A day or so after Jan’s first meeting with Sourdough a thing occurred in Regina which, for a little while, occupied the minds of most people, to the exclusion of such matters as the relations between any two dogs.
A woman and her husband were found murdered in a little fruiterer’s and greengrocer’s shop. Evidence showed that the murder must have occurred late at night. It was discovered quite early in the morning, and before the first passenger-trains of the day stopped at Regina the line was closely watched for a good many miles. It was believed that the murderer could not be very far away. Suspicion attached to a compatriot of the murdered pair, a Greek, who was found to be missing from his lodging. Within three hours Sergeant Moore had rounded this man up a few miles from the city, and placed him under arrest. But the man had been found in the act of fishing, and there was not a tittle of evidence of any kind against him.
Then a neighbor called at the R.N.W.M.P. barracks with word of an Italian, now nowhere to be found, who had done some casual work for the murdered couple, and had more than once been seen talking with the woman in the little yard behind their shop. As it happened, the bearer of this information imparted it to Dick Vaughan, who promptly went with it to Captain Arnutt.
“Look here, sir,” said Dick, with suppressed excitement, “my Jan is half a bloodhound, and a splendid tracker. Will you let me take him down to the shop and—”
“Why the deuce didn’t you think of that earlier, before all the world and his wife began investigating the place? Come on! Bring my horse and your own.”
Within half an hour, Captain Arnutt, Dick Vaughan, Jan, and one town constable were alone in the little littered room of the tragedy, where the dead lay practically as they had been discovered. Two incriminating articles only had been found: a sheath-knife with a carved haft, and a black soft felt hat. There was no name or initials on either, and both might conceivably have belonged to the murdered man. As yet no one had identified either article with any owner. The hat had been trodden down by a boot-heel in a slither of blood on the floor-cloth of the squalid little room.
Some chances had to be taken. Dick believed the hat and knife belonged to the murderer, who had apparently ransacked the till of the little shop and broken open a small carved and painted box which may have contained money. It was perhaps impossible that Jan could understand that murder had been done. But there was no shadow of doubt he knew grave matters were toward. The concentrated earnestness of Dick Vaughan had somehow communicated itself to the hound’s mind. It was the hat and not the knife to which Dick pinned his faith—the cheap, soiled, crimson-lined felt hat, with its horrid stains and its imprint of a boot-heel.