DEATH AT THE BATH
Kent Power encounters another mystery of tangled hates and equally tangled desires
A VOICE droned plaintively above the hum and clatter of the breakfast hour in a Mount Royal grill. “Mistuh Kenneth Power! . . . Mistuh Kenneth Power!”
Kent Power turned from a discussion on the possible results of the Imperial Conference with a couple of friends from the Maritime Provinces.
“They never get my name right.” he said, holding up a long forefinger. Of the bellhop who now sidled up, he demanded in his brisk way: “What’s
the bad news, son?”
"Sergeant Papineau on the phone, sir. Urgent.”
"Thanks -and listen, son. Apart from all other considerations, it’s tough on the family pride that a bright lad like yourself doesn’t know my designation. 'Hie name’s Kent Power.”
Flipping a quarter into the youth’s not unready palm, he rose from the table, said to the medico from Pictou,
"We’ll thresh this thing out when I come back. Hector.” and went striding through the tables.
But the matter of Canadian destiny was not to be settled that day.
Papineau’s voice crackled sombrely over the wire:
“You will come to the coroner’s laboratory, Kent Power? Tout de suite, s'il vous plaît?”
The urgency of that “s’il vous plait” seemed to brook no delay. Excusing himself from his Bluenose companions who, as befitted men of a serious calling on a postgraduate tour, were playing golf with some Montreal confrères, Power summoned a taxi.
He found only two men in the coroner’s laboratorySergeant Papineau, the rotund doyen of the city detective force, and the bright-eyed little coroner, Dr. Morin. They stood on either side of the dissecting slab, the undraped body of a tall, athletic man in the late thirties between them.
"What’s toddling?” he enquired.
“Regardez!” said Papineau.
"This man,” said the little coroner, “is found dead in his bathtub last night. He has drowned himself, one might say. But there is no water in the lungs.”
“Heart attack, eh?”
“But no. The heart is apparently normal. There is nothing in the brain. There is discoverable poison neither in the stomach nor the blood. Why has he died? I do not know. A young man in good health, a strong man without history of sickness.”
“Who is he?”
“M. Julian Morgan.”
Power let out an involuntary whistle, glanced sharply at the dead face. It was Julian Morgan all right—general manager of the Interprovincial Power and Paper Corporation, one of the rising young geniuses of St. James Street. Only a fortnight ago he had seen him striding through the lobby of the Mount Royal Club— tall, powerful, with that hint of aggressive cruelty about eyes and lips that marks the ruthless seeker after fortune; a blonde, brutal giant of a man swinging toward the forties.
“I am called to the Perrowne house last night,” Papineau said. “It is the home of his wife’s family, where they are staying. I have found him as you see. What you think, Kent Power?”
Power’s trained eye was exploring every detail of the powerful frame on the slab. Suddenly he picked up the left hand and dabbed at a discoloration on the forefinger with a piece of gauze. It didn’t wipe away. He held the hand out to Dr. Morin.
“Looks like a bruise or a bum. Burn. I’d say. Might mean something. We’d better make a frozen section of it.”
Twenty minutes later he looked up from the microscopie on the bench by the window.
“Happened within a short time of his death. There’s absolutely no sign of repair; not an enterprising leucocyte in the vicinity.” To the blank-eyed Papineau he explained: “The way we’re built, Pap, the moment any injury occurs to our tissues the reparative blood corpuscles, called leucocytes, streak for the neighborhood. It hasn’t happened here. Which means that the injury must have preceded death pretty closely.”
"Mo' dieu!” exclaimed Pap. “I have not know that, me.” “Lots of things you flatfeet don’t know that you ought to. You’re ignorant. Never read anything but the comic strips.” “Sacre, Kent Power, you will know that—”
Dr. Morin broke in gently:
“You think it means something—a clue, perhaps?” “Dunno, doc. But I’m taking this sputtering volcano” —he took the outraged Pap affectionately by the arm—“to look over the situation at the Perrowne ménage. Be seeing you.”
THE FIRST Canadian Perrowne came to Montreal after the fall of Quebec, having been an officer in Wolfe’s army. It was his grandson who really founded the family fortunes—lumber—and built the handsome old house behind iron-grille gates and shrubbery, green lawn and elm trees, on Pine Avenue. If the still considerable fortune might be sniffed at by some of the newer millionaires, no nose could exalt itself above their social prestige.
The haute noblesse of the city still wondered why the last daughter, Claire, had been given in marriage to Julian Morgan. True enough, Morgan had ended the war as a
colonel with a D.S.O. and a C.B., but his father had been a mere insurance agent in a small Western Ontario town. The war, of course, did those queer unsettling things.
A butler who eyed them very much down his nose permitted them to enter the splendid reception hall. The master, George Perrowne, had gone to a directors’ meeting but would be phoned for. Ascending the staircase to the second floor. Kent Power forgot murder for the moment and let his eye feed on beauty. This house belonged definitely to an armen régime, and time had only mellowed the impeccable taste of its interiors. It breathed the spacious leisure of pre-automobile days. Its polished woods had the glamor of old port. There was a Romney of a former Mrs. Perrowne above the curve of the staircase that caught at your breath.
The bathroom off the large bedchamber into which they were presently ushered was an anachronism. The tiled walls, all the indispensable gadgets of the modern toilet from set-in tub to weighing scales, were too, too Grand Rapidsy and post-war.
He is found in the tub—here,” Pap explained. “When I arrive he is on the mat there, and they are doing artificial. The water in the tub is up to here.”
Power went over the room quickly and then swung on the butler, who had just returned from the telephone.
“Who found the body?”
“I did. sir.”
4 Just tell us about it. By the way, what’s your name?” Emming, sir; George ’Emming.”
“Start from there.”
The family ad been waiting dinner on him over ’alf an hour when Mr. George sent me up to ask ’im if ’e intended
dining with them. I knocked on the door and got no answer, so I stepped inside. Seeing the bathroom door open and the light on, I called to ’im. Naturally, ’e didn’t answer. I crossed ere to the door and saw ’im in the bawth. ’Is ’ead was under water.”
“I dragged 'im out and ran for Mr. George.”
“What time was this?”
“About ’alf after eight, sir.”
“Who were in the house at the time?”
“Besides the family, only the Morgans and Miss Carruthers. Mr. Morgan’s secretary.”
“Who are the family?”
“Mr. George, Mr. Colin, old Mrs. Perrowne and her brother. Mr. Mawson.”
“Where is Mrs. Morgan now?”
“In 'er room. sir. Mrs. Perrowne is with ’er.”
“She and Morgan occupied separate bedrooms?”
A wary flicker crossed the butler’s eyelids.
“And why?” Papineau demanded aggressively.
He got the snub direct;
“I ’ave always made it my business not to enquire into such matters,” Hemming returned with hauteur.
“We’ll see if the rest of the household are as discreet,” Power said curtly. “Bring all the servants up here who were in the house at any time yesterday afternoon or evening.” When the man had gone he said to Pap:
“Let’s empty this.” and indicated the soiled-clothes hamper in the corner by the window.
It was the third article removed that brought a sharp, “Hello!” to his lips—a heavy Turkish towel with a brownish
stain on it. “Looks like blood,” he said. "It’s a fresh towel: hasn’t been unfolded. Better stuff it under your vest. Another inch on your diameter won’t be noticed.”
"I am not fat, me !” Papineau bristled. “It is the appearance I give.”
They stepped out into the bedroom, where a cook, two housemaids, a chambermaid, and a trained nurse who showed annoyance over being herded with mere servants, were being lined up. The latter looked after Colin Perrowne and disclosed the only information of any moment. At a quarter past seven the night before, while coming along the hall outside with Mr. Perrowne’s dinner, she had seen Miss Carruthers, the dead man's secretary, step out of this room and go along to her own. Miss Carruthers hadn’t seen her; had seemed very hurried and preoccupied, almost agitated. Power turned to the butler.
"Is Miss Carruthers staying here?”
“Yes, sir. She’s a friend of the family.”
As the last of the servants disappeared through the door, Kent Power stared through it somewhat sombrely to one across the hall immediately opposite.
“Whose is that?” he asked suddenly, pointing.
“Where’ll I find him?”
“You’ll find ’im there, sir. 'E’s an invalid—bedridden.” “I think I’ll have a word or two with him.”
AMONG the other Perrownes, Colin Perrowne was what ^ some people would call a “sport.” He was that so disturbing Mendelian exception in this Montreal family that otherwise had been breeding true to form for generations. In another tribe he might have been allowed to become a poet, a painter, even an architect; but no Perrowne became one of these. Instead, a period of extravagant living having culminated in a severe attack of influenza, lie had developed tuberculosis. They found him lying on the wide verandah outside his window, with the green Mountain above and Montreal stretching into the haze of the morning sun below.
He had a dark, discontented face in which impulse after impulse seemed to have battled to defeat. But he had quick, generous eyes and a wide, generous mouth, twisted the least bit ironically. His skin was transparent with the unearthly pallor of a late stage of his disease.
I íe was not alone.
"My uncle. Hilary Mawson.” He waved a thin hand at the fat little man who evidently had been reading to him— one of those ineffectual uncles who dog tlx.' Sunday afternoon teas of all big families: a fussy, amiable little fellow.
“Sergeant Papineau and I are here to find out if you am throw any light on your brother-in-law’s death,” Power said to the sick man.
The dark eyes flashed with a sardonic glint.
“I might throw some on his life !” And then with an acrid note of bitterness: “They told me he died of heart failure — they only tell me what they think I should hear these days. You’re detectives. Does that mean he didn't die of heart failure?”
“Dear, dear.” exclaimed Uncle Hilary, rubbing his pudgy hands together in alarm.
The sick man shrugged.
“He was born to be murdered -or hanged.” he said halfmusingly. And then at the look in Power’s quick eye. “My very able brother-in-law had a flair for infuriating people, and being infuriated.”
“You don’t seem to have loved him.”
“Being a lamb, I couldn’t lie down with a lion. How was he murdered?”
“I don’t know that he was.”
“My dear Mr. Power,” exclaimed Hilary Mawson earnestly. “how could he possibly have been murdered? There was not a mark on his txxiy. And in this house !”
Colin Perrowne smiled ironically.
“Hilary doesn’t believe in fairies, like you and I. He’s a realist. He-—"
There came a knock at the door.
“ come in !”
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Continued from page 19
Papineau drew in his breath sharply. A girl, followed by a man, glided into the rm. “Gliding” is the only word to describe her gracious movement, and sweetness and light clung around her like an aura. Slender, vivid, laughing, she had dark, friendly eyes and a clear alabaster forehead. She took the sick man’s hand.
“How are you, darling? . . . Hello, Hilary.”
The sweet, cool breath of her charm seemed to sweep clean this antechamber of death. Papineau watched her every movement, fascinated. Colin Perrowne’s dark eyes glistened hungrily. The little old bachelor fussed like an ecstatic hen over drawing up a chair for her.
THE MAN with her was George Perrowne, and in him the family had bred true to type. He had the bony length of limb, the hawklike nose and low' forehead, the general look of a man riding a horse, that had characterized the tribe since the fall of Quebec. Planting his feet somewhat apart, he eyed the two investigators with a coldness that bordered on the rude.
“I understand,” he said, “that you gentlemen aren’t satisfied with the way my brother-in-law met his death.”
“That’s right,” Power returned.
“Sounds queer to me,” Perrowne said gruffly. “Our doctor said there was no doubt of heart failure. What w'as it?”
“That’s what I’d like to know. There was a mark on his left forefinger that looked like a bum. Did any of you notice it; know how he came by it?” Power’s eyes went around the circle, but met only four headshakes. “What can you tell me of his movements yesterday? I believe you’re his secretary, Miss Carruthers.”
“He arrived back from Northern Ontario yesterday morning at eleven, Mr. Power,” she replied graciously. "I saw very little of him after the first hour until—”
“He got here last night about seven,” George Perrowne cut in quickly. “Had a cocktail and went up to his room. There was nothing abnormal about him then.” "He drank a cocktail?”
“Yes; with Hilary Mawson and me.” Suddenly a quick anger flashed in George 1 errowne’s eyes. “Man, you don’t think we’d poison—”
“George, dear!” Jane Carruthers’ hand touched his arm gently.
“Did Morgan live with you?” Power asked, ignoring the outburst. “I thought he had a house in Westmount.”
"It’s being redecorated, Mr. Power,” the girl said, with that frank friendliness that gave so much to her charm. “Mrs. Morgan has been staying here while he was away.” "Thanks.” Power turned on Hilary Mawson. “You drank the same cocktail that Morgan did?”
“Er—yes, Mr. Power. I actually saw 1 lemming pour them. They were passed at once. Julian drank his and went upstairs immediately.”
Power turned to the girl again.
“You saw him after that, Miss Carruthers?”
A curious thing happened. Without seeming to move, the two Perrownes and old Mawson appeared to lean toward the girl as if to protect her from seme peril. But, seemingly unaware of it. she answered quite simply:
“I took some papers to him for signature at about a quarter past seven.”
Power caught a quick glimpse of jealous hatred in George Perrowne’s close-set brown eyes.
"How long were you in his room?”
“Five or ten minutes.”
"He was able to discuss things coherently? Seemed all right?”
“Was he leftor right-handed?” “Right-handed.”
"You knew considerable of his affairs, Miss Carruthers. Was there any reason why
he should have done away with himself—or been done away with?”
She wavered a moment over the question. And again it seemed that the Perrownes, especially Colin, who had a hectic spot over each cheekbone, seemed trying to shield her from peril.
She shook her head.
“He didn’t commit suicide, Mr. Power. He was not a coward or a weakling.”
"But he could have been murdered?”
The dark eyes were clear, direct.
“Couldn’t we all?”
Was it significant that she evaded the question? He glanced at the three men around her, then at her again.
“You were the last person to see him alive?”
“As far as I know, Mr. Power,” she replied without flinching.
I LIKE HER. She is une fille de coeur," I declared Papineau, as the two men strode down the driveway not long afterward.
“I noticed she had you goggle-eyed,” Power grunted. “Better guard that schoolboy enthusiasm. Somehow I wouldn’t have expected the Perrownes to be so interested in a mere private secretary. Pretty proud tribe. I’m enquiring into her further.”
“But sacre, Kent Power,” protested the gallant Pap, "she has not—”
“I’m keeping an open mind. I’d advise you to do the same if I didn’t know that you go goo-goo every time a yard and a half of feminine pulchritude began playing on you.” And then before Pap could break into furious protest: “It’s perfectly clear the
Perrownes are holding something back. There’s probably been trouble between Morgan and his wife which they don’t want dragged into the coroner’s court. I hope it isn’t worse than that. Better come along to my flat while I examine that towel you’ve got.”
Twenty minutes later, in the little laboratory at the back of his Drummond Street flat. Power turned from the microscope.
"Blood,” he said laconically. “Somebody wiped themselves on that towel. It wasn’t Morgan. The skin on his finger was unbroken. I noticed particularly this morning that he hadn’t shaved, so it couldn’t have come from a cut on his face. Somebody cut themselves in that bathroom yesterday and picked up the towel to mop the flow of blood. It might have been the maid—or the person we’re looking for. We’ll have a look at faces and fingers again out there. And then I’m going to take Morgan’s heart to the pathologists at McGill, for a more careful survey. It’s just possible he did die of angina pectoris or something like that, without any gross showings ”
An apologetic cough sounded in the doorway. It was Hicks, Power’s man.
“líeg pardon, sir gentleman to see you. Mawson is the name.”
“Sacre!" hissed Pap. “What is this?” They found the little man waiting diffidently in the living room.
“Mr. Power,” he began in his fussy, earnest, cherubic way, “I felt I must come here to see you.”
“Sit down, Mr. Mawson,” exclaimed Power; and then to Hicks:
“Bring some ice.”
“I must ask you,” the little man said presently over his tall, tinkling glass, “to treat what I tell you in strict confidence.” “Of course eh, sergeant?”
“Oui! Certainement!” exclaimed the highly excited Pap.
“I’m here, Mr. Power, because I cannot allow suspicion to fall on Miss Carruthers. It seemed to me that you left us attaching a great deal of inq^ortance to the fact that she’d seen Julian Morgan last.”
Pap leaned forward to make a gallant disclaimer, but a kick under the table stopped him.
“George Perrowne had no right to leave her in that position.”
“How do you mean, Mr. Mawson?”
“He has forbidden us to speak of family affairs, and yet he is willing to leave it that she was the last person known to be in Julian’s room.” The little man’s chubby cheeks were indignantly red. “I want you to know that I have not come here without misgivings. It might easily be said that I am actuated by spite. I won’t hide from you that I live with the Perrownes because I am improvident, because it is more pleasing to their pride to have their mother’s brother living there than in a cheap boarding house. Nor will I deny that, while my body is held in their philanthropy, my spirit rebels against their crass worldliness and materialism, their dollar worship, their stupid pride in blood. Here is the situation, Mr. Power:
“Julian Morgan was never persona grata with the Perrowne brothers. Although he was very much their type, they considered him a parvenu. They opposed his marriage to their sister. Failing, they have never let an opportunity slip to play on her feelings against him. He was not an easy man to live with. A cleverer girl than Esther would have had difficulty in handling him in all his moods. She failed, and they helped to make her failure certain. But would they allow a divorce? No; that would disgrace them; above all, they are good Anglicans. Lately Julian has been having financial difficulties, and they’ve been mortally afraid he’d land them in a business scandal. I gather that he and George had a pretty heated discussion on the matter yesterday morning. These are the facts that I thought you should know, Mr. Power.”
“Thanks a lot,” Power said; and then, fixing the other with a shrewd glance: “You are here trying to protect Miss Carruthers, Mr. Mawson. Just where does she fit into the Perrowne scheme of things? How, being Morgan’s secretary, does she happen to be almost one of the family?”
“She was Esther Perrowne’s great friend, although she’s several years younger. The family have never been able to understand why she wanted to work for Morgan. They can’t see that he provided that element of danger and adventure without which life is not worth living.”
“Did love, by any chance, add spice to that ‘element of danger and adventure?’ ”
"THE LITTLE MAN flinched under the I question. It hurt him. For a moment he seemed to struggle between a desire to tell the truth and loyalty to a girl for whom he had such an evident affection.
“Perhaps in the end it did, Mr. Power,” he answered slowly. “I don’t know for certain. There’s no dodging the fact that Julian was susceptible to women of charm, and that he was greatly attracted by Miss Carruthers. But I’m sure of one thing”—he leaned earnestly forward—“whatever was between them up to the time of his death was honorable on her part.”
“Did the Perrownes view her intimacy with Morgan in the same light as you do?” Mawson smiled disdainfully.
“It set their teeth on edge, Mr. Power.” “I take it they’re both in love with her —the two brothers?”
“George is. We all know he has asked her to marry’ him several times. What Colin feels toward her or anybody else, no one knows. Ever since his illness got him, he’s been a man wearing a mask.”
When the little man had gone, begging them again to treat what he had said in the strictest confidence, Kent Power said: “That gives us a motive for the Perrownes, Pap. Colin Perrowne’s face may be a mask to some, but you can’t tell me he doesn’t worship that girl in his self-pitying way. They’re proud, Pap. They hate Morgan and love the girl. They see Morgan getting more and more infatuated with her—I think old Uncle soft-pedalled that; the fox knows more than he tells. They see her getting more and more interested in Morgan. They know they won’t give Morgan a divorce from his wife,
and that the only intimacy between the two could be an illicit one. To save the girl that —to save their pride the hurt of the spectacle of Morgan achieving illicitly what they couldn’t achieve under any circumstances —they murder him.”
“They?” exclaimed Papineau. “Tous deux?"
“One of them. But we don’t neglect Uncle Hilary, Pap. He’s as infatuated over the girl as any of them.”
“But, sacre, you do not suspect that one?” exclaimed the astonished sergeant.
“Why not? I admit I can’t see a motive there, unless it’s a similar one to the Perrownes, but I find it hard to throw off the hunch that he came here just now to try somehow to put us off the real trail. Perhaps I’m doing him a wrong, but it’s the nasty suspicious way my mind works.”
“Me,” Pap declared firmly, shaking his head, “I do not believe he has done this thing. He is not the type—nor Colin Perrowne. That young man is dying, Kent Power. He is bedridden.”
“So the nurse told me—I asked particularly. Says he hasn’t been out of bed in six weeks. But she also says he had rather a bad relapse yesterday. Thinks it was due to the news of Morgan’s death. It might have been due to something else. Give a man a pride like the Perrownes’ and a purpose powerful enough, and he’ll put steel into the weakest sinews.”
Papineau shrugged sardonically.
“He talk of suspects. Sacre, we do not know yet if he is murdered—and how !” “Correct.” Power got to his feet, shook down his razorly-creased trousers. “But tomorrow morning, Pap, old son, we’re giving that bathroom another dekko. Be with me.”
THERE is nothing—rien!” panted Papineau, rising to his feet and mopping the sweat from his face.
They had been fine-combing the floor of the bathroom in the Perrowne house, apparently in vain. But Kent Power was not satisfied-
“Pull down that blind,” he grunted.
With the room darkened, he went to the door and switched on the light. A frown puckered his forehead as he walked slowly toward the little alcove in which the tub stood. From the ceiling here, immediately above the rubber-curtained shower, hung another light whose purpose was to illumine the latter when the curtains were drawn. The shower overhung the head of the bathtub, and one stood up in the tub to take it.
For a moment Power could not see the switch for this shower-light. It was hidden by the rubber curtains and stuck out from the wall of the alcove at the head of the tub. He wondered why it had been placed so inconveniently, and then saw that it had been crowded away from convenience by the other wall fixtures. His hand went out, he gave the vulcanite fingerpiece of the switch a flick. The light came on. He flicked it again. It went off.
And then suddenly his hand went back to that vulcanite fingerpiece. He gave it a quick tug. It came away in his fingers, leaving the bare metal core exposed.
“Got it !” he cried. “Look, Pap *”
Pap stared uncomprehending.
“When Julian Morgan took his bath night before last this vulcanite cap was off the fingerpiece. This is what happened : He got into the bath and had a hot tub to clear off the stains of the day’s travels. Then he decided to finish off with the shower. That meant he needed light inside those rubber curtains—it’d be dark there with only the centre ceiling light on. He touches the unguarded metal of the switch with a wet finger. He’s standing in water. He gets the full force of the electric current through him. It burned the finger that touched the switch and electrocuted him.”
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“Sacré nom d'un nom!” gasped Pap. “Some one knew he was taking the bath.” “Anybody’d know it. They dress for dinner in this household, and people bathe before they put on full dress. The murderer knew the dinner hour. He knew approximately, therefore, when Morgan would be bathing and knew his bathing habits. He sees the maid who has been preparing the rixan for occupation leave it. Morgan will be the next person to enter it. He’ll be the only person to use the bath, since the bath belongs entirely to this bedroom and opens only into it. So the murderer removed the vulcanite guard of the fingerpiece and replaced it shortly after Morgan was dead. Did a hurried job, too. See the glue around the hole? It’s fresh. Otherwise I’d never have loosened it when I touched it.”
Pap was staring hard at the switch.
"It was Morgan’s bad luck not to turn the switch on until he was in the bath, eh?” “Yes; but you can see the switch is in an awkward place. It’s much easier to turn it on after you’ve stepped into the bath.” “And perhaps he does not know that he will be electrocute’ by touching the bare metal, n’est-ce pas?”
“It’s pretty common knowledge. Probably those two cocktails he had before coming up dulled his mind, or perhaps he reached instinctively for the switch without actually looking at it closely. How often do you actually see the receiver of your desk telephone when you pick it up?”
“Oui, for sure!” Pap agreed. ”Mo' dieu, this is a new one on me !”
“We want some one who knows something about electricity,” Power went on concentratedly. “I think we can rule the women out. No woman would be likely to know the technique of the thing, or have the imagination to work the scheme up. As a sex, women are neither inventive nor imaginative. That leaves us with the two Perrownes, Uncle Hilary, and the ’Emming bird. One of them is the murderer. Let’s go down—no, get me the chambermaid who prepared the bedroom for Morgan day before yesterday.”
EAPINEAU hurried off and returned shortly with the girl, Annie Duffy. Power l her into the bathroom.
“You got things ready here for Mr. Morgan’s occupancy the other day, didn’t you?” he asked her as they stopped before the tub.
“Yessir. Me an’ Mrs. Covey,” the awestruck, uneasy girl replied.
“Did you clean the bathroom?”
“About four o’clock.”
“Didn’t by any chance turn that light on, did you?” He pointer! to the globe above the shower.
“Yeah; hadda do it to clean the tub.” "Was the switch like that when you turned it on?”
She stared at the thing nervously for a moment and then shook her head.
"No it had—”
He replaced the vulcanite fingerpiece.
“It was like this, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, like that.”
“When did you leave the bedroom?”
“ 'Bout five o’clock.”
"Thanks, Annie. Here’s a dollar. Buy the boy friend a seat at the pictures tonight.” Thrusting a bill into her tremulous hand, he hurried out to the upper hall, where Hemming was pacing nervously up and down.
“Where’s Mr. George Perrowne?” Power asked him.
“With Mr. Colin, sir.”
“And Mr. Mawson?”
“In Mrs. Perrowne’s sitting room, sir. I .ink ’e’s repairing ’er radio.”
“Repairing her radio?”
"Yes, sir. It’s a ’obby of ’is.”
“Take me to him. Come along, Pap.” They moved along the hall to the west wing, where Hemming knocked on a door.
Mawson’s cheery voice bade them enter and, stepping inside, they found the little man seated on the floor with the internals of a small cabinet radio littering the carpet around him.
“You find me in a world of gadgets,” he exclaimed, grinning up at Power and waving a screwdriver at the mess.
“Mind leaving it?” Power asked him. “I’m having another little conference in Colin Perrowne’s room . . . Hello, you’ve scraped your knuckle.”
The little man sucked at the bleeding spot.
“I scraped it two or three days ago and keep knocking it. As a mechanic, I manage to part with quite a lot of skin. I’ll be with you as soon as I wash my hands.”
Passing out through the door Pap hissed: "Sacre, it was his blood on that towel! And he understands electrics!”
They found the girl, Jane Carruthers, with the two Perrownes in the sick brother’s bedrœm. Once again Power felt the swift tug of her cool charm; once again felt the Perrownes move instinctively to surround her from his intrusion. Colin Perrowne looked thinner, more ethereal in the morning light, but there was the smile of a swordsman in his eyes—alert, glittering, wary. The head of the house greeted him with chill arrogance:
“Well, Power, I hope you’re satisfied this time.”
“Yes,” the detective replied gently, “I know now how Julian Morgan died.”
“You do?” The three of them—the two men and the girl—seemed to tauten, to lean sharply toward him.
“He was electrocuted.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” exclaimed George Perrowne. “How could he be electrocuted in that bathroom? . . . What do you want, Hilary?” He snapped the last at old Mawson, who had just entered the bedroom, followed by Hemming.
“I was told to come here, George,” the little man replied with a curtness that seemed to surprise every one.
“I told him to come,” Power intervened, and then proceeded to explain the mechanism-of death.
George Perrowne continued his unbelief. "My dear man, what proof have you that the vulcanite cap was removed? Is it anything new for an electric switch to be loose? Electric fixtures are always getting out of kilter. Just because you happened to be able to pull the thing off doesn’t mean that Julian Morgan was electrocuted.”
"But electrocution happens to be the only thing that explains his death satisfactorily— and that bum on his forefinger,” Kent Power replied quietly. “And the only way he could have been electrocuted was as I have described. Somebody removed that vulcanite cap day before yesterday between five o’clock and seven, and later replaced it. Somebody in this house.”
He turned to the girl, who had a queer startled look in her friendly eyes now, just as George Perrowne was about to burst out again.
"There’s no reason why we need inflict all this on you, Miss Carruthers,” he told her. “If you’d like to go . . .” he finished with a gesture.
She glanced from one to the other of the two Perrownes.
“That’s a splendid idea,” the sick man said with a flashing grin. “Women and children first, Jane. Come back and see me after the Great Inquisitor has gone.” He made a wry face in Power’s direction, which caused a general laugh, to the accompaniment of which George Perrowne escorted her to the door.
POWER didn’t follow her going as Papineau did, but watched the eyes of the two Perrownes and old Mawson. This time the conviction became irresistible that these three men were infatuated by her. It was like the catch of a sob behind the glitter in Colin Perrowne’s feverish eyes. It was something that burned and tortured in his older brother’s hungry glance. It was Indian summer singing in the bathos of Hilary Mawson’s pitiful regard.
As the door closed behind her, Power said sharply:
“I want your alibis, gentlemen, for yesterday afternoon.” He swung on the butler. “Were you in the bedroom across the hall between five and seven, night before last, Hemming?”
“Can you prove it?”
The fellow hesitated a minute, gulped hard and then exploded :
“Yes, sir. At five I cleared the tea things away. I was busy in my pantry from then until seven, when I took the cocktails into the drawing-room and served them to Mr. George and Mr. Hilary.”
“Is there any one to say you were in the pantry all that time?”
“Yes, sir. Cook and Hubert, the housemaid, were there.”
"Good. You can go.”
When the door closed behind the greatly relieved butler, Power swung on George Perrowne.
“Where were you between five and seven, Mr. Perrowne?”
Cold anger glittered in the elder Perrowne’s eye. But he seemed more profoundly ill at ease than mere irritation would warrant.
“I’m not,” he growled, “going to be treated like a criminal in my own house.” “This is all in your interest.”
“I agree,” said Colin Perrowne. “Trot out your alibis, George. They won’t bite you.”
The older brother forced himself to speak. He could account for everything but the half-hour between half-past six and seven when, so he said, he was dressing in his own room.
“Which is yours?” Power asked him.
“The one next this, on the right.”
“There was no one with you during that time?”
“I’m going to put a direct question to you, Mr. Perrowne. You don’t have to answer it unless you want to. Were you in Morgan’s room during that half-hour?”
“I was not!” growled the other man. “Thanks,” Power turned to the man in the bed. “You, of course, were here all the time?”
“Yes,” Colin Perrowne replied, that challenging, sardonic smile hovering about mouth and eyes. “I was alone from a quarter to five when Jane Carruthers left me, until somewhere around seven when my nurse brought dinner. For the two months previous to that I was occupying this bed” —his voice went suddenly bitter as he flung a thin hand toward the surrounding walls —“in this cage.”
“What about you, Mr. Mawson?” Power turned on the little man, who had been listening to everything with a lively and bird like interest.
“I was out all afternoon, Mr. Power,” came the unexpected reply. “I didn’t return until about seven, when I met George in the drawing-room and had cocktails. I’d been walking on the Mountain and was too tired to dress for dinner. That’s right, isn’t it, George?”
“Yes,” growled the elder Perrowne.
His brother started coughing. It wasn’t a pleasant business. Old Mawson helped him to a comfortable position, but the perspiration was dripping from him before the spasm died down.
“I think he’s had enough,” George Perrowne growled.
“I agree,” Power replied. He turned to Pap. “Let’s go.”
IN THE TAXI southward bound, the I rotund detective exclaimed :
“Where are we now? When I see that little man at work with all his tools I say, ‘Voilà, we have the man who has remove’ the vulcanite cap.’ And then the scrape of his knuckle. But his alibi—c’est parfait, n’est-ce pas?”
“How perfect?” Power grunted. “He says he was walking on the Mountain. Was he? What was to prevent him from slipping into the garden, and then into the house, without being seen? That clump of shrubbery comes right up to the terrace by the east wing.” Papineau shook his head.
“Non, non! I do not see him in this affair, me. What you think, Kent Power?” The younger man shrugged.
“I know one of those three men removed that cap. I’m hanged if I know which. None of them has a complete alibi, but that doesn’t prove they did the thing. We’ve got one last card up our sleeve—that towel. Better come along while I give it a last dekko.”
In his own laboratory a few minutes later, Power dragged on his white coat and set to work. First, he cut from the towel that part of it which contained the stain. This he laid in the bottom of a small porcelain dish containing a small quantity of saline solution. When the latter had pretty well taken up the stain, and was a fairly rich brown, he put the dish in front of his electric fan and evaporated it down to about a third of its original quantity. He then transferred the residue to a series of microscopic slides and, after staining them carefully, proceeded to examine them one by one under the oilimmersion lens of the microscope.
He was at the fifth when suddenly a sharp exclamation escaped him. He straightened up.
“Take a dekko at this, Pap!” he cried, his voice taut with excitement.
Papineau laid down the society page of a newspaper with which he had been regaling himself, and glanced gingerly down the eyepiece.
“See that little clump of red rods, over by five o’clock? One of ’em has a little blob on the end.”
“Oui! Qu’est-ce que ce sont ces petits là?” “They happen to be tubercle bacilli.” Pap’s head came up with a jerk.
“Sacré nom d’un nom !” he gasped. “Then it is—”
“Colin Perrowne, Pap. He must have made Morgan’s bathroom as a last desperate effort. Perhaps it was when he went back to replace the cap that he took a spasm of coughing, snatched up the towel to muffle the sound, and streaked it with blood and a bit of sputum. I felt from the beginning that the girl meant more to him than to the other brother. He’s sensitive. The Perrowne pride bums in him like a hot flame—you can see it in his dark, feverish eyes. He knew he couldn’t have her himself. Perhaps he even knew that George Perrowne could never win her. But he was determined that Morgan, whom he hated and despised, shouldn’t reap beauty where the Perrowne sickles had failed. What’s more, he knew he was dying—and dying men can do desperate things. You’ve got plenty to arrest him on.” But Colin Perrowne was not arrested. When, half an hour later, Papineau presented himself again at the house on Pine Avenue, it was to be informed by the haughty Hemming that the younger brother had just succumbed. It was a hemorhage, the butler said, adding accusatively: “Brought on, I ’aven’t a doubt, by what ’e was put through in ’is state this morning.” And because Pap knew when he was beaten, he let it go at that.—The End