The Stolen Cleopatra

By Hy Conrad

The silent alarm announced a break-in at the home of Jordan Marsh, the famous collector. When a patrolman arrived, he found two men waiting for him in the backyard of Marsh’s suburban home, standing by a broken window.

“My name’s Digby Dunne,” the first man said. “Jordan’s next-door neighbor. I caught this man red-handed, breaking in and stealing the Cleopatra coin.”

cleopatra“I caught him red-handed,” the other man countered. “I’m Kenny Johnson, Jordan’s other neighbor.”

“One at a time,” the patrolman said. “Mr. Dunne?”

“Jordan’s been away for a month,” Digby explained. “He gave me house keys and the alarm code. Every five days, I go in to water the plants. I was just about to do that this afternoon. I was in the process of unlocking Jordan’s front door when I looked in. Kenny was in the living room, taking a small plastic frame from the display cabinet. It was Jordan’s prized Cleopatra coin. Kenny saw me and rushed out into the kitchen. I raced around the house and caught up with him in the backyard.”

“That’s a lie,” Kenny said. “I was in my second-floor office. When I heard the sound of breaking glass, I looked out. Digby was in Jordan’s yard, by the kitchen door. He must have just broken a windowpane. In his hand I could see the plastic holder for the Cleopatra coin. I raced downstairs and surprised him before he could leave the yard. He must have gotten in with his key, stolen the coin, then faked the break-in to throw off suspicion.”

The patrolman entered Jordan Marsh’s house and found an empty spot in the display cabinet. By the doorway of the sunlit kitchen, he examined a potted plant. The soil was dry and the lush, long leaves were bent toward the darkened living room. Re-emerging into the yard, he found the morning rain had left muddy patches. Rows of brown footprints trailed across the flagstones.

Both men insisted on being searched, but the patrolman refused. “I don’t need to search anyone. I know which one of you is lying.”



The fact that both men wanted to be searched meant that the thief no longer had the coin on him. Since neither man had left the Marsh premises after the theft, the coin must still be there, hidden somewhere.

The patrolman noticed that the plants had not been watered. He also noticed that the potted plant was leaning toward the darkened living room instead of the sunny kitchen windows. Since plants naturally lean toward sunlight, the patrolman knew that someone had recently moved it. Sure enough, the ancient coin was hidden under the pot. The patrolman took Kenny Johnson in for questioning.

In Kenny’s statement, he said that Digby was holding the coin after leaving the house. This was obviously a lie.