Friday, March 16, 2018

"If Anybody'd Murdered 'im, 'ow Could 'e Possibly 'ave Left the Train?"

YESTERDAY Fred White spun out the tale of an apparently impossible crime involving murder and robbery aboard a moving train; today he goes one step further with a story of murder, robbery, and blackmail aboard the Northern Express . . .

"One Foggy Night."
By Fred M. White (1859-1935).
First appearance: The Windsor Magazine, May 1916.
Short story (17 pages as a PDF).
Online at Roy Glashan's Library (HERE).

"I did it, right enough, and I don't know that I regret it, either."
Superficially, every bit of evidence would seem to point to suicide as explaining the death of a reclusive London businessman aboard the Northern Express en route to Newcastle—until the case is taken up by a wily Scotland Yard inspector who understands the victim's psychology, the significance of a torn sheet of white paper at the crime scene, the fog, railway tunnel repairs, an empty safe, and the numbers 18975. "There are," he assures us, "no trivial details in our business."

The cast:
~ Joe, the ticket collector:
  ". . . there's a passenger all by 'imself in a first-class carriage dahn there, and 'e's dead. Looks to me as if 'e'd bin murdered."
~ The guard:
  "Murdered be hanged! That's impossible. Why, the train 'asn't stopped since we left London, an' there wasn't no murdered man in the train then, I'll take my oath."
~ Jabez Thornton, the dearly departed:
  "He was a man who lived by line and rule, with one object in life, and that the piling up of money. His business as a money-lender appeared to be somewhat extensive, but that branch of the concern had been carried on entirely by the dead man at his cottage, through the medium of the post office."
~ Inspector Thomas Fadden:
  "To the ordinary eye the carriage conveyed nothing. Fadden, however, examined it with the greatest care, especially the woodwork on the inside frame of the windows, and, when he had finished, he smiled with the air of a man who feels that he has not been wasting his time."
~ Mary Gaylord:
  ". . . a little, faded woman with a very white and pathetic face, that must have been pretty and attractive before care and trouble had aged it so terribly. The woman's eyes had a suggestion of fear in them as she stood before Fadden in a neat little sitting-room, waiting for him to speak."
~ Richard Gaylord:
  "The man was bloodshot as to his eyes, and unshaven, and obviously had not yet recovered from what he himself would term 'a thick night'."
A clew.

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