Murder in the Gunroom
Rand drove slowly through Rosemont, the next day, refreshing his memory of the place.
It was one of the many commuters' villages strung out for fifty miles along the railroad
lines radiating from New Belfast, and depended for its support upon a population
scattered over a five-mile radius at estates and country homes. Obviously a planned
community, it was dominated by a gray-walled, green-roofed railroad station which stood
on its passenger-platform like a captain in front of four platoons of gray-walled, green-
roofed houses and stores aligned along as many converging roads. There was a post
office, uniform with the rest of the buildings; an excessive quantity of aluminum
trimming dated it somewhere in the middle Andrew W. Mellon period. There were four
gas stations, a movie theater, and a Woolworth store with a red front that made it look
like some painted hussy who had wandered into a Quaker Meeting.
Over the door of one of the smaller stores, Rand saw a black-lettered white sign:
Antiques. There was a smoke-gray Plymouth coupé parked in front of it.
Instead of turning onto the road to the Fleming estate, he continued along Route 19 for a
mile or so beyond the village, until he came to a red brick pseudo-Colonial house on the
right. He pulled to the side of the road and got out, turning up the collar of his trench
coat. The air was raw and damp, doubly unpleasant after the recent unseasonable warmth.
An apathetically persistent rain sogged the seedling-dotted old fields on either side, and
the pine-woods beyond, and a high ceiling of unbroken dirty gray gave no promise of
clearing. The mournful hoot of a distant locomotive whistle was the only sound to pierce
the silence. For a moment, Rand stood with his back to the car, looking at the gallows-
like sign that proclaimed this to be the business-place of Arnold Rivers, Fine Antique and
Modern Firearms for the Discriminating Collector.
The house faced the road with a long side; at the left, a porch formed a continuation
under a deck roof, and on the right, an ell had been built at right angles, extending thirty
feet toward the road. Although connected to the house by a shed roof, which acquired a
double pitch and became a gable roof where the ell projected forward, it was, in effect, a
separate building, with its own front door and its own door-path. Its floor-level was about
four feet lower than that of the parent structure.
A Fibber McGee door-chime clanged as Rand entered. Closing the door behind him, he
looked around. The room, some twenty feet wide and fifty long, was lighted by an almost
continuous row of casement windows on the right, and another on the left for as far as the
ell extended beyond the house. They were set high, a good five feet from lower sill to
floor, and there was no ceiling; the sloping roof was supported by bare timber rafters.
Racks lined the walls, under the windows, holding long-guns and swords; the pistols and
daggers and other small items were displayed on a number of long tables. In the middle
of the room, glaring at the front door, was a brass four-pounder on a ship's carriage; a
Philippine latanka, muzzle tilted upward, stood beside it. Where the ell joined the house
under the shed roof, there was a fireplace, and a short flight of steps to a landing and a
door out of the dwelling, and some furniture—a davenport, three or four deep chairs
facing the fire, a low cocktail-table, a cellarette, and, in the far corner, a big desk.