“Then I can only say that I am fortunate in my inquisitors,” smiled Theydon.
Winter held up a massive fist in deprecation of these acerbities.
“You have nothing more to tell us?” he queried.
“Then we need not trouble you further tonight. Of course, if luck favors us and we find the gentleman with the classical features— the most unlikely person to commit a murder I have ever heard of— we shall want you to identify him.”
“I am at your service at any time. But before you go won’t you enlighten me somewhat? What did really happen? I have not even seen a newspaper account of the crime.”
“Would you care to examine No. 17?”
It was Furneaux who put the question, and Theydon was genuinely astonished.
“Do you mean—” he began, but Furneaux laughed, almost savagely.
“I mean Mrs. Lester’s flat,” he said. “The poor woman’s body is at the mortuary. If you come with us we can reconstruct the crime. It occurred about this very hour if the doctor’s calculations are well founded.”
“I shall be most— interested,” he said. “By the way, Mr. Furneaux, yours is a French name. Are you a Frenchman, may I ask?”
“A Jersey man. You think I am adopting some of the methods of the French juge d’instruction, eh?”
“No. I cannot bring myself to believe that you regard me as a murderer.”
The three passed out into the hall. Mr. and Mrs. Bates immediately showed scared faces at the kitchen door.
“It’s all right, Bates,” said Theydon airily. “I’m not a prisoner. I’ll be with you again in a few minutes.”
But Bates was profoundly disturbed.
“Wot beats me,” he said to his wife when they were alone, “is why that little ferret wanted to see the guv’nor’s clothes. I looked ’em over carefully afterwards, an’ there wasn’t a speck on ’em except some spots of rain on the coat collar. It’s a queer business, no matter how you look at it. Mr. Theydon’s manner was strange when he kem in last night. He seemed to be list’nin’ for something. I don’t know wot to make of it, Eliza. I reely don’t.”
In effect, since no man is a hero to his valet, what would Tomlinson, butler at No. 11 Fortescue Square, have thought of his master if told that Mrs. Lester’s last known visitor was James Creighton Forbes?
A telephonic talk and its consequences
Theydon’s journalistic experiences had been, for the most part, those of the “special correspondent,” or descriptive writer. He had never entered one of those fetid slums of a great city in which, too often, murder is done, never sickened with the physical nausea of death in its most revolting aspect, when some unhappy wretch’s foul body serves only to further pollute air already vile.