Anticipation of a Great Battle
The crowded Millrun Stadium was tense in its anticipation of a great battle. That night Millrun Tigers were to meet Rondale Swifts to decide once and for all which was superior in the ice-hockey league.
Neither team had suffered a defeat for months, but for a single reason the Millrun boys were fancied to win. That reason was Big Bill Jansen.
Jansen, a wizard on skates, had, by the sheer force of his own ability, dragged Millrun from a low position in the league to the happy elevation they now occupied.
Dixon Hawke and his assistant, Tommy Burke, ice-hockey fans both, surveyed the scene from their position near the players’ entrance.
Then the teams were taking the ice, while their partisans yelled hoarse encouragement. A special cheer was reserved for Bill Jansen as he glided slowly towards his position.
Hawke watched the big man, and was struck by the realisation that Jansen looked ill. Most of the skater’s normal poise seemed to have deserted him. There was, too, a lack of sparkle in the man’s eyes, and his face was pale and drawn.
Hawke’s further speculation was halted by the shrill of the whistle.
The opening minutes saw a tearaway display. The game raged from end to end, and it was obvious that there was little between the teams.
Jansen had not been in the picture so far, and his fans were silent, puzzled by his listlessness.
The Millrun goal had escaped narrowly once or twice when the big skater awoke from the lethargy which seemed to have descended upon him. In a loose scrimmage he collected the puck and tore down the rink towards the opposing goal.
One of the Rondale men came out to tackle him. Although Jansen had plenty of time to swerve, he went blindly on. The other man made a desperate effort to side-step Jansen’s rush, but he was a fraction of a second late.
The two players crashed headlong to the ice, slithering for yards. The Rondale man scrambled to his feet, but Jansen lay strangely still.
Players clustered round the prone figure. They tried to raise Jansen, and his head slumped forward. The referee’s inspection of the man was brief. He immediately signalled to the ambulance men who were on duty.
Something in Jansen’s ghastly pallor affected Hawke as he watched the huge form being carried off. With a murmured phrase to Tommy, the detective rose and made his way to the dressing-room.
The little knot of people standing silent outside the dressing-room parted to let him enter. As the door closed behind Hawke, the grey-haired man, who had been bending over Jansen’s still form, wheeled. He recognised the famous criminologist immediately.
“A terrible business, Mr. Hawke,” he said gravely.
“Is he badly hurt, Doctor?”
“But I’ve often seen Jansen take harder knocks without any ill effects.”
“I know,” agreed the doctor. “But it wasn’t the fall that killed Jansen. He has been poisoned!”
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The Bookie’s Letter
After the doctor had gone to call the police, Hawke made a careful examination of Jansen’s body. To his expert eye, all the symptoms of poisoning were there.
Continuing the examination, Hawke discovered three tiny pin pricks in the dead man’s arm. Just then the door swung open to admit the doctor. He was accompanied by a burly, red-faced inspector of police, who grinned recognition at Hawke.
Inspector Aldley went briskly to work, and fired questions at the doctor.
“How long would this poison take to kill a man?” he demanded.
“It’s hard to say immediately,” replied the doctor, “but I would think it would take an hour at least.”
“Right,” snapped the inspector. “Now I’ll have a look through Jansen’s belongings.”
A minute later Aldley turned excitedly to Hawke.
“Take a look at this,” he cried. “I found it in Jansen’s pocket.”
He handed over a piece of paper, and the detective read it out.
“*Dear Jansen,—It would be greatly to my benefit if Millrun lose their game with Rondale. You are the one man who can make your team win.
If they lose, you will find it well worth your while. Otherwise, it may be unpleasant for you.—Joseph Danton.*”
“Well?” asked Hawke.
The inspector smiled triumphantly.
“First Jansen gets a threatening letter from Joe Danton. Then he is murdered! I’m going to have a few words with Danton.”
“That won’t be difficult,” said Hawke. “I saw him in the Stadium watching the game: he’s probably still here. But I don’t think he’s your man. He may be a crooked bookmaker and gambler, but he would not commit murder.”
The inspector ordered the constable at the door to bring in Joe Danton.
A few minutes later the door opened to admit a little fat man in a bowler hat. He looked very uneasy.
“Jansen is dead,” opened Inspector Aldley bluntly.
The little man raised a nervous, plump hand to remove the cigar from his lips.
“My God!” he gulped.
“He’s been murdered,” went on the inspector, pressing home his advantage.
Danton went dead white, but said nothing.
“What do you know about it?” barked the inspector.
“Me!” The little man licked his Ups. “I know nothing about it.”
Aldley held out the letter.
“And I suppose you know nothing about that either?” he queried.
Danton made a hopeless gesture.
“All right,” he said at last. “I wrote that letter to Jansen, because I was gambling a packet on the match to-night. Then I saw him at the coffee-stall ten minutes before the game started. He told me he wasn’t going to deal with me.”
“So you poisoned him?”
“No,” protested Danton. “Why should I do that?”
“So that his team wouldn’t have a chance of winning,” snapped Aldley.
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Hawke now took a hand in the questioning.
“You say you saw Jansen ten minutes before the game started?”
“That’s right,” mumbled Danton.
“And when did you see him last?”
“Weeks ago,” said the little man. “I’ve been up north at the races for a fortnight. I came straight from the station to the Stadium to-night.”
“That’s all,” said Hawke, and left the room, to rejoin his assistant in the Stadium and acquaint him with the details of the case.
“Where are we going now?” queried Tommy as they left the Stadium.
“To Jansen’s rooms,” replied Hawke. Fifteen minutes later they arrived in the quiet street where Jansen lived. Hawke pressed the doorbell.
Several minutes elapsed before the door was opened. A young man stood in the doorway eyeing the pair with cold, unfriendly eyes.
“What do you want?” he demanded. Hawke forced a civility into his voice which he was far from feeling.
“Were are investigating Mr. Jansen’s death,” he said, “and we would like to examine his rooms.”
The young man’s expression changed.
“Come in,” he invited. “I am Bill’s stepbrother. It has been a terrible shock to me, as you will understand.”
“Quite,” agreed Hawke.
“Of course,” went on the other, “Bill lived a dangerous life, and these accidents will occur.”
“Margent—Edward Margent is my name,” supplied the other.
“Well, Mr. Margent,” went on Hawke, “I am sorry to inform you that your stepbrother’s death was not an accident. He was murdered.”
“Murdered!” exclaimed Margent in shocked surprise. “But Bill hadn’t an enemy in the world—”
His voice trailed away, and for seconds there was silence in the room. Then Margent spoke again.
“I bet it was that fellow Danton who did this. Bill had a letter from him asking him to let his team down.”
“We know about the letter,” said Hawke.
“Then Danton ought to be arrested!” said the young man heatedly.
“You can rest assured that the murderer will not escape,” promised Hawke. “Now, do you mind if we have a look round the rooms?”
“Not at all,” agreed Margent, and crossed the room to fling open a door.
“This is—was Bill’s sitting-room,” he explained.
Hawke’s glance swept a very untidy room. A bureau against the wall was open, and a litter of papers lay upon it.
“I know the place looks as though it had been burgled,” said Margent, “but Bill was always untidy.”
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A Scrap of Paper
Hawke rummaged through the papers on the desk. Then he turned and addressed Margent.
I would like you to show my assistant the other rooms.”
Margent agreed quite readily, and left the room with Tommy.
As soon as he was alone Hawke fished out a scrap of paper which he had seen wedged in one of the bureau’s pigeon-holes. He flattened out the paper, and found that it bore a few words written in ink:
“You can rest assured that the treatment will have a fine effect. It will only require a few injections—”
The paper had been carelessly torn here, and there was no signature.
Hawke hurriedly pocketed the piece of paper as the door was reopened.
“Found anything important!” queried Margent from the threshold.
“No, I’m afraid there’s nothing here,” said Hawke. “We will have to move off now. By the way, Mr. Margent, do you live here?”
“No,” said Margent, “I came here immediately after I heard of the tragedy, in case I was required.”
“I see,” said Hawke. “Now, could you let us have your address in case we require to get in touch with you?”
“Certainly,” agreed Margent. He produced a fountain-pen and scrawled an address on a piece of paper.
Hawke and Tommy took their departure. When they had walked out of sight of the house, Hawke halted.
“I want you to go back and keep an eye on Margent,” he said. “I’ve a feeling that he knows more about this business than he has told us.”
Hawke went on alone, and following a brief visit to the railway station, where he made a few inquiries, returned to the Millrun Stadium. The dressing-room in which he had left Inspector Aldley and his suspect was empty.
The detective went along the corridor and knocked on the door marked, “Manager.” He was immediately admitted, to find the inspector seated there with the manager of the place.
“Where is Danton?” asked Hawke.
“He’s behind bars,” replied Aldley with some satisfaction. “You couldn’t expect me to turn him loose with the evidence we have against him.”
“I suppose not.” Hawke’s agreement was not hearty. He added : “I would like to speak to you alone, if you don’t mind.”
The manager nodded agreement, and left the room.
When the door closed, Hawke turned to the inspector.
“I think,” he said gravely, “that you are making a mistake in arresting Danton for the murder.”
“Oil! And what makes you think so?” Aldley’s tone was cool.
“Simply that Danton could not have administered the poison. The doctor said that the stuff would take at least an hour to have effect, yet Danton did not arrive in town until half an hour before Jansen’s death.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Yes,” went on Hawke. “I’ve been to the railway station, and a ticket-collector there, who knows Danton well by sight, confirmed the time of his arrival.”
“But,” objected the inspector doggedly, “if Danton didn’t do it himself, he hired someone else to do it. He’s in this business up to the neck, and I’m going to hold him.”
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On his return to Dover Street, Hawke seated himself at his desk. Then he drew from his pocket the piece of paper on which Margent had written his address and the other scrap which he had found in Jansen’s bureau.
He was still studying the handwriting through a powerful magnifying lens when the door swung open to admit his assistant.
“Any luck I” queried Hawke.
“Some,” admitted Tommy rather wearily, as he lowered himself into a chair. “I followed Margent when he came out of Jansen’s house. He went to his own rooms then, and I had a few words with his landlady.”
“Is Margent a doctor?” broke in Hawke.
“No, guv’nor, he’s a student of chemistry.”
“Right, Tommy. Go on.”
“Margent spent half an hour in his room,” resumed Tommy, “and when he came out I followed him.”
“Yes?” prompted the detective.
“He went to a cafe in the East End, and I managed to get a table quite near him, although he couldn’t see me. Then Margent was joined by another man. Just guess who it was, guv’nor.”
“Radlow—the moneylender,” said Tommy. “They seemed to be having a quarrel about something. Radlow said : ‘I’ve waited too long as it is, and I think it’s about high time you came through with it.’”
“Margent told the moneylender that it wouldn’t be long until he paid—in full. He said he was expecting some money from an insurance company.”
“Was that all, Tommy?”
“Yes. I followed Margent back to his rooms, and he seems to be there for the night.”
“Good work, son,” commended Hawke, as he thoughtfully handled the pieces of paper ho had been studying. “Take a look at these,” he added.
Tommy pored over the handwriting for a few seconds.
“It looks like the same handwriting on both, guv’nor.”
“It is the same handwriting,” assured Hawke. “Margent wrote both.”
Then he asked: “Do you remember the state of Jansen’s room when we went there?”
“Yes,” agreed Tommy. “Margent said he was very untidy.”
“And yet,” went on the detective, “Jansen’s locker at the Millrun Stadium was easily the tidiest one there. Strange, isn’t it?”
“I mean that someone had been searching Jansen’s belongings—and that someone was Margent. And I think that this is what he was searching for.”
Hawke tapped the scrap of paper he had found in Jansen’s bureau. Then he pointed to the sentence which ran: “You can rest assured that the treatment will have a fine effect.”
“I wonder,” concluded the detective, “just what kind of ‘ treatment ‘ Margent was proposing to use on his stepbrother?”
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The Fatal Injection
Hawke spent some considerable time the next day studying a book on poisons from his well-stocked library, and later surprised Tommy Burke by enquiring:
“Do you think you could impersonate our moneylending friend, Radlow, on the telephone?”
“I could try,” agreed Tommy readily.
“Right,” said Hawke. “Call Margent and ask him to meet you at the cafe you mentioned last night, at seven o’clock.”
Tommy dialled the required number and soon heard Margent’s voice.
“This is Radlow speaking.” Tommy emulated the hoarse accents of the moneylender as he relayed the message.
“All right?” queried Hawke, as the youth hung up.
Tommy nodded affirmatively, and then Hawke took over the phone to put a call through to Inspector Aldley.
At a few minutes to seven Hawke and Tommy were discreetly watching outside the block of flats where Margent had a bed-sitting-room. They had not long to wait before the man came out and swung down the street.
“Wait for me here,” said Hawke to his assistant, and made for the door from which Margent had emerged.
The detective climbed two flights of stairs and pressed a bell-push. The door was opened by a middle-aged and plump woman.
“Does Mr. Margent live here?” queried Hawke.
“Yes, sir, ‘e does, but ‘e ‘as just gone out.”
“It’s all right,” responded Hawke. “I’ll wait for him in his room.”
The woman flung a searching glance at Hawke and seemed satisfied.
“This way, sir,” she said, leading the way indoors.
As soon as the door closed behind the woman, Hawke began a quick study of Margent’s room. He noticed two suitcases in a corner, and bent to examine them.
One of the cases was locked, and it was on this one that he concentrated his attention. A minute sufficed to spring the lock; then the detective began to search the contents.
He withdrew his hand holding a little oblong box, and gave a grunt of satisfaction when he opened it. Inside were a hypodermic syringe and a test-tube containing a few drops of clear liquid.
Suddenly Hawke tensed as he heard the patter of swift footsteps outside. He pocketed the syringe and whirled as the door swung open and Margent was framed in the entrance.
“So you thought you had fooled me with your fake phone call,” said Margent in a rapid, tense voice. “It was unfortunate for you that I had just phoned Radlow when your call came.”
Hawke fixed a steady gaze on the other man.
“Margent,” he retorted evenly, “you are going to hang for the murder of Bill Jansen.”
Margent permitted himself a brief smile.
“You can never prove that I poisoned him.”
The detective produced the syringe.
“This is what you used to give Jansen that injection of snake venom.”
“So you’ve found that, too, have you?” Margent dived a hand into his coat pocket and produced a revolver.
“Yes,” he admitted, waving the weapon unsteadily at Hawke, “I killed him. I needed money badly, but when I asked my precious stepbrother for it he refused.
“He told me that all the money I would get from him would be the insurance money after his death. So I decided to collect that, and I saw my chance when he told me about that threatening letter from Danton. He said he was going to show it to the manager, and I thought if the poison was discovered, Danton would be suspected.
“The rest was easy. Bill hadn’t been feeling very well previous to the big match, and I offered to give him an injection to tone him up. He agreed readily enough, because I have some medical knowledge. What he didn’t know was that the injection consisted of snake venom I had been using for an experiment.”
Margent broke off suddenly.
“That’s my confession,” he said, “but you’re not going to arrest me.” His hand tightened on the gun-butt until his knuckles gleamed white.
“Stick them up!”
The command came from behind Margent. Instinctively he turned, and at that moment Hawke flung himself forward. He crashed into Margent, and they both sprawled to the floor. The gun clattered out of Margent’s hand as his head hit the side of a chair. Hawke rose calmly to his feet.
“Smart work, Tommy,” he said. “Especially since you hadn’t a gun!”
Margent was recovering consciousness when Inspector Aldley appeared.
“What the devil did you ask me to come here for?” he demanded. “And why the battle?”
Hawke waved the gun he had picked up in the direction of Margent.
“I want you to arrest that man for the murder of Jansen,” he said steadily.
“But—” began the inspector.
Hawke handed over to him the syringe and the test-tube.
“Have these analysed,” he added, “and you will find they contain snake venom—the same stuff which killed Jansen.”
Inspector Aldley seemed to be convinced at that.
“Joe Danton will be your friend for life, Mr. Hawke,” he prophesied as he slipped the handcuffs on Margent.
“I don’t think so,” said Hawke grimly. “Not when I’ve told him what I think of dirty little bookmakers who try to bribe or threaten players to lose a game! “
~ The End ~