“What was said, if anything?”
“I asked Mrs. Hull where my uncle’s apartment was. That gave her another fright. At least she almost fainted.”
“Did she say anything?”
“She told me where his rooms were. Then she shut the door, right in my face. I went upstairs to Apartment 12.”
“Where your uncle lived?”
“Where my uncle lived. I rang the bell twice an’ didn’t get an answer. Then I noticed the door was ajar. I opened it, called, an’ walked in, shuttin’ it behind me. I guessed he must be around an’ would be back in a few minutes.”
“Just exactly what did you do?”
“I waited by the table in the living-room for a few minutes. There was a note there signed by S. Horikawa.”
“We have that note. What happened next? Did your uncle return?”
“No. I had a feelin’ that somethin’ was wrong. I looked into the bedroom an’ then opened the door into the small smoking-room. The odor of chloroform met me. I found the button an’ flashed on the light.”
Except the sobbing breath of an unnerved woman no slightest sound could be heard in the court-room but Lane’s quiet, steady voice. It went on evenly, clearly, dominating the crowded room by the drama of its undramatic timbre.
“My uncle was sittin’ in a chair, tied to it. His head was canted a little to one side an’ he was lookin’ up at me. There was a bullet hole in his forehead. He was dead.”
The veiled woman in black gasped for air. Her head sank forward and her slender body swayed.
“Look out!” called the witness to the woman beside her.
Before Kirby could reach her, the fainting woman had slipped to the floor. He stooped to lift her head from the dusty planks—and the odor of violet perfume met his nostrils.
“If you’ll permit me,” a voice said.
The cattleman looked up. His cousin James, white to the lips, was beside him unfastening the veil.
The face of the woman in black was the original of the photograph Kirby had seen in his uncle’s room, the one upon which had been written the words, “Always, Phyllis.”
A FRIEND IN NEED
The rest of the coroner’s inquest was anticlimax. Those who had come to tickle their palates with excitement tasted only one other moment of it.
“According to your own story you must have been in your uncle’s apartment at least a quarter of an hour, Mr. Lane,” said the prosecuting attorney. “What were you doing there all that time?”
“Most of the time I was waitin’ for him to return.”
“Why did you not call up the police at once, as soon as you found the crime had been committed?”
“I suppose I lost my head an’ went panicky. I heard some one at the door, an’ I did not want to be found there. So I ran into the bedroom, put out the light, an’ left by the fire escape.”