The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 7 (October 1, 1936)
The Thirteenth Clue — or the Story of the Signal Cabin Mystery — Chapter IV.
In common with Napoleon and other great men, Impskill Lloyd was able to sleep at any moment and for any duration of time. And now, as he and Gillespie left the police-station and climbed into the Hespano-Suiza, he uttered a typical sentence or group of words containing a verb: “Signal-C.P.B.Q. Sleep six and a half minutes,” and immediately plunged into a profound slumber. He had wanted to say S.C. for SignalCabin, but preferred not to tax unduly, his chauffeur's intelligence. By P.B.Q. he inferred that speed was essential, and, as the traffic problem in Matamata is not acute, Impskill Lloyd well knew that the journey would take precisely six and one half minutes.
No sooner had Gillespie pulled up at the Signal Cabin (which was already surrounded by that atmosphere of horror associated with places-where dark and grim deeds have recently been perpetrated) than Lloyd awoke, clear in brain and fresh in body. He had a system of auto-suggestive dreaming in which he compelled himself to dream he was asleep, and in that dream-sleep to dream again he was asleep, and so on to the power of seven. In this way he could gain the vigour of a night's rest in a few moments.
“Come, Gillespie,” he barked, “there is work for us to do,” and he dashed up the steps of the Signal Cabin and entered the Death Room. Everything was as they had left it. The corpse had not moved. The signal lever, which had been pulled forward to warn Thursday week's train not to dash thoughtlessly past Matamata, had not been shifted. Impskill Lloyd, whose visual acutcness would have made an average eagle seem almost painfully near-sighted, examined the room minutely at a glance. Suddenly he ran towards the corpse, and, bending over it, whipped out his magnifying glass and peered closely at the proboscis, strikingly handsome even in death. Presently, with a sigh of satisfaction, he rose to his feet.
“Gillespie,” he said, shaking his head reprovingly, “that theory of yours was wrong. A11 wrong.”
“Theory, chief?” he asked bewildered.
“Your theory of death by burning, Gill. Wrong, All wrong.”
“But, chief, I only agreed ….”
“Theories which you unreservedly accept become your own,” said Impskill severely. “Never mind, Gill,” he added more kindly, for there was a softer side to his nature, “you did your best.”
“Thanks, chief,” began Gillespie gratefully, but Impskill waved aside the fellow's protestations of gratitude, and, with a return of his natural keenness cried, “Look for yourself, Gillespie.”
“At his nose.”
“Of course. Examine the small group or outcrop of hairs in the nasal orifice.”
Gillespie peered through the glass with concentrated ferocity.
“Those hairs mean anything to you, Gill?” asked his chief.
“Hair can mean so many things,” he replied guardedly.
With an exclamation of impatience Impskill Lloyd pointed through the glass.
“Those hairs,” he said slowly and in italics, like this, are clean! What does that mean?”
A light came into Gillespie's eyes.
“The deceased blew his nose immediately before death,” he replied, smiling happily.
“Oaf!” exclaimed the great detective imparting to each, letter of the word a scalding scorn. “It suggests this—that smuts and signs of smoke are absent, and that means that his braces were burned after, and not, mark you, before, the deceased stopped breathing; and that means that death was not caused, as you suggested, by burning but by some other factor. Again, Gillespie, I ask you this: would a murderer leave the weapon of assault lying beside the body? I say, no; a thousand times, no!”
Where a lesser person might have repeated “no” a thousand times, Lloyd contented himself with simply stating the number necessary for a decided negative. He continued. “This lighter, with the inscription. ‘To Horsey, from his Racecourse Pals,’ was left as a blind; the braces burnt as a blind And where,” he went on, seizing the other's shoulder in a vice-like grip “was he burned?”
Without giving his chauffeur, whose jaw was opening and shutting spasmodically, time to form a coherent reply, Imp. answered his own question. “He was burned on the chest and back. And that was to divert our attention from elsewhere. Now, where else was he injured? On the face? page 15 No. On the head? No. But—turn him over, Gill. —there, a frightful wound on the back of the neck. A blow or kick caused that, Gill; a blow or kick sufficiently ferocious to sever the spinal cord. Now, say the first word that comes into your mind in answer to my prompts. Reply without thought.”
“Anything,” said Gill, worshipping the master with his eyes. Impskill Lloyd proceeded to put his chauffeur through a test of his own invention since adopted by many psychologists.
“Horsey!” Lloyd shot the word at Gillespie.
“Pony!” he replied immediately, a glazed look coming into his eyes.
“Pony!” prompted Lloyd.
“Small glass of beer,” Gill answered, his face becoming, for the moment, almost ethereal.
It was useless. The man's mind was so obviously, what the Freudians call “Tankard-conscious.”
“To me,” said Impskill heavily, “Horsèy suggests horse. Horse suggests kick, kick suggests this wound. This “wound means Death! Gillespie, the cause is established. Now, how did he die? It is our duty to discover that. A murder has been committed. No matter how unworthy, how low, how degraded the victim, he must be avenged.”
“Even a crooner?”
“Even a crooner,” repeated the great man firmly, but with a slight shudder. “Now,” he went on, more briskly, “Observe. Heavy bruises are apparent at the nape of the neck, the contusions becoming less pronounced towards the base of the skull. That suggests that the blow was downward inflicted. Notice, too, a half-moon shaped row of seven reddish eruptions on the skin. These, to the casual observer, would be taken for manifestations of the common pimple, wen or hickie. But to me they indicate the seven nail-holes in a horse-shoe. I know, therefore, that a horse-shoe was the Death Weapon. Now, Gill, does a horse kick up or down?”
“You mean its leg, chief?” asked Gillespie, sparring for time.
“Of course, of course.”
“Up and down,” said Gill, carefully.
“Fool! The horse's kick is an upward blow. This wound was caused by a downward blow. Another blind, Gillespie. I suggest that a horseshoe was attached to a stick or club and the blow inflicted by a human, not an equine, agency.”
“Yes and no,” said his companion guardedly.
“How do you mean, ‘Yes and no.’” cried Impskill Lloyd, almost pruple with exasperation over his chauffeur's slowness, triumph over his own discovery, and a twenty-four hours' growth of beard.
“I meant,” replied Gill, still carefully “Yes, a human agency, no, not an equine agency.”
“Bah!” exploded the famous sleuth so loudly that a flock of ewes grazing in a field fifty yards from the signalcabin raised their heads simultaneously and looked expectantly in its direction.
“Come, Gillespie,” said Lloyd, dismissing from his mind the contretemps, “There is much to do. I must immediately learn the whereabouts of this fellow Stuart. Ring Harris at the Police Station, ask him for Stuart's address—it can be at a not far distant place, for you remember Harris said Stuart was ‘coming over to do for him.’ Now, one only ‘comes over’ from a reasonably adjacent spot.”
“You come over from Sydney,” said Gill, cleverly.
Imp. disregarded this remark. “To your duty, my man,” he ordered briefly.
While Gill was telephoning, Impskill Lloyd subjected the back of Pat Lauder's neck to an intensive scrutiny. To the layman the back of the neck presents no great field of enquiry or interest. Of all parts of the head it is, to us, perhaps the least interesting. Few of us, except leading members of the acrobatic profession, have ever seen our own, and so it remains as merely a place difficult to reach with the face cloth, useful only to hang a collar on. But to Impskill the back of Pat Lauder's neck was an open book, and from it he collected the following data which he jotted down with the pencil he used especially for jotting down data. In moments of rare relaxation Lloyd often averred that “When we know the character of the victim, we narrow the field of motive.” He wrote thus:-
(a) A certain looseness of the skin, tending to folds, indicates the bon vivant, running slightly to seed.
(b) A deep lateral line, half an inch above the seventh vertebra, or vertebra prominens shows the slightly backward and sideway pressure of the head which indicates the inveterate crooner.
(c) A circular discolouration shows that deceased was in the habit of wearing metal, not bone, collar studs, indicating the dandy.
(d) The shaved back of the neck and head shows that Lauder favoured the “skull-cap” hair-cut, popular with the smarter set of Matamata — more evidence of dandyism.
(e) A general dingyness indicates that deceased possessed a strong mind not easily swayed by the most persuasive and nerve-racking advertisements.
These things Impskill Lloyd observed in the back of Lauder's neck, and duly noted down, and hardly had his jotting ceased when Gillespie lumbered across the room to him, gave a slovenly salute, and reported, “The address is, Paupau Stables, Paupau.”
“Type of stables?”
“Smart work, Gillespie,” cried Imp., showing again that softer side. “Now, do you remember those lines of verse from the May ‘N.Z.R.M.’, heavily underscored with human blood?”
(Continued on page 49.)