Consulting Detective Vol. II – The Lions, the Pick, and the Redhead

From The Adventure Gamer

Written by Joe Pranevich

In the words of the world’s greatest detective, “Wowsers!” We have a case with two dead actual lions and one dead guy named “Lions”. It may be contrived, but thus far it’s been a challenging case even if I don’t see how all of the clues fit together. Let’s start this week with a recap before I interview a few more people.

Our dramatis personae:

  • Lenny and Bruce, two circus lions, now deceased. They were captured in Africa by the lion tamer Barry O’Neill. They had only just arrived in London after a European tour– most recently in Germany– before they were killed and their wagon (and bodies) ditched in Hyde Park. They were not tame and permitted only Barry and his wife to come near them. Exactly how they ended up in Hyde Park or why they were taken there is unclear, but Holmes found empty pouches near where they had been killed. What was in the pouches? We have no idea.
  • Barry O’Neill was their lion tamer. He was injured or assaulted on the docks while unloading circus equipment prior to the theft and murder of his lions. Was he attacked just to allow someone access to the lions? Were the lions attacked because someone wanted to get even with Barry? I have no idea yet.
  • Thomas O’Neill was the lion tamer’s brother, also last seen in Germany, although it is unknown whether he and Barry met during the tour. Thomas had once loaned Barry money and continues to hold this over his brother.
  • Steven Lions was a first officer for the Aberdeen shipping company. He was last seen having a night on the town with drink and prostitutes, before falling dead in the street. Lions may have moonlit as a smuggler, using his position to move illicit goods in a secretive way. According to his landlady, he expected come into a large amount of money soon. His cause of death was a rare poison. Other than his companions of ill repute, he was last seen with Wally Sharp and a mysterious red-headed man. 
  • The Redhead may be important and is my best suspect for poisoning Steven Lions, but his identity is a mystery. 

That’s enough of a refresher. We also spoke to a number of others, including the pair of prostitutes that Mr. Lions was looking forward to hanging out with, but I believe the above are the key people to watch out for. It’s time for the thrilling conclusion to “The Two Three Lions”!

This set design looks familiar…

I start this week with my final lead from last session: Wally Sharp, one of the met who met with Mr. Lions at the bar before he died. I am not sure what I was expecting, but it turns out that he’s Lions’s captain with Aberdeen. The pair didn’t get along well, although they must have been close enough to share a drink or two. Lions implied to him that he would be coming into money soon, perhaps even buying his own boat. Sharp throws some shade at his employer, stating directly that they don’t get paid enough to ever be able to afford their own ships! If he knows the redheaded guy, he doesn’t mention him.

The only new information we get out of him is the name of the tavern where Lions was drinking, the Red Bull Inn. We visited there once or twice in the last game and I expect it’s one of the only pubs that cater to the worst sorts of individuals. Beyond that, we knew that Lions worked in shipping and that he expected money soon. Not as productive of a lead as I hoped.

My old friend!

I don’t have any more leads, so I turn to Holmes’s regular sources. I hit Porky Shinwell first, a tavern-keeper and reformed criminal who keeps tabs on the underworld. Just our luck: Steven Lions used to frequent his tavern! What are the odds of that? Then again, Lions doesn’t seem like he hangs out in the reputable parts of town, so it may have been inevitable that he ended up in Porky’s orbit. Porky gives me crucial information: both Lions and his brother are expert lockpicks. Not only is he a smuggler, but a thief as well! The next bit is confusing because Porky is talking as if he is the barman at the Red Bull Inn, where Lions had his last few drinks before the end, but I already spoke to someone there last post! Maybe they both work there? He tells me that Lions visited his pub yesterday and talked to our mysterious redheaded fellow. More importantly, I learn that the redheaded guy was also seen speaking with Derrick Quinn, but I do not know who he is yet.

As far as the lions-of-the-animal variety are concerned, Porky tells me that Thomas O’Neill, the lion-tamer’s brother in Germany, is an expert jewel thief. Worse than that, he doesn’t even have a criminal’s sense of honor. This leads me to suspect that Thomas had more involvement than I realized, but how? Was he using his brother? Were they both in on it? I have no idea.

I next head to the home of Derrick Quinn, but Holmes just scolds me for wasting his time. Is it a false lead?

New judging scenes!

With no other leads, I check to see if I have enough information to solve the case. The game thinks I do, because I can talk to the judge! This time around, they have recorded digital little scenes for the judgement rather than just text menus and audios. Another improvement from the previous, if only a small one. I recall that the judge was in the re-releases and I’m glad to see that he got his start here. Let’s get the judging underway.

Question #1: Who murdered the lions?

Just like in the last game, I have the whole London directory to choose from, so you’d be unlikely to guess the wrong guy by accident. I am not completely positive who killed the lions, but I will guess a straight-forward “Chekhov’s gun” theory: it has to be Thomas O’Neill. While that would never hold up in court, at least in the games they are not that likely to throw you clues that will never pan out. In my case, Thomas O’Neill was a jewel thief and did not get along with his brother. Since the lions also wouldn’t like him, he had to kill them to liberate the jewels he was after. But who put the jewels there in the first place? His brother? I guess we have to wait and see. I make my selection and am correct!

Motive? Oh crud.

Question #2: Why did he kill the lions?

This question will be easier since I only have four options to choose from. It’s pretty clear that the answer cannot be A or B: Thomas didn’t kill them in self-defense, but nor was it a fit of jealousy. That leaves C, a story that the “Oldenberg jewels” were hidden in the pouches, and D, Mary O’Neill put him up to it. It’s really just C, but I don’t know anything about those and feel like I missed a huge clue somewhere. Still, two questions down!

Question #3: Who are O’Neill’s two accomplices?

Wow. This question us much, much harder. We have to pick two names from the directory. Who could Mr. O’Neill possibly have teamed up with? For lack of any better ideas, I select Steven Lions and Derek Quinn, but I don’t have enough information to back up either. I have failed to solve the case and the judge kicks me out of the courtroom. I wouldn’t have felt great winning by process of elimination so I’m glad that didn’t work out. What clues am I missing?

Sorry, I’m too busy working on the last game to help…

Just like before, I’m stuck going through Holmes’s list of regular informants. This time, I pick Quintin Hogg, the crime reporter for a London paper. He has been too focused on a string of jewelry thefts that he hasn’t given any consideration to the deaths of two circus lions. Instead, Hogg has been researching the “Society Burglar” and the theft of the “Oldenburg Jewels”. Watson says that he read about both in the Times and that is clue enough for me that I need to look there.

This unfortunately is an aspect of the game that I keep forgetting about: the newspapers are cumulative. While I only looked at the current day’s paper, the game forces you to look at previous days as well. In this case, there was an article about the “Oldenburg Jewels” about a month ago. They had been stolen from the local duchess and never recovered, despite arresting prominent thieves in the country as well as shutting down the border. The two suspects were Helmut Schnitzler and Thomas O’Neill! With the border closed, how could Thomas and his accomplices get them out? Would border inspectors look in little pouches on angry lions?

The second bit of Hogg’s clue is a bit of misdirection: the “Society Burglar” was a case that I cracked last time, in the episode entitled the “Mystified Murderess”. We deduced that a rich playboy, Guy Clarendon, did those deeds. Is it clever to call back to a previous case? My suspicion is that the modified order of the cases in this series made what would have been a fun nod to a recently completed episode into a head-scratching feeling of deja vu. Fortunately, I take good notes! In any event, neither Schnitzler nor Thomas O’Neill live in London and even the German embassy is no help. Since I know about the Oldenburg Jewels now, do I have enough information to solve the case?

What was Tomas O’Neill’s role?

I try the judge again. This time, I select that Barry O’Neill and Steven Lions were the two co-conspirators in the case. I choose Barry because if the lions were used for the smuggling, then he (or his wife) had to be involved. Since she claimed not to have talked to Thomas, we’ll go with Barry. As for Steven Lions, I think there must have been a brotherly double-cross going on. While Thomas would have benefited from Mr. Lions’s smuggling skills and potential fencing contacts, more immediately he needed someone to pick the lock on the lions’ cage so that he could retrieve the jewels. Thomas is a dastardly sort, isn’t he? He worked out the whole score and then double-crossed everyone as soon as it was done, including his brother and his brother’s prized lions. What a terrible guy!

What was Steven Lions’s role?

Question #4: What was Mr. Lions’s role in the caper?

I am correct! It was Barry and Steven Lions who were accomplices, but next I have to answer a question about what role Mr. Lions played in the whole affair. This one is easy and I take A, saying that he was just responsible for picking the lock. None of the other options even come close to making sense.

Question #5: Who murdered Steven Lions?

With that answered correctly, the judge next asks who Lions’s killer was. This is tricky, but not too difficult. It was Tomas O’Neill in that previously described double-cross. That turns out to be correct as well! How many questions are there going to be? I don’t remember answering nearly so many in the previous game.

Uh oh. I don’t know the answer to this one, even if it is an easy guess.

Question #6: How did Thomas poison Steven Lions?

The next question stumps me. How did Thomas poison his accomplice? The answer must be B, but I don’t “know” that. We know that it was an uncommon poison, so that rules out A and C. We are good friends with the bartender (and talked to two of them), so it’s not likely D. But if so, I had no idea that Quinn provided the poison. In fact, I thought he was a dead-end since Holmes scolded me for going to his house.

I deliberately get the question wrong so I can find the lead that I missed. I struggle for a bit, but knowing that it was Quinn meant that it wasn’t long before I worked it out: we had to look up Quinn in Holmes’s files. (That’s the little filing cabinet icon on the right that we never press.) Holmes maintains a personal encyclopedia of news clippings and other information on many of the people in London and that is where I needed to turn to learn that he ran a shop called “Vipers Unlimited”.

Oh Holmes, why did you keep this from me?

That seals the deal since we know that the redhead– who I now assume was Thomas O’Neill, although his hair color has not once been mentioned– talked to him at the bar the day that he poisoned Lions. That he talked to him at apparently the same bar where he met his mark is tremendously stupid, but the case feels like it’s been edited since we talked to two barmen for the same place. Did the tabletop version have two separate pubs? Either way, I have the last detail. In every other case, we would have been able to learn the same by visiting Quinn’s house or at least a clue that we were looking in the correct direction. I’ll have to be more mindful of that in later cases.

Why did Thomas O’Neill kill Steven Lions?

Question 7: Why did Thomas O’Neill kill Steven Lions?

I play through the judging again and this time answer the correct “B” that Quinn provided the poison. This leads me to the next question about a motive for his death. Notice that we have the “Lyons” spelling here again. I wish the game was more consistent on this point, but I do think they are using the “y” spelling more often even as I settled into the “i” spelling. Oh well. In any case, I think it’s D because Thomas just didn’t want to pay him.

Wow. I suck.

With the “trial” over, Holmes invites Lestrade over for a chat. Exactly why he talks to the judge before the police inspector, I have no idea, but let’s just go with it. Let’s discuss Holmes’s official answer:

Five months ago, Thomas O’Neill escaped a London police search. Lestrade says that they almost had him, but Holmes scolds him that almost is not good enough.

Right off the bat, I missed this. I had no idea that Scotland Yard was searching for Mr. O’Neill months ago. Maybe I missed an article in the Times?

Three months later, he was arrested in Germany on suspicion of stealing jewels from the Duchess of Oldenberg. They couldn’t prove that it was him.

At the same time as the jewels were stolen, Roy Slade’s Animal Show finished its European tour. Thomas convinced his brother to help him smuggle out the jewels.

They used leather collars with pouches to sneak the jewels across the border.

So far so good on this.

Lestrade wonders why the lions had to be killed to get the jewels off, if Barry was an accomplice.

Watson says that it is because Barry was in the hospital with two broken legs.

Without a key to the cage, Thomas needed the services of a lockpick.

Barry then had Mr. Lions killed to avoid paying him.

Aargh! Holmes doesn’t think it was a double-cross. He thinks that the accident on the docks was just an accident. Thomas couldn’t have waited a little while for his brother to come out of the hospital? He didn’t ask his brother for the cage key but hired an expert lockpick and smuggler instead?

Watson adds that Thomas’s injury would have healed in four weeks; Holmes responds by saying that Barry O’Neill was not the patient sort.

Watson also doubts that Thomas would have agreed to the killing of the lions. Holmes agrees and says that would not have been part of the plan, only improvised after the accident on the docks.

Holmes closes by saying that the poison for the final murder came from “Vipers Unlimited”.

Finally, the note on our door came from Thomas O’Neill’s wife. She caught wind (somehow?) of her husband being involved in smuggling and wanted Holmes to solve the case to extricate him from it and that he’d be forced to settle down in London.

I don’t want to disagree with the official solution, but I’m unsatisfied by this. I can’t say that the accident on the docks was an accident, nor that Barry and Thomas couldn’t have found some other way at the jewels even with his brother laid up. And why would they plant that Barry hired a lockpick and smuggler to help get the jewels? Steven Lions could have been Thomas’s way to fence the jewels or otherwise get them out of the country, until he decided to poison him instead. And the bit with Barry’s wife? Not supported anywhere in her interview. And if her husband is in jail for smuggling, how does that encourage him to settle down and have a family with her in London. I just don’t get it.

Hate me if you want, but I’m not really happy about this case. It seems a difficult and unsatisfying start to the game. The false lead back to a case that I solved “a year” (in game time) ago made it a bit worse rather than better.

On the bright side, that is three games in a row with evil circus performers. What do I win?

Time Played: 2 hr 00 min
Total Time: 3 hr 20 min

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