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The Philo Vance Murder Cases: 6

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The Philo Vance Murder Cases: 6
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): S. S. Van Dine
Date Published: 2010/11
Page Count: 220
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-436-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-435-6

Philo Vance’s final cases

These are the final two tales in the complete Leonaur collection of the Philo Vance Murder Cases. Volume six contains the eleventh novel—‘The Gracie Allen Murder Case'. Fortunately George Burn's zany companion is not the victim of the crime, but she provides predictable comic relief to the case, making this an unusual and quite experimental Vance story. The twelfth and final story, 'The Winter Murder Case', is in fact a short novel—that once again demonstrates the insight and understanding of one of fiction’s great fictional characters. Included in this final volume are S. S. Van Dine’s rules for detective story writing, which make this book a must not only for Philo Vance fans but for aspiring authors as well!

The next morning at eight there was excited knocking at our door.<br>
“Mr. Vance! Mr. Vance!” I recognized the old butler’s voice. “Mr. Rexon says will you please come to the den at once, sir.”<br>
Vance jumped up. “What’s wrong, Higgins?”<br>
“I—I don’t know.”<br>
He dressed speedily, and we went into the hall. A woman, in the black livery of a housekeeper, was bent over the railing of the stairs. She heard us and backed against the wall, eyes staring, body

rigid. Vance halted, looked at her sharply. She was tall, well built, about forty. She had green eyes, black hair, a cryptic face. A superior woman, but over-taut.<br>
“Could you hear?” Vance’s tone was cold.<br>
“There’s tragedy!” she said, in a tense, contralto voice.<br>
“Common commodity of life. Relax.”<br>
We hurried downstairs.<br>
“The Manor’s strangest creature so far,” Vance remarked to me. “Inhibited. Menacing. Knows too much. Volcanic. But only smouldering. She’s tragedy. God help her. . . .”<br>
Carrington Rexon was in a house gown. With him in the den was a huge middle-aged man in a lumber-jacket, corduroy trousers, and laced leather boots. He was pale and nervous. There was sweat on his

hands as he steadied himself against the mantel.<br>
“Eric Gunthar here, my overseer,” Rexon told us, “just found the body of Lief Wallen in Tor Gulch near here. He’s evidently fallen from the ledge on top. Gunthar came in to report to me and get

aid. Would you go with him, Vance? I’ve already phoned for the doctor. . . .Wallen was the guard of the Manor’s west wing, where the Gem Room is.”<br>
“An indication perhaps. Quite. I understand. Gladly.”<br>
“Lief must have slipped,” Gunthar put in thickly.<br>
“Be sure you have someone replace him tonight,” ordered Rexon. “Better take a couple of men to bring him up,” he added.<br>
“Darrup’s down at the lower rink. I’ll find another.” Gunthar’s hand brushed his forehead, “Wallen was a bad sight, Squire. . . .Can I have another drink—?”<br>
“You’ve had too much already,” snapped Vance. “Move!”<br>
Gunthar led the way sullenly. As we crossed the main road just before the house, a strange shabby figure appeared. A straggly white beard accentuated his stooped shoulders. He shuffled as he

walked, but there was wiry energy in his movements. He turned quickly toward a clump of trees, as if to avoid us. Gunthar hailed him peremptorily.<br>
“Come here, Jed. We need you.” The old man shuffled up obediently. “Lief’s gone over the crags at Tor Gulch. We’ll be bringing him up.”<br>
The old man grinned childishly. For some reason the tragedy seemed to amuse him. “Maybe you’re drinking too much, Eric. Ella said you struck her last week. You shouldn’t do that. The Gulch’ll hold

more’n one.”<br>
We picked up Guy Darrup, the estate carpenter. Gunthar explained. Darrup’s eyes clouded. There was unfriendliness in them. As we headed westward down the path he said: “I guess that’ll make your

job safe for a while now, Mr. Gunthar.”<br>
Gunthar snarled. “Get on. Mind your own business. Maybe you’d like to be overseer?”<br>
“I’d do everyone fair.” There was bitterness in the remark. <br>
We took a circuitous route to the base of the rocky crags, passed through a cluster of trees over which the mist hung. We went north across a frozen stream, then turned in the general direction

from which we came.<br>
“You’re Miss Ella’s father, aren’t you, Gunthar?” Vance spoke for the first time.<br>
Gunthar gave an affirmative grunt.<br>
“Who’s he?” With a move of the head Vance indicated the old man shuffling briskly far ahead.<br>
A sudden decision prompted ingratiation on Gunthar’s part. “Old Jed. He was overseer here before me. Pensioned off now. He’s cracked. Lives alone down in the Green Glen—named it himself. Doesn’t

mingle. We call him the Green Hermit. . . .Nasty business about Lief, with the house full of guests—”<br>
“That remark of Darrup’s. Is there talk of a new overseer?”<br>
“Hell! They’re always talking. I make ’em work. They don’t like it.”<br>
Old Jed turned abruptly to the right past an eruption of shrubs.<br>
“Hey,” bawled Gunthar, “How do you know where to go?”<br>
“I reckon I know where Lief is,” Jed cackled. He disappeared behind a projecting rock.<br>
“He’s cracked,” Gunthar repeated.<br>
“Thanks for the information.” As Vance spoke a shout came from Old Jed.<br>
“Here’s Lief, Eric.”<br>
We came up. A crumpled body, hideously twisted, lay at the foot of a stone cliff. The face was torn and clotted, and the bare head was violently misshapen. There was a dark pool of coagulated

Vance leaned over the figure, examined it closely; then he stood up. “No doctor can help. We’ll leave him here. Darrup’ll watch. I’ll phone Winewood.” He looked up at the cliff-side and then

through the trees at the Manor towers beyond.<br>
Gunthar waved Old Jed away.<br>
“You really oughtn’t strike Ella, Eric,” the old man admonished with a faint grin as he moved off round the cliffs to the flat meadow.<br>
“Can we get to the top of the cliff on our way back to the Manor?” asked Vance.<br>
Gunthar hesitated. “There’s a steep short cut back a ways. But it’s a dangerous climb—”<br>
“We’ll take it. Get going.”<br>
When we had struggled up the slippery, treacherous incline, Gunthar indicated the approximate spot where Lief Wallen must have gone over. There were shrub oaks near the edge of the cliff and Vance

moved among them, gazing down at the thin layer of crusted snow. Suddenly he knelt beside a sturdy tree bole. “Blood, Gunthar.” He pointed to an irregular dark patch a few inches from the tree

Gunthar sucked in his breath. “Holy God—up here!”<br>
“Oh, quite.” Vance rose. “No. No accident. Too bad the wind last night obliterated the tale of footprints. However. . . .We’ll be going. Work to do.”<br>
Gunthar halted abruptly. “Old Jed knew just where the body was!” <br>
“Thanks awfully.” Vance hastened down the long slope toward the Manor.
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