E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE DIAMOND CROSS
Being a Somewhat Different Detective Story
CHESTER K. STEELE
Author of "The Mansion of Mystery," etc.
International Fiction Library Cleveland New York Press Of The Commercial Bookbinding Co. Cleveland
I. The Ticking Watch II. King's Dagger III. The Fisherman IV. Spotty V. Amy's Appeal VI. Grafton's Search VII. The Colonel is Surprised VIII. The Diamond Cross IX. Indicted X. The Death Watch XI. No Alimony XII. The Odd Coin XIII. Singa Phut XIV. The Hidden Wires XV. A Dog XVI. The Colonel Wonders XVII. "A Jolly Good Fellow" XVIII. Amy's Test XIX. Word From Spotty XX. In The Shadows XXI. Swirling Waters XXII. His Last Case
THE TICKING WATCH
There was only one sound which broke the intense stillness of the jewelry shop on that fateful April morning. That sound was the ticking of the watch in the hand of the dead woman.
Outside, the rain was falling. Not a heavy downpour which splashed cheerfully on umbrellas and formed swollen streams in the gutters, whence they rushed toward the sewer basins, carrying with them an accumulation of sticks, leaves and dirt. Not a windy, gusty rain, that made a man glad to get indoors near a genial fire, with his pipe and a book.
It was a drizzle; a steady, persistent drizzle, which a half-hearted wind blew this way and that, as though neither element cared much for the task in hand—that of thoroughly soaking the particular part of the universe in the neighborhood of Colchester and taking its own time in which to do it.
Early in the unequal contest the sun had given up its effort to pierce through the leaden clouds, and had taken its beams to other places—to busy cities, to smiling country villages and farms. Above, around, below, on all sides, soaking through and through, drizzling it, soaking it, sprinkling it, half-hiding it in fog and mist, the rain enveloped Colchester—a sodden, damp garment.
Early paper boys slunk along the slippery streets, trying to protect their limp wares from becoming mere blotters. The gongs of the few trolley cars that were sent out to take the early toilers to their tasks rang as though covered with a blanket of fog. The thud of the feet of the milkmen's horses was muffled, and the rattle of bottles seemed to come from afar off, as though over some misty lake.
James Darcy, shivering as he arose, silently protesting, from his warm bed, pulled on his garments audibly grumbling, the grumble becoming a voiced protest as he shuffled in his slippers along the corridor above the jewelry shop and went down the private stairs into the main sales-room.
The electric light in front of the massive safe seemed to lear at him with a bleared eye like that of a toper, who, having spent the night in convivial company, found himself, most unaccountably, on his own doorstep in the gray dawn.
"Raining!" murmured James Darcy, as he reached over to switch on the light above the little table where he set precious stones into gold and platinum of rare and beautiful designs. "Raining and cold! I wish the steam was on."
The fog from outside seemed to have penetrated into the jewelry shop. It swirled about the gleaming showcases, reflected from the cut glass, danced away from the silver cups, broke into points of light from the times of forks, became broad splotches on the blades of knives, and, perchance, made its way through the cracks into the safe, where it bathed the diamonds, the rubies, the sapphires, the aqua marines, the pearls, the jades, and the bloodstones in a white mist. The bloodstones—
Strange that James Darcy should have thought of them as he looked at the rain outside, heard its drip, drip, drip on the windows, and saw the fog and swirls of mist inside and without the store. Strange and—
First, as he gazed at the prostrate body—the horrid red blotch like a gay ribbon in the white hair—he thought the small, insistent sound which seemed to fill the room was the beating of her heart. Then, as he listened, his ears attuned with fear, he knew it was the ticking of the watch in the hand of the dead woman.
James Darcy rubbed his eyes, as though to clear them from the fog. He rubbed them again—he passed his hand before his face as if cobwebs had drifted there—he touched his ears, which seemed not a part of himself.
"Tick-tick! Tick-tick! Tick-tick!"
The sound seemed to grow louder. It was not her heart!
"Hello! Come here, somebody! Amelia! what's the matter? Sallie! Sallie Page! Wake up! Hello, somebody! She's dead! Killed! There's been a murder! I must get the police!"
James Darcy started to cross the room to reach and fling open the front door leading to the street, that he might call the alarm to others than the deaf cook, who had not yet come downstairs. Mrs. Darcy's maid had gone away the previous evening, and was not expected in until noon. It was too early for any of the jewelry clerks to report. Yet Darcy felt he must have some one with him.
To cross the store to reach the door meant stepping over the body—the grotesquely twisted body, with the white, upturned face and the little spot of red, near where the silver comb had fallen from the silvered hair. And so Darcy changed his mind—he ran to the side door, fumbled with the lock, flung back the portal, and then rushed out in the rain and drizzle, the fog streaming after mm as he parted the mist like long, white streamers of ribbon, such as they suspend at the door for the very young or the aged.
"Hello! Hello!" shouted Darcy into the silent rain and mist of the early morning street, now deserted save for himself.
The glistening asphalt, the gleaming trolley rails, the dark and damp buildings seemed to echo back his words.
"Police!" voiced James Darcy. "There's been a murder!"
"A murder!" echoed the mist.
There was silence after this, and Darcy looked up and down the street. Not a person—not a vehicle—was in sight. No one looked from the stores or houses on either side or across from the jewelry shop.
Then a rattling milk wagon swung around the corner. It was followed by another.
"Hello! Hello! there—you!" called Darcy hoarsely.
"What's the matter?" asked the first man, as he swung down from his vehicle with a wire carrier filled with bottles in his hand.
"Somebody's been hurt—killed—a relative of mine! I want to tell the police. It's in that jewelry store," and he pointed back toward it, for he had run down the street a little way.
"Oh, I see! Darcy's! She's killed you say?"
"I'm afraid so."
"I don't know. Looks to me more like murder!"
The milkman whistled, set his collection of bottles back in his wagon, and hurried with Darcy toward the store. The other man, bringing his rattling vehicle to a stop, followed.
"Where is she?" whispered Casey, as soon as he reached the side of his business rival, Tremlain.
"On the floor—right in the middle—between the showcases," answered Darcy, and he, too, whispered. It seemed the right thing to do. "There—see her!"
He pointed a trembling finger.
"Lord! Her head's smashed!" exclaimed Casey. "Look at the blood!"
"I—I don't want to look at it," murmured Darcy, faintly.
"Hark!" cautioned Tremlain. "What's that noise?"
They all listened—they all heard it.
"It's a watch ticking," answered Darcy. "First I thought it was her heart beating—it sounded so. But it's only a watch."
"Maybe so," assented Casey. "We'd better make sure before we telephone for the police. She may only have fallen and cut her head."
"You—you go and see," suggested Tremlain. "I—I don't like to go near her—I never could bear the sight of dead folks—not even my own father. You look!"
Casey hesitated a moment, and then stepped closer to the body. He leaned over it and put the backs of his hard fingers on the white, wrinkled and shrunken cheeks. They were cold and wax-like to his touch.
"She's dead," he whispered softly. "Better get the police right away."
"Murdered?" asked Tremlain, who had remained beside Darcy near the showcase where the silver gleamed.
"I don't know. Her head's cut bad, though there's not so much blood as I thought at first. We mustn't touch the body—that's the law. Got to leave it until the coroner sees it. Where's the telephone?"
"Right back here," answered Darcy eagerly. "Police headquarters number is—"
"I know it," interrupted Casey. "I had to call 'em up once when I had a horse stole. I'll get 'em. What's that watch ticking?" he asked, pausing. "Oh, it's in her hand!" and the other two looked and saw, clasped close in the palm of the woman lying huddled on the floor, a watch of uncommon design. It was ticking loudly.
"What makes it sound so plain?" asked Tremlain.
"Cause it's so quiet in here," answered Casey. "It'll be noisy enough later on, though! But it's so quiet—that's what makes the ticking of the watch sound so plain."
"It is quiet," observed Tremlain. "But in a jewelry store there's always a lot of clocks making a noise and—Say!" he suddenly cried, "there's not a clock in this place ticking—notice that? Not a clock ticking! They've all stopped!"
"You're right!" exclaimed Casey. "The watch is the only thing going in the whole place!"
The milkmen looked quickly at Darcy.
"Yes, the clocks have all stopped," he said, wetting his lips with his tongue. "I didn't notice it before, though I did hear the watch in her hand ticking—I thought it was her heart beating—I guess I said that before—I don't know what I am saying. This has upset me frightfully."
"I should think it would," agreed Casey. "Funny thing about the clocks all stopping, though. S'pose they all ran down at once?"
"They couldn't," Darcy answered, "I wound the regulator only yesterday," and he pointed to the tall timepiece in the show window—the solemn-ticking clock by which many passersby set their watches. "The other clocks—"
"And they've all stopped at different times!" added Tremlain. "That's funny, too."
If anything could be funny in that place of death, this fact might be. And it was a fact. Of the many clocks in the store not one was ticking, and all pointed to different hours. The big regulator indicated 10:22; a chronometer in a showcase was five hours and some minutes ahead of that. The clock over Darcy's work table noted the hour of 7:56. Some cheaper clocks, alarms among them, on the shelves, which were usually going, showed various hours.
They had all stopped. Only the watch in the dead woman's hand was ticking, and that showed approximately the right time—a little after six o'clock.
"Well, we've got to get the police," said Casey. "Then I've got to travel on—customers waiting for me."
"You—you won't leave me here alone—will you?" asked Darcy.
"Isn't there any one else in the house?" asked Tremlain, for the living-rooms were above the jewelry store—a substantial brown stone building of the style of three decades ago.
"Only Sallie Page, the cook. She's deaf, and she'll be more of a nuisance than a help. Mrs. Darcy's maid won't be in until noon. I don't want to be left—"
"Oh, you won't be alone long," observed Casey. "The police will be here as soon as we send 'em word. And here's a crowd outside already."
There was one—made up of men and boys with, here and there, a factory girl on her way to work. They had seen the two milk wagons in front of the jewelry store—the store which, though most of the more valuable pieces were in the safe—still showed in the gleaming windows much that caught the eye of the passerby. Some one sensed the unusual. Some one stopped—then another. Some one had caught sight, on peering into the store, of the prostrate figure with that blotch of red in the white hair.
The crowd, increasing each minute, pressed against the still locked front doors. Those in the van flattened their noses against the glass in grotesque fashion.
"Hurry and get the police!" begged Darcy.
Casey was about to telephone, when Tremlain, who had gone out into the alley from the side door, hurried back to report:
"Here comes a cop now. Saw the crowd I guess. We can just tell him what we saw, Casey, and then slide along. I'm late as it is."
The policeman, his heavy-soled shoes creaking importantly, came along the street, hurrying not in the least. He knew whatever it was would keep for him.
"What's the row?" demanded Patrolman Mulligan.
"Looks like the old lady was murdered," Casey answered. "I was just going to telephone to headquarters." He told briefly what he knew, which was corroborated by Tremlain, then the two left to cover their routes, after giving their addresses to the policeman.
The crowd grew larger. From outside it looked like a convention of umbrellas. The rain still drizzled and turned to steam and mist as it warmed on the many bodies in the throng—a mist that mingled with that of the rain itself. In spite of the storm, the crowd grew and remained. Those who might be late at bench, lathe or loom unheeded the passing of time. It was not every day they could be so close to a murder.
The crowd filled the entire space in front of the jewelry store. The bolder spirits rattled the knob of the locked portals, and tapped on the glass that was now misty and grimy from hands and noses pressed against it. The crowd began to surge into the alley, whence a side door gave entrance into Mrs. Darcy's place. Some even ventured to press into the store itself—the store where the silent figure lay huddled between the showcases.
"Now then slide out of here—take a walk!" advised Mulligan, as he shoved out some of the men and boys who had entered. "Get out! You can read all about it in the papers. The reporters'll be here soon enough," he added with a wink at Darcy. "I'll lock the door and keep the crowd out. The sleuths can knock when they get here. Where's your 'phone. I'll have to report to the station."
Darcy pointed to the telephone, and the policeman, showing no more than a passing interest in the body, at which he glanced casually as he passed, called up his precinct and reported, being told to remain on guard until relieved.
"How'd it happen?" he asked, as he came back from the instrument and leaned against a showcase containing much glittering silver. "Who did it—when—how?"
"I haven't the least idea," replied Darcy, turning away so as not to see the faces now pressed against both the front and side doors, each being locked from the inside. "I found her just as she is now, and called in the milkmen, who happened to be passing. I had come down to the store early to do a little repair job, and the first thing I saw was—her!"
"What time did it happen?"
"I don't even know that. All the clocks have stopped. I don't usually wind the watches that are left for repair, unless I'm regulating them, and I haven't any like that in now. The only thing going is that one watch.
"What one watch? I do hear something ticking," and the policeman looked at Darcy. "What watch?"
"The one—in her hand."
"Oh, I see! Hum! Well, we'll leave that for the county physician. He'll be here pretty soon I guess. They'll notify him from the precinct. Now how about last night—was there any row—any noise? Did you hear anything?"
"I didn't hear anything—much. There's always a lot of noise around here until after midnight—theaters and moving picture places let out about 11:30. I awoke once in the night. But I guess that doesn't matter."
"Anybody else in the house besides you?" and the policeman yawned—for he had gone out on dog-watch—and looked into the wet, shiny, drizzle-swept street.
"Only Sallie Page, the cook. I'll call her. There's Mrs. Darcy's maid—Jane Metson. But she went away yesterday afternoon and won't be back until about noon. It's past time Sallie was down to get breakfast. I'll call her—"
Darcy made a move as though to go to the rear of the store, whence a side door gave entrance to the stairs leading to the rooms above.
"I'll go with you," said Mulligan, and he shoved himself to an erect posture by forcing his elbows against the showcase on which he had been leaning in a manner to give himself as much rest as possible without sitting down—it was a way he had, acquired from long patrolling of city streets.
"You—you'll go with me?" faltered Darcy.
"Yes, to call the cook. She won't run away," and he nodded toward the dead woman.
"Oh!" There was a world of meaning in Darcy's interjection. "You mean that I—"
"I don't mean nothin'!" broke in Mulligan. "I leave that to the gum-shoe men. Come on, if you want to call what's-her-name!"
It took some little time, by calling and pounding outside her door, to arouse deaf Sallie Page, and longer to make her understand that she was wanted. Then, just as Darcy had expected, she began to cry and moan when she heard her mistress was dead, and refused to come from her room. She had served the owner of the jewelry store for more than a score of years.
"Hark!" exclaimed Mulligan, as he and Darcy came downstairs after having roused Sallie Page. "What's that?"
"Some one is knocking," remarked his companion.
"Maybe it's the men from headquarters."
It was—Carroll and Thong, who always teamed it when there was a case of sufficient importance, as this seemed to be. They were insistently knocking at the side door, having forced their way through the crowd that was still there—larger than ever, maintaining positions in spite of the dripping, driving, drizzling rain.
"Killed, eh?" murmured Carroll, as he bent over the body.
"Gun?" asked Thong, who was making a quick visual inventory of the interior of the place.
"No; doesn't seem so. Looks more like her head's been busted in. Hit with something. Doc Warren can 'tend to that end of it. Now let's get down to business. Who found her this way?"
"I did," answered Darcy.
"And who are you?"
"Her second cousin. Her name was Mrs. Amelia Darcy, and her husband and my father were first cousins. I have worked for her about seven years—ever since just after her husband died. She continued his business. It's one of the oldest in the city and—"
"Yes, I know all about that. Robbery here once—before your time. We got back some of the stuff for the old lady. She treated us pretty decent, too. When'd you find her like this?"
"About half an hour ago. I got up a little before six o'clock to do some repair work on a man's watch. He wanted to get the early train out of town."
"I see! And you found the old lady like this?" asked Carroll.
"Just like this—yes. Then I called in the milkmen—"
"I saw them," interrupted Mulligan. "I know 'em. They're all right, so I let 'em go. We can get 'em after they finish their routes."
"Um," assented Thong. "Anything gone from the store?" he asked Darcy.
"I haven't looked."
"Better take a look around. It's probably a robbery. You know the stock, don't you?"
"As well as she did herself. I've been doing the buying lately."
"Well, have a look. Who's that at the door?" he asked sharply, for a knock as of authority sounded—different from the aimless and impatient kickings and tappings of the wet throng outside.
"It's Daley from the Times," reported Mulligan, peering out. "He's all right. Shall I let him in?"
"Oh, yes, I guess so," assented Carroll, with a glance at Thong, who confirmed, by a nod of his head, what his partner said. "He'll give us what's right. Let him in."
The reporter entered, nodded to the detectives, gave a short glance at the body, a longer one at Darcy, poked Mulligan in the ribs, lighted a cigarette, which he let hang from one lip where it gyrated in eccentric circles as he mumbled:
"What's the dope?"
"Don't know yet," answered Carroll. "The old lady's dead—murdered it looks like—and—"
"What's that?" interrupted Thong. "What's that ticking sound?"
"It's the watch—in her hand," replied Darcy, and his voice was a hoarse whisper.
Carroll and Thong, proceeding along the lines they usually followed in cases like this, keeping to the rules which had come to them through the instructions of superior officers, and some which they had worked out for themselves, had, in a comparatively short time, ascertained the name, age and somewhat of the personal history of Mrs. Amelia Darcy, together with that of her cousin, as the detectives called him, though the relationship was not as close as that.
Mrs. Darcy, who was sixty-five years of age, had carried on the jewelry business of her husband, Mortimer Darcy, after his death, which preceded her more tragic one by about seven years. Mortimer Darcy had been a diamond salesman for a large New York house in his younger days, and had come to be an expert in precious stones. Many good wishes, and not a little trade, had gone to him from his former employers, and some of their customers bought of him when he went into business for himself in the thriving city of Colchester.
Knowing that to start anew in a strange town would mean uphill work for him and his wife, Mortimer Darcy had awaited an opportunity to buy the business of a man whom he had known for a number of years and to whom he had sold many diamonds and other stones. This man—Harrison Van Doren by name—had what was termed the best jewelry trade in Colchester. The "old" families—not that any of them could trace their ancestry back very far—liked to say that "we get all our stuff at Van Doren's."
This name, on little white plush-lined boxes, containing pins or sparkling rings, came to mean almost as much as some of the more expensive names in New York. Young ladies counted it a point in the favor of their lovers if the engagement circlet came from Van Doren's. And Mortimer Darcy, knowing the value of that class of trade, had, when he purchased Mr. Van Doren's business fostered that spirit. Mrs. Darcy, on the death of her husband, had further catered to it, so that the Darcy establishment, though it was not the richest or most showy in Colchester, was safely counted the most exclusive—that is, it had a full line of the best goods, be it clocks or diamonds, and it had what, in bygone days, was called a "carriage trade," but which is now referred to as "automobile."
That is to say, those, aside from a casual trade with people who dropped in as they might have done to a grocery, to get what they really needed in the way of jewelry, came in gasolene or electric cars where their ancestors had come with horses and carriage.
So Darcy's jewelry store was known, and though a bit old-fashioned in a way, was favorably known, not only to the older members of the rich families of the place, but to the younger set as well. The pretty girls and their well-groomed companions of the "Assembly Ball" set liked to stop in there for their rings, brooches, scarf pins or cuff links, and very frequent were the rather languid orders:
"You may send it, charge."
It was to that class of trade that Mrs. Darcy catered. She understood it, and it understood her. That was enough. She took a personal interest in the business to the extent of being in the store almost every day, as her husband had been before her, to advise and be available for consultation, whether it was the buying of a gold teething ring for the newest member of the family, an engagement ring for the latest debutante, a watch for "son," attaining his majority, or perhaps new gold glasses for grandpapa or grandmama.
The store was not a large one, and four clerks, one a young woman, with James Darcy and an assistant, who looked after the repair work and made anything unusual in the way of pins or rings, constituted the force. But Mrs. Darcy was as good as a clerk herself, and during the holiday rush she was in the store night and day. This was the easier for her, since she owned the building in which her display was kept, and lived in a quiet and tastefully furnished apartment over the store.
On the death of her husband, she had sent for his second cousin, who at that time was in the employ of a well-known New York jewelry house, and he agreed to come to her.
Rather more than a repair man and clerk was James Darcy. He was an expert jewelry designer and a setter of precious stones; and often, when some fastidious customer did not seem to care for what was shown from the glittering trays in the showcases, Mrs. Darcy or one of her clerks would say:
"We will have Mr. Darcy design something different for you."
"That's what I want," the customer would say—"something different—something you don't see everywhere."
And so the Darcy trade had grown and prospered.
"Well, let's hear what you have to say," said Carroll, after James Darcy had given what the detectives considered was, for the time, a sufficient history of himself and his relative, and had hastily gone over such of the stock as was kept outside the safe. The latter had not been forced open—it did not take long to ascertain that. "Is anything gone?"
"I can't say for sure," answered the young man—he was this side of thirty. His long, artistic fingers were trembling, and he felt weak and faint. "But if there has been a robbery they didn't get much. The safe hasn't been opened, and the best of the goods—all the diamonds and other stones—are in that. Nothing seems to be gone from the cases, though I'd have to make a better search, and go over the inventory, to make certain."
"Well, let that go for the time. How'd you find things when you came downstairs? What happened during the night? Any of the doors or windows forced?" and the detective fairly shot these questions at Darcy,
"I think not. The front door was locked, just as it is now. I went out the side one. That was locked with the spring catch from the inside."
"Wasn't it bolted?" came sharply from Thong.
"I didn't notice about that. You see, I was all excited like—"
"Yes," assented Thong.
"There's a bolt on the door!" Carroll snapped.
"Yes, but Mrs. Darcy may have slipped it back herself. She was down first, though why, I can't say. She seldom came down ahead of me, especially of late years. I generally opened the store. The clerks report at eighty-thirty—there's some of 'em now."
More knockings had sounded on the front door, and the faces of two young men peered in through the misty glass, the crowd having made a lane for them on learning that they worked in the place of death.
"Let 'em in, sure!" assented Thong. "We got to talk to all of 'em! Let 'em in!"
Darcy did so, Mulligan helping him keep back the crowd of curious ones.
"Here comes Miss Brill," said one of the men clerks to Darcy. "What's the matter? Is Mrs. Darcy—?"
"Dead! Killed, I'm afraid! The store won't open to-day, but the police want to see every one. Oh, Miss Brill, come in!" and he held out his hand to the one young woman clerk, who drew back in horrified fright as she saw the silent figure on the floor.
"Oh—Oh!" she gasped, and then she went into hysterics, adding to the excitement and giving Mulligan a bad five minutes while he fought to keep the crowd from surging in.
But when Miss Brill had been carried to a rear room and quieted, and when the shades had been drawn to keep the curious ones from peering in, the questioning of Darcy was resumed.
"Did you come directly down to the store from your room?" asked Thong.
"Yes. As soon as I awakened."
"Where is your room?"
"In the rear, on the second floor—the one next above. Mrs. Darcy has her rooms in front. Then come those of her maid, Jane Metson. Sallie Page sleeps on the top floor where the janitor's family lives, and he, of course, sleeps up there also."
"I see," murmured Carroll. "Then you came downstairs and found Mrs. Darcy lying here—dead?"
"I wasn't sure she was dead—"
"Oh, she was dead all right," broke in Thong. "No question about that. Did you hear anything?"
"Only the watch ticking in her hand. First I thought it was her heart beating."
"No, I mean did you hear anything in the night?" went on the detective. "Any queer noise? It's mighty funny if there was murder done and no robbery. But of course she might have heard a noise if you didn't, and she might have come down to find out what it was about. She might have caught a burglar at work, and he may have killed her to get away. But if it was a burglar it's funny you didn't hear any noise—like a fall, or something. How about that, Mr. Darcy?"
"Well, no. I didn't exactly hear anything. I went to bed about half past ten, after working at my table down here awhile."
"Was Mrs. Darcy in bed then?" Thong asked.
"I couldn't say. She had gone to her apartment, but I don't have to pass near that to get to my room. I came straight up and went to bed."
"At ten o'clock, you say?"
"A little after. It may have been a quarter to eleven."
"And you didn't hear anything all night?" Carroll shot this question at Darcy suddenly.
"No—no—not exactly, I did hear something—it wasn't exactly a noise—and yet it was a noise."
"What kind of talk is that?" demanded Thong roughly. "Either it was a noise or it wasn't! Now which was it?"
"Well, if you call a clock striking a noise, then it was one."
"Oh, a clock struck!" and Thong settled back in his chair more at his ease. His manner seemed to indicate that he was on the track of something.
"Yes, a clock struck. It was either three or four, I can't be sure which," Darcy replied. "You know when you awaken in the night, and hear the strokes, you can't be sure you haven't missed some of the first ones. I heard three, anyhow, I'm sure of that."
"Well, put it down as three," suggested Thong. "Was it the striking of the clock that awakened you?"
"No, not exactly. It was more as if some one had been in my room."
"Some one in your room!" exclaimed both detectives. They were questioning Darcy in the living-room of Mrs. Darcy's suite, the clerks being detained downstairs by Mulligan. The county physician, who was also the coroner, had not yet arrived.
"Yes, at first I thought some one had been in my room, and then, after I thought about it, I wasn't quite sure. All I know is I slept quite soundly—sounder than usual in fact, and, all at once, I heard a clock strike."
"Three or four," murmured Thong.
"Yes; three anyhow—maybe four. Something awakened me suddenly; but what, I can't say. I remember, at the time, it felt as though something had passed over my face."
"Like a hand?" suggested Carroll.
"Well, I couldn't be sure. It may have been I dreamed it."
"But what did it feel like?" insisted Thong.
"Well, like a cloth brushing my face more than like a hand—or it may have been a hand with a glove on it. Yes, it may have been that. Then I tried to arouse myself, but I heard the wind blowing and a sprinkle of rain, and, as my window was open, I thought the curtain might have blown across my face. That would account for it I reasoned, so—"
"Yes, it may have been the curtain," said Thong, slowly. "But what did you do?"
"Nothing. I lay still a little while, and then I went to sleep again. I was only awake maybe two or three minutes."
"You didn't call Mrs. Darcy?"
"Nor the servant—what's her name? Sallie?"
"No. There wasn't any use in that. She's deaf."
"And you didn't call the janitor?"
"No. I wasn't very wide awake, and I didn't really attach any importance to it until after I saw her—dead."
"Um! Yes," murmured Carroll. "Well, then you went to sleep again. What did you do next?"
"I awakened with a sudden start just before six o'clock. I had not set an alarm, though I wanted to get up early to do a little repair job I had promised for early this morning. But I have gotten so in the habit of rousing at almost any hour I mentally set for myself the night before, that I don't need an alarm clock. I had fixed my mind on the fact that I wanted to get up at five-thirty, and I think it was just a quarter to six when I got up. I was anxious to finish the repair job for a man who was to leave on an early train this morning. He may be in any time now, and I haven't it ready for him."
"What sort of a repair job?" asked Carroll.
"On a watch."
"Where's the watch now?" and the detective flicked the ashes from a cigar the reporter had given him. Daley was down in the jewelry store, interviewing the clerks while Darcy was on the grill up above.
"The watch," murmured Darcy. "It—it's in her hand," and he nodded in the direction of the silent figure downstairs.
"The watch that is still ticking?"
"Yes, but the funny part of it is that the watch wasn't going last night, when I planned to start work on it. I forget just why I didn't do it," and Darcy seemed a bit confused, a point not lost sight of by Carroll. "I guess it must have been because I couldn't see well with the electric light on my work table," went on the jewelry worker. "I've got to get that fixed. Anyhow I didn't do anything to the Indian's watch more than look at it, and I made up my mind to rise early and hurry it through. So I didn't even wind it. I can't understand what makes it go, unless some one got in and wound it—and they wouldn't do that."
"Whose watch is it?" asked Thong.
"It belongs to Singa Phut."
"Singa Phut!" ejaculated Carroll. "Crimps, what a name! Who belongs to it?"
"Singa Phut is an East Indian," explained Darcy. "He has a curio store down on Water Street. We have bought some odd things from him for our customers, queer bead necklaces and the like. He left the watch with my cousin, who told me to repair it. It needed a new case-spring and some of the screws were loose."
"How did Mrs. Darcy come to have the watch in her hand?" Carroll demanded.
"That I couldn't say."
"What sort of a man is this Indian—Singa—Singa—" began Thong, hesitatingly.
"Singa Phut is a quiet, studious Indian," answered Darcy. "He has not lived here very long, but I knew him in New York. He has done business with me for some years."
"Is he all right—safe—not one of them gars—you know, the fellows that use a silk cord to strangle you with?" asked Thong, who had some imagination regarding garroters.
"Not at all like that," said Darcy, and there was the trace of a smile on his face. "He is a gentleman."
"Oh," said Carroll and Thong in unison.
There came another knock on the side door downstairs. There was less of a crowd about now, and Mulligan did not have to keep back a rush as he opened the portal.
"Dr. Warren," reported the policeman, calling upstairs to Carroll and Thong.
"The county physician," explained Carroll. "Better come down and meet him, Mr. Darcy. He'll want to ask you some questions. Then we'll have another go at you. Got to ask a lot of questions in a case like this," he half apologized.
"Oh, sure," assented the jewelry worker.
"Doc Warren, eh," mused Thong to his partner, as Darcy preceded them downstairs. "Now we'll know what killed her, and we'll have something to start on—maybe."
"I think we've got something already," observed Carroll.
"Oh, yes—maybe—and then—again—maybe not. Come on!"
"Morning boys! Nice crisp day—if you say it quick!" cried the county physician, as he shook the rain from his coat and tossed his auto gloves on a shiny glass showcase. "Second time this week you've got me out of bed before my time. What's the matter, if they've got to have a murder, with doing it in the afternoon? I like my sleep!"
He was smiling and cheerful, was Dr. Warren. Murders and autopsies were all in the day's work with him. He had been county physician for a number of years.
"Hum, yes! quite an old lady," he mused as he took off his coat, which Carroll held for him. The doctor rolled up his shirt sleeves and stooped down. "Head's badly cut—let's see what we have here. Let's have a light, it's too dark to see."
One of the clerks switched on more electric lights, and they glinted and sparkled on the silver and cut glass. They flashed on the white, still face, and the gleams seemed to be swallowed up in that red blotch in the snowy hair.
"Um, yes! Depressed fracture. Bad place, too. Shouldn't wonder but what it had done the trick. Might have been from a black-jack?" and he glanced questioningly at the detectives.
Carroll shook his head in negation.
"That'll crack a skull, but it won't draw blood—not if it's used right," and he brought from his hip pocket one of the weapons in question—a short, stout flexible reed, covered with leather, the end forming a pocket in which was a chunk of lead.
"I'll gamble it wasn't one of them," said Carroll.
"Maybe not," assented the doctor. "Let's look a bit further."
He glanced at the floor about the body, peered around the edge of a showcase, underneath which there was a space for refuse—odds and ends, discarded wrapping paper and the like—a place into which neither of the detectives had, as yet, glanced. Dr. Warren uttered an exclamation, and drew out a metal statue, about two feet high.
It was that of a hunter, standing as though he had just delivered a shot, and was peering to see the effect. The butt of his gun projected behind him, and as Dr. Warren moved the statue into the light of the jewelry store chandeliers, they all saw, clinging to the stock of the gun, some straggling, white hairs.
"That's what did it!" exclaimed the county physician. "I'll wager, when I try, I can fit that gun butt into the depression of the fracture. The burglar—or whoever it was—swung this statue as a club. It would make a deadly one, using the foot end for a handle," and Dr. Warren waved the ornament in the air over the dead woman's head to illustrate what he meant.
"Don't!" muttered Darcy in a strained voice.
"Don't what?" asked the physician sharply.
"Use the statue that way."
"Well—er—I—we were going to buy it for our new home. But now— Oh, I never want to see it in the house! I couldn't bear to look at it—nor could she!"
"She? We? What do you mean?" asked Carroll quickly. "Say, do you know something about this killing that you're keeping back from us?"
He took a step nearer Darcy—a threatening step it would seem, from the fact that the jewelry worker drew back as if in alarm.
"No, I don't know anything," said Darcy in a low voice.
"Then what's this talk about the statue—not wanting it in the house—whose house?"
"The house I hope to live in with my wife—Miss Amy Mason," answered Darcy, and he spoke in calm contrast to his former excitement, "We are going to be married in the fall," he went on. "I had asked Mrs. Darcy to set that statue aside for me. Miss Mason admired it, and I planned to buy it. We had the place all picked out where it would stand. But—now—"
He did not finish, but a shudder seemed to shake his frame.
"It would be a rather grewsome object to have around after it had killed the old lady," murmured the reporter. "But are you sure it did, Doc?"
"Pretty sure, yes. I never make a statement, though, until after the autopsy. No telling what that may develop. I'll get at it right away. I guess you remember that Murray case," he went on, to no one in particular. "There they all thought the man was murdered, when, as a matter of fact he had been taken with a heart spell, fell downstairs, and a knife he had in his hand pierced his heart."
"That wasn't your case, Doc," observed Carroll.
"No, it was before my time. But I remember it. That's why I'm saying nothing until I've made an examination. Better 'phone the morgue keeper," he went on, "and have them come for the body."
"Have you—have you got to take her away?" faltered Darcy.
"Yes. I'm sorry, but it wouldn't do—here," and the doctor motioned to the glittering array of cut glass and plate. "You won't keep the store open?" he inquired.
"No. I'll put a notice in the door now," and Darcy wrote out one which a clerk affixed to the front door for him.
"Well, that's all I can do now," Dr. Warren said, after his very perfunctory examination. "The rest will have to be at the morgue. Got a place where I can wash my hands?" he asked.
Darcy indicated a little closet near his work bench. Dr. Warren soon resumed his coat, accepted a cigarette from Daley, slipped into his still damp rain-garment and was soon throbbing down the street in his automobile, having announced that he was going to breakfast and would perform the autopsy immediately afterward.
Soon a black wagon rattled up to the jewelry store, bringing fresh acquisitions to the crowd, which persisted in staying in spite of the rain, which had now changed from a drizzle to a more pronounced downpour.
More reporters came, and Daley fraternized with them, the newspaper men aside from the police and Jim Holiday, a detective from Prosecutor Bardon's office, being the only people admitted to the shop, when the clerks had been sent home.
The morgue keeper's men lifted the fast stiffening body and were about to place it in the wicker carrier when Carroll, who was watching them rather idly, uttered an exclamation.
"What's up?" asked Thong quickly. He had been strolling about the shop, and had come to a stop near Darcy's work table—a sort of bench against the wall, and behind one of the showcases. The bench was fitted with a lathe, and on it were parts of watches, like the dead specimens preserved in alcohol in a doctor's office. "What's up, Bill?"
"Look!" exclaimed Carroll, pointing.
The men from the morgue had the body raised in the air. And then, in the gleam from the electric lights there was revealed underneath and in the left side of the dead woman a clean slit through her light dress—a slit the edges of which were stained with blood.
"Another wound!" exclaimed Daley, his newspaper instincts quickly aroused by this addition of evidence of mystery. "This is getting interesting!"
"It's a cut—a deep one, too," murmured Carroll, as he drew nearer to look. "Wonder what did it?"
"Shouldn't wonder but it was done with this!" and Thong held out, on the palm of his large hand, a slender dagger, on the otherwise bright blade of which were some dark stains.
"Where'd you get it?" demanded Carroll.
"Over on the watch repair table."
"Is that your dagger?" snapped Carroll at the jewelry worker.
"It isn't a dagger—it's a paper-cutter—a magazine knife."
"Well, whatever it is, who owns it?" The words were as crisp as the steel of the stained blade.
Darcy stared at the keen knife, and then at the dead woman.
"Who owns it?" and the question snapped like a whip.
"I don't! It was left here by—"
There was a commotion at the side door, which had been opened by Mulligan in order that the men might carry out the body of Mrs. Darcy. There was a shuffling of feet, and a rather thick and unsteady voice asked:
"Whash matter here? Place on fire? Looks like devil t'pay! Let me in. Shawl right, offisher. Got a right t' come in, I have! I got something here. 'Svaluable, too! Don't want that all burned—spoil shings have 'em burned.
"'Lo, Darcy!" went on a young man, who walked unsteadily into the jewelry store. "Wheresh tha' paper cutter I left for you t' 'grave Pearl's name on? Got take it home now. Got take her home some—someshing—square myself. Been out al'night—you know how 'tish! Take wifely home li'l preshent—you know how 'tish. Gotta please wifely when you—hic—been out al' night. Wheresh my gold-mounted paper cutter, Darcy?"
"Harry King, and stewed to the gills again!" murmured Pete Daley. "Wow! he has some bun on!"
"Wheresh my paper cutter, Darcy?" went on King, smiling in a fashion meant to be merry, but which was fixed and glassy as to his eyes. "Wheresh my li'l preshent for wifely? Got her name all 'graved on it nice an' pretty? Thash what'll square wifely when I been out—hic—al'night. Wheresh my paper cutter, Darcy, ol' man?"
Silently the jewelry worker pointed to the stained dagger—it was really that, though designed for a paper cutter. The detective held it out, and the red spots on it seemed to show brighter in the gleam of the electric lights.
"Is that your knife, Harry King?" demanded Thong.
"Sure thash mine! Bought it in li'l ole N' York lash week. Didn't have no name on it—brought it here for my ole fren', Darcy, t' engrave. Put wifely's name on—her namesh Pearl—P-e-a-r-l!" and he spelled it out laboriously and thickly.
"My wife—she likes them things. Me—I got no use for 'em. Gimme oyster fork—or clam, for that matter—an' a bread n' butter knife—'n I'm all right. But gotta square wife somehow. Take her home nice preshent. Thatsh me—sure thash mine!" and carefully trying to balance himself, he reached forward as though to take the stained dagger from the hand of the detective.
"You got Pearl's name 'graved on it, Darcy, ole man?" asked King, thickly, licking his hot and feverish lips.
"No," answered the jewelry worker, hollowly.
Then Harry King, seemingly for the first time, became aware that all was not well in the place he had entered. He turned and saw the body of the murdered woman as the men from the morgue Started out with it. He started back as though some one had struck him a blow.
"Is she—is she dead?" he gasped. "Dead—Mrs. Darcy?"
"Looks that way," said Carroll in cool tones. "You'd better come in here and sit down a while, Harry," he went on, and he led the unsteady young man to the rear room, while the men from the morgue carried out the lifeless body.
From a little green book, which, from the evidence of its worn covers, seemed to have been much read, the tall, military-appearing occupant of a middle seat in the parlor car of the express to Colchester scanned again this passage:
"And if you rove for perch with a minnow, then it is best to be alive, you sticking your hook through his back fin, or a minnow with the hook in his upper lip, and letting him swim up and down about mid-water, or a little lower, and you still keeping him about that depth with a cork, which ought to be a very little one; and the way you are to fish for perch with a small frog—"
It was a long-drawn exclamation of anticipatory delight, and into the eyes of the military-looking traveler there appeared a soft and gentle light, as though, in fancy, he could look off across sunlit meadows to a stream sparkling beneath a blue sky, white-studded with fleecy clouds, where there was a soft carpet of green grass, shaded by a noble oak under which he might lounge and listen to the wind rustling the newly-born leaves.
"Beg pardon, sir, but I—"
The military-appearing man sat up with a jerk into sudden stiffness, while the soft light died out of his eyes.
"New York papers?"
"Don't want the New York papers—any of them!"
The man, after a swift glance from his green-covered book, again let his eyes seek its pages. The ghost of a smile flickered around his lips.
"Chicago, then. The latest—"
". . . your hook being fastened through the skin of his leg, toward the upper part of it; and lastly I will give you—"
"Something livelier in the way of reading, sir, if you wish it!" broke in the voice of the newsboy who had stopped beside the parlor-car chair of the military-looking traveler, interrupting the reading of the little green-covered book. "I have a new detective story—"
"Look here! If you interrupt me again when I'm reading my Izaak Walton I'll have you put off the train! Gad! I will, sir, if I have to do it myself!"
The military-appearing traveler snapped the green book against the palm of one hand with a report like that of a pistol, thereby causing an old lady, asleep in a chair across the aisle, to awaken with a start.
"Are we in? Have we arrived? Is this Colchester?" she asked, sitting up and looking about in startled surprise, her bonnet very much askew. The newsboy, with an abashed air, slid down the aisle.
"Madam, I sincerely beg your pardon," said the tall man who had caused the commotion. He arose, his green book in one hand, and bowed his apologies. "I regret exceedingly that I startled you. But that insufferable young puppy had the extreme audacity to inflict himself on me when I was reading, and I lost my temper. I am sorry but I—"
"You didn't strike him, did you?" asked the old lady, reproachfully.
"No, madam. Though such conduct would have been justified on my part, I merely spoke to him. It was this—this book that I used rather roughly and which awakened you."
"Then aren't we at Colchester yet?"
"No, madam. It is some little ride yet. If you will allow me I shall be happy to let you know when we arrive. And if you are without any one to help you off with your luggage, as it is raining and likely to continue—"
"Oh, thank you, sir, but Jabez will meet me. I must have dozed off, and when I heard that noise—"
"Which I regret exceedingly, madam," interposed the military-appearing traveler with another bow.
The old lady again composed herself. The tall man bowed again, resumed his seat and tried to read, but his feelings had been too much ruffled, it was evident, to allow a peaceful resumption of his former mood.
"The idea! The very idea!" he murmured, speaking to the window, against the glass of which the raindrops were now dashing impotently, and as though angry at not being admitted to the warmth and light of the car. For dusk had fallen and the electric lights were aglow in the Pullman, making it a very cosy place in contrast to the damp and muddy country through which the train was rushing.
"Gad! what's the world coming to when a man can't read what he likes without every whippersnapper interrupting him with—Shag! I say, Shag!" he went on, raising his voice from a murmured whisper to a louder command. "Porter, send my man here! Where's that rascal Shag?"
"Yes, sah, Colonel! I'm right yeah! Yeah I is, Colonel!" and a negro, with a picturesque fringe of white, kinky hair, shuffled from the porter's quarters, where he had been enjoying a quiet chat with the black knight of the whisk broom. "What is you' desire, Colonel?"
"I want peace and quiet, Shag! That's what I want! Twice I've tried to read my book undisturbed, and that insufferable train-boy—that rascal who probably doesn't know an ant-fly from a piece of cheese—has bothered me with books and papers. He ought to know I've vowed not to look at a paper for two weeks, and, as for books—"
Colonel Robert Lee Ashley closed his volume, which bore, in gold letters on the front green cover the words: "Walton's Complete Angler," and laughed silently, the wrinkles of his face and around his steel-blue eyes sending the frown scurrying for some unseen trench.
"Shag," asked the colonel, still chuckling, "what do you think that nincompoop had the infernal audacity to offer me in the way of a book?"
"I ain't got no idea, Colonel—not th' leastest in th' world!"
"He offered me a—detective story, Shag!"
"Oh, mah good Lord, Colonel! Not really?"
"Yes, he did, Shag! A detective story!"
"Oh, mah good Lord!"
Shag, which was all Colonel Ashley ever called his servant, though the colored valet rejoiced in the prefixes of George Washington, threw up his hands in horror, and shook his head. The colonel, after a period of silent, chuckling mirth, opened his book again and read:
"And, after this manner, you may catch a trout in a hot evening. When, as you walk by a brook, and shall hear or see him leap at flies, then if you get a grasshopper—"
"Gad! that's the life!" softly voiced the colonel. Then, turning to the still waiting Shag, he went on: "There's nobody in the wide world who can bring peace and quiet to an angry mind like my friend Izaak Walton, is there, Shag?"
"No, sah, Colonel, they isn't! Nobody!"
"Of course not! Gad! I'm glad you agree with me, Shag!"
"Yes, sah, Colonel."
"Um! Here, you go and give that newsboy a quarter. Tell him I didn't mean anything; but never again must he interrupt me when he sees me with Walton in my hand. Anything but that! It's positively indecent!"
"Yes, sah, Colonel. I done tell him that."
"And it—it's sacrilegious, Shag!"
"Yes, sah, Colonel; 'tis that!"
"Well, tell him so, and give him a half dollar. Now don't disturb me again until we get to Colchester. How's the weather, Shag?"
"Well, sah, Colonel, it's—it's sorter—moist, Colonel!"
"Um! Well, it'll be better by to-morrow, I expect, when we go fishing. And be careful of my rods when you take the grips off. If you so much as scratch the tip of even my oldest one, I—I'll—well, you know what I'll do to you, Shag!"
"Yes, sah, I knows, Colonel!"
"Very well. Give that boy a dollar. Maybe he never read Walton, and that's why he's so ignorant."
Colonel Ashley settled back in his chair, and, with unfurrowed brow, read on:
". . . you shall see or hear him leap at flies, then if you get a grasshopper, put it on your hook with your line about two yards long, standing behind a bush or tree where his hole is—"
Once more the colonel was happy.
Shag sought out the discomfited newsboy, and, chuckling as had his master, handed the lad a dollar.
"Say, what's this for?" questioned the lad, in astonishment.
"Colonel done say to give it to you fo' hurtin' yo' feelin's."
"He did! Great! Say, does he want a book—a, paper? Say, I got a swell detective story—"
The boy started out of the compartment.
"Oh, mah good Lord! Fo' th' love of honey cakes, don't!" gasped Shag, grabbing him just in time. "Does yo' know who the colonel is?"
"No, but he's mighty white if he wants to buy a dollar's worth of books and papers. I haven't sold much on this trip, but if he—"
"But he don't want to, boy! Don't you understan'? Jes' listen to me right now! De colonel don't want nothin' but Walton an' his angle worms!"
"Who's Walton? What road's he travel on?"
"He don't travel. He's daid, I reckon. But he done writ a book on fishin' poles, an' dat's all the colonel reads when he ain't workin' much. It's a book 'bout angle worms as neah as I kin make out."
"You mean Izaak Walton's Complete Angler, I guess," said a man, who passed by just then on his way to the smoking compartment, and he smiled genially at Shag.
"Dat's it, yes, sah! I knowed it had suffin t' do wif angle worms. Well, boy, dat book's all de colonel ever reads when he's vacationin', an' dat's whut he's doin' now—jest vacationin'.
"When we start away dis mawnin' he say to me, the colonel did: 'Now, Shag, I don't want t' be boddered wif nuffin'. I don't want t' read no papers. I don't want t' heah 'bout no battles, murder an' sudden deaths. I jest wants peace an' quiet an' fish!' He done come up heah t' go fishin' laik he go t' lots other places, though he ain't been heah fo' good many years. An' boy, he specially tell me not t' let him be boddered wif book agents."
"I ain't a book agent," objected the train-boy.
"I knows you ain't," admitted Shag. "I knows yo' ain't, but yo' sells books, an' dat's whut's de trouble. Whut kind of a book did yo' offer de colonel jest now?"
"A detective story. And say! it's a swell one, let me tell you!"
"Oh, mah good Lord!" ejaculated Shag. "Dat's de wustest ever!" and he doubled up with silent mirth.
"Why, what's the matter with that?" asked the boy. "I've seen heaps of men read detective stories. Judge Dolan—he rides on my train a lot—and he's always askin' what I got new in detective stuff."
"Um, yep! Well, dat may be all right fo' Judge Dolan," went on Shag, slowly recovering from his fit of chuckling, "but mah marster don't want none of dat kind of readin'."
"Why?" asked the boy.
Shag's answer was given in a peculiar manner. He looked around carefully, and saw that the strange man had moved on and they were alone. Then, leaning toward the newsboy and whispering, the negro said:
"My marster, Colonel Brentnall—dat ain't his real name, but it's de one he goes by sometimes—he don't care fo' no detective stories 'cause he done make his livin' an' mine too, at detectin'. He says he don't ever want t' read 'em, 'cause dey ain't at all like whut happens. De colonel was one of de biggest private detectives in de United States, boy! He's sorter retired now, but still he's chock full of crimes, murder an' stuff laik dat, an' dat's why he done sent yo' away sorter rough-laik."
"You say he's a private detective?" asked the boy, his eyes opening wide.
"Dat's whut he is."
"And his name is Colonel Brentnall?"
"Well, honey, dat ain't his real name. He don't laik t' use dat promiscuious laik, 'cause so many folks bodder him. If I was t' tell yo' his real name yo'd open yo' eyes wider yet. But take it from me," went on Shag, "he don't need no books t' make excitin' readin' fo' him! He's been froo it fo' yeahs!"
"Sufferin' tadpoles!" murmured the boy. "And to think I was offering him a detective yarn! Say, no wonder he flew at me!"
"He didn't mean nothin'," said Shag, still chuckling as he thought of the scene. "It's jest his way."
The train rumbled on through the early night, and in his comfortable chair Colonel Ashley read his Walton, the ingratiating humor of the dear, old fisherman gradually dispelling all other thoughts.
Colonel Ashley at this stage of his career, was almost an international figure. Having served with distinction in the Spanish-American war, among his exploits being the capture of a number of spies in a sensational manner, he had become the head of the police department in a large city in the East.
He had continued the work begun in the army—a branch of the secret service—and had built up the city's detective department in an almost marvelous manner, he himself being one of its keenest sleuths. Desiring more time to devote to the detection of crimes of other than ordinary interest, and realizing that the routine of police work was too hampering for him, the colonel had opened an office in New York, where, straightway, he received from the government and private persons more work than he could well attend to. Now that he was getting old, he had some able assistants, but most cases still received his own attention at some stage of their development. This was characteristic of the colonel. He was always going to retire, in fact he said he had, but, somehow or other, it was like a singer's farewell, always postponed.
"And now, Shag, don't forget what I told you," he said to his attendant as the train drew into Colchester. "Don't you so much as scratch the varnish on the tip of one of my rods. And if you let me hear a whisper of anything bordering on a case you and I part company—do you hear?"
"I heahs yo' Colonel!" and the negro saluted, for the detective still clung to many of his military associations. Then, having kept his promise in seeing that the old lady was safely helped from the train, Colonel Ashley followed his valet, burdened with bags and rods.
The fishing rods Shag carried, he must have managed to transport safely to the hotel the colonel was to occupy for a two weeks' vacation and rest, for the military detective was smiling and good-natured when he took them from their cases and gently placed them on the bed.
"Anything else, Colonel?" asked Shag, when he had laid out his master's clothes, and was preparing to go to his own apartment in an annex to the hotel.
"No, I guess that's all, Shag. But what's your hurry? You aren't usually in such haste to leave me, even if you have laid out all my duds. What's the matter? Got some friends in town?"
"Oh, no, sah, Colonel! No, indeedy! 'tain't dat at all!"
"Well, what is it? Why are you in such haste to get away?"
"Um! Ah! Well, I don't laiks fo' t' tell yo' Colonel!" and Shag seemed uneasy.
"You don't like to tell me? Look here, you black rascal! don't try to hide anything from me, do you hear? You know me, and—"
"Oh, indeedy I does know yo', Colonel! Dat's jest why I don't wan t' tell yo'! It—it's 'bout one ob dem t'ings!"
"What things? Shag, you rascal, look here! Have you been buying a newspaper?"
"Ye—ye—yes, sah, Colonel, I has! But I done bought it fo' mahse'f. Deed an' I wasn't goin' t' let yo' hab so much as a snift at it, Colonel! De train-boy, whut yo' gib a dollar t', he handed it t' me when I was gittin' off. It's one ob de papers gotten out right yeah in dis city, an'—"
"Well, out with it, Shag! What's in it that's so mighty interesting?"
"Er—Colonel—yo' see—yo' done tole me—"
"Oh, out with it, Shag! I'll forgive you, I suppose. What is it?"
"Well, Colonel, sah, de paper done got in it an 'count ob a strange an' mysterious murder case, an'—"
"I knew it! I knew it! I could almost have taken my oath on it!" cried the excitable colonel. "Here I come to this place to have some quiet fishing in the suburbs, to get a complete rest, and yet not be too far from civilization, and no sooner do I get off the train than there's a murder mystery thrust right under my nose! Right under my nose! By Gad! I knew it!"
Shag stood, resting his weight first on one foot and then on the other, his head bowed. He was trying to keep from slipping from under his vest, where he had hidden it, a newspaper, with glaring, black headlines. Shag looked timidly at his master.
Colonel Ashley paced up and down the room, pausing now and then to listen to the dash of rain against the windows, for the storm, bearing out its promise of the morning, had lasted all day, changing from a drizzle to a downpour and from a downpour to a drizzle with dismal repetition. The colonel glanced at Shag, and then, drawing from an inner pocket the little green book, read:
"Hunting is a game for princes and noble persons. It hath been highly prized in all ages. It was one of the qualifications—"
The detective snapped the book shut, and tossed it on the bed.
"Shag!" he exploded.
"Yes, sah, Colonel."
"You've often heard me talk of fishing and hunting, haven't you?"
"Deed an' I has, Colonel; many a time! Yes, sah!"
"Humph! Yes! Well, detective work is a sort of hunt, isn't it, Shag?"
"Yes, sah, Colonel. Dat's jest what it is! Many an' many a time I'se done heah yo' say yo's goin' out t' hunt dis man or dat woman!"
"Very good, Shag. And it's a sort of fishing, too, isn't it?".
"Yes, sah, Colonel! More as once I'se heah yo' say as how yo' had t' fish an' fish an' fish t' git a bit of a clew."
"I see you remember, Shag. Well, now, you black rascal, did you say you've got a newspaper with an account in it of a strange and mysterious murder right here in this city?"
"Yes, sah, Colonel! Right yeah in Colchester, where we done come t' hab puffick rest an' quiet an' fishin', just laik yo' done said on de train."
"Humph! A murder mystery right here in town. I thought I heard the newsboys shouting something about it at the station. But I didn't listen. Who's killed, Shag?"
"Why, Colonel, sah, it's a poor ole lady, an'—"
"Stop, Shag! Not another word! How dare you try to get me interested in a case when I told you if you so much as breathed anything about one I'd horsewhip you! I told you that, didn't I?"
"Deed an' yo' did, Colonel!"
The detective paced up and down the room. He reached for the little green book. Then, as if in desperation, he turned to the shrinking negro and went on:
"You say there's a mystery about it, Shag?"
"Yes, sah, Colonel. Yes, sah!" and he made a motion toward the paper that was slipping from under his vest.
"Stop it!" cried the colonel. "I came here to fish and read Izaak Walton in the shade of a big tree along some quiet brook. If you so much as bring a paper into this room I'll send you back to Virginia where you belong, Shag!"
"Yes, sah, Colonel!"
The military-looking detective resumed his pacing of the room, his hands behind his back clasping and unclasping nervously.
"Shag!" he suddenly called.
"Yes, sah, Colonel."
"Is it much of a mystery—I mean—er—anything but the usual blood and thunder stuff?"
"Why, Colonel," began the black man eagerly, "it's de beatenist mystery dat ever was—all 'bout a murdered jewelry lady, what's got her haid busted in with a big gold statue, an' a gold knife stab in her side, an' a watch shut up tight in her hand, tickin' an' tickin' an' tickin', laik it was her heart beatin', an' her cousin done find her in a pool of blood on de floor, an' de clocks all stopped, an' a rich young spendthrift comes in an' claims de dagger, an' de detectives—"
"Shag!" fairly shouted his master.
"Yes, sah, Colonel!"
"Out of the room this instant, and don't you dare come back until I send for you!"
"Yes, sah, Colonel."
The old colored man turned slowly to the door. His manner was dejected. Evidently he had given serious offense.
Silently he turned the knob, but, before he had stepped over the threshhold, he heard a voice calling softly:
"Yes, sah, Colonel."
"Eh—Shag—before you go, you—er—you might leave me that paper I see under your vest. I may have occasion to—to glance at it, to see what to-morrow's weather is going to be for fishing."
"Yes, sah, Colonel."
And, with a carefully concealed grin on his face, Shag drew the black-lettered paper from under his waistcoat, and laid it on the bed beside the "Complete Angler."
"Well, now," observed Detective Thong, and, somehow or other, his voice sounded really cheerful, "let's see where we're at, Mr. Darcy. Have you looked over the stock all you want to?"
They were in a room in the rear of the jewelry store—the city and county detectives, the reporters and James Darcy—with Policeman Mulligan on guard near the cut glass and silver gleaming in the showcases. On guard near a dark red stain in the floor, scarcely dry—it was still soaking into the wood. The body of the murdered woman had been taken away, followed by a sigh of relief from James Darcy, who, try as he did, could not keep his eyes from seeking it.
"The stock is checked up as well as I can do it in a short time," replied the jewelry worker, who had spent some time going over the store under the watchful eyes of Carroll and Thong. "I'm not sure anything is taken. If there is, as I said, it can't be much. But I'll go over everything more carefully, checking up the books. That will take a few days, but I can do it while I'm here arranging for the funeral."
"Not here you can't do it," broke in Carroll, with a short laugh.
"Not here?" There was startled amazement in Darcy's question.
"Because you won't be here. You'd better come with us. You'll have to, in fact. The captain'll want to have a talk with you, and I guess the prosecutor the same. How about it, Jim?" and he looked over at Haliday, from the Court House. He was examining the side door leading to the alley.
"Oh, sure! he'll have to be held—as a witness, anyhow," was the easy answer, and in the same breath he added: "Not a mark! Not a scratch on the place! It was an inside job all right!"
"Held? I'll have to be—held?" faltered Darcy.
"Of course," said Thong. "And, while you're at it, take a friend's advice, and keep your mouth shut."
"You mean anything I say might—might be used—against me?"
"Oh, I wouldn't put it that way exactly. That's moving picture stuff—theater business, you know. We don't go in for that—not me and Carroll. But don't talk too much. Of course you'll have to answer a lot of questions, and the easier you do the better for you. But wait until they're asked. Maybe it's against my interests to say that, but I've sort of took a notion to you. Now you'd better get ready to leave."
"You mean lock the place up?"
"Oh, no, somebody'll have to stay here."
"Not me!" interrupted Mulligan. "I haven't had my breakfast. I was jest comin' in off dog-watch when I happened to see what was goin' on here—the crowd an' everythin'. I ain't goin' to stay!"
"Well, 'phone in then and get somebody," advised Carroll testily. "Somebody's got to be here until we can look around more."
"I'll stay for a while." said Haliday. "I'd like to look about a bit myself. I'll probably have to get the case ready for the prosecutor."
"Well, let's be going then," suggested Thong. "Shall I ring for the wagon?"
His partner shook his head after a look at Darcy.
"The trolley'll be all right for him," he said in a whisper. "We can get out the back way and avoid the crowd," for the street in front of the jewelry store was still thronged, in spite of the ever increasing rain. "As for King, he's asleep, and I guess we can put him to bed here. If we try to carry him out there'll be more of a push than there is now. Let him sleep it off," and he glanced at a huddled figure in a corner chair.
"Who's asleep?" broke in the thick voice of the wastral. "Whash matter you fellers, anyhow? Man comes in get li'l preshent for his wife—wife sits up all night waitin'—she's 'titled to li'l preshent. Wheresh my gold knife, Darcy? I give it to you—have 'grave—Pearl's name—wheresh my knife?"
"You can have it pretty soon," promised Thong. "Look here, Harry, my boy. You're pretty drunk, for a fact, but do you happen to know where you were and what you did last night—and early this morning? Try to think—it may mean a lot to you!" and he spoke earnestly. "Where were you—what did you do?"
"What I did?" He blinked his eyes rapidly, to rid them of the water which poured forth in an effort to assuage their drink-inflamed condition, and regarded those about him with half-drunken gravity. "What I did? You want to know—what—what I did?"
"Yes. Where were you, and what did you do?" asked Carroll easily.
"Hu! Got drunk, thash what I did. Can't you see? I'm drunk yet, but I don't care! Ha! Had one swell time, thash what I did! One whale of a good time! It was some night—a wet night—believe me—a wet night—awful wet. Never had so mush fun—never! We got ole Doc Harrison stewed to the gills—hones' we did—stewed like—like prunes—apricots! Ho! Thash what we did!"
"Guess he wasn't the only one," observed Carroll grimly. "Now, look here, King. You're pretty drunk yet, but maybe you can get this through your noodle. There's been some nasty business, and you may, or may not, know something about it, though I don't believe you do, for you're so pickled now that you must have been loading up ever since last week. But you've got to answer some questions—when you're able—and it's a question of holding you here or—taking you with us. How about it?"
"Look here!" snarled King, and his voice rang out with sudden energy. "Who you talkin' to?"
"Now take it easy, Harry," advised Thong. "We're talking to you, of course."
Harry King seemed to begin the process of sobering up. His eyes lost something of their bleary, misunderstanding look, and took on a dangerous glint. The detectives knew him for a spendthrift, who had been in more than one questionable escapade. He had a violent temper, drunk or sober, once it was roused, and it did not take much liquor to make him a veritable devil. Though after his first wild burst he became maudlin and silly. King came of a good family, but his relatives had cast him off after his midnight marriage to an actress of questionable morals, with whom it was not a first offense, and he now lived, after his own peculiar fashion, on the income of an estate settled on him in his better days by an aunt. Now and then he managed to get larger advances than the stipulated sum from a rascally lawyer, who took a chance of reimbursing himself a hundred per cent. when Harry King should come to the end of his rope—a time which seemed not far off, if the present were any indication. He was to inherit the bulk of his fortune when he became thirty-five years of age. He was now thirty-three, but the pace he was going and keeping made his chances of living out the stated allotment seem meager.
"I'm talking to you, Harry, my boy," went on the detective, "and I advise you, for your own good, to keep a civil tongue in your head. If you don't, you may get into trouble. There's been a murder—"
"A murder!" King's voice was more certain now.
"Yes. You saw the body carried out—or are you still so drunk you can't remember? It was Mrs. Darcy—the lady who owned this jewelry store, you know. Now pull yourself together. You've got to come with us and explain a little about this knife of yours. She was stabbed with that."
"With my knife—that paper cutter dagger I was giving as a present to—to my wife?" King's voice was sobering more now.
"That's the idea, Harry."
"But I brought that knife to Darcy to have him engrave it."
"That may be. It was used to cut the old lady, though, and laid back on Darcy's work-table. Come now—brace up, and tell us all you know about it."
"Oh, I—I can brace up all right. So the old lady's dead, is she? Killed—stabbed! Too bad! Many's the trinket I've bought of her for—for—well, some of the girls, you know," and he winked suggestively at the detectives. "Old lady Darcy's dead! Say, look here, boys!" he exclaimed with a sudden change of manner, as something seemed to penetrate to his sodden brain, "you—you don't for a minute think I did this—do you?" and he sat up straight for the first time.
"Never mind what we think," said Carroll. "We're not paid for telling it—like the reporters," and he grinned at Daley of the Times. "We want to get at the facts. Are you in condition to talk?"
"Not here!" interrupted Thong quickly, with a glance at the newspaper men, which they were quick to interpret. "Oh, it's all right, boys," went on the detective. "We'll let you in for anything that's going as soon as we can—you know that."
"Sure," agreed Daley. "But don't keep us waiting all day. The presses are like animals—they have to be fed, you know. First editions don't wait for gum-shoe men, even if they're of the first water. And I've got a city editor who has a temper like a bear with a sore nose in huckleberry time. So loosen up as soon as you can."
They took King and Darcy to police headquarters in a taxicab which King, with still half-drunken gravity, insisted on paying for.
Colonel Ashley—or Colonel Brentnall as he had registered at the hotel—having, by means of a more or less adroit bit of camouflage, obtained possession of the newspaper containing an account of the murder of Mrs. Darcy, and of the holding of her cousin and Harry King on suspicion, tossed the journal on the bed beside his well-worn copy of the "Complete Angler." Then, to demonstrate his complete mastery over himself, he picked up the book, never so much as glancing at the black headlines, and read:
". . . I have found it to be a real truth that the very sitting by the river's side is not only the quietest and fittest place for contemplation, but will invite the angler to it; . . ."
"I'm a fool!" exploded the colonel. "I came here to fish, and, first click of the reel, I go nosing around on the trail of a murder, when I vowed I wouldn't even dream of a case. I won't either,—that's flat! I'll get my rods in shape to go fishing to-morrow. It may clear. Then Shag and I—"
Slowly the book slipped from his hand. It fell on the bed with a soft thud, and a breeze from the partly opened window ruffled a page of the newspaper. The colonel, looking guiltily around the room, walked nearer to the bed, and then, as stealthily as though committing a theft, he picked up the Times. Softly he exclaimed:
"Gad! what's the use?"
A moment later, pulling his chair beneath an electric light, he began to read the account of the murder.
Pete Daley's story of the finding of the dead body of the owner of the jewelry store was a graphic bit of work. He described how Darcy, coming down in the gray dawn, had discovered the woman lying stark and cold, her head crushed and a stab wound in her side.
None of the details was lacking, though the gruesomeness was skilfully covered with some well-done descriptive writing. The wounds seemed to have been inflicted at the same time—one by the metal statue of a hunter found on the floor near the body, the other by a dagger-like paper cutter, admitted to be owned by Harry King, but which, with the blade blood-stained, was found on the jewelry bench of her cousin James Darcy.
The solution of the murder mystery depended on the answers to two questions, the reporter pointed out. First, which wound killed Mrs. Darcy? Second, who inflicted either or both wounds?
There were ramifications from these beginnings—such as the motive for the crime; whether or not there had been a robbery; and, if so, by whom committed. Then, to get to the more personal problem, did either King or Darcy commit the murder, and, if so, why?
"Um," mused the colonel, reading the Times on the evening of the day the crime was discovered. "It may turn out to be a mystery after all, in spite of the two men who are held. Let's see now," and he went on with his perusal of the paper.
The autopsy had been performed, and Dr. Warren had said either wound might have caused death; for the skull was badly fractured, and vital organs had been pierced by the dagger, which the papers called it, though it really was a paper cutter of foreign make.
King and Darcy were not, as yet, formally, arrested, being "detained," merely, at police headquarters as witnesses, though there was no question but that suspicion was cast on both. Under the law a formal charge must be made against them within twenty-four hours, and unless this was done King's lawyer threatened to bring habeas corpus proceedings for his client.
"Oh, there'll be a charge made before then all right," said Thong easily, when the legal shyster had, with threatening finger under the detective's nose, made much of this point. "I'm not saying it will be against your man, Mr. Fussell, but there'll be a charge made all right."
It is needless to say that both suspected men protested they knew nothing about the killing. King was frank enough—sober now—to say he had been drunk all night—spending the hours with boon companions in a notorious resort, a statement which seemed capable enough of proof.
Darcy told over and over again how he had come downstairs to find his relative stretched on the floor of the shop, and, aside from that little restless period of the night, he had heard no disturbance. Sallie Page could tell nothing, the maid was out of the city, and none of the clerks knew more of what had happened than they were told.
Playing up Darcy's story, Daley and some of the other reporters speculated on whether or not a burglar might have entered the store, leaving no trace of his uncanny skill, and, in his wanderings about the place, have entered Darcy's room. He might even have attempted to chloroform the jewelry worker, it was suggested, and perhaps did, slightly. Then, descending to the store, the intruder might have started to loot the safe when he was disturbed by Mrs. Darcy, who may have come down to see what the unusual noise was.
Such, at least, was a theory, and one several took stock in. At any rate Darcy, after having been aroused, by what he knew not, had gone to sleep again, only to awaken to hurry down to do the repair work on the watch of the East Indian—the watch that was found so uncannily ticking in the otherwise silent jewelry store, clasped in the hand of the dead woman. It was mentioned that Singa Phut was being kept under observation, though no suspicion attached to him.
Darcy had at first nervously, and then indignantly, protested his innocence, King continually doing the latter. Naturally there followed, even with the faint suspicions so far engendered, the question as to what the possible object for the crime could have been, presuming either man had been involved.
It was known that King was constantly in debt, in spite of his allowance and the more substantial advances he received from time to time. He had patronized the jewelry store, and he admitted owing Mrs. Darcy quite a large sum for a brooch he had purchased for his wife some time before. It was, of course, possible, that he had, in his drunken state, gone to the store to get the paper cutter, which some peculiar kink or twist in his drink-inflamed brain had caused him to remember at an odd time. Or perhaps he had run short of money when playing cards, and have gone to Mrs. Darcy's store to borrow or see if he could not get something on which he might raise cash.
Harry King was known to have been gambling the night before, the game lasting until nearly morning, and at one stage, when King was "broke," he had excused himself, gone out into the night alone, and had come back well supplied with funds. Asked jokingly by his cronies where he had got the money, he had said "a lady" gave it to him. He resumed play, only to lose, and had staggered out into the gray dawn, which was the last his companions had seen of him. He next appeared at the jewelry store after the murder.
Sobered, King's explanation was that "a lady" had really given him the money, but who she was, or why she gave him funds at two o'clock in the morning, he would not say. He admitted calling at the jewelry store somewhere around eleven o'clock at night for the purpose of seeing if the engraving on the paper cutter had been finished. King was not so very drunk then, he said. He was just "starting in."
The store was closed, he said, but he added a bit of testimony that caused Colonel Ashley, and others, to think a bit.
King said that, though the front doors to the store were locked, he, knowing the place well, had gone around to the side door in the alley, thinking that might not yet be fastened. He hoped, he said, to be able to get in and procure the present for his wife. But this door, too, was locked, though, through the glass he could see a light in the rear room. And he could hear voices, which were raised louder than ordinary.
The voices, King added, were those of Mrs. Darcy and her cousin, James Darcy, and it was evident that a quarrel was in progress. Asked as to the nature of the dispute King had said he had heard mentioned several times the name "Amy." There was also something said about money and an "electric lathe."
Naturally there was an inquiry as to who "Amy" was, and what was meant by the electric lathe. Darcy answered with seeming frankness that the Amy in question was Miss Mason, daughter of Adrian Mason, wealthy stockman of Pompey, a village about ten miles from Colchester. Mr. Mason had what was often referred to as a "show place," with blooded horses and cattle, and he was quite a financial figure in Monroe county, of which Colchester was the county seat.
Besides this, Amy was well off in her own right, her uncle having left her a half interest in a valuable mine.
James Darcy and Amy Mason were engaged to be married, though this fact was known to but few, and made quite a sensation when Darcy admitted it after his arrest. He and Amy had known each other since childhood, and when small had lived near each other.
Mr. Mason, in spite of his wealth, was a democratic man, and though he knew, and Amy also, that she might have married wealth and position, both were "passed up," to quote the stockman himself, in favor of a real love match. For that is what it was.
"He's a man, that's what James Darcy is!" Amy's father had said, when some one hinted that he had neither wealth nor family of which to boast. "He's a man! He's got all the family he needs. What's a family good for, anyhow, after you're grown up? As for money, I've got more than I need, and Amy's got a little nest-egg of her own. Besides, Darcy can earn his living, which is a hanged sight more than some of these dancing lizards can do if they were put to it."
It developed that the words over Amy which had occurred, just before the murder, between James Darcy and his cousin, had to do with the difference in the worldly prospects of the two young people. Mrs. Darcy had rather laughed at him, James said, for thinking of marrying a girl so much wealthier than he was.
"What did you tell her?" asked Carroll. "I mean your cousin."
"I told her I could support my wife decently well, if not in such state as that to which she was accustomed in her father's house. As for style, neither Miss Mason nor I care for it. And, if things go right, I may be able to bring her as much wealth as she has herself."
"How do you mean if things go right?" asked the detective.
"Well, if I can perfect the electric lathe I am trying to patent," was the answer.
"Oh, so that's what King heard about an electric lathe?"
"I suppose so. It's no great secret. I've been working on it for some time, but my cousin objected to my spending my time that way. She thought I should devote it all to her interests, even outside the shop. I told her I had my own future to look to, and we often had words about that. Last night's quarrel wasn't the first, though she was especially bitter over my work on the lathe. I have been giving it more time than usual because it is nearly finished, and I want to get it ready to show at a big Eastern jewelry convention."
"And what was the talk about money?"
"Well, Mrs. Darcy owed me about a thousand dollars. I had done some special work on making necklaces for her customers, and she had promised, if they were pleased, to pay me extra for the exclusive designs I got up. The customers were pleased, and they paid her extra for the ornaments. So I demanded that she keep her promise, but she refused, pleading that many other customers owed her and times were hard. I needed that thousand dollars to help complete my lathe model, and—well, we had words over that, too."
"Then, do I understand," summed up Carroll, "that the night Mrs. Darcy was killed you had a quarrel with her over Miss Mason, and about the money and because you spent too much time working on your patent lathe?"
"Well, yes, though I don't admit I spent too much time, and I surely will claim she owed me that money. As for Miss Mason—I'd prefer to have her name left out," faltered the young jeweler.
"We can't always have what we want," said Thong, dryly. "Was the quarrel specially bitter?"
"Not any more so than others. I had to speak a little loud, for my cousin was getting a trifle deaf."
"And after the quarrel you went to bed?"
"And you didn't see your cousin again until—when?" and Carroll looked Darcy straight in the eyes.
"Not until after she was—dead."
"Um! I guess that's all now."
They let the young man go, back to his room in police headquarters. It was not a cell—yet, though it would seem likely to come to that, for Thong observed to his partner as they went downstairs:
"Well, there's a motive all right."
"Three, if you like. But none of 'em hardly strong enough for murder."
"Oh, I don't know. I hear he has quite a temper—different from Harry King's, but enough, especially if he got riled about the old lady talking against his girl. You never can tell."
"No, that's so."
Left alone, James Darcy threw himself into a chair and looked blankly at the dull-painted wall.
"This is fierce!" he murmured. "It will be a terrible blow to Amy! I wonder—I wonder if she'll have anything to do with me after this? The shame of it—the disgrace! Oh, Amy! if I could only know!" and he reached out his hand as though to thrust them beyond the confines of the walls. He bowed his head in his arms and was silent and motionless a long time.
Up in his hotel room, Colonel Ashley read the story of the case as printed in the Times.
"This does begin to get interesting," he mused, as he finished reading the account. "There are three possible motives in Darcy's case, and one in King's. And I've known murder to be done on slighter provocation. Darcy might have resented being called a fortune hunter, which, I suppose, is what the old lady meant, or he may have been stung to sudden passion by the holding back of the thousand dollars and the taunts about his lathe. Most inventors are crazy anyhow.
"As for King—if he was drunk enough, and wanted money—or thought he could get some diamonds—it might be—it might be. I wonder who his lady friend is? He daren't tell, I suppose, on account of his wife. I wonder—"
"Oh, what am I bothering about it for, anyhow? I came here to rest and fish, and I'm going to. I've resigned from detective work! There!" He tossed the paper behind the bed. "I'll not look at another issue. Now let's see how my rods are. I'm going to get an early start in the morning, if this infernal rain lets up. Blast that Shag! He's jammed a ferrule!" and, with blazing eyes, the colonel looked at one of the joints of his choicest rod. A brass connection had been bent.