“All right see you later, then. Where can I find you? I’m something of an owl, myself.”
“I’ll call you up after I get home—if it isn’t too late,” Hendricks suggested.
“Never too late for me. See that you remember.”
Hanlon looked at Hendricks with more seriousness than the subject appeared to call for, then he went away.
“You got the earache?” asked Fibsy suddenly, of Hendricks, as that gentleman half absently rubbed his ear.
“Bless my soul, no! What do you mean by such a question? Mr. Stone, this boy of yours is too fresh!”
“Be quiet, Terence,” said Stone, paying but slight attention to the matter.
“Oh, all right, no offense meant,” and the boy grinned at Hendricks. “But didn’t you ever have an earache? If not, you don’t know what real sufferin’ is!”
“No, I never had it, that I remember. Perhaps as a child—”
“Why, Alvord,” said Aunt Abby, “you had it fearfully about a month ago. Don’t you recollect? You were afraid of mastoiditis.”
“Oh, that. Well, that was a serious illness. I was thinking of an ordinary earache, when I said I never had one. But I beg of you drop the subject of my ailments! What a thing to discuss!”
“True enough,” agreed Stone, “I propose we keep to the theme under consideration. I’ve been engaged to look into this murder mystery. I’m here for that purpose. I must insist that I conduct my investigation in my own way.”
“That’s the right talk,” approved Elliott. “Now, Mr. Stone, let’s get right down to it.”
“Very well, the case stands thus: Shane says—and it’s perfectly true—there are five possible suspects. But only one of these had both motive and opportunity. Now, the whole five are here present, and, absurd though it my seem, I’m going to ask each one of you the definite question. Ferdinand,” he raised his voice and the butler came in from the dining-room, “did you kill your master?”
“No, God hearing me—I didn’t, sir.” The man was quiet and composed, though his face was agonized.
“That will do, you may go,” said Stone. “Mr. Elliott, did you kill your friend—your partner in business?”
“I did not,” said Elliott, curtly. He was evidently ill-pleased at the question.
“Mr. Hendricks, did you?”
“As I have repeatedly proved, I was in Boston that night. It would be impossible for me to be the criminal—but I will answer your ridiculous query—I did not.”
“Mrs, Embury, did you?”
“N—no—but I would rather be suspected, than to have—”
“You said no, I believe,” Stone interrupted her. “Miss Ames, do you really think you killed your niece’s husband?”
“Oh, sir—I don’t know! I can’t think I did—”
“Of course, you didn’t, Aunt Abby!” Mason Elliott rose from his seat and paced up and down the room. “I must say, Mr. Stone, this is a childish performance! What makes you think any of us would say so, if we had killed Embury? It is utterly absurd!”