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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 nine.


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, holds him up, secures the contents of his pockets and boards an uptown cable car. Royce and the police give chase.


A Trolley-Car Race.

Here was a dilemma.

For the moment The Englishman was competitively safe. His ruse of capturing the car, finding it devoid of passengers and of securing the motorman’s co-operation - a co-operation as hearty as it was totally unconscious - had enabled him to leave his pursuers far in the rear. He half smiled as he pictured the furious, profane group - the policemen, the muddy conductor, Royce Ballard and the chance pedestrians - toiling along on foot in pursuit of a trolley car that was going at the rate of almost twenty miles an hour.

But the danger ahead was none the less grave. The policemen had doubtless telephoned uptown to have the car stopped. Officers were probably already waiting somewhere along the track in front. Then, too, The Englishman’s car was rapidly gaining on the car in front of it. Long before Grace Church could be reached they must perforce slacken speed; even supposing that no vehicle from some side street should sooner obstruct rapid progress.

At Fourteenth street, at furthest, the police must stop them.

Grand street was already passed, the car almost grazing the noses of a pair of horses drawing a westbound blue car.

Chancing to glance backward toward the horse-car driver, whose scintillant profanity was still splitting the night, The Englishman’s gaze became fixed and rigid.

Distant, but whizzing forward at top speed, a northbound trolley car was dashing along in their wake.

With eyes phenomenally far-sighted by nature, and whose keenness had been further trained by a lifetime of observation, The Englishman could see in the lighted interior of the pursuing car three blue-coated policemen.

He understood the whole situation at once. His pursuers had taken a leaf from out of his own book, had seized and impressed into service the first trolley car that had followed the one taken by The Englishman and were ordering the motorman “in the name of the law” to crowd on all the power in the hope of overhauling their prey.

The Englishman was thus menaced fore and aft. At any moment now the chase might end.

A belated pedestrian hailed him a this moment.

“Take the next car!” shouted the pseudo-conductor with a grim smile at his own jest, and the chase continued.

A look at he illuminated corner-sign as it flashed by showed the fugitive he had reached spring street.

The pursuers were still too far distant for the average eye to detect The Englishman’s figure on the rear platform of the car they were chasing.

But (probably through some lingering reluctance on the part of The Englishman’s motorman to risk his car’s mechanism by a too-excessive fracture of the speed ordinance) the second car was gradually creeping closer.

On whirled the mad race between black and silent walls, rows of dark windows gazing down like sightless eyes on the sport. The street, which by daylight forms the pulsating, plethoric chief artery of traffic for one of the greatest cities on earth, slept silent, inert, almost deserted at this late hour.

“The next street’s Bleecker,” thought The Englishman nervously. “There’s no more time to be wasted.

He pulled the bell.

Reluctantly the motorman applied the brakes. The portion of the block where they now were was comparatively dark.

As the speed slackened, The Englishman jerked the bell twice, and as he did so he tossed the borrowed cap to the platform, resumed his own hat and sprang lightly to the ground.

The motorman put on speed once more and the conductorless car sped on up Broadway.

As the second car rushed on a half minute later, a man strolling unsteadily into Broadway from the eastern part of Bleecker street paused in drunken wonder to watch the unusual speed, and incidentally to take note of its passengers. These consisted of three policemen, one of them covered with mud; an extra conductor, hatless and similarly disfigured, and a well-dressed man holding a smashed derby.

As the car passed, the drunken pedestrian recovered his sobriety with marvelous suddenness, crossed Broadway and walked rapidly up Bleecker street.

Arrived at the Sixth avenue “L” station, he boarded an uptown “L” train, which he left at Twenty-third street.

* * * * *

“I wonder if it’s worth while waiting any longer for The Englishman?” remarked Gresham, yawning and noisily snapping the case of his big watch. “When he tipped us off that this was the night and said we might wait here in his rooms till he got back from holding up Ballard, I expected he’d be back by about 11. It’s nearly 1.”

“I for one shall wait,” answered Beckwith. “It’ll be worth waiting for.”

“You think he’ll get what he went for this time?”

“I know it,” said Beckwith calmly.

“Want to get back that $10 by betting on it?”

“You’re on.”

“What makes you so confident?”

“Any man may fail once. But that Englishman isn’t the man to give an encore performance of a failure. He’ll go through Royce Ballard’s clothes this time or he’ll never come back alive.”

“Never come back alive?” echoed a voice from the door. “That’s a rather doleful prophecy, old man!”

“The Englishman!” exclaimed the two detectives.

“What luck?” asked Gresham.

For reply The Englishman pulled from various pockets a watch, a roll of bills and a handful of papers, all of which he laid on the table, tersely recounting as he did so the adventures of the evening.

Gresham solemnly produced two $5 bills and handed them over to Beckwith. The Englishman smiled as he noted the transfer.

“So this time it was Beckwith who had the faith, eh?” he observed.

Gresham laughed sheepishly.

“I might have known better,” he said. “Beckwith said you couldn’t fail twice. Now let’s have a look at your booty.”

The Englishman was sorting out the money and jewelry from the papers.

“Went through him pretty thoroughly, didn’t you?” commented Gresham, viewing the treasure approvingly, “but what are you going to do with the cash and the watch?”

“I just brought them along to avert Ballard’s suspicion from my real object,” replied The Englishman, “I’m going to put them in a neat little package and send them back to Ballard with a note to the effect that I am the ‘gentleman burglar,’ Raffles, whose antics have been exploited in the papers of late. I’ll tell him I stole his valuables just for amusement and that I herewith return them intact. The papers will have another pretty Raffles mystery to amuse them.”

“How the real ‘gentleman burglar,’ whoever he is, will swear when he reads about it!” chuckled Beckwith, appreciatively.

“ ‘Gentleman burglar!’ ” sneered Gresham. “Lord! How I hate that term. It would be as sensible to speak of an ‘honest shoplifter,’ or a ‘black-haired albino.’ Whenever a thief doesn’t murder his victim or burn down the house or eat one of the children, he’s heralded as a ‘gentleman burglar.’ Say, let’s get at those papers, now.”

Deftly, swiftly, with speed born of long experience, the trio attacked the little pile of papers among which, they believed, lurked the key to the Ballard murder mystery.

“It’s probably the chemical formula for the poison in the tablets,” hazarded Gresham.

But no such formula came to light. Letters, bills, memoranda - these were all the searchers could find. No chemical formula, no cryptogram or other incriminating document came to light.

The letters, which Gresham unscrupulously proceeded to read, had no direct bearing on the murder.

“It’s as I feared,” sighed The Englishman at last, leaning back in his chair and lighting another cigarette. “the fellow took fright yesterday and he’s chosen some other hiding place for his treasure. We’re sold!”

“This sounds int’restin’,” said Gresham, looking up from one of the letters he was reading.

“What is it?” asked The Englishman.

“The signature’s torn off. But the letter means something. Listen”

“Dear Mr. Ballard:

“Many thanks for the tablets. You are sure they are just what I want? Swift, certain and painless? Remember, I cannot afford to run the risk of any mistake. Since your brother will not” –

“That’s all there is. Signature’s tore off.”

“No date at the top?”

“Yes. March 3.”

“The very morning before Cyril Ballard was killed!” cried Beckwith.

The Englishman had already snatched the mutilated note from Gresham’s hand and was scanning it eagerly through his pocket microscope.

“Paper of German make,” he muttered, thinking aloud. “Writer a German of artistic temperament. Gentle by nature, but capable of sudden anger if slighted or wronged. Highly sensitive. Abnormally developed muscles in forearm and hand. Pianist, probably. Professional. Wait!” scanning a thumb-mark so faint as to be invisible to the naked eye, “writer about 5 feet 11 inches tall, slender, not over thirty. And here’s the mark of Royce Ballard’s fingers on the corner of the sheet. He” –

Beckwith came around the table and glanced over The Englishman’s shoulders at the careless, scrawling chirography.

“Siurd von Rickerl!” he exclaimed. “I know his handwriting well!”

“Von Rickerl!” said Gresham, amazed. “The young piano genius that’s engaged to Miss Durant?”

“And it was at the musicale in his honor at Craddock’s that Cyril Ballard was killed,” went on Beckwith. “You remember, he had just gone into the alcove, where the piano was, when Cyril ran in ahead of him and seated himself at the piano. For an instant they two were alone in the alcove, the portiere cutting them off from the view of the rest of the guests. Then Von Rickerl came out alone. Cyril struck one chord on the piano, then fell back dead. It looks bad. If” –

“But Von Rickerl testified later that during the instant he was in the alcove he saw another man standing there beside the piano,” put in Gresham.

“That looks still worse,” answered Beckwith. “If he really killed Cyril Ballard it would sidetrack suspicion from him if it were thought another man was there too. I know he always disliked Cyril Ballard - most of us did, for that matter - and after he ‘shook’ the Pittani girl I hear he made violent love to Iris Durand. There’s a motive straightaway for the killing. But Von Rickerl’s the last man on earth whom I’d suspect of such an act.”

“What I can’t understand,” observed Gresham, “is how any man who planned to poison another could have been fool enough to write such an incriminating letter as that.”

“A professional crook wouldn’t.” replied Beckwith. “It shows how little sense and forethought Von Rickerl took.”

This letter alone,” interrupted Gresham, “should be enough evidence for arresting Von Rickerl for the murder and Royce Ballard as accessory. But” –

“But,” cut in The Englishman, speaking for the first time since the discussion had begun. “But I’ve had another lesson in the mistakes a man may make in this country of yours. I’d have sworn that Von Rickerl could not commit a premeditated murder. A sudden stabbing, perhaps, but” –

“It seems to me,” said Beckwith, “that our real work is just beginning. Unless I’m much mistaken there is something exciting in store.”

(To Be Continued.)

The Evening World, 13 April 1904



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