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The Safety Match
by [?]

“Is it possible, gentlemen?” cried Chubikoff, entering Psyekoff’s room, and quickly shaking hands with everyone. Is it possible? Marcus Ivanovitch? Murdered? No! It is impossible! Im-poss-i- ble!

“Go in there!” sighed the inspector.

“Lord, have mercy on us! Only last Friday I saw him at the fair in Farabankoff. I had a drink of vodka with him, save the mark!”

“Go in there!” again sighed the inspector.

They sighed, uttered exclamations of horror, drank a glass of tea each, and went to the wing.

“Get back!” the orderly cried to the peasants.

Going to the wing, the examining magistrate began his work by examining the bedroom door. The door proved to be of pine, painted yellow, and was uninjured. Nothing was found which could serve as a clew. They had to break in the door.

“Everyone not here on business is requested to keep away!” said the magistrate, when, after much hammering and shaking, the door yielded to ax and chisel. “I request this, in the interest of the investigation. Orderly, don’t let anyone in!”

Chubikoff, his assistant, and the inspector opened the door, and hesitatingly, one after the other, entered the room. Their eyes met the following sight: Beside the single window stood the big wooden bed with a huge feather mattress. On the crumpled feather bed lay a tumbled, crumpled quilt. The pillow, in a cotton pillow- case, also much crumpled, was dragging on the floor. On the table beside the bed lay a silver watch and a silver twenty-kopeck piece. Beside them lay some sulphur matches. Beside the bed, the little table, and the single chair, there was no furniture in the room. Looking under the bed, the inspector saw a couple of dozen empty bottles, an old straw hat, and a quart of vodka. Under the table lay one top boot, covered with dust. Casting a glance around the room, the magistrate frowned and grew red in the face.

“Scoundrels!” he muttered, clenching his fists.

“And where is Marcus Ivanovitch?” asked Dukovski in a low voice.

“Mind your own business!” Chubikoff answered roughly. “Be good enough to examine the floor! This is not the first case of the kind I have had to deal with! Eugraph Kuzmitch,” he said, turning to the inspector, and lowering his voice, “in 1870 I had another case like this. But you must remember it–the murder of the merchant Portraitoff. It was just the same there. The scoundrels murdered him, and dragged the corpse out through the window–“

Chubikoff went up to the window, pulled the curtain to one side, and carefully pushed the window. The window opened.

“It opens, you see! It wasn’t fastened. Hm! There are tracks under the window. Look! There is the track of a knee! Somebody got in there. We must examine the window thoroughly.”

“There is nothing special to be found on the floor,” said Dukovski. “No stains or scratches. The only thing I found was a struck safety match. Here it is! So far as I remember, Marcus Ivanovitch did not smoke. And he always used sulphur matches, never safety matches. Perhaps this safety match may serve as a clew!”

“Oh, do shut up!” cried the magistrate deprecatingly. “You go on about your match! I can’t abide these dreamers! Instead of chasing matches, you had better examine the bed!”

After a thorough examination of the bed, Dukovski reported:

“There are no spots, either of blood or of anything else. There are likewise no new torn places. On the pillow there are signs of teeth. The quilt is stained with something which looks like beer and smells like beer. The general aspect of the bed gives grounds for thinking that a struggle took place on it.”

“I know there was a struggle, without your telling me! You are not being asked about a struggle. Instead of looking for struggles, you had better–“

“Here is one top boot, but there is no sign of the other.”

“Well, and what of that?”

“It proves that they strangled him, while he was taking his boots off. He hadn’t time to take the second boot off when–“