Saturday, February 18, 2012
The Supreme Court Murder - Leslie Ford
Theme for the Week: Murder in the Most Unlikely Places
Name of the story: The Supreme Court Murder
Author: Leslie Ford
Source: Masters of Mystery
Story Number: 49
Not only is the murder set in an extraordinary setting in the form of the chamber of the Supreme Court of the United States in Capitol Hill (story set before the SC moved to the new location), it is also set in one of the most unlikely times – when the Chief Justice and the eight Associate Justices were in a public session, with each of the nine a witness to the ghastly murder!
Colonel Primrose has just been back from inspecting the Thompson Airways crash where there were no survivors. He and Sergeant Buck are in the Supreme Court watching the Monday morning proceedings. They see Thomas Pomerey, his daughter Anne and his partner Jerome Givler at the counsel’s table with Pomerey addressing the Judges. At 12.45, a shot is heard and the bullet pierces Pomerey’s heart. When they trace the bullet to its source, they find the gun wedged between two railings next to the big clock, set in such a way that when the clock reaches 12.45, a circuit is completed and the mechanical contraption would fire off the bullet at the person who would be standing at the counsel table. The impossible situation arises in the form of setting up that timer device – the clock could be accessed only after the court was opened at 9 in the morning and from that time, the court marshals were regularly on guard – no one could have spent half an hour setting it up even if one imagines it to be one of the staff!
In addition to Givler & Anne, the other suspects include Anne’s fiancé (who also happens to be a secretary to one of the judges) and Pomerey’s niece Hilda Ellis (world famous woman flyer). The murderer should have several qualities to have achieved this impossible looking murder – he or she should be well versed with the procedures of the court, should have had access to the clock in such a way that no one would notice that person being present there, a basic knowledge of mechanics to set up the timer and the most important fact being the knowledge that it would be Pomerey who would be starting the case and not his partner Givler! The ones who have motive do not have the understanding of the court procedures and the ones who know the procedures do not have motive. Another interesting fact turns out to be the fact that the dead man, the daughter and the niece all missed the flight which ended in a crash leaving no survivors.
The clues are all there to figure out the villain in this novella written in the Golden Age tradition and makes for fascinating reading with its description of the court and the other offices in Washington.