Solve This Mystery

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1.31 Assignment- Solve the Mystery

In this assignment, you will be reading a short story and solving the mystery. YOU will act as the detective!

Read the story carefully. Underline/highlight/take notes. Remember, YOU are the detective and YOU are solving this mystery!

Once you are done reading part 1, answer questions 1 and 2 (they directly follow part 1.)

Then, read part 2. Once you are done reading part 2, answer questions 3 and 4 (they directly follow part 2.)

Some tips to successfully complete this assignment:Use quotes to support your findings. Think of the quotes as your clues! You need to answer each question in at least 5 sentences. If you are having trouble with this assignment, please come to class (or watch the recording) and ask your teacher for help!

Any assignments with a turnitin match of 90% or more will not be graded. You will be asked to resubmit the assignment and will earn a zero until you resubmit.


The Case of the Defaced Painting

Part 1

It is early Monday morning when the phone in your private detective agency’s office rings and snaps you out of a drowsy fog. The voice on the other end of the line belongs to Claire Williams, the beautiful young wife of Hunter Williams, whose massive nine-bedroom mansion sits on a fifteen-acre lot on a hilltop overlooking the town of Springfield. The Williams family has owned much of Springfield since the early 1900s, when Hunter Williams’s great grandfather opened Williams Trust, a successful bank that now has more than 200 branches in the tristate area. But Claire Williams isn’t calling you to recount the illustrious history of her husband’s wealthy family. She’s calling because a crime has been committed in her home, and she needs someone to investigate it without a lot of publicity. She doesn’t feel as if she can bring in the police. You tell her you’ll be there right away.

Ten minutes later, Claire Williams answers the front door before you even have a chance to ring the bell. At nearly six feet, she is a tall, thin woman, dressed in an expensive-looking suit and high heels. Her hair is pulled back in a tight bun, and her features are rather severe. As she shakes your hand, you notice that she is not wearing her wedding ring. She invites you into the home’s foyer and starts to explain her reason for calling you.

“As you may or may not know, detective, my husband loves fine art,” she begins, motioning to several paintings hanging on the walls of the foyer. “The collection we have in this home rivals those found in several major museums. We have original Picassos, works by John Singer Sargent, Fragonard, and Courbet, two by Monet—”

“Not to interrupt, Mrs. Williams,” you say, “but the only art I own are my niece’s finger-paint masterpieces. So I don’t recognize all the names you are dropping—but are you telling me that one of your paintings was stolen?”

“Worse,” the woman answers. “One of my husband’s favorite works of art—a priceless piece by the great Andrew Wyeth—was defaced over the weekend. Look!”

Turning the corner and following the direction of Mrs. Williams’s gaze, you see the work in question: a lovely watercolor of a lighthouse and a white picket fence that has been splashed with bright blue paint. It is clear that the work, which hangs some eight feet off the floor, has been ruined. Beneath the watercolor, on the floor, are several drips of the same blue paint that was used to vandalize it. Slightly to the left of the painting, up against the same wall where it hangs, is a wooden chair with a cushioned seat.

“That’s a shame,” you say. “When did this happen?”

“I don’t know. I was out of town for the weekend. I discovered what happened when I came home today.”

“And how is your husband taking all of this?”

“I’m afraid he doesn’t know. You see, he’s also out of town.”

“So you two weren’t in the same place?”

“No, I had to go visit my sister in Pittsburgh, and she and Hunter simply cannot stand one another. He thinks that she always wants money from us, but that’s simply not true.”

“Where is your husband, Mrs. Williams?”

“California. I came home this morning and found a hastily scribbled note that said he had left for Los Angeles on Saturday morning.”

“What’s in Los Angeles?” you ask.

“Oh,” the woman answers dismissively, “his doddering old Aunt Mildred, whose giant house in the Hollywood Hills we pay for, even though the woman is a nosy gossip.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Not as sorry as I am. Hunter has all the patience and charity in the world for his relatives, but he only sees my family as a collection of gold diggers.” The anger in Mrs. Williams’s voice is unmistakable now. “I swear he cares more about the paintings in this house than about his in-laws.”

“So this painting here—it could have been defaced any time from when your husband left here Saturday morning and when you returned today.”

“That’s right,” Mrs. Williams responds, her obvious anger with her husband now back under control. “And I have a few ideas on who might have done it.”

“Really? I’d be happy to hear them.”

As Mrs. Williams talks, you slowly wander over to the painting. Because it is so high on the wall, it is difficult to tell whether or not the culprit simply flung the paint on it or if he or she smeared the blue paint across the canvas with a brush or a hand. You notice that the chair, which is not under the painting at the moment, nonetheless has two drips of blue paint on its cushion.

All the while, Mrs. Williams is naming two possible suspects. She tells you that she and her husband hired a housepainter last week to work on one of their downstairs bathrooms. They had selected for the bathroom the same blue that was now smeared on the Andrew Wyeth watercolor. She further tells you that the housepainter was supposed to finish working on Saturday afternoon, and that she had argued with him because he had raised his fee when it turned out that the job required three coats of paint rather than two.

“Interesting,” you say. “Anyone else?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Williams tells you. “We also have a cleaning woman who comes every Sunday. She has a key to the house, and I know she was here over the weekend because all of the carpets in the home had been vacuumed when I came home this morning.”

“Why would your cleaning woman want to vandalize the painting?”

“My husband yelled at her last week because she accidentally broke one of his favorite coffee mugs in the dishwasher. Maybe she wanted to get back at him by ruining something really important. I have no idea.”

“I see. Can you tell me how to get in touch with this housepainter and your cleaning woman?”

“No need. I’ve asked them to come here myself.”

As if on cue, the doorbell rings and Mrs. Williams leaves to answer it. She returns a few moments later, trailed by a burly housepainter wearing white coveralls flecked with paint stains and work boots and a very tiny woman in khaki shorts, a green T-shirt, and sneakers. Both the housepainter and the cleaning woman immediately notice the defaced Andrew Wyeth watercolor on the wall. Instinctively, the house painter touches a stain on his coveralls made by the same paint as was used to ruin the painting of the lighthouse. The cleaning woman, although apparently surprised to see the painting vandalized, quickly turns to Mrs. Williams.

“If you think I did that, you’re wrong. I had nothing to do with it.”

Now, answer these questions before moving to part 2 of the mystery.

  1. What clues have you gathered in Part 1 of the story? Be sure to list at least three important facts or clues and explain why they are clues. This question should be answered in at least 5 sentences and is worth a max of 10 points. Remember to use complete sentences, and use quotes from the story to support your argument.
  1. Based on the initial facts of the case presented in part one of the story, present your hypothesis, or educated guess, as to who you think defaced the Wyeth painting. Explain your reasoning in at least 5 sentences. This question is worth a max of 10 points. Remember to use complete sentences, and use quotes from the story to support your argument.

Part 2

You tell everyone to calm down, that you are a detective and you intend to get to the bottom of this case. You tell the housepainter that you intend to start by questioning him, and he insists that he has nothing to hide.

“We’ll see about that,” you say. “The blue paint used to ruin the watercolor is the same paint that you were using to paint Mrs. Williams’s bathroom, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, but I finished the bathroom Saturday afternoon. I left the extra cans of paint in the garage because they belong to Mr. and Mrs. Williams, but that watercolor was not ruined when I left. And I certainly didn’t splash paint on it.”

“Yet you have stains on your coveralls with the same blue paint.”

The housepainter sighs, “That’s true, but that’s because I wear these to protect my clothes. You can see that I have lots of other paint stains on the coveralls as well.”

“What about the fact that you had an argument with Mrs. Williams over your fee? Weren’t you angry that she didn’t want to pay you for putting on a third coat of paint?”

“Of course I was angry. She was trying to take advantage of me.”

“Angry enough to wreck this painting?”

“Absolutely not,” the housepainter says as he takes a step away from you so that he is now standing directly under the Andrew Wyeth watercolor, his boots smearing one of the drips along the marble tile floor. “I finished my job and left here Saturday afternoon. You can ask my wife. She’s the one who came to pick me up.”

You nod slowly, and then turn to the cleaning woman. She is nervously dragging her sneakers across the floor, which makes a rather annoying squeaking noise. Her eyes dart from side to side.

“Mrs. Williams tells me her husband hollered at you last week because you broke his coffee mug,” you begin. “Were you angry with Mr. Williams after that?”

“Of course I was. He was very rude to me, and I didn’t break his mug on purpose. It was an accident.”

“What do you wear when you come to clean this house, ma’am? A uniform of some kind?”

“No,” the woman answers. “I wear shorts and a shirt, almost just what I’m wearing now.”

“So if I asked to see what you wore to clean this house yesterday, I wouldn’t find any blue paint stains?”

“Definitely not. And that painting on the wall was perfectly fine when I left here yesterday.”

You turn from the cleaning woman and begin to pace. Again your attention is drawn to the Andrew Wyeth watercolor high on the wall. You also look at the chair and the cushion on it. Next to the drips of blue on the cushion are two fading indentations. On the floor, the streak of blue left by the housepainter’s boot stands out on the white marble. Finally, you face the three other people in the room.

The housepainter will not look you in the eye; he is self-consciously trying to rub one of the stains out of his coveralls. The cleaning woman, however, is staring at you defiantly, her arms crossed. Finally, Mrs. Williams is looking at the paint on the floor and biting the fingernails on her ringless left hand. After a long moment, you clear your throat.

“Sir. Ma’am,” you begin, addressing the housepainter and the cleaning woman,” you’re both free to go. Mrs. Williams, I don’t know why you wanted to waste my time this morning, but the next time you want to make your husband angry by ruining one of his paintings, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t involve me in whatever argument you two are having.”

“Wait,” says the house painter, “so you believe that it wasn’t me?”

“Or me?” asks the cleaning woman.

“Of course,” you answer them both. “Mrs. Williams ruined the painting herself.”

Now, answer these questions and solve the mystery!

  1. What are some other clues you gathered in Part 2 of the story? State at least three additional relevant facts and explain why they are clues. This question should be answered in at least 5 sentences and is worth 10 points. Use quotes from the story to support your argument as to why they are clues.
  1. Why is Mrs. Williams clearly the guilty party in this case and why did she want to ruin the painting? Explain how the facts of the case led you to this final deduction by using quotes from parts 1 and 2 and explaining how they prove Mrs. Williams defaced the Wyeth painting. This question is worth 10 points and should be answered in at least 5 sentences.

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