The Old Fashioned Murder Matter

SHOW DATE:7/16/1961
COMPANY: State Unity Life Insurance Company
AGENT:Mr. Lind
EXP. ACCT:$347.85


Mr. Lind calls Johnny and asks if he can come out right away. He hopes so, and promises Johnny a big fee in addition to his expense account. Mr. Lind is fearful of a murder which has not yet been committed, and which he hopes Johnny can prevent.

Johnny catches a late-afternoon flight, arrives in Denver around midnight and cabs to the Brown Palace Hotel. The next morning Johnny visits the State Unity office in the Mile High Center. Mr. Lind advises Johnny to rent a car because the client lives in Green Mountain Falls, which is just west of Colorado Springs - a location Johnny knows well. Johnny tells Lind that back in 1958 he spent several weeks fishing out of the Lucky 4 ranch with Ray Smishny. Lind tells Johnny that the client is Howard Hartsell, who is 73, and was once quite wealthy. The policy is for almost $250,000. Lind is certain that one or all three of the beneficiaries, or at least two of them, will kill Hartsell. Clara Johnson is a niece who lives in Colorado Springs where she teaches high school chemistry. She 45, and a mean, selfish grasping old maid who has asked Lind why she was not the sole beneficiary. Another niece is Bonnie, who is young, smart, good-looking, and married to a plumber named Harry Briggs in Colorado Springs. Tony Johnson is the third beneficiary and lives in Manitou Springs. Tony inherited money from his family, but went through it in under a year with big parties, cars and girls. He now works as a bartender in a cheap saloon - a lazy no-good wastrel! Lind tells Johnny that Tony is the prime suspect because Lind has an instinct in such matters. Of the nieces, Lind suspects Clara; and when Johnny sees Bonnie, he will realize that she is not capable of thinking about murder. Johnny chuckles and tells Lind that according to the detective novels, Bonnie is the one they should suspect because she is above suspicion!

Lind tells Johnny that the same car has almost hit Hartsell in front of his house on route 24. A small caliber bullet also came though his living room, narrowly missed Hartsell. There was also a mysterious fire at this home one night when Hartsell was confined to his bed. Hartsell's health has been excellent until recently; now he is suffering from some mysterious ailment. The ancient family doctor, Dr. Easterday (whose name should be "Yesterday" according to Lind) is the only man Hartsell trusts, and who is living there now to look after and protect Hartsell. The fire department told Lind that the greasy rags caused the fire, but Lind does not believe it. Lind is sure that Hartsell is being poisoned, but Dr. Easterday has kept the relatives out, so Johnny must find out who is poisoning Hartsell and bring HIM to justice - it has to be Tony. Lind reminds Johnny that Hartsell's killer would go after him also.

Johnny decides to tell everyone who he is and why he is there - a dangerous move but one that would allow him to know who was up to something. Johnny phones all the parties, rents a car and drives to Colorado Springs. Clara is first and the interview is short. Clara tells Johnny that the insurance money could really help her to give up teaching the brats in school and travel and enjoy herself the way she deserves to. Bonnie has a good figure and a husband, and Tony does not deserve anything after wasting the fortune his father left him. When Clara tells Johnny that she hope the old miser dies before she gets too old, Johnny gets her to admit that she would like to help him along; "Oh, no, I didn't mean that!" Johnny leaves abruptly to visit Bonnie

Johnny visits Bonnie, who is putting on her makeup at her desk - something that bothers Johnny. After Johnny tells her that she looks likes million, she tells Johnny that he is cute for a private eye; no bowler or cigar, just a good-looking guy. Bonnie has been worried about the near misses with the cars and fire at the posterior of the house. She feels that she should be out there taking care of her uncle - not as if she didn't know how. She tells Johnny that all of them will be glad to get the money at the proper time. Johnny is well impressed, and goes to visit Tony.

Johnny dislikes Tony immediately. Tony tells Johnny of his undying devotion to Uncle Howard while another man keeps an eye on Johnny. Tony tells Johnny that the others would cut him in if he could get rid of the old man. Tony would try if he thought he could get away with it - but he is too smart for that.

Johnny leaves and starts his car, only to hear a familiar buzzing sound he knows all too well. Johnny jumps out and runs as the car explodes. Johnny rents another car and drives to Hartsell's house where Dr. Easterday opens the door and tells Johnny that Hartsell has just died. Johnny is told that Hartsell died of toxic jaundice; a hemolytic jaundice that has been bothering Hartsell for some time. Johnny has an idea and calls Dr. Ed Wilson, who had treated him for an infected finder some years earlier. Ed tells Johnny that small amounts of arsenic can cause a toxic degeneration of the liver and a toxic jaundice. Ed will not answer Johnny when he asks if an old doctor might miss the symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Johnny tells Dr. Easterday to order an autopsy, even though he was there when Hartsell died. The result of the autopsy is arsenic poisoning for sure. But how and when was it given to Hartsell in small doses, and by whom?

Dr. Easterday tells Johnny that he has been the only person with Hartsell for months, buys the food and cooks it. The only time Hartsell is alone is when he is in his bathroom. None of the relatives are allowed in the house, even when Tony delivered a bottle of whisky for Hartsell. Hartsell only took a little, and Dr. Easterday finished the bottle. Even when Bonnie's husband came to fix the pluming in the basement two months ago, he did not come into the house. Johnny remembers that Bonnie had mentioned a "fire in the posterior of the house" not in the back, and that statement will tie up the case! Only a doctor or a nurse would mention the posterior and Bonnie had told Johnny that she knew how to care for Hartsell; Bonnie had been a nurse and her husband is a plumber! Johnny and Dr. Easterday start to look for the green hint of arsenic on a water spigot.

"And that's exactly where we found it. And downstairs in the cellar, hidden behind the furnace pipe and hooked up to that cold water line - not the line to the kitchen or the bathroom on the first floor, but hooked up to the line to the second floor, was that ingenious deadly device. A small container half-full of an arsenic solution, with a valve so that only a drop at a time would enter the pipe that gave Mr. Hartsell his drinking water; the one drop at a time that killed him. Funny, it wasn't the sweet gentle Bonnie who finally broke down and confessed that little plot, but her husband the plumber, who had rigged the device, who had also rigged my car for that explosion. So once more, it's up to the courts. My only regret is that worthless Tony and selfish Clara will share that nice hunk of insurance."

  • A policy for $250,000 is worth $1,793,478.26 today
  • The Lucky 4 Ranch was also part of "The Three Sisters Matter" (10/27/1957) and "The Lucky 4 Matter" (08/03/1958)
  • Ray Smishny (or Mishney) was a character in "The Lucky 4 Matter", although the quality of the recording makes it as hard to hear as to spell.
  • Johnny makes a comment about stopping by the mint to see if they are giving away samples - silly man!
  • Johnny mentions passing the new Air Force Academy - the first class to graduate was only two years earlier.
  • Green Mountain Falls is about 13 miles from Colorado Springs on Route 24.
  • Manitou Springs is about 6 miles from Colorado Springs on Route 24, and right at the base of Pike's Peak.
  • Music direction is by Ethel Huber
  • The announcer is Allen Burns
  • Leora Thatcher is Clara, Lawson Zerbe is Dr. Easterday, Patsy Campbell is Bonnie, John Seymour is Mr. Lind, Richard Holland is Tony, William Lipton is Dr. Ed Wilson
Producer: Bruno Zirato, Jr.Writers: Jack Johnstone
Cast: Leora Thatcher, Lawson Zerbe, Patsy Campbell, John Seymour, Richard Holland, William Lipton

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