The Tomato Sauce Case

Dear Reader,
Sherlock Holmes solves this bizarre mystery on the train whilst journeying to the scene! Can you match the deductive reasoning of Holmes and solve it, too? (All he needed were the clues given here in Scene I).

After arriving at the scene of the tragedy, Holmes cleverly leads his suspect to reveal, all unawares, his involvement, and so to the surprise ending of the mystery. Finally, Holmes explains the sequence of events that started and ended with tomato sauce!

      Sherlock Holmes
      Dr John Watson
      Inspector Lestrade
      Policeman, assistant to Lestrade
      John Dudley, casino manager
      Thomas Smith, a corpse

Scene I

A first-class railway compartment. Holmes sits slumped languidly in the corner of the seat. His crossed legs are stretched straight out at an angle between the seats. His fingers are loosely locked across his chest. His eyes are closed. Watson sits opposite, upright and alert.

Holmes [murmurs in a monotone]: Trifles, Watson, trifles, you know how trifles amuse me.
Watson: Indeed I do, Holmes, but is it a mere trifle that brought you knocking on my door at 5 a.m. and now finds us in this first-class carriage, flying along, en route to the casino?
     Holmes smiles and laughs softly - then instantly sits up,
     his eyes wide and staring.

Holmes [very excited]: Yes, Watson, that's it! A mere trifle!
Watson [stunned]: Good grief, Holmes, what, may I ask, is it?
Holmes: Before this day ends, Watson, you will have another unusual chapter to add to your casebook. What I know of the event that has brought us on this early morning journey I will now share with you. Inspector Lestrade is in charge of the case and, knowing my interest in the bizarre, sent his man with a message:
At 2 a.m. this very night, Mr John Dudley, the manager of the Triple Seven Casino heard a pistol shot and thought it came from the garden next to his office. He sent for his security guard, Mr Mayne, with orders to arm himself and come immediately so that they might then enter the grounds to seek the cause of the disturbance. Dudley extinguished his office light and waited for Mayne to arrive. About a minute later, a second shot was heard coming from the garden. Shortly after, Mayne arrived and he and Dudley then entered the garden through a bay window door. Hardly were they through the door than the moonlight revealed a man's body on the lawn. Blood oozing from a chest wound indicated he had been shot through the heart. Inspector Lestrade arrived and began his investigation. The victim was identified as Thomas Smith and found upon him were a pocket-watch, a latchkey and notes amounting to eighty-five pounds. No weapon was found near the body and darkness prevented a wider search.
What do you make of that, Watson?
Watson: Let's see. [pause] A fairly straightforward case, likely motive: robbery. The large amount of money found on the victim does not preclude robbery. The robber may have fled because of activity within the manager's office. Sad though murder always is, this case seems of academic interest only. But what, Holmes, was the bizarre thing Inspector Lestrade thought would interest you?
Holmes: Tomato sauce!
Watson [surprised, but with a slight giggle]: Tomato sauce? What has tomato sauce got to do with it?
Holmes: Everything, Watson, everything! As you would expect, the front of the victim's shirt was red with the blood issuing from the fatal wound. But upon closer examination it was found that the blood contributed only a minor part of the red stain. The larger portion of the stain saturating the area of the wound was tomato sauce!
Watson: Tomato sauce! If it weren't for the horror of the death it would be laughable. That is truly bizarre.
Holmes: With that extra evidence, Watson, what is your assessment now?

Watson [taken aback]: Holmes, please, it is impossible to assess. A forensic analysis of the scene will be needed. Of course, I see why you are excited. Tomato sauce certainly adds relish to the case if you will pardon the pun but that complication must confuse even you.
Holmes: On the contrary, Watson, a simple yet intriguing case. [profoundly] One in which logical thought applied to the known facts proved to be sufficient, rather than the acquirement of additional evidence that would be superfluous. Hence, why tomato sauce proved sufficient to solve the case.
Watson [flabbergasted]: You've solved it? That is unbelievable. Though I know your incredible powers of deduction how could tomato sauce provide the solution?
Holmes: Come, Watson, this case is a trifle, a mere trifle, but I would rather you work it out than I should tell you. Perhaps, after examining the body you, too, will solve the case.
Watson: But, Holmes, you haven't seen the body. How did you solve the case?
Holmes: Elementary, my dear Watson!

Intermission/Scene Ib


An intermission (approximately 3 minutes)

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, there will be a short intermission during which time you are invited to use your powers of deduction to try to solve The Tomato Sauce Case. Discuss the case, here and now, with your companion or other theatre-goers, or any time in the future, but please do not disclose how Sherlock Holmes solves the case.

Scene II

Just before daybreak. The casino manager's office. Door [left]. A desk and chair [right]. At the back of the office is a bay window with a garden beyond it. A door in the bay window is open revealing the lawn near the doorway. Part of the legs and torso of a body can be seen through the doorway in the glow of the office light. Holmes and Watson stand facing Lestrade who leans against the desk. A policeman, assistant to Lestrade, stands near the bay window door.

Lestrade: A bungled armed robbery, perhaps, leading to an unfortunate death. It has been too dark to examine the body. Come daylight this will be done as will a search for the weapon though I hardly think a robber would have thrown it away.
Holmes: So, you have ruled out suicide, Inspector?
Lestrade [scoffing]: Haha, Holmes, there were two shots and no pistol was found near the body. I think we can dismiss suicide.
Holmes: Perhaps, but I recommend a search in the vicinity of the victim.
Lestrade [sarcastically]: Surely, Holmes, you are not suggesting Smith suicided and then threw the pistol into the bushes!
Holmes: Nevertheless, Inspector, now that daylight is about to enable your man to search the grounds, I suggest it may prove expeditious and fruitful to begin in the proximity of the victim.
Lestrade [to policeman]: Go, look for it.
     Policeman goes into the garden through the bay window door.
Lestrade: In a minute or so Mr Dudley will attend us for questioning.
Holmes: In the few questions I will put to him, Inspector, I ask you to indulge me a whim. It would assist me greatly if you would support my argument even though you may hold the contrary view or even know a remark to be false.
Lestrade: Ye gods! You never cease to astound me, Holmes, but that is ridiculous.
Watson: Inspector, I have known Holmes to apply this unorthodox method in only a very few cases but with remarkable success. Though I have no idea what he has in mind I ask that you accede to his request.
Lestrade: Very well, then, Mr Holmes, proceed as you intend.
Holmes: Thank you, Inspector. Meanwhile, perhaps Dr Watson might be permitted to examine the body.
Lestrade: If you would be so kind, Dr Watson, it would be most helpful.
Holmes: Leave the bay windows open, Watson, and you will still be able to partake of our discussions and share with us your post-mortem findings.
     Watson goes into the garden, steps over the corpse,
     turns and kneels beside the body and can be partially
     seen through the doorway.

     Policeman, holding a pistol, re-enters the room.
Policeman: Found it!
     He places the pistol on the table.
     There is a knock on the office door.
     Lestrade opens the door and Dudley enters.

Lestrade: Mr Dudley, I would like you to meet Mr Holmes. He is assisting with investigations and has a few questions to ask you.
Dudley: This is a nasty thing, Mr Holmes, so please ask what you will.
Holmes: Thank you, Mr Dudley. A pistol has been found and on examination revealed the fingerprints of Mr Smith, the deceased. Of course, if Mr Smith had struggled with a robber his fingerprints might appear upon the pistol. However, it is the Inspector's view, and mine, too, that a robber would not throw his pistol into the bushes with his fingerprints on it to identify him. I say, therefore, there was no robbery! How, then, did Mr Smith's fingerprints arrive upon the pistol? [Holmes points at the pistol] Suicide, perhaps. If we assume suicide, how did the pistol get into the bushes? It had to be thrown there. But by whom? Someone who preferred to conceal a suicide even though it would bring a pall of murder over the community and fear that the killer still lurked among them. However, in addition to the victim's fingerprints the pistol discloses another set of prints. It is proposed that all casino staff be fingerprinted to find the owner of those prints.
Dudley [his shoulders sagging]: Inspector Lestrade and you, too, Mr Holmes, I have a confession. It was me. I threw the pistol into the bushes.
Holmes: Tell us all, if you please, Mr Dudley.
Dudley: After hearing the first shot I turned off the office light so as not to offer myself as a possible target for the gunman and then settled to wait quietly for Mr Mayne to arrive. After the second shot I looked through the window and saw a body with a pistol in its hand lying motionless on the lawn. I went into the garden in case he were alive and that I might offer aid. He appeared to be dead. But why dead at my door?
    Suddenly I was filled with dread. Had this patron gambled away his life savings in the casino and come to my door to take his life? I thought of the unfavourable publicity following such a disclosure. In an endeavour to conceal such a possibility I took a handful of money from my pocket and stuffed it into his pockets. Thus he would appear to be a big winner who had died at the hands of a robber. Nothing could bring back the dead man, so I wrenched the pistol from his grasp and quickly threw it into the bushes. I realise it was wrong but that is what happened.
Lestrade: Ah! It seems you were right about suicide after all, Holmes.
Holmes: Inspector, I think we ought to hear from Dr Watson before the case is concluded. Watson! If you please, join us in a minute or two. Dr Watson, my colleague, has been busy examining the body in general and the fatal wound in particular as bullet wounds hold a fascination for him. But before I ask Dr Watson to present his final analysis I will refer to his initial examination that found two bullets lodged in the victim's heart.
    This leads to the highly pertinent question. How can Smith have suicided by shooting himself twice in the heart? No! No! It will not do! What, Mr Dudley, took place between the time you heard the first shot and the time you hurled the pistol into the bushes? Come now! The truth will out!
Dudley: [dejectedly] You have found me out, Mr Holmes. When I was about to throw the pistol into the bushes, it occurred to me that a person with two bullets in the heart could not be mistaken for a suicide. With that thought in mind I aimed the pistol at the earlier wound and pulled the trigger. Then I threw the pistol into the bushes.
Holmes: Let us understand you, Mr Dudley. You said, before, that you went to the victim after you heard the second shot. You are now saying you went to the victim after you heard the first shot and that it was you who fired the second shot into the heart of Mr Smith. Is that true?
Dudley: Yes, Mr Holmes, that is the truth.
Holmes: Mr Dudley, on this piece of paper write 'I fired a bullet into the heart of Mr Smith.' and sign it.
     Watson re-enters the room.
Lestrade: Well, that seems to have completely cleared the picture. Undoubtedly, Mr Dudley will have to face the courts and be censured for interfering with evidence but I doubt he will incur a penalty.
     Dudley signs the paper and hands it to Holmes, whereupon
     Holmes points an accusing finger at Dudley.

Holmes [very dramatically]: There is the killer, Inspector, and here is his signed confession!
     Holmes waves the paper triumphantly above his head.
     The others express stunned surprise.
Lestrade [stunned and speechless]: But, but, bu....
Dudley [laughing uproariously]: That is ridiculous. One cannot kill somebody who is already dead.
Lestrade [laughing joyfully]: Hahaha, that's right, Holmes.
Holmes: Watson, would you kindly give us your appraisal of the wounds sustained by the victim?
Watson: Certainly. The victim died as the result of a bullet fired into the heart at close range.
Holmes: And what of a second bullet in the heart?
Watson: There was none, Holmes, only the single fatal shot.
Dudley [shocked and spluttering]: That cannot be! He was dead when I shot him.
Holmes: No, Mr Dudley, he was not dead.
Dudley [agitated]: But I saw the blood - the massive wound.
Holmes: That was not blood! That was tomato sauce!
Lestrade [murmuring]: Ah, the tomato sauce! I had forgotten the tomato sauce.
Dudley [puzzled]: Tomato sauce? What has tomato sauce got to do with it?
Holmes: Everything, Mr Dudley, everything!
     Holmes turns and faces Lestrade
Holmes: An interesting case, Inspector. I look forward to our next merry meeting.
Lestrade: But are you leaving already, Mr Holmes? Won't you please tell us... u... u... ah tell Mr Dudley how you worked it out?
Holmes: As you wish, Inspector. Mr Dudley knew nothing of the tomato sauce, as you and I did, and so an explanation is appropriate for his benefit.
    The case is quite simple, as are most tragedies, and its mundane details will be dealt with in due course. But to the event and its inevitable progress leading to Mr Smith's death. Smith, having lost his money in the casino, thought of a ruse by which he might recoup some of his losses. In the very early hours after midnight, when unlikely to be disturbed by others, he went to the garden next to Mr Dudley's office. After ensuring that Mr Dudley was within, he used tomato sauce to daub his shirt in the region of his heart.
    He then lay on the lawn near Mr Dudley's office door and fired a shot into the air. Thus did he seek to fake his death by suicide. A few moments later Mr Dudley came to him and deposited a considerable sum of money into his pockets and then took the pistol from his hand. One can imagine the satisfaction Smith probably felt at this moment that his plan was succeeding. Had Mr Dudley now returned to his office, Smith would most assuredly have jumped up and run away with his booty.
    However, such was not to be, for fate had set another course! Within a few seconds Mr Dudley was bending over Smith and looking at the puddle of tomato sauce on his chest. Even in a good light he very likely would have mistaken the sauce for blood. In the event, regardless of what he saw in the moonlight, he thought it was a fatal bullet wound. He aimed the pistol at the centre of the sauce stain and pulled the trigger, shooting Smith in the heart and killing him.
    Now, we must away. Good morning, Inspector. Come, Watson, if we hurry we will have time for a pie and tomato sauce in the railway buffet and still catch the 8.15 to Paddington.

2003, Graeme Lindridge

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