The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 4 (July 1, 1936)
TheThirteenth Clue — Or — The Story Of The Signal Cabin Mystery — Chapter I
Impskill Lloyd's long arm shot out to the telephone in the first fraction of a second that the bell tinkled. (Impskill was like that—in thought and action, speed marked him out distinct from other men.)
The voice that reached him faintly over the wire was agonised and horror-stricken—just two words, in a high-pitched male voice— “Come quickly”—followed by a gurgle, the sound of a crash, then utter silence.
Lloyd noted the time on his desk pad— 11.16 p.m. —hung up, and called the Exchange.
“I had a ring just now,” he said. “Have you a record of it—a distance call to ‘City 50–984'?”
“Yes,” came the prompt reply, “from Marris, 17 Matamata.”
Again Impskill noted the time— 11.18.
Thus were the first facts accurately noted in the drama of the 13th clue— and had the call come to any other than Impskill Lloyd, the one great exponent of speed in criminal investigation, it is now certain that the mystery of the most baffling crime in the whole history of modern criminology would never have been solved.
But Impskill Lloyd seems to have been born to be an investigator. It was in his blood—a potent heritage. He came of a race of seekers and finders. Family history on his father's side included a chemist, a prospector, a chief of police, a successful breeder of racehorses, and a secondary inspector of fowl-runs. His mother's
Mystery stories and criminal detectives hold pride of place in popular fiction, but here is a new combination which points the way to brighter things.
The characters in the story are so far from being unflctitious that a number of leading: and following; writers, whose “Murder by Twelve” is soon to be published, have volun'eered to tell their side of “The 13th Clue,” from a more or less personal knowledge of the case as outlined in this first chapter.
The writers who will “carry on” are (as the lot fell): S. H. Jenkinson, Erie Bradwell, Wilson Hogg, C. A. L. Traadwell, P. A. Lowlor, C. Stuart Perry, B. B. Phillips, fames Cowan, C. A. Marris, G. O. Stewart, L. 8. Funning, O. N. Gillespie, Alan Mulgan and Victor Lloyd.
side of the family tree could show a chess champion, a judge, a tea-taster, an inveterate gossip, and a meteorologist.
From his earliest years, Impskill had used and developed certain extraordinary personal gifts of speed and observation with but one aim in view —the solution of murder problems. He believed in keeping records—ran a secret shorthand index of his own to keep tab of everything, and was known as “Tab” Lloyd (or “Tabloid”) amongst his friends.
To the public he was always “Imp” Lloyd. In his rare moments of relaxation, however, when the whole man slumped, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde change occurred, so that “Imp” Lloyd became “Unimp” Lloyd.
The reason for his choice of a profession was not far to seek. When Impskill Lloyd, an only child, was aged but 4 years and 13 days, his father—a literary light of London, whose most famous work “Register” (sometimes called “Lloyd's Register”) is a classic of sea-fiction—was found dead on the left bank of the Thames below Teddington—buried under a truck-load of rejected manuscripts.
The circumstances pointed to murder, but the matter had never been cleared up, although the manuscripts were duly incinerated.
Thus left fatherless, the disconsolate lad was trained by his wealthy mother (after the first poignancy of her great grief had passed) in those exercises of observation which would help him later to become a master detective.
To keep the boy's clear mind unsullied by the smoke of the great Metropolis, his mother soon after page 33 emigrated with him to New Zealand, where he attended the famous Riverbank School of Detection.
Here, by purely deductive reasoning he was able to suggest, when only 7 years of age, a solution of the Tank Road murder case. (It will be remembered that this murder was nicknamed “The Janus case” —two human heads, looking so alike that they were mistaken for those of elderly twins, having been found, threaded together with red tape, in the favourite Tank Road drinking well of Wellington.) Young Lloyd's solution was subsequently found—after six months fruitless police research in other directions —to be the correct one.
But above and beyond all his uncanny powers of observation and of deduction from the analysis of evidence, Impskill was chiefly remarkable as the living embodiment of speed. As a runner—and he easily captured all the championship cups he ever cared to compete for—speed off the mark, and an incredible burst of speed to the tape, explained his success. Everything about him was quick—electric. Even his meals were eaten with startling rapidity. He reached the sweets while others were still toying with the soup.
The Impskill Lloyd theory of crime detection was original and intriguing. It was that, following the crime, the criminal made as much speed as he could to erase the evidence; and detection depended upon whether the investigator made more speed in unwinding the clues than did the criminal in entangling them. He also held that the speed of both criminal and detective tended to be in inverse ratio to the square of the time elapsed ilnce the crime was committed.
“Come quickly…’ Marris, Matamata.”
Intuitively Imp. suspected murder, and sprang to action. A button pressed, to warn his chauffeur of his coming, and he was out of his bachelor apartments with the speed of a hurricane, into the electric lift, and down to the garage basement as Gillespie, his trusted chauffeur and companion in many a wild rush to the scene of a crime, threw the door open to admit him to the driver's seat of the already running car—they were “on their way.”
Three hundred miles must be covered before dawn, and the roads, for two-thirds of the distance, were rough, steep and winding. But Imp. knew that after midnight they would have the road almost to themselves and that his powerful Hispano Suiza was ready for a non-stop run at the fastest speed to which he dared put her.
“What's on? “said Gillespie, screwing his jocose face into an unwonted frown of concentrated curiosity, as the car driven at top speed, swung quivering from the Main Hutt Road through the gaping, jaws of the Ngahauranga Gorge.
“I think someone's murdered at Matamata,” said Imp., “and I want to find out.”
“Are the Police on to it? “asked Gilespie. He well knew his chief's dislike of entering upon a case after the police had, as he put it, “Mucked up the clues!”
It was one of Lloyd's policies to work in with the police, and they had on many occasions made grudging acknowledgment of his brilliant assistance—but he truly abhorred the deliberateness of their methods!
“No, Gill, I hope the police are out of this, so far,” replied Imp. “I did not ring them up—but that omission is easily justified.
“After 11.30 p.m. there is no ‘phone connection east of Hamilton, and from previous experience I knew there was no chance of even convincing Police Headquarters there was any need for speed in the 12 minutes left after I had checked my call. Then they haven't so speedy a car as mine, hence my ‘police policy’ conscience is ‘all clear at Lloyd's’.”
“So the call was from Matamata!” ruminated Gill, who knew a good story about that burg, but realised that this was not the time to spill it. “What did you make of the call?”
“Well,” said Imp., “I only got two words— ‘Come quickly’ —and then it sounded as if the man were being throttled.”
“Is that so? “said Gill. “Then it looks like an all night job. How about a ‘spot1?”
The suggestion was so good that it easily graduated with double first-class honours.
Replacing the well-worn pocketflask where it would be handy for the next emergency, and while the car zoomed ahead at speeds that seemed to defy all legal limits, he proceeded to lay out, on the back seat, some supper for his employer and also a large-scale road map of the shortest route to Matamata.
Gill then took over the wheel from Imp., while the latter bolted sandwiches in chaff-cutter fashion, and—taking huge drafts of hot coffee from the giant thermos with the speed and avidity of a watering locomotive—simultaneously studied closely the map, to memorise all the cross-roads and turns on the tortuous portion of the intricate route through the wild passes of the Tongariro mountains.
Just before daybreak, weary but alert, they crossed the railway tracks at Matamata and ran on towards the only building with visible light in the village—the high-set signal-box about 200 yards south of the station.
Imp. called, but there was no response from the cabin. He mounted the steep steps and knocked loudly. Again no response. Peering through the partly drawn door-curtains, he saw a human form slumped ominously on the coir-matting of the floor.
“Gill! My despatch-case, quick!” he called. This case always carried, besides medical aids, a useful, though unlawful jemmy. Lloyd lost no time in forcing the door. It took even less time to decide that he had a corpse on his hands.
“So this,” he thought, “is ‘Marris—17 Matamata'. Bad luck, old chap!” And then, as time counted for so much in his theory of crime detection, he seized the telephone and rang the house of the local police constable. He had counted upon this piece of luck in establishing communication with the authorities, as in most of these smaller villages where the exchange is closed over night, the few official ‘phones are usually switched through to each other for the period that the full exchange is out of operation.page 34 page 35
A sleepy, gruff voice demanded “What's up!” But Imp. Lloyd knew his village, police, and with swift, vivid words in which “Inspector” occurred with painful familiarity, Police Constable Fanning; was stirred to unwonted activity. Within five minutes this burly representative of law and order arrived on the run. But at the first glance towards the figure on the floor, he turned suddenly, muttering— “Must get a doctor—don't touch a thing!” Gill hustled him into the car, and within a few minutes they were back with a pyjama-clad and much excited Irishman—the only medical man in the village—Dr. Eric Brannigan.
“Let's have a good look at ye—me poor corpse—so ye are!”
He turned up the cowering head, but then started back, in the utmost consternation and grief. “Pat Lauder! For the love of Mike, look at that now! Me poor Pat—and us thinkin’ ye well on yer way to Buenos Aires an’ all! Poor ould Pat! Thankful am I, right now, that you're a single man —for it's sad I'd be to have to break this news to yer widow—if such there was, which, glory be, there isn't!”
While these wild ejaculations came pouring from the lips of Dr. Brannigan, he was proceeding swiftly and efficiently with his professional duties.
But no stethescope was needed to prove life extinct. And then, with Imp's, assistance, the full examination began—P.C. Fanning looking on wisely, and making obvious and irrepressible comments as the work proceeded.
And this is what they found:
The body was that of a strongly-built but incredibly thin man', of about 35 years, with crinkly, auburn-tinted hair, a large head with an immense forehead, a clean-shaved face of strongly marked features with strange discolouration round one eye. The eyes themselves were blue, and the hands large, but delicately moulded and. smooth.
The facts were recorded in Imp's, bulging notebook under twelve headings, and when the autopsy had been completed the record read like this: —
Possible Causes of Death.
“1.Drowning. —The clothes and hair are wet, as if the whole body had recently been immersed in water for some time. The condition of the lungs, also congested with water, lends a suggestion of death due to drowning.
“2.Badly Burnt. —On both back and chest, under the clothing, are burns so severe that death might have resulted front them. It could not be decided definitely by Dr. Brannigan whether these burns occurred before or after death.
“3.Kicked or Struck. —The victim has been either kicked by a horse, or struck with a knuckle-duster, on the back of the neck so severely that the spinal cord is severed. Again, there is nothing to indicate to Dr. Brannigan whether this was caused before or after death.
“4. Poisoned. —Two inches below the back of the knee on the right leg there are distinct marks of a Katipo spider's bite. The Katipo is the only deadly insect—or, for that matter, the only deadly animal of any kind in New Zealand (if we except the wild bulls of the Taupo and the literary cows of the towns) and in certain conditions of the blood, a bite from one of these small spiders has caused death within a few hours. Katipos are only found in the rubbish of seabeaches above high water-mark.
“5.Knifed. —A knife wound in the back of the left shoulder was probed, and was found to extend through into the upper right lobe of the heart. If no other evidence were available, this would certainly be adjudged the cause of death.
“6. Garolled. —An extraordinary external pressure has been applied to the wind-pipe—probably the work of an experienced garotter. But choking of another kind may also have occurred, for wedged in the gullet was a sharp-edged lump of Teaswell's Tasty Toffee—the most cooly callous and cloysornely dangerous sweetmeat made in New Zealand.
“7.Fear. —The eyes, and the general expression of the face, portray fear in its most intense form—what is technically known as “frozen fear.” The sudden shock of this extreme type of fear might well have caused heart failure.
‘The belfry bats knelt to a passing dray,
While Sense and System slyly slunk away'.
“9.Electrocution. —An electric current of high voltage had passed through the body within the past 12 hours. This would have killed the strongest person.
“10. A Fall. —Both legs had badly comminuted fractures, and the cranium at the base of the skull, although of extraordinary thickness, was cracked. These injuries are typical of a straight fall, feet first, from a considerable height, as through a street manhole, or down a steamer's funnel. Or the page 36 page 37 victim might have stepped over the edge of a mining shaft or a deep, dry well. The skull fracture alone was sufficiently severe to have caused death.
“11.Motor Smash. —The ribs are caved in—as when a body is struck in the chest by a motor car travelling at high speed. The broken rib ends have punctured the lungs—enough in itself to have caused almost instant death.
“12.Starvation. —The whole body exhibits extreme emaciation, typical of cases where death supervenes from lack of food over a long period.”
It was now 8 a.m. Imp. Lloyd's clue-conscious mind began at once to wrestle with the problem. Here were twelve proximate causes of death. Which was the real one?
And would each of these discoveries supply a possible clue to the murder? As time proved, they would; but was there any 13th clue which would provide the key to the other twelve? Lloyd's A. 1. mind raced at top speed among the infinite possibilities of the situation. There was still one factor missing—what was it?
Just then the telephone in the signal-box jangled. Again Impskill's long arm shot out—and again he heard—as from a great distance—two faint words “Come quickly” followed by a strangled cry and a loud crash. (To be continued.)
“O.K.,” said the weed merchant, “there's lots of brands of tobacco, as you say, but in a manner of speaking, you can divide them broadly into two classes—the toasted and the untoasted; yes, and I'll tell you something more—once you take to toasted—the real thing mind—you won't care a row of pins about the untoasted, no matter what the brand is.”The customer looked thoughtful. “Can toasting really make all that difference?” he ventured. “It can—and it does!” declared the tobacconist emphatically, “the toasting of tobacco is one of the most ingenious and efficient processes as yet invented. What does it do? Why it cuts out the nicotine and at the same time gives this tobacco that fine, pure, clean, sweet fragrance smokers love. You can smoke any amount of it with safety—and, my word!—you enjoy every whiff!” “I must certainly have a tin,” laughed the customer, “a small one just to try it out.” “You'll want a big one next time,” prophesied the tobacconist, “you wait and see.” *