The Million-Dollar Suitcase
by Alice MacGowan
THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
Copyright, 1922, by
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
CHAPTER I. WORTH
CHAPTER III. A
CHAPTER IV. AN
CHAPTER V. AT
THE ST. DUNSTAN
CHAPTER VI. ON
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER VIII. A
CHAPTER X. A
SHADOW IN THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XII. A
SEVEN LOST DAYS
CHAPTER XV. AT
CHAPTER XVI. A
THE TORN PAGE
CHAPTER XIX. ON
CHAPTER XX. AT
THE COUNTRY CLUB
CHAPTER XXI. A
MATTER OF TASTE
CHAPTER XXII. A
CHAPTER XXIII. A
BIT OF SILK
CHAPTER XXV. AN
THE COUNTRY CLUB
CHAPTER XXX. A
CHAPTER I. WORTH GILBERT
On the blank silence that followed my last words, there in the big,
dignified room with its Circassian walnut and sound-softening rugs,
Dykeman, the oldest director, squalled out as though he had been
All there is to tell! But it can't be! It isn't possib His voice
cracked, split on the word, and the rest came in an agonized squeak, A
man can't just vanish into thin air!
A man! Knapp, the cashier, echoed. A suitcase full of moneyour
moneycan't vanish into thin air in the course of a few hours.
Feverishly they passed the timeworn phrase back and forth; it would
have been ludicrous if it hadn't been so deadly serious. Well, money
when you come to think of it, is its very existence to such an
institution; it was not to be wondered at that the twelve men around
the long table in the directors' room of the Van Ness Avenue Savings
Bank found this a life or death matter.
How much? began heavy-set, heavy-voiced old Anson, down at the
lower end, but stuck and got no further. There was a smitten look on
every face at the contemplationa suitcase could hold so unguessably
great a sum expressed in terms of cash and securities.
We'll have the exact amount in a few momentsI've just set them to
verifying, President Whipple indicated with a slight backward nod the
second and smaller table in the room, where two clerks delved mole-like
among piles of securities, among greenbacks and yellowbacks bound round
with paper collars, and stacks of coin.
The blinds were down, only the table lamps on, and a gooseneck over
where the men counted. It put the place all in shadow, and threw out
into bolder relief the faces around that board, gray-white, denatured,
all with the financier's curiously unhuman look. The one fairly
cheerful countenance in sight was that of A. G. Cummings, the bank's
For myself, I was only waiting to hear what results those clerks
would bring us. So far, Whipple had been quite noncommittal: the
extraordinary state of the marketeverything so upset that a bank
couldn't afford even the suspicion of a loss or irregularityhinting
at something in his mind not evident to the rest of us. I was just
rising to go round and ask him quietly if, having reported, I might not
be excused to get on the actual work, when the door opened.
I can't say why the young fellow who stood in it should have seemed
so foreign to the business in hand; perhaps the carriage of his tall
figure, the military abruptness of his movements, the way he swung the
door far back against the wall and halted there, looking us over. But I
do know that no sooner had Worth Gilbert, lately home from France,
crossed the threshold, meeting Whipple's outstretched hand, nodding
carelessly to the others, than suddenly every man in the room seemed
older, less a man. We were dead ones; he the only live wire in the
Boyne, the president turned quickly to me, would you mind going
over for Captain Gilbert's benefit what you've just said?
The newcomer had, so far, not made any movement to join the circle
at the table. He stood there, chin up, looking straight at us all, but
quite through us. At the back of the gaze was a something between weary
and fierce that I have noticed in the eyes of so many of our boys home
from what they'd witnessed and gone through over there, when forced to
bring their attention to the stale, bloodless affairs of civil life.
Used to the instant, conclusive fortunes of war, they can hardly handle
themselves when matters hitch and halt upon customs and legalities; the
only thing that appeals to them is the big chance, win or lose, and
have it over. Such a man doesn't speak the language of the group that
was there gathered. Just looking at him, old Dykeman rasped, without
What's Captain Gilbert got to do with the private concerns of this
As though the wordsand their tonehad been a cordial invitation,
rather than an offensive challenge, the young man, who had still shown
no sign of an intention to come into the meeting at all, walked to the
table, drew out a chair and sat down.
Pardon me, Mr. Dykeman, Cummings' voice had a wire edge on it,
the Hanford block of stock in this bank has, as I think you very well
know, passed fully into Gilbert hands to-day.
Thomas A. Gilbert, Dykeman was sparing of words.
Captain Worth Gilbert's father, Whipple attempted pacification.
Mr. Gilbert senior was with me till nearly noon, closing up the
transfer. He had hardly left when we discovered the shortage. After
consultation, Knapp and I got hold of Cummings. We wanted to get you
gentlemen herehave the capital of the bank represented, as nearly as
we couldand found that Mr. Gilbert had taken the twelve-forty-five
train for Santa Ysobel; so, as Captain Gilbert was to be found, we felt
that if we got him it would be practicallyerquite the same thing
Worth Gilbert had sat in the chair he selected, absolutely
indifferent. It was only when Dykeman, hanging to his point, spoke
again, that I saw a quick gleam of blue fire come into those hawk eyes
under the slant brow. He gave a sort of detached attention as Dykeman
Not the same thing at all! Sons can't always speak for fathers, any
more than fathers can always speak for sons. In this case
He broke off with his ugly old mouth open. Worth Gilbert, the son of
divorced parents, with a childhood that had divided time between a
mother in the East and a California father, surveyed the parchment-like
countenance leisurely after the crackling old voice was hushed. Finally
he grunted inarticulately (I'm sorry I can't find a more imposing word
for a returned hero); and answered all objections with,
I'm here nowand here I stay. What's the excitement?
I was just asking Mr. Boyne to tell you, Whipple came in smoothly.
No one else offered any objections. What I repeated, briefly,
amounted to this:
Directly after closing time to-daywhich was noon, as this was
SaturdayKnapp, the cashier of the bank, had discovered a heavy
shortage, and it was decided on a quick investigation that Edward
Clayte, one of the paying tellers, had walked out with the money in a
suitcase. I was immediately called in on what appeared a wide-open
trail, with me so close behind Clayte that you'd have said there was
nothing to it. I followed himand the suitcaseto his apartment at
the St. Dunstan, found he'd got there at twenty-five minutes to one,
and I barely three quarters of an hour after.
How do you get the exact minute Clayte arrived? Anson stopped me
at this point, and the positive knowledge that he had the suitcase
Clayte asked the timefrom the clerk at the deskas he came in.
He put the suitcase down while he set his watch. The clerk saw him pick
it up and go into the elevator; Mrs. Griggsby, a woman at work mending
carpet on the seventh floorwhich is hissaw him come out of the
elevator carrying it, and let himself into his room. There the trail
Ends? As my voice halted young Gilbert's word came like a bullet.
The trail can't end unless the man was there.
Or the suitcase, little old Sillsbee quavered, and Worth Gilbert
gave him a swift, half-humorous glance.
Bath and bedroom, I said, that suite has three windows, seven
stories above the ground. I found them all lockednot mere
latchesthe St. Dunstan has burglar-proof locks. No disturbance in the
room; all neat, in place, the door closed with the usual spring lock;
and I had to get Mrs. Griggsby to move, since she was tacking the
carpet right at the threshold. Everything was in that room that should
have been thereexcept Clayte and the suitcase.
The babel of complaint and suggestion broke out as I finished,
exactly as it had done when I got to this point before: The Griggsby
woman ought to be kept under surveillance; The clerk, the house
servants ought to be watched,and so on, and so on. I curtly
reiterated my assurance that such routine matters had been promptly and
thoroughly attended to. My nerves were getting raw. I'm not so young as
I was. This promised to be one of those grinding cases where the
detective agency is run through the rollers so many times that it comes
out pretty slim in the end, whether that end is failure or success.
The only thing in sight that it didn't make me sick to look at was
that silent young fellow sitting there, never opening his trap, giving
things a chance to develop, not rushing in on them with the forceps. It
was a crazy thing for Whipple to call this meetinghave all these old,
scared men on my back before I could take the measure of what I was up
against. What, exactly, had the Van Ness Avenue Bank lost? That, and
not anything else, was the key for my first moves. And at last a clerk
crossed to our table, touched Whipple's arm and presented a sheet of
I'll read the total, gentlemen. The president stared at the sheet
he held, moistened his lips, gulped, gasped, II'd no idea it was so
much! and finished in a changed voice, nine hundred and eighty seven
thousand, two hundred and thirty four dollars.
A deathlike hush. Dykeman's mere look was a call for the ambulance;
Anson slumped in his chair; little old Sillsbee sat twisted away so
that his face was in shadow, but the knuckles showed bone white where
his hand gripped the table top. None of them seemed able to speak; the
young voice that broke startlingly on the stillness had the effect of
scaring the others, with its tone of nonchalance, rather than
reassuring them. Worth Gilbert leaned forward and looked round in my
This is beginning to be interesting. What do the police say of it?
We've not thought well to notify them yet. Whipple's eye consulted
that of his cashier and he broke off. Quietly the clerks got out with
the last load of securities; Knapp closed the door carefully behind
them, and as he returned to us, Whipple repeated, I had no idea it was
so big, his tone almost pleading as he looked from one to the other.
But I felt from the first that we'd better keep this thing to
ourselves. We don't want a run on the bank, and under present financial
conditions, almost anything might start one. Butalmost a million
He seemed unable to go on; none of the other men at the table had
anything to offer. It was the silent youngster, the outsider, who spoke
I suppose Clayte was bondedfor what that's worth?
Fifteen thousand dollars, Knapp, the cashier, gave the information
dully. The sum sounded pitiful beside that which, we were to
understand, had traveled out of the bank as currency and unregistered
securities in Clayte's suitcase.
Bonding company will hound him, won't they? young Gilbert put it
bluntly. Will the Clearing House help you out? in the tone of one
discussing a lost umbrella.
Not much chancenow. Whipple's face was sickly. You know as well
as I do that we are going to get little help from outside. I want you
to all stand by me nowkeep this quietamong ourselves
Among ourselves! rapped out Kirkpatrick. Then it leakswe have a
runand where are you?
No, no. Just long enough to give Boyne here a chance to recover our
money without publicitytry it out, anyhow.
Well, said Anson sullenly, that's what he's paid for. How long is
it going to take him?
I made no attempt to answer that fool question; Cummings spoke for
me, lawyer fashion, straddling the question, bringing up the arguments
pro and con.
Your detective asks for publicity to assist his search. You refuse
it. Then you've got to be indulgent with him in the matter of time.
Understand me, you may be right; I'm not questioning the wisdom of
secrecy, though as a lawyer I generally think the sooner you get to the
police with a crime the better. You all can see how publicity and a
sizable reward offered would give Mr. Boyne a hundred thousand
assistantsconscious and unconsciousto help nab Clayte.
And we'd be a busted bank before you found him, groaned Knapp.
We've got to keep this thing to ourselves. I agree with Whipple.
It's all we can do, the president repeated.
Suppose a State bank examiner walks in on you Monday? demanded the
We take that chancethat serious chance, replied Whipple
Silence after that again till Cummings spoke.
Gentlemen, there are here present twelve of the principal
stockholders of the bank. He paused a moment to estimate. The capital
is practically represented. Speaking as your legal advisor, I am
obliged to say that you should not let the bank take such a risk as Mr.
Whipple suggests. You are threatened with a staggering loss, but, after
all, a high percent of money lost by defalcations is recoveredmade
goodwholly or in part.
Nearly a million dollars! croaked old Sillsbee.
Yes, yes, of course, Cummings agreed hastily; the larger amount's
against you. The men who can engineer such a theft are almost as strong
as you are. You've got to make every edge cutuse every weapon that's
at hand. And most of all, gentlemen, you've got to stand together. No
dissensions. As a temporary expedientto keep the bank sufficiently
under cover and still allow Boyne the publicity he needsreplace this
money pro rata among yourselves. That wouldn't clean any of you.
Announce a small defalcation, such as Clayte's bond would cover, so you
could collect there; use all the machinery of the police. Then when
Clayte's found, the money recovered, you reimburse yourselves.
But if he's never found! If it's never recovered? Knapp asked
huskily; he was least able of any man in the room to stand the loss.
What do you say, Gilbert? The attorney looked toward the young
man, who, all through the discussion, had been staring straight ahead
of him. He came round to the lawyer's question like one roused from
other thoughts, and agreed shortly.
Not a bad bet.
WellBoyne Whipple was giving way an inch at a time.
It's a peculiar case, I began, then caught myself up with, All
cases are peculiar. The big point here is to get our man before he can
get rid of the money. We were close after Clayte; even that locked room
in the St. Dunstan needn't have stopped us. If he wasn't in it, he was
somewhere not far outside it. He'd had no time to make a real getaway.
All I needed to lay hands on him was a good description.
Description? echoed Whipple. Your agency's got descriptions on
filethumb printsphotographsof every employee of this bank.
Every one of 'em but Clayte, I said. When I came to look up the
files, there wasn't a thing on him. Don't think I ever laid eyes on the
A description of Edward Clayte? Every man at the tableeven old
Sillsbeesat up and opened his mouth to give one; but Knapp beat them
to it, with,
Clayte's worked in this bank eight years. We all know him. You can
get just as many good descriptions as there are people on our payroll
or directors in this roomand plenty more at the St. Dunstan, I'll be
You think so? I said wearily. I have not been idle, gentlemen; I
have interviewed his associates. Listen to this; it is a composite of
the best I've been able to get. I read: Edward Clayte; height about
five feet seven or eight; weight between one hundred and forty and one
hundred and fifty pounds; age somewhere around forty; smooth face;
medium complexion, fairish; brown hair; light eyes; apparently
commonplace features; dressed neatly in blue business suit, black
shoes, black derby hat
Wait a minute, interposed Knapp. Is that what they gave you at
the St. Dunstanwhat he was wearing when he came in?
Well, I'd have said he had on tan shoes and a fedora. He did
or was that yesterday? But aside from that, it's a perfect
description; brings the man right up before me.
I heard a chuckle from Worth Gilbert.
That description, I said, is gibberish; mere words. Would it
bring Clayte up before any one who had never seen him? Ask Captain
Gilbert, who doesn't know the man. I say that's a list of the points at
which he resembles every third office man you meet on the street. What
I want is the points at which he'd differ. You have all known Clayte
for years; forget his regularities, and tell me his
peculiaritieslooks, manners, dress or habits.
There was a long pause, broken finally by Whipple.
He never smoked, said the bank president.
Occasionally he did, contradicted Knapp, and the pause continued
till I asked,
Any peculiarities of clothing?
Oh, yes, said Whipple. Very neat. Usually blue serge.
But sometimes gray, added Knapp, heavily, and old Sillsbee piped
I've seen that feller wear pin-check; I know I have.
I was fed up on clothes.
How did he brush his hair? I questioned.
Smoothed down from a part high on the left, Knapp came back
On the right, boomed old Anson from the foot of the table.
SometimesyesI guess he did, Knapp conceded hesitantly.
Oh, well then, what color was it? Maybe you can agree better on
Sort of mousy color, Knapp thought.
O Lord! Mousy colored! groaned Dykeman under his breath. Listen
Well, isn't it? Knapp was a bit stung.
House mousy, or field mousy? Cummings wanted to know.
Knapp's right enough, Whipple said with dignity. The man's hair
is a medium brownindeterminate brown. He glanced around the table at
the heads of hair under the electric lights. Something the color of
Merrill's, and a director began stroking his hair nervously.
No, no; darker than Merrill's, broke in Kirkpatrick. Isn't it,
Why, I was going to say lighter, admitted the cashier,
Never mind, I sighed. Forget the hair. Come onwhat color are
Blue, said Whipple.
Gray, said Knapp.
Brown, said Kirkpatrick.
They all spoke in one breath. And as I despairingly laid down my
pencil, the last man repeated firmly,
Brown. Butthey might be light brownor hazel, y'know.
But, after all, Boyne, Whipple appealed to me, you've got a
fairly accurate description of the man, one that fits him all right.
Does it? Then he's description proof. No moles, scars or visible
marks? I suggested desperately.
None. There was a negative shaking of heads.
No mannerisms? No little tricks, such as a twist of the mouth, a
mincing step, or a head carried on one side?
More shakes of negation from the men who knew Clayte.
Well, at least you can tell me who are his friendshis intimates?
He must have friends? I urged.
He hasn't, maintained Whipple. Knapp is as close to him as any
man in San Francisco.
The cashier squirmed, but said nothing.
But outside the bank. Who were his associates?
Don't think he had any, from Knapp.
NoneI know he hadn't.
Girls? Lord! Didn't he have a girl?
Not a girl.
No associatesno girl? For the love of Mike, what could such a man
intend to do with all that money? I gasped. Where did he spend his
time when he wasn't in the bank?
Whipple looked at his cashier for an answer. But Knapp was sitting,
head down, in a painful brown study, and the president himself began
Why, he was perhaps the one man in the bank that I knew least
about. The truth is he was so unobjectionable in every way, personally
unobtrusive, quite unimportant and uninteresting; reallyer
un-everything, such aa
Shadow, Cummings suggested.
That's the wordshadowI never thought to inquire where he went
till he walked out of here this noon with the bank's money crammed in
Was the Saturday suitcase a regular thing? I asked, and Whipple
looked bewildered. But Knapp woke up with,
Oh, yes. For years. Studious fellow. Books to be exchanged at the
public library, I think. No Knapp spoke heavily. Come to think of
it, guess that was special work. He told me once he was taking some
sort of correspondence course.
Special work! chuckled Worth Gilbert. I'll tell the world!
Oh, well, give me a description of the suitcase, I hurried.
Brown. Sole-leather. That's all I ever noticed, from Whipple, a
Brass rings and lock, I suppose?
Brass or nickel; I don't remember. What'd you say, Knapp?
I wouldn't know now, if it was canvas and tin, replied the harried
Gentlemen, I said, looking across at the clock, since half-past
two my men have been watching docks, ferries, railroad stations, every
garage near the St. Dunstan, the main highways out of town. Seven of
them on the job, and in the first hour they made ten arrests, on that
description; and every time, sure they had their man. They thought,
just as you seem to think, that the bunch of words described something.
We're getting nowhere, gentlemen, and time means money here.
CHAPTER II. SIGHT UNSEEN
In the squabble and snatch of argument, given dignity only because
it concerned the recovery of near a million dollars, we seemed to have
lost Worth Gilbert entirely. He kept his seat, that chair he had taken
instantly when old Dykeman seemed to wish to have it denied him; but he
sat on it as though it were a lone rock by the sea. I didn't suppose he
was hearing what we said any more than he would have heard the mewing
of a lot of gulls, when, on a sudden silence, he burst out,
For heaven's sake, if you men can't decide on anything, sell me the
suitcase! I'll buy it, as it is, and clean up the job.
Sell youthe suitcaseClayte's suitcase? They sat up on the edge
of their chairs; bewildered, incredulous, hostile. Such a bunch is very
like a herd of cattle; anything they don't understand scares them. Even
the attorney studied young Gilbert with curious interest. I was mortal
glad I hadn't said what was the fact, that with the naming of the
enormous sum lost I was certain this was a sizable conspiracy with
long-laid plans. They were mistrustful enough as Whipple finally
Is this a bona-fide offer, Captain Gilbert? and Dykeman came in
A gambler's chance at stolen moneyis that what you figure on
buying, sir? Is that it? And heavy-faced Anson asked bluntly,
Who's to set the price on it? You or us? There's practically a
million dollars in that suitcase. It belongs to the bank. If you've got
an idea that you can buy up the chance of it for about fifty
percentyou're mistaken. We have too much faith in Mr. Boyne and his
agency for that. Why, at this moment, one of his men may have laid
hands on Clayte, or found the man who planned
He stopped with his mouth open. I saw the same suspicion that had
taken his breath away grip momentarily every man at the table. A hint
of it was in Whipple's voice as he asked, gravely:
Do you bind yourself to pursue Clayte and bring him, if possible,
Bind myself to nothing. I'll give eight hundred thousand dollars
for that suitcase.
He fumbled in his pocket with an interrogative look at Whipple, and,
May I smoke in here? and lit a cigarette without waiting a reply.
Banking institutions take some pains to keep in their employ no
young men who are known to play poker; but a poker face at that board
would have acquired more than its share of dignity. As it was, you
could see, almost as though written there, the agonizing doubt running
riot in their faces as to whether Worth Gilbert was a young hero coming
to the bank's rescue, or a con man playing them for suckers. It was
Knapp who said at last, huskily,
I think we should close with Captain Gilbert's offer. The cashier
had a considerable family, and I knew his recently bought Pacific
Avenue home was not all paid for.
We might consider it, Whipple glanced doubtfully at his
associates. If everything else fails, this might be a way out of the
difficulty for us.
If everything else failed! President Whipple was certainly no poker
player. Worth Gilbert gave one swift look about the ring of faces,
pushed a brown, muscular left hand out on the table top, glancing at
the wrist watch there, and suggested brusquely,
Think it over. My offer holds for fifteen minutes. Time to get at
all the angles of the case. Huh! Gentlemen! I seem to have started
For the directors and stockholders of the Van Ness Avenue Savings
Bank were at that moment almost as yappy and snappy as a wolf pack.
Dykeman wanted to know about the one hundred and eighty seven thousand
odd dollars not covered by Worth's offerdid they lose that? Knapp was
urging that Clayte's bond, when they'd collected, would shade the loss;
Whipple reminding them that they'd have to spend a good dealmaybe a
great dealon the recovery of the suitcase; money that Worth Gilbert
would have to spend instead if they sold to him; and finally an ugly
mutter from somewhere that maybe young Gilbert wouldn't have to spend
so very much to recover that suitcasemaybe he wouldn't!
The tall young fellow looked thoughtfully at his watch now and
again. Cummings and I chipped into the thickest of the row and
convinced them that he meant what he said, not only by his offer, but
by its time limit.
How about publicity, if this goes? Whipple suddenly interrogated,
raising his voice to top the pack-yell. Even with eight hundred
thousand dollars in our vaults, a run's not a thing that does a bank
any good. I suppose, stretching up his head to see across his noisy
associates, I suppose, Captain Gilbert, you'll be retaining Boyne's
agency? In that case, do you give him the publicity he wants?
Course he does! Dykeman hissed. Can't you see? Damn fool wants
his name in the papers! Rotten story like thisabout some lunatic
buying a suitcase with a million in itwould ruin any bank if it got
into print. Dykeman's breath gave out. Andit'sit'sjust the kind
of story the accursed yellow press would eat up. Let it alone, Whipple.
Let his damned offer alone. There's a joker in it somewhere.
There won't be any offer in about three minutes, Cummings quietly
reminded them. If you'd asked my opinionand giving you opinions is
what you pay me a salary forI'd have said close with him while you
Whipple gave me an agonized glance. I nodded affirmatively. He put
the question to vote in a breath; the ayes had it, old Dykeman shouting
after them in an angry squeak.
No! No! and adding as he glared about him, I'd like to be able to
look a newspaper in the face; but never again! Never again!
I made my way over to Gilbert and stood in front of him.
You've bought something, boy, I said. If you mean to keep me on
as your detective, you can assure these people that I'll do my darndest
to give information to the police and keep it out of the papers. What's
happened here won't get any further than this roomthrough me.
You're hired, Jerry Boyne. Gilbert slapped me on the back
affectionately. After all, he hadn't changed so much in his four years
over there; I began to see more than traces of the enthusiastic
youngster to whom I used to spin detective yarns in the grill at the
St. Francis or on the rocks by the Cliff House. Sure, we'll keep it
out of the papers. Suits me. I'd rather not pose as the fool soon
parted from his money.
The remark was apropos; Knapp had feverishly beckoned the lawyer
over to a little side desk; they were down at it, the light snapped on,
writing, trying to frame up an agreement that would hold water. One by
one the others went and looked on nervously as they worked; by the time
they'd finished something, everybody'd seen it but Worth; and when it
was finally put in his hands, all he seemed to notice was the one point
of the time they'd set for payment.
It'll be quite some stunt to get the amount together by ten o'clock
Monday, he said slowly. There are securities to be converted
He paused, and looked up on a queer hush.
Securities? croaked Dykeman. To be converted? Oh!
Yes, in some surprise. Or would the bank prefer to have them
turned over in their present form?
Again a strained moment, broken by Whipple's nervous,
Maybe that would be better, and a quickly suppressed chuckle from
The agreement was in duplicate. It gave Worth Gilbert complete
ownership of a described sole-leather suitcase and its listed contents,
and, as he had demanded, it bound him to nothing save the payment.
Cummings said frankly that the transaction was illegal from end to end,
and that any assurance as to the bank's ceasing to pursue Clayte would
amount to compounding a felony. Yet we all signed solemnly, the lawyer
and I as witnesses. A financier's idea of indecency is something about
money which hasn't formerly been done. The directors got sorer and
sorer as Worth Gilbert's cheerfulness increased.
Acts as though it were a damn' crap game, I heard Dykeman
muttering to Sillsbee, who came back vacuously.
Craps?they say our boys did shoot craps a good deal over there.
Welluhthey were risking their lives.
And that's as near as any of them came, I suppose, to understanding
how a weariness of the little interweaving plans of tamed men had
pushed Worth Gilbert into carelessly staking his birthright on a chance
that might lend interest to life, a hazard big enough to breeze the
staleness out of things for him.
We were leaving the bank, Gilbert and I ahead, Cummings right at my
boy's shoulder, the others holding back to speak together, (bitterly
enough, if I am any guesser) when Worth said suddenly,
You mentioned in there it's being illegal for the bank to give up
the pursuit of Clayte. Seems funny to me, but I suppose you know what
you're talking about. Anyhowhe was lighting another cigarette and he
glanced sharply at Cummings across itanyhow, they won't waste their
money hunting Clayte now, should you say? That's my job. That's where I
get my cash back.
Oh, that's where, is it? The lawyer's dry tone might have been
regarded as humorous. We stood in the deep doorway, hunching coat
collars, looking into the foggy street. Worth's interest in life seemed
to be freshening moment by moment.
Yes, he agreed briskly. I'm going to keep you and Boyne busy for
a while. You'll have to show me how to hustle the payment for those
Shylocks, and Jerry's got to find the suitcase, so I can eat. But I'll
Cummings stared at the boy.
Gilbert, he said, where are you going?right now, I mean.
To Boyne's office.
We stepped out to the street where the line of limousines waited for
the old fellows inside, my own battleship-gray roadster, pretty well
hammered but still a mighty capable machine, far down at the end. As
Worth moved with me toward it, the lawyer walked at his elbow.
Seat for me? he glanced at the car. I've a few words of one
syllable to say to this young mancouncil that I ought to get in as
early as possible.
I looked at little Pete dozing behind the wheel, and answered,
Take you all right, if I could drive. But I sprained my thumb on a
window lock looking over that room at the St. Dunstan.
I'll drive. Worth had circled the car with surprising quickness
for so large a man. I saw him on the other side, waiting for Pete to
get out so he could get in. Curious the intimate, understanding look he
gave the monkey as he flipped a coin at him with, Buy something to
burn, kid. Pete's idea of Worth Gilbert would be quite different from
that of the directors in there. After all, human beings are only what
we see them from our varying angles. Pete slid down, looking back to
the last at the tall young fellow who was taking his place at the
wheel. Cummings and I got in and we were off.
There in the machine, my new boss driving, Cummings sitting next
him, I at the further side, began the keen, cool probe after a truth
which to me lay very evidently on the surface. Any one, I would have
said, might see with half an eye that Worth Gilbert had bought Clayte's
suitcase so that he could get a thrill out of hunting for it. Cummings
I knew had in charge all the boy's Pacific Coast holdings; and since
his mother's death during the first year of the war, these were large.
Worth manifested toward them and the man who spoke to him of them the
indifference, almost contempt, of an impatient young soul who in the
years just behind him, had often wagered his chance of his morning's
coffee against some other fellow's month's pay feeling that he was
putting up double.
It seemed the sense of ownership was dulled in one who had seen
magnificent properties masterless, or apparently belonging to some
limp, bloodstained bundle of flesh that lay in one of the rooms. In
vain Cummings urged the state of the market, repeating with more
particularity and force what Whipple had said. The mines were tied up
by strike; their stock, while perfectly good, was down to twenty cents
on the dollar; to sell now would be madness. Worth only repeated
I've got to have the moneyMonday morningten o'clock. I don't
care what you sellor hock. Get it.
See here, the lawyer was puzzled, and therefore unprofessionally
out of temper. Even sacrificing your stuff in the most outrageous
manner, I couldn't realize enoughnot by ten o'clock Monday. You'll
have to go to your father. You can catch the five-five for Santa
I could see Worth choke back a hot-tempered refusal of the
suggestion. The funds he'd got to have, even if he went through some
humiliation to get them.
At that, he said slowly, father wouldn't have any great amount of
cash on hand. Say I went to him with the storyand took the
cat-hauling he'll give meshould I be much better off?
Sure you would. Cummings leaned back. I saw he considered his
point made. Whipple would rather take their own bank stock than
anything else. Your father has just acquired a big block of it. Act
while there's time. Better go out there and see him nowat once.
I'll think about it, Worth nodded. You dig for me what you can
and never quit. And he applied himself to the demands of the down-town
Well, Cummings said, drop me at the next corner, please. I've got
an engagement with a man here.
Worth swung in and stopped. Cummings left us. As we began to worm a
slow way toward my office, I suggested,
You'll come upstairs with me, andersort of outline a policy? I
ought to have any possible information you can give me, so's not to
make any more wrong moves than we have to.
Information? he echoed, and I hastened to amend,
I mean whatever notion you've got. Your theory, you know
Not a notion. Not a theory. He shook his head, eyes on the traffic
cop. That's your part.
I sat there somewhat flabbergasted. After all, I hadn't fully
believed that the boy had absolutely nothing to go on, that he had
bought purely at a whim, put up eight hundred thousand dollars on my
skill at running down a criminal. It sort of crumpled me up. I said so.
He laughed a little, ran up to the curb at the Phelan building, cut out
the engine, set the brake and turned to me with,
Don't worry. I'm getting what I paid foror what I'm going to pay
for. And I've got to go right after the money. Suppose I meet you, say,
at ten o'clock to-night?
At Tait's. Reserve a table, will you, and we'll have supper.
You're on, I said. And plenty to do myself meantime. I hopped
out on my side.
Worth sat in the roadster, not hurrying himself to follow up
Cummings' suggestionthe big boy, non-communicative, incurious, the
question of fortune lost or won seeming not to trouble him at all. I
skirted the machine and came round to him, demanding,
With whom do you suppose Cummings' engagement was?
Don't know, Jerry, and don't care, looking down at me serenely.
Why should I? He swung one long leg free and stopped idly, half in
the car, half out.
What if I told you Cummings' engagement was with our friend
Dykemanonly Dykeman doesn't know it yet?
Slowly he brought that dangling foot down to the pavement, followed
it with the other, and faced me. Across the blankness of his features
shot a joyous gleam; it spread, brightening till he was radiant.
I get you! he chortled. Collusion! They think I'm standing in
with ClayteOh, boy!
He threw back his head and roared.
CHAPTER III. A WEDDING PARTY
I looked at my watch; quarter of ten; a little ahead of my
appointment. I ordered a telephone extension brought to this corner
table I had reserved at Tait's and got in touch with my office; then
with the knowledge that any new kink in the case would be reported
immediately to me, I relaxed to watch the early supper crowd arrive:
Women in picture hats and bare or half-bare shoulders with rich wraps
slipping off them; hum of voices; the clatter of silver and china;
waiters beginning to wake up and dart about settling new arrivals. And
I wondered idly what sort of party would come to sit around one long
table across from me specially decorated with pale tinted flowers.
There was a sense of warmth and comfort at my heart. I am a lonely
man; the people I take to seem to have a way of passing on in the
stream of lifeor deathleaving me with a few well-thumbed volumes on
a shelf in my rooms for consolation. Walt Whitman, Montaigne, The Bard,
two or three other lesser poets, and you've the friends that have
stayed by me for thirty years. And so, having met up with Worth Gilbert
when he was a youngster, at the time his mother was living in San
Francisco to get a residence for her divorce proceedings, having loved
the boy and got I am sure some measure of affection in return, it
seemed almost too much to ask of fate that he should come back into my
days, plunge into such a proposition as this bank robbery, right at my
elbow as it were, and make himself my employermy boss.
I was a subordinate in the agency in those old times when he and I
used to chin about the business, and his idea (I always discussed it
gravely and respectfully with him) was to grow up and go into
partnership with me. Well, we were partners now.
Past ten, nearly five minutes. Where was he? What up to? Would he
miss his appointment? No, I caught a glimpse of him at the door getting
rid of hat and overcoat, pausing a moment with tall bent head to banter
Rose, the little Chinese girl who usually drifted from table to table
with cigars and cigarettes. Then he was coming down the room.
A man who takes his own path in life, and will walk it though hell
bar the way, never explaining, never extenuating, never excusing his
coursesomething seems to emanate from such a chap that draws all eyes
after him in a public place in a look between fear and desire. Sitting
there in Tait's, my view of Worth cut off now by a waiter with a
high-carried tray, again by people passing to tables for whom he
halted, I had a good chance to see the turning of eyeballs that
followed him, the furtive glances that snatched at him, or fondled him,
or would have probed him; the admiration of the women, the envy of the
men, curiously alike in that it was sometimes veiled and half wistful,
sometimes very open. Driftersyou see so many of the sort in a
restaurantwhy wouldn't they hanker after the strength and
ruthlessness of a man like Worth? And the poor prunes, how little they
knew him! As my friend Walt would say, he wasn't out after any of the
old, smooth prizes they cared for. And win or lose he would still be a
victor, for all he and his sort demand is freedom, and the joy of the
game. So he came on to me.
I noticed, a little startled, as he slumped into his chair with a
grunt of greeting, that his cheek was somehow gaunt and pale under the
tan; the blue fire of his eyes only smoldered, and I pulled back his
You look as if you hadn't had any dinner.
I haven't. He gave a man-size order for food and turned back from
it to listen to me. I'll be nearer human when I get some grub under my
My report of what had been done on the case since we separated was
interrupted by the arrival of our orders, and Worth sailed into a
thick, juicy steak while I was still explaining details. The orchestra
whanged and blared and jazzed away; the people at the other tables
noticed us or busied themselves noisily with affairs of their own;
Worth sat and enjoyed his meal with the air of a man feeding at a
solitary country tavern. When he had finishedand he took his time
about itthe worn, punished look was gone from his face; his eye was
bright, his tone nonchalant, as he lighted a cigarette, remarking,
I've had one more good dinner. Food's a thing you can depend on; it
doesn't rake up your entire past record from the time you squirmed into
this world, and tell you what a fool you've always been.
I turned that over in my mind. Did it mean that he'd seen his father
and got a calling down? I wanted to knowand was afraid to ask. The
fact is I was beginning to wake up to a good many things about my young
boss. I was intensely interested in his reactions on people. So far,
I'd seen him with strangers. I wished that I might have a chance to
observe him among intimates. Old Richardson who founded our agency (and
would never knowingly have left me at the head of it, though he did
take me in as partner, finally) used to say that the main trouble with
me was I studied people instead of cases. Richardson held that all men
are equal before the detective, and must be regarded only as queer
shaped pieces to be fitted together so as to make out a case.
Richardson would have gone as coolly about easing the salt of the earth
into the chink labeled murder or embezzlement, as though neither
had been human. With me the personal equation always looms big, and of
course he was quite right in saying that it's likely to get you all
The telephone on the table before me rang. It was Roberts, my
secretary, with the word that Foster had lifted the watch from Ocean
View, the little town at the neck of the peninsula, where bay and ocean
narrow the passageway to one thoroughfare, over which every machine
must pass that goes by land from San Francisco. With two operatives, he
had been on guard there since three o'clock of the afternoon, holding
up blond men in cars, asking questions, taking notes and numbers. Now
he reported it was a useless waste of time.
Order him in, I instructed Roberts.
A far-too-fat entertainer out on the floor was writhing in the pangs
of an Hawaiian dance. It took the attention of the crowd. I watched the
face of my companion for a moment, then,
Worth, I said a bit nervouslyafter all, I nearly had to
knowis your father going to come through?
Eh? He looked at me startled, then put it aside negligently. Oh,
the money? No. I'll leave that up to Cummings. A brief pause. We'll
get a wiggle on us and dig up the suitcase. He lifted his tumbler,
stared at it, then unseeingly out across the room, and his lip twitched
in a half smile. I'm sure glad I bought it.
Looking at him, I had no reason to doubt his word. His enjoyment of
the situation seemed to grow with every detail I brought up.
It was near eleven when the party came in to take the long,
flower-trimmed table. Worth's back was to the room; I saw them over his
shoulder, in the lead a tall blonde, very smartly dressed, but not in
evening clothes; in severe, exclusive street wear. The man with her,
good looking, almost her own type, had that possessive air which seems
somehow unmistakableand there was a look about the half dozen
companions after them, as they settled themselves in a great flurry of
scraping chairs, that made me murmur with a grin,
Bet that's a wedding party.
Worth gave them one quick glance, then came round to me with a
You win. Married at Santa Ysobel this afternoon. Local society
event. Whole place standing on its hind legs, taking notice.
So he had been down to the little town to see his father after all.
And he wasn't going to talk about it. Oh, well.
Friends of yours? I asked perfunctorily, and he gave me a queer
look out of the corners of those wicked eyes, repeating in an enjoying
Friends? Oh, hardly that. The girl I was to have married, and
Bronson Vandemanthe man she has married.
I had wanted to get a more intimate line on the kidit seemed that
here was a chance with a vengeance!
The rest of the bunch? I suggested. He took a leisurely survey,
and gave them three words:
Family and accomplices.
Santa Ysobel people, too, then. Folks you know well?
The lady changed her mind while you were across? I risked the
While I was shedding my blood for my country. He nodded. Gave me
the butt while the Huns were using the bayonet on me.
In the careless jeer, as much at himself as at her, no hint what his
present feeling might be toward the fashion plate young female across
there. With some fellows, in such a situation, I should have looked for
a disposition to duck the encounter; let his old sweetheart's wedding
party leave without seeing him; with others I should have discounted a
dramatic moment when he would court the meeting. It was impossible to
suppose either thing of Worth Gilbert; plain that he simply sat there
because he sat there, and would make no move toward the other table
unless something in that direction interested himpleasantly or
unpleasantlywhich at present nothing seemed to do.
So we smoked, Worth indifferent, I giving all the attention to the
people over there: bride and groom; a couple of fair haired girls so
like the bride that I guessed them to be sisters; a freckled, impudent
looking little flapper I wasn't so sure of; two older men, and an older
woman. Then a shifting of figures gave me sight of a face that I hadn't
seen before, and I drew in my breath with a whistle.
Whew! Who's the dark girl? She's a beauty!
Dark girl? Worth had interest enough to lean into the place where
I got my view; after he did so he remained to stare. I sat and grinned
while he muttered,
Can't be.... I believe it is!
Something to make him sit up and take notice now. I didn't wonder at
his fixed study of the young creature. Not so dressed up as the
othersI think she wore what ladies call an evening blouse with a
street suit; a brunette, but of a tinting so delicate that she fairly
sparkled, she took the shine off those blonde girls. Her small
beautifully formed, uncovered head had the living jet of the crow's
wing; her great eyes, long-lashed and sumptuously set, showed ebon
irises almost obliterating the white. Dark, shining, she was a night
with stars, that girl.
Funny thing, Worth spoke, moving his head to keep in line with
that face. How could she grow up to be like thisa child that wasn't
allowed any childhood? Lord, she never even had a doll!
Some doll herself now, I smiled.
Yeh, he assented absently, she's good lookingbut where did she
learn to dress like thatand play the game?
Where they all learn it. I enjoyed very much seeing him
interested. From her mother, and her sisters, or the other girls.
Not. He was positive. Her mother died when she was a baby. Her
father wouldn't let her be with other childrentreated her like one of
the instruments in his laboratory; trained her in her high chair;
problems in concentration dumped down into its tray, punishment if she
made a failure; God knows what kind of a reward if she succeeded; maybe
no more than her bowl of bread and milk. That's the kind of a deal she
got when she was a kid. And will you look at her now!
If he kept up his open staring at the girl, it would be only a
matter of time when the wedding party discovered him. I leaned back in
my chair to watch, while Worth, full of his subject, spilled over in
Never played with anybody in her lifebut me, he said
unexpectedly. They lived next house but one to us; the professor had
the rest of the Santa Ysobel youngsters terrorized, backed off the
boards; but I wasn't a steady resident of the burg. I came and went,
and when I came, it was playtime for the little girl.
What was her father? Crank on education?
Psychology, Worth said briefly. International reputation. But he
ought to have been hung for the way he brought Bobs up. Listen to this,
Jerry. I got off the train one time at Santa Ysobelcan't remember
just when, but the kid over there was all shanks and eyes'bout ten or
eleven, I'd say. Her father had her down at the station doing a stunt
for a bunch of professors. That was his notion of a nice, normal
development for a small child. There she sat poked up cross-legged on a
baggage truck. He'd trained her to sit in that self balanced position
so she could make her mind blank without going to sleep. A freight
train was hitting a twenty mile clip past the station, and she was
adding the numbers on the sides of the box cars, in her mind. It kept
those professors on the jump to get the figures down in their
notebooks, but she told them the total as the caboose was passing.
Some stunt, I agreed. Freight car numbers run up into the
ten-thousands. Worth didn't hear me, he was still deep in the past.
Poor little white-faced kid, he muttered. I dumped my valises,
horned into that bunch, picked her off the truck and carried her away
on my shoulder, while the professor yelled at me, and the other ginks
were tabbing up their additions. And I damned every one of them, to
hell and through it.
You must have been a popular youth in your home town, I suggested.
I was, he grinned. My reason for telling you that story, though,
is that I've got an idea about the girl over thereif she hasn't
changed too much. I think maybe we might
He stood up calmly to study her, and his tall figure instantly drew
the attention of everybody in the room. Over at the long table it was
the sharp, roving eye of the snub-nosed flapper that spied him first. I
saw her give the alarm and begin pushing back her chair to bolt right
across and nab him. The sister sitting next stopped her. Judging from
the glimpses I had as the party spoke together and leaned to look, it
was quite a sensation. But apparently by common consent they left
whatever move was to be made to the bride; and to my surprise this move
was most unconventional. She got up with an abrupt gesture and started
over to our tablealone. This, for a girl of her sort, was going some.
I glanced doubtfully at Worth. He shrugged a little.
Might as well have it over. Her family lives on one side of us, and
Brons Vandeman on the other.
And then the bride was with us. She didn't overdo the thingmuch;
only held out her hand with a slightly pleading air as though half
afraid it would be refused. And it was a curious thing to see that
pretty, delicate featured, schooled face of hers naïvely drawn in lines
of emotionlike a bisque doll registering grief.
Gilbert took the hand, shook it, and looked around with the evident
intention of presenting me. I saw by the way the lady gave me her
shoulder, pushing in, speaking low, that she didn't want anything of
the sort, and quietly dropped back. I barely got a side view of Worth's
face, but plainly his calmness was a disappointment to her.
After these years! I caught the fringes of what she was saying.
It seems like a dream. To-nightof all times. But you will come over
to our tablefor a minute anyhow? They're just going toto drink our
healthOh, Worth! That last in a sort of impassioned whisper. And all
he answered was,
If I might bring Mr. Boyne with me, Mrs. Vandeman. At her
protesting expression, he finished, Or do I call you Ina, still?
She gave him a second look of reproach, acknowledging my
introduction in that way some women have which assures you they don't
intend to know you in the least the next time. We crossed to the table
and met the others.
If anybody had asked my opinion, I should have said it was a mistake
to go. Our advent in that partyor rather Worth Gilbert's adventwas
bound to throw the affair into a sort of consternation. No mistake
about that. The bridegroom at the head of the table seemed the only one
able to keep a grip on the situation. He welcomed Worth as though he
wanted him, took hold of me with a glad hand, and presented me in such
rapid succession to everybody there that I was dizzy. And through it
all I had an eye for Worth as he met and disposed of the effusive
welcome of the younger Thornhill girls. Either of the twins, as I found
them to be, would, I judged, have been more than willing to fill out
sister Ina's unexpired term, and the little snub-nosed one, also a
sister it seemed, plainly adored him as a hero, sexlessly, as they
sometimes can at that age.
While yet he shook hands with the girls, and swapped short replies
for long questions, I became conscious of something odd in the air.
Plain enough sailing with the young ladies; all the noise with them
echoed the bride's, After all these years. They clattered about
whether he looked like his last photograph, and how perfectly
delightful it was going to be to have him back in Santa Ysobel again.
But when it came to the chaperone, a Mrs. Dr. Bowman, things were
different. No longer young, though still beautiful in what I might call
a sort of wasted fashion, with slim wrists and fragile fingers, and a
splendid mass of rich, auburn hair, I had been startled, even looking
across from our table, by the extreme nervous tension of her face. She
looked a neurasthenic; but that was not all; surely her nerves were
almost from under control as she sat there, her rich cloak dropped back
over her chair, the corners caught up again and fumbled in a twisting,
Now, when Worth stood before her appealing eyes, she reached up and
clutched his hand in both of hers, staring at him through quick tears,
saying something in a low, choking tone, something that I couldn't for
the life of me make into the greeting you give even a beloved youngster
you haven't seen for several years.
At the moment, I was myself being presented to the lady's husband, a
typical top-grade, small town medical man, with a fine bedside manner.
His nice, smooth white hands, with which I had watched him feeling the
pulse of his supper as though it had been a wealthy patient, released
mine; those cold eyes of his, that hid a lot of meaning under heavy
lids, came around on his wife. His,
Laura, control yourself. Where do you think you are? was like a
It worked perfectly. Of course she would be his patient as well as
his wife. Yet I hated the man for it. To me it seemed like the cut of
the whip that punishes a sensitive, over excited Irish setter for a
fault in the hunting field. Mrs. Bowman quivered, pulled herself
together and sat down, but her gaze followed the boy.
She sat there stilled, but not quieted, under her husband's eye, and
watched Worth's meeting with the other man, whom I heard the boy call
Jim Edwards, and with whom he shook hands, but who met him, as Mrs.
Bowman had, as though there had been something recent between them; not
like people bridging a long gap of absence.
And this man, tall, thin, the power in his features contradicted by
a pair of soft dark eyes, deep-set, looking out at you with an
expression of bafflement, defeatwhy did he face Worth with the stare
of one drenched, drowned in woe? It wasn't his wedding. He hadn't done
Worth any dirt in the matter.
And I was wedged in beside the beautiful dark girl, without having
been presented to her, without even having had the luck to hear what
name Worth used when he spoke to her. At last the flurry of our coming
settled down (though I still felt that we were stuck like a sliver into
the wedding party, that the whole thing ached from us) and Dr. Bowman
proposed the health of the happy couple, his bedside manner going over
pretty well, as he informed Vandeman and the rest of us that the
bridegroom was a social leader in Santa Ysobel, and that the hope of
its best people was to place him and his bride at the head of things
there, leading off with the annual Blossom Festival, due in about a
Vandeman responded for himself and his bride, appropriately, with
what I'd call a sort of acceptable, fabricated geniality. You could see
he was the kind that takes such things seriously, one who would go to
work to make a success of any social doings he got into, would give
what his set called good parties; and he spoke feelingly of the Blossom
Festival, which was the great annual event of a little town. If by
putting his shoulder to the wheel he could boost that affair into
nation-wide fame and place a garland of rich bloom upon the brow of his
fair city, he was willing to take off his neatly tailored coat, roll up
his immaculate shirtsleeves and go to it.
There was no time for speech making. The girls wanted to dance;
bride and groom were taking the one o'clock train for the south and
Coronado. The orchestra swung into I'll Say She Does.
Just time for one. Vandeman guided his bride neatly out between
the chairs, and they moved away. I turned from watching them to find
Worth asking Mrs. Bowman to dance.
Oh, Worth, dearest! I ought to let one of the girls have
She looked helplessly up at him; he smiled down into her tense,
suffering face, and paid no attention to her objections. As soon as he
carried her off, Jim Edwards glumly took out that one of the twins I
had at first supposed to be the elder, the remaining Thornhill girls
moved on Dr. Bowman and began nagging him to hunt partners for them.
Drag something up here, prompted the freckled tomboy, or I'll
make you dance with me yourself. She grabbed a coat lapel, and started
away with him.
I turned and laughed into the laughing face of the dark girl. I had
no idea of her name, yet a haunting resemblance, a something somehow
familiar came across to me which I thought for a moment was only the
sweet approachableness of her young femininity.
Bowman had found and collared a partner for Ernestine Thornhill, but
that was as far as it went. The little one forebore her threat of
making him dance with her, came back to her chair and tucked herself
in, snuggling up to the girl beside me, getting hold of a hand and
looking at me across it. She rejoiced, it seems, in the nickname of
Skeet, for by that the other now spoke to her whisperingly, saying it
was too bad about the dance.
That's nothing, Skeet answered promptly. I'd a lot rather sit
here and talk to youand your gentleman friend with a large wink
for meif you don't mind.
At the humorous, intimate glance which again passed between me and
the dark girl, sudden remembrance came to me, and I ejaculated,
I know you now!
Only now? smiling.
You've changed a good deal in seven years, I defended myself.
And you so very little, she was still smiling, that I had almost
a mind to come and shake hands with you when Ina went to speak to
I remembered then that it was Worth's recognition of her which had
brought him to his feet. I told her of it, and the glowing, vivid face
was suddenly all rosy. Skeet regarded the manifestation askance, asking
When did you see Worth last, Barbie? You weren't still living in
Santa Ysobel when he left, were you?
I sat thinking while the girlish voices talked on. Barbiethe
nickname for Barbara. Barbara Wallace; the name jumped at me from a
poster; that's where I first saw it. It linked itself up with what
Worth had said over there about the forlorn childhood of this beguiling
young charmer. Why hadn't I remembered then? I, too, had my
recollections of Barbara Wallace. About seven years before, I had first
seen her, a slim, dark little thing of twelve or fourteen, very badly
dressed in slinky, too-long skirts that whipped around preposterously
thin ankles, blue-black hair dragged away from a forehead almost too
fine, made into a bundle of some fashion that belonged neither to
childhood nor womanhood, her little, pointed face redeemed by a pair of
big black eyes with a wonderful inner light, the eyes of this girl
glowing here at my left hand.
The father Worth spoke of brusquely as the professor was Elman
Wallace, to whom all students of advanced psychology are heavily
indebted. The year I heard him, and saw the girl, his course of
lectures at Stanford University was making quite a stir. I had been one
of a bunch of criminologists, detectives and police chiefs who, during
a state convention were given a demonstration of the little girl's
powers, closing with a sort of rapid pantomime in which I was asked to
take part. A half dozen of us from the audience planned exactly what we
were to do. I rushed into the room through one door, holding my straw
hat in my left hand, and wiping my brow with a handkerchief with the
right. From an opposite door, came two men; one of them fired at me
twice with a revolver held in his left hand. I fell, and the second
manthe one who wasn't armedran to me as I staggered, grabbed my
hat, and the two of them went out the door I had entered, while I
stumbled through the one by which they had come in. It lasted all told,
not half a minute, the idea being for those who looked on to write down
what had happened.
Those trained criminologists, supposed to have eyes in their heads,
didn't see half that really took place, and saw a-plenty that did not.
Most of 'em would have hung the man who snatched my hat. Only one, I
remember, noticed that I was shot by a left-handed man. Then the little
girl told us what really had occurred, every detail, just as though she
had planned it instead of being merely an observer.
Pardon me, I broke in on the girls. Miss Wallace, you don't mean
to say that you really know me again after seeing me once, seven years
ago, in a group of other men at a public performance?
Why shouldn't I? You saw me then. You knew me again.
But you were doing wonderful things. We remember what strikes us as
that did me.
She looked at me with a little fading of that glow her face seemed
always to hold.
Most memories are like that, she agreed listlessly. Mine isn't.
It works like a cinema camera; I've only to turn the crank the other
way to be looking at any past record.
But can you? I was beginning, when Skeet stopped me, leaning
around her companion, bristling at me like a snub-nosed terrier.
If you want to make a hit with Barbie, cut out the reminiscences.
She does loathe being reminded that she was once an infant phenom.
I glanced at my dark eyed girl; she bent her head affirmatively. She
wouldn't have been capable of Skeet's rudeness, but plainly Skeet had
not overstated her real feeling. I had hardly begun an apology when the
dancers rushed back to the table with the information that there was no
more than time to make the Los Angeles train; there was an instant
grasping of wraps, hasty good-bys, and the party began breaking up with
a bang. Worth went out to the sidewalk with them; I sat tight waiting
for him to return, and to my surprise, when he finally did appear,
Barbara Wallace was with him.
CHAPTER IV. AN APPARITION
Don't look so scared! she said smilingly to me. I'm only on your
hands a few minutes; a package left to be called for.
I had watched them coming back to me at our old table, with its
telephone extension, the girl with eyes for no one but Worth, who
helped her out of her wrap now with a preoccupied air and,
Shed the coat, Bobs, adding as he seated her beside him, The luck
of luck that I chanced on you here this evening.
That brought the color into her face; the delicate rose shifted
under her translucent skin almost with the effect of light, until that
lustrous midnight beauty of hers was as richly glowing as one of those
marvellous dark opals of the antipodes.
Yes, she said softly, with a smile that set two dimples deep in
the pink of her cheeks, wasn't it strange our meeting this way? Worth
wasn't looking at her. He'd signaled a waiter, ordered a pot of black
coffee, and was watching its approach. I didn't go down to the
wedding, but Ina herself invited me to come here to-night. I had half a
mind not to; then at the last minute I decided I wouldand I met you!
Worth nodded, sat there humped in a brown study while the waiter
poured our coffee. The minute the man left us alone, he turned to her
I've got a stunt for you.
The light failed abruptly in her face; her mouth with its soft, firm
molding, its vivid, floral red, like the lips of a child, went down a
bit at the clean-cut corners. A small hand fumbled the trimming of her
blouse; it was almost as if she laid it over a wounded heart.
Yes, he nodded. Jerry's got something in his pocket that'll be
pie for you.
She turned to me a look between angry and piteousthe resentment
she would not vent on him.
Isis Mr. Boyne interested in stuntssuch as I used to do?
Sure, Worth agreed. We both are. We
Oh, that was why you wanted me to come back with you? She had got
hold of herself now. She was more poised, but still resentful.
Bobs, he cut straight across her mood to what he wanted, Jerry
Boyne is going to read you something it took about 'steen blind people
to seeand you'll give us the answer. I didn't share his confidence,
but I rather admired it as he finished, poising the tongs, One lump,
Of course I knew what he meant. My hand was already fumbling in my
pocket for the description of Clayte. The girl looked as though she
wasn't going to answer him; she moved to shove back her chair. Worth's
only recognition of her attitude was to put out a hand quietly, touch
her arm, not once looking at her, and say in a lowered tone,
Steady, Bobs. And then, Did you say one lump or two?
None. Her voice was scarcely audible, but I saw she was going to
stay; that Worth was to have his way, to get from her the opinion he
wantedwhatever that might amount to. And I passed the paper to him,
Let her read it. This is too public a place to be declaiming a
thing of the sort.
She hesitated a minute then gave it such a mere flirt of a glance
that I hardly thought she'd seen what it was, before she raised
inquiring eyes to mine and asked coldly,
Why shouldn't that be readshouted every ten minutes by the
traffic officer at Market and Kearny? They'd only think he was paging
every other man in the Palace Hotel.
I leaned back and chuckled. After a bare glance, this sharp witted
girl had hit on exactly what I'd thought of the Clayte description.
Is that all? May I go now, Worth? she said, still with that
dashed, disappointed look from one of us to the other. If you'll just
put me on a Haight Street carI won't wait for And now she made a
definite movement to rise; but again Worth held her by the mere touch
of his fingers on her sleeve.
Wait, Bobs, he said. There's more.
More? Her eyes on Worth's face talked louder than her tongue, but
that also gained fluency as he looked back at her and nodded. Stunts!
she repeated his word bitterly. I didn't expect you to come back
asking me to do stunts. I hated it all soworking out things like a
calculating machine! Her voice sank to a vehement undertone. Nobody
thinking of me as human, with human feelings. I have neverdoneone
stuntsince my father died.
She didn't weaken. She sat there and looked Worth squarely in the
eye, yet there was a kind of big gentleness in her refusal, a freedom
from petty resentment, that had in it not so much a girl's hurt vanity
as the outspoken complaint of a really grieved heart.
But, Bobs, Worth smiled at her trouble, about the same careless,
good-natured smile he had given little Pete when he flipped him the
quarter, suppose you could possibly save me a hundred thousand dollars
Then it's not just a stunt? She settled slowly back in her chair.
Certainly not, I said. This is businesswith me, anyhow. Miss
Wallace, why do you think a description like that could be shouted on
the street without any one being the wiser?
Was it supposed to be a description? she asked, raising her brows
The best we could get from sixteen or eighteen people, most of whom
have known the man a long time; some of them for eight years.
And no onenot one of all these people could differentiate him?
I've done my best at questioning them.
She gave me one straight, level look, and I wondered a little at the
way those velvety black eyes could saw into a fellow. But she put no
query, and I had the cheap satisfaction of knowing that she was
convinced I'd overlooked no details in the quiz that went to make up
that description. Then she turned to Worth.
You said I might save you a lot of money. Has the man you're trying
here to describe anything to do with moneyin large amountsfinancial
affairs of importance?
Again the little girl had unconsciously scored with me. To imagine a
rabbit like Clayte, alone, swinging such an enormous job was
ridiculous. From the first, my mind had been reaching after the
othersthe big-brained criminals, the planners whose instrument he
was. She evidently saw this, but Worth answered her.
He's quite a financier, Bobs. He walked off with nearly a million
From you? with a quick breath.
I'm the main loser if he gets away with it.
Tell me about it.
And Worth gave her a concise account of the theft and his own share
in the affair. She listened eagerly now, those innocent great eyes
growing big with the interest of it. With her there was no blind
stumbling over Worth's motive in buying a suitcase sight unseen. I had
guessed, but she understood completely and unquestioningly. When he had
finished, she said solemnly,
You know, don't you, that, if you've got your facts rightif these
things you've told me are square, even cubes of factthey prove Clayte
among the wonderful men of the world?
Worth's big brown paw went out and covered her little hand that lay
on the table's edge.
Now we're getting somewhere, he encouraged her. As for me, I
Wonderful man, my eye! He's got a wonderful gang behind him.
Oh, you should have told me that you know there is a gang, Mr.
Boyne, she said simply. Of course, then, the result is different.
Well, I hedged, there's a gang all right. But suppose there
wasn't, how would you find any wonderfulness in a creature as near
nothing as this Clayte?
She sat and thought for a moment, drawing imaginary lines on the
table top, finally looking up at me with a narrowing of the lids, a
tightening of the lips, which gave an extraordinary look of power to
her young feminine face.
In that case, Clayte would inevitably be one of the wonderful men
of the world, she repeated her characterization with the placid, soft
obstinacy of falling, snow. Didn't you stop a minuteone little
minute, Mr. Boyneto think it wonderful that a man so devoid of
personality as that she slanted a slim finger across the description
of ClayteDidn't you add up in your mind all that you told me about
the men disagreeing as to which side he parted his hair on, whether he
wore tan shoes or black, a fedora or derby, smoked or didn't,
absolutely nothing left as to peculiarities of face, figure, movement,
expression, manner or habit to catch the eye of one single observer
among the sixteen or eighteen you questionedsurely you added that up,
Mr. Boyne? What result did you get?
Nothing, I admitted. To hear you repeat it, of course it sounds
as if the man was a freak. But he wasn't. He was just one of those
fellows that are born utterly commonplace, and slide through life
without getting any marks put on 'em.
And is it nothing that this man became a teller in a bank without
infringing at all on the circle of his nothingness? Remained so shadowy
that neither the president nor cashier can, after eight years'
association, tell the color of his hair and eyes? Then add the fact
that he is the one clerk in the bank without a filed photograph and
description on record with your agencywhat result now, Mr. Boyne?
A coincidence, I said, rather hastily.
Don't, please, Mr. Boyne! her eyes glowed softly as she smiled her
mild sarcasm. Admit that he has ceased to be a freak and becomes a
As you put it I began, but she cut in on me with,
I haven't put it yet. Listen. She was smiling still, but it was
plain she was thoroughly in earnest. When this cipherthis
noughtthis zeromanages to annex to himself a million dollars that
doesn't belong to him, his nothingness gains a specific meaning. The
zero is an important factor in mathematics. I think we have placed a
digit before the long string of ciphers of Clayte's nothingness.
Nothing and nothingmake nothing. I spoke more brusquely because
I was irritated by her logic. You called the turn when you spoke of
him as a zero. There are digits to be added, but they're the gang that
planned and helpedand used zero Clayte as their tool. You're talking
of those digits, not Clayte.
I believe Bobs'll find them for you, Jerryif you'll let her,
Oh, I'll let anybody do anythinga bit nettled. I'm ready to
have our friend Clayte take his place, with the pyramids and the
hanging gardens of Babylon, among the earth's wonders; but you've got
to show me.
All right. Worth gave the girl a look that brought something of
that wonderful rose flush fluttering back into her cheeks. I'm betting
on her. Go to it, Bobsielet him in on your mathematical logic.
You used the word 'coincidence,' Mr. Boyne. She leaned across
toward me, eyes bright, little finger tip marking her points. Allow
one coincidencethat the only description, the only photograph missing
from your files are those of the self-effacing Clayte. To-day Clayte
has proved to be a thief
In seven figures, Worth threw in, and she smiled at him.
You would call that another coincidence, Mr. Boyne?
I nodded, rather unable at the moment to think of a better word to
Two coincidences, she went on,we are still in mathematicsyou
can't add. They run by geometrical progression into the impossible.
The phone rang. While I turned to answer it, my mind was still
hunting a comeback to this. The call was from Foster, just in from
Ocean View and reporting for instructions. Covering the transmitter
with my hand, I told Worth the situation and asked,
Not I, he shook his head. I added, a bit sarcastically,
Or you, Miss Wallace?
Yes, she surprised me. Have your man Foster find three women who
have seen Edward Clayte; get from them the color of his hair and eyes;
tell him to have them be exact about it.
Fine! But you know they'll not agree, any more than the other
Oh, yes they will, she laughed at me a little. Don't you notice
that a girl always says a blue-eyed man or a brown-eyed man? That's
what she sees when she first meets him, and it sticks in her mind.
Girls and women sort out people by types; small differences in color
mean something to them.
I didn't keep Foster waiting any longer.
Hello, I spoke quickly into the transmitter. Get busy and dig out
any women clerks of the bank, stenographers, scrub-women there, or
whatever, and ask them particularly as to the exact shade of Clayte's
hair and eyes. Get Mrs. Griggsby again at the St. Dunstan. I want at
least three women who can give these points exactly. Exactly,
He did, and I thanked Miss Wallace for her suggestion.
Now that, I said, is what I want; a good, practical idea
And it won't be a bit of use in the world to you, she laughed
across the table into my eyes. Why, Mr. Boyne, you've found out
already that there are too many Edward Claytes, speaking in physical
terms, for you to run one down by description. There are three of him
here, within sight of our table right nowand the place isn't
I grinned in half grudging agreement, and found nothing to say. It
was Worth who spoke.
Like to have you go a step further in this, if you would, and when
she shook her head, he went on a bit sharply. See here, Bobs; you and
I used to be pals, didn't we? She nodded, her look brightening. Well
then, here's the biggest game I've been up against since I crawled out
of the trenches and shucked my uniform. I come to you and give you the
high-signand you throw me down. You don't want to play with meis
Oh, Worth! I do. I do want to play with you, she was almost in
tears now. But you see, I didn't quite understand. I felt as though
you were sort of putting me through my paces.
Sure not, Worth drove it at her like a turbulent urchin. I'm
having the time of my young life with this thing, and I want to take
you in on it.
Ifif you fail you lose a lot of money; wasn't that what you
said? she questioned.
Oh, yes, he nodded, Nothing in it if there weren't a gamble.
And if he wins out, he makes quite a respectable pile, I added.
What I want of you now, he explained, is to go with us to
Clayte's room at the St. Dunstanthe room he disappeared fromlook it
over and tell us how he got out and where he went.
He made his request light-heartedly; she considered it after the
same fashion; it seemed to me all absurdity.
To-morrow morningSunday, she said. No office to-morrow, she
sipped the last of her black coffee slowly. All the rest of the facts
there ever will be about Edward Clayte are in that roomaren't they?
Her voice was musing; she looked straight ahead of her as she finished
softly, What time do we go?
Early. Does nine o'clock suit you? Worth didn't even glance at me
as he made this arrangement for us both. We'd scoot up there now if it
wasn't so late.
I've no doubt you'll find the place carpeted with zeros and hung
with noughts and ciphers. I couldn't refrain from joshing her a
little. She took it with a smile glanced across the room, looked a
little surprised, and half rose with,
Why, there they are for me now.
I couldn't see anybody that she might mean, except a man who had
walked the length of the place talking to the head waiter, and now
stood arguing at the corner of what had been Bronson Vandeman's supper
table. This man evidently had his attention directed to us, turned,
looked, and in the moment of his crossing I saw that it was Cummings.
There was not even the usual tight-lipped half smile under that cropped
mustache of his.
Good evening. He looked at our faces, uttering none of the
surprise he plainly felt, letting the two words do for greeting to us
all, and, as it seemed, to me, an expression of disapproval as well.
The young lady replied first.
Oh, Mr. Cummings, did they send you for me? Where are the others?
She had come to her feet, and reached for the coat which Worth was
holding more as if he meant to keep it than put it on her.
I left your chaperone waiting in the machine, Cumming's tone and
look carried a plain hurry-up. Worth took his time about the coat, and
spoke low to the girl while he helped her into it.
You'll go with us to-morrow morning?
She gave me one of those adorable smiles that brought the dimples
momentarily in her cheeks.
If Mr. Boyne wants me. He hasn't said yet.
Do I need to? I asked. The question seemed reasonable. There she
stood, such a very pretty girl, between her two cavaliers who looked at
each other with all the traditional hostility that belonged to the
situation. She smiled on both, and didn't neglect me. I settled the
Worth has your address; we'll call for you in my machine. And I
got the idea that Cummings was asking questions about it as he went
away holding her arm.
Do you think the little girl will really be of any use? I spoke to
the back of Worth's head as he continued to stare after them.
Sure. I know she will. He shoved his crumpled napkin in among the
coffee service, and we moved toward the desk. Sure she will, he
repeated. Wonder where she met Cummings.
CHAPTER V. AT THE ST. DUNSTAN
At the Palace Hotel Sunday morning where I went to pick up Worth
before we should call for little Miss Wallace, he met me in high
spirits and with an enthusiasm that demanded immediate physical action.
Heh, I said, you look fine. Must have slept well.
Make it rested, and I'll go you, he came back cheerfully.
He'd already been out, going down to the Grant Avenue corner for an
assortment of Bay cities papers not to be had at the hotel news-stands,
so that he could see whether our canny announcement of Clayte's fifteen
thousand dollar defalcation had received discreet attention from the
For my part, our agency had been able to get hold of three women who
had seen Clayte and remembered the event; Mrs. Griggsby; a stenographer
at the bank; and the woman who sold newspapers at the St. Dunstan
corner. Miss Wallace's suggestion had proven itself, for these three
agreed with fair exactness, and the description run in the late
editions of the city papers was less vague than the others. It gave
Clayte's eyes as a pale gray-blue, and his hair as dull brown,
eliminating at least all brown-eyed men. Worth asserted warmly,
That girl's going to be useful to us, Boyne. I couldn't well
disagree with him, after using her hint. We were getting out of the
elevator on the office floor when he looked at me, grinned boyishly,
and added, What would you say if I told you I was being shadowed?
That I thought it very likely, I nodded. Also I might hazard a
guess at whose money is paying for it.
He gave me a quick glance, but asked no questions. I could see he
was enjoying his position, up to the hilt, considered the attentions of
a trailer as one of its perquisites.
Keep your eyes open and you'll spot him as we go out, he said as
he left the key at the desk.
It was hardly necessary to keep my eyes open to see the lurking
figure over beyond the easy-chairs, which started galvanically as we
passed through the court, and a moment later came sidling after us.
Little Pete had left my machine at the Market Street entranceWorth
was to drive meand we wheeled away from a disappointed man racing for
the taxi line around the corner.
More power to his legs, Worth said.
Oh, I don't know, I grunted as we cut into Montgomery, negotiated
the corner onto Bush Street's clear way, striking a fair clip at once.
That end of him already works better than the other. How did you get
Barbara Wallace telephoned me to look out for him, he smiled, and
let my car out another notch once we'd passed the traffic cop at
I myself had foreseen the possibilitybut only as a
possibilitythat Dykeman would put a man on Worth's coat-tails, since
I knew Dykeman and had been at that bank meeting; yet I had not
regarded it as likely enough to warn Worth; and here was this girl
phoning him to look out for a trailer. Was this some more of her
deductive reasoning, or had Cummings dropped a hint?
She was waiting for us in front of the Haight Street boarding house
that served her for a home, and we tucked her between us on the
roadster's wide seat. At the St. Dunstan we found my man, left there
since the hour of the alarm the day before, and everybody belonging to
the management surly and glum. The clerk handed me Clayte's key across
the morning papers spread out on his desk. Apartment houses dislike
notoriety of this sort, and the St. Dunstan set up to be as rabidly
respectable, as chemically pure as any in the city. Well, no use their
blaming me; Clayte was their misfortune; they couldn't expect me to
keep the matter out of print entirely.
The three of us crowded into the automatic elevator, and I pressed
the seventh floor button. The girl's eyes shone under the wisp of veil
twisted around a knowing little turban. She liked the taste of the
That man came this waywith that suitcase, she breathed, maybe
set it down right there when he pressed the buttonjust as Mr. Boyne
It was a fine morning; the shades had been left up, and Clayte's
room when I opened the door was ablaze with sunlight.
How delightful! Barbara Wallace stopped on the threshold and
looked about her. I expected the scientific investigating to begin; but
noshe was all taken up with the beauty of sunlight and view.
The seventh was the top floor. The St. Dunstan stood almost at the
summit where Nob Hill slants obliquely to north and east, and Powell
Street dizzies down the steep descent to North Beach and the Bay. The
girl had run to a window, and was looking out toward the marvelous show
of blue-green water and distant Berkeley hills.
Will you open this window for me, please? she asked. I stepped to
her side, forestalling Worth who was eyeing the room's interior with
You'll notice the burglar-proof sash locks, I said as I
manipulated this one. She gave only casual interest, her attention
still on the view beyond. The steel latch, fastened to the upper sash,
locked into the socket on the lower sash by a lever-catch. See? I must
pull out this little lever before I can push the hasp back with my
thumbso. Now the window may be shoved up, and I illustrated.
Yes, she nodded; then, Look at the wisps of fog around
Tamalpais's top. Worth, come here and see the violet shadows of the
clouds on the bay.
North wind coming up, agreed Worth, stepping to the farther
It's bringing in the fog, she said; then abruptly, giving me the
first hint that little Miss Wallace considered herself on the job,
Will it not latch by itself if you jam it shut hard?
It will not. I illustrated with a bang. The latch still remained
open. I must close it by hand. I pushed the hasp into the keeper,
and, snapthe lever shot back and it was fast.
But a window like that couldn't be opened from outside, even
without the locking lever, she remarked, gazing again toward the Marin
A man with the knowa burglarcan open the ordinary window latch
in less than a minute, I told her. With a jimmy pinched between the
sash and the sill, a recurring pressure starts the latch back; nothing
to hold it. Thisunless he cuts the glassis burglar-proof.
Worth, at her shoulder, now looked down the sheer descent which
exaggerated the seven stories of the St. Dunstan; because of its
crowning position on the hill and the intersection of streets, we
looked over the roofs of the houses before us, far above their chimney
tops. I caught his eye and grinned across the girl's head, suggesting,
Besides, we weren't trying to find how some one could break into
this room, but how they could break out. Even if the latches had not
been locked, there wouldn't be an answer in these windowsunless
Clayte could fly.
Might have climbed from one window ledge to the next and so made
his way to the fire-escape, Worth said, but I shook my head.
He'd be seen from the windows by the tenants on six floorsand
nobody saw him. Might as well take the elevator or the stairswhich he
But the girl wasn't listening to any of this. Her expression
attentive, alert, she was passing her hand around the edge of the glass
of either sash, as though she still dwelt on my suggestion of cutting
the pane; and as we watched her, she murmured to herself,
Yes, flying would be a good way. It made me laugh.
And then she turned away from the windows and had no more interest
in any of them, going with me all over the rest of the room with rather
the air of a person who thought of renting it than a high-brow criminal
investigator hunting clews.
He lived hereyears, you say? I nodded. She slid her hand over
the plush cushions of a morris chair, threw back the covers of an iron
bed in one corner and felt of the mattress, then went and stood before
the bare little dresser. Why, the place expresses no more personality
than a room in a transient hotel!
He hadn't any personality, I growled, and got the flicker of a
smile from her eye.
What about those library books he carried in the suitcase? Worth
came in with an echo from the bank meeting.
Some more bunk, I said morosely. So far we've not been able to
locate him as a patron of any public or private library, and the hotel
clerk's sure his mail never contained a correspondence coursein fact,
neither here nor at the bank can any one remember his getting any mail.
If he ever carried books in that suitcase as Knapp believed, it was
several years back.
Several years back, Miss Wallace repeated low.
Myself, I've given up the idea of his studying. This crime doesn't
look to me like any sudden temptation of a model bank clerk, spending
his spare hours over correspondence courses. I rather expect to find
him just plain crook.
Oh, no, the girl objected. It's too big and too well done to have
been planned by a dull, commonplace crook.
Right you are, I agreed, with restored good humor. A keen brain
planned this, but not Clayte's. There had to be an instrumentand that
was Claytealso, likely, one or more to help in the getaway.
The getaway! That brought us back with a thump to the present
moment. Our pretty girl had been all over the shop now, glanced into
bathroom, closet and cupboard, noted abandoned hats, clothing and
shoes, the electric plate where Clayte got his breakfast coffee and
toast, asked without much interest where he ate his other meals, and
nodded agreeingly when she found that he'd been only an occasional
customer at the neighboring restaurants, never regular, apparently
eating here and there down-town. She seemed to get something out of
that; what I didn't know.
You speak of this crime not being committed on impulse, she turned
to me at length. How long ahead should you say he planned it?
Or had it planned and prepared for him, I reminded her.
Well, that, then, she conceded with slight impatience. How long
do you think it might have been planned or prepared for? Years?
Hardly that. Not more than a year probably. A gang like this
wouldn't hold together on a proposition for many months.
The black brows over those clear, childlike eyes, puckered a bit. I
saw she wasn't at all satisfied with what I had said.
Made all the observations you want to, Bobs? Worth asked.
All here. I want to see the roof. She gave us rather a mechanical
smile as she silently ticked her points off on her fingers, appealing
to me with, I'm depending upon you for such facts as I have been
unable to observe for myself, so if you give me wrong factsmake
mistakesI'll make mistakes in deduction.
There was such confidence in her deductive abilities that a tinge of
irony crept into my tones as I replied,
I'll be very careful what opinions I hold.
I don't mind the opinions, this astounding young woman took me up
gaily. I never have any of my own, so I don't pay attention to anybody
else's. But do be careful of your facts!
I'll try to, was all I said. Worth cut in with,
Do you consider the roof another fact, Bobs?
I hope to find facts there, she answered promptly.
Remember, I said, your theory means another man up there, and you
Please, Mr. Boyne, don't take two and two and make five of them at
this stage of the game, she checked me hastily, and I left them
together while I made a hurried survey of the hall ceilings, looking
for the scuttle. There was no hatchway in view, so I started down to
the clerk to make inquiry. As I passed Clayte's open door, Miss Wallace
seemed to be adjusting her turban before the dresser mirror, while
Worth waited impatiently.
Just a minute, I called. I'll be right back, and I ducked into
CHAPTER VI. ON THE ROOF
When I returned with a key and the information that the way to the
roof ran through the janitor's tool-room at the far end of the hall, I
found my young people already out there. Worth was trying the tool-room
Got the key? he called. It's locked.
Yes. I took my time fitting and turning it. How did you know this
was the room?
I didn't, briefly. Bobs walked out here, and I followed her. She
said we'd want into this one.
She'd guessed right again! I wheeled on her, ejaculating,
For the love of Mike! Tell a mere man how you deduced this
stairway. Feminine intuition, I suppose.
I hadn't meant to be offensive with that last, but her firm little
chin was in the air as she countered,
Is it a stairway? It might be a ladder, you know.
It was a ladder, an iron ladder, as I found when I ushered them in.
My eyes snapped inquiry at her.
Very simple, she said. Worth was pushing aside pails and boxes to
make a better way for her to the ladder's foot. There wouldn't be a
roof scuttle in the rented rooms, so I knew when you called in to tell
us there was none in the halls.
I didn't. I said nothing of the sort. Where was the girl's fine
memory that she couldn't recollect a man's words for the little time
I'd been gone! All I said was, 'Just a minute and I'll be back.'
Yes, that's all you said to Worth. She glanced at the boy serenely
as he waited for her at the ladder's foot. He's not a trained
observer; he doesn't deduce even from what he does observe. There were
twinkling lights in her black eyes. But what your hurried trip to the
office said to me was that you'd gone for the key of the room that led
to the roof scuttle.
Well, that was reasonablesimple enough, too; but,
This room? How did you find it?
She stepped to the open door and placed the tip of a gloved finger
on the nickeled naught that marked the panels.
The significant zero again, Mr. Boyne, she laughed. Here it means
the room is not a tenanted one, and is therefore the way to the roof.
Shall we go there?
Well, young lady, I said as I led her along the trail Worth had
cleared, it must be almost as bad to see everything that wayin
minute detailas to be blind.
Carry on! Worth called from the top of the ladder, reaching down
to aid the girl. She laughed back at me as she started the short climb.
Not at all bad! You others seem to me only half awake to what is
about youonly half living, and she placed her hand in the strong one
held down to her. As Worth passed her through the scuttle to the roof,
I saw her glance carelessly at the hooks and staples, the clumsy but
adequate arrangement for locking the hatch, and, following her, gave
them more careful attention, wondering what she had seenplenty that I
did not, no doubt. They had no tale to tell my eyes.
Once outside, she stopped a minute with Worth to adjust herself to
the sharp wind which swept across from the north. Here was a
rectangular space surrounded by walls which ran around its four sides
to form the coping, unbroken in any spot; a gravel-and-tar roof, almost
flat, with the scuttle and a few small, dust covered skylights its only
openings, four chimney-tops its sole projections. It was bare of any
hiding-place, almost as clear as a tennis court.
We made a solemn tour of inspection; I wasn't greatly
interestedhow could I be, knowing that between this roof and my
fugitive there had been locked windows, and a locked door under
reliable human eyes? Still, the lifelong training of the detective kept
me estimating the possibilities of a getaway from the roofif Clayte
could have reached it. Worth crossed to where the St. Dunstan fire
escape came up from the ground to end below us at a top floor window. I
joined him, explaining as we looked down,
Couldn't have made it that way; not by daylight. In open view all
Think he stayed up here till dark? Worth suggested, quite as
though the possibility of Clayte's coming here at all was settled.
My men were all over this buildingroof to cellarwithin the
hour. They'd not have overlooked a crack big enough for him to hide in.
Put yourself in Clayte's place. Time was the most valuable thing in the
world with him right then. If ever he got up to this roof, he'd not
waste a minute longer on it than he had to.
Let's see what's beyond, then, and Worth led the way to the
The girl didn't come with us. Having been once around the roof
coping, looking, it seemed to me, as much at the view as anything else,
she now seemed content to settle herself on a little square of
planking, a disused scuttle top or something of the sort, in against
one of the chimneys where she was sheltered from the wind. Rather to my
surprise, I saw her thoughtfully pulling off her gloves, removing her
turban, all the time with a curiously disinterested air. I was reminded
of what Worth had said the night before about the way her father
trained her. Probably she regarded the facts I'd furnished her, or that
she'd picked up for herself, much as she used to the problems in
concentration her father spread in the high chair tray of her infancy.
I turned and left her with them, for Worth was calling me to announce a
fact I already knew, that the adjoining building had a roof some
fifteen feet below where we stood, and that the man, admitting good
gymnastic ability, might have reached it.
Sure, I said. But come on. We're wasting time here.
We turned to go, and then stopped, both of us checked instantly by
what we saw. The girl was sitting in a strange pose, her feet drawn in
to cross beneath her body, slender hands at the length of the arms
meeting with interlaced finger-tips before her, the thumbs just
touching; shoulders back, chin up, eyesbig enough at any time, now
dilated to look twice their sizevelvet circles in a white face. Like
a Buddha; I'd seen her sit so, years before, an undersized girl doing
stunts for her father in a public hall; and even then she'd been in a
way impressive. But now, in the fullness of young beauty, her fine head
relieved against the empty blue of the sky, the free winds whipping
loose flying ends of her dark hair, she held the eye like a miracle.
Sitting here so immovably, she looked to me as though life had slid
away from her for the moment, the mechanical action of lungs and heart
temporarily suspended, so that mind might work unhindered in that
beautiful shell. No, I was wrong. She was breathing; her bosom rose and
fell in slow but deep, placid inhalations and exhalations. And the pale
face might be from the slower heart-beat, or only because the surface
blood had receded to give more of strength to the brain.
The position of head of a Bankers' Security Agency carries with it a
certain amount of dignitya dignity which, since Richardson's death, I
have maintained better than I have handled other requirements of the
business he left with me. I stood now feeling like a fool. I'd grown
gray in the work, and here in my prosperous middle life, a boy's whim
and a girl's pretty face had put me in the position of consulting a
clairvoyant. Worse, for this was a wild-cat affair, without even the
professional standing of establishments to which I knew some of the
weak brothers in my line sometimes sneaked for ghostly counsel. If it
should leak out, I was done for.
I suppose I sort of groaned, for I felt Worth put a restraining hand
on my arm, and heard his soft,
The two of us stood, how long I can't say, something besides the
beauty of the young creature, even the dignity of her in this outré
situation getting hold of me, so that I was almost reverent when at
last the rigidity of her image-like figure began to relax, the pretty
feet in their silk stockings and smart pumps appeared where they
belonged, side by side on the edge of the planking, and she looked at
us with eyes that slowly gathered their normal expression, and a smile
of rare human sweetness.
It is horrid to seeand I loathe doing it! She shook her
curly dark head like a punished child, and stayed a minute longer, eyes
downcast, groping after gloves and hat. I thought maybe I'd get the
answer before you saw mesitting up like a trained seal!
Like a mighty pretty little heathen idol, Bobs, Worth amended.
Well, it's the only way I can really concentrateeffectively. But
this is the first time I've done it sincesince father died.
And never again for me, if that's the way you feel about it. Worth
crossed quickly and stood beside her, looking down. She reached a hand
to him; her eyes thanked him; but as he helped her to her feet I was
struck by a something poised and confident that she seemed to have
brought with her out of that strange state in which she had just been.
Doesn't either of you want to hear the answer? she asked. Then,
without waiting for reply, she started for the scuttle and the ladder,
bare headed, carrying her hat. We found her once more adjusting turban
and veil before the mirror of Clayte's dresser. She faced around, and
announced, smiling steadily across at me,
Your man Clayte left this room while Mrs. Griggsby was kneeling
almost on its thresholdleft it by that window over there. He got to
the roof by means of a rope and grappling hook. He tied the suitcase to
the lower end of the rope, swung it out of the window, went up hand
over hand, and pulled the suitcase up after him. That's the answer I
It was? Well, it was a beaut! Only Worth Gilbert, standing there
giving the proceeding respectability by careful attention and a grave
face, brought me down to asking with mild jocularity,
He did? He did all that? Well, please ma'am, who locked the window
He locked the window after himself.
Oh, say! I began in exasperationhadn't I just shown the
impractical little creature that those locks couldn't be manipulated
Wait. Examine carefully the wooden part of the upper sash, at the
lockagain, she urged, but without making any movement to help.
You'll find what we overlooked before; the way he locked the sash from
I turned to the window and looked where she had said; nothing. I ran
my fingers over the painted surface of the wood, outside, opposite the
latch, and a queer, chilly feeling went down my spine. I jerked out my
knife, opened it and scraped at a tiny inequality.
There isis something I was beginning, when Worth crowded in at
my side and pushed his broad shoulders out the window to get a better
view of my operations, then commanded,
Let me have that knife. He took it from my fingers, dug with its
blade, and suddenly from the inside I saw a tiny hole appear in the
frame of the sash beside the lock hasp. Here we are! He brought his
upper half back into the room and held up a wooden plug,
painteddipped in paintthe exact color of the sash. It had concealed
a hole; pierced the wood from out to in.
And she saw that in her trance, I murmured, gaping in amazement at
I heard her catch her breath, and Worth scowled at me,
Trance? What do you mean, Boyne? She doesn't go into a trance.
Thatthatwhatever she does, I corrected rather helplessly.
Never mind, Mr. Boyne, said the girl. It isn't clairvoyance or
anything like that, however it looks.
But I wouldn't have believed any human eyes could have found that
thing. I discovered it only by sense of touchand that after you told
me to hunt for it. You saw it when I was showing you the latch, did
Oh, I didn't see it. She shook her head. I found it when I was
sitting up there on the roof.
Guessed at it?
I never guess. Indignantly. When I'd cleared my mind of
everything elsehad concentrated on just the facts that bore on what I
wanted to knowhow that man with the suitcase got out of the room and
left it locked behind himI deduced the hole in the sash by
By elimination? I echoed. Show me.
Simple as two and two, she assented. Out of the door? No; Mrs.
Griggsby; so out of the window. Down? No; you told why; he would be
seen; so, up. Ladder? No; too big for one man to handle or to hide; so
But the hole in the sash?
You showed me the only way to close that lock from the outside.
There was no hole in the glass, so there must be in the sash. It was
not visibleyou had been all over it, and a man of your profession
isn't a totally untrained observerso the hole was plugged. I hadn't
seen the plug, so it was concealed by paint
I was trying to work a toothpick through the plughole. She offered
me a wire hairpin, straightened out, and with it I pushed the hasp into
place from outside, saw the lever snap in to hold it fast. I had worked
the catch as Clayte had worked itfrom outside.
How did you know it was this window? I asked, forced to
agree that she had guessed right as to the sash lock. There are two
more here, either of which
No, please, Mr. Boyne. Look at the angle of the roof that cuts from
view any one climbing from this windownot from the others.
We were all leaning in the window now, sticking our heads out,
looking down, looking up.
I can't yet see how you get the rope and hook, I said. Still
seems to me that an outside man posted on the roof to help in the
getaway is more likely.
Maybe. I can't deal with things that are merely likely. It has to
be a factor nothingfor my use. I know that there wasn't any second
man because of the nicks Clayte's grappling hook has left in the
cornice up there.
Nicks! I said, and stood like a bound boy at a husking, without a
word to say for myself. Of course, in this impasse of the locked
windows, my men and I had had some excuse for our superficial
examination of the roof. Yet that she should have seen what we had
passed overseen it out of the corner of her eye, and be laughing at
mewas rather a dose to swallow. She'd got her hair and her hat and
veil to her liking, and she prompted us,
So now you want to get right down stairsdon't youand go up
through that other building to its roof?
I stared. She had my plan almost before I had made it.
At the St. Dunstan desk where I returned the keys, little Miss
Wallace had a question of her own to put to the clerk.
How long ago was this building reroofed? she asked with one of her
dark, softly glowing smiles.
Reroofed? repeated the puzzled clerk, much more civil to her than
he had been to me. I don't know that it ever was. Certainly not in my
time, and I've been here all of four years.
Not in four years? You're sure?
Sure of that, yes, miss. But I can find exactly. The fellow behind
the desk was rising with an eagerness to be of service to her, when she
cut him short with,
Thank you. Four years would be exact enough for my purpose. And
she followed a puzzled detective and, if I may guess, an equally
wondering Worth Gilbert out into the street.
CHAPTER VII. THE GOLD NUGGET
The neighbor to the south of the St. Dunstan was the Gold Nugget
Hotel, a five story brick building and not at all pretentious as a
hostelry. I knew the place mildly, and my police training, even better
than such acquaintance as I had with this particular dump, told me what
it was. Through the windows we could see guests, Sunday papers littered
about them, half smoked cigars in their faces, and hats which had a
general tendency to tilt over the right eye. And here suddenly I
realized the difference between Miss Barbara Wallace, a scientist's
daughter, and some feminine sleuth we might have had with us.
Take her back to the St. Dunstan, Worth, I suggested. Then, as I
saw they were both going to resist, She can't go in here. I'll wait
for you if you like.
Don't know why we shouldn't let Bobs in on the fun, same as you and
me, Jerry. That was the way Worth put it. I took a side glance at his
attitude in this affairthat he'd bought and was enjoying an eight
hundred thousand dollar frolic, offering to share it with a friend; and
saying no more, I wheeled and swung open the door for them. The man at
the desk looked at me, calling a quick,
Hello, Jerrywhat's up?
Hello, Kite. How'd you come here?
The Kite as a hotelman was a new one on me. Last I knew of him, he
was in the business of making book at the Emeryville track; and I
supposedif I ever thought of himthat he'd followed the ponies south
across the border. As I stepped close to the counter, he spoke low, his
look one of puzzled and somewhat anxious inquiry.
Running straight, Jerry. You may ask the Chief. What can I do for
Rather glad of the luck that gave me an old acquaintance to deal
with, I told him, described Clayte, Worth and Miss Wallace standing by
listening; then asked if Kite had seen him pass through the hotel going
out the previous day at some time around one o'clock, carrying a brown,
sole leather suitcase.
The readers of the Sunday papers who had been lured from their known
standards of good manners into the sending of sundry interested glances
in the direction of our sparkling girl, took the cue from the Kite's
scowl to bury themselves for good in the voluminous sheets they held,
each attending strictly to his own business, as is the etiquette of
places like the Gold Nugget.
About one o'clock, you say? Kite muttered, frowning, twisted his
head around and called down a back passage, LouieOh, Louie! and
when an overalled porter, rather messy, shuffled to the desk, put the
low toned query, D'you see any stranger guy gripping a sole leather
shirt-box snoop by out yestiddy, after one, thereabouts? And I added
Medium height and weight, blue eyes, light brown hair, smooth
Louie looked at me dubiously.
How big a guy? he asked.
Five feet seven or eight; weighs about hundred and forty.
Blue eyes you say?
Light bluegray blue.
How was he tucked up?
Blue serge suit, black shoes, black derby. Neat, quiet dresser.
Louie's eyes wandered over the guests in the office questioningly. I
began to feel impatient. If there was any place in the city where my
description of Clayte would differentiate him, make him noticeable by
comparison, it was here. Neat, quiet dressers were not dotting this
Might be Tim Foley? he appealed to the Kite, who nodded gravely
and chewed his short mustache. Would he have a big scar on his left
He would not, I said shortly. He wasn't a guest here, and you
don't know him. Get this straight now: a stranger, going through here,
out; about one o'clock; carried a suitcase.
Bulls after him? Louie asked, and I turned away from him wearily.
Kite, I said, let me up to your roof.
Sure, Jerry. Released, the porter went on to gather up a pile of
Could hethe man I've describedcome through herethrough this
office and neither you nor Louie see him? I asked. The Kite brought a
box of cigars from under the counter with,
My treat, gentlemen. Naw, Jerry; sure notnot that kind of a guy.
Louie'd 'a' spotted him. Most observing cuss I ever seen.
Miss Wallace, taking all this in, seemed amused. As I turned to lead
to the elevator I found that again she wanted a question of her own
Mr. Kite, she began and I grinned; Kite wasn't the Kite's surname
or any part of his name; Who is the guest here with the upstairs
roomon the top floorhas had the same room right alongfor five or
six yearsbut doesn't
Go easy, ma'am, please! Kite's little eyes were popping; he
dragged out a handkerchief and fumbled it around his forehead. I've
not been here for any five or six yearsno, nor half that time. Since
I've been here most of our custom is transient. Nobody don't keep no
room five or six years in the Gold Nugget.
Back up, I smiled at his excitement. To my certain knowledge
Steve Skeels has had a room here longer than that. Hasn't he been with
you ever since the place was rebuilt after the earthquake?
Steve? the Kite repeated. I forgot him. Yeahhe keeps a little
room up under the roof.
Has he had it for as long as four years? the young lady asked.
Search me, the Kite shook his head.
But Louie the overalled, piloting us the first stage of our journey
in a racketty old elevator that he seemed to pull up by a cable, so
slow it was, grumbled an assent to the same question when it was put to
him, and confirmed my belief that Skeels came into the hotel as soon as
it was rebuilt, and had kept the same room ever since.
Miss Wallace seemed interested in this; but all the time we were
making the last lap, by an iron stairway, to that roof-house we had
seen from the top of the St. Dunstan; all the time Louie was unlocking
the door there to let us out, instructing us to be sure to relock it
and bring him the key, and to yell for him down the elevator shaft
because the bell was busted, the quiet smile of Miss Barbara Wallace
disturbed me. She followed where I led, but I had the irritating
impression that she looked on at my movements, and Worth's as well,
with the indulgent eye of a grown-up observing children at play.
On the roof of the Gold Nugget we picked up the possible trail
easily; Clayte hadn't needed to go through the building, or have a
confederate staked out in a room here, to make a downward getaway. For
here the fire escape came all the way up, curving over the coping to
anchor into the wall, and it was a good iron stairway, with landings at
each floor, and a handrail the entire length, its lower end in the
alley between Powell and Mason Streets. Looking at it I didn't doubt
that it was used by the guests of the Gold Nugget at least half as much
as the easier but more conspicuous front entrance. Therefore a man seen
on it would be no more likely to attract attention than he would in the
elevator. I explained this to the others, but Worth had attacked a rack
of old truck piled in the corner of the roof-house, and paid little
attention to me, while Miss Wallace nodded with her provoking smile and
Onceyes; no doubt you are exactly right. I wasn't looking for a
way that a man might take once, under pressure of great necessity.
Why not? I countered. If Clayte got away by this means
yesterdaythat'll do me.
It might, she nodded, if you could see it as a fact, without
seeing a lot more. Such a man as Clayte wasa really wonderful man,
you know the dimples were deep in the pink of her cheeks as she
flashed a laughing look at me with this clawfula really wonderful
man like Clayte, she repeated, wouldn't have trusted to a route he
hadn't known and proved for a long time.
That's theory, I smiled. I take my hat off to you, Miss Wallace,
when it comes to observing and deducing, but I'm afraid your theorizing
I never theorize, she reminded me. All I deal with is facts.
She had perched herself on an overturned box, and was watching Worth
sort junk. I leaned against the roof-house, pushed Kite's donated cigar
unlighted into a corner of my mouth and stared at her.
Miss Wallace, I said sharply, what's this Steve Skeels stuff?
What's this reroofing stuff? What's the dope you think you have, and
you think I haven't? Tell us, and we'll not waste time. Tell us, and
we'll get ahead on this case. Worth, let that rubbish alone. Nothing
there for us. Come here and listen.
For all answer he straightened up, looked at us without a wordand
went to it again. I turned to the girl.
Worth doesn't need to listen to me, Mr. Boyne, she said serenely.
He already has full faith in me and my methods.
Methods bebe blowed! I exploded. It's results that count, and
you've produced. I'm willing to hand it to you. All we know now, we got
from you. Beside you I'm a thick-headed blunderer. Let me in on how you
get things and I won't be so hard to convince.
Indeed, you aren't a blunderer, she said warmly. You do a lot
better than most people at observing. (High praise that, for a
detective more than twenty years in the business; but she meant to be
complimentary.) I'm glad to tell you my processes. How much time do
you want to give to it?
Not a minute longer than will get what you know. And she began
with a rush.
Those dents in the coping at the St. Dunstan, above Clayte's
windowI asked the clerk there how long since the building had been
reroofed, because there were nicks made by that hook and half filled
with tar that had been slushed up against the coping and into the
lowest dents. You see what that means?
That Clayteor some accomplice of hishad been using the route
more than four years ago. Yes.
And the other scars were made at varying times, showing me that
coming over here from there was quite a regular thing.
At that rate he would have nicked the coping until it would have
looked like a huck towel, I objected.
A huck towel, she gravely adopted my word. But he was a man that
did everything he did several different ways. That was his habita
sort of disguise. That's why he was shadowy and hard to describe.
Sometimes he came up to the St. Dunstan roof just as we did; and once,
a good while ago, there were cleats on that wall there so he could
climb down here without the rope. They have been taken away some time,
and the places where they were are weathered over so you would hardly
Right you are, I said feelingly. I'd hardly notice them. If I
could notice things as you dofame and fortune for me! I thought the
matter over for a minute. That lodger on the top floor, Steve Skeels,
I debated. A poor bet. Yetafter all, he might have been a member of
the gang, though somehow I don't get the hunch
What sort of looking person was this man Skeels? she asked.
Quiet fellow. Dressed like a church deacon. 'Silent Steve' they
call him. I'll send for him down stairs and let you give him the
once-over if you like.
Oh, that's not the kind of man I'm looking for. She shook her
head. My man would be more like those down there in the easy
chairsso he wasn't noticed in the elevator or when he passed out
through the office.
Wasn't it cute of him? I grinned. But you see we've just heard
that he didn't take the elevator and go through the officeSaturday
anyhow, which is the only time that really counts for us, the time when
he carried that suitcase with a fortune in it.
But he did, she persisted. He went that way. He walked out the
front door and carried away the suitcase
He didn't! Worth shouted, and began throwing things behind
him like a terrier in a wood-rat's burrow.
Derelict stuff of all sorts; empty boxes, pasteboard cartons, part
of an old trunk, he hurtled them into a heap, and dragged out a square
something in a gunny sack. As he jerked to clear it from the sacking, I
glanced at little Miss Wallace. She wasn't getting any pleasureable
kick out of the situation. Her eyes seemed to go wider open with a sort
of horror, her face paled as she drooped in on herself, sitting there
on the box. Then Worth held up his find in triumph, assuming a famous
The world is mine! he cried.
Maybe 'tis, maybe 'tisn't, I said as I ran across to look at the
thing close. Sure enough, he'd dug up a respectable brown, sole leather
suitcase with brass trimmings such as a bank clerk might have carried,
suspiciously much too good to have been thrown out here. Could it be
that the thieves had indeed met in one of the Gold Nugget's rooms or in
the roof-house up here, made their divvy, split the swag, and thus
clumsily disposed of the container? At the moment, Worth tore buckles
and latches free, yanked the thing open, reversed it in airand out
fell a coiled rope that curved itself like a snakea three-headed
snake; the triple grappling iron at its end standing up as though to
We all stood staring; I was too stunned to be triumphant. What a pat
confirmation of Miss Wallace's deductions! I turned to congratulate her
and at the same instant Worth cried,
What's the matter, Bobs? for the girl was sitting, staring
dejectedly, her chin cupped in her palms, her lips quivering.
Nonplussed, I stooped over the suitcase and rope, coiling up the one,
putting it in the otherthis first bit of tangible, palpable evidence
we'd lighted on.
Let's get out of this, I said quickly. We've done all we can
hereand good and plenty it is, too.
Worth took the suitcase out of my hands and carried it, so that I
had to help Miss Wallace down the ladder. She still looked as though
she'd lost her last friend. I couldn't make her out. Never a word from
her while we were getting down, or while they waited and I shouted for
Louie. It was in the elevator, with the porter looking at everything on
earth but this suitcase we hadn't brought in and we were taking out,
that she said, hardly above her breath,
Shall you ask at the desk if this ever belonged to any one in the
Find out hereright now, and I turned to the man in overalls
with, How about it?
Not that your answer will make any difference, Worth cut in
joyously. Nobody need get the idea that they can take this suitcase
away from me'cause they can't. It's mine. I paid eight hundred
thousand dollars for this box; and I've got a use for it. He chuckled.
Louie regarded him with uncomprehending tolerationqueer doings were
the order of the day at the Gold Nuggetand allowed negligently.
You'll get to keep it. It don't belong here. Then, as a coin
changed hands, Thank you.
But didn't it ever belong here? our girl persisted forlornly, and
when Louie failed her, jingling Worth's tip in his calloused palm, she
wanted the women asked, and we had a frowsy chambermaid called who
denied any acquaintance with our sole leather discovery, insisting,
upon definite inquiry, that she had never seen it in Skeels' room, or
any other room of her domain. Little Miss Wallace sighed and dropped
As we stepped out of the elevator, I behind the others, Kite caught
my attention with a low whistle, and in response to a furtive,
beckoning, backward jerk of his head, I moved over to the desk. The
reading gentlemen in the easy chairs, most consciously unconscious of
us, sent blue smoke circles above their papers. Kite leaned far over to
get his mustache closer to my ear.
You ast me about Steve, he whispered.
Yeah, I agreed, and looked around for Barbara, to tell her here
was her chance to meet the gentleman she had so cleverly deduced. But
she and Worth were already getting through the door, he still clinging
to the suitcase, she trailing along with that expression of defeat.
I'm sort of looking up Steve. And you don't want to tip him offsee?
Couldn't if I wanted to, Jerry, the Kite came down on his heels,
but continued to whisper hoarsely. Steve's bolted.
Bolted, the Kite repeated. Hopped the twig. Jumped the town.
You mean he's not in his room? I reached for a match in the metal
holder, scratched it, and lit my cigar.
I mean he's jumped the town, Kite repeated. You got me nervous
asking for him that way. While you was on the roof, I took a squint
around and found he was gonewith his hand baggage. That means he's
gone outa town.
Not if the suitcase you squinted for was a brown sole leather I
was beginning, but the Kite cut in on me.
I seen that one you had. That wasn't it. His was a brand new one,
black and shiny.
Suddenly I couldn't taste my cigar at all.
Know what time to-day he left here? I asked.
It wasn't to-day. 'Twas yestiddy. About one o'clock.
As I plunged for the door I was conscious of his hoarse whisper
What's Steve done, Jerry? What d'ye want him for?
I catapulted across the sidewalk and into the machine.
Get me to my office as fast as you can, Worth, I exclaimed. Hit
Bush Streetand rush it.
CHAPTER VIII. A TIN-HORN GAMBLER
After we were in the machine, my head was so full of the matter in
hand that Worth had driven some little distance before I realized that
the young people were debating across me as to which place we went
first, Barbara complaining that she was hungry, while Worth ungallantly
eager to give his own affairs immediate attention, argued,
You said the dining-room out at your diggings would be closed by
this time. Why not let me take you down to the Palace, along with
Jerry, have this suitcase safely locked up, and we can all lunch
together and get ahead with our talk.
Drive to the office, Worth, I cut in ahead of Barbara's objections
to this plan. I ought to be there this minute. We'll have a tray in
from a little joint that feeds me when I'm too busy to go out for
I took them straight into my private office at the end of the suite.
Make yourself comfortable, I said to Miss Wallace. Better let me
lock up that suitcase, Worth; stick it in the vault. That's evidence.
I'll hang on to it. He grinned. You can keep the rope and hook.
This has got another use before it can be evidence.
Not even delaying to remove my coat, I laid a heavy finger on the
buzzer button for Roberts, my secretary; then as nothing resulted, I
played music on the other signal tips beneath the desk lid. It was
Sunday, also luncheon hour, but there must be some one about the place.
It never was left entirely empty.
My fugue work brought little Pete, and Murray, one of the men from
the operatives' room.
Where's Roberts? I asked the latter.
He went to lunch, Mr. Boyne.
Where's Foster? Foster was chief operative.
He telephoned in from Redwood City half an hour ago. Chasing a
Clayte clue down the peninsula.
If he calls up again, tell him to report in at once. Is there a
Not a one; Sunday, you know.
Can you take dictation?
Me? Why, no, sir.
Then dig me somebody who can. And rush it. I've
Perhaps I might help. It was little Miss Wallace who spoke; about
the first cheerful word I'd heard out of her since we found that
suitcase on the roof of the Gold Nugget. I can take on the machine
Fine! I tossed my coat on the big center table. Murray, send
Roberts to me as soon as he comes in. You take number two trunk line,
and find two of the staffquick; any two. Shoot them to the Gold
Nugget Hotel. I explained the situation in a word. Then, as he was
closing the door, Keep off Number One trunk, Murray; I'll be using
that line, and I turned to little Pete.
Get lunch for three, I said, handing him a bill. From his first
glance at Barbara one could have seen that the monkey was hers truly,
as they say at the end of letters. I knew as he bolted out that he felt
something very special ought to be dug up for such a visitor.
The girl had shed coat and hat and was already fingering the keys of
the typewriter, trying their touch. I saw at once she knew her
business, and I turned to the work at hand with satisfaction.
You'll find telegram blanks there somewhere, I instructed. Get as
many in for manifold copies as you can make readable. The long form.
I looked around to find that my other amateur assistant was
following my advice, stowing his precious suitcase in the vault; and it
struck me that he couldn't have been more tickled with the find if the
thing had contained all the money and securities instead of that rope
and hook. He had made the latter into a separate package, and now
looked up at me with,
Want this in here, too, Jerry?
I do. Lock them both up, and come take the telephone at the table
there. Press down Number One button. Then call every taxi stand in the
city (find their numbers at the back of the telephone directory) and
ask if they picked up Silent Steve at or near the Gold Nugget yesterday
afternoon about one; Steve Skeelsor any other man. If so, where'd
they take him? Get me?
All hunk, Jerry. He came briskly to the job. I returned to Miss
Yes, Mr. Boyne.
'We offer five hundred dollars' You authorize that, Worth?
Sure. What's it for?
Never mind. You keep at your job. 'Five hundred dollars for the
arrest of Silent Steve Skeels' Wait. Make that 'arrest or detention,'
All right, Mr. Boyne.
'Skeels, gambler, who left San Francisco about one in the
afternoon yesterday March sixth. Presumed he went by train; maybe by
auto. He is man thirty-eight to forty; five feet seven or eight; weighs
about one hundred forty. Hair, light brown; eyes light blue' Make it
Worth glanced up from where he was jotting down telephone numbers to
You know who you're describing there?
I saw Miss Wallace give him a quick look, a little shake of her
head, as she said to me.
Go onplease, Mr. Boyne.
'Hair parted high, smoothed down; appears of slight build but is
well muscled. Neat dresser, quiet, usually wears blue serge suit, black
derby hat, black shoes.'
By Gollyyou see it now yourself, don't you, Jerry?
I see that you're holding up work, I said impatiently. And now it
was the quiet girl who came in with.
Who gave you this description of Steve Skeels? I mean, how many
people's observation of the man does this represent?
One. My own, I jerked out. I know Skeels; have known him for
Years? How many? It was still the girl asking.
Since 1907or thereabouts.
Was he always a gambler? she wanted to know.
Always. Ran a joint on Fillmore Street after the big earthquake,
and before San Francisco came back down-town.
A gambler, she spoke the word just above her breath, as though
trying it out with herself. A man who took big chancesrisks.
Not Steve, I smiled at her earnestness. Steve was a piker
alwaysa tin-horn gambler. Hid away from the police instead of doing
business with them. Take a chance? Not Steve.
Worth had left the telephone and was leaning over her shoulder to
read what she had typed.
Exactly and precisely, he said, the same words you had in that
other fool description of him.
Worth let me have the one word straight between the eyes, and I
leaned back in my chair, the breath almost knocked out of me by it. By
an effort I pulled myself together and turned to the girl:
Take dictation, please: Skeel's eyes are wide apart, rather small
And for the next few minutes I was making words mean something,
drawing a picture of the Skeels I knew, so that others could visualize
him. And it brought me a word of commendation from Miss Wallace, and
made Worth exclaim,
Sounds more like Clayte than Clayte himself. You've put flesh on
those bones, Jerry.
You keep busy at that phone and help land him, I growled. Finish,
please: 'Wire information to me. I hold warrant. Jeremiah Boyne,
Bankers' Security Agency,' That's all.
The girl pulled the sheets from the machine and sorted them while I
was stabbing the buzzer. Roberts answered, breezing in with an apology
which I nipped.
Never mind that. Get this telegram on the wires to each of our
corresponding agencies as far east as Spokane, Ogden and Denver. Has
Murray got in touch with Foster?
Not yet. Young and Stroud are outside.
Send them to bring in Steve Skeels, I ordered. Description on the
telegram there. Any word, Worth?
Nothing yet. Worth was calling one after another of the taxi
offices. Little Pete came in with a tray.
All right, Worth, I said. Turn that job over to Roberts. Here's
where we eat.
The kid's idea of catering for Barbara was club sandwiches and pie à
la mode. It wouldn't have been mine; but I was glad to note that he'd
guessed right. The youngsters fell to with appetite. For myself, I ate,
the receiver at my ear, talking between bites. San Jose, Stockton,
Santa Rosain all the nearby towns of size, I placed the drag-net out
for Silent Steve, tin-horn gambler.
They talked as they lunched. I didn't pay any attention to what they
said now; my mind was racing at the new idea Worth had given me. So
far, I had been running Skeels down as one of the same gang with
Clayte; the man on the roof; the go-between for the getaway. My
supposition was that when the suitcase was emptied for division,
Skeels, being left to dispose of the container, had stuck it where we
found it. But what if the thing worked another way? What if all the
moneyalmost a round millionwhich came to the Gold Nugget roof in
the brown sole-leather case, walked out of its front door in the new
black shiny carrier of Skeels the gambler?
Could that be worked? A gambler at night, a bank employee by day?
Why not? Improbable. But not impossible.
I believe you said a mouthful, Worth, I broke in on the two at
their lunch. And tell me, girl, how did you get the idea of walking up
to the desk at the Gold Nugget and demanding Steve Skeels from the
I didn't demand Steve Skeels, she reminded me rather plaintively.
I didn't wanthim.
What did you want?
A room that had been lived in.
She didn't need to add a word to that. I got her in the instant.
That examination of hers in Clayte's room at the St. Dunstan; the
crisp, new-looking bedding, the unworn velvet of the chair cushions;
the faded nap of the carpet, quite perfect, while that in the hall had
just been renewed. Even had the room been done over recentlyand I
knew it had notthere was no getting around the total absence of
photographs, pictures, books, magazines, newspapers, old letters, the
lack of all the half worn stuff that collects about an occupied
apartment. No pinholes or defacements on the walls, none of the litter
that accumulates. The girl was right; that room hadn't been lived in.
Beautiful, I said in honest admiration. It's a pleasure to see a
mind like yours, and such powers of observation, in action, clicking
out results like a perfectly adjusted machine. Clayte didn't live in
his room because he lived with the gang all his glorious outside hours.
There was where the poor rabbit of a bank clerk got his fling.
Oh, yes, it works logically. He held himself down to Clayte at the
St. Dunstan and in the bank, and he let himself go towhat?outside
of it, beyond it, where he really lived.
He let himself go to Steve Skeelswon't that do you?
No, she said so positively that it was annoying. That won't do me
But it's what you got, I reminded her rather unkindly, and then
was sorry I'd done it. It's what you got for meand I thank you for
You needn't, she came back at mespunky little thing. It isn't
worth thanking anybody for. It's only a partial fact.
And you think half truths are dangerous? I smiled at her.
There isn't any such thing, she instructed me. Even facts
can hardly be split into fractions; while the truth is always whole and
As far as you see it, I amended. For instance, you insist on
keeping the gang all under Clayte's hator you did at first. Now
you're refusing to believe, as both Worth and I believe, that Steve
Skeels is Clayte himself. I should think you'd jump at the idea. Here's
your Wonder Man.
She leaned back in her chair and laughed. I was glad to hear the
sound again, see the dimples flicker in her cheeks, even if she was
laughing at me.
A wonderful Wonder Man, Mr. Boyne, she said. One who does things
so bunglingly that you can follow him right up and put your hand on
Not so I could, I reminded her gaily. So you could. Quite a
different matter. She took my compliment sweetly, but she said with
I'm not in this, of course, except that your kindness allowed me to
be for this day only. But if I were, I shouldn't be following Skeels as
you are. I'd still be after Clayte.
It foots up to the same thing, I said rather tartly.
Oh, does it? she laughed at me. Two and two are making about
three and a half this afternoon, are they?
What we've got to-day ought to land something, I maintained.
You've been fine help, Barbara and I broke off suddenly with the
knowledge that I'd been calling her that all through the rush of the
Thank you. She smiled inclusively. I knew she meant my use of her
name as well as my commendation. I began clearing my desk preparatory
to leaving. Worth was going to take her home and as he brought her
coat, he spoke again of the suitcase.
Hey, there! I remonstrated, You don't want to be lugging that
thing with you everywhere, like a three-year-old kid that's found a
dead cat. Leave it where it is.
Give me an order for it then, he said. And when I looked
surprised, Might need that box, and you not be in the office.
Need it? I grumbled. I'd like to know what for.
But I scribbled the order. Over by the window the young people were
talking together earnestly; they made a picture against the light,
standing close, the girl's vivid dark face raised, the lad's tall head
But, Bobs, you must get some time to play about, I heard Worth
Awfully little, Her look up at him was like that of a wistful
You said you were in the accounting department, he urged
impatiently. A lightning calculator like you could put that stuff
through in about one tenth of the usual time.
I use an adding machine, she half whispered, and it made me
An adding machine! Worth exploded in a peal of laughter. For
Barbara Wallace! What's their idea?
It isn't their idea; it's mine, with dignity. They don't know
that I used to be a freak mathematician. I don't want them to. Father
used to say that all children could be trained to do all that I didif
you took them young enough. But till they are, I'd rather not be. It's
horrid to be different; and I'm keeping it to myselfin the office
anyhowand living my past down the best I can.
As though her words had suggested it, Worth spoke again,
Where did you meet Cummings? Seems you find time to go out with
I've known Mr. Cummings for years, Barbara spoke quietly, but she
looked self-conscious. I knew he was with those friends of mine at the
Orpheum last night, but I didn't expect him to call for me at
Tait'sor rather I thought they'd all come in after me. There wasn't
anything special about itno special appointment with him, I mean.
I had forgotten them for a minute or two, closing my desk, finding
my coat, when I heard some one come into the outer office, a visitor,
for little Pete's voice went up to a shrill yap with the information
that I was busy. Then the knob turned, the door opened, and there stood
Cummings. At first he saw only me at the desk.
Your friend calling for you again, Bobsby appointment? Worth's
question drew the lawyer's glance, and he stared at them apparently a
good deal taken aback, while Worth added, Seems to keep pretty close
tab on your movements. The low tone might have been considered joking,
but there was war in the boy's eye.
It was as though Cummings answered the challenge, rather than opened
with what he had intended.
My business is with you, Gilbert. He came in and shut the door
behind him, leaving his hand on the knob. And I've been some time
finding you. He stopped there, and was so long about getting anything
else out that Worth finally suggested,
The money? And when there was no reply but a surprised look, How
do you stand now?
Still seventy-two thousand to raise. Cummings spoke vaguely. This
was not what had brought him to the office. He finished with the abrupt
question, Were you at Santa Ysobel last night?
Hold on, Cummings, I broke in. What you got? Let us
I was shut off there by Worth's,
It's Sunday afternoon. I want that money to-morrow morning. You've
not come through? You've not dug up what I sent you after?
I could see that the lawyer was absolutely nonplussed. Again he gave
Worth one of those queer, probing looks before he said doggedly,
The question of that money can wait.
It can't wait. Worth's eyes began to light up. What you talking,
Cummingsan extension? And when the lawyer made no answer to this,
I'll not crawl in with a broken leg asking favors of that bank crowd.
Are you quitting on me? If so, say itand I'll find a way to raise the
I've raised all but seventy-two thousand of the necessary amount,
said Cummings slowly. What I want to know ishow much have you
See here, Cummings, again I mixed in. I was present when that
arrangement was made. Nothing was said about Worth raising any money.
Cummings barely glanced around at me as he said, I made a
suggestion to him; in your presence, as you say, Boyne. I want to know
if he carried it out. Then, giving his full attention to Worth, Did
you see your father last night?
On instinct I blurted,
For heaven's sake, keep your mouth shut, Worth!
For a detective that certainly was an incautious speech. Cummings'
eye flared suspicion at me, and his voice was a menace.
You keep out of this, Boyne.
You tell what's up your sleeve, Cummings, I countered. This is no
witness-stand cross-examination. What you got?
But Worth answered for him, hotly,
If Cummings hasn't seventy-two thousand dollars I commissioned him
to raise for me, I don't care what he's got.
And you didn't go to your father for it last night? Cummings
returned to his question. He had moved close to the boy. Barbara stood
just where she was when the door opened. Neither paid any attention to
her. But she looked at the two men, drawn up with glances clinched, and
spoke out suddenly in her clear young voice, as though there was no row
Worth was with me last night, you know, Mr. Cummings.
I seem to have noticed something of the sort, Cummings said with
labored sarcasm. And he'd been with that wedding party earlier in the
evening, I suppose.
With me till Miss Wallace came in. Worth's natural disposition to
disoblige the lawyer could be depended on to keep from Cummings
whatever information he wanted before giving us his own news. What you
got, Cummings? I prompted again, impatiently. Come through.
His eyes never shifted an instant from Worth Gilbert's face.
A telegramfrom Santa Ysobel, he said slowly.
Worth shrugged and half turned away.
I'm not interested in your telegram, Cummings.
Instantly I saw what the boy thought: that the other had taken it on
himself to apply for the money to Thomas Gilbert, and had been turned
Not interested? Cummings repeated in that dry, lawyer voice that
speaks from the teeth out; on the mere tone, I braced for something
nasty. I think you are. My telegram's from the coroner.
Silence after that; Worth obstinately mute; Barbara and I afraid to
ask. There was a little tremor of Cummings' nostril, he couldn't keep
the flicker out of his eye, as he said, staring straight at Worth,
It states that your father shot himself last night. The body wasn't
discovered till late this morning, in his study.
CHAPTER IX. SANTA YSOBEL
Of all unexpected things. I went down to Santa Ysobel with Worth
Gilbert. It happened this way: Cummings, one of those individuals on
whose tombstone may truthfully be put, Born a manand died a lawyer,
seemed rather taken aback at the effect of the blow he'd launched. If
he was after information, I can't think he learned much in the moment
while Worth stood regarding him with an unreadable eye.
There was only a little grimmer tightening of the jaw muscle,
something bleak and robbed in the glance of the eye; the face of one,
it seemed to me, who grieved the more because he was denied real sorrow
for his loss, and Worth had tramped to the window and stood with his
back to us, putting the thing over in his silent, fighting fashion,
speaking to none of us. It was when Barbara followed, took hold of his
sleeve and began half whispering up into his face that Cummings jerked
his hat from the table where he had thrown it, and snapped,
Boynecan I have a few minutes of your time?
Jerry, Worth's voice halted me at the door, Leave that cardan
orderfor me. For the suitcase.
Cummings was ahead of me, and he turned back to listen, but I
crowded him along and was pretty hot when I faced him in the outer
office to demand,
What kind of a deal do you call thisripping in here to throw this
thing at the boy in such a way? What is your idea? What you trying to
Go easy, Boyne. Cummings chewed his words a little before he let
them out. There's something queer in this business. I intend to know
what it is.
Queer, I repeated his word. If the lawyers and the detectives get
to running down all the queer thingsthat don't concern them a little
bitthe world won't have any more peace.
All right, if you say it doesn't concern you, Cummings threw me
overboard with relief I thought. It does concern me. When I couldn't
gethima jerk of the head indicated that the pronoun stood for
Worthat the Palace, found he'd been out all day and left no word at
the desk when he expected to be in, I took my telegram to Knapp, and
then to Whipple. They were flabbergasted.
The bank crowd, I said. Now why did you run to them? On account
of Worth's engagement with them to-morrow morning? Wasn't that
exceeding your orders? You saw that he intends to meet it, in spite of
Why not because of this? Cummings demanded sharply. He's in
better shape to meet it now his father's dead. He's the only heir.
That's the first thing Knapp and Whipple spoke ofand I saw them
Can that stuff. What do you think you're hinting at?
Something queer, he repeated his phrase. Wake up, Boyne. Knapp
and Whipple both saw Thomas Gilbert a little before noon yesterday. He
was in the bank for the final transfer of the Hanford interests. They'd
as soon have thought of my committing suicide that nightor you doing
it. They swear there was nothing in his manner or bearing to suggest
such a state of mind, and everything in the business he was engaged on
to suggest that he expected to live out his days like any man.
I thought very little of this; it is common in cases of suicide for
family, friends or business associates to talk in exactly this way, to
believe it, and yet for the deep-seated moving cause to be easily
discovered by an unprejudiced outsider. I said as much to Cummings. And
while I spoke, we could hear a murmur of young voices from the inner
Damn it all, the lawyer's irritation spurted out suddenly, With a
cub like that for a son, I'd say the reason wasn't far to seek. Better
keep your eye peeled round that young man, Boyne.
I will, I agreed, and he took his departure. I turned back into
the private room.
WorthI put it quietlywhat say I go to Santa Ysobel with you?
You could bring me back Monday morning.
He agreed at once, silently, but thankfully I thought.
Barbara, listening, proposed half timidly to go with us, staying the
night at the Thornhill place, being brought back before work time
Monday, and was accepted simply. So it came that when we had a blow-out
as the crown of a dozen other petty disasters which had delayed our
progress toward Santa Ysobel, and found our spare tire flat, Barbara
jumped down beside Worth where he stood dragging out the pump, and
stopped him, suggesting that we save time by running the last few miles
on the rim and getting fixed up at Capehart's garage. He climbed in
without a word, and drove on toward where Santa Ysobel lies at the head
of its broad valley, surrounded by the apricot, peach and prune
orchards that are its wealth.
We came into the fringes of the town in the obscurity of approaching
night; a thick tulle fog had blown down on the north wind. The little
foot-hill city was all drowned in it; tree-tops, roofs, the gable ends
of houses, the illuminated dial of the town clock on the city hall,
sticking up from the blur like things seen in a dream. As we headed for
a garage with the name Capehart on it, we heard, soft, muffled, seven
strokes from the tower.
Getting in late, Worth said absently. Bill still keeps the old
Yes. Just the same, Barbara said. He married our Sarah, you
knowwas that before you went away? Of course not, and added for my
enlightenment, Sarah Gibbs was father's housekeeper for years. She
brought me up.
We drove into the big, dimly lighted building; there came to us from
its corner office what might have been described as a wide man, not
especially imposing in breadth, but with a sort of loose-jointed
effectiveness to his movements, and a pair of roving, yellowish-hazel
eyes in his broad, good-humored face, mighty observing I'd say, in
spite of the lazy roll of his glance.
Been stepping on tacks, Mister? he hailed, having looked at the
tires before he took stock of the human freight.
Hello, Bill, Worth was singing out. Give me another machineor
get our spare filled and onwhichever's quickest. I want to make it to
the house as soon as I can.
Lord, boy! The wide man began wiping a big paw before offering it.
I'm glad to see you.
They shook hands. Worth repeated his request, but the garage man was
already unbuckling the spare, going to the work with a brisk efficiency
that contradicted his appearance.
Barbara sitting quietly beside me, we heard them talking at the back
of the machine, as the jack quickly lifted us and Worth went to it with
Capehart to unbolt the rim; a low-toned steady stream from the wide
man, punctuated now and then by a word from Worth.
Yeh, Capehart grunted, prying off the tire. Heard it m'self 'bout
noonor a little after. Yeh, Ward's Undertaking Parlors.
Undertaking parlors! Worth echoed. Capehart, hammering on the
Nobody in town that knowed what to do about it; so the coroner took
a-holt, I guess, and kinda fixed it to suit hisself. Did you phone
ahead to see how things was out to the house?
Tried to, Worth said. The operator couldn't raise it.
Course not. Capehart was coupling on the air. Your chink's off
every Sundayhas the whole dayand the Devil only could guess where a
Chinaman'd go when he ain't working. Eddie Hughes ought to be on the
job out therebut would he?
Father still kept Eddie?
Yeh. The click of the jack and the car was lowering. Eddie's
lasted longer than I looked to see him. Due to be fired any time this
past year. Been chasing over 'crost the tracks. Got him a girl there,
one of these cannery girls. Well, she's sort of married, I guess, but
that don't stop Eddie. 'F I see him, I'll tell him you want him.
They came to the front of the machine; Worth thrust his hand in his
pocket. Capehart checked him with,
Let it go on the bill. Then, as Worth swung into his seat, Barbara
bent forward from behind my shoulder, the careless yellowish eyes that
saw everything got a fair view of her, and with a sort of subdued crow,
Look who's here! Capehart took hold of the upright to lean his square
form in and say earnestly, While you're in Santa Ysobel, don't forget
that we got a spare room at our house.
Next time, Barbara raised her voice to top the hum of the engine.
I'm only here for over night, now, and I'm going down to Mrs.
We were out in the street once more, leaving the cannery district on
our right, tucked away to itself across the railroad tracks, running on
Main Street to City Hall Square, where we struck into Broad, followed
it out past the churches and to that length of it that held the fine
homes in their beautiful grounds, getting close at last to where town
melts again into orchards. The road between its rows of fernlike pepper
trees was a wet gleam before us, all black and silver; the arc lights
made big misty blurs without much illumination as we came to the
Thornhill place. Worth got down and, though she told him he needn't
bother, took her in to the gate. For a minute I waited, getting the
bulk of the big frame house back among the trees, with a single light
twinkling from an upper story window; then Worth flung into the car and
we speeded on, skirting a long frontage of lawns, beautifully kept,
pearly with the fog, set off with artfully grouped shrubbery and
winding walks. There was no barrier but a low stone coping; the drive
to the Gilbert place went in on the side farthest from the Thornhill's.
We ran in under a carriage porch. The house was black.
See if I can raise anybody, said Worth as he jumped to the ground.
Let you in, and then I'll run the roadster around to the garage.
But the house was so tightly locked up that he had finally to break
in through a pantry window. I was out in front when he made it, and saw
the lights begin to flash up, the porch lamp flooding me with a sudden
glare before he threw the door open.
Cold as a vault in here.
He twisted his broad shoulders in a shudder, and I looked about me.
It was a big entrance hall, with a wide stairway. There on the hat tree
hung a man's light overcoat, a gray fedora hat; a stick leaned below.
When the master of the house went out of it this time, he hadn't needed
these. Abruptly Worth turned and led the way into what I knew was the
living room, with a big open fireplace in it.
Make yourself as comfortable as you can, Jerry. I'll get a blaze
here in two shakes. I suppose you're hungry as a wolfI am. This is a
hell of a place I've brought you into.
Forget it, I returned. I can look after myself. I'm used to
rustling. Let me make that fire.
All right. He gave up his place on the hearth to me, straightened
himself and stood a minute, saying, I'll raid the kitchen. Chung's
sure to have plenty of food cooked. He may not be back here before
Midnight? I echoed. Is that usual?
Used to be. Chung's been with father a long time. Good chink.
Always given his whole Sunday, and if he was on hand to get Monday's
Left last night, you think?
Worth shot me a glance of understanding.
Sometimes he wouldafter cleaning up from dinner. But he wouldn't
have heard the shot, if that's what you're driving at.
He left me, going out through the hall. My fire burned. I thawed out
the kinks the long, chill ride had put in me. Then Worth hailed; I went
out and found him with a coffee-pot boiling on the gas range, a loaf
and a cold roast set out. He had sand, that boy; in this wretched
home-coming, his manner was neither stricken nor defiant. He seemed
only a little graver than usual as he waited on me, hunting up stuff in
places he knew of to put some variety into our supper.
Where I sat I faced a back window, and my eye was caught by the
appearance of a strange light, quite a little distance from the house,
apparently in another building, but showing as a vague glow on the fog.
What's down there? I asked. Worth answered without taking the
trouble to lean forward and look,
The garageand the study.
Huh? The study's separate from the house? I had been thinking of
the suicide as a thing of this dwelling, an affair in some room within
its walls. Of course Chung would not hear the shot. Who's down there?
Eddie Hughes has a room off the garage.
He's in it now.
How do you know? he asked quickly.
There's a lightor there was. It's gone now.
That wouldn't have been Eddie, Worth said. His room's on the
other side, toward the back street. What you saw was the light from
these windows shining on the fog. Makes queer effects sometimes.
I knew that wasn't it, but I didn't argue with him, only remarked,
I'd like to have a look at that place, Worth, if you don't mind.
CHAPTER X. A SHADOW IN THE FOG
Again I saw that glow from the Gilbert garage, hanging on the fog; a
luminosity of the fog; saw it disappear as the mist deepened and
shrouded it. But Worth was answering me, and somehow his words seemed
Sit tight a minute, Jerry. Have another cup of coffee while I
telephone, then I'll put the roadster in and open up down there. I'll
call youor you can see my lights.
He left me. I heard him at the instrument in the hall get his
number, talk to some one in a low voice, and then go out the front
door; next thing was the sound of the motor, the glare of its lamps as
it rounded into the driveway and started down back, illuminating
everything. In the general glare thrown on the fog, the fainter light
was invisible, but across a plot of kitchen garden I saw where it had
been; a square, squat building of concrete, flat roofed, vining plants
in boxes drooping over its cornice; the typical garage of such an
establishment, but nearly double the usual size. The light had come
from there, but how? In the short time that the lamps of the machine
were showing it up to me, there seemed no windows on this side; only
the double doors for the car's entranceclosed nowand a single door
which was crossed by two heavy, barricading planks nailed in the form
of a great X.
Worth ran the machine close up against the doors, jumped down, and I
could see his tall form, blurred by the mist, moving about to slide
them open. The lamps of the roadster made little showing now as he
rolled it in. Then these were switched off and everything down there
was dark as a pocket. For a time I sat and waited for him to light up
and call me, then started down. The fog was making the kind of dimness
that has a curious, illusory character. I suppose I had gone half the
distance of the garden walk, when, thrown up startlingly on the
obscurity, I saw a square of white, and across that shining screen,
moved the silhouette of a human head. The whole thing danced before my
eyes for a bare second, then blackness.
With Cummings' queer hints in my mind, I started running across the
garden toward it. About the first thing I did was step into a cold
frame, plunging my foot through the glass, all but going to my knees in
it; and when I got up, swearing, I was turned around, ran into bushes,
tripped over obstructions, and traveled, I think, in a circle.
Then I began to go more cautiously. No use getting excited. That was
only Worth I had seen. And still I was unwilling to call, ask him to
show a light. I groped along until my outstretched fingers came across
the corner of a building, rough, stonelikethe concrete garage and
study. I felt along, seeing a bit now, and was soon passing my hands
over the barricading planks of that door.
I might have lit a match, but I preferred to find out what I could
by feeling around, and that cautiously. I discovered that the door had
been broken in, the top panels shattered to kindling wood, the force of
the assault having burst a hinge, so that the whole thing sagged
drunkenly behind the heavy planks that propped it, while a strong bolt,
quite useless, was still clamped into a socket which had been torn,
screws and all, from the inside casing.
Sliding my hands over the broken top panel I found that it had been
covered on its inner side by a piece of canvas; the screen on which
that shadow had been thrownfrom within the room. There was no light
there now; there was no sound of motion within. The drip of the fog
from the eaves was the only break in the stillness.
Worth? I shouted, at last, and he answered me instantly, hallooing
from behind me, and to one side of the house. I could hear him running
and when he spoke it was close to my shoulder.
Where are you, Jerry?
Where are you, I countered. Or rather, where have you been?
Getting a bar to pry off these boards.
A bar? I echoed stupidly.
A crowbar from the shed. These planks will have to come off to let
The devil you say! I was exasperated. There's some one in here
nowor was a minute back. Show me the other way in.
I heard the ring of the steel bar as its end hit the hard graveled
Some one in there? Jerry, you're seeing things.
Sure I am, I agreed drily. But you get me to that other door
The only other door is locked. I tried it from the garage. You're
For reply, I ran up to the door and thrust my fist through the
canvas, ripping it away from its clumsy tacking.
Who's in there? I cried. Answer me!
Dead silence; then a click as Worth snapped on a flood of light from
his pocket torch, saying tolerantly, tiredly,
I told you there was no one. There couldn't be.
I tell you, Worth, there was. I saw the shadow on the square of
that canvas. Give me the torch.
I pushed the flashlight through the opening and played the light
cone about the room in a quick survey; then brought the circle of white
glow to rest upon one of the side walls; and my hand went down and back
to grip fingers about the butt of my revolver. There was, as Worth had
said, but one other door to this room; but more, there was apparently
no other exit; no windows, no breaks in the walls. My circle of light
was on this second door; and the very heart of that circle was a heavy
steel bolt on the door, the bar of which was firmly shot into the
socket on the frame. The only exit from that room, other than the door
through which I now leaned with pistol raised, was lockedbolted from
Worth was crowding his big frame into the opening beside me.
Keep back, I growled. Some one's inside, and I sent the light
shaft into corners to drive out the shadows, to cut in under the desk
and chairs. Worth's reply was a laugh, and his arm went by me to reach
inside the door. Then, as his fingers found the button, a light sprang
out from a lamp upon the center desk.
You're letting your nerves play the deuce with you, Jerry, he said
lightly. Make way for my crowbar and we'll get in out of the wet.
I made no answer, but for a long moment more I searched that room
with my eyes; but it was the kind you see all over at a glance. Big,
square, plain, it hadn't a window in it; the walls, lined with book
shelves, floor to ceiling; a fireplace; a library table with drawers; a
few chairs. No chance for a hideout. I glanced at the ceiling and
confirmed the evidence of my eyes. There was a skylight, and through it
had come that curious glow that first attracted my attention to the
Then I gave Worth room to wield his tools on the barred door, while
I ran quickly back to the house, into the kitchen, and plumped down in
the chair where I had sat before. The light showed on the fog,
brightened and dimmed as the mist drifted past. There was no
possibility of a mistake: some one had been in the study, had turned on
the table lamp, had projected his shadow against the patched panel of
the door, and had somehow left the room, one door bolted, the only
other exit barred and nailed.
I went back and rejoined Worth who was standing where a brownish
stain on the rug marked a spot a little nearer the corner of the table
than it was to the outer door. A curious place for a suicide to fall.
Behind the table was the library chair in which Thomas Gilbert worked
when at his desk; beside it a small cabinet with a humidor on its top
and the open door below revealing several decanters and bottles, whisky
and wine glasses, a tray; between the desk and the fireplace were two
other chairs, large and comfortable; but in front of the tablebetween
it and the doorwas barren floor.
It is a fact that most men who shoot themselves do so while sitting;
some lying in a bed; few standing. The psychology of this I must leave
to others, but experience has taught me to question the suicide of one
who has seemingly placed the muzzle of a revolver against him while on
his feet. Thomas Gilbert had stood; had chosen to take his life as he
was walking from door to desk, or from desk to door.
Worth, I said. There was somebody in here just now.
Couldn't have been, Jerry, he answered absently; then added, his
eyes on that stain, I never could calculate what my father would do.
But when I talked to him last night, right here in this room, he didn't
seem to me a man ready to take his own life.
We always quarreled, whenever we met.
But this quarrel was more bitter than usual?
The last quarrel would seem the bitterest, wouldn't it, Jerry? he
asked. Then, after a moment, Poor Jim Edwards!
I caught my tongue to hold back the question. Worth went on,
When I phoned him just now, he hadn't heard a word about it. Seemed
Hadn't heard? I echoed. How was that?
You know we saw him at Tait's last night. He took the Pacheco Pass
road from San Francisco; drove straight to his ranch without hitting
I wanted another look at that man Edwards. I was to have it. Worth
went on absently,
He'll be along presently to stay here while I'm away Monday. Told
me it would be the first time he'd put foot in the house for four
years. As boys up in Sonoma county, he and father always disagreed, but
sometime these last years there was a big split over something. They
were barely on speaking termsand good old Jim took my news harder
than as though I'd been telling him the death of a near friend.
Works like that with us humans, I nodded. Let some one die that
you've disagreed with, and you remember every row you ever had with
them; remember it and regret itwhich is foolish.
Which is foolish, Worth repeated, and seemed for the first time
able to get away from the spot at which he had stopped.
He went over to the empty, fireless hearth and stood there, his back
to the room, elbows on the mantel propping his head, face bent,
oblivious to anything that I might do. It oughtn't to be hard to find
the way this place could be entered and left by a man solid enough to
cast a shadow, with quick fingers to snap the light on and off. But
when I made a painstaking examination of a corner grate with a flue too
small for anything but a chimney swallow to go up and down, a ceiling
solidly beamed and paneled, the glass that formed the skylight set in
firmly as part of the roof, when I'd turned up rugs and inspected an
unbroken floor, even tried the corners of book cases to see if they
masked a false entrance, I owned myself, for the moment, beaten there.
Give me your torchor go with me, Worth, I said. I'd like to
take a scoot around outside.
He didn't speak, only indicated the flashlight by a motion, where it
lay on the shelf beside his hand. I took it, unbolted the door, and
stepped into the garage.
Everything all right here. My roadster; a much handsomer small
machine beyond it; a bench, portable forge and drill made a repair shop
of one corner, and as my light flashed over these, I checked and
stared. Why had Worth gone to the shed hunting a crowbar to open the
door? Here were tools that would have served as well. I put from me the
hateful thought, and damned Cummings and his suspicions. The shadow
didn't have to be Worth. Certainly he had not first lit that lamp, for
I had seen it from the kitchen with him beside me. Some one other than
Worth had been in there when Worth put up the roadster. I'd find the
man it really was. But even as I crossed to Eddie Hughes's door,
something at the back of my head was saying to me that Worth could have
been in that roomthat there was time for it to be, if he had taken
the crowbar from the garage and not from the shed as he said he did.
At this I took myself in hand. The lie would have been so clumsy a
one that there was no way but to accept this statement for the truth;
and some one else had made that shadow on the canvas.
I tried the chauffeur's door and found it locked; called, shook it,
and had set my shoulder against it to burst it in, when the rolling
door on the street side moved a little, and a voice said,
H-y-ah! What you doin' there?
I turned and flashed my light on the six-inch crack of the sliding
door. It gave me a strip of man, a long drab face at top, solid, meaty
looking, yet somehow slightly cadaverous, a half shut eye, a crooked
mouthif I'd met that mug in San Francisco, I'd have labeled it
tough, and located it South of Market Street.
Slowly, it seemed rather reluctantly, Eddie Hughes worked the
six-inch crack wider by working himself through it.
What the hell do you want in my room for? he demanded. The form of
the words was truculent, but the words themselves slid in a sort of
spiritless fashion from the corner of that crooked mouth of his, and he
added in the next breath, I'll open up for you, when I've lit the
There was a central lamp that made the whole place as bright as day.
Eddie fumbled a key out of his pocket, threw the door of his room open,
and stepped back to let me pass him.
Capehart tells me Worth's here, he said as we went in.
When? I gave him a sharp look. He seemed not to notice it.
Just now. I came straight from there.
He came straight from there? Did he supply an alibi so neatly
because of that shadowy head on the door panel? For a long minute we
each took measure of the other, but Eddie's nerves were less reliable
than mine; he spoke first.
Well? he grunted, scarcely above his breath. And when I continued
to stare silently at him, he writhed a shoulder with, What's doing?
What d'yuh want of me?
Still silently, I pulled out with my thumb through the armhole of my
vest the police badge pinned to the suspender. His ill-colored face
went a shade nearer the yellow white of tallow.
What for? he asked huskily. You haven't got nothin' on me. It was
suicidecor'ner's jury says so. Lord! It has to be, him layin' there,
all hunched up on the floor, his gun so tight in his mitt that they had
to pry the fingers off it!
So you found the body?
He nodded and gulped.
I told all I knowed at the inquest, he said doggedly.
Tell it again, I commanded.
Standing there, working his hands together as though he held some
small, accustomed tool that he was turning, shifting from foot to foot,
with long breaks in his speech, the chauffeur finally put me into
possession of what he knewor what he wished me to know. He had been
out all night. That was usual with him Saturdays. Where? Over around
the canneries. Had friends that lived there. He got into this place
about dawn, and went straight to bed.
Hold on, Hughes, I stopped him there. You never went to bedthat
night, or any other nightuntil you'd had a jolt from the bottle
He gave me a surly, half frightened glance, then said quickly,
Not a chance. Bolts on the doors, locks everywhere; all tight as a
jail. Take it from me, he wasn't the kind you want to have a run-in
withany time. Always just as cool as ice himself; try to make you
believe he could tell what you were up to, clear across town. Hold it
over you as if he was God almighty that stuck folks together and set
'em walkin' around and thinkin' things.
He broke off and looked over his shoulder in the direction of the
study. The walls were thickconcrete; the door heavy. No sound of
Worth's moving in there could be heard in this room. Apparently it was
the old terror of his employer, or the new terror of the employer's
death, that spoke when he said,
I got up this morning late with a throat like the back of a
chimney. Lord! I never wanted a drink so bad in my lifehad to have
one. The chink leaves my breakfast for me Sundays; but I knew I
couldn't eat till I'd had one. So Iso I
It was as though some recollection fairly choked off his voice. I
finished for him.
So you went in there I pointed at the study door, and found the
Naw! How the hell could I? I told youlocked. I crawled up on the
roof, though; huntin' a way in, and I looked through the skylight.
There he was. On the floor. His eyes weren't open much, but they was
watchin' mesort of sneerin'. I come down off that roof like a bat
outa hell, and scuttled over to Vandeman's where his chink was on the
porch, I bellerin' at him. I telephoned from there. For the bulls; and
the cor'ner; and everybody. Gawd! I was all in.
I caught one point in the tale.
So the way into the study is through the skylight, Hughes? and he
shook his head vaguely, fumbling his lips with a trembling hand as he
Honest to God, Cap'n, I don't know. I never tried. I gave just one
look through it, and He broke off with a shudder.
Get a ladder, I commanded. I want to see that skylight.
While he was gone on his errand to the shed, I investigated the
outer walls of the study with the torch, hunting some break in their
solidity. They were concrete; a hair-crack would have been visible in
the electric glow; there was no break. Then, as he placed the ladder
against the coping, I climbed to the roof and stepped across its
firmness to the skylight. I looked down.
Worth, kneeling on the hearth, was laying a fire in the corner
grate. As he did not glance up, I knew he had not heard me. Evidently
the study had been built to resist the disturbance of sound from
without. That meant that the report of the revolver inside had not been
heard by any one outside the walls.
Directly below me was the library table and upon its top a blue desk
blotter; a silver filagreed inkstand stood open; penholders, pencils,
paper knife were on a tray beside it, one pen lying separate from the
others with a ruler, upon the blotting pad; books and a magazine neatly
in a pile. The walls, as I circled them with my eyes, were book-lined
everywhere except for the grate and the two doors.
Then I inspected the skylight, frame and glass, feeling it over with
my hands. There was no entrance here. Even should a pane of glass be
removableall seemingly solid and tightthe frame between and the
sash were of steel, and the panes were too small for the passage of a
man. I crept back to the ladder as Worth was striking a match to light
the pitch-pine kindling.
What about this Vandeman chink? I asked of Hughes as I rejoined
him at the foot of the ladder. Does he hang around here much?
Him and Chung visit back and forth a bit. I hear 'em talkin' hy-lee
hy-lo sometimes when I go by the kitchen.
Take me over there, I said.
The fog was beginning to blow away in threads; moonlight somewhere
back of it made a queer, gray, glimmering world around us. We circled
the garden by the path, passing a sort of gardener's tool shed where
Hughes left the ladder, and from which I judged Worth had brought the
bar he pried the door planks off with, to find a gap in a hedge between
this place and the next.
There was a light in the rear of the house over there, and a
well-trodden path leading from the hedge gap made what I took to be a
Vandeman's house proved to be, as nearly as one could see it in the
darkness, a sprawling bungalow, with courts, pergolas and terraces
bursting out on all sides of it. I could fairly see it of a fine
afternoon, with its showy master sitting on one of the showy porches,
serving afternoon tea in his best manner to the best people of Santa
Ysobel. Just the husband for that doll-faced girl, if she only thought
so. What could she have done with a young outlaw like Worth?
When I looked at the Chinaman in charge there, I gave up my idea of
questioning him. Civilly enough, with a precise and educated usage of
the English language, he confirmed what Eddie Hughes had already told
me about the telephoning from that place this morning; and I went no
further. I know the Chineseif anybody not Mongolian can say they know
the raceand I have also a suitable respect for the value of time. A
week of steady questioning of Vandeman's yellow man would have brought
me nowhere. He was that kind of a chink; grave, respectful, placid and
On the way back I asked Eddie about the Thornhill servants at the
house on the other side of Gilbert's, and found they kept but one, a
sort of old lady, Eddie called her, and I guessed easily at the
decayed gentlewoman kind of person. It seemed that Mrs. Thornhill was a
widow, and there wasn't much money now to keep up the handsome place.
I left Eddie slipping eel-like through the big doors, and went into
the study to find Worth sitting before the blazing hearth. He looked up
as I entered to remark quietly,
Bobs said she'd be over later, and I told her to come on down
CHAPTER XI. THE MISSING DIARY
My experience as a detective has convinced me that the evident is
usually true; that in a great majority of cases crime leaves a straight
trail, and ambiguities are more often due to the inability of the
trailer than to the cunning of the trailed. Such reputation as I have
established is due to acceptance of and earnest adherence to the
In this affair of Thomas Gilbert's death, everything so far pointed
one way. The body had been found in a bolted room, revolver in hand; on
the wall over the mantel hung the empty holster; Worth assured me the
gun was kept always loaded; and there might be motive enough for
suicide in the quarrel last night between father and son.
Because of that flitting shadow I had seen, I knew this place was
not impervious. Some one person, at least, could enter and leave the
room easily, quickly, while its doors were locked. But that might be
Hughesor even Worthwith some reason for doing so not willingly
explained, and some means not readily seen. It probably had nothing to
do with Thomas Gilbert's sudden death, could not offset in my mind the
conviction of Thomas Gilbert's stiffened fingers about the pistol's
butt. That I made a second thorough investigation of the study interior
was not because I questioned the manner of the death.
I began taking down books from the shelves at regular intervals,
sounding the thick dead-wall, in search of a secreted entrance. I came
on a row of volumes whose red morocco backs carried nothing but dates.
Account books? I asked.
Worth turned his head to look, and the bleakest thing that could be
called a smile twisted his lips a little, as he said,
My father's diaries.
Quite a lot of them.
Yes. He'd kept diaries for thirty years.
But he seems to have dropped the habit. There is no 1920 book.
Oh, yes there is, very definitely. He never gave up setting down
the sins of his family and neighbors while his eyes had sight to see
them, and his hand the cunning to write. He spoke with extraordinary
bitterness, finishing, He would have had it on the desk there. The
current book was always kept convenient to his hand.
An idea occurred to me.
Worth, I asked, did you see that 1920 volume when you were here
He looked a little startled, and I prompted,
Were you too excited to have noticed a detail like that?
I wasn't excited; not in the sense of being confused, he spoke
slowly. The book was there; he'd been writing in it. I remember
looking at it and thinking that as soon as I was gone, he'd sit down in
his chair and put every damn' word of our row into it. That was his
way. The seamy side of Santa Ysobel life's recorded in those books. I
always understood they amounted to a pack of neighborhood dynamite.
Got to find that last book, I said.
He nodded listlessly. I went to it, giving that room such a
searching as would have turned out a bent pin, had one been mislaid in
it. I even took down from the shelves books of similar size to see if
the lost volume had been slipped into a camouflaging coverall to no
good. It wasn't there. And when I had finished I was positive of two
things; the study had no other entrance than the apparent ones, and the
diary of 1920 had been removed from the room since Worth saw it there
the night before. I reached for one of the other volumes. Worth spoke
again in a sort of dragging voice,
What do you want to look at them for, Jerry?
It's not idle curiosity, I told him, a bit pricked.
I know it's not that. The old, affectionate tone went right to my
heart. But if you're thinking you'll find in them any explanation of
my father's taking his own life, I'm here to tell you you're mistaken.
Plenty there, no doubt, to have driven a tender hearted man off the
earth.... He was different. Eyeing the book in my hand, the boy
blurted with sudden heat, Those damn' diaries have been wife and child
and meat and drink to him. They were his reason for livingnot dying!
Start me right in regard to your father, Worth, I urged anxiously.
The boy gave me his shoulder and continued to stare down into the
fire, as he said at last, slowly,
I would rather leave him alone, Jerry.
I knew it would be useless to insist. Never then or thereafter did I
hear him say more of his father's character. At that, he could hardly
have told more in an hour's talk.
At random, I took the volume that covered the year in which, as I
remembered, Thomas Gilbert's wife had secured her divorce from him.
Neatly and carefully written in a script as readable as type, the
books, if I am a judge, had literary style. They were much more than
mere diaries. True, each entry began with a note of the day's weather,
and certain small records of the writer's personal affairs; but these
went oddly enough with what followed; a biting analysis of the inner
life, the estimated intentions and emotions, of the beings nearest to
him. It was inhuman stuff. But Worth was right; there was no soil for
suicide in this matter written by a hand guided by a harsh, censorious
mind; too much egotism here to willingly give over the rôle of
conscience for his friends. Friends?could a man have friends who
regarded humanity through such unkindly, wide open, all-seeing eyes?
Worth, seated across from me on the other side of the fire, stared
straight into the leaping blaze; but I doubted if that was what he saw.
On his face was the look which I had come to know, of the dignified
householder who had gone in and shut the door on whatever of dismay and
confusion might be in his private affairs. I began to read his father's
version of the separation from his mother, with its ironic references
to her most intimate friend.
Marion would like to see Laura Bowman ship Tony and marry Jim
Edwards. I swear the modern woman has played bridge so long that her
idea of the most serious obligation in lifethe marriage vowis,
'Never mind. If you don't like the hand you have got, shuffle, cut, and
I dropped the book to my knee and looked over at Worth, asking,
This Mrs. Dr. Bowman that we met last night at Tait'sshe was a
special friend of your mother's?
They were like sistersin more than one way. I knew without his
telling it that he alluded to their common misfortune of being both
unhappily married. His mother, a woman of more force than the other,
had gained her freedom.
Femina Priores. I came on an entry standing oddly alone.
Marion is to secure the divorceat my suggestion. I have demanded
that our son share his time between us.
Again I let the book down on my knee and looked across at the silent
fellow there. And I had heard him compassionate Barbara Wallace for
having painful memories of her childhood! I believe he was at that
moment more at peace with his father than he had ever been in his
lifeand that he grieved that this was so. I knew, too, that the
forgiveness and forgetting would not extend to these pitiless records.
Without disturbing him, I laid the book I held down and scouted forward
for things more recent.
Laura Bowmanthrough one entry after another Gilbert kicked that
poor woman's name like a football. Very fine and righteous and
high-minded in what he said, but writing it out in full and calling her
painful difficultiesthe writhing of a sensitive, high-strung woman,
mismated with a tyrantan example notably stupid and unoriginal, of
the eternal matrimonial triangle. Bowman evidently kept his sympathy,
so far as such a nature can be said to entertain that gentle emotion.
I ran through other volumes, merciless recitals, now and again, of
the shortcomings of his associates or servants; a cold blooded
misrepresentation of his son; a sneer for the affair with Ina
Thornhill, with the dictum, sound enough no doubt, that the girl
herself did the courting, and that she had no conscienceThe extreme
society type of parasite, he put it. And then the account of his break
Dr. Bowman, it seems, had come to Gilbert in confidence for help,
saying that his wife had left his house in the small hours the previous
night, nothing but an evening wrap pulled over her night wear, and that
he guessed where she could be found, since she hadn't gone to her
mother's. He asked Gilbert to be his ambassador with messages of
pardon. Didn't want to go himself, because that would mean a row, and
he was determined, if possible, to keep the thing private, giving a
generous reason: that he wasn't willing to disgrace the woman. All of
which, after he'd written it down, the diarist discredited with his
brief comment to the effect that Tony Bowman shunned publicity because
scandal of the sort would hurt his practice, and his pride as well, and
that he didn't go out to Jim Edwards's ranch because, under these
circumstances, he would be afraid of Jim.
Thomas Gilbert did the doctor's errand for him. The entry concerning
it occupied the next day. I read between the lines how much he enjoyed
his position of god from the machine, swooping down on the two he found
out there, estimating their situation and behavior in his usual
hair-splitting fashion, sitting as a court of last appeal. It was of no
use for Edwards to explain to him that Laura Bowman was practically
crazy when she walked out of her husband's house as the culmination of
a miserable scenethe sort that had been more and more frequent there
of latecarrying black-and-blue marks where he had grabbed and shaken
her. The statement that it was by mere chance she encountered Jim
seemed to have made Gilbert smile, and Jim's taking of her out to the
ranch, the assertion that it was the only thing to do, that she was
sick and delirious, had inspired Gilbert to say to him, quite neatly,
You weren't delirious, I take itnot more than usual.
Then he demanded that Laura go with him, at once, back to her
husband, or out to her mother's. She considered the matter and chose to
go back to Bowman, saying bitterly that her mother made the match in
the first place, and stood always against her daughter and with her
son-in-law whatever he did. Plainly it took all of Laura's persuasions
to prevent actual blows between Gilbert and Edwards. Also, she would
only promise to go back and live under Bowman's roof, but not as his
wifeand the whole situation was much aggravated.
I followed Mr. Thomas Gilbert's observation of this affair: his
amused understanding of how much Jim Edwards and Laura hated him; his
private contempt for Bowman, to whom he continued to give countenance
and moral support; his setting down of the quarrels, intimate,
disastrous, between Bowman and his wife, as the doctor retailed them to
him, the woman dragging herself on her knees to beg for her freedom,
and his callous refusals; backed by threat of the wide publicity of a
scandalous divorce suit, with Thomas Gilbert as main witness. I turned
to Worth and asked,
When will Edwards be here?
Any minute now. Worth looked at me queerly, but I went on,
You said he phoned from the ranch. Did he answer you in
personfrom out there?
That's what I told you, Jerry.
My searching gaze made nothing of the boy's impassive face; I
plunged again into the diaries, running down a page, getting the
heading of a sentence, not delaying to go further unless I struck
something which seemed to me important, and each minute thinking of the
strangeness of a man like this killing himself. It was in the 1916
volume, that I made a discovery which surprised an exclamation from me.
What would you call this, Worth? Your father's way of making
Corrections? Worth spoke without looking around. My father never
made correctionsin anything. It was said without animusa simple
statement of fact.
But look here. I held toward him the book. There were three leaves
gone; that meant six pages, and the entries covered May 31 and June 1.
I had verified that before I spoke to him, noticing that the statement
of the weather for May 31 remained at the foot of the last page left,
while a run-over on the page beyond the missing ones had been marked
out. It had nothing to do with the weather. As nearly as I could make
out with the reading glass I held over it, the words were, take the
woman for no other than she appears.
Worth, I urged, give me your attention for a minute here. You say
your father did not make corrections, but one of the diaries is cut.
The records of two days are gone. Were those pages stolen?
How should I know? said Worth, and added, helpfully, Pity they
didn't steal the whole lot. That would have been a relief.
There were voices and the sound of steps outside. I shoved the diary
back into its place on the shelf, and turned to see Barbara at the
broken door with Jim Edwards. She came in, her clear eyes a little
wide, but the whole young personality of her quite composed. Edwards
halted at the door, a haggard eye roving over the room, until it
encountered the blood-stain on the rug, when it sheered abruptly, and
fixed itself on Worth, who crossed to shake hands, with a quiet,
Come in, won't you, Jim? Or would you rather go up to the house?
Keenly I watched the man as he stood there struggling for words.
There was color on his thin cheeks, high under the dark eyes; it made
him look wild. The chill of the drive, or pure nervousness, had him
Thank youthe house, I think, he said rather incoherently. Yet he
lingered. Barbara's been telling me, he said in that deep voice of
his with the air of one who utters at random. Worth,had you thought
that it might have been happening down here, right at the time we all
sat at Tait's together?
He was in a condition to spill anything. A moment more and we should
have heard what it was that had him in such a grip of horror. But as I
glanced at Worth, I saw him reply to the older man's question with a
very slight but very perceptible shake of the head. It had nothing to
do with what had been asked him; to any eye it said more plainly than
words, Don't talk; pull yourself together. I whirled to see how
Edwards responded to this, and found our group had a new member. In the
door stood a decent looking, round faced Chinaman. Edwards had drawn a
little inside the threshold for him, but very little, and waited, still
shaken, perturbed, hat in hand, apparently ready to leave as soon as
the Oriental got out of his way.
Hello, the yellow man saluted us.
Hello, Chung, Worth rejoined, and added, Looks good to see you
I was relieved to hear that. It showed me that the cook, anyhow, had
not seen Worth last night in Santa Ysobel.
Just now I hea' 'bout Boss. Chung's eye went straight to the stain
on the rug, exactly as Edwards' had done, but it stopped there, and his
Oriental impassiveness was unmoved. Too bad, he concluded, thrust the
fingers of one hand up the sleeve of the other and waited.
Where you been all day? I said quickly.
My cousin' ranch.
His cousin's got a truck farm over by Medlowor used to have,
Worth supplied, and Chung looked to him, instantly.
You sabbee, he said hopefully. I go iss mo'ningall same any
daynot find out 'bout Boss. Too bad. Too velly much bad. A pause,
then, looking around at the four of us, I get dinner?
We've all had something to eat, Chung, Worth said. You go now fix
room. Make bed. To-night, I stay; Mr. Boyne here stay; Mr. Edwards
stay. Fix three rooms. Good fire.
All 'ite, the chink would have ducked out then, Jim Edwards after
him, but I stopped the proceedings with,
Hold on a minutewhile we're all togethertell us about that
visitor Mr. Gilbert had last night. I was throwing a rock in the
brush-pile in the chance of scaring out a rabbit. I was shooting the
question at Chung, but my eye was on Edwards. He glared back at me for
a moment, then couldn't stand the strain and looked away. At last the
Not see um. I go fix bed now.
Hold on, again I stopped him. Worth, tell him those beds can
wait. Tell him it's all right to answer my questions.
'S all 'ite? Chung studied us in turn. I was keeping an
inconspicuous eye on Edwards as I reassured him. 'S all 'ite, he
repeated with a falling inflection this time, and finished placidly,
You want know 'bout lady?
What's all this? Edwards spoke low.
About a lady who came to see Mr. Gilbert last night, I explained
shortly; then, Who was she, Chung?
Not see um good. The Chinaman shook his head gravely.
Did she come hereto the study? I asked. He nodded. Worth moved
impatiently, and the Chinaman caught it. He fixed his eyes on Worth. I
stepped between them. Chung, I said sharply. You knew the lady. Who
Not see um good, he repeated, plainly reluctant. She hold hand by
facecly, I think.
Good God! Edwards broke out startlingly. If we're going to hear
an account of all the women that Tom lectured and made cryleave me
out of it.
One woman will do, for this time, I said to him drily, if it's
the right one, and he subsided, turning away. But he did not go. With
burning eyes, he stood and listened while I cross-examined the
unwilling Chung and got apparently a straight story showing that some
woman had come to the side door of his master's house shortly after
dinner Saturday night, walked to the study with that master, weeping,
and that her voice when he heard it, sounded like that of some one he
knew. I tried every way in the world to get him to be specific about
this voice; did it sound like that of a young lady? an old lady? did he
think it was some one he knew well, or only a little? had he been
hearing it much lately? All the usual tactics; but Chung's placid
obstinacy was proof against them. He kept shaking his head and saying
over and over,
No hear um good, until Barbara, standing watchfully by, said,
Chung, you think that lady talk like this?
As she spoke, after the first word, a change had come into her
voice; it was lighter, higher, with a something in its character
faintly reminiscent to my ear. And Chung bobbed his head quickly,
nodding assent. In her mimicry he had recognized the tones of the
visitor. I glanced at Edwards: he looked positively relieved.
I'll go to the house, Worth, he said with more composure in his
tone than I would have thought a few moments ago he could in any way
summon. You'll find me there. And he followed the Chinaman up the
CHAPTER XII. A MURDER
I stood at the door and watched until I saw first Chung's head come
into the light on the kitchen porch, then Jim Edwards's black poll
follow it. I waited until both had gone into the house and the door was
shut, before I went back to Barbara and Worth. They were speaking
together in low tones over at the hearth. The three of us were alone;
and the blood-stain on the rug, out of sight there in the shadow beyond
the table, would seem to cry out as a fourth.
Barbara, I broke in across their talk, who was the woman who came
here to this place last night?
She didn't answer me. Instead, it was Worth who spoke.
Better come here and listen to what Bobs has been saying to me,
Jerry, before you ask any questions.
I crossed and stood between the two young people.
Well, I grunted; and though Barbara's face was white, her eyes big
and black, she answered me bravely,
Mr. Gilbert did not kill himself. Worth doesn't think so, either.
What! It was jolted out of me. After a moment's thought, I
finished, Then I've got to know who the woman was that visited this
room last night.
For a long while she made no reply, studying Worth's profile as he
stared steadily into the fire. No signal passed between them, but
finally she came to her decision and said,
Mr. Boyne, ask Worth what he thinks I ought to say to that.
Instead, Who was it, Worth? I snapped, speaking to the back of the
young man's head. The red came up into the girl's face, and her eyes
flashed; but Worth merely shrugged averted shoulders.
You can search me, he said, and left it there.
I looked from one to the other of these young people: Worth, whom I
loved as I might have my own son had I been so fortunate as to possess
one; this girl who had made a place of warmth for herself in my heart
in less than a day, whose loyalty to my boy I was certain I might count
on. How different this affair must look to them from the face it wore
to me, an old police detective, who had bulled through many inquiries
like this, the corpse itself, perhaps, lying in the back of the room,
instead of the blood-stain we had there on the rug; what was
practically the Third Degree being applied to relatives and friends;
with the squalid prospect of a court trial ahead of us all. If they'd
seen as much of this sort of thing as I had, they wouldn't be holding
me up now, tying my hands that were so willing to help, by this
fine-spun, overstrained notion of shielding a woman's name.
Barbara, I beganI knew an appeal to the unaccountable Worth
would get me nowherethe facts we've got to deal with here are a
possible murder, with this lad the last person knownby us, of
courseto have seen his father alive. We know, too, that they
quarreled bitterly. We know all this. Outside people, men who are
interested, and more or less hostile, were aware that Worth needed
moneyneeds it yet, for that mattera large sum. I suppose it is a
question of time when it will be known that Worth came here last night;
and when it is known, do you realize what it will mean?
Worth had sat through this speech without the quiver of a muscle,
and no word came from him as I paused for a reply. Little Barbara, big
eyes boring into me as though to read all that was in the back of my
mind, nodded gravely but did not speak. I crossed to the shelves and
took down the diary whose leather back bore the date of 1916. As I
opened it, finding the place where its pages had been removed, I
You and I knowwe three here know I included Worth in my
statementthat the crime was neither suicide nor patricide; but it is
likely we must have proof of that fact. Unless we find the murderer
But the motivethere would have to be motive.
Barbara struck right at the core of the thing. She didn't check at
the mere material facts of how a murder could have been done, who might
have had opportunity. The fundamental question of why it should have
been was her immediate interest.
I believe I've the motive here, I said and thrust the mutilated
volume into her hand. Some one stole these leaves out of Mr. Gilbert's
diary. The books are filled with intimate details of the affairs of
peoplethings which people prefer should not be knownnames, details
and dates written out completely. It's likely murder was done last
night to get possession of those pages.
She went to the desk and glanced over the book; not the minute
examination with the reading glass which I had given it; that mere
flirt of a glance which, when I had first noticed it the night before
at Tait's, skimming across that description of Clayte, had seemed so
inadequate. Then she turned to me.
Mr. Gilbert cut these out himself, she pronounced.
That brought Worth's head up and his face around to stare at her.
You say my father removed something he had written? he asked.
Barbara nodded. He never changed a decisionand those books were his
Then this wasn't a correction, but he cut it out. Can't you see,
Mr. Boyne? Those leaves were removed by a man who respected the book
and was as careful in his mutilation of it as he was in its making. It
is precisely writtenI'm referring to workmanship, not its literary
qualitycarefully margined, evenly indented on the paragraph
beginnings. And so, in this removal of three leaves, the cutting was
done with a sharp knife drawn along the edge of a ruler I picked up
from where they lay on the blotting pad, a small pearl-handled knife,
its sharp blade open, and the ruler I had seen when looking down from
the skylight, and placed them before her. She nodded and continued,
There is a bit of margin left so no other leaves can be loosened by
this removal. The marking out of the run-over has been neatly ruled,
done so recently that the ink is not yet blackdone with that ink in
the stand. It was blotted with this. She lifted a hand-blotter to show
me the print of a line of ink. There were other markings on the face of
the soft paper, and I took it eagerly. Barbara smiled.
You will get little from that, she said. I had not even seen her
give it attention. Scattered wordsand parts of words, blotted
frequently as they were written. Perhaps, with care, we might learn
something, but we can turn more easily to the last pages of his diary
There are no last pages, I interrupted. The 1920 book is
Gonestolen? she exclaimed. It brought a smile to my face. For
the first time in my experience of this pretty, little bunch of brains,
she had hazarded a guess.
Gone, I admitted coollya bit sarcastically. I've no reason to
Butyes, you haveyou have, Mr. Boyne! If it is gone, it was
stolen. Is it goneare you sure it is gone? Eagerly her eyes were
searching desk, cabinet, the shelf where the other diaries made their
long row. I satisfied her on that score.
I have searched the study thoroughly; it is not in this room.
Was here last night, Worth cut in. I saw it on the desk.
And was stolen last night, Barbara reaffirmed, quickly. These
books are too big to be slipped into a pocket, so we can't believe it
was left upon Mr. Gilbert's person; and he wouldn't lend itwouldn't
willingly let it go from his possession. So it was stolen; and the man
who stole itkilled him. She shuddered.
That was going too swift for me to follow, but I saw on Worth
Gilbert's face his acceptance of it. Either conviction of Barbara's
infallibility, or some knowledge locked up inside his own chest, made
him certain the diary had been stolen, and the thief was his father's
murderer. In a flash, I remembered his words, putting every damn' word
of our row into it, and I shot straight at him,
Did you take that book, Worth?
He only shook his head and answered,
You heard what Bobs said, Jerry.
If he took the book he killed his father; that was Barbara's
inference, Worth's acceptance. I threw back my shoulders to cast off
the suspicion, then reached across to place my fingers under the girl's
hand and pull from it the only record of that last written page, the
Will you read me that? I asked her. Every word and part of a
Her eyes smiled into mine with a reassurance that was like balm.
Worth rose and found her a hand-glass on the mantel, passing it to her,
and with this to reverse the scrawlings, she read and I wrote down in
my memorandum book two complete words, two broken words and five single
letters picked from overlying marks that were too confused to be
decipherable. Though the three of us struggled with them, they held no
Worth's interest quickly ceased.
I'll join Jim Edwards in the house, he said, but I stopped him.
One minute, Worth. There was a woman visitor here last night. It
would seem she carried away with her the diary of 1920 and three leaves
from the book of 1916. I want youyou and Barbarato tell me what you
know that happened here in Santa Ysobel on the dates of the missing
pages, May 31 and June 1, 1916.
Barbara accepted the task, turning that wonderful cinematograph
memory back, and murmured,
I never tried recollecting on just a bare date this way, but
then glanced around at me and finishednothing happened to me in
Santa Ysobel then, because I wasn't in Santa Ysobel. I was in San
And I was in Flanders, so that lets me out, Worth broke in
brusquely. I'll go into the house.
Wait, Worth. I placed a hand on his shoulder. Go on, Barbara; you
had thought of something.
Yes. Father died in January of that year, and in March I had to
vacate the house. It had been sold, and they wanted to fix it over. I
left Santa Ysobel on the eighteenth of March, but they didn't get into
the house until June first.
Again Worth interrupted.
Which jogs my memory for an unexciting detail. He smiled
enigmatically. I was jilted June first.
In Flanders? How many times had this lad been jilted?
No. Right here. I wasn't here of course, but the letter which did
the trick was written here, and bore that dateJune one, 1916.
How do you get the date so pat?
It was handed me by the mail orderlyI was on the Verdun sector
thenon the morning of the Fourth of July. Remember the date the
letter was written because of the quick time it made. Most of our mail
took from six weeks to eternity. What are you smiling at, Bobs?
Just a littleyou don't mind, do you?at your saying you remember
Ina's letter by the quick time it made in reaching you.
Who bought your house, Barbara? I asked her.
Dr. Bowmanor rather Mrs. Bowman's uncle bought it and gave it to
And they went in on the first of June, 1916? I was all excitement,
turning the pages of the diary to get to certain points I remembered.
What can either one of you tell me about the state of affairs at that
time between Dr. Bowman and his wifeand that man who was just in
Worth turned a hostile back; Barbara seemed to shrink in her chair.
I hated like a whipping to pull this sort of stuff on them, but I knew
that Barbara's knowledge of Worth's danger would reconcile her to
whatever painful thing must be done, and I had to know who was that
visitor of last night.
Is thatthat stuff in those damnable books? I saw the hunch of
Worth's broad shoulders.
Some of it issome of it has been cut out, I replied.
And you connect Jim Edwards with this crime?
I don't connect himhe connects himselfby them, and by his
Burn them! He faced me, came over and reached for the book. Dump
the whole rotten mess into the fire, Jerry, and be done with it.
Easy said, but that would sure be a short cut to trouble. Tell me,
I've got to know, if you think this man Edwardsunder great
provocationcapable ofwell, of killing a fellow creature.
Jerry, Worth took the book out of my hand and laid it on the
table, what you want to do is to forget thisdirtthat you've been
reading, and go at this thing without prejudice. If you open any trails
and they lead in my direction, don't be afraid to follow them. This
thing of trying to find a criminal in some one that my father has
already deeply injuredsome one that he's made life a hell forso
that suspicion needn't be directed to me, makes me sick. If I'd allow
you to do it, I'd be yellow clear through.
That was about the longest speech I'd heard Worth Gilbert make since
his return from France. And he meant every word of it, too; but it
didn't suit me. This Hew to the line stuff is all right until the
chips begin whacking the head of your friend. In this case there wasn't
a doubt in my mind that when a breath of suspicion got out that Thomas
Gilbert had not killed himself, that minute would see the first finger
point at Thomas Gilbert's son as the murderer. So I grumbled,
Just the same, Edwards has something on his mind about last night.
He hasand it's pretty nearly tearing him to pieces, Worth
admitted, but would go no further.
He was here last night, I'm sureand Mrs. Bowman was with him, I
Barbara, who had been sitting through this her eyes on Worth, turned
from him to me and pronounced, gently,
Yes, he was here, and Laura was with him.
Bobs! Worth spoke so sternly that she glanced up startled. I'll
not stand for you throwing suspicion on Jim.
Did Ido that? her lip trembled. Worth's eyes were on the fire.
Don't quarrel with the girl, I remonstrated. Barbara had told me
the visitor; I covered my elation with, She's only looking out for
I can look out for myself, curtly. He turned hard eyes on us. It
made me feel put away from him, chucked out from his friendship. And I
never quarreled with anybody in my life. Sometimes he turned from
one to the other of us, speaking slowly, Sometimes I seem to
antagonize people, for no reason that I can see; and sometimes I fight;
but I never quarrel.
No offense intendedor taken, I assured him hastily. My heart was
full of his danger, and I told myself that it was his misery spoke, and
not the true Worth Gilbert. But a very pale and subdued Barbara said
I guess I'd better go home now, suggesting, after the very
slightest pause, Mr. Boyne can take me.
Don't, Bobsie. Worth's voice was gentle again, but absent. It
sounded as though he had already forgotten both of us, and our possible
cause of offense. Go to the house with Jerry. I'll bar the door and
Can't I help with that? I offered.
No. Eddie will give me a hand if I need it. Go on. I'll be with you
in a minute.
CHAPTER XIII. DR. BOWMAN
But it was considerably more than a minute before Worth followed us
to the house. We walked slowly, talking; when I looked back from the
kitchen porch, Worth had already come outside, and I thought Eddie
Hughes was with him, though I heard no voices and couldn't be sure on
account of the shrubbery between.
Getting into the house we found that Chung had the downstairs all
opened up through, lights going, heat turned on from the basement
furnace; everywhere that tended, homelike appearance a competent
servant gives a place. On the hall table as we passed, I noticed a
doctorish top coat, with a primly folded muffler laid across it.
Dr. Bowman is here, Barbara said hardly above her breath.
We listened; no sound of voices from the living room; then I got the
tramp of feet that moved back and forth in there. We opened the door,
and there were the two men; a queer proposition!
Bowman had taken a chair pretty well in the middle of the room. It
was Jim Edwards whose feet I had heard as he roamed about. No word was
going between them; apparently they hadn't spoken to each other at all;
the looks that met or avoided were those strange looks of persons who
live in lengthened and what might be termed intimate hostility.
AhBoyneisn't it? Bowman greeted me; I thought our coming
relieved the situation. He shook hands, then turned to Barbara with,
Mrs. Thornhill said you were here; I told her I would bring you back
I rather wondered not to hear him insist on being taken at once to
the study, but his next words gave the reason. He'd reached Santa
Ysobel too late for the inquest itself, but not too late to make what
he informed us was a thorough investigation of everything it treated
Barbara and I found places on the davenport; Edwards prowled up and
down the other end of the room, openly in torment. Those stormy black
eyes of his were seldom off Bowman, while the doctor's gray,
heavy-lidded gaze never got beyond the toes of the restless man's
moving boots. He had begun a grumbling tale of the coroner's
incompetence and neglect to reopen the inquest when he, the family
physician, arrived, as though that were important, when Worth came in.
Instantly the doctor was on his feet, had paced up to the new master
of the house, and began pumping his arm in a long handshake, while he
passed out those platitudes of condolence a man of his sort deals in at
such a time. The stuff I'd been reading in those diaries had told me
what was the root and branch of his friendship with the dead man; it
made the hair at the back of my neck lift to hear him boasting of it in
Jim Edwards' presence, and know what I knew. And, my dear boy, he
finished, they tell me you've not been to view the bodyyet. I
thought perhaps you'd like to gowith me. I can have my machine here
in a minute. No? as Worth declined with a wordless shake of the head.
I hoped he'd leave then; but he didn't. Instead, he turned back to
his chair, explaining,
If Mrs. Thornhill's cook hadn't phoned me, when Mrs. Thornhill had
a second collapse last night, I suppose I should be in San Francisco
still. The coroner seemed to think there was no necessity for having
competent medical testimony as to the time of death, and the physical
condition of the deceased. I should have been wired for. The inquest
should have been delayed until I arrived. The way the thing was managed
It was merciful. Jim Edwards spoke as though unwillingly, in a
muttered undertone. Evidently it was the first word he'd addressed to
Bowmanif he could be said to address him now, as he finished, I
hadn't thought of an inquest. Yet of course there'd be one in a case of
Bowman only heard and wholly misconstrued him, snatching at the
Of course it was suicide. Done with his own weapon, taken from the
holster where we know it always hung, fully loaded. The muzzle had been
pressed so close against the breast when the cartridge exploded that
the woolen vest had taken fire. I should say it had smouldered for some
time; there was a considerable hole burned in the cloth. The flesh
around the wound was powder-scarred.
Worth took it like a red Indian. I could see by the glint of his eye
as it flickered over the doctor's face, the smooth white hands, the
whole smooth personality, that the boy disliked, and had always
disliked him. Yet he listened silently.
I rather hoped by leading questions to get Bowman to express the
opinion that Thomas Gilbert had been killed in the small hours of the
morning. Circumstances then would have fitted in with Eddie Hughes.
Eddie Hughes was to me the most acceptable murderer in sight. But
nonothing would do him but to stick to the hour the coroner had
Medical science cannot determine closer than that, he was very
final. The death took place within an hour preceding midnight.
You are positive it couldn't be this morning? I asked.
Well, Dr. Bowman's testimony, if accepted at the value the doctor
himself placed upon it, would clear Worth of suspicion, for the lad was
with me at Tait's from a few minutes past ten until after one; and Jim
Edwards, now pacing the floor so restlessly, had also been there the
greater part of that time. I had had too much experience with doctor's
guesses based on rigor mortis to let it affect my views.
In the minute of silence, we could hear Chung moving about at the
back of the house. The doctor spoke querulously.
Never expect anything of a Chinaman, but I should think when the
chauffeur found the body he might have had sense enough to summon
friends of the family. He could have phoned meI was only in San
He could have phoned me at the ranch, Jim Edwards' deep voice came
You? Why should he phone for you? Bowman wheeled on him at last.
I was the man's physician, as well as his close friend. Everybody
knows you weren't on good terms with him. Gad! You wouldn't be here in
this house to-night, if he were alive.
In the sort of silence that comes when some one's been suddenly
struck in the face, Worth crossed to Edwards and laid an arm along his
I've asked Jim to stay in my place, here, in my house, while I'm
away over Mondayand he can do as he likes about whom he chooses to
Bowman gradually got to his feet, his face a study.
I see, he said. Then I'll not trespass on your time any longer. I
felt obliged to offer my services ... patients of mine ... for years
... in affliction ... a gleam of anger came into his fishy eyes. I've
been met with damned insolence.... Claiming of the house before your
father's decently in his grave. He jerked fully erect. Leave your
affairs in the hands of that degenerate. If he doesn't do you dirt,
you'll be the first he's let off! Come, Miss Barbara, to the girl who
sat beside me, looking on mutely observant.
Thank you, doctor. She answered him as tranquilly as though no
voice had been raised in anger in that room. I think I'll stay a
little longer. Jim will take me home.
The doctor glared and stalked out. To the last I think he was
expecting some one to stop him and apologize. I suppose this was what
Worth described naïvely as antagonizing people without intending to.
Well, it might not be judicious; I certainly was glad the doctor was so
sure of the time at which his friend Gilbert had met death; yet I
couldn't but enjoy seeing him get his. As soon as the man's back was
turned, Edwards beckoned Barbara to the window. Worth and I left them
talking together there in low tones, he to get something he wanted from
a case in the hall, where he called me to the phone, saying long
distance wanted me. While I was waiting for my connection (Central, as
usual, having gotten me, now couldn't get the other party) the two came
from the living room and Barbara said Good night to us in passing.
Those two seem to have something on hand, I commented as they went
out. The little girl gave Bowman one for himselfin the nicest
possible way. Don't wonder Edwards likes her for it.
Poor Laura Bowman! Her friends take turns giving that bloodless
lizard she's tied to, one for himself any time they can, Worth said.
My mother used to handle the doctor something like that; and now it's
Barbaralittle Bobsie WallaceGod bless her!
He went on into the dining room. I looked after his unconscious,
departing figure and thought he deserved a good licking. Why couldn't
he have spoken that way to the girl herself? Why hadn't he taken her
home, instead of leaving it to Edwards? Then I got my call and
This is Boyne. Put them through.
In a minute came Roberts' voice.
Hello, Mr. Boyne?
Yes. What you got?
TelegramHicksLos Angeles. He's located Steve Skeels
Read me the wire, I broke in.
All right. A pause, then, 'Skeels arrived here from 'Frisco this
morning shall I arrest?'
Good! I exclaimed. Wire him to keep Steve under surveillance and
await instructions. Tell him not to lose him. Get it, Roberts? Hustle
it. I'll be in by nine. Good-by, and I hung up.
I looked around; Worth had gone into the dining room; I stepped to
the door and saw him kneeling before an open lower door of the built-in
sideboard, and noted that the compartment had been steel lined and
Yale-locked, making a sort of safe. A lamp at the end of an extension
wire stood on the floor beside him; he looked around at me over his
shoulder as I put my head in to say,
Stock in your old suitcase has gone up a notch, Worth. We've caught
So soon? was all he said. But my news seemed to decide something
for him; with a sharp gesture of finality, he put into his breast
pocket the package of papers he had been looking at.
When a little later, Edwards came in, Worth was waiting for him in
Do we go now? the older man asked, wincing. Worth nodded.
Take your machine, Jim, he said. We can park it at Fuller's and
walk back from there. Boyne's roadster is in our garage.
Anything wrong with Eddie Hughes? Edwards asked as he stepped in
to get his driving gloves. I passed him out there headed for town
lugging a lot of freight, and the fellow growled like a dog when I
spoke to him.
I fired him. Come on, Jimlet's get out of this.
Hold on, Worth, I took a hand. Fired Hughes? When?
While I was fixing up that doorafter you and Bobs came to the
What in God's name for? I asked in exasperation.
For giving me back talk, said the youth who never quarreled with
He and Edwards tramped out together. I realized that the hostile son
and an alienated friend had gone for a last look at the clay that had
yesterday been Thomas Gilbert. Of course Worth would do that before he
left Santa Ysobel. But would Edwards go in with himor was he only
along to drive the machine? It might be worth my while to know. But I
could ask to-morrow; it wasn't worth a tired man's waiting up for. We
must make an early start in the morning. I went upstairs to bed.
CHAPTER XIV. SEVEN LOST DAYS
Instead of driving up to San Francisco with Worth and Barbara, the
next morning, I was headed south at a high rate of speed. Sitting in
the Pullman smoker, going over what had happened and what I had made of
it, vainly studying a small, blue blotter with some senseless
hieroglyphics reversed upon it, I wasn't at all sure that this move of
mine was anywhere near the right one. But the thing hit me so quick,
had to be decided in a flash, and my snap judgment never was good.
We were all at breakfast there at the Gilbert house when I got the
phone that those boobs down in Los Angeles had let Skeels slip through
their fingers. I could see no way but to go myself. When I went out to
retrieve my hand bag from the roadster, there was Barbara already in
the seat. I delayed a minute to explain to her. She was full of eager
interest; it seemed to her that Skeels ducking the detectives that way
was more than cleveralmost worthy of a wonder man.
Slickest thing I ever knew, I grumbled. You can gamble I wouldn't
be going south after him if Skeels hadn't shown himself too many for
the Hicks agencyand they're one of the best in the business.
Worth came out and settled himself at the wheel; he and Edwards
exchanged a last, low-toned word; and they were ready to be off.
Barbara leaned towards me with shining eyes.
Perhaps, she said, Skeels might even be Clayte! then the
roadster whisked her away.
The bulk of Worth Gilbert's fortune was practically tied up in this
affair. Even as the Pullman carried me Los Angeles-ward, that boy was
getting in to San Francisco, going to the bank, and turning over to
them capital that represented not only his wealth but his honor. If we
failed to trace this money, he was a discredited fool. Yes, I had done
right to come.
So far on that side. Then apprehension began to mutter within me
about the situation at Santa Ysobel. How long would that coroner's
verdict of suicide satisfy the public? How soon would some seepage of
fact indicate that the death was murder and set the whole town to
looking for a murderer? The minute this happened, the real criminal
would take alarm and destroy evidence I might have gathered if I had
stayed by the case. I promised myself that it should be simply there
and back with me in the Skeels matter.
This is the way it looked to me in the Pullman; thenonce in Los
AngelesI allowed myself to get hot telling the Hicks people what I
thought of them, explaining how I'd have run the chase, and wound up by
giving seven days to itseven precious, irreclaimable dayswhile
everything lay wide open there in the north, and I couldn't get any
satisfactory word from the office, and none of any sort from Worth.
That Skeels trail kept me to it, with my tongue hanging out; again
and again I seemed to have him; every time I missed him by an hour or
so; and that convinced me that he was straining every nerve, and that
he probably had the whole of the loot still with him. At last, I seemed
to have him in a perfect trapEnsenada, on the Peninsula. You get into
and out of Ensenada by steamboat only, except back to the mines on foot
or donkey. The two days I had to wait over in San Diego for the boat
which would follow the one Skeels had taken were a mighty uneasy time.
If I'd imagined for a moment that he wasn't on the dodgethat he was
there openlyI'd have wired the Mexican authorities, and had him
waiting for me in jail. But the Mexican officials are a rotten lot; it
seemed to me best to go it alone.
What I found in Ensenada was that Skeels had been there, quite
publicly, under his own name; he had come alone and departed with a
companion, Hinch Dial, a drill operator from the mines, a transient, a
pick-up laborer, seemingly as close-mouthed as Silent Steve himself.
Steve had come on one steamer and the two had left on the next. That
north-bound boat we passed two hours off Point Loma was carrying Skeels
and his pal back to San Diego!
Again two days lost, waiting for the steamer back. And when I got to
San Diego, the trail was stone cold. I had sent Worth almost daily
reports in care of my office, not wanting them to lie around at Santa
Ysobel during the confusion of the funeral and all; but even before I
went to Ensenada, telegrams from Roberts had informed me that these
reports could not be delivered as Worth had not been at the office, and
telephone messages to Santa Ysobel and the Palace Hotel had failed to
locate him. When I believed I had Skeels firmly clasped in the jaws of
the Ensenada trap, I had sent a complete report of my doings up to that
time, and the optimistic outlook then, to Barbara with instructions for
her to get it to Worth. She would know where he was.
But she hadn't. Her reply, waiting at San Diego for me, a delicious
little note that somehow lightened the bitterness of my disappointment
over Skeels, told me that she had seen Worth at the funeral, almost a
week ago now, but only for a minute; that she had supposed he had
joined me on the Skeels chase; and she would now try to hunt him up and
deliver my report. Roberts, too, had a line in one of his reports that
Worth had called for the suitcase on the Monday I left and had neither
returned it nor been in the office since.
I worried not at all over Worth; if he wanted to play hide and seek
with Dykeman's spotters, he was thoroughly capable of looking after
himself; but in the Skeels matter, I did then what I should have done
in the first place, of course; turned the work over to subordinates and
headed straight home.
I reached San Francisco pretty well used up. It was nearly the
middle of the forenoon next day when I got to my desk and found it
piled high with mail that had accumulated in my absence. Roberts had
looked after what he could, and sorted the rest, ready for me.
Everything concerning the Clayte case was in one basket. As Roberts
handed it to me, he explained.
The Van Ness bank attorneyCummingshas been keeping tabs on you
tight, Mr. Boyne. Here every daysometimes twice. Wants to know the
minute you're back.
I grunted and dived into the letters. Nothing interesting. Responses
acknowledging receipts of my early inquiries. Roberts lingered.
Well? I shot at him. He moved uneasily as he asked.
Did you wire him when you were coming back?
Cummings? No. Why?
He telephoned in just before you came saying that he'd be right up
to see you. I told him you hadn't returned. He laughed and hung up.
All right, Roberts. Send him in when he comes. I dismissed the
secretary. Cummings was keeping tabs on me with a vengeance. What was
on his chest?
I didn't need to wait long to find out. In another minute he was at
my door greeting me in an off-hand, Hello, Boyne. Ready to jump into
your car and go around with me to see Dykeman?
Just got down to the office, Cummings, I watched him, trying to
figure out where I stood and where he stood after this week's absence.
Haven't seen Worth Gilbert yet. What's the rush with Dykeman?
You'll find out when you get there.
Not very friendly, seeing that Cummings had been Worth's lawyer in
the matter, and aside from that queer scene in my office, there'd been
no actual break. He stood now, not really grinning at me, but with an
amused look under that bristly mustache, and suggested,
So you haven't seen young Gilbert?
The tone was so significant that I gave him a quick glance of
inquiry as I said,
No. What about him?
Put on your coat and come along. We can talk on the way, he
replied, and I went with him to the street, dug little Pete out of the
bootblack stand and herded him into the roadster to drive us. Cummings
gave the order for North Beach, and as we squirmed through and around
congested down-town traffic, headed for the Stockton Street tunnel, I
waited for the lawyer to begin. When it came, it was another startling
Didn't find Skeels in the south, eh?
I hadn't thought they'd carry their watching and trailing of us so
far. I answered that question with another,
When did you see or hear from Worth Gilbert last?
Not since the funeral, he said promptly, the day before the
funerala week ago to-day, to be exact. I ran down to make my
inventory then; as administrator, you know.
He looked at me so significantly that I echoed,
Yes, I know.
Do you? How much? His voice was hard and dry; it didn't sound good
See here, I put it to him, as my clever little driver dodged in
and out through the narrow lanes between Pagoda-like shops of
Chinatown, avoiding the steep hill streets by a diagonal through the
Italian quarter on Columbus Avenue. If there's anything you think I
ought to be told, put me wise. I suppose you raised that money for
Worththe seventy-two thousand that was lacking, I mean?
I did not.
I turned the situation over and over in my mind, and at last asked
Worth did get the money to make up the full amount, didn't he?
We had swerved again to the north, where the Powell car-line curves
into Bay Street, and were headed direct for the wharves. Cummings
watched me out of the corners of his eyes, a look that bored in most
unpleasantly, while he cross-examined,
So you don't know where he raised that moneyor howor when? You
don't even know that he did raise it? Is that the idea?
I gave him look for look, but no answer. An indecisive slackening of
the machine, and Little Pete asked,
Where now, sir?
You can see it, Cummings pointed. The tall building. Hit the
Embarcadero, then turn to your right; a block to Mason Street.
So close to the dock that ships lay broadside before its doors,
moored to the piles by steel cables, the Western Cereal Company plant
scattered its mills and warehouses over two city blocks. Freight trains
ran through arcades into the buildings to fetch and carry its products;
great trucks, some gas driven, some with four-and six-horse teams,
loaded sacks or containers that shot in endless streams through well
worn chutes, or emptied raw materials that would shortly be breakfast
foods into iron conveyors that sucked it up and whined for more. It was
a place of aggressive activity among placid surroundings, this plant of
Dykeman's, for its setting was the Italian fisherman's home district;
little frame shacks, before which they mended their long, brown nets,
or stretched them on the sidewalks to dry; Fisherman's Wharf and its
lateen rigged, gayly painted hulls, was under the factory windows.
We pulled up before the door of a building separate from any of the
mills or warehouses, and I followed Cummings through a corridor, past
many doors of private offices, to the large general office. Here a
young man at a desk against the rail lent Cummings respectful
attention; the lawyer asked something in a low tone, and was answered,
Yes, sir. Waiting for you. Go right through.
Down the long room with its rattling typewriters, its buzz of clerks
and salesmen we went. Cummings was a little ahead of me, when he
checked a moment to bow to some one over at a desk. I followed his
glance. The girl he had spoken to turned her back almost instantly
after she had returned his greeting; but I couldn't be mistaken. There
might be more than one figure with that slim, half girlish grace about
it, and other hair as lustrously blue-black, but none could be wound
around a small head quite so shapely, carried with so blossomlike a
toss. It was Barbara Wallace.
So this was where her job was. Strange I had not known this fact of
grave importance. I went on past her unconscious back, left her working
at her loose-leaf ledgers, beside her adding machine, my mind a whirl
of ugly conjecture. Dykeman's employee; that would instantly and very
painfully clear up a score of perplexing questions. Dykeman would need
no detectives on my trail to tell him of my lack of success in the
Skeels chase. Lord! I had sent her as concise a report as I could
maketo her, for Worth. I walked on stupidly. In front of the last
door in the big room, Cummings halted and spoke low.
Boyne, you and I are both in the employ of the Van Ness Avenue
Bank. We're somewhat similarly situated in another quarter; I'm
representing the Gilbert estate, and you've been retained by Worth
I grunted some sort of assent.
I brought you here to listen to what the bank crowd has to say, but
when they get done, I've something to tell you about that young
employer of yours. You listen to themthen you listen to meand
you'll know where you stand.
I'll talk with you as soon as I get through here, Cummings.
Be sure you do that little thing, significantly, and we went in.
CHAPTER XV. AT DYKEMAN'S OFFICE
We found Whipple with Dykeman. I had always liked the president of
the Van Ness Avenue Bank well enough; one of the large, smooth, amiable
sort, not built to withstand stress of weather, apt to be rather
helpless before it. He seemed now mighty upset and worried. Dykeman
looked at me with hard eyes that searched me, but on the whole he was
friendly in his greeting and inquiries as to my health.
While I was getting out of my coat and stowing it, making a great
deal of the process so as to gain time, I saw Cummings was exchanging
low spoken words with the two of them. I tried to keep my mind on these
men before me and why I was with them, but all the while it would be
running back to the knock-out blow of seeing that girl in Dykeman's
place. She was double-crossing Worth! I might have grinned at the idea
that I'd let myself be fooled by a pair of big, expressive, wistful,
merry black eyes; but I had seen the look in those same eyes when they
were turned on my boy; to think she'd look at him like that, and sell
him out, was against nature. It was hurting me beyond all reason.
Whipple asked me about my trip south as though it was the most
public thing in the world and he knew its every detail, and accepted my
reply that I couldn't take one man's pay and report to another, with,
Just so, Mr. Boyne. But your agency is retainedregularly, year by
yearby our bank. And our bank has given over none of its rightsI
should say dutiesin regard to the Clayte case. We stand ready to
assist any one whose behavior seems to us that of a law-abiding
citizen. We don't want to advance any criminality. We can't strike
hands with outlaws
Tell him about the suitcase, Whipple, Dykeman broke in
impatiently, rather spoiling the president's oratorical effect. Tell
him about the suitcase.
The suitcase! Was this one of the things Barbara Wallace had let out
to her employer? She could have done so. She knew all about it.
One moment, please, I snapped. I've been away for a week, Mr.
Whipple. I don't know a thing of what you're talking about. Did Captain
Gilbert fail to meet his engagement with you Monday morning?
Whipple shook his head.
Mr. Dykeman wants you told about the suitcase, he said. I'd like
to have Knapp here when we go into that.
Dykeman picked up the end of a speaking-tube and barked into it,
Send those men in. In the moment's delay, we all sat uneasily
mute. Knapp came in with Anson. As they nodded to us and settled into
chairs, two or three others joined us. Nothing was said about this
filling out of the numbers, but to me it meant serious business, with
Worth Gilbert its motive.
Get it over, can't you? I said, looking about from one to the
other of the men, all directors in the bank. I understand that Captain
Gilbert met his engagement with you; was he short of the sum agreed?
Again Whipple shook his head.
Captain Gilbert walked into the bank at exactly ten o'clock Monday
morning. The uhuhunusual arrangementcontract, to call it sothat
we'd made with him concerning the defalcation would have expired in a
few seconds, and I think I may say, he looked around at the others,
that we should not have been sorry to have it do so. But he brought
the sum agreed on.
I drew a great sigh of relief. Worth's bargain was complete; he was
done with these men, anyhow. I was half out of my chair when Whipple
said, sharply for him,
Sit down, Mr. Boyne. And Dykeman almost drowned it in his,
Wait, there, Boyne! We're not through with you.
There's more to tell, Whipple continued. Captain Gilbert brought
that eight hundred thousand cash and securities in aerin a very
What d'you mean, strange way? airplane or submarine? I growled.
He brought it, Whipple's words marched out of him like a solemn
procession, in a brown, sole-leather suitcase.
With brass trimmings, Dykeman supplemented, and leaned back
in his chair with an audible Ah-h-h! of satisfaction.
If ever a poor devil was flabbergasted, it was the head of the Boyne
agency at that moment. I had a fellow feeling for that Mazeppa party
who was tied in his birthday suit to the back of a wild horse. Locoed
broncos were more amenable to rein than Worth Gilbert. So that was why
he wanted that suitcasehad a use for it, he'd put it; insisted on
an order to be able to get it if I wasn't at my office; wanted it to
shove back at these scary bank officials, with his own money for the
payment inside. No wonder Whipple called him an outlaw!
Get the idea, do you, Boyne? Anson lunged at me in his ponderous
way. The rest of us thought 'twas a poor joke, but Knapp and Whipple
had both seen that suitcase beforeand recognized it.
Yes, said Knapp quietly. It chanced I saw it go through the door
that last day, when it had nearly a million of our money in it. And
here it was his voice broke off.
Certainly startling, Cummings spoke directly at me, for them to
see it come back in Worth Gilbert's hands, with the same kind of
filling, less one hundred and eighty seven thousand dollars. Of course,
I didn't know the identity of the suitcase until they'd given Gilbert
his receipt and he was gone.
Oh, they accepted his money? I said, and every man in the room
looked sheepish, except Cummings who didn't need to, and Dykeman who
was too mad to. He shouted at me,
Yes, we took it; and you're going to tell us where he got that
What have your own detectivesthose you hired on the sideto say
about it? I countered on him, and saw instantly that the Whipple end
of the crowd hadn't known of Dykeman's spotters and trailers.
Well, why not? Dykeman shrilled. Why not? Who wouldn't shadow
that crook? One hundred and eighty seven thousand dollars! Worked us
like suckerscome-ons! he choked up and began to cough. Cummings
came in where he left off.
See here, Boyne; we don't want to antagonize you. You've said from
the first that this crime was a conspiracya big thingdirected by
brains on the outside. Clayte was the tool. Whose tool was he? That's
what we want to know. And Anson trundled along,
These men who have been in the war get a contempt for law, there's
no doubt about it. Captain Gilbert might
No names! Whipple's hand went up in protest. No accusations,
gentlemen, please; Mr. Boynethis is a dreadful thing. But, really,
Captain Gilbert's manner was very strange. I might say he
Swaggered, supplied Cummings coolly as the president's voice
Well, Whipple accepted it, he swaggered in and put it all over
us. There he was, a man fresh from the deathbed of a suicide father;
that father's funeral yet to occur. I, personally, hadn't the heart to
question him or raise objections. I was dazed.
Dazed, Dykeman snapped up the word and worried it, as a dog
worries a bone. Of course, we were all dazed. It was so open, so
shamelessthat's why he got by with it. Making use of his position as
heir, less than forty eight hours after his father was shot.
After his father shot himself, Whipple's lowered tone was a plea.
After his father shot himself.
Huh! snorted Dykeman. If a man shoots himself, he's been shot,
hasn't he? Hell! What's the use of whipping the devil round the stump
that way? Boyne, you can stand with us, or you can fight us.
Boyne's with usof course he's with us, Whipple broke in, his
words a good deal more confident than his tone or the look of his face.
Well, then, Dykeman ground out, when our thief of a teller splits
that one hundred and eighty seven thousand with his man Gilbertshut
up, Whippleshut up! You can't stop mewe're going to know about it.
We'll get them both then, and send them across. And we'll recover one
hundred and eighty seven thousand dollars that belongs to the Van Ness
Good night! I got to my feet. This lets me out. I can't
deal with men who make a scrap of paper of their contracts as quick as
you gentlemen do.
Stop, Boyneyou haven't got it all, Dykeman ordered me.
Yes, wait, Mr. Boyne, Whipple came in. You haven't a full
understanding of the enormity of this young man's action. Mr. Cummings
has something to tell you which, I think, will
Nothing Mr. Cummings can say, I shut them off, will alter the
fact that I am employed by Captain Worth Gilbert at your
recommendationat your own recommendationthat I have been away more
than a week on his business, and have not yet had an opportunity to
report to him personally. When I've seen him, I'll be ready to talk to
You'll talk now or never Dykeman's shrill threat was interrupted
by the shriller bell of the telephone. He yanked the instrument to him,
and the Hello! he cried into it had the snap of an oath. He looked up
and shoved the thing in my direction. Calling for you, Boyne, he
There was deathly stillness in the room, so that the whir of the
great stones in the mill came to us insistently. I stood there, they
all watching me, and spoke into the transmitter.
This is Boyne.
Hold the receiver close to your ear so it won't leak words. The
warning wasn't needed; I thought I knew the voice. Press the
transmitter close to your chest. Listendon't talk; don't say a word
in reply to me. I'm in the telephone booth outside. I must see you just
as soon as I can. I'll be at the Little Italy restaurantyou know,
don't you? on Fisherman's Wharfin ten minutes. If you can come, and
alone, find me there. I'll wait an hour. If you can't come now, you
must see me this evening after working hours.
I'll come now, I raised the transmitter to say, and quickly over
the wire came the answer,
I told you not to speakin there! This is Barbara Wallace.
CHAPTER XVI. A LUNCHEON
I went away from there.
Looking about me, I had guessed that pretty much every man in the
room believed that it was Worth Gilbert with whom I had been talking
over the phone. Dykeman's trailers would be right behind me. Yet to the
last, Whipple and his crowd were offering me the return trip end of my
ticket with them; if I would come back and be good, even now, all would
be forgiven. I sized up the situation briefly and took my plunge,
shutting the door after me, glancing across the long room to see that
Barbara Wallace's desk was deserted. Nobody followed me from the room I
had just left. I walked quickly to the outer door.
Little Pete switched on his engine as I leaped into the car. My Let
her go! wasn't needed to make him throw in his clutch, and give me a
flying start straight ahead down the broad plank way of the
Embarcadero. Looking back as we hit the belt-line tracks, I saw a small
car with two men in it, shoot out from one of the wide doorways of the
plant; but as we rounded the cliff-like side of Telegraph Hill, my view
of them was cut off. Things had come for me thick and fast. I felt
pretty well balled up. But the girl had used secrecy in appointing this
interview; till I could see further into the thing, it was anyhow a
safe bet to drop them.
Pete, I said, lose that car behind us. Only ten minutes to slip
them and land me at Fisherman's Wharf. Show me what-for.
He grinned. Between Montgomery and the bay, north of California
Street, there are many narrow byways, crowded with the heavy traffic of
hucksters and vegetable men, a section devoted to the commission
business. Into its congestion Pete dove with a weasel instinct for
finding the right holes to slip through, the alleys that might be
navigated in safety; in less than the ten minutes I'd specified, we
were free again on Columbus Avenue, pursuit lost, and headed back for
the restaurant on the wharf.
Boss, Little Pete was hoarse with the excitement he loved, as he
laid the roadster alongside the Little Italy, was it on the level,
what you fed the lawyer guy? Ain't you wise to where Captain Gilbert
is? I've saw him frequent since you've been gone.
How many times is 'frequent,' Pete? I asked. And when did the
last 'frequent' happen?
Twice, sulkily. I'd wounded his pride by not taking him seriously;
but he added as I jumped down from the machine. I druv him up on the
hill, 'round the place where you an' himan' herwent that day.
Pete didn't need to use Barbara Wallace's name. The way he salaamed
to the pronoun was enough; the swath that girl cut evidently reached
from the cradle to the grave, with this monkey grinning at one end, and
me doddering along at the other.
I gave a moment to questioning Pete, found out all he knew, and went
into the restaurant, wondering what under heaven Barbara Wallace would
say to me or ask me.
The Little Italy restaurant is not so bad a place for luncheon. If
one likes any eatables the western seas produce, I heartily recommend
it. Where fish are unloaded from the smacks by the ton, fish are sure
to be in evidence, but they are nice, fresh fish, and look good enough
to eat. And the Little Italy is clean, with white oil-clothed tables
and a view from its broad windows that down-town restaurants would
double their rent to get.
Just now it was full of noisy patrons, foreigners, mostly; people
too busy eating to notice whether I carried my head on my shoulders or
under my arm.
In a far corner, Barbara Wallace's eyes were on me from the minute I
came within her sight. She had ordered clams for two, mostly, I
thought, to defend the privacy of our talk from the interruptions of a
waiter, and I was hardly in my chair before she burst out,
Where's Worth? Why wasn't he in that office to defend himself
against what they're hinting?
I suppose, I said dryly, because he wasn't given an invitation to
attend. You ought to know why. You work for Dykeman.
I work for Dykeman? she repeated after me in a bewildered tone.
I'm bookkeeper in the Western Cereal Company's employ, if that's what
you mean. You understood so from the first.
You know I didn't, I reproached her hotly. Do you think I'd have
let you on the inside of this case if I'd known it was a pipe line
direct to Dykeman?
And on the instant I spoke there came to me a remembrance of her
saying that Sunday morning as we pulled up before the St. Dunstan that
she went past the place on the street car every day getting to her work
at the Western Cereal Company. Sloppy of me not to have paid better
attention; I knew vaguely that Dykeman was in one of the North Beach
Fifty-fifty, Barbara, I conceded. I should have knownmade it my
business to learn. And Dykeman has questioned you
He has not! indignantly. I don't suppose he knows Worth and I are
acquainted. I could have smiled at that. There were detectives'
reports in Dykeman's desk that recorded date, hour and duration of
every meeting this girl had had with Worth and with myself. Besides,
Cummings knew. It must have been through Cummings that she learned what
was about to take place in Dykeman's private office. What had she told
I was ready to blurt out the question, when she fumbled in her bag
with little, shaking hands, drew out and passed to me unopened the
envelope addressed to Worth, with my detailed report of the Skeels
I did my best to deliver it, she steadied her voice as she spoke.
He wasn't at the Palace. He wasn't at Santa Ysobel. He didn't
communicate with me here.
My edifice of suspicion of Barbara Wallace crumbled. Cummings had
not learned through her that I was unsuccessful in the south; nor had
she spilled a word to him that she shouldn't, or they'd have had the
dope on where Worth had found that suitcase, and thrown it at me quick.
Barbara, I said, will you accept my apologies?
Oh, yes, she smiled vaguely. I don't know what you're apologizing
for, but it doesn't matter. I hoped you would bring me news of
Worthof where he is.
When did you see him last?
On the day of the funeral. I hardly got to speak to him.
Little Pete's news was slightly later. He'd taken Worth up to the
Gold Nugget and dropped him there. Thursday, Worth was at the Nugget
for more than an hour. On both occasions, Pete was told to slip the
trailers, and did. That meant that Worth was working on the Clayte
caseor thought he was. I told her of this.
YesOh, yes, she repeated listlessly. But where is he now? And
awful thingsthings like this meetingcoming up.
What besides this meeting?
At Santa Ysobel.
What? Things that have happened since the boy's gone? You couldn't
get much idea of the lay of the land when you were down there
Wednesday, could you?
Oh, but I couldI did, earnestly. Of course it was a large
funeral; it seemed to me I saw everybody I'd ever known. At a time like
that, nothing would be said openly, but the drift was all in one
direction. They couldn't understand Worth, and so nearly every one who
spoke of him, picked at him, trying to understand him. Mrs. Thornhill's
cook was already telling that Worth had quarreled with his father and
demanded money. I shouldn't wonder if by now Santa Ysobel's set the
exact hour of the quarrel.
Me for down there as quick as I can, I muttered, and Barbara,
facing me sympathetically, offered,
I've a letter from Skeet Thornhill, she groped in her bag again,
mumbling as women do when they're hunting for a thing, It came this
morning.... Mrs. Thornhill's no betterworse, I judge.... Oh, here it
is, and she pulled out a couple of closely scribbled sheets. The
child writes a wild hand, she apologized, as she passed these over.
The flapper dashed into her letter with a sort of incoherent squeal.
The carnival ball was only four days off. Everybody was already dead on
his, her or its feet. The decorations they'd planned were enough to
kill a horselet alone getting up costumes. As usual, everything
seems to be going to the devil here, she went on; Got a cannery girl
elected festival queen this time. Ina's furious, of course. Moms had a
letter from her that singed the envelope; but I sort of enjoy seeing
the cannery district break in. They've got the money these days.
Nothing here to my purpose. Barbara reached forward and turned the
sheet for me, and I saw Worth Gilbert's name half way down it.
Doctor Bowman is an old hell-cat, and I hate him. Skeet made her
points with a fine simplicity. Since mother's sick, he comes here
every day, though what he does but sit and shoot off his mouth and get
her all worked up is more than I can see. Yesterday I was in the room
when he was there, and he got to talking about Worththe meanest,
lowest-down, hinting talk you ever heard! Said Worth got a lot of money
when his father died, and I flared up and said what of it? Did he think
Mr. Gilbert ought to have left it to him? That hit him, because he and
Mr. Gilbert used to be good friends, and he and Worth aren't. I sassed
him, and he got so mad that just as he was leaving, he hollered at me
that I better ask Worth Gilbert where he was at the hour his father was
shot. Now, what do you know about that? That man is spreading stories.
A doctor can set them going. He's making his messy old calls on people
all day, and they, poor fish-hounds, believe everything he says. Though
mother didn't. After he was gone, she just lay there in her bed and
said over and over that it was a lie, a foolish, dangerous lie! Poor
mumsie, she's so nervous that when the grocer's truck had a blow-out
down in the drive, she nearly went into hystericscried and carried
on, something about it's being 'the shot.' I suppose she meant the one
when Mr. Gilbert killed himself. Wasn't that queer? Any loud noise of
the sort sets her off that way. She lies and listens, and listens and
mutters to herself. It scares me. She closed with, Please don't break
your promise to be here through this infernal Bloss. Fes.
Good advice, that last, I said slowly, as I laid the letter on the
table, keeping a hand on it. You'll do that, won't you, Barbara?
I had intended to. I was given leave from this afternoon.
ButwellI'd thought it over, and almost made up my mind to go back
to my desk.
Barbara Wallace uncertain, halting between two courses of action!
What did it mean?
See here, Barbara; this isn't a time for Worth Gilbert's friends to
slacken on him.
I hadn't slackened, she said very low. And left it for me to
remember that Worth apparently had.
Then you're needed at Santa Ysobel, I urged.
But you're going, aren't you, Mr. Boyne?
Yes. As soon as I can get off. That doesn't keep you from being
needed. Worth's one of the most efficiently impossible young men I ever
tried to handle. Maybe he's not any fuller of shocks than any other
live wire, but he sure does manage to plant them where they'll do the
most harm. Cummings, Dykemanand this Dr. Bowman down there; active
They can't hurt Worth Gilbertall of them together!
Wait a minute. I'm going to Santa Ysobel to find the murderer of
Thomas Gilbert. That means a stirring to the depths of that little
town. This underneath-the-surface combustion will get poked into a
flameshe's going to burst out, and somebody's going to get burned. We
don't want that to be Worth, Barbara.
No. But what can I dowhat influence have I with him she was
beginning, but I broke in on her.
Barbara, you and I are going to find the real murderer, before the
Cummings-Dykeman bunch discover a way into and out of that bolted
study. Those people want to see Worth in jail.
There was a long pause while she faced me, the rich color failing a
little in her cheeks.
I see, speaking slowly, studying each word. And as long as we
didn't find out how to enter and leave the study, we have no way of
knowing how hard or how easy it's going to be for them to find it out.
We her voice still lowerwe can't tell if they already know it or
Yes we can, I leaned forward to say. The minute they know
thatWorth Gilbert will be charged with murder.
I hit hard enough that time to bring blood, but she bled inwardly,
sitting there staring at me, quite pale, finally faltering,
WellI can't stop to think of his having followed Ina Vandeman
southon her wedding tripif he needs meand I can helpI must
she broke down completely, and I sat there feeling big-footed and
blundering at this revelation of what it was that had put that clear,
logical mind of hers off the track, left her confused, groping, just a
girl, timid, distrustful of her own judgment where her heart was
Was that it all the time? I asked. Well, take it from me, Worth's
done nothing of the sort. He's been playing detective, not chasing off
after some other man's bride.
Up came the color to her cheeks, she reached that mite of a hand
across to shake on the bargain with,
I'll go straight down this evening. You'll find me in Santa Ysobel
when you come, Mr. Boyne.
At the Thornhills'? It might be handy to have her there; but she
shook her head, looking a little self-conscious.
I'm taking that spare room at Sarah Capehart's. Skeet wanted me,
and I have an invitation from Laura Bowman; but ifwell, seeing that
this investigation is going to cover all that neighborhood, I thought
I'd rather be with Sarah.
The level-headed little thing! Pete and I had the pleasure of taking
her out to her home where she had her packing to attend to. On the way
she spoke of an engagement with Cummings for the theater Saturday
And instead, I suppose I shall be at the carnival ball. Shall I
tell him that in my note, Mr. Boyne? Is it all right to let him know?
It's all right, I assented. You can bet Cummings is due down
there as soon as Worth shows up; and that must be soon, now.
Yes, Barbara agreed. Her face clouded a little. You noticed in
Skeet's letter that they're expecting Ina to-morrow.
Poor childshe couldn't get away from it. I patted the hand I had
taken to say good-by and assured her again,
Worth Gilbert hasn't been in the south. I wonder at you, Barbara.
You're so clear headed about everything elsedon't you see that that
would be impossible?
Then I drove back to my office, to find lying on my desk a telegram
from the young man, dated at Los Angeles, requesting me to meet him at
Santa Ysobel the following evening!
CHAPTER XVII. CLEANSING FIRES
Wednesday evening I pulled into a different Santa Ysobel: lanterns
strung across between the buildings, bunting and branches of bloom
everywhere, streets alive with people milling around, and cars piled
high with decorative material, crowded with the decorators. The
carnival of blossoms was only three days ahead.
At Bill Capehart's garage they told me Barbara was out somewhere
with the crowd; and a few minutes later on Main Street, I met her in a
Ford truck. Skeet Thornhill was at the wheel, adding to the general
risk of life and limb on Santa Ysobel streets, carrying a half a dozen
or more other young things tucked away behind. Both girls shouted at
me; they were going somewhere for something and would see me later.
Getting down toward the Gilbert place, just beyond the corner, I
flushed from the shadows of the pepper trees a bird I knew to be one of
Dykeman's operatives. Watching his carefully careless progress on past
the Gilbert lawn, then the Vandeman grounds, my eye was led to a pair
who approached across the green from the direction of the bungalow. No
mistaking the woman; even at this distance, height and the clean sweep
of her walk, told me that this was the bride, Ina Vandeman. And the man
strolling beside herhad he come with her from the house, or joined
her on the cross-cut path?could that be Worth Gilbert?
I sat in the roadster and gaped. The evening lightbehind them, and
dim enough at bestmade their countenances fairly indistinguishable.
At the gap in the hedge, they paused, and Mrs. Vandeman reached out,
broke off a flower to fasten in his buttonhole, looking up into his
face, talking quickly. Old stuffbut always good reliable old stuff.
Then Worth saw me and hailed, Hello, Jerry! But he did not come to
me, and I swung out of the machine to the sidewalk.
I heard the sobbing of the Ford truck; it went by, missing my
runningboard by an inch, stopped at Vandeman's gate and Skeet
discharged her cargo of clamor to stream across the sidewalk and up
toward the bungalow. I saw Barbara, in the midst of the moving figures,
suddenly stop, knew she had seen the two over there, and crossed to
her, with a cheerful,
He's here all right.
Oh, yes, not looking toward the gap in the hedge, or at me. He
came on the same train withwith them.
Then some one from the porch yowled reproachfully for her to fetch
those banners pronto, and with a little catching of breath, she
ran on up the walk.
I turned back. Worth and Ina had moved on. Bronson Vandeman, well
groomed, dressed as though he had just come in off the golf links, his
English shoes and loud patterned stockings differentiating him from the
crude outdoor man of the Coast, had joined them on the Gilbert lawn;
his genial greeting to me let his bride get by with a mere bow, turning
at once back to her house by the front walk. But rather to my
annoyance, Vandeman came bounding up the steps after us. I judged Worth
must have invited him.
Chung carried my suitcase upstairs, and lingered a minute in my
room. I'll swear it wasn't merely to get the tip for which he thanked
me, but with the idea of showing me in some recondite, Oriental fashion
that he was glad I'd come. This interested me. The people who were glad
to have me in Santa Ysobel at this time belonged on the clean side of
my ledger. Then I went downstairs to find Vandeman still in the living
room, sprawled at ease beside the window, looking round with a display
of his fine teeth, reaching a hand to pull in the chair Worth set for
Well, Jerry, that young man prompted, indicating by a careless
gesture the smokers' tray on the table beside me, there is time before
dinner for the tale of your exploits. How's my friend Steve?
I began to select a cigar, and said shortly,
It's all in reports waiting for you at my office.
Yes. Worth ignored my irritation. Tell it. What'd you do down
Just back from the south yourself, aren't you? I countered.
Sure, airily. But I wasn't there to butt in on your game. Did you
find that Skeels was Clayte?
I merely looked over the flame of my match at that small-town
society man, smiling back at me with a show of polite interest.
Go on, Worth interpreted. Vandeman knows all about it. I tried to
sell him a few shares of stock in the suitcase, so he'll take an
interest in the game; but he's too much the tight-wad to buy.
Oh, no, deprecated Vandeman. Just no gambler; hate to take a
chance. He ran his fingers through his hair, tossing it up with a
gesture I had noticed when he came back from the dance at Tait's.
All rightapology accepted, Worth nodded. Anyway, you didn't.
Vandeman waited a moment with natural curiosity, then, as I still
said nothing, giving my attention to my smoke, moved reluctantly to
That means I'd better chase along and let you two talk business.
No. Sit tight, from Worth.
I was mad clear through, and disturbed and apprehensive, too. I
managed a brief, dry statement of the outcome in the south. Worth
hailed it with,
Skeels lurks in the jungle! Life still holds a grain of interest.
Why the devil couldn't you keep me advised of your movements? I
Dykeman's hounds, he grinned. Had them guessing. They'd have
picked me up if I'd gone to your office.
You could have written or wired. They've picked you up anyway, I
grunted. One's on the job now. Saw him as I came in.
Eh? What's that? cried Vandeman, a man snooping in the shrubbery
outside getting more attention from him than one dodging pursuit three
hundred miles away. What do you mean, hounds? and when he had heard
the explanation of Dykeman's trailers, I call that intolerable!
Oh, I don't know. Worth reached over my shoulder for a cigarette.
Lose 'em whenever I like.
I wasn't so certain. There were men in my employ he couldn't shake.
Perhaps those reports in Dykeman's desk might have offered some
surprises to this cock-sure lad. My exasperation at Worth mounted as I
listened to Vandeman talking.
Those bank people should do one thing or another, he gave his
opinion. Just because you got gay with them and handed them their
payment in the suitcase it left in, they've no right to have you
watched like a criminal. In a small town like this, such a thing will
ruin a man's standing.
If he has any standing, Worth laughed.
See here, Vandeman's smile was persuasive. Don't let what I said
out in front embitter you.
I'll try not to.
Mr. BoyneVandeman missed the sarcasmwhen I got back to this
town to-day, what do you suppose I found? The story going around that a
quarrel with Worth, over money, drove his father to take his own life.
That's my business here, I nodded. And when he looked his
surprise, To stop such stories.
He stared at me, frankly puzzled for a moment, then said,
Well, of course you know, and I know, that they're scurrilous lies;
but just how will you stop them?
I had intended my remark to stand as it was; but Worth filled in the
pause after Vandeman's question with,
Jerry's here to get the truth of my father's murder, Bronse.
Murder? The mere naked word seemed to shock Vandeman. His sort
clothe and pad everythingeven their speech. I didn't know any one
entertained the idea your father was murdered. He couldn't have
beennot the way it happened.
Nevertheless we think he was.
Oh, but Boynestart a thing like that, and think of the talk it'll
make! They'll commence at once saying that there was nobody but Worth
to profit by his father's death.
Don't worry, Mr. Vandeman. He made me hot. We know where to dig
up the motive for the crime.
You mean the diaries? Worth's voice sounded unbelievably from
beside me. Nothing doing there, Jerry. I've burned them.
I sat and choked down the swears. Yet, looking back on it, I saw
plainly that Jerry Boyne was the man who deserved kicking. I ought
never to have left them with him.
You read them and burned them? said Vandeman.
Burned them without reading, Worth's impatient tones corrected.
Without reading! the other echoed, startled. Then, after a long
pause, OhI saypardon me, butbut ought that to have been done?
Surely not. Worthif you'd read your father's diaries for the past few
yearsI don't believe you'd have a doubt that he committed
suicidenot a doubt.
Worth sat there mute. Myself, I was rather curious as to what
Vandeman would say; I had read much in those diaries. But when it came,
it was the same old line of talk one hears when there's a suicide:
Gilbert was a lonely man; his life hadn't been happy; he cut himself
off from people too much. Vandeman said that of late he believed he was
pretty nearly the only intimate the dead man had. This last gave him an
interest in my eyes. I broke in on his generalities to ask him bluntly
why he was so certain the death was suicide.
Mr. Gilbert was breaking up; had been for two years or more.
Worth's been away; he's not seen it; but I can tell you, Boyne, his
father's mind was affected.
Worth let that pass, though I could see he wasn't convinced by
Vandeman's sentimentalities, any more than I was. After the man had
gone, I turned on Worth sharply, with,
Why the devil did you tell that pink-tea proposition about your
dealings with the Van Ness Avenue bank?
Safety valve, I guess. I get up too heavy a load of steam, and it's
easy to blow it off to Vandeman. Told him most of it in the smoker,
coming up. You'll talk about anything in a smoker.
Oh, will you? I said in exasperation. And you'll burn anything, I
suppose, that a match'll set fire to?
Go easy, Jerry Boyne. His chin dropped to his chest, he sat
glowering out through the window. Cleansing fires for that sort of
garbage, he said finally. I burned them on the day of his funeral.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE TORN PAGE
My coming had thrown dinner late; we were barely through with the
meal and back once more in the living room when the latch of the French
window rattled, the window itself was pushed open, and a high imperious
The Princess of China, calling on Mr. Worth Gilbert.
There stood Ina Vandeman in the gorgeously embroidered robes of a
high caste Chinese lady, her fair hair covered by a sleek black wig
that struck out something odd, almost ominous, in the coloring of her
skin, the very planes of her features. Outside, along the porch,
sounded the patter of many feet; Skeet wriggled through the narrow
frame under her tall sister's arm, came scooting into the room to turn
and gaze back at her.
Doesn't she look the vamp?
Skeet! Ina had sailed in by this time, and Ernestine followed more
soberly. You've been told not to say that.
I think, the other twin backed her up virtuously, with poor
mother sick and all, you might respect her wishes. You know what she
said about calling Ina a vamp. And Skeet drawled innocently,
That it hit too near the truth to be funnywasn't that it?
Through the open window had followed a half dozen more of the
Blossom Festival crowd, Barbara and Bronson Vandeman among them. Ina
paid no attention to any one, standing there, her height increased by
the long, straight lines of the costume, her bisque doll features given
a strange, pallid dignity by the raw magnificence of its crusted purple
and crimson and green and gold embroidery and the dead black wig.
Isn't it an exquisite thing, Worth? displaying herself before him.
Bronse has a complete Mandarin costume; we lead the grand march as the
emperor and empress of Mongolia. Don't you think it's a good idea?
First rate. Worth spoke in his usual unexcited fashion, and it was
difficult to say whether he meant the oriental idea or the appearance
of the girl who stood before him. She came close and offered the cuff
of one of her sleeves to show him the embroidery, lifting a delicate
chin to display the jade buttons at the neck.
Barbara over on the other side of the room refused to meet my eye.
Mrs. Bowman, a big fur piece pulled up around her throat, shivered. I
met half a dozen Santa Ysobel people whose names I've forgotten. I
could see that Bronson Vandeman socially took the lead here, that
everybody looked to him. The room was a babel of talk, when a few
minutes later the doorbell rang in orthodox fashion, and Chung ushered
Cummings in upon the general confusion. Some of the bunch knew and
spoke to him; others didn't and had to be presented; it took the first
of his time and attention. He only got a chance for one swipe at me, a
Made a mistake to duck me, Boyne.
I didn't think it worth while to answer that. Presently I saw him
standing with Barbara. He was evidently effecting a switch of his
theater engagement to the ball, for I heard Skeet's,
Mr. Cummings wants a ticket! He'll need two! Ten dollars, Mr.
No, noSkeet, Barbara laughed embarrassedly. Mr. Cummings was
just joking. He'll not be here Saturday night.
I'll come back for it, hand in pocket.
It's a masquerade Barbara hesitated.
Bring my costume with me from San Francisco.
I'm not sure again Barbara hesitated; Skeet cut in on her,
Why, Barbie Wallace! It's what you came to Santa Ysobel forthe
Bloss. Fes. ball. And to think of your getting a perfectly good man,
right at the last minute this way, and not having to tag on to Bronse
and Ina or something like that! I think you're the lucky girl, and she
clutched Cummings' offered payment to stow it with other funds she had
At last they got themselves out of the room and left us alone with
Cummings. He had carried through his little deal with Barbara as though
it meant considerable to him, but I knew that his errand with Worth was
serious, and put in quickly,
I intended to write or phone you to-morrow, Cummings.
Well, the lawyer worked his mouth a bit under that bristly
mustache and looked at Worth, it might have saved you some
embarrassment if you'd been warned of my errand here to-nightearlier,
that is. I suppose Captain Gilbert has told you that I phoned him, when
I failed to connect with you, that I was coming hereand what I was
I didn't tell Jerry, Worth picked up a cigarette. Couldn't very
well tell him what you were coming for. Don't know myself.
The words were blunt; really I think there was no intention to
offend, only the simple statement of a fact; but I could see Cummings
beginning to simmer, as he inquired,
Does that mean you didn't understand my words on the phone, or that
you understood them and couldn't make out what I meant by them?
Little of both, allowed Worth. Cummings stepped close to him and
let him have it direct:
I'm here to-night, Captain Gilbert, as executor of your father's
estate. I have filed the will to-day. I might have done so earlier, but
when I inventoried this place (you remember, the day before the
funeralyou were here at the time) I failed to locate a considerable
portion of your father's estate.
You failed to locate? All the estate's here; this house, the
down-town properties. What do you mean, failed to locate?
I was not alluding to realty, said Cummings. It's my duty to
locate and report to the court the present whereabouts of seventy-five
thousand dollars worth of stock in the Van Ness Avenue Savings Bank.
Can you declare to me as executor, where it is? And, if any other
person than your father placed it in its present whereabouts, are you
ready to declare to me how and when it came into that person's
Quite a lot of words, Cummings; but it doesn't mean anything,
Worth said casually. You know where that bank stock is and who put it
Officially, I do not know. Officially, I demand to be told.
Unofficially, answer it for yourself. Worth turned his back on the
lawyer to get a match from the mantel.
Very well. My answer is that I intend to find out how and when that
bank stock which formed a part of your payment to the Van Ness Avenue
bank disappeared from this house.
I admit I was scared. Here was the first gun of the coming battle;
and I was sure this enemy, who stood now looking through half closed
eyes at the lad's back, would have poisoned gas among his weapons. He
had emphasized the when. He believed that the stories of
Worth's night visit to his father were true; that the implied denial by
Barbara and myself in my office, was false; that Worth had either
received the stock from his father that Saturday night or taken it
unlawfully. I was sure that it was the stock certificates which I had
seen Worth take from the safe-compartment of the sideboard in the small
hours of Monday morning; a breach of legal form which it would be
possible for a friendly executor to pass over.
Cummings, Worth inherits everything under his father's will; what's
the difference about a small irregularity in taking possession? He
Never explain, Jerry, Worth shut me up. Your friends don't need
it, and your enemies won't believe it.
Cummings had stood where he was since the first of the interview.
His face went strangely livid. There was more in this than a legal
Yes, Boyne's a fool to try to help your case with explanations,
Gilbert, he choked out. I'll see that both of you get a chance to
answer questions elsewhereunder oath. Good evening. He turned and
He had the best of it all around. I endeavored for some time to get
before Worth the dangers of his high-handed defiance of law, order,
probate judges, and the court's officers, in the person of Allen G.
Cummings, attorney and his father's executor. He listened, yawnedand
suggested that it must be nearly bedtime. I gave it up, and we wentI,
at least, with a sense of danger ahead upon meto our rooms.
Along in the middle of the night I waked to the knowledge that a
casement window was pounding somewhere in the house. For a while I lay
and listened in that helpless, exaggerated resentment one feels at such
a time. I'd drop off, get nearly to sleep, only to be jerked broad
awake again by the thudding. Listening carefully I decided that the
bothersome window was in Worth's room, and finally I got up sense and
spunk enough to roll out of bed, stick my feet into slippers, and sneak
over with the intention of locking it.
The room was dimly lighted from the street lamps, far away as they
were; I made my way across it. Worth's deep, regular breathing was
quite undisturbed. I had trouble with the catch, went and felt over the
bureau and found his flashlight, fixed the window by its help, and
returning it, remembering how near I came to knocking it off the bureau
top, thought to put it in a drawer which stood half open.
As I aimed it downward, its circle of illumination showed something
projecting a corner from beneath the swirl of ties and sheaf of
collarsa booka red morocco-bound book. Mechanically I nudged the
stuff away with the torch itself. What lay there turned me cold. It was
the 1920 diary!
My fingers relaxed; the flashlight fell with a thump, as I let out
an exclamation of dismay. A sleepy voice inquired from the bed,
Hi, you Jerry! What you up to in here?
For answer, I dragged out the book, went over to the bed, and
switched on the reading lamp there. Worth scowled in the glare, and
flung his arms up back of his head for a pillow to raise it a bit.
Yeah, blinking amiably at the volume. Meant to tell you. Found it
to-day when I was down in the repair pit at the garage. It had been
stuck in the drainpipe there.
And I suppose, I said savagely, that if I hadn't come onto it
now, you'd have burned this, too.
Don't get sore, Jerry, he said. I saved it, and he yawned.
I had an uncontrollable impulse to have a look at that last entry,
which would record the bitter final quarrel between this boy and his
father. No difficulty about finding the spot; as I raised the book in
my hands it fell open of itself at the place. I looked and what I saw
choked megot cross-wise in my throat for a moment so no words could
come out. I stuck the book under his nose, and held it there till I
Worth, did you do this?
The last written page was numbered 49; on it was recorded the date,
March sixth; the weather, cloudy, clearing late in the afternoon; the
fact that the sun had set red in a cloudless sky; and it ended abruptly
in the middle of a phrase. The leaf that carried page 50 had been torn
out; not cut away carefully as were those leaves in the earlier book,
but ripped loose, grabbed with clutching fingers that scarred and
twisted the leaf below!
He shoved my hand away and stared at me. For a moment I thought
everything was over. Certainly I could not be a very appealing sight,
standing there sweating with fear, my hair all stuck up on my head
where I'd clawed it, shivering in my nightclothes more from miserable
nervousness than from cold; but somehow those eyes of his softened; he
gave me one of the looks that people who care for Worth will go far to
get, and said quietly,
You see what you're doing? I told you I didn't steal the book, so
that clears me in your mind of being the murderer. Now you're after me
about this torn-out page. If I'd torn it out and stolen ityou and I
would know what it would mean.
But, boy, I began, when he suffered a change of heart.
Get out of here! Take that damn book and leave.
He heaved himself over in the bed, hunching the covers about his
ears, turning his back on me. As I crept away, I heard him finish in a
sort of mutteras though to himself
I'm sorry for you, Jerry Boyne.
CHAPTER XIX. ON THE HILL-TOP
Morning dawned on the good ship Jerry Boyne not so dismasted and
rudderless as you might have thought. I'd carried that 1920 diary to my
room and, before I slept, read the whole of it. This was the last word
we had from the dead man; here if anywhere would be found support for
the suggestions of a weakening mind and suicide.
Nothing of that sort here; on the contrary, Thomas Gilbert was very
much his clear-headed, unpleasant, tyrannical self to the last stroke
of the pen. But I came on something to build up a case against Eddie
Hughes, the chauffeur.
I didn't get much sleep. As soon as I heard Chung moving around, I
went down, had him give me a cup of coffee, then stationed him on the
back porch, and walked to the study, shut myself in, and discharged my
heavy police revolver into a corner of the fireplace; then with the
front door open, fired again.
How many shots? I called to Chung.
One time shoot.
Worth's head poked from his upstairs window as he shouted,
What's the excitement down there?
Trying my gun. How many times did I fire?
Once, you crazy Indian! and the question of sound-proof walls was
settled. Nobody heard the shot that killed Gilbert twenty feet away
from the study if the door was closed. Mrs. Thornhill's ravings, as
described in Skeet's letter to Barbara, were merely delirium.
I walked out around the driveway to the early morning streets of
Santa Ysobel. The little town looked as peaceful and innocent as a pan
of milk. In an hour or so, its ways would be full of people rushing
about getting ready for the carnival, a curious contrast to my own
business, sinister, tragic. It seemed to me that two currents moved
almost as one, the hidden, dark part underfor there must be those in
the town who knew the crime was murder; the murderer himself must still
be hereand the foam of noisy gayety and blossoms riding atop. A
Blossom Festival; the boyhood of the year; and I was in the midst of
it, hunting a murderer!
An hour later I talked to Barbara in the stuffy little front room at
Capehart's, brow-beaten by the noise of Sarah getting breakfast on the
other side of the thin board partition; more disconcerted by the girl's
manner of receiving the information of how I had found the 1920 diary
hidden in Worth's bureau drawer. There was a swift, very personal anger
at me. I had to clear myself instantly and thoroughly of any suspicion
of believing for a moment that Worth himself had stolen or mutilated
the book, protesting,
I don'tI don't! Listen, Barbarabe reasonable!
That means 'Barbara, be scared!' And I won't. When they're scared,
people make mistakes.
You might see differently if you'd been there last night when
Cummings made his charge against Worth. That seventy two thousand
dollars Worth carried up to the city Monday morning, he had taken from
his father's safe the night before.
For a minute she just looked at me, and not even Worth Gilbert's
dare-devil eyes ever held a more inclusively defiant light than those
big, soft, dark ones of hers.
Wellwasn't it his?
All right, I said shortly. I'm not here to talk of Worth's
financial methods; they're scheduled to get him into trouble; but let
that pass. Look through this book and you'll see who it is I'm after.
She had already opened the volume, and began to glance along the
pages. She made a motion for me to wait. I leaned back in my chair, and
it was only a few moments later that she looked up to say,
Don't make the arrest, Mr. Boyne. You have nothing here against
Because I doubted myself, I began to scold, winding up,
All the same, if that gink hasn't jumped town, I'll arrest him.
It would be a good deal more logical to arrest him if he had jumped
the town, Barbara reminded me. If you really want to see him, Mr.
Boyne, you'll find him at the garage around on the highway. He's
working for Bill.
That was a set-back. A fleeing Eddie Hughes might have been hopeful;
an Eddie Hughes who gave his employer back-talk, got himself fired, and
then settled down within hand-reach, was not so good a bet. Barbara saw
how it hit me, and offered a suggestion.
Mr. Boyne, Worth and I are taking a hike out to San Leandro canyon
this afternoon to get ferns for the decorating committee. Suppose you
come alonganyhow, a part of the wayand have a quiet talk, all alone
with us. Don't do anything until you have consulted Worth.
All rightI'll go you, I assented, and half past two saw the
three of us, Worth in corduroys and puttees, Barbara with high boots
and short, dust-brown skirt, tramping out past the homes of people
toward the open country. At the Vandeman place Skeet's truck was out in
front, piled with folding chairs, frames, light lumber, and a lot of
decorative stuff. The tall Chinaman came from the house with another
You Barbie Wallace! the flapper howled. Aren't you ashamed to be
walking off with Worth and Mr. Boyne both, and good men scarce as hen's
teeth in Santa Ysobel to-day!
I'm not walking off with themthey're walking off with me,
Barbara laughed at her.
Shameless one! Skeet drawled. I see you let Mr. Cummings have a
day offaren't you the kind little boss to 'em!
I just raised my brows at Barbara, and she explained a bit hastily,
Skeet thinks she has to be silly over the fact that Mr. Cummings
has gone up to town, I suppose. She added with fine indifference,
He'll be back in the morning.
You bet he'll be back in the morning, Worth assured the world.
Now what does he mean by that, Mr. Boyne?
He means Cummings is out after him.
I don't, Worth contradicted me personally. I mean he's after
Bobs. She knows it. Look at her.
She glanced up at me from under her hat-brim, all the stars out in
those shadowy pools that were her eyes. The walk had brought sumptuous
color to her cheeks, where the two extra deep dimples began to show.
You both may think, she began with a sobriety that belied the
dimples and shining eyes, looking on from the outside, that Mr.
Cummings has an idea of, as Skeet would say, 'rushing' me; but when
we're alone together, about all he talks of is Worth.
Bad sign, Worth flung over a shoulder that he pushed a little in
advance of us. Takes the old fellows that way. Their notion of falling
for a girl is to fight all the other Johnnies in sight. Guess you've
got him going, Bobs.
I walked along, chewing over the matter. She'd estimated Cummings
fairly, as she did most things that she turned that clear mind of hers
on; but her lack of vanity kept her from realizing, as I did, that he
was in the way to become a dangerous personal enemy to Worth. His
self-interest, she thought, would eventually swing him to Worth's side.
She didn't as yet perceive that a motive more powerful than
self-interest had hold of him now.
Why, Mr. Boyne, she answered as though I'd been speaking my
thoughts aloud, I've known Mr. Cummings for years and years. He
You said a mouthful there, Bobs. Worth halted, grinning, to
interrupt her. He nevernone whatever. But he has now.
Leave it to Jerry. Jerry saw him that first night in at Tait's;
then afterward, in the office.
Oh, come on! Barbara started ahead impatiently. What difference
would it make.
They went on ahead of me, scrapping briskly, as a boy and girl do
who have grown up together. I stumped along after and reflected on the
folly of mankind in general, and that of Allen G. Cummings in
particular. That careful, mature bachelor had seen this lustrous young
creature blossom to her present perfection; he'd no doubt offered her
safe and sane attention, when she came to live in San Francisco where
they had friends in common. But it had needed Worth Gilbert's
appearance on the scene to wake him up to his own real feeling.
Forty-five on the chase of nimble sweet and twenty; Cummings was in for
sore feet and humiliating tumblesand we were in for the worst he
could do to us. I sighed. Worth had more than one way of making
enemies, it seemed.
At last we came in sight of the country club upon its rise of ground
overlooking the golf links. The low, brown clubhouse, built bungalow
fashion, with a long front gallery and gravel sweep, was swarming with
peoplethe decorators. Motors came and went. The grounds were being
strung with paper lanterns. We skirted these, and the links itself
where there were two or three players, obstinate, defiant old men who
would have their game in spite of forty blossom festivalsclimbed a
fence, and crossed the grass up to the crest of a little round hill,
halting there for the view. It wasn't high, but standing free as it
did, it commanded pretty nearly the entire Santa Ysobel district.
Massed acres of pink and white, the great orchards ran one into the
other without break for miles. The lanes between the trunks, diamonded
like a harlequin's robe in mathematical primness, were newly turned
furrows of rich, black soil, against which the gray or, sometimes,
whitewashed trunks of apricot, peach and plum trees gave contrast. Then
the cap of glorious blossoms, meeting overhead in the older orchards,
with a warm blue sky above and puffs of clouds that matched the pure
white of the plum trees' bloom.
The spot suited me well; we had left the town behind us; here
neither Dykeman's spotter nor any one he hired to help him could get
within listening distance, I dropped down on a bank; Worth and Barbara
disposed themselves, he sprawling his length, she sitting cross-legged,
just below him.
It wasn't easy to make a beginning. I knew it wouldn't do me any
particular good with Worth to dwell on his danger. But I finally
managed to lay fairly before them my case against Eddie Hughes, and I
must say that, as I told it, it sounded pretty strong.
I didn't want to put too much stress on having found my evidence in
the diaries; I knew Worth was as obstinate as a mule, and having said
that he would not stand for any one being prosecuted on their evidence,
he'd stick to it till the skies fell. I called on my memory of those
pages, now unfortunately ashes and not get-atable, and explained that
Worth's father hired Hughes directly after a jail-break at San Jose had
roused the whole country. Three of the four escapes were rounded up in
the course of a few days, but the fourthknown to us as Eddie
Hugheswas safe in Thomas Gilbert's garage, working there as
chauffeur, having been employed without recommendation on the strength
of what he could do.
And the low wages he was willing to take, Worth put in drily. Old
stuff, Jerry. I wasn't sure till you spilled it just now that my father
was wise to it. But I knew. What you getting at?
Just this. When I talked to Hughes that first night I came down
here with you, while we all supposed the death a suicide, he couldn't
keep his resentment against your father, his hatred of him, from
boiling over every time he was mentioned.
Get on, said Worth wearily. Father hired a jail-bird that came
cheap. Probably put it to himself that he was giving the man a chance
to go straight.
I glanced up. This was just about what I remembered Thomas Gilbert
to have said in the entry that told of the hiring of Eddie. Worth
nodded grimly at my startled face.
Eddie's gone straight since then, he filled in. That is, he's
kept out of jail, which is going straight for Eddie. He'd certainly
hate the man who held him as he's been held for five years. Not motive
enough for murder though.
There's more. The 1920 diary you gave me last night tells when and
why the extra bolts were put on the study doors. Your father had been
missing liquor and cigars and believed Hughes was taking them.
Pilfering! with an expression of distaste. That doesn't
Hold on! I stopped him. On February twelfth your father left
money, marked coin and paper money, as if by accident, on the top of
the liquor cabinet; not exposed, but dropped in under the edge of the
big ash tray so it might look as though it were forgottenin a sense,
How much? came the quick question.
Fifty one dollars. He looked around at me.
Just one dollar above the limit of petty larceny; a hundred cents
added to put it in the felony class that meant state's prison. So he
could have sent Eddie to the pen,eh? I guess you've got a motive
Weller I squirmed over my statement, blurting out finally.
Hughes didn't take the money.
Knew it was a trap, Worth's laugh was bitter. And hated the man
who cold-bloodedly set it to catch him. If he didn't take it, don't you
think he counted it?
Worth, I said sharply. Your father put those bolts onand
continued to find that he was being robbed. He was mad about it. Any
man would be. Say what you will, no one likes to find that persons in
his employ are stealing from him. The aggravating thing was that he
couldn't bring it home to Hughes, though he was sure of the fact.
So he went back to what he had known of Eddie when he hired him?
After profiting by it for five years, he was going to rake that up?
He was,a bit nettledand well within his rights to do so.
Three weeks before he was shot, he wrote that he'd started the inquiry.
There was no further mention of the matter in the book as it stands,
but don't you see that the result of the inquiry must have been on that
torn-out last page? Eddie's Saturday night alibi won't hold water. His
cannery girl, of course, will swear he was with her; but there's no
corroborating testimony. No one saw them together from nine till
Dead silence dropped on us, with the white clouds standing like
witnesses in the blue above, the wind bringing now and again on its
scented wings little faint echoes of the noise down at the clubhouse.
What more do you want? Both young faces were set against me, cold
and hostile. Here was motive, opportunity, a suspect capable of the
deed. My theory is that Mr. Gilbert came in on Hughes, caught him in
the act of stealing from the cabinet. Hughes jumped for the pistol over
the fireplace, got it, fired the fatal shot, and placed the dead man's
fingers about the butt of the gun. Then he picked up the diary lying on
the table, tore out the leaf about himself, and poked the rest of the
book down the drain pipe.
And the shot? Worth resisted me. Why didn't the shot bring Chung
on the run?
Because he couldn't hear it. Nobody'd hear it ten paces away.
That's what I was trying out this morning. You told me I'd fired once.
Well, I fired twice; once with the door shut, and neither you nor Chung
heard it; afterward, with the door openthe report you registered.
The blotterand it had been used on that last pageshowed no
words to strengthen this theory of yours, said Barbara as confidently
as though the little blue square had been clear print, instead of
broken blurring. Perhaps it was clear to her. I was glad I'd given it a
thorough reëxamination the night before.
I think it does, I struggled against the tide, manfully, buoying
myself up with the tracing of the blotter. Here's the word 'demanded,'
reasonably connected with the affair. The letters 'ller' may be the
last end of 'caller,' or possibly 'fuller'; I noticed Gilbert spoke in
a former entry of the bottle in the cabinet and Hughes snitching from
it, and used the word 'fuller.' Here's the word 'Avenue,' complete, and
Lizzie Watkins, Hughes' girl, lives on Myrtle Avenue.
The silence after that was fairly derisive. Worth broke it with an
And the fact of the bolted doors throws all that stuff out.
Well, I grunted, Barbara deduced the slipping of some bolts to
please you oncewhy can't she again?
Mr. Boyne, the girl spoke quickly, it wouldn't help you a bit to
be assured that Eddie Hughes could enter the study and leave it bolted
behind him when he went outhelp you to the truth, I mean. These facts
you've gathered are all wabbly; they'll never in the world fit in trim
and true. They're hardly facts at all. They're partial facts.
Wouldn't help me? I ejaculated. It would cinch a case against
him. We've got to have some one in jail, and that shortly. We're forced
Forced? Worth had sat up a little and reached far forward for a
stone that lay among the weeds down there. He spoke to me sidewise with
a challenging flicker of the eye. Barbara kept her lips tight shut.
I need a prisoner, trying to correct my error; then burst out, My
Lord, children! An arrest isn't going to hurt a man like Hughes,even
if he proves to be innocent. It's an old story to him. Barbara, you
said yourself that the man who stole the 1920 diary was the murderer.
But I didn't say Eddie Hughes stole it. Her tone was significant,
and it checked me. I couldn't remember what the deuce she had said that
night. There recurred to me her mimicry of a woman's voiceLaura
Bowman's as I believedto determine through Chung who Thomas Gilbert's
feminine visitor had been. Should that clue have been followed up
before I moved on Eddie Hughes? Even as I got to this point, I heard
Worth, punctuating his remarks with the whang of his rock on the bit of
twig he was pounding to pieces,
Boyne, I won't stand for any arrest being made except in all
sinceritythe person you honestly believe to be the criminal.
Does that mean you forbid me, in so many words, to proceed against
Hughes on what I've got?
It does, Worth said. You're not convinced yourself. Leave it
'Nough said! I jumped to my feet. If he wouldn't let me lay hands
on Hughesthere was nothing to do but go after the next one. You two
run along. Get your ferns. There's a man at the club here I have to
Barbara was afoot instantly; Worth lay looking at her for a moment,
then heaved himself up, shook his shoulders, and stood beside her.
Race you to the foot of the hill, she flashed up at him.
You're on, he chuckled. I'll give you a running startto the
tree down thereand beat you.
They were off. She ran like a deer. Worth got away as though he was
in earnest. He caught her up just at the finish; I couldn't see which
won; but they walked a few rods hand in hand.
Something swelled in my throat as I watched them away: life's
springtimeand the year's; boy and girl running, like kids that had
never known a fear or a mortal burden, over an earth greener than any
other, because its time of verdure is brief, dreaming already of the
golden-tan of California midsummer, under boughs where tree blooms made
all the air sweet.
For sake of the boy and the girl who didn't know enough to take care
of their own happiness, I wheeled and galloped in the direction of the
There is an institution knownand respectedin police circles as
the Holy Scare. I was determined to make use of it. I'd throw a holy
scare into a man I knew, and see what came out.
CHAPTER XX. AT THE COUNTRY CLUB
The country club, when I walked up its lawn, was noisy with the
hammering and jawing of its decoration committee. Out in the glass
belvedere, like superior goods on display, taking it easy while every
one else worked, I saw a group of young matrons of the smart set, Ina
Vandeman among them, drinking tea. The open play she was making at
Worth troubled me a little. He was the silent kind that keeps you
guessing. She'd landed him once; what was to hinder her being
successful with the same tacticswhatever they'd beena second time?
Then I saw Edwards' car was still out in the big, crescent driveway,
showing by the drift of twigs and petals on its running board that it
had been used to bring in tree blooms from his ranch; the man himself
crossed the veranda, and I hailed,
Any place inside where you and I could have a private word
II think so, Boyne, he hesitated. Come on back here.
He led me straight across the big assembly room which was being
trimmed for the ball. From the top of a stepladder, Skeet Thornhill
yelled to us,
Where you two going? Come back here, and get on the job.
She had a dozen noisy assistants. I waved at her from the further
door as we ducked. Strange that honest, sound little thing should be
own sister to the doll-faced vamp out there in the showcase.
Edwards made for a little writing room at the end of a corridor. I
followed his long, nervous stride. If the man had been goaded to the
shooting of Thomas Gilbert, it would have been an act of passion, and
by passion he would betray himself. When I had him alone, the door
shut, I went to it, told him we knew the death was murder, not suicide,
and that the crime had been committed early Saturday night. Before I
could connect him with it, he broke in on me,
Is Worth suspected?
Not by me, I said. And by God, not by you, Edwards! You know
better than that.
I held his eye, but read nothing beyond what might have been the
flare of quick anger for the boy's sake.
Who then? he said. Who's dared to lisp a word like that? That
hound Cummingschasing around Santa Ysobel with Bowmanis that where
it comes from? I told Worth the fellow was knifing him in the back. He
began to stride up and down the room. The boy's got other
friendsthat'll go their length for him. I'm with him till hell
freezes over. You can count on me
Exactly what I wanted to find out, I cut in, so significantly that
he whirled at the end of his beat and stared.
Meaning you are the one man who could clear Worth Gilbert of all
What do you know?
The big voice had come down to a mere whisper. Plenty of passion
nowa passion of terror. I spoke quickly.
We know you were in the study that night, with a companion, and I
piled out the worst of his affair, as I'd read it in the diaries,
Plain what brought you there. Quarrel? Motive? Don't need to look
Before I was done Jim Edwards had groped over to a chair and slumped
into it. A queer, toneless voice asked,
Worth sent you to mea detectivewith this?
No, I said. I'm acting on my own.
And against his will, it came back instantly.
What of it? I demanded. Are you the coward to take advantage of
his sense of honor?to let his generosity cost him his life?
His life. That landed. Watching, I saw the struggle that tore him.
He jumped up and started toward me; I hadn't much doubt that I was now
going to hear a plea for mercya confession, of sortsas he stopped,
dropped his head, and stood scowling at the floor.
Talk, I said. Spill it. Now's your time.
He raised his eyes to mine and spoke suddenly.
BoyneI have nothing to say.
And Worth Gilbert can hang and be damned to himis that it? I
took another step toward him. No, Edwards, that 'nothing to say' stuff
won't go in a court of law. It won't get you anywhere.
They'll never in the worldtry Worth forthat killing.
I'm expecting his arrest any hour.
A trial! Those cursed diaries of Tom's brought into courtMy God!
I believe if I'd known he'd written things like that, I could have
killed him for it!
I stared. He had forgotten me. But at this speech I mentally dropped
him for the moment, and fastened my suspicions on the woman who went
with him to the study.
All right, I said brutally. You didn't kill Thomas Gilbert. But
you took Mrs. Bowman to the study that night to have it out with him,
and get six pages from the 1916 book. She got 'emand you know what
she had to do to get 'em.
Hold on, Boyne! he said sternly. Don't you talk like that to me.
Well, I said, Mrs. Bowman was thereafter those diary leaves. I
heard Barbara Wallace imitate her voiceand Chung recognized the
imitation. You knowthat night at the studythe first night.
He took a bewildered moment or two for thought, then broke out,
It wasn't Laura's voice Barbara imitated. Did she say so?
No, but she imitated the voice of a woman who came weeping to get
those pages from the diary; and who else would that be? Who else would
You're off the track, Boyne, he drew a great, shuddering sigh of
relief. Tom was always playing the tyrant to those about him; no doubt
some woman did come crying for that stuffbut it wasn't Laura.
By Heaven! I exclaimed as I looked at him. You know who it was!
You recognized the voice that nightbut the woman isn't one you're
I'm interested in all women, so far as their getting a decent show
in the world is concerned, he maintained sturdily. I'd go as far as
any man to defend the good name of a womanwhether I thought much of
her or not.
This other woman, I argued, not any too keen on such a job myself,
hasn't she got some man to speak for her?
Edwards looked at me innocently.
She didn't have, then he began, and I finished for him,
But she has now. I've got it! As I jumped up and hurried to the
door, his eyes followed me in wonder. There I turned with, Stay right
where you are. I'll be back in a minute, ducked out into the hall and
signaled a passing messenger, then stepped quickly back into the
writing room and said, I've sent for Bronson Vandeman.
He settled deeper in his chair with,
I'll stay and see it out. If you get anything from Vandeman, I miss
CHAPTER XXI. A MATTER OF TASTE
Upon our few moments of strained waiting, Vandeman breezed in, full
of apologies for his shirtsleeves. I remember noticing the monogram
worked on the left silken arm, the fit and swing of immaculate
trousers, as smoothly modeled to the hip as a girl's gown; his ever
smiling face; the slightly exaggerated way he wiped fingers already
clean on a handkerchief pulled from a rear pocket. He was the only
unconstrained person in the room; he hardly looked surprised; his
glance was merely inquiring. Edwards apparently couldn't stand it. He
jumped up and began his characteristic pacing of one end of the
constricted place, jerking out as he walked,
Bronse, it's my fault that Boyne sent for you. He's working on this
trouble of Worth's, you know. He's had me in here, grilling me, shaking
me over hell; and something I saidGod knows whysent him after you.
Trouble of Worth's! Vandeman had been about to sit; his half bent
knees straightened out again; he stood beside the chair and spoke
irritably. Told you, Boyne, if you meddled with that coroner's verdict
you'd get your employer in the devil of a tight place. Nobody had any
reason for wanting Worth's father out of the wayexcept Worth,
himself. Frankly, I think you're wrong. But everything that I can
All right, I said, letting it fly at him. Where was your wife
from seven to half past nine on the evening of Gilbert's murder?
Back went his head; out flashed all the fine teeth; the man laughed
in my face.
Excuse me, Mr. Boyne. I understand that this is seriousnothing
funny about itbut really, you know, recalling the date, what you've
said is amusing. My dear man, he went on as I stared at him, please
remember, yourself, where Ina was on that particular evening.
The wedding and reception were done with by seven o'clock, I
objected. This ground was familiar with me. I'd been over it in
considering what opportunity Laura Bowman would have had for a call on
Thomas Gilbert at the required hour. If she could slip away for it, why
not Ina Vandeman? As though he read my thoughts and answered them,
Vandeman filled in,
A bride, you know, is dead certain to have at least half a dozen
persons with her every minute of the time until she leaves the house on
her wedding trip. Ina did, I'm sure. We'll just call her in, and she'll
give you their names.
He was up and starting to bring her; I stopped him.
We'll not bother with those names just now. I'd rather have youor
Mrs. Vandemantell me what you suppose would be the entry in Thomas
Gilbert's diary for May 31 and June 1, 1916. I have already identified
it as the date on which the Bowmans first moved into the Wallace house.
I think Mr. Edwards knows something more, but he's not so communicative
as you promise to be.
He looked as if he wished he hadn't been so liberal with his
assurances. I saw him glance half sulkily at Edwards, as he exclaimed,
But those diaries are burnedthey're burned. Worth told us the
other night that he burned them without reading.
At the words, Edwards stopped stock-still, something almost humorous
at the back of the suffering gaze he fastened on my face. I met it
steadily, then answered Vandeman,
Doesn't make any difference to anybody that those books are burned.
I'd read them; I know what was in them; and I know that three
leavessix pagescovering the entries of May 31 and June 1, 1916,
were cut out.
But what the deuce, Boyne? Vandeman wrinkled a smooth brow. What
would some leaves gone from Mr. Gilbert's diary four years ago have to
do with us here to-dayor even with his recent death?
Pardon me, I said shortly. The matter's not as old as that. True,
the stuff was written four years ago; it recorded happenings on those
dates; but the ink that was used in marking out a run-over on the next
following page was fresh. Anyhow, Mr. Vandeman, we know that a woman
came weeping to Mr. Gilbert on the very night of his death, only a
short time before his deathas nearly as medical science can determine
thatand we believe that she came after those leaves out of the diary,
and got themwhatever she had to do to secure them.
I was struck with the difference in the way these two men took
inquiry. Edwards had writhed, changed color, started to speak and
caught himself back, showed all the agony of a clumsy criminal who
dreads the probing that may give him away: temperament; the rotten spot
in his affairs. Vandeman, younger, not entangled with an unhappy
married woman, sat looking me in the eye, still smiling. The blow I had
to deal him would be harder. It concerned his bride; but he'd take
punishment well. I proceeded to let him have it.
I can see that Mr. Edwards has an idea what the entries on those
pages covered. He has inadvertently shown me that your wife was the
woman who came and got them from Thomas Gilbert on the night he was
At that he turned on Edwards, and Edwards answered the look with,
I didn't. On my honor, Bronse, I never mentioned your name or
Ina's. The Chinaman told him thatabout some woman coming that
Mr. Vandeman, I broke in, there's no use beating about the bush.
Chung recognized your wife's voice. She was the woman who came weeping
to get those diary leaves.
He took that with astonishing quietness, and,
Suppose you were shown that she wasn't out of her mother's house?
Wouldn't stop me. Allow that her alibi's perfect. Yet you men have
something. There's something here I ought to know.
Something you'll never find out from me, Jim Edwards' deep voice
was full of defiance. Bronse, I owe you an apology; but you can depend
on me to keep my mouth shut.
After a minute's consideration Vandeman said,
I don't know why we should any of us keep our mouths shut.
Jim Edwards looked utterly bewildered as the man sat there, thinking
the thing over, glanced up pleasantly at me and suggested,
Edwards has a little different slant on this from me. I don't know
why I shouldn't state to you exactly what happenedright there in
Gilbert's study on the date you mentioned.
Oh, there did something unusual happen; and you've just remembered
There did something unusual happen, and I've just remembered it,
aided thereto by your questions and Edwards' queer looks. Cheer up, old
man; we haven't all got your southern chivalry. From a plain,
commonsense point of view, what I have to tell is not in the least to
my wife's discredit. In fact, I'm proud of her all the way through.
Jim Edwards came suddenly and nervously to his feet, strode to the
further corner of the room and sat down at as great a distance from
Vandeman as its dimensions would permit. He turned his face to the
small window there, and through all that Vandeman said, kept up a
steady, maddening tattoo with his fingernails on the sill.
This has to do with what I told you the first night I ever talked
with you, Boyne. You threw doubt on Thomas Gilbert's death being
suicide. I gave as a reason for my belief that it was, a knowledge and
conviction that the man's mind was unhinged.
Edwards' tattoo at the window ceased for a minute. He stared,
startled, at the speaker, then went back to it, and Vandeman proceeded,
I'm not telling Jim Edwards anything he doesn't know, and what I
say to you, Boyne, that's discreditable to the dead, I can't avoid.
Here it is: on the evening of June first, 1916, I had dinner alone at
home. You'll find, if you look at an old calendar, that it falls on a
Sunday. Jim Edwards had dined informally at the Thornhills'. As he told
it to me later, they were all sitting out on the side porch after
dinner, and nobody noticed that Ina wasn't with them until they heard
cries coming from somewhere over in the direction of the Gilbert place.
At my house, I'd heard it, and we both ran for the garage, where the
screams were repeated again and again. We got there about the same
time, found the disturbance was in the study, and Edwards who was ahead
of me rushed up and hammered on its door.
Again Jim Edwards stopped the nervous drumming of his fingers on the
window-sill while he stared at the younger man as at some prodigy of
nature. Finally he seemed unable to hold in any longer.
Hammered on the door! he repeated. If you're going to turn out
the whole damn' thing to Boyne, tell it straight; door was open; we
couldn't have heard a yip out of Ina if it hadn't been. Tom there in
full sight, sitting in his desk chair, cool as a cucumber, letting her
I'm telling this, Vandeman snapped. Gilbert looked to me like an
insane man. Jim, you're crazy as he was, to say anything else. Never
supposed for a minute you thought otherwisethat poor girl there,
dazed with fright, backed as far away from him as she could get, hair
flying, eyes wild.
I looked from one to the other. What Edwards had said of the cold,
contemptuous old man; what Vandeman told of the screaming girl; no
answer to such a proposition of course but an attempted frame-up. To
let the bridegroom get by would best serve my purpose.
All right, gentlemen, I said. And now could you tell me what
action you took, on this state of affairs?
Action? Vandeman gave me an uneasy look. What was there to do?
Told you I thought the man was crazy.
And you, Edwards?
Let it go as Bronse says. I cut back to Mrs. Thornhill's, scouting
to see what the chance was for getting Ina in without the family
That's right, Vandeman said. I stayed to fetch her. She was fine.
To the last, she let Gilbert save his faceactually send her home as
though she were the one to blame. Right then I knew I loved herwanted
her for my wife. On the way home, I asked her and was accepted.
In spite of the fact that she was engaged to Worth Gilbert?
Boyne, he said impatiently, what's the matter with you? Haven't I
made you understand what happened there at the study? She had to break
off with the son of a man like that. Ina Thornhill couldn't marry into
such a breed.
Slow up, Vandeman! Edwards' tone was soft, but when I looked at
him, I saw a tawny spark in his black eyes. Vandeman fronted him with
the flamboyant embroidered monogram on his shirt sleeve, the carefully
careless tie, the utterly good clothes, and, most of all, at the
moment, the smug satisfaction in his face of social and human security.
I thought of what that Frenchman says about there being nothing so
enjoyable to us as the troubles of our friends. Needn't think you can
put it all over the boy when he's not here to defend himselfjump on
him because he's down! Tell that your wife discarded himcast him
offfor disgraceful reasons! Damnitall! You and I both heard Tom
giving her her orders to break with his son, she sniffling and hunting
hairpins over the floor and promising that she would.
Cut it out! yelled Vandeman, as though some one had pinched him.
I saw nothing of the sort. I heard nothing of the sort. Neither did
I think they had forgotten me, and that they remembered at about the
same instant that they were talking before a detective. They both
turned, mum and startled looking, Edwards to his window, Vandeman to a
nervous brushing of his trouser edges, from which he looked up,
What next, Boyne? Jim's excited; but you understand that there's no
animus; and my wife and I are entirely at your disposal in this
Thank you, I said.
Would you like to talk to her?
Hereor let the lady say.
Vandeman gave me a queer look and went out. When he was gone, I
found Jim Edwards scrabbling for his hat where it had dropped over
behind the desk. I put my back against the door and asked,
Is Bronson Vandeman a fatuous fool; or does he take me for one?
Some men defend their women one way, and some another. Let me out
of this, Boyne, before that girl gets here.
She won't come in a hurry, I smiled. Her husband's pretty free
with his promises; but more than likely I'll have to go after her if I
Well? he looked at me uncomfortably.
Blackmail's a crime, you know, Edwards. A woman capable of it,
might be capable of murder.
You've got the wrong word there, Boyne. This wasn't exactly
The girlI never liked hernever thought she was good enough for
Worthbut she was engaged to him, andin this I think she was
fighting for her hand.
He searched my face and went on cautiously,
You read the diaries. They must have had complaints of her.
They had, I assented.
Anything about money?
I shook my head.
You said there were two entries gone; the first would have told
you, I supposeBefore we go further, Boyne, let me make a little
explanation to youfor the girl's sake.
Shoot, I said.
It was this way, he sighed. Thornhill, Ina's father, made fifteen
or twenty thousand a year I would say, and the family lived it up. He
had a stroke and died in a week's time. Left Mrs. Thornhill with her
daughters, her big house, her fine social positionand mighty little
to keep it up on. Ina is the eldest. She got the worst of it, because
at the first of her being a young lady she was used to having all the
money she wanted to spend. The twins were right on her heels; the thing
for her to do was to make a good marriage, and make it quick. But she
got engaged to Worth; then he went to France. There you were. He might
never come back. Tom always hated her; watched her like a hawk; got
onto something sheabout
Out with it, I said. What? Come down to cases.
Money. He uttered the one word and stood silent.
I made a long shot, with,
Mr. Gilbert found she'd been getting money from other men
Borrowing, Boynethey used the word 'borrowed,' Edwards put in.
It was always Tom's way to summon people as though he had a little
private judgment bar, haul them up and lecture them; I suppose he
thought he had a special license in her case.
And she went prepared to frame him and bluff him to a standoff. Is
that the way you saw it?
My opinionwhat I might think, said Mr. James Edwards of
Sunnyvale ranch, wouldn't be testimony in a court of law. You don't
want it, Boyne.
Maybe not, I grunted. Perhaps I could make as good a guess as you
could at what young Mrs. Vandeman's capable of; a dolly face, and
behind it the courage of hell.
Boyne, he said, as I left the door free to him, quit making war
Can't, I grinned and waved him on out. The detective business
would be a total loss without 'em.
CHAPTER XXII. A DINNER INVITATION
Look what's after you, man, Skeet warned me from her lofty perch
as I went out through the big room in quest of Ina Vandeman. Better
you stay here. I gif you a yob. Lots saferonly run the risk of
getting your neck broken.
I grinned up into her jolly, freckled face, and waited for the woman
who came toward me with that elastic, swinging movement of hers, the
well-opened eyes studying me, keeping all their secrets behind them.
Mr. Boyne, a hand on my arm guided me to a side door; we stepped
together out on to a small balcony that led to the lawn. My husband
brought me your message. Nobody over by the tennis court; let's go and
walk up and down there.
Her fingers remained on my sleeve as we moved off; she emphasized
her points from time to time by a slight pressure.
Such a relief to have a man like you in charge of this
investigation. She gave me an intimate smile; tall as she was, her
face was almost on a level with my own, yet I still found her eyes
unreadable, none of those quick tremors under the skin that register
the emotions of excitable humanity. She remained a handsome, perfectly
groomed, and entirely unruffled young woman.
Thank you, was all I said.
Mr. Vandeman and I understand how very, very serious this is. Of
course, now, neighbors and intimates of Mr. Gilbert are under
inspection. Everybody's private affairs are liable to be turned out.
We've all got to take our medicine. No use feeling personal
Fine; but she'd have done better to keep her hands off me. An old
police detective knows too much of the class of women who use that
lever. I looked at them now, white, delicate, many-ringed, much more
expressive than her face, and I thought them capable of anything.
Here are the names you'll want, she fumbled in the girdle of her
gown, brought out a paper and passed it over. These are the ones who
stayed after the reception, went up to my room with me, and helped me
changeor rather, hindered me.
The ones, I didn't open the paper yet, just looked at her across
it, who were with you all the time from the reception till you left
the house for San Francisco?
It's like this, again she smiled at me, the five whose names are
on that paper might any one of them have been in and out of my room
during the time. I can't say as to that. But they can swear that
I wasn't out of the roombecause I wasn't dressed. As soon as I
changed from my wedding gown to my traveling suit, I went down stairs
and we were all together till we drove to San Francisco and supper at
Tait's, where I had the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Boyne.
I understand, I said. They could all speak for youbut you
couldn't speak for them. Then I opened and looked. Some list! The
social and financial elect of Santa Ysobel: bankers' ladies; prune
kings' daughters; persons you couldn't doubt, or buy. But at the top of
all was Laura Bowman's name.
We had halted for the turn at the end of the court. I held the paper
How about this one? Do you think she was in the room all the time?
Or have you any recollection?
The bride moved a little closer and spoke low.
Laura and the doctor were in the middle of one of their grand rows.
She's a bunch of temperament. Mamma was ill; the girls were having to
start out with only Laura for chaperone; she said something about going
somewhere, and it wouldn't take her longshe'd be back in plenty of
time. But whether she went or notMr. Boyne, you don't want us to tell
you our speculations and guesses? That wouldn't be fair, would it?
It wouldn't hurt anything, I countered. I'll only make use of
what can be proven. Anything you say is safe with me.
Well, then, of course you know all about the situation between
Laura and Jim Edwards. Laura was determined she wouldn't go up to San
Francisco with her husbandor if she did, he must drive her back the
same night. She wouldn't even leave our house to get her things from
home; the doctor, poor man, packed some sort of bag for her and brought
it over. When he came back with it, she wasn't to be found; and she
never did appear until we were getting into the machine.
I listened, glancing anxiously toward the skyline of that little
hill over which Worth and Barbara might be expected to appear almost
any moment now. Then we made the turn at the end of the court, and my
view of it was cut off.
Laura and Jimthey're the ones this is going to be hard on. I do
feel sorry for them. She's always been a problem to her family and
friends. A great deal's been overlooked. Everybody likes Jim; buthe's
a southerner; intrigue comes natural to them.
Five minutes before I had been listening to Edwards' pitiful defense
of this girl; I recalled his scouting for a chance to get her home
unseen and save her standing with her family. That could be classed as
intrigue, too, I suppose. We were strolling slowly toward the
I don't give Dr. Bowman much, I said deliberately. A quick look
came my way, and,
Mr. Gilbert was greatly attached to him. Everybody's always
believed that only Mr. Gilbert's influence held that match together.
Now he's dead, and Laura's freed from some sort of control he seemed to
have over her, of course she hopes and expects she'll be able to
divorce the doctor in peace and marry Jim.
No movement of the sort yet?
She stopped and faced round toward me.
Dr. Bowmanhe's our family physician, you knowis trying for a
very fine position away from here, in an exclusive sanitarium. Divorce
proceedings coming now would ruin his chances. But I don't know how
long he can persuade Laura to hold off. She's in a strange mood; I
can't make her out, myself. She disliked Gilbert; yet his death seems
to have upset her frightfully.
You say she didn't like Mr. Gilbert?
They hated each other. Buthe was so peculiarof course that
wasn't strange. Many people detested him. Bron never did. He always
forgave him everything because he said he was insane. Bron told you my
experiencethe one that made me break with Worth?
She looked at me, a level look; no shifting of color, no flutter of
eyelid or throat. We were at the clubhouse steps.
Here comes the boy himself, I warned as Worth and Barbara, their
arms full of ferns, rounded the turn from the little dip at the side of
the grounds where the stream went through. We stood and waited for
You two, Ina spoke quickly to them. Mr. Boyne's just promised to
come over to dinner to-morrow night. Her glance asked me to accept the
fib and the invitation. I want both of you.
I'm going to be at your house anyhow, Ina, Barbara said, working
with Skeet painting those big banners they've tacked up out in your
court. You'll have to feed us; but we'll be pretty messy. I don't know
about a dinner party.
It isn't, Ina protested, smiling. It's just what you
saidfeeding you. Nobody there besides yourself and Skeet but Mr.
Boyne and Worthif he'll come.
I have to go up to San Francisco to-morrow, said Worth.
But you'll be back by dinner time? Ina added quickly.
If I make it at all.
Well, you can come just as you are, if you get in at the last
minute, she said, and he and Barbara went on to carry their ferns in.
When they were out of hearing, she turned and floored me with,
Mr. Vandeman has forbidden me to say this to you, but I'm going to
speak. If Worth doesn't have to be told about meand his fatherI'd
If the missing leaves of the diary are ever found, I came up
slowly, he'd probably know then. I watched her as I said it. What a
strange look of satisfaction in the little curves about her mouth as
she spoke next:
Those leaves will never be found, Mr. Boyne. I burned them. Mr.
Gilbert presented them to me as a wedding gift. He was insane, but,
intending to take his own life, I think even his strangely warped
conscience refused to let a lying record stand against an innocent girl
who had never done him any harm.
We stood silent a moment, then she looked round at me brightly with,
You're coming to dinner to-morrow night? So glad to have you. At
seven o'clock. Wellif this is all, then? and at my nod, she went up
the steps, turning at the side door to smile and wave at me.
What a woman! I could but admire her nerve. If her alibi proved
copper-fastened, as something told me it would, I had no more hope of
bringing home the murder of Thomas Gilbert to Mrs. Bronson Vandeman of
Santa Ysobel than I had of readjusting the stars in their courses!
CHAPTER XXIII. A BIT OF SILK
I must admit that when Worth and Barbara walked up and found me
talking to Ina Vandeman, I felt caught dead to rights. The girl gave me
one long, steady look. I was afraid of Barbara Wallace's eyes. Then and
there I relinquished all idea of having her help in this inquiry. She
could have done it much better than I, attracted less attentionbut no
matter. The awkward moment went by, however; I heaved a sigh of relief
as they carried their ferns on into the clubhouse, and Mrs. Vandeman
left me with gracious good-bys.
I had the luck to cover my first inquiry by getting a lift into town
from Mrs. Ormsby, young wife of the president of the First National.
Alone with me in her little electric, she answered every question I
cared to put, and said she would be careful to speak to no one of the
matter. Three others I caught on the wing, as it were, busy at blossom
festival affairs; the fête only one day off now, things were moving
fast. I glimpsed Dr. Bowman down town and thought he rather carefully
avoided seeing me. His wife was taking no part; the word went that she
was not able; but when I called at what had been the Wallace and was
now the Bowman home, I found the front door open and two ladies in the
One of them, Laura Bowman herself, came flying out to meet meor
rather, it seemed, to stop me, with a face of dismay.
My mother's here, Mr. Boyne! Her hand was clammy cold; she'd been
warned of me and my errand. I don't want to take you through that
I stood passive, and let her do the saying.
Around here, she faltered. We can go in at the side door.
We skirted the house by a narrow walk; she was leading the way by
this other entrance, when, spread out over its low step, blocking our
progress, I saw a small Japanese woman ripping up a satin dress.
Let us pass, Oomie.
Wait. We can talk as well here, I checked her. We moved on a few
paces, out of earshot of the girl; but before I could put my questions,
she began with a sort of shattered vehemence to protest that Thomas
Gilbert's death was suicide.
It was, Mr. Boyne. Anybody who knew the scourge Thomas had been to
those he must have loved in his queer, distorted way, and any one who
loved them, could believe he might take his own life.
You speak freely, Mrs. Bowman, I said. Then you hated the man?
Oh, I did! For years past I've never heard of a death without
wondering that God took other human beings and let him live. Now that
he's killed himself, it seems dreadful to me that suspicion should be
Mrs. Bowman, I interrupted. Thomas Gilbert's death was murder.
All persons who could have had motive or might have had opportunity to
kill him will be under suspicion till the investigation clears them of
it. I'm now ascertaining the whereabouts of Ina Vandeman that evening.
A shudder went through her; she looked at me feelingly, twisting her
hands together in the way I remembered. Despite her distress, she was
very simple and accessible. She gave me no resistance, admitted her
absence from the Thornhill house at about the time the party was ready
to start for San FranciscoEdwards, of course. I got nothing new here.
She seemed thankful enough to go into the house when I released her.
I lingered a moment to have a word with the little Japanese woman on
How long you work this place?
Two hours af-noon, every day, ducking and giggling like a
Just a piece-worker, not a regular servant.
Pretty dress, I touched the satin on the step. Whose?
Mine. Grinning, she spread a breadth out over her knees. Lady no
like any more. Mine. It was a peculiar shade of peacock blue; unless I
was mistaken, the one Mrs. Bowman had worn that night at Tait's.
Hellowhat's this? I bent to examine a small hole in the hem of
that breadth Oomie was so delightedly smoothing.
O-o-o-o! I think may-may burn'm. Not like any more.
There was a small round hole. Just so a cigarette might have
searedor a bullet.
Not can use, I said to Oomie, indicating the injured bit. Cut
that off. Give me. And I laid a silver dollar on the step.
Giggling, the little brown woman snipped out the bit of hem and
handed it to me. I glanced up from tucking it into my pocket, and saw
Laura Bowman's white face staring at me through the glass of that side
A suggestive lead, certainly; but it's my way to follow one lead at
a time: I went on to the Thornhill place.
Everybody there would know my errand; for though, with taste I could
but admire, Ina had put no name of any member of the family on her
list, she of course expected me to call on them, and would never have
let her sisters leave the country club without a warning.
The three were just taking their hats off in the hall when I
arrived. I did my questioning there, not troubling to take them
separately. Cora and Ernestine, a well bred pair of Inas, without her
pep, perhaps a shade less good looking, made their replies with none of
the usual flutter of feminine curiosity and excitement, then went on in
the living room. Skeet of course was as practical and brief as a
I don't know whether she's fit to see you, she said when I spoke
of her mother. And on the instant, Ina Vandeman's clear, high voice
called down the stair,
Bring Mr. Boyne upnow.
Skeet stepped aside for me to pass. I suppose I looked as startled
as I felt, for on my way to the house, I had seen Mrs. Vandeman drive
past toward town. I stood there at a loss, and finally said aimlessly,
Your sister thinks it's all right?
My sister? Skeet wrinkled her brows at me, and glanced to where
the twins were in sight in the living room. That was mother herself
who called you.
All the way up the stairs, Skeet following, I was trying to swing my
rather heavy wits around to take advantage of this new development. So
far, Ina Vandeman's voice, imitated by Barbara Wallace, and recognized
by Chung and Jim Edwards, possibly by Worth, had been my lead in this
direction. If more than one woman spoke in that voicewhere would it
I'd got no adjustment before I was ushered into a large dim room,
and confronted by a figure in a reclining chair by the window. Here, in
spite of years and illness, were the same good looks and thoroughbred
courage that seemed to characterize the women of this family. Mrs.
Thornhill greeted me in Ina Vandeman's very tones, a little
high-pitched for real sweetness, full of a dominating quality, and she
showed a composure I had not expected. To Skeet, standing by, watching
to see that her mother didn't overdo in talking to me, she said,
Dear, go down stairs. Jane's left her dinner on the range and gone
to the grocery. You look after it while she's away.
When we were alone, she lay back in her chair, eyes closed, or
seemingly so, and made her statement. She'd been in her daughter's room
only twice between the reception and that daughter's going away.
But the room was full of other people, a glimmer between lashes.
I could give you the names of those others.
Thank you, I said. Mrs. Vandeman has already done that. I've seen
You've seen themall? a long, furtively drawn breath. Then her
eyes flashed open and fixed themselves on me. Relief was there, yet
something stricken, as they traveled over me from my gray thatch to my
Now, Mrs. Thornhill, I said, aside from those two visits to your
daughter's room, where were you that evening?
A slow flush crept into her thin cheeks. The unreadable eyes that
were traveling over Jerry Boyne stopped suddenly and held him with a
I understood it was my daughter's movements on that evening you
wished to trace, Mr. Boyne, she said slowly. It would be difficult to
trace mine. Really, I had so much on my hands with the reception and
inefficient help She broke off, her eyes never leaving my own, even
as she added smoothly, It would be very, very difficult.
There is an effect in class almost like the distinction of race.
These women spoke a baffling language; their psychology was hard for
me. If there was something hid up amongst them that ought to be
uncovered by diplomacy and delicate indirection, it would take a
smarter man than the one who stood in my number tens to do it.
Mrs. Thornhill, I said, you did leave the house. You went to Mr.
Gilbert's study. The shot that killed him left you a nervous wreck, so
that you can't hear a tire blow-out without reënacting in your mind the
scene of that murder. You'll talk now.
You think I will? Talk to you? very low and quiet, eyes once more
Why not? It's got to come; here in your own home, with meor I'll
have to put you where you'll be forced to answer questions.
Oh, you threaten me, do you? Her eyes flashed open, and looked at
me, hard as flint. Very well. I'll answer no questions as to what
happened on the evening of Thomas Gilbert's death, except in the
presence of Worth Gilbert, his son.
My retirement down the Thornhill stairs, made with such dignity as I
could muster, was in fact, a panic flight. Halfway, Cora Thornhill all
but finished me by looking out from the living room, and calling in Ina
Erne, show Mr. Boyne out, won't you?
Ernestine completed the job when she answeredin Ina Vandeman's
Yes, dear; I will. It was only the scraps of me that she swept out
through the front door.
I stood on the porch and mopped my brow. Across, there at the
Gilbert place was Worth himself, charging around the grounds with
Vandeman and a lot of other decorators, pruning shears in hand, going
for a thicket of bamboos that shut off the vegetable garden. At one
side Barbara stood alone, looking, it seemed to me, rather depressed. I
made for her. She met me with,
I know what you've been doing. Skeet came to me about it while Ina
was phoning home from the country club.
Wellshe should worry! I've just finished with her list. Got an
She would have, Barbara said listlessly. She wasn't at the study
Huh! I worked on your tip that she was.
Barbara had pulled off the little stitched hat she wore; yet the
deep flush on her cheeks was neither from sun nor an afternoon's hard
work. It, and the quick straightening of her figure, the lift of her
chin, had to do with me and my activities.
Mr. Boyne, the black eyes came around to me with a flash, do you
suspect me of trying to pay off a spite on Ina Vandeman?
Good Lordno! I exploded. And anyhow, I've just found that what
you imitated and Chung recognized, might as well have been the mother's
voice as the daughter's.
Yes, she assented. Any one of the familyunder stress of
emotion. Then suddenly, And why do I tell you that? You'll not get
from it what I do. I ought never to have mixed up my kind of mental
work with other people's. I'd promised my own soul that I would never
make another deduction. Then Worth came and asked methat night at
Tait's. I might say now that I never will any more.... She broke off,
storm in her eyes and in her voice as she finished, But I suppose if
he wanted me to againI'd make a little fool of myself for his
amusement just as I did this time and have done all these other times!
I'll not ask anything more of you, Barbara, I said to her hastily,
confused and abashed before the glimpse she'd given me of her heart.
Except that I beg you to stay good friends with Cummings. That man
hates Worth. If you turned him down nowsay, for the ball, or anything
like thathe'd be twice as hard for us to handle. Keep him a passive
enemy instead of an active one, as long as he seems to find it
necessary to hang around Santa Ysobel.
You know what's holding Mr. Cummings here, don't you? She glanced
somberly past the bamboo gatherers to where we saw a gray corner of the
study with its pink ivy geranium blossoms atop. Mr. Cummings is held
here by two steel boltsthe bolts on those study doors. Until he finds
how they can be moved through an inch of plankinghe'll not leave
She'd put it in a nutshell. And I couldn't let him beat me to it.
I'd got to get the jump on him.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE MAGNET
I had all set for next morning: my roadster at Capehart's for
repair, old Bill tipped off that I didn't want any one but Eddie Hughes
to work on it; and to add to my satisfaction, there arrived in my daily
grist from the office, the report that they had Skeels in jail at
Well, Jerry, old socks, Worth hailed my news as I followed out to
his car where he was starting for San Francisco, and going to drop me
at the Capehart garage, Some luck! If Skeels is in jail at Tiajuana,
and what I'm after to-day turns out right, we may have both ends of the
Pink-and-white were the miles of orchards surrounding Santa Ysobel,
pink-and-white nearly all the dooryards, every tree its own little
carnival of bloom with bees for guests. Already the streets were full
of life, double the usual traffic. As we neared the Capehart cottage,
on its quiet side street about half a block from the garage, there was
Barbara under the apple boughs at the gate, talking to some man whose
back was to us. She bowed; I answered with a wave toward the garage;
but Worth scooted us past without, I thought, once glancing her way,
sent the roadster across Main where he should have stopped and let me
out, went on and into the highway at a clip which rocked us.
Was that Cummings? holding my hat on. No answer that I could hear,
while we made speed toward San Francisco. And still no word was spoken
until we had outraged the sensibilities of all whose bad luck it was to
meet us, those whom we passed going at a more reasonable pace, scared a
team of work horses into the ditch, and settled down to a steady whiz.
We were getting away from Santa Ysobel a good deal further and a
good deal faster than I felt I could afford. I took a chance and
remarked, to nobody in particular, and in a loud voice,
I asked Barbara not to make a break with Cummings; it would be
awkward for us now if she did.
Break? Worth gave me back one of my words.
Yes. I was afraid she might throw him down for the carnival ball.
Without comment or reply, he slowed gently for the big turn where
the Medlow road comes in, swept a handsome circle and headed back. Then
Thought I'd show you what the little boat could do under my
management. Eddie had her in fair shape, but I've tuned her up a notch
or two since.
I responded with proper enthusiasm, and would have been perfectly
willing to be let out at Main Street. But he turned the corner there,
ran on to the garage, jumped out and followed me in. Bill, selling some
used tires to a customer in the office, nodded and let us go past to
where my machine stood. We heard voices back in the repair shop and a
hum of swift whirring shafts and pulleys. Worth kept with me. It
embarrassed memade me nervous. It was as though he had some notion of
my purpose there. Hughes, at his lathe, caught sight of us and growled
over his shoulder,
Yer machine's ready.
This wouldn't do. I stepped to the door, with,
Fixed the radiator, did you?
Sure. Whaddye think? Hughes was at work on something for a girl;
she perched at one end of his bench, swinging her feet. Worth, behind
me, touched my shoulder, and I saw that the girl over there was Barbara
She looked up at us and smiled. The sun slanting through dirt
covered windows, made color effects on her silken black hair. Eddie
gave us another scowl and went on with his work.
Hello, Bobs, Worth's greeting was casual. Thought I'd stop and
tell you I was on my wayyou know. A glance of understanding passed
between them. Better come along?
I'd like to, she smiled. You'll be back by dinner time. If it
wasn't the last day, and I hadn't promised
Neither of them in any hurry.
Hughes, I said, there's another thing needs doing on that car of
Can't do nothing at all till I finish her job, he shrugged me off.
All right, and I stepped through into the grassy back yard, put a
smoke in my face, and began walking up and down, my glance, each time I
turned, encountering that queer bunch inside: Worth, hands in pockets;
the chauffeur he had dischargedand that I was waiting to get for
murderbending at his vise; Barbara's shining dark head close to the
tousled unkemptness of his poll, as she explained to him the pulley
arrangement needed to raise and anchor the banner she and Skeet were
Suddenly, at the far end of my beat, I was brought up by a little
outcry and stir. As I wheeled toward the door, I saw Bobs and Worth in
it, apparently wrestling over something. Laughing, crying, she hung to
his wrist with one hand, the other covering one of her eyes.
Let me look! he demanded. I won't touch it, if you don't want me
to. You have got something in there, Bobs.
But when she reluctantly gave him his chance, he treacherously went
for her with a corner of his handkerchief in the traditional way, and
she backed off, uttering a cry that fetched Hughes around from the
lathe, roaring at Worth, above the noise of the machinery,
What's the matter with her?
Steel splinterin her eye, Worth shouted.
With a quick oath, the belt pole was thrown to stop the lathe; down
the length of the shop to the scrap heap of odds and ends at the rear
Hughes raced, returning with a bit of metal in his hand. Barbara was
backed against the bench, her eyes shut, and tears had begun to flow
from under the lids.
Now, Miss Barbie, Hughes remonstrated. You let me at that thing.
This'll pull it out and never touch you. I saw it was a horse-shoe
magnet he carried.
Do you think it will?
Sure, and Eddie approached the magnet to her face. It won't hurt
you a-tall. She'll begin to pull before she even touches. Now, steady.
Want to come as near contact as I can. Don't jump.... Hell!
Barbara had sprung away from him. But for Worth's quick arm, she
would have been into the machines.
No! she said between locked teeth, tears on her cheeks, I can't
Why, Barbara! I said, astonished; and poor Eddie almost blubbered
as he begged,
Aw, come on, Miss Barbie. It was my fault in the first
placeleavin' that damned lathe run. Yuh got to let me
But if it doesn't work?
Sure it'll work. Would I offer to use it for you if I hadn't tried
it out lots o' timesto pull splinters and
Give me that magnet, Worth reached the long arm of authority, got
what he wanted, shouldered Hughes aside, and took hold of the girl
with, Quit being a little fool, Barbara. That thing's only caught in
your lashes now. Let it get in against the eyeball and you'll have
trouble. Hold still.
The command was not needed. Without a word, Barbara raised her face,
put her hands behind her and waited.
Delicately, Worth caught the dark fringe of the closed eye, turned
back the lid so that he could see just what he was at, brought the
horse-shoe almost in touch, then drew it awayand there was the tiny
steel splinter that could have cost her sight, clinging to the magnet's
Here you are, he smiled. Wasn't that enough to call you names
You didn't call me names, dabbing away with a small handkerchief.
You told me to quit being a little fool. Maybe I will. How would you
Apparently Hughes did not resent Barbara's refusing his help and
accepting Worth's. He went back to his vise; the two others strolled
together through the doorway into the garage, talking there for a
moment in quick, low tones; then Barbara returned to perch on the end
of Eddie's bench, play with the magnet and watch him at work. I lit up
again and stepped out.
I could see Barbara gather some nails, screws and loose pieces of
iron, hold a bit of board over them, and trail the magnet back and
forth along its top. Though a half inch of wood intervened, the metal
trash on the bench followed the magnet to and fro. I got nothing out of
that except that Barbara was still a child, playing like a child, till
I looked up suddenly to find that she had ceased the play, brought her
feet up to curl them under her in the familiar Buddha pose, while the
busy hands were dropped and folded before her. Her rebellion of
yesterday eveningand now her taking up the concentration unaskedshe
wouldn't want me to notice what she was doing; I ducked out of sight. I
had walked up and down that yard a half dozen times more, when over me
with a rush came the significance of those moving bits of iron,
trailing a magnet on the other side of a board. Three long steps took
me to the door.
Hughes, I shouted, I'm taking my machine now. Be back directly.
The man grunted without turning around. I had forgotten Barbara, but
as I was climbing into the roadster, I heard her jump to the floor and
start after me.
Mr. Boyne! Wait! Mr. Boyne!
I checked and sat grinning as she came up, the magnet in her hand. I
reached for it.
Give me that, I whispered. Want to go along and see me use it?
Nono in hushed protest. You're making a mistake, Mr. Boyne.
Mistake? I saw what you did in there. Said you never would
againthen went right to it! You sure got something this time!
Girlgirl! You've turned the trick!
Oh, no! You mustn't take it like that, Mr. Boyne. This is
nothingas it stands. Just a single unrelated fact that I used with
others to concentrate on. Wait. Do waittill Worth comes back,
All right. I felt that our voices were getting loud, that we'd
talked here too long. No use of flushing the game before I was loaded.
First thing to do is to verify this. I felt good all over.
Yes, of course, she smiled faintly. You would want to do that.
And she climbed in beside me.
I drove so fast that Barbara had no chance to question me, though
she did find openings for remonstrating at my speed. I dashed into the
driveway of the Gilbert place and came to an abrupt stop at the doors
of the garage. And right away I bumped up against my first check. I
gripped the magnet, raced to the study door with it, she following more
slowly to watch while I passed it along the wooden panel where the bolt
ran on the other side; and nothing doing!
Again she followed as I ran around to the outside door, opened up
and tried it on the bare bolt itself; no stir. While she sat in the
desk chair at that central table, her elbows on its top, her hands
lightly clasped, the chin dropped in interlaced fingers, following my
movements with very little interest, I puffed and worked, opened a door
and tried to move the bolt when it wasn't in the socket, and felt like
cursing in disappointment.
A little oil I grumbled, more to myself than to her, and hurried
to the garage workbench for the can that would certainly be there. It
was, but I didn't touch it. What I did lean over and clutch from where
they lay tossed in carelessly among rubbish and old spare parts, were
three more magnets exactly the same as the one we had brought from
Capehart's. I sprinted back with them.
Barbara, I called in an undertone. Come here. Look.
Held side by side, the four, working as one, moved the bolts as well
as fingers could have done, and through more than an inch of hard wood.
Yes, she looked at it; but that doesn't prove Eddie Hughes the
No? her opposition began to get on my nerves. I'm afraid that'll
be a matter for twelve good men and true to settle. She stood silent,
and I added, I know now whose shadow I saw on the broken panel of that
door there, the first Sunday night.
Oh, it was Eddie's, she agreed rather unexpectedly.
And he came to steal the 1920 diary, I supplied.
He came to get a drink from the cellaret, and a cigar from the
case. That's the use he made of his power to move these bolts.
Until the Saturday night when he killed his employer, the man he
hated, and left things so the crime would pass as suicide. Barbara, are
you just plain perverse?
Instead of answering, she went back to the table, got the
contraption Hughes had made for her, and started as if to leave me. On
the threshold, she hesitated.
I don't suppose there's anything I can say or do to change your
mind, her tone was inert, drained. I know that Eddie is innocent of
this. But you don't want to listen to deductions.
Later, I said to her, briskly. It'll keep. I've something to do
What? You promised Worth to make no move against Eddie Hughes until
you had his permission. She seemed to think that settled it. I let her
keep the idea.
Run along, Barbara, I said, get to your paint daubing. I'll
forgive you everything for deducingwell, discovering, if you like
that betterabout these bolts and magnets.
Skeet burst from the kitchen door of the Thornhill house, caught
sight of us, shouted something unintelligible, and came racing through
the grounds toward Vandeman's.
Been waiting for me long, angel? she called, as Barbara moved up
with a lagging step, then, waving two pairs of overalls, Got pants for
both of us, honey. The paints and brushes are over there. We'll make
short work of that old banner, now.
Promised Worth, had I? But the situation was changed since then. No
man of sense could object to my moving on what I had now. I locked the
study door, went back to my roadster, and headed her uptown.
CHAPTER XXV. AN ARREST
It was a thankful if not a joyous Jerry Boyne who crossed the front
pergola of the Vandeman bungalow that evening in the wake of Worth
Gilbert, bound for an informal dinner. The tall, unconscious lad who
stepped ahead of me had been made safe in spite of himself. This weight
off my mind, I felt kindly to the whole world, to the man under whose
dining table we were to stretch our legs, whose embarrassing private
affairs I had uncovered. He'd taken it wellseconding his wife's
dinner invitation, meeting my eye frankly whenever we encountered. My
mood was expansive. When Vandeman himself opened the door to us,
explaining that he was his own butler for the day, I saw him quite
other than he had ever appeared to me.
For one thing, here in his own houseand this was the first time I
had ever been in ityou got the man with his proper background, his
suitable atmosphere. The handsome living room into which he took us,
showed many old pieces of mahogany, and some of the finest oriental
stuff I ever saw; books in cases, sets of standard writers, such as
people of culture bought thirty or forty years ago, some family
pictures about. This was Vandeman; a lot behind such a fellow, after
all, if he did seem rather a lightweight.
Ina joined us, very beautifully dressed. She also showed the ability
to sink unpleasant considerations in the present moment of hospitality.
We lingered a moment chatting, then,
Shall we go and look at the artists working? she suggested, and
led the way. We followed out onto a flagged terrace at the rear. A
dozen great muslin strips were tacked over the walls there, and two
small figures, desperate, smudged, wearing the blue overalls Skeet
Thornhill had waved at us, toiled manfully smearing the blossom
festival colors on in lettering and ornamental designs.
Ina! Skeet yawped at her sister, Another dirty, low Irish trick!
Get yourself all dressed up like a sore thumb, and then show us off in
Mutely Barbara revolved on the box she occupied. There was fire in
her soft eyes; her color was high as her glance came to rest on Worth.
Fong Ling's nearly ready to serve dinner, said Ina calmly. Stop
fussing, and go wash up.
Hello, Mr. Boyne. As Skeet passed me, she wiped a paw on a paint
rag and offered it to me without another word. I got a grip and a look
that told me there was no hang-over with her from that scene yesterday
in her mother's sick-room. Vandeman was commenting on his depleted
Mine suffered worse than yours, Worth. Fong Ling kicked like a bay
steer about our taking so much. He's nursed the stuff for years like a
fond mother. But we had to have it for that effect up around the
Then he's been with you a long time? I caught at the chance for
information on this chinkinformation that I'd found it impossible to
get from the chink himself.
Ever since I came in here. Chinamen, you knownot like Japs. Some
loyalty. You can keep a good one for half a lifetime.
We strolled back to the living room; the girls were there before us,
Skeet picking out bits of plum-blossoms and bunches of cherry bloom
from a great bowl on the mantel, and sticking them in Barbara's dark
hair, wreath fashion.
Best we could do at a splurge, she greeted us, was to turn in our
blouses at the neck.
And what in the world are you doing to Barbara? Mrs. Vandeman said
sharply. Let her alone, Skeet. You'll make her look ridiculous.
Skeet stuck out her tongue at her sister, and went calmly on,
mumbling as she worked,
Hold 'till 'ittle Barbie child. Yook up at pretty mans and hold
Over the mantel, in front of Barbara as she stood, her back to us
all, hung an oil paintingone of those family groupssame old popper;
same old mommer, and a fat baby in a white dress and blue sash. At
that, it was good enough to show that the man had some resemblance to
Vandeman as he leaned there on the mantel below it, rather encouraging
Skeet's enterprise. From the other side, I could see Barbara's glance
go from man to picture.
Doesn't it look like Van, Barbie? Skeet kept up the conversation.
Got the same ring, and all. But it ain't Van. Him's the tootsie in
there with the blue ribbon round his tummy.
I say, Skeeter, lay off! Vandeman looked selfconsciously from the
painted ring in the picture to the real ring on his own well kept hand
there on the mantel edge. People aren't interested in family
I am, said Barbara, unexpectedly. As the gong sounded and we all
began to move toward the dining room, they were still on the subject
and kept it up after we were seated.
Fong Ling served us. The bride had Worth on her right, and talked to
him in lowered tones. Barbara, between Vandeman and myself, continued
to show an almost feverish attention to Vandeman. It was plain enough
from where I sat that nothing Ina Vandeman could say gave the lad any
less interest in his plate. But I suppose with a girl, the mere fact of
some other girl being allowed to show intentions counts. Did the
flapper get what was going on, as she looked proudly across at her
handiwork, and demanded of me,
Say, Mr. Boyne, you saw how Ina tried to do us dirt? And now,
honest to goodness, hasn't Barbie with the plum-blossoms got Ina and
her artificial flowers skun a mile?
I didn't wonder that young Mrs. Vandeman saved me the necessity of
answering, by taking her up.
Skeet, you're too outrageous!
There she sat, quite a beauty in a very superior fashion; and Worth
at her side, was having his attention called to this dark young
creature across the table, whose wonderful still fire, the white
blossoms crowning her hair, might well have made even a lovelier than
Ina Vandeman look insipid. And Worth did take his time admiring her; I
saw that; but all he found to say was,
Bobs, I suppose Jerry's told you that he's treed Clayte at
No, said Barbara, he hasn't said a word. But I'm just as much
surprised at Clayte's being caught as I was at Skeels escaping
Say that over and say it slow, Vandeman was good natured. Or
rather, put it in plain American, so we all can understand.
Mr. Boyne knows what I mean. Barbara gave me a faint smile. Mr.
Boyne and I add up Skeels and Clayte, and get a different result.
Bobs doesn't think that Skeels is Clayte, caught or uncaught,
Worth said briefly and went on eating his dinner. Apparently he didn't
give a hang which way the fact turned out to be.
Why don't you? Vandeman gave passing attention. She shook her head
and put it.
Skeels, at liberty, was quite possibly Clayte; Skeels captured
cannot be Clayte. Mr. Boyne, do you call that a paradox?
Noan unkind slam at a poor old man's ability in his profession. I
started out to find a gang; but Clayte and Skeels are so exactly one,
mentally, morally and physically, that I don't see why we should seek
Back up, Jerry, Worth tossed it over at me. Let Barbarahe
didn't often use the girl's full name that waygive you a description
of Clayte before you're so sure.
How could I? The girl's tone was defensive. I never saw him.
I want you, Worth paid no attention to her objections, to
describe the man you thought you were asking for that day at the Gold
Nugget, when Jerry butted in, and your ideas got lost in the excitement
about Skeels. Deduce the description, I mean.
Deduce it? Barbara spoke stiffly, incredulously, her glance going
from Worth to the well-gowned, well-groomed woman beside him. I
remembered her moment of rebellion yesterday evening on the lawn, when
she said so bitterly that if he asked it again, she'd do it again, as
she finished, Deducehere?
Here and now. Worth's laconic answer sent the blood of healthy
anger into her face, made her eyes shine. And it brought from Ina
Vandeman a petulant,
Oh, Worth, please don't turn my dinner table into a side-show.
Ina, dear. Vandeman raised his eyes at her, then quite the cordial
host urging a guest to display talent, They say you're wonderful at
that sort of thing, and I've never seen it.
Barbara was mad for fair.
Oh, very well, she spoke pointedly to Vandeman, and left Worth out
of it. If you think you'd really enjoy seeing me make a side-show of
Ina's dinner table
She stopped and waited. Vandeman played up to the situation as he
saw it, with one of his ready smiles. Worth threw no life-line. Ina
didn't think it worth while to apologize for her rudeness. Skeet was
openly in a twitter of anticipation. There was nothing for me to do. A
little commotion of skirts told us that she was drawing up her feet to
sit cross-legged in her chair.
She's going to! Oh, golly! Skeet chortled. Haven't seen Bobsy do
one of those stunts since I was a che-ild!
Arms down, hands clasped, eyes growing bigger, face paling into
snow, we watched her. To all but Vandeman, this was a more or less
familiar performance. They took it rather as a matter of course. It was
the Chinaman, coming in with the coffee tray, who seemed most strangely
affected by it. He stopped where he was in the doorway, rigid, staring
at our girl, though with a changeful light in his eye that seemed to me
to shift between an unreasonable admiration and an unreasonable fear.
Orientals are superstitious; but what could the fellow be afraid of in
the beautiful young thing, Buddha posed, blossoms in her hair? The girl
had gone into her stunt with a sort of angry energy. He seemed to
clutch himself to stillness for the brief time that it held. Only in
the moment that she relaxed, and we knew that Barbara had concentrated,
Barbara was Barbara again, did he move quietly forward, a decent,
competent servant, stepping around the table, placing our cups.
Just two facts to go on, she said coldly. My results will be
Nothing to go on in the way of a description of Clayte, I tried to
help her out. I'd call that one we had of him as near nothing as it
well could be.
Yes, the nothingness of it was one of my facts, she said, and
Let's hear what you did get, Bobs, Worth prompted; and Skeet
giggled, half under her breath,
At the Gold Nuggetwhatever he called himself thereEdward Clayte
was ten years younger than he had seemed at the bank; he appeared to
weigh a dozen pounds more; threw out his chest, walked with his head
up, and therefore would have been estimated quite a bit taller. This
personality was an opposite of the other. Bank clerk Clayte was demure,
unobtrusive; this man wore loud patterns. The bank clerk was silent;
this man talked to every one around him, tilted his hat over one eye,
smoked cigars just as those men were doing that day in the lobby; acted
like them, was one of them. In the Gold Nugget, Clayte was a very
average Gold Nugget guestdon't you see? Commonplace there, just as
the other Clayte had been commonplace in a bank or an office.
Her voice ceased. On the silence it left, Worth spoke up quietly.
Bull's eye as usual, Bobs. Every word you say is true. And at the
Gold Nugget, his name was Henry J. Brundage. He had room thirty on the
Skeet clapped her hands, jumped up and came around the table to kiss
Barbara on the ear, and tell her she was the most wonderfullest girl in
Heh! I flared at Worth. Find that all out to-day in San
Oh, it was the Brundage clew that took you south?
Yep. Left Louie on the job at the hotel while I was away. To-day, I
went after Brundage's automobile. Found he'd kept one in a garage on
It's gone, of courseand no trace, Barbara murmured.
Gone since the day of the bank theft, Worth nodded. He and the
money went in it.
Say, I leaned over toward him, wouldn't it have saved wear and
tear if you'd told me at the first that you knew Skeels couldn't be
Oh, but, Jerry, you were so sure! And Skeels wasn't possible for a
minutenever in his little, piking, tin-horn life!
I don't believe I had seen Worth so happy since he was a boy,
playing detective. I glanced around and pulled myself up; we certainly
weren't making ourselves very entertaining for the Vandemans. There
they sat, at their own table, like handsome figureheads, smiling
politely, pretending a decent interest.
All this must be a bore to you people, I apologized.
Not at allnot at all, Vandeman assured us.
Well then if you don't mindWorth, I'll go and use Vandeman's
phoneput my office wise to these Brundage clews of yours.
Worth nodded. No social scruples were his. I had by no means given
up the belief that Skeels in jail at Tiajuana, would still turn out to
be one of the gang.
I had just got back to the table from my phoning when the doorbell
rang; we saw the big Chinese slip noiselessly through the rear into the
hall to answer it, coming back a moment later, announcing in his
weighty, correct English,
Two gentlemen callingto see Captain Gilbert.
Ask for me? Worth came to his feet in surprise. Who told them I
I do not know, the Chinaman spoke unnecessarily as Worth was
crossing to the door. I did not ask them that.
Use the living room, Worth, Vandeman called after him. We'll wait
With the closing of the door, conversation languished. Even Skeet
was quiet and seemed depressed. My ears were straining for any sound
from in there. As I sat, hand dropped at my side, I suddenly felt under
shelter of the screening tablecloth, cold, nervous fingers slipped into
mine. Barbara wasn't looking at me, but I gave her a quick glance as I
pressed her gripping small hand encouragingly.
She was turned toward Vandeman. Pale to the lips, her great eyes
fixed on the eyes of our host, I saw with wonder how he slowly stirred
a spoon about in his emptied coffee cup, and stared back at her with a
face almost as colorless as her own. The bride glanced from one to the
other of them, and spoke sharply,
What's the matter with you two? You're not uneasy about Worth's
callers, are you?
No-no-no Vandeman was the first to come out of it, responding to
her voice a good deal as if she dashed cold water in his face, his eyes
breaking away from Barbara's, his lips parted in a nervous smile. He
ran a hand through his hairan inelegant gesture for him at tableand
laughed a little.
We ought to be in there, Barbara said to me, a curious stress in
How funny you talk, Barbie, Skeet quavered. What do you think's
wrong? And Ina spoke decidedly,
Worth is one person in the world who can certainly take care of
himself, and would rather be let alone.
If you think there is anything we should do? Vandeman began
anxiously, and Skeet took a look around at our faces and fairly wailed,
What is it? What's the matter? What do you think they're doing to
Worth in there, Barbie?
I'd think they were arresting him, Barbara said in a low, choked
tone, Only they don't know
Arresting him! I broke in on her, startled, getting halfway to my
feet; then as remembrance came to me, sinking back with, Certainly
not. The murderer of Thomas Gilbert is already in the county jail. I
arrested Eddie Hughes this morning.
You arrestedEddie Hughes! It was a cry from Barbara. The cold
little hand was jerked from mine. Twisting around in her chair, she
stared at me with a look that made me cold. Then you've moved those
two steel bolts for Cummings.
I jumped to my feet. On the instant the door opened, and in it stood
Worth, steady enough, but his brown tanned face was strangely bleached.
Jerry, he spoke briefly. I want you. The sheriff's come for me.
CHAPTER XXVI. MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS
Midnight in the sheriff's office at San Jose. And I had to telephone
Barbara. She'd be waiting up for my message. The minute I heard her
voice on the wire, I plunged in:
Yes, yes, yes; done all I could. A horse can do no more. They've
got Worth. I The words stuck in my throat; but they had to come
outI left him in a cell.
A sound came over the wire; whether speech or not, it was something
I couldn't get.
He's taking it like a man and a soldier, girl, I hurried. Not a
word out of him about my having gone counter to his express orders,
arrested Hughes, and pulled this thing over on us.
Oh, Mr. Boyne! Of course he wouldn't blame you. Neither would I.
You acted for what you thought was his good. The others
Vandeman's already gone home. Tell you he stood by well,
Barbarathat tailor's dummy! Surprised me. No, no. Didn't let Jim
Edwards come with us; so broken up I didn't want him alongonly hurt
our case over here, the way he is now.
Your case? she spoke out clearly. What is the situation?
A murder charge against Worth on the secret files. Hughes is
outCummings got himtook him, don't know where. Can't locate him.
Do you need to?
Perhaps not, Barbara. What I do need is some one who saw Thomas
Gilbert alive that night after Worth left to go back to San Francisco.
And if you had thatsome one?
If we could produce before Cummings one credible witness to that,
it would mean an alibi. I'd have Worth out before morning.
Then, Mr. Boyne, get to the Fremont House here as quickly as you
can. Mr. Cummings is there. Get him out of bed if you have to. I'll
bring the proof you need.
But, child! I began.
Don'twastetimetalking! How long will it take you to get
Half an hour.
Oh! You may have to wait for me a little. But I'll surely come.
Wait in Mr. Cummings' room.
Half past twelve when I reached the Fremont House, to find it all
alight, its lobby and corridors surging with the crowd of blossom
festival guests. Nobody much in the bar; soft drinks held little
interest; but in the upper halls, getting to Cummings' room, I passed
more than one open door where the hip-pocket cargoes were unloading,
and was even hailed by name, with invitations to come in and partake.
Cummings was still up. The first word he gave me was,
Glad of it, I said. Bring him in. I want you both.
It took a good deal of argument before he brought the Western Cereal
man from the adjoining room where he had evidently been just getting
ready for bed. He came to the conference resentful as a soreheaded old
Maybe you think Worth Gilbert will sleep well to-nightin jail? I
stopped him, and instantly differentiated the two men before me.
Cummings took it, with an ugly little half smile; Dykeman rumpled his
hair, and bolstered his anger by shouting at me,
This country'll go to the dogs if we make an exempt class of our
returned soldiers. Break the lawsthey'll have to take the
consequences, just as a man that was too old or too sickly to fight
would have to take 'em. If I'd done what Captain Gilbert's doneI
wouldn't expect mercy.
You mean, if you'd done what you say he's done, I countered.
Nothing proved yet.
Nothing proved? Dykeman huddled in his chair and shivered.
Cummings shook out an overcoat and helped him into it. He settled back
with a protesting air of being about to leave us, and finished
squeakily, Didn't need to prove that he had Clayte's suitcase.
Good Lord, Mr. Dykeman! You're not lending yourself to accuse a man
like Worth Gilbert of so grave a crime as murder, just because you
found his ideas irregularmaybe recklessin a matter of money?
Don't answer, Dykeman! Cummings jumped in. Boyne's trying to get
you to talk.
The old chap stared at me doubtfully, then broke loose with a snort,
See here, Boyne, you can't get away from it; your man Gilbert has
embarked on a criminal career: mixed up in the robbery of our bank,
with Clayte to rob us; had our own attorney go through the form of
raising money to buy us off from the pursuit of Clayte
How about me? I stuck in the question as he paused for breath. Do
you think Worth Gilbert would put me on the track of a man he didn't
Cummings cut in ahead to answer for him,
Just the point. You've not done any good at the inquiry; never
will, so long as you stand with Worth Gilbert. He needed a detective
who would believe in him through thick and thin. And he found such a
man in you.
I could not deny it when Dykeman yipped at me,
Ain't that true? If it was anybody else, wouldn't you see the
connection? Captain Gilbert came here to Santa Ysobel that Saturday
nightas we've got witnesses to testifyhad a row with his
fatherwe've got witnesses for that, toothe word money passed
between them again and again in that quarreland then the young man
had the nerve to walk into our bank next morning with his father's
entire holdings of our stock in Clayte's suitcaseBoyne, you're
Maybe not, I said, reckoning on something human in Dykeman to
appeal to. You see I know where Worth got that suitcase. It came out
of my office vaultevidence we'd gathered in the Clayte hunt. Getting
it and using it that way was his idea of humor, I suppose.
Sounds fishy. Dykeman made an uncomfortable shift in his chair.
But Cummings came close, and standing, hands rammed down in the pockets
of his coat, let me have it savagely.
Evidence, Boyne, is the only thing that would give you a license to
rout men out at this time of nightnew evidence. Have you got it? If
Wait. I preferred to stop him before he told me to get out.
Wait. I looked at my watch. In the silence we could hear the words of
a yawp from one of the noisy rooms when a passerby was hailed:
There she goes! Therelook at the chickens!
A minute later, a tap sounded on the door. Cummings stood by while I
opened it to Barbara, and a slender, veiled woman, taller by half a
head in spite of bent shoulders and the droop of weakness which made
the girl's supporting arm apparently necessary.
At sight of them, Dykeman had come to his feet, biting off an
exclamation, looking vainly around the bare room for chairs, then
Get some from my room, Boyne.
I went through the connecting door to fetch a couple. When I came
back, Barbara was still standing, but her companion had sunk into the
seat the shivering, uncomfortable old man offered, and Cummings was
bringing a glass of water for her. She sipped it, still under the
shield of her veil. This was never Ina Vandeman. Could it be that
Barbara had dragged Mrs. Thornhill from her bed? I saw Barbara bend and
whisper reassuringly. Then the veil was swept back, it caught and
carried the hat with it from Laura Bowman's shining, copper colored
hair, and the doctor's wife sat there ghastly pale, evidently very
weak, but more composed than I had ever seen her.
I'm all right now, she spoke very low.
Miss Wallace, Dykeman demanded harshly. Who is thislady?
Mrs. Bowman, Barbara looked her employer very straight in the eye.
Heh? he barked. Any relation to Dr. Bowmanany connection with
His wife. Cummings bent and mumbled to the older man for a moment.
Laura, Barbara said gently, this is Mr. Dykeman. You're to tell
him and Mr. Cummings.
Yes, breathed Mrs. Bowman. I'll tell them. I'm ready to tell
anybody. There's nothing in dodging, and hiding, and being afraid. I'm
done with it. Nowwhat is it you want to know?
Cummings' expression said plainer than words that they didn't want
to know anything. They had their case fixed up and their man arrested,
and they didn't wish to be disturbed. She went on quickly, of herself,
I believe I was the last person who saw Mr. Gilbert alive. I must
have been. I'd rushed over there, just as Ina told you, Mr. Boyne,
between the reception and our getting off for San Francisco.
All this concerns the early part of the evening, put in Cummings.
Yesbut it concerns Worth, too. He was there when I came in.... It
was very painful.
The quarrel between Captain Gilbert and his father d'ye mean?
Dykeman asked his first question. Mrs. Bowman nodded assent.
Thomas went right on, before me, just as though I hadn't been
there. Then, when it came my turn, he would have spoken out before
Worth ofof my private affairs. That was his way. But I couldn't stand
it. I went with Worth out to his machine. He had it in the back road.
We talked there a little while, and Worth drove away, going fast,
headed for San Francisco.
And that was the last time you saw Thomas Gilbert alive? Cummings
summed up for her.
I hadn't finished, she objected mildly. After Worth was gone, I
went back into the study and pleaded with Thomas for a long time. I
pointed out to him that if I'd sinned, I'd certainly suffered, and what
I asked was no more than the right any human being has, even if they
may be so unfortunate as to be born a woman.
Dykeman looked exquisitely miserable; but Cummings was only the
lawyer getting rid of an unwanted witness, as he warned her,
Not the slightest need to go into your personal matters, Mrs.
Bowman. We know them already. We knew also of your visit to Mr.
Gilbert's study that night, and that you didn't go there alone. Had the
testimony been of any importance to us, we'd have called in both you
and James Edwards.
I could see that her deep concern for another steadied Laura Bowman.
How do you know all this? she demanded. Who told you?
Your husband, Doctor Bowman.
Up came the red in her face, her eyes shone with anger.
He did follow me, then? I thought I saw him creeping through the
shrubbery on the lawn.
He did follow you. He has told us of your being at the studythe
two of youwhen young Gilbert was there.
See here, Cummings, I put in, if Bowman was around the place,
then he knows that Worth left before the crime was committed. Why
hasn't he told you so?
He has, Cummings said neatly; and I felt as though something had
slipped. Barbara kept a brave front, but Mrs. Bowman moaned audibly.
And still you've charged Worth Gilbert? Why not Bowman himself? He
was there. As much reason to suspect him as any of the others. Do you
mean to tell me that you won't accept Mrs. Bowman's testimonyand Dr.
Bowman'sas proving an alibi for Worth Gilbert? I'm ready to swear
that he was at Tait's at five minutes past ten, was there continuously
from that time until a little after midnight, when you yourself saw him
A little past midnight! Cummings repeated my words half
derisively. Not good enough, Boyne. We base our charge on the medical
statement that Mr. Gilbert met his death in the small hours of Sunday
I looked away from Barbara; I couldn't bear her eye. After a stunned
silence, I asked,
Whose? Who makes that statement?
His own physician. Doctor Bowman swears
He? Mrs. Bowman half rose from her chair. He'd swear to anything.
Don't say any more, Cummings cut her off. And Dykeman mumbled,
Had the whole history of your marital infelicities all over the
shop. Too bad such things had to be dragged in. Man seems to be a
Doctor Bowman told me positively, I broke in, on the Sunday night
the body was found, that death must have occurred before midnight.
Gave that as his opinionhis opinionthen, Cummings corrected
Yes, I accepted the correction. That was his opinion before he
quarreled with Worth. Now he
Slandering Bowman won't get you anywhere, Boyne, Cummings said.
He wasn't here to testify at the inquest. Man alive, you know that
nothing but sworn testimony counts.
I wouldn't believe that man's oath, I said shortly.
Think you'll find a jury will, smirked Cummings, and Dykeman
A mighty credible witnessa mighty credible witness!
While these pleasant remarks flew back and forth, a thumping and
bumping had made itself heard in the hall. Now something came against
our door, as though a large bundle had been thrown at the panels. The
knob rattled, jerked, was turned, and a man appeared on the threshold,
swaying unsteadily. Two others, who seemed to have been holding him
back, let go all at once, and he lurched a step into the room. Doctor
A minute he stood blinking, staring, then he caught sight of his
wife and bawled out,
She's here all right. Tol' you she was here. Can't fool me. Saw her
go past in the hall.
I looked triumphantly at Dykeman and Cummings. Their star
witnessdrunk as a lord! So far he seemed to have sensed nothing in
the room but his wife. Without turning, he reached behind him and
slammed the door in the faces of those who had brought him, then
advanced weavingly on the woman, with,
Get up from there. Get your hat. I'll show you. You come 'long home
with me! Ain't I your husband?
Doctor Bowman, peppery little old Dykeman spoke up from the depths
of his chair. Your wife was brought here to ato a
Meeting, Cummings supplied hastily.
Huh? Bowman wheeled and saw us. Why-ee! Di'n' know so many
Yes, the lawyer put a hand on his shoulder. Conferenceover the
evidence in the Gilbert case. No time like the present for you to
Hol' on a minute, Bowman raised a hand with dignity.
Cummings, said Dykeman disgustedly, the man's drunk!
No, no, owlishly. 'm not 'ntoxicated. Overcome with 'motion. He
took a brace. That woman there'f I sh'd tell youwalk into hotel
room, find her with three men! Three of 'em!
How much of this are these ladies to stand for? I demanded.
Ladies? Bowman roared suddenly. She's m' wife. Where's th' other
man? Nothing 'gainst you gen'lmen. Where's he? I'll settle with him.
Let that thing go long 'nough. Too long. Bring him out. I'll settle him
He dropped heavily into the chair Cummings shoved up behind him,
stared around, drooped a bit, pulled himself together, and looked at
us; then his head went forward on his neck, a long breath sounded
And you'll keep Worth Gilbert in jail, run the risk of a suit for
false imprisonmenton that! I wanted to know.
And plenty more, the lawyer held steady, but I saw his uneasiness
with every snore Bowman drew.
Barbara crossed to speak low and earnestly to Dykeman. I heard most
of his answershaken, but disposed to hang on,
Girl like you is too much influenced by the man in the case. Hero
worshipall that sort of thing. An outlaw is an outlaw. This isn't a
personal matter. Mr. Cummings and I are merely doing our duty as good
At that, I think it possible that Dykeman would have listened to
reason; it was Cummings who broke in uncontrollably,
Barbara Wallace, I was your father's friend. I'm yoursif you'll
let me be. I can't stand by while you entangle yourself with a criminal
like Worth Gilbert. For your sake, if for no other reason, I would be
determined to show him up as what he is: a thiefand his father's
Silence in the room, except the irregular snoring of Bowman, a
rustle and a deeply taken breath now and again where Mrs. Bowman sat,
her head bent, quietly weeping. On this, Barbara who spoke out clearly,
Those were the last words you will ever say to me, Mr. Cummings,
unless you should some time be man enough to take back your aspersions
and apologize for them.
He gave ground instantly. I had not thought that dry voice of his
could contain what now came into it.
Barbara, I didn't meanyou don't understand
But without turning her head, she spoke to me: Mr. Boyne, will you
take Laura and me home? gathering up Mrs. Bowman's hat and veil,
shaking the latter out, getting her charge ready as a mother might a
child. She's not going back to himever again. Her glance passed
over the sleeping lump of a man in his chair. Sarah'll make a place
for her at our house to-night.
See here, Cummings got between us and the door. I can't let you
go like this. I feel
Mr. Dykeman, Barbara turned quietly to her employer, could we
pass out through your room?
Certainly, the little man was brisk to make a way for us. I want
you to know, Miss Wallace, that I, too, feelI, too, feel
I don't know what it was that Dykeman felt, but Cummings felt my
rude elbow in his chest as I pushed him unceremoniously aside, and
opened the door he had blocked, remarking,
We go out as we came in. This way, Barbara.
It was as I parted with the two of them at the Capehart gate that I
drew out and handed Mrs. Bowman a small piece of dull blue silk, a
round hole in it, such as a bullet or a cigarette might have made,
I guess you'll just have to forgive me that.
I don't need to forgive it, her gaze swam. I saw your mistake.
But it was for Worth you were fighting even then; he's been so dear to
me alwaysI'd have to love any one for anything they did for his
CHAPTER XXVII. THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
Two hours sleep, bath, breakfast, and I started on my early morning
run for the county seat. Nobody else was going my way; but even at that
hour, the road was full of autos, buggies, farm wagons, pretty much
everything that could run on wheels, headed for the festival, all
trimmed and streaming with the blossoming branches of their orchards.
These were the country folks, coming in early to make a big day of it;
orchardists; ranchers from the cattle lands in the south end of the
county; truck and vegetable farmers; flower-seed gardeners; the Japs
and Chinese from their little, closely cultivated patches; this tide
streamed past me on my left hand, as I made my way to Worth and the
jailer's office, trying with every mile I put behind me, to bolster my
courage. Why wasn't this shift of the enemy a blessing in disguise? Let
their setting of the hour for the murder stick, and wouldn't Worth's
alibi be better than any we should have been able to dig up for him
From time to time I was troubled by recollection of Barbara's
crushed look from the moment they sprung it on us, but brushed that
aside with the obvious explanation that her efforts in bringing Mrs.
Bowman to speak out had just been of no use; surely enough to depress
Worth met me, fit, quiet, not over eager about anything. They let us
talk with a guard outside the door. Once alone, he listened
appreciatively while I told him of our interview with Cummings and
Dykeman as fast as I could pile the words out.
Nobody on earth like Bobs, was his sole comment. Never was, never
And now, I reminded him nervously, there's the question of this
alibi. You went straight from the restaurant to your room at the Palace
and to bed there?
No-o, he said slowly. No, I didn't.
Wellwell, I broke in. If you stopped on the way, you can
remember where. The people you spoke to will be as good as the clerks
and bell-hops at the Palace for your alibi. He sat silent, thoughtful,
and I added, Where did you go from Tait's, Worth?
To a garagein the Tenderloinwhere they keep good cars. I'd
hired machines from them before.
Oh, they knew you there? Then their testimony will
I don't believe you want it, Jerry. It only accounts for the half
houror lessright after I left you; all I did was to hire a car.
A car, I echoed vaguely. What kind of a car? Hired it for when?
I asked them for the fastest thing they had in the shop. Told 'em
to fill it all round, and see that it was tuned up to the last notch. I
My God, Worth! Do you know what you're telling me?
The truth, Jerry. His eye met mine unflinchingly. That's what you
want, isn't it?
Where did you go? I groaned. You must have seen somebody who
could identify or remember you?
Not a solitary human being to identify me. Those I passedthere
were people out of course, late as it wassaw my headlights as I went
by. But I was moving fast, Jerry. I was working off a grouch; I needed
Where did you go?
Straight down the peninsula on the main highway to Palo Alto, made
the sweep across to the sea, and then up the coast road. I ran into the
garage about dawn.
No stops anywhere?
He shook his head.
And that's your alibi?
That's my alibi. Worth looked at me a long while before he said
Don't you see, Jerry, that the other side had all this before they
encouraged Bowman to change his mind about when father was shot?
I did see itought to have known from the first. This was what they
had back of them last night in Cummings' room; this explained the
lawyer's smug self-confidence, Dykeman's violent certainty that Worth
was a criminal. A realization of this had whitened Barbara's face, set
her lips in that pitiful, straight line. As to their momentary chagrin
over Bowman; no trouble to them to get other physicians to bolster any
opinion he'd given. Medical testimony on such a point is notoriously
uncertain. All the jury would want to know was that there could be such
a possibility. I sat there with bent head, and felt myself going to
pieces. Cummings was rightI was no fit man to handle this job. My
personal feelings were too deeply involved. It was Worth's voice that
Cheer up, Jerry, old man. Take it to Bobs.
Take it to Bobsthe idea of a big, husky old police detective
running to cast his burden on such shoulders! I couldn't quite do it
then. I went and telephoned the little girl that I was doing the best I
couldand then ran circles for the rest of the day, chasing one vain
hope after another, and finally, in the late afternoon, sneaked home to
Now I had the road more to myself; only an occasional handsome car,
where the wealthy were getting in to the part of the festival they'd
care for. In the orchards near town where the big picnic places had
been laid out with rough board tables and benches, seats for thousands,
there were occasional loud basket lunch parties scattered. All at once
I was hungry enough to have gone and asked for a handout.
I went by back streets down to the house to get my mail. There
seemed no human reason that I should feel it a treachery to have Worth
in jail at San Jose, and be able to walk into his house at Santa Ysobel
a free man. The place was empty; Chung had the day off, of course. It
was possible Worth's cook, even, didn't know what had happened to his
employer. Santa Ysobel had no morning paper. In the confusion of the
blossom festival, I ventured to guess that not more than a score of
people did as yet know of the arrest. Our end of town was drained,
quiet; nobody over at the Vandeman bungalow; looking down at the Square
as I made my sneak through, I had caught a glimpse of Bronson Vandeman,
a great rosette of apricot blossoms on his coat lapel, making his
speech of presentation to the cannery girl queen, while his wife, Ina,
her fair face shaded doubly by a big flower hat and a blossom covered
parasol, listened and looked on.
One of my pieces of mail concerned the Skeels chase. If my men down
there had Skeels, and Skeels was Clayte, it would mean everything in
handling Cummings and Dykeman. I took out the report and ran hastily
through it; a formal statement; day by day stuff:
Found Skeels and Dial at Tiajuana. Negotiating to buy
gambling house. Arranged with Jefico for arrest of S. (Expense
$20.) Rurales took S. to jail. (Expense, $4.50) I interviewed
and he said he came here to open a business where he could
booze. D. was his partner in proposition. S. knew nothing of
affair. Would waive extradition and come back to stand trial
expense. Interviewed D. He says combined capital of two is
saved from S's business and D's miner's wages. D. said
Not much to show up with; but there were three photographs enclosed
that I wanted to try on Cummings and Dykeman. No telling where I'd find
either, but the Fremont House was my best bet. Getting back there
through the crowd, I saw Skeet Thornhill in a corner drugstore, waiting
at its counter. I was afoot, having been obliged to park my roadster in
one of the spaces set apart for this purpose. I noticed Vandeman's car
I lingered a minute on that corner looking down the slope that led
to City Hall Square. Tent restaurants along the way; sandwiches; hot
dogs; coffee; milk; pies; doughnuts. Part way down a hurdy-gurdy in a
tent began to get patronage again; the school children in white dresses
with pink bows in their hair had just finished a stunt in the Square.
They and their elders were streaming our way, headed for the snake
charmers, performing dogs and Nigger-in-the-tank. In the midst of them
Vandeman and his wife came afoot. He caught sight of me, hailed, and
when I joined them, asked quickly, glancing toward the drugstore
Worth come with you?
I shook my head. He made that little clucking sound with his tongue
that people do when they want to offer sympathy, and find the matter
hard to put into words.
A seller of toy balloons on the corner with a lot of noisy
youngsters around him; the ka-lash, ka-lam of a mechanical piano
further down the block; and young Mrs. Vandeman's staccato tones
I tell Bron that the only thing Worth's friends can do is to go on
exactly as if nothing had happened. Don't you think so, Mr. Boyne?
I agreed mutely.
Well, I wish you'd say so to Barbie Wallace, her voice sharpened.
She's certainly acting as though she believed the worst.
Now, Ina, Vandeman remonstrated. And I asked uncomfortably,
What's Barbie done? Where is she?
Up at Mrs. Capehart's. In her room. Doesn't come out at all. Isn't
going to the ball to-night. Skeet said she refused to speak to Mr.
Is that all Skeet said? Vandeman, you've told your wife that
Cummings swore to the complaint?
Yes, buterthere's no animus. The executor of Gilbert's
estateWith all the talk going aroundIf Worth's proved innocent, he
might in the end be glad of Cummings' action.
Oh, might he? Skeet Thornhill had hurried out from the drugstore,
a package of medicine in her hand. Her eyes looked as though she'd been
crying; they flashed a hostile glance over the new brother-in-law,
excellently groomed, the big flower favor on his coat, the tall,
beautiful sister, all frilly white and flower festival fashion.
If Worth's proved innocent! she flung at them. Bronse
Vandeman, you've got a word too many in when you say that.
Just a tongue-slip, Skeeter, Vandeman apologized. I hope the
boy'll come through all rightsame as you do.
You don't do anything about it the same as I do! Skeet came back.
I'd be ashamed to 'hope' for a friend to be cleared of a charge like
that. If I couldn't know he was clearclear all the timeI'd
try to forget about it.
See here, Skeet, Ina obviously restrained herself, that's what
we're all trying to do for Worth: forget about itmake nothing of
itact exactly as if it'd never happened. You ought to come on out to
the ball with the other girls. You're just staying away because Barbara
I'm not. Some damn fool went and told mother about Worth being
arrested, and made her a lot worse. She's almost crazy. I'd be afraid
to leave her alone with old Jane. You get me and this medicine up
homeor shall I go around to Capehart's and have Barbie drive me?
I'll take you, Skeeter, Vandeman said. We're through here. We're
for home to dress, then to the country cluband not leave it again
till morning. That ball out there has got to be made the biggest thing
Santa Ysobel ever sawregardless. Come on. The crowd swallowed them
Making for the Fremont House, I passed Dr. Bowman's stairway, and on
impulse turned, ran up. I found the doctor packing, very snappish, very
sorry for himself. He was leaving next day for a position in the state
hospital for the insane at Sefton. His kind have to blow off to
somebody; I was it, though he must have known I had no sympathy to
offer. The hang-over of last night's drunk made emotional the tone in
which he said,
After all, a man's wife makes or breaks him. Mine's broken me. I
could have had a fine position at the Mountain View Sanitarium, well
paid, among cultured people, if she'd held up her damned divorce suit a
And as it is, you have to put up with what Cummings can land you
with such pull as he has.
I'm not complaining of Cummings, sullenly. He did the best he
could for me, I suppose, on such short notice. But a man of my class is
practically wasted in a place of the sort.
I had learned what I wanted; I carried more ammunition to the
interview before me. I found Dykeman in his room, propped up in bed,
wheezing with an attack of asthma. A sick man is either more merciful
than usual, or more unmerciful. Apparently it took Dykeman the former
way; he accepted me eagerly, and had me call Cummings from the
adjoining room. The lawyer was half into that costume he had brought
from San Francisco. He came quite modern as to the legs and feet, but
thoroughly ancient in a shirt of mail around the arms and chest, and
carrying a Roman helmet in his hand as though it had been an opera hat.
Trying 'em on? Dykeman whispered at him.
Cummings nodded with that self-conscious, half-tickled,
half-sheepish air that men display when it comes to costume. His
greeting to me was cool but not surly. What had happened might go as
all in the day's work between detective and lawyer.
Just seen Bowman, was my first pass at them. I gather he's not
very well pleased with the position you got him; seems to think it
small pay for a dirty job.
What's this? What's this? croaked Dykeman. You been getting a
place for Bowman, Cummings?
Certainly, the lawyer dodged with swift, practical neatness. I'd
promised him my influence in the matter some little time ago.
Yes, I said, mighty little time agothe day he promised the
testimony you wanted in the Gilbert case.
Anything in what Boyne says, Cummings? Dykeman asked anxiously.
You know I wouldn't stand for that sort of stuff.
The lawyer shook his head, but I didn't believe it was ended between
them; Dykeman was the devil to hang on to a point. This would come up
again after I was gone. Meantime I made haste to shove the photographs
before them. Cummings passed them back with an indifferent, What's the
You don't recognize him?
Never saw the man in my life, and again he asked, What's the
You'd recognize a picture of Clayte? I countered with a question
of my own.
YesI think so, rather dubiously. But Dykeman would. Show them
Dykeman reached for the photographs, spread them out before him,
then looked up from them peevishly to say,
For the good Lord's sake! Don't look any more like Clayte than it
does like a horned toad. Is that what you've been wasting your time
over, Boyne? If you ask me
I don't ask you anything, retrieving the pictures, planting them
deep in an inner pocket. Then I got myself out of the room.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of the Fremont House, I felt sort
of bewildered. This last crack had taken all the pep I had left. I
suddenly realized it was long after dinner time, and I'd had no dinner,
no lunch, nothing to eat since an early breakfast. Worth had sent me to
the girland I hadn't gone. I dragged myself around to Capehart's
cottage as nearly whipped as I ever was in my life.
I found Barbara with Laura Bowman, every one else off the place, out
at the shows. Those girls sure were good to me; they fed me and didn't
ask questions till I was ready to talk. Nothing to be said really,
except that I'd failed. I told them of meeting the Vandemans, and gave
them Ina Vandeman's opinion as to how Worth's friends should conduct
themselves just now.
So they'll all be out there, I concluded, Vandeman and his wife
leading the grand march, her sisters as maids of honorexcept Skeet,
staying at home with her mother. Cummings goes as a Roman soldier;
Doctor Bowman as a Spanish cavalier. Edwards didn't see it as the
Vandemans do, but after I'd talked to him awhile, he agreed to be
And suddenly I noticed for the first time how the relative position
of these two women had shifted. Laura Bowman wasn't red-headed for
nothing; out from under the blight of Bowman and that hateful marriage,
she had already thrown off some of her physical frailness; the nervous
tension showed itself now in energy. She was moving swiftly about
putting to rights after my meal while she listened. But Barbara sat
looking straight ahead of her; I knew she was seeing streets full of
carnival, every friend and acquaintance out at a balland Worth in a
murderer's cell. It wouldn't do. I jumped to my feet with a brisk,
Girl, where's your hat? We'll go to the study and look over all our
points once more. Get busyget busy. That's the medicine for you.
She gave me a miserable look and a negative shake of the head; but I
still urged, Worth sent me to you. The last thing he said was, 'Take
it to Bobs.'
Dumbly she submitted. Mrs. Bowman came running with the girl's hat,
and, What about me, Mr. Boyne? Isn't there something I can do?
I wish you'd go to the country clubto the ballthe same as all
the others. Got a costume here, haven't you?
Yes, I can wear Barbara's, she glanced to where a pile of soft
black stuff, a red scarf, a scarlet poppy wreath, lay on a chair, She
was to have gone as 'The Lady of Dreams.'
Barbara went with me out into the flare of carnival illumination
that paled the afterglow of a gorgeous sunset. No cars allowed on these
down-town streets; even walking, we found it best to take the long way
round. To our left the town roared and racketed as though it was afire.
Nothing said between us till I grumbled out,
I wish I knew where Cummings was keeping Eddie Hughes.
Barbara's voice beside me answered unexpectedly,
Here. In Santa Ysobel. Eddie was at Capehart's fifteen minutes
before you got there; he came for Bill. A gasoline engine at the city
hall had broken down.
I pulled up short for a moment, and looked back at the town.
Where'd he go?
With Bill, to the city hall. Eddie's one of the queen's guards.
They're all to be at the country club at ten o'clock to review the
grand march that opens the ball.
I mustn't let her dwell on that. I hurried on once more, and neither
of us spoke again till I unlocked the study door, snapped on the
lights, brought out and put on the table the 1920 diary and the little
blue blotterthe last bits of evidence that I felt hadn't been
thoroughly analysed. Barbara just dropped into a chair and looked from
them to me helplessly.
You've read this allcarefully? she sighed.
It shook me. To have Barbara, the girl I'd seen get meanings and
facts from a written page with a mere flirt of a glance, ask me that.
What I really wanted from her was an inspection of the book and
blotter, and a deduction from it. As though she guessed, she answered
with a sort of wail,
I can't, I can't even remember what I did see when I looked at
these before. Ican'tremember!
I went and knelt on the hearth with a pretext of laying a fire
there, since the shut-up room was chill. And when I glanced stealthily
over my shoulder, she had gone to work; not as I had ever seen her
before, but fumbling at the leaves, hesitating, turning to finger the
blotter; setting her lips desperately, like an over-driven
school-child, but keeping right on. I spun out my fire building to
leave her to herself. Little noises of her moving there at the table;
rustle and flutter of the leaves; now and again, a long, sobbing
breath. At last something like a groan caused me to turn my head and
see her, with face pale as death, eyes staring across into mine.
It was ClayteEdward Claytewho killed Mr. Gilbert herein this
The hair on the back of my neck stirred; I thought the girl had gone
mad. As I ran over to the table and looked at what was under her hand,
it came again.
He did. He did. It was Claytethe wonder man!
Dodo you deduce that, Barbara?
Did I? she raised to mine the face of a sick child. I must have.
Seeit's here on the blotter: 'y-t-e,' that's Clayte. Double l-e-r;
that's 'teller,' 'Avenue' is part of 'Van Ness Avenue Bank.' Oh, yes; I
deduced it, I suppose. Both crimes end in a locked room and a perfect
alibi. Butbutdon't you see, if it is trueand it isit iswe're
worse off than we were before. We've the wonder man against us.
Barbara, I cried. Barbara, come out of it!
See? You don't believe in me any more, and her head went down on
I let her cry, while I sat and thought. The broken sentences she'd
sobbed out to me began to fit up like a puzzle-game. By all theories of
good detective work, I should have seen from the first the similarity
of these crimes. But Clayte, slipping in here to do this murderand
why? What mixed him up with affairs here? And then the icy
pangDykeman had seen a connectionCummings had found one. With them,
it was Clayte and his gangand his gang was Worth Gilbert. I went and
touched Barbara on the shoulder.
I'm going to take you home now.
Yes, tears running down her face as she stumbled to her feet. I'm
a failure. I can't do anything for Worth.
I wiped her cheeks with my own handkerchief and led her out. As I
turned from locking the door, it seemed to me I saw something move in
the shrubbery. I asked Barbara Wallace about it. She hadn't noticed
anything. Barbara Wallace hadn't noticed anything!
I began to be scared for her. Solemn in the sky above boomed out the
town clocktwo strokes. Half past nine. I must get this poor child
home. We were getting in toward the noise and the light when I felt her
shiver, and stopped to say,
Did I forget your coat? Why, where's your hat?
The hat's back there. I had no coat. It doesn't make any
difference. Come on. I can'tcan'tI must get home.
I looked at her, saw she was about at the end of her strength, and
We'll go straight through the Square. Save time and steps.
She offered no objection, and we started in where the bands played
for the street dances, amid the raucous tooting of a thousand
fish-horns, the clangor of cow-bells, and the occasional snap of the
forbidden fire-cracker. As we turned from Broad Street into Main, I
found that the congestion was greater even than I had supposed. Here,
several blocks away from the city hall, progress was so difficult that
I took Barbara back a block to get the street that paralleled Main.
This we could navigate slowly. Here, also, everybody was masked.
Confetti flew, serpentines unreeled themselves out through the air,
dusters spluttered in faces, and among the Pierrettes, Pierrots,
Columbines, sombrero-ed cowboys, bandana-ed cow-girls, Indians, Sambos,
Topsies and Poppy Maidens, Barbara's little white linen slip and soft
white sweater, and my grey business suit, were more conspicuous than
would have been the Ahkoond of Swat and his Captive Slave. Even after
the confetti had sprinkled her black hair until it reminded me of
Skeet's blossom wreath, infinitely multiplied, I still saw the glances
through the eye-holes of masks follow us wonderingly.
Opposite the city hall, where we must cross to get to the Capehart
street, we were again almost stopped by the dense crowd. The Square was
a green-turfed dancing floor; from its stand, an orchestra jazzed out
the latest and dizziest of dances; and countless couples one-stepped on
the grass, on the asphalt of the streets, even over the lawns of
adjacent houses, tree trunks and flower beds adding more things to be
dodged. At one corner, where the crowd was thick, we saw a big man
being wound to a pole by paper serpentines. Yelling and capering, the
masked dancers milled around and around him, winding the gay ribbons,
while others with confetti and the Spanish cascarones, tried to snow
him under. As we came up, a big fist wagged and Bill Capehart's voice
Hold on! Too much is a-plenty!
He tore himself loose, streaming with paper strips, bent and filled
his fists from the confetti at his feet. His tormentors howled and
dropped back as much as they could for the hemming crowd; he rushed
them, heaving paper ammunition in a hail-storm, and reached us in two
or three jumps.
Golly! he roared, Me for a cyclone cellar! This is a riot. You
ain't in costume, either. Wonder they wouldn't pick on you.
With the words they did. I put Barbara behind me, and was conscious
only of a blinding snow of paper flakes, the punch and slap of dusters,
in an uproar of horns and bells.
Good deal like fighting a swarm of bees in your shirt-tail with a
willow switch, old Bill panted at my shoulder. Gosh! as the snapping
of firecrackers let loose beneath our feet. Some o' these mosquito-net
skirts'll get afire nextthen there'll be hell a-popping!
Close at hand there was a louder report, as of a giant cracker, and
at that Barbara sagged against me. I whirled and put an arm about her.
Bill grabbed her from me, and lifted her above the pressure of the
crowd. I charged ahead, shouting,
Gangway! Let us through!
Willing enough, the mob could not make room for passage until my
shoulder, lowered to strike at the breast, forced a way, that closed in
the instant Bill gained through. It was football tactics, with me
bucking the line, Bill carrying the ball. Fortunately, the bunch was a
good-natured festival gathering, or my rough work might have brought us
trouble. As it was, a short, stiff struggle took us to the outer fringe
of the mob.
How is she? What happened? I grunted, coming to a stop.
Search me. Bill twisted around to look at the white face that lay
back on his shoulder, with closed lids. Three strokes chimed from the
city hall tower. Barbara's eyes flashed open; as the last stroke
trembled in the air, Barbara's voice came, sharp with breathless
A quarter of ten! Quickget me to the country club!
Take you there? Now, d'ye mean? I ejaculated; and holding
her like a baby, Bill's eyes flared into mine. Did something happen to
you back there, girl? Or did you just faint?
Never mind about me! There, that glance of hers that saw
everything indicated a parking place packed with machines half a block
away up a side street. Carry me there. Take one of those cars. Get me
to the country club. Don't as I opened my mouth, don't ask
I turned and ran. Bill galloped behind. Barbara had lifted her head
to cry after me,
The best one! Pick the fastest!
I plunged down the line of cars, looking for a good machine and one
with whose drive I was familiar. The guard rushed up to stop me; I
showed him my badge, leaped into the front seat of a speed-built
Tarpon, and had it out by the time Bill came up with the girl in his
arms. I turned and swung open the tonneau door. Almost with one
movement, he lifted her in and climbed after. I started off with
braying horn, and at that I had to use caution. Making my way toward
the corner of the street that led to Bill's house, I felt a small hand
clutch the slack of my coat between the shoulders, and Barbara's voice,
faint, but with a fury of determination in it, demanded,
Where are you going? I said the country club.
All right; I'll go. I'll look after whatever you want out there
when I've got you home.
Oh, oh, she moaned. Won't youthis one timetake orders?
I went on past the corner. She had a right to put it just that way.
I gave the Tarpon all I dared in town streets.
What time is it? I heard her whispering to Bill. Eight minutes to
ten? I have to be there by ten, or it's no use. Can he make it? Do you
think he can make it?
Yes, I growled, crouching behind the wheel. I'll make it. May
have to kill a fewbut I'll get you there.
By this, we'd come out on the open highway, better, but not too
clear, either. There followed seven minutes of ripping through the
night, of people who ran yelling to get out of our way and hurled
curses behind us, only a few cars meeting us like the whirling of
comets in terrifying glimpses as we shot past; and, at last, the
country club; strings of gay lanterns, winking ruby tail-lights of
machines parked in front of it, the glare from its windows, and the
strains of the orchestra in its ballroom, playing On the Beach at
Waikiki. When she heard it, Barbara thanked God with,
We're in time!
I took that machine up to the front steps over space never intended
for automobiles, at a pace not proper for lawns or even roads, and only
halted when I was half across the walk. Bill rolled from the tonneau
door and stood by it. I jumped down and came around.
Lift me out, and put me on my feet, Barbara ordered. Help meone
on each side. I can walk. I must!
We crossed a deserted porch; the evening's opening eventthe grand
marchhad drawn every one, servants and all, inside. So far, without
challenge, meeting no one. We had the place to ourselves till we stood,
the three of us alone, before the upper entrance of the assembly room.
In there, the last strains of Waikiki died away. I looked to Barbara.
She was in command. Her words back there in town had settled that for
What do we do now? I asked.
White as the linen she wore, the girl's face shone with some inner
fire of passionate resolution. I saw this, too, in the determined,
almost desperate energy with which she held herself erect, one clenched
hand pressed hard against her side.
Take me in there, Mr. Boyne. And you, to Capehart, find a man you
can trust to guard each door of the ballroom.
What you say goes. Big Bill wheeled like a well trained cart-horse
and had taken a step or two, when she called after him,
Arrest any one who attempts to enter.
Arrest 'em if they try to git in, Capehart repeated stoically.
Sure. That goes. But I interrupted,
You mean if they try to get out.
At that she gave me a look. No time or breath to waste. Bill,
unquestioning, had hurried to his part of the work. I took up mine
with, Forgive me, Barbara. I'll not make that mistake again; slipped
my arm under hers to support her; dragged open the big doors; shoved
past the hallman there; and we stepped into the many-colored, moving
brilliance of the ballroom.
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE COUNTRY CLUB
The ballroom of the country club at Santa Ysobel is big and finely
proportioned. I don't know if anything of the sort could have
registered with me at the moment, but I remembered afterward my
impression of the great hall fairly walled and roofed with fruit
blossoms, and the gorgeousness of hundreds of costumes. The mere
presence of potential funds raises the importance of an event. The
prune kings and apricot barons down there, with their wives and
daughters in real brocades, satins and velvets, with genuine jewels
flashing over them, represented so much in the way of substantial
wealth that it seemed to steady the whole fantastic scene.
Barbara and I entered on the level of the slightly raised orchestra
stand and only half a dozen paces from it. Nobody noticed us much; we
came in right on the turn of thingsfloor managers darting around,
orchestra with bows poised and horns at lips, the whole glittering
company of maskers being made ready to weave their Figure of Eight
across the dancing floor. My poor girl dragged on my arm; her small
feet scuffed; I lifted her along, wishing I might pick her up and carry
her as Bill had done. I made for an unoccupied musicians' bench; but
once there, she only leaned against it, not letting go her hold on me,
and stood to take in every detail of the confused, moving scene.
The double doors had swung closed behind us; the hallman there who
held the knob, now reinforced by a uniformed policeman. The servants'
way, at the further end was shut; men in plain clothes set their backs
against it. And last, Big Bill himself in overalls, a touch of blunt
blue realism, came fogging along the side-wall to swing into place the
great wooden bar that secured the entire group of glass doors which
gave on the porch. Barbara would have seen all these arrangements while
I was getting ready for my first glance, but I prompted her nervously
with a low-toned, All set, girl, and then as she still didn't speak,
Bill's got every door guarded.
She nodded. The length of the room away, in the end gallery, was the
cannery girl queen and her guard. Even at that distance, I recognized
Eddie Hughes, in his pink-and-white Beef Eater togs, a gilded wooden
spear in his hand, a flower tassel bobbing beside that long, drab,
knobby countenance of his. There he was, the man I'd jailed for Thomas
Gilbert's murder. Below on the dancing floor, were the two, Cummings
and Bowman, who had put Worth behind the bars for the same crime. At my
side was the pale, silent girl who declared that Clayte was the
Whispered tuning and trying of instruments up here; flutter and rush
about down on the dancing floor; and Barbara, that clenched left hand
of hers still pressed in hard against her side, facing what problem?
Crash! Boom! We were so close the music fairly deafened us, as, with
a multiplied undernote of moving feet, the march began. On came those
people toward us, wave behind wave of color and magnificence, dotted
with little black ovals of masks pierced by gleaming eye-holes. I could
sense Barbara reading the room as it bore down on her, and reading it
clearly, getting whatever it was she had come there for. Myself, I was
overwhelmed, drowned in the size and sweep of everything, struggling
along, whispering to her when I spotted Jim Edwards in his friar's
robe, noticed that the Roman soldier who must be Cummings, and Bowman,
the Spaniard, squired the Thornhill twins in their geisha girl dresses;
the crimson poppies of a Lady of Dreams looked odd against Laura
Bowman's coppery hair.
At the head of the procession as they swung around, leading it with
splendid dignity, came a pair who might have been Emperor and Empress
of Chinathe Vandemans. To go on with affairs as if nothing had
happenedthough Worth Gilbert was in jailhad been the laid-down
policy of both Vandeman and his wife. I'd thought it reasonable then;
foolish to get hot at it now. The great, shining, rhythmically moving
line deployed, interwove, and opened out again until at last the floor
was almost evenly occupied with the many-colored mass. I looked at
Barbara; the awful intensity with which she read her room hurt me. It
had nothing to do with that flirt of a glance she always gave a printed
page, that mere toss of attention she was apt to offer a problem. The
child was in anguish, whether merely the ache of sorrow, or actual
bodily pain; I saw how rigidly that small fist still pressed against
the knitted wool of her sweater, how her lip was drawn in and bitten.
Her physical weakness contrasted strangely with the clean cut decision,
the absolute certainty of her mental power. She raised her face and
looked straight up into mine.
Have the music stopped.
I leaned over and down toward the orchestra leader to catch his eye,
holding toward him the badge. His glance caught it, and I told him what
we wanted. He nodded. For an instant the music flooded on, then at a
sharp rap of the baton, broke off in mid-motion, as though some great
singing thing had caught its breath. And all the swaying life and color
on the floor stopped as suddenly. Barbara had picked the moment that
brought Ina Vandeman and her husband squarely facing us. After the
first instant's bewilderment, Vandeman and his floor managers couldn't
fail to realize that they were being held up by an outsider; with
Barbara in full sight up here by the orchestra, they must know who was
doing it. I wondered not to have Vandeman in my hair already; but he
and his consort stood in dignified silence; it was his committee who
came after me, a Mephistopheles, a troubadour, an Indian brave, a
Hercules with his club, swarming up the step, wanting to know if I was
the man responsible, why the devil I had done it, who the devil I
thought I was, anyhow. Others were close behind.
Edwards, I called to the brown friar, can you keep these fellows
off me for a minute?
Still not a word from Barbara. Nothing from Vandeman. Less than
nothing: I watched in astonishment how the gorgeous leader stopped
dumb, while those next him backed into the couple behind, side
stepping, so that the whole line yawed, swayed, and began to fall into
Cummings, as I glimpsed the lawyer's chain mail and purple
feather, Keep them all in place if you can. All.
In the instant, from behind my shoulder Barbara spoke.
Have that mantake off his mask.
A little, shaking white hand pointed at the leader.
Mr. Vandeman, I said. That's an order. It'll have to be done.
The words froze everything. Hardly a sound or movement in the great
crowded room, except the little rustle as some one tried to see better.
And there, all eyes on him, Bronson Vandeman stood with his arms at his
sides, mute as a fish. Ina fumbled nervously at the cord of her own
mask, calling to me in a fierce undertone,
What do you mean, Mr. Boyne, bringing that girl here to spoil
things. This is spite-work.
Offtake his mask off! Do it yourself! Barbara's voice was clear
I made three big jumps of the space between us and the leading
couple. Vandeman's committee-men obstructed me, the excited yip going
VandemanBronseVannieWho let this fool in here?Do we throw
Then they took the words from Edwards; the tune changed to
grumblings of, What's the matter with Van? Why doesn't he settle it
one way or another, and be done?
Why didn't he? I had but a breath of time to wonder at that, as I
shoved a way through. Darn him, like a graven image there, the only
mute, immovable thing in that turmoil! I began to feel sore.
You heard what she said? I took no trouble now to be civil. She
wants your mask off.
No flicker of response from the man, but the Empress of China
dragged down her mask, crying,
Heard what she said? What she wants? Over the shoulders of the
crowd she gave Barbara Wallace a venomous look, then came at me.
A little too late. My hand had shot out and snatched the mask from
the face of China's monarch. A moment I glared, the bit of black stuff
in my grasp, at the alien countenance I had uncovered. Crowding and
craning of the others to see. Jabbering, exclaiming all around us.
Corking make-up; looks like a sure-enough Chinaman.
No make-up at all. The real thing.
What's the big idea?
Why did he unmask, then?
Didn't want to. They made him.
And last, but loudest, repeated time and again, with wonder, with
distaste, with rising anger,
The Vandeman's Chinese cook!
For with the ripping away of that black oval, I had looked into the
slant, inscrutable eyes of Fong Ling. Hemmed in by the crowd, he could
but face me; he did so with a kind of unhuman passivity.
And the committee went wild. Their own masks came off on the run. I
saw Cummings' face, Bowman's; Eddie Hughes slid from the balcony stair
and bucked the crowd, pushing through to the seat of war. The grand
march had become a jostling, gabbling chaos.
Barbara, up there, above it all, knew what she was about. I had
utter confidence in her. But she was plainly holding back for a further
development, her eyes on the entrances; and what the devil was my next
Ina Vandeman wheeled where she stood and faced the room, both hands
thrown up, laughing.
It was meant to be a jokea great, big foolish joke! her high
treble rang out. Bron's here somewhere. Wait. He'll tell you better
than I could. At a masqueradepeople dothey do foolish things....
Is Bronse Vandeman here? I questioned Fong Ling. The Chinaman's
stiff lips moved for the first time, in his formal, precise English.
Yes, sir. Mr. Vandeman will explain. He crossed his hands and
resigned the matter to his employer. And I demanded of Ina Vandeman,
You tell us your husband's presentin this room? Now? and when her
answer was drowned in the noise, I roared,
Vandeman! Bronson Vandeman! You're wanted here!
No answer. Edwards took up the call after me; the committee yelled
the name in all keys and variations. In the middle of our squawking, a
minor disturbance broke out across by the porch entrance, where Big
Bill Capehart stood. As I looked, he turned over his post to Eddie
Hughes, who came abreast of him at the moment, and started, scuffling
and struggling toward us, with a captive.
I had my orders! his big voice boomed out. Pinch any one that
tried to get in. Y'don't pass menot if you was own cousin to God
On they came through the crowd, all mixed up; blue overalls, and a
flapping costume whose rich, many-colored silk embroideries, flashed
like jewels. A space widened about us for them. The big garage man spun
his catch to the center of it, so that he faced the room, his back to
Wanted in, did ya? Now yer in, what about it?
What about it, indeed? In Bill's prisoner, as he stood there
twitching ineffectually against that obstinate hold, breathing loud,
shakily settling his clothes, we had, robe for robe, cap for cap, a
duplicate Emperor of China!
And the next moment, this figure took off its mask and showed the
face of Bronson Vandeman.
Dead silence all about us; Capehart loosened his grip, abashed but
Dang it all, Mr. Vandeman, if you didn't want to get mussed up,
what made you fight like that?
Fight? Vandeman found his voice. Who wouldn't? I was late, and
Bron! After one desperate glance toward the girl up on the
platform, Ina ran to him and put a hand on his arm. They stopped the
march.... Yourthethey spoiled our joke. But have them start the
music again. You're here now. Let's go on with the march ... explain
Good business! Vandeman filled his chest, glanced across at Fong
Ling, and gave his social circle a rather poor version of the usual
white-toothed smile. Jokes can waitespecially busted ones. On with
the dance; let joy be unrefined!
Sidelong, I saw the orchestra leader's baton go up. But no music
followed. It was at Barbara the baton had pointed, at Barbara that all
the crowded company stared. Her little white dress clung to her slender
figure. I saw that now she was in the strange Buddha pose. A few flecks
of silver paper, still in her black hair, made it sparkle. But it was
Barbara's eyes that held us all spellbound. In her colorless face those
wonderful openings of black light seemed to look through and beyond us.
For an instant there was no stir. Hundreds of faces set toward her,
held by the wonder of her. Fong Ling's yellow visage moved for the
first time from its immobility with a sort of awe, a dread. And when my
gaze came back to her, I noticed that, with the dropping of her hands
to join the finger-tips, she had left, where that little, pressing fist
had been, a blur of red on the white sweater. Over me it rushed with
the force of calamity, she had been wounded when she sank down back
there in the crowd. It was a shotnot a giant crackerwe had heard.
Vandeman, I whirled on him, You shot this girl. You tried to kill
Sensation enough among the others; but I doubt if he even heard me.
His gaze had found Barbara; all the bounce, all the jauntiness was out
of the man, as he stared with the same haunted fear his eyes had held
when she concentrated last night at his own dinner table.
She was concentrating now; could she stand the strain of it, with
its weakening of the heart action, its pumping all the blood to the
brain? I shouldered my way to her, and knelt beside her, begging,
Don't, Barbara. Give it up, girl. You can't stand this.
Her hands unclasped. Her eyes grew normal. She relaxed, sighingly. I
leaned closer while she whispered to me the last addition in that
problem of two and twothe full solution. Armed, I faced Vandeman once
Something seemed to be giving way in the man; his lips were almost
as pale as his face, and that had been, from the moment he uncovered
it, like tallow. He looked withered, smaller; his hair where it had
been pressed down by mask and cap, crossed his forehead, flat, smooth,
dull brown. I saw, half consciously, that Fong Ling was gone. An
accomplice? No matter; the criminal himself was hereBarbara's wonder
man. It was to him I spoke.
Edward Clayte, at the name, Cummings clanked around front to
stare. I hold a warrant for your arrest for the theft of nine hundred
and eighty seven thousand dollars from the Van Ness Avenue Savings Bank
of San Francisco.
He made a sick effort to square his shoulders; fumbled with his hair
to toss it back from its straight-down sleekness, as Clayte, to the
pompadoured crest of Vandeman. How often I had seen that gesture, not
understanding its significance. Cummings, at my side, drew in a breath,
Whydamn it!he is Clayte!
All right, I let the words go from the corner of my mouth at the
lawyer, in the same hushed tones he'd used. See how you like this next
one, and finished, loud enough so all might hear,
And I charge you, Edward ClayteBronson Vandemanwith the murder
of Thomas Gilbert.
CHAPTER XXIX. UNMASKED
Disgrace was in the air; the country club had seen its vice
president in handcuffs. There was a great gathering up of petticoats
and raising of moral umbrellas to keep clear of the dirty splashings.
It made me think of a certain social occasion in Israel some thousands
of years ago, when Absalom, at his own party, put a raw one over on his
brother Amnon, and all the rest of King David's sons looked at each
other with jaws sagging, and every man gat himself up upon his mule
and fled. Here, it was limousines; more than one noble chariotfilled
with members of the faction who'd helped to rush Vandeman into office
over the claims of older membersrolled discredited down the drive.
Yet a ball is the hardest thing in the world to kill; like a lizard,
if you break it in two, the head and tail go right on wriggling
independently. Also, behind this masked affair at the country club was
the business proposition of a lot of blossom festival visitors from all
over the state who mustn't be disappointed. By the time I'd finished
out in front, getting my prisoner off to the lock-up, sending Eddie
Hughes, with Capehart and the other helpers he'd picked up to guard the
Vandeman bungalow, handed over to the Santa Ysobel police the matter of
finding Fong Ling, and turned back to see how Barbara was getting on,
the music sounded once more, the rhythmic movement of many feet.
The boys have got it started again, Jim Edwards joined me in the
hall, his tone still lowered and odd from the amazement of the thing.
Curious, that business in there yesterday, a nod indicated the little
writing room toward which we moved. Bronse stepping in, brisk and
cool, for you to question him; pleasant, ordinary looking chap. Would
you say he had it in his head right then to murder youor Barbaraif
you came too hot on his trail?
Me? I echoed sheepishly. He never paid me that compliment. He
wasn't afraid of me. I think Barbara sealed her own fate, so far as he
was concerned, when she let Worth pique her into doing a concentrating
stunt at Vandeman's dinner table last night. The man saw that nothing
she turned that light on could long stay hidden. He must have decided,
then, to put her out of the way. As for his wifewell, however much or
little she knew, she'd not defend Barbara Wallace.
At that, Edwards gave me a look, but all he said was,
Cummings has suffered a complete change of heart, it seems. I left
him in the telephone booth, just now, calling up Dykeman. He'll
certainly keep the wires hot for Worth.
He'd better, I agreed; and only Edwards's slight, dark smile
There's a side entrance here, he explained mildly, as we came to
the turn of the hall. I'll unlock it; and when Barbara's ready to be
taken home, we can get her out without every one gaping at her.
He was still at the lock, his back to me, when a door up front
slammed, and a Spanish Cavalier came bustling down the corridor,
pulling off a mask to show me Bowman's face, announcing,
I think you want me in there. That girl should have competent
She has that already, I spoke over my shoulder. And if she
hadn't, do you think she'd let you touch her, Bowman? Man, you've got
no human feeling. If you had a shred, you'd know that to her it is as
true you tried to take Worth's life with your lying testimony as it is
that Vandeman murdered Worth's father with a gun.
Hah! the doctor panted at me; he was fairly sober, but still a bit
thick in the wits. You people ain't classing me with this crook
Vandeman, are you? You can't do that. Noof courseLaura's set you
all against me.
Edwards straightened up from the door. With his first look at that
fierce, dark face, the doctor began to back off, finally scuttling
around the turn into the main hall at what was little less than a run.
They had Barbara sitting in the big Morris chair while they finished
adjusting bandages and garments. Our young cub of a doctor, silver
buttoned velveteen coat off, sleeves rolled up, hailed us cheerily,
That bullet went where it could get the most blood for the least
harm, I'd say. Have her all right in a jiffy. At that, if it had been a
little further to one side
And I knew that Edward Clayte's bulletBronson Vandeman'shad
narrowly missed Barbara's heart.
This wonderful girl! the doctor went on with young enthusiasm, as
he bandaged and pinned. Sitting up there, wounded as she was, and
forgetting it, she looked to me more than human. Sort of effect as
though light came from her.
I was ashamed of myself back there in the Square, Mr. Boyne,
Barbara's voice, good and strong, cut across his panegyric. Never in
my life did I feel like that before. My brain wasn't functioning
normally at all. I was confused, full of indecision. She mentioned
that state, so painfully familiar to ordinary humanity, as most people
would speak of being raving crazy. It was agonizing, she smiled a
little at the others. Poor Mr. Boyne helping me alongwe'd got
somehow into a crowd. And I was just a lump of flesh. I hardly knew
where we were. Then suddenly came the sound of the shot, the stinging,
burning feeling in my side. It knocked my body down; but my mind came
clear; I could use it.
I'll say you could, I smiled. From then on, Bill Capehart and I
were the lumps of flesh that you heaved around without explanation.
There wasn't time; and I was afraid you'd find out what had
happened to me, and wouldn't bring me here, she said simply. I knew
that the one motive for silencing me was the work I'd been doing for
Sure, I said, light breaking on me. And every possible suspect in
the Gilbert murder case was under this roofor supposed to bethe
grand march would be the show-down as to that. And just then the clock
struck! Poor girl!
It was a race against time, Barbara agreed. If we could get here
first, hold the door against whoever came flying to get in, we'd have
the one who shot me.
But, Barbara child, Laura Bowman was working at a sweater sleeve
on the bandaged side. You did get here and caught Bronson Vandeman; it
had worked out all right. Why did you risk sitting up in that strained
pose, wounded as you were, to concentrate?
For Worth. I had to relate this crime to the one for which he'd
been arrested. Within the hour, I'd gathered facts that showed me
Edward Clayte killed Worth's father. When I brought that man and his
crime to stand before me, and Bronson Vandeman and his crime to stand
beside itas I can bring things when I concentrate on themI found
they dove-tailedthe impossible was truethese two were one man. She
looked around at the four of us, wondering at her, and finished, Can't
they take me home now, doctor?
Sit and rest a few minutes. Have the door open, the young fellow
said. And on the instant there came a call for me from the side
Mr. Boyneare you in there? May I speak to you, please?
It was Skeet Thornhill's voice. I went out into the entry. There,
climbing down from the old Ford truck, leaving its engine running, was
Skeet herself. Her glance went first to the door I closed behind me.
Yes, I answered its question. She's in there. Then, moved by the
frank misery of her eyes, She'll be all right. Very little hurt.
She said something under her breath; I thought it was Thank God!
looked about the deserted side entrance, seemed to listen to the
flooding of music and movement from the ballroom, then lifting to mine
a face so pale that its freckles stood out on it, faltered a step
closer and studied me.
They phoned us, scarcely above a whisper. Mother sent me for the
girls andIna. Mr. Boyne, a break in her voice, am I going to be
able to take Ina back with me? Or is shedo they?
Wait, I said. Here she comes now, as Cummings brought young Mrs.
Vandeman toward us. She moved haughtily, head up, a magnificent evening
wrap thrown over her costume, and saw her sister without surprise.
Skeet, she crossed and stood with her back to me, there's been
some trouble here. Keep it from mother if you can. I'm leavingbut
we'll get it all fixed up. How did you get here? Can I take you back in
The big, closed car, one of Vandeman's wedding gifts to her, purred
slowly up the side drive, circling Skeet's old truck, and stopped a
little beyond. Skeet gave it one glance, then reached a twitching hand
to catch on the big silken sleeve.
You can't go to the bungalow, Ina. As I came past, they were
placing men around it toto watch it.
What! Ina wheeled on us, looking from one to the other.
Mr. BoyneMr. Cummingswho had that done?
Does it matter? I countered. She made me tired.
Does it matter? she snapped up my words, Am I to be treated as
Even Ina Vandeman's effrontery wouldn't carry her to a finish on
that. I completed it for her, explicitly,
Mrs. Vandeman, whether you are detained as an accomplice or merely
a material witness, I'm responsible for you. I would have the authority
to allow you to go with your sister; but you'll not be permitted to
even enter the bungalow.
It's nearly midnight, she protested. I have no clothes but this
costume. I must go home.
Oh, come on! Skeet pleaded. Don't you see that doesn't do any
good, Ina? You can get something at our house to wear.
She gave me a long look, her chin still high, her eyes hard and
unreadable. Then, For the present, I shall go to a hotel. She laid a
hand on Skeet's shoulder, but it was only to push her away. Tell
mother, evenly, that I'll not bring my trouble into her house.
Ohyou want Ernestine and Cora? Well, get them and go. And with firm
step she walked to her car.
I nodded to Cummings.
Have one of Dykeman's men pick her up and hang tight, I said, and
he smiled back understandingly, with,
Already done, Boyne. I want to speak to Miss Wallaceif I may.
Will you please see for me?
A moment later, he marched shining and jingling, in through a door
that he left open behind him, pulled off his Roman helmet as though it
had been a hat, and stood unconsciously fumbling that shoe-brush thing
they trim those ancient lids with.
Barbara, he met the eyes of the girl in the chair unflinchingly,
you told me last night that the only words I ever could speak to you
would be in the way of an apology. Will you hear one now? I'm ready to
make it. Talk doesn't count much; but I'm going the limit to put Worth
Gilbert's release through.
There was a long silence, Barbara looking at him quite unmoved.
Behind that steady gaze lay the facts that Worth Gilbert's life and
honor had been threatened by this man's course; that she herself was
only alive because the bullet of that criminal whom his action
unconsciously shielded missed its aim by an inch: Worth's life, her
life, their love and all that might meanand Barbara had eyes you
could readI didn't envy Cummings as he faced her. Finally she said
I'll accept your apology, Mr. Cummings, when Worth is free.
CHAPTER XXX. A CONFESSION
In the dingy office of the city prison, with its sand boxes and
barrel stove, its hacked old desks, dusty books and papers, I watched
Bronson Vandeman, and wondered to see how the man I had known played in
and out across his face with the man Edward Clayte, whom I had tried to
imagine, whom nobody could describe.
Helping to recover Clayte's loot for Worth Gilbert looked to the
opposition their best bet for squaring themselves. Dykeman from his
sick bed, had dug us up a stenographer; Cummings had climbed out of his
tin clothes and come along with us to the jail. They wanted the screws
put on; but I intended to handle Vandeman in my own way. I had halted
the lawyer on the lock-up threshold, with,
Cummings, I want you to keep still in here. When I'm done with the
man, you can question him all you wantif he's left anything to be
told. I answered a doubtful look, Did you see his face there in the
ball room as he looked up at Barbara Wallace? He thinks that girl knows
everything, like a supreme being. He's still so shaken that he'd spill
out anythingeverything. He'll hardly suppose he's telling us anything
we don't know.
And Vandeman bore out expectations. Now, provided with a raincoat to
take the place of his Mandarin robe, his trousers still the lilac satin
ones of that costume, he surveyed us and our preparations with a half
smile as we settled our stenographer and took chairs ourselves.
I look like hellwhat? He spoke fast as a man might with a drink
ahead. But it was not alcohol that was loosening his tongue. Why can't
some one go up to my place and get me a decent suit of clothes? God
knows I've plenty thereclosets full of them.
Time enough when th' Shurff gets here, Roll Winchell, the town
marshall grunted at him. I'm not taking any chances on you, Mr.
Vandeman. You'll do me as you are.
Stick a smoke in my face, Cummings, came next in a voice that
twanged like a stretched string. Damn these bracelets! Light it, can't
you? Light it. He puffed eagerly, got to his feet and began walking up
and down the room, glancing at us from time to time, raising the
manacled hands grotesquely to his cigar, drawing in a breath as though
to speak, then shaking his head, grinning a little and walking on. I
knew the mood; the moment was coming when he must talk. The necessity
to reel out the whole thing to whomever would listen was on him like a
sneeze. It's always so at this stage of the game.
For all the hullabaloo in the streets, we were quiet enough here,
since the lock-up at Santa Ysobel lurks demurely, as such places are
apt to do, in the rear of the building whose garbage can it is. Our
pacing captive could keep silent no longer. Shooting a sidelong glance
at me, he broke out,
I'm not a common crook, Boyne, even if I do come of a family of
them, and my father's in Sing Sing. I put him there. They'd not have
caught him without. He was an educated mannever worked anything but
big stuff. At that, what was the best he could door any of them? Make
a haul, and all they got out of it was a spell of easy money that they
only had the chance to spend while they were dodging arrest. Sooner or
later every one of them I knew got put away for a longer or shorter
term. Growing up like that, getting my education in the public schools
daytimes, and having a finish put on it nights with the gang, I decided
that I was going to be, not honest, but the hundredth manthe
thousandthwho can pull off a big thing and neither have to hide nor
go to prison.
This was promising; a little different from the ordinary brag; I
signaled inconspicuously to our stenographer to keep right on the job.
When I was twenty-four years old, I saw my chance to shake the gang
and try out my own idea, Clayte rattled it off feelinglessly. It was
a lone hand for me. My father had made a stake by a forgery; checks on
the City bank. I knew where the money was hid, eight thousand and
seventy nine dollars. It would just about do me. I framed the old
manI told you he was in Sing Sing nowtook my working capital and
came out here to the Coast. That money had to make me rich for life,
respected, comfortable. I figured that my game was as safe as dummy
Yeh, said Roll Winchell, the marshal, gloomily, them high-toned
Eastern crooks always comin' out here thinkin' they'll find the Coast a
Two years I worked as a messenger for the San Francisco Trust
Company, Clayte's voice ran right on past Winchell's interruption, a
model employee, straight as they come; then decided they were too big
for me to tackle, and used their recommendation to get a clerk's job
with the Van Ness Avenue concern. I was after the theft of at least a
half million dollars, with a perfect alibi; and the smaller institution
suited my plan. It took me four years to work up to paying teller, but
I wasn't hurrying things. I was using my capital now to build that
He glanced around nervously as the stenographer turned a leaf, then
I'd picked out this town for the home of the man I was going to be.
It suited me, because it was on a branch line of the railway, hardly
used at all by men whose business was in the city, and off the main
highway of automobile travel; besides, I liked the placeI've always
Sure flattered, came the growl as Winchell stirred in his chair.
My bungalow and grounds cost me four thousand; at that it was a
run-down place and I got it cheap. The mahoganyold family pieces that
I was supposed to bring in from the Eastcame high. Yet maybe you'd be
surprised how the idea took with me. I used to scrimp and save off my
salary at the bank to buy things for the place, to keep up the right
scale of living for Bronson Vandeman, traveling agent for eastern
manufacturers, not at home much in Santa Ysobel yet, but a man of fine
family, rich prospects, and all sorts of a good fellow, settled in the
place for the rest of his days.
He turned suddenly and grinned at me.
You swallowed it whole, Boyne, when you walked into my house last
nightthe old family furniture I bought in Los Angeles, the
second-hand library, that family portrait, with a ring on my finger,
and the same painted in on what was supposed to be my father's hand.
Sure, I nodded amiably, You had me fooled.
And without a bit of crude make-up or disguise, he rubbed it in.
It was a change of manner and psychology for mine. As Edward
Clayteand that's not my name, either, any more than VandemanI was
description-proof. I meant to beand I was. It tookherthe girl,
his face darkened and he jerked at his cigar, to deduce that a
nonentity who could get away with nearly a million dollars and leave no
trail was some man!
I raised my head with a start and stared at the man in his raincoat
and lilac silk pantaloons.
That's so, I fed it to him, She had a name for you. She called
you the wonder man.
Did she! a pleased smile. Well, I'll give her right on that. I
was some little wonder man. Listen, his insistent over-stimulated
voice went eagerly on, The beauty of my scheme was that up to the very
last move, there was nothing criminal in my leading this double life.
You seeas I got stronger and stronger here in Santa Ysobel, I bought
a good machine, a speedster that could burn up the road. Many's the
stag supper I've had with the boys there in my bungalow, and been back
behind the wicket as Edward Clayte in the Van Ness Avenue bank on time
next morning. I was in that room at the St. Dunstan about as much as a
fellow's in his front hall. I walked through it to Henry J. Brundage's
room at the Nugget; I stayed there more often than I did at the St.
Dunstan, unless I came on here.
I'd left marriage out. Then that night four years ago when Ina had
her little run-in with old Tom Gilbert and got her engagement to Worth
smashed, I saw there might be girls right in the class I was trying to
break into that would be possible for a man like me. The date for our
wedding was set, when Thomas Gilbert remarked to me one afternoon as we
were coming off the golf links together, that he was buying a block of
Van Ness Savings Bank stock. For a minute I felt like caving in his
head, then and there, with the golf club I carried. What a hell of a
thing to happen, right at the last this way! Ten chances to one I'd
have this man to silence; but it must be done right. Not much room for
murder in so full a career as mineholding down a teller's job,
running for the vice presidency of the country club, getting married in
stylebut every time I'd look up from behind my teller's grille, and
see any one near the size of old Gilbert walk in the front door, it
gave me the shivers. I'd put more than eight years of planning and hard
work into this scheme, and you'll admit, Boyne, that what I had was
some alibi. A wedding like that in a town of this size makes a big
noise. I managed to be back and forth so much that people got the idea
I was hardly out of Santa Ysobel. The Friday night before, I had a stag
supper at my house, and Saturday morning if any one had called, Fong
Ling would have told them I was sleeping late and couldn't be
disturbed. On the forenoon of my wedding day, then, I sat as Edward
Clayte in my teller's cage, the suitcase I had carried back and forth
empty for so many Saturdays now loaded with currency and securities,
not one of which was traceable, and whose amount I believed would run
close to a million. It was within three minutes of closing time, when
some one rapped on the counter at my wicket, and I looked straight up
into the face of old Tom Gilbert.
I saw a flash of doubtful recognition in his eyes, but didn't dare
to avoid them while counting bills and silver to pay his check. If I
had done so, he would certainly have known me. As it was, I saw that I
convinced himalmost. I watched him as he went out, saw him hesitate a
little at the door of Knapp's officehe wasn't quite sure enough. I
knew the man. The instant he made certain, he would act.
The old devil wasn't on terms to attend the reception at the
Thornhill place, but I located him in an aisle seat, when I first came
from the vestry with my best man. All through the ceremony I felt his
eyes boring into my back. When I finally faced him, as Ina and I walked
out, man and wife, I knew he recognized me, and almost expected him to
step out and denounce me. But noa fellow leading a double life was
all he saw in it; bigamy was the worst he'd suspect me of at the
moment. He didn't give Ina much, wouldn't lift a finger to defend her.
Meantime, the manner of his taking off lay easy to my hand. I'd
studied the situation through that skylight, seen Ed Hughes juggle the
bolts with his magnets, and mapped the thing out. Gilbert killed there,
the room found bolted, was a cinch for suicide. When the reception at
the Thornhill house was over, I made an excuse of something needed for
the journey, and started across to my bungalow. It was common for all
of us to cross through the lawns; I hid in the shrubbery.
There were people with Gilbert, no chance for me to do anything. I
stood there and nearly went out of my hide with impatience over the
delays, while he had his row with Worth, when Laura Bowman and Jim
Edwards came and braced him to let up on his persecution of them. Mrs.
Bowman finally left; he went with her toward the front. Now was my
chance; I dodged into the study, jerked his own pistol from its
holster, squeezed myself in behind the open door and waited. He came
back; I let him get into the room, past me a little, and when at some
sound I made, he turned, the muzzle of the gun was shoved against his
chest and fired.
I'd barely finished pressing Gilbert's fingers around the pistol
butt when I heard a cry outside, jumped to the door, shut and bolted it
just as my mother-in-law ran in across the lawns. I gathered that she'd
been there earlier to get those three leaves out of the diary that you
were so interested in, Boyne; had just read them and come back to have
it out with old Tom. She hung around for five minutes, I should say,
beating on the door, calling, asking if anything was wrong.
My one big mistake in the study was that diary of 1920. It lay open
on the desk where he'd been writing. It did tell of his having
identified me as Clayte. I'd not expected it, and so I didn't handle it
well. Time pressed. I couldn't carry it with me; I tore out the leaf,
stuck the book into the drainpipe, and ran.
And after all, he summed up, my plans would have gone through on
schedule; you never could have touched me with your clumsy,
police-detective methods, if it hadn't been for the girl.
He dropped his head and stood brooding a moment, demanded another
smoke, got it, shrugged off some thought with a gesture, and finished,
I was in too deep to turn. It was her lifeor mine. Things went
contrary. We couldn't get her to come out to the masquerade, where it
would have been easy. With those two Mandarin costumes, Fong Ling in my
place, I had my time from the hour we put on the masks till midnight.
Another perfect alibi. Wellit didn't work. They say you have to shoot
a witch with a silver bullet. And she's more than human.
A siren's dry shriek as the Sheriff's gasoline buggy made its way
through the crowded street outside. Cummings raised his brows at me,
got my nod of permission, and shot his first question at the prisoner.
Vandeman, where's the money?
Not within a hundred miles of here, instantly.
You took it south with youon your wedding trip? Cummings would
persist. But our man, so expansive a moment ago, had, as I knew he
would at direct mention of his loot, turned sullen, and he started for
the San Jose jail, mum as an oyster.
CHAPTER XXXI. THE MILLION-DOLLAR
The Sheriff had gone with his prisoner; Cummings left; and then
there came to me, in the street there before the lock-up, riding with
Jim Edwards in his roadster, a Worth Gilbert I had never known. Quiet
he had been before; but never considerate like this. When I rushed up
to him with my triumph and congratulations, and he put them aside, it
was with a curious gentleness.
Yes, yes, Jerry; I know. Vandeman turned out to be Clayte. Then,
noticing my bewilderment, You see, Jim let it slip that Barbara's
hurt. Where is she? And Edwards leaned around to explain.
When we came past Capehart's, and she wasn't there, I
Oh, that's only a scratch, I hurried to assure the boy.
Barbara'll be all right.
So Jim said, he agreed soberly. I'm afraid you're both lying to
All right, I climbed in beside him. We'll go and see. She's up at
your housewaiting for you.
As we headed away for the other end of town, he spoke again, half
Vandeman shot her? and when I nodded. He's on his way to jail.
I'm out. But I'm the man that's responsible for what's happened to her.
Dragged her into this thing, in the first place. She hated those
concentrating stunts; and I set her to do one at that woman's table. To
help play my gameI risked her life.
I listened in wonder; sidelong, in the dimness, I studied the
carriage of head and shoulders: no diminution of power; but a new use
of it. This was not the crude boy who would knock everybody's plans to
bits for a whim; Worth had found himself; and what a man!
How does it look for recovering the money, Boyne? Edwards
questioned as we drove along.
I plunged into the hottest of that stuff Clayte-Vandeman had
spilled, talked fascinatingly, as I thought, for three minutes, and
paused to hear Worth say,
Who's with Barbara at my house?
Mrs. Bowman, I said in despair, and quit right there.
We came into Broad Street a little above the Vandeman bungalow which
lay black and silent, the lights of Worth's house showing beyond. As we
turned the corner, a man jumped up from the shadow of the hedge where
the Vandeman lawn joined the Gilbert place; there was a flash; the
report of a gun; our watchers had flushed some one. I'd barely had time
to say so to the others when there was a second sharp crack, then the
whine of a ricochetting chunk of lead as it zipped from the asphalt to
sing over our heads.
Beat it! I yelled. Stop the car and get to cover!
Edwards slowed. A moment Worth hung on the running board, peering in
the direction of the sounds. I started to climb out after him. There
came another shot from up ahead, and then a shout. As I tumbled to my
feet in the dark road, Worth had started away on the jump. And I saw
then, what I'd missed before, that the man who had burst from the
hedge, was running zig-zag down the open roadway toward us. He was
making his legs spin, and dodging from side to side as if to duck
bullets. Worth headed straight for him, as though it wasn't plain that
some one out of sight somewhere was making a target of the runner.
Not the kind of a scrap I care for; in a half light you can't tell
friend from foe; but Worth went to itand what was there to do but
follow? I shouted and blew my whistle, hoping our men would hear, heed,
and let up shooting. At the moment of my doing so, Worth closed with
the man, who dropped something he was carrying, and tackled low,
lunging at the boy's knees, aiming I could see to let Worth dive over
and scrape up the pavement with his face.
No dodging that tackle; it caught Worth square; he even seemed to
spring up for the dive; and somehow he carried his opponent with him to
soften the fall. They came down together in the middle of the hard road
with the shock of a railway collision; rolled over and over like dogs
in a scrap, only there wasn't any growling or yelping. It was deadly
quiet; not for an instant could you tell which was which, or whether
the whirling, pelting tangle of arms and legs was man, beast or devil.
That's why, even when I got near enough, I didn't dare plant a large,
thick-soled boot in the mess.
The fight was up to Worth; nothing else for it. Capehart came
rolling from the hedge where I had seen the pistols flash; Eddie
Hughes, inconceivable in pink puffings, bounded after; Jim Edwards
chased up from his car; but all any of us could do was to run up and
down as the struggle whirled about, and grunt when the blows landed.
These sounded like a pile-driver hitting a redwood butt. Out of the
mêlée an arm would jerk, the fist at the end of it come back to land
with a thudon somebody's meat.
Who the devil is it? I bellowed at Capehart, as the two grappled,
afoot, then down, no knowing who was on top, spinning around in a
struggle where neither boots nor knees were barred.
He sneaked out of the bungalow just now, Capehart snorted. We'd
searched the place. Didn't think there was room for a louse to be hid
in it. Got by the boys. I stopped him at the hedge and drove him into
the open. Now Worth's got him. That is Worth, ain't it? Fights like
Yes, I said, It's Worth. But in my own mind I wasn't sure
whether Worth had the fugitive, or the fugitive had Worth. And Jim
Edwards muttered anxiously, as we skipped and side-stepped along with
That fellow may have a knife or a gun.
Not where he can draw, I said, or he'd have used it before now.
And Capehart sung out,
Sure. Leave 'em go. Worth'll fix him.
Edging in too close, I got a kick on the shin from a flying heel,
and was dancing around on one foot nursing the other when I heard
sounds of distress issue from the tangle in the road; somebody was
getting breath in long, gaspy sighs that broke off in grunts when the
thud of blows fell, and merged in the harsh nasal of blood violently
dislodged from nose and throat. For a while they had been up, and
swapping punches face to face, lightning swift. Sounds like boxing,
perhaps, but there wasn't any science about it. Feint? Parry? Footwork?
Not on your life! Each of these two was trying to slug the other into
insensibility, working for any old kind of a knock-out.
I began to be a little nervous for fear the boy I was bringing home
from jail as a peace offering to Barbara might arrive so defaced that
she wouldn't recognize him, when I saw one dark form pull away, leap
back, an arm shoot out like a piston-rod, and with a jar that set my
own teeth on edge, connect with the other man's chin. He went down
clawing the air, crumpled into a bunch of clothes at the side of the
You wanted the Chink, didn't you, Bill? This was Worth, facing Jim
Edwards's torch, fumbling for his handkerchief. I heard you, and I
thought you wanted him.
It's Fong Ling! bawled Capehart. Sure we wanted himand whatever
that was he was carrying. Where is it? Did he drop it?
Sort of think he did, Worth was dabbing off his own face with a
gingerly, respectful touch. I know he dropped some teeth back there in
the road. Saw him spit 'em out. Maybe he left it with them. You might
go and look.
The four of us drifted along the field of battle, Capehart's
assistant having taken charge of the unconscious Chinaman, whom he was
frisking for weapons. Halfway back to the hedge Bill stumbled on
something, picked it up, and dropped it again with a disgusted grunt.
Nothing but a Chinaboy's keister, he said contemptuously. Not
much to that. Why in blazes did he run so?
Because you were shooting him up, I'd say, Jim Edwards suggested.
Naw. Commenced to run before we turned loose on him, Bill
Hello! I had pounced on the unbelievable thing, and called to
Edwards for his light. Worth, here's your
That! he followed along, dusting himself off, trying out his
joints. Oh, yes. I left it in my closet, and it disappeared. Told you
of it at the time, didn't I, Jerry?
You did not, I sputtered, down on my knees, working away at the
catches. You never told me anything that would be of any use to us. If
this thing disappeared, I suppose Vandeman stole it to get a piece of
evidence in the Clayte case out of the way.
Likely. Worth turned, with no further interest, and started toward
his own gate.
Hi! Come back here, I yelled after him. For the lock gave at that
moment; there, under the pale circle of the electric torch, lay
My gosh! mumbled Capehart. I didn't suppose there was so much
money in the known world.
Eddie Hughes, breathing hard; Jim Edwards, bending to hold the
torch; Capehart, stooping, blunt hands spread on knees, goggle-eyed; my
own fingers shaking as I dragged out my list and attempted to sort
through the stuffnot one of us but felt the thrill of that great
fortune tumbled down there in the open road in the empty night.
But Worth delayed reluctantly at the edge of the shadows, looking
with impatience across his shoulder, eager to be onto get to Barbara.
Yet I wanted that suitcase to go into the house in his hand; wanted him
to be able to tell his girl that she'd made him a winner in the gamble
and the long chase. Roughly assured that only a few thousands had been
used by Vandeman, I stuck the handles into his fist and trailed along
after his quick strides. Edwards followed me. Laura Bowman opened the
door to us; she stopped Edwards on the porch.
And then I saw my children meet. I hadn't meant to; but after all,
what matter? They didn't know I was on earth. Creation had resolved
itself, for them, into the one man, the one woman.
The suitcase thumped unregarded on the floor. She came to him with
her hands out. He took them slowly, raised them to his shoulders, and
her arms went round his neck.