Read an Excerpt
The Adventures of Ellery Queen
By Ellery Queen
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1934 Ellery Queen
All rights reserved.
The Adventure of THE AFRICAN TRAVELER
Mr. Ellery queen, wrapped loosely in English tweeds and reflections, proceeded—in a manner of speaking—with effort along the eighth-floor corridor of the Arts Building, that sumptuous citadel of the University. The tweeds were pure Bond Street, for Ellery was ever the sartorial fellow; whereas the reflections were Americanese, Ellery's ears being filled with the peculiar patois of young male and female collegians, and he himself having been Harvard, 'Teen.
This, he observed severely to himself as he lanced his way with the ferrule of his stick through a brigade of yelling students, was higher education in New York! He sighed, his silver eyes tender behind the lenses of his pincenez; for, possessing that acute faculty of observation so essential to his business of studying criminal phenomena, he could not help but note the tea-rose complexions, the saucy eyes, and the osier figures of various female students in his path. His own Alma Mater, he reflected gloomily, paragon of the educational virtues that it was, might have been better far better off had it besprinkled its muscular classes with nice-smelling co-eds like these—yes, indeed!
Shaking off these unprofessorial thoughts, Mr. Ellery Queen edged gingerly through a battalion of giggling, girls and approached Room 824, his destination, with dignity.
He halted. A tall and handsome and fawn-eyed young woman was leaning against the closed door, so obviously lying in wait for him that he began, under the buckling tweeds, to experience a—good lord!—a trepidation. Leaning, in fact, on the little placard which read:
This was, of course, sacrilege.... The fawn-eyes looked up at him soulfully, with admiration, almost with reverence. What did a member of the faculty do in such a predicament? Ellery wondered with a muted groan. Ignore the female person, speak to her firmly—?
The decision was wrested from his hands and, so to speak, placed on his arm. The brigand grasped his left biceps with devotional vigor and said in fluty tones: "You're Mr. Ellery Queen, himself, aren't you?"
"I knew you were. You've the nicest eyes. Such a queer color. Oh, it's going to be thrilling, Mr. Queen!"
"I beg your pardon."
"Oh, I didn't say, did I?" The hand, which he observed with some astonishment was preposterously small, released his tingling biceps. She said sternly, as if in some way he had fallen in her estimation: "And you're the famous detective. Hmm. Another illusion blasted.... Old Icky sent me, of course."
"You don't know even that. Heavens! Old Icky is Professor Ickthorpe, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., and goodness knows what else."
"Ah!" said Ellery. "I begin to understand."
"And high time, too," said the young woman severely. "Furthermore, Old Icky is my father, do you see...." She became all at once very shy, or so Ellery reasoned, for the black lashes with their impossible sweep dropped suddenly to veil eyes of the ultimate brownness.
"I do see, Miss Ickthorpe." Ickthorpe! "I see all too clearly. Because Professor Ickthorpe—ah—inveigled me into giving this fantastic course, because you are Professor Ickthorpe's daughter, you think you may wheedle your way into my group. Fallacious reasoning," said Ellery, and planted his stick like a standard on the floor. "I think not. No."
Her slipper-toe joggled his stick unexpectedly, and he flailed wildly to keep from falling. "Do come off your perch, Mr. Queen.... There! That's settled. Shall we go in, Mr. Queen? Such a nice name."
"Icky has arranged things, bless him."
"I refuse abso—"
"The Bursar has been paid his filthy lucre. I have my B.A., and I'm just dawdling about here working for my Master's. I'm really very intelligent. Oh, come on—don't be so professorish. You're much too nice a young man, and your devastating silv'ry eyes—"
"Oh, very well," said Ellery, suddenly pleased with himself. "Come along."
It was a small seminar room, containing a long table flanked with chairs. Two young men rose, rather respectfully, Ellery thought. They seemed surprised but not too depressed at the vision of Miss Ickthorpe, who was evidently a notorious character. One of them bounded forward and pumped Ellery's hand.
"Mr. Queen! I'm Burrows, John Burrows. Decent of you to pick me and Crane out of that terrific bunch of would-be manhunters." He was a nice young fellow, Ellery decided, with bright eyes and a thin intelligent, face.
"Decent of your instructors and record, Burrows, I'd say.... And you're Walter Crane, of course?"
The second young man shook Ellery's hand decorously, as if it were a rite; he was tall, broad, and studious-looking in a pleasant way. "I am, sir. Degree in chemistry. I'm really interested in what you and the Professor are attempting to do."
"Splendid. Miss Ickthorpe—rather unexpectedly—is to be the fourth member of our little group," said Ellery. "Rather unexpectedly! Well, let's sit down and talk this over."
Crane and Burrows flung themselves into chairs, and the young woman seated herself demurely, Ellery threw hat and stick into a corner, clasped his hands on the bare table, and looked at the white ceiling. One must begin.... "This is all rather nonsensical, you know, and yet there's something solid in it. Professor Ickthorpe came to me some time ago with an idea. He had heard of my modest achievements in solving crimes by pure analysis, and he thought it might be interesting to develop the faculty of detection by deduction in young university students. I wasn't so sure, having been a university student myself."
"We're rather on the brainy side these days," said Miss Ickthorpe.
"Hmm. That remains to be seen," said Ellery dryly. "I suppose it's against the rules, but I can't think without tobacco. You may smoke, gentlemen. A cigarette, Miss Ickthorpe?"
She accepted one absently, furnished her own match, and kept looking at Ellery's eyes. "Field work, of course?" asked Crane, the chemist.
"Precisely." Ellery sprang to his feet. "Miss Ickthorpe, please pay attention.... If we're to do this at all, we must do it right.... Very well. We shall study crimes out of the current news—crimes, it goes without saying, which lend themselves to our particular brand of detection. We start from scratch, all of us—no preconceptions, understand.... You will work under my direction, and we shall see what happens."
Burrows' keen face glowed. "Theory? I mean—won't you give us any principles of attack first—classroom lectures?"
"To hell with principles. I beg your pardon, Miss Ickthorpe.... The only way to learn to swim, Burrows, is to get into the Water.... There were sixty-three applicants for this confounded course. I wanted only two or three—too many would defeat my purpose; unwieldy, you know. I selected you, Crane, because you seem to have the "analytical mind to a reasonable degree, and your scientific training has developed your sense of observation. You, Burrows, have a sound academic background and, evidently, an excellent top-piece." The two young men blushed. "As for you, Miss Ickthorpe," continued Ellery stiffly, "you selected yourself, so you'll have to take the consequences. Old Icky or no Old Icky, at the first sign of stupidity out you go."
"An Ickthorpe sir, is never stupid."
"I hope—I sincerely hope—not.... Now, to cases. An hour ago, before I set out for the University, a flash came in over the Police Headquarters' wire. Most fortuitously, I thought, and we must be properly grateful.... Murder in the theatrical district—chap by the name of Spargo is the victim. A queer enough affair, I gathered, from the sketchy facts given over the tape. I've asked my father—Inspector Queen, you know—to leave the scene of the crime exactly as found. We go there at once."
"Bully!" cried Burrows. "To grips with Crime! This is going to be great. Shan't we have any trouble getting in, Mr. Queen?"
"None at all. I've arranged for each of you gentlemen to carry a special police pass, like my own; I'll get one for you later, Miss Ickthorpe.... Let me caution all of you to refrain from taking anything away from the scene of the crime—at least without consulting me first. And on no account allow yourselves to be pumped by reporters."
"A murder," said Miss Ickthorpe thoughtfully, with a sudden dampening of spirits.
"Aha! Squeamish already. Well, this affair will be a test-case for all of you. I want to see how your minds work in contact with the real thing.... Miss Ickthorpe, have you a hat or something?"
"Duds, duds! You can't traipse in there this way, you know!"
"Oh!" she murmured, blushing. "Isn't a sport dress au fait at murders?" Ellery glared, and she added sweetly: "In my locker down the hall, Mr. Queen. I shan't be a moment."
Ellery jammed his hat on his head. "I shall meet the three of you in front of the Arts Building in five minutes. Five minutes, Miss Ickthorpe!" And, retrieving his stick, he stalked like any professor from the seminar room. All the way down the elevator, through the main corridor, on the marble steps outside, he breathed deeply. A remarkable day! he observed to the campus. A really remarkable day.
The Fenwick Hotel lay a few hundred yards from Times Square. Its lobby was boiling with policemen, detectives, reporters and, from their universal appearance of apprehension, guests. Mountainous Sergeant Velie, Inspector Queen's right-hand man, was planted at the door, a cement barrier against curiosity-seekers. By his side stood a tall, worried-looking man dressed somberly in a blue serge suit, white linen, and black bow-tie.
"Mr. Williams, the hotel manager," said the Sergeant.
Williams shook hands. "Can't understand it. Terrible mess. You're with the police?"
Ellery nodded. His charges surrounded him like a royal guard—a rather timid royal guard, to be sure, for they pressed close to him as if for protection. There was something sinister in the atmosphere. Even the hotel clerks and attendants, uniformly dressed in gray—suits, ties, shirts—wore strained expressions, like stewards on a foundering ship.
"Nobody in or out, Mr. Queen," growled Sergeant Velie. "Inspector's orders. You're the first since the body was found. These people okay?"
"Yes. Dad's on the scene?"
"Upstairs, third floor, Room 317. Mostly quiet now."
Ellery leveled his stick. "Come along, young 'uns. And don't—" he added gently, "don't be so nervous. You'll become accustomed to this sort of thing. Keep your heads up."
They bobbed in unison, their eyes a little glassy. As they ascended in a policed elevator, Ellery observed that Miss
Ickthorpe was trying very hard to appear professionally blasé. Ickthorpe indeed! This should take the starch out of her.... They walked down a hushed corridor to an open door. Inspector Queen, a small birdlike gray little man with sharp eyes remarkably like his son's, met them in the doorway.
Ellery, suppressing a snicker at the convulsive start of Miss Ickthorpe, who had darted one fearful glance into the death-room and then gasped for dear life, introduced the young people to the Inspector, shut the door behind his somewhat reluctant charges, and looked about the bedroom.
Lying on the drab carpet, arms outflung before him like a diver, lay a dead man. His head presented a curious appearance: as if some one had upset a bucket of thick red paint over him, clotting the brown hair and gushing over his shoulders. Miss Ickthorpe gave vent to a faint gurgle which certainly was not appreciation. Ellery observed with morbid satisfaction that her tiny hands were clenched and that her elfin face was whiter than the bed near which the dead man lay sprawled. Crane and Burrows were breathing hard.
"Miss Ickthorpe, Mr. Crane, Mr. Burrows—your first corpse," said Ellery briskly. "Now, dad, to work. How does it stand?"
Inspector Queen sighed. "Name is Oliver Spargo. Forty-two, separated from his wife two years ago. Mercantile traveler for a big drygoods exporting house. Returned from South Africa after a year's stay. Bad reputation with the natives in the outlying settlements—thrashed them, cheated them; in fact, was driven out of British Africa by a scandal. It was in the New York papers not long ago.... Registered at the Fenwick here for three days—same floor, by the way—then checked out to go to Chicago. Visiting relatives." The Inspector grunted, as if this were something justifiably punished by homicide. "Returned to New York this morning by plane. Checked in at 9:30. Didn't leave this room. At 11:30 he was found dead, just as you see him, by the colored maid on this floor, Agatha Robins."
The old man shrugged. "Maybe—maybe not. We've looked this bird up. Pretty hard guy, from the reports, but sociable. No enemies, apparently; all his movements since his boat docked innocent and accounted for. And a lady-killer. Chucked his wife over before his last trip across, and took to his bosom a nice blonde gal. Fussed with her for a couple of months, and then skipped out—and didn't take her with him. We've had both women on the pan."
Inspector Queen stared moodily at the dead traveler. "Well, take your pick. He had one visitor this morning—the blonde lady I just mentioned. Name of Jane Terrill—no sign of occupation. Huh! She evidently read in the ship news of Spargo's arrival two weeks ago; hunted him up, and a week ago, while Spargo was in Chicago, called at the desk downstairs inquiring for him. She was told he was expected back this morning—he'd left word. She came in at 11:05 this a.m., was given his room-number, was taken up by the elevator-boy. Nobody remembers her leaving. But she says she knocked and there was no answer, so she went away and hasn't been back since. Never saw him—according to her story."
Miss Ickthorpe skirted the corpse with painful care, perched herself on the edge of the bed, opened her bag and began to powder her nose. "And the wife, Inspector Queen?" she murmured. Something sparkled in the depths of her fawn-brown eyes. Miss Ickthorpe, it was evident, had an idea and was taking heroic measures to suppress it.
"The wife?" snorted the Inspector. "God knows. She and Spargo separated, as I said, and she claims she didn't even know he'd come back from Africa. Says she was window-shopping this morning."
It was a small featureless hotel room, containing a bed, a wardrobe closet, a bureau, a night-table, a desk, and a chair. A dummy fireplace with a gas-log; an open door which led to a bathroom—nothing more.
Ellery dropped to his knees beside the body, Crane and Burrows trooping after with set faces. The Inspector sat down and watched with a humorless grin. Ellery turned the body over; his hands explored the rigid members, stiff in rigor mortis.
"Crane, Burrows, Miss Ickthorpe," he said sharply. "Might as well begin now. Tell me what you see—Miss Ickthorpe, you first." She jumped from the bed and ran around the dead man; he felt her hot unsteady breath on the back of his neck. "Well, well? Don't you see anything? Good lord, there's enough here, I should think."
Miss Ickthorpe licked her red lips and said in a strangled voice: "He—he's dressed in lounging-robe, carpet-slippers and—yes, silk underwear beneath."
"Yes. And black silk socks and garters. And the robe and underwear bear the dealer's label: Johnson's, Johannesburg, U.S.Afr. What else?"
"A wrist-watch on his left wrist. I think"—she leaned over and with the shrinking tip of a finger nudged the dead arm—"Yes, the watch crystal is cracked. Why, it's set at 10:20!"
"Good," said Ellery in a soft voice. "Dad, did Prouty examine the cadaver?"
"Yes," said the Inspector in a resigned voice. "Spargo died some time between 11:00 and 11:30, Doc says. I figure—"
Miss Ickthorpe's eyes were shining. "Doesn't that mean—?"
"Now, now, Miss Ickthorpe, if you have an idea keep it to yourself. Don't leap at conclusions. That's enough for you. Well, Crane?"
The young chemist's brow was ridged. He pointed to the watch, a large gaudy affair with a leather wrist-strap. "Man's watch. Concussion of fall stopped the works. Crease in leather strap at the second hole, where the prong now fits; but there's also a crease, a deeper one, at the third hole."
"That's really excellent, Crane. And?"
"Left hand splattered and splashed with dried blood. Left palm also shows stain, but fainter, as if he had grabbed something with his bloody hand and wiped most of the blood off. There ought to be something around here showing a red smudge from his clutching hand.... "
Excerpted from The Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen. Copyright © 1934 Ellery Queen. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.