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26: The Visiting Card

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Author Topic: 26: The Visiting Card  (Read 39 times)
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« on: July 07, 2023, 12:54:42 pm »

LIVERSEDGE pulled up a chair to the table at which Richard was breakfasting, pushed aside a plate or two, and spreading out a closely written document, tapped it with his finger.

“This,” he said significantly, “this, Mr. Marchmont, is, in my opinion, the most important thing I’ve struck in this business! I said last night that I believed Crench’s statement---well, I believe this too! I think that both Simpson and Crench, finding themselves unexpectedly trapped---and it was certainly mere luck that led to their being caught---have decided that it was best to throw up the sponge, confess themselves beaten, and make the best of a bad job by telling the truth. This statement of Simpson’s explains a lot that was mysterious and puzzling. But do you get on with your breakfast while I read to you what Simpson says. Now we start:

“ ‘This is a voluntary statement made by me, Hemingway Simpson, solicitor, managing clerk to the late Henry Marchmont, solicitor, of Bedford Row, and is taken down in writing at my request.

“ ‘I have had read to me a statement made by Daniel Crench, solicitor, of Chancery Lane, giving his account of certain things that happened at the late Henry Marchmont’s office on the evening on which Henry Marchmont met his death. That statement is substantially truthful and correct. Daniel Crench, however, is not in possession of certain facts known to me only. I now propose to tell what those facts are.

“ ‘When Crench and myself heard the sound of the shot to which he refers in his statement, we rushed out of the cupboard in which we had concealed ourselves to listen to the conversation between Henry Marchmont and Lansdale, into Henry Marchmont’s room. Crench immediately made for one of the windows, looking out on Bedford Row. I ran downstairs. I found Henry Marchmont lying on the first landing. He was either dying or just dead. I gave little attention to him at the first glance, for I had already seen something that filled me with utter amazement. Close by Henry Marchmont’s right hand, placed so near it that you would have thought it had fallen from his fingers as he fell, lay a revolver. I at once recognised that revolver as my own.

“ ‘It will help to make things clear if I now tell the history of that revolver. Some twenty years ago, in discharge of my duties, I had to collect weekly rents in a low and dangerous quarter of the town. The streets and courts which I had to visit, as a rule of an evening, Friday evening, were anything but safe, being infested with roughs. I bought the revolver for my own safety, and for two or three years carried it in my pocket when I went rent collecting. It was never used, but I always kept it in order. When I gave up collecting those rents, I put the revolver away in a drawer in my desk at Henry Marchmont’s offices. It lay there for many years, untouched, under books and papers. Not long ago---I believe but a day or two before Henry Marchmont’s death---I had occasion to tidy out my desk, and I came across the revolver. Instead of putting it back in the drawer where it had remained so long, I placed it on my desk, intending to take it home and give it away. I placed it in a conspicuous position on my desk for that very purpose---so that I shouldn’t forget it. But it was there---on the desk, where I had placed it, on the day on which Henry Marchmont was shot.

“ ‘I now wish, before going further, to emphasise two facts about this revolver. The first is that when I found it in my drawer, I did not examine it, to ascertain whether it was still loaded or not. I think I must have taken it for granted that I had unloaded it when I put it away years ago. At any rate, I didn’t examine it; I just laid it by, as I have said, conspicuously, on my desk. The second fact is that on the butt of the revolver my initials, H.S., were deeply scratched, and a date, 1901. This, of course, proved to me that the revolver I picked up from close by Henry Marchmont’s dead body was my revolver---the revolver which at five o’clock that evening had certainly been lying on my desk in my room, just at the foot of the first flight of stairs, on the right-hand side of the hall.

“ ‘My first notion was that Henry Marchmont had committed suicide, though he was the last man in the world to suspect of such a tendency. But without moving or touching him, I at once saw that he had not---it was impossible, for he had been shot through the back. I immediately concluded how the murder had taken place. The murderer had entered the offices---the street door of which was always open until Henry Marchmont himself closed it---had gone into my room, seen my revolver, concealed himself behind my half-closed door and had fired at Henry Marchmont as he went upstairs. The door of my room opens from left to right; the murderer had nothing to do but to keep behind it until Henry Marchmont had passed him and was climbing the staircase, and then, through the half-open door, to fire at him. Obviously, he had then advanced into the hall, and thrown down the revolver by the dead or dying man.

“ ‘All this I saw and realised in far less time than it now takes to tell of it. As I realised what had happened, I heard Crench coming downstairs from Henry Marchmont’s room. I snatched up the revolver and put it in my pocket. I said nothing to Crench of what I had found.

“ ‘The details and particulars given by Crench in his statement as regards what took place after the discovery of Henry Marchmont’s body are correct. I took the keys of the safe from Henry Marchmont’s pocket; we possessed ourselves of the bundle of Bank of England notes left by Lansdale, and, after I had put the keys back, went away.

“ ‘Now I come to two highly important details of which Crench knows nothing. I went to the offices at the usual time next morning. The discovery of Henry Marchmont’s dead body had been made then, and the police, and the police-surgeon, and Detective-Sergeant Liversedge were already there. As I said at the adjourned inquest, Liversedge was the first person to enter and examine Henry Marchmont’s private office; while he went in there, I went into mine.

“ ‘Immediately on entering my office, and going up to my desk, I made a remarkable discovery. Late the previous afternoon, an old man from Judd Street, a tradesman for whom we had recently transacted some business, called to pay an account of fifty-three pounds. He paid it to me, in my office. Greatly to my surprise, he paid it in gold---fifty-three sovereigns. It is, of course, a most exceptional thing nowadays to see gold coinage at all, and instead of putting this gold in the office safe, which is in my room, I put it in a canvas bag which I laid on my desk, intending to show it to Henry Marchmont as a curiosity. We were very busy at the end of that afternoon, and I forgot all about the gold. I had brought it to mind, however, before morning, and as soon as I went into my office I looked to the place on my desk where I had put the canvas bag down. I saw at once that it had disappeared.

“ ‘That was my first discovery that morning. The second was this, and, in my opinion, it was by far the most important. Detective-Sergeant Liversedge stated, at the adjourned inquest, that when he went into Henry Marchmont’s private office first thing that morning, he only made a general, a sort of cursory inspection. But a little later I went in alone, and made a more particular one. I looked well over the things lying on Henry Marchmont’s desk and on the various side-tables in the room. And on one of the smaller tables, in the right-hand window, where he was accustomed to toss such things, I found, uppermost on a silver tray, a visiting-card which bore the name Mr. Louis Vandelius. From the fact that this card lay on top of others which I knew to have been presented during the previous day, some in the morning, some in the afternoon, I concluded that Mr. Louis Vandelius had certainly called on Mr. Marchmont between five-thirty and seven-thirty on the evening of the murder.

“ ‘I have nothing more to say at present except that the revolver and the visiting-card referred to in this statement are in a safe which I rent privately at the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit; the key of which safe I now hand over to the police authorities.

“(Signed) ‘Hemingway Simpson.’ ”


Liversedge folded up the document from which he had read and, smoothing it carefully in its original lines, restored it to its envelope and his pocket. He looked at Richard with an enigmatical smile.

“There!---what d’you think of that, Mr. Marchmont?” he asked. “Piece of enlightenment, eh?”

Richard by that time had finished his breakfast and was smoking his pipe; he looked to be deep in thought.

“Do you think it was Vandelius?” he asked suddenly.

“Vandelius, by all accounts, had a lot at stake, Mr. Marchmont!” replied the detective. “We’ve heard a lot, first and last, of his fear lest the business he and Lansdale were concerned in should be interrupted. He may have wanted to make sure!”

“Would Vandelius steal fifty pounds?” asked Richard.

“I should say he wouldn’t---certainly!” said Liversedge. “But---he might take it to make us think Mr. Henry Marchmont had been murdered by thieves or burglars. That’s a detail!---the visiting-card shows he’d been there.”

“Well?” asked Richard.

“You want to know---what next?” suggested Liversedge. “Why, of course, we shall have to get hold of Vandelius and question him. Do you know anything of his movements, now?”

“I!” exclaimed Richard. “Nothing!”

“I suppose you have been seeing Lansdale and Miss Lansdale,” said Liversedge. “I thought they might have spoken of Vandelius?”

“Not of his present whereabouts,” answered Richard. “I should think----”

Just then the door opened and Scarfe appeared, glancing at the detective.

“Wanted at the telephone, sir,” he said. “Inspector March calling!”

“I left word with March where I was going, in case anything turned up,” said Liversedge. He rose and followed Scarfe to the telephone outside. “Here’s another development!” he remarked, coming back presently. “An old gentleman’s arrived at the police station asking for me and saying he wants to see me, and nobody but me, about the Bedford Row affair---won’t give his name until I come. I must hurry back, Mr. Marchmont---will you come with me?”

Walking into the waiting-room at the police station with Liversedge, Richard immediately recognised the elderly man who rose at their entrance as the companion of Cora Sanderthwaite at the adjourned inquest, and he whispered his recognition to the detective. Before either could say anything the visitor broke into speech.

“My name’s Appleby!” he announced abruptly. “John Appleby, retired from business. I came to see Mr. Liversedge---that’s you! But I know t’other gentleman, by sight---saw him at that inquest; he’s Mr. Richard Marchmont, nephew of Henry, as I used to know well enough in the old days at Clayminster. And now that’s it come to---well, to where it has come, I don’t mind saying that it was me that wrote that letter to you, Mr. Richard Marchmont, t’other day---about this poor girl, Cora Sanderthwaite.”

Liversedge, seeing Richard somewhat taken back, took the matter out of his hands and waved the old man to a chair.

“Sit down, Mr. Appleby,” he said. “So you’ve come to see me----”

Mr. Appleby took the chair, pulled out a large gaily-coloured handkerchief, and mopped his face.

“This very morning,” he broke in, “Mrs. Mansiter and Liney Sanderthwaite they come to see me and my wife at our house---early. Said you’d been to see them at theirs---midnight. Had gathered from Mr. Richard Marchmont’s description of a person as he saw with Cora at that inquest that I was that person---d’you see? Mr. Appleby, says they! Quite right---I am! So they came to see if Cora was at our house. Quite right again! Cora is!”

“Not in a very good state of health---mentally---eh, Mr. Appleby?” suggested Liversedge. “A little---eh?”

Mr. Appleby placed a podgy forefinger to his left temple and tapped it several times.

“Now and then!” he answered. “Now and then! Not always, mind you! Only occasionally---if roused, excited, upset. But at them times---clean off it! Came to see me and my wife---old friends---stopped with us---poured out her woes---got me to go with her to that inquest---deal of trouble with her, I can tell you---had to exercise patience---patience! And, now seriously afraid of what she might do if let loose in one of her tantrums. Bee in her bonnet, you know!---always had, ever since I knew her. That man Lansdale! At first---madly in love with him. Now---wants his blood! Worse than ever since she got it into her head that you police fellers are all doing your best to get him off! Works like poison in her, does that! Oh, yes!”

“She wants to fix the guilt of the Marchmont murder on Lansdale, does she?” said Liversedge. “That it, Mr. Appleby?”

“Want’s to hear that he’s been hanged,” replied Mr. Appleby brusquely. “About it! Spite? My!---never see such a spiteful female in my born days---never!”

“What does she know about Lansdale and Henry Marchmont?” asked Liversedge. “Anything?”

Mr. Appleby mopped his face again.

“Ah!” he said oracularly. “Fact of the matter is, Cora Sanderthwaite was there!”

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