Cold Blood, Chapter Twenty-Eight

Cold Blood

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT
   
“I saw it all,” said Beef, “but there was not a chance of getting a conviction.  Even if I could prove that Cosmo had committed suicide and that Gray had made it look like murder it would not help much.  I might have been able to prove that much, because the person who burnt the mallet could have been no one else.  Everyone had an alibi for that time—except Zena Ducrow, perhaps.  But it would not have given me much satisfaction to get him on a minor charge.  As for the murder of Freda—I hadn’t a hope of proving it.  I might produce evidence that Gray had left Rudolf’s car in London and taken it out that day.  I might even shew that he had been in Folkover with it.  But there would be no way of making a jury believe beyond doubt that he had deliberately stunned Freda and pushed her car over Greynose Point.  My own evidence for that was highly circumstantial.
“But I was not going to let him get away with it altogether, and I worked out this little scheme by which he would at least do a few years in prison for attempted murder, even if we should achieve no more.
“I had to take someone into my confidence, so I went to Bomb Mills and between us we fixed up the little gadget which three of you saw used.  We made a sort of rough waistcoat of sailcloth coming to a loop behind, then looped a steel cable round the chimney stack.  The cable had a spring hank on it so that all I had to do when I was ready was to attach the hook to the loop in the small of my back and there we were.
“Then I had to shew Gray that I had got him taped.  I got a little bit tiddly, pretended to be a good deal more, and brought out in my conversation that I knew about the burnt croquet mallet, about him and Cosmo going downstairs that night and about Rudolf’s car in the car-park at Folkover.  Also I made it clear that I had not yet reported these things to the police.  That was quite enough.  He saw, as I wanted him to do, that his only chance of avoiding arrest was to kill me this evening.
“You may think I was underrating the intelligence of a man who had shewn himself a very clever murderer.  I don’t think so.  You see, with a man like that I can be sure of one thing—he will underrate me.  Mr. Townsend always writes up my cases as though I was a half-wit who luckily tumbles on the solution, and though Gray did not think quite that, he didn’t suppose I was much of a match for him.  And, as I say, I was a little drunk—he saw I wasn’t acting the part.
“With everything ready on the roof and witnesses hidden on the roof of the other wing, I did my stuff downstairs then furtively crept away . . .”
Beef’s expression as he said this resembled that of the demon barber of Fleet Street, and there was a little laughter in the room.  He took that in good humour.
“Well, I did,” he said.  “Bit staggery on my feet, but furtive as a fox at the same time.  That got him, and he followed me upstairs as I hoped he would.  When he saw me going out on the roof he must have been tickled to death and thought his luck was in again.  I was a few minutes ahead of him, though, and had time to attach the spring hank to the loop before he appeared.”
“I thought you were buttoning your braces!“ I said.
Beef spoke with lofty reproof.
“There’s no need to be vulgar,” he said.
Coming from him this was doubly hard to bear, but before I could protest he continued.
“So there I was, ready for him.  I had been practising this falling trick with Bomb in the morning, first in the garage and then up here on the roof.  I’d got to the point where I could go over the edge without risk, though I’d taken some hard knocks at first.  It is not as difficult as it looks.  You might try it if you want to be murdered some time.
“One precaution we had taken while you were all in at dinner; we had gone and fired off all the rounds in Gray’s revolver.  I had one nasty turn this evening when I thought at first the pistol he brought out was another one.  I was pretty relieved when he said where he had got it.
“I had warned the Detective Inspector and the constable, of course, but not Mr. Townsend, because he describes things so much better when they come as a surprise to him, as they nearly always do.  I’d had to tell Inspector Liphook to keep him quiet at all costs, though, and once he nearly had to sock him to do it.  But as you have all noticed, Mr. Townsend is a gentleman with a keen sense of humour and was not offended.”
What could I do, after this heavy-handed compliment, but take it all in good part?  I smiled and nodded, and Beef continued.
“Well, it all worked out a treat.  Gray came for me as I stood in front of the parapet and, as far as he ever knew, murdered me.  Then, when he saw Inspector Liphook and the constable, he gave us all a surprise and threw himself from the roof.  This was unexpected, for as Major Gulley said just now he was too sane and cool a man for suicide.
“That completes the case, ladies and gentlemen, and I for one am not sorry.  I’ve known a good many murderers, but this one gave me the willies.  He was the patient kind, prepared to wait for years to get what he wanted.  All the time he lived with you you never saw him as anything but a quiet, pleasant gentleman who would not hurt a fly.  I don’t suppose he would unless it got in his way.  But the moment he saw his chance—then it was a different matter.  His timing was nothing less than brilliant.  He could not have chosen a better moment for ridding himself of Freda Ducrow, and he nearly brought off the whole scheme.”
Stute was the first to congratulate Beef, but pointed out that as a free-lance investigator he had been able to use methods denied to the police, also that he had followed what was no more than a hunch in the first place, a thing that was usually to be deplored.  Wickham added his congratulations, but with another reservation.
“If we had known your conclusions about Gray,” he pointed out, “we might have saved Freda Ducrow.”
I felt that I should reply to this.  “Surely you are opening up a big question, are you not?  And the Sergeant must be exhausted.  After all he has practised his fall, got himself partially intoxicated, been thrown from a rooftop and given a long and lucid explanation of the case all in the space of twelve hours.  I think he deserves a rest.”
This clinched the matter, and the strange gathering began to break up.  For the first time since I had come to Hokestones I slept with an unlocked door and a sense of relief that the evil in the house had gone for ever.
There is little more to relate about the Ducrow Case.  The Press and the crime-reading public had a Roman holiday with the sensational events of that night, which was some consolation to them, perhaps, for the loss of an intricate trial for murder.  Rudolf, now a very rich man, shewed himself a generous one in respect of Beef’s fees, for when his cheque came he had doubled our charges.  He and Zena had moved into Hokestones which, I am told, is now full of dogs.  The Gabriels have remained with them and Mrs. Dunton has returned to her duties in the house.
There is another aspect of this remarkably happy ending which I record with pleasure.  Gulley and his attractive girlfriend are to be married as soon as their respective divorces come through.  Esmeralda has realized her dream, for the cottage she was to have seen on that night of the 12th is now surrounded with acres of flowers which she grows for “Esmé’s”, her little shop in Church Road.
So Beef is back in Lilac Road waiting, he says, for the next case.  “I hope I shan’t have to be murdered again,” he says devoutly.  His wife seems less decided on this point, for she has never approved of his work as a private detective and hankers after a little general shop somewhere so that he would not be called out to investigate these nasty messy murders.
“Will’s always been the same,” she says to me.  “Play-acting half the time and thinking he’s a real detective.  I tell him he’ll get into trouble one of these days.  Murder’s a funny thing, isn’t it?”
I know what she means, so I look quite serious as I reply: “Very funny.  Very funny indeed.”
Beef only winks.
— THE END

Cold Blood, Chapter Twenty-Seven

Cold Blood

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

“We come now,” said Beef pompously, “to the small part played in this affair by Major Gulley.”
Rather tactlessly everyone turned to stare at Gulley, who looked like an embarrassed walrus.
“He came motoring down from London with his friend Miss Tobyn exactly as he had described, quite unconscious that anything was amiss at Hokestones.  I don’t think that on his side this night trip was quite as impulsive as he has maintained, because the cottage must have been prepared to receive her.”
“As a matter of fact it was quite on impulse,” interrupted Gulley in his plummy voice.  “The cottage was more or less ready, but we had had no idea of using it that night.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Beef.  “The point is that at five o’clock in the morning Gulley was coming up the drive with his headlights on when he turned a bend and his lights showed him someone lying on the grass near the pavilion.  He pulled up, went across and found that it was the remains of Cosmo Ducrow, with blood clotted and cold round the head.  It was an unpleasant sight for anyone to come on in the small hours, and Gulley quite lost his head.  He knew that certain matters connected with his running of the estate were being examined, and he saw himself accused of murdering Cosmo because of them.  He was foolish enough to drive straight back to London in the hope that his visit to Hawden during the night would never be known.  Fortunately Miss Tobyn had more sense than he had, and made a clean breast of it.  That is all that either of them had to do with the death of Cosmo Ducrow.  But you may have noticed what a nasty turn it gave Gray when I first mentioned that car.  It was something he did not know about, and it might produce all sorts of complications.
“But to return to the days following the death of Cosmo Ducrow.  At first it seemed to Gray that everything was going according to plan.  It was clear that the police suspected Rudolf and that an arrest might be expected at any minute.  But when that arrest did not come he grew anxious.  It was then he decided that the jacket must be found, and he called me in to find it.
“I never like a case where I’m expected to clear someone, and I distrusted Gray’s motive from the first.  I soon began to think that so far from wanting to avoid Rudolf’s arrest he was impatient for it.  I did not like the way he spoke well of everyone.  No one could have been a murderer, he implied, Gulley, Gabriel, everybody was too good to be true.  I wondered at first whether he could have murdered Cosmo and then made it look as though Rudolf had done it.  But no, Gray was too confident, too smug to have committed murder then.  And why not?  For as we know now, all the time he had that suicide note to fall back on if the worst came to the worst.
“On my first morning here he decided to fetch Rudolf Ducrow ‘in case I should be ready to see him that morning’, though I hadn’t said anything about seeing him then.  That afternoon when I went down to Rudolf’s lodge I found the old jacket in the cloakroom.  Gray had asked me to take Rudolf’s gun away from him, and I believed I understood the reason—it was because the gun was in the cloakroom, and in getting it I should see the jacket.  Gray had studied my methods.  He knew that I shouldn’t miss a light-coloured jacket hanging among overcoats.  He may even have guessed that I should have found out about it having hung up at Hokestones.”
There was a sudden “Oo!” from Mrs. Gabriel.
“I’ve just thought of something.  I mentioned to Mr. Gray about that jacket having gone, and he said be sure and tell you about it!  Why didn’t I think of that before?”
“Why didn’t you?” echoed Beef sternly.  “Well, that accounts for it.  Gray roughly cleaned it, and on going down to Rudolf’s that morning left it in the cloakroom for me to find.  He knew I’d report it to Stute and thought now the case against Rudolf would be cast iron.  Well, it was.  But just a little too cast-iron.  As usual, he had overdone it.  The case was so damning that Chief Inspector Stute suspected a plant.  So the arrest of Rudolf was still delayed while further investigations were made.
“I was interested to notice that as soon as I had found the jacket Gray wanted me to give up the case, and offered me liberal terms to do so.  I had been useful-now I might learn too much.  I decided to stick to it, and from that time onward I was very much on my guard.”
Ernest Wickham was the next to interrupt.
“This is all very interesting,” he said, “but I am chiefly concerned with the death of Freda Ducrow.  It is growing late, and so far all we have learnt is that Cosmo Ducrow committed suicide and that Theo Gray tried to make it look like murder in order to implicate Rudolf.  Perhaps you are going to suggest that in Mrs. Ducrow’s case it was the same.”
“No.  Vice verse.”
“You mean?”
It was natural for the solicitor to ask, for Beef had sounded as though he were speaking of immoral poetry.
“I mean that Cosmo’s death was suicide made to look like murder.  Freda Ducrow’s was murder made to look like suicide.”
“I see.  Perhaps you had better continue in your own way.”
“Perhaps I had.  I wish my little chat with Gray on the roof tonight had been longer because there was so much I wanted to know which only he could tell me.  For instance, at what point it occurred to him that he need not stop at getting half Cosmo’s fortune but could now get the whole lot.  I imagine that it may have been at the very moment when Freda Ducrow announced that if anything happened to Rudolf she would commit suicide.  That may have given him the idea.  Why shouldn’t she?  It would leave him still unsuspected and with a clear field.
“His first preparation for this was to get hold of Rudolf’s car.  Even if Rudolf had been arrested before he needed to use it, it would be better than using his own.  For he knew that in order to arrange Freda’s death he would have to be in some place other than where he was supposed to be.  So he went out that night, using his open umbrella trick in case he was recognized from the house.  Townsend saw him but hadn’t the sense to wake me.  If he had I would have known who was absent and the case would have been broken open far sooner than it was.
“Then having taken the car he drove it to London, put it into one of the large all-night garages where it would attract no attention at all, and came down by the first train.  He was an early bird, this Gray.  You remember on the morning after Mrs. Ducrow’s disappearance he walked in as we were finishing breakfast.  On this morning he was too clever to do that.  He stopped at the pavilion, left his hat and coat there, then appeared on the terrace with his usual newspaper as though he had gone out for a minute’s air before breakfast.  (His umbrella he had left in the car, I think.)  Townsend, in fact, met him on the terrace but was too busy trying to find footprints to take much notice of him.  Nor was Townsend much interested when I found the coat and hat in the pavilion and saw they had disappeared by the following evening.
“Gray intended to wait until Rudolf was arrested before arranging the ‘suicide’ of Freda Ducrow, because that would make it all the more natural.  Besides he imagined that he only had to wait until the expert’s report on the jacket came through.  But before any arrest he was given an opportunity which was too good to miss.  Freda decided to go down to Folkover to see Mr. Wickham and asked Gray to phone for an appointment.  He knew that she would be leaving Wickham’s office some time after five-thirty.
“Then he had what he thought was another piece of luck—we were going to London that day ourselves and would see him go there.  And this is where I have to confess to a piece of blindness which may have cost a human life.  For some reason it never occurred to me that he was going down to Folkover.  I was pretty sure of my man by this time.  I even saw Freda Ducrow’s danger and begged her not to talk of suicide.  But I never dreamed that Gray would strike before Rudolf’s arrest, and I never thought of him going up to London then down to Folkover.  Mr. Townsend could explain that psychologically.  Something to do with their being in opposite directions.  But there you are, I’ve got to own I missed it.
“What Gray did, of course, was to leave us at the station, have lunch at his club or at some place where they would remember him, then get out Rudolf’s car and make for Folkover.  He parked round the corner, as I knew later from the infant prodigy whose hobby was car-spotting, then waited for Freda to leave Mr. Wickham’s office.
“He did not know she was meeting Gulley at six, but when she told him he could soon talk her out of that.  He had been so worried about her, he said, that he had come down to find her and talk things over.
“His next two hours were the most difficult.  He had to wait until about nine to be sure of Greynose Point being deserted, but he daren’t go to any bar with her for fear of being recognized afterwards.  There was only one answer with Freda Ducrow and he had prepared for it.  A bottle of whisky in the car.  He had only to suggest that they should drive up on the downs and drink it and the thing was easy.  By nine o’clock Freda Ducrow was hopelessly drunk in her own car on the grass near Greynose Point and so far as anyone could know, Theo Gray was in London.
“It’s not pleasant to think of the next part.  I imagine he took no chances.  First he made sure that no one was in sight—and in any case he had turned the car lights off hours earlier.  Then I think he probably rendered Freda Ducrow unconscious, for no blow on the head that he gave her now would be distinguishable after that fearful fall through space.  Then all he had to do was start the car, put off the handbrake and shove it over.  There was a slight downward slope towards the cliff edge at the spot he chose which would have made it easy.
“There was a risk of the car bursting into flames and attracting attention at once.  But even then, he calculated, an elderly gentleman with an umbrella taking an evening stroll would attract no notice.  And in any case, it didn’t catch fire.
“Now his course was clear—but as usual he slightly overdid the taking of precautions, and his open umbrella as he passed the Greynose Point Hotel was remembered by George.  But he had an easy drive back to London in time to be at the flat, as it happened, when we phoned through at midnight to tell him that Freda Ducrow was missing.  I still had no idea that he had had anything to do with it, and not until Rudolf’s car was found at Cinderhurst Station, where he had left it before getting on a Hawden train that morning, did I see how he could have been there.
“Of course, he was clever enough to join with the rest of you in saying that it could not be suicide, knowing that his opinion would not make any difference one way or the other when the police came to decide.  That was his policy, just as it had been his policy to say that Rudolf would not have killed Cosmo.  Subtle, that’s what he was.”

Cold Blood, Chapter Twenty-Six

Cold Blood

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Beef, of course, expected this to gain an effect, and he was not disappointed.  To describe the faces around him I can only use the old-fashioned adjective “spellbound”.  Rudolf was the first to pull himself together.
“Look here,” he said.  “I don’t know if you’re trying to be funny.  But if you think that a man can bash in the back of his own skull with a croquet mallet you must be out of your mind.  Surely if ever a murder was obvious it was this one?”
“That’s the point.  It was obvious.  A little too obvious.  Murderers don’t as a rule leave their weapons for everyone to see.  Nor do they use about six times the violence that is necessary.  That was what made me think.  I soon realized what made this case unique.  Most murderers try to make murder look like suicide.  Someone here had tried to make suicide look like murder.
“Very neat,” said Stute.  “But have you any proof of this?”
“Until tonight I hadn’t much.  Just bits of circumstantial evidence.  But now, luckily, I think I can give you all the proof we shall need.  That is if Mr. Townsend will just hand me a book called The Declining Empire, or something of the sort.”
“You mean Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.  Which volume do you want?”
“Eh?” said Beef nervously.
“It’s in ten volumes.”
“Let’s have the lot, then.”
It was not long before he had flicked over the pages and pulled out a loose sheet of paper from one of the volumes.  When he had read this he handed it to Stute.  Later I was able to copy it:
It is one o’clock.  Not much more than an hour ago I was a fairly happy man.  I now know that I was a most deluded one and that my wife has been deceiving me for a long time, and that the nephew whom I trusted is a blackguard.  I have discussed this with only one man, and he alone knows that I mean to die by my own hand and at once, tonight.  It is the best way out.  I want no further part in a life which can do this to me.”

COSMO DUCROW.
“Is that proof enough?”
“So long as this is the man’s handwriting.”
“Thanks,” said Beef.  “So you see my first guess was right.  Now I’d better go back to the beginning of the case and tell you what happened.
“That night was, as Gray said, like any other night up to the time when Gray left Cosmo in the library with his stamps.  This was a fairly happy household, for Cosmo Ducrow knew nothing of his nephew’s behaviour, and Gray, though he had made a careful study of crime and murder methods, was not a man to show his hand.  He was content if necessary to wait for his friend’s death to inherit his share of a great fortune.  I say ‘if necessary’, for I think that he had worked out a few little schemes which he might be able to put into effect in certain circumstances.
“Now on this particular night Zena Ducrow decided to go and tackle Cosmo about her husband.  In fairness to her I must say that I believe her entirely when she says she never dreamed that Cosmo did not know.  Everyone else did, including the staff.  It seemed impossible that Cosmo should not.  So without saying anything to her husband Zena walked across the park with one of her dogs.  Freda Ducrow, up in her bedroom which overlooks the terrace, heard her whistling the animal in the unmistakable way she has.  Naturally enough, instead of waking the servants she went to the french windows of the library, tapped, and was admitted by Cosmo.  She has told us quite frankly of the conversation which followed and of Cosmo’s shock on hearing about his wife.  Then she went back by a round-about way, not wishing to meet her husband.  She knew he would be coming up to the house at this time.
“Cosmo knew that, too, and knew from Zena probably that he was admitted through the back door by the Gabriels.  Cosmo waited, saw Rudolf cross the kitchen and go up the back stairs.  That was enough confirmation of Zena’s story.  He was sure now that the worst was true.
“Now before we go any farther, I was wondering if we couldn’t have a nice cup of tea?  It’s dry work this, and a cup of tea would go down a treat.  What do you say, Mr. Ducrow?”  He turned to Rudolf as, presumably, the house’s new owner.  “After all, I was employed to clear you of the murder of Cosmo Ducrow and I’ve done so.  Am I asking too much?”
Rudolf managed to answer with a faint and not very friendly smile.  “What about it, Mrs. Gabriel?”
“I’m sure we could all do with a cup, Mr. Rudolf.  I’ll nip and put the kettle on.”
“I’ll slip out and help yon,” said Mrs. Dunton.
Cigarettes were lit and a buzz of conversation started while we waited.  There was no more incredulity now, only impatience to hear the rest.
“For a murdered man you’re bearing up very well,” I said to Beef.
“I wish I felt it.  I’m a mass of bruises, and I’ve got a cold coming on.  But we’ll get this over.”
The women returned with a large tray, and Beef was soon lapping at a breakfast cup full of black sweet tea.
“Cosmo was a man to trust his friends, and feeling himself betrayed by his nephew he decided to consult his life-long crony Theo Gray.  But in order to get to his room by the usual way he would have to pass his wife’s door, so he decided to use the back staircase.  He crept up, called Theo out and the two went downstairs together.  That was why Mrs. Gabriel heard one set of footsteps going up and two coming down again.
“I’m not even going to guess what took place between them, except to say that I don’t think Gray tried very hard to dissuade his old friend from suicide.  I think, in fact, that when Gray left him later he knew not only that Cosmo was going to kill himself but also where and how.
“That, I must admit at once, is more than I know.  We shall, I suppose, soon be able to establish by a post mortem how it was done, though Gray covered this up pretty well.  When a doctor sees a man with no back of the cranium at all but a mass of splintered bone and brain he is not likely to look for any other cause of death.  It may be that Cosmo poisoned himself, for there were sleeping tablets in the house, or it may even be that he shot himself with Gray’s pistol, conveniently lent for the occasion.  If he had put the barrel between his lips and fired through the roof of his mouth it is possible that the battering of his head would conceal all signs of it.
“As to where this happened, I would not like to guess.  If it was a shot it must have been done by the little pavilion, I think, or someone would have heard it.  If it was poison it could have been in the house, for Gray could have carried that thin little body down to the pavilion after death.  At all events, Cosmo did as one might expect a man of his neurotic and mis—misan——”
“Misanthropic,” I whispered quickly.
“And misanthropic nature to do—he committed suicide, and Theo Gray knew that he had.  He was clever enough to see in that his chance.”
There was another pause while Beef refilled his cup.
“Mr. Townsend’s a writer,” he went on presently, “and I daresay he could give you a picture of the criminal’s mind.  He could very likely explain with bags of psychology just what made Gray do what he did.  To me it’s still a bit of a puzzle.  He was going to get a third of Cosmo’s fortune anyway, and that would make him a rich man.  Why risk anything for more?  A part of the answer is that he wasn’t risking anything.  He could put the little letter which Cosmo had left on his table safely tucked away in a book which no one was likely to take down, so that if ever he were accused of Cosmo’s murder he could clear himself.  What he planned to do, therefore, entailed no risk to him, even if it was discovered that he had had something to do with it.
“What he saw was this.  If Cosmo’s suicide could be made to look like murder only one man would be suspected, and that was Rudolf Ducrow.  Get him hanged for it, and there would be another third share in the kitty.  And with Rudolf in the house now and going home across the park later it would be the easiest thing in the world to pin it on Rudolf.
“Cosmo’s body was down by the pavilion.  Whether he had killed himself there or whether Gray moved the corpse does not much matter at this point.  Gray thought out his plan carefully and went to work.  He remembered seeing an old jacket of Rudolf’s which had been hanging in the cloakroom since last summer.  This, he thought, would be a first means of associating Rudolf with the crime.  He put it on under his overcoat and went out through the french windows.  No one saw him at this time, but if anyone had seen him I feel sure they would have noticed that he carried an open umbrella.  This effectively concealed his identity from any possible observer above him.
“He made his way to the pavilion and decided that the corpse should appear to have been battered to death with a croquet mallet.  He was wearing gloves, but realized that if he used Rudolf’s mallet he would smudge the finger-prints from it, so he picked up another mallet, one of no particular significance, and used it to smash in the dead man’s skull.  When I came later to try the game of croquet I decided that the blows dealt to Cosmo’s head were only likely to have been given if the head was on the ground in the position of a croquet ball.  Having done that he took Rudolf’s mallet, blooded it, and holding it gingerly all the time, left it by the corpse.  Then he also stained the sleeve of the jacket with Cosmo’s blood and left the dead man there.
“Gray forgot nothing.  He took the mallet which he had actually used for smashing in Cosmo’s skull and carried it back to the house.  As he approached and knew that he might be in view of the windows, he put up his umbrella and made his way to the garage yard.  He broke the handle of the mallet and pushed it with the round smooth hammer part into the furnace, feeling certain that they would be completely destroyed in a few minutes.  We owe our knowledge of this part of his action to Mills, whose curiosity took him down to see what had been burnt.  Unfortunately he could not recover the mallet from the flames.  It would have made a nice exhibit.
“Gray returned to his room unheard by Freda and Rudolf, locked the jacket away somewhere, and sat down to await Rudolf’s departure.
“The next part of his plan was daring and clever.  He had to make sure that Rudolf was seen going home across the park.  It occurred to him that there might otherwise be no evidence of Rudolf’s presence in the house that night, for Freda Ducrow was scarcely likely to reveal it, and the Gabriels might not be able to say for certain that he had come.  So he waited, listening for Rudolf to leave Freda Ducrow’s room, then, when he knew that Rudolf was clear of the house, he hurried down and telephoned Dunton with a story about shouts in the park.  Dunton was to keep a look-out, which meant that he would just about be in time to see Rudolf returning to his house.
“Gray had a piece of luck there, for Mrs. Dunton had returned to the lodge that night and she and her husband had a great deal to talk over.  They were still up when Gray telephoned, so that Dunton was in plenty of time to see Rudolf.  Rudolf looked a bit put out and nervous, but that was natural enough in the circumstances.  So Gray was able to go to bed that night feeling very pleased with himself.  The event he had been awaiting for years, the death of Cosmo, had come to pass with no assistance from him, and by a few little touches here and there he had pinned it on one of the three inheritors of Cosmo’s money whose share, in the event of his death, would swell the incomes of himself and Freda Ducrow.  He had the suicide note in case, as a last resort, he needed it.  He must have slept well that night.
“On his way back to his room after telephoning Dunton he met Freda Ducrow, who had heard him go downstairs and thought he was following Rudolf.  She was relieved to hear that it was only some shouting he had heard and that he had telephoned Dunton about it.  He did not mind her seeing him because in any case he was going to be quite open about his call to Dunton.
“No, there was nothing to disturb his sleep.  Not even the fact that he had perhaps helped his oldest friend to kill himself and had planned to get an innocent man hanged for his death.  I told you tonight that there are times when I want to forget this thing called human nature.  Gray has made one of those times for me.  I hope you’re getting all this down, Townsend?  Don’t miss that bit about human nature, will you?  I meant what I said about that.”

Cold Blood, Chapter Twenty-Five

Cold Blood

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Beef now began to behave like a hero returning in triumph.  He led the way downstairs, and before even going to examine the body lying on the terrace he announced that he needed a drink.
“First today?” I asked mischievously.
“Not so far from it,” he replied with good-humour, “though I had to have enough to make me look as though I’d had too much.  I’m not so good an actor that I could have come in and convinced even you, Townsend, that I was drunk if I hadn’t been a little bit.  See, I know just how much I can take.  Not like some people.  What I needed was the right amount to make me look a bit lit, but not so much that I couldn’t do my part.  Yes, I’ll have a nice drop of Scotch for a change.  Well, here’s to all the suspects who aren’t guilty.”
I noticed that Inspector Liphook seemed to treat Beef with a new respect, while even Constable Spender-Hennessy made no more sarcastic remarks.  We waited until Beef had finished his drink then allowed ourselves to be led through the french windows on to the stone-flagged terrace.
Here a very loathsome sight awaited us.  The suicide had fallen on his back and lay now with blood around his head and eyes staring glassily up to the night sky.  It was the man whose voice I had heard speaking to Beef on the roof.  It was Theo Gray.
I make no apology for my first reaction to this sight.  I felt no pity for the dead man and only a queasy horror at the gruesome appearance of his corpse.  I turned at once to Beef and said: “But this means you’ve cheated.  You specifically stated that Theo Gray did not kill Cosmo Ducrow.”
“No more he didn’t,” said Beef.
“Then I give up,” I said.  “It’s too difficult.”
Beef grinned and without touching the corpse, which Liphook had examined, led the way back into the house.
“I asked them all to stay in the dining-room,” said Beef.  “It would never have done to have them hopping about while I was arranging things.  You can let ’em out now,” he added grandly.
Liphook went off to telephone to Stute and to arrange for Gray’s corpse to be removed, while I went to the dining-room and said as politely as possible that Sergeant Beef would be glad if they would care to come through to the library as he had some news for them.
“Another murder?” asked Gulley.
“Very nearly,” I replied.  “Fortunately only a suicide this time, though.”
“Where is Theo?” demanded Rudolf Ducrow.
I was not sure whether Beef wished me to give any details of events so I said simply.  “He’s gone out, I think,” which, in a way, was true.
When we filed into the library Beef rose from his chair and said to Rudolf:  “I should like the staff to come in for this.”
“For what?”
“For what I’m going to tell you.”
“And what is that?” asked Rudolf with a suggestion of scorn in his voice.
Beef looked rather menacing.
“I’m going to tell you who killed Cosmo Ducrow.”
“At last,” said Rudolf.  “Very well, we’ll gather them all here.”
When the Duntons and Gabriels came in it was obvious that their reconciliation was no pretence for the two women sat down side by side.  The men also appeared to be on the best of terms.  Mills sat on a hard chair away from the rest of them.
“I must apologize for being a bit umpty earlier in the evening,” said Beef.  “It was necessary to make someone believe I was drunk, and so that I shouldn’t have to take any chances, I got drunk.  I mean, that’s the way to be convincing, isn’t it?  You will nearly all be glad to hear that this piece of acting was highly successful and that a murderous attack was made on me not half an hour ago.
“Well, now, about this case.  Most of you are longing to know the whole truth, just as I was when I started on it.  And very soon I realized that I was up against something particularly difficult and someone fiendishly clever.  I was pretty sure that nothing had been planned before the night of the twelfth because on that night something led to Cosmo Ducrow’s death which could not have been anticipated unless there was a fairly wide conspiracy amongst you.  That something was his learning of his wife’s infidelity with his nephew.”
Ernest Wickham broke in.
“Is there any need to refer to intimate matters of that kind?  De mortuis, you know.”
“We can’t mince matters now, Mr. Wickham.  As I was saying, I did not think that Cosmo’s death had been planned, yet there was a perfection about the scheme which I could scarcely believe had come from what you might call improvising.  This perfection continued to be evident throughout the whole case.  Even after the death of Mrs. Ducrow I knew that the question I had to answer, the key to the whole puzzle, remained the same.  Who killed Cosmo Ducrow?
Just then a prolonged ringing of the front-door bell interrupted him.  He guessed, I suppose, that it was someone who had come in response to Liphook’s phone calls, and decided to break the news of Gray’s death to all his listeners.  This he did in a characteristically crude manner.
“Oh, by the way,” he said.  “Theo Gray’s dead.”
Since he had not first explained that Gray was guilty this was a most shocking way to make his announcement.
Rudolf jumped to his feet.
“Murdered?” he said in a loud rising voice.
Beef did not turn a hair.
“No.  Suicide,” he said.
Gulley was excited now.
“That I will not believe.  You may be able to convince me that Mrs. Ducrow took her own life, but not Theo.  He was far too . . . too sane.  Too cool a man.”
“He was cool all right,” said Beef, “and as you’ll see later he was guilty.”
“You mean, you’re going to try and make us believe that Theo murdered Cosmo Ducrow?”
“No.  I’m not going to try to make you believe anything.”
“Then what was he guilty of?”
“Murdering me,” said Beef calmly.
“For God’s sake stop this clowning!”
“No clowning about it.  He pushed me off the roof with three witnesses.  I mean, witnessed by three people.”
Gulley spoke as though he were clinching an argument with a lunatic.
“Then would you kindly explain how you come to be standing here, alive and well?”
It would be impossible to describe all the peasant cunning, the grinning mysteriousness, the sheer boyish artfulness that Beef managed to shew in his face and voice as he made his triumphant reply.
“Ah!” he said.
Gabriel meanwhile had been out to open the front door.  He returned now with Stute and two stretcher bearers.  The gathering broke up into smaller conferences and on all sides I heard expressions of incredulity about Gray’s guilt.
“It makes you think, though, doesn’t it?” said Mrs. Gabriel, “I mean that’s three gone.  You wonder who the next will be.  It’s all very well to talk about suicide, but it’s a bit of a coincidence, isn’t it?”
“You’re right,” replied Mrs. Dunton.  “It’s more like a madman at work.  If what he says is true and Mr. Gray pushed him off the roof he wouldn’t be alive now to tell the tale, so what’s the good of talking?  It’s more likely he murdered Mr. Gray, if you ask me.”
“And such a nice gentleman,” said Mrs. Gabriel.  “In all the years he’s lived here and I’ve been here we’ve never had a bit of trouble.  He was a real gentleman, I will say that.  Not like some.”
“No.  That’s a fact.”
I left them nodding at one another with tight lips and meaning eyes.
The stretcher party had done its work, taking the remains of Theo Gray out by the back way.  But Stute remained.  He sounded annoyed with Beef.
“If you had told me what you were up to I certainly shouldn’t have agreed to the Inspector coming here.  We can’t have Special Branch men watching suicide.”
“It was murder I wanted them to watch,” argued Beef.  “And they watched it.  I had my reasons, Inspector, as you’ll hear if you like to stay on a little while.  I’m just going over the case to them all.”
“Oh, you are?  You’ve got it all taped?”
“I think so.”
“You know who killed Cosmo Ducrow?”
“Yes, I know that.”
“You are going to name him or her?”
“Yes.”
“Then I’ll stay.  I like to have my job done for me.  Do you think there will be any more violence tonight?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“We don’t want another suicide.”
“There won’t be any more.”
“Very well.  We can go ahead with your exposition.”
“Will you all take your seats again, please?  The cadaver has been removed.  I am about to clear up the whole of this mystery for you.”
A silence fell on the room.  I looked round once more at those tense and anxious faces, wondering which member of Beef’s audience would be named.  Gray was “guilty”.  Beef said.  But of what?  Not of murdering Cosmo.  Perhaps he had killed Freda Ducrow?  Yet Beef himself had spoken of one murder and one suicide and of the suicide note which Gray said had been left.  Did his guilt lie only in his actions after someone else had committed the greater crime of murder?  Had he but taken advantage of the violence of others?  If so, there was a murderer yet to be named, and again I found myself looking round the room in desperation, trying to pick out the guilty one before Beef did so.  Gulley?  He looked distraught and guilty enough.  Rudolf?  I did not want to believe it of him for I had always admired and liked his frank open disposition.  Mills?  I had to admit that he was my choice, if any.  Gabriel?  A dark horse this, and he had had ever opportunity.  Dunton?  The big heavy fellow looked like a killer to me.  Ernest Wickham?  Why not?  He could have been here that night for all we knew, and it was curious that Beef had insisted on his presence this evening.  Or was it one of the women?  The bit muscular Zena?  The fierce-looking Mrs. Dunton?  Little bitter Mrs. Gabriel?  Attractive Esmeralda Tobyn?  It could be anyone, I supposed.
But Beef knew.  However foolish he might have been, he knew now and would tell us the truth.  I, no less than the others, was agog to hear his story.
“Yes,” he said.  “I have never doubted that the key to this whole mystery lay in the answer to that question—who killed Cosmo Ducrow?  Even now when we have had this violence tonight and I have been thrown over the parapet of the roof I know that the riddle could never be solved unless I can answer that.  And I can.  The funny thing is that I got it first as you’re trying to get it now—by guesswork.  A little thing made me think, and I saw the whole secret.  It was guesswork which suggested it, but I’m going to produce a lot more than guesswork to prove it to you all tonight.
“Still, I’ll start off with what I guessed.  Very early in the case I guessed that the answer to the question which we were all asking ourselves, the answer to the question, Who Killed Cosmo Ducrow? was . . . Cosmo Ducrow.”

Cold Blood, Chapter Twenty-Four

Cold Blood

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

My first thought was that this was some idiotic leg-pull of Beef’s, and I was about to stand up and tell him not to be ridiculous when Liphook gripped my arm painfully and whispered, “Shut up!  Keep still!” I knew from his voice that he was in earnest.
Now Beef crossed to the parapet and appeared to be re-buttoning his braces.  The moon was behind us and lit up his burly outline but it was impossible to see the expression on his face.  I felt the tenseness of the moment chiefly through the men beside me for both of them, who had till now made light of the whole affair, were now watching with taut expectation.  I did not yet see why this should be, for I had not guessed as they had what would be the next development.
I do not think I was afraid, exactly, but there was a nervous uncontrollable trembling in one of my legs and I was curiously conscious of being very far from the ground.  A keen wind was blowing and the low parapet behind which we crouched did not seem to give much protection.
Then, almost as cautiously as Beef had done, someone else began to emerge from the little doorway.  We could see nothing but a dark outline slowly increasing in size as the newcomer climbed out on to the roof.
Beef seemed to remain unconscious of this and I was tempted to shout a warning.  I might have done so if the two policemen had not seemed so clearly to understand what was going on and to intend that we should in no way reveal our presence.  As the newcomer stood up facing Beef, with face still not shown to us, the suspense became intolerable.  The parapet was scarcely up to Beef’s knees and he appeared to be swaying slightly as though still made unsure by the alcohol he had drunk.  While we watched this ugly little scene, in fact, he pulled a bottle out of his pocket and swigged from it.
Then, in a voice which seemed familiar, the newcomer shouted:  “You drunken brute!”
Only then did Beef seem fully aware that he was threatened.
“Don’t come any closer!” he said, and I could hear the terror in his voice.
He was answered by a contemptuous laugh.  “You don’t really think I shall let you leave this roof alive, do you?” said the newcomer.  “I can tell you now that your days of detection are finished.  You’re a blundering ass, but this time you have blundered on a little too much of the truth.  In a few minutes there is going to be another suicide.  Sergeant Beef is going to throw himself from the roof and no one will ever know that he did not do so of his own accord in a fit of drunken remorse.”
“You keep away!“ shouted Beef.  “It won’t do you any good.  The police will find out everything, just as I did.”
“Not if you are unable to tell them.  They haven’t yet found out who killed Cosmo Ducrow, have they?  And that, after all, is the key to the whole thing.  How did you find out, by the way?”
Beef sounded almost hysterical.
“I knew it wasn’t you!“ he yelled.
“No, it wasn’t.  But that is the interesting thing.  How did you know it wasn’t?”
“Never mind now.  You keep away from me.”
We could see distinctly the newcomer thrust a hand into an overcoat pocket and thereafter hold an arm crooked towards Beef.
“Put that thing away!” Beef shouted wildly.  “Put it away, I tell you.”
“I hope I shan’t have to use it.  A shot would not be heard in this wind and you might have shot yourself as easily as thrown yourself over.  But it would all be so much more satisfactory and tidy if there was no bullet-hole in you when you were found.”
It occurred to me that however much of this scene had been anticipated by Beef, the revolver might be something unforeseen.
“Oughtn’t we to go across now?” I whispered anxiously to Liphook.
“Not yet,” he said grimly.
The newcomer seemed to be in no hurry but stood watching his wretched victim.
“Put that thing away!” Beef shouted again.  “Where did you get it from?”
A chuckle came from the dark figure before us.
“Oddly enough, from my own chest-of-drawers.  I even have a licence for it.  But if I have to use it that won’t associate it with me at all.  You see, I take precautions.  I reported to the police today that it had been stolen.  And it will, of course, have your finger-prints on it when it is found beside your corpse.”
“Do you mean that you foresaw this?”
“I foresaw that I might have to kill you.  I gathered that you knew a little too much.  But I never imagined that you would make it as easy as this.  A roof-top.  So convenient.  But I’m glad I’ve got this little pistol.  I would not risk a struggle with you by that parapet.  There is a very nasty fall from there to the earth.”
“Keep back!” shouted Beef again as the figure moved another step towards him.
“Yes, you’ve had it now,” went on the voice.  “You blundered, as I say, on too much truth.  But you didn’t find one thing which you must have looked for high and low.”
“What’s that?” asked Beef thickly.
“The suicide note, of course.  The little letter written to explain why life was unendurable.”
“You kept it?”
“Of course I did.  I hoped not to have to produce it, but how could I be sure?  It gave too much away but it was there in case some fool found cause to accuse me of murder.  I found a safe place for it, though.  I don’t think you would ever have found it, for I can’t imagine you or anyone else in this house reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  However, I don’t think it will be necessary now.”
“It won’t do you any good to kill me,” said Beef.  “The police will get you—for this too.”
“I don’t think so.  It is unfortunate that you know too much.  Ironic, too.  You have been floundering on some facts which make your death essential if I am to enjoy peace and leisure.”
“You’ll never do that!” Beef’s voice was high and loud again.  “Never.  Now stand back!”
The dark figure was very near to him now.  It was time, I knew, for us to move.  Every instinct of loyalty to my old friend, every scrap of courage, rose in me, and I resolved to risk the levelled pistol and go to Beef’s assistance.  I opened my mouth to speak but Liphook’s hand was over it before I could utter a sound.  “Don’t move!” he said in a low threatening voice.
I was appalled at his cowardice.  How could he watch while Beef was murdered?  I knew he had no great opinion of Beef, but to cringe here while my old friend was done to death was contemptible.
“We must!” I tried to say, but the words were muffled.  Then as I watched it happened.  The dark figure took a last step forward and by a sudden catlike movement swept Beef’s legs from under him and sent him hurtling over the parapet.  A sickening cry, like the scream which in nightmares always sticks in one’s throat, broke from him as he went back into darkness.
“Oh God!” I cried.
I stood up, not caring now if the pistol was turned on me.  I don’t know what I shouted to the creature across the parapet, but it must have been loud for at once the figure turned towards me and the moon was full on its evil face.  I could not move from where I stood but I saw Liphook and the constable rushing across.  I think I was still shouting incoherently and hysterically when I saw that they would be too late, for the murderer had seen them too.
In those few seconds the wretched creature had time to know the game was up.  Not only had the murderous attack on Beef been witnessed but words meant only for Beef had been overheard.  With a cry like that of a wild beast the murderer sprang towards the parapet.  For a few seconds, and just as Liphook stretched towards the dark outline, it remained in the white glow of moonlight.  Then, like a man jumping into water, the thing leapt from the parapet into the darkness of space.
I started to make my way round the chimney stacks to where Liphook and the constable were leaning over the parapet.  I scarcely knew why.  Beef was dead and it seemed to me suddenly that with him had died a great deal of kindness and decency and sturdy common sense which the sick world could not spare.  He had his faults and one of them, his love of beer, had been the cause of his falling a victim to an unscrupulous murderer, quick enough to take advantage of his condition.  But with all his faults, his vulgarity, his obstinacy, his childish sense of humour, his rudeness, he remained an honest man, a good detective and a true example of the best in English life and genius.  “He was a man, take him for all in all,” I said reminiscently, and added:  “I shall not look upon his like again.”
But there I was wrong.  There was something strange in the attitude of Liphook and the constable as they leaned over, something that suggested deep-sea anglers trying to draw in some monstrous fish.  And this I found was very much what was happening, for suspended by a steel cable just below the level of our feet was the great weight of Beef, Beef very much alive and quite literally kicking.
I think I must have been a little hysterical from the relief and pleasure of finding my old friend alive for I started to laugh.
“Oh, Beef!” I cried.  “You do look funny!”
“You’ll look funny when I get up there,” spluttered Beef, floundering about like a child trying to swim.  “Pull me up for goodness sake, and never mind laughing.”
It seemed that the cable was attached to something round his waist for it appeared to come from the small of his back.  It took a good deal of manipulation by the three of us and some scrambling by Beef himself to get him at last over the parapet.  He at once sat down and blew and gasped from these exertions.
“Good thing the coping juts out a foot or two from the walls of the house,” he said at last, “or I could never have done it.  It’ll take me days to get over the wrenches and bruises as it is.”
“So you’ve come back from the dead,” I reflected.
“What’s the matter with that?” asked Beef defiantly.  “You can’t say I don’t give you something to write about.”
“I don’t know.  It will be very hard to make this convincing.  I shall have to describe you being thrown into space and I don’t know how readers will take your resurrection.”
“They took it all right from Sherlock Holmes,” said Beef.  “And he hadn’t got a steel cable like I have.”
Liphook smiled.  “Did you expect the suicide?” he asked.
“No.  Can’t say I did,” Beef was honest enough to admit.  “Still it may be just as well.  I doubt if we would have got a conviction for murder.  Now help me out of this thing.”
Beef stood up and took off his jacket which was ripped at the back.  We saw an elaborate arrangement round his trunk, a sort of canvas strait waistcoat which went from his armpits to his thighs.
“My idea,” he said proudly, “though young Bomb helped me fix it.  Couldn’t have done it without.  Anything narrow would have cut me in two.  Well, let’s go down and pick up the pieces.”

Cold Blood, Chapter Twenty-Three

Cold Blood

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

The scene that followed was of course a painful one.  The men and women gathered were, as I reflected, gentlefolk.  Even if a murderer was among them they were people of breeding, and although they might have become accustomed to seeing a certain excess when Mrs. Ducrow was alive, yet the sight of Beef, stupefied with beer and stumbling towards a seat, to them could be nothing less than shocking.  His voice was thick and he laughed too much.
“Sorry if I’m late for dinner,” he said.  “I’ve had my bit of bread and cheese already.  The truth of it is this case has been a bit too much for me.  Well, it is too much, isn’t it?
“I was going to ask you all a lot of questions, but I don’t think I will now.  You’ll only say it couldn’t be any of you.  Yet I know and you know and the police know that there’s a murderer in this house.”
“You’re drunk,” said Ernest Wickham.  “Little bit,” admitted Beef with horrible coyness.  “Just a little bit.  Not drunk, exactly.  Cheerful.  I don’t want to do any more work tonight though.  I’ve worked hard enough on this case.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that this murderer’s going to be a bit too much for us.  I don’t see how we’re ever going to get a conviction.  I know who it is and tomorrow I’m going to make my report to the police.  I hoped to substantiate it with a few things some of you could tell me tonight, but what’s the good?  You’re all such nice people that you can’t believe it of anyone you know.  So I’m not going to ask you any questions at all.  I’m going to bed.”
His head seemed to droop forward and his eyes were half closed.
“This is a most disgraceful exhibition,” said Wickham.
“Not really,” went on Beef.  “If you know as much about this case as I do you’d want to get drunk.  Get drunk and forget about human nature for a bit.  Mean, cunning, cruel, human nature.  I’ve seen a bit of it in my life—I’ve never seen it lower than I do now.  Drunk?  It’s a wonder I’m not paralytic!”
“Mr. Gray,” I said.  “I feel I ought to apologize . . .”
But Beef would not let me finish.  “There’s nothing to apologize for,” he said.  “They ought to be only too glad I’m not going to ask them questions.  There isn’t one of them who hasn’t got something to hide.  There isn’t anybody anywhere who hasn’t.  I would have asked questions, just to tidy up the case.  But I’m sick of it now.  I’ve had enough.  I’m going to bed instead of asking questions.”
Zena Ducrow watching the unhappy Beef, seemed to think that there was entertainment in his condition.
“What sort of questions were you going to ask?” she demanded.
“Never mind now.  I’m too tired and too browned off with murder.”
I saw the danger of his talking while he was in this condition and said hastily:  “If you’re tired.  Beef, you had better do as you say and take yourself off to bed.”
This, of course, made him obstinate, and when Zena repeated, “What sort of questions would they have been?” he looked up muzzily.
“I wanted to know, for instance, which one of you tried to burn a croquet mallet on the night of the twelfth.  Not that I don’t know already, but I should like to have seen how you answered that.”
“But the croquet mallet used to kill Cosmo was found beside him next morning,” said Rudolf, staring hard at Beef.
Beef ignored him.  “Then I’d like to have asked about the two people who passed the Gabriels’ door together at twenty past twelve that night.  I know who they were all right, but I wondered how many of you did.  But most of all I wanted to ask how Rudolf’s car came to be in a car park at Folkover on the day that Mrs. Ducrow died.  Just little things I wanted to know about.”
“My car!” shouted Rudolf.  “You know that my car had been stolen!”
Beef looked up tipsily.  “I know a lot of things.  I was employed to find out who killed Cosmo Ducrow, and I have found out.  I was going to tell you all this evening.  I’d made arrangements for the big moment when you would hear at last which was the murderer among you.  It seemed to be the proper thing to do—all the best detectives believe in it.  But I’ve been told it’s something you call ‘corny’ to do that, so we’ll leave it till tomorrow.  What about another little drink just to pull me together?”
“He’s had quite enough,” I said anxiously to Esmeralda. 
“You’re telling me,” she replied.
Gulley gave Beef a weak whisky-and-water.  There was no thought now of letting him go, for intoxicated as he was, he still had the knowledge we all sought.  “You mean,” said Gulley, “that although you know the truth you are not going to tell us?”
“Not tonight,” said Beef.  “Wouldn’t do.  I’ll make my report to Chief Inspector Stute in the morning.”
“I would point out,” said Theo Gray, “that you are no longer in the police force.  Surely your report should first be made to us?”
“Perhaps.  But I’m too tired tonight, and it’s too complicated.  I couldn’t get you all to see it.  To explain all the details of a murder and a suicide . . .”
“So Freda wasn’t murdered!” broke in Rudolf.  “How can you possibly know that?”
Beef looked sheepish.  “I’m talking too much,” he said.  “And I’m taking up too much of everybody’s time.  Why, it’s twenty to nine!”
At first this sleepy remark did not register with me for Beef did not look in my direction when he made it.  Then suddenly with a feeling of guilt I remembered.  In ten minutes’ time I was due to be in concealment on the roof with the two policemen who were even now waiting in my bedroom.  But I realized that since I had never anticipated our still being gathered in one room when the time came, I had no excuse ready.
I stood up and cast about for something to say.  “I wonder if you would mind . . .” I began.  “Perhaps I might ask .  .  .”
Beef gave his vulgar guffaw.  “Why don’t you say what you want?” he asked.  “It’s only human, isn’t it?”
With flaming cheeks I almost ran from the room.  In spite of this appalling piece of vulgarity I tried to convince myself that Beef was not as drunk as he appeared.  Unless it had been by chance he had effectively reminded me of my appointment and although his last remark to me had been in the worst possible taste it had served, I had to own, to get me out of the room in such a way that no one would suspect an ulterior motive in my departure.  Yet his appearance of drunkenness could not be wholly assumed.  The truth, I guessed, lay half way between the extremes.  He was not drunk enough to forget his arrangements but too drunk to carry them out.
I found Liphook and Constable Spender-Hennessy in my bedroom, their faces rather blank.
“Beef’s drunk,” I told them.
“Oh, no! ” said the young constable.  “But this is too much!”
“I’m afraid so.  But he may not be too drunk to carry out his plan, whatever it was.  I tried to get something to drink for you fellows, but unfortunately I was caught in the act.  Well, we’d better get up on the roof, hadn’t we?”
Inspector Liphook seemed to regard the whole thing as childish nonsense and I was more than half inclined to agree with him.  Once again I vowed that I would not face the humiliations and difficulties which came from my association with Beef any more after this case was finished.  I seemed to have to go from place to place excusing him, trying to defend him, till I looked nearly as foolish as he did.  With a wry smile I thought that this evening I had been his apologist first with the suspects and now with the police.
I cautiously opened the door and listened.  Down below I could hear a hum of voices from behind the closed door of the room I had left, with Beef’s raucous voice audible among them.  A baize door cut off the kitchen so I could hear nothing of the Gabriels and Duntons.  The rest of the house seemed still and silent.  I beckoned to the two men, then led the way along the passage to the staircase leading to the attic floor.  In a few minutes the three of us were standing on the bare boards of the upper landing.  I pointed to the wooden steps.
I felt a certain thrill of excitement as we pulled back the bolts of the upright door at the head of this and crawled out on to the roof.  Even if none of the exciting things promised by Beef were to materialize, it was something to be out here in the bright moonlight waiting.  Far below us we could see the drive and we knew that the terrace was round the corner of the house.  We were not too late in taking up our position for as we settled down I could see that it was just nine minutes to nine.  Silence fell.
Beef had given a characteristic answer when Liphook had asked him what we were to expect.  “Developments” he had said, no doubt to cover his own uncertainty, and had added “especially on the other wing”.  I felt that although the event he hoped for would probably take place on the roof, it would be as well to keep an eye on the grounds below us as well and while remaining concealed I looked over the parapet.  I could see down into the garage yard and kitchen garden, but although the moonlight made sharp black and silver outlines, it was impossible to distinguish details.  Suddenly I knew that my vigil was rewarded, for a streak of yellow light fell across the yard from the back door and someone emerged.  I tried hard to identify him and felt pretty certain that I had done so correctly when the man removed all doubt by saying “good night“ to those he had left.  It was Mills, going across to his own room.
“Hst!  Look!” I said to Constable Spender-Hennessy who was beside me. 
“Do drop the melodrama,” replied this tiresome youth.  “Who have you seen?  Deadwood Dick?”
“Mills,” I whispered.  The chauffeur hesitated, looked about him, then abruptly walked away from his own room to the door leading to the kitchen garden.  I lost him in the shadows away to the left.
“Do you think that is what we are waiting to see?” I asked.
“If we have been asked to sit here shivering in order to watch a chauffeur going off for a drink I shall feel that even Beef has excelled himself in bathos.”
“How do you know we have not watched a murderer about to commit another crime?”
“I don’t know.  I’m quite prepared to see Beef stalking the hound of the Baskervilles in a minute, or Sexton Blake jump out of one of those chimneys.”
“Not so loud,” I cautioned.
Constable Spender-Hennessy dropped his voice to an over-dramatic whisper.  “Do you think that Liphook is the murderer?” he asked.
Just then, however, something happened to silence us, something which made me catch my breath and stare across to the roof of the other wing.  Very slowly the little door leading to it from the house began to open.  Someone was pushing it back so slowly and cautiously that at first it scarcely seemed to move.  Then it was right back and we could see the dark shape of a man beginning to climb out.
The two men with me were silent now, breathing rather hard and staring across as fixedly as I was.  It was clear that even the constable’s flippancy was gone, for in the movements of that slowly moving black shadow was something both fearful and dramatic.
Then from it came an unmistakable rumbling cough and I knew that it was Sergeant Beef.