Malcolm Sage, Detective/Chapter 10
A LESSON IN DEDUCTION
MR. GRIMWOOD, of the firm of Grimwood, Galton & Davy, insurance assessors, looked up from the list in his hand. He was a shrewd little man, with side-whiskers, pince-nez that would never sit straight upon his aquiline nose, and an impressive cough.
He glanced from Malcolm Sage to young Glanedale, then back again to Malcolm Sage; finally he coughed.
The three men were seated in Sir Roger Glanedale's library awaiting the coming of Lady Glanedale.
"And yet Mr. Glanedale heard nothing," remarked Mr. Grimwood musingly. "Strange, very strange."
"Are you in the habit of sitting smoking at your bedroom window?" enquired Malcolm Sage of Glanedale, his eyes averted.
"Er—no, not exactly," was the hesitating response.
"Can you remember when last you did such a thing?" was the next question.
"I'm afraid I can't," said Glanedale, with an uneasy laugh.
"Perhaps you had seen something that puzzled you," continued Malcolm Sage, his restless fingers tracing an imaginary design upon the polished surface of the table before him.
Glanedale was silent. He fingered his moustache with a nervous hand. Mr. Grimwood looked across at Malcolm Sage curiously.
"And you were watching in the hope of seeing something more," continued Malcolm Sage.
"I——" began Glanedale, starting violently, then he stopped.
"Don't you think you had better tell us exactly what it was you saw," said Malcolm Sage, raising a pair of gold-rimmed eyes that mercilessly beat down the uneasy gaze of the young man.
"I—I didn't say I saw anything."
"It is for you to decide, Mr. Glanedale," said Malcolm Sage, with an almost imperceptible shrug of his shoulders, "whether it is better to tell your story now, or under cross-examination in the witness-box. There you will be under oath, and the proceedings will be public."
At that moment Lady Glanedale entered, and the three men rose.
"I am sorry to interrupt you," she said coldly, "but Sir Roger has just telephoned and wishes to speak to Mr. Glanedale."
"I fear we shall have to keep Sir Roger waiting," said Malcolm Sage, walking over to the door and closing it.
Lady Glanedale looked at him in surprise.
"I do not understand," she began.
"You will immediately," said Malcolm Sage quietly. "We were just discussing the robbery." He slightly stressed the word "robbery."
"Really——" began Lady Glanedale.
"Mr. Glanedale was sitting at his window smoking," continued Malcolm Sage evenly. "He cannot remember ever having done such a thing before. I suggested that something unusual had attracted his attention, and that he was waiting to see what would follow. I was just about to tell him what had attracted his attention when you entered, Lady Glanedale."
Glanedale looked across at his step-mother and then at Malcolm Sage. His misery was obvious.
"Last night, soon after twelve," continued Malcolm Sage, "Mr. Glanedale happened to look out of his window and was surprised to see a figure moving along towards the left. It was not the figure of a man with a handkerchief tied across his face as a mask; but a woman. He watched. He saw it pause beneath the second window of your bedroom, Lady Glanedale, not the one by which the burglar entered. Then it stooped down."
Malcolm Sage's fingers seemed to be tracing each movement of the mysterious figure upon the surface of the table. Lady Glanedale gazed at his long, shapely hands as if hypnotised.
"Presently," he continued, "it returned to the first window, where it was occupied for some minutes. Mr. Glanedale could not see this; but the figure was engaged in making footprints and marking the sides of the water-pipe with a shoe or boot as high up as it could reach. It——"
"How dare you make such an accusation!" cried Lady Glanedale, making an effort to rise; but she sank back again in her chair, her face plaster-white.
"I have made no accusation," said Malcolm Sage quietly. "I am telling what Mr. Glanedale saw."
A hunted look sprang to Lady Glanedale's eyes. She tore her eyes from those magnetic fingers and gazed about her wildly as if meditating flight. Her throat seemed as if made of leather.
"Would you be prepared to deny all this in the witness-box under oath, Mr. Glanedale?" enquired Malcolm Sage.
Glanedale looked at him with unseeing eyes, then across at his step-mother.
"The woman had put on a pair of men's boots that the footprints might be masculine. They were so much too large for her that she had to drag her feet along the ground. The boots were those of a man weighing, say, about eleven and a half stone; the weight inside those boots shown by the impression in the mould was little more than seven stone."
Lady Glanedale put out her hand as if to ward off a blow; but Malcolm Sage continued mercilessly, addressing Glanedale.
"The length of a man's stride is thirty inches; between these steps the space was less than fifteen inches. Skirts are worn very narrow."
He paused, then, as Lady Glanedale made no reply, he turned to Glanedale.
"I asked you this morning," he said, "to climb the other pipe for the double purpose of examining the impress of your boots on the mould as you left the ground and when you dropped back again on to the mould. Also to see what sort of marks a pair of leather boots would make upon the weatherworn paint of the pipe.
"As you sprang from the ground and clutched the pipe, there was a deep impress on the mould of the soles of both boots, deep at the toes and tapering off towards the heel. On your return you made distinct heel-marks as well."
Lady Glanedale had buried her face in her hands. She must blot out the sight of those terrible hands! Glanedale sat with his eyes upon Malcolm Sage as if hypnotised.
"There was a shower of rain last night about twelve, an hour before the alleged burglar arrived; yet the footprints were made before the rain fell. In two cases leaves had been trodden into the footprints; yet on these leaves were drops of rain just as they had fallen."
The hands seemed to draw the leaves and indicate the spots of water as if they had been blood. Glanedale shuddered involuntarily.
"In the centre-part of the pipe there were no marks, although there were light scratches for as high up as the arm of a short person could reach, and as far down from the bedroom window as a similar arm could stretch. These scratches were quite dissimilar from those made on the other pipe."
Lady Glanedale moaned something unintelligible.
"Although there had been a shower and the mould was wet," proceeded Malcolm Sage, "there were no marks of mud or mould on the pipe, on the window-sill, or in Lady Glanedale's bedroom, which, I understand, had purposely not been swept. A man had slid down that water-pipe; yet he had done so without so much as removing the surface dust from the paint.
"He had reached the ground as lightly as a fairy, without making any mark upon the mould; the footprints were merely those of someone approaching and walking from the pipe."
Glanedale drew a cigarette case from his pocket; opened it, took out a cigarette, then, hesitating a moment, replaced it, and returned the case to his pocket, his eyes all the time on Malcolm Sage.
"I think," continued Malcolm Sage, "we shall find that the burglar has buried the jewel-case a few yards to the right of the pipe he is supposed to have climbed." His forefinger touched a spot on the extreme right of the table. "There are indications that the mould has been disturbed. Incidentally a trowel is missing——"
Glanedale suddenly sprang to his feet, just as Lady Glanedale fell forward in her chair—she had fainted.
"It's a very unpleasant business," remarked Mr. Goodge, the General Manager of the Twentieth Century Insurance Company, as he looked up from reading a paper that Malcolm Sage had just handed to him. In it Lady Glanedale confessed the fraud she had sought to practise upon the Corporation. "A very unpleasant business," he repeated.
Malcolm Sage gazed down at his finger-nails, as if the matter had no further interest for him. When his brain was inactive, his hands were at rest.
"I don't know what view the Board will take," continued Mr. Goodge, as Malcolm Sage made no comment.
"They will probably present me with another walking-stick," he remarked indifferently.
Mr. Goodge laughed. Malcolm Sage's walking-stick had been a standing joke between them.
"What made you first suspect Lady Glanedale?" he enquired.
"She had omitted to rehearse the episode of the burglary, and consequently when it came to reconstructing the incident, she failed in a very important particular." Malcolm Sage paused.
"What was that?" enquired Mr. Goodge with interest, as he pushed a box of cigars towards Malcolm Sage, who, however, shaking his head, proceeded to fill his pipe.
"She had already told me that the key of the safe was always kept beneath a pile of handkerchiefs in one of the drawers of her dressing-table; yet when I asked her to go through exactly the same movements and actions as when the burglar entered her room, she rose direct from the bed and went to the safe. The dressing-table was at the other end of the room, and to get to it she would have had to pass the spot where she said the man was standing."
Mr. Goodge nodded his head appreciatively.
"The next point was that I discovered it was Lady Glanedale who suggested to the police inspector that means should be taken to prevent anyone approaching the water-pipe by which the man was supposed to have climbed. She was anxious that the footprints should be preserved.
"Another point was that young Glanedale happened to remark that his step-mother was much addicted to bridge, and that the stakes were too high to admit of his joining in. Also that men who have themselves accumulated their wealth know the value of money. Sir Roger disliked bridge and probably kept his lady short."
"Most likely," agreed Mr. Goodge. "He has the reputation of being a bit shrewd in money matters. When did you begin to suspect Lady Glanedale?"
"From the first," was the reply. "Everything rang false. Lady Glanedale's story suggested that it had been rehearsed until she had it by heart," continued Malcolm Sage. "It was too straightforward, too clearly expressed for the story of a woman who had just lost eight thousand pounds' worth of jewels. When I put questions to her she hesitated before replying, as if mentally comparing her intended answer with what she had already told.
"Then she was so practical in preparing a list of the lost jewels at once, and in warning her stepson not to go near the spot beneath her window, as there might be footprints; this at a time when she was supposed to be in a state of great excitement."
"Did you suspect young Glanedale at all?" queried Mr. Grimwood.
"No," said Malcolm Sage, "but to make quite sure I cast doubt upon the possibility of anyone climbing the pipe. If he had been concerned he would not have volunteered to prove I was wrong."
"True," said Mr. Goodge as he examined critically the glowing end of his cigar. "Lady Glanedale seems to have done the job very clumsily, now that you have explained everything."
"Even the professional criminal frequently underrates the intelligence of those whose business it is to frustrate him; but Lady Glanedale's efforts in marking the water-pipe would not have deceived a child. A powerful magnifying-glass will show that on all such exterior pipes there is an accumulation of dust, which would be removed from a large portion of the surface by anyone climbing either up or down. Lady Glanedale had thought marks made by a boot or a shoe would be sufficient confirmation of her story. She is rather a stupid woman," he added, as he rose to go.
"I suppose she got the idea from the Comminge affair?"
"Undoubtedly," was the response; "but as I say, she is a stupid woman. Vanity in crime is fatal; it leads the criminal to underrate the intelligence of others. Lady Glanedale is intensely vain."
"The Board will probably want to thank you personally," said Mr. Goodge as he shook hands; "but I'll try and prevent them from giving you another walking-stick," he laughed as he opened the door.