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Mystery on the S. S. Zephyr (1912)

By Anais M Devenish

Copyright 2017 Anais M Devenish

Published by Anais M Devenish at Smashwords

ISBN: 9781370242528

Cover design and copyright 2017 Anais M Devenish

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Story title: Mystery on the S. S. Zephyr


Notes on sources and acknowledgements

Message from the author and dedication

What others are saying about this book

About Anais Devenish

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Click on the S. S. Zephyr picture above any subtitle to return to the top.


Mystery on the S. S. Zephyr (1912)

“Just why it happened, or why it should have happened just when it did, he could not, of course, possibly have said; nor perhaps could it even have occurred to him to ask.” Conrad Aiken.

Mr. Hartman wore a three-piece suit and entered the S. S. Zephyr casually before 8:00pm. His tall, clean-cut Caucasian appearance with light brown hair gave him a relaxed look.

Thursday evening edged the town with a warm seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Flying low, the pink and grey cockatoos screeched, higher up the mudlarks warbled, and the kookaburras laughed, but the Zephyr floated waiting to meet passenger demands. Her black smoke and flag waved to the small wooden Barrack Street Jetty and distant yachts, while town life and steamer smells imprinted on the river water and the bush. Sulkies with rubber and iron tyres, pulled by ponies or horses, had their hoods down so occupants could enjoy the February twilight.

“Three minutes,” yelled a steward.

Hartman sat alone. On the table near him, his hat, The West Australian and binoculars: each viewer standing side-by-side like two-chocolate and spearmint-filled parfait glasses, smooth and shiny with bronze rims, banded together by a long, slim central acorn.

Excusez-moi, we cannot find a table,” said a slim silhouette, “Can we sit ‘ere?”

“Um,” replied Hartman, “yes, have these chairs,” he stood and pulled one out, “you’re all welcome to sit here ... if you like? Hartman. Mr. Hartman, and your name?”

“Ambrielle Buvelot,” she replied shaking hands. “These are my friend’s Odette Favin, ‘er friend Andrew Smith, Chantel Rossi an’ ‘er ‘usband, Francesco Rossi.”

They exchanged greetings, sat and chatted as the Zephyr left the jetty behind.

“This is your first time on the Moonlight Trip?” her French accent resonating.

“No,” he said, “I enjoy bird watching and wildlife.”

“Are they yours?” asked Mademoiselle Buvelot.

“Yes,” replied Hartman handing the binoculars to her, “would you like to look? You can see way down the river.”

Merci,” she said peering through them, “It is wonderful! I can see the black swan and part of the settlement as if it is ‘ere. Francesco, you look.”

Grazie,” he replied looking. “Hey, what’sa that man doing, never mind, must be food scraps the birds are-a flapping about.”

The views seen through the binoculars, as they passed from person-to-person around the table, inspired the conversation.

“Miss Buvelot, tell me about Paris.” Hartman said, “I have never been.”

Oui, but call me Ambrielle,” she insisted. “Paris is beautiful, but it ‘as a darker side. Centuries ago, the graveyards became too full. Now, the tunnels under the city are Catacombs for five to six million people. One section ‘as eight ‘undred metre of bone walls. These bone are restacked to support the city,” she said.

“No, that can’t be true,” Hartman replied.

Oui, it iz true Mr Hartman,” Odette confirmed, “Where do you live?”

“I live in a boarding house on Hay Street, eight furnished rooms with conveniences, thirty pounds weekly, not too bad.” Then, he could not contain his excitement, “I’m buying a five-bedroom, brick coach-house, five minutes from Guildford Station.”

Francesco piped up, “Good plan, buy in the market while-a you can.” Andrew, a quiet man, nodded in agreement.

“Five-hundred pounds, with a twenty-pound deposit, easy repayments and I need to see Mr Hickey at Royal Arcade in Perth tomorrow,” said Hartman.

Très bien,” the women replied. Their tango shoes complemented their long skirts and tailored jackets.

“What about you, where do you live?” Hartman asked.

“I live in the suburbs,” Ambrielle said removing her hat to reveal bobbed, dark-brown hair.

“We went to the Boan Brothers’ Great Summer Fair today, they ‘ave bargain prices,” said Chantel; her blemish free face returned his smile. “And you Mr ‘artman?”

“I work ...” he stuttered, “I like birds,” he blurted out, “that is why I have binoculars.”

Très intéressant. Do you know Théophile Gautier, Mademoiselle de Maupin; it is the true story about the opera singer?” Ambrielle’s blue eyes flashed.

Hesitating, his green eyes met hers, “ah, no I don’t.”

“Oh, Mr ‘artman, do not look so worried, it is French, of course you may not know it,” she continued, “There may be a tram strike. They say ze-American trams are too old.”

“I didn’t know, but I agree they are due for replacing,” his smile met Ambrielle’s. “And bunker coal is in short supply, due to the popularity of sailing. The Government is encouraging gold prospecting, pearling and trips to Singapore, so there will be a boom in Perth’s trading.”

Oui, it is difficult to know if they will find gold, then there is the looming war,” Ambrielle said, “did you ‘ear ‘The King’s Speech’?”

“Yes,” he said, “it doesn’t sound good.” The others nodded in agreement.

She changed the subject. “We won forty pounds with the Kandy Koola Tea stamps. It pays for our one-shilling Moonlight Trip this evening. This weekend, we go to Perth Zoo, they ‘ave cranes and waterfowl, ze-admission is sixpence. Would you like to go, Mr ‘artman?” Her voice calmed him.

“Time for the photograph!” Odette called. Hartman held himself back, not to be in the way.

“Mr ‘artman, the magic is you ‘ave to ... creep into the picture,” Ambrielle said. “We need the memories.”

Unfortunately, the sound of a woman screaming became the next memory. People ran around yelling to return to the jetty. The sun had set; dim lights from lanterns lit the deck. At this moment, Hartman’s detective instincts came to life. Up and off he went.

“Be prepared I may need help. Someone, please bring a pen and paper,” he said turning back. They all followed.

“My name is Detective Hartman, please, tell me what happened?”

“He walked from one deck to the next then collapsed. I don’t know him,” said the shocked steward lying.

“Time of death?” Ambrielle asked, ready to write.

Hartman, pocket-watch in hand, “Steamer-ship, 9:00pm, his wallet nearby; this looks like sauce on his shirt.”

“I’ll go find his wife,” said the steward, returning with her shortly after.

Surprised by the steward’s words and actions, Hartman asked, “Is it possible his consulate work put him in danger?”

“No,” the wife, Carmen, sobbed, “José writes economic forecasts for commodities; it is hardly worth killing for.”

“Can I help?” asked the steward.

“I appreciate the offer, but I have it under control, thank you,” Hartman said.

“In the spirit of cooperation ...” Hartman’s stare stopped the steward from saying anything more.

“I know you,” said Andrew to the steward, “we worked together. We hardly know or knew each other,” he said to himself as the steward walked away.

“Please continue, Madame,” Odette encouraged Carmen.

“José’s group do what they like. They think they can escape with anything because they have diplomatic immunity,” the wife replied.

“Tell us everything you remember. Was there anything suspicious in your husband’s behaviour?” Hartman enquired.

“I went walking; when I came back I thought I saw him writing,” Carmen said.

“We will need a contact list, that will ‘elp us,” said Odette.

“Ambrielle, could you contact Mr Michelides? He is the new Consul for four European countries.” Hartman said to her. “The son of a Greek ambassador had charges dropped last week, but that does not grant him immunity; he may be on board, find him.” Andrew and Francesco nodded and went to search.

They soon found him. “You think you scare me?” he blurted out.

“Look, I don’t want politics stepping in the way of solving a murder. You are the prime suspect, you know?” said Hartman.

“I have immunity, so you cannot do anything,” he said.

“Maybe we should not interfere. The Greek justice plays-a by different rules,” said Francesco.

“Yes, you might wake up one morning without your hands,” threatened Hartman.

“José helped me with tickets, but I never killed him,” the Greek said.

“What did you give him in return for these tickets?” Hartman asked, but Andrew interrupted.

“Never mind,” Andrew said, “the stain on José’s shirt is lipstick, not sauce.”

“The Greek files showed no indication he is a murderer,” Hartman said. “Check with passengers at the other end of the steamer and ask if they have any information on him.”

“Carmen, why are you ‘ere? What is this?” asked Odette indicating a bag.

“It is José’s locked private briefcase,” said Carmen.

“This may ‘ave information that we need. The murderer may ‘ave used a uniform to come on board, but could be dressed differently now. Anything else on the murder?” asked Ambrielle.

“Yes, an old Spanish knife, damn near impossible to find,” said Andrew.

“The Greek is claiming we did this as a security screen. Why would he say that?” asked Hartman. “I know of a spy who died, Josefa.”

“Yes, the knife, it’s very old, you are right. An abandoned agent; no one knows who to trust, help me obtain justice,” said the Greek.

“We are here now, lay your cards on the table,” said Hartman.

“The Spanish consulate has a leak. We nearly found out whom, but José is dead and the spy, Josefa, is alive. We know who our killer is now,” said the Greek.

After a half an hour search, they found Josefa below deck.

“Do not lie; it does not look good Josefa. José is dead,” said Hartman.

“I discovered Antonio was trading secrets. I held my tongue because of his connections or else I would be the one on trial and buried. Antonio killed others over it so I faked my death. José discovered Antonio’s secret. I arrived, found José dead and witnessed the steward, Antonio, running away. If you did not interfere he would be dead,” said Josefa.

“Through the binoculars, this is when I saw the steward doing-a something strange,” said Francesco.

“Soon, Antonio will go back to Spain and be out of my reach,” said Josefa.

“Why did you want revenge?” asked Ambrielle.

“Antonio has immunity; he will escape using it. You are powerless, just like me,” said Josefa.

“Find the steward,” Hartman commanded, as the steamer docked at the jetty.

- - -

A police officer found Antonio soaking wet trying to climb the jetty and handcuffed him to a tree.

“Goodbye Carmen and Josefa. A small fine and I can have my holiday,” yelled Antonio.

“Antonio committed a murder. Revoke his immunity,” said Hartman.

“It would set a dangerous example. The Spanish justice isa very ... complicated,” said Francesco.

“Police will go to Madrid with him. You think the evil Spaniard escaped, but Antonio must work in one of the hottest places on earth. See, there are places worse than prison,” Mr Michelides smiled, tipped his hat and left them alone.

“Not the exact ending I was hoping for, but it will do,” said Hartman.

“It will ‘ave to do,” said Ambrielle.

“Yes. So ... the Zoo this weekend, is it? I’d love to go,” said Hartman.

“Très bien!” Ambrielle said laughing.

Hartman did not understand, but he spent the rest of his life learning. He fell in love with a French girl.



Cigar box: made of metal and embossed to store cigars, normally used by only the wealthy in Europe.

Steamer: an old ship powered by steam (could also be boat or train powered by steam).

Sulky: a small carriage for one or two people, drawn by a horse or pony. In addition, it is the name of the small carriage pulled by horses at the Trots (horseracing).


Notes on sources and acknowledgements

My inspiration came from different writing exercises. In one of these exercises, a pair of binoculars eventuated. I developed this further in my story because the Discovery Zone Display at The Western Australian State Museum had a pair on display in one of the drawers donated by a Mr Hartman. I used the name Hartman because of the romance–heart–in the story at the end. I also went to the Battye Library and the Western Australian Genealogy Society where I found books, old photographs and copies of The West Australian, Claire’s Weekly and In Vogue. From these books, papers, magazines and photos I used the images and information on temperature, pricing for accommodation, fashion and leisure during 1912 to build my story. The quote, by C. Aiken, resonates across the whole piece, as to when and why good or bad things happen. It is from ‘Silent Snow, Secret Snow’ (1932) in C. Aiken Collected Short Stories, (1982), pp. 216-35, Schocken Books, New York. The photo above each subtitle is the S. S. Zephyr possibly on the Swan River, Western Australia. It is part of the Henry Stewart Collection in the Australian National Maritime Museum.

I would like to acknowledge the staff at the Battye Library and The WA Genealogy Society in Perth, Western Australia for their assistance with my research in finding information, photographs, newspapers and books. Part of the Western Australian Museum situated on the ground floor at the West Australian Library, for being there at the right time.

Most of all, I appreciate the help and feedback received from Ffion Murphy.


Message from the author and dedication

Dear eBooklover,

This eBook is in dedication to my nana, who left New Caledonia as a teenager to start a new life in Australia.

I hope my eBook was enjoyable for you and I thank you for taking the time to read it. If you enjoyed it, please leave me a review at your favourite retailer. Will you also please take a moment to tell your friends?

Thanks again.

All the best,

Anais Devenish

Follow me on twitter or Smashwords:

Twitter: https:www.twitter.com/anaisbijoux_art


What others are saying about this book

“The dialogue supports the story’s characterisation and the fast-paced investigation. The consequences echo through the rest of the characters’ lives.” E. A. Smith.

“This entertaining story shows a chance meeting and the historical details–all interesting–allow us to encounter the scene at a leisurely pace.” Ffion Murphy.

“The writing is clean and professional. Hartman is a likeable main character, and the title has that nostalgia of an old classic mystery story.” K. A. McDiarmid.


Author Biography

Anais Devenish lives in Perth, Western Australia and is one of five girls. When younger, she was an avid backpacker and spent time working overseas. Anais will complete a Bachelor of Arts in 2018, majoring in French with two minors: Creative writing and Children’s literature. She is a single parent with two children, who are now adults leading their own lives. When Anais is not writing or working, she enjoys travelling, art, swimming, sewing and craft. There are not enough hours in the day for her because she also loves dance, music, piano, poodles, netball, horses, the Romantic languages and a good wine.


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Fiction and non-Fiction Writer: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AMDeveni

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Google: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116695519544608488912


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