Since that time, three men had made inquiries about the woman in question. One had a pointed Vandyke beard; the second, from the description, I fancied must have been Mr. Graves. The third without doubt was Mr. Howell. Eliza Shaeffer said that this last man had seemed half frantic. I brought her a photograph of Jennie Brice as “Topsy” and another one as “Juliet”. She said there was a resemblance, but that it ended there. But of course, as Mr. Graves had said, by the time an actress gets her photograph retouched to suit her, it doesn’t particularly resemble her. And unless I had known Jennie Brice myself, I should hardly have recognized the pictures.
Well, in spite of all that, there seemed no doubt that Jennie Brice had been living three days after her disappearance, and that would clear Mr. Ladley. But what had Mr. Howell to do with it all? Why had he not told the police of the letter from Horner? Or about the woman on the bridge? Why had Mr. Bronson, who was likely the man with the pointed beard, said nothing about having traced Jennie Brice to Horner?
I did as I thought Mr. Holcombe would have wished me to do. I wrote down on a clean sheet of note-paper all that Eliza Shaeffer said: the description of the black and white dress, the woman’s height, and the rest, and then I took her to the court-house, chicks and all, and she told her story there to one of the assistant district attorneys.
The young man was interested, but not convinced. He had her story taken down, and she signed it. He was smiling as he bowed us out. I turned in the doorway.
“This will free Mr. Ladley, I suppose?” I asked.
“Not just yet,” he said pleasantly. “This makes just eleven places where Jennie Brice spent the first three days after her death.”
“But I can positively identify the dress.”
“My good woman, that dress has been described, to the last stilted arch and Colonial volute, in every newspaper in the United States!”
That evening the newspapers announced that during a conference at the jail between Mr. Ladley and James Bronson, business manager at the Liberty Theater, Mr. Ladley had attacked Mr. Bronson with a chair, and almost brained him.
Eliza Shaeffer went back to Horner, after delivering her chicks somewhere in the city. Things went on as before. The trial was set for May. The district attorney’s office had all the things we had found in the house that Monday afternoon—the stained towel, the broken knife and its blade, the slipper that had been floating in the parlor, and the rope that had fastened my boat to the staircase. Somewhere—wherever they keep such things—was the headless body of a woman with a hand missing, and with a curious scar across the left breast. The slip of paper, however, which I had found behind the base-board, was still in Mr. Holcombe’s possession, nor had he mentioned it to the police.