The Roman Hat Mystery - Ellery Queen - ebook
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A murder in a crowded theater leaves a pack of suspects, but only one clue. Despite the dismal Broadway season, Gunplay continues to draw crowds. A gangland spectacle, it's packed to the gills with action, explosions, and gunfire. In fact, Gunplay is so loud that no one notices the killing of Monte Field. In a sold-out theater, Field is found dead partway through the second act, surrounded by empty seats. The police hold the crowd and call for the one man who can untangle this daring murder: Inspector Richard Queen. With the help of his son Ellery, a bibliophile and novelist whose imagination can solve any crime, the Inspector attacks this seemingly impenetrable mystery. Anyone in the theater could have killed the unscrupulous lawyer, and several had the motive. Only Ellery Queen, in his debut novel, can decipher the clue of the dead man's missing top hat.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Foreword

PART ONE

1. In Which Are Introduced a Theatre Audience and a Corpse

2. In Which One Queen Works and Another Queen Watches

3. In Which a ‘Parson’ Came to Grief

4. In Which Many Are Called and Two Are Chosen

5. In Which Inspector Queen Conducts Some Legal Conversations

6. In Which the District Attorney Turns Biographer

7. The Queens Take Stock

PART TWO

8. In Which the Queens Meet Mr. Field’s Very Best Friend

9. In Which the Mysterious Mr. Michaels Appears

10. In Which Mr. Field’s Tophats Begin to Assume Proportions

11. In Which the Past Casts a Shadow

12. In Which the Queens Invade Society

13. Queen to Queen

PART THREE

14. In Which the Hat Grows

15. In Which an Accusation Is Made

16. In Which the Queens Go to the Theatre

17. In Which More Hats Grow

18. Stalemate

Interlude

In Which the Reader’s Attention Is Respectfully Requested

PART FOUR

19. In Which Inspector Queen Conducts More Legal Conversations

20. In Which Mr. Michaels Writes a Lecture

21. In Which Inspector Queen Makes a Capture

22. —And Explains

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About the Book

A murder in a crowded theater leaves a pack of suspects, but only one clue.

Despite the dismal Broadway season,Gunplaycontinues to draw crowds. A gangland spectacle, it’s packed to the gills with action, explosions, and gunfire. In fact,Gunplayis so loud that no one notices the killing of Monte Field. In a sold-out theater, Field is found dead partway through the second act, surrounded by empty seats. The police hold the crowd and call for the one man who can untangle this daring murder: Inspector Richard Queen.

With the help of his son Ellery, a bibliophile and novelist whose imagination can solve any crime, the Inspector attacks this seemingly impenetrable mystery. Anyone in the theater could have killed the unscrupulous lawyer, and several had the motive. Only Ellery Queen, in his debut novel, can decipher the clue of the dead man’s missing top hat.

About the Author

Ellery Queenwas a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age »fair play« mystery.

The Roman Hat Mystery

Ellery Queen

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2011 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1929 by Ellery Queen

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Mumtaz Mustafa

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-035-9

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Grateful acknowledgment

is made to

PROFESSOR ALEXANDER GOETTLER

Chief Toxicologist of the City of New York

for his friendly offices

in the preparation of this tale

Lexicon of Persons Connected with the Investigation

Note: The complete list of individuals, male and female, brought into the story of Monte Field’s murder and appended below is given solely for the convenience of the reader. It is intended to simplify rather than mystify. In the course of perusing mysterio-detective literature the reader is, like as not, apt to lose sight of a number of seemingly unimportant characters who eventually prove of primary significance in the solution of the crime. The writer therefore urges a frequent study of this chart during the reader’s pilgrimage through the tale, if toward no other end than to ward off the inevitable cry of “Unfair!”—the consolation of those who read and do not reason.

ELLERY QUEEN

Monte Field, an important personage indeed—the victim.

William Pusak, clerk. Cranially a brachycephalic.

Doyle, a gendarme with brains.

Louis Panzer, a Broadway theatre manager.

James Peale, the Don Juan of “Gunplay.”

Eve Ellis. The quality of friendship is not strained.

Stephen Barry. One can understand the perturbation of the juvenile lead.

Lucille Horton, the “lady of the streets”—in the play.

Hilda Orange, a celebrated English character actress.

Thomas Velie, Detective-Sergeant who knows a thing or two about crime.

Hesse, Piggoff, Flint, Johnson, Hagsfrom, Ritter, gentlemen of the Homicide Squad.

Dr. Samuel Prouty, Assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner.

Madge O’Connell, usherette on the fatal aisle.

Dr. Stuttgard. There is always a doctor in the audience.

Jess Lynch, the obliging orangeade boy.

John Cazzanelli, alias “Parson Johnny,” naturally takes a professional interest in “Gunplay.”

Benjamin Morgan. What do you make of him?

Frances Ives-Pope. Enter the society interest.

Stanford Ives-Pope, man-about-town.

Harry Neilson. He revels in the sweet uses of publicity.

Henry Sampson, for once an intelligent District Attorney.

Charles Michaels, the fly—or the spider?

Mrs. Angela Russo, a lady of reputation.

Timothy Cronin, a legal ferret.

Arthur Stoates, another.

Oscar lewin, the Charon of the dead man’s office.

Franklin Ives-Pope. If wealth meant happiness.

Mrs. Franklin Ives-Pope, a maternal hypochondriac.

Mrs. Phillips. Middle-aged angels have their uses.

Dr. Thaddeus Jones, toxicologist of the City of New York.

Edmund Crewe, architectural expert attached to the Detective Bureau.

Djuna, an Admirable Crichton of a new species.

The Problem Is—

Who Killed Monte Field?

Meet the astute gentlemen whose business

it is to discover such things—

Mr. Richard Queen

Mr. Ellery Queen

Explanation for the Map of the Roman Theatre

A:

Actors’ dressing-rooms.

B:

Frances Ives-Pope’s seat.

C:

Benjamin Morgan’s seat.

D:

Aisle seats occupied by “Parson Johnny” Cazzanelli and Madge O’Connell.

E:

Dr. Stuttgard’s seat.

F, F:

Orangeade boys’ stands (only during intermissions).

G:

Area in vicinity of crime. Black square represents seat occupied by Monte Field. Three white squares to the right and four white squares directly in front represent vacant seats.

H:

Publicity office, occupied by Harry Neilson.

I:

Manager Louis Panzer’s private office.

J:

Anteroom to manager’s office.

K:

Ticket-taker’s box.

L:

Only stairway leading to the balcony.

M:

Stairway leading downstairs to General Lounge.

N, N:

Cashiers’ offices.

O:

Property Room.

P:

William Pusak’s seat.

Q, Q:

Orchestra boxes.

FOREWORD

I HAVE been asked by both publisher and author to write a cursory preface to the story of Monte Field’s murder. Let me say at once that I am neither a writer nor a criminologist. To make authoritative remarks, therefore, anent the techniques of crime and crime fiction is obviously beyond my capacity. Nevertheless, I have one legitimate claim to the privilege of introducing this remarkable story, based as it is upon perhaps the most mystifying crime of the past decade…. If it were not for me, The Roman Hat Mystery would never have reached the fiction-reading public. I am responsible for its having been brought to light; and there my pallid connection with it ends.

During the past winter I shook off the dust of New York and went a-traveling in Europe. In the course of a capricious roving about the corners of the Continent (a roving induced by that boredom which comes to every Conrad in quest of his youth)—I found myself one August day in a tiny Italian mountain village. How I got there, its location and its name do not matter; a promise is a promise, even when it is made by a stockbroker. Dimly I remembered that this toy hamlet perched on the lip of a sierra harbored two old friends whom I had not seen for two years. They had come from the seething sidewalks of New York to bask in the brilliant peace of an Italian countryside—well, perhaps it was as much curiosity about their regrets as anything else, that prompted me to intrude upon their solitude.

My reception at the hands of old Richard Queen, keener and grayer than ever, and of his son Ellery was cordial enough. We had been more than friends in the old days; perhaps, too, the vinous air of Italy was too heady a cure for their dust-choked Manhattan memories. In any case, they seemed profoundly glad to see me. Mrs. Ellery Queen—Ellery was now the husband of a glorious creature and the startled father of an infant who resembled his grandfather to an extraordinary degree—was as gracious as the name she bore. Even Djuna, no longer the scapegrace I had known, greeted me with every sign of nostalgia.

Despite Ellery’s desperate efforts to make me forget New York and appreciate the lofty beauties of his local scenery, I had not been in their tiny villa for many days before a devilish notion took possession of me and I began to pester poor Ellery to death. I have something of a reputation for persistence, if no other virtue; so that before I left, Ellery in despair agreed to compromise. He took me into his library, locked the door and attacked an old steel filing cabinet. After a slow search he managed to bring out what I suspect was under his fingers all the time. It was a faded manuscript bound Ellery-like in blue legal paper.

The argument raged. I wished to leave his beloved Italian shores with the manuscript in my trunk, whereas he insisted that the sheaf of contention remain hidden in the cabinet. Old Richard was wrenched away from his desk, where he was writing a treatise for a German magazine on “American Crime and Methods of Detection,” to settle the affair. Mrs. Queen held her husband’s arm as he was about to close the incident with a workmanlike fist; Djuna clucked gravely; and even Ellery, Jr., extracted his pudgy hand from his mouth long enough to make a comment in his gurgle-language.

The upshot of it all was that The Roman Hat Mystery went back to the States in my luggage. Not unconditionally, however—Ellery is a peculiar man. I was forced solemnly and by all I held dear to swear the identities of my friends and of the important characters concerned in the story be veiled by pseudonyms; and that, on pain of instant annihilation, their names be permanently withheld from the reading public.

Consequently “Richard Queen” and “Ellery Queen” are not the true names of those gentlemen. Ellery himself made the selections; and I might add at once that his choices were contrived to baffle the reader who might endeavor to ferret the truth from some apparent clue of anagram.

The Roman Hat Mystery is based on actual records in the police archives of New York City. Ellery and his father, as usual, worked hand-in-hand on the case. During this period in his career Ellery was a detective-story writer of no mean reputation. Adhering to the aphorism that truth is often stranger than fiction, it was his custom to make notes of interesting investigations for possible use in his murder tales. The affair of the Hat so fascinated him that he kept unusually exhaustive notes, intending to publish it. Immediately after, however, he was plunged into another investigation which left him scant opportunity for business; and when this last case was successfully closed, Ellery’s father, the Inspector, consummated a lifelong ambition by retiring and moving to Italy, bag and baggage. Ellery, who had in this affair found the lady of his heart, was animated by a painful desire to do something “big” in letters, Italy sounded idyllic to him; he married with his father’s blessing and the three of them, accompanied by Djuna, went off to their new European home. The manuscript was utterly forgotten until I rescued it.

On one point, before I close this painfully unhandsome preface, I should like to make myself clear.

I have always found it extremely difficult to explain to strangers the peculiar affinity which bound Richard to Ellery Queen, as I must call them. For one thing, they are persons of by no means uncomplicated natures. Richard Queen, sprucely middle-aged after thirty-two years’ service in the city police, earned his Inspector’s chevrons not so much through diligence as by an extraordinary grasp of the technique of criminal investigation. It was said, for example, at the time of his brilliant detectival efforts during the now-ancient Barnaby Ross murder case, that “Richard Queen by this feat firmly establishes his fame beside such masters of crime detection as Tamaka Hiero, Brillon the Frenchman, Kris Oliver, Renaud, and James Redix the Younger.”

Queen, with his habitual shyness toward newspaper eulogy, was the first to scoff at this extravagant statement; although Ellery maintains that for many years the old man secretly preserved a clipping of the story. However that may be—and I like to think of Richard Queen in terms of human personality, despite the efforts of imaginative journalists to make a legend of him—I cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that he was heavily dependent upon his son’s wit for success in many of his professional achievements.

This is not a matter of public knowledge. Some mementoes of their careers are still reverently preserved by friends: the small bachelor establishment maintained during their American residence on West 87th Street, and now a semiprivate museum of curios collected during their productive years; the really excellent portrait of father and son, done by Thiraud and hanging in the art gallery of an anonymous millionaire; Richard’s precious snuffbox, the Florentine antique which he had picked up at an auction and which he therefore held dearer than rubies, only to succumb to the blandishments of a charming old lady whose name he cleared of slander; Ellery’s enormous collection of books on violence, perhaps as complete as any in the world, which he regretfully discarded when the Queens left for Italy; and, of course, the many as yet unpublished documents containing records of cases solved by the Queens and now stored away from prying eyes in the City’s police archives.

But the things of the heart—the spiritual bonds between father and son—have until this time remained secret from all except a few favored intimates, among whom I was fortunate enough to be numbered. The old man, perhaps the most famous executive of the Detective Division in the last half-century, overshadowing in public renown, it is to be feared, even those gentlemen who sat briefly in the Police Commissioner’s suite—the old man, let me repeat, owed a respectable portion of his reputation to his son’s genius.

In matters of pure tenacity, when possibilities lay frankly open on every hand, Richard Queen was a peerless investigator. He had a crystal-clear mind for detail; a retentive memory for complexities of motive and plot; a cool viewpoint when the obstacle seemed insuperable. Give him a hundred facts, bungled and torn, out of proportion and sequence, and he had them assembled in short order. He was like a blood-hound who follows the true scent in the clutter of a hopelessly tangled trail.

But the intuitive sense, the gift of imagination, belonged to Ellery Queen, the fiction writer. The two might have been twins possessing abnormally developed faculties of mind, impotent by themselves but vigorous when applied one to the other. Richard Queen, far from resenting the bond which made his success so spectacularly possible—as a less generous nature might have done—took pains to make it plain to his friends. The slender, gray old man whose name was anathema to contemporary lawbreakers, used to utter his “confession,” as he called it, with a naïveté explicable only on the score of his proud fatherhood.

One word more. Of all the affairs pursued by the two Queens this, which Ellery has titled The Roman Hat Mystery for reasons shortly to be made clear, was surely the crowning case of them all. The dilettante of criminology, the thoughtful reader of detective literature, will understand as the tale unfolds why Ellery considers the murder of Monte Field worthy of study. The average murderer’s motives and habits are fairly accessible to the criminal specialist. Not so, however, in the case of the Field killer. Here the Queens dealt with a person of delicate perception and extraordinary finesse. In fact, as Richard pointed out shortly after the dénouement, the crime planned was as nearly perfect as human ingenuity could make it. As in so many “perfect crimes,” however, a small mischance of fate coupled with Ellery’s acute deductive analyses gave the hunting Queens the single clue which led ultimately to the destruction of the plotter.

J. J. McC.

New York

March 1, 1929

PART ONE

“The policeman must oft follow the precept of the ‘bakadori’—those fool-birds who, though they know disaster awaits them at the hands and clubs of the beachcombers, brave ignominious death to bury their eggs in the sandy shore…. So the policeman. All Nippon should not deter him from hatching the egg of thoroughness.”

—From A THOUSAND LEAVESby Tamaka Hiero    

1

In Which Are Introduced a Theatre Audience and a Corpse

THE DRAMATIC SEASON of 192– began in a disconcerting manner. Eugene O’Neill had neglected to write a new play in time to secure the financial encouragement of the intelligentsia; and as for the “low-brows,” having attended play after play without enthusiasm, they had deserted the legitimate theatre for the more ingenuous delights of the motion picture palaces.

On the evening of Monday, September 24th, therefore, when a misty rain softened the electric blaze of Broadway’s theatrical district, it was viewed morosely by house managers and producers from 37th Street to Columbus Circle. Several plays were then and there given their walking papers by the men higher up, who called upon God and the weather bureau to witness their discomfiture. The penetrating rain kept the play-going public close to its radios and bridge tables. Broadway was a bleak sight indeed to those few who had the temerity to patrol its empty streets.

The sidewalk fronting the Roman Theatre, on 47th Street west of the “White Way,” however, was jammed with a mid-season, fair-weather crowd. The title “Gunplay” flared from a gay marquee. Cashiers dextrously attended the chattering throng lined up at the “Tonight’s Performance” window. The buff-and-blue doorman, impressive with the dignity of his uniform and the placidity of his years, bowed the evening’s top-hatted and befurred customers into the orchestra with an air of satisfaction, as if inclemencies of weather held no terrors for those implicated in “Gunplay’s” production.

Inside the theatre, one of Broadway’s newest, people bustled to their seats visibly apprehensive, since the boisterous quality of the play was public knowledge. In due time the last member of the audience ceased rustling his program; the last latecomer stumbled over his neighbor’s feet; the lights dimmed and the curtain rose. A pistol coughed in the silence, a man screamed … the play was on.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!