FICTION

THE ROMEO MOTIF

BENGE ATLEE January 15 1933
FICTION

THE ROMEO MOTIF

BENGE ATLEE January 15 1933

THE ROMEO MOTIF

Kent Power, scientific detective, encounters the most extraordinary murder mystery of his career

BENGE ATLEE

KENT POWER was playing “The Dancer Dead" on a small grand piano to demonstrate to the young girl behind him why it should have won first instead of second prize in a recent contest for an original musical composition sponsored by a national broadcasting concern. She was one of those trig youngsters, with a scrap of hat above blonde curls, and her interest seemed to lie rather in the pages of the movie magazine she was turning idly than in the somewhat ecstatic melody.

“You see?” he said, swinging finally. "Yes. uncle," she replied with that sort of humility young girls can make so provoking.

“Don’t call me uncle,” he snapped at her quite severely.

"But I'm so used to it, darling.” She rose and sidled ingratiatingly toward him. “You see, I'm always telling the girls at school that my Uncle Kent says so and so. And then they all shriek. 'Ís that marvellous Kent Power your uncle. Jane? How perfectly divine to have a famous deteckative

The particular species of chastisement that surely would have been visited upon her was stayed by the ringing of the phone.

Pitting the receiver from the table beside them, she held it out with a cooing:

"Another murder, I suppose, darling.”

Power took it from her with what he hoped was dignity, but the sjx*aker on the far end w*as only Alastair MacPherson of the pharmacological department at McGill, who was stuck in the middle of an iinjx»rtant experiment. Could Kent Power suggest where he was wrong, and how he might get right? When, enfin, the detective laid the receiver down and turned with a sharp.

“Now look here, young lady . . .’’it was to find himself face to face with Sergeant Jules Papineau of the Montreal detective force.

"Who let you in?" he snapped.

The rotund Gallic gentleman gave his waxed mustaches a characteristic twirl, drooped an eyelid and replied:

"lui jeune tille to whom you were about to speak, Kent Power. Voilà, you begin now to rob the cradle, no?”

"Just a niece of mine.” Power grunted.

“Oh. yeah?”

“Have it your own way. then. What do you want? An excuse to waste the city’s time. I’ll bet.”

Paptneau’s laughing cavalierish face went sober.

"Mais non.” he replied, and then most sententiously: “1 have look on somet’ing just now and I am puzzle'. I have the hunch that there is somet’ing ! do not see. Sometime it happen that way. My wife has say. A’ous îles psychique, mon Jules.’ This thing I look upon have made me psychic, Kent Power. You also will look, no?”

“Okay.” Power picked his hat from the table. “But if you’re psychic, I’m Herbie Holt’s grandpop. What’s it ail about?"

“It is Ix'tter that you also have this thing break suddenly on you. " Pap declared earnestly. "For the sake of reaction. Allons!”

Grand Mount Hotel was one of those minor hostelries. found in every city, that shelter within their walls a basic moiety of decayed gentlefolk. It had that pathetically dauntless air of respectability. The group of women who poised motionless over their gossip and

knitting in the drawing-room as Kent Power and Papineau passed along the hall, were the aunts and cousins of richesse and haut Ion.

The lady manager met the two men at the head of the first flight of stairs - one of those women who wear the deliberate armor of implacability against disillusioning life.

“Permit me for introduce Mr. Kent Power, Madame Pemberton,” Papineau exclaimed with that air of grave gallantry he reserved for those whom he respected. "I have ask’ him to come here with me. He is investigator comme moi."

Mrs. Pemberton's rugged expression softened somewhat under the younger man's frank smile. He had a way with older women. She led the way along the linoleum to a door which she unlocked.

As Power stepjxd over the threshold, the thing he saw caught sharply at his breath. Here was a large Victorian bedroom, sombre and fustian. Heavy velvet curtains shut the light from two windows, the darkness being illuminated by two candles, now almost burnt out, that flickered on each side of the mahogany bed. It was a royal bed, with brocade hangings draped about its head from a carved plaque on the wall above. On it lay a woman.

She was dressed in flowing white, and the veil over her head was caught with a crown of flowers. Around her waist hung an antique belt studded with paste jewels. She was tall, slender, but no longer young; with dark hair, a thin, high-bridged nose; fine, eagle-like profile; dark, fixed eyes. She was dead. And on the nearer bedside table stood a silver goblet.

There was something peculiarly theatrical about the whole picture; as though it were a deliberate piece of stagecraft. Kent Power swung sharply on Papineau:

“Spill it.” he said laconically.

“I am called here this morning, an hour ago, by Madame Pemberton. I have find this. You have hear of Miss Claybum-Ellis, no?” Of course! Julia Claybum-Ellis presents her English company in . . . This was the actormanageress whose company had been appearing at the Century for the past ten days in a medley of Shakespeare and modern drama . . . “You feel it?" Papineau asked in a hoarse whisper. “Quelque chose, de sinistre?”

The younger man shook his head. He did not feel “something of sinister.” He did not know exactly what he felt except that this woman in dying had draped the theatre around her in that vanity so characteristic of her kind. He stepped to the bedside. There was a whitish powder on the dead woman’s lips. He picked up the goblet from the table. The same powdery stain was on its rim, in its bottom.

“Arsenic!”

“Oui, for sure; but—’*

“Don’t tell me you're looking for murder here. Pap. Everything spells suicide. I understand her shows weren’t so well patronized. Didn’t Powell have something in the Star about it?”

“Oui, but—”

“Or it might have been sheer world weariness —‘I’m tired of tears and laughter, and men who laugh and weep.’ Those candles will burn about another ten minutes. I expect they were the long altar tvqx'; burn about eight hours. Quarter past eleven now. They were lit around three o’clock. She was late getting started: probably took her time decking out in that rig. Might belong to her theatrical wardrobe: looks Ophelia-ish to me. That’d fit in, too. Ophelia did herself in. Have you questioned the company?”

“But no,” Pap replied resignedly. “I decide first to have you confirm that I feel. You do not confirm. Papineau is wrong again; always he is bark up the wrong tree. I will bring them. You shall question.”

“Okay, little sunshine.”

Power walked over to the front window. It looked out on the street. It was locked.

“Mr. Power, you don’t think there has been ...”

It was Mrs. Pemberton at his elbow, anxiously.

“I don’t.” he replied with a reassuring smile, and moved to the other window, where he drew aside the heavy curtains. “Hello; there’s a balcony outside this one.”

This window fronted the great, glaring wall of a big apartment house across a narrow alley. At one time

undoubtedly it had a wider view, and then the little balcony must have had its pleasant uses. The catch was off.

“This window wasn’t open this morning, was it?” Power asked the woman beside him.

“Nothing has been touched; absolutely nothing.”

POWER swung the sash up and thrust his head out. The narrow balcony extended back past two other windows. He faced the woman again.

“How was the thing discovered, Mrs. Pemberton?”

“I discovered it. Miss Claybum-Ellis had her morning tea brought at nine sharp. She was very insistent that the maid should knock until she woke. When the girl couldn’t get an answer this morning. I opened the dr with my master key.”

“Anybody been in the room besides yourself and the maid?”

“Only Sergeant Papineau.”

"You kept the dr locked?”

“Yes.”

“The members of her company

know?”

"Yes. 1 didn’t think there was any harm

“None at all. Mix. Pemljerton. Any of ’em ask to lx* admitted?”

"Yes. Mrs. Griggs, who seemed her closest friend, and her manager. Mr. Doughty. And. of course, Mr. Mantón.” The last name came with a certain tightening of the lips.

"Why ‘of course?’ ”

Mrs. Pemberton shrugged into her implacable armor.

“I'll cast no slur on the dead. Mr. Power. Perhaps there was nothing really improjx-r in their relations.”

“Mantón’s and the dead woman’s?” “Yes. I

The door swung open. Pap’neau stnxie in, with the theatrical company at his heels. Offstage, a theatrical personnel is often so much less human kxiking than the general run of mankind that you wonder blankly how they are able to create the illusion of heroism on the boards. The Claybum-Ellis aggregation was no exception to this rule. Glancing over them casually. Power became aware of the tall young man in the foreground who was staring at the figure on the lxxi with hollow, stricken eyes, and heard the name, “Hilary Mantón.”

The introductions were performed by a skinny and dapper little man wlx sibilated through two badly fitting

false plates.

“Mrs. Griggs.” She was close on sixty, and had the arch glance and fateful embonpoint to which English Ixx*r reduces all unwary chorus ladies. Three other damsels, large-lxmed and redolent of g roast beef, inclined somewhat disdainful heads in resjxmse to their names.

“Mr. Robson Shope." He was the oldest of the men and, like Mrs. Griggs, obviously a character actor. He was tall, had once been floridly handsome, was now floridly monumental. He lxx “How do you do? with a sonority that seemed to ache for a Shakespearean line. One might have thought the monocle was responsible for the horselike glance of his right eye. but the other proved just as hippie. Four other ill-assorted youths answered to their names, and then:

“I am Jermyn Doughty, Miss Claybum-Ellis’s business manager." The dapper little man stood back, his small beady eyes jittering like an expectant bird’s.

“I have sent for you." Kent Power addressed them, “to find out if you can shed any light on this sad business. There was a pause. Everybody seemed waiting for a more urgent cue. Then Jermyn Doughty began to make noises again through his recalcitrant teeth.

"Miss Claybum-Ellis has had her worries. Mr. Power. Business has been wretched in Canada the depression, of course,” he added hastily.

“She's wearing an unusual costume. Was Ophelia a favorite rôle?"

"That’s not the Ophelia costume,” twittered the business manager. "It's the Juliet."

Power stared sharply at the dead woman. Why. at her age, should she have chosen to die as Juliet, who was so young, so impetuous? Cleopatra would have gone better with a middle-aged disillusionment.

“She has played the part many times; hut not lately. In our production she was the nurse.”

“You knew she had brought the costume here from the theatre?” Power asked the dapper little man.

"As a matter of fact. I’m quite puzzled as to how and when she brought it, Mr. Power. I went through the wardrobe baskets only yesterday morning on my weekly inspection. It was there then. She must have taken it last night. You walked home with her, didn’t you. Bella?" Doughty turned on the character actress.

She had, Mrs. Griggs admitted, but she was quite sure that dear Julia hadn’t the costume with her then.

"She had nothing hut her handbag. It simply couldn’t have gone into that, my dear.”

“Did she act like a {person contemplating suicide?” Power asked.

THRUST definitely centre stage, Mrs. Griggs swept, her rôle about her.

“No. Mr. Power," she exclaimed sententioualy. ‘‘she did not. She was quiet seemed a wee bit tired but nothing you’d remark on. Of course, with business as it is, you can’t expect a person to be quite on top of the world. But 1 really couldn’t say that dear Julia wasn’t herself. She did say last thing that she hoped she’d lx* able to sleep.”

"She was troubled with insomnia?”

“Yes, Mr. Power. Many of us in the profession are afflict —"

"Did she invite you into her room?”

‘‘No; we said good night outside.”

"You were the last person, then, to see her alive?”

“I believe so. Mr. Power."

He swung on the rest of the company.

“Is that right?”

There was no demurrer.

"Can any of you throw further light on the matter?” Again silence. But, watching them as. at his intimation, they filed out of the room. Power felt they hadn’t said all they could have. They seemed to be concealing something for the dead woman’s sake. Irritation was tugging at the fringes of his intuitions when suddenly he realized that one of them had remained behind and was staring tragically at the dead woman. It was the leading man, Hilary Mantón. He seemed dazed, like one who has taken it badly on the chin. It was the whispered and poignant "My God !” escaping him that finally seemed to set free his powers of kxomotion again. He swung sharply and fled the room. "Voilà, he is agitate’!” Pap hissed sharply. "For why?” Power shook himself; did not seem to have heard the question.

"Has the coroner viewed the body?” he asked.

"Mais non."

"Get him. There's a telephone downstairs.”

"You think then

“Those people are hiding something. I’m going to find out what.”

When the rotund figure had gone scurrying through the door. Power walked over to the bedside table and ojx*ned the top drawer. His long fingers came back with a phial labelled "Veronal grs. V.” It was half empty. Slipping it into his txnket. he was turning toward the dead woman when a sound swung him sharply. The tall character actor. Robson Shope, st just inside the drx. with his hack to it. He had the furtive lk of a conspirator. He tiptoed forward and said in his pompous way ;

"Can I have a word with you, sir?"

"Sure."

The ageing actor drew himself up, regarded Power with his hippie stare.

"There is something ! think you should know,” he announced.

"Spill it." the detective grunted.

"You have probably not been informed that Miss Claybum-EllisV I hesitate to call him husband is living here in Montreal.”

"As a matter of fact. 1 haven’t. But why the hesitation over calling him husband?"

Shope shrugged.

"It’s a privilege he has not enjoyed for some years -if he ever deserved it.” The canker of bitterness gnawed at his words.

"They’ve been separated, eh?”

"Quite. He was an impossible bounder from the beginning, ’a diffused infection of a man.’ Drank like a fish, treated her

horribly. Finally her father-......he was Sir John Ellis, the

famous producer--had to pack him off to Australia. Cost

him a pretty penny. tix You can imagine the poor girl's chagrin when she found him here; actually stage doorkeeper of the theatre she was to perform in. After twenty years!" “Ulysses returned to the court of Penelope?”

The hkxxl suffused Shope’s florid face apoplectically.

"I’d remind you. sir." he said curtly, "that ‘he jests at scars that never felt a wound.’ Also that we are in the presence of death. I'd not have come to you except that I felt you should know these facts. I’m certain he’s been trying to get money from her."

There was something about this horse-eyed actor that rang hollowly against Power's intuitions. Perhaps it was the portentous mouthings of tags from old rôles that interlarded his speech with unreality.

"His name’ll be Clayburn?”

“Yes; Frank Clayburn.”

Before leaving, Shope turned and glanced at the figure on the bed. He shook his head sadly.

“ ‘Sleep,’ ” he intoned with a fitting gesture. “ ‘Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care.’ ” And then to Powder: “She has chosen her setting like an old trouper, Mr. Power. ‘Here is her throne; bid kings'. . . ’ ” the words choked abruptly on his lips. His features screwed up as though he were going to cry. “I’ll go now,” he said huskily.

As the door closed behind him. Power wondered if he had wronged the old chap. Certainly in those last moments Shope had ceased acting.

Suddenly Power strode to the door. In the hall downstairs he asked Mrs. Pemberton:

“Could Miss Claybum-Ellis have had a visitor late last night?”

Mrs. Pemberton shook her head quite definitely; she had made enquiries in that regard.

He went upstairs again. The candles had flickered out at last; the place of death had become entirely sepulchral. Switching on the electric lights, he proceeded to examine the room with the minutest care. He was still at it when Papineau arrived back with the coroner. Dr. Morin.

N HOUR later these two sat in the little laboratory at the back of Power’s flat, watching intently his deft juggling of test tube and reagent. Finally. Power held a test tube under the little coroner’s nose.

“Is it arsenic, doctor?”

“But, no. It is something other entirely.”

“It’s a very faint trace of veronal; about as much as would remain a couple of hours after a jxrson had taken, say. ten grams.”

"SacTÜ" exploded Papineau. “I am right thenmy hunch. But why was there arsenic in that goblet?”

"Why is there cheese in a mouse trap. Pap? To fool the mice.”

“But if she have not die of too much veronal or this arsenic, what then?”

“Search me. 1 suggest we have a spot of lunch and then view the body again. I’ll just run along and see if Hicks can scare us up a snack.”

That afternoon Power, for the second time, led upon the body of Julia Claybum-Ellis. It was his quick eye that spotted the blanched circular area on the outer aspect of the left thigh, in whose exact centre Dr. Morin's magnifying glass disclosed a tiny needle prick.

"Parbleu! Qu est-ce que c'est que cela?” cried the latter. Kent Power sh(x his head.

"You’ve got your instruments with you. doctor. How about cutting the blanched area away. It should contain a trace of something.”

"Sacré!" panted Pap. quivering with eagerness. “It is murder, then! But how was the injection made without waking her? She would feel the prick, no? She would not make the outcry?”

"Not if the veronal had got its work in well.” Power replied. “She was probably too drugged with it to feel much of anything.”

"And death is instantaneous," Dr. Morin added, kxiking up from his grisly operation.

But though back in his lalxxatorv again Kent Power used the last resources of his technique, he could determine no trace of drug in the removed tissue. It was after four o’clock when he finally turned on the other two with a baffled air and confessed:

"It's got me beaten, gentlemen.”

And then, to Dr. Morin:

"If you’d like me to have the pharmacologists at McGill take a try at it. I'll

"If you have fail, they also will fail." declared the little coroner, “and send a large bill to the Bureau. You and Sergeant Papineau shall investigate this affair further. You will discover something something!”

nrHE went first to the Century. The stage door was open to the soft spring afternoon. Just within, his chair tilted back under the grimy blackboard, sat an oldish, lean-bodied man whose face had been etched with the acid of bitterness and whose threadbare clothes suggested spiritual disintegration,

"Well." he snapped, glancing up from a newspaper, "what do you want?"

"A man named Frank Clayburn.” Power replied shortly.

"I’m Frank Clayburn.” the other answered, somewhat taken back.

“My name’s Power, and this is Sergeant Papineau of the Mo’real detective force. We’re here to find out if you can throw any light on the cause of your wife’s death.”

“My wife’s ...” Clayburn swallowed, stared at them blankly for a moment, and then let out a harsh laugh. ‘T’ve been in no position to throw any light on her for twenty years. So far as I’m concerned, she died in 1909. I may have seen her ghost this last week . . . The papers say it’s dead, t He gave that unpleasant laugh again.

“You have no ideas to offer in the way of a clue?”

“Clue? Why do you want a clue? Didn’t she commit suicide? It says here she did.” He shcx)k the newspaper at them. "Heaven knows there was enough on her conscience— if she had one.”

"Supposing she was murdered?”

"Qui!" echoed Pap. "What then?”

Clayburn shot to his feet.

“Murdered?” he gasped.

“I’m not saying she really was murdered,” Power said brusquely. “But supposing she was —do you know why?” The man’s face twisted convulsively, and then bitterness flowed back in a fierce tide.

"No!” he shouted. “I don’t! 1 tell you. she’s been dead to me for over twenty years. Why don’t you talk to that crew she carts around with her, that collection of hams that call themselves actors? Why don’t you ask that popf-eyed cur. Robson Shope? Or that snivelling love bird, Mantón? Or that popinjay crook, Doughty? They know more about her affairs than I do.”

“They do, eh?” Power said encouragingly.

Venom flicked Clayburn’s laugh.

“Ask them. Ask that false front, Shope. why he couldn’t get a part in London while her father was alive. Ask Mantón why he’s been acting the lovesick Hamlet the last two weeks. Ask that dirty little thief, Doughty, how much he’s stolen from her in the last ten years. Ask ...” Clayburn’s passion underwent a sudden disintegration. His lips trembled; his face puckered like a child’s. “Let her rest.” he whimpered. “Let the poor creature alone, you—you bloodhounds !”

He buried his face in his hands.

"We’re wreckage; all of us.”

“I’m sorry, Clayburn,” Power said gently, “but I’ll have to ask you where you went last night after leaving the theatre.”

Slumping into his chair, the man said bleakly:

“Home.”

They got an address from him. and learned that he’d walked home with the stage carpenter. As they stepped out of the alley into Guy Street a few minutes later, Papineau asked eagerly:

"What you think?"

“He was an actor once.” the younger man returned sceptically. “Perhaps he still is. Better go to the address he gave you and check up his alibi. He'd have been able to get hold of that Juliet rig. All he needed after that was a ladder that’d reach to that balcony at the Grand Mount." They had reached St. Catherine Street. “I’m going along there now. Better come back to my place for dinner and I’ll give you any fresh dope I can collect. Be seeing you.”

POWER went first to Robson Shope’s room. This was because it was the first of two others—Doughty’s being the third which, with the dead woman’s, opened by a window on the small balcony. He found the elderly actor seated, reading.

"Come in. sir. come in.” Shope’s voice had lost some of its sonority; was husky with an asthmatic wheezing.

“Sorry to trouble you again. Mr. Shope." Power said, seating himself on the edge of the bed nearest the window, "but there are one or two points on which you might give me some help."

"Gladly, my boy, gladly.” wheezed the actor, with a cordiality somewhat belied by the wary look on his horselike

"Your room is next to Miss Claybum-Ellis’s. You heard nothing last night? No sudden outcry?"

“Nothing; absolutely nothing."

“You sleep with your window open?"

"Erno." Shope smiled depreca tingi y. “These chill

spring winds of yours search at me breath.”

“I had a talk with Clayburn this afternoon,” Power went on.

"Oh.” Interest gleamed suddenly in the actor’s eyes.

"He mentioned a couple of matters that might have some bearing on the suicide. I linted that there was something of a sentimental nature between Miss Clayburn-Ellis and Mantón: and that your business manager hasn’t been altogether meticulous in his accounts.”

Something seemed to click behind Shope’s eyes, a curtain snapping in front of frankness. He made a protesting gesture.

“ ‘You cram these words into me ear against the stomach of me sense.’ Power."

“Then there’s nothing in it?”

“Unless I see Clayburn's desire to revenge himself on a dead woman. I warrant he even tried to throw mud on me.’’

Continued on page 42

Continued from page 22

Power did not cater to the anxiety furtive in the last remark. Rising, he moved slightly toward the window. The catch was locked. le turned to the dressing table, which was littered with bottles and jars telling of ageing vanity’s effort to keep youth in escrow. Among these it’d probably be for the wheezing that seemed to be moving toward a crisis in Shope’s thick, heaving chest was a small atomizer.

“Then you know of no other reason, besides finding her husband here and perhaps the jxx>r business she was doing, to account for her suicide?”

Shope drew his heavy body out of the chair with an effort, put a hand on Power’s shoulder confidentially.

“None, my lx>y. none. I think you can set your mind at rest, quite at rest. With things as they were, she had enough to cause her 'to write her heart’s deep languor in the dust.’ ”

Why was the old man lying about Mantón and Doughty, Power asked himself as he quitted the room. Was it part of an esprit de corps running through the whole company. a mutual banding together to prevent its intimate secrets from scalding the newspapers’ front pages?

Power’s interview with Hilary Mantón was a painful one. Under his questioning, the leading man broke down like a child. His love for the dead actress had evidently one of those strange adorations young men sometimes bestow upon older women, the basis of which is a profound need of mothering. He was the kind on whom life presses heavily, and Julia Claybum-Ellis had supplied a fundamental sustenance. But he also had his reservations.

“I know’ nothing, except that I loved her,” he kept repeating, staring at Power with stricken eyes.

“Was she unhappy because you loved her?” the latter pressed.

“Who is happy, these days?” Mantón cried half hysterically. “What is there to be happy about in a world that has lost its way?”

Perhaps it was exasperation that drove Power to handle Jermyn Doughty w’ith less tenderness than the other two. At first the little business manager clucked teethily that he knew nothing. But w’hen the detective said with brutal directness. “Then Miss Clayburn-Ellis didn’t knowyou were gypping her?” He shot to his feet like an angry terrier and demanded :

“What do you mean, sir?”

“That you’ve been cheating her for years.”

"How dare you say that? I shall have you for libel!” Doughty shrieked, his face as white as a sun-dried bone.

“Are you ready to have your books audited?” Power asked sharply.

“It’s no business of yours. It concerned only myself and Miss Claybum-Ellis.”

“It might have concerned her death.”

The wind flopped suddenly out of Doughty’s sails.

“H-how do you mean?” he croaked hoarsely, and then, as though realizing the brink toward which he was being pushed, he took hold of himself. “You’re trying to insinuate that I forced her to commit suicide. I>o your Canadian laws require that all this be raked up?”

For a moment Power considered riding the little man ragged. Frightened a bit more. Doughty might blurt something. On the other hand, such a process might put suspicion of his real search into the other’s head, and if there was one thing that needed guarding from these people for the present it was the knowledge that he, Kent Power, knew that a murder had been done.

WAS walking along the corridor to the head of the stairs a few’ moments later when he saw a bent figure moving toward a door at the far end. It was the character actress, Mrs. Griggs, and she was w’eeping. He made up his mind suddenly to interview’ her. She had been the dead woman’s closest friend; she might be cajoled into letting something drop.

At first she proved as barren of information as the others. Finally, under his quiet persistence, she burst out:

“But why must you go into all these horrid details, Mr. Powrer? What good can it do? None of us are perfect. We all have our weaknesses. I implore you, as her friend, to let her rest in jxiace without scandal.”

“You thought a lot of her, Mrs. Griggs?” Power said gently.

“She was my dearest friend.” the wroman cried brokenly, her tears playing havoc w’ith her make-up. “I owe her debts I can never repay.”

“I appreciate your feelings, but I must tell you that I’m convinced that you and the others in your company are deliberately keeping back information I must have.” Pow’er decided suddenly to take her into his confidence. “Miss Claybum-Ellis didn’t commit suicide.”

“Mr. Power!” She stared at him wildeyed.

“She was poisoned.”

“Oh, my . . . !”

“I must ask you to keep this in strict confidence, Mrs. Griggs. You are the only person in your company who know’s. I’m laying my cards on the table because I feel that you can help me discover her murderer.”

“Oh, this is terrible, terrible! Poor Julia! I’ll tell you anything, Mr. Power—anything!”

“Then I want to know what’s been going on between her and her husband these last few days-—and why she quarrelled with Hilary Mantón.”

“Oh. Mr. Power, it’s a terribly unhappy business,” she cried, w’ringing her hands. “You can imagine how shocked she wfas at finding Frank Claybum here, and in such a menial position. When she married him he was leading man in one of her father’s companies -a rare fine actor. In spite of all the others before and since, he was the man she really loved. But you can imagine my surprise frhen she told me last Sunday that she was going to make it up with Frank, go back home and retire from the stage. She seemed to think she was responsible for his ruin—though, heaven knows, he made her life a hell with his drinking and loose living before they separated. But she was like that —generous.”

“And to make it up with Claybum she had to break with Mantón?”

“Yes. Poor Hilary took it terribly.”

“Had she made her overtures to Claybum?”

“I don’t think so. She was sort of clearing her decks ...”

“Did Robson Shope ever play an intimate part in her life, Mrs. Griggs?”

She shot him a startled glance, and then, after a moment’s hesitation:

“That was before she married Frank.

I believe her father, Sir John, was terribly angry about it. But her marriage shortly afterward settled everything. Of course there’s been nothing but friendship between them since then. She’s been very kind to him; and I know he has always worshipped her.”

"One more question, Mrs. Griggs. What’s your opinion of Jermyn Doughty? Do you trust him?”

“No.” she answered, tight-lipped, “I don’t, and I never could understand why poor dear Julia did.”

“Do you think that he, or either of the others, might have—?”

“Oh. Mr. Power.” she cried, throwing out her hands in horror, “don’t ask me that. Please!”

“Very well.” he said rising. “It’s been very good of you to tell me so much. But let me impress on you again the importance of saying absolutely nothing to the others about this.”

Before quitting the environs he visited the ashbarrel-strewn backyard of the hotel. A ricketty ladder that had certainly seen use since the spring thaw, lay along the fence.

LET’S go back to the beginning, Pap,” * Power said late that night across a small cloud of cigar smoke. “Julia ClaybumEllis lies dead in the Juliet motley, and the evidence is against her having decked herself in the costume. That means it was put on her after she was dead. But why? Was Juliet a rôle of hers that held sentimental memories for the murderer? Had she once played Juliet to his Romeo? If so, only two men could have been Romeo; Claybum and Robson Shope. You say Claybum’s alibi is okay. But you have only the boarding-house mistress’s word that he came in at midnight last night. He might have slipped out later without being seen—and there’s that ladder I found in the hotel yard. Did he have a motive for killing her? Here they meet after all the years—he at the lowest theatrical dregs, she at the top of the ladder. Into his twisted, bitter mind comes the idea that she is responsible for his wrecked career, so he—”

“It marches—that!” cried Pap eagerly. “But Robson Shope has the bedroom next to hers and his window opens on that balcony. We don’t know what he did last night; nor does any one but himself and his Maker. Had he a motive for murdering her? We know that they had some sort of a serious affair and that she threw him over to marry Claybum. We are told that he ‘worshipped’ her. He has no love for Claybum; seems to think the fellow was a blight on her life—as he probably was. He discovers that she is going back to Claybum after all the years. He might have murdered her on compassionate grounds; to prevent her suffering again what she did years ago.” But Pap declared firmly:

“This compassion motive does not march with me. Kent Power.”

“Okay, mon vieux, then what about Hilary Mantón? I consider Hilary a distinctly pathological specimen, Pap. A psychoanalyst could dredge up a powerful lot of strange motives from the depths of his—”

“Sacré!” Pap exploded. “You believe such tripe, Kent Power?”

“I believe in anything that drags the lid off our ignorance. It’s my opinion that, with more psycho-analysis operating in this sad world, there’d be fewer Hilary Mantons to trouble the sweet stream of humanity. It’s only through what psycho-analysis has taught us that we can give his motive a vital sanction. He had to have her, or some woman like her, as a buffer between himself and the world—or go completely pathological. He found he was going to lose her to Mantón. If he couldn’t have her, no one else should.”

"Non!” Pap shook his head stubbornly. “I do not see that.”

“But a student of modem psychological derangement could.”

“And is it psychological derangement that he dresses her up in that Juliet costume?” Pap snorted.

“Absolument! I’d explain why if I thought you’d understand. But if he was* in her room last night, it means he has a key to her door. His window doesn’t open on the balcony.”

Pap* shook his head.

“I do not see him, me. He is not the type.”

“Have it your own way,” Power grinned, “but that brings us to Jermyn Doughty. I’m sure he’ll appeal to you as a murderer— no imagination required here. He has access to the wardrobe hampers; none more so. His window opens on the balcony. He has been cheating her for years. She has found it out, is going to put the screws on him, and rather than take his medicine he rigs up as pretty a suicidal stage setting as you’d want.”

"Old,” Papineau agreed; and then, as the other grinned: ‘‘You can make laugh. Kent Power! Me, I keep my feet on the ground—”

“—and your brains in your pants pocket.”

“_but this brings us not’ing unless we discover what is the poison that has kill’ her. Not one of these can I arrest until—” The sound of a door closing in the hall without halted him. Hicks, Power’s man. came into the room.

“’Ere’ your reagent, sir,” he said, holding out a small bottle to the detective. “Professor MacPherson apologizes for the small quantity. It was all ’e ’ad in ’is lab.” “Thanks.” Power turned to Papineau. “Come along back. I’m going to try another test on that tissue.” Standing in front of the work-bench in his laboratory, he went I on: “One of the first things I thought of : when I saw that white spot around the needle prick on her leg was adrenalin. But my ferric chloride test was a blank negative. I’m going to do the Folin Uric Acid on it.It’s a good deal more delicate; works in a one in three million dilution.”

"Sacré nom!” exclaimed the astonished Papineau. “I have not know adrenalin is poison. The docteur is use it on my wife when she has the bleeding nose.”

“It depends on the dose, and also partly on the age of the individual. A cubic centimetre will kill a man with high blood pressure. An ordinary hypodermic filled to the brim would account for a woman of Miss Clayburn-Ellis’s age.”

A few minutes later he jabbed a test tube under Pap’s nose jubilantly:

"Regardez, mon vieux!”

The erstwhile brownish solution had turned a deep blue.

“Adrenalin, all right. Let’s go. You’ll make your arrest within the next hour or I’m a Dutchman. Just as soon as I've poured a few drops of this reagent into that atomizer Robson Shope uses for his asthma.”

IT WAS after one o’clock, and above the Mount a tired moon lay on its back, as they reached the alley between the hotel and the apartment house next door. Halfway past its mouth, Power caught suddenly at the other man’s arm. dragged him back into the shadow of the latter building.

“See that?” he hissed, pointing upward.

Of the three windows opening on the small balcony above, one was open—the dead woman’s!

“Come on,” Power hissed. “Let’s get that ladder. Shope can wait.”

Ten minutes later the two men were on their hands and knees above, creeping toward the open window. As his hand went through to push aside the velvet curtain, Power heard a voice :

“For here lies Juliet, and her

beauty makes

This vault a feasting presence full of light—”

As he drew the hangings gingerly aside, Pap’s sharp-drawn breath hissed behind him: "Mo' dieu!”

“ O, my love.

Death, that hath sucked the honey from thy breath,

Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty ...”

The words came with a sonorous poignancy from the pale lips of the tall figure on the far side of the bed —a figure garbed in the velvet and tights of Romeo; an ageing, pathetic Romeo. The two watchers stared spellbound. There was an arresting, pitiful beauty in the scene that gripped them in spite of themselves—the sombre room, the death-sharp profile of the woman against the light of a candle on the table beyond, the man’s yearning, pathetic passion.

“ . . . here, here will I remain With wijrms that arc thy chambermaids: O, here Will I set up my everlasting rest, And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars From this world-wearied flesh ...” "What is this thing?” Pap hissed tensely. "Ile is mad, no?” Kent Power made no reply, kept his eyes glued to the poignant drama. "... eyes, look your last! Arms take your last embrace ! And, lips, O you, The doors of death seal with a righteous kiss A dateless bargain to engrossing death ! Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavory guide ! Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on

The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark! Here’s to my love ...” Shope had lifted the silver goblet from the bedside table. He bent again over the dead woman, touched her lips with his. Then, j straightening himself like a man who has left all fears and doubts behind, he raised ! the goblet. “Sacré!” hissed Pap , with a quick move; ment toward the window. “He shall not do that! He shall pay the price—” But Kent Power’s hand closed in a viselike grip on his shoulder. The voice inside dropped to a tragic ecstasy: "... thus with a kiss I die!” “Mo' dieu!” growled Pap. "It is insupportable that this murderer shall—” "Lean on me. then.” Power hissed. “He’s paying the price his own way—and we’re letting him !”