The Room with the Iron Shutters

Another generous installment of a thrilling murder mystery serial:

ANTHONY WYNNE January 1 1930

The Room with the Iron Shutters

Another generous installment of a thrilling murder mystery serial:

ANTHONY WYNNE January 1 1930

The Story: Lord Gerald Glen, a wealthy Sussex squire, and a fanatical prohibitionist, one of whose hobbies is the making of large philanthropic gifts to medicine, proceeds one morning after breakfast to his study. Shortly afterward his butler is summoned, and on reaching the study door hears his master’s faint voice ordering him to close the shutters on the outside of the windows. While doing so he sees Lord Gerald sitting at his desk, head in hands, as if in distress of some sort.

He knocks at the door, but gets no answer. Alarmed, he telephones the local doctor, Dr. Pendrith, and on his arrival after a short delay, the two, forcing an entrance through the window, discover Lord Gerald prostrate on the floor, with a scrawled note in his handwriting on the desk, apparently reading, “I have been murdered.’’ He has in fact been stabbed through the heart by some sharp weapon, like a tiny knife-blade, and is dead.

All the evidence, or rather the lack of it, suggests that Lord Gerald has been murdered in a room with impenetrable iron shutters closed and the door locked. There are neither finger- nor foot-prints, and clues are completely wanting.

Lord Gerald has had living with him his niece, Bridget, and his nephew, Patrick, with the latter of whom he is on strained relations . . . the causes of which are not revealed.

Dr. Hailey, of Harley Street, and Inspector Verrey, of Scotland Yard, commence an investigation of the matter. Dr. Hailey observes Patrick Glen in what is apparently a lovers’ quarrel with a girl outside the grounds of the house.

HE STARTED forward and then immediately checked himself. The couple had become reconciled even while he was approaching them. The girl took the man’s arm and they walked away together into the mist which was creeping up across the meadows from the sea.

Verrey was waiting at the Inn when he got there. He had ordered tea and now called for a second cup for his friend. Dr. Hailey told him what he had discovered.

“I think,” he said, “that we must concentrate our attention on the door of the room. The odds are long, after all, that it was by the door that the murderer entered and went away.”

“The statements that the door was locked are positive.”

“Positive—but uncorroborated; especially Miss Glen’s statement.”

Verrey glanced up sharply.

“Buckle and Dr. Pendrith were with Miss Glen in the study when she unlocked the door,” he declared.

“Buckle assured me that he could not say positively whether she unlocked the door or not. He was too busy with his master. Dr. Pendrith was even busier.”

“But .. .” The detective hesitated a moment.

“Surely you have no reason to doubt Miss Glen’s word?” he exclaimed.

“On principle everybody’s word ought to be doubted in a case of this kind.”

A trim waiting-maid brought a plate of buttered toast and set it down on the little table round which they were seated. Dr. Hailey observed with envy the eager way in which his companion addressed himself to the enjoyment of it.

“The murderer,” he stated, “may have entered the study after the shutters were closed. At that moment there was nobody in the hall, for, on his own showing, Buckle had gone back to his pantry. Buckle says the door was locked, but he may have been mistaken. Possibly the ringing of the bell which brought him a second time to the study door may have been a signal of distress on the victim’s part. Assume that the murder was committed at that moment. The murderer, aware that the bell had been rung and knowing that it would be answered, would naturally lock the door. He would remain behind the locked door till the coast was clear again; that is to say, until Buckle went off in search of Patrick Glen. Then he would make his escape.”

“Leaving the door unlocked behind him?”

“Yes.”

The detective poured himself out a second cup of tea.

“Your theory makes it necessary to disbelieve both Buckle and Bridget Glen.”

“Not quite that. I said they may have been mistaken. Miss Glen was mistaken about the pulse-beat. After all, she was greatly excited and distressed. At such moments we are only half aware of our actions. The power to remember exactly is lost.”

“Don’t forget that Patrick Glen tried the door while his sister was in the study with the doctor and Buckle. He is as positive as she that it was locked.”

“I haven’t forgotten that.”

The doctor’s tones were low, but they startled his companion. Verrey put his cup down and gazed in frank astonishment.

“You can’t mean . . he exclaimed, “that you suspect Patrick Glen?”

“At this stage I suspect nobody . . . and everybody. It amounts to the same thing. I am dealing only with ascertained facts. Since miracles do not happen, somebody must have entered and left the study.”

After tea Verrey described his interview with his chief at Scotland Yard.

“They’re getting a bit restless in London,” he confessed. “It’s natural enough, but it’s worrying all the same. The chief asked me if I was quite sure that I hadn’t overlooked some material circumstances I think that tomorrow, or next day at the latest, somebody else will be sent down. Scotland Yard abhors a real mystery.”

He lit his pipe in his methodical way as he spoke. The waitress came into the lounge and told him that he was wanted on the telephone.

“It’s a trunk call from London, sir.”

“Very well.”

He left the room without glancing at his companion. Dr. Hailey observed that his walk had lost something of its accustomed briskness. Verrey, he reflected, was suffering his first serious reverse and was consequently allowing himself to be unduly depressed. The case, if its solution proved as difficult as it seemed likely to prove, would do him good as a man, even if as a detective it did him harm.

“I think it’s Scotland Yard as wants ’im,” the waiting-maid, who had remained to clear the table, remarked in significant tones.

“Really?”

“Yes, sir.”

The girl made a pile of the cups and saucers and plates and transferred them to her tray. It was obvious that she was consumed with curiosity and would snatch at the least advance which was given her to discuss the murder. Dr. Hailey glanced at her cheaply pretty face, on which the powder lay in unlovely abundance, and decided not to give her any chance. Village gossip, as experience had taught him, is seldom well-informed. Verrey returned and devoted himself until the waitress went away, to the relighting of his pipe.

“That was the chief,” he stated. “They’ve just had information from Lord Gerald’s bankers that during the last month of his life he drew a very large cheque in favor of Dr. Pendrith. Did the doctor say anything to you about it when you saw him today?”

“Nothing.”

“Apparently there were other, earlier payments to Dr. Pendrith. The full details are being sent to me. I think it will be necessary to see the doctor again tonight, though I had meant to work at Shawdon Hall.”

Dr. Hailey took a pinch of snuff.

“That may be the matter about which Dr. Pendrith refused to give me any information today,” he said.

THEY walked across to the doctor’s house, but were told that he was out.

“Do you know when he is likely to return?” Verrey asked the manservant.

“I don’t know, sir, but I’ll ask.”

A moment later a small, rather stout woman, who wore heavy concave glasses, came to the door.

“I’m Mrs. Pendrith,” she announced. “Can I take a message for my husband?”

She had a peculiar voice, at once soft and exasperating in that it broke up her words into unnatural syllables. The blinking of her weak eyelids behind her glasses produced a suggestion of timidity which her manner belied. She was clearly, in spite of her unctuous manner, an irritable woman. Verrey explained that he was a Scotland Yard officer and that his business was urgent.

“In that case you had better come in and wait. My husband is always home by seven o’clock, at which time we have supper.” Mrs. Pendrith pronounced the word supper in three syllables “sup-pe-her,” seeming to dwell lovingly on it. But she managed, nevertheless, to convey the impression that she was uttering a defiance. She belonged evidently to the class of woman who “sup,” whereas her husband belonged to the class of men who “dine.” It flashed across the doctor’s mind that that word supper, pronounced in that way, must be an everlasting source of exasperation to Dr. Pendrith.

She led the way to a consulting room which looked out on the front garden, and stood with her hands clasped in front of her, while her visitors entered it. She had short, plump hands on which big diamonds flashed. The jewels contrasted strangely with the sombre black of her dress.

“My husband,” she stated, “is a ve-er-ry busy-man.” Had she stayed longer in conversation Dr. Hailey felt sure that she would have declared that she and her husband were “humble folk.” Yet there was the exquisite house and garden and the manservant to give her the lie. Were these Pendrith’s contributions to a home life which was not, apparently, allowed to rise beyond the “sup-pe-her” level of dignity?

The consulting room was curiously well-equipped for the “surgery” —as Mrs. Pendrith had called it—of a country doctor. A whole battery of mercury-vapor lamps stood in one corner; in the opposite corner was a huge carbon-arc lamp of the very latest pattern, and an induction coil of large proportions occupied a conspicuous position on the side-table. Verrey enquired about the uses of these formidable-looking instruments.

“They’re for giving ultra-violet ray treatment. Many a general hospital might be proud of such an installation.”

“Is that the same as artificial sunlight?”

“Yes.”

“Probably Lord Gerald made him a present of them, eh?”

“Possibly. Pendrith’s a good man; he represents the best type of general practitioner, and there’s no better in the world. I shouldn’t be surprised if it was Pendrith who had interested Jerry Glen in light therapeutics to begin with.”

Verrey nodded.

“Queer his being content to bury himself in a place like this, don’t you think?” he remarked.

“I don’t know. It’s a good life and a very pleasant one, except in the dead of winter. If he’s a shooting man he probably gets as many invitations as he can accept. If he hunts, as I rather think he does, there are three packs within reach. From the social point of view he has opportunities here he would never get in London, unless he rose to the very top of his profession. The countryside is full of big houses, and there are London people as well who keep week-end cottages. I fancy he makes an easy £2,000 to £3,000 a year.”

The detective gazed in astonishment.

“I wouldn’t have put it higher myself than £800,” he stated.

“No. Most people who have no experience of medical practice think as you do. One has only to glance at the advertisement columns of the British Medical Journal or the Lancet to be undeceived. Practices of this sort fetch premiums from £3,000 to £4,000 quite easily.”

The doctor glanced at his watch.

“It’s a quarter to seven. I have a feeling that we shall not be thanked if we keep Mrs. Pendrith’s supper waiting and that’s inevitable if we stay here.”

Verrey shrugged his shoulders.

“She’s a terrifying woman, certainly,” he declared, “but my business is urgent. Wonder why Pendrith married her? When I saw him I had an idea he was a bachelor.”

A very smart coupé drove up to the door. They saw Dr. Pendrith descend and enter the house. A few minutes later he joined them.

“We’re just going to dine,” he announced. “Will you do us the pleasure of dining with us?”

VERREY seemed to hesitate but Dr. Hailey accepted at once. The dining room was not less impressively furnished than the other rooms in the house, and the candles, burning in tall silver candlesticks on the polished table, added to its air of distinction. So far as could be judged from the preparations made, the meal was dinner and not supper. Mrs. Pendrith, however, who hid what exasperation she may have felt behind her spectacles, took an early opportunity of calling it supper again.

She had not changed her black dress, and her son and daughter, a lad of nineteen and a girl of seventeen, were in everyday clothes. Their father introduced them rather formally to his guests, but they displayed a singular lack of responsiveness and speedily engaged in conversation with their mother. The white shirt of the manservant who waited, the fine old silver, the candles, the table, the sombre wainscotting, Dr. Pendrith himself—these made one picture, while, Mrs. Pendrith and her children made another. And the pictures were wholly out of harmony. Yet it was soon apparent that in spite of the disharmony, Dr. Pendrith was fond of his family. If he seemed to shrink when his wife addressed him as “Pa-pa-ha,” he displayed real satisfaction of the comments on the death of Lord Gerald indulged in by his son, and accorded them a courtesy or hearing which they did not merit. Dr. Hailey saw that, like so many men who are exasperated by the conditions of their domestic life, Dr. Pendrith had focused on his son and was lavishing on the boy affection that belonged by right to his mother. A pang of sympathy for his colleague tempered his desire to administer a snub to Master Jack Pendrith that was long overdue.

Muriel, the girl, was better behaved than her brother, but seemed to be even less her father’s daughter than Jack was his father’s son. She was a plump maiden with a self-satisfied manner. The doctor noticed that there was no powder on her brown cheeks, an omission which, as he guessed, ringed her definitely beside her mother as one of those who supped. Her clothes were aggressively open-air in form and cut, and her hands were not overclean. Her statement that she had been playing hockey sounded like a reproof to girls who devoted attention to their personal appearance, but as it was received in silence she was unable to expand it. Muriel Pendrith had no opinions, so she said, about the murder. She could not understand how anybody could be interested in so unwholesome a subject. She ate with a vigorous appetite and took very little notice of anything her father said to her. Every remark which she addressed to her mother, on the contrary, was prefaced by the words: “Mama, darling.”

As course followed course and wine followed wine, Dr. Hailey found himself more and more at a loss to understand why Pendrith had so little impressed himself on his children. It was painfully evident that, apart from the forms of grandeur which he imposed on them, he played no part in their lives. They regarded him with a kind of amused tolerance; liable, doubtless, to flame up into resentment on slight provocation. And for all his dining and wining he accepted their verdict. His remarks about the exigencies of medical practice and the necessity which a doctor’s life imposed of living beyond one’s means were so many excuses to his wife and children for tastes which, apparently, he felt himself compelled to satisfy. Pendrith, Dr. Hailey thought, was something more than a snob. He was a man weak unto himself and therefore seeking strength in his surroundings. His house and garden, his car, even his dinner represented the armor with which he protected himself against a world whose criticism terrified him. That armor was the measure, exact and damning, of his belief in his fellows, and hence of his own spiritual stature.

The servant brought coffee and cigarettes on a huge silver tray and proceeded to ignite a small spirit lamp, made in the shape of a dragon, to light the cigarettes.

“Lord Gerald gave me that,” said Dr. Pendrith, indicating the lighter. “He brought it from India.” Mrs. Pendrith was observed to shrug her shoulders. She handed her son, who had produced his own cigarette case and helped himself, a box of matches. When it became evident that the dragon needed further refreshment with methylated spirit she passed the matches to Verrey.

“Don’t trouble to light it tonight, Andrews,” Dr. Pendrith ordered gloomily. He turned to his wife.

“You’ll excuse me, won’t you, my dear, if I carry our guests off immediately?”

Mrs. Pendrith nodded.

“Ye-e-es,” she said.

DR. PENDRITH led the way back to his consulting room. Though Verrey was smoking, he opened a big box of expensive cigars and presented it.

“Another gift from a patient,” he remarked. “You, my dear Hailey, take snuff, I know.”

His eager little face expressed a complacency he certainly did not feel. Yet Dr. Hailey thought that he looked much kinder and more attractive here among his tools than he had looked a moment before in his dining room. Perhaps it was not entirely to his discredit that he had armed himself against the sneers of his world. The English squirearchy has always liked to regard its doctors as upper servants. When the cigars were safely deposited back in their cupboard, Verrey opened the subject of his visit. He told the doctor frankly that Scotland Yard would very much appreciate some information about the large payments which had been made to him by the murdered man.

“I know,” he explained, “that I’m on delicate ground, and I do want you to realize that the request I’m making is a request and nothing more. There’s not the least need for you to answer me if you consider that I am trespassing on your personal business.”

“My dear fellow, I’m only too glad to have the chance of answering you. I have been wondering ever since Lord Gerald’s death, whether or not I should myself come forward with the information. You’ll understand what I mean when I’ve explained to you the circumstances in which the payments were made.” Dr. Pendrith fitted a cigarette into a long holder and lit it. He indicated his lamps with a quick movement of his hand. “Just after the war, I took up heliotherapy; visited Rollier’s place at Leysin and studied the work at Alton in Hampshire. Then the discovery that ultra-violet light gives all the advantages of sunlight came along. I installed these lamps. Lord Gerald heard about them and came to spy out the land. I made a disciple, and Henry’s Hospital was told that the progress of medicine was more rapid in Shawdon than in London, which in this particular instance was strictly true. Lord Gerald became my pupil and allowed me to plan the great installation which ‘an anonymous donor’ soon afterward gave to Henry’s. I bought every lamp and every fitting myself and arranged the whole outfit.”

Pendrith rose as he spoke and went to a roll-top desk which stood in a corner of the room. He unlocked the desk and opened a drawer from which he took a number of small books. He handed one of these to the detective.

“That’s my pass book for the year 1922,” he stated. “If you look under that date October 10, you’ll see that Lord Gerald paid me the sum of £5,200. That is the famous ‘anonymous donation.’ Now look at date October 20 or 21 and tell me what you find.”

“You paid £5,200 to Messrs. Steel and Robb, the electrical people.”

“Yes.”

“Now come to last year. Here’s the pass book.” Dr. Pendrith handed another of the parchment-bound books to Verrey. “Look at November 5. There’s a sum there of £5,000 paid in by Lord Gerald, isn’t there?”

“Yes. There is.”

“Very well. Now go to November 30. On that day £5,000 was paid out to John Wallace and Co.”

“The mining people?”

“Yes. Can you guess what the money bought?”

Verrey shook his head.

“I can’t.”

“What about you, Hailey?”

Dr. Hailey nodded.

“I know what it bought,” he said. “But that is merely because I happen to know that John Wallace & Co. are the chief agents for the supply of radium to this country. You got your half-gram cheap at £5,000.”

“I did. Because one of the partners, I won’t say which, happens to be a patient of mine. What happened was that, late last year, Lord Gerald began to hear the reports that are going around about the cure of cancer by radium. It so happened that he had an old friend with a cancer of the lower lip, and he found it exceedingly difficult to get radium treatment for him. You know what sort of man he was. Light treatment had been his only concern for years; suddenly radium treatment became his only concern. He came here and asked me if I knew anything about the subject. I told him that I knew a little. He was always very cautious where money was concerned, and he had foreseen that if he went into the radium market as a buyer, the fact of his connection with Henry’s Hospital would at once suggest that he was going to be a big buyer and so might have the effect of putting up the price. He insisted that I should buy for him as I had done in the case of the lamps; he was all the keener when I told him that I thought I could get the radium well below the market price. You may remember that ‘an anonymous donor’ gave half a gram of radium to Henry’s Hospital last Christmas and followed up that gift with a second half-gram early in the New Year. The results fully justified the gifts. From that moment Lord Gerald was determined to endow Henry’s with a large supply of radium, enough to treat every case of cancer presenting itself. Three additional grams were judged to be adequate for this purpose, and on March 16 last, as you can see, the sum of £50,000 was paid into my account.”

Pendrith handed the last of the pass books to the detective as he made this statement. He sat smoking while Verrey examined it.

“It hasn’t been paid out yet,” he remarked.

“No, it hasn’t.” Pendrith put his hand in his pocket and took out an envelope. He drew a letter from it, unfolded it and handed it to Verrey. “I got that this morning from John Wallace and Co.,” he explained. “The radium, as you see, is on the way from Belgium.” “May I look at the letter?” Dr. Hailey asked.

“Of course.” Pendrith leaned back in his chair. “As a matter of fact,” he stated, “I ordered it the day after I got the cheque. But there was some confusion because my communication was made verbally on the telephone to my patient. The result is that the radium is only coming along now, when the donor can no longer give it to anyone. I took legal advice this afternoon as to what, in the circumstances, I ought to do. I mean whether I ought to hand the radium to Henry’s, as was Lord Gerald’s intention, or give it to the executors. My lawyer tells me that I may have to get a decision of the court. The trouble is that Lord Gerald has left nothing to Henry’s apart from this gift of radium. The radium is the hospital’s share in his will, and it will be really distressing if the hospital does not get it. Meanwhile, am I to pay for the radium or not?”

Dr. Hailey folded the letter and handed it back. “I’m afraid I can’t answer that question,” he said. “But I know that if I were in your position I would pay for it and hand it to Henry’s and let the consequences go hang. In a world where men are dying of cancer for want of radium, high-handed action of that sort isn’t likely to be resented.”

IT WAS nine o’clock when they left the house. The night was clear and a moon just past the full was shining. Dr. Hailey laid his hand on his companion’s arm.

“Now we understand,” he said, “why Jerry Glen left nothing to Henry’s Hospital. From what Bridget Glen told me he was looking forward with immense eagerness to this gift of radium. One must allow that he was a man of rare public spirit.”

Verrey remained silent for a moment. “Undoubtedly. But that unhappily only increases our present difficulties. When I got the news from London about the gifts to Pendrith I thought a real clue had come at last. Ever since I reached the place I seem to have been exploring blind alleys.”

“Perhaps the next alley will not be blind. We have just time, I think, to ask Patrick Glen a few questions . . .”

Buckle admitted them to Shawdon Hall and told them that Patrick was in the house. He showed them into the study. A few minutes later a young man, whom Dr. Hailey instantly recognized as the man he had seen with the girl in the afternoon, entered the room. Patrick Glen had served during the war as an ensign in the Coldstream Guards, and though he was now twenty-nine years of age the experience had left its mark on him. He shook hands with Dr. Hailey suddenly and energetically as if he was performing a military salute, and then seemed to relax. He glanced about the room.

“Won’t you sit down?”

He sat down himself, and the deep armchair he had chosen swallowed him. In his evening clothes he looked even taller and more sinuous than he had looked in his shooting kit. He mumbled some words which conveyed an impression of politeness, in spite of the fact that it was impossible to hear them.

“Why I have troubled you,” Dr. Hailey began, “is because I am not absolutely convinced that the door of this room was locked when your sister opened it after your uncle’s death.”

“It was locked. I tried it myself.”

Patrick Glen reached for a cigarette without looking what he was doing. He held it ready to put between his lips.

“You’re quite sure about that?”

The young man turned and faced his questioner across the arm of his chair.

“Quite,” he ejaculated sharply.

“Did you knock on the door?”

“No. Biddy opened it.”

“Opened it?”

“She unlocked it and then opened it.” The doctor assumed his eyeglass.

“I think we must try,” he stated, “to reach complete assurance on this point. If one is excited or in a hurry it’s possible to turn the handle of a door in such a way as to fail to open the door, even when the door is not locked. I think that at the moment you were excited and in a hurry.”

“Oh, no. I saw Dr. Pendrith’s car standing at the door, and wondered merely if he was with my uncle.”

“I don’t quite follow you.”

“I mean, I wanted to see if the doctor was in the study.”

“Why should you have supposed he would be in the study?”

“With my uncle.”

“But you didn’t know your uncle was ill?”

“Oh, no.”

“Then why should you think Dr. Pendrith was with him particularly? Doesn’t the doctor attend the whole household here?”

“Yes, he does.” Patrick’s lean face, which was extraordinarily boyish, assumed a troubled look. “I did think that the doctor was with my uncle,” he stated, in the tones of a person who expects to be believed.

“Why?”

“Excuse me, Dr. Hailey, but I would rather not answer that question.”

The words came with a quiet emphasis which discounted the speaker’s youthful appearance.

“I think you ought to answer it.”

Dr. Hailey leaned forward. He looked straight into Patrick’s eyes. They challenged one another.

“Why should I answer it? You’ve asked me if the door was locked. I’ve told you that I tried it and that it was locked. Since it was locked, the murderer of my uncle cannot have left the room by that way. What possible advantage to you can come from knowledge of my personal motives in trying the door?”

“Remember, there is only your word that the door was locked.”

Patrick flushed.

“There’s my sister’s word.”

“She was laboring under intense excitement and may have been mistaken.”

“Very well.” The young man rose and walked to the desk. He touched the bell. They waited in profound silence until Buckle entered the room.

“Ask Mabel to come here.”

“Very good, sir.”

PATRICK returned to his chair and lit his cigarette. He made some nearly inaudible remarks about the weather, but his cheeks remained flushed. Dr. Hailey remarked his likeness to his uncle both in appearance and manner, the same well-bred gentleness, the same suggestion of a cool indifference to criticism, the same high degree of nervous tension. You might break Patrick Glen: you would not bend him. When the maid whom he had sent for, entered the room he rose and stood with his back to the fireplace.

“Will you please tell those gentlemen, Mabel, what you saw me doing at the time of his lordship’s death,” he said in quiet tones.

The girl, who had a pretty apple-blossom complexion, kept her eyes fixed on the carpet. She wrung her hands nervously.

“I saw you trying to come into this room, sir.”

“Did I manage to get into the room?”

“No, sir.”

“What did I say to you?”

“You said ‘The door’s locked. That’s odd.’ ”

Patrick turned to Dr. Hailey.

“I’m sure Mabel will be willing to answer any questions you may wish to put to her,” he said.

There was a moment’s silence, then Dr. Hailey asked :

“Did you see Mr. Glen turn the handle of the door?”

“I saw him at the door, sir, and I ’eard the ’andle go, like.”

“And then the door was opened?”

“Yes, sir, Miss Bridget opened the door, sir.”

“So it may have been Miss Bridget who turned the handle of the door and not Mr. Glen?”

The doctor did not glance at Patrick as he asked this question, but he was aware nevertheless that the question had made the young man very angry.

“Oh, no, sir. Mr. Glen turned the ’andle, and then ’e says to me: ‘The door’s locked; that’s odd,’ and then Miss Bridget opened the door.”

“I see. You know the door was locked because Mr. Glen said it was locked?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You didn’t try to open the door yourself?”

The girl didn’t reply. They saw the rich color fade in her cheeks. After a moment she raised frightened eyes to her questioner.

“Yes, I did try the door myself,” she faltered.

Verrey leaned forward and even Patrick Glen stiffened.

“Well, was it locked?”

“Yes, sir.” The girl put out her hand and touched the wall beside her. “I ... I feel kind of weak,” she whispered.

Dr. Hailey led her to a chair. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

The color returned to her cheeks, but the anxiety of her expression remained.

“It was what I ’eard,” she cried, “when I was at the door. What I ’eard goin’ on in the room ’ere.”

WHAT did you hear?”

Dr. Hailey’s voice thrilled in the silence of the room. For a few moments it went unanswered. Then once again Mabel raised her head. She faced Patrick Glen.

“I was passin’ through the ’all,” she said in awestruck tones. “I ’eard a cry, most like a child wot ’as ’urt itself terrible. I tried to open the door. Then I ’eard ’is lordship’s voice say: ‘Oh, God, 'elp me,’ and then I ’eard ’im fall . . .”

She broke off shuddering with fear. The doctor waited until she had recovered a little. He glanced at Patrick Glen and saw a new, lively horror in that young man’s eyes.

“Were you listening when you heard his lordship’s voice?” he asked at last.

“Yes, sir. Because of the cry I ’ad ’eard.”

“You’re quite sure it was his lordship’s voice?”

“Oh, yes, sir.”

“The cry, did that sound like his lordship’s voice, too?”

The girl shook her head.

“I couldn’t say, sir.”

“What sort of cry was it?”

“Like a child wot ’as ’urt itself, sir.”

“A loud cry?”

“No, sir, feeble-like.”

“Was his "lordship’s voice feeble, too?”

“Yes, sir, very feeble. I could scarcely ’ear it. But ’e went down ’eavy.”

Again the girl shuddered.

“You thought he had fallen?”

“Yes, sir. I know’d as ’e ’ad fallen. I’ve ’eard a man fall before. That was the time I tried to open the door.”

“Did you hear anything after he fell?”

“No, sir. There was no sound after ’e fell.”

“What did you do then?”

“I ran out o’ the ’all to tell Mr. Buckle, and then the thought came to me that ’e would be mad with me for listenin’ be’ind the door. So I ran up to my room and lay down on the bed, for I felt that bad, and didn’t know right well wot I ought to do. W’en I came down again, there was Mr. Buckle and the doctor going out o’ the front door.”

“Where was Mr. Patrick at that time?”

“ ’E wasn’t in the ’all, sir. But ’e came into the ’all a minute after.”

“And went to the door of the study?”

“Yes, sir. He went to the door and turned the ’andle. He says to me, as I told you, ‘The door’s locked, that’s odd.’ And then Miss Bridget, she opened the door.”

“Did you hear Miss Bridget break the window?”

“Yes, sir, after I came down the stairs.”

“Mr. Glen didn’t come into the hall until after the window had been broken, did he?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you tell him what you had heard?”

“No, sir.”

“Why not?”

The girl hung her head.

“I was that frightened. I was going to tell ’im when Miss Bridget opened the door. I never told nobody ...”

WHEN Mabel had left the room Patrick Glen turned to Dr. Hailey.

“You agree now, I take it,” he remarked, “that the door was locked?”

“Yes.”

“And that my uncle met his death while the door was locked and the shutters were closed?”

“Yes.”

Patrick drew his hand across his brow in a gesture of dismay.

“On your showing just now the murderer had only a few minutes in which to make his escape before the shutter was opened by Dr. Pendrith and Buckle?”

“Yes.”

“But, my dear sir, it’s absurd. Where could he escape to?”

“He did escape.”

“How do you know there was any murderer?”

The young man leaned forward. His sensitive face was strained and anxious.

“Your uncle,” said Dr. Hailey, “has left it on record that there was a murderer.”

“Oh, that might have been written to mislead, might it not?”

“It might. But in this case it wasn’t, I think. The only alternative to murder is suicide. There is not a scrap of evidence to support the idea that he committed suicide. We know that he took no poison. No weapon has been found. A man cannot stab himself with his bare hands. Since he did not commit suicide he was murdered. And since no poison was found in his body we are entitled to accept the view that, until he was stabbed through the heart, he was in full health. The fall which the maid Mabel heard, therefore, occurred a moment after the deathblow was inflicted; that is to say, a very short time before the shutter was opened. So far we are on solid ground. Where the ground is less solid is in the matter of the statement: I have been murdered by ‘P’ or ‘B’ or ‘W’. The past tense is used. Yet when the words were written your uncle had naturally not been murdered, though, obviously, he was expecting his death.”

Patrick did not offer any comment for a moment or two. He sat staring in front of him with wrinkled brows as though he were trying to recollect some circumstance which eluded his memory. Before he spoke again he glanced uneasily round the room.

“I’m sure there are no secret entrances,” he remarked.

“There are none,” Verrey said. “We have satisfied ourselves fully on that point.”

“Have you inspected the shutters? They can’t have been fastened, seeing that they were closed from the outside.”

“They were not fastened. But all the windows were bolted. It was necessary to break a window to enter the room.”

The young man rose and walked to the window farthest from the door. He turned here and called attention to the fact that, owing to the intervention of the angle of the house, anyone standing outside this window would be hidden from persons standing outside the broken window.

“You agree?” he demanded of Dr. Hailey.

“Yes.”

“Then he must have escaped through this window. He had just time to shut the window and close the shutters after him.” “My dear sir,” Verrey exclaimed, “the window was bolted. How could he replace a screw bolt from the outside?”

Patrick’s face became bewildered again. “I’d forgotten. What a fool I am! He couldn’t, of course.”

He came wandering back to the fireplace like a man whose wits have been scattered.

“I can’t understand it,” he declared last. “Why should my uncle want to have the shutters closed, anyhow?”

There was no answer. Dr. Hailey took a pinch of snuff in order to render less evident the careful watch which he was keeping on Patrick Glen. He felt no doubt now that the young man was the victim of some intense anxiety which prevented him from concentrating his thoughts for more than an instant.

EVERY human being speaks two languages: his mother tongue and the language of gesture and expression. Sometimes these languages help each other; more often they contradict. It is because we can see their gestures and expressions that we refuse, frequently, to take even our friends at their own valuation.

Patrick Glen’s words were the words of innocence and bewilderment, but his gestures and expressions betrayed knowledge. He was extraordinarily gifted in the matter of gesture. His fingers were long and white, and they had a caressing movement which was at once gentle and nervous. Waves of emotion seemed, Dr. Hailey thought, to ebb and flow in these moving fingers which every now and then conveyed the impression that they might grasp violently and tenaciously. The man was waiting for his inquisitors to go away. He was waiting to be alone. He was making ready for action of some sort even while he pretended to be trying to solve the riddle of his uncle’s death. That rhythm of the white fingers was dismissal, an expression of intolerable boredom or intolerable impatience. Suppressed activity, too, was the explanation, the doctor felt sure, of the way in which Patrick Glen kept glancing at the door and then at the broken window. Something was going to happen, something which evidently would make heavy demand on the young man’s resources of nervous energy.

Dr. Hailey embarked on a hurried estimate of Patrick’s character, and found the task unexpectedly difficult. Patrick was a product of a certain kind of birth and breeding and education, an Englishman of the governing class. His job of estate agent to his uncle, since it belonged to the ordered sequence of events, afforded little light on his nature; nor had he expressed himself in any way that might serve as an index of his feelings. The only qualities which presented themselves unmistakably were a certain sensitiveness of feature such as may often be observed in the faces of distinguished doctors, and an attitude of impatience toward the diligent methods of the police which was at variance with the habits of his class. Lord Gerald, had it fallen to his lot to occupy the place which his nephew was now occupying, could have exerted himself to give the police every scrap of information and every sort of help at his disposal. Was it that the idea of a manhunt was so repugnant to his nature that it obliterated the human interest in mystery, and prompted flight from the society of the hunters? Or had Patrick Glen reasons of his own for wishing to escape? Dr. Hailey drew a venturesome bow.

“I’m afraid we’re detaining you,” he said.

The young man’s fingers moved in accelerated rhythm.

“I’m rather tired tonight, I must confess,” he exclaimed. “These last days have been a strain.”

“We shall not keep you. But there’s one point on which I feel that I must touch.” The doctor fixed his eyes on Patrick’s face in an attempt to command full attention. “I asked your sister whether or not you and your uncle had been on good terms at the time immediately preceding his death. I cannot say that her reply enlightened me.”

“We were on fairly good terms.”

“Only fairly?”

The young man’s attention had been captured, momentarily at any rate. The doctor pressed his advantage.

“May I ask the cause of your estrangement?”

Patrick hesitated. He raised his hand to his necktie and fumbled with it.

“We did not see eye to eye on every question,” he answered vaguely.

“I should welcome a more precise account.”

“My uncle, as you know, held very strong views about alcoholic drinks. He objected to receiving people whom he believed to be addicted to alcohol.”

“Your friends?”

“Yes.”

“One particular friend?”

Patrick frowned.

“I hope what I have told you,” he said, “may be explanation enough. The difference of opinion was a purely personal matter. It is inconceivable that it can be connected with what has occurred.”

DR. HAILEY did not press the matter.

But on the way back to the village he expressed the view to Verrey that Lord Gerald’s horror of strong drink would be found to be connected in some way with his death.

“It’s the privilege of the amateur, my dear Verrey,” he said, “to choose his own line of advance. That monomania of Jerry’s was a brick wall, against which all sorts of heads were constantly running. Murder, let us bear in mind, is a method of removing brick walls—husbands or wives, for example, who happen to be obstacles to happiness. Suppose we take our stand there and ask who were the people most seriously incommoded by Jerry’s prohibitionist views.”

“They must be a numerous company.”

“I don’t think so. I said seriously incommoded. I mean disturbed to the point of frenzy.”

“How could anybody be disturbed to the point of frenzy by teetotalism?”

“I don’t know. But I propose to try and find out.” Dr. Hailey walked for a few minutes in silence, then he added: “Jerry’s murderer, I believe, found himself suddenly up against Jerry’s mania in circumstances of extreme urgency, and realized that nothing but killing could extricate him. Since he killed with such remarkable cleverness, I conclude that he is possessed of exceptional ability; but since he killed I conclude also that his mind is somewhere deficient. In spite of what the lawyers say, murderers are never quite sane.”

Verrey remained silent for a moment. Then he asked:

“Are you referring to what you call the curse of the Glens?”

“No. There’s nothing in an alcoholic tendency to suggest murder.”

“Still, any abnormal tendency may lead to abnormal conduct.”

“Possibly, yes. We can afford to leave nothing out of account. But, equally, we can afford no a priori ideas. Patrick Glen interests me because his character eludes me. He seems to be one thing, an average young Englishman of the upper class, yet he acts as if he might be something else. His reactions to the murder of his uncle are not such as I would expect.”

As they approached the hotel, Verrey stated that he must busy himself with the, evidence he was going to offer at the inquest next day.

“You’ll attend the inquest?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. Meanwhile I think I’ll take a walk and try to clarify my ideas.”

WHEN they parted, the doctor turned back toward Shawdon Hall. He retained his impression that Patrick Glen had some urgent business on hand. That business could scarcely lie within the old house, seeing that his sister and the servants were the only occupants of the house. If it lay outside, then there was just a chance of learning something of its nature. Dr. Hailey felt no scruple about watching Patrick: he could not forget the scene with the woman which he had witnessed earlier in the day.

The moon was bright enough to fill the spaces between the trees with a dim fluorescence which revealed their leafless branches. Sussex is the county of trees, a land in which every bare field seems to have been won with toil from spreading forests, and to be ready to return again to its ancient manner. He approached the house and observed that the study was still lighted. He leaned against the bole of one of the trees and helped himself to snuff.

His mind was still busy with Patrick Glen’s character. It was, he reflected, one of the secrets of the strength of the English aristocracy, that it imposed a standard of behavior and of manners on all its members. The standard was very high; so high that only a robust personality could develop within the limitations imposed by it. It was not surprising therefore that Patrick seemed commonplace, a mere type; but it was surprising that, lacking distinctive personality, he should act in ways not sanctioned by his code. His behavior with the girl had suggested an infatuated office-boy. His behavior in his uncle’s study had nearly approached the kind of rudeness which the code specially condemns—an attitude of impatience toward men engaged in carrying out the orders of authority; a small matter perhaps, but the doctor had learned that the smallest departure from accustomed behavior is always worthy of consideration. He tried to imagine circumstances in which the strength of upbringing and education would be discounted. His thoughts returned again and again to the scene with the girl. Men are strangely alike in their dealing with women.

He had received the impression, while witnessing the scene, that Patrick was pleading a case which the girl was not disposed to consider. Her whole attitude had expressed repudiation, if not actual hostility. Yet, after he had frightened her, she had seemed to be reconciled to him. It was perhaps only a lovers’ quarrel, but he had to confess that he did not feel satisfied with that interpretation.

He was wondering whether or not to approach closer to the house, when he saw a shadow pass across the lighted windows of the study. The shadow passed in the direction from the front door toward the place where he was standing. He moved round the bole of the tree so as to be hidden from anyone coming down the avenue, and stood gazing into the misty spaces about him. These remained empty. He could not doubt that the person he had seen leaving the house had struck across the park. He moved out from his hiding-place, and began to walk in the direction which he thought the other had taken. A moment later the flicker of a match showed him Patrick Glen’s face.

Patrick was but a short distance ahead of him. He was apparently in no great hurry, for the lighted end of his cigarette moved leisurely across the park. Dr. Hailey allowed the distance between them to increase before he continued his pursuit. He tried to recall the features of the landscape as he had seen them earlier in the day. His diligently trained memory yielded up the picture of a big, rambling house, one of the Tudor farmhouses, perhaps, with which Sussex is so liberally endowed. The old red brick of the walls had glowed in the setting sun. That house lay directly ahead of them.

Patrick threw his cigarette away, and so rendered himself invisible. But the moonlight enabled the doctor to keep a straight course. It revealed the house he was approaching as a shadowy mass among its trees. There was no light in any of its windows. Dr. Hailey stood watching and listening. He thought he heard footsteps, but could not be sure. After a few minutes he advanced a little nearer to the house and listened again. The shrill hoot of an owl pierced the night. He waited in tense expectation for the second part of the call, that quaver charged with infinite melancholy which is like no other sound of living creature. It did not come. He caught his breath: the owl-call is never left incomplete, though a considerable period may elapse between the first and second part of it. He thought that the sound had proceeded from a point to the left of where he was standing but could not be sure. The location of the sound, as he knew only too well, is difficult beyond any possibility of exaggeration.

The call was repeated; again only the first part was given. He walked slowly forward and came to a high hedge which, as he approached it, obscured the house from view. His utmost endeavor failed to detect any sound. The hedge doubtless separated the grounds of Shawdon Hall from those of the other house, and so probably was gateless. He turned to the left and walked beside it a short distance, taking care to step as lightly as possible. Suddenly the call was repeated close beside him.

He crouched down, and then glanced about him. After a few minutes he observed his man leaning against the trunk of a tree. Since the shadow cast by the hedge made him invisible, he could bide his time. He found his snuffbox and took a pinch. His speculative mind began at once to anticipate the events of which, as seemed probable, he was to be a witness. To whom was Patrick signalling in this mysterious fashion? The odds were that this was nothing more than a commonplace intrigue; but even so, its pursuit at a moment when the murdered body of the young man’s uncle lay unburied threw such fresh light on character as could not be disregarded. It is characteristic of the criminal mind to be wholly insensitive. The doctor wondered if this adventure had been arranged during the encounter between Patrick and the girl which he had witnessed. If so, then it was possible that her resistance had expressed the horror she felt. It remained to be seen whether or not that feeling was strong enough to make her disregard her lover’s summons. In any case though, it was strange that the young man should resort to such methods. He was his own master and, thanks to his uncle’s death, a rich man. Why did he not carry on his love affair openly? The girl belonged to his own class . . .

The second part of the owl-call came faintly from the other side of the hedge. Patrick left his place beside the tree and walked quickly in the direction that Dr. Hailey had been taking. A moment afterward the sound of voices reached the doctor’s ears. He crept forward and saw the young man helping a girl over a stile which occupied a narrow gap in the hedge. Patrick took the girl in his arms and kissed her. They walked past the spot where the doctor was standing. He heard the girl say:

“You’re bound to be arrested tomorrow ...”

The thrill of fear in her voice was unmistakable.


To be Continued