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Volume 6410

A Short Murder Mystery Puzzle

Part of a series written between 1932 and 1940
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Featuring Police Inspector Muldoon and
his trusted biographer and sidekick, Edgar Rice Burroughs
It was on a beautiful August evening that Muldoon and I drove toward the aristocratic Dark Lake suburb, leaving the rear and the dirt and the odors of the hot city behind us.

"This is no night for a murder," I remarked.

"June scarcely seems a month for suicides," he reminded me, "but statistics inform us that more suicides occur during June than during any other month of the year. And certainly, if there must be murders, it is far more comfortable investigating them in August than in February."

"Who has been killed, and what about some of the details?" I inquired. "You know you haven't told me anything about it at all. You just yanked me away from my dinner table before I had had my coffee and growled that if I wanted to get in on the latest murder I'd have to 'shake my dogs,' I think you said."

"David Thayer," snapped Muldoon, "that's all I know."

"You mean David Thayer has been murdered?
"Friend of yours? demanded my companion.

"An acquaintance," I replied. "I never fancied Thayer. He hadn't a very nice disposition, and he was a regular devil when he'd been drinking. I knew his wife before they were married -- Alice Palmer -- a mighty sweet girl, far too good for Thayer."

Muldoon turned into the highway that skirted the east side of the lake. On our left were the beautiful estates of the wealthy families that had chosen this lovely spot for their homes. The foliage of old trees loomed dark against the night. 

"This road ought to be lighted better," growled Muldoon. "How the devil am I going to find Thayer's place or any other place without any light?"

"I k now where it is," I told him. "We're almost there."

"Slow down now," I directed a moment later. "See that big white gateway on the left just ahead? That's Thayer's."

The gates were open, and we turned in. The house faced the lake, and as we approached it from the rear we say lights in what I took to be the kitchen and in a room at the opposite end of the house on the second floor. The driveway ran around the end of the house and along the front between the house and the lake; but b before we got that far a man ran out of a rear door of the house and called to us to stop. When we came nearer I saw that he was a uniformed police officer.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"Inspector Muldoon," replied my companion.

The officer stepped closer and peered into the car; then he drew back and saluted, "All right, Inspector," he said. "Drive around to the front of the house; you'll find a couple of the boys ont he front door and the rest of 'em in the living room with the bunch we nabbed here."

A light on the front porch permitted the officers there to recognize Muldoon, and we stepped into the hallway where one of them pointed toward a room on the right of a large reception hall. The doors were closed.

"They're in there," said the officer.

As Muldoon swung open one of the doors I followed him into the room beyond. It was a large beautifully furnished room. In addition to four officers there were eight people in the room, four men and four women. Muldoon and I made fourteen, and still the room seemed empty.

I said there were fourteen, but there was another that I did not notice at first. On a sofa lay a still figure covered with a sheet.

Muldoon stepped over to it and drew sown the sheet. A blond woman in a red gown screamed hysterically. A man at one side of the room muttered an oath as he rose from his chair and turned his back, as though to shut out his view of the corpse. As I glanced toward him I saw that he was a well built fellow with red hair; then I turned my attention again toward the sofa. 

"Do you recognize this man?" Muldoon asked me.

"Yes, it's David Thayer," I replied. 

There was a large, ugly wound in Thayer's face just below the eyes, that had practically torn away his nose. Muldoon looked at the dead man in silence for a few seconds; then he turned the corpse over on its face. High in the centre of the back of the head was a small round hole. 

Muldoon turned to the police officer at his elbow. "Was he shot more than once?" he asked.

"Only one bullet took effect," replied the policeman.

Muldoon wheeled around and faced the occupants of the room. "Which is Mrs. Thayer?" he demanded.

"I am," replied the blond woman in the red gown.

"Tell me what happened , Mrs. Thayer -- what led up to this?"

Alice Thayer had recovered her composure and spoke in a level, unemotional monotone. "David had been drinking for two days," she commenced. "He was very -- difficult  -- when he was drinking like this -- unreasonable and quarrelsome. He quarreled with George this morning over his eggs."

"Who is George? demanded the Inspector.

Mrs. Thayer nodded toward a somber looking individual standing in the shadows at the far end of the room beside a middle aged woman who wore a house dress and a white apron. "George is our butler," she explained. "He was serving Mr. Thayer's breakfast when the dispute arose. George answered back rather disrespectfully and David knocked him down."

"And I'd do it again, beggin' your pardon ma'am," exclaimed George, "The way he spoke to me!"

"What did George say at the time?" inquired Muldoon.

Mrs. Thayer hesitated.

"Well!" demanded Muldoon. "Come, out with it!"

The words were spoken so low that I could scarcely catch them. 

Muldoon turned to the butler. "What's your name?"

"George Watson," replied the man sullenly.

"Where were you when Mr. Thayer was murdered?
"He was in the boat house," interrupted the red headed man excitedly. "I saw him there, and he had a gun in his hand when he ran out after the shooting." 

"And what's your name?" snapped Muldoon.

"Crail; Bruce Crail."

"What were you doing in the boathouse?"

"I saw Carl coming back in his motor boat, and I went down to the landing to talk with him and try to persuade him to go away, for I feared that there would be trouble if he and D
avid met."

"I told him not to interfere," Said a woman sitting beside Crail.

"Keep out of this, Esther," cautioned Crail.

"Who is this woman?" asked Muldoon.

"My wife," replied Crail.

Mrs Crail was a very striking looking woman, prematurely grey.

"Why was it that you did not wish your husband to interfere?" asked Muldoon.

"Well, we were really only casual acquaintances of either the Thayers or the Bogles," she replied. 

"This was the first time that we had ever been entertained by either of them, and I felt that it was none of our affair."

Why did your husband fear that there might be trouble between Thayer and the man he called Carl?" continued the Inspector.

"Why, really -- I think I'd rather not say any more; you see, after all, it's none of my business or Bruce's either."

"We'll see about that later," observed Muldoon as he turned again toward Alice Thayer. "And now, Mrs. Thayer, please continue with your story. What else transpired during the day that might have led up to this tragedy?"

"Nothing much; it all happened very suddenly. David kept on drinking all day. I ordered an early dinner thinking it might sober him up -- I think it was only about five-thirty when we finished. 

"After dinner Mr. and Mrs. Crail, Mr. Bogle, and I played contract. David said he would go up and lie down. He was sobered up some, but he was sleepy. Shortly after, Mrs. Bogle left the card room. She said she was going upstairs to get a book." 

At this juncture a black haired girl commenced sobbing violently. Alice Thayer turned toward her and gave her a look of such venomous hatred as I have seldom seen in the eyes of any person. ""If you don't make that woman stop that," she cried hysterically, " I shall not be responsible for what I do."

Nobody said anything or did anything. The girl was sitting apart as though shunned by the others.

"Calm yourself, Mrs. Thayer," said Muldoon soothingly, "and go on with your story."

We had been playing about half an hour when Mr. Bogle, who was dummy at that time, excused himself, saying that he wanted to run upstairs to his room and get some cigarettes -- I didn't happen to have in the house any of the brand that he smokes.

In less than a minute after Carl left the room we heard loud voices from upstairs, oaths, and the sounds of a struggle."

She stopped then and glared at the black haired girl. 

"Ant then what?" asked Muldoon.

"Mr. Bogle had found my husband and his wife together in her room There was a fight. David is -- was -- a very powerful man, and he was still not entirely sober. He easily got the better of Carl, and then he picked him up and threw him downstairs.

"He followed Carl downstairs and would have attacked him again had not Bruce and Esther and I prevented. Then Carl left the house, saying that he'd kill both David and Mrs. Bogle on sight.

"The Bogles live on the other side of the lake. They had come over in their motor boat, and Carl went down to our boat house, got into his boat, that was moored to our landing, and crossed the lake to his own home."

"What did you do then, Mrs. Thayer?" inquired Muldoon.

The woman bit her lower lip in an effort to suppress her feelings. "I went upstairs to talk to that woman there; Mrs. Bogle." She jerked her head toward the sobbing brunette.

"Did you see her?"

"No. She had locked herself in her room, the dirty little coward; and she didn't come out until after the police came -- after David had been shot."

"Just what did your husband do after this affair and up to the time he was killed?"

He tried to defend that hussy. He said the fault was all his. He seemed sort of dazed and stupid, but he wasn't drunk anymore. Finally he got up and said, 'I'm sick of talking about it. I'm going outside." He was always fond of the sunsets here; it was just sundown, and he stood there looking at the sunset. I had followed him as far as the front porch. I stopped there. I saw Carl's motor boat coming back from across the lake. David seemed oblivious of everything, perhaps the sun blinded him. Then he was shot. 

"Did Bogle shoot him?"

"Oh, how do I know? I didn't see."

Muldoon pointed to the woman in the white apron. Where were you when Thayer was murdered?" he demanded.

"Ike and I were in the kitchen," she replied. "He was just eating his dinner."

"Who is Ike?"

"This is Ike," she replied, indicating a man in chauffeur's uniform standing a little in the rear of her. "He's Mr. Thayer's chauffeur."

"And you are the cook?"

"Yes, sir."

"What's your name?"

"Helen Watson; my husband is the butler."

"Well, Helen, who else was in the kitchen beside you and Ike at the time of the shooting?"

"No one, we was alone. We heard the shots, but of course we couldn't see nothing because the kitchen is in the back of the house."

"Shots? Were there more than one?

"Yes, sir; they was two."

"Where was your husband?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Mrs. Bogle!" barked Muldoon.

The black haired woman started nervously and screamed. "Oh, don't yell at me like that! I didn't do it. I don't know who did it. At the time, I was locked in my room on the second floor on the opposite side of the house."

"Did you hear the shots!"


"Now, Mrs. Crail," said Muldoon softly, turning toward the white haired woman, "where were you at the time of the murder?"

"I was down in the women's dressing room by the driving platform at the edge of the lake."

"Are the dressing rooms in the boat house?"

"No, the boat house stands opposite one wing of the house, the dressing rooms opposite the other."

"Did you see Mr. Thayer at the time he was shot?

"No, I was not looking at Mr. Thayer; I was looking at Carl Bogle. But I saw Mr. Thayer fall after the shots were fired."

"What was Mr. Bogle doing that attracted your attention to him?" demanded Muldoon.

"He was standing up in his motor boat firing a revolver at Mr. Thayer!"

"Than you; that is all, Mrs. Thayer. I should like to ask you one more question. Are all of the people who were on the premises immediately prior to the murder; at the time of the murder, and immediately after the murder in this room?"

"Yes, Inspector, they are."

"Thank you," said Muldoon; then he made the arrest.

Whom did he arrest?


Location of the nine people at the time of the murder:
  • David Thayer was standing in front of his home looking at the sunset.
  • Mrs. Thayer was on the front porch of the home.
  • Bruce Crail was in the boat house opposite one end of the house.
  • George Watson, the butler, was in the boat house.
  • Carl Bogle was in his motor boat at the boat house firing a pistol at Thayer.
  • Esther Crail was in the dressing room on lake at opposite end of house from the boat house. 
  • Mrs. Bogle was in her room upstairs at the back of the house.
  • Ike, the chauffeur, was in kitchen at back of house.
  • Ike, the chauffeur, was in kitchen at back of house.
  • Mrs. Watson, cook, was with Ike.
It has been established that the house was on the east side of the lake, facing west; therefore Thayer must have been standing with his back toward the house. 

He was shot from behind and from slightly above, as indicated by the small hole high in the back of his head and the large one lower down in the front.

No one in the boat house or the dressing rooms could have shot him in the back of the head, or from above.

Mrs. Thayer was the only person standing behind him, and she was standing on the porch, slightly higher than he.

Muldoon arrested Mrs. Thayer.


ERB'S Murder Mystery Puzzles


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