This Yellow Dust
"Suicide" was the first opinion. But that was before Kent Power appeared on the scene
BO’ JOU’, Kent Power! This gentleman, M’sieu Craig, is ver’ anxious to ’ave your assistance in a matter.” Sergeant Jules Papineau, of the Montreal Detective Force, waved a somewhat ungraciously curt hand toward the man who had accompanied him to Power’s Drummond Street flat. Perhaps he had reason for his curtness. After all, it is one thing to cry for help when the initiative comes from oneself, but another can of sardines when one is ordered point-blank to bring in that help.
Mr. Craig—J. H. Craig. Insurance Broker, was engraved on the card he thrust into Power’s hand—wasted no courtesy on Pap’s chagrin.
“The situation is this, Mr. Power,” he began in that nervous, high-pressure manner of his kind. “I have just heard that Hilary Thorne was killed in an automobile accident near Ste. Margarita. I wrote him up only last week for fifty thousand life. It’s absolutely necessary for me to be able to assure my company there was no possibility of suicide. You see how it is. A man takes out a big policy. Five days later he drives over an embankment. Mighty suspicious!” Power glanced down gravely at the speaker. This J. H. Craig, insurance broker, was one of those taut, wiry, middle-
aged little word merchants whose endocrines give him no peace. Driven thus to nervous, fussy little movements—to action, action, action—he was pitiful and at the same time irritating. He aroused in Power a sort of amused contempt.
“I must have you come with Sergeant Papineau and myself to the scene of the accident, Mr. Power. It’s essential that I have the shrewdest opinion in Montreal. My car’s outside.”
The look of blank disgust on Papineau’s face caused a smile to break across Power’s face. They went below to the waiting car. Half an hour later, in the comparative calm of
the St. Donat Road, Power asked: “Anything in Hilary Thorne’s financial situation that disturbs you, Mr. Craig?”
The insurance broker, bent characteristically tense over the wheel of the speeding car, raised one hand from the latter and brought it down with a smack: “Rumors! You knew Thorne.”
Who in Montreal didn’t know Hilary Thorne? He was one of those bold spirits who had possessed the enviable faculty of adventuring greatly. Wherever you saw him—at the Ritz, the Seigniory, on St. James Street—his tall, bold figure had radiated a sort of shining devil-may-care. You heard of him putting bankrupt industrial concerns on their feet with an almost carefree élan. You saw him at the races, at the dances, the centre of a group of women whose eyes were eager and yearning. And you heard the inevitable rumors that attach themselves to all who dare to be different.
And this little jackal who drove a car like a creature possessed—and had doubtless fawned slavishly on the lion while he lived—was the first to rush to gnaw at his dead bones !
Papineau growled out of his morbid mood: “Sacré nom, there has already been one accident ! With this speed there will be another.”
Power murmured, grinning: “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
Enfin, a road led off to the left far beyond St. Theodore. The little broker swung into it. It was a narrow affair, twisting and tricky. It led past Lac des Isles, and after a while a slope led downward that swung sharply to the left, leaving a drop to a bushy ravine on the right. Here the little man pulled up. And here was to be seen tragedy. The Thorne car, in the gully bottom, lay over on its side and was a charred, ruined thing. The scraggly alders and goldenrod in its vicinity had been scorched from its heat.
"TpOLLOWED by Papineau, Craig scrambled down the bank to the wreck. Power remained on the road. The fine loose gravel at its off edge interested him. Despite the agitation of several pairs of feet, last night’s rain had permitted it to preserve here and there the imprint of the car’s tires. He examined it carefully from the place where it left the central ruck to that spot, fifty feet distant, where it left the bank. He finally got down on his hands and knees and peered at parts of it through his pocket magnifying glass. He had risen to his feet, was frowning down at the riddle in the sands, when the other two men came panting up the bank again.
“Aren’t you going to examine the wreckage?” demanded the little broker with impatient gusto.
Power said, still staring at the tracks: “There’s a drugstore at Ste. Julienne. Want you to drive me back there.” And then to Papineau : “Stay here and guard those tracks, Pap. Don't let anybody near ’em.”
In the car speeding southward the little broker asked anxiously: “Have you made up your mind to anything, yet?” And when Power shook his head abstractedly: “I want you positively to leave no stone unturned.”
Somehow that statement had an irritant effect. Power moved uneasily in his abstraction as though ants were crawling over him, but almost immediately relapsed into it again.
An hour or more later, replete with parcels, he stepped out of the car again where the patient Pap waited. The bundles were undone. There was first of all a square cardboard box, empty. Its bottom removed, it was placed astride an undisturbed portion of the car’s tracks not far from where it had left the bank. The next parcels disclosed two atomizers. Into the first of these Power poured white powder from a sealed tin—plaster of Paris; into the second alcohol. Taking up the first, he sent into the cardboard enclosure a fine spray of plaster until a complete layer of white covered the track. This was then sprayed with the alcohol. And then, alternating plaster and alcohol he built up finally a reasonably thick cast.
Papineau watched with the appreciation of a fellow craftsman, steadying the cardboard fence against the wind. The insurance broker, on the other hand, found the affair tedious, kept moving his hands impatiently. Finally, he burst out: “What’s the idea, Mr. Power? I hope you—”
Power stopped, looked up at him coldly. He seemed on the point of saying something devastating. Instead, he murmured something about “moulage” and went back to his work.
Finally, when the precious cast had hardened and was packed gingerly away in the broker’s coupé, Power said to Papineau, pointing to the tracks again: “Didn’t put on his brakes, did he?”
Pap, staring at the marks, was exclaiming astonished agreement when the little broker cried: “Then it was
Without so much as a glance at him, Power said to the
sergeant, his gaze on the wrecked car below: “You’re driving into the abyss. What do you do at that last instant when you’re all steeled to meet death?”
“For sure,” the other replied, “you will step on le gaz!" “I get the same thought. Let’s go back to Mo'real and do some tricks.” He turned to the little broker. “You can drive us back now. Not too fast. We’re freighted with precious intuitions.”
AT POLICE headquarters they had sprinkled the entire length of the garage floor with wet sand and run one of the light cars over it at varying speeds. To the imprints thus achieved Power compared the positive made from the mold he had manufactured up Ste. Margarita way.
“My hunch seems to have been right, Pap,” he said, rising finally from the task. “It seemed clear from the beginning that the thing was not a pure accident. If it had been, Thorne would have put the brakes on. We know he didn’t. The next point to establish was did he deliberately drive off the road? We both agreed that if that had been his intention he’d have accelerated in those last moments. Those marks” —he pointed to one set of tracks on the garage floor—“were made by an accelerating car. They’re blurred by the force of the traction. The tracks made by Thorne’s car were absolutely clear-cut; look at ’em. Every part of the tread cleanly punched out. So he wasn’t accelerating when he went off the road. Why not?”
Papineau shook his head: “I do not know, me.” “Supposing he was dead at the time?”
"Sacre, mort! He has had an attack of the heart.”
“It’s on the cards. The sooner we get a post-mortem done the better.”
Pap shook his head again. “I ’ave see the body. It is so badly burned I do not t’ink—”
“If he had coronary artery thrombosis, a charred exterior won’t prevent us finding it.”
But it was not a broken heart that Dr. Morin, the little city coroner, disclosed within the blackened hulk that had
once been Hilary Thome. For when the charred scalp had been removed from the crown of the head there was revealed a depressed fracture of the skull; and when, in turn, the bone had been removed, the brain substance beneath was found grossly damaged.
"Voilà!" cried Pap. “He ’as strike himself on the head when he goes over—non?"
Power was staring at the damaged brain. He said sharply to the coroner: “Take another dekko here, doctor. How long since he got that crack?”
Dr. Morin peered down, let out an exclamation of surprise. “But it has happened hours ago!”
“Last night, perhaps?”
“It is possible.”
"Comment?" exclaimed Pap, bending down beside them bewilderedly.
Power straightened with a chuckle. “He was dead when that car took him into the gulley. He’d been dead for hours. Clamp the old brain around that and see what it makes.” “Sacre! That accident, it is the fake!”
“Sure it is. The car was found smoldering there about half-past seven this morning. Let’s say it went over the bank an hour earlier. Thome may have been killed anywhere, even here in Montreal. He was driven out there. The driver stepped out of the car, let it go forward in low, and when it overturned in the ditch he soaked everything in gasoline and set fire to it. Does that click with you, Pap, or doesn’t it?”
“Let’s go hunting, then.”
Papineau was a newspaper addict. At all times of the day one of Montreal’s journals stuck out from his coat pocket. On the way through his office he snatched the afternoon paper from his desk, began to peruse it as the taxi took them toward the Côte Ste. Catherine, where Thorne lived. Suddenly he cried: "Voilà; regardez!" Thrusting the paper in front of Power, he jerked a dramatic forefinger at the headlines.
“What’s it say?” the other asked, giving the sheet a mere glance.
Pap began to read. “He ’as been spending the week-end at the cabin of Mr. Blair Carmichael on Lac des Iles. It is from there he is returning when he runs off the road. . . Qu'est-ce que c'est? There are three others who have been guests—les messieurs Hendrikson, Pawley and Dr. Gerald Coddling.”
“Is that so!” exclaimed Power, his eyes gleaming with quickened interest. Then, leaning sharply forward, he ordered the taxi driver to take them to his own flat on Drummond Street.
“For why?” demanded Papineau.
Power slapped him on the back flamboyantly. “Thar’s gold in them thar hills, laddie!” he cried. “We’ll just reassemble that week-end party and put ’em through a Shorter Catechism. If they can’t tell us something, no one else can. History was made on the Lac des Iles last night. We’ll study history.”
TT WAS eight o’clock that night before they sat face to face
with three of the week-enders. Dr. Gerald Coddling had proved elusive, was busy—so his office-nurse kept reporting —over an important case at which he could not be disturbed. But even these three gathered here in Power’s living room proved interesting enough. The tall, loosely-knit and loosely dressed man with the mobile, handsome features of an actormanager who sprawled in the overstuffed chair by the window was Blair Carmichael, the architect, at whose cabin the party had been held. Dane Hendrikson and Evan Pawley
occupied the chesterfield. Hendrikson was a tall Viking of a man, his Scandinavian ancestry speaking in his blonde, fresh coloring and the magnificent strength of his face and body. He looked not unlike a Nordic edition of Rodin’s Thinker; his deep eyes betraying force and passion. He was chief chemist to one of the largest pulp and paper corporations.
Evan Pawley was the scion of an old Montreal family. Almost as tall as Hendrikson, he lacked the Scandinavian’s breadth of shoulder and towering personality. His raven dark hair was brushed back closely over a lean forehead, to accentuate the long, aquiline nose and the clear, dark eyes. He had the build of a thoroughbred. The facile movements of his hands, the contour of hard, clear-cut vitality, gave an impression of great intellectual ability and quickness of mind. He was, they said, the cleverest of Montreal’s younger lawyers; a sort of Canadian Birkenhead.
“Sorry to have to trouble you, gentlemen,” Power said, facing them frankly, “but there are one or two things about Hilary Thorne’s death I thought you might be able to help me clear up.”
They showed no surprise. Yet Power was aware of a guardedness, a preparedness in their manner, as though they had schooled themselves for this encounter.
“I’m acting,” he informed them, “on behalf of an insurance broker who is anxious to be certain that Thorne did not commit suicide. Can you shed any light on the matter?”
A dark, slow smile loosened Pawley’s aquiline features. “If you’d known Hilary, you’d realize he was unpredictable, Power. He was a flagpole sitter one day and a guttercroucher the next.”
Power watched the lawyer closely. Either he was being as clever as they said he was, or he knew nothing that concerned murder. The other two kept silent, seeming to stand on guard over their tongues.
“Then you know of no reason why he might have committed suicide?”
Pawley shrugged with fluent grace. “He had his business troubles.”
“You don’t know definitely that he was up against it?”
“Only that he was worried.”
“He was a plunger,” came rumbling from the big Scandinavian. “All plungers are worried these days.”
“But none of you know any reason why he might have committed suicide? He gave no sign of it over the weekend?”
Pawley answered with his facile shrug: “Only what we’ve told you.”
“What time did he leave this morning on his way back to the city?”
Carmichael answered that. “Made an early start. We
weren’t up. They found him about half-past seven, didn’t they? Must have left my place around seven.”
“You keep a servant out there? Did he see Thorne leave?”
“Pierre Lajoie comes over from the village to do for me,” replied the architect. “Doesn’t usually arrive until half-past
“And Thome had gone before he got there this morning?”
“There’s one rather odd thing,” Power said. “Thorne took that poor road through to the Ste. Agathe Road. Why didn’t he come by the St. Donat highway? Good deal shorter. If he left so early he must have been in a hurry. Doesn’t hang quite right.”
Evan Pawley said with his facile smile: “I told you he was unpredictable. Perhaps he liked taking rough roads— took enough of ’em in his day.”
“When did you people leave camp?”
“Ten o’clock,” Carmichael answered.
"Did you follow Thorne’s route?”
“All in the same car?”
“All but Dr. Coddling. He and Thome drove their own buses.”
“Dr. Coddling leave the same time you did?” “Half an hour before. Had some patients to see.” “Took the same route?”
“As far as I know.”
“And that’s all you have to tell me, gentlemen?” The big Scandinavian rumbled: “We know as
little as you.”
When they had gone, yet while their presence still reverberated, Power swung on Papineau: “Let’s
beat them to Dr. Coddling’s!”
“\ou t’ink they go there, non?” Pap exclaimed excitedly as they started toward the door.
“Sheep cling together in a storm. We’ll see.” They moved toward the door. In the corridor outside, his finger poised at the bell, stood little J. II. Craig, insurance broker. “Good evening, Mr. Power,” he exclaimed with fussy eagerness, “I’ve come to see if you—”
“Sorry,” Power said brusquely, “we’re busy.” “But Mr. Power—”
"DUT THE little broker made his wail after two ■*-* backs hurrying toward the stair-head. As Power and Papineau stepped into the former’s roadster, the taxi carrying the other three men was less than a hundred yards along the street, Power swung up the lull at the first turn, took several corners on two wheels, and ten minutes later arrived outside a large brick residence marked with a well-polished nameplate. A weary-eyed and harassed nurse informed them that Dr. Coddling had just returned but was at dinner. If they’d care to wait a few minutes. . .
“Can’t wait, sister,” Power said grimly. “Take us to him.”
Her rasped nerves cracked. She cried angrily: “I’ll do no such thing. He’s had a very trying day.”
Power brushed past her toward a door at the far end of the hall through which a servant had come bearing a tray. There they found Dr. Gerald Coddling bent over his lonely plate. Old Jerry, as he was known by his irreverent internes at the Montreal Vic, was a short, jovial little tub of a man, and the eldest by considerable of his late week-end companions. Behind the appearance of a somew-hat stunted Falstaff he hid outstanding clinical acumen and a tremendous capacity for sympathy. He had one of the largest practices in the city.
But as he rose from the table his usual benignity was lacking. “What the devil,” he demanded, “is the meaning of this!” His nerves, too, seemed on edge.
“I'm Kent Power,” Power said, “and this is Detective Sergeant Papineau. We’re after information concerning Hilary Thome’s death. It’s only our urgency that causes us to break in so unceremoniously.”
Continued on page 86
This Yellow Dust
Continued from page 9—Starts on page 7
Something happened to the rotund little physician, a subtle change of demeanor that wrapped him in caution. “I’m afraid,” he said, “that I know very little about it. He left camp this morning before we were up. I heard of his death while I was making my rounds at the hospital. Shocking affair. Gave me a nasty jar.”
“Will it prove a worse jar, doctor, if I tell you he was murdered?” Power asked coolly.
'fhe little doctor's face went a startled blank. “Murdered!” he gasped.
“Fractured skull. We found it at postmortem.”
As he stood there swaying on his heels, Old Jerry gave the impression of one clutching at a straw. “But that could have happened when he crashed.”
“It didn’t. Thorne was murdered last night.”
There came a sudden sharp exclamation from the door. A girl stood framed there. A girl with dark red hair and passionate eyes; a girl with a wayward, beautiful mouth and a body molded out of sensuous clay. Papineau, always sensitive to beauty, drew in a sharp breath.
The girl was staring at Old Jerry with bitter, accusing eyes. “Father!” It came like the crack of a whip.
“Nedda! Let me handle this.” There was agony in the old man’s eyes.
But the girl, caught up in the arrogant cruelty of her emotions, her eyes bright pinpoints of fury, cried: “They killed him!
And then a quick and liquid voice cried from the hall behind her: “What’s this,
East Lynne?” It was Evan Pawley’s cleancut figure and dark clever face that appeared behind her, Carmichael and Hendrikson looming behind him.
The little physician, in command of himself again, said: “These two gentlemen”— he indicated Power and Papineau—“have just informed me that Hilary Thorne was murdered.”
■pVAN PAWLEY winced at that, stood for a moment staring oddly at Power. Then Power said: “And Miss Coddling
seems to know who murdered him.” He turned to the girl. “Am I right?”
But her blind passion had spent itself. She was pale, had the look of one who has been wrung by tragedy, but the waywardness had left her face; there was something bravely frank in her eyes as she looked straight into Power’s. “You’re quite wrong.
I can’t think how you—”
“But you ’ave said, ‘They killed him,’ mademoiselle,” exclaimed Papineau in a voice that held reproach.
“What else could I have said?” she cried. “I’d just heard you tell father that he’d been murdered.”
“And you haven’t an idea in the world who killed him?” Power asked her brusquely.
“Of course not.”
“Then perhaps you had better leave me with these gentlemen. They may have more to say—now.”
Her glance locked with his for a defiant moment, then moved to the round little man who was her father and to these other men who stood watching her with eyes that seemed trying to steel themselves against emotions she aroused. And then, swinging on her heel like the embittered queen of a Greek tragedy, she left the room.
When the door had closed behind her, Power turned to the three men who had lately entered. His face was grim. “Do I get the truth now?” he demanded.
The quick-thinking Pawley spoke for them. “You’ve had our statement.”
“We ask the truth!” snapped Pap. “M’sieu Thorne is murdered last night. You 'ave say that he left camp this morning.”
“We said no such thing!” Pawley retorted,
“It was our belief he left camp this morning. That’s what we said. None of us saw him go.”
“And when you did see him last, he was alive?” Power asked.
“Certainly.” Pawley did not hesitate in his answer.
Power turned to Dr. Coddling, whose rotund face was now frozen granite. “You confirm that statement, doctor?”
“You, Hendrikson; you, Carmichael?” The affirmatives came without reserve. Power smiled ironically. “Custer’s last stand,” he exclaimed. “You’ve worked out a story and you’re going to stick to it. But don’t think for a moment that either Sergeant Papineau or I believe you. On the contrary, we are quite certain that one of you killed Thorne and the rest have agreed to a conspiracy of silence. I hope those of you who are innocent of murder realize you are accessories after the fact.”
The architect thrust himself forward, truculent with indignation. “You’ve got no right to talk like that. There isn’t a shred of evidence pointing to us.”
“Of course there isn’t,” Pawley cut in lightly. “He’s simply letting his imagination run away with him. Personally, I have my doubts if Thorne was murdered.”
“Yes,” came the tall Scandinavian’s rumble, “how do you know that?”
The derisive smile did not leave Power’s face. “I can prove to any jury in the world that he was murdered.”
‘Then convince a jury that we murdered him,” said Pawley curtly.
“Perhaps I’ll do that very thing,” Power replied amiably.
HTWENTY minutes later, as they sat over Scotch and water in his flat, Power was saying: “There isn’t a doubt in the world they know who killed Thorne. Perhaps it was the result of a drunken fight. In any case they went into a huddle afterward and decided on the disposal of the body and the story they were going to tell. I seem to see Evan Pawley's facile brain in that.”
“But I t’ink,” Pap declared, shaking his head, “it will be très difficile to pin it to one of them.”
“So do I,” Power agreed. “But there’s onelittle lead we’ll keep in mind—Old Jerry’s lovely daughter. Why was she so disturbed emotionally over Thorne’s death? Did that phenomenon suggest anything to you?”
“L’amour clicks with me. And that outburst of hers when she first got the news— she was accusing the old man of something. Perhaps there was something between her and Thome that he’d tried to scotch. Thorne didn’t have the sweetest reputation with women. It’s my guess that when she heard the word ‘murder,’ her first wild surmise was that Old Jerry’d had a hand in it.”
Pap leaned forward excitedly: “Perhaps one of these others is also her lover—M’sieu Pawley—eh?”
“We’ll look into it. But first thing tomorrow morning we take a dekko at Blair Carmichael’s camp at Lac des Iles.”
“Oui; for sure,” Pap agreed earnestly.
So early was their start made that, despite the fact they took the longer route via the Ste. Agathe Road, they reached the scene of the accident around seven o’clock. Pulling the roadster in to the side of the road, Power descended to the wrecked car. For a full half hour he and Papineau combed its neighborhood for a clue. But finally, standing there amid the trampled goldenrod, he had to acknowledge to himself that the thing had been accomplished with an amazing cleverness. Tearing off idly a plume of the yellow autumn flower, he said to Pap, “Nothing here,” and climbed up the bank. He was stepping into the car, a baffled look on his face, when suddenly he halted, stared hard at the thing in his hand.
“Holy Pete!” he ejaculated suddenly. “Comment?” exclaimed Pap.
Without replying Power took an envelope from an inner pocket and, thrusting the flower into it, stepped into the car. They moved eastward. At the gas station at Ste. Margarita they stopped to question the attendant. No, he said, he had not seen two cars containing gentlemen pass that way early the morning before. Yesterday morning he had opened the station as usual at seven o’clock. It was certain that if such cars as those described had passed he would have seen them. He saw everything that passed on the road.
As they drove on toward Lac des Iles Power said: “They must have got off to a pretty early start yesterday morning; perhaps before dawn. Took no chances of being seen.”
'’THEY FOUND Pierre Lajoie clearing up Carmichael’s camp. The young habitant was a wiry chap, with lively little dark eyes and a long mop of dark hair. At first he knew nothing. Pap got working on him. Among his own people Pap had a way of getting what he wanted. Presently he had young I-ajoie in a more co-operative, if somewhat agitated, frame of mind, and the answers to Power’s questions came franker and franker.
The five gentlemen had arrived at camp Saturday afternoon. They had spent the remaining daylight hours on the lake fishing. In the evening they played poker. Everything had been amiable. On Sunday morning they rose late and hung around the camp until after the midday meal—except Hendrikson, who had gone fishing alone. “M’sieu Hendrikson is one fisherman.” In the afternoon they had cruised in the power boat. In the evening again there were cards. No, they had not strayed into the woods at all. “Only de camp an’ de lac, m’sieu.”
“Was Sunday night amiable, too?” Power asked.
Hesitancy roosted on Lajoie’s lively features; he shrugged.
“Not so amiable, eh?” cried Pap.
The young habitant spat, shrugged again. “You onerstan’ dey are drink de whisky, m’sieu,” he was constrained to yield extenuatingly.
“Where were you during the evening?” “Me, I am in an’ out. Mos’ly in de kitchen—she is behind.” Lajoie pointed to the small outhouse a few yards behind the cabin.
“Did you hear any definite statement made in anger?’’
Again the habitant shrugged. “Only when M’sieu Pawley cry, ‘Dat’s a lie, ’Ilary!’ ” “What happened then?”
“Not’ing. Dey are quiet after dat. Den M’sieu Carmichael he come out an’ say, ‘All right, Pierre; you can go now.’ So I go home to my place in de village.”
“What time did you return in the morning?”
“Mebbe seven; mebbe seven t’irty.” “Everything quiet?”
“Oui. Dey are still mak’ de sleep. Bimeby dey come down; mebbe nine o’clock.”
They went into the large living room of the cabin. Power stood beside the central table. “They played cards here?” he asked Lajoie. “Oíd.”
Power examined the table carefully. “You washed it yesterday?”
“Any stains on it that might have been blood?”
A tremor passed through the habitant; he crossed himself. “Non, non!”
“Any bloodstains anywhere?”
Power pulled the chairs back from the rug on which they and the table stood. He got down on his knees and examined it carefully. He had risen, was moving toward the fireplace, when Pap suddenly asked Lajoie. “That rug, ’as it been under the table night before last?”
Power swung sharply. The habitant swallowed his Adam’s apple, stood gaping wideeyed at the floor-covering.
“Dites-moi!” snapped Pap.
“Non; she lay over dere by de fireplace.
I fin’ her under de table yesterday morning.” In a synchronous movement the two men reached down, flung the rug in toward the table. Papineau let out an exclamation. He was staring at a large round area of floor that had recently been scoured thoroughly. Despite the dust that lay over it—evidently thrown there to darken it to the color of the surrounding wood—it still betrayed itself. Power had his pocketknife out in a trice. From the centre of the area he carved a sliver of wood from a spot darker than the rest. Rising, he said to the pale, wide-eyed Lajoie: “Who sat here?”
The answer came in a hoarse, awe-struck whisper. “M’sieu T’ome, he has sit dere.” Power turned to Papineau. “Let’s stroll,” he said.
They went out. And then in widening semicircles from the cabin Power led the way into the woods. A half hour later the perspiring Pap panted: “For why do we crash these woods like crazy moose?”
“I’m looking for a wreath for Hilary Thorne,” Power answered cryptically.
Twenty minutes later, deep in the woods, he came to a halt. “Not here,” he said. “Let’s go back and talk to Lajoie again. I’d like to know what kind of clothes the weekend visitors wore.”
TIGHT O’CLOCK that night. Hicks -Encame into the laboratory where Papineau, ensconced in the ricketty swivel chair at the desk, sat reading the evening paper, while Power bent above a microscope on the lighted bench. “A Mr. Craig keeps ringing up, sir. I told ’im you’d given orders you were not to be disturbed, but ’e insists.” “Tell him to go wash an elephant,” Power grunted irritably, without glancing up from his work.
Hicks retired solemnly.
“He buzzes like a bee, ce petit homme,” exclaimed Pap.
“His type always gave me the pip,” growled Power.
A half-hour passed, during which Power moved about his occasions with the accomplished celerity of one who even though pressed by time, was completely at home with his surroundings. Then again Hicks came, announcing: “The gentlemen are
“Show ’em in.”
Papineau dropped his feet from the desk, folded his paper and sat forward with an air of expectancy. Dr. Coddling, followed by Pawley, Carmichael and the big Scandinavian, stepped into the laboratory. Except for the doctor, who carried a Gladstone bag, they wore that type of rough, uncouth garmentry which the male affects for the great open spaces. They bore themselves with the grim, wary attitude of men being forced blindly toward an abyss.
“What’s the idea of all this?” Old Jerry growled.
Power smiled amiably. ’’Just a sartorial curiosity, doctor. Interested in the latest outdoor fashions for men.”
“I suppose you’re aware,” Pawley said curtly, “that we don’t have to submit to this sort of thing.”
Power did not seem to have heard. While Dr. Coddling opened his bag and removed the contained garments, Power was consulting in a small notebook jottings he had made from Pierre Lajoie’s rendition. He kept glancing from these to the gentlemen. Finally he said to the tall Scandinavian: “You were wearing a white sweater, Hendrikson. Lose it?”
“I only put it on at night,” was the reply. “Doesn’t matter. The rest of you are arrayed according to Hoyle.” He rose to his feet. “Now, gentlemen, I’m going to ask you to divest yourselves of coat and pants.”
“The devil you are!” Carmichael growled angrily.
Pawley said, with his facile smile: “Supposing we refuse?”
“In that case, Sergeant Papineau arrests the assembly and we continue this investigation at the jail.”
The lawyer grinned. “You win,” he said, and proceeded to take off his coat.
His lead gave office to the others, who finally stood in shirts and underwear. The
divested garments were then placed on hangers and hung by Power and Papineau in four large paper bags of the kind the careful housewife employs against moth and dust. The bags were then carefully sealed and beaten with switches which Power had cut that afternoon on the way home from Lac des Iles.
“House-cleaning week,” Pawley drawled sarcastically.
“Buffoonery,” snapped Carmichael.
Dr. Coddling and Hendrikson said nothing, simply watched the procedure with taut, guarded eyes.
FINALLY Power took scissors and cut the bottoms from the four bags. “All right, gentlemen,” he said, “you may dress again. Taking the bag-bottoms to the bench, he poured the fine dust acquired into labelled glass containers. From these he transferred minute quantities to microscopic slides, placed them beside the microscope and proceeded to examine them in turn. Finally, laying one of them aside, he placed under the instrument a slide that he had prepared before their arrival. He turned to Dr. Coddling.
“Would you mind looking at this slide, doctor?”
Old Jerry waddled forward guardedly. He glanced down the microscope. A faint but unmistakable tremor passed through him. As he lifted his eyes from the instrument Power said: “You’ll agree that those are red blood cells, won’t you?”
The old man wet his lips. “Yes,” he said, and the word seemed wrung from him.
Power turned to the others. “Those blood cells were dissolved from a splinter of wood. The splinter came from the floor of your cabin, Carmichael. It came from a spot that had been carefully washed; a spot near which Hilary Thorne sat while you played cards Sunday night. Don’t tell me you killed a rabbit there last spring; those are human blood cells. Pierre Lajoie will swear that the stain in question was not there Sunday afternoon. He’ll also swear that the rug we found covering it this morning was in a different place Sunday night. He’ll also swear that he heard you, Pawley, say to Thorne in anger, ‘That’s a lie!’ ”
Pawley laughed with easy confidence. “If you think you can pin anything on me because I called Thorne a liar you must believe in fairies. I’ve called several people that; this world’s full of liars.”
“I’ll say it is,” Power replied with a grin. “But your little outburst does seem to indicate that there were high words between you and Thorne.”
“So what?” replied the other coolly. “Well, having settled that Thorne said something which roused your ire, we come to the next step. Someone struck him over the head immediately afterward—probably with a whisky bottle. That comes out of Pierre Lajoie’s evidence. He says that you, Carmichael, came out not long after he heard Pawley’s remark and sent him home. You sent him home to get rid of a witness.” “Hooey,” growled the architect.
“I’ve been listening to idle rumor this afternoon,” Power went on imperturbably. “It appears that two of you gentlemen have been paying court to Dr. Coddling’s daughter.” He turned apologetically to the old man. “I’m sorry to have to bring this in, but it plays a part. Hilary Thome also was paying her attention. I suggest that Thome had been drinking Sunday night and that he said something about her —probably to taunt all of you—and you, too, doctor, since he knew you didn’t approve his suit. Then one of you struck him. It wasn’t done premeditatedly. Whoever did it had probably been drinking too; did it in hot anger— crime passionel. And I’ll say this, gentlemen: 1 don’t think any jury would convict that man of murder with the full facts before it. Where you made a grievous mistake was in trying to cover up. I can quite well appreciate why you wanted to cover up— to prevent scandal attaching itself not only to yourselves but to Miss Coddling. In any case you held a council of war, and as a result drove Thome along the Ste. Margarita Road, sent his car into the ditch, soaked it
in gasoline and set it on fire. Then you went back to the cabin and were all in bed when Lajoie arrived.”
“Rubbish,” growled Old Jerry stoutly. “You’ll have a handful proving it,” Pawley exclaimed with a curt laugh.
“Let’s get on with it then. I’m putting myself in your places, gentlemen. I’m supposing I’m a member of the party. Who, I ask myself, will drive the dead man to the scene of the accident and set fire to the car? Obviously the man who killed him.”
“Why obviously?” demanded Carmichael. “Because of noblesse, oblige. I suggest that you’re the type of man who would insist in bearing the full brunt of your individual actions. So let’s agree that it was the murderer who staged the accident.”
“Have it your own way,” said Pawley with a shrug.
“I happen to know who did stage the accident,” Power said quietly.
HT HEY GAPED at him. “You do?” gasped Dr. Coddling incredulously.
“Yes, I do,” Power replied. “There was goldenrod in that ravine; goldenrod everywhere. And goldenrod leaves its traces; you brush against it and the pollen sticks to your clothes. It stuck to one suit of clothes. ” The tall Scandinavian let out a rumbling laugh. “There’s goldenrod everywhere this time of year.”
“Agreed. But I’ve checked your movements minutely, gentlemen. You didn’t go into the woods during the week-end at all; you spent your time between the cabin and the lake. And in any case there is no goldenroc! in the vicinity of Carmichael’s cabin. Sergeant Papineau and I made a most thorough search and we know. What’s more, the goldenrod pollen I’ve got on this slide”— he picked a glass oblong from the bench— “is fresh. Nor is there any doubt that it’s goldenrod.” He turned to the Scandinavian. “We found the pollen in your clothes, Hendrikson. You killed Hilary Thome.” Hendrikson started to say something, but Pawley silenced him with a quick gesture and swung on Power. “We’re admitting nothing !” he cried. “We’ll take our chances on your being able to prove it to a jury. I don’t think you can.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” Power replied with a shrug. “But if you want my advice, I suggest that you go into court and tell the truth without reservation. It’s your only chance of getting a verdict of manslaughter; Hendrikson’s only chance of escaping the gallows.”
There was a brief, deathlike silence. Then old Dr. Coddling said: “He’s right, boys. We’ve played the fool in this business. Dane didn’t mean to kill him—lost control of his temper—and heaven knows he had aggravation. When Nedda knows the truth she’ll insist on having you go through with it.” Papineau had stepped to the tall Scandinavian’s side. “It is necessary that I arrest you, m’sieu. But me, I do not believe either that you are convicted for more than manslaughter.”
Hendrikson permitted himself to be led from the room without word or protest.
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Build a Rain Catcher
SEEKING NEW sources of water for livestock, U.S. Forest Service experimenters have constructed a giant “rain barrel” near Albuquerque, New Mexico. A sloping metal roof, 120 feet long and 100 feet wide, catches rain and drains it into a storage tank, from which it is delivered as needed to a near-by watering trough. Even the roof of the tank is sloped to form an auxiliary catch basin, for water is precious in a region where only twenty inches of rain fall yearly. Forest Service men estimate that the 75,000-gallon tank will be sufficient to hold winter precipitation for use in the spring, and summer rains for use in the fall, yielding a total of 135,000 gallons annually. Such rainfall catchers are relatively inexpensive to build and can be set up anywhere on a range, making it unnecessary to pipe water for long distances.—Popular Science.