THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH IN PERCY STREET
Miss Polly Burton had had many an argument with Mr. Richard Frobisher about that old man in the corner, who seemed far more interesting and deucedly more mysterious than any of the crimes over which he philosophised.
Dick thought, moreover, that Miss Polly spent more of her leisure time now in that A.B.C. shop than she had done in his own company before, and told her so, with that delightful air of sheepish sulkiness which the male creature invariably wears when he feels jealous and won’t admit it.
Polly liked Dick to be jealous, but she liked that old scarecrow in the A.B.C. shop very much too, and though she made sundry vague promises from time to time to Mr. Richard Frobisher, she nevertheless drifted back instinctively day after day to the tea-shop in Norfolk Street, Strand, and stayed there sipping coffee for as long as the man in the corner chose to talk.
On this particular afternoon she went to the A.B.C. shop with a fixed purpose, that of making him give her his views of Mrs. Owen’s mysterious death in Percy Street.
The facts had interested and puzzled her. She had had countless arguments with Mr. Richard Frobisher as to the three great possible solutions of the puzzle—“Accident, Suicide, Murder?”
“Undoubtedly neither accident nor suicide,” he said dryly.
Polly was not aware that she had spoken. What an uncanny habit that creature had of reading her thoughts!
“You incline to the idea, then, that Mrs. Owen was murdered. Do you know by whom?”
He laughed, and drew forth the piece of string he always fidgeted with when unravelling some mystery.
“You would like to know who murdered that old woman?” he asked at last.
“I would like to hear your views on the subject,” Polly replied.
“I have no views,” he said dryly. “No one can know who murdered the woman, since no one ever saw the person who did it. No one can give the faintest description of the mysterious man who alone could have committed that clever deed, and the police are playing a game of blind man’s buff.”
“But you must have formed some theory of your own,” she persisted.
It annoyed her that the funny creature was obstinate about this point, and she tried to nettle his vanity.
“I suppose that as a matter of fact your original remark that ’there are no such things as mysteries’ does not apply universally. There is a mystery—that of the death in Percy Street, and you, like the police, are unable to fathom it.”
He pulled up his eyebrows and looked at her for a minute or two.
“Confess that that murder was one of the cleverest bits of work accomplished outside Russian diplomacy,” he said with a nervous laugh. “I must say that were I the judge, called upon to pronounce sentence of death on the man who conceived that murder, I could not bring myself to do it. I would politely request the gentleman to enter our Foreign Office—we have need of such men. The whole mise en scene was truly artistic, worthy of its milieu—the Rubens Studios in Percy Street, Tottenham Court Road.