HE WAS obviously the salt of the earth—a small, quiet, middle-aged Westmount accountant, with a sad friendly smile, a small grey mustache, and a way of stating his case that strained over backward to be fair and reasonable.
He had rung at seven a.m. “I hate troubling you so early, Mr. Power—but my son has been arrested.” When he arrived he handed Power the newspaper. “Perhaps you’d better read this first—to get the other side.” He was very pale and pain twisted through his smile.
TRAGEDY ON GOLF LINKS Newly Engaged Couple Meet Death from Car Driven by Rival
Late last night at the Westcliffe Golf and Country Club, Harvey Crichton, rising young businessman of this city, stepped into his car and drove it down the sloping fairway of number one hole to crash into a bench on which sat Peter R. Gurney and his fiancee, Miss Dorothy Willis. Both were killed. The ill-fated couple probably never knew what struck them. Gurney died instantly. Miss Willis almost immediately after, expiring just as the first witness arrived.
Crichton, who is alleged to have been drinking, was arrested on a charge of manslaughter, but police officials state that this may be changed to murder. The accused man had been a rival of Peter R. Gurney for Miss Willis' hand, and left the clubhouse shortly after their engagement was announced at the ball given there last night. In the meantime Gurney and Miss Willis had gone for a walk down the slope of number one fairway, and seated themselves on the bench opposite number two tee. Twenty minutes later they were both dead, and Harvey Crichton was discovered draped over the driving wheel of a car without lights and out of gear, in a bunker beyond number two tee. Police say that he smelled strongly of whisky and was roused with the greatest difficulty. The accused man is an executive of the well-known firm of pharmaceutical chemists, Hollis, Lindsay & Swetnam, Ltd.
When Power handed the newspaper back, the little man said, “I’ve come to you, Mr. Power, because I know that what that story implies is not true. My son has never been drunk—and neither drunk nor sober would he have done this horrible thing of which they are trying to accuse him.”
“Have you seen him since they arrested him?”
“Of course—I phoned you from the jail.”
“What’s he say?”
“He had left the clubhouse to drive home. Miss Willis’ announcement of her engagement had come quite unexpectedly and was rather a blow. He says that he was standing beside his car when something hit him on the back of the head. The next thing he remembers is being in jail.”
Power said sceptically, “That’s a pretty lame alibi, Mr. Crichton. I’m afraid it won’t—”
“But he showed me the bruise!”
"He might have bumped his head against the roof of the car when it struck that bench.”
The little man rose. He said with quiet dignity, “When my son told me his story I believed him. I still do. But I can't ask you to help him unless you can believe it too. That wouldn’t be fair to either you or him. I’m sorry to have troubled you.”
But as he turned to go, Power called him back. There was something superbly reasonable about the little man that shamed his scepticism. “Let's go down and have a talk with him, Mr. Crichton. Perhaps my faith will grow."
THE FIRST sight of Crichton fils was not reassuring. When they stepped into the cell, that young man stopped his pacing and faced them like an angry hawk. There was a baleful light in his dark eyes that hinted he was going to be a bit difficult. Unlike the little father, here was no sweetly reasonable person, but one spurred by passions and conflicts. One felt that these passions and conflicts, moving through the six feet of clean-cut, virile young manhood, could as well drive Harvey Crichton to murder as a lover, as to success as a business executive.
Power said. “Your father’s been telling me the story. Someone hit you on the head at Westcliffe last night and you landed here. Is that right?”
“Yes, it is!” Harvey Crichton glared at Power defiantly. He seemed to have prepared to brace himself against the whole world, and there was truculence in every aspect of his bearing.
“May I see the bump?”
For a moment it looked as though he might be refused. But the father said, “Let’s arise and go to Innisfree, son.” It must have been one of those inter-family slogans that means something particular only for that family. Young Crichton suddenly sloughed off his defiance and submitted, almost lamblike.
The bruise was fairly on the vertex of the head. It could have come from a rear-approaching enemy, or it could have resulted from a bump against the cross-slat of a car roof, but none could say which.
Power sniffed. “How many drinks did you have last night?”
“One before I went out and another about half an hour before I left to come home.”
“How do you handle your liquor?”
“If you mean was I sober last night, I was—as sober as I am now.”
“It smells like more.”
“What do you mean?” Truculence crept back into the dark, hawklike young face.
Power leaned forward and smelled the shoulder of the evening coat which the other was still wearing. “Take a sniff yourself,” he said.
Young Mr. Crichton did. And then suddenly he cried. “Somebody did that! Poured liquor over my shoulder!” He caught his father by the arm. “I knew I’d been framed, dad! This proves it!”
Power shook his head. “No, it doesn’t,” he said, “not the way we’ve got to have it proved. Let’s sit down and be calm.” When they were seated, he asked, “Who framed you?”
Harvey Crichton’s expression suddenly disintegrated, all the flaming hope that had shot through his recent declaration now snuffed out into bewilderment. “I don’t know,” he said, staring straight in front of him. “I forgot for a moment that Pete Gurney was dead.”
“You mean that he was the only one likely to have framed you?”
“The only one who hated me enough to want me out of the way.”
“You’re sure he was the only one?”
“I can’t think of anyone else.”
“Keep thinking.... Did you know that Gurney and Miss Willis had gone down number one fairway to that bench?”
“I knew they’d gone down the fairway—they left the clubhouse just before I did.”
“Do the police know that you knew?”
“Yes—I’ve no reason to hide anything from them!”
Crichton said it proudly enough, but Power had to admit as he moved along the prison corridor that he hadn’t made his mind up about the young man. His story lacked real credibility, and what a shrewd prosecutor could do with it before a jury, would be only a hangman’s business. That last damning admission that he had seen Gurney and the girl go down number one fairway might well prove the last brick on the already fairly circumstantial wall of evidence.
He found his friend Sergeant Jules Papineau in the detective bureau, going over the morning’s report. “Where, ” he asked, seating himself on the edge of the littered desk, “is the car that killed those two at Westcliffe last night?”
“Huh?” Papineau gave him a sharp look. “For why you ask?”
“Young Crichton's father wants me to” Papineau swung his feet down to the floor. “She is open-shut that case—like a door! I am there myself when ’e is arrest’. He staggers—he reeks of the booze—he talks like the fool.”
“Just the same I’d like to take a dekko at that car.”
“I ’ave send to ’ave it towed in. The truck has just depart.”
“Then I can beat them to it.”
Papineau frowned after the retreating back. He felt quite certain about this case, but he didn’t want to miss any bets. “Attendez!” he exclaimed, reaching suddenly for his hat. “Me, I go wit’ you!”
THE Westcliffe Golf and Country Club has a pleasing situation north of Montreal Island. You turn off the main highway along the drive that winds gently upward to the snout of the hogback on which the clubhouse is situated. Standing on the verandah and terrace in front of it, there is a wide view south toward the city. Immediately in front of the terrace lies the broad green of number eighteen, which is given a rich natural hazard by the fact that, a short distance beyond it, the slope tumbles over the edge of a fifty-foot cliff to a boulder-strewn bottom. On your right, number eighteen fairway sweeps down on one side of this rocky outcropping, and on your left number one descends on the other, and like a stream that has been bisected by a great rock, the two grassy slopes sweep together again beyond the cliff's foot.
Power left his car at the parking space which extended from number one tee up to the clubhouse, which was open southward to the view, but lined on the north by a row of hardwood trees. The two men walked down number one fairway—a sharp slope that would give an ungeared car quite a momentum—and came to the three young golden elders at the far side of number two tee. One of the bushes had been mowed flat, the bench beyond it lay scattered in splinters, and the car stood in the bunker that had finally arrested it, close to the top of a short slope beyond.
“The bush and the impact 'as slowed it—the bunkair doess the rest,” Papineau explained.
There was blood on bumper and radiator—the shining surface of the car’s right side was badly scratched—but it had suffered no serious damage. Power opened the door on the driver’s side. There was blood here, too—a few splashes on the steering wheel, and a considerable amount on the floor. Harvey Crichton’s scalp wound had evidently bled. There was also a heavy smudge of grease against the near edge of the back of the seat, as though someone had brushed it with a dirty shoulder on entering.
He went around to the other side and opened that door. He stared at the blood drops on the floor for quite a few minutes. “Mind if I take this rubber flooring home with me? I’d like to give it a closer examination.”
“She is okay wit’ me,” Papineau declared.
Power took a pencil from his pocket. "I want you to watch this, Pap,” he said, as he marked an R.P. in the nearest corner. “That means right posterior. Not that it’s really necessary—the foot brake and clutch pedal holes should make the geography clear—but this may have to go into court and I want it clear that this is the side opposite the driver."
When he had lifted the rubber mat and carefully rolled and tied it, he said, "I’d like to make one more dying request.”
“Lock the car so that no one can get inside to disturb it. Lord knows young Crichton’s bets are skimpy, but I don’t want any of ’em to be muffed.”
That was still all right with him, Papineau declared and, taking a key from his pocket, he locked the doors. “They can tow it wit’ the front wheels lifted,” he said.
BACK in the city Power spread the rubber mat on the wide bench in his laboratory and went at it with a magnifying glass. Then he laid a sheet of white blotting paper farther along and proceeded to squirt ink at it with his fountain pen. “Notice what happens, Pap?” he said. “When I let them drop perpendicularly, I get a circle with little rays out from it like a rising sun. But when I give it an angle, it has a snub nose in front and a trailing tail—like a snowshoe.”
"Oui," Papineau agreed.
“Look at these, then.” Power returned to the rubber mat. "On this side,” he pointed to the drops behind the foot brake and clutch pedal holes, “the drops are either circular, or they radiate out from the driver’s seat as the centre of a circle. As that car moved down the slope last night Crichton’s head, whether he was drunk or sober, conscious or unconscious, nodded forward with the jerky movement due to the uneven terrain. That would give some of the blood drops a forward momentum, would cause them to strike and form drops like a snowshoe. But they had to radiate from the driver’s seat as the centre of a circle, their tails all had to be pointing back toward the driver’s seat. But look at these drops.” Power indicated now the bloodstains on the right, on the side opposite the driver’s seat. “They radiate the other way. Their tails point back to the passenger’s seat, not the driver’s.”
"Sacré nom, vous avez raison!"
“In other words, these drops whose tails radiate back toward the passenger’s seat must have come from the bleeding of someone sitting in the passenger's seat.”
“But if the car ’as been jerked violently from side to side?”
“The first possible jerk Crichton could have got was when the car struck those bushes behind which Gurney and the girl were sitting. It was only at that time that Crichton could have bumped his head against the roof slat and started to bleed. Did that bump jerk him out of the driver’s seat?”
"Non. He is there when they find 'im!"
“All right, then. There’s a lag of a few seconds between the time a man receives a cut and it bleeds sufficiently for the drops to fall to the floor. If Crichton got the wound when the car hit the bush, he probably didn’t start to drip much before it was caught up in the bunker. But if he did get the wound then, most of his bleeding would have occurred after the car stopped in the bunker. Yet that’s not the story this floor mat tells. The picture here is of drops that were jerked forward from a head in motion. Most of these drops are snowshoe-shaped. If they had fallen after the car stopped, they would have been circular. Very few of them are circular. If what this floor mat tells is true, then two things happened. Number One, Crichton got his wound before he stepped into the car, and bled all the way down the hill. Number Two, he sat for some time in the seat opposite the driver’s seat.”
"Oui,” Papineau agreed thoughtfully, “it marches, that!”
“Now let’s suppose that Crichton’s story is correct. Someone cracked him on the head as he was standing beside his car. The assailant now slips him into his car—on the passenger side—while he gets into the driver’s seat, starts the engine and drives the car onto number one fairway. There he stops, empties his flask over Crichton’s shoulder, drags him in behind the wheel, lets the emergency brake go, and the car starts down the slope with Crichton slumped over the wheel.”
“But how does this assailant know the car will strike M’sieu Gurney and Mademoiselle Willis at the bottom?” Papineau enquired.
“He didn’t. He wasn’t trying to murder them—he was trying to murder Crichton.”
"Sacré nom!” Papineau exclaimed.
“The parking space is opposite the cliff. The car was headed toward that cliff—so that it would go sailing over it and crash Crichton to his death on the boulders below. But when it got started, the unevenness of the ground swung the wheels about and changed their direction. It was pure mischance that Gurney and Miss Willis were seated in its way.”
It marched, Pap agreed, but something kept him from swallowing the whole dose. “There is this coincidence,” he complained. “Why does it 'ave to be the girl he loves and the man who ’as ’umiliated ’im that he kills?”
“Why did the first casualty in the Great War have to be the only son and support of his widowed mother? I don’t know the answers—things just happen that cockeyed way in life sometimes. But if the splash-writing on this rubber mat spells anything, it spells that Crichton is not a murderer but the victim of one—which is the theory I’m working at from now on.”
Papineau rose with a shrug. “Per’aps so—per’aps no.”
When he stood a moment later on the curb of Drummond Street, he was scowling. Kent Power had made it very plausible that young M’sieu Crichton might not be a murderer, but it was a plausibility that continued to catch in the crop.
Suddenly, he stepped into the police car and said to the driver, “Westcliffe Golf and Country Club—vitement!”
HE FOUND the place where Crichton’s car had been driven onto the fairway—the tires had made fairly deep bumps at the edge of the grass. He got down on his knees and followed the faint indentations across the turf until they took the first turn to the left. When that occurred, he sat back on his haunches and scratched his head. Here was exactly what Kent Power had prophesied: a slight rise on the right and a slight bump on the left could have caused that change of direction. He kept following the fairway. Wherever the direction of those faint tracks changed, there was something in the ground contour to explain it. Returning to Montreal in a very thoughtful frame of mind, he went straight to young Harvey Crichton’s cell.
“You ’ave an enemy per’aps, m’sieu?”
Crichton laughed mirthlessly. “Great minds think alike. Power asked me the same question. No. I haven’t got an enemy—not that I know of.”
“It is the business of your firm, Hollis, Lindsay & Swetnam, to manufacture the medicines. You 'ave ’ad no connection wit’ the dope ring in our underworld—”
Young Mr. Crichton sat bolt upright and ejaculated, “Sam Shulemof!”
And then suddenly Sergeant Papineau also became taut with interest. “Sam Shulemof! You ’ave ’ad the dealings wit’ ’im?”
For Sam Shulemof was proprietor of a small-time taxi service and a not very reputable one at that. Three weeks ago one of Sergeant Papineau’s colleagues had brought him in with regard to a case that hinted strongly of narcotic dealings. Sam had been closely questioned and was now out on bail pending the collection of further evidence against him.
Young Mr. Crichton, it seemed, had been one of the witnesses against Sam. Driving home from Dixie that night, his car had been held up by traffic west of Lachine alongside a car with what appeared to be a drunken girl in the back seat and Sam Shulemof in the driver’s seat—a girl later found alone beside the roadway. Young Mr. Crichton had testified to that effect, but before doing so he had been interviewed by Sam and first requested, then warned, not to do so.
“What good could it do him to murder me after I'd given my evidence?” exclaimed young Mr. Crichton.
But as Papineau drove across town he could see that a Shulemof might have sent someone over a cliff in a car, not so much to murder him as to break him up badly. Sam Shulemof was the sort to wreak that sort of a vengeance as a sop to amour propre. He found the taxi man in his dingy little office on Sherbrooke West. Sam was fat, swarthy and heavy-jowled. His little eyes were crowded by the puffball lids. He had a dark, foreign and truculent manner.
“You are no ’appy this morning, Sam,” Papineau said, seating himself affably.
“What’s biting you?” Sam always spoke with a growl or a bark.
“Did you drive a fare to the Westcliffe Golf and Country Club last night?”
“Who says I did?” Sam’s eyes were tiny points of wariness. “I ain’t talkin’ until I see my lawyer—see?”
“You are afraid per’aps—for why?” Papineau exclaimed sympathetically.
“Because,” Sam snapped, “you guys’d give yer eyeteeth to stick somethin’ new on me. You been tryin’ hard enough—”
“Is there something wrong that ’as ’appened while you drive your fare to Westcliffe last night, then? Is it another young girl you ’ave ’elped to sell dope to and then dumped at the side of the road?”
“That’s my business,” Sam declared. “I ain’t talkin’ any more without my lawyer.”
“So he ’as been coaching you, non?”
KENT POWER had also gone to Westcliffe, where he had hunted out the club secretary, Major M. F. H. Mowbray. This scion of Imperial arms, who had come to Canada on retirement seeking the sort of employment that an officer (and a gentleman) might attempt in order to eke out a pension, was inclined to be stuffy when Power asked him for a list of last night’s guests at the club dance. But the threat that a subpoena would be slapped on the entire membership brought him down off his charger with a typewritten list in his hand.
Power then strolled down the driveway to the place where the murder car had been parked and from where it had been driven onto number one fairway. Back of the parkway stood a row of noble hardwoods behind which a man could effectively hide. He was examining the grass at the rear of these when suddenly he paused at the side of one almost diagonally opposite where young Crichton’s car had been parked. Not quite shoulder high on its trunk—between elbow and shoulder high perhaps—great gobs of dirty grease had been plastered. One of these gobs had been flattened by being pressed against.
He went back to the caddie house and said to the caddie master: “Get me a small tin can or a large-necked bottle and bring it down to the parkway.”
He went back to look again for footprints, but had found nothing on the firm turf by the time the caddie master arrived with an empty cigarette tin. “How,” Power asked, as he began to scrape off some of the grease with a stick and place it in the receptacle, “did this stuff get here?”
“Our old truck broke down here day before yesterday,” the caddie master replied. “The driver had to take the rear-end down, and he rubbed the grease off there as he scraped it from the bearings.”
“You’re quite sure of that?”
“Didn’t I watch him do it?”
Power drove back to the city and went to the police garage to have another look at Crichton’s car. He cut away the piece of upholstery that contained the grease smudge and took it with him to his laboratory, where he went to work at it. An hour and a half later he went downtown to the laboratories of the Federal Oil Company and said to the gentleman in the greasy coat who was bending over a glass retort: “Here’s some upholstery with grease smudged on it, Tom, and here’s another bit of grease I scraped off the side of a tree. I've examined both greases not only as to oil-composition, but the amount and character of the contamination they contain as a result of their use as lubricants. I make ’em identical, but will you check ’em for me like a good soul?”
“When?” The man called Tom was a laconic gentleman.
“Can’t be too soon.”
Power went home and studied the list of guests Major M. F. H. Mowbray had given him. About some of them he made enquiries on the telephone. Two of them, he discovered, were members of the business firm to which Crichton belonged and whose premises he now decided to visit.
The establishment had an interesting background. In 1909 three comparatively young men gathered in the office of a drugstore in a small northern New Brunswick town. Rykman Hollis, whose store it was, had displayed a touch of genius in combining drugs elegantly and palatably, but yearned to labor in the profounder fields of pharmaceutical chemistry. Blair Swetnam was a travelling salesman who, it was said, could sell a saddle to a horse. Arthur Lindsay had just cleaned up five thousand dollars on a timber deal which he had negotiated on a shoestring, and because this five thousand bawled for brothers and sisters (and cousins and aunts) he had, knowing his men, called this meeting.
Thirty years later they were inhabiting this magnificent manufacturing plant whose elevator was now taking Power to the offices on the top floor (with a fine view of the river). He asked to see Mr. Hollis, but no one saw Mr. Hollis these days unless he had ideas on research: Rykman Hollis spent the hours in a white coat, in the laboratories with retorts, test tubes, incubators and other such scientific paraphernalia. Shunted into the sanctum of Arthur Lindsay, Power found a thin-faced, taut man with pince-nez, a high Shakespearean forehead and the look of high blood pressure. Here was the man who produced the cash for Rykman Hollis’ researches and the goods for Blair Swetnam to sell.
“I’ve come about Harvey Crichton,” Power said.
Anger darkened quickly and volcanically the lean twisted face. “The young fool! Throwing away a promising career—”
“You knew him well. Mr. Lindsay?”
“I created him!” the older man growled, jabbing the tip of his pencil into the desk blotter. ‘‘Beat the raw metal of intelligence into the fine steel of efficiency—and look what he does!” Plainly there was a hurt behind this passion of disillusionment.
“Did he have any enemies in this firm?”
“Enemies? Good lord, wasn’t he enemy enough of his own?” And then, focusing his shrewd mind on Power’s question: “Every man with ability has enemies among his associates. How does one get to the top? By stepping over the misfits who fumble around the foot of the ladder—the small-souled little misfits who are full of envy. Of course he has enemies here—” Suddenly the thin-beaked face shot forward. “What’s the idea? Are you suggesting he—”
Power told him the story. Lindsay breathed solemnly, “So help me, if I thought he was innocent I’d put my last resources behind him! I’d split this firm wide open to prove it.” He stopped and stared hard at the eraser on the end of the pencil he was holding in front of him, and then said, “Geoffrey Davies!”
SINCE that was one of the two names that had brought him here, Power asked interestedly, “What about Geoffrey Davies?”
The other man jerked himself around. “I’m not a theorist, Power. I don’t believe you can save the world by following an Ism. But I do believe that the best minds should be allowed to rise to the top—the best minds only. That’s my credo and I stick to it. Geoffrey Davies is not a best mind. Mind you, he’s not a poor mind—otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted here a week. Six weeks ago I pushed Harvey over his head. He didn’t like it. I pushed Harvey up because I thought he was a potential best mind and ought to be given the chance to go places.”
“Could I talk to Davies?”
“Sure!” Lindsay pushed a buzzer; to the girl who answered it he said, “Send Mr. Davies in.”
Geoffrey Davies didn’t look mediocre, and if you’d dressed him up in the proper outfit he’d have been a ringer for one of Louis Quinze’s courtiers. There was the long strong nose down which one could look so far, the rather protuberant and calculating grey eyes that hinted at a capacity for intrigue, and the air of breeding—the graceful, almost arrogant ease with which he walked. He was the sort before whom head waiters and bellhops instinctively disintegrate. Perhaps it was this facility in obtaining service from others which, making less necessary labor on his own part, had developed in him a desire for the palms without the dust, thus constituting him in Arthur Lindsay’s eyes less than a best mind.
“I'm here,” Power said, “on behalf of Harvey Crichton. I understand you were at Westcliffe last night. You saw him there?”
Davies shot a questioning glance at Arthur Lindsay, and his manner became immediately watchful. “Yes—I saw him.”
“When did you last see him?”
“Shortly before twelve.”
"Was he sober then?”
Davies took a moment to consider the question, his slightly prominent grey eyes smoldering over it. “I find it difficult to say—we only passed one another in the smoke-room door.”
“For heaven’s sake, man,” Lindsay broke in irritably, “can’t you say that you saw no evidence of drunkenness?”
When Davies drew himself up he looked more than ever like one of Louis’ courtiers. “I can’t say that he was either drunk or sober—I merely gave him a glance. He certainly was drunk twenty minutes later.”
“But that was after the accident,” Lindsay snorted.
“You mean after the murder,” Davies corrected him curtly.
The other man sprang up from his chair. “Well, by the jumped-up sons of Jupiter! You abysmal—”
Power said to Davies, “The point I want settled is, can you swear that Crichton was drunk when you last saw him?"
Davies shrugged. “No!”
“And you last saw him in the smoke-room door twenty minutes before Miss Wallis and Peter Gurney were killed?”
“Where were you at that particular moment?”
“Outside, smoking a cigarette.” Davies’ lips curled in an ironic smile. “I was alone—I suppose that’s what you want to know. And I have no alibi for the time it took me to smoke that cigarette.”
When he had gone, when Arthur Lindsay had snorted after him, “By heaven, I hate that fellow’s arrogance!” Power said, “Now could I see Mr. Swetnam. He also was at Westcliffe last night.”
A peculiar look came into Lindsay’s eyes. “He was, was he?... Yes, I dare say Blair still likes that sort of an evening. ” He pressed the buzzer. “I’ll get my secretary to take you along to his office. And don’t forget this. Power: if you see any ray of hope for Harvey Crichton, let me know.” He ran a hand over his forehead in a harassed way. “I should have gone to see him this morning—the moment I heard. I believed that story in the papers. Why are we always so all-fired ready to believe the worst? It made me mad—at him for smashing down the whole framework of his career in a drunken act—at myself for having picked him as a winner—oh, Miss James, show Mr. Power to Mr. Swetnam’s office. I’m glad you came, Power. Good luck to you.”
BLAIR SWETNAM no longer travelled the old Vancouver-Halifax route for the firm of Hollis, Lindsay & Swetnam, but he was still selling himself. He couldn’t help it. The tall figure, the fine head frosted at the temples, radiated that thing that all good actors, preachers and travelling salesmen cannot be good without—personality. If there were those who hissed that he was only a shop-front who would have got nowhere without Arthur Lindsay’s brains behind him, these were his most carping critics.
Perhaps it was a realization of this that caused him to bristle when Power told him that Lindsay had sent him along, that caused him to growl: “Why can’t he skin his own skunks? Crichton was his protégé, not mine. But I know what it’ll be.” He got to his feet and strode over to the window that so beautifully overlooked the river. This gave you the chance to admire his fine figure. “It’ll be this—I’ll go out into the byways and hedges to pull the wires—to see the right people and see that they see right—hire the lawyers—arrange the bail—collect the witnesses.”
“How about some evidence first. You were at Westcliffe last night. You saw him there.”
“Yes—just as he was leaving the clubhouse.”
“Was he drunk?”
The big man hesitated, and seemed surprised that he had done so. “I can’t say that he was, m’boy. But he must have been. There’s no other possible explanation. I want you to know, Power, that I feel terrible about this thing. Dorothy Willis was the daughter of one of my oldest friends: Crichton was one of us—we were making something of him—had high hopes of his future. It’s on my conscience that I actually introduced them—and now this ghastly denouement!” He seemed genuinely upset.
“Where were you when the accident occurred?”
“I’d gone out for a breather. There’s a rustic seat on the—”
“Did you see Geoffrey Davies anywhere?”
“No.” Suddenly Swetnam halted midway between the window and where Power was sitting. “What are you trying to do—prove that Harvey Crichton didn’t murder those two—”
“That’s about it,” Power replied, rising.
He went straight to the office of a friend who had this to say to his major query: “Blair Swetnam’s one of the most popular men in the city. Of course he’s vain—the actor always—extravagant, improvident and luxury-loving—but he’s generous, and his weaknesses are likable ones. You know he’s a bit of a Micawber, and yet you like him more than you despise him—if you know what I mean.”
“You say he’s extravagant. Is he in financial difficulties?”
“He’s always in financial difficulties.”
Still dissatisfied, Power drove to the large grey-stone sprawling house on Lexington Avenue where Swetnam lived, and went around to the garage. “Did you,” he asked the chauffeur who was whisking out the floor of the big blue limousine, “drive Mr. Swetnam to Westcliffe last night?”
“No—he drove the coop.” The man jerked a thumb at the smaller car. As Power opened its door, the chauffeur said, “What’s the idear? You a cop?”
Power pointed to the heavy smudge of black on the edge of the seat-back. “Was that there this morning?”
“Yeah—I’m takin’ it downtown this afternoon to have it dry-cleaned. Listen, you ain’t told me yet—”
“I’m afraid you w'on’t be doing that.”
“Who’s gonna stop me?”
“Where’s there a telephone?”
“In back. Say, I don’t like the way you talk, mister. I’ve a good mind to smack you down—”
Power was saying into the phone, “Sergeant Papineau.”
The chauffeur breathed belligerently, “You’d think you was Hitler or one o’ them guys. Well, I don’t take nothin’ from—”
“That you, Pap? Come up to Mr. Blair Swetnam’s house on Lexington Avenue. There’s a piece of car upholstery I want to appropriate.”
Papineau, on arrival, was full of his own angles. As the two men set off down the Mountain with the necessary square of seat-backing in Power’s pocket, Pap told him of his investigations à la Sam Shulemof. Not half an hour ago he had been able to ascertain that Shulemof had been standing beside his taxi at the parking space at the Westcliffe Club very shortly before the tragedy. “I ’ave sent the boys to bring ’im in. They will ’ave him at ’eadquarters by this time. You would like to interview ’im per’aps?”
They had Shulemof waiting on the penitents’ bench, but he was still truculent. “What’s the idea, sarge?—ya got nuttin’ on me!” he said as the two men entered the office at headquarters.
“Last night your taxi is parked close to the car of M’sieu Harvey Crichton at Westcliffe, Sam. You are seen to leave your taxi—to step behind the row of trees—and then you are gone. What you say to that, eh?” Pap gazed down with gentle enquiry.
SAM SHULEMOF was no fool and could see that the dice really lay as they looked. “What of it?” he grunted.
"Where did you go when you disappeared from behind that tree?”
“Nowheres. I just stood alongside it.”
Sam suddenly flung up his hands. “Okay, I’ll talk. I stepped outa me taxi fer a smoke, see? I was just gonna light me a fag when I see someone, see? Standin’ alongside a tree about twenty-thirty feet ahead. Somethin’ queer about the looka the guy, see? He disappeared.”
“You ’ave recognize ’im?”
“Naw—he ducked away too quick.”
“How long after that did a car drive onto the fairway?” Power asked.
Shulemof gave Power a queer, sly look, and the question a moment’s consideration. “ ’Bout a coupla minutes.”
“For why,” Papineau demanded coldly, “do you not tell me this when I ask you this morning?”
“I’d just read the papers, see, an' nobody was gonna make a sucker outa me.”
“How could anybody have done that to you?” Power wanted to know.
“Couldn’t that guy, Crichton, of been framed? And wouldn’t you guys’ve liked to make it look like I’d framed him. Ya been tryin’ t' pin that dope racket on me, ain’t ya?”
They were leaving the office when one of the constables stepped up to Power and said that Harvey Crichton wanted to see him. Crichton had been culling his past for clues, but was somewhat shamefaced about the pickings. “Mr. Lindsay,” he said, “sent me to our safety-deposit boxes at Confederation Trust day before yesterday, to check the bonds in our reserve fund, and I—”
“—found something missing,” Power cut in sharply.
“No—I ran into a hundred thousand dollars worth of provincial bonds that disturbed me. I happen to know the treasurer’s signature very well—we sell a lot of vaccines and serums for public health work—and I’ve handled the account.”
“The bonds are forgeries?”
Crichton’s face twisted with doubt. “I don’t know! I was going to talk it over with Mr. Lindsay this morning.”
“Why the delay? You discovered the forgery two days ago.”
Embarrassment troubled the young man’s features. “This may sound like straining at a gnat to you, Power, but it’s the truth. There are two of us in the firm who stand next in line to be taken into partnership—Geoff Davies and myself. Davies is older and has been with the firm longer, but I’ve had one or two very lucky breaks. He’s the one who usually checks the reserve account, but he had to go to Winnipeg last week to talk to our western travellers about a new preparation Mr. Hollis has built up. He was held up there, so I was sent to check the bonds. Supposing I’d gone to Mr. Lindsay with my suspicions and they had proved groundless. If it ever got into his mind that I was trying to cast doubts on Geoff’s honesty, he’d block my chances of promotion forever.”
“What made you change your mind?”
“I spoke to Geoff yesterday afternoon when he arrived back. I didn’t tell him outright what my suspicions were—just asked him how long we’d had those bonds and where we’d bought ’em. He said they’d been in the portfolio as long as he’d been checking. I realized then that if a substitution had been made it must have been since he did the check in May and clipped the coupons.”
“Who would have had access to the deposit box since then?”
“Only the three senior partners.”
Power met Arthur Lindsay a quarter of an hour later at Confederation Trust and they went down to the vaults. Half an hour after that, in a downtown broker’s office, one hundred thousand dollars worth of provincial bonds were finally shown to be forgeries. Lindsay said, tight-lipped, to his broker friend: “Find out where the real bonds have been peddled—and keep your mouth shut.”
Power went back to his flat and rang Papineau to put tails on both Davies and Swetnam, and then set to work in his laboratory on the square of upholstery he had cut from Swetnam’s coupé. It was just five o’clock when Lindsay rang. “They were sold by J. S. Carmichael of Boston, in June of this year, for a Henry S. Corwin, of Montreal. There’s no such name in the phone or city directories.”
Power laughed grimly. “He’s a man of the future! Could you make some excuse for having Swetnam and Davies at your office or your house tonight—say between eight and nine o’clock?”
“That won’t be necessary. We’re having a conference here at eight to go into some problems arising out of Davies’ recent Winnipeg trip.”
Power called Papineau and invited him to dinner. Over the meal he discussed the detail. ‘‘We’ve got to get deeper into the private lives of Messrs. Davies and Swetnam, Pap. One of them should know who Henry S. Corwin is. One of them also ought to have an overcoat or a dress coat with grease on the right shoulder. I want that coat—if it hasn’t gone to the dry cleaners or been destroyed—and I want any papers. You might even find a passport made out to Henry S. Corwin. See what you can do.”
IT WAS close to nine o’clock when Power stepped into the offices of Hollis, Lindsay & Swetnam. Lindsay’s secretary, who looked as though she should have been home in bed, ushered him into the board room where the three men sat at one end of the long oak table.
“Hello!” Blair Swetnam exclaimed with surprise. “You here again?”
Power sat down at the table. “I’m still worrying about last night’s affair,” he said.
Swetnam shook his head. “I admire your stick-to-it-iveness, m’boy. Or do you make a business of lost causes?”
Power took two squares of cloth from his pocket and laid them on the table. “A cause isn’t lost as long as you’ve a banner flying, and I’ve got these two,” he said. “This one I cut from the upholstery on the seat of Harvey Crichton’s car—the death car. You’ll notice the grease stain. I also found grease on the side of a tree close to the place where his car had been parked. I’ve had samples of both examined by an expert, and I’ve examined them myself. They’re identical as to the types of oily substances they contain, and the amount of metallic debris. It seems fairly certain that someone who leaned against the side of that tree also brushed against the upholstery of Crichton’s car in getting into it. But he also got into another car. This other square of upholstery has a similar stain. It also has been examined and the grease in it is identical with that found on the side of the tree and on the upholstery of Crichton’s car. It comes from your car, Mr. Swetnam, from the same area of upholstery as the piece taken from Crichton’s—where someone again brushed a shoulder in stepping in. Since you didn’t have your chauffeur last night, I take it that you drove your car home—”
“I did not drive my car home!” Blair Swetnam declared dramatically.
“Then who did?”
Davies gave a start. If the incredulous—almost contemptuous—stare he gave the other man wasn’t genuine it looked that way. “I don’t know what you’re trying to involve me in, Mr. Swetnam. I’m quite prepared to admit I came home in your car—at your invitation—but I certainly didn’t drive it.”
“Are you crazy?” Swetnam was on his feet angrily.
Davies rose, too. “It was your car—why should I have driven it?”
“Because I was upset by that ghastly tragedy! Because I didn’t care to trust myself! Because I asked you!”
“Perhaps you’ll tell us why it’s so important that I should have driven your car—have made those greasy marks on the upholstery,” Davies said quietly.
“I’ll answer that question.” Power intervened. “It’s because the man who drove that car tried to commit a murder.”
“What?” The exclamation broke from all three men, none of whom Power, who was watching them closely, had to admit looked any less startled than another.
“Last night at Westcliffe the murderer leaned against a tree which, unfortunately for himself, had been dabbed with grease. Some of it stuck to his arm. But he didn’t know this. He was watching too intently for Harvey Crichton. When Harvey arrived beside his car, this man stepped away from the greased tree, crept up behind Crichton, cracked him on the head and pushed him into the car. He then climbed into the driver’s seat, poured whisky from his flask over the unconscious man, started the car, and headed it for the cliff in front of the clubhouse. Then he stepped out to the running board, pulled Harvey over behind the wheel, pushed the gear into neutral and dropped off. His intention was that Harvey would plunge over the cliff, be found dead at the bottom, and that the whole thing would look like a drunken suicide, the result of his disappointment in love. Unfortunately, the car changed direction. It must be obvious”— he turned to Swetnam and Davies—“that one of you two gentlemen carried out the procedure I’ve just described.”
“But that’s ridiculous!” Geoffrey Davies exclaimed, with a manner more Louis Quinze than ever. “Harvey is one of our—”
“Of course it is!” Swetnam exclaimed with histrionic contempt. “Why should either of us have wanted to kill him?”
“Because there are a hundred thousand dollars worth of forged bonds in the safety-deposit boxes of your firm. Crichton checked your reserve fund the other day and discovered the fraud. We happen to know that the real bonds were sold by someone calling himself Henry S. Corwin. Which of you is Henry S. Corwin? You, Davies? Crichton tells me he asked you some questions about those bonds day before yesterday. Did that cause you to suspect he had uncovered the forgery?”
Davies swung on Blair Swetnam, his eyes narrowed with accusation. “You overheard that conversation,” he said sharply. “Harvey spoke to me in here; when I left, you were standing behind that stack over there.”
Swetnam's broad, mobile face expressed nothing but the most profound astonishment. “You,” he declared solemnly, “are a consummate liar. I was not behind that stack day before yesterday and I overheard no conversation between you and Crichton.”
He swung on Arthur Lindsay, who all this time had been listening like a keeneyed fox. “The man’s crazy, Art—insane! I tell you—”
There was a knock at the door. The tired secretary showed in Sergeant Papineau who, striding across the room, exclaimed, “Voilà! It is necessary to make only the one search!”
He slid the fresh and shining passport across the table. “In the same place I find the evening clothes wit’ only the tuxedo—no dress coat. The dress coat is per’aps at the cleaners to ’ave the grease removed from the shoulder—or per’aps she is t’rown away, non?”
Power flipped the passport open—saw a name—and a picture.
“So,” he swung on Geoffrey Davies, “you’re Henry S. Corwin!”
Davies said nothing. Nor did his look of arrogance forsake him. Only his eyes—as the two men beside him viewed him with growing revulsion—betrayed the panic of the trapped animal.
“You had this passport made out in the same false name under which you sold those bonds,” Power went on inexorably. “You planned to make a break for it. But you were too greedy. There were other bonds in the firm’s portfolio you wanted to liquidate—and you would have done so but for the mischance that sent Harvey Crichton to check them. Your—”
“You don’t,” Davies cut in disdainfully, “have to make a song of it.”
“Then I won’t,” Power said. “Take him. Pap.”
Pap took him.