“Dr. Coates and Dr. Everest are going to do it this afternoon,” replied Mitchington. “The Coroner went to them at once, as soon as I told him.”
“They’ll probably have to call in an expert from London,” said Bryce. “However, you can’t do anything definite, you know, until the result’s known. Don’t say anything of this to anybody. I’ll drop in at your place later and hear if Coates can say anything really certain.”
Mitchington went away, and Bryce spent the rest of the afternoon wondering, speculating and scheming. If Ransford had really got rid of this man who knew something—why, then, it was certainly Ransford who killed Braden.
He went round to the police-station at five o’clock. Mitchington drew him aside.
“Coates says there’s no doubt about it!” he whispered. “Poisoned! Hydrocyanic acid!”
BRYCE IS ASKED A QUESTION
Mitchington stepped aside into a private room, motioning Bryce to follow him. He carefully closed the door, and looking significantly at his companion, repeated his last words, with a shake of the head.
“Poisoned!—without the very least doubt,” he whispered. “Hydrocyanic acid—which, I understand, is the same thing as what’s commonly called prussic acid. They say then hadn’t the least difficulty in finding that out! so there you are.”
“That’s what Coates has told you, of course?” asked Bryce. “After the autopsy?”
“Both of ’em told me—Coates, and Everest, who helped him,” replied Mitchington. “They said it was obvious from the very start. And—I say!”
“Well?” said Bryce.
“It wasn’t in that tin bottle, anyway,” remarked Mitchington, who was evidently greatly weighted with mystery.
“No!—of course it wasn’t!” affirmed Bryce. “Good Heavens, man—I know that!”
“How do you know?” asked Mitchington.
“Because I poured a few drops from that bottle into my hand when I first found Collishaw and tasted the stuff,” answered Bryce readily. “Cold tea! with too much sugar in it. There was no H.C.N. in that besides, wherever it is, there’s always a smell stronger or fainter—of bitter almonds. There was none about that bottle.”
“Yet you were very anxious that we should take care of the bottle?” observed Mitchington.
“Of course!—because I suspected the use of some much rarer poison than that,” retorted Bryce. “Pooh!—it’s a clumsy way of poisoning anybody!—quick though it is.”
“Well, there’s where it is!” said Mitchington. “That’ll be the medical evidence at the inquest, anyway. That’s how it was done. And the question now is—”
“Who did it?” interrupted Bryce. “Precisely! Well—I’ll say this much at once, Mitchington. Whoever did it was either a big bungler—or damned clever! That’s what I say!”
“I don’t understand you,” said Mitchington.