As she finished reading, Helen looked up at her friend and the gaze of penetrating curiosity that she saw in Marion’s eyes caused her to blush with confusion. Unable to meet her friend’s gaze steadily, she shifted her eyes toward the most uninteresting part of the car, the floor, and said:
“That looks like a dangerous letter. It ought to be turned over to the police as soon as possible.”
“Both of them, don’t you think?” Marion inquired.
“Why? I don’t see anything in this shorter one. My guess would be that it was written by your cousin or one of his friends.”
“But do you notice the way they both end?—the same words,” Marion insisted.
“Yes, I noticed that,” Helen replied slowly. But that is such a common, ordinary expression, almost like ‘a,’ ‘an,’ or ‘the,’ that it doesn’t mean much to me here. Where are the letters postmarked?”
“Both in Westmoreland.”
“That’s something in favor of your suspicion that both letters were written by the same person,” Helen admitted. “Still it doesn’t convince me. You wouldn’t expect the Spring Lake boys to mail a letter like the shorter one at Spring Lake, would you? That would stamp its identity right away.”
“You are sure those letters were written by different persons?” Marion inquired curiously.
“I don’t think it makes any difference whether they were or not,” Helen answered more decisively than she had spoken before. “It is in that skull-and-cross-bones letter that you are most interested. I think you can disregard the other entirely. I would say this, however, that if both were written by one person, you have less to fear than if the shorter one was written by your cousin or one of his friends.”
“Because if one person wrote both of them, he is probably suffering from softening of the brain. But if the person who wrote the longer one did not write the shorter one, there is more likelihood that he means business and will attempt to carry out his threat.”
“I never realized that you were such a Sherlock Holmes,” Marion exclaimed enthusiastically, while the suggestion came to her that perhaps a genius for this sort of thing accounted for her friend’s peculiarities. “You ought to be a detective for a department store to catch shoplifters.”
“Thanks, Marion, for the compliment, but I am not inclined that way. I’d rather do something in this case to keep our vacation plans from ending in trouble.”
“I was looking for someone who could advise me,” Marion said; “and I am now convinced that you are just the person I was looking for. What do you think I ought to do, Helen?”
“All the girls ought to know about this letter,” Helen replied. “But you can’t go to them and blurt out anything so sensational. We must break the news gently, as they say in melodrama. I wish we hadn’t come.”
“So do I,” Marion replied, but with just a suggestion of disappointment in her voice.