Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Between the Lions

Written by Joe Pranevich



Welcome back! I hope you got your score guesses in because it is time to dive into the first case. Just as in the previous game, we have three cases to choose from; while we can play them in any order, I’m going to take them sequentially as I expect the authors intended. While I have nothing to show for it yet, I have reached out to some of the team responsible for this game to answer some lingering questions that I have, and possibly even to get an interview. We’ll be playing for roughly seven more weeks and I’d like to try to see what we can learn before the end. We shall see!

The first case is “The Two Lions”. The original tabletop game featured this as the third case, called “The Lionized Lions”, but beyond the similar title I have not looked to see if there are any differences as I am avoiding spoilers. Unlike many of the previous cases, there is only a cursory introductory movie: just a single still image of a note on our door, telling us that something will interest us in the day’s Times. Who put the note on our door? What might we find to be of interest? How will we get paid for a case of “ding dong dash”? I guess that is what we need to discover.

Least useful introductory movie ever.

With no clue other than “look in the paper”, I’m not sure what I am supposed to be looking at. I start reading at the beginning of the paper with the death of an ambassador and a fire in New York City, before realizing that I need to pay more attention to the date. The note to Holmes was dated August 17, 1888 so I need to read the correct issue! I will get nowhere if I don’t pay attention to the details.

Scouring the Times, I find several lion-related articles may be connected:
  • Two lions have been shot dead at Hyde Park. The article says that a motive is as yet unknown, although the crime is still being investigated by a constable and Scotland Yard.
  • “Roy Slade’s Wild African Extravaganza” opens tonight. It includes hores, lions, elephants, and other animals. Shows are twice daily at Hengler’s Circus. Mr. O’Neill (no first name given) is the lion tamer.
  • Barry O’Neill, the lion tamer for Roy Slade’s circus, was injured on the London docks while material for the circus was being unloaded. He will not be able to perform tonight, although Mr. Slade reassures the reader that the circus will still be exciting without their top act.
Oh, crud. Will this be my third game in a row (after Ballyhoo and Batman Returns) to feature evil circus performers?

Just from these articles alone, we can sketch out a scenario: the circus has come into town. Animals were being unloaded at the docks and something happened that caused O’Neill to be injured and the lions to escape into the city. Sometime later, they were killed. Possibly self-defense? Or perhaps someone wanted to kill the lions at the docks and O’Neill got in the way? It’s strange that the Times doesn’t connect these two events, but we’re smarter than that, right?

Now comes the hard part because I need to decide where I want to invest my time. Remember that this game rewards you for solving the mystery with the fewest number of leads, so I am supposed to pick carefully. I have a few ideas to track down:
  • I could go to Hyde Park to see the place where the lions were shot, perhaps even see the lions if their bodies are still there.
  • I could investigate the docks where O’Neill was injured
  • I could locate O’Neill himself to get a first-hand account of his accident and how the lions are connected
  • I could interview Roy Slade about his lion tamer
  • Or, I could go to the circus itself to either see the act or interview other acts
Since there are no “docks” or “London docks” in the address book, option #2 is right out. I’ll try #3 instead to get a first-hand account from Mr. O’Neill. I visit his house, but he is not home. Is he at one of the hospitals I try Hyde Park next, but that is also a dead end since the scene of the crime has already been cleaned up. Two attempts and two failures. I guess I got a little rusty with this game!


Innocents Abroad

WIth three avenues of exploration down, I head to the circus. Roy Slade dresses and talks like a stereotypical cowboy, complete with a Stetson hat and cigar. Holmes tells him that we are investigating the death of the lions and the man professes to be shocked that something like this could happen “in the capital city of the civilized world”. He informs us that Barry owns the lions himself and that he’s currently recuperating in St. Thomas Hospital. A crate fell on him while he was unloading the circus equipment from the ship. It’s going to take him some time to heal from that. Slade also tells us that the lions themselves were far from tame. O’Neill captured them in Africa with “his own two hands” and they could kill anyone that came near. Only Barry’s wife, another circus performer, can go near the lions without becoming a snack. She’s staying in town with her in-laws.

There are some good leads here! I should probably head to O’Neill’s hospital room next, but there are some great details here about his wife and the animals’ disposition. Someone might have had to kill them in self-defense after all. Let’s head to the hospital!


It’s but a scratch!

O’Neill is laid up in his hospital bed with a cast on one foot. He speaks with a stereotypical Irish accent. He lets Watson know that the lions were named “Lenny” and “Bruce” and he seems quite attached to them. Watson chooses not to ask him about his accident at the docks, so we are no closer to understanding that incident. Are we to assume that was just an accident rather than someone pushing a crate down on the guy? I don’t buy it for a moment. Ultimately, this is a waste of time. O’Neill tells us nothing useful and we don’t have any more leads for who to talk to next.

The names of the lions might refer to “Lenny Bruce”, am influential American comedian of the mid-20th century. He was convicted of “obscenity” in 1964 which is enough of a reason for me to want to track him down. Of course, he lived nearly a hundred years after when this case supposedly happened but it’s a nice little homage.


Acting!

Figuring out where Barry’s wife is staying turns out to be a small exercise in deduction in itself. There are five O’Neills in the London directory, including Barry. With four others to choose from, I don’t want to pick the wrong one or else I will lose points. Roy Slade said that Mrs. O’Neill was staying with her husband’s “parents”, plural. There’s only one woman on the list, Carroll O’Neill, and so I pick her. Score! Except, I’m completely wrong and “Carroll” is Barry’s father’s name, not his mother. Barry’s mother is shocked that after visiting many dangerous areas abroad, Barry’s lions were killed in his hometown. Is that a coincidence? Barry’s wife seems happy to be home. They have been traveling all five years of their marriage and she wants him to settle down. His mother agrees; they should raise a family! No mention is made of Barry’s wife’s job in the circus or why she isn’t there now...

Barry’s mother also talks briefly about her other son, Barry’s brother. Thomas O’Neill was last seen in Oldenberg, Germany. Holmes remarks that the circus had recently visited Germany and asks if Barry’s wife saw her brother-in-law while there, but she says no. She says that Barry might have spoken to his brother, but they don’t talk much. Thomas had loaned Barry money years ago while he was trying to build his show and Thomas feels that Barry is “forever in his debt”.

Some good stuff here! Could Barry have visited his brother in Germany? What if Thomas asked to be repaid for a back debt, Barry refused, and now Thomas arranged a hit on his brother’s prized lions? That seems like a bit of a stretch, especially as killing the lions would make it more difficult for Barry to repay whatever debt was owed. It doesn’t seem likely that Thomas would push a crate down on his brother either. Barry’s wife has a motive since she wants to settle down; killing the lions might be the only way for him to get a real job and start bonking his wife on the regular so they can have a family.

Unfortunately, chasing down the German lead doesn’t seem promising. The Germany Embassy has nothing to say. Henry Ellis, the international news reporter, is also away. I hate to do this… but do I need to turn to Scotland Yard for help?


That is an unholy shade of blue.

I head to our frenemy, Inspector Lestrade. And… this is very weird… Watson asks him about a completely different case. Watson asks him about the “mysterious deaths in the southeast”. Lestrade says that the mystery is solved and the culprits are in Old Bailey and the victim's body is at Barnes.

Watson changes the subject to the matter at hand and Lestrade provides new details: the two lions were shot multiple times and were found lying on top of each other. Wagon tracks led away from the bodies with two sets of boot prints in the grass, both entering and exiting from the wagons. The wagon was found abandoned in Archbishop’s Park; it is now at Central Carriage so the police could at least take care of the horses. Why would someone abandon the horses? Scotland Yard has no idea of the motives for the murder of the lions.

What can we learn from all that? If the lions were on top of each other, my guess is that they were not in an aggressive posture. This seems to rule out self-defense. Somehow, someone drove the wagon to the park, entered it with an accomplice, killed the lions, and then what? Dumped them out and drove away? Only to abandon the carriage later? Or were the lions let out first? It’s difficult to know the order from Lestrade’s details. We may have to learn more as we go.


They kept the horses attached?

I send Holmes and Watson to the Carriage House next to look more closely at the stolen wagon. This is moderately disappointing as the on-location footage couldn’t quite spring for a wagon and horses. Instead, Holmes narrates next to a sepia-toned picture. The wagon was specially designed with a cage for the lions, as expected, although the door was wide open. The padlock has been opened, not broken, suggesting that someone knew the combination or had the key, depending on what kind of lock it was. Blood was all over the floor as well as on the stairs. In the corner of the cage were two leather collars, each one containing an empty pouch.

My intuition suggests that the lions were killed in the cage; they could have been killed anywhere in the city and dragged to the park. The two collars must have contained something valuable, but we don’t know if the lions were dead or alive when they were removed. (The presence of blood on the collar would tell us, but no one has answered that question yet.) Why would someone store anything on a lion’s collar anyway? I’m not sure what to make of it. Robbery might be the motive, but we need to learn what was in the collars. I wish we could interview O’Neill on this subject! Alas, the game is not stateful enough for that.


The game is “better” lit than the previous one, but it exposes flaws in the backgrounds.

I head back to Scotland Yard for a talk with Sir Jasper Meek, the medical examiner. Maybe he looked at the lions? But… no! Watson asks him about “the dead chap they found on St. George’s Road” instead. Seriously? Have I been researching the wrong case this whole time? He believes that the man was poisoned with something that affects the respiratory system. His lips and fingers had turned blue before death, but his eyes had a distinctive yellow tint. He says that the poison must be “exotic” since he has never seen it before.

I clearly missed something big so I search the Times again. There was one more article about lions, except it is about “Steven Lions”, a dead man found in Southwark. He was a first officer in Aberdeen Shipping Company, last seen in the presence of two women and a man. The motive might be robbery since all of his jewelry, including gold earrings, had been taken. All three suspects were later identified and brought in. Other than the coincidental name, how is this related to our case? Could he have been the First Officer of the ship that transported the lions? Is this a false lead? Let’s investigate and see what we find.


It’s 19th century FedEx.

I speak first to Mr. Riesen, Lions’s boss at the shipping company. He has been the first officer on a ship for two years, there have been irregularities in his paperwork plus numerous thefts of onboard items, even ones that are securely behind locked doors. Even worse, Riesen discovered that Lions was ferrying secret cargo on his voyages and being paid for it directly: horse collars, French perfume, and even gems. He’s a smuggler! It also turns out that the most recent location for Lions’s ship was on the Rhine.

Lions wasn’t exactly a model citizen, but I fail to see how it connects to our case. He was in Germany, but Oldenberg isn’t on the Rhine and so the obvious connection to Thomas O’Neill isn’t there. He could have been smuggling animals for the circus, but we don’t have evidence of that yet. When I spoke to Lestrade earlier, he suggested that the three arrested people were in Old Bailey. Let’s head there next.



At the courthouse, I learn that the three people he was last seen with were Sylvia Carpenter, Marcy Edwards, and Collier Eddy at the Red Bull Inn. Holmes requests to interview the suspects directly and we are taken to an interrogation room and delivered the prisoners one by one:
  • Ms. Carpenter says that she has nothing to do with this death. She claims to not know Mr. Lions, but she was taking him back to “Marcy’s place”. En route to some sexual misadventure, he starts gasping for air. She panicked and ran and didn’t tell the police. 
  • The second woman is Marcy Edwards. She tells Holmes that Lions dropped over “dead as a doornail”. Holmes accuses her of collaborating on her story with Ms. Carpenter, but she says that if they say the same things it is only because they are true. She admits that she stole from him once he was dead, but she didn’t kill him.
  • The man says that he was just out for a good time that night, but he took the opportunity to rob Mr. Lions once he was dead. 
The interesting thing is that Carpenter and Edwards seem to have worked on their stories together, but that both Edwards and Eddy claim to have robbed the body. They couldn’t both have done it, right? That makes Marcy Edwards pretty suspicious, but there’s nothing to tie her to anything.


They neglected to hire a landlady, so Watson just relays.

We head to the late Mr. Lions’s place and talk to his landlady. He owed her for back rent, but she claims that he expected a windfall soon, so much so that he could pay his back rent and a few months more. She expected to get the money on Tuesday. It’s presently Friday in game-time, so that isn’t too long from now. Was he involved in a heist that went sideways? Was there something else going to happen this weekend? Incidentally, the game can’t seem to decide if he is Stephen Lions or Lyons. Not a huge deal, but it confused me for a moment when I couldn’t look him up in the directory.

I need to research what his big score would have been. The ladies haven’t been much help, so I head to the tavern instead. The tavern keeper says that he was a navigator on the S. S. Trueheart, which we already knew. Even better, he tells me the order of events the previous evening:
  • Lions came in with a red-headed person. They had one drink together and his companion left.
  • Lions then drank with Wally Sharp, a regular customer of the tavern. 
  • Once Sharp left, Lions talks with the women: Sylvia Carpenter and Mary Edwards. They were sitting with one of their “regular customers”, Collier Eddy.
  • Lions was unusually drunk when he approached the women, even though he did not have much to drink. This was unusual for him because he was usually able to better handle his alcoho
  • He and his three new companions left after a little while.

This gives me quite a lot to chew on and I think I’m going to pause this session here. My theories:
  • The two circus lions were shot in their cages by someone that wanted access to their little pouches. What was in them? I have no idea. It wasn’t O’Neill’s wife because the lions trusted her and they wouldn’t have needed to be shot. It may have something to do with O’Neill’s brother in Germany, but there’s no clear motive. I bet if we knew what was in the pouches, that would shed some light on the case.
  • Stephen Lions was poisoned by either the red-headed man or Wally Sharp. The poison caused his drunken appearance, but he was soon dead. My guess is the red-headed man, but we lack a name or a motive. Perhaps someone killed him to prevent him from cashing in on his big score?
The nature of the game suggests that these cases are related, but I struggle to see how. Lions may have been a thief and could have been involved in the murder of the animals, but there’s no link that suggests that beyond the interesting coincidence of names.

What do you think? No spoilers if you know the answer, but can you piece together these clues any better than I did? The solution will come next week!

Time Played: 1 hr 20 min



Graphics Comparison

I wasn’t expecting to have much to say about improvements since the previous game, but I have spotted a few differences. One pops up right away: the lighting is different in the sequel, although I am uncertain if it is “better”. Many of the scenes in the first game were difficult to see thanks to a layer of grease that always seemed to be on the lens. I remember having a bowl be a key clue for one of the cases, but we could barely see it! This time around, scenes are brighter but they also make the flat backdrops more obvious.

For example, here is the first game when we would talk to the medical examiner:



It’s difficult to tell where Jasper’s face ands and the stairway begins.

A similar scene in this case is much brighter. Watson and Meek are clearly visible, although now they seem to hover above the backdrop:


In Volume II, this and other scenes are much brighter.

I’m curious… did the first game use more on-location shots while the second used more painted backgrounds? The stairway changed perspective between the two games, but otherwise the location is the same. It can’t just be green screen unless they have two versions of the same location. I have no idea. If you happen to be an expert in video production, I’d be happy for an answer! I’ve also noticed what appears to be a post-production error: Lestrade’s office scene has a very bright blue background through the window. I can’t imagine that 19th century London was so bright! My guess is a composition error, but again I have no idea.

Thus far, I am having fun! Tune in next week for our shocking conclusion. I’m crossing my fingers for evil circus performers so that I can get a hattrick.

9 comments:

  1. They are all part of an elaborate smuggling ring, using the lions' pouches to smuggle jewels or drugs. The liontamer wanted out but Lions wasn't having it.

    Even better, the redheaded head of the smuggling ring had the lion tamer taken out, then poisons Lions the killer of lions!

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  2. The names of the lions might refer to “Lenny Bruce”, an influential American comedian of the mid-20th century.

    *cues up "It's the End of the World As We Know It"*

    Except, I’m completely wrong and “Carroll” is Barry’s father’s name

    I think this spelling is more usual for men (cf. Carroll O'Connor of All in the Family) and Carol for women.

    Besides that, I don't know if the developers paid attention to this kind of thing, but I would think that at the time of Holmes married women (including widows) would not be listed in the directory with their own given names. Even quite recently "Mrs. John Smith" and the like was quite common. (Less than 10 years ago I had to ask my husband's grandmother to use both our names on cards addressed to us, and not just "Mr. and Mrs. [his name].")

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  3. Lenny Bruce also appears as a secondary character in the TV series "The Marvelous Mrs Maisel", during which he delivers one of the funniest lines that I remember from recent years:

    Lenny Bruce (after being asked if he likes doing comedy):
    Well, I've been doing it awhile. Ok, let's put it like this: if there was anything else in the entire world that I could possibly do to earn a living, I would. Anything! I'm talking dry cleaners to the Klan, crippled kid portrait painters, slaughterhouse attendant. If someone said to me, "Leonard, you can either eat a guy's head, or do two weeks at the Copa," I'd say "Pass the fucking salt." It's a terrible, terrible job. It should not exist. Like cancer. And God.

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  4. I am going to propose that it was the lions that wanted out of the smuggling business. They poisoned the lion-tamer, but after seeing his recent emotional reunification with his brother couldn't live with the guilt and died in a suicide pact. They paid the ladies with the contraband to deliver their bodies to Hyde Park, wanting to be buried in their favourite spot in London.

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    Replies
    1. That makes total sense.

      Delete
    2. You win! I had no idea there was a contest, but whatever it was, you won!

      Delete
    3. That should have been the true solution.

      Delete
  5. I think they probably had less of a budget for this game. I don't really have anything to base this on. It just feels like less money was spent on it. I got the DVD rerelease of the first game, and while it isn't exactly a 1950s big budget costume drama, with the decent resolution it just looks like a low-budget television show. Now that I think of it, throw in a dog, and it would be.
    I do have to say, that I think in the first game, they had that location for real, (it at least looked like they were there) and were thusly able to set up the lighting the way they wanted, and here they just took a picture quickly for a green screen for budget extending.

    ReplyDelete