On this website and in Dick Tracy volume 12, we reprinted the 1949 “Black Bag Mystery,” asking readers to send in your solutions to who stole the money and why. We’ve read through all the submissions and, as promised, present our two favorites.
John Gibson offers this detailed and inventive solution:
I think the key fact is that the police were suckered into believing that Currency Jones and The Lobe were the same person. The Lobe had the money. (The bag itself, or one of them, turned up in Homer Noble’s torched shop as part of the attempt to frame him.)
Currency Jones must not have been much of a banker. If, minus the million dollars, he could not send Honey enough money in Mexico to stave off her creditors, we can see that he must have been near broke, despite what everyone would expect. I’d infer that he was making extra money as the accomplice of The Lobe, impersonating him (hence the artificial ears) and thus establishing alibis for him while he committed crimes. As he had disguises in his office closet, he must also have participated in other crimes.
Jones and The Lobe plotted the million dollar robbery and were supposed to split the money. The Lobe forced Widow Dubbs to sign the payment agreement and was then going to kill her. Honey Keyes was going to join the newly rich Jones in Mexico, throwing over Noble.
Both Jones and The Lobe had access to the hotel room: Jones through his office and The Lobe because he was the one renting it. This enabled Jones to “become” The Lobe or other people without being seen exiting the bank or his home while disguised. It also allowed The Lobe to meet and conspire with him without witnesses.
When Tracy confirmed that The Lobe was an actor who frequently applied for parts, that was a strong hint that he and Currency Jones were two people and not one; Jones would have been at work and would not have been trying out for theater roles in any event.
The text says that Honey was unaware that the bag she was carrying contained the million dollars. But she had to know that something major was up. Jones must have alerted her to be packed and ready to head to Mexico on short notice. When he accidentally left his unsigned will, leaving everything to her, in the hotel’s telegraph office, that led to Homer finding out some of what was going on; at the time Jones was disguised as The Lobe and may have been sending a telegram to establish an alibi for him.
Currency Jones left his office by way of the hotel room while Honey was carrying the bag of cash so he could meet with her before she left the country. It had been arranged for her to hand over the bag to The Lobe, and Jones didn’t yet know that he had been cut out.
Honey knew The Lobe and intentionally sat next to him on the bus when she ran into him while they were on their way to meet so that she could pass the bag to him. Afterwards she met with Jones for a cocktail before flying to Mexico at his expense.
She bought the bag on Currency Jones’s instructions (she was the unidentified female purchaser). The Lobe bought a bag of the same kind so that they could switch bags in a public place without it being noticed that a bag had changed hands.
Jones threw Honey’s pocketbook onto the frozen creek to make it seem she had been killed and thrown (or dropped from a plane) into the creek, her body going out to sea.
Currency Jones told an underling that he had had to break into his desk drawer because he lost his key, but in fact The Lobe had broken into it, coming into his office from the hotel room, in order to steal Jones’s passport and plane ticket. These he put on Homer Noble’s body after shooting him, leaving the suicide note, and burning his shop so everything would be blamed on him. He lost a diamond ear stud while doing these things.
The Lobe meant it to be believed that Noble had stolen the passport and ticket from Jones to thwart his plan to run off with Honey. Jones said his plan to get a passport was being “sabotaged”, and that was right: The Lobe did that so that, if the cops didn’t buy Noble as the guilty party, it would be Jones who would be the next major suspect.
And The Lobe was not afraid to have Jones suspected because he figured that the cops would take himself for nothing more than a role played by Jones.
Find The Lobe and you would find the missing million. Or so it looks to me, anyway.
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Allan Wright sends in this completely different solution:
I think Currency Jones’ assistant, Charlie, has the $1,000,000 and his nail file is the big clue. Here’s my solution — Currency Jones planned the scheme to kill the Widow Dubbs and steal the money so he and Honey Keyes could run off to Mexico. Jones, as the Lobe, switched bags with Honey on the bus (remember that he bought an empty black bag?). Honey makes it to Mexico with enough money to get started and Jones was going to follow. But someone steals Jones’ passport and airline ticket and the black bag with the $1,000,000 from his desk. The passport, ticket and bag are found in Homer’s burned-down studio in an attempt to frame Homer for stealing the money.
Two important things happen right after the fire: One, when Jones asks Charlie to back up his story about naming Honey as the sole beneficiary in his will, Charlie isn’t very convincing. Two, while Jones claims he lost the key to his desk drawer and had to break into it, he actually didn’t want it known that someone broke in and stole his passport and the money. Jones trusted Charlie so Charlie was in the perfect position to use the nail file that he carried around to break into the drawer to steal the money (remember that earlier in the story, he knew that Jones kept aspirin in his desk?). Charlie then planted the stolen goods in Homer’s store to divert attention from himself. Since Jones didn’t have the money to send Honey, she marries the count, Jones commits suicide, and Charlie is in the clear.
I can’t figure out why Honey didn’t take the $1,000,000 with her to Mexico, but who said criminals were smart? And maybe Currency Jones didn’t trust her completely. He shouldn’t have trusted Charlie, either!
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So there we have two completely different explanations. How about yours?