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27: Straight to the Point

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Author Topic: 27: Straight to the Point  (Read 42 times)
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« on: July 07, 2023, 01:07:44 pm »

THE two listeners turned from their visitor to stare at each other, a common thought and understanding in their minds. But Liversedge was quick to turn back to Mr. Appleby.

“There!” he exclaimed. “What d’you mean by that? There!”

“There!---at Bedford Row,” answered the old man. “When it happened. Cora Sanderthwaite, d’ye see, she saw Marchmont shot!”

Once more Richard and the detective glanced at each other.

“We seem to be joining up the plots pretty well this morning!” muttered Liversedge. “If it’s true! How do you know Cora Sanderthwaite saw Mr. Henry Marchmont shot?” he went on, raising his voice. “Does she say so?”

“Cora,” replied Mr. Appleby thoughtfully, “Cora, she varies. At times, d’ye see, she’s herself---quite herself. At other times---these here tantrums---outbursts! Nice job with her I had when I accompanied her to that inquest! She wanted to hear the jury find Lansdale guilty of murder. Of course, nothing happened---of that sort. But she quietened down at home---my place---that night, and she told me and my wife that she knew. Saw Henry Marchmont shot!”

“Who shot him?” demanded Liversedge abruptly.

“She thought---Lansdale! Made sure Lansdale shot Henry Marchmont. That is, she thought so after seeing the newspapers next day; evening papers, you know---there was, of course, nothing in the morning ones. But at first, when she saw it, she thought it was Lansdale that was shot! See?”

“No, I don’t see at all!” exclaimed Liversedge. “It’s a muddle! Make it clear!”

Mr. Appleby sought illuminating powers from his handkerchief. After mopping awhile he squared himself for another effort.

“You aren’t far wrong in calling it a muddle!” he said woefully. “First-rate specimen of a muddle I called it---at first. Couldn’t make head or tail of it, nohow! But I’ve got it all smoothed out, now---I understand it! Like this, d’ye see?---you listen, careful. I’ll put it in order,” he continued, preparing to check his points on his stubby fingers. “To start with, on the morning of that day on which Mr. Henry Marchmont---this young man’s uncle, as I’m given to understand---met his death, he’d sent for Mrs. Mansiter and Cora Sanderthwaite to see him at his offices in Bedford Row. They went. He told ’em Lansdale, or Land, was in London, and more about him---never mind that! What’s important is, Henry Marchmont told ’em that Lansdale was coming to see him, there, that night, and what time. Cora wanted to see Lansdale---couldn’t help it, I reckon, knowing all I do. She went to Bedford Row. She stood in a porch, t’other side of the street, watching. She saw a man come up from the corner---a man that she took to be Lansdale, from his build. He went into Henry Marchmont’s offices, and left the door a bit open. She ran across the street, pushed the door more open, and looked in. The man had his back to her; was going up the staircase. As she looked she saw a hand and arm, holding a pistol, come out of a door on the left-hand side. The pistol was fired; the man on the stair let out a groan and fell. Then she ran---anywhere! Came to herself somewhere t’other side of Red Lion Street. Of course, she then thought it was Lansdale that had been shot. But when she saw next afternoon’s papers, she knew it was Marchmont. Then she came to the conclusion that Lansdale shot Marchmont. And at that she sticks!”

“Why didn’t she tell all this at the inquest? or to the police?” asked Liversedge.

“Didn’t want to say anything that might ha’ got Lansdale off,” answered Mr. Appleby. “Thought that the lawyers might ha’ twisted what she had to say into something different. Queer woman to deal with, I assure you!”

“Where is she now?” inquired the detective. “Still at your house?”

“No---gone home with her brother and sister,” replied Mr. Appleby. “She’s in one of her peaceful moods at present. Can’t say how long it’ll last, though. And about that unsigned letter I wrote to this young man---if I was you, sir, I should get Lansdale to go away! There’s no telling what Cora might do. Her poor brain’s disordered---very!”

“She hasn’t given you any more details, more particulars, has she?” asked Liversedge. “She didn’t, for instance, see the man to whom the hand and arm protruding from the door belonged?”

“No---I asked her about that,” replied Mr. Appleby. “A hand and arm!---that was all she saw.”

“Didn’t remark if it was a big man, or a little man, eh?” suggested the detective. “She could have told that, you know, by the height at which the hand was held.”

“Didn’t say that, neither---I expect it never struck her,” said Mr. Appleby. “I asked her questions similar to that. She did remember one thing, however---that the man, whoever he was, wore a dark suit. Dark sleeve, you understand.”

“Can’t make much out of that!” muttered Liversedge. Presently, after a little more conversation, he showed his visitor out, and came back to Richard. “I dare say all that’s true enough, Mr. Marchmont,” he said. “Now if only Cora Sanderthwaite had seen a bit more, or waited a bit longer! However, that’s another link in the chain---and I’m beginning to think that everything’s pointing to Vandelius. You haven’t heard Lansdale mention him, Mr. Marchmont?”

“Not at all!” replied Richard. “Never mentioned him---to me!”

“Still, he may know where Vandelius is likely to be found in the City,” said the detective. “He’s sure to come up here---and anyway, we know where that country place of his lies. I’m going to get possession of his card this morning, and then----”

At that point Pryke came in.

“There’s a thing that ought to be seen to,” said Pryke, glancing at Liversedge. “Garner no doubt had some baggage at that hotel where we found him. It ought to be examined before the inquest on him.”

“I’d forgotten that,” admitted Liversedge. “It ought!---if there is anything. You go down there, Pryke, and make inquiries. If he has left anything there, search it---or, better still, bring it away. I’ve other matters to attend to. Now, Mr. Marchmont,” he continued, when Pryke had left the room, “come along with me to that Safe Deposit in Chancery Lane, and we’ll see about that card that Vandelius is supposed to have left at your uncle’s office. I’ve got the key, and the authorisation from Simpson---and I shall get the revolver too.”

Richard looked on with keen interest while the detective and an official of the Safe Deposit Company unlocked Simpson’s safe. There was little in it to divert attention from the things they had come to find, and those lay plainly before them.

“Here’s the revolver---just as Simpson described it!” remarked Liversedge. “And there’s the card! Mr. Louis Vandelius, Malbourne Manor, Sussex---no town address. Well---that’s that! Now,” he added, as they went out into the street again, “we’ll just step along to the Hotel Cecil, Mr. Marchmont, and see if Lansdale can give us any idea of Vandelius’s present whereabouts. I’m anxious to plump Vandelius with a plain question---how came his visiting-card on Mr. Henry Marchmont’s table? Take a bit of explaining---satisfactorily!---don’t you think?”

“It certainly looks as if he had called there,” admitted Richard.

“Looks? It’s proof---proof positive---that he’d called there!” exclaimed the detective. “How else could your uncle have got hold of it?”

“I was wondering if, for some reason or other, Lansdale might not have handed it to my uncle,” suggested Richard. “As a reference, or something of that sort.”

“Lansdale said nothing of that in his evidence,” replied Liversedge. “No!---I feel sure, certain, that Vandelius presented it himself. He went there, Mr. Marchmont!---lay all I’ve got to a penny piece he went there!”

“Vandelius,” said Richard, after a pause, “struck me, down at his place, as being a remarkably astute man---unusually so! Do you think a man who was going to shoot another would be ass enough to leave his card about?”

“I don’t suppose Vandelius thought of shooting anybody when he went to Bedford Row,” answered Liversedge. “I’ve figured it out this way---I always figure out what I imagine to have happened. Vandelius, after hearing what Lansdale had to tell in the afternoon, was very much concerned lest his deal shouldn’t come off. He went to see Mr. Henry Marchmont, on his own hook, presenting his card. He found Mr. Henry Marchmont obdurate---probably, knowing what we do, Mr. Henry Marchmont refused to discuss matters with him. Vandelius left. He hung around, and saw Lansdale arrive. He followed him in---perhaps stole up the stair and overheard the conversation between the two men. Finding that Lansdale made no impression on Mr. Henry Marchmont, he came down again, and slipped into Simpson’s room, thinking that when Lansdale had gone, he’d try his own hand once more. There, in Simpson’s room, he saw the pistol. Well, in my opinion, Vandelius is the sort of man who’ll stop at nothing where his own interests are concerned. He decided to silence Mr. Henry Marchmont, and did it! That’s how I figure things out, sir!”

“Very ingenious!” murmured Richard.

“No---but it’s probable!” said Liversedge. “Highly probable---on the facts! And I believe in probability as a guide to things.”

“Do you think it probable that a wealthy man like Vandelius would risk his own life by taking another man’s?” asked Richard. “There was always the chance of his having been seen about!”

“Not much chance,” replied Liversedge. “Bedford Row’s deserted that time of an evening. It’s not a thoroughfare. And we’re in autumn, and it’s dark enough at seven o’clock. And as to Vandelius being a wealthy man---well, Mr. Marchmont, I’ve no proof that he’s as wealthy as appearance would seem to indicate! He may be an adventurer---most likely is. All his apparent wealth may be a mere show---I’ve known two or three instances in my time of that sort of thing. There was Palfreyman!---the chairman and managing director of the Great International Combine; the fellow that swindled tens of thousands of foolish people, tempted by his lavish promises. He had a grand town house in Park Lane, a regular palace in Kent, a shooting-box in the Highlands, a yacht at Cowes, a villa on the Riviera, and a flat in Paris! You’d have thought he was a millionaire---and when the smash came, he hadn’t one half-crown to rub against another! I reckon nothing of show, Mr. Marchmont---some of these financial big bugs are, in reality, men of straw, when it comes to it!”

“I’ve no doubt you’re quite right, Liversedge,” agreed Richard. “But do you think that Vandelius would steal that gold which Simpson says he left on his desk?”

“Well, I can imagine that he would, and why he would,” replied the detective. “He might take it to make anyone---the police, you know---think that Mr. Henry Marchmont had been shot by burglars. Anyhow, I’ve strong suspicions about Vandelius, and as soon as I come across him, I shall let him see that I have!”

“Vandelius has certainly got to explain the presence of his card,” said Richard. “But you know, Liversedge, I’m by no means satisfied about Crench and Simpson! Crench is a bad lot, and none the better for being a miserable coward, and Simpson’s shown himself to be an unscrupulous scoundrel. How do you know that all this story of theirs, fitting like a glove as they tell it, isn’t a clever concoction to save their own necks? I’ve no doubt it’s true enough, up to the point where my uncle left his room to post his letter, but what proof have you that it’s true after that point? None!”

“You think they may have conspired to kill Mr. Henry Marchmont?” suggested Liversedge.

“I see no proof that they didn’t!” answered Richard. “What was to prevent them? They were there, alone in the place with him. They could shoot him---one of them, Simpson, for choice!---and make up all this story later on. There’s a damned lot too much apparent consistency in their stories to suit me. But of course, I’m not skilled at this sort of thing. Anyhow---I wouldn’t believe a word that’s said by either Simpson or Crench!”

“Mr. Marchmont, you’d be surprised how some men can tell the truth---when it suits ’em!” said Liversedge. “Now, from experience, I believe that Simpson and Crench have both told the exact truth in their statements! All the more so, because they both know that they’re in a hole---a very nasty, deep hole! As you say, they were both in the house at Bedford Row; they’ve admitted they were. They’d every opportunity to murder your uncle for the sake of the money left with him by Lansdale. They haven’t a single witness to bring forward for their defence! And they know that, if we charge them with the murder, they haven’t a cat’s chance! But---it may be intuition, it may be prejudice---I believe they’re both innocent of your uncle’s murder. Vandelius, now----”

Richard suddenly clutched his companion’s arm. They had come to near the entrance to the Hotel Cecil; there, amongst a procession of cars slowly filing into the courtyard, was one to which he pointed, excitedly.

“There is Vandelius!” he exclaimed. “There!---in that dark-green coupé car!”

“I see him!” muttered Liversedge. “Luck! He’ll be going to see Lansdale. We’ve got him! Keep back, Mr. Marchmont---let him get in!”

He drew Richard aside till the dark-green car had pulled up at one of the doors of the hotel and they had seen Vandelius, alone, get out and disappear inside, while the car moved off and went away.

“Now come on!” said Liversedge. “We both know Lansdale’s rooms, and we’ll go straight up there. And once there, Mr. Marchmont, leave matters to me!”

Richard followed the detective along the corridors with a growing sense of excitement. What was going to happen?---what was to be revealed? He saw that Liversedge meant business. And Liversedge went straight to it, as soon as the door opened and they walked in on Lansdale, Angelita, and Vandelius.

“Mr. Vandelius,” said the detective, with no preface or delay, “I have followed you in here to ask you a question. Did you call on Mr. Henry Marchmont at Bedford Row on the evening on which he was murdered? A plain answer, if you please, sir!”

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