The Georgetown Mystery by William Wallace Major

The Georgetown Mystery

by William Wallace Major


Hell's a-pop- pin' down here. They's bin a murder committed, mebbe two.


Table of Contents
  1. Two Deaths and a Bank Robbers
  2. Disagreement
  3. A Threatening Letter
  4. Limpin Lizzie's Operation
  5. The Whole Truth

Chapter 1

Two Deaths and a Bank Robbery

It was seven o'clock in the morning and Marshal John McAlpin, of Georgetown, was frenziedly ringing a wall telephone at Herman Matthews’ store.

“Gimme Rockland, quick!” he shouted into the transmitter when he at last had the operator on the wire. “I'm in a hurry, Lou; git a move on. I ain't got no time to be wastin’ on you. Gimme Rockland at once.”

In a few seconds there was a noise in the distance.

“Rockland? ‘At you, Rockland? This is Marshal McAlpin at Georgetown. Gimme Prosecutor Thornton or the sheriff right away. Hell’s a-pop- pin’ down here. They’s bin a murder committed, mebbe two. Hurry up, now.”

Soon the marshal had the prosecutor on the wire, and hastily, disjointedly chopped out the facts as he knew them.

“I’ll be right down,” Thornton told him, somewhat excited himself. “I’ll bring the sheriff and the coroner with me.”

An hour and a half later a machine bearing four men came whirling into Georgetown, a great cloud of August dust eddying behind it. The machine stopped and Thornton alighted before the store and soft drink parlor conducted by Herman Matthews.

“Where’s Marshal McAlpin?” he inquired of Herman.

“Over on the commons. A block down and a block toward the right.”

The prosecutor, himself a young man; Dr. Carter, the coroner; “Bulldog” Dorgan, a friend of Thornton in years gone by, now a Chicago detective, who was visiting his people at Rockland, and Sheriff Perry continued on till they found a cluster of men.

Marshal McAlpin saw them coming and with his best official decorum ordered the crowd back. The county authorities stepped into the circle and saw the body of a man about thirty lying on the ground.

“Who is he, Marshal?” the prosecutor asked.

“Harley, Mr. Thornton; George Harley,” the marshal told him. “Clerk of the Lewis Commercial Bank.” The marshal seemed to place emphasis upon “the Lewis Commercial Bank,” as though it was an institution of which he and all Georgetown were proud.

“Examine him, please, Dr. Carter,” the prosecutor instructed. “Now, Marshal McAlpin, tell what you know about it. And who is the other person that might have been murdered?”

The marshal told them that Harrison J. Lewis, president of the bank, was the other supposed victim. His body was at his home. But Marshal McAlpin could give them little information as to either case. All he knew was that Harley’s body had been discovered on the common at dawn, just as they now saw it. No one had seen it placed there, and there had not been a shot or a cry or an unusual sound during the night, so far as he could learn. No one had thought to look for tracks, and the dust was now disturbed. And Mr. Lewis’ body had been found in his automobile at his home.

“What do you find, doctor?” Thornton turned to the coroner.

“A slight abrasion at the base of the skull,” was the answer. “That’s all externally. I think his death was caused by a broken neck. Other than that I can discover nothing wrong.”

Thornton ordered the body taken to the village undertaker’s, and the party was moving away when a youth came running and announced that the Commercial Bank had been robbed. John Jacobsen, the cashier, had just opened up and found five thousand dollars missing, money which had recently been deposited by farmers who had sold their wheat.

“Things are happening around here,” whistled the prosecutor. “Come on; we’ll stop at the bank on the way to the Lewis home.”

At the bank everything was in order. Mr. Jacobsen told the investigators he had found the doors locked as always, the non-time locking safe closed as it had been every morning, and papers and books undisturbed. But on opening the safe he discovered that five thousand dollars was missing.

A search in the bank revealed nothing; a search outside revealed nothing. There were no fingerprints to be seen on the safe, as Dorgan for one determined; the person who opened it evidently had exercised the greatest precaution. There was not even a track in the road that might have indicated a machine had been near the bank during the night.

“Did Harley have a key to the bank?” Thornton asked Mr. Jacobsen.

“Yes, he did; always had one. But you didn’t find the money on his body, did you?”

“No; but we will look again.”

“Did you find a pair of gloves of any kind a robber might have worn in opening the safe, Mr. Jacobsen?” Dorgan wanted to know.

“No, sir. Everything was left just as you see it when I found that the money was gone. I can’t imagine what’s happened.”

“Well, I can’t either,” Thornton admitted. He turned to leave the bank, then stopped.

“Let me talk to you in private, Mr. Jacobsen.” And with the middle-aged cashier, a man of faultless habits, he went into what had been Mr. Lewis’ private office. They were closeted half an hour.

“Don’t believe he is guilty or knows anything about the robbery or the deaths,” Thornton confided to Dr. Carter, Sheriff Perry and Dorgan as they walked back to the undertaker’s. “However, I guess it would be best to question him further later on.”

They did not find the money on Harley. Neither did they find a pair of gloves. They found the bank key, but Thornton said that proved nothing.

They went on to the Lewis home, the most pretentious of any in the town of a thousand people? Mrs. Lewis was reclining upon a divan, weeping and hysterical. She told them Mr. Lewis was in his machine in front of the garage. They went to the rear and there saw the corpse of the middle-aged banker and leading business man of the community at the steering wheel of his car, his arms clasped around the wheel and his head resting upon them, as if he had fallen asleep.

Dr. Carter made another examination. There were no marks to indicate the banker had been the victim of foul play. Dr. Carter announced that he believed he died of heart disease.

When the four men returned to the house, Mrs. Lewis, attended by an anxious neighbor woman, disposed them in chairs and returned to the divan.

“Would you tell us, Mrs. Lewis, what you know about this unfortunate occurrence?” the prosecutor began almost diffidently. “I suppose you know that the clerk of the bank also was found dead?”

She nodded her head, lips quivering.

“I realize it is a painful situation, Mrs. Lewis, and I will be brief. Where was Mr. Lewis last night in the car?”

“He left—left yesterday afternoon for Winton,” she sobbed. “He told me he had business to look after there, and—and might be gone for the night.”

At this Dorgan concentrated his steel blue eyes on Mrs. Lewis. She must have felt the intent scrutiny, for she suddenly looked toward him. As she did he perceived that she was a good-looking woman and could not be the age of her husband. There was a momentary alarm in her manner, which, however, fled as quickly as it had come. She took hold of herself and instead of being frightened and wary soon burst into a fresh fit of weeping. There was such an air of abject misery about her that even Dorgan seemed to be so moved that the glint in his eyes softened.

“He did not tell you what his business was?” Thornton was saying.

“No. Mr. Lewis nev—never told me about his business affairs.”

“Try to be calm, Mrs. Lewis,” the prosecutor counseled. “We will not bother you long. Did you hear Mr. Lewis return in the night or this morning?”

“No. I slept soundly all night and did not know he was—he was dead until I got up this morning.”

“Tell us about the discovery.”

“Well, I had arranged for a man to come today to mow the lawn,” she went on more concertedly, the opportunity to tell what she knew apparently easing her mind. “Duggan—John Duggan. I had just come down to the kitchen; I do not have steady help and there was no one in the house but me. I was getting a bite for breakfast, making toast and putting the coffee on, when Mr. Duggan came running and told me the machine was standing in the drive and Mr. Lewis was leaning over the wheel. He didn’t know he was dead, but he thought there was something strange about it. I—I went out with him and—and tried to arouse Mr. Lewis. But—but I could not. Then I came back to the house and Mr. Duggan went for Marshal McAlpin. I—I—oh, it’s awful, awful.” She gave way to her grief again.

The prosecutor waited for her to regain control of herself before he pursued his questioning.

“Have you any idea of what might have become of the money, or caused Mr. Harley’s death?”


“Was Mr. Lewis afflicted with heart trouble? Did he show any symptoms—grow weak, or faint?”

“Yes, yes, he had one or two attacks. Once in the bank he almost collapsed. Mr. Jacobsen knows about that.”

“We’ll not bother you much longer, Mrs. Lewis. There’s just one thing more. Do you object to the body being held for a few days before burial ? Perhaps a post-mortem may throw a little light on the case.”

“No. I have no objections.”

“Thank you. I’ll do my best to clear this up. Two mysterious deaths here —it is very unusual. Good-day.”

The party tiptoed from the house. Prosecutor Thornton said he was glad that was over.

As they walked away he asked Dorgan what he thought of the situation. Jim merely replied he didn’t know what to think. It was obvious he did not wish to express an opinion so publicly.

Back at the bank, Thornton inquired of Mr. Jacobsen concerning Harley’s antecedents and was informed by the cashier that he knew little of Harley’s history. In fact, almost nothing. Mr. Lewis had engaged him in Cleveland, he believed, although he could not be certain. Harley had talked of many places he had been, without attaching himself to any one particularly. He had come to Georgetown a little more than a year ago, and had always been on good terms with his employer. Mr. Jacobsen declared he was a very likable and upright young man, and resented any inference from the prosecutor that he might have been responsible for the disappearance of the five thousand dollars.

“Do you suppose he might have had friends in another city—Cleveland, for instance—who helped him rob the bank?” Dorgan pressed.

“Ah, no,” Mr. Jacobsen replied, dismissing the thought. “He could not have done it. No, certainly not.”

“Well, boys,” Thornton said when they left the bank the second time, “the case resolves itself into this: Was Harley murdered, and who got the money? Evidently, as Dr. Carter says, Lewis died of heart disease in his car. He was getting well beyond fifty, and that's very probable. But something very unusual must have happened to Harley to break his neck, and the money of course did not walk away from the bank unassisted. What caused Harley’s death and who took the money?—that’s for us to find out. What’s the answer, Dorgan?”

Jim flung up his hands in meaningless gesture.

After visiting the house where Harley had roomed and where they found the landlady in sincere mourning at Harley’s death, the party returned to Rockland.

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Table of Contents
  1. Two Deaths and a Bank Robbers
  2. Disagreement
  3. A Threatening Letter
  4. Limpin Lizzie's Operation
  5. The Whole Truth