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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 five.


The Fatal Chord,

or the Baffling Mystery of the Carnegie Hall Murder.

By Albert Payson Terhune.

To Be Completed in Twelve Dally Instalments.


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 has reason to believe that Royce carries a certain document bearing on the crime, and resolves to secure it.


American Methods vs. English

Shortly after noon on the following day, two men walked through the Hoffman House lobby toward the Fifth avenue entrance.

One was Charles Beckwith, the other a grizzled man with square jaw, bushy brows and respectable but ill-fitting clothes. His oldest friends might have gazed long and keenly at this second man without recognizing the scrupulously dressed, well-groomed Englishman.

Habitués of the hotel, accustomed as they were to seeing men of this appearance with Beckwith, scarcely gave a second glance to the pair.

“The disguise is wonderful,” Beckwith was saying, admiringly, “and made with so few alterations, too.”

“That is the art of it, “ responded The Englishman. “The perfect disguise is almost no disguise at all. The average amateur seems to think that the more coverings he heaps on his face the better he hides it. So he claps on false whiskers, goggles, paint and all that. And any one who knows the game can detect at a glance that the man is disguised. That isn’t my line. I have studied disguises for nearly twenty years, and the best of all is one that is practically no disguise at all. To look at me you would be puzzled to detect any artificial change I have made in my face.”

“That is true,” said Beckwith, scanning him closely.” But your bearing is different. You wear your clothes as if they were ready made. You walk heavily, and there is a slouchy, unkempt air about you. You’ve touched up your hair a bit to give it a grizzled look; but your face is not made up. It is only the difference of expression that changes it. You look like an honest, plodding, rather unintelligent Central Office man.”

“In short, the sort of detective who, through hypertrophated zeal and atrophied brains, might be expected to make just the blunder I expect to make - to arrest the wrong man, search him and let him go, with a sulky apology, eh?”

“You think you can succeed in this risky plan?”

“If I were at home, in England, I should have no doubt whatsoever about it. But here your police methods are so utterly different. I’m constantly running my head into some blind wall caused by the difference in police regulations between the two countries. But this time I’ve planned it all out pretty carefully and I can’t see how I can fail.”

“How are you going to find him? By going to his house?”

“No. That’s unsafe. I’ve thought of a far better plan. But I would rather not explain it just yet. If you and Gresham will meet me in the café here at half after six to-night I will report progress. I’ve already asked Gresham to be here then. I asked him when I got the bogus warrant from him.”

“It’s a wonder Gresham ever helped you out by getting a false warrant. He wouldn’t do such a thing for any other man on earth. But you’ve got him hypnotized.”

They both laughed and issued from the lobby into Fifth avenue.

A violet vendor pressed forward offering his wares. The Englishman tossed a half dollar into the lad’s flower tray and passed on.

“Indiscriminate charity,” observed Beckwith in mock reproof.

“Not exactly. The boy seems to be trying to live honestly and to get rid of the taint of the Elmira Reformatory. Besides, his mother takes a lot of pride in him. She’s a neat, sober, industrious woman, expert with her needle, although left-handed, and” –

“Oh, they’re protégées of yours? I didn’t know” –

“On the contrary, I never saw the boy till now.”

“But the reformatory, and his industrious mother, who takes such pride in his appearance, and all that” –

“Merely deduction. At his first step I saw that he had the prison walk. He is too young to have been in prison: hence the reformatory. The nearest reformatory is Elmira. He is working - and with an evident interest in his work. His clothes are neatly mended by an experience needlewoman. What expert needlewoman would take such wonderful care of a poor boy’s clothes but his mother? And, at that, a good mother, who cared for her boy? There is all the ‘mystery.’ ”

“But you said the mother was left-handed” –

“When one is left-handed she sews from left to right instead of from right to left. A glance at the patches on that lad’s elbows told me the seamstress was left-handed. It’s all so absurdly simple,” went on The Englishman, checking the other’s words of praise.

“It comes from cultivating the very common faculty of observation. I only wish I could find some such means of deciphering the Ballard matter. I told you I formed a theory of the crime based on just such observation; but I have had no chance to amplify it or connect the stray strands, thanks to my inability to examine Craddock’s rooms.

Besides, there is no use in pursuing an improbable theory when one so much more likely lies just within my reach. I must leave you here. Good-by until 6.30.”

They had reached Sixth avenue and Twenty-third street. The Englishman walked on alone, up the latter thoroughfare, toward the North River.

At almost the same moment, Royce Ballard re-read for the third time a telegram he had received a half-hour earlier. It ran:

“Called suddenly to Washington. Meet me Pennsylvania Station 3.45. Important.

Royce was of two minds, whether or not to obey the summons. But the conversation he had had with the young Italian artist the previous evening, coupled with his prior experience with her character, at length decided him to keep the appointment.

With ill grace he started on his journey.

Reaching the West Twenty-third street ferry, Ballard passed hurriedly through the waiting-room toward the Pennsylvania boat, looking neither to right nor to left. He therefore did not observe a grizzled, square-jawed man in plain clothes who rose from a waiting-room seat where he had been sandwiched between a woman with a squalling baby and an Italian with a huge bundle. The square-jawed man followed Ballard onto the boat. Royce was smoking a cigar and went therefore into the reeking, malodorous, filthy compartment ironically labeled “Gentlemen’s Cabin.” Thither the square-jawed man followed, drawing from his reefer and lovingly filling a very disreputable-looking briar pipe which should have been thrown away some years before.

“This is the safest way,” thought The Englishman, as with black face, he leaned back puffing at his pipe and eyeing furtively the well-dressed man at the opposite end of the cabin. “If I arrest him across the river, on the Jersey side, he can’t summon any friend in a hurry to identify him, and the station-house to which I take him for the searching process will be too far away from his home to permit of any interruption before I learn what it is he guards so carefully in his breast pocket. I really think this isn’t a bad stroke.”

Arrived at Jersey City, The Englishman carefully knocked the ashes from his pipe, pocketed that redolent treasure and leisurely followed Royce from the boat.
Ballard made a tour of the Pennsylvania waiting-rooms, compared his watch with the two big clocks that hang at either end of the great terminal, frowned and took to pacing impatiently up and down.

On his second tour of the long stretch of stone flooring before the ferry slips, a man stepped quietly up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
Royce turned quickly.

“Oh, you’ve come at last!” he began, then paused as, instead of the tall, dark girl he had expected, he confronted a grizzled, plainly-dressed man with quiet stern eyes and square jaw. For a fraction of a second it seemed to Royce that somewhere before at some time he had seen those grave, critical eyes. But the idea passed. The man was evidently a total stranger to him.

“Who the deuce are you?” he growled. “Take your hand off my shoulder. What do you want?”

“I want you, friend,” said the other gruffly. “We’ve been looking for you for quite a while.”
Ballard’s face went sallow, but with a quick effort he recovered himself.

“What do you mean?” he queried, sharply.

“Cap’n wants to see you,” replied The Englishman in his best imitation of American detective methods, so far as he had been able to observe them.

Ballard made a sudden movement toward his breast pocket. The Englishman well knew the object was to conceal or destroy something he carried there, but he preferred to affect the belief that it was a weapon the other sought.

“Drop it!” he said, savagely catching Royce’s wrist and thrusting it downward from the region of the pocket.

Then he added, more quietly:
“There are a lot of people passing. You don’t want a scene. Come quietly.”

For an instant Ballard looked at him irresolutely.

“You’re a detective, I suppose,” he said at last. “What am I charged with?”

“The Captain’ll tell you all that,” replied [illegible to end of line]

“What’s up?” asked a voice from behind them. Both men turned to face a Jersey City policeman.

“Ah, const - officer,” remarked The Englishman. “Just help me to the station-house with this fellow, will you? He’s ugly.”

“What’s he done?” asked the bluecoat. “warrant case, I s’pose?”

“Yes,” answered The Englishman glibly. “I’ve got a warrant.”

“I don’t know your face,” went on the policeman. “I thought I knew all Murphy’s tecs. You must be a new man.”

“I am. Come, don’t let’s waste any more time.”

“Officer,” began Ballard.

“Shut up,” rejoined the bluecoat courteously. “You’ll have plenty of tie to talk at headquarters. What’s he done?” he added to The Englishman, as the trio moved toward the exit.

For answer The Englishman handed him the warrant. He did not wish Ballard to know the nature of the alleged charge or to lose his present state of semi-paralyzed mystification.

The officer glanced over the document, then looked at The Englishman with an incredulity that rapidly merged into suspicion.

“What’s up?” thought The Englishman. “He surely can’t have sense enough to know the thing’s a forgery. The form and signature on the warrant are regular enough. But there’s a break somewhere.”

The policeman had dropped his hold on Royce Ballard’s arm and now edged a step nearer to The Englishman. Clearly there was trouble ahead.

(To Be Continued.)

The Evening World, 8 April 1904



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