The Two Teacups

This case, though seemingly simple, Mr Holmes, is baffling and will test even your ingenious mind.

Let's see what Dr Watson and I can make of it, Inspector. What have you discovered so far?

Mrs Ivy Brown, a middle-aged widow, has been strangled. She lies there on the floor. There are two teacups on the table so it appears she had entertained her murderer. Presumably, the murderer sat opposite her. The murderer's cup has no fingerprints upon it. The cups and teapot are cold so it happened hours ago. There's not a single clue.

An interesting case, Watson, no clues. What do you make of it?

Well, she lies on the floor with her legs under the table. I would say she was seated when the murderer took her by the throat.

Very good, Watson. Haha! The murderer's cup is empty but Mrs Brown's cup is full.

One empty, one full, Mr Holmes? What has the amount of tea in the cups got to do with anything?

To reason analytically, Inspector. Teacups, fascinate me. I will examine them with my magnifying glass. Ah, very interesting. Well, that's all, Inspector, nothing more here. Do you have any leads?

None, although Mrs Brown's friend, Mr Smith, who lives opposite, has offered to provide some background details. Let us go and chat with him.

( 2 )

Mr Smith, I would like you to meet Mr Holmes and Dr Watson who are helping in my investigation.

This is heartbreaking, gentlemen. I knew Mrs Brown for many years. Please ask what you will.

Perhaps we ought to defer our enquiries to another time. I note my colleague, Dr Watson, is tiring and in need of sustenance. On this sad occasion, we ought to leave you in peace.

No, no, Mr Holmes, that won't be necessary. I'll make a pot of tea. It's no problem.

If you would be so kind, I thank you.

( 3 )

That was a delicious cup, Mr Smith. Thank you very much. How are you, Watson, refreshed?

Yes, indeed, Holmes. It was an excellent brew.

I apologise for emptying the pot and not leaving you a second cup.

That's alright, Mr Holmes, I can make a fresh pot. It's no trouble.

Thank you, Mr Smith.

Now, Inspector, while Smith is in the kitchen, I'll swap my cup for his.

What's this, Mr Holmes, more of your fascination with teacups?

Yes, Inspector, and this one is very interesting.

( 4 )

Here it is, gentlemen, boiling hot. You'll have to wait a few minutes before you can drink it.

Exactly, Mr Smith, just as you had to wait a few minutes to drink your cup of tea at Mrs Brown's.

What are you talking about, Mr Holmes? Are you mad?

No, but perhaps you are. Inspector, arrest Mr Smith for Mrs Brown's murder.

What? What? Did he do it? I don't know how you've worked it out, Mr Holmes, but I'll take your word for it. Mr Smith, you're under arrest. Anything you say will be taken down and may be used in evidence.

Take a note for your casebook, Watson. Head it, Cheiloscopy. Do you recall cheiloscopy, Inspector? No? Lip prints, Inspector. Lip prints! Just like fingerprints, everyone has unique lip prints.

The murderer's cup at Mrs Brown's had no fingerprints, but when I examined it I saw his lip prints. When I swapped Mr Smith's cups and examined his cup I found his lip prints matched those at Mrs Brown's.

I will now reconstruct the crime. What Mr Smith's motives were I have no idea, but this is the murder sequence. Mrs Brown entertained Mr Smith and made a pot of tea and poured a cup for each. It was too hot to drink and Mrs Brown had merely sipped a tiny amount from her cup. Mr Smith did not touch his cup but had put on his gloves. He then walked around the table and strangled Mrs Brown. After killing poor Mrs Brown, he waited a few minutes for his tea to cool. This cold-blooded murderer then coolly sat down to enjoy his cup of tea and gloat on what he thought was a perfect crime. But that cup of tea will send him to the gallows.

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