“One moment,” said the chief. “I wanted to tell you that amongst all these things there is nothing that establishes the woman’s identity—I mean in the way of papers or anything of that sort. There were no letters in this case—not a scrap of paper. There is money in that purse—two or three pounds in gold, some silver. There is her watch—a good gold watch—and there are two or three rings she was wearing. Now we have only made a superficial examination of all these personal belongings—can you, as her mistress, suggest if she was likely to hide anything in her clothing, and if so, in what article? You might save us some trouble, Miss Lennard.”
Allerdyke, who was more interested in Celia than in what was going on, saw a sudden gleam come into her eyes—her feminine spirit of curiosity was aroused. She hesitated, turned back to the side-table, paused before the various articles laid out there, took up and fingered two or three, and suddenly wheeled round on the men, exhibiting a quilted handkerchief case.
“There’s something been sewn into the padding of this!” she said. “I can feel it. Can any one lend me pocket-scissors or a penknife?”
The men gathered round as Celia’s deft fingers ripped open the satin covering: a moment later she drew out a wad of folded paper and handed it to the chief. Fullaway and Allerdyke craned their necks over his shoulders as he unwrapped and spread the bits of paper out before them. And it was Fullaway who broke the silence with a sharp exclamation.
“Bank-notes!” he said. “Russian bank-notes! And new ones!”
THE THIRD MURDER
Fullaway’s exclamation was followed by a murmur of astonishment from Celia, and by a low growl which meant many things from Allerdyke. The chief turned the banknotes over silently, moved to his desk, and picked up a reference book.
“I’m not very familiar with Russian money—paper or otherwise,” he remarked. “How much does this represent in ours, now?”
“I can tell you that,” said Fullaway, taking the wad of notes and rapidly counting them. “Five hundred pounds English,” he announced. “And you see that all the notes are new—don’t forget to note that.”
“Yes?—what do you argue from it?” asked the chief, with obvious interest. “It proves—what?”
“That these notes were given to this woman in Russia, recently—most likely in St. Petersburg,” replied the American. “And, in my opinion, their presence—their discovery—proves more. It suggests at any rate that this woman, the dead maid, was a tool in the conspiracy to rob Miss Lennard and Mr. James Allerdyke, that this money is her reward, or part of it, and that the whole scheme was hatched and engineered in Russia.”
“Good!” muttered Allerdyke. “Now we’re getting to business.”
“We shall have to get some evidence from Russia,” observed the chief meditatively. “That’s very evident. If the thing began there, or was put into active shape there—”