The One-Eyed Partnership
Another true detective story taken from the murder-mystery files of the Mounted Police
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH
THIS is a story of a far from perfect murder, but a murder certainly unique in the varied tables of that crime. For when was a man done away with because of a perpetual-motion machine? When has it happened that, of the killers suspected, each had but a single eye? And when has the truth been brought home to so hardy a band of liars with a more patience?
The 1914 season of navigation at White Horse was already advanced, which meant that a steamboat and two barges were tied up to the wharf while several would-be laborers lounged about between jobs. For activity had dwindled sadly in the half generation since ’98, and only a polyglot remnant of the once eager thousands came and went.
White Horse, however, held its own better than other places in that wilderness because of its situation where steel ended and the navigation of the Yukon began. The Pueblo mine back in the hills still employed a few Italians, Swedes, and Polacks, and the men who lived about the wide barrack square of the Mounted Police were needed now and again in matters more stirring than local drinking bouts.
The impetuous river was now in flood, and as it flowed from the bush above the town it was still roiled from the long imprisonment between the walls of Miles Canyon and the fury of White Horse Rapids—those rapids which had given Swiftwater Bill his name in ’98 because he walked around them.
Not everyone had that much sense, as occasional drownings still attested; and the workmen idling on the wharf were reminded of that fact as a shapeless object very like a bundle of clothes came down the current which sparkled in the June sunlight, toward them. One man’s look was less casual than the rest and a moment later he was calling excitedly to them. It was a bundle of clothes, but around a dead body. With poles they arrested the course of the body which the rapid current was trying to suck under the barges, and sent a boy to tell the Mounted Police.
When Sergeant Lewis McLauehlan arrived he was confronted by a difficulty. A blackened hand protruding from the clothing indicated that the body must be handled very gently; so he had it secured to a pile. The coroner and hastily empanelled jury decided to leave it submerged for better preservation until the craft moored at the wharf could be moved. News of the finding had spread rapidly from house to house, but nobody could attach an identity to the corpse. No one, so far as they could think, was missing. A prospector had heard of a man abandoned dead on the Atlin trail, and Atlin was wired. The reply indicated that there could be no relation; as a mountainous watershed interposed between that trail and the river. It looked as if some incoming stranger had met with an accident.
But next morning when the police lifted the body from the water, McLauehlan was startled to see that the sodden mass was trussed from shoulders to feet in a wicker arrangement made by tying small saplings lengthwise around the body. This was no accidental drowming.
SCRUTINY revealed the body in an excellent state of preservation except for the hand with its blackened tissues. The man had had a dark, even swarthy complexion. He was clean-shaven and in his forties. A
prominent scar crossed his jaw. Both hands showed traces of having been badly burned at some earlier time. A patch of clay was plastered to the skull.
McLauehlan studied the trussing arrangement thoughtfully. It consisted of five sticks, each about five feet in length. His trained eye noted that two were alders, about an inch in diameter at the butt and evidently cut with a dull knife; one was a willow of similar size but cut differently; a fourth was a small pine of one and a quarter inches, cut like the alders; the last was a balm of Gilead two inches thick at the base and cut, possibly with a small axe, or if with a knife, with one much sharper than used on the other sticks. All had been secured to the body by a black leather lace spliced to an oil-tanned one which ran around the buttocks; a quarter-inch rope braced the upper body around the arms.
There were no boots or socks on the feet. The overshirt was of heavy blue serge, the undershirt a heavy woollen winter one. The trousers were of coarse grey tweed, in good condition. There were no underdrawers. Both hands were shoved inside the top band of the trousers in a position common to some men who sleep with their clothes on. In the pockets were a pipe, knife, empty tobacco sack, two keys, and a blue handkerchief.
McLauehlan plucked thoughtfully at the elastic of the braces and then tested the black armlets. The elastic seemed remarkably good, and the braces fittings were but little rusted. Everything pointed to a recent demise; everything, that is, except the blackened hand. The sergeant was busy at his notes when the doctor took over.
A superficial examination showed many skull fractures and scalp wounds, all of them given before death. As the examination promised to be difficult, the body was put on ice until another doctor could be obtained to assist, and McLauehlan went to report to Inspector Acland, the officer commanding at White Horse.
“But about these trussing sticks,” asked the officer finally, “what do you make of them?”
“It’s a curious variety, sir,” said McLauehlan. “Of course, willow and alder and pine and balm of Gilead do all grow around here, but hardly in the same spot. Willow and alder like the water.”
“Why do you suppose the body was trussed anyway?” “To make it easier to carry on a sled.”
“But a sled implies winter and the death seems to have been fairly recent.”
“That’s the contradiction, sir,” said McLauehlan. “There’s the hand versus the body. And there’s the unspoiled elastic versus the winter clothing.”
“Yes, and the lack of underwear, socks and boots versus the heavy woollen shirts.”
“That could point to an indoor crime, and the position of the hands further suggests that the man was struck down while asleep.”
“True. Perhaps there may be some marks on the clothing by which you can identify your man. I think we should preserve a strict silence until the identification is complete.”
Three Odd Bachelots
MCLAUCIILAN’S carefully casual enquiries of the next two days established some important facts. A local merchant recalled a customer with a facial scar and burned hands, and a visit to the undertaker convinced him that the dead man was the customer, an Italian named Domineck Melis, who, months before, when the merchant had last seen him, was living with a partner named Romolo Caesari at a cabin near the printing office, called the Bissler blouse.
This was news, indeed, and McLauehlan, taking the keys found on Domineck’s body, paid his first visit to the Bissler House. It was locked and deserted, but one of the keys admitted McLauehlan into the rather cheerless place, with its living room, bedroom, kitchen and well house, all of them filthy. The wellhouse was particularly disgusting, being plastered with blood. At first glance the sergeant started, but a closer look showed that the gore had come from rabbits. Game had been hung up, dripping liberally. McLauehlan decided to investigate next the other man or men who so obviously had been “baching” it in the Bissler House.
He found that the two Italians, Domineck and Caesari, had rented a part of this abode in November, 1918; an adjoining part, separated by a locked door, already being occupied by a George Ganley. Caesari was remem-
bered as a short, stocky man of thirty, with one eye missing. Curiously enough, George Ganley also had only one eye, and was a dark, evil-looking adventurer of middle age to boot. He and the Italians soon became friendly, McLauchlan found, and on New Year’s Day 1914, the three had gone down the Yukon a few miles to the Takheena country to hunt. The Italians had paid for their quarters until March, but Ganley had relinquished his. The party had returned early in February, in fact, earlier than they had announced likely, and Ganley had stayed with another friend, Alfred Goss, until about February 21, when he and Romolo Caesari had left together for Dawson. No one of whom McLauchlan enquired remembered having seen Domineck after early February, and of his friends only Goss remained in White Horse, Mrs. Goss having left in the opposite direction for Skagway about the same time as the others.
McLauchlan found that he had stumbled upon a crowd not only unprepossessing in looks, but also with reputations far from savory. Domineck seemed to have been of a superior type, a quiet socialist until aroused, when he had a formidable temper, and possessing some influence among the Italians in the district; but the Gosses and Ganley were largely faithful to the delights of drinking and quarrelling, with an occasional fight. On February 7, Goss had been fined for breaking the peace. Goss’s wife was a squaw who also loved the bottle. Caesari, it was said, would drink all the liquor he could get hold of.
With these reports of McLauchlan in hand, Inspector Acland, in spite of the danger of precipitating matters, determined to have Ganley and Caesari located and at once wired to headquarters at Dawson. Two days later he sent a second wire asking that the men be arrested on a charge of murder. Goss, meanwhile, at White Horse, had obligingly ensured his presence for six months, having been sentenced for a fresh assault.
The arrival of the second doctor had confirmed McLauchlan’s suspicions and at the same time dashed his hopes. Working from early evening until the next afternoon, the doctors showed that the skull of Domineck had been broken into more thax thirty pieces, and that the many scalp wounds had been inflicted before death. Although the body had been battered by its river passage, the organs were still in good condition, and the doctors agreed that the body had been in the water certainly not more than eight weeks. It might have been in for four.
McLauchlan heard this pronouncement with dismay. Eight weeks! Ganley and Caesari had been gone over three months. Some other murderer must be lurking in the bush. If the body had not entered the water earlier than mid-April, what did the winter clothing mean? And what was the significance of the trussing up?
As he stood trying to reconcile these contradictory clues, the sight of that blackened hand projecting above the water at the wharf flashed back in McLauchlan’s memory.
“Some more questions, doctor. Could death have taken place several months before the body was put into the water?”
“It might,” was the answer, “if kept on ice and not exposed to the sun.”
“There’s been ice in the river until recently. If the murderer had the wits to foresee our finding the body, do you think he could have preserved it until the breakup before chucking it into the river?”
But it was not satisfactory to the sergeant. Circumstantial evidence was untrustworthy at best; but hypotheses in refrigeration were too much to ask a jury to ponder. It came down to this: If the murder had been committed locally within eight weeks, a perfect alibi was provided for the one-eyed suspects; if longer than eight weeks, what disposal had been made of the body to ensure no decomposition and yet a final restingplace in the river? Just to have thrown it on the frozen river was not the answer. There were too many animals prowling about, for one thing. W as it trussed so that it could be cached in a tree? But who, then, could have cut it down? McLauchlan decided that more information about the principals must be learned. Motives were always useful bridges of information, leading sometimes to the vital clue.
That week came the message that the Mounted Police in Dawson had located Ganley on Bonanza Creek.
Caesari was already in Dawson. Both had been put under arrest and would be sent to White Horse. At the same time news came to the White Horse barracks that a sack had been left by Caesari with a local merchant. It was opened, and from it came a pair of long boots, an axehead, a raincoat and slicker hat. On the inside of one boot McLauchlan discovered a large stain, and since stains could have awkward meanings, a sample was submitted to the doctor for analysis. At the same time, the merchant produced a letter, dated Bonanza, March 31, in which Caesari asked for his sack but neglected to supply the funds for shipping.
On the Trail of the Suspects
THE merchant produced still other information. He owned the Bissler House and both Domineck and Caesari had bought provisions from him. His records showed a complete list of their purchases. He had last seen Domineck on February 4, when the Italian, returning from a hunting trip, had bought a large quantity of groceries, including coal oil. Two days later Caesari had bought an almost identical lot.
McLauchlan questioned the storekeeper and found that the latter had wondered at the time why the men, who had previously bought their goods in common, should have made separate purchases. “It is better,” Domineck had said, “for each to have his own teapot.” And Caesari had spoken disparagingly of Domineck.
“Did either of them say what the row was about?” asked McLauchlan.
“Not so I can remember,” said the storekeeper. “The one-eyed Wop was just naturally ugly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his eye on Domineck’s gun.” “Would you know the gun?”
“Sure, I’d know it. It was a twelve-gauge L. C. Smith shotgun. Domineck had it sent him from Alaska, Skagway maybe. I don’t know. But he set a lot of store by it.”
That night McLauchlan wired the description of the gun to Dawson, and the coroner’s jury reported its decision to Inspector Acland: “Domineck Melis, now lying dead in the town of White Horse, Yukon Territory, came to his death by means of blows from a blunt instrument in the hands of some person or persons unknown.” McLauchlan was now assured that the case was beginning to take form, very dimly to be sure, yet with that slow inevitability that small facts, progressively interpreted, bring about. Always in the back of his head was the disturbing vagueness about the disposition of the body between early February and mid-April. But he put this worry aside in order to test the concrete hints at hand, particularly the cut saplings. The stumps to match the five trussing sticks doubtless existed, therefore they could be found. It might take time -and luck; but they would be evidence. Then, it would be well to know where open water was to be found in winter above White Horse, as well as the trails leading to it. The unsavory Gosses should be investigated, and the Bissler House examined more thoroughly. It was too much for one man, so Constable Pearkes—whom the approaching war was to make famous and a V. C.—was detailed to assist.
Meanwhile a telegram from Dawson brought encouraging news. “A prospector has been discovered in possession of a twelve-gauge L. C. Smith shotgun. A part of the barrel had been sawn off, leaving no foresights, the butt plate was broken, and there were dents on the right barrel. He said that Caesari, accompanied by Ganley, had sold it to him. Caesari mentioned having bought it at White Horse.”
Dents on the barrel . . . butt plate broken . . sawn off . . . foresights gone . . . bought at White Horse.
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The One'Eyed Partnership
Continued from page 11
McLauchlan mused over these facts. With eyes opened by recent information, the two mounted policemen hoped to find something of importance in the Bissler House and went there. The observant eyes of Constable Pearkes noted how the rabbits’ blood seemed to have been tracked from the well house into the sitting room. There were stains on the walls and the door. There were also unmistakable signs of attempts to wash the door and the window—slovenly attempts. To the men, this action seemed rather suspicious when the general condition of the place was considered. This universal bleeding of rabbits deserved investigation, and they decided to collect fragments of the stained furniture and carpet to be sent “outside” to an analyst. The home of Alfred Goss was visited and samples of stain and dirt sent with the others.
OF COURSE, so much prowling about had made the White Horse public aware of the suspicions afloat, and a flock of rumors—the usual vultures in the vicinity of a murder—made their appearance. Good time was stolen by them before their worthlessness was exposed. But one of these rumors did introduce a man named Mike Waterman, sometimes called Sinnatt but oftenest “Fighting Mike.” He had stayed with the one-eyed Ganley at Bissler House but had left about the time the Italians moved in, “because,” as he said with some indignation, “of Ganley’s dirty disposition.” At the time he could give no other helpful information.
The arrival of Sergeant MacBrayne from Dawson with the prisoners and the decision that he was to remain to help McLauchlan brought relief to that policeman. The two sergeants were complementary in temperament. McLauchlan was forty, well built, of middle height, with dark complexion and grey eyes, and ten of his eleven years service had been spent in the Yukon. Eion MacBrayne had only half the other’s service and was just arrived in the North; but he had the enthusiasm of twenty-seven and his tall muscular frame held a store of energy. He welcomed his assignment as much as McLauchlan, having done enough work on the case at Dawson to have become keen to see the mystery solved. From Dawson he brought valuable statements from Ganley. Curiously enough, Goss j suddenly proved anxious to convince one and all that he was in no way connected with the murder. Even Caesari became loquacious.
The several stories, boiled down, with allowances made for the desire of each rvarrator to appear at his best, threw new light on the movements of the principals a light considerably clouded by lies and contradictions, it is true. This much was learned beyond doubt:
Caesari and Domineck had long been working together on an invention which was to create and be operated by perpetual motion. In December, 1913, just as “Fighting Mike” had decided that Ganley was too quarrelsome, the Italians j had come to Bissler House, and Ganley, j by fixing their well for them, had become ! friendly. So much so, that when the I Italians had gone off on their Takheena hunt, Ganley had rather superseded Domineck in Caesari’s estimation. Indeed the inventor confided to Ganley that he w'as afraid Domineck would obtain a patent behind his back and do him out of his share. To foil this possibility, Caesari whispered that he had adjusted the wheels so that the invention would not work. Ganley, disliking the constant friction between the two Italians, started back for White Horse alone, to be joined by Caesari who said he had sneaked
away from Domineck. Caesari told Ganley, Ganley said, that if he killed Domineck no one w'ould ever know how it had been done; that he would use neither blade nor ball. Since Domineck had already confided to Ganley that Caesari had bought a knife especially to kill a man, it explained Domineck’s occasional nervousness.
Back in White Horse, Ganley had visited Goss, but Mrs. Goss, just then recovering from delirium tremens, objected to the men’s drinking habits and rendered the place less congenial; so he returned to Caesari who tried to dissuade him from rejoining Domineck at the camp. But Ganley had said; “No, he might go crazy if he’s left there alone, and anyway my blankets are there.” He went back, found Domineck apprehensive, stayed till the tobacco ran out, and returned to the Bissler House, having met a mounted police sled on the way in and getting a lift for their packs. Ganley had left his blankets at the camp for a future hunting trip. That night, February 2, Domineck slept by himself in the sitting room, Caesari and Ganley sharing the bedroom. Next morning Ganley decided to camp out of town, retrieved his pack from the police, and drew ninety-four dollars from the bank; then, going to get Caesari’s help, he found Domineck alone at the Bissler House. Pie never saw the murdered man again. Three weeks later he left White Horse in company with Caesari.
CAESARI’S statement tallied with Ganley’s. He added that Domineck had left White Horse, a few days after returning from the hunting trip, to work at the Pueblo mine. He had taken his belongings except the shotgun, some rubber boots and a raincoat. He had given the gun to Caesari because of a debt. Caesari denied having had trouble wdth Domineck and said there had been no quarrels.
“Do you know if he went up the track south of the town?” asked MacBrayne.
“I don’t know that,” said Caesari. “Where’s the piece sawn off the gun?” “I threw it away near the creek that runs past Pueblo mine,” replied Caesari, “about four miles from here.”
“Not forty miles, then?”
“No, four miles only,” repeated Caesari. “So Domineck burst the gun?”
“Yes, but he said it was all right. I cut the top off. Ganley told me the cutoff piece was no good.”
Now Ganley had been emphatic that the sawn end had been thrown away by Caesari at least forty miles from White Horse on the road to Dawson. The discrepancy as to quarrelling v'as also important. But, of course, Ganley had every reason to direct suspicion toward Caesari, for it would be hard enough to explain why, knowing Caesari’s feeling toward Domineck, he had suspected nothing wrong when Domineck had so abruptly dropped from sight. Was this connivance or actual guilt? And then on the fifth, at night, Ganley had made a most inexplicable trip. It was to get his blankets at Takheena, he said. He left White Horse at 11 p. m. and returned twenty-eight hours later, at 3 a. m. of the seventh. On the eighth he had found the Bissler House locked and deserted. His arrival at White Horse was opportune, for friend Goss needed someone to pay a new fine for disturbing the peace. This Ganley did, and was given a message from Domineck—whom Goss had met on February sixth near Ganley’s camp—to the effect that he was going to the mine.
This seemed reasonable to MacBrayne, for if he had not packed his provisions
Continued on page 58
Continued from page 56
with him, why should Caesari have
bought a fresh line a day or so later? Domineck undoubtedly should have been at Pueblo on the eighth. And then more confusion ! A Pueblo merchant had seen Domineck outside the Bissler Hourfe on the eighth. This was proved true.
The Puzzle Works Out
THAT evening McLauchlan and MacBrayne discussed this latest development. “That’s a throw-back to Caesari,” said the sergeant to MacBrayne. “Obviously, whatever Ganley’s midnight excursion was for, it wasn’t to bump off Domineck."
“Right,” said MacBrayne, “but there’s something phoney about the blanket story. Can you see yourself getting up in the middle of the night and mushing to Takheena for a pair of blankets?”
“I can, if they were sufficiently on my conscience,” laughed McLauchlan. “I wonder who he stole them from.”
MacBrayne sat up. “Maybe you’re right again. He wouldn’t trust them to the police sled to carry back. Remember?”
“I’ll look them up while you’re gone,” said McLauchlan.
MacBrayne’s trip was to Haines, Alaska, where Mrs. Goss, wearying of her husband’s evil disposition, had sought quiet and a job. The woman added little to the investigation except to confirm Ganley’s reputation as a fighter. It was Ganley who had given her the money to get away, however, her husband having none. She had since written to Goss telling him that their little girl was dead and asking for money for burial; but without result. The fact, of the child’s presence at the interview struck MacBrayne as curious. But he had given up hope of finding veracity in the GossGanley outfit, and returned to hear of interesting developments.
Ganley, it transpired, had called at the Bissler House in February, after Mrs. Goss’s departure had enabled him to live with Goss, only to find the place deserted. Caesari suddenly turned up at Goss’s.
“Where’ve you been?” asked Ganley. “Just around town,” said Caesari, and a moment later added: “I’ve fixed the b . . . ” Goss supposed that Caesari was referring to his companion, Domineck, but Ganley understood him to mean a sleigh that he was fixing for the trip to Dawson.
And then the blanket episode had been cleared up by Ganley’s confession that he had stolen the blankets from an Indian's cache and sold them to pay for Mrs. Gass’s hegiru.
The puzzle was working out. Disreputable as Ganley was, it looked as if his protestations of innocence were sincere. Nor had he any real reason for doing away with Domineck. There was no perpetual-motion machine to rutile their relations. It was not he but Caesari who was in possession of Domineck’s effects. It was Caesari and not he who had been observed by a White Horse citizen at a stretch of open water above the town, a place where Sergeant McLauchlan was now spending his days endeavoring to extract a secret from nature. Again, it was Caesari who had broached a scheme of violence to Ganley, Ganley reported; but as this scheme was identical with that used by O’Brien fifteen years before, and the O’Brien murder now being part of Yukon folklore, Ganley may have been only employing the imagination with which the entire cast seems to have been so richly endowed. At any rate, the charge of murder against Ganley was withdrawn.
An Astounding Interview
NC)W “Fighting Mike” had been living in the Pueblo mine district, woodcutting—a solitary job allowing plenty of leisure l.for reflection: and MacBrayne,
recalling that Mike had left Ganley because of his wretched disposition, hunted him up to get new light, if possible, on just how bad this disposition was. Mike, after a seeming reluctance, reported that he had visited White Horse on February 19.
“It was a Saturday,” said Mike, “and I’d mushed in an’ was durned well tired. The lunch counter was closed, so I went to Ganley’s shack. That was closed too, deserted like, the snow not even touched around the door; but the snow around the Italians’ door was all tracks. I went down to Goss’s house and asked him where Ganley was, and he said in the back of his cabin. I went into the kitchen and found Ganley fixing the floor, nailing it down. Ganley said: ‘What brought you back? You didn’t stay long.’
“I told him I was cutting wood out to Pueblo and asked him if he’d ever tried it. He said: ‘No.’ I then told him I’d gone to his cabin the night before and found he wasn’t in.
“Ganley said, ‘What were you doing around the cabin?’ and asked what did I know.
“I told him I’d called for a bite and a cup of tea.
“Ganley said, T think you know too much; you would be better out of the way altogether !’
“I then asked him where his partners were, and he answered that one was here and he didn’t know where the other one had gone to, or was. He said he had been gone a month, then. I asked him where he had gone to, if it was the Shushana way, and Ganley said, ‘No, he’s sunk in a hole at the head of the canyon.’
“Thinking that Ganley meant that Domineck was prospecting up at the canyon, I asked if Domineck was crazy, as no one had ever made a strike there yet.
“Ganley replied: ‘Yes, he’s crazy.’
“Well, I asked if Domineck had struck anything yet, and Ganley replied: T don’t know whether he is down to bedrock or not, but anyhow he’s sunk down at the bottom of the river. I haven’t seen him for a month.’ And then he continued: ‘We are going to sink you in the hole beside him.’
“I said: ‘No, I don’t want any of that.’
“Ganley said, ‘Well, you’re going to cut wood at Pueblo, are you? You think you are. You’re going back over a part of the trail you came in on. We’ll take you over it tonight and we’ll sink you down beside Domineck. You’ll both clean out at the mouth of the river at Fairbanks. You won’t have much of a time of it.’
“Ganley added: ‘Caesari’s in town,
but he doesn’t know anything. If he knew as much as you, he’d be gone too.’
“I asked him where my blankets were, and he said: ‘Your underwear I have burnt, but your blanket is here. I was cleaning up a mess here, but I’ll stop now, as by the time I’ve finished with you there’ll be another mess to clean up.’
“Ganley started to close the door with his left hand and came toward me with a clawhammer in his right hand. I took three steps backward, turned into the sitting room and walked out of the door. Goss was sitting by the door but did not speak. I heard Ganley ask Goss if I had gone, and Goss said: ‘Yes.’ Ganley came to the door after me, but there were people in the street. When I was going out of the yard, Ganley called; T heard you say you had a guardian angel, but I never believed it before until now.’ ”
Equipped with this astounding information, MacBrayne returned to White Horse. Both Ganley and Goss admitted Mike’s visit of the nineteenth, but denied vigorously and profanely every word that he had put into their mouths. A check-up on Mike’s nature revealed him universally as one who handled the truth lightly, and his disclosure was now eclipsed by something vastly more damning.
McLauchlan had concluded his up-river investigation and signified that the trial of Romolo Caesari could begin.
Something Vastly More Damning
TN OPENING the case for the Crown, -*• the prosecutor made an unusual request. He asked the Court and jury to accompany him on a tour of certain places, the sight of which would contribute to the better understanding of the evidence. The Court agreed, and, with Sergeants McLauchlan and MacBrayne leading the judicial procession, the patient work and the brilliant deductions from it unfolded.
The first stop was at the Bissler House, where McLauchlan gave an explanation of a number of points which would be presented later.
The route now lay south, up the river by way of the railway track. Here branched off the tracks of the little tramway by which the prospectors of '98 were able to get their duffle around White Horse rapids. A short distance along the tramway the jury was halted, and the eyes of the six men began to bulge as McLauchlan produced the five sticks which had trussed Domineck’s body and started to fit them to their corresponding stumps. There was hardly a doubt of the murder being local; and there was no doubt at all that these sticks fitted, every one of them. The sergeant’s patience must have been rewarded by the jurymen’s admiring surprise.
But matter of greater moment lay ahead. The place of the sticks was twenty feet from the river, and nearby was a bank of peculiar clay. Between October of the autumn before and April the river had fallen forty-three inches, as the government gauge showed and debris could prove. But between April and June the water had risen thirty inches, taking it out of its normal channel into other high-water channels farther back.
Now, as McLauchlan pointed out, the winter freeze-up had left a thick surface of ice against the bank and this had been increased by jams, causing the water to back up and form another coating. As the water receded into the main channel during the low level period, what resembled a small pond remained, and near the bank a steep ledge of ice. Between ledge and bank a large crevice yawned. Here the first snow had packed, to melt in a January thaw, and it was into this opening that the murderer had dropped the body to the dry beach beneath. The body was then resting against the ice and was also protected by it from the sun, thus fulfilling the doctor’s conditions of preservation. The ice was about four feet thick.
McLauchlan then pointed out the peculiar kind of clay. The river bottom along the bank was formed of this unusual glacial clay, a deposit totally unlike the sharp sand and boulders of the main channel. The same sort of clay had adhered to Domineck’s skull, and it was this which had led McLauchlan first to search the back channel and subsequently to discover the cut saplings.
As the water had begun to rise about the beginning of May it had melted the ledge of ice, but so gradually had the back channel filled and acquired a current that mid-June had arrived before the full torrent could roll the corpse—preserved all except for the exposed hand—downstream. A teamster who had had the job of selecting a road, corroborated McLauchlan’s findings.
ON returning to town, the counsel for the defense, feeling that too deep an impression had been made by this exceedingly vivid chain of exposures, asked that Goss’s shack be inspected. It was an intimation of the line of defense to be taken. McLauchlan’s familiarity with the cabin’s every detail proved that nothing had been overlooked in the search for evidence.
Back once more in the formal court room, the prosecution started to build up its case. Beginning with the finding of the body, its identification by scar and clothes, describing the injuries and showing the impossibility of their having been self-inflicted, the deduction could reasonably be made from the body’s posture that it had been reclining in a chair when attacked. Then followed a review of the doctors’ reports on the body’s state of preservation and a more detailed exposition of its resting-place from February until June.
The prosecution next passed rapidly over the earlier stages of the DomineckCaesari acquaintance, the quarrels over the perpetual-motion machine, the hunting trip with Ganley, and the widening breach when Caesari found he had an ear into which he could pour his fears, the return to the cabin on the night when Ganley slept with Caesari by request, leaving the rocking chair to Domineck. The back of this chair was produced; it was seen to be stained. The clothing spoke of a warm dwelling-place, of winter, and the deshabille of night.
There followed one damning item of evidence after another, each small enough in itself—such as the fact that Domineck had left no forwarding address at the post-office—but taken together, a formidable array. And an occasional fact stood out of the ruck like a signboard; the fact of the shotgun, so prized by Domineck, found dented and broken and finally sold by Caesari, who had lied about the sawn end. The fact of the blunt axe found in the sack Caesari sent for, with two nicks in its edge, the same nicks showing plainly in the Balm of Gilead stick for trussing Domineck. More disastrous yet was a notebook of Caesari with a map in it of the locality, trail and all, where the disposal of the body had taken place. The accused passed no comment on this when confronted with it except to say that his father might have drawn it.
“Fighting Mike” was brought up for the defense. But he made the mistake of enlarging upon his story, and, when finally cornered in a maze of lies, admitted that he had been interviewed by four officials and on each occasion had told a different tale, adding that if the case had been put off for another month he could doubtless have thought of an additional one. The opinion outside the court room was that Mike would have found congenial company in Mrs. Goss, the other star romancer.
But the accused was little better. His explanations were lame when not contradictory, and under cross-examination revealed impossible discrepancies. A stolid indifference to the ultimate and inevitable result enveloped him.
One final bomb remained to explode. The counsel for the accused, having no witnesses that he could rely on, noticed that the prosecution had withheld the results of the blood analysis made at Regina, and he demanded that these results be made known. He was advised not to press for this by the judge, and the counsel for the Crown demurred. This made him but the more eager; he insisted, and so this telegram was read:
“Doctor Charlton reports stains on
sample forwarded here from White
Horse to be those of human blood.”
Even the rabbits had turned against Caesari. The jury, out an hour and forty minutes, returned with a verdict of “Guilty.” The judge sentenced Caesari to be hanged the next February. The Italian, never at a loss for repartee, said that he was ready to be taken out and hanged at that moment. Before the day of execution Caesari suffered a change of mind, and in the dusk of a winter storm made a craftily planned break for liberty. He did reach the edge of a wood, but fell by the shot of a pursuer, dying of his wound in the Mounted Police hospital.