Murder by the Letter

“My special Sleuth Holly Ward was destined to be a sleuth from birth. With a doting and determined detective for a grandfather, she had to have an affinity with crime-solving. Her crime magnet is often so strong she doesn’t even have to be on scene to become involved.”

I wrote this story for the following prompt.
Fandango’s Story Starter — the first line.
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Emotion
Word of the Day Challenge — Bloodcurdling

Murder by the Numbers

She was shocked when she opened the envelope and saw that it was her worst nightmare.

The rich blue envelope had come with the smell of apple blossom, almonds and cinnamon. Her favourite combination. Yet it was not from her boyfriend of three years, Xavier. Something this sinister couldn’t be.

Her pearlescent painted nails trembled as she revealed an eerie skull and crossbones inside.  The back of the skull contained three letters ‘R.I.P’

Before Emma’s body could even register the emotion of fear, she felt. Needle-like stabbing pains in her eyes.

Dropping the envelope, she felt the muscles in her face begin twitching. Her heart rate rocketed as her chest tightened.

“You – B-ast-ard!” She croaked as she staggered to her desk. Collapsing into her swivel chair she wiped sweat drawn from her mouth.

She glanced at her phone, no sense calling an ambulance they’d never reach her in time and would likely die too.

Shaking off a wave of dizziness, she fumbled her password into her computer. Opening her Yahoo mail, she to compose an email.

The screen blurred as the blood pounded in her brain. She wiped her streaming nose and mouth couldn’t control the flow. Forcing herself to ignore it, she typed on.

Before long it was as though someone was hammering on the inside of her skull. She vomited into the wastebasket and typed a few more letters into her message.

 Drowsiness began stealing her life force and stomach cramps doubled her onto the desk.

Through a bloodcurdling cry of agony, she felt her bladder involuntarily release its contents onto the floor.

Stretching out a twitching, numb finger, she typed her last letters and hit send. It was then a wave of convulsions sent her tumbling into darkness. She was unconscious in moments. Emma was dead minutes later.

To XRenton@Yahoobox.com BCC H.C.Ward@WHmail.com
Dear Xavier
I have been murdered. Do not come to my apartment. Tell the police that the murder weapon is ricin and that my whole apartment is contaminated.
Know that I love you with all my heart. Find a new love and enjoy your life, my dear, sweet, man
Love Emma EQVAVBFXVDKLDQMIFLAFVFBAZFALVIVSBNSBMALVGIMIBLEQYVMFZFAZOFXQUGXFPNFZ

Thirty minutes passed with deathly silence in Emma’s apartment. The eerie quiet was split by a PVC splintering bang which shattered the double glazing of the front door.

Police officers wearing respirators piled into the apartment. They discovered Emma slumped on the floor and confirmed her death.

Once the apartment had been well ventilated and all contaminated material removed, Detective Derek Ward entered and looked around.

“What you expect to find, detective?” Asked police sergeant Jimmy Kiang.

“Well, we already know the murderer struck using a poison letter.” Derek glanced around the tidy apartment and stepped into the office.

“Then why come here?”

“It’s important to do our due diligence on such cases. It’s good to search the scene in case there are further clues to be uncovered.” Derek glanced around the tidy apartment and stepped into the office. He put his hand in a vase of artificial roses and withdrew a USB memory stick. “Like this.”

“Nice, how’d you know? The poor lady died right there as she sent her last email,” Jimmy shook his head in disgust. “Such a rotten way to go.”

“Emma told me. And yes Death by ricin is horrendous. I reckon only strychnine could be worse,” Derek glanced at the desk. The computer had already gone away for decontamination and forensic examination. “Did you see the email?”

“No, I was just told that it explained the apartment was full of ricin and to get here quickly.”

 “Emma was a great solicitor. She did not send a typical email. It was more of a full-on indictment.” Derek strode from the room having seen enough.

“Really, how did you know? I thought Elliot in forensics looked at it and saw nothing suspicious other than the obvious.”

Derek smiled at that. “Emma sent the email to my granddaughter as well as her boyfriend. My Treasure spotted something in the jumble of letters at the end straightaway.”

“Elliot said those letters were likely the result of Emma convulsing as the poison destroyed her nerves. What did Holly discover?” Jimmy said with growing interest.

“I’d guess that too. However, my Treasure realised that if Emma was at convulsing stage she was near death and couldn’t have pressed send on the email.”  

Jimmy nodded, “Right, and so those letters have to be intentional.”

“Exactly,” Derek beamed with pride toward his granddaughter. “Those letters are a cypher and my Treasure cracked it.”

“So, who killed Emma then?”

“Here’s a copy of the email, I’ll give you until we get back to headquarters to crack the cypher. If you fail. I will tell you. Derek winked and left the apartment with a swish of his graphite-grey trenchcoat to make his arrest.”

The End

That E-mail again.


To XRenton@Yahoobox.com BCC H.C.Ward@WHmail.com
Dear Xavier
I have been murdered. Do not come to my apartment. Tell the police that the murder weapon is ricin and that my whole apartment is contaminated.
Know that I love you with all my heart. Find a new love and enjoy your life, my dear, sweet, man
Love Emma EQVAVBFXVDKLDQMIFLAFVFBAZFALVIVSBNSBMALVGIMIBLEQYVMFZFAZOFXQUGXFPNFZ

Can you break the cypher and catch the killer?
For those wishing to know the solution, Holly has left a message in the comments.


Thanks for reading my friends.
Don’t forget to join Holly for a mystery here

There’s more in the Poetry CornerPoetry Nook, and the Short Story Collection

Have a great day!

42 thoughts on “Murder by the Letter

Add yours

      1. I’m apparently not allowed to. When I go to the story and try to open comments, it’s disabled and I can’t read them (I’m using my phone). Can you link to the comment? It will force it to open that way?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Gah, rotten technology. Well no worries. Here’s what the comment said:

        Hello Everyone, Holly here with the solution to the murder of poor Emma.

        I realized the line of letters is a Playfair cipher. Such ciphers require a keyword. In this case, it had to be ‘Xavier’ as Emma addressed the email to him and loved him dearly.

        Once I decoded the message, it read —
        ‘Isaac Reich killed me because I have proof he killed his wife. See USB in the roses.’

        Thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing more of my mysteries with you soon.
        Love Holly

        Like

      3. Just as my special sleuth Holly, I had a grandfather who loved to teach me codes and how to solve crosswords and such. So, now I have a repetoire of cipher methods I can play with.
        This one was playfair so you simply make a 5×5 grid choose a keyword and write that in then add the remaining letters. Then following a set of moves you turn your message into an enciphered text. It’s a lot of fun.

        Like

      4. What you would do is use letter frequencies and try to see if a substitution cipher is present. You would not find one. And so you’d be left with Playfair, Bifid or a vigniere cipher. You then have to make the right grids and try keywords until something makes sense.Yes it can take a long while!

        Like

  1. Hello Everyone, Holly here with the solution to the murder of poor Emma.

    I realized the line of letters is a Playfair cipher. Such ciphers require a keyword. In this case, it had to be ‘Xavier’ as Emma addressed the email to him and loved him dearly.

    Once I decoded the message, it read —
    ‘Isaac Reich killed me because I have proof he killed his wife. See USB in the roses.’

    Thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing more of my mysteries with you soon.
    Love Holly

    Liked by 1 person

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