THE RED SEAL
by Natalie Sumner Lincoln
IN THE POLICE COURT
Te Assistant District Attorney glanced down at the papers in his hand and then up at the well-dressed, stockily built man occupying the witness stand. His manner was conciliatory.
“According to your testimony, Mr. Clymer, the prisoner, John Sylvester, was honest and reliable, and faithfully performed his duties as confidential clerk,” he stated. “Just when was Sylvester in your employ?”
“Sylvester was never in my employ,” corrected Benjamin Augustus Clymer. The president of the Metropolis Trust Company was noted for his precision of speech. “During the winter of 1918 I shared an apartment with Judge James Hildebrand, who employed Sylvester.”
“Was Sylvester addicted to drink?”
“Was he quarrelsome?”
“Was Sylvester married at that date?”
At the question a faint smile touched the corners of Clymer’s clean shaven mouth and his eyes traveled involuntarily toward the over-dressed female whose charge of assault and battery against her husband had brought Clymer to the police court as a “character” witness in Sylvester’s behalf.
“Sylvester left Judge Hildebrand to get married,” he explained. “He was a model clerk; honest, sober, and industrious.”
“That is all, Mr. Clymer.” The Assistant District Attorney spoke in some haste. “You may retire, sir,” and, as Clymer turned to vacate the witness box, he addressed the presiding judge.
Clymer did not catch his remarks as, on stepping down, he was button-holed by a man whose entrance had occurred a few minutes before through the swing door which gave exit from the space reserved for witnesses and lawyers into the body of the court room.
“Sit over here a second,” the newcomer said in an undertone, indicating the long bench under the window. “Has Miss McIntyre been here?”
“Miss McIntyre – here?” Clymer stared in amazement at his questioner. “No, certainly not.”
“Don’t be so positive,” retorted the lawyer heatedly, his color rising at the other’s incredulous tone. “Helen McIntyre telephoned me to meet her, and – by Jove, here she comes,” as a slight stir at the back of the court room caused him to glance in that direction.
A gray-haired patrolman, cap in hand, was in the lead of the small procession which filed up the aisle, and Clymer gazed in astonishment at Helen McIntyre and her twin sister, Barbara. What had brought them at that hour to the police court?
The court room was filled with men, both white and black, while a dozen or more slatternly negro women were seated here and there. The Assistant District Attorney’s plea for a postponement of the Sylvester case on the ground of the absence of an important witness and the granting of his plea was entirely lost on the majority of those in the court room, their attention being wholly centered on Helen McIntyre and Barbara, whose bearing and clothes spoke of a fashionable and prosperous world to which nearly all present were utterly foreign.
Barbara, sensitive to the concentrated regard which their entrance had attracted, drew closer to Dr. Amos Stone, their family physician, who had accompanied them at her particular request. Except for Mrs. Sylvester, she and her sister were the only white women in the room.
Before they could take the seats to which they had been ushered, the clerk’s stentorian tones sent the girls’ names echoing down the court room and Barbara, much perturbed, found herself standing with Helen before the clerk’s desk. There was a moment’s wait and the deputy marshal, who had motioned to one of the prisoners sitting in the “cage” to step outside, emphasized his order with a muttered imprecation to hurry. A slouching figure finally shambled past him and stopped some little distance from the group in front of the Judge’s bench.
“House-breaking,” announced the clerk. “Charge brought by -” He looked up at the two girls.
“Miss Helen McIntyre,” answered one of the twins composedly. “Daughter of Colonel Charles McIntyre of this city.”
“Charge brought by Miss Helen McIntyre,” continued the clerk, “against -” and his pointed finger indicated the seedy looking man slouching before them.
“Smith,” said the latter, and his husky voice was barely audible.
“Smith,” repeated the clerk. “First name -?”
“John,” was the answer, given after a slight pause.
“John Smith, you are charged by Miss Helen McIntyre with house-breaking. What say you – guilty or not guilty?”
The man shifted his weight from one foot to the other and shot an uneasy look about him.
“Not guilty,” he responded.
At that instant Helen caught sight of Benjamin Clymer and his companion, Philip Rochester, and her pale cheeks flushed faintly at the lawyer’s approach. He had time but for a hasty handshake before the clerk administered the oath to the prisoner and the witnesses in the case.
Rochester walked back and resumed his seat by Clymer. Propping himself in the corner made by the bench and the cage, inside of which sat the prisoners, he opened his right hand and unfolded a small paper. He read the brief penciled message it contained not once but a dozen times. Folding the paper into minute dimensions he tucked it carefully inside his vest pocket and glanced sideways at Clymer. The banker hardly noticed his uneasy movements as he sat regarding Helen McIntyre standing in the witness box. Although paler than usual, the girl’s manner was quiet, but Clymer, a close student of human nature, decided she was keeping her composure by will power alone, and his interest grew.
The Judge, from the Bench, was also regarding the handsome witness and the burglar with close attention. Colonel Charles McIntyre, a wealthy manufacturer, had, upon his retirement from active business, made the National Capital his home, and his name had become a household word for philanthropy, while his twin daughters were both popular in Washington’s gay younger set. Several reporters of local papers, attracted by the mention of the McIntyre name, as well as by the twins’ appearance, watched the scene with keen expectancy, eager for early morning “copy.”
As the Assistant District Attorney rose to question Helen McIntyre, the Judge addressed him.
“Is the prisoner represented by counsel?” he asked.
For reply the burglar shook his head. Rising slowly to his feet, Philip Rochester advanced to the man’s side.
“If it please the court,” he began, “I will take the case for the prisoner.”
His offer received a quick acceptance from the Bench, but the scowl with which the burglar favored him was not pleasant. Hitching at his frayed flannel collar, the man partly turned his back on the lawyer and listened with a heavy frown to Helen’s quick answers to the questions put to her.
“While waiting for my sister to return from a dance early this morning,” she stated, “I went downstairs into the library, and as I entered it I saw a man slip across the room and into a coat closet. I retained enough presence of mind to steal across to the closet and turn the key in the door; then I ran to the window and fortunately saw Officer O’Ryan standing under the arc light across the street. I called him and he arrested the prisoner.”
Her simple statement evoked a nod of approval from the Assistant District Attorney, and Rochester frowned as he waived his right to cross-examine her. The next witness was Officer O’Ryan, and his testimony confirmed Helen’s.
“The prisoner was standing back among the coats in the closet,” he said. “My automatic against his ribs brought him out.”
“Did you search your prisoner?” asked Rochester, as he took the witness.
“Find any concealed weapons?”
“A burglar’s kit?”
“Did the prisoner make a statement after his arrest?”
“No, sir; he came along peaceably enough, hardly a word out of him,” acknowledged O’Ryan regretfully. He enjoyed a reputation on the force as a “scrapper,” and a willing prisoner was a disappointment to his naturally pugnacious disposition.
“Did you search the house?”
“Sure, and haven’t I been telling you I did?” answered O’Ryan; his pride in his achievement in arresting a burglar in so fashionable a neighborhood as Sheridan Circle was giving place to resentment at Rochester’s manner of addressing him. At a sign from the lawyer, he left the witness stand, and Rochester addressed the Judge.
“I ask the indulgence of the court for more time,” he commenced, “that I may consult my client and find if he desires to call witnesses.”
“The court finds,” responded the Judge, “that a clear case of house-breaking has been proven against the prisoner by reputable witnesses. He will have to stand trial.”
For the first time the prisoner raised his eyes from contemplation of the floor.
“I demand trial by jury,” he announced.
“It is your right,” acknowledged the Judge, and turned to consult his calendar.
Stepping forward, the deputy marshal laid his hand on the burglar’s shoulder.
“Go inside,” he directed and held open the cage door, which immediately swung back into place, and Rochester, following closely at the prisoner’s heels, halted abruptly. A fit of coughing shook the burglar and he paused by the iron railing, gasping for breath.
“Water,” he pleaded, and a court attendant handed a cup to Rochester, standing just outside the cage, and he passed it over the iron railing to the burglar. Then turning on his heel the lawyer rejoined Clymer, his discontent plainly discernible.
“A clear case against your client,” remarked Clymer, reading his thoughts. “Don’t take the affair to heart, man; you did your best under difficulties.”
Rochester shook his head gloomily. “I might have – Jove! why didn’t I ask for bail?”
“Bail!” The banker suppressed a chuckle as he eyed the threadbare suit and tattered appearance of the burglar, who had resumed his seat in the prisoner’s cage. “Who would have stood surety for that scarecrow?”
“I would have.” Rochester spoke with some vehemence, but his words were partly drowned by the violent fit of coughing which again shook the burglar, and before he could finish his sentence, Helen McIntyre stood at his elbow. She bowed gravely to Clymer who rose at her approach, and laid a persuasive hand on Rochester’s sleeve.
“Will you come with us?” she asked. “Barbara and Dr. Stone are ready to leave. The doctor wishes to -” As she spoke she looked across at Stone, who stood opposite her in the little group. He failed to catch both her word and her eye, his gaze, passing over her shoulder, was riveted on the burglar.
“Something is wrong,” he announced and pushed past Barbara. “Let me inside the cage,” he directed as the deputy marshal kept the gate closed at his approach. “Your prisoner appears ill.”
One glance at the burglar proved the truth of the physician’s statement and the gate was hastily opened. Stone bent over the man, whose spasmodic breathing could be heard distinctly through the court room, then his gaze shifted to the other occupants of the cage.
“The man must have air,” he declared. “Your aid here.” Looking up his eyes met Clymer’s, and the latter came swiftly into the cage, followed by Rochester, and the deputy marshal slammed the door shut behind them.
“Step out this way,” he said, as Clymer aided the physician in lifting the burglar, and he led them into the ante-room whence prisoners were taken into the cage.
Stretching his burden on the floor, Stone tore open the man’s shirt and felt his heart, while Clymer, spying a water cooler, sped across the room and returned immediately with a brimming glass.
“Here’s water,” he said, but Stone refused the proffered glass.
“No use,” he announced. “The man is dead.”
“Dead!” echoed the deputy marshal. “Well, I’ll be – say, doctor,” but Stone had darted out of the room, and he turned open-mouthed to Clymer. “If it wasn’t Doctor Stone I would say he was crazy,” he declared.
“Tut! Feel the man’s heart and convince yourself,” suggested Clymer tartly, and the deputy marshal, dropping on one knee, did so. Detecting no heart-beat, the officer passed his hand over the dead man’s unshaven chin and across his forehead, brushing back the unkempt hair. Under his none too gentle touch the wig slipped back, revealing to his astonished gaze a head of short cropped, red hair.
Clymer, who had followed the deputy marshal’s movements with interest, gave a shout which was echoed by Rochester and Dr. Stone, who returned at that moment.
“Good God!” gasped Clymer, shaken out of his accustomed calm. “Jimmie Turnbull!”
The deputy marshal eyed the startled men.
“You don’t mean -” he stammered, and paused.
For answer Dr. Stone straightened the dead man and removed the wig.
“James Turnbull,” he said gravely, and turning, addressed Rochester, who had dropped down on the nearest chair. “Cashier of the Metropolis Trust Company, Rochester, and your roommate, masquerading as a burglar.”
THE GAME OF CONSEQUENCES
R 0 Chester did not appear to hear Dr. Stone’s words. With eyes half starting from their sockets he sat staring at the dead man, completely oblivious of the others’ presence. After watching him for a moment the physician turned briskly to the dazed deputy marshal.
“Summon the coroner,” he directed. “We cannot move the body until he comes.”
His curt tone brought the official’s wits back with a jump and he made for the exit, only to be stopped at the threshold by a sandy-haired man just entering the room.
At the word coroner, Rochester raised himself from his bent attitude and brushed his hand across his eyes.
“No need for a coroner to diagnose the case,” he objected. “Poor Turnbull always said he would go off like that.”
Stone moved nearer. “Like that?” he questioned, pointing to the still figure. “Explain yourself, Rochester. Did Turnbull expect to die here in this manner?”
“No – no – certainly not.” The lawyer moistened his dry lips. “But when a man has angina pectoris he knows the end may come at any moment and in any place. Turnbull made no secret of suffering from that disease.” Rochester turned toward Clymer. “You knew it.”
Benjamin Clymer, who had been gazing alternately at the dead man and vaguely about the room, looked startled at the abrupt question.
“I knew Turnbull had bad attacks of the heart; we all knew it at the bank,” he stated. “But I understood the disease had responded to treatment.”
“There is no cure for angina pectoris,” declared Rochester.
“No permanent cure,” amended Stone, and would have added more, but Rochester stopped him.
“Now that you know Turnbull died of angina pectoris there is no necessity of sending for the coroner,” Rochester spoke in haste, his words tumbling over each other. “I will go at once and communicate with an undertaker.” But before he could rise from his chair the sandy-haired man, who had conducted a whispered conversation with the deputy marshal, advanced toward the group.
“Just a moment, gentlemen,” he said, and turned back a lapel of his coat and displayed a metal badge. “I am Ferguson of the Central Office. Do you know the deceased?”
“He was my intimate friend,” announced Rochester before his companions could reply to the detective’s question, which was addressed to all. “Mr. Clymer, here, can tell you that Jimmie Turnbull, cashier of his bank, was well known in financial and social Washington.”
“How came he here in this fix?” asked Ferguson with more force than grammatic clarity.
“A sudden heart attack – angina pectoris, you know,” replied Rochester glibly, “with fatal results.”
“I wasn’t alluding to what killed him,” Ferguson explained. “But why was the cashier of the Metropolis Trust Company,” he looked questioningly at Clymer whom he knew quite well by sight, “and a social high-light, decked out in these clothes and a wig, too?” leaning down, the better to examine the clothing on the dead man.
“He had just been held for the Grand Jury on a charge of house-breaking,” volunteered the deputy marshal. “I reckon that brought on his heart-attack.”
“True, true,” agreed Rochester. “The excitement was too much for him.”
“House-breaking” ejaculated the detective. “Dangerous sport for a man suffering with angina pectoris, aside from anything else. Who preferred charges?”
“The Misses McIntyre,” answered the deputy marshal, to whom the question was addressed. “Like to interview them?”
“No, no!” Rochester was on his feet instantly. “There is no necessity to bring the twins out here – it’s too tragic!”
“Tragic?” echoed Ferguson. “Why?”
“Why – why – Turnbull was arrested in their house,” Rochester was commencing to stutter. “He was their friend -“
“Caught burglarizing, heh?” Ferguson’s eyes glowed; the case already whetted his remarkably keen inquisitorial instinct which had gained him place and certain fame in the Washington police force. “Are the Misses McIntyre still in the building?”
“They were in the court room just before we brought Turnbull’s body here,” responded the deputy marshal. “I guess they are still waiting, eh, doctor?”
Stone, thus appealed to, nodded. “I agree with Mr. Rochester,” he said, and the gravity of his manner impressed Ferguson. “It is better for me to break the news of Mr. Turnbull’s death to the young ladies before bringing them here. Therefore, with your permission, Ferguson – He got no further.
Through the outer entrance of the room came Helen McIntyre and her sister Barbara, conducted by the same bowing patrolman who had ushered them into the court room an hour before.
“My God! Too late!” stammered Rochester under his breath, and he turned in desperation to Benjamin Clymer. The bank president’s state of mind at the extraordinary masquerade and sudden death of his popular and trusted cashier bordered on shocked horror, which had made him a passive witness of the rapidly shifting scene. Rochester clutched his arm in his agitation. “Get the twins out of here – do something, man! Don’t you know that Turnbull was in love with -“
His fervid whisper penetrated further than he realized and one of the McIntyre twins looked inquiringly in their direction. Clymer, more startled than his demeanor indicated, wondered if she had overheard Rochester’s ejaculations, but whatever action the banker contemplated in response to the lawyer’s appeal was checked by a scream from the girl on his right. With ashen face and trembling finger she pointed to Turnbull’s body which suddenly confronted her as she walked forward.
“Who is it?” she gasped. “Babs, tell me!” And she held out her hand imploringly.
Her sister stepped to her side and bent over Turnbull. When she looked up her lips alone retained their color.
“Hush!” she implored, giving her sister a slight shake. “Hush! It is Jimmie Turnbull. Can you not see for yourself, dear?”
It seemed doubtful if Helen heard her; with attention wholly centered on the dead man she swayed on her feet, and Dr. Stone, thinking she was about to fall, placed a supporting arm about her.
“Do you not know Jimmie?” asked her sister. “Don’t stare so, dearest.” Her tone was pleading.
“Perhaps the young lady has some difficulty in recognizing Mr. Turnbull in his disguise,” suggested Ferguson, who stood somewhat in the background but closely observing the scene.
“Disguise!” Helen raised her eyes and Ferguson, hardened as he had become to tragic scenes, felt a throb of pity as he caught the pent-up agony in her mute appeal.
“Yes, Miss,” he said awkwardly. “The burglar you caught in your house was Mr. Turnbull in disguise.
Barbara McIntyre released her grasp of her sister’s arm and collapsed on a chair. Stone, still supporting Helen, felt her muscles grow taut and an instant later she stepped back from his side and stood by her sister. As the two girls faced the circle of men, the likeness between them was extraordinary. Each had the same slight graceful figure, equal height; and feature for feature, coloring matching coloring, they were identical; their gowns, even, were cut on similar lines, only their hats varied in shape and color.
“Do I understand, gentlemen,” Helen began, and her voice gained steadiness as she proceeded, “that the burglar whom Officer O’Ryan and I caught lurking in our house was James Turnbull?”
“He was,” answered Ferguson, and Stone, as the twins looked dumbly at him, confirmed the detective’s statement with a brief, “Yes.”
The silence that ensued was broken by Barbara rising to her feet.
“Jimmie won his wager,” she announced. Her gaze did not waver before the concentrated regard of the men facing her. “He broke into our house – but, oh, how can I pay my debt to him now that he is dead!”
“Hush!” Helen laid a cautioning hand on her sister’s arm as the latter’s voice gained in shrillness, the shrillness of approaching hysteria.
“I am all right, Helen.” Barbara waved her away impatiently. “What caused Jimmie’s death?”
“Angina pectoris,” declared Rochester. “Too much excitement brought on a fatal attack.” Barbara nodded dazedly. “I knew he had heart trouble, but -” She stepped toward Turnbull and her voice quivered with feeling. “Don’t leave Jimmie lying there; take him to his room, doctor,” turning entreatingly to Stone.
The physician looked at her compassionately. “I will, just as soon as the coroner views the body,” he promised. “But come away now, Babs; this is no place for you and Helen.” He signed to the deputy marshal to open the door as he walked across the room, Barbara keeping step with him, and her sister following in their wake. At the door Barbara paused and looked back.
“Will there be an inquest?” she asked.
“That’s for the coroner to decide,” responded Ferguson. “As long as Mr. Turnbull entered your house on a wager and died from an attack of angina pectoris the inquest is likely to be a mere formality. Ah, here is the coroner now,” as a man paused in the doorway.
Helen McIntyre moved back from the door to make room for Coroner Penfield. Having had occasion to attend court that morning, he was passing the door when attracted by the group just inside the room. Courteously acknowledging Helen’s act, Penfield stepped briskly across the threshold and stopped abruptly on catching sight of the lonely figure on the floor.
“Won’t you hold an autopsy, Ferguson?” asked Clymer, breaking his long silence.
“No, sir, we never do when the cause of death is apparent,” the detective bowed to Coroner Penfield. “Isn’t that so, Coroner?”
Penfield nodded. “Unless the condition of the body indicates foul play or the relatives specially request it, we do not perform autopsies,” he answered. “What has happened here?” and he gazed about with quickened interest.
“Mr. Turnbull, who masqueraded as a burglar on a wager with Miss McIntyre died suddenly from angina pectoris,” explained the deputy marshal.
“Just a case of death from natural causes,” broke in Rochester. “Please write out a permit for me to remove Turnbull’s body, Dr. Penfield.”
Helen McIntyre took a step forward. Her eyes, twice their accustomed size, shone brightly, in contrast to her dead white face. Carefully avoiding her sister’s glance she addressed the coroner.
“I must insist,” she began and stopped to control her voice. “As Mr. Turnbull’s fiancee, I -” she faltered again. “I demand that an autopsy be held to determine the cause of his death.”
THE ROOM WITH THE SEVEN DOORS
Mrs. Brewster regarded her surroundings with inward satisfaction. It would have taken a far more captious critic than the pretty widow to find fault with the large, high-ceilinged room in which she sat. The handsome carved Venetian furniture, the rich hangings and valuable paintings on the walls gave evidence of Colonel McIntyre’s artistic taste and appreciation of the beautiful. Mrs. Brewster had never failed, during her visit to the McIntyre twins, to examine the rare curios in the carved cabinets and the tapestries on the walls, but that afternoon, with one eye on the clock and the other on her embroidery, she sat waiting in growing impatience for the interruption she anticipated.
The hands of the clock had passed the hour of five before the buzz of a distant bell brought her to her feet. Hurrying to the window she peeped between the curtains in time to see a stylish roadster electric glide down the driveway leading from the McIntyre residence and stop at the curb. As she turned to go back to her chair Dr. Stone was ushered into the library by the footman. Mrs. Brewster welcomed her cousin with frank relief.
“I have waited so impatiently for you,” she confessed, making room for him to sit on the sofa by her side.
“I was detained, Margaret.” Stone’s voice was not over-cordial; three imperative telephone calls from her, coming at a moment when he had been engaged with a serious case in his office, had provoked him. “Do you wish to see me professionally?”
“Indeed, I don’t.” She laughed frankly. “I am the picture of health.”
Stone, observing her fine coloring and clear eyes, silently agreed with her. The widow made a charming picture in her modish tea-gown, and the physician, watching her with an appraising eye, acknowledged the beauty which had captivated all Washington. Mrs. Brewster had carried her honors tactfully, a fact which had gained her popularity even among the dowagers and match-making mothers who take an active part in Washington’s social season.
“Then, Margaret, what do you wish to see me about?” Stone asked, after waiting without result for her to continue speaking.
She laughed softly. “You are the most practical of men,” she said. “It would not have been so difficult to find a companion anxious to spend the whole afternoon with me for my sake alone.”
“Colonel McIntyre, for instance?” he teased, and laughed amusedly at her heightened color. “Have a care, Margaret; McIntyre’s flirtations are all very well, but he is the type of man to be deadly in earnest when once he falls in love.”
“Thanks for your warning,” Mrs. Brewster smiled, then grew serious. “I sent for you to ask about Jimmie Turnbull’s death this morning. Barbara told me you accompanied them to the police court.”
“Yes. Why weren’t you with the girls?”
“Because I was told nothing of their trip to the, police court until they had returned,” she replied. “How horribly tragic the whole affair is!” And a shiver she could not suppress crept down her spine.
“It is,” agreed Stone. “What possessed Jimmie Turnbull to play so mad a trick?”
“His wager with Barbara.”
Stone leaned a little nearer. “Have you learned the nature of that wager?” he asked, lowering his voice.
“No. Babs was in so hysterical a condition when she returned from the police court that she gave a very incoherent account of the whole affair, and she has kept her room ever since luncheon,” explained Mrs. Brewster.
Stone looked puzzled. “I understood that Jimmie was attentive to Helen McIntyre and not to Barbara,” he said. “But upon my word, Barbara appeared more overcome by Jimmie’s death than Helen.”
Mrs. Brewster did not reply at once; instead, she glanced carefully around. The room was generally the rallying place of the McIntyres. It stretched across almost the entire width of the house; the diamond-paned and recessed windows gave it a medieval air in keeping with its antique furniture, and the seven doors opening from it led, respectively, to the large dining room beyond, a morning room, billiard room, the front and back halls, and the Italian loggia which over-looked the stretch of ground between the McIntyre residence and its neighbor on the north. Apparently, she and Dr. Stone had the room to themselves.
“I cannot answer your question with positiveness,” she stated. “Frankly, Jimmie appeared impartial in his attentions to the twins. When he wasn’t with Barbara he was with Helen, and vice versa.”
Stone gazed at her in some perplexity. “Are you aware that Helen stated at the police court this morning that she was Turnbull’s fiancee?”
“What!” Mrs. Brewster actually bounced in her seat. “You – you astound me!”
“I was a bit surprised myself,” acknowledged the physician. “I thought Rochester – however, that is neither here nor there. Helen not only announced she was Jimmie’s fiancee but as such demanded that a post-mortem examination be held to determine the cause of his death.”
Mrs. Brewster’s pretty color faded and the glance she turned on her cousin was sharp. “Why should Helen suspect foul play?” she demanded. “For that is what her request hinted.”
“True.” Stone pulled his beard absentmindedly. “Ah, here is Colonel McIntyre,” he exclaimed as the portieres before the hall door parted and a tall man strode into the library.
McIntyre was a favorite with the old physician, and he welcomed his arrival with warmth. Exchanging a word of greeting with Mrs. Brewster, McIntyre drew up a chair and dropped into it.
“I called at your office, doctor,” he said. “Went there at once on learning the shocking news about poor Turnbull. Why in the world didn’t he announce who he was when my daughter had him arrested as a burglar? He must have realized that prolonged excitement was bad for his weak heart.”
Mrs. Brewster, who had settled herself more comfortably in her corner of the sofa on McIntyre’s arrival, answered his remark.
“I only knew Jimmie superficially,” she said, “but he had one distinguishing trait patent to all, his inordinate fondness for practical jokes. Probably the predicament he found himself in was highly to his taste – until his heart failed.”
Her voice, slightly raised, carried across the room and reached the ears of a tall, slender girl who had stood hesitating on the threshold of the dining worn door on beholding the group by the sofa. All hesitation vanished, however, as the meaning of Mrs. Brewster’s remark dawned on her, and she walked over to the sofa.
“You are very unjust, Margaret,” she stated, and at sound of her low triante voice McIntyre whirled around and frowned slightly. “Jimmie was thinking of the predicament of others, not of himself.”
“What do you mean, Helen?” her father demanded.
“Why, how could Jimmie reveal his identity in court without involving us?” she asked. “Good afternoon, doctor,” recollecting her manners, and her attention thus diverted, she missed the sudden questioning look which Mrs. Brewster and her father exchanged. “No,” she continued, “Jimmie sacrificed himself for others.”
“By becoming a burglar.” McIntyre laughed shortly. “Don’t talk arrant nonsense, Helen.”
The girl flushed at his tone, and Dr. Stone, an interested onlooker, marveled at the fleeting flash of disdain which lighted her dark eyes. Stone’s interest grew. The McIntyre family had always been particularly congenial, and the devotion of Colonel McIntyre (left a widower when the twins were in short frocks) to his daughters had been commented on frequently by their wide circle of friends in Washington and by acquaintances made in their travels abroad.
Colonel McIntyre had married when quite a young man. Frugality and industry and a brilliant mind had reaped their reward, and, wiser than the majority of Americans, he retired early from business and devoted himself to a life of leisure and the education of his daughters. Their debut the previous autumn had been one of the social events of the Washington season, and the instant popularity the girls had attained proved a source of pride to Colonel McIntyre. His chief pleasure consisted in gratifying their every whim, and Dr. Stone, knowing the family as he did, wondered at the faintly discernible air of constraint in the girl’s manner. Usually frank to a sometimes embarrassing degree, she appeared to some disadvantage as she sat gazing moodily at the tips of her patent-leather pumps. Dr. Stone’s attention shifted to Colonel McIntyre and lastly to the pretty widow at his elbow. Had Dame Rumor spoken truly in the report, widely circulated, that the colonel had fallen a victim to the charms of Margaret Brewster, his daughters’ guest? If so, it might account for the young girl’s manner – however devoted McIntyre’s daughters might be to Mrs. Brewster as a friend and companion, they might resent having so young a woman for their step-mother.
Not receiving any reply to his remarks, McIntyre was about to address his daughter again when she spoke.
“Jimmie will be justified,” she declared stoutly. “Has the coroner held the autopsy yet, Dr. Stone?”
“Autopsy!” McIntyre spoke with sharp abruptness. “I thought it was clearly established that Jimmie died from angina pectoris?”
“It is so believed,” responded Stone. His mystification was growing; had not Helen informed her father of the scene which had transpired at the police court, and of her request to the coroner? “I understand the post-mortem examination will be made this afternoon, Helen.”
A heavy paper knife, nicely balanced between McIntyre’s well manicured fingers, dropped to the floor as a step sounded behind him and the butler, Grimes, stopped by his side.
“Mr. Rochester just telephoned that his partner, Mr. Harry Kent, is out of town, Miss” – bowing to the silent girl. Grimes always contented himself with addressing his “young ladies” by the simple prefix “Miss,” and never added their given names, because, as he expressed it, “them twins are alike as two peas, and which is which, I dunno.” Considering himself one of the family from his long service with Colonel McIntyre, he kept a watchful eye on the twins, but their pranks in childhood had often exasperated him into giving notice, which he generally found it convenient to forget when the first of a new month came around.
“Mr. Kent will be back to-morrow,” added the butler, as silence followed the delivery of his message. “Mr. Rochester wishes to know if he can transact any business for you.”
“Please thank him and say no.” The girl’s color rose as she caught her father’s disapproving look. The colonel waited until the butler had disappeared before addressing her.
“Why did you send for Harry Kent?” he questioned. “You know I do not approve of his attentions to Barbara. Rochester is well enough -“
“Speaking of Rochester “- Mrs. Brewster saw the gathering storm clouds in the girl’s expressive eyes, and broke hastily into the conversation. “I see by the paper, Cousin Amos” – she turned so as to face Dr. Stone -” that Mr. Rochester declared positively that Jimmie Turnbull died from angina pectoris.”
“What’s Philip’s opinion worth?” The young girl smiled disdainfully. “Philip seems to think that having shared an apartment with Jimmie, gives him intimate knowledge of Jimmie’s health. Philip is not a medical man.”
“No,” acknowledged her father. “But here is a medical man who was on the spot when Jimmie died. What’s your opinion, Stone?”
Stone, suddenly conscious of the keen attention of his companions, spoke slowly as was his wont when making a serious statement.
“Rochester’s contention that Jimmie died from angina pectoris would seem borne out by what transpired,” he said. “Undoubtedly Jimmie felt an attack coming on and used the customary remedy to relieve it -“
“And what was that remedy?” questioned Mrs. Brewster swiftly.
“Amy1 nitrite.” Stone spoke with decision. “I could detect its presence by the fruity, pleasant odor which always accompanies the drug’s use.”
“Ah!” The exclamation slipped from Mrs. Brewster. “Is the drug administered in water?”
“No, it is inhaled – take care, you have dropped your handkerchief.” Stone pulled himself up short in his speech, and bent over but the young girl was too quick for him, and stooped first to pick up her handkerchief.
As she raised her head Stone caught sight of the tiny mole under the lobe of her left ear. It was the one mark which distinguished Barbara from her twin sister. Colonel McIntyre had addressed his daughter as Helen, and she had not undeceived him – Why? The perplexed physician gave up the problem.
“The drug,” he went on to explain, “amyl nitrite comes in pearl capsules and is crushed in a handkerchief and the fumes inhaled.”
Mrs. Brewster leaned forward suddenly. “Would that cause death?” she asked.
Stone shook his head in denial. “Not the customary dose of three minims,” he answered, and turning, found that Barbara had stolen from the room.
BARBARA ENGAGES COUNSEL
Bidding a hasty good morning to the elevator girl, Harry Kent, suit-case in hand, entered the cage and was carried up to the fourth floor of the Wilkins Building. Several business acquaintances stopped to chat with him as he walked down the corridor to his office, and it was fully fifteen minutes before he turned the knob of the door bearing the firm name – ROCHESTER AND KENT, ATTORNEYS – on its glass panel. As he stepped inside the anteroom which separated the two offices occupied respectively by him and his senior partner, Philip Rochester, a stranger rose from the clerk’s desk.
“Yes, sir?” he asked interrogatively.
Kent eyed him in surprise. “Mr. Rochester here? ” he inquired.
“No, sir. It am in charge of the office.”
“You are!” Kent’s surprise increased. “I happen to be Mr. Kent, junior partner in this firm.”
“I beg your pardon, sir.” The dapper clerk bowed and hurrying to his desk took up a letter. “Mr. Rochester left this for you, Mr. Kent, before his departure last night.”
“His departure!” Kent deposited his suit-case on one of the chairs and tore open the envelope. The note was a scrawl, which he had some difficulty in deciphering.
“Dear Kent,” it ran. “Am called out of town; will be back Saturday. Saunders gave me some of his cheek this afternoon, so I fired him. I engaged John Sylvester to fill his place, who comes highly recommended. He will report for work to-morrow. Ta-ta – PHIL.”
Kent thrust the note into his pocket and picked up his suit-case.
“Mr. Rochester states that he has engaged you,” he said. “Your references -?”
“Here, sir.” The clerk handed him a folded paper, and Kent ran his eyes down the sheet from the sentence: “To whom it may concern” to the signature, Clark Hildebrand. The statement spoke in high terms of John Sylvester, confidential clerk.
“I can refer you to my other employers, Mr. Kent,” Sylvester volunteered as the young lawyer stood regarding the paper. “If you, desire further information there is Mr. Clymer and -“
“No, Judge Hildebrand’S recommendation is sufficient.” And at Kent’s smile the clerk’s anxious expression vanished. “Did Mr. Rochester give you any outline of the work?”
“Yes, sir; he told me to file the papers in the Hitchcock case, and attend to the morning correspondence.”
“Very good. Has any one called this morning?”
“No, sir. These letters were addressed to you personally, and I have not opened them,” Sylvester handed a neatly arranged package to Kent. “These,” indicating several letters lying open on his desk, “are to the firm.”
“Bring them to me in half an hour,” and Kent walked into his private office, carefully closing the door behind him. Opening his suit-case he took out his brief bag and laid it on the desk in front of him together with the package of letters. Instead of opening the letters immediately, he tilted back in his chair and regarded the opposite wall in deep thought. Philip Rochester could not have selected a worse time to absent himself; three important cases were on the calendar for immediate trial and much depended on the firm’s successful handling of them. Kent swore softly under his breath; his last warning to Rochester, that he would dissolve their partnership if the older man continued to neglect his practice, had been given only a month before and upon Kent’s return from eight months’ service in the Judge Advocate General’s Department in France. Apparently his warning had fallen on deaf ears and Rochester was indulging in another periodic spree, for so Kent concluded, recalling the unsteady penmanship of the note handed to him by the new clerk, John Sylvester.
Kent was still frowning at the opposite wall when a faint knock sounded, and at his call Sylvester entered.
“Here are the letters received this morning, sir, and type-written copies of the answers to yesterday’s correspondence which Mr. Rochester dictated before leaving,” Sylvester explained as he placed the papers on Kent’s desk. “If you will o.k. them, I will mail them at once.”
Kent went through the letters with care, and the new clerk rose in his estimation as he read the excellent dictation of the clearly typed answers.
“These will do admirably,” he announced. “Sit down and I will reply to the other letters.”
At the end of an hour Sylvester closed his stenographic note book and collected the correspondence, by that time scattered over Kent’s desk.
“I’ll have these notes ready for your signature before lunch,” he said as he picked up a newspaper from the floor where it had tumbled during Kent’s search for some particu1ar letter heads. “I brought in the morning paper, sir; thought perhaps you had not seen it.”
“Thanks.” Kent swung his chair nearer the window and opened the newspaper. He had purchased a copy when walking through Union Station on his arrival, but had left it in the cafeteria where he had snatched a cup of coffee and hot rolls before hurrying to his office.
He read a column devoted to international affairs, scanned an account of a senatorial wrangle, and was about to turn to the second page, whistling cheerily, when his attention was arrested by the headings:
BANK CASHIER DIES IN POLICE COURT
JAMES TURNBULL, MISTAKEN FOR BURGLAR, SUFFERS FATAL ATTACK OF ANGINA PECTORIS
Kent’s whistle stopped abruptly, and clutching the paper in both hands, he devoured the short account printed under the scare heads:
“While masquerading as a burglar on a wager, James Turnbull, cashier of the Metropolis Trust Company, was arrested by Officer O’Ryan at an early hour yesterday morning in the residence of Colonel Charles McIntyre.
“Officer O’Ryan conducted his prisoner to the 8th Precinct Police Station, and later he was arraigned in the police court. The Misses McIntyre appeared in person to prefer the charges against the supposed burglar, who, on being sworn, gave the name of John Smith.
“Philip Rochester, the well known criminal lawyer, was assigned by the court to defend the prisoner. Upon the evidence submitted Judge Mackall held the prisoner for trial by the grand jury.
“It was just after the Judge’s announcement that ‘John Smith,’ then sitting in the prisoners cage, was seized with the attack of angina pectoris which ended so fatally a few minutes later. It was not until after he had expired that those rendering him medical assistance became aware that he was James Turnbull in disguise.
“James Turnbull was a native of Washington, his father, the late Hon Josiah Turnbull of Connecticut, having made this city his permanent home in the early ’90s. Mr. Turnbull was looked upon as one of the rising young men in banking circles; he was also prominent socially, was a member of the Alibi, Metropolitan, and Country Clubs, and until recently was active in all forms of athletics, when his ill-health precluded active exercise.
“Officer O’Ryan, who was greatly shocked by the fatal termination to Mr. Turnbull’s rash wager, stated to the representatives of the press that Mr. Turnbull gave no hint of his identity while being interrogated at the 8th Precinct Station. Friends attribute Mr. Turnbull’s disinclination to reveal himself to the court, to his enjoyment of a practical joke, not realizing that the resultant excitement of the scene would react on his weak heart.
“Mr. Turnbull is survived by a great aunt; he had no nearer relatives living. It is a singular coincidence that the lawyer appointed by the court to defend Turnbull was his intimate friend, Philip Rochester, who made his home with the deceased.”
Kent read the column over and over, then, letting the paper slip to the floor, sat back in his chair, too dumb-founded for words. Jimmie Turnbull arrested as a burglar in the home of the girl he loved on charges preferred by her, and defended in court by his intimate friend, both of whom were unaware of his identity! Kent rumpled his fair hair until it stood upright. And Jimmie’s death had followed almost immediately as the result of over-excitement!
Kent’s eyes grew moist; he had been very fond of the eccentric, lovable bank cashier, whose knack of performing many a kindly act, unsolicited, had endeared him to friends and acquaintances alike. Kent had seen much of him after his return from France, for Jimmie’s attention to Helen McIntyre had been only second to Kent’s devotion to the latter’s sister, Barbara. The two men had one bond in common. Colonel McIntyre disliked them and discouraged their calling, to the secret fury of both, but love had found a way – Kent’s eyes kindled at the recollection of Barbara’s half-shy, wholly tender reception of his ardent pleading.
Turnbull’s courtship had met with a set-back where he had least expected it – Philip Rochester had fallen deeply in love with Helen and, encouraged by her father, had pressed his suit with ardor. Frequent quarrels between the two close friends had been the outcome, and Jimmie had confided to Kent, before the latter left on the business trip to Chicago from which he had returned that morning, that the situation had become intolerable and he had notified Rochester that he would no longer share his apartment with him, and to look for other quarters as quickly as possible.
So buried was Kent in his thoughts that he never heard Sylvester’s knock, and it was not until the clerk stood at his elbow that he awoke from his absorption.
“A lady to see you, Mr. Kent,” he announced. “Shall I show her in?”
“Certainly – her name?”
“She gave none.” Sylvester paused on his way back to the door. “It is one of the Misses McIntyre.”
“Good Lord!” Kent was on his feet, straightening his tie and brushing his rumpled hair. “Here, wait a minute “- clutching a whisk broom in a frantic endeavor to remove some of the signs of travel which still clung to him. But he had only opportunity for one dab at his left shoulder before Barbara entered the office. All else forgotten, Kent tossed down the whisk broom and the next instant he had clasped her hand in both of his, his eyes telling more eloquently than his stumbling words, his joy at seeing her again.
“This is a business call,” she stated demurely, on you and Mr. Rochester.” Her lovely eyes held a glint of mischief as she mentioned Kent’s partner, then her expression grew serious. “I want legal advice.”
“I am afraid you will have to put up with me,” Kent moved his chair closer to the one she had selected by the desk. “Rochester is out of town.”
“What!” Barbara sat bolt upright. “Where – where’s he gone?”
“I don’t know “- Kent pulled Rochester’s letter out of his pocket and re-read it. “He did not mention where he was going.”
Barbara stared at him; she had paled.
“When did Philip leave?”
“Last night, I presume.” Kent tipped back his chair and pressed a buzzer; a second later Sylvester appeared in the doorway.
“Did Mr. Rochester tell you where he was going?” he asked the clerk.
“No, sir. Mr. Rochester stated that you had his address.
“I?” Kent concealed his growing surprise. “Did he leave any message for me, other than the letter?”
“At what hour did he leave the office?”
“I can’t say, sir; he was still here when I went away at five o’clock. He gave me a key to the office so that I could get in this morning.” Kent remained silent, and he added, “Is that all, sir?”
“Yes, thanks,” and the clerk retired.
As the door closed Barbara turned to Kent. “Have you heard about Jimmie Turnbull?”
Her voice was a bit breathless as she put the question, but Kent, puzzling over his partner’s eccentric conduct, hardly noted her agitation.
“Yes. I saw the account just now in the morning paper,” he answered. “A shocking affair. Poor Turnbull! He was a good fellow.”
“He was!” Barbara spoke with unaccustomed vehemence, and looking at her Kent saw that her eyes were filled with tears. Impulsively he threw his arm about her, holding her close.
“My heart’s dearest,” he murmured fondly. “If there is anything – anything I can do -“
Barbara straightened up and winked away the tears. “There is,” she said tersely. “Investigate Jimmie’s death.”
Kent gazed at her in astonishment. “Please explain,” he suggested. “The morning paper states very plainly that the cause of death was an attack of angina pectoris.”
“Yes, I know, and that is what Philip Rochester contends also.” Barbara paused and glanced about the office; they had the room to themselves. “B-but Helen believes otherwise.”
Kent drew back. “What do you mean, Babs?” he demanded.
“Just that,” Barbara spoke wearily, and Kent, giving her close attention, grew aware of dark shadows under her eyes which told plainly of a sleepless night. “I want to engage you as our counsel to help Helen find out about Jimmie’s death.”
“Find out what?” asked Kent, his bewilderment increasing. “Do you mean that Jimmie’s death was not the result of a dangerous heart disease, but of foul play?”
Barbara nodded her head vigorously. “Yes.”
Kent sat back in his chair and regarded her in silence for a second. “How could that be, Babs, in an open police court with dozens of spectators all about?” he asked. “The slightest attempt to kill him would have been frustrated by the police officials; remember, a prisoner especially, is hedged in and guarded.”
“Well, he wasn’t so very hedged in,” retorted Barbara. “I was there and saw how closely people approached Jimmie.”
“Did you observe any one hand him anything?”
“N-no,” Barbara drawled the word as she strove to visualize the scene in the court room; then catching Kent’s look of doubt she added with unmistakable emphasis. “Helen and I do not believe that Jimmie died from natural causes; we think the tragedy should be investigated.” Her soft voice deepened. “I must know the truth, Harry, dear; for I feel that perhaps I am responsible for Jimmie’s death.”
“You!” Kent’s voice rose in indignant protest. “Absurd!”
“No, it isn’t If it had not been for my wager with Jimmie, he never would have entered our house disguised as a burglar.”
“What brought about the wager?”
“Last Sunday Helen was boasting of her two new police dogs which Philip Rochester recently gave her, and said how safe she felt. We’ve had several burglaries in our neighborhood,” Barbara explained, “and when Jimmie scoffed at the dogs, I bet him that he could not break into the house without the dogs arousing the household. I never once thought about Jimmie’s heart trouble,” she confessed, and her lips quivered. “I feel so guilty.”
“You are inconsistent, Babs,” chided Kent gently. “One moment you reproach yourself for being the cause of bringing on Jimmie’s heart attack, and the next you declare you believe he died through foul play. You,” looking at her tenderly, while a whimsical smile softened his stern mouth, “don’t go so far as to claim you murdered him, do you?”
“Of course I didn’t!” Barbara spoke with indignant emphasis, and her fingers snapped in uncontrollable nervousness. “Jimmie was very dear” – she hesitated – “to us. Neither Helen nor I can leave a stone unturned until we know without a shadow of a doubt what killed him.”
“That is easily proven,” declared Kent. “An autopsy -“
“Helen asked the coroner to hold one.”
Kent stared – the twins were certainly in earnest.
“My advice to you is to wait until you hear the result of the post-mortem from Coroner Penfield,” he said gravely. “Until we know definitely what killed Jimmie, speculation is idle.”
Barbara rose at once. “I thought you would be more sympathetic,” she remarked, and her voice was a bit unsteady. “I am sorry to have troubled you.”
In an instant Kent was by her side. “Barbara,” he entreated. “I promise solemnly to aid you in every possible way. My only happiness is in serving you,” his voice was very tender. “I slave here day in and day out that I may sometime be able to make a home for you. Don’t leave me in anger.”
“I was not angry, only deeply hurt,” Barbara confessed. “I have so longed to see you. I – I needed you! I -” The rest was lost as she bowed her head against Kent’s broad shoulder, and his impassioned whispers of devotion brought solace to her troubled spirit.
“I must go,” declared Barbara ten minutes later. “Father would make a fearful scene if he knew I had been here to see you.” She picked up her hand-bag, preparatory to leaving. “Then I can tell Helen that you will aid us?”
“Yes.” Kent stopped on his way to the door. “I will try and see the coroner this afternoon. In the meantime, Babs, can’t you tell me what makes you suspect that Jimmie might have been killed?”
“I have nothing tangible to go on,” she admitted. “Only a woman’s instinct -“
Kent did not smile. “Instinct,” he repeated thoughtfully. “Well, does your instinct hazard a guess as to the weapon, the opportunity, and the motive for such a crime? Jimmie Turnbull hadn’t an enemy in the world.”
Barbara looked at him oddly. “Suppose you find the answer to those conundrums,” she suggested. “Don’t come to the elevator; Margaret Brewster may see you with me, and she would tell father of our meeting.
“Is Mrs. Brewster still with you?” asked Kent, paying no attention to her protests as he accompanied her down the corridor. “I understood she planned to return to the West last week.”
“She did, but father persuaded her to prolong her visit,” Barbara was guilty of a grimace, then hailing the descending elevator she bolted into it and waved her good-by to Kent as the cage shot downward.
When Kent reentered his office he found Sylvester hanging up the telephone receiver.
“Mr. Clymer has telephoned to ask if you will come to the Metropolis Trust Company at once,” he said, and before Kent could frame a reply he had darted into the coat closet and brought out his hat and cane, and handed them to him.
“Don’t wait for me, but go out for your luncheon,” directed Kent, observing the hour. “I have my key and can get in when I return if you should not be here,” and not waiting to hear Sylvester’s thanks, he hurried away.
The clock over the bank had just struck noon when Kent reached the fine office building which housed the Metropolis Trust Company, and as he entered the bank, a messenger stopped him.
“Mr. Clymer is waiting for you in his private office, sir,” he said, and led the way past the long rows of mahogany counters and plate glass windows to the back of the bank, finally stopping before a door bearing the name, in modest lettering- BENJAMIN AUGUSTUS CLYMER. The bank president was sensitive on one point; he never permitted initials only to be used before his name. The messenger’s deferential knock was answered by a gruff command to enter. Clymer welcomed Kent with an air of relief.
“You know Colonel McIntyre,” he said by way of introduction, and Kent became aware that the tall man lounging with his back to him in one of the leather covered chairs was Barbara’s father. Colonel McIntyre returned Kent’s bow with a curt nod, and then Clymer pushed forward a chair.
“Sit down, Kent,” he began. “You have already handled several confidential affairs for the bank in a satisfactory manner, and I have sent for you to-day to ask your aid in an urgent matter. Before I go further I must ask you to treat what I am about to say as strictly confidential.”
“Certainly, Mr. Clymer.”
“Good! Then draw up your chair.” Clymer waited until Kent had complied with his request. “You have heard of Jimmie Turnbull’s sudden and tragic death?”
“As you know, he was cashier of this bank.” Clymer spoke with deliberation. “Soon after word reached here of his death, the vice-president and treasurer of the bank had a careful examination made of his books and accounts.” Clymer paused to clear his throat; he was troubled with an irritating cough. “Turnbull’s accounts were found in first class order.”
“I am sure they would be, Mr. Clymer,” exclaimed Kent warmly. “Any one who knew Jimmie would never doubt his honesty.”
McIntyre turned in his chair and regarded the speaker with no friendly eye, but aside from that, took no part in the conversation. Clymer did not at once resume speaking.
“To-day,” he commenced finally, “Colonel McIntyre called at the bank and asked the treasurer, Mr. Gilmore, for certain valuable negotiable securities which he left in the bank’s care a month ago. Mr. Gilmore told Colonel McIntyre that these securities had been given to Jimmie Turnbull last Saturday on his presentation of a letter from McIntyre requesting that they be turned over to the bank’s cashier. McIntyre expressed his surprise and asked to see the letter ” – Clymer paused and took a paper from his desk. “Here is the letter.”
Kent took the paper and examined it closely.
“This is perfectly in order,” he said. “A clear statement in Colonel McIntyre’s handwriting and on his stationery.
For the first time Colonel McIntyre addressed him.
“The letter is in order,” he acknowledged, “and written on my stationery, but it was not written by me. The letter is a clever forgery.”
THE VANISHING MAN
It still lacked twenty minutes of nine o’clock that night when Harry Kent turned into the Saratoga apartment hotel, and not waiting to take one of the elevators, ran up the staircase to the apartment which had been occupied jointly by Jimmie Turnbull and Philip Rochester. Kent had already selected the right key from among those on the bunch he had found in Rochester’s desk at the office, and slipping it into the key-hole of the outer door, he turned the lock and walked noiselessly inside the dark apartment.
The soft click of the outer door as it swung to was hardly noticeable, and Kent, pausing only long enough to get his breath from his run up the staircase, stepped into the living room and reached for the electric light switch. Instead of encountering the cold metal of the switch his groping fingers closed over warm flesh.
Startled as he was, Kent retained enough presence of mind to grasp the hand tightly; the next second a man hurled himself upon him and he gave back. Furniture in the path of the struggling men was overturned as they fought in silent desperation. Kent would have given much for light. He strained his eyes to see his adversary, but the pitch darkness concealed all but the vaguest outline. As Kent got his second wind, confidence in his strength returned and he redoubled his efforts; suddenly his hands shifted their grip and he swung his adversary backward, pinning him against the wall.
A faint, sobbing breath escaped the man, and Kent felt the whole figure against which he pressed, quiver and relax; the taut muscles of chest and arms grew slack, collapsed.
Kent stood in wonderment, peering ahead, his hands empty – the man had vanished!
Drawing a long, long breath Kent felt his way back to the electric switch and pressed the button, lighting both the wall brackets and the table lamps. With both hands on his throbbing temples he gazed at the over-turned chairs; they, as well as his aching throat, testified to his encounter having been a reality and not a fantastic dream. His glance traveled this way and that about the room and rested longest on the opposite side of the room where he had pinned the man to the wall. Wall -! Kent leaned against a tall highboy and laughed weakly, immoderately. He had pushed the man straight against the door leading into Rochester’s bedroom, and not, as he had supposed, against the solid wall.
The man had been quick-witted enough to grasp the situation; his pretended weakness had caused Kent to relax his hold, a turn of the knob of the door, which swung inward, and he had made his escape into the bedroom, leaving Kent staring into dark, empty space.
Gathering his wits together Kent hurried into the bedroom – it was empty; so also was the bathroom opening from it. From there Kent made the rounds of the apartment, switching on the light until the place was ablaze, but in spite of his minute search of closets and under beds and behind furniture he could find no trace of his late adversary. Kent stopped long enough in the pantry to refresh himself with a glass of water, then he returned to the living room and sat down in an arm chair by the window. He wanted time to think.
How had the man vanished so utterly, leaving no trace behind in the apartment? The window in Rochester’s room was locked on the inside; in fact, all the apartment windows were securely fastened, he had found on his tour of inspection; the only one not locked was the oval, swinging window high up in the side wall of the bathroom; only a child could squeeze through it, Kent decided. The window looked into a well formed by the wings of the apartment house, and had a sheer drop of fifty feet to the ground below.
But for his unfortunate luck in backing the man against the bedroom door instead of the wall he would not have escaped, but how had the man realized so instantly that he was against a door in the pitch darkness? It certainly showed familiarity with his surroundings. Kent sat upright as an idea flashed through his brain – was the man Philip Rochester?
Kent scouted the idea but it persisted. Suppose it had been Philip Rochester awakened from a drunken slumber by his entrance in the dark; if so, nothing more likely than that he had mistaken him, Kent, for a burglar and sprung at him. But why had he disappeared without revealing his identity to Kent? Surely the same reason worked both ways – the man who had wrestled with him was as unaware of Kent’s identity as Kent was of his – they had fought in the dark and in silence.
Kent laughed aloud. The situation had its amusing side; then, as recollection came of the scene in the bank that morning, his mirth changed to grim seriousness. At his earnest solicitation and backed by Benjamin Clymer’s endorsement of his plan, Colonel McIntyre had agreed to give him until Saturday night to locate the missing securities; if he failed, then the colonel proposed placing the affair in the hands of the authorities.
Kent’s firm mouth settled into dogged lines at the thought; such a procedure meant besmirching Jimmie Turnbull’s name; let the public get the slightest inkling that the bank cashier was suspected of forgery and there would be the devil to pay. Kent was determined to protect the honor of his dead friend, and to aid Helen McIntyre in her investigation of his sudden death.
Jimmie Turnbull had been the soul of honor; that he had ever stooped to forgery was unbelievable. There was some explanation favorable to him – there must be. Kent’s clenched fist struck the arm of his, chair a vigorous blow and he leapt to his feet. Wasting no further time on speculation, he commenced a systematic search of the apartment, replacing each chair and table as well as the rugs which had been over-turned in his recent tussle, after which he tried the drawers of Jimmie’s desk. They were unlocked. A careful search brought nothing to light but receipted bills, some loose change, old dinner cards, theater programs, tea invitations, and several packages of cigarettes.
Turning from the desk Kent walked over to the table which he knew was Philip Rochester’s property; he recalled having once seen Jimmie place some papers there by mistake; having done so once, the mistake might have occurred again. Taking out his partner’s bunch of keys, he soon found one that fitted and opened the drawers. He had half completed his task, without finding any clew to the missing securities, when he was interrupted by the sound of the opening of the front door, and had but time to slam the drawers shut and pocket the keys when the night clerk of the hotel stepped inside the apartment and, closely followed by a sandy-haired man, walked into the living room. He halted abruptly at sight of Kent.
“Good evening, Mr. Kent,” he exclaimed, and took in at a glance the orderly arrangement of the room. “Pardon my unceremonious entrance, but I had no idea you were here, sir; we received a telephone message that a burglar had broken in here.”
“You did!” Kent stared at him. Was he right, after all, in his conjecture; had the man been Philip Rochester? It would seem so, for who else, after taking refuge elsewhere, would have telephoned a warning of burglars to the hotel office? “Have you any idea who sent the message, Mr. Stuart?”
“I have not; it was an out-side call -” Stuart turned to his companion. “Sorry I brought you here on an idiotic chase, Mr. Ferguson.”
“That’s all right,” responded the detective good naturedly. “Would you like me to look through the apartment just to see if any one really is concealed on the premises, Mr. Kent?” he asked, and added quickly, seeing Kent hesitate, “I am from the central office; Mr. Stuart can vouch for me.”
Kent’s hesitation vanished. “I’d be obliged if you would, Ferguson.” As he spoke he led the way to Rochester’s bedroom. “Come with us, Stuart,” as the clerk loitered behind.
“Guess not, sir; I’m needed down at the desk, we are short-handed to-night. Let me know how the hunt turns out,” and he stepped into the vestibule. “Good night.”
“Good night,” called Kent, and he accompanied Ferguson as far as the bathroom door, then returned to his inspection of Rochester’s table. He had just completed his task when the detective rejoined him.
“No trace of any one,” the latter announced. “Some one put up a joke on Stuart, I imagine. Find what you wished, sir?”
Kent was distinctly annoyed by the question. “Yes,” he replied shortly.
Ferguson ignored his curt tone. “Will you spare me a few minutes of your time, Mr. Kent?” he asked persuasively. “I won’t detain you long.”
“Certainly.” Kent moved over to the chair in the window which he had occupied before and pointed to another, equally as comfortable.
“What can I do for you?” he asked as Ferguson dropped back and stretched himself in the soft depths of the big chair.
“Supply some information,” answered the detective promptly. “Just a minute,” as Kent started to interrupt. “You don’t recall me, but I met you while working on the Chase case; you handled that trial in great shape,” Ferguson looked admiringly at his companion. “Lots of the praise went to your partner, Mr. Rochester, but I know you did the work. Now, please let me finish,” holding up a protesting hand. “I know you’ve carried Mr. Rochester in your firm; he’s dead wood.” Kent was silent. What the detective said was only too true. Rochester, realizing the talent and industry which characterized his younger partner, had withdrawn more and more from active practice, and had devoted himself to the social life of the National Capital.
“This is rather a long-winded way of reaching my point,” finished the detective. “But, Mr. Kent, I want your assistance in a puzzling case.”
“Go on, I’m listening.” As he spoke, Kent drew out his cigar case and handed it to Ferguson. “The matches are on the smoking stand at your elbow. Now, what is it, Ferguson?”
His companion did not reply at once; instead he puffed at his cigar.
“Did you read in the paper about Mr. Turnbull’s death?” he asked when the cigar was drawing to his satisfaction, and as Kent nodded a silent affirmative in answer to his question, he asked another. “Did you know him well?”
“Did he have an enemy?”
“Not to my knowledge.” Kent was watching the detective narrowly; what was he driving at? “On the contrary Turnbull was extremely popular.”
“With Colonel McIntyre?” Ferguson had hoped to surprise Kent with the question, but his companion’s expression did not alter.
“N-no, perhaps he was not over-popular with the colonel,” he admitted slowly. “What prompts the question, Ferguson?”
The detective hitched his chair nearer. “I’m going to lay all my cards on the table,” he announced. “I need advice and you are the man to give it to me. Listen, Mr. Kent, this Jimmie Turnbull masquerades as a burglar night before last at the McIntyre house, is arrested, a charge brought against him for house-breaking by Miss Helen McIntyre, and shortly after he dies -“
“From angina pectoris,” finished Kent, as the detective paused.
“So Mr. Rochester contended,” admitted Ferguson. “We’ll let that go for a minute. Now, when Miss McIntyre saw Turnbull’s body, she demanded an autopsy. Why?”
“To discover the cause of death,” answered Kent quietly. “That is obvious, Ferguson.”
“Sure. And why did she wish to discover it?” He waited a brief instant, then answered his own question. “Because Miss McIntyre did not agree with Rochester that Turnbull had died from angina pectoris – that is obvious, too. Now, what made her think that?”
“I am sure I don’t know” – Kent’s air of candor was unmistakable and Ferguson showed his disappointment.
“Hasn’t Miss McIntyre been to see you?”
“No,” was Kent’s truthful answer; Barbara was the younger twin and her sister was therefore, “Miss McIntyre.”
“You must recollect, Ferguson,” he added, “that had Miss McIntyre called to see me about poor Turnbull, I would not have discussed the interview with any one, under any conditions.”
“Certainly. I am not asking you to break any confidences; in fact,” Ferguson smiled, “I must ask you to consider our conversation confidential. Now, Mr. Kent, does it not strike you as odd that apparently the only man in Washington who really disliked Turnbull was Colonel McIntyre, and it is his daughter who intimates that Turnbull’s death was not due to natural causes?”
“Oh, pshaw!” Kent shrugged his shoulders. “You are taking an exaggerated view of the affair. Colonel McIntyre is an honorable upright American, and Turnbull was the same.”
“People speak highly of both men,” acknowledged the detective. I saw Mr. Clymer, president of Turnbull’s bank this afternoon, and he paid a fine tribute to his dead cashier.”
Kent drew an inward sigh of relief. Benjamin Clymer had proved true blue; he had not permitted Colonel McIntyre’s desire for immediate publicity and belief in Turnbull’s guilt to shake his faith in his friend.
“You see, Ferguson, there is no motive for such a crime as you suggest,” he remarked.
“Oh, for the motive,” – Ferguson rubbed his hands nervously together as he shot a look at his questioner; the latter’s clear-cut features and manly bearing inspired confidence. “We know of no motive,” he corrected.
“And we know of no crime having been perpetrated,” rapped out Kent. “Come, man; don’t hunt a mare’s nest.”
“Ah, but it isn’t a mare’s nest!” Ferguson remarked dryly.
Kent bent eagerly forward – “You have heard from the coroner -“
“Not yet,” Ferguson jerked forward his chair until his knees touched Kent.
Had either man looked toward the window near which they were sitting, he would have seen a black shadow squatting ape-like on the window ledge. As Kent leaned over to relight his cigar, the face at the window vanished, to cautiously reappear a second later.
“The case piqued my interest,” continued the detective after a pause. “And I made an investigation on my own hook. After the departure of the McIntyre twins and Coroner Penfield, I went back to the court room and poked around the prisoners’ cage. There I found this.” He took out of his pocket a small bundle and carefully unwrapped the oil-skin cover.
“A handkerchief?” questioned Kent as the detective did not unfold the white muslin, but held it with care.
“Yes. One of the prisoners in the cage told me Turnbull dropped it as Dr. Stone and the deputy marshal carried him into the ante-room. Smell anything?” holding up the handkerchief.
“Yes.” Kent wrinkled his nose and sniffed several times. ” Smells like fruit.”
Ferguson nodded. “Good guess; I noticed the odor and went at once to Dr. McLane. He told me the handkerchief was saturated with amyl nitrite.”
“Amyl nitrite,” repeated Kent reflectively. “It is given for angina pectoris.”
“Yes. Well, in this case it was the remedy and not the disease which killed Turnbull,” announced Ferguson triumphantly.
“Nonsense!” ejaculated Kent. “I happen to know that the capsules contain only three minims – I once heard Turnbull say so.”
“True, but Turnbull got a lethal dose, all right; and he thought he was taking only the regular one. Devilishly ingenious on the part of the criminal, wasn’t it?
“Yes. Have you detected the criminal?” Kent put the question with unmoved countenance, but with inward foreboding; the detective’s mysterious manner was puzzling.
“Not yet, but I will,” Ferguson hesitated. “The first thing was to establish that a crime had really been committed.”
Kent bent down and sniffed again at the handkerchief to which a faint fruity aroma still clung.
“How did you discover that?” he asked.
“Dr. McLane and I took the handkerchief to a laboratory and the chemist found from the number of particles of capsules in the handkerchief, that at least two capsules – or double the usual dose – had been crushed by Turnbull and the fumes inhaled by him; with fatal results.”
“Hold on,” cautioned Kent. “In the flurry of the moment, Turnbull may have accidentally put two capsules in the handkerchief, meaning only to use one.”
“Mr. Kent,” the detective spoke impressively, “that wasn’t Turnbull’s handkerchief.”
“Not his own handkerchief!” exclaimed Kent. “Then, are you sure that Turnbull used it?”
“Yes; that fact is established by reputable witnesses; Dr. Stone, Mr. Clymer, and the deputy marshal,” Ferguson spoke with increasing earnestness. “That is a woman’s handkerchief – look at it.”
Ferguson laid the little bundle on the broad arm of Kent’s chair and with infinite care folded back the edges of the handkerchief, revealing as he did so, the small particles of capsules still clinging to the linen. But Kent hardly observed the capsules, his entire attention being centered on one corner of the handkerchief, which had neatly embroidered on it the letter “B.”
STRAIGHT QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS
Colonel McIntyre, with an angry gesture, threw down the newspaper he had been reading.
“Do you mean to say, Helen, that you decline to go to the supper to-night on account of the death of Jimmie ‘Turnbull?” he asked.
McIntyre flushed a dark red; he was not accustomed to scenes with either of his daughters, and here was Helen flouting his authority and Barbara backing her up.
“It is quite time this pretense is dropped,” he remarked stiffly. “You were not engaged to Jimmie – wait,” as she attempted to interrupt him. “You told me the night of the burglary that he was nothing to you.'”
“I was mistaken,” Helen’s voice shook, she was very near to tears. “When I saw Jimmie lying there, dead” – she faltered, and her shoulders drooped forlornly -” the world stopped for me.”
“Hysterical nonsense!” McIntyre was careful to avoid Barbara’s eyes; her indignant snort had been indicative of her feelings. “Keep to your room, Helen, until you regain some common sense. It is as well our friends should not see you in your present frame of mind.”
Helen regarded her father under lowered lids. “Very well,” she said submissively and walked toward the door; on reaching it she paused, and spoke over her shoulder. “Don’t try me too far, father.”
McIntyre stared for a full minute at the doorway through which Helen took her departure.
“Well, what the -” He pulled himself up short in the middle of the ejaculation and turned to Barbara. “Go and get dressed,” he directed. “We must leave here in twenty minutes.”
“I am not going,” she announced.
“Not going!” McIntyre frowned, then laughed abruptly. “Now, don’t tell me you were engaged to Jimmie Turnbull, also.”
“I think you are horrid!” Barbara’s small foot came down with a vigorous stamp.
“Well, perhaps I am,” her father admitted rather wearily. “Don’t keep us waiting, Babs; the car will be here in less than twenty minutes.”
“But, father, I prefer to stay at home.”
And I prefer to have you accompany us,” retorted McIntyre. “Come, Barbara, we cannot be discourteous to Mrs. Brewster; she is our guest, and this supper is for her entertainment.”
“Well, take her.” Barbara was openly rebellious.
“Barbara!” His tone caused her to look at him in wonder; instead of the stern rebuke she expected, his voice was almost wheedling. “I cannot very well take Mrs. Brewster to a caf at this hour without causing gossip.”
“Oh, fiddle-sticks!” exclaimed Barbara. “I don’t have to play chaperon for you two. Every one knows she is visiting us; what’s there improper in your taking her out to supper? Why” – regarding him critically -” she’s young enough to be your daughter!”
“Go to your room!” There was nothing wheedling about McIntyre at that instant; he was thoroughly incensed.
As Barbara sped out happy in having gained her way, she announced, as a parting shot, “If you can be nasty to Helen; father, I can be nasty, too.”
Colonel McIntyre brought his fist down on a smoking table with such force that he scattered its contents over the floor. When he rose from picking up the debris, he found Mrs. Brewster at his elbow.
“Can I help?” she asked.
“No, thanks, everything is back in place.” He pulled forward a chair for her. “If agreeable to you I will telephone Ben Clymer that we will stop for him and take him with us to the Caf St. Marks; or would you prefer some other man?”
“Oh, no.” She threw her evening wrap across the sofa and sat down. “Are the girls ready?”
“They – they are indisposed, and won’t be able to go to-night.”
“What! Both girls?”
“Yes, both” – firmly, not, however, meeting her eyes.
“Hadn’t I better stay with them?” she asked. “Have you telephoned or Dr. Stone?”
“There is no necessity for giving up our little spree,” he declared cheerily. “The girls don’t need a physician. They” – with meaning, “need a mother’s care.” He picked up her coronation scarf from the floor where it had slipped and laid it across her bare shoulders; the action was almost a caress. She made a lovely picture as she sat in the high-backed carved chair in her chic evening gown, and as her soft dark eyes met his ardent look, McIntyre felt the hot blood surge to his temples, and with quickened pulse he went to the telephone stand and gave Central a number.
Back in her chair Mrs. Brewster sat thoughtfully watching him. She had been an unobserved witness of the scene with Barbara, having entered the library in time to hear the girl’s last remarks. It was not the first inkling that she had had of their disapproval of Colonel McIntyre’s attentions to her, but it had hurt.
The widow had become acquainted with the twins when, traveling in Europe just before the outbreak of the World War, and had made the hasty trip back to this country in their company. Colonel McIntyre had planned to bring the twins, then at school in Paris, home himself, but business had kept him in the West and he had cabled to a spinster cousin to chaperon them on the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Nor had he reached New York in time to see them disembark, and thus had missed meeting Mrs. Brewster, then in her first year of widowhood.
The friendship between the twins and Mrs. Brewster had been kept up through much correspondence, and the widow had finally promised, to come to Washington for their debut, visiting her cousins, Dr. and Mrs. Stone. The meeting had but cemented the friendship between them, and at the twins’ urgent request, seconded with warmth by Colonel McIntyre, she had promised to spend the month of April at the McIntyre home.
The visit was nearly over. Mrs. Brewster sighed faintly. There were two courses open to her, immediate departure, or to continue to ignore the twins’ strangely antagonistic behavior – the first course did not suit Mrs. Brewster’s plans.
Barbara, who had left the library through one of its seven doors, had failed to see Mrs. Brewster by the slightest margin; she was intent only on being with Helen. The affection between the twins was very close; but while their facial resemblance was remarkable, their natures were totally dissimilar. Helen, the elder by twenty minutes, was studious, shy, and too much given to introspection; Barbara, on the contrary, was whimsical and practical by turns, with a great capacity for enjoyment. The twins had made their debut jointly on their eighteenth birthday, and while both were popular, Barbara had received the greater amount of attention.
Barbara tip-toed into the suite of rooms which the girls occupied over the library, expecting to find Helen lying on the lounge; instead, she found her writing busily at her desk. She tossed down her pen as her sister entered, and, taking up a blotter, carefully laid it across the page she had been writing.
“Thank heaven, I don’t have to go to that supper party,” Barbara announced, throwing herself full length on the lounge.
“So father gave it up,” commented Helen. “I am glad.”
“Gave up nothing,” retorted her sister. “He and Margaret Brewster are going.”
“What!” Helen was on her feet. “You let them go out alone together?”
“They can’t be alone if they are together,” answered Barbara practically. “Don’t be silly, Helen.”
Helen did not answer at once; she had grown singularly pale. Walking over to the window she glanced into the street. “The car hasn’t come,” she exclaimed, and consulted her wrist watch. “Hurry, Babs, you have just, time to dress and go with them.”
“B-b-but I said I wouldn’t go,” stuttered Barbara, completely taken by surprise.
“No matter; tell father you have changed your mind.” Helen held out her hand. “Come, to please me,” and there was a world of wistful appeal in her hazel eyes which Barbara was unable to resist.
It was not until Barbara had completed her hasty toilet and a frantic dash downstairs in time to spring into the waiting limousine after Margaret Brewster, that she realized she had put on one of Helen’s evening gowns and not her own.
Benjamin Clymer was standing in the vestibule of the Saratoga, where he made his home, when the McIntyre limousine drew up, and he did not keep them waiting, as Colonel McIntyre had predicted he would on the drive to Clymer’s apartment house.
“The clerk gave me your message when I came in, McIntyre,” he explained as the car drove off. I called up your residence and Grimes said you were on the way here.”
Barbara, tucked away in her corner of the limousine, listened to Mrs. Brewster’s animated chatter with utter lack of interest; she wished most heartily that she had not been over-persuaded by her sister, and had remained at home. That her father had accepted her lame explanation and her presence in the party with unaffected pleasure had been plain. Mrs. Brewster, after a quiet inquiry regarding her health, had been less enthusiastic in her welcome. Barbara was just stifling a yawn when the limousine stopped at the entrance to the Caf St. Marks.
Inside the caf all was light and gaiety, and Barbara brightened perceptibly as the attentive head waiter ushered them to the table Colonel McIntyre had reserved earlier in the evening.
“It’s a novel idea turning the old church into a caf ,” Barbara remarked to Benjamin Clymer. “A sort of casting bread upon the waters of famished Washington. I wonder if they ever turn water into wine?”
“No such luck,” groaned Clymer dismally, looking with distaste at the sparkling grape juice being poured into the erstwhile champagne goblet by his plate. “The caf is crowded to-night,” and he gazed with interest about the room. Colonel McIntyre, who had loitered behind to speak to several friends at an adjacent table, took the unoccupied seat by Mrs. Brewster and was soon in animated conversation with the widow and Clymer; Barbara, her healthy appetite asserting itself, devoted her entire attention to the delicious delicacies placed before her. The arrival of the after-the-theater crowd awoke her from her abstraction, and she accepted Clymer’s invitation to dance with alacrity. When they returned to the table she discovered that Margaret Brewster and her father had also joined the dancers.
Barbara watched them while keeping up a disjointed conversation with Clymer, whose absentminded remarks finally drew Barbara’s attention, and she wondered what had come over the generally entertaining banker. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him the reason for his distrait manner when her thoughts were diverted by his next remark.
“Your father and Mrs. Brewster make a fine couple,” he said. “Colonel McIntyre is the most distinguished looking man in the caf and Mrs. Brewster is a regular beauty.”
Instead of replying Barbara turned in her seat and scanned her father as he and Mrs. Brewster passed them in the dance. Colonel McIntyre did not look his age of forty-seven years. His hair, prematurely gray, had a most attractive wave to it, and his erect and finely proportioned figure showed to advantage in his well-cut dress suit. Barbara’s heart swelled with pride – her dear and handsome father! Then she transferred her regard to Margaret Brewster; she had been such a satisfactory friend – why oh, why did she wish to become her step-mother? The twins, with the unerring instinct of womanhood, had decided ten days before that Weller’s warning to his son was timely – Mrs. Brewster was a most dangerous widow.
“How is your sister?” inquired Clymer, breaking the silence which had lasted nearly five minutes. He was never quite certain which twin he was talking to, and generally solved the problem by familiarizing himself with their mode of dress. The plan had not always worked as the twins had a bewildering habit of exchanging clothes, to the enjoyment of Barbara’s mischief loving soul, and the mystification of their numerous admirers.
“She is rather blue and depressed,” answered Barbara. “We are both feeling the reaction from the shock of Jimmie Turnbull’s tragic death. You must forgive me if I am a bore; I am not good company to-night.”
The arrival of the head waiter at their table interrupted Clymer’s reply.
“This gentleman desires to speak to you a moment, Miss McIntyre,” he said, and indicated a young man in a sack suit standing just back of him.
“I’m Parker of the Post,” the reporter introduced himself with a bow which included Clymer. “May I sit down?” laying his hand on the back of Mrs. Brewster’s vacant chair.