If The Shoe Fits
Who killed Al Hartley? . . . What was the secret of the underwater footprints? . . . An exciting northwoods murder mystery
SEWELL PEASLEE WRIGHT
AFTER you’ve fished and swum in a lake, and paddled over every square yard of it every summer for nearly 15 years, you learn to look upon it simply as a place to have a swell time—not as a place where a murder could possibly happen.
No one ever thinks of murder against a familiar background, nor involving ordinary everyday people like himself. That’s why, I suppose, that for perhaps 30 seconds 1 just stood and stared like a ninny when I found AÍ Hartley’s body crumpled up there beside the yellow canoe turned neatly bottom up on the dock.
AÍ was dressed just as he had been dressed when I saw him last, the night before: blue canvas sneakers, dark slacks, a white short-sleeved jersey, trimmed with blue. Now that jersey was trimmed with dark reddish brown as well—the whole left side of it.
I didn’t even inspect the body; I didn’t have to. In more than 20 years of newspaper w'ork I had seen the bodies of quite a few men who had died violent deaths, and I recognized death when I saw it. As soon as I got my wits back 1 turned and ran my legs more than a little rubbery—back to the lodge and awakened Doc.
“I will not go fishing at any such ungodly hour,” he grumbled, making motions for me to go away. “You can ...” By that time he had his eyes open and could see my face. “Frank !” he said, sitting up in bed. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s Al,” I said. “He’s down on the dock. And he’s dead. He’s been murdered.”
That was early in the morning, a few minutes after six. When I found Al I probably was the only person on the lake w'ho wasn’t in bed and asleep—except, perhaps, the person who had killed AÍ Hartley.
But within half an hour everyone was up, dressed, milling around, and getting in the constable’s way. I’ll say this for Provincial Constable Bolling: he was on the scene 20 minutes after I called him - and Bedford, the county town, is eight miles from Flat Lake.
The constable took over with completeness and dispatch.
“Who found the body, and when?” he asked.
“1 did,” 1 told him. “My name is Greer, Frank Greer.”
“Take me to the body,” the constable ordered crisply. “The rest of you please remain here at the house.” He took a camera from the car a good one— and I led him down to the dock.
“The tracks in the mud,” he said, pointing. “Who made them?”
“These tracks that come down the side of the bank, at right angles to the dock, were made by Dr.
Ames and me when we came back to inspect the body. The other tracks that come down the draw straight to the end of the dock were there when I found the body.
I don’t know whose they are.”
Constable Bolling unlimbered his camera and started manoeuvring for position.
“The pictures will prove that these are the
only tracks,” he said happily. “I’ll take measurements and make casts later . . . Did your doctor friend say how long the deceased has been dead?”
“Dr. Ames isn’t a medical man; he’s a dentist.” Bolling shrugged, more intent upon his pictures than our conversation.
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Doc Wilson will be out with the boys from Grady’s when they come to pick up the body. You can go back to the house now if you want; I’ll be busy here half an hour or more.”
I was glad to get away from the sight of that sprawled body, so stark and horrible under the sweet morning sun. The undertaker’s car arrived and I directed “the boys” and Dr. Wilson—a plump and genial old-time practitioner to the dock. Shortly after they left, Rolling came back to the house.
“Deceased died of a stab woiind in the heart,” Bolling informed me as he packed his gear in the car. “Death occurred, Doc Wilson says, sometime before midnight; probably between 10 and midnight. He couldn’t tell any closer than that. Now I’d like to talk to you people, if you don’t mind.”
He interviewed me first. I gave him the story, what there was of it, as briefly and as clearly as possible.
Constable Bolling looked as though he didn’t believe a word of it; he was a tall, stringy man with a turneddown mouth, and a nose that looked as though he perpetually smelled something unpleasant. He wore plain clothes because my phone call had caught him on his day off and he looked more like a harassed businessman than a police officer.
He made notes, slowly and painstakingly, of everything l said.
“All these people here—they’re relatives of Doc Ames?”
“No. Mrs. Ramsey is the widow of a man who went to school with Doc, and who was one of his oldest friends. She and her daughter have come here every summer for years. In the other guest cabin are Elliot Jordan and Barney Kilbride. Kenneth Ames is Doc’s nephew, and Lieut. Hartley was an old friend of Ken’s,
spending a two weeks’ leave here. He arrived three days ago. Doc and I were kids together, been pals for 30 years.”
“All rich, I suppose?” Bolling asked suspiciously. I laughed in his face.
“I’m a newspaperman,” I told him. “Obviously I’m notrich.
I believe Mrs. Ramsey is pretty well-fixed, and Barney runs a sporting goods and hardware
store in the city. Elliot is a salesman for a big fishing tackle house.
“Doc himself is the only one in the whole gang that I’d say was really well off.”
“Hm-m-m!” Bolling worked industriously on his notes. “You said you were a newspaperman, Mr. Greer?”
“Then how about you sticking around and making
notes while I question the rest of the sus-the rest
of these folks? I can think better if I don’t have all this writing to do.”
“Glad to,” I said.
And that’s how it happened I had a grandstand seat.
HE TALKED to Doc first, and Doc told him, in a general way, about the entire setup.
The lake, Doc explained, was his private fishing spot. It was a small lake, and he owned all the land around it. The only buildings on the shore were those on the south side: the lodge in which we were sitting, and the two little guest cabins, one on each side, and far enough away—three or four hundred yards, perhaps—to provide a degree of privacy for the occupants.
“You mean you run a sort of summer resort for your friends?”
“Hardly that, Constable. I’m not a wealthy man but I have enough to indulge myself a bit. This lake is my principal indulgence. I have a great many friends, I’m glad to say, and it makes me happy to have them visit me. The last two years I’ve had the honor of entertaining a great many men in the service. At the present time there is—was—only one. My nephew’s old friend, Lieut. AÍ Hartley.”
“That is correct.”
“What did you do last night?” Constable Bolling asked suddenly.
“Mr. Greer and I played bridge with Mrs. and Miss Ramsey. They have the guest cabin to the west.”
“Just the four of you?”
“Who else stays here at the main lodge?”
“Mr. Greer, Ál, my nephew, and myself. And, ol course, the housekeeper.”
“That left the deceased and Kenneth here together, then?”
“Yes.” I saw Doc’s lips come together grimly. “The youngsters had had a little argument yesterday and J hoped that by leaving them together they’d patch it up.”
“Ah!” said the constable, blinking. “What was the argument about?”
“Nothing important. Al and Ken have been boson friends for years. AÍ was here as Ken’s guest.”
“I asked,” the constable said curtly, “what the argument was about.”
“About a young woman. Is it necessary to go into details?”
Constable Bolling wet his lips.
“These two lads have an argument,” he said. “You leave them alone. The next morning one of them is found dead. That looks like a mighty simple sum in arithmetic, Dr. Ames!”
Doc got out of his chair the way a storm cloud comes boiling up over the horizon. There was lightning in his eyes and thunder in his voice.
“My nephew is not a murderer, Constable! And if you think ...”
“Sit down, Dr. Ames,” Bolling interrupted. “This is my show. I’ll run it, if you don’t mind. Now, then, who was the young woman they quarrelled about and what was the reason?”
“Miss Rarqsey. Kenneth has been in love with her for several years, I believe, but Pamela did not return that interest. AÍ did interest her, however. Very definitely. My nephew seemed to think that AÍ had led Pamela to believe that he was going to marry her
—and then, very suddenly, he announced his engagement to a girl he had met in the East, where he was stationed. That’s all there was to it. It was an unpleasant situation, but no more than that.”
The constable smiled grimly, as though he thought that was quite enough.
“Where was your nephew when you and Mr. Greer came home from playing bridge with the
“That I do not know. In bed, I presume.”
“You didn’t hear him come in later?”
“How about you, Mr. Greer?” the sheriff asked, glancing at me.
“Not a thing,” I told him. “When I hit the hay I
go to sleep fast.”
“You don’t know how lucky you are,” said Constable Bolling. “My wife has insomnia something terrible . . . That’ll be all for right now, Dr. Ames.”
He asked to see Pamela Ramsey next. Pam looked haggard, and there were marks of tears around her eyes, but she was still something Goya would have loved to paint. Dark, sultry, patrician, passionate, lovely. You could use up a lot of adjectives, quickly, describing Pam.
“You were engaged to the deceased?” asked the constable.
“No. AÍ was engaged to some girl in the East, where he is—was—stationed.”
“But before that?”
Blood like rich red wine flooded the lovely olive complexion.
“He was very attentive to me and I was very fond of him. We were never formally engaged, however.”
“How about the other young man, Dr. Ames’ nephew?”
“Kenneth?” Pam smiled as she pronounced the name; smiled as one might when naming a favored pet. “He’s a good kid, Constable, but hardly my type.”
“But he’s crazy about you?”
Pam shrugged; it was something she did beautifully.
“I’m afraid so.”
Bolling studied Pam thoughtfully and comprehensively.
“That’s not hard to understand,” he said drily. “And the two men—the deceased and Kenneth Ames —quarrelled over you?”
“I . . . heard something about it,” Pam said, looking away. “It was . . . very embarrassing. Ken had no business saying what he did to Al. AÍ was not engaged to me and he had a perfect right to marry anyone he wished.”
“You really felt that way about it, Miss Ramsey?” Continued on page 18
Continued from page 17
Pam looked up quickly, her great brown eyes round and wide with surprise. “Why, naturally,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t wish to hold any man who was interested in another girl.”
“What did you do last night?”
“Mother and I played bridge with Dr. Ames and Mr. Greer, here. After they left we talked for a few minutes, emptied the ash trays, put the bridge table away, and went to bed.”
“Oh . . . probably 10.30. One goes to bed early here in the country, you know.”
“I don’t call 10.30 early,” said Bolling peevishly. “However . . . thank you very much, Miss Ramsey.” Next on the constable’s list was Mrs. Ramsey, Pam’s mother. She was Pam all over again; a bit harder, a bit more anxious to please, a bit more careful^ madeup, and some 20 years older.
She had had her cap set for Doc ever since her husband’s death. Doc hadn’t responded to treatment, however, and I had concluded that the lovely but lonely widow was just about ready to settle for Elliot Jordan, another of Doc’s guests.
So far as I could see she was of small help to the constable.
She had heard of the quarrel between the two men and thought it was very thoughtless of Kenneth to embarrass everyone by making a scene. She backed up the evidence of Doc and Pam regarding the bridge game, and the time she and Pam had retired. She did add just one bit of information; something that I knew, of course, but which hadn’t previously been brought out.
“I remember looking into Pam’s room and reminding her that we must go over to the lodge immediately after breakfast and say good-by to AÍ,” she said, “and I happened to notice the clock on her dresser. It was 10.35.”
“To say good-by to AÍ? Why?” pounced the constable.
“Why, because he was leaving, of course. He was here as Kenneth’s guest, don’t you see, and after their quarrel he could hardly stay on. He was taking the bus that goes by around quarter after nine.”
“You all knew that, of course? Kenneth and the rest of you?”
“Certainly. Al made it very clear.”
“Ah!” breathed Constable Bolling. “You’ve been very helpful, Mrs. Ramsey. Will you ask Elliot Jordan to come in, Mr. Greer?”
Elliot Jordan was a big man, six three or four, with a big face, big feet, big hands. And, like so many big men, very soft-spoken.
The constable opened up on Elliot with a fast one right over the plate.
“Would you say there was ill will between the deceased and Kenneth Ames, Mr. Jordan?”
“Well . . . hardly that. They had alittle squabble, but it didn’t amount to much. It probably would have blown over in a day or two.”
Constable Bolling looked unhappy.
“Maybe that’s the way it looked to you; the two men themselves seemed to think it was a pretty serious affair, I gather. Serious enough so that the deceased . . . ”—the constable apparently loved the word— “planned on clearing out of here on this morning’s bus.”
“That’s right, Constable, so far as Al’s leaving is concerned, anyway.”
“Did you hear the quarrel?”
“Why, yes.” Elliot glanced at me. “You heard it too, Frank. We all did. There’s no secret about it, is there?”
“No,” put in Constable Bolling. “Tell me about it, Mr. Jordan.”
“Well, yesterday was a bad day, as you know. Night before last there was a storm; lots of wind and rain right out of the north. Chilly, too, for this time of the year. And yesterday forenoon was drizzly and dreary, a bad day around a camp like this. Even Barney Kilbride, who shares the cabin with me, didn’t go fishing. So some of us got together and played poker at our cabin. Just the men: AÍ, Ken, Doc,
Frank, here, Barney, and me. Six-handed. It was quite a game, wasn’t it, Frank?”
He grinned at me and I nodded. It had been quite a game. Al and Barney had won, between them, six or seven hundred dollars, with AÍ the big winner. Ken had dropped out after a few hands, and kibitzed; Ken was not a poker player. Doc had broken something like even; Elliot and I had paid for the fun.
“When the game broke up,” Elliot continued, “the gang went out on the porch as I paid them off—I’d banked the game—and I didn’t hear the start of it because I was putting the chips back in the rack.
Continued on page 27
If The Shoe Fits
Continued from page 18
Maybe Frank can give you that part of it.”
“It came like a bolt from the blue,” I said. “We were standing around on the porch, talking about the game, when AÍ strolled out and joined us. He was pretty high, winning that much monej7; still had a little poker fever, I guess.
“Anyway, AÍ came out on the porch where the rest of us were and said, ‘Who says you can’t be lucky at cards and at love? I win at cards today, and a month from now I’ll be married to the sweetest little number east of the Alleghenies!’ And he took a snapshot out of his pocket and showed it to us.
“Ken snatched the picture from someone, glanced at it, and said, ‘You’re engaged to another girl and haven’t told Pam or any of us about it? Still running around with Pam and letting her believe that you ... I say you’re a dirty rotten heel!”’
“He said that loud enough so that I heard him from inside the cabin,” Elliot put in. “I thought there might be a fight so I hurried out onto the porch. I’m big and ugly enough to handle both of them, if I had to.
“But there wasn’t any fight, Constable. AÍ just stared at Ken and said, ‘Suppose you try minding your own business and let me mind mine.’ That’s all there was to it.
“Later AÍ told Doc that he was sorry about the whole thing, but that, under the circumstances, he’d be leaving in the morning. Doc told the rest of us; I think he felt rather badly about it— and Kenneth, too, for that matter.” “How about last night, Mr. Jordan? What did you do from say eight o’clock on?”
“Nothing much. Just about that time Barney went fishing—I think I told you he’s a fishing fool—but I’ve never cared for night fishing so I stayed home. Read for a while, got tired of that and played a few games of solitaire. I was just catching the late news on the radio when Barney came in with a fine string of bass—that boy sure can catch them! I helped him clean them and then we went to bed.”
“What time W'as that?”
“Well, the newscast started at 11, and it was about 10 after when Barney showed. I’d say it was about 11.30 when we turned in.”
“Then you were alone in the camp from around eight until shortly after 11?”
“That’s right,” Elliot admitted cheerfully. “Without an alibi in the world, if that’s what you’re driving at!” Constable Bolling smiled crookedly. “It’s been my experience,” he stated, “that an alibi is the first thing a crook grabs to cover up with, and most alibis can be busted. 1 think you’ve helped quite a lot, Mr. Jordan.”
Barney KLoride, the constable’s next victim, looked like the fisherman he was. He had the ti in; compact look of an outdoorsman, whh clear, cool blue eyes, bracketed by a network of wrinkles, and a tan deep enough to hang over from one season to another. Save when he was actually eating, I’d never seen him without a pipe between his teeth.
Barney had absolutely nothing new for the constable—except that he’d found dark surface plugs just as efi’oetive for night fishing as luminous spinners. He and the policeman arguée about this for five or 10 minutes, the constable flat-footed on his platform that it didn’t stand to reason, and Barney giving facts and figures on experiments he’d run.
The rest of his story was just a
repetition of what Elliot had already told us.
“All right, you can go,” said Constable Bolling. He glanced at me, smiling slyly. “I’ve saved the best for the last,” he chuckled. “Bring in this Kenneth Ames!”
Ken looked sick. He was a thin kid, anyway, with washed-out blue eyes and light hair that was always untidy. He had a long neck, and bony hands with large knuckles. He had tried ever since 1939 to get into a uniform, but none of the services would have him on account of his heart. Ken had had rheumatic fever as a child.
“Sit down, Kenneth,” the constable said with a smirk. “I think we’ve got a lot to say to each other, eh?”
“Why ... I don’t know, constable.
I suppose so. If there’s any way I can help, I certainly want ...”
“You had a fight with the deceased yesterday, Kenneth?” the constable interrupted. He leaned forward, menacingly. “You said he was a dirty rotten heel. Right?”
“Yes. Yes, 1 did. I felt that—but that doesn’t matter any more.”
“No, it doesn’t matter any more. The man you called a dirty rotten heel is dead. Murdered. How did it happen, Kenneth?”
Ken stared at him, horror expanding : his eyes.
“Why, I don’t know. All I know is that this morning my uncle awakened ! me and told me. . .”
“Come, come!” wheedled Constable i Bolling, changing roles again. “The j truth is always the best policy, Kenneth. I Just what did happen last night?”
“Uncle and Frank, here, went over to the Ramseys’ camp to play bridge. There was no one here except Al and j me. It ... it was rather difficult, j after that scene yesterday.
“He played the radio for a time and I pretended to read. A couple of times j I tried to talk to him but he . . . he was still angry, I guess. After awhile he turned off the radio and started to j go out. I asked him where he was going ¡ and he said, ‘Canoeing if you don’t j mind!’ I thought it over for a few seconds and then I followed him. I hoped that I could make him understand . . . After all, we’ve been friends for years and years, Constable.”
Bolling merely nodded. He was smart in lots of ways, this policeman; he knew enough to keep quiet when the other fellow was in a talking mood, as Ken evidently was now.
“Well, I hurried down to the dock and I talked to Al oh, maybe five or 10 minutes. I tried to make him see j my side of it; 1 told him I was sorry and I asked him not to leave tomorrow. This probably would be his last leave before going overseas and I practically begged him to forget the whole tiling, but the best I could get out of him was that he’d think it over while lie was paddling around. He loved canoes, AÍ did. He shoved off and I went back to the house, and after I’d read for a little while 1 went upstairs and to bed. That’s absolutely everything that j happened !”
Constable Bolling leaned still closer, i his eyes like gimlets.
“You’re sure that’s all you want to j tell me now, Kenneth?”
“That’s all there is to tell, Constable!” Ken cried frantically. Bolling rose abruptly.
“When you get ready to tell me the truth about what happened last night,” J he said curtly, “don’t waste any time j getting to me. The quicker you start calking the better it’ll be for you.” And | before either Ken or I got our wits ! together Constable Bolling was outside and headed for the lake.
It wasn’t until I saw how shaken Ken was that I realized just how smart
the constable was to end the interview in just that fashion; to shoot his neatly barbed arrow and then walk away and let it work its way in, like a porcupine quill in a dog’s muzzle.
I WENT down to the dock to see what the constable was doing there. Everyone else seemed to be busy elsewhere.
Doc and Ken were in the little nook by the fireplace and Doc was trying to reassure his nephew but I could see that Doc was worried. Elliot had gone back to the Ramsey cottage with Pam and her mother, and Barney Kilbride, typically, had gone fishing.
The dock, as I have already said, projected into a little cove—a very little cove, it was perhaps 30 or 40 feet long, and about 20 feet wide at the mouth, where it opened into the lake, and tapered down almost to a point at the other end. The little dock was at this end of the cove and pointed straight toward the lake proper.
The policeman was fussing over large blobs of white stuff which filled some of the footprints.
“Good old plaster of Paris,” he said. “Maybe it’s not as good as this newfangled moulage stuff, but it turns the trick.” He felt one of the casts and lifted it cautiously. Some of the clay stuck to it but I could see at a glance it was a very decent reproduction of a shoe print.
“Whose print?” I asked.
“The deceased’s. Rubber-soled sneaker—see the markings? I got some others, too; both his and Kenneth’s. With the pictures I took this morning I can prove to any jury you want to put ! in the box that the deceased came I down to the dock, that Kenneth followed him, and that Kenneth came back and the deceased did not.”
“But why bother with all that? Ken admits all that.”
“Sure,” nodded Constable Bolling. “But there’s a lot more to it than that. The storm we had washed this clay free of old prints. The only ones leading to the dock are these—except for those made by you and Doc. I photographed them before I even went to the dock myself to look at the body — remember?”
I nodded. The morning sun had slanted across those tracks, showing them in sharp relief.
“I’ve got some cast of those prints too, to prove whose they are,” went on Constable Bolling. “Now look, Mr. Greer: the deceased went down to the dock—one -set of prints only. Kenneth went to the dock, and came back—one set of prints pointing each way. The deceased was found on the dock, stabbed to death. There are no other tracks except yours and Doc’s, and I’m putting you down as telling a straight story; those tracks were made this morning. Whoever did the stabbing didn’t fly down to the dock, commit the murder, and then fly away.
\ Only Kenneth could have done it, Mr.
“Someone could have come up to the ! dock in a boat and not leave any tracks,” I pointed out. “And left the
“I thought of that and I’ve checked up on the boats. There are two rowboats and one canoe on the lake. The canoe was here on the dock; we know that. One of the rowboats is at the Ramsey cottage; it’s drawn high on the shore and it’s perfectly dry. There are streaks and spatters on its side, made by the storm; it has not been in the water since then, that’s sure. Mr. Kilbride was out in the other boat and I’ll grant you he could have done the ; killing. But I don’t believe he did, and i I don’t think you believe that, either.” “That’s right, Constable; I don’t
think Barney Kilbride killed Al. But, on the other hand, I don’t believe Ken is guilty, either.”
“You’re welcome to your opinion,” chuckled Constable Bolling, tenderly collecting the remainder of his cast. “You like Kenneth, and you’re his uncle’s friend. Nobody believes what they don’t want to believe. But Kenneth had a motive and the opportunity. I’ll bet you a new hat he cracks before another 24 hours, Mr. Greer.”
“I wear a seven and one eighth,” grinned Bolling.
After the policeman had started back to town I got Doc aside and told him everything that had happened; everything Bolling had said. Doc looked positively apoplectic when I finished.
“Hogwash!” he exclaimed inelegantly. “Of all the ...”
“Easy does it, pal,” I reminded him. “Getting excited isn’t going to help. The constable has built himself a case, and while it’s all circumstantial evidence it would be a pretty tough experience for Ken to go through, even though he were not convicted.”
“It would kill him,” Doc said soberly. “His heart wouldn’t stand it, Frank.”
“But Bolling still has his case—and if Kenneth didn’t do it, who did? One of us, obviously, killed Al. The pictures cf the footprints, and the casts Bolling made, will be pretty damning evidence in court.”
Doc stared at me, but I don’t think he saw me. I mean his eyes were turned in my direction but he was looking right through me.
“I’m going to the city, Frank,” he said in a queer, flat voice. “I’ll be back before dark. And while I’m gone I want you to do something for me.” He found a piece of paper and drew a rough sketch of the cove and the dock. “Right across here, about 10 feet out from the far end of the dock, I want you to build a tight wall clear across the cove, from one shore to the other. There are a lot of old boards in the lean-to workshop behind the garage. Drive them down into the mud, side by side, until you have a stockade, or cofferdam, or whatever you want to call it, clear across the cove. Brace it from the lake side, and do all the work from the lake side—understand?”
“I’ll be darned if I do,” I said. “But I’ll do it.”
“Thanks, Frank,” Doc said, jumping up and clapping me on the shoulder. “Get Ken to help; it’ll keep his mind off his troubles. If you can, try to cheer him up. The kid sure needs it!”
DOC BEAT me up the next morning.
He came into my room before the sun was clear of the horizon, wearing nothing but dripping bathing trunks.
“Get up, Frank,” he said. I’d never heard Doc speak in that cold, precise way before, and I’d never seen that frozen-granite look on his face. “Get the whole bunch of them here at once: Elliot, Barney, Pam and her mother. Just tell them something has happened, and I must see them at once. Ken and I will meet you in the living room.”
I didn’t ask any questions; I really didn’t have a chance. Doc was out of the room before I got my wits together Elliot and Barney were surprised, of course, but they cheerfully agreed to be at the main lodge in five minutes flat. The Ramseys had more questions to ask—being women, I suppose, they were naturally more curious. Pam was particularly insistent.
“But you must know something, Frank,” she said, looking lovely even with the mists of sleep still in her eyes. “After all, to be summoned practically Continued on inside back cover
If the Shoe Fits
Continued from page 28
in the middle of the night without even ...”
“Get dressed, darling,” her mother put in smoothly, “and we’ll soon know what it’s all about. I’m sure Doc wouldn’t have made the request if there were not good reasons for it. We’ll be over in just a few minutes, Frank.”
Doc and Ken were already in the big living room of the lodge when I returned, and Elliot and Barney arrived a few seconds later. Barney was already dragging on his pipe, Elliot lumbered along behind like a huge Newfoundland. A few minutes later Pam and her mother came in, ana Doc called the meeting to order.
First of all he took a gun out of his pocket and put it on the stand before him. It was a little .22 automatic that he had used for years, when ammunition was available, for target shooting around camp.
“I hope I won’t need this,” he said. “But if I do . . .” He let that go unfinished.
“As you all know, I believe,” Doc continued, pacing up and down beside the little table like a professor lecturing before a class, “Constable Bolling who has been investigating the murder believes that Ken is guilty.
“With Frank’s help I have proved that Ken is not guilty. More than that, I know who is. I’ll tell you just what happened the night before last . . . and the murderer can check me on any little detail if I’m wrong.
“Al went down to the dock. Ken followed him. They talked for a time and then Ken came back to the house. Al went out in the canoe. The murderer saw him on the lake and was waiting for him when he came back to the dock. Then, the murder committed, the murderer simply swam off into the night.
“Presumably the murderer thought there was no trace of the visit. The water is murky after the storm; it would be quite impossible to see the bottom—on which, of course, the killer had walked. But the same storm which had made the water muddy had also washed the bottom clean of other marks which may have been there. Frank helped me by building a tight cofferdam across the cove, and behind this I deposited, last night, a great quantity of plaster of Paris—just about all I could find in the city. As a dentist I’m not unfamiliar with the stuff; I knew that it would harden under water and make a cast of the bottom on which it settled. The policeman gave me the idea but I beat him at his own game.
“This morning I lifted the cast. It came up in pieces, but on one of those pieces was a whole, perfect footprint of the person who killed AÍ Hartley. I have that cast over here—and there is only one person in this room who possibly could have made that footprint!”
Doc strode toward the fireplace, and for the first time I noticed that there was something on the hearth, something flat and irregular in shape, and wrapped in a gunny sack.
I was so busy watching Doc that I didn’t see, until too late, what happened then.
Elliot Jordan snatched up the gun and towered over us, the automatic looking like a toy—a very deadly toy— in his huge hands.
“Don’t move,” he said. “Not any of
you. I mean it.” His eyes said ne meant it, too.
“That’s right, Elliot,” Doc said. “You’re an unusually large man. You have unusually large feet. Only you could have made the print.”
As he talked he walked closer to Elliot; slowly, step by step, like an animal stalking its prey. I shifted my weight; got my feet back under me, where they could do some good in an emergency. I saw Barney doing the same thing.
“That’s all,” Elliot said. “I’ve got nothing against you, Doc, but if you don’t stop ...”
Doc jumped at him, and the gun went off full against his chest. Barney and I lunged at the same instant, and, between us, we knocked Elliot to the floor so hard that a picture was jarred loose from the wall and fell with a terrific crash. Pam yelped and her mother screamed—a good, hearty, oldfashioned scream.
“If you’re worrying about me— don’t,” said Doc, grinning. “It was a blank. That’s all there was in the gun; just the one lone blank. I wanted him to grab it and use it . . . How is he, Barney?”
Barney, who had been examining our victim, looked up with a wry smile.
“Out cold,” he said. “After all, we aid kind of gang up on him!”
“1 get it all except one thing, Doc,” I said, after we finally had breakfast. “Why on earth did Elliot do it?”
“Money. Elliot lost more than $300 to AÍ in that poker game, and gave him a cheque for it. He hoped that he’d win it back, later on. Then when AÍ decided to leave the next day Elliot had to act—because the cheque wasn’t any good. And if the news of the bad cheque got out Elliot’s chances with Mrs. Ramsey would be nil—and Elliot was rather counting on Mrs. Ramsey, you see.
“AÍ paddled by the camp; Elliot saw him, swam down to the dock, and waited for him to return. His idea was to talk Al out of the cheque, or at least to induce him to hold it for a few weeks. But Al was in an evil Mood. He started cursing Elliot and telling him he had no business gambling if he couldn’t afford to lose. Said he’d tell all of us about the bum cheque in the morning—especially Mrs. Ramsey.
“He went too far. Elliot, in a blind rage, snatched up that old knife we’ve always kept on the dock for cleaning fish and killed AÍ. Then he took the cheque from Al’s pocketbook, threw the knife out into the lake, and—that was that. He admitted the whole thing to Bolling.”
“You had that all figured out?”
“Lord, no!” said Doc. “But, according to the tracks on the shore, if Ken didn’t do it—and I was sure he was not guilty—the killer must have come by water. If there had been no tracks on that clay bottom I’d have accused Barney, who had the boat. But it j wouldn’t have surprised me too much ; if the footprints had been Pam’s. She j certainly had the good old hell-hath-no| fury motive.
“The only idea I had was to get those j underwater footprints, if there were any—and, as I said, I lifted that idea I from the constable.”
“That reminds me!” I said. I went to the phone and called the constable’s office.
“Constable Bolling? This is Frank Greer. I forgot to tell you: I wear a seven and five eighths.”
I can’t put down here what he told me about big heads with nothing in them, but—he bought the hat.