The Black Riddle

By Paul Howls

Families have their stories that have been handed down from generation to generation. Most are myth, but some have the vein of truth. Was the Riddle of the Black Falcon true? And if so, would someone kill for the solution?

"Friends" Dr. Black began as he looked around the Lounge of Tudor Close at his six closest companions "I have something very exciting to tell you all."
"That makes a change" Mrs. Peacock muttered sarcastically under her breath.
"I have a story to tell you all - a story that was told to me by my father, who was told it by his father, who was told it …"
"Is this the one about the Nun and the Bishop" Miss Scarlett interrupted, fearing that they would be there for a long time.

Dr. Black gave her a look of reproach from over the top of his spectacles. He liked Miss Scarlett very much, but she could try his patience sometimes.
"No Vivienne, this is about a priceless family heirloom that is hidden somewhere in this house."

"Ooo! I remember this one." Mrs. White piped up, sitting on the edge of her seat. "The Black Falcon. An ebony statuette with blue sapphire stones for eyes and claws made of diamond!"

"Well remembered Blanche; and yes, that is the tale I am referring to. The Black Falcon was in the Black family for centuries. It is even pictured here in the portrait of Edward Black" he pointed to the large painting that hung over the fireplace.

"Wasn't it that Edward Black fellow that supposedly hid the statuette during The Reformation?" Mustard questioned.

"Correct. A sad time for the Black family; and also the time when this house changed it's name to Tudor Close. Anyway, to cut a long story short …"
"Too late! Oh sorry David, did I say that out loud?" Professor Plum smirked.
"To cut a long story short" Black continued "I have discovered that Edward Black left clues in the rooms of this house as to where the falcon is hidden. And I'll show you one now."
Suddenly, with both hands, Black pulled the large painting down from the wall and threw it to the ground.

"David! What are you doing? Have you gone mad?!" Reverend Green was appalled at his behaviour.

Black ignored him and grabbed the dagger that was lying on the Lounge table and proceeded to pry the back off the painting. With a loud crack, the back splintered off, revealing the bare canvas back. Bare that is, apart from five words scrawled across it's surface: "The Falcon you will find".

A murmur went around the room. Could it be true? Could that antique be hidden somewhere in the house? With all those jewels…?

Black subconsciously put the dagger in his jacket pocked while he waited for the murmurs to die down before continuing. "I have found several similar clues like this one around the house and I would very much appreciate it if you, my dear friends, would help me look for the remaining few."

Cries of "Of course" and "We'll do our best" came from the guests. Little did Black realise that their enthusiasm was because they all wanted to get their hands on the falcon first.

"Do you really think that the story may be true?" Mrs. White asked the reverend as she made him a cup of tea in the Kitchen.
"You never know. I was a close friend of David's father and he always believed the story to be true as well."
"Can you imagine what that statuette could be worth? A fortune! No more cooking, no more cleaning…"
"No more services to plan, no more confession to hear …" the reverend agreed.

The two guests were momentarily lost in their thoughts; it took the whistling of the kettle to bring them round. Mrs. White took the kettle off the stove and put it on a table next to one of the windows, ready to pour the teas.

"So there is supposed to be a clue hidden in every room. Correct?" Mrs. White questioned.
"Apparently so."
"So there should be one somewhere in this room." Mrs White started to pick up the kettle and almost dropped it in shock. "Reverend, look!"

Reverend Green came over to where she was standing and looked at the pane of glass she was pointing to. At the bottom of the pane, was a message just legible in the steam from the kettle. "Is Hidden inside". They looked at each other. So the tale could be true …

"I say it's all poppycock" Mustard told Black as he hit a billiard ball across the table.
"Michael, I know that you can be cynical sometime" Black objected, "but look at all the evidence. The story that has been passed down from generation to generation; the picture of Edward Black with the statuette; the entries in the some of the family books in the library; and now these clues finally being found about the house." Black lent over the table to make his shot and did not notice something heavy fall out of his pocket.
"I'd like to take a look at those books if I may?" the professor requested.
"Of course you may Peter. Any time you wish. They are on the top shelf of the bookcase closest to the window."

"I still think it's poppycock" the colonel barked as Professor Plum started to leave the room. He took his next shot and due to his frustration, he stuck the ball too hard. The ball flew off the table, narrowly missed both Dr. Black and Professor Plum's heads; and struck a vase that stood next to the door, smashing it into pieces.

"Arrgh!" Black cried. "That vase has been standing in this room for centuries. It's a family heirloom." The doctor's face went pale with shock. He looked like he was going to be ill. Then suddenly a smile stared to grow on his face. He leant down and picked up a shard of the vase. "Look! It's one of the remaining clues!"

The other two men gathered round him.
"What does it say?" Plum asked eagerly.
Reading aloud, Black quoted "The Room does conceal the".

In the Dining Room, Mrs. Peacock and Miss Scarlett were also discussing the Black Falcon.
"I don't believe a word of it" Miss Scarlett was telling her stepmother. "I mean, it couldn't possibly be true - could it?"
"David has been researching this story for years and he seems to believe it is."
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were true. It must be beautiful - the sapphires, the diamonds…"
"It would be worth a fortune."
"A fortune." Miss Scarlett agreed as she played with a candlestick on the mantelpiece and thought of what she might do with all that money.

In her absentmindedness, Miss Scarlett accidentally knocked the candlestick over, along with the lit candle in it. "Aargh!" she screamed as the candle wax narrowly avoided spilling on her and spread on the mantelpiece instead.

"Vivienne!" Mrs. Peacock said as she jumped up from her seat at the table "Are you alright?"
"Err… Yes, thank you mother. But look…" She pointed to where the wax had started to harden. There on the mantelpiece, the wax had started to form letters in the grooves: "Bla". The two women looked at each other, slightly stunned.

"Do you think …?" Miss Scarlett began. Without replying, Mrs. Peacock picked up the candlestick and started to pour more wax onto the ledge. Slowly the rest of the words started to appear: "Black Is the colour it".

"Good grief" Mrs. Peacock exclaimed. "We should tell David immediately." Leaving the candlestick on the dining room table, she left to find Dr. Black.

Miss Scarlett looked at the words in front of her and thought of all those jewels.

The Reverend Green opened the door to the Library and found Professor Plum inside, his head buried in a pile of books.

"What are you looking at Peter?" the reverend asked.
"It's extraordinary!" Plum exclaimed. "I've found diaries written by Edward Black and his descendants. Many of them talk about the falcon as being real and hidden somewhere in this house. I really think that David could be right. Look here."

Plum ushered for the reverend to look in the book that was sitting in front of him.

"One of the last diaries of Edward Black. He tells of splitting a riddle up into nine parts and hiding the parts in each downstairs room of the house. By putting the nine phases in a logical order and then reading them in a certain way, you will discover where the statuette is resting."
"Fascinating." Green sounded impressed. He quickly tried to hide the look of greed from the professor as he continued.
"And here, in a book he knew would remain in the library, he wrote one of the clues. Though he wrote it in code: 'Ahqc Sgzs xnt gzud vnjdm'. It's a very simple code; I was just decoding it as you came in. The first word is 'Bird'."
"Remarkable! Don't let me stop you, keep going."

Reverend Green pulled up a chair and the two men continued working at the puzzle together.

"Thank you Elizabeth" Dr. Black smiled across his desk at Mrs. Peacock, who had just told him of the message she had found in the dining room. "I'm so close to discovering the secret."
"What are you still missing?" Mrs. Peacock asked, hoping to discover a bit more information for herself.
"With the clue that we found in the billiard room and the one you have just told me, I'm now only missing one more clue. The last one is hidden somewhere in this room."
"So you know all the other eight pieces? What are they?"

Dr. Black suddenly realised that Mrs. Peacock was showing rather too much interest in his search. "I'd rather not say if you don't mind Elizabeth. Why don't you go and relax in the Lounge. I'll come and tell you all the solution when I finally have the falcon in my hands. I can feel that it's close to being resolved."

Mrs. Peacock had to struggle to hide her annoyance. She simply replied "Very well" and promptly left the room.

Dr. Black took his revolver out of his desk drawer. How stupid he had been. Telling all of his friends about his priceless heirloom. He knew what they were like. If any of them found out where it was first, they would steal it. He had to find it first.

Deep in thought, he started to twist the revolver in his hands. Suddenly, with a loud bang, the revolver fired and a bullet shot across the room. Startled, Dr. Black put his gun down and took a deep breath. He walked over to the opposite side of the room to see what damage he had done. Looking closely at the wall he discovered one of the wooden panels had a hole through it; but had also been dislodged from the wall. "Strange" Dr. Black said to himself "these panels should be more secure than that. Carefully he pulled out the panel and turned it over. He started laughing to himself. There, on the back was the last clue he was looking for. This one was slightly different to all of the rest. It said: "On Rolls of paper the secret you shall discover".

He took the panel over to his desk and sat down. Now what was the solution?

In the Ballroom, the gunshot that rang around the house interrupted Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlett's embrace. In his surprise, Mustard pulled the rope tie-back from the curtains.

"What was that?" Miss Scarlett said, startled.
"Probably just Black playing with his guns again." Mustard replied as he twisted the rope around his hands.
"Hopefully he'll accidentally shoot himself. That way the falcon can be left to us!"
"Vivienne! That's a bit heartless isn't it?"

Miss Scarlett pulled away from him and started to tidy herself in one of the large mirrors that hung on the Ballroom wall. "I'm sorry Michael, but think what we could do with all that money. That statuette must be worth a fortune."
"I agree, we could definitely use the money."
"I'm sure that we could find the rest of the clues if we put our minds to it…" she paused.
"What is it?" Mustard inquired after Miss Scarlett had not said anything of a few moments.

Miss Scarlett turned around, grinning from ear to ear. "I've just found another one! Look!"

Colonel Mustard put the rope down, walked over to her and looked in the mirror. After a few moments of trying to see what she was pointing to, he finally worked it out. In the mirror he could see the large black piano that stood in the middle of the room. An ancient old thing, that surprisingly still sounded beautiful when played. Along the edge of the piano was a pattern in gold leaf, which normally looked like intricate swirls. But now, looking carefully at the pattern reversed in the mirror, he slowly started to make out words.

"By Jove!" He exclaimed "You're right. 'Locked In the drawer'. What does that mean?"
"I don't know. But I'm going to find out. Wait here." Miss Scarlett kissed him on the cheek and left the room.

Dr. Black burst out of the Study and passed Mrs. White and Mrs. Peacock who were chatting in the Hall.

"He looks in a good mood" Mrs. Peacock commented.
"I don't know why" Mrs. White replied "look at the dust in this place!" Mrs. White ran her finger over the top of the Hall clock and revealed it coated in dust. "What his maids are thinking I don't know!"
"We would never have any dust at Arlington Grange would we Blanche?" Mrs. Peacock tried to conceal a grin.
"Never! Not so long as I'm housekeeper."

Mrs. White pulled a duster out of her pocket and started to wipe down the clock.

"What do you think of all of this Black Falcon business Blanche?" Mrs. Peacock asked.
"Well, I thought that it was probably a load of nonsense" Mrs. White started to say as she noticed Miss Scarlett go into the Study "but then Reverend Green and I found one of the clues in the Kitchen!"
"Oh really?" Mrs. Peacock was eager for Mrs. White to explain exactly what she had read; but Mrs. White was busy polishing away at the clock.

"Look at the grime on this thing. It looks like it hasn't been cleaned in centuries." Mrs. White put her hand in her other pocket, pulled out a spanner saying "I knew this would come in useful"; and with a lot of effort managed to undo a bolt that was keeping the front of the clock closed. Putting the spanner down, she pulled the front open.

Mrs. Peacock suddenly gasped. "Blanche look!"
The two women peered inside the clock and clearly read the writing that they were starting to recognise. The handwriting of Edward Black scrawled across the back of the clock in the words "Win The race and".

Mrs. White turned to Mrs. Peacock. "Another one. Do you think we should tell Dr. Black?"
Mrs Peacock shook her head. "No. David must have already opened the clock - he said that he had all of the clues bar the one in the study."
"Oh really?" Mrs. White sounded very interested. "Why don't we go to the Lounge and compare notes."

In the Conservatory, Reverend Green stood staring at the wall just inside the secret passage. He's found it!

He had been standing in the conservatory, tapping a piece of lead piping in his hands, trying to figure out where the riddle for this room had been hidden; when he had remembered the secret passage that led to the Lounge. After twisting the lever that opened the concealed door, he had realised that it was too dark to see a thing; so he had gone to get the candlestick from the Dining Room.

Now, in the glow of the candlelight he could just make out the handwriting. "That The key does not open".

He smiled to himself. David's parents would be proud of him. But what to do next? Slowly he wandered through the secret passage; thoughts rushing through his head.

In the Lounge, most of the guests had gathered.

"I wonder what has happened to Dr. Black" Miss Scarlett pondered.
"Yes, he told me he would meet us all back in the lounge" Mrs. Peacock said with a frown on her face "but it's been about fifteen minutes since he passed us in the Hall."
"Yes" Mrs. White agreed.
"Well I think it's downright rude keeping us waiting" Colonel Mustard grunted "What do you think Professor?"

Professor Plum looked up from the book he had brought with him from the Library. "What? Oh, yes, I agree."

Miss Scarlett rolled her eyes at the Professor and then heard a creak coming from near the fireplace. Slowly the secret passage swung open, revealing a dusty reverend lit only by a candle.

"Oh, hello." The reverend looked surprised to see everyone else staring at him. "I, err… wandered along the passage."
"Have you seen Dr. Black on your travels?" Mrs. Peacock asked.
"Sorry no."

"Well I'm fed up of waiting" Mustard moaned "I say we go and find him."
"Yes, I want to know how his hunting is going" Miss Scarlett said, leading the guests out of the room.

Passing the Hall, it was obvious that he wasn't there. Then she noticed the door to the cellar was ajar. For some reason a chill went down her spine and she walked over to the door. Swinging the door open, she looked down the staircase. At the bottom of the stairs, lit by the light through the door, was the body of Dr. David Black.


Dr. David Black has been murdered. Miss Scarlett discovered his body at the bottom of the cellar stairs (marked with an ‘X’ on the map).

Inspector Grey has been sent in to discover which of the six guests at the house that night killed him. But, he's having problems and needs your help.

By clicking on the suspects’ pictures to the left, you can read their answers to the questions that Inspector Grey has posed them.

Click on the Weapons icon (top left) to see where the possible weapons were discovered and where they are usually kept.

Click on the Map icon (top right) to see the layout of Tudor Close.
NOTE: This will open as a separate window so that you can refer to it whenever you want.

Click on the "Murder Cards" icon to make a suggestion as to Whodunnit, with What and Where. You will then be told how many you guessed correctly. Try and do this as few times as possible.

Click on the Book icon to bring you back to this story.

Click on the central "Cluedo" icon (or on the link below) to take you back to the main page.

Try to solve the mystery by reading as few of the testimonies as you can before you make a suggestion. If you get it wrong, go back to the testimonies and read a little more.

HINT: Cluedo is a game of deduction. Any of the six suspects at the house that night could be the killer. Try to work out who could have possibly done it, what weapons they had access to and where they (and Dr. Black) could have gone. All movements should be supported by the story, the testimonies or the items that people picked up during the evening.

Also, the locations of the weapons will help you invaluably. Try to work out how they got to where they ended up.

In this mystery, one of the main puzzles for you to solve is that of the Riddle of the Black Falcon. Solve that and you can work out where Dr. Black was going.

If you get REALLY stuck, there are more hints through the "Murder Cards" section - but please try not to use them.


© Paul Howls, 2000


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