The Killing of Monica Quayles
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
CYNTHIA GOSSETT, even in the flamboyantly furnished eight-roomed house of Medlar’s Row, Hammersmith, at eight o’clock in the morning, was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman. Her hair was one of those rare shades between yellow and golden, her eyes were of an alluring blue, her lips invited continual caresses and her slim body was exactly of that outline which the devil and a certain male dressmaker invented to make more difficult the life of a man with righteous inclinations. As she sat on the arm of her husband’s chair at breakfast time, a newspaper slipped from his hand and he forgot that the coffee was slightly burned.
Malcolm, she murmured, “I do wish that you were not a detective.”
Malcolm Gossett, who was rather proud of his profession and his rapid progress in it, would under any other circumstances have frowned. As it was, his smile was chastened.
“Why. my dear?” he demanded.
She patted his carefully brushed but obstinate hair.
“I don’t think that it is a nice profession, dear. I don’t think the neighbors like it. When I go out to tea I am always served last, and at Mrs. Richardson’s I always get the worst place at the bridge table.”
“That may be because you are the youngest,” he suggested.
She considered the matter.
“I don’t think so.” she decided. “Yesterday there were two girls there younger than I. They made an awful fuss about a girl whose husband is only a tramway inspector.”
“That shows how stupid they were,” Detective Gossett pointed out. “A Scotland Yard man is, anyway, a Government official.”
“So is a prison warder,” she reminded him, “but they
do not apiiear to count for much, do they?” He caressed his wife’s hand. He was still, of course, ridiculously in love with her.
“What am I to do about it?” he demanded. “Tracking criminals is about the only work I’m good for.”
“I don’t believe it,” she rejoined. “You’re dreadfully clever, Malcolm If only you ambitious.” were a little more ambitious.” “Ambitious!” he exclaimed. “Why, my dear. I’m full of ambition. I’m going to be a commissioner in no time, and a commissioner often gets knighted. Then you’ll be Lady Gossett; we shall move to Kensington and you can cut out all this crowd.”
“How heavenly!” she sighed. “Wipe your lips, dear, and promise to take me to the Rialto tonight, and I will give you a kiss.”
Malcolm Gossett complied, and five minutes later boarded his bus for the Embankment.
Conferences had recently come into favor at Scotland Yard and the administration indulged in them freely. There was one proceeding on this particular morning, and Malcolm Gossett, although his recent successes almost entitled him to a place in the councils of his superior officers, was flattered at being invited to join.
The chief himself was there, dark-browed and angry. A great deal of useless talk was in progress, and Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Holmes was a man w ho had scant sympathy with such. He pulled up no less a person than Chief Inspector Betterton, one of the redoubtable seven, in the midst of a rather long-winded argument.
"You’re not pointing anywhere, Betterton,” he complained grimly. "I didn’t call this conference to gloat over our successes. Murders with an obvious motive are et y enough to solve. In time, I admit, w'e generally put our hands upon the guilty person. What I’m concerned about is the growth of these apparently purposeless murders. The murder of Colonel Forsythe down at Godaiming, for instance, and the young Oxford undergraduate, Alexander Hurlby, who appeared not to have an enemy in the world. Both three months old and not an arrest. When I ask questions, the answer usually is that you haven’t been able to discover a motive. The men were killed all the same and under very similar circumstances.”
"Are you connecting the two, sir?” Chief Inspector Betterton demanded.
"I’m not attempting to,” wras the gruff reply. “I’m simply pointing out that it’s rather remarkable that two men without apparently an enemy in the world should have been deliberately murdered by some one who has evidently made a business of crime and has succeeded in leaving not the slightest clue. If I ask you why no arrest of any sort has been made, you will reply at once that the lack of any apparent motive has frustrated all your efforts. Be careful of that line of argument, gentlemen. There has already been an article in the Police Gazette of Paris commenting upon our methods. What we need in the force just now, it seems to me, is a modern Sherlock Holmes, who can consider the case of a dead body and how it became a dead body (rom its more immediate environment and not from studying the family history of the victim. You all seem to me, gentlemen, if I may say so, to be putting the cart before the horse. You look first for motive and secondly for circumstantial evidence, and by the time you’ve finished searching for the one all traces of the latter have disappeared ... Tell me exactly what you’re thinking, Betterton.”
The man hesitated, but his chief's eyes were upon him.
"I was thinking that you were becoming a trifle academic, sir,” he ventured.
"And you, Grinan?”
"I agree with you only in principle, sir,” the inspector replied. “During the whole of the instruction I have given to younger men I have laid great weight upon their concentration ujxm the immediate environment of the crime. It is only after such circumstantial evidence as we have been able to collect is in our hands that I have opened up the subject of motive.”
“And you. Arbuthnot?”
A small, sandy-haired man made prompt response*
“I leave the scientists and the fingerprinting book to do their work,” he admitted, “and come back to them afterward. I go for the motive.”
The commissioner looked down at his papers with something resembling a sneer on his hard face.
"By this time tomorrow morning,” he said, “let me have a hundred word digest from every one of you on the Forsythe and the Hurlby murders. The other cases you are all making a fuss about should be automatic. A traffic policeman could deal with most of them. Don’t waste your time. The two murderers I want to see in the condemned cells are the murderers of Forsythe and Hurlby. That will do for this morning, gentlemen.” _
“THE CONFERENCE at an end, DetecI tive Gossett made his way back to his room, shared by two other fellow workers in the crusade against crime, ail’d looked through his diary. There were various enterprises to which he was partly committed. He might have gone out after a wife beater, investigated a reputed case of smuggling in the neighborhood of Deptford, or spent an hour or so in the West End haunts of one or two well-known criminals __ just to keep them under observation. He did none of these things. He filled in that vital and ominous form requesting an interview with the chief of the staff, to obtain which lie had to make his way into the main office, and as it happened that the chief of the staff himself was rather at a loose end, the interview was accorded in half an hour’s time. The sub-commissioner, a wizened-up looking man with beadlike eyes, a tired mouth and a rasping voice, received him with no special favor. "What is it. Gossett?” he demanded. “I can't see anything in the daily reports or the diary which necessitates an interview. Staff work only here, you know.” “Quite so, sir,” Gossett replied. "My business is simple
enough just new. I wish to leave the force.” The sub-commissioner—Richard Moody his name was—stared at his visitor.
“Got into trouble?” he asked.
“No trouble at all,” Gossett assured him. “You want to leave the force?” the subcommissioner repeated, his voice sounding more rasping than ever. “You—a rising
young detective, probably an inspector before you’re much older, pension fund creeping up all the time. What the devil do you mean by such nonsense?”
“Why do you want to leave it?”
“I’ve just come from a conference, sir, with the chief commissioner,” Gossett replied. “Considering myself as already a free unit, I will beg leave to say that I never heard so much nonsense talked in my life.”
“Lord bless my soul!” the sub-commissioner murmured. “I joined the force,” Gossett went on, “because the study of crime had always been a hobby of mine and I thought it would be a wonderful thing to pursue it officially. I have come to the conclusion that I am only wasting my time. We have a magnificent establishment here and everything
to help, but if our science belongs to today, our methods are a hundred years out of date. I have written out my resignation, sir. I should be glad if you would accept it.”
The sub-commissioner had seldom been more puzzled. He wras also a little angry.
“Have you any special case on, Gossett?” he asked.
“None at all, sir.”
“As a matter of curiosity, are you proposing to embrace any other walk in life or have you come into a fortune?”
“Neither,” was the quiet reply. “I am going to remain in my present profession unofficially.”
The sub-commissioner groaned.
“Don’t tell me that you are about to become one of those loathsome excrescences of cheap modern fiction, a crime investigator?”
Then for the first time Gossett smiled.
“Under another name, sir,” he replied, “that will be my future avocation.”
The sub-commissioner shook his head sadly.
“Last year,” he lamented, “it was flies and midget golf. This year it is fools.”
Malcolm Gossett spent a busy but not profitless afternoon. He took over the lease of a small office in that nest of small streets in the neighborhood of the Adelphi, together with a Turkey carpet and various articles of office furniture, once the property of a commission agent who had gone abroad for the good of his health. He ordered a small brass plate, a supply of stationery, and engaged the services of a smart errand boy. These preliminaries completed, he turned up for his evening meal at number twelve, Medlar’s Row, at the accustomed hour, to receive a rapturous greeting from his beautiful but crafty young wife, who came flying down the stairs looking as much like Marlene Dietrich as any one else in the world could.
Thought I d dress first,” she explained. “Susan’s looking after the dinner this evening. You did say something about a cinema this evening, didn’t you?”
“One of us did,” Malcolm assented.
Let me give you a drink,” she proposed hastily. “The evening paper s just come and you can have a quarter of an hour’s rest. Any news?”
Great news, he answered. “The criminals of the world are laughing in their sleeves. I’ve laid down my career upon the altar of sacrifice. I am no longer a Scotland Yard man.”
“Malcolm!” she gasped. “What are you then?”
Well, he replied, as he shook himself free from his overcoat and, linking his arm in his wife’s, made his way
into the sitting room, “I did think of becoming a coal merchant. Uncle Henry’s business is just being wound up, you know.
I decided, however, to live by my wits. I am a gentleman at large, Cynthia, with a brass plate upon his door which means nothing.”
Cynthia, as full of prejudice as most women but with little curiosity and immense confidence in her man, gave him first her lips and, after an interval, a glass of sherry.
Then she led him toward the easy chair.
“Nothing will prevent our going to the cinema tonight?” she asked.
“Nothing in the world,” he assured her. “I feel just like it.”
“Then I will tell you my news,” she decided. “You know the Tower House opposite?”
“Monica Quayles was murdered there this afternoon.”
Malcolm Gossett was a man of his word, and after dinner the evening was duly spent at the neighboring cinema. He held his wife’s hand most of the time, watched her consume an incredible number of chocolates and sympathized whole-
heartedly with her breathless appreciation of the film. Afterward he took her to a little supper place close by and, on their return to Medlar’s Row, they lingered only for a moment outside their house to glance at the brilliantly lighted edifice opposite.
“Shot,” Cynthia confided. "Through the heart, they say. How some one must have hated her!”
He knocked out the ashes from his pipe.
“You have to hate to kill,” he remarked a trifle didactically.
On the following morning, after a substantial breakfast and an affectionate farewell to his wife, Gossett's curiosity seemed for the first time to be aroused. He crossed the road and accepted in friendly fashion the salutation of the policeman standing at the gate. The latter stood on one side to let him pass.
“Inspector Grinan’s inside, sir, if you’d like to see him,” he announced.
“Thank you,” Gossett replied. “Any arrest yet?” The policeman looked knowing.
“They’ve got the chap all right, sir,” he declared. “I think the inspector is waiting to bring him in himself. Sure you wouldn’t like to go inside, sir?”
“Not in my line now, thanks, constable. Good morning, Grinan.”
The inspector, solemn and ixmderous, came swinging down the garden path. He was smoking a cigarette and had the air of a man content with himself and the world.
“Hello, Gossett,” he exclaimed, “what’s all this about your having left us?”
“It’s quite true,” Gossett acknowledged. “I live just opposite, though, so I couldn’t resist coming across to make a few enquiries.”
“Call of the blood still, eh?” the inspector remarked with a chuckle. “Well, this case wouldn’t give you many thrills. Plain as a pikestaff. I shall be tapping the young man on his shoulder within an hour. I hope that will take the chief off his grouch for a time. Can I give you a lift?”
Gossett accepted and, following the inspector into the car, seated himself by his side.
“Clear case?” he enquired, proffering his cigarettes. “Can’t even make it look difficult,” the other confessed. “Young man in a furious state of jealousy admitted by the only servant a few minutes before the shot was heard. From the moment he entered the room nothing was heard but angry voices and then the shot. The servant came out, saw the young man running down the stairs, saw him throw his revolver away, climb into a car and dash off. There wasn’t another soul in the house.”
“Sounds all right,” Gossett observed.
“The young fellow seems to have been determined to hang himself,” Grinan continued. "Left one of his gloves in the room, his cane and an anonymous letter addressed to himself which you’ll hear about in court. On the evidence I have, I could go straight to number seventeen, Malvern Chambers, and bring him in. I’m going to get a warrant first, though. It looks better, and I have men posted on the spot."
“By the by, where is Malvern Chambers?" Gossett enquired.”
The inspector pointed across the street.
“That block of flats there,” he indicated. “One of our slops outside.”
“Can you put me down here?”
The inspector leaned over and touched the chauffeur on the arm.
“Pull up for a moment.” he directed.
Malcolm Gossett descended, crossed the road, looked in a shop window for a moment, passed two plain-clothes policemen without recognition, entered the vestibule of the Malvern building and. ringing for the lift, mounted to the second floor. A worried looking manservant admitted him into a suite of rooms, and Gossett found himself confronted by the most terrified looking young man he had ever seen in his life.
“My name is Cunningham.” the latter remarked. "What do you want? I can’t see any one. I’m ill. I’m waiting for the doctor.”
The cup of tea which he had been holding slipped from its saucer on to the floor. The young man himself, scarcely noticing it, sank into a chair. His hands gripped the tablecloth, the sweat was standing out in little beads upon his forehead.
“What do you want with me?” he called out. “I can t have people here. I'm not well, I tell you.”
“I want to know whether you shot Monica Quayles?
“I knew that some one would ask me that before long,’ Cunningham groaned. “I should be surprised if the police didn’t come to ask me. I can’t help it. Of course I didn t shoot Monica. She was my girl. We never had even a serious quarrel.”
“Who let you into the house?”
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Continued from page 7
“I let myself in. I have a latchkey. I went into her room just as usual, and there she was lying dead.”
“Why didn’t you call for the police?”
“I was too frightened,” the young man confessed. “I’m not very strong. I get nervous fits. When I saw her lying on the floor I couldn't bear it. I just ran out.” “You’re sure you didn’t shoot her yourself?” Gossett persisted.
Cunningham burst into a stream of incoherent denial. Gossett watched his face and listened.
“If you didn’t kill her,” he asked, “can you think of anyone else who might have?” “How could I tell?” the young man gasped. “I knew none of her friends.”
“It was your revolver, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, but I gave it to her a week ago. She said that she felt frightened at night sometimes.”
Gossett glanced at the clock and sighed. “If you find yourself in trouble about this business I should send for Littledrake,” he advised. “He’s the best criminal lawyer I know.”
The young man gripped the back of his chair as he swung round. Ghastly fear shone out of his eyes. He was white almost to the lips. His hands were twitching in agony.
“I didn’t do it,” he called out. “I didn’t kill Monica. How can they arrest me?”
He collapsed, and his unofficial visitor slipped quietly away.
A CORONER’S INQUEST was held upon the body of Monica Quayles. There were only four witnesses of any importance, the first of whom was Hannah Miles, the housekeeper and sole domestic of the dead young woman. She gave her evidence clearly but with some natural reluctance, and she kept her head sympathetically turned from the ghastly-faced young man who was seated between two officials of the court. She did not admit him into the house that afternoon because he had a latchkey of his own, but she watched him enter her mistress’s room. She admitted that he was in a state of great agitation. She heard the sound of loud and angry voices; she heard the shot, and within five minutes of his arrival she saw him rush out of the house, throw the revolver into a small shrubbery, jump into his car and drive off. Mr. Cunningham, she thought, had always been very fond of her late mistress, but he was of an exceedingly jealous disposition. She admitted reluctantly that there were times when her late mistress had secretly received other guests.
She was followed by Inspector Grinan, who produced an anonymous letter of the usual type, addressed to Ernest Cunningham, Esquire, at Malvern Court, containing a brief record of visits paid to the deceased by various men. That letter had been found by the side of the dead body, as though the young man had forced it upon her attention. The revolver with which the deed was done, and from which only one bullet was missing, bore the initials E. C., and the bullet from the discharged chamber corresponded in every way with the one by which Monica Quayles had been killed. The other two witnesses, the chauffeur and a passer-by, merely testified—the former with the utmost reluctance—to the distracted appearance of the young man and the fact that he was carrying the revolver when he left the house. Cunningham when arrested appeared to have been half stupefied with drugs and drink. He vehemently protested his innocence but could give no coherent description of the tragedy.
The coroner’s summing up was merely a matter of form. The jury, without leaving the box, found that the deceased had met her death through a bullet wound inflicted by Ernest Cunningham. The verdict was, in short, one of wilful murder against Cunningham.
Detective Inspector Grinan and ex-.
Detective Gossett left the court together. The former, according to his custom, paused to light a cigarette.
“That,” he remarked, as he caught up with his companion, “should be a case alter the chief’s own heart. There is circumstantial evidence enough there to hang any man and a perfectly convincing motive to clinch the matter.”
“It seems a snip,” Gossett agreed.
“A snip of the rope for Mr. Ernest Cunningham, I imagine,” the inspector rejoined. “Can I give you a lift anywhere?” “If you’re going back to the shop I’ll come with you if I may. The chief told me I might have the run of the place, and there are some records I should like to look up.”
“Come along and welcome,” the inspector invited. “It’s a department I don’t often visit myself, but I daresay it has its uses.” “Short of a miracle,” Gossett confessed, “I don’t think it’s going to do me any good.”
GEORGE LITTLEDRAKE was a busyman and he rather grudged the quarter of an hour which he knew he must give to ex-Detective Gossett, who was next on the list of his waiting callers. He welcomed him pleasantly, however, and installed him in a comfortable chair.
“Sorry about this poor young chap Cunningham whom you advised to send for me,” he began. “Nothing to be done, ot course. I am briefing Julius Read, with Pennington for junior. Can’t do better than that for him and I understand there’s plenty of money.”
“You look upon the case as hopeless, I suppose?”
The lawyer looked at his visitor in surprise.
“Well, my dear fellow, of course it is,” he answered. “He’s just the type who would deny everything frantically at first and then come out with a confession when it’s too late. As a matter of fact, his chauffeur would swear that he was half tight and would swear that he didn’t take the revolver with him, which of course would do away with a murderous intent; but even then I don’t think it would help him a tinker’s dam to plead guilty. The case is too flagrant. Don’t you think so yourself?”
“I suppose I do in a certain way,” Gossett admitted. “Still, one gets queer hunches sometimes. The young man doesn’t seem to me as though hs’d have the courage to go and shoot a woman in cold blood, when he must have known that there was no getting away with it. However, I don’t want to take up your time, Mr. Littledrake. You’ll be seeing him now and then, of course. There’s one thing I did want you to ask him. Does he know much about Mrs. Miles, the housekeeper?”
“Scarcely anything at all,” Littledrake replied. “Naturally I don’t believe in leaving a stone unturned, so I’ve asked him that already. She’s over sixty years of age: she was a stranger to Monica Quayles when she took the position but had the most excellent references, and she seems to have had no interest in life except doing her work and doing it, I should think, extremely well. She was always perfectly civil to Cunningham, but they scarcely ever met.” “You’ve considered the question of'her having let another man into the house, I suppose?” Gossett enquired.
“My dear fellow, it’s untenable. Both the back and the front doors are open to public observation, and do you suppose if anyone else had been seen about the place we shouldn’t have heard of it at once? Besides, the way she gave her evidence was altogether convincing, and there are numberless little points we won’t go into now which are dead against such a theory.” “It does seem rather far-fetched,” Gossett acknowledged. “A man’s life, though. however loose a lot he may be, is a big thing, Littledrake.” . >(
“Don’t we realize it in my profession? the lawyer replied. “1 make it my chief object in a case like this not to leave a stone unturned. The Crown is perfectly satisfied with its case, and I’m a lawyer, not a detective. If you want to make any enquiries along any other lines, Gossett, I’ll guarantee your expenses, but I tell you at once that I’m convinced it’s hopeless.” Gossett rose to his feet and shook hands. “I’m afraid you’re right,” he admitted.
THE SPANIARDS, in their devotion to a somewhat bloodthirsty sport, have at least sufficient sporting instinct to adopt a lukewarm attitude toward a bull fight in which the animals concerned are hopelessly outclassed. The English public which frequents the famous murder trials has never learnt the same spirit. It likes a killing for its money. After hours in the stuffy court and the occasional patches of dullness, it wants the final thrill; it likes its victim thrown to the sacrifice. Therefore, although the odds freely offered among the white bewigged gentry in the front of the court at the trial of Ernest Cunningham were at least a hundred to one on his conviction, the court was still packed from floor to ceiling and the usual hundreds of pairs of greedy, libidinous eyes hung on the face of the slim white-faced man twisting about in the dock with the air of a caged animal. The final thrill they knew was a certainty !
The case for the Crown was presented almost scornfully. It was not until the great Julius Read himself rose to crossexamine the principal witness for the prosecution that anyone was conscious of a new sensation of interest. Sir Julius had suddenly the air of a man who had something lurking underneath his silken tones and his pose of gentle consideration with this elderly and most respectable witness. One or two in the well of the court, people of quick perceptions, remembered the telephone messages that had been streaming in during the last half hour, remembered too the entrance of a weary looking man with strong features but tired eyes, a man who had been found a place at the solicitors’ table next the famous lawyer for the defense and who, during a brief interval, had been admitted to a conference with the great Julius Read himself. Others had noticed something even more significant—a pencilled note, passed by his lawyer to the prisoner himself, who was standing with dazed eyes fixed upon his counsel. The latter was unaccountably silent for several moments after he had risen for purposes of cross-examination. Mrs. Miles indeed would have left the box but for the kindly restraining hand of the policeman.
“Mrs. Miles,” the great K. C. said at last, and his tone was gentleness itself, “you were in service with the deceased lady, I believe, for about one year?”
“A little longer than that, sir.”
“You came to her, as my learned brother for the prosecution has elicited, with the highest of characters?”
“There has never been any question as to my character, sir, so far as I know.” “Quite so. You gave us to understand,
I believe, that the prisoner was a stranger to you?”
For the first time this quietly spoken, responsible woman seemed to hesitate. There was a faint sensation of interest in the court, mutterings of the passion to come.
I had never seen him before I came to take service with Miss Quayles.”
There was a change in Julius Read’s tone. He leaned slightly forward. Every word he spoke now reached the farthermost comers of the court.
“But you knew who he was. You knew that he was the young man who had seduced your daughter three years ago and had lived with her until he transferred his affections to the deceased.”
Then there was a shiver, a rustling of half-spoken words and half-drawn breaths. The woman in the witness box clutched at
the ledge in front of her. Her face was suddenly grey.
“You must answer my question,” the counsel said sternly, and this time there was a stab in his voice. “You knew that Ernest Cunningham, who was visiting Monica Quayles day by day, was the man who had betrayed your daughter. You knew that Monica Quayles was the woman for whose sake he had deserted her.”
The witness’s hand groped for the glass of water which stood by her side. Her fingers shook so that she could barely carry it to her lips. She set it down.
“Yes, I knew that,” she acknowledged faintly.
There was a strange sound of voices in the court. It seemed as though everyone was speaking at once. It was quite half a minute before order could be restored. Then again the silence became momentous.
“I am sorry, Mrs. Miles, to have to ask you this question. I myself know, but I want you to tell the court. Where is your daughter at the present moment?”
The pilloried woman seemed incapable of speech. The barrister’s gesture was one of scornful compassion.
“I will put my question in this fashion. Is your daughter now an inmate of the Wandstead Lunatic Asylum?”
The woman’s voice came back to her. There was the fury of a demon in her face as she pointed across the court to Ernest Cunningham.
“She’s where that hound sent her!”
Again the sea of voices was beaten back into silence only by threats to clear the court. Julius Read was in no hurry. He waited calmly and patiently. When he spoke there was no mercy in his tone or in his words.
“And, therefore, Mrs. Miles, because the prisoner at the bar was guilty of the seduction of your daughter, and because it was the woman you served, Monica Quayles, who had supplanted her, you murdered your mistress and hoped that the young man there who had wronged you would hang for a crime he never committed.”
“He deserved it; God knows he deserved it!” she screamed, and collapsed helpless in the arms of the policeman who had rushed to catch her.
THE REST of the proceedings were purely formal, but Ernest Cunningham, although he was not a popular criminal, had to wait four hours before the crowds would let him leave the court.
Julius Read took Littledrake and exDetective Gossett across to his rooms in the Temple. He produced tumblers of an especial size, whisky of great age and a syphon of soda water. His arm rested almost caressingly upon Gossett’s shoulder.
“Gossett, my friend,’’ he declared, “you’ve given me absolutely the most thrilling moment of my life.”
“And pretty well of mine,” Littledrake echoed. “I’m not claiming one atom of the credit for this. I never doubted but that Cunningham was guilty. I never saw a gleam of hope anywhere. I don’t wonder at the Crown thinking its case was overwhelming. Circumstantial evidence and motive both there. I can’t think what made you persevere, Gossett.”
Gossett took the longest drink he had ever taken in his life.
“After all,” he said as he put his tumbler down half empty, “there were no complications. Either Cunningham was guilty, or the woman knew all about it and was playing false. The more I’ve seen and heard of Cunningham the more I chslike him, and yet somehow’ I didn’t believe him guilty. Very well. I explored the hundred to one chance. I went for the woman. Every one of her references was genuine. She’s been in two places over fifteen years. There’s never been a thing against her. Yet I wasn’t convinced. I was almost giving up when I got Grinan to let me see the envelope of that anonymous letter. That corresponded w’ith a packet I found in the flat. I took the letter to a handwriting expert. He compared it with Mrs. Miles’ account books and found a marked similarity in the capitals. I discovered a box of the cartridges in a drawer of the murdered woman’s bedroom— not the room in which she was found. This seemed to indicate that Cunningham was telling the truth when he said that he had given her the revolver, and that he had not brought it with him that day. I found out that Mrs. Miles used to take a day and a half off every three months when she was in service with an oldfashioned family in Harley Street to go to Wandstead. I saw the girl she visited there: even took a snapshot of her. I took it to the theatre there and the rest was easy. Everyone recognized it. It was the girl whom Cunningham used to take home from the theatre every night before he met Monica Quayles. Some months after Cissie Miles had been certified insane, her mother took service with Monica Quayles. The rest is horrible to think of, but it is one of the most complete and devilish schemes of revenge on the part of a distracted mother which one can possibly conceive.”
“What a fiend of a woman !” Littledrake murmured.
A clerk entered the room and whispered to his master. Julius Read listened gravely.
“A message from the hospital,” he confided to the others. “Mrs. Miles has been there for two hours now and they say she’s raving mad. She’ll never have to stand her trial.”
Gossett set down his glass empty. He was anxious to get home to his wife.
“The whole thing,” Littledrake summed up as they parted, “goes to prove how wise you were, Gossett, to have left the Yard. Men like you are needed outside. Scotland Yard has only one job, and that is to hunt for criminals and prove them guilty. The defending lawyer like myself is on the other side, of course, but a lawyer is not a detective. Gossett here, for instance, had a hunch that the man was innocent. I’ve talked to Cunningham for hours at a time and I would have laid a hundred to one that he was guilty. Bring me a few more cases like this, Gossett, and I’ll squeeze you into the firm.”
“Let me have the briefs for them,” Julius Read promised, as he shook hands, “and, etiquette or no etiquette, I’ll divide my fees with you.”
CYNTHIA wore blue for the night of the celebration, blue the exact shade of her adorable eyes, crêpe de Chine with a floating scarf. Gossett wore his rarely used tails, a white tie and a white waistcoat. They were
really rather an unusually good-looking
“Cynthia, my dear,” her husband said as he raised his glass, “you are indeed my inspiration. You can tell your friends that I am no longer a policeman. A lawyer has very nearly offered me a share in his practice, and a barrister is only too anxious to divide his fees with me.”
“You dear, clever man,” she murmured. “And wasn’t it nice,” she added with a little sigh of content, “I was at the Meadows this afternoon—the doctor’s wife, you know - and he insisted upon my playing bridge at his table, and his wife made me sit next her at tea? They were all so interested to know that you had started a new business on your own account.”
“Very kind of them, I'm sure,” Gossett murmured with a twinkle in his eyes.
“You haven’t told me about the fee yet,” she reminded him.
He felt for his pocketbook. She beat expectantly upon the table with her hands. Very slowly he rolled out an unmounted photograph.
“What on earth is that, Malcolm?” she demanded.
“Dearest,” he confided, “I am a cautious man. I wanted to bring you the cheque to see, but I wanted also to cash it. I compromised, had the cheque photographed, then cashed it, banked the money, and here we are.”
He stretched it out in front of her. She read it until her voice faded away in wonder.
November the seventeenth, Pav to the Order of MALCOLM GOSSETT FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS STERLING
CUNNINGHAM. “Malcolm,” she gasped. “It can’t be true! Have we all that?” “Every penny of it,” he assured her. “Just for a fortnight’s work!” “It is also.” he reminded her, his eyes straying back for a moment to the crowded court, “the price of a man’s life.” Cynthia looked cautiously around. They were dining very early as they were going on to a theatre, and their table was in a secluded corner. No one was looking. Her hand stole out toward him. He bent his head. She kissed him on the lips and Malcolm Gossett was very happy. Editor's Note—This is the first of a series of detective stories by Mr. Oppenheim. The second will appear in an early issue.