The RedBearded Killer
First of a new and dramatic series of detective stories by the author of " The Man With the Clubfoot "
WHEN I READ of Horace Bowl Treadgold’s feat in solving, in the course of a fishing trip to French Canada, the baffling series of crimes known as the St. Florentin murders, I was not inordinately surprised. On more than one count, Mr. Treadgold is a remarkable personality. Head of the old-established and exclusive tailoring firm of Bowl, Treadgold and Flack, of Savile Row, and direct descendant of that Josiah Bowl who founded the business in the reign of George III, he is immensely proud of representing the fifth generation of a family of tailors. At an age when he might comfortably retire, he still insists, not only on attending daily at the shop but also on personally measuring clients. “I’m a tailor,” he declares, “and, if I may say so, a pretty good tailor. So why shouldn’t I wait on the customers myself?” Widely travelled and formerly for many years in charge of the New York branch, he has acquaintances in every quarter of the globe. He still crosses the Atlantic three times a year, and thinks nothing of travelling by air to the Continent to measure a monarch for mourning, or to India, as he did last year, to advise a Maharajah regarding new uniforms for his bodyguard. But crime and, in second place, stamp-collecting are the passions of his leisure hours. The New World is always readier to try an experiment than the Old, and it is intelligible that Mr. Treadgold’s first successes as a crime investigator should have been achieved on the North American side of the Atlantic. Always the most modest of men, Mr. Treadgold maintained a discreet silence on the subject, and it was only Major Cobbey’s dramatic irruption at Savile Row that opened my eyes to my old friend’s growing prowess as a criminologist.
Not that 1 was unaware of his remarkable deductive powers. Sometimes, when we were lunching together, he would demonstrate them for my benefit by guessing at the character or even the profession of complete strangers. I have tested him with people 1 know. He was rarely at fault. “If a fellow’s no hero to his valet. George,” he once said to me, “he’s still less a hero to his tailor. No place like a fitting room for seeing humanity in the raw, my boy; it’s clothes, not manners, that makyth man. In Tristram Shandy, as I’m sure you’ll recollect”—Mr. Treadgold is always quoting Tristram Shandy; the most human book ever written, he calls it—“it says that body and mind are like a jerkin and its lining; rumple one and you rumple the other. Ill-fitting clothes mean an ill-fitting mind; that’s why a tailor who takes any pride in his job has to be a bit of a psychologist.”
FOR THE past fifteen years, in succession to my late father, I have been Mr. Treadgold’s solicitor. On the morning of Major Cobbey’s call, I had attended at Savile Row by appointment to take my old friend’s instructions in the matter of some cloth contracts. Pink-faced and portly, a dignified figure with his grizzled hair and mustache, he was chatting with Mr. Gallup, the manager, in the front of the shop with its array of Royal warrants and
fly-blown prints of Victorian dandies, all wasp-waists and whiskers. The hour was eleven, business slack, and we discussed our business at the long window, leaning on the counter among bales of cloth.
Presently my companion observed: “I fancy Pm about to have a visitor.” A dapper individual in brown, no longer very young, had alighted from a taxi before the door and was waiting with considerable impatience for the driver to give him change. I laughed. “How do you know he hasn’t come for a fitting?”
Mr. Treadgold covered a yawn with his hand. “People don’t rush away from the country in a tearing hurry to call on their tailors. Surely you must have noticed that he has omitted to shave this morning, and that he didn’t wait to put on a day shirt with his tweeds but is wearing what s clearly the stiff-fronted evening shirt he took oft last night, and liis evening shoes—patent leather and no toe-caps.” I chuckled. “You win, H. B. But what makes you think he’s come up from the country?”
The taxi-driver had stopfied a cruising cab for change, leaving his fare lidgetting on the pavement. Mr. Treadgold sighed. “George, where are your eyes? It hasn’t rained this morning, but it poured all over the South of England yesterday. That white mud on his shoes is fresh, suggesting that he’s recently been hurrying over wet country roads— to catch his train. I dare say.”
“As far as that goes, there are wet roads in London, too.” “And the bundle of morning papers under his arm —the whole collection? They’re crumpled, they’ve been read-doesn’t it argue the train? Besides, what does the fact that he has no change suggest?”
“That he left home in a rush, I suppose.”
“Surely, but also that he’s a commuter.”
My companion flushed. “Sorry; I was being American. A season-ticket holder. He is coming here. Do we know him, Mr. Gallup?” he asked the manager who had joined us. Mr. Gallup shook his head. “No, Mr. Horace.”
TT WAS a trim little man with a weatherbeaten face who stormed in. “Mr. Treadgold?” he panted, gazing from one to the other of us. My friend inclined his head with dignity. The visitor grasped his hand. “My name’s Cobbey, Major Cobbey,” he introduced himself. “You don’t know me, Mr. Treadgold, but my wife, who’s American, has heard of you from her sister. Mrs. Van Sant, on the other side. It seems you were instrumental in helping Millicent Van Sant in a delicate affair involving a string of pearls.”
“I remember Mrs. Van Sant very well,” said Mr. Treadgold guardedly.
“My sister-in-law says you’re a marvel, a born sleuth. She says that in half a dozen cases where the police were up against a brick wall—”
Mr. Treadgold looked acutely embarrassed. “She exaggerates, major. A matter of one or two lucky guesses—no more than that.”
But the visitor swept on. “Mr. Treadgold,” he declaimed dramatically, “if you refuse to help me, you see before you a ruined man'.”
My friend made a clicking noise with his tongue. “Dear me. I hope it’s not as bad as that.”
Words rushed from the major. “I run the Cleremount Abbey Estate in Surrey—bungalows, you know; it was formerly the country seat of the Earls of Cleremount. Cleremount Abbey has been turned into a clubhouse and there’s an eighteen-hole golf course—everything tiptop.” He sighed deeply. “Recently, the peace of our small community has been troubled by a series of alarming incidents. On three occasions within the past fortnight a mysterious stranger brandishing a dagger, has pounced out upon unaccompanied ladies.”
“Dear me!” observed Mr. Treadgold.
“The assailant is described as a tall man with a scrub of red beard, wearing a hat pulled down over his eyes and a truly remarkable overcoat.”
At that the tailor in my friend pricked up his ears. “How, remarkable?” Mr. Treadgold demanded.
Cobbey shrugged his shoulders. “Well, one of the women describes it as a sort of khaki plaid, another as a mustardcolored affair checkered in brown and green.”
Mr. Treadgold grunted “A curious-looking garment, indeed.”
“He appears as it’s getting dark,” the other resumed. “The last time was yesterday evening, when he scared the wits out of Mrs. Plender-Barnes as she was stepping from her garden on to the golf course. The incident was reported to me only this morning, and my wife insisted that I should take the first train up to London and implore your aid.”
MR. TREADGOLD flung me a slightly ironical glance, then made an unwilling movement of the shoulders. “I don’t know what I can do, major. It sounds to me like a practical joke.”
“If it’s a joke,” declared the major tremulously, “it’s one that’s likely to cost me and my partners dear. The tenants are up in arms about it. They’re threatening to cancel their leases unless this miscreant’s laid by the heels.”
“What are the police doing?”
Cobbey snorted. “Sergeant Cotter, our local Dogberry, is making enquiries. Which means that nothing will be done until someone’s murdered.” Mr. Treadgold elevated bushy eyebrows. “I take a serious view,” the major insisted. “It’s a pure matter of luck that he hasn't claimed a victim already. Rhoda Bryce, who meets her father at the train every evening, was attacked in the loneliest part of Clere Common; she’s an athletic young woman, and saved herself only by taking to her heels. Fraulein Helder, the Fitchetts’ German governess, was out for her regular evening stroll along the back avenue when the beggar appeared, and but for a telegraph boy who happened to arrive on his bike—”
“And the case last night?” Mr. Treadgold broke in.
“Mrs. Plender-Barnes? She breeds Pekes, you know, and walks her dogs after tea every day on the golf course. If she hadn’t had the presence of mind to throw her handbag in the brute’s face, she’d certainly have been knifed. I believe we’re dealing with a homicidal lunatic. I’ve got to do something about it, and I don’t want to hire detectives. If you’d come down and advise us—next week-end, say. My wife and 1 will be delighted to put you up—your friend, too. If nothing results, I can at least promise you some good golf and middling bridge.”
Rather to my surprise Mr. Treadgold did not refuse. “How about it, George?” he asked me.
The prosjject of seeing II. B. on the trail was not a little intriguing, and I hastened to say I was free. It was arranged that Mr. Treadgold should drive me down to Cleremount Abbey after lunch on the following Saturday. “1 never could resist a hunt,” he remarked to me apologetically after Cobbey had departed. “And the case certainly presents one rather mysterious angle.” But what that angle was, he declined to say.
This was on the Tuesday. At nine o’clock on Thursday morning Mr. Treadgold was on the telephone to me. “About that Cleremount Abbey business. . .” he began. His voice had an odd ring.
“What about it, H. B.?”
“A girl was stabbed to death on the estate last night. I’m off there at once and you’re coming with me. I’ll stop by for you with the car in ten minutes.”
MR. TREADGOLD drove us down to Surrey in his big coupé. His air was sternly purposeful. “She was only twenty,” he told me. “Edgar Allan Poe said that the most tragic thing in the world is the death of a young girl. So young, and to die like that. Ye gods!”
Daphne Wade had lived at a house called High Trees on the edge of the estate. The household consisted of her stepfather, Henry Marton, a retired rubber plantel*; her mother; a young man, Stephen Keithley, who was Marton’s secretary; a butler, Penruddock by name; a housemaid and a cook. The whole staff slept in with the exception of Keithley, who had a cottage in the grounds.
Mrs. Marton, who was an invalid, took her meals upstairs; and, on the previous evening, Marton, Daphne and the secretary had dined together as usual. After dinner Marton retired to the library, according to his invariable habit, leaving the young people together in the drawingroom. About eleven o’clock Penruddock brought the whisky and soda to the library and was told he could go to bed. On his way there he asked Miss Wade, who was then alone in the drawing-room, reading and listening to the wireless, if he could get her anything. She said. No, but not to lock up; the rain had stopped and she meant to take the dog for a run.
She was never seen alive again. Around two o’clock Marton went to bed. The drawing-room lights were out and he concluded that his stepdaughter had long since retired, especially as he knew that she would be playing golf at nine in the morning. But when the maid took the tea to Miss Wade’s bedroom at seven,.there was no sign of her, and the bed had not been slept in.
The alarm was given. She was not in the grounds, but, in view of her statement to Penruddock, they looked for her in the wood abutting on the property—she sometimes took her dog there although, since there had been these attacks on women on the estate, her mother had expressly forbidden it. They found her, face downward under a tree, stabbed to death in the back.
“Cobbey thinks,” said Mr. Treadgold, looking grim,
“that the murderer crept up on her in the dark, delivered his blow and fled. There’s no trace of a struggle and she’s otherwise unharmed—the doctor says that death was instantaneous. By his statement, she’d l>een dead between eight and nine hours when she was found around half past seven, which would put the crime back to somewhere between half past ten and half past eleven on the previous night. The secretary, however, asserts it must have been later than ten-thirty for he was with her until then, when he went off to his cottage to bed.”
“What about the knife, IL B.?”
“No weapon was discovered.”
He frowned. “Nothing, Cobbey says. The wood is deep in leaves.”
“And the dog. what became of him?”
My companion gave me an approving glance, “She never took him out after all; at any rate the dog, a fullgrown Alsatian, was discovered this morning shut up in the room off the hall where he always sleeps. The girl must have put him in there before she left the house because, when Penruddock said goodnight to her, the dog was with her in the drawing-room.”
“And nobody heard her cry out, or anything?” “Apparently not; but maybe she was struck down too quickly and there was no cry.”
“Was anything seen of the murderer?”
“No. The police are beating the woods for him.”
“ This funny-looking overcoat of his ought to furnish a clue.”
Mr. Treadgold grunted. “It’s about the only one. The irresponsible crime is always the hardest to trace. The lunatic kills without motive and, without a motive to work from, reason is left floundering.”
AGATEWAY flanked by heraldic beasts admitted us to the stately park. At the Abbey itself, now the club, an imposing mansion with an Inigo Jones portico, where we were to pick up the major, my companion gloomily studied the notices of the social activities of the community while Cobbey was fetched. Our host proposed that we should drive at once to High Trees; we could drop our bags at his bungalow afterward.
Outside the Martons’ house, pleasantly shaded by centurion elms, a brawny young man paced furiously up and down. He was bareheaded and the sun struck lights from his fiery red hair. I le ran up to the car and we saw that his eyes were red. his face distorted with grief.
“I warned her not to go out,” he cried to Cobbey. “Apart from everything else, you know what her mother’s heart is like. The least shock—if anything happened to her only child. But Daph wouldn’t listen to me; she was always so sure of herself, so pig-headed. But 1 didn’t mean to criticize her. Poor kid. I just can’t bear it!”
“How is Mrs. Marton bearing up, Keithley?” the major asked.
“This ought to finish her,” the young man returned rather brutally, and flung away.
The front door was not locked. As Cobbey opened it, a huge Alsatian bounded out, barking and snarling at us. Behind him a lanky figure in butler’s dress came hurrying.
“Call him off. Penruddock !” cried the major, springing back. “Here, Rollo, here!” the man summoned the hound; but the Alsatian continued to growl and bare his teeth at us most alarmingly and, as the butler approached, snapped angrily at him.
Penruddock retreated in haste. He was an odd-looking man —Cornish, I surmised, by his name and dark coloring; tall and excessively thin, with hollow cheeks and sullen black eyes.
“That dog’s as fierce as fierce with everybody, barring the master and Mr. Keithley and, of course, the poor young miss,” he muttered in a surly voice. “If she’d had him with her last night, he’d have torn that bloody villain to bits!” Then Keithley came back. The dog went to him at his call and he took it into the house.
All the morning, Penruddock told us, Sergeant Cotter and his men had been “nosing round” in the wood. But they had finished now, and Marton had gone down to the village with them. Continued on page 35
The Red-Bearded Killer
— Continued from page 19—Starts on page 18 -
“It seems a good moment to have a quiet look round” Mr. Treadgold suggested to Cobbey. “Don’t bother to come with us, if you’ll just tell me how to find the spot. We’ll meet you here, say, in half an hour.”
THE MAJOR would have liked to have accompanied us. But, for all his gentle manner, my companion had a firm way with him, and eventually Cobbey took us round to the back of the house and ¡jointed to an iron gate in a box hedge on the far side of the gardens.
“Through that gate. She was lying at the foot of a tall fir about fifty yards into the wood. You can’t mistake the place; the police have roped it off. You won’t be disturbed. The only other access to the wood is from the road, and there’s a constable on the gate there to keep the public out.”
The fir in question, engirdled by its rope barrier, flanked a path that ran through the wood. I was relieved to find that they had taken the body away. I had expected my companion to whip out a lens and fling himself on his face. But he only stood there, his kindly features grave, his blue eyes sorrowful, gazing down at the carpet of leaves beneath the tree. For a good five minutes he must have remained thus, occasionally turning his head to look back toward the gate. Presently he stooped and, gathering up a tiny scrap of something
white that clung to a clump of nettles—it looked like blotting paper—slipped it into his waistcoat pocket.
He broke a long silence. “Our redbearded friend has changed his methods,” he observed.
“Why, in the three other cases he appeared while it was still light. But this time. . .” He fluttered a small diary. “I thought so -the new moon’s not until Saturday.” His gaze rested on me bleakly. “How could he have seen her in the dark?” He did not wait for my answer but, ducking under the rope, began to plod slowly round the tree in an ever-widening circle. In a little while he was out of sight, though I heard him crashing among the ferns. When at last he reappeared he was perspiring freely and breathing rather hard. He took my arm and led me to the gate. “George,” he remarked as we retraced our steps to the house, “what do a red beard and a funny overcoat suggest to you.''” “Disguise?” I hazarded.
My companion chuckled. “Right. Anything else?”
“I’d have to think that one out.”
“What are the three causes of all obscurity and confusion in the mind of man?”
“I don’t know, but I bet it’s a quotation from Tristram Shandy."
Mr. Treadgold nodded, his eyes twinkling. “Correct. The answer is, dull organs, in the first place; secondly, the failure to I receive impressions when the organs are not dull; and thirdly, a memory like a t sieve.”
j “Meaning, II. R.?”
Again that throaty chuckle. “Meaning j that a lot of things in life besides dreams ! go by contraries, George.”
The major was in front of the house, j lidgetting. “Marton’s in the library with Sergeant Cotter. He’d like to see you.” With his stalwart frame, leonine head and easy manners, Henry Marton was a personable individual, smartly tailored and dressed with considerable care. He seemed to be in his fifties, but his dark hair was I thick and only touched with grey at the ! temples. He introduced Sergeant Cotter, j a florid-faced, towheaded man in uniform.
“We’re all terribly upset, as you may I imagine,” lie said to Mr. Treadgold with j a haggard air. “Especially my poor wife.
She’s wonderfully brave about it. Only a I few minutes ago she said to me, ‘All that matters now is to protect other women’s daughters from this maniac. Now that Daph’s gone, I’m prepared to spend the last penny I possess on bringing her mur, derer to justice.’ ”
“A shocking affair,” Mr. Treadgold oh| served. “That young secretary of yours ! seems pretty cut up about it.”
The other nodded, sighed. “He’d have liked to marry my stepdaughter. But that.
I of course, was out of the question.”
“He struck me as being a nice enough I chap,” observed Mr. Treadgold.
The major spoke up importantly. “You don’t understand. The young man has no money. I’m sure our friend will excuse my mentioning it, but everyone knows that Mrs. Marton was left more than comfortably off by her first husband, and that Miss Daphne, who’s her only child, would have come into a considerable fortune on her death. Isn’t that so, Marton?”
The master of High Trees nodded forlornly. With a vague air Mr. Treadgold began to drift about the library, stopping from time to time to read the title of a book. Penruddock came in with the sherry and I thought again what an ill-favored, gypsy-looking fellow he was. Treadgold gazed after the man as he left the room. “Bit of a character that butler of yours.” he remarked to our host. “Had him long?”
Marton shrugged his shoulders. “About six months. He’s odd in some ways—he’s Cornish, you know—but an excellent servant.”
“I notice by the posters down at the clubhouse that he’s been playing in the club amateur theatricals.”
Marton and Cobbey both laughed. “I haven’t seen him myself, but they tell me he’s quite a good actor,” said Marton.
I LOOKED sharply at my friend and found his manner disarming. But he couldn’t fool me. I caught the drift of his mind. Acting implied skill at disguise— Treadgold was thinking of that red beard. Eagerly 1 awaited his next question. But j for the moment he said no more about the I butler, standing at the big Empire desk ! which occupied the centre of the library ! and absently running his finger along the back of the deep armchair that flanked it. A reading-stand with a book on it was j attached to the arm of the chair. Mr.
; Treadgold picked up the book, a large j paper-bound volume with the handle of a paper-cutter projecting from it, glanced at I the title. “You read German, eh?” he ' observed to Marton, not without a certain respect in his tone.
The other smiled his easy smile. “Yes. That’s Griesheim’s treatise on synthetic rubber. As a matter of fact, with Steve Keithley’s help. I’m collecting notes for a book on the subject.”
Mr. Treadgold opened the hook. “Heavy going!” he commented, making a humorous face. “I never could understand.” he added, putting the volume down, “why Continental publishers still issue books with the pages uncut.”
It was Sergeant Cotter who brought , him back to business. “Did Mr. Treadgold have any ideas for intensifying the hunt after the killer?” he enquired, faintly sarcastic. “They were checking up on the lunatic asylums; combing the woods.”
“For a red-bearded man, sergeant?” “That’s right, sir.”
Mr. Treadgold tapped a little tune on his teeth with his pipe. “If you wished to disguise yourself, sergeant, how would you set about it?”
The other scratched a flaxen head. “Me? Mebbe I’d dye my hair like Charley Peace used to do, or get a black wig.”
“Or a black beard!” Mr. Treadgold shot back at him. “The criminal mind always flies to opposites, my friend. Our chap sjxxts a red beard; in your place I’d look for a dark, clean-shaven man. If you wanted to make yourself inconspicuous, would you wear an overcoat in loud checks?”
“I reckon not.”
“And you’d wait until it was completely dark before showing yourself, wouldn’t you?”
“Then don’t waste your time hunting for a lunatic. The man who committed this crime is as sane as you or I.” He looked enquiringly toward Marton. “Do you have a raincoat I could borrow for a moment?”
“I expect there are some in the hall,” said our host and went out. A minute later he was back with one. In an attentive silence Mr. Treadgold took the coat and turned the sleeves inside out, then made me put the coat on. Thus reversed, the garment displayed on the outside its lining of large brown and red and yellow squares on the neutral khaki ground. “See the idea?” my friend asked briskly.
“You mean, the killer was wearing an overcoat turned inside out?” Major Cobbev demanded.
“Because the fellow’s crazy, of course,” said Marton quickly.
“Because,” said Mr. Treadgold, raising his voice, “because this man intended that the persons he scared should not forget him easily; because he was out to create the impression that a dangerous maniac was loose, in order to divert suspicion from himself as the author of the horrible crime which he must have been plotting for weeks. That was why he didn’t wait till night, but showed himself while there was yet enough light for the details of his appearance to be noted and reported. You don’t have to look beyond the confines of the Cleremount Abbey estate for the murderer, sergeant; you don’t have to look beyond this house!”
T THOUGHT that H. B. was being someJwhat theatrical, besides letting his imagination run away with him. Evidently Marton thought so too, for he said pretty stiffly: “Come, come, Mr. Treadgold; isn’t that pitching it rather strong?” But the old boy, facing us, stern and resolute, at the desk, never wilted. “We were misled into supposing that Miss Wade didn’t have the dog with her last night. Personally, my practice is always to assume the probable to be true, until otherwise proved. She was in the habit of taking the dog out at night. Last evening, in particular, she announced her intention of so doing, and in fact she did go out, although apparently without the dog. Therefore, I looked for the dog, or rather for some traces of it, near where she was struck down in the wood. And, by James”—he brought his fist down on the desk—“I found ’em!”
Sergeant Cotter glanced up frowning. “You did, eh? Where?”
“At the foot of the sloix; behind that fir where she lay. A field drain discharges there, and a trickle of water runs away through the wood. A dog has left his footmarks all over the soft loamy soil at the water’s edge—he went there to drink, I guess. A large dog, too. for the weight of his hind legs has crushed the ferns. Cne of them is snapped off short.”
Marton sniffed impatiently. “If it was Daphne’s dog, he may have made those footprints days ago.” He paused. “If it nas her dog.”
“Those prints were left there last night.” Mr. Treadgold precised inexorably. “Otherwise, the rain earlier in the day would have washed them away—it hasn’t rained since dinner time last night, you know. Besides, that fern I spoke of has been recently broken.”
The major looked thoughtful. “That Alsatian of yours is the only large dog on the estate, Marton.”
It was obvious that our host was not used to being crossed. Suddenly he seemed to lose patience. "I never heard such nonsense in my life,” he exploded, rounding on Mr. Treadgold. “What do you mean, sir, by coming here and saying such things? Will you have the goodness to tell us outright whom you suspect? Young Keithley, is it?”
They faced one another, big men both. Marton rather dandified in his elegantly molded grey suit. Treadgold looking like a farmer with his glowing cheeks and wellworn tweeds. Our host was clearly very angry-I could see a pulse beating in his temple and his eyes flashed fire. H. B.. on the other hand, was entirely unmoved.
“Keithley?” he retorted. “I scarcely think so. The Alsatian’s used to him. of course—I observed that for myself just now. But with that red thatch of his 1 can hardly picture him adopting a red beard as a disguise, can you? Besides, anyone can see that he was genuinely attached to your stepdaughter. But Penruddock now. . .”
“Penruddock?” Marton seemed to be flabbergasted. “He’s tall and clean-shaven and dark,” H. B. reminded him, “and, if you ask me, rather ill-balanced mentally, by the looks of him. Furthermore, as an amateur actor, he may well be in possession of the necessary make-up requisites in the shape of crêpe hair or even a false beard.” “He has a make-up box in his drawer in the pantry,” Marton answered, “but, good lord, man, you’re not suggesting that he killed my stepdaughter?”
“Ah, but I am,” was the bland rejoinder. “And what’s more. I’ve reason to believe he borrowed your raincoat to stage those bogus attacks on women.”
THE OTHER stared at Mr. Treadgold fixedly. “We'll soon settle that!” He hurried out.
“But the dog—” I began.
“Not now, George,” said Treadgold shortly.
“I only wanted to remind you that Penruddock—”
“Will you shut up!” my friend roared. Then Marton returned with a dust-colored rainproof. “My raincoat,” he announced. Opening it out, he pointed silently to the lining. Bold brown and green stripes on a mustard ground were displayed there.
“Is that the coat young Rhoda Bryce and the other two described?” he demanded.
“Checkered in brown and green, they said it was. Aye, that’d be it,” cried Sergeant Cotter. “Where is this man of yours, Mr. Marton, sir?”
“Just a minute.” said Treadgold quietly and turned to me. “What were you going to tell us, George?”
I had no desire to show old H. B. up, but the interests of justice demanded that I should speak. “Whether it’s the coat or not, I don’t see how Penruddock can be guilty,” I answered, “for the simple reason that the dog couldn’t abide him.”
“Thanks, George,” H. B. replied. “I’m glad you reminded me. It seems to let Penruddock out, doesn’t it, Mr. Marton?” He lifted the paper-bound volume from its place on the reading-stand and held it up to him. “This is the book you were reading last night, I take it?”
Our host looked singularly ill at ease. “It is,” he answered curtly. “What of it?” Mr. Treadgold addressed himself to the sergeant. “Here,” he said, opening his palm, “I have a fragment of the paper known to the trade as ‘featherweight.’
I picked it up on the scene of the crime. It’s a frayed end such as comes away when you’re cutting the pages of a book. I’m not an authority on papermaking, but I believe you’ll find that this specimen comes from the book in my hand.” He held out the book to the sergeant. “Take it, sergeant, and I draw your particular attention to the paper-cutter. It’s a so-called Norwegian knife with a sharp blade, to which such a fragment of paper as that in my hand might adhere in the operation of cutting the leaves of this book. I think it’d be worth your while to have the knife analyzed for blood stains—”
“Mind yourself, sir!”
The sergeant’s warning shout cut across the closing words. He had been about to take the book when Marton edged him aside and plucked the knife from its place between the leaves. I had a glimpse of a livid, demented face, of eyes that murderously blazed, as the knife whirled up and, with an inarticulate shout, our host sprang at Treadgold. But with one accord we flung ourselves at Marton.
It took the four of us to get him to the car, and even then we had to strap his legs. Homicidal dementia in its most violent form, was the verdict of the doctor who examined him at the police station later on that aftermxm.
I A^R. TREADGOLD apologized very -IYX handsomely for hoodwinking me about Penruddock. “It was clear to me,” he said, “that we were dealing with a pretty cold-blooded customer. Since he’d made no attempt to conceal the knife,
I guessed he’d kept the raincoat too, only I feared that, at the first hint of danger, he’d get rid of it. Of course, lunatics are extraordinarily cunning: but this one overreached himself.”
“What was the interesting angle you spoke of when Cobbey first told us about the case?” I asked.
“Why, it was evident that Redbeard was acquainted with the habits of the women he scared because he lay in wait for them when they were carrying out a daily routinethe Bryce girl crossing the common to meet her father, the German governess taking her regular evening stroll, the other woman walking her dogs. The I assailant was therefore most probably a ! member of the community. My visit to the scene of the crime confirmed this. Only someone aware of the girl’s custom of taking her dog into the wood at night and able to find his way about the High Trees grounds in the dark would have waited for her there.” He sighed. “Not a very tidy case, George, for, instead of starting out from a motive, as I like to do, I had to work back to one.”
It was Mr. Treadgold who had broken the news of her husband’s breakdown and arrest to Mrs. Marton. He saw her alone in her room, and this conversation between us took place as we drove back to town afterward. “I thought you told me that a homicidal maniac kills without motive?” I pointed out.
Mr. Treadgold colored, cleared his throat. “There was a motive in this case and a good one. Marton was due to inherit His wife’s fortune in the event of the girl predeceasing her mother. But a month j ago. so the girl told Keithley, Marton was warned by the doctors that Mrs. Marlon had no more than six months to live. That verdict was the girl’s death warrant as well, for it determined Marton to lose no ; time in disposing of the only person who : stood between him and the money.”
“Not so mad.” I commented.
My friend pursed his lips. “I should have mistrusted him from the moment 1 set eyes on him. Did you notice the extravagant way his shoulders were padded? A fellow who falsifies nature has usually other things to hide as well. And that.” he added, with a twinkle in his eye, “isn’t Tristram Shandy, George, Its i Treadgold, the tailor!”