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This pastiche appeared in the New York Evening World in 1904. As far as I am aware it has not been republished since then.The Fatal Chord was published in twelve daily chapters, the excerpt below is chapter eleven.


The Fatal Chord,

or the Baffling Mystery of the Carnegie Hall Murder.

By Albert Payson Terhune.


Cyril Ballard, a young New Yorker, is killed during a musicale at Paul Craddock’s apartments in Carnegie Hall. Several apparently supernatural events attend his death. Poison tablets, also, are found in his pocket, but the autopsy reveals no trace of poison in his system. As Gresham and Beckwith, two detectives, are discussing the affair, they are joined by a tall, thin Englishman, whom Beckwith introduces to Gresham as the “ideal detective.” To which Gresham replies: “Do you mean to tell me this is SHERLOCK HOLMES?”

This other makes an evasive reply and tells Gresham that the latter may refer to him merely as “The Englishman.” The Englishman undertakes to solve the Ballard mystery.

The Englishman's suspicions at length fall on Royce Ballard, the murdered man's brother.

He goes to Royce's apartments with two other detectives, who introduce him to Ballard.


A Wasted Crime.

“The greatest living detective!” echoed Ballard. “You surely don’t mean Sherlock Holmes?”

“I haven’t said so, have I?” said Gresham. “I judge his detective prowess by what I’ve seen of it. Not by his name.”

Ballard, recovering his self-control, turned angrily on The Englishman.

”I do not ask you,” he said, “why you have imposed yourself on New York as ‘Dr. Watts’. But what I do want to know is, why you have intruded on me at such a time.”

“I think you know,” replied The Englishman quietly.

The very impassiveness of his tone struck a chill to Royce’s heart.

“I do not know why you are here,” he blustered, “and I’ve no wish to know. Do me the favor to leave. I’ve met you but once in my life, and I’ve no desire to prolong the acquaintance.”

“You’re mistaken, Mr. Ballard. You have met me several times. The last occasion was the night before last in Reade street. I was obliged to leave you somewhat suddenly, but” –

“It was you? You who robbed me, and” –

“It’s no use, Mr. Ballard,” broke in Gresham, “the game is up.”

“Gentlemen,” said Bona, who with feminine intuition grasped the whole situation and resolved to play her one card in behalf of the man she loved, “I do not think you quite understand. Mr. Ballard and I were married only half an hour ago. It was so soon after his brother’s death that the ceremony was private. But I tell you of it in order that you may at least defer business matters until after our honeymoon. It isn’t pleasant to have one’s wedding trip delayed. Won’t you wait - for my sake? It is the custom in my country,” she went on shyly, ‘To grant any request made by a bride on the day of her wedding. And mine was such a poor, unpretentious little wedding, too! It’s hardly fair that the very first persons we announce it to should refuse my very first request - is it?” she ended pleadingly.

Gresham hesitated before the helpless, gentle dignity of her voice and manner. Beckwith looked uncomfortable. Even The Englishman seemed reluctant to make any move.

Quick to see the point she had made, the girl went on in the same tone, her hand resting in light and apparently unconscious caress on Ballard’s shoulder.

“You see, my husband has”–

”Shut up!” growled Royce, shaking himself free from her detaining hand. “This is a plot, and you’re in it. You bullied me into marrying you on your threat to cause trouble for me if I refused. And now I find you’ve sold me out! I” –

“Hold on, please,” interrupted The Englishman, coldly, all his momentary rising sympathy changing to disgust by the brutal words he had just heard. “I don’t like to interfere between man and wife, but you’re in error. Miss Pittani - Mrs. Ballard, I should say - did not tell anything. This is the first time I have had the honor of meeting her. What I learned was acquired solely through yourself, Mr. Ballard.”

“What you’ve learned?” sneered Royce, making a last stand. “And what is the wonderful fact that you have learned?”

“The nature and effects of a certain Malay drug known as ‘thalesia.’”

For a full minute Ballard stared at his torturer. His face was void of expression as a Greek mask. It gave no sign of the torrent of thoughts, plans, fears and final despair that surged through his mind.

At last, with a resigned shrug of the shoulders, Ballard withdrew his fingers from the watch-pocket of his white vest, into which they had been carefully thrust. With a quick gesture he raised the fingers to his lips.

The Englishman leaped forward to stay him, but he was too late. A spasmodic motion of the throat muscles showed that Ballard had already swallowed whatever he had conveyed to his mouth.

“Thalesia!” exclaimed The Englishman.

“Quite so. There is no antidote,” replied Ballard calmly. “According to the formula for the mixture (which I always carried with me, by the way, until after that experience in Jersey City, when I found a safer hiding place for it) - according to the formula I have about fifteen minutes of life left. I’ve made a silly bungle of it all. Yet it was cleverly thought out. Don’t!” as Bona threw her arms in an agony of fear about him. “Kindly spare me that nonsense in my last moments. What I have just taken was originally meant for you. I always hated you. Did you really think I’d live with you? One of us must have died. It was you or I - and as the dice have fallen the wrong way, it is I.”

“I’ve sent for a doctor,” observed The Englishman, who had hurriedly whispered to Gresham, “but it is of no use, as you doubtless know. Still, it may be some slight consolation to you, Mr. Ballard, to know that your intention of murdering your brother stopped short at intention. You did not kill him.”

“Did not kill him? But I” –

“Yes, yes, I know. But you failed. He died in another manner. You are innocent, as far as actual murder goes.”

“I suppose I should feel relieved,” laughed Royce sardonically, “but somehow I’m not. If you people expect a dramatic and repentant dying scene you’ll be disappointed. What I’ve done, I’ve done. And I’ll take my losses quietly like a man, not a maudlin fool. I’m not the sort – Great heaven!” –

He broke off short in his railing speech. His face went deathly pallis.

“The formula said it was painless,” he screamed. “Said it was painless - PAINLESS! God have mercy! Oh, my God! Mercy!”

* * * * *

Paul Craddock entered his rooms on the afternoon following Royce Ballard’s suicide to find The Englishman awaiting him there.

“Hello!” cried Craddock, startled out of his usual composure. “Who let you in?”

“I let myself in,” answered The Englishman imperturbably. “I’ve been here nearly half an hour. Ever since I got back from Sing Sing. I went up there this morning to see an electrocution. Not that I cared to see a man killed, but in order to examine the body afterward. Thanks to Dr. Irvine’s courtesy, I was permitted to do so. It confirmed my own ideas. Do you know, Craddock, it’s an interesting thing, this Yankee form of capital punishment of yours. I learned what I wanted to know, namely, that the body of man who is electrocuted presents the same phenomena as that of a man who has died by a stroke of lightning. And a man who has been killed by lightning possesses the same general aspect and organic condition as one who has died of fright. Interesting, is it not? Especially since the Coroner’s physician declared that poor Cyril Ballard who fell dead in these rooms, died of fright. May be he was electrocuted? Eh?”

Craddock’s deep-set eyes were resting on the detective with politely inquiring expression, as though mutely reminding his guest that the latter had not yet explained his outrageous conduct in picking the lock of the rooms and of entering them uninvited in his host’s absence.

But The Englishman did not or would not understand the look.

“When I first examined Cyril Ballard’s body, the day after I landed in America,” the uninvited guest resumed, “I found a tiny spot on the cushion of the middle finger of his right hand. It was a spot I once saw on the chest of a man who had been struck by lightning. Queer, wasn’t it? It gave me an idea, but the idea seemed so wildly improbable that I couldn’t believe it possible. And yet,” he added reflectively, “I ought by this time to know that it is only the seemingly probable things in crime which are really improbable. May I offer you a cigarette? No? Well, an easier, more probable clue offered itself and I’ve wasted much time following it, but I’ve come to the worthless end of it at last. I ended in the body of a suicide with a heart-wrecked woman weeping over it. So I am back on the old, original, seemingly improbable trail again. And, Strangely enough, it has led me here. I owe you an apology, Mr. Craddock, for secretly entering your rooms for the purpose of spying. But, as my quest has brought me perfect success, I cannot feel as sorry as I should.”

“Dr. Watts,” began Craddock angrily, “it” –

“Excuse me, Mr. Craddock,” politely interposed the other, “but I see no further reason for concealing my identity from you. Permit me to apologize for deceiving you so long as to my identity, and to introduce myself to you by my own name.”

And he did so.

Craddock opened his lips to speak, but it was The Englishman who spoke first.

“Mr Craddock,” he said politely, “would you mind telling me what was your motive in murdering Cyril Ballard?”

If the Englishman had expected that Craddock would express surprise, consternation or denial he was disappointed.

Paul Craddock’s stern, semi-classic features underwent no change. The politely bored look did not leave his eyes.

“Why did you kill Cyril Ballard?” repeated The Englishman.

“Is that any concern of yours?” asked Craddock, coldly. “the question strikes me as impertinent. Yet, something is due you, perhaps, in reward for the skill you’ve shown in discovering that I killed him. But for you I never would have been suspected. Yet I am not wholly sorry you have solved the mystery. I am tired of New York. One of my old, restless fits has been on me for some time. I had already planned to journey again to some distant corner of the world for a few years. You are simply forcing me to go a little earlier than I had expected to.”

“I am afraid,” said The Englishman regretfully (for he had acquired a keen liking and respect for the man) “that your journey this time will carry you further afield than ever before, and that your ticket will include no return privileges. You see, the law kills people for premeditated murder.”

“And you know so little as to imagine I would let myself be taken?” No, no, my friend! And I shall not even make a fool of myself by committing suicide like poor Royce Ballard. Life still holds much for me. I shall be long dead. If I have my way I shall also be long living.”

Without perceptible emotion Craddock turned from the mantel against which he had been leaning. In his right hand shone a revolver. The muzzle was on a line with The Englishman’s head. The distance was barely six feet. There was no missing at that range - there was nothing melodramatic in the man’s action.

“Yes,” went on Craddock in the same tone, “I have nothing to fear from you. It would cause me considerable regret to kill you, because I’ve taken a liking to you. But if it comes to your life or mine, I need not tell you the outcome.”

The Englishman saw he was covered; that the slightest self-defensive move on his part must mean swift death; that his antagonist was no ordinary criminal, but possessed a nerve of iron and a wit and indomitable purpose to match.

“It’s your move, Mr. Craddock,” he replied after a brief pause.

“Good. I ask you to give me your word not to attempt to molest me in any way. If you will do so, you may stay here while I make my preparations for departure, and I will even go so far as to answer any questions you may care to ask. I beg you will accept my terms. For the alternative would be painful to us both.”

A moment’s hesitation and The Englishman’s mind was made up. This was a man of his word, a man in a thousand; a man on whom any attempted subterfuge might fail.

(To Be Concluded.)

The Evening World, 15 April 1904



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