Mystery Stories Home Page
Copyright 2003 by Michael E. Grost
A Jacob Black "Impossible Crime" Mystery
by Michael E. Grost
It was a few days before Christmas, 1923. But it was not snowing. This was Hollywood, in Southern California, the land of eternal sunshine. Jacob "Jake" Black was marveling at the weather. Back when he had been a high school math teacher in Milwaukee, the snow piled up in 12 foot drifts off Lake Michigan. Now he was a novelist and a novice movie scriptwriter, and was waiting in the outer office of Simon Hansen, the Hollywood producer. Little did Jake know that he was about to be plunged into the middle of a baffling murder mystery.
Jake had arrived at the Mammoth-Art studio headquarters a few minutes before. It was a large, white-washed building, single story, and dignified and dramatic in its modernistic architecture. Here was where the producers had their offices. It was just one building in the enormous studio campus, which was filled with film stages, outdoor sets, craft workshops and dressing rooms. A receptionist directed him to Simon Hansen's office.
When Jake went into Hansen's waiting room, off a distant corridor in the building, he nearly ran into cowboy star Buck Hennesey, who was coming out. Jake recognized Hennesey right away, from his many movies - Jake had never met Hennesey in person. The large, brown haired Hennesey wore a gray Western style suit, and string tie. The famous cowboy star seemed to be in a rage. The murderous look on his face was a contrast to his smiling screen image. Presumably, Buck Hennesey had just had a meeting with producer Simon Hansen, and Jake wondered what had made the famously good-natured star so angry. Jake had always been a big movie fan, and normally he enjoyed the glimpses of the stars he was getting on his trip to Hollywood. Hennesey had always reminded Jake of a giant puppy dog, and kids had always loved Hennesey, recognizing that basically he was just a big kid himself, getting to ride a horse and have cowboy adventures. But the appearance of Hennesey foreboded problems.
The waiting room was a large affair, like all the rooms at the studio. It was filled with a low, brown leather couch and chairs for the visitors. A desk along the back wall was the domain of Hansen's secretary, and a door in the same rear wall led into the producer's private office. Although the room was windowless, bright ceiling lights flooded the room with light. Everything at the studio was always extremely well lit.
Hansen's secretary, a beautiful young woman named Sally Carter, had announced his presence to the great man, over the telephone to his private office, and politely asked Jake to take a seat. All the studio secretaries out here were beautiful. Jake guessed they were aspiring actresses. Sally wore an elaborate jumper, with deep pockets and lots of ribbons, that was fashioned to look like an artist's smock. Jake could imagine her with a palette in hand, bending over a painting on an easel.
Jake himself was a young man, around thirty, neither handsome nor ugly. He was tall - his five foot eleven inches caused him to tower over most men in the 1920's - and slim. He wore a spiffy tweed suit that made him look like one of the prosperous young go getters of the era.
Following a conversation, presumably with her boss, over the telephone, Sally ushered Jake into the producer's sanctum. The producer rose to greet him, reaching out to shake his hand. Simon Hansen was a man in his forties, trim and with graying temples. He was dressed in the most beautifully tailored suit Jake had ever seen. The Hollywood rumor mill was rife with stories about Hansen's womanizing.
"Sit down, Black," the producer waved him into a chair in front of his desk. Hansen seated himself in a low backed leather swivel chair behind his huge mahogany desk. This was Jake's first view of the producer's office.
The office was a perfect square, around fifty feet on each side. Aside from the producer's desk, which was dead in the center of the square room, and its accompanying chairs, there was very little furniture in the room. The desk was arranged so that the producer was facing front, towards the room's only door, which led through the office's front wall to the outer waiting room. Directly behind the producer's desk, around twenty feet back, was the room's only window, a tall, wide affair in the back wall. Only a small casement frame, set into the window around three feet off the ground, actually opened; the rest of the ultra-modern window was a huge pane of solid glass, that stretched up from the casement top to the ceiling. This was Jake's first look at an actual building in the modern architecture style, complete with huge acres of plate glass; he was quite fascinated. The only other major pieces of furniture were a long couch, that stood against the front wall of the room, next to the door; a large globe of the world, on a heavy, solid wooden stand in the back left corner of the room, an expensive radio on a mahogany table next to it, and a small portable bar, now closed, that folded up into a two foot high black lacquer cabinet along the left hand wall of the office. The theme of the elegantly appointed office was wood: wood paneled walls; wooden bookcases, elaborate wooden frames around some oil paintings, and a hardwood floor so well polished it could have served as a ballroom. Unlike the rest of the studio, the lighting was elegant and subdued. The whole effect was of a prosperous business office, of some tycoon. There was little to tie it to the movie business.
It was very different from the poverty stricken offices of the pulp magazine editors Jake used to visit in Chicago. Those had been full of photographs of the editors with their writers, Jake included. Jake had contributed numerous tales of sea and air adventure to the pulps, written at night when he had finished teaching classes in Milwaukee. His best story was a pirate serial he had contributed to the pulp magazine, Adventure. His editor had urged him to try to get it published as a regular book. This was the best piece of advice Jake had ever got. Flashing Cutlasses of the Tortugas had become a runaway best seller, a book that everybody read and talked about, from beauty parlors to barbershops. Jake had wound up getting a seven week contract to come out to Hollywood, and write a pirate adventure for director Allan Dwan.
"I've been assigned as a tentative producer to The King of the Pirates," Hansen said, referring to Jake's movie treatment. "Your script shows good storytelling, but several scenes in it will be too expensive to produce as a movie. I'm hoping you can come up with alternatives that will be more practical to produce". Jake got the feeling that this was more than a wish - it was an order. Still, Jake was glad to be learning the movie biz, and felt the producer was probably giving him some good tips on film writing.
Hansen wheeled his chair over to the book case. He pulled out a copy of Jake's book. Jake was still a new enough author to feel a thrill ever time he saw a copy of his novel.
"Here's a scene in Chapter Seven that might make a good replacement for the pirate fight in the script," the producer said.
Hansen pointed out several parts of the film he felt needed changes. He emphasized his points by waiving around a letter opener in the shape of a large bronze dagger he picked up from the desk. The dagger was huge Indian style ornamental affair, with a filigreed handle interwoven with what looked like large rubies and emeralds. Jake recognized it as a prop from a picture of a couple years back, where it was worn in the belt of an Arabian sheik - Jake would never miss any Hollywood tales of Asian adventure. While the jewels were almost certainly paste, its point looked razor sharp - the producer used it at one point to slit open mail.
When the conference was over, Sally came in and began working with Hansen to open and sort out his new mail. Jake left and went to the outer office. As he was about to leave, two people came into it and sat down. Jake recognized both of them. One was the producer's wife, Lola Hansen. A former starlet herself, Lola Hansen was a beautiful and expensively dressed woman. She was a handsome brunette who had played society ladies and European aristocrats on the screen. Despite the elegance of her frock, Lola Hansen looked upset and angry. Jake wondered if the same rumors he had heard about Hansen's womanizing had also reached his wife.
The other visitor to the office was Gregor von Hoffmansthal, a young and rising actor, who specialized in dashing Viennese aristocrats on screen. He was dressed in a formal, European cut suit, and wore his black hair in a stiff, military style brush cut. The fan magazines said that young Hoffmansthal was the son of a Hungarian count. He too looked angry, although it was perhaps only his rigid, soldier like posture that conveyed this impression.
"I need to see my husband right away," Lola Hansen announced to the room. The producer's wife was clearly much agitated. Immediately, Hoffmansthal sprang to his feet, and went over and bowed stiffly over Lola Hansen's hand.
"I would be only too glad to delay my appointment with Herr Hansen, to please such a lovely lady." The muscular young actor clicked his heels together, and formally bowed deeper, kissing Lola Hansen's fingers. The actor spoke with a slight middle European accent, although his English was excellent.
Suddenly, Jake was struck by a feeling that he had seen Hoffmansthal somewhere before. Try as he could, he could not place where this had taken place. It must have been in Hollywood, since Jake had never been to Hoffmansthal's native Europe, or anywhere outside of the US Middle West before his current trip. He found himself staring at Hoffmansthal in wonder. All of a sudden the young actor became conscious of Jake's steady glare, and returned the glance. His features underwent a transformation. Jake found his look hard to interpret. But all of a sudden he realized that Gregor von Hoffmansthal seemed to be afraid of Jake. Jake was startled. In Jake's experience, people were rarely afraid of him. Jake was an affable young man, and had the hail fellow well met manners that were considered good form in the 1920's. And Hoffmansthal could hardly be physically afraid of Jake. He was around twenty pounds heavier, and could easily subdue the slim writer in a boxing match. But still, Jake definitely felt that young Hoffmansthal was afraid of him.
Lola Hansen flung open her husband's office door. He came to the door, followed by Sally, who returned to her desk in the outer office. The startled and none too pleased producer escorted his wife into his office, and closed the door.
Jake was about to leave when he was quietly called over by Sally.
"Mr. Black," Sally asked, "I wonder if you could do me a big favor. I need to run an errand. Could you mind the desk for me here? It will just be for a few minutes. If anyone calls, tell them I'll be right back."
Sally hurried out the office door, while Jake seated himself at the secretary's desk. He had a good view of the whole office, and the hallway through the door. Although the inner door to the producer's private office was closed, he could hear the loud, angry voices of the producer and his wife through the door, although what they were saying was not clear. Suddenly, the voices died down. After a minute, Lola Hansen came out of her husband's office, slamming the door behind her. She looked white in the face and angry. She sat down in the outer office, and started going through some papers she had.
Gregor von Hoffmansthal looked more and more impatient. It was clear he wanted to see the producer, but no invite came from the office. Finally, after several minutes of waiting, he rose and moved towards the producer's door. He looked resolute and angry, his huge shoulders squared under his formal suit. Without knocking, he flung it open, and went into the producer's office, quietly closing the door behind him with a gesture of finality. There was dead silence. Jake was alone in the outer office with Lola Hansen. But not for long. In a minute, Gregor von Hoffmansthal opened the producer's door. He too looked white and shaken.
"Come and see" he ordered Jake.
Jake re-entered the producer's office with the actor.
The producer was seated at his desk, his head and shoulders slumped face forward over the desk. The hilt of the jeweled dagger stuck out of his back.
Jake took the producer's pulse. Simon Hansen was dead.
The time was a quarter after one.
The police did not take long to arrive, followed soon by Lieutenant Moe Apfelbaum of Homicide. The Lieutenant brought along a crew of finger print men and the medical examiner. Jake, Lola Hansen, Gregor von Hoffmansthal, and Sally, who had returned soon after the discovery of the body, were all still present.
The Lieutenant kept the witnesses all waiting in Hansen's outer office. A patrolman stood guard over them, making sure nobody left the room or talked with each other. The Lieutenant had them into Hansen's office one by one, where they told their stories. He also had the finger print men take prints of everyone in the case.
Jake was seated next to Gregor von Hoffmansthal, in adjacent chairs. He noticed that Hoffmansthal actually had steel plates near the heels of his shoes, so that when he clicked his heels together, they made an appropriate loud clicking sound. Jake had read that some formal European military dress uniforms had such plates, but he had no idea that people actually put them on civilian clothes. The shoes were actually low boots, in a formal European style.
Jake was called into the office first. While he told his story, a patrolman took careful notes of everything he said. Jake could read the patrolman's Pittman shorthand - Jake had trained himself in shorthand, using it to make notes for his stories when in a hurry.
After Jake had told his story, the Lieutenant did some thinking.
"So you were never alone in the office at any time, before, during, or after the murder," the Lieutenant stated.
"That's right" Jake said, after a pause. "Either the secretary was there, or Mrs. Hansen, or Hoffmansthal".
"If your story checks out, you have a complete alibi. You also could be a valuable witness."
"Lieutenant," Jake said quietly. "I've had an idea. Everything else in this office is so functional. But that globe in the corner does not seem to have any real purpose. Could there be something hidden in its stand?"
The Lieutenant went over, and began to feel around the corner of the stand. It looked like a solid block of wood, around three feet high and two feet deep. Soon, his hands pressed a hidden spring, and the front of the wooden stand sprung open. Inside was a steel safe. The Lieutenant soon had the safe open, using one of the dead man's keys on the lock. The safe was full of business papers and securities.
"Thanks! That was a good idea," the Lieutenant told Jake. He paused. "Your name seems familiar to me. Maybe I've seen it on the screen."
"I doubt it, Lieutenant. This is my first assignment in Hollywood. Mainly, I've just written a lot of pulp magazine stories."
"I've got it!" the Lieutenant said excitedly. "You're Jacob Black. You write for Adventure. I've read all your stuff: Air Aces of the Texas Rangers, Planes over the Pampas, Daredevils in Yucatan, Sky Heroes of the Secret Service." The Lieutenant knew all of the air pilot serials Jake had written in Adventure and Thrilling Air Stories. Moe Apfelbaum paused for a minute.
"Say," he continued. "How would you like to stay on and observe the police investigation? You've got the writer's eye - your descriptions of everything that happened here were very observant. You might notice some more key details that might be useful in the investigation. Plus you know these Hollywood people, and you might pick up on things they say."
Jake shook Moe Apfelbaum's hand. "Thanks, Lieutenant. That would be a swell opportunity. I've never had a chance to see a murder investigation before."
The Lieutenant had a seat arranged for Jake to one side, where he could get a good look at all the witnesses when they were brought in.
"Clearly," the Lieutenant said, "either Lola Hansen or Gregor von Hoffmansthal did this murder. Both were in a rage when they went to see Hansen. They were the only two who had the opportunity to commit the crime. Even a midget or a child of four would be too big to get in or out of the murder room's only window - at least the small part of it that opens up. There's a heating duct in the ceiling too, but it's also too small for anyone to leave or enter by, and its covering grillwork is firmly screwed on.
"We do not know about motives yet, but we'll uncover those, too."
Lola Hansen was incoherent. She was obviously hysterical, understandably so in the circumstances. She did make clear that her husband was alive and unharmed when she left him, sitting at his desk. She knew nothing, she said, that could throw any light on his murder. The Lieutenant had her sent home with a patrolman, postponing a more detailed interview till tomorrow.
Gregor von Hoffmansthal entered the office. He maintained a stiff military posture throughout the interview. Jake had expected him to be arrogant, condescending, even insolent. However, the actor surprised him by being polite and apparently cooperative throughout the interrogation. The story he told was simple. It was also in direct contradiction to Lola Hansen's.
"Simon Hansen was dead when I entered the office, Lieutenant". Hoffmansthal pronounced the word "Lieutenant" German-style. "He was head down on the desk, with a large knife sticking out his back. I was shocked, and simply stood staring for a minute. Then I went over, and took the dead man's pulse. There was none. There was nothing more to do in the office. I went outside, and summoned Black here."
"Did you move the body?"
"Only his arm, when I took his pulse. I touched nothing else in his office. I looked around briefly, but no one was there. There is no place to hide in the office, and no way in or out but the door. I know it is against police procedure to touch anything at a crime scene, Herr Lieutenant."
"Why were you there to see Hansen?"
"Hansen was annoying a young lady at the studio with his unwanted attentions. I was there to make him see reason about this, and ensure these stopped." Hoffmansthal looked grim, and one could see the rage in his rigidly correct military carriage.
"What lady is this?" the Lieutenant asked.
"I am sorry, Lieutenant," the actor apologized, humbly and apparently sincerely. "I cannot involve the name of a blameless young woman in a murder case."
Further badgering of the witness by the Lieutenant did not succeed in obtaining the name of the woman.
The Lieutenant dismissed Gregor von Hoffmansthal as a witness.
Before he left, Hoffmansthal bowed to the Lieutenant. "If there is any assistance I can offer you Lieutenant, my services are entirely at your disposal." Hoffmansthal sounded sincere, and genuinely respectful of the Lieutenant, as he had been through the entire conversation. Even a little awed. Jake was somewhat surprised. Then again, he reflected, Hoffmansthal was very young, like most silent movie performers: maybe twenty-two or twenty-three. It was always hard to predict how people so young would react.
Lieutenant Moe Apfelbaum of Homicide was also a big man - around five foot eleven. He was around thirty-five years old. He had crisp black hair, startlingly piercing black eyes, and a mouth that looked built for laughter. Right now, he was not laughing.
Instead, he was staring down at the body of Hansen. He was responding to the medical examiner's diagnosis.
"Stabbed in the back, eh? Standard operating procedure for Hollywood studios. Was death instantaneous?"
"Yep. This baby wouldn't have been able to move at all after being knifed, if that's what you're wondering." The medical examiner was a middle aged guy with bushy eyebrows and an experienced manner.
"It also explains why the dead man didn't leave a note identifying his killer." Moe Apfelbaum moved behind the victim's chair. "Someone must have stood here, right behind him, while he was seated at his desk. Then stabbed him. Someone he knew and trusted, or he wouldn't have let them stand there." He looked up at the doctor. "Could a woman have committed the crime?"
"You mean, like his wife out there in the office? Sure. A child of ten could have done it. It wouldn't take much strength to wield that dagger."
The fingerprint men were finishing up their work. "No prints on the knife, chief," one of them said. "It's too full of scrollwork. All clear to handle anything in the office."
Moe Apfelbaum carefully pulled the knife out of the corpse. "It's as light as a feather. Must be hollow." Apfelbaum propped the dead man up in his chair.
"Nothing on his desk under where the body lay except his blotter. Let's see if there is anything underneath the desk." Moe Apfelbaum gently wheeled the dead man out from the desk. There was nothing in the cubbyhole. But Hansen was clutching an elaborate looking document in his lap. The Lieutenant pried it from the dead man's fingers.
"Looks like a legal document. Never saw so much tiny print in my life. Who can read these things - microbes?" The Lieutenant took it over to the office window, where the light was much better. After a minute, he let out a whistle. "This looks like divorce proceedings. Lola was serving her husband with divorce papers."
Moe Apfelbaum thought about this a little. "This makes it more likely the killer was the merry widow out there, rather than his highness. If Lola killed him, he still would have had these divorce papers in his hand. But if Hoffmansthal had murdered him, Hansen probably would already have put these papers away in his desk. Of course, our young hero barged right in, and Hansen might still have been reading them at the time. But you'd think Hansen would have put them right away, rather than holding them in his lap.
"Still, it's still possible than Hoffmansthal is our killer."
A uniformed patrolman who had been searching the grounds outside tapped on the back window. This was Officer Thomas O'Brien, a handsome young policeman who hoped to break into the movies as an actor. O'Brien was thrilled to be at the studio exploring a crime scene, and hoped to get noticed by some studio talent scout during the course of the investigation.
The Lieutenant walked over, and O'Brien handed him a matchbook he had found, through the open casement. The casement was around a foot high, and three feet wide. It was hinged along its upper edge, sticking straight out horizontally into the room in its open position, and placed square in the center of the bottom of the huge plate glass window, which was much bigger. The casement was the only part of the window that opened or closed.
"Hmm. This matchbook looks like it could have been here for weeks," the Lieutenant said. "It probably doesn't mean much."
"The ground out here is as dry as a rock, Lieutenant," O'Brien said. "No footprints."
The Lieutenant went over and looked inside the portable bar. It was filled with bootleg booze. Even in his younger days, the Lieutenant had not been much of a drinker, and with the high cost of bootleg liquor during Prohibition, he had given up drinking entirely.
"What do people see in this stuff?" he wondered.
A frightened looking Sally Carter was brought in for questioning.
"Where did you run off to, just before the killing started?" the Lieutenant asked.
"I was in the ladies powder room," Sally said in a small voice.
"Did anyone see you there?"
After some thought, Sally named Felicia Alburton, a studio screen writer.
When questioned, Alburton confirmed that she had seen Sally Carter in the ladies room, when she had come in around 1:15. Sally had been fixing her make-up in the mirror.
The Lieutenant was pleased to meet Felicia Alburton. "My sister-in-law reads your novels," he told her.
Later, a fascinated Felicia Alburton cornered Jake, and got all the details of the murder from him. Felicia Alburton was a scriptwriter under long-term contract to the studio. She had been a successful writer of romantic novels before coming to Hollywood, and still turned out an occasional book on weekends - "I have to keep my hand in," she told Jake. She had the cubicle next to Jake in the writer's building. Jake could often hear her typewriter pounding out at around a mile a minute through the partition wall. She was of indeterminate age, but probably in her late forties. When Jake had arrived in Hollywood, she had taken him under her wing. She knew plenty of gossip about everyone in the movie world, and loved to dish it out. "Felicia Alburton" was her literary pseudonym, but she had used it so long in both her personal and professional life that she claimed to have forgotten her real name.
Jake asked her to give thumb nail sketches of some of the people in the case. The two were seated in Felicia's cubicle, which was full of framed jacket covers of her books.
"Lola Hansen? A very rich woman. She invested the money she made from her pictures in local real estate. Then the oil boom came along, and Lola was sitting on top of some of the biggest gushers in California. I'd be surprised if Simon Hansen allowed her to divorce him. She's one of the richest women in Southern California, and the oil leases are all in her name.
"Gregor von Hoffmansthal? A tireless worker. He regularly puts in fifteen hour days on his pictures. They always have him on horseback, or leaping off balconies, or fighting sword duels. He's one of the best fencers on screen. Maybe there's a clue there - Hansen was killed with a knife. When Hoffmansthal's not making pictures, he's either working out as an athlete - he never smokes or drinks, and is always in training - or taking acting classes at the studio. You know, that is typical of the young performers in this city. You can't make pictures unless you're in peak condition. There's just too much work. I saw him once on location, on a movie directed by Michael Curtiz. Curtiz is a Hungarian, too, you know, and the two men were rattling away in Hungarian before each scene. No one else had any idea what they were saying," Felicia laughed.
"Buck Hennesey? He's a terrific stunt rider, and expert with a rope and lasso. Too bad this crime was done with a knife, and not a rope, or we'd have our murderer right here. Buck has a flair for inventing mechanical devices, and they use a lot of them in the making of his films. Do you think he could have let down a rope with a knife from the ceiling heating duct, and somehow stabbed Hansen that way? His wife is a pretty, sweet young thing, who certainly did nothing to encourage Hansen's attentions. They've gotten worse and worse, and finally Buck threatened to kill Hansen last week, at a party.
"Sally Carter? Rumor has it that Hansen was chasing after her too. I feel sorry for her. She's another beautiful young girl with no money, and dreams of stardom out here in Hollywood. She deserves much better than Hansen, but his type often preys on ignorant, penniless young women like her.
"Simon Hansen? A special degree of obnoxiousness in women chasers. I'm surprised no one has killed him before now. They ought to give a reward to whomever did him in." Felicia sounded bitter. Jake looked at her in surprise. "Yes, Hansen went after me once, around five years ago. It was not a pretty experience." Felicia set her jaw. Jake decided not to pursue these painful memories further. Felicia offered a final comment. "I tend to believe Hoffmansthal's story, that Hansen was annoying some young woman at the studio. A man like Hansen could have used his money to obtain liaisons with many willing women in this city. Instead, he exploited his position to hound women who were employees of this studio, threatening them with the loss of their jobs. Such a heel is more interested in tormenting some young woman, than actually having an affair."
Jake had been invited that night to a studio party. It was an elegant affair, and it gave the nouveau riche members of Hollywood a chance to put on the dog. Jake wore his tuxedo, which made him blend in with most of the men there. As soon as Jake had started making money from his pirate novel, he had bought some better clothes. Like everyone else in 1920's America, Jake wanted to be as dressed up as possible. Among other things, it was a mark of respect to the other people around you, to look your best. Jake was especially proud of his tux.
Jake rode the trolley to the fancy hotel where the party was held. But many of the people there arrived in private cars, something Jake had never had the money to own. Jake had been riding streetcars all his life, and he enjoyed the chance they gave him to see the city around him. Back in Milwaukee, he had often been able to write on the streetcar. He kept a little notebook in his inner suit coat pocket, and often jotted down episodes in his stories. Now Jake was able to see the fabulous buildings and palm treed landscape of L.A. He also enjoyed the streetcars themselves, which were of a different make from those back East. The one he was riding looked just like the one Harold Lloyd had ridden in his comedy one-reeler, Off the Trolley. Lloyd and his zany leading lady Bebe Daniels had wound up all over their trolley, including the roof and hanging from the cable line, and Jake hoped he wouldn't wind up in the same position.
Jake went inside the huge hotel ballroom. This was his first Hollywood party, and he enjoyed just wandering around looking at the guests. He said hello to a few people he knew from the studio. Felicia Alburton was also at the party. She wore a light blue evening gown that set off her ash blond hair.
Buck Hennesey was at the party, talking about new home movie camera he had put together. It used the new two-color Technicolor process, and would record anything red or green, but not blue. He promised to give a demonstration to his listeners at the studio sometime.
Gregor von Hoffmansthal was in full white tie and tails. He wore a red sash diagonally across his chest, the traditional mark of royalty. Both the sash and his tail coat contained a number of orders and decorations, huge metal sunbursts set with jewels.
Hoffmansthal was introduced to a lady, a studio executive's wife. He clicked his heels together, and formally bowed, kissing her fingers. His black patent leather evening shoes must have had the steel plates too, because they made a most impressive clicking sound.
A long, wide corridor led from the hotel ballroom, where the party was being held, to distant regions of the hotel. Far down the corridor, an elderly maid was coming out of a storage room, wheeling an enormous cart piled fifteen feet high with sheets, laundry and storage boxes of items the guests had had laundered. The maid did not notice a small step down in the corridor, however, and the cart spilled its contents all over the corridor.
Immediately Hoffmansthal sped down the distant corridor to the maid, excusing himself from the group with whom he was talking. With his usual enormous energy, he righted the over turned cart, and began restacking the shirt boxes and sheets, carefully refolding any that were disarranged. After around ten minutes, Hoffmansthal and the maid had the cart all restacked and good as new. After it was all over, he formally thanked the maid, "for the great opportunity of offering her a small assistance". Next, he bowed over the middle-aged maid's hands, and kissed her fingers. Even down the long corridor, one could hear the loud click that his shoes made when he knocked them together.
"Now there's something you don't see every day," Felicia commented. "I wonder if he has an older brother at home."
The next morning Jake put on his sharpest suit. He wondered if press photographers might be swarming around the murder investigation at the studio, and he wanted to look his best.
The studio had rented Jake a bungalow, not far from the studio itself. Jake had lived the last five years in a room at Ma Petrovsky's boarding house in Milwaukee. The bungalow had more space in it than anywhere Jake had ever lived before, and he was a little awed.
Jake tried clicking his heels together, while standing in front of the full length mirror in his bungalow. All that happened was a dull tapping sound. It didn't have the dynamic sounding "Click!" that Gregor von Hoffmansthal's steel plates produced.
"Some guys have it, and some guys don't," Jake thought, laughing at himself.
After breakfast in a local lunchroom, Jake stopped off at a newsstand near the studio entrance. The papers were full of yesterday's crime. Various papers had dubbed it "The Indian Dagger Mystery," "The Hansen Murder Case," "The Mysterious Affair at Mammoth-Art" and "The Puzzle of the Punctured Producer".*
* Years later, while reviewing his notes on the case, Moe Apfelbaum noted that "The Mysterious Affair at Mammoth-Art" echoed the title of Agatha Christie's first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, while the other three phrases anticipated the series title patterns of the mystery writers Ellery Queen, S. S. Van Dine and Stuart Palmer, respectively.
The Lieutenant called Jake at the studio, telling him he was picking him up in a police car and taking him along to see Lola Hansen.
When they got to the Hansen house, a big home up in the Hollywood hills, a maid showed them into the living room. Arched doorways were filled with bead curtains, containing every color of the rainbow, and ultra-modern looking, angular furniture was everywhere. The house was a riot of soft pinks, greens, scarlet reds and light oranges. After Lola Hansen came down and greeted them softly, sitting down on a pink satin divan, Jake sat on a pink-orange leather chair, while Moe nervously seated himself on a scarlet leather settee, looking as if it might collapse if anyone actually sat on it. Huge masses of pink Chilean Escallonia flowers were everywhere in the room, their cut stems sticking up out of shiny brass vases.
Lola Hansen still looked in shock, although she had composed herself since yesterday's tragedy. She gave no sign of any grief for her late husband, and Jake wondered if his numerous infidelities had long since cooled any affection in their marriage.
Lola confirmed that she had served her husband with divorce papers yesterday. "Simon was most disagreeable about this," Lola said. "He told me he'd fight this divorce every inch of the way."
"When I left him, he was sitting at his desk. The divorce papers were in front of him, on the desk. He was very much alive." Lola said quietly. "Then, a few minutes later, he was dead. I have no idea who killed him. Maybe one of the women he had wronged, or their husbands.
"I had no motive to kill him. I did not need my husband's money - I have real estate investments of my own, from my career in pictures. And I was going to divorce him, get him out of my life. I had no reason to kill him."
"There was one thing I did notice about my husband's office yesterday. There was a strong scent of ylang-ylang in it. It's a scent used in making perfume. It was just in my husband's inner office, not in his waiting room. I'm very sensitive to scents, Lieutenant. That's why I surround myself with flowers," Lola said, gesturing at the vases.
"I wouldn't know ylang-ylang if I smelled it," the Lieutenant said.
"Follow me," Lola suggested. She swept out of the living room's French doors, and into a garden path of the estate. A bright orange cat, that had been sleeping on an orange colored sofa, rose up and followed her, not wanting to miss out on any action. She stopped in front of a small tree, covered with huge masses of small yellow flowers. She pulled a branch down, and told the men, "Smell this." Jake put his nose into the bunch of flowers. Instantly, he smelled a scent he had sniffed many times before, but had never known its name. It was the base for half of the women's perfumes he had ever smelled. "This is an ylang-ylang tree," she told Jake and Moe. "It comes from the Dutch East Indies. The scent is distilled from the flowers, then used to make perfume." A sign on the tree gave its scientific name, Cananga odorata. Lola Hansen's estate was virtually a botanical garden.
Moe and Jake were in Griffith Park, in the heart of Los Angeles. A Western movie was being shot there. Griffith Park, with its many hills, its huge open areas, its extensive trees and woods, was a favorite locale for outdoor scenes in the movies. Plus it was cheap to take a crew there, just a few miles from the Hollywood studios. Jake had only been there once before, to go to the Los Angeles Zoo, which was right in the center of the Park. Jake had been impressed with the Zoo's extensive collection of snakes. But he now had to admit that most of the snakes seemed mild compared to the late producer.
The Lieutenant was following up on Felicia's report that Hansen had been threatened by cowboy actor Buck Hennesey. Hennesey was reportedly angry over the attentions Hansen had paid Hennesey's wife, and the cowboy star had publicly threatened to kill Hansen if he didn't stay away from her. He had also been seen leaving the producer's office, an hour before the murder. Now they were interviewing Hennesey in the tent that served as his portable dressing room, on location in Griffith Park.
"Mr. Hennesey," the Lieutenant began.
"Call me Buck," the actor interrupted. "Everybody does". Buck Hennesey was dressed in a head-to-toe white cowboy outfit. His huge white ten gallon hat was on a small portable table beside him. The actor was the idol of children everywhere. Jake found it hard to imagine this movie Good Guy killing anyone. But jealousy could drive a person to extremes.
"Buck, we're investigating the murder of Simon Hansen. Where were you yesterday after One O'Clock, when the killing took place?"
"Right here, being photographed in the movie. There are around fifty eye witnesses in the crew to prove it. And I have to say, I was glad to hear that skunk was killed. He was as rotten as they come." Buck didn't mince his words. "At least now, I'm not going to need my camera."
"Camera?" Moe asked.
"Yep. I had a cinematographer friend rig up a hidden camera in that bum Hansen's office. It's rigged to take pictures when anyone leaves or enters. I was hoping to catch him in the act with women he shouldn't be with. Maybe you guys can let me get it back from Hansen's office."
Moe and Jake just stared at each other.
The camera had in fact been set to take pictures a few seconds after anyone opened or closed the door of Hansen's private office. A hidden wire led around from the door to the camera. It used a wide angle lens, and its field of vision encompassed both Hansen's desk, and the region around the door. It had been concealed behind books in the far back wall of Hansen's office. Its technical ingenuity reminded Jake that they were in Hollywood, home of the world's greatest photographic technicians.
The pictures showed the events of the previous day with startling vividness. Jake found himself staring at a picture of himself being greeted at the door by Hansen when he entered the producer's private office, and a second photo showing Sally entering the office a few minutes later, bringing in the producer's mail. The men's features were clear and instantly recognizable. There was no shot of Jake leaving the office - Sally had left the door open when she entered with the mail, and Jake had left through this open door. Shots were only triggered when someone opened or closed the door. But there was a third shot of Sally closing the door, immediately afterwards. The fourth photo showed Lola Hansen entering the office, with Sally and Hansen working on his mail at his desk. A fifth showed the producer closing the door, immediately after Lola Hansen entered, with Lola seating herself in the visitor's chair before the desk.
Both Jake and Moe began to hold their breath. The police photographer who was developing the shots at the police lab was about to come to the heart of the matter: the shots taken at the time of the crime itself.
"Here's the shot with Lola Hansen leaving the office." Jake and Moe clustered around. The producer was plainly shown to be fully alive - he was half rising from his chair, his arms were raised in a gesture, his alert features were caught in profile, and most clearly of all, the full shot of his back revealed no knife.
"Lola Hansen was telling the truth," the Lieutenant said. "Hoffmansthal is our killer." The shot also showed Lola Hansen at the door, which she had just opened, preparatory to leaving the office. The next photo showed an equally living Hansen, now seated at his desk, alone in his office, presumably taken immediately after Lola Hansen had closed the door behind her on leaving the office.
The two men watched in anticipation. The next shot should show Hansen alive, greeting Hoffmansthal as he entered his office, just before his murder by the young actor. It was a photo that would send Hoffmansthal to prison for murder.
Slowly the next shot emerged. The bath of photographic chemicals caused the image to gradually darken on the black and white print.
The photo showed Hoffmansthal entering the door of Hansen's office, his hand still on the knob of the door. A startled look was on the actor's face. It was not hard to see why. Halfway across the office, the producer was slumped face down over his desk, the knife in his back. Hansen was in the exact position he had been when Jake had first seen his murdered body the day before. He looked dead.
"Hoffmansthal seems to be innocent too," Jake said quietly. "Both Lola Hansen and Gregor von Hoffmansthal seem to be telling the truth."
"But that's impossible," the Lieutenant said.
Later shots revealed no more clues. The next shot in the sequence showed Hoffmansthal after he closed the door, with the producer still dead at his desk; then came Hoffmansthal leaving the office; then followed one of the closed door; the one after depicted Jake and Hoffmansthal entering. The very dead looking producer did not move or change position in any of these. Gregor von Hoffmansthal looked genuinely shocked and surprised in these photographs. But then he was an actor, and could probably fake surprise. On the other hand, he presumably did not know of the camera's presence. After that, there were steady streams of police entering and leaving. They formed a vivid photographic record of the tragedy. But they did little to offer further enlightenment.
"The whole thing seems impossible" the Lieutenant said again. "You were watching the door, and not even a midget could get in or out of that window."
Moe and Jake discussed some possibilities. "Gregor von Hoffmansthal and I stayed in the office after the murder, and guarded it, till the police arrived," Jake said. "Then a squad of police were in the office continually. Even if a murderer had been hidden somewhere in the office - say in the cubbyhole of Hansen's desk - there would have been no way for him to escape before the police arrived. You would have found him later when you pulled Hansen's chair away from his desk."
Jake had a couple of ideas, which even he felt were far fetched.
In response to Jake's query, the medical examiner affirmed that Hansen had been stabbed from close range.
"The knife could definitely NOT have been thrown at Hansen from a distance," the medical examiner said. "Whoever did this, stood behind Hansen and personally thrust the knife into his back. The marks on the wound make this clear. It would not have been possible for the knife to have been thrown by Lola Hansen or Hoffmansthal from the door, or anywhere else, for that matter." The medical examiner also threw cold water on Felicia Alburton's theory that the knife might have been wielded via a rope, maybe from the ceiling air duct. "Whoever thrust the knife in was very forceful. They stood right behind the producer and stabbed him."
Secondly, Jake suggested to the Lieutenant that there might be a secret passage leading into the producer's office.
"You mean like in The Cat and the Canary? Sure, there's a secret panel in the bookcase," Moe said, tongue in cheek. "It swings open, and a claw-like hand shoots out, bearing an Indian dagger. Maybe there are hidden lookout points behind the oil paintings on the walls, too." Moe cracked a smile. "It would be a lot of fun if it were true. I've always wanted to work on a case with a spooky mansion filled with secret passages and hidden treasure. But this is a modern office building, and it seems unlikely for any secret passage to be there. But I'll have my men check it out. It can't hurt to cover all the bases."
Thirdly, Jake had Moe put the producer's office to a thorough search, something that had not been done before. The Lieutenant had had the office continually guarded by a patrolman from the time of the murder - he had been concerned that someone would try to tamper with Hansen's business papers. The Lieutenant had had a police business expert going through these at the office. Neither Hansen's secretary Sally Carter, nor his wife Lola Hansen, had known about the hidden safe in the producer's office. It looked as if Hansen had been using it to conceal assets from his wife. Now, Jake had the Lieutenant instigate a search through the office, looking for some sort of knife-wielding or throwing machine that could have killed the producer. A trap that could have been sprung on him while he was alone in the office, after Lola left and before Gregor von Hoffmansthal arrived. While they were at it, they also made a search for any secret passages.
Walls were tapped. The solid plaster ceiling was explored. The equally solid and very expensive hardwood floors were tapped. Carpenters were brought in. The library of bookcases were searched book by book. Aside from the hidden camera mechanism they had already found, everything looked just like a regular business office. The producer's chair was taken apart. Its leather cushions were just that: leather cushions. The desk was dismantled, and studied by experts in a Los Angeles furniture business. It was just a desk. The lamps and ceiling lights were also dismantled, by the same experts. Nothing.
They did find the source of the ylang-ylang scent in the producer's office. A letter sitting on the producer's desk, postmarked the day before, was drenched with it. Its envelope had been slit open, presumably with the Indian dagger letter opener, but the contents did not add much to the case. They were a love note from one of the producer's girl friends, but they were only signed with an initial, "D". The fingerprints on the envelope included Sally Carter's, plus another set, also found on the letter itself, presumably those of the girl friend who wrote it, that did not match those of anyone in the case. Sally Carter confirmed that the letter was one of those that she had brought into the producer's office, just before the arrival of Lola Hansen - and his murder. She had opened it for Hansen, along with the rest of his mail, but he had not gotten around to reading it before they were interrupted by Lola.
Gregor von Hoffmansthal was giving an interview to Screen Stars magazine. They were in a patio like area in the center of the studio grounds, and Jake stopped to watch the end of the session. The dashing young actor was dressed in a white polo uniform, for the photo shoot that accompanied the interview. He wore the number 7 on his chest, and carried a large polo mallet, which he maneuvered with practiced grace, holding it in various positions for the photographer. The tailored sports uniform looked so new and perfect that Jake wondered if it had ever been used in a polo game. The fancy riding boots, which laced up to the actor's knees, looked as if their shiny leather had never been scuffed.
The female reporter rose after the interview was over.Hoffmansthal rose immediately as well, and bowed deeply, clicking his heels together. The familiar loud click was heard again.
"He's even got the plates on his polo boots!" thought Jake.
Jake suddenly remembered where he'd seen the young actor. He walked over and took the young actor aside, where they could talk privately. "You're Greg Karzag" he told the young man. "You used to be a student at our school in Milwaukee, when I taught there. You played football, and were on the fencing team." The young actor was blushing beet red by this time. "You were never in my math class, and you've grown up and filled out some as an adult. But you're still Greg Karzag. I used to go to your father's butcher shop sometimes." The elder Karzag and his wife were poor Hungarian immigrants, who worked hard and endlessly at the family butcher shop in Milwaukee. Their son, one of three kids, had been born in this country, and was American as the flag.
The actor squared his shoulders, but he found it hard to look Jake in the eye. "The studio publicity man dreamt this up, passing me off as a Hungarian nobleman," he told Jake in American accented English. "This is my big chance. I arrived here in Hollywood three years ago with twenty dollars from my Mother. She'd managed to scrimp and save it up from the butcher shop. I'd been in our high school play - I was the Red Shadow in The Desert Song - and knew how to fence. But otherwise I had no experience. The studio has been teaching me everything - how to act, how to ride a horse, how to dance."
"What about the accent?" Jake asked. "Isn't that hard to keep up?"
"No. It's the Hungarian accent I learned from my parents, when I was a little kid. I talked that way till I went to grade school, and started losing it, learning American English from the other kids. I can switch from my folks' accent to standard American English and back without any trouble. It all comes naturally. And I can still talk the Hungarian I learned at home, too."
Greg looked Jake in the eye. "So, are you going to expose me to the press?"
"I can't see why," Jake replied. "What good would it do? I hope I'm not such a heel that I'd gossip about a man's career."
"Gee, Mr. Black, that's great." Greg beamed at him.
Jake suddenly felt like he was back in high school, teaching class, with Greg one of the students. He wasn't sure he liked that.
"Call me Jake," he told the young man friendily. He held out his hand. Greg took it and smiled, and the two men shook hands.
"Maybe you can come out to our house some Sunday," Greg said. "I bought my folks a house in San Bernadino. They can retire out here and take it easy. My Mother can make you dumplings and goulash."
Later, the two men were talking over lunch at a local Chinese restaurant.
"I recognized you that day, in Hansen's office," Greg said. "I was afraid you would say something then about knowing me in Milwaukee."
"Even if I hadn't recognized you," Jake said, "there were clues that you were not a real Hungarian aristocrat.
"For one thing, you are supposed to be the son of a Hungarian count. Yet you have been wearing a sash, an item indicative of royalty. A count's son is not royalty. Royalty would be a King, or an heir to a King's throne. A sash looks great in a movie - it is very dashing - but it is not something worn by most real aristocrats.
"For another, the steel plates on your shoes, to make a sound when you click your heels together. This too is a great special effect. But real European officers wear these on military dress parade, not with civilian clothes."
"The studio costume designers wanted to put across the idea that I was European aristocracy," Greg said. "It looks as if they overdid the effect a little. They were always looking for something to help get the illusion across. They've had me photographed in polo costume too, riding on a horse. I can ride now, but have not learned to play polo yet. I am always hoping no one will challenge me to a match. Fan magazines are always having actors photographed playing polo. Every actor in Hollywood has been in a polo photo shoot."
"Do your polo riding boots have steel plates on them, too?" Jake laughed.
Greg nodded. "All my footwear has them."
"Another clue," Jake said. "You work much too hard for an aristocrat. An aristocrat would enjoy coming to Hollywood and partying with the stars, hanging out at their swimming pools. Plenty do. But would a real aristocrat want to come here and work fifteen hour days at the studio? Only ordinary people like us would work that hard. "
"Another clue," Jake said. "You dropped everything to help the maid with the sheets. I'm not sure a real aristocrat would help a servant. You should have avoided assisting her, if you wanted to maintain your image."
"What sort of a man do you think I am?" Greg expostulated. "There was a woman who needed help. Lifting boxes is easy for me, and hard for her. I spent my teenage years hauling meat at the butcher shop. Stuff like this is easy."
"Spoken like an American," Jake said.
"I've seen plenty of rich Americans in this town who don't treat servants very well. I hope I never get a swelled head like that, " Greg said.
Jake did what he always did when he wanted to concentrate, and think hard about a subject. He went under a tree and sat down. Here it was an Australian tea-tree in full bloom, a Leptospermum, something that they didn't have back in Wisconsin. It reminded him a little bit of an apple or a cherry tree. But it served just as well. He spread his long legs out in the shade, and began to concentrate.
Suddenly Jake began to see the answer. He had a flash of insight about the central nature of the crime and how it was done. From there he began to apply logic. He was able to deduce the killer's identity. When he reviewed it, it was like a proof in mathematics. From the information he had in hand, he was able to deduce the whole nature of the crime and who did it.
Jake immediately went to police headquarters, and contacted Moe. The police building looked like a Spanish hacienda. It was beautiful and cheery. It didn't look anything like the grim barracks-like police buildings he'd seen going past on trolley car rides in Milwaukee. Moe had an office towards the back of the second floor. The furnishings were old and cheap compared to those in the studios. But somehow they looked homey as well. Moe had pictures of his wife Esther and their two kids on his desk. There were also pictures of George Washington and President Coolidge on the walls.
"Lieutenant," Jake began, "I think I've got answers about these crimes."
Moe Apfelbaum had gathered all the participants in the drama together at the late producer's studio office. He'd had Jake collect Gregor von Hoffmansthal after his interview, and the young actor was still in his polo outfit. Buck Hennesey was there, in his cowboy costume. The Lieutenant had told him that he could collect his camera if he showed up promptly at 4:00, and the star was there. Like most Hollywood people, the cowboy star knew the value of keeping to a schedule. Holding up a production through tardiness was the ultimate sin. Sally Carter had been working at the studio, in a different office, when the Lieutenant had requested her presence. Felicia Alburton had been working at the studio as well. Lola Hansen was there, dressed in slightly over dramatic black widow's weeds.
Moe came over to Jake.
"Everything's all ready, for your reconstruction of the crime," he told the author.
"Is this standard police procedure, gathering everybody together?" Jake asked him.
"Not exactly. But it's how Craig Kennedy always does it, in Arthur B. Reeve's detective stories" the Lieutenant admitted. "He gathers all the suspects together, for the finale of the story. I've always wanted to try something like it in real life, and decided here was my chance. Craig Kennedy was always one of my favorite fictional sleuths," the story-loving policeman added. Moe Apfelbaum was an ardent reader, and he had expert knowledge of all of his favorite authors.
Jake had read the Craig Kennedy tales, too. Up till now he had always enjoyed their superbly plotted and researched stories, but now he was beginning to get a bit nervous. The great detective Craig Kennedy was one of the world's greatest scientists, a professor at Columbia University, who used the latest scientific discoveries to solve mysteries and trap criminals. Craig Kennedy was also a clean cut, forceful young man, the ideal type of American manhood. Jake wondered if he could possibly fill Kennedy's shoes, in the reconstruction of Simon Hansen's murder he was about to present.
The Lieutenant had had the photos from Hennesey's camera printed off as slides. He had set up a portable movie screen, borrowed from the studio, in Hansen's outer waiting room, and arranged the slides in sequence in a magic lantern projector, also borrowed from the studio. Jake had always loved magic lantern slide shows in vaudeville, and this was his first opportunity in life to give one himself. The lights were turned off in the office, Jake pushed a switch on the magic lantern device, and the first slide, showing Jake entering the producer's office, sprung up on the giant movie screen. "So far, so good," Jake thought.
Jake walked everyone through the photographs, showing the crowd the events surrounding Hansen's murder. The audience was rapt in its attention. Jake explained that Hansen must have been killed, by some mysterious method, after Lola Hansen left the office, but before Hoffmansthal entered it.
The Lieutenant turned on the lights, and led everyone into Hansen's private office. A row of folding chairs had been set up near the front wall of the office, facing Hansen's desk. He directed the suspects to seat themselves there. The Lieutenant motioned, and a young uniformed patrolman went and sat in Hansen's chair, behind the desk. This was aspiring actor Officer Thomas O'Brien's big moment, and he was determined to make the most of it. O'Brien gave everyone his biggest smile. He'd also gotten a fresh haircut the night before, and given his shoes and his leather gun belt a fresh spit shine that morning.
"We're going to reconstruct the crime," Jake said. "Patrolman O'Brien will play the role of the late Simon Hansen."
"Here's where I began to get an idea," Jake continued. "Hansen had been reading the divorce papers when he was killed. Suppose he had done what you did, Lieutenant: taken the document over to the window, where the light was better and he could read the tiny print. But instead of walking to the window, he would have scooted his chair over to the window. I saw him wheel his chair to the bookcase. He might easily have backed his chair to the window, and had the light shine over his shoulder on the document."
Patrolman O'Brien scooted the wheeled chair back to the window, around twenty feet behind the desk. He sat with his back to the window, with the light streaming over his shoulder on to the divorce papers.
"Say the killer had been listening to the office conversation right outside the window," Jake said. "The killer could have reached through the window, and stabbed Hansen in the back."
A second patrolman, standing outside the window, mimed the motions of Hansen being stabbed.
"Then the killer could have pushed Hansen's chair," Jake went on. "It would have rolled straight to Hansen's desk, where he would have fallen over, face forward, when the chair hit the desk and stopped. Just like we found him."
The patrolman outside the window gave Hansen's chair a firm push. It scooted directly forward, over the highly polished hardwood floor, straight to Hansen's desk. O'Brien duly fell over face forward, hamming his role to the hilt.
"It all makes sense!" the Lieutenant said. "But the bad part is, the killer could be anybody. Anyone could have stood outside that window and killed him. Couldn't they?"
"That's what I thought at first, too," Jake replied. "But later I remembered I'd seen the knife in Hansen's office just before the killing. It is a unique knife, created as a movie prop. It is the only one of its kind in existence. So somehow the knife got out of the office, and into the killer's hands outside the window.
"Who could have moved it?
"Only one person was in the office after I saw the knife there, but before Hansen's killing. Sally was opening Hansen's mail with him. They would be using the letter opener. When they were interrupted, Sally could easily have slipped it absent-mindedly into one of the deep pockets on her artist's smock. Then she ran out of the office, presumably to eavesdrop on Hansen's conversation with Lola."
Everyone in the room looked at Sally Carter.
Sally jumped up and started crying.
"I admit it. I killed him!" she said through her sobs.
"He told me he was going to marry me. I believed him. I should have known what a liar he was, that he had no intention of marrying me."
"When his wife came to the office, I ran around back, outside the window, so I could hear what they said. He told her he would fight the divorce, that he'd make sure she never got it. I felt awful.
"Then he was right over by the window, like Mr. Black said. I reached down into my smock, and found the letter opener there. We'd been using it to open mail, back in his office, and I must have put it into my pocket without thinking, when we were interrupted by his wife. Then I got really, really mad. The next thing I knew, I was standing there, holding on to the knife in his back, through the window. I didn't mean to kill him. I just got overwhelmed. Then I pushed his chair as far away as possible from me. It rolled all the way over to his desk, and he flopped over. I went back to the office, after fixing up my face in the powder room, but everyone had already discovered the body."
Sally was sobbing uncontrollably. Buck was leaning over her, offering her his handkerchief. "Now, now," he said "we all know that Hansen was a snake. That sidewinder is not worth your tears." Sally collapsed in tears and Felicia Alburton rushed over to comfort her.
Moe talked quietly to Jake. "I don't think most juries are going to be too hard on her. If she gets a good lawyer, she'll probably get off with a minimum sentence. Maybe even parole."
A grateful Lola Hansen was thanking the police for their part in finding her husband's killer. She gave Officer Thomas O'Brien one of her cards, on the back of which she scrawled a note of introduction to the studio's casting director.
"Thank you for everything," Moe told Jake. "If I can get another challenging case, I'd love to have you work with me again."
"I'd love to work with you again too," Jake said. "It's I who should be thanking you. Working as a detective is a completely new world for me. You brought out something in me I never knew I had. But my film contract here only runs another four weeks..."
"Maybe you can sell the studio the idea of making a movie of Sky Heroes of the Secret Service," Moe said. "US Secret Service agents, tracking down counterfeiters using airplanes. It'd make a great movie! And you could stay out here and work on the picture."
"That, Lieutenant, is really an idea," Jake said.
Gregor von Hoffmansthal also thanked the police. He bowed deeply to them, and his heels made a loud click, before he walked out the door.