Tales of the Thinking Machine, by Jacques Futrelle

The Mystery of the Golden Dagger

“All animals have the same appetites and the same passions. The reasoning faculty is the one thing which lifts man above what we are pleased to call the lower animals. Logic is the essence of the reasoning faculty. Therefore logic is that power which enables the mind of man to reconstruct from one fact a series of incidents leading to a given result. One result may be as surely traced back to its causes as the specialist may reconstruct a skeleton from a fraction of bone.”

Thus clearly, pointedly Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen had once explained to Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, the analytical power by which he had solved some of the most perplexing mysteries that had ever come to the attention of either the police or the press. It was a text from which sermons might be preached. No one knew this better than Hatch.

Professor Van Dusen is the foremost logician of his time. His name has been honored at home and abroad until now it embraces as honorary initials nearly all those letters which had not been included in it in the first place. The Thinking Machine! This phrase applied once in a newspaper to the scientist had clung tenaciously. It was the name by which he was known to the world at large.

In a dozen ways he had proved his right to it. Hatch remembered vividly the scientist’s mysterious disappearance from a prison cell once; then there had been the famous automobile mystery, and more lately the strange chain of circumstances whose history has been written as “The Scarlet Thread.” This little text, as given above, was one afternoon, when Hatch had casually called on The Thinking Machine. It transpired that a few hours later he had returned to lay before the logician still another mystery.

On his return to his office Hatch had been dispatched in a rush on a murder story. In following up the threads of this he had learned every fact the police had, had written his story, and then presented himself at the Beacon Hill home of The Thinking Machine. It was then 11 o’clock at night. The Thinking Machine had received him, and the facts, in substance, were laid before him as follows:

A man who had given the name of Charles Wilkes called at the real estate office of Henry Holmes & Co., on Washington Street on October 14, just thirty-two days prior to the beginning of the story, as Hatch recited it. He was a man of possibly thirty years, stalwart, good-looking and clean-cut in appearance. There had been nothing about him to attract particular attention. He had said that he was eastern agent for a big manufacturing concern, and travelled a great deal.

“I want a six or seven room house in Cambridge,” he had explained. “Something quiet, where I won’t have too many neighbors. My wife is extremely nervous, and I want to get a couple of blocks from the street cars. If you have a house, say in the middle of a big lot somewhere in the outskirts of Cambridge, I think that will do.”

“What price?” a clerk had asked.

“Anywhere from $45 to $60,” he replied.

It just happened that Henry Holmes & Co. had such a house. An office man went with Mr. Wilkes to see it. Mr. Wilkes was pleased and paid the first month’s rent of $60 to the man who had accompanied him.

“I won’t go back to the office with you,” he said. “Everything is all right. I’ll have my stuff moved out in a couple of days and let your collector come for next month’s rent when it is due.”

Mr. Wilkes was a very pleasant man; the clerk had found him so and was gratified at the transaction, which gave his firm such a desirable tenant. He did not ask for Mr. Wilkes’ address, nor did he think to ask any questions as to where the household goods were at the moment. In the light of subsequent events this lack of caution temporarily hid, at least for a time, it seemed, the key which would have solved a mystery.

The month passed and in the office of Holmes & Co. the matter had been forgotten until the rent came due. Then a collector, Willard Clements, the regular Cambridge collector for the firm went to the Cambridge house. He found the front door locked. The shutters were still over the windows. There was no indication that anyone at all had either occupied the house or used it. That was an impression to be gathered by a casual outside inspection. Clements had gone around the house; the back door stood wide open.

Clements went inside the house and must have remained there for half an hour. When he came out his face was white, his lips quivered, and the madness of terror was in his eyes. He ran staggeringly around the house and down the walk to the street. A few minutes later he rushed into a police station and there poured out a babbling, incoherent story. The usually placid face of the officer in charge was overspread with surprise as he listened.

Three men were detailed to visit the house and investigate Clements’ story. Two of these men went with Clements through the back door, which still stood open, and the third, Detective Fahey, began an examination of the premises. Entering through the back door, the kitchen lay to his left. There was nothing to show that it had been occupied for many months. A hurried glance satisfied him, and he passed into the main body of the house. This consisted of a parlor, a dining room and a bedroom. Here, too, he found nothing. The dust lay thick over floors, mantels and window sills.

From the hall, stairs led to three sleeping rooms above. Under these stairs a short flight lead to the cellar. The door stood open, and a damp, chilly breath came up. Utter darkness lay below. The detective shrugged his shoulders and turned to go upstairs where the other men were.

He found them in the smallest of the three rooms, bending over a bed. Clements stood at the door, which had been broken in, still with the pallor of death on his face and his hands working nervously.

“Find anything?” asked the detective briskly.

“My God, no,” gasped Clements. “I wouldn’t go back in that room for a million dollars.”

The detective laughed and passed in.

“What is it?” he asked.

“A girl,” was the reply.

“What happened to her?”

“Stabbed,” was the laconic answer.

The other two men stood aside and the detective looked down at the body. It was that of a girl possibly twenty or twenty-two years old. She had been pretty, but the hand of death had obliterated many traces of it now. Her hair, of a rich, ruddy gold, mercifully veiled somewhat the ravages of death; her hands lay outstretched on the white of the bed.

She was dressed for the street. Her hat still clung to her hair, fastened by a long, black-headed pin. Her clothing, of dark brown, was good but not rich. A muff lay beside her and her coat was open.

It was not necessary for Detective Fahey to ask the immediate cause of death. A stab wound in the breast showed that.

“Where’s the knife?” he asked.

“Didn’t find any.”

“Any other wounds?”

“Can’t tell until the medical examiner arrives. She’s just as we found her.”

“Here, O’Brien,” instructed the detective, “run out and ‘phone to Dr. Loyd and tell him to come up as fast as he can get here. It’s probably only suicide.”

One of the men went out, and the detective picked up and examined the muff. From it he drew out a small purse. He opened this to find a withered rose — nothing else. There was no money, no card, no key — nothing which might immediately throw light on the girl’s identity.

After a while Dr. Loyd came. He remained in the room alone for ten minutes or so, while the policemen went carefully over the upper rooms of the house. When the doctor opened the door and stepped out he carried something in his hand.

“It’s murder,” he told the detective.

“How do you know?”

“There are two wounds in the back, where she could not possibly have inflicted them herself. And I found this beneath the body.”

In his open hand lay a dagger — a dagger of gold. The handle was strangely and intricately fashioned and might, from its appearance, have been cut from a solid bar of gold. In the end blazed a single splendid gem — a diamond. It was probably of three or four karats and pure white. The steel blade was bright at the hilt but stained red.

“Great Scott!” exclaimed the detective as he examined it. “With a clue like that, the end is already in sight.”

This was the story that Hutchinson Hatch told to The Thinking Machine. The scientist listened carefully, as he lay stretched out in a chair with his enormous yellow head resting easily against a cushion. He asked only three questions.

“How long had the girl been dead?”

“The medical examiner says it is impossible to tell within more than a few days,” Hatch replied. “He gave it as his opinion that it was a week or ten days.”

“What was in the cellar?”

“I don’t know. No one looked.”

“Who broke in the door? Clements?”

“Yes.”

“I shall go with you tomorrow,” said The Thinking Machine. “I want to look at the dagger and also the cellar.”

2

It was 10 o’clock next day when Hutchinson Hatch and The Thinking Machine called on Dr. Loyd. The medical examiner willingly displayed the golden dagger, and in technical terms explained just what had caused the girl’s death. Minus the medical phraseology his opinion was that the wound in the breast had been the first inflicted and that the dagger point had punctured the heart. One of the wounds in the back had also reached the same vital spot; the other wound was superficial.

The Thinking Machine viewed the body and agreed with the medical examiner. He had, meanwhile, carefully examined the dagger, handle and blade, and had a photograph of it made. Then, with Hatch, he proceeded to the Cambridge house.

“It isn’t suicide, is it?” asked Hatch on the way.

“No,” was the quick response. “The only question thus far in my mind, is whether or not the girl was killed in that house.”

“Why was a man such a fool as to leave a dagger of that value where it would be found — or any dagger for that matter?” Hatch asked.

“A dozen reasons,” replied the scientist. “A possible one is, that whoever killed her may have been frightened away before he could regain possession of the weapon. Remember it was found underneath her body. Presumably she fell backwards and covered the dagger. A slight noise — any one of a dozen things — might have caused the person who killed her to run away rather than try to get the weapon again. Against that of course is the value of the dagger. I know little about jewels, but knowing as little as I do, I should say the value was in the thousands.”

“The very reason why it wouldn’t be left,” said Hatch.

“Quite true,” said the other. “Yet the value of the dagger may have been the very reason it was left.”

Hatch turned quickly and stared at The Thinking Machine with a question in his eyes.

“I mean,” The Thinking Machine explained, “that the dagger is nearly as good as the name and the address of its owner, because it can be traced immediately. Its owner would never have left it under any circumstances.”

Hatch was puzzled. He did not follow, as yet, the intricate reasoning of the scientist. It seemed that the one solid, substantial clue, as he regarded it, was to be eliminated without a hearing. The Thinking Machine went on:

“Suppose it had been someone’s purpose to kill this girl and, on the face of it, immediately direct attention to some other person as the criminal? In that event, what would have done it more effectively than to kill her with a stolen dagger belonging to some other man and leave it?”

“Oh,” exclaimed Hatch. “I think I see what you mean. The fact that a person owns this knife is not, then, to be taken against him?”

“On the contrary,” said The Thinking Machine sharply. “It’s almost a vindication, unless the person who killed her is mad.”

A few minutes later, they arrived at the house. It was a two-story frame structure, back thirty or forty feet from the street, in the centre of a small plot of ground. The nearest house was three or four hundred feet away. Hatch was somewhat surprised at the care with which The Thinking Machine examined the premises before he entered the house. Scarcely a foot of ground had not been critically gone over.

Then they entered through the back door. Here, in the kitchen, The Thinking Machine showed the same care in his examination. He squinted aggressively at the sink and casually turned the water on. Then he examined the rusty range. Thence he went to the dining room, where there was the same minute examination. The parlor, hall, and the lower bedroom were examined, after which the two men went up stairs.

“In which room was the girl found?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“The back room,” Hatch replied.

“Well, let’s examine the other two first,” and the scientist led the way to the front of the house. His examination seemed to be confined largely to the water arrangements. He examined each faucet in turn and turned the water on. He went through the same program in the bathroom.

This done, there remained only the room of death. It was precisely as the Medical Examiner had left it, except that the girl’s body was gone. The sheets whereon she lay and the pillows were closely scrutinized. Then The Thinking Machine straightened up.

“Any running water in here?” he asked.

“I don’t see any,” Hatch replied.

“All right, now for the cellar.”

The reporter could not even conjecture what The Thinking Machine expected to find in the cellar. It was low ceiling, damp and chilly. By the light of the electric bulb, which the scientist produced, they could see only the furnace, which stood rustily at about the centre. The Thinking Machine examined this for ashes, but found none. Then he wandered aimlessly about the place, taking it all in seemingly in one long, comprehensive squint. Finally he turned to Hatch.

“Let’s go,” he suggested.

Three-quarters of an hour later, the two men were again in the apartments on Beacon Hill. The scientist dropped into his accustomed place in the big chair and sat silent for a long time. Hatch waited impatiently.

“Has a picture of this dagger been printed yet?” asked The Thinking Machine at last.

“In every newspaper in Boston, today.”

“Dear me, dear me,” exclaimed the scientist. “It would have been perfectly easy to find the owner of the dagger if pictures of it hadn’t been printed.”

“Do you think it probable that its owner is the criminal?”

“No, unless, as I said, he was insane, but it would have been interesting to know how the knife passed out of his possession. Was it given away? If so, to whom? A thing of that value would never be given to anyone who was not near and dear to the one who gave it. It is not the kind of gift a man would make to a woman, but is rather a kind of gift a King might make to a loyal subject. It is Oriental in appearance and naturally suggests the Orient. But as I said, the person who owned it did not use it to kill the girl.”

“Then what did happen to it?” asked Hatch, curiously.

“Probably it was stolen. Here is the problem: A girl whose name we don’t know was murdered by a person we don’t know. We do know that this dagger was used to kill her. Therefore find the man who owned the dagger originally and learn how it passed out of his hands. That may lead us directly to the man who rented the house. When we find the man who rented the house, we find possibly the man who stole the dagger and the man who may have killed or may know who killed the girl.”

“That seems perfectly clear,” Hatch remarked smilingly. “That is, the nature of the problem itself is clear, but the solution is as far away as ever.”

The Thinking Machine arose abruptly and passed into the adjoining room. After a while Hatch heard the telephone bell. It was half an hour or so before The Thinking Machine returned.

“The person who owns the knife will call to see me this afternoon at 3 o’clock,” he announced.

Hatch half rose in his astonishment, then sank down again.

“Whoever it is will be arrested the moment the police learn of it,” he said after a pause.

“On what charge?”

“Murder. It’s a plain circumstantial case.”

“If he is arrested,” said the scientist, “there will be some international complications.”

“Who is he?” asked Hatch.

“His name will appear in due time. Meanwhile find out for me if there has ever been a report to the police of any robbery, in which a dagger is mentioned in any way.”

Wonderingly, Hatch went away to obey instructions. He found no trace of any such robbery for half a dozen years back. There were several entries on the police books, and of these he made a record.

At 1 o’clock that afternoon he was again in Cambridge working with the police and half a dozen reporters in an effort to get some light on the question of the girl’s identity. Later he went to the real estate office of Henry Holmes & Co. seeking further light there. It was not forthcoming.

“Did this man, Wilkes, sign anything?” he asked; “a lease, or anything of that sort? A sample of his handwriting might be useful now.”

“No,” was the reply. “We did not consider a lease necessary.”

Meanwhile the police had apparently exhausted every means of finding out who and what Charles Wilkes was. It was clear from the beginning, to them at least, that the name Wilkes was a fictitious one. There was no reason to suppose that if Wilkes rented the house with the deliberate intention of murder that he would give his real name. By the wildest stretch of the imagination they could find no motive for the murder. It was not any of the ordinary things. Yet it was deliberate. They regarded the golden dagger as the key to the entire mystery. There they stopped.

At 3 o’clock Hatch returned to the home of The Thinking Machine. He had hardly been ushered into the little reception room when the doorbell rang and the scientist in person appeared. Accompanying him was a stranger; dark, swarthy and with the coal black beard of the Orient.

Hatch was introduced to him as Ali Hassan. Then The Thinking Machine produced the photograph of the dagger.

“Is this the correct picture?” he asked.

The stranger examined it closely.

“It seems to be,” he said at last.

“Is there another dagger like that in existence?”

“No.”

“How did it come into your possession?”

“It was a gift to me from the Sultan of Turkey,” was the reply.

3

Gravely Mr. Hassan sat down while The Thinking Machine resumed his seat in the big chair opposite. Hatch was leaning forward eagerly to catch every word. The story of the man who owned the wonderful golden dagger was one which the great public would naturally want to know.

“Now,” began The Thinking Machine, “would you mind telling us a little of the history of the dagger?”

“It is not a story to be told to infidels,” was the reply. “I mean, of course, unbelievers. I will answer any question that you see fit to ask if I can do so.”

A little expression of perplexity crept into the squinting eyes of The Thinking Machine; then it passed as suddenly as it came.

“You are a Mohammedan?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Is there any religious significance attached to the dagger?”

“Yes, it is sacred. A gift from the Sultan — my imperial master — and blessed by the royal hand is always sacred to a subject. It may not be even seen by the eyes of an unbeliever.”

Hatch straightened up a little, and The Thinking Machine readjusted himself in the big chair.

“You were educated at Oxford?” he asked irrelevantly.

“Yes. I left there in 1887.”

“You did not embrace the Christian religion?”

“No. I am a Mohammedan, loyal to my master.”

“Would you mind saying for what service the Sultan so honored you?”

“I cannot say that. It was a service to the crown at a time when I was secretary of the Turkish Embassy in England.”

“Under what circumstances did this dagger leave your possession?” asked The Thinking Machine quietly.

“It has not left my possession,” was the equally quiet reply. “It would be sacrilege if it did. Therefore I still have it — closely guarded.”

Frankly, Hutchinson Hatch was amazed. His manner showed it clearly. The Thinking Machine was still leaning back in the chair staring upward.

“I understand then,” he said after a little pause, “that the dagger, of which this is a photograph, is in your possession now?”

“It has not been out of my possession at any time since it was given to me,” was the startling reply.

“Then how do you account for this photograph?”

“I don’t account for it.”

“But Dr. Loyd — the dagger — I had it in my hands,” Hatch interposed in bewilderment.

“You are mistaken,” replied the Turk quietly. “It is still in my possession.”

“Will you produce it?” asked The Thinking Machine calmly.

“I will not,” was the firm response. “I have explained that it is not to be seen by the eyes of unbelievers.”

“If a charge of murder should be laid against you, would you produce it?” insisted The Thinking Machine.

“I would not.”

“To avoid an arrest?”

“There is no danger of an arrest,” was the still calm response. “I am connected with the Turkish delegation in Washington and I am responsible there. I am entitled to the protection of my own government. If there is any charge against me it must come that way.”

There was a long silence. Hatch was bursting with questions, which were silenced by a slight gesture from The Thinking Machine. Under the peculiar circumstances the scientist realized that what Mr. Hassan had said was true. It is one of the idiosyncrasies of international law.

“You know, of course, that a woman has been murdered with that dagger, don’t you?” asked the scientist.

“I have heard that a woman has been murdered.”

“Do you attribute any magical properties to the weapon?”

“Oh, no.”

“Just where is it at present? Would you produce it if your government ordered you to do so?”

“My government will not order me to do so.”

Hatch was annoyed. All this was tommyrot. If Mr. Hassan had his dagger, then there were more than one of them in existence. Dr. Loyd had one; the reporter knew that. Whether it was a clever counterfeit he did not know; but the dagger used to kill the girl was certainly in possession of the medical examiner.

“If that dagger should ever by an chance pass out of your possession, Mr. Hassan, what would happen?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“I am sworn to protect it with my life. If it should pass out of my possession I should kill myself. It is customary and so understood in my country.”

“Oh,” exclaimed the scientist, suddenly. “How long will you be in Boston?”

“For several days, probably,” was the reply. “Meanwhile, if I can be of any further service to you, I should do so gladly.”

“How long have you been here?”

“About a week.”

“Were you ever in Boston before?”

“Once, a couple of years ago, when I first came to this country.”

Mr. Hassan arose and took up his hat. He had formally told Hatch and The Thinking Machine good day and was at the door when he turned back.

“I understand,” he said, “that this dagger is supposed now to be in the possession of Dr. Loyd, the Medical Examiner?”

“Yes,” said the scientist.

Mr. Hassan went away. Hatch sat nursing his wrath a moment, and then came the explosion. It was inevitable; a righteous protest against an insult to his intelligence and that of the eminent scientist who had become interested in the case.

“Mr. Hassan is a liar, else there are two daggers,” he burst out.

“Mr. Hassan is a gentleman of the Turkish legation, Mr. Hatch,” said The Thinking Machine reprovingly. “Do you know Mr. Loyd very well?”

“Yes.”

“‘Phone him immediately and ask him to have that dagger secretly removed to a safety deposit vault,” instructed the scientist. “Then you had better go out and work with the police to see if they yet have any clue to the girl’s identity. Mr. Hassan will produce the dagger if he has it.”

The remainder of that day and a part of the next Hatch spent running down the small possibilities, trying to settle some of the minor questions, which were naturally aroused in his mind. There was a result — a very definite result — and when he again appeared before The Thinking Machine, he felt that he had accomplished something.

“It occurred to me,” he explained, “that there was a possibility that this man Wilkes had communicated with or advertised for this girl that was dead. I searched the want columns of three newspapers. At last I found this.”

He extended a small clipping to The Thinking Machine, who took it and studied it a moment. This clipping was an advertisement for an intelligent young woman as companion and gave the street and number of the house in Cambridge where the girl had been found.

“Very good,” said The Thinking Machine, and he rubbed his hands briskly together. “It looks, Mr. Hatch, as if it might be a long tedious work to establish the name of this girl. It may take weeks. I should meanwhile take that clipping and turn it over to the police, and let them make the search. I see it is dated October 19, which is four days form the time Wilkes rented the house. Yet the girl had been dead for not more than ten days. There is a lapse of time in there to be accounted for. Find out if this advertisement appeared more than once, and also get the original copy of it from the newspaper. It might be in Wilkes’s handwriting. In that case it would be a substantial clue.”

“Have you heard anything more about Hassan’s dagger?” inquired the reporter.

“No, but he will produce it. Did you phone Dr. Loyd in reference to it?”

“I ‘phoned yesterday, as you suggested, and was then informed that Dr. Loyd had left the city. I ‘phoned twice this morning, but got no answer from the house. I presume he has not returned.”

“No answer?” asked The Thinking Machine quickly. “No answer? Dear me, dear me!” He arose and paced back and forth across the room twice, then paused before the reporter. “That’s bad, bad, bad!” he said.

“Why?” asked Hatch.

The Thinking Machine turned suddenly and entered the adjoining room. When he came out there was a new expression on his face — an expression which Hatch could not read.

“Dr. Loyd was found at 1 o’clock today in his home, bound and gagged,” he explained shortly. “The only servant there was insensible from some drug. It was burglars. They ransacked the house from top to bottom.”

“What — what does that mean?” asked Hatch, wonderingly.

Just then the door from the hall opened and Martha, the aged servant of The Thinking Machine, appeared.

“Mr. Hassan, sir,” she said.

The Turk appeared in the door behind her, gravely courteous, suave, and dignified as ever.

“Ah,” explained The Thinking Machine. “You have brought the dagger?”

“I talked with the Turkish Minister in Washington by telephone and he explained the necessity of my producing it,” said Mr. Hassan. “I have it here to convince you.”

“I thought it was in Washington?” Hatch blurted out.

“Here it is,” was the Turk’s response. He produced a richly jeweled box. In it lay the golden dagger. The Thinking Machine lifted it. The blade was bright and without a trace of a stain. With a quick movement The Thinking Machine twisted the handle and part of it came off. A few drops of a pungent liquid ran out on the floor.

4

Mr. Hassan left Boston that night for Washington. He took the dagger with him. The Thinking Machine made no objection, and the very existence of the man was as yet unknown to the police.

“When it is necessary to produce that dagger,” he explained to Hatch, “it can be done through regular channels, if Hassan is still alive. It seems very probable now that international law may have to take a hand in the case.”

“Do you consider it possible that Hassan in person had any connection with the affair?” Hatch asked.

“Anything is possible,” was the short reply. “By the way, Mr. Hatch, it might be interesting to know a little more about this real estate collector, Clements, who discovered the girl’s body. He might have known about the house being unoccupied. There are still possibilities in every direction, but the real problem hangs on the golden dagger.”

“In that event, it seems to come back to Hassan,” said the reporter doggedly.

“I would advise you, Mr. Hatch, to settle the points I asked about the advertisement. Then see Dr. Loyd; ask him if he still has the dagger. If you get the original copy of the advertisement, turn it over to the police. You need not mention Hassan to them as yet.”

It was early that evening when Hatch saw Dr. Loyd.

“Did the burglars get the dagger?” he asked.

“I have nothing to say,” was the reply.

“Have you the dagger now?”

“I have nothing to say.”

“Did you turn it over to the District Attorney?”

“I have nothing to say.”

The result of this was that Hatch went away firmly convinced that Dr. Loyd did not have the dagger; that the burglars, whoever they were, had taken it away; that they were probably in the employ of Hassan and robbed Loyd’s house for the specific purpose of regaining possession of the dagger.

Later Hatch made an investigation of the circumstances attending the publication of the advertisement. It had appeared four times on alternate days. The original copy of it was found and given to him. It was the bold handwriting of a man. This he turned over to the police, with all information as to the advertisement.

Then began a long, minute search, which ultimately resulted in the discovery of the whereabouts of half a dozen girls reported missing. But the fact that they were found immediately removed them as possibilities. From the first, the search for Wilkes had been unceasing. It was generally assumed that the name Wilkes was fictitious.

On the morning of the second day Hatch appeared at his office weary, discouraged and disgusted. But weariness fled when the city editor excitedly approached him.

“They have Wilkes,” he said. “They got him late last night in Worcester. The real estate clerk has positively identified him. He will be at police headquarters within an hour or so. Get the story.”

“Who is he?” asked Hatch.

“I don’t know. He doesn’t deny his identity, and insists that his name is Wilkes. He was found at a hotel registered as Charles Wingate.”

The first editions of the afternoon papers flamed with the announcement of the capture of the supposed murderer. Meanwhile Hatch and the other reporters had heard Wilkes’s story at secondhand. The police saw fit to put as much mystery about it as they could. Having heard this story Hatch immediately went with it to see The Thinking Machine.

“They’ve caught Wilkes,” he explained. “His name is Wilkes, so far as anybody knows. He registered as Wingate because he was frightened. He knows the police of the entire country were looking for him.”

“What about the house?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“He tells what appears to be a straight story. He says he rented the house for himself and wife intending to remain there for several months. He did not take a lease. On the day he was to move in his wife grew very ill — a more than usually serious attack of the nervous trouble with which she is afflicted. Then on the advice of physicians he took her away to Cuba rather than to start up housekeeping.

“He inserted the advertisement in the newspaper before he knew how serious this illness was. They remained in Cuba together for two or three weeks, and she is still there, he says. On the day after his return this murder affair came up and he considered it advisable, until it was all cleared up, to stay out of sight.”

“What is his business?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“He is Eastern agent for a big cutlery concern in Cleveland. His headquarters are in Boston. He has only recently been appointed and is not known in Boston. Almost from the time of his appointment, he had been travelling. It was an oversight, he says, that he did not notify the real estate people of his determination not to occupy the house. He had rented it by the month anyway.”

The Thinking Machine was silent. The blue eyes were turned upward and the long, slender fingers pressed tip to tip. Hatch, eagerly watching his face, saw perplexed wrinkles at times, which immediately disappeared. It was the working of the man’s brain.

“Does he know the girl?”

“He is confident that he does not. He never saw, so he says, anyone who answered the advertisement.”

“Of course he would say that,” snapped The Thinking Machine. “Has he seen the body?”

“He is to see it this afternoon.”

“Have the police any idea of the identity of the girl?”

“I think not,” said Hatch. “There are the usual boasts about being able to clear it up within a few hours, but it means nothing.”

Again there was silence as the scientist sat thoughtfully squinting at the ceiling.

“Doe she know Hassan?” he asked, finally.

“I don’t know,” Hatch replied. “Remember that no one knows Hassan but you and I, and I haven’t seen this man Wilkes yet.”

“Will you be able to see him?”

“I don’t know. It depends upon the gracious goodness of the police.”

“We will go and see him now,” declared The Thinking Machine emphatically.

A few minutes later, they were ushered into the office of the chief of the State Police. There were mutual introductions, Hatch officiating. The chief had at various times heard of his distinguished visitor, but had never before met him. Instead he had regarded him as an amusing myth.

“Would it be possible for me to see Mr. Wilkes?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“No, not now,” was the reply.

“I thought the purpose of this office was to aid justice,” snapped the scientist.

“It is,” said the chief, and a flush came to his face.

“Well, I know the man who owns the dagger with which the girl was killed,” said the scientist emphatically. “I want to see if this is the man.”

The chief arose from his desk in astonishment and stood leaning over it toward his visitors.

“You know — you know —” he began. “Who is it?”

“May I see Wilkes?” insisted the other.

“Well, under the circumstances, I suppose, perhaps —”

“Now,” said The Thinking Machine.

The chief pressed a button. After a moment one of his men came in.

“Bring Wilkes in here,” directed the police official.

The man went out and after a time returned with Wilkes, who had been undergoing the third degree in another room. The prisoner’s face was white and every move indicated his tense nervous condition.

“Mr. Wilkes, when did the dagger pass out of your possession?” asked The Thinking Machine, suddenly, as he extended the photograph of the golden dagger.

“I have never seen such a dagger,” was the reply, after a long, deliberate study of the picture.

“Did you not receive an order for a blade for it?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“No.”

“Mr. Wilkes, I know possibly more of this affair than the police do as yet. You can supply those facts that I haven’t. Now who — who — is the girl who was murdered with this dagger?”

What little color that had been in the prisoner’s face was gone now, and he trembled violently. Suddenly he sank down in the chair, burying his face on his arms.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” he sobbed.

Yet that afternoon, when Wilkes stood beside the body of the murdered girl he looked at her long and earnestly then with a wailing cry he lunged forward, half fainting.

“Alice, Alice!” he gasped.

5

Wilkes, or Wingate, as he had been last known, told a story as to his knowledge of the dead girl, which was on its face straightforward and to the point. In a little room adjoining that in which the body lay he had been revived with a stimulant, and, once himself again, he talked freely. The thing which impressed the police most was the detail which he gave; The Thinking Machine had nothing to say as to what he thought of this recital. He merely observed it without comment.

Briefly here is the story, denuded of extraneous verbiage:

The girl was Alice Gorham. There was no shadow of doubt about the identification. She was the daughter of a man who had been for a long time connected with the Steel Trust offices in Cleveland. Misfortune had finally come to her father and then in her last year at Vassar she had been compelled to return home. Shortly after that her father had died suddenly, leaving her nothing; her mother had died several years previously. She was an only child.

According to his story, Wilkes had been acquainted with her since her childhood. His father, too, had been in the Steel Trust at one time and had left it to take a partnership in the cutlery concern which he now represented. The girl’s age, so far as Wilkes’s story went, was about twenty-one years.

Since the death of her father, when she had been thrown upon her own resources, she had been employed as companion to an aged woman in Cleveland. There had been some disagreement between them, and the girl decided to come East. She had been in Boston only a few weeks at the time she was found dead.

“That’s all I know about it,” said Wilkes in conclusion. “Naturally, the shock was very great when I saw her in there dead. I knew that she had come to Boston. I knew, too, that she had disappeared from where she lived, for both my wife and myself, before we went to Cuba, had called and inquired for her.”

“You have no idea where she was from the time she disappeared until the time she was found dead, which was at the most not more than fourteen days ago?” asked The Thinking Machine.

“None,” replied Wilkes.

“Do you know of any love affair — any man in the case?” insisted The Thinking Machine.

“No, I never heard of one.”

“Of course, you read the newspaper accounts of this affair. Did you, then, from the detailed description of the girl printed, associate her in any way with the girl who was dead?”

“I did, yes, but not directly. The thing which impressed me most in the newspaper accounts was the reiterated statement that the man who rented the house must have been the murderer. This placed it directly to me. Then frankly I got frightened and tried to hide my identity for the moment under another name. It was very foolish, of course, but the circumstances seemed to point so conclusively to me that — that I did what I did.”

“When did you last see Miss Gorham?”

“In Cleveland seven months ago.”

“That’s all,” said The Thinking Machine, and he arose as if to go.

“Now what do you know of this?” asked the State police chief.

“I shall call on you tomorrow and explain just what I know and how I learned it,” was the reply.

“Who is the man who owned that dagger?” the chief continued.

“You mean the dagger that was stolen from Dr. Loyd?” asked The Thinking Machine. There was a touch of irony in his tone.

“Who — how — what do you know about that?”

“Let’s go, Mr. Hatch,” said The Thinking Machine suddenly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, chief.”

Once outside, The Thinking Machine led the way toward the Scollay Square subway.

“Where to now?” asked Hatch.

“To the house in Cambridge,” explained The Thinking Machine. “I want to look it over again. I have an idea I overlooked a few things.”

“Do you think Wilkes killed Miss Gorham?” asked Hatch.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think now that Hassan did it?”

“I don’t know.”

Further questioning seemed useless, and both men were silent until they stood inside the Cambridge house. Then again, The Thinking Machine went over the structure from cellar to attic, but more carefully, with more detail than even before. Particularly this was true as to the cellar. Not one square inch of the floor surface escaped his eyes. Once he picked up a small scrap of cloth — black cloth, and examined it. Later, on hands and knees, he studied the soft ground flooring in a remote corner. Hatch stood looking on curiously.

“See this?” The Thinking Machine asked.

Hatch looked by the light of the electric bulb and saw only a few indentations in the soft soil. It was as if something heavy and elaborately carved had been pressed down in the dirt.

“What is it?” he asked.

Without answering The Thinking Machine arose and together they went straight to the room of death upstairs. Here the scientist ruthlessly cut into the smooth wood of the bed. He handed the small chip he removed to the reporter.

“What does that look like?” he asked.

“Mahogany,” Hatch replied.

“Good, very good. Now, Mr. Hatch, you go to Boston, see this young man, Willard Clements, the real estate collector. Don’t be afraid to ask him questions. Ask him pointedly if he happens to be acquainted with a burglar. It will be an interesting experiment. Find out all you can about him and meet me at my apartments at 8 o’clock tonight. I have a little further work to do here.”

“Lord, did he do it?” asked Hatch.

“I don’t know,” was the reply. “It would be interesting to know what he knows.”

Had Hatch not known the peculiar methods of The Thinking Machine, he would have been bewildered by these instructions. As it was, he was merely seeking in his own mind a possible connecting thread between Clements and the mystery. Disregarding Clements for the moment, he could only see Wilkes, who knew the girl, or Hassan, who owned the dagger, in the affair.

Once alone, The Thinking Machine did several things which would have sadly puzzled an outsider. From the back door he examined the ground and even stooped and stared at the grass. Slowly he walked along, half stooping, toward the back of the plot of ground. There he shook the picket fence, which barred his way. It was apparently a new fence, yet a whole panel of it fell. Outside was an alley.

From this point he went to the house of the nearest neighbor and asked many questions about strangers who might have been in the other yard. None had been seen. Finally, he asked the way and was directed to the nearest police station.

“Have many burglaries been reported in this neighborhood lately?” he asked, after he had introduced himself.

“Three of four. Why?”

“Have you heard of any furnished house, at present unoccupied, which has been robbed?”

“Yes, the old Essex estate — about four blocks from here.”

“What was stolen, exactly?”

“We don’t know. The owners of the house are in Europe now, and we have no means of learning just what is missing. We have caught the men who robbed it.”

“What are their name, please?”

“One is called ‘Reddy’ Blake, the other gave the name of Johnson.”

“Where were they caught?”

“In the house. They had a wagon and were trying to move out a heavy mahogany sideboard.”

“When was this?”

“Oh, a week or so ago. They got three years each.”

“No other similar cases?”

“No.”

“Thank you,” and The Thinking Machine went away. That night Hutchinson Hatch called on the scientist and found him with a telegram in his hands.

“Did you see Clements?” asked The Thinking Machine, “and did you ask him if he knew a burglar?”

“I did,” said Hatch, smiling slightly. “He wanted to fight.”

The Thinking Machine unfolded the telegram and handed it to the reporter.

“This might interest you,” he said.

Hatch took the yellow slip and read the following:

“Ali Hassan committee suicide this morning.”

“Why that’s a confession,” said the reporter.

6

There was a gathering of a half a dozen persons in the office of the Chief of Police on the morning of the following day. They were the chief, The Thinking Machine, Charles Wilkes, Detective Fahey, Willard Clements and Hutchinson Hatch. The summons to Clements had been in the nature of a great surprise to that young man. First he had been indignant, but gradually this passed, and there came instead a cowering attitude.

Every one, even the chief, was waiting the pleasure of The Thinking Machine. Hatch, still firmly convinced that Hassan, the Turk, was the criminal, was almost as much surprised as Clements by his presence.

Detective Fahey sat silently by, chewing his cigar and with a slightly amused smile on his face; the chief didn’t smile. He had felt the vital power of this diminutive man with the enormous yellow head.

“Now, Mr. Clements,” The Thinking Machine began, and the young man started slightly, “I don’t believe that you killed Miss Gorham. Perhaps the worst charge that can be laid to you is burglary, or, rather, illicit knowledge of burglary. Your friends, ‘Reddy’ Blake and this man Johnson have already partially confessed. Now, will you tell the rest of it?”

“Confessed what? What are you talking about?” demanded the young man.

“Never mind, then,” said The Thinking Machine, impatiently. He turned to the chief. “Fortune has favored us a good deal in this case,” he said. “Particularly is this true in the arrest of Mr. Wilkes. I may compliment you chief on the ability your men displayed in getting Mr. Wilkes.”

The chief bowed gravely.

“But he is not the murderer.”

The scientist went on:

“By telegraph and cable I have verified his story in full. You may have done so yourself. Here are the answers I received to the wires I sent. I think, perhaps, they will convince you. Meanwhile, you have the real murderer in Charlestown prison now. It is ‘Reddy’ Blake, or Johnson.”

At the second mention of these two names every eye was again turned on Clements. A sudden change had come over his face. He was now frightened; the color was surging back into Wilkes’s countenance.

“Proofs, proofs,” said the chief, shortly.

“It will be useless,” continued The Thinking Machine, “to rehearse Mr. Wilkes’s story. It is proven. Therefore, what remains? Let’s begin with the dagger and see what it leads to.

“I saw this dagger. It is an extraordinary weapon. Its value must be in the thousands. On it I saw, cut into the handle, the crescent of Turkey, together with half a dozen symbols, religious and otherwise, of that empire. It was a simple matter, comparatively, to call up on the ‘phone some one who knew of these things, preferably a Turk. There is a Turk in one of the oriental stores on Boylston Street.

“I talked to him and described the dagger in detail. He is an educated man, knows his country and its customs and was able to say that such a dagger could only have been what I had previously supposed it to have been — a gift from a prince or ruler to a loyal subject for duty well done. I asked if he knew of such a weapon being in this country. He said he did not, but that a certain Turkish gentleman, then in Boston, had once signally served his master, and there was a possibility that he had been rewarded by such a gift. What was his name? Ali Hassan.

“Mr. Hassan was stopping at the Hotel Teutonic. I wrote a note to him. He called and readily identified a photograph of the golden dagger as his property. Remember that this was a photograph of the dagger with which the girl was slain.

“He amazed me a little by stating that the dagger was then in his possession. At the same time he explained that it was a sacred object and not for the eyes of infidels. For a time this was puzzling. Then I asked what would be the result if, by any chance, the dagger should pass out of his possession. He replied that he would kill himself. That was an illuminating point. He had lied; he did not have the dagger. If any one else had known that he did not have it, it would have been his death. He saved his life thus far by lying. It has been done before. I may say, too, that the idea of a duplicate dagger was not tenable.”

“If this man owns the dagger and admits it,” interrupted the chief, “I will have him immediately arrested.”

“There are two reasons why you can’t do that,” said The Thinking Machine, quietly. “The first is that Mr. Hassan was a secretary of the Turkish legation in Washington; the second, he is dead.”

There was a pause while the chief and the remainder of the party absorbed this.

“Dead,” exclaimed the chief. “How?”

“Suicide by poison,” was the brief response. “Anyway, I had established the ownership of the dagger. I also learned that Hassan had been in Boston only five days at the time the body was found. The girl had been dead for a week or ten days — possibly ten days. Therefore, Hassan did not kill Miss Gorham. That was conclusive.

“Then came the question of how the dagger passed out of his possession. Obviously it was not a gift. Stolen? Probably. When? Mr. Hassan showed in a way that he had not been in Boston for two years. But burglars operate all over the country. Therefore, burglars. It is perfectly possible that the dagger was stolen some time in Washington by ‘Reddy’ Blake and his gang, and for some reason they kept it instead of selling it. No man, not even a ‘fence,’ would have tried to dispose of a four-carat diamond. In the second place, Mr. Hassan would not have dared to report the loss of the dagger to the police. Blake, of course, could not know this. He kept the weapon. The safest place for it was on his person.”

The Thinking Machine lay back in his chair, squinting at the ceiling, while his listeners leaned forward eagerly. The chief was fascinated, amazed by the strange story. The scientist resumed:

“It was stated in the hearing of Mr. Hassan and also published that the dagger was in the possession of Medical Examiner Loyd. It is easy to see how employees of this man burglarized Loyd’s home and recovered the weapon. Its possession meant life to Hassan. Immediately after this burglary he returned to Washington. There he committed suicide, probably by order of his superiors. I had wired the facts, not intending to cause his death, of course, but to have the dagger produced here when necessary. That disposes, I think, of the ownership of the weapon, and places it in the hands of ‘Reddy’ Blake or his pals.”

The Thinking Machine turned suddenly on Clements.

“As collector for Henry Holmes & Co. you know Cambridge well, I should imagine. You have opportunities, which fall to few men — legitimately — to know where rich hauls may be made. You were also in a position to know practically every vacant house in Cambridge. Knowing this you might know, too, the best vacant house for a rendezvous for thieves. In passing, you might have learned that the house rented by Mr. Wilkes had not been occupied. It is perfectly possible that you did not even know the house had been rented until the bill for rent was placed in your hands. These are possibilities; now here are facts.

“You went to that house to collect rent. The front door was locked and the shutters up. In the natural course of events you would have satisfied yourself that it was unoccupied. You might have shouted to attract someone’s attention, but in the ordinary course of events you would not have gone upstairs to look further, unless you had asked something. You found something in a back room and probably behind a door that was closed. You broke open that door. Why did you go to that room? Why did you break down that door?

“Let’s see. Suppose for a moment that you were one of the most valued members of a gang of burglars — valued because you appear the gentleman and can go places and learn things without attracting attention. Suppose this house was a hiding place for stolen goods. Suppose the girl, answering Mr. Wilkes’s advertisement for a companion, should have gone to that house and found it locked. It is not improbable that she should have gone around the house, believing it to be occupied, to find someone.

“Suppose she had come upon a party of thieves. It would have been a natural consequence for them to fear a spy and attempt to get rid of her.

“What more possible than that they should have locked her up? She was at least four hundred feet from the nearest house, and forty, fifty or sixty feet from the street and behind thick walls. Her screams would not have been heard.

“There we have the girl a prisoner in the hands of the men who had the golden dagger. The murder may have followed at any time. It happened but a few days ago. Meanwhile the burglars had taken from their loot a bed and its furnishings, providing a place for the girl to sleep. You, Mr. Clements, knew that the girl had been a prisoner upstairs. That is why you went to that room. I will not say that you knew of the murder at that time. You discovered that. You were frightened at this hideous ending of an affair in which you had been interested. Perhaps you were a little angry, too. It may have been that the burglars had taken away the stolen stuff, sold it and left you out in the division. Is that right?”

Clements stared at him with glassy eyes, then suddenly leaned forward with his head in his hands, and sobbed bitterly. It was practically a confession.

“How did it come that you considered burglars in the first place?” asked the chief.

“I made two examinations of the house. The first was not thorough. I examined the faucets to see if the water was on, and if there was a possible trace of blood on them anywhere. It was not impossible that the murderer of Miss Gorham got blood on his hands and left a thumb or finger print when he washed it off. I found none. He was careful.

“On the second examination I looked particularly for a trace of burglars in the cellar. There I found, freshly pressed down in the soft soil, the imprint of what must have been a carved piano leg and beside it a large imprint indicating that a grand piano had been leaned against the wall. People don’t keep pianos in the cellar. Therefore, if one were there, it was hidden. Naturally burglars. The bed was not handsome, but was of mahogany. Nobody moving out would leave a mahogany bed. Still burglars. There is no path leading from the back of the house to the back fence. Yet there is a straight line across the grass to a certain panel in that fence where people have walked frequently. That panel of the fence fell out when I shook it; there is no gate. Burglars, even at night, would not move their loot in at the front; it would be comparatively easy to bring in large objects, such as a piano, through the alley, tearing down a fence panel and then to the house. Therefore burglars.

“Now, burglars do not steal pianos and mahogany beds in a wagon from a house that is occupied. The police informed me that burglars —‘Reddy’ Blake, among them — had been robbing an unoccupied furnished house. They could have stolen a piano or anything else. Therefore the chain is complete.”

“Admitting that is all true,” interrupted the chief, “how did you explain the fact that the man who killed Miss Gorham left the dagger? If he had been a burglar, as you say, wouldn’t he have been the last man to leave a thing of that value?”

“All men are fools when they kill people,” said The Thinking Machine. “They are frightened, half-witted, and do all kinds of inexplicable things. Suppose there had been a sudden violent noise in the house, made by one of his pals just at the moment the girl fell backward, covering the knife with her body. The murderer might have run, leaving it where it was. I don’t state this as a fact, but as a strong probability. He might have intended to return for the knife, but if he had meanwhile been arrested, as Blake and Johnson were, this would have been impossible. I think that is all.”

“Why is it that Mr. Wilkes did not see the stolen goods when he went to look at the house?” asked the chief.

“Because they were in the cellar. You didn’t go into the cellar, did you, Mr. Wilkes?”

“No; oh, no,” Wilkes replied.

“And remember, the girl wasn’t in the house then,” The Thinking Machine added. “She went to answer the advertisement which appeared after Mr. Wilkes had rented the house.”

Then Hutchinson Hatch, who had been an interested listener, had a question.

“Why did you ask Mr. Wilkes if he had ever seen the knife or had given an order for a blade for it?”

“The blade in the dagger was of American make,” replied the scientist. “The original had been broken. Peculiarly enough the new blade was made by the cutlery company which Mr. Wilkes represents. It was not impossible, therefore, that this dagger had been in his possession.”

There was a long silence. The chief and Detective Fahey removed their half-chewed cigars and looked inquiringly at each other. Fahey shook his head — he had no questions. At last the chief turned to The Thinking Machine:

“If, as you say, Blake or Johnson killed Miss Gorham, how can we prove it? This is not proof — it is theory.”

“Simply enough. Do the men occupy the same cell in Charlestown?”

“I hardly think so. Members of a gang that way are rarely kept in the same cell.”

“In that case,” said The Thinking Machine, “let the warden go to each man and tell him that the other has turned state’s evidence, accusing his pal of the murder.”

Johnson confessed.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/futrelle/jacques/tales-of-the-thinking-machine/chapter27.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:06