The Pretenders’ Ball — Episode 3

By Hy Conrad

Two years ago, the Pretenders’ Ball had been the scene of an assassination. Last year, an arsonist destroyed the royal archives. These political crimes, carried out by the rebel forces, were becoming a regular part of the Grand Duchy’s annual costume ball. The Chief of Police pleaded with the Prime Minister to cancel this year’s event. Naturally, he didn’t. For added security, though, he did change the location to Duchy Park, a floral wonderland surrounded by a high, unscalable stone wall.

Upon entry, Robin Hood’s arrows were confiscated, although he was allowed to keep his bow and quiver. David had to give up his slingshot and Goliath handed over his club. Mary Poppins kept her umbrella, but Death turned in his scythe. Even the clown was searched. One guard held onto his big bunch of balloons while another checked inside his over-sized shoes.

The festive nighttime ball went on as scheduled. The music played, the costumed revelers danced, and champagne corks popped. Something else popped, too—a small derringer pistol.

The victim this time was the Grand Duchy’s Chief of Police, dressed as a Chicago gangster, the only guest actually allowed to carry a weapon. His body was found in the middle of a hedge maze, the gun in his shoulder holster untouched.

“Shot in the back,” Death (the Royal Physician) reported. “Very small caliber. Anyone could have sneaked in a gun that size.”

In what was becoming another annual tradition, the guests lined up to be frisked. The Prime Minister observed them: Mary Poppins leaning on her umbrella; Goliath looking chilly in his leopard skin; the clown looking sullen, both hands stuffed in his pockets. Two hours later, the results came in. There was no gun, not anywhere in the park. The guards around the park’s perimeter reported that nothing had been thrown over the wall.

“I know how our assassin could have gotten rid of the gun,” the Prime Minister deduced. “And that tells me who our assassin probably is.”

Whodunit? And how did the gun disappear?


When the clown arrived, he was carrying a bunch of balloons. When he was searched, however, his hands were in his pockets. What happened to the balloons?

The ever clever prime minister deduced that the clown (a disgruntled royal postal courier) had tied the light but deadly derringer to the balloons and sent it sailing into the night sky.