Excerpt from the book called The Frisby Waterless Murders
Chapter 2 – Monday 4 p.m.
PC Linda Smythe walked into Meeting Room 3 where Knowles and Barnes had placed various pieces of paper on the large table. A layout of the carriage was occupying prime position. Each passenger’s name was written on a note and placed on the seat they had occupied on the fateful journey. The actors in the drama had green notes and The Round Table members yellow.
Linda smiled at Barnes who was reading through some of the notes he’d made earlier in the day.
“Hello Inspector Knowles and Sergeant Barnes, I have the statements that PC Wang and myself collected from the passengers we interviewed at the station earlier today.”
Barnes returned her smile and took the proffered papers. He checked through them quickly.
“That’s everyone covered by the looks of it. So, now all we have to do is check each statement and see who agrees with whom.”
“Shall we go by seat numbers, Sergeant?” asked Knowles.
“Might as well,” said Barnes, “so Seat 1 through Seat 4 were occupied by The Smedley family, who I had the privilege of interviewing. Sally, Mike, John, and Kate in that seat order. The general gist of it is they thought they were out of the way where they were sitting. They saw the slight kerfuffle that ensued when Major Harkness was reallocated to his new seat. The stewards, train manager, the Major’s wife, and the Trimbles were all fussing around him apparently as he was settled in to his seat.”
“And this was when, approximately?” asked Knowles.
“Around 9:20 a.m., ten minutes before the murder/mystery train set off. It was about 40 minutes before the smoke entered the carriage and about an hour before the Major appeared to be dead.”
“So the Major died at around 10:20 a.m?”
“Yes, sir. So if the curare was administered by hand during that initial re-arranging of the seating plan he took an hour to pass away, which is far too long, on the other hand the poison administered by dart, perhaps, in the neck was only ten minutes before he passed away, which seems slightly too short.”
“So how long should it take for a human to die?” asked Knowles.
“Curare causes paralysis in the muscles in the body, rendering the victim unable to move. It does not kill the victim outright. So assuming it takes a minute for the poison to take full effect, it will then take however long the victim can survive without breathing to render them unconscious. Then however long the brain can last without oxygen to kill them. Because all the muscles in the body are paralyzed the victim essentially suffocates to death, My guess is it varies from person to person but I believe the brain can survive for maybe 30 minutes at the most.” Barnes was quite surprised that so much of the article on the poison had stuck in his mind.
“We are assuming are we not that the hand wound was caused when he was being moved to his new seat, but perhaps that’s not the case, perhaps it was administered around 9:50am when someone was distracting him for another reason.”
“Such as serving him some coffee, twenty minutes into the journey?”