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Chapter 33

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« on: January 30, 2023, 10:16:06 am »

AN HOUR after the trial Crewe entered the chambers of Mr. Walters, K.C.

"I congratulate you on the way you handled him in the witness-box," said Crewe, who was warmly welcomed by the barrister. "You did splendidly to get it all out of him—and so dramatically too."

"I think it is you who deserves all the congratulations," replied Walters. "If it had not been for you there would not have been such a sensational development at the trial and in all probability Kemp's evidence would have got Holymead off."

"Yes, I'm glad to think that Holymead would have got off even if I hadn't seen through Kemp," replied Crewe thoughtfully. "I made a bad mistake in being so confident that he was the guilty man."

"The completeness of the circumstantial evidence against him was extraordinary," said Walters, to whom the legal aspects of the case appealed. "Personally I am inclined to blame Holymead himself for the predicament in which he was placed. If he had gone to the police after the murder was discovered, told them the story of his visit to Sir Horace that night, and invited investigation into the truth of it, all would have been well."

"No," said Crewe in a voice which indicated a determination not to have himself absolved at the expense of another. "The fact that he did not do what he ought to have done does not mitigate my sin of having had the wrong man arrested. The mistake I made was in not going to see him before the warrant was taken out. If I had had a quiet talk with him I think I would have been able to discover a flaw in my case against him. What made me confident it was flawless was the fact that both his wife and her French cousin believed him to be guilty. Mademoiselle Chiron followed Holymead from the country on the 18th of August with the intention of averting a tragedy. She arrived at Riversbrook too late for that, but in time to see Sir Horace expire, and naturally she thought that Holymead had shot him. When Mrs. Holymead realised that I also suspected her husband and had accumulated some evidence against him, she sent Mademoiselle Chiron to me with a concocted story of how the murder had been committed by a more or less mythical husband belonging to Mademoiselle's past. Ostensibly the reason for the visit of this extremely clever French girl was to induce me to deal with Rolfe, who had begun to suspect Mrs. Holymead of some complicity in the crime; but the real reason was to convince me that I was on the wrong track in suspecting Holymead. Of course she said nothing to me on that point. She produced evidence which convinced me that she was in the room when Sir Horace died, and, as I was quite sure that she believed Holymead to be guilty, I felt that there could be no doubt whatever of his guilt."

"It is one of the most extraordinary cases on record—one of the most extraordinary trials," said Walters. "You blame yourself for having had Holymead arrested but you have more than redeemed yourself by the final discovery when Kemp was in the witness-box that he was the guilty man. That was an inspiration."

"Hardly that," said Crewe with a smile. "I knew when he swore that he had seen Sir Horace leaning out of the library window that he was lying. After the murder was discovered I inspected the house and grounds carefully, and one of the first things of which I took a mental note was the fact that the foliage of the chestnut-tree completely hid the only window of the library."

"Ah, but there is a difference between knowing Kemp was committing perjury and knowing that he was the guilty man."

"There is at least a distinct connection between the two facts," said Crewe, who after his mistake in regard to Holymead was reluctant to accept any praise. "Kemp's description of the way in which Sir Horace was dressed showed that he had seen him. The inference that Kemp had been inside the house was irresistible. Sir Horace had arrived home at 7 o'clock and it was not likely that Kemp would hang about Riversbrook—the scene of a prospective burglary—until after dark, which at that time of the year would be about 8.30. He must have seen Sir Horace after dark, and in order to be able to say how the judge was dressed he must have seen him at close quarters. The rest was a matter of simple deduction. Kemp inside the house listening to the angry interview between Holymead and Fewbanks—Kemp with his hatred of the judge who had killed his daughter in the dock and with his desire to do Holymead a good turn—I had previously had proof of that from my boy Joe, whom you have seen. Besides Kemp fitted into my reconstruction of the tragedy on the vital question of time. How long did Sir Horace live after being shot? The medical opinions I was able to obtain on the point varied, but after sifting them I came to the conclusion that though he might have lived for half an hour, it was more probable that he had died within ten minutes of being hit."

"How is that vital?" asked Walters, who was keenly interested in understanding how Crewe had arrived at his conviction of Kemp's guilt.

"Holymead's appointment with Sir Horace at Riversbrook was for 9.30 p.m. The letter found in Sir Horace's pocket-book fixed that time. It was exactly 11 p.m. when he got into a taxi at Hyde Park Corner after his visit to Riversbrook. On that point the driver of the taxi was absolutely certain. I was so anxious for him to make it 11.30 that I went to see him twice about it. Assuming that Holymead arrived at Riversbrook at 9.30, I allowed half an hour for his angry interview with Sir Horace, half an hour for the walk from Riversbrook to Hampstead Tube station, and half an hour for the journey from Hampstead to Hyde Park Corner, which would have involved a change at Leicester Square. As I could not induce the driver of the taxi to make Holymead's appearance at Hyde Park Corner 11.30 instead of 11, I had to admit that Holymead must have left Riversbrook at 10. But it was 10.30 according to Mademoiselle Chiron when she found Sir Horace dying on the floor of the library. Therefore if Holymead did the shooting, the victim's death agonies must have lasted half an hour or more. Medically that was not impossible, but somewhat improbable. But a meeting between Kemp and Sir Horace after Holymead had gone filled in the blank in time. That came home to me yesterday when Kemp was in the witness-box committing perjury in his determination to get Holymead off. I take it that the interview between Kemp and his victim lasted about 20 minutes. Therefore Sir Horace was shot about 10.20; certainly before 10.30, for Mademoiselle heard no shots while nearing the house."

"You have worked it out very ingeniously," said Walters. "You must find the work of crime detection very fascinating. I am afraid that if I had been in your place—that is if I had known as much about the tragedy as you do—when Kemp was in the witness-box yesterday, I would not have seen anything more in his evidence than the fact that he was committing perjury in order to help Holymead."

"I think you would," said Crewe. "These discoveries come to one naturally as the result of training one's mind in a particular direction."

"They come to you, but they wouldn't come to me," said Walters with a smile. "But do you think Kemp's story of how Sir Horace was shot is literally true? Do you think Sir Horace got in the first shot and then tried to fire again? If that is so, I don't see how they can hope to convict Kemp of murder—a jury would not go beyond a verdict of manslaughter in such a case."

"You handled Kemp so well that he was too excited to tell anything but the truth," said Crewe. "Sir Horace fired first and missed—the bullet which Chippenfield removed from the wall of the library shows that—and he pulled the trigger again but the cartridge which had been in the revolver for a considerable time, probably for years, missed fire. Here is a silent witness to the truth of that part of Kemp's story."

Crewe produced from a waistcoat pocket one of the four cartridges he had removed from the revolver Mademoiselle Chiron had handed to him and he placed it on the table. On the cap of the cartridge was a mark where the hammer had struck without exploding the powder.

THE END

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