Already he was sure that he knew how Kedsty had died. The picture of the tragedy had pieced itself together in his mind, bit by bit. While he slept, Marette and a man were down in the big room with the Inspector of Police. The climax had come, and Kedsty was struck a blow—in some unaccountable way—with his own gun. Then, just as Kedsty was recovering sufficiently from the shock of the blow to fight, Marette’s companion had killed him. Horrified, dazed by what had already happened, perhaps unconscious, she had been powerless to prevent the use of a tress of her hair in the murderer’s final work. Kent, in this picture, eliminated the boot-laces and the curtain cords. He knew that the unusual and the least expected happened frequently in crime. And Marette’s long hair was flowing loose about her. To use it had simply been the first inspiration of the murderer. And Kent believed, as he waited for her answer now, that Marette would tell him this.
And as he waited, he felt her fingers tighten in his hand.
“Tell me, Gray Goose—what happened?”
His eyes went to her suddenly from the fire, as if he was not quite sure he had heard what she had said. She did not move her head, but continued to gaze unseeingly into the flames. Inside his palm her fingers worked to his thumb and held it tightly again, as they had clung to it when she was frightened by the thunder and lightning.
“I don’t know what happened, Jeems.”
This time he did not feel the clinging thrill of her little fingers and soft palm. Deep within him he experienced something that was like a sudden and unexpected blow. He was ready to fight for her until his last breath was gone. He was ready to believe anything she told him—anything except this impossible thing which she had just spoken. For she did know what had happened in Kedsty’s room. She knew—unless—
Suddenly his heart leaped with joyous hope. “You mean—you were unconscious?” he cried in a low voice that trembled with his eagerness. “You fainted—and it happened then?”
She shook her head. “No. I was asleep in my room. I didn’t intend to sleep, but—I did. Something awakened me. I thought I had been dreaming. But something kept pulling me, pulling me downstairs. And when I went, I found Kedsty like that. He was dead. I was paralyzed, standing there, when you came.”
She drew her, hand away from him, gently, but significantly. “I know you can’t believe me, Jeems. It is impossible for you to believe me.”
“And you don’t want me to believe you, Marette.”
“Yes—I do. You must believe me.”
“But the tress of hair—your hair—round Kedsty’s neck—”
He stopped. His words, spoken gently as they were, seemed brutal to him. Yet he could not see that they affected her. She did not flinch. He saw no tremor of horror. Steadily she continued to look into the fire. And his brain grew confused. Never in all his experience had he seen such absolute and unaffected self-control. And somehow, it chilled him. It chilled him even as he wanted to reach out and gather her close in his arms, and pour his love into her ears, entreating her to tell him everything, to keep nothing back from him that might help in the fight he was going to make.