“Eight! You did make a mistake, of course, I have not the least doubt of it. So don’t think of the matter again. I will find out who the real man was; rest easy.”
And with the lightest of bows, Knapp drew off and passed as quickly as he could, without attracting attention, round the corner to the confectioner’s.
Here his attack was warier. Sally Loton was behind the counter with her husband, and they had evidently been talking the matter over very confidentially. But Knapp was not to be awed by her small, keen eye or strident voice, and presently succeeded in surprising a knowing look on the lady’s face, which convinced him that in the confidences between husband and wife a name had been used which she appeared to be less unwilling to impart than he. Knapp, consequently, turned his full attention towards her, using in his attack that oldest and subtlest weapon against the sex— flattery.
“My dear madam,” said he, “your good heart is apparent; your husband has confided to you a name which you, out of fear of some mistake, hesitate to repeat. A neighbourly spirit, ma’am, a very neighbourly spirit; but you should not allow your goodness to defeat the ends of justice. If you simply told us whom this man resembled we would be able to get some idea of his appearance.”
“He didn’t resemble anyone I know,” growled Loton. “It was too dark for me to see how he looked.”
“His voice, then? People are traced by their voices.”
“I didn’t recognise his voice.”
Knapp smiled, his eye still on the woman.
“Yet you have thought of someone he reminded you of?”
The man was silent, but the wife tossed her head ever so lightly.
“Now, you must have had your reasons for that. No one thinks of a good and respectable neighbour in connection with the buying of a loaf of bread at mid-night with a twenty-dollar bill, without some positive reason.”
“The man wore a beard. I felt it brush my hand as he took the loaf.”
“Good! That is a point.”
“Which made me think of other men who wore beards.”
“As, for instance—–”
The detective had taken from his pocket the card which he had used with such effect at the minister’s, and as he said these words twirled it so that the two names written upon it fell under Sally Loton’s inquisitive eyes. The look with which she read them was enough. John Zabel, James Zabel.
“Who told you it was either of these men?” she asked.
“You did,” he retorted, pocketing the card with a smile.
“La, now! Samuel, I never spoke a word,” she insisted, in anxious protest to her husband, as the detective slid quietly from the store.
The Hallidays lived but a few rods from the Sutherlands. Yet as it was dusk when Miss Halliday rose to depart, Frederick naturally offered his services as her escort.