Thursday, August 27, 2015

"The Murderer Had Done His Work Well"

"The Unseen Death."
By Allan K. Echols (1896-1953).
Found in Argosy Weekly, May 30, 1931.
Short story (12 pages).
Online HERE.
"Rayno Barriton, amateur criminologist, was a scientist of note—but he needed more than science to cope with the phantom voice that promised murder . . ."
As both an experimental scientist and an unofficial detective, Barriton's amateur sleuthing works to the advantage of the authorities, as Police Commissioner Delaney readily concedes:
. . . Several times he had found that his friend the young amateur scientist had discovered things that he didn't believe existed. Thanks to a vast family fortune Barriton could and did spend most of his time in the experimental sciences, and his mind was a complete encyclopedia of little-known and obscure information. Delaney depended upon him heavily when it came to unraveling some of his problems that seemed to indicate the presence of factors that were not in the normal course of human and scientific affairs.  . . .
In this case Barriton and Delaney encounter a series of murders that could only have been committed by the little man who wasn't there. A few passages:
. . . "Well—I mean, Mr. Cromwell was stabbed while I was sitting facing him," the secretary blurted out fearfully, yet with a trace of defiance. "The door was locked and there was no one else in the room. We were talking when suddenly he sprang up and shrieked, then fell back in his chair. I ran across the room and saw him as he is now, with that knife in his side. That's all I know."  . . .
. . . "Just about a week before Mr. Cromwell was killed," he said haltingly, "the radio started suddenly, although we were both across the room from it. Then a voice began speaking from it, promising vengeance for something. It came from the radio, came out of nothing, out of thin air. After that it came anywhere, at his office, here, everywhere."  . . .
. . . A fleeting look of guilt flashed across the gray face, only to be driven away by one of obstinacy. It was clear that the man who had fought and amassed millions would not now, even with the fear of death hanging over his head, tell his secret even to those who would help him.  . . .
. . . He threw his hands upward, then tumbled to the floor and lay still. The long handle of a keen-bladed knife protruded from a bloody wound in his side. He was quiet in death as the clock boomed out the hour of nine.  . . .
. . . "Too late," Delaney groaned in utter helplessness, staring wildly about the room. He did not have to be told that the murderer had done his work well.  . . .
Resource:
- Allan K. Nichols is known to posterity as an author of Western fiction; see The FictionMags listings (they run to three pages) of Nichols's output HERE. He would occasionally produce crime fiction, but we're unsure whether he ever wrote any other adventures featuring Barriton and Delaney.

Category: Crime fiction and science fantasy in collision

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