12 | Clue

In 2008, sixty-year-old Clue was given a makeover. “A board game is basically a story that you’re telling around the table together,” the designer said. “In this case, it’s a murder mystery.” To appeal to a new generation, Colonel Mustard was recast as a former football star and Victor Plum as a video game designer. The weapons were updated too: the lead pipe was scrapped, the revolver became a Colt M1911, and a trophy, an axe and a baseball bat made their débuts. - LINK

In 2005, the cold case cops asked me what the murder weapon was. Because Duane had been so possessive of the standing red tool chest in his garage, in Quiet Time I’d made the weapon a long-handled steel hammer with a milled face and a rip claw. But I had no clue.

Betty suffered massive injuries to her head. The scene was so bloody the cops first thought she’d been shot with a shotgun while she was face down on the garage floor. Near her body they found a blood-soaked piece of plywood, and at the autopsy a splinter in her hair. But wood even twice as thick could not drive bone into her brain. The weapon had to be fairly sharp, like a small hatchet. Lead cop Sendle kept his own theory about the weapon to himself back then. In 2014 he told me it was a golf club.

It’s easy to clean, Sendle said, and a nine iron was missing from the golf bag in the garage. He expanded on his theory. You get mad at your wife and you’re steaming. You cold-cock her and then realize what you’ve done and it’s too late. You hit fifteen times and maybe you meant to hit once. If she’s down and you’re doing it fast, you’d use short blows to make sure she didn’t get up, because you’re scared if she does you won’t get another chance. That explained Duane’s bruise: the club rebounded and hit his forehead.

The cold case cops agreed. By 2006 Duane had moved to a deed-restricted gated community in Florida. His new house backed onto a golf course. You golf? Bruce Isaacson asked. I never touched a club, Duane said. Except just that once, Isaacson thought.

In 2007, a crime scene analyst revisited the Frye garage. New owners had painted the walls and drywalled the rafters. But the analyst was sharp. He pinpointed the location of the blood in the crime scene photos. Back at his lab, he tried to replicate the spatter with a Styrofoam mock-up of Betty’s head, a wig similar to her hair, and a sponge soaked with horse blood.

Varying the angle of the blows, he struck the dummy’s head multiple times with three different weapons: a baseball bat, the flat hammer side of an axe, and a nine iron with an aluminum shaft. Overhead swings with the golf club produced spatter closest to that in 1973.

The analyst also identified a stain on the back of Betty’s blouse. The killer had wiped a bloody object on it as she lay dying on the garage floor.

Are weapons and killers timeless?

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