“Mightier Than the Sword”
by E.O. Costello
© E.O. Costello, 2010
All characters herein are © E.O. Costello
I may have mentioned, at various other times, that my practice is of a dual, perhaps even tripartite, nature. I have, firstly, my private practice, which is split among the wealthier and older furs here in the Islands and the guests at the higher-end hotels. Secondly, there are my official duties as the Medical Examiner and Chief Health Officer for the Spontoon Islands. Thirdly, and somewhat unofficially, there are the various tasks I undertake on my own time and out of my own purse, such as things I do for some of the furs in the more remote or poorer areas of the Islands.
There are occasions when one or more of these worlds intersect. This morning was one of those occasions.
I received a telephone call from the Constabulary Headquarters. It developed that one of the guests at Shepherd’s Hotel had been found dead in his suite earlier that morning. Under circumstances in which it was deemed pointless to attempt revival. There had been an insistent demand for an immediate examination. From the hotel or the family, I knew not. It could, conceivably, have been either. No hotel likes to advertise that it has corpses on the premises.
The clinic that I own has been outfitted so that I can serve both my patients and official capacities, if necessary. There is also a rather discreet entrance, visible only if you are watching from certain windows of the New Haven embassy a few yards away. I have had my housefurs emplace hedges in strategic places to spoil the fun of my friendly (?) neighbors.
The deceased, a police dog, was delivered by an Island Hospital mortuary car, and was soon being prepared in the small-scale morgue that I have. My assistant was a little hesitant, and I asked why.
He pointed to the deceased. The deceased, in spite of the weather, was dressed in a tailored black, pinstripe, three-piece suit. I resolved to check whether he had died of some kind of heat stroke. Of course, I saw what my assistant’s problem was: rigor mortis had set in, which would make the full preparation of the body somewhat difficult without a certain amount of damage being inflicted on the wardrobe.
We were debating this issue when my nurse came in. She dealt with the Gordion Knot of our problem by taking a scissors and snipping the threads of the jacket and trousers in a way that would allow them to be sewn back together by any competent tailor. With a somewhat acidic remark about the nature and practicality of mels, she left it to us.
The deceased appeared to be quite fit, and indeed modestly muscular. He was also very well-groomed. His claws were polished and trimmed, and his fur very well cared for. There were even faint traces of fur-powder. There were no obvious wounds upon an initial examination, such as those that would be produced by a blow or a shot.
It was only when I examined his muzzle that feelings of alarm set in. There was a blistering around his nose pad that appeared to be fresh. This blistering was all too familiar to me, and indeed, it would have been familiar to any fur who had served in the Great War.
It was the blistering produced by poison gas, mustard gas to be precise.
I walked to the telephone on the wall, and placed a call to Inspector Stagg of the Constabulary.
The Inspector waited patiently in a corner of the dissection room, his cane in his paws, while my assistant and I continued our work on the autopsy.
The stomach was full, indicating death had occurred not long after breakfast. The various organs were in good condition, with one major exception: the lungs were severely blistered and showed evidence of bleeding, and there was massive accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
An examination of the lung tissue and fluids showed traces of the mustard agent, which I well recognized.
I went over to the deceased’s clothes, and checked his pockets. In one pocket, there was a pawkerchief with a vivid pink smear. Frothy sputum with blood.
Cause of death: respiratory failure caused by noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. Method of induction: some kind of sulfur mustard agent.
In other words, murder.
The next steps involved me, wearing my figurative hat as Chief Medical Officer. A few furs trained in chemical warfare were hurriedly summoned from the Moon Island base to test the hotel, much to the great dismay of the hotel management.
The deceased’s clothes were immediately sealed in a glass container, and the mortuary car, the attendants, the morgue room and my staff and myself were tested. I had the tests repeated, as I didn’t believe the results of the first test; no contamination, not even in the car carrying the body.
The RINS chemical warfare furs reported back that the hotel tested negative for sulfur mustard agents in the public areas, such as the lobby, elevator, ventilation and so forth. I found the last to be quite strange, as Shepherd’s was a new hotel, only a few years old, and as such had a powerful and modern setup. I would have expected the agent to have been widely dispersed by now, but it was not.
In only one area of the hotel was there any trace of agent found: in the deceased’s suite. At that, the only area that had any contamination was in the immediate vicinity of the desk, where the body had been found. Even in the adjoining rooms, tests for the agent were negative.
All of this was quite contrary to my experience. I vividly recalled the use by the German Army of mustard gas as an area-denial weapon, which could last for days. Yet here, the results had largely vanished in only a few hours. The Inspector himself had been in Intelligence for the New Haven Flying Corps during the War, and he, too was puzzled by the results.
Sergeant Brush had been making his usual diligent enquiries. He had interviewed the traveling party, which was comprised of: the widow, the confidential secretary and one of the firm’s officers. From these, the Sergeant learned that the deceased, Herman Bosch, was the general manager of Alliance Engineering, of Buffalo, New York. This was a firm that specialized in highly customized building projects for industry, requiring unusual specifications, such as blast protection, ventilation, noise-proofing or the like.
Deceased had checked into the hotel the previous evening, having arrived on the late flight in from Honolulu. He had signed the hotel register himself, and had been shown up to his rooms. Numerous witnesses placed the deceased at L’Etoile d’Argent, the hotel restaurant, between 7.00 AM and approximately 8.15 AM. The breakfast order of a ham and cheese omelet matched the stomach contents. The switchboard confirmed that no telephone calls had been placed or delivered from the suite since arrival, nor had there been any telegram traffic, as such.
Deceased had telephoned just before 9.00 AM, asking the concierge for some telegraph blanks. These had been delivered to the suite just after 9.00 AM by a bellfur, and had been accepted by the confidential secretary. A stack of blank forms had been found on the deceased’s desk. No fur could recall how many forms had been delivered, and no filled in form could be found.
The officer, secretary and widow each stated that the deceased had entered the room where the desk was shortly after coming back from breakfast. Certain conversations had occurred, apparently of a routine nature, before the deceased examined some work papers. An open dispatch box was found at the scene. The deceased was engaged in reading some briefing materials, it was believed. It was not known whether the room was locked or not.
The deceased had a business appointment with a representative of the Rain Island Naval Service that was scheduled for 10.15 AM. When the deceased did not show for his meeting on time, which was apparently quite out of character, the widow checked, and found the body. The front desk was informed by telephone, by the officer, of the death at 10.28 AM. (The body had been delivered to me around 1.30 PM, just as rigor mortis was setting in, the delay occurring because of the usual need to photograph the body in situ.)
The Inspector and I had a discussion. As Chief Medical Officer, I felt it was my duty to examine the room in furson, because of the possibility of a serious medical hazard. The Inspector merely nodded and indicated he was in agreement.
I’m quite familiar with the suites at Shepherd’s; I have many patients who live there year-round. The suite the Bosch party had engaged was typical of the larger suites: there were three bedrooms, one full bathroom with tub, and one bathroom with shower, a main sitting room which included a dining area, and a small study, where the body had been found. This suite was on the seventh floor, the next-to-highest level. It had a very good view of the lagoon from the balcony outside the main sitting room, and the view from the desk inside the study, while not as extensive, was still quite pleasant.
A constable was guarding the outside of the suite, and the inside of the suite was guarded by another, who was watching over the remaining members of the party. What I took to be the widow, a retriever, was sitting with a set face, staring out of the main window. The confidential secretary, a Scotch terrier, was occupied with a game of solitaire. The officer, a raccoon, was distracting himself with a book. The two gentlefurs looked up and briefly acknowledged us as we entered. The widow remained rigid like a statue.
The suite was pin-neat. Shepherd’s has high standards for housekeeping, and it was clear that the deceased had been no threat to the order of things. The papers in the dispatch box were in neat bundles tied with red tape. The telegram blanks were indeed there, in a squared-off stack and held down with a hotel paperweight. The accessories on the desk were for the most part placed in neat order.
Only one thing stood out to catch the eye: on the white carpet of the suite, highly visible against the neutral colour, was a fountain pen, gleaming brightly in the afternoon light from the window.
The Inspector swiveled an ear in contemplation. Half to himself, and half to me, he spoke quietly.
“With so little out of place, we might as well start there.”
With a pawkerchief, the pen was picked up and examined closely. I could not resist a close look at it, myself.
“Seems rather familiar, Inspector, and yet not so familiar. Can’t quite place it.”
“There is a good reason for that, Doctor. This is not, if you will, an off-the-rack pen. It’s been customized.”
“The base is a Barker Duofold, which is why you think it’s familiar. A pen sold in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions. However, this particular pen would be less common, even without the customized elements.”
“It’s rather large.”
“Yes, they called this size the “Senior.” I also remember when they introduced this colour…’27, I think. “Mandarin Yellow” is what Barker called it. But this particular one has a tapered top, they introduced that in 1930.”
“I’m amazed you recall that.”
An expression flickered across the Inspector’s muzzle.
“I bought a Duofold set for my middle daughter right at the time Barker introduced the streamlined Duofolds. Lapis Blue pen and pencil set, with her name engraved on the barrels. My eldest, in fact, had a pen rather like this one, only with the round top.” There was another expression that flickered, and then the Inspector resumed his examination of the pen, taking out a magnifying glass. There was a long pause while he looked it over. I resolved that I would not bring up the subject of his dead doe-fawns again if I could help it.
After a minute or so, he spoke again.
“Yes, this was customized, some elements by Barker, some probably by a jeweler. You can see that the top of the cap has the dead fur’s initials – HB -- in gold, and the blind cap, the cap you unscrew to get at the filling mechanism, that has a small emerald set into it, you see. This pen has seen a great deal of use – note how the nib is worn down – but the clip shows no sign of wear. I don’t think that clip is gold plated, I believe it is solid gold.”
He peered a little closer at the pen, squinting through his lens.
“The body of the pen is rather clean, except near where he would have gripped it. There are some rather fresh marks there. Curious.”
“The fresh marks, you mean?”
“Hmmm. Not quite. Do you have a pen on you, for example?”
“Well, yes, of course. A Watermaster.”
“How do you carry it?”
“In my pocket.”
“Have a close look at it. Use my lens.”
I took out my pen, and accepted the magnifying glass from the Inspector. Indeed, I was surprised to see so many scratches on the pen, even if they were small ones.
“I wonder how these happened.”
“If you carry a pen in a pocket, it will naturally bump up against coins, keys, or other items you carry there. “
“Hmmm. Yes, I have coins, usually, in the same pocket.”
“There should be…ah.”
The Inspector examined the desk, and pointed to a deep, velvet-lined case. The case contained an indentation that seemed to be the size of the pen. In addition, there was a large, circular hole. The Inspector pointed to a Bakelite bottle that lay open not far from where he had picked up the pen.
“A fastidious and careful fur.”
“A cogent observation, Doctor. And one who paid attention to the smallest things. When you examined the body, Doctor, did anything strike you about it?”
“Well, I would say he was an exceptionally well-groomed canine, Inspector.”
The Inspector paused, and excused himself for a moment. He returned shortly.
“His organization extended to the bathroom, Doctor. Everything lined up just so. An extensive array of clippers, brushes, powders and the like. You noticed nothing on the paws?”
“No, Inspector. His paws were quite clean.”
“None at all.”
There was a long pause, while the Inspector thought. He reached into his pocket, and pulled out one of his ever-present index cards, the ones I’ve seen him take notes on any number of times. While gripping the fountain pen of the victim carefully through the pawkerchief, he traced it along the surface of the card.
Nothing happened, except for a small indentation in the card made by the nib, which turned out to be dry.
“Well, Inspector, perhaps the fact that it’s been uncapped for a number of hours has something to do with it.”
The Inspector looked at me, pondered what I said, and nodded. He turned to the desk itself, and examined it, using his lens. At one point, he called in the constable, and handed him a card with something written on it. He resumed his perusal of the desk, focusing for a while on the stack of telegram blanks. He looked at the blank on top, and snorted softly.
“Did you find something, Inspector?”
He showed me the blank which was, well, blank. At least on first glance. Turning the blank around showed that there were a few indentations in the paper. In reverse, the letters “TERMI” could clearly be made out. He then pointed at the blotter on the desk. The same letters could be seen on the surface of the blotter, indicating the deceased bore down very hard while writing. Little wonder his nib was significantly worn, with a writing style like that.
The Inspector was examining the small Bakelite bottle when the constable returned, whispering something. The Inspector nodded, and dismissed him.
“As I thought, Doctor. The blotter is a fresh one, having been replaced last night. But this ink bottle is interesting…”
I could not initially see why. The outside of the bottle, as I’ve said, was Bakelite. Inside could be seen a small glass liner. An application of the lens showed that the top of the liner bore traces of green. Oddly, there was very little liquid that could be seen in the bottle. The Inspector, using a pawkerchief, put the top on the bottle and screwed it down.
The Inspector turned his attention to the dispatch case, and, after putting on a pair of white cotton gloves, began to examine the papers. I could see that a number bore annotations in green ink. The dead Mr. Bosch was very fond of timing and dating his comments, as well.
The Inspector reviewed the papers, frowned, and then went through them again, his frown getting longer.
He apparently didn’t hear me, and I didn’t press the matter. Placing the papers back in the box, he examined the lid and the box’s lock with a lens. There were no apparent scratches or other signs that it had been forced.
The Inspector put his gloves back in his pocket, and I followed him out into the main room, where he placed a call to the front desk.
While he was doing that, I looked at the widow. I was mildly alarmed at what I saw, given her staring look and twitching paws. This was a femmefur that was clearly on the verge of hysteria, and it did not appear to be feigned, to my professional eye. I kept an eye on her, and my other eye on the two gentlefurs, both of whom seemed to have the sang-froid that the widow lacked. They were engrossed in their cards and book, respectively.
Little happened in the room until there was a knock at the door some minutes later. The constable on duty outside let in a small, fussy fur lugging a very large bound book. This proved to be both the hotel register, and the clerk who had been on duty last night when Mr. Bosch checked in. The Inspector confirmed both facts. I looked over his shoulder at the register. Mr. Bosch’s signature, in vivid green (complete with time record of “22.17”) could be seen. The Inspector looked at the other signatures flanking it, which were drab by comparison.
The Inspector thanked the clerk, and while he was leaving, he nearly bumped into an RINS officer, who was carrying a heavy, locked satchel. After a brief bit of back-and-forth, the soldier managed to come in, where he had a whispered conversation with the Inspector. Something passed from paw to paw, and was locked away in the satchel. Another conversation ensued, and this one appeared to be more contentious, the officer shaking his head repeatedly. The Inspector looked grim, nodded, and let the officer go.
I was about to leave to attend to other matters when I felt my elbow gripped gently by the Inspector. He asked me to stay and observe. I thought this was somewhat odd, considering my medical (and not legal) training, but I nevertheless honoured his request.
Both of the mels were quite bland in their accounts. Both MacKenzie, the secretary, and Fisher, the Alliance Engineering officer, had been associated with Bosch for some years. Both described Bosch as an exacting, but overall fair and generous employer. Both indicated goodwill toward Theresa Bosch, who apparently had been married to the deceased only three months. Fisher noted that while there was substantial insurance on the life of Mr. Bosch, the beneficiary was Alliance, not Mrs. Bosch; this fact seemed to surprise MacKenzie when it was related to him.
MacKenzie confirmed that he had delivered the telegram blanks to the deceased, the ones that had been brought to the suite by the bellfur. He indicated this was the last time that he saw the deceased alive. Mr. Bosch was reading some papers from his dispatch case. The dispatch case, while often carried by MacKenzie, was opened only by Bosch, who had the only key. It was not a common luggage key, but a custom-made key.
Fisher had breakfasted with Bosch (Mrs. Bosch had eaten in the room, and MacKenzie had eaten in a nearby café, both of which turned out to be fully accurate). Fisher indicated that while the conversation at breakfast had revolved around various company matters, the RINS matter was not discussed. Bosch had previously indicated he (and not the Alliance firm) had been approached by the RINS directly, and had reported as such to the board of directors of Alliance. Details, apparently, had been kept close to the vest.
We could not question Mrs. Bosch, as her emotional state seemed to rule out a conversation. I called the manager of the hotel, and had the hotel send up the nurse on duty to supervise her.
Instead of heading back to the Constabulary offices, the Inspector accompanied me back to my clinic. He asked to look at the materials that were found on Mr. Bosch’s body.
There was, among other things, a billfold containing a substantial amount of United States currency and a small amount of Spontoon pounds; a bunch of keys (one of which later proved to be the key to the dispatch box), a wristwatch (still operating); some coins; a large yellow pencil, the twin to the Barker Duofold; and a little leather book. The entries in the book were written, very neatly, in pencil, and the last entry was for 8 pounds, 10 shillings, “Breakfast at hotel restaurant with Fisher 8.11.” The previous entry before that was for 2 shillings sixpence, “Gratuity to bellfur 22.28.” I wondered to myself if he had put in his expenses for the honeymoon.
The telephone in my office rang: it was not for me, but for the Inspector. (Quite amazing the way the telephone operators know where you are.) The Inspector listened for a few minutes.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I really must insist. Yes, I know the terms of the treaty, sir, but…no sir, I do not suspect anyone from your organization. I am currently at Dr. Meffit’s office on Meeting Island. I also require one of your specialists…yes, sir, that kind of specialist. Fifteen minutes will be quite acceptable, thank you, sir.”
Hanging up the telephone, he turned to me.
“I apologize for imposing upon you, Doctor, and I will have to impose upon you even further. I need to have another fur at the meeting. May I use your telephone?”
Of course, I gave him permission, and he asked the operator to connect him with Mr. Brush. Not Sergeant Brush; this was another fox, no doubt related. I knew him rather well, as he ran a stationery store on Meeting Island, one that was on Printer’s Lane just a few doors from where the Inspector lived.
The Inspector confirmed a few essential facts: that Mr. Brush was the Barker Pen agent in the Spontoons, and that he was also a qualified repairfur for Barker pens, including Duofolds. Mr. Brush was asked to bring a Barker catalog, preferably one a few years old, and his repair kit, along with a few Duofolds.
I had a few other matters I could have been attending to, but I had my assistant work on them, instead. I was growing increasingly curious as to what the Inspector had in mind.
My guests were all assembled about twenty minutes later. I suppose they were mine, technically; it was my office they met in. Mr. Brush borrowed a tray from me, and had laid out his tools in mimicry of a surgeon’s practice, which I thought was in slightly dubious taste. There were also present two RINS officers, one of whom had lugged in a large, sealed glass box with two built-in rubber gloves. What on earth that was for, I could not say. Even odder was a small cage in which a small, feral mouse was nosing about.
The Inspector turned to Mr. Brush, first.
“You repair Duofolds often, Mr. Brush?”
The little fox grinned. “Not often. Very well made pens, sir.”
“Be that as it may, Mr. Brush, there’s a set procedure for repairing Duofolds?”
“Oh, sure. “ He reached into his bag, and showed us a Barker manual that detailed the steps involved in repairing a Barker Duofold.
The Inspector, after reviewing the document, pointed to the RINS man with the box and cage. “Could he learn how to take apart a Duofold right here and now?”
The little fox blinked, and then shrugged his shoulders. “Well, sure. I mean, he’s an officer and all and probably knows how to follow manuals. With a little practice, you can do it in just a few minutes. Here, let me show you.”
He opened a bag and extracted from it a pawful of pens in various colours. The Inspector pointed to two large pens, and the fox, nodding, set those aside. The pen’s cap unscrewed into its clip, the body of the cap, and a small black plastic inner cap that looked like a plug. The nib section was removed from the body of the pen with a set of padded pliers. I asked what the padding was for.
“So you don’t scratch up the body of the pen.”
The Inspector’s ears swiveled at this, and the fox resumed. The blind cap on the end of the pen (the one that was jeweled on Mr. Bosch’s pen) was removed, and through the use of tweezers, Mr. Brush extracted a small brass button, a long, thin brass bar and a little rubber sac. The fox explained than when a user held the nib immersed in a bottle of ink, the button was pressed, which lowered the spring and pressure bar onto the rubber sac, which fed into the feed section containing the nib. Releasing the button created a vacuum, drawing the ink into the sac.
“The newer pens Barker makes, the Vacumatics, don’t have this rubber sac. The ink is stored in the body of the pen itself. Holds a lot more ink, that way.”
The Inspector pointed to the sac. “You’re supposed to flush the pen every so often in a cup of cold water, aren’t you?”
“Yes, that’s right. You immerse the nib, just like it was an ink bottle. I can show you, if you like.”
I got a small glass beaker of cold water, and the fox, with his own Barker pen (he used his own products), dipped his pen in. Pressing the button on his Duofold caused the water to turn blue, as ink flowed out from the sac.
“Press it enough times, the sac will be nice and clean.”
The Inspector picked up the beaker and frowned, looking at it for a few minutes. Most of us were puzzled as to what he was doing. The exception was one of the RINS men, the one with the glass box and the feral mouse. He suddenly widened his eyes, and his nosepad turned pale.
Inspector Stagg saw this, and set aside the beaker. “I see, sir, you have formulated a theory, most likely similar to mine. Shall we test it? Doctor, we’ll need a clean beaker. I think we’ll also need Mr. Bosch’s pen, and his ink bottle. The mouse should be introduced when I say so.”
The materials were put into the box, the box was sealed, and the RINS chemical fur inserted his paws into the gloves. The fluid from the traveling ink bottle was not green; rather, it was colourless. There was not much of it in the bottle, but enough to fill the lower part of the small beaker.
The deceased’s Duofold, with its blind cap unscrewed, was lowered into the beaker, just as if it were filled with ink. The button was pressed, and there was a faint frothing and bubbling at the nib as some fluid, no doubt, was expelled from the pen, and then some fluid drawn into the pen from the beaker.
At a signal, the feral mouse was introduced into the box, with the RINS fur holding the pen steady, its nib pointed at the mouse. The mouse nosed around the edges of the box, and then, bored with that, approached the pen and sniffed the nib.
Almost instantly, it backed away as if it had been electrically shocked. It staggered briefly, fell on its side, twitched madly for about ten seconds, and then died.
There was a ghastly silence in the room for nearly a minute. It was broken by the senior RINS fur.
“So. A two part poison. On its own, whatever was in that ink bottle wouldn’t have been deadly, and the pen itself wasn’t deadly. It was only when the two fluids were brought into contact with each other…that was when the poison happened.”
The other RINS man, the chemical fur, struggled to keep a professional mind on the subject. “But how did the dead fur get enough of a dose?”
Surprisingly, it was the fox who answered, pointing at the beaker in the glass box. “I’ll bet he saw something odd when he removed the pen from the ink. “
The Inspector nodded. “When you fill a pen, usually there’s a smear of ink on the nib, which you have to wipe. He wouldn’t have seen that, maybe. He’d have looked at the nib, and then maybe poked his muzzle right down near the ink bottle to get a good look. There would have been two places with the contaminated gas: the ink bottle, and the pen nib itself. The gas, perhaps, is not as persistent as ordinary mustard gas, which explains how Dr. Meffit and I were able to look at the open ink bottle and the pen. It is quite conceivable that it is a very, very short range and short duration poison gas of high potency.”
The RINS chemical fur nodded. “If you like, Inspector, I’ll take these materials and analyze them at our lab.”
The Inspector nodded, and was about to say something, when he noted the senior RINS fur shift in his seat. He turned to look at the fur, who felt the full force of his gaze. After a moment, he spoke.
“Mr. Bosch had been personally engaged by the RINS, Inspector. I cannot give you the full details, of course, as they are classified. However, I believe I can tell you that it was the intention of the RINS to contract with Alliance to design and manufacture a chemical warfare testing and analysis unit that could be field-portable, in something as small as a lorry. The fact that Mr. Bosch has been murdered, and murdered by poison gas in this subtle and ghastly fashion will be of great concern to my superiors.”
The Inspector nodded. “Who did the RINS contact? Just Mr. Bosch?”
“Yes, only Mr. Bosch.”
“No other fur was spoken to?”
“I…well…I spoke to his secretary, of course, but I said nothing.”
“But you did identify yourself?”
“Well, yes, Inspector, I did.”
“So. Mr. Mackenzie would have known that his late employer would have been meeting with the RINS?”
The Inspector frowned, and looked out my office window. He began to gently tap the end of his cane against the floor. After a few minutes’ thought, he turned to Mr. Brush.
“I want, Mr. Brush, for you to quickly customize something for me. Do you have a large size, Mandarin Yellow Duofold in your shop? Oh, yes, and a traveling size bottle of ink?”
Brush looked startled, but indicated that he knew for sure that there was such a bottle, and he believed that he could find that pen. The Inspector described the customization he wanted. Essentially, a duplicate of Mr. Bosch’s pen.
It was very difficult to concentrate on my dinner, which was delivered to my office after everyone left. Frankly, after the poisoning of that mouse, I didn’t have much appetite for it. Inspector Stagg had excused himself, possibly to go to Luchow’s.
He must have had a rather quick meal, because he was back at my office an hour later, followed by a messenger fur bearing two rather large, heavy bound books.
I fiddled with a bunch of grapes while I watched him page through the books. I had to tilt my head to read the spines: they were Who’s Who in America and Moody’s Industrial Manual, both of them the 1935 editions. They each bore the stamp of the American embassy.
The entry for Alliance Engineering in Moody’s was fairly brief. Bosch and Fisher were both listed as officers and directors. The company’s stock price, and the fact that it paid a modest dividend, indicated that it may well have been doing much better than many firms. I noticed the firm had no debt, which was probably just as well for it. The description of the business was fairly terse, though it indicated that, among other things, customers included “governmental institutions.”
Bosch’s entry in Who’s Who showed him to be a West Point fur, which I suppose explained quite a lot, both from an engineering standpoint and a personality standpoint. No clubs listed; I suppose he wasn’t the clubbable type. No marriage listed, but then, he had only been married to his wife for three months, so I suppose it hadn’t made it, yet.
Fisher, slightly surprisingly, had an entry. I suppose I really should refer to him as Dr. Fisher, since he seemed to have a chemical engineering degree from the University of Michigan. He belonged to a pawful of professional societies, which I think explained his entry. He had also published some monographs, as well.
Neither MacKenzie nor Mrs. Bosch had entries, of course.
I looked up after reading this material, to find the Inspector rolling a grape back and forth between his two paws.
“It’s getting on a bit, Doctor, but I rather think the clock is against us. I want to speak to Mrs. Bosch. I’ve also had Sergeant Brush over at the suite, looking for something.”
“Something that has been overlooked…yes?”
My assistant came in, and laid a memorandum in front of me, and discreetly withdrew. The Inspector’s ears swiveled as he saw me read the memo, and no doubt as he saw the inside of my ears turn red and hot.
“Something the matter, Doctor?”
I had to clench my teeth. “Well…errr…it seems I have made an error.”
The Inspector swiveled his ears politely to listen.
“That red stain on the pawkerchief? It wasn’t sputum. It’s some sort of sulfur compound. My assistant is making further tests and…what?”
The Inspector was tapping a paw against the top of his cane, lost in thought. After a minute or so, he opened his eyes. “Highly useful, doctor.”
“But we already knew the composition of the two parts of the binary poison…”
“That’s not what I’m referring to, Doctor. I’m referring to the sequence of events. Now I am certain I want Sergeant Brush to find something in particular, and I hope he finds it.”
“But damnit, I feel like an ass…”
The Inspector waved a paw. “The mistake has been corrected. Therefore, it is unimportant. Let us go and see Mrs. Bosch.”
“What, the two of us?”
“You said yourself that Mrs. Bosch was highly emotional. I want a doctor present.”
“Oh. Well, yes. I’ll get my bag.”
Mrs. Bosch sat on the couch in the main room of the suite, tugging repeatedly and spasmodically at a pawkerchief in her paws. My appearance at the door of the suite had not caused her distress, but the Inspector’s appearance caused an immediate reaction.
Among other oddities, she refused to look him square in the muzzle, but turned away slightly.
Most peculiar was the fact that she refused to speak a word, only making the occasional jerk of her head in response to a question.
The fact that Sergeant Brush could be heard pottering about in the bathrooms and the murder room, complete with the occasional clank of metal and snap-hiss of a flashbulb, did not help matters.
The Inspector himself, aside from a few questions, was mostly silent. For the most part, he watched the reactions of Mrs. Bosch.
The storm broke when MacKenzie came into the room. He stood, watching the widow, and then turned to the Inspector.
“Mrs. Bosch is silent, is she?”
“Indeed, Mr. MacKenzie. It is, after all, her legal right.”
An eyebrow raise. “True. It’s also a sound tactic. After all, she wouldn’t want you to hear her voice…”
Mrs. Bosch whirled around, wide-eyed, baring her teeth in a feral snarl. This was a reaction I would not have expected from a fur who was certainly, at some point in time, well-taught in manners.
MacKenzie folded his arms across his chest. “They’ll have to hear you sometime, ma’am. Might as well get it overwith.”
Mrs. Bosch, with a strained voice, spoke for the first time.
“What is this to you, MacKenzie?”
Both the Inspector and I were, judging from our mutual reactions, deeply startled, the Inspector more so. I don’t claim to be any expert on the subject, but I recalled that troupe of vaudevillians who came through not long ago, who had all been suspected of killing the business head of the troupe (he had killed himself, in fact). Specifically, I recalled the voice of the troupe’s singer. Her accent, and the accent of Mrs. Bosch, were very closely similar.
They were the accents of a fur from New Haven.
New Haven, the home of Inspector Stagg.
New Haven, the home as well of a violent revolution and a breeding ground, if the stories are right, of all sorts of dangerous radicals.
“Just a suspicion, ma’am. I think the Inspector ought to know.”
Inspector Stagg cleared his throat, and spoke with a tone that was as strained as Mrs. Bosch’s had been.
“Where are you from, Mrs. Bosch? I mean, what town?”
A look of pure fury was flung at the Inspector. “Killingworth, if it means anything to you. I’d heard you’d managed to get away. No justice in this world, if you ask me. You should have died on that tree along with the rest of your family…”
I got up, but a firm paw on my elbow pushed me back down.
“Killingworth…Killingworth. Cooper, Byrd or Clarke?”
“It’s so nice that you remember, Inspector.” The sneer that accompanied it put a dash of vinegar across the Inspector’s face. “Byrd, if you must know.”
“When did you leave New Haven?”
“About two years ago. Alone. I have no idea what’s happened to my family, not that you care.”
She turned her fury to MacKenzie. “So that’s it, you bastard? You want me to take the fall? You want me to be the patsy so that you can get away with murdering my husband?”
MacKenzie shrugged his shoulders. “You’re a good actress, ma’am. I’ve seen you run the whole range from timid little refugee to society matron and now, the grieving widow. Hope the Nine got their money’s worth…”
Mrs. Bosch checked herself just in time before launching herself at MacKenzie. She sat down, hard, and glared at the Inspector.
“Well, then, Stagg. Here’s your suspect, all wrapped up in a nice, neat black package. The Black Widow. I suppose you remember my father was far left.”
“I do, Mrs. Bosch.”
“Well, you have your ready-made case. Go on, you can put the pawcuffs on me. You can end this particular act of this God-damned comedy.”
Without a word, the Inspector stood. He bowed briefly, once to Mrs. Bosch, and then once to Mr. MacKenzie, after walking up to him, and then left the suite. I had to scramble to catch up with him.
“You’re not going to leave those two alone, are you?”
The Inspector reminded me that Sergeant Brush was in the next room, and he no doubt had heard much. There were also constables on duty; we passed one in the hall.
“Well, then, why…?”
“I saw something on Mr. MacKenzie’s lapel that intrigued me.”
“Do you wear any Great War insignia, Doctor?”
“Eh? Good Lord, no! Like to forget that damned war. Why?”
“Mr. MacKenzie had a pin on his lapel. Small, red white and blue, with a sergeant’s stripes on it. The letters “A.E.F.””
I blinked. “Oh. Must have been a Yank soldier, then.”
“Quite, Doctor. Which means I want to find Mr. Fisher, right away.”
The Long Bar at Shepherd’s was quite noisy, in no small part because of that horned jackanapes, young Buckhorn. He was busily engaged in juggling a half-dozen wine glasses, to the delight of half the crowd and the annoyance of the other half. He appeared, as he generally was at this time of day, rather well-lit.
Our quarry, Mr. Fisher, was observing the goings-on from a side table. He was still dressed for dinner; he had probably dined at L’Etoile d’Argent again.
He betrayed no emotion as the two of us joined him.
“Will I be able to return to my room, Inspector, anytime soon?”
“I hope to clear this matter up soon, Mr. Fisher. I have some questions. Who hired Mr. MacKenzie?”
“The company did, through our personnel office.”
“Did you have any role in his hiring?”
“Tangentially, yes. The Board of Directors approved the hiring. Important, you know, with company secrets and such.”
“When was this?”
“Roughly a year ago, Inspector.”
“And there was a background check.”
“Oh, yes. Quite common to see A.E.F. veterans, you know.”
“Including those in the Chemical Warfare Service?”
I had no idea what the Inspector was referring to, but Fisher certainly did. He seemed wrongfooted by the question.
“Well, yes, that was his branch. You’ve received his vitae, then?”
“I made an educated guess, Mr. Fisher.”
Fisher toyed with his glass, and emptied the last of his whisky.
“I think the Board is going to be very disturbed by that news, Inspector.”
The Inspector paused for a long time, nodded, and then moved on to another question. “When did you first meet Mrs. Bosch?”
“About six months ago. That was just after she met her husband, I believe. I saw them socially a few times. Rather a quick romance, of course.”
“Do you like her?”
“Very much what they call in the Southern states a “Steel Magnolia,” Inspector. Quite a lot below that well-brushed surface.”
The Inspector was making notes, but as he did so, he frowned. He shook his pencil, and then ear-dipped.
“My apologies, Mr. Fisher. Could I trouble you…?”
Fisher reached into the inside of his dinner jacket, and only paused as he had the pen in his paw.
“I’m afraid I only have a pen, Inspector.”
“It’s not important, Mr. Fisher. I shall simply remember it.”
As we took our leave, Sergeant Brush was waiting at the end of the front desk. The Inspector walked over and bent his head, listening carefully.
The gist of it was that Sergeant Brush had located two small drops of green ink in front of the sink in the main bathroom. More to the point – and this greatly pleased the Inspector – the Sergeant had withdrawn the plunger, and had found traces of green ink caught in the strands of fur entwined in the plunger. Disgusting, really: the hotel really should do a better job of cleaning up after furs.
Out of the corner of his eye, the Inspector saw something at the concierge desk. I swiveled my head slightly, and saw MacKenzie speaking to the concierge. After a few moments, he reached into his jacket, took something out, opened it, reached into his jacket again, and took out a pen.
On a whim, I walked quietly to a position near him, but out of sight. He was writing a cheque with a pen. The concierge cashed the cheque for him, handing him a few Spontoonie notes. MacKenzie replaced his pen and chequebook in his jacket, just as the Inspector walked up. He looked alarmed.
“I…well, I’m just cashing a cheque, Inspector.”
“Certainly, Sergeant MacKenzie. That was quite plainly obvious, and not particularly suspicious.”
The use of his former rank made MacKenzie’s nose pad turn pale.
“Your pin, sir.”
MacKenzie looked down, and exhaled. “Damn. Forget I sometimes wear that thing.”
“By the way, Mr. Mackenzie, you seem not to like Mrs. Bosch that much. Rather contrary to what you told us earlier. You had expressed some goodwill regarding her.”
MacKenzie bit his lip. “No, sir, can’t say I do like her. I figured her for a gold-digger, y’know. That was some fast work she did, landing Bosch that fast. ‘course, a guy like him, he hadn’t had much time for that sort of thing. But murder, hell, didn’t figure her for that.”
“When did you first meet her?”
“Few days after the marriage. Had to deliver something to the Bosch place. She didn’t like seeing me around. Wanted Bosch to herself, and I sorta guessed why. Maybe I guessed wrong. You know those crazy New Haven…oh. Sorry.”
“I’m rather used to that, Mr. MacKenzie. Let’s see, you first.... Damn. Could I trouble you for your pen, Mr. MacKenzie?”
MacKenzie reached into his pocket, and pulled out a reddish pen with a rippled appearance.
“Ah. A Watermaster. Haven’t seen one of those in a while.”
“Pretty good pen. Had a Watermaster trench pen during the war. Uncle of mine worked for Frank Watermaster. Bet Gnu York wishes they’d elected him instead of that terrier, hanh?”
“Loyalty to the family?”
“Guess so. Thanks.” The Inspector had handed back the pen, and he pocketed it.
A bellfur came up to us and, begging our pardon, spoke to me.
“Dr. Meffit? You’re needed up in Mrs. Bosch’s suite.”
I know the whispers about me that circulate here in the Islands, to the effect that I am a stuffy, pompous and overfed pill-roller to the wealthy Euros (and I use that term in its fullest acidic way you hear the natives do). Well, I may be stuffy and pompous, but I’m damned if I’m overfed. I can still move quickly when I have to. I didn’t bother with the elevator, but took the stairs.
I was surprised to see, of all furs, that twit Buckhorn there. Even more surprising was his story. Apparently, he had been on his way back to his suite (no doubt bouncing off the walls), when he saw Mrs. Bosch clamber near a railing. Apparently, he had sufficient wits that weren’t alcohol-soaked to grab Mrs. Bosch. While he may be overly fond of cocktails, Mr. Buckhorn is large enough, and strong enough, to have dragged Mrs. Bosch back to his suite. His valet, apparently, was the one who called the front desk for assistance.
The valet, a rather quiet-looking beaver that I’ve seen around now and again, was the one who spoke to me, as Buckhorn was busily engaged in restraining Mrs. Bosch, who was screeching at the top of her lungs and hitting out. Perhaps it was just as well that fool deer couldn’t feel much pain.
“Yes, Doctor. One could hear the unfortunate lady screaming quite distinctly.”
“No, Doctor. Something about a death order being delivered by Pan Nimitz.”
“That is what she said, sir. I confess that I am puzzled by the reference, sir.”
There was a loud crash as Mrs. Bosch, in a rage, threw Mr. Buckhorn against a table. Mr. Buckhorn was game, though, and waded right back in, eventually pinning her arms against her sides. The valet quietly tied her legs together, and then her wrists. As soon as she saw that she was bound, Mrs. Bosch went limp.
Her pulse was racing to a furious degree, but her pupils showed no signs of dilation. Still, I thought it best not to administer any sedatives until I found out for certain if she had ingested anything.
Mr. Buckhorn, rubbing a sore spot on the back of his head, volunteered that he was “going to collect her kit.”
I blinked for a moment, not realizing for a beat that he was referring to what she was carrying, and not an infant. He left, and came back rather quickly. Inspector Stagg was with him, carrying a handbag. Buckhorn made a joke about earrings for the Inspector, which was met with the withering glare it deserved. Buckhorn quieted down.
I had the valet repeat what he had told me, regarding Mrs. Bosch. The Inspector swiveled his ears, puzzled. At that moment, that young fool deer opened his muzzle.
“Oh! I say, I know what that is.”
The Inspector, with a brief look at the ceiling and a muttered appeal, glared at his fellow whitetail.
“Errrr, it’s like this, don’t y’know. Pan Nimitz – well, dash it, a lot of these train and plane chappies – they’ll deliver small messages and packages for you, if you’re on a slow plane, or if there’s a telegram. I remember one time Artie Wisent and I had an envelope full of itching powder delivered…”
Both the Inspector and I, at the same time, told Buckhorn to shut up, but he continued.
“Hang on, though. I mean, if a chappie wanted to slip the black paw to someone, dashed good idea to do it by Pan Nimitz, and all. No pawprints on it. Just need a confederate. There’s a simply charming young cat femme staying here, she works for Pan Nimitz, she’ll back me up on that. Y’know this is exactly like a mystery I’m reading right now. Well, not exactly, they slipped a wasp into an aeroplane cabin and murdered the chappie, because he was…”
Both the Inspector and I, at the same time, told Buckhorn if he didn’t shut up, he’d join the fur with the wasp. The damned fool got the hint, and barricaded himself in his bathroom.
We were on the way out, when the valet coughed gently.
“The young lady in question, sir, is staying on the second floor. She is indeed a stewardess for Pan Nimitz airways.”
The Inspector nodded, and the valet told him the room number.
“She is, sir…rather lively.”
The Inspector rolled his eyes again. “I do not doubt it, if she’s been socializing with Mr. Buckhorn.”
On the way down, I asked Stagg about the contents of the handbag.
“Very little that is remarkable. No medications, if that is what you are thinking of. The only thing worthy of note is that she had quite a variety of pens in there. At least ten.”
I pondered. “Barkers?”
“Yes. One Barker Vacumatic, rather small and new, with a wide gold band. The rest were Barker Duofolds, of different sizes. All rather odd.”
“They had been disassembled at some point. There is quite a lot of ink in this handbag, it’s gotten on a lot of things.”
The stewardess answered the door herself. She was dressed quite informally, to the extent she was dressed. In point of fact, her dress seemed to be confined only to the silk kimono that she had put on. She had almost missed.
She had, evidently, been drinking. Little wonder she had hit it off with Buckhorn.
The Inspector, with great patience, patience I would not have had, identified himself three times. The third time was because Miss Cooper was eyeing me with an interest that I found deeply uncomfortable, even if she was a young and highly attractive femme.
She cheerfully admitted to knowing Buckhorn, and made an allusion to his physique that while it was the opposite of slanderous, was certainly not something that I should expect to hear from a young lady. The Inspector, with great persistence, steered the conversation toward her activities.
Yes, the young lady worked for Pan Nimitz. Yes, she was a stewardess. Yes, she had, in fact, been on the flight that had carried Mr. Bosch and his party – she remembered Mrs. Bosch quite well. Why? Generally tense and fidgety, though very ladylike.
She confirmed that there had been a delivery to MacKenzie upon arrival at Eastern Island Terminal; he had received a few telegrams, addressed to him.
“What did he do with them?”
“He showed them to his boss.”
“You mean Mr. Bosch?”
“I see. Well…”
“There was another delivery, too.”
The Inspector, who had been on the point of raising his hat to bid Miss Cooper farewell, stopped.
Miss Cooper tossed her hair, shrugged her shoulders (which almost made her kimono slide off) and giggled. “Silly one, too. That other fellow must not be very smart. Or maybe he forgets things.”
“Why do you say that?”
“All that fuss just to get some ink! When you can get some down below in the lobby…”
The Inspector, rather out of character, turned on his good hoof and strode as rapidly away as I’ve ever seen him.
Miss Cooper giggled again. “Are you a policeman?”
“No, Miss, I’m a doctor.”
Another giggle and toss of headfur. “Oh, then you won’t mind…?”
Her kimono had barely hit the floor when I closed the door behind me and ran to catch up with the Inspector.
In fact, I not only caught up with the Inspector, I passed him. I made a guess where he was going, and had a nasty suspicion I wouldn’t like what I found.
There was a scrum, in which one of the constables, a small mouse was making a game effort to separate Mr. Fisher from Mr. MacKenzie, and largely failing. The Constabulary, alas, does not take size into account when hiring constables, nor strength, and this P.C. found out that both are important. The hard way.
I made a decision. I grabbed Fisher by the back of his collar and dinner jacket, yanked him out of the way, and punched him with all the strength I could muster, square in his sternum. He coughed, hiccoughed, then vomited.
MacKenzie, wiping blood from his nose and from his eyebrows – he had been cut on his forehead – snarled. “That’s the stuff. Wish I had done that.”
The constable squeaked a caution that anything MacKenzie would say could be used in court. MacKenzie made a traditional gesture with a paw. The constable repeated his caution to Fisher, and got retched on his shoes for his pains.
The Inspector, rather slower and out of breath, entered the room. He started to caution Fisher, when the constable noted that he had done so. He was ignored, and the caution repeated.
“Stanley Fisher, you are under arrest. The charge is the murder of Herman Bosch earlier today, by means of poison gas fumes.”
MacKenzie goggled. “By means of what?!”
He whirled, and tensed as if he wanted to lay into Fisher. I lowered my shoulder and knocked him sideways, just out of harm’s way. (Or, rather Fisher’s harm’s way.) The constable put himself between MacKenzie and Fisher, not that that had had much success so far.
The Inspector placed pawcuffs on Fisher, and got him to his feet.
“Do you have anything to say, Mr. Fisher?”
Fisher gulped for air a few times, and then spoke in a low voice.
“I want a lawyer. Call the embassy.”
As it turns out, by means of the highly distasteful and mechanical process of sorting through the tons of hotel garbage for the day, the Constabulary located a flattened cardboard box for Blink ink, made by Barker. They also recovered a small glass vial containing a few drops of red liquid similar to what I had seen taken out of the ink sac in Mr. Bosch’s Mandarin Yellow Barker pen.
The garbage had been contained in a small sac that had originally lined the container just outside of L’Etoile d’Argent, the hotel restaurant.
One other item of interest: that sac also contained a few pawfuls of torn paper. While not complete, they formed part of a memorandum discussing the project Alliance was to undertake for the Rain Island government, the anti-chemical warfare project that had been alluded to.
The only pawprints on either set of materials were the pawprints of Mr. Bosch on the memorandum. The fur who deposited the trash had worn gloves.
We know this, because the trash also contained a pair of thin rubber gloves, smeared with green ink on one finger.
None of this, of course, tied Fisher directly to the crime. What did tie him to the crime, the Inspector pointed out, were a few small slips.
First, Fisher himself used a Barker Duofold. He was quite familiar with the pens. When the Inspector asked him for a pen, too late he realized that showing it would be a giveaway. Hiding it, however, was an equal giveaway.
Secondly, when questioned by the Inspector, he had indicated that the chemical warfare background of MacKenzie would cause concern to the Board of Directors of Alliance Engineering. However, it had not been revealed to any fur, outside of law enforcement (counting myself in that category) what, exactly, had killed Mr. Bosch.
The first slip, perhaps, means little. However, the second slip was just enough to make the arrest stick.
Mrs. Bosch denied owning the Barkers found in her handbag, with the exception of the Barker Vacumatic. The Barker Duofolds in her bag all showed signs of having been disassembled, though the reassembly process had not been viewed as being of importance, hence the ink leaking.
During the inquest, which was held the next day, Inspector Stagg told the coroner’s jury that this was how he reconstructed the crime:
The Barker Duofold belonging to Bosch had been in working order at least as late as 10.15 p.m. the night of arrival. This was shown by the fact that Bosch signed the hotel register using his pen, in the same kind of green ink that he evidently favoured, based upon the notes he penned on his other papers.
At some time after 9.00 the next morning, and certainly no later than 10.28, the deceased had been working at his desk. He took out his pen, and began to write on a telegram blank. The fact that he had written “TERMI” possibly indicates that he intended to dismiss somefur. However, there was a problem with his pen; it seemed to be out of ink. Unscrewing the small traveling bottle of Blink ink that he carried in a case containing his pen, unscrewed the blind cap, immersed the pen nib in what he supposed was the ink, and pressed the button on the Barker Duofold, just as if he were filling the pen. He replaced the blind cap and probably intended to write with it, when he noticed that the pen nib was red, not the green he expected. This was likely the result of the sulfur compound being ejected from the doctored ink sac. He bent over and looked closely at the contents of the ink bottle, and thereby received the fatal dose of poison gas.
The killer had obviously planned the crime; indeed, the killer had practiced disassembling Barker Duofolds, as evidenced by the pens found in Mrs. Bosch’s handbag, where they had been dumped.
Of note was the fact that Mrs. Bosch used a different type of Barker pen, and MacKenzie habitually used a completely different brand of pen, whereas Fisher was very familiar with Barker Duofolds, having been a user himself.
The Inspector theorized that the trap was set before Bosch and Fisher had gone downstairs to breakfast in the hotel dining room; the fact that the trash was found in the rubbish outside the hotel dining room was suggestive.
The killer had taken the supplies of liquid that had been delivered to him. The first item of business was to dispose of the real Blink that had been in Bosch’s inkwell. This was done by pouring it down the sink, where some got trapped in the fur clogging the sink stopper. The action of replacing the ink sac in Mr. Bosch’s pen could have been done at the same time. Either from the action of pouring the ink into the sink, or from changing the ink sac, a few drops of green ink were spilled on the floor. It is more likely that it came from changing the ink sac, as the gloves were smeared with green ink. The act of spilling a few drops of ink is something the highly fastidious Mr. Bosch would have been unlikely to have done himself; it is not likely he would have scratched the pen himself, as the killer had done in doctoring it.
Most likely, one of the conversations that had taken place after 9.00 am, when the party had returned and Bosch was known to have been alive, revolved around the meeting to take place in a little more than an hour with the RINS. The memorandum, which was found in the trash with the other materials, may have been discovered missing at this time. Perhaps Bosch intended to have Fisher fired from his position with Alliance: that, unfortunately, is speculation.
This was where the Inspector left off. It was more than enough for both the grand jury and the coroner’s jury. Fisher was indicted for murder.
One interesting point that developed in the days after the murder, which was corroborated by both Mrs. Bosch and Mr. MacKenzie, was that Fisher had actively encouraged the romance between Mr. and Mrs. Bosch. The Inspector theorized that Fisher, having already planted one possible “patsy” in the form of Mr. MacKenzie, grasped an opportunity to emplace a “reserve patsy,” in the form of Mrs. Bosch.
The trial, or at least the trial in the Spontoons, never took place. There were, so it was said, wheels within wheels turning in the background. The United States filed a request for extradition for Fisher, claiming that certain defalcations had been found in his accounts at Alliance. Whether true or not, the request was denied by Magistrate Cockerel.
Rain Island, on the other paw, invoked a clause in its treaty with the Spontoons, and the murderer (I feel safe in calling him that) was bundled off. The story faded from the pages of even the Mirror, save for a paragraph some weeks later that indicated Fisher had been sentenced to a lengthy term at the “Krop,” the rather dismal and gloomy prison Rain Island sends its worst to. The trial must have taken place in camera, since there was no indication in the papers that Fisher had been tried.
Even odder was a piece that had been in the Mirror just the other day, showing Fisher in Buffalo. What he was doing in Buffalo, when I imagined he was supposed to be at the Krop, I couldn’t imagine. An understanding between Rain Island and the United States, perhaps?
The Inspector himself never said anything further on the matter, though there was one final oddity in the matter. A few months after the events I’ve just told you about, a small package was delivered to my home, with a Seathl postmark.
The package contained a rather expensive leather case, which proved to contain what is sometimes called a “doctor’s set,” comprised of a pen, pencil and thermometer, in matching shells.
The note, which was typed unsigned, indicated that Barker made these only in Vacumatics, and not Duofolds, and trusted I would overlook the lack of consistency.
They were quite useful. However, I never did use one part of the set that had been given to me.
Namely, the bottle of Blink ink.
I kept the cap on that tightly sealed.
New York, New York
22 August 2010