“Thunderation, Alf,” whispered Elon Jones, “cain’t you see he’s figurin’ something out? You’re liable to throw him clear off the track if you say a word to him.”
“Well, this is something he’d oughter know,” almost whimpered Alf, rubbing his frozen ears.
“Sh!” muttered the bystanders, and poor Alf subsided. He was unceremoniously hustled into the background as Mr. Crow moved from the window toward the group.
“Gentlemen,” said Anderson gravely, “there is somethin’ wrong here.” It is barely possible that this was not news to the crowd, but with one accord they collectively and severally exchanged looks of appreciation. “I’ve been readin’ up a bit on the human body, an’ I’ve proved one thing sure in my own mind.”
“You bet you have, Anderson,” said Elon Jones. “It’s all settled. Let’s go home.”
“Settled nothin’!” said the marshal. “It’s jest begun. Here’s what I deduce: Miss Banks has been foully dealt with. Ain’t this her blood, an’ ain’t she used her own individual handkerchief to stop it up? It’s blood right square from her heart, gentlemen!”
“I don’t see how—” began Ed Higgins; but Anderson silenced him with a look.
“Of course you don’t, but you would if you’d ‘a’ been a detective as long’s I have. What in thunder do you s’pose I got these badges and these medals fer? Fer not seem’ how? No, siree! I got ’em fer seein’ how; that’s what!”
“Don’t call me ‘Andy,’” commanded Mr. Crow.
“Well, then, Anderson, I’d like to know how the dickens she could use her own handkerchief if she was stabbed to the heart,” protested Ed. He had been crying half the time. Anderson was stunned for the moment.
“Why—why—now, look here, Ed Higgins, I ain’t got time to explain things to a derned idgit like you. Everybody else understands how, don’t you?” and he turned to the crowd. Everybody said yes. “Well, that shows what a fool you are, Ed. Don’t bother me any more. I’ve got work to do.”
“Say, Anderson,” began Alf Reesling from the outer circle, “I got something important to tell—”
“Who is that? Alf Reesling?” cried Anderson wrathfully.
“Yes; I want to see you private, Anderson. Its important,” begged Alf.
“How many times have I got to set down on you, Alf Reesling?” exploded Anderson. “Doggone, I’d like to know how a man’s to solve mysteries if he’s got to stand around half the time an’ listen to fambly quarrels. Tell yer wife I’ll—”
“This ain’t no family quarrel. Besides, I ain’t got no wife. It’s about this here—”
“That’ll do, now, Alf! Not another word out of you!” commanded Anderson direfully.
“But, dern you, Anderson,” exploded Alf, “I’ve got to tell you—”
But Anderson held up a hand.
“Don’t swear in the presence of the dead,” he said solemnly. “You’re drunk, Alf; go home!” And Alf, news and all was hustled from the schoolhouse by a self-appointed committee of ten.