Thursday, March 1, 2012
The Bizarre Case Expert - William Arden
Story: The Bizarre Case Expert
Author: William Arden
Source: Ellery Queen’s Masters of Mysteries
Story Number: 61
Dennis Lynds has a lot of pseudonyms – he used William Arden to write 13 of the Three Investigator tiles and is now more popular for his Dan Fortune titles under the name of Michael Collins.
Sergeant Joseph Marx is the sole member of the central squad; a squad which gets cases that stumps the precinct squads but before the case ends up in the Unsolved File. One such case where he is called in is to explain the death of Mrs. Sally Tower, the circumstances of which go something like this: The residents of an apartment are unhappy about the noises coming in from 6B and hence call in the local police. They have to break open the door as the door is locked and chained; Sally has died of multiple blows to the head and her ex-husband is unconscious in the same room due to a hairline skull fracture with the only opening in the house being a window to the fire escape. Medical evidence points to the fact that the husband suffered the concussion before the woman met her death. When he recovers in the hospital, he tells the police about a masked burglar who entered through the opened window but the police find no such traces of a prowler.
A neighbor was constantly watching the door from the time the noise started till the police arrived on the scene; an invalid woman was sitting near the open window in her house and the fire escape under question was constantly being watched by her – no one entered the room through the window and no one escaped through that window! So the only explanation left for them to consider is the fact that the husband did indeed kill her wife but he tripped and fell leading to the fracture and the concussion (the wound to his head not being of the self inflicting nature) but they have a problem - they find no weapon in that room or anywhere outside the house which matches the wounds on them.
Marx first tries to break the alibi of the 2 witnesses who were guarding the door and the window but fails. His search for a weapon yields something but the problem with the instrument was that it was neatly arranged on a table and was too far away from the murdered woman for it to have been used by the husband! Marx goes back to the first report made by the patrolmen; collects all the people who were present when the door was broken; interviews each one of them and shows how the murderer, with the help of one of the unlikeliest of accomplices, was able to achieve his goal of setting up a perfect locked room murder!