The 7th Day
In which murder is unmasked, a conundrum is solved and a new day dawns over the villa of the Olivieras
DINAH MOORE had been slipping down onto the couch beside Nancy Ormonde, but that sudden thunder with her name in it made her spring up again.
Lucardo, stepping through the huge, broken archway of the window onto the floor of the studio, called again: “Stand away there against the wall, signorina. And all the rest keep your places. Watch them. Newcomen. A bit of sleight of hand still can spoil everything.”
Nicholas Decker, taking his ease, lifting his chin to clear the jowls from the collar wings, observed: “Well, Franco, I never expected to see you again except in jail; but now I see that you’ve arranged a little farce with Tony, and I hojx; I’m going to enjoy it. But what if the police arrive in time to interrupt the show?”
“Sit quietly and be at peace, my friend,” said Lucardo. “The police will come when they are called, but first we want a stillness about us, since quiet is a first necessity for thought.”
He picked up a straight chair and placed it against the wall.
“Sit down, Miss Moore,” he requested.
She obeyed him.
Nancy Ormonde said, audibly: “Poor Dinah ! Could you have guessed it? Could you really have imagined such a thing?”
Lucardo threw back his cloak and tossed it onto a chair, revealing a thick package under the pit of his left arm. He was saying: “Well done, Newcomen ! After all, we humans turn out to be simple people; and a new device from a New World is enough, it seems, to charm the birds out of the trees. Mr. Churchill, will you remain in the room?” Churchill had been edging toward the door. He cried out something over his shoulder about a “free man” and made a sudden break for liberty. If the door had been open he would have got through it. but the necessary instant of delay enabled Newcomen to reach him. He wilted down almost to his knees under the grasp of the big man and clawed at the hand of Newcomen, whining: “What have I done? What do you want with me? I’ve only told a little truth, and it teas truth!”
“Stand up and be yourself.” advised Newcomen grimly "No one is going to break you up. Take that chair and be still in it.”
Churchill sank into the chair. The fear in his eyes ranged shamelessly around the group, hunting for an explanation which he could not find.
The márchese, during this moment of bustling interruption, remained perfectly still, but with a glance that included everyone in the room. Now he began to unwrap the parcel he was holding.
“If I can have your attention.” he said, “we’ll leave the matter of the thread and the Ixrttle, the very beautiful device of my friend Newcomen. We can return to that later. For the moment I’d like to talk to you about another matter.” But here the butler came in and peered for a moment at the odd immobility of that group of guests, and above all at the commanding figure of the fat márchese who st<x>d in the centre of the fl<x)r.
"What is it?” asked Newcomen. “Yes, you’re seeing Marchese Lucardo. When you have a moment you can telephone for the police, if you please. I think we’ll be ready for them when they arrive. But what brought you into the room?”
"It’s Beppo, signore,” said the butler, “lie has just learned that Signorina Moore is here in the house and he begs you to see him for a moment.”
"I can’t see him,” snapped Newcomen.
“Signore, it is a matter of life and death,” said the butler. “It is a matter of your own safety !”
“Let Beppo come in.” said Lucardo. "We must have time for our friends. The rest of you. please observe that 1 am watching you with great care. When you move your hands, move them openly, if you please, so that they may be seen every instant.”
BEPPO came in with his hat in his hands.
"Now, Beppo?” asked Newcomen.
Bepix) showed a twist of paper.
"Signore,” he said, "for a long time I have kept an eye on the viilino, hoping to keep away the evil in it, and the day before yesterday I saw the signorina leaving. The automobile came as far as the entrance and there it stopped. I saw the signorina lean out and drop what l<x>ked like a shower of small green leaves on the ground; and while she dropped them, she was looking back toward the house. Signore, I am an old man and age has not made me altogether foolish. 1 have seen charms made, in my time, and 1 have seen whole families ruined by cruel witches.”
He drove the gesture which defies the evil eve straight at Dinah Moore as he spoke.
“Go on quickly, Beppo,” said Newcomen, frowning at the old gardener.
“As soon as the car drove on,” said Beppo. “1 hurried to see what sort of herbs she had dropped on the gcxxl honest ground of my signore. But what I found was not leaves but little bits of green paper.”
He held up the twist with his right hand, being careful
to keep the paper far from his face as he did so.
“There was no wind, signore,” he went on, “and I picked up the bits of paper, every one. Afterward I brought them home and showed them to Angelina. We began to move the pieces of paper around on the table, and at last, this afternoon, Angelina saw a terrible thing. She saw your name appear, signore, when certain of the scraps of paper were put together!”
Beppo stopped, panting fast with his excitement.
He said: “Then we moved the pieces of paper this way and that until another great miracle appeared: The name of Signorina Moore! I knew then, that it was a terrible spell, and I came running back to the house, so that you could burn the thing and pray for your soul while the smoke went up toward the sky. But when I came to the house. 1 heard that the signorina herself was here. So I ran here fast, fast—sainted heavens how my knees still tremble!—so that you could make her face her work. There, signore! It is there!”
He held out the twist of paper, and Newcomen took it with a grave face.
“I think you’ve done a great thing for me.” he said. “Now go back to bed, Beppo.
Tomorrow morning I’ll show you that I know the people who love me. Good night.”
“Happy night!” said the old Tuscan.
“Happy night, signori!”
“Dinah, is it the cheque?” asked Newcomen, as Beppo disappeared through the door.
She looked at him with eyes too abstracted to understand what he said. He opened the twist of paper and poured the small heap of fragments into the palm of his hand. It was not hard to recognize in a moment the sign of twenty-five hundred dollars which he had scratched on the money line of the cheque. He replaced the bits of paper in the twist and dropped it into his pocket.
Lucardo had finished unwrapping his parcel and held it up now in both hands.
“All my dear friends,” he said, “we have worked out a case in the murder of Thomas Decker in this room. We have worked out all except one strange point. We come to that now. I hold in my hands some drawings by Miss Moore, who had locked them in her safe. Will you tell me why they were locked in the safe. Miss Moore?”
“I’d never paid much attention to them,” said Dinah Moore. “But a short time ago I began to think they might have a value after all. So I put them in the old house safe.” “What made you put them in the safe?”
“Well. I had a talk with Miss Ormonde. She seemed to think they had a value.”
“They have, you know,” said Nancy Ormonde. “They’re really charming.”
“I know about the visit you paid Miss Moore in the middle of the night,” said Lucardo. “Insomnia sent you out for a drive. It was the day Thomas Decker died, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, that night,” nodded Nancy Ormonde. “I drove clear across town, and when I passed the villino and saw a light I just wondered if Dinah might be awake.”
“I was reading,” said Dinah.
“Will you tell us what happened?” asked Lucardo. “While I was reading,” said the girl. “Hans began to growl near the window. I went out on the balcony and saw someone move in the brush near the drive. I called out to ask who it was, and after a moment Nancy Ormonde came out into the open. She called and waved back to me. She said, T was just driving by and I thought that I’d call on you, Dinah. But then I thought that it was too late. It is too late, isn’t it?’ I told her to come in and she came.” “Did it seem strange to you, that visit?” asked Lucardo. “Yes. It seemed a little strange. We’d never been very friendly.”
“What was the talk about?”
“Well, she said that she’d never seen much of my work and she wondered if I would let her look at some of it.” “Did that seem an honest interest to you?” asked Lucardo.
“I wondered atout it a little.”
“And then you showed her some of your drawings?” “Yes. I told her that most of them were quite worthless, I was afraid. Except to me as a sort of autobiography - of failure, in fact. But she seemed to like them. After she had looked at the drawings she advised me to put them away in a safe place. She said she thought she knew of a party who might be interested in buying them.”
“So then you put them away in the safe?”
Lucardo turned to Nancy Ormonde.
“By the way,” he said, “I’ve been in your house and I'd say you were a very good judge of values in drawings and paintings. Even Signor Decker asked your advice. Are these drawings quite fine, really?”
“Interesting. Very interesting,” said Nancy earnestly. “They reveal so much—character, you know.”
Lucardo took from the stack of drawings a typewritten sheet of paper.
“After all,” he said, “that pile of drawings was worth a price. Because inside of it was the last will and testament
of Thomas Decker, dated the last day of his life, witnessed by Nancy Ormonde and Bertelli. Do you remember witnessing it, Miss Ormonde?”
"No . . . Wait a moment ... I do remember signing something for Tom. I didn’t read it, I just signed.” said Nancy Ormonde.
“You should have read it.” said Lucardo.
“A new will? A brand-new will, really?” broke out Nicholas Decker. “Thank heaven for that ! He must have given me a little more attention than in the other one. What did he give me. Franco?”
“To my dearly beloved cousin, Nicholas Decker,” read the márchese, “I freely give and bequeath the good advice 1 already have given him.”
“Ah!” murmured Decker. “Think of that, will you? Rather good, eh? Old Tom knew how to put the shot between wind and water, didn’t he?”
He kept on smiling and polishing his mustaches, but his face was white.
/CHURCHILL seemed to to half dazed during the last ^ moments, but he managed to cry out now: “And me? And me?”
Lucardo made a half turn and read to him with unction: “To my devoted secretary, in token of his many years of busy service, I leave my wholehearted appreciation of him as he truly is.”
Churchill could not quite understand this. He kept dodging a hand back and forth close to his chin as though the blow had not yet fallen. At last he said: “And Nancy Ormonde?”
“To my dear friend and cheerful companion, Nancy Ormonde,” read Lucardo, “I leave that finer appreciation of fine things which we have worked out together.”
"Is that all? Ha ! Ha ! 1 la !” shouted Churchill, hysterical with happiness, and pointed at the girl a long skinny arm that jerked with his explosions of mirth.
Nancy Ormonde, turning to Dinah Moore, looking carefully at her, said: “And to Dinah? Something to
Dinah, I dare say?”
"To Dinah Mre,” read Lucardo, “I leave the villino, its furnishings, the outbuildings, and all the land attached
to them, together with the income from my holdings in the Texwright Corporation to maintain the place properly.”
“To me?” cried Dinah Moore. “To me?”
“And the rest of the property, as formerly, goes to Anthony Newcomen,” concluded Lucardo. “Under the signatures there is a large blot which appears to be blood. I suppose analysis will tell whether or not it is the type of Tom Decker’s blcxxh But I presume it was picked up in this room after the stabbing of Decker, That will make it a little more authentic.”
“I’m rather overcome,” said Nancy Ormonde, rising. “I didn’t know jxxjr Tom had such a vicious streak in him.”
“Stay where you are, please,” said Lucardo. “Newcomen, stop her!”
“You won’t mind, Nancy—just another moment?” said Newcomen, meeting her with his outstretched hand.
She took his hand with both of hers.
"Please, Tony, dear!” she said, and smiled up at him.
“It’s in the cloak, I suppose,” said Lucardo, and gave the embroidered yellow cloak of Nancy a sudden shake. Something flashed down from it and rattled on the flr. spinning around and around as though it had the life of a wound-up toy. As it settled, those staring eyes in the nxm saw that it was another little aspirin phial exactly like the one which lay on the desk.
But more than that, they saw the sound of that fall strike suddenly through the body of the girl ; her smile, also, froze and then broke as though her face were white fresh clay which the sculptor’s hand had smeared across with inspired ugliness.
“The truth being, of course,” said Lucardo, “that when Nancy Ormonde looked at your drawings that night, Dinah Moore, she hid this will among them. What damning evidence of motive for murder was locked up in your safe all that time! If you had been arrested because of the tassel and the stiletto, if the will had then been found, wouldn’t we have wondered why you kept it locked in the safe instead of using it to claim your legacy? Would we have assumed that you were afraid to produce that will? Your conscience . . . And then with Bertelli and Miss Ormonde ready to deny their signatures as witnesses . . . Ah, Nancy, what a pity you didn’t burn the thing, as you first intended ! But as it is, Newcomen’s bit of thread has tied itself around your throat. There is only one sort of aspirin sold in bottles here. You did not think you were running a great risk when you brought an empty bottle with you tonight it would almost surely to identical with the bottle that held the thread. And it was !”
She threw back her head, but with her hands still pressed to her face, saying: “Take me away! I don't care. I'll tell whatever you want. But she’s won—she’s beaten me again - and don’t make me see her. Don’t let me see her face!”
“When you went to her house that night, it was to throw the stiletto into the garden of the villino—was that it?” asked Newcomen.
"Yes!” whispered Nancy. “If only I had thrown it into her heart !”
THE POLICE came and took Nancy Ormonde away with them so quietly that Newcomen was not aware that she had gone, for he was saying to Dinah Moore: "If ever 1 suspect you again, darling—”
“Ah. but you will!” said Dinah Moore seriously. “Never!” said Newcomen. “But all these days the thing that was a knife twisting in my heart was the thought of that fellow in America for whom you wanted the money.” “But his name was there in the desk when you searched it !” cried Dinah. "He’s my brother, Anthony. Did you think . . ?”
“Ah!” breathed Newcomen, and closed his eyes and put back his head.
“Sit down!” said Dinah Moore.
Newcomen sat down.
“But you tore up the cheque,” he said, still with his eyes closed while the old idea melted away forever from his mind. “And so how did you have money for the train? Or did you take the train at all?”
“Hush,” said Dinah. “It doesn’t matter. Keep your eyes closed. You’re going to rest.”
“I'm going to rest. Yes. But tell me. Let me have an armful of you and then tell me now.”
“T here was one drawing in particular that Nancy said might be valuable. I brought it up to her house. She had a queer, hungry look when she saw it. Rather a frightened look, tcx>. I offered her the drawing for a hundred lire. It was enough to get me into the mountains.”
“You were going there, Dinah? In spite of the brute way I'd treated you? You were going there to wait for me?” “I was going there,” said Dinah Moore.
“I don’t dare open my eyes and look at you.”
“Hush!” said the girl. “I went almost all the way, and then I noticed that the key to the house safe of the viHino was gone from my purse. I thought back and knew that I couldn’t have lost it except at Nancy’s villa, where I’d left the purse behind me when I went into the bathroom. I knew then that she had it; and I guessed that there was something more than the drawings in her mind. I rushed back to Florence. I was glad of an excuse to come because I was afraid for you, Anthony. And the missing of the key decided me. I came back . . . ”
“And we found you in the dark of that room. Dinah, how the sight of you went through me!”
“Be quiet, my dear.”
“I am quiet. I’ll always be quiet.”
“I had such a dread of what might happen to you,” she said, “that I even suspected Marchese Lucardo. But that’s ended. It’s all ended. The trouble’s all gone.”
“It’s not all ended,” said Newcomen.
“You're going to lift me up out of this degradation and shame, aren’t you, Dinah? You’re going to marry me, aren’t you?”
She began to laugh softly.
“Does it mean yes?” asked Newcomen.
“Tell me what it means before I open my eyes, because I'm seeing a bigger dazzle and brightness than the whole Milky Way. Starsat noon? Why. Dinah, I’m seeing tlvm with my eyes shut. Tell me if that's love or iust nonsense.”
“Just nonsense,” said Dinah.
ON THAT shoulder of the hill there, you see, where it slopes out?” said Lucardo.
“I see, márchese,” said the commissary of police.
“Right there the workmen start tomorrow, excavating. It will make a handsome terrace, eh?”
"It will, signore,'' said the commissary, bowing.
“And in the middle of it there will be the swimming ]xx>l. Other minds than mine have insisted on that, because they know that a fat fish like a Lucardo loves to cool itself in the blue of water on a summer’s day.”
“Naturally,” yawned the commissary, “but to return to the Decker-Bertelli affair, it is to assure you that I. márchese, never doubted for an instant, never for a moment questioned your innocence.”
“What a friend you are,” said Lucardo, yawning in his turn.
“But what in the first place put you on the proper track?” asked the commissary.
“It was the dagger, my friend. The delicate, fine-pointed knife that made me think of a woman’s delicate, fine-drawn wit which penetrates through masculine absurdities w ith such ease, with so little effort, and pricks the bubbles of our ideas. So I thought of a woman’s hand w ielding the knife. I noted a very small thing, but an important one. A man using such a knife would have managed it with thumb and forefingers, like a hypodermic syringe. But in each case in the case of Bertelli, in the case of Decker the outer incision was not a mere puncture capable of admitting the blade. It was a slight cut. And that told me it had been grasped by the whole hand, with a downward stroke. A whole hand. A hand as small as a child’s. Did you ever see the hand of Nancy Ormonde? So lovely! So like a child's. Hardly more mature. Soft. Dimpled across the
knuckles. A hand to kiss and adore above all others . . . ”
“Yes, yes!” said the commissary.
“There had been the strange happenings at the viHino, of course. That matter of the ixfisoning, and Roberto. Someone hated Dinah M<x>re. Who? I thought at once of that exquisitely lovely, that fair and graceful girl, that Nancy Ormonde. The thought met me like a kiss upon the forehead, a signature, a promise of truth, and I felt that I was right.”
“She stabbed Decker,” said the commissary, looking into his notehxxjk. “We have drawn most of it out of her. She stabbed Decker while he was at the telephone, telling Signor Newcomen in Venice the name of the person he feared. That name? It was her own, of course. For she had let him see the fury in her that same day. Think of the beast in the man! He was finished with her. Mind you, she had come here expecting to marry him and his money, but the other girl had rubbed her out of his mind. So he gives her on this day a paper to sign, and she does so, and afterward he reads her the paper, which is a new will, rubbing out her future. That was when the devil came up like a cat in her face, I suppose, and grinned at Decker.
“The shock of it made him call for a doctor. It made him telephone to the only man he really could trust, also. So she slips back into the villa that evening and waits for him in the big study, and when he comes and sits at the telephone, she stabs him. She sees him fall on his face. In his fall, he paws from the top of the table the new will which lies there. She picks it up. When it is destroyed, the old will stands, and her fortune with it. It is a gcxx! stroke that she has made! She turns and with the axe which lies at hand, she cuts the telephone line-weak clumsy strokes, but the work soon is done. She turns from it to see a ghost. Her heart freezes. For there is Thomas Decker rising from the floor and walking toward the door. We have all that from her, signor márchese. Now tell me what happened, exactly, because you are sure to know.”
"How should I know so surely?” asked the márchese, smiling.
“Because of the sympathy that is in you.” said the commissary, covering the shudder of his body with a slight bow; “the sympathy which leads you straight into human minds and souls.”
“I think, often, of the two servants in the outer hall.” said Lucardo. “Do you remember how they described him? As though he were bent on a purpose, suddenly . . . Yes, he only knew one thing, not his pain, but his desire to get air. more air. And one said he looked like a man going to collect his rents, whereas we know that he was going to pay all his own arrears!”
Lucardo laughed pleasantly.
“Then into the garden, and one of them following him— that g(xjd Emilio who has been so useful to me while he was in jail ! Think of the dying man by the pool of the water lilies, and the murderer standing ready to murder a dead man in the rain! Then the dying man falls and later he dies. And our sweet girl, our Nancy? She has slipped out of the place now, and down through the garden. Mind you, to kill Thomas Decker was only a small part of her purpose. To destroy the girl who had destroyed her chances—that was her first desire throughout.”
“So she enters the viHino garden to drop the stiletto in a safe place,” said the commissary.
“A place where it might be found, as evidence against Dinah Moore.”
“But she has not destroyed the will !” exclaimed the commissary. “That puzzles me. If you or I were a murderer —in our hands the bit of paper depriving us of a legacy—” “Her first impulse, doubtless, was to destroy the will. Then, after she had cut the telephone wire, she saw Decker rise to his feet and go from the room. Has she failed, then? Will he live after all? What thoughts passed through her mind then? The will is in her hands, to destroy if she wishes. But she does not destroy it.”
“But why? It is the one feature I do not understand.” “She is a clever woman, you understand. Where a stupid woman would destroy the will, Nancy Ormonde thinks ahead. Even more than the money, she desires the destruction of Dinah Moore. She may need that will some day. In her own country it is the law that a murderer—or murderess—cannot profit by the victim’s will, if proved guilty of the crime. If Dinah Moore should be convicted of Decker’s murder, then even if the will is discovered Dinah Moore will not benefit by it. So she thinks. In any case, how easy to break the will, to brand it a forgery, to deny her signature as witness, to persuade Bertelli to do likewise, and make the first will valid. Then the second will becomes merely a damning piece of evidence against Dinah M(x»re, the more damning if Dinah Moore does not produce it immediately after Decker’s death. Even when I found that will among the drawings in the safe, I wandered—I wandered if Dinah Moore knew it was there and had been afraid to produce it, knowing she was under suspicion.” “Ah!”
“So this is what Nancy Ormonde will do. She will place the stiletto as evidence in Dinah Moore’s gardenin a place where it will be found. The will, too, she wall leave there. But hidden. If by some unlucky chance she has left a forgotten clue that may cause her to be suspected of the murder herself, then she will see to it that the will is conveniently discovered. It will save her and destroy Dinah Moore. If the evidence of the stiletto alone is sufficient to destroy Dinah Moore, then the will is to remain hidden. If more evidence is needed, Nancy Ormonde knows where it can be found.”
The commissary rubbed his hands. “Indeed, yes, she thought ahead. Far ahead.”
“She enters the villino garden. No human eye can detect her, but the nose and eyes of a beast may. And it is a beast who sees the human beast at work and calls the
mistress from her bed. Before Nancy Ormonde can place the stiletto and bury the will, the dog scents her. She flings the stiletto away—and later it is the dog that finds the weapon and hides it in the grotto. Nancy Ormonde, still with the will in her purse, is forced to make some excuse to explain her presence to Dinah Moore.”
“I see. I see,” said the commissary, nodding vigorously.
“So in a few moments we have them smiling and talking together. Both so fresh and young, and one of them strong because she has been feeding on death like a bee on a delicious flower. Nancy Ormonde thinks of the drawings. As she looks at them her mind is at work. Dinah Moore seldom looks at the drawings any more. Nancy Ormonde slips the will among them and advises Dinah Moore to lock the drawings in the safe. She may find a market for them. She may be back. The will, giving Dinah Moore part of the estate of a murdered man, is locked
a man, safely in Dinah Moore’s safe, and the stiletto that let the life out of Decker’s body is lying in Dinah Moore's garden. More than that, when Nancy talked with Dinah that night, Dinah was wearing a green dressing gown and on the table was a green tassel that had become frayed and that had broken from the cord. A use for it entered Nancy’s mind and she slipped it into her purse. So Nancy goes home, but a devil is treading on her heels.”
“Bertelli?” queried the commissary.
“Like a true Italian, he cannot bear it that such a flower of a girl should be wasted entirely on such a withering
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 22
fellow as Decker. He has been trying to fill up some odd moments of Nancy’s time. 1 íe has been haunting her, and this night he has haunted her all the way to the Decker villa. Through the studio window, lie has seen the blow struck.”
“Hesaw the murder!”
T TNDOL BI EDLY. He has followed _ her again through the garden to the villino. But when she comes out to her car, which stands a little down the road, he accosts her, rides part of the way home with her. Love? No, he is not such a fool as to talk about love when there is money to be had. She has plenty of money; he has none. He has, however, knowledge. Will she pay? Yes, she will pay ! But when Bertelli accosts her like a polite devil, and she realizes that they must now be allies, she makes him prove his courage and usefulness at once by taking the little tassel back to the house and throwing it into the empty study.”
“And there Newcomen finds it,” said the commissary.
“It is in his pocket next morning when lie goes down to see Dinah Moore. Why lias he gone down? Because when he arrived that morning, on a naked spot on the lawn he has seen the print of the foot of a dog in the mud, a dog lacking a toe in a front foot. And he has learned that such a dog belongs in the villino. Notice him, then, on the trail of murder with one clue in his pocket. And when he sees Dinah Moore, she is wearing the green dressing gown with one tassel gone from it.
“Shall he turn Dinah over to the police at once? He should, of course. But a breath of love has entered him. To the boy, it is a torment of exquisite pain. He will not turn her over to the police. He will devour her time. He will have her entirely to himself for a mystic period of seven days—it might as well have been three or nine, the romance would have been the same. But he buys her time; he enslaves her for a week; and that is the week of his joy and misery.”
“And in the meantime,” said th° commissary, “Nancy Ormonde—”
“A prize a thousand times greater than Decker has crossed her horizon. Newcomen, young, brave, intelligent, enormously wealthy. But no sooner does she open fire on him than she discovers that he is spending his time with Dinah. It maddens her. Always Dinah in the path. And now she knows fear. The green tassel has not been foundnot by the police at any rate. The stiletto has not been found. There is no case against Dinah Moore, and now she realizes that if the will should lx* discovered her own claim on the Decker estate will be wiped out, with not even revenge to pay her for the loss. For Bertelli has told her something. The law in Italy is not the same as in her native Stateeven a murderer may benefit by the will of his victim in Italy. The crime does not affect the will.
“Bertelli is frightened when he hears about the will. In hiding it among Dinah’s drawings she was not clever, he declares, but guilty of sheer folly. On his own account, he is afraid. He would lose his own legacy. As to denying his signature as witness to the new will and contesting it if it is discovered -well, Bertelli sees risk and trouble in that. Much simpler to get the will back and destroy it.
“He makes one attempt to get his hands on the drawings, but he is interrupted by Newcomen. The drawings, he knows, are kept locked in the safe.”
The commissary interrupted: “But
why did Nancy Ormonde not ask to see the drawings again? She had already pretended an interest in buying them?” “After Bertelli’s failure and he must have made the attempt on his own account —Nancy Ormonde was afraid to show any further interest in the drawings. Newcomen had thrown Bertelli out of the house. Perhaps he had become suspicious, examined the drawings, found the will. Nancy now wishes she had not been so very clever, that she had not looked so far ahead. She wants that will.”
Lucardo gazed dreamily out over the hillside. The commissary waited.
“At any rate, the thing now is to get the key to the safe. Bertelli cannot do it. But there is that dishonest Roberto who was discharged by Nancy for theft, when she could have jailed him as well. Yes, there is that Roberto, who can be further corrupted with a handsome present and a promise of more. So the poisoned fish appears on the table. But, again, there is Newcomen like a guardian devil to spoil all plans. This Newcomen is becoming too dangerous, in fact. He is prying too closely into matters. He even seems to be suspecting delicate Nancy herself. Therefore he must go down ! He has pointed a finger of suspicion at Bertelli, above all !
“So they plan the thing together, she and Bertelli. He waits in an appointed place in a dark alley. The girl leads the victim through . . . But on the way Newcomen gives way to nature enough to make love to her a little. For how can young people be long together without a bit of love to sustain them? And as he speaks, she wonders with a desperate sudden hope whether she may not be able to snare this golden fish out of the blue pool of heaven? Millions, millions of dollars, not lire! She changes her mind at the last instant. She sees the gun at the window and springs in between . . . Oh, that was gallant, brave Nancy! But still the American is not in your hand ! Dinah, like a witch, still holds him.”
LUCARDO continued: “Bertelli, how* ever, is not a fool. He is made to think twice when the girl changes her mind in the alley. If she changes her mind once, she may again. Besides, she is death. He knows that. He has seen her act. Therefore he determines to do something of his own accord. He telephones to Newcomen and bargains with him to sell the name of the murderer of Thomas Decker, and Newcomen closes with the offer, though it is high. They are to meet in my house, because Bertelli seeks the crowd to cover
him. He would not have Nancy suspect him. Not while she is still a free agent. Nevertheless she distrusts him, she does see him talking with Newcomen, and she knows that something must be done at once. What man could have moved through all the possibilities so quickly and arrived at the right answer so surely? In a moment she is at the telephone; a moment later the call comes through for Bertelli, and he is taken away from Newcomen at the very moment when he is about to give the name of the murderess. She waits for him behind the office door. For two days, so great is her distrust of Bertelli, she has carried a stiletto. As he sits down to the phone, she stabs him from behind as she had stabbed Decker.”
“And so to the end, with poor Lucardo hunted like a rabbit through the fields and not able to stand and protest his innocence because he must not waste time fighting the law while this case is growing to a head. At last Nancy has her chance to reach for the will. Dinah has come to her; Dinah has given her the opportunity to steal the key; and Dinah’s house is empty. So Nancy comes in the night.”
“And finds you there, signor márchese,” said the commissary, with his ready bow. “Ah, that was brilliant deduction, my friend.”
“Deduction?” sighed Lucardo. “Shall I tell you the truth? It was only that I knew many strange events had happened in the vi'lino. I went there mysteriously, with Newcomen half expecting someone might be in it, because so many attempts had been made on Dinah, or on something in her possession. Now that she was gone. I argued, the blow might fall there, and I wanted to be present. That was the only reason. That was why we interrupted our bright Nancy when she was at the safe. And so the end came with Newcomen’s bit of thread in a bottle strangling our lady in the end.”
“And that was Newcomen’s idea?” said the commissary, curiously.
“Absolutely his. An exquisite idea of bluff. How could I have thought of it?” “We must assign credit,” said the commissary. He shifted a little from his place. “We must assign credit for this brilliant work, my friend.”
“To Signor Newcomen you can assign nothing,” said Lucardo. “Ile will not have his name mentioned. He has found happiness for himself, and he does not wish to be mentioned as bringing unhappiness to others. And as for me ... I think more of the new swimming pool than of crime, just now. Besides, was not all the work done in your department, my dear friend?”
“Ah, that is true,” said the commissary, breathing a long sigh and settling back in his place. “After all, it is department work, even though our great Lucardo is a part of it.”
“But only a part,” said Lucardo.
“True, only a part,” said the commissary.
“Without you, what could I do? Without the thousand possibilities you pour into my hands, the courtesies of the entire gendarmerie, the efficiency of your secretaries, your own wise advice ...”
“Signor márchese, you overwhelm me!” “My dear friend, I speak only the truth.”
“You will dine with me soon, márchese?” “Whenever it is your pleasure.”
“As for the newspapers, I must throw them a few bones. For yourself, you are sure you do not care?”
“Well, a great spirit like yours, signor márchese, cannot be fed on newsprint . . . The swimming pool and the new terrace,” he added, rising, “will improve everything in the valley. They will pour on you the sort of happiness you deserve ... I see a tall man and a woman coming up from the lower podere. Are they friends?”
“That pair?” said Lucardo. “Ah. they are two children who have adopted me. That is all.” + The End