Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Nothing Out of the Ordinary; Only the Robbery and Incidental Murder of an Old Man"

"The Mystery of the Centenarian."
By George Hibbard (1858-1928).
First appearance: Everybody's Magazine, January 1905.
Short story (13 pages, with 7 illos).
Online at Google Books (HERE).
"Oh, you men! Of course you can't untangle anything. Did you ever see one with a skein of yarn? A woman can always get at the thread of a thing."
One hundred year-old Hiram Kirgate, known to one and all for his miserliness and misanthro-py, is dead, and one and all aren't inclined to shed any tears about it. The police are satisfied that a burglar took advantage of the victim's age, killing him with a blow to the head as he was counting his money. Elwood, our newspaper reporter narrator, finds the case equally unremarkable, but his boss, heeding his journalistic "sixth sense," insists on him pursuing it, feeling that "something might be made of it."

Being entirely clueless as how to proceed, Elwood seeks the help of female sleuth Hermia Wyatt, possessed of "an exceptional gift of discernment—a remarkable faculty for instinctive analysis and deduction," whose assistance he's made use of before. To collect as much information as she can that relates to the crime, Hermia, in Nero Wolfeian fashion, uses Elwood as her Archie, sending him into the field and processing whatever data, however meager, that he brings back into an evolving theory that should lead to the solution.
But before then, Elwood will encounter an incensed hit-and-run victim; some skulduggery involving a mine (gold? silver? we're never told); a morose young man who's recently discovered that through no fault of his own he can't marry the girl he loves; his reclusive father from whose room come "strange sounds"; and an elusive green parrot, "a bad-tempered old beast" that happily consigns everybody it sees to perdition—the whole thing culminating in a kerfuffle involving a smashed door, fisticuffs, and Elwood having to make use of his "old foot-ball tactics."

- In a Watsonian vein, the narrator mentions "the peculiar mystery of the Retired Banker," "the singular matter of the Stained Glass Window," "the occurrence of the Empty Carriage," and "the circumstance of the Little Hands," none of which, as far as we can determine, were ever committed to print by George Hibbard or anyone else.
                       "I ain't talkin', see?"
The bottom line: "Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity."
Dr. Johnson

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