“Quest,” he said, “I’ll have to ask you a question.”
“Why not?” Quest replied, looking quickly up.
“Where were you at eleven-fifteen?”
“On tower Number 10 of the New York Central, scrapping for my life,” Quest answered grimly. “I’ve reason to remember it.”
Something in the Inspector’s steady gaze seemed to inspire the criminologist suddenly with a new idea. He came a step forward, a little frown upon his forehead.
“Say, French,” he exclaimed, “you don’t—you don’t suspect me of this?”
French was unmoved. He looked Quest in the eyes.
“I don’t know,” he said.
ON THE RACK
For the moment a new element had been introduced into the horror of the little tableau. All eyes were fixed upon Quest, who had listened to the Inspector’s dubious words with a supercilious smile upon his lips.
“Perhaps,” he suggested, “you would like to ask me a few questions?”
“Perhaps I may feel it my duty to do so,” the Inspector replied gravely. “In the first place, then, Mr. Quest, will you kindly explain the condition of your clothes?”
Quest looked down at himself quickly. More than ever he realised the significance of his dishevelled appearance.
“I travelled from number ten tower, just outside New York, on top of a freight car,” he said grimly. “It wasn’t a very comfortable ride.”
“Perhaps you will explain what made you take it, then?” the Inspector continued.
Quest shrugged his shoulders.
“Here you are, then,” he replied. “This morning I decided to make an attempt to clear up the mystery of Macdougal’s disappearance. I sent on my secretary, Miss Laura, to make friends with the section boss, and Lenora and I went out by automobile a little later. We instituted a search on a new principle, and before very long we found Macdougal’s body. That’s one up against you, I think, Inspector.”
“Very likely,” the Inspector observed. “Go on, please.”
“I left the two young ladies, at Miss Lenora’s wish, to superintend the removal of the body. I myself had an engagement to deliver over her jewels to Mrs. Rheinholdt here at mid-day. I returned to where my automobile was waiting, started for the city and was attacked by two thugs near the section house. I got away from them, ran to the tower house to try and stop the freight, was followed by the thugs, and jumped out on to the last car from the signal arm.”
There was a dead silence. Quest began quietly to dust his clothes. The Inspector stopped him.
“Don’t do that,” he said.
Quest paused in his task and laid down the brush.
“Any more questions?”
“Where is your automobile?”
“No idea,” Quest replied. “I left it in the road. When I jumped from the freight car, I took a taxicab to the Professor’s and called for him, as arranged.”