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

The Kennel Murder Case ebook

S. S. Van Dine

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Opis

Vance, an independently wealthy college educator, amateur detective, uses his deductive skills and psychological knowledge to help his friend New York County Attorney solve the murder of Archer Coe. At first he thought of suicide when Coe’s body was found in a room locked from the inside with all the windows closed. As usual, the action takes place in New York. Vance’s methods are unconventional and run counter to the more stringent police investigation methods and legal requirements of a lawyer.

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Liczba stron: 338

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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

CHARACTERS OF THE BOOK

Philo Vance

John F.-X. Markham

District Attorney of New York County.

Ernest Heath

Sergeant of the Homicide Bureau.

Archer Coe

A collector of Chinese ceramics.

Brisbane Coe

His brother.

Raymond Wrede

A dilettante and friend of the Coes.

Hilda Lake

Archer Coe’s niece.

Signor Eduàrdo Grassi

An officer in the Milan Museum of Oriental Antiquities.

Liang Tsung Wei

The Coe cook.

Gamble

The Coe butler.

Luke Enright

An importer.

Major Julius Higginbottom

Sportsman and dog breeder.

Annie Cochrane

A maid.

Hennessey

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Burke

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Snitkin

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Sullivan

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Emery

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Guilfoyle

Detective of the Homicide Bureau.

Captain Dubois

Finger-print expert.

Detective Bellamy

Finger-print expert.

Peter Quackenbush

Official photographer.

Doctor Emanuel Doremus

Medical Examiner.

Swacker

Secretary to the District Attorney.

Currie

Vance’s valet.

CHAPTER I

THE BOLTED BEDROOM

(Thursday, October 11; 8.45 a. m.)

It was exactly three months after the startling termination of the Scarab murder case that Philo Vance was drawn into the subtlest and the most perplexing of all the criminal problems that came his way during the four years of John F.-X. Markham’s incumbency as District Attorney of New York County.

Indeed, so mystifying was this case, so apparently inexplicable were its conflicting elements, that the police were for adding it to their list of unsolved murder mysteries. And they would have been justified in their decision; for rarely in the annals of modern crime has there been a case that seemed to reverse so completely the rational laws by which humanity lives and reasons. In the words of the doughty and practical Sergeant Ernest Heath of the Homicide Bureau, the case “didn’t make sense.” On the surface it smacked of strange and terrifying magic, of witch-doctors and miracle-workers; and every line of investigation ran into a blank wall.

In fact, the case had every outward appearance of being what arm-chair criminologists delight in calling the perfect crime. And, to make the plotting of the murderer even more mystifying, a diabolical concatenation of circumstances was superimposed upon the events by some whimsical and perverse god, which tended to strengthen every weak link in the culprit’s chain of ratiocination, and to turn the entire bloody affair into a maze of incomprehensibility.

Curiously enough, however, it was the very excess of ardor on the part of the murderer when attempting to divert suspicion, that created a minute hole in the wall of mystery, through which Vance was able to see a glimmer of light. In the process of following that light to the truth, Vance did what I believe was the shrewdest and profoundest detective work of his career. It was his peculiar knowledge of special and out-of-the-way facts, combined with his almost uncanny perception of human nature, that made it possible for him to seize upon apparently unimportant clues and resolve them into a devastating syllogism.

Vance for years had been a breeder of Scottish terriers. His kennels were in New Jersey, an hour’s ride from New York, and he spent much of his time there studying pedigrees, breeding for certain characteristics which he believed essential to the ideal terrier, and watching the results of his theories. Sometimes I think he manifested a greater enthusiasm in his dogs than in any other recreative phase of his life; and the only time I have seen evidences of a thrill in his eyes comparable to that when he had unearthed and acquired a magnificent Cézanne water-color or discovered a rare piece of Chinese ceremonial jade in a mass of opaque modern recuttings, was when one of his dogs went up to Winners.

I mention this fact–or idiosyncrasy, if you prefer–because it so happened that Vance’s ability to look at a certain stray Scottish terrier and recognize its blood-lines and show qualities, was what led him to one phase of the truth in the remarkable case which I am now recording.

That which led Vance to another important phase of the truth was his knowledge of Chinese ceramics. He possessed, in his home in East 88th Street, a small but remarkable collection of Chinese antiquities–museum pieces he had acquired in his extensive travels–and had written various articles for Oriental and art journals on the subject of Sung and Ming monochrome porcelains.

Scotties and Chinese ceramics! A truly unusual combination. And yet, without a knowledge of these two antipodal interests, the mysterious murder of Archer Coe, in his old brownstone house in West 71st Street, would have remained a closed book for all time.

The opening of the case was rather tame: it promised little in the line of sensationalism. But within an hour of the telephone call Markham received from the Coe butler, the District Attorney’s office and the New York Police Department were plunged into one of the most astounding and baffling murder mysteries of our day.

It was shortly after half-past eight on the morning of October 11, that Vance’s door-bell rang; and Currie, his old English valet and majordomo, ushered Markham into the library. I was temporarily installed in Vance’s duplex roof-garden apartment at the time. There was much legal and financial work to be done–an accumulation of months, for Vance had insisted that I accompany him on the Mediterranean cruise he took immediately after the solving of the Scarab murder. For years, almost since our Harvard days, I had been Vance’s legal adviser and monetary steward (a post which included as much of friendship as of business) and his affairs kept me fairly busy–so busy, in fact, that a two months’ interregnum meant much overtime labor afterwards.

On this particular autumn morning I had risen at seven and was busily engaged with a mass of cancelled checks and bank statements when Markham arrived.

“Go ahead with your chores, Van Dine,” he said, with a perfunctory nod. “I’ll rout out the sybarite myself.” He seemed a trifle perturbed as he disappeared into Vance’s bedroom, which was just off the library.

I heard him call Vance a bit peremptorily, and I heard Vance give a dramatic groan.

“A murder, I presume,” Vance complained through a yawn. “Nothing less than gore would have led your footsteps to my boudoir at this ungodly hour.”

“Not a murder–” Markham began.

“Oh, I say! What time might it be, then?”

“Eight forty-five,” Markham told him.

“So early–and not a murder!” (I could hear Vance’s feet hit the floor.) “You interest me strangely.... Your wedding morn perhaps?”

“Archer Coe has committed suicide,” Markham announced, not without irritation.

“My word!” Vance was now moving about. “That’s even stranger than a murder. I crave elucidation.... Come, let’s sit down while I sip my coffee.”

Markham re-entered the library, followed by Vance clad in sandals and an elaborate Mandarin robe. Vance rang for Currie and ordered Turkish coffee, at the same time settling himself in a large Queen Anne chair and lighting one of his favorite Régie cigarettes.

Markham did not sit down. He stood near the mantelpiece, regarding his host with narrowed, inquisitive eyes.

“What did you mean, Vance,” he asked, “by Coe’s suicide being stranger than murder?”

“Nothing esoteric, old thing,” Vance drawled languidly. “Simply that there would be nothing particularly remarkable in any one’s pushing old Archer into the Beyond. He’s been inviting violence all his life. Not a sweet and love-inspiring chappie, don’t y’ know. But there’s something deuced remarkable in the fact that he should push himself over the border. He’s not the suicidal type–far too egocentric.”

“I think you’re right. And that idea was probably in the back of my head when I told the butler to hold everything till I got there.”

Currie entered with the coffee, and Vance sipped the black, cloudy liquid for a moment. At length he said:

“Do tell me more. Why should you be notified at all? And what did the butler pour into your ear over the phone? And why are you here curtailing my slumbers? Why everything? Why anything? Just why? Can’t you see I’m bursting with uncontrollable curiosity?” And Vance yawned and closed his eyes.

“I’m on my way to Coe’s house.” Markham was annoyed at the other’s attitude of indifference. “Thought maybe you’d like to–what’s your favorite word?–”toddle’ along.” This was said with sarcasm.

“Toddle,” Vance repeated. “Quite. But why toddle blindly? Do be magnanimous and enlighten me. The corpse won’t run away, even if we are a bit latish.”

Markham hesitated, and shrugged. Obviously he was uneasy, and obviously he wanted Vance to accompany him. As he had admitted, something was in the back of his head.

“Very well,” he acquiesced. “Shortly after eight this morning Coe’s butler–the obsequious Gamble–phoned me at my home. He was in a state of nerves, and his voice was husky with fear. He informed me, with many hems and haws, that Archer Coe had shot himself, and asked me if I would come to the house at once. My first instinct was to tell him to notify the police; but, for some reason, I checked myself and asked him why he had called me. He said that Mr. Raymond Wrede had so advised him–”

“Ah!”

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