September 4, 1927
The public stenographer was used to all sorts of crazy jobs, but the one that arrived in the mail last week was a new one for sure. She was to type up, and send to a number of prominent citizens, an appeal for $1500 from a purportedly destitute woman who promised to kill herself if the money was not received by the following Wednesday. The letter was signed “Madame XYZ.” It was all too weird for the stenographer, who turned the request over to police.
Today, an anonymous note showed up at the Central Police Station identifying Madame XYZ as Eunice McMullin of 2674 South Vermont Avenue. Clues given in the note led detectives to the conclusion that McMullin is really Mrs. Frank A. Martin. The 40-year-old Mrs. Martin has been missing since last week, according to her husband, who also said she tried to kill herself three years ago in Oakland.
XYZ/McMullin/Martin was clearly no criminal mastermind; the note, which used her real address, also included details of a railroad accident Martin suffered in 1913. And asking a public stenographer to send her extortion letters? Pure bush league.
Postscript: Police closed the case the following day, after the still-missing Madame XYZ contacted her husband and promised not to take her own life. Detectives noted that Mr. Martin was “not at all concerned” over his wife’s threats of suicide (an attitude apparently shared by the LAPD where Madame XYZ’s attempt at blackmail was concerned).
His wife wanted the money, Mr. Martin revealed to the Times, to “establish a new religious movement.” Neighbors, on the other hand, reported that they hadn’t noticed an upsurge in religious activities by either of the Martins, who were “in a strained financial condition”—or so said the neighborhood busybodies.
The story ended two days later, when Madame XYZ dropped a letter in her husband’s mailbox stating she would return to him only if he joined her in founding her sect. Alas, no details were given concerning the new religion, and, as police reiterated, given Mr. Martin’s “confidence that no harm will befall his wife,” the case was at a standstill.