“Well done, Rolfe!” he exclaimed. “You are coming on. Anyone can see that you’ve the makings of a good detective.”
Rolfe could afford to ignore the sting contained in such faint praise.
“What do you make of it?” he asked.
“Looks as though there is a woman in it,” said the inspector, who was still examining the scrap of lace and muslin.
“There can’t be much doubt about that,” replied Rolfe.
“We mustn’t be in a hurry in jumping at conclusions,” remarked the inspector.
“No, and we mustn’t ignore obvious facts,” said Rolfe.
“You think a woman murdered him?” asked the inspector.
“I think a woman was present when he was shot: whether she fired the shot there is nothing to show at present. There may have been a man with her. But there was a struggle just before the shot was fired and as Sir Horace fell he grasped at the hand in which she was holding her handkerchief. Or perhaps her handkerchief was torn in his dying struggles when she was leaning over him.”
“You have overlooked the possibility of this having been placed in the dying man’s hand to deceive us,” said the inspector.
“If the intention was to mislead us it wouldn’t have been placed where it might have been overlooked.”
As the inspector had overlooked the presence of the scrap of handkerchief in the dead man’s hand, he felt that he was not making much progress with the work of keeping his subordinate in his place.
“Well, it is a clue of a sort,” he said. “The trouble is that we have too many clues. I wish we knew which is the right one. Anyway, it knocks over your theory of a burglary,” he added in a tone of satisfaction.
“Yes,” Rolfe admitted. “That goes by the board.”
“What is your name?”
“James Hill, sir.”
“That is an alias. What is your real name?” Inspector Chippenfield glared fiercely at the butler in order to impress upon him the fact that subterfuge was useless.
“Henry Field, sir,” replied the man, after some hesitation.
Inspector Chippenfield opened the capacious pocketbook which he had placed before him on the desk when the butler had entered in response to his summons, and he took from it a photograph which he handed to the man he was interrogating.
“Is that your photograph?” he asked.
Police photographs taken in gaol for purposes of future identification are always far from flattering, and Henry Field, after looking at the photograph handed to him, hesitated a little before replying:
“So, Henry Field, in November 1909 you were sentenced to three years for robbing your master, Lord Melhurst.”