THE TERRACE DRIVE MURDER
A Mystery Puzzle
By EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
I was idling with my violin on a grey November morning, the sort of blue, depressing morning that offers no incentive to creative work, and wishing that something would happen that would shift the responsibility for shirking from my conscience, when the telephone bell jangled insistently.
It was Muldoon. "Hello, old man!" he greeted me. "Feel like a murder this morning?"
"I feel like murdering the weather man."
"This murder has already been committed; so if the victim is the weather man, you're too late. I think it may have possibilities; the men on the job are up a stump, and they have sent for me. Come along, you like murders."
"Sure!" I accepted with alacrity. "Shall I come to your office or meet you somewhere else?"
"I'll pick you up; it's over in your neck of the woods."
Twenty minutes later Muldoon and I were pulling up in front of a pretentious home on Terrace Drive. "Why, this is Atwater's place!" I exclaimed. "Has Atwater been murdered?"
"No, it isn't Atwater; but come on in and we'll soon know all about it."
"Want to make a little bet?"
"I'm a gentleman; I never bet on the other fellow's sure things."
One of the men from the homicide squad let us in through the ornate entrance and led us back to a large sun parlor overlooking the gardens and the tennis court at the rear of the house.
In addition to the chief of the homicide squad and two of his men, there were five people in the room. A grey-haired man arose as we entered and came forward. "I am glad you are here, Inspector," he said, extending a hand to Muldoon; "I want to see this thing cleared up. It is terrible, terrible!" He broke down and sobbed.
"Calm yourself, Mr. Atwater," said Muldoon; "and if I can have the co-operation of all those present, I am sure we can get to the solution quickly.
"And now, Mr. Atwater, when did the murder occur:"
"Some time between eleven o'clock last night and seven this morning."
"How do you know?"
"We had been playing bridge after dinner -- my daughter, Bernice (he indicated a tall, dark girl quietly weeping in a corner), Mr. Elwood, myself, and -- oh, it's terrible! Alive and well at eleven o'clock last night and now lying cold and dead up there -- murdered, foully, cruelly murdered."
"Who discovered the body?" snapped Muldoon.
"My secretary, Foley, over there, he replied, pointing.
"Who was in the house between eleven o'clock last night and seven this morning?" asked Muldoon.
"Just those who are in the room now," replied Atwater, "--and of course--" he nodded his head toward the upper floor where the corpse lay.
"I understand," said Muldoon -- "you, your daughter, your secretary, Mr. Elwood, and who's that man there?"
"That is Charles, my chauffeur and, ah, well, he is a sort of valet , too."
"Where were the other servants," explained Atwater, "that is, beside Charles; a man and his wife. They had been with us only a few days, and they were most unsatisfactory. They left after dinner last night."
"You paid them off, and they left and did not return - is that right?"
"Were the deceased and Mr. Elwood members of your household?"
"Oh, no. They are guests. I sent Charles to the station to get them yesterday evening, and we had dinner about nine o'clock. It was the late dinner that caused the butler and his wife to leave; they were disagreeable about it."
Muldoon turned to the chauffeur, a sullen appearing man with a deep scar across one cheek. "What time did you pick these guests up at the station, Charles?"
"Their train got in a 7:45 last night, but I had a little trouble finding them -- I hadn't never seen them before -- and it was about eight o'clock before I picked 'em out of the crowd."
Muldoon swung swiftly toward the secretary. "Why did you go to that room at seven o'clock this morning?"
The suddenness of it made me jump, and I saw Foley gasp.
"I -- I -- " stammered the secretary." Some one had to awaken the guests, and there were no servants in the house. I just went there to wake--"
"Foley, you're lying to me -- you know who committed this crime. Come on -- out with it!"
"Yes, I know," blurted the secretary; "but I'll never tell."
"You were with the murderer last night?" demanded the inspector.
"I was not. The last time I saw the murderer yesterday was while we were playing tennis together."
"That is all for the present, Foley," said Muldoon, and then he looked over at the tall, dark girl. "You are Miss Atwater?" he asked.
"Are you well acquainted with Mr. Elwood?"
"We are engaged to be married -- we hoped to be married the tenth of next month, my birthday and his, too."
"You are both the same age?"
"I am a year younger than he."
"What relation was he, if any, to the victim of this crime?"
"He was a nephew."
"Was there any reason why the deceased should object to this marriage?"
At this question, Bernice Atwater broke down and commenced to cry. "I don't see why you should torture me with questions," she sobbed. "Haven't I been through enough already?"
"Then there was a reason?" insisted Muldoon.
"Yes -- oh, it was a matter of money. You see, Jerry -- Mr. Elwood -- was to come into his money when he married. It is in a trust, and the trustee -- well -- had speculated and lost a lot of it. If Jerry married, it would all come out."
"Was the deceased the trustee?"
Jerry Elwood was a short , unprepossessing looking person with thick-lensed spectacles that give him an owlish cast of countenance. During the interview he had been smoking one cigarette after another almost as rapidly as he could light them, taking a few puffs at each before pressing the fire out in the bottom of an ash receiver; then nervously extracting another from a gold cigarette case.
Now he interposed. "I think you've said quite enough, Bernice." He fumbled for another cigarette.
Muldoon pointed a pudgy finger at him. "Elwood," he demanded, "are you free to marry Miss Atwater?"
"I am now -- I mean -- I --"
"You mean you are since the murder removed an obstacle," roared Muldoon.
"I -- I -- didn't say that," stammered Elwood.
"But it's the truth," snapped the inspector. "You couldn't marry without the consent of the trustee of your father's estate. Now, isn't that a fact?"
Elwood assumed an air of bravado that comported illy with his personality. "Yes, it is!" he shouted almost as loud as Muldoon; "but that doesn't prove anything."
"It proves that you and Miss Atwater had an incentive -- it establishes a motive -- you would both have profited by the death of this person. Now, you might as well come clean, Elwood -- it will make it easier for all."
"You have no right to accuse Miss Atwater -- she had nothing to do with it -- neither did I."
"Perhaps not, but was there any one else in your family who might have profited by this death?"
"I have no relatives now that -- well, since what happened last night. Like my dead mother, I am an only child."
"Was your father the Elwood of the Elwood Grain Company?"
"And he was very wealthy before his death, was he not?"
"Why, yes, I suppose he was wealthy," replied Elwood. "I was only ten when he died, and so I didn't know much about his affairs."
"Let's see," ruminated Muldoon; "he and his brother were business partners?"
"He never had a brother."
"And now, Foley," said Muldoon, "I'd like to ask you another question."
"Well, I don't know that I'll answer it," snapped the secretary, with some acerbity. The nerves of the three men were holding better than those of the two women; yet, all were on the edge.
"Oh, it's not a very pertinent question, perhaps," said Muldoon, smiling. "I was just wondering if the murderer and the deceased were well acquainted?"
The secretary laid down a half-finished cigarette, and then said, "Yes; once they were engaged to be married."
"Do you know anything about this trust we have been hearing about, Foley?"
"Not much -- it was not my affair."
"You don't happen to know when it was established?"
"Immediately after my father's death," said Elwood, "fifteen years ago."
"Charles," said Muldoon, turning to the chauffeur, "how old are you?"
"I'm forty-eight," replied the man.
"You look much younger," commented Muldoon. "How long have you been employed by Mr. Atwater?"
"Like your job?"
"Sure! It's a swell job; they treat me great."
"What were you doing just before you went to work for Mr. Atwater"
The chauffeur scowled. "I -- well -- you ain't got nothin' on me. What difference does it make what I was doin' two years ago?"
"Perhaps no difference," replied Muldoon easily. "I have been trying to place you ever since I came into this room, Charles; and now I have succeeded. That scar on your cheek is as good as a set of fingerprints. You were in the pen two years ago for burglary!"
"Well, what if I was? Growled the chauffeur. "This murder wasn't committed two years ago."
"And you were paroled to Mr. Atwater?"
"And he's been pretty good to you, hasn't he?"
"There isn't anything you wouldn't do for him, is there?"
"No. I'd do anything for him -- he's been swell to me."
"You'd even commit murder for him, wouldn't you?"
The man's eyes narrowed and he glared at Muldoon as he exclaimed, "To hell with you! I never done it."
"Do you play tennis, Charles? Inquired Muldoon, blandly.
"Yes. Foley taught me to play."
"Were you playing tennis with Foley yesterday?"
"Thank you, Charles; that's all."
Muldoon turned to the chief of the homicide squad. "Mike," he said, softly, "you may make the arrest now, bring the prisoner to headquarters."
"Which one, Inspector?"
Muldoon pointed at one of the five. "That one," he said.
At whom did Muldoon point?
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)
ERB'S Murder Mystery Puzzles
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