I reached the bottom at last and rested for a moment.
At the back of the house was a little vacant space, filled with heaps of debris from the demolished portions of the building and with refuse which had been dumped there by tenants who had left and had never been removed. This yard was separated only by a rotting fence with a single wooden rail from a small blind alley.
The alley had run between rows of stables in former days when this was a fashionable quarter, but now these were mostly unoccupied, save for a few more pretentious ones at the lower end, which were being converted into garages.
Everywhere were heaps of brick, piles of rain-rotted wood, and rubbish-heaps.
I took up my burden and placed it at the end of the alley, covering it roughly with some old burlap bags which lay there. I thought it safe to assume that the police would look upon the dead man as the victim of some footpad. It was only remotely possible that suspicion would be directed against any occupant of any of the houses bordering on the cul-de-sac.
I did not search the dead man’s pockets. I cared nothing who he was, and did not want to know. My sole desire was to acquit Jacqueline of his death in the world’s eyes.
That he had come deservedly by it I was positive. I was her sole protector now, and I felt a furious resolve that no one should rob me of her.
The ground was as hard as iron, and I was satisfied that my footsteps had left no track; there would be snow before morning, and if my feet had left any traces these would be covered effectively.
Four o’clock was striking while I was climbing back into the room again. Jacqueline lay on the bed in the same position; she had not stirred during that hour. While she slept I set about the completion of my task.
I took the knife from the floor where I had flung it, scrubbed it, and placed it in my suit-case. Then I scrubbed the floor clean, afterward rubbing it with a soiled rag to make its appearance uniform.
I washed my hands, and thought I had finally removed all traces of the affair; but, coming back, I perceived something upon the floor which had escaped my notice. It was the leather collar of the Eskimo dog, with its big silver studs and the maker’s silver name-plate.
All this while the animal had remained perfectly quiet in the room crouching at Jacqueline’s feet and beside the bed. It had not attempted to molest me, as I had feared might be the case during the course of my gruesome work.
I came to the conclusion that there might have been a struggle; that it had run to its mistress’s assistance, and that the collar had been torn from it by the dead man.
My first thought was to put the collar back upon the creature’s neck; but then I came to the conclusion that this might possibly serve as a means of identification. And it was essential that no one should be able to identify the dog.