The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)
The Thirteenth Clue — or The Story Of The Signal Cabin Mystery — Chapter V. — The Knife Clue
I Mpskill Lloyd was closeted in his steel-lined study examining, under a colossal magnifying glass, one of Woolworth's fourpenny pocket-knives.
It was just the type of study a famous criminal investigator would have. The steel walls were four feet thick and were lined on the inside, with row upon row of sawn-off shot guns, jemmies, Daisy air guns, bottles of lysol, magnifying-glasses and false noses.
In a huge glass case in the centre of the room was a collection of false clues—one of the finest of its kind in the world.
Impskill was concentrating all his attention on the pocket-knife, which, ever and anon, he plunged into a German sausage in front of him. Each newly-created wound in the sausage he would examine intently and then make copious notes in his Knife-wound Record Book, a huge tome, about twice the size of a family album.
Even while he was studying the pocket-knife, Impskill was silently cursing over the horrible mistake he had made over the bloodstained horse-shoe, the events surrounding which were described in the last chapter. It will be remembered that Impskill was positive that Lauder had been killed by a blow from a horse-shoe. Even so, he was not solely to blame, because his theory had been confirmed by Hilson Wogg of the Great Scott Correspondence School of Criminology. It was P. C. Fanning who discovered that the blood on the horse-shoe really came from a small packet of fishing bait he had purchased for twopence from “Kidney” Jenkinson, the Matamata butcher.
In place of the horse-shoe clue, now so ignominiously rejected, Impskill was satisfied that the pocket-knife had been the instrument of death, accounting at the same time for the alleged blow on the back of the neck.
It was so obvious. The murderer had plunged the knife with terrific force into Pat Lauder's left shoulder, the pain of the blow causing the head of the victim to jerk backwards severing the spinal cord and incidentally causing the terrible bruise on the back of the neck. Having discovered the cause, Impskill merely had to find the wielder of the knife.
A knock sounded on the door of Impskill's den and he immediately cut a slice from the sausage and commenced eating it, evidently to allay suspicion.
“Come in,” he shouted.
“Ah, it's only you,” murmured Imp-skill in a relieved tone of voice. Then he looked keenly at the visitor, Gillespie, his chauffeur.
“Good heavens, man! Why are you smoking one of those?”
“You mean a tailor-made?” inquired “Gil.”
“Yes,” replied Impskill; “you look as out of place as a ‘K’ locomotive in a drawing room.”
“Well, you see, Chief, I've damaged my rolling thumb,” replied “Gil.” “A barmaid bit it.”
“How on earth did that happen?”
“I was chucking her under the chin and her mouth happened to be open.”
“Now, here we are discussing frivolities,” said Impskill sternly, “and Pat Lauder's murdered body is still hanging over us.”
“Gil” looked up to the ceiling in alarm.
“It's all right, ‘Gil,’” added Impskill, “I was merely speaking metaphorically.”
“Anyhow,” said “Gil,” “that's what I've come to see you about. There's a bloke outside wot wants the corpse?”
“Wants the what?” cried Impskill.
“The corpse,” replied “Gil.” “He's C. Stuart Bury, the Matamata undertaker. Says Lauder has been dead long enough and it's about time he screwed the hatches down.”
“True, true,” replied Impskill thoughtfully, “You can hand him over the body—but first take a plaster cast of the wound on the left shoulder.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” replied “Gil” absent-mindedly. You see, “Gil” had once been a sailor, this accounting for his undying thirst.
“Strange,” muttered “Gil” as he left Impskill's den, “why does he want me to plant a cask by the corpse? Must be a blooming wake, he has in mind for poor Pat.”
So originated a happy event for the people of Matamata. Oblivious of the fact that “Gil” had mistaken the words “plaster cast” for “plant a cask,” Impskill had to leave his investigations to hurry to Dunedin by ‘plane to judge the Annual Festival of the British Llama League, an organisation with the laudable object of placing the page 31 llama as a domestic pet in the leading homes of New Zealand.
As he took a flying leap into the ‘plane, Impskill shouted final directions to “Gil.”
“Keep a cordon of police around all the knife factories of Matamata until I return,” he cried, “and don't forget the plaster cast.”
“Plant a cask,” muttered “Gil” waving his handkerchief in goodbye, “the mean hound! One cask. Why I've already ordered five. It's going to be a real wake.”
So, while Impskill flew southwards, “Gil” was busy on the ‘phone inviting every thirsty soul in Matamata to Pat Lauder's wake. He positively refused to hand over the corpse to C. Stuart Bury until the morning after the big beano.
It was a great and memorable night for Matamata. The Mayor, Zeb Barrett, entered into the spirit of the business and placed the Matamata Town Hall at the disposal of the mourners. Pat Lauder was laid out in state on the stage, and, flanking the body, were six hogsheads of the local beer.
P.C. Fanning was the first to be carried out of the hall. The trouble was that every time he cried “Hail!” (a time honoured salutation of his) they thought he was calling for more ale.
Zeb Barrett spoke feelingly of the deceased. Being an old newspaper man he poetically described Lauder as “going to press for the last time.”
“Be gob, from appearances,” observed Dan Doolan, the Matamata publican, “poor Pat was well and truly pied before they got him in the forme.”
“Ere, ere!” cried “Gil” as he drove the tap into another barrel, “he looked like a stop press item gone wrong.”
About 1 a.m. when the wake was waxing at its warmest the members of Pat Lauder's Crooners' Correspondence Course, who had arrived from all parts of New Zealand to farewell their departed Principal, rendered (in ultra-crooner fashion) “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.”
In a beer-charged voice “Gil” inquired: “What's wrong with your mouth?”
Of course we know what “Gil” really meant but, unfortunately, the crooners thought that he was reflecting on their singing. With a chorus of falsetto yells they charged at “Gil” from the stage. Fortunately “Horsey” Stuart intervened. He announced that as the wake was being broadcast through 45 Zq (the recently established Multi-Commercial Zq Station) it would be undignified to put the subject on the air. But for this timely intervention, the murdered body of “Gil” undoubtedly would have joined that of Pat Lauder on the stage, in which case more beer would have had to be ordered, and the wake extended another twenty-four hours.
To pacify the indignant crooners “Gil” promised, there and then, he would write them a song. In addition to being able to drive a car and roll his own cigarette, “Gill” was a born poet and a musician.
Five minutes later the crooners, as happy as a Labour Minister spending a million on pensions, were intoning the following delightful ditty:—
Take me back to Matamata
Where the crooners gently croon
Where there's beauty, beer and bounty,
Happiness from noon to noon.
Take me back to Matamata
Sad I am away from thee,
Matamata makes you fatter
For its beer is ecstasy.
Matamata—what's the matter
With Pat Lauder, cold and dead?
Than in heaven he would rather
Still be Matamata's head.
Give us treacle, give us nutmegs
Marble cake or cocktails queer
They would all taste just like wormwood
Were not Matamata here.
Just as the last memorable line was lingering in the crooners throats there arrived at the wake, by ‘plane from Akaroa, Count De Y'ken Alexander (see Lindsay Buick's “The French at Akaroa”).
Count De Y'ken immediately demanded wine, at which the mourners, led by Dr. Brannigan, commenced chanting most sadly, “What's wrong with beer?”
“Gil” broached another cask.
About 4 a.m. (no beer being left) Dr. Brannigan, Marris, Dan Doolan, P.C. Fanning and “Gill” commenced to look for further clues.
“Hey!” shouted. “Gil,” “What's this ‘ere butter about the edge of the knife wound?”
“The more butter they waste the better,” murmured the local grocer, Sol. Fuzsil, who was now well in his cups.
“But a wound like this looks rather rank,” cried “Gil.”
“Yes—as I thought,” muttered the grocer, “rank butter. ‘Ow ‘bout some more beer?”
Yes, a terrific discovery had been made. “Gil” had found butter marks on the edge of the wound in the body of Pat Lauder. He immediately ‘phoned for Leslie Binge, the local photographer.
Ere the sickly light of morning had etched, in mournful detail, the recumbent bodies of the participants of the wake, the sober, all resourceful Binge had taken a flashlight of the body and the developed photograph was ready, dripping huge drops of hypo, for the Great Sleuth Impskill.
One of the hypo drops fell on the face of “Gil” who awoke and immediately rushed to the local telegraph office to send the following urgent wire to Impskill:—
“Wake a great success stop butter found on Lauder stop important clue stop hasten back to Matamata.”
On receipt of the wire Impskill caught a passing ‘plane and was soon on his return journey. The trouble was that five of the festival llamas in-
(Continued on page 37).