HotFreeBooks.com
The Red Seal
by Natalie Sumner Lincoln
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Take me home, Harris," she ordered. "And then come back for Mrs. Brewster and father. I don't feel well—hurry."

"Very good, miss," and touching his cap the chauffeur swung his car up Fifteenth Street.

The limousine had turned into Massachusetts Avenue before Barbara switched on the electric lamp in the car and opened the note so mysteriously given to her. She read feverishly the few lines it contained,

Dear Helen: The coroner will call an inquest. Secrete letter "B."

The note was unsigned but it was in the handwriting of Philip Rochester.



CHAPTER VII. THE RED SEAL

The gloomy morning, with leaden skies and intermittent rain, reflected Harry Kent's state of mind. He could not fix his attention on the business letters which Sylvester placed before him; instead, his thoughts reverted to the scene in Rochester's and Turnbull's apartment the night before, the elusive visitor he had found there on his arrival, his interview with Detective Ferguson, and above all the handkerchief, saturated with amyl nitrite, and bearing the small embroidered letter "B"—the initial, insignificant in size, but fraught with dire possibilities if, as Ferguson hinted, Turnbull had been put to death by an over-dose of the drug. "B "—Barbara; Barbara—"B"—his mind rang the changes; pshaw! other names than Barbara began with "B."

"Shall I transcribe your notes, Mr. Kent?" asked Sylvester, and Kent awakened from his reverie, discovered that he had scrawled the name Barbara and capital "Bs" on the writing pad. He tore off the sheet and crumpled it into a small ball. "No, my notes are unimportant." Kent unlocked his desk and took some manuscript from one of the drawers. "Make four copies of this brief, then call up the printer and ask how soon he will complete the work on hand. Has Mr. Clymer telephoned?"

"Not this morning." Sylvester rose, papers in hand. "There has been a Mr. Parker of the Post who telephones regularly once an hour to ask for Mr. Rochester's address and when he is expected at the office." He paused and looked inquiringly at Kent. "What shall I say the next time he calls?"

"Switch him on my phone," briefly. "That is all now, Sylvester. I must be in court by noon, so have the brief copied by eleven."

"Yes, sir," and Sylvester departed, only to return a second later. "Miss McIntyre to see you," he announced, and stood aside to allow the girl to enter.

It was the first time Kent had seen Helen since the tragedy of Tuesday, and as he advanced to greet her he noted with concern her air of distress and the troubled look in her eyes. Her composed manner was obviously only maintained by the exertion of self-control, for the hand she offered him was unsteady.

"You are so kind," she murmured as he placed a chair for her. "Babs told me you have promised your aid, and so I have come—" she pressed one hand to her side as if she found breathing difficult and Kent, reaching for his pitcher of ice water which stood near at hand, filled a tumbler and gave it to her.

"Take a little," he coaxed as she moved as if to refuse the glass. "Why didn't you telephone and I would have called on you; in fact, I planned to run in and see you this afternoon.

"It is wiser to have our talk here," she replied. Setting down the empty glass she gazed about the office and her face brightened at sight of a safe standing in one corner. "Is that yours or Philip's?" she asked, pointing to it.

"The safe? Oh, it's for our joint use, owned by the firm, you know," explained Kent, somewhat puzzled by her eagerness.

"Do you keep your private papers there, as well as the firm's?"

"Oh, yes; Philip has retained one section and I the other." Kent walked over and threw open the massive door which he had unlocked on entering the office and left ajar. "Would you like to see the arrangements of the compartments?"

Without answering Helen crossed the room and stood by his side.

"Which is Philip's section?" she asked.

"This," and Kent touched the side of the safe.

Helen turned around and inspected the office; the outer door through which she had entered was closed, as were also the private door leading directly into the outside corridor, and the one opening into the closet. Convinced that they were really alone, she took from her leather hand-bag a white envelope and handed it to Kent.

"Please put this in Philip's compartment," she said, and as he hesitated, she added pleadingly, "Please do it, Harry, and ask no questions."

Kent looked at her wonderingly; the girl was obviously laboring under intense excitement of some sort, which might at any moment break into hysteria. Bottling up his curiosity, he stooped down in front of the safe.

"Certainly I will put the envelope away for you," he agreed cheerily. "Wait, though, I must find if Philip left the key of the compartment on his bunch." He took from his pocket the keys he had found so useful the night before, and selected one that resembled the key to his own compartment, and inserted it in the lock. To his surprise he discovered the compartment was already unlocked. Without comment he pulled open the inside drawer and started to lay the white envelope on top of the papers already there, when he hesitated.

"The envelope is unaddressed, Helen," he remarked, extending it toward her. She waved it back.

"It is sealed with red wax," she stated. "That is all that is necessary for identification."

Kent turned over the envelope—the flap was held down securely with a large red seal which bore the one letter "B." He dropped the envelope inside the drawer, locked the compartment, and closed the door of the safe.

"Let us talk," he suggested and led the way back to their chairs. "Helen," he began, after she was seated. "There is nothing I will not do for your sister Barbara," his manner grew earnest. "I—" he flushed; baring his feelings to another, no matter how sympathetic that other was, was foreign to his reserved nature. "I love her beyond words to express. I tell you this to—to—gain your trust."

"You already have it, Harry!" Impulsively Helen extended her hand, and he held it in a firm clasp for a second. "Babs and I have come at once to you in our trouble."

"Yes, but you have only hinted what that trouble, was," he reminded her gently. "I cannot really aid you until you give me your full confidence."

Helen looked away from him and out of the window. The relief, which had lighted her face a moment before, had vanished. It was some minutes before she answered.

"Babs told you that I suspected Jimmie did not die from angina pectoris—" She spoke with an effort.

"Yes."

She waited a second before continuing her remarks. "I have asked the coroner to make an investigation." She paused again, then added with more animation, "He is the one to tell us if a crime has been committed."

"He can tell if death has been accelerated by a weapon, or a drug," responded Kent; he was weighing his words carefully so that she might understand him fully. "But to constitute a crime, it has to be proved first, that the act has been committed, and second, that a guilty mind or malice prompted it. Can you furnish a clew to establish either of the last mentioned facts in connection with Jimmie's death?"

Kent wondered if she had heard him, she was so long in replying, and he was about to repeat his question when she addressed him.

"Have you heard from Coroner Penfield?"

"No. I tried several times to get him on the telephone, but without success," replied Kent; his disappointment at not receiving an answer to his question showed in his manner. "I went to Penfield's house last night, but he had been called away on a case and, although I waited until nearly ten o'clock, he had not returned when I left. Have you had word from him?"

"Not—not directly." She had been nervously twisting her handkerchief about in her fingers; suddenly she turned and looked full at Kent, her eyes burning feverishly. "I would give all I possess, my hope of future happiness even, if I could prove that Jimmie died from angina pectoris."

Kent looked at her in mingled sympathy and doubt.—What did her words imply—further tragedy?

"Jimmie might not have died from angina pectoris," he said, "and still not have been poisoned—"

"You mean—"

"Suicide."

Slowly Helen took in his meaning, but she volunteered no remark, and Kent after a pause, added, "While I have not seen Coroner Penfield I did hear last night what killed Jimmie." Helen straightened up, one hand pressed to her heart. "It was a lethal dose of amyl nitrite."

"Amyl nitrite," she repeated. "Yes, I have heard that it is given for heart trouble. How"—she looked at him queerly. "How is it administered?"

"By crushing a capsule in a handkerchief and inhaling its fumes "—he was watching her closely. "The handkerchief Jimmie was seen to use just before he died was found to contain two or more broken capsules."

Helen sat immovable for over a minute, then she bowed her head and burst into dry tearless sobs which wracked her body. Kent laid a tender hand on her shoulder, then concluding it was better for her to have her cry out, he wandered aimlessly about the office waiting for her to regain her composure.

He stopped before one of the windows facing south and stared moodily at the Belasco Theater. That playhouse had surely never staged a more complicated mystery than the one he had set himself to unravel. What consolation could he offer Helen? If he encouraged her belief in his theory that Jimmie committed suicide he would have to establish a motive for suicide, and that motive might prove to be the theft of Colonel McIntyre's valuable securities. Threatened with exposure as a thief and forger, Jimmie had committed suicide, so would run the verdict; the fact of his suicide was proof of his guilt of the crime Colonel McIntyre virtually charged him with, and vice versa.

What had been discovered to point to murder? The finding of a handkerchief, saturated with amyl nitrite, which had not belonged to the dead man. Proof—bah! it was ridiculous! What more likely than that Jimmie, while in the McIntyre house before his arrest as a burglar, had picked up one of Barbara's handkerchiefs, stuffed it inside his pocket, and when threatened with exposure on being held for the grand jury, had, in desperation, crushed the amyl nitrite capsules in Barbara's handkerchief and killed himself.

Kent drew a long, long sigh. His faith in Jimmie's honesty was shaken at last by the accumulative evidence, and he was convinced that he had found the solution to the problem, but how impart it to the weeping girl? To prove her lover a thief, forger, and suicide was indeed a task he shrank from.

A ring at the telephone caused Kent to move hastily to the instrument; when he hung up the receiver Helen was adjusting her veil before a mirror over the mantel.

"Colonel McIntyre is in the next room," he said, keeping his voice lowered.

"My father!" Helen's eyes were hard and dry. "Does he know that I am here?"

"I don't know; Sylvester simply said he had called to see me and is waiting in the outer office." Observing her indecision, Kent opened the door leading directly into the corridor. "You can leave this way without encountering Colonel McIntyre."

Helen hurried through the door and paused in the corridor to whisper feverishly in Kent's ear, "Promise me you will remain faithful to Barbara whatever develops."

"I will!" Kent's pledge rang out clearly, and Helen with a lighter heart turned to walk away when a telegraph boy appeared around the corner of the corridor and thrust a yellow envelope at Kent, who stood half inside his office watching Helen.

"Sign here," the boy said, indicating the line on the receipt slip, and getting it back, departed.

Motioning to Helen to wait, Kent tore open the telegram. It was from Cleveland and dated the night before. The message ran: Called to Cleveland. Address City Club. Rochester.

Without comment Kent held out the telegram so that Helen could read it.

"What!" she exclaimed. "Philip in Cleveland last night. I—I—don't understand." And looking at her Kent was astounded at the flash of terror which shone for an instant in her eyes. Before he had time to question her she bolted around the corridor.

Kent remained staring ahead for an instant then returned thoughtfully to his office, and within a second Sylvester received a telephone message to show Colonel McIntyre into Kent's office. Not only Colonel McIntyre followed the clerk into the room but Benjamin Clymer. "Any further developments, Kent?" inquired the banker. "No, we can't sit down; just dropped in to see you a minute."

"There is nothing new," Kent had made instant decision; such information regarding the death of Turnbull as he had gleaned from Ferguson, and the events of the night before should be confided to Clymer alone, and not in the presence of Colonel McIntyre.

"Did you search Turnbull's apartment last night as you spoke of doing?" asked McIntyre.

"I did, and found no trace of your securities, Colonel."

McIntyre lifted his eyebrows as he smiled sarcastically. "Can I see Rochester?" he asked.

"He is in Cleveland; I don't know just when he will be back."

"Indeed? Too bad you haven't the benefit of his advice," remarked McIntyre insolently. "At Clymer's request, Kent, I have allowed you until Saturday night to find the securities and either clear Turnbull's name or admit his guilt; there remain two days and a half before I take the affair in my own hands and make it public."

"I hope to establish Turnbull's innocence before that time," retorted Kent coolly.

Inwardly his spirits sank; had not every effort on his part brought but further proof of Jimmie's guilt? That McIntyre would make no attempt to hush up the scandal was obvious.

"Keep me informed of your progress," McIntyre's manner was domineering and Kent felt the blood mount to his temples, but he was determined not to lose his temper whatever the provocation; McIntyre was Barbara's father.

Clymer, aware that the atmosphere was getting strained, diplomatically intervened.

"Dine with me to-night, Kent," he said. "Perhaps you will then have some news that will throw light on the present whereabouts of the securities. I found, on making inquiries, that they have not been offered for sale in the usual channels. Come, McIntyre, I have a directors' meeting in twenty minutes."

McIntyre, who had been swinging his walking stick from one hand to the other in marked impatience, turned to Kent, his manner more conciliatory.

"Pleasant quarters you have," he remarked. "Does Rochester share his room with you?"

"No, Colonel, his is across the ante-room where you waited a few minutes ago," explained Kent as he accompanied his visitors to the door. "This is my office."

"Ah, yes, I thought as much on seeing only one desk," McIntyre's manner grew more cordial. "Does Rochester's furniture duplicate yours, safe and all?"

"Safe—no, he has none; that is the firm's safe." Kent was becoming restless under so many personal questions. "Good-by, Mr. Clymer."

"Don't forget to-night at eight," the banker reminded him before stepping into the corridor. "We'll dine at the Club de Vingt. Come along, McIntyre."

Sylvester stopped Kent on his way back to his office and handed him the neatly typewritten copies of his brief, and with a word of thanks the lawyer went over to his desk and, gathering such papers as he required at the court house, he thrust them and the brief into his leather bag, but instead of hurrying on his way, he stood still to consider the events of the morning.

Helen McIntyre, during their interview, had not responded to his appeal for her confidence, nor vouchsafed any reason for her belief that Jimmie Turnbull had been the victim of foul play. And Colonel McIntyre had given him only until Saturday night to solve the problem! Kent's overwrought feelings found vent in an emphatic oath.

"Excuse me," exclaimed Sylvester mildly from the doorway. "I knocked and understood you to say come in.

"Well, what is it?" Kent's nerves were getting a bit raw; a glance at his watch showed him he had a slender margin only in which to reach the court house in time for his appointment. Not even waiting for the clerk's reply he snatched up his brief case and made for the private door leading into the corridor. But he was destined not to get away without another interruption.

As Sylvester was hastily explaining, "Two gentlemen to see you, Mr. Kent," the clerk was thrust aside and Detective Ferguson entered, accompanied by a deputy marshal.

"Sorry to detain you, Mr. Kent," exclaimed the detective. "I came to tell you that Coroner Penfield has just called an inquest for this afternoon to inquire into Jimmie Turnbull's death. Where's your partner, Mr. Rochester?" looking around inquiringly.

"In Cleveland. Won't I do?" replied Kent, his appointment forgotten in the news that Ferguson had just given him.

"No, we didn't come for legal advice," Ferguson smiled; then grew serious. "What's Mr. Rochester's address?"

Kent walked over to his desk and picked up the telegram. "The City Club, Cleveland," he stated.

"Thanks," Ferguson jotted down the address in his note-book. "Jones, here," placing his hand on his companion, "came to serve Mr. Rochester with a subpoena; he's wanted at the Turnbull inquest as a material witness."



CHAPTER VIII. THE INQUEST

Coroner Penfield adjusted his eyeglasses and scanned the spectators gathered for the Turnbull inquest. The room was crowded with both men and women, the latter predominating, and the coroner decided that, while some had come from a personal interest in the dead man, the majority had been attracted by morbid curiosity. There was a stir among the spectators as an inner door opened and the jury, led by the morgue master filed into the room and took their places. Coroner Penfield rose and addressed the foreman.

"Have you viewed the body?" he inquired.

"Yes, doctor," and the man sat down.

Coroner Penfield then concisely stated the reason for the inquest and summoned Officer O'Ryan to the witness stand. The policeman stood, cap in hand, while being sworn by the morgue master, and then took his place on the platform in the chair reserved for the witnesses.

His answer to Coroner Penfield's questions relative to his name, residence in Washington, and length of service in the city Police Force were given with brevity and a rich Irish brogue.

"Where were you on Tuesday morning at about five o'clock?" asked Penfield, first consulting some memoranda on his desk.

"On my way home," explained O'Ryan. "My relief had just come."

"Does your beat take in the McIntyre residence?"

"It does, sir."

"Did you observe any one loitering in the vicinity of the residence prior to five o'clock, Tuesday morning?"

"No, sir. It was only when the lady called to me that I was attracted to the house."

"Did she state what was the matter?"

"Yes, sir. She said that she had locked a burglar in a closet, and to come and get him, and I did so," and O'Ryan expanded his chest with an air of satisfaction as be glanced about the morgue.

"Did the burglar resist arrest?"

"No, sir; he came very peaceably and not a word out of him."

"Had you any idea that the burglar was not what he seemed?"

"Devil an idea, begging your pardon"—O'Ryan remembered hastily where he was. "The burglar looked the part he was masquerading, and his make-up was perfect," ended O'Ryan with relish. "Never gave me a hint he was a gentleman and a bank cashier in disguise."

Kent, who had arrived at the morgue a few minutes before the policeman commenced his testimony, smiled in spite of himself. He was feeling exceedingly low spirited, and had come to the inquest with inward foreboding as to its result. On what developed there, he Was convinced, hung Jimmie Turnbull's good name. After his interview with Detective Ferguson that morning, he had wired Philip Rochester to return to Washington at once. He had requested an immediate reply, and had fully expected to find a telegram at his office when he stopped there on his way to the morgue, but none had come.

"Whom did you see in the McIntyre house?" the coroner asked O'Ryan.

"No one sir, except the burglar and Miss McIntyre."

"Did you find any doors or windows unlocked?"

"No, sir; I never looked to see."

"Why not?"

"Because the young lady said that she had been over the house and everything was then fastened." O'Ryan looked anxiously at the coroner. Would he make him out derelict in his duty? It would seriously affect his standing on the Force. "I took Miss McIntyre's word for the house, for I had the burglar safe under arrest."

"How did Miss McIntyre appear?"

"Appear? Sure, she looked very sweet in her blue wrapper and her hair down her back," answered O'Ryan with emphasis.

"She was not fully dressed then?"

"No, sir."

"Was Miss McIntyre composed in manner or did she appear frightened?" asked Penfield. It was one of the questions which Kent had expected, and he waited with intense interest for the policeman's reply.

"She was very pale and—and breathless like." O'Ryan flapped his arms about vaguely in his endeavor to demonstrate his meaning. "She kept begging me to hurry and get the burglar out of the house, and after telling her that she would have to appear in the Police Court first thing that morning, I went off with the prisoner."

"Were there lights in the house?" questioned Penfield.

"Only dim ones in the halls and two bulbs turned on in the library; it's a big room though, and they hardly made any light at all," explained O'Ryan; he was particular as to details. "I used handcuffs on the prisoner, thinking maybe he'd give me the slip in the dim light, but there was no fight or flight in him."

"Did he talk to you on the way to the station house?"

"No, sir; and at the station he was just as quiet, only answered the questions the desk sergeant put to him, and that was all," stated 0' Ryan.

Penfield laid down his memorandum pad. "All right, O'Ryan; you may retire," and at the words the policeman left the platform and the room. He was followed by the police sergeant who had been on desk duty at the Eighth Precinct on Tuesday morning. His testimony simply corroborated O'Ryan's statement that the prisoner had done and said nothing which would indicate that he was other than he seemed—a housebreaker.

Coroner Penfield paused before calling the next witness and drank a glass of ice water; the weather had turned unseasonably hot, and the room in which inquests were held, was stifling, in spite of the long opened windows at either end.

"Call Miss Helen McIntyre," Penfield said to the morgue master, and the latter crossed to the door leading to the room where sat the witnesses. There was instant craning of necks to catch a glimpse of the society girl about whom, with her twin sister, so much interest centered.

Helen was extremely pale as she advanced up the room, but Kent, watching her closely, was relieved to see none of the nervousness which had been so marked at their interview that morning. She was dressed with fastidious taste, and as she mounted the platform after the morgue master had administered the oath, Coroner Penfield rose and, with a polite gesture, indicated the chair she was to occupy.

"I am Helen McIntyre," she announced clearly. "Daughter of Colonel Charles McIntyre."

"Tell us the circumstances attending the arrest of James Turnbull, alias John Smith, in your house on Tuesday morning, Miss McIntyre," directed the coroner, seating himself at his table, on which were writing materials.

"I was sitting up to let in my sister, who had gone to a dance," she began, "and fearing I would fall asleep I went down into the library, intending to sit in one of the window recesses and watch for her arrival. As I entered the library I saw a figure steal across the room and disappear inside a closet. I was very frightened, but had sense enough left to cross softly to the closet and lock the door." She paused in her rapid recital and drew a long breath, then continued more slowly:

"I hurried to the window and across the street I saw a policeman standing under a lamp-post. It took but a minute to call him. The policeman opened the closet door, put handcuffs on Mr. Turnbull and took him away."

Coroner Penfield, as well as the jurors, followed her statement with absorbed attention. At its end he threw down his pencil and spoke briefly to the deputy coroner, who had been busily engaged in taking notes of the inquest, and then he turned to Helen.

"You heard no sound before entering the library?"

"No one walking about the house?" he persisted.

"No." She followed the negative with a short explanation. "I lay down on my bed soon after dinner, not feeling very well, and slept through the early hours of the night."

"At what hour did you wake up?"

"About four o'clock, or a little after."

"Then you were awake an hour before you discovered the supposed burglar in your library?"

"Y-yes," Helen's hesitation was faint. "About that length of time."

"And you heard no unusual sounds in that hour's interval?"

"I heard nothing"—her manner was slightly defiant and Kent's heart sank; if he had only thought to warn her not to antagonize the coroner.

"Where were you during that hour?"

"Lying down," promptly. "Then, afraid I would drop off to sleep again, I went downstairs."

Coroner Penfield consulted his notes before asking another question.

"Who lives in your house beside you and your twin sister?" he asked.

"My father, Colonel McIntyre; our house guest, Mrs. Louis C. Brewster, and five servants," she replied. "Grimes, the butler; Martha, our maid; Jane, the chambermaid; Hope, our cook; and Thomas, our second man; the chauffeur, Harris, the scullery maid, and the laundress do not stay at night."

"Who were at home beside yourself on Monday night and early Tuesday morning?"

"My father and Mrs. Brewster; I believe the servants were in also, except Thomas, who had asked permission to spend the night in Baltimore."

"Miss McIntyre?" Coroner Penfield put the next question in an impressive manner. "On discovering the burglar why did you not call your father?"

"My first impulse was to do so," she answered promptly. "But on leaving the library I passed the window, saw the policeman, and called him in." She shot a keen look at the coroner, and added softly, "The policeman was qualified to make an arrest; my father would have had to summon one had he been there."

"Quite true," acknowledged Penfield courteously. "Now, Miss McIntyre, why did the prisoner so obligingly walk straight into a closet on your arrival in the library?"

"I presume he was looking for a way out of the room and blundered into it," she explained. "There are seven doors opening from our library; the prisoner may have heard me approaching, become confused, and walked through the wrong door."

"That is quite plausible—with an ordinary bona-fide burglar," agreed Penfield. "But was not Mr. Turnbull acquainted with the architectural arrangements of your house?"

"He was a frequent caller and an intimate friend," she said, with dignity. "As to his power of observation and his bump of locality I cannot say. The library was but dimly lighted."

"Miss McIntyre," Penfield spoke slowly. "Were you aware of the real identity of the burglar?"

"I had no suspicion that he was not what he appeared," she responded. "He said or did nothing after his arrest to give me the slightest inkling of his identity."

Penfield raised his eyebrows and shot a look at the deputy coroner before going on with his examination.

"You knew Mr. Turnbull intimately, and yet you did not recognize him?" he asked.

"He wore an admirable disguise." Helen touched her lips with the tip of her tongue; inwardly she longed for the glass of ice water which she saw standing on the reporters' table. "Mr. Turnbull's associates will tell you that he excelled in amateur theatricals."

Penfield looked at her critically for a moment before continuing his questions. She bore his scrutiny with composure.

"Officer O'Ryan has testified that you informed him you examined the windows of your house," he said, after a brief wait. "Did you find any unlocked?"

"Yes; one was open in the little reception room off the front door."

"What floor is the room on?"

"The ground floor."

"Would it have been easy for any one to gain admittance through the window without attracting attention in the street?" was Penfield's next question.

"Yes."

"Miss McIntyre," Penfield rose, "I have only a few more questions to put to you. Why did Mr. Turnbull come to your house—a house where he was a welcome visitor—in the middle of the night disguised as a burglar?"

The reporters as well as the spectators bent forward to catch her reply.

"Mr. Turnbull had a wager with my sister, Barbara," she explained. "She bet him that he could not break into the house without being discovered."

Penfield considered her answer before addressing her again.

"Why didn't Mr. Turnbull tell you who he was when you had him arrested?" he asked.

Helen shrugged her shoulders. "I cannot answer that question, for I do not know his reason. If he had only confided in me"—her voice shook—"he might have been alive to-day."

"How so?" Penfield shot the question at her.

"Because then he would have been spared the additional excitement of his trip to the police station and the scene in court, which brought on his attack of angina pectoris."

Penfield regarded her for a moment in silence.

"I have no further questions, Miss McIntyre," he said, and turned to the morgue master. "Ask Miss Barbara McIntyre to come to the platform." Turning back to his table and the papers thereon he failed to see the twins pass each other in the aisle. They were identically attired and when Coroner Penfield looked again at the witness chair, he stared in surprise at its occupant.

"I beg pardon, Miss McIntyre, I desire your sister to testify," he remarked.

"I am Barbara McIntyre." A haunting quality in her voice caught Kent's attention, and he leaned eagerly forward, his eyes following each movement of her nervous fingers, busily twisting her gloves inside and out.

"I beg your pardon," exclaimed the coroner, recovering from his surprise. He had seen the twins at the police court on Tuesday morning for a second only, and then his attention had been entirely centered on Helen. He had heard, but had not realized until that moment, how striking was the resemblance between the sisters.

"Miss McIntyre," the coroner cleared his throat and commenced his examination. "Where were you on Monday night?"

"At a dance given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Grosvenor."

"At what hour did you return?"

"I think it was half past five or a few minutes earlier."

"Who let you in?"

"My sister."

"Did you see the burglar?"

"He had left," she answered. "My sister told me of her adventure as we went upstairs to our rooms."

"Miss McIntyre," Penfield picked up a page of the deputy coroner's closely written notes, and ran his eyes down it. "Your sister has testified that James Turnbull went to your house disguised as a burglar on a wager with you. What were the terms of that wager?"

"I bet him that he could not enter the house after midnight without his presence being detected by our new police dogs," exclaimed Barbara slowly. She had stopped twirling her gloves about, and one hand was firmly clenched over the arm of her chair.

"Did the dogs discover his presence in the house?"

"Apparently not, or they would have aroused the household," she said. "I cannot answer that question, though, because I was not at home."

"Where are the dogs kept?"

"In the garage in the daytime."

"And at night?" he persisted.

"They roam about our house," she admitted, "or sleep in the boudoir, which is between my sister's bedroom and mine.

"Were the dogs in the house on Monday night?"

"I did not see them on my return from the dance."

"That is not an answer to my question, Miss McIntyre," the coroner pointed out. "Were the dogs in the house?"

There was a distinct pause before she spoke. "I recall hearing our butler, Grimes, say that he found the dogs in the cellar. Mr. Turnbull's shocking death put all else out of my mind; I never once thought of the dogs."

"In spite of the fact that it was a wager over the dogs which brought about the whole situation?" remarked the coroner dryly.

Barbara flushed at his tone, then grew pale.

"I honestly forgot about the dogs," she repeated. "Father sent them out to our country place Tuesday afternoon; they annoyed our—our guest, Mrs. Brewster."

"In what way?"

"By barking—'they are noisy dogs."

"And yet they did not arouse the household when Mr. Turnbull broke into the house"—Coroner Penfield regarded her sternly. "How do you account for that?"

Barbara's right hand stole to the arm of her chair and clasped it with the same convulsive strength that she clung to the other chair arm. When she spoke her voice was barely audible.

"I can account for it in two ways," she began. "If the dogs were accidentally locked in the cellar they could not possibly hear Mr. Turnbull moving about the house; if they were roaming about and scented him, they might not have barked because they would recognize him as a friend."

"Were the dogs familiar with his step and voice?"

"Yes. Only last Sunday he played with them for an hour, and later in the afternoon took them for a walk in the country."

"I see." Penfield stroked his chin reflectively. "When your sister told you of finding the burglar and his arrest, did you not, in the light of your wager, suspect that he might be Mr. Turnbull?"

"No." Barbara's eyes did not falter before his direct gaze. "I supposed that Mr. Turnbull meant to try and enter the house in his own proper person; it never dawned on me that he would resort to disguise. Besides," as the coroner started to make a remark, "we have had numerous robberies in our neighborhood, and the apartment house two blocks from us has had a regular epidemic of sneak thieves."

The coroner waited until Dr. Mayo, who had been writing with feverish haste, had picked up a fresh sheet of paper before resuming his examination.

"You accompanied your sister to the police court," he said. "Did you see the burglar there?"

"Yes."

"Did you realize his identity in the court room?"

"No. I only awoke to—to the situation when I saw him lying dead with his wig removed. The shock was frightful"—she closed her eyes for a second, for the room and the rows of faces confronting her were mixed in a maddening maze and she raised her hand to her swimming head. When she looked up she found Coroner Penfield by her side.

"That is all," he said kindly. "Please remain in the witness room, I may call you again," and he helped her down the step with careful attention.

Back in his corner Kent watched her departure. He was white to the lips.

"Heat too much for you?" asked a kindly-faced stranger, and Kent gave a mumbled "No," as he strove to pull himself together.

What deviltry was afoot? How dared the twins take such risks—to bear false witness was a grave criminal offense. He, alone, among all the spectators, had realized that in testifying before the inquest, the twins had swapped identities.



CHAPTER IX. "B-B-B"

The return of the morgue master to the platform caused Coroner Penfield to break off his whispered conversation with Dr. Mayo.

"Colonel McIntyre just telephoned that his car had a blow-out on the way here," explained the morgue master. "He will arrive shortly."

Penfield consulted a list of names. "Call Grimes, the McIntyre butler," he said. "We will hear him while waiting for the Colonel."

Grimes, small and thin, with the stolid countenance of the well-trained servant, was exceedingly short in his replies to the coroner's questions. Yes, he had lived with the McIntyre during their residence in Washington, something like five years, he couldn't quite remember the exact dates. No, there was never any quarreling, upstairs or down; it was a well-ordered household until this.

"Exactly," remarked the coroner dryly. "What about Monday night? Tell us, Grimes, what occurred in that house between midnight Monday and five o'clock Tuesday morning."

"Haven't much to tell," was the grumpy response. "I went upstairs about half-past eleven and got down the next morning at the usual hour, seven o'clock."

"And you heard no disturbing sounds in the night?"

"No; sir. We wouldn't be likely to; the servants' rooms are all at the top of the house and the staircase leading to them has a brick wall on either side, like stairs leading to an ordinary attic, and there's a door at the bottom which shuts off all sound from below." It was the longest sentence the butler had indulged in and he paused for breath.

"Who closes the house at night. Grimes?"

"I do, sir.

"Why did you leave the window in the reception room open?"

"I didn't, sir," was the prompt denial. "I had just locked it when Mrs. Brewster came in, along with Colonel McIntyre and Mr. Clymer, and they sat down to talk. When I left the room the window was locked fast, and so was every door and window in the place," he declared aggressively. "I'll take my dying oath to it, sir." Penfield looked at Grimes; that he was telling the truth was unmistakable.

"Who sits up to let in the young ladies when they go to balls?" he asked.

"Generally no one, sir, because Colonel McIntyre accompanies them or calls for them, and he has his latch-key. Lately," added Grimes as an after-thought, "Miss Helen has been using a duplicate latch-key."

"Has Miss Barbara McIntyre a latch-key, also?" asked Penfield.

"No, sir, I believe not," the butler looked dubious. "I recall that Colonel McIntyre gave Miss Helen her key at the luncheon table, and he said, then, to Miss Barbara that he couldn't trust her with one because she would be sure to lose it, she is that careless."

The coroner asked the next question with such abruptness that the butler started.

"When did you last see Mr. Turnbull at the house?"

"Sunday afternoon." Grimes' reply was spoken with more than his accustomed quickness of speech. "Mr. Turnbull called twice, after a long time in the drawing room, he went away taking the police dogs with him, and later called to bring them back."

"Where were these dogs on Monday night?"

"I last saw them in the library," replied Grimes shortly.

"And where did you find them the next morning?" prompted the coroner.

"In the cellar," laconically.

"And what were they doing in the cellar?"

"Hunting rats."

"And how did the dogs get in the cellar?" inquired the coroner patiently. Grimes was not volunteering information, even if he could not be accused of holding it back.

"Some one must have let them down the back stairs," the butler admitted. "I don't know who it was."

"Which servant got downstairs ahead of you on Tuesday morning?"

"No one, sir; the cook over-slept, and she and the maids came down in a bunch ten minutes later."

"And who told you of the attempted burglary and the burglar's arrest?" asked Penfield.

"Miss Barbara. She asked us to hurry breakfast for her and Miss Helen 'cause they had to go at once to the police court; she didn't give any particulars, or nothing," added Grimes in an injured tone. "'Twarn't 'til Thomas and I saw the afternoon papers that we knew what had been going on in our own house."

"That is all, Grimes," announced Penfield, and the butler left the platform with the same stolid air he wore when he arrived. He was followed in the witness chair by the other McIntyre servants in succession. Their testimony added nothing to what he had said but simply confirmed his statements.

Kent, who had grown restless during the servants' monotonous testimony, forgot the oppressive atmosphere of the room on seeing Mrs. Brewster enter under the escort of the morgue master. Spying a vacant seat several rows ahead of where he was sitting, Kent, with a muttered apology to the people over whom he crawled in his efforts to get out, hurried into it just as the vivacious widow had finished taking the oath to "tell the truth and nothing but the truth," and seated herself, with much rustling of silk skirts in the witness chair.

"State your full name, madam," directed Coroner Penfield, eyeing her dainty beauty with admiration.

"Margaret Perry Brewster," she answered. "Widow of Louis C. Brewster. Both I and my late husband were born and lived in Los Angeles, California."

"Are you visiting the Misses McIntyre?"

"Yes." Mrs. Brewster spoke in a chatty impersonal manner. "I have been with them since the first of the month."

"Did you attend the Grosvenor dance?" asked the coroner.

"No; the affair was only given for the debutantes of last fall and did not include married people," she explained. "It was a warm night and Colonel McIntyre asked Mr. Benjamin Clymer, who was dining with him, and me, to go for a motor ride, leaving Barbara at the Grosvenors' en route. We did so, returning to the house about eleven o'clock, and sat talking until about midnight in the reception room, then Colonel McIntyre drove Mr. Clymer home, and I went to my room."

"Were you awakened by any noises during the night?" inquired Penfield.

"No; I heard no noises." Mrs. Brewster's charming smile was infectious.

"When did you first learn of the supposed burglary and the death of James Turnbull?"

"The McIntyre twins told me about the tragedy on their return from the police court," answered Mrs. Brewster, and settled herself a little more comfortably in the witness chair.

"When you were in the reception room, Mrs. Brewster"—Penfield paused and studied his notes a second—"did you observe if the window was open or closed?"

"It was not open when we entered," she responded. "But the air in the room was stuffy and at my request Mr. Clymer raised the window."

"Did he close it later?"

She considered the question. "I really do not recall," she admitted finally. Her eyes strayed toward the door through which she had entered, and Penfield answered her unspoken thought.

"Just one more question," he said hurriedly. "Did you see the dogs on Monday night?"

"Yes. I heard them scratching at the door leading to the basement as I went upstairs, and so I turned around and went down and opened the door and let them run down into the cellar."

Penfield snapped shut his notebook. "I am greatly obliged, Mrs. Brewster; we will not detain you longer."

The morgue master stepped forward and helped the pretty widow down from the platform.

"Colonel McIntyre is here now," he told the coroner.

"Ah, then bring him in," and Penfield, while awaiting the arrival of the new witness, straightened the papers on his desk.

McIntyre looked straight ahead of him as he walked down the room and stood frowning heavily while the oath was being administered, but his manner, when the coroner addressed him, had regained all the suavity and polish which had first captivated Washington society.

"I have been a resident of Washington for about five years," he said in answer to the coroner's question. "My daughters attended school here after their return from Paris, where they were in a convent for four years. They made their debut last November at our home in this city."

"Were you aware of the wager between your daughter Barbara and James Turnbull?" asked Penfield.

"I heard of it Sunday afternoon but paid little attention," admitted McIntyre. "My daughter Barbara's vagaries I seldom take seriously."

"Was Mr. Turnbull a frequent visitor at your house?"

"Oh, yes."

"Was he engaged to your daughter Helen?"

"No." McIntyre's denial was prompt and firmly spoken. Penfield and Kent, from his new seat nearer the platform, watched the colonel narrowly, but learned nothing from his expression.

"I have heard otherwise," observed the coroner dryly.

"You have been misinformed," McIntyre's manner was short. "I would suggest, Mr. Coroner, that you confine your questions and conjectures to matters pertinent to this inquiry."

Penfield flushed as one of the jurors snickered, but he did not repeat his previous question, asking instead, "Was there good feeling between you and Mr. Turnbull?"

"I never quarreled with him," replied McIntyre. "I really saw little of him as, whenever he called at the house, he came to see one or the other of my daughters, or both."

"When did you last see Mr. Turnbull?" inquired Penfield.

"He was at the house on Sunday and I had quite a talk with him," McIntyre leaned back in his chair and regarded the neat crease in his trousers with critical eyes. "I last saw Turnbull going out of the street door."

"Were you disturbed by the burglar's entrance on Monday night?"

McIntyre shook his head. "I am a heavy sleeper," he said. "I regret very much that my daughter Helen did not at once awaken me on finding the burglar, as she supposed, hiding in the closet. I knew nothing of the affair until Grimes informed me of it, and only reached the police court in time to bring my daughters home from the distressing scene following the identification of the dead burglar as Jimmie Turnbull."

"Colonel McIntyre," Penfield turned over several papers until he found the one he sought. "Mrs. Brewster has testified that while you and she were sitting in the reception room, Mr. Clymer opened the window. Did you close it on leaving the room?"

McIntyre reflected before answering. "I cannot remember doing so," he stated finally. "Clymer was in rather a hurry to leave, and after bidding Mrs. Brewster good night, we went straight out to the car and I drove him to the Saratoga."

"Then you cannot swear to the window having been re-locked?"

"I cannot."

Penfield paused a moment. "Did you return immediately to your house from the Saratoga apartment?"

"I did" promptly. "My chauffeur, Harris, wasn't well, and I wanted him to get home."

Penfield thought a moment before putting the next question.

"How did Miss Barbara return from the Grosvenor dance?" he asked.

"She was brought home by friends, Colonel and Mrs. Chase." McIntyre in turning about in his chair knocked down his walking stick from its resting place against its side, and the unexpected clatter made several women, nervously inclined, jump in their seats. Observing them, McIntyre smiled and was still smiling amusedly when Penfield addressed him.

"Did you observe many lights burning in your house when you returned?" asked Penfield.

"No, only those which are usually left lit at night."

"Was your daughter Helen awake?"

"I do not know. Her room was in darkness when I walked past her door on my way to bed."

Penfield removed his eye-glasses and polished them on his silk handkerchief. "I have no further questions to ask. Colonel, you are excused."

McIntyre bowed gravely to him and as he left the platform came face to face with his family physician, Dr. Stone.

Penfield, who was an old acquaintance of the physician's, signed to him to come on the platform. After the preliminaries had been gone through, he shifted his chair around, the better to face Stone.

"Did you accompany the Misses McIntyre to the police court on Tuesday morning?" he asked.

"I did," responded the physician, "at Miss Barbara's request. She said her sister was not very well and they disliked going alone to the police court."

"Did she state why she did not ask her father to go with them?"

"Only that he had not fully recovered from an attack of tonsillitis, which I knew to be a fact, and they did not want him to over-tax his strength."

There was a moment's pause as the coroner, his attention diverted by a whispered word or two from the morgue master, referred to his notes before resuming his examination.

"Did you know James Turnbull?" he asked a second later.

"Yes, slightly."

"Did you recognize him in his burglar's disguise?"

"I did not"

"Had you any suspicion that the burglar was other than he seemed?"

"No."

Penfield picked up a memorandum handed him by Dr. Mayo and referred to it. "I understand, doctor, that you were the first to go to the burglar's aid when he became ill," he said. "Is that true?"

"Yes," Stone spoke with more animation. "Happening to glance inside the cage where the prisoner sat, I saw he was struggling convulsively for breath. With Mr. Clymer's assistance I carried him into an ante-room off the court, but before I had crossed its threshold Turnbull expired in my arms."

"Was he conscious before he died?"

At the question Kent bent eagerly forward. What would be the reply?

"I am not prepared to answer that with certainty," replied Dr. Stone cautiously. "As I picked him up I heard him stammer faintly: 'B-b-b.'"

Kent started so violently that the man next to him turned and regarded him for a moment, then, more interested in what was transpiring on the platform, promptly forgot his agitated neighbor.

"Was Turnbull delirious, doctor?" asked the coroner.

Stone shook his head in denial. "No," he stated. "I take it that he started to say 'Barbara,' and his breath failed him; at any rate I only caught the stuttered 'B-b-b.'"

Penfield did not immediately continue his examination, but when he did so his manner was stern.

"Doctor, what in your opinion caused Mr. Turnbull's death?"

"Judging superficially—I made no thorough examination," Stone explained parenthetically, "I should say that Mr. Rochester was right when he stated that Turnbull died from an acute attack of angina pectoris."

"How did Mr. Rochester come to make that assertion and where?"

"Immediately after Turnbull's death," replied Stone. "Mr. Rochester, who shared his apartment, defended him in court. Mr. Rochester was aware that Turnbull suffered from the disease, and Mr. Clymer, who was present, also knew it."

"And what is your opinion, doctor?" questioned Penfield.

Stone hesitated. "There was a distinct odor of amyl nitrite noticeable when I went to Turnbull's aid, and I concluded then that he had some heart trouble and had inhaled the drug to ward off an attack. It bears out Mr. Rochester's theory of death from angina pectoris."

"I see. Thank you, doctor. Please wait with the other witnesses; we may call you again," and with a sigh the busy physician resigned himself to spending another hour in the room reserved for the witnesses.

The next to take the witness stand was Deputy Marshal Grant. His testimony was short and concise,—and his description of the scene in the police court preceding Turnbull's death was listened to with deep attention by every one.

"Did the prisoner show any symptoms of illness before his heart attack?" asked Penfield.

"Not exactly illness," replied Grant slowly. "I noticed he didn't move very quickly; sort of shambled, as if he was weak in his legs. I've seen 'drunk and disorderlies' act just that way, and paid no particular attention to him. He did ask for a drink of water just after he returned to the cage."

"Did you give it to him?"

"No, an attendant gave the glass to Mr. Rochester who handed it to Mr. Turnbull."

Penfield regarded Grant in silence for a minute. "That is all," he announced, and with a polite bow the deputy marshal withdrew.

Detective Ferguson recognized Kent as he passed up the room to the platform and gave him a slight bow and smile, but the smile had disappeared when, at the coroner's request, he told of his arrival just after the discovery of the burglar's identity.

"I searched the cage where the prisoner had been seated and found this handkerchief," he went on to say. "It had been dropped by Turnbull and was saturated with amyl nitrite. I had it examined by a chemist, who said that this amyl nitrite was given to patients with heart trouble in little pearl capsules to be crushed in handkerchiefs and the fumes inhaled.

"The chemist also told me that"—the detective spoke with impressive seriousness, "judging from the number of particles of capsules adhering to the linen, more than one capsule had been crushed by Turnbull. Here is the handkerchief," and he laid it on the table with great care.

Kent's heart sank; the moment he had dreaded all that long afternoon had come. Penfield inspected the handkerchief with interest, and then passed it to the jurors, cautioning them to handle it carefully.

"I note," he stated, turning again to Detective Ferguson, "that it is a woman's handkerchief."

"It is," replied Ferguson. "And embroidered in one corner is the initial 'B.'"

Penfield ran his fingers through his gray hair. "You may go, Ferguson," he said, and beckoned to the morgue master. "Ask Miss Barbara McIntyre to return."

The girl was quick in answering the summons. Kent, more and more worried, was watching the scene with painful attention.

"Did Mr. Turnbull have one of your handkerchiefs?" asked Penfield.

Her surprise at the question was manifest in her manner.

"He might have," she said. "I have a dreadful habit of dropping my handkerchiefs around."

"Did you miss one after his visit to your house on Monday night?"

"Miss McIntyre," Penfield took up the handkerchief which the foreman replaced on his desk a moment before, and holding it with care extended it toward the girl. "Is this your handkerchief?"

She inspected the handkerchief and the initial with curiosity, but with nothing more, Kent was convinced, and in his relief was almost guilty of disturbing the decorum of the inquest with a shout of joy.

"It is not my handkerchief," she stated clearly.

Penfield replaced the handkerchief on the table with the same care he had picked it up, and turned again to her.

"Thank you, Miss McIntyre; I won't detain you longer. Logan," to the morgue master, "ask Dr. Stone to step here."

Almost immediately Stone reentered the room and hurried to the platform.

"Would two or more capsules of amyl nitrite constitute a lethal dose?" asked Penfield.

"They would be very apt to finish a feeble heart," replied Stone. "Three capsules, if inhaled deeply would certainly kill a healthy person."

Penfield showed the handkerchief to the physician. "Can a chemist tell, from the particles clinging to this handkerchief, how many capsules have been used?"

"I should say he could." Stone looked grave as he inspected the linen, taking careful note of the letter "B" in one corner of the handkerchief. "But there is this to be considered—Turnbull may not have crushed those capsules all at the same time."

"What do you mean?"

"He may have felt an attack coming on earlier in the evening and used a capsule, and in the police court used the same handkerchief in the same manner."

"I see," Penfield nodded. "The point is cleverly taken."

Kent silently agreed with the coroner. The next instant Stone was excused, and after a slight pause the deputy coroner, Dr. Mayo, left his table and his notes and occupied the witness chair, after first being sworn. The preliminaries did not consume much time, and Penfield's manner was brisk as he addressed his assistant.

"Did you make a post-mortem examination of Turnbull?" he asked.

"I did, sir, in the presence of the morgue master and Dr. McLane." Dr. Mayo displayed an anatomical chart, drawing his pencil down it as he talked. "We found from the condition of the heart that the deceased had suffered from angina pectoris"—he paused and spoke more slowly—"in examining the gastric contents we found the presence of aconitine."

"Aconitine?" questioned Penfield, and the reporters, scenting the sensational, leaned forward eagerly so as not to miss the deputy coroner's answer.

"Aconitine, an active poison," he explained. "It is the alkaloid of aconite, and generally fatal in its results."



CHAPTER X. AT THE CLUB DE VINGT

The large building of the popular Club de Vingt, or as one Washingtonian put it, the "Club De Vin," which had sprung into existence in the National Capital during the war, was ablaze with light and Benjamin Clymer, sitting at a small table in one corner of the dining-room, wished most heartily that it had been less crowded. Many dinner-parties were being given that night, and it was only by dint of perseverance and a Treasury note that he had finally induced the head waiter to put in an extra table for him and his guest, Harry Kent. Kent had been very late and, to add to his short-comings, had been silent, not to say morose, during dinner. Clymer heaved a sigh of relief when the table was cleared and coffee and cigars placed before them.

Kent roused himself from his abstraction. "We cannot talk here," he said, looking at the gay diners who surrounded them. "And I have several important matters to discuss with you, Mr. Clymer."

His remark was overheard by their waiter, and he stopped pouring out Kent's coffee.

"There is a small smoking room to the right of the dining room," he suggested. "I passed there but a moment ago and it was not occupied. If you desire, sir, I will serve coffee there."

"An excellent idea." Clymer rose quickly and he and Kent followed the waiter to the inclosed porch which had been converted into an attractive lounging room for the club members. It was much cooler than the over-heated dining room, and Kent was grateful for the subdued light given out by the artistically shaded lamps with which it was furnished. There was silence while the waiter with deft fingers arranged the coffee and cigars on a wicker table; then receiving Clymer's generous tip with a word of thanks, the man departed.

Kent wheeled his chair around so as to face his companion and still have a side view of the dining room, where tables were being rapidly removed for the dance which followed dinners on Thursday nights. Clymer selected a cigar with care and, leaning back in his chair until the wicker creaked under his weight, he waited patiently for Kent to speak. It was fully five minutes before Kent addressed him.

"So James Turnbull was poisoned after all," he commented. "A week ago I would have sworn that Jimmie hadn't an enemy in the world."

"Ah, but he had; and a very bitter vindictive enemy, if the evidence given at the coroner's inquest this afternoon is to be believed," replied Clymer seriously. "The case is remarkably puzzling."

"It is." Kent bit savagely at his cigar as a slight vent to his feelings. "'Killed by a dose of aconitine by a person or persons unknown,' was the jury's verdict, and a nice tangle they have left me to ferret out.''

"You?"

"Yes. I'm going to solve this mystery if it is a possible thing." Kent's tone was grim. "And Colonel McIntyre only gave me until Saturday night to work in."

Clymer eyed him in surprise. "McIntyre desires to get back his lost securities; judging from his comments after the inquest, he is not particularly interested in who killed Turnbull."

"But I am," exclaimed Kent. "The more I think of it, the more convinced I am that the forged letter, with the subsequent disappearance of McIntyre's securities has some connection with Jimmie's untimely death, be it murder or suicide."

"Suicide?" Clymer's raised eyebrows indicated his surprise.

"Yes," shortly. "Aconitine would have killed just as surely if swallowed with suicidal intent as if administered with murderous design."

A pause followed which neither man seemed anxious to break, then Kent turned to the banker, and the latter noticed the haggard lines in his face.

"Listen to me, Mr. Clymer," he began. "My instinct tells me that Jimmie Turnbull never forged that letter or stole McIntyre's securities, but I admit that everything points to his guilt, even his death."

"How so?"

"Because the theft of the securities supplies a motive for his suicide—fear of exposure and imprisonment," argued Kent. "But there is no motive, so far as I can see, for Jimmie's murder. Men don't kill each other without a motive."

"There is homicidal mania," suggested Clymer.

"But not in this case," retorted Kent. "We are sane men and it is up to us to find out if Jimmie died by his own hand or was killed by some unknown enemy.''

"Rest easy, Mr. Kent," said a voice from the doorway and Kent, who had turned his back in that direction the better to talk to Clymer, whirled around and found Detective Ferguson regarding him just inside the threshold. "Mr. Turnbull's enemy is not unknown and will soon be under arrest."

"Who is he?" demanded Clymer and Kent simultaneously.

"Philip Rochester."

Clymer was the first to recover from his astonishment. "Oh, get out!" he exclaimed incredulously. "Why, Rochester was Turnbull's most intimate friend."

"Until they fell in love with the same girl," answered Ferguson succinctly, taking possession of the only other chair the porch boasted. "One quarrel led to another and then Rochester did for him. Oh, it dove-tails nicely; motive, jealous anger; opportunity, recognition in court of Turnbull disguised as a burglar, at the same time Rochester learns that Turnbull has been caught after midnight in the house of his sweetheart—"

"D—mn you!" Kent sprang for the detective's throat. "Cut out your abominable insinuations. Miss McIntyre shall not be insulted."

"I'm not insulting her," gasped Ferguson, half strangled. "Let go, Mr. Kent. I'm only telling you what that half crazy partner of yours, Rochester, was probably thinking in the police court. Let go, I say."

Clymer aided the detective in freeing himself. "Sit down, Kent," he said sternly. "Ferguson meant no offense. Go ahead, man, and tell us the rest of your theories."

It was some minutes, however, before the detective had collected sufficient breath to answer intelligently.

"I size it up this way," he began with a resentful glance at Kent who had dropped back in his chair again. "Rochester knew his friend had heart disease and that his sudden death would be attributed to it—so he took a sporting chance and administered a fatal dose of aconitine."

"How was it done?" asked Clymer.

"Just slipped the poison into the glass of water he handed to Turnbull in the court room," explained Ferguson, and glanced in triumph at Kent. "Neat, wasn't it?"

Kent regarded the detective, his mind in a whirl. His theory was certainly plausible, but—"Have you other evidence to prove, your theory?" he asked.

"Yes." Ferguson checked off his points on his fingers. "Remember how insistent Mr. Rochester was that Turnbull had died from angina pectoris?"

"I do," acknowledged Clymer, deeply interested. "Continue, Ferguson."

The detective needed no second bidding.

"Another point," he began. "There never would have been a post-mortem examination if Miss Helen McIntyre hadn't asked for it. She knew of the ill-feeling between the men and suspected foul play on Rochester's part."

"Wait," commanded Kent. "Has Miss McIntyre substantiated that statement?"

"Not yet," admitted Ferguson. "I stopped at her house, but the butler said the young ladies had retired and could not see any one." Kent, who had called there on the way to keep his dinner engagement with Clymer, had been met with the same statement, to his bitter disappointment. He most earnestly desired to see the twins and to see them together, to make one more effort to induce them to confide in him; for that they had some secret trouble he was convinced; he longed to be of aid, but his hands were tied through lack of information.

"Don't imply motives to Miss McIntyre's act until you have verified them, Ferguson," he cautioned. "Go on with your theories."

"One moment," Clymer broke into the conversation. "Did Rochester tell you, Ferguson, that he had recognized Turnbull in his burglar disguise?"

"No, sir; I never had an opportunity to ask him, for he disappeared Tuesday night and has not been seen or heard of since," Ferguson rejoined.

"Hold on," Kent checked him with an impatient gesture. "I had a telegram from Rochester this morning, stating he was in Cleveland."

"I didn't forget about the telegram," retorted Ferguson. "It was to consult you about that, that I hunted you up to-night. That telegram was bogus."

"What!" Kent half rose from his chair.

"Yes. After the inquest I called Cleveland on the long distance, talked with the City Club officials and with Police Headquarters; all declared that Rochester was not there, and no trace could be found of his having ever arrived in the city."

Clymer laid down his half smoked cigar and stared at the detective.

"You think then that Rochester has bolted?" he asked.

"It looks that way," insisted Ferguson. "How about it, Mr. Kent?" The question was put with a touch of arrogance.

Kent did not reply immediately. Every fact that Ferguson had brought out fitted the situation, and Rochester's disappearance added color to the detective's charges. Why was he hiding unless from guilty motives, and where had he gone? Kent shook a bewildered head.

"It is plausible," he conceded, "but, after all, only circumstantial evidence."

"Well, circumstantial evidence is good enough for me to work on," retorted Ferguson. "On discovering that the telegram from Cleveland was a hoax, I concluded Ferguson might be lurking around Washington and so sent a description of him to the different precincts and secured a search warrant."

"You did?"

"Yes. Armed with it I visited Mr. Rochester's apartment, but couldn't find a clew to his present whereabouts," admitted Ferguson. "So then I went to your office, Mr. Kent, and ransacked the firm's safe."

"Confound you!" Kent leaned forward in his wrath and shook his fist at the detective. "What right had you to do such a thing?"

"The search warrant covered it," explained Ferguson. "I could look through your safe, Mr. Kent, because Rochester was your senior partner and you shared the office together; I was within the law."

"Perhaps you were," Kent controlled his anger with an effort. "But I had told you I did not know Rochester's whereabouts before I showed you the Cleveland telegram, which you claim is bogus."

"It's bogus, all right," insisted the detective. "I thought it just possible I might find some paper which would give me a clew to Rochester's hiding place, so I went through the safe."

"How did you get it open?" asked Kent.

"I found it open."

Kent leapt to his feet. "You—found—it open!"—he stammered. "Why, man, I locked that safe securely just before I left the office at six o'clock."

"Sure?"

"Absolutely certain."

"Were you alone?"

"Yes, all alone. Sylvester left at five o'clock"

"Who knew the combination of the safe?"

"Only Rochester and I."

It was Ferguson's turn to spring up "By—!" he exclaimed. "I thought the electric bulbs in the office felt warm, as if they had recently been burning—Rochester must have been there just before me."

"It would seem that Rochester is still in the city," remarked Clymer. "Do you know, Kent, whether he had his office keys with him?"

"I presume so," Kent slipped his hand inside his pocket and took out a bunch of keys. "He left these duplicates in his desk at the office."

"Sure they are duplicates?" questioned Ferguson, and Kent flushed.

"I know they are," he retorted. "Rochester had them made over a year ago as a matter of convenience, for he was always forgetting his keys, and kept these at our office."

"He's a queer cuss," was the detective's only comment and Clymer broke into the conversation.

"Did you find any address or paper in the safe which might prove a clew, Ferguson?" he inquired.

"Nothing, not even a scrap of paper," and the detective's tone was glum.

"Did the safe look as if its contents had been tumbled about?" asked Kent.

"No, everything seemed in order." Ferguson thrust his hand inside his coat pocket. "There was one envelope in the right hand compartment which puzzled me—"

"Hold on—was that compartment also unlocked?" asked Kent.

"It was," not giving Kent time to speak again Ferguson continued his remarks. "As this was unaddressed I brought it to you, Mr. Kent, to ask if it was your personal property"—he drew out the white envelope which Helen McIntyre had brought Kent that morning and turned it over so that both men could see the large red seal bearing the letter "B."

"It is my property," asserted Kent instantly.

"Would you mind opening it?" asked Ferguson.

"I would, most certainly; it relates to my personal affairs."

Ferguson looked a trifle non-plussed. "Would you mind telling me its contents, Mr. Kent?" he asked persuasively.

Kent regarded the detective squarely. He could not betray Helen, the envelope might contain harmless nonsense, but she had placed it in his safe-keeping—no, confound it, she had left it in the safe for Rochester—and Rochester was apparently a fugitive from justice, while circumstantial evidence pointed to his having poisoned Helen's lover, Jimmie...

"If you must know, Ferguson," Kent spoke with deliberation. "They are old love letters of mine."

Clymer glanced down at the envelope which the detective still held, the red seal making a distinct blotch of color on the white, glazed surface.

"Ah, Kent," he said in amusement. "So rumor is right in predicting your engagement to Barbara McIntyre. Good luck to you!"

Through the open doorway to the dining room where the dancing had ceased for the moment, came a soft laugh and Mrs. Brewster looked in at them. McIntyre, standing like her shadow, gazed in curiosity over her shoulder at the three men.

"How jolly to find you," cooed Mrs. Brewster. "And what a charming retreat! It's much too nice to be occupied by men, only." She inclined her head in a little gracious bow to Ferguson and stepped inside.

"Have my chair," suggested Clymer hospitably as the pretty widow raised her lorgnette and scanned the Oriental hangings and lamps, and lastly, the white envelope which lay on the table, red seal uppermost, where Ferguson had placed it on her entrance.

"Are your daughters here, Colonel McIntyre?" asked Kent as he took a step toward the table. McIntyre's answer was drowned in an outburst of cheering in the dining room and the rush of many feet. On common impulse Kent and the others turned toward the doorway and looked inside the dining room. Two officers of the French High Commission were being held on the shoulders of comrades and were delivering, as best they could amidst cheers and applause, their farewell to hospitable Washington.

As his companions brushed by him to join the gay throng in the center of the room, Kent turned back to pick up the envelope he had left lying on the table. It was gone.

In feverish haste Kent looked under the table, under the chairs, the lounge and its cushions, behind the draperies, and even under the rugs which covered the floor of the porch, and then rose and stared into the dining room. Which one of his companions had taken the envelope?

Outside the porch the beautiful trumpet vine, its sturdy trunk and thick branches reaching almost to the roof of the club building, rustled as in a high wind, and the branches swayed this way and that as a figure climbed swiftly down from the porch until, reaching the fence separating the club property from its neighbor's, the man swung across it, no mean athletic feet, and taking advantage of each sheltering shadow, darted into the alley and from there down silent, deserted Nineteenth Street.



CHAPTER XI. HALF A TRUTH

Dancing was being resumed in the dining room as Kent appeared again in the doorway and he made his way as quickly as possible among the couples, going into all the rooms on that floor, but nowhere could he find Detective Ferguson. On emerging from the drawing room, he encountered the steward returning from downstairs.

"Have you seen Mr. Clymer?" he asked hurriedly.

"Yes, Mr. Kent; he just left the club, taking Detective Ferguson with him in his motor. Is there anything I can do?" added the steward observing Kent's agitation.

"No, no, thanks. Say, where is Colonel McIntyre?" Kent gave up further pursuit of the detective, he could find him later at Headquarters. The steward looked among the dancers. "I don't see him," he said, "But there is Mrs. Brewster dancing in the front room; the Colonel must be somewhere around. If I meet him, Mr. Kent, shall I tell him you are looking for him?"

"I will be greatly obliged if you will do so," replied Kent, and straightening his tie, he went in quest of the pretty widow. He had found her a merry chatter-box in the past, possibly he could gain valuable information from her. He found Mrs. Brewster just completing her dance with a fine looking Italian officer whose broad breast bore many military decorations.

"Dance the encore with me"—Kent could be very persuasive when he wished, and Mrs. Brewster dimpled with pleasure, but there was a faint indecision in her manner which he was quick to note. What prompted it? He had been on friendly terms with her; in fact, she had openly championed his cause, so Barbara had once told him, when Colonel McIntyre had made caustic remarks about his frequent calls at the McIntyre house.

"Just one turn," she said, as the foreigner bowed and withdrew. "I am feeling a little weary to-night—the strain of the inquest," she, added in explanation.

"Perhaps you would rather sit out the dance," he suggested. "There is an alcove in that window; oh, pshaw!" as a man and a girl took possession of the chairs.

"Never mind, we can roost on the stairs," Mrs. Brewster preceded him to the staircase leading to the third floor, and sat down, bracing her back very comfortably against the railing, while Kent seated himself at her feet on the lower step. "Extraordinary developments at the inquest this afternoon," he began, as she volunteered no remark. "To think of Jimmie Turnbull being poisoned!"

"It is unbelievable," she said, and her vehemence was a surprise to Kent; he knew her as all froth and bubble. What had brought the dark circles under her eyes and the unwonted seriousness in her manner?

"Unbelievable, yes," he agreed gravely. "But true; the autopsy ended all doubt."

"You mean it developed doubt," she corrected, and a sigh accompanied the words. "Have the police any clew to the guilty man?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," Kent spoke with caution.

"You don't?" Her voice was a little sharp. "Didn't Detective Ferguson give you any news when talking to you on the porch?"

"So you recognized the detective?"

"I? No; I have never seen him before"—she nodded gayly to an acquaintance passing through the hall. "Colonel McIntyre told me his name. It was so odd to meet a man here not in evening clothes that I had to ask who he was."

"Ferguson came to bring me some papers about a personal matter," explained Kent. He turned so as to face her. "Did you see a white envelope lying on the table when you walked out on the porch?"

She bowed her head absently, her foot keeping time to the inspiring music played by the orchestra stationed on the stair landing just above where they sat. "You left it lying on the table."

"Yes, so I did," replied Kent. "And I believe I was so ungallant as to bolt into the dining room in front of you. Please accept my apologies." Behind her fan, which she used with languid grace, the widow watched him.

"We all bolted together," she responded, "and are equally guilty—"

"Of what?" questioned a voice from the background, and looking up Kent saw Colonel McIntyre standing on the step above Mrs. Brewster. The music had ceased and in the lull their conversation had been distinctly audible.

"Guilty of curiosity," finished the widow.

"Colonel de Geofroy's farewell speech was very amusing, did you not think so?"

"I did not stay to hear it," Kent confessed. "I had to return to the porch and get my envelope."

"You were a long time about it," commented McIntyre, sitting down by Mrs. Brewster and possessing himself of her fan. "I waited to tell you that Helen and Barbara were worn out after the inquest and so stayed at home to-night, but you didn't show up."

"Neither did the envelope," retorted Kent, and as his companions looked at him, he added. "It had disappeared off the table."

"Probably blew away," suggested McIntyre. "I noticed a strong current of air from the dining room, and two of the windows inclosing the porch were open.

"That's hardly possible," Kent replied skeptically. "The envelope weighed at least two ounces; it would have taken quite a gale to budge it."

McIntyre turned red. "Are you insinuating that one of us walked off with your envelope, Kent?" he demanded angrily. Mrs. Brewster stayed him as he was about to rise.

"Did you not say that Detective Ferguson brought you the envelope, Mr. Kent?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Then what more likely than that he carried it off again?" She smiled amusedly as Kent's expression altered. "Why not ask the detective?"

Her suggestion held a grain of truth. Suppose Ferguson had not believed his statement that the papers in the envelope were his personal property and had taken the envelope away to examine it at his leisure? The thought brought Kent to his feet.

"Good night, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes," he said jestingly, "I'll follow your advice"—There was no opportunity to say more, for several men had discovered the widow's perch on the stairs and came to claim their dances. Over their heads McIntyre watched Kent stride downstairs, then stooping over he picked up Mrs. Brewster's fan and sat down to patiently await her return.

Kent's pursuit of the detective took longer than he had anticipated, and it was after midnight before he finally located him at the office of the Chief of Detectives in the District Building. "I've called for the envelope you took from my safe early this evening," he began without preface, hardly waiting for the latter's surprised greeting.

"Why, Mr. Kent, I left it lying on the porch table at the club," declared Ferguson. "Didn't you take it?"

"No." Kent's worried expression returned. "Like a fool I forgot the envelope when that cheering broke out in the dining room and rushed to find out what it was about; when I returned to the porch the envelope was gone.

"Disappeared?" questioned Ferguson in astonishment.

"Disappeared absolutely; I searched the porch thoroughly and couldn't find a trace of it," Kent explained. "And in spite of McIntyre's contention that it might have blown out of the window, I am certain it did not."

"The windows were open, and I recollect there was a strong draught," remarked Ferguson thoughtfully. "But not sufficient to carry away that envelope."

"Exactly." Kent stepped closer. "Did you observe which one of our companions stood nearest the porch table?"

Ferguson eyed him curiously. "Say, are you insinuating that one of those people took your envelope?"

"Yes."

A subdued whistle escaped Ferguson. "What was in that envelope. Mr. Kent," he demanded, "to make it of any value to that bunch?" and as Kent did not answer immediately, he added, "Are you sure it had nothing to do with Jimmie Turnbull's death and Philip Rochester's disappearance?"

"Quite sure." Kent's gaze did not waver before his penetrating look. "I have already told you that the envelope contained old love letters, and I very naturally do not wish them to fall into the hands of Colonel McIntyre, the father of the girl I hope to marry."

Ferguson smiled understandingly. "I see. From what I know of Colonel McIntyre there's a very narrow, nagging spirit concealed under his frank and engaging manner; I wish you joy of your future father-in-law," and he chuckled.

"Thanks," dryly. "You haven't answered my question as to who stood nearest the porch table, Ferguson."

The detective looked thoughtful. "We all stood fairly near; perhaps Mrs. Brewster was a shade the nearest. Mr. Clymer was offering her a chair when that noise came from the dining room. There's one thing I am willing to swear to"—his manner grew more earnest—"that envelope was still lying on the table when I hustled into the dining room."

"Well, who was the last person to leave the porch?" Kent demanded eagerly.

"I don't know," was the disappointing answer. "I reached the door at the same moment you did and passed right around the dining room to get a view of what was going on. I thought I would take a squint at the tables and see if there was any wine being used," he admitted. "But there was nothing doing in that line. Then Mr. Clymer offered to bring me down to Headquarters, and I left the club with him."

Kent took a turn about the room. "Did Mr. Clymer go to the Cosmos Club?" he asked, pausing by the detective.

"No, I heard him tell his chauffeur to drive to the Saratoga. Want to use the telephone?" observing Kent's glance stray to the instrument.

By way of answer Kent took off the receiver and after giving a number to Central, he recognized Clymer's voice over the telephone.

"That you, Mr. Clymer? Yes, well, this is Kent speaking. Can you tell me who was the last person to leave the porch when Colonel de Geofroy made his farewell speech to-night at the club?"

"I was," came Clymer's surprised answer.

"I waited for McIntyre to pick up Mrs. Brewster's fan."

"Did he take my letter off the table also?" called Kent.

"Why, no." Clymer's voice testified to his increased surprise. "Mrs. Brewster dropped her fan right in the doorway just as McIntyre and I approached; we both stooped to get it and, like fools; bumped our heads together in the act. He got the fan, however, and I waited for him to walk into the dining room before following Mrs. Brewster."

"As you passed the table, Mr. Clymer, did you see my letter lying on the table?" persisted Kent.

"Upon my word I never looked at the table," Clymer's hearty tone carried conviction. "I walked right along in my hurry to know what the cheering was about. I am sorry, Kent; have you mislaid your letter?"

"Yes," glumly. "Sorry to have disturbed you, Mr. Clymer; good night," and Clymer's echoing, "Good night" sounded faintly as he hung up the receiver.

"Drew blank," he announced, turning to Ferguson. "Confound you, Ferguson; you had no right to touch the papers in my safe. If harm comes from it, I'll make you suffer," and not waiting for the detective's jumbled apologies and explanations, he hurried from the building. But once on the sidewalk he paused for thought. McIntyre must have picked up the white envelope, there was no other feasible explanation of its disappearance. But what had attracted his attention to the envelope—the red seal with the big letter "B" was its only identifying mark. If Helen had only told him the contents of the envelope!

Kent struck his clenched fist in his left hand in wrath; something must be done, he could not stand there all night. Although it was through no fault of his own that he had lost the envelope entrusted to his care, he was still responsible to Helen for its disappearance. She must be told that it was gone, however unpleasant the task.

Kent walked hastily along Pennsylvania Avenue until he came to a drug store still open, and entered the telephone booth. He had recollected that the twins had a branch telephone in their sitting room; he would have to chance their being awake at that hour.

Barbara McIntyre turned on her pillow and rubbed her sleepy eyes; surely she had been mistaken in thinking she heard the telephone bell ringing. Even as she lay striving to listen, she dozed off again, to be rudely awakened by Helen's voice at her ear.

"Babs!" came the agitated whisper. "The envelope's gone."

"Gone!" Barbara swung out of bed.

"Gone where?"

"Father has it."

Downstairs in the library Mrs. Brewster paused on her entrance by the side of a piece of carved Venetian furniture and laying her coronation scarf on it, she examined a white envelope—the red seal was intact.

At the sound of approaching footsteps she raised a trap door in the piece of furniture and only her keen ears caught the faint thud of the envelope as it dropped inside, then with a happy, tender smile she turned to meet Colonel McIntyre.



CHAPTER XII. THE ECHO OF A LAUGH

Colonel McIntyre tramped the deserted dining room in exasperation. Nine o'clock and the twins had not come to breakfast, nor was there any evidence that Mrs. Brewster intended taking that meal downstairs.

"Will you wait any longer, sir?" inquired Grimes, who hovered solicitously in the background. "I'm afraid, sir, your eggs will be over-done."

"Bring them along," directed McIntyre, and flung himself into his chair at the foot of the table. He had been seated but a few minutes when Barbara appeared and dutifully presented her cheek to be kissed, then she tripped lightly to Helen's place opposite her father, and pressed the electric bell for Grimes.

"Coffee, please," she said as that worthy appeared, and busied herself in arranging the cups and saucers. "Helen is taking her breakfast upstairs," she explained to her father.

"How about Mrs. Brewster?"

"Still asleep." Barbara poured out her father's coffee with careful attention to detail. "I peeked into her room a moment ago and she looked so 'comfy' I hadn't the heart to awaken her. You must have been very late at the club last night."

"We got home a little after one o'clock."

McIntyre helped himself to poached eggs and bacon. "What did you do last night?"

"Went to bed early," answered Barbara with brevity. "Helen wasn't feeling well."

McIntyre's handsome face showed concern as he glanced across the table. "Have you sent for Dr. Stone?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Helen—I—we"—Barbara stumbled in her speech. "We have taken an aversion to Dr. Stone."

McIntyre set down his coffee cup with unwonted force, thereby spilling some of its contents.

"What!" he exclaimed in complete astonishment, and regarded her fixedly for a moment. His tolerant manner, which he frequently assumed toward Barbara, grew stern. "Dr. Stone is my personal friend, as well as our family physician—"

"And a cousin of Margaret Brewster," put in Barbara mildly.

"Well, what of it?" trenchantly, aware that he had colored at mention of the widow's name. "Nothing," Barbara's eyes opened innocently. "I only recalled the fact of his relationship as you enumerated his virtues."

Colonel McIntyre transferred his regard from her to the butler. "You need not wait, Grimes." He remained silent until the servant was safely in the pantry, and then addressed his daughter. "None of your tricks, Barbara," he cautioned. "If Helen is ill enough to require medical attention, Dr. Stone is to be sent for, regardless of your sudden dislike to him, for which, by the way, you have given no cause."

"Haven't I?" Barbara folded her napkin with neat exactness. "It's—it's intangible."

"Pooh!" McIntyre gave a short laugh, as he pushed back his chair. "I'm going to see Helen. And Barbara," stopping on his way to the door, "don't be a fool."

Barbara rubbed the tiny mole under the lobe of her ear, a trick she had when absent-minded or in deep thought. "Helen," she announced, unaware that she spoke loud, "shall have a physician, but it won't be—why, Grimes," awakening to the servant's noiseless return. "You can take the breakfast dishes. Did Miss Helen eat anything?"

"Not very much, miss." Grimes shook a troubled head. "But she done better than at dinner last night, so she's picking up, and don't you be worried over her," with emphasis, as he sidled nearer. "Tell me, miss, is the colonel courtin' Mrs. Brewster?"

"Ask him," she suggested and smiled at the consternation which spread over the butler's face.

"Me, miss!" he exclaimed in horror. "It would be as much as my place is worth; the colonel's that quick-tempered. Why, miss, just because I tidied up his desk and put his papers to rights he flew into a terrible passion."

"When was that?"

"Early this morning, miss; and he so upset Thomas, miss, that he gave notice."

"Oh, that's too bad." Barbara liked the second man. "Perhaps father will reconsider and persuade him to stay."

The butler looked unconvinced. "It was about the police dogs," he confided to her. "Thomas told him that Miss Helen wanted them brought back, and the colonel swore at him—'twas more than Thomas could stand and he ups and goes." Barbara halted half way to the door. "Did Thomas get the dogs?"

"You wait and see, miss." Grimes was guilty of a most undignified wink. "Thomas ain't forgiven himself for not being here Monday night, miss; though it wouldn't a done him any good; he wouldn't a heard Mr. Turnbull climbing in or his arrest, away upstairs in the servants' quarters."

"Grimes," Barbara retracted her footsteps and placed her lips very close to the old servant's ear.

"When I came in on Tuesday morning I found the door to the attic stairway standing partly open...

"Did you now, miss?" The two regarded each other warily. "And what hour may that have been?"

The butler cocked his ear for her answer—'he was sometimes a little hard of hearing; but he waited in vain, Barbara had disappeared inside the library.

Colonel McIntyre had not gone at once to see his daughter Helen, as Barbara had supposed from his remark, instead he went down the staircase and into the reception room on the ground floor. It was generally used as a smoking room and lounge, but when entertaining was done, cloaks and wraps were left there. McIntyre looked over the prettily upholstered furniture, then strolled to the window and carefully inspected the lock; it appeared in perfect order as he tested it. Pushing the catch back as far as it would go, he raised the window—the sash moved upward without a sound, and he leaned out and looked up and down the path which ran the depth of the house to the kitchen door and servants' entrance. There was an iron gate separating the path from the sidewalk, always kept locked at night, and McIntyre had thought that sufficient protection and had not put an iron grille in the window.

McIntyre closed and locked the window, then pulling out the gilt chair which stood in front of the desk, he sat down, selected some monogrammed paper and penned a few lines in his characteristic though legible writing. Picking up some red sealing wax, he lighted the small candle in its brass holder which matched the rest of the desk ornaments, but before heating the wax he looked for his signet ring, and frowned when he recalled leaving it on his dresser. He hesitated a moment, then catching sight of a silver seal lying at the back of the desk he picked it up and moistened the initial. A few minutes later he blew out the candle, returned the wax and seal to a pigeon hole, and carefully placed the envelope with its well stamped letter "B" in his coat pocket, and tramped upstairs.

Helen heard his heavy tread coming down the hall toward her room, and scrambled back to bed. She had but time to arrange her dressing sacque when her father walked in.

"Good morning, my dear," he said and, stooping over, kissed her. As he straightened up, the side of his single-breasted coat turned back and exposed to Helen's bright eyes the end of a white envelope. "Barbara told me you are not well," he wheeled forward a chair and sat down by the bed. "Hadn't I better send for Dr. Stone?" "Oh, no," her reply, though somewhat faint, was emphatic, and he frowned.

"Why not?" aggressively. "I trust you do not share Barbara's suddenly developed prejudice against the good doctor."

"I do not require a physician," she said evasively. "I am well."

McIntyre regarded her vexedly. He could not decide whether her flushed cheeks were from fever or the result of exertion or excitement. Excitement over what? He looked about the room; it reflected the taste of its dainty owner in its furnishings, but nowhere did he find an answer to his unspoken question, until his eye lighted on a box of rouge under the electric lamp on her bed stand.

"Don't use that," he said, touching the box.

"You know I detest make-up."

"Oh, that!" She turned to see what he was talking about. "That rouge belongs to Margaret Brewster."

McIntyre promptly changed the conversation. "Have you had your breakfast?" he asked.

"Yes; Grimes took the tray down some time ago." Helen watched her father fidget with his watch fob for several minutes, then asked with characteristic directness. "What do you wish?"

"To see that you have proper medical attention if you are ill," he returned promptly. "How would a week or ten days at Atlantic City suit you and Barbara?"

"Not at all." Helen sat up from her reclining position on the pillows. "You forget, father, that we have a house-guest; Margaret Brewster is not leaving until May."

"I had not forgotten," curtly. "I propose that she go with us."

A faint "Oh!" escaped Helen, otherwise she made no comment, and McIntyre, after contemplating her for a minute, looked away.

"Either go to Atlantic City with us, Helen, or resume your normal, everyday life," he said shortly. "I am tired of heroics; Jimmie Turnbull was hardly the man to inspire them."

"Stop!" Helen's voice rang out imperiously. "I will not permit one word said in disparagement of Jimmie, least of all from you, father. Wait," as he attempted to speak. "I do not know what traits of character I may have inherited from you, but I have all mother's loyalty, and—that loyalty belongs to Jimmie."

McIntyre's eyes shifted under her gaze.

"I regret very much this obsession," he said rising. "I will not attempt to reason with you again, Helen, but"—he made no effort to lower his voice, "the world—our world will soon know what manner of man James Turnbull was, of that I am determined."

"And I"—Helen faced her father proudly—"I will leave no stone unturned to defend his memory."

Her father wheeled about. "In doing so, see that you do not compromise yourself," he remarked coldly, and before the infuriated girl could answer, he slammed the door shut and stalked downstairs.

Some half hour later he opened the door of Rochester and Kent's law office and would have walked unceremoniously into Kent's private office had not John Sylvester stepped forward from behind his desk in the corner.

"Good morning, Colonel," he said civilly. "Mr. Kent is not here. Do you wish to leave any message?"

"Oh, good morning, Sylvester," McIntyre's manner was brusque. "When do you expect Mr. Kent?"

"In about twenty minutes, Colonel." Sylvester glanced at the wall clock. "Won't you sit down?"

McIntyre took the chair and planted it by the window. Never a very patient man, he waited for Kent with increasing irritation, and at the end of half an hour his temper was uppermost. "Give me something to write with," he demanded of Sylvester. Accepting the clerk's fountain pen without thanks, he walked over to the center table and, drawing out his leather wallet, took from it a visiting card and, stooping over, wrote:

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse