The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)
The Thirteenth Clue
The Thirteenth Clue.
(Continued From P. 15.)
Gillespie thoughtfully packed the despatch case again, taking care, however, to leave out the two false beards. Finally he gave voice to a minor point that had been troubling him.
“But how did the braces get alight?” he asked.
Impskill Lloyd reached for his jacket, and as he did so a small object in the centre of the floor caught his eye. He stooped to pick it up.
“A cigarette lighter!” he cried, his keen eyes at once recognising the article.
Picking it up with a pair of sugartongs he carried specially for the purpose, he examined it under the light. An engraved inscription became apparent. “To Horsey,” it read, from his racecourse pals.”
Into Impskill Lloyd's eyes had crept a steely look that boded ill for any wrong-doer.
“As I thought,” he muttered between clenched teeth, reconstructing the crime in a flash, “the criminal, under the guise of offering a light, set fire to the man's braces. This is murder, Gillespie!
“Aren't we all,” replied Gill absentmindedly, as he fitted one of the beards on to his master's face. Then hastily donning the other himself he turned and followed his master out of the signal cabin.
Soon they were back at the police station, but it was some time before they could gain admittance, for P. C. Fanning, the sole occupant, had retired to a hot bath to stave off the threatened attack of pneumonia.
Impskill Lloyd hammered on the door with one hand, tugging savagely at his false beard with the other.
“Open! he cried, in the name of the Law.”
After a pause bolts were drawn and P. C. Fanning, attired only in a striped towel, confronted them.
“What do you think you're a-doing of?” he enquired, not recognising the pair in their cunning disguise.
With a quick movement Imp. whipped off his beard, and waving it aloft shouted in a sibilant whisper, “Let us in!”
P. C. Fanning drew back in astonishment, and Lloyd and Gillespie took this opportunity of squeezing through the door.
“Has anyone been here?” asked the detective, “did you hear any suspicious noises while you were out? Any finger prints on the telephone? Any suspicious characters loitering with intent? Any relevant circumstances which lead you to suppose that anything irrelevant has occurred?”
P. C. Fanning was a slow thinker. It took him some time to absorb all of Lloyd's remarks.
“It's a funny thing, Sir,” he said at last, “but when I got back from the investigation, as it were, which was a matter of half an hour ago, I found there that Marris fellow in the office, sitting by the telephone and jabbering away something dreadful to himself. I put 'im in the lock up.”
“Ah!” said Lloyd triumphantly, “as I thought. I will question him. You, my man,” he commanded, “get back to your bath, if you value your life. But first hand me the keys of the lock up.”
Pinned to the towel that draped the constable's middle was a large bunch of keys. Selecting the largest, he handed it to the detective.
“I'll be getting back to my bath, Sir, it's a bit chilly down here,” and without further ado the constable waddled off quickly in the direction of the domestic quarters.
“Follow me,” said Lloyd to Gillespie, “and unpack the pistol. He may be desperate. We must take no chances. Remember this is murder.”
Quickly Gillespie undid the despatch case and took out the water pistol, gingerly loading it from a nearby vase.
“Ready?” said Lloyd.
“Till death do us part,” responded Gill nobly.
Side by side they tip-toed in single file down the corridor, and paused at a heavy door. Placing the key in the lock Impskill turned it and threw open the door.
“Come out,” he thundered, and his voice was terrible to hear.
“Stand back, chief,” implored Gillespie, “if there is danger let me face it with you.” Brave words, but the hand at that moment rolling a cigarette trembled nevertheless.
There was a shuffling noise from inside the cell, and a moment later a figure appeared at the door. It was that of a stockily-built man of more than medium height, middle aged, and of a nondescript appearance.
“Name of Marris?” enquired Imp., wasting no time on formalities.
“That's me,” replied the other, “Percy F. Marris.”
“Step this way,” commanded Lloyd, “and remember my man has you covered.”
But Marris offered no resistance, and followed them quietly into the office, where Lloyd commenced his questioning.
“What were your movements on the night of the 18th?”
The relentless voice of the great detective caused the man considerable concern.
“I didn't do it. Whatever it is, I didn't do it!”
Suddenly Lloyd stood up, and pointed a menacing finger at the frightened man.
“What do you know,” he said, “concerning the death of one Pat Lauder, Matamata's foremost crooner?”
The other slumped back in his chair, and moaned in a low tone. “I'll tell you everything,” he said, I didn't do it. Honest to God I didn't.
“Speak!” commanded Lloyd.
“I was on duty last night as usual in the signal cabin when about half past nine the telephone rang. It was a racing man to whom I owed a considerable sum of money.
“His name?” interrupted Lloyd.
“Stuart. Horsey Stuart.”
“He was very threatening. Said he was coming over and if I didn't pay up he'd do for me.” Marris shuddered at the recollection.
“And did you, or did he?” enquired the detective.
“Did he what?”
“Did you pay up, or did he do for you?” repeated Lloyd, with the patience of a teacher instructing a backward child.
“Neither. You see, Pat Lauder dropped in for a practice.”
“Practice? You mean he practised doing for you? Be explicit, my man,” warned the detective with some acerbity.
“No. He dropped in for a bit of crooning practice. He was sailing for Buenos Aires next week for the international Crooners Conference, and wanted to keep in form.”
(Continued on p. 49.)