“Your man could telephone, couldn’t he? He wasn’t ill, too, was he?”
Whitford interfered. “Hold on, honey. Don’t rub it in. Clarendon was a bit rattled. That’s natural. The question is, what’s he going to do now?”
Their host groaned. “Durand’ll see I go to the chair—and I only struck the man to save my own life. I wasn’t trying to kill the fellow. He was shooting at me, and I had to do it.”
“Of course,” agreed Whitford. “We’ve got proof of that. Lindsay is one witness. He must have seen it all. I’ve got in my pocket one of the bullets Collins shot. That’s more evidence. Then—”
Beatrice broke in excitedly. “Dad, Mr. Muldoon just told me over the ’phone that they’ve got the express wagon. The plank with the bullet holes was in it. And the driver has confessed that he and a carpenter, whose name he had given, changed the partition for Durand.”
Whitford gave a subdued whoop. “We win. That lets you out, Clarendon. The question now isn’t whether you or Clay will go to the penitentiary, but whether Durand will. We can show he’s been trying to stand in the way of justice, that he’s been cooking up false evidence.”
“Let’s hurry! Let’s get to the police right away!” the girl cried, her eyes shining with excitement. “We ought not to lose a minute. We can get Clay out in time to go home to dinner with us.”
Bromfield smiled wanly. He came to time as gallantly as he could. “All right. I’m elected to take his place, I see.”
“Only for a day or two, Clarendon,” said the older man. “As soon as we can get together a coroner’s jury we’ll straighten everything out.”
“Yes,” agreed the clubman lifelessly.
It was running through his mind already that if he should be freed of the murder charge, he would only have escaped Scylla to go to wreck on Charybdis. For it was a twenty to one bet that Jerry would go to Whitford with the story of his attempt to hire the gang leader to smirch Lindsay’s reputation.
It must be admitted that when Bromfield made up his mind to clear Lindsay he did it thoroughly. His confession to the police was quiet and businesslike. He admitted responsibility for the presence of the Westerner at the Omnium Club. He explained that his guest had neither gambled nor taken any liquors, that he had come only as a spectator out of curiosity. The story of the killing was told by him simply and clearly. After he had struck down the gunman, he had done a bolt downstairs and got away by a back alley. His instinct had been to escape from the raid and from the consequences of what he had done, but of course he could not let anybody else suffer in his place. So he had come to give himself up.
The late afternoon papers carried the story that Clarendon Bromfield, well-known man about town, had confessed to having killed “Slim” Collins and had completely exonerated Lindsay. It was expected that the latter would be released immediately.