"The Hovitos are near."
(tastes the poison dart, spits) "The poison is still fresh, three days. They're following us."
A Fresh Clue is a piece of evidence that reveals someone was at this location recently. This can range from just moments before to a few days ago. Once the evidence is found by someone, they can then deduce that whoever left it there must be nearby.
Warmth in any form is a big giveaway, and so is smoke - from a cigarette, a stamped-out campfire, or a gun.
Compare Signature Item Clue
, which is about who
was here instead of when
they were here, although the two can overlap. Also compare Follow the Chaos
. In Real Life
, this is sometimes called "tracking and trailing".
Film - Animated
- When the trio of Sid, Manfred and Diego arrive at the human camp in Ice Age, Diego remarks upon a piece of kindling: "It's still green. They broke camp less than two hours ago."
Film - Live Action
Live Action TV
- Invoked in "Suitable For Framing", an episode of Columbo. The killer puts an electric blanket over the body in an alibi trick, so that the body would still be warm when the police arrives.
- The Twilight Zone episode "Where is Everybody?". A man finds himself all alone in a deserted town with a case of amnesia. While he's exploring a police station he finds a lit cigar smoldering in an ashtray. When he looks in a cell he finds a sink with the water running and shaving equipment (including a brush with wet shaving cream) sitting around. All of this is evidence that someone was there not too long ago. The Twilight Zone Twist is that he's actually in a hallucination caused by isolation. Watch it here.
- A couple times on The X-Files, a still-burning Morley cigarette left on the ground or in an office ashtray indicates that the Cigarette-Smoking Man has been there recently. Since he's The Chessmaster who's far from careless, he most likely deliberately left these there.
- In the very last shot of the last scene of the last episode of Now and Again, the government goons sent after Michael Wiseman and his family get there just in time to see the breakfast still on the table and the back door swaying.
- In the Elementary episode "Snow Angels" a Federal Reserve cash processing facility is robbed during a blizzard. When they find the tracks left by the robbers' vehicle, Sherlock is not only able to determine how long ago they were there from the fact that they can still see the tracks when it's snowing two inches an hour, but what kind of vehicle they were driving.
- In one episode of New Tricks, an "Old-School" detective states he knew someone was a suspect when he saw that a cat was sleeping on the still-warm hood of their car, disproving their account of not having driven it. Subverted when it turns out that was just bullshit he made up to justify his hunch, and that all the team knew that was a widely used justification in The Met during the 70s.
- Dungeons & Dragons module CM1 Test of the Warlords, adventure "The Ruins of Alinor". The PCs find a cave filled with the bodies of dead giants and wolves and a fire with venison cooking over it. From the condition of the bodies and the roasting meat, the PCs can deduce that the attack occurred within the last half hour and that the perpetrators are probably nearby.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement, Terror Australis adventure "Old Fella that Bunyip". The Investigators may stumble upon the scene of one of the Bunyip's attacks. They find a picnic site with signs of a struggle and a tea kettle of water heating over a fire. The kettle is still whistling, which means they arrived minutes after the attack.
- A popular myth about the disappearance of Mary Celeste is that when she was discovered, there were cups of tea on a table, still steaming hot.
- In an episode of Sharky And George, the two enter the local diner and find it deserted. In keeping with the show's Film Noir parody, they observe that a plate of food's still hot, so everyone must have left recently.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Into the Bunker", Dipper, Soos, Mabel, and Wendy go into the bunker of the author of the journal owned by Dipper. Soos notes that a can of beans in there was recently opened, so the author might still be alive in there.