Voice in the Night
Kent Power and Sergeant Papineau of Mo'real in The Case of The Little Blue Crescents
IT WAS a girl’s voice on the wire, young and urgent. “Mr. Kent Power?"
"Will you come to Ardfellan, Côte des Neiges Road, at once?”
Power rolled over on his side and it brought him wider awake. “Why should I leave a warm bed to do that?” “Please!" and then a sharp click.
He sat up and swung his feet over the bed. The little clock on the bedside table said 1.15 a m. He ran a hand through his tousled hair, and then suddenly stiffened with apprehension.
Could it possibly be ... ?
Three weeks ago R. R. Coulson. one of Montreal's outstanding legal luminaries, had sent for him. "Need your help, m’boy." There was something of the old Roman, with overtones of the actor manager, about R. B. Coulson. “Five years ago in New York—lost my head young actress. There were letters. Even we lawyers make that kind of mistake. They’re in the hands now of a rapscallion who's using them against me blackmail. Paid considerable sums already. Why? Don’t want to disrupt either m’ family or m’ business life. M’wife’s brother’s one of m’ partners at law. Lately the demands have been more frequent and exorbitant. Something’s got to be done.” Power had attempted the "something.” only to receive a week ago in his mail a missive which read:
"Keep out of the Coulson case or else . . .”
He hadn’t kept out of it, and so he was asking himself, as he sat there on the edge of the bed. whether or not this girl’s histrionics over the phone might be the baiting of that “or else.”
But as he asked the question he began to dress. Even if it meant stepping into a trap, at least it would bring him in contact of sorts with Coulson’s blackmailer. If it had nothing to do with that, the sooner he got to Ardfellan, Côte des Neiges Road, the better.
A taxi presently took him through a wrought-iron gateway to a circular drive which glistened unexpectedly with the chromiums of several cars. Music floated through the ojx*n lower windows of the big house; music that was hot. Ardfellan was, he had taken care to discover in his directory, the town residence of Harvey Hawkridge, who was. he knew, one of the lesser satraps of St. James Street.
Power rang the bell, but nobody answered it. They were making a lot of racket inside. He tried the door; it was unlocked.
A young couple, dancing a few yards distant, swung on him. “You the milkman?” the boy asked, sort of weaving his partner on one sjxjt.
“No.” Power said with some astx»rity. “Who’s running this party?”
“Bill . . . You the sheritï?”
“Bill Hawkridge . . . You Charlie McCarthy?”
“He’s just a bum, Ted,” the girl said querulously. "Dance!”
Ted swung her toward the drawing-room d<x>r, and Power followed. Two couples were standing by a table with a large tray on it just inside. The rest were dancing
and they were all youngsters. Power joined the quartet at the table. “Any of you Bill Hawkridge?”
“Bi-ill!” one of the girls shrieked over her shoulder. “Gemmun to see you !”
A boy with big shoulders and ruffled blond hair came over, dragging his partner by the waist. At the sight of Power his grey eyes went hard. “What’s the idea?” he wanted to know. “This is a private party.”
“Are you Harvey Hawkridge’s son?”
“Is this house called Ardfellan?”
“I was rung up half an hour ago and asked to come here urgently.”
“The heck you were!” Young Mr. Hawkridge was brusquely sceptical.
“And if it was a practical joke,” Power said with narrowing eyes, “somebody’s going to take it over my knee.”
The dancing had ceased by this time and young Mr. Hawkridge formed the pivot of a circle of eager youth. “Who are you anyway?” he demanded truculently.
“The name’s Kent Power—and the girl who called me seemed anxious. Which one of you was it?”
“Did you say girl?” the youth called Ted demanded.
Ted turned on young Mr. Hawkridge. “Kay ! She gave me the slip half an hour ago.” He faced Power again. “Looks like a gag's been pulled on you, Mr. Power. That’s Kay all over.”
"You can tell Miss Kay from me.” Power began gravely—and then he saw that the chairs at the far end of the long drawingroom had dust covers over them. He turned to young Mr. Hawkridge. “Your family’s away for the summer?”
“How come you’re here then?”
“If it’s any of your business, we were on a scavenger party that didn’t jell. So I brought the gang here.”
“I think,” Power said, “we’d better go scavenging for your little pal, Kay. We’ll start with the rooms that have phone extensions.”
“Kind of highhanded gent, ain’t you?” young Mr. Hawkridge said.
“Step on it. son.”
“Up or down?” Hawkridge wanted to know from the middle of the hall.
“Up. Bill !” one of the girls shrilled. “We can slide the banisters coming down.”
She was destined to descend more sedately, for when at the top of the stairs young Mr. Hawkridge said, “We’ll do the guv’nor's bedroom first,” when he opened that door and turned on the light, when he had stepped no more than two paces farther across the thick-piled carpet, he halted and croaked, “Holy Pete!”
A MAN was lying on the floor in the sort of *■ attitude that the dead take. As the boy strode forward. Power put his arm across the door against the now silent and awed youth behind him. Arrived at the body, young Mr. Hawkridge let out a strangled
exclamation. He came back slowly, with eyes that bulged. “It’s Uncle Theo!” he gasped.
“T. T. Hawkridge?” Power said sharply.
“Yes—gosh, this is awful !”
But Power’s quick brain had thrust itself beyond the awful and calamitous. He was remembering things he had heard about T. T. Hawkridge; how T. T. was a queer, perverse character, loving darkness rather than light, letting his right hand know nothing of w'hat his left did, and how—so the gossip ran—his brother Harvey, whose house this was, would have nothing to do with him these latter years. All of which caused Power to turn and say, “You, Ted, take the girls dow-nstairs and tell ’em a bedtime story.”
When the cavalcade had gone, he thrust a card at the nearest of the remaining youths. “Go downstairs and ring that number. Tell Sergeant Papineau I want him right away.” And then he said to the rest: “We’ll finish looking for Kay now'.”
“Kay?” squawked young Mr. Hawkridge, while the others gawped. “What’s she got to do wñth—”
“She may have come upstairs to pow'der her nose and run into this. Just how she got the opportunity to phone me I don’t know, but I’ve an idea it cost her plenty. Look everyw'here on this floor. Show ’em, Hawkridge.”
He himself went over to the body. T. T. Hawkridge had been one of those dark, flashing men. Just now the back of his head was bashed in, and the saturnine smile that usually characterized the reckless face had a rather w'ry twist—as though he had had an instant’s recognition of this last jest that fate had played on him.
What had brought him to this unoccupied house tonight, and to the very bedroom of that brother between whom and himself there was such bad blood?
Power was examining the environs of the body when the young men came trooping back. “There’s no sign of her anywhere. Mr. Power.” Young Mr. Hawkridge shook his head solemnly. “Perhaps it wasn’t she who rang.”
“Have you looked into every room, every possible closet?”
“All that aren’t locked.”
“Which are locked?” Power asked sharply.
“Mater’s room—and Sis’s.”
“Show me !”
“Here’s Sis’s room across the hall.” Young Mr. Hawkridge led the way.
“Does your sister usually keep this door locked?” Power asked after trying the handle.
“Not that I know of.”
“Better get an axe then.”
Young Mr. Hawkridge hurried off. One of the young men—he’d be bald and pompous at forty—asked with
import: “If she’s in there, why isn’t she letting on?” And then, at the look Power gave him. he paled and breathed, “Gosh !”
Young Mr. Hawkridge came back with the axe. “Shall I bust it open?”
“Lay on,” said Power.
Presently they w’ere standing in the centre of a room so virginally perfumed that only a girl could have possessed it. Pow'er strode over to the closet and flung its d(x>r open. Young Mr. Hawkridge croaked again, "Holy Pete!”
Bound and gagged with strips of sheeting, a girl hung to one of the hooks inside, but the terror in her eyes showed that she was still alive. Power said to the nearest boy: “Go downstairs and get some brandy.”
It was at that moment that the rotund figure of Sergeant Jules Papineau appeared in the bedroom d<x>rway. “Sacré nom!” he ejaculated. “Qu'est-ce que c'est?”
Power had disengaged the girl from the hook. Carrying her to the chaise longue, he laid her there and said to Papineau: “There’s been a couple of parties here tonight.” The girl trembled as though she w'ere cold. When they got the gag out of her mouth and the strips from her limbs, she tried to smile, but it didn’t come off very well.
THE BOY came back with the brandy in a glass and Power gave it to her. She was trembling, so he had to hold the glass to her chattering teeth. She was, he had to confess, a lovely young thing, with one of those streamlined bodies that get into your eyes.
Soon she was able to gasp: "Th-thanks a lot.”
“Feel like talking now?” he asked her, and then to the young gentlemen: “You lads better beat it. She may have a lot on her heart.”
When they had gone. Power seated himself on the chaise longue beside her and Sergeant Papineau sLxxJ at its foot. “This is chummier, eh?”
Her eyes crinkled. “A 1-lot!” and then seriously: “I really came up here to use Connie’s phone.”
“You wanted to talk to the boy friend without interruption?” Power hazarded.
“How did you guess?” She gave a little laugh.
“It’s from watching the birds. I'm a nature lover.” “Well, I was just coming into the room when something made me glance back. I h-hadn’t turned on the lights in the hall and it was quite dark, but I was sure I saw a man standing close to the wall j-just beyond the staircase. I must have passed within a yard of him. That was why I rang you up.”
“How did you know it wasn’t one of the boys?”
“All I could see was his eyes, and suddenly I realized the reason I c-couldn't see more was because the lower part of his face was covered by a dark cloth.”
“What made you call me up?”
“Oh, I don't know. I’ve heard dad call you so often in the last two weeks that 1 don't seem to know any other phone number.”
“By the way, what is your name?”
“You don't say !” For the moment it seemed the sheerest coincidence, and then Power realized that, after all. the Coulsons and Hawkridges did belong to the same world.
“I knew you were doing some social work for one of his clients, so . . . ”
So that was the way R. B. Coulson had explained matters to his family !
“And what ’as ’appened then, mademoiselle?" Sergeant Papineau asked with that air of gallantry he could always muster in the presence of lx:auty.
"I shut the d<x>r and hurried to the phone without waiting to turn on the light. I had just got through to you, Mr. Power, when he came in.”
"You cried out?”
“Yes, but I guess there was t-too much racket downstairs for them to hear me He had brought a sheet
with him. He t-tore it into strips and tied me up.”
“What type is he, this man?” Papineau asked. "You can describe ’im?”
“I think he was about medium height and very strong.” "What was his voice like?” Power asked.
“1 le d-didn’t S|X?ak; just sort of grunted.”
“And that’s all you can tell us?”
“Y-yes.” And then, as if suddenly recollecting something: “Except this.” She held out a hand that, until then, she had kept firmly clenched. On the upturned palm lay a crumpled piece of paper.
"Where did you get it?” Power asked, taking it from her. “From his v-vest pocket.”
“What did you do with his boots?”
It was the unbelief in his eyes that sent righteous indignation flashing through her. She sat up fiercely. “If you think I let him tie me up without a struggle, you’re crazy !” “I still don’t see how—”
“It was this way. He had my left arm pinned dowm and was putting a loop of torn sheet around my wrist. I tried to claw at iiis face.” Her flexed right hand clove the air in illustration, so close to Power's face that he jerked his head to one side. “He did just w hat you're doing lurched to one side. My fingers got caught—like this !” She hooked them into Power’s vest pocket. “Of course it was pure accident that they encountered the paper—but what’s so incredible about it?”
“Not’ing at all. mademoiselle.” Papineau exclaimed gallantly. “Only one completely wit’out the imagination could continue to disbelieve. Permit me to declare you ’ave the courage.”
“I was really scared to death,” she exclaimed with a wan smile. “When I clutched at that paper it was like a d-drowning man clutching at a straw.” She swung on Power. “Do you believe me now?”
"Mine was honest doubt.” he assured her. grinning, and smoothed out the paper. It had some figures typed on it.
Continued on page 37
Continued from page 15—Starts on page 14
Feb. 19 2 y2
Mar. 11 iy2
May 8 3
July 23 12
Aug. 7 6 *
“I hope,” he said, “it’ll prove the clue we—” And then suddenly he said, “Is that blood on your dress?” He touched the spot; it was still wet.
She glanced down and her eyes crinkled again. “It m-must have come from his thumb. I bit it when he was p-putting the gag in my mouth.”
“Mademoiselle”—Papineau bowed from the waist—“I salute you!”
“For a person who was scared to death.” Power said, “you seem to have grasped all the opportunities. I wonder if we could have that dress before you send it to the cleaners?”
“We shall frame it as a souvenir du courage,” Papineau declared.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to have it back,” she said laughing. “My allowance won’t run to another frock this month.”
“You shall,” Power promised.
When she had gone, Papineau declared: “She is gallant, that one. Superb, non?” Power agreed, and then did some telephoning.
TDOWER had glanced again at the figures k on the slip of paper. The last date, \ugust seven, and the figure after it, brought suddenly into his ken the memory that on that night R. B. Coulson had paid $600 to his blackmailer.
He sprang to his feet. “Let’s go, Pap!” Downstairs, where Miss Kay Coulson formed the centre of a squealing circle of her peers, he asked young Mr. Hawkridge where his Uncle Theo lived.
"Cartier Apartments, Sherbrooke Street. He—”
"Phone the police and have them take charge upstairs. In the meantime nobody goes up. We’ll be back.”
“For why,” Papineau demanded as Power drove recklessly down the Mountain, “do we rush through the night, comme ça?”
“To kill two birds with one stone . . . By the way, did I tell you that we found T. T. Hawkridge’s body in a bedroom across the hall back there?”
“You did not !”
“His head was bashed in.”
“Since I ’ave the honor to represent only the police force of Mo’real, per’aps you will now tell me every fing,” Pap said grimly.
Power told him—and they came to the Cartier Apartments.
Nobody, the man at the desk declared, certainly nobody unusual, he added when Power pressed him, had entered in the last half hour. Yes, he had a duplicate key to Mr. T. T. Hawkridge’s flat, but he certainly wasn’t going to—oh, if they were the police, it was different.
They went up in the elevator. “Got a gun, Pap?” Power asked as they stepped out of it.
They tiptoed the last thirty feet to the door at the very end of the corridor. Power slipped the key quickly into the lock, swung the door open and stepped through. It was a good thing he did that; a good thing Papineau was late in following. For the interval between them was split by something that crashed the wall beyond. Suddenly, however, as the sergeant sprang at the door, it was slammed in his face. He tried the handle, but the door was held by a snap lock.
Inside, Power was lying flat in the angle that floor and wall made. He could see nothing yet in the darkness. He couldn’t even hear anything. After a few tense moments he got to his hands and knees,
and began to crawl slowly toward a door which seemed to have closed after that shot was fil ed.
His shoulder bumped a chair, and he went fiat on his stomach again. But nothing came out of the dark. He pressed on once more, found a bathroom door, saw curtains waving in an open window. In the courtyard below, he saw a single shadow streaking around a corner. A moment later he heard the sound of a car’s swift acceleration.
He went back, turning on the lights, and let the fuming Papineau in. “For why, please, ’ave you shut that door in my face?” the latter demanded umbrageously.
Power grinned at him. “Give me credit for wanting to save Madame Papineau an early widowhood. Besides, that light that was coming in was making me too clear a target.”
“What ’as ’appen?”
“Some person or persons got down the fire escape. I imagine they came in that way, too. Let’s see what they were up to.” They found the large bachelorish library at the rear in a state of considerable confusion. Desk drawers and their contents lay scattered about the floor. There had been a hurried and angry search.
“Take a look through the debris and see if they left anything,” Power said. His own glance had fallen on the portable typewriter on the small table by the window. He crossed to it, tore a sheet from the scratch pad beside it, and began to type.
“Hey, Pap,” he called presently, “come over and take a dekko!”
He held out the slip of paper on which he had been typing and the slip that Miss Kay Coulson had come by. “It is the same paper! And the same typewriter! Regardez the ‘W ! It lacks the alignment !” “And the ‘a’ in ‘March’ and ‘May’ is dirty . . Look!” Power pressed up the key. “Caked with dry ink.”
‘Then it is the dead man who ’as written the paper which mademoiselle gave us!” “Yes; and as nearly as I can remember, the figures on it represent amounts which my client, R. B. Coulson. has been paying in blackmail. It looks as if ‘T.T.’ was his blackmailer.”
“Mo' dieu, then it is M’sieu Coulson who ’as murder ’im !”
Power got up from the typewriter. “What we want to look for now are the blackmail letters. It’s my guess that the murderer hurried here as fast as he could to lay hands on them. He seems to have looked for them in all the likely places. Let’s try the unlikely ones.”
HE WENT, the following morning, to the busy law offices of Coulson, Paton. Dryburgh and Dryburgh, and was ushered into the quiet and thronelike splendor of the senior partner’s inner sanctum. The old Roman waved his secretary from the room, and then the condescending hand fell on Power’s arm in gentle reproach. “My dear boy! I thought we had agreed—no interviews here only at my residence.”
There was a sort of dyed-in-the-wool theatricalism about all this; indeed, it was said even by his admirers that R. B. Coulson had climbed to success not because he knew the law so well, but because he was so consummate an actor.
“But what brought you, m’boy?”
“First to enquire after your daughter, Kay.”
The mobile face went grave. “Gad. a nasty experience—for a girl of her age. But she was sleeping when I left this morning; sleeping peacefully, m’boy.” The wellmanicured right hand made a gesture of repose.
The girl, Power decided, got her frankness from her mother. He flung a bundle of
letters on the desk in front of the lawyer.
“I think they're what you wanted,” he said.
For a moment the old Roman forgot to act. His hand shot out almost tigerishly. Not until lie had gone through them to the last epistle did the mantle of Caesar fall on him again. “I'm grateful, m’boy; mighty grateful. This page can be turned now. finally and decisively.” And then suddenly guile came into the expressive eyes. "How did you come by them, m’boy?”
“By searching where no one else had looked. Each letter was secreted in a separate volume of the set of Encyclopedia Britannica which T. T. Hawkridge kept in his private library.”
“Hawkridge?” If the lawyer’s astonishment was simulated it was well simulated.
“It leaves me breathless!”
“For years we were—like brothers. Of course in latter years he has been rather playing the black sheep.” He stared at Power with a look of noble bewilderment, and then suddenly exclaimed: “But I’m certain he was not the man I paid those amounts to. Even in the dark I couldn’t j mistake him.”
Was this denial the result of a sudden realization that now, at all costs, the old Roman must disclaim all previous knowledge of the identity of his blackmailer?
“I’m afraid it makes it rather awkward for you, Mr. Coulson,” Power said. “Awkward? What d’you mean, m’boy?” “It gives you a motive for murdering Hawkridge.” J
The swift reproach in the old Roman’s eyes broke into words; “Dear boy, you can’t think that of me.”
Can’t I? Power thought, noting the wariness behind the bathos in the fine grey eyes.
“I hadn’t the faintest idea T. T. was my blackmailer ! I still can’t believe he would stoop ...”
Power had taken a slip of paper from his vest pocket. “Last week you gave me certain figures -the amounts and dates of the payments you've made this year. I'd like to check them over. Have you got them on you?”
"Yes, yes, of course.” The lawyer drew a notebook from an inner pocket.
“On February nineteenth you paid $250; March eleven, $750; May eight, $300; July twenty-third, $1,200; and August seven, $600. That correct?’
Power thrust the slip from which he had been reading at the other man. “Your daughter had the luck to lift this from her assailant last night. Who else besides yourself and Hawkridge was likely to have such a list on him?”
An incredulous smile etched itself on the old Roman’s visage. “Are you suggesting that I trussed my own daughter up?”
Power shrugged. “A man caught practically in the act of murder is likely to do anything—even to his own daughter. I'm not so sure it wouldn’t constitute a brilliant touch. Who would suspect a man of trussing up his own daughter?”
Coulson shook his head. “I’m afraid you’ll have to do better than that, m’boy, if you’re going to solve this horrible crime.”
ON LEAVING the lawyer. Power went to an address in Outremontthat of Harvey Hawkridge’s secretary. He spent some time talking to the girl at the desk of the large apartment house. Flaving sucked all the juice he could get from that orange, he returned home.
“Did a parcel come from a Miss Kay Coulson?” he asked his man, Hicks.
"Phone her up and jog her memory, will you?”
“Yes, sir . . . Sergeant Papineau’s in the living room.”
The sergeant had conducted a further search of the dead man's flat and had come by a small notebook with certain telephone numbers in it. “I ’ave obtain the names from Information,” he said. “There are t’ree we should investigate. The others— rien!”
The florist’s shop suggested nothing sinister; the masseur was a Scandinavian whose open blond face would have delighted Hitler’s heart; and so they came to the office in Notre Dame East of the customs broker, Alphonse Guérin. M. Guérin was a ferret-faced little man who had evidently found much to distrust in the world, and he met them with uncompromising suspicion. He knew nothing of a M’sieu T. T. Hawkridge. For sure, he read the papers, but one murder was the same as another to him. He didn’t know why M. Hawkridge happened to have his phone number; perhaps M. Hawkridge had wanted to get something through the customs. Anybody could write your phone number down out of a directory.
“Me,” declared Sergeant Papineau as they left the bleak office and proceeded westward along the equally bleak street, “I ’ave the feeling he ’as been prepared to receive us—non?”
Power turned sharply into a ship’s chandlery store and asked the clerk if he could use their phone. He got through to his friend, Bill Stewart, at telephone headquarters, and gave him M. Alphonse Guérin’s number. “I’d like you to trace all calls from him, starting immediately. Bill. It’s a police matter. Give me a buzz.” And then he said to Papineau: “Let’s go home and see what Hicks has for lunch.” Hicks had lamb—and a number to call. It was Stewart. “Your friend, Guérin, was connected with Tony Carducci when we made the tap. There have been no calls since. Does that mean anything?”
“I hope so. Thanks a lot.”
Back in the dining room again, Power said: “Know anything about a Tony
“Not’ing to ’is credit. We suspect he ; smuggles the dope into Mo’real sometimes. So far he eludes us. "Why?”
“Alphonse Guérin rang him up immediately after we left his office.”
”Mo’ dieu!” Pap’s eyes went wide.
“Why would he do that so soon after we were there enquiring about T. T. Hawkridge -unless there was a link between Hawkridge and Carducci?”
“It will be good perhaps to interview Tony, non?”
Tony Carducci lived in an apartment on Maplewood Avenue. It was evident not only that he had come a long way since leaving Italy as a lad. but that he wanted the world to know it. The flat was sumptuous, yet somehow the hard-faced pair of gents who came to the door seemed hardly to fit the gilt and ormolu.
“Where’s Tony?” Papineau asked them as they more or less barred entry.
“In bed.” came the close-lipped reply. “We wish for to see him.”
“He’s not seein’ anyone.”
“Inform ’im, please, that Sergeant Papineau is ’ere.”
One of them went away and came back. “Okay,” he said, “he’ll see you.”
They went along a spacious hall, whose ornamentation was lush with mirrors and cupids, in a formation that put the hardfaced gentlemen fore and aft. “Cannon in front of them, cannon behind them,” Power chuckled in the sergeant’s ear.
Tony teas in bed. Despite the warmth of the August day, the covers were thick above him and he looked anything but a well man. “I ain’t feelin’ so good today, sergeant,” he said. “What’s on your mind?”
“1 ’ave brought my fríen’, Kent Power, to cheer you up.”
“Howya. Mr. Power?”
“Glad to meet you, Tony.” Power ! thrust out a hand.
It met a clammy, feverish clasp from I which the zest had gone.
Power seated himself on the edge of the bed. “We won’t keep you long,” he said. “All we’re interested in is anything you can tell us about the late T. T. Hawkridge.”
r"PHE languor of fever left the heavy, swarthy face. Tony’s powerful torso rose on one elbow. “Lissen, sarge,” he said bluntly to Papineau, “I don't know nothin’ about that business. I been sick here these three days. Ain’t that right, Benny?” He appealed to his left bower.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Benny declared belligerently.
“We’re not asking if you murdered him, Tony,” Power said gently. “We merely want to know if you can tell us anything about him. It might pay you as well as us to find out who did him in.”
“Whaddya mean it might pay me? I don’t know nothin’ about him.” Tony dropped back to the pillows again. “An’ I’m too sick to—”
“Perhaps you know Alphonse Guérin?” “Huh?” The swarthy face came up again.
“Alphonse Guérin,” Power repeated. “Do you know him?”
A wary look came into the dark little eyes. “What if I do?”
“We’re wondering why he rang you up after we called on him this morning.”
The remark seemed to exasperate Tony. “Lissen, Mr. Power, they’s a dozen men ring me up ever’ day. Do you want I should tell the story of my life?”
“Me, I'd like not’ing better,” Papineau declared.
Tony went back to the pillows again. “I don’t tell the story of my life on Fridays —an’ this is Friday. Guérin an’ me does business sometimes. He come here to talk business.”
“So he was here, eh? That’s interesting.” Power rose. “Thanks a lot, Tony. Hope you’ll be feeling better soon.”
“It makes somet'ing there,” Papineau declared as they drove along the avenue. “They are nervous, ces gens. Why ’as M. Guérin not only phoned but gone to see Tony?”
“Tony doesn’t strike me as one of the greatest intellects I’ve met,” Power said thoughtfully.
“Yet you say that, despite the fact you’ve suspected him of do[>e smuggling, he’s been able to keep out of your toils. That suggests brains. I wonder who supplies Tony with brains. Carducci to Guérin to Hawkridge. It’s a slender thread so far, but Hawkridge unquestionably had brains.”
They came to the big house to which a girl’s frantic voice had bidden Power last night. Harvey Hawkridge was in his library, walking to and fro impatiently. A sturdy, aggressive man, with clean-shaven face and choleric but shrewd eyes. A shock of iron-grey hair went back en brosse from the imjierious forehead, giving him an aquiline look.
“It’s the matter of your whereabouts last night, Mr. Hawkridge,” Power said. “When we rang up your summer place to inform you of the murder of your brother, you weren’t there. In view of the fact that you and he had got along badly of late years, we felt the matter should be cleared up.”
“I can clear it up,” Hawkridge declared brusquely.
“I was out in my car. It was very hot
last night up-river, and I went for a drive to cool off.”
“It must have been very hot; you were gone until after three.”
Hawkridge didn’t like his tone and said so. “You don’t have to be flippant with me, Power.”
“All right then, you were in Montreal last night.”
“I was not.”
“When we couldn’t get you at your summer place, we naturally thought your secretary might know where you were. She denied such knowledge, but somehow lier denial lacked conviction. This morning I made enquiries at her apartment house. 11 seems that you called for her, took her out and brought her back about twelve. After that there’s a hiatus of three hours. You could have driven up-river again in an hour and a half. What was the delay?”
Something of the Napoleonic had gone out of Hawkridge’s stocky figure. “I had a flat tire,” he growled.
“Change it yourself?”
“Yes. There was no garage near. It happened out at—”
“Was that how you hurt your thumb?” Power indicated the member bound with adhesive.
“Have you any theories as to why your brother was killed?”
“I’ve known nothing of my brother’s affairs for the past five years,” Hawkridge said curtly.
“So it wasn’t at your invitation he came here last night?”
“It most certainly wasn’t!”
“Supposing you had come here and found him present without invitation? Supposing you found him rooting around in your private correspondence, looking for compromising documents; for instance, letters from that charming secretary of yours?”
The other man leaned across the table grimly. “I was not in this house last night!” he declared, his voice trembling with what might have been anger. “I have no embarrassing papers here or elsewhere. My relations with my secretary are strictly those of an older man who enjoys the company of a highly intelligent young woman. I’d like you to get that and get it straight !”
“I’m inclined to believe you on that last count, Mr. Hawkridge,” Power said, "though I’m still open to conviction that you weren’t here last night.”
AS THEY drove away Papineau said feelingly. “Me, I sympat’ize wit’ M'sieu Hawkridge. Sometimes even I ’ave feel that it is pleasant to enjoy the company of a beautiful young mademoiselle who ’as the fresh outlook.”
“It is because per’aps we cannot ’elp seek for somet’ing which lies at the 'eart of life; somet’ing beautiful and satisfying. Maybe it is not theremaybe we make the chimera wit’ our mind--but we cannot 'elp make the search.”
“That’s a very interesting explanation of a phenomenon which has always intrigued me,” Power declared without the flicker of a smile.
It brought them back to Drummond Street. It had not yet, however, brought a dress with a bloodstain on it. “The young lady rang a few minutes ago,” Hicks declared. “It’ll be along shortly.”
“Then bring the sergeant and me a drink,” Power said. "Sit down. Pap, and rest your brain.” Throwing himself into the overstuffed chair, he lit a cigarette. “Somehow I just don’t see brother Harvey as the murderer. He might have gone to his town house last night and found T. T. rummaging. He’s the apoplectic type that such a discovery might drive momentarily berserk. But why would he have gone on to T. T.'s flat afterward? There’s just one thing that spots him at present—that sore thumb. He might have scraped the skin off | it changing a tire. Or it may be the thumb I that the Coulson girl bit.”
Papineau brushed a hand over his I
Continued from page 39
mustache. “Me, I do not t’ink he 'as done it.”
“On the other hand, that dear old Roman, R. B. Coulson, not only had a motive for murder but a reason for going to T. T.’s flat afterward. If be murdered T. T. he'd want to get hold of those compromising letters at all costs. That leaves us with Tony Carducci. What do you think of Tony?”
“It makes wit’ me. Last night when I am going to sleep I say to myself, ‘Jules, perhaps there is more than one man in this affair.’ It is true Mademoiselle Coulson is attacked only by one you see only one escaping from the dead man’s flat—but still there is the feeling, the intuition. It would go wit’ Tony and his mob. Then there is the link we discover this morning between him and the dead man via Alphonse Guérin.”
“If you’ll remember, I suggested that somebody might be the brains behind Tony. Perhaps T. T. worked out the little ideas and Tony carried them into execution.”
“Then why 'as he kill him?”
“He may have discovered thatT. T. was holding out on him some way; doublecrossing him. So he bumps him off, goes to his flat to search for the letters with the idea of gouging old Coulson to the limit, sans impediment.” And then suddenly Power frowned. “But there’s a snag. Pap. The figures on that paper the girl gave us were the actual figures Coulson had paid; I verified that this morning. If Tony was the murderer it was from him she lifted them. In that case he knew that T. T. hadn’t double-crossed him. Which leaves us minus a motive, and in . .
Hicks came in with Miss Kay Coulson’s frock over his arm. “Here it is, sir.”
They went to the laboratory at the back, where Power soaked some of the brownish stain from the bodice of the dress with citrate solution and began to do things to it. “It may help us to know to which blood group the girl's assailant belongs, Pap.”
“Comment?” the other exclaimed doubtfully.
"From a blood standpoint, there are four groups to which any of us can belong. That doesn’t mean that if we find, let’s say, that Harvey Ilawkridge’s blood is the same group as this I’m working with, he’s the murderer. There are millions of people in the same group. But if his blood should liappen to belong to a different group, it quite definitely lets him out.”
Presently he sat down at his microscope. 1 Ie had been there for some moments when an odd expression came into his face. Then he got up and dashed with a look of taut concentration to the Ixxikcase at the far end of the room. He came back with an impressive tome which he thumbed through to a set of illustrations. He began to compare these with what he had under the mike.
Finally he threw back his head and laughed, albeit a bit wryly. “This is grxxi, Pap. Come and take a squint.”
Papineau went over and bent to the eyepiece.
"See those cells in the centre of the field? Notice that onethird from the right of the clump? Different, isn’t it?”
“It’s got a little blue crescent in it, hasn't it?"
“It’s all we need know. Come on, let’s go!"
Thrusting the microscope and some paraphernalia into its wooden case, he dashed out of the laboratory.
npONY CARDUCCI was still abed when they arrived back at his apartment. This time his welcome lacked warmth, for it was written in his suspicious Latin eyes that twice was too much. The same was also written in the eyes of the henchmen who had planted themselves grimly at the head of his bed.
“You guys are makin’ me nervous,” he
said petulantly as Power proceeded to set the microscope up at the small table by the window.
“We’re only here to diagnose your illness,” Power declared, advancing on him amiably with a needle in one hand and a glass slide in the other.
“It ain't a diagnosis I want, it’s a cure,” Tony growled.
“That’ll come in time.” Pow’er seated himself on the exige of the bed. “First w’e want a sample of your blood.”
Tony stared at him hard for a moment. Suddenly he snapped, “Nothin’ doin’! You guys’re tryin’ to put somethin’ over on me.”
The one called Benny stepped forward and said, “Get offa that bed !”
“Better keep out of this,” Pow’er warned him.
“I said get offa that bed !” There was a steely look in Benny’s sinister eyes.
It seemed to Power that the time had come for w’hat is called in diplomatic circles “a demonstration of force.”
“All right,” he said. He put the needle between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. But as he rose from the bed his freed palm caught Penny under the chin. Benry’s head jerked back against the wall with a thud. He dropped in a heap.
The gunman on the other side of the bed, moving a moment too late, got the toe of Papineau’s boot in the ankle and doubled over with a yelp of pain. When the pair had been put outside and the door locked against them, Pow’er advanced on the bed again. “Sorry to have to play this rough stuff, Tony,” lie exclaimed aixilogetically. “How about that drop of blood now’?”
Glancing from one to the other of the two men facing him, Tony decided that here was a pair to humor for the moment. He held out a finger. Presently, from gazing down a microscope over by the window, Pow’er called out: “Come and
take a dekko at this. Pap.”
Papineau went over and took a look. “Sacré!” he exclaimed. “It is the same!” Power came back to the foot of the bed. “You’ll be glad to hear we’ve diagnosed your trouble, Tony.”
Tony was sitting up in bed. his hands clasixid around his knees under the covers. “You guys put on quite a show, don't you?” he said sardonically.
“Glad you’re enjoying it,” Power replied. “What about the show’ you put on last night?”
“I'll bite.” The peculiar glitter in Tony’s eyes deepened as though he were considering some private jest. “What show?”
“In part, it consisted of tying a girl up and hanging her away in a closet. But she bit you, Tony, and the bite drew enough blood to stain her dress. I've examined that stain and I’ve examined your blood; they both contain malarial parasites of the quartan type. Sergeant Papineau tells me you went back to Naples on a visit this spring. They have lots of malaria in Southern Italy. I suppose you neglected to sleep under a mosquito net. But the point is this, Tony: the man whose thumb was bitten murdered T. T. Hawkridge.”
“Smart guy, ain’t ya?” Tony sneered. Suddenly his hand came out from under the covers with the gun he had lifted from the bedside table w’hile they were over at the microscope. “Stick ’em up!” he snapped.
They stuck ’em up.
“But you’re not smart enough!” Tony’s eyes were glittery bright, and it wasn’t all due to fever. “By the time they find you an’ flatfeet there. I’ll be across the American border—an’ dead men tell no tales.”
He swung his feet around to get out of bed. It was a mistake, for in the same instant Power’s hands came down and suddenly the foot of the bed came up. With his full weight under it, it crashed against the wall.
Sergeant Papineau dragged the halfstunned man out from between wall and bed, and by the time they had him back
under the covers again he was having a chill. They sat down, one on each side of him. and began to ask him questions. At first these came bouncing back, but after about half an hour Tony began to get delirious, and that loosened his tongue.
Finally Power said. “There's just one more thing we’d like to know; why did you invite T. T. to his brother’s house to murder him?”
“I didn’t invite him.” Tony moaned. “I followed him. We been followin’ him
“We thought he was double-crossin’ us —on the dope racket as well as the blackmail.”
Tony sat up rather wildly. “No! But how was I to know that? Put yourself in my place—mamma mia. my head!” He raised hands to aching temples. “You follow a guy you suspect to his brother’s house. You see he’s tryin' to get somethin’ on his own brother. Can you trust any longer a guy like that? It wasn't till I found the paper on him with the figures— the one that little hellcat lifted offa meI learned different . . . Oh, mamma mia, mamma mia!"
Tony fell back on the pillows with his hands over his burning face. He began to babble incoherently in his own tongue. He was quite delirious now.