The Man In Dress Clothes
A Kent Power murder mystery story told in two parts
FOR A MATTER of two weeks Montreal had been diverted by the somewhat ironic activities of a sprightly gentleman whom the press had dubbed characteristically, The Man In Dress Clothes. This person, whose identity was unknown alike to police and public since for his devious purposes he wore a mask, had made a nightly practice of holding up motor cars of richesse in the quieter residential streets and relieving the male occupants of their wallets. On each day following these nocturnal depredations the board of the Children’s Hospital had received anonymous donations corresponding exactly in amount to the larceny of the night before.
Certain facts made this phenomenon look like the exhibition of nothing more than a lighthearted mischievousness. For one thing, the gentleman not only robbed those who could afford to pay but who were without exception known to be of parsimonious habit. For another thing, the larcenous rascal conducted his purloinings in a debonairly wisecracking manner. On one occasion he had requested
t lie young banker who was his current victim to step down from the glistening coupé, and had driven off with the highly attractive young lady who had been his companion. He had proved, she declared in a laughing interview with the police, a most charming and exciting companion. When asked, however, to describe more minutely what went on during their drive around the Mountain, she displayed a reticence with regard (o a parking interlude which suggested that the gentleman did not lack gallantry. (As a result of this particular encounter, some of the city's debutantes had developed a penchant for being driven nightly by their more niggardly escorts in those purlieus where he was wont to perpetrate his villainies.) He spoke, it was said, with a crisp Oxford accent.
The whole affair gave considerable entertainment to the citizens of Montreal, who searched their newspapers avidly each morning for fresh evidence of the man’s wickedness. The city detective force came in for considerable good-natured raillery. Sergeant Jules Papineau, for instance, was beginning to lose the fine edge of his sense of humor under the daily ragging. On the night of February the eighth, however, he rang up his friend, Kent Power, about ten o’clock and requested grimly that he come to an address on Peel Street. In reply to the latter’s query as to what it might be about, he replied laconically: “The Man In Dress Clothes!” A taxi took Power through the muggy night. A policeman at the entrance of a driveway directed him to the garage beyond the shadowy house. There, in addition to the sergeant, he found a rawboned burly fellow in chauffeur’s uniform, two plainclothesmen, and one of those large shiny black cars where the driver sits outside. When he enquired, “What’s to do, Pap?” the Canadien flashed an electric torch into the open door of tire vehicle and said: “Voilà!”
JOHN B. DAVERY, whose demesne this was. sat propped in the comer, his head lolling. A trickle of brownish stain darkened the collar and part of the neck of his dress shirt.
“The coroner seen him?” Power asked.
“Oui! Dr. Morin ’as ordered that we remove him to the morgue when you ’ave finish.”
Stepping inside, Papineau leaned the body forward, disclosing a long, thin, gutterlike wound down the crown of the head. Mr. Davery had died beyond question of a savage blowr from some blunt instrument.
“Okay,” said Power, and when the other had stepped down: “What happened?”
“M’sieu Davery,” related the sergeant, “is returning home this evening from dinner at the house of a friend. He is being driven by this chauffeur, Tonkin”—he indicated the man in uniform. “Suddenly they are held up on Pine Avenue by this Man In Dress Clothes, el voilà!” He jerked a stubby thumb toward the still figure in the car. Then to the chauffeur: “Tell please to M’sieu Power what you ’ave tell to me.”
The burly fellow swallowed. “I was drivin’ the boss home from the Crawshays, see? We was about a hundred yards short of Peel Street when this guy steps off the sidewalk and holds up his hand. I had to jam the brakes down hard to keep from runnin’ him down. Suddenly I see he has a mask on an’ then I know who he is, but it’s too late for me to do anything. He’s on the runnin’ board an’ his hand’s on a bulge in his pocket.
‘Pull in to the curb,’ he says, an’ I done like I’m told. Then he says, ‘Go an’ stand in front of that lamp-post, an’ stand facin’ it.’ He’s got an English accent. I done that, too.”
“How far was the lamp-post from the car?”
" 'Bout fifty feet.”
“I heard him say somethin’ sharp to the boss, an’ the boss answered back, but I didn’t get the exact words, see?
Anyways it all happened quick like.
Then it got quiet. I kep’ waitin ’ to get me orders, but they weren’t none. The cold shivers started goin’ up an’ down me spine. Then a car come along. When it went by I swung me head. They was no sign of him. I crepl. back to the car cautious like, just, in case, but he was gone. So I says to the boss, ‘You all right, boss?’ Then I seen the stain on his shirt. They was another car coinin’ along, so 1 stopped it an’ told the driver to get me a cop. The cop come an’ we drove here.”
“What did the murderer look like; anything peculiar about him?”
Tonkin scratched his head. “That’s what the sergeant ast me, but the way it happened got. me kinda confused, see? He’d be about your own height; same kind of limber build. But they was nothin’ would hit ya in the eye, except his limey accent.”
Power turned to the shining car, was staring at it thoughtfully when Papineau said: "Sacré, there is not’ing in the previous work of this Man In Dress Clothes to suggest murder!”
Power took the flashlight and stepped into the car. He drew a wallet from the dead man’s pocket, opened it, and then thrust it out at Papineau. “Strike you as queer?” he asked.
"Sacré, for sure!” Papineau was going through its contents. “One hundred and t’irty-eight dollars! This time The Man In Dress Clothes does not rob his victim. He is after somet’ing else, non?”
Power was shuffling through a sheaf of papers. “These look all right,” he said. “Don’t seem to have been thrust back in a hurry or anything like that.” He put them back where he had found them.
He flashed the light here and there about the car, examining the floor, the seat, the doors. But the survey gleaned nothing.
Stepping down, Power asked the chauffeur: “Did Mr. Davery act lately like a man who was expecting trouble?” Tonkin shook his head. “Seemed okay to me.”
“Any of the family at home?”
“There is no family,” Papineau answered. “Only his man, Bart’olomew.”
“The boss was a kinda lone wolf,” Tonkin interjected. “Neither me nor the cook, Mrs. Bates, lives in, see? Only Bartholomew.”
“And that’s the whole household, eh?”
“Yeah ... A course they’s his nephew, Bill Parlee—but he an’ the boss ain’t hit it off lately.”
“Oh, he’s one o’ these playboys; always pullin’ the boss’s leg, see? The boss wasn’t the kind ya could pull his leg. They’s been nothin’ much between them since last New Year’s Eve.”
"He wouldn’t be the man who held you up on Pine Street?”
"Cripes, no! He’s crazy, but they’s no harm in him.” “What’s he look like?”
Tonkin scratched his head. “Kinda tall, easy movin’. Always got a grin on his face.”
“You ’ave describe The Man In Dress Clothes,” declared Papineau.
“Listen, sarge,” the chauffeur said earnestly. “I’ll take me oath it wasn’t him ! I'll take me oath to that on a stack o’ Bibles a mile high.”
Power said to Papineau: “Tonkin had better drive the car to the morgue as it is, for the post mortem. Have one of your men go with him. After that we'll go in and see Bartholomew.”
THE SERVANT who presently ushered them into the somewhat austere bachelorish living room lacked the negativity of the usual menial. His sombre reserve, a certain stubborn pride in the way his well-shaped head sat on the shoulders, and the straight glance of his grey eyes, conveyed something positive and essentially masculine. He looked to be, and moved in a manner, above his station. His appearance was marred, however, by a scar that ran below the cheekbone on the left side of his face and lent a harshness to that particular profile.
Oddly enough, lie seemed to know little about his late
employer. When, after a few minutes of sterile questioning, Power suggested the extraordinariness of this, the man said in his quiet, compact way: “Mr. Davery had his own world. I was given to understand that I should keep that in mind.”
The phrasing “his own world” caught in Power’s imagination. It was not the idiom of the lower orders. “How long have you been with him?” he asked.
“Then you weren’t one of the gents who made the world safe for Fase and the other isms?”
Something sardonic flashed behind the grey eyes. “I had that privilege, but was invalided out.”
“Was that why you took this job?”
“It was one of the reasons.”
“Nothing better offered. Physical derelicts can’t be choosers.”
Power listened for an overtone of bitterness, but got none. He asked : “You couldn’t say if Mr. Davery knew of a threat to his life?”
“You know of no reason why his life should have been in danger?”
There came a ring at the door bell.
“Shall I answer?” Bartholomew asked.
As the man disappeared into the hall, Papineau hissed: “He does not talk, eh? Perhaps there is somet’ing to hide.” “Juiceless orange,” Power grunted.
A vibrant voice was saying in the hallway: “Why the cops outside, Bartholomew? Is the house pinched? Where’s J.B.?”
IT WAS a tall young man in the thirties with waving, close-brushed hair and quick brown eyes who halted on the threshold questioningly at sight of Power and Papineau. Bartholomew said: “These gentlemen are detectives. Mr. Davery was murdered tonight on his way home from the Crawshays.”
“Murdered?” If the newcomer was not thoroughly astonished he made a good act of it. Staring incredulously at the two men by the fireplace, he exclaimed: “This beats the very devil ! I had to see him in the worst way.”
Power eyed him with irony. These bright young men, hurrying, business-bent, up and down the world, invariably tinctured his mind with an amusement not untouched with contempt. “Perhaps,” he said, “it’s you we’ve been waiting for.”
The other swung on him, gave him an astonished look and cried: “Great Scott, man, I didn’t murder him !” “That’s fine. But if you say you know nothing about him, I’m going to break down and cry.”
The young man laughed, relief coloring his returning buoyancy. “I’m Julian Craig,” he said. “Until you floored me with this ghastly news I thought I was still J.B.’s general factotum.”
It was written in Sergeant Papineau’s shrewd Gallic eyes that he did not find M’sieu Craig so greatly floored; that, in fact, he found him particularly resilient under the bad news. “Then perhaps,” he said, “you know why he ’as been murdered, non?”
“Afraid I don’t,” the other replied quickly—and then, in the manner of one suddenly seeing a great light: “Holy smoke, perhaps I do!” He leaned frankly—almost too frankly—toward the two detectives. “This is going to sound cock-eyed, but I’ll start from the beginning. You know J.B.’s business?”
“I keep praying for insight every minute,” Power assured him.
“Explosives. Ever hear of Davitite?”
‘ J.B.’s father discovered it back in 1908. Peddled it to all the great powers, but no one would look at it. Died in 1912. Then the War broke out. Remember the trouble they had with the British naval shells at the outset? Wouldn’t carry. Somebody at the Admiralty remembered old Davery and got in touch with J.B. They had tests done and they were okay. Tried to buy the formula from J.B., but he sat tight. You see they only required small amounts of the stuff, and he knew he could manufacture up to their needs himself. Set up a small plant in the woods up north ^nd hired a few men. Used to mix the ingredients himself in his laboratory; only allowed the men to do the cooking. I’ve been with him four years and even I don’t know the x plus y—wish to heaven I did ! Lately he decided to get out of the business. This trouble in Europe started the price bumping. I didn’t know anything about it until last week when Gombos arrived in Mo’real—”
“Who’ll Gombos be?” Power enquired.
“Says he was born on the island of Rhodes,” Craig answered with a grin. “Figure it out for yourself. But his letter of credit was okay, and the deal was consummated yesterday morning. But here’s the joker. Gombos rang me up not half an hour ago to say that the formula J.B. sold him doesn’t make Davitite or any other -ite. That’s why I came here hotfoot. If Gombos doesn’t get the real formula there’ll be old Harry to pay.”
Power asked abruptly: “Where was it kept?”
“Search me! I know it’s not in his safe at the office, nor in his deposit box at Imperial Trust. Although,” he added with a chuckle, “he didn’t know that I knew. I’ve got a hunch he kept it here somewhere—along with certain other documents I’d give a lot to see. Know anything about that, Bartholomew?” He swung on the servant.
“He knows not’ing!” Pap said disgustedly; a statement the servant confirmed with a shake of his head.
Power considered the matter thoughtfully, his eye roving the room. He said to Bartholomew finally, pointing to the cradle phone on the fireside table: “Is there an extension elsewhere in the house?”
“Yes, sir. In the kitchen. The phone in Mr. Davery’s bedroom is on a separate line.”
“It would be,” Craig chuckled. “J.B. took no chances on listeners-in.”
Power said to him: “I want you to ring your friend
Gombos on this phone and tell him Davery has been murdered. Give me time enough to get to the kitchen. Come on, Pap.”
T>RESENTLY he heard a jovial voice, a voice that seemed pregnant with a thousand chuckles, a rich, fat, friendly voice, query over the wire: “Who is thair, please?” “Julian Craig, Gombos.”
“Ah, my good Julian! You have seen J.B.? You have told him?”
“I was too late to—”
“He is asleep and you are afraid to waken, eh? Ha ha, he has the easy conscience. Perhaps I shall—”
“Listen, Gombos, J.B.’s dead. He was murdered tonight on his way home from a dinner.”
There was a short pause. “So? . . . So?” And then: “Perhaps it is justice—you have the formula?”
"Afraid I haven’t. And, what’s worse, I don’t know where to look for it.”
There was a chuckle at the other end of the wire. “But you are a young man of ideas; you have told me yourself. You will get an idea, perhaps?”
"I’ll do my best, but I can’t hold out much hope.”
“Ha ha!” Mr. Gombos seemed wryly amused. “Perhaps hope shall be geometrical. You do not hold out hope: I do not hold out hope. Things which are equal to the same
thing! Think about that, my good Julian, ha ha ! Adios!” When Power stepped into the drawing-room again, Craig met him with a grin that seemed the least forced. “Quite a joker. Gombos!” he remarked.
"I thought his mathematical allusion held a sinister note,” Power replied.
Craig laughed. “That’s his way. Likes to talk in riddles. Anything else I can do for you? Otherwise I think I’ll toddle. Tomorrow looks like a full day.”
Power put him a last question: “Where can we find
Davery’s nephew—Parlee, isn’t it?”
An odd look came into Craig’s face. He said with a shrug that conveyed the suggestion of contempt: “The last 1 heard of him he had a fiat in Westmount.” It was evident he did not like Parlee.
Power turned to Bartholomew: “Do you know?”
The servant gave him an address.
“Better ring him up,” Power said.
“I have rung him,” Bartholomew answered.
“It’s funny he hasn’t come here.”
“Not if you know him,” Craig said curtly.
“He was not at home,” Bartholomew said. “I got him at a country club.”
“Doubtless he’ll be along later. In the meantime the sergeant and I could do with a cup of coffee.”
Craig left. As the door closed behind him, Power said : “Put one of your hound’s on his tail. Pap. Might as well know what he does with himself for the next day or two.” "Oui.”
“Does it strike you he fits fairly accurately Tonkin’s description of The Man In Dress Clothes?”
"Sacré 7W771 d’un nom!” Papineau dashed from the room.
When Bartholomew returned with the coffee Power asked him if he had any friends in Montreal, and when the
reply was in the affirmative said: “I’m going to ask you to throw yourself on their hospitality.”
“You want me out of the way.” The statement carried a certain defiance.
"I’ll get some things.”
“Sergeant Papineau’ll go with you.”
Bartholomew swung slowly. "Then I'm suspect?” “Sure!” Power replied with a grin. “I’d mistrust my own grandmother in a house of murder.”
“Thanks!” said the other sardonically, and turned to Papineau.
When, ten minutes later, he left the house he also had a hound on his scent. And then Power said to Papineau: “Now we can give this place a dekko without intervention of curious eyes and ears.”
"Oui!” the other agreed. “Me, I do not see M’sieu Bart’olomew The Man In Dress Clothes, but 1 t’ink he knows more than he tells—non?”
nrilEY WENT over the house with considerable care.
Bartholomew’s bedroom on the third floor particularly interested Power. For, although he sought and found no raiment there such as might have graced the night’s murderer, he did find further evidence of the interestingness of the servant’s personality. While Papineau searched the drawers of the flat-topped desk for papers, he, Power, fingered certain books on the shelves above and beside it. Their titles surprised him. For these were solid books, aimed at the profound sources of man’s sorrow—Stuart Chase, Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Tomlinson’s "Mars His Idiot,” Duranty’s "I Write Ax I Please,” and that ilk.
He turned sombrely to Papineau as he laid down the last. “Sometimes,” he said, “1 am unexpectedly humbled.” But the other, rising from a vain search, exclaimed: “I find not’ing—rieti de tout!”
“ ‘Books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything,’ ” Power quoted musingly to himself.
Power chuckled. “The old brain rambling in the wimbles. Let’s go down and look at Davery’s room.”
Descending a flight, they entered the large, coolly furnished bedchamber of the dead man. Eventually they had the pictures off the walls, the rugs rolled up and the furniture piled in a corner. Power even took off his coat and craned under the fireplace. He got nothing from that but a face full of soot and had to retire to the bathroom. While he was gone Papineau tapped the walls in a methodic round-and-round fashion.
Finally, shortly before Power returned, lie gave up and stood facing the large fireplace with an exasperated expression. Half idly, lie tapped the mantel and the single slab of polished basalt that backed it. Suddenly, however, his expression lost its idle look. He tapped the centre of the basalt slab again—again—then he took hold of it at each end and gave it a jiggle. It seemed solid enough. But some inner urging caused him to jerk the panel sharply first to the right and then to the left.
It had moved ! He jerked at it again nd it came away from the wall just as Power re-entered the room.
"Voilà! Regardez là!”
The exposed wall above the mantel now presented a nickel rod which had obviously held the slab in place and, fair in its centre, an oval opening closed by a thick steel plate. The plate had a numbered dial on its centre.
“Cunning,” Power exclaimed, “but just another wall safe. Better send for your fingerprint man, and then I’ll try to open it.”
“We will find here perhaps the secret formule for Davitite, non?”
“Or be a couple of disappointed gents.”
Half an hour later, when the fingerprint man had done his job, Power said to him: “Compare those prints with the dead man’s. The body’s down at the morgue. If any of your prints don’t correspond to the dead man’s, let us know at once.”
When the police officer had gone, Power gave his attention to the wall safe. It proved a fairly simple nut to crack, as most wall safes do. Removing the contents of the large, cement-lined space to the bedside table, he proceeded to check through the various papers and documents. From time to time he chuckled grimly.
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“The income tax people would be interested in these, Pap,” he declared.
But finally he had to acknowledge defeat in the major issue. “Not a scrap that smells of Davitite.” And then sharply: “That strike you as odd?”
“It might mean that Davery took a document from that safe which he thought was the formula.”
“And sells it to M’sieu Gombos wit’out guile!”
“That’s right. In which case somebody had been at the safe before him, to purloin the real Davitite formula and substitute the fake which Gombos now has. Kind of tangles the web, that idea, eh?”
But a slow frown of doubt was forming on Papineau’s brow.
Power went on: “If Da very' was murdered to get the formula, it would look as if the murderer didn’t know that the substitution had been made.”
“But,” exclaimed Papineau, “that requires two actors; the one who ’as substitute the formule, and the one who has murdered M’sieu Davery for to obtain it. I do not like that, me. It marches better that M’sieu Davery ’as deliberately sold the fake formule, and that he is murdered either to obtain the real one, or for revenge. And if it is revenge, we shall investigate more closely M’sieu Gombos!”
“Let’s keep a foot in both theories,” Power replied, as he proceeded to replace the documents and books in the wall safe.
Lending a hand, Papineau remarked with a sly grin: “You do not like perhaps to suspect M’sieu Gombos because it is too obvious. It does not come out of a test tube, or make somet’ing under a microscope.”
Replacing the basalt slab into its former position above the mantel. Power replied with a laugh: “I’d just as soon suspect
Gombos as anyone. But from what I’ve heard of Davery so far, he doesn’t seem to have been a fool. Would anyone but a fool have sold a formula that the nearest chemist could prove a fake—especially when the sale involves a heck of a lot of money? Either Davery suddenly lost his senses or he didn’t know he was selling a pup. I incline toward the latter view.” “Then why is he murdered tonight?” “Perhaps because somebody thought he was carrying the real formula on his person.”
“He certainly knew some time tonight that Gombos didn’t have it. And perhaps Bartholomew knew that, too. In any case—”
There was a sudden ring on the doorbell below. Power glanced at his watch. “Quarter to twelve; late visitor.”
HT HEY DESCENDED to the front hall, -I and Papineau opened the door on three men. The one in the middle might have stepped out of “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” This gentleman, in short, had the girdling bulk, the rich jovial suggestion of Rabelaisian wit, and the bright small laughing eyes of a Falstaff.
“Good evening!” he exclaimed amiably. “My young friend Julian Craig is here, please?”
“Sorry,” Power replied, “he left some time ago.”
“You hear?” The other turned on his companions. “He has gone, our Julian. A lady perhaps, ha ha!” He dug an elbow into the ribs of the two young gentlemen, who were dark, slim, Latinish and slickly patinaed, yet seemed not to appreciate his
playful-bearish way. He turned to Power again and announced :
“I am Gombos!”
It was in the manner of one saying there is no Gombos but Gombos.
“I’m Kent Power, and this is Sergeant Papineau of the Mo’real police department.”
“Baccho, sleuths ! Ha ha, you do not look like the sleuth, my good Power. Too streamlined.” And then soberly: “So my friend, J.B., is dead. A pity! I had businesswith him—unfinished.”
“The matter of a formula,” Power suggested.
“Hah! You are informed! A bright young man—like my boys here—Baccho, you shall meet my boys!” Catching the latter by the elbows, he thrust them forward as though they were a pair of reluctant children, crying out like a jovial satyr: “The twins—the imps—the
bimbos! On the left, Toriel! On the right, Paraki!”
The two tried to bow from the waist, but it wasn’t a successful manoeuvre for Mr. Gombos’ elbows suddenly seemed to require more room, and he cried: “I have hoped to find Julian Craig here, my good Power. Instead I find you. So I must depend on you. You will make a search of the house, eh?”
“For the formula?”
“For the formula! You will understand that I have paid for it. For what one pays one receives—no? So far I have paid for a bubble that has burst—ha, a wet smack. You will keep the bright eyes open, my good Power. I am at the Mount Windsor. I will await your message on the telephone. Adios!”
And catching his two young men again by the elbows, he swung them down the driveway with all the gusto of an erupting volcano, his fruity laughter trailing him through the night.
Power shut the door. “That performance,” he said, “had all the hallmarks of a vaudeville act, put on for our benefit. You can’t tell me anybody behaves in real life like”—his voice took on irony—“my good Gombos. Just a big laughing cavalier.”
“He does not march wit’ you, eh?”
“Not as the jovial friend of youth in any case. I keep wondering how jovial he’d be with his back to the wall. And did you notice the eyes of his two bimbos—cold steel. Let’s go up and put that bedroom to rights. We don’t want anyone to know we’ve even searched it, let alone discovered its secret. Later on I’m going to ring Gombos up and draw a herring across his nose.”
YX/HTEN DAVERY’S bedroom finally * V showed no sign of its previous disarrangement, they came downstairs again and Power went to the back door. Slipping its key into his pocket he rejoined Papineau, who was talking to the two policemen on guard in the driveway. Then they took the police car and drove to headquarters.
Dr. Morin, Montreal’s little coroner, was making a preliminary examination as they stepped into the morgue. Pointing to the long scalp wound he said: “I am
trying to decide with what type of weapon it has been made. Obviously not a blunt one, for it has cut the soft tissues; yet not a sharp one, for the edges are slightly compressed. Something narrow. You notice also the skull has been fractured and depressed in a long, narrow gutter.”
Power was looking at the hair at the edge of the wound. He took up the large magnifying glass from the side table and stared at it. Some of the hairs that were not matted in blood had a peculiar greenish sheen. He pointed out the fact to the others and, snipping them off, placed them in an envelope.
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“Let me know,” he said to Dr. Morin, “if you find anything besides that fractured skull as a cause of death.”
Then, with Papineau, he drove to his flat. Here they found a young gentleman who had evidently entered just before them conversing with Hicks, Power’s man. This was Tom Dolan of the Journal, who cried: “Well met, egad! What’s the dope on J. B. Davery? The office got the news half an hour ago, and sent their brightest young man on the scent.”
“The bathroom’s along the hall,” Power said. “I never talk to dirty-faced brats.” “The chief caught me with my make-up still on and would brook no delay,” the reporter replied gaily. “Tonight I was making history as Tybalt at the Westmount Community Theaytre in Bill Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” I had them in the aisles, laddie, during the brawling scene.”
“Versatile, eh?” Power said with a twisted smile.
“You’re stalling, Kentie! What’s the dope on J.B.? Who killed Cock Robin?” “One of the Capulets, I imagine—or was it a Montague?”
“Be a pal !”
“You know as much as I do, Tom.” “Can’t you even report progress?” “There is not’ing,” Pap said curtly. “Then let’s have the story so far.” “Come into the lab. Bring a spot of refreshment, Hicks.”
“Make mine coffee, so I can follow you with unclouded mind,” said Dolan, as they moved rearward.
ENSCONCED IN the laboratory, Power told the reporter the story of Davery’s death, and then asked: “Do you happen by any chance to know a young gent named Parlee?”
“Bill Parlee? Sure. He’s J.B.’s—for gosh sakes, Kent, you don’t suspect Bill? I thought you had some intelligence left.” “He seems to be a pal of yours.”
“You bet he is. And a good scout. He no more murdered J.B. than I did.”
“We can take it then that you didn’t murder Davery?” Power said with a provoking grin.
“You certainly can.”
“Then what kind of a chap is Parlee?” “One of the brightest and best; the original man with a load of mischief.” “Then his quarrel with Davery didn’t amount to anything?”
“Not a thing! J.B. happened to hate women. Bill invited a bunch of maiden ladies to the house last New Year’s Eve, but sent the invites out in J.B.’s name. He and I watched the fun through the window. It proved to be the last straw.” When Dolan had gone, Power proceeded to do things with the hairs he had snipped from Davery’s head. After about half an hour he said: “I thought to find arsenic. It’s going to take too long to get x tonight, so we’ll leave it until tomorrow. What price The Man In Dress Clothes now?”
The sergeant frowned. “Me,” he declared, “I am not sure any more about that one. I comprehend too many others who are close enough to M’sieu Davery to ’ave murder him. Consider.” He raised a pudgy forefinger. “Julian Craig. For why is he so buoyant tonight, wit’ his employer dead and no job? And why does this Bart’olomew say not’ing when he seems to know beaucoup? And M’sieu Gombos, who finds it all one great joke, but has surely the motive. And this nephew who has quarrel wit’ his uncle and does not turn up. I disregard what Tonkin and M’sieu Dolan say about him. I say to myself: Perhaps it is not The Man In Dress Clothes at all; he is only the alibi behind which one of them hides.”
“That’s a suspicion I’ve also been entertaining,” Power declared.
“The leopard does not change ’is spots —nor the criminal. There ’as been the spirit of mischief in The Man In Dress Clothes; there is no spirit of mischief in this murder. The murderer of M’sieu
Davery ’as dressed up like The Man In Dress Clothes in order that the blame shall fall on the latter.”
Power considered the bubbles in his drink. “In that case we can concentrate for the moment on tire four gents you’ve mentioned.”
“And also there is another possibility. Perhaps M’sieu Davery is not murdered in his car at all. Perhaps he is killed somewhere else and taken in the car to Pine Avenue.”
“That would require Tonkin as an accomplice,” Power said, shaking his head. “Would you use Tonkin if you were a clever man doing a deliberate murder? I believe our murderer is clever and that he did the murder deliberately. Everything points to it. Why then would he use an accomplice, when he could hide so completely under an impersonation of The Man In Dress Clothes?”
Papineau shrugged. “It was just an idea.”
“I don’t think we should pass up The Man In Dress Clothes as a suspect. For all we know, he may have had a better reason than the others for killing Davery. But this is all idle conjecture. Let’s try to bait a hook for our good Gombos.”
He drew the cradle phone toward him and dialled a number. Presently he was saying over the wire: “This is Kent Power speaking. Sergeant Papineau and I have just completed a thorough search of Davery’s house. We found no trace of your formula.”
Gombos thought it was a pity, and a greater pity that he, Gombos, had not remained to take part in the search. “I have the sharp eyes for secret hiding places, my good Power; the very sharp eyes, ha ha !”
Power put the phone down and turned to Papineau with a grin. “Let’s go back to Davery’s place and see if we’ve hooked our fish.”
r"PHIS TIME their approach to the house on Peel Street was marked by deviousness, for they reached it from Mountain at the back. Creeping toward the garage, Papineau peered around its comer. He gave a low, peculiar whistle. Two shadows moved from the front of the house and disappeared into the street-—the two plainclothesmen who had been left on guard. They had the place to themselves.
They crept toward the back door of the residence which Power unlocked. Entering, he relocked the door and said: “You take the living room and I’ll go upstairs. If you hear a thump on the floor you’ll know I’m in trouble, and vice versa.”
“Me,” declared Papineau sceptically, “I am not so sure as you that he will come.”
“You can’t say it isn’t a reasonable hunch. If Davery was murdered for that formula somebody ought to be here looking for it. If not Gombos, someone else.”
“Per’aps!” Pap muttered with a shrug.
Power mounted to the bedroom, pushed the large bedside chair into the dark corner by the closet, sat down in it and gave himself up to waiting. And as the darkness gradually began to press down on him like a great feathery blanket, his intuitions spoke in a single word: “Queer!”
For it was coming into his mind that there might be subtler motives behind Davery’s death than those that had risen to smite the eye.
Take the Levantine for instance. He had crossed the ocean to get a formula and had been tricked. He might have murdered Davery for one of two reasons—for revenge or to obtain the real formula. But surely a man who could laugh as he did had more patience than to put in jeopardy his chances of recovering his rights by law for the sake of an immediate vengeance. And how was murder to help him to gain the real formula? Its secret resided in two places—a scrap of paper and Davery’s head. With Davery gone, one of these was lost and the other made more difficult to find. On these two motives, then, Gombos seemed let out.
Craig, of course, might be the real Man In Dress Clothes. But if he were also the murderer, why had he put the police on the qui vive with a series of lighthearted larcenies, when he had the more sinister purpose up his sleeve? Apart from the murder, however, Craig might quite well have stolen the real formula and made the substitution. In that case he had a purchaser for it somewhere—obviously not Gombos, since the latter had already paid for it and would certainly refuse to do so again.
Bartholomew? Here was a superior type who had been thwarted by circumstances, who might finally in protest against life have grasped at the chance of theft and possible sale of the formula, in order to free himself finally from a slavish situation. But he must have committed the theft and substituted the fake formula before Davery sold it to Gombos. Why, then, would it be necessary to murder Davery? The only possible answer to that was that Davery knew of the theft and had spotted him for the thief—which Davery certainly didn’t seem to have done.
And then there was this nephew, Bill Parlee, who hadn’t yet turned up from the country club. A young man with a load of mischief, Dolan had said. Playing tricks on his uncle at New Year’s. Parlee had all the hallmarks of the real Man In Dress Clothes. But wouldn’t it be altogether too coincidental to have The Man In Dress Clothes and the murderer using him for an alibi within, so to speak, the range of the family circle?
Suddenly an incredible conjecture caught
at his imagination. Tom Dolan ! Tom was also a man with a load of mischief; and, what was more, he was a clever amateur actor. Was it possible that he, in a moment of crazy inspiration, had conceived The Man In Dress Clothes partly for the fun of it and partly to make copy for his paper?
Or was there yet another involved in this crime who had not been suspected? Davery had been pretty much a man of mystery, leading his own life as he listed. Perhaps both murderer and motive came from one of those secret avenues he had walked alone. Perhaps ...
Power stiffened suddenly. He had heard nothing, seen nothing, felt nothing; but some impalpable emotion, striking through the close darkness, had gripped his senses. He waited, every nerve taut.
He was relaxing again, telling himself that only the wayward hand of imagination had touched his spirit, when the door seemed to move slowly. Or was it the door? It was so dark that his straining eyes might have played him a trick. He rose stealthily, reaching for his hip pocket. Suddenly the room was flooded with light. He found himself staring into the muzzle of a gun in the hand of a tall figure who stood with his back to the closed door, and who wore beneath the dark, tightfitting overcoat—evening clothes!
It was the intruder who spoke first, in a crisp Oxford accent. “The hands up, please. And right about turn !”
To be Concluded