FICTION

The General Died in...

Kent Power in the puzzling case of the General who thought he had no enemies

BENGE ATLEE November 1 1938
FICTION

The General Died in...

Kent Power in the puzzling case of the General who thought he had no enemies

BENGE ATLEE November 1 1938

The General Died in...

Kent Power in the puzzling case of the General who thought he had no enemies

BENGE ATLEE

OUTSIDE, the warmth of June was lusty with the onrush of life, but within the shuttered windows of the big house in Westmount there hung a heavier atmosphere, through which the occupants moved solemn and preoccupied. Butch Brown was dead. In the large back bedrixm upstairs that overlooked the spacious garden, now bursting into bloom, BrigadierGeneral Clayton Brown. U.M.G., D.S.O.. etc., lay staring at a ceiling against which he would no more dream ruthless dreams.

In death, as in life, there was something monumental about the general. A great, barrel-chested figure, with massive, smooth-shaven face whose lard lips wore a somewhat dusky hue, and grey, protuberant, baleful eyes.

You had to be ruthless, perhaps, to become a brigadiergeneral at thirty-three, and the "Butch,” earned at Passchendaele. had clung through the ensuing labyrinthine years in St. James Street. It clung because it litt«! his ways in peace no less than his ways in war. For you also have to be ruthless to climb the sort of ladder he had climbed in the last twenty years, to make the sort of success he had made. For—make no mistake about it— Butch had been a success. Tomorrow’s papers would give him front-page headlines, the great would attend his funeral

the day after, and a full company of soldiers lire the last* salvo over his grave. Several large corporations would be the weaker for the want of his driving horse sense, his ability to cut to the vital heart of thingsand the philanthropic txxlies of Montreal would assuredly miss his almost oriental largesse.

Kent Power did not know that he was dead, despite the fact that, seated at the piano in his own living nxim, he was rather letting himself go on the “Liebestod” from "Tristan und Isolde.” Perhaps it was the first wave of June warmth, or perhaps merely a vague Weltschmertz that had driven him to tiie misty and romantic Teuton’s music tonight, or perhaps it was reaction to a crazy world.

A world that was suddenly with him again. His man, Hicks, had stepped through the door and stood waiting apologetically.

“All right,” Power said, crashing a final chord. “Shoot.”

“There’s a lady at the door, sir.” Hicks had his own way of expressing what the jxirfect servant cannot put into words; his accentuation of “lady” hinted that he used the word reluctantly.

“Show her in.”

The lady wore black, and was one of those fiftyish women who burgeon upward from the hips in a rather dreadnoughty way. It was decidedly as a battleship that she now bore down on Power.

“Mr. Kent Power?” The manner was masculine, the tone arrogant, the expression slightly incredulous, as though she had expected something more substantial than this tall, slim young man with the blond hair.

“That’s right,” he replied.

“I’m Grace Potter.” And when his look conveyed no more than a polite interest: “General Clayton Brown’s

sister.”

SHE certainly looked as though she had been chipped off the same block as Butch. “What can I do for you, Mrs. Potter? Take a pew, will you?” He pushed a chair forward.

She regarded him and the chair bridlingly, as though the touch of flippancy in his manner irked her. But she took the chair.

He seated himself opposite. “Now, Mrs. Potter.” Once again the grey masculine eyes revolted, but the urgency that had driven her here overcame that. “My brother died this afternoon at five o’clock.”

“I’m very sorry,” he exclaimed.

“You knew him?”

“Only as one knows a prominent figure.”

“And you’re not surprised?” The question came impatiently, as though these preliminaries irritated her.

“Why should I be?”

“He was only fifty-five; that’s young to die of heart disease.”

“Men die of it younger.”

She gave an exclamation that caused him to ask: “Why do you say ‘huh !’ that way, Mrs. Potter?”

The massive shoulders squared, the grey eyes stared through him into angry distances of their own. “Because I can’t believe he died of heart disease. I simply can’t believe it!”

“Surely a post mortem would settle the—”

She snapped back from her distances. “I don’t want that done unless it’s absolutely necessary. He was a great soldier; he has been a great figure in Canadian life. No unnecessary cloud must darken his passing.”

“Then what do you want?”

Her dreadnoughtishness disintegrated somewhat, the troubled woman coming through. “My brother’s death has been a terrible shock. I simply can’t bring myself to believe he had to die. Are you busy tonight? Could you come with me? There’s something I must show someone.”

“All right,” he said, rising.

But when they stood together in the big bedroom at whose high ceiling Butch Brown still stared so fixedly, she was herself again—dominant, commanding.

“There !” she pointed. “You see that mark on his cheek?” He saw it—just beyond the angle of the mouth on the left side—a vague, purplish discoloration. He turned to her. “Is that what you brought me to see?”

“Yes.” She said it through tight lips.

“It might be a cigarette burn,” he suggested.

“My brother did not smoke.”

“Oh. When did you first notice it?”

“Tonight; shortly before I came to see you.”

“Perhaps he scraped himself while shaving this morning. I don’t think you—”

“He did not do it this morning! I saw him an hour before he—died. It was not there then.”

“You’re quite sure of that?”

“Quite sure, Mr. Power.”

He looked her straight in the eye. “What you’re trying to say is that you think he was murdered?”

She boggled only momentarily. “Yes.”

“Why?”

The change that now took place in her expression conveyed the sense of Rubicon crossed ; it was not a pretty expression. “It might interest you to know that my brother intended marrying his ward, Rita Carling.”

What really interested Power was the note of venom in her voice, the pitiful, unconcealed jealousy in her hard face.

“I knew nothing of it myself until last night.” There was anger in that; anger that she had been kept in the dark over something that cut to her very heart. “He called me into his library. He was quite upset. Jack Woodroofe had just been there to ask for Rita’s hand. It was then that he informed me he had hoped to marry her himself.”

Power had a vague impression that Woodroofe was one of the bright young men the general had gathered around him. “They had words, I suppose.”

“Not then. My brother put Woodroofe off until this afternoon.”

“They had the words this afternoon?”

“Yes; one of the maids overheard them in the hall outside the library. And no one saw him alive after that.” And then the thing that was flaming in her burned through. “Do you think I should notify the coroner?”

Her eyes showed something so hot, so obscene, that Power felt sickened for the moment. “It’s up to you,” he said with a shrug.

Her lips tightened. “Very well, then. I’d be glad if you would arrange the matter. But it must be done quietly, Mr. Power. Understand that, please.”

DR. MORIN, Montreal’s little coroner, was able to report quickly that he could find no evidence of cardiac or other pathology ; the heart and its arteries were normal. At two a.m. Power turned from the bench in his laboratory and said to Sergeant Jules Papineau: “There’s not a trace of poison in the stomach.”

“And that piece of skin you ’ave sniped from the general’s face she shows not’ing, also?”

“Only that it seems to be impregnated with ammonia salts. Know anything about ammonia?”

The sergeant’s rotund shoulders moved in a rhetorical and characteristically Gallic shrug. “One uses it for to clean the clothes; for the smelling salts. Hein?"

“Why for the smelling salts?”

"POUT stimuler!”

“Yes; it’s a pretty potent heart stimulant.”

The sergeant leaned sharply forward like a hound that has caught the scent. “What you t’ink?”

“If I jammed a cloth soaked in ammonia over your mouth and nose, Pap, you’d die almost instantly, practically without a struggle. It’s that kind of a stimulant. And if I pressed the wet cloth too hard in one place I might make a sort of purple mark on the side of your cheek.” “So!” But with that expletive something snagged in Papineau’s sense of logic. “But why ’ave they not smelt it?” “Most of us human beings have lost the doglike capacity to sense a nasal warning. When we come on a strange spectacle, it plays such havoc on our imagination that, while we see and hear, we rarely smell. On the other hand, ammonia is very quickly dispersed, especially if a door or window is open.”

Power had visualized Rita Carling as something dark and vivid, but when he found her next morning among the roses of Butch Brown's garden, she proved a golden blonde, the kind that used to drive wild horses across Greek friezes —dynamic, very much alive and very much eye-filling; the sort the more acquisitive type of male might well battle over. In fact, Power rather liked them that way himself. “You’ll be Demeter’s young sister,” he said gravely.

If her type of finishing school had gone shy on mythology, someone had taught her a most attractive way of passing up the fact that she failed to get the point. “I’m Rita Carling.” she said, “doing a little gardening.”

She held out the dinky clippers in a gauntleted hand, and then, rather ruefully: “Although I really feel an

interloper here since we got our new gardener. He fairly conjures bloom.”

"It’s a gift,” Power agreed. “Sometimes 1 wish I'd been a gardener.”

“Oh?” It seemed, as she glanced at his slim, unbucolic figure, to amuse her. “You interest me.”

She interested him also, particularly the fact that the passing of Brigadier-General Clayton Brown had left her so strangely unmoved. Perhaps it spoke something for her integrity that he had meant so little in her life.

“Yes,” he said, “one could just concentrate on making things live, on creating beauty. That concentration might become a sort of narcotic, shutting off an obscene world.”

It rather startled her; it startled someone else. Beyond a flowering weigela twenty feet away a figure rose a man with shears in his hands; a thin, wiry, middle-aged man with bushy eyebrows from which two eyes now stared at Power concentratedly and contemptuously. There was no mistaking that contempt, nor the almost blatant insult in the way the fellow turned on his heel and disappeared beyond a rose standard.

“How perfectly extraordinary!” exclaimed the girl.

Power turned to her with a grin. “Let’s go over there and sit down. I want to talk to you and I may be longwinded.”

She wasn’t as dumb as some blondes are supposed to be, for, as they moved toward the stone seat he had indicated, she murmured solemnly: “I can't imagine it!” “Did Mrs. Potter tell you that a Kent Power might be calling?” he asked as they sat down.

“No,” she replied. “But she wouldn’t.” Obviously there was no accord between the two women in this household.

“That makes it harder. It’s about the general.”

“Oh?” Her expression sombred somewhat, as though she were trying to remember why she should have felt something toward Butch Brown that she couldn’t feel.

“It seems,” he went on, “that the general didn’t die in bed. We think that someone might have held an ammoniasoaked cloth over his face.”

“Oh !” She was agitated enough now. “I can’t believe it !”

“In the same way that you’re here to gather roses. I’m gathering motives. Who in his household might have wanted to kill the general?”

CHE HAD some difficulty in bringing her mind out of V the state of shook, but it came cleanly. “I’m quite sure that no one could possibly ”

"I met a Colonel Longstreth in the library a few minutes

ago.”

“Good heavens, Mr. Power, Uncle Ted wouldn’t say boo to a—”

“Who is he?”

“The general’s secretary. He was his staff captain during the War. They were the oldest and closest of friends. You’ve no idea what a gentle soul he is. Why, he’s been a father and mother to me.”

Here, at last, was an expression of sentiment, a warmth, an indulgence. And it all said that Unde Ted was an elderly old dear so lacking in "umph” that an attractive young girl could lay her blond head against his shoulder with impunity.

“That’s fine,” Power said. “Now what about Mr. Gregory Bain? I understand he came here to play tennis yesterday afternoon.”

“Oh,” she said, and her tone this time was totally different, “he’s one of the general’s business associates. But I’m quite certain he—” She left it at a movement of her lovely shoulders.

“—is not the treasons, stratagems and spoils type of gent?”

“Not to that extent.”

He rose, grinning. “I hope you gather more roses than I have motives.”

“I’m sorry to have been a disappointment.”

“On the contrary you’rebut perhaps we can go into that some other time.”

Power found Sergeant Papineau impatiently pacing the flagged terrace outside the library. “Sacré nmi, where 'ave you been?”

“Down among the blondes why?”

“I 'ave found somet’ing. Allons!”

The rotund figure stumped toward the French window and, burgeoning across the wide, high-ceilinged library, stepped into a small bathroom at its far side. Here, opening a closet, he jxnnted. "Voilà!”

The pudgy forefinger quivered at a bottle on the middle shelf, labelled Liquor Ammonia Fortis. Power picked it up with a handkerchief-guarded hand, and then said suddenly: “It’s full!”

“Hull?” Something of triumph oozed from the sergeant’s mien.

“I said it was full. What we’re needing is a bottle with some of the contents missing. Comprenez?”

Papineau stood his ground stubbornly. "If it is not this bottle, it should he. I find it ’ere. in the room next to the place of murder.”

“Perhaps the long arm of coincidence has bust us in the buzzer.”

“If it is not this bottle, there is no bottle.”

"Okay. We’ll take it with us. Have the Í guests arrived?”

"Out; in the drawing-room.”

"Bring ’em along.”

They made with Mrs. Potter and ! Colonel Dingstreth, who were not quite j guests four. The colonel belonged to the I tall, quiet, unaggressive type of male who make excellent bachelors, uncles and club secretaries. Pukka sahib and faithful unto i death. Gazing at the lean and gentle face.

Power felt that this man must have either compromised greatly with his pukkasahibism in performing his duties as Butch Brown’s left hand, or deluded himself into believing the latter could do no wrong.

Power’s interest shifted to the young man between the colonel and Mrs. Potter. Jack Woodroofe was also tall and lean, but his shoulders carried no stoop and there was the dark look of the questing hawk about him. He’d be slightly over thirty, and already had the look of a man going places. Later, the dark face would harden, but now there was something keenly alive about it, to which the thin mustache gave a slightly rakish note. His expression at the moment was slightly truculent, as of one wondering just what is being put over whom.

THE third gentleman, Gregory Bain, in a double-breasted suiting that accentuated a considerable chest development and suggested an abdominal support, would be in the fifties. He had curly, iron-grey hair, a healthy reddish complexion, and had probably once played a fairly brutal game of rugby. There was just the slightest touch of pomposity in Mr. Bain’s bearing.

Having briefly outlined the situation, Power turned to Jack Woodroofe. “You seem to have seen the general last. Was he all right when you left the library?”

“As right as rain,” the other answered tersely.

“How long were you with him?”

“Half an hour.”

“Get a good look at his face?”

“Yes, certainly.”

“Notice anything wrong with it? Any cut, scar, or suchlike?”

“No.”

“Didn’t see a reddish mark on his left

cheek?”

“No.”

“Was that door open at the time?” Power pointed to the French window. “No.”

“You’re quite sure of that?”

“Quite; the general closed it himself.” Woodroofe’s voice grew steadily curter, as though this beating about the bush irked his patience.

“Where was he when you left?”

“In that chair.” Woodroofe pointed to the one in which Colonel Longstreth was sitting, and which the colonel suddenly seemed to find uncomfortable.

“With his back to the French window?” “Yes.”

“And you left by the door leading into the hall?”

“Yes.”

“Anybody see you leave the house?” “Not that I know of. I let myself out.” “I see.”

“And since you’re all hanging about like a gang of vultures”—the young hawk finally bared his teeth—"I’ll tell you what we talked about and why we nearly came to blows. I came here to—”

“I know why you came,” Power interjxised gently, “and that you had rather high words with one another.”

“So what?” demanded the other truculently.

“Really, Jack,” Mrs. Potter exclaimed, “I’d think you, of all people, would—” “Rats!” ejaculated young Mr. Wtxxlroofe.

T)OWER turned to Gregory Bain. “You came to play tennis with the general yesterday afternoon?”

“Exactly,” replied the other, in the grim manner of a witness determined to hold the upper hand over a cross-examining lawyer. “Pollen, the butler, told me he was busy with Jack, so I told him to announce me and went out to the terrace.” “As an old friend, you sort of have the run of the house, eh?”

“Quite. Clayton Brown and I were the best of friends.” But the manner suggested that not all the satisfaction from this friendship had been sentimental; it suggested that Gregory Bain put some store on being friends with those who had a large place in the sun.

“How long were you on the terrace?” “It must have been three quarters of an hour.”

“Didn’t get impatient?”

“As a matter of fact, I fell asleep in my chair. The next thing I knew Longstreth was calling from that door.” Bain pointed to the French window.

“And that’s all you can tell us?” “That’s all—though I’d like to say. Power, that it isn’t my usual habit to sleep through important events.”

“We all get caught napping sometimes.” Power exclaimed, and turned to Colonel Longstreth. “It was you who found the body, colonel?”

“Y’es.” It was plain from the colonel’s manner that he wished it had been someone else.

“You entered from the hall, I suppose?”

“Eruh, no.” The colonel frowned. “From my bedroom.”

"Oh?”

"It lies on the other side of that bathroom.” He pointed to the door through which Papineau had led in such short-lived triumph to a bottle of ammonia. "Both rooms have an entry to it.”

“I see. Where were you before that?” “I have a small office beyond my bedroom. I had been working there all afternoon.”

“Where did you find him?”

“In this chair. I thought at first he was

asleep.”

“With his back to the French window?” “Yes.”

“Did you notice a burn on the side of his face?”

“Not until we took him to his bedroom.” “You hadn’t noticed it before?”

“Er—uh. no I’m quite sure I didn’t.” “All right,” Power said, “that’ll be all, gentlemen.”

Gregory Bain stepped forward, stomach well drawn in and smiling rather pompously. “I take it, then, that we are quite free to go about our occasions without reference to this unfortunate affair."

“If I get your meaning—yes.”

“Hah! You’re satisfied, then, that poor Brown—”

“I’m the most dissatisfied man in the world,” Power assured him.

Mrs. Potter lingered. When the door closed behind the others, she swept toward Power with eyes that lusted for information. “Have you discovered anything?” He shook his head, and felt like biting her. She was altogether too, too eager. “Not yet. Would you mind sending Pollen in. I’d like to ask him a few questions.” Trailing a palpable disappointment, she left them, and Papineau breathed: “That one is a type I do not love.”

A knock sounded on the door; the butler. “You remember Mr. Bain coming here yesterday afternoon, Pollen?” Power asked him.

“Yes, sir.”

Knowing Brigadier-General Clayton Brown, you would have expected such a butler as Pollen, for his would be a job calling for discretion, the closed mouth, and an ability to stand a fair amount of abuse without batting an eye. Pollen seemed the type; a sort of granite-faced Buddha. You wondered if he had ever been young, had ever displayed the freshfaced and facile emotions of youth. Yet despite repressions which bound the square-jawed face to immobility, which carved its lines of quiet dignity, there was something in the large grey eyes that spoke of conflict, as though perhaps there were a Prince of Denmark within that most unHamletian figure.

“I think he asked you to announce him to General Brown. Was Mr. Woodroofe with the general when you did that?”

“He was, sir.”

“Where did you go after that?”

“To the pantry, sir. I was there when Colonel Longstreth called.”

“Supposing I told you. Pollen, that we suspect the general was murdered would you have any ideas on the subject?”

Something flickered behind the grey eyes, then ceased flickering. “I’m afraid not, sir. I was not in the general’s confidence.”

“Okay; that’s all, thanks.”

WHEN the butler had gone, Power moved over to the bathroom door. “They found him in that chair with his back to the French window. He would certainly have seen anyone approaching from this direction. And whoever murdered him came on him unawares.”

Papineau shrugged. “M’sieu Bain is on the terrace. It is perhaps fishy, his story of the little nap.”

“And fishier that he brought a bottle of ammonia along in the bag with his tennis gear. How was he to know the general was seated so conveniently with his back to the door? I’d like to know how fishy Pollen’s and Colonel Longstreth‘s alibis are.”

“Me.” declared Papineau, shaking his head, “I do not see Colonel Longstreth.” “That makes us all square; I don’t see Gregory Bain. Not yet, anyway. Let’s take a dekko in here.”

Colonel Longstreth still wore the old school tie around more than his neck. This neat, bachelorish bedroom flaunted from every wall old school and college photographs of young men in flannels, groups of militia officers, and so forth. To make it completely pukka-sahibish, there was one group with cricket bats in which, despite j water under the bridge, he thought he could make out the youthful figures of Clayton Brown and the colonel. It had been an old friendship.

They nosed around interestedly. Returning to the library, they were on the point of leaving the latter when the colonel’s long, stooped figure eased itself in from the hall. He held a piece of paper in his hand, and the lean, gentle face had a deprecatory expression.

“I suppose,” he said, holding it out to Power, “I should show you this.”

The perfectly square plain card contained two printed words:

Remember Barstow.

“What’s it mean, colonel—if anything?” “It’s one of a series General Brown has been receiving for the past five months. He destroyed them as they came, but I managed to salvage this one, which arrived yesterday.”

“It makes somet’ing wit’ you, M’sieu Colonel?” asked Papineau, from glancing over Power’s elbow.

“Yes,” the colonel replied uneasily, “although I really hate to bring the matter up. There was a Barstow in the general’s battalion when he was a battalion commander—a young second lieutenant.” “Uh-huh,” Power said encouragingly. “He was court-martialled and sentenced to be shot shortly after Passchendaele. A very unfortunate affair. His section bolted in the face of an enemy raid—there had been a lot of that sort of thing and an example had to be made. He was found a quarter of a mile behind the line. Although he maintained that his company commander had sent for him. he could produce no proof. Both his commander and the runner who supposedly carried the order were killed by a shell that exploded lietween them. On the face of it Barstow looked guilty, although he maintained his innocence throughout his court-martial.” “The general was pretty rugged about it, I suppose?”

“Er-uh, yes. Some of us tried todissuade him from sending Barstow up for trial, but he was very jealous of the battalion’s record. It was just at the time he was being talked of for the brigade and ...” Colonel Longstreth let the painful matter go at that.

“Then this comes from some relative of Barstow’s who thought he got a raw deal?” The colonel shook his head gravely. “I’m not so sure, Power. As a matter of fact, Barstow wasn’t shot. He managed to escape the night before he was to be taken down the line, and we always suspected that he slipped through and gave himself up to the enemy.”

“That is interesting!” Power exclaimed; and then suddenly he strode to the French window. A moment later he called in a low voice: “Come here a minute, colonel.” When the other stood beside him, he pointed. “Who’s that?”

“Crawley, our gardener.”

“New man. isn’t he?”

“Er—uh, yes.”

‘Take a good look at him. Would he be Barstow—or what the years have written on Barstow?”

j nriE colonel stiffened, his eyes widening to the shock of this possibility, “Just a moment!” He went out to the terrace, called the gardener and spoke to him. When he came back his lean face wore a puzzled, troubled look. He shook his head. T can’t see Barstow in him, Power.”

And then suddenly Papineau asked: ‘‘M’sieuPollen howlong ’as he been ’ere?” “Two years, sergeant.”

“Reflect, M’sieu Colonel, on this Pollen. Is it that he is the mysterious Barstow?” Again the colonel shook his head. "It’s a long time ago—and Barstow was very young. Perhaps the very painfulness of the episode has tended to make me forget him. But I really couldn’t say that he was Pollen or Crawley.” As though he saw something utterly absurd in the whole idea, he shook himself like a great shaggy dog. “In fact, I’m quite sure neither of them could be he.”

“Well, Pap,” Power said in the taxi that took them eastward, “what do you make of all that?”

Papineau shrugged cynically. “I say to myself, ‘If you ’ave done a murder, Jules, are you clever enough to print a card like that to produce so cockalorum a story?’ Perhaps not. But M’sieu Colonel—eh? The ink is very fresh on that card, non?” “Yes, I jibbed at that, too. What’s more, if there’s anything in logic, someone in Butch’s household did the murder. That means Pollen, the butler, Crawley, the new gardener, or the colonel.”

“Oui; though I do not understand, me, why Pollen ’as waited two years.”

“And I think we ought to beware of trying too hard to reconcile ‘Remember Barstow’ with the murderer. I mean we shouldn’t presuppose that Barstow is the murderer. Whoever wrote those notes may just be one of those cranks who are forever bothering rich and prominent people in the hope of easing them out of some of their cash. By the way, have you got that bottle of ammonia? Let’s look at the label. Okay.” Power leaned forward to the driver. “Blair’s Pharmacy.”

Arriving presently at his flat, Power proceeded to do things to the contents of the bottle Papineau had found in the bathroom closet, and to the other bottle of the same brand which they had purchased from Blair’s Pharmacy. He was able to say eventually: “You win, Pap; and on specific gravity.” He held up the two bottles. “The specific gravity of this one we got at Blair’s is 0.891, as it should be. But the bottle you found in the closet gives only 0.742. In other words, old dear—”

“Someone ’as used part of its contents and filled it up wit’ the water—non?” “Correct.”

‘‘And he ’as been very careful to wipe it clean of the fingerprints.”

‘‘Correct again.” Power drew something from his pocket which proved to be a rubber sponge bag. “I lifted this from the colonel’s bedroom when you weren’t looking,” he said with a grin, and proceeded to snip off bits of its lining with a pair of scissors. Placing these in a container with some dilute hydrochloric acid, he gently agitated the solution and held it to his nose.

“Take a sniff.” The odor that greeted the sergeant’s nostrils was unmistakably ammoniacal.

“It was probably carefully scoured,” Power declared, “but the ammonia that combined with chemicals in the rubber couldn’t be washed away, and in that combination couldn’t be smelled. By adding the acid I’ve turned it into sal-ammoniac, which yields the characteristic odor. What must have happened was something like this: The murderer got the sponge bag from Colonel Longstreth’s bedroom, stepped into the bathroom and soaked a cloth in ammonia out of the bottle you found. Then he thrust it into the bag and drew the strings tight ; that enabled him to approach Butch without trailing a perfumed wake. It’s my guess he found Butch writing at the desk, and that Butch knew he was in the room with him, but went on writing. That enabled the cloth to come out of the bag behind his hack.”

“But they ’ave found him in the big chair by the window.”

“Sure. When he died he probably crumpled to the floor. In the eyes of the murderer that made it look too much like murder, so he placed him in the big chair pour le natural isme.”

“Then it is Aí. le Colonel!”

“He’s certainly got some explaining to do. I think I’ll trot back there. In the meantime you’d better have Pollen and Crawley trailed. Time has written enough on both their faces to prevent Longstreth —or Butch either—from recognizing them as the youth, Barstow. In any case we want to be sure. You might also see if there’s anything on the grapevine about Gregory Bain. He was one of Butch’s associates, and it’s just possible he may have got himself into some sort of financial jam.”

“And M’sieu Woodroofe?”

Power shook his head. “He’s out, despite Madame Potter. If he had a motive it arose out of that interview. Until then he had no reason for killing Butch. This murder is too complex for a spur-ofthe-moment job. It was thought out ahead.”

COLONEL LONGSTRETH agreed that it was his sjxmge bag, but when Power disclosed the gleanings of chemistry, he exclaimed agitatedly: “Great Scott,

you don’t think that I—” Unable to finish the statement, he dropped ashen-faced into a chair.

“Whatever I think, it rather puts you on the spot, colonel—unless you can pull another alibi like Remember Barstow.” Longstreth pulled his dignity together with an effort. “I can assure you, Power, I gave you that information to serve no alibi. It was the living truth.”

“Then where do we go from there?”

The colonel shook his head bewilderedly.

“I wish I knew! This is the most terrible . . . ” Suddenly he sprang to his feet and crossed the library to the large flat-topped desk. He pulled open one of the drawers. And then he gasped: “It’s gone!”

If this was play-acting, it was good play-acting. “What’s gone?” Power asked.

The colonel’s manner became slowly overspread by a painful diffidence. “I hope you won’t think I’m merely trying again to slip out of a noose that seems to be tightening atout me, Power. But there was a letter in this drawer from a private auditor who has been going secretly through the books of Atlas Corporation. Gregory Bain is managing director of Atlas, but General Brown controlled the stock. It arrived in yesterday afternoon’s mail. The general showed it to me, but didn’t think he’d open it until he’d had his tennis with Gregory. I think he rather dreaded its contents.”

“Did Bain have any wind of it?”

The colonel wasn’t sure, but he’d felt that Bain was worried about something lately. “There’s another thing that might help you,” he added. “Bain started out in life as a drug clerk.”

“Is that so? Then he’d know all about ammonia. Let’s go into your room.”

They went. Power ntoded to the window, which was open. “I suppose it was open yesterday?”

“Yes.”

Between window and flagged terrace the house jogged, so that most of the terrace couldn’t be seen from here, but the important thing was that this window was most easy of ingress from outside.

Suddenly Power said: “I’d like to have a talk to Crawley, your gardener. Could you bring him here?”

He occupied the ensuing wait in roving slowly about the bedroom, his brow creased in a frown. He found presently, at the head of the narrow bed which was secluded from the rest of the room by a tapestried screen, the small secretary desk.

It had drawers down one side into which he pried curiously. And then, suddenly, as he was closing the lowest of these, his glance came to sharp arrest on the nearest wooden upright of the bedside screen, where the lowering sun glistened on an oily smudge. He was still staring at it when the colonel returned with the gardener.

“Get a saw, will you?” he said to the colonel, and then turned to Crawley.

“Where were you yesterday afternoon

between four-thirty and five?” he asked, and was struck again by that strange gleam in the gardener’s eye.

It was as if Crawley had weighed life and found it wanting, had got behind a façade to discover rotten timbering. “Out there.” He pointed to a flower bed beyond some azaleas.

"Did you see Mr. Gregory Bain on the terrace?”

“I saw someone.” It came curtly, almost disdainfully.

"Did you see him enter this window, or the French window leading to the library?” “No; I keep minding my own business.” “Okay,” Power said, waving his hand in dismissal. “Go ahead and mind it.”

At which moment the colonel returned with a saw.

AN HOUR later Power placed a test tube in the rack in front of him and drew the phone forward from the cluttered laboratory bench. Presently he was asking: “Is Mr. Bain in?” And when the answer came in the negative: “This is the Mountain Drugstore. We’d like to send Mr. Bain a sample of our latest hair dressing. By the way, what brand does he use? . . . Thanks a lot; we think he’ll find this new brand more satisfactory.”

Ringing for Hicks, he said: “Go out and buy me a flagon of Hairdown. Don’t look so distressed, it’s not for my adornment.” At five-thirty Papineau arrived. “There is somet’ing interesting!”

“Shoot !”

“M’sieu the butler ’as left the general’s house this afternoon to take a little walk. My man follows him eastward. Suddenly he steps into the arcade of Guerin Frères on St. Catherine East—and then, pouf, he is gone! He ’as spotted his shadow, non? And he ’as somet’ing to hide.”

“It’s an idea,” Power agreed, “and so’s this.” He held out a test tube. “It contains a fragmentary etheric solution I made a while ago from a grease spot on a sawed-off length of Colonel Longstreth’s tod screen. The s{X)t was about the level where a head would brush it in prying into one of the drawers in the colonel’s desk. In this test tube”—he drew another from the rack—“is a solution made of the brand of hair discipliner Gregory Bain uses. They’re the same.”

“Alo’ dieu!” gasped Papineau.

“It seems the general was having Bain investigated by the auditors. Whether or not he feared the worst, he certainly was in Longstreth’s bedroom while he was supposed to be having that nap. I think I'll go around to his flat after we’ve had a spot of dinner.”

But when, about nine o’clock that night, he arrived at Gregory Bain’s address, it was to be met with the disconcerting information that Bain had left shortly before on a hurried business trip to New York.

He went downstairs again to his car, and stfxxi for a moment on the edge of the curb frowning at it. There was something about this case that didn’t jell. You got motives without opportunity; you got opportunity without the ruthless personality. It was all very distracting.

But suddenly, you got a conjecture that shot you into your car and sent you driving furiously Westmountward. Clambering finally the stone wall at the rear of General Clayton Brown’s estate, you got a smell of roses that reminded you nostalgically of the stone seat over there in the shadows on which you had sat so prettily that morning.

Power crept slowly toward the house through the maze of shrubbery. Presently he sat down on a rustic chair that gave a fairly clear view of the windows and doors, particularly of the French window that led from library to terrace. He thought once he heard a murmur of voices off to the right, but .that must have been imagination, for it did not come again. And then he began to experience that queer feeling that something was about to happen.

It did—with surprising celerity. Something moved against the shrubbery far over to his righta dark figure that seemed to have come from the house.

Rising, Power began to tiptoe along an edge of close-cut grass. The figure— that his taut eyes kept losing and finding again through the shrubbery— moved toward the rear wall over which he himself had clambered so short a time before.

Suddenly tiiere was a startled exclamation in his very path. Two figures rose from that same stone seat on which he had sat this morning.

“Who the devil . . . ” a masculine voice demanded.

Jack Woodroofe— and beside him the golden Rita. “Mr. Power! Whatever are you doing—”

“Skip it !” Power hissed. “And hold it!”

He dashed past them toward the wall, from whose summit presently he caught one fleeting glimpse of a coat tail (lying around a house corner. After that he rixle his car after a taxi a long ride through downtown traffic and parts east. Finally, as the other car drew into the curb some distance ahead, lie jammed on his brakes and shut off his lights. The dark figure hurried across the sidewalk into a house; the taxi departed into the night.

Stepping out of his car, Power walked slowly along to the big stone house that had seen better days, mounted the wellworn steps and rang a bell. It was answered by a little man in shirt sleeves.

‘‘Qu’est-ce, m'sieu?”

“There was a—” Power began, and then suddenly asked: “Does a Mr. Barstow live here?”

"In a manner of speaking, m’sieu. He has a room here.”

“Is he in now?”

“He is just arrived. I will call him, then.”

“Don’t do that.” Power stepped through the door. “What’s the number of his room. I’ll go up.”

“Numéro onze—deuxième étage.”

Knocking presently on number eleven, second door. Power drew a query that carried the sharp edge of suspicion. He opened the dixir and stepped inside.

“Hello, Pollen,” he said, closing it behind him, “I see you run two establishments. Like to say why?”

Except for a tenseness about the eyes,

the butler’s composure did not falter. “Even a servant has a right to a life of his own.”

POWER stepped farther into the room, so that they faced one another across the table in its centre. “So you came here betimes to get away from it all, eh? Well, the sooner we get going the better.”

“They want me back at the house, sir?” It was the servant talking, in the servant’s voice and manner.

“The big house. Pollen.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Oh, yes you do. You held a cloth soaked in ammonia over General Clayton Brown’s face yesterday afternoon. It killed him.”

Something seemed to withdraw itself inside the butler’s stocky frame; his eyes narrowed on the pinpoints of chance. “This is quite ridiculous, sir!” he exclaimed. “I have no idea—”

But he did have one idea, for suddenly the table between them came heaving up, and Power found himself sprawling in front of the door with that piece of furniture on top of him. And then he saw Pollen moving toward him with a knife in his hand.

He leapt up, reached for the door handle. But there was no time for that now, and he had to let go of it to meet the other’s onslaught. Dodging under the gleaming streak of steel, he drove the full force of his elbow into the other’s ribs. That got him out of the corner.

“Thisisn’t getting you anywhere, Pollen,” he said. “Might as well face the inevitable.”

The butler said nothing, kept advancing, a sinister, purposive figure. Once as a boy, Power had backed away from a bull in a lonely back wood pasture. He did the same thing now, with the same sense of impending doom.

A yard from the wall he halted. At that moment Pollen made a sort of berserk rush, with the knife raised above his shoulder. Power did the best he could; threw himself at the other's knees. His hope was to break Pollen’s attack; to get

to the far side of him for another dash to the door. I íe certainly hadn’t expected the affair to become so festooned with horseshoes. For. tripping over him. Pollen had gone plunging headlong into the wall beyond, and then limply to the floor.

A LITTLE later, over a whisky and soda that went to the waiting spot, Power said to Sergeant Papineau: “For a minute after Bain’s servant told me he’d gone to New York, I thought we’d hit the nail on the head. And then, suddenly, it didn’t make sense. Bain got into Colonel Longstreth’s room, all right, but the rest didn’t nub. After that he had to get hold of the colonel’s sponge bag, find the bottle of ammonia in the closet, and assail Butch. On that basis the whole case against him tumbled to absurdity, for if ever a murder was done after careful deliberation, this one was. And then suddenly I remembered that Pollen had given your man the slip this afternoon. Why, I asked myself, had he done that? The answer came pat— because he did not want to be followed into Barstowland. And then I realized that, as Barstow, he was the only one who could have done the murder, the only one who could have had easy access to the tools oí murder, the only one with the type of personality that could have remembered a hurt so long and waited so patiently for two years in Butch’s employ to avenge it.” “But why ’as he waited so long?” Papineau exclaimed. “Me, I do not understand that?”

“Because he wanted to make certain the time element wouldn’t throw suspicion on him. He’d waited twenty years to get into Butch’s house; what were two more to a vengeance like his? If you’re making a lifework of revenge, you don’t spoil it by being in too much of a hurry.”

“Oui—je comprens maintenant.”

“As I stood outside Bain’s fiat tonight, I was suddenly caught in a wild surmise. Pollen knew he was being tailed. The next time he left the house to go to Barstowland he’d make sure of slipping the sleuths. How? By taking the back wall. I was right . Mud in your eye!”

He raised his glass again.