“Say, what’re yer snoopin’ round there for? Lookin’ for somebody?”
“Yes, the parties who were here Sunday. What’s become of them.”
“Hobart, you mean?”
“Is that his name? I met him down town, and he told me to come here,” West explained rapidly. “We had a deal on.”
“Oh, yer did, hey,” leaning his arms on the fence. “Well, Jim Hobart was the name he giv’ me. That’s my house, which is why I happen to know what his name was. Something queer about that fellar, I reckon, but ‘tain’t none o’ my business. You ain’t a detective, or nothin’ like that, are yer?”
“Nothing at all like that,” West laughed, although interested. “Why? Did you think the police might be after him?”
“Not for anything I know about, only he skipped out mighty sudden. Paid me a month rent, and only stayed there three days. That looks sorter queer. Then Sunday that fellar what committed suicide out south—I read about in the papers—came to see him in a car. I got a boy workin’ in his factory; that’s how I come to know who the guy was. The next night Hobart, an’ them with him, just naturally skipped out. So I didn’t know but what the police might want him for something.”
“I don’t know anything about that. I just called on a private matter. Where did he go to?”
“Hell, man, I didn’t even know he was goin’.”
“Who did he have with him here—a family?”
“A woman ‘bout his age I should say, an’ a younger one. I didn’t see ’em only from the window; didn’t get no sight o’ the girl’s face at all, but could tell the way she walked she was young. They didn’t have nothin’ with ’em; that’s all my stuff in the house there.”
Feeling the uselessness of trying to learn anything more, West thanked him, and returned to the taxi.
“Back to the Club,” he ordered briefly, and settled into his seat to think.
238 Wray street
The information thus gained had been small enough, yet sufficient to stimulate his belief that he was at least upon the right trail. The sudden departure of this man Hobart, and the fact that no young children were in the family, were important items to consider. Coolidge then had not visited this cottage to aid a widow and orphans. There had been some other object in his call. The girl must have known and understood the real purpose; that was why they both acquiesced so readily to his remaining outside in the car. It was part of their mutual plan to thus leave him in ignorance. Yet they had made a mistake in taking him along at all. This error alone gave him now an opportunity to unravel the riddle. But did it? What did he know? Merely that Coolidge had not gone to this house on an errand of charity; that the occupant called himself, temporarily, perhaps, Jim Hobart; that his family consisted of two women, undescribed except as to age; and that all three had mysteriously disappeared together. He might take it for granted that this disappearance was caused by the death of Coolidge, but, they had left no trail, no inkling as to where they had gone. He might suspect this sudden vanishing had direct connection with the crime he was endeavouring to solve, but he possessed absolutely no proof, and, apparently, any further movement on his part was completely blocked.