The Greene Murder Case - S.S. Van Dine - ebook

The Greene Murder Case ebook

S. S. Van Dine

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Gracie Allen in this case is not a famous artist, but a worker in a perfume factory. She involuntarily gives the enchanted Philo Vance all the important clues in this murder of a gangster, in those days when Riverdale in the Bronx was a rural paradise. Vance meets her when she interacts with nature, and then again in a trendy restaurant where her brother plays an important role. For a moment, her mother appears, a gentle, faded lady who turns out to be as sharp as Gracie.

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Liczba stron: 459

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Contents

CHARACTERS OF THE BOOK

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER I

Philo Vance

John F.-X. Markham

District Attorney of New York County.

Mrs. Tobias Greene

The mistress of the Greene mansion.

Julia Greene

The eldest daughter.

Sibella Greene

Another daughter.

Ada Greene

The youngest daughter.

Chester Greene

The elder son.

Rex Greene

The younger son.

Dr. Arthur Von Blon

The Greene family physician.

Sproot

The Greene butler.

Gertrude Mannheim

The cook.

Hemming

The senior maid.

Barton

The junior maid.

Miss Craven

Mrs. Greene’s nurse.

Chief Inspector O’Brien

Of the Police Department of New York City.

William M. Moran

Commanding officer of the Detective Bureau.

Ernest Heath

Sergeant of the Homicide Bureau.

Snitkin

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Burke

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Captain Anthony P. Jerym

Bertillon expert.

Captain Dubois

Finger-print expert.

Dr. Emanuel Doremus

Medical Examiner.

Dr. Drumm

An official police surgeon.

Marie O’Brien

A Police nurse.

Swacker

Secretary to the District Attorney.

Currie

Vance’s valet.

CHAPTER I

A DOUBLE TRAGEDY

(Tuesday, November 9; 10 a. m.)

It has long been a source of wonder to me why the leading criminological writers–men like Edmund Lester Pearson, H. B. Irving, Filson Young, Canon Brookes, William Bolitho, and Harold Eaton–have not devoted more space to the Greene tragedy; for here, surely, is one of the outstanding murder mysteries of modern times–a case practically unique in the annals of latter-day crime. And yet I realize, as I read over my own voluminous notes on the case, and inspect the various documents relating to it, how little of its inner history ever came to light, and how impossible it would be for even the most imaginative chronicler to fill in the hiatuses.

The world, of course, knows the external facts. For over a month the press of two continents was filled with accounts of this appalling tragedy; and even the bare outline was sufficient to gratify the public’s craving for the abnormal and the spectacular. But the inside story of the catastrophe surpassed even the wildest flights of public fancy; and, as I now sit down to divulge those facts for the first time, I am oppressed with a feeling akin to unreality, although I was a witness to most of them and hold in my possession the incontestable records of their actuality.

Of the fiendish ingenuity which lay behind this terrible crime, of the warped psychological motives that inspired it, and of the strange hidden sources of its technic, the world is completely ignorant. Moreover, no explanation has ever been given of the analytic steps that led to its solution. Nor have the events attending the mechanism of that solution–events in themselves highly dramatic and unusual–ever been recounted. The public believes that the termination of the case was a result of the usual police methods of investigation; but this is because the public is unaware of many of the vital factors of the crime itself, and because both the Police Department and the District Attorney’s office have, as if by tacit agreement, refused to make known the entire truth–whether for fear of being disbelieved or merely because there are certain things so terrible that no man wishes to talk of them, I do not know.

The record, therefore, which I am about to set down is the first complete and unedited history of the Greene holocaust. I feel that now the truth should be known, for it is history, and one should not shrink from historical facts. Also, I believe that the credit for the solution of this case should go where it belongs.

The man who elucidated the mystery and brought to a close that palimpsest of horror was, curiously enough, in no way officially connected with the police; and in all the published accounts of the murder his name was not once mentioned. And yet, had it not been for him and his novel methods of criminal deduction, the heinous plot against the Greene family would have been conclusively successful. The police in their researches were dealing dogmatically with the evidential appearances of the crime, whereas the operations of the criminal were being conducted on a plane quite beyond the comprehension of the ordinary investigator.

This man who, after weeks of sedulous and disheartening analysis, eventually ferreted out the source of the horror, was a young social aristocrat, an intimate friend of John F.-X. Markham, the District Attorney. His name I am not at liberty to divulge, but for the purposes of these chronicles I have chosen to call him Philo Vance. He is no longer in this country, having transferred his residence several years ago to a villa outside of Florence; and, since he has no intention of returning to America, he has acceded to my request to publish the history of the criminal cases in which he participated as a sort of amicus curiæ. Markham also has retired to private life; and Sergeant Ernest Heath, that doughty and honest officer of the Homicide Bureau who officially handled the Greene case for the Police Department, has, through an unexpected legacy, been able to gratify his life’s ambition to breed fancy wyandottes on a model farm in the Mohawk Valley. Thus circumstances have made it possible for me to publish my intimate records of the Greene tragedy.

A few words are necessary to explain my own participation in the case. (I say “participation,” though, in reality, my rôle was that of passive spectator.) For several years I had been Vance’s personal attorney. I had resigned from my father’s law firm–Van Dine, Davis & Van Dine–in order to devote myself exclusively to Vance’s legal and financial needs, which, by the way, were not many. Vance and I had been friends from our undergraduate days at Harvard, and I found in my new duties as his legal agent and monetary steward a sinecure combined with many social and cultural compensations.

Vance at that time was thirty-four years old. He was just under six feet, slender, sinewy, and graceful. His chiselled regular features gave his face the attraction of strength and uniform modelling, but a sardonic coldness of expression precluded the designation of handsome. He had aloof gray eyes, a straight, slender nose, and a mouth suggesting both cruelty and asceticism. But, despite the severity of his lineaments–which acted like an impenetrable glass wall between him and his fellows–, he was highly sensitive and mobile; and, though his manner was somewhat detached and supercilious, he exerted an undeniable fascination over those who knew him at all well.

Much of his education had been acquired in Europe, and he still retained a slight Oxonian accent and intonation, though I happen to be aware that this was no affectation: he cared too little for the opinions of others to trouble about maintaining any pose. He was an indefatigable student. His mind was ever eager for knowledge, and he devoted much of his time to the study of ethnology and psychology. His greatest intellectual enthusiasm was art, and he fortunately had an income sufficient to indulge his passion for collecting. It was, however, his interest in psychology and his application of it to individual behaviorism that first turned his attention to the criminal problems which came under Markham’s jurisdiction.

The first case in which he participated was, as I have recorded elsewhere, the murder of Alvin Benson. The second was the seemingly insoluble strangling of the famous Broadway beauty, Margaret Odell. And in the late fall of the same year came the Greene tragedy. As in the two former cases, I kept a complete record of this new investigation. I possessed myself of every available document, making verbatim copies of those claimed for the police archives, and even jotted down the numerous conversations that took place in and out of conference between Vance and the official investigators. And, in addition, I kept a diary which, for elaborateness and completeness, would have been the despair of Samuel Pepys.

The Greene murder case occurred toward the end of Markham’s first year in office. As you may remember, the winter came very early that season. There were two severe blizzards in November, and the amount of snowfall for that month broke all local records for eighteen years. I mention this fact of the early snows because it played a sinister part in the Greene affair: it was, indeed, one of the vital factors of the murderer’s scheme. No one has yet understood, or even sensed, the connection between the unseasonable weather of that late fall and the fatal tragedy that fell upon the Greene household; but that is because all of the dark secrets of the case were not made known.

Vance was projected into the Benson murder as the result of a direct challenge from Markham; and his activities in the Canary case were due to his own expressed desire to lend a hand. But pure coincidence was responsible for his participation in the Greene investigation. During the two months that had elapsed since his solution of the Canary’s death Markham had called upon him several times regarding moot points of criminal detection in connection with the routine work of the District Attorney’s office; and it was during an informal discussion of one of these problems that the Greene case was first mentioned.

Markham and Vance had long been friends. Though dissimilar in tastes and even in ethical outlook, they nevertheless respected each other profoundly. I have often marvelled at the friendship of these two antipodal men; but as the years went by I came more and more to understand it. It was as if they were drawn together by those very qualities which each realized–perhaps with a certain repressed regret–were lacking in his own nature. Markham was forthright, brusque, and, on occasion, domineering, taking life with grim and serious concern, and following the dictates of his legal conscience in the face of every obstacle: honest, incorruptible, and untiring. Vance, on the other hand, was volatile, debonair, and possessed of a perpetual Juvenalian cynicism, smiling ironically at the bitterest realities, and consistently fulfilling the rôle of a whimsically disinterested spectator of life. But, withal, he understood people as profoundly as he understood art, and his dissection of motives and his shrewd readings of character were–as I had many occasions to witness–uncannily accurate. Markham apprehended these qualities in Vance, and sensed their true value.

It was not yet ten o’clock of the morning of November the 9th when Vance and I, after motoring to the old Criminal Courts Building on the corner of Franklin and Centre Streets, went directly to the District Attorney’s office on the fourth floor. On that momentous forenoon two gangsters, each accusing the other of firing the fatal shot in a recent pay-roll hold-up, were to be cross-examined by Markham; and this interview was to decide the question as to which of the men would be charged with murder and which held as a State’s witness. Markham and Vance had discussed the situation the night before in the lounge-room of the Stuyvesant Club, and Vance had expressed a desire to be present at the examination. Markham had readily assented, and so we had risen early and driven down-town.

The interview with the two men lasted for an hour, and Vance’s disconcerting opinion was that neither was guilty of the actual shooting.

“Y’ know, Markham,” he drawled, when the sheriff had returned the prisoners to the Tombs, “those two Jack Sheppards are quite sincere: each one thinks he’s telling the truth. Ergo, neither of ’em fired the shot. A distressin’ predicament. They’re obvious gallows-birds–born for the gibbet; and it’s a beastly shame not to be able to round out their destinies in proper fashion.... I say, wasn’t there another participant in the hold-up?”

Markham nodded. “A third got away. According to these two, it was a well-known gangster named Eddie Maleppo.”

“Then Eduardo is your man.”

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