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First published in:
Britannia and Eve, Sep 1933

Reprinted in:

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (US), Mar 1946 and Jul 1960

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine,
Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces, Mar 1946

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (Australia), Nov 1947 and Sep 1960

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (UK), Feb 1961

Ellery Queen's Anthology No. 13, 1967, and No. 60, 1989

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-01-20
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All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (US), Mar 1946
with a reprint of "The Perfect Plan"

EVERY public man has his enemies, but few of these enemies would wish to murder him, or are in a position to do so in any case. Sir George Winthrop-Dunster, however, was unfortunate in these respects. He had his enemies, and one of them, his secretary, both wished to murder him, and did so.

Sir George, as chairman of the Anglo-Oceanic group of companies, was what is called "a well-known figure in the City." He belonged to the modern school of financiers who instead of being fat, heavy-jowled, gold-ringed, and white-spatted, look more like overgrown public-school prefects. He was fifty-five, played energetic squash-rackets, wore neat lounge suits, and as often as not lunched in a pub off a glass of sherry and a ham sandwich.

Scarsdale, his private secretary, was not unlike him in physique, but nearly a quarter of a century younger. With a First in Greats at Oxford and a B.Sc. Econ. of London, he was well equipped to deal with the numerous complications of Sir George's affairs, and for five years he had given every satisfaction. Well, almost. Just one little rift had once appeared—in 1928, when Scarsdale had rashly bought Amal. Zincs in greater quantities than he had cash to pay for. He had not exactly pledged Sir George's credit in the transaction, but he had made use of Sir George's stockbroker, and when the account finished with Amal. Zincs well down, it was to Sir George that he had perforce to confess the little mishap. A hundred pounds more than covered everything, and Sir George wrote a check instantly. He did not lecture, or even rebuke; he merely specified arrangements by which the sum could be repaid out of Scarsdale's monthly salary.

This amounted to three hundred a year, and within two years the debt had been fully repaid, plus interest at 5 per cent. No other unfortunate incident had occurred, and the relations between the two men seemed as good as ever. Then, in 1930, Scarsdale received a tentative offer of a better post. It was an important one, and his prospective employer, purely as a matter of routine, wished to effect a fidelity insurance for which a testimonial from Sir George would be necessary.

When Scarsdale approached Sir George about this, the financier talked to him with all the suavity he usually reserved for shareholders' meetings. "My dear Scarsdale," he replied, in his curiously high-pitched voice, "I have no objection whatever to your leaving me, but I have, I admit, a certain reluctance to putting my name to any statement that is not absolutely correct. Take this question, for instance: 'Have you always found him to be strictly honest and reliable while in your service?' Now, my truthful reply to that would be: 'With one exception, yes.' Do you think that would help you?"

Obviously it would have been worse than no reply at all, and in default of the required testimonial the offer of the job fell through, and Scarsdale remained Sir George's secretary. Sir George, no doubt, congratulated himself on having secured a permanently good bargain. He was that kind of a man.

But had he known it, he was really much less to be congratulated. For just as Sir George was that kind of a man, so Scarsdale was another kind, equally rare perhaps.

IT was not until a year had passed that Scarsdale decided that the time had come to murder Sir George. During the interval he had come to regard the matter with something of the detachment of the chess player; indeed, the problem had rather comforted than worried him amid the botherations of a secretary's life. He had always, since his school days, been interested in the science of crime, and never for a moment did he doubt his own capacity to do the job; it was merely a question of waiting until the perfect moment offered itself. That moment seemed to him to be arriving in February 1931—his choice being determined by two fortuitous circumstances—(1) that at 8 P.M. on Saturday the 22nd, Sir George was to deliver a broadcast talk on "Post-War Monetary Policy," and (2) that immediately after the talk, which was to be given from the London studio, he intended to travel to Banbury to spend the weekend with his brother Richard.

On the morning of the 22nd Scarsdale awoke at his usual time at Bramstock Towers, Berkshire. It was a pleasant establishment, surrounded by a large and well-wooded estate, and Scarsdale, glancing through the window as he dressed, was glad to see that there had been no rain during the night and that the weather was fine and cold.

Sir George always breakfasted in his bedroom, and did not meet his secretary until ten o'clock, in the library. By this time Scarsdale had, as usual, been at work for an hour or so opening letters and typing replies for Sir George's signature. After an exchange of good mornings, Sir George made a very customary announcement. "I'll just look through these letters, Scarsdale; then we'll take a turn round the garden while I tell you about my wireless talk tonight. I want you to prepare a few notes for me..."

"Certainly, Sir George," replied Scarsdale. A great piece of luck, for the after-breakfast tour of the estate, though almost an institution in fine weather, might just, for one reason or another, have been foregone.

The men were soon dressed for outdoors and strolling briskly across the terrace towards the woods—the usual gambit, Scarsdale observed, with continuing satisfaction. Sir George meanwhile divided his attention between the garden and his impending radio talk. "You see, Scarsdale, I want those figures about the American Federal Reserve note issue... Ah, that cupressus macrocarpa seems to be doing nicely... And a month-to-month table of Wall Street brokers' loans..." And so on, till they were deep in the woods, over half a mile from the house. The thickets, even in mid-winter, were very dark. "I want your notes by three at the latest, so that I can catch the 3:50 from Lincott and work up my talk in the train... Ah, just look at that—Fanning really ought to notice these things. Confound the fellow!"

Fanning was the head gardener, and "that" was nothing more dreadful than an old kettle under a bush. But to Sir George it was serious enough, for if there were one thing that annoyed him more than another it was the suggestion of trespassers on his land. "Why the devil don't Fanning and his men keep their eyes open?" he exclaimed crossly; but in that he did Fanning an injustice, since the kettle had not been there more than a few hours; Scarsdale, in fact, had placed it there himself the evening before.

Suddenly Scarsdale cried: "Why, look there, sir—the door of the hut's open! A tramp, I suppose. Wonder if he's still inside, by any chance."

At this point Sir George began to behave precisely as Scarsdale had guessed and hoped he would. He left the path and strode vehemently amid the trees and undergrowth towards the small square erection just visible in the near distance. "By Jove, Scarsdale," he shouted, "if I do catch the fellow, I'll teach him a lesson."

"Yes, rather," agreed Scarsdale.

Striding together through the less and less penetrable thickets, they reached the hut at last. It was built of grey stone, with a stout wooden door—the whole edifice intended originally as a sort of summer-house, but long disused. For years it had functioned at rare intervals as a store place for sawn-up logs; but now, as Scarsdale entered it, it proved empty even of them. Nor was there a tramp in it, either. "He must have gone, sir," said Scarsdale, pulling wide open the half-gaping door. "Though it does look as if he's left a few relics... I say, sir, what do you make of this?" He waited for Sir George to enter. "Damnation, that's my last match gone! Have you a match, Sir George?"

As Sir George began to fumble in his pocket in the almost complete darkness Scarsdale added: "I say, sir, you've dropped something—your handkerchief, I think."

Sir George stooped, and at the same instant Scarsdale shot him neatly through the head with a small automatic pistol which he had that very morning abstracted from the drawer of the Boule cabinet in Sir George's private study.

Afterwards, still wearing gloves, of course, he placed the weapon by the side of the dead man, closed the door carefully from the outside, and walked away.

ALL murders—all enterprises of any kind, in fact—carry with their accomplishment a certain minimum of risk; and at this point, as Scarsdale had all along recognized, the risks began. Fortunately, they were very small ones. The hut was isolated and only rarely visited; Fanning and his men were not interested in it at all and the whole incident of the visiting tramp had been a mere invention to lure Sir George to the spot. Scarsdale felt reasonably sure that the body would remain undiscovered until a deliberate search were made.

Leaving the woods, he returned to the house by way of the garages. There he took out his two-seater car, drove it round to the front of the house, and had a friendly chat with Wilkes, the butler. "Oh, Wilkes, would you mind bringing down Sir George's suitcase? He's decided to go right on to town immediately, so he won't be in to lunch. He's walking over to Lincott through the fields... Oh, and you might label the bag for Banbury—I've got to get it sent off at the station."

"Will you be returning to lunch yourself, sir?"

"Oh, yes."

"Very good, sir."

LINCOTT, which Scarsdale reached through winding lanes within a quarter of an hour, was a middle-sized village with a large and important railway junction. There were three facts about Lincott that were, from Scarsdale's point of view, fortunate—(1) its railway station was large, frequented, and badly lit; (2) there were convenient expresses to London, as well as a late "down" train at night; and (3) Sir George's estate offered a pleasant short cut to the village, a short cut which Sir George was fond of traversing on foot and alone, even after dark.

Scarsdale drove direct to the junction and left the suitcase for despatch to Banbury, whence it would be forwarded immediately to the house of Sir George's brother. Then he proceeded to a neighboring garage, arranged to leave his car until called for, and asked to use the telephone. Ringing up the Towers, he had a second amiable talk with Wilkes. "Oh, hullo, Wilkes—this is Scarsdale speaking—from Lincott. Sir George has slightly changed his plans again—or rather my plans. He wants me to go along to town with him right away. Yes... Yes... I'm leaving my car here... Yes, that's what I want to tell you—I've decided that as I'm going to town I may as well spend the weekend there at my club... I'll be back on Tuesday, you know... Yes... Good-bye..."

Scarsdale then walked to the junction, booked a third-class single ticket to Paddington, and caught the 1 P.M. train. At Paddington he did several things. First he went to the local booking-office and purchased a third-class single ticket to Ealing. Then he took a snack at a nearby A.B.C. shop, and about 3 P.M. travelled by omnibus to the bank, whence he walked to the Anglo-Oceanic offices in Bishopsgate. There he met several people whom he knew very well, chatted with them affably, and busied himself for some time in Sir George's private office. "Yes, Sir George is in town, but he's very busy—I don't suppose you'll see him here today." Williamson, one of the head-office people, grinned. "Yes, he's busy," Scarsdale repeated, faintly returning the grin. They both knew that there were aspects of Sir George's life that had nothing to do with the Anglo-Oceanic companies. "Taking her to the theatre, eh?" queried Williamson.

"More likely to the cinema," returned Scarsdale. "He's not free tonight, anyhow—he's got a date at the B.B.C.—and left me the devil's own pile of work to finish, too."

It was quite natural, therefore, that Scarsdale should still be at work in Sir George's private office when Williamson and the rest of the staff left. At 6 P.M., by which time the huge office building was tenantless, Scarsdale, having previously made fast the door on the inside, turned to a little job that he had not cared to tackle before. Opening the safe by means of the combination, he carefully abstracted certain documents—to be precise, South American bearer bonds to the value of between thirty and forty thousand pounds. How odd, he reflected, that Sir George, who would not give him a simple testimonial of honesty, had never scrupled to leave the keys and combination of his private safe in an unlocked bureau drawer at the Towers!

LEAVING the Anglo-Oceanic offices about 6:30 P.M., Scarsdale took an omnibus to Piccadilly Circus and entered a cinema that was showing a film so remarkably bad that in the five-and- ninepenny seats he had almost an entire row to himself at that early hour of the evening. There and then, in the surrounding gloom, he managed to transform himself into a fairly credible impersonation of Sir George Winthrop-Dunster. In build and dress they were rather similar: nothing else was required but a few touches of grease-paint, a false moustache, and the adjustment of Sir George's characteristic type of horn-rimmed spectacles. The disguise would have deceived anyone who did not know Sir George intimately.

Scarsdale left the cinema about 7:30, choosing the middle of a film. A few moments in a telephone booth enabled him, with the help of a pocket-mirror, to make good any small deficiencies in his quick change. It had all, so far, been delightfully easy. At 7:55 he took a taxi to the old B.B.C. headquarters in Savoy Hill.

NEITHER he nor Sir George had ever broadcast before, and Scarsdale was quite genuinely interested in the experience. In the reception room he had an amiable chat with one of the studio officials, and found no difficulty at all in keeping up the character and impersonation of Sir George. Indeed he not only talked and behaved like Sir George, but he found himself even thinking as Sir George would have thought—which was rather horrible.

At eight o'clock he took his place in the thick-carpeted studio and began to read from his typed manuscript. It was a cosy and completely restful business. With the little green-shaded lamp illuminating the script and the perfectly silent surroundings, it was a comfort to realize that, by such simple means, he was fabricating an alibi that could be vouched for afterwards by hundreds of thousands of worthy folk all over the country. He read Sir George's views on monetary policy with a perfection of utterance that surprised even himself, especially the way he had got the high-pitched voice.

LEAVING the studios half an hour later he asked the commissionaire in the hall to get him a taxi, and in the man's hearing told the driver "Paddington." There he commenced another series of operations. First he put through a long distance call to Richard Winthrop-Dunster, of Banbury. "That you, Richard?" sang out the high-pitched voice, still functioning. "I'm extremely sorry, but I'm afraid I won't be able to spend the weekend at your place after all. Fact is, I've got a rather worrying piece of business on hand at the moment, and I can't spare the time... Yes, things are infernally worrying just now... Next week I might come—I'll try to, anyhow, so you might keep my bag, if it's arrived—oh, it has, has it? Yes, I told young Scarsdale to send it... Yes, that's right—keep it till next week... I'm at Paddington, just about to catch the 9:15 home—yes, I've just come from the studio—were you listening?... Yes... Yes... Goodbye, then—next week, I hope..."

Then Scarsdale went to the booking office and purchased a first-class single ticket to Lincott. Passing the barrier, he even risked a word or two with the man who snipped his ticket, and who knew Sir George very slightly. "Cold evening, Sir George," the man said.

Scarsdale found an empty first-class compartment and as soon as the train moved out from the platform, opened the small nondescript attaché-case which he had carried with him all day. With the help of its contents, he began to make sundry changes in his personal appearance; then taking from his pocket the single ticket to Ealing purchased earlier in the day, he cut out of it a triangular section similar to that snipped from his Lincott ticket. Finally, at Ealing, a slim, clean-shaven fellow in a cloth cap might have been seen to leave the train and climb the steps to the street. He carried a brown-paper parcel which, if examined, would have been found to contain (rather oddly) an attaché-case.

Scarsdale boarded a bus going east, and at Ealing Common changed to an Underground train. At 10 P.M.—long before the train from Paddington would have reached Lincott—Scarsdale, himself again, was entering a West End restaurant and exchanging a cordial good evening with a head waiter who knew him well by sight.

THROUGHOUT the weekend Scarsdale stayed in London, visiting numerous friends—indeed, there was scarcely an hour from morning to midnight which he did not spend in company. His nights at the club were conveniently preluded by friendly chats with the hall porter, and in the mornings, at breakfast, he was equally affable to the waiter.

On Tuesday afternoon he returned to the Towers, collecting his car at Lincott on the way, and got to work immediately on Sir George's accumulated correspondence. "I know Sir George will expect to find everything finished," he explained to Wilkes.

But dinner time came and Sir George did not arrive. It was peculiar, because he was usually back by the six o'clock train when he visited his brother.

At nine Scarsdale decided to have dinner without further waiting; but when ten o'clock came and it was clear that Sir George had not caught the last train from Banbury, Scarsdale agreed with Wilkes that Richard Winthrop-Dunster had better be informed of the situation. "Maybe Sir George is staying there an extra night," said Scarsdale, as the butler hurried to the telephone.

Five minutes later Wilkes returned with a pale and troubled face. "Mr. Richard says that Sir George never visited him at all, sir," he began falteringly. "He says Sir George rang him up late on Saturday night from Paddington cancelling the visit and saying he was on his way back here."

"Extraordinary!" exclaimed Scarsdale. "Why isn't he here then? Where the devil can he be?"

They discussed the problem with an increasing degree of consternation until midnight, and went to bed with mutually expressed hopes that some message might arrive by the morning's post. But none came. At noon, after consultation with Scarsdale and further telephoning to Banbury, Wilkes notified the police. Inspector Deane, of the local force, arrived during the afternoon, and after acquainting himself with the known details of the situation, motored over to Banbury to see Mr. Richard Winthrop-Dunster. All that was on Wednesday.

ON Thursday morning enquiries began at Paddington station, with immediate and gratifying result. As Inspector Deane put it: "Well, Mr. Scarsdale, we've traced Sir George as far as the Lincott train on Saturday night—there's a ticket inspector at Paddington who remembers him. We're not quite sure of him at Lincott, but no doubt he must have been seen there too."

Everything, Scarsdale was glad to perceive, was still working out perfectly according to plan. From Paddington the trail had already led to Lincott; soon it would lead from Lincott to the Towers—and on the way, to be discovered inevitably when the constabulary intelligence had progressed so far, was that little hut in the woods. But it was not part of Scarsdale's plan to anticipate this inevitability by any hint or suggestion. He merely said; "Perhaps you could advertise for information. The taximen in the station yard may have noticed him, or one of them may have driven him somewhere. Of course, if it was a fine night he may have walked. He often walks. It was a fine night in London, I remember."

"Quite so, sir," agreed Inspector Deane. "I'm sure I'm greatly obliged to you for the idea."

It was queer how the two men "took to" each other; Scarsdale had a delightful knack of putting people at their ease. But for the mischance of working for Sir George, he would probably never have murdered anybody.

THE plan remained perfect—indeed, he thought, as he settled for sleep that night, he could afford almost to be indifferent now; the dangerous interval was past, and it no longer greatly mattered when or how the body was discovered. Perhaps it would be tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week even, if the police were exceptionally stupid. He had in mind exactly what would happen subsequently. The medical evidence would, of course, be vague after such a lapse of time, but fully consistent with Sir George's death having taken place late on Saturday night, at an hour (if the matter were ever called into question) when he, Scarsdale, had several complete alibis sixty miles away. Then would come the question: How had it happened? At such a juncture the dead man's brother would probably recall that Sir George had stated over the telephone on the fatal night, that he was "worried" about some business affair. Scarsdale would then, with a little reluctance to discuss the private affairs of his late employer, admit that Sir George had had certain financial troubles of late. The next stage of revelation would doubtless be enacted at the Anglo-Oceanic office, when and where the disappearance of the bonds would be discovered. That would certainly cause a sensation, both in the City and beyond. Clearly it would suggest that Sir George, having monkeyed with the assets of his companies, had taken his life rather than face the music.

All this, of course, was according to Scarsdale's plan, and when, on Thursday morning, the police found the body of Sir George in the little hut in the woods, Scarsdale might have been excused for reckoning his plan ninety-nine per cent infallible. Unfortunately for him, the remaining one per cent took a hand, with the rather odd result that a man named Hansell was arrested a few hours later and charged with the murder of Sir George.

Hansell was an unemployed workman turned tramp, and had been arrested in a Lincott public-house after trying to pawn a watch which an alert shopman recognized as Sir George's. At first Hansell gave the usual yarn about having found the watch, but after a severe questioning at the police station he told a much more extraordinary story. On the previous Saturday, he said, about a quarter past eight in the evening, he had been trespassing in the woods belonging to the Towers estate. Finding the little hut he had pushed open the door and had there, to his great alarm and astonishment, come across the dead body of a man. At first he thought of going for help immediately, but as he felt that his own position might be thought rather questionable, he had contented himself in the end with rifling the pockets and decamping. He admitted having taken some papers and a wallet, which he had since destroyed, except for a few treasury notes it had contained. He had also taken the watch.

But at 8:15 P.M., as the police detectives did not fail to point out, Sir George had been broadcasting a talk from the B.B.C. studio in London. How, then, could he have been found sixty miles away, dead, at the same hour? Obviously Hansell must be a great liar.

He was brought before the local magistrates and speedily committed for trial at the assizes. Meanwhile Scarsdale, in the midst of well-simulated grief at the loss of a respected employer, was thinking hard. The arrest of Hansell had given him a shock at first, but he was not long in finding a way of fitting it into his plan. Indeed, now that the suicide theory was all out of focus, Scarsdale himself thought fit to make the discovery about the missing bonds, and was inclined to agree with the police when they suggested that the bonds might have been among the papers that Hansell had stolen from Sir George's pockets and afterwards destroyed.

THE trial of Hansell came on in due course. He pleaded "Not Guilty," but his story sounded pretty thin, and was not improved by the fact that he still insisted that he had found the body at 8:15 P.M. He had heard the Lincott church clock chime the quarter, he said, and no amount of cross-examination could shake him. Moreover, the prosecution were able to prove that his fingerprints were on the automatic pistol. Hansell explained this by saying that he had found the weapon lying beside the body and had picked it up; but the story was unconvincing. Was it not more likely that Sir George had been taking the short cut home from Lincott station (as he often did), that he had been attacked by Hansell and had drawn his automatic (which he often carried) to defend himself, that Hansell had wrested it from him, and had shot him with it, and had afterwards dragged the body into the shed and, in sheer panic, left the telltale weapon behind?

Defending counsel could only offer the alternative theory of suicide, which, in the case of so well-respected a personage as Sir George, seemed a breach of taste as well as a straining of probability. As for Hansell, he must, whatever he said, have mistaken the time of his visit to the hut. Neither of these suggestions appealed to judge and jury, and it was not surprising that Hansell was found guilty and sentenced to death. This was afterwards commuted to penal servitude for life.

Scarsdale, with the trial over and everything settling down, had now only the tail end of his plan to put into cautious execution. He would wait, he had decided, for twelve months (to avoid any semblance of flight), and then go abroad, probably to the Argentine, taking with him the bonds. After a year or two in Buenos Aires he would doubtless have formed a sufficiently intimate connection with some banker or stockbroker to enable him to begin disposing of the booty.

It has already been noted that the verdict of "murder" instead of "suicide" did not at first disturb the vast and almost terrifying equanimity of Scarsdale. What did trouble him, however, as time passed and the death of Sir George became history, was the gradually invading consciousness that the only thing that had saved him from the dock, and possibly from the gallows, was not his precious plan at all, but sheer luck! For if Hansell had reported the finding of the body without delay, the faked alibi of the broadcast would have been discovered. Scarsdale had been saved, then, not by the flawlessness of his own brainwork but by a casual circumstance entirely outside of his control!

It was an unwelcome conclusion to reach, partly because it robbed him of pride in achievement, but chiefly because it laid him open to disquieting thoughts of the future.

DURING the year of waiting in England he lived at Kew, renting a house near the river and living on his savings while he devoted himself to writing a book on his favourite subject—criminology. It passed the time; besides which, he had hopes that it would eventually establish his reputation.

He received several minor shocks during this period. One happened when an acquaintance named Lindsey accosted him suddenly at his club (and apropos of nothing at all): "You know, Scarsdale, you're awfully like old Dunster in appearance. Did you ever realize that? I'm sure you could easily have passed for him during his lifetime with the help of a false moustache and those goggles of his! Especially, too, if you could have managed that rather shrill way of talking he had. And you are a bit of an actor-chap, aren't you? Didn't you once play in something at Oxford?"

Scarsdale wondered whether his face were turning fiery red or ashen pale. He managed to laugh, and an hour or so later reached the satisfying conclusion that it had all been pure chance—nothing but that. But it was upsetting, all the same, and it was about this time that he began the habit of carrying a small automatic pistol about with him wherever he went. He would not be taken alive.

JUST about a month before the year was up, Lindsey telephoned him with immense cheerfulness one morning. "Oh, hullo, Scarsdale. I'm in a job now, and you'll never guess where. It's in the B.B.C...." Several minutes of excited chatter, and then: "By the way, how would you like to do a short talk on Crimes and Criminals, or something of the sort? We're getting up a series here and your name occurred to me—you've always been keen on the subject, haven't you? What about June 11th, say?"

Scarsdale had hoped to be in Buenos Aires by that date, but he could not very well say so, and some kind of caution urged him not to make excuses. Besides, he could not help being slightly thrilled at the prospect of making a whole country listen to his views on crime and criminals. He told Lindsey that the date would suit him quite well.

During the eight weeks' interval, however, there came to him once or twice the faintest possible misgiving—soon banished, but leaving nevertheless a flavour of anxiety behind.

On the evening of June 11th he did not feel at his best as he set out for Savoy Hill. He was due to speak from 8 P.M. until 8:20, and he could not escape the recollection of the last time he had entered the building. It was odd, perhaps, that the very same announcer should be welcoming him again now, though it was quite natural, no doubt, that the announcer, knowing that Scarsdale had been Sir George's secretary should begin to chat about the deceased gentleman. "Awfully sad business that was," commented the familiar dulcet tones. "I talked to him that very evening just as I'm talking to you now. Amazing that he should have been so near his tragic end—indeed, I often wonder if he had any premonition of it himself, because he seemed just slightly uneasy in manner."

"Did he?" said Scarsdale.

"Of course it may have been my imagination. I was only comparing him with other times I'd heard him speak—at company meetings. Fortunately, I'd already sold all my Anglo- Oceanics. Queer he should have been carrying all those bonds about with him—forty thousand pounds' worth of them, wasn't it?"

"It was never absolutely proved."

"But bearer bonds, weren't they? Doesn't that mean that anybody who got hold of them could raise money on them?"

"More or less," answered Scarsdale absently. He had suddenly begun to feel troubled. He wished he had not arrived early enough for this chat.

By 7:55 the announcer had reached the stage of offering a few general tips about broadcasting. "This is your first experience of the microphone, I understand, Mr. Scarsdale?"

Scarsdale nodded.

"Curious—I thought I recognized your face. Or perhaps you're very like someone else... However, you'll soon get over mike-fright, even if you do have a touch of it at first. The chief point to remember is, never to speak too fast or in a very high-pitched voice. But then, you don't, as a matter of fact, do you?"

Scarsdale was a trifle pale. "I don't think so," he murmured.

FIVE minutes later he sat at the little desk before the microphone, with the green-shaded lamp before him. He was certainly nervous, and beyond his nervousness, strangely uneasy in a deeper sense. It was peculiar; he hadn't been like it before. As he sat down, his foot caught in the flex that connected the lamp with the wall-plug; the lamp went out, but it did not matter; the globes overhead were sufficient to see by. He waited for the red light to deliver its signal, indicating that he had been properly introduced to his unseen audience; then he began to read his manuscript.

But all the time he was reading, he was thinking and pondering subconsciously... he had been there before... the announcer had thought so, too... the announcer had seen and heard Sir George in the flesh at company meetings... the announcer had told him he must avoid a high-pitched voice... bearer bonds... this was the very same studio—and the same time also—eight o'clock... and it was Lindsey who had fixed up his talk, and Lindsey who had once commented on his likeness to Sir George...

Suddenly the idea burst over him in full force, monstrous, all-conquering: this was all a plant—engineered jointly by Lindsey and the B.B.C.—with perhaps Scotland Yard in the discreet background—they were testing him, and by the very latest psychological methods, as expounded by the great French criminologists... They guessed the truth and were probing subtly—it was their perfect plan seeking to undermine his...

At that moment, while Scarsdale's eyes and voice were reading automatically, the announcer stole into the room and silently replaced the lamp-plug in the wall-socket. The green light blazed suddenly into Scarsdale's face as the intruder, in a whisper too soft to be audible to the microphone, murmured: "Pulled it off, didn't you? I thought that's what must have happened..."

SCARSDALE'S broadcast talk on Crimes and Criminals will never, it is safe to say, be forgotten in the history of the radio. Most listeners, as the talk progressed, must have been aware of a growing tension in the speaker's delivery—a tension ill- suited both to matter and theme. But it is certain that no listener remained unthrilled when, about sixteen minutes past eight, Scarsdale exclaimed, in a voice vibrating with excitement: "And here, if I may be permitted, I will interpose an example of what I consider to be the really perfect, undetectable crime... I myself murdered Sir George Winthrop-Dunster..."

At this point the loud-speakers in some hundreds of thousands of homes delivered themselves of a mysterious crashing sound, followed by a long silence until 8:35, when a familiar Oxford accent expressed regret for the delay and gave out, without further comment, the continuation of the evening's programme.

In the morning, however, the newspapers were less reticent. Scarsdale, it appeared, had made history by being the first person actually to commit suicide before the microphone. He had shot himself.

The inquest was held the following day and attracted great attention. The announcer was very gentle and soothing in giving evidence—almost as if he were reading an S.O.S. "It seemed to me," he said, "that Mr. Scarsdale was rather upset about something when he arrived at the studio. He was a few minutes early and we chatted together. We talked a little about Sir George Winthrop-Dunster. I concluded that Mr. Scarsdale was probably nervous, as it was his first broadcast. About halfway through the talk I noticed that the lamp over his desk had gone out—he must have caught his foot in the flex and pulled the plug away. I went in to put it right for him and noticed then that he wasn't looking at all well. He was very pale, and he stared at me in a rather queer way when I mentioned something about the light. A few minutes later I had to put up the signal warning him not to talk in such a high-pitched voice because the sound wasn't coming through properly. The next I heard was his extraordinary statement about—Dr—Sir George Winthrop- Dunster. Of course I rushed to cut off the microphone immediately, but before I could do so I heard the shot..."

The verdict was naturally one of "Suicide during temporary insanity."

EVEN the last of Scarsdale's plans went astray. Instead of being fearfully acknowledged as the perpetrator of the world's perfect murder, he was dismissed as that familiar and rather troublesome type—the neurotic person who confesses to a crime of which he is quite obviously innocent. "Poor Scarsdale," said Inspector Deane, in a special interview for one of the Sunday papers, "had been deeply distressed by the tragic death of his employer, and that, coupled with his interest in criminology (I understand he was writing a book on the subject), had combined to unhinge his mind... We often get similar confessions during well-known murder trials, and as a rule, as on this occasion, we can spot them at a glance." Answering a further question, Inspector Deane remarked: "As a matter of fact, Scarsdale wasn't within fifty miles of Lincott during the whole of the time that the crime could possibly have been committed. We know that, because in the ordinary course of police routine we had to check up his movements... Poor fellow, we all liked him. He helped us a good deal in our work though it was clear all the time that he was feeling things badly."

JUST one point remains—about those bonds. If ever it should be discovered that Scarsdale had had in his possession a small fortune in South American bearer certificates, a certain measure of suspicion would inevitably be cast upon him—albeit posthumously. But will such a discovery be made? Scarsdale had put them in a tin box and had buried the box three feet deep in the back garden of the house he rented at Kew; and who, pray, is ever likely to dig them up?


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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