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Midnight by Octavus Roy Cohen

Part 3 out of 4

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the slightest proof that you didn't."

"I--I came down on the train which left there a little after two in
the morning."

"Prove it."

There was a hunted look about Lawrence. "I can't prove it--a man can't
prove that he came on a certain train--"

"Was there nobody on board who knew you?"

"I--don't know. I was feeling badly when I got in--the berths were all
made up--I went right to sleep and when the porter woke me we were in the
yards. I dressed and came right home."

"And yet--" Carroll was merciless "--you have no substantiation for your
statements." He switched his line of attack suddenly: "What made you
think I was coming here to discuss Roland Warren's death?"

It was plain that Lawrence did not want to answer--yet there was
something in Carroll's mesmeric eyes which wrung words unwillingly from
his lips--

"Just logic," he answered weakly. "I knew that you weren't calling to see
Evelyn because you were interested in her. You knew Warren had been
pretty friendly in this house--so you came to talk to us about it. Isn't
that reasonable?"

"I don't believe I am here to answer questions, Mr. Lawrence. You invited
me to ask them."

Naomi broke in, her voice choked with hysteria--"What are you leading to,
Mr. Carroll? It is absurd to think that Gerald had anything to do with
Mr. Warren's death."

Carroll swung on her, biting off his words shortly: "Do you _know_ that
he didn't?"


"I didn't ask what you _thought_, Mrs. Lawrence. I am asking what
you _know_!"

"But if he was in Nashville--"

"If he was, then he's safe. But he himself cannot prove that he was. And
I tell you frankly that the police will investigate his movements very
carefully. It strikes me as exceedingly peculiar that he checked out from
the Hermitage Hotel at four o'clock in the afternoon when he intended
taking a two a.m. train. Remember, I am accusing your husband of nothing.
Our conversation could have been pleasant--he refused to allow it to be
so. He classified me as a professional detective and put me on that basis
in his home. I have merely accepted his invitation to act as one. If I
appear discourteous, kindly recall that it was none of my doing."

"I'm sorry, Carroll," said Lawrence pleadingly. "I didn't know--"

"Of course you didn't know how much I knew--or might guess. You saw fit
to insult me--"

"I've apologized."

"Your apologies come a trifle late, Lawrence. Entirely too late. Our
relations from now on are those of detective and suspect--"

Again the flare of hate in Lawrence's manner: "I don't have to prove an
alibi, Carroll. You have to prove my connection with the thing. And you
can't do it!"

"Why not?"

"Because I was in Nashville at that time. And while perhaps I can't prove
I was there--you certainly cannot prove I was not."

"That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, I'd advise you to establish that
fact if you can possibly do so. And by the way: are you in the habit of
indulging in these solitary debauches in neighboring cities?"

Lawrence flushed. "Sometimes. I used to be a heavy drinker, and--"

"Is that a fact, Mrs. Lawrence?"

"Yes," she answered eagerly: almost too eagerly Carroll thought--"he has
had escapades like this--several times."

"And you are sure that his story is true?"

"Yes. Of course I'm sure. Why should he kill Mr. Warren? There isn't any
reason in the world--"

"For your sake and his, I hope not. But meanwhile--"

"Surely, Mr. Carroll--you don't intend publishing what he has told
you--about his drinking--alone--in Nashville?"

Carroll smiled. "No indeed. In the first place, I am not at all sure that
he has told me the truth. In the second place, if I were sure of it--his
alibi would be established and I have no desire whatever to injure a man
because of a personal weakness."

Lawrence stared at Carroll peculiarly. "You mean that if I can prove the
truth of my story, nothing will be made public about my--the affair--in

"Absolutely. Because you have treated me discourteously, Lawrence--I
don't consider myself justified in injuring your reputation. I am after
the person or persons responsible for the death of Roland Warren. Your
intimate weaknesses have no interest to either me or the public."

Lawrence was silent for awhile, and then--"You're damned white,
Carroll. The apologies I extended a moment ago--I repeat. And this time
I'm sincere."

"And this time they are accepted."

"Meanwhile--you are welcome here whenever you wish to call. Perhaps--by
talking to me--you yourself may establish the alibi which I know I have,
but cannot prove."

Carroll rose and bowed. "Thank you. And now--I'll go. If you will express
my regrets to Miss Rogers--"

Naomi accompanied him to the door. She extended her hand--"You're wrong,
Mr. Carroll", she murmured. "Quite wrong!"

"You are sure?"

"I _know_! I really believe his story."

"I hope to--soon. But just now, Mrs. Lawrence--" He saw tears in her
fine eyes. "You have nothing to fear from me if he is innocent."

She pressed his hand gratefully, and then closed the door. Carroll,
inhaling the bracing air of the winter night, proceeded briskly to the
curb. Then, standing with one foot on the running board of his car, he
stared peculiarly at the big white house standing starkly in the

"I wonder," he mused softly--"I wonder--"



Carroll drove direct to his apartments, despite his original intention of
dropping by headquarters for a chat with Leverage. He wanted to be
alone--to think--

The evening had borne fruit beyond his wildest imaginings. Fact had piled
upon fact with bewildering rapidity. As yet he had been unable to sort
them in his mind, to catalogue each properly, to test for proper value.

He reached his apartment and found it warm and comfortable. He donned
lounging robe and slippers which the thoughtful Freda had left out for
him, settled himself in an easy chair, lighted a fire which he kept
always ready in the grate and turned out the lights. Then, with his cigar
glowing and great clouds of rich smoke filling the air--he sank into a
revelry of thinking.

Certain disclosures of the evening stood out with startling clarity.
Chief among them was the inevitable belief that Gerald Lawrence had
either killed Roland Warren or else knew who had done so--and how it was
done. Yet Carroll tried not to allow his thoughts and personal prejudices
to run away with him. He knew that now, of all times, he must keep a
tight grip on himself.

Great as was the dislike which he had conceived for Lawrence--an
instinctive repugnance which still obtained--he was grimly determined
that he would not be swayed by his emotions. Therefore he deliberately
reviewed Lawrence's story in the light of its possible truth.

Lawrence claimed that he belonged to that none too rare class of
prominent citizens who once every so often respond to the call of the
wild within them by going to a nearby city where they are not known and
giving themselves over to the dubious delights of a spree. Publication of
this fact alone would prove sufficient to injure Lawrence socially and in
the commercial world. The old case of the Spartan lad--Carroll reflected.
The disgrace lay in being discovered.

Also, it was perfectly plain to Carroll that at the outset of his
conversation Lawrence had been smugly satisfied that he was possessed of
a perfect alibi. It was only under Carroll's merciless grilling that he
had been brought abruptly to realization that he had no alibi whatever.
The same logic applied there, as in Leverage's theory that Barker's
arrest would be an excellent strategic move. All Carroll had to do now
was to arrest Lawrence for Warren's murder--and the burden of proof
would have been shifted from the shoulders of the detective to that of
the suspect. It would then devolve upon Lawrence to prove an alibi that
Carroll knew perfectly well he could not prove--save by merest accident.

But that was a procedure which Carroll abhorred. Those were police
department methods: wholesale arrests in the hope of somewhere in the
net trapping the prey. Such a course was at the bottom--and Carroll knew
it--of an enormous number of convictions of innocent men. And Carroll
had no desire to injure Lawrence provided Lawrence was free of guilt in
this particular instance. He didn't like the man--in fact his feelings
toward him amounted to a positive aversion. But through it all he tried
to be fair-minded--and he could not quite rid himself of the picture of
Naomi Lawrence--Carroll was far from impervious to the appeal of a
beautiful woman.

So much for the probable truth of Lawrence's story. The reverse side
of the picture presented an entirely different set of facts. There was
not alone the strange procedure of checking out of the big hotel at
four o'clock in the afternoon when he intended catching an early
morning train: but there was the information so innocently dropped by
the loquacious Evelyn Rogers regarding Naomi's actions on the night of
the murder.

According to Evelyn, her sister was an intensely nervous woman: one who
stood in fear of being alone at night. And yet this sister had
volunteered the suggestion that Evelyn spend the night with Hazel Gresham
when her husband was supposed to be out of the city.

Carroll, well versed in applied psychology, knew that in such a
combination of facts there lay an important clue. He was well satisfied
that Naomi Lawrence had been satisfied that she was not to be alone
that night!

Arguing with himself from that premise, the conclusion was inevitable:
she knew that her husband would return from Nashville at midnight. She
did not wish anyone--even Evelyn, to learn that he had done so. Therefore
she got Evelyn out of the house!

The conclusion developed a further train of reasoning--one which Carroll
did not at all relish, but which he faced with frank honesty. If he was
right in his argument--then Naomi Lawrence had known of the murder before
it was committed!

He shrank from the idea, but it would not down. He was not ready to admit
its truth--but there was no denying its logic. There was something
inexpressibly repugnant in the thought. He infinitely preferred to
believe that Naomi hated her husband--was miserable with him--he
preferred that to the idea that they were accomplices in the murder of a
prominent young man.

Then, too, there were the strange visits of William Barker, former valet
to Warren, to the home of the Lawrences. There was no doubt remaining in
Carroll's mind that Barker knew a very great deal about Warren's murder.
That being the case it was fairly well established that he was cognizant
of the Lawrences' connection with the crime.

Carroll had started off with the idea that someone, in addition to the
woman in the taxi-cab, had been instrumental in ending Warren's life.
Here, following a casual line of investigation, he had uncovered the
tracks of two men, both of whom he was convinced knew more about it than
they had cared to tell.

Both men--Barker and Lawrence--had acted peculiarly under the grilling of
the detective. The former had been surly and non-informative, only to
leap eagerly upon the first verbal trend which tended to throw suspicion
upon a person whom Carroll knew--and whom Carroll knew Barker knew--was
innocent. Gerald Lawrence, on the other hand, had been downright
antagonistic until he made the startling discovery that his supposed
alibi was no alibi at all--at which his attitude changed from open
hostility to something closely akin to suppliance.

Then, too, there was the danger of injuring an innocent man because of
his inability to prove an alibi. If Lawrence's story was true, it was
perfectly natural that even in a condition of intoxication he would
maintain his instinct for concealment of a personal weakness. The chances
were then that no one had seen him either in Nashville--after the four
o'clock train had left, or on the two a.m. train homeward bound.

Matters could not right themselves in Carroll's mind. He knew one thing,
however--Evelyn Rogers was a wellspring of vital information. The very
fact that she talked inconsequentialities incessantly--and occasionally
let drop remarks of vital import--made her the more valuable. He knew
that he had not seen the last of the seventeen-year-old girl. And he felt
a consuming eagerness to be with her again, for now he had a definite
line of investigation to pursue.

He slept soundly that night, and the following morning dropped in on
Leverage. The Chief of Police had a little information--with all of which
Carroll was already familiar. He told Carroll that Lawrence had been in
Nashville and that he had checked out of the Hermitage hotel in time to
catch the four o'clock train on the afternoon preceding the murder.
Carroll satisfied Leverage by accepting it as information, made sure that
nothing else of importance had developed, requested Leverage to ask the
Nashville police to determine whether Lawrence had been seen in Nashville
after 4:30 p.m.--if necessary to send one of his own men there--and left

He made his way directly to a public telephone booth. He telephoned the
Lawrence home and asked for Evelyn Rogers. A maid answered and informed
him that Evelyn had left home fifteen minutes previously.

"Any idea where she was going?" questioned Carroll.

The answer came promptly: it mentioned the city's leading department
store--"she's gone there to get a beauty treatment," vouchsafed the maid.

Carroll was not a little chagrined. Evelyn Rogers had put him in more
hopeless positions in their brief acquaintanceship than he had
experienced in years. There was his call upon her the previous night with
its role of dual entertainer to the young lady with a nineteen-year-old
college freshman. And now a vigil outside a beauty parlor.

But he went grimly to work. He located the beauty parlor on the third
floor of the giant store, and paced determinedly back and forth before
its doors.

A half hour passed; an hour--two hours. He concluded that Evelyn must be
purchasing her beauty in job lots. When two hours and thirty-five
minutes had elapsed Evelyn emerged--and Carroll groaned. With her were
three other girls, as chattery, as immature, as Evelyn herself.

She swept down upon him in force--tongue wagging at both ends--

"You naughty, _naughty_ man!" she chided. "You abso_lute_ly deserted me
last night. Why, I didn't even know that you had gone--until Sis came in
and said you had asked her to extend your respects. Good gracious! I
almost _died_!"

"I'm sorry--really," returned Carroll humbly--"But you seemed so
interested in that young man--and I had gotten into an absorbing
conversation with your sister and brother-in-law. I'm not used to girls,
you know."

"Kidder! I think you're simply elegant!" She turned to her giggling
friends and introduced them gushingly. Carroll was in misery--a martyr to
the cause. But Evelyn would not let him get away. Through her sudden
friendship with the great detective, Evelyn was building up a reputation
that was destined to survive for years, and she was not one to fail to
make the most of her opportunities.

It was not until almost an hour later, when the other three girls had
left for their homes--left only after they had hung around until the
ultimate moment before lunch--that Carroll found himself alone with his
little gold mine of data. He bent his head hopefully--

"Were you planning to eat lunch downtown?"

She nodded. "Uh-huh!"

"Suppose we eat together?"

"Scrumptious!" There was no hint of hesitation in her manner. "I've been
hoping ever since we met that you'd ask me."

They found a table mercifully secluded in the corner of the main dining
room of the city's leading hotel. For once Carroll felt gratitude for the
notoriously slow service. He begged her to order--and she did: ordered a
meal which contained T.N.T. possibilities for acute indigestion. Carroll
smiled and let her have her way--he was amused at her valiant efforts to
appear the blase society woman.

"I really did enjoy our conversation last night, Miss Rogers."

"Oh! piffle! I don't fall for that."

"I did."

"Then why did you beat it so quick?"

"Well, you see--I suppose I was jealous of your elegantly dressed
young friend."

"Him? He's just a kid. A mere _child_!"

"He seemed very much at home."

"Kids like him always do. They make me sick--always putting on as though
they were grown up."

She secured an olive and bit into it with a relish. "Awful good--these
olives. I love queen olives, don't you. I used to be crazy about ripe
olives, but I read in a book once that sometimes they poison you, and
when they do--there just simply isn't any anecdote in the world that can
save you. So I figured there wasn't any use taking chances--"

Carroll let her run on until the meal was served. And it was then when
she was satisfying a normal youthful appetite that he drove straight to
the subject which had led to this masculine martyrdom.

"The day before Mr. Warren died," he said mildly--"are you sure that your
sister made the suggestion that you spend the night with Miss Gresham?"

"Her? Sure she did."

"Didn't it strike you as peculiar--knowing that she'd be in the house
alone all that night?"

"I'll say it did. I asked her was she nutty and she scolded me for being
slangy. So I told her I should worry--if she wanted to suffer alone, and
I went with Hazel. And it's an awful good thing I did, because if I
hadn't she would have been arrested and tried and convicted and
hanged--or something, and--"

"Oh! hardly that bad. You're sure your sister was alone in the house
that night?"

"Sure. Who could have been there with her?"

"I'm not answering riddles. I'm asking them."

"I've got my fingers crossed. The answer is that there wasn't any one
there. At first I thought she was going out--but she wasn't, and when I
asked her was she, she got real peeved at me."

"Aa-a-h! You thought she was going out that night?"

"Uh-huh," came the answer between bites at a huge lobster salad.

"What made you think that?"

"Oh! just something. You know, I don't get credit for having eyes, but I
sure have. And I never did understand that business anyway. But then Sis
always has been the queerest thing--ever since she married Gerald.
Say--" she looked up eagerly--"ain't he the darndest old crab you ever
saw in your life?"

"Why, I--"

"Ain't he? Honest?"

"He's not exactly jovial."

"He's a lemon! Just a plain juicy lemon. And I think she was a nut for
marrying him."

"But--" Carroll proceeded cautiously--"you made the remark just now that
something was the queerest thing. What did you mean by that?"

"Oh! I guess I was crazy--or something. But she got sore at me when I
asked her--"



"What did you ask her?"

"Why--" she looked up innocently--"about that suit-case!"

"What suit-case? When was it?"

"It was the day before Mr. Warren died--I always remember everything
now by that date. Anyway--I went in her room that morning to ask
something about what I should take to Hazel's--and what do you think
she was doing?"

"I'll bite," he answered with assumed jocularity--"what was she doing?"

"Packing a suit-case!"

"No?" Carroll was keenly interested--struggling not to show it.

"Yes, sir. I asked her what was she doing it for--and that's when she got
peeved. I told you she was a queer one."

"Indeed she must be. Packing a suit-case--"

"And that ain't all that was funny about that, either, Mr. Carroll."

"No? What else about it was peculiar?"

"That suit-case--" and Evelyn lowered her voice to an impressive
whisper--"was gone from the house the next day--and the day after it
showed up again and when I asked Sis wasn't that funny she told me to
mind my own business!"



Carroll tried to appear disinterested--strove to make his manner casual;
jocular even. Evelyn was piecing the threads of circumstances together
and the events surrounding the Warren murder were slowly clarifying in
Carroll's brain.

But he knew that now, of all times, he must keep her from thinking that
he had any particular interest in her chatter. She was completely off
guard--and he knew that for his own interests, she must remain so.

So he assumed a bantering attitude--he resorted to what she would have
termed "kidding."

"Aren't you the observant young woman, though? Not a single thing escapes
your eagle eye, does it?"

She pouted. "Oh! rag me if you want to. But I am _terribly_ noticing.
There ain't many things that happen which I don't get wise to."

"Not even vanishing suit-cases, eh?"

"No: not even that. It was funny about that, though. At first I thought
maybe Sis was packing up to go meet Gerald in Nashville--but I figured
out that it was bad enough to have to live with him here without chasing
all over the country after him."

"You say that suit-case left the house after she packed it?"

"Sure pop."

"Who took it?"

"I don't know. Sis was out a couple of times that day--so I guess she

Carroll shrugged. "She was probably sending some of Mr. Lawrence's
belongings to him in Nashville."

"Huh! There're some things even a great detective like you don't know.
Don't you suppose I noticed that the clothes she was packing in that
suit-case were _hers_?"


"You bet your life, I noticed. You see," she grew suddenly confidential.
"There's a certain kind of perfume Sis uses--awful expensive. Roland
Warren used to bring it to her. Well, I've been using it too--and Sis
never did get wise. I only used it when she did--and when she smelled
it, she didn't know that she was smelling what I had on. Well, it isn't
likely she was sending that to Gerald, is it?"

"Hardly. But are you sure she packed it?"

"I'll say I am. I saw her do it. And then two days later I saw the bottle
on her dressing table again--and so I just naturally looked to see if the
suit-case was back and it surely was."

"But perhaps it never left the house?"

"Guess again, Mr. Carroll. I know--because just before I went to Hazel's
I hunted all over for it, to get some of that extract myself. And the
suit-case wasn't there. Believe me--it's _some_ perfume, too!"

"You say Mr. Warren gave it to her?"

"He sure did. That man wasn't any piker, believe me. It costs twelve
dollars an _ounce_!"


"Yeh--goodness knows how much a pound would cost. I used it all the
time--I knew when he gave it to Sis he meant it for me--because, like I
told you, he was simply crazy about me. Told me so dozens of times. Said
he came to see me. It used to bore him terribly when he'd have to sit in
the room and talk to Sis and Gerald."

"I fancy it did--" Carroll summoned a waiter--"A little baked Alaska
for dessert?"

"Baked Alaska! Oh! boy! you sure spoke a mouthful that time. I'm simply
_insane_ over it!"

She evidently had not exaggerated. She absorbed enough of the dessert
to have satisfied two growing men. It did Carroll good to witness her
frank enjoyment of his luncheon. She glanced at her wrist watch and
rose hastily--

"Goodness me, I've simply _got_ to be going."


She made a wry face: "Hazel Gresham's. Honestly, women get queer when
they grow up--get older than twenty. Hazel has been acting so
_peculiarly_ lately--"

"That's natural, isn't it, Miss Rogers? Her fiance killed--"

"Oh! shucks! I don't mean that. That wouldn't be queer. But there's
something else bothering her. And when I try to get her to tell me what
it is, she gets right snippy and tells me to mind my own business. And
I'll tell you right now, Mr. Carroll--if there's one person in the whole
world who always minds their own business--and who doesn't pay the
slightest attention to other peoples' affairs--that person is me. I
started that a long time ago when I read something some one wrote in a
book about how much happier folks could be if they never bothered with
other folk's business--and it struck me as awfully logical. And so that's
what I've always done. Don't you think I'm sensible?"

"I certainly do. Very sensible. And I'm sorry Miss Gresham isn't
feeling well."

"Oh! she feels well enough. She's just acting nutty. And as for when your
name is mentioned--O-o-oh!"

"_My_ name?" Carroll was genuinely surprised.

"Yes siree-bob! I started telling her all about what good friends you
and I have gotten to be--and would you believe it! she jumped all
over me--just like Sis did when I told her--and said I shouldn't
associate with professional detectives--and it was immoral--and all
that sort of thing."


"You bet she did. It was scandalous! Of course I told her what a ducky
you are--but she begged me not to go with you any more. I told her she
was crazy--because I really don't think there's anything so very
terrible about you--do you?"

"At least," smiled Carroll, "I won't eat you. But what you tell me about
Miss Gresham is interesting. Why in the world should she be prejudiced
against the man who is trying to locate the slayer of her fiance?"

"Ask me something easy. I reckon it's just like I said before: when a
woman grows up--gets to be twenty--she gets mentally unbalanced--or
something. Honestly, I haven't met a woman over nineteen years of age
in the _longest_ time who didn't have a crazy streak in her somewhere.
Have you?"

"I'd hardly say that much--" They had crossed the hotel lobby, swung
through the doors and were standing on the sidewalk unconsciously braced
against the biting wind which shrieked around the corner and cut to the
bone, giving the lie to the bright sunshine and its promise of warmth.

"Brrrr!" shivered Evelyn--and Carroll rose eagerly to the hint.

"I'd be delighted to ride you to Miss Gresham's in my car--"

"Would you? That'd be simply splendiferous! And I'd like Hazel to meet
you--then she'd know that you're just a regular human being in spite of
what everyone says."

During the drive to the Gresham home, which stood on the side of the
mountain at the extreme southern end of the city--Evelyn did about a
hundred and one per cent of the talking. She blithely discussed
everything from the economic effect of the recent election to the
campaign against one-piece bathing suits for women: indicating
well-defined, if immature opinions on every subject. She informed him
that she was delighted with suffrage and opposed to prohibition, that the
League of Nations would be all right if only it was not so far away, that
she was sincerely of the belief that straight lines would pass out within
the year and the girl with the curvy figure have a chance again in the
world, that fur coats were all the rage--and he ought to see her
sister's--it was the _grandest_ in the city, that--she orated at length
on any subject which occurred to her tireless mind; securing his dumb
Okeh to her views--and liking him more and more with each passing minute
because he treated her seriously: like a full grown woman of twenty--or

They pulled up at the curb of the Gresham home. As they did so Garry
Gresham swung out of the gate, paused--and his eyes widened in
astonishment at sight of Carroll. Then he stepped quickly to the curb as
Carroll and the girl alighted.

"Hello, Garry," greeted Evelyn boldly. It was the first time she had
ever called him by his first name. But Gresham did not notice. He nodded
a curt "Hello, Evelyn" and addressed himself to Carroll--eyes level,
manner direct.

"What do you want here, Carroll?"

There was an undertone of earnestness in the young man's words which the
detective did not miss. He simulated innocence: "I? Nothing--"

Garry Gresham frowned. "You had no particular reason for coming here?"

"None whatever. Why?"

"I fancied it was peculiar--after your original suspicion of my sister--"

Carroll laughed good-naturedly. "Rid your mind of that, my friend. I
merely happened to be downtown with Miss Rogers--and drove her up here in
my car. As a matter of fact, if you have no objection, I'd like very much
to meet your sister."


"Because she was Roland Warren's fiancee. Because she can tell me some
things about Warren which no one else can tell me. Because the Warren
case is almost as far from solution as it was one minute after the
killing occurred."

Gresham thought intensively for a moment. "You can give me your word of
honor, Carroll, that you are convinced that my sister is not connected in
any way with the crime?"

"I can, Gresham. So far as I now know, your sister has no connection
whatever with the case. But she must necessarily be in possession of
certain personal details regarding Warren which I'd like to find out."

Gresham started back toward the house. "You may talk to her," he decided
briefly--"if she is willing. But I prefer to be present during the

Carroll bowed. "As you will, Gresham."

They walked to the house and Garry led the way to the front hall. Evelyn,
considerably piqued at being ignored, took advantage of his disappearance
in search of his sister, to open up a broadside of inconsequential
chatter before which her previous efforts paled into insignificance. And
it was in the midst of her verbal barrage that Gresham appeared at the
far end of the hall with his sister.

Carroll was pleasantly surprised. Evelyn's protestations of intimacy with
Hazel Gresham had implanted in his mind the impression that she was
decidedly of the flapper type. He was glad to find that she was not.

She was not a beautiful girl: rather she belonged in that very desirable
category which is labeled "Sweet." There was an attractive wistfulness
about her--an undeniable charm, a wholesomeness--the sort of a woman,
reflected Carroll instantly, whom a sensible man marries.

There was no hint of affectation about her. Her eyes were a trifle red
and swollen and she seemed in the grip of something more than mere
excitement. But in her dress there was no ostentation--it was somber, but
not black. And she came straight to Carroll--her eyes meeting his
squarely--and they mutually acknowledged Evelyn's gushing, but unheard,

"Miss Gresham--"

"Mr. Carroll--"

They seated themselves about a small table which stood in the center of
the reception hall, and even Evelyn sensed the undercurrent of tenseness
in the air. Her tongue became reluctantly still although she did break in
once with a triumphant--"Ain't he like I told you he was?" to Hazel.

It was Garry who introduced the subject. "Mr. Carroll wants to ask you
something about Roland," he said softly--and Carroll, intercepting the
look which passed between brother and sister, felt a sense of warmth--a
pleasant glow; albeit it was tinged with guilt--as though he had
blundered in on something sacred.

The girl's voice came softly in reply: her gaze unwavering.

"What is it you wish to know, Mr. Carroll?"

The detective was momentarily at a loss. He conscripted his entire store
of tact--"I don't want to cause you any embarrassment, Miss Gresham--"

"This is no time for equivocation, Mr. Carroll. You may ask me whatever
you wish."

"Thank you," he answered gratefully. "You have, of course, heard
that there is a woman connected with Mr. Warren's death--the woman
in the taxicab."

Her face grew pallid, but she nodded. "Yes. Of course."

He watched her closely--"Have you the slightest idea--the vaguest
suspicion--of that woman's identity?"

"No!" she answered--and he knew that she had spoken the truth.

"You have thought of it--of her--a good deal?"


"Mind you--I'm not asking if you _know_--I'm merely asking if you have a

"I have not--not the faintest."

"You were quite satisfied--pardon the intense personal trend of my
questions, Miss Gresham--that during his engagement to you, Mr. Warren
was--well, that he was carrying on no affair with another woman?"

"I say, Carroll--" It was Garry Gresham who interrupted and his voice
was harsh. But his sister halted him with a little affectionate gesture--

"Mr. Carroll is right, Garry: he must know these things." She turned
again to Carroll. "No, Mr. Carroll--I knew of no such affair--nor did I
suspect one. When I became engaged to Mr. Warren I placed my trust in him
as a gentleman. I still believe in him."

"Yet we _know_ that there _was_ a woman in that cab!"

"No-o. We know that the taxi-driver _says_ there was."

"That's true--"

Hazel Gresham leaned forward: her manner that of a suppliant. "Mr.
Carroll--why don't you abandon this horrible investigation? Why aren't
you content to let matters rest where they are?"

"I couldn't do that, Miss Gresham."

"Why not?"

"Mr. Warren's murderer is still at large--and as a matter of duty--"

"Duty to whom? I am content to let the matter rest where it is. All of
your investigation isn't going to restore Roland to life. You can only
cause more misery, more suffering, more heartbreak--"

"It is a duty to the State, Miss Gresham. And, frankly, I cannot
understand your attitude--"

"She has had enough--" broke in Garry Gresham. "She's been through hell
since--that night."

"I'm afraid, though--"

"Mr. Carroll--you _can_ call it off, if you will." Hazel Gresham rose
and paced the room. "The case is in your hands. You can gain nothing by
finding the person who committed the--the--deed. Let's drop it. Do me
that favor, won't you? Let's consider the whole thing at an end!"

David Carroll was puzzled. But he was honest--"I'm afraid I cannot, Miss
Gresham. I must, at least, try to solve it."

She paused before him: figure tensed--

"Then let me say, Mr. Carroll--that I hope you fail!"



From the Gresham home, David Carroll went straight to headquarters.
Developments had been tumbling over each other so fast that he found
himself unable to sort them properly. He wanted to talk the thing over
with someone, to place each new lead in the investigation under the
microscope in an attempt to discern its true value in relation to the
killing of Roland Warren.

Eric Leverage was the one man to whom he could talk. And, locked in the
Chief's office, he told all that he knew about the case, detailing
conversations, explaining the situation as he understood it, reserving
his suspicions and watching keenly for the reaction on the stolid mind of
the plodding, practical Chief.

Carroll placed an exceedingly high valuation on Leverage's opinion--even
though the minds of the two men were as far apart as the poles. But
Leverage was a magnificent man for the office he held: competent,
methodical, intensely orthodox--but typical of the modern police in
contradistinction to the modern detective.

Carroll knew that modern police methods have received a great deal more
than their share of unjust criticism. He knew that the entire theory of
national policing is based on an exhaustive system of records and
statistics. It operates by brute force and all-pervading power rather
than by any attempt at sublety or keen deduction. The former is so much
safer as a method. And the combination of the two--keen analysis, logical
deduction and plodding investigation--can perform wonders, which explains
why Carroll and Leverage worked hand-in-hand with implicit confidence in
one another.

Leverage listened with rapt attention to the report of his friend.
Occasionally the corners of his large humorous mouth twitched as Carroll
touched on one or two of the lighter phases of his investigation--and
once Leverage even twitted him about becoming "one of these here
butterfly investigators"--but Carroll knew that no word of his escaped
the retentive brain of the chief of the city's police force, and that
each was being carefully catalogued with truer knowledge of its proper
importance than Carroll had yet been able to determine.

"And so," finished Carroll, "there you are. The thing is in as pretty a
mess as I care to encounter. Frankly, I don't know which way to turn
next--which is why I wanted to talk things over. Perhaps, between us,
we can arrive at some solution of the affair--determine upon some
course of action."

"Yes," responded Leverage slowly, "perhaps we can. Only trouble is--there
are so many different ways of spillin' the beans that we're takin' a
chance no matter what we do. Answer me this, David: if you had to point
out one person right now as the guilty one--which'd you choose?"

Carroll shook his head. "You know I don't like to answer questions of
that sort."

"But you can tell me--"

"No-o. It might start your mind working along lines parallel to mine--and
I prefer to have you buck me. But, in perfect honesty, I'll tell you that
I'm all at sea. I couldn't conscientiously make an arrest now."

"Well--I'm willing to air my opinions," volunteered the Chief. "And I'm
telling you that if it was up to me to make an arrest to-day I'd nab Mr.
Gerald Lawrence--and haul in William Barker for good measure."

"M-m-m!" Carroll nodded approvingly. "Sounds reasonable. How about
the woman?"

"That's what's got me puzzled. I've worked on that end of it, and I've
had several of my best men circulating around trying to gather dope from
the gossip shops--but there doesn't seem to be a clue from this end.
Anyway--I don't believe Warren was killed by the woman in the taxi!"

Carroll was genuinely impressed. "You don't?"

"No. Don't believe any woman--I don't care who--would have killed him
under those circumstances."

"You mean you believe the woman in the taxi had nothing to do with it?"

"I don't mean anything of the kind. I know darn well she had something to
do with it--but I don't believe she did the actual killing. That's why
I'd arrest this bird Lawrence and also William Barker. They either killed
the man or they know all about it."

"But," suggested Carroll slowly, "suppose we admit that your theory is
correct--and I've thought of it myself: how and where was that body put
into the taxicab?"

Leverage shrugged: "That's where you come in, Carroll. I ain't the sort
of thinker who can puzzle out something like that. Of course I'd say the
only place the shift could have been made was when the taxi stopped at
the R. L. & T. railroad crossing--and every time I think that it strikes
me I must be wrong. Because any birds working a case like that couldn't
have counted on such a break in luck."

"It might have been," suggested Carroll, "that two men entered the cab
at that crossing: Warren and another--both alive, and the killing might
have occurred between then and the time the cab reached number 981 East
End Avenue."

"Might have--yes. But something tells me it didn't. It's asking
too much--"

"Then what _do_ you think happened?"

"I don't think. There just simply isn't anything you can think about an
affair like that. You either know everything or you don't know a thing!"

"I think you're about right, Leverage. And now--let's run over the list
we have in front of us. Spike Walters--the taxi driver--comes first.
What about him?"

Leverage rubbed his chin. "Funny about Spike, Carroll--I think the kid's
story is true."

"So do I."

"But unless there's some other answer to this affair--it's damned hard to
believe that the body could have been dumped into that cab, or that the
killing could have occurred there, without Spike knowing about it. Ain't
that a fact?"

"It is."

"And if he knows anything he hasn't told, the odds are on him to know a
whale of a sight more. And if he knows a whole heap--then the chances are
he knows enough to justify us in keeping him in jail."

"You're right, Leverage. If Spike is innocent he's not undergoing any
enormous hardship. But if his story is untrue in any particular--then it
is probably entirely false. And since we cannot understand how that body
got into the cab or where the murderer went--we've got to hold on to
Spike. Meanwhile, we both believe him."

"You said it, David. Now, next on the list we have Barker. What
about him?"

"I don't like Barker particularly," said Carroll frankly. "He hasn't
what you would call an engaging personality. Not only that, but we are
agreed that he knows a great deal about the case which he hasn't
told--and doesn't intend to tell unless we force him to it. But we'll go
back to him later: he's too important a link in the chain to pass over
casually when we're trying to hit on a definite course of action.
Remembering, of course, that his visits to the Lawrence home have a
certain degree of significance."

Leverage chuckled grimly. "You're coming around to my way of thinking,
David Carroll. Remember, I wanted to stick that bird behind the bars the
first day we talked to him--when we first knew he was lying to us."

"Yes--but we wouldn't have gained anything--then. Perhaps now the time
is ripe to try some of that third degree stuff. But let's take up the
others. My little friend, Miss Evelyn Rogers, for instance."

Leverage chuckled. "Go to it, David. You know more about that kid than I
ever will--or want to. Ain't suspecting her of being the woman in the
taxi, are you?"

"Good Lord! no! She hasn't that much on her mind. And if we manage to
solve this case, we can thank her. That little tongue of hers wags at
both ends--and out of the welter of words that drip from her lips--I've
managed to extract more information than from every other source we've
tapped. I've been awfully lucky there--"

"Don't talk like a simp, David--'tain't luck. That's your way of
working. And because there isn't anything flashy about it--you call it
luck. Why, you poor fish--there isn't any other man in the country who'd
have had the common sense to do what you did--to know that it would be a
sensible move."

"Some day, Eric," grinned Carroll, "I'm going to throw you down--I'm
going to flunk on a case. And then you'll say to my face what you must
often have thought--that I'm a lucky, old-maidish detective."

"G'wan wid ye! Fishing for compliments--that's what you are."

Carroll grew serious again. "I think we're safe in eliminating Evelyn
Rogers from our calculations except as a gold mine of information. Which
takes us to her friend--Hazel Gresham."

"And Garry Gresham. You say he didn't want you to discuss the case with
his sister."

"They both acted mighty peculiarly," agreed Carroll. "One of them, I'm
sure, knows something about that case--has some inside dope on it. And
the one who knew has told the other one--the affection between them is
something pretty to look at, Leverage."

"You think one of them is in on the know?"

"Yes, I think so. And I think that their information touches someone
pretty close to them. That's obviously why they pleaded so hard with me
to call off the investigation."

"M-m-m--They're pretty good friends to the Lawrences, aren't they!"

"Yes--with Naomi Lawrence, anyway. I don't believe Gerald Lawrence is
especially friendly with anyone. But the Greshams and Mrs. Lawrence are
pretty intimate."

"And you believe that the alibi Miss Rogers established for Hazel
Gresham is good?"

Carroll hesitated a moment before replying. When he did speak it was with
obvious reluctance: "I hate to say so, Leverage--because I like Evelyn
Rogers and I took an instant liking to both Hazel Gresham and her
brother. But there seems to be something wrong about it. I do think that
Evelyn Rogers believed she was telling the truth--but I'm not so sure
that her dope was accurate. Just where the inaccuracy comes--I haven't
the least idea--but I'm not letting my likes and dislikes stand in the
way of a sane outlook on the case. I am convinced that both the young
Greshams know something more than they have told. As a matter of fact,
there isn't a doubt of it--they showed it clearly when they begged me to
call off the investigation. We know further that they are intimate with
Naomi Lawrence--and we know that either Naomi or her husband--or
both--are mixed up in this case. Events dovetail too perfectly for us to
ignore the fact that however right Evelyn Rogers may believe she is--she
may be wrong!"

"And I'm not forgetting, either--" said Leverage grimly, "that Hazel
Gresham was engaged to marry Warren!"

"No. Nor am I. It's a puzzling combination of circumstances, Leverage: a
perfectly knit thing--if we don't--and so now we come to Gerald Lawrence
and his wife."

Leverage did not take his cue immediately. He sat drumming a heavy tattoo
on the tabletop, forehead corrugated in a frown of intensive thought.
When he did speak it was in a manner well-nigh abstract--

"Gerald Lawrence probably lied when he said he didn't leave Nashville
until the two a.m. train."

"He may have. One thing which impressed me about Lawrence was this,
Leverage--when the man started bucking me he thought he had a perfect
alibi. He was supremely confident that I was going to be completely
nonplussed. It was only after I had questioned him closely that he
realized his alibi was no alibi at all. He realized he couldn't prove
where he was at the time the murder was committed--that for all the
evidence he could adduce he might have been right here in this city."


"The significant fact is this," explained Carroll--"when he made the
discovery that his alibi was no good--_he_ was the most surprised person
in the room!"

"And you're thinking," suggested the Chief, "that if he had actually had
a hand in the murder of Warren he would have had an alibi that would have
been an alibi?"

"Just about that. Get me straight, Chief--I would rather believe Lawrence
guilty than any other person--except perhaps Barker--with whom I have
come in contact since this investigation began. He has one of the most
unpleasant personalities I have ever known. He is a congenital grouch.
But he told his Nashville story so frankly--and then became so panicky
with surprise when my questioning showed him that his alibi was
rotten--that we must not fasten definitely upon him--"

"--Except to be pretty darn sure that he knows more about it than he
has told."

"Yes. Perhaps."

"Perhaps. Ain't you sure he does?"

"I'm not sure of anything. I haven't one single item of information save
that regarding the one person whom I would prefer to see left clear."

"And that is?"

"Mrs. Naomi Lawrence."

Leverage nodded agreement. "Things do look pretty tough for her."

"More so than you think, Eric." Carroll designated on his fingers, "Count
the facts against her as we know them: irrespective of their weight or

"First, she is a beautiful woman, twelve years younger than her husband
and very unhappy in her domestic life. Second, she was very friendly with
Roland Warren. Of course, Miss Rogers' fatuous belief that Warren was
crazy about her is pure rot: he called at that house to see either
Gerald or Naomi Lawrence. We must admit that the chances are the woman
was the person in whom he was interested. Third, in substantiation of
that belief we know that he frequently gave her presents. It doesn't
matter how valuable the presents were--he gave them. That proves a
certain amount of interest."

Carroll paused for a brief explanation. "Mind you, Leverage--I'm not
trying to make out a case against Naomi Lawrence--I'm only being honest.
To continue--fourth, we know that in spite of the fact that she is
afraid to remain in a house alone at night, she suggested that her
sister visit at the home of Hazel Gresham on the night Warren was
killed. Her husband was supposed--according to his story--to be in
Nashville. It is absurd to presume that when she let Evelyn go out for
the night she expected to remain alone until morning. Therefore, for the
sake of argument, we will assume that she knew her husband would be back
that night. If that is the case--we are also forced to believe that
there was something sinister about it.

"Fifth--we are fairly positive that she packed a suit-case the morning
before the murder, that the suit-case left the house that morning and
that two days later it mysteriously reappeared--"

"Yes," interrupted Leverage, "and we know that Warren was planning to
make a trip with someone else!"


"Which makes it pretty clear," finished Leverage positively, "that Mrs.
Lawrence was the woman in the taxicab!"



The men looked at each other in silence for a minute. Leverage was
sorry for Carroll--sorry because he knew that Carroll was disappointed,
that the boyish detective had hoped against hope that the trail would
lead to some person other than the flaming creature who was Gerald
Lawrence's wife.

It was not that Carroll had become infatuated with her. It was merely
that he liked her--liked her sincerely--and was sorry for her.

The conclusions to be inevitably reached from the premise that Naomi was
the woman in the taxicab were none too pleasant. In the first place there
was the matter of morals involved. It had been pretty well established
that the dead man had planned a trip to New York with someone: there was
the fact that he had purchased a drawing room and two railroad
tickets--only one of which later had been found in his pockets at
midnight that night.

Then there was the circumstance of Mrs. Lawrence packing her suit-case
and taking it, or sending it, from the house during the day--and its
reappearance a couple of days later. It also explained her willingness
that Evelyn spend the night with Hazel Gresham. Knowing that she, Naomi,
was going to leave her home before midnight, she had not wanted her
youthful sister to spend the balance of the night alone--and so had sent
her to the house of a friend. That much was clear--

"It's hell!" burst out Carroll.

"You said it."

"Suppose she _was_ the woman in the taxicab--?"

"Yes--suppose she was: it doesn't prove that she killed Warren?"

"No--but it proves something a good deal worse, Leverage. It proves that
she was going to elope with him."

"It may--we don't _know_!"

"We don't _know_ anything. But there is a certain logic which is
irrefutable--and, confound it! man--what are we going to do now?"

Leverage refused to meet his friend's eyes. "We-e-ll, David--suppose you
tell me what _you_ think we should do?"

"We ought to--but it's rotten! Absolutely rotten!"

"Trouble with you, David," said Leverage kindly--"is that you're too
damned human!"

"I can't help it. It isn't my fault. And if I was sure that Naomi
Lawrence was the woman in that taxi, I'd arrest her immediately. But I'm
not sure, Leverage--and neither are you. Let's admit that it's a ten to
one bet--we're still not positive. And I wonder if you realize what her
arrest would mean?"


"We can't arrest a woman of her prominence socially without a reason--and
a darned good reason. Therefore, when we arrest her we have to tell the
public why we're doing it. And what do we tell 'em? That she was--or
might have become--Warren's light-o'-love! That she was going to elope
with him!"

"And yet, David--all of that is probably true."

"Probably--yes. But not positively. We haven't proved anything. And once
we explode that social bomb--we've started something that she'll never
live down. We've done more than that--we've played the devil with
Evelyn's chance of happiness. That kid will be in a swell position when
the scandal-mongers get hold of the gossip about her sister. Can't you
hear 'em--babbling about it being in the blood?"

"But she might prove that none of it is true."

"That doesn't make a bit of difference. Gossip pays no attention to a
refutation. Leave consideration for Mrs. Lawrence out of it
altogether--and figure where Evelyn comes in on the backwash."

"It _is_ tough. But this is a murder case--and, anyway, I don't think she
killed Warren."

"Even if she didn't--I fancy she'd rather be convicted of murder--than of
what this will lead to. I'm afraid, Leverage. We're trifling with
something a good deal more sacred than human life. If Naomi Lawrence is
guilty--there's no objection to her suffering. But her kid sister will
suffer too--"

"You don't think, Carroll--that she looked like that kind?"

"Good God! _no!_ And even if we prove that she was the woman in the
taxicab--that she was going to elope with Warren--it still won't prove
that she was that kind. There's something about that husband of
hers--meet him, Leverage--meet him! That's the only way you'll have any
understanding of my sympathy for the wife."

Leverage rose and walked to the window. He spoke without turning,
"Tough--David; mighty tough. And we've got to do something."

No answer. Carroll had lighted a cigarette and was puffing fiercely upon
it. Leverage spoke again softly--

"Haven't we?"

"I suppose we have--"


Another long silence. "Isn't there anything we can do, Eric--before we
start something that no human power can stop? Something to make us
sure--to give us a clincher? That's all I ask. You say I'm cursed with
too much of the milk of human kindness. Perhaps I am--perhaps that's what
makes me no better detective than I am--but it's a trait--good or
bad--that I'll never get over. And until every possible doubt as to that
woman's complicity has been removed, I am opposed to any such course as
arrest and public announcement of the reasons therefor."

Leverage shook his head. He was disappointed in his friend. Not that
Carroll would flinch from duty--but Leverage considered it a weakness
that Carroll insisted on postponing the inevitable. He was sorry--he knew
that it had to come: Naomi's arrest and the consequent nasty publicity.
His manner, as he addressed Carroll, was that of a man who washes his
hands of something--

"It's your case, David. Handle it your own way. That's been our agreement
always when we worked together--and I'm game to stick to it now."

Carroll flushed. "Yet you're disappointed in me?"

"A little--yes," said Leverage honestly. "But I've been disappointed in
you before, David--and you've always made me sorry for it. I know you
won't throw me down this time. You've never done it yet."

"You're safe!" said Carroll grimly. "No--" as Leverage started for the
door; "Don't go! I want to think for a minute--"

Leverage sank obediently into a chair. Carroll paced the room slowly. He
was thinking--struggling to decide upon a plan of action which would
delay the arrest of Naomi Lawrence until the ultimate moment. And finally
he flung back his head triumphantly. Leverage looked up with pleasure at
the sound of relief in his friend's voice--



"You say this case is mine--absolutely? To handle as I see fit?"


"You agree that we have enough against William Barker to arrest him?"

"Gosh--I said that the first day we met him."

"You also agree that he knows whatever connection the Lawrences have with
the Warren murder?"

"I do."

"Then get Barker. Bring him here!"

Leverage departed with a light step. There was a smile on his lips. Here
was the style of procedure with which he was familiar and in full
sympathy. Here was action supplanting stagnation--something definite
succeeding the long nerve-wracking period of conjecture which appeared to
lead nowhere save into a labyrinth of endless discussion.

He started the machinery of the department to moving. When he returned to
his office an hour later, Carroll was still seated motionlessly before
the grate fire--an extinguished cigar between his teeth--eyes focused
intently on the dancing flames. Leverage spoke--

"I've got Barker."

"Where is he?"


"Bring him in. You stay here when he comes--send everybody else out."

Cartwright brought Barker into the room and Leverage dismissed the
plainclothesman. Barker, eyes wide with fear, face pallid--yet with a
certain belligerence in his attitude--confronted the two detectives.

"I say--" he started, "what does this mean?"

"It means," said Carroll coldly, "that you are under arrest for the
murder of Roland Warren!"

"That I'm--" Barker fell back a step. It was plain that he was surprised.
"You're arresting _me_ for Warren's murder?"


"But I didn't do it. I'll swear I didn't."

"Of course you'll swear it--" Carroll's steely voice excited a vast
admiration in Leverage's breast. Many times before he had seen the
transformation in his friend from all too human softness to almost
inhuman coldness--yet he never failed of surprise at the phenomenon.
"But we know you did do it."

"You don't know nothin' of the kind," Barker's voice came in a
half-snarl. "I don't give a damn how smart you fly-cops are--you can't
prove nothin' on me."

"That so?"

"Yes--that's so. Just because I worked for Warren ain't no reason why you
should arrest me for his murder. Suppose I had wanted to kill him--and I
didn't--didn't have no reason at all. But suppose I had wanted too--you
know bloody well that I didn't do it."

"Why do we know that?"

"Because you know he was killed by a woman!"

"Aa-a-ah! That's what you think, eh?"

"I know a woman killed him."

"You were present?"

"Bah! Trying to trap me--are you? Well, I ain't going to be trapped. I
don't know nothin' about it. Like I said from the first."

"But you do know something about it," insisted Carroll icily. "And I'd
advise you to come clean with us."

"There ain't nothin' to come clean about."

"You say we know that a woman killed Warren. You seem pretty confident
of that yourself. Well, we happen to know that you know who this woman
was. Who was she?"

For the first time Barker's eyes shifted. "You know as well as me
who she was?"

"Who was she?" Carroll's voice fairly snapped.

"It was--Miss Hazel Gresham!"

Carroll stared at the man. "Listen to me, Barker--you're lying and we
know you're lying. You know as well as we do that Miss Gresham was at her
own home when Warren was killed. I don't want any more lies! Not one! Now
tell us the truth!"

Barker stared first at Carroll--then at Leverage. An expression of doubt
crossed his face. It was patent that these men knew more than he had
credited them. Finally he shrugged his shoulders--

"Well--Mr. Carroll, that bein' the case--I ain't goin' to stick my head
in a noose for nobody!"

"You've decided to tell us the truth!"

"I have."

"You know who killed Roland Warren?"

"Yes--I know who killed Roland Warren!"

"Who was it?"

Barker's face went white. Leverage and Carroll leaned forward
eagerly--nervously. It seemed an eternity before Barker's answer
came--but when it did, his words rang with conviction--he uttered a

"_Mrs. Naomi Lawrence_!"



Barker's words reverberated through the room--to be succeeded by an
almost unnatural stillness; a silence punctured by the ticking of the
cheap clock on the mantel, by the crackling of the flames in the grate,
by the whistling of the wind around the corners of the gaunt gray stone
building which housed the police department.

The accused man looked eagerly upon the faces of the two detectives;
then, slowly, his chest expanded with relief: he saw that they
believed him.

And Carroll did believe. It was not that he wanted to--he had fought
himself mentally away from that conviction time after time; had
threshed over every scintilla of evidence, searching futilely for
something which would clear this radiant woman whom he had met but
once. Carroll's interest--however platonic--was intensely personal.
The woman had impressed herself indelibly upon him. It was perhaps her
air of game helplessness; perhaps the stark tragedy which he had seen
reflected in her eyes when he had first entered her home and saw that
she knew why he had come.

And now, driven into the corner which he had hoped to avoid, his
retentive memory brought back a circumstance well-nigh forgotten. He
addressed Barker, his voice soft-hopeless.

"You mean that Mrs. Lawrence was the woman in the taxicab?"

"Yes, sir." The "sir," which Barker used for the first time was

"Where had she been during the evening--after dark of the night of

"At home--I believe."

"You believe?"

"Yes, sir."

Carroll's eyes lighted. His voice cracked out accusingly: "Don't you
_know_ that that is incorrect?"

Barker shook his head. "Why, no, sir. Of course, I ain't sayin' positive
that she _was_ at home all evenin', but--"

"As I understand it," said Carroll slowly--"an accommodation train came
in just about that time: isn't that a fact?"

"Some train came in then--I don't know which one it was."

"Isn't it a fact that the woman who got into the taxicab had been a
passenger on that train: that she got off with the other passengers,
carrying a suit-case?"

"There ain't nobody can see the passengers get off the trains at the
Union Station, Mr. Carroll. You go down them steps and approach the
waitin' room underground--crossin' under the tracks."

"But you do know that this woman--whoever she was--passed through the
waiting room with the passengers who came on that train, don't you?"

"Yes, sir--she done that, but it don't mean nothin'."

"Why don't it?"

"Well, sir, for one thing--ain't it true that the papers said the
suit-case she was carryin' wasn't hers at all. Ain't it a fact that she
had Mr. Warren's suit-case?"

"Well?" Carroll saw his last hope glimmering.

"You see, sir--Mr. Warren was meetin' Mrs. Lawrence at the station. He
got there with his suit-case at about ten minutes to twelve. She got
there about ten or fifteen minutes later--"

"How did she come?"

"On the street car. And when she come out--she was alone and it was his
suit-case she was carryin'--the same suit-case he had taken into the
station. The one you found in the taxicab."

"I see--" Carroll did not want to believe Barker's story, but he knew
that the man was telling the truth--or at least that most of what he was
saying was true. The detective seemed crushed with disappointment.
Leverage, seated in the corner of the room, chewing savagely on a big
black cigar--was sorry for his friend: sorry--yet proud of the way he was
standing the gaff of his chagrin. Carroll again spoke to Barker--manner
almost apathetic--

"You know a good deal more about this thing than you've told us, don't
you Barker?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well: let's have your story from the beginning to the end. I'll be
honest with you: I believe a good deal of what you've told me. Some of
your story I don't believe. Other portions of it need substantiation. But
you are mighty close to being charged with murder--and now is your
chance to clear yourself. Go to it!"

Barker plunged a hand into his pocket. "Can I smoke, Mr. Carroll?"

"Certainly. And sit down."

They drew up their chairs before the fire. Carroll did not look at
Barker, but Leverage's steady gaze was fixed on the man's crafty face.

"I'm going to come clean with you, Mr. Carroll. I'm going to tell you
everythin' I know--and everythin' I think. I didn't want to do it--and I
don't want to now. But I'd a heap rather have the job of convincin' you
that I ain't mixed up in this murder than I would of makin' a jury
believe the same thing. I reckon you'll give me a square deal."

"I will," snapped Carroll. "Go ahead."

"In the first place," started Barker slowly, "it's my personal opinion
that Mr. Warren never had no idea of marryin' Miss Gresham. Maybe I'm all
wrong there--but it's what I think. I can't prove that, of course--an' no
one else can't either.

"Also I happen to know that he's been crazy about Mrs. Lawrence for a
long time. He's been hangin' around the house a good deal--an' doin'
little things like a man will when he's nuts about a woman. For
instance, Mr. Warren wasn't no investing man: s'far's I know he had all
his money in gover'ment bonds and such like investments. But he sank some
money into them woolen mills that Mr. Lawrence owns. And also he
pretended that he liked that kid sister of Mrs. Lawrence's--Evelyn
Rogers. But there ain't hardly a doubt in my mind, Mr. Carroll--an' I'm
handin' it to you straight--that he was crazy about Mrs. Lawrence. And,
not meanin' no impertinence, sir--I ain't blamin' him a bit.

"Also, I reckon she wasn't exactly indifferent to him. She's been up in
his apartment twice--which is a terrible risky thing, an' somethin' no
woman will do unless she's wild about a feller. Oh! everything was proper
while she was there. I was at home all the time and I know. But she
was--what you call, indiscreet--that is, in comin' up there at all--no
matter how decent she acted when she was there. An' also, sir, she used
to write him notes--most every day."

"You have some of those notes?"

"No, sir. I had one--if you want the truth--but when I saw you was
watchin' me--sure, I know you've had a couple of dicks shadowing me--I
destroyed it."

"Where are the rest of her letters?"

"Mr. Warren used to burn 'em up careful. He wasn't takin' no chances of
someone findin' 'em and he bein' caught in a scandal--which is why I
think he really cared about her serious. His other lady friends he used
to joke about--but never Mrs. Lawrence. An' the one letter of her's that
I had--I'm betting that he looked for three days without stopping before
he gave it up as a bad job.

"That's the way things was when I seen him begin to make arrangements to
get away from town. It wasn't supposed to be none of my business and Mr.
Warren never was a feller I could ask questions of. When he had something
to tell me, he told it--an' I never got nothin' out of him by askin'.
But, bein' his valet, there was certain things I couldn't very well miss
knowin'. I know his apartment is sublet for the new tenants to come in on
the first of the month, he placed his car with a dealer to be sold and
he didn't order a new one an' he drew a whole heap of cash out of the
bank the day before he was killed.

"Also that day he sent me downtown to do some shoppin'. While I was
downtown I seen him go into the railroad ticket office. I didn't pay much
attention to that then and later on he drove by the house for a minute.
I had taken his laprobe out of the car the night before and forgot to put
it back--so I thought I'd better do it. I went downstairs without his
knowing it--and when I put the laprobe in the car I seen he had a
suit-case in there. An' the suit-case wasn't his, sir--the initials on it
was N.L.--which, if you know, sir--Mrs. Lawrence's name is Naomi.

"That made things pretty clear to me then. He drove off and come back
about a half hour later. I looked when he come back and the suit-case
wasn't in the car no more. And it was then that he handed me a big wad of
wages in advance and told me he wasn't going to need me no more and I
could quit any time after five o'clock in the afternoon."

Barker paused, lighted another cigarette from the stump of the one he
had been smoking--inhaled a great puff, and continued. His manner was
that of a man under great mental stress--as though he was struggling to
recall every infinitesimal detail which might possibly have a bearing
on the case.

"That sort of carries me along to the night, sir--as I left there at
five o'clock and he was still there--tellin' me goodbye and givin' me
an excellent reference and sayin' I was a good valet an' all like
that, sir.

"After leavin' there I went out and got some supper, and then I went up
to Kelly's place and horned into an open game of pool. You know Kelly's
place is pretty close to the Union Station and when it come about ten
o'clock I got tired and went an' sat down in the corner, eatin' a hot
dog from the stand in Kelly's--an' then I sort of got to thinkin'
things over.

"An' thinkin' things over that way, Mr. Carroll--I began to think that
Mrs. Lawrence was doin' a terrible foolish thing, and I was kinder sorry
about it. Now don't get no idea that I'm wantin' you to believe I got a
soft heart or anythin' like that--but then I sort of liked Mr. Warren and
I knew Mrs. Lawrence was a decent woman--and I knew once she got on the
train with Mr. Warren she was done for. And when I got to thinkin' about
that, sir--it struck me that maybe somethin' could be done to keep 'em
from eloping with each other that way. Not that I was plannin' to do
anything--but curiosity sort of got me, and along about eleven o'clock or
a little while after I went out of Kelly's and up to the Union Station. I
sat down over in the corner and waited for somethin' to happen--sort of
hopin' maybe I had been wrong all the time and there wasn't going to be
no elopement.

"I waited there a long time, and then suddenly a taxicab came up to the
curb and Mr. Warren got out. Then the taxicab beat it down-town again and
Mr. Warren went in the station. And as he come in one door, I beat it out
of the other."

"Why?" snapped Leverage.

"Because him seein' me there was certain to start somethin'. And I wasn't
hankerin' for nothin' like that to happen. So I went across the street
and tried to get shelter against the wall of that dump of a hotel over
there. An' it was cold: I ain't seen such a cold night in my life. I
almos' froze to death."

"And yet you continued to stand there?"

"Sure--I was curious. Kinder foolish, maybe, but I wanted to see had I
figured right about him eloping with Mrs. Lawrence. So I stood there,
darn near dead with the cold, when the midnight Union Station street car
stopped an' Mrs. Lawrence got out. An' the first thing I noticed was that
she wasn't carryin' no suit-case. I noticed that on account of havin'
seen her suit-case in Mr. Warren's car that day. She didn't carry
nothin' but one of these handbag things that women lug around with 'em."

"How was she dressed?"

"Fur coat and hat and a heavy veil."

"You could see the veil from across the street at midnight?"

"No sir. Not from there. But when she went in the depot, I followed
across the street and looked inside to see what was goin' to happen." He
paused a moment and then Carroll prodded him on--

"Well--what _did_ happen?"

"The minute Mr. Warren seen her come in he beat it through the opposite
door from where I was standin' out to the platform that runs parallel to
the tracks. An' he nodded to her to follow him. She sort of nodded like
she was wise, an' took a seat so's nobody would think anything in case
there was anyone there lookin' for something. Mr. Warren walked off down
the outside platform towards the baggage room an' after about three
minutes she gets up, kinder casual-like and follers. Soon as she went
through the door to the platform I went in the waitin' room."

"What did you do then?"

"Nothin'. Just made a bee line for the steam radiator an' tried to
get warm. I was so cold it hurt. An' I stood there for about ten
minutes. Then I heard that train comin' in an' I went outside into the
street again."

Carroll's voice was tense. "In all that time did you hear
anything--anything at all?"

Barker shook his head. "No sir--not a thing--except that train comin' in.
And then the passengers from it began to come through, and I was
surprised to see Mrs. Lawrence comin' with them, an' she was carryin' his

"Whose suit-case?"

"Mr. Warren's. She come on out to the curb an' called a taxicab."

"Where was the taxicab standing?"

"Parked against the curb on Atlantic Avenue about a hundred yards from
the entrance in the direction of Jackson street."

"How did she act?"

"Kinder nervous like. Noticin' her come out I seen the taxi driver when
he climbed back into his cab an' when he started her up. He picked up
Mrs. Lawrence an' she put the suit-case in front beside him. Then they
drove off. And that's all I know sir."

Carroll rose and walked slowly the length of the room.

"What did you think when you saw Mrs. Lawrence come out of the station
alone carrying Mr. Warren's suit-case? When she did that and called a
taxicab and went off in it alone?"

"Not knowin' about no killin', Mr. Carroll--I thought they'd got together
and talked things over an' decided to call off the elopement!"

"You did--" Carroll paused. "And the first time you knew of Warren's

"Was when I read the newspapers the next morning."

"Then why," barked the detective, "did you make the blunt statement that
Mrs. Lawrence killed Warren?"

"Because," said Barker simply, "I believe she did."

"How could she have killed him? When and how?"

"That's easy," explained Barker quietly. "If I'm right in thinkin' that
they was goin' to call off the elopement--they could have seen that taxi
standin' against the curb and he could have got in without bein' seen. It
was awful dark where the taxi was standin' an' the driver says himself
that he was over in the restaurant gettin' warm. So what I thought right
away was that Warren got in the taxi, an' she called it. That was so they
wouldn't be seen gettin' in together at that time of night. Then I
thought they drove off. And then--"

"Yes--and then?"

"It was while they were alone together in that taxi, that she
killed him!"



Long after William Barker left the room--held in custody under special
guard--David Carroll and Chief of Police Eric Leverage maintained a
thoughtful silence. Leverage wanted to talk--but refused to be the first
to broach the subject which each knew was uppermost in the mind of the
other. And it was Carroll who spoke first--

"Well, Eric," he said dully, "you called the turn that time."

"Reckon I did, David."

"It looks mighty bad for Mrs. Lawrence--mighty bad." He hesitated. "I
wonder whether Barker told the truth when he said he had been calling on
Mrs. Lawrence to apply for a job?"

"Why not?"

"Because when valets or butlers apply for domestic positions they don't
go to the front door, and Barker did on both occasions he visited that
house. No, Leverage--I don't think he told the truth there."

"Then what _was_ he doing at the house?"

"Mmm! Just struck me, Eric--that he may have been trying a little private

Leverage arched his eyebrows: "On Mrs. Lawrence?"

"Yes--on Mrs. Lawrence. You see, it's this way: according to Barker's own
story he knew everything which transpired at the station. If we believe
what he told us, and if he is correct in his belief that Mrs. Lawrence
did the killing, then we know he is the only person who--until now--had
any knowledge of the identity of the woman in the taxicab. That being the
case, and Barker being obviously not a high type of man, it is certainly
not unreasonable to presume that he was capitalizing his information."

"Seems plausible," grunted Leverage. "But where does it get us?"

"Just this far," explained Carroll. "Unless Barker was applying for a
position at the Lawrences--where they not only do not employ a male
servant, but have never employed one--he was not seeking employment
anywhere. He has been taking life pretty easy, all of which is
indicative of a supply of money from outside. And I fancy that Mrs.
Lawrence would pay a pretty fancy price to have her name left out of this
rotten scandal."

Leverage held Carroll with his eyes: "Do you believe Barker's
story, David?"

"Believe it? Why, yes. Most of it anyway."

"You believe Mrs. Lawrence was the woman in the taxicab?"

"I've got to believe it."

"Do you believe she killed him?"

"Evidence points to that answer, Leverage. You see, Barker's story
impressed me this way: it is the only sane, logical solution of the
killing which has yet been advanced. Neither of us has ever yet hit upon
an answer to the puzzle of the body in the taxicab. What Barker tells us
is perfectly plausible--" Carroll paused--

"You see," he continued, "from the first I have maintained that Mrs.
Lawrence is a decent woman--innately decent. I will even admit that her
domestic life was so miserably unbearable that she would entertain the
idea of eloping with Warren: that she went so far as to attempt to carry
that idea into execution. But I am also ready--and eager, too, if you
will, to believe that when she reached the stepping off place she must
have reneged. That woman couldn't have done anything else.

"We are fairly well satisfied--from Barker's own story--that there had
been nothing wrong in the relations between Warren and Mrs. Lawrence up
to that night. But we are pretty sure that they met at the station to go
away together. What is more reasonable than to presume that she lost her
nerve at the eleventh hour: that, unhappy as she was at home, she was
unable to take the step which would forever make her a social outcast?

"Very well. If that is true, we have them at the station at midnight. The
weather is the worst of the year. They are standing in the dark
passageway between the main waiting room and the baggage room. No light
is on the corner of Jackson street. They see only one taxicab on duty.
For all they know--the last street car has passed. They conceive the idea
of making a single taxicab do double duty--and, knowing that the driver
is across the street drinking coffee and getting warm--Warren gets into
the cab from the blind side, Mrs. Lawrence returns to the waiting room as
the accommodation rolls in, she picks up Warren's suit-case which had
been left there, steps to the curb and summons the cab, in which Warren
is hiding all the time. Sounds all right so far?"

"Perfectly," said Leverage. "Go ahead."

"Walters gets the signal and drives up. Mrs. Lawrence gets in. He drives
away. And then--"

Leverage leaped forward eagerly: "Yes--?? and then?"

"Well," said Carroll slowly, "we don't know what happened in that
taxicab. We believe that Mrs. Lawrence is a decent woman. We know that
Warren would have gone through with the elopement. That being the case,
we can fancy his keen disappointment. Under those circumstances, Eric--a
good many things could have occurred in that taxicab which might have
justified Warren's death at her hands."

Leverage crossed to his desk, from the top drawer of which he took a box
of cigars. He was frowning as he recrossed to Carroll and offered him
one. Then, with almost exasperating deliberation, the head of the police
force clipped the end of his own cigar, held a match to it, replaced the
box in his desk and took up his post before the fire--with his back to
it so that he could watch Carroll's face.

"You really want to believe that story, don't you, David?" he asked


"And yet you know it is shot all full of holes."


"For one thing," said Leverage slowly--"how do you explain the fact that
it was a.32 that killed him. Not that a .32 is any big gun--it isn't--but
it does make a considerable racket."

"The shooting probably took place at the R.L.&T. crossing while the train
was passing. The sound of the shot may have been drowned in the roar of
the train--not entirely smothered of course, but sufficiently blended
with the other noise not to attract the attention of the half-frozen
driver. And, the cab being stopped there, it must have been at that point
that Mrs. Lawrence--panicky over what had occurred--left the taxi."

"You're a dandy little ol' explainer, Carroll. But you've forgotten one
other important item."

"What is it?"

"The address Mrs. Lawrence gave--981 East End avenue. That address was a
stall--we know it was a stall. We were hot on that end of it the night
the body was found. And if those two people were trying to get home,
Carroll--if Warren was already in the cab and Mrs. Lawrence gave the
address--and if she wanted to get away from Warren and safe at home as
soon as she could--she'd never have ordered Walters to drive to 981 East
End avenue!"

Carroll did not answer. There was no answer possible. Leverage's logic
was irrefutable. And finally Carroll rose to his feet and slipped into
his heavy overcoat. Leverage's eyes were turned kindly upon him.

"Where are you going, David!"

"I'm going to play my last trump. If it doesn't uncover something--I
throw up my hands. Laugh at me if you will, Eric--rail at me for being
chicken-hearted, for playing hunches too strongly--but I have an idea
that Mrs. Lawrence did not kill Warren. Don't ask me how or why? I don't
know--I admit that frankly. But I've always banked on my knowledge of
human nature, Leverage--and my instinct has never yet betrayed me. Just
now it is forcing me to give this woman every chance in the world to
clear herself. I am hoping that circumstances will allow me to bring this
case to a conclusion without making public her connection with it--the
elopement she was planning."

"You do believe that part of the story, then: that she was going to elope
with Warren?"

"I do. I don't want to--but I'm honest with myself."

"Then," exclaimed Leverage with a slight touch of exasperation in
his manner--"who in thunder could have killed Warren if she didn't?
And when?"

"That," said Carroll simply, "is what I hope to find out."

"From where?"

"From the lips of Mrs. Lawrence. I'm going to have a talk with her."

Carroll was far from happy during his drive to the Lawrence home. The
Warren mystery seemed to be verging on a solution, but in Carroll's
breast there was none of the pardonable surge of elation which normally
was his under these circumstances. It had been a peculiar case from the
first. The _dramatis personae_ had all been of the better type, with the
single exception of William Barker--they had been persons against whom
the detective was loath to believe ill. And, most eagerly, he had shied
from the belief that Mrs. Lawrence was connected in a sinister way with
the death of Roland Warren.

Yet he found himself en-route to her home, facing the ordeal of an
interview with her--an ordeal for her as well as for him--and one through
which he feared she could not safely come. For, frankly as Carroll had
admitted to his friend that he hoped to find Naomi innocent--he was yet
honest and fearless, and failure of the woman to clear herself meant her
arrest. Carroll was determined upon that--yet he dreaded it as a child
dreads the dentist--as something painful beyond belief.

He rang the bell--then groaned as Evelyn Rogers greeted him effusively.
She ushered him ostentatiously into the parlor and drew up a chair
close to his--

"Mr. Carroll--it's just simply _scrumptuous_ of you to call on me
informally like this. I can't tell you how tickled I am. I was sitting
upstairs, simply bored to extinction. Sis has been a terrible drag on me
recently--really you'd have thought there had been a death in the
family. Or something! It's been simply graveyardy! And now you come
in--like a darling angel--and save me from the willywoggles. You're a
_dear_, and--"

"But--but--I really came to see your sister."

"Oh! _pff_! That's what poor dear Roland used to say all the time. But I
always knew I was the one he wanted to see. Goodness, he was simply
_crazy_ about me--but of course Sis never understood that. She hasn't yet
realized that I'm grown up."

"Peculiar how blind some folks are. But this time, Miss Rogers--I really
do want to chat with your sister. Not that I wouldn't prefer a talk with
you. So if you'll tell her I'm here--and would like to see her

Evelyn rose and started reluctantly toward the door. "I suppose it's up
to me to make myself very scarce. But it is simply _precious_ of you to
admit you'd rather talk to me. Poor Roland used to say that--but he
always said it as though he was kidding. I believe _you_!"

"I assure you I'm serious."

"I know it. And anyway, I was thinking of running out for a
minute--and I suppose this is a good chance. Of course, I'd stay and
see you if you wanted--but I suppose you've got something terribly
dry to discuss and so--"

She left the room and Carroll heaved a sigh of infinite relief. A few
minutes later the hall door swung back and Naomi and Evelyn entered. He
was immensely relieved to see that the youngster was cloaked for the
street and murmured a few idle words to her before she went. And until
the front door banged behind her he remained standing before the
fireplace, his eyes focused on the tragic figure of Naomi.

She faced him bravely enough, but in her eyes he read the message of
knowledge. There was no need for words between them. She knew why he had
come--and he knew that she knew.

"Sit down, please, Mr. Carroll."

He waited until she had seated herself and then followed suit. He
controlled his voice with an effort--his words came softly, reassuringly.

"I'm sorry I've come this way, Mrs. Lawrence. I've come--"

"I know why you have come, Mr. Carroll. You need not mince matters."

He drew a long breath. "Isn't it true, Mrs. Lawrence, that _you_ were the
woman in the taxi-cab the night Mr. Warren was killed?"

She inclined her head. "Yes."

Carroll fidgeted nervously. "I must warn you to be careful in what you
say to me, my friend. I am the detective in charge of this case, and--"

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