Theft in a Knordwyn Shop

ENGLAND WAS ONE of Thomas P. Stanwick’s favorite summer destinations. Among the amateur logician’s regular haunts was the beautiful Northumbrian village of Knordwyn. Its cobbled streets, crooked streams, and surrounding green hills were particularly soothing to his eye, and the peculiarities of its inhabitants were particularly intriguing to his mind. Half of them never told the truth, and the other half never lied. His powers of deduction were therefore often tested.

     One day in late August, Stanwick arrived in Knordwyn, checked into the Grey Boar Inn, and took a long late-morning walk through the village. After lunching at a pub near the village square, he walked down a nearby street and knocked on the door of an old friend, truth teller Winston Langworth, who was the chief constable in Knordwyn.

     “Thomas!” boomed Langworth when he answered the door. His large, ruddy face, framed by a Lincoln beard, showed his surprise. “1 wasn’t expecting you, but do come in. “We thought you would be here for the Queen Anne Festival, which ended ten days ago.” 

     “Sorry I couldn’t attend the festival this year,” said Stanwick as he was ushered to the front parlor of Langworth’s small home. “I had an editing project to finish up back home.”

     “Pity. There was an especially good juggling troupe this year. Ah, well, you’re just in time.”

     “In time for what?”

     “To help me unravel a little robbery case.”

     “Oh?” Stanwick eased himself into an armchair and lit his pipe. “Who’s been robbed?”

     “David Ashton, the dispensing chemist up on High Way. A bag of cash receipts was taken from behind the counter of his shop this morning.”

     “Hmm.” Stanwick reminded himself that a dispensing chemist in Britain was the same as a pharmacist in the States. He also suppressed the impulse to make a bad pun about High Way robbery.

     “Behind the counter. Is his Clerk suspected?”

     “No. Like Ashton, Marianne Witherby is a truthteller, and she denies stealing it. When I visited the shop, I saw that anyone could have reached under the cash register, where the bundle had been kept, and taken it. Marianne says the bag was there at nine this morning when she added some notes to it for a later bank deposit. “The only entrance to the- shop is the front door,” continued Langworth, “and a bell rings whenever the door opens. Only three people visited the shop this morning, all at different times. Any of them might have gotten near the counter while Marianne was busy elsewhere. When she returned to the counter at noon to prepare the deposit, the bag was gone. No customers were there at the time, but she raised the alarm with Ashton, who was in the back room having tea.” Stanwick gratefully accepted a cup of Earl Grey.

     “Was Marianne able to identify that morning’s three customers?”

     “She was. All three are villagers, but we don’t know whether they are liars or truthtellers. I called them and asked them to come by here for a chat.”

     The first arrived a few minutes later. Jane Speakman, a barmaid -in her late twenties, sported a black jacket, a black skirt, and black boots. Her blue eyes helped set off a small nose ring. She was followed shortly by Joseph Sweeney, a garage mechanic in his thirties. His red beard was framed by a cap and grease-stained overalls.

     Langworth’s final visitor was Robert Snow, a clean-shaven solicitor in his early forties who wore a three-piece suit. He nervously ran his hand through his thinning sandy hair as the five of them sat down in the parlor.

     “Thank you all for coming;’ said Langworth blandly. “I told each of you on the phone of the theft at the chemist’s this morning. You three were the only visitors during that time, and I have reason to believe that the clerk is innocent. One of you must therefore be the thief. And perhaps those who are not know who is.”

     “I’ve never stolen anything in my life,” said the barmaid emphatically. “The three of us hardly know each other, in any case.”

     “She’s right;’ added Sweeney. “I certainly didn’t steal the money.”

     “In fact, we three know each other rather well,” said the solicitor.

     “Either I did not steal the money or Sweeney here is innocent.”

     Langworth frowned and cleared his throat. “I can assure you that I will get to the bottom of this matter.”

      “Indeed, constable, you already have,” remarked Stanwick languidly, with only a hint of gentle sarcasm in his tone. “Congratulations on a brilliant interrogation. The identity of the thief is quite clear.”  

     Who stole the money from the shop?

Scroll down for the answer.


Theft in a Knordwyn Shop 

Since the three visited the shop at different times, only one could have taken the bag. Snow’s second statement that, in effect, he and Sweeney are not both guilty must therefore be true. Snow is therefore a truthteller, so his first statement is also true. Since this statement contradicts Speakman’s first statement, she is a liar, and since Sweeney says she is right, he’s also a liar. His second statement is therefore false, so he is the thief. Speakman must have stolen something sometime in her life, but not this time!     

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