Murder in the Gunroom HTML version

Chapter 21
In the month which followed, events transpired through a thickening miasma of rumors,
official communiques, journalistic conjectures, and outright fabrications, fitfully lit by the
glare of newsmen's photo-bulbs, bulking with strange shapes, and emitting stranger
noises. There were the portentous rumblings of prepared statements, and the hollow
thumps of denials. There were soft murmurs of, "Now, this is strictly off the record ..."
followed by sibilant whispers. The unseen screws of political pressure creaked, and
whitewash brushes slurped suavely. And there was an insistent yammering of bewildered
and unanswered questions. Fred Dunmore really had killed Arnold Rivers, hadn't he? Or
had he? Arnold Rivers had been double-crossing Dunmore ... or had Dunmore been
double-crossing Rivers? Somebody had stolen ten—or was it twenty-five—thousand
dollars' worth of old pistols? Or was it just twenty-five thousand dollars? Or what, if
anything, had been stolen? Was somebody being framed for something ... or was
somebody covering up for somebody ... or what? And wasn't there something funny
about the way Lane Fleming got killed, last December?
The surviving members of the Fleming family issued a few noncommittal statements
through their attorney, Humphrey Goode, and then the Iron Curtain slammed down. Mick
McKenna gave an outraged squawk or so, then subsided. There was a series of
pronunciamentos from the office of District Attorney Charles P. Farnsworth, all full of
high-order abstractions and empty of meaning. The reporters, converging on the Fleming
house, found it occupied by the State Police, who kept them at bay. Harry Bentz, of the
New Belfast Evening Mercury, using a 30-power spotting-'scope from the road, observed
Dave Ritter, whom he recognized, wearing a suit of butler's livery and standing in the
doorway of the garage, talking to Sergeant McKenna, Carter Tipton and Farnsworth; the
Mercury exploited this scoop for all it was worth.
On the whole, the Rosemont Bayonet Murder was, from a journalistic standpoint, an
almost complete bust. There had been no arrest, no hearing, no protracted trial, no
sensational revelations. Only one monolithic fact, officially attested and indisputable,
loomed out of the murk: "... and the said Frederick Parker Dunmore, deceased, did
receive the aforesaid gunshot-wounds, hereinbefore enumerated, at the hands of the said
Jefferson Davis Rand and at the hands of the said David Abercrombie Ritter ..." and "...
the said Jefferson Davis Rand and the said David Abercrombie Ritter, being in mortal
fear for their several lives, did so act in defense of their several persons..." and, finally,
"... the said Frederick Parker Dunmore did die."
The Evening Mercury, which sheet the said Jefferson Davis Rand had once cost the loss
of an expensive libel-suit and exposed in certain journalistic malpractices verging upon
blackmail, promptly burst into print with an indignant editorial entitled Trial by Pistol.
The terms: "legalized slaughter," and "flagrant whitewash," were used, and mention was
made of "the well known preference of a certain notorious private detective for the
procedure of habeas cadaver." The principal result of this outcry was to persuade an
important New Belfast manufacturer, who had hitherto resisted Rand's sales pressure, to
contract with the Tri-State Agency for the protection of his payroll deliveries.