Consulting Detective Vol. II – Failure! Fiendish Forger Found a Friend to Flame the Folio

From The Adventure Gamer

Written by Joe Pranevich

I failed at this case. If you follow our blog to read about masterful play and to see an expert gamer moving from clue to clue with purpose and conviction, you have come to the wrong place. As you will read, I tripped up a number of times for various reasons which ultimately led to having to request help. Our case also appears to have a few logic errors, making my slog all the more difficult. It is far from a grand slam, but I hope my experience makes interesting reading. The cases in this game has not quite been up to the level of its predecessor.

That said, I need to give credit where due and this episode has two of the most memorable scenes from the series so far, right up there with the scene in the first game where someone tried to bring a dead cat back to life. The acting and writing are frequently boring, but it’s a lot of fun when a scene goes in an unexpected direction. That does not make up for the other flaws, but I am delighted every time the game steps out of its comfort zone.

He issued the certificate before even looking at the paintings!

If you are coming late into our party, I will recap the main events: Sir Simpson Witcomb recently purchased for the National Gallery in London two recently-discovered paintings by “De Kuyper”, a Flemish artist who was a student of Reuben. There are only six (or eight) of these paintings known in the world. To celebrate, Witcomb painstakingly arranged for a showing of all of the De Kuyper paintings, gathering the other works from London, Paris, and Amsterdam for one amazing display. The night before the unveiling, the paintings were stolen. They were taken shortly after 11:00 PM by someone who did not enter through the main door and may have had a key.

In our explorations last time, I became convinced that Pierre Donet, a failed artist who became a world-famous De Kuyper expert, was a forger; he painted some or all of his “discoveries” and sold them for a profit. I am also watching Brady Norris, the curator of the museum. He had mysterious crates delivered the night of the theft and may have been in on the crime, but since he was also the guy that bought the paintings for Witcomb, I have no idea why. We also learned that there was a fancy party for the De Kuyper luminaries last night at Dame Agnus’s place, but I was unable to find her to interview her.

While composing the previous post, I solved that mystery: “Dame Agnus” was actually “Dame Agnus Smedley” and I can finally interview her to learn how her party went!

Party animal?

Holmes and Watson both interview Dame Agnus and we are rewarded with an extended information dump. She hosted a party to celebrate the imminent launch of the De Kuyper exhibition with Pierre Donet as the special guest. Other guests included Langdale Pike, Clifton Maddox, Lord Smedley, Sir Simpson, “Mr. Silante”, and Brady Norris. Of those, I recognize all of the names except “Silante”; Maddox was the guy that Watson asked about at the Hall of Records and I did not know why. This is our first official mention of him!

The timing of the party is important for two reasons: first, Agnus was informed of the thefts at around 11:00 PM. This is huge because the security guards told us that the paintings were stolen at 11:35. How could Agnus have been told about the thefts before they happened? Who told her? If we can track down who told her, we may track down the thief. We also get a number of alibis as all of the partygoers stayed until at least midnight except for two: Silante and Maddox both departed around 10:00 PM. They took a cab together from Central Carriage Stables so I may be able to learn where they went.

Finally, we get a small character moment: Norris was out of sorts all evening. Agnus believes that he was just intimidated by Donet, but there must be another reason. Maddox and Silante leaving early is my best lead from the interview. I’ll try to see where they went.

Customer confidentiality? What’s that?

I have a couple of strategies that I can use to track down the pair, but while Maddox is listed in the directory, Silante is not. I assume that he’s another visiting art collector, perhaps one of the owners of the other paintings and he may be in a hotel. Let’s check with the cab company instead! Fortunately, they don’t believe in data privacy and are happy to tell me that both men were taken to “Axel’s”. I do not know what that is and I am unable to find it in the directory. The cabbie also tells us that a third person was taken at midnight to the Claridge Hotel, but that was after the theft and likely a red herring. With no listing for Axel, I have no way to tell where they went next.

The dispatcher mentioned that Dame Agnus’s party took place at “47 Upper Gloucester Place”. Since I am bored and frustrated, I do some digging. That address exists today as the “Opulence Hotel” not far from Baker Street. It is a converted 19th century townhouse so likely the original location for Dame Agnus in the game, although whether the designers (of the computer or tabletop games) did that much research I have no idea. Online reviews suggest that the hotel has seen better days. If you want to experience a minor part of video game history, you can book a room on their website and throw your own party. Invite a few art critics!


Ruffles have ridges?

With no way to follow them to Axel’s and no lead on Mr. Silante, I head to Maddox next. Unfortunately, he is not home. Instead, Watson interviews an unidentified woman. Is she his landlady? His wife? We have no idea! She is angry that the “loafer” is in trouble again and admits that she hasn’t seen him in the last day or so. Where could he have gone?

This leaves me at an impasse. I have no more leads so I run down my list of people and places that were named in the case. I learn that Matthew Cole, the guy that rented the warehouse where the boxes were shipped from, was a petty crook. I learn nothing from the Claridge Hotel, but at least that confirms that the midnight cab trip was a red herring. While flipping through the directory, I realize that I got a critical name wrong: Mr. Silante is actually “Angelo Hypsilanti”. How could I have missed the “H” sound? This realization is fantastic, but when I visit him I only learn that he partied with friends all night and disturbed the neighbors. His alibi is confirmed so where should I look next?

I always wear a corsage to the office. 

I take a break and come back with a new strategy: I will check on all of the other paintings! I first try Cox and Company, where Lord Smedley stashed his painting after the thefts. This is more difficult than it should have been because the business is filed under “B” for bank, but I work it out. I talk to a bank executive. Although he doesn’t check on the painting for me, he offers me confidential bank records. Holmes asks about four people in specific:

  • Lord Witcomb is one of the wealthiest men in England. The executive says that his ethics are above reproach.
  • Lord Smedley is similarly wealthy, but the executive pointedly says nothing about his ethics. 
  • Sir Herbert Kaufmann will be discussed in a moment.
  • Brady Norris is not wealthy and only recently opened an account at the bank. He deposited £50,000 on July 1. 

I know three out of the four names, but I have no idea who Kaufmann is. He isn’t in the directory, either. We learn that he was a wealthy man with a great future– knighted at 28!– until he lost everything on a bad investment in Bolivia. He’s not in the directory so tracking him down may be impossible. Who paid Norris on July 1? That was the date of the auction… did he launder some of the money?

Seriously, what is up with the corsages?
My next stop is to check on the Louvre paintings stashed at the French Embassy. Once again, I don’t get to check on them as planned, but there is an unexpected benefit: the diplomat that we speak to is an art expert! He tells Holmes that he was looking forward to the exhibit because he believes the two new paintings are forgeries. He cites the mysterious way they were acquired and ended up at auction, plus the short-notice on the bidding. He thinks that they were stolen because, “With no paintings, there is no proof.” Could someone have stolen the paintings precisely because they were forgeries? Why not steal the real ones instead? The mind boggles. These paintings were always going to be exhibited publicly, so why steal them right before the show?

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves
at the same time.” I feel like I am losing this case…

One thread that I had not considered was tracking the paintings back to their source. If the auction was so unusual, maybe the auction house can shed light on the case. I head there and Holmes and Watson speaks to Mr. Armitage directly. He gives us the story:

In early June, Armitage was visited by Hiram Davenport, a London solicitor. Davenport informed him that an anonymous client had two De Kuyper paintings to bring to auction. After viewing the Certificate of Authenticity signed by Donet, he agreed to the auction but the solicitor had a very specific set of instructions that he had to follow. The auction had to be on July 1, but it could not be announced until June 23. That would allow only a week from announcement to gavel. He also insisted that the paintings could only be sold as a pair, even though that would lower the total proceeds. Armitage tells us that none of the usual high-bidders attended the auction, but they still went for more than he expected thanks to vigorous bidding by Bradley Norris, Herbert Kaufmann, and Dame Agnus.

Wow! That is a lot to unpack. We already know that Donet signed the certificate before seeing the paintings. This is also the first real mention of Kaufmann since Holmes asked about him at the bank. But if Kaufmann was broke, why was he bidding on the painting at all? The “no announcement until June 23” rule may be another error in the case. There is an ad for the auction in the Times on June 7 so either Armitage screwed up or the documentation did. This is an important point because an earlier announcement would have made the auction less suspicious. One final strange thing is that Witcomb told us that he was surprised by how low the paintings went for at auction, while Armitage is shocked by how high they sold for thanks to the non-competitive auction. That is a curious difference of opinion.

He could really use a corsage.

Let’s trace the paintings back further by talking to Davenport directly. He agrees to a quick interview where we learn that he was just the middleman. He was contracted to do the work by a different lawyer from Brussels, Mr. Noir. More importantly, he tells us that Noir was employed by… (drumroll please)… Pierre Donet! This shows that Donet was using two sets of middle-men to place his forgeries on the market, but doesn’t explain why there were so many complicated auction rules. Mr. Noir was also the lawyer that witnessed the certification of the painting so this is a nice little conspiracy.

Even with this information, the judge refuses to talk to us. I know that Donet forged the paintings, but I suppose that I do not know why they were stolen or who they were stolen by. With nothing better to do, I’m just going to talk to all of Holmes’s “regular” informants and see if any of them have critical clues.

  • Lestrade tells us that the Yard believes the theft to be an inside job because the thief had a key. I agree with that, but I am still convinced they got in by hiding in the crate that Brady Norris sent.
  • Sir Jasper Meek, the coroner, tells us about Matthew Cole. He’s the guy that rented the warehouse except he also died in a fire last night! How did I miss that? I search the Times and find an article about him that I did not connect with this case, revealing that he was staying at the Dover Rooms Hotel. Meek tells us that he died before the fire was set because of a lack of smoke in his lungs.

I am uncertain how Cole connects since, as far as I know, he was the guy that rented the warehouse before Brady Norris? Or did I misunderstand that clue?

H. R. Murray: Good at chemistry, bad at names. 

With that new nugget of information, I head to the Dover Rooms to investigate the fire. We learn that Cole only lived there for two months and mostly kept to himself. He was unemployed and spent his days at the Red Bull Inn, London’s favorite pub for scheming and villainy. Some scraps of canvas were recovered from the fire and sent to H.R. Murray’s criminology lab so we talk to him next. This doesn’t bode well for the recovery of the missing paintings…

After so many bland videos, talking to Murray is one of the funniest scenes of the case. The actor that (over-)plays him is clearly having a good time. I had not noticed before, but he always gets Holmes’s and Watson’s names wrong. “Witson” is not at all thrilled about this, but we learn that Cole had a key in his pocket and that the burned canvas was from an oil painting. This was sent to the chemistry department at London University (and Murray’s brother, Mortimer) for further analysis. Mortimer is an expert on the chemical composition of paint pigments and may have more to say. I also confirm that this running gag has been present since the first case of the first game. I never noticed!

Let’s put this together: Cole must have been smuggled in using the crate, he then used the key to steal the paintings and climb out the window. But why was he killed? And who killed him? Someone didn’t just want to steal the paintings, they wanted them destroyed. But murder seems over the top…

This is a fun scene!

We arrive at Murray’s classroom in London University to an argument already in progress. Murray is arguing with a Frenchman, Mr. Bouclair, who announces that he is one of the foremost experts on De Kuyper. Bouclair claims that the canvas fragments recovered in the fire are De Kuyper, but Murray insists that it cannot possibly be: it contains traces of Prussian Blue paint, a pigment that did not exist in De Kuyper’s time. Watson fails to get in any words edgewise and eventually just leaves. The whole presentation is very well done and a nice respite from the usual grind of interviews. If more of the game had events this interesting, I would be sure to give it a higher score! Bouclair’s accent is a bit much, but that is my only complaint.

This confirms our suspicion that these most recent two paintings are forgeries, plus adds to the pile of evidence that the rest are as well. Ironically, only by destroying one of the priceless paintings is this crime exposed. Irony! That doesn’t explain why they were stolen or why Cole was murdered so let’s invest some more time investigating him next.

You wanna go where everybody knows your name… 

Matthew Cole had no regular employment and spent his free time at the Red Bull Inn. The barkeep knows him quite well and tells us about a recent drinking session that he had with a heavy-set man who walked with a limp and used a cane with a duck-shaped handle. And if you think that is a surprising amount of detail, you would be right! The barkeep completely puts a lampshade on this style of investigation and congratulates himself for his detailed memory. I check back through my screenshots for someone that fits that description, but I do not find anyone. Who is our mysterious man with the duck cane?

Porky Shinwell also frequents the Red Bull Inn and I remain confused about whether or not he is also supposed to be a barkeep there. He only adds that a “Greek bloke” (likely Hypsilanti) is upset about missing an auction and will do anything for a picture that he wants. He had been working with Clifton Maddox to get it, but I’m sure that this is a red herring as both of them had an alibi for the night of the theft.

Another corsage! Was there a sale on them the day this was filmed?

My leads have all dried up again, so let’s just hit the remaining “regulars” and see what we learn:

  • Henry Ellis, a foreign news editor, is convinced that there is something fishy about the auction because of the short notice. He says that many art collectors in Europe were unable to attend. We knew all that already. He theorizes that they wanted to exclude certain people from bidding.
  • Quintin Hogg, the local news reporter, tells us that there was no forced entry at the museum. He says that if we can figure out how the thief got in, the rest of the case should be easy. He’s wrong.

The only other benefit to this mess is that I happen to notice an entry in the directory for “Haxell’s Restaurant”. I had been looking for “Axel’s”, so once again I am burned by mishearing a name. That doesn’t help anyway as they just confirm that Maxwell and Hypsolanti didn’t leave until 2:00 AM.

What next? I play through the case again looking for any clues that I missed plus searching for the guy with the duck-shaped cane. In the process, I follow a couple of new leads to learn that the art was insured for £100,000 each and that a shipment of Nubian art was delivered to Well’s Warehouse for Brady Norris. Norris, for what it is worth, is the gentleman with the cane, but while that confirms that he and Matthew Cole had met prior to the theft, it doesn’t advance the case one whit since I cannot go to the judge yet. Help me!

Corsage on lapel / Who can we thank for this treat? / Costume designer. 

After what felt like hours spinning my wheels, I gave up and asked for a hint in the comments of my previous post. I would have done a full “Request for Assistance”, but given that I am running behind already, this seemed the better approach. Ilmari was kind enough to offer some hints. I was close!

I missed one critical detail: “Herbert Kaufmann” was actually “Herbert Cofman”. Cofman was the other mystery bidder who attended the auction on July 1, the one that lost his fortune to a bad investment. We visit his home to discover that he’s not that poor since he can still afford a butler, but he’s not home right now. We’re told that he might be at either the Carlton Restaurant or Brill’s Baths. We go to the Carlton and find Cofman drinking alone at a table. He admits that he was hired as a proxy bidder for someone else, but he refuses to tell Holmes who he was working for. Holmes asks if he knows Brady Norris and Cofman admits that they were school friends. He also tells us that Brady’s dream is to run his own gallery and that he’s not satisfied being just a curator since everything he does has to be authorized by someone else.

That is apparently the motive because suddenly I can proceed to judgement:

Question #1 – Who stole the paintings from the gallery?

I select Matthew Cole and am correct. He snuck in using the crate, was able to sneak around the interior using the key that he was carrying when he was killed, and then escaped through a window with his prize.

Question #2 – Who put Matthew Cole up to the deed?

I select Brady Norris and am correct again! I still don’t quite understand why except it has something to do with his desire to run his own museum? Or something? I’m still not really clear on why Norris both arranged to buy the paintings and arranged to have them destroyed.

F. Because none of them included corsages. 

Question #3 – Why were the paintings stolen?

I have no idea! I had to answer this question several times to get it right. Sherlock Holmes may not work with trial and error, but I certainly do. We have evidence that supports A since Hypsilanti was said to be willing to do “anything” to get his hands on the paintings, and E because we know they were insured for significantly more than their purchase prices. (The museum stands to get 75,000 pounds in insurance money now that they have been destroyed.) Neither of those are the correct answer. The Nubian art that Norris had shipped to the warehouse implies C, but that’s not right either.

It takes me four tries to discover that Norris was afraid they’d be discovered as forgeries.

That thumping sound you hear is my hitting my head against my desk. When was that even hinted at? Who would that have mattered? They were all forgeries! When did Norris discover that they were? Was he afraid that he had been scammed and wanted to destroy the evidence so he’d not be blamed for it? But would he stoop to murder to hid the fact that he was scammed? That all seems a bit much. Let’s keep going.

Question #4 – Who killed Matthew Cole?

I answer Brady Norris and am correct. This was Norris trying to hide the evidence of his misdeeds, though murder and arson seem a bit extreme. Even the judge seems shocked that he moved so quickly from theft to murder, but that is the correct answer.

He needed money to buy corsages?

Question #5 – What was Donet’s involvement in the case?

This one is easy: B. He forged all of the paintings. Of course A, D, and E are also true but only a part of his master plan.

Question #6 – What role did Cofman play in the case?

This one is also easy: his job was to drive up the bidding at the auction to make it look legitimate. I didn’t manage to snag a screenshot of the question so you’ll just have to believe me because I’m not not going to restore and do the judging again…

It doesn’t matter because we win!

Sorry that you chose a manipulative thief as your head curator!

With the case concluded, we are treated to an epilogue scene where Holmes explains the case to Sir Simpson Witcomb. Let’s see how we did:

  • Holmes starts by revealing that there are no De Kuyper paintings, they are all forgeries made by Donet. He says that the Prussian Blue paint used in the final two were the giveaway. Witcomb doubts that the forger would make such a simple mistake, but Holmes retorts that he was an artist, not a chemist. 
  • Holmes adds that Bouclair’s testimony proves that not only were the first two forgeries, but the rest were as well. Donet was pulling the strings behind each of the sales all the way to the beginning. 
  • Then it gets weird: Brady Norris, not knowing that all of the paintings were forgeries, contacts Donet and asks him to forge two new paintings. It makes no sense that he would contact Donet for this, especially since if he were a legitimate foremost authority on De Kuyper he would be against forgeries entering the market! It was a boneheaded move to ask Donet, even if Holmes loves the irony of asking a forger to forge another painting. 
  • Holmes explains that Norris wanted to be director of the National Gallery when Witcomb retired. He figured that landing two De Kuyper paintings would guarantee him the job.
  • The mysterious bank deposit was because he split the auction proceeds with Donet. This doesn’t add up because the paintings were sold for 125K while he deposited 50K. Maybe 25K was the auction house commission?
  • Norris feared that the De Kuyper show should reveal that his paintings were fake, ruining his reputation and his chance at the directorship. He arranged to have the paintings stolen and destroyed to hide the evidence of his crime. The irony is that these two would have passed inspection with flying colors! 
  • Cole did the theft with the big crate just as we thought, with the detail that Norris slipped him the key after he was in the museum and not prior. Norris then murdered Cole and burned the evidence. 
This is an incredibly bad score.

The case is over and I do not feel very good about it. This one had a number of little problems, but the fact that I was blocked for hours because I didn’t know how to spell “Cofman” is ridiculous. All he provided was the note that Norris had his eye on the directorship, but surely we could have gotten that much some other way. There is no explanation for how Dame Agnus was told about the thefts before they happened, nor did we ever find out the correct number of paintings. The date of the case is also inconsistent in the videos vs the manual and somehow we are to expect that Holmes is running around on New Years Day with no mention of the holiday by anyone. We also saw that Armitage advertised in the paper prior to the 23rd, even though the dialog quite explicitly says that he did not. Lots of little problems, but the biggest one is just that I am having difficulty buying the core coincidence: there is no reason for Norris to have gone to Donet for the forgeries, especially as he seemed especially unlikely (had he have been the legitimate discoverer) to help in such a scheme. That’s one coincidence too many, but at least we can put the case to bed.

Let’s see if the final case in this set is any better. It’s time to start “The Murdered Munitions Magnate!”

Time Played: 3 hr 30 min
Total Time: 8 hr 55 min

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