“We are already at work, Mr. Allerdyke,” said the official, interrupting him quietly. “We’ve been at work in the affair of the young woman for twenty-four hours, and although you didn’t know of it, we’ve heard of the affair of your cousin at Hull, and the two cases are so similar that when you came in I was wondering if there was any connection between them. Now, as regards the young woman. You may or may not be aware that in Eastbourne Terrace, Paddington, a street of houses which runs alongside the departure platform of the Great Western Railway, there are a number of small private hotels, which are largely used by railway passengers. To one of these hotels, about nine o’clock on the evening of May 13th (just about twenty-four hours after you, Miss Lennard, landed at Hull), there came a man and a woman, who represented themselves as brother and sister, and took two rooms for the night. The woman answers the description of your maid—as to the man, I will give you a description of him later. These two, who had for luggage such a medium-sized suit-case as that Miss Lennard has spoken of, partook of some supper and retired. There was nothing noticeable about them—they seemed to be quiet, respectable people—foreigners who spoke English very well. Nothing was heard of them until next morning at eight o’clock, when the man rang his bell and asked for tea to be brought up for both. This was done—he took it in at his door, and was seen to hand a cup in at his sister’s door, close by. An hour later he came downstairs and gave instructions that his sister was not to be disturbed—she was tired and wanted to rest, he said, and she would ring when she wanted attendance. He then booked the two rooms again for the succeeding night, and, going into the coffee-room, ate a very good breakfast, taking his time over it. That done, he lounged about a little, smoking, and eventually crossed the road towards the station—since when he has not been seen. The day passed on—the woman neither rang her bell nor came down. When evening arrived, as the man had not returned, and no response could be got to repeated knocks at the door, the landlady opened it with a master-key, and entered the room. She found the woman dead—and according to the medical evidence she had been dead since ten or eleven o’clock in the morning. Then, of course, the police were called in. There was nothing in the room or in the suit-case to establish or suggest identity. The body was removed, and an autopsy has been held. And the conclusion of the medical men is that this woman has been secretly and subtly poisoned.”
Here the official paused, rang a bell, and remained silent until a quiet-looking, middle-aged man who might have been a highly respectable butler entered the room: then he turned again to his visitors.
“I want you, Miss Lennard, to accompany this man—one of my officers—to the mortuary, to see if you can identify the body I have told you of. Perhaps you gentlemen will accompany Miss Lennard? Then,” he continued, rising, “if you will all return here, we will go into this matter further, and see if we can throw more light on it.”