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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 6 (September 1, 1937.)

The Thirteenth Clue — or The Story of the Signal Cabin Mystery

page 32

The Thirteenth Clue
or The Story of the Signal Cabin Mystery

chapter xiii.

From Matamata to Scotland Yard.


the final clue.

Twelve clues in the Signal Cabin Mystery have been well and truly classified, tested and examined under the skilled guidance of that arch-detective—Impskill Lloyd.

And each phase of the astounding history following the discovery of Pat Lauder's body at Matamata, has been vividly described with an attention to detail, a dramatic intensity, a wealth of wit, and that keen analysis of character which mark the best work of the writers taking part in this omnibus story.

This final chapter was to have been written by Impskill Lloyd himself. Only circumstances of an unusual nature prevented this.

A disjointed radio message has come from Pekin. It was sent by Impskill himself. He is busy there now engaging boxers to combat a band of international criminals. But he has spared time to provide notes for the thirteenth clue—the strange explanation of those stranger happenings which have been reported monthly since July of last year in the pages of this magazine.

After his many thrilling experiences, rapid readjustments, and clever escapes from the ever-present dangers of the Matamata underworld, Impskill Lloyd, the lightning conductor o f criminal investigation, felt more convinced than ever that a thirteenth clue existed.

He must find it.

Good mathematician though he was, even Imp. found difficulty in arranging, in lucid order, the many pieces on the checker-board of the Matamata Mystery—the Pawns, the Knights and Castles, the Kings and Queens and Bishops that stood and moved in intricate array through the kaleidoscopic changes, the cavalcade of that Homeric drama.

An expert Matamatician—nay, a genius at the game was required. Could one be found?

Fortunately for Impskill's purpose, he suddenly recalled the subtlety of mind possessed by the” Matamata butcher, Kidney Jenkinson.

Here, surely, was a Matamatician after his own heart—one who could square the spare ribs of a tender mutton with meticulous accuracy; who could turn a triangle of beef into a rhomboid with one sure, swift stroke of the cleaver; one who could find the quadratics in quadrupeds with unerring instinct; one to whom the square root of a pork sausage and the binomial theorem of a boiled mutton were equally simple.

He must have the Matamatician Jenkinson—the man who could reduce a surd to the last decimal point of absurdity—to whom sines and portents were equally familiar. Jenkinson ! Who lapped up logarithms like a kitten at the cream jug. Kidney Jenksinson! The Matamata butcher—a Matamatician indeed, in whom there was no bile. Who had, indeed, been called “Kitteny” at College on account of his logarithmic mind. “Kitteny” became “Kidney” when he abandoned logs and anti-logs to enter the butchery business at Matamata.

To Jenkinson, then, must Impskill Lloyd appeal!

Now picture Kidney early on a spring morning in Matamata, munching Matamatically a grilled chop of his own square chopping brought home by his wife on her way from shopping the previous afternoon.

The telephone rings.

Kidney, masticating hurriedly the last morsel, bisects a straight line at right angles as he hastens to take the call.

Over the wire he hears:

“Is that you, Kidney? Impskill here. I want you to stay where you are until I arrive. Be with you in five minutes.”

Kidney's acute mind immediately deduced that an acute angle had developed at a tangent of the fast-closing Lauder Mystery circle.

When Impskill arrived Kidney's deduction soon proved to be accurate.; “Have you anything of Lauder's here,” were his first words, as he page 33 alighted from an extremely high bicycle at the butcher's door.

(From this machine Impskill frequently obtained useful clues through upstairs windows).

Kidney laughed. “I have three sillings in the late Pat Lauder's deposit account for beef,” he said.

“Gillespie is left behind.”

“Gillespie is left behind.”

“But I mean something personal,” said Imp. seriously.

Kidney gazed reflectively through the back kitchen window and, in his mind's eye, squared with Matamatical precision the circle of his own backyard.

“It's a funny thing you should say that!” he replied after a pause.

He walked through to the office safe, spun the combination to the key word “clue,” and—as he swung the door open—pulled out a small drawer from which he extracted a match-box.

Lifting the match-box lid, he tipped upon his open palm a small quartz specimen studded richly with gold.

“I knew it! I knew it!” exulted Impskill in tones of breathless excitement. “The thirteenth clue at last!”

Before replying, Kidney tried to steady his mind by saying, below his breath, the Matamatical exercise for times of excitement—the six times table backwards, and then sideways.

“Why did you never tell me of this before?” continued Impskill reproach fully.

“Had this vital piece of evidence been produced earlier in the proceedings, much might have been saved—and recovered,” he added significantly.

“Well,” said Kidney, “since this mystery started, things have been looking up in the butchering business.

Business, in fact, has never before been so brisk in Matamata. I don't know that I want the mystery cleared.

“Matamata is now a tourist resort for those in search of sensation—and the keen air of mystery surrounding the place since our Signal Cabin sprung into fame has made everyone simply ravenous.

“But I was not holding back anything from you, really,” he continued.

“The phenomenally increased demand for beef made me go outside the usual sources of supply. I've had to buy up quite a number of local cows that for some reason or other the owners were willing to part with—at a price,” he added, somewhat ruefully.

“There was a sale, last week, of Lauder's household and personal effects, including six hens, a pig and a cow. I bought all this livestock.

“The cow was soon converted to prime beef, but a successful butcher must be up in the Matamatics of economical butchering.

“There is a great and growing demand for calf's foot jelly here, and I do my best to supply it. Cow's foot, I find, is twice the strength of calf's foot, so that a given quantity of the older hoof goes twice as far.

“When about to put the four feet of Lauder's cow in the jelly pot, to my amazement I found this quartz specimen firmly embedded in the fork of the off hind hoof.

“I intended to get a legal opinion as to whether the specimen was mine—having bought the cow, or whether—not being a usual part of a cow, but something accidentally attached thereto—it would have to be treated as a separate article and returned to the estate.”

“A fine point,” nodded Impskill.

“Come,” he said, “let us now visit the Lauder estate.”

Mounting the high bicycle and taking Kidney as a back-step passenger, Imp-skill rapidly trundled down the main street until he reached the Lauder place on the edge of the town. The whole property consisted of three acres—the minimum holding for a cow in the by-laws of, Matamata. Impskill quartered the section like a hound, while Kidney split it into small squares which he rooted, but the square roots revealed no trace of any quartz seam! Nor could Impskill's eagle eye detect the slightest trace of auriferous bearing sand or rock on any part of the section. This was not surprising as the nearest known gold mine was at Waihi about 60 miles away as the kaka flies and at least 85 as the kiwi runs.

It was clear as daylight to Impskill that the specimen had dropped out of Lauder's waistcoat pocket as he milked the cow on some date prior to the discovery of the deceased Lauder in the Matamata Signal Box.

It was clear, too, that the cow in its clumsy way had stumbled on the nugget, and in accordance with the mining proverb that “you never know what's in front of the pick,” had picked the specimen up between its splayed off hind foot, and hoofed off with it.

“Lend me the specimen, Kidney. You shall have it back in seven days, when I hope to solve the Lauder Mystery,” said Impskill.

Kidney readily agreed, seeing some further fame for himself through his foresight in guarding so soundly what was proving to be the thirteenth clue.

Impskill's next call was on Zeb Barrett, the Mayor of Matamata. Besides being a Mayor, Zeb had two very keen hobbies of which Impskill had heard soon after his arrival in Matamata.

The first was a very sound knowledge of geology. The second was an insatiable curiosity as to everything that happened in the borough of Matamata. It was this latter quality which accounted for his unfailing return as Mayor. People had a fear that if Zeb failed to be returned he might tell some of the innumerable things he knew about them. Impskill wanted the use of both of these Zebby hobbies.

Zeb greeted him cordially. “How's the solution going?” he cried. “I say, there's a lot of talk around that you've already solved the mystery, but are waiting for the Government to increase the reward!”

(Continued on page 35)

“The Hunt for Gold.”

“The Hunt for Gold.”

page 34

page 35

“the thirteenth clue”

(Continued from page 33).

“Nothing of that kind,” laughed Impskill.

“Take a look at this, will you?”

Zeb took the specimen with the light of curiosity in his eyes. “This is a fine little nugget,” he said. “Wherever did you get it?”

“I'm wanting you to tell me where it comes from!” said Impskill.

Barrett placed the specimen under his powerful microscope, and a puzzled look came over his usually open countenance.

“That's not from Waihi and it's not from Thames. Otago or the West Coast,” he said. “The crystals differ from all the known gold fields in New Zealand.

“And yet,” he continued with growing excitement, “it's from somewhere in this country, I can tell by the colour of the gold.

“I wonder if it's come from the Crawley country?”

“The Crawley country?” exclaimed Impskill. “Where's that. I've never heard of it.”

“What!” said Zeb. “Never heard of Bill Crawley—everybody in Matamata knows about him—he's a legend in the place.”

“Tell me,” said Impskill urgently.

Zeb laid down the nugget reluctantly.

“Bill Crawley died in Matamata hospital two months ago,” he said, “and with him died all chance, it seems, of solving the mystery of where he found his gold.

“Crawley, for the past 30 years, has made a yearly visit to Matamata. He always arrived on a big horse, heavily loaded, and he always had a gun in the crook of his arm and two revolvers in his belt. Bill's first visit invariably was to the bank and the Bank Manager has told me the people of Matamata would be surprised if they knew how much gold Crawley brought with him each year.

“Anyway, after he had been to the Bank and then stabled his horse, Bill was the most cheerful soul in Matamata. He would keep things lively at the hotel and was very free in his spending. Good-hearted, too, was Bill. Any charity could count on him for good help during his visit. Then one morning he would be gone, and another year would go by before anyone saw Bill Crawley again.

“Three months' ago, Bill came in as usual, but while at the Bank he looked ill and acted queerly, so Roberts, the Manager, advised him to go to hospital. They found he had a high temperature —a very bad case of 'flu. He was well looked after in hospital, but in delirium he seemed afraid someone might find his gold mine.

“When he was over the fever he was very weak.

“I heard that Lauder visited him. Bill had heard that Lauder was a crooner, and so … .”

“That will do for the moment, thanks, Barrett. I must now visit the hospital. I'm very grateful for the information you have supplied.”

With these words, Impskill was on his way and the high bicycle hummed as he raced down the hill to the hospital.

An interview with Sister Round, who had nursed Crawley through his illness, was readily granted as soon as the Matron knew the identity of her distinguished visitor.

Impskill wasted no words.

“Tell me, Sister, about Bill Crawley,” he said.

“There's not much to tell,” she said. “He had got over the worst of his 'flu—only weak and seemed to be coming along fine until the day Lauder called.

“I remember that day well,” she continued.

“I said to Crawley, ‘here's the noted crooner, Pat Lauder, to see you.’

“‘That's fine,’ said Bill Crawley, ‘I've neither seen nor heard a crooner. Bring this one along.’

“Well,” continued Sister Round, “Lauder said although he did not know Crawley he liked to visit the sick and hoped Bill wouldn't mind him calling for a chat.

“Crawley said it was very decent of Lauder to call, as there were very few whom he (Crawley) could call friends in Matamata, and he was feeling rather lonely.

“Then he asked Lauder if he would mind crooning a little to him.

“‘Oh!’ said Pat Lauder. ‘I don't think it would be right to croon in hospital, would it Sister?'

“Well, I said, I was afraid it might not be regular.

“Then Bill Crawley reached under his pillow and handed a little gold nugget to Lauder. ‘That,’ said Crawley, ‘comes from my private gold mine, near the headwaters of the Mungatu. And it is yours if you will croon to me now.’

“Lauder looked at me appealingly, and I nodded, signalling him to make his crooning low.

“He did so. It quite depressed me. But when he finished, Crawley said a strange thing: ‘I wanted to live,’ he said, ‘but now, having heard that, and also that the world is gradually filling up with crooners, I die happy.’

“And he never recoverd from that minute,” she continued. “Just turned his face to the wall, refused his food, and gladly passed away within the hour.”

Impskill's decision was made on the moment. He was morally certain that Lauder, having the Crawley nugget, had been obsessed with the idea of finding the Crawley gold mine. Hence his sudden disappearance from Matamata.

Next day saw Impskill Lloyd aboard a yacht at Taupo on his way to Waihaha, a lovely little settlement on an unfrequented portion of the lake's foreshore. And this time he left Gillespie behind.

Arrived there, he soon made friends with the local Maoris. He described Lauder to them and tried to croon. They all went off into gales of laughter.

“He te fella make te funny noises!” (Continued on page 37.)

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.) Mustering sheep on the Glenhope Station, Upper Waisu Gorge, South Island, New Zealand.

(Photo, Thelma R. Kent.)
Mustering sheep on the Glenhope Station, Upper Waisu Gorge, South Island, New Zealand.

page 36

page 37

said Peti, the Chieftain. “He come here all ri. Try find where Bill Crawley go.”

“Not see him or Bill again,” he added.

The next day, Impskill, with Peti as a guide and a small party of natives, all strongly mounted on Maori “hoi-hau” (horses) set off past the lonely Waihaha Falls and struck across country towards the headwaters of the Mungatu.

At the point of the forest above the river, where an ancient whaka (used for trapping the alert native wood pigeon) is still suspended high off the ground, Peti paused and pointed to some foot prints in the soft rich humus beside the whaka.

“Lauder, eh?” he said, and started off down towards the river.

On the brink of the river a lightning blasted rimu trunk stood mute testimony of some recent storm.

The main branch lay across the river-bed as it had fallen. The river was now low, and Lloyd saw that which gripped attention—a shred of clothing caught between a sharp stem of the fallen tree and the gravel of the riverbed.

“The last proof,” he exclaimed, as he reclaimed the piece of cloth. This is a part of Lauder's suit—the part missing when I examined the body in the Matamata signal cabin.

To a skilled mind like Impskill Lloyd's, the rest of the solution of the Matamata Mystery was easy.

“Peti,” he said. “We can now return.

“Lauder was not murdered at all. He was killed by a convulsion of nature!”

The twelve possible causes of death were subsequently explained in a paper read to Scotland Yard by Impskill Lloyd and circulated throughout the Police Forces of the world as a set of hints and aids in the detection of crime and the analysis of evidence.

They are summarised here briefly, for the enlightenment of the many thousands who have followed, with breath more or less bated, the many vicissitudes of this master mystery.

Lauder got lost in the wild country at the back of the Mungatu while searching secretly for Bill Crawley's gold mine.

He was practically starving, on the banks of the Mungatu when lightning struck the tree under which he was sheltering. Besides striking the tree, the lightning electrocuted Lauder, who was pinned beneath one of the falling branches and hurled into the river where a sliver of rimu penetrated his heart.

The lightning also burnt the poor victim, and one of the tree limbs had lain across his neck after his immersion in the river.

Thus it will be seen how being drowned, burnt, struck, impaled, choked, frightened, electrocuted, felled, and having his ribs caved in, all occurred from the misfortune of Lauder having been just where he was when the lightning struck.

These were nine of the possible causes of death deduced by Impskill Lloyd in his first five minutes over the case. Starvation (the tenth possible cause) has already been explained and proved. Heart disease, the eleventh possible cause dealt with, was shown to be latent in the subject, and the twelfth, poisoned, was undoubtedly due to an enterprising katipo spider resenting the presence of Lauder's body on the banks of his river.

How the body got to the Matamata signal box was also discovered by the genius of Lloyd.

He proved that a subsequent flood had carried the body to Lake Taupo and then down the great Waikato River to the Arapuni Hydro-electric Works. Here a workman, shocked by the appearance of the floating body in his section of water, became frightened of being involved in what looked like a clear case of murder, and ran the body in his car to the Matamata signal box, where he deposited it, having every confidence in the Railway Department's ability to deal adequately with any problem that might confront it.

It need only be added—that Impskill Lloyd, before leaving the Mungatu region, picked enough from the Crawley mine to reward him amply for all the trouble he had taken over the Matamata Signal Cabin Mystery. (The End.)