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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 4 (July 1, 1937)

The Thirteenth clue — or The Story of the Signal Cabin Mystery — Chapter XII

page 26

The Thirteenth clue
or The Story of the Signal Cabin Mystery
Chapter XII.

Unfortunately nothing could be got out of that dulcet smile of Horsey Stewart's.

“Seen anything of Lloyd?” demanded Gillespie.

“Lloyd-Lloyd-Lloyd,” murmered Stewart; “in a minute you'll have annoyed.”

“Lloyd, yes, Lloyd,” cried Gillespie. “Impskill Lloyd. He's escaped.”

“‘He's my little lonesome lover in the moon’,” crooned Stewart.

“Rats,” exclaimed Gillespie. “You're drunk!”

“My name is Eric Brannigan,” said a voice suddenly beside Gillespie. “I'm a duly qualified and registerd medical practitioner. I found the accused by the side of the road at 10 p.m. smiling vacantly. In my opinion accused was not drunk—that is, in the ordinary sense of the word. He had not partaken of alcoholic stimulant. He had been listening to crooners, until he was intoxicated with spurious emotion.”

“Is he often like this?” asked Gillespie.

“Occasionally,” replied the doctor. “He and Bury have regular orgies. Bury has 150 gramophone records, all crooners. He's been there tonight. I generally prescribe a couple of hours of listening to Elgar and Stravinsky numbers. That sobers him up.”

“Come on,” said Gillespie, “We've got to find Impskill.”

These incidents are complete in themselves, but the characters are all related.

These incidents are complete in themselves, but the characters are all related.

But they didn't find him. The footprints led to a dark, back road, and there the trail stopped. The side of the lock-up had completely disappeared. Only a large lorry could have taken it, but road enquiries brought no news of one. What had happened, so they found out later, was that Lloyd and his gang had carried the side of the house down to the river and set it afloat. Lloyd had then stepped on board, drifted down the river a mile or two, and swung himself ashore by a willow brach. The timber was found miles further down by a builder and incorporated in a “desirable seaside bungalow.”

Though it was forty years old it was destined to outlive the rest of the material in the building.

Meanwhile Impskill Lloyd had vanished completely. They tried the police, the A.A. patrols, the radio, the Hairdressers ‘Union, and the National Association of Bookmakers (Inc.), but not a sign. The sensation grew cold. P.C. Fanning moped. Gillespie was bored as stiff as a Remuera hostess accused of living in Ponsonby. He knew every bottle in the town by name, down to the 39 Heinz in the grocers’ windows. He had read all the “Free Lances” in the barbers' shops, and was driven to taking the Post Office Directory to bed with him. Thus it was that one day when he saw the secretary of the Rotary Club bearing down on him, he did not bolt. Gillespie was wont to shun Rotary lunches as orgies of aerated platitudes, but now his manhood was sapped.

“Not gone yet?” asked the secretary. “How are they treating you?”

“Very seldom,” replied Gillespie. “You must come to our luncheon to-morrow,” said the secretary. “You know, self before service—I mean service before self. One o'clock at Ye Olde Maorie Tea-shoppe. We've got a big gun for to-morrow. Dr. Derk P. Yonkers, from Chicago. Just blew in from Rotorua. Famous physician, Mayo clinic and all that. I've told the president to bill him as a great surgeon. There's no interest in physicians. He's going to talk about diet. By the way, do you know that your poor friend Lauder was on a freak diet when he died?”

“You don't say so!” exclaimed Gillespie.

“Yes, bran and canary seed and thistles, and all that sort of thing. And he'd knocked off smoking and drinking.”

“Good God, what did he want to live for.”

The room that the Rotary Club used at Ye Olde Maorie Tea-shoppe was in its furnishing an elegant mixture of English aspidistrial and new colonial. In the eyes of many Mata-mataians the bright artificial flowers were prettier than real ones. The festoons of coloured paper that met page 27 over the table reminded them of what they imagined to be the delights of Paris. There were two Rotary mottoes on the wall—“One touch of Nature makes the whole world skinned,” and “Never put off till to-morrow the man you can do to-day”—the work of an illiterate and slightly deaf sign-writer. The errors had remained unnoticed.

“He was driven to taking the Post Office Directory to bed with him.”

“He was driven to taking the Post Office Directory to bed with him.”

A Union Jack hung over the door leading into the kitchen. When the time came to sing “God Save the King” the proprietress, standing out of sight, would blow it into action with a bellows.

Come, come, come to Matamata, Come where the land is fatter, Come, where the cheer germs scatter.

After the singing of this special local song, the president, in the manner of so many chairmen, referred to the short time at their disposal— they were all busy men and had to be back at work at two o'clock—and then proceeded to take up ten minutes himself by saying what could have been comfortably said in two. The editor of the Matamata Re-Echo, with which is incorporated the Piako Sentinel, the Putaruru War-cry, and the Tirau Blade, was fined five shillings for stating in print of Pat Lauder's death that Dr. Brannigan had said he was dead instead of “pronounced life extinct,” and the leading local solicitor half a crown for having suggested that there might be attractions in neighbouring Te Aroha. As sergeant-at-arms, Fanning took the fines. Perhaps that was the only sergeant he would ever be.

The visiting investigators into the mystery of the signal box were supported by Mr. Furnace Skurry, who had come up from Wellington to track down an Order-in-Council regulation that had broken gaol. Mr. Skurry surveyed the scene with something of the expression of a present-day Bloomsbury poet contemplating the collected works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

All eyes were on the guest of the day. He was a tall man who had been spare but was now inclining to stoutness, with a long aquiline face and a fair beard cut to a point. Tinted glasses did not altogether hide the penetrating power of his eyes. Speaking with a very strong American accent, he plunged straight into his subject. Nearly everybody was being poisoned by wrong food. Far too much meat was eaten. (This, in a district which depended on cattle and sheep, was considered slightly tactless.) Then followed a long and technical exposition of proteins and carbohydrates, of foods that should go together and foods that should not. It seemed that everybody present had for years eaten under the grave error of combining meat and potatoes. As for breakfast, a sandwich of rye bread and thistles was quite sufficient.

Teaswell slipped into the vacant seat beside Gillespie.

“Notice anything queer about this chap?” he asked.

“Any amount,” replied Gillespie.

“Seriously though. I don't believe he's a doctor.”

“Why not?”

“Because he knows so much about diet. Doctors don't as a rule.”

Gillespie studied the speaker as the easy flow of physiological detail went on.

“You may be right, Teaswell,” he said, “though as a toffee maker you're prejudiced. I don't like the look of him myself. He reminds me of the man in one of Ngaio Marsh's detective tales—he's a little too American to be genuine. We'll see.”

Gillespie rose.

“May I interrupt? I would like to ask the speaker what are his qualifications?”

The scandalised president rose to protest, but Dr. Yonkers waved him aside and turned to Gillespie. The flow became a torrent.

“I'll tell that fresh guy over there that he's suffering from an excoriated extravasation of the medulla oblongata, complicated by schlerosis of the digital duodenum.”

“Nux vomica to you,” retorted Gillespie unperturbed. “Likewise cascara sagrada and Epsom salts. But what's your standing as a doctor?”

“You saphead, I'm M.D. of Chicago, Petersen medallist, Rockefeller foundation scholar, Carnegie research …”

Petersen! Gillespie felt a shock of memory. Petersen—Bulldog Drum-mond! Petersen had a little trick of the body that Drummond recognised through disguise. Watching Dr. Yonkers, Gillespie noticed his eyebrows. They went up, just as Lloyd's did when he was excited. And Yonkers was excited, and the more excited he got the less American he was.

“You're not a doctor at all!” shouted Gillespie. “You're Impskill Lloyd! And I know now what killed Pat Lauder! Starvation! You killed him! You put him on to a diet that finished him—encouraged him to live on watercress and thistles when he should have been filling himself with good steak and eggs! Fanning, arrest this man!”

The place was in an uproar. Everybody stood up and shouted. No one noticed that Lloyd's hands were busy over the table. Suddenly he spread out his arms, and the contents of four pepper pots were scattered about him. In the resultant eruption of coughing and sneezing Lloyd dived through the door, and before anyone could reach the landing after him there was the sound of a powerful car starting. When the first of his pursuers reached the street the car was disappearing over the horizon. (Cont. on page 40 .)

“The Proprietress … standing out of sight, would blow it into action.”

“The Proprietress … standing out of sight, would blow it into action.”

page 28