MAJOR Hilary St. Clair Yeats-Mowbray was an "alwayser.” He always had that lean, well-groomed, English county-family air. He always shaved with an old-fashioned blade razor. He always had two eggs for breakfast.
To some that would make a man of his age—he was in the late thirties—sound stodgy. The Major wasn’t stodgy. In his quiet grey eyes humor lurked, like a dashing trout in the deep waters. In his unvarying serenity there was strength without force. Behind his gentleness there was dependability.
For that reason it was just a little surprising that he lived at the Landover Towers. You don’t expect to find a marigold in a bed of orchids, and this modern residential Sherbrooke West hotel was orchidaceous. There was a certain flamboyance about its clientele, which consisted mostly of bright, youngish men and women on the up-and-up. Why then this marigold among the orchids?
In any case he was having his two eggs for breakfast here in his suite. He had finished the first and, hoping the second wouldn’t have quite the same oddly bitter taste, was tapping the shell of the second. Suddenly he stiffened. It was as if, for that split second of time, he had heard a voice from out the thunder. His eyes dilated. A queer, grotesque spasm shot through his lean frame. And then he collapsed.
He never moved again...
An hour and a half later Sergeant Jules Papineau strode into the laboratory at the back of Kent Power’s Drummond Street flat. He pushed his hat rearward off his forehead, sat down and said: “You are busy today?”
Power laid down the retort into which he had been staring. He looked disappointed. “A man,” he said, “came yesterday with some samples of rock. He told me that if I could find a reasonable percentage of cyanides in them we might both make an honest dollar. He was an optimist.”
"Bien! Then we make somt’ing together.”
“What’s on your mind?"
“I am called to the Landover Towers this morning—”
“Better keep away from there. Too many temptations for a man of your age.”
“A gentleman is dead there. Major Yeats-Mowbray. I come now from the postmortem. He ’as die of too much strychnine in ’is stomach.”
The Major, having been taken to the coroner’s, was no longer lying in a heap on the floor of his suite. But they found his breakfast just as it had been when death interrupted him. Power sat down in his chair and inspected the tray. “It certainly doesn’t look like suicide,” he said. “He was getting ready to open the second egg. Could you sit down to two eggs if you had swallowed a dose of strychnine?”
“The answer is that you couldn’t. Strychnine is something like lightning. It just hits you that way. He must have got it in his coffee. We’ll take his cup—and the sugar bowl and salt shaker.”
THEY went back to the laboratory. Presently Power turned from the rack of test tubes and shook his head. “Not a trace... Wait a minute!” He dialled a number on the phone. “That you, Dr. Morin? ...Kent Power. What did Major Yeats-Mowbray eat for breakfast?...Orange juice—coffee—egg ...That all? ...Very funny. I’ve just put the contents of his tray through the wringer and there isn’t a grain of strych in a carload ...What’s that?...No, it wouldn’t be in his tooth paste—otherwise they’d have found him on the bathroom floor. Must have been secreted somewhere in that breakfast ...No, there was nothing in the sugar or the salt.”
He turned to Papineau. “Let’s go back and take a better look.”
They went back to the Landover Towers. And once again Power found himself being a little scornful over the commissionaire, who dressed like a Ruritanian general, and the streamlined Hollywoodish lobby. He went to the desk and asked that the manager meet him in Major Yeats-Mowbray’s suite.
They went over the Major’s room more carefully. It had, despite the place, a certain air of austerity—as though the dead man had deliberately attempted to offset the more fleshly implications of the place.
A knock sounded on the door and the manager appeared. He was a slick, fattish young man and just now he looked a little harassed. Death among the clientele does that to a hotel manager. But harassment gave way to complete perturbation when Power informed him that Major Yeats-Mowbray had died of strychnine poisoning with the setup pointing to murder.
“This is simply too ghastly—too ghastly!” he complained. “Are you sure it was—”
“Sure enough. Who served the Major’s breakfast?”
“Better send for him.”
The manager went to the phone and came back rubbing his hands together painfully. “This is going to be most unpleasant. A thing like this plays the very deuce with—”
“How long had the Major been a guest here?”
“About eight months. He was the last man in the world you’d have expected to be—”
Another knock at the door. This time it was Henry Crouse, the waiter, and Henry looked as if he expected dirty news.
“You served the Major his breakfast?” Power asked him.
“Brought it straight here from the kitchen?”
“There was strychnine in it somewhere. That’s why the Major died.”
Henry Crouse looked suddenly as if he had come through a blitzkrieg. “I d-don’t know anything about—”
“You discovered the body, didn’t you?”
“Y-yes, sir.” Things were coming a little too fast for Henry Crouse, and he was having difficulty getting his breath. “I came back to collect his tray. He was—l-lying there.”
From his pockets Power removed a coffee cup, a sugar bowl and a salt shaker. He replaced them on the tray as he had found them earlier. “Take a look at things. Crouse,” he said. “Is that the way things were when you served the Major. Anything missing? Anything there that should not be?”
Crouse’s groggy eyes moved, from object to object. He shook his head. “I don’t see anything different, sir.”
Papineau asked: “You ’ave bring the tray direct ’ere from the kitchen.”
“You do not stop on the way?”
Suddenly Crouse seemed to see a rainbow through the storm. “I had to answer the floor phone. While I was—”
Power caught him by the arm. “Come and show us.”
The suites of this wing, which was really part of one of the towers that gave the hotel its name, opened off a sort of hexagonal hall. The sixth side of this hall was open, for here was the main corridor that ran the length of the building to the tower at the far end.
“I—I was just turning the corner here with the trolley,” Crouse indicated the above-mentioned opening, “when I heard the phone. I left the tray here.”
“Where’s the phone?”
Crouse led the way around the corner to a niche in the wall which, besides the phone shelf, contained a small desk. Power stepped into the niche. He discovered that he could see no part of the hexagonal hall of the wing.
He turned to Crouse. “How long were you at the phone?”
“Only a minute, sir.”
“Do you mean a minute—or three minutes?”
“A minute, sir. There was no one on the line.”
“You mean the wire is dead—like the Major?” Papineau said gruffly.
Henry Crouse shivered. “Y-yes, sir.”
Power turned to the manager. “See if your switchboard operator can trace that call.”
The other came back a minute or two later from the telephone. He wore a puzzled look—a distressed look—on his pallid, fattish face. “Must be a mistake, he said, shaking his head. “The operator thought the call came from 432—but 432 is empty. I’ll show you.”
Suite 432 certainly was empty. As Papineau nosed through the rooms, like a worried hound.
Power said: “Any other unoccupied suites in this wing?”
The manager shook his head.
“The Major’s is 430. Who’s between this room and his?”
“Miss Demarest has 431. She’s the Mariette Shops—she’s gone to business. Paul Blake has 433.”
“Junior partner in Crane, Upshaw & Newcross, manufacturing chemists.”
“Is that so? Who has 434?”
“A. H. Corbay. Mr. Corbay’s in the importing business—just in what connection I don’t know. Oriental Import Company, I think his firm is.”
Papineau came back from his searching. “I find not’ing.”
As they came out of the suite, Power said, pointing to a door between A. H. Corbay’s and the main corridor. “Whose door’s that?”
“It leads to the stair well.”
“It does, eh?”
Power strode across and flung it open. Stairs went up and down. He came back to the opening of the main corridor. Someone could have come up or down those stairs and crossed the corridor opening without being seen from the telephone niche. He went over to the manager. “I’d like a list of the guests occupying the wing rooms in the floors above and below this one.”
“I’ll go down and have it typed for you.”
Before following him, Power asked Henry Crouse how many of the occupants of suites in the wing were in the rooms when he had served the Major’s breakfast. Crouse wasn’t sure. He only served breakfast up here regularly to the Major and Miss Demarest. The others either used the restaurant or had the meal outside. He had seen Miss Demarest step into the elevator about ten minutes after he took the Major’s tray in. Mr. Blake usually left shortly before nine. Mr. Corbay was an early bird.
THEY let Crouse go, and went back to the dead man’s room. But before doing so, Power stopped in front of the door of 432, the empty suite. “Notice anything about the view from here?”
Papineau nodded. “Oui—she commands the main corridor. She is the only door which does.”
“That’s why I don’t think the switchboard operator was mistaken about that phone call. This is the logical suite for it to come from. Anyone standing inside this door, could hold it open to a crack and see Crouse trundling the tray trolley along from the elevator. That would give him time to slip to the phone in the suite and ring the floor phone. Then when Crouse left the trolley just inside the wing he could easily slip over to it and pull his stuff.”
“But what stuff does he pull?” Papineau asked in a puzzled way. “We know not’ing—we suppose everyt’ing.”
“Perhaps wisdom’ll come. Let’s go into the Major’s room.”
They had hardly entered it when a bellhop knocked. He had the typed list of guests occupying the suites immediately above and below. They sat down by the fireplace and Power glanced down it. “All women but two—a Benny Caspada and a John H. Mackinder on the floor above—”
“Benny Caspada!” Papineau leaned sharply forward from the chesterfield.
“For sure! He is the proprietor of the Chez Martini.”
“Is that so!” Chez Martini was the currently fashionable night club of Montreal—a pseudo-Broadway establishment with a lively floor show—if you liked floor shows.
Papineau shook his head. “Me, I do not see a link between Benny and this Major Yeats-Mowbray. They are very much different people.”
“They both occupied suites in the Landover Towers. Know anything about J. H. Mackinder? The name sounds stolid and respectable enough.”
Papineau continued to shake his head.
“You take the list." Power handed it over. “Find out everything you can about Blake, Corbay, Mackinder and your pal, Benny. The Major, too. I'd say he was a bit of a dark horse. The manager didn’t seem to know much about him. It wouldn’t do any harm to put tails on those people.” He got up and went over to the breakfast tray again. Again he seated himself in the chair in which the Major had sat while eating. He gazed at it earnestly—thoughtfully. Suddenly he picked up the plate on which the eggcup stood. Some of the yolk had spilled over onto it. And some of the salt with which the Major had salted his first—and only—egg.
Putting it down hastily, he went to the bathroom and returned with a hand towel. Very carefully indeed he wiped the spilled yolk away. Then he took the plate over to the writing desk, laid out a sheet of white paper, and poured the few grains of spilled salt onto it from the plate.
“We may,” he said to Papineau, who had been watching him interestedly, “have something here.”
THEY had. Twenty minutes later in his laboratory he was able to turn to the sergeant and state: “There was strychnine in the salt with which he salted his egg, Pap.”
Papineau stared at him unbelievingly. “But you find not’ing in the salt shaker when you analyze it! How is this?”
Power was smiling—perhaps a little smugly. “Put yourself in our murderer’s place, Pap. You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to murder the Major. First, you had to get hold of skeleton keys to his suite and the empty suite, 432. Then you had to get hold of some strychnine. Then you had to arrange to intercept Crouse with the breakfast tray. Okay. You are standing in that doorway watching Crouse go to the phone niche in the main corridor. You have only a moment in which to do your stuff and get back out of sight again. So you—”
Papineau got it. “Sacré! He'as in 'is ’and a salt shaker wit’ the salt and strychnine in it! He slips out! He substitutes ’is shaker for the one on the tray! He slips back again!”
“That’s the way I see it. And then, when the Major is dead, he lets himself in here and again changes salt shakers. And, if he’s as clever as he seems to be, it’s my bet he has heaved the poisoned shaker over Victoria Bridge by this time.”
“But if he ’as done that we shall never trace the murder to ’im!”
“Unless he’s made some little slip somewhere.”
Papineau was inclined to be hopeful. “Perhaps he t’inks he ’as been so clever we never suspect the salt shaker. So he does not t’row it over Victoria Bridge.”
“Then we’re looking for it... In the meantime I’ve got a yen to talk to this Miss Demarest.”
There’s a Mariette Shop in every large city in Canada. If your wife is the sort of woman who wants something that looks Rue de la Paix, without too much accent on the “pay,” she probably bought that evening dress you thought she looked so attractive in at one of them. The particular establishment to which Power and Papineau now journeyed was the Mariette Shop. It was from here Lucy Demarest went with her good taste and her clever pencil to New York each spring and fall. It was here she returned with the streamlined ideas which her equally clever workers turned into objets d’art—at a right price.
The Mariette Shop had just that air of exclusiveness and distinction that is a worm on a hook to the average wife. A suave blonde swept toward the two men. “Can I serve you, gentlemen?”
“We’d like to talk to Miss Demarest.”
“Up the stairs on the right, sir. Miss Demarest’s secretary will see you.”
Miss Demarest’s secretary was neither suave nor blond, just a smartly dressed business girl. She was sorry but Miss Demarest was in conference. If they’d care to wait—
They seated themselves on the bench with that look of uneasy self-consciousness that overcomes all men in these more intime feminine establishments. Papineau kept glancing down the stairway, as if he hoped to catch another glimpse of the suave blonde. Twenty minutes later when two rather arty looking young men, with portfolios under their arms, departed down the stairs, the secretary came out of a door and said: “Miss Demarest will see you now.”
They stepped into a private office that, though it smelled of orchards in bloom, had the streamlined patina of a hard-boiled modernism. The voice that said crisply: “Well, gentlemen!” also had a streamlined terseness.
Across the shiny black top of a desk they saw a young woman with horn-rimmed glasses and a look of business. Very much a look of business. Yet, as the eyes behind the glasses discovered Power’s tall figure, the glasses came off and some of the look of business. Miss Demarest was, Power told himself suddenly, a darned good-looking girl. She’d be in the late twenties. She had fine, straight eyes and a strong mouth. She had intelligence. But she had more than that. She had, Power could see, known her meed of suffering and struggle. But without bitterness. Suffering and struggle in her case had smelted out the fine gold. It would be a privilege to work here for Miss Demarest.
“We’ve come to talk to you about Major Yeats-Mowbray,” Power said.
She showed first the swift surprise and then confusion. But it was the sweet confusion of a blush. Then through that, as her eyes searched their faces, came slowly a dawning apprehension.
“The Major”—Power hastened to help her over that stile—“occupied the suite next yours at the Landover Towers, Miss Demarest. Did you hear anything peculiar in his rooms this morning—voices—any sounds outside his door?”
It grew—that look of apprehension, as fear burgeoned behind it. “No—” and then sharply: “Why do you ask?”
“The Major ’as been a friend of yours, mademoiselle?” Papineau asked gently, the warmth of his Gallic sympathy coming through into his voice.
She was half up on her feet. “Something has happened to him?” She turned to Power appealingly—she was no longer the head of a streamlined business, but a woman tom by an unbelievable dread. “What is it—please?”
“I’m awfully sorry,” he said. “The Major was found in his room this morning.”
"Somebody had poisoned him.”
She dropped slowly back into her chair. As the look of horror began to fade from her eyes something else came there—something that Power found very distressing. She said nothing. She was looking at neither of them, but into a bleak and terrible distance. The tears began to run down her cheek, her hands clasped torturingly together.
Power thrust back the other questions he had come to ask and nodded to Papineau. They began to retreat on tiptoe.
Outside again, the sergeant wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Sacré nom!” And then, impulsively: "Cette pauvre enfant! She ’as loved him!”
“Let’s go and see your Benny Caspada,” Power said gruffly. “That should be an emotionless interview.”
AS THE taxi carried them eastward, Papineau was still under the awe of it. “On ne sait jamais. There she ’as sit. ‘Well, gentlemen?’ She is the ’ard-boil woman of business. And then—voila—she is a broken-’earted girl. Undeneat’ we are all the same. The more we are ’ard-boil the more we are the same.”
Chez Martini by day had that rather drear look of a stage when the lights have gone out and the actors home. They found Benny Caspada in an office at the back talking to two men.
When Papineau said: “Allo, Benny!” Mr. Caspada jerked his head and the two men went out.
“Hello, sarge!” He thrust out a hairy hand. “How’s every little thing?” When introduced, he thrust the same hand at Power. “Any friend of the sarge’s is a friend of mine, Mr. Power. What can I do for you gents t’day?”
Mr. Caspada was a short, squat man whose head seemed to have been fitted to his shoulders without the intervention of a neck. That caused him to turn his head to one side in looking up—like a bird. The outstanding thing about Mr. Caspada was his air of sweet reasonableness. Here was a man, you felt, who wanted you—and himself—to enjoy the best of this best of worlds.
They told him about the Major’s death—and the manner of it. He was shocked. He sucked in his breath and said he could hardly believe it. He’d got to like the Major. Not that he’d seen much of him—he kinda kept to himself—but he was a proper guy—“genuine, I mean.” Always seemed kinda like a fish outa water. “Used to come here sometimes to see the floor show. Made me feel kinda sorry for him, seein’ him sittin’ there all alone like he’d got into the wrong pew. I’d say to the girls to kinda play up to him—just to make him feel at home. Y’understand?”
“That’s why we ’ave come to you,” Papineau exclaimed. “We ’ave said: ‘Benny will know him if anyone does.’ What is the picture at the Landover Towers, Benny? What do you know about the Major? Who is there who does not love ’im, eh?’
Benny shook his head with a look of bewilderment. “You kinda got me there, sarge. Like I said he kept to himself. Far’s I know everyone liked him first class, what they knew of him.” Then he looked up in his birdlike way. “Of course there was the woman angle.”
“Gee, sarge, it don’t take you long to sweep ’em up!” Benny exclaimed admiringly.
“Anybody else interested in Miss Demarest?” Power asked.
Benny threw out his hands deprecatingly. “Makes me feel kinda like a heel to answer that one, Mr. Power. But I s’pose if I don’t spill it someone else will. Paul Blake was ridin’ the inside rail before the Major come along.”
“And the Major cut him out—non?”
Benny considered that. “Well, I dunno, sarge. I always had the feelin’ she done the change-over herself. What I mean she was takin’ Blake as he come before the Major entered the picture. It didn’t do nothin’ to her. But she certainly fell for the Major. You seen a kid bein’ taken to school an’ suddenly it sees a window full a candy. Kinda like that.”
“Was Blake sore?”
“Yeah, I guess he was. Blake’s one a them high-riders, y’understand? Kinda hooked into his pride to have a guy like the Major put the skids under him with a dame.”
When they stepped outside into the sunlight again, Papineau exclaimed: “It marches! This M’sieu Blake is a chemist and the Major is killed wit’ poison. There ’as been a woman between them. What you t’ink?”
Power shook his head. “If I were a chemist, I’m darned if I’d kill a man with poison—unless I was most almighty sure I’d covered both my means and my motive beyond all hope of exhumation.”
CRANE, UPSHAW & NEWCROSS, Manufacturing Chemists, presented a frontage of chromium and plastics. There was a spurious solemnity about the establishment, as though they had felt that in catering to so esoteric a profession as medicine they should dress the part. Papineau said, as they sat waiting for Mr. Blake: “You notice somet’ing? These people who live at the Landover Towers work in the same sort of place—non? Even that poor Mademoiselle Demarest. The suggestion of ’Ollywood.” It was a shrewd observation.
They were ushered presently into Mr. Blake’s office. Paul Blake was, you would say, an old football player. He had the powerful neck and shoulders that go with the pigskin-toting breed. He had blue eyes, too, and when he heard the business in hand these contracted oddly.
“You say he was poisoned,” he exclaimed incredulously. “You don’t mean he was murdered?”
“I’m afraid so,” Power said.
“Great Scott!” Blake looked now genuinely shaken. “If you don’t mind my saying so”—he turned from Power to Papineau—“it’s not a very pleasant thought that a man can be murdered, that way, practically next door to you.”
“We’re making some enquiries to try to clear the matter up,” Power said. “Do you know anything about the Major? He seems to have been a bit of a dark horse.”
“That’s right,” Blake agreed, twisting the pencil between his fingers nervously. “I don’t think I spoke a dozen words to him in all the months he was at the hotel.”
“What time did you leave there this morning?”
“Ten to nine.”
“Come down on the elevator?”
“I seldom use the elevator in the morning. I keep my car in the hotel garage and it’s shorter to take the stairs.”
“I see... Did you notice a trolley with a breakfast tray on it standing untended just inside the wing?”
Blake shook his head. “No.”
“Your suite is next to 432. Did you hear any movement in 432 just before you left?”
“No—but then I wouldn’t. Suite 432’s unoccupied.”
“Meet anybody on the stairs coming down?”
“Not a soul.”
“Your firm handles strychnine I suppose?”
Blake didn’t like the question, but he tried to smile it off in a toplofty sort of way. “I suppose the fact that we’re manufacturing chemists does make me a logical suspect. But I’m not connected with the manufacturing end of our business: I have charge of sales. I believe we do use strychnine in some of our pharmaceuticals, but I wouldn’t know it from—”
“Salt,” Power suggested, while the other searched for a comparison.
“That’s right!” Blake agreed with a laugh. “I wouldn’t know it from salt.”
“Neither did the Major,” Papineau exclaimed.
“By the way,” Power said, “another of your neighbors at the Landover Towers is a man by the name of Corbay. Know anything about him?”
“Yes. He imports tea and spices in a small way. Sells to the little blenders.”
“And J. H. Mackinder?”
“Was there any bad blood between either of them and the Major?”
Blake shrugged. “Not that I know of.”
THE Oriental Import Company was situated down near the docks, and here at least was no sign of Hollywood. A very modest brick warehouse with a rather dingy office at the side—both odorous of the East—constituted the layout. They found Mr. A. H. Corbay in the dingy office. He was a large, fat man in light grey tweeds that didn’t fit him very well and gave him an unkempt air. He had large, shrewd eyes and a rather ruthless mouth. There was another man with him.
“What can I do for you gentlemen?” He seemed a little impatient.
But when Power told him about the Major he lost that look. “Great heavens!” he exclaimed, and turned to the other man who looked equally shocked. “Can you believe it? Seems incredible.” And then he said to Power: “Meet Mr. Mackinder.”
“John H. Mackinder?”
“Yes—Mr. Mackinder lives at the Towers.”
"Glad to know you,” Mackinder said. “This is a great surprise to me. I always found the Major a decent sort—what I saw of him.”
Mackinder was a tall, lean man of forty with a dark mustache, dark eyes, dark hair frosted at the temples and an Anthony Eden hat. He looked a man about town, and his eyes didn’t tell you much of what went on in his head.
“What time did you leave the hotel this morning, Mr. Corbay?”
“Eight-thirty—that’s right, isn’t it, Mac?”
“Mackinder drove me downtown in his car.”
“You keep your car in the hotel garage, Mr. Mackinder?”
“And neither of you can give us any clues to this mystery?”
They shook their heads. “If it’d been any one of a dozen others at the Towers we’d be full of the dirt,” Corbay said with a mirthless sort of chuckle. “But why anyone would want to kill the Major is beyond my comprehension.”
“Mine, too,” agreed Mackinder.
“So!” Papineau exclaimed, as they stepped into a taxi. “It is Benny or M’sieu Blake—non? These others ’ave left the ’otel half an hour before the murder. And the garage attendant will be able to prove that they drove away in M’sieu Mackinder’s car.”
“Unless they didn’t drive too far away.”
“One or both of ’em could have come back and slipped up the stairs to 432.”
“Sacré!” Papineau gasped. “It is possible!”
“I’d like to know what those two had their heads together about just now,” Power said frowning. “If we’d asked ’em they’d probably said they’d met to go out to lunch together. Pals. I wonder!”
Papineau sat silent. He was giving the matter thought.
“What it boils down to,” Power said presently, “is that the Major was the man nobody knows. I’ve an idea that if we knew more about him we’d know more about motives.”
“Blake ’as the motive!”
“He doesn’t look to me like a man who’d murder because of unrequited love. He might murder—but it’d be for some other reason... One o’clock! How about a spot of lunch at the Mount Windsor? And when we get there you’d better phone headquarters and put your tails on all those gents. Unless they can pick up more than we have this morning, we’ll never know who put that strych on the Major’s egg, if you know what I mean.”
WHEN, shortly after two, they parted and Power returned to Drummond Street, he found Miss Demarest waiting for him there in his living room. She smiled rather wryly when he told her he was glad to see her. And yet any man with eyes would have said that. Not only did the pin-striped suit fit an eye-compelling figure, but grief had added poignancy to a face that, relieved of the horn-rimmed glasses, could not fail to appeal to the imagination. Here, Power felt, was beauty plus intelligence—that rare combination. And it said a lot for Major Yeats-Mowbray that he had been able to gain this girl’s love.
“I'm sorry I broke down at my office,” she said. “I was terribly upset.”
Power took a cigarette and seated himself in the nearest chair.
“The Major and I ”—there was a drawn, distant look in her eyes—“were going to be married.”
“I’m dreadfully sorry,” Power said—and meant it very much.
“He was the most unselfish man I ever met.” She was still speaking to the far wall of the room. But she turned to face him to add: "I’ve met very few unselfish men.”
“I suppose no girl in business does.”
“I’m not complaining,” she said quickly.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Power said. Then he leaned toward her. “No one seems to know very much about the Major, Miss Demarest. What did he do?”
She shook her head in a bewildered way. “I don’t know. He never spoke of his work. And yet I’m sure he did something. You can tell about people. I mean, if a person has no definite pattern to his life it comes out in his behavior.”
“He seems to have pretty well hidden whatever pattern he had under a bushel.”
“Yes,” she said—and something in the way she said it caused him to ask: “What do you mean?”
“I think he was watching someone at the Towers.”
“Is that so?” Her statement suddenly opened a whole new world.
“He used to take me to Chez Martini. I know he went there alone quite often... One night—I really hate telling this about him, Mr. Power.”
“Anything you know I should know,” he assured her.
“Yes—of course... One night about a month ago I was leaving my room to mail a letter in the chute. My door must have opened quite noiselessly. He was standing in front of Mr. Corbay’s door across the hall... He unlocked it and let himself in.”
“You’re quite sure it was the Major?”
She nodded her head. “I closed the door to a crack, and watched through the opening. He came out about a quarter of an hour later. He must have been looking for something in Mr. Corbay’s room.” And then at something she thought she saw in Power’s eyes. “He wasn’t a thief, Mr. Power! I’m certain of that!”
WHEN she had gone, Power poured himself a drink and sat slumped in his chair with the glass in his hand. He kept staring at the corner of the piano. All right, the Major wasn’t a thief. The Major had been watching Benny Caspada and Corbay. Perhaps he had been watching other people at the Landover Towers. Perhaps he had traced something to the Landover Towers that made it necessary for him to watch all these people.
And then somebody had found out he was watching and put strychnine into his salt.
Suddenly he reached for the phone. “It’s Kent Power speaking, Miss Demarest. Sorry to trouble you again, but did the Major have any outside connections that you know of?”
“You mean out of town?”
“I mean did he ever entertain any strangers, or that sort of thing?”
“Not that I know of... He used to go away occasionally for a day or two.”
“Do you know where?”
“No.” And then she said: “Oh!” in a queer, startled way.
“What’s that?” he exclaimed sharply.
“About three weeks ago he drove me to Ottawa in his car. I’d told him I was going there to visit my sister for the week-end and he said he’d take me up.”
“Was he with you all the time you were there?”
“No—he said he’d always wanted to visit the Parliament Library. He left me at my sister’s and picked me up that night.”
“Thanks a lot.”
Power put his finger on the phone release and when he lifted it again dialled long distance. The gentleman in Ottawa with whom he finally got in touch let out a most startled exclamation when Power told him about the Major’s death and how it had happened. He was leaving for Montreal immediately, he said. Would Mr. Power meet him at St. Hubert’s airport in an hour and a half? It was very important that the Major’s affairs be handled with extreme discretion.
Shortly after five, in Power’s living room, the gentleman from Ottawa proceeded to open some of the closed pages, and he spoke as one who feared that even the walls had ears.
“As you know, Mr. Power, there has been a steady flow of opium products—particularly heroin—into this port for many years. Yeats-Mowbray was the cleverest investigator in our department, so we put him to work on this case, in addition to the usual antinarcotic squad, as a sort of special agent. Something arising out of his investigations brought him to the Landover Towers. But his quarry was clever. Up until three weeks ago, when we last had a visit from the Major, he had failed to locate his man, although he told us that the chase was narrowing and he hoped to have something definite within a short time. He must have spotted him since then—and been spotted. I feel very badly. Yeats-Mowbray was one of the most decent Englishmen who ever came to these shores. But you’ll understand the great necessity for discretion in this case. We don’t want our man to know that we suspect him. And we want him for more than murder.”
“It’s practically certain he’s head of the dope ring.”
“Yes. But we want his accomplices, too, Power—and his methods—so that we can stamp out the damnable business completely.”
“All right," Power said, “when and if I get on his trail I’ll notify you before I nab him. Where’ll you be staying?”
“The Mount Windsor.”
“Better keep near the telephone... By the way, has a tea and spice importing firm called the Oriental Import Company ever come under your suspicions in the dope-smuggling line?”
The man from Ottawa shook his head.
“I understand that the Major had his eye on a man named Corbay who runs it—and who lived at the Landover Towers.”
“He never mentioned it to me. But a tea and spice importing firm would be a likely inlet for opium products from the East.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Papineau came in about six o’clock and found Power slumped deep in the chair in which the man from Ottawa had left him. “You are depressed, non? She does not make?”
“Have a drink and pour me one.” Power lurched into an upright position. He told Papineau what he had learned from the man from Ottawa.
“Per’aps we break this case then by discovering who is smuggling—non?”
“That might tell us who the Major’s murderer is—but it wouldn’t prove it. We’ve got to prove it. I wish I knew how.”
“Somet’ing interesting ’as ’appen this afternoon,” Papineau said, smacking his lips over the drink. “One of my men ’as trail M’sieu Paul Blake to Chez Martini. That intrigues you—non? Why does M’sieu Paul Blake go to Chez Martini in the afternoon when there is no entertainment there? Is he the one to make a pal of Benny Caspada?”
“There’s too much pairing up—Mackinder and Corbay—Blake and Benny... I never won anything on two pairs.”
But when, following dinner, Papineau departed, it struck Power that there must be some clue in the Major’s room—something that they had missed on their previous visits there. He drove to the Landover Towers, got the key from the desk clerk, and went up in the elevator.
He let himself into the suite, snapped the lock behind him, and proceeded to comb the place with the most extreme thoroughness. First he went through the bedroom—and drew a blank. Then he tackled the living room. He came finally to the desk, which he had left to the last. And as he went through its drawers it came to him that he had left this search until too late. Not that there was any obvious sign of search, but he had the certain feeling that someone had gone through these drawers lately. Their contents, though neatly arranged, seemed to lie loosely atop one another.
WITH the top—and last—drawer half open, he suddenly froze into an attitude of apprehension. There had been no sound, but he had that vague yet frightening awareness of movement. He started to rise, turning as he did so. It was only a half-turn and it took him into a quick, fierce, blinding pain.
He woke to an aching sense of futility. His hand went to the back of his head and he winced as he found the lump. A door close by was open. He staggered up toward it. The clothes closet. Someone had been in this room when he put the key to the lock, had dashed into the closet for cover.
It was useless to finish the search of that top drawer now. Whoever had been here had gone through it and got away with whatever might have been incriminating. He was facing the blank, bleak wall of another blind alley.
He put his hand into his pocket for the loose cigarette he knew was there. He put it in his mouth, lit it, and wiped his hands together to free them from tobacco crumbs. Suddenly, he stared at his fingers—at the few shreds that still clung to them. And then he dashed to the phone.
An hour later Sergeant Papineau had gathered the four gentlemen into suite 432—the unoccupied one. He ushered them through the sitting room to the bedroom. “I regret to trouble you, messieurs, but it is necessary to examine each one, please. You will take off your coats—’and them to Officer Connors.”
‘‘What’s the idea, sarge?” Benny Caspada wanted to know in his amiable way. “You been having a brain storm?”
“Oui, a ’urricane.”
“Just why were we four picked out for this?” Mackinder wanted to know.
“Something about our faces. I suppose,” A. H. Corbay said with his fat, yet humorless chuckle.
Only Paul Blake was silent. He didn’t like it: it annoyed him to be herded like one of a bunch of sheep—and such a bunch.
Jerry Connors took the coats out to the living room and came back presently with a solemn look on his face. He was gone perhaps five minutes.
Papineau proceeded to search the gentlemen. He was annoyingly painstaking about it.
“Easy, sarge—I’m ticklish!” Benny Caspada said with a grin.
"This is not so ticklish as a rope around the neck, Benny,” the sergeant remarked.
“Poison’s not my method, sarge.”
“Unless you try to be versatile, non?”
“I don’t do my murders versatile,” said Benny—and winked at the others. Benny seemed very confident about things.
IN THE Major’s room Power was busy with test tube and reagent. He finally placed a tube back in the rack and dialled the Mount Windsor. He had a short conversation with the man from Ottawa, at the end of which he said: “You’ll find three of Sergeant Papineau’s plain-clothes men downstairs in the lobby of your hotel. Let me know when I can spring my stuff. The sooner the better—don’t want our man to get nervous.”
In suite 432 John H. Mackinder said impatiently: “Aren’t you satisfied now? You found nothing.”
Papineau sat down on the bed and shook his head. “Me,” he said, “I am a perfectionist. Therefore I am not satisfied, m’sieu.”
“Huh!” cracked Benny. “If you’re a perfectionist. I’m a Hottentot! Nobody’s perfect, sarge. It’s that kind of a world.”
Papineau shook his head sadly. “You are not very educate’, Benny.”
“I got enough to see me through.”
Paul Blake said irritably. “How much longer is this farce going on? I have a dance engagement I want to keep.” He was dressed in evening clothes.
“I am young once, too,” Papineau said sympathetically.
John H. Mackinder took two cigars from his pocket and gave one to Corbay. “Might as well relax.” He sat down on the bed.
Benny Caspada sat down on the chair by the window and put his hands on his knees. “I heard a good one this morning,” he began. “A guy went into a flower shop an’ says to the—”
Jerry Connors came into the room again. “Okay, sarge.”
Papineau rose. “Now we go into the Major’s room, please.”
“Is that where our coats are?” asked Corbay.
Benny Caspada glanced around as though he were measuring something in his mind. Then he got up with a shrug. “It’s just the run-around.”
Corbay whispered something in Mackinder’s ear, but no one else could hear it.
They went into the other suite where Power faced them across the Major’s table. The rack of test tubes stood in front of him. He got down to business at once.
“Major Yeats-Mowbray, as you know, died of strychnine poisoning. What happened was this: While his breakfast tray stood outside in the hall—and while Crouse, the waiter, went to answer the floor phone, someone stepped out of the suite you just left and substituted a salt shaker with strychnine in it for the one that was on the tray. Since powdered strychnine looks just like salt, the Major didn’t notice anything wrong and sprinkled his egg as usual. When the Major was dead, the murderer came into this room and replaced the original salt shaker. He took the one containing the strychnine. What he did with it only he knows.”
The gentlemen were profoundly interested—even if they did try to take it nonchalantly.
Power was about to go on, but there was a knock at the door. Officer Connors let the man from Ottawa in—he gave Power a curt nod.
“Now why did the murderer kill the Major? There’s a very interesting answer to that. The Major was an undercover agent of the Narcotic Division. He was looking for someone in this hotel who was putting something over on the Department.”
“You don’t mean smugglin’?” exclaimed Benny Caspada with a fine air of incredulity.
“That’s the idea, Mr. Caspada... It seems the Major discovered the man he was after—and the man found out he was after him. So the Major got strychnine on his egg. But a murderer can’t be too careful. We left the murderer leaving this room with the salt shaker containing the strychnine in his pocket. He had to dispose of it in case he was searched or his rooms were searched. What he did with it really does not matter. What does matter is that you can’t carry a salt shaker around in your coat pocket without some of its contents sifting out. You can throw the shaker away, but you might forget to turn your pocket inside out and brush it clean. While the Sergeant was entertaining you in the next room, I was going through your coat pockets. I found little grains of strychnine in one of ’em. It was yours, Blake.”
Blake was not irritable now. He was very calm, very confident. “That’s funny,” he said, “very funny indeed.” He threw a glance at Benny Caspada, who was unusually pale, and kept wetting his lips in a furtive way.
“ ’Ow is it fonny, m’sieu?” Papineau wanted to know.
“Because the coat I was wearing tonight was not the one I wore this morning. I don’t dress up in evening clothes to do my murders.” Blake’s low laugh had the ring of triumph.
“I thought of that,” Power said quietly. "So I went to your room—the manager let me in—and got the coat you were wearing this morning. It was in one of its pockets we found the strychnine."
Blake made a sudden movement toward the door—but he made it too late. Papineau and Jerry Connors had been moving in on him. Each grabbed an arm.
Benny Caspada shook his head incredulously. "Tst-tst!" he exclaimed. "Who'd a believed it! You could knock me down with a feather!" And then he said, gathering himself together: "They'll be needin' me at Chez Martini. Somebody's gotta watch the till."
The gentleman from Ottawa interposed. "Just a minute, Mr. Caspada."
"Huh?" exclaimed Benny. "What's on your mind?"
"I'm an official of the Department of Internal Revenue. Tonight, I went with the Mounted Police narcotic squad while they made a raid on your premises at the Chez Martini. They found more heroin there than the doctor ordered. You got the heroin from Blake, didn't you? Blake was a partner in a respectable pharmaceutical house—and I'd like to say here that so far as his firm and his partners are concerned their skirts are absolutely clean, But Blake wasn't above using his position as member of a decent firm to contact illicit sources of heroin abroad. He had his own methods of smuggling the stuff in and hiding it away somewhere. You controlled the outlet, Mr. Caspada. You sold it to the pedlars. So we'll take the pair of you along."