Ellery Queen must solve one mystery per month in a year of chilling crime
Every new year, the seven remaining alumni of the first graduating class of Eastern University gather in Manhattan to reminisce. Within that group, there is a secret clique—the Inner Circle—forged around a crooked business arrangement, the profits of which will be collected by the last living member. When three of the Inner Circle die within a year, the remaining men fear for their lives. Just before Christmas, one of the survivors comes to the great detective Ellery Queen to beg for help. There are just a few days to save a life—and the university itself.
Even if Queen can get to the bottom of the Inner Circle, eleven more puzzles will greet him throughout the year. As Calendar of Crime flips onward, the detective will find that there is no off-season for murder.
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About the Author
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
Calendar of Crime
By Ellery Queen
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1951 Little, Brown and Company
All rights reserved.
THE ADVENTURE OF
The Inner Circle
If you are an Eastern alumnus who has not been to New York since last year's All-University Dinner, you will be astounded to learn that the famous pickled-pine door directly opposite the elevators on the thirteenth floor of your Alumni Club in Murray Hill is now inscribed: LINEN ROOM.
Visit The Alumni Club on your next trip to Manhattan and see for yourself. On the door now consigned to napery, in the area where the stainless steel medallion of Janus glistened for so long, you will detect a ghostly circumference some nine inches in diameter — all that is left of The Januarians. Your first thought will of course be that they have removed to more splendid quarters. Undeceive yourself. You may search from cellar to sundeck and you will find no crumb's trace of either Janus or his disciples.
Hasten to the Steward for an explanation and he will give you one as plausible as it will be false.
And you will do no better elsewhere.
The fact is, only a very few share the secret of The Januarians' obliteration, and these have taken a vow of silence. And why? Because Eastern is a young — a very young — temple of learning; and there are calamities only age can weather. There is more to it than even that. The cataclysm of events struck at the handiwork of the Architects themselves, that legendary band who builded the tabernacle and created the holy canons. So Eastern's shame is kept steadfastly covered with silence; and if we uncover its bloody stones here, it is only because the very first word on the great seal of Eastern University is: Veritas.
To a Harvard man, "Harvard '13" means little more than "Harvard '06" or "Harvard '79," unless "Harvard '13" happens to be his own graduating class. But to an Eastern man, of whatever vintage, "Eastern '13" is sui generis. Their names bite deep into the strong marble of The Alumni Club lobby. A member of the Class is traditionally The Honorable Mr. Honorary President of The Eastern Alumni Association. To the last man they carry gold, lifetime, non-cancelable passes to Eastern football games. At the All-University Dinner, Eastern '13 shares the Chancellor's parsley-decked table. The twined-elbow Rite of the Original Libation, drunk in foaming beer (the second most sacred canon), is dedicated to that Class and no other.
One may well ask why this exaltation of Eastern '13 as against, for example, Eastern '12, or Eastern '98? The answer is that there was no Eastern '12, and Eastern '98 never existed. For Eastern U. was not incorporated under the laws of the State of New York until A.D. 1909, from which it solemnly follows that Eastern '13 was the university's very first graduating class.
It was Charlie Mason who said they must be gods, and it was Charlie Mason who gave them Janus. Charlie was destined to forge a chain of one hundred and twenty-three movie houses which bring Abbott and Costello to millions; but in those days Charlie was a lean weaver of dreams, the Class Poet, an antiquarian with a passion for classical allusion. Eastern '13 met on the eve of graduation in the Private Party Room of McElvy's Brauhaus in Riverdale, and the air was boiling with pipe smoke, malt fumes, and motions when Charlie rose to make his historic speech.
"Mr. Chairman," he said to Bill Updike, who occupied the Temporary Chair. "Fellows," he said to the nine others. And he paused.
Then he said: "We are the First Alumni."
He paused again.
"The eyes of the future are on us." (Stan Jones was taking notes, as Recording Secretary of the Evening, and we have Charlie's address verbatim. You have seen it in The Alumni Club lobby, under glass. Brace yourself: It, too, has vanished.)
"What we do here tonight, therefore, will initiate a whole codex of Eastern tradition."
And now, the Record records, there was nothing to be heard in that smoky room but the whizz of the electric fan over the lithograph of Woodrow Wilson.
"I have no hesitation in saying — out loud! — that we men in this room, tonight ... that we're ... Significant. Not as individuals! But as the Class of '13." And then Charlie drew himself up and said quietly: "They will remember us and we must give them something to remember" (the third sacred canon).
"Such as?" said Morry Green, who was to die in a French ditch five years later.
"A sign," said Charlie. "A symbol, Morry — a symbol of our Firstness."
Eddie Temple, who was graduating eleventh in the Class, exhibited his tongue and blew a coarse, fluttery blast.
"That may be the sign you want to be remembered by, Ed," began Charlie crossly ...
"Shut up, Temple!" growled Vern Hamisher.
"Read that bird out of the party!" yelled Ziss Brown, who was suspected of holding radical views because his father had stumped for Teddy Roosevelt in '12.
"Sounds good," said Bill Updike, scowling. "Go on, Charlie."
"What sign?" demanded Rod Black.
"Anything specific in mind?" called Johnnie Cudwise.
Charlie said one word.
And he paused.
"Janus," they muttered, considering him.
"Yes, Janus," said Charlie. "The god of good beginnings —"
"Well, we're beginning," said Morry Green.
"Guaranteed to result in good endings —"
"It certainly applies," nodded Bill Updike.
"Yeah," said Bob Smith. "Eastern's sure on its way to big things."
"Janus of the two faces," cried Charlie Mason mystically. "I wish to point out that he looks in opposite directions!"
"Say, that's right —"
"The past and the future —"
"Smart stuff —"
"Go on, Charlie!"
"Janus," cried Charlie — "Janus, who was invoked by the Romans before any other god at the beginning of an important undertaking!"
"This is certainly important!"
"The beginning of the day, month, and year were sacred to him! Janus was the god of doorways!"
"JANUS!" they shouted, leaping to their feet; and they raised their tankards and drank deep.
And so from that night forward the annual meeting of the Class of '13 was held on Janus's Day, the first day of January; and the Class of '13 adopted, by unanimous vote, the praenomen of The Januarians. Thus the double-visaged god became patron of Eastern's posterity, and that is why until recently Eastern official stationery was impressed with his two-bearded profiles. It is also why the phrase "to be two-faced," when uttered by Columbia or N.Y.U. men, usually means "to be a student at, or a graduate of, Eastern U." — a development unfortunately not contemplated by Charlie Mason on that historic eve; at least, not consciously.
But let us leave the profounder explorations to psychiatry. Here it is sufficient to record that something more than thirty years later the phrase suddenly took on a grim verisimilitude; and The Januarians thereupon laid it, so to speak, on the doorstep of one well acquainted with such changelings of chance.
For it was during Christmas week of last year that Bill Updike came — stealthily — to see Ellery. He did not come as young Billy who had presided at the beery board in the Private Party Room of McElvy's Brauhaus on that June night in 1913. He came, bald, portly, and opulently engraved upon a card: Mr. William Updike, President of The Brokers National Bank of New York, residence Dike Hollow, Scarsdale; and he looked exactly as worried as bankers are supposed to look and rarely do.
"Business, business," said Nikki Porter, shaking her yuletide permanent. "It's Christmas week, Mr. Updike. I'm sure Mr. Queen wouldn't consider taking —"
But at that moment Mr. Queen emerged from his sanctum to give his secretary the lie.
"Nikki holds to the old-fashioned idea about holidays, Mr. Updike," said Ellery, shaking Bill's hand. "Ah, The Januarians. Isn't your annual meeting a few days from now — on New Year's Day?"
"How did you know —?" began the bank president.
"I could reply, in the manner of the Old Master," said Ellery with a chuckle, "that I've made an intensive study of lapel buttons, but truth compels me to admit that one of my best friends is Eastern '28 and he's described that little emblem on your coat so often I couldn't help but recognize it at once." The banker fingered the disk on his lapel nervously. It was of platinum, ringed with tiny garnets, and the gleaming circle enclosed the two faces of Janus. "What's the matter — is someone robbing your bank?"
"It's worse than that."
Nikki glared at Mr. Updike. Any hope of keeping Ellery's nose off the grindstone until January second was now merely a memory. But out of duty she began: "Ellery ..."
"At least," said Bill Updike tensely, "I think it's murder."
Nikki gave up. Ellery's nose was noticeably honed.
"It's sort of complicated," muttered the banker, and he began to fidget before Ellery's fire. "I suppose you know, Queen, that The Januarians began with only eleven men."
Ellery nodded. "The total graduating class of Eastern '13."
"It seems silly now, with Eastern's classes of three and four thousand, but in those days we thought it was all pretty important —"
"We were young. Anyway, World War I came along and we lost two of our boys right away — Morry Green and Buster Selby. So at our New Year's Day meeting in 1920 we were only nine. Then in the market collapse of '29 Vern Hamisher blew the top of his head off, and in 1930 John Cudwise, who was serving his first term in Congress, was killed in a plane crash on his way to Washington — you probably remember. So we've been just seven for many years now."
"And awfully close friends you must be," said Nikki, curiosity conquering pique.
"Well ..." began Updike, and he stopped, to begin over again. "For a long time now we've all thought it was sort of juvenile, but we've kept coming back to these damned New Year's Day meetings out of habit or — or something. No, that's not true. It isn't just habit. It's because ... it's expected of us." He flushed. "I don't know — they've — well — deified us." He looked bellicose, and Nikki swallowed a giggle hastily. "It's got on our nerves. I mean — well, damn it all, we're not exactly the 'close' friends you'd think!" He stopped again, then resumed in a sort of desperation: "See here, Queen. I've got to confess something. There's been a clique of us within The Januarians for years. We've called ourselves ... The Inner Circle."
"The what?" gasped Nikki.
The banker mopped his neck, avoiding their eyes. The Inner Circle, he explained, had begun with one of those dully devious phenomena of modern life known as a "business opportunity" — a business opportunity which Mr. Updike, a considerably younger Mr. Updike, had found himself unable to grasp for lack of some essential element, unnamed. Whatever it was that Mr. Updike had required, four other men could supply it; whereupon, in the flush of an earlier camaraderie, Updike had taken four of his six fellow-deities into his confidence, and the result of this was a partnership of five of the existing seven Januarians.
"There were certain business reasons why we didn't want our er ... names associated with the ah ... enterprise. So we organized a dummy corporation and agreed to keep our names out of it and the whole thing absolutely secret, even from our — from the remaining two Januarians. It's a secret from them to this day."
"Club within a club," said Nikki. "I think that's cute."
"All five of you in this — hrm! — Inner Circle," inquired Ellery politely, "are alive?"
"We were last New Year's Day. But since the last meeting of The Januarians ..." the banker glanced at Ellery's harmless windows furtively, "three of us have died. Three of The Inner Circle."
"And you suspect that they were murdered?"
"Yes. Yes, I do!"
"For what motive?"
The banker launched into a very involved and — to Nikki, who was thinking wistfully of New Year's Eve — tiresome explanation. It had something to do with some special fund or other, which seemed to have no connection with the commercial aspects of The Inner Circle's activities — a substantial fund by this time, since each year the five partners put a fixed percentage of their incomes from the dummy corporation into it. Nikki dreamed of balloons and noisemakers. "— now equals a reserve of around $200,000 worth of negotiable securities." Nikki stopped dreaming with a bump.
"What's the purpose of this fund, Mr. Updike?" Ellery was saying sharply. "What happens to it? When?"
"Well, er ... that's just it, Queen," said the banker. "Oh, I know what you'll think ..."
"Don't tell me," said Ellery in a terrible voice, "it's a form of tontine insurance plan, Updike — last survivor takes all?"
"Yes," whispered William Updike, looking for the moment like Billy Updike.
"I knew it!" Ellery jumped out of his fireside chair. "Haven't I told you repeatedly, Nikki, there's no fool like a banker? The financial mentality rarely rises above the age of eight, when life's biggest thrill is to pay five pins for admission to a magic-lantern show in Stinky's cellar. This hard-eyed man of money, whose business it is to deal in safe investments, becomes party to a melodramatic scheme whereby the only way you can recoup your ante is to slit the throats of your four partners. Inner Circles! Januarians!" Ellery threw himself back in his chair. "Where's this silly invitation to murder cached, Updike?"
"In a safe-deposit box at The Brokers National," muttered the banker.
"Your own bank. Very cosy for you," said Ellery.
"No, no, Mr. Queen, all five of us have keys to the box —"
"What happened to the keys of the three Inner Circleites who died this year?"
"By agreement, dead members' keys are destroyed in the presence of the survivors —"
"Then there are only two keys to that safe-deposit box now in existence; yours and the key in the possession of the only other living Inner Circular?"
"And you're afraid said sole-surviving associate murdered the deceased trio of your absurd quintet and has his beady eye on you, Updike? — so that as the last man alive of The Inner Circle he would fall heir to the entire $200,000 boodle?"
"What else can I think?" cried the banker.
"The obvious," retorted Ellery, "which is that your three pals traveled the natural route of all flesh. Is the $200,000 still in the box?"
"Yes. I looked just before coming here today."
"You want me to investigate."
"Yes, yes —"
"Very well. What's the name of this surviving fellow-conspirator of yours in The Inner Circle?"
"No," said Bill Updike.
"I beg pardon?"
"Suppose I'm wrong? If they were ordinary deaths, I'd have dragged someone I've known a hell of a long time into a mess. No, you investigate first, Mr. Queen. Find evidence of murder, and I'll go all the way."
"You won't tell me his name?"
The ghost of New Year's Eve stirred. But then Ellery grinned, and it settled back in the grave. Nikki sighed and reached for her notebook.
"All right, Mr. Updike. Who were the three Inner Circlovians who died this year?"
"Robert Carlton Smith, J. Stanford Jones, and Ziss Brown — Peter Zissing Brown."
"Bob Smith was head of the Kradle Kap Baby Foods Korporation. Stan Jones was top man of Jones-Jones-Mallison-Jones, the ad agency. Ziss Brown was retired."
Updike said stiffly: "Brassières."
"I suppose they do pall. Leave me the addresses of the executors, please, and any other data you think might be helpful."
When the banker had gone, Ellery reached for the telephone.
"Oh, dear," said Nikki. "You're not calling ... Club Bongo?"
"You know? New Year's Eve?"
"Heavens, no. My pal Eastern '28. Cully? ... The same to you. Cully, who are the four Januarians? Nikki, take this down ... William Updike — yes? ... Charles Mason? Oh, yes, the god who fashioned Olympus ... Rodney Black, Junior — um-hm ... and Edward I. Temple? Thanks, Cully. And now forget I called." Ellery hung up. "Black, Mason, and Temple, Nikki. The only Januarians alive outside of Updike. Consequently one of those three is Updike's last associate in The Inner Circle."
"And the question is which one."
"Bright girl. But first let's dig into the deaths of Smith, Jones, and Brown. Who knows? Maybe Updike's got something."
It took exactly forty-eight hours to determine that Updike had nothing at all. The deaths of Januarians-Inner Circlers Smith, Jones, and Brown were impeccable.
"Give it to him, Velie," said Inspector Queen at Headquarters the second morning after the banker's visit to the Queen apartment.
Sergeant Velie cleared his massive throat. "The Kradle Kap Baby Foods character —"
"Robert Carlton Smith."
"Rheumatic heart for years. Died in an oxygen tent after the third heart attack in eighteen hours, with three fancy medics in attendance and a secretary who was there to take down his last words."
"Which were probably 'Free Enterprise,'" said the Inspector.
"Go on, Sergeant!"
Excerpted from Calendar of Crime by Ellery Queen. Copyright © 1951 Little, Brown and Company. 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.
Table of Contents
ContentsJANUARY 1 The Inner Circle,
FEBRUARY 22 The President's Half Disme,
MARCH 15 The Ides of Michael Magoon,
APRIL 1 The Emperor's Dice,
MAY 30 The Gettysburg Bugle,
JUNE The Medical Finger,
JULY 4 The Fallen Angel,
AUGUST The Needle's Eye,
SEPTEMBER 3 The Three R's,
OCTOBER 31 The Dead Cat,
NOVEMBER 22 The Telltale Bottle,
DECEMBER 25 The Dauphin's Doll,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a good quick read.