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By Carolyn Wells


























Though a young detective, I am not entirely an inexperienced one, and
I have several fairly successful investigations to my credit on the
records of the Central Office.

The Chief said to me one day: "Burroughs, if there's a mystery to be
unravelled; I'd rather put it in your hands than to trust it to any
other man on the force.

"Because," he went on, "you go about it scientifically, and you
never jump at conclusions, or accept them, until they're indubitably

I declared myself duly grateful for the Chief's kind words, but I was
secretly a bit chagrined. A detective's ambition is to be, considered
capable of jumping at conclusions, only the conclusions must always
prove to be correct ones.

But though I am an earnest and painstaking worker, though my habits are
methodical and systematic, and though I am indefatigably patient and
persevering, I can never make those brilliant deductions from seemingly
unimportant clues that Fleming Stone can. He holds that it is nothing
but observation and logical inference, but to me it is little short of

The smallest detail in the way of evidence immediately connotes in his
mind some important fact that is indisputable, but which would never
have occurred to me. I suppose this is largely a natural bent of his
brain, for I have not yet been able to achieve it, either by study or

Of course I can deduce some facts, and my colleagues often say I am
rather clever at it, but they don't know Fleming Stone as well as I
do, and don't realize that by comparison with his talent mine is

And so, it is both by way of entertainment, and in hope of learning from
him, that I am with him whenever possible, and often ask him to "deduce"
for me, even at risk of boring him, as, unless he is in the right mood,
my requests sometimes do.

I met him accidentally one morning when we both chanced to go into a
basement of the Metropolis Hotel in New York to have our shoes shined.

It was about half-past nine, and as I like to get to my office by ten
o'clock, I looked forward to a pleasant half-hour's chat with him. While
waiting our turn to get a chair, we stood talking, and, seeing a pair
of shoes standing on a table, evidently there to be cleaned, I said

"Now, I suppose, Stone, from looking at those shoes, you can deduce all
there is to know about the owner of them."

I remember that Sherlock Holmes wrote once, "From a drop of water, a
logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without
having seen or heard of one or the other," but when I heard Fleming
Stone's reply to my half-laughing challenge, I felt that he had outdone
the mythical logician. With a mild twinkle in his eye, but with a
perfectly grave face, he said slowly,

"Those shoes belong to a young man, five feet eight inches high. He does
not live in New York, but is here to visit his sweetheart. She lives in
Brooklyn, is five feet nine inches tall, and is deaf in her left ear.
They went to the theatre last night, and neither was in evening dress."

"Oh, pshaw!" said I, "as you are acquainted with this man, and know how
he spent last evening, your relation of the story doesn't interest me."

"I don't know him," Stone returned; "I've no idea what his name is,
I've never seen him, and except what I can read from these shoes I know
nothing about him."

I stared at him incredulously, as I always did when confronted by his
astonishing "deductions," and simply said,

"Tell this little Missourian all about it."

"It did sound well, reeled off like that, didn't it?" he observed,
chuckling more at my air of eager curiosity than at his own achievement.
"But it's absurdly easy, after all. He is a young man because his shoes
are in the very latest, extreme, not exclusive style. He is five feet
eight, because the size of his foot goes with that height of man, which,
by the way, is the height of nine out of ten men, any way. He doesn't
live in New York or he wouldn't be stopping at a hotel. Besides, he
would be down-town at this hour, attending to business."

"Unless he has freak business hours, as you and I do," I put in.

"Yes, that might be. But I still hold that he doesn't live in New York,
or he couldn't be staying at this Broadway hotel overnight, and sending
his shoes down to be shined at half-past nine in the morning. His
sweetheart is five feet nine, for that is the height of a tall girl.
I know she is tall, for she wears a long skirt. Short girls wear short
skirts, which make them look shorter still, and tall girls wear very
long skirts, which make them look taller."

"Why do they do that?" I inquired, greatly interested.

"I don't know. You'll have to ask that of some one wiser than I. But I
know it's a fact. A girl wouldn't be considered really tall if less than
five feet nine. So I know that's her height. She is his sweetheart, for
no man would go from New York to Brooklyn and bring a lady over here to
the theatre, and then take her home, and return to New York in the early
hours of the morning, if he were not in love with her. I know she lives
in Brooklyn, for the paper says there was a heavy shower there last
night, while I know no rain fell in New York. I know that they were out
in that rain, for her long skirt became muddy, and in turn muddied the
whole upper of his left shoe. The fact that only the left shoe is so
soiled proves that he walked only at her right side, showing that she
must be deaf in her left ear, or he would have walked part of the time
on that side. I know that they went to the theatre in New York, because
he is still sleeping at this hour, and has sent his boots down to be
cleaned, instead of coming down with them on his feet to be shined here.
If he had been merely calling on the girl in Brooklyn, he would have
been home early, for they do not sit up late in that borough. I know
they went to the theatre, instead of to the opera or a ball, for they
did not go in a cab, otherwise her skirt would not have become muddied.
This, too, shows that she wore a cloth skirt, and as his shoes are not
patent leathers, it is clear that neither was in evening dress."

I didn't try to get a verification of Fleming Stone's assertions;
I didn't want any. Scores of times I had known him to make similar
deductions and in cases where we afterward learned the facts, he was
invariably correct. So, though we didn't follow up this matter, I
was sure he was right, and, even if he hadn't been, it would not have
weighed heavily against his large proportion of proved successes.

We separated then, as we took chairs at some distance from each other,
and, with a sigh of regret that I could never hope to go far along the
line in which Stone showed such proficiency, I began to read my morning

Fleming Stone left the place before I did, nodding a good-by as
he passed me, and a moment after, my own foot-gear being in proper
condition, I, too, went out, and went straight to my office.

As I walked the short distance, my mind dwelt on Stone's quick-witted
work. Again I wished that I possessed the kind of intelligence that
makes that sort of thing so easy. Although unusual, it is, after all, a
trait of many minds, though often, perhaps, unrecognized and undeveloped
by its owner. I dare say it lies dormant in men who have never had
occasion to realize its value. Indeed, it is of no continuous value to
anyone but a detective, and nine detectives out of ten do not possess

So I walked along, envying my friend Stone his gift, and reached my
office just at ten o'clock as was my almost invariable habit.

"Hurry up, Mr. Burroughs!" cried my office-boy, as I opened the door.
"You're wanted on the telephone."

Though a respectful and well-mannered boy, some excitement had made him
a trifle unceremonious, and I looked at him curiously as I took up the

But with the first words I heard, the office-boy was forgotten, and my
own nerves received a shock as I listened to the message. It was from
the Detective Bureau with which I was connected, and the superintendent
himself was directing me to go at once to West Sedgwick, where a
terrible crime had just been discovered.

"Killed!" I exclaimed; "Joseph Crawford?"

"Yes; murdered in his home in West Sedgwick. The coroner telephoned to
send a detective at once and we want you to go."

"Of course I'll go. Do you know any more details?"

"No; only that he was shot during the night and the body found this
morning. Mr. Crawford was a big man, you know. Go right off, Mr.
Burroughs; we want you to lose no time."

Yes; I knew Joseph Crawford by name, though not personally, and I knew
he was a big man in the business world, and his sudden death would mean
excitement in Wall Street matters. Of his home, or home-life, I knew

"I'll go right off," I assured the Chief, and turned away from the
telephone to find Donovan, the office-boy, already looking up trains in
a timetable.

"Good boy, Don," said I approvingly; "what's the next train to West
Sedgwick, and how long does it take to get there?"

"You kin s'lect the ten-twenty, Mr. Burruz, if you whirl over in a
taxi an' shoot the tunnel," said Donovan, who was rather a graphic
conversationalist. "That'll spill you out at West Sedgwick 'bout quarter
of 'leven. Was he moidered, Mr. Burruz?"

"So they tell me, Don. His death will mean something in financial

"Yessir. He was a big plute. Here's your time-table, Mr. Burruz. When'll
you be back?"

"Don't know, Don. You look after things."

"Sure! everything'll be took care of. Lemme know your orders when you
have 'em."

By means of the taxi Don had called and the tunnel route as he had
suggested, I caught the train, satisfied that I had obeyed the Chief's
orders to lose no time.

Lose no time indeed! I was more anxious than any one else could possibly
be to reach the scene of the crime before significant clues were
obliterated or destroyed by bungling investigators. I had had experience
with the police of suburban towns, and I well knew their two principal
types. Either they were of a pompous, dignified demeanor, which covered
a bewildered ignorance, or else they were overzealous and worked with
a misdirected energy that made serious trouble for an intelligent
detective. Of course, of the two kinds I preferred the former, but the
danger was that I should encounter both.

On my way I diverted my mind, and so partly forgot my impatience,
by endeavoring to "deduce" the station or occupation of my fellow

Opposite me in the tunnel train sat a mild-faced gentleman, and from the
general, appearance of his head and hat I concluded he was a clergyman.
I studied him unostentatiously and tried to find some indication of the
denomination he might belong to, or the character of his congregation,
but as I watched, I saw him draw a sporting paper from his pocket, and
turning his hand, a hitherto unseen diamond flashed brilliantly from
his little finger. I hastily, revised my judgment, and turning slightly
observed the man who sat next me. Determined to draw only logical
inferences, I scrutinized his coat, that garment being usually highly
suggestive to our best regulated detectives. I noticed that while the
left sleeve was unworn and in good condition, the right sleeve was
frayed at the inside edge, and excessively smooth and shiny on the inner
forearm. Also the top button of the coat was very much worn, and the
next one slightly.

"A-ha!" said I to myself, "I've nailed you, my friend. You're a
desk-clerk, and you write all day long, standing at a desk. The worn top
button rubs against your desk as you stand, which it would not do were
you seated."

With a pardonable curiosity to learn if I were right, I opened
conversation with the young man. He was not unwilling to respond,
and after a few questions I learned, to my chagrin, that he was a
photographer. Alas for my deductions! But surely, Fleming Stone himself
would not have guessed a photographer from a worn and shiny coat-sleeve.
At the risk of being rudely personal, I made some reference to fashions
in coats. The young man smiled and remarked incidentally, that owing to
certain circumstances he was at the moment wearing his brother's coat.

"And is your brother a desk clerk?" inquired I almost involuntarily:

He gave me a surprised glance, but answered courteously enough, "Yes;"
and the conversation flagged.

Exultantly I thought that my deduction, though rather an obvious one,
was right; but after another furtive glance at the young man, I realized
that Stone would have known he was wearing another's coat, for it was
the most glaring misfit in every way.

Once more I tried, and directed my attention to a middle-aged,
angular-looking woman, whose strong, sharp-featured face betokened a
prim spinster, probably at the head of a girls' school, or engaged in
some clerical work. However, as I passed her on my way to leave the
train I noticed a wedding-ring on her hand, and heard her say to her
companion, "No; I think a woman's sphere is in her own kitchen and
nursery. How could I think otherwise, with my six children to bring
up?" After these lamentable failures, I determined not to trust much to
deduction in the case I was about to investigate, but to learn actual
facts from actual evidence.

I reached West Sedgwick, as Donovan had said, at quarter before eleven.
Though I had never been there before, the place looked quite as I had
imagined it. The railway station was one of those modern attractive
structures of rough gray stone, with picturesque projecting roof and
broad, clean platforms. A flight of stone steps led down to the roadway,
and the landscape in every direction showed the well-kept roads, the
well-grown trees and the carefully-tended estates of a town of suburban
homes. The citizens were doubtless mainly men whose business was in New
York, but who preferred not to live there.

The superintendent must have apprised the coroner by telephone of my
immediate arrival, for a village cart from the Crawford establishment
was awaiting me, and a smart groom approached and asked if I were Mr.
Herbert Burroughs.

A little disappointed at having no more desirable companion on my way to
the house, I climbed up beside the driver, and the groom solemnly took
his place behind. Not curiosity, but a justifiable desire to learn the
main facts of the case as soon as possible, led me to question the man
beside me.

I glanced at him first and saw only the usual blank countenance of the
well-trained coachman.

His face was intelligent, and his eyes alert, but his impassive
expression showed his habit of controlling any indication of interest in
people or things.

I felt there would be difficulty in ingratiating myself at all, but I
felt sure that subterfuge would not help me, so I spoke directly.

"You are the coachman of the late Mr. Crawford?"

"Yes, sir."

I hadn't really expected more than this in words, but his tone was so
decidedly uninviting of further conversation that I almost concluded to
say nothing more. But the drive promised to be a fairly long one, so I
made another effort.

"As the detective on this case, I wish to hear the story of it as soon
as I can. Perhaps you can give me a brief outline of what happened."

It was perhaps my straightforward manner, and my quite apparent
assumption of his intelligence, that made the man relax a little and
reply in a more conversational tone.

"We're forbidden to chatter, sir," he said, "but, bein' as you're the
detective, I s'pose there's no harm. But it's little we know, after
all. The master was well and sound last evenin', and this mornin' he was
found dead in his own office-chair."

"You mean a private office in his home?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Crawford went to his office in New York 'most every day,
but days when he didn't go, and evenin's and Sundays, he was much in his
office at home, sir."

"Who discovered the tragedy?"

"I don't rightly know, sir, if it was Louis, his valet, or Lambert, the
butler, but it was one or t'other, sir."

"Or both together?" I suggested.

"Yes, sir; or both together."

"Is any one suspected of the crime?"

The man hesitated a moment, and looked as if uncertain what to reply,
then, as he set his jaw squarely, he said:

"Not as I knows on, sir."

"Tell me something of the town," I observed next, feeling that it was
better to ask no more vital questions of a servant.

We were driving along streets of great beauty. Large and handsome
dwellings, each set in the midst of extensive and finely-kept grounds,
met the view on either aide. Elaborate entrances opened the way to wide
sweeps of driveway circling green velvety lawns adorned with occasional
shrubs or flower-beds. The avenues were wide, and bordered with trees
carefully set out and properly trimmed. The streets were in fine
condition, and everything betokened a community, not only wealthy, but
intelligent and public-spirited. Surely West Sedgwick was a delightful
location for the homes of wealthy New York business men.

"Well, sir," said the coachman, with unconcealed pride, "Mr. Crawford
was the head of everything in the place. His is the handsomest house and
the grandest grounds. Everybody respected him and looked up to him. He
hadn't an enemy in the world."

This was an opening for further conjecture as to the murderer, and I
said: "But the man who killed him must have been his enemy."

"Yes, sir; but I mean no enemy that anybody knew of. It must have been
some burglar or intruder."

Though I wanted to learn such facts as the coachman might know, his
opinions did not interest me, and I again turned my attention to the
beautiful residences we were passing.

"That place over there," the man went on, pointing with his whip, "is
Mr. Philip Crawford's house - the brother of my master, sir. Them red
towers, sticking up through the trees, is the house of Mr. Lemuel
Porter, a great friend of both the Crawford brothers. Next, on the left,
is the home of Horace Hamilton, the great electrician. Oh, Sedgwick is
full of well-known men, sir, but Joseph Crawford was king of this town.
Nobody'll deny that."

I knew of Mr. Crawford's high standing in the city, and now, learning
of his local preeminence, I began to think I was about to engage in what
would probably be a very important case.


"Here we are, sir," said the driver, as we turned in at a fine stone
gateway. "This is the Joseph Crawford place."

He spoke with a sort of reverent pride, and I afterward learned that his
devotion to his late master was truly exceptional.

This probably prejudiced him in favor of the Crawford place and all its
appurtenances, for, to me, the estate was not so magnificent as some of
the others we had passed. And yet, though not so large, I soon realized
that every detail of art or architecture was perfect in its way, and
that it was really a gem of a country home to which I had been brought.

We drove along a curving road to the house, passing well-arranged flower
beds, and many valuable trees and shrubs. Reaching the porte cochere the
driver stopped, and the groom sprang down to hand me out.

As might be expected, many people were about. Men stood talking in
groups on the veranda, while messengers were seen hastily coming or
going through the open front doors.

A waiting servant in the hall at once ushered me into a large room.

The effect of the interior of the house impressed me pleasantly. As I
passed through the wide hall and into the drawing-room, I was conscious
of an atmosphere of wealth tempered by good taste and judgment.

The drawing-room was elaborate, though not ostentatious, and seemed
well adapted as a social setting for Joseph Crawford and his family.
It should have been inhabited by men and women in gala dress and with
smiling society manners.

It was therefore a jarring note when I perceived its only occupant to be
a commonplace looking man, in an ill-cut and ill-fitting business suit.
He came forward to greet me, and his manner was a trifle pompous as he
announced, "My name is Monroe, and I am the coroner. You, I think, are
Mr. Burroughs, from New York."

It was probably not intentional, and may have been my imagination, but
his tone seemed to me amusingly patronizing.

"Yes, I am Mr. Burroughs," I said, and I looked at Mr. Monroe with what
I hoped was an expression that would assure him that our stations were
at least equal.

I fear I impressed him but slightly, for he went on to tell me that he
knew of my reputation as a clever detective, and had especially desired
my attendance on this case. This sentiment was well enough, but he still
kept up his air and tone of patronage, which however amused more than
irritated me.

I knew the man by hearsay, though we had never met before; and I
knew that he was of a nature to be pleased with his own prominence
as coroner, especially in the case of so important a man as Joseph

So I made allowance for this harmless conceit on his part, and was even
willing to cater to it a little by way of pleasing him. He seemed to me
a man, honest, but slow of thought; rather practical and serious, and
though overvaluing his own importance, yet not opinionated or stubborn.

"Mr. Burroughs," he said, "I'm very glad you could get here so promptly;
for the case seems to me a mysterious one, and the value of immediate
investigation cannot be overestimated."

"I quite agree with you," I returned. "And now will you tell me the
principal facts, as you know them, or will you depute some one else to
do so?"

"I am even now getting a jury together," he said, "and so you will be
able to hear all that the witnesses may say in their presence. In the
meantime, if you wish to visit the scene of the crime, Mr. Parmalee will
take you there."

At the sound of his name, Mr. Parmalee stepped forward and was
introduced to me. He proved to be a local detective, a young man who
always attended Coroner Monroe on occasions like the present; but who,
owing to the rarity of such occasions in West Sedgwick, had had little
experience in criminal investigation.

He was a young man of the type often seen among Americans. He was very
fair, with a pink complexion, thin, yellow hair and weak eyes. His
manner was nervously alert, and though he often began to speak with an
air of positiveness, he frequently seemed to weaken, and wound up his
sentences in a floundering uncertainty.

He seemed to be in no way jealous of my presence there, and indeed spoke
to me with an air of comradeship.

Doubtless I was unreasonable, but I secretly resented this. However I
did not show my resentment and endeavored to treat Mr. Parmalee as a
friend and co-worker.

The coroner had left us together, and we stood in the drawing-room,
talking, or rather he talked and I listened. Upon acquaintance he seemed
to grow more attractive. He was impulsive and jumped at conclusions, but
he seemed to have ideas, though they were rarely definitely expressed.

He told me as much as he knew of the details of the affair and proposed
that we go directly to the scene of the crime.

As this was what I was impatient to do, I consented.

"You see, it's this way," he said, in a confidential whisper, as we
traversed the long hall: "there is no doubt in any one's mind as to who
committed the murder, but no name has been mentioned yet, and nobody
wants to be the first to say that name. It'll come out at the inquest,
of course, and then - "

"But," I interrupted, "if the identity of the murderer is so certain,
why did they send for me in such haste?"

"Oh, that was the coroner's doing. He's a bit inclined to the
spectacular, is Monroe, and he wants to make the whole affair as
important as possible."

"But surely, Mr. Parmalee, if you are certain of the criminal it is very

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Online LibraryCarolyn WellsThe Gold Bag → online text (page 1 of 15)