Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

TMM #10: The Grove of Mystery

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, September 1, 2017 in Pulp, The Shadow, Two-Minute Mystery
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

TMM #10: The Grove of Mystery
A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

Here’s a new entry in my rotating series of The Shadow two-minute mysteries. Another chance to match wits with The Shadow, solve the mystery along with crimedom’s nemesis. Sharpen your sleuthing skills and give it a couple minutes of your valuable time.

This mini-mystery originally appeared on my Shadow in Review website, a dozen or more years ago. You may remember it… you may remember the solution, as well. But for those of you who missed it the first time around, here’s a summer rerun!

This mystery is based upon the original 1930s pulp character, The Shadow. Not the radio version. No clouding men’s minds, here. Just a black cloak and slouch hat.

I don’t claim there’s only one solution. But there’s only one that I thought of. You may find a different one. A better one! And more power to you. The solution will appear (below) next Friday. That gives you time to mull over the crime.

Feel free to leave your solution in the comments section below. Don’t worry about making a fool of yourself… I do it weekly!

Finally, there are some background notes at the end of the story. They’ll explain a bit more about the characters and situations in this mini-mystery, and their part in the larger universe of the pulp Shadow.

You are about to enter the pulp world of the 1930s. Join The Shadow as he dons his black cloak, slouch hat, and gloves, and prepares to battle crime. It’s time for action and mystery. The Shadow knows!

■ ■ ■

The Grove of Mystery

The grove of mystery edged the Beechview golf course.

The grove of mystery edged the Beechview golf course.

The midday sun sparkled on the waters of Long Island Sound. A short sandy beach led up to several acres of trees. To the right of the grove, set above a rolling lawn, was the house known as Lower Beechview. On the other side of the grove, the Beechview Golf Course adjoined the woods.

A tall man garbed in golf clothes stood on the greens. Businessman Henry Arnaud was golfing alone. He contemplated the strangely-silent grove. The trees were all of one species — the copper beech — and their uniformity of height was a tribute to the perfection of nature. Below the thickly-interlaced copper boughs, rays of sunlight failed to reach the brownish matted ground. From far within the dimly-lit woods, the faint sound of a human voice called.

Henry Arnaud, businessman, golfer and... The Shadow!

Henry Arnaud, businessman, golfer, and… The Shadow!

Arnaud pulled a black bundle from his golf bag and swiftly moved under the thick burnished branches. The bundle was unwrapped and a black cloak settled upon his shoulders. A black slouch hat completed the transformation. Henry Arnaud was no more. The figure that now stalked through the spectral stillness was The Shadow!

On the far side of the gloomy woods, Joe Cardona, ace detective of the Manhattan Police, stood outside Lower Beechview. He heard the same muffled voice. It was Sergeant Markham calling from deep inside the grove.

Sounds seemed dampened below the copper mantle. Cardona followed the subdued voice to where Markham, weirdly outlined in the semi-gloom, stood above a huddled figure. It was the dead body of Barton Chittenden.

An unseen cloaked figure approached stealthily from the other direction. The Shadow stood invisible in the artificial twilight, watching.

The dead body of Barton Chittenden.

The dead body of Barton Chittenden.

“Looks to have been here for 10-to-12 hours,” the sergeant commented.

“Have you searched the area?” Cardona felt a pervading sense of dread in the somber gloom.

“Yes, but we found nothing. Just what you see here.”

Cardona bent down and examined the body. There was no apparent wound; no gunshot or stab wound, no sign of strangulation, or other sign of violence. The soft spongy ground betrayed no sign of a struggle, not even footprints.

The only thing that Chittenden had carried were a few items in his pockets: a comb, a ring of four keys, a few coins, a wallet containing $22 in bills, and several club membership cards.

“The coroner will have to determine if it was a natural death, accidental death or a homicide.”

A singular whispered voice filled the still air. In the strange hush of the grove, it was impossible to detect its source. Cardona recognized the voice of The Shadow:

“Chittenden did not come here alone. That suggests murder.”

HOW DID THE SHADOW KNOW?

■ ■ ■

Click here for the solution.

In the dark of night, no one would have penetrated that far into the grove without light. Barton Chittenden had no flashlight, no cigarette lighter, no matches. Someone else had been with him and had taken the light as he left.

Chittenden likely either died elsewhere and his body then brought here, or he was taken here and killed. Either way, it indicates murder. The Shadow knows!

■ ■ ■

Background Notes:

The strange grove of copper beech trees first appeared in the weird and atmospheric 1933 magazine story titled “The Grove of Doom.” It told the story of the original Chittenden feud in one of the most famous of the original Shadow pulp mysteries.

The beech grove made an appearance earlier right here on That’s Pulp! almost a year ago. It was titled The Grove of Death and continued the saga of the Chittenden family in mini-mystery format.

This current mystery, “The Grove of Mystery” is the second appearance of the singular grove of trees, here in Two-Minute Mystery form. It’s an homage and fond nod to one of Walter Gibson’s most famous Shadow stories.

Henry Arnaud, as depicted in the pulps.

Henry Arnaud, as depicted in the pulps.

The character of businessman Henry Arnaud was one from the pulp magazines. It was one of The Shadow’s disguises. And unlike the Lamont Cranston disguise, the Arnaud disguise was not based upon a real person. There was no actual Henry Arnaud. It was just a guise that The Shadow used occasionally when he needed a cover personality with a business background.

Henry Arnaud made his first appearance in the 1932 story “The Black Master.” In the 1936 mystery titled “The Ghost Murders,” readers learned that it was businessman Henry Arnaud who had contacts at radio station WNX and was responsible for those hidden messages that The Shadow broadcast to his agents. Arnaud didn’t do the actual broadcasting, but made the arrangements necessary to have the announcer stress certain key words.

Henry Arnaud continued appearing in some 27 stories in the 1930s until he made his final appearance in the 1940 story “Death’s Premium.” It was a unique appearance in that Arnaud tried to hire a gang to kill Lamont Cranston. So in a sense, he was hiring them to kill himself. Of course, it was all part of a ruse to reveal the criminal workings of a strange “death insurance” organization. At story’s end, both Allard and Cranston lived. But while Cranston went on to appear in further pulp adventures, Henry Arnaud was seen no more.

What do you think?