The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)
The Thirteenth Clue or — The Story of the Signal Cabin Mystery
Readers who are following this engrossing mystery story will remember that the body of Pat Lauder was found in the signal cabin, and that the super-sleuth, Impskill Lloyd, had pronounced that there were at least twelve causes of death, ranging from drowning to starvation. Gillespie, Lloyd's much misunderstood and much maligned chauffeur proved, in the last chapter, to be a secret service agent who had unmasked Lloyd's nefarious activities. However, in the game of adventure, Lloyd had turned the tables, Gillespie and the plodding P.C. Fanning were neatly tripped, and, bound with ingenious tackle, were condemned to be tattooed by a Maori fellow-conspirator in the pay of Lloyd.
Gillespie lay perfect'y still, staring at the ceiling while Hari Pongi was portentously fiddling about with his mixtures and preparing his pawa shell edge. He was known as Mata Mata Hari on account of an efficient and cheery deviousness. Gillespie attracted his attention and, as the liquid brown eyes turned gently towards him, indicated with a swift, sly sign the butt of a cheque book protruding from his pocket. The Maori picked up the signal with the speed of a company director or a rail car driver, and halted at his task. Then a whispered conversation took place as Hari traced the Manaia pattern gently on Gillespie's smooth cheeks.
“A round hundred,” said Gillespie, “if you dummy the job or just make it a surfaceman's drag.”
With the noble simplicity of his race, the Maori whispered back: —
“By korri, what about you stop the cheque, ay?”
Gillespie answered, “Don't be a fool. It's payable at Hamilton … make some excuse, run down and cash it and come back …”
The patrician features of Hari Pongi dissolved into friendliness and in language that showed his age-old lineage.
“O Kay, ‘tranger,” he said. “You te ferrer!” He walked across to Lloyd and an undertoned colloquy took place. Lloyd shook his head several times, then broke into a smile and Hongi strode from the room.
Gillespie lay in a rather pleasant reverie. Thoughts went vagrantly through his head, and the opening of the new prospect of a getaway, faint as it was, made him philosophise…. “The good die young,” he remembered. “Just as well, perhaps,” he thought, “if they'd lived they'd be just like the rest of us.”
The reverie went on. There was old Fanning, perfectly relaxed. His tattoo job had been quite a light one. There was ample room on that iridescent dome for a portfolio of drawings, and Gillespie could see nothing from the angle of vision possible to him in his chair.
He mused ruefully … Lloyd was irritating; he was such a bad actor to start with; even when he was imitating himself there would arrive that smile of self-satisfaction, all out of character. Even as the “Man in the Iron Mask” he was easily recognisable as himself. Gillespie dreamingly saw George Arliss in films with Lloyd. Arliss had run out of historical characters and was doing a male impersonation of Boadicea, and Lloyd was playing the left wheel of her chariot … turning … turning … turning. Gillespie could see them years ago, B.M.—before the movies—when there was no wickedness…. He felt drowsy…. Where was Hongi? Had the cow exercised his great gifts of initiative and private enterprise and double crossed … had he met with an accident … had the bank been taken over by Major Douglas … had … Lloyd was still pacing the room, smiling pleasantly and vainly probing his moustache. He had just seized firmly one short golden hair, when there was a terrific crash….
Into the room burst Kidney Jenkin-son. He was an awe-inspiring sight. His face was red, his blue eyes were blazing, and with his white hair he looked like the Union Jack in conflagration. In his hand flashed a steel weapon, dripping with blood. The truth was that he had just finished jointing a large loin of old ewe to look like lamb.
Lloyd, with a howl of dismay, made a running dive, but Kidney was too quick for him. He had, as well as an elementary knowledge of engineering, passing acquaintance with electricity, and as Lloyd moved, he tripped the switch and Lloyd fell as though pole-axed.
Kidney smiled. “Now perhaps,” he said, “they'll understand why I formed the league for the electrification of the line to Okoroire. If this had been a steam plant I'd have had to hit him with the governors.”
It was a matter of seconds to release Gillespie and Fanning. After all, the explanation was simple. Kidney Jenkinson, with his picturesque capacity for minding other people's business, had always suspected these homely prosaic looking bungalows of the Lloyd chain. Kidney himself had shops at Matamata, Morrinsville, Hamilton and other places, and these houses worried him. They looked so respectable that he knew there was something wrong. All his life he had refused to be beguiled by appearances. For four years in the third standard, he had put up a stout fight that eight and six did not come to fourteen, his grounds being that the mathematical authorities claimed that they did… Any everyday fact was enough for him: like the boss, it must be wrong. At a pinch, on a drowsy summer afternoon, he would enunciate a positive statement for the purpose of working round to contradict himself.
Well, here he was, and Gillespie knew that as long as it appeared clear to Kidney that it was not the forces of law and order and authority that were being released, all would be well.
“Well, Kidney, “he said, “what do we do now? You knew Lloyd was not a detective?”
“Yes,” said Kidney, “he looked like one—that was enough for me.”
“Well,” said Gillespie, “he won't lie there for very long, and there are some of his company about …”
“The car's outside,” said Kidney. “Let's throw him in and bolt for Matamata. I've got an idea.”
The trip to Matamata was uneventful. Lloyd twitched and snored sten-toriously, and Gillespie regarded his condition with a loving eye.
They halted at a neat bungalow. “Another Lloyd dwelling,” said Kidney. “Bring him in, and I'll slip over to the shop.”
Kidney returned in a few minutes. He had a small parcel of sweetbreads, tripe and an ox-tail. He placed the blood-stained cleaver in Lloyd's right hand, a copy of the Supplementary Estimates in his left (a good deal of this was missing having travelled out from the shop round various small orders). About the unconscious form he strewed the other articles.
“Looks like Ted Parrett, the morning after St. Bartholomew's Eve,” he said, surveying the look of massacre given by the mise-en-scene.
“Come on,” he said, “leave him.” As the gate clanged, Gillespie saw a portly citizen making his way in. “Who was that?” he asked. “That's the representative of the ‘Matamata Voice',” he said. “I told him there was a good ad. to be picked up here. Anyhow we'll go on to the shop.”
Kidney had an office at the back, and dodging their way through a gallery of hanging carcases of beef and mutton, they entered. There on the stool was the easy-going form of Horsey Stewart. “Hold Your Horses Stewart” he should have been called, according to Kidney.
Kidney pulled out a form and took the beer from the corned beef vat. He held his secret meetings of the page 20 page 21 Electricity League here, and dozens of other movements which he started in camera, and stopped in public.
“Well,” he said, “is there anything I can do?” Gillespie replied swiftly, “You can. We're not one day further ahead in this enquiry as to the murder of Pat Lauder . Fanning will tell you.”
“Yes,” said Fanning, with an appearance of ponderosity that concealed a pretty good workmanlike mind: “I've got a list of false clues, wrong arrests, and so on that is a positive disgrace for Matamata and would be crook in New York.”
“Well,” said Kidney, “I do not know that the motive is so obscure, nor do I think the mystery of Pat Lauder's murder is so insoluble. The mystery to me is why he was allowed to live so long…. Look at some of his habits: He was the world's most copious confessor; his form of alcoholic remorse was a frightful thing. Considering that there is hardly a town in either Island that does not own sufferers from this pest when he got genial … that alone must have left him with a considerable mass of enemies. Then he believed in fairies' money—never got writer's cramp…”
Horsey Stewart interrupted, delivering a slow, sweet smile in neutral, “Yes,” he said, “but did you ever suffer from his writings? They had the most infuriating appearance of being composed in English …”
The smile almost imperceptibly intensified a little and his speech slowed down, showing that he was thinking rapidly. “His loss was most satisfactory in some ways, it could have been done more on purely railway principles, of course, but …”
Kidney Jenkinson sprang into the air and hurled himself at one ten foot bound at the tall figure that was entering. This splendid Carisbrooke Ground tackle took poor Teaswell by surprise.
Dusting the sawdust from his immaculate clothes as he rose, he muttered, “What's all this about—what has the law to say, do you think, about an assault on a toffee maker of my productiveness…. I'm on my fifth volume now.”
“That'll teach you to swing llama on to me for a vealer,” said Kidney. “You've lost me the postmistress, Dr. Brannigan! … toffee flavoured! too!” Teaswell was for once at a loss.
The situation was relieved as Kidney rushed to the front of the shop, heavily crashing a large Jersey heifer carcase on the way. He signalled to everyone to come out, bubbling with laughter.
Along the street of Matamata was prcceeding the quaintest cavalcade. It would have made Noah green with envy. Even the Neon lights were visibly in doubt as to their colours, and blue was vacillating to orange, and reds were trembling to green. P.C. Fanning was in the lead, Impskill Lloyd was held tightly by the arm by a large phlegmatic person, subsequently ascertained to be a visiting detective, sent from the Capital to look for an absconding grocer who had been discovered putting sand in the sugar on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of Mondays and Fridays.
Walking with an air of fortuitous pride next in line was Stewart Bury, the local mortician.
“If Lloyd gets his, as he oughter,” said Gillespie, “Bury won't be interested he won't even be wondering whether it's oak and silver handles or plain beaver board.”
Proudly holding the collection of small goods that Kidney had left, in walked the newspaper representative, and next him was a small boy brandishing the bloodstained cleaver. It was a great show. The population had turned out and, according to Kidney, looked like “The Eastbourne football park mob on an off day.”
Suddenly Gillespie ejaculated, “Well, of all the fools I'm …” and left at even time pace for the procession. Teaswell followed with more dignity.
Horsey Stewart thought all this out in two flashes and turned to the telephone. He spoke hurriedly in Maori, thanking his stars for Jimmy Cowan.
In the meantime, Tmpskill Lloyd has been lodged at the police station, P.C. Fanning lumbering about now in charge of everything. The temporary charge was his being in illegal possession of Kidney Jenkinson's cleaver and the mixed proteins.
Gillespie lost his indecision. He took P.C. Fanning aside. “I must see Impskill alone,” he said.
P.C. answered, “What about the regulations … I'll look them up.”
Gillespie waited impatiently as time went on. He could see that P.C. was through the regulations under “The Lands for Settlement Acts” “The Stamp Acts” and “The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act.” However there was nothing to do but wait. P.C. Fanning was nothing if not thorough.
At last, however, the constable gave a majestic nod of affirmation. Gillespie darted down the passage. It was a wooden lock-up, and he jabbed the key in the lock—and laughed grimly. The far side of the lock-up was missing and so was Lloyd! The whole wall had been neatly removed, and there were footprints all over the ground that might have been made in a Springboks Test Match. Gillespie tore across the paddook at the back of the police station. There was no one in sight, except Horsey Stewart, who was smiling in dulcet fashion and sauntering towards Gillespie … (To be continued.)page 22