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4: The American Photograph

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Author Topic: 4: The American Photograph  (Read 27 times)
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« on: May 19, 2023, 07:01:36 am »

AT this stage of the proceedings the Coroner adjourned his inquiry for a week, warning his jurymen that when they once again assembled there might be another immediate adjournment, and that in any case they were to keep their minds open and not to pay too much attention to what they read in the newspapers about the affair which they were investigating. Then the spectators began to go away, most of them grumbling that there had not been more of it, and Jennison drifted out with them, convinced that the scrap of paper now in his possession was identical with that of which the waiter from the Euston Hotel had just spoken. He was still undecided as to whether he would tell Womersley about that or whether he wouldn’t. He looked round for Womersley; the detective, near the outer door of the court, was giving audience to the pressmen who were putting eager questions to him; Jennison sidled close up to the group, and nobody reproving him for his intrusion, he stayed there and listened.

“I may as well tell you fellows all that it’s necessary you should put in your papers---at present,” Womersley was saying. “Save you asking me a lot of questions, anyway! Just this, then---This man, Alfred Jakyn, came to the Euston Hotel on Monday afternoon, late, and booked a room there. He dined in the hotel, and went out---you’ve heard about his movements during the evening. We know where he was between, say, eight o’clock and ten o’clock. First, he was with Bradmore, in Holborn. Then he was with Miss Belyna Jakyn at Brunswick Square. Then he was for half an hour or so in the smoking-room at the Euston Hotel. The problem is---where was he between ten o’clock, when he once more left the hotel, and a quarter to twelve, when the witness Jennison---who’s standing behind you---saw him fall dead in Cartwright Gardens? Did he go to meet any one? If so, whom? If he was poisoned---and the doctors are sure he was!---who poisoned him? Did he poison himself? That’s not likely. If somebody else poisoned him, he was murdered. Why? There you are!---plenty of copy for you there!”

“Go on!” murmured one of the reporters. “There’s more than that, Womersley. Of course you’ve examined his room and so on?”

“Yes, you can have that,” assented the detective. “At his room in the hotel, two suit-cases, with plenty of good clothing, linen, and so on: the things that a well-to-do man would have. No papers of any importance---no private letters---nothing much in that way, except that in a wallet is a draft on the Equitable Trust Company of New York, at their London branch in King William Street, for ten thousand dollars. Nothing to show what his business was, nor any business addresses. But in one suit-case was a packet of recently-taken photographs---taken in New York---and I’m going to hand over a couple of them to you fellows; you can manage about reproducing them as you please. Somebody, seeing them, may recognise the man, and be able to tell something about him. Here you are!---and that’s the lot.”

The reporters seized on the photographs, and Womersley thrust his hands in his pockets and sauntered off. Jennison was after him.

“Do---do you happen to want me for anything?” he asked. “I----”

Womersley scarcely looked at him as he replied, flinging the words over his shoulder.

“Not that I know of, my friend!” he answered. “Done your bit in there, haven’t you?”

He went on his way, and Jennison, feeling distinctly snubbed, shrank back, hurt and mortified. But he revived quickly when the youngest of the reporters, catching sight of him, and recognising him as the man who had actually seen Alfred Jakyn die, approached and began to question him. The reporter suggested an adjournment to the nearest saloon bar; there, under the influence of a glass of bitter ale or two, Jennison’s tongue wagged freely. He gave his new friend a full and elaborate account of what he had seen, and exhibited what his listener generously called unusual histrionic ability in acting the part of the dying man. The reporter, youthful and ardent, and attached to a paper which catered for a horrors-loving public, welcomed Jennison as a distinct find. But even Jennison became exhausted at last in the sense that he could tell no more---to that audience, at any rate.

“Queer business,” mused the reporter. “And likely to work up into a first-rate mystery. Poisoning, eh? We haven’t had a really first-class bit of poisoning since---well, since I came on my job!”

“You think it will be poisoning?” asked Jennison.

“Should say so, old man, after what the police surgeon said,” replied his companion. “Sort of chap, that, that wouldn’t say anything that he didn’t mean. My notion, of course, is that he and the other doctor he mentioned know already that the man was poisoned, but they want the verdict and backing of these big bugs---experts, you know---what do they call ’em---toxicologists. Lot of fine stuff to be got out of an A.1 poison case, my boy! I know a chap who’s a medical student---at Bart.’s he is---and he tells me that there are poisons that you can administer to a man, and that he’d know nothing about it for hours, never feel any ill effects, you know, and go about as chirpy and fit as you like, and then, all of a sudden---all over, my boy!---quick as having a bullet through your brain. Or---quicker!”

“That’s what must have happened in this case,” said Jennison. “But---who gave it to him?”

“Ah! that’s the question!” exclaimed the reporter. “A question for the police. Well, the Press will do what it can. That is, as far as I’m concerned. Press and Police!---a mighty combination! Well, so long, old man; going to write it up now.”

He went away hurriedly, and Jennison, finding that the morning had worn to his usual dinner hour, repaired to a restaurant which he occasionally patronised, and on the strength of his holiday, did himself very well. And while he ate and drank, he thought. It began to strike him as a queer and significant thing that, granting the cause of Alfred Jakyn’s death to be poison, nearly all the folks with whom it was known he had been in contact on the evening of his death were people who, from the very fact of their professions, must have poison at their disposal. There was Bradmore---Bradmore was a chemist---chemists have no end of poisons knocking about. Then there was that Miss Belyna Jakyn, poor thing! Didn’t she say in the witness-box that she was dispenser to her uncle, the doctor with the queer name? Of course, she’d have poisons in Dr. Syphax’s surgery. Well, but why should Bradmore poison Alfred Jakyn? No motive at all for that---no! But as regards the young woman---ah! According to Bradmore, the Nicholas Jakyn family, just before the recent event, were taking steps to have Alfred Jakyn’s death presumed, and to establish their claim to Daniel Jakyn’s estate: the sudden arrival of Alfred, all alive and kicking, would upset their plans. Now supposing . . . supposing . . . supposing Miss Belyna, alone with cousin Alfred, and knowing that he stood between her and her family and a nice fortune, took the opportunity to give him a fatal dose of something---eh? It might be that Miss Belyna had made a special study of poisons, and was an expert in their use, or possible use. After all, said Jennison, you never can tell, you never know. . . .

At this point a brilliant notion occurred to Jennison. How did he know, how did the Coroner know, how did the police know, that Miss Belyna Jakyn told the precise truth in the witness-box in which she had made such an odd, pathetic figure? She had said that nobody but herself saw Alfred Jakyn when he called at Brunswick Square. Was that true? Nobody, of course, could prove that it wasn’t, for Alfred was dead. But perhaps Miss Belyna’s evidence had been carefully cooked by the family? Jennison knew enough to know that as a rule doctors are in their surgeries of an evening---you were pretty safe to find them there, anyhow, between seven and nine. Now supposing Alfred Jakyn got into the hands of Belyna Jakyn and her uncle, Dr. Sypha---eh? There was something very queer about Dr. Syphax, thought Jennison. His eyes were like lamps---and how he could stare! Odd man, very!---and probably capable of poisoning anybody who stood in his way or interfered with his plans. And his sister, Mrs. Nicholas Jakyn, was a queer-looking woman. She reminded Jennison of a bird he had seen in a big cage at the Zoological Gardens---what was it? oh, a condor---yes, just that! Queer lot altogether, that Jakyn-Syphax combination---very. And Jennison, by this time warmed to his self-imposed task, began to wonder how he could get into the Brunswick Square house and see these people close at hand. Rubbing his forehead (which he usually called his brow) in deep thought over this, Jennison suddenly became aware of a fine excuse for calling on Dr. Syphax. For some little time past Jennison had been troubling himself about a small lump which was growing about an inch above his left eyebrow. He had thought little of it at first, when it was no bigger than a pea, but it had steadily increased in size, and was now as big as a cherry, and only the other day one of his fellow-clerks at the warehouse had said to him, lugubriously, that if he were Jennison, he’d have that seen to---he’d known a man, he said, who had a lump like that on his head, which, neglected and suffered to grow, became as big as an orange. Surgical advice, said this counsellor, was what Jennison wanted, and sharp! And now, as he smoked a cigarette and sipped his black coffee---a drink that he loathed, but considered the correct thing to have when lunching at that particular restaurant---Jennison decided that his lump would furnish an excellent excuse for calling on Dr. Syphax. Forthwith he strolled round towards Brunswick Square, and very quickly discovered the doctor’s dwelling. There was an alley at the side of the house, and a brass plate on the railing: there Jennison saw what he wanted—Surgery Hours, 9 a.m. to 10.30 a.m.: 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Having ascertained that, he looked inquisitively at the house. Its windows were all heavily curtained, and it seemed to Jennison that it was essentially an abode of mystery.

At a quarter to seven that evening, Jennison, with a beating heart, tapped at the door of Dr. Syphax’s surgery, opened it, walked in, and came face to face with the doctor, who, his tall, spare form clad in a white linen operating-jacket, was just about to let out a patient. He stared hard at the newcomer, and then suddenly smiled; it was the sort of smile, thought Jennison, that takes a devil of a lot of thinking about. There was a word for that sort of smile---what was it? Enigmatical!---yes, that was it, enigmatical.

“Hallo!” exclaimed Dr. Syphax. “Seen you before to-day, young man! The witness of this morning, eh? Jennison?”

“Yes,” assented Jennison. “That’s why I called. At least, I mean---not because of that affair---nothing to do with that---but I heard you were a doctor, and living close by, and I want a doctor---never employed one before, though!”

“You’re a lucky chap, then!” cried Dr. Syphax. “And what’s the matter?”

Jennison walked under the centre light of the surgery, and removing his cap pointed to the lump above his eyebrow.

“I want to know what that is?” he said, ingenuously. “That’s what?”

“That’s a cyst, my friend,” answered Dr. Syphax promptly. “A cyst!---that’s what that is. And a cyst is a hollow growth filled with liquid secretion—sebaceous matter.”

“Will it get bigger, if left alone?” asked Jennison.

“Rather,” said Dr. Syphax heartily. “Big as---well, a walnut! Perhaps bigger. Might grow as big as the head it’s on---if permitted.”

“What’s to be done to it, doctor?” asked Jennison.

“You must have it removed, of course,” answered Syphax. “The sooner, the better. When I’ve removed it and extracted the root, then it’ll be done with. Do it now if you like.”

But Jennison thought not. He saw some scalpels and things lying around, and he didn’t like the looks of them.

“I could come next Sunday morning,” he suggested. “Would that do?”

“Quite well,” assented Syphax. “Come at 10.30. Won’t take long. Nor hurt you much either. A bit, of course.”

“I’m in a city office,” remarked Jennison. “Shall I have to take a few days off?”

“Oh, well----” said Syphax. “No particular need, but, of course, you’ll have to wear bandages for a few days till the scar heals, you know.”

Jennison silently decided that he would secure a week’s holiday on the strength of that operation---perhaps a fortnight’s. He picked up his cap.

“I’ll come, Sunday morning, then,” he said, awkwardly. “10.30. I thought it would have to be done. A---a friend of mine said so. Good-night, doctor---I suppose you haven’t heard any more about that matter we were engaged on this morning?”

“Nothing, my lad, nothing,” answered Syphax. He was making an entry in a book that lay open on his desk, and he turned from it to glance at his patient with another queer smile. “Strange affair, eh?”

“It gave me a turn,” said Jennison solemnly. “Of course, I’d never seen anything like it! A man living---all alive, as you might say---one minute, and next as dead as---as----”

“As ever a man can be,” suggested Syphax.

“Startling, to be sure---if you’ve never seen it,” answered Jennison. “I heard that detective, Womersley, telling the reporters that he’s searched the dead man’s room at the Euston Hotel and hadn’t found anything much there beyond a bank draft for ten thousand dollars. And some recently-taken photographs.”

“Oh!” said Syphax. “Dear me! Well, I suppose there are a lot of things to be found out. Lots! Always are in these cases, you know, my friend.”

“Do you think he was poisoned?” asked Jennison.

“Might have been! Why not? The police surgeon seemed to think so---to be sure of it, in fact,” replied Syphax. “Of course, I can’t say: I wasn’t present at the autopsy. That’ll come out.” He hesitated a minute, watching Jennison good-humouredly. “I suppose you didn’t see anybody following Alfred Jakyn, did you?” he asked suddenly. “Nobody looking round corners, or anything of that sort?”

Jennison jumped at the mere suggestion.

“I?” he exclaimed. “Good Lord, no, doctor! I’ll take a solemn affidavit there wasn’t a soul about! Neither up Cartwright Gardens nor down Cartwright Gardens. Why---why---do you think somebody was following him---watching him?”

Syphax was now busily engaged in compounding a bottle of medicine. Jennison watched his long, slim, white fingers moving amongst the drugs, and his lips mechanically whispering some formula. He repeated his question.

“Do you really, doctor?”

Syphax, filling up his bottle with distilled water, began to shake it violently. What was inside it gradually assumed a beautiful opalescent tint.

“Shouldn’t wonder! shouldn’t wonder at all!” he said at last. “No doubt you didn’t see ’em, my lad---attention engaged other-where---with him. Very deep, black mystery indeed, Jennison---thousand feet deep!---take a long time to touch bottom. Well---ten-thirty, Sunday morning.”

Jennison felt himself dismissed and went out. At the top of the square he bought an evening newspaper; the paper of which the young reporter of that morning was representative. He swelled with pride and importance as his eyes encountered the columns of stuff about the Cartwright Gardens Affair, and saw his own name in capitals. And there was the interview with him---and the reproduced photographs of Alfred Jakyn—and lots more. . . .

Jennison flew off to a favourite haunt of his. In a small side street off the Euston Road there was a quiet, highly respectable little tavern, the Cat and Bagpipe, whither he often repaired of an evening for a glass of ale and a chat with the barmaid, Chrissie Walker, a smart and lively young woman. He marched in now on Chrissie, and, finding her alone, laid the newspaper before her, pointing to his own name. But Chrissie’s eyes went straight to the photograph of Alfred Jakyn, and she let out an exclamation that almost rose to a scream.

“Mercy on us!” she exclaimed, pointing to the reproduction. “Why, that man was in here on Monday night! he came in here with a lady!”
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