Ephraim Tutt, Esq., never met a hard luck story he didn’t like. The rare lawyer happy to forego his fee, Tutt specializes in defending the downtrodden against the powerful and the corrupt. In Manhattan and his hometown of Pottsville, New York, he argues cases involving murder, forgery, and theft, always finding some arcane legal point to save the day—much to the chagrin of the prosecution. In this delightful collection, Tutt brings his sharp mind and genial wit to bear on the cases of the “Mock Hen and Mock Turtle,” the “Hepplewhite Tramp,” the “Lallapaloosa Limited,” and many others.
Based on author Arthur Train’s experiences working in the offices of the New York District Attorney, Tutt and Mr. Tutt is a must-read for fans of legal mysteries.
This ebook features a new introduction by Otto Penzler and has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.
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Tutt and Mr. Tutt
By Arthur Train
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 2015 Arthur Train
All rights reserved.
The Human Element
Although men flatter themselves with their great actions, they are not so often the result of great design as of chance.
— LA ROCHEFOUCAULD
"HE SAYS HE KILLED HIM, and that's all there is about it!" said Tutt to Mr. Tutt. "What are you going to do with a fellow like that?" The junior partner of the celebrated firm of Tutt & Tutt, attorneys and counselors at law, thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his yellow checked breeches and, balancing himself upon the heels of his patent-leather boots, gazed in a distressed, respectfully inquiring manner at his distinguished associate.
"Yes," he repeated plaintively. "He don't make any bones about it at all. 'Sure, I killed him!' says he. 'And I'd kill him again, the — —!' I prefer not to quote his exact language. I've just come from the Tombs and had quite a talk with Serafino in the counsel room, with a gum-chewing keeper sitting in the corner watching me for fear I'd slip his prisoner a saw file or a shotgun or a barrel of poison. I'm all in! These murder cases drive me to drink, Mr. Tutt. I don't mind grand larceny, forgery, assault or even manslaughter — but murder gets my goat! And when you have a crazy Italian for a client who says he's glad he did it and would like to do it again — please excuse me! It isn't law; it's suicide!"
He drew out a silk handkerchief ornamented with the colors of the Allies, and wiped his forehead despairingly.
"Oh," remarked Mr. Tutt with entire good nature. "He's glad he did it and he's quite willing to be hanged!"
"That's it in a nutshell!" replied Tutt.
The senior partner of Tutt & Tutt ran his bony fingers through the lank gray locks over his left eye and tilted ceilingward the stogy between his thin lips. Then he leaned back in his antique swivel chair, locked his hands behind his head, elevated his long legs luxuriously, and crossed his feet upon the fourth volume of the American and English Encyclopedia of Law, which lay open upon the desk at Champerty and Maintenance. Even in this inelegant and relaxed posture he somehow managed to maintain the air of picturesque dignity which always made his tall, ungainly figure noticeable in any courtroom. Indubitably Mr. Ephraim Tutt suggested a past generation, the suggestion being accentuated by a slight pedantry of diction a trifle out of character with the rushing age in which he saw fit to practise his time-honored profession. "Cheer up, Tutt," said he, pushing a box of stogies toward his partner with the toe of his congress boot. "Have a weed?"
Since in the office of Tutt & Tutt such an invitation like those of royalty, was equivalent to a command, Tutt acquiesced.
"Thank you, Mr. Tutt," said Tutt, looking about vaguely for a match.
"That conscienceless brat of a Willie steals 'em all," growled Mr. Tutt. "Ring the bell."
Tutt obeyed. He was a short, brisk little man with a pronounced abdominal convexity, and he maintained toward his superior, though but a few years his junior, a mingled attitude of awe, admiration and affection such as a dickey bird might adopt toward a distinguished owl.
This attitude was shared by the entire office force. Inside the ground glass of the outer door Ephraim Tutt was king. To Tutt the opinion of Mr. Tutt upon any subject whatsoever was law, even if the courts might have held to the contrary. To Tutt he was the eternal fount of wisdom, culture and morality. Yet until Mr. Tutt finally elucidated his views Tutt did not hesitate to hold conditional if temporary opinions of his own. Briefly their relations were symbolized by the circumstance that while Tutt always addressed his senior partner as "Mr. Tutt," the latter accosted him simply as "Tutt." In a word there was only one Mr. Tutt in the firm of Tutt & Tutt.
But so far as that went there was only one Tutt. On the theory that a lily cannot be painted, the estate of one seemingly was as dignified as that of the other. At any rate there never was and never had been any confusion or ambiguity arising out of the matter since the day, twenty years before, when Tutt had visited Mr. Tutt's law office in search of employment. Mr. Tutt was just rising into fame as a police-court lawyer. Tutt had only recently been admitted to the bar, having abandoned his native city of Bangor, Maine, for the metropolis.
"And may I ask why you should come to me?" Mr. Tutt had demanded severely from behind the stogy, which even at that early date had been as much a part of his facial anatomy as his long ruminative nose. "Why the devil should you come to me? I am nobody, sir — nobody! In this great city certainly there are thousands far more qualified than I to further your professional and financial advancement."
"Because," answered the inspired Tutt with modesty, "I feel that with you I should be associated with a good name."
That had settled the matter. They bore no relationship to one another, but they were the only Tutts in the city and there seemed to be a certain propriety in their hanging together. Neither had regretted it for a moment, and as the years passed they became indispensable to each other. They were the necessary component parts of a harmonious legal whole. Mr. Tutt was the brains and the voice, while Tutt was the eyes and legs of a combination that at intervals — rare ones, it must be confessed — made the law tremble, sometimes in fear and more often with joy.
At first, speaking figuratively, Tutt merely carried Mr. Tutt's bag — rode on his coat tails, as it were; but as time went on his activity, ingenuity and industry made him indispensable and led to a junior partnership. Tutt prepared the cases for Mr. Tutt to try. Both were well versed in the law if they were not profound lawyers, but as the origin of the firm was humble, their practise was of a miscellaneous character.
"Never turn down a case," was Tutt's motto.
"Our duty as sworn officers of the judicial branch of the Government renders it incumbent upon us to perform whatever services our clients' exigencies demand," was Mr. Tutt's way of putting it.
In the end it amounted to exactly the same thing. As a result, in addition to their own clientele, other members of the bar who found themselves encumbered with matters which for one reason or another they preferred not to handle formed the habit of turning them over to Tutt & Tutt. A never-ending stream of peculiar cases flowed through the office, each leaving behind it some residuum of golden dust, however small. The stately or, as an unkind observer might have put it, the ramshackly form of the senior partner was a constant figure in all the courts, from that of the coroner on the one hand to the appellate tribunals upon the other. It was immaterial to him what the case was about — whether it dealt with the "next eventual estate" or the damages for a dog bite — so long as he was paid and Tutt prepared it. Hence Tutt & Tutt prospered. And as the law, like any other profession requires jacks-of-all-trades, the firm acquired a certain peculiar professional standing of its own, and enjoyed the good will of the bar as a whole.
They had the reputation of being sound lawyers if not over afflicted with a sense of professional dignity, whose word was better than their bond, yet who, faithful to their clients' interests knew no mercy and gave no quarter. They took and pressed cases which other lawyers dared not touch lest they should be defiled — and nobody seemed to think any the less of them for so doing. They raised points that made the refinements of the ancient schoolmen seem blunt in comparison. No respecters of persons, they harried the rich and taunted the powerful, and would have as soon jailed a bishop or a judge as a pickpocket if he deserved it. Between them they knew more kinds of law than most of their professional brethren, and as Mr. Tutt was a bookworm and a seeker after legal and other lore their dusty old library was full of hidden treasures, which on frequent occasions were unearthed to entertain the jury or delight the bench. They were loyal friends, fearsome enemies, high chargers, and maintained their unique position in spite of the fact that at one time or another they had run close to the shadowy line which divides the ethical from that which is not. Yet Mr. Tutt had brought disbarment proceedings against many lawyers in his time and — what is more — had them disbarred.
"Leave old Tutt alone," was held sage advice, and when other lawyers desired to entertain the judiciary they were apt to invite Mr. Tutt to be of the party. And Tutt gloried in the glories of Mr. Tutt.
"That's it!" repeated Tutt as he lit his stogy, which flared up like a burning bush, the cub of a Willie having foraged successfully in the outer office for a match. "He's willing to be hanged or damned or anything else just for the sake of putting a bullet through the other fellow!"
"What was the name of the unfortunate deceased?"
"Tomasso Crocedoro — a barber."
"That is almost a defense in itself," mused Mr. Tutt. "Anyhow, if I've got to defend Angelo for shooting Tomasso you might as well give me a short scenario of the melodrama. By the way, are we retained or assigned by the court?"
"Assigned," chirped Tutt.
"So that all we'll get out of it is about enough to keep me in stogies for a couple of months!"
"And — if he's convicted, as of course he will be — a good chance of losing our reputation as successful trial counsel. Why not beg off?"
"Let me hear the story first," answered Mr. Tutt. "Angelo sounds like a good sport. I have a mild affection for him already."
He reached into the lower compartment of his desk and lifted out a tumbler and a bottle of malt extract, which he placed carefully at his elbow. Then he leaned back again expectantly.
"It is a simple and naive story," began Tutt, seating himself in the chair reserved for paying clients — that is to say, one which did not have the two front legs sawed off an inch or so in order to make lingering uncomfortable. "A plain, unvarnished tale. Our client is one who makes an honest living by blacking shoes near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. He is one of several hundred original Tonys who conduct shoe-shining emporiums."
"Emporia," corrected his partner, pouring out a tumbler of malt extract.
"He formed an attachment for a certain young lady," went on Tutt, undisturbed, "who had previously had some sort of love affair with Crocedoro, as a result of which her social standing had become slightly impaired. In a word Tomasso jilted her. Angelo saw, pitied and loved her, took her for better or for worse, and married her."
"For which," interjected Mr. Tutt, "he is entitled to everyone's respect."
"Quite so!" agreed Tutt. "Now Tomasso, though not willing to marry the girl himself, seems to have resented the idea of having anyone else do so, and accordingly seized every opportunity which presented itself to twit Angelo about the matter."
"Dog in the manger, so to speak," nodded Mr. Tutt.
"He not only jeered at Angelo for marrying Rosalina but he began to hang about his discarded mistress again and scoff at her choice of a husband. But Rosalina gave him the cold shoulder, with the result that he became more and more insulting to Angelo. Finally one day our client made up his mind not to stand it any longer, secured a revolver, sought out Tomasso in his barber shop and put a bullet through his head. Now however much you may sympathize with Angelo as a man and a husband there isn't the slightest doubt that he killed Tomasso with every kind of deliberation and premeditation."
"If the case is as you say," replied Mr. Tutt, replacing the bottle and tumbler within the lower drawer and flicking a stogy ash from his waistcoat, "the honorable justice who handed it to us is no friend of ours."
"He isn't," assented his partner. "It was Babson and he hates Italians. Moreover, he stated in open court that he proposed to try the case himself next Monday and that we must be ready without fail."
"So Babson did that to us!" growled Mr. Tutt. "Just like him. He'll pack the jury and charge our innocent Angelo into the middle of hades."
"And O'Brien is the assistant district attorney in charge of the prosecution," mildly added Tutt. "But what can we do? We're assigned, we've got a guilty client, and we've got to defend him."
"Have you set Bonnie Doon looking up witnesses?" asked Mr. Tutt. "I thought I saw him outside during the forenoon."
"Yes," replied Tutt. "But Bonnie says it's the toughest case he ever had to handle in which to find any witnesses for the defense. There aren't any. Besides, the girl bought the gun and gave it to Angelo the same day."
"How do you know that?" demanded Mr. Tutt, frowning.
"Because she told me so herself," said Tutt. "She's outside if you want to see her."
"I might as well give her what you call 'the once over,'" replied the senior partner.
Tutt retired and presently returned half leading, half pushing a shrinking young Italian woman, shabbily dressed but with the features of one of Raphael's madonnas. She wore no hat and her hands and finger nails were far from clean, but from the folds of her black shawl her neck rose like a column of slightly discolored Carrara marble, upon which her head with its coils of heavy hair was poised with the grace of a sulky empress.
"Come in, my child, and sit down," said Mr. Tutt kindly. "No, not in that one; in that one." He indicated the chair previously occupied by his junior. "You can leave us, Tutt. I want to talk to this young lady alone."
The girl sat sullenly with averted face, showing in her attitude her instinctive feeling that all officers of the law, no matter upon which side they were supposed to be, were one and all engaged in a mysterious conspiracy of which she and her unfortunate Angelo were the victims. A few words from the old lawyer and she began to feel more confidence, however. No one, in fact, could help but realize at first glance Mr. Tutt's warmth of heart. The lines of his sunken cheeks if left to themselves automatically tended to draw together into a whimsical smile, and it required a positive act of will upon his part to adopt the stern and relentless look with which he was wont to glower down upon some unfortunate witness in cross-examination.
Inside Mr. Tutt was a benign and rather mellow old fellow, with a dry sense of humor and a very keen knowledge of his fellow men. He made a good deal of money, but not having any wife or child upon which to lavish it he spent it all either on books or surreptitiously in quixotic gifts to friends or strangers whom he either secretly admired or whom he believed to be in need of money. There were vague traditions in the office of presents of bizarre and quite impossible clothes made to office boys and stenographers; of ex-convicts reoutfitted and sent rejoicing to foreign parts; of tramps gorged to repletion and then pumped dry of their adventures in Mr. Tutt's comfortable, dingy old library; of a fur coat suddenly clapped upon the rounded shoulders of old Scraggs, the antiquated scrivener in the accountant's cage in the outer office, whose alcoholic career, his employer alleged, was marked by a trail of empty rum kegs, each one flying the white flag of surrender.
And yet old Ephraim Tutt could on occasion be cold as chiseled steel, and as hard. Any appeal from a child, a woman or an outcast always met with his ready response; but for the rich, successful and those in power he seemed to entertain a deep and enduring grudge. He would burn the midnight oil with equal zest to block a crooked deal on the part of a wealthy corporation or to devise a means to extricate some no less crooked rascal from the clutches of the law, provided that the rascal seemed the victim of hard luck, inheritance or environment. His weather-beaten conscience was as elastic as his heart. Indeed when under the expansive influence of a sufficient quantity of malt extract or ancient brandy from the cellaret on his library desk he had sometimes been heard to enunciate the theory that there was very little difference between the people in jail and those who were not.
He would work weeks without compensation to argue the case of some guilty rogue before the Court of Appeals, in order, as he said, to "settle the law," when his only real object was to get the miserable fellow out of jail and send him back to his wife and children. He went through life with a twinkling eye and a quizzical smile, and when he did wrong he did it — if such a thing is possible — in a way to make people better. He was a dangerous adversary and judges were afraid of him, not because he ever tricked or deceived them but because of the audacity and novelty of his arguments which left them speechless. He had the assurance that usually comes with age and with a lifelong knowledge of human nature, yet apparently he had always been possessed of it.
Excerpted from Tutt and Mr. Tutt by Arthur Train. Copyright © 2015 Arthur Train. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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Table of Contents
The Human Element,
Mock Hen and Mock Turtle,
Samuel and Delilah,
The Dog Andrew,
Wile Versus Guile,