Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Curtain Call

ONE OF THE German authors mentioned in Grace Isabel Colbron's article (covered in the previous post HERE) committed the following—to paper, that is:

"Well-Woven Evidence."
By Dietrich Theden (1857-1909).
First appearance: Unknown.
Short story.
Reprinted in The Lock and Key Library (Volume III,

1909) and World's Great Detective Stories (1928).
Online at UNZ (HERE, 10 pages), Google Books
(HERE, 14 pages), and in Prof. David Stewart's
collection (HERE, 8 pages).

"Isn't it pretty? but look at this coronet here! What should we want with a coronet? I am just ripping it out, and it's no easy work, I assure you!"
Police Commissioner Wolff learns of an entreating letter from Johann Behrend to an old friend, Police-senator Lachmann, asking for whatever help he can offer: "On Sunday, the 18th of June," it reads, "the safe in my business office was robbed of the sum of 58,000 marks." A cursory investigation has led Behrend to believe, reluctantly, that it was an inside job:

   "There remains, therefore, only the, to me, very sad explanation that some member of my business force must have thus ill repaid my confidence. I could easily lose the actual amount of money but my relations with my employees are such that the thought that I might find the thief among them would depress me most terribly. There is nothing proven as yet, and I can still hope that some outsider may have committed this crime — indeed I wish from the bottom of my heart that it may be so."

Almost as an afterthought Behrend adds a postscript:

   "P.S. — Simply to complete my report, not because I believe it to be of any importance, I would add that the thief took also a large package of lace curtains which lay in my own private office."

More than anything else in this case, however, it will be that offhand P.S. which will lead an undercover detective straight to the thief, confirming a good rule of thumb in just about any investigation: you can hardly go wrong if you cherchez la femme . . .

The characters:
~ Commissioner Wolff:

  ". . . dropped the letter and sat in deep thought. Then he turned his cold gray eyes on his chief . . ."
~ Police-senator Lachmann:
  "I have, as you know, an only daughter. It is the heartfelt wish of the parents in both families that my child and my friend's son should be united in a bond that will bring us all still closer together."
~ Johann Behrend, business owner:
  "Behrend, Sr., was not particularly imposing in appearance, not quite so much so as Engel had imagined he should be as the head of a great enterprise, and a self-made man. But the high forehead and clear eyes of the delicate looking man of scarcely medium height had an expression of such high intelligence that it was quite easy to understand his success."
~ Bernhard Juritz, the firm's cashier:
  "Juritz's sharp-featured face showed energy, but the dull glance of his eyes and the foolish play with the evidently unheeded instrument in his hands showed a physical and mental weakening, for the moment at least. His low forehead and broad, full-lipped mouth pointed to strong animal desires, and the dark rings about his eyes were evidence of dissipation."
~ B. Düfken, a widow:
  "There was nothing refined or aristocratic in her appearance, her manner was awkward, her clothing very ordinary. She was one of a kind that could be seen by the hundred anywhere, a woman brought up in quite other surroundings than these, and who had evidently not yet been able to adapt herself to affluence."
~ Lore Düfken, her daughter:
  "In the next room they found a young woman in a white house-gown, who turned her

bright brown eyes on the stranger in curiosity, and then quickly pushed aside her work,
which covered almost half the floor, so that they might enter. The young lady, evidently
the daughter of the other woman, was very pretty, slender, and graceful, with a delicate
face and attractive expression."
~ "Engel":
  "A single passenger descended from the ten o'clock train of the same evening in Neuenfelde, a gentleman of military bearing, in clothes of fashionable cut, with a

sharply marked face and cold gray eyes."

Comment: Our author apparently believes that physiognomy is a certain indicator of moral character.
- There's more about Dietrich Theden on the German Wikipedia (HERE) and the German Project Gutenberg (HERE). In her article, Grace Colbron briefly mentions him:
   ". . . Theden's The Counsel for the Defence [is a] clever story of the conventional sort."

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