On Tuesday the unfortunate woman was decently buried, at Jimmie Drexell’s expense, and on the following day a more formal inquiry was held at Great Marlborough street. Jack was there, and he had a brief and affecting interview with Sir Lucius and Jimmie; he had previously seen his solicitor at Holloway. He repeated to the magistrate the story he had told before, and he was compelled to admit, by the Crown lawyers, that the murdered woman had been his wife, that they had lived apart for nearly six years, and that she had recently prevented him from marrying another woman. What prompted these damaging questions, or how the prosecution got hold of the lost letter, did not appear. Mrs. Rickett positively identified the prisoner, and medical evidence was taken. The police stated that they had been unable as yet to find the missing man, concerning whose existence they suggested some doubt, and that they had discovered nothing bearing on the case in the apartments occupied by either the accused or Diane Merode. Mr. Tenby, who was suffering from a headache, did little but watch the proceedings. The inquiry was adjourned, and John Vernon was remanded in custody for a week.
But much was destined to occur in the interval. The solicitor had a formidable rival in the person of Jimmie Drexell. The shrewd American, keeping eyes and ears open, had formed suspicions in regard to the principal witness for the Crown. And he lost no time in making the most of his clew, wild and improbable as it seemed.
AN AMATEUR DETECTIVE.
On the day of the inquiry at Great Marlborough street, about five o’clock in the afternoon, Jimmie Drexell walked slowly and thoughtfully up the Quadrant. The weather had turned cold, and his top hat and fur-lined coat gave him the appearance of an actor in luck. He was bound on a peculiar errand, and though he hoped to succeed, he was not blind to the fact that the odds were very much against him.
“I shall probably put my foot in it somehow,” he reflected dolefully, “and make a mess of the thing. But if I fail, it won’t convince me that I am wrong. I had my eye on that woman in court, and she was certainly keeping something back. She seemed confused—in dread of some question that was never asked. And once or twice I thought she was on the point of making some startling revelation. I must play a cunning game, for poor old Jack’s sake. If Mrs. Rickett can’t save him, and the police don’t find the mysterious stranger, I’m afraid he will be in a devilish bad way.”
Jimmie turned into Beak street, and pulled the bell of Number 324. He waited several minutes before the landlady came, and then she opened the door but a couple of inches, and peered distrustfully out. Jimmie craftily thrust a foot in, so that the door could not be closed.
“You do not know me, madam,” he said, “but I come as a friend. I wish to have a short conversation with you.”