The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)
The Thirteenth Clue
The Thirteenth Clue
(Continued on p. 49.)
“Did he wear celluloid braces?” asked the great investigator suddenly.
Marris looked up in surprise. “Oh, yes. He never went anywhere without them. Except the time they were on exhibit at the local A.P.A. show.”
“Continue. What happened when Lauder dropped in?”
“He crooned for a while, including a rather good yoddly-doddle-do on F sharp, and then said I seemed not to be enjoying it as much as usual, so I told him the trouble I was in with Horsey.”
“How did he react to that?”
“Oh, Pat was very upset. He suggested I should clear out and he would do his best to get rid of Horsey when he arrived.”
And you agreed?”
“As I thought,” murmured Lloyd. He turned to his assistant. “Gillespie, institute a few enquiries around the city concerning the whereabouts, habits and associations of one Horsey Stuart.” The detective took out his watch. Report back to me in six minutes three seconds. By that time I shall be ready.”
The chauffeur's rubicund face lighted up with delighted anticipation, and he rose with alacrity. The commission would afford him the opportunity of visiting the hotel in the course of pursuing his enquiries.
As the door closed behind Gillespie, Lloyd turned again to Marris, his quick eyes darting over the other's face, not only hither and thither but to and fro and vice versa also. Lloyd never missed anything, and his keenness was often rewarded by discovering things that were not actually there.
Was that a flicker of a smile that crossed the face of this man Marris? Had he been too hasty in dismissing his assistant and remaining alone with what might turn out to be Matamata's Public Enemy Number One? Lloyd wondered, toying significantly with his magnifying glass as he did so.
“Proceed,” he said steadily, his voice betraying nothing of the turbulent doubts within him.
“I had a stroll round for a while and then returned to the signal cabin. As I approached I heard Pat's well-known tremulo. He was apparently trying out a new number entitled, as far as I could gather, ‘I'm aflame with Love.’ I was about to mount the steps when a second shadow crossed the blind, and I realised Horsey was within.” The man's voice faltered as he lived again the terrible suspense of that moment.
“And then?” came the detective's inexorable prompt.
“I turned and ran, not returning for several hours. When at last I crept back the cabin was dark and deserted, the only light coming from two hundred candle power lamps immediately opposite. The door was open and I crept in, switching on the light as I did so. And there, in front of me, lay the body of my old friend and companion Pat Lauder.”
Marris's voice was quivering with emotion, and Imp. by this time was convinced he was telling the truth, the only thing he doubted being the veracity of the man's statement.
“How was the body lying?” he asked, certain in his own mind that someone must be lying.
“Down,” replied Marris in a hushed voice.
“I knew it,” said Lloyd gleefully, pleased that the evidence was dovetailing so neatly. “What did you do?”
“Realising the terrible position in which I was placed I decided to call you, knowing that you, and you alone, could extricate me from the suspicion which would surely fall on me.”
“The wisest course,” remarked Lloyd, pleased at the man's intelligence.
“Knowing there were no trains until the following Thursday week I left the cabin and spent a sleepless night in the open, creeping into the police station here just as dawn was breaking. But my nerves were jarred with the terrible ordeal through which I had passed, and not being able to stand the loneliness any longer I lifted the receiver of the telephone and called for help.”
At that moment the outer door swung open and the portly form of Gillespie the chauffeur swayed, rather than strode, into their presence.
“Hello,” he said, and there was a thickness about his speech which the detective recognised immediately.
Pausing only to relate one of his experiences, Lloyd rose and confronted his assistant.
“Gillespie”, he thundered, you have been drinking!”
Gillespie beamed stupidly.
“And what a drink,” he said.
For a moment the great investigator was at a loss. Precious moments were slipping by, and the whereabouts of Horsey Stuart had yet to be discovered. Suddenly Lloyd solved the difficulty in characteristic fashion. Seizing the pistol that Gillespie, only a short while before, had loaded from the flower vase, he fired, it point blank at the chauffeur. The resultant stream of water struck the unfortunate Gill, just between the eyes, and trickling down his nose began to collect in a small pool at his feet.
“Come,” Imp. said, dismissing the incident from his mind, “there is work still to do.” And he commenced repacking the despatch case with the pistol, the magnifying glass, the two false beards and the conductor's baton. As he did so he came across the cigarette lighter he had first discovered in the signal cabin.
“Do you recognise this?” he enquired, offering it to Marris.
The latter examined the lethal weapon with awe.
“Yes,” he replied, “it's Horsey's.”
“As I thought,” muttered the detective. And then, acting on a sudden thought, he plucked a piece of paper from his hatband and thrust it under Marris's nose.
“And this,” he said, “have you seen this before?”
Marris stared at the paper. It was the scrap that Imp. had taken from the pocket of the dead man during the first preliminary investigation, and had on it the words:
“Send it to me or take the consequences.”
“Yes,” replied Marris eagerly, “that is the note I got from Horsey earlier in the day. I gave it to Pat when he came to the signal cabin.
“Enough,” said Imp., stuffing the paper back in his hat band, “the case is now clear as mustard. We have but to find the murderer. I think, Gillespie,” he added, as the latter shambled to the door after him, “we shall be back in town for dinner. Good morning, Mr. Marris, you need have no fear that justice will be done.” And with an old world bow the great investigator passed through the door.
(To be Continued.)