It was one o’clock on Sunday morning, the 15th, when James Burton, the sole occupant of Flat 1, Greenyear Mansions, Kensington, heard two sounds which might have been shots from an automatic.
Quite naturally Mr. Burton did not think they were anything of the kind, for the very simple reason that one simply did not think of such things as automatics in such a highly respectable neighbourhood. However, although various unusual sounds came to him from above, he did not concern himself unduly, and dropped off to sleep until nearly an hour later, when he was awakened by a distinct and loud crash from the yard at the back of the premises.
Donning a dressing-gown, he made, his way to the rear of the flat, and, peering -out through a window, he saw a dark figure pick itself up from the foot of the fire escape which terminated there and stagger away through the door at the back of the yard to the roadway that ran beyond. He heard the Bound of a motor as it accelerated, then that died away to silence.
Feeling that there was something that was not quite right, Burton determined to go up and see his neighbour in the flat above, Miss Marion Leroy, an actress, to find out if she was Quite all right, for it was from her flat that the sounds had come.
His ring at the bell brought no answer, and he remembered that the maid was away on a visit to an aunt and that Miss Leroy was alone. He rang again, and when he still got no reply, beat on the knocker. No answer whatever 1
Worried, ho decided to seek the advice of Mr. Anton Girolle, a restaurant proprietor, who lived in the top flat, but was told by a sleepy and rather tough-looking manservant that Mr. Girolle was not at home. Thoroughly alarmed, Burton awoke the janitor, and together they entered Marion Leroy’s flat.
A scene of terrible tragedy and chaos met their eyes in the lounge at the back of the flat —Burton’s bed-roams were in the front below. Chairs and tables were upset; by the door a heavy picture had fallen from the wall and lay broken on the thick carpet, and stretched out, grotesquely by a big settee was the body of Marion Leroy, a crimson stain over the heart on her white evening dress. The rest of the flat was empty, but Burton noticed that the window which opened from the lounge on to the fire escape was open.
Burton ‘phoned" for the police at once, and it was nqt long before Detective-inspector Grahame arrived on the scene with the Div. Surgeon.
An examination showed that Marion Leroy had been dead about au hour and a half, and had been shot by a bullet through the heart. The doctor estimated at about five or six yards’ range. Searching round, Grahame was excited to find a gun on the floor beneath a book-case. One shot had been fired. Then he discovered that the broken picture, which was at the opposite end of the room to that where the body lay, had been brought down by a bullet, and the bullet was still buried in it. It proved to fit the gun he had found, but as only ‘ " . ono shot had been • fired from the gun, it seemed that the shot which had killed Marion Leroy must have been fired from another gun—an examination of the bullet taken from the body later proved it to be of an entirely different calibre. There were vague fingerprints on both, the butt and the barrel of this gun, and Grahame sent it away for these to be photographed.
He noticed on the edge of a low book-case and on the carpet beside it several dark stains. Blood! —and adhering to those on the book-case lie found several short light-brown hairs. He observed that the book-case was quite close to the settee by which Marion Leroy’s body was found. (See diagram.)
Grahame examined the window which had been found open but, beyond a few scratches, discovered nothing of any value. At the bottom of the fire-escape, however, he picked up a handkerchief on which were the initials "R.S." Back in the flat, Grahame searched the girl’s- bed-room. A locked black box on the dressing table" interested him and, forcing it open, ho found it filled with cigarettes of a brand unknown to him. He picked one out casually and found to his amazement that while the ends were filled with tobacco, the centre contained a quantity of a potent drug. So Marion Leroy doped! (This was proved in the medical examination later.)
In a drawer in a bureau Grahame found a bundle of letters. They were of recent date, and ware passionate love-letters from a man who signed himself "Dick." One letter, dated only two days previously, interested Grahame particularly. It contained the lines: "I am frightened for you. What I promised you last night horrifies me now. Why did you not tell me before things went so far? To kill is a ghastly thing, yet this Girolle must be a fiend, and for you—how can I refuse?"
The letter became rather incoherent, as though written under great stress, but ono more line drew Grahame’s attention. "Would it not be better for us to die together?"
Girolle was the name of the man in the flat above 1 Ho would see that gentleman later.
Searching deeper into _the bureau, he discovered several pawn tickets for articles of jewelry," and this set him on a new line.
He left the flat to make various inquiries, and discovered the" following facts:
Marion Leroy had been in great financial trouble. She had paid over enormous sums to Anton Girolle, and was how considerably overdrawn at the bank.
An interrogation of some of Marion Leroy’s stage_ friends brought out some more enlightening information. Apparently, she had been secretly engaged to be married to an immensely wealthy American oil king, named Mervyn Holt, and Holt had a key to her flat.
Grahame gathered that the principal attraction about Mervyn Holt, however, had been his millions, as he was a hard, quick-tempered man, and his ruthlessness had made him many enemies, also several people were able to tell the detective that Marion Leroy had been carrying on an affair for some time with a young artist named Dick Sherrington. Apparently Mervyn Holt was jealous.
Grahame sent two of his men out, ono to interview Holt and the other to see Sherrington. Ho gave them instructions that they were at all costs to get samples of their fingerprints. With a little strategy he knew this should not be difficult.
The first man to return was the one who had been to see Sherrington. Sherrington was, apparently, a fairish young man of about twenty-eight. He had appeared white and nervous, and had been wearing a black beret which he had worn all the time the detective was talking to him. Ho had said that ho knew nothing and had not been out the previous evening. The detective had obtained his fingerprints on his cigarette case.
When the other man returned he said that Mervyn Holt, a big, broad, grey-haired man, had been terribly upset and shocked at hearing the news. Ho had apparently retired to bed early on the previous night. The detective produced a tumbler on which- were the required prints.
Back in the murdered girl’s flat, Grahame learned from a sergeant that a constable had seen a man answering to Mervyn Holt’s description leave Greenyear Mansions and " drive off in a two-seater at about 1.15 a.m.
Grahame decided to see Girolle upstairs. He went up to the flat above but could not get any answer to his ringing. Entering the flat ho found hurried signs of departure and the place empty.
Calling the janitor, Grahame learned that Girolle had not returned but that his servant had left early carrying two suitcases, one of which he recognised as belonging to Mr. Girolle. Returning to the flat he searched it and found in a cupboard a large box full of the dope filled cigarettes such as he had found in Marion Leroy’s flat.
These cigarettes were done up in little bundles of about twenty. The telephone in the flat gave him an inspiration, and within a short time he discovered that a call had been put through about 3 a.m. from that ‘phone to a number in Limehouse. Tracing it to its source, an East End cafe, Grahame was in time to catch Girolle and his man on the point of leaving. Grahame recognised the servant as a wanted criminal, but Girolle, a" swarthy, dark-mustached Frenchman, he did not know. Arresting both on suspicion in connection with the murder, the detective made his way back to the ‘Yard.
In his office the detective found" that the photographs_ of the fingerprints on the gun discovered in the murdered girl s flat were ready. Those on the butt were obviously quite different to those^ on the barrel. The prints on the barrel being think and heavy, while those on the butt were much lighter and thinner. He compared them with the prints of Holt. Sherrington and Girolle.
The questions to be answered are:
(1) Whose prints wore on the butt and barrel of the gun found in the flat? (2 marks)
(2) Who killed Marion Leroy? (3 marks)
(3) What is your theory, derived from the facts given, of the crime and the events which led up to it? (5 marks)
The rules are simplicity itself. You are given details of a Baffler Problem, above. Briefly, you are told the story of a crime and given ALL the clues necessary for its solution. Be your own detective. Read the problem through very carefully, giving consideration to every detail, then try to answer the Questions at the end.
Award yourselves marks as indicated after comparing your answers with those given below. These answers are printed upside down so that they may not catch your’ eye before you have had a chance to test your skill. Remember, it is the sense of your solution, not its exact wording, that counts.
The Solution To This Week’s Baffler Problem
Do not read this answer until you have made your effort to solve the crime. To this end the facts are printed upside down.
(1) The prints on the butt were Dick Sherrington's and those on the barrel were Mervyn Holts.
(2) Mervyn Holt
(3) Marion Leroy was in Girolle's power through the drugs which he supplied her. He had held her of money until in desperation she had tried to persuqde her lover, Sherrington, to kill him and save her. She had been too afraid to let either Sherrington or Holt know her vice until at last she could face it no longer. Sherrington had gone to Marion Leroy's flat before committing his crime and had been involved in a passionate love scene with the girl when Holt had entered the flat and found them.
Holt, mad with jealousy, had pulled a gun – he had many enemies and was in the habit of carrying a weapon – and fired at the girl who betrayed him. Sherrington had fired back with the gun with which he had intended to kill Girolle, and, missing, had hit the picture. A struggle had followed, in which Hold had seized Sherrington's gun, wrenched it from him, and struck hi m a blow which sent him pitching to the floor. He had struck his head against the bookcase and became unconscious.
Then Holt left. When Sherrington had come round an hour later he had realized what had happened and made his escape through the window and down the fire-escape. Being rather dizzy, he had stumbled and fallen, but had made his car and driven off.
Girolle's servant, seeing the police arrive and realizing something of what had happened, had 'phoned his master, who, knowing his danger of being discovered as a dope pedlar, had ordered him to bring what luggage he could and come to him so that they might make their escape.
Unfortunately, the servant overlooked the drugged cigarettes in the cupboard, but the 'phone call proved the Girolle could not have been in the flats at the time of the murder. The main point in the case was that the man whose finger-prints were on the butt on the gun found in the flat much have been the one standing at the far end of the room close to Miss Leroy, as the bullet from that gun lodged in the picture, while the prints on the barrel must be from those of the man who attacked him and came at him from the direction of the doorway, that is, facing Miss Leroy.
~ The End ~