The Duck Gun Mystery
A. AUBERON PEEBLES
A mathematically minded sleuth demonstrates that in a murder case two and two does not always make four
IT WAS a lucky thing for Mrs. Scott that Colin Calver happened to be in Edmonton at that particular time. Had it not been for this fortuitous circumstance, the thought of referring the case to him would probably never have entered my head. This might have made things extremely unpleasant for my client.
Calver had come west from Toronto, however, a week or so before the arrest of Mrs. Scott for the murder of her husband; and. when she placed her case in my hands, and 1 found myself unable even to begin to frame a line of defense, it seemed quite natural for me to apply to my old friend for succor and advice.
It is perhaps hardly necessary to refer here to Calver’s reputation as a physicist and mathematician. It is already so well known that comment is superfluous. What is not, however, so widely realized is the fact that during the war he applied the mathematical method of thought to the serious annoyance and detriment of the German espionage system.
In the pre-war days of happy memory Calver and I had been up at McGill together. I was taking law, and our courses of study were as wide apart as the ¡viles. In spite of this, however, we formed a friendship that has endured ever since.
I think that the keystone of our mutual regard was our entire dissimilarity. Calver was all brains and no physique, nnd had practically no interests outside of science. 1 was all brawn and no brains, and my chief interest was pounding another fellow in the squared circle, a sjxirt which many of us then enjoyed.
1 remember, even in those days, that Calver used to argue that the scientific methxi could lx* applied to the solution of problems altogether outside the sphere of science and the calculus. He used to maintain that the type of thinking required in the solution of, say, a murder mystery was precisely the same as that employed in solving a differential equation. The recollection of these old arguments recurred to my mind when I found myself up against a dead end in the Scott affair, and made me decide to place the whole case before him and to solicit his aid in dealing with the problem.
The business began, in so far as I personally was con-
cerned. with the ringing of the telephone. This infernal instrument roused me from a perfectly good sleep at the unholy hour of six o’clock on a chilly morning of early April. I hopped out of bed, ¡Kidded across the room, and picked up the receiver.
“Hello,” I said irritably, refraining with an effort from reversing the syllables.
“Hello,” said the voice at the other end of the wire, “is that Major Albury?”
“This is Alberta Provincial Police headquarters. We’ve got a client of yours here, a Mrs. Scott, of Stony Plain Road. We’ve picked her up on suspicion. Her husband was murdered early this morning, and things look pretty black for her. She wants to place the case in your hands, and would like to see you as soon as possible.”
1 gasped. I knew Mrs. Scott quite well. 11er husband had been a client of mine. That he had been murdered, and that she had Iv-en arrested for the crime, fairly staggered me.
“Holy Pete!” I exclaimed. "She cannot possibly have done it, man. What in creation makes you think that she did?”
"The facts, major,” the voice replied. “I admit it seems queer. But the best of folks do funny things if you drive ’em far enough. And the facts, I’m afraid, are damning. Better come round and see for yourself.”
"I’ll be round in fifteen minutes,” I said, and hung up the receiver.
A couple of hours later I, too. had those facts; and a more unhealthy looking lot, from the point of view of my client, it would lx? impossible to imagine. I f circumstantial evidence ever ¡xiinted the linger of guilt at one particular person, I had to admit that it was pointing straight at my client right then. Look where 1 would. I could see no ray of light, and I found it impossible to blame the police for the attitude
they had adopted. Their case seemed absolutely conclusive. And yet, in spite of everything, I knew in my bones that the pleasant little woman with the twitching hands and the tragic eyes whom I had just interviewed, was no more capable of killing her husband than a canary is of killing the cat.
From police headquarters I walked through sun-drenched streets, in which the bustle of the day’s business was just commencing, to the Macdonald Hotel. I was on my way to see Calver, and to place the case in his hands. He, if anyone, would be able to find flaws in the evidence and suggest a line of defense.
I found my old friend in the sitting room of his suite, just commencing breakfast. There was a most delectable odor of devilled kidneys and coffee in the room, which reminded me forcibly that I had not yet eaten.
At my entrance Calver looked up and then jumped, grinning, to his feet.
"Hello, you old criminal!” he cried. "What brings you round so bright and early in the morning? And not shaved yet? Shocking! Hand too shaky, eh? You really should not do it, old man. You should always stop at the end of the second bottle.”
I laughed. It was as good as a tonic to hear Calver’s cheery voice and to listen to his whimsical, staccato sentences. His mere presence seemed to dissipate half the depression which had been weighing on me ever since my visit to police headquarters.
“I haven't shaved,” I observed, “because I haven’t had time, not because my hand was shaky. Nor have I had any breakfast yet. If you like, you can order me some now. Then I want to talk to you.”
"Biff the button, dearie,” said Calver, “and order whatever you like. I don’t mind a bit. so long as you pay for it.”
It was some while later, when of the coffee and the kidneys nothing remained but a fragrant memory, that Calver lit a cigarette and tossed his case over to me.
"Now, young fellow, me lad,” he said, “tell your uncle all your little troubles.”
I selected a cigarette and lit it.
“You used to say.” I began, “that any kind of problem could be solved by the scientific method. Did you ever try it?”
"Lots of times." Calver replied. “During the war. with the bounding Boche. Hunting the horrible Hun. you know. Spies, and all that kind of bunk."
“Well,” I said, “I want you to try it in a case I have on hand. I admit it has me beaten. A client of mine has got herself into devilish deep waters and I want your help."
“What has she been doing? Stealing the cat’s milk or only strangling the cook?”
“I don’t think she has been doing anything,” 1 replied, “but the police do. A client of mine, a Dr. Scott, was shot early this morning, and his wife is under arrest accused of the crime. I am acting for her. and the case seems pretty hopeless. I thought perhaps you might be able to see light where I see none.”
“Murder, eh?” exclaimed Calver with sudden gravity. “That is pretty serious. Let me have all the particulars you can, old man. and I’ll see if I can suggest anything.”
For a few moments I smoked in silence, marshalling my thoughts. Then without waiting I commenced my story.
“I can’t say,” I began, “that I know the Scotts intimately. They came out here from the Old Country just after the war.
The doctor had an office in the Tegler Building and lived on the Stony Plain Road, just outside the city limits.
"They were well fixed financially. One of the first jobs I did for them was to arrange for the transfer of some property in Manchester valued at nearly $100,000 from Mrs.
Scott to her husband. I remember that I rather objected to this transfer, but they insisted, so I put it through. Scott himself also had some property, and as he was a good doctor and had a large practice they must have had plenty to go on with.
“So far as I can figure things out, everything went along fine with them for some time. Then the trouble started. I rather fancy the doctor has had a girl in tow, and Mrs. Scott admitted that she had been rather pally with a guy from Camrose.
Nothing in it apparently, but it created some talk and got the doctor’s goat. He didn’t mind playing the fool to the limit himself, but he hated it like poison when his wife started playing the same game.
Anyway they seem to have fought like Kilkenny cats lately. Stopped going around together and all that kind of thing. Also.
Scott has been hitting the high spots for some time past. Three times in the past six months I have had to defend him for infractions of the liquor act.”
I paused to light a fresh cigarette. Calver was leaning forward in his chair, absolutely immobile and watching me intently with his curiously brilliant eyes. His attitude was vibrant with concentrated attention and reminded me vividly of the old days. Just so had I often seen him when he was engaged on some particularly abstruse mathematical problem.
“In dealing with the events of last night,”
I continued presently, “I guess I had better begin with a summary of the statement Mrs.
Scott made to the police. It seems that last evening Mrs. Scott went out to dinner and bridge at the house of a neighbor and returned home at about eleven. The doctor was then in his study. When he heard Mrs.
Scott enter, however, he left that room and met her in the hall. Mrs. Scott admits in her statement that he deliberately provoked a quarrel, in the course of which he said things which were absolutely over the odds.
So crude was he indeed that Mrs. Scott told him she was going to beat it back to the Old Country and leave him for good. To this he replied, emphatically and with much embellishment, that the sooner she left the better pleased he would be.
“After a while Mrs. Scott seems to have got fed up. She went upstairs to her bedroom. leaving her husband, still raving like a maniac, in the hall. She locked her door, and after a time got undressed and into bed, although she was still too upset to go to sleep for some time. She was. however, either asleep or dozing—she is not sure which—when she was suddenly startled into full wakefulness by the loud report of a gun, followed almost immediately by a second report. For a time—how long she does not know, but it was probably some minutes at least -she was too terrified to move. At last, however, she pulled herself together sufficiently to get up, put on slippers and a dressing gown and opened her door. For a moment she stood listening. There was no
sound in the house, but a faint light was filtering up the staircase from the ground floor. She summoned her courage and cautiously descended the stairs, to find tliat the light was coming from the open door of her husband’s study. She went in and saw her husband lolling horribly in a chair at his desk, with half his head blown off and his ten-bore duck gun lying on the carpet at the other side of the desk.
“You must remember. Calver, that these are the facts as related by Mrs. Scott to the police. There is nothing to corroborate them. Indeed, as you will see later, there is a good deal that makes them look somewhat wilted.
“To continue. According to Mrs. Scott, immediately upon making this discovery she phoned the police headquarters in Edmonton. In reply to further questions on this point, she still maintained that she phoned at once. 11er call was received at headquarters at exactly 2.15 a.m.. so that, if Mrs. Scott's statement is true, the murder must have been committed at about two o’clock. Get that point, old man. It’s important.
“The police acted very promptly. A sergeant and a constable were at the house in fifteen minutes. Mrs. Scott unlocked and unbarred the front door to let them in. Some five minutes later a surgeon, hastily summoned by the police, also arrived.”
AGAIN I paused to run over mentally what I wanted to say so that nothing vital might be missed. Calver still sat on. motionless as a graven image. During the whole of my recital he hardly moved a muscle.
“The next stage.” I resumed at length, “is the preliminary investigation of the police, the result of which was to throw considerable doubt upon the statement made by Mrs. Scott and to bring her directly under suspicion as either the actual murderess or as an accomplice.
“In the first place, an examination of the body showed that it was quite cold, and that rigor mortis had set in. The room, I should mention, was quite warm and Scott was a perfectly healthy man. Under such circumstances, it was practically impossible for rigor mortis to set in in about half an hour. The fact that it actually had set in when the police arrived seems to make my client’s statement look pretty sick. It proved that the murder must have been committed much earlier than the hour as fixed by her statement.
“An examination of the premises showed that every window in the house was securely fastened. The back door was locked, but the bolts had not been shot. The front dcx>r was both locked and barred, and was only ojxmed by Mrs. Scott upon the arrival of the ]x>lice. In fact, there would appear to be no possibility of any third party having entered or left the house unless admitted and let out again by Mrs. Scott herself.
“You can see now, Calver,” I concluded, “the situation of my client. The position in which the gun was found precludes all possibility of suicide. The gun was on the side of the desk opposite to the murdered man. Moreover, there was only slight burning from the powder. The police estimate, from the extent of this burning and also from the degree to which the shot had spread, that the shots were fired from a distance of from seven to ten feet.
“Nolxxly could have left the house, unless with the connivance of Mrs. Scott, without leaving some window or door unfastened; and there had been nolxxly in the house during the night but Dr. and Mrs. Scott.
“The quarrel, of which Mrs. Scott herself informed the police, the obvious discrepancy in Mrs. Scott’s statement as regards the time of the crime, the known estrangement which existed between the couple everything points to the implication of my client. And yet. old man. in the face of all this evidence, I cannot even begin to believe she did it.”
I stopix-d and glanced across at Calver. For a time he continued to sit without movement. Then he reached for his cigarette case. “Didn’t they have any servants?” he
"Yes, a cook and a housemaid. They had gone, however, to Edmonton Beach to get the Scotts’ summer cottage ready for habitation. Mrs. Scott told me that the doctor had suddenly decided, no later than yesterday morning, to go down there for a few days, and had sent them on as a sort of advance party.”
“Humph! Weird time of year for a holiday at the beach.” Calver remarked. Then, after a pause, he added: “That gun— did you say it was a ten-bore?”
“Yes, a ten-bore duck gun.”
“What size of shot?”
“The cartridges were Ely’s brass-cased number one.”
“Old Country, eh? I thought it was an fxid kind of gun to find out here. Guess he brought it with him. Any fingerprints on it?” “They hadn’t completed the examination when I left headquarters.” *
Again there was silence for a long time, while Calver sat and thought and I sat and watched Calver. At last he arose and stretched himself.
“It looks pretty bad,” he remarked. “And yet there are some mighty queer points about it. If the lady actually did the dirty work, why did she go to the trouble of
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inventing the most incriminating line she could think of to hand to the police? If she called in a pal to help her, why did she carefully lock the door again when he faded out? And, in either event, why wait for several hours before phoning the police? Then there is the untimely holiday to the beach and that gun.”
Again Calver relapsed into thought. After a time, however, he roused himself, looked at me and grinned.
“For the love of Mike, my antique crony.” he said, ‘‘get into that bathroom and push those whiskers in. You look more like a furze bush than a barrister. When ybu’ve finished we’ll get a taxi and run round town making noises like Sherlock Holmes. Get a move on, old bird.”
HALF an hour later we had made a start.
First we visited the mortuary and made an inspection of the body. The wound inflicted by the double discharge of heavy shot at close quarters was ghastly, the face being almost entirely obliterated. Calver made a careful examination of the corpse and its clothing, and ran over the contents of the dead man’s pockets.
After leaving the mortuary, we drove to the house on the Stony Plain road. Here Calver spent several hours in a close inspection of the premises. He paid particular attention to the study in which the murder had been committed, examining the spatter of blood on the carpet and questioning the constable in charge as to the position in which the gun and the body of the dead man had been found. He went through all the papers in the doctor’s desk, glanced over the guns and fishing poles in a rack against the wall, and finally made a careful inspection of the fastenings of all the doors and windows throughout the house. He then returned to the study and sat down at the doctor’s desk.
‘‘There are three points, my venerable comrade,” he remarked, ‘‘to which I would direct the thing you call your intelligence. You can chew them over and see what kind of flavor you get out of them. There is the fact that there are three guns and a revolver in this room; there is the further fact that there is very little blood around, and there was also very little on the clothes Scott was wearing; and there is the matter of these cheque books.”
As he spoke, he opened a drawer in the desk, took out several of these most useful articles and laid them before him.
“What about them?” I asked.
“In every case,” Calver replied, “the counterfoils of all used cheques have been carefully filled in, except for those in this book.”
He lifted the top book from the little pile. “Eight cheques,” he continued, “have been removed from this book, and in every case the counterfoil has been left blank. By the way, as Mrs. Scott’s legal representative, I suppose you can get any information you want concerning Scott’s bank account?”
“I guess so,” I replied.
"Then let's go,” said Calver. slipping the book with the blank counterfoils into his pocket.
At the bank, the manager made no objec-
tion, when he understood the circumstances, ¡ to giving us full particulars of Scott’s account. The information which we gleaned rather staggered me; but for some reason, which I failed to fathom, it appeared to afford Calver considerable amusement.
It appeared that during the past year ! substantial sums, totalling about $120,000. had been paid into the account of the murdered man. These payments had been largely in the form of drafts from England, and I could only attribute them to the sale j of the property which he and his wife had I owned in that country. The whole of this amount had been drawn out in cash upon the eight cheques, the counterfoils of which had been left blank. I had heard nothing of these transactions, and could not for the life of me imagine what had become of the money.
From the bank we returned to police headquarters, where we learned that the fingerprint examination had been completed. A number of prints had been found on the stock and grip of the gun; but, curiously enough, these did not correspond to the prints of either Mrs. Scott or the doctor. The police theory was that either Mrs. Scott had admitted an accomplice, who had done the shooting and who had left his fingerprints behind him, or that the marks had been left by some friend of Scott who had recently been examining the gun and ' that the murderer had worn gloves.
“Well, my infirm old comrade,” said Calver as we walked away from the Court House buildings in the late afternoon, “here endeth the first lesson. I’m for the university j now. Got to see old McGuire and talk tar sands. You had better come round this evening and dine with me at the hotel. Seven o’clock. Rope in that inspector bloke of the A. P. P. as well if you can, and bring him along.”
“What do you make of the blinking business?” I asked. “You have been about as talkative as an oyster all day.”
"Don’t you worry, old man,” he said. “Things might be a lot worse. We’ll talk the whole thing out after dinner. So long. Don’t do anything you wouldn't like your uncle to know.”
He hopped into a taxi which was standing against the curb, slammed the door, and vanished westward along Jasper Avenue.
AT EIGHT o’clock that evening Calver, Inspector McNally of the Alberta Provincial Police and myself were gathered around the table in the sitting room of Calver’s suite at the hotel. Dinner was over, and the dishes had been removed. Only an array of glasses and the wherewithal for liquid refreshment decorated the festive board.
During the meal Calver had resolutely refused to discuss the Scott case. Now, however, having poured himself a drink and lit a cigarette, he turned to McNally and ¡ opened the subject about which we had all been thinking.
“Well, inspector,” he enquired, "what j about Mrs. Scott? Still got the poor girl j handcuffed to her bedpost in her lonely ! cell?”
“Not quite so bad as that,” the inspector laughed, “but we’ve got her fixed so that i she won’t get out in a hurry.”
“Is that so?” said Calver. “Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll bet you a champagne ; supper to a bowl of clam chowder that she is out in twenty-four hours.”
“Better not try anything too drastic. Mr. j Calver,” he said. “To assist in breaking jail is not a very healthy pastime.”
“Oh, I don’t intend to forcibly wrest the fair damsel from your tender care, inspector,” Calver replied. “What I’m suggesting is that in twenty-four hours you will have sent her off yourself with a kiss and your blessing.”
“In the face of all that evidence? I think
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[ not. Mr. Calver. Why. man. 1 never handled I a case in which there was less doubt. Mrs. Scott cither shot her husband herself, or she : admitted the murderer and let him out again after her husband was dead. There is no other possible theory that will cover the facts.”
“Inspector, I’m sure you’re wrong,” I put in. “I cannot suggest any alternative. I admit the facts are damning. But nothing will convince me that that little woman is a cold-bkxxled murderess.”
“Of course she isn’t,” Calver agreed. “She is no more guilty than the inspector here.”
McNally threw a curious glance at my friend.
“I’m always willing to learn.” he said rather sarcastically. “If Mrs. Scott is not guilty, perhaps you will be enough to tell me who is.”
"If you want to know' who was guilty of firing those tw'o shots, I will certainly tell you,” said Calver.
“That is just exactly what I do want to know.”
Calver glanced from one to the other of us, grinning happily. Very deliberately he refilled his liqueur glass until the amber liquid stood above the rim of the tiny vessel. Very slowly he selected a fresh cigarette, inhaled a mouthful of smoke and languorously exhaled it again, watching idly the lazy eddies of the smoke wreaths. Then he raised his glass with a steady hand and glanced at McNally over the rim.
“Dr. Scott fired those two shots himself,” he said.
For a moment we were both too astonished to speak. McNally stared at Calver with an expression of incredulity which slowly changed to one of mirth. Suddenly he laughed outright. '«
“My leg is long enough already, thanks, he said. “It does not need any further pulling. But of course,” he continued,with increasing irony, “I can see your reconstruction of the crime all right. Very smart,
I must say. Having blown half his head off. with one shot, Scott shoots again just for fun and blows off the other half. Then he carefully lays down the gun. w'alks round his desk, sits down and dies. No. sir!” he added. “If you want to get the lady out in twenty-four hours you'll have to think up something better than that.’’
I must say that I could not help agreeing with McNally. It seemed incredible that Scott could have shot himself. I knew Calver well enough, however, to be sure he would not make such a statement unless he had gcxxi grounds for it.
“That is not quite my idea,” said Calver, smiling indulgently at the police officer. “You haven’t got the details just the way 1 figure them out. Scott fired those shots, as I said. But he didn’t sit down and die.’’
"Then perhaps you will tell me what the deuce he did do.” McNally exclaimed.
“With pleasure,” Calver assented cheerfully. “Having fired the two shots. Scott walked out of the study. He unlocked the back door and stepped outside. He turned the key from the outside with pliers. The end of the key is quite clearly marked by them. After that he just faded into the I surrounding scenery.”
THOR a long time McNally did not reply. ■L We were both staring at Calver, stark amazement showing in our faces.
At last McNally exploded.
“Why. heavens, man, you must be j mad! Don’t you know that Scott is at this ! moment in the mortuary, as dead as last Sunday’s mutton? I f you can’t talk sense ”
McNally’s flow of eloquence was checked by Calver’s quiet smile and upraised hand.
“How do you know that it’s Scott’s body you’ve got in your cold storage?” asked my friend.
“It must be, man,” McNally replied with considerable irritation. “It had Scott’s clothes on and Scott’s property in its pockets. It was found in Scott’s chair in Scott’s study. Of course it is Scott’s body.”
“Tut, tut. man. And likewise fie.’’ reproved Calver. "Where is your logic? If I put on your clothes, and sat at your desk
at police headquarters, would you accept that as proof that I was Inspector McNally of the A. P. P.? It won’t do one little bit. Because of the facts you mention, you took it for granted that the body you found was that of tlie doctor. ’You didn’t trouble about any detailed examination for identification. Question of identity never arose, eh?”
“Great Scott, why the deuce should it?” spluttered McNally. “It never entered anytxxly's head to doubt that the body was that of the doctor. Even now I can’t see what you are trying to get at.”
“No?” said Calver. “Well, it’s not so very difficult, inspector. Fill up your glass and pass the bottle to your uncle. He’s thirsty. When I’ve had a drink. I may have sufficient strength to elucidate.”
Calver mixed himself a weak whisky and sixia, took a sip of it and lit a cigarette. Then he leaned back in his chair and looked across at McNally.
“Right from the start.” he began, “there were three points in the case that stuck right out of the landscape. Odd things. Things one wouldn’t expect.”
“Number one—the absence of the frisky domestics. Kind of unusual, what? People don’t usually take holidays at a lakeside resort during April. They don’t usually send on all the servants in advance and wait on themselves. Made me wonder if the whole thing might not have been engineered by someone to get them out of the way.
“Number two—the choice of gun. Queer piece of ordnance to select, especially for a woman. There was a regular arsenal in the study from which to choose. In addition to the ten-bore there was a handy little double sixteen-bore, a Ross sporting rifle, a small single twenty-two, and a forty-five Colt revolver. All in good condition, and ammunition for all of them in the cabinet behind the door. Now I ask you, inspector, would a woman select for her dirty work the largest piece of artillery available? Would she choose a weapon with a kick like a mule and a report like a six-inch howitzer? Would anybody choose such a weapon unless they were completely moldy in the kernel? Yet we know the ten-bore was, in fact, selected. Why? What possible advantage did it have over the other weapons? Only one that I could see. It would make a much greater mess of anything it hit. At short j range, it might be relied upon to make a j person practically unrecognizable.”
“Great Jupiter!” McNally ejaculated. “You mean that the gun was deliberately j chosen to obliterate the identity of the body?”
“I can’t see any other reason apart from serious, mental derangement for the choice of such an odd weapon. But to come to the third point,” Calver continued, “what about j the condition of the body when the police ! arrived? Rigor mortis had set in and there had been very little bleeding.
“Clearly, the corpse had been dead for ; some hours at least. You, therefore, some| what naturally assumed that Mrs. Scott’s i statement was false. But what earthly reason could she have had for waiting all that time before phoning the police, and why should she trouble to concoct a story 1 which was in every detail absolutely damning to herself? No. Figure the thing out how I would, I could not see any reason that would account for the lady’s actions on the assumption that her whole statement was a pack of lies. I, therefore, assumed it to be true.”
“Mighty big assumption in view of the facts.” McNally interrupted.
“Granted, laddie, granted.” Calver conceded. "But let us make the assumption and see how it works out.
"If Mrs. Scott’s statement is correct, the shots were fired at about two o’clock. Now, supposing that, when the shots were fired, the body had already been dead for several hours. That would account for both the rigor mortis and the curious absence of blood, wouldn’t it? If a living man gets his face pushed in with a shotgun, he would bleed. If the same thing happened to a six-hour corpse, there would be only a more spatter of blood, as there was in this case."
CALVER stopped. McNally, who had been listening with increasing interest while my friend was talking, suddenlybrought his fist down on the table with a blow that made the glasses ring.
“Great Scott, Calver, I believe you've got it!” he cried. “Go on, man. What else?” “Quite a lot, inspector. There are those fingerprints, for example. They don't correspond to those of the corpse, nor to those of Mrs. Scott. But they probably correspond to Scott’s. If you can get a sample of his prints anywhere, it might be worth while making a comparison.
“Then there are Scott’s recent financial dealings. You didn’t know about those, eh, inspector? Well, Scott sold all his own and all his wife’s property, and took out the dough in cash. Just the kind of thing a man of his impeccable character might be expected to do if he intended to perform the fade-out act.”
“But,” objected McNally, “if Scott has cleared out, who is the guy parked away at
the mortuary? IYid Scott kill some inoffensive individual just to make his own getaway?”
“Hardly likely. I think.” Calver replied. “It is not impossible for a doctor to secure a corpse on the quiet, especially if he practises among some of the foreigners you have round town. Some of those ducks would sell the body of their own mother for a fivespot. In this case, however, any old body wouldn’t do. It had to be about the doctor’s height and build. It also had to have the same colored hair. And it must have died suddenly. The emaciation of a long illness would have given the game away.
“The stage was all set and ready when Scott drew the last of his money from the bank. When the right body came along, the play commenced. He got what he wanted yesterday morning, and promptly packed his frivolous domestics off to the beach. Then, when everything was quiet and Mrs. Scott safely in bed, he dressed the txxly
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in the clothes he was wearing. Dressed himself again, probably in clothes bought especially for the purpose. Then, when all was set, he got his duck gun and blew the poor thing’s face off. The rest you already know.”
Calver broke off to take another sip of whisky.
‘‘There were two weak spots in his admirable scheme.” he continued a few moments later. ‘‘The first was the gun. That he could not get over. He could not risk more than tw-o shots without arousing suspicion. And he couldn’t rely on the sixteen-bore doing enough damage to make the corpse unrecognizable.
“The second was the blood. That was pure carelessness. Scott knew quite well that a day-old corpse would not bleed. But he never thought of calling at the butcher’s for a bucket of best blood. It is just the kind of slip so many folk make when they plan pleasant Sunday afternoons of this kind. That’s how you manage to catch them so often; eh, McNally?”
“But what was the big idea?’’ the inspector asked. “Assuming you have hit the true solution, and I admit your theory covers the facts, what the blazes did he do it for?”
“Just a little pique, inspector; just a naughty little tantrum. His wife had annoyed the poor bloke and he wanted to get his own back. Incidentally, he wanted to keep his wife’s money but didn’t want the bother of keeping her. Tw-o birds with
one brickbat, what? Oh, Scott was one of the boys, believe me! Just the lad to keep the children happy.”
McNally rose from the table.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” he said, “I’ve got to go.”
“Whither away in such haste?” Calver enquired.
“To see Mrs. Scott and ask her to examine ; the body. She should know if it is the doctor’s or not. If it’s not the doctor’s, the sooner I .get my claws on him the better."
“Stout fellow,” said Calver. “But when you get him, what are you going to do with him?”
“Charge him with the attempted murder of his wife.”
“Possible,” Calver remarked rather dubiously. “Afraid you may have a job to prove it. He’ll swear he had no intention of letting his wife hang for him. Personally, I believe that was exactly what he did intend. But it may be hard to convince a jury.”
“We’ll get him somehowor other,” said McNally. “If he thinks he is going to get away with that kind of stuff, he is wrong. Good night, gentlemen. I’ll let you know . what happens.”
MCNALLY never got Scott, however.
It was perhaps only poetic justice that the man who had so carefully staged a mock death with a view to implicating his j own wife should have met the grim reality within a w-eek.
Just how Scott got away from Edmonton without leaving traces was never definitely ascertained. When the body of a man was discovered, how-ever, tw-enty miles from Montreal beside the wrecked remains of an automobile bearing an Alberta license plate and with the sum of nearly $120,000 in bills in a money belt under his shirt, the police soon put two and tw-o together.
The body was identified as Scott’s. This time there could be no mistake about it; and in due course the money was handed over to Mrs. Scott.
As I write, there is an invitation before me to attend the wedding of the lady in question. She is marrying a guy from Camrose. I have met the fellow, and he seems a rather decent kind of bloke. Not at all the sort who would be likely to wander around bombarding corpses with ten-bore guns. So, perhaps, this time she may have better luck.
But what in the world shall I get her for a wedding present?