Who Killed the Husband - Hulbert Footner - ebook

Who Killed the Husband ebook

Hulbert Footner



Mappin is a wealthy New York criminologist and author who is highly valued by the police and high society. He participates only in those crimes that really interest him. And in ’Who Killed the Husband’ he investigates solely because all the people around him beg him to take action. In this story, a detective investigates the murder of a banker. The killer who, according to the police have already found.

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MR. AMOS LEE MAPPIN was breakfasting by the fire in the immense living room of his apartment. With the steam heat, a fire was not in the least necessary, but he enjoyed it. The date was November 4th. During the pleasant fall days it was Lee’s habit to turn off the steam, open the windows and toast himself in front of the cheerful blaze. “I am a primitive creature,” he would say, which was one of his innocent affectations. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

He was wearing a crimson damask dressing gown with a blue silk scarf around his throat and blue morocco slippers. His taste in dress ran to such flamboyant effects but, conscious that they sat rather comically on his little, roly-poly figure, he sported them only in the privacy of the home. He nibbled his grilled kidney and sipped his coffee in great peace of mind. His big book, “The Psychology of Murder,” was progressing well. He was revolving the day’s work in his mind while he ate, and occasionally put down his knife and fork to make a note in his little pocketbook.

Since he had become famous, somebody was always trying to engage his services in this case or that. Being as fastidious as a cat, he hated to soil his paws with the actual investigation of crime; his job, as he told himself over and over, was to study crime in the privacy of the library a long time after it had been committed. So he refused all offers, however tempting the fee; he didn’t need the money; nevertheless, every now and then such pressure was brought upon him that he was forced to take a case. When he had solved the mystery he always drew a sigh of relief and vowed that it should be the last. At the moment there was no important criminal case to agitate the public mind and he envisioned a long succession of serene days to be devoted to his philosophical treatise.

His servant, Jermyn, tall, lean, leathery and correct, entered bringing the Herald Tribune, which he placed folded upon the table beside the breakfast tray. Jermyn did not speak, but he had been working for Mr. Mappin for a long time, and his master could read him like a printed page. It was evident from Jermyn’s overcasual air that there was something in the morning’s paper that he considered it important his master should see. He left the room.

Opening the paper, Mr. Mappin saw at once what it was. Jules Gartrey, the prominent banker, president of the famous Hasbrouck firm, had been found shot dead in his apartment and the police were looking for young Alastair Yohe, society’s pet photographer. Mrs. Gartrey, whom they called “the most beautiful woman in New York,” was said to be “prostrated.”

Mr. Mappin threw the paper aside pettishly. The vulgarest of crimes! He was annoyed that Jermyn should have supposed he would be interested. Of course, it would cause a terrific sensation because of the conspicuousness of the principals. Mappin hated empty sensationalism. He disdained to read the details.

Putting it out of mind, he finished eating and went out on the balcony to bask in the morning sun while he smoked a cigarette. The East River sparkled far below; it was pleasant to think of the fascinating, baffling problems of human conduct that formed the subject matter of his book. Not this commonplace killing. Afterwards he went to his room to dress. For the street he affected a modified early nineteenth-century style. With his bald head, his polished glasses, his round belly under a white waistcoat, his neat legs encased in tightish pants, he looked like Mr. Pickwick as Cruikshank drew him, and gloried in it. He couldn’t go all the way with Mr. Pickwick’s costume; that would have made him too conspicuous. He hated to be stared at.

When he arrived at his office on Murray Hill the heads of both his assistants, blonde Fanny Parran and brunette Judy Bowles, were bent over newspapers, and that annoyed him afresh. No need to ask what they were reading. The girls were so absorbed that their greeting was perfunctory; “Morning, Pop,” they said without looking up. He went on into his private office.

Presently Fanny came in bearing the newspaper. “Have you read this?” she asked.

“The headlines,” he answered.

“This is the biggest case since Cain killed Abel!” said Fanny solemnly. “Fancy, Jules Gartrey shot in his own house!”

“Humph!” snorted Mr. Mappin. “Husband comes home unexpectedly; finds a younger man there; probably attacks him and gets shot for his pains. It happens every day somewhere.”

“Not to the Jules Gartreys of this world,” said Fanny. “We’ve got to get in this case, Pop.”

“Get in it!” cried Mr. Mappin, now thoroughly exasperated. “For heaven’s sake, what is there in it for us?”

“Useless for you to talk that way,” said Fanny coolly. “A man as prominent as you simply can’t be left out of a case as big as this. You’ll see.”

“All the police have got to do is catch the killer.”

She shook her head. “Not so simple as all that. There’s a lot that’s unexplained. Sure, Al Yohe and Mrs. Gartrey have been running around together, but that doesn’t prove anything. You’re thinking in the terms of mellerdrammer, Pop. Modern people don’t act like that–not that lot, anyhow. There’s something back of it...Do you know Al Yohe?” she asked suddenly.

“Haven’t that pleasure,” said Lee stiffly. “I’ve seen him, of course. Couldn’t very well avoid it.”

“He’s not the type,” said Fanny. “If he was caught by a husband he would laugh.”

“You seem to know him pretty well!”

“Oh, I’ve met him at the Sourabaya; it’s his job to greet everybody who comes there. If you were to judge by what the newspapers say, he is just a common sort of Casanova who goes around rolling his eyes at women and trying to hypnotize them. But that’s not the truth, Pop. He’s an American boy, full of jokes, laughing all the time. It’s true that women fall for him right and left–Mrs. Gartrey is mad about him; I’ve seen it–but that’s because he tells them the truth about themselves. No woman can resist it, Pop–not when the man is so darned good-looking.”

With that she left him. Lee was sufficiently impressed by her earnestness to pick up the newspaper and read the Gartrey story from beginning to end. It was meager as to fact and voluminous in innuendo.

The Gartreys lived in a magnificent apartment on Fifth Avenue overlooking the Park. Gartrey had had two wives before marrying the present Mrs. Gartrey, one dead, one divorced, and this one was thirty years younger than her husband. Alastair Yohe had called at three o’clock on the previous afternoon and was still there when the husband came home half an hour or so later. This was earlier than his usual hour, the house elevator boy testified. Gartrey had let himself in with a key instead of ringing; consequently nobody was aware of his return until the shot was heard. He was found lying in the entrance foyer, shot through the temple. The butler, Robert Hawkins, found him.

Oddly enough, the gun was lying on the floor near by. But the absence of powder burns in the dead man’s flesh precluded the idea of suicide. There were no fingerprints on the gun. Mr. Gartrey was still holding his latchkey between thumb and forefinger, proving that he must have been shot down at the moment of entering. There could be no question of the killer’s having acted in self-defense. Mr. Gartrey was not armed. The elevator boy and the boys on duty in the hall of the apartment house, all testified that, saving Alastair Yohe, no other person had been taken to the Gartrey apartment previous to the shooting.

The stories told by the inmates of the apartment were contradictory. Mrs. Gartrey, upon the advice of her husband’s principal business associate, George Coler, talked fully to the police. Both she and her maid Eliza Young asserted that Mr. Yohe had taken his departure five minutes or more before the shot was heard. The maid added that she had opened the front door for him herself. Both women, of course, were anxious to divert any suspicion of scandal and were obviously desirous of clearing the young man. The maid’s story was seriously damaged by the front elevator boy, who swore that he had not taken Mr. Yohe down in his car. Whereupon the maid pointed out that Yohe had several other friends in the apartment house and might have gone to call on one of them by the stairs. After the murder, so many people came and went that the elevator boy could give no account of them.

However, the maid’s story was altogether destroyed by the butler, Hawkins, who testified very reluctantly that immediately after the shot was fired Mr. Yohe had come back into the rear entry of the apartment and had left by the service door. He had not said anything. He looked very disturbed. The other servants were in their rooms and had not seen him. The boy on the service elevator testified that he had not carried Yohe down, but there was a service stairway. The maid Eliza intimated that the butler had a grudge against Mr. Yohe and was lying. The most damning fact, however, was that Yohe had run away. The police promised an arrest within twenty-four hours.

Having digested the facts, Lee skimmed over the columns and columns of fluff that were considered due the occasion. In the minds of the newspaper writers, Yohe was already convicted of murder. They played up the romance of his career for all there was in it. The poor boy who had come to New York with nothing to recommend him but a certain skill in camera portraiture, plus remarkable good looks and charm of manner. It had been sufficient. Within five years he found himself publicity agent, official photographer and all-round hurrah boy at La Sourabaya, the smartest and most popular night club of the time. Al Yohe had made the place what it was. Not to be a friend of Al’s was to argue yourself unknown around town.

In this short space of time, Yohe had become one of the most conspicuous social figures in New York. Men and women alike courted him–millionaires, actresses, authors, even scientists–not for himself but for the publicity that his wicked camera commanded. Not only was he the lord of La Sourabaya (the Oriental proprietors kept themselves discreetly in the background); gifts were showered on him by the smartest shops in town; he was never expected to pay for anything anywhere; he was besieged with invitations to the best houses. In respect to his amatory adventures, the writers had to be a little more careful. They managed, however, to convey very clearly that Don Juan of Sevila was a piker compared to Al Yohe of New York.

In order to build up Al, it was necessary to suggest that the unfortunate Jules Gartrey was an unpleasant sort of man, hard and unrelenting, unpopular alike in business and society. All the lush adjectives in the reportorial vocabulary were used in referring to Agnes Gartrey’s beauty. The newspaper story actually managed to suggest, without laying itself open to libel, that she had had lovers before Al Yohe. The name of Rulon Innes, a well-known glamour boy, was brought in.

Lee Mappin tossed the newspaper aside. “Vicious!” he muttered; “this attempt to make a hero out of a common murderer!”

Fanny, who had been watching him through the open door out of the tail of her eye, came in with the morning’s mail. “Well, what do you think of it, Pop?” she asked casually.

“I think no different from what I did before,” he answered sharply. “Certainly there’s nothing in the newspaper that would induce a sensible man to change his opinion.”

“You’re wrong, Pop. Al Yohe is not the type.”

“So you said before. How can you possibly know? Murderers belong to no type. All kinds of people commit murder when the provocation is strong enough.”

“That’s just it,” said Fanny. “There is no reason in the world why Al should have killed Mr. Gartrey.”

“Please, Fanny,” said Lee with heavy self-control, “don’t let me hear you falling into the vulgar habit of referring to a criminal as if he were an intimate friend. Call him Yohe.”

Fanny smiled with great sweetness. “All right, Pop, dear...Look, somebody obviously was lying in wait for Mr. Gartrey. That, at least would be impossible for a man like Al...Yohe.”

“I don’t know,” said Lee, “and neither do you. Al...”

“Yohe,” whispered Fanny wickedly.

“Al Yohe was how old? Twenty-five. Twenty-five is too soon for a comely young face to reveal the real character of its wearer. Only the old look wicked.”

“There were no fingerprints on the gun,” said Fanny. “Yet they all say, that is, Mrs. Gartrey, Eliza Young, the elevator boy, even the lying butler, that Al Yohe’s hands were bare.”

“He had gloves in his pocket,” said Lee. “It takes no time at all to pull on a loose glove and pull it off again.”


DURING the following three days, the sensation caused by the murder of Jules Gartrey rose to monstrous proportions. Extra editions of the newspapers were issued every half hour; nothing else could be talked about. Great crowds stood dumbly in the street gazing up at the windows of the Gartrey apartment and midtown Fifth Avenue was choked in front of the Stieff Building where Al Yohe lived. They even stood all day long packed front and rear at Police Headquarters, on the chance that Yohe might be brought in. Disgraceful scenes attended the funeral of Mr. Gartrey. To avoid the crowds, he was carried to his country place in Westchester and buried from there. Word of it got around, and thousands besieged the place. Finding the gates locked, they swarmed over the fence and trampled down all the shrubbery and flowers.

Mrs. Gartrey remained in close seclusion, but was not, however, averse to being interviewed. She had a case to put before the world, and she presented it with skill, though nobody believed a word of her story. She had frequently met Mr. Yohe in society, she said, but he was not in any sense a close friend. It was the first time he had come to her house except when there was a party. She had sent for him to discuss the plans for a ball that was to be held at the Waldorf-Astoria in December in aid of Polish Relief. St. Bartholomew’s Guild, of which she was secretary, was getting up the affair. At a meeting of the Guild it had been decided to ask Mr. Yohe to manage the ball because he was such a good organizer. In sending for him to talk the matter over, she was merely acting for the Guild. He was out of the apartment a good five minutes before Mr. Gartrey came home. “My husband,” said Mrs. Gartrey, “like all successful men, had bitter enemies. There were people who believed that they had lost money through him.” She could not, however, furnish the police with names.

Mrs. Gartrey promptly discharged the butler, Robert Hawkins, whose story did not agree with hers. Hawkins could have made a small fortune by selling stories of the Gartrey household to the newspapers, but he proved to be a man of very unusual decency; he moved into a modest furnished room and declined to add a word to his first statement. When the pestering of the reporters became unbearable, he quietly left town without advertising his new address.

The maid, Eliza Young, loyally supported her mistress’ story. She, of course, could let herself go more than the grand and dignified Mrs. Gartrey. Eliza was always available for an interview, and proved to be a passionate partisan of Alastair Yohe’s. This reacted against him. A plain woman, no longer young, Eliza’s lot in life had been singularly unexciting and, as was natural, all this notoriety began to go to her head. She talked too much. It was obvious to those who read her statements with attention that she was better acquainted with Yohe than would have been possible if he had made only one visit to the Gartrey home.

On the third day, Alan Barry Deane, a rich young man about town who lived on the second floor of the house where the Gartreys had an apartment, came forward to say that shortly before four o’clock on Monday (the afternoon of the murder), Alastair Yohe had called on him with the object of persuading him to serve on the floor committee of the Polish Relief Ball. He had consented to serve on the committee. They had talked together for a few minutes and had then gone out to discover the cause of the excitement that was filling the house. Deane said he did not know what became of Yohe after that, but insisted that up until then Yohe had appeared quite his usual self. This story, which was calculated to destroy that of the butler, was not, however, generally believed. The public felt that Deane had delayed too long before telling it, and that he was merely trying to recommend himself to the beautiful Agnes Gartrey.

Various new pieces of evidence were brought out. Upon the news of Gartrey’s death, the securities of all the companies he was interested in had broken sharply. There was a heavy short interest which had taken the opportunity to cover at an enormous profit. The police had not been able to trace this interest to its source. It came out, moreover, that Gartrey’s life had been threatened mysteriously and that about a month before, he had asked for police protection. About the same time he had taken out a permit and purchased a gun. Apparently he believed the threatened danger had passed, for at the time of his murder the gun was lying in a drawer of his bureau. The police at the same time were endeavoring to trace ownership of the gun found on the scene from which one shot had been fired. When they established that this gun had been sold to Alastair Yohe during the previous year, it was admitted that the case against Yohe was complete.

Meanwhile, that much-wanted young man succeeded in keeping out of the hands of the police. Though he had thousands of “friends,” though he was the most be-photographed young man in the country, and his smiling, handsome face must have been familiar to every reader of newspapers from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he was not found. Trainmen, bus conductors, airplane stewardesses, ticket agents everywhere were looking for him. There were innumerable clues which came to nothing. Arrests were made by the local police of Philadelphia, Hanover, New Hampshire, Milledgeville, Georgia, and as far away as Fargo, North Dakota, and New York detectives sent out to bring him in, only to find themselves fooled. A bitter note crept into the communiques issued from Headquarters. It was obvious that somebody must be concealing the wanted man. Each day the police promised results within twenty-four hours.

It turned out that Yohe had proceeded directly from the scene of the murder to his own small bachelor apartment in the Stieff Building near the Plaza. The elevator man testified that he had looked “very upset.” After a few minutes he had gone out again with a different suit on and was swallowed up by the unknown. He kept no personal servant. A maid employed by the management of the building said significantly that Mr. Yohe seldom slept at home. The public loved it. Upon searching his rooms the police had found nothing that pertained to the case. He was a discreet young man; he left no scrap of writing from any of the many women with whom his name had been connected. There were thousands of photographs of the great, the near-great and the would-be-great, some of which had a great potential value. They were so unflattering that the subjects might have been willing to pay anything to keep them out of print. But it was never charged that Yohe had taken money for such a purpose. A few of the photographs found their way into the newspapers, affording the town a series of laughs. The Commissioner of Police then cracked down on the press and impounded the lot.

These three days were full of little irritations for Lee Mappin. He was not allowed to forget the vulgar affair for long and his work suffered. Even the discreet, the correct Jermyn permitted himself to suggest that his master ought to take a hand in the case. At the office little Fanny Parran, usually so sensible, displayed a prejudice on behalf of the handsome young murderer as passionate and unreasonable as that of Eliza Young in the press. When the police finally identified the murder gun as Yohe’s, Lee fetched a sigh of relief. Now, please God, they’ll leave me alone! he thought.

When he got to the office there was no sign of grief or disappointment in Fanny’s pretty face, no change of any sort. When she brought in the mail she said with a beguiling air–Lee had never seen her looking sweeter:

“Pop, why don’t you talk to Inspector Loasby about the Gartrey case?”

“What is there to talk about?” said Lee, keeping a careful hold on his rising temper. “I am not a bloodhound. It is no part of my job to track down fugitives from justice.”

“Of course not, Pop. That’s not what I had in mind. Everybody in the world believes that Al Yohe is guilty. In the interests of justice you ought to examine the evidence that the police have against him and point out the flaws in it.”

“My dear girl, have you the face to pretend you still believe that man to be innocent?”

“I’m not your dear girl when you talk to me like a stuffy schoolmaster,” said Fanny with spirit. “And I am not pretending.”

“After the police have established that Gartrey was shot with Yohe’s gun!”

“How can you be so wrongheaded ?” cried Fanny. “That is the best proof of Al’s innocence that has come out! Can you conceive of a man so stupid as to leave his gun at the scene of the killing? That gun was planted there!”

“Maybe so,” cried Lee waving his hands. “It’s no business of mine. I’m sick of hearing the fellow’s name! If he’s innocent why does he choose to live like a hunted creature? Let him come back like a man and face the music, and if he needs help I’ll help him!”

“Now, Pop,” said Fanny soothingly, “honestly, after taking everything into consideration, would you come back if you were in his place?”

Lee disdained to answer.

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