“That’s exactly my opinion, my dear Walter. If it was a crime for gain, or through motives of either jealousy or revenge, Mademoiselle would certainly have been attacked on her way home. The road is quite deserted towards the crest of the hill.”
“What do the police say?”
“They do not appear to trouble to track Mademoiselle’s assailant. They say they will wait until daylight before searching for footprints on the gravel outside.”
“Ah! They are not very fond of making arrests within the Principality. It’s such a bad advertisement for the Rooms. The Administration like to show a clean sheet as regards serious crime. Our friends here leave it to the French or Italian police to deal with the criminals so that the Principality shall prove itself the most honest State in Europe,” Brock said.
“The police, I believe, suspect me of shooting her,” said Hugh bluntly.
“That’s very awkward. Why?”
“Well—they don’t know the true reason I went to see her, or they would never believe me to be guilty of a crime so much against my own interests.”
Brock, who was still sitting up in bed in his pale blue silk pyjamas, reflected a few moments.
“Well, Hugh,” he said at last, “after all it is only natural that they should believe that you had a hand in the matter. Even though she told you the truth, it is quite within reason that you should have suddenly become incensed against her for the part she must have played in your father’s mysterious death, and in a frenzy of anger you shot her.”
Hugh drew a long breath, and his eyebrows narrowed.
“By Jove! I had never regarded it in that light before!” he gasped. “But what about the weapon?”
“You might easily have hidden it before the arrival of the police. You admit that you went out on the veranda. Therefore if they do chance to find the weapon in the garden then their suspicions will, no doubt, be considerably increased. It’s a pity, old man, that you didn’t make a clean breast of the motive of your visit.”
“I now see my horrible mistake,” Henfrey admitted. “I thought myself wise to preserve silence, to know nothing, and now I see quite plainly that I have only brought suspicion unduly upon myself. The police, however, know Yvonne Ferad to be a somewhat mysterious person.”
“Which renders the situation only worse,” Brock said. Then, after a pause, he added: “Now that you have declined to tell the police why you visited the Villa Amette and have, in a way, defied them, it will be best to maintain that attitude. Tell them nothing, no matter what happens.”
“I intend to pursue that course. But the worst of it is, Walter, that the doctors hold out no hope of Mademoiselle’s recovery. I saw Duponteil half an hour ago, and he told me that he could give me no encouraging information. The bullet has been extracted, but she is hovering between life and death. I suppose it will be in the papers to-morrow, and Dorise and her mother will know of my nocturnal visit to the house of a notorious woman.”