If you were a criminal....

Margaret Note Spelling

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It's a thought experiment (and I've already worried all my immediate family members by asking them what they would do in this scenario! But I did get some good ideas for what people would normally think of, and I'm wondering if we missed any obvious solutions.)

Anyway, the situation is this. You have murdered someone recently--say, within the last two days. Not on impulse; it doesn't matter why you did it, except that you don't (yet) regret it. Now you're some distance away from the scene of the crime, at a rich house party with over fifty people in it.

Unexpectedly, the sheriff/policeman/resident-detective of the area you committed murder enters the room. He announces that he knows the criminal he is tracking is here, and if everyone just keeps on as they were he will know who it is by the end. Meanwhile, it is necessary that nobody leave the party, and they have instituted measures such as guards on all the doors, and outside patrols, and all people confined to the lower floor of the house.

What kind of ingenious tactics for tricking the detective and escaping this situation with minimum risk would you first think of employing? What resources would you start looking around for first?

The technology level could be considered roughly 1800-1850.

(If some aspects of this situation are too vague, as my sister complained...I'm around to clarify.)
 

ckatt

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I guess it would depend on the level of police presence. But I might go to the kitchens and find a way to poison one of the guests to cause a distraction. While in the kitchen I'd find a white apron or chef's outfit to fashion into a makeshift ambulance attendant uniform. When the ambulance arrived I would help the nurses ( i don't think they had paramedics back then) and do my best to steal one of their hats. With that, my disguise would be complete and I'd sneak out carrying the stretcher. Hopeful I would have enough cash or valuables to bribe the ambulance driver not to make a fuss about the extra nurse.
 

Dave

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I guess it would depend on the level of police presence. But I might go to the kitchens and find a way to poison one of the guests to cause a distraction. While in the kitchen I'd find a white apron or chef's outfit to fashion into a makeshift ambulance attendant uniform. When the ambulance arrived I would help the nurses ( i don't think they had paramedics back then) and do my best to steal one of their hats. With that, my disguise would be complete and I'd sneak out carrying the stretcher. Hopeful I would have enough cash or valuables to bribe the ambulance driver not to make a fuss about the extra nurse.
I also thought of poison, but I thought Cyanide in the soup and kill all the guests before the main course even arrives.

(If some aspects of this situation are too vague, as my sister complained...I'm around to clarify.)
The gender of the protagonist might make a difference. Poisoning is a women's method (from historical evidence) while a man would be more violent.

You have murdered someone recently--say, within the last two days. Not on impulse; it doesn't matter why you did it, except that you don't (yet) regret it.
Will you regret it eventually? Are you a mass murderer, or was the motive money and/or sex? The mass poisoning would be fine with the former, not so much with the latter.

Go to the bathroom, duck into an unoccupied room on the way back, start a big fire and return to the group. Wait for my chance amidst the confusion during the subsequent fire evacuation.
In which case, a fire is a far better idea.
 

Elckerlyc

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Hmmm.....Well, if the detective is right, than it seems there's not much you can do.There's no escape. You're doomed!
Whatever you do, don't act suspicious (which includes trying to chat up the detective), look overly worried, trying to sneak out of the room or getting drunk.

What would be helpful is if you knew what trail exactly the detective has been following. What is it that could possibly give you away? Assuming the detective is not bluffing.
So, step 1 would be to try and figure this out, in a circumspect way. And then act on that knowledge.



 

OHB

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Act the way all the innocent people are acting. If they're freaking out over the idea of a killer being in the room with them and the police holding everyone there, you'd better freak out the same way. Blend in. As long as you have no evidence of the crime on you, the detective can't know it was you who committed it. If he knew, he'd have arrested you when he arrived. He's just waiting for the killer to crack and reveal themselves. It helps to convince yourself that you didn't commit the crime so your lies and fake reactions seem believable.
 

Abernovo

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Plant (perhaps subtle) evidence, suggesting another guest is guilty. A train ticket from the location; blood taken from the kitchen (fresh meat would be kept in a larder/ice house) and smeared lightly on a shirt/blouse cuff; a weapon 'fallen out of a pocket' at the bottom of the other guest's wardrobe, or under the chest of drawers in their room.

For extra guilt, make the second person disappear: perhaps trap them in a disused basement. No need to hurt them permanently, but make sure they never know who set them up. It needs to be long enough for the suspicion to fall on them and the search of the grounds to go away from the house, especially after they find the library door to the walled garden has be forced open...

Most of all, have an alibi, not cast iron, but suitably robust. Perhaps you had reports of an event in another town -- you were there, and this and that happened. You couldn't stay too long at the event (which is why you never met any other guest there and only have limited information), as you...well...you had a tryst, or embarrassingly had a little too much to drink and made a bit of a fool of yourself, and please don't tell your family.
 

Elckerlyc

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... But I might go to the kitchens...
That's the kind of thing that only happens (successfully) in books and films. And very improbable, considering everyone will be watching everyone, not mentioning the police at the scene. A far too easy escape-way, for the writer.

I also thought of poison, but I thought Cyanide in the soup and kill all the guests before the main course even arrives.
And you just happened to carry some cyanide around?

... it doesn't matter why you did it, except that you don't (yet) regret it.
How is this relevant?
 

Dave

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And you just happened to carry some cyanide around?
I'm a mass murderer! In the 1800-1850 period you could go to a chemist a buy a lot of very odd things. However, if not Cyanide, what about Oxalic Acid?

Anyway, if it is too much to believe that just happened to carry poison around, is it more likely that I just happened to carry around a policeman's uniform or fire-starting materials.

BTW There was no police force outside of the London docklands in 1800. Magistrates had runners, there may have been a uniform.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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Okay, now I'm worried--you all are frighteningly good at this!

(It's funny, but everybody in my family also suggested starting a fire in the house. I predict that detective is going to have some pretty angry house-owners to deal with the next morning....)

The gender of the protagonist might make a difference. Poisoning is a women's method (from historical evidence) while a man would be more violent.

I was actually asking more about what each of us would think to do in that situation, given the described motives (regardless of the kind of person I actually had in mind for the murderer).

These are really great ideas, everybody, thanks--including a number of things I hadn't thought of at all before. I don't think the murderer is doomed yet. Not if he keeps his head and plays his cards right.

Clarification - You, as the murderer, don't know precisely what the detective knows. You have only what you can infer from the way he is acting.

He might be bluffing.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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How is this relevant?
I'm just trying to head off any, "I'll turn myself in, of course," kind of lines of thought, which my sister oh-so-reasonably started out with when I asked her this question.

Although in retrospect, "yet," wasn't particularly necessary. It's too distracting and it doesn't really mean anything relevant. Sorry.
 

Elckerlyc

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He might be bluffing, yet here he is. He strongly suspects the murderer is here but has no clue who it is.
So, the lead he has been following is vague, or at least not linked to a specific person. The lead could be, say, an invitation to the party, lost at the scene of crime.
The only thing then that could betray the murderer is suspicious behaviour; like trying to set the house on fire or poison everyone else. I don't assume the police would accept graciously offered drinks or allow you, as sole survivor, to leave the house.
So, the answer is to do nothing at all and wait for the first stupid guest to start act suspiciously.
This reminds me of this: A man sends a message to 4 old friends - thinking it a fine joke - with the Text "Flee! Everyting has come to light!" And all 4 flee. In other words, everyone has some thing to hide. With 50 guests, someone is guaranteed to panic.
 

Venusian Broon

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There's quite a lot unclear in the scenario.

Mmmmm 1800-1850? I have no idea how good police forensics were then. I'm guessing after two days, it's really just testimony of what was found or potential witnesses.

Do we have any idea how the police tracked us? Bloodhounds? Maybe, maybe not - after two days a bloodhound trail could well be impossible. (Do I know if it's been raining the past two days?)

Do I think I might have been seen? (It wasn't a crime of passion, so there must have been some choice in how and where I murdered someone). ((Hey, if I had been seen...then I'd just have been taken by the detective - he's actually got a witness!))

And what's the 'closer' sitation with the murder? I mean am I someone who everyone knows might have visited the dead person, did I know them? Would the police get to me and go, 'ah, yes, you're the cousin of X. And people have stated that you threatened her last year.' (Actually that could be a valid alibi to try - 'Would I really kill someone after being caught saying something like that! I disliked her, but not that much.')

Trying to escape would be a very dangerous thing to do. As if caught it automatically tars you as guilty methinks.

I'd say hunker down, moan about the whole situation with the rest of the party. They are rich people right. Some of them (most?!) don't want to be held like prisoners, they'll have things to go off and do - maybe business transations, other parties, a good nights sleep in their silk beds. Build up the tension, there's bound to be others that will get angry and demand to allowed to leave. Maybe hint that it's suspicious that Mr A needs to be off right now, or why is it that Mrs B is very agitated to leave....Perhaps be understanding of the police at first, 'I must help as best I can to fulfill your duty' but slowly go with the rest of the party as they get restless, just don't be the first to ask/demand to leave

Actually, do you know any of the people about, can you manipulate them? Do they have secrets? Oh, it's a party, get them drunk. Can you convince them that these men aren't really there to find a murderer. "No I think they are actually looking for the person that did X. And that's what you, Mr A. did! You have to escape before they find that it's you. I don't know exactly what to do - hey, what about setting a small part of the house on fire....".

Or after building up alot of suspcion - 'Mrs B. there's the delicate matter of your scandalous affair - what if it comes out in questioning? You have to do something, perhaps take a tiny dose of strychine/opium, so as to fall ill. They'll have no choice but to take you away from this whole sordid thing to recover. That'll give you time to clean up.' (And then either make sure she gets more than a tiny dose so she dies or as she lies there senseless, try your best to point at this behaviour that either she commited sucide/took posion to fake an illness - "why? does she have a big secret".
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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@Elckerlyc: That's a masterful analysis of the situation. Knowing that, though, the detective would probably know to be just specific enough with his accusation--"There is one among us who has murdered a child in the last two days, and I'm not a bit interested in anybody else," that kind of thing--so as not to catch too many criminals. Would that work to defuse most general guilt-based panicking, do you think?
 
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Venusian Broon

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@Venusian Broon: Wow. Just personally, I love the thought of manipulating the other guests into helping you.
You'd of course be on everyone's side - so no rash accusations. Only subtle ones when required. Build alliances and groups within the party, allow them to be antagonistic. Maybe they'll be people that hate each other in the party. They will have their own ideas, bound to be lots of wrong ones that you could jump on if it suits your purpose.

Anyway, I have to admit that I'm imagining that I'd be a pyschopath. :oops: ;)

1) So I'd be charming and devious.
2) They didn't know about pyschopaths at the time!
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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Thanks. I was imagining kind of a psychopath, too, as a matter of fact. In fact, part of my original idea was, what kind of story would you get if both the detective and murderer were, at least in part, thinking pretty cleverly and psychopathically, as they played cat and mouse on the battlefield of a rapidly-disintegrating party.

I just don't know if that idea's been done before, and if so, if it's well-known. If it's okay to ask here, instead of in another thread, has anybody seen a story like that anywhere else?
 
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Dave

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