Thursday, January 28, 2016

"I Knew Them — They're Snug at Home in Hell"

"The Triple Murder in Mulberry Bend."
By Christopher Hawthorne (1871?-1936).
First appearance: The Black Mask, August 1920.
Short story (10 pages).
Online at Comic Book Plus HERE (set page selector to 73).
Police Lieutenant "Silent" Cass and his brutal subordinate Sergeant Gatty, tasked with investigating crime in New York's lower East Side, have seen plenty of killings in their time, but nothing like this—three dead men, all of them known criminals, sitting at a table playing cards:
. . . One thing was evident from the beginning. The triple murder, if such it was, did not have its origin in a vendetta. All the fantastic earmarks usual to a Southern European feud were absent. There was no hideous marring of the bodies; indeed, no mark of any kind was found upon them. Nor did the coroner find a trace of poison after the autopsies. A chemical analysis of the organs revealed nothing. The men, apparently, had died of natural causes and simultaneously.
Not only that, but the person who killed these crooks (and, yes, despite appearances, it is murder) had taken their fingerprints post mortem and sent them in a note to the police: "You will find three dead men in Molspini's cellar in Mulberry Bend.Clearly, as Cass and Gatty must acknowledge, "It was not the work of a bunglesome amateur."

He doesn't know it at the time, but this case with have far-reaching implications for "Silent" Cass's career, ultimately presenting him with a moral dilemma he could never have forseen.

Comment: A good story, very readable, but with one major flaw: the murder weapon.

- FictionMags has a list of Christopher Hawthorne's small pulp output HERE.
- This story was actually adapted to film last year as a low-budget indie production; see HERE for the trailer (43 seconds), HERE for background (1 minute 24 seconds), and HERE for the video (9 minutes 6 seconds). The setting has been changed from New York's lower East Side to what we think is central England, to judge from the actors' U.K. Midlands dialects. We advise that you read the story first.

The bottom line: "I think everyone enjoys a nice murder, provided you're not the victim."
Alfred Hitchcock

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