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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 eight.


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.

Disguised, he waylays Royce late at night at the door of the latter's laboratory.


A Hold-Up and What Followed

A man stepped briskly out, closing the door behind him. Its spring lock clicked and both men were locked out, thus spoiling The Englishman’s hope of encountering Ballard in the hall.

He would have attacked the newcomer as the door opened had he been sure that it was Royce.

But before he had clearly identified Ballard by the dim gleam of the distant electric light the door was shut.

Ballard surprised to be thus confronted, took an involuntary backward step which brought him against the closed door. From this point of vantage he scanned keenly the indistinct face and dim figure of the man before him. There seemed something vaguely familiar about the Intruder.

“What do you want?” he asked very sharply.

“Could you give a poor teller the price of “ –

“No I couldn’t,” he snapped, cutting short the ill-dressed man’s snivelling appeal, “and I” –

“Hands up!”

The Englishman’s order was short and imperative as a pistol shot. With a quick move he had covered Ballard with a revolver.

Royce Ballard did not number cowardice among his vices. Neither was he slow-witted.

His antagonist was not four feet off. Royce threw up his arms obediently; but as he did so he caught The Englishman’s right wrist in his own left hand, twisting his assailant’s wrist so sharply that the revolver clattered to the pavement. With a simultaneous gesture of his right hand Royce drew a pistol from the side pocket of the sack coat he wore and thrust it into The Englishman’s face.

For the tiniest interval of space The Englishman pictured himself again returning to Gresham and Beckwith outwitted by this man. The thought decided him.

Scarcely was the pistol on a level with his head than he dropped to one knee, seized Ballard about the legs and threw him backward over his head to the sidewalk.

The entire movement did not occupy half a second.

Royce Ballard, taken totally by surprise, fell heavily, the top of his head striking the pavement with such force that his stiff derby alone averted a fracture of the skull.

As it was, he lay there, huddled, senseless, inert.

Another swift glance up and down the street and The Englishman was on his knees beside the prostrate man.

With skilled fingers he ransacked his victim’s clothes. Resisting his impulse first to explore the breast-pockets he drew forth Royce’s watch and then a roll of bills that were in his right-hand trousers pocket.

Then he turned his attention to Ballard’s other pockets.

Plunging his hand first into the inside breast-pockets of the senseless man’s coat, he drew out a number of papers and letters. Then, continuing his search, he pulled forth a similar but smaller collection from Ballard’s inner waistcoat pockets.

The unconscious victim began to show signs of returning life.

A hasty search assured The Englishman that the pockets were now all empty. Whatever document or packet Ballard had so carefully guarded must now be in the heap of papers in his conqueror’s hands.

The Englishman’s sensitive finger-tips could find no trace of a secret pocket or of valuables sewed Into coat, waistcoat or shirt. He rose to his feet, bundling his spoils into an inner pocket of his own coat.

As he rose he saw a policeman turn into Reade street from the west and advance leisurely toward them.

Ballard, too, his senses more fully returning, struggled to a sitting position, his eyes, under the battered wreck of his derby, fixed dazedly on The Englishman.

Clearly there was no time to be lost. The Englishman walked toward Broadway as rapidly as he dared, trusting to luck that the policeman was too far away to take in the situation.

Ballard, however, the mists clearing from his throbbing brain, had scrambled to his feet, and was staggering in dizzy pursuit of the marauder.

“Help!” yelled Royce thickly, as The Englishman quickened his pace. “Help! Police!”

The policeman broke into a run and reached the injured man. Royce pointed toward the now fleeing Englishman, and gasped out a few words that made clear the situation to the officer.

“Stop” shouted the policeman, drawing his revolver and rushing along In The Englishman’s wake. “Stop or I’ll shoot!”

The cliff-like sides of the dead thoroughfare awoke and re-echoed to the roar of the bluecoat’s .44. The pursuer, at the same time banged on the pavement with his night stick.

The Englishman had reached Broadway. His pursuers were a half block behind.

“If only a car will happen along now!” he panted.

Luck was with him. Less than a block all away an empty north-bound trolley car came bowling along at almost top rate. Delayed at South Ferry, the motorman was taking advantage of the deserted state of the streets, the lateness of the hour and the fact that there was no car within a mile ahead of him, to make up for lost time by a burst of speed.

The Englishman hailed the car. As there was no “next car” in sight, the motorman, for a wonder, slackened speed, grudgingly slowing up sufficiently to allow the fugitive to leap aboard. As The Englishman’s feet touched the lowest step, the conductor rang the bell twice, and the car again bounded forward.

As it did so, a Broadway policeman who had heard the raps of his colleague’s night stick and had arrived in time to see The Englishman’s fleeing form, but too late to stop his boarding the car, shouted to the conductor to stop.

At the same moment the conductor caught sight of the first policeman and Royce as they emerged into Broadway not fifty feet away from the car.

A glance at the panting, ill-clad figure on the rear platform beside him was enough for the Metropolitan employee. With one hand he jerked the bell violently. With the other he collared The Englishman. The car slowed down with a jar and Royce and the two policemen, sighting The Englishman, bounded toward their prey. Other pedestrians, springing up as by magic from the seemingly vacant thoroughfare, joined In the rush.

The Englishman was in perhaps the tightest fix of his career.

What chance, he wondered, would he, a foreigner, stand in court when it should be proved that he had held up and robbed a respectable New Yorker?

A wild idea of rushing through the car, leaping off the front platform and taking his chances in flight flashed through his mind. But he dismissed it as he heard the answering raps of nightsticks further up the street, and saw how completely his escape was cut off.

For better, for worse, his resolve was taken within a fraction of a moment from the time the conductor had seized him and had signalled for the car to stop.

With his left hand he snatched off the conductor’s cap. With his clinched right he landed heavily on the conductor’s throat. The man toppled backward, missed the top step and fell sprawling in the mud of the street.

Before the conductor touched ground, before the foremost of the pursuers could lay hand on the platform rail, before the car had come to a full stop, The Englishman jerked the bell twice.

With a lurch and a heave, the car sprang forward. The motorman had heard the disturbance, but had been unable, from his post, in that instant’s interval, to determine the cause. Least of all did he suspect that his colleague was in trouble. If there had been a row of any sort, he thought, the conductor would come through the car and tell him. In the mean time he heralded with delight the order to start. For they were late and lateness meant loss of pay and of sleep.

The foremost policeman (he who had discovered Royce’s plight) sprinted, seized the rear rail and swung himself to the lowest step of the platform.

Before he could fairly balance himself a well-directed kick in the chest sent him spinning into the street.

The Englishman carefully took off his own derby, substituted the conductor’s cap for it and stood stiffly on the rear platform in conventional attitude.

No one seeing the car in that deceptive light could have guessed there was anything amiss wit its crew.

The pursuers were quickly distanced. A policeman from further up the street howled to the motorman to stop and attempted to leap aboard the flying car. But at the first touch of the motorman’s hand to the brake that decisive double ring sounded again, and the bluecoat was left far astern.

The motorman glanced back through the car. There were no passengers, and there on the back platform, dimly seen behind the glass of the door, the conductor was standing unconcerned. There was no time to stop and ask questions, yet the motorman wondered peevishly why his partner did not come forward and explain.

“If only no truck coming from a cross street stops us, we are safe for the moment.” sighed The Englishman in relief.

Then a second, less welcome thought struck him:

Though they had outdistanced all pursuit, yet it was probable - nay, certain - that the uptown police would be telephoned to and would head them off. And, moreover, the present gratifying rate of speed must cease as soon as the car overhauled the one ahead of it.

It seemed that he was by no means out of the woods. The gravest dangers were yet to come - perils that were to call for all his vast fund of cleverness and resources.

(To Be Continued.)

The Evening World, 12 April 1904



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