THE STORY: While vacationing in New Brunswick, Inspector Jean LaTour of the R. C. M. P. is watching a university rugby game at Rockingham when he receives an order to go to the town of Wolfeton to investigate a murder.
Sergeant John Hollow was stabbed to death by a person unknown, while sitting in the common room of the Wolfeton police station. Constable Durham, in another part of the L-shaped room at the time, claims that he heard nothing. Chief of Police Pecksniff and Inspector Leyden —the latter from Montreal to capture rum runners—were in another room of the station, but can throw no light on the crime.
Durham admits there was bad feeling between him and Hollow. Pecksniff refuses to divulge the identity of a visitor to his office that night, saying he will question the person himself. Leyden tells LaTour that Pecksniff hated Hollow because the latter married Pecksniff's one-time sweetheart, who died a few months previously.
The Corrigini gangsters were in the cells that night. Bud Lawlor, a criminal discharged on probation, had threatened Hollow. He ivas seen at the station entrance by Constable Fellows, who thinks he entered. He is arrested. As LaTour and Leyden are inspecting the cells, Fellows declares he has found the fatal knife and knows the motive—and Lawlor makes a break for freedom.
Lawlor is captured and charged with Hollow's murder, but LaTour believes him innocent and retains Lawyer Macpherson to defend him. Corrigini admits to LaTour that on the night of the murder he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape.
LaTour interviews Hollow’s daughter and learns from her that a large carving knife is missing from the house. Their conversation is interrupted by Robert Spengler, the girl’s sweetheart and a student at the near-by university in Rockingham. Spengler’s actions arouse LaTour's suspicion. With Lawyer Macpherson, he decides to continue his investigation at the university.
They attend a football game in which Spengler plays brilliantly but, in a fit of temper, attacks another player and is dismissed from the field. The investigators learn from the dean of the men’s residence that though Spengler is hard-working he is not a capable student and the university authorities have been obliged to rusticate him. They learn, too, that on the night of Hollow’s death Spengler, who had been given leave to go to Wolfeton, did not return to the university as he had told LaTour.
Lawlor’s trial opens and Chief Pecksniff, on the witness stand, reveals that his mysterious visitor in the police station on the night Hollow was murdered was Spengler’s father.
Continuing the Journal of Lawyer Macpherson
THIS STARTLING pronouncement so much surprised me that I scarcely knew how to continue my questions. However, I elicited the information that Dr. Spengler had telephoned Pecksniff at half-past seven on the night of the crime and had asked to see him. He had been told to come over to the station, and had been there from about ten minutes to eight until about five minutes before Leyden discovered Hollow's body. Dr. Spengler’s business had been of a private nature.
When I had finished with Pecksniff it was nearly four o'clock, and the court rose for the day.
Foulkes and I were intercepted at the door by LaTour and Leyden. Leyden was introduced to us.
“Will you come along with us, please?” LaTour said to me. “We are going up to the police station. There is something we want to talk over.”
I signified my assent and Foulkes left us.
When we reached the police station, LaTour led the way into the common room where Hollow had been killed. There was no one in the room but ourselves.
Leyden smiled as he entered the room, and said:
“I think you are handling it well, sir. There should be a good deal of honest doubt in the minds of the jury members.”
I acknowledged this, and replied:
“I take it you are not impressed with the case for the Crown?”
“Sheer railroading,” he replied.
“Oh,” I said, somewhat mystified.
“Leyden and I wanted to see if Dr. Spengler, when he left Pecksniff’s office could have turned to his right and come into this room, unseen by the chief. Leyden is going to impersonate the chief, and you, if you will, are to be Hollow. I am to be Spengler. You are to sit here in this chair. Inspector Leyden will show you how.” I sat down and had my arms folded over my stomach. “So,” LaTour went on. “Now the newspaper. That is excellent. Now close your eyes and pretend to doze.”
He and Leyden left me. I heard the murmur of their voices in the chief’s office, and wondered idly where that dignitary was. The voices ceased. Then someone s fist struck me a light blow on the chest. I looked up to see LaTour smiling over me. He shouted:
“All right, Leyden ! Did you see or hear anything?”
Leyden’s voice replied:
“No. I thought you went out to the street. I didn’t hear or see you go into the room.”
LaTour said to me:
“It is quite easy. All that is necessary is partly to close the door to the chief’s office as you come out so that anyone seated at the desk is easily seen as you come along the corridor, but so that he, with his back to the door, could not see into the corridor without turning completely around. And in the time it took him to turn, anyone in the corridor could be out of sight if he chose. I took several heavy paces toward the street door, then crept back in here. Spengler might easily have done the same.”
Leyden had rejoined us by this time, and we were all seated in the common room.
“But Dr. Spengler ...” I was beginning in tones of remonstrance when I paused. The footsteps of someone running hurriedly in the corridor could be heard. The door of the chief’s office opened and shut. The footsteps approached the common room, and Brian Woodworth appeared in the doorway. He burst into the room, stumbled over the sill of the door, and collapsed breathless in LaTour's arms.
LaTour glanced sharply at him, and his brow puckered in sudden thought.
“Foulkes told me you were here !” Brian gasped. “Spengler is dead. Suicide!”
“What !” we exclaimed. “Young Spengler?”
“Oh, no, no!” Brian said. “His father—the doctor.”
“Good heavens !” breathed Leyden.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“I saw him,” Brian said, “only a few minutes ago.”
“Tell us—” I began, but LaTour cut in.
“Not here,” he said. “Come along to my rooms and then you can tell us the whole story from beginning to end.
Leyden looked at us doubtfully, but LaTour did not ask him to come with us. I think LaTour felt that we might find valuable evidence and was not disposed to have the enemy get wind of it. He wanted to prepare a crushing public defeat for the Wolfeton police as well for the prosecution.
The three of us repaired to LaTour's rooms. LaTour summoned a constable of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and bade him take shorthand notes of Brian’s story. Then he said:
“Now, Mr. Woodworth, suppose you begin at the point where we left you in Rockingham and give us a chronological account of what has happened—unless, of course, there is something in connection with this suicide which must be acted upon at once.”
Brian by this time had recovered much of his breath and equanimity.
"No, I don’t think there is,” he began, and paused to collect his thoughts.
“As you suggested to me,” Brian Woodworth continued, “I took up my residence in a small inn on the outskirts of the town. But I soon realized that I could not hope to watch Spengler from there, so I moved to the Station Hotel, which is just by the railway station. Spengler made no effort to leave during the week, and between trains I cultivated the acquaintance of people connected with the university. I was able to push my investigations into Spengler’s character, but without astounding success except in one way. I learned who was Spengler’s most intimate friend. I succeeded in getting myself introduced to this man—an undergraduate in his fourth year—and invited him to dine with me. He was rather mystified but accepted.
“After we had dined, I took him along to my sitting room and told him frankly who I was and what I was doing.
“'I want you to understand.’ I said, ’that whatever you can tell me about Spengler will be helpful in clearing this thing up, and if the man is innocent you may help to establish his innocence.’
“He looked at me thoughtfully. He was a fine, frank young fellow, straight and clean as could be, and I foresaw his answer before he spoke.
“ ‘Look here,’ he said. ‘As I understand it, you are trying to establish a case against Spengler. You ask me to help you against my friend. Well, I won’t do it. Good night.’
“I saw that he probably knew something, and waved him to sit down again.
“'I quite understand and sympathize with what you say,’ I replied, ‘but I do not think you have quite understood me. What you can tell me may explain a great deal in Spengler’s behavior which is to us, at the present time, vague and suspicious. For example, if you could tell me whether or not he is married, what his relations are with the Hollow girl, you might very well do him more good than harm.’
“He looked doubtful and I pressed my advantage.
“ ‘You are convinced yourself of his innocence?’ I asked. “
‘Oh yes,’ he replied, but without, I thought, a great deal of conviction.
“ ‘Then the best service you can do him is to be perfectly frank with me. If he is innocent, the more we know about him the more apt we shall be to dismiss suspicion from our minds.’
“ ‘Well,’ he said at length, ‘what do you want to know? I should tell you that, though I am probably his closest friend, he is not the sort who makes intimate friends, nor does he make many confidences. But if you think it will help him I shall answer your questions.’
“ ‘Good man,’ I said. ‘Now, to begin with, how long have you known him?’
“ ‘Three years,’ he replied. ‘We have been friendly for two.'
“ ‘A difficult friend?’ I suggested.
“ ‘Quick-tempered and moody, yes,’ he replied.
“ ‘A hard-working student, though?’
“ ‘Yes. He is ambitious and determined.’
“ ‘Stubborn, perhaps?’
“ ‘Well, yes. Stubborn.’
“ ‘His work has gone off recently, hasn’t it?’
“ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ’Ever since he fell for the Hollow girl.’
“ ‘What can you tell me about that?’ I asked.
“ ‘Spengler met her last spring. It was a case of love at first sight. He saw her constantly all last summer vacation.
When her mother died he wanted to marry her. That led to complications.’
“ ‘He came in to see me one night early this term. He told me about this girl—of course, I had known about the affair for some time—and said he was going to marry her. He said they would have to do it secretly because, if his father came to know of it, he would cut off his allowance and so prevent his continuing his college career.’
“'I talked a bit of rot, you know — about it not being quite the game. I said that if his father was supplying the money for his college work Spengler could hardly take it on false pretenses. He got huffy and went away.’
“ ‘When was this?’ I asked.
“ ‘About a month ago,’ he replied. That worked out to about a fortnight before Hollow’s death. So I asked: ‘Did Spengler mention the girl’s father at all?’
“ ’No,’ was the reply, ‘but I gathered from what he said that the girl’s father objected to him. He had to meet her secretly, he said, because of her father, and it wouldn’t go on any longer.’
“ ’So you don’t know whether or not he is married?’ I asked.
“ ‘No,’ he said. ‘But two weeks after the conversation I have described, Spengler came to me and said very desperately that the game was up, that the old man knew and was going to ruin him. Then he broke off. I think he remembered that he had quarrelled with me the last time we had discussed the subject, and I, of course, did not press him to go further.’
“‘Ah!’ I exclaimed. ‘Could you tell whether he was referring to his father or hers?'
“ ‘No,’ he replied. 'I couldn’t tell. The poor chap was in a frightful stew in another way, too. He had just received notice that he was to be rusticated for a term—his work had gone all to pieces, you know, as a result of this affair with the Hollow girl— and he had to go into Wolfeton to see his father about this.’
“ ‘By Jove !’ I said, this was on Tuesday the twenty-fifth?’
“I don’t know the date,’ he replied. ’It was the day after he received his notice of rustication.’
“That ended the essential part of our conversation. I told the chap we should hope to find his friend innocent, and we left it at that.”
AFTER A PAUSE, the narrator, Brian Woodworth, continued:
“Spengler went up to Wolfeton the afternoon of the fourteenth and came back that night. Nothing else happened until yesterday, when I heard from one of my various sources of information that Spengler was ill and confined to his room. He had refused to allow anyone to see him. But almost immediately after hearing this I saw him on the street—quite an accidental meeting. He looked ill enough: his face was ghastly. In addition to his other worries, people have been cutting him in Rockingham because of his exhibition of temper on the football field.
“When I saw him I swung round and followed. He went to a drugstore, and I also entered. I could not hear what he ordered, but my attention was attracted by the fact that the clerk who was attending to him went into a whispered conference with the proprietor and eventually returned to say to Spengler: 'I'm sorry, sir, but we can’t give you that without a doctor’s order.’
“Spengler left without a word, and I followed him. He walked quickly and with a concentration which prevented him from noticing me, although we went several miles through open country and I was a very apparent shadow.
“By evening we had returned to the village, and he directed his steps—with a purpose which had hitherto seemed to be lacking—to the railway station. But we were too late to catch the six o’clock train for Wolfeton. Spengler marched straight on to the platform, however, and got aboard a local train for Brighton. I followed.
“Rockingham to Brighton is a run of only fifteen miles, and it was, therefore, shortly after eight that we got down from the train. Spengler went at once to a house in the residential part of the town and remained there for three hours. I noted down the number of the house and the street, so that if we like we can make enquiries there.”
Brian paused, and LaTour asked him:
“Was there a church in the vicinity?”
“Yes, two doors away. Why?”
“I’ll tell you again. What happened next?”
“At midnight,” continued Brian, “we were both sitting dozing in the station. Nothing happened, so far as I know, until nearly two o'clock when the express came in. Its noise awakened me. I boarded the train and went through it. Spengler was aboard right enough. He took a ticket for Wolfeton and I followed suit.
“We arrived at half-past three and I followed Spengler to the Hollow house.
“He went in without knocking. He was apparently expected. Lights appeared immediately in the front room. I crept close to the window but could hear nothing. It was confoundedly cold, so I decided on a daring course.
"The front door was still unlocked. I knew that, because I was close enough to have heard if it had been locked after Spengler entered. I had noticed, too, that it opened without noise. I cautiously approached the door and turned the handle. Gently I applied pressure, and the door swung open. I entered a dark hallway and closed the door very quietly. But I found myself no further advanced. The door to the living room from the hall was closed, and I could not distinguish the words that were being spoken behind it.
“I wondered if I dared open that door, too, and decided against it. I was about to give the whole thing up as a bad business when, my eyes becoming more accustomed to the darkness, I perceived a passageway leading to the rear of the house. I followed it through the kitchen and so to another door leading into the front room from the back. This door did not fit closely. A glimmer of light trickled through. The voices were more distinct, and by and by I could distinguish words.
“Alice was speaking. ‘Whatever happens, Bob,’ she was saying, 'I love you and I shall stick by you. You see it through your own way, and I’ll back you up all I can.’
“ ‘My dear.’ Spengler said and kissed her. ‘I'll see father tomorrow and tell him the whole story.’
“He was making love to her and I felt a cad, peeping like that. So I left. I got some sleep at a rotten hotel and in the morning went round to the Hollow cottage, where I took up a position to watch the door.
“About two o’clock Spengler came out, kissing the girl passionately and generally behaving like a knight about to journey to the wars. I knew he was going to his father’s, so I waited to see what Alice would do. She made no move to leave and eventually I set off in pursuit of Spengler.
"I had some trouble in finding where Dr. Spengler lived, but at last a postman, whom I stopped on his rounds, gave me the necessary directions, and I hurried there as quickly as I could. It is, as you probably know, at the farthest side of the town from the Hollow cottage, and it was quite half-past four when I reached it.
“I ran in through the garden gate and went across the garden to some French windows which opened, as I discovered, into the library.
“The windows were not locked, and I pushed one open to gain admittance. I looked into the room. I saw a man lying on the floor, and young Robert Spengler at the grate, burning some papers. He heard me and turned:
“ ‘You again,’ he said, in a tired voice. ‘Well, nothing matters now. My father has killed himself.’
“I went into the room and looked at the dead man. There was a striking resemblance to the son. I saw no sign of wound and looked to young Spengler.
“ ‘Poison.’ he said briefly.
“ ‘Have you summoned help?’ I asked.
“'I shall now,’ he replied, and pulled a bell rope.
“ ‘How did it happen?’ I asked.
“ ‘Oh, get out,’ he said. ‘I'll tell the proper people when the time comes.’
“Well, I got out. I knew that the local police would be sent for so I came seeking you to tell you what I knew.”
Brian relaxed. He crumpled in his chair and the animation left his face, showing it tired and drawn.
“Fine work, sir,” said LaTour. “Here, drink this and you’ll feel better.”
“I’m tired, that’s all,” Brian said, drinking. “What are you going to do?”
“You are going to get some sleep,” LaTour replied. “As for us, we shan’t do anything just for a bit. But after the Wolfeton police are through with young Spengler I think I shall have a talk with him.”
He went to the telephone and called a number.
“Hello,” he said. “Is Mr. Leyden there? No? Will you ask him to call me as soon as he comes in?” He gave his name and telephone number and turned to us.
“Run along and get some sleep.” he said to Brian. “I’ll call you, Mr. Macpherson, if anything important turns up.”
“This looks,” I said, “as though we had been wrong. It must have been Dr. Spengler who killed Hollow, after all.”
LaTour looked at me curiously.
“We were wrong enough,” he said. “Yes, we have been very blind.”
LaTour practically pushed us out of the room, so I could not ask him what he meant. To me the whole thing seemed obvious. For some reason or other, probably because Hollow had threatened to broadcast the fact that Alice was not his daughter, Dr. Spengler had called on Pecksniff to try to get him to use his influence on Hollow to hush the matter up. He had failed, and then Dr. Spengler had stabbed Hollow.
His son probably knew or guessed, and finally had gone to his father to ask him if they were to allow an innocent man to be convicted of murder. Dr. Spengler felt that the game was up. He poisoned himself, and left, I supposed, a confession clearing Lawlor.
While Brian slept, I talked the whole thing over with Foulkes, and we decided that if there were no confession we should call young Spengler as a witness for the defense.
It was about eleven o’clock when the telephone rang. It was LaTour, and he wanted me to come over at once. Leyden was with LaTour when I arrived. I looked expectantly at them. LaTour bade me sit down and said :
"Mr. Macpherson, I am afraid this business is not going materially to affect your case for Lawlor’s defense.”
I looked surprised.
“It is a clear case of suicide,” Leyden said. “Here is the medical evidence.”
I glanced through the document he gave me.
"Yes,” I said, “a quick-acting poison, self-administered, known to have been in his possession. The taste is characteristic, and as it was taken in clear water he could not have taken it by accident. Nor could it have been administered by anyone else.”
“No,” LaTour said. “His son is cleared, you see, of any complicity.”
“Yes,” I replied. “But there is the question of motive. Why did Dr. Spengler kill himself? I think therein we shall have a point for the defense which will be of great help."
Leyden shook his head.
“No,” he said. “Here is the evidence of a prominent colleague of Dr. Spengler. Stripped of all its technical verbiage, it means that the doctor had been suffering for some time from acute melancholia and that this act was far from unexpected.
“Then there is the son’s statement. Shall I read it you?”
Leyden read :
“I have been doing very badly at college, and I have fallen in love with Alice Hollow, the daughter of a policeman. This afternoon I called on my father to tell him that I had been rusticated from my college, to ask him for an allowance to keep me until I could get a job, and to ask him to allow me to marry. When he learned who the girl was, he refused and was very angry. He was also very disappointed at my failure in college. Then the telephone rang. I do not know what was said at the far end, but my father was greatly perturbed. He spoke very slowly and sadly, saying: ‘Oh, yes? Oh, well, it can’t be helped.’
“Then he asked me to leave the room. He was no longer angry but very sad and solemn. He looked very strangely at me. I left him alone for some fifteen minutes, then, anxious to know what he intended to do about me, I returned to the room. I found him dead and summoned the police.”
“Have you questioned Spengler on that?” I asked.
“Yes,” Leyden replied. “I examined him alone. I questioned him very sharply and couldn’t shake him.”
“And you, LaTour?” I queried again.
“I have sent for Spengler.” LaTour replied. “He will be here in a few minutes. We shall talk to him together.”
“Very well,” I said. “I should think we could shake him. His statement doesn’t square with Brian’s story in all details.”
"Brian’s story?” repeated Leyden. “What is that?”
LaTour told him briefly, and while he was doing so young Robert Spengler was shown into the room.
This was the first occasion on which I had met him. His face was set now in hard, stubborn lines. Dark circles underlaid his eyes.
LaTour introduced him very formally to me and asked him to be seated.
“We have your statement here, Mr. Spengler,” he began, “and there are some questions about it that we want to ask you. I think I might say that Mr. Macpherson has some idea of calling you tomorrow as a witness for the defense in the trial of Albert Lawlor for the murder of John Hollow.” This statement at once brought the sinister influence of the Hollow murder into the atmosphere. Spengler started, then took a grip on himself.
“Did you not see your father at dinner time on the night of Hollow’s death?” LaTour asked.
“Did you not tell the dean of your college that you were going to see your father?”
“I told him that in order to get leave.”
“And where did you go that night?”
“I went to see Alice Hollow and took her to the movies.”
“Where did you spend the night?”
“I went back to Rockingham.”
“But they say at the college that you didn’t come in that night.”
“I was in before eleven. They have no way of checking up before that hour. I suppose they took it for granted that since I had leave I would stay overnight.”
“Why did you ask for leave, then, if you were not going to stay overnight?”
“I wanted the leave so I could stay if I wished to.”
“So you changed your mind about staying after you got to Wolfeton?”
“Alice had a headache and wanted to go home early. We thought her father would be home, so that there was no use in my going in with her. There was no point in kicking my heels around Wolfeton. So I caught the nine o’clock train back to Rockingham.”
“Oh.” LaTour was baffled. I had not credited Spengler with the brains to have his story so pat and to be so ready with his answers.
“Last night,” LaTour said, “you stayed with Alice Hollow?”
“No,” said Spengler.
“No?” repeated LaTour. “You were seen with her in her house at a late hour last night, and again this morning.”
“I went to see her last night—or, rather, it was early this morning, for my train did not reach Wolfeton until after three o’clock. I held a conversation with her. Then I went to a hotel near by—here, I can show you my receipted bill for the night”—he produced the bill, which LaTour examined closely and then returned to him with a nod—“and there I slept till noon. Then I went over to have breakfast with Alice.”
“You were heard to say, ‘I’ll see father tomorrow and tell him the whole story.’ What did you mean by that?”
“I suppose you had a spy there. Well, I was referring to my failure and rustication at college. I had not dared tell him before. You will find that in my statement.”
“And you were seen destroying a paper in the library where your father was lying dead. What was in that paper?”
“There was no paper. That was a mistake. Your spy is not infallible.”
LaTour was nonplussed, but determined. He went over the whole thing again, asking the same questions in slightly different form, trying to get a contradiction. He failed. Spengler was ready for him and gave the same answers. LaTour threw in a question about the trip to Brighton. Spengler said that, having missed the six o’clock train to Wolfeton, he had gone over to Brighton to see a friend there. He wanted someone to talk to about his rustication. He was very worried about it.
Who was this friend?
A Mr. James, Spengler said.
Spengler repeated the address given us previously by Brian.
It was past one o’clock now. Spengler was tired but firm and unshaken. LaTour let him go. Then the three of us had a smoke together and separated in rather dull spirits.
There was no point in putting young Spengler on the stand. His evidence would in no way help my client. I resolved to make the best of a bad job by putting Lawlor on in his own defense, though I knew this to be risky."
THE NEXT MORNING was dull and heavy, and I had a moment of superstitious foreboding as I stood in the hotel lobby with Foulkes, looking out on the forbidding weather and waiting for the taxi that was to take us to court. While we were waiting, LaTour joined us.
“You know,’’ he said, “that Corrigini is coming up for trial at this circuit?’’
“No, I didn’t know,’’ I replied without much interest.
“Yes,” LaTour replied. “His case follows Lawlor’s.”
“Oh,” I said, then added: “It would be of no use to put you on the stand, LaTour, to show that Corrigini was out of his cell that night because Farquhart would only go on to question you about why you didn’t follow this up. He’d get out of you the fact that Corrigini’s cell mates all swore that he didn’t leave the room.”
“Yes, I know that,” LaTour replied. “Well, here’s your cab. Good luck.”
The Crown had rested with the conclusion of Pecksniff’s evidence, and Foulkes rose to make our opening speech. He did this sort of thing well, and I was saving myself for the final address in case things went badly with our witnesses. I knew Lawlor’s story, of course, and believed it, but I was afraid Farquhart and DesBarres would entangle him in cross-examination.
There was, as Foulkes began to speak, a tenseness in the atmosphere, almost as though the court and the spectators sensed the struggle between us; and there was, of course, as there always is in murder trials, the realization that a man’s life was at stake.
“May it please your Lordship,” Foulkes began, “learned counsel for the Crown have assured us that they would prove three points, namely, motive, opportunity and possession of the weapon.”
He went on to show that none of these points had been proved, discredited Mrs. Smith’s evidence and that of Fellows. He said the defense would show that Lawlor had not been on the scene of the crime and warned the jury of the burden of proof which lay with the Crown. They had no proof, Foulkes said, nor anything like it. It was an astonishing thing that the worthy magistrates had sent the case up for trial.
“My Lord,” he concluded, “on grounds of insufficient evidence, I move that the case be dismissed.”
I do not intend to tire the reader with the tedious debate that followed. The upshot of the whole affair was that the judge refused to take the case from the jury and asked if we intended to call witnesses.
Our first witness testified that he had been in the restaurant when Lawlor came in, and that Lawlor was not under the influence of drink.
DesBarres cross-examined, and our poor little rabbit of a witness went all to pieces and we more than lost the value of his testimony.
Our next witness was a prison guard. He testified that many prisoners made threats when they entered prison, and he had never known of a case of such threats being carried into effect. He stated also that he had known Lawlor in prison and had found him to be a docile and exemplary prisoner.
DesBarres attacked him furiously, tied him up, punctured his evidence, and dismissed him with a contemptuous nod.
Our third witness, who deposed that he had seen Lawlor a few minutes before nine o’clock in the district of the railway yards, was merely asked if that were not on Lawlor’s way home from the police station. The witness said “yes” before I could object to the form of the question. I tried to repair the damage, but there it was.
So we called Lawlor himself, and I rose to question him.
I asked him his name and age. Then I asked if he had been in prison. He said “yes,” very low.
“Were you arrested by John Hollow?”
“Did you at the time you were taken to the penitentiary threaten to revenge yourself on Hollow?”
“What did you have in mind as your revenge?”
“I didn’t have anything in mind.”
“When you made the threat, did you have any idea of killing him?”
“What sort of revenge did you think of?”
“Nothing in particular.”
“After you were in prison, did you try to plan revenge?”
“No, I forgot about it.”
“When you came out of prison, did the idea of revenge occur to you again?”
“Did you decide to act on this idea?”
“No, I kept puttin’ it off—bidin’ my time till I got a lucky break.”
“Did you get a lucky break?”
“After you were discharged from prison, what did you do?”
“I came to Wolfeton and went round to a fella’ who owed me twenty dollars. He had the dough and came across straight. Then I looked up my old lodgin’s and put up there, and started to look for a job.”
“Where were these lodgings?”
“At number six South Street, with Mrs. Smith, what spoke here yesterday.”
“You had lodged with Mrs. Smith before?”
“When you lodged with her previously, did she hint to you that she wanted to marry you?”
“I object!” from DesBarres.
“When you lodged with her previously, did she ever speak to you of matrimony?”
“What did she say?’’
“My Lord . . .” DesBarres protested.
“Was there ever any incident during your stay there that might have resulted in her I harboring enmity toward you?”
“Will you tell the court, please?”
“I was made to believe that, bein’ a widow woman, she would like a man in the house to look after her. I wasn’t having any. She tried to force my hand by coming to my room one night, but I turned her out.”
“You were arrested soon after that?”
“On a split?”
DesBarres made a lengthy objection, and the last answer was stricken from the records.
“You were looking for a job, you said, after your discharge from prison?”
“Did you get one?”
“Now, did you ever see a bone-handled carving knife while you were at Mrs. Smith’s?”
“Did you go into the kitchen?”
“And you never saw her use a knife such as I have described?”
“Have you ever before seen this knife?”
I showed him the Crown’s exhibit.
“Now would you tell the court as exactly as possible what you did on the night of October the twenty-fifth. You remember the night?”
“Then tell the court what you did.” Lawlor had heard, he said of an easy “crib,” a warehouse down by the freight yards. The night watchman was careless about coming on duty and often did not show up till nine o’clock. There was reported to be a lot of money there, loose in the till. He had left Smith’s at a few minutes past seven. He had a flask with him. He usually had a drink or so before tackling a job. He had supper in the restaurant opposite the police station, and had a drink there. He had then taken the most direct route to “the crib.” This route had taken him past the police station. He supposed it would be about a quarter past eight when he left the restaurant. He had not gone into the police station. He reached “the crib” at half-past eight. It was an easy break, but there was no money and nothing else worth taking. He had gone home at once. He had left no signs of his break, as he had been wearing gloves and had entered by an unlocked window which he had closed behind him when he came out.
I asked him why he had broken out of Pecksniff’s office and run for it the day he was arrested.
He replied that when he heard the police say they were going to “hang a murder rap’’ on him he thought he would have no chance —“not with a record like mine”—and so he had decided to run for it. He had hoped to steal a “bumper ride” on some outgoing freight train.
FARQUHART TOOK the witness for cross-examination. Whereas DesBarres had been violent and scathing with our previous witnesses, Farquhart was calm, but, as we soon saw, very deadly.
“When you threatened revenge on the late John Hollow,” he began, "did you use the words, 'I shall get you for this, Hollow’?”
“I don’t remember.”
“But you did make a threat against him?”
“What did you say?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Convenient memory you have. Do you remember making an attack on Biggs, a taxi driver?”
“What was your quarrel with him?”
“We were drinking and he called me same name.”
“Did you try to kill him?”
“But you were strangling him ! You would have killed him if you had not been pulled away from him.”
“I was drunk.”
“How much had you drunk?”
“I don’t remember.”
“How much had you drunk the night Hollow was murdered?”
“Two or three drinks.”
“Raw alcohol, eh?”
“Were you drunk that night?”
“You weren’t staggering when you left the restaurant?’’
“Then you didn’t lurch or stagger in front of the police-station door?”
"Then you did enter the police station?”
“If you did not pause or hesitate there— and did not enter—how do you account for the fact that Constable Fellows saw you enter the door?”
“I didn’t go in.” Lawlor, worried by the questions, looked as though he were lying.
“Then you must have lurched there, eh?”
“But you weren’t drunk, of course?”
“It took a lot of courage to ‘crack that crib’ you spoke of down by the freight yards?"
"Yet you stocked up a pint of raw gin before you tried it?”
“Come, you were tackling something more desperate than a mere first-story break. You knew that warehouse break would be easy, didn’t you?”
“How did you come to hear about it, anyway?”
"A fella told me."
“And he told you there was money in the till?”
“And you believed him?”
“Sure, why shouldn't I?”
"I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t—and why you didn’t, for that matter. Warehouses don’t have tills. They don’t do a trade. There’s never any money in them. You—an old hand—you know that.”
"No one saw you there and you left no evidence of having been there. That’s what you ask the court to believe. Now tell the court why you filled up on raw gin that night, tell us why you needed all this extra courage, tell us how the last time you had a skinful of gin you tried to kill a man—”
I objected and carried my point. But Lawlor was frightened and shaken. Farquhart went on:
“So you didn’t go to the police station that night?”
“You were supposed to, weren’t you, to report?”
“You knew that they could pull you in, if you didn't report?”
That was a lie. He had been told, of course, and knew perfectly well.
“You just happened to pass the station on your way to crack a crib that didn’t have anything in it?”
“You didn't lurch, hesitate, or turn in front of the police station?”
“No, I tell you !”
“Don’t shout. Yet you were seen to stop there. How do you account for that?”
Lawlor, a weak man. was cracking under the steady, inscrutable eyes and the reiterated questions. He said:
“I don’t know. But I didn’t do it.” His voice rose suddenly. “I didn't, I tell you!”
Sharp as a whip, Farquhart was on him.
“Didn’t do what?”
“I didn’t stab him. S’help me, mister, I didn't—”
“You came down into the police station—” Farquhart was beginning, but I objected, more to give Lawlor time to recover than anything else. It was no use. He was broken now.
“I didn’t,” he said. “I was staggering, I guess, like what you said. That’s what he must have seen.”
“So you were drunk?”
“I tell you I didn’t do it !”
“Why didn’t you leave town that night instead of trying in the morning when they were after you?’’
Lawlor answered before I could stop him.
“I didn’t know they were after me.”
“You learned they were after you in the morning?’’
“Yeah. But I didn’t—”
“So you ran for it?”
“Did that look like the act of an innocent man?"
“I was crazy, I guess. I was afraid of what they’d do to me.”
“When you left the police station that night you went to this warehouse?”
“Yes, I tell you.”
“Ah, so you were at the police station?”
“I tell you I didn't kill him!”
“Don’t shout. Now that you’ve admitted that you were at the station and under the influence of drink, tell us about the knife. When did you learn the police had traced it to you?"
Lawlor was completely rattled. He answered while I was objecting to Farquhart’s statement and form of question.
“The next morning,” he replied.
“And then, seeing all was discovered, you tried to run for it?”
“Yes,” Lawlor nodded. He didn’t know what he was doing.
“Have you nothing else to tell the court?” Farquhart asked. He paused, then said quietly and confidently: “I am through with the witness.”
I tried to patch up the torn places but without much success. Lawlor was too far gone. So I let him go. The court adjourned for lunch.
“Touch and go,” I said to Foulkes over chops and claret in my room at the hotel. “We have a chance, I think.”
“A small one, I’m afraid,” Foulkes replied rather gloomily. “I was watching the faces in the jury box during Farquhart’s cross-examination. One could see they thought Lawlor guilty.”
“Hmm,” I said. “We must change all that.”
I made the concluding speech for the defense. I began with a careful analysis of the evidence against Lawlor, pointing out that it was all circumstantial. I urged that not only was it circumstantial but that it was vague and inconclusive. The fact that Lawlor had threatened Hollow was not proof of motive of murder. I urged that a single eyewitness was unreliable, that in the uncertain light Constable Fellows could not be regarded as infallible, that in any case he had not seen Lawlor enter the station. I suggested that there were reasons to distrust Mrs. Smith’s evidence about the knife.
I concluded by urging that the prisoner must be given the benefit of every doubt, and emphasized the doubtful issues in the evidence and in the unexplained presence of Dr. Spengler in the police station. There was no positive evidence against the prisoner, there was a great deal of doubt in connection with every point brought against him, and there were unexplained matters that ought to be considered. The prisoner’s character and his past were not entirely irrelevant, but weakness and petty crime did not make a murderer. As to the “alibi” —as my learned friend called it—surely its very weakness was its strength. If Lawlor had been providing an alibi for himself, he would have taken care to leave something in the warehouse, or to take something from it to prove that he had been there. Evidence had been adduced to show he had been in the vicinity of the warehouse that night.
The evidence against my client was vague, doubtful, inconclusive. I asked for a verdict of “Not guilty.”
Farquhart made the speech of his life. He was, if I may say this without appearing to excuse myself, more used to this sort of thing than I, who specialized in civil, not criminal, cases.
He made sport of Lawlor’s story, tore it to shreds, argued that Lawlor had never been in the warehouse, had not thought to provide an alibi until after his arrest, and had then concocted this stupid story.
He then stressed Lawlor’s suspicious behavior in the police station the day of his arrest. On a false but popular psychological premise, he argued that this was the behavior of a guilty man, even as Lawlor’s aspect in the witness stand had been that of guilt. Then he discussed Lawlor’s character and his past, his drunken attack on Biggs, and his general lawlessness.
Having thus got the jury into a mood of thinking evilly of the accused, of regarding him on psychological grounds as guilty, he entered on the more difficult task of discussing the evidence. He said obvious things in an impressive manner about circumstantial evidence and ran over the old ground of motive, presence on the scene of crime and possession of the weapon.
He had a fine peroration which he delivered beautifully. I put my faith in the Bench’s charge to destroy the effect of his rhetoric.
The summing up, as a matter of fact, was rather against us. His Lordship did not sufficiently stress the dubiety of Mrs. Smith’s evidence, or the danger of an eyewitness like Fellows making a mistake. On the other hand, he did show, very definitely, doubts as to the truthfulness of Lawlor's evidence.
The jury retired. It was hot in the court room. We waited.
Word leaked out, as it always does, that there was disagreement. Foulkes and I went out for some fresh air and a smoke. Farquhart and DesBarres followed. We nodded.
Brian was outside.
"How is it going?” he asked.
“Doubtful,” I said.
We smoked. LaTour came up from nowhere, looking cheerful and free of strain. His appearance annoyed me.
“Have you been in?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I hear the jury have voted at odds and evens. That means a long wait.” He was unconcerned.
“Yes,” I said. “Is there any place we can sit down?”
“Come over here,” Foulkes said, and found us chairs.
“The summing up was bad,” Foulkes said to LaTour.
“Yes?” he replied without much interest.
“Good lord, LaTour!” I exclaimed angrily. “Don’t you care?”
He smiled. “Yes,” he said. “But things have changed this last day or so.”
“Heavens, man! You don’t want an innocent man to hang, do you?”
“He won’t hang,” LaTour said.
“I wish I were as sure,” I replied. We smoked in silence. An hour passed. Then two newspaper men hurried in. They were like vultures, they always know in advance. So we followed.
The jury filed in.
“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, my Lord.”
“The clerk will read the verdict.”
“We find the accused, Albert Lawlor, guilty of murder.”
“And is that the verdict of you all?”
“It is, my Lord.”
“Albert Lawlor, have you anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon you?"
“Albert Lawlor, you have been found guilty of the murder of John Hollow. It is the sentence of this court that you shall betaken to the place from which you have come and shall be detained there until the fifteenth day of December, and that you shall then, in the manner prescribed by law, be hanged by the neck until you are dead; and may God have mercy on your soul !”
To be Continued