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The Safety Match
by [?]

“There you go!–and how do you know they strangled him?”

“There are marks of teeth on the pillow. The pillow itself is badly crumpled, and thrown a couple of yards from the bed.”

“Listen to his foolishness! Better come into the garden. You would be better employed examining the garden than digging around here. I can do that without you!”

When they reached the garden they began by examining the grass. The grass under the window was crushed and trampled. A bushy burdock growing under the window close to the wall was also trampled. Dukovski succeeded in finding on it some broken twigs and a piece of cotton wool. On the upper branches were found some fine hairs of dark blue wool.

“What color was his last suit?” Dukovski asked Psyekoff.

Yellow crash.”

“Excellent! You see they wore blue!”

A few twigs of the burdock were cut off, and carefully wrapped in paper by the investigators. At this point Police Captain Artsuybasheff Svistakovski and Dr. Tyutyeff arrived. The captain bade them “Good day!” and immediately began to satisfy his curiosity. The doctor, a tall, very lean man, with dull eyes; a long nose, and a pointed chin, without greeting anyone or asking about anything, sat down on a log, sighed, and began:

“The Servians are at war again! What in heaven’s name can they want now? Austria, it’s all your doing!”

The examination of the window from the outside did not supply any conclusive data. The examination of the grass and the bushes nearest to the window yielded a series of useful clews. For example, Dukovski succeeded in discovering a long, dark streak, made up of spots, on the grass, which led some distance into the center of the garden. The streak ended under one of the lilac bushes in a dark brown stain. Under this same lilac bush was found a top boot, which turned out to be the fellow of the boot already found in the bedroom.

“That is a blood stain made some time ago,” said Dukovski, examining the spot.

At the word “blood” the doctor rose, and going over lazily, looked at the spot.

“Yes, it is blood!” he muttered.

“That shows he wasn’t strangled, if there was blood,” said Chubikoff, looking sarcastically at Dukovski.

“They strangled him in the bedroom; and here, fearing he might come round again, they struck him a blow with some sharp-pointed instrument. The stain under the bush proves that he lay there a considerable time, while they were looking about for some way of carrying him out of the garden.

“Well, and how about the boot?”

“The boot confirms completely my idea that they murdered him while he was taking his boots off before going to bed. He had already taken off one boot, and the other, this one here, he had only had time to take half off. The half-off boot came off of itself, while the body was dragged over, and fell–“

“There’s a lively imagination for you!” laughed Chubikoff. “He goes on and on like that! When will you learn enough to drop your deductions? Instead of arguing and deducing, it would be much better if you took some of the blood-stained grass for analysis!”

When they had finished their examination, and drawn a plan of the locality, the investigators went to the director’s office to write their report and have breakfast. While they were breakfasting they went on talking:

“The watch, the money, and so on–all untouched–” Chubikoff began, leading off the talk, “show as clearly as that two and two are four that the murder was not committed for the purpose of robbery.”

“The murder was committed by an educated man!” insisted Dukovski.

“What evidence have you of that?”

“The safety match proves that to me, for the peasants hereabouts are not yet acquainted with safety matches. Only the landowners use them, and by no means all of them. And it is evident that there was not one murderer, but at least three.” Two held him, while one killed him. Klausoff was strong, and the murderers must have known it!