Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Murder Scare" by Anonymous

Murder Scare

Detective Tom Cluney did not like Quigley Horton, but he could not bring personalities into his duty. Quigley Horton was the nephew of Hepzebah Horton and stood to inherit a million dollars, and furthermore he donated a thousand dollars each year to the police fund. He couldn't be overlooked, no matter how trivial his fears turned out to be.

This fear was genuine, however, and well founded. Someone, Horton told Cluney, had fired a shot at him through the window and had wounded him in the arm. Cluney inspected the hole in the window pane and noted the bandaged arm with cool sympathy.

He had been reading the paper, Quigley explained, and the shot had come entirely without warning. The would-be assassin had left not a single clue and Quigley was sure he had no enemies on this earth. It had just raised hob with Aunt Hepzebah's heart.

Mention of Aunt Hepzebah seemed to be almost coincidental with the confusion and thumping on the second floor. Quigley turned white and ran for the stairs, with Tom Cluney following on his heels.

Aunt Hepzebah Horton lay half out the bed, her body having hit the small tabouret that held her pills and glass of water. The water had spilled over the pills and onto the floor and the glass lay overturned on the bed stand. Aunt Hepzebah was dead.

"She had a heart attack," Quigley moaned. "Caused by the attempt on my life! What shall I do, Mr. Cluney?"

"Better call your family physician," said Cluney.

The family doctor was elderly and a man who breathed loudly and said little. He nodded his head sadly, perhaps thinking, too, of the loss of a good patient.

"I'll make out the necessary records," said the doctor. "Very sorry, Quigley."

"I tried so hard to make her last days comfortable," Quigley Horton said.

"I think you ought to look at Mr. Horton's arm while you're here, Doc," Cluney said.

"But that isn't necessary," Quigley insisted. "Dr. Walters dressed it just this morning!"

"I'd like to see it, anyway. It might have a bearing on who did the job."

"Won't take a minute," Dr. Walters said.

"Here, Quigley, hold out your arm."

Quigley Horton sighed in exasperation. "Oh, very well."

Dr. Walters unwrapped the bandage. Quigley shuddered as the doctor washed the dressing and winced as the cleaning alcohol touched the edges of the wound.

Tom Cluney looked the wound over carefully. "Where were you sitting when the shot was fired?" he asked.

Horton looked at Aunt Hepzebah's body lying in the awkward position of her dying lunge.

"With Aunt Hepzebah lying in death, must we continue this questioning?"

"Remember," said Cluney, "you sent for me to investigate what you claim was an attempt on your life!"

"What I claim?" Quigley Horton gasped. "You don't believe me?"

"I think you're a first class liar," Cluney said quietly, "and you murdered your aunt by scaring her to death. Look at the powder burns on that wound."

Horton went white. He reached casually toward the pocket of his lounge jacket and Cluney sprang at him. Horton was fast, though and the automatic was leveling off as Cluney caught his gun wrist.

Horton suddenly became a seething, fighting maniac. He was slight but fast, and he sent Tom Cluney one to the jaw that put him back on his heels. Doc Walters made a dive for the door and Horton brought his gun hand up at Dr. Walters' back. Cluney heaved a chair, clipped the exploding weapon from Horton's hand. He came in fast then and sent a hard right to Horton's jaw that floored him.

"What gave you the idea?" Dr. Walters asked, after Quigley Horton had been taken in.

"Those pills," replied Cluney. "When the water spilled on the dish some of them strayed together and some melted away almost entirely."

The doctor touched a melted pill to his lips. "Sugar," he said.

Cluney nodded. "Quigley got tired waiting for the old lady to die, so he took away her medicine by substituting sugar pills he made himself, and finished the job by scaring her when he shot himself in the arm."

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