A Study in Terror

A Study in Terror

by Ellery Queen

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504017138
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 151
Sales rank: 137,727
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905–1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age “fair play” mystery.
 
Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that was later published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.
Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905–1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age “fair play” mystery. Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that would eventually be published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.

Read an Excerpt

A Study in Terror


By Ellery Queen

MysterousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media

Copyright © 1966 Ellery Queen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1713-8


CHAPTER 1

THE SURGEON'S-KIT


"You are quite right, Watson. The Ripper may well be a woman."

It was a crisp morning in the autumn of the year 1888. I was no longer residing permanently at No. 221B, Baker Street. Having married, and thus become weighted with the responsibility of providing for a wife — a most delightful responsibility — I had gone into practice. Thus, the intimate relationship with my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes had dwindled to occasional encounters.

On Holmes's side, these consisted of what he mistakenly termed "impositions upon your hospitality," when he required my services as an assistant or a confidant. "You have such a patient ear, my dear fellow," he would say, a preamble which always brought me pleasure, because it meant that I might again be privileged to share in the danger and excitement of another chase. Thus, the thread of my friendship with the great detective remained intact.

My wife, the most understanding of women, accepted this situation like Griselda. Those who have been so constant to my inadequate accounts of Mr. Sherlock Holmes's cases of detection will remember her as Mary Morstan, whom I providentially met while I was involved, with Holmes, in the case I have entitled The Sign of Four. As devoted a wife as any man could boast, she had patiently left me to my own devices on too many long evenings, whilst I perused my notes on Holmes's old cases.

One morning at breakfast, Mary said, "This letter is from Aunt Agatha."

I laid down my newspaper. "From Cornwall?"

"Yes, the poor dear. Spinsterhood has made her life a lonely one. Now her doctor has ordered her to bed."

"Nothing serious, I trust."

"She gave no such indication. But she is in her late seventies, and one never knows."

"Is she completely alone?"

"No. She has Beth, my old nanny, with her, and a man to tend the premises."

"A visit from her favourite niece would certainly do her more good than all the medicine in the world."

"The letter does include an invitation — a plea, really — but I hesitated ..."

"I think you should go, Mary. A fortnight in Cornwall would benefit you also. You have been a little pale lately."

This statement of mine was entirely sincere; but another thought, a far darker one, coloured it. I ventured to say that, upon that morning in 1888, every responsible man in London would have sent his wife, or sister, or sweetheart, away, had the opportunity presented itself. This, for a single, all-encompassing reason. Jack the Ripper prowled the night-streets and dark alleys of the city.

Although our quiet home in Paddington was distant in many ways from the Whitechapel haunts of the maniac, who could be certain? Logic went by the boards where the dreadful monster was concerned.

Mary was thoughtfully folding the envelope. "I don't like to leave you here alone, John."

"I assure you I'll be quite all right."

"But a change would do you good, too, and there seems to be a lull in your practice."

"Are you suggesting that I accompany you?"

Mary laughed. "Good heavens, no! Cornwall would bore you to tears. Rather that you pack a bag and visit your friend Sherlock Holmes. You have a standing invitation at Baker Street, as well I know."

I am afraid my objections were feeble. Her suggestion was a most alluring one. So, with Mary off to Cornwall and arrangements relative to my practice quickly made, the transition was achieved; to Holmes's satisfaction, I flatter myself in saying, as well as to my own.

It was surprising how easily we fell into the well-remembered routine. Even though I knew I could never again be satisfied with the old life, my renewed proximity to Holmes was delightful. Which brings me, in somewhat circuitous fashion, back to Holmes's remark out of the blue. He went on, "The possibility of a female monster cannot by any means be ignored."

It was the same old cryptic business, and I must confess that I was slightly annoyed. "Holmes! In the name of all that's holy, I gave no indication whatever that such a thought was passing through my mind."

Holmes smiled, enjoying the game. "Ah, but confess, Watson. It was."

"Very well. But —"

"And you are quite wrong in saying that you gave no indication of your trend of thought."

"But I was sitting here quietly — motionless, in fact! — reading my Times."

"Your eyes and your head were far from motionless, Watson. As you read, your eyes were trained on the extreme left-hand column of the newspaper, that which contains an account of Jack the Ripper's latest atrocity. After a time, you turned your gaze away from the story, frowning in anger. The thought that such a monster should be able to roam London's streets with impunity was clearly evident."

"That is quite true."

"Then, my dear fellow, your eyes, seeking a resting-place, fell upon that copy of the Strand Magazine lying beside your chair. It happens to be open to an advertisement in which Beldell's is offering ladies' evening gowns at what they purport to be a bargain-price. One of the gowns in the advertisement is displayed upon a model. Instantly, your expression changed; it became reflective. An idea had dawned upon you. The expression persisted as you raised your head and re-directed your gaze towards the portrait of her Majesty which hangs beside the fireplace. After a moment, your expression cleared, and you nodded to yourself. You had become satisfied with the idea that had come to you. At which point, I agreed. The Ripper could well be a female."

"But Holmes —"

"Come, now, Watson. Your retirement from the lists has dulled your perceptions."

"But when I glanced at the Strand advertisement, I could have had any of a dozen thoughts!"

"I disagree. Your mind was totally occupied with the story of the Ripper, and surely the advertisement concerning ladies' evening gowns was too far afield from your ordinary interests to divert your thoughts. Therefore, the idea that came to you had to be adjunct to your ponderings upon the monster. You verified this by raising your eyes to the Queen's portrait upon the wall."

"May I ask how that indicated my thought?" asked I, tartly.

"Watson! You certainly saw neither the model nor our gracious Queen as suspects. Therefore, you were scrutinising them as women."

"Granted," I retorted, "but would I not have been more likely to regard them as victims?"

"In that case, your expression would have reflected compassion, rather than that of a bloodhound come suddenly upon the scent."

I was forced to confess defeat. "Holmes, again you destroy yourself by your own volubility."

Holmes's heavy brows drew together. "I do not follow."

"Imagine what an image you would create were you to refuse all explanations of your amazing deductions!"

"But at what expense," said he, drily, "to your melodramatic accounts of my trifling adventures."

I threw up my hands in surrender; and Holmes, who rarely indulged in more than a smile, on this occasion echoed my hearty laughter.

"So long as the subject of Jack the Ripper has arisen," said I, "allow me a further question. Why have you not interested yourself in the grisly affair, Holmes? If for no other reason, it would be a signal service to London."

Holmes's long, thin fingers made an impatient gesture. "I have been busy. As you know, I returned from the Continent only recently, where the mayor of a certain city retained me to solve a most curious riddle. Knowing your turn of mind, I presume you would call it The Case of the Legless Cyclist. One day I shall give you the details for your files."

"I shall be delighted to get them! But you are back in London, Holmes, and this monster is terrorising the city. I should think you would feel obligated —"

Holmes scowled. "I am obligated to no one."

"Pray do not misunderstand me —"

"I'm sorry, my dear Watson, but you should know me well enough to assume my total indifference towards such a case."

"At the risk of appearing more dense than most of my neighbours —"

"Consider! When given a choice, have I not always sought out problems of an intellectual character? Have I not always been drawn to adversaries of stature? Jack the Ripper, indeed! What possible challenge could this demented oaf present? A slavering cretin roaming the streets after dark, striking at random."

"He has baffled the London Police."

"I venture to suggest that that may reflect the shortcomings of Scotland Yard rather than any particular cleverness on the part of the Ripper."

"But still —"

"The thing will end soon enough. I daresay that one of these nights Lestrade will trip over the Ripper while the maniac is in the process of committing a murder, and thus bring him triumphantly to book."

Holmes was chronically annoyed with Scotland Yard for not measuring up to his own stern efficiency; for all his genius, he could be childishly obstinate on such occasions. But further comment from me was cut off by the ringing of the downstairs bell. There was a slight delay; then we heard Mrs. Hudson ascending, and it was with astonishment that I observed her entrance. She was carrying a brown paper parcel and a pail of water, and she wore an expression of sheer fright.

Holmes burst out laughing for the second time that morning. "It's quite all right, Mrs. Hudson. The package appears harmless enough. I'm sure we shall not need the water."

Mrs. Hudson breathed a sigh of relief. "If you say so, Mr. Holmes. But since that last experience, I was taking no chances."

"And your alertness is to be commended," said Holmes, as he took the parcel. After his long-suffering landlady left, he added, "Just recently, Mrs. Hudson brought me a parcel. It was in connection with an unpleasant little affair I brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and it was sent by a vengeful gentleman who under-estimated the keenness of my hearing. The ticking of the mechanism was quite audible to me, and I called for a pail of water. The incident gave Mrs. Hudson a turn from which she has still not recovered."

"I don't wonder!"

"But what have we here? Hmmm. Approximately fifteen inches by six. Four inches thick. Neatly wrapped in ordinary brown paper. Post-mark, Whitechapel. The name and address written by a woman, I should hazard, who seldom puts pen to paper."

"That seems quite likely, from the clumsy scrawl. And that is certainly done in a woman's hand."

"Then we agree, Watson. Excellent! Shall we delve deeper?"

"By all means!"

The arrival of the parcel had aroused his interest, not to mention mine; his deep-set grey eyes grew bright when he removed the wrappings and drew forth a flat leather case. He held it up for my inspection. "Well, now. What do you make of this, Watson?"

"It is a surgeon's instrument-case."

"And who would be better qualified to know? Would you not say also that it is expensive?"

"Yes. The leather is of superb quality. And the workmanship is exquisite."

Holmes set the case upon the table. He opened it, and we fell silent. It was a standard set of instruments, each fitting snugly into its appropriate niche in the crimson-velvet lining of the case. One niche was empty.

"Which instrument is missing, Watson?"

"The large scalpel."

"The post-mortem knife," said Holmes, nodding and whipping out his lens. "And now, what does this case tell us?" As he examined the case and its contents closely, he went on. "To begin with the obvious, these instruments belonged to a medical man who came upon hard times."

Obliged, as usual, to confess my blindness, I said, "I am afraid that is more obvious to you than to me."

Preoccupied with his inspection, Holmes replied absently, "If you should fall victim to misfortune, Watson, which would be the last of your possessions to reach the pawnbroker's shop?"

"My medical instruments, of course. But —"

"Precisely."

"Wherein do you perceive that this case was pledged?"

"There is double proof. Observe, just there, through my lens."

I peered at the spot he indicated. "A white smudge."

"Silver-polish. No surgeon would cleanse his instruments with such a substance. These have been treated like common cutlery by someone concerned only with their appearance."

"Now that you point it out, Holmes, I must agree. And what is your second proof?"

"These chalk-marks along the spine of the case. They are almost worn away, but if you will examine them closely, you will see that they constitute a number. Such a number as a pawnbroker would chalk upon a pledged article. Obviously, the counterpart of the number upon the pawn-ticket."

I felt the choler rising to my face. It was all too evident to me now.

"Then the kit was stolen!" I exclaimed. "Stolen from some surgeon, and disposed of, for a pittance, in a pawnshop!" My readers will forgive my indignation, I am sure; it was difficult for me to accept the alternative — that the practitioner would have parted with the instruments of a noble calling under even the most grievous circumstances.

Holmes, however, soon disillusioned me. "I fear, my dear Watson," said he, quite cheerfully, "that you do not perceive the finer aspects of the evidence. Pawnbrokers are a canny breed. It is part of their stock-in-trade not only to appraise the articles brought to them for pledge, but the persons offering them as well. Had the broker who dispensed his largesse for this surgical case entertained the slightest suspicion that it had been stolen, he would not have displayed it in his shop-window, as of course you observe he has done."

"As of course I do not!" said I, testily. "How can you possibly know that the case has been displayed in a window?"

"Look closely," said Holmes. "The case lay open in a place exposed to the sun; does not the faded velvet on the inner surface of the lid tell us that? Moreover, the pronounced character of the fading marks the time-span as an appreciable one. Surely this adds up to a shop-window?"

I could only nod. As always, when Holmes explained his astonishing observations, they appeared child's-play.

"It is a pity," said I, "that we do not know where the pawnshop lies. This curious gift might merit a visit to its source."

"Perhaps in good time, Watson," said Holmes, with a dry chuckle. "The pawnshop in question is well off the beaten track. It faces south, on a narrow street. The broker's business is not flourishing. Also, he is of foreign extraction. Surely you see that?"

"I see nothing of the sort!" said I, nettled again.

"To the contrary," said he, placing his finger-tips together and regarding me kindly, "you see everything, my dear Watson; what you fail to do is to observe. Let us take my conclusions in order. These instruments were not snatched up by any of the numerous medical students in the City of London, which would assuredly have been the case had the shop lain on a well-travelled thoroughfare. Hence my remark that it lies off the beaten track."

"But why must it face south on a narrow street?"

"Note the location of the bleached area. It runs neatly along the uppermost edge of the velvet lining, not elsewhere. Therefore, the sun touched the open case only at its zenith, when its rays were not obstructed by the buildings on the opposite side of the street. Thus the pawnshop stands on the north side of a narrow street."

"And your observation of the pawnbroker as of foreign extraction?"

"Observe the numeral seven in the chalked pledge-mark on the spine. There is a short cross-mark on the ascender. Only a foreigner crosses his sevens in such a fashion."

I felt, as usual, like a fifth-form school-boy who had forgotten the words to the national anthem. "Holmes, Holmes," said I, shaking my head, "I shall never cease to marvel —"

But he was not listening. Again, he had stooped over the case, inserting his tweezers beneath the velvet lining. It gave way, and he peeled it off.

"Aha! What have we here? An attempt at concealment?"

"Concealment? Of what? Stains? Scratches?"

He pointed a long, thin finger. "That."

"Why, it's a coat of arms!"

"One with which I confess I am not familiar. Therefore, Watson, be kind enough to hand me down my copy of Burke's Peerage."

He continued to study the crest as I moved dutifully towards the bookshelves, murmuring to himself. "Stamped into the leather of the case. The surface is still in excellent condition." He came erect. "A clue to the character of the man who owned the case."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Study in Terror by Ellery Queen. Copyright © 1966 Ellery Queen. Excerpted by permission of MysterousPress.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.

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