The sheet with its tear-stained lines fell from his grasp. Then he caught it up again and looked carefully at the signature. It was his wife’s without doubt. Then he studied the rest of the writing and compared it with that of the note which had been thrust into his hands earlier in the day. There was no difference between them except that there were evidences of faltering in the latter, not noticeable in the earlier communication. As he noted these tokens of weakness or suffering, he caught up the telephone receiver in good earnest and called out Gerridge’s number. When the detective answered, he shouted back:
“Have you read the evening papers? If you haven’t, do so at once; then come directly to me. It’s business now and no mistake; and our first visit shall be on the fellow at the St. Denis.”
IN CORRIDOR AND IN ROOM
Three quarters of an hour later Mr. Ransom and Gerridge stood in close conference before the last mentioned hotel. The former was peremptory in what he had to say.
“I haven’t a particle of confidence in this newspaper story,” he declared. “I haven’t much confidence in her letter. It is this man who is working us. He has a hold on her and has given her this cock and bull story to tell. A sister! A twin sister come to light after fifteen years of supposed burial! I find the circumstance entirely too romantic. Nor does an explanation of this nature fit the conditions. She was happy before she saw him in the church. He isn’t her twin sister. I tell you the game is a deep one and she is the sufferer. Her letters betray more than a disturbed mind; they betray a disturbed brain. That man is the cause and I mean to wring his secret from him. You are sure of his being still in the house?”
“He was early this morning. He has lived a very quiet life these last few days, the life of one waiting. He has not even had visitors, after that one interview he held with your wife. I have kept careful watch on him. Though a suspected character, he has done nothing suspicious while I’ve had him under my eye.”
“That’s all right and I thank you, Gerridge; but it doesn’t shake my opinion as to his being the moving power in this fraud. For fraud it is and no mistake. Of that I am fully convinced. Shall we go up? I want to surprise him in his own room where he cannot slip away or back out.”
“Leave that business to me; I’ll manage it. If you want to see him in his room, you shall.”
But this time the detective counted without his host. Mr. Porter was not in his room but in one of the halls. They encountered him as they left the elevator. He was standing reading a newspaper. The disfigured jaw could not be mistaken. They stopped where they were and looked at him.
He was intent, absorbed. As they watched, they saw his hands close convulsively on the sheet he was holding, while his lips muttered some words that made the detective look hard at his companion.