horse shoe, and a ceramic dish. Dunnel, our detective, had brought them into mister Okeo's storeroom this morning and in studying them, determined which was the murder weapon used on the king's temple. Right after, someone entered the room, murdered him, and destroyed the weapons before he could make his announcement public. Nonetheless - and don't smirk - in his foresight, our Vip detective had written down which weapon matched the wound area."

"On the detective's body," he continued, "we found this note tucked in his cap. Keeping true with his reputation, he'd written on it in his secret code he calls 'fini'."
"Nonsense... it's all scribbles!" scoffed mister Elbas in a rant.
"Murderer," muttered Ned from his sofa.
"Ned, you're all suspects... especially you... there is more to tell."
"Except on Wednesday I heard something," cried Ned, "mister Elbas discussing secret plans with the Austrians and Russians!"

"And so the case is solved," continued the officer, ignoring him. "Zany as these scribbles look, they tell me what the detective learned. Unlike the weapons, the murderer didn't think to destroy the note, thinking it nonsense. This means we know which of you murdered the Majesty and my detective."
The three shifted uneasily.
"What? You lie!"
"Unfortunately not, Toby. Written on this note is the name of the murder weapon. Yes, the murderer is..."

Name the murderer and explain. (Mister ____________ ?)

first hint:

Originally I was worried this was too easy so had altered two words before posting, to increase the difficulty. One of them has been restored.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Rumor has it all the evidence was destroyed, isn't that what I saw?" - Does that mean seeing the evidence destroyed? Or does it just refer to hearing the rumors? $\endgroup$ – nobody Dec 18 '20 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ This is in no way relevant to the solution, but just for fun/flavor text, it was Mr. Okeo who earlier that morning stumbled across the body of detective Dunnel when going to his storeroom for some plates. Glancing about, he noticed the weapons (evidence) seemed to have been destroyed (manner irrelevant), then left and called the police to send in a new officer. Of course he mentioned this to the other staff and rumors have been flying about. But did Mr. Okeo 'accidentally' stumble on the body, or was it a ruse to avert suspicion after he killed the detective? Only the secret code will tell... $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 18 '20 at 18:26
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To continue the work of Thomas and Gareth, I think the murderer is ...

... Ned Arreg.

Gareth found out that ...

... we need to look at the capital letters in the story. These letters are:

 FLMSTNSCTNOHMD
 CAORWAIDORNV
 OKNEMNNEWINEAR
 AZUTMTWYUTWYNM
We can group these letters into pairs:
 FL MS TN SC TN OH MD
 CA OR WA ID OR NV
 OK NE MN NE WI NE AR
 AZ UT MT WY UT WY NM
That looks like a list of U.S. states. I first thought that we should look for the capitals of these states, but we have to "follow" them in another awy. The states in each group are close to each other: The first group are in the south-est, the second group are in the west, and so on.

So we have to ...

... trace these states on a map. With the state capitals as anchor points, it looks like this:

Rake across America

This clearly spells RAKE.

Thomas found out that ...

... the names of the suspects are anagrams of their professions. The rake would go with the gardener, Ned Arreg.

An interesting dead end:

When I first traced the letters, I missed the line

  Name the murderer and explain. (Mister ____________ ?)

and therefore the lower right stem of the A that ends in New Mexico. An alternative to draw the A is to go to Colorado in the last step, which would have made the murderer Chad Okeo, of course. I like this idea, but New Mexico is right there in the note and going to Colorado after that would just create an awkward swoosh.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great group solve! You are all winners. A note on the letter shapes; any ambiguity on where to connect the states is resolved by following (connecting) the capitals (of the states) but as your picture shows, it was close enough to decipher either way, so good job! $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 31 '20 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ I first thought about first/last letters of capitals, but when I found out about tracing the states, I just used the map from Wikipedia and didn't bother looking up all state capitals. Nice puzzle! $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Dec 31 '20 at 18:22
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Though this note doesn't answer the question, it provides clarity:

In the puzzle, all three names and surnames are mentioned, as well as the tools of murder, however there is no proper correspondence between them. However, their names are alliterative and can be found:
Stable boy Toby Elbas
Gardener Ned Arreg
Head Cook Chad Okeo

Now, the next answer is definitely wrong, but I like it too much to omit:

The murderer (as repeated in the question, and once by Ned) might be someone with similarly alliterative name. How about... Mr Duerer?

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    $\begingroup$ Great find on the first part! A couple parts to go... $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 17 '20 at 14:23
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Extremely partial answer

The

name of the code is "fini", suggesting looking at ends of things.

If we

look at the last letters of sentences (all of them, not e.g. just those uttered by the policeman) we get: FOLLOWTHECAPITALSMDEEYTEYNS. I can't make anything of the last bit, but the first part suggests that we should look for either capital letters or capital cities.

Well,

the capital letters give us, paragraph by paragraph, FLMSTNSCTNOHMD CAORWAIDORNV OKNEMNNEWINEAR AZUTMTWYUWY and the letters following them give us UOAIOEUHUENIAU ANKUERFUKIOI NEOLUEEXEHELUU NANHAHHONRE, none of which seems promising (e.g., none of it becomes obviously meaningful under ROT13 or any other ROTn, I don't see any obviously-solvable anagrams, I don't see anything that looks much like (GARDEN) RAKE, HORSESHOE or (CERAMIC) DISH, and neither sequence of letters seems to be a simple-substitution cipher making anything useful)

so perhaps

we might be looking for names of capital cities hidden in the text? London is there, of course, out in the open in the first sentence, but there don't seem to be any others at all. Two countries are mentioned, leading to capitals Vienna and Moscow (or Wien and Moskva) to go with London, but I don't see how to get a murder weapon out of those either.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great find on the second part! A couple parts to go... except alas, your find shows I had two typos introduced during last minute editing. I've corrected the word 'I' to 'someone' so a bit of your code now would be CAORWAI.... and changed another E to V (Vip), which may make the next step clearer. Sigh and I'd checked it three times.... $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 31 '20 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ (fortunately, the original text gave essentially the same solution, but this change should make it a bit simpler/clearer) $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 31 '20 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ I've adjusted my answer to take account of your changes (and fix one mistake of mine that I noticed at the same time). It's not yet apparent how the next step is clearer :-) but I'll keep looking. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 31 '20 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ I remember now the extra I was an intentional obfuscation to make the puzzle harder but I'll leave it out since I've given it away. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 31 '20 at 13:14
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I think maybe I solved it. I'm not sure, if it's not right, please say it.

Mister Elbas said, "Nonsense, it's all scribbles." How could he know that, if he didn't see how the note looked like?

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, to clarify, when the officer said 'this note' he was showing it to them. $\endgroup$ – Amoz Dec 17 '20 at 14:19

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