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An ACB Mystery Story: Tying the Knot
By Alisa Crouch Ballard
Copyright (c) 2001 by Alisa Crouch Ballard
Most people would find it pleasurable to rest in a cozy chair by a
crackling fire with a warm blanket and a glass of milk. However, under
the circumstances, I would rather be wide-awake in the darkness of a
wardrobe awaiting the inevitable discovery of a confident culprit
attempting a perilous crime. Dangerous as it sounds, I would be with
my companion of fifteen years, Anthony Delgado, who, I regret to say,
never woke from the rest that he took exactly two days ago.
Two days. Two days of shock. Two days of sitting, wondering,
meditating. My mind has drifted to the many murders we solved, the
many abducted children we recovered, the many pilfered objects we
returned. Some cases flashed in my mind for only an instant; others
stayed longer so that I could recall each detail of the crime. He was
the true detective; I was the assistant, the unbiased person he could
ponder matters with. We made quite a team. We truly did.
This morning I read in the newspaper that Mrs. Marie Stuart's daughter
auctioned off her priceless statue. I remember when she first saw it,
the time that it was nearly stolen. It was at the dinner party about
eight years ago. Both Anthony and I attended. I remember the night
The invitation arrived by mail about a fortnight before the party. It
was hand-delivered. It was edged in lace and a ribbon adorned the
top. "Mrs. James Stuart requests the honor of Anthony Delgado and
Nathaniel Fulton's presence on Friday, the seventeenth of June,
Nineteen thirty-seven at six o'clock in the evening in her home," I
read aloud. "Mrs. James Stuart?"
Anthony looked up from his breakfast. "Ah yes, Marie. One of the
finest members of Boston's high society. She's a lovely lady, but
highly excitable. I helped her out of a terrible mess several years
ago, before your time. It should be a pleasant evening."
"I'm sure it'll be better than playing chess all evening. Of course
with all of the hubbub going about Boston these days, you never know
what case might come up."
"Chess is good for the mind. When will you ever learn to appreciate
it?" He glanced at me in mock disgust. "I see in the newspaper that a
pair of diamond earrings was stolen from a Catherine Richter
yesterday. It says the police were able to return the jewelry with no
"Goodness, we'll have to watch out, if the police start getting smart
enough to solve some of the crimes around here . . ."
"The ability to examine the clues of a crime and deduce from the
enigma an explanation so rational that even the most intelligent
person cannot figure it out is a talent possessed by only a few. We
need not worry that the policemen will get ahead of us in that aspect.
They are too close-minded and impatient to figure out some of the most
The evening of the party was beautiful. As we walked up the stone
pathway to Mrs. Stuart's mansion, the wind blew gently and crickets
chirped in the grass. We had nearly reached the door when we caught
sight of a man trimming the side hedges.
"Strange, isn't it that a gardener would be working the night of a
party?" I asked Anthony.
"Marie likes to flaunt her riches to others," Anthony said in a low
tone. He rang the doorbell. A petite maid in a crisp, traditional
maid's uniform answered the door.
"Please come in, sirs. Your names please?" she said in a thick
"I am Anthony Delgado and this is Nathaniel Fulton," Anthony
The maid looked surprised to see Anthony. News of his deeds had
frequently been published in the local and state newspapers. There
were about thirty people in the room ahead of us. They were talking
and laughing gaily. A waiter brought drinks and hors d'oeuvres to the
guests. A middle-age woman caught sight of us standing awkwardly in
the doorway and came running over. She smiled brightly.
"Anthony, Anthony!" she cried and flung her arms around him.
"Marie! So good to see you." He hugged her tightly.
"And this," she said as they stepped out of their embrace, "must be
"Yes," I replied, slightly embarrassed.
"Welcome. I am Mrs. Marie Stuart. I'm glad to have the two of you for
this wonderful occasion." She smiled warmly at us.
"Occasion?" Anthony queried.
"Yes, occasion. Tonight I will unveil to my friends and family the
exquisite statue, the Fortuna. It is solid marble, and was given to me
in memory of my late husband by my Great-Aunt Liza." She sounded
"How wonderful," Anthony remarked.
"Yes." She smiled. "I had the pleasure receiving the statue directly
from my Great-Aunt Liza. She said, 'Take care of it, Marie. It will
bring you good luck.' I suppose the statue is some kind of good-luck
"Fortuna was the Roman Goddess of chance and good luck," Anthony said.
"How interesting," she said offhandedly, uninterested in this piece of
We stood around for a time, the men discussed politics, and the women
gossiped about social scandals and 'who was seen with whom at the
MacEntire's last Saturday'. We drank wine and ate canapes. Several of
Mrs. Stuart's old acquaintances were there. The living room was large.
French windows lined the back wall. To the right was the poolroom,
where several of the younger guests were playing pool and telling
obscene jokes. Closed double doors were on the left wall. We were told
that these led to the parlor, where the statue was waiting to be
unveiled to us.
Anthony and I were standing by the French windows when the butler came
running into the room from the double doors.
"Mrs. Stuart! Mrs. Stuart!" he yelled and ran frantically over to the
poolroom door, where she was taking a block of cheese from a tray that
a servant held out to her. She looked up. Anthony took several large
steps toward them; his head inclined slightly to better his chances of
hearing the conversation.
"What is it, Matthew?" Mrs. Stuart asked, without alarm.
"Mrs. Stuart, the statue!"
She froze and her hand stopped, the cheese halfway to her mouth.
"The statue - it's gone!"
All talking ceased abruptly. Mrs. Stuart dropped the cheese and put
her hand over her mouth. "Where is it? Where has it gone?" she
shrieked, her eyes ablaze with fury.
Anthony raced over. "Marie, sit down." He led her gently to a chair.
The other guests convened around them.
"Mrs. Stuart, I didn't . . . I - I don't know who . . .," the butler
"Go away! Go away!" she yelled.
"Marie, calm down. We will find the statue, if it has truly been
taken," Anthony reassured her.
"Anthony, Anthony. Find my statue," she cried.
"Of course." He turned to the gathering crowd. "Now then, if everyone
will please continue to enjoy themselves, we will sort this whole
matter out." He turned to the butler.
"Sir, I -"
"Never mind. No one is declaring you guilty. Now then, show me where
the statue was placed."
We were led into the parlor. It was a well-furnished room with
Impressionist paintings on the walls and upholstered Victorian
loveseats and armchairs. In the very back of the room, right beside a
sliding glass door leading to the backyard, was an empty mahogany
pedestal. A silk veiling cloth lay haphazardly on the floor. All of
the sofas and armchairs were turned toward the pedestal, in
preparation for the unveiling ceremony.
"The statue was there, sir," the butler pointed.
Anthony got down on the floor and examined the pedestal, the wall
behind it, the floor, and the glass door all very carefully with a
magnifying glass, which he carried in his coat pocket. After a few
minutes, he stood up.
"Where is the gardener?" he asked.
"In the yard, sir."
The gardener was summoned into the parlor.
"I was in the yard the whole time, trimming the hedges. I didn't go
near the statue," the gardener said hastily before Anthony could
"Do not testify for yourself until I ask for it." He cleared his
throat. "Where do you keep your wheelbarrow?"
"My what?" The gardener was surprised.
"In the shed, sir."
"Is it there now?"
"I'll have to look." The gardener went out through the glass door to
see. While he was gone, I was tempted to ask Anthony about his absurd
question, but I had been with him long enough to know that when he was
on a case it was better not to question him.
The gardener returned shortly in agitation. "Look at my wheelbarrow!"
He pulled Anthony by the arm and pointed him toward a spot behind the
maze of flowers and statues in the yard, near the shed. When we
reached the spot, we saw a red wheelbarrow sitting daintily among the
bushes. About three feet of rope was tied to the wheelbarrow, one end
on each handle. Anthony examined the wheelbarrow and rope carefully.
"Do you have any idea why the burglar left his wheelbarrow out to get
rained upon?" Anthony asked, lightly.
"Well, you see, the shed door sometimes locks up on me, so I usually
have a rock propping it open. I suppose that they took my wheelbarrow
and then let the door shut, locking itself. Then I guess they couldn't
open it again. But, why did the burglar borrow my wheelbarrow?"
"He needed a way to get the statue out of the house. A marble statue
is too heavy to be carried." He turned to the butler. "I am guessing
that the statue was about one and one half feet tall and half a foot
"That is correct, but how-"
"The statue was heavy enough that the burglar needed the wheelbarrow
to carry it out of the house, but not too heavy that he could not pick
it up out of the wheelbarrow to transfer it to another place, like his
car, for instance. Was the statue left unattended from the time that
the guests arrived and the time that you discovered it missing?"
"Yes. We servants had other jobs to do during the party and were told
to keep to them, not to go into the room with the statue. But, when I
got a chance, I came in here. I had only seen the statue one other
time, and I felt that because I helped to set it in its place, I
should get to see it once more before the unveiling."
"Who told you not to go into that room?"
"Annette. She's the head maid and is very close to Mrs. Stuart. She
gives orders for Mrs. Stuart." "So you came in here because you wanted
to admire it once more before it was unveiled despite the fact that
you were told not to?"
"Exactly. Please understand, I had nothing to do with it being taken,
I only wanted to see it. I can account for my presence during the
beginning of the party, if you'd like me to get witnesses."
"No, that won't be necessary. But, do get the seaman, will you?"
"The seaman, sir?"
"Yes. Isn't there a seaman attending this party?"
"Well, yes, I believe there is, sir. I'll get him immediately."
After these extraordinary events, I was completely baffled at what
Anthony was deducing from the clues of the crime and at how he had
arrived at the solutions that he reached.
"I don't understand this. What has happened?" I asked him.
"We shall soon see," was his only reply.
We went back to the house and the butler soon brought a man into the
room. He was of middle age, and looked like a typical sea-faring man
with a short beard and fiery eyes.
"What is your name?" Anthony asked, as he looked the man over.
"You're in the sea business?"
"I am the captain of a trading ship."
Anthony pondered this for a moment. "Have you ever been to Scotland?"
"Tell the truth," Anthony snapped at him.
Alex Kemp fastened a steely glare onto Anthony. "I'm leaving for there
"Really? Well that solves everything." He looked at the butler. "If
you will just call in Annette and Mrs. Stuart if she's up to it, we
will get this whole matter settled."
Annette, the maid that greeted us at the door, and Mrs. Stuart were
brought into the parlor. Mrs. Stuart sat down on one of the loveseats.
Her eyes were red with agitation and she stared at the wall behind us
meanly. The rest of us sat down, all except for Anthony, who remained
"I suppose you all are wondering how I could so quickly come to a
conclusion to tonight's bizarre events. But I tell you, ladies and
gentlemen, that it was all done with the science of deduction and with
pure logic." He cleared his throat. "I will start from the beginning,
naming clues as they come up. I arrived here tonight with Nathaniel.
We went into the living room, and the partying began. Mrs. Stuart told
me of a statue of the Roman Goddess Fortuna that she had recently
received. She was to unveil it tonight. The butler soon found it to be
missing. I was led to this room to examine any evidence of the crime.
Now, a marble statue is very heavy even if it is small. No person
could just carry it out of the house. They would have to use some kind
of basket on wheels. Under a microscope, I observed the faint traces
of dirt in one line on the floor. Because only a few items that can be
rolled have only one wheel, a gardener's wheelbarrow came to mind. The
burglar could have opened the glass door from the outside and taken
the statue out of the room by way of a wheelbarrow. He then took the
statue to some other place, possibly his car. We found the said
wheelbarrow outside of the gardener's shed. It had a piece of rope
tied between the handles. This possibly could have been used to keep
the statue in place while it was being taken from the house, so that
it would not be knocked over in the wheelbarrow. Under a careful
examination of the rope tied to the handles of the wheelbarrow, I
observed it was tied in an intricate knot, called the fisherman's
bend. Only a sailor would use this kind of knot to tie a rope, any
other person would use a simple square knot.
By now, I was sure that a seaman had stolen Mrs. Stuart's statue. The
probabilities of this seaman taking a statue from inside a home during
a party without an accomplice are very small. He would need someone to
make sure that no one entered the room while he was in there. After
all, every other guest was just on the other side of the wall. The
butler told me that the head maid, Annette had told the household
staff to keep clear of the parlor until the unveiling. This order may
have come from Marie, or it may not have. But, I tell you this, when
Marie was told by the butler that the statue was stolen, she gave no
reaction whatsoever to the fact that he had been in the parlor. You'll
excuse me, Marie, but you are a very excitable woman and you enjoy
commanding your household to do as you wish. I am sure that if you
issued the order for servants to stay out of the parlor, you would be
angry when finding out that the butler had disobeyed you." He looked
at Mrs. Stuart for her agreement. She nodded. He continued. "Yet, you
did not react. This suggests that the maid may have been in coalition
with the sailor to take the statue."
"This is absurd!" Alex Kemp said gruffly.
"You will be quiet until I am through," Anthony instructed him
briskly. The sailor crossed his arms and sat forward in his chair,
imposingly. Anthony proceeded. "Now is when the important aspect of
the crime comes in, motive. Why would a sailor and a maid collaborate
to steal a statue? I began to think. I had not been introduced to
either Alex Kemp or Annette. But, I was greeted at the door by a
female maid. Usually, either the butler or head maid answers the door.
The butler ruled out, I was sure that I was welcomed by the head maid,
Annette. When Annette spoke a greeting, she exhibited a strong
Scottish accent. Since the other burglar was a sailor, and Annette was
obviously from Scotland, the simple reason for Annette to help with
the crime is to get to Scotland. I gather from Marie's mannerism that
she is not the type to pay a charge for one of her servants to go
overseas. My suspicions were confirmed when Alex Kemp confessed that
he is to leave for Scotland on his trade ship tomorrow.
So, Annette, do tell me, for what purpose do you want to go to your
"Don't tell him anything!" Alex Kemp barked.
"My fiance. . . he sent me a letter . . . please let me go to him!"
she cried into her apron.
"You scoundrel! I can't believe my late husband worked with you for
twenty years!" Mrs. Stuart yelled to the seaman.
"Were you going to sell the statue in Scotland?" Anthony asked Alex
He hesitated, than spoke reluctantly. "Yes."
"Matthew, call the police. Have him arrested!" Mrs. Stuart commanded
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Stuart. I only wanted to go to Scotland, for my
boyfriend . . .," Annette's voice drifted off.
Mrs. Stuart stared at her maid cruelly. "Tell me what happened."
"It was all Alex's idea. I had been trying to persuade him to take me
to Scotland; I couldn't afford it myself. Then, he found out that you
had received the statue. He told me if I would keep people away from
the statue while he stole it, he'd take me to Scotland. He could sell
it there for money. I was so scared. I tried to talk him out of it,
but he was insistent. Please don't tell the police about me, Mrs.
Stuart. I - I'll save my money however long it takes to get me to
Scotland, if you won't tell the police."
She stared at her maid. "What makes you think that I'll let you leave
for Scotland if I don't tell the police about you and if you get
enough money? You have a contract with me, I don't have to let you
"I hope that you will."
"I'm telling the police. You tell them what you told me, and maybe
they'll let you off the hook. But you'd better be careful about what
you do in the future." She turned to Anthony and changed to a more
congenial manner. "Thank you so much for your invaluable assistance.
I'll write you a check, to pay for your time."
"Thank you very much. I would be interested in seeing the statue, when
you get it back. The Roman Gods and Goddesses have always fascinated
When we finally saw the statue, it was absolutely beautiful. I'm sure
that whoever bought it has it placed in some ideal spot where it can
be seen by every visitor. I wonder if the buyer knows about Anthony's
resourceful skills at deducing logical endings to seemingly illogical
puzzles. All well, I suppose I should be going to bed now. It tires me
to think of my distinguished friend. Good night.
An ACB Mystery Story: Tying the Knot
By Alisa Crouch Ballard
Copyright (c) 2001 by Alisa Crouch Ballard
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