“He has packed his grip!” came Leroux’s voice from the doorway. “It’s gone!”
The window was wide open. Dunbar sprang forward and leaned out over the ledge, looking to right and left, above and below.
A sort of square courtyard was beneath, and for the convenience of tradesmen, a hand-lift was constructed outside the kitchens of the three flats comprising the house; i. e.:—Mr. Exel’s, ground floor, Henry Leroux’s second floor, and Dr. Cumberly’s, top. It worked in a skeleton shaft which passed close to the left of Soames’ window.
For an active man, this was a good enough ladder, and the inspector withdrew his head shrugging his square shoulders, irritably.
“My fault entirely!” he muttered, biting his wiry mustache. “I should have come and seen for myself if there was another way out.”
Leroux, in a new flutter of excitement, now craned from the window.
“It might be possible to climb down the shaft,” he cried, after a brief survey, “but not if one were carrying a heavy grip, such as that which he has taken!”
“H’m!” said Dunbar. “You are a writing gentleman, I understand, and yet it does not occur to you that he could have lowered the bag on a cord, if he wanted to avoid the noise of dropping it!”
“Yes—er—of course!” muttered Leroux. “But really—but really—oh, good God! I am bewildered! What in Heaven’s name does it all mean!”
“It means trouble,” replied Dunbar, grimly; “bad trouble.”
They returned to the study, and Inspector Dunbar, for the first time since his arrival, walked across and examined the fragmentary message, raising his eyebrows when he discovered that it was written upon the same paper as Leroux’s MSS. He glanced, too, at the pen lying on a page of “Martin Zeda” near the lamp and at the inky splash which told how hastily the pen had been dropped.
Then—his brows drawn together—he stooped to the body of the murdered woman. Partially raising the fur cloak, he suppressed a gasp of astonishment.
“Why! she only wears a silk night-dress, and a pair of suede slippers!”
He glanced back over his shoulder.
“I had noted that,” said Cumberly. “The whole business is utterly extraordinary.”
“Extraordinary is no word for it!” growled the inspector, pursuing his examination.... “Marks of pressure at the throat—yes; and generally unhealthy appearance.”
“Due to the drug habit,” interjected Dr. Cumberly.
“I should not like to say out of hand; possibly morphine.”
“No jewelry,” continued the detective, musingly; “wedding ring—not a new one. Finger nails well cared for, but recently neglected. Hair dyed to hide gray patches; dye wanted renewing. Shoes, French. Night-robe, silk; good lace; probably French, also. Faint perfume—don’t know what it is—apparently proceeding from civet fur. Furs, magnificent; very costly."...