Case No. 76 Octopus trap (English version)

Case No. 76 Octopus trap (English version)

                                                                   Octopus Trap


       The body of a woman lay on the floor near an armchair. A forensic medical examiner and a young constable were sitting nearby.

       «Beautiful, young, judging by the surroundings, well-off woman…» thought detective Bobby Clark. He had just arrived at the scene of a possible crime.

       Upon seeing the detective, the constable stood up. The forensic medical examiner looked at Bobby Clark and said:

       «The girl died 1-2 hours ago. I’ll be able to provide a more precise time of death after the autopsy. There are no clear signs of violent death.»

       «Natural causes? Heart attack, stroke?» asked detective Clark.

       «It’s possible, but in such cases, people often manage to call for emergency help.»

       «Constable, I’m listening to you» Bobby Clark said, unbuttoning the top button of his shirt and loosening his tie.

       «The victim’s name is Catherine Bell, she’s 23 years old. She’s a student at the University’s Philology Faculty.»

       «The victim? You think she was murdered?»

       «Suicide is ruled out: there’s no suicide note or medication packaging. An hour ago, her aunt, Mrs. Florence, found the body. She visits her niece once a month and has a spare key. Mrs. Florence had a hypertensive crisis, and she was taken to the hospital, but she managed to tell us that Catherine had been living here with her boyfriend, Michael Melvil, for about six months. He’s a businessman.»

       «I still don’t understand, constable, why you think it’s murder,» detective Clark repeated his question.

       «Sir, I’ve already talked to the neighbors, and one woman said that yesterday around 10 PM, she saw Michael Melvil getting into a taxi with a suitcase and a duffel bag outside the house. I made an urgent inquiry with the information department, and they informed me that Michael Melvil arrived at Heathrow yesterday evening and took a flight from London to New York. In my view, this looks very much like fleeing after committing a crime,» the constable reported sharply. He was young  and decisive.

       «But the girl died one or two hours ago, not last night,» Bobby Clark objected.

       «Melvil could have mixed or administered a slow-acting poison to Catherine, sir.»

       «Of course, we’ll conduct a toxicological analysis,» the forensic medical examiner said.

       «Anything else, constable?» Bobby Clark taking out a pack of cigarettes.

       «It seems quite elementary, sir. There are two suspects, the boyfriend and the aunt. One of them must have committed this murder. It’s unlikely they acted together.»

       «Someone acted solo?» asked the detective.

       «The answer is yes, sir.»

       «And what could have been the motive, constable?»

       «The boyfriend could have simply grown tired of the relationship. Before that, he promised to marry, lots of diamonds, a hundred fashionable pairs of shoes, and a ton of cosmetics. He might have added poison to his girlfriend’s food and made a run, thinking he had secured an alibi and freedom, clever chap,» the constable explained.

       «What about the motive of the aunt?»

       «Jealousy,» the constable replied promptly. «An elderly, sick woman, and her niece is young, healthy, and beautiful. Besides, it’s possible that the aunt hasn’t had anyone for a long time, so she decided to take out all her grievances on her niece.»

       «So, out of jealousy and because the aunt hasn’t had anyone for a long time, the aunt kills her niece?» detective Bobby Clark with astonishment looked at his young colleague.

       «Why not, sir? You see, if I haven’t had anyone for a long time, my nerves go to hell, and I lose my temper even over trifles,» explained the constable.

       «Constable, you should consider writing horror movie scripts,» Bobby Clark recommended. «And I also suggest you see a doctor without fail.»

       Further conversation with the young colleague lost its meaning, and detective Clark began to inspect the apartment. His attention was drawn to a new men’s wristwatch on the coffee table. It was an expensive classic model with self-winding movement. On the inner side, it was engraved: «With each passing minute, I love you more!» Bobby Clark sadly shook his head and placed the wristwatch on the table.


Three hours later.

New Scotland Yard. Divisional Commissioner James Hugh’s office.

       The divisional commissioner lit his pipe, looked at detective Clark, and said:

       «So, the man left and left behind the wristwatch that his loving girlfriend once gave him. Wristwatch with a gift inscription. So he wanted to emphasize a complete break in the relationship.»

       «Yes, sir, that’s exactly what I assumed.»

       «And then, Robert, you remembered the syndrome…»

       «I remembered the ‘broken heart syndrome.’ The boyfriend not only broke up with his girlfriend, but also returned the watch she had given him. It became an additional pain and insult for the lovestruck girl.»

       «Did the autopsy results confirm your version?» asked the divisional commissioner.

       «The forensic expert confirmed during the autopsy that Catherine’s cause of death was Takotsubo Syndrome,» Bobby Clark replied.

       «If my memory serves me right, the ‘broken heart syndrome’ was described by the Japanese scientist Hikaru Sato and was named ‘Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.’ Takotsubo translates to ‘octopus trap.’ This trap is a ceramic pot with a round base and a narrow neck. It’s precisely this pot that resembles a heart muscle affected by Takotsubo syndrome. The nature of this condition is gender-specific. The ‘broken heart syndrome’ is mainly found in women, and its cause is severe emotional experiences, such as losing a loved one.»

       «Well, he decided to leave Catherine, but he could have at least not returned the wristwatch to the girl,» detective Clark shrugged.

       «Of course,» agreed the divisional commissioner.

       «Can’t we hold this boyfriend accountable?»

       «Unfortunately, we can’t. However, there’s still a slight chance for retribution. You left the wristwatch at the scene, and it’s not only us who know about the broken heart syndrome. So, there are possibilities.»

       «What do you mean, sir?»

       «Human factor, Robert, only the human factor,» the divisional commissioner wearily replied, glancing at his wristwatch with a crack in the bulletproof glass.


London. Three months before Catherine Bell’s death.

       «Aunt, look at the gift I prepared for Michael on his birthday,» Catherine handed her aunt the recently bought wristwatch. Mrs. Florence carefully examined the present, read the engraved inscription, and shook her head disapprovingly.

       «Sorry, dear, but you know my opinion of this person. He’s not the one for you; he’s a cynic.»



New York. Two months after Catherine Bell’s death.

       Far past midnight, Michael Melvin left the bar on Columbia Street in high spirits, swaying slightly and humming softly. He leisurely approached his Cadillac Escalade, where a figure in black was already waiting for him.

       The aunt of the late Catherine Bell held a Beretta pistol with a suppressor in her right hand.