Part 1 out of 3
The Case of The Lamp That Went Out
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
INTRODUCTION TO JOE MULLER
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian
police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In
personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He
has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the
keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight,
plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of
mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external
causes are the reasons for Muller's humbleness of manner, which
is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early
youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison,
an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it
impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest
employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller's
early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him
back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him
into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other
profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime,
instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to
every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the
Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates.
Muller's official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a
policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the
Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in
him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune ... prevent
the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius.
Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and
his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours,
asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs,
and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most
Joseph Muller's character is a strange mixture. The
kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when
once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or
sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human
weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on
a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then
something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds
the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently
impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery
of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything.
The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission
when Muller asks, "May I do this? ... or may I handle this case
this way?" both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce,
and that the department waits helpless until this humble little
man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its
intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything
else in Muller's mentality, and now and then it brings him into
conflict with the department, ... or with his own better nature.
Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places,
secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave
untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for
a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And
at other times, Muller's own warm heart gets him into trouble. He
will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which
is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the
net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man
than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal's
hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that
has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of
his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too,
perhaps, ... at least as far as his own advancement was concerned,
and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity
of Muller's character caused his undoing at last, his official
undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But
his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to
those who know, Muller's hand can be seen in the unravelling of
many a famous case.
The following stories are but a few of the many interesting cases
that have come within the experience of this great detective.
But they give a fair portrayal of Muller's peculiar method of
working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the
Department, and the comedy of his acting under "official orders"
when the Department is in reality following out his directions.
THE CASE OF THE LAMP THAT WENT OUT
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
The radiance of a clear September morning lay over Vienna. The
air was so pure that the sky shone in brightest azure even where
the city's buildings clustered thickest. On the outskirts of the
town the rays of the awakening sun danced in crystalline ether
and struck answering gleams from the dew on grass and shrub in
the myriad gardens of the suburban streets.
It was still very early. The old-fashioned steeple clock on the
church of the Holy Virgin in Hietzing had boomed out six slow
strokes but a short time back. Anna, the pretty blonde girl who
carried out the milk for the dwellers in several streets of this
aristocratic residential suburb, was just coming around the corner
of the main street into a quiet lane. This lane could hardly be
dignified by the name of street as yet, it was so very quiet. It
had been opened and named scarcely a year back and it was bordered
mostly by open gardens or fenced-in building lots. There were four
houses in this street, two by two opposite each other, and another,
an old-fashioned manor house, lying almost hidden in its great
garden. But the quiet street could not presume to ownership of
this last house, for the front of it opened on a parallel street,
which gave it its number. Only the garden had a gate as outlet
onto our quiet lane.
Anna stopped in front of this gate and pulled the bell. She had
to wait for some little time until the gardener's wife, who acted
as janitress, could open the door. But Anna was not impatient,
for she knew that it was quite a distance from the gardener's
house in the centre of the great stretch of park to the little
gate where she waited. In a few moments, however, the door was
opened and a pleasant-faced woman exchanged a friendly greeting
with the girl and took the cans from her.
Anna hastened onward with her usual energetic step. The four houses
in that street were already served and she was now bound for the
homes of customers several squares away. Then her step slowed just
a bit. She was a quiet, thoughtful girl and the lovely peace of
this bright morning sank into her heart and made her rejoice in
its beauty. All around her the foliage was turning gently to its
autumn glory of colouring and the dewdrops on the rich-hued leaves
sparkled with an unusual radiance. A thrush looked down at her
from a bough and began its morning song. Anna smiled up at the
little bird and began herself to sing a merry tune.
But suddenly her voice died away, the colour faded from her flushed
cheeks, her eyes opened wide and she stood as if riveted to the
ground. With a deep breath as of unconscious terror she let the
burden of the milk cans drop gently from her shoulder to the ground.
In following the bird's flight her eyes had wandered to the side of
the street, to the edge of one of the vacant lots, there where a
shallow ditch separated it from the roadway. An elder-tree, the
great size of which attested its age, hung its berry-laden branches
over the ditch. And in front of this tree the bird had stopped
suddenly, then fluttered off with the quick movement of the wild
creature surprised by fright. What the bird had seen was the same
vision that halted the song on Anna's lips and arrested her foot.
It was the body of a man - a young and well-dressed man, who lay
there with his face turned toward the street. And his face was the
white frozen face of a corpse.
Anna stood still, looking down at him for a few moments, in
wide-eyed terror: then she walked on slowly as if trying to pull
herself together again. A few steps and then she turned and broke
into a run. When she reached the end of the street, breathless
from haste and excitement, she found herself in one of the main
arteries of traffic of the suburb, but owing to the early hour
this street was almost as quiet as the lane she had just left.
Finally the frightened girl's eyes caught sight of the figure of
a policeman coming around the next corner. She flew to meet him
and recognised him as the officer of that beat.
"Why, what is the matter?" he asked. "Why are you so excited?"
"Down there-in the lane, there's a dead man," answered the girl,
gasping for breath.
"A dead man?" repeated the policeman gravely, looking at the girl.
"Are you sure he's dead?"
Anna nodded. "His eyes are all glassy and I saw blood on his back."
"Well, you're evidently very much frightened, and I suppose you
don't want to go down there again. I'll look into the matter, if
you will go to the police station and make the announcement. Will
you do it?"
"All right, then, that will gain time for us. Good-bye, Miss Anna."
The man walked quickly down the street, while the girl hurried off
in the opposite direction, to the nearest police station, where she
told what she had seen.
The policeman reached his goal even earlier. The first glance told
him that the man lying there by the wayside was indeed lifeless.
And the icy stiffness of the hand which he touched showed him that
life must have fled many hours back. Anna had been right about the
blood also. The dead man lay on the farther side of the ditch, half
down into it. His right arm was bent under his body, his left arm
was stretched out, and the stiffened fingers ... they were slender
white fingers ... had sought for something to break his fall. All
they had found was a tall stem of wild aster with its purple blossoms,
which they were holding fast in the death grip. On the dead man's
back was a small bullet-wound and around the edges of it his light
grey coat was stained with blood. His face was distorted in pain
and terror. It was a nice face, or would have been, did it not show
all too plainly the marks of dissipation in spite of the fact that
the man could not have been much past thirty years old. He was a
stranger to the policeman, although the latter had been on this
beat for over three years.
When the guardian of the law had convinced himself that there was
nothing more to do for the man who lay there, he rose from his
stooping position and stepped back. His gaze wandered up and down
the quiet lane, which was still absolutely empty of human life.
He stood there quietly waiting, watching over the ghastly discovery.
In about ten minutes the police commissioner and the coroner,
followed by two roundsmen with a litter, joined the solitary watcher,
and the latter could return to his post.
The policemen set down their litter and waited for orders, while
the coroner and the commissioner bent over the corpse. There was
nothing for the physician to do but to declare that the unfortunate
man had been dead for many hours. The bullet which struck him in
the back had killed him at once. The commissioner examined the
ground immediately around the corpse, but could find nothing that
pointed to a struggle. There remained only to prove whether there
had been a robbery as well as a murder.
"Judging from the man's position the bullet must have come from
that direction," said the commissioner, pointing towards the
cottages down the lane.
"People who are killed by bullets may turn several times before
they fall," said a gentle voice behind the police officer. The
voice seemed to suit the thin little man who stood there meekly,
his hat in his hand.
The commissioner turned quickly. "Ah, are you there already,
Muller?" he said, as if greatly pleased, while the physician broke
in with the remark:
"That's just what I was about to observe. This man did not die
so quickly that he could not have made a voluntary or involuntary
movement before life fled. The shot that killed him might have
come from any direction."
The commissioner nodded thoughtfully and there was silence for a
few moments. Muller - for the little thin man was none other
than the celebrated Joseph Muller, one of the most brilliant
detectives in the service of the Austrian police - looked down at
the corpse carefully.. He took plenty of time to do it and
nobody hurried him. For nobody ever hurried Muller; his well-known
and almost laughable thoroughness and pedantry were too valuable in
their results. It was a tradition in the police that Muller was to
have all the time he wanted for everything. It paid in the end,
for Muller made few mistakes. Therefore, his superior the police
commissioner, and the coroner waited quietly while the little man
made his inspection of the corpse.
"Thank you," said Muller finally, with a polite bow to the
commissioner, before he bent to brush away the dust on his knees.
"Well?" asked Commissioner Holzer.
Muller smiled an embarrassed smile as he replied:
"Well ... I haven't found out anything yet except that he is dead,
and that he has been shot in the back. His pockets may tell us
"Yes, we can examine them at once," said the commissioner. "I
have been delaying that for I wanted you here; but I had no idea
that you would come so soon. I told them to fetch you if you were
awake, but doubted you would be, for I know you have had no sleep
for forty-eight hours."
"Oh, I can sleep, at least with one eye, when I'm on the chase,"
answered the detective. "So it's really only twenty-four hours,
you see." Muller had just returned from tracking down an
aristocratic swindler whom he had found finally in a little French
city and had brought back to a Viennese prison. He had returned
well along in the past night and Holzer knew that the tired man
would need his rest. Still he had sent for Muller, who lived near
the police station, for the girl's report had warned him that this
was a serious case. And in serious cases the police did not like
to do without Muller's help.
And as usual when his work called him, Muller was as wide awake as
if he had had a good night's sleep behind him. The interest of a
new case robbed him of every trace of fatigue. It was he alone - at
his own request - who raised the body and laid it on its back before
he stepped aside to make way for the doctor.
The physician opened the dead man's vest to see whether the bullet
had passed completely through the body. But it had not; there was
not the slightest trace of blood upon the shirt.
"There's nothing more for me to do here, Muller," said the
physician, as he bowed to the commissioner and left the place.
Muller examined the pockets of the dead man.
"It's probably a case of robbery, too," remarked the commissioner.
"A man as well-dressed as this one is would be likely to have a
"And a purse," added the detective. "But this man has neither - or
at least he has them no longer."
In the various pockets of the dead man's clothes Muller found the
following articles: a handkerchief, several tramway tickets, a
penknife, a tiny mirror, and comb, and a little book, a cheap
novel. He wrapped them all in the handkerchief and put them in his
own pocket. The dead man's coat had fallen back from his body
during the examination, and as Muller turned the stiffened limbs
a little he saw the opening of another pocket high up over the
right hip of the trousers. The detective passed his hand over the
pocket and heard something rattle. Then he put his hand in the
pocket and drew out a thin narrow envelope which he handed to the
commissioner. Holzer looked at it carefully. It was made of very
thin expensive paper and bore no address. But it was sealed,
although not very carefully, for the gummed edges were open in
spots. It must have been hastily closed and was slightly crushed
as if it had been carried in a clenched hand. The commissioner
cut open the envelope with his penknife. He gave an exclamation
of surprise as he showed Muller the contents. In the envelope
there were three hundred-gulden notes.
The commissioner looked at Muller without a word, but the detective
understood and shook his head. "No," he said calmly, "it may be a
case of robbery just the same. This pocket was not very easy to
find, and the money in it was safer than the dead man's watch and
purse would be. That is, if he had a watch and purse - and he very
probably had a watch," he added more quickly.
For Muller had made a little discovery. On the lower hem of the
left side of the dead man's waistcoat he saw a little lump, and
feeling of it he discovered that it was a watch key which had
slipped down out of the torn pocket between the lining and the
material of the vest. A sure proof that the dead man had had a
watch, which in all probability had been taken from him by his
murderer. There was no loose change or small bills to be found
in any of the pockets, so that it was more than likely that the
dead man had had his money in a purse. It seemed to be a case
of murder for the sake of robbery. At least Muller and the
commissioner believed it to be one, from what they had discovered
The police officer gave his men orders to raise the body and to
take it to the morgue. An hour later the unknown man lay in the
bare room in which the only spot of brightness were the rays of
the sun that crept through the high barred windows and touched his
cold face and stiffened form as with a pitying caress. But no,
there was one other little spot of brightness in the silent place.
It was the wild aster which the dead man's hand still held tightly
clasped. The little purple flowers were quite fresh yet, and the
dewdrops clinging to them greeted the kiss of the sun's rays with
an answering smile.
THE BROKEN WILLOW TWIG
As soon as the corpse had been taken away, the police commissioner
returned to the station. But Muller remained there all alone to
make a thorough examination of the entire vicinity.
It was not a very attractive spot, this particular part of the
street. There must have been a nursery there at one time, for
there were still several ordered rows of small trees to be seen.
There were traces of flower cultivation as well, for several
trailing vines and overgrown bushes showed where shrubs had been
grown which do not usually grow without man's assistance.
Immediately back of the old elder tree Muller found several fine
examples of rare flowers, or rather he found the shrubs which his
experienced eye recognised as having once borne these unusual
blossoms. One or two blooms still hung to the bushes and the
detective, who was a great lover of flowers, picked them and put
them in his buttonhole. While he did this, his keen eyes were
darting about the place taking in all the details. This vacant
lot had evidently been used as an unlicensed dumping ground for
some time, for all sorts of odds and ends, old boots, bits of
stuff, silk and rags, broken bottles and empty tin cans, lay about
between the bushes or half buried in the earth. What had once
been an orderly garden was now an untidy receptacle for waste.
The pedantically neat detective looked about him in disgust, then
suddenly he forgot his displeasure and a gleam shot up in his eye.
It was very little, the thing this man had seen, this man who saw
so much more than others.
About ten paces from where he stood a high wooden fence hemmed in
the lot. The fence belonged to the neighbouring property, as the
lot in which he stood was not protected in any way. To the back
it was closed off by a corn field where the tall stalks rustled
gently in the faint morning breeze. All this could be seen by
anybody and Muller had seen it all at his first glance. But now
he had seen something else. Something that excited him because
it might possibly have some connection with the newly discovered
crime. His keen eyes, in glancing along the wooden fence at his
right hand, had caught sight of a little twig which had worked its
way through the fence. This twig belonged to a willow tree which
grew on the other side, and which spread its grey-green foliage
over the fence or through its wide openings. One of the little
twigs which had crept in between the planks was broken, and it
had been broken very recently, for the leaves were still fresh
and the sap was oozing from the crushed stem. Muller walked over
to the fence and examined the twig carefully. He soon saw how
it came to be broken. The broken part was about the height of a
man's knee from the ground. And just at this height there was
quite a space between two of the planks of the fence, heavy
planks which were laid cross-ways and nailed to thick posts. It
would have been very easy for anybody to get a foothold in this
open space between the planks.
It was very evidently some foot thrust in between the planks which
had broken the little willow twig, and its soft rind had left a
green mark on the lower plank. "I wonder if that has anything to
do with the murder," thought Muller, looking over the fence
into the lot on the other side.
This neighbouring plot was evidently a neglected garden. It had
once worn an aristocratic air, with stone statues and artistic
arrangement of flower beds and shrubs. It was still attractive
even in its neglected condition. Beyond it, through the foliage
of its heavy trees, glass windows caught the sunlight. Muller
remembered that there was a handsome old house in this direction,
a house with a mansard roof and wide-reaching wings. He did not
now know to whom this handsome old house belonged, a house that
must have been built in the time of Maria Theresa, ... but he was
sure of one thing, and that was that he would soon find out to
whom it belonged. At present it was the garden which interested
him, and he was anxious to see where it ended. A few moments'
further inspection showed him what he wanted to know. The garden
extended to the beginning of the park-like grounds which surrounded
the old house with the mansard roof. A tall iron railing separated
the garden from the park, but this railing did not extend down as
far as the quiet lane. Where it ended there was a light, well-built
wooden fence. Along the street side of the fence there was a high
thick hedge. Muller walked along this hedge until he came to a
little gate. Then crossing the street, he saw that the house whose
windows glistened in the sunlight was a house which he knew well
from its other side, its front facade.
Now he went back to the elder tree and then walked slowly away from
this to the spot where he found the broken willow twig. He examined
every foot of the ground, but there was nothing to be seen that
was of any interest to him-not a footprint, or anything to prove
that some one else had passed that way a short time before. And
yet it would have been impossible to pass that way without leaving
some trace, for the ground was cut up in all directions by mole
Next the detective scrutinised as much of the surroundings as would
come into immediate connection with the spot where the corpse had
been found. There was nothing to be seen there either, and Muller
was obliged to acknowledge that he had discovered nothing that
would lead to an understanding of the crime, unless, indeed, the
broken willow twig should prove to be a clue. He sprang back
across the ditch, turned up the edges of his trousers where they
had been moistened by the dew and walked slowly along the dusty
street. He was no longer alone in the lane. An old man, accompanied
by a large dog, came out from one of the new houses and walked
towards the detective, he was very evidently going in the direction
of the elder-tree, which had already been such a centre of interest
that morning. When he met Muller, the old man halted, touched his
cap and asked in a confidential tone: "I suppose you've been to
see the place already?"
"Which place?" was Muller's reserved answer.
Why, I mean the place where they found the man who was murdered.
They found him under that elder-tree. My wife just heard of it and
told me. I suppose everybody round here will know it soon."
"Was there a man murdered here?" asked Muller, as if surprised by
"Yes, he was shot last night. Only I don't understand why I didn't
hear the shot. I couldn't sleep a wink all night for the pain in
"You live near here, then?"
"Yes, I live in No.1. Didn't you see me coming out?"
"I didn't notice it. I came across the wet meadows and I stooped
to turn up my trousers so that they wouldn't get dusty - it must
have been then you came out."
"Why, then you must have been right near the place I was talking
about. Do you see that elder tree there? It's the only one in
the street, and the girl who brings the milk found the man under it.
The police have been here already and have taken him away. They
discovered him about six o'clock and now it's just seven."
"And you hadn't any suspicion that this dreadful thing was
happening so near you?" asked the detective casually.
"I didn't know a thing, sir, not a thing. There couldn't have
been a fight or I would have heard it. But I don't know why I
didn't hear the shot."
"Why, then you must have been asleep after all, in spite of your
pain," said Muller with a smile, as he walked along beside the
man back to the place from which he had just come.
The old man shook his head. "No, I tell you I didn't close an
eye all night. I went to bed at half-past nine and I smoked two
pipes before I put out the light, and then I heard every hour
strike all night long and it wasn't until nearly five o'clock,
when it was almost dawn, that I dozed off a bit."
"Then it is astonishing that you didn't hear anything!"
"Sure it's astonishing! But it's still more astonishing that my
dog Sultan didn't hear anything. Sultan is a famous watchdog, I'd
have you know. He'll growl if anybody passes through the street
after dark, and I don't see why he didn't notice what was going on
over there last night. If a man's attacked, he generally calls for
help; it's a queer business all right."
"Well, Sultan, why didn't you make a noise?" asked Muller, patting
the dog's broad head. Sultan growled and walked on indifferently,
after he had shaken off the strange hand.
"He must have slept more soundly than usual. He went off into the
country with me yesterday. We had an errand to do there and on the
way back we stopped in for a drink. Sultan takes a drop or two
himself occasionally, and that usually makes him sleep. I had hard
work to bring him home. We got here just a few minutes before
half-past nine and I tell you we were both good and tired."
By this time they had come to the elder-tree and the old man's
stream of talk ceased as he stood before the spot where the
mysterious crime had occurred. He looked down thoughtfully at the
grass, now trampled by many feet. "Who could have done it?" he
murmured finally, with a sigh that expressed his pity for the victim.
"Hietzing is known to be one of the safest spots in Vienna,"
"Indeed it is, sir; indeed it is. As it would well have to be with
the royal castles right here in the neighbourhood! Indeed it would
have to be safe with the Court coming here all the time."
"Why, yes, you see more police here than anywhere else in the city."
"Yes, they're always sticking their nose in where they're not
necessary," remarked the old man, not realising to whom he was
speaking. "They fuss about everything you do or don't do, and yet
a man can be shot down right under our very noses here and the
police can't help it."
"But, my dear sir, it isn't always possible for the police to
prevent a criminal carrying out his evil intention," said Muller
"Well, why not? if they watch out sharp enough?"
"The police watch out sharper than most people think. But they
can't catch a man until he has committed his crime, can they?"
"No, I suppose not," said the old man, with another glance at the
elder-tree. He bowed to Muller and turned and walked away.
Muller followed him slowly, very much pleased with this meeting, for
it had given him a new clue. There was no reason to doubt the old
man's story. And if this story was true, then the crime had been
committed before half-past nine of the evening previous. For the
old man - he was evidently the janitor in No.1 - had not heard the
Muller left the scene of the crime and walked towards the four
houses. Before he reached them he had to pass the garden which
belonged to the house with the mansard roof. Right and left of
this garden were vacant lots, as well as on the opposite side
of the street. Then came to the right and left the four new houses
which stood at the beginning of the quiet lane. Muller passed them,
turned up a cross street and then down again, into the street
running parallel, to the lane, a quiet aristocratic street on
which fronted the house with the mansard roof.
A carriage stood in front of this house, two great trunks piled
up on the box beside the driver. A young girl and an old man in
livery were placing bags and bundles of rugs inside the carriage.
Muller walked slowly toward the carriage. Just as he reached the
open gate of the garden he was obliged to halt, to his own great
satisfaction. For at this moment a group of people came out from
the house, the owners of it evidently, prepared for a journey and
surrounded by their servants.
Beside the old man and the young girl, there were two other women,
one evidently the housekeeper, the other possibly the cook. The
latter was weeping openly and devoutly kissing the hand of her
mistress. The housekeeper discovered that a rug was missing and
sent the maid back for it, while the old servant helped the lady
into the carriage. The door of the carriage was wide open and
Muller had a good glimpse of the pale, sweet-faced and
delicate-looking young women who leaned back in her corner,
shivering and evidently ill. The servants bustled about, making
her comfortable, while her husband superintended the work with
anxious tenderness. He was a tall, fine-looking man with deep-set
grey eyes and a rich, sympathetic voice. He gave his orders to
his servants with calm authority, but he also was evidently
suffering from the disease of our century - nervousness, for
Muller saw that the man's hands clenched feverishly and that his
lips were trembling under his drooping moustache.
The maid hastened down with the rug and spread it over her
mistress's knees, as the gentleman exclaimed nervously: "Do
hurry with that! Do you want us to miss the train?"
The butler closed the door of the carriage, the coachman gathered
up the reins and raised his whip. The housekeeper bowed low and
murmured a few words in farewell and the other servants followed
her example with tears in their eyes. "You'll see us again in
six weeks," the lady called out and her husband added: "If all
goes well." Then he motioned to the waiting driver and the
carriage moved off swiftly, turning the corner in a few moments.
The little group of servants returned to the courtyard behind the
high gates. Muller, whom they had not noticed, was about to resume
his walk, when he halted again. The courtyard of the house led back
through a flagged walk to the park-like garden that surrounded it
on the sides and rear. Down this walk came a young woman. She came
so quickly that one might almost call it running. She was evidently
excited about something. Muller imagined what this something might
be, and he remained to hear what she had to say. He was not
mistaken. The woman, it was Mrs. Schmiedler, the gardener's wife,
began her story at once. "Haven't you heard yet?" she said
breathlessly. "No, you can't have heard it yet or you wouldn't
stand there so quietly, Mrs. Bernauer."
"What's the matter?" asked the woman whom Muller took to be the
"They killed a man last night out here! They found his body just
now in the lane back of our garden. The janitor from No.1 told me
as I was going to the store, so I went right back to look at the
place, and I came to tell you, as I didn't think you'd heard it yet."
Mrs. Bernauer was evidently a woman of strong constitution and of
an equable mind. The other three servants broke out into an
excited hubbub of talk while she remained quite indifferent and
calm. "One more poor fellow who had to leave the world before he
was ready," she remarked calmly, with just the natural touch of
pity in her voice that would come to any warm-hearted human being
upon hearing of such an occurrence. She did not seem at all
excited or alarmed to think that the scene of the crime had been
The other servants were very much more excited and had already
rushed off, under the guidance of the gardener's wife, to look at
the dreadful spot. Franz, the butler, had quite forgotten to
close the front gate in his excitement, and the housekeeper turned
to do it now.
"The fools, see them run," she exclaimed half aloud. "As if
there was anything for them to do there."
The gate closed, Mrs. Bernauer turned and walked slowly to the
house. Muller walked on also, going first to the police station
to report what he had discovered. Then he went to his own rooms
and slept until nearly noon. On his return to the police station
he found that notices of the occurrence had already been sent out
to the papers.
THE EVENING PAPER
The autopsy proved beyond a doubt that the murdered man had been
dead for many hours before the discovery of his body. The bullet
which had struck him in the back had pierced the trachea and
death had occurred within a few minutes. The only marks for
identification of the body were the initials L. W. on his underwear.
The evening paper printed an exact description of the man's
appearance and his clothing.
It was about ten o'clock next morning when Mrs. Klingmayer, a widow
living in a quiet street at the opposite end of the city from
Hietzing, returned from her morning marketing. It was only a few
little bundles that she brought with her and she set about preparing
her simple dinner. Her packages were wrapped in newspapers, which
she carefully smoothed out and laid on the dresser.
Mrs. Klingmayer was the widow of a street-car conductor and the
little pension which she received from the company, as well as the
money she could earn for herself, did not permit of the indulgence
in a daily newspaper. And yet the reading of the papers was the
one luxury for which the simple woman longed. Her grocer, who was
a friend of years, knew this and would wrap up her purchases in
papers of recent date, knowing that she could then enjoy them in
her few moments of leisure. To-day this leisure came unexpectedly
early, for Mrs. Klingmayer had less work than usual to attend to.
Her little flat consisted of two rooms and a kitchen with a large
closet opening out from it. She lived in the kitchen and rented
the front rooms. Her tenants were a middle-aged man, inspector
in a factory, who had the larger room; and a younger man who was
bookkeeper in an importing house in the city. But this young man
had not been at home for forty-eight hours, a fact, however, which
did not greatly worry his landlady. The gentleman in question
lived a rather dissipated life and it was not the first time that
he had remained away from home over night. It is true that it was
the first time that he had not been home for two successive nights.
But as Mrs. Klingmayer thought, everything has to happen the first
time sometime. "It's not likely to be the last time," the worthy
At all events she was rather glad of it to-day, for she suffered
from rheumatism and it was difficult for her to get about. The
young man's absence saved her the work of fixing up his room that
morning and allowed her to get to her reading earlier than usual.
When she had put the pot of soup on the fire, she sat down by the
window, adjusted her big spectacles and began to read. To her
great delight she discovered that the paper she held in her hand
bore the date of the previous afternoon. In spite of the good
intentions of her friend the grocer, it was not always that she
could get a paper of so recent date, and she began to read with
doubled anticipation of pleasure.
She did not waste time on the leading articles, for she understood
little about politics. The serial stories were a great delight to
her, or would have been, if she had ever been able to follow them
consecutively. But her principal joy were the everyday happenings
of varied interest which she found in the news columns. To-day she
was so absorbed in the reading of them that the soup pot began to
boil over and send out rivulets down onto the stove. Ordinarily
this would have shocked Mrs. Klingmayer, for the neatness of her
pots and pans was the one great care of her life. But now, strange
to relate, she paid no attention to the soup, nor to the smell and
the smoke that arose from the stove. She had just come upon a
notice in the paper which took her entire attention. She read it
through three times, and each time with growing excitement. This
is what she read:
MURDER IN HIETZING
This morning at six o'clock the body of a man about 30 years
old was discovered in a lane in Hietzing. The man must have
been dead many hours. He had been shot from behind. The dead
man was tall and thin, with brown eyes, brown hair and moustache.
The letters L. W. were embroidered in his underwear. There was
nothing else discovered on him that could reveal- his identity.
His watch and purse were not in his pockets: presumably they had
been taken by the murderer. A strange fact is that in one of
his pockets - a hidden pocket it is true - there was the sum of
300 guldens in bills.
This was the notice which made Mrs. Klingmayer neglect the soup pot.
Finally the old woman stood up very slowly, threw a glance at the
stove and opened the window mechanically. Then she lifted the pots
from the fire and set them on the outer edge of the range. And
then she did something that ordinarily would have shocked her
economical soul - she poured water on the fire to put it out.
When she saw that there was not a spark left in the stove, she went
into her own little room and prepared to go out. Her excitement
caused her to forget her rheumatism entirely. One more look around
her little kitchen, then she locked it up and set out for the centre
of the city.
She went to the office of the importing house where her tenant,
Leopold Winkler, was employed as bookkeeper. The clerk at the door
noticed the woman's excitement and asked her kindly what the trouble
"I'd like to speak to Mr. Winkler," she said eagerly.
"Mr. Winkler hasn't come in yet," answered the young man. "Is
anything the matter? You look so white! Winkler will probably
show up soon, he's never very punctual. But it's after eleven
o'clock now and he's never been as late as this before."
"I 'don't believe he'll ever come again," said the old woman,
sinking down on a bench beside the 'door.
"Why, what do you mean?" asked the clerk. "Why shouldn't he come
"Is the head of the firm here?" asked Mrs. Klingmayer, wiping her
forehead with her handkerchief. The clerk nodded and hurried away
to tell his employer about the woman with the white face who came
to ask for a man who, as she expressed it, "would never come there
"I don't think she's quite right in the head," he volunteered. The
head of the firm told him to bring the woman into the inner office.
"Who are you, my good woman?" he asked kindly, softened by the
evident agitation of this poorly though neatly dressed woman.
"I am Mr. Winkler's landlady," she answered.
"Ah! and he wants you to tell me that he's sick? I'm afraid I can't
believe all that this gentleman says. I hope he's not asking your
help to lie to me. Are you sure that his illness is anything else
but a case of being up late?"
"I don't think that he'll ever be sick again - I didn't come with
any message from him, sir; please read this, sir." And she handed
him the newspaper, showing him the notice. While the gentleman was
reading she added: "Mr. Winkler didn't come home last night either."
Winkler's employer read the few lines, then laid the paper aside
with a very serious face. "When did you see him last?" he asked of
"Day before yesterday in the morning. He went away about half-past
eight as he usually does," she replied. And then she added a
question of her own: "Was he here day before yesterday?"
The merchant nodded and pressed an electric bell. Then he rose from
his seat and pulled up a chair for his visitor. "Sit down here.
This thing has frightened you and you are no longer young." When
the servant entered, the merchant told him to ask the head bookkeeper
to come to the inner office.
When this official appeared, his employer inquired:
"When did Winkler leave here day before yesterday?"
"At six o'clock, sir, as usual."
"He was here all day without interruption?"
"Yes, sir, with the exception of the usual luncheon hour."
"Did he have the handling of any money Monday?"
"Thank you, Mr. Pokorny," said the merchant, handing his employee
the evening paper and pointing to the notice which had so interested
Pokorny read it, his face, like his employer's, growing more serious.
"It looks almost as if it must be Winkler, sir," he said, in a few
"We will soon find that out. I should like to go to the police
station myself with this woman; she is Winkler's landlady - but I
think it will be better for you to accompany her. They will ask
questions about the man which you will be better able to answer
Pokorny bowed and left the room. Mrs. Klingmayer rose and was about
to follow, when the merchant asked her to wait a moment and inquired
whether Winkler owed her anything. "I am sorry that you should have
had this shock and the annoyances and trouble which will come of it,
but I don't want you to be out of pocket by it."
"No, he doesn't owe me anything," replied the honest old woman,
shaking her head. A few big tears rolled down over her withered
cheeks, possibly the only tears that were shed for the dead man
under the elder-tree. But even this sympathetic soul could find
nothing to say in his praise. She could feel pity for his dreadful
death, but she could not assert that the world had lost anything
by his going out of it. As if saddened by the impossibility of
finding a single good word to say about the dead man, she left the
office with drooping head and lagging step.
Pokorny helped her into the cab that was already waiting before the
door. The office force had got wind of the fact that something
unusual had occurred and were all at the windows to see them drive
off. The three clerks who worked in the department to which Winkler
belonged gathered together to talk the matter over. They were none
of them particularly hit by it, but naturally they were interested
in the discovery in Hietzing, and equally naturally, they tried to
find a few good words to say about the man whose life had ended so
The youngest of them, Fritz Bormann, said some kind words and was
about to wax more enthusiastic, when Degenhart, the eldest clerk,
cut in with the words: "Oh, don't trouble yourself. Nobody ever
liked Winkler here. 'He was not a good man - he was not even a
good worker. This is the first time that he has a reasonable excuse
for neglecting his duties."
"Oh, come, see here! how can you talk about the poor man that way
when he's scarcely cold in death yet," said Fritz indignantly.
Degenhart laughed harshly.
"Did I ever say anything else about him while he was warm and alive?
Death is no reason for changing one's opinion about a man who was
good-for-nothing in life. And his death was a stroke of good luck
that he scarcely deserved. He died without a moment's pain, with a
merry thought in his head, perhaps, while many another better man
has to linger in torture for weeks. No, Bormann, the best I can
say about Winkler is that his death makes one nonentity the less on
The older man turned to his desk again and the two younger clerks
continued the conversation: "Degenhart appears to be a hard man,"
said Fritz, "but he's the best and kindest person I know, and he's
dead right in what he says. It was simply a case of conventional
superstition. I never did like that Winkler."
"No, you're right," said the other. Neither did I and I don't
know why, for the matter of that. He seemed just like a thousand
others. I never heard of anything particularly wrong that he did."
"No, no more did I," continued Bormann, "but I never heard of
anything good about him either. And don't you think that it's worse
for a man to seem to repel people by his very personality, rather
than by any particular bad thing that he does?"
"Yes. I don't know how to explain it, but that's just how I feel
about it. I had an instinctive feeling that there was something
wrong about Winkler, the sort of a creepy, crawly feeling that a
snake gives you."
SPEAK WELL OF THE DEAD
Meanwhile Pokomy and Mrs. Klingmayer had reached the police station
and were going upstairs to the rooms of the commissioner on service
for the day. Like all people of her class, Mrs. Klingmayer stood
in great awe and terror of anything connected with the police or
the law generally. She crept slowly and tremblingly up the stairs
behind the head bookkeeper and was very glad when she was left alone
for a few minutes while Pokorny went in to see the commissioner.
But as soon as his errand was known, both the bookkeeper and his
companion were led into the office of Head Commissioner Dr. von
Riedau, who had charge of the Hietzing murder case.
When Dr. von Riedau heard the reason of their coming, his interest
was immediately aroused, and he pulled a chair to his side for the
little thin man with whom he had been talking when the two strangers
were ushered in.
"Then you believe you could identify the murdered man?" asked the
"From the general description and the initials on his linen, I
believe it must be Leopold Winkler," answered Pokorny. "Mrs.
Klingmayer has not seen him since Monday morning, nor has she had
any message from him. He left the office Monday afternoon at 6
o'clock and that was the last time that we saw him. The only thing
that makes me doubt his identity is that the paper reports that
three hundred gulden were found in his pocket. Winkler never seemed
to have money, and I do not understand how he should have been in
possession of such a sum."
"The money was found in the dead man's pockets," said the
commissioner. "And yet it may be Winkler, the man you know.
Muller, will you order a cab, please?"
I have a cab waiting for me. But it only holds two," volunteered
"That doesn't matter, I'll sit on the box," answered the man
addressed as Muller.
"You are going with us?" asked Pokorny.
"Yes, he will accompany you," replied the commissioner. "This is
detective Muller, sir. By a mere chance, he happened to be on hand
to take charge of this case and he will remain in charge, although
it may be wasting his talents which we need for more difficult
problems. If you or any one else have anything to tell us, it must
be told only to me or to Muller. And before you leave to look at
the body, I would like to know whether the dead man owned a watch,
or rather whether he had it with him on the day of the murder."
"Yes, sir; he did have a watch, a gold watch," answered Mrs.
Riedau looked at the bookkeeper, who nodded and said: "Yes, sir;
Winkler had a watch, a gold watch with a double case. It was a
large watch, very thick. I happen to have noticed it by chance
and also I happen to know that he had not had the watch for very
"Can you tell us anything more about the watch?" asked the
commissioner of the landlady.
"Yes, sir; there was engraving on the outside cover, initials, and
a crown on the other side."
"What were the initials?"
"I don't know that, sir; at least I'm not sure about it. There
were so many twists and curves to them that I couldn't make them
out. I think one of them was a W though, sir."
"The other was probably an L then."
"That might be, sir."
"The younger clerks in the office may be able to tell something more
about the watch," said Pokorny, "for they were quite interested in
it for a while. It was a handsome watch and they were envious of
Winkler's possession of it. But he was so tactless in his boasting
about it that they paid no further attention to him after the first
"You say he didn't have the watch long?"
"Since spring I think, sir."
"He brought it home on the 19th of March," interrupted Mrs.
Klingmayer. "I remember the day because it was my birthday. I
pretended that he had brought it home to me for a present."
"Was he in the habit of making you presents?"
"Oh, no, sir; he was very close with his money, sir.
"Well, perhaps he didn't have much money to be generous with. Now
tell me about his watch chain. I suppose he had a watch chain?"
Both the bookkeeper and the landlady nodded and the latter exclaimed:
"Oh, yes, sir; I could recognise it in a minute."
"It was broken once and Mr. Winkler mended it himself. I lent him
my pliers and he bent the two links together with them. It didn't
look very nice after that, but it was strong again. You could see
the mark of the pliers easily."
"Why didn't he take the chain to the jeweler's to be fixed?" asked
The woman smiled. "It wouldn't have been worth the money, sir; the
chain wasn't real gold."
"But the watch was real, wasn't it?"
"Oh, yes, sir; that was real gold. I pawned it once for Mr. Winkler
and they gave me 24 gulden for it."
"One question more, did he have a purse? And did he have it with
him on the day of the murder?"
"Yes, sir; he had a purse, and he must have taken it with him
because he didn't leave it in his room."
"What sort of a purse was it?"
"A brown leather purse, sir."
"Was it a new one?"
"Oh, no, sir; it was well worn."
"How big was it? About like mine?" Riedau took out his own
"No, sir; it was a little smaller. It had three pockets in it.
I mended it for him once, so I know it well. I didn't have any
brown thread so I mended it with yellow."
Dr. von Riedau nodded to Muller. The latter had been sitting at a
little side-table writing down the questions and answers. When
Riedau saw this he did not send for a clerk to do the work, for
Muller preferred to attend to such matters himself as much as
possible. The facts gained in the examination were impressed upon
his mind while he was writing them, and he did not have to wade
through pages of manuscript to get at what he needed. Now he handed
his superior officer the paper.
"Thank you," said Riedau, "I'll send it out to the other police
stations. I will attend to this myself. You go on with these
people to see. whether they can identify the corpse."
Fifteen minutes later the three stood before the body in the morgue
and both the bookkeeper and his companion identified the dead man
positively as Leopold Winkler.
When the identification was made, a notice was sent out to all
Austrian police stations and to all pawnshops with an exact
description of the stolen watch and purse.
Muller led his companions back to the commissioner's office and they
made their report to Dr. von Riedau. Upon being questioned further,
Pokorny stated: "I had very little to do with Winkler. We met only
when he had a report to make to me or to show me his books, and we
never met outside the office. The clerks who worked in the same
room with him, may know him better.. I know only that he was a very
reserved man and very little liked."
"Then I do not need to detain you any longer, nor to trouble you
further in this affair. I thank you for coming to us so promptly.
It has been of great assistance."
The bookkeeper left the station, but Mrs. Klingmayer, who was now
quite reassured as to the harmlessness of the police, was asked to
remain and to tell what she knew of the private life of the murdered
man. Her answers to the various questions put to her proved that
she knew very little about her tenant. But this much was learned
from her: that he was very close with his money at times, but that
again at other times he seemed to have all he wanted to spend. At
such times he paid all his debts, and when he stayed home for supper,
he would send her out for all sorts of expensive delicacies. These
extravagant days seemed to have nothing whatever to do with Winkler's
business pay day, but came at odd times.
Mrs. Klingmayer remembered two separate times when he had received
a postal money order. But she did not know from whom the letters
came, nor even whether they were sent from the city or from some
other town. Winkler received other letters now and then, but his
landlady was not of the prying kind, and she had paid very little
attention to them.
He seemed to have few friends or even acquaintances. She did not
know of any love affair, at least of nothing "regular." He had
remained away over night two or three times during the year that
he had been her tenant. This was about all that Mrs. Klingmayer
could say, and she returned to her home in a cab furnished her by
the kind commissioner.
About two hours later, a police attendant announced that a gentleman
would like to see Dr. von Riedan on business concerning the murder in
Hietzing. "Friedrich Bormann" was the name on the card.
"Ask him to step in here," said the commissioner. "And please ask
Mr. Muller to join us."
The good-looking young clerk entered the office bashfully and Muller
slipped in behind him, seating himself inconspicuously by the door.
At a sign from the commissioner the visitor began. "I am an
employee of Braun & Co. I have the desk next to Leopold Winkler,
during the year that he has been with us - the year and a quarter to
be exact -"
"Ah, then you know him rather well?"
"Why, yes. At least we were together all day, although I never met
him outside the office."
"Then you cannot tell us much about his private life?"
"No, sir, but there was something happened on Monday, and in talking
it over with Mr. Braun, he suggested that I should come to you and
tell you about it. It wasn't really very important, and it doesn't
seem as if it could have anything to do with this murder and robbery;
still it may be of some use."
"Everything that would throw light on the dead man's life could be
of use," said Dr. von Riedau. "Please tell us what it is you know."
Fritz Bormann began: "Winkler came to the office as usual on Monday
morning and worked steadily at his desk. But I happened to notice
that he spoiled several letters and had to rewrite them, which
showed me that his thoughts were not on his work, a frequent
occurrence with him. However, everything went along as usual until
11 o'clock. Then Winkler became very uneasy. He looked constantly
toward the door, compared his watch with the office clock, and
sprang up impatiently as the special letter carrier, who usually
comes about 11 with money orders, finally appeared."
"Then he was expecting money you think?"
"It must have been so. For as the letter carrier passed him, he
called out: 'Haven't you anything for me?' and as the man shook his
head Winkler seemed greatly disappointed and depressed. Before he
left to go to lunch, he wrote a hasty letter, which he put in his
"He came in half an hour later than the rest of us. He had often
been reprimanded for his lack of punctuality, but it seemed to do
no good. He was almost always late. Monday was no exception,
although he was later than usual that day."
"And what sort of a mood was he in when he came back?"
"He was irritable and depressed. He seemed to be awaiting a message
which did not come. His excitement hindered him from working, he
scarcely did anything the entire afternoon. Finally at five o'clock
a messenger boy came with a letter for him. I saw that Winkler
turned pale as he took the note in his hand. It seemed to be only
a few words written hastily on a card, thrust into an envelope.
Winkler's teeth were set as he opened the letter. The messenger had
already gone away."
"Did you notice his number?" asked Dr. von Riedau.
"No, I scarcely noticed the man at all. I was looking at Winkler,
whose behaviour was so peculiar. When he read the card his face
brightened. He read it through once more, then he tore both card
and envelope into little bits and threw the pieces out of the open
"Then he evidently did not want anybody to see the contents of this
note," said a voice from the corner of the room.
Fritz Bormann looked around astonished and rather doubtful at the
little man who had risen from his chair and now came forward.
Without waiting for an answer from the clerk, the other continued:
"Did Winkler have money sent him frequently?"
Bormann looked inquiringly at the commissioner, who replied with a
smile: "You may answer. Answer anything that Mr. Muller has to ask
of you, as he is in charge of this case."
"As far as I can remember, it happened three times," was Bormann's
"How close together?"
"Why - about once in every three or four months, I think."
"That looks almost like a regular income," exclaimed Riedau. His
eyes met Muller's, which were lit up in sudden fire. "Well, what
are you thinking of?" asked the commissioner.
"A woman," answered Muller; and continued more as if thinking
aloud than as if addressing the others: "Winkler was a good-looking
man. Might he not have had a rich love somewhere? Might not the
money have come from her, the money that was found in his pocket?"
Muller's voice trailed off into indistinctness at the last words,
and the fire died out of his eyes. Then he laughed aloud.
The commissioner smiled also, a good-natured smile, such as one
would give to a child who has been over-eager. "It doesn't matter
to us where the money came from. All that matters here is where
the bullet came from - the bullet which prevented his enjoying this
money. And it is of more interest to us to find out who robbed him
of his life and his property, rather than the source from which this
The commissioner's tone was friendly, but Muller's face flushed red,
and his, head dropped. Riedau turned to Bormann and continued: "And
because it is of no interest to us where his money came from - for
it can have nothing whatever to do with his murder and the subsequent
robbery - therefore what you noticed of his behaviour cannot be of
any importance or bearing in the case in any way. Unless, indeed,
you should find out anything more. But we appreciate the
thoughtfulness of yourself and your employer and your readiness to
Bormann rose to leave, but the commissioner put out a hand to stop
him. "A few moments more, please; you may know of something else
that will be of assistance to us. We have heard that Winkler
boasted of his belongings-did he talk about his private affairs in
"No, sir, I do not think he did."
"You say that he destroyed the note at once, evidently realising
that no one must see it - this note may have been a promise for the
money which had not yet come. Did he, however, tell any one later
that he expected a certain sum? Do you think he would have been
likely to tell any one?"
"No, I do not think that he would tell any one. He never mentioned
to any of us that he had received money, or even that he expected
to receive it. None of us knew what outside resources he might have,
or whence they came. If it had not been that the money was paid him
by the carrier in the office two or three times - so, that we could
see it - we would none of us have known of this income, except for
the fact that he was freer in spending after the money came. He
would dine at expensive restaurants, and this fact he would mention
to us, whereas at other times he would go to the cheap cafe."
"Do you know anything about the people he was acquainted with
outside the office?"
"No, sir. I seldom met him outside of the office. One evening it
did happen that I saw him at Ronacher's. He was there with a
lady - that is, a so-called 'lady '-and it must have been one of
the times that he had money, for they were enjoying an expensive
supper. At other times, some of the other clerks met him at various
resorts, always with the same sort of woman. But not always with
the same woman, for they were different in appearance."
"He was never seen anywhere with other men?"
"No, sir; at least not by any of us."
"He was not liked in the office?"
"No." Bormann's answer was sharp.
"For what reason?"
"I don't know; we just didn't like him. We had very little to do
with him at first because of this, and soon we noticed that he
seemed just as anxious to avoid us as we were to avoid him."
The commissioner rose and Bormann followed his example. "I am very
sorry, sir, if I have taken up your time to no purpose," said the
latter modestly, as he took up his hat.
"I am not so sure that what you have said may not be of great value
to us," said a voice behind them. Muller stood there, looking at
Riedau with a glance almost of defiance. His eyes were again lit
up with the strange fire that shone in them when he was on the trail.
The commissioner shrugged his shoulders, bowed to the departing
visitor, and then turned without an answer to some documents on his
desk. There was silence in the room for a few moments. Finally a
gentle voice came from Muller's corner again: "Dr. von Riedau?"
The commissioner raised his head and looked around. "Oh, are you
still there?" he asked with a drawl.
Muller knew what this drawl meant. It was the manner adopted by
the amiable commissioner when he was in a mood which was not amiable.
And Muller knew also the cause of the mood. It was his own last
remark, the words he addressed to Bormann. Muller himself recognised
the fact that this remark was out of place, that it was almost an
impertinence, because it was in direct contradiction to a statement
made a few moments before by his superior officer. Also he realised
that his remark had been quite unnecessary, because it was a matter
of indifference to the young man, who was only obeying his employer's
orders in reporting what he had seen, whether his report was of
value or not. Muller had simply uttered aloud the thought that came
into his mind, a habit of his which years of official training had
not yet succeeded in breaking. It was annoying to himself sometimes,
for these half-formed thoughts were mere instinct - they were the
workings of his own genius that made him catch a suspicion of the
truth long before his conscious mind could reason it out or
appreciate its value. But that sort of thing was not popular in
official police life.
"Well," asked the commissioner, as Muller did not continue, "your
tongue is not usually so slow - as you have proved just a few
moments back - what were you going to say now?"
"I was about to ask your pardon for my interruption. It was
unnecessary, I should not have said it."
"Well, I realise that you know better yourself," said Riedau, now
quite friendly again, "and now what else have you to say? Do you
really think that what the young man has just told us is of any
value at all for this case?"
"It seems to me as if it might be of value to us."
"Oh, it seems to you, eh? Your imagination is working overtime
again, Muller," said the commissioner with a laugh. But the laugh
turned to seriousness as he realised how many times Muller's
imagination had helped the clumsy official mind to its proudest
triumphs. The commissioner was an intelligent man, as far as his
lights went, and he was a good-hearted man. He rose from his chair
and walked over to where the detective stood. "You needn't look so
embarrassed, Muller," he said. "There is no cause for you to feel
bad about it. And - I am quite willing to admit that my remark
just now was unnecessary. You may give your imagination full rein,
we can trust to your intelligence and your devotion to duty to keep
it from unnecessary flights. So curbed, I know it will be of as
much assistance to us this time as it always has been."
Muller's quiet face lit up, and his eyes shone in a happiness that
made him appear ten years younger. That was one of the strange
things about Joseph Muller. This genius in his profession was in
all other ways a man of such simplicity of heart and bearing, that
the slightest word of approval from one of the officials for whom
he worked could make him as happy as praise from the teacher will
make a schoolboy. The moments when he was in command of any
difficult case, when these same superiors would wait for a word from
him, when high officials would take his orders or would be obliged
to acknowledge that without him they were helpless, these moments
were forgotten as soon as the problem was solved and Muller became
again the simple subordinate and the obscure member of the Imperial
When Muller left the commissioner's room and walked through the
outer office, one of the clerks looked after him and whispered to
his companion: "Do you think he's found the Hietzing murderer yet?"
The other answered: "I don't think so, but he looks as if he had
found a clue. He'll find him sooner or later. He always does."
Muller did not hear these words, although they also would have
pleased him. He walked slowly down the stairs murmuring to himself:
"I think I was right just the same. We are following a false trail."
BY A THREAD
It was on Monday, the 27th of September, that Leopold Winkler was
murdered and robbed, and early on Tuesday, the 28th, his body was
found. That day the evening papers printed the report of the murder
and the description of the dead man, and on Wednesday, the 29th,
Mrs. Klingmayer read the news and went to see Winkler's employer.
By noon of that day the body was identified and a description of
the stolen purse and watch telegraphed to police headquarters in
various cities. A few hours later, these police stations had sent
out notices by messenger to all pawnshops and dealers in
second-hand clothing, and now the machinery of the law sat waiting
for some news of an attempt on the part of the robber-and-murderer
to get rid of his plunder.
On this same Wednesday, about the twilight hour, David Goldstamm,
dealer in second-hand clothing, stood before the door of his shop
in a side street of the old Hungarian city of Pressburg and watched
his assistant take down the clothes which were hanging outside and
carry them into the store. The old man's eyes glanced carelessly
up and down the street and caught sight of a man who turned the
corner and came hurrying towards him. This man was a very
seedy-looking individual. An old faded overcoat hung about his
thin figure, and a torn and dusty hat fell over his left eye. He
seemed also to be much the worse for liquor and very wobbly on his
feet. And yet he seemed anxious to hurry onward in spite of the
unevenness of his walk.
Then he slowed up suddenly, glanced across the street to Goldstamm's
store, and crossed over.
"Have you any boots for me?" he asked, sticking out his right foot
that the dealer might see whether he had anything the requisite size.
"I think there's something there," answered the old man in his
usual businesslike tone, leading the way into the store.
The stranger followed. Goldstamm lit the one light in the little
place and groped about in an untidy heap of shoes of all kinds and
sizes until he found several pairs that he thought might fit. These
he brought out and put them in front of his customer. But in spite
of his bleary eyes, the man caught sight of some patches on the
uppers of one pair, and pushed them away from him.
"Give me something better than that. I can pay for it. I don't
have to wear patched shoes," he grunted.
Goldstamm didn't like the looks of the man, but he felt that he
had better be careful and not make him angry. "Have patience, sir,
I'll find you something better," he said gently, tossing the heap
about again, but now keeping his face turned towards his customer.
"I want a coat also and a warm pair of trousers," said the stranger
in a rough voice. He bent down to loosen the shabby boot from his
right foot, and as he did so something fell out of the pocket of
his coat. An unconscious motion of his own raised foot struck
this small object and tossed it into the middle of the heap of
shoes close by Goldstamm's hand. The old man reached out after it
and caught it. It was just an ordinary brown leather pocketbook,
of medium size, old and shabby, like a thousand others. But the
eyes of the little old man widened as if in terror, his face turned
pale and his hands trembled. For he had seen, hanging from one
side of this worn brown leather pocketbook, the end of a yellow
thread, the loosened end of the thread with which one side of the
purse was mended. The thread told David Goldstamm who it was that
had come into his shop.
He regained his control with a desperate effort of the will. It
took him but a few seconds to do so, and, thanks to his partial
intoxication, the customer had not noticed the shopkeeper's start
of alarm. But he appeared anxious and impatient to regain
possession of his purse.
"Haven't you found it yet?" he exclaimed.
Goldstamm hastened to give it back. The tramp put the purse in his
pocket with a sigh of relief. Goldstamm had regained his calm and
his mind was working eagerly. He put several pairs of shoes before
his customer, with the remark: "You must try them on. We'll find
something to suit you. And meanwhile I will bring in several
pairs of trousers from those outside. I have some fine coats to
show you too."
Goldstamm went out to the door, almost colliding there with his
assistant who was coming in with his arm full of garments. The old
man motioned to the boy, who retreated until they were both hidden
from the view of the man within the store.
"Give me those blue trousers there," said Goldstamm in a loud voice.
Then in a whisper he said to the boy: "Run to the police station.
The man with the watch and the purse is in there."
The boy understood and set off at once at a fast pace, while the
old man returned to his store with a heavy heart. He wondered
whether he would be able to keep the murderer there until the
police could come. And he also wondered what it might cost him,
an old and feeble man, who would be as a weak reed in the hands of
the strong tramp in there. But he knew it was his duty to do
whatever he could to help in the arrest of one who had just taken
the life of a fellow creature. The realisation of this gave the
old man strength and calmness.
"A nice sort of an eye for size you have," cried the tramp as the
old man came up to him. "I suppose you've brought me in a boy's
suit? What do you take me for? Any girl could go to a ball in the
shoes you brought me to try on here."
"Are they so much too small?" asked the dealer in an innocent tone.
"Well, there's plenty more there. And perhaps you had better be
trying on this suit behind the curtain here while I'm hunting up the
This suggestion seemed to please the stranger, as he was evidently
in a hurry. He passed in behind the curtain and began to undress.
Goldstamm's keen eyes watched him through a crack. There was not
much to be seen except that the tramp seemed anxious to keep his
overcoat within reach of his hand. He had carefully put the purse
in one of its
We'll get the things all together pretty soon," said the dealer.
"I've found a pair of boots here, fine boots of good quality, and
sure to fit."
"Stop your talk," growled the other, "and come here and help me
so that I can get away."
Goldstamm came forward, and though his heart was very heavy within
him, he aided this man, this man about whom so many hundreds were
now thinking in terror, as calmly as he had aided his other poor
but honest customers.
With hands that did not tremble, the dealer busied himself about
his customer, listening all the while to sounds in the street in
the hope that his tete-e-tete with the murderer would soon be over.
But in spite of all his natural anxiety, the old man's sharp eyes
took cognizance of various things, one of which was that the man
whom he was helping to dress in his new clothes did not have the
watch which was described in the police notice. This fact, however,
did not make the old man's heart any lighter, for the purse mended
with yellow thread was too clearly the one stolen from the murdered
man found in the quiet street in Hietzing.
"What's the matter with you, you're so slow? I can get along
better myself," growled the tramp, pushing the old man away from
him. Goldstamm had really begun to tremble now in spite of his
control, in the fear that the man would get away from him before the
The tramp was already dressed in the new suit, into a pocket of
which he put the old purse.
"There, now the boots and then we're finished," said the dealer
with an attempt at a smile. In his heart he prayed that the pair
he now held in his hand might not fit, that he might gain a few
minutes more. But the shoes did fit. A little pushing and stamping
and the man was ready to leave the store. He was evidently in a
hurry, for he paid what was asked without any attempt to bargain.
Had Goldstamm not known whom he had before him now, he would have
been very much astonished at this, and might perhaps have been sorry
that he had not named a higher sum. But under the circumstances he
understood only too well the man's desire to get away, and would
much rather have had some talk as to the payment, anything that
would keep his customer a little longer in his store.
"There, now we're ready. I'll pack up your old things for you. Or
perhaps we can make a deal for them. I pay the highest prices in
the city," said Goldstamm, with an apparent eagerness which he hoped
would deceive the customer.
But the man had already turned towards the door, and called hack
over his shoulder: "You can keep the old things, I don't want them."
As he spoke he opened the door of the store and stood face to face
with a policeman holding a revolver. He turned, with a curse, back
into the room, but the dealer was nowhere to be seen. David
Goldstamm had done his duty to the public, in spite of his fear.
Now, seeing that the police had arrived, he could think of his duty
to his family. This duty was plainly to save his own life, and
when the tramp turned again to look for him, he had disappeared out
of the back door.
"Not a move or I will shoot," cried the policeman, and now two
others appeared behind him, and came into the store. But the
tramp made no attempt to escape. He stood pale and trembling while
they put the handcuffs on him, and let them take him away without
any resistance. He was put on the evening express for Vienna, and
taken to Police Headquarters in that city. He made no protest nor
any attempt to escape, but he refused to utter a word on the entire
The evening was already far gone when Muller entered Riedau's office.
"You're in time, the man isn't here yet. The train is evidently
late," said the commissioner. "We're working this case off
quickly. We will have the murderer here in half an hour at the
latest. He did not have much time to enjoy the stolen property. He
was here in Vienna this morning, and was arrested in Pressburg this
afternoon. Here is the telegram, read it."
Dr. von Riedau handed Muller the message. The commissioner was
evidently pleased and excited. The telegram read as follows: "Man
arrested here in possession of described purse containing four ten
gulden notes and four guldens in silver. Arrested in store of
second-hand clothes dealer Goldstamm. Will arrive this evening in
Vienna under guard."
The message was signed by the Chief of the Pressburg police.
Muller laid the paper on the desk without a word. There was a watch
on this desk already; it was a heavy gold watch, unusually thick,
with the initials L. W. on the cover. Just as Muller laid down the
telegram, a door outside was opened and the commissioner covered the
watch hastily. There was a loud knock at his own door and an
attendant entered to announce that the party from Pressburg had
arrived He was followed by one of the Pressburg police force, who
brought the official report.
"Did you have any difficulty with him?" asked the commissioner.
"Oh, no, sir; it was a very easy job. He made no resistance at all,
and he seems to be quite sober now. But he hasn't said a word since
we arrested him."
Then followed the detailed report of the arrest, and the delivery of
the described pocketbook to the commissioner.
"Is that all?" asked Dr. von Riedau.
"Then you may go home now, we will take charge of the man."
The policeman bowed and left the room. A few moments later the
tramp was brought in, guarded by two armed roundsmen. His guards
remained at the door, while the prisoner himself walked forward to
the middle of the room. Commissioner von Riedau sat at his desk,
his clerk beside him ready to take down the evidence. Muller sat
near a window with a paper on his lap, looking the least interested
of anybody in the proceedings.
For a moment there was complete silence in the room, which was
broken in a rather unusual manner. A deep voice, more like a growl,
although it had a queer strain of comic good-nature in it, began the
proceedings with the remark: "Well now, say, what do you want of me,
The commissioner looked at the man in astonishment, then turned
aside that the prisoner might not notice his smile. But he might
have spared himself the trouble, for Muller, the clerk, and the two
policemen at the door were all on a broad grin.
Then the commissioner pulled himself together again, and began with
his usual official gravity: "It is I who ask questions here. Is it
possible that you do not know this? You look to me as if you had
had experience in police courts before." The commissioner gazed at
the prisoner with eyes that were not altogether friendly. The tramp
seemed to feel this, and his own eyes dropped, while the good-natured
impertinence in his bearing disappeared. It was evidently the last
remains of his intoxication. He was now quite sober.
"What is your name?" asked the commissioner.
"Where were you born?"
"I'm - I'll be forty next Christmas."
"Well, you can see I'm no Jew, can't you?"
"You will please answer my questions in a proper manner. This
impertinence will not make things easier for you."
"All right, sir," said the tramp humbly. "I am a Catholic."
"You have been in prison before?" This was scarcely a question.
"No, sir," said Knoll firmly.
"What is your business?"
"I don't know what to say, sir," answered Knoll, shrugging his
shoulders. "I've done a lot of things in my life. I'm a cattle
drover and a lumber man, and I -"
"Did you learn any trade?"
"No, sir, I never learned anything."
"Do you mean to tell me that without having learned any trade you've
gotten through life thus far honestly?"
"Oh, I've worked hard enough - I've worked good and hard sometimes."
"The last few days particularly, eh?"
"Why, no, sir, not these last days - I was drover on a transport of
pigs; we brought 'em down from Hungary, 200 of 'em, to the slaughter
"When was that?"
"That was - that was Monday."
"This last Monday?"
"And then you went to Hietzing?"
"Yes, sir, that's right."
"Why did you go to Hietzing?"
"Why, see here, sir, if I had gone to Ottakring, then I suppose you
would have asked why did I go to Ottakring. I just went to Hietzing.
A fellow has to go somewhere. You don't stay in the same spot all
the time, do you?"
Again the commissioner turned his head and another smile went
through the room. This Hietzing murderer had a sense of humour.
"Well, then, we'll go to Hietzing again, in our minds at least,"
said the commissioner, turning back to Knoll when he had controlled
his merriment. "You went there on Monday, then - and the day was
coming to an end. What did you do when you reached Hietzing?"
"I looked about for a place to sleep."
"Where did you look for a place to sleep?"
"Why, in Hietzing."
"That is not definite enough."
"Well, in a garden."
"You were trespassing, you mean?"
"Why, yes, sir. There wasn't anybody that seemed to want to invite
me to dinner or to give me a place to sleep. I just had to look
out for myself."
"You evidently know how to look out for yourself at the cost of
others, a heavy cost." The commissioner's easy tone had changed to
sternness. Knoll felt this, and a sharp gleam shot out from his
dull little eyes, while the tone of his voice was gruff and
impertinent again as he asked: "What do you mean by that?"
"You know well enough. You had better not waste any more time, but
tell us at once how you came into possession of this purse."
"It's my purse," Knoll answered with calm impertinence. "I got it
the way most people get it. I bought it."
"This purse?" the commissioner emphasised both words distinctly.
"This purse - yes," answered the tramp with a perfect imitation of
Riedau's voice. "Why shouldn't I have bought this purse just like
"Because you stole this purse from the man whom you - murdered,"
was the commissioner's reply.
There was another moment of dead silence in the room. The
commissioner and Muller watched intently for any change of
expression in the face of the man who had just had such an
accusation hurled at him. Even the clerk and the two policemen at
the door were interested to see what would happen.
Knoll's calm impertinence vanished, a deadly pallor spread over his
face, and he seemed frozen to stone. He attempted to speak, but was
not able to control his voice. His hands were clenched and tremors
shook his gaunt but strong-muscled frame.
"When did I murder anybody?" he gasped finally in a hoarse croak.
"You'll have to prove it to me that I am a murderer."
"That is easily proved. Here is one of the proofs," said Riedan
coldly, pointing to the purse. "The purse and the watch of the
murdered man are fatal witnesses against you."
"The watch? I haven't any watch. Where should I get a watch?"
"You didn't have one until Monday, possibly; I can believe that.
But you were in possession of a watch between the evening of Monday,
the 27th, and the morning of Wednesday, the 29th."
Knoll's eyes dropped again and he did not trust himself to speak.
"Well, you do not deny this statement?"
"No, I can't," said Knoll, still trying to control his voice.
"You must have the watch yourself now, or else you wouldn't be so
certain about it."
"Ah, you see, I thought you'd had experience with police courts
before," said the commissioner amiably. "Of course I have the
watch already. The man whom you sold it to this morning knew by
three o'clock this afternoon where this watch came from. He brought
it here at once and gave us your description. A very exact
description. The man will be brought here to identify you to-morrow.
We must send for him anyway, to return his money to him. He paid
you fifty-two gulden for the watch. And how much money was in the
purse that you took from the murdered man?"
"Three gulden eighty-five."
"That was a very small sum for which to commit a murder."
Knoll groaned and bit his lips until they bled.
Commissioner von Riedau raised the paper that covered the watch and
continued: "You presumably recognised that the chain on which this
watch hung was valueless, also that it could easily be recognised.
Did you throw it away, or have you it still?"
"I threw it in the river."
"That will not make any difference. We do not need the chain, we
have quite enough evidence without it. The purse, for instance: you
thought, I suppose, that it was just a purse like a thousand others,
but it is not. This purse is absolutely individual and easily
recognised, because it is mended in one spot with yellow thread.
The thread has become loosened and hangs down in a very noticeable
manner. It was this yellow thread on the purse, which he happened
to see by chance, that showed the dealer Goldstamm who it was that
had entered his store."
Knoll stood quite silent, staring at the floor. Drops of
perspiration stood out on his forehead, some of them rolling like
tears down his cheek.
The commissioner rose from his seat and walked slowly to where the
prisoner stood. He laid one hand on the man's shoulder and said in
a voice that was quite gentle and kind again: "Johann Knoll, do not
waste your time, or ours, in thinking up useless lies. You are
almost convicted of this crime now. You have already acknowledged
so much, that there is but little more for you to say. If you make
an open confession, it will be greatly to your advantage."
Again the room was quiet while the others waited for what would
happen. For a moment the tramp stood silent, with the commissioner's
right hand resting on his shoulder. Then there was a sudden movement,
a struggle and a shout, and the two policemen had overpowered the
prisoner and held him firmly. Muller rose quickly and sprang to his
chief's side. Riedau had not even changed colour, and he said
calmly: "Oh, never mind, Muller; sit down again. The man had
handcuffs on and he is quite quiet now. I think he has sense enough
to see that he is only harming himself by his violence.
The commissioner returned to his desk and Muller went back to his
chair by the window. The prisoner was quiet again, although his
face wore a dark flush and the veins on throat and forehead were
swollen thick. He trembled noticeably and the heavy drops
besprinkled his brow.
"I - I have something to say, sir," he began, "but first I want to
beg your pardon -"
"Oh, never mind that. I am not angry when a man is fighting for his
life, even if he doesn't choose quite the right way," answered the
commissioner calmly, playing with a lead pencil.
Knoll's expression was defiant now. He laughed harshly and began
again: "What I'm tellin' you now is the truth whether you believe
it or not. I didn't kill the man. I took the watch and purse
from him. I thought he was drunk. If he was killed, I didn't
"He was killed by a shot."
"A shot? Why, yes, I heard a shot, but I didn't think any more
about it, I didn't think there was anythin' doing, I thought somebody
was shootin' a cat, or else-"
"Oh, don't bother to invent things. It was a man who was shot at,
the man whom you robbed. But go on, go on. I am anxious to hear
what you will tell me."
Knoll's hands, clenched to fists and his eyes glowed in hate and
defiance. Then he dropped them to the floor again and began to
talk slowly in a monotonous tone that sounded as if he were
repeating a lesson. His manner was rather unfortunate and did not
tend to induce belief in the truth of his story. The gist of what
he said was as follows:
He had reached Hietzing on Monday evening about 8 o'clock. He was
thirsty, as usual, and had about two gulden in his possession, his
wages for the last day's work. He turned into a tavern in Hietzing
and ate and drank until his money was all gone, and he had not even
enough left to pay for a night's lodging. But Knoll was not worried
about that. He was accustomed to sleeping out of doors, and as this
was a particularly fine evening, there was nothing in the prospect
to alarm him. He set about finding a suitable place where he would
not be disturbed by the guardians of the law. His search led him
by chance into a newly opened street. This suited him exactly.
The fences were easy to climb, and there were several little summer
houses in sight which made much more agreeable lodgings than the
ground under a bush. And above all, the street was so quiet and
deserted that he knew it was just the place for him. He had never
been in the street before, and did not know its name. He passed
the four houses at the end of the street - he was on the left
sidewalk - and then he came to two fenced-in building lots. These
interested him. He was very agile, raised himself up on the fences
easily and took stock of the situation. One of the lots did not
appeal to him particularly, but the second one did. It bordered
on a large garden, in the middle of which he could see a little
house of some kind. It was after sunset but he could see things
quite plainly yet for the air was clear and the moon was just
rising. He saw also that in the vacant lot adjoining the garden,
a lot which appeared to have been a garden itself once, there was
a sort of shed. It looked very much damaged but appeared to offer
shelter sufficient for a fine night.
The shed stood on a little raise of the ground near the high iron
fence that protected the large garden. Knoll decided that the
shed would make a good place to spend the night. He climbed the
fence easily and walked across the lot. When he was just settling
himself for his nap, he heard the clock on a near-by church strike
nine. The various drinks he had had for supper put him in a mood
that would not allow him to get to sleep at once. The bench in
the old shed was decidedly rickety and very uncomfortable, and as
he was tossing about to find a good position, a thought came into
his mind which he acknowledged was not a commendable one. It
occurred to him that if he pursued his investigations in the
neighbourhood a little further, he might be able to pick up
something that would be of advantage to him on his wanderings.
His eyes and his thoughts were directed towards the handsome house
which he could see beyond the trees of the old garden.
The moon was now well up in the sky and it shone brightly on the
mansard roof of the fine old mansion. The windows of the long
wing which stretched out towards the garden glistened in the
moonbeams, and the light coloured wall of the house made a bright
background for the dark mask of trees waving gently in the night
breeze. Knoll's little shed was sufficiently raised on its
hillock for him to have a good view of the garden. There was no
door to the shed and he could see the neighbouring property clearly
from where he lay on his bench. While he lay there watching, he
saw a woman walking through the garden. He could see her only
when she passed back of or between the lower shrubs and bushes. As
far as he could see, she came from the main building and was walking
towards a pretty little house which lay in the centre of the garden.
Knoll had imagined this house to be the gardener's dwelling and as
it lay quite dark he supposed the inmates were either asleep or out
for the evening. It had been this house which he was intending to
honour by a visit. But seeing the woman walking towards it, he
decided it would not be safe to carry out his plan just yet awhile.
A few moments later he was certain that this last decision had been
a wise one, for he saw a man come from the main building and walk
along the path the woman had taken. "No, nothing doing there,"
thought Knoll, and concluded he had better go to sleep. He could
not remember just how long he may have dozed but it seemed to him
that during that time he had heard a shot. It did not interest him
much. He supposed some one was shooting at a thieving cat or at
some small night animal. He did not even remember whether he had
been really sound asleep, before he was aroused by the breaking
down of the bench on which he lay. The noise of it more than the
shock of the short fall, awoke him and he sprang tip in alarm and
listened intently to hear whether any one had been attracted by it.
His first glance was towards the building behind the garden. There
was no sound nor no light in the garden house but there was a light
in the main building. While the tramp was wondering what hour it
might be, the church clock answered him by ten loud strokes.
His head was already aching from the wine and he did not feel
comfortable in the drafty old building. He came out from it, crept
along to the spot where he had climbed the fence before, and after
listening carefully and hearing nothing on either side, he climbed
back to the road. The Street lay silent and empty, which was just
what he was hoping for. He held carefully to the shadow thrown by
the high board fence over which he had climbed until he came to its
end. Then he remembered that he hadn't done anything wrong and
stepped out boldly into the moonlight. The moon was well up now
and the street was almost as light as day. Knoll was attracted by
the queer shadows thrown by a big elder tree, waving its long
branches in the wind. As he came nearer he saw that part of the
shadow was no shadow at all but was the body of a man lying in
the street near the bush. "I thought sure he was drunk" was the
way Knoll described it. "I've been like that myself often until
somebody came along and found me."