murder in Amber
In which confession heightens a mystery and death reaches for another victim
The Story; On the S.S. Orion, returning from China. Samuel Norman dies under suspicious circumstances, and Captain Cobb discloses that the dead man ivas really J. T. Ezry, a famous collector of Oriental antiques. Detective Timothy Fowler becomes interested, and so does his wife, who tells the story.
Mrs. Hertz, a passenger, is astonished to find that the dead man. whom she scarcely knew, left her an amber necklace as a legacy. Other passengers are Nicholas Brande, supposed to be rich; Tod Culten, interested in criminology; Reverend Asa Shaw and Mrs. Shaw, missionaries; Ned Covell and his wife, Sally.
Mrs. Hertz reports that during the night someone tried to steal her necklace; Detective Fowler announces that the dead man was murdered. Fowler occupies Mrs. Hertz’s stateroom for one night. He is badly beaten by someone unknown, and Mrs. Hertz's letters are strewn around.
Reverend Shaw is found at the point of death and dies without stating what brought him to that condition. Dr. Sloane. the ship's physician, says it was a heart attack which hilled Shaw—practically the same report which the doctor made on Ezry's death.
Timothy Fowler finds that the captain has a paper cutter with a heavy ivory handle—given to him, he says, by Brande— and there are spots on the handle which look like blood.
Mrs. Hertz says she gave the necklace to Mr. Shaw for Mrs. Shaiv. Dr. Sloane tells Timothy he saw the paper-knife in Shaw’s cabin. Mrs. Hertz first says she destroyed the two notes she received from Mr. Norman, then admits she lent them to Culten, who says they are forgeries.
It is discovered that Brande is a poor man posing as rich; c nd that Shaw, apparently poor, has big bank accounts in various cities.
Timothy becomes convinced that someone else added the postscript on the first note which Mrs. Hertz received from Norman.
In Norman’s room a Bible is found with an underscored passage: “It ivas planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.’’
Mrs. Shaw tells Mrs. Fowler that an ivory paper-knife
given to her husband by a rich Chinese has disappeared and she thinks it was stolen.
Dr. Sloane admits to Timothy that he had given Shaw hypodermic injections of insulin; that the man may have died of an overdose, in which case someone unknown must have substituted for the regular insulin ampule one that contained loo much. Sloane also says the coal of his dress uniform was taken from his closet, and he thinks someone is trying to frame him.
Timothy learns that Ned Covell went to Normans room at five-thirty Saturday afternoon, and later the steward saw him put a note under Mrs. Hertz’s door. Covell is arrested and confined in the captain’s stateroom, and there Timothy questions him.
IT TOOK Timothy more than an hour to get the story from Ned Covell. When he came back from the captain’s room, I was waiting in the stateroom alone. Sally Covell had gone off, rather forlornly, some time before, to wash her face and powder her nose. “So that Ned won’t know I’ve been sniffling when he sees me,” she had said.
Timothy stretched himself out on the bed.
“Well.” I asked as I sat down beside him, “did you get your story?”
Timothy nodded. “The minute I told Ned that Sally had spilled the beans, he came out with the whole works, and something else besides. In fact. I know practically everything now except who killed old Norman and who killed Shaw, and why. Which is what I started to find out in the first place.”
“Nevermind,” I said, “you’re making progress anyway.” “Rapidly.” Timothy said, “in every direction but the right one. What Ned explained was the tie-up between himself and the amber necklace. Interesting story, but it doesn’t seem to include any plans for murder. It seems that while Ned was in Shanghai, still hoping for that lucky break which was going to keep the wolf away from Sally’s door, he went to a bar one afternoon and fell into conversation with a parson, of all people. And the parson was—” “Not Mr. Shaw?”
“None other,” Timothy nodded gravely. “After Shaw had explained his presence in such a sink of iniquity by saying he was the barkeep’s spiritual adviser, they progressed to more serious matters, and the parson got chummy and told Ned an amazing story. I gathered that Ned had too many drinks, and the chances are he let slip the fact that he was getting pretty desperate. Probably he gave the impression of a man who would do almost anything to make some money quickly.
“Anyway, Shaw decided to let Ned in on a secret— offered lo pay him handsomely for doing a bit of business for him. The point of the proposition, which Shaw finally got to was that he, in addition to being a bringer of light, was a Government agent and had been for some years. At this juncture, Shaw hashed a badge at Ned and took out a handful of impressive-looking credentials to prove his point. Ned, poor lad, was all too ready to believe every word. Shaw’s particular province, he said, was catching up on smugglers; and as a missionary he had excellent opportunities for picking up tips while mingling with the lower classes in bars, opium dens and other haunts of vice.
“Now, Shaw said, he was at this very moment on the point of making the biggest catch of his career. He had been summoned on this very day to this very saloon, by the barkeep who was one of his henchmen and posted to listen for suspicious bits of conversation among his customers. The barkeep had told Shaw that he’d overheard two men talking about a certain piece of jewellery which they were planning to smuggle. The item in question was an amber necklace, and it was to be carried by a man who would sail from Shanghai on the S. S. Orion, under the name of Samuel Norman. That was the tip, and Shaw was all set for the catch—except for one serious fly in the ointment.
“At this point Shaw hitched his chair closer to Ned and lowered his voice. ‘The one thing I need,’ he said, ‘is a man to carry out the job for me. A man I can trust—who will be ready to sail on the Orion in three days.’ Shaw went on to explain that the chap who usually did this sort of a job for him had been taken to the hospital with acute appendicitis. That, said Shaw, left him high and dry with a hot tip and no one to carry it out for him.”
“Why didn’t he go to the British consul and get some one?” I demanded.
“An excellent question,” Timothy nodded. “And Ned, be it said to his credit, asked the very same thing. But Shaw was ready with an answer. He said that he’d already been, and the consul couldn’t send anyone on such short notice. Then said Ned, why didn’t Shaw go himself? To which Shaw replied that was exactly what he intended to do—but he must have some one with him who was in his confidence, otherwise he couldn’t hope to pull off such a big and tricky job.”
“Excuse me,” I interrupted once more. “No doubt I'm ignorant, but just why should an amber necklace be worth all this trouble? As Mrs. Hertz said herself, amber can’t be so terribly valuable.”
“Ned thought of that, too.” said Timothy, “and again Shaw was ready for him. He explained that this was a very special amber necklace, a collector’s item in fact, worth a lot of money.
“The long and short of it was that Ned agreed to go in on the proposition, and Shaw laid down a hundred-dollar bill to clinch the bargain. That gave Ned enough to settle his hotel bill, and he took passage at once for himself and Sally on the Orion. He was to meet Shaw the next day to settle the details of the plan.”
TIMOTHY gave the pillow beneath his head a violent plumping, and settled down to continue the story.
“The plans, at the time Ned and Shaw boarded ship, came briefly to this: They were not, of course, to give the slightest indication of knowing each other at any time during the voyage. Their first object was to spot the man travelling as Norman, which they did. The second point, was to manoeuvre an acquaintance, preferably by being placed at the same table in the dining room. The third and most important thing was to make certain that Norman had the necklace with him. More than that, it was necessary that the beads should actually be seen in the old gentleman’s possession. That took a bit of strategy, but Shaw planned it carefully—”
“Wait a minute,” I said, “I don’t get this business about the necessity of seeing the necklace. If Norman had tried to smuggle it in, I should think that would prove his possession of it.”
“And so it would.” Timothy nodded. “But the point was that Norman had no intention of taking the beads into the country himself. And Shaw was smart enough to foresee that dodge.”
“Did Mr. Norman have an accomplice, then?” “Right.” I thought for a minute. “Someone on this boat?” “Correct.” “But. Timothy—who?”
He gave me an odd look. “I'll give you three guesses and a hint.” he said. “Who’s the person who radiates so much honest conversation and good will that not even a customs inspector could possibly suspect her of evil intentions?”
Maclean's Magazine, September I, 1937 “You can’t mean—?”
“But I do,” said Timothy calmly. “The accomplice of Mr. Norman’s selection w7as none other than Mrs. Gideon Flertz.”
I stared in astonishment.
“And your open mouth, my dear,” Timothy went on, “just goes to show what an excellent picker Mr. Norman was. No one would ever suspect Mrs. Hertz of being a smuggler—nor would they have any reason to suppose she would own any jewels of particular value.”
“I simply can’t believe,” I protested, “that Mrs. Hertz would enter into any such scheme.”
“Well, to put you out of suspense,” said Timothy, “I don’t believe she did enter into it knowingly. Old Norman w7as too clever to try anything like that. What he intended was that Mrs. Hertz should bring the necklace through the customs as her own possession. You see how simple it really is. During the course of the voyage he forms a friendship with a lady of no particular means, and with an obviously and impressively honest front—profound apologies for the pun—and he makes her a present of the necklace. She takes it through the customs, probably declaring it at a nominal value, and lo—the dirty deed is accomplished.”
“Yes, but what good does that do Mr. Norman? I mean, if the beads belong to Mrs. Hertz?”
“Quite simple, my pet. Norman lets a few weeks pass, during which Mrs. Hertz has the pleasure of owning and
showing off her trophy, and then he sends an agent to the Hertz dwelling. The agent, ostensibly acting for some firm of jewellers, offers Mrs. Hertz a tidy sum, spot cash, to purchase the necklace. Fie then returns the beads to Mr. Norman, who adds them to the rest of his priceless collection—and there you are.”
“But suppose Mrs. Hertz refused to'sell the necklace?”
rT'I MOTH Y lifted his eyebrows. “If Mrs. Hertz were actually so benighted as to refuse say, a thousand dollars in cash in these days, do you think that Mr. Gideon Flertz would permit such folly?”
“I suppose not,” I admitted. “But suppose Mrs. Hertz didn’t have the necklace when the agent came? Suppose she’d lost it, or sold it to someone else—or even given it away, as she actually did?”
“Presumably,” said Timothy, “Mr. Norman was willing to run that risk. Fie w7as a gambler by nature—that much is evident from this whole crazy plan of his. Crazy, but clever. Fie liked to run risks; liked to plot and plan and be complicated.”
“Wait a minute.” I broke in. “You’ve forgotten to mention whether, in the light of all these new revelations, you still think that Norman was J. T. Ezry.”
“I’m just as sure as I ever was,” Timothy nodded.
“Well, then, for heaven’s sake, what was the point of such an absurdly complicated scheme to avoid paying duty on the necklace? Even if the duty was plenty high, it
would have been only pin money to Mr. Ezry—that is, if the stories about his fabulous wealth are even a quarter true.”
“I guess they're true enough,” Timothy said, “but that doesn't make it impossible that the old man would go to a lot of trouble to avoid paying duty on his imported knickknacks. Strange as it may seem, rich men are not always noted for their patriotism, nor for their devotion to the laws of the land.”
“All right," I murmured.
“Now then—to get back to Ned's story. The plan that Shaw evolved for getting Ned into Mr. Norman’s room was briefly this: Ned was to go to the old gentleman’s cabin at five-thirty on the first afternoon after we sailed, and ask Mr. Norman's opinion of a certain article which he, Ned, had ostensibly bought during his stay in Shanghai. And the souvenir in question was to be none other than a carved ivory paper-knife, loaned to Ned by Mr. Shaw for the occasion. The knife was unusual and probably fairly valuable, so it was pretty certain to interest anyone with a collector’s turn of mind. Then, while Ned and Mr. Norman were discussing the knife, Shaw promised to send a steward to the door with a message saying that the radio operator had an urgent wireless phone call for Mr. Norman. And while the old gentleman went up to take the call Ned would have a chance to look around his room and spot the necklace.
“Well, at a few minutes before five-thirty, Ned, true to his word, left his bridge game, collected the paper-knife from Shaw and took it to Norman's room. But things didn’t work out as he had expected—quite. Mr. Norman failed to answer his knock, and the door was unlatched and slightly open. After a few moments wait, Ned decided to look for the necklace anyway. 1 le pushed in the door— and there was Norman stretched out on the floor, dead as a doornail.”
“Good lord, Timothy,” I said, “is this really true?” “Just to complete the picture,” Timothy went on, “there was the fact that Norman had died from a crack on the head. And Ned was standing beside him. holding an ivory knife with a handle heavy enough to have done the job— and on that handle there were a couple of bloodstains.” “What did Ned do?”
“He just stood there a minute, taking in the situation; then he did the only thing he could do under the circumstances. He turned round and got out of the room. But bad luck was still with him. Just as he opened the door into the hall, he came face to face with Nicholas Brande.”
' I B MOTH Y nodded. “It didn't take Brande more than a second to see that something pretty bad had happened. Ned thought fast, and realized that now he was framed for fair. It was only a matter of time before Mr. Norman’s death would be discovered—and here was a witness who could testify that he saw Ned Covell leaving the dead man's room with a face as white as a sheet, carrying a heavy-handled ivory knife in his hand.” Timothy took a long breath. “And so, again Ned did the only thing he could do. He took the long chance and told Brande what he’d just seen inside Norman’s room. Fortunately for Ned, Mr. Brande didn’t seem to require many explanations. Quite the opposite, in fact. Before Ned knew what was happening, Brande had the situation in hand. He took the knife from Ned, told him to wait upstairs in the bar, and without further ado, disappeared into Norman’s room and shut the door.”
“Then what did Ned do?”
“Went to the bar, just as he’d been told. After a couple of drinks his hand stopped shaking and he began to feel better. He didn't know, of course, what Brande was going to do, but supposed he would take the proper steps—notify the captain and the doctor of what had happened to Norman, and so on.” Timothy smiled slightly. “That’s where Ned was wrong. When Brande appeared, after about fifteen minutes, he had just two things to say to Ned. The first was that Ned was not, under any circumstances, to let anyone know either of them had been to Norman’s room; and the second was that Ned must deliver a certain note to the door of Mrs. Gideon Hertz’s stateroom at once. The sealed note which Brande handed over was apparently the well-known invitation asking Mrs. Hertz to meet a dead man. Ned tried to argue—said he didn’t think they were proceeding along cricket lines. But, as you may imagine, it didn’t take long for Brande to talk him out of that idea.” “I certainly can imagine it,” I nodded feelingly.
“Brande simply said,” Timothy went on, “that if Ned did as he was told and said nothing, everything would be all right; otherwise, he wouldn’t answer for the consequences. So Ned put the note under Mrs. Hertz’s door and said nothing—and for a few days, everything was all right.” “And then?”
“On Tuesday night about midnight, as you may recall, the Reverend Shaw was found dead in Mrs. Hertz’s cabin.” “I recall it, all right. But what did that have to do with Ned?”
“Just this,” said Timothy. “Earlier on that same Tuesday evening, Brande had come to Ned with a pro-
position. He said he understood from Sally that Ned wouldn’t be averse to turning a few honest pennies—and it happened that he had a job open in his importing business for a man who could do what he was told. That part was all right, but when Brande went on to say that the particular bit of importing he was interested in at the moment concerned an amber necklace, our Ned began to smell a large and rather alarming plant. So. before hearing the rest of the proposition, he said no. But that, strangely enough, did not end the matter. Delicately but firmly, Air. Brande pointed out that he knew certain things about Ned’s whereabouts on the afternoon of Norman’s death which would not be altogether healthy for Ned and he would greatly appreciate Ned’s help in the matter at hand.”
“But, Timothy, that was plain blackmail.”
“Quite so, my girl,” Timothy agreed. “But being able to call it blackmail didn’t help Ned at the moment. He had a choice between two tilings, neither of them pretty, so he chose to take Brande up on the job. Then he got his orders. It seemed that Brande was very keen on the necklace Mrs. Hertz had inherited
“Good heavens, don’t tell me Mr. Brande was after it too !”
“Well, not in so many words,” Timothy said. “He told Ned he was simply interested in the thing from an impersonal point of view. Said he was a fancier of jewels, and had a notion the beads were more valuable than you might supix>se. Brande said he wanted to make Airs. Hertz an offer to buy the necklace, but not until he'd had a chance to look at it first. That was where he needed Ned’s help. All Ned had to do was to keep a lookout that night while Brande got the beads from Airs. Hertz’s room and gave them the once-over. In the end Ned agreed to do it.
“But the more Ned thought over his position, the less he liked it. Here he was, supposedly helping the Reverend Shaw as a Government agent, and at the same time agreeing to help Brande in what looked like shady business. The upshot of Ned’s reflection was that it would be healthier to stick on the side of the law. Ned tipped off Shaw to the fact that Brande would be in Mrs. Hertz’s room at a few minutes before midnight to have a look at the necklace. That was all Shaw needed. He told Ned to go to bed and forget the whole business, that he’d handle everything himself. Well, you know what happened next. Ned went to bed all right, but when he woke up next morning he learned that Shaw was dead. Then Ned thought he saw things clearly at last. Brande had been up to dirty work in Mrs. Hertz’s room, and when Shaw popped in on him, Brande killed him. Which left Ned in the worst spot he’d been in yet. His ally Shaw was dead—and the man that Ned had doublecrossed had turned out to be not only a probable thief and a blackmailer, but a murderer.”
“But Timothy, how could Mr. Brande have murdered Shaw? If it was insulin poisoning that killed him, and the doctor gave the injection . . ”
TIAIOTHY sighed. “That, my dear, is precisely the point I’m trying to put across. Of course Brande didn’t murder the Reverend Shaw that night in Mrs. Hertz’s room. If only he had. things might be a lot simpler for me. I’m only telling you what Ned thought had happened. Actually, I don’t know any more about who fixed that insulin dose than 1 did Tuesday night. But Ned was scared nearly out of his wits. He didn’t know just what to expect from Brande. He waited and waited—and nothing happened. Then Sally decided to interfere, with her idea ot getting Ned a job with Brande, and before Ned could think of any way to stop her, short of telling her the whole truth, she came out with the fact that she d told me Ned was going to tie up with Brande and I thought it was a swell idea. Ned knew I was some sort of a cop. He hit the ceiling and didn’t come down again until about
an hour ago, when he finished telling me the whole story. He’d have saved himself and me a lot of trouble if he’d only taken me to his bosom earlier, but he was certain Brande would somehow hang everything on him, also he had some crazy notion that 1 wouldn’t believe him. As a matter of fact . . ” Timothy paused.
“You do believe it?”
“Somehow or other,” said Timothy slowly, “l do. It’s a fantastic yarn, and I stil! don’t know what it’s all about—but you know my weakness for believing the impossible. Anyway, I’m letting Ned’s story stand until I find a better one.”
“I take it then, that you let him go, with your blessing?”
Timothy got up off the bed and stretched his arms. “Something like that,” he said. “And now don’t sit there with that idiotic expression on your face. I let Ned go for two reasons. One, because on shipboard he can’t go far. Two, because I’m probably a fool. Your being soft on the lad had nothing whatever to do with it.”
“Of course not.” I murmured politely. “It’s doubtless the effect of the sea air.” Timothy made a face at me over his shoulder. "So now what do we do with what’s left of the evening?” he enquired.
“Personally, I’m sleepy.” I strangled a yawn.
“Me too.” Timothy stretched again. “I've got to go upstairs and send a radio message, and after that—”
“What radio message do you have to send?” I paused in the act of taking off mv jacket.
“I thought maybe the Canadian Government might be interested in learning of the death of its faithful servant, Reverend Asa Shaw.”
“Don’t forget to hurry back. We’ve got to rest up for the costume party Saturday night.”
“What costume party?” Timothy turned back from the door.
“1 forgot to tell you. Airs. Heitz came in while you were with Ned and brought me the news. She was in quite a dither about it. It seems the captain told her he was especially anxious to have the party a big success, so everyone would forget the more unfortunate occurrences of the voyage.”
“I sup]X>se you promised her we’d both go?”
“Well, I didn’t quite promise, but she s very anxious for you to go as Mahatma ( lhandi. She offered to make your costume out of two turkish towels.”
“L should have thought one was enough.” “Oh, and she brought me this, too.” I went over to the dresser. “A package of incense from Mrs. Shaw.” I held up the box, and Timothy glanced at it.
“What do you want incense for?” he demanded.
“Well. I don’t really - but the subject came up at dinner, and Mrs. Shaw offered to give me a package.” I looked at the box in my hand and sniffed the pungent, spicy smell. “As a matter of fact, I hate the stuff.”
“Chuck it out of the porthole then,” Timothy suggested. “It’ll give some unsuspecting fish a fine case of indigestion.” Then, as I was about to obey, he stopped me. “Wait a minute—why not give it to the stewardess? I’ll bet she likes to take home souvenirs to her kiddies.”
“All right.” I laid the box of incense in the top of my suitcase and yawned again.
THE GREATER part of the next two days, Friday and Saturday, were given over to preparations for the party. The captain had decided to combine the traditional ship’s concert with the masque ball, so the occasion was to be definitely gala.
I don’t think any of our group at the doctor’s table felt particularly gala, except Mrs. Hertz. But sire threw herself into the thing with such spirit that by lunch time Saturday, we were all discussing the Continued on page 24
Murder n Amber
Continued from page 20—Starts on page 18
matter of costumes with surprising intensity. Mrs. Hertz herself had suddenly switched her plan of disguise, owing to the fact that she had been induced to sing a solo as a part of the entertainment. After a good deal of agitation, she decided on a Dresden Shepherdess costume as appropriate for her performance. She told Mr. Brande he ought to appear as Dr. Dafoe with the quintuplets in tow, and the suggestion was unexpectedly accepted.
During the afternoon, while the costumes were being evolved, there was a great deal of going about to each other’s staterooms. 1 spent most of the time up on B Deck with Mrs. Shaw and Mrs. Hertz.
It must have been about four o’clock when a knock sounded on the door. Only a minute before, Sally and Ned— in good spirits since Ned’s release the night before -—had dashed in to borrow something and gone out again.
“Come in,” Mrs. Shaw spoke through a mouthful of pins, and the next moment she very nearly swallowed them as the door swung open and revealed Mr. Brande, composed and elegant as always, on the threshold.
"This is a surprise, Mr. Brande,” said Mrs. Hertz.
“Might I have just a few moments of Mrs. Fowler’s time?” lie asked.
“Of course,” 1 handed scissors and tape measure to Mrs. Shaw, and rose. “I’ll be back shortly, Mrs. Hertz, and we can finish your costume in no time.”
Out in the hall, Mr. Brande turned to me. “You won’t mind if we go to your stateroom instead of mine?” he asked. “I think we’re a bit nearer.”
“Right down these steps and around the corner,” I nodded. “The first door to your left.” I could well imagine why Mr. Brande preferred not to have me see his inexpensive quarters.
ONCE INSIDE the cabin, Mr. Brande made a rather feeble pretense at consulting me about the matter of his costume, then came to the point.
“Mrs. Fowler,” he said, “no doubt you think this is strange of me, but 1 have to see you alone right away.” There was an odd note of urgency in his usually suave tone. “It’s—ah, just a bit difficult to explain. Frankly, I’m alarmed.”
“I’m sorry,” I murmured. It was all I could think of at the moment.
“You see, it all came about quite suddenly-......when I went to the doctor’s cabin a
few minutes ago to borrow one of his surgical gowns for a costume. You mayrecall tkat Mrs. Hertz asked me to appear as Dr. Dafoe tonight? I consented, although it was quite absurd of me.” He laughed apologetically. “But no matter about that. What alarmed me was something that Dr. Sloane said. While he was getting the surgeon’s gown, I happened to notice an ivory knife lying on his desk. I wondered how it came to be in his room, and I made some casual comment about it. To my amazement. Dr. Sloane turned on me with the most ridiculous accusation. He said, ‘You’ve got a nerve pretending you’ve never seen that knife before, Brande. You know very well that Mr. Norman was killed with the handle of it, and that you tried to get rid of the thing by pawning it off on the captain.’
“I did my best to explain to the doctor that I hadn’t the vaguest idea what he was talking about, but he refused to listen. He said, ‘I’m warning you, Brande, that Inspector Fowler knows exactly what you did—and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll make your explanations to him and not waste breath on me.’ With that he handed me the gown, and shut the door in my face. Of course, I came straight to you. Mrs. Fowler. I hope you’ll excuse my troubling you. . But after all, such a serious charge . . He paused to draw the linen handkerchief from Iris pocket and pass it delicately across'his brow.**
“I’m afraid I don’t quite see why you should come to me, Mr. Brande,” I said, “if it’s my husband you want to talk to.” “That’s just it, Mrs. Fowler. I don’t want to talk with your husband. It’s rather difficult for me to say this, but the fact is that your husband might not understand my predicament. I’ve no doubt he’s a very clever detective, but sometimes detectives take a most unfortunate attitude toward innocent persons. Or at least,” he added hastily, “I’ve always heard that they do.”
“You’re quite mistaken about that, Mi. Brande,” 1 said firmly. “Timothy is entirely reasonable, and if you tell him your story frankly, I’m sure you won’t have the slightest difficulty.”
“All the same,” Mr. Brande insisted, “1 do wish you’d do me a good turn and explain to him for me that 1 had absolutely no knowledge of this dreadful business. I expect it’s very foolish of me, but the very thought of being interviewed by the police paralyzes me.”
“1 think you’re being a little oversensitive, Mr. Brande. If you care to have my advice, I assure you that the only thing for you to do is to go straight to Timothy with the whole story. I haven’t the least authority in this matter, you know. If I did tell Timothy what you’ve told me, he’d want to talk to you anyway.” I made my tone as final as I could, but it took more than finality to discourage Nicholas Brande.
T DO INDEED appreciate your advice, -*• Mrs. Fowler,” he said. “But I wonder— I’m not altogether certain you realize the seriousness of my position. You see, this whole incident goes back to the evening Mr. Norman was—eh”—he coughed delicately—“met with his unfortunate accident. On that evening, when I happened to go to my room shortly after dinner, I discovered a most extraordinary thing. Lying on my bed was this same carved ivory knife. I hadn’t the remotest idea how it came to be there, so I rang for the steward and asked if he could explain the matter. He couldn’t, and I was left thoroughly puzzled. I wasn’t in the least alarmed, however, until I examined the knife more closely, and discovered that on the handle there were — ”
“Several small bloodstains,” I said.
“Why — yes,” Mr. Brande looked startled. “At least, I supposed they were bloodstains, although I assure you I have no experience in such matters. But how did you know?”
“Timothy found the knife in the captain’s room, and the captain explained that you had given it to him.”
“Eh yes. YYs, quite,” said Mr. Brande. A very faint color stained his usually pale face. It was as near, I imagine, as the suave Nicholas Brande ever came to blushing.
“And you told Timothy later,” I went on, “that you had bought the knife from Mr. Shaw because he told you he needed money.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Brande. “Yes, I did. And that is precisely what I wanted to explain to you. I felt that you would perhaps understand how, in a moment of confusion and alarm, one might say something that is not strictly the truth. And I ventured to hope that you might help me out of this extremely awkward predicament by explaining the matter to your excellent husband.”
“I understand perfectly, Mr. Brande,”
I said, “and so will my excellent husband, without any explanations from me. But what 1 don't quite see is how you knew that the ivory knife had actually belonged to Mr. Shaw, if, as you say, it simply appeared in your room?”
“Ah, yes,” he said quickly. “I was just coming to that, it happened that Mrs.
Shaw chose to confide in me about the disappearance of the knife from her husband’s room. From her description, I recognized it at once; and so, when your husband questioned me, I’m afraid I rather lost my head. It was foolish of me to lie. but I’m so very unaccustomed to this sort of thing—and frankly, I was alarmed. Now that I see clearly what the whole thing means, I am exceedingly anxious to have your husband understand my foolhardy action.”
“Oh,” I said, “you do see clearly what it all means?”
“I’m very much afraid I do,” he answered seriously. “It means simply that someone, for some unfathomable reason, is trying to implicate me in the -ah, most unfortunate series of events which have taken place during this voyage. After all, the knife being placed in my room, you see . . . ”
“Yes, I see, Mr. Brande, and my advice is still the same. Go straight to Timothy and tell him the whole story.” I went to the door and opened it, and turned to look directly into the man’s troubled eyes. “It’s your one chance, Mr. Brande,” I said. “And now, if you will excuse me, I expect Mrs. Hertz is waiting for me.”
For a moment Nicholas Brande said nothing. He took the fine linen handkerchief which he still held, folded it neatly, and tucked it into the breast pocket of his dark blue coat. Then he patted the handkerchief lightly, and faced me with something like his usual composure.
“Thank you so much for your patience, Mrs. Fowler, and for your excellent advice. Believe me, I shall act upon it—at once.” He bowed, very slightly, from the waist, and walked quickly from the room.
"pOR A MOMENT after he was gone, I
stood with my hand on the doorknob, looking down the empty corridor. Then I closed the door behind me, and went slowly toward the steps and up to Mrs. Hertz’s cabin.
It took the rest of the afternoon, with Mrs. Shaw and me working for dear life, to complete the transformation of Mrs. Hertz into a Dresden Shepherdess—but when it was done, and we sat back on our heels to survey the results, we felt that we had indeed accomplished something. The final touch was Sally Covell’s dog, Haile Selassie, loaned for the occasion and upholstered with white cotton to resemble a lamb.
Mrs. Hertz gazed at her reflection in the mirror with radiant satisfaction. “But I just can’t help wishing,” she sighed, “that Mr. Hertz could see me, even though he’d probably say I look like a darned fool. Well, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your help.” She turned to pat my shoulder. “And now, what about your costume, child?”
“Mine’s simple enough,” I said. “I’m going as Aimee Semple McPherson, and all I need are a few sheets and safety pins. Oh -and a Bible. I almost forgot that.”
“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Hertz. “I expect it’s quite awful of me, but I haven’t got a Bible with me. But maybe ...” She turned questioningly in the direction of Mrs. Shaw.
“Why, certainly,” Mrs. Shaw said at once. “I’ve got Mr. Shaw’s Bible right here. There isn’t any reason in the world why Mrs. Fowler shouldn’t borrow it.”
I felt a trifle hesitant about accepting, but Mrs. Shaw pressed the matter.
“Of course you must take it.” She handed over the rather ponderous volume. “It’s a good big one, and everyone will be sure to see it. I’m sure Mr. Shaw would have been only too glad to have you carry it; he was always such an admirer of Mrs. McPherson.”
I had barely time to get back to my room and adjust the draperies of my
costume before the first gong sounded for dinner. Timothy was even later than I, but it was a simple matter for him to slip off his clothes and don the bath-towels which transformed him into a large but convincingly thin edition of Ghandi. I was bending down to pin his most vital bath-towel, when I thought to enquire, through a mouthful of safety pins, whether Mr. Brande had sought him out for the interview I had advised.
“Yup,” said Timothy, and screwed himself around to look over his shoulder at me. “By the way, my lass, what is it that you’re supposed to represent tonight? Those sheets suggest something out of Poe, but I don’t see the point of the volume of Holy Writ.”
“Aimee Semple McPherson,” I said. “I thought she’d make a good partner for you.”
“I get it,” Timothy nodded. “One good faith healer deserves another.”
“But what I wanted to ask, before you changed the subject so adroitly, was what you thought of Mr. Brande’s revelation?” “I thought his latest stoiy of how he came to get the ivory trinket was even fishier than the first version.”
“That’s what I thought too—but what do you suppose made him switch stories at this point?” •
“Oh, I don’t known Lots of things might have made him change his mind.”
And that was as much as I was to learn of what Timothy thought about Nicholas Brande. Just as we were taking a final look at ourselves in the mirror, however, Timothy volunteered another remark.
“I forgot to tell you,” he said, “that I got a wireless this afternoon.”
“My pals at Headquarters. It was an answer to that information I wirelessed them last night about the late Reverend Asa Shaw.”
“It turns out that there’s no record of any Government agent in China or any other place by the name of Shaw.”
“Does that mean that Ned—”
“It means that Ned was a sucker,” said Timothy shortly.
DINNER, with everyone in costume except Mrs. Shaw, was more of a success than I had expected. Sally and Ned Covell, strapped together as the Siamese Twins, inside of Mrs. Hertz’s skirtprovided a good deal of amusement by their struggles to eat while sitting back to back on one chair, while Mr. Brande, in a surgeon’s gown, had to lift his gauze mask for each mouthful of food. Dr. Sloane, with golden curls and a black velvet jacket, made an excellent Lord Fauntleroy; and Tod Cutten, in a slinky black satin gown borrowed from Sally and a blond wig made of straw, was devastating as Greta Garbo. But it was Mrs. Hertz who carried off the honors in her Dresden Shepherdess costume—and later, when we had adjourned to the ballroom for the grand march, Mrs. Shaw and I were rewarded for our afternoon’s work when the Shepherdess, leading Haile Selassie as a noticeably reluctant lamb, marched up to claim first prize for her costume.
Just before the concert program began, Mrs. Shaw slipped away from her place next to me. She whispered, a trifle regretfully. that she scarcely felt right about staying for the party—and not even the prospect of hearing Mrs. Hertz sing could induce her to change her mind. But the rest of our group applauded and cheered loyally when the Dresden Shepherdess, flushed with triumph, rendered “At Dawning” in a deep contralto voice embellished with a tasteful tremolo.
The high spot of the concert was the big love scene from “Grand Hotel” played by Tod Cutten in the role of Garbo, and Timothy, still wearing his Ghandi towels, as the most ardent of lovers. They were Continued on page 26
Continued f rom page 24 called back for bow after bow by the quite hysterical audience, and the applause continued even after Timothy returned to his place beside me.
It was during the intermission, which followed an appeal by Captain Cobb on behalf of the Disabled Seamen’s Fund, that Timothy’s eye happened to light on the large Bible in my lap. He examined the worn dark binding curiously.
“Where on earth did you dig up this relic?” he enquired.
I explained that it had been loaned to me by Mrs. Shaw.
Timothy began to turn the pages, pausing here and there to read a pencilled notation in the margin. I had become engrossed in the gossipy conversation of two women sitting behind me, when a sudden exclamation from Timothy made me turn toward him. He was frowning over a page of Scripture, and the next moment he dug me violently in the ribs and pointed to an underscored passage.
“Look,” he said, “did you ever see that before?”
For a moment I stared blankly at the verse :
“It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.”
And then suddenly something clicked in my mind.
“That Gideon Bible— ” 1 whispered excitedly, “the one we saw in Mr. Norman’s
room—the very same verse was underlined.”
Timothy nodded quickly. From somewhere in the back of the Bible he lifted out a slip of notations. Chapter and Verse. The list was headed “Sermon notes, July 14.”
I pointed to the date. “That’s only three days before we sailed from Shanghai, Timothy.”
He nodded again. “Wait a minute now.” He read the first notation; “Ezekiel 8:2 now just a second.” He thumbed the flimsy pages with clumsy haste, and together we scanned the words:
“Then I beheld, and, lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, (ire: and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the color of amber.”
“Jumping Judas,” Timothy exclaimed under his breath, “that’s it!” He slapped the book shut and got up. “Look, Joan,” he said, “you wait right here. I’ve got to go see ” He never finished the sentence, for at that instant there was a sudden commotion at the back of the ballroom, and a woman’s scream, long-drawn and piercing, cut like a knife through the hum of laughter and talk.
'"pHERE WAS an instant of frozen silence, and we turned to see a stewardess standing in the open door. Her voice rose again and echoed through the room.
“Help! Quickly!” The words rang out desperately. “There’s a woman out here—
trying to jump overboard. I can’t stop her!”
For a moment more everyone seemed paralyzed, then there was a sudden rush for the doors. Timothy was the quickest of all. With a single motion he thrust the Bible into my hands and bounded out into the aisle and halfway across the floor. Gathering up my sheeted draperies and clutching the Bible tightly, I followed him as quickly as I could. When at last I had pushed my way through the milling crowd and reached the open deck, I saw with a sharp breath of relief that Timothy had been in time.
It was a curious tableau there in the warm, still darkness of the night. After the brightly lighted ballroom, I could scarcely make out what was happening at first. Only two figures, both in white, were visible near the stern railing of the deck, outlined against the dim background of black water and a starless sky, as they struggled silently.
All around me, eveiyone was talking at once, excitedly and incoherently. Now and then a woman would scream. Questions, asked of no one and answered by no one, sounded on every side. And then, quite suddenly, I was free of the crowd and running down the deck to Timothy’s side.
When I got there, he had the woman in a firm grasp—her elbows pinned behind her back, and one long arm around her waist. But even so she struggled toward the rail twisting and turning her slight body beneath the long white coat she wore. For a moment I could not see who she was. Then, with one desperate lurch, she threw back her head—and I saw the
3 white face of Mrs. Shaw, her eyes gleaming
wildly in the darkness. One last time she i lunged with failing strength toward the
i rail and the next moment, without
t uttering a sound, she fell back limply in
Timothy’s arms and lay still.
. For a few minutes everything was
hectic. People crowded around, and the 1 babble of questions rose again. Someone
i cried out close behind me, “She’s dead !”
1 Then Timothy’s voice answering quietly,
1 “No-she’s not dead -only fainted. Stand
i back, please.”
1 From somewhere the little stewardess
who had given the warning appeared, and, standing close to Timothy, she gasped out
r the explanation.
1 “I saw her here by the railing -throwing
t something into the water. I came up, and Î when she saw me she screamed at me to , stay away. Then she started to climb up
f on the rail. I tried to stop her, but she was
! too strong for me—fought like a tiger. Then I ran for help.”
t “It’s all right,” Timothy’s voice came
1 quietly. “I got her just as she slipped over
, the side of the railing. She’s quite safe.”
, He swung the light body up in his arms and
3 turned away from the rail. “I’ll take her
1 down to the hospital at once. Will someone
please ask Dr. Sloane to follow me?” i There was a moment’s hush as the 1 crowd fell back to make room for him to
r pass. In the moonlight they looked
I strangely grotesque in their motley cos-
t tumes, and every eye was fastened on the
s limp burden in Timothy’s arms as he
3 stepped quickly past them and disappeared
through a lighted doorway into the ship, e To be Continued