CARROLL slowly drew from his pocket a pipe and a sack of tobacco. He filled the bowl and tamped it down; then, with a deliberation which played on Hall’s nerves, lighted it and puffed a half dozen times.

“Explain it, Rafferty!” he commanded.

“It’s this way, sor. Whin Chief av Detectives Rollins gets out here, he tely-phones back to headquarters for Sergint O’Brien to send out three men. I’m sent out here at wanst with Officers Shorter and Weaver. Whin we get here, Rollins’ two men is in the paytrol wagon outside, an’ he tells us to watch, two outside an’ two inside, an’ to allow no wan but the police departmint to enter.

“We ask him who is in the house, an’ he says no wan excipt Mrs. Faber, the housekeeper, an’ that she will soon be l’avin for p’lice headquarters, him not sayin’ why. He says that it is the cook’s night off, an’ whin I ask him about the other servants he says he knows nothing about thim, ixcipt that Mrs. Faber has towld him that they’ve disappeared. ‘They probably heard the shootin’,’ he says to me, just like that, ‘an’ got scared an’ beat it.’ Then he goes away in the paytrol with the other fellers an’ I’m left here.

“After a time Mrs. Faber comes down ready to leave, an’ I ask her is she sure the house is empty. She looks at me kinder funny, an’ is afther sayin’ to me, just like this: I don’t know what to make of these terrible doin’s. Misther Hamilton is kilt dead an’ the butler an’ the maid have disappeared.’ ‘Disappeared?’ I questions. ‘Pwhat are ye afther meanin’ be that, ma’am?’ An’ she looks at me like I was goin’ to do her hurt, an’ says to me, just like this: ‘I mane pwhat I say. They’ve gone. ’Twas the cook’s night out, but the maid and the butler should have been in their rooms, which same they ain’t. Oh, dearie me, I don’t know pwhat to make av it!’ And thin she went away, sor, in a taxicab which she had called.

“Them may not have been her ixact worruds, sor; but it was about that way. She looked terribly cut up an’ flustered. An’ that’s all, sor; ixcipt that I took it to mesilf to search the house pretty thorough, an’ I don’t be afther findin’ no wan. An’ that’s all there is to it.”

Carroll nodded briefly.

“Thanks, Rafferty. You’ve done very well. Just remain on duty with Weaver and Shorter and carry out Chief Rollins’ instructions. You may go.”

He walked back into the living room with Commissioner Hall at his heels. The commissioner sank weakly into a chair.

“This investigation almost terrifies me,” said Hall a bit nervously. “The more we investigate the farther away we get from a solution. Every place we look, every question we ask, develops some new ramification which bewilders me more. What do you make of these disappearances?”

“It’s hard to say, Mr. Hall. It might mean something and it might be free from any significance.”

“Damned rot! Begging your pardon, Carroll. But you know it is. You certainly don’t take any stock in Rollins’ haphazard guess that they got frightened at the sound of shooting and ran away?”

“No-o! I don’t believe I do. However, anything is possible.”

Hall snapped the end of a big cigar.

“Sometimes, Carroll, you get on my nerves. You talk a heap, but you say nothing. Why can’t you tell me what you think?”

“Because,” explained Carroll simply, “two minds are better than one. You flatter me by having a pretty good opinion of my ability as a detective. Very well, it follows logically from that premise that if I told you what I suspected you would lose your individuality of thought —and that is the last thing in the world I desire. It might be that I am on the wrong track altogether, and that your mind will strike the correct solution. Talk it over with me as much as you like, but please don’t ask me to tell you what I think; it would spoil you as a co-worker.”

“But you do suspect something? You have formulated an idea as to who did the killing?”

“To be quite honest, I have not. I started off with an idea which, for a long time, stubbornly refused to be dismissed, but circumstance has piled on circumstance so that I am now almost convinced that my first idea was absurd. You see, we’re working reverse English on this case—instead of trying to fasten the guilt on one of three suspects, we’re trying to remove it from two of them; perhaps from all three and——

“Meaning that you think Hartigan might have done it?”

Might have—certainly. He admits enough to make that more than a possibility, and I am inclined to consider Hartigan seriously, because he is the one suspect who denies his guilt. And now”—he rose and stretched himself—“it is after two o’clock. Let’s run back to headquarters and see if Mr. Denson has materialized, and if he has anything to say. And if not—a little sleep will be better for all of us. Come!”

As they started down the walk, Hall spoke:

“What do you intend to do next?”

“That depends absolutely on circumstances. If nothing changes my mind in the meanwhile, I shall sleep at headquarters and tomorrow morning make a trip here with Badger—alone and secretly. I shall have Badger enact his story in that room. Then I shall have him held and bring Miss Duval, Mr. Harrelson, and Red Hartigan down and let them tell their stories separately. I want you here with me. And now”—he swung open the door and leaped into the passenger’s seat while Hall pressed the starter—“let’s make speed.”

The journey back to the police station was made without regard to traffic regulations. They shot down one street and up another at more than thirty-five miles an hour, and at length pulled up sharply in the glare of the arc light over the portals of the police building. They entered Headquarters. Sergeant O’Brien came forward and touched his cap.

“Mr. Denson, sir, is waiting for Mr. Hall.”


“In the men’s rest room, sir.”

“Very good, sergeant. Nothing else new?”

“Not a thing, sir.”

“Chief Rollins has not interviewed the prisoners?”

“No, sir; he’s already turned in for the night.”

“Very good. That will do.”

Hall led the way into the rest room, where, an hour and a half before, they had interviewed Rollins and Hartigan. As they entered the lawyer rose and came forward to greet them, his forehead puckered for a moment with doubt, and then clearing as he recognized David Carroll.

He was a sharp-eyed, competent-looking man of medium height and build. He had the habit of gazing at one levelly from behind tortoise-rimmed goggles which somehow managed to impart to his visage a hawklike cast. His manner of speech was sharp to a fault; he did not waste words—and yet, despite a natural reserve, he was patently overwrought by the events of the night.

“Mr. Hall,” he said, as he extended his hand, “I can’t tell you how glad I am that you are here. And Mr. Carroll——” He paused interrogatively.

“Is in absolute charge of the case.”

“I’m glad of that. I know it is in good hands.”

The two men shook hands, and Hall stared at them curiously.

“I didn’t know that you knew one another, Denson.”

Denson nodded.

“Carroll has been working for Hamilton on that civic case. Met him at Hamilton’s office two or three times.”

“I see. And now, Denson—what?”

Denson looked first at one and then at the other. It was plain that he was a bit afraid—that he was weighing his words carefully. Carroll interpreted his silence.

“I know you’re wondering about Miss Duval, Mr. Denson. Let me say right here that we know everything that she has to say—except the details. I will also tell you everything else we know about the case—” and he launched into a recital of the confession of the girl, the young artist—Harrelson; of Badger, and of the capture of Hartigan by Rollins; of their visit to the house, and of the mysterious disappearance of both the maid and the butler. “I’m telling you all this,” he finished, “because we wish to enlist your aid. You were the lawyer of the dead man and are the attorney for Miss Duval, his ward——

“And for Vincent Harrelson.”

“A-a-h! I didn’t know that.”

“Yes, the lad has been a sort of protégé of mine, which was one bone of contention between Mr. Hamilton and myself.”

“Mr. Hamilton disliked him keenly, did he not?”

The gazes of the two men clashed.

“How far can I trust myself to tell the truth, Carroll_?“_

“This far: I have made you the third person to possess the full knowledge of the case. That I have done it with a reason goes without saying, and basically that reason is that we need your help to get at the bottom of the matter. Being a lawyer, you know two things; one, that it would be hard for any jury to convict Miss Duval of the crime if she says anything at all in her own defence—no matter how slightly extenuating the circumstances might have been. Secondly, if Harrelson’s story is true, it was a clear case of self-defence. Therefore, you see that if either or both is telling the truth all we have to do to clear them is to find out which is which. It is obvious that only one person killed Hamilton; and, according to their stories, either will be cleared. Mind you, I am saying if their stories are true—and always provided that if Miss Duval did it that it was not clear murder!”

“Carroll,” broke in Hall sharply, “that’s horrible! You know——

“I know nothing! I am laying the cards on the table face up for Mr. Denson to play or not, as he sees fit. I tell you this, Denson—I have trusted you this far: no one save you, Mr. Hall, and myself know anything about Badger’s connection with the case. He is the trump card that I am keeping from the police department. I have him under the private surveillance of a member of the force who is a very particular friend of mine, and who can be trusted implicitly to carry out my orders. It would bother me considerably if the police department—meaning Rollins, who is in charge of the case for it—knew of Badger’s story or of his confession. I’ve played straight across the board; are you going to help Mr. Hall and myself, knowing that we’re driving at the strict truth, or are you going to trust to your single wits to clear your clients without help?”

“Give me a minute, Carroll.” The lawyer rose and stepped to the window. For perhaps five minutes he stood motionless. Then he turned on his heel and came back to the table. His hand went out and gripped Carroll’s. “If you and Hall are not on the level, Carroll, then no one is. In some cases a man has to take a chance. I’m taking mine here and now with you. I promise to withhold nothing—however damning it may seem.”

“Good! I expected as much, Mr. Denson. And now let’s sit down and talk this thing over. In the first place, you have never answered my question; did Hamilton dislike Harrelson very keenly?”


“Did he hate him?”

Denson flushed slightly.

“Mr. Hamilton was a man of powerful passions. I believe he did.”

“And you say that Harrelson was a protégé of yours; what was his attitude toward Hamilton?”

“He——” Denson broke off shortly. “Dammit all, sir, I’m trusting you with a great deal of information! However—well, Harrelson is an impulsive, headstrong youth, and he detested Mr. Hamilton.”

“Have you any theories as to the reason?”

“Yes—but they are theories.”

“We would like to know them.”

“Vincent Harrelson is secretly engaged to Miss Duval. He had a wild idea that Mr. Hamilton was in love with her himself, and wished to marry her.”

“I see. And now this: In your opinion, is Vincent Harrelson the type of young man to have shouldered the burden of Miss Duval’s guilt, provided he is convinced that she is guilty of the killing?”

Denson pondered.

“I believe he is, but I am not sure. The boy’s one weakness is a lack of decision. I should say, too, that he has a selfish trait. On the other hand, I would volunteer the opinion that if he had really committed the crime and knew that Miss Duval were suspected he would confess his guilt.”

“Good! That’s fine! You have talked with Miss Duval, haven’t you?”


“Do you believe she shot Hamilton?”

“I can’t answer that—really.”

“Please. I assure you we are as anxious to clear Miss Duval as you can possibly be.”

“I believe you are. Well, foolish as it may be for me to confess it, I really believe Miss Duval shot Mr. Hamilton!

There was a long silence, punctured only by the insistent ticking of the clock. Denson mopped a perspiring forehead.

“I’ve never done such a damnably fool thing in my life!” he burst out. “It—it’s—unprofessional, unethical. Miss Duval is my client. Mr. Harrelson is my friend as well as my client. And——

“We are your friends, too,” said Hall softly. “We must get at the truth some way—you know that we will. The confession of either is all that a court needs. You are simply expediting matters.”

Here Carroll broke in again:

“I want you to do something, Mr. Denson—to show you how we trust your alliance with us. Miss Duval knows nothing about Hartigan’s implication in the case. Go to her and tell her that we have the man who committed the crime. Tell her that he is a notorious burglar who fired from behind the Japanese screen in the living room; that the circumstantial evidence is sufficient to send him to the electric chair. Ask her whether she will not, in view of these new developments, withdraw her confession.”

“That’s white!” said Denson simply and left the room. For the following ten minutes Carroll smoked in silence. And then the door opened and Denson re-entered. He looked harried and worn.


“She said,” replied Denson slowly, “that she doesn’t care anything about Red Hartigan or any one else. She insists that she killed Mr. Hamilton!”