If you were a criminal....

Elckerlyc

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Would that work to defuse most general guilt-based panicking, do you think?
Darn, it would!
Still, it would depend on the company present. If it's a congregation of mobsters with a past.... who knows? But not very likely.
If the detective were to say such a thing, it will have an effect on the people gathered there. They'll start observe each other nervously... 'are you that child-murderer?' Not sure if this would help the detective, but perhaps you can use this to manipulate or insinuate others.
People will get nervous, suspicious, angry, affronted, drunk, thinking they can outclass or overrule that stupid little detective (1800's yes?). There will be emotions abound in a group of 50. A skillful person could play with that. But no guarantees, that I can see.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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Darn, it would!
Still, it would depend on the company present. If it's a congregation of mobsters with a past.... who knows? But not very likely.
If the detective were to say such a thing, it will have an effect on the people gathered there. They'll start observe each other nervously... 'are you that child-murderer?' Not sure if this would help the detective, but perhaps you can use this to manipulate or insinuate others.
People will get nervous, suspicious, angry, affronted, drunk, thinking they can outclass or overrule that stupid little detective (1800's yes?). There will be emotions abound in a group of 50. A skillful person could play with that. But no guarantees, that I can see.
Perfect. "No guarantees" is ideal.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I would assume (or at least hope) that the detective was bluffing and trying to provoke the guilty party into revealing him- or herself in some way. Therefore, I would do nothing out of the ordinary. Any "clever" scheme would only confirm to the detective that the guilty person was present, and I might slip up somehow and reveal myself if I tried anything to divert his attention, which is a risk I would be strongly disinclined to take.

So, I am afraid that the answer to what I would do is, "nothing but what I had already been doing at the party" along with what I might be expected to say and do at the inconvenience of this intrusion by the police. I'd just try to act naturally. I am afraid that that would not make for a good story or further the plot, but it is what I would do.

(By the way, considering that police at that period were purely working class, if the people at the party were of a higher status, I am not at all sure that they would really be allowed to do what you have outlined. Anyway, the guests would probably feel that the police had no right to treat them in this way, and have a lot to say about that. I would be sure to grumble about it, but be careful not to be one of the most vociferous.)
 

Elckerlyc

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So, a chess play, where the detective is one player and the other player is hiding among the pieces on the board, moving himself and the other guests around. Where any move might seem clever at first, but could later turn around to kick you in the face.
I like that idea! Some psychological insight into groups would be helpful. That party could turn into a long. long night.
 

ckatt

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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).
Well, if it was actually me in this situation, I'd probably look for someplace to hide. Maybe in a garbage can or in the laundry. Since I wasn't invited to the party no one there would likely notice I was not accounted for.
But, how big is the first level of the house? does it have any secret passageways?

I'd just try to act naturally.
This would also make sense but might not work.
The cop says he "will know who it is by the end." End of what? The party? The party is pretty much over when the police arrive and throw murder accusations around.
Eventually the police would start interviewing the guests and it would become apparent that no one knew me and I was not invited to the party. There's only about fifty people there after all.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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I'd just try to act naturally. I am afraid that that would not make for a good story or further the plot, but it is what I would do.
I think you're right, it's what any smart murderer would try to do at first. But all that means is that the detective has to force the murderer into action first of all--into joining the game, starting to affect things and leave traces of himself. Not an easy trick to pull--especially not if the murderer is as smart as the average scifi/fantasy writer.

It means the detective will have to be at least as smart.... Hence, as @ckatt mentioned, the detective's ominous "will know who it is by the end."

I think you'd be very brave to do nothing in the face of that!

(By the way, considering that police at that period were purely working class, if the people at the party were of a higher status, I am not at all sure that they would really be allowed to do what you have outlined. Anyway, the guests would probably feel that the police had no right to treat them in this way, and have a lot to say about that.)
Thanks, that's a really good point and I've already got some compensating pressures involved.

These people are not having a good evening, that's for sure!
 
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The Crawling Chaos

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The only reason the officer/detective announced the purpose of his visit to the entire assembly upon arrival (rather than sneak in quietly and comb the room for more evidence before making his move while his officers establish road blocks at a safe distance from the house to stop and quietly ID anybody leaving the party early) was to:

A/ plant the seed of betrayal within the hearts of any present accomplices who would feel the noose of justice tighten around their necks, and rat me out for a more lenient sentence.
B/ 'deputize' every innocent man and woman in the room, because you can bet that a lot of people would be willing to try and help unmask the culprit just so they can get a pat on the back from Mr. Figure of Authority (or to be able to go back to enjoying their old-fashioned and cigar as soon as possible and not ruin what promised to be a perfectly good evening amongst respectable people).

If he was desperate enough to resort to that, it's because he has nothing on me. He just knows the murderer is at the party (how? If it's because he found an invitation on the crime scene, it doesn't mean it belonged to the murderer, or that the murderer actually went to the party). Thankfully for me, he's an idiot who just made his job a hell of a lot harder. Because there are no people in category A (as far as I can tell, otherwise I'm done for) and the people who fall into category B will start talking fast and mention "Bob who had to leave the club for two hours last Wednesday" and "Mary who arrived late for tea, which is very unlike her" and "the stain of Margaret's collar the other night" and basically overwhelm the officers with irrelevant info that's going to throw them off my scent and complicate things for them.

This reflection aside, the detective will need to narrow down the list of suspects (which probably includes the entire room initially), which means some form of interrogation. Let's just say for the sake of raising the suspense up a notch that I happen to be the first person called in for interrogation, right at the end of the detective's little introduction, so I have zero time to prepare by reviewing the crime to plant damning evidence to point the finger at someone else in the room. The walls are closing in fast. I figure I have three options:

1/ Surrender or risk it all and run. One way or another I'll end up being arrested, so I'd have to then put on a convincing act and put it all on some irrational fear of law enforcement and "that opium I sneaked into the country a few years back coming back from China that could ruin my reputation", etc. Chances of getting out of it: Probably null.
2/ Hope for / Create a distraction that will prevent them from interrogating me. Some important lady passing out and creating a commotion. Some crazy guy coming forward to claim he did it (who knows? He wouldn't be the first attention-seeker to claim responsibility for a crime he didn't commit). Lighting a fire with a molotov cocktail hastily put together with a bottle of bourbon, a napkin and my lighter (if we're post-1820s). Take someone hostage and start negotiating my escape. Chances of any of those happening / being successful: Close to null.
3/ Go in and face interrogation. Unless I'm an absolute psychopath (and I'm not, otherwise I would not have left anything to chance when planning the murder and no detective could have tracked me to that house), I don't think I'd be good enough to fool detectives who know what to watch for in terms of body language / behaviour and what buttons to press to make guilty people sing. But the officers will be expecting stress, trembling voices and sweat after their public announcement so I'll try to remember that their grandiose entrance is a sure sign that they have absolutely nothing on the culprit and are just winging it. Chances of getting out of it: Depending on my acting abilities, mediocre to good.

I have to go with option 3.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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But police were not considered "authority figures" by the upper classes at that period. They were working class with a grubby and disgusting little job, almost beneath contempt. What the officer will expect is indignation, lack of cooperation, "how dare you even suggest" etc. It's the under classes that are afraid of policemen, because they know they could be swept in regardless of guilt or innocence, while the privileged classes—the guests at this party—have a conviction they can get away with almost anything because of who they are. That is how privilege works, even today, but it was even stronger back then. So it's the servants who are trembling and sweating, not the guests. Meanwhile, the majority of the guests have probably already concluded that it must be one of the servants ... just because it is more comfortable to conclude that than to suppose one's friends or relatives might be involved. So the best camouflage the criminal could contrive would be to blend in with this group—"the servant problem quite impossible, not the way it used to be in my day, we could all be murdered in our beds, etc."—though not to particularly stand-out among them.

If the murderer is not what he or she pretends to be, if they are out of place at this gathering, then probably they are feeling somewhat nervous—though if they were able to bluff their way into this exclusive gathering they must have some confidence they can bluff their way out of this situation—but otherwise, they are counting on their superiority to the police to bring them safely through.

The police had better have some pretty darn good clues to go on and a genuine way of flushing the murderer out, because otherwise this ploy of making the announcement and keeping everyone under observation and constricting their movements is going to backfire big time. Everyone is already talking about contacting their relatives in government and protesting this outrage, so if the police aren't able to make an arrest when all is said and done they'll have no excuse for offending so many important people.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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The party is pretty much over when the police arrive and throw murder accusations around.
Not necessarily, actually. This isn't precisely "the police," it's one professional with the backing of authority (and the hosts) coming into the party as a guest and announcing what they're here to do. It might help to think of this character more as a well-respected bounty hunter, or a wild-west U.S. Marshal, than a policeman. There's technically no need for the party to stop for everyone else unless the guests want it to.


And, @The Crawling Chaos, it's worth considering that giving the innocent guests the right to decide exactly how their evening is to be ruined could, in fact, be an equally valid motivation for an impressive entrance like telling everyone what's going on, instead of sneaking in and trying to capture the murderer without anyone noticing. Bearing in mind that, simply by being at the party, the detective (rather recognizeable--I realize I should have mentioned that initially) would instantly put the wind up the murderer. Might as well put the wind up everybody, if that's the case, and less people will get hurt without knowing why.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I am assuming this is a fantasy with an invented society, because "well-respected bounty hunter" (or whatever equivalent you are using this term to be an analogy for) doesn't ring true for any actual time and place that I can think of. However, in an invented world, I can think of various ways that bounty hunters might become figures of romance, popular heroes, maybe.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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@Teresa Edgerton: You're right. I was writing this when my internet went out -

Also, if it's hanging anybody up, this is not 1800s Earth. I said the technology level is somewhat similar, and frankly some of the societal mindsets, but this is a forum for scifi/fantasy writers, after all. It is indeed a different world.

I didn't mention it because I thought it would make the thought experiment vaguer than it needed to be. The general ideas held.
 

ckatt

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Not necessarily, actually. This isn't precisely "the police," it's one professional with the backing of authority (and the hosts) coming into the party as a guest and announcing what they're here to do. It might help to think of this character more as a well-respected bounty hunter, or a wild-west U.S. Marshal, than a policeman. There's technically no need for the party to stop for everyone else unless the guests want it to.
That being the case I don't see how they would be able to stop any guest from leaving if they wanted to. Especially if there was a group of them barging out the door. I'm not sure what country this is in but if said bounty hunter has a gun many guests may as well. There would likely be a confrontation. I'd try to egg that on without getting involved myself. Tell Sir So-and-so that he's a spinless push over for letting officer Whats-his-name talk to him like that. If the whole party was against the police I don't think they would win. Eventually, the thread of the murderer would get lost in the outrage. Maybe there never was a murder. Why is Whats-his name really here?!
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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The only reason the officer/detective announced the purpose of his visit to the entire assembly upon arrival (rather than sneak in quietly and comb the room for more evidence before making his move while his officers establish road blocks at a safe distance from the house to stop and quietly ID anybody leaving the party early) was to:

A/ plant the seed of betrayal within the hearts of any present accomplices who would feel the noose of justice tighten around their necks, and rat me out for a more lenient sentence.
B/ 'deputize' every innocent man and woman in the room, because you can bet that a lot of people would be willing to try and help unmask the culprit just so they can get a pat on the back from Mr. Figure of Authority (or to be able to go back to enjoying their old-fashioned and cigar as soon as possible and not ruin what promised to be a perfectly good evening amongst respectable people).
I think that, fortunately, people's reactions to a given situation (and the conclusions you can therefore draw from them) are not as straightforward as all that, actually!

If the detective had any other reason for impressively announcing his intentions than A or B, then the murderer would be at a huge potential disdvantage for not considering it, right? It might even be what loses him the game, especially if he assumes, "They've got nothing on me."

It might not be true that they had another reason, but as the murderer you would have to consider that.

But yes, the whole point is that you're not caught yet for lack of evidence. If the detective had anything solid on you or your identity, I expect you'd already be nicked.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I didn't mention it because I thought it would make the thought experiment vaguer than it needed to be. The general ideas held.
Unfortunately, I think it is inevitably going to be too vague to yield the kind of advice that you are looking for. The credibility of any situation in a work of fiction often hangs on a number of details which aren't going to be apparent in the sort of question you are asking. Which is why this kind of discussion can be so frustrating for the person asking the question, as well as those trying to come up with constructive suggestions. We don't know the details and we don't even know enough to ask for the specific details that might make things clearer. Right now, the situation you describe sounds highly implausible to me, and yet if I read the actual manuscript, if I had all the details at my fingertips, I might find the whole thing entirely credible... or else I might be so beguiled by the story and characters that I would be prepared to overlook a little implausibility for the sake of the other pleasures that the story has to offer. It's impossible to say based on what you have said so far.

I think you will be best served by suggestions from those who have actually read the whole manuscript, or at least parts of it. If you are not getting useful suggestions from them, then perhaps you need to add to your existing readers.

This is a writer's forum, but a conversation between people who have not read each other's work is best suited to generalities rather than to solving specific problems in specific stories.
 

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Whatever you do! Do not pick up the candlestick in the library or use a military officer condiment alias...

Past that, if the sheriff/detective doesn't know exactly who the person is, by you simply being at this party, they'll not be able to establish guilt. Considering the scenario, if it was Earth, in that era, and the people at the party are as affluent as you suggest... they would NOT allow a common law enforcement officer to hassle the guests. The assumption being (obviously wrongly), that they're above such vulgar things.

Just my 2-cents worth,

K2

P.S.: It was Miss Scarlett in the conservatory with the rope ;)
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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I'm sorry, Teresa--I wasn't actually looking for specific advice, per se. This was a thought experiment far more than anything else--a "What is the first thing you'd look towards doing, in this type of situation?"

And all your guys' solutions were very much the kind of thing I was looking for, and more. I realize it is a very vague scenario, especially when one starts trying to pin down specific questions of, "Is this an option? Why am I even in this situation in the first place?" but I'm beginning to think that's actually best. Perhaps trying to clarify particular things was a mistake, because that forces us into specifics.

It's always going to be true that each person reading the initial hypothetical situation will have a different imagining of the circumstances in their head--and it doesn't matter how different that picture is from the one I was thinking, because the idea/solution is still valid for the scenario as long as it fits the known facts.

Basically, I shouldn't have kept on adding information and confusing things. I'll remember that next time I post a thought experiment. (And there will be a next time, I'm sure--I do like these sorts of things.)
 
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Margaret Note Spelling

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No color or condiment names. Got it. And frankly, if I owned a mansion and my name was Mr. Black, I'd preemptively demolish anything even remotely defined as a conservatory.
 

tinkerdan

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Considering the date of the event there might be clear differences in the persons reaction.
A person who kills the first time--remorseless--probably not true.
From the time of murder and fleeing to the time the police arrive--someone who is new to criminal activity might react in many different ways throughout. I think at the least there would be remorse that they killed because it put them in this fight or flight of fantasy that they may or may not be geared to handled.

That much said there are a number of ways to go depending on the person and how far along in their rationalization they have come.

One solution--rather than giving themselves away is to cooperate. Maybe even take the lead by asking the detectives what they might need of them.
Considering the year again and the murderer's own knowledge--these police could be following a trail, only with speculation at best; maybe not even a description or any remote identification of the killer.

It would depend on how much the killer cleans up after himself and just how much, and if he was invited to the party and whether he might think they are here because some small thread lead them here and they are looking for someone who is fleeing and might not even belong there.

Again this is a based on what I the killer know.

The bold one would try to take the lead in helping where they can with the best outcome being that they don't want his help and would rather he just go sit quietly.
He could try hiding--however at that point it could be as visible as running out a door or window and across the lawn.
He could try the fire approach; depending on the freedom he has. Anything that points the fire at him because he was the only one in the bathroom recently--would be bad.

This begins to hinge on the killer's intellect.

The best approach would be to speak to them and try to determine their reaction to your face. If they are being direct and have followed you then you could be sunk and have to run. If they are cagey about it but look like they are intently interested in you then you may have to do one of the several options until there is a clear field to run. If they are truly indifferent then helping them might be the best so you can keep an eye on them and look for the possibility you need to run.

Still there is so much that is contingent upon so many variables That if I'd done my work proper then I'd be surprised they were there looking; however I'd be mostly going through a laundry list of items to weigh the possibilities. The most tension you'd get out of that is whatever personal anguish I cause by running that through my fight or flight mind.

Now if I were sure that that person needed to die and I was equally certain that the authorities had me to rights; I'd still run, because that's why I didn't turn myself in and now there is nothing to lose by fleeing. However considering how the murder occurred I'm pretty sure that I'd make sure that in fleeing I didn't throw anyone under the bus to keep my freedom.
 
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