“The matter,” Sir Edward declared, “has given us a great deal of anxiety, and I can assure you that the Home Secretary himself has taken a strong personal interest in it, but at the same time, as I have just pointed out to you, our investigations are rendered the more difficult from the fact that we cannot learn anything definite concerning this Mr. Hamilton Fynes or his visit to this country. Now, if we knew, for instance,” Sir Edward continued, “that he was carrying documents, or even a letter, similar to the one you have just handed to me, we might at once discover a motive to the crime, and work backwards until we reached the perpetrator.”
Mr. Coulson knocked the ash from his cigar.
“I see what you are driving at,” he said. “I am sorry I can be of no assistance to you, Sir Edward.”
“Neither in the case of Mr. Hamilton Fynes or in the case of Mr. Richard Vanderpole?” Sir Edward asked.
Mr. Coulson shook his head.
“Quite out of my line,” he declared.
“Notwithstanding the fact,” Sir Edward reminded him quietly, “that you were probably the last person to see Vanderpole alive? He came to the Savoy to call upon you before he got into the taxicab where he was murdered. That is so, isn’t it?”
“Sure!” Mr. Coulson answered. “A nice young fellow he was, too. Well set up, and real American manners,—Hail, fellow, well met!’ with you right away.”
“I suppose, Mr. Coulson,” the Minister suggested smoothly, “it wouldn’t answer your purpose to put aside that bluff about patents for the development of the woollen trade for a few moments, and tell me exactly what passed between you and Mr. Vanderpole at the Savoy Hotel, and the object of his calling upon you? Whether, for instance, he took away with him documents or papers intended for the Embassy and which you yourself had brought from America?”
“You do think of things!” Mr. Coulson remarked admiringly. “You’re on the wrong track this time, though, sure. Still, supposing I were able to tell you that Mr. Vanderpole was carrying papers of importance to my country, and that Mr. Hamilton Fynes was also in possession of the same class of document, how would it help you? In what fresh direction should you look then for the murderers of these two men?”
“Mr. Coulson,” Sir Edward said, “we should consider the nature of those documents, and we should see to whose advantage it was that they were suppressed.”
Mr. Coulson’s face seemed suddenly old and lined. He spoke with a new vigor, and his eyes were very keen and bright under his bushy eyebrows.
“And supposing it was your country’s?” he asked. “Supposing they contained instructions to our Ambassador which you might consider inimical to your interests? Do you mean that you would look at home for the murderer? You mean that you have men so devoted to their native land that they were willing to run the risk of death by the hangman to aid her? You mean that your Secret Service is perfected to that extent, and that the scales of justice are held blindfolded? Or do you mean that Scotland Yard would have its orders, and that these men would go free?”