Return to Ramble House Page
Return to Other Loons Page
MURDER IN THE MELODY
THE MELODY IS PLAYED
“GOOD morning, boys,” said Mr. Will Hay.
“Good morning, sir,” said the Fourth Form at
“Pass,” said I.
“Two no-trumps,” said Detective-Sergeant Walsh
“My Gawd!” said Mrs. Lola Manners, who was
“Don’t those records ever wear out?” inquired
We live in a flat, Fleur and I, on the top
story of a seven-story block in Esmeralda, which is the capital city of Eulalie
Island; and seven stories is a pretty considerable building in the island.
Garden Courts is handy to the city, a quarter of a mile to the east, and, as its
name implies, looks out upon the Public Gardens to the west. Across the gardens
and beyond the fairly extensive parklands on the other side we can get a glimpse
of the sea from our windows. Sea and sky can be a wonderful sight at sunset.
Opposite the Courts, on the other side of Garden Road, is a long, low block of
buildings, reading from west to east: the detective office, police station and
barracks, the superintendent’s office—these three comprising the police
headquarters of Eulalie Island—the Y.M.C.A., and a garage and service station on
the corner, which is where we house the Bluebottle. Which is Fleur’s name for
Detectives, so far as I can gather, work to
regular hours in their ordinary routine, just as do clerks, shop assistants and
factory hands. They knock off and go home at five o’clock. But after that there
is supposed to be at least one detective-sergeant about the premises somewhere
just in case somebody breaks the law pretty solidly after hours. The senior men,
I believe, take it in turn to hold the fort until somewhere about nine or ten in
the evening, when they wind up the clock, put out the cat, and go home to the
bosoms of their families. This particular night it happened to be Walsh’s turn,
and I had gone across the road and dragged him over for a friendly and chatty
game of bridge. What’s the good of having pals if you don’t make use of them? He
had shown no great reluctance at quitting his post—I had found him picking form
with the uniformed night sergeant—and had left word where he could be found if
he should be wanted.
And now it was just on eleven o’clock, the
last record on the programme had just been put on the turntable in the
control-room of Station EUX, the island’s main broadcasting station, and Walsh,
to the despair of his partner, had bidden two no-trumps.
I suppose I had better do a spot of
introducing here. Fleur is that living miracle, my wife. I have written of her
before. She is little and lovely and dark-haired and dainty, her great grey eyes
are the sun and the moon and the stars to me, and her mouth is a. red flower
growing at the gate of Heaven. That’s straight out of the first book of Fleur ,
and it will serve here.
She has the longest eyelashes in the island,
and they’re not the kind you put on in the morning and take off at night. And
her mouth is one in a million. I should know.
Mrs. Lola Manners, our guest for the evening,
is one of our best friends, and a personality. In an erect and well-preserved
body of sixty years of age there lives the spirit of a thirty-year-old,
youthful, impulsive, vital, magnetic and compelling. She wears her grey hair
very short in a cluster of curls on the top of her head. This is, of course, the
very latest fashion, but she has led it by some twenty years, and it gives her
an added distinction. The late Mr. Manners went to Heaven, presumably, many
years ago, and since then Lola has battled for a living. In all those years of
widowhood, and some of near-desperation, she has kept her health, her temper,
her spirits, and herself; and, in the early years, her family, now married and
dispersed all over the island. Decidedly a personage, Lola.
Detective-Sergeant Walsh is the typical
detective, middle-aged, bulky, reserved, with an aura of solidity and strength
of purpose about him. Very quiet, but very easy to get on with, once you know
him. I, and Fleur, have reason to be very grateful to Walsh.
As for myself—well, take a hundred ordinary,
average men, shuffle them, draw one at random, and you’ve got me, Michael Revel,
at your service. If you’re really interested, I wear glasses, which detracts
from the sex appeal I already do not possess, am utterly wrapped up in Fleur,
and don’t give a damn who knows it, write books for a living for Fleur and
myself, and am getting on with the job . . .
So, incidentally, were we at the bridge-table.
I led the three of Clubs, for no particular reason, and Lola laid down a
“There you are, Arch,” she said to Walsh,
whose Christian name is a plain, dignified and unpretentious John. “Read ’em and
Walsh said nothing but took the five from her
hand. The ace being a safe bet, Fleur played it. Walsh played the deuce.
“Atta girl!” I said encouragingly. “A
Fleur returned my lead, playing the seven.
Walsh put down the four. Dummy’s highest card was the ten, so I had to play the
Queen to kill it, and Walsh reached across the table and took out the eight.
Thinking that Fleur must have the King, I led back with the six, dummy’s ten
falling on this; but Fleur made a little face at me and played the nine. Walsh
took the trick with the Knave.
“Why didn’t you play the King, sweet?” asked
“Because,” said Walsh promptly, “she hasn’t
His partner stared at him with open mouth.
“How do you know?”
“Because I’ve got it,” said Walsh
unemotionally, ruffling his cards. “I’ve just found it.”
“Bless your big feet!” observed Lola
fervently. “And you’re a detective!”
Completely unabashed, and without any
hesitation, Walsh played the King, and, of course, we all threw away on it.
That’s the sort of bridge we play; full of
excitements and interesting situations.
They went down the two that Walsh had bidden,
and the next hand Fleur was dummy, I going a dashing three Spades. Fleur got up
from the table and went into the kitchenette to make coffee for the supper that
was all ready waiting for us. At the same time, Mr. Will Hay dismissed the
Fourth Form and EUX’s transmission for the day came to its end.
A word about our radio service. It opens the
ball at half-past seven in the morning, and carries on until eleven o’clock at
night, when it closes down with a “good-night melody.” From eight to nine in the
evening it gives us the first half of its concert programme, ninety-nine per
cent recordings, Eulalie Island being short on local talent, and at nine o’clock
we get the weather forecast and station news. Then, when the material is
obtainable, we are regaled with a radio talk. From nine-fifteen until ten
follows the second half of the concert programme. And from then until eleven the
station gives us what it is pleased to call its “music, mirth and melody”
session. There’s damn’ little music about it and no melody, since it consists of
records of the latest and most inharmonious swing compositions from the United
States, interspersed with radio stars, who really are funny the first time you
hear them, but who pall on you after the hundredth repetition of the same
record. Hence Fleur’s plaintive inquiry regarding the durability of these
records. At eleven o’clock approximately the station signs off.
EUX’s good-night melody at the moment is that
pretty little thing: “Silent Night.” I expect you know it. In this particular
recording it is played by violin, ’cello and harp, and, I presume, being no
musician myself, that there is a piano somewhere. There are three verses to it.
Punctually at the beginning of the second verse the announcer’s voice comes
through mingled with the music, which is throttled down to low gear while he is
speaking—Heaven knows what the correct term is—bidding us all good night. And so
it happened this evening. As Fleur came back from putting the coffee on, the
first slow, sweet strains of “Silent Night” came over the air.
I got on with the business. Just as I made my
contract—I had a cast-iron hand—the second verse started, and the announcer’s
voice chimed in.
“This is Station EUX, Esmeralda, Eulalie
Island. The time is now four minutes past eleven o’clock. Our programme is now
concluded and we are closing down with our good-night melody—”
There was a faint bang, a noise suggestive of
a door being slammed in the studios somewhere, perhaps the door to the
announcer’s own room. Or maybe he’d pushed a book off his table, or something.
Whatever it was it apparently startled him, for he broke off short. But the next
moment, perhaps two seconds later, he caught himself up and continued smoothly
as though there’d been no interruption.
“—our good-night melody until half-past seven
to-morrow morning. Good night, everybody.”
In compliance with official instructions that
“everybody” is emphasised to the point of severity.
We all glanced up at our pocket radio set on
“I wonder what that was?” asked Fleur.
The question having been put—and who but Fleur
would put it?—the usual bright suggestions were offered.
“Door,” grunted Walsh.
“Perhaps he’s got the hiccoughs,” said Lola.
“Somebody,” I gave it as my opinion, “has at
last crept in and bumped off the programme organiser with a blunt instrument.
He’s been asking for it for years!”
The next minute we had forgotten all about it
and carried on with the game. The last note of the melody died on the air, and
Fleur went across and switched off the set. Walsh threw his cards into the
middle of the table and performed a rapid calculation. Then he looked across at
“How much money have you got on you?” he
“One and eleven, and a lucky ha’penny. I know
without looking. Why?”
The detective shook his head.
“Not enough. We owe these two three and
“My brilliant play,” I observed to Fleur. “We
collect, darling. What will you have—a fur coat, or a bag of liquorice
“Walsh’s brilliant play, you mean!” said Lola,
with what I can only describe as a snort. “You ought to pay for me too, you
“Debt of honour,” muttered Walsh with
exaggerated gravity and hauteur. “Debt of honour. Be a lady. Noblesse oblige,
and all that sort of thing. Pay up your losses like a sportsman.”
“I can’t. And,” she sighed, “I guess I’m too
old to be much use as a gold-digger. Give ’em a cheque, darling, and I’ll pay
you back on Friday.”
“Supper!” announced Fleur firmly. “Come on,
it’s all ready.”
We gathered round the supper-table. Lola had
one asparagus roll, a cup of coffee, and a cigarette. Walsh, after a little
polite hesitation, tucked in and ate his partner’s share as well, and made havoc
with the cream cakes. He and Lola continued wrangling amiably. He took her up in
the question of her gold-digging capabilities.
“You can’t keep a good girl down,” he observed
sagely. “Come up and see my etchings sometime.”
“Bless me!” said Lola. “I haven’t had that
said to me for years. Not much originality about you men, is there? Do you bold
seducers still have etchings?”
“Well,” said Walsh frankly, “as a matter of
fact, I haven’t. But my landlady’s got something really classy in the way of a
“M’mmm . . . Etchings, really good etchings—
maybe . . . But to fall for a pot-plant at my time of life—”
“Fleur,” I commanded, “leave the room! This
conversation isn’t fit for your tender ears.”
Fleur contented herself with smiling at me,
and then pushed a savoury into the smile. At which moment the telephone rang in
its niche in the corner of the living-room. I went across and answered it.
“Is that Mr. Revel’s flat?” inquired a voice.
“It is,” said I with my mouth full.
“Is Detective-Sergeant Walsh there?”
I held the receiver out towards Walsh.
“What is it?” he asked.
“For you. Sounded like the pot-plant.”
He took the receiver out of my hand.
“Yeah,” he grunted. “Uh . . . yeah . . .
A long pause.
“Right. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
He replaced the receiver on its bracket
carefully and deliberately.
“Mrs. Revel, will you excuse me if I run away
rather abruptly? I’m wanted.”
“Yes,” said Fleur wonderingly. “Yes, of
course, Mr. Walsh. But your supper—you haven’t had half enough,” she added, the
voice of the practical sex making itself heard.
As a matter of fact he’d had enough for three,
but no matter.
“What’s the trouble?” I asked casually.
He looked at me queerly.
“Didn’t you say something just now about the
programme organiser being bumped off?”
I stared at him.
“Yes. That’s just what’s happened. He’s been
shot and killed at his desk at EUX! That was the shot we heard!”