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It was a Tuesday. You know the type. Gloomy, overcast, on the point of rain. It often rained. Depressing for most people. As if the Great Depression wasn’t depressing enough already.

Business wasn’t good. There are, of course, ups and downs with everything (we are currently in the middle of a spectacular down in the American economy) and ‘Mallory’s Detective Agency’ – which, unfortunately, was comprised of only one detective – was no different.

Despite my best efforts, it wasn’t very well known, tucked away on the upper floors of a deteriorating building, at the corner of an old block on a shady side-street. Every single client of mine, without fail, had remarked upon entry – with slightly different wording each time – that it was ‘a perfect location for a detective agency, right in the middle of all the criminals.’ They always sounded amused when they said it, as if they were telling a joke that they were particularly fond of. I always pretended to laugh. When one hears something that was once funny eighty-seven times, one rarely still finds it funny. And, anyway, it wasn’t funny to begin with.

I stared at the door. It was eleven o’clock. No client had arrived through that door yet. I took out my lighter and cigarette case, extracted a cigarette and lit it. I started to smoke and stared at the door again. It still wasn’t opening. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that the ash on my ashtray was quite disorganized. I absentmindedly tidied it into a neat pyramidal heap.

It was then that the door opened. The head, the bulging eyes and the remarkably lengthy neck of my secretary, Miss White, made a very welcome appearance.

‘A Mister Floyd to see you, sir,’ she announced. Her golf ball eyes and long neck reminded me vaguely of a cartoon of a bewildered giraffe that I had recently seen in the paper.

‘Send him in,’ I said, after a few moments of distraction, during which the thought of the giraffe cartoon seemed to solely occupy my mind.

Miss White nodded and disappeared again, and almost immediately Mister Floyd entered the room. He was a tall handsome man, with exceptionally glossy hair and a stripy suit. I recognised him immediately as Hank Floyd, one of the Floyd Brothers, the owners of the Floyd Palace. You probably know the place – big fancy building on Broadway, built in 1927, in an attempt to compete with the Strand. Surprisingly, it’s doing quite well. The movie business will always do well.

‘Mister Mallory,’ Floyd said. ‘I’m Hank Floyd. Pleased to meet you.’ He was polite and smiling, but his eyes did not seem happy. At all.

‘Take a seat, Mister Floyd,’ I said, glancing at the clock on the wall. It was six seconds since he entered the room. They always said it within ten seconds.

‘You know, on my way here, I saw some shady characters just around the corner,’ Floyd said as he sat down. ‘This is the perfect place for a detective agency, isn’t it, with criminals just around the corner?’

Ten seconds precisely. I laughed, but not for long.

‘So what’s the problem?’ I asked.

‘Well, it’s… it’s most peculiar…’ Floyd began. ‘I have reason to believe that my brother plans to… do away with me, shall we say.’

‘And what makes you think that?’ I asked, intrigued. It seemed highly unlikely that the older Floyd brother, Harry, would be the murdering type, as I’m sure anyone familiar with the Floyd brothers would agree.

‘Well, as you might know, the Warner Brothers company is currently in talks with Harry and I to purchase the Floyd Palace… Warner Brothers recently acquired the Strand, you remember?’

‘Yes, I am aware of that,’ I said.

‘Now, let’s just say that Warner Brothers have promised us a… considerable sum in exchange for the Floyd Palace. Strange how they can still be giving away that sort of money, what with the Great Depression and all… then again, there’s people putting up the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue. Beats me how they do it.

‘But anyway, we’ve been thrashing out this offer and we’ve pretty much decided that we’re going to go for it. We’re meeting executives from Warner Brothers on Friday and signing over the Palace.

‘However, I have found a certain document which leads me to believe that Harry is going to try to get me out of the way before Friday. I don’t really know why – perhaps he wants all the money from the Warner Brothers deal…’

‘Can I see this document?’ I asked.

‘Sure, here it is…’

Floyd reached inside his jacket and took out a folded sheet of paper which he handed to me.

‘I can’t be sure yet, obviously…’ Floyd continued, as I unfolded the sheet. ‘It’s just a suspicion. But that’s why I came to you, to ask you to do a bit of snooping, or whatever you private eyes do, and find out if Harry is going to try to do something or not.

‘Of course I hope he isn’t planning anything like that, it’s very hard to imagine that he is, after all our years of partnership, but… you know, these things happen, I suppose, and if it is the case, then I want it sorted out.’

I read through the first sheet of paper carefully. It was an order for rat poison from the R.H. Macy and Company Store in Herald Square, signed by Harry Floyd.

‘Most interesting,’ I murmured when I reached the bottom of the sheet. ‘Yes, very interesting indeed. Where did you find this?’

‘In a drawer in Harry’s desk, in his office at the Palace,’ Hank replied. ‘I had gone to his office yesterday at about… half-past two, I think, to tell him that somebody from Warner Brothers was on the telephone to arrange Friday’s meeting. Harry wasn’t there, he had gone to the bathroom, but he’d left the drawer of his desk open and that thing was lying there. I think he’d just finished writing it.’

‘Can you think of any other reason why your brother would want to order rat poison from this store?’

‘Well, to kill rats, of course, but Mister Howell, the caretaker, looks after all the rat poison and so on, and he’s in charge of purchasing it. Harry never orders it. If there were rats to be dealt with, Mister Howell would see to it, not Harry.’

‘But if Harry was going to kill you with rat poison, could he not have just taken some from Mister Howell’s stores?’

‘Mister Howell keeps it locked away for safety, and he has the key on him at all times. Besides, he would notice if something had been taken from his stores.’

‘I see. So there is no other reason why your brother would want to order this?’

‘I don’t think so, no.’

‘Well, then. This does seem quite incriminating, doesn’t it?’

It did indeed seem quite incriminating. Rat poison, in a high enough dose, would kill a human quite quickly. However, I was a little puzzled by the fact that Harry Floyd seemed to have just carelessly left the letter in an open drawer in his desk while he went to the lavatory. I pondered on this for a few moments, trying to work out why exactly Harry Floyd would do something like that.

Then a vague idea appeared in my mind, and I pondered on that instead, and suddenly I was almost certain of the answer. And I also knew that I had been thinking about the case in completely the wrong way.

‘Well, have you got anything else?’ I asked Mister Floyd, my pondering complete.

‘Unfortunately not,’ Floyd replied sadly. ‘If I did I probably would have gone to the cops, but I figured that they wouldn’t think much of one sheet of paper, so I decided to come to you instead and ask you to do some quiet investigating. Would you mind?’

‘Not at all, Mister Floyd, not at all,’ I replied cheerfully. ‘There will, of course, be a fee.’

‘Oh, yes, that goes without saying. Shall I pay you now, or when you’ve got more evidence?’

‘Perhaps a deposit of sorts right now?’

‘Absolutely fine. Just one moment…’

He reached inside his jacket and took out his wallet.

‘Now then, let’s see… how much do you want?’

‘Actually, you know what? Keep your money. You might need it. I’ll take a check instead, if you have a check book. There’s no rush, after all. I don’t need the money immediately. And anyway, it might be better to wait until you’ve got all that cash from Warner Brothers on Friday!’

Floyd laughed, and returned his wallet to his jacket, taking out a check book and a pen instead.

‘How much?’

‘Let’s say… $500?’

‘Alright… what’s your name?’

‘Just put down “Private Investigator Mallory”.’

‘That’s all?’

‘That’ll do.’

Floyd filled out the check quickly and expertly and handed it to me.

‘Thank you… now, do you mind if I keep this?’ I asked, holding up the rat poison order.

‘Not at all,’ Floyd said. ‘Good luck with your investigations, Mister Mallory.’

‘Thank you, Mister Floyd. Goodbye now.’


‘Oh! Mister Floyd!’ I called, before he left. ‘Excuse me! One last thing… you forgot to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Might be difficult for the people at the bank to understand.’

Floyd stopped at the door and turned around. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

‘Sit down, Mister Floyd, and tell me everything,’ I said. ‘Because I know it all already.’



Hank Floyd had indeed forgotten to dot his i’s and cross his t’s – that is, he had forgotten to be particularly careful and accurate. Coincidentally, his mistake came about because he did actually forget to dot his i’s and cross his t’s (a habit of his).

I must congratulate Mister Floyd’s ingenuity, despite the fact that he was up to no good. Rarely have I had the pleasure to come across properly clever criminals. But Mister Floyd was different. He had actually put a lot of thought into his plan.

He confessed to everything and explained it all to me. I had worked all of it out already, of course, I just wanted a confession.

Hank Floyd had been quite eager for the “considerable sum” from Warner Brothers, in exchange for the Palace, and didn’t feel like splitting it with his brother. He wanted it all for himself. So he had a number of options at his disposal, and I must say he picked the best and smartest. He could have killed his brother straight away, of course, but then there would have been a high likelihood of him getting caught for the murder, something he didn’t want to happen, which is understandable enough. He could have tried to steal the money in various ways, but he would have been most likely caught for that, too.

Another alternative, however, was framing his brother for attempted murder before Friday’s meeting. The money would go to him alone and his brother would be locked behind bars, not being able to do anything about it. Hank Floyd would have prepared incriminating evidence, with my assistance, and would explain that his brother was planning to kill him so that he didn’t have to split the money. If any doubt came about as to his brother’s guilt, Floyd was confident that the “considerable sum” from Warner Brothers would help him to evade justice in some way.

His plan was to forge an order for rat poison from R.H. Macy and Company in his brother’s name, which he would give to me as “evidence” of his brother’s treachery. He would claim that he had found it when his brother had left it in an open drawer in his desk, something which somebody who was really considering murder would not do.

Floyd had said he had come to me, a private detective, to ask me to do “a bit of snooping”. The next step of his plan was to set up some further incriminating situations to coincide with my “snooping” – a knife here, a firearm there (something which could be easily acquired by the wealthy and famous) – with which his brother’s arrest could be engineered. Floyd would then have my support (or so he thought) at the trial, which would give his accusations more weight and credibility.

Unfortunately, Floyd habitually forgot to dot his i’s and cross his t’s, and this mistake was made both on the order and the check which he gave to me. This revealed that he had forged the order, which meant that the story about Floyd finding the order in an open drawer of his brother’s desk was a lie, and that my theory was correct.

His confession complete, I called the cops and explained everything, and Floyd left the offices of “Mallory’s Detective Agency” in the back of a police car, charged with forgery and attempting to frame his brother for a crime.

And so I had solved another case without leaving my chair. Disappointing, really. I could have done with the exercise.