Corporal Downey Calls the Tune can be found in

Read a Random Story

Black John Takes a Hand in Solving a Murder

Corporal Downey Calls The Tune

James B. Hendryx
Author of "Black John Intervenes," "Samson's Luck on Halfaday." etc.

"HOW much further is this crick where you say the dead man is?" asked Corporal Downey, of the Northwest Mounted Police, as the canoe cut smoothly through the water of a still stretch, giving the paddlers a breathing spell in their ascent of the turbulent Klondike River.

The Indian who was paddling the bow scanned the skyline of the mountains. "Mebbe-so com' tonight—mebbe-so tomor'," he replied, without turning his head.

"I should hope so. You told me it was only two days up the Klondike—an' we've be'n out four days, now—an' ain't even come to the crick."

"Two day, com' down to Dawson. Too mooch fas' water—tak' mor' day go oop."

"How far is the dead man up the crick from the river?"

"W'at you call—short far. Mebbe-so wan mile."

That night they camped at the mouth of the creek, on the bottom of which, weighted down with stones, the Indian had reported finding the body of a dead man, He had been paddling down the creek when, glancing over the side of the canoe, he found himself looking squarely into the face of the man who lay on his back with some six feet of crystal-clear water between. Terrorized, the Indian had stopped long enough to see that the body had been weighted with stones secured with lengths of rope to his feet and neck. Then he had hastened to Dawson to report the matter to the police.

Early morning found them at the spot, and ascertaining that the body was still there. Lowering a grappling hook, Downey caught the rope between the man's neck and the stone, and the two succeeded in drawing the body from the water. Leaving it to drain, the young officer glanced about him. The valley of the creek was narrow, and some thirty yards back from the creek bed, close against the rimrocks stood a tiny cabin. A small dump that gave evidence of recent working, had been piled beside a shaft straddled by a windlass. Walking over to the shaft, Downey saw that it was not more than eight feet deep. The upper four feet of its sides showed weather-wear, while the remainder had been recently dug. The windlass was a crude affair, old, but evidently freshly patched up. A bit of rope dangling from the roller was new, and of the same kind that had been used in weighting the body.

Passing on to the cabin, Downey saw at a glance that it, too, had been recently patched and made habitable—the roof showed a layer of new dirt, and the chinking had been augmented with fresh mud.

Pushing the door open he stood for several moments staring into the bare interior as his eyes became accustomed to the gloom. The furniture consisted of a rude pole table, three short pole benches, and two pole bunks. One of these bunks particularly drew the officer's attention. It had evidently been recently widened by the addition of green poles, also, one of the three pole seats was new.

A discarded pair of socks, and a torn shirt had been tossed into a corner. Stepping into the room, Downey stooped and peered beneath the bunks. Reaching under the wider one, he drew forth an object that caused him to emit a low whistle of surprise. It was a battered violin case, and inside the case was a violin, and a bow. The instrument, with all its strings intact, seemed in excellent condition. It was the only thing of any value whatever that had been left behind by the occupants of the cabin.

DOWNEY next turned his attention to the stove which had been abandoned as not worth removing, being a homemade affair, constructed out of two square five gallon petrol tins. The stove, he saw, was well filled with ashes. Lifting it, he carried it outside and peered into the interior.

"Lot of stuff besides wood has been burnt in here," he muttered, and began to remove the ashes with his hands, sifting them between his fingers. Some thin strips of steel puzzled him, and these he laid aside, together with a number of small metal eyelets. He next removed a curved metal rim, hinged at each end, and provided with a thumb catch and two small rings to which ferrules were attached. Bits of charred leather clung to the ferrules and to the under part of the metal rim. "So," he muttered to himself, as he squatted there and regarded his findings, "there's a woman mixed up in this, somewhere. This is all that's left of a woman's hand-bag—an' those strips an' eyelets must have been parts of her corsets. I wonder if I'll be findin' her body, too?"

Search of the dirt in ...

This is only a preview of this story.
If you are interested in unlocking this story, please visit our GoFundMe campaign page and considering helping.