The Puzzle of the Pirated Software


The idea of this section is for you to deduce who the thief is and give your reasons for your deduction. After you have done this read "Solve the Crime - Solution" to see if you were right.

Here is an extract from the memoirs of Doctor Watson:

The various investigations on which I was fortunate to accompany Sherlock Holmes jnr., the grandson of the famous detective, frequently left me baffled and bewildered, though to Holmes the confusion of alibis, clues and lies always appeared crystal clear.

One such instance was the Peculiar Puzzle of the Pirated Software.

One April morning, Holmes and I were summoned to the offices of Classic Software Ltd., where a break-in had been discovered. On arrival we were met on the first floor by Mel Bourne, the manager. Visibly agitated, he led us into his office, where the three members of his staff were assembled.

"I was first to arrive this morning and discovered the break-in immediately. I ordered my staff not to touch anything and I telephoned you." Bourne indicated his desk. "The locked drawer has been levered open and ransacked and you can see how the thief broke in."

Holmes' piercing eyes swept the room, taking in the rifled desk and the broken window behind it. Through the smashed pane he could see the fire escape outside, littered with shards of glass.

"Interesting," he mused. "Tell me, what appears to have been stolen?"

"That's just it," exclaimed the exasperated Bourne. "Absolutely nothing. The only thing of value was this" - and he held up a cassette. "Our latest game. Our rival, Moriarty Micros, would pay a small fortune to get their hands on this." "Perhaps they did," I interjected, "and merely substituted another cassette."

Holmes slapped me on the back. "Brilliant, Watson. You have a mind like a rapier. I suggest we load the tape into the office Spectrum without further ado."

Bourne's secretary, Penny Traitor, led the way to the computer room. An untidy mound of hardware and software, trailing wires and cables, covered the table. Moving a pile of blank cassettes to one side, Holmes idly picked up the Spectrum and put it down again hurriedly. It was surprisingly hot.

"I'll get Terry Dactill, our programmer, to load it for you. I'm all fingers and thumbs when it comes to computers," Miss Traitor confessed and she turned to the bespectacled Dactill, who placed the cassette swiftly in the tape deck, rewound it and began the loading procedure. While we waited Dactill related the events of the previous afternoon.

"At about 4.30 I had put the final touches to the game and I called the others in to see it. The four of us played it for almost an hour. It's very addictive, I'm proud to say."

"I'll second that," added Horace Goezski, the public relations man. "It's a kind of snakes and ladders thing called Lord of the Rungs. Damnably tricky, too; I was hopeless at it."

Dactill took up the story again. "At 5.30 we decided we had better go home and, after rewinding the cassette, I gave it to Mel for safe keeping. The others followed him into his office and stood chatting while I unplugged the equipment in here." Bourne nodded. "That's correct. I locked the cassette in my desk - normally I use the safe but as we were late I put it in the top drawer and removed the key. Terry joined us and we all left the building together, Penny locking the main door behind us."

The cassette had finished loading by this time and within minutes of running it was clear that it had not been altered in any way. As the game ended the hi-score chart was displayed. It read:

MEL 11073
TER 9912
HOR 7231
PEN 654

Holmes took out his pipe and lit it, as he was accustomed to do when he had found the solution to a crime.

"One final question," he said. "Who has keys to the building?"

"Myself, and Terry," replied Bourne. "Why do you ask? It seems we have been wasting your time, as nothing appears to have been taken after all."

Sherlock Holmes looked up and said, gravely: "I'm afraid you're wrong. A theft has occurred and I'm confident that at this moment Moriarty Micros is duplicating Lord of the Rungs by the thousand." "Good grief, Holmes," I spluttered. "How on earth do you know that?"

Holmes turned to me and, in the manner of one speaking to a child, said, "Elementary, my dear Watson ...."

Now go to "Solve the Crime - Solution" to see if you guessed correctly?

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