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Preface

After your last mishap with a heap full of rabbits, you got sick of being lied to. Isn't life just so much easier when you can conclusively tell if someone's been telling the truth or not? For that very reason, you went out and bought a lie detector. It works, too! Now, when interrogating suspects, it's as easy as asking the right questions, and getting the answers you need.

Unfortunately, no silly rabbits to hide behind this time. An honest-to-god human has been murdered, and it's up to you to figure out, as they say, "whodunit".

Backstory

This town is small. Real small. Not a lot going on here, at all. You wander up to the sheriff's office and slam open the doors. The sheriff looks up at you from his desk.

"Detective. It's about time. I've been waitin' for ya." He shuffles up some papers on his desk and slides them to the side. "This one's a big one. You should sit."

Normally, you're belligerent whenever you get the chance, but this time your feet hurt, so you gladly sit in the chair across from him. Continuing on, he tells you, "Hugh G. Pokitz has been murdered." He pauses, waiting for a reaction, then shrugs. "Right, I forgot you don't live here. Pokitz is the beneficiary of this entire town. He's the reason any of this exists. He's -- well, he was -- the richest man this side of the Poughipasaw."

You nod in understanding. "Tell me the facts."

The sheriff begins to talk, but you pause him. Reaching into your briefcase, you pull out a small metal device and strap it onto his arm. He looks at you, puzzled. "It's a lie detector," you explain. "Just gotta make sure the thing is calibrated."

He nods back, then continues. "The doctor did a preliminary autopsy and discovered foxglove in Pokitz's system. It's been determined that the foxglove was the cause of his death. Here's the thing about this particular strain of foxglove -- it wilts within two days of not being stored properly, which the mansion does not have the means to do. It also has to be administered orally, or else it won't kill. So the poison got into the mansion within the last two days, and Pokitz somehow got tricked into eating it."

"Who would have motive?" You ask, dreading the answer.

The sheriff sighs. "Basically everyone. No one liked him. He abused his employees, extorted the shopkeepers, and catcalled all the women. It's no secret that his wife, Mai, was only with him for his money. And he liked it that way." With a pause, he muses, "A better question would be, who didn't have motive?"

You chuckle, then remember your here on business and steel yourself. "So, to recap:"

TL;DR

  • The poison made it into the mansion within the last two days.
  • The poison must have been administered orally.
  • Basically everyone is a suspect, since he was hated by all.

You finish jotting down your notes. The sheriff sees you close your notebook and makes an offer. "I've brought in the, as I can see it, only possible suspects -- would you like to meet them?"

You grin a devilish grin. "Oh, I'd love to."

Interrogations

Snatching your lie detector, you're escorted down the hall to a holding cell. "I traced the murder out in my head," the sheriff said. "The poison must have been obtained from the apothecary. She's the only one anywhere near here who would have access to it. It was either bought in the store, or delivered in the mail, and I'm not sure which. Hopefully you and your lie detector can trace the poison straight from the apothecary to the victim's mouth."

You stop in front of a glass window. Behind the window sit eight people. The sheriff details them for you. "From left to right, we have: Mai Pokitz, the Pokitz's butler, the Pokitz's chef, the apothecary, the apothecary's apprentice, the postmaster, the Pokitz Mansion gate guard, and the Pokitz's maid."

He walks back to the door you came through. "I'll leave you to it." You smile and walk through the door to the holding cell.

Suspect: Mai Pokitz


    "Why aren't you crying?" You sneer at Mai as you approach. She shrugs. "I hated that guy, and I'm still rich. So 'boo-hoo', I guess, but it's no sweat off my back." She grins. "I didn't kill him, though."
    Slapping the lie detector onto her wrist, you growl, "Say that again." She winces. "Ow! What is that?" You smile. "It's a lie detector! Now I'll know for sure that everything you're saying is true." She scowls, then repeats herself. "Okay, fine. I didn't kill my husband." You eagerly wait for the lie detector to go off, but it doesn't.
    You scowl. "Fine. Who had access to his food between its preparation and its consumption?" She ponders for a moment. "Um...only the chef and the butler had access to his food. No one else could have touched it.
    Sounds like you've narrowed it down. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Pokitz's Chef


    "I've got it all figured out, chef," you say as you attach the lie detector to his wrist. "You went out and bought the poison from the apothecary. Then you came back, and you poisoned Hugh's meal, because he mistreated you. Admit it, and I'll read you your rights."
    The chef looks shocked. "No, sir! It's true, I've been mistreated, but due to that, I haven't left the mansion in a week! I haven't even been out of the kitchen, except to relieve myself."
    Well, there goes that idea, you think. "Fine. Did you see the butler do anything odd with the food before he served it?" The chef responded, "No, not at all. He simply took the tray as he always does and carried it out of the kitchen."
    Looks like the butler is your murderer. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Pokitz's Butler


    "Okay, butler, the gambit's up." You attach the lie detector to his wrist. "I know you poisoned Hugh's food between the kitchen and the dining room. He abused you, and you were sick of it. Admit it, you filth."
    The butler simply sighs. "No, monsieur, I surely didn't. In fact, I didn't touch anything but the tray between the kitchen and the dining room." You scowl at the lie detector, but he's telling the truth.
    "Did anything seem suspicious to you?" You inquire. The butler shakes his head. "No, monsieur. In fact, I taste the meal for poison every night, as I did last night, so if the meal was poisoned, surely I would be dead now too."
    Back to square one. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Apothecary


    Time to at least figure out where the poison came from. With lie detector attached, you accuse the apothecary. "You sold the poison to this woman, didn't you? Shame on you, facilitating a murder like that."
    "How DARE you accuse me!" The apothecary jabs back. "No, I did not sell poison to this woman. In fact, I've never once before made a transaction with Mai Pokitz, nor anyone else in this holding cell. And that includes gifts and donations of any kind."
    You sigh. "Fine then. Who else could have accessed your store?" The apothecary jingles her keys. "These are the keys to my store. Only myself and my apprentice have copies."
    Looks like you've got an apprentice to interrogate. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Apothecary's Apprentice


    You circle your next suspect, as he shakes nervously in front of you. You gingerly attach the lie detector to his wrist. "Something wrong, boy? You nervous?"
    "N-no," he stammers. The lie detector lets out a shrill beep. "Good to know that still works," you say. "Don't worry, boy. If you aren't guilty, I'm sure everything's going to go fine for you." He gulps.
    "Now admit it," you continue. "You took the foxglove from the cupboard and sold it to this woman, didn't you?" He shakes his head, and stammers, "Only my boss has keys to the cabinet where the foxglove is kept. She says it's too dangerous for me."
    You frown. Another dead end. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Postmaster


    If the package wasn't bought in the store, it must have been delivered, you reason. Scowling, you snap the lie detector to the postmaster's wrist. "I hear all the mail in the town, comes through you. Do I hear the truth?"
    The postmaster nods. "You do, sir. I handle all the mail for the entire town. If something was mailed, I would have seen it. And it's illegal to mail hazardous substances in this town. I check all the packages myself in case someone is breaking the law."
    You grin. Maybe you're finally getting somewhere. "And did you see a package from the apothecary to this mansion?" To your dismay, the postmaster simply shakes his head. "No, sir. There was no package from the apothecary delivered to the mansion."
    You groan. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Pokitz Mansion gate guard


    You peer into the guard's eyes as you attach the lie detector to his wrist. "Tell me who left and who entered the mansion in the last two days."
    The guard stands firm. "Sir, no one has left or entered the mansion in the last two days. Three days, even. Not since Master Pokitz's last trip to market." You frown. It must have been delivery then.
    "Tell me, what do you know about the post delivered here?" The guard continues to stand firm. "I check all of the packages delivered to the mansion. It's my duty. If there was poison, I would have seen it."
    You slump your shoulders in defeat. "Thank you for your time."


Suspect: Pokitz's Maid


    You circle around on the maid, and attach the lie detector to her wrist. "I'm told you handle all of the mail once it makes it past the front gate."
    She nods eagerly. "Yes, sir, I handle all of the mail once it gets within the walls of the mansion." You sneer. "And did you see anything suspicious over the last couple of days?"
    She thinks for a moment, then shakes her head. "No, sir. I didn't see anything that struck me as suspicious in the mail over the last three days." Again, your lie detector stays silent.
    Though you should be frustrated upon reaching another dead end, you instead smile. "Thank you for your time."


Conclusion

You leave the holding cell, and find the sheriff waiting for you on the other side of the door. "See? They're just a dead end," he admits in defeat.

You chuckle. "Perhaps to you, pal. Perhaps to you. You've got a lot of truth-tellers in your town, which is a nice change of pace for me. But if you just listen to what everyone has to say, you'll see the real truth through the cracks." The sheriff looks at you, puzzled, but you just beckon for him to follow you.

"Come on in, and let me show you justice at work. And let me borrow those handcuffs. We're gonna need 'em."


Who murdered Hugh G. Pokitz?

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Might I suggest a catchier title, if you want people to be interested in your puzzle? I almost skipped over it as another one of those "one person always lies and the other always tells the truth" logic puzzles. Maybe something like "Who poisoned Hugh G. Pokitz? A murder mystery logic puzzle". $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Aug 27 '15 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ THE SHERIFF DID IT! :-o $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 '15 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain you should be able to, yes. rand: no :( $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 27 '15 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ He realized he was living a meaningless and abusive life, bought the poison from the apothecary (he isn't /employed/ in the mansion), and added it to his own food after the butler brought it to him! $\endgroup$ – f'' Aug 27 '15 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ I want to thank you both for making these comments, because if they were answers, my soul would die a bit. $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 27 '15 at 21:06
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It was a joint effort between

all 8 suspects.

1. Mai Pokitz at some point in the past approached the others with a scheme for getting rid of her hated husband. She masterminded the scheme, but wasn't directly involved in the murder, so she could truthfully say she didn't kill her husband.

2. On the night before the murder, the apothecary "accidentally" left the cabinet unlocked where the foxglove was stored. When apprentice unlocked the shop in the morning, he packaged it up and mailed it to the mansion, thus it did not come from the apothecary (but rather the apothecary's assistant).

3. The postmaster delivered the package to the mansion. He checked the package, as he claimed, knowing it contained poison, but didn't do anything about it.

4. The gate guard checked the package, as he claimed. There was poison, and he saw it; he just chose not to do anything about it.

5. The maid handled the package, but didn't see anything suspicious, because she was expecting the package of poison, being in on the scheme.

6. The chef received the package, and froze the foxglove into some ice cubes. Just before the meal went out, he added the ice cubes to Pokitz's drink.

7. The butler took the tray as he always does, and touched nothing but the tray. He tasted the meal for poison, but since the ice cubes hadn't yet melted, he did not ingest any of the poison.

8. Everyone sat back, and waited for the inevitable, and took the time to figure out the careful phrasing they would use when put under a lie detector in order to be able to escape suspicion.

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    $\begingroup$ Murder on the Pokitz Express! I LOVE it. If this isn't the answer, I'll be annoyed with Bailey M :-[ $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 '15 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ The only problem I see is that if the point about the gate guard is correct, then he told a lie, as he said, "If there were poison, I would have seen it." Everything else fits nicely, but the gate guard couldn't lie about not having seen the poison. $\endgroup$ – Josh Aug 28 '15 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ He said, "If there was poison", which could be an indicative (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) $\endgroup$ – f'' Aug 28 '15 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ nicely done. Although, one question remains: Why arrest the butler? He might have been innoccent. He is not needed for the scheme, and neither he nor anyone else says something to the contrary $\endgroup$ – Timme Dec 2 '16 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Timme It's standard procedure to always arrest the butler in cases like this. $\endgroup$ – Ray Mar 21 '18 at 17:21
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I think it was

Mai Pokitz

She scowls, then repeats herself. "Okay, fine. I said, I didn't kill my husband."

The lie detector was not yet on her wrist when she said she didn't kill her husband. However, after he attached it to her, she says 'I said, I didn't kill my husband. She can truthfully say this, because that is in fact what she said.

Edit: Now that I think about it, it could also have been

The maid

due to

She says she didn't see anything that struck her as suspicious. Which, if she was the one intending to use the poison, why would it?

However, my guesses are based logically on wordplay, I couldn't tell you how it actually happened.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for pointing out where my story went a bit awry. I've fixed the first one, but I don't think the second one has any resolution - either way, thanks for the catch. :) $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 28 '15 at 13:24
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Occam's razor, it was

The Doctor

Reasoning:

Out of all of the townspeople questioned, the doctor was never placed under a lie detector, and made the original argument that the victim was killed with foxglove. It is far more likely that the doctor (who identified the poison) would be lying to cover his tracks than a great conspiracy of many many people all who have managed to perfectly word things to fool the lie detector.

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Hmm, lets see... it needs a conspiracy of at least three people (one to sell, one to transport, one to use). And either ignorance or cover up after the fact by minimum two more...with possibility of everyone being in on it/covering up for those who did.

it was the chef, the apothecary's apprentice, and the maid as the irreducible conspiracy. The postmaster and the guard should have realized something was up, either before or after, but have declined to cooperate. The other three could have participated or known, or figured out afterwards and kept silent, but didn't have to. Mai 'didn't kill', but could have 'let it happen', the butler could have known what bits not to taste test, the apothecary didn't transact, but could have known the apprentice did.

It was not

Mai Pokitz, her statement is both certain and complete ("didn't kill my husband"). It was not the butler - the chef states he didn't do anything in the kitchen, his statement is that he didn't touch anything between. He did taste test... but the amount would have been nonfatal (small volume tested) OR not mixed (poison somehow put in untested portion of the food? assuming top/corners tested?) OR in the drink, (since testing was mentioned specifically for food).

It had to be administered by

the chef, the only other person with access to the food (as per Mai's statement). His statement only said he hadn't left, so the package must have been delivered to him in the kitchen, without contradiction.

On the other end,

the apothecary and apprentice had access to the foxglove. The apothecary didn't sell or gift any to Mai, herself, or the detective ("Mai or anyone in this holding cell" is not the same as "in any holding cell"). The postmaster didn't take any package from the apothecary (either/or for business or person).

And, so, second conspiracy member is

The apprentice, who made no claims besides that he doesn't have the key - but the foxglove could be taken when the cabinet was unlocked, or before it was stored, or just picked the lock to get some without lying. If apprentice sent the package, postmaster didn't see a package from apothecary-the-person. If the apprentice sent the package, then apothecary's statement about "not in this holding cell", can be stretched a little further.

As for transport

The postmaster and gate guard both said they would have "checked the package", but "seen the poison" might or might not be the same thing as "did anything about it". Or the same thing as "knew it was poison" (after being seen). After all, foxglove as flower bits, might not be overly suspicious from apothecary, or especially the apprentice who shouldn't have had access to poison (Apothecary-stuff might've legitimately included plant bits for spices, herbs, remedies, etc). But, if nothing else they must have realized after the fact (the package, of "chopped herbs", from the apothecary's apprentice? yeah), and either decided not to expose the conspiracy or were in on it in the first place.

The last of the conspiracy

The maid "didn't see anything suspicious" - so whatever she saw in internal package distribution did not, even after the fact, give her suspicions, which only makes sense if she wasn't 'suspicious' because she knew, and expected it. The package had to have been delivered into the kitchen (since the chef didn't leave) - so somebody in transport needed in to get it into the kitchen, into the chef's reach, and it couldn't be the postmaster ("hasn't been in or out") and shouldn't be the guard (Maid handles "all" internal mail).

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