“I’m going around after you, and if I find so much as a pint, I’ll put you in that room you have just left, and lock you in.”
He turned even grayer, and went into the storeroom.
A day later, and the crew would probably have resented what they saw that morning. But that day they only looked up apathetically from their gruesome work of sewing into bags of canvas the sheeted bodies on the deck, while a gray-faced Negro in a white coat flung over the rail cases of fine wines, baskets and boxes full of bottles, dozen after dozen of brandies and liquors, all sinking beyond salvage in the blue Atlantic.
My first thought had been for the women, and, unluckily, to save them a shock I had all evidences of the crime cleared away as quickly as possible. Stains that might have been of invaluable service in determining the murderer were washed away almost before they were dry. I realized this now, too late. But the axe remained, and I felt that its handle probably contained a record for more skillful eyes than mine to read, prints that under the microscope would reveal the murderer’s identity as clearly as a photograph.
I sent for Burns, who reported that he had locked the axe in the captain’s cabin. He gave me the key, which I fastened to a string and hung around my neck under my shirt. He also reported that, as I had suggested, the crew had gone, two at a time, into the forecastle, and had brought up what they needed to stay on deck. The forecastle had been closed and locked in the presence of the crew, and the key given to Burns, who fastened it to his watch-chain. The two hatchways leading to the hold had been fastened down also, and Oleson, who was ship’s carpenter, had nailed them fast.
The crew had been instructed to stay aft of the wheel, except when on watch. Thus the helmsman need not be alone. As I have said, the door at the top of the companion steps, near the wheel, was closed and locked, and entrance to the after house was to be gained only by the forward companion. It was the intention of Burns and myself to keep watch here, amidships.
Burns had probably suffered more than any of us. Whatever his relation to the Hansen woman had been, he had been with her only three hours before her death, and she was wearing a ring of his, a silver rope tied in a sailor’s knot, when she died. And Burns had been fond of Captain Richardson, in a crew where respect rather than affection toward the chief officer was the rule.
When Burns gave me the key to the captain’s room Charlie Jones had reached the other end of the long cabin, and was staring through into the chartroom. It was a time to trust no one, and I assured myself that Jones was not looking before I thrust it into my shirt.
“They’re—all ready, Leslie,” Burns said, his face working. “What are we going to do with them?”