The Silent Bullet HTML version
1. The Silent Bullet
"Detectives in fiction nearly always make a great mistake," said Kennedy one evening
after our first conversation on crime and science. "They almost invariably antagonize the
regular detective force. Now in real life that's impossible--it's fatal."
"Yes," I agreed, looking up from reading an account of the failure of a large Wall Street
brokerage house, Kerr Parker & Co., and the peculiar suicide of Kerr Parker. "Yes, it's
impossible, just as it is impossible for the regular detectives to antagonize the
newspapers. Scotland Yard found that out in the Crippen case."
"My idea of the thing, Jameson," continued Kennedy, "is that the professor of criminal
science ought to, work with, not against, the regular detectives. They're all right. They're
indispensable, of course. Half the secret of success nowadays is organisation. The
professor of criminal science should be merely what the professor in a technical school
often is--a sort of consulting engineer. For instance, I believe that organisation plus
science would go far to ward clearing up that Wall Street case I see you are reading."
I expressed some doubt as to whether the regular police were enlightened enough to take
that view of it.
"Some of them are," he replied. "Yesterday the chief of police in a Western city sent a
man East to see me about the Price murder: you know the case?"
Indeed I did. A wealthy banker of the town had been murdered on the road to the golf
club, no one knew why or by whom. Every clue had proved fruitless, and the list of
suspects was itself so long and so impossible as to seem most discouraging.
"He sent me a piece of a torn handkerchief with a deep blood-stain on it," pursued
Kennedy. "He said it clearly didn't belong to the murdered man, that it indicated that the
murderer had himself been wounded in the tussle, but as yet it had proved utterly
valueless as a clue. Would I see what I could make of it?
"After his man had told me the story I had a feeling that the murder was committed by
either a Sicilian labourer on the links or a negro waiter at the club. Well, to make a short
story shorter, I decided to test the blood-stain. Probably you didn't know it, but the
Carnegie Institution has just published a minute, careful, and dry study of the blood of
human beings and of animals.
"In fact, they have been able to reclassify the whole animal kingdom on this basis, and
have made some most surprising additions to our knowledge of evolution. Now I don't
propose to bore you with the details of the tests, but one of the things they showed was
that the blood of a certain branch of the human race gives a reaction much like the blood
of a certain group of monkeys, the chimpanzees, while the blood of another branch gives