“Possibly,” commented Kennedy absently, adding, “Robbery with this fellow seems to be an art as carefully strategized as a promoter’s plan or a merchant’s trade campaign. I think I’ll run over this morning and see if there is any trace of anything on the Carter estate.”
Just then the telephone rang insistently. It was McNeill, much excited, though he had not heard of the orange incident. Verplanck answered the call.
“Have you heard the news?” asked McNeill. “They report this morning that that fellow must have turned up last night at Belle Aire.”
“Belle Aire? Why, man, that’s fifty miles away and on the other side of the island. He was here last night,” and Verplanck related briefly the find of the morning. “No boat could get around the island in that time and as for a car—those roads are almost impossible at night.”
“Can’t help it,” returned McNeill doggedly. “The Halstead estate out at Belle Aire was robbed last night. It’s spooky all right.”
“Tell McNeill I want to see him—will meet him in the village directly,” cut in Craig before Verplanck had finished.
We bolted a hasty breakfast and in one of Verplanck’s cars hurried to meet McNeill.
“What do you intend doing?” he asked helplessly, as Kennedy finished his recital of the queer doings of the night before.
“I’m going out now to look around the Carter place. Can you come along?”
“Surely,” agreed McNeill, climbing into the car. “You know him?”
“Then I’ll introduce you. Queer chap, Carter. He’s a lawyer, although I don’t think he has much practice, except managing his mother’s estate.”
McNeill settled back in the luxurious car with an exclamation of satisfaction.
“What do you think of Verplanck?” he asked.
“He seems to me to be a very public-spirited man,” answered Kennedy discreetly.
That, however, was not what McNeill meant and he ignored it. And so for the next ten minutes we were entertained with a little retail scandal of Westport and Bluffwood, including a tale that seemed to have gained currency that Verplanck and Mrs. Hollingsworth were too friendly to please Mrs. Verplanck. I set the whole thing down to the hostility and jealousy of the towns people who misinterpret everything possible in the smart set, although I could not help recalling how quickly she had spoken when we had visited the Hollingsworth house in the Streamline the day before.
Montgomery Carter happened to be at home and, at least openly, interposed no objection to our going about the grounds.
“You see,” explained Kennedy, watching the effect of his words as if to note whether Carter himself had noticed anything unusual the night before, “we saw a light moving over here last night. To tell the truth, I half expected you would have a story to add to ours, of a second visit.”
Carter smiled. “No objection at all. I’m simply nonplussed at the nerve of this fellow, coming back again. I guess you’ve heard what a narrow squeak he had with me. You’re welcome to go anywhere, just so long as you don’t disturb my study down there in the boathouse. I use that because it overlooks the bay—just the place to study over knotty legal problems.”