Murder in the Police Station
B. S. KEIRSTEAD
Continuing the Journal of Lawyer Macpherson
THE NEXT morning ushered in one of the most dreadful days that I have ever experienced; dreadful not only on account of its incidents but because of the furious wind and lashing rain. Naked branches of trees fell into the streets with loud crashes, a constant menace to motorists and pedestrians; the streets, almost empty of traffic, streamed muddy water; the sky was dirty brown, striped with angry, bustling grey clouds.
The wind blew down the chimneys and made my rooms smoky and my fires cheerless. My breakfast, eaten in the cold, smoky room, was not the usual satisfying meal I enjoy.
At the office there was a great deal of neglected work and Foulkes was in a temper. My partner. Brian Woodworth, came in late and immediately broached the subject of going to Wolfeton with me. I told him I did not know whether 1 should go or not.
1 could not get Eccles by telephone. Broken limbs of trees falling on the wires had disrupted even the town service. At lunch time. 1 went to the club and found him reading a month-old copy of Punch.
Brian followed me in, determined to be on hand so as “to wangle an invitation,” as he put it, to go to Wolfeton. Though LaTour had given us no promises, had in fact discouraged us from hoping that he would have anything new to tell us, we were all looking forward to the evening for some dramatic and conclusive development.
Eccles looked up and said:
“It's not fit for a man or beast,” I agreed. “Our journey to Wolfeton this afternoon is not going to be a very pleasant one.”
“Our journey?” Eccles smiled quizzically. “So you’re coming along?”
“Yes, if 1 may.”
“And you, Brian?”
"Thank you. sir. I should like to.”
"Hmm. There’s lots of room. But why? What do you expect to happen?”
“P'rankly, I don't know,” I said. “But l feel certain that well learn something definite one way or another.”
Brian looked sly, SÍ) we both turned to him.
“Well, young man,” said Eccles, “what is it? You babbled about some mysterious woman last night. Don't stand there grinning like a monkey. What’s your secret?”
“ 'Ne grondez pas, je vous supplie!' ” Brian replied, grin-
ning. He looked at me with a mischievous twinkle and said insultingly: “That’s Hugo, Mac, as I don’t suppose you know.
“Well, you ask me what I am so secretive about.” he added. “It is this. I have an idea that young Spengler did kill Hollow, as LaTour originally believed. But when LaTour discovered that Spengler killed Hollow because Hollow was going to ruin Alice’s happiness, he began to hesitate.
“You will remember how, about that time, LaTour became less positive about Spengler’s guilt. Now, when Spengler didn’t come forward with his confession to save Lawlor, LaTour decided he could put pressure on the girl if Lawlor was convicted. They could not let an innocent man hang. Meanwhile, he got on to the inside story of Dr. Spengler’s suicide, and he realized that young Spengler, who was, of course, all the time undergoing a moral struggle whether or not to confess, had tom up his father’s pseudoconfession rather than have his father’s name blackened. You can see that this was a fine thing to do. If our appeal failed—Spengler, of course, knew we were appealing and hoped all along that Lawlor would be saved without his having to confess—then young Spengler would be forced to come forward to save Lawlor’s life. I am convinced that in the last resort Spengler had determined to confess to save Lawlor from the gallows.
THIS THEORY, too, fits in with the suicide of Dr.
Spengler. Young Robert had told him that day that he had killed Hollow, and that he would confess if Lawlor were found guilty. The old doctor ordered his son from the room, killed himself, and left the bogus confession to save the boy. Now you can see the fineness of the boy’s action in destroying it. The confession was a cheap, easy way out for him; there would be the thought of Alice and how she would suffer if he were to undergo a criminal trial and execution. So it was a fine thing to destroy the confession and save his father’s reputation.
"LaTour learns all this. He learns enough more from Pecksniff, and he proposes to let Spengler off. I think he was deeply affected by the sorrows that Alice has already undergone, and that he felt she should not be forced to undergo more. After all, the girl has been quite innocent, both as regards her birth and this murder. Yet she has had to suffer
all her life. To convict young Spengler would be the crushing tragedy. Give the girl a chance to be happy—that is LaTour’s argument—and I must say I sympathize with him. After all, if ever murder was justified this murder was.” “But all this stuff about the girl’s father—what has that to do with it?” Eccles asked. “LaTour has been stressing that.” “Yes.” Brian replied. “Partly to put us off the scent and partly, at first, when he really had his nose to the trail, because he was ferreting out the motive for the crime. Discovering the father of Alice showed how much harm Hollow could do to her and to young Spengler if Hollow were allowed to live and talk. To silence him, when one knows the terrible story he was going to tell, one can see, was essential for Alice’s happiness. That, of course, is why Spengler killed Hollow; and that is the point of LaTour’s remarks last night about killing a man to prevent his taking from you honor or something dearer than life.”
“By Jove, yes.” Eccles agreed. “And how well the other evidence fits—the knife from Hollow’s house. Alice’s efforts to hide from LaTour the fact that the knife was hers, their collusion to prevent their marriage and their relations from becoming known to the police. Great work, Brian ! We’ll go to Wolfeton despite the weather. Without a word to LaTour, we’ll arrest young Spengler tonight. We can then confront LaTour with a fait accompli and save his conscience.”
“How did Spengler, Jr., get into the common room?” I asked. “Remember. Pecksniff said no one passed along the corridor between eight-five and eight-twenty.”
“Easy," Eccles replied. “Spengler followed his father. He went in directly behind him. and passed the chief’s door while Pecksniff’s attention was concentrated on welcoming his visitor. He stabbed Hollow, but could not escape while the door to Pecksniff’s office was open. He was waiting for his father to come out to get a chance to escape without attracting attention. Then Leyden came in. It was a bad moment, but Spengler’s luck held. He hid in the lavatory, and it never entered their heads to look there. When everyone went into the chief’s office to ’phone the undertakers, the boy took his chance and bolted.”
“Exactly,” Brian said.
“Maybe.” I remarked more cautiously.
“Have you lunched?” Eccles asked abruptly.
“No.” Í replied. “I’m about to.”
“Good. I shall go along and get a car. I’ll pick you both up here. Will you be ready by two-thirty?”
Both Brian and I ate a hearty lunch to sustain us against the cold and the long drive. It was well that we did.
ECCLES was greatly delayed in calling for us. and it was not until four o’clock that we heard from him. The police radio car in which we were to travel was being repaired, and he could not get another car sufficiently closed in against the weather. He telephoned us to this effect, and it was not until nearly six o'clock that we got started, with a heavy basket of edibles packed for us by Fritters.
The car was roomy inside, warmed by a heater, and most comfortable. I noticed with interest a device for mounting a machine gun to fire from the back windotv or through the front. There was light steel armor to protect the tonneau. A tiny cluster of wires ran round the top of the car, and in one comer was a wireless speaker.
“Got some food?” Eccles asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Good,” he replied. “Let’s have some.”
It was already dark, and the wind was rising in fury. Rain hurled against the glass. The bright headlights stabbed the darkness as soon as we had left the lights of the town behind us. The highway was entirely deserted and in a dreadful state. We made very slow progress.
As we were unpacking the lunch Eccles remarked:
“I tried to get LaTour by telephone while I was waiting. It was no go. The wires are down all over the country. The operator couldn’t get a single connection through to Wolfeton.”
“You could have wired,” I suggested.
“I thought of that,” Eccles said dryly. “But the railway companies have reported their wires down, too.”
He passed me a sandwich.
“I say,” Brian exclaimed, “couldn’t we have some music with our dinner? Do put the wireless on, sir.”
Eccles laughed and turned a small switch.
“I don’t think we’ll get anything,” he said. “This is only tuned to the five police broadcasting stations at Fredericton, Saint John, Wolfeton, Moncton and Campbellton, and they are all short-wave stations. But sometimes we get some music from a short-wave station with nearly the same wave length as our Wolfeton police broadcasting station. It comes in fairly well.” He gave the tiny dial a twirl and we heard quite faintly and then louder the strains of a jazz band.
Brian hummed the air a moment. It was an eerie thing to be rushing through the storm, to be so slightly shut in from it, and to hear amid the apparent wildness and desolation about us the strains of music to which a civilized society was taking its food amid civilized surroundings.
Suddenly the music was blurred, and a man’s sharp voice could be heard insistently piercing the sound of the instruments. The words came indistinctly because of the band, but they sounded like a reiteration. In a single movement Eccles leaned across and moved the dial a fraction. The words came to us, clear, distinct and insistent.
“Wolfeton division calling all patrols, R. C. M. P. !
“Toni Corrigini, gangster, sentenced to five years at Dorchester penitentiary, escaped today at five-thirty pip emma. Some of his gang, with two cars, attacked the guards as they were conducting him to prison and set him and members of his gang at liberty. They drove off toward the American border. Restored telephone communication from Sussex tells us they turned north there at six-thirty o’clock, evidently making for the border via Fredericton.
“Inspectors LaTour and Morton, with a detachment of R. C. M. P., and Chief Pecksniff and Inspector Leyden with a detail of Wolfeton constables, were reported at Sussex as passing through in pursuit at six-fifty.
“The pursuit left Wolfeton just fifteen minutes after Corrigini, and are now twenty minutes behind.
“No telephone or telegraph communication with Fredericton or other points north and west is possible.
“R. C. M. P. patrols are to converge on Fredericton.”
Eccles looked at his watch.
“Five past seven !”
‘‘Shall we turn and run back?” I asked. “We could hold them at Fredericton.”
“No,” Eccles said. “They might go north at Devon to cross at Pokiok, and leave us guarding the Fredericton bridge in vain. And we can’t head them off by 'phone. Let me see.” He looked out through the window, rubbing off the steam with his hand. “We’re about twelve miles north of Jemseg. It’s five past seven. They were in Sussex at half past six. That means they are now about ten miles south of Jemseg. But we have the better stretch of road. Step on it, Franklyn; we’ll beat them to the Jemseg bridge, throw the draw open and hold them there.”
The big car jumped ahead. Eccles leaned forward and
opened a door hidden in the back of the front seat, and from a cupboard extracted a rifle and two revolvers.
“Gun, Franklyn?” he asked curtly.
“I have my automatic, sir.”
“After a fashion, sir.”
Eccles gave him a revolver. To me he gave the rifle. “Three-o-three repeater,” he said. "It’s already loaded. Safety’s on."
“Right,” 1 said. “Any more ammunition?”
He gave me some.
The car swerved dangerously on a curve, rocked crazily as it was straightened out, and ran down a slight incline. Then there was a jerk as the brakes were thrown on.
“Road’s under water, sir,” Franklyn said.
"Far as the lights show.”
“Doesn’t look it.”
“Go through, then.”
We moved on slowly in first gear, then more rapidly in second. The water could be heard lapping on the running boards. There must have been two hundred yards of this. Then the noise of the water ceased, and the car accelerated rapidly.
“We shall be able to see the lights of Jemseg soon.” Eccles said. “It’s on a hill, and for the last five miles of our run over this flat we can see the village. The bridge is at the bottom of the hill at the entrance to the flats, so we shall see them if they beat us to it. But they won’t.”
Even as he spoke, we saw a cluster of lights twinkling in the rain far in front of us.
“We’ll do it !" Eccles repeated.
We rushed on through the rain. I was tingling with excitement; my eyes strained to see if moving lights would appear over the distant hill.
Three miles now at most. Two and a half, then two. And still no hostile, staring headlights on the hill.
Less than half a mile to the bridge. A scream of brakes and a wild skidding of the car.
"Road blocked by two cars, sir,” Franklyn said.
In a flash I thought of the two men whom I had heard talking in the garage the previous night.
Eccles opened the door and, revolver in hand, swung out on the running-board.
Franklyn came to a stop. We were fifteen yards distant from two big touring cars that, while headed north, were slashwise across the road so as to block it.
“Clear the road!" Eccles shouted. There was no reply.
"They’re the gangsters,” I said. "They’re changing cars here.”
“In the King's name!” cried Eccles.
A pistol shot w'as the reply.
“Sw ing across the road," Eccles commanded. “We’ll block them.”
Even as he spoke, the headlights of two cars swung over the brow of the hill, descended rapidly to the bridge and crossed it.
“Where did they fire from?” Eccles asked.
“From behind the cars.”
“Out of the car. then. Here on this side.” He opened the door on the far side from the enemy. "Mac, you and Franklyn fire over the hood. Brian, you and I will fire from the rear here. Take cover behind the steel box on the luggage carrier. Now, Mac, fire at the front tires of these cars. * We’ll hold them up a bit that way, and then we can beat a retreat if wre have to. Our job is just to delay them till LaTour comes up.” "Like Wellington at Waterloo,” Brian burbled.
We opened fire at once, and I was rewarded by hearing the front tires of the two cars opposite burst.
Meanwhile there was no further sign of the approach of the cars bearing Corrigini and his gang.
Eccles' voice reached me in a hoarse whisper.
‘'Listen," he said. "Those devils are opening the draw. They’ll leave the gates open and LaTour and Morton will plunge into the water."
Through the storm we could just hear the noise of the machinery opening the drawbridge.
"We must warn them," I said.
"I’ll go,” Brian volunteered. 'Tm the least useful here. I’m no marksman.”
"Right," Eccles said. "Circle wide. Go back along the road a bit and go as quietly and quickly as you can. You’ll have to swim the river."
Brian disappeared in the blackness of the road behind us.
“Will he be in time?" I asked.
"Twenty minutes he should be.”
To our left we heard sounds of movement.
“He’s circling now.”
The lights of Corrigini's cars lighted up the road before us. They blinded me. I ducked behind the bonnet. Pistol bullets rang on the metal.
“Shoot at the lights!" Eccles commanded. Choosing where the top of the car cast an angular and protective shadow, I fired at the lights. An answering volley whined about my head. I fired again, and Eccles, an exjiert pistol shot, opened from his end. The lights went out.
Voices, angry and excited, drifted across No Man’s Land.
"They’ll try to outflank us,” Eccles said. "Did you lock the ignition?”
"Yes," Franklyn replied.
"Good. They can’t move this car then without trouble. We’ll beat a retreat and (ire on them when they converge on this place."
Softly we crept back along the road. A steady fire was maintained by the gangsters, but it was concentrated on our car, and our only danger was from stray bullets.
Eccles whispered "Halt!” We took a slightly sheltered position in the ditch by the side of the road, and crouched there in several inches of water.
TíRIAN. meanwhile, as we subsequently D learned, had crept back along the road until he felt that in the darkness he could not be seen. The roar of the wind rendered it improbable that the noise of his movements could be heard. But he was none the less careful. He discerned the dark blur of a ham on his right and cut over to it, falling in the wet mud as he scrambled through the ditch. He was now walking through wet stubble.
Circling well behind the bam and being well out of view from the road, he began to run.
Twenty minutes he had had, if LaTour and his squad had not gained any on the gangsters. Ten minutes to reach the bridge, five minutes to swim the stream. It would lx* touch and go.
Running desperately through the rain he came to a second bam. There was a sudden little burst of sharp firing to his right. The gang was attacking!
As the reader knows, the firing Brian heard was the covering lire maintained by some members of the gang while others attempted a flanking movement. We did not reply as we were retreating to our second line of defense, the mud-water ditch. Brian w'as greatly worried by our silence, but he ran on. His job was to warn LaTour of the open draw.
He ran now w ithout regard to shelter. He was behind the gangsters and sheltered from their view by a copse of trees as well as by the enveloping darkness.
Suddenly the ground dipped under his feet. He stumbled and fell, bruising his knee, in the ever present roadside ditch. Soaked to the skin, muddy and bloody from a cut in his face, he got to his feet and limped
along the road. A few yards and he reached the bridge.
Clinging to overhanging branches of trees, he lowered himself down the bank to the river. He could scarcely see his hand in front of him. but from the sound he knew the river was in flood and the current powerful. His knee hurt painfully. He kicked off his sodden shoes, threw off his raincoat and jacket and trousers.
The water was ice cold, and as soon as he started to swim he felt the pull of the current. He had entered the water above the bridge. Before he had taken a half dozen strokes, he was carried past the near pier. His knee troubled him.
He was exhausted and discouraged when, after a long struggle, he saw a mass, blacker than the surrounding darkness, looming in front of him. He put his hands out and felt it. Sheer, smooth concrete loomed above him. He attempted to tread water and reach for the top. It was too high. It was, indeed, the pier at which the river boats tied up on their leisurely diurnal journeys.
Gasping and sick with fatigue, Brian dropped back into the water and swam along the edge of the pier. He remembered with sudden fear that below the pier the left bank of the Jemseg was steep smooth rock. He could scarcely struggle against the current now. He sank once below the surface. He was numb, afraid and hopeless.
In the meantime, our first ruse had borne fruit. As Eccles had predicted, the heavy volley that the enemy had fired was in the nature of a covering fire for an attacking party that had taken advantage of the pitch darkness to creep along the sides of the road. As we took up our new position in the ditch, we saw their indistinct figures swoop in from both sides on our defenseless car. Had we been there, our position would have been an impossible one. As it was, we fired upon them with some effect, to judge by the cries, though under the circumstances our marksmanship could not have been very accurate.
They threw themselves on the road and returned our fire. We shot at the flashes as well as we could, and I suppose they did the same.
Franklyn gave a little cry and dropped his gun.
“Wrist,” he said shortly, and groped in the ditch with his sound hand.
"They’ll creep up on us again, and with our numbers it would go hard with us,” Eccles said. “Cease fire so they can’t see where we go, and follow me. Keep close, or we’ll separate, and not a sound.”
We poured in a last volley and then slid out of our little trench. Eccles moved along like a snake on his belly. Franklyn was directly behind him and I brought up the rear, though I went on my hands and knees and found the stubble very painful. Bullets whistled about us occasionally, but it was obvious that the enemy could neither see nor hear us and were shooting at random.
Our progress was difficult and painful. For Franklyn it musthavebeen excruciating. After what seemed a very long time, I felt seme bushes flick wetly in my face. With a sigh of relief I settled into a depression behind them. Here we formed our third line of defense, protected by the little depression in the ground and screened by the bushes.
It would be harder to locate us here, I thought, because the bushes would tend to hide the flashes of our guns.
Then we heard them working to move our car, and I heard one ugly voice say : “And, Jim. put the bulbs from your two cars in ours. We can’t drive these cursed things without lights.”
“What’s wrong with them two?” a voice asked.
"Tires all shot to pieces.”
Eccles spoke. “They’re pushing our car out of the way. We must bother them all we can. Can you see at all, Mac?”
"Hardly, but I can hear. I should think we could bother them.”
“Can you see. Franklyn?”
"It’s that black lump, sir?”
"Yes. Fire in its general direction. How’s the wrist?”
"Pretty bad, sir. but I’m all right.” Continued on page 52
Continued from page 22 —Starts on page 20
“Good man. Well, open fire.”
We did so with a will. I doubt if we hit anyone, but there were curses and angry cries, so I judged that we were bothering them right enough and causing delay.
After a few scattered shots that came nowhere near us, they did not reply, and I thought it was because they could not discern from where we were firing.
We maintained a steady fire for some minutes, then Eccles whirled round and said :
“They’ve got behind us!”
As 1 turned my face to this new foe, I saw, swinging over the Jemseg hill, the glaring lights of two cars. For a split second I watched them rushing down the hill. Then a shot rang out from directly in front of me.
TI)RIAN DRIFTED, unresisting, around the corner of the pier, and in its shelter he found a backwater. As his fingers ran along the rough concrete they brushed across an upright. He groped up and down parallel to it, and his hand closed over the rung of a ladder. Summoning his strength for a last effort, he climbed up hand over hand. Once on the pier, he fell to shivering from the cold. Willing to stand the pain from his knee, he ran up the driveway to its junction with the main road. As he reached it the headlights of two cars came rapidly around the curving brow of the hill. Brian stood, nearly naked, in the centre of the road, shouting:
“The draw is open !”
He had to jump aside at the last moment, but as he did so he had the satisfaction of seeing the big car lurch and sway and check with the sudden application of the brakes. Both cars came to a full stop a few yards from the bridge.
In a word Brian told LaTour the point of the matter.
Three constables were at the draw in a moment. It appears that by some simple pulley device it could be worked from the centre or from the Jemseg end. In a space of time which Brian says was not more than two minutes from the moment when he had signalled them, the two cars were moving slowly forward across the bridge.
The bullet from the shot that rang out in front of me whistled harmlessly past my head. Eccles fired at the Hash and was rewarded by a groan. Almost as he fired he rolled rapidly to one side. Three bullets plunged into the earth where he had been lying.
Franklyn and I fired together, and a moment later Eccles’ automatic spouted four or five shots in succession. The enemy replied in kind. A bullet clipped my shoulder and another flung up a shower of earth in my face.
There was a cry from the road. I could not understand the word, but it was evidently an order for our assailants to return. They retreated hurriedly. We pressed them a bit until Franklyn fainted. I was not much I good, and Eccles said:
“Let them go. There come LaTour and Morton.”
Sure enough, the great lights of the two cars were lighting up the road, showing where the gunmen had at last moved our car out of their way and disclosing them at work on their two cars with the punctured tires. There was the rattle of rifles, intermingled with the sharper reports of pistols.
Under a covering fire from the cars, a jxirty of uniformed policemen were seen charging along the side of the road, outside the lighted area. We could see their forms silhouetted against the brightly lighted background of the road. Two or three of them fell as they charged along. Then they were among the cars. Cries, oaths and groans were intermingled with the sounds of revolvers and breaking glass.
In less time than it takes to write, it was I all over.
LaTour’s voice rang out, struggling with I the noise of the elements:
“Superintendent Eccles! Mr. Macpherson!”
“Here.” Eccles replied. “Send over a couple of men to bring Franklyn in.”
LaTour came himself, with two constables. “You all right, sir?” he asked Eccles. “Yes. Mr. Macpherson’s been winged in the shoulder and Franklyn seems to have stopped one. His wrist was broken and I think he has another wound in the groin. Take him carefully”—this to the men. “Did you get them all?” he asked LaTour.
“Yes, sir. Corrigini and two others are dead. There are five wounded and four surrendered.”
“Any casualties among us?”
“Leyden was killed as he got from the car. Pecksniff and James are wounded.” “Seriously?”
“Well, we got the brutes, though I must say it’s too bad about Leyden ”
“Nice chap. I liked him, wrhat little I saw of him.”
“Yes, sir. Here we are.”
“All right, Mac?” Brian’s rather feeble and tremulous voice enquired.
“Very nearly,” I replied.
“Well, Blücher,” Brian said, turning to LaTour and trying to manage a grin as he referred to his attempted joke of earlier in the evening, “that was another near thing.” And he promptly fainted.
While Eccles was superintending the removal of the wounded and the administration of first aid, and while other officers were herding the prisoners into cars for immediate removal, and still others were collecting the dead bodies, LaTour came over to me and said :
“Pecksniff has just died.”
“Oh?” I said. “Pecksniff and Leyden both. It’s too bad. I must say I don’t feel as sorry about Pecksniff, but Leyden was a sound chap.”
“Corrigini is dead, too,” LaTour said inconsequently.
I looked hard at him.
“And that,” he said, “concludes the Hollow murder investigations.”
TT WAS the next evening and we were A grouped about the fire in my room. A decanter of my best port was on the table. Brian, his knee stiffly stretched out, was looking very wan but comfortable in an easy chair. Eccles and LaTour were on the chesterfield, and I was in another armchair by the fire.
LaTour was speaking.
“Yes, it was Leyden. Perhaps if I read you this it will tell you all you need to know. He wrote it yesterday afternoon, planning ‘to do a bunk.’ Then the word came about Corrigini-s escape.” LaTour paused and stared thoughtfully at the fire. “He gave me this as we stopped at the bridge. Take this, LaTour,’ he said. ‘I think you know what it is. I shall get mine here. Í am sure of it.’ ” “What is it?” I asked.
LaTour unfolded the document, and read the following:
“I killed John Hollow.
“I feel sure that Inspector LaTour is aware of this fact, and I wonder that he has not arrested me before. He has made an engagement to see me in two hours time, but I shall not be here when he comes. I do not intend to yield without a further struggle. I shall run away and then. Tally-ho —the man hunt will be on, and I for once shall be the quarry. I shall give you a good run for your money, I warrant you. for I know all the tricks both of fox and hounds. But before I go I must make sure that there is no mistake about Lawlor. I did not take this step before because I was sure he would be acquitted. But the man is a bad witness. However, he is innocent. I stabbed John
Hollow and I am glad of it. That statement should be sufficient to make the Appeal Court dismiss the case against him or reverse the judgment, or whatever it is they do. Lest there be any mistake, any effort to call this a bogus confession, however. I shall give you the full particulars as to why and how I carried out this crime—No ! I shall not call it a crime. It was a punishment and an act of defense for the only person at all dear to me in this world.
“This story begins twenty years ago, when Marie was a beautiful girl and we were all mad about her. But I was the one she preferred; the one she was going to marry. We were passionately in love, and, God forgive us if it be a sin, we did not wait till we were married. And then I learned about Spengler. Marie was weak, I suppose, though I can scarcely bring myself even now to say it. He had been her lover—the poor girl was beautiful and gay and full of all the strong generous impulses of life, and her home had not been what it ought—in any case, he had been with her, and I learned, and we quarrelled. I was a silly young fool, and, though I was soon quite ready to patch it up, I held myself back through stupid pride, expecting lier to come to me to ask forgiveness.
“She, poor child, thought that she had committed the unpardonable sin and, rendered desperate by the knowledge that Alice was coming—knowledge which, needless to say, I did not have, yielded to Hollow’s importunities and married him.
“Angry and broken-hearted, I left Wolfeton and went to Montreal, resolved never to return ...”
“The man writes like a book,” Eccles put in as LaTour paused.
“And a bad book, too,” Brian added.
“He was a great reader,” LaTour said. “He spent all those lonely years in Montreal reading everything he could lay hands on. Shall I go on?”
“I did not learn that Alice was my child until the war came. I was down in Wolfeton on leave before going overseas. I saw Marie, alone, to say good-by. She told me that Alice was my child. Hollow believed Alice to be Spengler’s.
“It gave me great pain to see Marie so unhappy. Hollow, whom she had indeed treated badly by marrying him under the circumstances, had never forgiven her. He was most cruel to her and to Alice, whose only sin was ever to have been bom.
“After the war was over I wrote Marie, asking her to bring Alice and come live with me. She refused. Hollow would not divorce her, and though he treated her abominably she was useful to him as a household drudge, and she had some queer idea that she must pay in full, and in this way, for the wrong she had done him.
“I could not bear to be in Wolfeton and to see her suffering. I went back to my old job in Montreal, worked hard, and, as a narcotic, became a bibliophile. I wrote Marie once, telling her that if she ever needed me I would come to her.
“This summer, a week or so before her death, she wrote me. I was away in the States on an extradition case, and did not get her letter until it was too late. I hurried down here with the Corrigini business as an excuse, and found her dead.
“In her letter she told me that she was dying. She was not sorry to go for herself. His cruelty had killed her—the consumption set in as a result of a blow he had given her—
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and she looked to death as a relief from her poor, unhappy life. But. she said. Hollow , was going to ruin Alice. He hated Alice and 1 stood in the way of evenlittle pleasure she J desired. And now he was condemning her to a loveless life.
“Marie had told Alice that I was her father, and to trust me. I saw her alone when I came, and she told me that she and Spengler were married. Now you are to remember. Hollow still thought Dr. Spengler was her father. Pecksniff, incidentally, thought this also.
“I finished up the Corrigini business and had him locked up. Hollow and I worked | together on that. He never suspected me of ' having been anything but an erstwhile suitor for Marie’s hand, and he used to take me to j his home and bully Alice, my daughter, in 1 my presence.
“One night, the twenty-fifth of October, ! Alice telephoned me at my lodgings. She j wanted to see me, she said. I went over. ! She and Spengler were at the cottage together. They told me that they had told Hollow of their marriage, and that he had behaved strangely, laughing in a sinister j manner and swearing that he would see to it ¡ that they would never be happy together. I j realized, at once, the cruel, ruinous story he would tell. I promised to save them. While their attention was distracted, I took the knife.
“I went straight to the police station, arriving there at eight-twenty. I went in, without concealing myself, hesitated in front of the door to the chief’s office. Then I stepped across to the common room. The door was ajar. Hollow was asleep before the fire. I drew the knife from under my coat and struck him at the base of the heart. As I struck, I caught his mouth and nostrils firmly with my left hand. He would have cried, but was stifled and only the smallest moan was audible. I do not think that Durham could have heard it. I drew my hand away before the blood gushed out. I had tried to stab him in such a manner that he would bleed externally. As a specialist in crime, I knew enough about anatomy to j know where I should direct my blow to , produce external bleeding, and I needed that i blood on the floor to give me an excuse for ¡ going into the common room.
“I was lucky, as you know. The blood 1 poured out on the floor. I waited a moment ! or so. Hollow was unconscious. Then I raised my cry. I took off my gloves and stuffed them in my pocket. Pecksniff and Durham appeared, I went to meet the former. By the time they got there, Hollow was dead. I think, to be accurate, he died while Pecksniff was examining him, but Pecksniff was too excited to notice. There was blood all over the floor and so my story had support. I don’t think that it ever occurred to them to doubt it. The doctor’s evidence helped me inasmuch as he set the possible time of death as early as eight o’clock.
“As to Alice and Bob Spengler. They ; suspected me from the beginning, but they ¡ would not give me away. When Lawlor was ¡ arrested they were nearly crazy with worry. If I did not speak they felt that they must, rather than let him be executed.
“LaTour was watching them so closely— he had a man trailing Bob Spengler all the time—that I could not reassure them. Bob was distracted with worry. He even thought of suicide himself.
“Finally, Bob went to his father. Dr. Spengler, to whom Hollow had long since gone with the story that he was Alice’s father, was already distracted and suffering, as the medical evidence on his suicide showed, from melancholia. His son’s failure at college, this terrible marriage to a halfsister—or so he believed—the imminent possibility of Hollow broadcasting the story, the murder, his presence there that night, the fear that Pecksniff would admit that he had been there and put the whole story in the papers—all these things had been preying on his mind. Then Bob came to ask his advice about whether he ought or ought not to tell the police about me.
“Dr. Spengler, being the sort of man he was, at once took his son’s moral responsibil-
ity on to his own shoulders. As he did so, the ’phone rang. It was Pecksniff, who said he had been forced to disclose Dr. Spengler’s name at the trial. This was too much. Dr. Spengler, probably unhinged by all this worry, resolved to take his own life. But, first, he determined on one last act of selfsacrifice for his son. He wrote a confession to Hollow’s murder, intending thus to save Lawlor and solve Bob’s moral dilemma.
"Robert Spengler, like the gentleman he is, never hesitated about that confession. He destroyed it at once.
"It was then I had my first opportunity to speak to him. I created it by telling the constables that I wanted to examine young Spengler alone. I told him that he could depend on me to see that Lawlor did not hang, and meanwhile to keep mum. I told him the story to stick to about his father’s suicide.
"That is everything, I think. Inspector I LaTour is too close on the scent. I must ’do j a bunk.’ It was good of him to give me two I hours warning."
VI 7HY DID you give him two hours j * V notice, LaTour?” Eccles asked. LaTour smiled.
"It is no matter now, sir,” he said. “Pecksniff called for him in a car just as he finished writing the confession, and he came along with us in pursuit of Corrigini.” LaTour hesitated and added softly: "He was the first of us in the attack.”
This last sentence moved us all. It was a projîer tribute to a brave if misguided man.
"And if this had not happened, had you determined to arrest him, LaTour?”
"Yes, Mr. Macpherson.”
“Why? After what you said two nights ago?”
“Because I saw that if I did not, Mr. Woodworth would give you his theory and you would arrest young Spengler, and that would be the final catastrophe.”
We all blushed a bit. Eccles asked :
"How did you know Mr. W:oodworth’s theory?”
"It was pretty clear from his remarks that night. Besides, you must remember, it was a theory with which I was familiar. It was Pecksniff’s, you know, and had been mine, too. at one time.”
"Pecksniff’s?” I asked.
"Surely. He had the whole thing worked out that young Spengler had followed his father into the station, had stabbed Hollow and had hidden in the lavatory. Then, when the room was deserted, he had escaped.
“That was what I thought,” Brian admitted.
"Exactly," LaTour said dryly.
"Well,” Eccles said with a slow and thoughtful accent, "Leyden has found the best way out after all. If he had lived to run away, he would have found life as a fugitive more terrible than he imagined. As it is, he has died, a brave man doing his duty.” "Amen to that !” I said.
"Will it be necessary to publish this?” LaTour asked, referring to the confession.
“We can save Lawlor without it. If there j is no suspicion touching Spengler, we shall not need it.”
■‘Good,” LaTour said. "Spengler and his wife are well off now. They are going to Vienna, where he will study medicine. I think they will be happy now, and no suspicion should follow them.”
I passed cigarettes and cigars. The ]x>rt j circulated, and we contemplated the fire in ¡silence. Then Brian asked:
“How did you come to suspect Leyden, LaTour?”
“When you tumbled over the sill of the door in the police station,” LaTour replied. "You see, like the others, 1 took Leyden’s story without question. It was careless and wrong, and the result was that I never properly examined that door. But when you stumbled on the sill the day you rushed into the station common room to tell us of Dr. Spengler’s suicide, the whole obvious thing struck me like a blow in the face.
"The door had been partly closed, Leyden had said, and the body was not visible from the corridor; but he had seen the bkxxi on the floor, under the door and in the corridor.
That had troubled me, indeed, at the very I beginning of the case, but I had at last decided that blood travelled more quickly than I thought. But when my attention was called to the sill, I realized that Leyden had been lying, because blood, whatever else it may do, does not flow uphill. The fact that the door had a sill and did not close over an unbroken floor showed that Leyden’s story was untrue.
“That instantly led me back to the problem of the obeing half-closed. You will remember I said at the time Leyden told me that, it was strange the murderer had risked closing the door, or partly closing it, behind him.
“Then, of course, I thought over Leyden’s evidence and saw how unsupported it was. Pecksniff and Durham had been too unobservant to see whether there was any spread of the blood pool. By the time the doctor arrived there was blood all over the place, and his evidence as to the time of death, though it could be accepted as supporting Leyden’s account, would fit equally well the j theory that Leyden himself was the murderer.
"I reconstructed the crime in my own ! mind much as it had actually occurred. If : Leyden were lying, and he was, there was only one interpretation to be put upon it. So I began to consider the possibility of motive.
“Leyden himself had told me that he had at one time been in love with Marie, as he called her—Hollow’s wife. Now you laughed at my use of the Mendelian theory of heredity, but nevertheless it helped me. The chances were heavily in favor of Alice’s | father being a man of light complexion. Hollow, Durham and Dr. Spengler were dark. Pecksniff and Leyden were fair. But the relations between Pecksniff and Hollow were too friendly to allow one to consider that Pecksniff was the father. Hollow was a bitter man, and he would never have been friendly with Alice’s father. On the other hand, though they were associated in catching Corrigini, there was very evidently no love lost between Leyden and Hollow. The first night we discussed the crime. Leyden had made it clear to me that he had had no respect or liking for the dead man. j
“Next in sequence was young Spengler s behavior the night I questioned him on his j father’s suicide. Previously, he had been j stubborn and stupid. This night he had a ! ready and credible story, with all his: answers neatly worked out. I was sure he was not capable of doing this for himself. I When I learned that Leyden had examined ! him alone, I immediately decided that this I story and these ready answers had been prepared for him by Leyden.
“Now, young Spengler and Alice Hollow had been hiding information, protecting someone. If Leyden had instructed Spengler in his responses, it looked as though that someone must have been Leyden; and if it was Leyden it could only be because they knew Leyden to be Alice’s father and the murderer. When I learned the story Hollow had been going to tell, the actual motive— what might be called the ‘effective’ motive— became evident. That Leyden had taken the I knife on some visit to the Hollow cottage I and that Alice knew this, were also clear.
“My remark to Alice about the letter was I just a lucky guess. I had wondered how she had learned that Leyden was her father, and supposed there must have been some correspondence between her mother and Leyden of which she was aware.”
“It’s a well worked-out case, LaTour,” Eccles said. “It does you credit.”
“Yes,” I said. “And I think your sentij ments as you expressed them two days ago j do you even more credit.”
LaTour thanked me with a glance.
Eccles cleared his throat and said, “11mm.”
“And what a night last night was!” Brian said, to change the conversation. He rubbed his knee sorrowfully, then stretched himself luxuriously toward the fire, yawned and said: “Well, ‘Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas.’ Cap that one, Mac.”
“Pass the decanter, please,” I said.
T he End