Sunday, November 1, 2015

"I Believe the Criminal Had Devised Methods of Work That Have Never Been Heard of Before"

"In Thin Air."
By Albert M. Treynor (1884-1984).
First appearance: Top-Notch Magazine, February 15, 1914.
"A complete novel" (22 pages, actually).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"New York Tale of a Baffling Diamond Mystery"
The stones festooning the Pelham pendant, worth seventy thousand dollars, go missing under nearly impossible circumstances, with the thief or thieves leaving everything else in the vault undisturbed:
. . . John Faye picked up the remnant of jewelry, studied for a moment its bright, silverlike coils, and dropped it again distractedly upon the desk. "But tell me how?" he groaned. "The pendant was in the vault. No one could have got in there without leaving some sign. The burglar alarm is mechanically infallible. If the door had been opened the bell would have gone off. That’s a certainty. But it didn’t. And when we took off the combination a few minutes ago, there was no indication of tampering. Yet I am positive that the diamonds were stolen some time last night, after we had locked up. I want to know how!" . . .
. . . as does Merrill, the detective the bank has hired to investigate:
. . . Faye reached into his pocket, and thrust the platinum chain into Merrill’s fingers. The detective walked over to the closed window, where the morning rays from the midwinter sun were strongest, and began to examine the empty settings. Presently he produced a jeweler’s microscope, adjusted it to his eye, and bent more intently over the dainty links.  . . .
Two overconfident and relatively unhelpful police detectives of the Keystone Kops school heap mild scorn on Merrill: "You’ve eliminated every possible way the job could have been done. What are you going to hunt for now?" to which the private eye responds: "The impossible way." Later he expatiates:
. . . "As I told those two detectives,” he said, "there’s only one course to follow. When you’ve exhausted every possibility, begin searching for the improbabil-ities. Our friends, the precinct men, are incapable of reasoning beyond the obvious. To their minds every crime must have a set formula—be accomplished in some manner known to previous experience. The moment they need to use their imagination you find them floundering helplessly. Now, I am absolutely certain that no human being entered that vault last night. I am equally sure that the stones vanished during the night. How was this thing done? Frankly, I don’t know. But I believe that the crime is unique in the history of theft. I believe the criminal had devised methods of work that have never been heard of before. But I still believe my intelligence equal to his. If he can pull diamonds from that vault, I am confident that I can discover how he did it."  . . .
Discover it he eventually does, but first he must stash a young lady, slug a policeman and go on the run, buy a cart and assume a disguise, swear out a warrant, break and enter, steal a bunch of diamonds, and cheerfully get himself arrested; for Merrill, evidently, it's all in a day's work.

- For more about diamonds as described in the story go to Wikipedia HERE.
- Our author's FictionMags list is HERE.
One of Treynor's novels

The bottom line: Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust,
Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust.
— John Webster, 'The Duchess of Malfi'

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