Tales of Murder, for readers with time to kill!
Death by Gas by J. J. Matthews
Brain Teaser

Death by Gas

by J. J. Matthews

Captain Pearsons is 'Thorough', with a capital 'T', and he found the single clue that proves Herman Matthews killed his young wife. Can you find it?

Read the story, then when you think you've solved it, click to see the solution!

Table of Contents
  1. Captain Pearsons
  2. The Girl on the Sofa
  3. The Question
  4. The Solution

Captain Pearsons

The boys down at Homicide have a special interpretation of what the middle initial in the name of Captain Howard T. Pearsons really means. They like that tall lanky ex-football player with his penetrating mind.

“The ‘T’ means ‘Thorough’,” says Detective Peter Reilly. “When my boss gets on a case his mind looks for every point and never overlooks the smallest detail.”

For in solving crime you face a paradox. The thing that is often very obvious is exactly what is overlooked by everyone—from the cop to the killer.

The Girl on the Sofa

The girl on the sofa could hardly have been over twenty-two at the most. She was extremely thin and the lines on her face showed great suffering.

“No doubt death was due to gas poisoning,” said the coroner. “After we get the body down to the morgue I’ll check up on the internal organs.”

Captain Pearsons turned to the milkman who supplied all tenants in the house. “Now don’t leave out a single detail. Tell me exactly what happened.”

The middle-aged man was a bit nervous as he began to speak. “I generally get here between 6 and 6:15 every morning. As I placed a bottle of milk on the side of the door I thought I smelled gas. I pushed on the door knocker but could get no answer. So I ran downstairs and saw a cop on the beat. He came up with me and we smashed the door down.”

The police official then turned to a young rookie. “Now you tell me, Patrolman Patterson, exactly what you did as soon as you smashed the door down and entered this apartment. And don’t leave out a single detail.”

The young rookie spoke slowly. “First thing I saw was that young girl on the sofa. She had a long rubber tube in her mouth. The other end was connected to an outlet on the floor, and the gas heater had been pushed aside. I removed the tube from her mouth; then I shouted to the milkman and told him to open the windows. I tried first aid on her and failed, so I told the milkman to call for an ambulance. He went out. Then I into the bedroom and found this fellow, who says he is the girl’s husband, coughing; he must have been overcome with gas, too.”

Herman Matthews didn’t wait for an invitation to tell his story.

“What the cop says is so,” he began. “Lucy, my wife, must have been going nuts in the last month. She even yelled in the grocery she wanted to die. Life wasn’t worth while living. She must have gotten out of bed, disconnected the gas heater, and put that tube in her mouth. The gas sort of got me, too. Good thing the milkman came around and smelled the gas, or I would have been a goner, too.”

Something was bothering Captain Pearsons and he stroked his chin twice. There was something wrong in the picture and he just couldn’t put his finger on the detail.

“You could have killed your wife,” he suggested quietly. “Forced the tube into her mouth and turned on the gas. Figured out just about when the milkman would come, then back into your room after getting a whiff of the gas.”

Herman Matthews was indignant. “You can’t prove that. I got a witness who will swear my wife wanted to die. Be careful what you say, Officer.”

A smile began to play over the lips of Captain Pearsons as he snapped back, “Of course you killed your wife. The evidence right there staring you in the face.”

The Question

What evidence did Captain Pearson see that proved Herman Matthews killed his wife?

Think carefully and re-read the story if you need to. Then get …

The Solution

Review the evidence carefully, and when you think you know what Captain Pearsons saw, enter your email address and get the solution to DEATH BY GAS !

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