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Title: The Case of the Golden Bullet
Author: Groner, Auguste
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Case of the Golden Bullet" ***

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THE CASE OF THE GOLDEN BULLET

by Grace Isabel Colbron, and Augusta Groner



INTRODUCTION TO JOE MULLER

Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police,
is one of the great experts in his profession. In personality he differs
greatly from other famous detectives. He has neither the impressive
authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq.
Muller is a small, slight, plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of
much humbleness of mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and
two external causes are the reasons for Muller’s humbleness of manner,
which is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early
youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison, an
experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it impossible
for him, for many years after, to obtain honest employment. But the
world is richer, and safer, by Muller’s early misfortune. For it was
this experience which threw him back on his own peculiar talents for
a livelihood, and drove him into the police force. Had he been able to
enter any other profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere
pastime, instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.

Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to every
governmental department, puts the secret service men of the Imperial
police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates. Muller’s
official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a policeman, although
kings and councillors consult him and the Police Department realises to
the full what a treasure it has in him. But official red tape, and his
early misfortune... prevent the giving of any higher official standing
to even such a genius. Born and bred to such conditions, Muller
understands them, and his natural modesty of disposition asks for no
outward honours, asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his
simple needs, and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way
he most enjoys.

Joseph Muller’s character is a strange mixture. The kindest-hearted man
in the world, he is a human bloodhound when once the lure of the trail
has caught him. He scarcely eats or sleeps when the chase is on, he does
not seem to know human weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body.
Once put on a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue,
then something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds
the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently
impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery of
a great police department seems helpless to discover anything. The high
chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission when Muller
asks, “May I do this? ... or may I handle this case this way?”
 both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce, and that the
department waits helpless until this humble little man saves its honour
by solving some problem before which its intricate machinery has stood
dazed and puzzled.

This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything else
in Muller’s mentality, and now and then it brings him into conflict with
the department,... or with his own better nature. Sometimes his unerring
instinct discovers secrets in high places, secrets which the Police
Department is bidden to hush up and leave untouched. Muller is then
taken off the case, and left idle for a while if he persists in his
opinion as to the true facts. And at other times, Muller’s own warm
heart gets him into trouble. He will track down his victim, driven by
the power in his soul which is stronger than all volition; but when he
has this victim in the net, he will sometimes discover him to be a
much finer, better man than the other individual, whose wrong at this
particular criminal’s hand set in motion the machinery of justice.
Several times that has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got
the better of his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense,
too, perhaps,... at least as far as his own advancement was concerned,
and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity of
Muller’s character caused his undoing at last, his official undoing that
is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But his advice is often
sought unofficially by the Department, and to those who know, Muller’s
hand can be seen in the unravelling of many a famous case.

The following stories are but a few of the many interesting cases that
have come within the experience of this great detective. But they give
a fair portrayal of Muller’s peculiar method of working, his looking on
himself as merely an humble member of the Department, and the comedy
of his acting under “official orders” when the Department is in reality
following out his directions.



THE CASE OF THE GOLDEN BULLET


“Please, sir, there is a man outside who asks to see you.”

“What does he want?” asked Commissioner Horn, looking up.

“He says he has something to report, sir.”

“Send him in, then.”

The attendant disappeared, and the commissioner looked up at the clock.
It was just striking eleven, but the fellow official who was to relieve
him at that hour had not yet appeared. And if this should chance to be
a new case, he would probably be obliged to take it himself. The
commissioner was not in a very good humour as he sat back to receive
the young man who entered the room in the wake of the attendant. The
stranger was a sturdy youth, with an unintelligent, good-natured face.
He twisted his soft hat in his hands in evident embarrassment, and his
eyes wandered helplessly about the great bare room.

“Who are you?” demanded the commissioner.

“My name is Dummel, sir, Johann Dummel.”

“And your occupation?”

“My occupation? Oh, yes, I--I am a valet, valet to Professor Fellner.”

The commissioner sat up and looked interested. He knew Fellner
personally and liked him. “What have you to report to me?” he asked
eagerly.

“I--I don’t know whether I ought to have come here, but at home--”

“Well, is anything the matter?” insisted Horn.

“Why, sir, I don’t know; but the Professor--he is so still--he doesn’t
answer.”

Horn sprang from his chair. “Is he ill?” he asked.

“I don’t know, sir. His room is locked--he never locked it before.”

“And you are certain he is at home?”

“Yes, sir. I saw him during the night--and the key is in the lock on the
inside.”

The commissioner had his hat in his hand when the colleague who was
to relieve him appeared. “Good and cold out to-day!” was the latter’s
greeting. Horn answered with an ironical: “Then I suppose you’ll be glad
if I relieve you of this case. But I assure you I wouldn’t do it if
it wasn’t Fellner. Good-bye. Oh, and one thing more. Please send a
physician at once to Fellner’s house, No. 7 Field Street.”

Horn opened the door and passed on into the adjoining room, accompanied
by Johann. The commissioner halted a moment as his eyes fell upon a
little man who sat in the corner reading a newspaper. “Hello, Muller;
you there? Suppose I take you with me? You aren’t doing anything now,
are you?”

“No, sir.

“Well, come with me, then. If this should turn out to be anything
serious, we may need you.”

The three men entered one of the cabs waiting outside the police
station. As they rattled through the streets, Commissioner Horn
continued his examination of the valet. “When did you see your master
last?”

“About eleven o’clock last evening.”

“Did you speak with him then?

“No, I looked through the keyhole.”

“Oh, indeed; is that a habit of yours?”

Dummel blushed deeply, but his eyes flashed, and he looked angry.

“No, it is not, sir,” he growled. “I only did it this time because I was
anxious about the master. He’s been so worked up and nervous the last
few days. Last night I went to the theatre, as I always do Saturday
evenings. When I returned, about half-past ten it was, I knocked at the
door of his bedroom. He didn’t answer, and I walked away softly, so
as not to disturb him in case he’d gone to sleep already. The hall was
dark, and as I went through it I saw a ray of light coming from the
keyhole of the Professor’s study. That surprised me, because he never
worked as late as that before. I thought it over a moment, then I crept
up and looked through the keyhole.”

“And what did you see?”

“He sat at his desk, quite quiet. So I felt easy again, and went off to
bed.”

“Why didn’t you go into the room?”

“I didn’t dare, sir. The Professor never wanted to be disturbed when he
was writing.”

“Well, and this morning?”

“I got up at the usual time this morning, set the breakfast table, and
then knocked at the Professor’s bedroom door to waken him. He didn’t
answer, and I thought he might want to sleep, seeing as it was Sunday,
and he was up late last night. So I waited until ten o’clock. Then
I knocked again and tried the door, but it was locked. That made me
uneasy, because he never locked his bedroom door before. I banged at the
door and called out, but there wasn’t a sound. Then I ran to the police
station.”

Horn was evidently as alarmed as was the young valet. But Muller’s
cheeks were flushed and a flash of secret joy, of pleasurable
expectation, brightened his deep-set, grey eyes. He sat quite
motionless, but every nerve in his body was alive and tingling. The
humble-looking little man had become quite another and a decidedly
interesting person. He laid his thin, nervous hand on the carriage door.

“We are not there yet,” said the commissioner.

“No, but it’s the third house from here,” replied Muller.

“You know where everybody lives, don’t you?” smiled Horn.

“Nearly everybody,” answered Muller gently, as the cab stopped before
an attractive little villa surrounded by its own garden, as were most of
the houses in this quiet, aristocratic part of the town.

The house was two stories high, but the upper windows were closed and
tightly curtained. This upper story was the apartment occupied by
the owner of the house, who was now in Italy with his invalid wife.
Otherwise the dainty little villa, built in the fashionable Nuremberg
style, with heavy wooden doors and lozenged-paned windows, had no
occupants except Professor Fellner and his servant. With its graceful
outlines and well-planned garden, the dwelling had a most attractive
appearance. Opposite it was the broad avenue known as the Promenade, and
beyond this were open fields. To the right and to the left were similar
villas in their gardens.

Dummel opened the door and the three men entered the house. The
commissioner and the valet went in first, Muller following them more
slowly. His sharp eyes glanced quickly over the coloured tiles of the
flooring, over the white steps and the carpeted hallway beyond. Once he
bent quickly and picked up something, then he walked on with his usual
quiet manner, out of which every trace of excitement had now vanished.

The dull winter sun seemed only to make the gloom of the dark vestibule
more visible. Johann turned up the light, and Horn, who had visited the
Professor several times and knew the situation of the rooms, went
at once to the heavy, carved and iron trimmed door of the study. He
attempted to open the door, but it resisted all pressure. The heavy
key was in the inner side of the big lock with its medieval iron
ornamentation. But the key was turned so that the lower part of the lock
was free, a round opening of unusual size. Horn made sure of this by
holding a lighted match to the door.

“You are right,” he said to the valet, “the door is locked from the
inside. We’ll have to go through the bedroom. Johann, bring me a chisel
or a hatchet. Muller, you stay here and open the door when the doctor
comes.”

Muller nodded. Johann disappeared, returning in a few moments with a
small hatchet, and followed the commissioner through the dining-room. It
was an attractive apartment with its high wooden panelling and its dainty
breakfast table. But a slight shiver ran through the commissioner’s
frame as he realised that some misfortune, some crime even might be
waiting for them on the other side of the closed door. The bedroom door
also was locked on the inside, and after some moments of knocking and
calling, Horn set the hatchet to the framework just as the bell of the
house-door pealed out.

With a cracking and tearing of wood the bedroom door fell open, and in
the same moment Muller and the physician passed through the dining-room.
Johann hurried into the bedroom to open the window-shutters, and the
others gathered in the doorway. A single look showed each of the men
that the bed was untouched, and they passed on through the room. The
door from the bedroom to the study stood open. In the latter room the
shutters were tightly closed, and the lamp had long since gone out. But
sufficient light fell through the open bedroom door for the men to see
the figure of the Professor seated at his desk, and when Johann had
opened the shutters, it was plain to all that the silent figure before
them was that of a corpse.

“Heart disease, probably,” murmured the physician, as he touched the icy
forehead. Then he felt the pulse of the stiffened hand from which the
pen had fallen in the moment of death, raised the drooping head and
lifted up the half-closed eyelids. The eyes were glazed.

The others looked on in silence. Horn was very pale, and his usually
calm face showed great emotion. Johann seemed quite beside himself, the
tears rolled down his cheeks unhindered. Muller stood without a sign
of life, his sallow face seemed made of bronze; he was watching and
listening. He seemed to hear and see what no one else could see or hear.
He smiled slightly when the doctor spoke of “heart disease,” and his
eyes fell on the revolver that lay near the dead man’s hand on the desk.
Then he shook his head, and then he started suddenly. Horn noticed the
movement; it was in the moment when the physician raised up the sunken
figure that had fallen half over the desk.

“He was killed by a bullet,” said Muller.

“Yes, that was it,” replied the doctor. With the raising of the body the
dead man’s waistcoat fell back into its usual position, and they could
see a little round hole in his shirt. The doctor opened the shirt bosom
and pointed to a little wound in the Professor’s left breast. There were
scarcely three or four drops of blood visible. The hemorrhage had been
internal.

“He must have died at once, without suffering,” said the physician.

“He killed himself--he killed himself,” murmured Johann, as if
bewildered.

“It’s strange that he should have found time to lay down the revolver
before he died,” remarked Horn. Johann put out his hand and raised the
weapon before Horn could prevent him. “Leave that pistol where it was,”
 commanded the commissioner. “We have to look into this matter more
closely.”

The doctor turned quickly. “You think it was a murder?” he exclaimed.
“The doors were both locked on the inside--where could the murderer be?”

“I don’t pretend to see him myself yet. But our rule is to leave things
as they are discovered, until the official examination. Muller, did you
shut the outer door?”

“Yes, sir; here is the key.”

“Johann, are there any more keys for the outer door?”

“Yes, sir. One more, that is, for the third was lost some months ago.
The Professor’s own key ought to be in the drawer of the little table
beside the bed.”

“Will you please look for it, Muller?”

Muller went into the bedroom and soon returned with the key, which he
handed to the commissioner. The detective had found something else
in the little table drawer--a tortoise-shell hairpin, which he had
carefully hidden in his own pocket before rejoining the others.

Horn turned to the servant again. “How many times have you been out of
the apartment since last night?”

“Once only, sir, to go to the police station to fetch you.”

“And you locked the door behind you?”

“Why, yes, sir. You saw that I had to turn the key twice to let you in.”

Horn and Muller both looked the young man over very carefully. He seemed
perfectly innocent, and their suspicion that he might have turned
the key in pretense only, soon vanished. It would have been a foolish
suspicion anyway. If he were in league with the murderer, he could have
let the latter escape with much more safety during the night. Horn
let his eyes wander about the rooms again, and said slowly: “Then the
murderer is still here--or else--”

“Or else?” asked the doctor.

“Or else we have a strange riddle to solve.”

Johann had laid the pistol down again. Muller stretched forth his
hand and took it up. He looked at it a moment, then handed it to the
commissioner. “We have to do with a murder here. There was not a shot
fired from this revolver, for every chamber is still loaded. And there
is no other weapon in sight,” said the detective quietly.

“Yes, he was murdered. This revolver is fully loaded. Let us begin the
search at once.” Horn was more excited than he cared to show.

Johann looked about in alarm, but when he saw the others beginning to
peer into every corner and every cupboard, he himself joined in the
man-hunt. A quarter of an hour later, the four men relinquished their
fruitless efforts and gathered beside the corpse again.

“Doctor, will you have the kindness to report to the head Commissioner
of Police, and to order the taking away of the body? We will look about
for some motive for this murder in the meantime,” said Horn, as he held
out his hand to the physician.

Muller walked out to the door of the house with the doctor.

“Do you think this valet did it?” asked the physician softly.

“He? Oh, dear, no,” replied the detective scornfully.

“You think he’s too stupid? But this stupidity might be feigned.”

“It’s real enough, doctor.”

“But what do you think about it--you, who have the gift of seeing more
than other people see, even if it does bring you into disfavour with the
Powers that Be?”

“Then you don’t believe me yet?”

“You mean about the beautiful Mrs. Kniepp?

“And yet I tell you I am right. It was an intentional suicide.”

“Muller, Muller, you must keep better watch over your imagination and
your tongue! It is a dangerous thing to spread rumours about persons
high in favor with the Arch-duke. But you had better tell me what you
think about this affair,” continued the doctor, pointing back towards
the room they had just left.

“There’s a woman in the case.”

“Aha! you are romancing again. Well, they won’t be so sensitive about
this matter, but take care that you don’t make a mistake again, my
dear Muller. It would be likely to cost you your position, don’t forget
that.”

The doctor left the house. Muller smiled bitterly as he closed the door
behind him, and murmured to himself: “Indeed, I do not forget it, and
that is why I shall take this matter into my own hands. But the Kniepp
case is not closed yet, by any means.”

When he returned to the study he saw Johann sitting quietly in a corner,
shaking his head, as if trying to understand it all. Horn was bending
over a sheet of writing paper which lay before the dead man. Fellner
must have been busy at his desk when the bullet penetrated his heart.
His hand in dying had let fall the pen, which had drawn a long black
mark across the bottom of the sheet. One page of the paper was covered
with a small, delicate handwriting.

Horn called up the detective, and together they read the following
words:

“Dear Friend:--

“He challenged me--pistols--it means life or death. My enemy is very
bitter. But I am not ready to die yet. And as I know that I would be the
one to fall, I have refused the duel. That will help me little, for
his revenge will know how to find me. I dare not be a moment without a
weapon now--his threats on my refusal let me fear the worst. I have an
uncanny presentiment of evil. I shall leave here to-morrow. With the
excuse of having some pressing family affair to attend to, I have
secured several days’ leave. Of course I do not intend to return. I
am hoping that you will come here and break up my establishment in my
stead. I will tell you everything else when I see you. I am in a hurry
now, for there is a good deal of packing to do. If anything should
happen to me, you will know who it is who is responsible for my death.
His name is--”

Here the letter came to an abrupt close.

Muller and Horn looked at each other in silence, then they turned their
eyes again toward the dead man.

“He was a coward,” said the detective coldly, and turned away. Horn
repeated mechanically, “A coward!” and his eyes also looked down with
a changed expression upon the handsome, soft-featured face, framed in
curly blond hair, that lay so silent against the chair-back. Many women
had loved this dead man, and many men had been fond of him, for they had
believed him capable and manly.

The commissioner and Muller continued their researches in silence and
with less interest than before. They found a heap of loose ashes in the
bedroom stove. Letters and other trifles had been burned there. Muller
raked out the heap very carefully, but the writing on the few pieces of
paper still left whole was quite illegible. There were several envelopes
in the waste-basket, but all of them were dated several months back.
There was nothing that could give the slightest clue.

The letter written by the murdered man was sufficient proof that his
death had been an act of vengeance. But who was it who had carried out
this secret, terrible deed? The victim had not been allowed the time to
write down the name of his murderer.

Horn took the letter into his keeping. Then he left the room, followed
by Muller and the valet, to look about the rest of the house as far as
possible. This was not very far, for the second story was closed off by
a tall iron grating.

“Is the house door locked during the daytime?” asked Horn of the
servant.

“The front door is, but the side door into the garden is usually open.”

“Has it ever happened that any one got into the house from this side
door without your knowing it?”

“No, sir. The garden has a high wall around it. And there is extra
protection on the side toward the Promenade.”

“But there’s a little gate there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is that usually closed?”

“We never use the key for that, sir. It has a trick lock that you can’t
open unless you know how.”

“You said you went to the theatre yesterday evening. Did your master
give you permission to go?”

“Yes, sir. It’s about a year now that he gave me money for a theatre
ticket every Saturday evening. He was very kind.”

“Did you come into the house last night by the front door, or through
the garden?”

“Through the garden, sir. I walked down the Promenade from the theatre.”

“And you didn’t notice anything--you saw no traces of footsteps?”

“No, sir. I didn’t notice anything unusual. We shut the side door, the
garden door, every evening, also. It was closed yesterday and I found
the key--we’ve only got one key to the garden door--in the same place
where I was told to hide it when I went out in the evening.”

“What place was that?”

“In one of the pails by the well.”

“You say you were told to hide it there?”

“Yes, sir; the Professor told me. He’d go out in the evening sometimes,
too, I suppose, and he wanted to be able to come in that way if
necessary.”

“And no one else knew where the key was hidden?”

“No one else, sir. It’s nearly a year now that we’ve been alone in the
house. Who else should know of it?”

“When you looked through the keyhole last night, are you sure that the
Professor was still alive?”

“Why, yes, sir; of course I couldn’t say so surely. I thought he was
reading or writing, but oh, dear Lord! there he was this morning, nearly
twelve hours later, in just the same position.” Johann shivered at the
thought that he might have seen his master sitting at his desk, already
a corpse.

“He must have been dead when you came home. Don’t you think the sound of
that shot would have wakened you?”

“Yes, sir, I think likely, sir,” murmured Johann. “But if the murderer
could get into the house, how could he get into the apartment?”

“There must have been a third key of which you knew nothing,” answered
Horn, turning to Muller again. “It’s stranger still how Fellner
could have been shot, for the window-shutters were fastened and quite
uninjured, and both doors were locked on the inside.”

As he said these words, Horn looked sharply at his subordinate; but
Muller’s calm face did not give the slightest clue to his thoughts. The
experienced police commissioner was pleased and yet slightly angered at
this behaviour on the part of the detective. He knew that it was quite
possible that Muller had already formed a clear opinion about the case,
and that he was merely keeping it to himself. And yet he was glad to
see that the little detective had apparently learned a lesson from his
recent mistake concerning the death of Mrs. Kniepp--that he had somewhat
lost confidence in his hitherto unerring instinct, and did not care to
express any opinion until he had studied the matter a little closer. The
commissioner was just a little bit vain, and just a little bit jealous
of this humble detective’s fame.

Muller shrugged his shoulders at the remark of his superior, and the
two men stood silent, thinking over the case, as the Chief of Police
appeared, accompanied by the doctor, a clerk, and two hospital
attendants. The chief commissioner received the report of what had
been discovered, while the corpse was laid on a bier to be taken to the
hospital.

Muller handed the commissioner his hat and cane and helped him into
his overcoat. Horn noticed that the detective himself was making
no preparations to go out. “Aren’t you coming with us?” he asked,
astonished.

“I hope the gentlemen will allow me to remain here for a little while,”
 answered Muller modestly.

“But you know that we will have to close the apartment officially,” said
Horn, his voice sharpening in his surprise and displeasure.

“I do not need to be in these rooms any longer.”

“Don’t let them disturb you, my dear Muller; we will allow your
keenness all possible leeway here.” The Head of Police spoke with calm
politeness, but Muller started and shivered. The emphasis on the “here”
 showed him that even the head of the department had been incensed at his
suggestion that the beautiful Mrs. Kniepp had died of her own free
will. It had been his assertion of this which, coming to the ears of
the bereaved husband, had enraged and embittered him, and had turned the
power of his influence with the high authorities against the detective.
Muller knew how greatly he had fallen from favour in the Police
Department, and the words of his respected superior showed him that he
was still in disgrace.

But the strange, quiet smile was still on his lips as, with his usual
humble deference, he accompanied the others to the sidewalk. Before
the commissioners left the house, the Chief commanded Johann to answer
carefully any questions Muller might put to him.

“He’ll find something, you may be sure,” said Horn, as they drove off in
the cab.

“Let him that’s his business. He is officially bound to see more than
the rest of us,” smiled the older official good-naturedly. “But in spite
of it, he’ll never get any further than the vestibule; he’ll be making
bows to us to the end of his days.”

“You think so? I’ve wondered at the man. I know his fame in the capital,
indeed, in police circles all over Austria and Germany. It seems hard
on him to be transferred to this small town, now that he is growing old.
I’ve wondered why he hasn’t done more for himself, with his gifts.”

“He never will,” replied the Chief. “He may win more fame--he may still
go on winning triumphs, but he will go on in a circle; he’ll never forge
ahead as his capabilities deserve. Muller’s peculiarity is that his
genius--for the man has undeniable genius--will always make concessions
to his heart just at the moment when he is about to do something
great--and his triumph is lost.”

Horn looked up at his superior, whom, in spite of his good nature, he
knew to be a sharp, keen, capable police official. “I forgot you have
known Muller longer than the rest of us,” he said. “What was that you
said about his heart?”

“I said that it is one of those inconvenient hearts that will always
make itself noticeable at the wrong time. Muller’s heart has played
several tricks on the police department, which has, at other times,
profited so well by his genius. He is a strange mixture. While he is on
the trail of the criminal he is like the bloodhound. He does not seem to
know fatigue nor hunger; his whole being is absorbed by the excitement
of the chase. He has done many a brilliant service to the cause of
justice, he has discovered the guilt, or the innocence, of many in cases
where the official department was as blind as Justice is proverbially
supposed to be. Joseph Muller has become the idol of all who are engaged
in this weary business of hunting down wrong and punishing crime. He
is without a peer in his profession. But he has also become the idol of
some of the criminals. For if he discovers (as sometimes happens) that
the criminal is a good sort after all, he is just as likely to warn his
prey, once he has all proofs of the guilt and a conviction is certain.
Possibly this is his way of taking the sting from his irresistible
impulse to ferret out hidden mysteries. But it is rather inconvenient,
and he has hurt himself by it--hurt himself badly. They were tired of
his peculiarities at the capital, and wanted to make his years an excuse
to discharge him. I happened to get wind of it, and it was my weakness
for him that saved him.”

“Yes, you brought him here when they transferred you to this town, I
remember now.”

“I’m afraid it wasn’t such a good thing for him, after all. Nothing
ever happens here, and a gift like Muller’s needs occupation to keep
it fresh. I’m afraid his talents will dull and wither here. The man has
grown perceptibly older in this inaction. His mind is like a high-bred
horse that needs exercise to keep it in good condition.”

“He hasn’t grown rich at his work, either,” said Horn.

“No, there’s not much chance for a police detective to get rich. I’ve
often wondered why Muller never had the energy to set up in business for
himself. He might have won fame and fortune as a private detective. But
he’s gone on plodding along as a police subordinate, and letting the
department get all the credit for his most brilliant achievements. It’s
a sort of incorrigible humbleness of nature--and then, you know, he had
the misfortune to be unjustly sentenced to a term in prison in his early
youth.”

“No, I did not know that.”

“The stigma stuck to his name, and finally drove him to take up this
work. I don’t think Muller realised, when he began, just how greatly
he is gifted. I don’t know that he really knows now. He seems to do it
because he likes it--he’s a queer sort of man.”

While the commissioners drove through the streets to the police station
the man of whom they were speaking sat in Johann’s little room in close
consultation with the valet.

“How long is it since the Professor began to give you money to go to the
theatre on Saturday evenings?”

“The first time it happened was on my name day.”

“What’s the rest of your name? There are so many Johanns on the calendar.”

“I am Johann Nepomuk.”

Muller took a little calendar from his pocket and turned its pages. “It
was May sixteenth,” volunteered the valet.

“Quite right. May sixteenth was a Saturday. And since then you have gone
to the theatre every Saturday evening?”

“Yes, sir.

“When did the owner of the house go away?”

“Last April. His wife was ill and he had to take her away. They went to
Italy.”

“And you two have been alone in the house since April?”

“Yes, sir, we two.”

“Was there no janitor?”

“No, sir. The garden was taken care of by a man who came in for the
day.”

“And you had no dog? I haven’t seen any around the place.”

“No, sir; the Professor did not like animals. But he must have been
thinking about buying a dog, because I found a new dog-whip in his room
one day.”

“Somebody might have left it there. One usually buys the dog first and
then the whip.”

“Yes, sir. But there wasn’t anybody here to forget it. The Professor did
not receive any visits at that time.”

“Why are you so sure of that?”

“Because it was the middle of summer, and everybody was away.”

“Oh, then, we won’t bother about the whip. Can you tell me of any ladies
with whom the Professor was acquainted?”

“Ladies? I don’t know of any. Of course, the Professor was invited out
a good deal, and most of the other gentlemen from the college were
married.”

“Did he ever receive letters from ladies?” continued Muller.

Johann thought the matter over, then confessed that he knew very little
about writing and couldn’t read handwriting very well anyway. But he
remembered to have seen a letter now and then, a little letter with a
fine and delicate handwriting.

“Have you any of these envelopes?” asked Muller. But Johann told him
that in spite of his usual carelessness in such matters, Professor
Fellner never allowed these letters to lie about his room.

Finally the detective came out with the question to which he had been
leading up. “Did your master ever receive visits from ladies?”

Johann looked extremely stupid at this moment. His lack of intelligence
and a certain crude sensitiveness in his nature made him take umbrage at
what appeared to him a very unnecessary question. He answered it with a
shake of the head only. Muller smiled at the young man’s ill-concealed
indignation and paid no attention to it.

“Your master has been here for about a year. Where was he before that?”

“In the capital.”

“You were in his service then?”

“I have been with him for three years.”

“Did he know any ladies in his former home?”

“There was one--I think he was engaged to her.”

“Why didn’t he marry her?”

“I don’t know.”

“What was her name?”

“Marie. That’s all I know about it.”

“Was she beautiful?”

“I never saw her. The only way I knew about her was when the Professor’s
friends spoke of her.”

“Did he have many friends?”

“There were ever so many gentlemen whom he called his friends.”

“Take me into the garden now.”

“Yes, sir.” Muller took his hat and coat and followed the valet into the
garden. It was of considerable size, carefully and attractively planned,
and pleasing even now when the bare twigs bent under their load of snow.

“Now think carefully, Johann. We had a full moon last night. Don’t
you remember seeing any footsteps in the garden, leading away from the
house?” asked Muller, as they stood on the snow-covered paths.

Johann thought it over carefully, then said decidedly, “No. At least I
don’t remember anything of the kind. There was a strong wind yesterday
anyway, and the snow drifts easily out here. No tracks could remain
clear for long.”

The men walked down the straight path which led to the little gate in
the high wall. This gate had a secret lock, which, however, was neither
hard to find nor hard to open. Muller managed it with ease, and looked
out through the gate on the street beyond. The broad promenade, deserted
now in its winter snowiness, led away in one direction to the heart of
the city. In the other it ended in the main county high-road. This was
a broad, well-made turnpike, with footpath and rows of trees. A
half-hour’s walk along it would bring one to the little village
clustering about the Archduke’s favourite hunting castle. There was a
little railway station near the castle, but it was used only by suburban
trains or for the royal private car.

Muller did not intend to burden his brain with unnecessary facts, so
with his usual thoroughness he left the further investigation of what
lay beyond the gate, until he had searched the garden thoroughly. But
even for his sharp eyes there was no trace to be found that would tell
of the night visit of the murderer.

“In which of the pails did you put the key to the side door?” he asked.

“In the first pail on the right hand side. But be careful, sir; there’s
a nail sticking out of the post there. The wind tore off a piece of wood
yesterday.”

The warning came too late. Muller’s sleeve tore apart with a sharp sound
just as Johann spoke, for the detective had already plunged his hand
into the pail. The bottom of the bucket was easy to reach, as this one
hung much lower than the others. Looking regretfully at the rent in
his coat, Muller asked for needle and thread that he might repair it
sufficiently to get home.

“Oh, don’t bother about sewing it; I’ll lend you one of mine,” exclaimed
Johann. “I’ll carry this one home for you, for I’m not going to stay
here alone--I’d be afraid. I’m going to a friend’s house. You can
find me there any time you need me. You’d better take the key of the
apartment and give it to the police.”

The detective had no particular fondness for the task of sewing, and
he was glad to accept the valet’s friendly offering. He was rather
astonished at the evident costliness of the garment the young man handed
him, and when he spoke of it, the valet could not say enough in praise
of the kindness of his late master. He pulled out several other articles
of clothing, which, like the overcoat, had been given to him by Fellner.
Then he packed up a few necessities and announced himself as ready to
start. He insisted on carrying the torn coat, and Muller permitted it
after some protest. They carefully closed the apartment and the house,
and walked toward the centre of the city to the police station, where
Muller lived.

As they crossed the square, it suddenly occurred to Johann that he had
no tobacco. He was a great smoker, and as he had many days of enforced
idleness ahead of him, he ran into a tobacco shop to purchase a
sufficiency of this necessity of life.

Muller waited outside, and his attention was attracted by a large grey
Ulmer hound which was evidently waiting for some one within the shop.
The dog came up to him in a most friendly manner, allowed him to pat its
head, rubbed up against him with every sign of pleasure, and would not
leave him even when he turned to go after Johann came out of the shop.
Still accompanied by the dog, the two men walked on quite a distance,
when a sharp whistle was heard behind them, and the dog became uneasy.
He would not leave them, however, until a powerful voice called
“Tristan!” several times. Muller turned and saw that Tristan’s master
was a tall, stately man wearing a handsome fur overcoat.

It was impossible to recognise his face at this distance, for the
snowflakes were whirling thickly in the air. But Muller was not
particularly anxious to recognise the stranger, as he had his head full
of more important thoughts.

When Johann had given his new address and remarked that he would call
for his coat soon, the men parted, and Muller returned to the police
station.

The next day the principal newspaper of the town printed the following
notice:

                      THE GOLDEN BULLET

  It is but a few days since we announced to our readers the sad
  news of the death of a beautiful woman, whose leap from her
  window, while suffering from the agonies of fever, destroyed
  the happiness of an unusually harmonious marriage.  And now we
  are compelled to print the news of another equally sad as well
  as mysterious occurrence.  This time, Fate has demanded the
  sacrifice of the life of a capable and promising young man.
  Professor Paul Fellner, a member of the faculty of our college,
  was found dead at his desk yesterday morning.  It was thought at
  first that it was a case of suicide, for doors and windows were
  carefully closed from within and those who discovered the corpse
  were obliged to break open one of the doors to get to it.  And
  a revolver was found lying close at hand, upon the desk.  But
  this revolver was loaded in every chamber and there was no other
  weapon to be seen in the room.  There was a bullet wound in the
  left breast of the corpse, and the bullet had penetrated the
  heart.  Death must have been instantaneous.

  The most mysterious thing about this strange affair was
  discovered during the autopsy.  It is incredible, but it is
  absolutely true, as it is vouched for under oath by the
  authorities who were present, that the bullet which was found
  in the heart of the dead man was made of solid gold.  And yet,
  strange as is this circumstance, it is still more a riddle how
  the murderer could have escaped from the room where he had shot
  down his victim, for the keys in both doors were in the locks
  from the inside.  We have evidently to do here with a criminal
  of very unusual cleverness and it is therefore not surprising
  that there has been no clue discovered thus far.  The only
  thing that is known is that this murder was an act of revenge.

The entire city was in excitement over the mystery, even the police
station was shaken out of its usual business-like indifference. There
was no other topic of conversation in any of the rooms but the
mystery of the golden bullet and the doors closed from the inside. The
attendants and the policeman gathered whispering in the corners,
and strangers who came in on their own business forgot it in their
excitement over this new and fascinating mystery.

That afternoon Muller passed through Horn’s office with a bundle of
papers, on his way to the inner office occupied by his patron, Chief of
Police Bauer. Horn, who had avoided Muller since yesterday although he
was conscious of a freshened interest in the man, raised his head and
watched the little detective as he walked across the room with his
usual quiet tread. The commissioner saw nothing but the usual humble
business-like manner to which he was accustomed--then suddenly
something happened that came to him like a distinct shock. Muller
stopped in his walk so suddenly that one foot was poised in the air. His
bowed head was thrown back, his face flushed to his forehead, and the
papers trembled in his hands. He ran the fingers of his unoccupied hand
through his hair and murmured audibly, “That dog! that dog!” It was
evident that some thought had struck him with such insistence as to
render him oblivious of his surroundings. Then he finally realised where
he was, and walked on quickly to Bauer’s room, his face still flushed,
his hands trembling. When he came out from the office again, he was his
usual quiet, humble self.

But the commissioner, with his now greater knowledge of the little man’s
gifts and past, could not forget the incident. During the afternoon
he found himself repeating mechanically, “That dog--that dog.” But the
words meant nothing to him, hard as he might try to find the connection.

When the commissioner left for his home late that afternoon, Muller
re-entered the office to lay some papers on the desk. His duties over,
he was about to turn out the gas, when his eye fell on the blotter on
Horn’s desk. He looked at it more closely, then burst into a loud
laugh. The same two words were scribbled again and again over the white
surface, but it was not the name of any fair maiden, or even the title
of a love poem; it was only the words, “That dog--”

Several days had passed since the discovery of the murder. Fellner had
been buried and his possessions taken into custody by the authorities
until his heirs should appear. The dead man’s papers and affairs were
in excellent condition and the arranging of the inheritance had been
quickly done. Until the heirs should take possession, the apartment was
sealed by the police. There was nothing else to do in the matter, and
the commission appointed to make researches had discovered nothing of
value. The murderer might easily feel that he was absolutely safe by
this time.

The day after the publication of the article we have quoted, Muller
appeared in Bauer’s office and asked for a few days’ leave.

“In the Fellner case?” asked the Chief with his usual calm, and Muller
replied in the affirmative.

Two days later he returned, bringing with him nothing but a single
little notice.

“Marie Dorn, now Mrs. Kniepp,” was one line in his notebook, and beside
it some dates. The latter showed that Marie Dorn had for two years past
been the wife of the Archducal Forest-Councillor, Leo Kniepp.

And for one year now Professor Paul Fellner had been in the town, after
having applied for his transference from the university in the capital
to this place, which was scarce half an hour’s walk distant from the
home of the beautiful young woman who had been the love of his youth.

And Fellner had made his home in the quietest quarter of the city, in
that quarter which was nearest the Archducal hunting castle. He had
lived very quietly, had not cultivated the acquaintance of the ladies of
the town, but was a great walker and bicycle rider; and every Saturday
evening since he had been alone in the house, he had sent his servant
to the theatre. And it was on Saturday evenings that Forest-Councillor
Kniepp went to his Bowling Club at the other end of the city, and did
not return until the last train at midnight.

And during these evening hours Fellner’s apartment was a convenient
place for pleasant meetings; and nothing prevented the Professor from
accompanying his beautiful friend home through the quiet Promenade,
along the turnpike to the hunting castle. And Johann had once found a
dog-whip in his master’s room-and Councillor Leo Kniepp, head of the
Forestry Department, was the possessor of a beautiful Ulmer hound which
took an active interest in people who wore clothes belonging to Fellner.

Furthermore, in the little drawer of the bedside table in the murdered
man’s room, there had been found a tortoise-shell hairpin; and in the
corner of the vestibule of his house, a little mother-of-pearl glove
button, of the kind much in fashion that winter, because of a desire
on the part of the ladies of the town to help the home industry of the
neighbourhood. Mrs. Marie Kniepp was one of the fashionable women of the
town, and several days before the Professor was murdered, this woman
had thrown herself from the second-story window of her home, and her
husband, whose passionate eccentric nature was well known, had been a
changed man from that hour.

It was his deep grief at the loss of his beloved wife that had turned
his hair grey and had drawn lines of terrible sorrow in his face--said
gossip. But Muller, who did not know Kniepp personally although he had
been taking a great interest in his affairs for the last few days, had
his own ideas on the subject, and he decided to make the acquaintance of
the Forest Councillor as soon as possible--that is, after he had found
out all there was to be found out about his affairs and his habits.

Just a week after the murder, on Saturday evening therefore, the snow
was whirling merrily about the gables and cupolas of the Archducal
hunting castle. The weather-vanes groaned and the old trees in the park
bent their tall tops under the mad wind which swept across the earth and
tore the protecting snow covering from their branches. It was a stormy
evening, not one to be out in if a man had a warm corner in which to
hide.

An old peddler was trying to find shelter from the rapidly increasing
storm under the lea of the castle wall. He crouched so close to the
stones that he could scarcely be seen at all, in spite of the light
from the snow. Finally he disappeared altogether behind one of the heavy
columns which sprang out at intervals from the magnificent wall. Only
his head peeped out occasionally as if looking for something. His dark,
thoughtful eyes glanced over the little village spread out on one side
of the castle, and over the railway station, its most imposing building.
Then they would turn back again to the entrance gate in the wall
near where he stood. It was a heavy iron-barred gate, its handsome
ornamentation outlined in snow, and behind it the body of a large dog
could be occasionally seen. This dog was an enormous grey Ulmer hound.

The peddler stood for a long time motionless behind the pillar, then he
looked at his watch. “It’s nearly time,” he murmured, and looked over
towards the station again, where lights and figures were gathering.

At the same time the noise of an opening door was heard, and steps
creaked over the snow. A man, evidently a servant, opened the little
door beside the great gate and held it for another man to pass
out. “You’ll come back by the night train as usual, sir?” he asked
respectfully.

“Yes,” replied the other, pushing back the dog, which fawned upon him.

“Come back here, Tristan,” called the servant, pulling the dog in by his
collar, as he closed the door and re-entered the house.

The Councillor took the path to the station. He walked slowly, with
bowed head and uneven step. He did not look like a man who was in the
mood to join a merry crowd, and yet he was evidently going to his Club.
“He wants to show himself; he doesn’t want to let people think that he
has anything to be afraid of,” murmured the peddler, looking after him
sharply. Then his eyes suddenly dimmed and a light sigh was heard,
with another murmur, “Poor man.” The Councillor reached the station
and disappeared within its door. The train arrived and departed a few
moments later. Kniepp must have really gone to the city, for although
the man behind the pillar waited for some little time, the Councillor
did not return--a contingency that the peddler had not deemed
improbable.

About half an hour after the departure of the train the watcher came out
of his hiding place and walked noisily past the gate. What he expected,
happened. The dog rushed up to the bars, barking loudly, but when the
peddler had taken a silk muffler from the pack on his back and held
it out to the animal, the noise ceased and the dog’s anger turned to
friendliness. Tristan was quite gentle, put his huge head up to the
bars to let the stranger pat it, and seemed not at all alarmed when the
latter rang the bell.

The young man who had opened the door for the Councillor came out from
a wing of the castle. The peddler looked so frozen and yet so venerable
that the youth had not the heart to turn him away. Possibly he was glad
of a little diversion for his own sake.

“Who do you want to see?” he asked.

“I want to speak to the maid, the one who attended your dead mistress.”

“Oh, then you know--?”

“I know of the misfortune that has happened here.”

“And you think that Nanette might have something to sell to you?”

“Yes, that’s it; that’s why I came. For I don’t suppose there’s much
chance for any business with my cigar holders and other trifles here so
near the city.”

“Cigar holders? Why, I don’t know; perhaps we can make a trade. Come in
with me. Why, just see how gentle the dog is with you!”

“Isn’t he that way with everybody? I supposed he was no watchdog.”

“Oh, indeed he is. He usually won’t allow anybody to touch him, except
those whom he knows well. I’m astonished that he lets you come to the
house at all.”

They had reached the door by this time. The peddler laid his hand on the
servant’s arm and halted a moment. “Where was it that she threw herself
out?”

“From the last window upstairs there.”

“And did it kill her at once?”

“Yes. Anyway she was unconscious when we came down.”

“Was the master at home?”

“Why, yes, it happened in the middle of the night.”

“She had a fever, didn’t she? Had she been ill long?”

“No. She was in bed that day, but we thought it was nothing of
importance.”

“These fevers come on quickly sometimes,” remarked the old man wisely,
and added: “This case interests the entire neighbourhood and I will show
you that I can be grateful for anything you may tell me--of course, only
what a faithful servant could tell. It will interest my customers very
much.”

“You know all there is to know,” said the valet, evidently disappointed
that he had nothing to tell which could win the peddler’s gratitude.
“There are no secrets about it. Everybody knows that they were a very
happy couple, and even if there was a little talk between them on that
day, why it was pure accident and had nothing to do with the mistress’
excitement.”

“Then there was a quarrel between them?”

“Are people talking about it?”

“I’ve heard some things said. They even say that this quarrel was the
reason for--her death.”

“It’s stupid nonsense!” exclaimed the servant. The old peddler seemed to
like the young man’s honest indignation.

While they were talking, they had passed through a long corridor and the
young man laid his hand on one of the doors as the peddler asked, “Can I
see Miss Nanette alone?”

“Alone? Oho, she’s engaged to me!”

“I know that,” said the stranger, who seemed to be initiated into all
the doings of this household. “And I am an old man--all I meant was that
I would rather not have any of the other servants about.”

“I’ll keep the cook out of the way if you want me to.”

“That would be a good idea. It isn’t easy to talk business before
others,” remarked the old man as they entered the room. It was a
comfortably furnished and cozily warm apartment. Only two people were
there, an old woman and a pretty young girl, who both looked up in
astonishment as the men came in.

“Who’s this you’re bringing in, George?” asked Nanette.

“He’s a peddler and he’s got some trifles here you might like to look
at.”

“Why, yes, you wanted a thimble, didn’t you, Lena?” asked Nanette, and
the cook beckoned to the peddler. “Let’s see what you’ve got there,” she
said in a friendly tone. The old man pulled out his wares from his pack;
thimbles and scissors, coloured ribbons, silks, brushes and combs, and
many other trifles. When the women had made their several selections
they noticed that the old man was shivering with the cold, as he leaned
against the stove. Their sympathies were aroused in a moment. “Why don’t
you sit down?” asked Nanette, pushing a chair towards him, and Lena rose
to get him something warm from the kitchen.

The peddler threw a look at George, who nodded in answer. “He said he’d
like to see the things they gave you after Mrs. Kniepp’s death,” the
young man remarked,

“Do you buy things like that?” Nanette turned to the peddler.

“I’d just like to look at them first, if you’ll let me.”

“I’d be glad to get rid of them. But I won’t go upstairs, I’m afraid
there.”

“Well, I’ll get the things for you if you want me to,” offered George
and turned to leave the room. The door had scarcely closed behind him
when a change came over the peddler. His old head rose from its drooping
position, his bowed figure started up with youthful elasticity.

“Are you really fond of him?” he asked of the astonished Nanette, who
stepped back a pace, stammering in answer: “Yes. Why do you ask? and who
are you?”

“Never mind that, my dear child, but just answer the questions I have to
ask, and answer truthfully, or it might occur to me to let your George
know that he is not the first man you have loved.”

“What do you know?” she breathed in alarm.

The peddler laughed. “Oho, then he’s jealous! All the better for me--the
Councillor was jealous too, wasn’t he?” Nanette looked at him in horror.

“The truth, therefore, you must tell me the truth, and get the others
away, so I can speak to you alone. You must do this--or else I’ll tell
George about the handsome carpenter in Church street, or about Franz
Schmid, or--”

“For God’s sake, stop--stop--I’ll do anything you say.”

The girl sank back on her chair pale and trembling, while the peddler
resumed his pose of a tired old man leaning against the stove. When
George returned with a large basket, Nanette had calmed herself
sufficiently to go about the unpacking of the articles in the hamper.

“George, won’t you please keep Lena out in the kitchen. Ask her to make
some tea for us,” asked Nanette with well feigned assurance. George
smiled a meaning smile and disappeared.

“I am particularly interested in the dead lady’s gloves,” said the
peddler when they were alone again.

Nanette looked at him in surprise but was still too frightened to offer
any remarks. She opened several boxes and packages and laid a number of
pairs of gloves on the table. The old man looked through them, turning
them over carefully. Then he shook his head: “There must be some more
somewhere,” he said. Nanette was no longer astonished at anything he
might say or do, so she obediently went through the basket again and
found a little box in which were several pair of grey suede gloves,
fastened by bluish mother-of-pearl buttons. One of the pairs had been
worn, and a button was missing.

“These are the ones I was looking for,” said the peddler, putting the
gloves in his pocket. Then he continued: “Your mistress was rather fond
of taking long walks by herself, wasn’t she?”

The girl’s pale face flushed hotly and she stammered: “You know--about
it?”

“You know about it also, I see. And did you know everything?”

“Yes, everything,” murmured Nanette.

“Then it was you and Tristan who accompanied the lady on her walks?”

“Yes.”

“I supposed she must have taken some one into her confidence. Well, and
what do you think about the murder?”

“The Professor?” replied Nanette hastily. “Why, what should I know about
it?”

“The Councillor was greatly excited and very unhappy when he discovered
this affair, I suppose?”

“He is still.”

“And how did he act after the--let us call it the accident?”

“He was like a crazy man.”

“They tell me that he went about his duties just the same--that he went
away on business.”

“It wasn’t business this time, at least not professional business. But
before that he did have to go away frequently for weeks at a time.”

“And it was then that your mistress was most interested in her lonely
walks, eh?”

“Yes.” Nanette’s voice was so low as to be scarcely heard.

“Well, and this time?” continued the peddler. “Why did he go away this
time?”

“He went to the capital on private business of his own.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Quite sure. He went two different times. I thought it was because he
couldn’t stand it here and wanted to see something different. He went to
his club this evening, too.”

“And when did he go away?”

“The first time was the day after his wife was buried.”

“And the second time?”

“Two or three days after his return.”

“How long did he stay away the first time?”

“Only one day.”

“Good! Pull yourself together now. I’ll send your George in to you and
tell him you haven’t been feeling well. Don’t tell any one about our
conversation. Where is the kitchen?”

“The last door to the right down the hall.”

The peddler left the room and Nanette sank down dazed and trembling on
the nearest chair. George found her still pale, but he seemed to think
it quite natural that she should have been overcome by the recollection
of the terrible death of her mistress. He gave the old man a most
cordial invitation to return during the next few days. The cook brought
the peddler a cup of steaming tea, and purchased several trifles from
him, before he left the house.

When the old man had reached a lonely spot on the road, about half way
between the hunting castle and the city, he halted, set down his pack,
divested himself of his beard and his wig and washed the wrinkles from
his face with a handful of snow from the wayside. A quarter of an
hour later, Detective Muller entered the railway station of the city,
burdened with a large grip. He took a seat in the night express which
rolled out from the station a few moments later.

As he was alone in his compartment, Muller gave way to his excitement,
sometimes even murmuring half-aloud the thoughts that rushed through his
brain. “Yes, I am convinced of it, but can I find the proofs?” the words
came again and again, and in spite of the comfortable warmth in the
compartment, in spite of his tired and half-frozen condition, he could
not sleep.

He reached the capital at midnight and took a room in a small hotel in
a quiet street. When he went out next morning, the servants looked after
him with suspicion, as in their opinion a man who spent most of the
night pacing up and down his room must surely have a guilty conscience.

Muller went to police headquarters and looked through the arrivals at
the hotels on the 21st of November. The burial of Mrs. Kniepp had
taken place on the 20th. Muller soon found the name he was looking
for, “Forest Councillor Leo Kniepp,” in the list of guests at the Hotel
Imperial. The detective went at once to the Hotel Imperial, where he was
already well known. It cost him little time and trouble to discover what
he wished to know, the reason for the Councillor’s visit to the capital.

Kniepp had asked for the address of a goldsmith, and had been directed
to one of the shops which had the best reputation in the city. He had
been in the capital altogether for about twenty-four hours. He had the
manner and appearance of a man suffering under some terrible blow.

Muller himself was deep in thought as he entered the train to return
to his home, after a visit to the goldsmith in question. He had a short
interview with Chief of Police Bauer, who finally gave him the golden
bullet and the keys to the apartment of the murdered man. Then the two
went out together.

An hour later, the chief of police and Muller stood in the garden of
the house in which the murder had occurred. Bauer had entered from the
Promenade after Muller had shown him how to work the lock of the little
gate. Together they went up into the apartment, which was icy cold and
uncanny in its loneliness. But the two men did not appear to notice
this, so greatly were they interested in the task that had brought them
there. First of all, they made a most minute examination of the two
doors which had been locked. The keys were still in both locks on
the inside. They were big heavy keys, suitable for the tall massive
heavily-panelled and iron-ornamented doors. The entire villa was built
in this heavy old German style, the favourite fashion of the last few
years.

When they had looked the locks over carefully, Muller lit the lamp that
hung over the desk in the study and closed the window shutters tight.
Bauer had smiled at first as he watched his protege’s actions, but
his smile changed to a look of keen interest as he suddenly understood.
Muller took his place in the chair before the desk and looked over at
the door of the vestibule, which was directly opposite him. “Yes, that’s
all right,” he said with a deep breath.

Bauer had sat down on the sofa to watch the proceedings, now he sprang
up with an exclamation: “Through the keyhole?”

“Through the keyhole,” answered Muller.

“It is scarcely possible.”

“Shall we try it?”

“Yes, yes, you do it.” Even the usually indifferent old chief of police
was breathing more hastily now. Muller took a roll of paper and a small
pistol out of his pocket. He unrolled the paper, which represented
the figure of a French soldier with a marked target on the breast. The
detective pinned the paper on the back of the chair in which Professor
Fellner had been seated when he met his death.

“But the key was in the hole,” objected Bauer suddenly.

“Yes, but it was turned so that the lower part of the hole was free.
Johann saw the light streaming through and could look into the room.
If the murderer put the barrel of his pistol to this open part of the
keyhole, the bullet would have to strike exactly where the dead man sat.
There would be no need to take any particular aim.” Muller gazed into
space like a seer before whose mental eye a vision has arisen, and
continued in level tones: “Fellner had refused the duel and the murderer
was crazed by his desire for revenge. He came here to the house, he must
have known just how to enter the place, how to reach the rooms, and he
must have known also, that the Professor, coward as he was--”

“Coward? Is a man a coward when he refuses to stand up to a maniac?”
 interrupted Bauer.

Muller came back to the present with a start and said calmly, “Fellner
was a coward.”

“Then you know more than you are telling me now?”

Muller nodded. “Yes, I do,” he answered with a smile. “But I will tell
you more only when I have all the proofs in my own hand.”

“And the criminal will escape us in the meantime.”

“He has no idea that he is suspected.”

“But--you’ll promise to be sensible this time, Muller?”

“Yes. But you will pardon me my present reticence, even towards you?
I--I don’t want to be thought a dreamer again.”

“As in the Kniepp case?”

“As in the Kniepp case,” repeated the little man with a strange smile.
“So please allow me to go about it in my own way. I will tell you all
you want to know to-morrow.”

“To-morrow, then.”

“May I now continue to unfold my theories?” Bauer nodded and Muller
continued: “The criminal wanted Fellner’s blood, no matter how.”

“Even if it meant murder,” said Bauer.

Muller nodded calmly. “It would have been nobler, perhaps, to have
warned his victim of his approach, but it might have all come to nothing
then. The other could have called for help, could have barricaded
himself in his room, one crime might have been prevented, and another,
more shameful one, would have gone unavenged.”

“Another crime? Fellner a criminal?”

“To-morrow you shall know everything, my kind friend. And now, let us
make the trial. Please lock the door behind me as it was locked then.”

Muller left the room, taking the pistol with him. Bauer locked the door.
“Is this right?” he asked.

“Yes, I can see a wide curve of the room, taking in the entire desk.
Please stand to one side now.”

There was deep silence for a moment, then a slight sound as of metal
on metal, then a report, and Muller re-entered the study through the
bedroom. He found Bauer stooping over the picture of the French soldier.
There was a hole in the left breast, where the bullet, passing through,
had buried itself in the back of the chair.

“Yes, it was all just as you said,” began the chief of police, holding
out his hand to Muller. “But--why the golden bullet?”

“To-morrow, to-morrow,” replied the detective, looking up at his
superior with a glance of pleading.

They left the house together and in less than an hour’s time Muller was
again in the train rolling towards the capital.

He went to the goldsmith’s shop as soon as he arrived. The proprietor
received him with eager interest and Muller handed him the golden
bullet. “Here is the golden object of which I spoke,” said the
detective, paying no heed to the other’s astonishment. The goldsmith
opened a small locked drawer, took a ring from it and set about an
examination of the two little objects. When he turned to his visitor
again, he was evidently satisfied with what he had discovered. “These
two objects are made of exactly the same sort of gold, of a peculiar
old French composition, which can no longer be produced in the same
richness. The weight of the gold in the bullet is exactly the same as in
the ring.”

“Would you be willing to take an oath on that if you were called in as
an expert?”

“I am willing to stand up for my judgment.”

“Good. And now will you read this over please, it contains the substance
of what you told me yesterday. Should I have made any mistakes, please
correct them, for I will ask you to set your signature to it.”

Muller handed several sheets of close writing to the goldsmith and the
latter read aloud as follows: “On the 22nd of November, a gentleman came
into my shop and handed me a wedding ring with the request that I should
make another one exactly like it. He was particularly anxious that the
work should be done in two days at the very latest, and also that the
new ring, in form, colour, and in the engraving on the inside, should
be a perfect counterpart of the first. He explained his order by saying
that his wife was ill, and that she was grieving over the loss of her
wedding ring which had somehow disappeared. The new ring could be found
somewhere as if by chance and the sick woman’s anxiety would be over.
Two days later, as arranged, the same gentleman appeared again and I
handed him the two rings.

“He left the shop, greatly satisfied with my work and apparently much
relieved in his mind. But he left me uneasy in spirit because I had
deceived him. It had not been possible for me to reproduce exactly the
composition of the original ring, and as I believed that the work was to
be done in order to comfort an invalid, and I was getting no profit,
but on the contrary a little extra work out of it, I made two new rings,
lettered them according to the original and gave them to my customer.
The original ring I am now, on this seventh day of December, giving to
Mr. Joseph Mullet, who has shown me his legitimation as a member of
the Secret Police. I am willing to put myself at the service of the
authorities if I am called for.”

“You are willing to do this, aren’t you?” asked Muller when the
goldsmith had arrived at the end of the notice.

“Of course.”

“Have you anything to add to this?”

“No, it is quite complete. I will sign it at once.”

Several hours later, Muller re-entered the police station in his home
town and saw the windows of the chief’s apartment brilliantly lighted.
“What’s going on,” he asked of Bauer’s servant who was just hurrying up
the stairs.

“The mistress’ birthday, we’ve got company.”

Muller grumbled something and went on up to his own room. He knew it
would not be pleasant for his patron to be disturbed in the midst of
entertaining his guests, but the matter was important and could not
wait.

The detective laid off his outer garments, made a few changes in his
toilet and putting the goldsmith’s declaration, with the ring and
the bullet in his pocketbook, he went down to the first floor of the
building, in one wing of which was the apartment occupied by the Chief.
He sent in his name and was told to wait in the little study. He sat
down quietly in a corner of the comfortable little room beyond which,
in a handsomely furnished smoking room, a number of guests sat playing
cards. From the drawing rooms beyond, there was the sound of music and
many voices.

It was all very attractive and comfortable, and the solitary man sat
there enjoying once more the pleasant sensation of triumph, of joy at
the victory that was his alone and that would win him back all his old
friends and prestige. He was looking forward in agreeable anticipation
to the explanations he had to give, when he suddenly started and grew
pale. His eyes dimmed a moment, then he pulled himself together and
murmured: “No, no, not this time. I will not be weak this time.”

Just then the Chief entered the room, accompanied by Councillor Kniepp.

“Won’t you sit down here a little?” asked the friendly host. “You will
find it much quieter in this room.” He pulled up a little table laden
with cigars and wine, close to a comfortable armchair. Then, noticing
Muller, he continued with a friendly nod: “I’m glad they told you to
wait in here. You must be frozen after your long ride. If you will wait
just a moment more, I will return at once and we can go into my office.
And if you will make yourself comfortable here, my dear Kniepp, I will
send our friend Horn in to talk with you. He is bright and jovial and
will keep you amused.”

The chief chattered on, making a strenuous endeavour to appear quite
harmless. But Kniepp, more apt than ever just now to notice the
actions of others, saw plainly that his genial host was concealing some
excitement. When the latter had gone out the Councillor looked
after him, shaking his head. Then his glance fell by chance on the
quiet-looking man who had risen at his entrance and had not sat down
again.

“Please sit down,” he said in a friendly tone, but the other did not
move. His grey eyes gazed intently at the man whose fate he was to
change so horribly.

Kniepp grew uneasy under the stare. “What is there that interests you so
about me?” he asked in a tone that was an attempt at a joke.

“The ring, the ring on your watch chain,” murmured Muller.

“It belonged to my dead wife. I have worn it since she left me,”
 answered the unhappy man with the same iron calm with which he had, all
these past days, been emphasizing his love for the woman he had lost.
Yet the question touched him unpleasantly and he looked more sharply at
the strange man over in the corner. He saw the latter’s face turn pale
and a shiver run through his form. A feeling of sympathy came over
Kniepp and he asked warmly: “Won’t you take a glass of this wine? If you
have been out in the cold it will be good for you.” His tone was gentle,
almost cordial, but the man to whom he offered the refreshment turned
from him with a gesture that was almost one of terror.

The Councillor rose suddenly from his chair. “Who are you? What news is
it you bring?” he asked with a voice that began to tremble.

Muller raised his head sharply as if his decision had been made, and his
kind intelligent eyes grew soft as they rested on the pale face of
the stately man before him. “I belong to the Secret Police and I
am compelled to find out the secrets of others--not because of my
profession--no, because my own nature compels me--I must do it. I have
just come from Vienna and I bring the last of the proofs necessary to
turn you over to the courts. And yet you are a thousand times better
than the coward who stole the honour of your wife and who hid behind
the shelter of the law--and therefore, therefore, therefore--” Muller’s
voice grew hoarse, then died away altogether.

Kniepp listened with pallid cheeks but without a quiver. Now he spoke,
completing the other’s words: “And therefore you wish to save me from
the prison or from the gallows? I thank you. What is your name?” The
unhappy man spoke as calmly as if the matter scarcely concerned him at
all.

The detective told him his name.

“Muller, Muller,” repeated the Councillor, as if he were particularly
anxious to remember the name. He held out his hand to the detective.
“I thank you, indeed, thank you,” he said with the first sign
of emotion he had shown, and then added low: “Do not fear that you will
have trouble on my account. They can find me in my home.” With these
words he turned away and sat down in his chair again. When Bauer entered
the room a few moments later, Kniepp was smoking calmly.

“Now, Muller, I’m ready. Horn will be in in a moment, friend Kniepp; I
know you will enjoy his chatter.” The chief led the way out of the room
through another door. He could not see the ghastly pale face of the
guest he left behind him, for it was almost hidden in a cloud of thick
smoke, but Muller turned back once more at the threshold and caught
a last grateful glance from eyes shadowed by deep sadness, as the
Councillor raised his hand in a friendly gesture.

“Dear Muller, you take so long to get at the point of the story! Don’t
you see you are torturing me?” This outburst came from the Chief
about an hour later. But the detective would not permit himself to be
interrupted in spinning out his story in his own way, and it was nearly
another hour before Bauer knew that the man for whose name he had been
waiting so long was Leo Kniepp.

The knowledge came as a terrible surprise to him. He was dazed almost.
“And I,--I’ve got to arrest him in my own house?” he exclaimed as if
horrified. And Muller answered calmly: “I doubt if you will have the
opportunity, sir.”

“Muller! Did you, again--”

“Yes, I did! I have again warned an unfortunate. It’s my nature, I
can’t seem to help it. But you will find the Councillor in his house. He
promised me that.”

“And you believe it?”

“That man will keep his promise,” said Muller quietly.

Councillor Kniepp did keep his promise. When the police arrived at the
hunting castle shortly after midnight, they found the terrified servants
standing by the body of their master.

“Well, Muller, you had better luck than you deserved this time,” Bauer
said a few days later. “This last trick has made you quite impossible
for the service. But you needn’t worry about that, because the legacy
Kniepp left you will put you out of reach of want.”

The detective was as much surprised as anybody. He was as if dazed by
his unexpected good fortune. The day before he was a poor man bowed
under the weight of sordid cares, and now he was the possessor of twenty
thousand gulden. And it was not his clever brain but his warm heart that
had won this fortune for him. His breast swelled with gratitude as he
thought of the unhappy man whose life had been ruined by the careless
cruelty of others and his own passions. Again and again he read the
letter which had been found on Kniepp’s desk, addressed to him and which
had been handed out to him after the inquest.

  My friend:--

  You have saved me from the shame of an open trial.  I thank you
  for this from the very depth of my heart.  I have left you a
  part of my own private fortune, that you may be a free man, free
  as a poor man never can be.  You can accept this present for it
  comes from the hand of an honest man in spite of all.  Yes, I
  compelled my wife to go to her death after I had compelled her
  to confess her shame to me, and I entered her lover’s house with
  the knowledge I had forced from her.  When I looked through the
  keyhole and saw his false face before me, I murdered him in cold
  blood.  Then, that the truth might not be suspected, I continued
  to play the sorrowing husband.  I wore on my watch chain the ring
  I had had made in imitation of the one my wife had worn.  This
  original ring of hers, her wedding ring which she had defiled,
  I sent in the form of a bullet straight to her lover’s heart.
  Yes, I have committed a crime, but I feel that I am less criminal
  than those two whom I judged and condemned, and whose sentence I
  carried out as I now shall carry out my own sentence with a hand
  which will not tremble.  That I can do this myself, I have you to
  thank for, you who can look into the souls of men and recognise
  the most hidden motives, you who have not only a wonderful brain
  but a heart that can feel.  You, I hope, will sometimes think
  kindly of your grateful

  LEO KNIEPP.

Muller kept this letter as one of his most sacred treasures.

The “Kniepp Case” was really, as Bauer had predicted, the last in
Muller’s public career. Even the friendliness of the kind old chief
could not keep him in his position after this new display of the
unreliability of his heart. But his quiet tastes allowed him to live in
humble comfort from the income of his little fortune.

Every now and then letters or telegrams will come for him and he will
disappear for several days. His few friends believe that the police
authorities, who refused to employ him publicly owing to his strange
weakness, cannot resist a private appeal to his talent whenever a
particularly difficult case arises.





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