The Forsythe Mystery
In which Kent Power, scientific detective, encounters another baffling murder case and demonstrates the unwisdom of leaving one's shoes in a gas oven
THREE young men came out of the grill room of the Regal. Two were smiling over a characteristically whimsical remark of the third. It was the latter—
tall, slim, blonde of head, and with the thin-lipped, cynically humorous mouth of a newspaper reporter — who held up his hand to the bell-boy who was droning down the steps in the peculiar monotone of his kind:
“Mr. Kent Power! Mr. Kent Power!"
“What’s it all about, son?"
"Wanted on the telephone, sir.”
Kent Power turned to his fellow diners.
“Thanks for the crust of bread,” he said. “See you at the races.”
He went upstairs to a telephone booth.
It was Leon Pellatte on the other end of the wire.
“Mr. Power,” came the resonant, silky, and slightly Gallic voice of Montreal’s leading advocate, “could you spare me a few moments of your valuable time?”
“Come right over to my office, then.”
Five minutes later Kent Power was being shot to the twelfth floor of the Colonial Bank Building. And then he was being led over the thick carpets of a deserted
outer office—it was Saturday afternoon—by a svelte, satiny secretary whose figure he found it most easy to follow. The extravagant splendor of
the inner private office made a perfect
background for the man who rase on
the other side of the flat-topped mahogany desk and said:
“You are prompt, Mr. Power.”
Leon Pellatte was of the stuff that actor-managers are made. The theatre was in the carriage of his tall, splendidly proportioned figure, his florid handsome face, that rich resonant voice which he could use as a virtuoso upon either French or English juries.
When the secretary disappeared, after a last swift glance through her dark lashes at the young man she had led in, he extended a box of cigars in the manner of one bestowing largesse.
Kent Power refused them courteously in favor of his own.
“Mr. Power,” the famous lawyer began, after seating himself, “I want to engage your sympathies in a most tragic case. You know—you have certainly heard of—John Forsythe.”
Kent nodded. Old Forsythe was an eccentric Scotch-Canadian millionaire who had made a fortune out of the salvage and junk business on the waterfront.
“John Forsythe is dead.” The lawyer made the announcement with muted awe, and then added with low-pitched, tragic emphasis: “Murdered!”
Interest glowed suddenly in Kent Power’s quiet grey eyes.
“Let me tell you the whole story. John Forsythe was an erratic genius, Mr. Power. Strange as only those touched with genius are strange. Difficile! Even I, his legal adviser, have found him—how shall I put it?
—intransigeant! But with his own family!” The manicured hand went up in a gesture more expressive than words.
“Last year he quarrelled with his son and daughterin-law, with whom he was then living. Left them utterly. Took up residence in a small three-roomed fiat in the Gainsborough Apartments. Absolutely alone. Wouldn’t even have his man. Said that the fewer people he had to bother him the better he would like it. Eccentric, Mr. Power. The man had bent the world to his own hands—flung it away.”
Kent smiled inwardly at the rhetoric, but he had to admit that Leon Pellatte had a way with him.
“It was then he made his last will, in which he cut off his son and daughter without a penny, leaving everything to his wife’s nephew, Donald Forsythe. And then he did a cruel thing, Mr. Power, a very cruel thing. The nephew, we understood, was engaged to his daughter, Rita; a girl of outstanding charm and beauty. At least there was an understanding. John Forsythe made it a condition that if the nephew married his daughter the entire estate would go to charity. I protested, Mr. Power; protested strenuously. It was useless.”
The lawyer stared out through the window, his hand clenched dramatically on the polished desk.
“I regret that Mr. Donald Forsythe should have acted as he then did. I would not feel as I do now if he had broken with Miss Rita for the sake of the inheritance. One would not have
admired, but one could have understood. Instead, he proceeded to play fast and loose, to sow wild oats that became the talk of his set,
wild oats that forced the unhappy girl to give him his congé. Instead of breaking with her like a man he forced her to break with him.
“Whether or not rumors of his fast living reached John Forsythe’s ears I do not know. In any case there were quarrels. There was one of a highly serious nature last night. Their raised voices were heard in the next apartment. Donald Forsythe was, not himself; he was, I regret to say, drunk. This morning, two hours ago only, John Forsythe’s body was found lying on his bedroom floor—murdered !
“I have just returned from the city jail where Donald Forsythe is a prisoner, charged with this terrible crime. I do not care for the criminal court, Mr. Power; its sordidness oppresses me. But what could I do when the young man pleaded with me to conduct his defense? I have agreed to handle his case.”
It was plain from Leon Pellatte’s expression that he realized a sense of sacrifice, though his listener could not help wondering what he would have done had the
Forsythe estate not been so large nor yet so important.
“That is why I have sent for you, Mr. Power. You have a reputation in Montreal as an investigator that is enviable. While I can see little hope for the unfortunate young man, I cannot rest without turning every last straw. Could you give him the benefit of your services?”
“Be glad to,” Kent replied, and found himself meaning it sincerely.
“Thank you, my boy, thank you!” The lawyer thrust forth his hand in an impulsive and histrionic gesture.
SERGEANT PAPINEAU of the Montreal detective force dropped his feet from the table-top. He had been taking what ease he could in the sitting room of the dead man’s flat.
“Alio!” he exclaimed, and there was a look of surprise on the rotund, gay, cavalierish face as he rose and pulled the wrinkled vest down over his massive frontage. “For why have you come here, Kent Power? There is not’ing in this case for you. It is—” He opened and shut a hamlike fist expressively.
“So Leon Pellatte suggested,” replied the detective, draping himself over the edge of the table. “He sent me here. Tell us what you know, Pap.”
“For sure! John Forsyt’e was found two hours ago in that room”—he pointed a pudgy forefinger at a door on the left—“dead. You shall look at the body and say if it is not a death by violence. His nephew—”
“Who found the body?”
“The hall porter. The dead man does not answer his telephone. No one has seen him leave the apartment.
The porter entered with his master key at eleven o’clock.”
“Anybody else known to enter the flat between then and the time Donald Forsythe left it last night?”
“No—but yes! The man to remove the gaz range came early this morning.”
“The gas range?” Kent stared at the sergeant. But with a shrug the latter said:
“I also have ask myself that question. But there is
no smell of gaz at all about or near the room when I arrive.”
“The windows are open. Were they open when you got here?”
“Oui! Then I have ask the hall porter who let the man in if he have smell the gaz then. He is emphatic. He have smell not’ing.”
“Just the same, this’ll be something for Leon Pellatte to work on, Pap. He should be able to play quite a tune on it before the jury.”
“He will need!” grunted the sergeant.
“How come the porter didn’t find the dead man when he let the gas range Johnny in? Asked him that?”
“Again, oui! He has explain everyt’ing satisfactory. When the man come to take the range he called Mr. Forsyt’e on the telephone. There is no answer, so he suppose Mr. Forsyt’e have gone out; which is his habit to do early in the morning, for he is queer. Then, regard! They enter by that door opposite. They go to the kitchen by that door on the right. He does not see Mr. Forsyt’e because Mr. Forsyt’e is lying on the bedroom floor—which one enters by that door on the left. There are but three rooms and bath, connecting as I have demonstrate—kitchen, sitting room, bedroom.”
Kent glanced about. The flat wa3 small; cottage-like not only in its size but in its plain, simple furnishings. Homely, as though the dead man had tried to recapture here the surroundings of earlier, less complex days.
He slid off the table. “Let’s have a look.”
They stepped into the bedroom. It was not a pretty sight. Bedside table and chair overturned. Carpet streaked with blood. Kent stepped gingerly toward the
disarrayed bed on which the dead man had been laid. John Forsythe had been a big man, broad-shouldered, ruggedframed, leonine-headed—a master of men and fortune. Over his right temple straggled a jagged gash and the clotted blood covered face and beard. The body was clad in pyjamas, the coat of which had almost been torn off and hung in shreds. There were scratches and abrasions about the neck and chest. But what struck Kent Power was the intense pallor of the body; a pallor that could not be accounted for by the amount of blood lost as shown by stains on the carpet.
He turned to the sergeant. “He was sick at his stomach, mighty sick, Pap.” “For sure.”
“He might have been sickened by that crack on the head—which means he didn’t die at once.”
“Oui! But regard his neck, my friend. The blow does not kill him and so he is strangle.”
“Does he look like a man who was strangled, Pap? Why isn’t his face purple, the lips swollen? He’s pale. You’ve never seen a strangled man with a face as pale as that.”
“I do not remember. It is a long time since I have seen one who dies that way.”
"Where was the body found?”
“There. By the window.”
But Kent Power was staring sharply at the lintel of the door at the other end of the room, lie moved quickly toward it. It was stained with blood about a foot above the floor. There was a fairly large spot on the carpet below.
“How did that blood get there, Pap?” He pointed at the splash on the lintel.
“He has perhaps been thrown against it.”
“He might have fallen and struck his head here. Lay for a while unconscious —that would account for the stain on the carpet—and then started crawling toward the window. Sick on the way. Died by the window—there’s a fairly large spot of blood over there. And look at this !”
He picked something out of the dried stain on the lintel.
“Grey hairs. Ilis hair’s grey. The wound is on the right side of his head; where you'd expect it to be if he was making for the sitting room when he fell.”
He rose to his feet beside the wideeyed sergeant, who was gasping out an astonished, “Mo’ dieu!” He started toward the window. He had almost reached it when he halted suddenly, squatted down on his toes.
“And take a dekko at this, too!” He pointed at a stain on the carpet where the dead man had been bleeding.
waddled over and bent down. A groan escaped him. He found himself gazing at a toeprint in the centre of the stain; a clear toeprint with a special indentation in one part that might have been made by a flat cleat.
“Who has been in here beside yourself and the hall porter?”
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Continued from gage 11
“Let’s see your left foot . . . No, your boot didn’t make the mark. Beat it downstairs and bring the hall porter up. This is interesting.”
The thoroughly chagrined Papineau hurried away, breathing deep Gallic oaths. These things that Kent Power was discovering he should have discovered. But, sacré, the case had looked so clear from the beginning. Name of a dog, he was always being shown up by that young man.
There were no cleats on the hall porter’s toes either. His name was Murphy and he was obviously none too happy about the whole affair, kept glancing uneasily at the figure on the bed.
Kent started shooting a volley of questions at him.
“Are you sure there was no one in the flat -between the time you discovered the murder and Sergeant Papineau arrived?”
“I am, sorr,” the man replied.
“And before that?”
“Nobody but the felly who come to take th’ gas range, sorr.”
“He wasn’t here in the bedroom?”
“You were with him all the time he was in the flat?”
“Yes, sorr—ixcept whin I went t’ get him a screwdriver.”
“He was alone then, eh?”
“Not more’n a coupla minutes, son} not a second longer.”
“He had a proper order to remove the range?”
“Yes, sorr; a written order it was.” “From whom?”
“I didn’t notice, sorr.”
hat did he look like? Describe
The porter was beginning to sweat. He scratched his head to help his memory. “A tall felly wit’ a mustache.”
“He was wearin’ overalls.”
Kent turned to Papineau. “We should be able to get in touch with him through the gas-range dealers.” Then to the porter again: “What was the make of the
“It was an Excelsior, sorr, like all th’ other ranges in th’ apartments.”
“O.K. That’ll do. Oh, by the way, did you raise the windows this morning? They’re all up.”
“No, sorr, I—”
‘Tndade I am.”
“All right, Murphy, you can go.” Wiping his head with obvious relief, the man hurried out of the room.
Papineau leaned forward, breathless. “Then you t’ink it was the range, the gaz? But if so, why—?”
“No, I don’t, Pap,” replied the detective, leading the way out into the sitting room. “In my old medical school days I helped to revive two people who’d had an overdose of gas. I’ve seen it given as an anaesthetic many times. Death by gas does not cause the pallor John Forsythe has. It causes a dusky, deep purple coloration of the blood. And I don’t think the man who came to take away the gas range struck the dead man down while he was here. In the first place, he hadn’t time. It took John Forsythe more than two minutes to die and the porter would have heard him groaning when he got back with the screw-driver. And in the second place, John Forsythe has been dead since last night. Just the same, we want to get in touch with that gent. I’d like to see the soles of his boots.”
The sergeant flung his hands up. “Sacre,” he groaned, “you have me completely bewilder.”
Kent had seated himself in the large armchair.
“Look at it this way, Pap,” he said, staring distantly at the far wall. “Supposing John Forsythe were taken suddenly ill—say severe ptomaine poisoning. He gets out of bed to come in here; wants to telephone for a doctor. On the way he takes a weak turn, falls, hits his head against the doorway. He lies there unconscious or half-conscious for a time. He comes to, gasping for breath. Decides he can’t make the telephone. Starts to crawl to the window. Air—he wants air. In his extremity he claws at his neck just as a man fighting for breath would do, tears his pyjamas, makes those bruises on his throat and chest, dies before he reaches the window.”
Papineau stood wrapped in gloom. “For sure, for sure,” he commented grudgingly. “But that—”
“That footprint. Get an order to search Donald Forsythe’s home. Look his boots over. I can’t imagine him wearing toecleats, but it’s a point that should be cleared up.” Power rose, shook out his creased trousers. “I’m going down to the jail; want to have a talk with Forsythe. And, Pap, get in touch with the jobbers who handle Excelsior gas ranges. They’ll give you the names of the dealers. Find out which one sent that man this morning.”
WERE you wearing those shoes last night, Forsythe?”
The haggard-eyed young man on the edge of the musty cell bed shook his head.
“No, I had my pumps on. I was in evening clothes.”
“You’d been drinking?”
“Yes,” and then he added impetuously: “But I wasn’t that drunk, Power. I know what I did last night. I can remember everything. I didn’t kill Uncle John!” “Can you remember if the windows of the flat were open or closed when you were there?”
“They were closed. There was an awful fog on. Uncle John hated fresh air.”
“Did he look all right? In his usual state of health?”
The boy gave him a puzzled stare. “I guess so,” he said, “I didn’t notice anything wrong.”
Kent rose to his feet and put a kindly hand on the hunched, hopeless shoulders.
“Don’t take this thing too hard, Forsythe,” he said. “You’ve got a fighting chance and a good lawyer. I don’t think a jury can convict you on the evidence. There’s at least a chance of a disagreement.”
The boy shot to his feet. “I don’t want a disagreement,” he cried vehemently.
“I want my name cleared. Who’s going to believe I didn’t do it unless the real murderer is found?”
“Pull yourself together and fight it out, then. Perhaps your name will be cleared.” The boy stared at him with bleak, tragic eyes. Watching him, Kent felt a sudden wave of pity, could understand the horror of his tragedy. Donald Forsythe hadn’t the face of a murderer; only of a headstrong, wilful and not unattractive youth.
“I’ll do the very best I can for you,” Kent said, and moved toward the door outside which the turnkey stood.
He had his hand raised to knock on the thick panel when the boy called out suddenly. He turned. Donald Forsythe came slowly toward him, halted a yard away, stared at him. He seemed to be trying to say something, opened his mouth, closed it again. Kent waited.
Finally the boy said: “My cousin, Rita -—you’ve seen her?”
“No, I haven’t, Forsythe.”
Another silence, and then: “Would you — do you think you could give her—” The boy took an envelope from his pocket on which he had evidently scribbled something. “Will you get this to her?”
“Sure. Be glad to.”
“Thanks. It’s awfully good of you.” The boy turned away.
Another pang of pity beat against the detective’s heart as he hurried out, quit the prison. Crossed purposes and broken lives. The channel into which circumstances were throwing him these days seemed full of them. He sighed with relief as he breathed the free outdoor air again, gave the waiting taxi-driver Rita Forsythe’s address.
A fiat in Westmount. The maid ushered him into the drawing-room, left him. He glanced about. Delicacy and restraint. Harmony of hangings and color. A Macdonald landscape splashed the crimson beauty of autumn above the mantel. The Chinese rug lay like a deep pool before the slim legs of an exquisite Sheraton table.
A step behind him. Even his blasé senses were stirred by the girl who entered. Long-legged and lissome, with a walk that was a disturbing weaving of supple torso and limbs. Brown hair with exciting overtones of burnished copper. The fine oval of a young face, firm, highpoised chin—but the eyes were red from tears.
“You wish to se° me?” There was a throaty catch in the contralto voice.
“My name is Kent Power. I’ve brought a message for you from Donald Forsythe, in whose behalf I’m working. I’m a detective.”
“Oh!” There had been a sudden stiffening of the young body at the mention of the boy’s name, a slight hardness that still remained in the grey, reddened eyes.
He handed her the creased envelope, watched her with deepening interest as she stared at it for a moment before slowly unfolding it.
“Do you think Donald Forsythe killed your father?” he asked.
“No!” She swung .swiftly, almost pantherishly, to make that protest. “I know he didn’t! Nothing could make me believe. . . ” Her voice trailed off. Fora moment there was silence between them and then she went on a little breathlessly: “He couldn’t have done it. I was at my brother’s last night when he came there. We were playing bridge—my brother Henry and his wife, Mr. Gray and I. He told us he had quarrelled with father.
Would he have done that if he had just killed him?”
“And yet. you broke your engagement with him,” Kent said softly. “He forced you to.”
“He didn’t force me! I broke it because—because of that awful condition father put into his will. He would have thrown the inheritance up if I hadn’t. And even then”—she hesitated, dropped her voice—“I had to lie to him; told him I’d never loved him.”
Crossed purposes and broken lives. Once more Kent felt poignantly the pity of these two tragic youngsters; this boy and girl who had so foolishly tried to sacrifice their happiness to one another.
“What happened after he came to your brother’s, Miss Forsythe?” he asked, hating to have to probe further.
“Henry took him home. And then George Gray brought me here.”
“Mr. Gray’s in business with your brother, isn’t he?”
He left her at that, returned to his own fiat in Sherbrooke Street. There he rang Leon Pellatte up.
“Supposing Donald Forsythe were to be banged, Mr. Pellatte, where would John Forsythe’s money go?”
The legal luminary’s pause betrayed his surprise. “To Henry Forsythe and his sister—unless Donald Forsythe makes a will in the meantime, which, of course, is unlikely. But why, my dear fellow?”
“Just idle curiosity, Mr. Pellatte,” the detective drawled. “And, by the way, I think I’ll have some interesting evidence for you in the near future.”
He hung up. A few minutes later the phone jangled. It was not Leon Pellatte coming back for more, but the highpitched voice of Sergeant Papineau.
“Allo, Kent Power. I have just search Donald Forsythe’s place. There are sixteen pairs of boots and shoes, sixteen—• but not one with a cleat on the toe.”
“Did you find a pair of dancing pumps?”
“Anything else cropped up?”
“Not’ing. I have not been able to locate the gaz man. It is Saturday afternoon and all the places of business are close. Early Monday morning I shall continue the investigate.”
Good. Make it early. And if anything else turns up in the meantime, give me a buzz.”
“For sure, Kent Power.”
OVER the weekend Montreal seethed with the tragedy that had struck to the very roots of her social life, and which the late Saturday papers had worked up into a howling sensation. And over the weekend Kent Power succeeded in gleaning considerable information concerning the Forsythe family. He learned, for instance, that Henry Forsythe, present head of the lorsythe Salvage Company, had few friends in the city and was generally considered, however clever a business man, a decidedly arrogant and stiffnecked person. He and his father had never got on well together. Two years ago he had taken George Gray, a young man from Hamilton, Ontario, into the business with him. Gray appeared to be a decent chap; had been seen around lately with Rita Forsythe. Even with the dead man he seemed to have kept a footing of friendship, and the gossip went that he had several times tried to patch up the family quarrel. Concerning Mrs. Henry Forsythe there was nothing much to learn except that she was socially ambitious and did not get on so well with her husband. Of Rita Forsythe and the unhappy young man in jail he heard nothing but good; and people were stunned over the arrest of the latter.
Sunday evening he visited the restaurant where John Forsythe had eaten his dinner Friday night. It was a sort of hole-in-the-wall place, but its proprietor indignantly repudiated, when it was suggested, any possibility of
poisoning in any food he had cooked served that night, or any night.
From there Power went to Leon Pellatte’s floridly architectured home the Mount.
“Well, Mr. Power. You have news?” “Of a sort,” Kent replied.
Leon Pellatte waved the highly manicured hand toward a chair. They seated themselves.
“Proceed, Mr. Power.”
“They did a post mortem on John iorsythe this morning, sir. I was present. In fact the coroner was good enough to let me have some of the dead man’s blood for examination.”
“Indeed?” The lawyer stared at him somewhat uncomprehendingly.
^ “I once studied medicine, Mr. Pellatte,” Kent explained. “Didn’t finish the course but never lost my love of the scientific end of the game. I have a little lab. fitted up in my flat. I examined John Forsythe’s blood in that lab. this morning.
I find certain changes in it that are somewhat extraordinary. They convince me that he did not die of violence—although I was pretty certain of that beforehand.” “Well, well!” Leon Pellatte’s wide eyes showed his surprise; one might almost say chagrin. “Which means”— he said the words slowly, leaning back in his chair and crossing one leg over the other— ‘-‘that we shall get the young man off?” “And that we still have the murderer to find. There’s another matter I think might—” He was on the point of telling the lawyer about the peculiar toe mark he had found in the dead man’s bedroom. He found himself staring at Leon Pellatte’s left foot, which was gently dangling in front of him. Into the sole, at the very tip, a different sort of leather from the rest had been inserted; a small, elliptical strip.
“You were going to say, Mr. Power?” came the lawyer’s resonant query.
Kent rose suddenly to his feet, shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter. I’ll take it up with you tomorrow. I’ve suddenly remembered something that requires my immediate attention.”
Outside, walking down the Mount through the brisk October air, he kept muttering to himself : “Well, I’m damned !” Leon Pellatte! It seemed ridiculous—and yet life could play that sort of trick. He got a taxi, went at once to the jail, found himself face to face with the haggard Donald Forsythe again.
“I gave Miss Forsythe your note,” he told him. “I think she understands. If it’s any comfort to you, she doesn’t believe you killed your uncle.”
The boy’s face lit up.
“By the way,” Kent asked him, “have you seen your uncle’s will?”
“Did he make any provision in it for Mr. Pellatte, your lawyer?”
“Why, yes. There was fifty thousand dollars for his services as executor.”
“I see.” Kent patted him on the back. “Keep the courage up, Forsythe. We’re discovering all sorts of interesting clues.” Returning to his own flat, he rang up Henry Forsythe’s residence. Mr. Forsythe was out, would not be in until after midnight.
X-TE WAS finishing his breakfast next x x morning when the telephone rang. It was Papineau, full of news.
“Regardez, Kent Power. This morning I have obtain the names of the dealers handling Excelsior gaz ranges. Not one have sent to remove the range of John Forsyt’e. Not one! I have ask again the jobbers if they have omit from the list any names. None! I have enquire again carefully of the dealer who install the ranges in the Gainsborough Apartments,. Absolument rien! They have not send a man. What you make of that, eh?”
“That we’ve got to find that workman, Pap. Put your dogs on his trail and keep ’em spiffing.”
Finishing his breakfast, Kent then rang
up a young broker friend of his in purlieus of St. James St.
“Bill, old son,” he enquired, “do happen to know if Leon Pellatte involved in the late unpleasantness in stock market?”
“Just about up to his neck, so rumor goes down here, Kent,” came reply. “Heard anything about his affairs I ought to know? He happens to have account with us.”
“If I do I’ll give you a buzz. In meantime thanks for the few kind words.” Leon Pellatte! But was it credible for moment that the lawyer could have himself up as a workman and gone to dead man’s flat Saturday morning? yet that was the only way to account that toe-mark. It had been made Saturday morning without a doubt. Which raised this query: Why should
murderer, whoever he was, have returned to the dead man’s flat the next morning? The gas stove obviously had nothing do with it. This was decidedly not a of gas poisoning. It was going to be mighty ticklish business handling Leon Pellatte.
He put on his hat and coat. A minutes later he was in a taxi headed riverward. He learned on making quiries in the offices of the Forsythe Salvage Company that Henry Forsythe had not come down yet but was expected.
Kent strolled into the huge interior, past piles of salvaged ruin—anchors, miles of chain, piled canvas tarpaulins, old sea charts, tattered sheet metal, cars and bicycles, old electric refrigerators, bins of rubbers and rubber boots, great spools of wire rope. It took him fully half an hour to circle the building.
It was characteristic of him that he could interest himself so deeply-—for he certainly was interested—in this collection of wreckage and cast-offs.
When he returned to the offices again the information girl told him that Henry Forsythe had arrived. A moment later he was being shown into a private office whose cleanliness and neatness were in strange contrast to the warehouse he had just left. There were two desks in the room, at which were seated two men, one of them dictating to a stenographer. Kent seated himself opposite the other, large man of about forty with a bulging forehead, dark piercing eyes and a decided air of arrogance.
“Mr. Henry Forsythe?”
“I am Kent Power.”
“Oh !” Henry Forsythe’s face lost some of its arrogance, clouded sombrely.
“I wonder if you would mind answering few questions, Mr. Forsythe?”
“Not at all.”
“You took your cousin, Donald, home Friday night. Did you stay with him any length of time?”
‘About half an hour. I helped him get bed.”
“What time did you leave him?”
“About a quarter past twelve.”
“You went straight home after that?”
“Did you notice what kind of shoes your cousin was wearing?”
“No, I didn’t.” Forsythe swung on the young man at the other desk whose stenographer had left him. “What kind shoes was Don wearing Saturday night, George? This is Mr. Power, a detective.” Then to Kent with a growl: “Mr. George Gray.”
Gray extended his hand. “How do you Mr. Power?” he said, pleasantly. He was a tall, clean-cut young man with a serious, businesslike manner. But he had charm; you became aware of that at once. “This is a pretty terrible business,” he added, and then: “I think Don was wearpumps.”
Henry Forsythe leaned toward Kent said gruffly: “Are you fellows still in doubt as to who killed my father, or how was killed? I understood the evidence pretty clear.”
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Continued from page 68
Kent looked him straight in the eyes. “It isn’t,” he said, rising to his feet. “It gets less and less clear all the time, Mr. Forsythe.”
From the waterfront he wrent to the University. Here he had a talk with his friend, the assistant professor of pharmacology. Afterward for perhaps two hours he browsed through the library of the medical school. It was noon when he got home, and his man, Jenks, informed him that Sergeant Papineau had rung him up three times in the last half hour.
He picked up the telephone at once, got put through to police headquarters. “Want me, Pap?” he asked.
“Oui! I have news. Emil Garrón, the traffic officer on point duty at Victoria Bridge, saw' Saturday morning a truck driven by a man answering the description given by Murphy, the hall porter. He was drive south. What you think, eh?” “I’ll answer you that if you’ll tell me why it takes an elephant two months to shingle a roof when a mosquito can kick a hole in a bar of soap in eight days.”
A Gallic howl came over the wire. Waiting until it subsided Kent said:
“You and I are going on a treasure hunt tonight, Pap. Keep the date open and bring along a set of grappling irons. We may need ’em. I’ll have a motor-boat. Give you the rest of the details later.” “But, listen ! What is all this tarn foolish—”
Kent put the receiver up with a grin. And then he turned on Jenks, that paragon of correct behavior who wasn’t above listening in on an interesting telephone conversation.
“Men like you and me, Jenks,” he said earnestly, “should never commit murder. We have too much imagination.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Jenks discreetly withdrew.
Kent went along to his lab. There were those who said it was the most efficient private lab in the city. He spent most of the afternoon there rigging up apparatus a highly complicated type. Around five o’clock he rang Pellatte up.
“Like to have you come around to my apartment between eleven-thirty and twelve o'clock tonight, Mr. Pellatte. I hope to have something to interest you by that time.”
TJTE WAS in his laboratory again— having taken leave of Papineau a full three-quarters of an hour before—at eleven-fifteen that night. Under a glass stand on the bench beside him lay a small white mouse, dead. It was a film of the animal’s blood he was staring at through haemoglobinometer. There was a look of intense concentration on his lean face, and a silence in the room broken only the whirr of a small electric motor and hum of a nearby sterilizer.
Jenks came to the door. “I phoned them your message, sir. They said they’d over at once.”
The detective returned to his work. telephone extension alongside jangled. took up the receiver without laying down the haemoglobinometer. “Hello!”
It was Papineau. "I have interview Murphy,” he squeaked breathlessly. “It so, my friend. Entirely. The thing was there. On Thursday Murphy filled it with water. It is now gone! Sacre, it wras a clever one of yours, Kent Power.”
Jenks was at the door as the receiver went down. “The two gentlemen to see sir.”
“Show ’em along.”
Henry Forsythe and young Mr. Gray appeared presently in the doorway. They stared at the room with undisguised astonishment.
“My workshop,” Kent explained. “Come in. Here are a couple of chairs. I apologize for their rickety condition.”
The two men seated themselves, their eyes still roving about the room in curious surprise. Then Henry Forsythe faced the detective, frowned, cleared his throat.
“You sent for us, Power. You said you had some disclosures to make. I hope you have settled definitely the matter of my father’s death. This uncertainty is very disturbing to both my sister and myself.”
“I’ve been able to settle several matters, Mr. Forsythe,” the detective answered. “If you are worrying about your cousin’s predicament you can set your mind at rest.”
“What?” The question was fairly shot at Kent by the older man. George Gray stared at him wide-eyed.
“Donald Forsythe didn’t kill your father.”
“Then who did?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Forsythe,” the detective answered. He was staring casually at the doorway behind the other two men, just this side of which Jenks was surreptitiously placing on the floor what looked like a smallmat. “I'm hoping that you and Mr. Gray might be able to help me to find out. I think you can. I’ll go further and say I think you both know the murderer.”
As Henry Forsythe let out an incredulous gasp, George Gray said, his eyes narrowing with contempt:
“If you’re trying to be funny, Mr. Power, I think you’re showing mighty poor taste in your choice of jest.”
“I was never more serious in my life,” Kent assured him calmly. “John Forsythe’s murderer must have been—”
Once again Jenks appeared in the doorway: “Mr. Leon Pellatte, sir.”
“Show him in.”
The other two men stared at one another questioningly. Leon Pellatte strode into the room, raised his brows with histrionic surprise as he saw the other two, greeted them cordially and then said to the detective:
“It is the climax now, the finale? You have discovered something important, Mr. Power?”
Kent raised his eyes from following the movements of Jenks, who had lifted the mat-like affair from the doorway and disappeared with it.
“I hope so, Mr. Pellatte—” he said, and then, seating himself again, he said to the lawyer: “I was just telling Mr. Forsythe and Mr. Gray that Donald Forsythe did not kill his father. And furthermore that the murderer must have been a frequent visitor at his father’s flat and known it fairly well. He must have gone there many times without arousirg suspicion. Otherwise how was he able to get hold of the key in order to have the false one made that let him into it, Friday night? Therefore, gentlemen”—he faced Henry Forsythe and Gray—“I consider myself quite justified in saying that you both know him.”
“But how in the world could he have got in on Friday night without being seen, even if he had a key?” exclaimed Henry Forsythe. “Surely the porter in the vestibule—”
“There is only one porter on at night, and somewhere around midnight he was in the basement eating his supper. He was gone about half an hour. It’s my belief that it was during this time that the deadly w'ork w’as done. It was done this way: The murderer entered the flat. Mr. Forsythe was sleeping. I understand he was a sound sleeper and a little deaf. He heard nothing; did not see the furtive figure w'ho slipped into his bedroom, poured something from a bottle into the humidifier that was attached to the radiator that night—a humidifier that mysteriously disappeared the next morning.”
“You don’t mean to tell us,” Henry Forsythe broke in, “that he w-as poisoned?”
T’M AFRAID I do, Mr. Forsythe. You understand the principle on which these humidifiers work. They are shoved in between the radiator pipes and give off by evaporation the water with which they are filled. Any fairly volatile fluid added to that water would evaporate more
quickly than normal. The fluid that the murderer placed in the humidifier soon permeated through the bedroom—the windows of which John Forsythe habitually kept closed—got its deadly effect in on the sleeping old man. For a time he slept on, unconscious of his peril; perhaps quite a long time, perhaps until his nausea wakened him and he became violently ill. He must have been pretty far gone by this time, for when he got out of bed to telephone for a doctor he was unable to make it, fell and struck his head against the bedroom door, was knocked temporarily unconscious. Recovering consciousness, he realized he couldn’t make the telephone. By this time he was fighting for his breath, tearing at his neck frantically. He tried to reach the window to get air. He died trying.” “But, my dear chap,” exclaimed Leon Pellatte in a muted, sceptical voice, “how do you know this? It is not evidence unless you have seen it—or someone else.”
“I have seen it, tonight, in this very room. You see that little animal under the glass case?” He pointed to the stand on the bench on which the dead white mouse lay. “It was exposed to the fumes of the same poison. It died as John Forsythe died. From the manner of its death I could easily reconstruct John Forsythe’s manner of death. I could even demonstrate it in a court of law.” “For heaven’s sake, Power,” cried Henry Forsythe, mopping his damp forehead, “spare us these terrible details. He was my father.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Forsythe. My only desire is to see justice done,” said the detective. And then he went on:
“What were the subsequent events? On Saturday morning a man came to remove the gas range from the flat. I believe that man was the murderer. He wanted to get away with the humidifier and get the windows open, so that all trace of his method might be covered up. That was because he had other fish to fry. He wanted it to look as though John Forsythe died of violence, knew enough about the action of the poison to realize that the poor man would not die without a struggle of some kind.”
“But why wasn’t he poisoned himself —and the hall porter—when they entered the flat to remove the gas range?” George Gray asked incredulously.
“Because the fumes of that poison don’t act immediately, Mr. Gray. They weren’t in the flat more than a quarter of an hour. Later, when the murder was discovered, the windows had been open almost three hours and all the gas was gone by then.” “But they could have smelled it,” suggested Leon Pellatte.
“It has no smell, Mr. Pellatte.”
The lawyer leaned forward, smiled in a deprecating way. Quite the master of himself, it was clear that he was still highly sceptical of all this.
“There are two things, my dear chap, that I would like to know. Without them the beautiful house of supposition you have built up falls like a stack of cards. Why, if the murderer came to retrieve the humidifier, did he cart away the gas range? And how do you happen to know so intimately the nature of this poison?” “Put yourself in his place, Mr. Pellatte,” Kent answered, smiling. “You want to get the humidifier out of the house without it being seen. The oven of a gas range will hold it. Furthermore the uncoupling of a gas range gives you the opportunity of sending the porter out of the flat for a tool and allows you time to enter the bedroom, get the humidifier, and hide it in the range oven.”
“Have you been able to locate the gas range to verify all this, or is it only supposition?” Henry Forsythe asked, mopping his wet forehead.
“It’s hot in here, isn’t it?” exclaimed the detective, rising. “It’s my sterilizer. I’ll open a wondow.” He went tc the front of the long, narrow room, threw the sash up. “Yes, Mr. Forsythe,” he said as he
re-seated himself opposite the three men, “I’ve been able to locate the gas range.” “You have?” It was George Gray who gasped the query out, who stared at him wide-mouthed.
“Not only that, but I’ve found the humidifier in its oven, Mr. Gray.”
“Remarkable!” exclaimed the lawyer. Henry Forsythe said nothing, stared fixedly at the detective.
At that moment Jenks entered with a “Beg pardon, sir,” and handed Kent a slip of paper. The latter glanced at it, faced the three men again, went on:
“We want a motive now to bind all this loose amalgam of fact together. Why should anyone have wanted to kill John Forsythe? He was a rich man with a fortune to leave. Who could have benefitted? Donald Forsythe was his heir. He could have benefitted. But in the state he was Friday night, could he have worked out this highly complicated scheme? We know furthermore that he was in bed Saturday morning, nursing a sore head, when he was arrested. That seems to let him out. But I said a while ago that the murderer wanted to get at Donald Forsythe; wanted him out of the way, too. He knew that Donald had quarrels with his uncle. On Friday night he discovered that there was a more serious quarrel than usual. Perhaps he had been contemplating the thing for some time. Now is his opportunity. John Forsythe will be found dead in the morning under circumstances superficially pointing to violence following a quarrel with his drunken nephew. Who then will benefit from John Forsythe’s estate?”
Henry Forsythe burst out angrily: “You don’t suggest that—”
“I am saying,” the detective cut in coolly, “that you and your sister would benefit, and that both of you had a motive for murdering your father.”
“This is monstrous!” exclaimed the agitated man, rising to his feet.
George Gray leapt up beside him, confronted the detective furiously: “You can leave Miss Forsythe’s name out of this, Power !”
“I intend to,” Kent answered him coldly. “Miss Forsythe’s alibi is complete. But there are three other persons who might have benefitted from Donald Forsythe’s hanging. One of them I have just cleared, the other two remain. Glance at this.”
HE STEPPED back and removed the sheet that covered the upright object behind him—an Excelsior gas range.
“I discovered this tonight, hidden away among a lot of other junked gas ranges, in the warehouse of the Forsythe Salvage Co.”
“In my warehouse?” choked Henry Forsythe, purple-faced.
“From which, with the help of Sergeant Papineau of the Montreal detective force, I removed it.”
“Look here, Power,” George Gray cut in, “this is a ghastly mistake. You’ll be sorry for this. I’ve known Mr. Forsythe for years. It’s unthinkable that he could have—”
“Perhaps it is,” the detective said frigidly. “But I haven’t accused him of murder yet. I merely said that he had a motive and that this gas range was found in his warehouse. But there’s someone else who might have had a motive, who might have benefitted through marrying Miss Forsythe after she had inherited her share of her father’s estate.”
“What do you mean? Damn you, Power, this is going too far!” Gray stepped forward, pale with fury.
“Easy, gentlemen.” It was Leon Pellatte who stretched out a restraining hand, his voice breathing oily peace. “There is nothing to gain by losing our heads. You have made some very blunt, some very pointed, not to say painful, statements, Mr. Power. You are accusing—”
“No one,” said the detective with a quiet smile, “I don’t know myself who the murderer is—not yet. Let me repeat, I’m merely stating motives. And when it comes to that, you had a motive yourself, Mr. Pellatte. There was fifty thousand coming to you out of John Forsythe’s death. Furthermore, you wear a type of toe-cap on the sole of your boots that almost, but not quite, fits the footprint left by the murderer in John Forsythe’s room.”
It was Leon Pellatte’s turn to blow off. He did so with all the Gallic heat and indignation of which he was capable. When the storm had died down Kent said wearily:
“Give me a chance, gentlemen, please, and I’ll clear this mess up.” He opened the oven door of the gas range, brought out a boot. “I found this, wrapped in a pair of overalls and an old coat, tucked inside the oven. You will notice that there is a cleat on the toe. Cleat and sole fit absolutely the footprint found by Sergeant Papineau and myself in the dead man’s bedroom. I am going to ask you two gentlemen”—he faced Henry Forsythe and Gray—“to prove the strength of your alibis by trying it on. I’m asking it in the name of common justice to a man unfairly accused of a terrible crime. If it fits neither of you, I’m ready to—”
And then he snapped out sharply: “No, you don’t!”
George Gray had shot to his feet, was tugging something metallic from his coat pocket. There was a frantic, hunted look in his eyes.
“Drop it, Gray.”
Gray looked at the gun in Kent Power’s hand. Something clattered to the floor at his feet. Pale and haggard, he slumped back into his chair.
The other two men were staring at him incredulously, blankly.
“George!” gasped Henry Forsythe. “You! . . . Of all people!”
Kent turned on him.
“Would you mind going along to my drawing-room, Mr. Forsythe. It’s the last door on the right. You’ll find Sergeant Papineau and two men there. Tell them they can come along.”
The agitated man staggered out of the room. Leon Pellatte turned to the detective.
“Amazing, Power!” He was recovering his aplomb. “How you have worked this thing out! One point after another. The poison—by the way, what poison was it? I am interested—the mystery of its action.”
Kent picked up the gun at Gray’s feet, stared at him a moment. Suddenly he swung on the lawyer.
“I will show you some of it, Mr. Pellatte. Step this way.”
He led the way into the small alcove near the door, picked up a small phial from a shelf.
“Methyl chloride,” he said, indicating the fluid content. “It is volatile; it has no smell whatsoever.” As he spoke he seemed to be listening. “I expect Gray heard of it first from his father, who was a doctor. In any case—”
He stepped back just clear of the alcove, glanced around. He had heard a faint movement. He now saw at the far end of the room, framed in the open window against the darkness without, a pale, desperate face. And then there was nothing in that window that was ten stories above the concrete courtyard below.
He continued to discourse to the lawyer concerning the peculiar properties of methyl chloride until Henry Forsythe came bursting back followed by Papineau and his two men. Forsythe halted just inside the doorway, his eyes blank with amazement, gasped out:
“He didn’t wait,” Kent Power said quietly, putting a light to the cigarette he had stuck into his mouth.