The Achievements of Luther Trant/The Eleventh Hour
THE ELEVENTH HOUR
On the third Sunday in March the thermometer dropped suddenly in Chicago a little after ten in the evening. A roaring storm of mingled rain and snow, driven by a riotous wind—wild even for the Great Lakes in winter—changed suddenly to sleet, which lay in liquid slush upon the walks. At twenty minutes past the hour, sleet and slush had both begun to freeze. Mr. Luther Trant, hastening on foot back to his rooms at his club from north of the river where he had been taking tea, observed—casually, as he observed many things—that the soft mess underfoot had coated with tough, rubbery ice, through which the heels of his shoes crunched at every step while his toes left almost no mark.
But he noted this then only as a hindrance to his haste. He had been taking the day "off" away from both his office and his club; but fifteen minutes before, he had called up the club for the first time that day and had learned that a woman—a wildly terrified and anxious woman—had been inquiring for him at intervals during the day over the telephone, and that a special delivery letter from the same source had been awaiting him since six o'clock. The psychologist, suddenly stricken with a sense of guilt and dereliction, had not waited for a cab.
As he hurried down Michigan Avenue now, he was considering how affairs had changed with him in the last six months. Then he had been a callow assistant in a psychological laboratory. The very professor whom he had served had smiled amusedly, almost derisively, when he had declared his belief in his own powers to apply the necromancy of the new psychology to the detection of crime. But the delicate instruments of the laboratory—the chronoscopes, kymographs, plethysmographs, which made visible and recorded unerringly, unfalteringly, the most secret emotions of the heart and the hidden workings of the brain; the experimental investigations of Freud and Jung, of the German and French scientists, of Munsterberg and others in America—had fired him with the belief in them and in himself. In the face of misunderstanding and derision, he had tried to trace the criminal, not by the world-old method of the marks he had left on things, but by the evidences which the crime had left on the mind of the criminal himself. And so well had he succeeded that now he could not leave his club even on a Sunday, without disappointing somewhere, in the great-pulsating city, an appeal to him for help in trouble. But as he turned at the corner into the entrance of the club, he put aside this thought and faced the doorman.
"Has she called again?"
"The last time, sir, was at nine o'clock. She wanted to know if you had received the note, and said you were to have it as soon as you came in."
The man handed it out—a plain, coarse envelope, with the red two-cent and the blue special delivery stamp stuck askew above an uneven line of great, unsteady characters addressing the envelope to Trant at the club. Within it, ten lines spread this wild appeal across the paper:
"If Mr. Trant will do—for some one unknown to him—the greatest possible service—to save perhaps a life—a life! I beg him to come to —— Ashland Avenue between seven and nine o'clock to-night! Eleven! For God's sake come—between seven and nine! Later will be too late. Eleven! I tell you it may be worse than useless to come after eleven! So for God's sake—if you are human—help me! You will be expected.
The psychologist glanced at his watch swiftly. It was already twenty-five minutes to eleven!
Besides the panic expressed by the writing itself, the broken sentences, the reiterated appeal, most of all the strange and disconnected recurrence three times in the few short lines of the word eleven—which plainly pointed to that hour as the last at which help might avail—the characters themselves, which were the same as those on the envelope, confirmed the psychologist's first impression that the note was written by a man, a young man, too, despite the havoc that fear and nervelessness had played with him.
"You're sure it was a woman's voice on the phone?" he asked quickly.
"Yes, sir; and she seemed a lady."
Trant hastily picked up the telephone on the desk; "Hello! Is this the West End Police Station? This is Mr. Trant. Can you send a plain-clothes man and a patrolman at once to —— Ashland Avenue? . . . No; I don't know what the trouble is, but I understand it is a matter of life and death; that's why I want to have help at hand if I need it. Let me know who you are sending."
He stood impatiently tapping one heel against the other, while he waited for the matter to be adjusted at the police station, then swung back to receive the name of the detective: "Yes. . . . You are sending Detective Siler? Because he knows the house? . . . Oh, there has been trouble there before? . . . I see. . . . Tell him to hurry. I will try and get there myself before eleven."
He dashed the receiver back on to the hook, caught his coat collar close again and ran swiftly to claim a taxicab which was just bringing another member up to the club.
The streets were all but empty; and into the stiffening ice the chains on the tires of the driving wheels bit sharply; so it still lacked ten minutes of the hour, as Trant assured himself by another quick glance at his watch, when the chauffeur checked the motor short before the given number on Ashland Avenue, and the psychologist jumped out.
The vacant street, and the one dim light on the first floor of the old house, told Trant the police had not yet arrived.
The porticoed front and the battered fountain with cupids, which rose obscurely from the ice-crusted sod of the narrow lawn at its side, showed an attempt at fashion. In the rear, as well as Trant could see it in the indistinct glare of the street lamps, the building seemed to fall away into a single rambling story.
As the psychologist rang the bell and was admitted, he saw at once that he had not been mistaken in believing that the cab which had passed his motor only an instant before had come from the same house; for the mild-eyed, white-haired little man, who opened the door almost before the bell had stopped ringing, had not yet taken off his overcoat. Behind him, in the dim light of a shaded lamp, an equally placid, white-haired little woman was laying off her wraps; and their gentle faces were so completely at variance with the wild terror of the note that Trant now held between his fingers in his pocket, that he hesitated before he asked his question:
"Is W. Newberry here?"
"I am the Reverend Wesley Newberry," the little man answered. "I am no longer in the active service of the Lord; but if it is a case of immediate necessity and I can be of use—"
"No, no!" Trant checked him. "I have not come to ask your service as a minister, Mr. Newberry. I am Luther Trant. But I see I must explain," the psychologist continued, at first nonplused by the little man's stare of perplexity, which showed no recognition of the name, and then flushing with the sudden suspicion that followed. "To-night when I returned to my club at half-past ten, I was informed that a woman—apparently in great anxiety—had been trying to catch me all day; and had finally referred me to this special delivery letter which was delivered for me at six o'clock." Trant extended it to the staring little minister. "Of course, I can see now that both telephone calls and note may have been a hoax; but—in Heaven's name! What is the matter, Mr. Newberry?"
The two old people had taken the note between them. Now the little woman, her wraps only half removed, had dropped, shaking and pale, into the nearest chair. The little man had lost his placidity and was shuddering in uncontrolled fear. He seemed to shrink away; but stiffened bravely.
"A hoax? I fear not, Mr. Trant!" The man gathered himself together. "This note is not from me; but it is, I must not deceive myself, undoubtedly from our son Walter—Walter Newberry. This writing, though broken beyond anything I have seen from him in his worst dissipations is undoubtedly his. Yet Walter is not here, Mr. Trant! I mean—I mean, he should not be here! There have been reasons—we have not seen or heard of Walter for two months. He can not be here now—surely he can not be here now, unless—unless—my wife and I went to a friend's this evening; this is as though the writer had known we were going out! We left at half-past six and have only just returned. Oh, it is impossible that Walter could have come here! But Martha, we have not seen Adele!" The livid terror grew stronger on his rosy, simple face as he turned to his wife. "We have not seen Adele, Martha, since we came in! And this gentleman tells us that a woman in great trouble was sending for him. If Walter had been here—be strong, Martha; be strong! But come—let us look together!"
He had turned, with no further word of explanation, and pattered excitedly to the stairs, followed by his wife and Trant.
"Adele! Adele!" the old man cried anxiously, knocking at the door nearest the head of the stairs; and when he received no answer, he flung the door open.
"Dreadful! Dreadful!" he wrung his hands, while his wife sank weakly down upon the upper step, as she saw the room was empty. "There is something very wrong here, Mr. Trant! This is the bedroom of my daughter-in-law, Walter's wife. She should be here, at this hour! My son and his wife are separated and do not live together. My son, who has been unprincipled and uncontrollable from his childhood up, made a climax to his career of dissipation two months ago by threatening the life of his wife because she refused—because she found it impossible to live longer with him. It was a most painful affair; the police were even called in. We forbade Walter the house. So if she called to you because he was threatening her again, and he returned here to-night to carry out his threat, then Adele—Adele was indeed in danger!"
"But why should he have written me that note?" Trant returned crisply. "However—if we believe the note at all—there is surely now no time to lose, Mr. Newberry. We must search the entire house at once and make sure, at least, that Mrs. Walter Newberry is not in some other part of it!"
"You are right—quite right!" the little man pattered rapidly from door to door, throwing the rooms open to the impatient scrutiny of the psychologist; and while they were still engaged in this search upon the upper floor, a tall clock on the landing of the stairs struck eleven!
So strongly had the warning of the note impressed Trant that, at the signal of the hour, he stopped short; the others, seeing him, stopped too, and stared at him with blanched faces, while all three apprehensively strained their ears for some sound which might mark the note's fulfillment. And scarcely had the last deep stroke of the hour ceased to resound in the hall, when suddenly, sharply, and without other warning, a revolver shot rang out, followed so swiftly by three others that the four reports rang almost as one through the silent house. The little woman screamed and seized her husband's arm. His hand, in turn, hung upon Trant. The psychologist, turning his head to be surer of the direction of the sound, for an instant more stared indecisively; for though the shots were plainly inside the house, the echoes made it impossible to locate them exactly. But almost immediately a fifth shot, seeming louder and more distinct in its separateness, startled them again.
"It is in the billiard room!" the wife shrieked, with a woman's quicker location of indoor sounds.
The little minister ran to seize the lamp, as Trant turned toward the rear of the house. The woman started with them; but at that instant the doorbell rang furiously; and the woman stopped in trembling confusion. The psychologist pushed her husband on, however; and taking the lamp from the elder man's shaking hand, he now led Newberry into the one-story addition which formed the back part of the house. Here he found that the L shaped passage into which they ran, opened at one end apparently on to a side porch. Newberry, now taking the lead, hurried down the other branch of the passage past a door which was plainly that of a kitchen, came to another further down the passage, tried it, and recoiled in fresh bewilderment to find it locked.
"It is never locked—never! Something dreadful must have been happening in here!" he wrung his hands again weakly.
"We must break it down then!" Trant drew the little man aside, and, bracing himself against the opposite wall, threw his shoulder against it once—twice, and even a third time, ineffectually, till a uniformed patrolman, and another man in plain clothes, coming after them with Mrs. Newberry, added their weight to Trant's, and the door crashed open.
A blast of air from the outside storm instantly blew out both the lamp in Trant's hand and another which had been burning in the room. The woman screamed and threw herself toward some object on the floor which the flare of the failing lights had momentarily revealed; but her husband caught in the darkness at her wrist and drew her to him. Siler and the patrolman, swearing softly, felt for matches and tried vainly in the draft to relight the lamp which Trant had thrust upon the table; for the psychologist had dashed to the window which was letting in the outside storm, stared out, then closed it and returned to light the lamp, which belonged in the room, as the plain-clothes man now lit the other.
This room which Mrs. Newberry had called the billiard room, he saw then, was now used only for storage purposes and was littered with the old rubbish which accumulates in every house; but the arrangement of the discarded furniture showed plainly the room had recently been fitted for occupancy as well as its means allowed. That the occupant had taken care to conceal himself, heavy sheets of brown paper pasted over the panes of all the windows—including that which Trant had found open—testified; that the occupant had been well tended, a full tray of food—practically untouched—and the stubs of at least a hundred cigarettes flung in the fireplace, made plain. These things Trant appreciated only after the first swift glance which showed him a huddled figure with its head half under a musty lounge which stood furthest from the window. It was not the body of a woman, but that of a man not yet thirty, whose rather handsome face was marred by deep lines of dissipation. The mother's shuddering cry of recognition had showed that this was Walter Newberry.
Trant knelt beside the officers working over the body; the blood had been flowing from a bullet wound in the temple, but it had ceased to flow. A small, silver-mounted automatic revolver, such as had been recently widely advertised for the protection of women, lay on the floor close by, with the shells which had been ejected as it was fired. The psychologist straightened.
"We have come too late," he said simply to the father. "It was necessary, as he foresaw, to get here before eleven, if we were to help him; for he is dead. And now—" he checked himself, as the little woman clutched her husband and buried her face in his sleeve, and the little man stared up at him with a chalky face—"it will be better for you to wait somewhere else till we are through here."
"In the name of mercy, Mr. Trant!" Newberry cried miserably, as the psychologist picked up a lamp and lighted the two old people into the hall, "what is this terrible thing that has happened here? What is it—Oh, what is it, Mr. Trant? And where—where is Adele?"
"I am here, father; I am here!" a new voice broke clearly and calmly through the confusion, and the light of Trant's lamp fell on a slight but stately girl advancing down the hallway. "And you," she said as composedly to the psychologist, though Trant could see now that her self-possession was belied by the nervous picking of her fingers at her dress and her paleness, which grew greater as she met his eyes, "are Mr. Trant—and you came too late!"
"You are—Mrs. Walter Newberry?" Trant returned. "You were the one who was calling me up this morning and this afternoon?"
"Yes," she said. "I was his wife. So he is dead!"
She took no heed of the quick glance Trant flashed to assure himself that she spoke in this way before she could have seen the body from her place in the hall; and she turned calmly still to the old man who was clinging to her crying nervously now, "Adele! Adele! Adele!"
"Yes, dear father and dear mother!" she began compassionately. "Walter came back—" she broke off suddenly; and Trant saw her grow pale as death with staring eyes fixed over his shoulder on Siler, who had come to the doorway. "You—you brought the police, Mr. Trant! I—I thought you had nothing to do with the police!"
"Never mind that," the plain-clothes man checked Trant's answer. "You were saying your husband came home, Mrs. Newberry—then what?"
"Then—but that is all I know; I know nothing whatever about it."
"Your shoes and skirt are wet, Mrs. Newberry," the plain-clothes man pointed significantly.
"I—I heard the shots!" she caught herself up with admirable self-control. "That was all. I ran over to the neighbors' for help; but I could get no one."
"Then you'll have a chance to make your statement later," Siler answered in a business-like way. "Just now you'd better look after your father and mother."
He took the lamp from Trant and held it to light them down the hall, then turned swiftly to the patrolman: "She is going upstairs with them; watch the front stairs and see that she does not go out. If she comes down the back stairs we can see her."
As the patrolman went out, the plain-clothes man turned back into the room, leaving the door ajar so that the rear stairs were visible. "These husband and wife cases, Mr. Trant," he said easily. "You think—and the man thinks, too—the woman will stand everything; and she does—till he does one more thing too much, and, all of a sudden, she lets him have it!"
"Don't you think it's a bit premature," the psychologist suggested, "to assume that she killed him?"
"Didn't you see how she shut up when she saw me?" Siler's eyes met Trant's with a flash of opposition. "That was because she recognized me and knew that, having been here last time there was trouble, I knew that he had been threatening her. It's a cinch! Regular minister's son, he was; the old man's a missionary, you know; spent his life till two years ago trying to turn Chinese heathens into Christians. And this Walter—our station blotter'd be black with his doings; only, ever since he made China too hot to hold him and the old man brought him back here, everything's been hushed up on the old man's account. But I happen to have been here before; and all winter I've known there'd be a killing if he ever came back. Hell! I tell you it was a relief to me to see it was him on the floor when that door went down. There are no powder marks, you see," the officer led Trant's eyes back to the wound in the head of the form beside the lounge. "He could not have shot himself. He was shot from further off than he could reach. Besides, it's on the left side."
"Yes; I saw," Trant replied.
"And that little automatic gun," the officer stooped now and picked up the pistol that lay on the floor beside the body, "is hers. I saw it the last time I was called in here."
"But how could he have known—if she shot him—that she was going to kill him just at eleven?" Trant objected, pulling from his pocket the note, which old Mr. Newberry had returned to him, and handing it to Siler. "He sent that to me; at least, the father says it is in his handwriting."
"You mean," Siler's eyes rose slowly from the paper, "that she must have told him what she was going to do—premeditated murder?"
"I mean that the first fact which we have—and which certainly seems to me wholly incompatible with anything which you have suggested so far—is that Walter Newberry foresaw his own death and set the hour of its accomplishment; and that his wife—it is plain at least to me—when she telephoned so often for me to-day, was trying to help him to escape from it. Now what are the other facts? "Trant went on rapidly, paying no attention to the obstinate glance in the eyes of the officer. "I distinctly heard five shots—four together and then, after a second or so, one. You heard five?"
"And five shots," the psychologist's quick glances had been taking in the finer details of the room, "are accounted for by the bullet holes—one through the lower pane of the window I found open, which shows it was down and closed during the shooting, as there is no break in the upper half; one on the plaster there to the side; one under the moulding there four feet to the right; and one more, in the plaster almost as far to the left. The one that killed him makes five."
"Exactly!" Siler followed Trant's indication triumphantly, "the fifth in his head! The first four went off in their struggle; and then she got away and, with the fifth, shot him."
"But the shells," Trant continued; "for that sort of revolver ejects the shells as they are fired—and I see only four. Where is the fifth?"
"You're trying to fog this thing all up, Mr. Trant."
"No; I'm trying to clear it. How could anyone have left the room after the firing of the last shot? No one could have gone through the door and not been seen by us in the hall; besides the door was bolted on the inside," Trant pointed to the two bolts. "No one could have left except by the window—this window which was open when we came in, but which must have been closed when one, at least, of the shots was being fired. You remember I went at once to it and looked out, but saw nothing."
Trant re-crossed the room swiftly and threw the window open, intently re-examining it. On the outside it was barred with a heavy grating, but he saw that the key to the grating was in the lock.
"Bring the lamp," he said to the plain-clothes man; and as Siler screened the flame against the wind—"Ah!" he continued, "look at the ice cracked from it there—it must have been swung open. He must have gone out this way!"
"He?" Siler repeated.
The plain-clothes man had squeezed past Trant, as the grating swung back, and lamp in hand had let himself easily down to the walk below the window, and was holding his light, shielded, just above the ground. "It was she," he cried triumphantly—"the woman, as I told you! Look at her marks here!" He showed by the flickering light the double, sharp little semi-circles of a woman's high heels cut into the ice; and, as Trant dropped down beside him, the police detective followed the sharp little heel marks to the side door of the house, where they turned and led into the kitchen entry.
"Premature, was I—eh?" Siler triumphed laconically. "We are used to these cases, Mr. Trant; we know what to expect in 'em."
Trant stood for an instant studying the sheet of ice. In this sheltered spot, freezing had not progressed so fast as in the open streets. Here, as an hour before on Michigan Avenue, he saw that his heels and those of the police officer at every step cut through the crust, while their toes left no mark. But except for the marks they themselves had made and the crescent stamp of the woman's high heels leading in sharp, clear outline from the window to the side steps of the house, there were no other imprints. Then he followed the detective into the side door of the house.
In the passage they met the patrolman. "She came down stairs just now," said that officer briskly, "and went in here."
Siler laid his hand on the door of the little sitting-room the patrolman indicated, but turned to speak a terse command to the man over his shoulder: "Go back to that room and see that things are kept as they are. Look for the fifth shell. We got four; find the other!"
Then, with a warning glance at Trant, he pushed the door open.
The girl faced the two calmly as they entered; but the whiteness of her lips showed Trant, with swift appreciation, that she could bear no more and was reaching the end of her restraint.
"You've had a little while to think this over, Mrs. Newberry," the plain-clothes man said, not unkindly, "and I guess you've seen it's best to make a clean breast of it. Mr. Walter Newberry has been in that room quite a while—the room shows it—though his father and mother seem not to have known about it."
"He"—she hesitated, then answered suddenly and collectively, "he had been there six days."
"You started to tell us about it," Trant helped her. "You said 'Walter came home'—but, what brought him here? Did he come to see you?"
"No;" the girl's pale cheeks suddenly burned blood red and went white again, as she made her decision. "It was fear—deadly fear that drove him here; but I do not know of what."
"You are going to tell us all you know, are you not, Mrs. Newberry?" the psychologist urged quietly—"how he came here; and particularly how both he and you could so foresee his death that you summoned me as you did!"
"Yes; yes—I will tell you," the girl clenched and unclenched her hands, as she gathered herself together. "Six nights ago, Monday night, Mr. Trant, Walter came here. It was after midnight, and he did not ring the bell, but waked me by throwing pieces of ice and frozen sod against my window. I saw at once that something was the matter with him; so I went down and talked to him through the closed door—the side door here; for I was afraid at first to let him in, in spite of his promises not to hurt me. He told me his very life was in danger—and he had no other place to go; and he must hide here—hide; and I must not let anyone—even his mother or father—know he had come back; that I was the only one he could trust! So—he was my husband—and I let him in!
"I started to run from him, when I had opened the door; for I was afraid—afraid; but he ran at once into the old billiard-room—the store room there—and tried the locks of the door and the window gratings," the sensitive voice ran on rapidly, "and then threw himself all sweating cold on the lounge there, and went to sleep in a stupor. I thought at first it was another frenzy from whiskey or—or opium. And I stayed there. But just at morning when he woke up, I saw it wasn't that—but it was fear—fear—fear, such as I'd never seen before. He rolled off the couch and half hid under it till I'd pasted brown paper over the window panes—there were no curtains. But he wouldn't tell me what he was afraid of.
"He got so much worse as the days went by that he couldn't sleep at all; he walked the floor all the time and he smoked continually, so that nearly every day I had to slip out and get him cigarettes. He got more and more afraid of every noise outside and of every little sound within; and it made him so much worse when I told him I had to tell someone else—even his mother—that I didn't dare to. He said other people were sure to find out that he was there, then, and they would kill him—kill him! He was always worst at eleven—eleven o'clock at night; and he dreaded especially eleven o'clock Sunday night—though I couldn't find out what or why!
"I gave him my pistol—the one—the one you saw on the floor in there. It was Friday then; and he had been getting worse and worse all the time. Eleven o'clock every night I managed to be with him; and no one found us out. I was glad I gave him the pistol until this—until this morning. I never thought till then that he might use it to kill himself; but this morning—Sunday morning, when I came to him, he was talking about it—denying it; but I saw it was in his mind! 'I shan't shoot myself!' I heard him saying over and over again, when I came to the door. 'They can't make me shoot myself! I shan't! I shan't!'—over and over, like that. And when he had let me in and I saw him, then I knew—I knew he meant to do it! He asked me if it wasn't Sunday; and went whiter when I told him it was! So then I told him he had to trust someone now; this couldn't go on; and I spoke to him about Mr. Trant; and he said he'd try him; and he wrote the letter I mailed you—special delivery—so you could come when his father and mother were out—but he never once let go my pistol; he was wild—wild with fear. Every time I could get away to the telephone, I tried to get Mr. Trant; and the last time I got back—it was awful! It was hardly ten, but he was walking up and down with my pistol in his hand, whispering strange things over and over to himself, saying most of anything, 'No one can make me do it! No one can make me do it—even when it's eleven—even when it's eleven!'—and staring—staring at his watch which he'd taken out and laid on the table; staring and staring so—so that I knew I must get someone before eleven—and at last I was running next door for help—for anyone—for anything when—when I heard the shots—I heard the shots!"
She sank forward and buried her face in her hands; rent by tearless sobs. Her fingers, white from the pressure, made long marks on her cheeks, showing livid even in the pallor of her face. But Siler pursed his lips toward Trant, and laid his hand upon her arm, sternly.
"Steady, steady, Mrs. Newberry!" the plainclothes man warned. "You can not do that now! You say you were with your husband a moment before the shooting, but you were not in the room when he was killed?"
"Yes; yes!" the woman cried.
"You went out the door the last time?"
"The door? Yes; yes; of course the door! Why not the door?"
"Because, Mrs. Newberry," the detective replied impressively, "just at, or a moment after, the time of the shooting, a woman left that room by the window—unlocked the grating and went out the window. We have seen her marks. And you were that woman, Mrs. Newberry!"
The girl gasped and her eyes wavered to Trant; but seeing no help there now, she recovered herself quickly.
"Of course! Why, of course!" she cried. "The last time I went out, I did go out the window! It was to get the neighbors—didn't I tell you? So I went out the window!"
"Yes; we know you went out the window, Mrs. Newberry," Siler responded mercilessly. "But we know, too, you did not even start for the neighbors. We have traced your tracks on the ice straight to the side door and into the house! Now, Mrs. Newberry, you've tried to make us believe that your husband killed himself. But that won't do! Isn't it a little too strange, if you left by the window while your husband was still alive, that he let the window stay open and the grating unlocked? Yes; it's altogether too strange. You left him dead; and what we want to know—and I'm asking you straight out—is how you did it?"
"How I did it?" the girl repeated mechanically; then with sharp agony and starting eyes: "How I did it! Oh, no, no, I did not do it! I was there—I have not told all the truth! But when I saw you," her horrified gaze resting on Siler, "and remembered you had been here before when he—he threatened me, my only thought was to hide for his sake and for theirs," she indicated the room above, where she had taken her husband's parents, "that he had tried to carry out his threat. For before he killed himself, he tried to kill me! That's how he fired those first four shots. He tried to kill me first!"
"Well, we're getting nearer to it," Siler approved.
"Yes; now I have told you all!" the girl cried. "Oh, I have now—I have! The last time he let me in, it was almost eleven eleven! He had my pistol in his hand, waiting—waiting! And at last he cried out it was eleven; and he raised the pistol and shot straight at me—with the face—the face of a demon with fear. It was no use to try to speak to him, or to get away; I fell on my knees before him, just as he shot at me again and again—aiming straight, not at my eyes, but at my hair; and he shot again! But again he missed me; and his face—his face was so terrible that—that I covered my own face as he aimed at me again, staring always at my hair. And that time, when he shot, I heard him fall and saw—saw that he had shot himself and he was dead!
"Then I heard your footsteps coming to the door; and I saw for the first time that Walter had opened the window before I came in. And—all without thinking of anything except that if I was found there everybody would know he'd tried to kill me, I took up the key of the grating from the table where he had laid it, and went out!"
"I can't force you to confess, if you will not, Mrs. Newberry," Siler said meaningly, "though no jury, after they learned how he had threatened you, would convict you if you pleaded self-defense. We know he didn't kill himself; for he couldn't have fired that shot! And the case is complete, I think," the detective shot a finally triumphant glance at Trant, "unless Mr. Trant wants to ask you something more."
"I do!" Trant quietly spoke for the first time. "I want to ask Mrs. Newberry—since she did not actually see her husband fire the last shot that killed him—whether she was directly facing him as she knelt. It is most essential to know whether or not her head was turned to one side."
"Why, what do you mean, Mr. Trant?" the girl looked up wonderingly; for his tone seemed to promise he was coming to her defense.
"Suppose he might have shot himself before her, as she says—what's the difference whether she heard him with her head straight or her head turned?" the police detective demanded sneeringly.
"A fundamental difference in this case, Siler," Trant replied, "if taken in connection with that other most important factor of all—that Walter Newberry foretold the hour of his own death. But answer me, Mrs. Newberry—if you can be certain."
"I—certainly I can never forget how I crouched there with every muscle strained. I was directly facing him," the girl answered.
"That is very important!" The psychologist took a rapid turn or two up and down the room. "Now you told us that your husband, during the days he was shut up in that room, talked to himself almost continuously. Toward the end, you say, he repeated over and over again such sentences as 'No one can make me do it!' Can you remember any others?"
"I couldn't make much out of anything else, Mr. Trant," the girl replied, after thinking an instant. "He seemed to have hallucinations so much of the time."
"Yes; he seemed to think I was singing to him—as I used to sing to him, you know, when we were first married—and he would catch hold of me and say, 'Don't—don't—don't sing!' Or at other times he would clutch me and tell me to sing low sing low!"
"Nothing else even so sensible as that," the girl responded. "Many things he said made me think he had lost his mind. He would often stare at me in an absorbed way, looking me over from head to foot, and say, '"here; if anyone asks you—anyone at all—whether your mother had large or small feet, say small—never admit she had large feet, or you'll never get in. Do you understand?
"What?" The psychologist stood for several moments in deep thought; then his eyes flashed suddenly with excitement. "What!" he cried again, clutching the chair-back as he leaned toward her. "He said that to you when he was absorbed?"
"A dozen times at least, Mr. Trant," the girl replied, staring at him in startled wonder.
"Remarkable! Yes; this is extraordinary!" Trant strode up and down excitedly. "Nobody could have hoped for so fortunate a confirmation of the evidence in this remarkable case. We knew that Walter Newberry foresaw his own death; now we actually get from him himself, the key—the possibly complete explanation of his danger—"
"Explanation!" shouted the police detective. "I've heard no explanation! You're throwing an impressive bluff, Mr. Trant; but I've heard nothing yet to make me doubt that Newberry met his death at the hands of his wife; and I'll arrest her for his murder!"
"I can't prevent your arresting Mrs. Newberry," Trant swung to look the police officer between the eyes hotly. "But I can tell you—if you care to hear it—how Walter Newberry died! He was not shot by his wife; he did not die by his own hand, as she believes and has told you. The fifth shot—you have not found the fifth shell yet, Siler; and you will not find it, for it was not fired either by Walter Newberry or his wife. As she knelt, blinding her eyes as she faced her husband, Mrs. Newberry could not know whether the fifth shot sounded in front or behind her. If her head was not turned to one side, as she says it was not, then—and this is a simple psychological fact, Siler, though it seems to be unknown to you—it would be impossible for her to distinguish between sounds directly ahead and directly behind. It was not at her—at her hair—that her husband fired the four shots whose empty shells we found, but over her head at the window directly behind her. And it was through this just opened window that the fifth shot came and killed him—the shot at eleven o'clock—which he had foreseen and dreaded!"
"You must think I'm easy, Mr. Trant," said the police officer derisively. "You can't clear her by dragging into this business some third person who never existed. For there were no marks, and marks would have been left by anybody who came to the window!"
"Marks!" Trant echoed. "If you mean marks on the window-sill and floor, I cannot show you any. But the murderer did leave, of course, one mark which in the end will probably prove final, even to you, Siler. The shell of the fifth shot is missing because he carried it away in his revolver. But the bullet—it will be a most remarkable coincidence, Siler, if you find that the bullet which killed young Newberry was the same as the four we know were shot from his wife's little automatic revolver!"
"But the ice—the ice under the window!" shouted the detective. "You saw for yourself how her heels and ours cut through the crust; and you saw that there were no other heel marks, as there must have been if anyone had stood outside the window to look through it, or to fire through it, as you say!"
"When you have reached the point, Siler," said Trant, more quietly, "where you can think of some class of men who would have left no heel marks but who could have produced the effect on young Newberry's mind which his wife has described, you will have gone far toward the discovery of the real murderer of Walter Newberry. In the meantime, I have clews enough; and I hope to find help, which cannot be given me by the city police, to enable me to bring the murderer to justice. I will ask you, Mrs. Newberry," he glanced toward the girl, "to let me have a photograph of your husband, or"—he hesitated, unable to tell from her manner whether she had heard him—"I will stop on my way out to ask his photograph from his father."
He glanced once more from the detective to the pale girl, who, since she received notice of her arrest, had stood as though cut from marble, with small hands tightly clenched and blind eyes fixed on vacancy; then he left them.
The next morning's papers, which carried startling headlines of the murder of Walter Newberry, brought Police Detective Siler a feeling of satisfaction with his own work. The detective, it is true, had been made a little doubtful of his own assumptions by Trant's confident suggestion of a third person as the murderer. But he was reassured by the newspaper accounts, though they contained merely an elaboration of his own theory of an attack by the missionary's dissipated son on his wife and her shooting him in self-defense, which Siler had successfully impressed not only on the police but on the reporters as well.
Even the discovery on the second morning that the bullet which had now been taken from young Newberry's body was of .38 calibre and, as Trant had predicted, not at all similar to the steel .32 calibre bullets shot by the little automatic pistol which had belonged to young Mrs. Newberry, did not disturb the police officer's self-confidence, though it obviously weakened the case against the wife. And when, on the day following, Siler received orders to report at an hour when he was not ordinarily on duty at the West End Police Station, where Mrs. Newberry was still held under arrest, he pushed open, with an air of importance, the door of the captain's room, to which the sharp nod of the desk sergeant had directed him.
The detective's first glance showed him the room's three occupants—the huge figure of Division Inspector of Police Walker, lolling in the chair before the captain's desk; a slight, dark man—unknown to Siler—near the window; and Luther Trant at the end of the room busy arranging a somewhat complicated apparatus.
Trant, with a short nod of greeting, at once called Siler to his aid.
With the detective's half-suspicious, half-respectful assistance, the psychologist stretched across the end of the room a white sheet about ten feet long, three feet high, and divided into ten rectangles by nine vertical lines. Opposite this, and upon a table about ten feet away, he set up a small electrical contrivance, consisting of two magnets and wire coils supporting a small, round mirror about an inch in diameter and so delicately set upon an axis that it turned at the slightest current coming to the coils below it. In front of this little mirror Trant placed a shaded electric lamp in such a position that its light was reflected from the mirror upon the sheet at the end of the room. Then he put down a carbon plate and a zinc plate at the edge of the table; set a single cell battery under the table; connected the battery with the coils controlling the mirror, and connected them also with the zinc and carbon plates.
"I suppose," Siler burst out finally with growing curiosity which even the presence of the inspector could not restrain, "I haven't got any business to ask what all this machinery is for?"
"I was about to explain," Trant answered.
The psychologist rested his hands lightly on the plates upon the table; and, as he did so, a slight and, in fact, imperceptible current passed through him from the battery; but it was enough to slightly move the light reflected upon the screen.
"This apparatus," the psychologist continued, as he saw even Walker stare strangely at this result, "is the newest electric psychometer—or 'the soul machine,' as it is already becoming popularly known. It is made after the models of Dr. Peterson, of Columbia University, and of the Swiss psychologist Jung, of Zurich, and is probably the most delicate and efficient instrument there is for detecting and registering human emotion—such as anxiety, fear, and the sense of guilt. Like the galvanometer which you saw me use to catch Caylis, the Bronson murderer, in the first case where I worked with the police, Inspector Walker," the psychologist turned to his tall friend, "this psychometer—which is really an improved and much more spectacular galvanometer—is already in use by physicians to get the truth from patients when they don't want to tell it. No man can control the automatic reflexes which this apparatus was particularly designed to register when the subject is examined with his hands merely resting upon these two plates! As you see," he placed his hands in the test position again, "these are arranged so that the very slight current passing through my arms—so slight that I cannot feel it at all—moves that mirror and swings the reflected light upon the screen according to the amount of current coming through me. As you see now, the light stays almost steady in the center of the screen, because the amount of current coming through me is very slight, as I am not under any stress or emotion of any sort. But if I were confronted suddenly with an object to arouse fear—if, for instance, it reminded me of a crime I was trying to conceal—I might be able to control every other evidence of my fright, but I could not control the involuntary sweating of my glands and the automatic changes in the blood pressure which allow the electric current to flow more freely through me. The light would then register immediately the amount of my emotion by the distance it swung along the screen. But I will give you a much more perfect demonstration of the instrument," the psychologist concluded, while all three examined it with varying degrees of interest and respect, "during the next half hour while I am making the test that I have planned to determine the murderer of Walter Newberry."
"You mean," cried Siler, "you are going to test the woman?"
"I might have thought it necessary to test Mrs. Newberry," Trant answered, "if the evidence at the house of the presence of a third person who was the murderer had not been so plain as to make any test of her useless."
"Then you—you still stick to that?" Siler demanded derisively.
"Thanks to Mr. Ferris, who is a special agent of the United States government," Trant motioned to the slight, dark man who was the fourth member of the party, "I have been able to fix upon four men, one of whom, I feel absolutely certain, shot and killed young Newberry through the window of the billiard-room that night. Inspector Walker has had all four arrested and brought here. Mr. Ferris's experience and thorough knowledge enabled me to lay my hands on them much more easily than I had feared, though I was able to go to him with information which would have made their detection almost certain sooner or later."
"You mean information you got at the house?" asked Siler, less derisively, as he caught the attentive attitude of the inspector.
"Just so, Siler; and it was as much at your disposal as mine," Trant replied. "It seemed to mean nothing to you that Walter Newberry knew the hour at which he was to die—which made it seem more like an execution than a murder; or that in his terror he raved that 'he would not do it—that they could not make him do it'—plainly meaning commit suicide. Perhaps you don't know that it is an Oriental custom, under certain conditions, to allow a man who has been sentenced to death, the alternative of carrying out the decree upon himself before a certain day and hour that has been decided upon. But certainly his ravings, as told us by his wife, ought to have given you a clew, if you had heard only that sentence which she believed an injunction not to sing loudly, but which was in reality a name—Sing!"
"Then—it was a Chinaman!" cried Siler, astounded.
"It could hardly have been any other sort of man, Siler. For there is no other to whom it could be commended as a matter of such vital importance whether his mother had small feet or large, as was shown in the other sentence Mrs. Newberry repeated to us. But to a Chinaman that fact is of prime importance; for it indicates whether he is of low birth, when his mother would have had large feet, or of high, in which case his women of the last generation would have had their feet bound and made artificially smaller. It was that sentence that sent me to Mr. Ferris."
"I see—I see!" exclaimed the crest-fallen detective. "But if it was a Chinaman, then, even with that thing," he pointed to the instrument Trant had just finished arranging, "you'll never get the truth out of him. You can't get anything out of a Chinaman! Inspector Walker will tell you that!"
"I know, Siler," Trant answered, "that it is absolutely hopeless to expect a confession from a Chinaman; they are so accustomed to control the obvious signs of fear, guilt, the slightest trace or hint of emotion, even under the most rigid examination, that it had come to be regarded as a characteristic of the race. But the new psychology does not deal with those obvious signs; it deals with the involuntary reactions in the blood and glands which are common to all men alike—even to Chinamen! We have in here," the psychologist looked to the door of an inner room, "the four Chinamen—Wong Bo, Billy Lee, Sing Lo, and Sin Chung Ming.
"My first test is to see which of them—if any—were acquainted with Walter Newberry; and next who, if any of them, knew where he lived. For this purpose I have brought here Newberry's photograph and a view of his father's house, which I had taken yesterday." He stooped to one of his suit-cases, and took out first a dozen photographs of young men, among them Newberry's; and about twenty views of different houses, among which he mixed the one of the Newberry house. "If you are ready, inspector, I will go ahead with the test."
The psychologist threw open the door of the inner room, showing the four Celestials in a stolid group, and summoned first Wong Bo, who spoke English.
Trant, pushing a chair to the table, ordered the Oriental to sit down and place his hands upon the plates at the table's edge before him. The Chinaman obeyed passively, as if expecting some sort of torture. Immediately the light moved to the center of the screen, where it had moved when Trant was touching the plates, then kept on toward the next line beyond. But as Wong Bo's first suspicious excitement—which the movement of the light betrayed—subsided as he felt nothing, the light returned to the center of the screen.
"You know why you have been brought here, Wong Bo?" Trant demanded of the Chinaman.
"No," the Chinaman answered shortly, the light moving six inches as he did so.
"You know no reason at all why you should be brought here?"
"No," the Chinaman answered calmly again, while the light moved about six inches. Trant waited till it returned to its normal position in the center of the screen.
"Do you know an American named Paul Tobin, Wong Bo?"
"No," the Chinaman answered. This time the light remained stationary.
"Nor one named Ralph Murray?"
"No." Still the light stayed stationary.
"Hugh Larkin, Wong Bo?"
"No." Calmly again, and with the light quiet in the center of the screen.
"Walter Newberry?" the psychologist asked in precisely the same tone as he had put the preceding question.
"No," the Chinaman answered laconically again; but before he answered and almost before the name was off Trant's lips, the light—which had stayed almost still at the recital of the other names—jumped quickly to one side across the screen, crossed the first division line and moved on toward the second and stayed there. It had moved over a foot! But the face of the Oriental was as quiet, patient, and impassive as before. The psychologist made no comment; but waited for the light slowly to return to its normal position. Then he took up his pile of portrait photographs.
"You say you do not know any of these men, Wong Bo," Trant said quietly, but with the effect of sending the light swinging half the distance again, "You may know them, but not by name, so I want you to look at these pictures." Trant showed him the first. "Do you know that man, Wong Bo?"
"No," the Chinaman answered patiently. Trant glanced quickly to see that the light stayed steady; then showed him four more pictures of young men, getting the same answer and precisely the same effect. He showed the sixth picture—the photograph of Walter Newberry.
"You know him?" Trant asked precisely in the same tone as the others.
"No," Wong Bo answered with precisely the same patient impassiveness. Not a muscle of his face changed nor an eyelash quivered; but as soon as Trant had displayed this picture and the Chinaman's eyes fell upon it, the light on the screen again jumped a space and settled near the second line to the left!
Trant put aside the portraits and took up the pictures of the houses. He waited again till the light slowly resumed its central position on the screen.
"You have never gone to this house, Wong Bo?" he showed a large, stone mansion, not at all like the Newberry's.
"No," the Chinaman replied, impassive as ever. The light remained steady.
"Nor to this—or this—or this?" Trant showed three more with the same result. "Nor this?" he displayed now a rear view of the Newberry house.
"No," quietly again; but, as when Newberry's name was mentioned and his picture shown, the light swung swiftly to one side and stood trembling, again a foot and a half to the left of its normal position when shown the other pictures!
"That will do for the present," Trant dismissed Wong Bo. "Send him back to his cell, away from the others," he said to Walker, with flashing eyes. "We will try the rest—in turn!"
And rapidly, and with precisely the same questions and test he examined Billy Lee and Sing Lo. Each man made precisely the same denials and in the same manner as Wong Bo, but to the increasing wonder and surprise of Walker and the utter astonishment of Siler, for each man the light stayed steady when they were asked if they knew the other Americans named; while for each the light swung suddenly wide and trembling when Walter Newberry's name was mentioned and when his picture was shown. And for Sing Lo also—precisely as for Wong Bo—the light wavered suddenly and swung, quivering, a foot and a half to the left when they were shown the Newberry home.
"Bring in Sin Chung Ming!" the psychologist commanded with subdued fire shining in his eyes; but he hid all signs of excitement himself, as the government agent handed the last Oriental over to him. Trant set the yellow hands over the plates and started his questions in the same quiet tone as before. For the first two questions the light moved three times, as it had done with the others—and as even Ferris and Siler now seemed to be expecting it to move—only this time it seemed even to the police officers to swing a little wider. And at Walter Newberry's name, for the first time in any of the tests, it crossed the second dividing line at the first impulse; moved toward the third and stayed there.
Even Siler now waited with bated breath, as Trant took up his pile of pictures; and, as he came to the picture of the murdered man and the house where he had lived, for the second and third time in that single test the light—stationary when Sin Chung Ming glanced at the other photographs—trembled across the screen to the third dividing line. For the others it had moved hardly eighteen inches, but when Sin Chung Ming saw the pictured face of the murdered man it had swung almost three feet.
"Inspector Walker," Trant drew the giant officer aside, "this is the man, I think, for the final test. You will carry it out as I arranged with you?"
"Sin Chung Ming," the psychologist turned back to the Chinaman swiftly, as the inspector, without comment, left the room, "you have been watching the little light, have you not? You saw it move? It moved when you lied, Sin Chung Ming! It will always move when you lie. It moved when you said you did not know Walter Newberry; it moved when you saw his picture, and pretended not to know it; it moved when you saw the picture of his house, which you said you did not know! Look how it is moving now, as you grow afraid that you have betrayed your secret to us now, Sin Chung Ming—as you have and will," Trant pointed to the swinging light in triumph.
A low knock sounded on the door; but Trant, watching the light now slowly returning to its normal place, waited an instant more. Then he himself rapped gently on the table. The door to the next room—directly opposite the Chinaman's eyes—swung slowly open; and through it they could see the scene which Trant and the inspector had prepared. In the middle of the floor knelt young Mrs. Newberry, her back toward them, her hands pressed against her face; and six feet beyond a man stood, facing her. Ferris and Siler looked in astonishment at Trant, for there was no meaning in this scene to them at first. Then Siler remembered suddenly, and Ferris guessed, that such must have been the scene in the billiard room that night at the Newberry's; thus it must have been seen by the man who fired through the window at young Newberry that night—and to him, but to that man only—it would bring a shock of terror. And appreciating this, they stared swiftly, first at the Chinaman's passionless and immobile face; then at the light upon the screen and saw it leap across bar after bar. And, as the Chinaman saw it, and knew that it was betraying him, it leaped and leaped again; swung wider and wider; until at last the impassiveness of the Celestial's attitude was for an instant broken, and Sin Chung Ming snatched his hands from the metal plates.
"I had guessed that anyway, Sin Chung Ming," Trant swiftly closed the door, as Walker returned to the room, "for your feeling at sound of Walter Newberry's name and the sight of his picture was so much deeper than any of the rest. So, it was you that fired the shot, after watching the house with Sing Lo and Wong Bo, as their fright when they saw the picture of the house showed, while Billy Lee was not needed at the house that night and has never seen it, though he knew what was to be done. That is all I need of you now, Sin Chung Ming; for I have learned what I wanted to know."
As the fourth of the Chinamen was led away to his cell, Trant turned back to Inspector Walker and Siler.
"I must acknowledge my debt to Mr. Ferris," he said with a glance toward the man of whom he spoke, "for help in solving this case, without which I could not have brought it to a conclusion without giving much more time to the investigation. Mr. Ferris, as you already know, Inspector Walker, as special agent for the Government, has for years been engaged in the enforcement of the Chinese exclusion laws. The sentence repeated to us by Mrs. Newberry, in which her husband, delirious with fright, seemed warning some one that to acknowledge that his mother had large feet would prevent him from 'getting in,' seemed to me to establish a connection between young Newberry's terror and an evasion of the exclusion laws. I went at once to Mr. Ferris to test this idea, and he recognized its application at once."As the exclusion laws against all but a very small class of Chinese are being more strictly enforced than ever before, there has been a large and increasing traffic among the Chinese in bogus papers to procure entry into this country of Chinese belonging to the excluded classes. And in addition to being supplied with forged official papers for entry, as Ferris can tell you, the applicants of the classes excluded are supplied with regular 'coaching papers' so that they
The Chinaman saw it and knew that it was betraying him, but it leaped and leaped again. See page 361
can correctly answer the questions asked them at San Francisco or Seattle. The injunction to 'say your mother had small feet' was recognized at once by Ferris as one of the instructions of the 'coaching paper' to get a laborer entered as a man of the merchant class.
"Mr. Ferris and I together investigated the career of Walter Newberry after his return from China, where he had spent nearly the whole of his life, and we were able to establish, as we expected we might, a connection between him and the Sing Lo Trading Company—a Chinese company which Mr. Ferris had long suspected of dealing in fraudulent admission papers, though he had never been able to bring home to them any proof. We found, also, that young Newberry had spent and gambled away much more money in the last few months than he had legitimately received. And we were able to make certain that this money had come to him through the Sing Lo Company, though obviously not for such uses. As it is not an uncommon thing for Chinese engaged in the fraudulent bringing in of their countrymen to confide part of the business to unprincipled Americans—especially as all papers have to be viséd by American consuls and disputes settled in American courts—we became certain that young Newberry had been serving the Sing Lo Company in this capacity. It was plain that he had diverted a large amount of money from the ends for which the members of the Sing Lo Company had intended it to be used and his actions as described by his wife, made it equally certain that he had been sentenced by the members of the Company to death, and given the Oriental alternative of committing suicide before eleven o'clock on Sunday night, or else the company would take the carrying out of the sentence into their own hands. Now whether it will be possible to convict all four of the Chinamen we had here for complicity in his murder, or whether Sin Chung Ming, who fired the shot will be the only one tried, I do not know. But the others, in any case, will be turned over to Mr. Ferris for prosecution for their evasions of the exclusion laws."
"Exclusion laws!" exclaimed the giant inspector—"Mr. Ferris can look after his exclusion laws if he wants. What we want, Trant, is to convict these men for the murder of Walter Newberry; and knowing what we do now, we will get a confession out of them some way!"
"I doubt whether, under the circumstances, any force could be brought to bear that would extort any formal confession from these Chinamen," the Government agent shook his head. "They would lose their 'face' and with it all reputation among their countrymen."
But at this instant the door of the room was dashed open and the flushed face of the desk sergeant appeared before them.
"Inspector!" he cried sharply, "the chink's dead! The last one, Sin Chung Ming, choked himself as soon as he was alone in his cell!"
The inspector turned to Trant who looked to Ferris, first, in his surprise.
"What? Ah—I see!" the immigration officer comprehended after an instant. "He considered what we found from him here confession enough—especially since he implicated the others with him—so that his 'face' was lost. To him, it was unpardonable weakness to let us find what we did. I think, then, Mr. Trant," he concluded quietly, "that you can safely consider your case proved. His suicide is the surest proof that this Chinaman considered that he had confessed."