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Authors: Conrad Allen

Murder on the Minnesota (30 page)

BOOK: Murder on the Minnesota

“George,” she said after long contemplation, “I’ve got some news.”

“What’s that?” he said, enjoying the excuse to lean in close to her.

“I think I might know who the killer is.”

When the meal was over, Dillman waited until the captain had left before he escorted Genevieve toward the exit. On their way, they paused beside Fay Brinkley’s table. She was disturbed by the sight of the bruising on Dillman’s temple. It was something she had not noticed in the subdued lighting on the previous night. Fay thought that it gave him a more rugged look. She squeezed Genevieve’s arm and spoke in a whisper.

“I saw him first,” she complained with a smile.

“Not quite.”

“I said that you were a dark horse.”

“I’ll explain everything tomorrow, Fay.”

“You already have. I’m not blind.”

Dillman had detached Blaine from the table and walked toward the door with him. After being introduced to the Changs, Genevieve stayed to chat with them and with the Legges. It was Moira Legge who could not contain her excitement.

“And we thought you’d end up with Mr. Kincaid!” she blurted out.

“That was never a meeting of true minds, Mrs. Legge,” said Genevieve.

“He was terribly keen on you,” noted Legge.

“Who isn’t?” said Fay with envy. “Genevieve can take her pick.”

“It looks as if she’s done just that,” said Moira Legge, staring after Dillman.

The detective was unaware of her scrutiny. Standing at the door, he was talking to the purser while Blaine chatted with Mrs. Van Bergen as she was about to leave. With so many people around, the diplomat felt secure while he awaited his
escort. Dillman passed on the information that Genevieve had given him. Mike Roebuck reacted with interest.

“A steward from steerage?” he asked.

“With a face that was badly bruised,” said Dillman.

“So you didn’t give him a black eye, after all.”

“We’re not sure that this
our man, Mike, but it’s a possibility that has to be looked at. Genevieve is fairly convinced about it.”

“We have quite a few Chinese stewards aboard.”

“How many of them have been in a fight?”

At Dillman’s suggestion, the two of them led Blaine back to his cabin, taking a new route and ensuring that nobody was trailing them. When they turned onto the passageway on the main deck, Dillman called them to a halt and held out his hand.

“Could I borrow your key, please, Mr. Blaine?” he said.

“Why?” asked the diplomat. “I’m perfectly safe now. There are bolts on the inside of the door. Once they’re in place, you’d need a battering ram to get in.”

“The assassin knows that, sir. By now, he may have discovered where you are. Since he can’t get at you once you’re inside, he may try an alternative strategy.”


“Gain access while you’re not there,” said Dillman, “and lie in wait.”

“How would he get hold of a key?”

“We have reason to believe that he may be one of the stewards. He’d know where the key to this cabin was kept.”

Blaine handed over his key. When Dillman put it in the lock, Roebuck stationed himself directly behind him to shield the diplomat. Entering the room, Dillman switched on the light and closed the door behind him to give the impression that the real occupant had returned. The place was empty, but he sensed danger. Its most likely source was the bathroom. Slipping off his coat, Dillman tossed it on the bunk and went into
the bathroom. When he flicked the switch, the light did not come on. Someone had removed the bulb. Dillman knew the attack was imminent. As a figure came hurling at him out of the gloom with a length of cord in his hands, he got a firm grip and used the man’s momentum against him, swinging him around in a semicircle until he collided with the wall. The attacker was winded. Before he could recover, Dillman threw a series of punches to his head and body. Weakened even more, the man still had the strength to aim a kick at Dillman’s leg that made the detective wince. He flung himself on the interloper and they grappled violently. When they fell to the ground, Dillman managed to stay on top.

Alerted by the noise, the purser used a master key to open the door in order to come to Dillman’s aid, but it was not required. Sitting astride his opponent, Dillman pounded away with both fists until resistance slowly faded. He dragged the man into the cabin so that he could see him in the light. Wearing a mask, his attacker was dressed in the uniform of a steward from steerage. Dillman tore the mask away from the man’s face to reveal the bruising he had inflicted earlier. The Chinese steward did not even have the breath to curse Dillman. Turning him on his front, the detective used the piece of cord to bind his hands. He was still panting from his own exertions as he hauled the man upright. Blaine took a few tentative steps into the cabin.

“Have you got him?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” said Roebuck grimly.

Blaine inspected the prisoner. “Who is he?”

“The man who killed Father Slattery,” said Dillman.

“Why was he after me?”

“We’ll know that when we arrest his boss, sir.”

Acting on Dillman’s orders, Genevieve followed the Langmeads into the lounge and kept them talking. Horace Langmead had regained all of his conviviality. It was difficult to believe that such an amiable man could be involved in a murder plot, and
Genevieve was troubled by doubts. Had she made an appalling error? It would be highly embarrassing if they accused Langmead of a crime when he was completely innocent. Dillman seemed to be taking an inordinate time and the wait began to vex Genevieve. Etta Langmead was as curious as anyone to know about her dinner companion.

“Who is he, Miss Masefield?” she wondered.

“A friend,” replied Genevieve.

“Why have you been keeping him to yourself?”

“He’s rather shy.”

“There’s no room for shyness onboard ship,” said Etta. “You must invite him to join our table tomorrow. Mustn’t she, Horry?”

“Yes, yes,” he agreed heartily. “Any friend of Miss Masefield’s is always welcome.”

At that moment, a steward came into the lounge with a message for Langmead. Getting up at once, Langmead excused himself and followed the man out, wondering why the purser had asked to see him in his office. Etta Langmead took advantage of her husband’s absence to clasp Genevieve’s arm.

“Good,” she said with glee. “Now that he’s gone, you can tell me

Horace Langmead approached the office with apprehension, but it did not show in his face. When he was invited in to see the purser, his smile was intact. It broadened when Roebuck introduced him to Dillman, who was standing in the background.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Dillman,” said Langmead, shaking his hand. “We were just talking about you to Genevieve Masefield. You’re a fortunate man, sir.”

“Thank you,” replied Dillman.

“We hope the pair of you will join us at our table.”

“That won’t be possible, I’m afraid, Mr. Langmead.”

“Why not?”

“I didn’t introduce Mr. Dillman properly,” said the purser.
“He’s not a passenger. He’s one of the ship’s detectives.” Langmead’s smile congealed. “So is Miss Masefield.” The visitor was visibly shocked. “Tell me, sir,” Roebuck went on, “does the name Ho Ni mean anything to you?”

“No, it doesn’t. Never heard of the fellow. Who is he?”

“He’s the man who gave me this,” explained Dillman, pointing to the bruise on his temple. “I was able to repay the compliment this evening in Mr. Blaine’s cabin. Mr. Ni is a steward in steerage. At least, he was. He’s now under arrest for the murder of Father Slattery and the attempted murder of myself.”

Langmead shrugged. “What’s this got to do with me?”

“You were seen talking to Mr. Ni on the main deck earlier on. We have a positive identification, sir. Mr. Seymour-Jones was most obliging. Though he was only able to peer at Mr. Ni through the bars of his cell, he picked him out instantly as the man he tried to sketch along with you. Now we know why you tore up that drawing.”

“Mr. Seymour-Jones had no right to do that sketch of me.”

“Perhaps not, Mr. Langmead, but did you have to pounce on him like that?”

“Do you still deny that you know Mr. Ni?” added the purser.

“Categorically. I did speak to a Chinese steward,” admitted Langmead. “It’s true. But I had no idea what his name was. I simply asked him how his face had got that terrible bruise on it.”

“Yes,” resumed Dillman. “Mr. Seymour-Jones did overhear something of what you were saying to him but he couldn’t understand you, could he, sir? You were speaking in Chinese to Mr. Ni. You obviously know the language,” he said, producing some letters from his pocket. “I found these in your cabin just now when I searched it. That’s why Miss Masefield was keeping you and your wife talking in the lounge, you see. We needed time to gather our evidence.”

Langmead started to bluster, but he knew it was futile. Opening the door, he tried to make a run for it but he went
straight into the arms of the deputy purser who had been waiting outside. Struggling in vain, Langmead was forced back into the purser’s office.

“Now, sir,” said Roebuck, “supposing that you start telling us the truth?”

It was midnight before George Porter Dillman had finished. The long interrogation of Horace Langmead had been revealing but exhausting for all concerned. However, Dillman could not retire to his cabin. He had agreed to a rendezvous. Genevieve Masefield was waiting for him on the covered promenade of the upper deck, gazing out to sea. Steady rain was beating at the windows. The prow was plunging low as it came down from the crest of a wave. Embracing her warmly, Dillman apologized for keeping her so long and explained what had happened. Genevieve was thrilled.

“What a day!” she observed. “We netted four smugglers and a killer.”

“Don’t forget Horace Langmead,” he said. “He was the key figure. Ho Ni was only a hired assassin. It was Langmead who gave him his instructions.”

“Why, George? What did he have against Mr. Blaine?”

“Nothing, personally. But Langmead was working for the Chinese government, and they were not pleased at the idea of closer links between Japan and the United States. That’s what Mr. Blaine is trying to negotiate,” he said. “It’s all to do with the balance of power. President Roosevelt wants Japan to act as a buffer against Russia and China. That’s why he favored Japan when he mediated between the two countries after the Russo-Japanese war.”

“In what way did he favor them?”

“He sacrificed Korea to the Japanese. You’d have to live in the Far East to appreciate the significance of that. It really angered the Chinese. They have their own fears of Japan,” he went on, “so they don’t want it strengthened by closer relations with the United States.”

“Why are they afraid of Japan?” she asked. “China is so much bigger.”

“Japan has a very effective army, Genevieve. Russia discovered that. And did you know that Japan has the fifth most powerful fleet in the world?”

“A small country like that?”

Dillman grinned. “Think of the small country where you lived,” he reminded her. “The British navy ruled the waves at one time. Being small hasn’t stopped Britain from building the largest empire ever seen. Japan is a very ambitious nation,” he stressed. “They have imperial designs. The Chinese are right to keep a wary eye on them.”

“How did Mr. Langmead get involved in all this?”

“His business dealings brought him to China. He liked the country. They sensed that he could be bought, Genevieve, so they worked on him. They paid him very handsomely. Langmead has political contacts in Washington, D.C.”

“So he set up a small network of spies.”

“Yes,” said Dillman. “Now that we’ve caught him, it can be smashed.”

“And I thought that Mr. Langmead was such a nice man.”

“Spies usually are. They have to be plausible in order to do their work.”

“Just like us.”

“Yes, Genevieve.” He slipped an arm around her. “Just like us.”

“But things will have to change now, George,” she pointed out. “Different methods will be needed. We’ve been seen together in public. Everybody realizes that we know each other.”


“They think that we’re involved in a romance.”

“Then we’ll have to give them every reason to go on believing that, won’t we?”

Genevieve turned to him. “How do we do that?”

“Oh,” he said, pulling her to him, “we’ll find a way somehow.”


did well at first, but a sharp fall in freight rate put an end to the owner’s dreams of huge profits. The ship began to lose money but was nevertheless kept in service for over a decade. In October 1915, she was withdrawn from service and became the target for a group of companies eager to make war profits out of England’s food crisis. After repairs that lasted a year, the
arrived in New York in February 1917 via the Panama Canal. She was renamed
and carried cargoes of record proportions across the Atlantic for the remainder of World War I. After the war, she was converted to burn oil. She lay idle for three years. In November 1923, she left New York under tow for a scrap yard in Germany.

About the Author

Conrad Allen is better known as Edward Marston, the Edgar-nominated author of the Nicholas Bracewell series and of several other historical mysteries. He lives in England.

Find out more about him at

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