Part 4 out of 7
"I don't know."
"You have no idea?"
"But you were present in the room?"
"You heard the shot? You saw Martinez fall?"
Now her agitation, increased, she seemed about to make some statement, but
checked herself and simply insisted that she knew nothing about the
shooting. No one had entered the room except herself and Martinez and the
waiter who served them. They had finished the soup; Martinez had left his
seat for a moment; he was standing near her when--when the shot was fired
and he fell to the floor. She had no idea where the shot came from or who
fired it. She was frightened and hurried away from the hotel. That was all.
Coquenil smiled indulgently. "What did you do with the auger?" he asked.
"The auger?" she gasped.
"Yes, it was seen by the cab driver you took when you slipped out of the
hotel in the telephone girl's rain coat."
"You know that?"
He nodded and went on: "This cab driver remembers that you had something
under your arm wrapped in a newspaper. Was that the auger?"
"Yes," she answered weakly.
"And you threw it into the Seine as you crossed the Concorde bridge?"
She stared at him in genuine admiration: "My God, you're the cleverest man
I ever met!"
M. Paul bowed politely, and glancing at a well-spread tea table, he said:
"Mrs. Wilmott, if you think so well of me, perhaps you won't mind giving me
a cup of tea. The fact is, I have been so busy with this case I forgot to
eat and I--I feel a little faint." He pressed a hand against his forehead
and Pussy saw that he was very white.
"You poor man!" she cried in concern. "Why didn't you tell me sooner? I'll
fix it myself. There! Take some of these toasted muffins. What an
extraordinary life you must lead! I can almost forgive you for being so
outrageous because you're so--so interesting." She let her siren eyes shine
on him in a way that had wrought the discomfiture of many a man.
M. Paul smiled. "I can return the compliment by saying that it isn't every
lady who could throw a clumsy thing like an auger from a moving cab over a
wide roadway and a stone wall and land it in a river. I suppose you threw
it over on the right-hand side?"
"How far across the bridge had you got when you threw it? This may help the
She thought a moment. "We were a little more than halfway across, I should
"Thanks. Now who bought this auger?"
"Did _you_ suggest the holes through the wall?"
"No, he did."
"Are you sure?"
"But the holes were bored for you?"
"Because you wanted to see into the next room?"
"Yes," in a low tone.
She hesitated a moment and then burst out in a flash of feeling: "Because I
knew that a wretched dancing girl was going to be there with----"
"With my husband!"
PUSSY WILMOTT'S CONFESSION
"Then your husband was the person you thought guilty that night?"
"You told M. Kittredge when you called for him in the cab that you thought
your husband guilty?"
"Yes, but afterwards I changed my mind. My husband had nothing to do with
it. If he had, do you suppose I would have told you this? No doubt he has
misconducted himself, but----"
"You mean Anita?"
It was a chance shot, but it went true.
She stared at him in amazement. "I believe you are the devil," she said,
and the detective, recalling his talk with M. Gritz, muttered to himself:
"The tall blonde! Of course!"
And now Pussy, feeling that she could gain nothing against Coquenil by ruse
or deceit, took refuge in simple truth and told quite charmingly how this
whole tragic adventure had grown out of a foolish fit of jealousy.
"You see, I found a _petit bleu_ on my husband's dressing table one
morning--I wish to Heaven he would be more careful--and I--I read it. It
began '_Mon gros bebe_,' and was signed '_Ta petite Anita_,' and--naturally
I was furious. I have often been jealous of Addison, but he has always
managed to prove that I was in the wrong and that he was a perfect saint,
so now I determined to see for myself. It was a splendid chance, as the
exact rendezvous was given, nine o'clock Saturday evening, in private room
Number Seven at the Ansonia. I had only to be there, but, of course, I
couldn't go alone, so I got this man, Martinez--he was a perfect fool, I'm
sorry he's been shot, but he was--I got him to take me, because, as I told
you, he didn't know me, and being such a fool, he would do whatever I
"What day was it you found the _petit bleu?_" put in Coquenil.
"It was Thursday. I saw Martinez that afternoon, and on Friday, he reserved
private room Number Six for Saturday evening."
"And you are sure it was _his_ scheme to bore the holes?"
"Yes, he said that would be an amusing way of watching Addison without
making a scandal, and I agreed with him; it was the first clever idea I
ever knew him to have."
"That's a good point!" reflected Coquenil.
"What is a good point?"
"Nothing, just a thought I had," he answered abstractedly.
"What a queer man you are!" she said with a little pout. She was not
accustomed to have men inattentive when she sat near them.
"There's one thing that doesn't seem very clever, though," reflected the
detective. "Didn't Martinez think your husband or Anita would see those
holes in the wall?"
"No, because he had prepared for that. There was a tall palm in Number
Seven that stood just before the holes and screened them."
Coquenil looked at her curiously.
"How do you know there was?"
"Martinez told me. He had taken the precaution to look in there on Friday
when he engaged Number Six. He knew exactly where to bore the holes."
"I see. And he put them behind the curtain hangings so that your waiter
wouldn't see them?"
"And you held the curtain hangings back while he used the auger?"
"Yes. You see he managed it very well."
"Very well except for one thing," mused Coquenil, "_there wasn't any palm
in Number Six_."
"Yes, it _is_ strange," and again she felt that he was following a separate
train of thought.
"Did _you_ look through the holes at all?" he asked.
"No, I hadn't time."
"Did Martinez look through the first hole after it was bored?"
"Yes, but he couldn't see anything, as Number Seven was dark."
"Then you have absolutely no idea who fired the shot?"
"Except you think it wasn't your husband?"
"I _know_ it wasn't my husband."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I asked him. Ah, you needn't smile, I made him give me proof."
When I got home that night I had a horrible feeling that Addison must have
done it. Who else _could_ have done it, since he had engaged Number Seven?
So I waited until he came home. It was after twelve. I could hear him
moving about in his room and I was afraid to speak to him, the thing seemed
so awful; but, at last, I went in and asked him where he had been. He began
to lie in the usual way--you know any man will if he's in a hole like
that--but finally I couldn't stand it any longer and I said: 'Addison, for
God's sake, don't lie to me. I know something terrible has happened, and if
I can, I want to help you.'
"I was as white as a sheet and he jumped up in a great fright. 'What is it,
Pussy? What is it?' he cried. And then I told him a murder had been
committed at the Ansonia in private room Number Seven. I wish you could
have seen his face. He never said a word, he just stared at me. 'Why don't
you speak?' I begged. 'Addison, it wasn't you, tell me it wasn't you. Never
mind this Anita woman, I'll forgive that if you'll only tell me where
you've been to-night.'
"Well, it was the longest time before I could get anything out of him. You
see, it was quite a shock for Addison getting all this together, caught
with the woman and then the murder on top of it; I had to cry and scold and
get him whisky before he could pull himself together, but he finally did
and made a clean breast of everything."
"'Pussy,' he said, 'you're all right, you're a plucky little woman, and I'm
a bad lot, but I'm not as bad as that. I wasn't in that room, I didn't go
to the Ansonia to-night, and I swear to God I don't know any more about
this murder than you do.'
"Then he explained what had happened in his blundering way, stopping every
minute or so to tell me what a saint I am, and the Lord knows _that's_ a
joke, and the gist of it was that he had started for the Ansonia with this
woman, but she had changed her mind in the cab and they had gone to the
Cafe de Paris instead and spent the evening there. I was pretty sure he
was telling the truth, for Addison isn't clever and I usually know when
he's lying, although I don't tell him so; but this was such an awful thing
that I couldn't take chances, so I said: 'Addison, put your things right
on, we're going to the Cafe de Paris.' 'What for?' said he. 'To settle this
business,' said I. And off we went and got there at half past one; but the
waiters hadn't gone, and they all swore black and blue that Addison told
the truth, he had really been there all the evening with this woman. And
_that_," she concluded triumphantly, "is how I know my husband is
[Illustration: "'They all swore black and blue that Addison told the
"Hm!" reflected Coquenil. "I wonder why Anita changed her mind?"
"I'm not responsible for Anita," answered Pussy with a dignified whisk of
"No, of course not, of course not," he murmured absently; then, after a
moment's thought, he said gravely: "I never really doubted your husband's
innocence, now I'm sure of it; unfortunately, this does not lessen your
responsibility; you were in the room, you witnessed the crime; in fact, you
were the only witness."
"But I know nothing about it, nothing," she protested.
"You know a great deal about this young man who is in prison."
"I know he is innocent."
Coquenil took off his glasses and rubbed them with characteristic
deliberation. "I hope you can prove it."
"Of course I can prove it," she declared. "M. Kittredge was arrested
because he called for my things, but I asked him to do that. I was in
terrible trouble and--he was an old friend and--and I knew I could depend
on him. He had no reason to kill Martinez. It's absurd!"
"I'm afraid it's not so absurd as you think. You say he was an old friend,
he must have been a _very particular kind_ of an old friend for you to ask
a favor of him that you knew and he knew would bring him under suspicion.
You did know that, didn't you?"
"I don't ask what there was between you and M. Kittredge, but if there had
been _everything_ between you he couldn't have done more, could he? And he
couldn't have done less. So a jury might easily conclude, in the absence of
contrary evidence, that there was everything between you."
"It's false," she cried, while Coquenil with keen discernment watched the
outward signs of her trouble, the clinching of her hands, the heaving of
her bosom, the indignant flashing of her eyes.
"I beg your pardon for expressing such a thought," he said simply. "It's a
matter that concerns the judge, only ladies dislike going to the Palais de
She started in alarm. "You mean that I might have to go there?"
"Your testimony is important, and the judge cannot very well come here."
"But, I'd rather talk to you; really, I would. You can ask me questions
and--and then tell him. Go on, I don't mind. M. Kittredge was _not_ my
lover--there! Please make that perfectly clear. He was a dear, loyal
friend, but nothing more."
"Was he enough of a friend to be jealous of Martinez?"
"What was there to make him jealous?"
"Well," smiled Coquenil, "I can imagine that if a dear, loyal friend found
the lady he was dear and loyal to having supper with another man in a
private room, he _might_ be jealous."
To which Pussy replied with an accent of finality but with a shade of
pique: "The best proof that M. Kittredge would not be jealous of me is that
he loves another woman."
"The girl at Notre-Dame?"
"But Martinez knew her, too. There might have been trouble over her,"
ventured M. Paul shrewdly.
She shook her head with eager positiveness. "There was no trouble."
"You never knew of any quarrel between Kittredge and Martinez? No words?"
"Madam," continued Coquenil, "as you have allowed me to speak frankly, I am
going to ask if you feel inclined to make a special effort to help M.
"Of course I do."
"Even at the sacrifice of your own feelings?"
"What do you mean?"
"Let me go back a minute. Yesterday you made a plucky effort to serve your
friend, you gave money for a lawyer to defend him, you even said you would
come forward and testify in his favor if it became necessary."
"Ah, the girl has seen you?"
"More than that, she has seen M. Kittredge at the prison. And I am sorry to
tell you that your generous purposes have accomplished nothing. He refuses
to accept your money and----"
"I told you he didn't love me," she interrupted with a touch of bitterness.
"We must have better evidence than that, just as we must have better
evidence of his innocence than your testimony. After all, you don't _know_
that he did not fire this shot, you could not _see_ through the wall, and
for all you can say, M. Kittredge _may_ have been in Number Seven."
"I suppose that's true," admitted Pussy dolefully.
"So we come back to the question of motive; his love for you or his hatred
of the Spaniard might be a motive, but if we can prove that there was no
such love and no such hatred, then we shall have rendered him a great
service and enormously improved his chances of getting out of prison. Do
you follow me?"
"Perfectly. But how can we prove it?"
The detective leaned closer and said impressively: "If these things are
true, it ought to be set forth in Kittredge's letters to you."
It was another chance shot, and Coquenil watched the effect anxiously.
"His letters to me!" she cried with a start of dismay, while M. Paul nodded
complacently. "He never wrote me letters--that is, not many, and--whatever
there were, I--I destroyed."
Coquenil eyed her keenly and shook his head. "A woman like you would never
write to a man oftener than he wrote to her, and Kittredge had a thick
bundle of your letters. It was only Saturday night that he burned them,
along with that photograph of you in the lace dress."
It seemed to Pussy that a cold hand was closing over her heart; it was
ghastly, it was positively uncanny the things this man had found out. She
looked at him in frightened appeal, and then, with a gesture of half
surrender: "For Heaven's sake, how much more do you know about me?"
"I know that you have a bundle of Kittredge's letters here, possibly in
that desk." He pointed to a charming piece of old mahogany inlaid with
ivory. He had made this last deduction by following her eyes through these
last tortured minutes.
"It isn't true; I--I tell you I destroyed the letters." And he knew she was
M. Paul glanced at his watch and then said quietly: "Would you mind asking
if some one is waiting for me outside?"
So thoroughly was the agitated lady under the spell of Coquenil's power
that she now attached extraordinary importance to his slightest word or
act. It seemed to her, as she pressed the bell, that she was precipitating
some nameless catastrophe.
"Is anyone waiting for this gentleman?" she asked, all in a tremble, when
the servant appeared.
"Yes, madam, two men are waiting," replied the valet.
She noticed, with a shiver, that he said two men, not two gentlemen.
"That's all," nodded Coquenil; "I'll let you know when I want them." And
when the valet had withdrawn: "They have come from the prefecture in regard
to these letters."
Pussy rose and her face was deathly white. "You mean they are policemen? My
house is full of policemen?"
"Be calm, my dear lady, there are only two in the house and two outside."
"Oh, the shame of it, the scandal of it!" she wailed.
"A murder isn't a pleasant thing at the best and--as I said, they have come
for the letters."
"You told them to come?"
"No, the judge told them to come. I hoped I might be able to spare you the
annoyance of a search."
"A search?" she cried, and realizing her helplessness, she sank down on a
sofa and began to cry. "It will disgrace me, it will break up my home, it
will ruin my life!" She could hear the gossips of the American Colony
rolling this choice morsel under their tongues, Pussy Wilmott's house had
been searched by the police for letters from her lover!
Then, suddenly, clutching at a last straw of hope, she yielded or seemed to
yield. "As long as a search must be made," she said with a sort of
half-defiant dignity, "I prefer to have you make it, and not these men."
"I think that is wise," bowed M. Paul.
"In which room will you begin?"
"In this room."
"I give you my word there are no letters here, but, as you don't believe
me, why--do what you like."
"I would like to look in that desk," said the detective.
Coquenil went to the desk and examined it carefully. There were two drawers
in a raised part at the back, there was a long, wide drawer in front, and
over this a space like a drawer under a large inlaid cover, hinged at the
back. He searched everywhere here, but found no sign of the expected
"I must have been mistaken," he muttered, and he continued his search in
other parts of the room, Pussy hovering about with changing expressions
that reminded M. Paul of children's faces when they play the game of "hot
"Well," he said, with an air of disappointment, "I find nothing here.
Suppose we try another room."
"Certainly," she agreed, and her face brightened in such evident relief
that he turned to her suddenly and said almost regretfully, as a generous
adversary might speak to one whom he hopelessly outclasses: "Madam, I hear
you are fond of gambling. You should study the game of poker, which teaches
us to hide our feelings. Now then," he walked back quickly to the desk, "I
want you to open this secret drawer."
He spoke with a sudden sternness that quite disconcerted poor Pussy. She
stood before him frozen with fear, unable to lie any more, unable even to
speak. A big tear of weakness and humiliation gathered and rolled down her
cheek, and then, still silent, she took a hairpin from her hair, inserted
one leg of it into a tiny hole quite lost in the ornamental work at the
back of the desk, pushed against a hidden spring, and presto! a small
secret drawer shot forward. In this drawer lay a packet of letters tied
with a ribbon.
"Are these his letters?" he asked.
In utter misery she nodded but did not speak.
"Thanks," he said. "May I take them?"
She put forward her hands helplessly.
"I'm sorry, but, as I said before, a murder isn't a pleasant thing." And he
took the packet from the drawer.
Then, seeing herself beaten at every point, Pussy Wilmott gave way entirely
and wept angrily, bitterly, her face buried in the sofa pillows.
"I'm sorry," repeated M. Paul, and for the first time in the interview he
felt himself at a disadvantage.
"Why didn't I burn them, why didn't I burn them?" she mourned.
"You trusted to that drawer," he suggested.
"No, no, I knew the danger, but I couldn't give them up. They stood for the
best part of my life, the tenderest, the happiest. I've been a weak, wicked
"Any secrets in these letters will be scrupulously respected," he assured
her, "unless they have a bearing on this crime. Is there anything you wish
to say before I go?"
"Are you going?" she said weakly. And then, turning to him with
tear-stained face, she asked for a moment to collect herself. "I want to
say this," she went on, "that I didn't tell you the truth about Kittredge
and Martinez. There _was_ trouble between them; he speaks about it in one
of his letters. It was about the little girl at Notre-Dame!"
"You mean Martinez was attentive to her?"
"Did she encourage him?"
"I don't know. She behaved very strangely--she seemed attracted to him and
afraid of him at the same time. Martinez told me what an extraordinary
effect he had on the girl. He said it was due to his magnetic power."
"And Kittredge objected to this?"
"Of course he did, and they had a quarrel. It's all in one of those
"Was it a serious quarrel? Did Kittredge make any threats?"
"I--I'm afraid he did--yes, I know he did. You'll see it in the letter."
"Do you remember what he said?"
"What was it?"
She hesitated a moment and then, as though weary of resisting, she replied:
"He told Martinez that if he didn't leave this girl alone he would break
his damned head for him."
THE THIRD PAIR OF BOOTS
The wheels of justice move swiftly in Paris, and after one quiet day,
during which Judge Hauteville was drawing together the threads of the
mystery, Kittredge found himself, on Tuesday morning, facing an ordeal
worse than the solitude of a prison cell. The seventh of July! What a date
for the American! How little he realized what was before him as he bumped
along in a prison van breathing the sweet air of a delicious summer
morning! He had been summoned for the double test put upon suspected
assassins in France, a visit to the scene of the crime and a viewing of the
victim's body. In Lloyd's behalf there was present at this grim ceremony
Maitre Pleindeaux, a clean-shaven, bald-headed little man, with a hard,
metallic voice and a set of false teeth that clicked as he talked. "Bet a
dollar it's ice water he's full of," said Kittredge to himself.
When brought to the Ansonia and shown the two rooms of the tragedy,
Kittredge was perfectly calm and denied any knowledge of the affair; he had
never seen these holes through the wall, he had never been in the alleyway,
he was absolutely innocent. Maitre Pleindeaux nodded in approval. At the
morgue, however, Lloyd showed a certain emotion when a door was opened
suddenly and he was pushed into a room where he saw Martinez sitting on a
chair and looking at him, Martinez with his shattered eye replaced by a
glass one, and his dead face painted to a horrid semblance of life. This
is one of the theatrical tricks of modern procedure, and the American was
not prepared for it.
"My God!" he muttered, "he looks alive."
Nothing was accomplished, however, by the questioning here, nothing was
extorted from the prisoner; he had known Martinez, he had never liked him
particularly, but he had never wished to do him harm, and he had certainly
not killed him. That was all Kittredge would say, however the questions
were turned, and he declared repeatedly that he had had no quarrel with
Martinez. All of which was carefully noted down.
[Illustration: "A door was opened suddenly and he was pushed into a room."]
While his nerves were still tingling with the gruesomeness of all this,
Lloyd was brought to Judge Hauteville's room in the Palais de Justice. He
was told to sit down on a chair beside Maitre Pleindeaux. A patient
secretary sat at his desk, a formidable guard stood before the door with a
saber sword in his belt. Then the examination began.
So far Kittredge had heard the voice of justice only in mild and polite
questioning, now he was to hear the ring of it in accusation, in rapid,
massed accusation that was to make him feel the crushing power of the state
and the hopelessness of any puny lying.
"Kittredge," began the judge, "you have denied all knowledge of this crime.
Look at this pistol and tell me if you have ever seen it before." He
offered the pistol to Lloyd's manacled hands. Maitre Pleindeaux took it
with a frown of surprise.
"Excuse me, your honor," he bowed, "I would like to speak to my client
before he answers that question."
But Kittredge waved him aside. "What's the use," he said. "That is my
pistol; I know it; there's no doubt about it."
"Ah!" exclaimed Hauteville. "It is also the pistol that killed Martinez. It
was thrown from private room Number Seven at the Ansonia. A woman saw it
thrown, and it was picked up in a neighboring courtyard. One ball was
missing, and that ball was found in the body."
"There's some mistake," objected Pleindeaux with professional asperity, at
the same time flashing a wrathful look at Lloyd that said plainly: "You see
what you have done!"
"Now," continued the judge, "you say you have never been in the alleyway
that we showed you at the Ansonia. Look at these boots. Do you recognize
Kittredge examined the boots carefully and then said frankly to the judge:
"I thank they are mine."
"You wore them to the Ansonia on the night of the crime?"
"I think so."
"Aren't you sure?"
"Not absolutely sure, because I have three pairs exactly alike. I always
keep three pairs going at the same time; they last longer that way."
"I will tell you, then, that this is the pair you had on when you were
"Then it's the pair I wore to the Ansonia."
"You didn't change your boots after leaving the Ansonia?"
"Kittredge," said the judge severely, "the man who shot Martinez escaped by
the alleyway and left his footprints on the soft earth. We have made
plaster casts of them. There they are; our experts have examined them and
find that they correspond in every particular with the soles of these
boots. What do you say to this?"
Lloyd listened in a daze. "I don't see how it's possible," he answered.
"You still deny having been in the alleyway?"
"I pass to another point," resumed Hauteville, who was now striding back
and forth with quick turns and sudden stops, his favorite manner of attack.
"You say you had no quarrel with Martinez?"
A shade of anxiety crossed Lloyd's face, and he looked appealingly at his
counsel, who nodded with a consequential smack of the lips.
"Is that true?" repeated the judge.
"You never threatened Martinez with violence? Careful!"
"No, sir," declared Kittredge stubbornly.
Hauteville turned to his desk, and opening a leather portfolio, drew forth
a paper and held it before Kittredge's eyes.
"Do you recognize this writing?"
"It's--it's _my_ writing," murmured Lloyd, and his heart sank. How had the
judge got this letter? And had he the others?
"You remember this letter? You remember what you wrote about Martinez?"
"Then there _was_ a quarrel and you _did_ threaten him?"
"I advise my client not to answer that question," interposed the lawyer,
and the American was silent.
"As you please," said Hauteville, and he went on grimly: "Kittredge, you
have so far refused to speak of the lady to whom you wrote this letter. Now
you must speak of her. It is evident she is the person who called for you
in the cab. Do you deny that?"
"I prefer not to answer."
"She was your mistress? Do you deny that?"
"Yes, I deny that," cried the American, not waiting for Pleindeaux's
"Ah!" shrugged the judge, and turning to his secretary: "_Ask the lady to
Then, in a moment of sickening misery, Kittredge saw the door open and a
black figure enter, a black figure with an ashen-white face and frightened
eyes. It was Pussy Wilmott, treading the hard way of the transgressor with
her hair done most becomingly, and breathing a delicate violet fragrance.
"Take him into the outer room," directed the judge, "until I ring."
The guard opened the door and motioned to Maitre Pleindeaux, who passed out
first, followed by the prisoner and then by the guard himself. At the
threshold Kittredge turned, and for a second his eyes met Pussy's eyes.
"Please sit down, madam," said the judge, and then for nearly half an hour
he talked to her, questioned her, tortured her. He knew all that Coquenil
knew about her life, and more; all about her two divorces and her various
sentimental escapades. And he presented this knowledge with such startling
effectiveness that before she had been five minutes in his presence poor
Pussy felt that he could lay bare the innermost secrets of her being.
And, little by little, he dragged from her the story of her relations with
Kittredge, going back to their first acquaintance. This was in New York
about a year before, while she was there on business connected with some
property deeded to her by her second husband, in regard to which there had
been a lawsuit. Mr. Wilmott had not accompanied her on this trip, and,
being much alone, as most of her friends were in the country, she had seen
a good deal of M. Kittredge, who frequently spent the evenings with her at
the Hotel Waldorf, where she was stopping. She had met him through mutual
friends, for he was well connected socially in New York, and had soon grown
fond of him. He had been perfectly delightful to her, and--well, things
move rapidly in America, especially in hot weather, and before she realized
it or could prevent it, he was seriously infatuated, and--the end of it
was, when she returned to Paris he followed her on another steamer, an
extremely foolish proceeding, as it involved his giving up a fine position
and getting into trouble with his family.
"You say he had a fine position in New York?" questioned the judge. "In
"In a large real-estate company."
"And he lived in a nice way? He had plenty of money?"
"For a young man, yes. He often took me to dinner and to the theater, and
he was always sending me flowers."
"Did he ever give you presents?"
"What did he give you?"
"He gave me a gold bag that I happened to admire one day at Tiffany's."
"Was it solid gold?"
"And you accepted it?"
Pussy flushed under the judge's searching look. "I wouldn't have accepted
it, but this happened just as I was sailing for France. He sent it to the
"Ah! Have you any idea how much M. Kittredge paid for that gold bag?"
"Yes, for I asked at Tiffany's here and they said the bag cost about four
hundred dollars. When I saw M. Kittredge in Paris I told him he was a
foolish boy to have spent all that money, but he was so sweet about it and
said he was so glad to give me pleasure that I hadn't the heart to refuse
After a pause for dramatic effect the judge said impressively: "Madam, you
may be surprised to hear that M. Kittredge returned to France on the same
steamer that carried you."
"No, no," she declared, "I saw all the passengers, and he was not among
"He was not among the first-cabin passengers."
"You mean to say he went in the second cabin? I don't believe it."
"No," answered Hauteville with a grim smile, "he didn't go in the second
cabin, _he went in the steerage!_"
"In the steerage!" she murmured aghast.
"And during the five or six months here in Paris, while he was dancing
attendance on you, he was practically without resources."
"I know better," she insisted; "he took me out all the time and spent money
The judge shook his head. "He spent on you what he got by pawning his
jewelry, by gambling, and sometimes by not eating. We have the facts."
"_Mon Dieu!_" she shuddered. "And I never knew it! I never suspected it!"
"This is to make it quite clear that he loved you as very few women have
been loved. Now I want to know why you quarreled with him six months ago?"
"I didn't quarrel with him," she answered faintly.
"You know what I mean. What caused the trouble between you?"
"I--I don't know."
"Madam, I am trying to be patient, I wish to spare your feelings in every
possible way, but I _must_ have the truth. Was the trouble caused by this
"No, it came before he met her."
"Ah! Which one of you was responsible for it?"
"I don't know; really, I don't know," she insisted with a weary gesture.
"Then I must do what I can to _make_ you know," he replied impatiently,
and reaching forward, he pressed the electric bell.
"Bring back the prisoner," he ordered, as the guard appeared, and a moment
later Kittredge was again in his place beside Maitre Pleindeaux, with the
woman a few feet distant.
"Now," began Hauteville, addressing both Lloyd and Mrs. Wilmott, "I come to
an important point. I have here a packet of letters written by you,
Kittredge, to this lady. You have already identified the handwriting as
your own; and you, madam, will not deny that these letters were addressed
to you. You admit that, do you not?"
"Yes," answered Pussy weakly.
The judge turned over the letters and selected one from which he read a
passage full of passion. "Would any man write words like that to a woman
unless he were her lover? Do you think he would?" He turned to Mrs.
Wilmott, who sat silent, her eyes on the floor. "What do _you_ say,
Lloyd met the judge's eyes unflinchingly, but he did not answer.
Again Hauteville turned over the letters and selected another one.
"Listen to this, both of you." And he read a long passage from a letter
overwhelmingly compromising. There were references to the woman's physical
charm, to the beauty of her body, to the deliciousness of her caresses--it
was a letter that could only have been written by a man in a transport of
passion. Kittredge grew white as he listened, and Mrs. Wilmott burned with
"Is there any doubt about it?" pursued the judge pitilessly. "And I have
only read two bits from two letters. There are many others. Now I want the
truth about this business. Come, the quickest way will be the easiest."
He took out his watch and laid it on the desk before him. "Madam, I will
give you five minutes. Unless you admit within that time what is perfectly
evident, namely, that you were this man's mistress, I shall continue the
reading of these letters _before your husband_."
"You're taking a cowardly advantage of a woman!" she burst out.
"No," answered Hauteville sternly. "I am investigating a cowardly murder."
He glanced at his watch. "Four minutes!"
Then to Kittredge: "And unless _you_ admit this thing, I shall summon the
girl from Notre-Dame and let _her_ say what she thinks of this
Lloyd staggered under the blow. He was fortified against everything but
this; he would endure prison, pain, humiliation, but he could not bear the
thought that this fine girl, his Alice, who had taught him what love really
was, this fond creature who trusted him, should be forced to hear that
"You wouldn't do that?" he pleaded. "I don't ask you to spare me--I've been
no saint, God knows, and I'll take my medicine, but you can't drag an
innocent girl into this thing just because you have the power."
"Were you this woman's lover?" repeated the judge, and again he looked at
his watch. "Three minutes!"
Kittredge was in torture. Once his eyes turned to Mrs. Wilmott in a message
of unspeakable bitterness. "You're a judge," he said in a strained, tense
voice, "and I'm a prisoner; you have all the power and I have none, but
there's something back of that, something we both have, I mean a common
manhood, and you know, if you have any sense of honor, that _no man_ has a
right to ask another man that question."
"The point is well taken," approved Maitre Pleindeaux.
"Two minutes!" said Hauteville coldly. Then he turned to Mrs. Wilmott.
"Your husband is now at his club, one of our men is there also, awaiting my
orders. He will get them by telephone, and will bring your husband here in
a swift automobile. _You have one minute left!_"
Then there was silence in that dingy chamber, heavy, agonizing silence.
Fifteen seconds! Thirty seconds! The judge's eye was on his watch. Now his
arm reached toward the electric bell, and Pussy Wilmott's heart almost
stopped beating. Now his firm red finger advanced toward the white button.
Then she yielded. "Stop!" came her low cry. "He--he was my lover."
"That is better!" said the judge, and the scratching of the _greffier's_
pen recorded unalterably Mrs. Wilmott's avowal.
"I don't suppose you will contradict the lady," said Hauteville, turning to
Kittredge. "I take your silence as consent, and, after all, the lady's
confession is sufficient. You were her lover. And the evidence shows that
you committed a crime based on passionate jealousy and hatred of a rival.
You knew that Martinez was to dine with your mistress in a private room;
you arranged to be at the same restaurant, at the same hour, and by a
cunning and intricate plan, you succeeded in killing the man you hated. We
have found the weapon of this murder, and it belongs to you; we have found
a letter written by you full of violent threats against the murdered man;
we have found footprints made by the assassin, and they absolutely fit
your boots; in short, we have the fact of the murder, the motive for the
murder, and the evidence that you committed the murder. What have you to
say for yourself?"
Kittredge thought a moment, and then said quietly: "The fact of the murder
you have, of course; the evidence against me you seem to have, although it
is false evidence; but----"
"How do you mean false evidence? Do you deny threatening Martinez with
"I threatened to punch his head; that is very different from killing him."
"And the pistol? And the footprints?"
"I don't know, I can't explain it, but--I know I am innocent. You say I had
a motive for this crime. You're mistaken, I had _no_ motive."
"Passion and jealousy have stood as motives for murder from the beginning
"There was _no_ passion and _no_ jealousy," answered Lloyd steadily.
"Are you mocking me?" cried the judge. "What is there in these letters," he
touched the packet before him, "but passion and jealousy? Didn't you give
up your position in America for this woman?"
"Didn't you follow her to Europe in the steerage because of your
infatuation? Didn't you bear sufferings and privations to be near her?
Shall I go over the details of what you did, as I have them here, in order
to refresh your memory?"
"No," said Kittredge hoarsely, and his eye was beginning to flame, "my
memory needs no refreshing; I know what I did, I know what I endured. There
was passion enough and jealousy enough, but that was a year ago. If I had
found her then dining with a man in a private room, I don't know what I
might have done. Perhaps I should have killed both of them and myself, too,
for I was mad then; but my madness left me. You seem to know a great deal
about passion, sir; did you ever hear that it can change into loathing?"
"You mean--" began the judge with a puzzled look, while Mrs. Wilmott
recoiled in dismay.
"I mean that I am fighting for my life, and now that _she_ has admitted
this thing," he eyed the woman scornfully, "I am free to tell the truth,
all of it."
"That is what we want," said Hauteville.
"I thought I loved her with a fine, true love, but she showed me it was
only a base imitation. I offered her my youth, my strength, my future, and
she would have taken them and--broken them and scattered them in my face
and--and laughed at me. When I found it out, I--well, never mind, but you
can bet all your pretty French philosophy I didn't go about Paris looking
for billiard players to kill on her account."
It was not a gallant speech, but it rang true, a desperate cry from the
soul depths of this unhappy man, and Pussy Wilmott shrank away as she
"Then why did you quarrel with Martinez?" demanded the judge.
"Because he was interfering with a woman whom I _did_ love and _would_
"For God's sake, stop," whispered the lawyer.
"I mean I would fight for her if necessary," added the American, "but I'd
fight fair, I wouldn't shoot through any hole in a wall."
"Then you consider your love for this other woman--I presume you mean the
girl at Notre-Dame?"
"You consider your love for her a fine, pure love in contrast to the other
"The other wasn't love at all, it was passion."
"Yet you did more for this lady through passion," he pointed to Mrs.
Wilmott, "than you have ever done for the girl through your pure love."
"That's not true," cried Lloyd. "I was a fool through passion, I've been
something like a man through love. I was selfish and reckless through
passion, I've been a little unselfish and halfway decent through love. I
was a gambler and a pleasure seeker through passion, I've gone to work at a
mean little job and stuck to it and lived on what I've earned--through
love. Do you think it's easy to give up gambling? Try it! Do you think it's
easy to live in a measly little room up six flights of black, smelly
stairs, with no fire in winter? Anyhow, it wasn't easy for me, but I did
it--through love, yes, sir, _pure_ love."
As Hauteville listened, his frown deepened, his eyes grew harder. "That's
all very fine," he objected, "but if you hated this woman, why did you risk
prison and--worse, to get her things? You knew what you were risking, I
"Yes, I knew."
"Why did you do it?"
Kittredge hesitated. "I did it for--for what she had been to me. It meant
ruin and disgrace for her and--well, if she could ask such a thing, I could
grant it. It was like paying a debt, and--I paid mine."
The judge turned to Mrs. Wilmott: "Did you know that he had ceased to love
Pussy Wilmott, with her fine eyes to the floor, answered almost in a
whisper: "Yes, I knew it."
"Do you know what he means by saying that you would have spoiled his life
and--and all that?"
"You _do_ know!" cried the American. "You know I had given you my life in
sacred pledge, and you made a plaything of it. You told me you were
unhappy, married to a man you loathed, a dull brute; but when I offered you
freedom and my love, you drew back. When I begged you to leave him and
become my wife, with the law's sanction, you said no, because I was poor
and he was rich. You wanted a lover, but you wanted your luxury, too; and I
saw that what I had thought the call of your soul was only the call of your
body. Your beauty had blinded me, your eyes, your mouth, your voice, the
smell of you, the taste of you, the devilish siren power of you, all these
had blinded me. I saw that your talk about love was a lie. Love! What did
you know about love? You wanted me, along with your ease and your
pleasures, as a coarse creator of sensations, and you couldn't have me on
those terms. In my madness I would have done anything for you, borne
anything; I would have starved for you, toiled for you, yes, gladly; but
you didn't want that kind of sacrifice. You couldn't see why I worried
about money. There was plenty for us both where yours came from. God! Where
yours came from! Why couldn't I leave well enough alone and enjoy an easy
life in Paris, with a nicely furnished _rez de chaussee_ off the Champs
Elysees, where madam could drive up in her carriage after luncheon and
break the Seventh Commandment comfortably three of four afternoons a week,
and be home in time to dress for dinner! That was what you wanted," he
paused and searched deep into her eyes as she cowered before him, "but
_that was what you couldn't have!_"
"On the whole, I think he's guilty," concluded the judge an hour later,
speaking to Coquenil, who had been looking over the secretary's record of
"Queer!" muttered the detective. "He says he had three pairs of boots."
"He talks too much," continued Hauteville; "his whole plea was ranting.
It's a _crime passionel_, if ever there was one, and--I shall commit him
Coquenil was not listening; he had drawn two squares of shiny paper from
his pocket, and was studying them with a magnifying glass. The judge looked
at him in surprise.
"Do you hear what I say?" he repeated. "I shall commit him for trial."
M. Paul glanced up with an absent expression. "It's circumstantial
evidence," was all he said, and he went back to his glass.
"Yes, but a strong chain of it."
"A strong chain," mused the other, then suddenly his face lighted and he
sprang to his feet. "Great God of Heaven!" he cried in excitement, and
hurrying to the window he stood there in the full light, his eye glued to
the magnifying glass, his whole soul concentrated on those two pieces of
paper, evidently photographs.
"What is it? What have you found?" asked the judge.
"I have found a weak link that breaks your whole chain," triumphed M. Paul.
"The alleyway footprints are _not_ identical with the soles of Kittredge's
"But you said they were, the experts said they were."
"We were mistaken; they are _almost_ identical, but not quite; in shape and
size they are identical, in the number and placing of the nails in the heel
they are identical, in the worn places they are identical, but when you
compare them under the magnifying glass, this photograph of the footprints
with this one of the boot soles, you see unmistakable differences in the
scratches on separate nails in the heel, unmistakable differences."
Hauteville shrugged his shoulders. "That's cutting it pretty fine to
compare microscopic scratches on the heads of small nails."
"Not at all. Don't we compare microscopic lines on criminals' thumbs?
Besides, it's perfectly plain," insisted Coquenil, absorbed in his
comparison. "I can count forty or fifty nail heads in the heel, and _none_
of them correspond under the glass; those that should be alike are _not_
alike. There are slight differences in size, in position, in wear; they are
not the same set of nails; it's impossible. Look for yourself. Compare any
two and you'll see _that they were never in the same pair of boots!_"
With an incredulous movement Hauteville took the glass, and in his turn
studied the photographs. As he looked, his frown deepened.
"It seems true, it certainly seems true," he grumbled, "but--how do you
account for it?"
Coquenil smiled in satisfied conviction. "Kittredge told you he had three
pairs of boots; they were machine made and the same size; he says he kept
them all going, so they were all worn approximately alike. We have the pair
that he wore that night, and another pair found in his room, but the third
pair is missing. _It's the third pair of boots that made those alleyway
"Then you think--" began the judge.
"I think we shall have found Martinez's murderer when we find the man who
stole that third pair of boots."
"But that is all conjecture."
"It won't be conjecture to-morrow morning--it will be absolute proof,
"Unless Kittredge lied when he told that girl he had never suffered with
gout or rheumatism."
"FROM HIGHER UP"
A great detective must have infinite patience. That is, the quality next to
imagination that will serve him best. Indeed, without patience, his
imagination will serve him but indifferently. Take, for instance, so small
a thing as the auger used at the Ansonia. Coquenil felt sure it had been
bought for the occasion--billiard players do not have augers conveniently
at hand. It was probably a new one, and somewhere in Paris there was a
clerk who _might_ remember selling it and _might_ be able to say whether
the purchaser was Martinez or some other man. M. Paul believed it was
another man. His imagination told him that the person who committed this
crime had suggested the manner of it, and overseen the details of it down
to even the precise placing of the eye holes. It must be so or the plan
would not have succeeded. The assassin, then, was a friend of
Martinez--that is, the Spaniard had considered him a friend, and, as it was
of the last importance that these holes through the wall be large enough
and not too large, this friend might well have seen personally to the
purchase of the auger, not leaving it to a rattle-brained billiard player
who, doubtless, regarded the whole affair as a joke. It was _not_ a joke!
So, as part of his day's work, M. Paul had taken steps for the finding of
this smallish object dropped into the Seine by Pussy Wilmott, and, betimes
on the morning after that lady's examination, a diver began work along the
Concorde bridge under the guidance of a young detective named Bobet,
selected for this duty by M. Paul himself. This was _one_ thread to be
followed, a thread that might lead poor Bobet through weary days and nights
until, among all the hardware shops in Paris, he had found the particular
one where that particular auger had been sold!
Another thread, meanwhile, was leading another trustworthy man in and out
among friends of Martinez, whom he must study one by one until the false
friend had been discovered. And another thread was hurrying still another
man along the trail of the fascinating Anita, for Coquenil wanted to find
out _why_ she had changed her mind that night, and what she knew about the
key to the alleyway door. Somebody gave that key to the assassin!
Besides all this, and more important, M. Paul had planned a piece of work
for Papa Tignol when the old man reported for instructions this same
Wednesday morning just as the detective was finishing his chocolate and
toast under the trees in the garden.
"Ah, Tignol!" he exclaimed with a buoyant smile. "It's a fine day, all the
birds are singing and--we're going to do great things." He rubbed his hands
exultantly, "I want you to do a little job at the Hotel des Etrangers,
where Kittredge lived. You are to take a room on the sixth floor, if
possible, and spend your time playing the flute."
"Playing the flute?" gasped Tignol. "I don't know how to play the flute."
"All the better! Spend your time learning! There is no one who gets so
quickly in touch with his neighbors as a man learning to play the flute."
"Ah!" grinned the other shrewdly. "You're after information from the sixth
M. Paul nodded and told his assistant exactly what he wanted.
"Eh, eh!" chuckled the old man. "A droll idea! I'll learn to play the
"Meet me at nine to-night at the Three Wise Men and--good luck. I'm off to
As he drove to the prison Coquenil thought with absorbed interest of the
test he was planning to settle this question of the footprints. He was
satisfied, from a study of the plaster casts, that the assassin had limped
slightly on his left foot as he escaped through the alleyway. The
impressions showed this, the left heel being heavily marked, while the ball
of the left foot was much fainter, as if the left ankle movement had been
hampered by rheumatism or gout. It was for this reason that Coquenil had
been at such pains to learn whether Kittredge suffered from these maladies.
It appeared that he did not. Indeed, M. Paul himself remembered the young
man's quick, springy step when he left the cab that fatal night to enter
Bonneton's house. So now he proposed to make Lloyd walk back and forth
several times in a pair of his own boots over soft earth in the prison yard
and then show that impressions of these new footprints were different _in
the pressure marks_, and probably in the length of stride, from those left
in the alleyway. This would be further indication, along with the
differences already noted in the nails, that the alleyway footprints were
not made by Kittredge.
Not made by Kittredge, reflected the detective, but by a man wearing
Kittredge's boots, a man wearing the missing third pair, the stolen pair!
Ah, there was a nut to crack! This man must have stolen the boots, as he
had doubtless stolen the pistol, to throw suspicion on an innocent person.
No other conclusion was possible; yet, he had not returned the boots to
Kittredge's room after the crime. Why not? It was essential to his purpose
that they be found in Kittredge's room, he must have intended to return
them, something quite unforeseen must have prevented him from doing so.
_What had prevented the assassin from returning Kittredge's boots?_
As soon as Coquenil reached the prison he was shown into the director's
private room, and he noticed that M. Dedet received him with a strange
mixture of surliness and suspicion.
"What's the trouble?" asked the detective.
"Everything," snarled the other, then he burst out: "What the devil did you
mean by sending that girl to me?"
"What did I mean?" repeated Coquenil, puzzled by the jailer's hostility.
"Didn't she tell you what she wanted?"
Dedet made no reply, but unlocking a drawer, he searched among some
envelopes, and producing a square of faded blotting paper, he opened it
before his visitor.
"There!" he said, and with a heavy finger he pointed to a scrawl of words.
"There's what she wrote, and you know damned well you put her up to it."
Coquenil studied the words with increasing perplexity. "I have no idea what
this means," he declared.
"You lie!" retorted the jailer.
M. Paul sprang to his feet. "Take that back," he ordered with a look of
menace, and the rough man grumbled an apology. "Just the same," he
muttered, "it's mighty queer how she knew it unless you told her."
The jailer eyed Coquenil searchingly. "_Nom d'un chien_, I guess you're
straight, after all, but--_how_ did she come to write that?" He scratched
his dull head in mystification.
"I have no idea."
"See here," went on Dedet, almost appealingly, "do you believe a girl I
never saw could know a thing about me that _nobody_ knows?"
"Strange!" mused the detective. "Is it an important thing?"
"Is it? If it hadn't been about the _most_ important thing, do you think
I'd have broken a prison rule and let her see that man? Well, I guess not.
But I was up against it and--I took a chance."
Coquenil thought a moment. "I don't suppose you want to tell me what these
words mean that she wrote?"
"No, I don't," said the jailer dryly.
"All right. Anyhow, you see I had nothing to do with it." He paused, and
then in a businesslike tone: "Well, I'd better get to work. I want that
prisoner out in the courtyard."
"Can't have him."
"No? Here's the judge's order."
But the other shook his head. "I've had later orders, just got 'em over the
telephone, saying you're not to see the prisoner."
"That's right, and _he_ wants to see you."
"The judge. They've called me down, now it's your turn."
Coquenil took off his glasses and rubbed them carefully. Then, without more
discussion, he left the prison and drove directly to the Palais de Justice;
he was perplexed and indignant, and vaguely anxious. What did this mean?
What could it mean?
As he approached the lower arm of the river where it enfolds the old island
city, he saw Bobet sauntering along the quay and drew up to speak to him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked. "I told you to watch that diver."
The young detective shrugged his shoulders. "The job's done, he found the
"Ah! Where is it?"
"I gave it to M. Gibelin."
Coquenil could scarcely believe his ears.
"You gave the auger to Gibelin? Why?"
"Because he told me to."
"You must be crazy! Gibelin had nothing to do with this. You take your
orders from me."
"Do I?" laughed the other. "M. Gibelin says I take orders from him."
"We'll see about this," muttered M. Paul, and crossing the little bridge,
he entered the courtyard of the Palais de Justice and hurried up to the
office of Judge Hauteville. On the stairs he met Gibelin, fat and
"See here," he said abruptly, "what have you done with that auger?"
"Put it in the department of old iron," rasped the other. "We can't waste
time on foolish clews."
Coquenil glared at him. "We can't, eh? I suppose _you_ have decided that?"
"Precisely," retorted Gibelin, his red mustache bristling.
"And you've been giving orders to young Bobet?"
"By what authority?"
"Go in there and you'll find out," sneered the fat man, jerking a derisive
thumb toward Hauteville's door.
A moment later M. Paul entered the judge's private room, and the latter,
rising from his desk, came forward with a look of genuine friendliness and
"My dear Coquenil," exclaimed Hauteville, with cordial hand extended. "I'm
glad to see you but--you must prepare for bad news."
Coquenil eyed him steadily. "I see, they have taken me off this case."
The judge nodded gravely. "Worse than that, they have taken you off the
force. Your commission is canceled."
"But--but why?" stammered the other.
"For influencing Dedet to break a rule about a prisoner _au secret_; as a
matter of fact, you were foolish to write that letter."
"I thought the girl might get important evidence from her lover."
"No doubt, but you ought to have asked me for an order. I would have given
it to you, and then there would have been no trouble."
"It was late and the matter was urgent. After all you approve of what I
"Yes, but not of the way you did it. Technically you were at fault,
and--I'm afraid you will have to suffer."
M. Paul thought a moment.
"Did you make the complaint against me?"
"No, no! Between ourselves, I should have passed the thing over as
unimportant, but--well, the order came from higher up."
"You mean the chief revoked my commission?"
"I don't know, I haven't seen the chief, but the order came from his
"With this prison affair given as the reason?"
"And now Gibelin is in charge of the case?"
"And I am discharged from the force? Discharged in disgrace?"
"It's a great pity, but----"
"Do you think I'll stand for it? Do you know me so little as that?" cut in
the other with increasing heat.
"I don't see what you're going to do," opposed the judge mildly.
"You don't? Then I'll tell you that--" Coquenil checked himself at a sudden
thought. "After all, what I do is not important, but I'll tell you what
Gibelin will do, and that _is_ important, _he will let this American go to
trial and be found guilty for want of evidence that would save him_."
"Not if I can help it," replied Hauteville, ruffled at this reflection on
his judicial guidance of the investigation.
"No offense," said M. Paul, "but this is a case where even as able a judge
as yourself must have special assistance and--Gibelin couldn't find the
truth in a thousand years. Do _you_ think he's fit to handle this case?"
"Officially I have no opinion," answered Hauteville guardedly, "but I don't
mind telling you personally that I--I'm sorry to lose you."
"Thanks," said M. Paul. "I think I'll have a word with the chief."
In the outer office Coquenil learned that M. Simon was just then in
conference with one of the other judges and for some minutes he walked
slowly up and down the long corridor, smiling bitterly, until presently
one of the doors opened and the chief came out followed by a black bearded
judge, who was bidding him obsequious farewell.
As M. Simon moved away briskly, his eye fell on the waiting detective, and
his genial face clouded.
"Ah, Coquenil," he said, and with a kindly movement he took M. Paul's arm
in his. "I want a word with you--over here," and he led the way to a wide
window space. "I'm sorry about this business."
"Sorry?" exclaimed M. Paul. "So is Hauteville sorry, but--if you're sorry,
why did you let the thing happen?"
"Not so loud," cautioned M. Simon. "My dear fellow, I assure you I couldn't
help it, I had nothing to do with it."
Coquenil stared at him incredulously. "Aren't you chief of the detective
"Yes," answered the other in a low tone, "but the order came from--from
"You mean from the _prefet de police?_"
M. Simon laid a warning finger on his lips. "This is in strictest
confidence, the order came through his office, but I don't believe the
_prefet_ issued it personally. _It came from higher up!_"
"From higher up!" repeated M. Paul, and his thoughts flashed back to that
sinister meeting on the Champs Elysees, to that harsh voice and flaunting
"He said he had power, that left-handed devil," muttered the detective, "he
said he had the biggest kind of power, and--I guess he has."
A LONG LITTLE FINGER
Coquenil kept his appointment that night at the Three Wise Men and found
Papa Tignol waiting for him, his face troubled even to the tip of his
luminous purple nose. In vain the old man tried to show interest in a
neighboring game of dominoes; the detective saw at a glance that his
faithful friend had heard the bad news and was mourning over it.
"Ah, M. Paul," cried Tignol. "This is a pretty thing they tell me. _Nom
d'un chien_, what a pack of fools they are!"
"Not so loud," cautioned Coquenil with a quiet smile. "It's all right, Papa
Tignol, it's all for the best."
"All for the best?" stared the other. "But if you're off the force?"
"Wait a little and you'll understand," said the detective in a low tone,
then as the tavern door opened: "Here is Pougeot! I telephoned him. Good
evening, Lucien," and he shook hands cordially with the commissary, whose
face wore a serious, inquiring look. "Will you have something, or shall we
move on?" and, under his breath, he added: "Say you don't want anything."
"I don't want anything," obeyed Pougeot with a puzzled glance.
"Then come, it's a quarter past ten," and tossing some money to the waiter,
Coquenil led the way out.
Drawn up in front of the tavern was a taxi-auto, the chauffeur bundled up
to the ears in bushy gray furs, despite the mild night. There was a
leather bag beside him.
"Is this your man?" asked Pougeot.
"Yes," said M. Paul, "get in. If you don't mind I'll lower this front
window so that we can feel the air." Then, when the commissary and Tignol
were seated, he gave directions to the driver. "We will drive through the
_bois_ and go out by the Porte Dauphine. Not too fast."
The man touched his cap respectfully, and a few moments later they were
running smoothly to the west, over the wooden pavement of the Rue de
"Now we can talk," said Coquenil with an air of relief. "I suppose you both
know what has happened?"
The two men replied with sympathetic nods.
"I regard you, Lucien, as my best friend, and you, Papa Tignol, are the
only man on the force I believe I can absolutely trust."
Tignol bobbed his little bullet head back and forth, and pulled furiously
at his absurd black mustache. This, was the greatest compliment he had ever
received. The commissary laid an affectionate hand on Coquenil's arm. "You
know I'll stand by you absolutely, Paul; I'll do anything that is possible.
How do you feel about this thing yourself?"
"I felt badly at first," answered the other. "I was mortified and bitter.
You know what I gave up to undertake this case, and you know how I have
thrown myself into it. This is Wednesday night, the crime was committed
last Saturday, and in these four days I haven't slept twelve hours. As to
eating--well, never mind that. The point is, I was in it, heart and soul,
and--now I'm out of it."
"An infernal shame!" muttered Tignol.
"Perhaps not. I've done some hard thinking since I got word this morning
that my commission was canceled, and I have reached an important
conclusion. In the first place, I am not sure that I haven't fallen into
the old error of allowing my judgment to be too much influenced by a
preconceived theory. I wouldn't admit this for the world to anyone but you
two. I'd rather cut my tongue out than let Gibelin know it. Careful,
there," he said sharply, as their wheels swung dangerously near a stone
shelter in the Place de la Concorde.
Both Pougeot and Tignol noted with surprise the half-resigned,
half-discouraged tone of the famous detective.
"You don't mean that you think the American may be guilty?" questioned the
"Never in the world!" grumbled Tignol.
"I don't say he is guilty," answered M. Paul, "but I am not so sure he is
innocent. And, if there is doubt about that, then there is doubt whether
this case is really a great one. I have assumed that Martinez was killed by
an extraordinary criminal, for some extraordinary reason, but--I may have
"Of course," agreed Pougeot. "And if you were mistaken?"
"Then I've been wasting my time on a second-class investigation that a
second-class man like Gibelin could have carried on as well as I; and
losing the Rio Janeiro offer besides." He leaned forward suddenly toward
the chauffeur. "See here, what are you trying to do?" As he spoke they
barely escaped colliding with a cab coming down the Champs Elysees.
"It was his fault; one of his lanterns is out," declared the chauffeur,
and, half turning, he exchanged curses with the departing jehu.
They had now reached Napoleon's arch, and, at greater speed, the automobile
descended the Avenue de la Grande Armee.
"Are you thinking of accepting the Rio Janeiro offer?" asked the commissary
"Very seriously; but I don't know whether it's still open. I thought
perhaps you would go to the Brazilian Embassy and ask about it delicately.
I don't like to go myself, after this affair. Do you mind?"
"No, I don't mind, of course I don't mind," answered, Pougeot, "but, my
dear Paul, aren't you a little on your nerves to-night; oughtn't you to
think the whole matter over before deciding?"
"That's right," agreed Tignol.
"What is there to think about?" said Coquenil. "If you've got anything to
say, either of you, say it now. Run on through the _bois_," he directed the
chauffeur, "and then out on the St. Cloud road. This air is doing me a lot
of good," he added, drawing in deep breaths.
For some minutes they sat silent, speeding along through the Bois de
Boulogne, dimly beautiful under a crescent moon, on past crowded
restaurants with red-clad musicians on the terraces, on past the silent
lake and then through narrow and deserted roads until they had crossed the
great park and emerged upon the high-way.
"Where are we going, anyway?" inquired Tignol.
"For a little ride, for a little change," sighed M. Paul.
"Come, come," urged Pougeot, "you are giving way too much. Now listen to
Then, clearly and concisely, the commissary went over the situation,
considering his friend's problem from various points of view; and so
absorbed was he in fairly setting forth the advantages and disadvantages of
the Rio Janeiro position that he did not observe Coquenil's utter
indifference to what he was saying. But Papa Tignol saw this, and
gradually, as he watched the detective with his shrewd little eyes, it
dawned upon the old man that they were not speeding along here in the
night, a dozen miles out of Paris, simply for their health, but that
something special was preparing.
"What in the mischief is Coquenil up to?" wondered Tignol.
And presently, even Pougeot, in spite of his preoccupation, began to
realize that there was something peculiar about this night promenade, for
as they reached a crossroad, M. Paul ordered the chauffeur to turn into it
and go ahead as fast as he pleased. The chauffeur hesitated, muttered some
words of protest, and then obeyed.
"We are getting right out into wild country," remarked the commissary.
"Don't you like wild country?" laughed Coquenil. "I do." It was plain that
his spirits were reviving.
They ran along this rough way for several miles, and presently came to a
small house standing some distance back from the road.
"Stop here!" ordered the detective. "Now," he turned to Pougeot, "I shall
learn something that may fix my decision." Then, leaning forward to the
chauffeur, he said impressively: "Ten francs extra if you help me now."
These words had an immediate effect upon the man, who touched his cap and
asked what he was to do.
"Go to this house," pointed M. Paul, "ring the bell and ask if there is a
note for M. Robert. If there is, bring the note to me; if there isn't,
never mind. If anyone asks who sent you, say M. Robert himself.
"_Oui, m'sieur_," replied the chauffeur, and, saluting again, he strode
away toward the house.
The detective watched his receding figure as it disappeared in the shadows,
then he called out: "Wait, I forgot something."
The chauffeur turned obediently and came back.
"Take a good look at him now," said Coquenil to Tignol in a low tone. Then
to the man: "There's a bad piece of ground in the yard; you'd better have
this," and, without warning, he flashed his electric lantern full in the
"_Merci, m'sieur,_" said the latter stolidly after a slight start, and
again he moved away, while Tignol clutched M. Paul's arm in excitement.
"You saw him?" whispered the detective.
"Did I see him!" exulted the other. "Oh, the cheek of that fellow!"
"You recognized him?"
"Did I? I'd know those little pig eyes anywhere. And that brush of a
mustache! Only half of it was blacked."
"Good; that's all I want," and, stepping out of the auto, Coquenil changed
quickly to the front seat. Then he drew the starting lever and the machine
began to move.
"Halloa! What are you doing?" cried the chauffeur, running toward them.
"Going back to Paris!" laughed Coquenil. "Hope you find the walking good,
"It's only fifteen miles," taunted Tignol.
"You loafer, you blackguard, you dirty dog!" yelled Gibelin, dancing in a
"Try to be more original in your detective work," called M. Paul. "_Au
They shot away rapidly, while the outraged and discomfited fat man stood in
the middle of the road hurling after them torrents of blasphemous abuse
that soon grew faint and died away.
"What in the world does this mean?" asked Pougeot in astonishment.
Coquenil slowed down the machine and turned. "I can't talk now; I've got to
drive this thing. It's lucky I know how."
"But--just a moment. That note for M. Robert? There was _no_ Robert?"
"Of course not."
"And--and you knew it was Gibelin all the time?"
"Yes. Be patient, Lucien, until we get back and I'll tell you everything."
The run to Paris took nearly an hour, for they made a detour, and Coquenil
drove cautiously; but they arrived safely, shortly after one, and left the
automobile at the company's garage, with the explanation (readily accepted,
since a police commissary gave it) that the man who belonged with the
machine had met with an accident; indeed, this was true, for the genuine
chauffeur had used Gibelin's bribe money in unwise libations and appeared
the next morning with a battered head and a glib story that was never fully
"Now," said Coquenil, as they left the garage, "where can we go and be
quiet? A cafe is out of the question--we mustn't be seen. Ah, that room you
were to take," he turned to Tignol. "Did you get it?"
"I should say I did," grumbled the old man, "I've something to tell you."
"Tell me later," cut in the detective. "We'll go there. We can have
something to eat sent in and--" he smiled indulgently at Tignol--"and
something to drink. Hey, _cocher!_" he called to a passing cab, and a
moment later the three men were rolling away to the Latin Quarter, with
Coquenil's leather bag on the front seat.
"_Enfin!_" sighed Pougeot, when they were finally settled in Tignol's room,
which they reached after infinite precautions, for M. Paul seemed to
imagine that all Paris was in a conspiracy to follow them.
"I've been watched every minute since I started on this case," he said
thoughtfully. "My house has been watched, my servant has been watched, my
letters have been opened; there isn't one thing I've done that they don't
"They? Who?" asked the commissary.
"Ah, who?" repeated M. Paul. "If I only knew. You saw what they did with
Gibelin to-night, set him after me when he is supposed to be handling this
case. Fancy that! Who gave Gibelin his orders? Who had the authority?
That's what I want to know. Not the chief, I swear; the chief is straight
in this thing. _It's some one above the chief_. Lucien, I told you this was
a great case and--it is."
"Then you didn't mean what you were saying in the automobile about having
"Not a word of it."
"That was all for Gibelin?"
"Exactly. There's a chance that he may believe it, or believe some of it.
He's such a conceited ass that he may think I only discovered him just at
"And you're _not_ thinking of going to Rio Janeiro?"
Coquenil shut his teeth hard, and there came into his eyes a look of
indomitable purpose. "Not while the murderer of Martinez is walking about
this town laughing at me. I expect to do some laughing myself before I get
through with this case."
Both men stared at him. "But you are through."
"Am I? Ha! Through? I want to tell you, my friends, that I've barely
"My dear Paul," reasoned the commissary, "what can you do off the force?
How can you hope to succeed single-handed, when it was hard to succeed with
the whole prefecture to help you?"
Coquenil paused, and then said mysteriously: "That's the point, _did_ they
help me? Or hinder me? One thing is certain: that if I work alone, I won't
have to make daily reports for the guidance of some one higher up."
"You don't mean--" began the commissary with a startled look.
M. Paul nodded gravely. "I certainly do--there's no other way of explaining
the facts. I was discharged for a trivial offense just as I had evidence
that would prove this American innocent. They don't _want_ him proved
innocent. And they are so afraid I will discover the truth that they let
the whole investigation wait while Gibelin shadows me. Well, he's off my
track now, and by to-morrow they can search Paris with a fine-tooth comb
and they won't find a trace of Paul Coquenil."
"You're going away?"
"No. I'm going to--to disappear," smiled the detective. "I shall work in
the dark, and, when the time comes, I'll _strike_ in the dark."
"You'll need money?"
Coquenil shook his head. "I have all the money I want, and know where to go
for more. Besides, my old partner here is going to lay off for a few weeks
and work with me. Eh, Papa Tignol?"
Tignol's eyes twinkled. "A few weeks or a few months is all the same to me.
I'll follow you to the devil, M. Paul."
"That's right, that's where we're going. And when I need you, Lucien,
you'll hear from me. I wanted you to understand the situation. I may have
to call on you suddenly; you may get some strange message by some queer
messenger. Look at this ring. Will you know it? A brown stone marked with
Greek characters. It's debased Greek. The stone was dug up near Smyrna,
where it had lain for fourteen hundred years. It's a talisman. You'll
listen to anyone who brings you this ring, old friend? Eh?"
Pougeot grasped M. Paul's hand and wrung it affectionately. "And honor his
request to the half of my kingdom," he laughed, but his eyes were moist. He
had a vivid impression that his friend was entering on a way of great and
"Well," said Coquenil cheerfully, "I guess that's all for to-night. There's
a couple of hours' work still for Papa Tignol and me, but it's half past
two, Lucien, and, unless you think of something----"
"No, except to wish you luck," replied the commissary, and he started to
"Wait," put in Tignol, "there's something _I_ think of. You forget I've
been playing the flute to-day."
"Ah, yes, of course! Any news?" questioned the detective.
The old man rubbed his nose meditatively. "My news is asleep in the next
room. If it wasn't so late I'd bring him in. He's a little shrimp of a
photographer, but--he's seen your murderer, all right."
"The devil!" started M. Paul. "Where?"
Tignol drew back the double doors of a long window, and pointed out to a
balcony running along the front of the hotel.
"There! Let me tell you first how this floor is arranged. There are six
rooms opening on that balcony. See here," and taking a sheet of paper, he
made a rough diagram.
[Illustration: Diagram of floor-plan of rooms.]
"Now, then," continued Papa Tignol, surveying his handiwork with pride, "I
think that is clear. B, here, is the balcony just outside, and there are
the six rooms with windows opening on it. We are in this room D, and my
friend, the little photographer, is in the next room E, peacefully
sleeping; but he wasn't peaceful when he came home to-night and heard me
playing that flute, although I played in my best manner, eh, eh! He stood
it for about ten minutes, and then, eh, eh! It was another case of through
the wall, first one boot, bang! then another boot, smash! only there were
no holes for the boots to come through. And then it was profanity! For a
small man he had a great deal of energy, eh, eh! that shrimp photographer!
I called him a shrimp when he came bouncing in here."
"Well, well?" fretted Coquenil.
"Then we got acquainted. I apologized and offered him beer, which he
likes; then he apologized and told me his troubles. Poor fellow, I don't
wonder his nerves are unstrung! He's in love with a pretty dressmaker who
lives in this room C. She is fair but fickle--he tells me she has made him
unhappy by flirting with a medical student who lives in this room G. Just a
minute, I'm coming to the point.
"It seems the little photographer has been getting more and more jealous
lately. He was satisfied that his lady love and the medical student used
this balcony as a lover's lane, and he began lying in wait at his window
for the medical student to steal past toward the dress-maker's room."
"Yes?" urged the detective with growing interest.
"For several nights last week he waited and nothing happened. But he's a
patient little shrimp, so he waited again Saturday night and--something
_did_ happen. Saturday night!"
"The night of the murder," reflected the commissary.
"That's it. It was a little after midnight, he says, and suddenly, as he
stood waiting and listening, he heard a cautious step coming along the
balcony from the direction of the medical student's room, G. Then he saw a
man pass his window, and he was sure it was the medical student. He stepped
out softly and followed him as far as the window of room C. Then, feeling
certain his suspicions were justified, he sprang upon the man from behind,
intending to chastise him, but he had caught the wrong pig by the ear, for
the man turned on him like a flash and--_it wasn't the medical student_."
"Who was it? Go on!" exclaimed the others eagerly.
"He doesn't know who it was, or anything about the man except that his hand
shut like a vise on the shrimp's throat and nearly choked the life out of
him. You can see the nail marks still on the cheek and neck; but he
remembers distinctly that the man carried something in his hand."
"My God! The missing pair of boots!" cried Coquenil. "Was it?"
Tignol nodded. "Sure! He was carrying 'em loose in his hand. I mean they
were not wrapped up, he was going to leave 'em in Kittredge's room--here it
is, A." He pointed to the diagram.
"It's true, it must be true," murmured M. Paul. "And what then?"
"Nothing. I guess the man saw it was only a shrimp he had hold of, so he
shook him two or three times and dropped him back into his own room; _and
he never said a word_."
"And the boots?"
"He must have taken the boots with him. The shrimp peeped out and saw him
go back into this room F, which has been empty for several weeks. Then he
heard steps on the stairs and the slam of the heavy street door. The man
Coquenil's face grew somber. "It was the assassin," he said; "there's no
doubt about it."
"Mightn't it have been some one he sent?" suggested Pougeot.
"No--that would have meant trusting his secret to another man, and he
hasn't trusted anyone. Besides, the fierce way he turned on the
photographer shows his nervous tension. It was the murderer himself and--"
The detective stopped short at the flash of a new thought. "Great heavens!"
he cried, "I can prove it, I can settle the thing right now. You say his
nail marks show?"
Tignol shrugged his shoulders. "They show as little scratches, but not
enough for any funny business with a microscope."
"Little scratches are all I want," said the other, snapping his fingers
excitedly. "It's simply a question which side of his throat bears the thumb
mark. We know the murderer is a left-handed man, and, being suddenly
attacked, he certainly used the full strength of his left hand in the first
desperate clutch. He was facing the man as he took him by the throat, so,
if he used his left hand, the thumb mark must be on the left side of the
photographer's throat, whereas if a right-handed man had done it, the thumb
mark would be on the right side. Stand up here and take me by the throat.
That's it! Now with your left hand! Don't you see?"
"Yes," said Tignol, making the experiment, "I see."
"Now bring the man in here, wake him, tell him--tell him anything you like.
I must know this."
"I'll get him in," said the commissary. "Come," and he followed Tignol into
A few moments later they returned with a thin, sleepy little person wrapped
in a red dressing gown. It was the shrimp.
"There!" exclaimed Papa Tignol with a gesture of satisfaction.
The photographer, under the spell of Pougeot's authority, stood meekly for
inspection, while Coquenil, holding a candle close, studied the marks on
his face. There, plainly marked _on the left side of the throat_ was a
single imprint, the curving red mark where a thumb nail had closed hard
against the jugular vein (this man knew the deadly pressure points), while
on the right side of the photographer's face were prints of the fingers.
"He used his left hand, all right," said Coquenil, "and, _sapristi_, he had
"_Parbleu!_" mumbled the shrimp.
"Here over the cheek bone is the mark of his first finger. And here, in
front of the ear, is his second finger, and here is his third finger, just
behind the ear, and here, way down on the neck, is his little finger. Lord
of heaven, what a reach! Let's see if I can put my fingers on these marks.
There's the thumb, there's the first finger--stand still, I won't hurt you!
There's the second finger, and the third, and--look at that, see that mark
of the little finger nail. I've got long fingers myself, but I can't come
within an inch of it. You try."
[Illustration: "'Stand still, I won't hurt you.'"]
Patiently the photographer stood still while the commissary and Tignol
tried to stretch their fingers over the red marks that scarred his
countenance. And neither of them succeeded. They could cover all the marks
except that of the little finger, which was quite beyond their reach.
"He has a very long little finger," remarked the commissary, and, in an
instant, Coquenil remembered Alice's words that day as she looked at his
A very long little finger! Here it was! One that must equal the length of
that famous seventeenth-century criminal's little finger in his collection.
But _this_ man was living! He had brought back Kittredge's boots! He was
left-handed! He had a very long little finger! _And Alice knew such a man!_