He turned away from the instrument and was crossing the room towards his cigar cabinet. Suddenly he stopped. He looked intently towards the sideboard.
“What is it?” Lenora asked.
He did not answer. She followed the direction of his gaze. Exactly in the same spot as before reposed another but somewhat larger black box, of the same shape and material as the previous one.
“Say, who put that there?” he demanded.
Lenora shook her head.
“I locked the door when we went out,” she assured him.
Quest took the box into his hands and removed the lid. It seemed half full of cotton-wool. On the top were a few lines of writing and beneath them the signature of the parted hands. He read the form out slowly:
“Drop all investigation.
The hands that return these jewels
Quest raised the cotton-wool. Beneath lay Mrs. Rheinholdt’s necklace!
AN OLD GRUDGE
Sanford Quest was smoking his after breakfast cigar with a relish somewhat affected by the measure of his perplexities. Early though it was, Lenora was already in her place, bending over her desk, and Laura, who had just arrived, was busy divesting herself of her coat and hat. Quest watched the latter impatiently.
“Well?” he asked.
Laura came forward, straightening her hair with her hands.
“No go,” she answered. “I spent the evening in the club and I talked with two men who knew Craig, but I couldn’t get on to anything. From all I could hear of the man, respectability is his middle name.”
“That’s the Professor’s own idea,” Quest remarked grimly. “I merely ventured to drop a hint that Craig might not be quite so immaculate as he seemed, and I never saw a man so horrified in my life. He assured me that Craig was seldom out of his sight, that he hadn’t a friend in the world nor a single vicious taste.”
“We’re fairly up against it, boss,” Laura sighed. “The best thing we can do is to get on to another job. The Rheinholdt woman has got her jewels back, or will have at noon to-day. I bet she won’t worry about the thief. Then the Professor’s mouldy old skeleton was returned to him, even if it was burnt up afterwards. I should take on something fresh.”
“Can’t be done,” Quest replied shortly. “Look here, girls, your average intellects are often apt to hit upon the truth, when a man who sees too far ahead goes wrong. Rule Craig out. Any other possible person occur to you?—Speak out, Lenora. You’ve something on your mind, I can see.”
The girl swung around in her chair. There was a vague look of trouble upon her face.
“I’m afraid you’ll laugh at me,” she began tentatively.
“Won’t hurt you if I do,” Quest replied.
“I can’t help thinking of Macdougal,” Lenora continued falteringly. “He has never been recaptured, and I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive. He had a perfect passion for jewels. If he is alive, he would be desperate and would attempt anything.”