The LIGHTSHIP MURDER by Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the series of murder mystery puzzles
which were published in ROB WAGNER'S SCRIPT, a weekly west coast magazine.
When Muldoon asked me to go along with them I didn't know what I was in for. My longest sea voyage has been west from the Statue of Liberty to Catalina Island. I am not much of a sailor. The launch that the Coast Guard furnished us seemed to me wholly inadequate beyond the breakwater, but we were headed far out for the lightship that marks a dangerous reef twenty miles off shore.
However, the sea was calm; and there were only the long oily swells to remind one of the latent might of the great ocean -- an aftermath of the storm that had raged but a day or two before. It was all rather restful, and I was soon enjoying it to the full.
In addition to the crew of the launch and Muldoon and myself, there were United States Marshal Olson and two of his deputies. The Marshal, a warm friend and admirer of Inspector Muldoon, had invited him to come along and help solve what appeared to be something of a mystery; and Muldoon had, as he often does, asked me to go with him.
The Marshal knew practically nothing about the case except that the lightship tender, making her BI-monthly visit to the lightship, had wirelessed that morning, that she had found Daniel MacTeevor, the keeper of the lightship, murdered and could get no information from any of the others on board.
The tender was still standing by ass we climbed over the rail of the murder ship; and it was the captain of the tender, there with tow of his men, who greeted us. Otherwise, the deck was deserted.
"I've got 'em down below in the main cabin," he said, following brief introductions. "They're a glum lot; I can't get a thing out of 'em that makes sense."
"That's what I brought my old friend, Inspector Muldoon, along for," remarked Olson. "He'll get the truth out of 'em without their knowing it."
"The truth ain't in 'em," growled the captain of the tender. "Where do you want to start, Inspector?"
"Let's have a look at the body," replied Muldoon. "Where is it?"
"He's still in his cabin. Come with me."
We followed Captain Black down a companionway and entered a cabin in which were two bunks. On one of them was stretched a figure covered with a piece of tarpaulin.
Captain Black jerked a thumb toward it. "There it is," he said.
Olson and I followed Muldoon to the side of the bunk and watched as he pulled down the tarpaulin. I do not know why I have such a morbid desire to see such gruesome things. I am always sorry afterward, and ashamed; but the fact remains that the corpse of a murdered person holds me in its grisly power as surely as the wedding guest was held by the glittering eye of the ancient mariner.
And this sight was hideously gruesome. MacTeevor's throat had been cut from ear to ear and so deeply that his head was almost severed from his body. From the seamed and weather-beaten face his dead eyes stared horribly, his shaved upper lip was drawn back from his teeth in a snarl, the fringe of white beard beneath his lower jaw was matted with blood.
Muldoon drew the tarpaulin back in place. "I would like to question those who were on board at the time of the murder," he said.
"They are all in the main cabin," said Black, leading the way from the scene of the murder.
There were four people in the cabin that we entered a moment later. They were a sullen, dour-looking lot. They glowered at us from beneath scowling brows, but none of them spoke. Muldoon stood surveying them for a moment; then he turned toward the man sitting nearest him.
"What is your name?" he demanded.
"Bill MacTeevor," came sullenly after a moment's hesitation.
"Were the four of you in this cabin on board this ship the night of the murder?"
The man did not answer, but a woman across the cabin spoke up. "Yes," she said. "We was all here."
"And who else?" asked Muldoon.
"Only Daniel," she replied.
Muldoon turned again to the man. "I am Inspector Muldoon of the metropolitan police force, and this gentleman on my right is United States Marshal Olson. We have come out here to investigate this murder. It will be pleasanter for all concerned if you answer our questions and answer them truthfully. None of you need answer any question that will incriminate himself.
"Now, when was this murder committed?"
"The night of September first, night before last."
"You are here together alone much of the time, are you not?"
"We ain't seen no one since the tender was here last time."
"When was that?"
"The second of July."
"What was the murdered man doing the last time you saw him alive?"
"He was scrappin' with her." Bill MacTeevor pointed toward a woman sitting near him.
"What is you name? Asked Muldoon, addressing the woman.
"Esther MacTeevor." She was a slatternly woman clothed in a dirty calico garment that would have been called a Mother Hubbard twenty or thirty years ago; I don't know what they call them now.
"What were you and the murdered man quarrelling about? asked the Inspector.
"What we always quarreled about -- money. He was turrible tight about money -- he wouldn't give me none."
"Why did you want money?"
"Andy wanted to go ashore when the tender come. He wanted to get a job on shore. He was sick o' livin' on a lightship. I wanted the money fer him."
'"Were you and Daniel related Esther? Inquired Muldoon.
"Yes, but we weren't no blood kin."
"Just when did you see your sister last prior to the murder?" Muldoon has an odd way of skipping about in his questioning and suddenly asking what seem to be the most irrelevant sort of questions.
Esther MacTeevor puckered her brows in thought. "Let's see," she said finally, "4th o' July come on a Monday this year; an' it was jest a week before the Fourth that I seen Susan last. The husband of one of her friends owns a fishin' boat, and she come with him. She spent a week with me an' went back the Monday before the Fourth. She ain't never been married, an' she likes to gad about an' visit. Especial she likes to come an' see me, 'cause me an' her is the only ones left in our family."
Muldoon wheeled suddenly toward a scrawny, hard-faced woman. "What is your name?" he demanded.
The woman started nervously as though someone had suddenly stuck a pin into her. "Ca-Carrie MacTeevor," she stammered.
"What do you know of the happenings on this ship the night of September1?" Muldoon shot the question at her as though he were accusing her of the murder.
"I don't know nothin'," she replied sullenly. "I never done it." And then half hysterically, "I swear to God I never done it!"
"I am only asking you to recall what you do know of that night," said Muldoon, soothingly. I think it is these quick changes of manner that help to make Mullion's technique so effective; his subjects are alternately soothed or shocked into revealing more than they realize.
"Well," commenced the woman, reminiscently, "it was a turrible night. The wind was blowin' a gale, an' the clouds hid every star; it was dark as a pocket except when The Light flashed -- on five seconds, off fifteen. The ship was wallowin' an' pitchin', the wind was howlin' through the riggin', an' above the storm I could hear the seas breakin' on the reef. I was plumb scairt; an' I was seasick, too. I staid in my bunk from right after supper. I didn't know nothin' about Daniel until mornin', when Bill come in an' tol' me."
"How long have you known Andy?"
"Did he and Daniel ever quarrel?"
"Yes. We all quarreled. There wasn't nothin' else much to do."
"Didn't Andy quarrel with Daniel more than the rest of you?"
"No, he didn't. Andy has always been a good boy. Perhaps, bein' an only child, he's been spoiled a little; but he ain't a bad boy."
Muldoon was silent for a moment; then he turned away from Carrie. "Bill," he asked, "where was your brother sleeping the night of the murder?"
"I never had no brother," replied Bill, "nor sister, neither."
"How old are you?"
"Who was on watch the hour of the murder?"
Bill shuffled his feet nervously and cleared his throat before answering. "I was; my father went to bed early."
"How long have you known Carrie MacTeevor?"
"Nigh onto twenty year."
"Was she particularly fond of Daniel?"
"Hell, no; there wasn't none o' us particularly fond of no one. We been cooped up along here too long.
Once more Muldoon turned his attention to another member of the sorry company. "Young man, what is your name?"
"How old are you, Andy?"
"Is your mother living?"
"Say, mister," interrupted Carrie MacTeevor, "I forgot to tell you somethin'. I heard Andy's grandmother scoldin' Daniel after I turned in."
"Could you hear what she said?
"How old are you, Carrie?"
"Esther, did Daniel quarrel with his sister the night of the murder?"
"Daniel's only sister died more 'n forty year ago. I was tellin' my sister it seemed nigh onto a hundred years since Abbie passed on."
"Have you done anything about notifying Daniel's other relatives?"
"His father an' mother died over forty year ago, just before his sister Abbie went; and he never had no other kin except what's on this ship."
"But you were related to him."
"We're all related -- all what was on the ship."
"How many was that?"
"Was Daniel married?"
"And his wife is still living?
"That would be his first wife?"
"He never had but one. They couldn't have been but one woman in the world fool enough to marry Daniel MacTeevor." She cast a vindictive look at the other woman.
"Andy," continued the Inspector, "what other relatives have you beside those on board this ship?"
"Just a great aunt," replied the youth.
"And now, Esther, just one more question. Do you know who committed this murder?"
"Yes, but I won't tell. You couldn't never drag it out of me."
"I shan't try to," Muldoon assured her.
"If Daniel had listed to me it wouldn't never have happened. I been expectin' somethin' like this for a long time."
"It was in the blood -- the mother's blood; 'twarn't in my blood nor in the MacTeevor's."
"Thank you, Esther," said Muldoon suavely; that explains everything."
We all looked at Muldoon blankly. Marshal Olson was the first of speak, "Perhaps it does to you, Inspector," he said; "but I don't ever know who's related to whom, much less who did the killing.
"It is quite simple," said Muldoon. "If the captain has the authority to leave someone here to tend the light, you can take the guilty party back with you now and the others as material witnesses."
Who is the guilty party? What were the relationships that existed between the five people aboard the lightship? And why?
There's no "catch." Time yourself for arriving at a correct solution and mail it to SCRIPT.
The winner will be given a high position at court when we are King. --- Rob
Murder at Midnight, Bank Murder, The Terrace Drive Murder (8.10.32), The Gang Murder,
The Lightship Murder (35.10.26), The Dark Lake Murder, Who Murdered Mr. Thomas?,
The Red Necktie (1932), The Dupuyster Case
Rob Wagner's Script Weekly (1932 & 1935)
There were five people aboard the lightship the night of the murder:
All are related to one another.
Andy's grandmother is on the ship.
Andy being 18 and Carrie 39, Esther must be Andy's grandmother.
Andy's mother is alive; he has only one blood relative ashore, a great aunt; there, Carrie and Esther being the only women on the ship and Esther being his grandmother, Carrie must be Andy's mother.
Bill said his father was on watch the night of the murder. Andy being 18 and Bill almost 40, Andy could not be Bill's father; therefore Daniel was Bill's father.
Neither Bill nor Andy has a brother; Bill had no uncle because his father, Daniel, had no brother, Andy had no relatives (except an unmarried great aunt) other than those on the lightship; therefore they cannot be cousins, and as each was an only child they cannot be brothers-in-law. But they are related; therefore they must be father and son -- Bill is Andy's father.
So Bill and Carrie, being the father and mother of Andy, are husband and wife.
Daniel being Bill's father must have been Andy's grandfather; therefore Daniel and Esther were husband and wife.
Esther said the murderer had murder in his blood but that there was no such criminal strain in her blood nor in the MacTeevors'; therefore the blood stain must have come from Carrie, and as Andy is the only one with her blood in his veins and as Carrie was in her bunk when the murder was committed Andy must be the murderer.
Readers David Cliff, Marie Fleming and Brita Holm solved the mystery correctly.
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