The Let's Play Archive

Murder off Miami

by SelenicMartian

Part 1: Pages 1 to 15a. A plain case of suicide.

: Right, the book is open. Let's touch history.

: And now for a photo of what an average page of text looks like. There are 130-ish of them in this file. Don't bother reading off the picture, it's all transcribed below. There may be typos.


Acting on instructions received I boarded S.Y. Golden Gull from police launch X21. at 10.40 p.m. in the company of Detective Officer Neame, Police Surgeon Jacket, Station Photographer Southwold and Officer Gurdon of the Uniform Branch.

Captain Derringham received me with the other, Mr. Carlton Rocksavage. I proceeded to the Captain's cabin to take statements, Detective Officer Neame acting as stenographer.

: "Rocksavage" has a nice ring to it. Anyway, statements.


We sailed from New York at 12.30 p.m. on the 5th carrying five passengers in addition to the owner, Mr. Carlton Rocksavage, and his daughter , Miss Ferri Rocksavage. The passengers were Lady Welter, the Honourable Reginald Jocelyn and Mrs. Jocelyn, who are Lady Welter's daughter and son-in-law, the Bishop of Bude and Count Luigi Posodini.

We arrived off Miami at 2.35 p.m. this afternoon, where we anchored. My instructions were that three new guests would come on and, immediately these were aboard, I was to proceed to Nassau Bahamas.

At 4.30 p.m. a Japanese gentleman Mr. Inosuke Hayashi came on board and at 6.55 Mr. Bolitho Blane, accompanied by his secretary, Nicholas Stodart. The tender was cleared by 7.5, upon which I gave orders that the ship should proceed to sea.

At 8.38, just after I had sat down to dinner in my cabin, I was sent by the owner to come down to the suite which had been allotted to Mr. Bolitho Blane. I found the owner there with Mr. Blane's secretary. They explained to me that Mr. Blane was missing and had left a note which gave reason to suppose that he had committed suicide. The window of the drawing room cabin was wide open and it looked as if Mr. Blane had thrown himself overboard through it.

It was decided not to alarm the other passengers so the owner said that he would just tell them that Mr. Blane was ill and we were returning to Miami for a doctor. At 8.45 I ordered the ship back to port.


: I'll generally avoid taking flash photos of photos due to glossy ink. Also, you're looking at a photo of a photo of a photo.

We had just come down from New York for a few days' pleasure cruising off the islands, and I had arranged to pick up two more of my guests who could not make the yacht at New York, from Miami.

Mr. Inosuke Hayashi came on during the afternoon and had tea with us, them Mr. Bolitho Blane arrived with his secretary, Nicholas Stodart, just before 7 o'clock. They went straight down to the private suite which I had allotted to them, and we sailed at once.

I didn't see them as I was on the bridge with my Captain when we left Miami at 7.5. Then I went down to the lounge for a drink and, finding Pamela Jocelyn and Count Posodini there, I talked with them for a while.

At 7.25 Mr. Stodart arrived and introduced himself as Bolitho Blane's secretary. He said that Blane wished to get some cables off before changing and asked that I would excuse him from putting in an appearance before dinner.

I introduced Stodart to Mrs. Jocelyn and the Count, then offered him a drink which he accepted. After a few moments Stodart asked me if the type sheets on the notice board in the lounge contained the closing prices of the New York stock marked and, on my telling him that that was so, he said that Mr. Blane was anxious to have the latest information. He took down some of the prices in his note book, tore the leaf out and, as he had not finished his drink, asked the lounge steward to take the list down to Blane's cabin.

The steward came up again and said that the drawing room of Blane's suite was locked and that he could get no answer.

Stodart then told him to take it down again and slip it under the door.

Mrs. Jocelyn and Count Posodini left us at about this time and I remained with Stodart for a while. Later, the Bishop joined us and Lady Welter came in a few minutes after him. Then I noticed that it was already ten after eight, so realising that I would have to hurry, if I were not to be late for dinner, I went down to change.

At a little after 8.30 I got back to the lounge to find all my guests assembled for dinner, except Bolitho Blane and Stodart. Just as I was contemplating sending down a message to Blane, the cabin steward came up with an urgent request that I should go down to Blane's cabin right away.
On arriving there I found Stodart standing in the drawing room looking very pale and shaken. He said to me, "Mr. Rocksavage, I'm afraid I've got bad news for you." Then he handed me this note.

: "Dear Stodart, you know how ... I've been..." Good grief, I can't read this handwriting. Anyone in the thread up for it?

Nidoking posted:

Here's what I make of that letter - a few parts are still unclear, but I made sense of most of it.


Dear Stodart,
You know how worried I've been all through the trip over. Day after day I've been watching Argus Suds go down as the brain (?) slammed into them. I had hoped to pull my companies through but things have gone too far for Rocksavage to give me a decent deal, so I am past caring what happens to them now.
This party was a forlorn hope and I never wanted to join it. There's a tough crowd behind Rocksavage, and I wouldn't put it past them to try and do me in while I'm on this yacht. That would send the Argus shares down to zero without any further argument. Anyhow, I'm not going to wait and chance it. The struggle has proved too much for me. I have always loathed pulling (?) and rather than face the nightmare of a bankruptcy examination I'm going out. (?)
Bolitho Blane


What he says in that note about there being a tough crowd behind me is sheer nonsense. Just a wild statement of a man who was half off his head with worry. He didn't know the first thing about me personally as we had never even met and, as I didn't see him when he came on board, I never set eyes on the man in my life.

We had corresponded a lot in a business way, of course, and I knew that he had been having a tough time lately, so I was hoping that this little trip, with a few nice people, right away from everything, was just what he needed to set him up again, and I was looking forward to making his acquaintance.

After I had read that letter I've just given you, Stodart handed me a slip of paper which, he said, the cabin steward had found found on Blane's table. I saw at once that it was the page that Stodart had torn out of his pocket book after he had taken down the quotations of the closing prices on the New York stock market from the notice board in the lounge and which he had sent down to Blane earlier on. It had a few lines of writing in a different hand on the other side. Here it is ............

: Yes, that's 12 periods in a row. Yes, that's in the book.

: Now what was that about the other side?

: Awesome! "...! Argus have gone under 40. So the game is up -"


I sent for the Captain at once, told him what had occurred and he put back to port, while I sent a message up to my daughter that she was to take the guests in to dinner, then went up to the wireless room and sent a radio to the Miami police.


: Neame, we need to talk about you flashing people who enter the room.

Mr. Blane told me about a fortnight ago that his companies were in very serious difficulties but that his principal competitor, Mr. Carlton Rocksavage, had invited him to a conference in the United States. Mr. Blane believed that Mr. Rocksavage's companies were in almost as serious difficulties as his own, owing to the price cutting war which had been going on between them for a considerable time.

Mr. Blane was the big man of the British soap combine and Mr. Rocksavage the head of the rival group in America. Between them they could have had the virtual control of the world soap market, but they have been trying yo smash each other for months past and neither has succeeded to date, That cost both groups an immense amount of money, and an amalgamation between them would have meant salvation to them both, whereas, if they continued their rivalry, it was quite certain that one of them would go under.

Mr. Blane accepted Mr. Rocksavage's invitation and we sailed for the United States in the Berengaria. During the voyage Mr. Blane was very depressed. The steady fall in the shares of his companies caused him grave anxiety and he told me repeatedly that if Argus Suds went below 45 he would have very little chance of pulling off a deal with Rocksavage except upon ruinous terms and that, if Argus Suds went below 40, there would be no chance of his pulling off a deal at all, as it would pay Rocksavage better, in that case, to let him go under. The fact that the shares of the Rocksavage companies were also falling, although in a lesser degree, did not appear to console him.

Mr. Blane's depression was so great at times that I had grave doubts as to his sanity. He seemed to think that Rocksavage and his associates would stop at nothing to wreck him. He knew, of course, that his death would mean a complete slump in the Blane interests and, although he had never met Mr. Rocksavage, he apparently regarded him as a man who might even go to the length of engineering his death in order to smash the Blane companies.

He knew that his only hope of pulling his companies though was this conference on the Golden Gull, yet he seemed to think that by going on board he would be taking his life in his hands, and it was such statements as these which made me consider him to be off the mental balance at times.

We should have joined the yacht in New York, but Blane jibbed at the last moment from his fear that his life would be in jeopardy, but he pulled himself together a few hours later and I called Mr. Rocksavage for him that we would fly down to join the yacht in Miami.

Just before 7 o'clock we came out to the yacht in a tender and on being told that Mr. Rocksavage was on the bridge, went straight down to our suite with the chief steward. The cabin steward came along and asked if he could unpack, but Mr. Blane was so nervous that he would not allow the man inside the cabin. The yacht got under way just about then and Mr. Blane told me to change at once and, when I left him, he was starting to unpack his things himself.

Directly I had changed I returned to the drawing room and found Mr. Blane had only unpacked a few things from his suitcase. He was sitting staring out of the porthole window. After a moment he sent me up to Mr. Rocksavage with a message that he wished to get some cables off, and so would not appear before dinner, and told me at the same time that I was to get tha latest market prices which had come in by radio and send them down to him.

That was at 7.30. I went straight up to the lounge, and, finding Mr. Rocksavage there, introduced myself to him. He introduced me to Mrs. Jocelyn and Count Posodini, and gave me a drink. I took down the closing prices in which Mr. Blane was interested. These were sent down at 7.40 by the lounge steward, who retured to say that Mr. Blane's door was locked and that he could get no reply. I remarked that Mr. Blane would be changing and was probably in his bath, so the steward was instructed to slip the note under his cabin door.

Mrs. Jocelyn and Count Posodini left us after that and I remained in the lounge talking to Mr. Rocksavage. The Bishop of Bude came in and then Lady Welter. Mr. Rocksavage remarked shortly after that it was ten past eight, so he must change at once of he would be late, and if he was we were to go in to dinner without him.

After he had left us Mr. Inosuke Hayashi came in, then Count Posodini. At 8.30 Mrs. Jocelyn, having changed, returned to the lounge with her husband, Mr. Reggie Jocelyn, to whom she introduced me.

It was just after the dinner bugle sounded that the cabin steward came up to the lounge and handed me the note that Mr. Blane had left for me.
Having read it I hurried below with the cabin steward. We found that Mr. Blane's suite was empty and the window of his drawing room wide open, so it looked as though he had thrown himself out into the sea. It was then that the steward picked up a piece of paper from the writing table, which I recognised at once as the leaf from my pocket book with the share quotations on it, and I saw the line of writing in Blane's hand containing his last message on the back of it. I sent the steward up to get Mr. Rocksavage at once and, immediately I had told him what had occurred, he sent for the Captain.

This business has been a great shock to me because, although I have not been in Mr. Blane's employ for very long, he always treated me decently and I had got to be very fond of him. I don't think there is the least doubt about it being a case of suicide. Big business people may use unscrupulous methods at time but it's stretching things a bit too far to suggest that they actually murder one another. I think Mr. Blane's fear for his life was brought on purely by an overstrained imagination and, realising that his last hope of saving his companies had disappeared, when the Argus Suds shared dropped below the 40 level, he decided to make an end of himself rather that face the music.


: No photo for the little guy.

Just before the ship got under way the chief steward called for me and said, "Ringbottom the two new ones that are allotted to suite C. have just come aboard. Get along at once and settle them in."

I went to C. drawing room and knocked on the door. The secretary opened it and I asked, "Shall I unpack, sir?" and he replied, "No, that's all right. We're unpacking for ourselves." So I went pack to my pantry.

I did one or two odd jobs, a bit of pressing and so on, and then I sat down for half an hour's read, while the guests were changing, until the dinner bugle sounded at 8.30. I then proceeded to my duty of tidying cabins. C. suite, that is Mr. Blane's, being the nearest, I meant ot start on him but I found the door of the drawing room locked, so I just unlocked the door with my master key and went straight into the room.

The first thing I saw was a note addressed "Nicholad Stodart Esq." and marked "URGENT" in capital letters. I though that a bit funny as if Mr. Blane had gone up to dinner why couldn't he have taken it up to Mr. Stodart himself? But it's not for me to question the why and wherefores of the guests, so I took it up to Mr. Stodart right away.

He just thanked me and tore it open. Then, as I was leaving the lounge to go below, he came hurrying after me and said, "I am afraid something's wrong steward."

We went down to the late lamented's cabin together and had a quick look around. He wasn't in the suite and the drawing room window was open. Mr. Stodart told me that he was afraid the poor gentleman had chucked himself overboard, then I spotted a bit of paper on the writing table and gave it to Mr. Stodart saying, "What's this here?"

He gave it a glance and sent me up to get Mr. Rocksavage immediately.

I did as I was bid and the owner sent me for the Captain.


Having taken statements from Captain Derringham, Mr. Rocksavage, Mr. Stodart and the cabin steward, Ringbottom, I then proceeded to suite C. which had been allotted to Bolitho Blane. It consisted of a drawing room, a state room and private bathroom. On the other side of the drawing room there was a single state room, which, I am told, had been allotted to Stodart in order that he might be near his employer.

A cursory examination of the suite showed nothing which called for special remark. Captain Derringham told me that he had had it locked up at 8.45 before ordering the ship back to Miami, so that nothing in it had been touched or disturbed since the steward, Ringbottom, discovered Blane to be missing.

I instructed Station Photographer Southwold to take the necessary shots of the suite and decided to postpone a detailed examination until morning. Soon after arriving on board I told Police Surgeon Jacket that, as the case was one of 'man overboard' his presence was no longer required.
At 12.50 Station Photographer Southwold had completed his work, upon which I had Suite C. relocked and placed Officer Gurdon on guard outside it. After which I went above and spoke to Captain Derringham and Mr. Rocksavage. I told the later that I did not think any useful purpose could be served by keeping his guests out of their beds longer, but that as a formality I should have to question them in the morning, so none of them is to be allowed ashore without permission.

In my view, at the moment, this looks like a plain case of suicide by a man in a financial jam. Blane's innuendoes that Rocksavage intended to do him in are discounted by the statements of the secretary, Stodart, who appears convinced that for some days past Blane was not of sound mind and suffering from a form of persecution mania.

Captain Derringham seems a fine straight-forward, if rather silent, fellow and certainly not the man to permit any monkey-business upon a ship commanded by him.

Rocksavage's manner is normal and he appears surprised and upset at the tragedy, although it should be noticed that he stated that this was only a pleasure trip, whereas it is made abundantly clear from Stodart's statement that its real objective was to cover a big business conference between Rocksavage and Blane.

On the face of it, all the guests are apparently respectable people of some social standing, and Captain Derringham gives me his assurance that no new men have been brought on in the crew this trip, or employees of Rocksavage, for any special purpose.

Apart, therefore, from Blane's innuendoes there is no evidence at all to support any suggestion outside the known facts and, in my view, it is a plain case of suicide.

I am sending Station Photographer Southwold ashore in the yacht's launch and also Detective Officer Neame, who will deliver this report. I then propose to sleep the night on board in a spare cabin which Mr. Rocksavage has placed at my disposal. Please instruct the coastguard stations to keep a look-out for the body in the unlikely event of its being washed ashore.

1.15 a.m. 9.3.36 on S.Y. Golden Gull.

: And that wraps up the first report, but Kettering doesn't get much sleep. Note the time of the next memo.

: Now we're getting somewhere. Here are the photos... of photos.


On receipt of Lieutenant Schwab's memo and the photographs of C. suite on S.Y. Golden Gull I at once proceeded below in the company of Detective Officer Neame to make a thorough examination of Blane's suite in daylight.

I first examined the marks on the carpet, mentioned in Lieutenant Schwab's report, and apparent in print B. These marks consist of a slight irregular roughing of the pile in the carpet running from the table to near the window, Owing to the light that are not observable from the inboard side of the cabin, but only from the outboard side, which explains my failure to notice them last night, and that fact that, while appearing in print B. they are not observable in print A.

These marks might have been made by the two legs of a chair being dragged across the carpet. I found, however, at the table end of these roughly parallel tracks a very slightly discoloured patch upon the carpet, which would not have been visible in electric light.

I then proceeded to examine the porthole window and found upon the left hand curtain a smear of blood.

Returning to the patch on the carpet it seemed to me probable that a small quantity of blood had been spilled here too and that someone had endeavoured to get it out by rubbing the place with a wet sponge.

If the person had done this immediately after he blood was spilled, as is probable, most of the blood would have been absorbed, hence the faintness of the discolouration. The patch is still damp and measures about eight inches by five, although it is probable that, if the blood was spilled here, it was no more than a few drops and the main patch was caused by an endeavour to clean the carpet afterwards.

In view of this, the tracks on the carpet present a new significance, and I suggest that they were caused by the toes on a man's boots as he was dragged from the table to the porthole.

Taken in conjunction the wet patch, the boot tracks, and the smear of blood upon the window curtain definitely point to the fact that Bolitho Blane was murdered.

I send this report as once in order that full investigation may be made into the antecedents of all the passengers upon the yacht, who now come under suspicion.

I have given instructions that, as they leave their cabins for breakfast, each cabin is to be locked after them. I shall then be able to search all cabins before these are tidied and will proceed to the examination of all parties concerned immediately the have breakfasted.

7.35 a.m. 9.3.36 on S.Y. Golden Gull.

: Sadly, the book doesn't include moist carpeting among its pages. We'll have to make do with the curtain.

: The curtain doesn't seem to match the pattern in the room photo. Maybe it went out of fashion some time in the 50s. I've been reading up on the book and, apparently, they were planning to put actual blood here in the 1979 edition. However, it turned out dried blood rapidly lost colour, so some form of dye was used instead.

: Actually, here's a photo of the curtain page I found online that does match Southwold's shots. It's from the original edition and seems to come with a genuine bloodstain as well.

: Hope this is not Chris's blood. Next time: Kettering asks people about the "suicide" right after they've had breakfast.