Thomas P Stanwick could not help marveling at the contrast between the offices of his two cIosest police friends, Inspector Matthew Walker of the Royston Police and Inspector Gilbert Bodwin of Scotland Yard. Walker’s office was chronically cluttered, but Bodwin kept his scrupulously tidy. Just a matter of working style, Stanwick concluded as he looked around Bodwin’s office once more.

‘’I’ll be in London for ten days,” Stanwick remarked to Bodwin, who was seated behind his desk. “See the old sights, hit the theaters and the bookshops. Then to Cambridge for a few days, then to the East Anglia countryside to see the EarI, and finally to Edinburgh for a logic conference.”

“Sounds appalling,” said Bodwin with a wry smile. “What gets discussed at a logic conference?”

“The topic this year is the assumption of existential import and its effect on Aristotle’s traditional square of opposition. Riveting stuff, 1 assure you. So-anything exciting at the Yard these days?”

“Nothing to match Aristotle. Aman died Iast month and turned out to have a forged will.”

“A will, eh?” Stanwick Ieaned back and cupped his hands behind his head. “ls there much money involved?”

“There is, actually. Several millions. Freddie Teti made a pile as a software entrepreneur and popped off recently at fifty-two with a chronic bIood disease.”

“Doesn’t sound like a murder, anyway.”

“No. Teti’s solicitor,William Chellman, became suspicious of the will when he found that it left Teti’s estate to three relatives. Chellman tells us that he had drawn up a will forTeti several years earlier that left his entire fartune to a medical foundation. Teti had kept the will on file at his home and not left Chellman a copy. “Shortly before his death,” Bodwin continued, “Teti said to Chellman that the bequest to the foundation might be the best, as well as the last, thing he ever did. Yet when Chellman found the will in Teti’s home files, it left everything equally to a cousin, a niece, and a nephew. Chellman says he is sure that Teti would have had him draw up any revised will. So he called us in.”

“Has your lab examined the will?” asked Stanwick.

“Yes. The critical pages are of newer paper than the rest, when a revised will would normally have been entirely reprinted. Also, our handwriting people believe that the signatures on the last page are forged.”

“1 see. And who are the surprise-and possibly surprised beneficiaries?”

“Teti’s cousin is Arthur Dietzel, a major in the American army,” said Bodwin. “Teti’s aunt married a Yank, you see. He’s 48, and was stationed in London last year at the American Embassy. The nephew, John Manning, is also an American. Teti’s sister carried on the family tradition of marrying across the pondo He’s 25, and is working on a doctoral thesis in geology.”

“And the niece?”

“Barbara Teti is British, odd1y enough. Daughter ofTeti’s brother, age 27, and a commercial pilot.”

“Perhaps she then had the most opportunities to visit her uncle,” Stanwick remarked.

“Perhaps, but we know that the major visited Teti in March of ‘01,just fourteen months ago, and that Manning spent a week with his uncle in September. All three of them spent a few days with Teti at Christmastime.”

“May I see the will?”

“If you like. The lab is done with it. It’s there on the table.”

Stanwick strode to a side table and carefully turned over the pages of the will.

“Hmm.” Stanwick peered closely at the last page. “1 see it was signed ‘of my own free will this 11th day of February, 2001’ purportedly by Teti and then two witnesses whose scribbles I can’t read. The forgery would have occurred on or after the given date, of course. And all three beneficiaries were known to have stayed with Teti between that date and Teti’s death.”

“ Precisely.”

A crisp knock on Bodwin’s door was followed by the entry of a sergeant bearing a slip of paper.

“Thought you should see this, sir,” the sergeant said to Bodwin. “1 had another look in Mr. Teti’s file cabinet, and found this in the bottom of the folder where the will had been kept.”

“Thank you, Fogg,” said Bodwin. “Let’s see. Handwritten in blue ink on white paper. ‘Will revised 2/11/01. Sole copy. F. T., Well! That would seem to eliminate one of our suspects.”

“Even better.” Stanwick smiled. “1 think it eliminates two.”

What suspect was left, and why? Scroll down for the answer.

The Case of the Forged Will

Stanwick and Bodwin both noticed that the writer of the slip of paper, who presumably was the forger, had written the date (the 11th of February, 2001, as stated in the forged will) in the Month/Day/Year format. A Briton, especially someone impersonating another Briton, would have written the date in the Day/Month/Year format, or 11/2/01. This eliminated Barbara Teti, the only British beneficiary, as a suspect.

The other two suspects were Americans, and the Month/Day/Year format is customary among most Americans. In the military, however, the Day/Month/Year format is the standard. The only beneficiary who would automatically use the Month/Day/Year format was therefore the non-military American: John Manning. Bodwin realized that the format implicated the American suspects, but Stanwick deduced that it implicated Manning specifically.

Stan Smith was the author of three books of Stanwick mini-mysteries that have been published in nine languages and sold over 120,000 copies.

By Stan Smith