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Police Quest III – The Puzzle From Hell: Prelude

Written by Alex


Oh, Jim Walls and friends: Why do you hate me? I’m following proper police procedure. I’m using the manual. I’m picking up on in-game clues and hints and trying to do everything right. But it’s not working. Why? Why must you be so damned finicky?

I’ll tell you why: Because you can. That’s why.



You see, it was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time before I ran into THE puzzle, the one that kept me from progressing in this game when I first played it all those years ago. The puzzle that drove me so insane, I refused to touch this game for over fifteen years. But here I am, patrolling the streets of Lytton, solving crimes and dispensing justice like a true bad-ass cop with a true bad-ass cop soundtrack, getting through your stinking puzzles. I’m back, baby. I’m back! And fools and criminals better beware, or they may just catch a bullet in the torso.



Don’t &*@! with Sonny Bonds!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we need to set the scene. Day 4 begins like any other, with Sonny doing his morning routine and driving into the station. I notice that he doesn’t start his shift until around one o’clock in the afternoon, the lazy bum. But he hasn’t gotten fired yet, so who am I to judge?

Not Jim Walls, I can tell you that.

Being Day 4, the third day since I started this game, I figure that Officer Banks must have returned the tracking device, mentioned way back in the first gameplay post, to Lytton PD’s tech department. So the third floor is my first stop. There, in the Mike the Angry Geek’s drawer, is the tracking device.


Tracking device in hand, I make my way to Sonny’s office to see what administrivia awaits. Morales, again, locks her desk drawer and gets up to head to the women’s locker room the moment Sonny goes in. Nothing suspicious about that.

In Sonny’s inbox is a subpoena. Uh-oh, that’s never good.


A subpoena (“sub-pee-na”), for those of you who aren’t lawyers (and good for you, I say!) is a summons to appear in court. Why the legal system can’t just use the word “summons” is a good question, but I think it has something to do with overcompensation via the use of Latin. Anyway, this subpoena requests that Sonny testify in the matter of Juan Jose Ruiz, one of the people Sonny gave a ticket to way back on Day 1. He was the slow driver with the souped-up old Ford. So screw trying to find out who brutally assaulted my wife: Let’s go to court!

Before leaving, I refer to the manual section on “Special Operating Procedures,” specifically Section VI: Courtroom Procedure: “1. Be prompt. 2. Be prepared and have proper paperwork available. 3. Testify in a professional manner and cite only those facts surrounding the case.”

Proper paperwork! I knew that, in this game, paperwork had to be a part of the puzzle. I remember checking out the glove box in Sonny’s cruiser and seeing the radar gun’s calibration chart. I also remember my own real-world experience sitting in court and waiting for the traffic cases to finish before conducting my own business and seeing that the traffic cops who won their cases always had their calibration charts.

That’s right, Police Quest III is about to hit too close to home for this here adventuregamer. You see, by night I may be a smooth-talking, screenshot-posting, perp-dispatching gumshoe, but by day I’m actually a lawyer. And while I never did any criminal work, and am currently working for Uncle Sam, I did civil litigation for five years and spent nearly every day in court. Every. Single. Day. I am not relishing the prospect of simulating my actual, real-life job in an adventure game. But Sonny has to “Be prompt,” so I guess I have no choice lest Jim Walls pop up and admonish me for my lack of punctuality.

Nooooo! Make it stop! Make it stop!!!!!!!!!

Morales decides to wait for Sonny as he strolls into the court for a date with Mr. Ruiz. Inside, the assistant district attorney is ready to hear Sonny’s testimony about the circumstances surrounding his stop of Mr. Ruiz.

Celebrity look-alike time! I’ll go first: Ronald McDonald.

I got nothing for this guy.

No “So help me God”? Even in Massachusetts they say “So help me God.”

The ADA asks Sonny the kind of questions you’d expect, and all you have to do is click “Talk” on the ADA and Sonny proceeds to testify in a professional manner, citing only the facts surrounding the case. I think it would have been more fun if you could type your own responses in. Eventually, the ADA requests that the calibration chart, so I click it on him and he submits it into evidence. Usually, a document has to be authenticated in some way, typically by the attorney asking the witness to identify what it is, before . . . oh, who cares about this legal nonsense? You don’t. I am almost 100% sure of that.

So anyway, Mr. Ruiz’s useless lawyer has no questions for Sonny, which is preposterous: If you’re going to bother to pay your own lawyer to come to a traffic hearing, he’d damn well better be ready to do something. Mr. Ruiz then takes the stand, offering his sterling, iron-clad, and irrefragable argument (great word, irrefragable):


That’s right, Mr. Ruiz’s defense is that Sonny is racist. Wow! This game really is realistic!

The ADA has no questions for Mr. Ruiz, and again, neither does Ruiz’s empty suit of an attorney.

Ruiz should sue him for professional malpractice. Also, he looks like every lawyer in every 80s movie, ever.

This thrilling episode over, the Judge makes her decision: Mr. Ruiz is GUILTY! Which is kind of funny that she says “guilty,” because traffic violations like this are typically civil infractions, and the language used is usually “responsible” or “not responsible,” but again, who really cares? Not Jim Walls, that’s for sure.

Cares given: 0

When Sonny gets back into his car, Morales wants to go the mall again to make a phone call. I wonder why she can’t get a cellphone, and then I realize that, in 1991, a cell phone would look like this . . .


. . . and cost roughly $2,320.00 1991 dollars, which, adjusted for inflation as of 2014, comes to a hair over four grand. Okay then, the mall it is. It’s not like we have a serial killer to catch or anything. I sure hope nothing bad happens while we’re farting around at the mall.



The dum-dum leaves her purse behind, so Sonny swipes the key and takes it to Zak the keymaker to make a duplicate. I just have to see what Morales has in her desk drawer, after all; that’s much more important than catching my wife’s would-be murderer.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have found our serial killer. I mean, look at the guy!

Sonny gets his duplicate key and puts the original back before Morales is done with her phone call. With time to kill, I go back into the Army recruiter’s office to see if I can question him about Samuel Britt, Steve Rocklin, anything. Nope. It seems to me that the Army recruiter serves no purpose except for the game to make bad jokes about the United States military . . . you know, those losers who keep us safe?

Because everywhere that’s not California or New York sucks, amiright?

No sooner does Morales return to the car when they receive a message over dispatch: A 187 on Rose Street. I don’t even need the manual to know what a 187 is: Murder. Did our serial killer, presumably Steve Rocklin, strike again? We’ll find out. It’s a good thing I was in court testifying about traffic citations and waiting for my partner to make a phone call instead of searching for the guy. Realism! If this is how cops actually conduct their business, then I’m surprised I haven’t turned up dead with a pentagram carved into my torso.


The crime scene is a gross alley with the unfortunate victim tossed into a dumpster as if he were trash. This murderer has even less respect for human life than most murderers.

The officer on scene informs Sonny and Morales that he’s already called the coroner, who is on his way. Morales gets the camera from the kit in the trunk and takes some pictures of the victim. When that’s done, she walks away off-screen, presumably to be useless. It’s alright, Pat. I didn’t want help or anything.

I take the rest of the tools from the kit—scraper, toothpicks, and evidence baggies—and while I have the trunk open, put the road flares Sonny’s been carrying around like a dope into the empty box. Walking to the dumpster, I click “Eye” on the body and get a grisly close-up.


Yikes. Nothing left to do but swallow hard and start investigating. It doesn’t say so in the manual, but a police officer’s best investigative friend is the “Eye” icon. I figure I’ll click on his hand first: The computer files for the other victims I’ve been investigating discuss DNA evidence found under the victim’s fingernails. Sure enough, there is hair and skin under this guy’s.


I use some toothpicks to transfer the evidence into a baggie. Maybe this will help link the presumed suspect, Steve Rocklin, to the victim.

I then click “Hand” on the victim’s shirt to lift it up and check the wounds. It’s not a pretty sight.


Oh boy. We’re dealing with the same sick Satanic serial killer. There are stab wounds in addition to the pentagram. I click Sonny’s notebook on the pentagram to make him take some notes; I don’t know if these will be useful later on, or if it’s just for points, but it’s nice to actually make use of this particular inventory item.

Nothing left to do but search the body for some ID. I click “Hand” on his jeans and find his driver’s license. The victim is named Andrew Dent. I record his license number, and then the coroner arrives.



Oh. Great. This is Leon, another “coroner with a quirky sense of humor.” This trope was old in 1991. Nothing more to do with the body. Sonny automatically gives Leon Dent’s ID. Time to check out that abandoned car in the back of the alley.

Do you mean the dent on the car or the Dent lying dead in the dumpster?

Sonny sees gold paint on a dent. I use the scraper to scrape the paint into another baggie. Maybe we can ID the suspect’s car. I click on other spots on the car, and discover the VIN on the windshield. Heading back into Sonny’s car, I enter Dent’s license ID into the computer to call up his information, but I glean nothing valuable. The VIN is a six-digit number, and Sonny’s computer only lets him input 5 digit VINs, so that is useless. I wonder why the game even lets you find the VIN number in the first place.

I drive back to the station. Once there, Morales tells Sonny she has to run to her car. This is a perfect time to snoop in her desk drawer with my copy of her key! But first, actual policework beckons. I go to the evidence lockup and submit the paint and the skin and hair samples with Officer Gibbs. This case is assigned a new file number, which I jot down before heading back to the Homicide office.

Morales is absent, so I open her desk drawer. I am disappointed by what I find.


It’s a piece of paper with the numbers 386 written on it. I don’t care what kind of computer she has! I was hoping for something interesting, like drugs or a severed head. Oh well. Maybe this is the combination to her locker in the women’s locker room. She is always going down there, after all.

I’ll follow up on that later. First, I need to check Sonny’s inbox, where there is another message for him. This is from Dr. Wagner, Marie’s physician, telling Sonny not to forget to visit her. Geez, doc. What kind of jerk husband do you think I am?

Before leaving, I do try to go into the women’s locker room, but am unable to enter: The same woman punches Sonny and gives the same line about men being perverts. Lady, it’s like close to midnight three days later, and you’re still in the locker room? What exactly do you do here, anyway?


Since the shift is not over, Sonny brings Morales along to the hospital, who immediately absconds to a telephone when we get into the lobby. I stroll into the flower shop and buy Marie another rose. Sonny comments on his dwindling cash supply. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any ATMs in this game. Or casinos. Come on, Sierra! What kind of Quest game is this with no gambling mini-game?

Up in Marie’s room, Dr. Wager gravely tells Sonny that Marie’s condition is unchanged and that there’s nothing left to do but wait and hope that her condition changes. What, is he running for president or something?

Exactly what you want to hear from your doctor!

My confidence in Dr. Wagner is further eroded when I take a look at the medical chart hanging on the foot of Marie’s bed. It wasn’t there during Sonny’s previous trips to the hospital, so being the snoop I am, I check it out. It says that Marie’s IV dosage is supposed to be set at 0.005. 0.005 what, it doesn’t specify, but I distinctly remember her dosage reading .015 on previous visits. I click “Eye” on Marie to confirm.


Now, I’m no doctor, but this can’t be good. Unable to change the dosage himself, Sonny clicks the call button above Marie’s head. When the nurse comes in, Sonny gives her the scoop. She in turn calls Dr. Useless. The doctor initially doesn’t believe Sonny, but when he checks the chart against the IV meter itself, he fixes the dosage and at least has the common decency to be ashamed. Of course, he throws his staff under the bus.

What is it with this game and doctors? Dr. Aimes is a bloviating jerk, and Dr. Wagner is incompetent. Of all the professions to pick on—lawyers, bankers, government officials, cops—Police Quest III picks on doctors. Why?

Whatever. As long as Marie is getting the proper medication, I don’t care who screwed up what. I click hand on her, something I didn’t do in my previous visits, and Sonny gives her a smooch. I replace her old rose with the new one, which doesn’t do anything, and head out. Sonny drops Morales off at the station and then heads home to sleep. Tomorrow comes quickly, even for cops that don’t start their shift until 1:00 in the afternoon.

Points: 272 out of 460.
Inventory: Gun, handcuffs, flashlight, wallet with $2.50, computer access card, notebook, tracking device, keys to Morales’s desk.

Session Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Total Time: 6 hours and 20 minutes.

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