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   Chapter 14 I MUST SAVE HER LIFE

Winsome Winnie and other New Nonsense Novels By Stephen Leacock Characters: 7566

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Within a few minutes Transome Kent had leapt into a car (a surface car) and was speeding north towards Riverside Drive with the full power of the car. As he passed uptown a newsboy was already calling, "Club Man Murdered! Another Club Man Murdered!" Carelessly throwing a cent to the boy, Kent purchased a paper and read the brief notice of the tragedy.

Kivas Kelly, a well-known club man and bon vivant, had been found dead in his residence on Riverside Drive, with every indication-or, at least, with a whole lot of indications-of murder. The unhappy club man had been found, fully dressed in his evening clothes, lying on his back on the floor of the billiard-room, with his feet stuck up on the edge of the table. A narrow black scarf, presumably his evening tie, was twisted tightly about his neck by means of a billiard cue inserted in it. There was a quiet smile upon his face. He had apparently died from strangulation. A couple of bullet-holes passed through his body, one on each side, but they went out again. His suspenders were burst at the back. His hands were folded across his chest. One of them still held a white billiard ball. There was no sign of a struggle or of any disturbance in the room. A square piece of cloth was missing from the victim's dinner jacket.

In its editorial columns the same paper discussed the more general aspects of the murder. This, it said, was the third club man murdered in the last fortnight. While not taking an alarmist view, the paper felt that the killing of club men had got to stop. There was a limit, a reasonable limit, to everything. Why should a club man be killed? It might be asked, why should a club man live? But this was hardly to the point. They do live. After all, to be fair, what does a club man ask of society? Not much. Merely wine, women and singing. Why not let him have them? Is it fair to kill him? Does the gain to literature outweigh the social wrong? The writer estimated that at the rate of killing now going on the club men would be all destroyed in another generation. Something should be done to conserve them.

Transome Kent was not a detective. He was a reporter. After sweeping everything at Harvard in front of him, and then behind him, he had joined the staff of the Planet two months before. His rise had been phenomenal. In his first week of work he had unravelled a mystery, in his second he had unearthed a packing scandal which had poisoned the food of the entire nation for ten years, and in his third he had pitilessly exposed some of the best and most respectable people in the metropolis. Kent's work on the Planet consisted now almost exclusively of unravelling and unearthing, and it was natural that the manager should turn to him.

The mansion was a handsome sandstone residence, standing in its own grounds. On Kent's arrival he found that the police had already drawn a cordon around it with cords. Groups of morbid curiosity-seekers hung about it in twos and threes, some of them in fours and fives. Policemen were leaning against the fence in all directions. They wore that baffled look so common to the detective force of the metropolis. "It seems to me," remarked one of them to the man beside him, "that there is an inexorable chain of logic about this that I am unable to follow." "So do I," said the other.

The Chief Inspector of the Detective Department, a large, heavy-looking man, was standing beside a gate-post. He nodded gloomily to Transome Kent.

"Are you baffled, Edwards?" asked Kent.

"Baffled again, Mr. Kent," said the Inspector, with a sob in his voice. "I thought I could have solved this one, but I can't."

He passed a handkerchief across his eyes.

"Have a cigar, Chief," said Kent, "and let me hear what the trouble is."

The Inspect

or brightened. Like all policemen, he was simply crazy over cigars. "All right, Mr. Kent," he said, "wait till I chase away the morbid curiosity-seekers."

He threw a stick at them.

"Now, then," continued Kent, "what about tracks, footmarks? Had you thought of them?"

"Yes, first thing. The whole lawn is covered with them, all stamped down. Look at these, for instance. These are the tracks of a man with a wooden leg"-Kent nodded-"in all probability a sailor, newly landed from Java, carrying a Singapore walking-stick, and with a tin-whistle tied round his belt."

"Yes, I see that," said Kent thoughtfully. "The weight of the whistle weighs him down a little on the right side."

"Do you think, Mr. Kent, a sailor from Java with a wooden leg would commit a murder like this?" asked the Inspector eagerly. "Would he do it?"

"He would," said the Investigator. "They generally do-as soon as they land."

The Inspector nodded. "And look at these marks here, Mr. Kent. You recognize them, surely-those are the footsteps of a bar-keeper out of employment, waiting for the eighteenth amendment to pass away. See how deeply they sink in--"

"Yes," said Kent, "he'd commit murder."

"There are lots more," continued the Inspector, "but they're no good. The morbid curiosity-seekers were walking all over this place while we were drawing the cordon round it."

"Stop a bit," said Kent, pausing to think a moment. "What about thumb-prints?"

"Thumb-prints," said the Inspector. "Don't mention them. The house is full of them."

"Any thumb-prints of Italians with that peculiar incurvature of the ball of the thumb that denotes a Sicilian brigand?"

"There were three of those," said Inspector Edwards gloomily. "No, Mr. Kent, the thumb stuff is no good."

Kent thought again.

"Inspector," he said, "what about mysterious women? Have you seen any around?"

"Four went by this morning," said the Inspector, "one at eleven-thirty, one at twelve-thirty, and two together at one-thirty. At least," he added sadly, "I think they were mysterious. All women look mysterious to me."

"I must try in another direction," said Kent. "Let me reconstruct the whole thing. I must weave a chain of analysis. Kivas Kelly was a bachelor, was he not?"

"He was. He lived alone here."

"Very good, I suppose he had in his employ a butler who had been with him for twenty years--"

Edwards nodded.

"I suppose you've arrested him?"

"At once," said the Inspector. "We always arrest the butler, Mr. Kent. They expect it. In fact, this man, Williams, gave himself up at once."

"And let me see," continued the Investigator. "I presume there was a housekeeper who lived on the top floor, and who had been stone deaf for ten years?"

"Precisely."

"She had heard nothing during the murder?"

"Not a thing. But this may have been on account of her deafness."

"True, true," murmured Kent. "And I suppose there was a coachman, a thoroughly reliable man, who lived with his wife at the back of the house--"

"But who had taken his wife over to see a relation on the night of the murder, and who did not return until an advanced hour. Mr. Kent, we've been all over that. There's nothing in it."

"Were there any other persons belonging to the establishment?"

"There was Mr. Kelly's stenographer, Alice Delary, but she only came in the mornings."

"Have you seen her?" asked Kent eagerly. "What is she like?"

"I have seen her," said the Inspector. "She's a looloo."

"Ha," said Kent, "a looloo!" The two men looked into one another's eyes.

"Yes," repeated Edwards thoughtfully, "a peach."

A sudden swift flash of intuition, an inspiration, leapt into the young reporter's brain.

This girl, this peach, at all hazards he must save her life.

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