Sherlock Holmes,
Consulting Diplomat

by David Cohen

Death at the Calhamer Club, or
The Case of Sir Owen�s Last Orders

It being a cold morning, and having some early business to do in that part of the city, I decided to stop at the Calhamer Club for a spot of tea. There was normally not much going on at the Club at that time of the morning, but I had heard that a group of enthusiasts from a club in Berlin had been invited to visit, and were staying at rooms in the newly purchased Annex, so there would likely be some interesting conversation to be had. At least, with the purchase of the Annex, there was a full time, live-in serving staff, so some accompaniment to the tea should be readily available as well. Originally a separate neighboring building, openings had been cut through on each floor from the Club to the Annex, so as to allow for easy movement between the two.

To my initial surprise and fast growing alarm, I was met at the door by several members of the local constabulary. One, an inspector named Driscoll, known to me through a previous matter resolved by Sherlock Holmes, saw me as I stepped from the coach, and quickly approached me. �Doctor Watson, I am afraid it is too late for your services, but I have need of your compatriot, Mr. Holmes.� Seeing my puzzlement, he explained that the well known solicitor, Sir C. Owen David, had been found dead in the Club earlier this morning, apparently killed by a blow to the head. The coachman, who had not departed, was immediately dispatched to fetch Holmes. Driscoll, meanwhile, briefed me upon what little they had been able to uncover. Sir Owen had been entertaining the six German guests, and in fact they had started a game which they had intended to finish today. The Germans, having become tired, had taken their leave and retired for the evening, according to the servant, who was then given permission to do the same. Sir Owen had said he would remain a bit to finish some correspondence, and would let himself out, as he had a key to the back door. Preliminary questioning of the Germans had garnered a depressing paucity of information. Messers Von Neustadt, Schweizer, Von Schliefen, Von Ostmark, Grünfeld and Messer had all confirmed that the game had been played through the Fall 1901 turn, and they all, having had a few drinks after dinner, thought it best to go to bed and finish the game in the morning. They stated that after having gone to bed, they had neither left their rooms, nor saw or heard anything unusual until the next morning. This did not seem terribly surprising, given that they had all been in the Annex, two or three floors away from the ground floor room in the Club where Sir Owen�s body had been found. The doors and windows had been found locked by the servant, and there was no sign of an attempt to break in. As Driscoll finished his review of the situation, with a comment that due to his advanced age and frailty, the servant could likely be ruled out, the coach pulled up, and Holmes quickly exited.

Driscoll related the preliminary findings to Holmes, and suggested we view the room where the incident had occurred. Holmes agreed, and we entered the Club. His first question, upon entering, was whether anything had been touched. Driscoll replied, �The servant, upon finding Sir Owen, and concluding he was dead, immediately fled, and flagged down a passing officer, who procured the key, locked the room and sent a messenger for me.�

�Good thinking on his part,� Holmes concluded, looking pensively about the room. �I fear that given the lack of a witness, the only way by which this crime will be solved will be by examination and interpretation of the physical evidence.� Holmes proceeded to examine the room in detail. A large table, inlaid with an outsize marquetry Diplomacy board, bearing similarly enlarged pieces, stood surrounded by ten chairs at one end of the long room. Two small tables, and more chairs stood on the long sides. Sir Owen�s body lay behind a desk at the other end of the room. On the desk was a nearly empty bottle of Chateau d�Yquem, a �71 in fact, a single glass, about one quarter full, a writing set, and on a sheet of paper, an unfinished set of orders. The body lay behind the desk, face up, head next to a two drawer file cabinet, the corner of which bore some blood and hairs which were likely Sir Owen�s. A tipped over desk chair lay behind the body, top toward the file cabinet, and bookshelves lined the wall behind it. A single chair sat in front of the desk, and a broken wine glass lay upon the rug next to it.

�I have a strong suspicion as to what happened,� said Holmes. �This was likely not an intentional murder, but rather an unintended consequence, perhaps brought on by too much d�Yquem.�

�So Sir Owen became drunk, and slipped out of the chair, hitting his head?� I surmised.

�No, Watson, though you and I have both noticed his head wound. There are two glasses here, not one, and the position of the glass on the other side of the desk indicates that it was dropped by the other occupant of the room.� Holmes walked to the body. �The answer may be found in Sir Owen�s chair, if my nose does not deceive me. Inspector Driscoll, if your men could assist?�

Sir Owen�s body was removed, after examination, to a stretcher, and taken to a small anteroom. Holmes righted the chair, a high-backed, overstuffed desk chair, on casters, as has become common in office chairs over the past few years. Holmes motioned for me to come forward. He touched the antimacassar, secured to the fabric atop the chair by a small pin, and then sniffed it. �If you would do the same please, Watson.� I did, and noticed it was damp, and held a faint bouquet of fruit. He then told me to put my nose to the wineglass on the table. I immediately realized that the smell on the antimacassar had to be Chateau d�Yquem, and I told Holmes as much. �Now Watson, if you would sit in the chair, and tell me how it feels. You have about the same build as the late Sir Owen.� I did, and reported to Holmes that the joint holding the seat must be loose, as the seat of the chair tilted far too readily to suit me.

�Yes,� said Holmes, �Just as I thought. I have now pieced together a likely course of events. After the guests went to bed, and the servant was dismissed, one of the guests must have come back down, and found Sir Owen. Good host that he was, he opened a bottle of wine for them both. For reasons unknown, the discussion became heated. Perhaps Sir Owen, always fond of the acerbic gibe, let his penchant for pointed wordplay get the better of his sense of prudence. The guest, his honor slighted, endeavored to throw wine in Sir Owen�s face, then tossed the glass to the floor. As Sir Owen ducked to the side, the wine drenched the antimacassar. Sir Owen, however, became a victim of the chair, which, rather than allowing him to right himself, tipped over, bringing his head in violent contact with the file cabinet. The guest bolted from the room, perhaps not even knowing that Sir Owen had struck his head.�

�Very well thought out, indeed,� said Driscoll, �but �who,� not �how,� is more important to me at the moment.�

�Quite so,� replied Holmes, but for that, I believe we must look to the game of Diplomacy, for I believe it may provide the information needed to answer the question of �who.� Do you play?� Holmes asked Driscoll.

�No, Sir, I do not.�

�You really should take it up, Inspector. It is most mentally stimulating. Come then, Watson. Do you see anything unusual about these orders?�

�Well,� I said, glancing at them, they are written upon Sir Owen�s personal stationery, and dated yesterday, rather than with a notation of the game turn. They are denoted as �German�, and the visiting delegation mentioned that Sir Owen had been amused to play Germany against six Germans. Finally they are incomplete, showing only the origin provinces of the units, all fleets. I don�t recall the exact position on the board across the room, but I am quite sure these orders bear no resemblance to the game that was being played.� We walked over to the board, carrying the orders. The board showed a fairly ordinary early game position. Germany was the board leader, having taken Belgium, Holland and Denmark. No one had attacked Germany, and the overall position indicated that it was unlikely that in-game animosity had spilled over into real life.

�Did you know Sir Owen, Watson?� When I replied that I knew him only slightly, Holmes continued. �I knew him fairly well. One of Sir Owen�s oft-practiced amusements was board trivia and Diplomacy word play. It seems these �orders� are not orders at all, but rather a puzzle. A puzzle that, if solved, will lead us to the killer.�

"Why do you say...� I began to ask, and then realized that the orders had been facing away from Sir Owen, and toward the chair where his killer had been sitting.

�Yes, Watson,� Holmes said, realizing where my thoughts had led me, �Sir Owen had likely written it while his guest sat across from him, and perhaps he goaded the man when the riddle proved to difficult to solve. One of his favorite tricks was to somehow work the name of the recipient of the riddle into the riddle itself. If he has done this, we will have the perpetrator.�

�If so, the killer, like I, had never met Sir Owen. If he had, and knew of Sir Owen�s propensity for this sort of thing, the evidence would certainly have been destroyed.�

�I am afraid that doesn�t help us,� Driscoll interjected. As far as I have been able to determine, Sir Owen had never met any of these gentlemen before.�

�No matter,� replied Holmes, for though I too, have never met the killer, I believe I know his name.� See if you can come to the same conclusion I did.�

I now examined the orders more closely. They were:

Fleet Adriatic Sea-
Fleet Gulf of Lyon-
Fleet Ionian Sea-
Fleet Marseilles-
Fleet Naples-
Fleet Piedmont-
Fleet Rome-
Fleet Tuscany-
Fleet Venice-

I went to the board table and removed all the pieces, replacing them with long, black, wooden billets, as specified in the orders, and sat down, contemplating the board.



I stared for several minutes, but absolutely nothing came to me. I threw my hands up in defeat, turned to Holmes, and said �there is nothing here that points us in the direction of the killer.�

�On the contrary, my good Doctor,� Holmes replied. �That is exactly what these orders do.�

Can you determine who Sir Owen's killer was from Sir Owen's order set riddle? Draw your conclusion, and mail your answer to The Pouch.

  -- Dr. John H. Watson
via David E. Cohen
([email protected])

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