THE CASE OF THE REGISTERED LETTER
THE CASE OF THE REGISTERED LETTER
GRACE ISABEL COLBRON AND AUGUSTA GRONER
INTRODUCTION TO JOE MULLER
Joseph Muller Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian
police is one of the great experts in his profession. In
personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He
has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes nor the
keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small slight
plain-looking man of indefinite age and of much humbleness of
mien. A naturally retiring modest disposition and two external
causes are the reasons for Muller's humbleness of manner which
is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early
youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison
an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it
impossible for him for many years after to obtain honest
employment. But the world is richer and safer by Muller's
early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him
back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood and drove him
into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other
profession his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime
instead of being as now utilised for the public good.
Then the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to
every governmental department puts the secret service men of the
Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates.
Muller's official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a
policeman although kings and councillors consult him and the
Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in
him. But official red tape and his early misfortune ... prevent
the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius.
Born and bred to such conditions Muller understands them and
his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours
asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs
and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most
Joseph Muller's character is a strange mixture. The
kindest-hearted man in the world he is a human bloodhound when
once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or
sleeps when the chase is on he does not seem to know human
weakness nor fatigue in spite of his frail body. Once put on
a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue then
something awakes within him a spirit akin to that which holds
the bloodhound nose to trail and he will accomplish the apparently
impossible he will track down his victim when the entire machinery
of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything.
The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission
when Muller asks "May I do this? ... or may I handle this case
this way?" both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce
and that the department waits helpless until this humble little
man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its
intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything
else in Muller's mentality and now and then it brings him into
conflict with the department ... or with his own better nature.
Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places
secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave
untouched. Muller is then taken off the case and left idle for
a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And
at other times Muller's own warm heart gets him into trouble. He
will track down his victim driven by the power in his soul which
is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the
net he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer better man
than the other individual whose wrong at this particular criminal's
hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that
has happened to Muller and each time his heart got the better of
his professional instincts of his practical common-sense too
perhaps ... at least as far as his own advancement was concerned
and he warned the victim defeating his own work. This peculiarity
of Muller's character caused his undoing at last his official
undoing that is and compelled his retirement from the force. But
his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department and to
those who know Muller's hand can be seen in the unravelling of
many a famous case.
The following stories are but a few of the many interesting cases
that have come within the experience of this great detective.
But they give a fair portrayal of Muller's peculiar method of
working his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the
Department and the comedy of his acting under "official orders"
when the Department is in reality following out his directions.
THE CASE OF THE REGISTERED LETTER
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
"Oh sir save him if you can - save my poor nephew! I know he is
The little old lady sank back in her chair gazing up at Commissioner
von Riedau with tear-dimmed eyes full of helpless appeal. The
commissioner looked thoughtful. "But the case is in the hands of
the local authorities Madam" he answered gently a strain of pity
in his voice. "I don't exactly see how we could interfere."
"But they believe Albert guilty! They haven't given him a chance!"
"He cannot be sentenced without sufficient proof of his guilt."
"But the trial the horrible trial - it will kill him - his heart
is weak. I thought - I thought you might send some one - some one
of your detectives - to find out the truth of the case. You must
have the best people here in Vienna. Oh my poor Albert - "
Her voice died away in a suppressed sob and she covered her face
to keep back the tears.
The commissioner pressed a bell on his desk. "Is Detective Joseph
Muller anywhere about the building?" he asked of the attendant who
appeared at the door.
"I think he is sir. I saw him come in not long ago."
"Ask him to come up to this room. Say I would like to speak to him."
The attendant went out.
"I have sent for one of the best men on our force Madam" continued
the commissioner turning back to the pathetic little figure in the
chair. "We will go into this matter a little more in detail and see
if it is possible for us to interfere with the work of the local
authorities in G-"
The little old lady gave her eyes a last hasty dab with a dainty
handkerchief and raised her head again fighting for self-control.
She was a quaint little figure with soft grey hair drawn back
smoothly from a gentle-featured face in which each wrinkle seemed
the seal of some loving thought for others. Her bonnet and gown
were of excellent material in delicate soft colours but cut in the
style of an earlier decade. The capable lines of her thin little
hands showed through the fabric of her grey gloves. Her whole
attitude bore the impress of one who had adventured far beyond the
customary routine of her home circle adventured out into the world
in fear and trembling impelled by the stress of a great love.
A knock was heard at the door and a small slight man with a kind
smooth-shaven face entered at the commissioner's call. "You sent
for me sir?" he asked.
"Yes Muller there is a matter here in which I need your advice
your assistance perhaps. This is Detective Muller Miss -" (the
commissioner picked up the card on his desk) "Miss Graumann. If
you will tell us now more in detail all that you can tell us about
this case we may be able to help you."
"Oh if you would" murmured Miss Graumann with something more of
hope in her voice. The expression of sympathetic interest on the
face of the newcomer had already won her confidence for him. Her
slight figure straightened up in the chair and the two men sat down
opposite her prepared to listen to her story.
"I will tell you all I know and understand about this matter
gentlemen" she began. "My name is Babette Graumann and I live
with my nephew Albert Graumann engineering expert in the village
of Grunau which is not far from the city of G-. My nephew Albert
the dearest truest -" sobs threatened to overcome her again but
she mastered them bravely. "Albert is now in prison accused of
the murder of his friend John Siders in the latter's lodgings
"Yes that is the gist of what you have already told me" said the
commissioner. "Muller Miss Graumann believes her nephew innocent
contrary to the opinion of the local authorities in G-. She has
come to ask for some one from here who could ferret out the truth
of this matter. You are free now and if we find that it can be
done without offending the local authorities -"
"Who is the commissioner in charge of the case in G-?" asked Muller.
"Commissioner Lange is his name I believe" replied Miss Graumann.
"H'm!" Muller and the commissioner exchanged glances.
"I think we can venture to hear more of this" said the commissioner
as if in answer to their unspoken thought. "Can you give us the
details now Madam? Who is or rather who was this John Siders?"
"John Siders came to our village a little over a year ago" continued
Miss Graumann. "He came from Chicago; he told us although he was
evidently a German by birth. He bought a nice little piece of
property not far from our home and settled down there. He was a
quiet man and made few friends but he seemed to take to Albert and
came to see us frequently. Albert had spent some years in America
in Chicago and Siders liked to talk to him about things and people
there. But one day Siders suddenly sold his property and moved to G-.
Two weeks later he was found dead in his lodgings in the city
murdered and now - now they have accused Albert of the crime."
"On what grounds? - oh I beg your pardon sir; I did not mean -"
"That's all right Muller" said the commissioner. "As you may
have to undertake the case you might as well begin to do the
"They say" - Miss Graumann's voice quavered - "they say that Albert
was the last person known to have been in Sider's room; they say that