The Shopwalker’s Wife
G. R. MALLOCH
Wife murderer or abnormal practical joker? The puzzling case of a man who loved poetry and wax models
I THINK,” said the assistant commissioner triumphantly, “that I have a case here that upsets your pet theory of the subtlety of amateur criminals.”
"Dearie me, sir!” exclaimed Detective Inspector Ego. "I should hate that like anything. Destroy a man’s pet theory and you make the world a bleak and lonely place for him. Who is this iconoclast, may I ask?”
“He is a shopwalker in the salubrious suburb of Upperstowe and his neighbors think that he has made away with his wife.”
“The neighbors of a shopwalker would be predisposed to think him capable of any crime,” said Ego. “In those romantic novelettes and serials which describe the harrowing adventures of shopgirls before they marry the duke, the shopwalker is always the villain. And yet I’ve met some quite decent baronets, and all the shopwalkers I have known have been mild-mannered, kindly men who were very kind to the girls under their control.”
“Have you finished for the moment?” asked the assistant commissioner.
"I think so, sir; and now I'm all agog to hear the news, sir.”
“Then it seems that this fellow comes from Wales as an extra hand for the Christmas sales”
“Is it a poem, sir?” interrupted Ego eagerly.
“In the drapery shop of Messrs. Coutts and Burnes,” continued the assistant commissioner savagely.
“I know it, sir,” said Ego innocently. “Robes and lingerie, hose and yarns. Yes,” he added hastily, “I know the place, sir; 768 to 778 High Street, Upperstowe. Quite a nice shop.”
There was an acid tone in his superior's voice as he continued.
“His name is John Jones. He was regarded as a very respectable young man of good morals and quiet habits, and he was a regular attendant at a local chapel with his wife, a pretty young woman a few years younger than her husband, according to the neighbors. They lived in a villa in a little back street—you know the kind of thing—and had a lodger.”
“I bet the lodger’s the villain of the piece, sir,” said Ego.
“The lodger left, and about the same time, it appears, the neighbors overheard a good deal of quarrelling between Jones and his wife. Then the wife, who was a bright, gay young woman, fond of gossiping with her neighbors over the fence, and so on, vanishes utterly. Jones, when asked, says she has gone on a visit, and he is seen cooking and fending for himself. But the wife was the sort of woman who would have told the whole
street if she had been going on a visit, and she had said nothing about it. You can imagine how talk began and grew.”
“I can, sir,” said Ego. “When my housekeeper was called away suddenly ...”
“Never mind about your housekeeper. About a week after the disappearance of the wife a woman in the house opposite noticed one night that one of the upper rooms in Jones’ house was lit up and the blind had not been drawn. She swears that she saw the figure of a woman, fully dressed, sitting in a stiff attitude in an armchair and that it was like Mrs. Jones. Then Jones came into the room and drew down the blind. She went to the police.”
“I think I know the rest,” said Ego. “The local police rushed in and arrested Jones, and now they want us to go down and find out for them why they arrested him.”
“Not quite so bad as that,” said the assistant commissioner. “They went to his house and asked him where his wife was, and he told them to go to the devil and mind their own business. Said his house was his castle, and if they wanted to enter it they had better go and get a search warrant.”
“Good for him!” was Ego’s comment.
“Then one of the next-door neighbors came out with the information that Jones had been heard digging in his garden late at night. He had never been a gardener and his back plot had been a sort of wilderness. Now he’s got it all dug up in neat beds and has been busy planting bushes and sowing seeds.”
“Felt lonely without the wife and took to gardening, perhaps,” suggested Ego.
“Possibly. But there’s another obvious explanation. And then he goes and gives a month’s notice at the shop. Rather silly, eh? Discounts the gardening zeal.” "Why a month’s notice if he wanted to bolt?” “Possibly just the extreme clumsiness and general folly of the amateur criminal, Inspector. It seems that he is hard up and had been paying a lot of debts to tradesmen, and I suppose he found that he needed a month’s money for his getaway.”
“I see. Is anything else known about him, sir?”
“Hm—don’t think so—oh, I see they say that he sometimes writes poetry for the local paper.”
“All Welshmen, are poets, sir. I would have expected
that. Do you want me to do anything?”
“I’d like you to look into it, if you can without treading on the toes of the local police. They haven’t actually asked us, mind you, but they’ve hinted that they don’t quite know what to do. You see, it’s no crime for a man’s wife to go on a visit, and he’s not bound to tell the police where she’s gone, is he?”
“Personally, sir, I’d leave the locals to tread on their own toes, but I’ll have a look at it. I know the stunt—pick our brains and take all the glory themselves. They’re welcome to it. If you ask me, it’s a mare’s nest.”
“I am not so certain about that. What do you propose to do?” “Look for the lodger, I think, sir.”
“Well, there’s a magnetic attraction about lodgers, sir, as you would know if you had investigated as many cases of domestic trouble as I did in my younger days. One possible solution of this case is that if we find the lodger we shall find the missing lady. We had better make sure of that first.”
EGO travelled by bus to the suburb of Upperstowe.
It took longer than the underground, but it had the advantage of taking him right to the corner where the imposing facade of Coutts and Barnes soared above the mean-looking buildings that lined Upperstowe’s High Street.
A few minutes devoted to examination of the window display confirmed his recollections that the shop was a prosperous medium-class drapery, catering for all classes of the suburbans. Anyone in the employment of the firm would have to be a person of eminent respectability and nice behavior. Refinement exuded even from the coy young ladies in wax who displayed their lingerie with unsuspecting innocence to the gaze of the passing crowd. There would be stern codes of propriety behind the counters, Ego reflected, and the proprietors would be portly and affable gentlemen who would emerge occasionally from hidden regions to greet the more important customers. A shopwalker in such a place must be a very tower of respectability.
He pushed open one of the swinging doors and stood inside the shop in a confused and hesitant attitude. Y^oung ladies behind the long counters glanced at him with modest expectation; but, apparently daunted by the array of articles of feminine attire, Ego glanced fearfully about him. Presently, as he had hoped, a frock-coated figure bore down upon him. He looked hopefully at his rescuer, who was a short, dark-haired, clean-shaven man in the thirties. He had the traditional politeness of the shopwalker, but it did not escape Ego that his eyes were tired and that his manner was mechanical. He might have been an automaton. “Something on this fellow’s mind,” mused the detective. “This is my man.”
It appeared that the rubicund customer was in a quandary. His wife was unwell and had commissioned him to purchase one or two things for her, but he didn’t know a thing about women’s shops. He had the things on a little list—ah, yes, here it was—and he would be very much obliged if the shopwalker would take him around.
The perfunctory enthusiasm which had marked the
shopwalker’s “What can we have the pleasure of showing you, sir?” marked the rest of his conversation as he led Ego to the ribbons and the gloves and the hosiery counters. When the purchases were completed the customer expressed his gratitude.
“I'm very much obliged to you,” he said, glancing at the little parcels he carried. “I’m sure I’d never have got these things without your assistance, Mr.—Mr. — I’d like to ask for you next time.”
“Jones is my name, sir,” said the man as he opened the door. “We are much obliged to you.”
His indifferent voice was a dismissal, and Ego, finding no excuse for further conversation, passed out into crowded High Street. He made his way to the police station.
“Are you a married man. Inspector?” was his first question when he was closeted with the man in charge. The inspector stared at him in astonishment.
“Well, yes, I am,” he said, adding with a twinkle: “Three grown-up daughters on my hands. Are you a bachelor, Inspector Ego?”
“Splendid,” said Ego, ignoring the question. “I’ve got three little parcels I want to get rid of—would the young ladies accept them with my compliments?
One contains stockings, one gloves, and one ribbon.”
“All’s grist that comes to the mill,” said the inspector as he swept the parcels into a drawer. “So you’ve been having a look at Jones.”
“And I can see that we haven’t much to teach you fellows down here in the way of deduction,” he said admiringly —a reply which delighted the inspector, who would very much have preferred not to have had to invoke the advice of headquarters.
But on the whole, their conversation proved rather fruitless. The inspector had little to add to the information already in Ego’s possession, and when they had gone over it all again the case remained just where it was.
“I’m not at all sure, though,” said the local man, scratching his head, “that we shouldn’t be quite justified in taking a search warrant and going over his place. In fact that’s what I intend to do.”
“Well,” said Ego, “that’s for you to decide.”
“But you wouldn’t do it?” queried the inspector.
“You may dig up his garden,” suggested Ego,
“and find nothing but a claim for damages.”
“You haven’t got the local outcry to deal with,” grumbled the inspector.
"The worst of it is that Coutts and Barnes just laugh at the idea. They say Jones’ private affairs have nothing to do with them, and from what they know of him they don’t believe a word of the gossip. On the other hand, Morter, the rival draper, is on the bench, and he says the matter ought to be cleared up.”
“Morter must be a bit of a fool,” mused Ego, “to want to give his rivals a free advertisement.
Why,they would be crowdedout if thewomen thought there was a murderer there.”
Women are capable of anything,” agreed the inspector.
°l runn*”S away with a lodger,” assented Ego. nat s why I think you’d be wise to hold your hand w i e run down to Cardiff and see Mrs. Jones’ relatives. Her mother, if she’s alive, will know. I’m not on this case o cially and I’ve been given a roaming commission ln wPrdut0lt~yes> 1 think I’ll try Cardiff.”
en he parted from the inspector, Ego proceeded to
the office of the Upperstowe Guardian, where he had a chat with the astute journalist who edited that organ of public opinion. He secured a promise of secrecy in exchange for a promise of timely warning of any startling developments.
“Oh, yes, Jones is a would-be poet,” said the journalist, who knew all the local rumors and regarded them with contempt but also with a certain degree of vigilance. “There are hundreds of them in a place like this, as you would know if you sat in my chair. We print his stuff occasionally as a fill-up. Mind you, I don’t say it’s as bad as the usual run. There’s something -a flavor of real poetic feeling about it, sometimes—its original. He doesn’t come back from an excursion to Southend and send us a poem about the sparkling waves. It’s his own stuff, if you understand.”
“That’s just the worst thing that there seems to be against him,” said Ego.
The journalist nodded.
“On the line of murderers being fond of animals and music, you mean?” he said.
“In a way. A certain type of crime is often just a
reaction against a prevailing tendency in the criminal’s nature,” said Ego ruminatively. “There are two sides in all of us and the other side rebels. For example, I knew a quiet, steady-living, sedentary and badly henpecked individual who battered a burglar to death with his fists and a chair. He was tried for manslaughter and acquitted, but he murdered the man. And he told me
afterward that a fight like that was what he had been longing for for years and years. It was a case of repressed manhood, and I’m pretty certain that if the burglar hadn’t come along he would have broken out on somebody else sooner or later. Then you know how many men of the finest poetic genius there have been whose lives from a moral standpoint simply stank to heaven. One side of them couldn’t bear the high altitudes on which the other side lived.”
ou don’t mind if I use some of this for my literary notes, do you?” asked the journalist, scribbling on his pad. "I’m stuck for a subject this week. Yes, I quite agree. Rut you can’t arrest, this fellow because he writes verse, can you nor even because he goes to chapel regularly?”
“Well, let me see some of the verse before I answer that,” said Ego, and presently he was turning over the files of the Guardian. He began at a period before the disappearance of Mrs. Jones, and he found the weekly effusions of Mr. Jones to be what the editor had described. They were pretty, they showed a sensitive feeling for natural beauty and expressed shapele.ss
yearnings—but they might, have been written by a good many people, although there was sometimes a touch of originality about them. Then he turned to the current issue of the paper which contained the poet’s latest contribution. As he read it, his expression became alert.
"Fourni something you like?” asked the journalist, who was watching him.
“I’m not a judge of poetry,” said Ego, “but this strikes me as above his usual level.”
Thy waxen beauty moves me now,
More than the charms of flesh and blood,
Thy regnant and untroubled brow I
Thine eyes no tears can ever flood.
“Ilm; not bad,” conceded the other. “It’s a curious thing.”
"It is,” said Ego. “Well, thank you very much. 1 think I’ve seen all that I want of our friend’s attempts at poetry.”
Rut as he left the office, he repeated to himself, “A very curious thing.”
A FEW minutes later he entered the establishment of Messrs, (’outts and Barnes. This time he had no need to look round in search of assistance. Mr. Jones was standing near the door and pounced on him at once. They were out of hearing of the counter assistants.
“Are you a detective?" he demanded.
“Dear me, why do you ask that?” said Ego with a perfect assumption of astonishment.
“Because you don’t look like one, I suppose,” said Mr. Jones with a mirthless laugh. "We have them in here sometimes, you know,” he added, “and the guv’nor never tells us. It’s annoying. If anything’s wrong, he ought to tell me first.”
This lame explanation was not lost upon the person it was offered to. But Ego frowned as if offended.
“Quite, quite,” he said, stiffly. “But it’s not a very tactful joke to spring on a new customer, if I may say so. As a matter of fact, I have discovered that the stockings I bought here are not perfect, and, what is worse, are of foreign origin. I feel very strongly about that. Why, in this very shop you’ve got up a notice, “Buy British.” I want to have a few words with your guv’nor. At a time like this—”
“Oh, you can see him if you like,” said Mr. Jones, repeating his mirthless laugh. "That’s his office right at the back there, marked Private. No need to mention what I said, is there?”
"I won’t mention it,” said Ego, and left the melancholy shopwalker.
He knocked at the door indicated, and was bidden to enter. A stout, cheerful gentleman looked up from a desk littered with correspondence.
"Tomorrow’s my day for travellers,” he said briskly, after a glance.
Ego handed him a card and, closing the door, sat down.
"Detective Inspector Ego—Scotland Yard—hm !” said the stout gentleman impatiently. "I suppose you’ve come about all this nonsense that’s being talked in the place about our Mr. Jones? Now, ook here, I’ll have nothing to do with it. I’ve told our own man that he’s a fool to listen to gossip of that sort. I’ve always found Jones a white man, and I’ll go on believing that he is till somebody proves that he isn’t. He’s leaving us at the end of the month—driven out of the place by mischief makersand I’m very sorry to lose him.”
"It's refreshing to hear you say so sir,” said Ego. "Might I ask whether you have any theory about the matter yourself?”
“Yes, I have—plain as a pikestaff. His wife’s bolted with the lodger, and the poor chap’s pride prevents him acknowledging it. He as good as confessed it to me when I put it to him.”
Ego nodded appreciatively.
"That was one of my first ideas, sir, when I was asked to look into the case.”
"Well, it’s a complete explanation, isn’t it?” asked the Btout gentleman, a little mollified.
"It might be. But there’s just one thing I’d like to ask you to do for me before I accept it. And I’d ask you to keep it a secret from Jones, if that’s possible.
"Just to check your stock of wax models—complete figures, I mean—and see if they are all in the shop.” “Check my stock of wax models?” demanded the astonished draper. "Are you serious?”
“Completely serious, sir. And especially anxious that Aír. Jones should know nothing of it.”
"Well, I’m darned!” The draper’s jaw dropped. "All right,” he added, frowning. "As it happens, 1 can do it easily myself, without anyone knowing.”
He took a book from the shelf beside him.
"I have thirty complete figures,” he said presently, "and they are all in the windows except one that was damaged some time ago. That ought to be in the basement store-room. Wait here a minute.”
Presently he returned and resumed his seat.
"The twenty-nine figures are in the windows all right,” he said, looking straight at Ego. "But the damaged one is not in the store-room.”
Just in time, Ego perceived that the draper was trying to stifle a laugh.
"And the explanation of that, sir?”
“Is that the stock book shows that it was sold to a rag-and-bone man some weeks ago—beyond repair. Thought you had made a discovery, eh? I don’t know what you were after, but I think that’s blown the gaff.” The draper was highly amused at the discomfiture of a detective.
"As you say, it’s blown the gaff, sir,” admitted Ego. "And that being so, I needn’t waste any more of your time. I’m very much obliged to you.”
And they parted, the draper marvelling at the foolishness of detectives, the detective laughing at the obtuseness of drapers and other people who will only see what they want to see, or believe what they want to believe.
■^TEXT day, Ego was in Cardiff. In the room of an 4^* old friend at the police headquarters, he revealed the fact that he had come to make enquiries about a man named John Jones. His friend leaned back in his chair and laughed till the tears came into his eyes.
"My dear fellow! My dear old friend!” he exclaimed at last. “I wish you luck. I suppose there are about ten thousand of them here.”
"Quite," said Ego, "and therefore I propose to confine my search to the person of a Miss Matilda Frippy, who married the said Jones.”
"That may be easier,” conceded his friend. "As a matter of fact, I know a little tobacco shop kept by an old lady of that name.”
Half an hour later, Ego entered the little shop of Mrs. Frippy and beamed benevolently upon the old lady while she searched for a cigar to his liking.
"You know the saying that it’s a small world, ma’am,” he said. "I suppose you are not related to the Miss Frippy who married a gentleman from Upperstowe?” "Why, that’s my niece, sir,” said the old lady, beaming upon her genial customer. “Though I haven’t seen her for years. But it’s funny you should ask me today because I’ve just had a postcard from her. I was glad to think she had remembered I was alive, for I’m her only
living relation now. She’s having a holiday at the seaside, and perhaps that explains it, because when you’re at the seaside you often remember people to send cards to, don’t you?”
“Yes,” agreed Ego. "It’s something in the air, I think. People go out and buy a lot of cards on the first day, and then they have to sit down and think of people to send them to. I’ve often done it myself.”
The old lady laughed.
"And so have I,” she said. "It’s only natural. Brighton, she’s gone to, and a fine place it looks.”
"Brighton in Sussex, or New Brighton in America, or Brighton in Australia?”
"Ah, you’re a travelled gentleman! No. It’s just Brighton in Sussex. A fine place, too, though it’s changed a lot since I was there as a girl. Here’s her card, with the West Pier on it. Do you know it, sir?”
Ego examined the postcard which she handed to him, and while he made an appropriate comment on the magnificence of the West Pier his attention was focussed on the message scrawled across the picture. “Down here for a change, Love from Mattie.” He handed it back with a laughing remark, escaped from the shop without gratifying the old lady’s natural curiosity as to whether he knew her niece, and made his way to the station.
"p GO spent most of the next morning in his room at the Yard, studying a number of volumes from the official library. After lunch he telephoned to Upperstowe, and asked whether there were any new developments.
"I’m going to dig,” came the inspector’s voice. "The thing’s got to such a pitch that we’ve got to do something. People are accusing us of neglecting our duty.” “It’s your responsibility,” said Ego. "When do you begin operations?”
"This evening. I want to have him on the premises, you see. I’ve got a search warrant. We’ll just walk in and surprise him. If we find anything, we’ll arrest him; if we don’t—well, I’ve been forced into it.”
“I’ll be down to see the result,” said Ego, and rang off after ascertaining the exact time of the proposed raid on the premises of Mr. Jones.
On arriving in Upperstowe, he called on his friend the journalist.
"May I look at the manuscript of that last poem of Jones?” he asked.
"Certainly. Wait a minute and I’ll fetch it. I keep those things for a week or two, as a rule.”
Presently the manuscript was put into his hands, and he studied it attentively before handing it back.
“Thank you. And now to redeem my promise. You’d better put on your hat and come with me. Your local police are going to search his place this evening.”
The journalist grabbed his hat, gave a few instructions, and announced that he was ready.
Ego timed his arrival just after that of the local force, and he found them in possession. His name was taken to the inspector, and he and his companion were ushered through the house to the garden at the back. Here there was a very strange scene.
The fences on either side of the plot were lined with staring faces, and every neighboring window from which a glimpse of the garden could be obtained was crowded with people leaning out, one over the other. The garden itself was a typical little rectangular plot with a few neglected fruit trees and sooty evergreens. But it bore evidence of recent care. The beds had been freshly turned, one or two shrubs and roses were evidently new, and the grass had been roughly cut. It looked as if someone had spent some time and care on its restoration, and Ego shuddered as he imagined what his own feelings as a gardener would be if he saw his cherished domain being maltreated as was happening to this one.
It seemed to be full of policemen. The inspector stood with feet wide apart, watching two of the constables, who, helmetless and in their shirtsleeves, were engaged in digging ruthlessly on what had been the side of an oblong bed near the back of the house. Little bushes and roses torn out by the roots lay on the grass, some of them being rapidly buried in a steadily rising mound of earth.
But the central figure was that of the owner of the house. On a chair on the grass sat Mr. Jones, leaning back comfortably and smoking a cigarette. He was watching the toiling policemen with a smile. When Ego appeared he sat up and sneered.
"Ah—so you’ve come to be in at the death, have you, Mr. Scotland Yard? I guessed what you were the first time you put your nose into the shop. Yes,” he added, turning to the gaping onlookers, “you wouldn’t believe how I’ve been persecuted. Our inspector’s a darned fool—he’s proved that by what he’s doing now—but he even went the length of calling in Scotland Yard. Ladies and gentlemen, I see it’s nearly time for me to make my confession!”
A ripple of excitement went through the crowd, and even the digging policemen suspended their work for a moment and stared at the speaker as they wiped their
dripping brows. Mr. Jones, having secured the attention he desired, appeared to be struggling with a desire to laugh.
“Look here, my friends,” he said, "you’ve all known me for years. Have any of you ever heard anything against me? It’s fair to ask you that.”
One or two of the hypnotized crowd recovered themselves sufficiently to murmur:
"No; that’s right.”
"Well,” continued Mr. Jones, "my good name was very dear to me, friends, just as your own may be. And if anyone had come to me in a sympathetic way, I might have confided in them—yes, even if the police had behaved rightly instead of coming here and asking me to go to the station, and examining me and bullying me as if I was a murderer. How would any of you like that?”
There was a growing murmur of sympathy from the crowd.
"My wife disappeared, they said. I said that she had gone away for a time. My blood was soon up, the way they treated me, I can tell you. But it seems that some of my own neighbors were worse than the police—they went spreading stories about me, disgraceful stories!”
There was a slight re-arrangement on the fences as one or two people stepped back.
“Well, now I’m going to tell you the truth and you’ll see why I kept silence. It was true my wife went away; it was true she went to the seaside. But—but”—here Mr. Jones buried his face in his hands—"she wasn’t coming back. You all know that lodger we had? She went away with him—and I couldn’t bear it to be known.”
This time there were loud murmurs of sympathy with Mr. Jones and many exclamations of pity mingled with expressions of contempt for the local police force. The inspector looked uncomfortable but he gave his men a sign to resume their labors.
“Could I proclaim my wife’s shame to the world just to please the police?” demanded Mr. Jones. "But that’s past, friends. I’m a man and can get over it, and if she loves another man let her be happy if she can.”
A man leaned over the fence and offered his hand. Mr. Jones rose and took it and thanked him brokenly. Then he turned and pointed dramatically at the toiling policemen.
"I did think,” he said, “to console myself with gardening in the long evenings—but look at that! I heard the other day that they were thinking of this. I knew they were discussing it. So I did what was perhaps a foolish thing, maybe wicked—but the longing for revenge on those who persecuted me was not to be denied. Friends, when I knew they were coming to dig up my garden I thought I’d have something for them to find. I buried an old wax model from the shop in that bed where they are, and I did it at night so that their spies could hear about it. My wife, as I happen to know, is in Brighton at this moment, alive and well, though she’s left me.”
There was a gasp of astonishment at the conclusion of this speech. It died down, as Ego stepped toward the speaker.
“How do you happen to know that?” he asked politely.
Mr. Jones sat down on his chair and folded his arms.
"I happen to know that, Mr. Detective Busybody,” he replied, "because her aunt in Cardiff, Mrs. Frippy, had a postcard from her two days ago. She wrote and told me. The police have only to go to Cardiff and see her aunt to prove it.”
"I see,” said Ego, and there was something like a cheer from the onlookers at the obvious discomfiture of the police.
But suddenly attention was concentrated on the two policemen who were half hidden in the hole they had dug. They had dropped their spades and were stcoping as if to lift something.
"Now, boys!” said Mr. Jones, and the crowd began to laugh.
The policemen were lifting something large, a long bundle wrapped in earthy sacking. They deposited it carefully on the grass. The inspector stepped forward and began to unwrap the figure.
The crowd tittered, and the titter broke into a roar of laughter when the red-faced and unhappy policemen stood looking down at a battered wax model from the establishment of Messrs. Coutts and Barnes. The journalist was writing at fever speed in his notebook, moving toward the back gate as he wrote.
"It’ll make a nice story in the papers,” laughed Mr. Jones. "Now, you’ll leave me alone perhaps, eh?”
The journalist gave a last look around the scene to satisfy himself that he had missed nothing, and he had his hand on the latch of the back gate when he realized that Ego was going to say something. He paused; and he was rewarded.
Ego had approached the triumphant Mr. Jones, who was sitting in his chair with his hands on his knees, grinning. The crowd was rapidly melting away to spread the good story.
Continued on page 51
Continued from page 14
“And did you actually bury it yourself, iMr. Jones?” asked Ego respectfully.
“I did, Mr. Busybody.”
“Quite a job, I should think. I suppose that was how you cut both your hands?” Mr. Jones lifted his two hands and looked at them in surprise. There was a quick movement from Ego, and a click as the handcuffs fastened on his wrists.
“Dig deeper please, Inspector,” said Ego solemnly.
t-JE TOOK a precaution too many, as amateurs will do,” said Ego to the assistant commissioner next morning. “When I saw the postcard at Cardiff, I was pretty sure that it was in a feigned hand. I made certain by examining the manuscript of one of his contributions to the local paper. There was one “s” on the card that corresponded with his own. But I started from the problem of the lodger. What actually happened was, I think, that he caught his wife and the lodger as lovers, and in a blind fury killed them both. Anyhow, they were both in the garden. No doubt he thought he was justified, but I’d have liked him better if he hadn’t played that horrible joke with the model. Still, you must admit that it was ingenious—in fact, it
was certain to put an end to the activities of the police. He would have got safely away without a doubt.”
“But he left one very important factor out of his calculations,” said the assistant commissioner almost respectfully.
“And what was that, sir?”
“Detective Inspector Ego!” said the other.