The Red Hand

LESLIE MCFARLANE April 1 1930

The Red Hand

LESLIE MCFARLANE April 1 1930

The Red Hand

LESLIE MCFARLANE

In which an amateur sleuth encounters a mystery and reads a professional a lesson in ingenuity

MICHAEL BRENT was very comfortable. He could hear the snow slashing against the window panes beyond the heavy velvet curtains, but a cheerful blaze crackled in the fireplace and he lounged at ease in an overstuffed chair, clad in pyjamas and dressing gown, his slippered feet upon a hassock, a cigar between his teeth, a book in his hands and a highball on the table at his elbow.

Bad weather outdoors, a good fire indoors, an easy chair, a cigar, a drink and his battered volume of Sunshine Sketches—these were the ingredients of Michael Brent’s recipe for a perfect evening. His cigar was glowing nicely and he had just begun to chuckle once more over the immortal love affair of Peter Pupkin when the telephone rang.

“It would!” grunted Michael Brent, and decided not to answer it.

The bell jangled again and again. Few can resist the summons of the telephone. A hermit who had forsworn the world would answer the telephone—if he had one— out of sheer human curiosity. Michael Brent, as is the way of all flesh, capitulated after the third ring, laid aside his book and reached for the instrument.

“Michael Brent speaking!” he growled, in a tone meant to make the caller properly ashamed of himself. A masculine voice, urgent, high-pitched, answered: “Mr. Brent—the lawyer?”

“Yes.”

“Eldon Canby speaking, Mr. Brent. You handled a little case for me last year. I wonder if you can come down right away. I’m in a bit of a mess. It’s very important. I hate to disturb you, Mr. Brent, but I need you here right now. Right away, if you can make it.” Michael Brent gazed with resignation upon the book, the fire and the cigar.

“What’s it all about, Mr. Canby? What’s your trouble?”

“I can’t very well tell you over the phone, Mr. Brent. But I want you here to look after my interests. It’s really serious. Otherwise I wouldn’t ask you to come out at this hour of night.”

“That’s all right. You wish me to come to your hotel?”

“No! Oh, no! I’m up in Joe Vallett’s apartment. Number Forty-two.”

“I know the place. All right, Mr. Canby, I’ll be with you shortly.”

“As quickly as you can make it. Please!”

Michael Brent replaced the receiver, sighed deeply. “Never knew it to fail,” he murmured, and cast aside his dressing gown. “Let me get settled down to a quiet evening and some idiot gets himself into trouble.” He dressed swiftly. He was a youngish man, with dark, curly hair, intelligent eyes, a straight nose and white, even teeth, but the neat black mustache and the well-trimmed beard rendered his appearance sufficiently distinctive in an age of clean-shaven men to identify him as a personality far from commonplace. Michael Brent was shrewd. As a struggling young Montreal lawyer he had been but one of many eager young fellows almost identical in looks, dress and manner. “Individuality— that’s the thing!” he had told himself, and proceeded

to make of himself a young man whom people would remember. The beard, the mustache, the floppy black hat, the inevitable white shirt and black tie — these had turned the trick.

Now there were many young lawyers, but there was only one Michael Brent.

He struggled into his ulster, drew the black hat down upon his forehead, snapped out the lights and left the house. It was only a short walk, and when he reached the apartment building he found a small group of people gathered in the street before the entrance, which was guarded by an immense policeman.

The officer raised a majestic arm as Michael Brent went up the steps, but upon recognizing the lawyer he stepped aside. “IVsoir, M’sieu Brent.”

“Hello, Laurin. What’s up?”

The man shrugged. “I have heard very little. It is a shooting.”

“Well! Anybody hurt?”

“I believe Vallett is dead.”

“Bad stuff. Who’s up there now?”

“Detectives. They are questioning witnesses. It was a poker game. Some trouble—bang, bang! Maybe another hanging at Bordeaux.”

“We’ll hope not, Laurin. I guess I'd better go up.”

AS MICHAEL BRENT ascended the stairs to Vallett’s apartment he recalled various things he had heard about the victim. Joe Vallett was known to the newspapers as a “leading sportsman” and to his intimates as a cold-blooded and unscrupulous gambler whose departure from this earth would not be unduly mourned.

He passed a whispering group of people in the upper corridor and made his way to the apartment. Here another constable barred his way, but immediately stepped aside on recognizing Brent.

“You may go in, sir. The inspector said it would be all right. Mr. Canby is expecting you.”

Michael Brent entered the apartment. There was a small foyer, and beyond that the living room. Sitting wretchedly on a chesterfield were three pale and worried men who were being badgered by Inspector Caron, of the Detective Bureau, while two detectives, their thumbs in their vest pockets, looked on truculently. In a chair by the bay window sat a good-looking young fellow, the picture of dejection, who sprang to his feet when he saw the newcomer.

“Thank goodness you came, Mr. Brent !” he exclaimed. “This is a devil of a mess. I didn’t have a thing to do with it. Not a thing. But it’s all so mysterious. I thought I’d better have you here to represent me.” Brent waved him back to the chair. “That’s all right, Canby. Take it easy.” He grinned at the inspector. “What’s it all about, Pierre?”

The inspector relinquished his inquisition of the trio on the chesterfield. He had a high respect and a genuine liking for Michael Brent, in spite of the fact that they were frequently, in a manner of speaking, on opposite sides of the fence.

“A nasty business here,” he growled. “Joe Vallett got his, at last.”

“Dead?”

“Took him to the hospital in a police ambulance a few minutes ago. He has a bullet in him and he’s out, colder than a herring. It’s curtains for Joe, I’m afraid. I doubt if he’ll last until he gets to the hospital.” Caron indicated Eldon Canby and the three men on the chesterfield with a wave of his big hand. “They were all playing poker here tonight. The game broke up in a row. Somebody came back and shot Vallett with his own revolver.”

“Not me!” snapped Canby. "He trimmed me out of a thousand bucks, and I know he was cheating, but I’m no murderer.”

“You caught him cheating?” snarled Caron.

“That’s what started the row. He ran in a marked deck.”

“Deplorable,” murmured Brent. He sat down. “Go ahead, inspector. Don’t mind if I stay?”

Caron shrugged. “I’m gonna find out who shot Vallett. And if I don’t find out, I’m holdin’ the whole crowd until I do.” He turned truculently upon an immaculate, olive-complexioned young man with gleaming black hair and narrow eyes beneath bushy brows. “All right, Feodi. Tell your story.”

His manner indicated that he was quite prepared to believe that any story Mr. Feodi might tell would be a lie.

“I did not do this!” declared Feodi from the chesterfield. "Mr. Vallett and I, we are friends. He wins money from me, yes, but I did not kill him. I am the first man to leave. I do not want trouble, and when trouble starts I put on my hat and go.”

The inspector turned to one of the detectives.

“Where did you pick up this bird?” he asked.

“At his hotel. He was standing in the lobby. Said he had been there for fifteen minutes.”

“It is true,” clamored Feodi. “I leave here. I walk one, two blocks to my hotel. I am standing in the lobby and this man comes up and says: ‘You must come with me.’ I have nothing to do wdth this affair.”

Caron glared at the other men on the chesterfield. One was middle-aged, fat and pasty, his forehead wet with the perspiration of fear. The other, younger, was blonde and blue-eyed, with nervous hands constantly clasping and unclasping in h'is agitation.

“You,” growled Caron to the older man, “call yourself Martin Temple, huh?”

“That's my name,” said Temple sullenly.

“And this other guy is your brother, eh, Victor, did you say?”

Martin Temple nodded.

“Come on now! Kick in! Which one of you did it?” Caron’s fierce eyes swept upon all four suspects.

“I’ve told you,” said Victor Temple evenly. “My brother and I left the apartment immediately after Feodi. Mr. Vallett was all right when we left. He was talking to Mr. Canby. We went down to the corner and I went into the cigar store to buy some cigarettes and put in a telephone call. My brother stayed outside to look for a taxi. We were just going away when we heard about the trouble, so we came back, asked a policeman what had happened and gave ourselves up. We didn’t have anything to do with the shooting.”

“How do you know your brother waited in front of the cigar store?” demanded Caron.

“I could see him through the window. He hailed a taxi and kept the car waiting. The clerk can prove it.”

“And how did you know there had been some trouble here?”

“We heard a police whistle blowing and we saw some people in front of the building.”

"Victor is telling the truth,” broke in Martin Temple, in a deep, throaty voice. “We came right back to find out what was the matter and when the policeman told us there had been trouble in this apartment we told him we had just come from here.”

Caron turned on Eldon Canby.

"How about you?” he growled. -“You were picked up right in the building. You were in the lobby when the alarm was raised.”

“That’s true enough,” said Canby. “The doorman knew I had been up in Vallett’s apartment, so he asked me to stay until things were cleared up.” Canby looked toward Michael Brent, who was placidly stroking his beard. “I know this looks mighty awkward for me, Mr. Brent,” he said. “That’s why I called you up. As a matter of fact, Vallett. must have been shot within two minutes after I left the apartment. I was the last man to leave, you see."

"You admit that.?" growled Caron.

"Oh, yes. We had been arguing about the marked deck we caught him using in the poker game, and the others cleared out. I left the apartment, went downstairs and crossed the lobby.

I was still angry, so angry I felt; like going back up and taking a wallop at Vallett., just for the satisfaction it would give me, when I heard the uproar above. Someone shouted from the upper floor that. Vallett had been murdered, and the doorman told me I had better stay. I had no intention of leaving.”

"Didn’t you hear the shot?” asked Caron.

“Not a sound.”

“The man in the next apartment heard it,” said the inspector. "The minute he heard it, he went over to the wall and listened. He could hear Vallett groaning. He went out into the hall and tried the door of Vallett’s apartment. Then he went in and found him on the floor in the bedroom. It checks up mighty close. You would have had time, from the minute he heard the shot and the minute he found Vallett, to be out of there and downstairs.”

“Are you satisfied, inspector,” drawled Brent, “that it wasn’t suicide? Pardon me for butting in, but I just want to know.”

“The revolver was in his hand,” Caron admitted, “but it wasn’t suicide. The bird that shot Vallett tried to make it look that way. There were no powder marks, and Vallett’s fingers weren’t clenched tight enough. The revolver would have dropped out of his hand, the way we found it. I’ve covered enough shootings to know suicide when I see it.”

\yfICHAEL BRENT got up from his chair and lounged into the bedroom. One of the detectives unobtrusively followed him and stood in the doorway.

There was a stain of blood on the floor near the end of a cedar chest. The room was in good order. The breeze gently stirred the lace curtains of the window. Brent went over to the window and looked out. It overlooked the fire escape.

He went back into the living room.

“Let’s get at the bottom of this,” Caron was saying. “How did this poker game start? How did you get into it, Canby?”

The young man flushed. “I suppose I was a sucker. I was standing on Peel Street wondering what to do with myself when this chap Feodi came up and started to talk to me. I’d met him up here once before. He said he was going up for a little game and suggested that I

come along. So I came, and Vallett took me for a thousand bucks.”

“How do you mean you were a sucker?”

“Feodi steered me into the game, that’s what I mean !” said the young man bitterly.

Feodi leaped to his feet. “It is an insult,” he screamed. “You mean I am a crook, eh? You think Vallett make use of me to bring you here?”

“I’m sure of it,” retorted Canby.

“But I lose! I lose t’ree hundred dollars.

“That makes it look good for you. Vallett would have given you back your dough. He was running a marked deck.”

Feodi’s face was flushed. “You talk about a crooked curd game!” he stormed. “Remember when Vallett

opened that deck? How much did he lose until then?”

“He was away behind,” Canby admitted.

“And who was winning?”

Canby gestured toward the Temple brothers. “They were.”

“They win from the time the game began,” declared Feodi angrily. “I know. They have signals. Think! How many times they freeze us out between them? That is who was crooked. Vallett ran in a marked deck, yes. It is there on the table. We have seen it. But why? Because he saw they were cheating. It was in selfdefense.”

“And I was the goat!”

“Lay off that stuff,” growled Martin Temple. “No measly wop is goin’ to accuse me of bein’ crooked. Watch out what you’re sayin’, young man.”

They glared at one another in hostility. Inspector Caron winked meaningly at Brent. He said nothing. Let them fight. Perhaps the truth w'ould come out.”

“Now that I come to think of it,” said Canby, “there’s a lot in what Feodi says. Temple, you and your brother seemed to be working pretty well together. We were all losing until Vallett changed the deck. I was the sucker all the way. Vallett and Feodi began to make up some of their losses then, until you spotted the marked deck.”

“It was marked, wasn’t it?” demanded Martin Temple. “You saw it?”

“You saw it first. You’re a pretty good card player, aren’t you?”

“I know a little about poker.”

“And your brother doesn’t know much about it. Vallett has been trimming him right along. And you know something about dealing, too.”

“I never played with Vallett before,” said Martin Temple heavily. “Victor said he was coming up here tonight for a game, and I said I’d like to come along, that’s all.”

Michael Brent was looking from one man to the other, watching their changing expressions. He was learning a great deal about that particular card game.

“You’ll have a fingerprint man coming up?” he said casually to the inspector.

“Should be here any minute,” returned Caron. “I don’t know if he’ll help very much. I couldn’t see any prints on the revolver.” He turned on Canby. “Now then—why did you stay behind with Vallett when the others left?”

“To tell him what I thought of him.”

“You had an argument?”

“We did.”

“Did he pull a gun on you?”

“No. The argument was purely verbal”.

Caron blinked. “It was what?”

“Verbal. We only talked.”

“Why don’t you say so, then? Did he throw you out.”

“He told me to get out.”

“Were you in the bedroom at any time?”

“No.” Canby hesitated. “Well, yes—I forgot. My hat and coat were in the bedroom. I was in there early in the evening, but Vallett brought my hat and coat out when I was leaving.”

“So if we find any fingerprints in the bedroom, belongin’ to you, they were left when you put your hat and coat there, huh?”

“Exactly.”

Caron scratched his chin. Then he wheeled suddenly on Feodi.

“Now, then! How long have you known Vallett?”

Unobtrusively Michael Brent reached for his hat. “I’ll be back shortly,” he said, but no one paid any attention to his departure, as the inspector was bellowing questions at the luckless Feodi.

DRENT went downstairs, made his way through the curious crowd loitering about the entrance, and went down toward the end of the block until he found an all-night drug store. He went in, made a small purchase and returned to the Regis. He had been absent a little more than five minutes.

When he came back he found that a fingerprint expert had arrived from headquarters.

“Now,” Caron was saying, as he rubbed his hands, “we’ll learn something, maybe, so you’d better talk, whoever did it. Talk now, and it will be the better for you.”

No one spoke. All four looked sullenly at the inspector. Feodi moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue.

“No one going to speak up?” asked Brent in surprise. He reached into a waistcoat pocket and carefully extracted a round, red object, holding it delicately between thumb and forefinger. “See this?”

They looked, puzzled. The object was a poker chip.

“What of it?” demanded Caron in some resentment.

“Just a plain, ordinary, everyday poker chip. But it happens to be one of the chips used in the game tonight.” “There’s lots more,” snapped Feodi, gesturing toward the table.

“Oh, but this poker chip has more than usual significance. You would never guess where I found it.” “What’s the idea?” demanded Caron. “You should have turned it over to me. Where did you find it?”

“I am turning it over to you, inspector. I found it,” said Brent softly, “on the window sill in the bedroom.” The inspector nodded, understanding. “So!” he grunted with great satisfaction.

“The man who shot Vallett dropped this poker chip. He came in by the window from the fire escape, and evidently this chip dropped out of his pocket. Perhaps it had been lodged in his clothing by accident. At any rate, there it was.”

Caron rubbed his hands in exultation. “And his fingerprints will be on it! Now then, is anyone going to talk?”

“Perhaps,” suggested Brent, “the gentleman who dropped that chip will speak up and save us the trouble of taking fingerprints of everyone.” He looked down at the red disc. “As a matter of fact, I can see a distinct print with the naked eye.”

He placed the chip on the edge of the table. Caron looked down at it, without, however, touching the disc. “Going to speak up, anybody?” he invited, complacently.

Brent moved toward the door of the bathroom. “Mind if I get myself a drink of water, inspector? I shan’t disturb anything.”

There were two electric push buttons beside the door, and he pressed one of them. The living room was instantly plunged into darkness. Caron uttered a bellow of annoyance. There was a flurry of movement, a sharp clatter. “I’m sorry!” exclaimed Brent, but instead of pushing the button that would illuminate the room

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again he pushed the button of the bathroom light. Several seconds elapsed, Brent apologizing profusely before the living room lights again flashed on.

“Stupid of me,’’ he said, looking at the angry inspector. “Don’t be sore, Caron. Were you afraid one of your suspects would jump out of the window?”

He went into the bathroom, found a glass, and was just filling it with water when he heard a yell from the other room.

“Where the devil,” roared Caron, “is that chip?”

DRENT stepped quickly into the living room. The inspector was pointing a pudgy finger at the place where the red poker chip had lain just a few moments previously. “The chip! It’s gone!” He pounded a massive fist on the table. “Who took it? Someone grabbed that chip while the lights were out.”

All four men returned his gaze defiantly.

“Someone,” said Feodi, quickly, “moved in front of me. He brushed past me. I did not take the chip.”

“Trying to shove it on to me, eh?” snarled Martin Temple, who was sitting beside Feodi. “It wasn’t me, wop. And nobody passed in front of me, neither.”

Canby shrugged.

“And you needn’t bother glaring at me, inspector. My fingerprints weren’t on that chip, so I wouldn’t bother taking it.”

Brent tugged at his beard in disappointment. “This is too bad,” he said. “Altogether too bad. I thought that chip would just about settle things. Now we’re back where we started. And it was all my fault, too. If I hadn’t made that idiotic mistake about the lights. .

“Back where we started!” snorted Caron. “Not if I know it. Turn out your pockets, you birds! Stand up here and empty your pockets. Every one of ’em. Turn ’em right inside out.” He beckoned to the two detectives. “Frisk ’em.”

Feodi rose with a smirk, and deliberately turned every pocket inside out. A handkerchief, a watch, a pocketbook, a few letters—but no poker chip. The other men followed his example. The two detectives searched diligently. The poker chip was not found.

Caron was furious. He searched along the floor, beneath the table, growling like an angry bear. The detectives turned up the cushions of the chesterfield.

“Now I know the chip was dropped by the guy that shot Vallett!” declared the inspector.

Brent remarked casually.

“I don’t think there’s much use hunting for it. 1 imagine I know where it is.”

Caron scrambled to his feet.

“If you know where it is, then get it! You’ve balled things up in fine style, I must say.”

Michael Brent gestured toward the heap of chips at the other end of the table. .

“That’s the most likely place. Whoever picked it up simply tassed it in with the others. And what a fine time we’ll have picking out that particular red chip from that stack !”

Absently, he extended the glass of water toward Feodi. “Hold this for a second, will you?” While Feodi held the glass, Brent pawed among the heap of chips.

“No use,” he said sadly. "It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

He reached for the glass of water again, then suddenly seemed to stumble. The glass tilted, the water spilled upon the fat hands of Martin Temple, and upon his clothing.

“What the deuce!” exclaimed Temple. Brent recovered his balance. “I’m sorry,” he apologized earnestly. “Indeed I am. I don’t know how I could have been so awkward.” Swiftly, he handed Victor Temple the glass, snatched a handkerchief from his pocket and began to sop up the water that had fallen from the chesterfield, muttering in confusion.

Martin Temple gave a gasp of astonishment. He was staring at the fingers of his right hand. They were red, and the water dripping from them was as blood.

He started back and looked up to meet the sardonic smile of Michael Brent.

“That,” said Brent, “is exactly what I was waiting for. Why did you want to get rid of the poker chip, Mr. Temple?”

He took the glass from Victor Temple, who handed it over mechanically.

The big man stared, his flabby face paler than ever, at the red drops falling from his stained right hand.

“I don’t get you?” he said huskily.

“You took the poker chip, Mr. Temple,” insisted Brent cheerfully. “I presume you had good reason for trying to get rid of it.”

“Look here?” demanded Caron. “What’s all this about? Who’s in charge here, anyway? What’s the idea? What’s all this monkey business about?”

“A little experiment in elementary chemistry,” remarked Brent dryly. “You got rid of the poker chip, didn’t you, Temple?”

The big man nodded. “Yes,” he admitted. “When the lights went out, I leaned over and threw it back with the others.” He looked down at his hand incredulously. “But how this happened. . . it’s

beyond me. .

“You took the chip, hey?” roared the inspector, taking command

again. “Well, I don’t care how Brent caught, you, it’s enough for me to know you’re the man that I want. So now you’re under arrest !”

He was interrupted by a sudden cry. Victor Temple sprang to his feet.

“You’re not going to arrest him ! He didn’t do it. I don’t care if he did try to get rid of the chip. He didn’t kill Vallett. He’s just trying to protect me.”

“Shut up, kid!” snapped his brother.

“I won’t shut up. You’re not going to take the blame for me.” The young man turned toward the inspector and extended his wrists. "Put the cuffs on me if you like,” he said, bitterly. “I did it. I killed Vallett.” Caron blinked. Then he said quietly. “All right. We’ll get that down in writing.”

The big man seized his brother’s arm. “Don’t be crazy, Victor. Don’t give him anything in writing. Make ’em prove it. Don’t say anything more. You know what this means.”

Victor shrugged despondently. "What’s the use? I did it. I’m ready to take my medicine.” He wrenched his arm free from the restraining grasp.

“Put it in writing if you want,” he said harshly. “I’ll sign it. I shot Vallett. That’s the main thing. If anyone dropped that poker chip on the window sill, it was me.” “Why did you kill him?” demanded Caron.

“Because he ruined me! I have a weakness for gambling and Vallett knew it. At first I won. I won a lot. Then I began to lose and I got in deeper and deeper. Often I made up my mind to quit, but he seemed to know just when I was ready to stop and I’d win again and think I could make up what I had lost. He cleaned me out. Then I went to my brother and told him about it. Mart knows poker. He used to run a gambling house in a mining camp. He told me how I had been hooked, and we framed up a scheme to get some of my money back. We planned to get into a game with Vallett and work a little crooked stuff ourselves. Feodi here was in with Vallett. Canby was right when he said

Feodi steered him into the game. Mart and I were too good, so when Vallett got wise he ran in a marked deck. Mart spotted it and we quit. Canby was sore, and he stayed behind, arguing with Vallett.”

“How did you get back up here?” asked the inspector. “The fire escape. We went down to the cigar store, as I said. I was boiling mad. I knew Vallett had two of my promissory notes in the top left-hand drawer of his bureau. I saw him put them there. I slipped out of the cigar store when Mart thought I was telephoning, and came into the apartment house by a side door. 1

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came up here and heard Canhy and Vallett still arguing in the living room. I made up my mind I’d get those notes back if I had to steal them.”

Caron grunted.

‘‘It wasn’t stealing, because Vallett had cheated me. I stepped out the window at the end of the hall, out on to the fire escape. In the meantime, Canby must have left. Just as I was getting into the room through Vallett’s window, Vallett came in. He saw me and grabbed a revolver from the bureau. I came at him and got the gun out of his hand, but as I staggered back it went off, and down he went. I got out the window again, after finding the notes, went back down the fire escape to the courtyard and hurried to the cigar store. My brother was still waiting. He was wondering why I had taken so long hut I made some sort of explanation. Then we heard the police whistle blowing. . .”

“And right then,” said Martin Temple, “I got an idea why the kid had been away so long.”

“I don’t know how that poker chip came to get tangled up in my clothes,” muttered Victor. “If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have been all right. There are no fingerprints on the revolver. I wore gloves. I guess Mart knew what had happened, so he tried to get rid of the chip for me. But I wasn’t going to let him get into trouble on my account.”

“Well!” exclaimed the inspector cheerfully. “This clears everything up, nice and tidy. I’m sorry, young fellow, but you’ll have to come down to headquarters. . . ”

HE telephone jangled.

The inspector snatched it up. “Yeah?” he growled. He listened, his eyes widening, his mouth sagging. “Is that so?. . Well, the big sap!. . He does, does he?. . . And I get all this work for nothing?. . All right! All right!” He slammed the receiver viciously hack on the hook.

“Might as well go home! Vallett ain’t dead.”

Victor Temple’s eyes lighted up with hope. “What did you say? He’s alive? I didn’t kill him?”

The two brothers were incredulous with relief and amazement.

“Do you mean. .there’ll he no charges laid?” asked Martin shakily.

“Vallett just come to. He ain’t layin’ any charges. Not with a marked deck lyin’ around his apartment. A court case would ruin him. He says it was an accident. Says he shot himself when he was cleaning his revolver.”

In the ensuing hubbub Michael Brent almost escaped unnoticed. He was nearly at the door when the wrathful inspector saw him.

“Just a minute! I want to know something. How did you know Temple took that chip?”

“Oh, that?” exclaimed Michael Brent smiling. “That was just a trick. I didn’t find any poker chip on the sill. I just picked up one from the heap on the table and tried to lead the guilty party to think it was a very damaging piece of evidence. Then I purposely switched out the lights to give him a chance to get rid of it. Very crude. The wrong man picked it up.”

“I don’t get it yet. What made his hand turn red?”

“As I told you,” said Michael Brent, his hand on the door knob, “it w'as merely an experiment in elementary chemistry. I went down to the drug store and bought a little fuchsia powder. Then I dusted it on the poker chip before I left it lying so temptingly on the table. When Temple picked up the chip he got fuchsia powder on his hand.”

“Well?”

“The glass of water, of course, was a bit of a trap. I let some water run over the outside of the glass, then asked Feodi to hold it for me. I knew Canhy couldn’t have got rid of the chip because you were standing between him and the table when the lights went out. The trick didn’t work with Feodi, so I had to spill some water over Martin Temple’s hand, and then handed the wet glass to Victor, it was bound to work with one of them.”

“What was bound to work?” demanded the inspector, still in the dark,

“I was afraid I would be insulting your intelligence,” sighed Brent. “You see, fuchsia powder turns red in water.”