Case for Three Detectives, Epilogue

Case for Three Detectives

EPILOGUE
   
The public bar of the Red Lion was brightly lit, and the beer glowed happily in glass tankards.  Enid, behind the bar, watched placidly, while Sergeant Beef and I attempted with zeal to win a game of darts against Fellowes and Miles.
“Police versus criminals, you might call it,” Enid had observed when we started, with pointed reference to my efforts of some months ago to assist investigation of the Thurston Mystery and not without recollection of how we had disinterred the unfortunate past history of the two men who were now our opponents.  ‘Criminals’, in this contest anyway, were on top, for the publican, whom I had met as a chauffeur, and his brother-in-law were, as Beef put it, ‘mustard at this game’.
Williams had been hanged a week before.  When his trial had come on, the amount of evidence which had been collected against him was enormous, and I suspected that the prosecution had received some kindly hints from two at least of the investigators who had been concerned in the case.  They had rallied good-naturedly to the Sergeant, who never lost his admiration for them.  He was wont to wonder even to-day at their inventiveness, and envy their remarkable gifts.
Our game was finishing.  Fellowes needed a hundred and fifty-seven to get out.  Jealously I watched him throw his three darts, treble nineteen, treble twenty, double top—a brilliant bit of work.  And when the well-merited beer was brought, we returned, not unnaturally, to talk of the tragedy which had first brought us together.
“It was a funny business, altogether,” commented Fellowes, not, as you will gather, imputing any comedy to the affair, but referring to the element of unexpectedness which had been noticeable in it.
“Wasn’t it?” said Enid, as she crunched potato crisps.  “You could have knocked me down with a feather when I knew it was that Williams who had done it.  I never liked him, though.  Too ’igh and mighty for anyone, he was.  But you wouldn’t have thought he was the one to do a person in, would you?  Still, there you are.  You never know, as they say,”
“I reckon it was a blarsted shame, though,” said Miles.  “To go and cut her throat like that.  She’d never done anyone any harm.”
“Ah,” said Fellowes, “but when they gets in a mess over money they’ll do anything.  How much was it he’d had off of ’er?  Six thousand quid, wasn’t it?  And nothing to shew for it.  He had to do something to keep her quiet.”
“I dare say, but that’s no reason to go on like ’e did,” observed Enid.  “And then shooting the Doctor as well.  No one can’t say he didn’t deserve all he got.  What was it that lawyer called him?  A ‘homicidal opportunist’, wasn’t it?  He certainly took his opportunity all right.”
“That’s what made it so hard to get him,” I ventured to observe.  I have learnt not to give my opinion too freely of late.
“Yes.  And what I say now,” said Enid, “is what I’ve said all along—it was really clever of Sergeant Beef to have spotted him.  Really clever, it was!”
“Hear, hear!” said Fellowes.
The Sergeant sucked his moustache.  “Oh, I don’t know,” he said, “there was nothink in it.  I just went a’ead and carried out ordin’ry instructions.  ’Ad a look at the bloodstains, and the rest followed.  That’s where it came in.  I told those gentlemen ’oo came down to investigate right from the start that it was too simple a case for them.”
“Unfortunately, Sergeant, they have been told that so many times by the police that they couldn’t be expected to believe you.”
“Well, but it was.  What was there to it?  Them inkstains, and then the stains on Williams’s shirt, and that bit of pillow-case wot ’e’d been burning.  That’s all it was, and the rest came on top of it as easy as wink.  It wasn’t the case for them at all.  I mean, wot they want is something complicated.  This was just a police business—not even worth bringing the Yard down.  There’s things of this sort ’appening every day.  And all you ’ave to do is carry out the ordinary instructions, take your notes, and there you are.  Only I wish to gawd I could make up a story like they can.  Genius I call that.  Well, wot about another game of darts?”
— THE END

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Thirty-Three

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
   
Now though it looked as though there was nothing more to be said, I for one was determined to clear up every point I could think of.  I did not mean to be caught again by someone else who would come along with a theory that would supersede this one.  So although Sergeant Beef had anxiously consulted a large silver watch several times, as though afraid that he was going to be late for some urgent appointment, I continued to question him.
“What about the ropes?” I said.
“Oh them, well, in the night ’e thought it all over, and it seemed a pretty neat crime to ’im.  ’E knew by then that Dr. Thurston ’ad decided to keep quiet about this game of ’is and ’is wife’s, in case ’e should be suspected.  Come to that it’s more than likely that Dr. Thurston had actually told ’im about it, as ’is lawyer.  In fact, now I come to think of it, I should think he had.  And Williams, of course, ’ad advised ’im to keep quiet till ’e saw what you gentlemen made of it.  There might never be no need to mention the game, if you’d found the murderer without that.  But whether or not ’e’d actually told Williams, Williams knew ’e would tell ’im before ’e told anyone else, if ’e was going to mention it.  So Williams thought ’e’d got things pretty well set, a mystery as no one couldn’t solve.  Well then, ’e began to wonder if it wasn’t too much of a mystery.  Left as it was, the only solution to it would ’ave to be the true solution, and that wouldn’t suit ’im at all.  So ’e thinks ’ow ’e could shew up some other possibility.  And some time in the small hours ’e gets up, goes down to the gymnasium, finds a ladder, ’auls them ropes across, and ’ides ’em in the tanks.  ’E ’ad nerve.  But it wasn’t so dangerous as it looked.  If ’e was caught with them anywhere ’e could ’ave said ’e was up to detective work and ’ad just found ’em, and shew ’ow the murderer ’ad used ’em.  But ’e wasn’t caught.  ’E got ’em in the tank safe enough.  ’E brought the two, in case it should be proved afterwards that one ’adn’t been long enough, and all ’is work wasted.”
“But what about Strickland—and the pendant?”
“Wot about ’im?  ’Is Lordship was right enough.  He is the stepson.  ’E got into a bit of trouble over racing, and changed ’is name.  But ’e’s oright.  ’E didn’t put ’is ’undred quid on that ’orse until Mrs. Thurston ’ad giv’ ’im the pendant which ’e could pop for more than that, to cover ’im if the ’orse didn’t win.  ’E’s oright, I tell you, I’m glad ’is ’orse did come in.  It’ll be drinks round to-night—if I get down there in time.  Course he told one or two lies.  Well, ’e wasn’t going to let on about changing ’is name.  Why should ’e?  ’E didn’t want all that raked up, As for ’is going to Sidney Sewell, well, what could be more natural?  A run in the car was what anyone ’ud want, cooped up ’ere for a murder enquiry.  It’s not everyone ’oo enjoys ’em, you know.  And of course ’e chose Sidney Sewell, that being the place ’e’d stayed at.  But there was no secret about it, or ’e wouldn’t of took Norris and Fellowes with ’im.”
I was determined to find out whether the Sergeant’s case was complete.  “But the chauffeur?” I asked, “And the girl?  And her ex-convict brother?”
The Sergeant smiled.  “That’s where I had the advantage, sir.  See, being sergeant in a place like this, you gets to know people and what they’re up to.  I mean, we know ’oo might be doing a bit of poaching, and ’oo’s liable to get tight.  I knew this chap Fellowes pretty well—played darts with ’im a good many times.  Always starts on the double eighteen, ’e does.  Never misses.  Well, I knew ’e ’ad a bit saved up, and ’ad been looking for the right pub for ’im and Enid for a long time.  And I also knew that ’e’d just settled to take over the ‘Red Lion’.  Money was paid a week ago before any of this came along.  And the brother, Miles, was to go and work for ’em.  Pleased as punch they was about it.  ’E wouldn’t of  wanted to go doing anyone in.  Not ’im.  ’E was getting married and everythink.  ’E may ’ave ’ad a bit of a row with the girl over not ’aving give in ’is notice.  But ten to one ’e told ’er when they was out together on Friday afternoon that ’e’d tell Mrs. Thurston that night.  And that settled it with Enid, so that when they got back to their car that afternoon their tiff was over.  Then, as you remember, Mrs. Thurston sent for ’im, before dinner, to tell ’im about the rat-traps, which meant to tell him she wanted to see ’im later.  And he came out with it then and there in the ’all, that ’e wanted to leave at the end of the week.  No wonder you noticed ’er looking a bit upset when you were on your way up to change.  She was upset, but she’d persuaded ’im to ’ave a word with ’er later.  Well, at eleven o’clock ,’e and Enid ’ears Mrs. Thurston go up to bed.  ’E wants to see ’er at once and get it over, but ’e mustn’t appear to be following ’em upstairs.  So wot does ’e do?  Wot would anyone do?  Look at the clock of course and sez ‘Why, it’s past eleven’, as though it was later than wot ’e thought it was, to explain ’is ’urrying off.
“So ’e went to go in ’er room.  Only ’e couldn’t because Stall was in there, after ’is two ’undred.  Not that Fellowes knew ’oo it was, only ’e ’eard someone talking.  And it’s my belief, as I’ve told you, that ’e was just coming downstairs to ’ave another try, when ’e ’eard those screams, and doubled back up again.  The girl ’ad a nasty experience, though.  She was in the Doctor’s room, right opposite to Mrs. Thurston’s, when those screams started.  No wonder she couldn’t move for a minute.  It must ’ave turned ’er up, coming sudden like that with no noise first.  Enough to give any girl a turn, especially when she ’arf thinks ’er lover’s in there.  She stays where she is a minute, till she ’ears you battering at the door, then she comes out and must ’ave been relieved to see Fellowes with the rest of you.  ’E tells ’er to run downstairs, which she does, as we know from the cook.
“Mind you, it may of been lucky for Miles that ’e ’ad that alibi.  It might easily ’ave appeared that someone would ’ave mixed ’im up in this, and brought out all about ’is past, which wouldn’t ’ave done ’im any good in the village, when ’e goes to ’elp at the ‘Red Lion’.  But fortunately nobody knows anythink about it, except you gentlemen and me, so ’e’s oright.  ’E’ll go straight enough now.  ’E never chizzles on the dart-board, and that’s a good sign.  Why, only the other night I was playing against ’im and I thought one of ’is darts was in the sixty.  ’One ton,’ I says, but he says, ‘No, sixty.  It wasn’t there.’  ’E could of ’ad it as easy as wink, an’ I shouldn’t ’ave known any different.  But ’e didn’t, see!  Honest ’e was.  We shan’t ’ave no more trouble with ’im!”
It was just then, I think, that Mgr. Smith got up to leave us.  He bore no grudge against the Sergeant, and like the good sportsman he was enjoyed being wrong at last.  “You see,” he explained, “by the very nature of things it has never been possible for me to be mistaken before.  And while there is error in a man, a man may be in error.”
He beamed round on us and picked up his parasol.
“Where are you off to?” I asked.
“I must go to the Vicarage,” he said, and scuttled out.  We heard that it was several hours before he returned from the gloomy Vicarage, but what had passed in that time it was not our business to enquire.
When we had left the room I was seized by yet another doubt.  “But, Sergeant,” I said, “there is one matter which you haven’t explained.  And now I come to think of it, it is a serious one.  What about the Vicar?  You cannot account for all his movements so simply.  They were really most peculiar.  First of all his questions to me.  Then all that time when he said he was out in the orchard, then his being by the side of the corpse so soon after the murder, and finally his saying that he had sinned.  What does it all mean?  Was he really mad?”
“Mad?  No!” said Sergeant Beef.  ’E isn’t mad.  That was just ’is way of trying to get out of it—defend ’imself, like.”
“Defend himself?  Then he did have something to do with the murder?”
“No.  Not that.  But ’aven’t you really guessed, sir, what it was ’e was ashamed of?  It’s as plain as the nose on your face.”
“I can’t say I have—unless it was this interfering puritanism of his.”
“No, not that.  Though it’s all part of it.  You see the kind of man he was?  Always seeing something wrong when there was nothing to see.  Well, you know what goes with that, don’t you?  A nasty mind, that’s what!  No wonder ’e was ashamed of ’imself.  When he left here that night, where did he go?  Out in the orchard, pacing up and down?  Not he!  ’E knew Mrs. Thurston would be going to bed in a minute, and p’raps didn’t trouble to draw the blinds.  And out ’e goes in the garden to see whether ’e could see anything ’e shouldn’t.  That’s how he came to ’ear the screams, and that’s why he was guilty afterwards.”
“In fact,” drawled Lord Simon, “as Monsignor Smith would say if he were here, he was not only a Nosey Parker, but a Peeping Tom.”

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Thirty-Two

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO
   
So at last we knew who was guilty.  As Sergeant Beef said, the evidence of the pillow and pillow-slip was not circumstantial, but was hard and certain proof.  I cannot pretend that I had suspected Dr. Thurston, because it had seemed to me impossible that he, who had been with us from the time that Mrs. Thurston went to bed until we had found her apparently murdered, could have had anything to do with it.  Who could even have suspected that his accomplice, his unfortunate and unconscious accomplice, had been none other than the murdered woman.  It seemed very horrible, but even as I realized it, it seemed diabolically clever.
But there was one man who had evidently decided to remain loyal to Thurston.  The Doctor was about to speak in answer to Sergeant Beef, when Williams placed a hand on his arm.  “Doctor, as your lawyer I forbid you to say anything in answer to this at present.  The whole thing is outrageous, and we shall be able to prove that this blundering fool of a policeman has made some fantastic mistake.”
Lord Simon leaned back easily.  “Not this time, Williams,” he said, “I am not one to get excited about the jolly old police, but I’m climbin’ down a peg.”  Then he added, “Lord, what a relief it is to have been wrong for once!  You don’t know the monotony of infallibility!”
“I also, the great Amer Picon, shall rest contented.  At last I have made the faux pas.  Hooray, as you say in English, it is a great change for me!”
And Mgr. Smith murmured softly, “I am so pleased.  So pleased.”
“At all events,” said Williams fiercely, “say nothing, Doctor, till we have conferred.”  Then he turned to Beef.  “I take it that there is no objection to Dr. Thurston coming with me to the study for a while before you . . . take any more steps?”
“None at all, sir.  There are police in the grounds and no one can leave.  I will give you ten minutes.”
The two went out of the room and Sergeant Beef made an unpleasant noise as though he were sucking his teeth, as indeed he probably was doing.  Then suddenly he rose heavily to his feet.
“I don’t know whether I ought to leave them . . .” he began.
But his words were rudely interrupted.  There was the sound of a revolver shot which seemed to shake the house, and sang deafeningly in my ears for some seconds.  We jumped up, and ran out into the hall.  The study door was open, and full length on the ground lay the weighty bulk of Dr. Thurston, while in his right hand was still elapsed his revolver.  Williams stooped over him, and Beef followed.
“I’m afraid there can be no doubt about death in this case,” Williams said.  “It must have been instantaneous.”
“How did it happen?” I asked.
“He led me in here, then asked if I would leave him alone for a moment.  He said he wanted to collect himself before conferring with me.  And foolishly I agreed.  For some reason it never occurred to me that this was his intention.  I had scarcely opened the door when I heard the shot behind me.”
“Let’s go back to the other room,” I said, for the body of the dead man was gruesome.  There was an expression of startled horror on Thurston’s dead face which was unendurable.  Before we left him, however, a rug was laid over the corpse, and Beef took care to lock the door when we were all out of the room.
“Well, that seems pretty well to prove your theory, Sergeant,” said Williams, when we had got back to the more natural atmosphere of the lounge.
And indeed if further proof was necessary I felt that her it was.  What could be more conclusive than the suicide of the protagonist?  But it appeared that Beef was modest.
“Wot theory?” he said.  “I ’adn’t got no theory.”
“Oh yes, you had,” said Williams, “and a very brilliant one, and as it now turns out amazingly true.  Poor Mary!  I wonder what Thurston’s motive was?  I expect we shall see when we come to go through her papers.  It was a fiendishly clever idea, though, for Thurston to persuade her into that pretence, and then, with his alibi established, for him to go back and murder her.”
Sergeant Beef was standing between us and the door.
’“Oo said anythink about Dr. Thurston going back and murdering ’er?” he asked suddenly.
For a moment I did not understand the implications of this extraordinary question, then I was horrified to see that the Sergeant had pulled out a pair of handcuffs and drawn himself up to his full height.
“Samuel James Williams,” he said, “it is my duty to arrest you.  You are charged with the murder of Mary Thurston.  You will be further charged with the murder of Dr. Alexander Thurston.  It is also my duty to warn you that anythink you say may be used in evidence against you.”
Before I had recovered from my surprise I saw that he had slipped his handcuffs over the lawyer’s wrists.
“But . . . but . . .” I said.  “You’ve just been proving it was Dr.  Thurston . . .”
“I beg your pardon, sir, I ’aven’t been proving nothink of the sort.  I knowed it was ’im all through.”
Sergeant Beef then did a very common place thing.  He blew loudly on a whistle.
“Really!” said Lord Simon, whose sensibilities were touched by the sound.
Two policemen entered.
“Take ’im along,” said Sergeant Beef.  “’E won’t say nothink, being a lawyer.  But ’e’s for it, oright.  ’Anged by the neck till ’e’s dead, ’e’ll be.”
The Sergeant thereupon helped himself to a glass of beer, and after thoroughly sucking the ends of his straggling ginger moustache, he said, “You see, gents, I ’adn’t got no theories, not like yours.  I still think they was remarkable.  But I did ’appen to know ’oo done it.  It was simple enough.  What I told you about the lark was true.  That was Dr. Thurston’s idea—for a joke like.  He never ’ad no intention but a joke, if you get my meaning.  ’E took that bulb out to ’elp the joke, not wanting anyone to see she was still alive and spoil it, and he snipped the telephone wire in case anyone should ring up the p’lice and ’im get into trouble for giving us unnecessary trouble.  Then it all ’appened just as I said it did.  Only when Williams was searching the room ’e notices out of the corner of ’is eye that Mrs. Thurston’s no more dead than ’e is.  Or p’raps he ’ears ’er chuckling.  And ’is brain’s quick.  ’E thinks, ‘Ullo, ’ere’s a chance to do ’er in.’  ’E gets rid of you all out of the way like.  Dr. Thurston ’as to act as though ’e’s cut up, for the sake of the joke, see?  So the Doctor stays downstairs.  Then this ’ere Williams who’d said ’e was going to ’ave another try at telephoning, slips up—and cuts ’er froat while you’re going out to search the grounds.  He throws the knife out of the window, like I said.  It couldn’t of been there many seconds when you found it, Mr. Townsend.  No wonder the blood was still wet.
“You see, this ’ere Williams was the cleverest kind of a murderer, the one ’oo knows ’ow to take advantage of an opportunity.  That’s ’arf the game.  I’m of the opinion that anyone could be murdered, and no one found out, if every murderer did it just at the right moment.  That’s wot this Williams was thinking when ’e was pretending to search the room.  ’E knew that Dr. Thurston was in the game with ’er, but he knew very well that when the Doctor found she was really dead, ’e’d never dare let on to that, because ’e’d of been ’anged himself—for certain.  All ’e ’ad to be sure of was that the Doctor went upstairs alone, and made the discovery on ’is own, too.
“I don’t suppose that was difficult.  ’E knew the Doctor was downstairs alone in the lounge.  All ’e ’ad to do was to suggest to ’im something that would send ’im upstairs again.  P’raps ’e pretended to ’ear a sound from the room.  P’raps ’e didn’t ’ave to suggest nothing, because the Doctor would want to go and ’ave a smile with ’is wife over the joke, when you was all out of the way.  We shan’t never know.  But at all events, Williams comes back into the lounge, says it’s no good, ’e can’t get an answer on the telephone, as though ’e’d never left the receiver.
“Then Dr.  Thurston goes up to ’is wife.  But when ’e gets into the room, ’e finds she really ’as been murdered.  ’E’s just going to shout out, when ’e sees that it’s going to look bad for ’im.  He’s innocent, but after all ’e suggested that dam’ silly game.  He made ’er pretend.  And when anyone sees ’ow it was done ’e’ll be suspected.  Especially with ’im up ’ere alone now.  So ’e says nothink, and comes downstairs, just as Williams ’opes ’e will.
“At the bottom of the stairs ’e meets Mr. Townsend, Mr. Strickland and Mr. Norris, corning in from their search of the grounds.  ’E knows someone’s done it, since you all left the room upstairs, and ’e doesn’t know ’oo to suspect.  So ’e asks you chaps where you’ve been.  Then ’e sees that it ’ud look funny for ’im to be asking questions now, so ’e drops it.  From that moment, though, ’e’s ’oping that the murderer’ll be discovered.  ’E doesn’t like keeping the secret, but ’e ’as the sense to see ’e might ’ang if ’e was to tell then ’ole story of the joke.”
The Sergeant paused to drink again.  “There’s not much more to tell, except that I didn’t ought never to’ve let them go in the other room together.  See, Dr. Thurston was just going to come out with it that ’e ’ad planned that lark with ’is wife, but never ’ad nothink to do with the murder, when Williams, as you know, stopped ’im.  Dr. Thurston didn’t know ’oo to suspect, but ’e’d never suspected Williams.  ’E was led off like a lamb to the other room.  Tell you the truth, I wouldn’t never ’ave let him, only I was hoping that we might get a bit more evidence if Williams was to tell ’im not to say anything, and ’e got suspicious of Williams.  But that’s wot comes of trying to make your case too cast-iron.  As soon as ’e got ’im out there Williams shot ’im, stuck the revolver in ’is ’and and opened the door, with a story ready of ’ow ’e’d just turned ’is back and Dr. Thurston shot himself.  If that ’ad of come orf ’e’d ’ave been clear, see?
“Williams must ’ave thought I really suspected Dr.  Thurston.  But I didn’t.  I knew it was Williams.”
“How?” I asked.  “After all, it was Thurston who had arranged the so-called joke.  It was Thurston who had said she was dead.  How did you know it was Williams who went back in that room and killed Mrs. Thurston?”
“Simple, sir.  I’ve told you I ’aven’t got no theories.  I’m no good at anythink like that.  I’m just an ordinary policeman, as you might say.  I found out ’ow the murder was done by them bloodstains and inkstains.  And I found out ’oo done the murder by bloodstains and inkstains, too.  See, I ’ave to use these regulation methods.  Never do for me to get up to any fanciful tricks like ’arf-mast flags, and spiders wiv’ flies, and Sidney Sewells, and that.  You gentlemen understand all that.  I jist ’ave to follow instructions for procedure in a case of crime.  So when I’d found them stains, I ’ad a look at the clothes you’d all been wearing that night.  And on the left breast of Williams’ shirt, off of the ’ard part and quite near the armpit, I found a very faint pink mark.  And I knew it was red ink.  See when ’e’d picked up the first pillow-slip wot the red ink ’ad been on, ’e’d stuffed it inside of ’is waistcoat to take away and burn later.  And although it ’ad been almost dry then, it ’ad just made that faint smudge.  Then again on the outside underneath part of ’is cuff what should I find but another little stain.  This ’un was red, too, on’y it wasn’t ink, it was blood.  Very likely there’d been some more on ’is jacket, but ’e’d seen that an’ washed it orf.  Only no one couldn’t ’ardly ’ave seen this.  It was only small, right on the edge of the cuff.  That’s ’ow I knew it was ’im.
“But we’ll ’ave plenty more evidence.  ’E never left a finger-print anywhere, ’aving plenty of time.  But when ’e came to shooting Dr. Thurston I should think it’s more than likely ’e left ’em on the revolver, gambling on being able to get back later and wipe ’em.  So we’ll ’ave ’im there.  Besides, when it comes to the inquest on Dr. Thurston, ten to one you’ll find that the shot wot killed ’im couldn’t of been self-inflicted.  They can pretty well always tell nowadays, and you see if ’e wasn’t shot from three or four feet away instead of close to the head.
“But there’s one more important of evidence against ’im.  In the grate of ’is room I found a bit of charred linen, wot I sent up to the Yard to be examined.  It turns out to be the same stuff as wot the rest of the pillow-cases was made of.  Well, that might not of been conclusive, if I ’adn’t found out from the girl about the fires.  You remember ’ow ’e shut me up when I started to arst ’er about that?  And, not wishing to rub it in, you gentlemen joined in wiv ’im?  Well, I ’ad to see ’er later.  She said Mr.  Williams never liked a fire in ’is room.  It was laid, same as fires ’ad to be laid everywhere, in case anyone wanted to light one.  But Williams ’ad never lit ’is before.  And when she come to do the grate it must ’ave been nine o’clock, because I’d examined it soon after I got ’ere that morning and found the bit of charred linen.  I thought then the coals was still ’ot and she says when she come to do ’em she could feel ’em warm still.  There was only a very small scuttle of coal there, and it wasn’t all burnt.  So ’e couldn’t ’ave lighted ’is fire till the small hours, to burn that pillow-case.  So no one else couldn’t of gone into ’is room to burn it there.”
“But what was his motive?” I asked.  I wasn’t sceptical now, but curious.
“Motive?  ’E ’ad more motive than anyone.  First thing I did was to go froo Mrs. Thurston’s papers.  ’E’d ’ad all ’er money.  All ’er own money that is, to invest.  ’Adn’t you thought it a bit odd as a lady with two or three thousand a year, ’oo’d never lived extravagant, should be overdrawn so far she couldn’t overdraw no farther, even if she was being blackmailed?  Well, that’s the reason.  All she ’adn’t spent of ’er income she’d been ’anding over to this ’ere Williams for years to invest for ’er.  And ’e’d been living on it—’andsome.  And now she was being pressed by Stall, and begged from by Strickland, she wanted a bit.  And of course it wasn’t there.  Only when ’e came down this weekend ’e never thought ’e’d get as good a chance as that to do ’er in without being copped!”

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Thirty-One

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE
   
It was at this difficult moment that Dr. Thurston came into the room.
“I hope,” he said quietly, “that you have finished your deliberations.  You haven’t yet made your arrest, Sergeant?”
“Not yet, sir.”
“The truth is, Thurston,” said Sam Williams, “that there is a little difference of opinion among these gentlemen.”
Thurston looked puzzled.  He evidently found this hard to understand or credit.  “But . . . but haven’t you discovered who is guilty?” he asked wearily.
“Yes, Well, that is . . .” Williams was in an uncomfortable predicament.  At last he turned to Sergeant Beef.  “Look here, Sergeant, you, after all, represent the police, and it is your duty to make an arrest.  You have heard all these gentlemen.  What do you think about it?”
Sergeant Beef looked from one to the other of the three investigators with evident appreciation.  “Wot do I think about it?  I think wot these gentlemen ’ave told us is remarkable.  Remarkable!  I shouldn’t never ’ave believed it possible that anyone could ’ave been so ingeenyus.  And the details they thought of!  It was wonderful, sir, and a treat to ’ear them.  I shan’t never forget to-day.  It will be something to tell my grandchildren.  To think that I’ve been privileged to ’ear all that!”  His eyes, usually a trifle glazed, glowed now with honest admiration.
“That’s scarcely the point,” said Williams coldly.  “What we have to do is to decide who is guilty, and arrest him.”
“Oh yes,” admitted Sergeant Beef, “I was forgetting that.  I know ’oo done it, of course.  But that ain’t nothink—not finding out ’oo done it isn’t.  Why, I could never ’ave made up them stories if you’d paid me, sir.  Wonderful, they was.”
“Well, Sergeant, you’ve been saying for a long time that you know who was guilty.  Suppose you tell us your theory?”
“I ’aven’t got no theory, sir.  I wouldn’t presume to ’ave, not in front of these gentlemen.  I couldn’t express myself like that, wotever you was to give me.”
“You have no theory?  But I thought you said you knew who had done it?”
“So I do.  But that’s nothink, sir.  Not after ’earing wot I ’ave to-night.”
“Well, for heaven’s sake, man, tell us what you know.”
“Well, it’s really too simple, sir.  I don’t ’ardly like to disappoint you now.”
“Come along.  Did the murderer have an accomplice?”
“Yus.  ’E did.  He ’ad two.”
“Two?  Are you going to arrest these accomplices?”
“Can’t do that, sir.”
“Why not?”
“Because one of ’em’s dead and the other didn’t know wot would come of it.”
“One’s dead?”
“Yus.  See, it began really when you wos talking about murder stories, before you ’ad your supper.” Lord Simon shivered at the word.  “And I wouldn’t ’arf like to know ’oo started that conversation.”
Suddenly I remembered.  It had been opened by Thurston.  “As a matter of fact,” I said, “though of course it’s of no importance, I remember now.”  I turned to Dr.  Thurston.  “You probably remember, Doctor?  You turned to me and asked me whether I had read any good murder stories lately.  Of course the whole thing is ridiculous, but I just happen to remember that.”
Dr. Thurston smiled patiently.  “Did I?  Very likely.  I can’t remember.”
“Anyway, what has that to do with it?” asked Williams.
“You’ll see in a minute.  Well, Dr. Thurston starts you talking about murderers, and whether they gets copped.  And Mr. Norris says ’e doesn’t ’old wiv crime stories and that, because they aren’t true to life.  And so on.  It was just ’ow anyone might go on.”
“Well?”
“Well.  When Mrs.  Thurston goes upstairs, Dr.  Thurston goes to ’is own room and gets dressed.  Then, after Mr. Strickland ’ad come out of ’er room, ’e slips in.  ‘’Ere,’ ’e says, ’I ’aven’t ’arf got a good idea for a lark,’ ’e says.  ‘Wot say we bamboozle ’em to-night wiv a murder, and see whether they can find out ’ow it’s done?’  ‘Wot you mean, dear?’ she asks.  She was always a bit silly like and ready to be persuaded into anything.”
At this point Williams stood up.  “This is preposterous,” he said.  “Beef, we’ll have no more of this nonsense.  It is too painful for Dr. Thurston.  Now . . .”
Mais non! said M. Picon.  “Let the good Bœuf continue!  He begins to become interesting!”
Beef went on.  “The long and short of it was, ’e persuaded ’er.  “Now I’ll tell you wot to do,’ ’e said.  ‘When you go up to bed, don’t undress, but lock your door, and shut your window.  Then take this ’ere bottle of red ink, and pour it on your pillow.  Get ’old of your lipstick, and paint a ’ell of a great scar across your froat.  Then scream like blazes as ’ard as you can, see?  We’ll come and break down the door, and then we’ll see whether the people wot says you can’ commit a murder without being found out can see ’ow the murderer escaped!  Got it?’ ’e says, and she says it’s O.K.  Then ’e says, ‘Tell you wot,’ ’e says, ‘I better take this bulb out of the light, otherwise they’ll be able to see you ’avn’t really been murdered.’  And ’e does so, and chucks it out of the window.”
“Then why weren’t there any finger-prints on the glass?” I asked.  I thought that would squash him, since obviously Thurston could not have put on a glove to do it.
“Why not?  Because the light ’ad just been burning, of course.  It was still ’ot.  So naturally he pulls out ’is ’andker-chief to ’andle it with.  See?”
I saw.  I began to feel a little nervous.  Suppose this blundering policeman had got together enough nonsense to look like evidence?  It would be uncomfortable for Thurston to have the inconvenience of defending himself.
“Well, to go on with what ’e said to Mrs. Thurston.  ‘When we’ve got ’em on a string,’ ’e says, ‘we’ll tell ’em it was only a joke, see?  Only don’t you move,’ ’e says, ’till I give you the wink.  We don’t want to let it out too soon.’  And she agrees.  I knew the lady myself.  She was always a bit childish, like.  Anything like a bit of acting an’ that would ’ave got ’er easy.  She was game for what she thought would be just a lark, poor lady.
“Then p’raps it was ’er ’oo thought of the next thing.  ‘Suppose someone was to run downstairs and ’phone the p’lice,’ she says ‘that wouldn’t do, would it?’  And ’e says, ‘No more it wouldn’t.  I’ll tell you wot,’ ’e says, ‘I’ll run down an’ cut the telephone wire, then no one can’t ’phone,’ ’e says, and off ’e goes to do it, like wot we know it was done.
“Then down you all comes to ’ave your grub, and Mrs. Thurston’s in ’igh spirits, because although she’s been blackmailed a bit by that Stall, ’oo I’m going to run in presently, she knows ’e’s got the sack, an’ll be gone in a couple of weeks, and besides, there’s this ’ere joke on, and she’s like a kid with a joke.  She probably kep’ looking across knowing-like to ’er ’usband, and thinking of ’ow you was all going to be took in.
“Well, then, Mr.  Strickland goes off to bed, and soon after ’im Mr.  Norris, and then the Vicar.  We’ll come to ’im later.  And at eleven o’clock, as per usual, Mrs. Thurston gets up to go to bed.  When she opens ’er door, she finds Stall standing there, leaning on ’er dressing-table, ’elping ’imself to snuff.  ‘What are you doing ’ere?’ she asks, though she knows very well ’e’s come for ’is two ’undred quid.  But she doesn’t waste a lot of time arguing, she gives ’im the notes to get rid of ’im, and when ’e’s gone she starts getting ready for ’er lark.
“Poor lady!  She must ’ave been laughing to ’erself, little knowing what she was letting ’erself in for.  She takes the bottle of red ink and pours it over ’er pillow (same as a schoolboy ’oo wants to get out of class pours some on ’is ’andkerchief and says ’is nose is bleeding).  Then she paints ’erself ’orrid round the froat, and bolts the door top and bottom.  Now she thinks everything’s ready, and she lays down on the bed, and lets out three screams, as bloodcurdling as she can make ’em.  Then she shuts ’er eyes, and waits for wotever’s going to ’appen.
“You know wot did ’appen.  The first on the scene is Mr. Norris, because ’e’s got nothink to delay ’im.  Then up comes Dr. Thurston, calling out ’er name, and Mr. Williams and Mr. Townsend, and start breaking the door in.  Wot’s ’appened to the others you may well ask.  Two of them’s got something to ’ide before they puts their noses out of their doors.  There’s Mr. Strickland, with the diamond pendant, wot Mrs. Thurston ’ad giv’ ’im before dinner, lying on his dressing-table as bold as brass.  ’E ’as to conceal that before ’e dares open ’is door.  And there’s Stall with two ’undred of the best in his room, ’e can’t come running down before they’re away.  Then there was the chauffeur.  Well, don’t forget ’e ’ad been sent for to Mrs. Thurston’s room that evening.  I shouldn’t be surprised if e’d been on ’is way down the stairs when ’e ’eard those screams, and got a narsty turn, and run back to ’is own room for a minute.  Somethink of that, anyway.
“Then you breaks the panels of the door, and look in.  “Ullo,’ you say, ’murdered, is she?’  For there she lies in a pool of blood, you think.  And Dr. Thurston, ’e walks across to ’er and examines ’er, and says she’s dead.  And you start searching the room like mad, thinking that someone’s been in there a-murdering of ’er, just as you was meant to think.  And all the while the poor lady’s smiling to ’erself, thinking she’s ’aving a rare joke on you.  So she was, up to then.
“So you looks ’igh and low, up the chimney, out of the winder, and under the carpet, not knowing as you know now, that no one ’adn’t been in there since Stall was there, and ’im only for a couple of minutes.  But at last you’ve finished, and leave the lady alone.  Mr. Townsend and Mr. Strickland and Mr. Norris go out in the gardens, while the chauffeur comes for me.
“Then, with no one else there, and an alibi established, it ain’t no trouble to slip back in the room, murder the poor lady, and drop the knife out of the window in time for Mr. Townsend to find it on the ground.  See?  I told you it was simple.  ’Ardly worth telling.  But you seemed to want to know how it was done.”
“But good heavens, Beef,” I said, really appalled by the story which sounded uncomfortably true, “what proof have you got?”
“Proof?” repeated Beef.  “I got plenty of proof.  D’you know ’ow I got on to this?  Why, examining those bloodstains you was all so sarcastic about.  You see, in that sort of way I’ve got a bit of an advantage over these gentlemen.  I mean, I can’t work out theories like what they can, I only wish I could.  Only we’re taught things in the police, see?  And one of the first jobs in a case like this is to ’ave a good look at the bloodstains.  Well, I done that, and found something funny about ’em.  It was a clean pillowslip, or ’ad been before the blood was on it.  And the stains on the pillow-slip was blood, real blood.  But when I came to look at the pillow itself inside, what d’you think I found?  Not only blood, but red ink!  That taught me a thing or two.  Oh, I says, so that was it, was it.  Acting dead, was she?  And the pillow-slip with the inkstains on been took away after the real murder, was it?  Only there wasn’t a chance to take the ’ole pillow, wasn’t there?  I see.  That’s ’ow I come to discover it.  Of course, I got the pillow and the pillow-slip.  Exhibits A and B, them.  That’s proof enough, isn’t it?  And not circumstantial, wot’s more.”

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Thirty

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER THIRTY
   
M. Picon had scarcely finished speaking, and was still smiling in self-congratulation, when Mgr. Smith unexpectedly began.
“What you all seem to forget,” he said, “is that a man who can be a spy, can also be a spider”.
At once I remembered all his mystic references to King Bruce, and things of people or facts that hang on threads, and I asked myself what abstruse wonders were now to be revealed as commonplace.
“You, too, have discovered the murderer?” I asked; not, I must own, taking the little cleric very seriously, but willing enough to be diverted by his account.
“I have discovered the murderer,” he replied, “by a rope, a phrase, and by the way in which a man killed flies.  It is very simple, but it has the terror and the power and the immensity of all simple things.”
He paused for a moment, as though wondering whether he should tell us.  Then he went on.  “There was a woman murdered in a locked room, from which the only escape was by the window, and the only manner of exit from the window was by a rope.  So without beginning to talk in that superstitious way of unnatural happenings, it was necessary to discover how that rope had been used.  It could have been neither climbed nor used for descent, so we came to Lord Simon’s explanation—that a rope may swing, and a man may swing on it.  But what I think Lord Simon failed to see, was that when a rope can swing from left to right, another may swing from right to left.
“In Mrs. Thurston’s room there were two windows, one which was made to open, and one, constructed without frame or hinges, which would not open.  And both had stone ledges at least a foot wide.  And you were all observant of the window which opened.  But what about the window which did not open?  It could have let in lovely things, fresh air and moonbeams, the scent of flowers, and truth.  For the truth of this matter was behind the window which did not open, waiting to be admitted.
“To escape from the room a man had to swing on a rope.  But he did not swing to the right to the window of Strickland’s room, but to the left, to the unopening window, for the rope to which he clung was let down not from Fellowes’s room, but from the box-room.  And there he stood on that ledge, gripping the stonework above him, while you were searching the room.  He could not watch you clearly, for the window is of stained glass, but he could see when you had gone.  And then he returned.  For another rope was hung from the window of the apple-room, on which he could swing back to the window which did open.  It was simple to discover this.  One only had to remember that no pendulum goes only one way, that an action has its reaction, that black, in fact, is opposed to white.
“But who had done it?  Whoever had swung on the ropes had had an accomplice who hung them.  Or should one say that whoever had hung the ropes had had an accomplice who swung on them?  At all events there were two people concerned.
“And while we sat at lunch on Friday a spider appeared on the table.  The butler came into the room and picked it up carefully in his fingers.  I was watching, and I thought that the man who shrank from killing an insect would probably hesitate to kill an employer.  But suddenly I saw a very horrible thing.  The butler had not shrunk from killing the spider because he loved spiders, but because he hated flies.  He took the creature and carefully set it on the window-ledge where several sleepy flies were crawling.  And he turned away regretfully, as though he wanted to wait and watch the results.  It was appalling, but like many appalling things it shewed the truth.  The man who had set a spider to kill a fly had set a man to kill a woman.
“But what man?  It had been a weak man who was persuaded into it, a guilty man who was blackmailed into it, or a devil to whom it had to be no more than suggested.  It could have been no one who came to the door of the room or was present at the search.  And that afternoon I set off for the village church.  At first I thought that I should have to look elsewhere, for Mr. Rider was neither a weak, nor a guilty, nor a bad man.  But when he shewed me a fine piscina in the chancel of his church and referred to it as a wash-basin, I perceived the terrifying truth.  He was not himself a devil, he was possessed of devils, he was insane.  And this madman was the instrument which the real murder had chosen.
“But only one rope had been found.  If it had happened as I thought there must be two.  I hoped, as I thrust my hand into the tank, that there would be nothing in it but water.  The crime as it appeared to me then seemed too vile.  But no—it was there.  Two ropes had been used.
“You see, this butler here was a very wicked and very clever man.  He had been a butler for twenty years or more, and as he said, he had excellent references.  But imagine what had gone to the making of those references, what innumerable subservient humilities, what civil grins, what concealment of personal emotion!  He was a man given to hatred and jealousy, who had been forced for two decades to shew complaisance and satisfaction.
“At last he is employed by a woman who thinks she can trick her servants into loyalty.  But loyalty comes with trial, not with trickery.  A man may call a June evening New Year’s Eve, but we shan’t sing Auld Lang Syne.  A man may put a crown upon his head, but we shan’t sing God Save the King.  A woman may make a will, but we shan’t sing For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow.  And when Mrs. Thurston signed this will she was not securing for herself any service—except unfortunately the Burial Service.  It was her death warrant.
“For the wicked and clever man of whom we are speaking was too wicked and not quite clever enough for success.  He was wicked enough to see that if he could get Mrs. Thurston murdered he would inherit her money, but not clever enough to know that there was no money to inherit.  He was wicked enough to plan her murder, but not clever enough to find out that she had only a life interest in her first husband’s money.  So that the trick has worked twice—on the murderer as well as on the murdered woman.
“He saw a way of escaping from all service, of achieving what all his life he had most ardently craved—his independence.  If he could eliminate this woman he would not only leave the house, from which he had already been dismissed by her husband, without danger of the blackmail he had practised being discovered, but he would also inherit his share of her money.  He would be comparatively well off for the rest of his life, for we may presume that he had already saved a certain sum.
“But how?  He had not even the courage necessary to murder this woman.  But what he lacked in courage he had in guile.  He looked about him for someone to do the thing for him.  And it was probably not for some time that he found this agent in the unlikeliest place—the local vicarage.  Something like a sardonic smile must have come to him when he first thought of that.  For who would look for violence in a vicarage?  Who would expect to find a murderer in a manse?
“Stall sang bass in the choir, and made himself useful to the Vicar.  At first, while the weak brain of the latter had still enough health to ape normality, he was satisfied with that.  But gradually he came to exert more and more influence over the wretched man, until he had only to suggest something to the poor lunatic brain of the other, and he could persuade him to take any course of action that he chose—always providing, of course, that the Vicar was convinced that it was his duty.  Quite early in their sinister relationship, Stall must have learnt that this was his easiest way to accession—he had to prove to the Vicar that such and such a thing was his duty, and the thing was done.  When I think of it I see the stars turn awry with nausea.  He was an unusual criminal, and I thank God for it.
“Then, drawing nearer to his final object, Stall began to suggest to Rider that there was evil in the relationship between Mrs. Thurston and young Strickland.  The Vicar, with his mania for what he called purity but what I should call puritanism, needed very little instigation on this point.  His mental disorder took the form of an abnormal hatred for even the happiest and most innocent love, and when Stall began to fill him with suggestions of this scandal, he was quickly and insanely alert, and doubtless saw many things which did not exist.
“Then slowly the butler must have begun to suggest the horrible idea that it was Rider’s duty to assassinate the woman he had represented as guilty.  He had found a weapon which had hitherto been the prerogative of political plotters—a madman who could be made to commit an act of violence for the sake of an imaginary virtue, a man who would undertake a crime as though it were a crusade.  It was here, probably, that he used that absurd story of the avenging angel striking at the old man in the tower.  He led him on with a legend, fanned his anger with a fable, lured him with a lie.  Until at last Mr. Rider was ready.
“I wondered at first that he should have troubled to extort that last sum of two hundred pounds from Mrs. Thurston at that point.  But I underestimated Stall’s gift for calculation.  He had a very vile fault—a love of scoring off his fellows.  By manipulating the murder of Mrs. Thurston, he felt, he would be scoring off the whole series of his employers.  By securing this two hundred pounds, which should rightly have been divided with the rest of the estate, he would be scoring off his fellow-servants.  How he will have to wipe off those scores, it is not for us to say.
“When at last the unfortunate Vicar arrived on Friday evening he knew what he must do, and had been schooled into the method he must follow.  No wonder he questioned Mr. Townsend before dinner, as though he sought some final confirmation of the facts to influence his diseased brain.  And it is possible that even then he might have escaped the domination of Stall, and gone home an innocent man, if it had not been for that unlucky conversation with Mrs. Thurston before he took his leave.  But she ingenuously told him that she was fond of the young chauffeur, as indeed, and inoffensively enough, she was.  He left the room with his crazy conscience quiet, determined to set about the dreadful work which he believed to be his duty.
“Stall, meanwhile, had everything ready.  There was the rope hung from the window of the box-room and caught at the opening window of Mrs. Thurston’s room, on which he was to escape, and the rope hung from the window of the apple-room to the unopening window of Mrs. Thurston’s room, on which he was to return.  If one could have seen them there they would have appeared to make a great X on the side of the house, marking it out for its doom, a sinister parody of that ink-mark by which ‘our window’ is designated on post-cards from the seaside.
“But unfortunately no one did see them.  It was a dark night, and you were all indoors.  So that when Mr. Rider went upstairs to wait in Mary Thurston’s room for his victim, no one suspected that he was not on his way home, except Stall, who had shewn him there.
“She went up to bed.  At her door she hesitated, startled, not unnaturally, to find Mr. Rider awaiting her in a room which had been partially darkened by Stall in the hope that the murder might be committed before the murderer’s intention was apparent to the victim, and the alarm raised.
“What crazy appeal the poor man made in those ten minutes we shall never know, or what were the unhappy lady’s answers.  But at last the thing was done, and thereafter the Vicar followed Stall’s instructions minutely.  He seized the rope, pulled down the window, and swung, a giant spider on his thread, to the window which did not open.  There he stood, gripping the masonry above him while Stall pulled in that first rope, and descended to the door to prove his alibi.
“You all came, you broke in, you searched, you left the room, and Stall, on the plea of fetching brandy for the hysterical girl, went to draw in the second rope, on which Mr. Rider had now swung back to the open window.  He said afterwards that he had gone to the front door in answer to the bell, to admit Mr. Rider.  At first, I thought that, had that bell rung, it would have been a peal of joy, for it would have proved this unfortunate man’s innocence.  But then I found that all the bell-pushes of the house, including those of the front door and Mrs. Thurston’s room, operated on the same bell, so that had it sounded it might have been a summons to Stall from Mr. Rider in the bedroom as well as Mr. Rider at the front door.  It might, as I said at the time, have shewn that someone was not outside the front door, as well as that someone was there.
“You know the rest.  You came upstairs and found the murderer, who, I prefer to think, was but the weapon of the murderer, in the room beside the dead woman.”
“So you think,” I asked breathlessly, “that he cut her throat because he thought it was a duty?”
“I think,” said Mgr. Smith, blinking at me, “that he cut her throat because he thought it was a canker.”

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Twenty-Nine

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE
   
“First arrives Monsieur Strickland who, as milord Plimsoll had taken such pains to shew us, was Mrs. Thurston’s stepson.  He is what you call in your so expressive idiom, ‘broke to the wide’.  He has written to his stepmother in advance that he will need some money, but urgently.  And she, who is generous and good, has arranged to overdraw yet another two hundred pounds for him.  But hélas! what says the bank manager?  Without security no more, Madame.  She takes the two hundred pounds, and returns home.
“Then he arrives.  ‘It is all right,’ perhaps she tells him, ‘I can give you the money!’  And he is relieved of his troubles.  But sshh!  She has spoken too loud.  The butler has discovered that she has this sum.  He has already blackmailed Madame Thurston with the letter that she wrote to Fellowes, and now determines to obtain also this money.  During the afternoon he sees her and she has to give him the two hundred pounds.  It is a pity.
“Then, after that so intelligent discussion of the literature of crime, you go to dress for dinner.  Madame Thurston sends for Fellowes and tells him to set the trap for the rat.  That is good for Fellowes.  It is not necessary, but it is good.  And Monsieur Townsend perceives Monsieur Strickland emerging from Madame Thurston’s room.  She has given him her pendant to help him through his troubles.  She is kind, this Madame Thurston.
“During dinner the chauffeur, just as Lord Simon has explained, fetches the ropes.  Lord Simon has obliged me by perceiving how he brought them into the house unobserved.  I had myself wondered at that.  But it is simple.  He used the front door.  He goes to the chambre des pommes.  He suspends the rope.  He goes to Madame Thurston’s room and removes the light.  Why?  She must foresee no danger.  It is necessary that she should be silent.  The semi-darkness will assist him.  All upstairs is now ready.  He descends, and sneep! the telephone wire is cut.  Why?  The Doctor must not come too soon, or the fact may be discovered that she was murdered earlier than the screams.
“He goes now to the kitchen.  Dinner is over.  Presently the guests begin to go to bed, or to go home.  The door of the kitchen is ajar.  Why?  Because one must know when Madame Thurston goes to bed.  Eleven o’clock draws near.  Ah!  At last!  Madame has left the lounge.  Enid rises at once and follows her mistress to her room.  She explains that she cannot get another light bulb.  She is sorry.  Does Madame require her further?  Mais non, madame is secretly expecting the chauffeur and requires no one.  Enid says good night, with a smile.  It is also good-bye.
“Once more the chauffeur ascends.  He takes the rat-trap with him.  He enters madame’s room.  She awaits him.  All is well.  There is very little light.  He remains with her a little while.  Why?  Ah, that is no matter for the detective, that delay.  It is for the priest to understand.  Perhaps the crime seems at last too terrible.  Perhaps he wishes her to be at a disadvantage.  Who can say now?  But at last he can delay no more.  He has brought his weapon.  He strikes.  Voilà!  It is done.  Quite silent.  She had no time to cry out.  She is dead.
“And now he is nervous.  He crosses quickly to the window.  He throws it up.  He is on the rope.  And he can climb.  Parbleu!  But can he climb, this man who was once a sailor?  He pulls down the window, and climbs swift, swift, to the window of the apple-room.  He enters.  He commences to draw in the rope.
“So far, all has gone à merveille.  But now occurs a little disaster for the murderer.  Downstairs there is a conversation between Dr. Thurston, Monsieur Williams and Monsieur Townsend.  The wireless plays.  What does Monsieur Townsend?  See, he rises.  He will fetch something from his overcoat.  He goes to the door and opens it.  But no.  Monsieur Williams addresses nun.  He is interested.  He forgets the something in his overcoat, and returns to the other messieurs.
“But what is the effect?  The poor Enid! She has been waiting for ten minutes for her lover to descend from the apple-room, so that she may do her part.  But still he has not come.  And now she hears the noise of the wireless suddenly increase as the door is opened.  Someone comes, she thinks.  Someone will find her.  She is discovered.  Her lover will be hanged.  But wait—there is yet time.  He has surely climbed in now?  Quick, to the door.  Ah, bien, he is there.  He descends.  She returns to the room of Dr. Thurston and she screams.  She has saved his life, she thinks.  But she could not foresee that Amer Picon, the great Amer Picon, would investigate!
“The chauffeur is what you call nonplussed.  Why has she screamed too soon?  In a panic he runs into his own room.  Then, in a moment he realizes that he must shew himself at once, as soon as possible.  He joins you at the door.  He is relieved.  His alibi, though not as good as if he had been with the cook, is still perfect.  He will escape.
“What is there more to do?  He offers himself now to those who seek the criminal.  He is calm, and confident.  He fetches the doctor and the policeman.  Why not?  The doctor may now examine the body, but it is more than half an hour since the murder.  It cannot be possible for him to tell that she died just four or five minutes before the scream.  And the policeman—but he is acquainted with our honest Bœuf.  He is enchanté that he should investigate.  So he goes willingly.
“Nor is he troubled that the ropes should remain concealed in the tank.  Why should he be?  He has seen that the screams of Enid have been taken by all to be the screams of the murdered woman, so that his alibi is perfect.  No rope in the world can convict him, he thinks, not having foreseen the intervention of Amer Picon.
“He made, however, one stupid blunder, this so longsighted young man.  He arranged to meet the girl on the afternoon before he committed his crime.  And he tried to conceal that afterwards.  Then when I wanted to find out what his movements had been that day, he fell plop into the trap, and was caught as surely as the little rats in the apple-room.  Figure to yourself—he has decided on Friday to carry out the scheme he has planned.  Already, as we know, he has in view the public-house he will take when he has received the money.  He has made up his mind.  He wants, of course, to meet his accomplice.  This he effects so secretly that none see them go away in the car together.  Perhaps the girl is hidden in the back.  Perhaps she waits for him beyond the village.  At all events their meeting was concealed.  They drive to their customary place, where it is unlikely that they will be observed.  They leave the car where they, have always left it, and where it will arouse no comment, since a car may often be left near to a lovers’ lane.  They are quarrelling.  The girl, perhaps, is impatient with so much waiting, and with her lover’s attentions to madame.  He must pacify her.  He tells her of his decision—that the day they have awaited is here.  They complete their plans.  They smile again.  They return to the car, and drive to the house—unseen.
“But then, quel dommage!  I put my little question.  I want to be sure that he was not in the village, I say.  Can he tell me something which will prove him to have been elsewhere?  And he, the poor fool, who does not know Amer Picon, tells me of the flag that was at half-mast.  He leaves me then only one thing to do.  It is a hope, a chance, that he stopped the car at a point from which that tower is to be seen.  And voilà! it comes true! I discover that he went there with his accomplice.
“Then worse, they both deny that they were out together.  How foolish!  Had they been innocent, why should they conceal it?  A little scolding for an offence in the routine of the house, what is that?  Nothing.  And by denying it, they make it guilty.  Oh yes, even this young man had his blunders.
“That then, mes amis, is the explanation of this mystery.  You, unfortunately, all of you who tried to solve it, sought the impossible.  You thought, as the murderer intended that you should think, about the manner in which someone could have escaped from the room after the screams and before your entry.  That was foolish.  It should have been evident at once to you that nobody could have escaped in that time.  Then either he was still there, or the screaming had not been done at the time of the murder.  And since he was not still there, voilà! the certainty was the latter.  You see how simple, how logical, now that Papa Picon explains?  But no—you do not reason so.  You begin to think of the unnatural, of creatures with wings.  You should have known that always, my friends, always in such cases of a murder behind locked doors the explanation is a matter not of the means of escape, but of the time at which the crime was done.  Ah, if we all drew the conclusions which murderers mean us to draw, what a happy time for murderers!  But fortunately there are some who have a sense of logic!
“This man had, as you say, all the luck.  Everything conspired to shift the blame on to other shoulders, and to confuse the investigators.  There was Monsieur Strickland, the stepson, who would benefit so much, who had been in trouble and changed his name, who slept next door.  There was the butler, already guilty of blackmail.  There was the curé, who was not quite well in the head, and who arrives at the bedside so soon after the murder.  And there was Monsieur Norris who was also upstairs at the time.  So many to be suspected!  So much confusion.  Surely he is lucky.  But no—fortunately there arrives Amer Picon, with his sense of logic.  He is lucky no more.  He and his accomplice are discovered.  Voilà!  C’est tout!
Looking back on the moment at which M. Picon finished, I think that my first emotion was one of sympathy with Lord Simon.  It must have been galling to him to see his card-castle collapse, and the iron-clad edifice of M. Picon take its place.  He had worked so hard and conscientiously, that he deserved to have been successful.  But no.  The little foreigner was obviously congratulating himself.  All doubt was now removed.

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Twenty-Eight

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT
   
I had guessed that one of the ’trimmin’s’ which M. Picon would add to Lord Simon’s brilliant reconstruction of the crime would concern the parlourmaid Enid, in whose movements he had shown such a keen and sleuthy interest.  But I could not see what more there was to be said.  Lord Simon had been so thorough and so complete, forgetting not the most trivial point, and accounting for every known fact, that there seemed little left for M. Picon to divulge.  However, the little man seemed eager to talk, and excited over something he had to communicate to us, so that we all leaned back and prepared to hear him.
“That,’ he said to Lord Simon, “was an interesting theory.  Very ingenious, mon ami.  I have listened with plaisir to every word of it.  Unfortunately, however, it is incorrect, right from its commencement.  The gentleman called Strickland, so genial and so sportif, as the good Bœuf has told us, is as innocent of the murder as you or I.”
I cannot exaggerate the effect of this startling declaration.  Lord Simon was, of course, the least concerned, and sipped his brandy imperturbably.  But his man Butterfield gave a visible start, and turned pale.  It was evident that never before had he heard his employer’s theories questioned by anyone but police inspectors, unintelligent spectators, or criminals.  That the celebrated M. Picon should make such a blunder seemed incredible to him.  Williams and I sat up violently, and even Mgr. Smith showed a mild interest.
“But have no fear,” continued the foreign detective, “I, Amer Picon, will reveal everything to you.  Everything.  Are you ready?  Allez . . . hoop!
“I have told you, have I not, that when there seems to be no motive in the brain, one must look in the heart.  This was no murder of the intellect—though by its very simplicity it was difficult to reconstruct, but a crime of passion.  You are surprised, is it not?  Eh bien, my friends, I also have had my surprises in this case.
“Let us examine, if you please, this household as it was before this violent occurrence.  We have the genial Doctor Thurston, an English gentleman who, like so many of your English gentlemen, sees no farther than his nose.  We have Madame Thurston—very kind, very easy-going, and a little, one must say, stupid.  We have the butler, Stall, what you call in English ‘a sly dog’, eh?  And the so competent cook.  Then we have the young man Fellowes, who knows what it is to be inside a prison, and the girl Enid, of mixed blood and rather unfortunate antecedents.  Voilà—the cast.
“Now what goes on?  There is here the eternal triangle, n’est-ce pas?  Madame Thurston is attached to the young chauffeur, who in his turn is in love with Enid, who is much enamoured of him.  And there you have the beginning of the trouble.  My friends—beware of that little triangle.  He is dangerous.
“All is secret.  The good Doctor must know nothing, nothing at all.  Madame Thurston may take the automobile ride in order to chat with the young man she adores, but it must be surreptitious.  Enid may know all, for her lover assures her that she had no need to doubt, but she must not let Madame Thurston see that she knows anything.  And when the butler, Stall, has stolen the so fateful and incriminating letter from Madame Thurston to the chauffeur and uses it to blackmail the lady, she herself must be silent to Fellowes, and conceal from him what is going on, lest he attacks the butler, and all is exposed, all is ended.  You see what secrets were here?
“Two people besides the sly Stall are suspicious of Madame and her chauffeur—the cook and the Vicar.  But the cook is quite satisfied with her situation, and very sensibly decides that it is no business of hers, though, as she told us, there were things of which she did not approve.  And the Vicar, he is not sure.  He is fond of espionage, the good Vicar, and presently he will know more.
“Meanwhile, like many households, this household goes on.  Underneath the routine, Madame Thurston conceals her love, and the torture of being blackmailed.  Enid conceals the furious fire of her jealousy, which persists in spite of all her lover says.  The chauffeur conceals from the middle-aged lady who loves him his real love for the girl.  The blackmailer conceals his activities from all, save from Madame Thurston.  And everyone conceals everything from Doctor Thurston.  Voilà—an atmosphere!  All have secrets.  But the household goes on like any other.
“And why does it so?  Because, my friends, there is money.  For the servants there are good wages now, exceptionally good.  And there is the will which shall make all of them rich one day.  And for money much can be endured.  So it goes on, and the time draws near to this fatal week-end, in which matters must reach a climax.
“Now everyone is approaching what you call the breaking point.  But most of all the chauffeur.  Three years he has worked here, and is not yet married to Enid.  He wants to take a little inn.  He has some money saved, but not enough.  Enid, too, wants to go with him.  But how can they?  If they leave this situation they may not find another where they would be together.  When we are in love we are slaves.  They must stay here and work, and he must be pleasant with madame, and she must endure her pangs of jealousy.  There is no escape, it seems.
“But there is the will.  Are we not forgetting the will, the little trick which Madame Thurston has played on her servants?  Voilà—a chance!  If madame now were to die suddenly, of cancer or consumption, say, all is settled, all is solved.  They would be rich, they could buy their little inn, there would be no more jealousy for Enid, and no more cleaning the car for Fellowes.  If only . . . but why dream?  Madame is strong.  Madame may live for thirty years.  Why dream?
“Yet, why not?  If anything were to happen to madame, now.  That would help.  An accident—a fatal accident.  Already the ideas are alive.  Already the beginning of a plot.  And as for time, when better than this week-end, when so many guests are here?  All that must be found is the way.  That is most important—the way to cause that so regrettable fatal accident, without any possibility of the stupid police interfering afterwards.  That is the great question.
“And, messieurs, we who know something of these matters know only too well that when all else is determined, a way can be found.  Only too soon.  So we find Fellowes the chauffeur determined that Madame Thurston shall meet with this accident and the week-end approaching.  It was into the atmosphere of this potential crime that you came for your week-end.
“The chauffeur had been a sailor.  When I first perceived that among the tattoo marks on his arm was a representation of the Southern Cross, I was convinced of that, and he has since admitted it.  And to me came the idea, the little plain idea, that a sailor might climb a rope.  It was of the simplest, this idea, such as a little child might have.  But beware always of the complicated.  The idea was correct.  It might have been otherwise, but as you will see it was correct.”
At this point Sam Williams broke in rather impatiently.  “But, Monsieur Picon,” he said, “we’ve already discussed over and over again the possibility of anyone having climbed out of that window, and it has been proved that it was not possible in the time . . .”
“Patience, if you please,” said M. Picon; “step by step, if you will listen.  I, Amer Picon, will tell you all.  Eh bien, here we are with a chauffeur who can climb a rope.  But of what use is that?  He must have an alibi.  No amusement to commit a murder, and be caught escaping by means of a rope.  Pas du tout.  It must be done better.  How?  Ah, then comes the great idea.  The chauffeur sees just how the pauvre Madame Thurston may meet her accident, how he and Enid may inherit some of her money, and escape without ever being suspected.  A big idea, this time!  And one to deceive nearly all detectives.  All but Picon.  For Picon, too, has an idea sometimes.
“The room must be a little dark, and the chauffeur must go to see madame.  That, we are told, was not so unusual.  He must bolt the door.  That, too, may have happened before.  His rope hangs at the window, suspended firmly from the apple-room the window of which is directly over the opening of Madame Thurston’s room.  All is prepared.  He must advance to madame.  That, also, he has done before.  Then, not the embrace, but vite, the knife.  Tcchhk!  It must be done.  In silence and swiftly he must sever the jugular vein.  Then, hoop!  On to the rope.  The sailor’s climb to the apple-room.  The concealment of the rope.  The descent to the kitchen.  The conversation with the cook.  Voilà un menu!
“Meanwhile, the young woman, Enid, does her part.  She is in the room of Dr. Thurston, which is divided from that of Madame Thurston by a wall.  Near this wall she stands.  She waits until her lover has descended to the kitchen, and the murder is done.  Then Ow! Ow! she screams.  It is Madame Thurston being murdered.  For who can distinguish the screams of two women?  One may know the voice of each very well, but the scream, that is different.  No one can tell.  So near to the wall, too, it must seem to come from the poor lady’s room.  Then—all will arrive.  The door will be burst open, the crime discovered.  Who has done it?  Certainly not the chauffeur, for was he not talking with the cook?  Certainly not Enid, for does she not arrive at the door immediately?  Certainly not Miles, for was he not with Bœuf?  Such was the plot, Intelligent, n’est-ce pas?  But not quite intelligent enough for Amer Picon.
“And now we see what came of that plot.  Allons!  Voyons!  A la gloire!

Case for Three Detectives, Chapter Twenty-Seven

Case for Three Detectives

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN
   
“Night fell, as they say,” continued Lord Simon in the airy way which he customarily used for the discussion of such atrocities, “and it was a nice windy night so that goings-on at windows would not be heard.  You all gathered in the lounge for cocktails.  And now an odd thing happened.  There was talk of murder, and of the discovery of murderers.  Awkward that, and for a time it quite took the wind out of our friend’s sails, or put the wind up him, whichever you please.  He didn’t like the sound of it.  Nasty idea, that, of inevitable discovery.  He nattered himself on having worked out a neat little plan, but suppose he wasn’t quite as clever as he thought?  Your conversation, in fact, nearly saved Mrs. Thurston’s life.  Perhaps Strickland even thought someone had rumbled him, and was delicately pointin’ out that it really wouldn’t do.
“At all events, he so far hesitated in his ideas as to have another try for some money.  If, after all, she could be persuaded to see him out of his tight corner, he privately resolved—very kindly—to refrain from killin’ her.  And he went to her room before dinner and pleaded again.  But by that time the unhappy lady had parted with her two hundred pounds to Stall, probably during the afternoon, when she had gone to her room for her usual siesta.  Stall, when I asked him when he had received the money, told an obvious lie.  He said that it was just after lunch on Thursday, whereas we know from that cashier who wore that unsightly sort of plaque in his tie, that Mrs. Thurston did not draw it until three o’clock.  Stall chose a time when he knew she was in her room—just after lunch on Thursday.  But he didn’t know that she hadn’t then drawn the money.  His reason for lying was obvious.  He would admit when pressed that he had had the money ‘as a gift’ but he wasn’t going to admit that he’d been in her room on the day of the murder.  Well, would you?  I’m hanged if I would in his place.  Nasty things, murders.  Best to keep away from them.
“Stall was a blackmailer of the sneerin’, bullyin’ sort, for he had deliberately leaned against a lady’s dressin’-table and taken snuff in her face to shew his independence.  So that when Strickland tried again for money he was disappointed.  All Mary Thurston could do for him was to give him, or lend him, her diamond pendant which he could pawn for enough to see him through, perhaps.  The fact that he slipped the thing in his pocket was evidence, I think, that at that moment he had abandoned the idea of his crime.  Well, vacillatin’ is dangerous, and he regretted afterwards having accepted the thing.
Townsend, he knew, saw him coming out of Mrs. Thurston’s room.  But when, later, he had taken up his resolution again, that did not seem to matter.  Why, after all, shouldn’t he have spoken to his hostess for a moment?  After a drink or two he could shrug that away as unimportant.  He came down to dinner, and, while making it clear that he was abnormally tired, he behaved otherwise without any of the eccentricity that might be expected of a man who was making up his mind to commit a murder.  And some time before Mrs. Thurston would retire, he rose, said good night, and went up to his room.
“Fellowes, in the meantime, had done his half-unconscious part.  Under the pretence of ‘running in’ the engine, he had gone down to the village in the afternoon and warned Miles.  And Miles had ingeniously established his alibi by securing no less a person than the village sergeant as his partner in this enthrallin’ game of darts of which we have heard so much, and then pretending to be so drunk that several witnesses had to help him home to a room which he shared with another witness.  So he was all right.
“But when Fellowes, during dinner, had reached the gymnasium he was a trifle puzzled.  Would one of those ropes be long enough?  I own that I was myself perplexed at the finding of two ropes, until I realized that this question had worried Fellowes.  Looking at the length of them where they hung in the gymnasium he had decided that one might not reach, and had taken both.  He had left the latch of the front door up, and watching at the little window beside it until he saw Stall go into the dining-room with a tray of food which would take some tune to serve, he carried them safely through the hall.  You will remember that I asked you, Townsend, about that little window in the hall, and Stall said that the curtains were rarely drawn across it.
“He got his ropes up to his bedroom and secured one end of one of them.  Can’t say exactly what he slung it on to.  In such details both he and Strickland seem to have been pretty knowin’.  It may have been the beam.  If so he padded it.  There were no marks.  And when he dropped it down he saw that it was long enough, and went downstairs to Mrs.  Thurston’s room.  Here he looked round for something with which to reach the end of the rope, and found a couple of old parasols in the wardrobe.  He tied one to the other, leaned out of the window, and hooked it.  Then he dropped the end into the room, pulled the window down on it, and so left it ready for Strickland without having to make a sign or a scratch to shew where it had been fastened.  Oh yes, in such details they were cunning, these two.
“Then came the question of the electric light bulb.  He suddenly thought, rather uncomfortably, that Strickland had given him no suggestion as to the disposal of this.  Should he take it away with him?  Or leave it in the room?  Might its removal in any case not shew that someone inside the house had been active?  On the whole, he did the wisest thing.  He argued that had the thief come from outside and for some reason decided to remove the bulb he would almost certainly have thrown it out of the window and that is just what he did with it, taking care that he threw it far on to the lawn so that its fall or explosion should not be audible to those on the ground floor.
“Then he left the room.  He had, he thought, prepared for a rather cowardly robbery.  Actually he had set a trap for a very vile murder.  He had been careful, all the time, to wear gloves.  Strickland may have recommended this, or he may have learnt it in his housebreaking days.  At all events he left no fingerprints, for in such details, as I say, these two were cunning.
“When he got downstairs he found, rather to his irritation, that he had about two hours to wait before his next step, and it was then, in an excess of enthusiasm I think, that he cut the telephone wires.  I don’t think this had figured in Strickland’s instructions, for Strickland would have seen that the sooner the police and the doctor were on the spot, the better.  But Fellowes, who had experience but no finesse, just thought that in a general sort of way, it was worth while holdin’ ’em off for a bit.  So he snipped the jolly old communications.
“Everything, unfortunately, went to schedule.  Mrs. Thurston said good night to you all, and entered her room for the last time.  She found Strickland there.  She did not find the strange man in the mask who, as Fellowes fondly thought, would await her.  But merely her stepson.  ‘What do you want?’ Enid heard her ask, in a rather startled, but not frantically startled, voice.  He had come earlier that evening to beg—and had taken all she could give him without risking the notice of her husband.  What more could he want?  She found, too, that the strong light in her room was out of order.  So that the man standing there in the half-darkness was a little startling.
“Meanwhile Fellowes was quietly establishing an alibi downstairs.  Whoever robbed Mrs. Thurston of her jewellery, he and Strickland had argued, would appear afterwards to have been waiting for her when she came to bed.  So he said very pointedly to the cook, ‘Hello, it’s past eleven,’ and apparently without hurry left her.  That would remind her in the future that it was after, and not before, her mistress went up to bed that Fellowes followed.  Only he had not the time to make it much after.
“He must have grown anxious during the next ten minutes as he leaned out of the window of his bedroom, waiting for Strickland to appear at Mrs. Thurston’s window, down to his left.  And it is a bit gruesome to wonder what caused that delay, and what took place in the dimly lighted room beneath.  And then, when Fellowes heard those screams, a less cool type than he might have lost his head.  He didn’t.  He waited, and almost instantly Strickland gripped his rope, pulled the window after him, swung across to his own window and was gone.  In a moment the rope was hauled in, stuffed in the tank, where, probably, he had already concealed the other one which had proved to be unnecessary, so that both Strickland and Fellowes were outside Mrs. Thurston’s bolted door almost as soon as you were.
“Perhaps it was not until that night that they realized their most serious blunder.  They had thought of everything —finger-prints, alibis, and witnesses—but they had failed to provide for the removal of the rope.  It was a stupid and an elementary mistake, but was there ever a murderer who did not make a stupid and elementary mistake?  And Fellowes had the additional remorse of finding himself a party to a murder.  But for obvious reasons he kept quiet.
“He wanted, however, two things.  One was to dispose of those ropes.  This hope was frustrated when next morning I put my hand on one of the rotten things, and Monsignor Smith came across the other.  His second desire was to get hold of Strickland alone, and have a reckoning with him.  He did not know, he does not know yet, that he was deliberately fooled.  He has no idea that Strickland expects to gain a great deal by Mrs. Thurston’s death.  He probably thinks that Strickland’s disguise lapsed in some way, and that Strickland murdered Mrs. Thurston to conceal his identity.  While Strickland has taken great care to avoid being alone with Fellowes.  Even when he asked Dr. Thurston for the use of his car, and found that Fellowes meant to drive him in it, he had the presence of mind to persuade Alec Norris to accompany them.  So up to the present he has succeeded in escaping a reckoning with his accomplice, and on that, at least, I think he is to be congratulated.  For though Fellowes strikes me as a roughish bird, I don’t think he would have taken up murder as a hobby if he had known what he was doing, and I don’t think he’ll easily forgive the bloke that let him in for it.
“As for the girl Enid, I’m pretty sure she knew nothing of the idea on hand at the time, and I don’t think she suspects her young man of bein’ mixed up in it.  She spoke the truth when we asked her questions, except when we asked her if she had been out with Fellowes in the car that afternoon, and a lie in answer to that was natural enough.  Perhaps someone else”—he glanced at Mgr.  Smith—“may have reason to think she knew everything.  I’m inclined to think not.
“As for Miles—all he knew was that there was a little scheme afoot to grab the tomfoolery . . .
“’E means the jewellery,” put in Sergeant Beef, seeing me looking puzzled by Lord Simon’s second use of this queer word.
“He may even have known the way it was to be done.  But he had nothing to do with it.  Not he.  And Mr. Miles went in for the very best quality alibis, as you see.  He invited the Sergeant to hurl the honest javelin with him.
“And what about Stall, say you.  What about him, say I, remembering Ben Gunn and all that sort of thing.  Stall was a nasty sort of blackmailer, but he regrets this unfortunate affair as much as you do, if for rather different reasons.  In another fortnight he would have gone.  Jolly old swallow, Stall would have been.  With his nest pretty well feathered.  Do swallows feather their nests?  Let’s hope so, it sounds well.  And now this untimely bit of murderin’ has turned up, and let the whole tribe of cats out of his unpleasant carpet-bag, and he faces a stiffish sentence.  Well, well, the best-laid schemes of mice and men, and all that.  Aren’t we getting zoological, Butterfield?”
“Your lordship’s phraseology has certainly taken an almost biological turn,” assented Butterfield gravely, from his place near the door.
“Then the Vicar.  In deference to Butterfield, I won’t say he had bats in the belfry.  But that’s about what it comes to.  He had purity on the brain.  And when, that evening, Mrs. Thurston, quite unconscious that he was on the snoop for such details, told him that she was very fond of young Fellowes, it set the feller’s brain spinnin’ like a top.  No wonder he walked about that orchard for half an hour.  If he hadn’t heard the screams he might have been there all night.
“As for Norris—there is no reason to doubt his perfectly simple story.  That mild attack of hysterics of which you all make so much, was natural enough to a feller of his type.  It must have been disconcertin’ for him to have been interrupted in the middle of writin’ one of his fearfully intense novels by something as vulgar as a murder, and we must sympathize with him.
“And there you have it—lock, stock and jolly old barrel.  I expect Monsieur Picon will hang a few more trimmin’s on it, and I look forward to hearin’ him.  Meanwhile . . . yes, Butterfield.  Another brandy, I think.”