As we’ve seen, Interplanetary Insurance, Incorporated has no problem whatsoever with taking money from people for insurance policies they don’t need. So when wealthy mine owner James Carr comes into Bert Brandon’s office wanting a million-credit insurance policy, Brandon couldn’t be happier to give him one! Why? Because Carr wants to be insured against drowning in the waters of Mars Canal #5 even though a medical condition prevents him from making the space trip to Mars in the first place!
If you’re wondering why Carr is concerned about drowning in Martian canal water in the first place, it’s because “a voice at night” has been warning him that he will perish in exactly this way. I don’t really know what effect the insurance policy is supposed to have against this but hey, I’m not a space millionaire either.
Bert double checks Carr’s health with a “dotor” of his own and confirms that nope, there’s no way Carr could make it to Mars. So the policy is written, III pockets the cost, and everyone goes about their business.
Oh, and then James Carr drowns.
Mr. Emory, Brandon’s boss, is furious. How could Bert be so foolish as to issue a policy that paid off? Naturally, Bert has to go to the scene of the death and find a way to keep Triple-I from forking over a penny of its hard-earned cash.
Turns out Carr drowned in a swimming pool belonging to one Dzan Gole. Gole is a Martian and guess what kind of water he fills his pool with. Yep, Martian canal water. The number five canal, to be precise.
Bert seems to have jumped the gun here by claiming there was a murder. He has no evidence of any foul play yet, but he’s hoping there is some, because then III’s purse stays closed as tightly as Wendy Carr’s lips. (Spoiler: Wendy is not responsible. In fact, Wendy doesn’t say a single word throughout the story. You can also see how broken up she is over the death of her father.)
Bert sends some pool water to be analyzed — to see if it’s, I dunno, extra-drowny or something? Dzan Gole can see that this guy is way out of his league, so he claps his hands to summon the best Martian investigator in the universe. Who I suppose was sitting in a closet somewhere nearby waiting to be summoned.
The robot’s name is “Queue” and Bert has zero confidence in this shiny shamus. Within moments, Queue scans the scene of the crime with his electronic eyes, making out previously unseen shoe-prints. Bert asks what the point is and Queue states that the shoe prints are a size nine-and-a-half…larger than the victim’s size! So there were two people present when Carr died and that means…MURDER.
Armed with evidence that a crime actually happened, Bert and Queue set out to find the perpetrator.
They follow the not-at-all-obvious wire to Harry Torn’s room. The size nine-and-a-half shoe-wearing Harry Torn! As Wendy Carr’s fiance, he stands to benefit from her father’s death. It all makes perfect sense!
They head back to the pool and confront Torn, who denies his guilt as Wendy looks on blankly silent. But then something unexpected happens! Eliot Parnell, Carr’s assistant, flees in a space cruiser! “Only the guilty flee,” says Queue! He and Bert pursue Parnell in Bert’s “III Space Yacht”.
They catch Parnell and tow him back to Earth where he explains that he wasn’t fleeing, he had to get to Mars so that his and Carr’s company wouldn’t lose all their mines there.
They go back to Dzan Gole’s estate and Bert agrees to keep the news of Carr’s death secret until the case is solved. This shouldn’t be a problem, since no reporters or police have been called in yet.
Still, Queue announces that he’s got the case solved! The murder is…well, let’s all get a good night’s sleep first. The robot claims he’ll say who the murderer is tomorrow, once he has the final proof.
The assailant escapes, but Bert detects a body on the floor. Turning on the light, he discovers the dismembered body of Queue! Man, Bert must have been hitting the sauce hard before bedtime not to hear all this!
Bert finds a handy lead shield and begins re-assembling the Magnussed P.I. Afterwards, having enough of this mess, Bert calls everyone into the living room to put this case to bed once and for all.
They all show up in suits and ties but Harry Torn is wearing something extra — a brand new shiner on his eye. He claims he fell out of bed when he heard the commotion coming from Bert’s room. Queue declares this “an illogical alibi” and pronounces Torn the murderer. He doesn’t reveal what additional piece of evidence he planned to gather up, since it seems to be based on what they found at Carr’s apartment.
But Bert has a bombshell of his own. Torn is innocent, because the exposure to Queue’s radium power plant would have killed him! Queue cannot argue with this logic, nor the logical end result of who this must mean the murderer is.
See, Dzan Gole wanted Carr dead because, as a Martian, he would have been able to take control of the Martian mines! So he came up with this plan to make Carr afraid of drowning in Martian water so that he’d take out an insurance policy…wait, let me back up. He wired up Carr’s bed but made it look like Torn did it. And he planted Torn’s footsteps but they weren’t visible except with the Martian robot who fingered the wrong guy but…okay, I think we can safely say the plan makes no sense whatsoever.
At any rate, Queue and Bert head back to Earth where Mr. Emory is delighted that once again, Interplanetary Insurance, Inc., has been spared the tragedy of paying off a claim. The boss offers to treat them to the best meal in town and when Bert reveals that Queue only eats expensive radioactive radium Mr. Emory has the robot disassembled and makes a tidy profit on the parts.
Next week: Interplanetary Insomnia, Inc.!
“The Robot Detective of Mars”
Mystery in Space #19 (April-May 1954)
Writer: Sid Gerson
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Sy Barry
Editor: Julius Schwartz