Friday, November 10, 2023

"It Concerned a Murder Committed Behind a Locked Door!"

"Locked Door."
By Henry A. Milton (?-?).
First appearance: Bluebook for Men, October 1960.
Illustrated with a photograph.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE).

   "The door was securely bolted from the inside, and only the dead woman could have locked it. Yet it turned out to be . . . MURDER!"

Can it be that a middle-aged mediocrity unhappy in his marriage has developed such an overwhelming sweet tooth for a curvaceous cupcake that he's willing to kill his wife and 
make it look like a suicide? Two cops launch a "quiet investigation" to find out . . .

Principal characters:
~ Edwin F. Mueller:
  ". . . announced to the desk sergeant on duty that he'd been locked out."
~ Sergeant Garrity:
  ". . . wheezed again, and indicated a patrolman who lounged against the back wall and who also contemplated an early relief."
~ Patrolman Boyle:
  "Looks as if the door's bolted from the inside."
~ Jensen:
  "'Mr. Jensen says he hasn't seen my wife all day,' Mueller said worriedly, jerking his thumb toward the janitor."
~ Henrietta Mueller:
  ". . . or a plump facsimile, hung suspended from the overhead, a pair of neckties around her bulging neck, her tongue jutting out, her face a ghastly blue, and her eyeballs protruding like marbles in a mosaic."
~ Birgit Axelsen:
  ". . . a plump Norwegian widow who lived down the hall from the Muellers, had liked the drab bookkeeper's mousey wife, and had felt sorry for the woman in her marriage to such an obviously stingy and unloving man."
~ Millie Benton:
  "Mrs. Benton's husband, George, was a detective on the San Francisco police force."
~ George Benton:
  ". . . began a quiet investigation."
~ Emily Curran:
  ". . . had devoted most of her time during the past six months to a gentleman named Edwin F. Mueller."
~ Inspector O'Brien:
  "You can't argue with that locked door."

References and resources:
- "all the wisdom of the Sanhedrin":
  "In the Hebrew Bible, Moses and the Israelites were commanded by God to establish courts of judges. They were also commanded to establish a 'supreme court' located at the central sanctuary (after arriving in the Land of Israel), to handle cases too difficult for local courts." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a creaky Morris chair":
  "A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris's firm, Morris & Company, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a mohair sofa that must have been the pilot model for the species":
  "Mohair is used in scarves, winter hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks and home furnishing. Mohair fiber is also found in carpets, wall fabrics, craft yarns, and many other fabrics, and may be used as a substitute for fur." (Wikipedia (HERE.)
- "like marbles in a mosaic":
  "A mosaic is a pattern or image made of small regular or irregular pieces of colored stone, glass or ceramic, held in place by plaster/mortar, and covering a surface." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the sweat-stained bowler had given way to a new fedora":
  In America the bowler hat has a checkered past:
  "The bowler, not the cowboy hat or sombrero, was the most popular hat in the American West, prompting Lucius Beebe to call it 'the hat that won the West'. Both cowboys and railroad workers preferred the hat because it would not blow off easily in strong wind while riding a horse, or when sticking one's head out the window of a speeding train. It was worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy, Black Bart, and Billy the Kid. In the United States the hat came to be known commonly as the derby, and American outlaw Marion Hedgepeth was commonly referred to as 'the Derby Kid'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
The Wright Brothers wearing bowlers in 1910.
  And what would a private eye be without a fedora?
  "The fedora was worn by film actors such as Edward G. Robinson, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart. The fedora was a characteristic of film noir and has been the chosen accessory of movie detectives and criminals alike. It was worn by Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946). Peter Eliopoulos wrote in The 1930s: The Reality and the Promise: 'The popular Bogart-styled fedora was worn slightly cocked, it was pulled down just above the eye line, so that the wearer peaked beneath the brim and through the cigarette smoke that gathered momentarily before curling itself around the top of the hat'." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "an International Settlement bierstube":
  "American beer halls became popular in the mid-19th century, following a wave of immigration from Germany to the United States. They became an alternative to the 
American-style tavern." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Nick Carter thrillers":
  Not much in the way of Holmesian detection:
  "Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. The character was first conceived by Ormond G. Smith and created by John R. Coryell. Carter headlined his own magazine for years and was then part of a long-running series of novels from 1964 to 1990." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "Ben Hur":
  "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a novel by Lew Wallace, published by Harper and Brothers on November 12, 1880, and considered 'the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century'. It became a best-selling American novel, surpassing Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) in sales. The book also inspired other novels with biblical settings and was adapted for the stage and motion picture productions." (Wikipedia HERE.)
  The movie version of Ben-Hur had been released just about a year before our story:
  "Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic religious film directed by William Wyler, produced by Sam Zimbalist, and starring Charlton Heston as the title character. A remake of the 1925 silent film with a similar title, it was adapted from Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "The Klansmen":
   No idea.
- "a ferry poking its way into its slip after a run from Oakland":
  "San Francisco Bay in California has been served by ferries of all types for over 150 years. John Reed established a sailboat ferry service in 1826. Although the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge led to the decline in the importance of most ferries, some are still in use today for both commuters and tourists." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a draymen's picnic":
  "The word 'drayman' is used in U.S. ports as the over the road highway truck drivers who deliver containers to and from the port." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "several miles away at San Quentin":
  "The methods for execution at San Quentin have changed over time. Prior to 1893, the counties executed convicts. Between 1893 and 1937, 215 people were executed at San Quentin by hanging, after which 196 prisoners died in the gas chamber. In 1995, the use of gas for execution was ruled 'cruel and unusual punishment', which led to executions inside the gas chamber by lethal injection. Between 1996 and 2006, eleven people were executed at San Quentin by lethal injection." (Wikipedia HERE; also HERE.)
- Our author has only two credits on FictionMags:
   (1) "For the Man Who Has Everything" (article), Bluebook, December 1953
   (2) "Locked Door" (short story), Bluebook for Men, October 1960 (above).

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

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