After three years of living in State College without the university, I accepted an assistantship with the department
of political science. I figured I had a better chance to get into teaching this way. Outside of my cases, I had
no real career. Anyway, I returned to Wilkes-Barre for the holidays, and a reunion with my friends. Soon Keith
and I were buddying around (male bonding) in Wilkes-Barre. It was just after New Year's, Saturday the Second, when Joe,
Keith and I arrived at my house.
"George, you had a call from the Poconos," my mother intoned as we climbed the front steps.
"The Poconos?" Joe frowned. "Whom do you know there?"
"No one that I know of," I mused. "What's the number?"
I removed my vest and denim jacket as I dialed the number. A man's voice answered.
"Hello. I'm trying to reach Troy Fedora."
"Speaking. What's this about?"
"I'm George Krol, returning your message."
The voice ascended. "I'm glad I could reach you. The State College police gave me your number.
I'm the chief state inspector here, investigating a mystery. I surely could use your help. The commonwealth (of
Pennsylvania) would be quite generous."
"How'd you guys like to go on an adventure?" I asked aside.
"Where?" Keith chimed excitedly.
"Where is this mystery?" I repeated into the telephone with bated breath.
"Have you ever heard of a place called Damiment?"
I felt my eyebrows rise.
"My high-school senior class-trip was there in 1975!"
"Good. I'll give you directions. We would like you to get here today. Are you coming alone?"
"No," I winked at my companions. "There will be three of us. These two have benn quite helpful in other cases."
"Fine. I hope that you will expedite matters. Governor Casey considers this case a high priority."
(Note: Pennsylvania in 1988)
"This case is high priority, guys," I announced when I hung up the phone.
That Sunday morning (3 January) my Renault struggled up the Pocono Mountains. Keith and Joe giggled a few times
when I had to downshift to third, then to second. Nonetheless, it was still forenoon when we arrived.
Fedora was waiting for us. His luxurious curls topped a form of about 1.86 m. He immediately greeted us.
"Glad you got here so quickly. Who's the group with you?" he smiled at us.
"Joe Tunn and Keith Cahill."
After exchanging handshakes, Troy motioned us inside to a coffeeshop We each perfunctorily ordered a two-cup Expresso,
about 500 ml each. Troy expressed some stress as he told us the case.
"We have a murder mystery on our hands. I knew the victim well, a fellow state investigator. We found the
corpse on a slope on New Year's.
"The coroner was uncertain about the cause of death. He thought it was a heart attack, but the autopsy showed that
the victim was brain-dead at the time his heart stopped."
"Weird," Joe muttered. "I know of no poisons which would work that way."
"Well, there was a fellow from the physiology department from Penn State, who had, er, an unusual theory."
"What was that?" Keith asked earnestly.
"He said that death had occurred through something called 'orthostatic syncope'."
"Did you check the wrists and ankles?" I gulped.
"Wait a minute!" blurted Troy. "Do you mean you buy this guy's story?"
"No," I assuaged. "I mean that you should check every lead, especially if the coroner couldn't pinpoint the cause
of death. Besides, didn't you say it was murder? I hardly think that a heart attack be murder."
"You were really close to this guy," Keith surmised. "We're here to prove it's murder, and to solve the mystery.
What was he investigating?"
"We've had tips about a burglary ring here," Troy answered without composure. "Neil was onto something -- I just know
"Well, then we're here to test your intuition," Joe added. "Could you show us the corpse and where you found the body?"
When we looked at the body of the investigator, we saw a curlpate in his mid-twenties, about 1.70
m, and irritation in the lower limbs. I asked Troy the name of the physiologist who had made the diagnosis.
"So, you think this guy's correct. His name's George Verdigris, at Room 217."
"I'll join you at the site of the discovery later. I want to talk with this chap. Before
I go, I want to know the location, of course."
"George, you must control your impulse," Keith laughed. "I'd better come along"
After Troy game me the location and the directions, Keith and I strolled into the motel area of the
"Do you think we're going to disturb this guy?" Keith wondered. "I know it's noon, but he might
"We'll offer our apologies, but I want to know how he correctly knew the cause of death. No
coroner would guess orthostatic syncope."
Keith's hazel eyes dilated. "So you found out that Verdigris was correct!"
"Right, little buddy. Now I want to find out his motive for revealing it."
I knocked on the door of the room thrice. A flick of the wrist unlatched the door. A
heuristic experience greeted us. There had been some struggle in the room; furniture lay scattered around the room.
Near the bed I could see a left arm protrude into my view. We found George Verdigris lying supinely besides the bed.
I knelt and felt for a pulse. No pulse throbbed in the left wrist of the blond curlpate. I shook my head.
"It's inchoating a bad year for curly guys in their mid-twenties," I philosophized.
"I received your call just before Joe and I reached the spot," Troy stormed into the room, his rosy
"From the position of the body, I'd say they knocked him unconscious after some struggle. Look
at the muscles on him! Of course, I would expect a physologist to stay in such shape!"
"What's the cause of death?" Troy asked my staring at the comely corpse.
"I'd say strangulation. I felt a broken trachea after I was sure he was dead. From the
ribs on his neck, I'd guess some scarflike material. Unfortunately, this incident did not just cost a bystander his
life; it complicates the mystery."
"George, how do you know that Verdigris wasn't part of the burglary ring?"
"Joe, look around. This guy was living like a graduate teaching assistant. I'll bet he
was driving some wornout used car!"
Author's note: Of course, I was joking about my current situation. Some of my students
actually read this story. Unfortunately, it was written longhanded. I'd like some of them to read it now!
Other note: this is 1988, so cellphones are not ubiquitous!
"Just like your Renault," Keith beamed.
"Precisely," I replied. "I'm afraid our work is only commencing. One thing is for sure;
this burglary ring is dangerous."
"How did they get in here?" Joe queried as he scanned the room.
"They probably followed him in here," Keith ventured as he examined the portal woodwork. "It
could be their motive was revenge for correctly uncovering the first cause of death."
"Robbery is definitely out," Troy concluded. "He still has his wallet."
"What's this?" Keith shouted as he reached just under the bed. I saw him retrieve a pearl from
the floor. Joe held it to the light of a nearby window.
"It surely looks real," he muttered as he rolled it between his gloved index and thumb.
"Troy," I followed the logic. "One of these thefts wouldn't happen to be a pearl necklace,
"I don't remember. I can always get the list," he replied while picking up the phone. "Get me the
lobby. I want to speak to Craig Snider."
"This pearl ties this murder to the burglary gang, doesn't it?" Keith whispered to Joe and me.
"If it does," I answered. "Then both murders tie to this theft ring, and we are in considerable
danger in this investigation."
"Considerable danger?" Joe repeated as we continued to regard the pearl.
"Guess what, guys," Troy interrupted. "There was such a burglary reported. The thieves
hit Room 347 this morning, while the couple was out to breakfast."
"How many investigators do you have on this case?" Joe quizzed Troy.
"Actually, we have only Craig and me."
"I suggest you get more. We're going to have to move fast to get these guys!"
"Why'd you say that?" I whispered to Joe on the way to our room.
"Because you'd said this case was dangerous," Joe answered simply. "I figure we need some protection.
Do you have your pistol?"
"I keep it hidden in my suitcase. It has a hidden compartment. I'll show you when we
"Okay," Keith interrupted irritatedly. "Who has the key?"
"Why I think I do," I fumbled through my left pockets.
"Never mind," Keith noed. "The door's open."
"More than that!" Joe interjected.
Atop my suitcase lay a piece of cardboard with crimson letters:
Get off this case or face judgment!"