“Hush! I won’t listen to, such a suggestion! Mason was at his home that night.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m sure! And I don’t have to have it proved by a detective either! And now, Alvord Hendricks, you may go! I don’t care to talk to anyone who can make such a contemptible accusation against a lifelong friend!”
But before Hendricks left, Elliott himself came in.
He was grave and preoccupied. He bowed a little curtly to Hendricks, and, as he took Eunice’s hand, he said, “May I see you alone? I want to talk over some business matters—and I’m pressed for time.”
“Oh, all right,” Hendricks said, “I can take a hint. I’m going. How’s your sleuth progressing, Elliott? Has Mr. Stone unearthed the murderer yet?”
“Not yet—but soon,” and Elliott essayed to pass the subject off lightly.
“Very soon?” Hendricks looked at him in a curious manner.
“Very soon, I think.”
“That’s interesting. Would it be indiscreet to ask in what direction one must look for the criminal?”
“It would very.” Elliott smiled a little. “Now run along, Hendricks, that’s a good chap. I’ve important business matters to talk over with Eunice.”
Hendricks went, and Elliott turned to Eunice, with a grave face,
“I’ve been going over Sanford’s private papers,” he said, “and, Eunice, there’s a lot that we want to keep quiet.”
“Was Sanford a bad man?” she asked, her quiet, white face imploring a negative answer.
“Not so very, but, as you know, he had a love of money—a sort of acquisitiveness, that led him into questionable dealings. He loaned money to any one who would give him security—”
“That isn’t wrong!”
“Not in itself—but, oh, Eunice, I can’t explain it to you—or, at least, I don’t want to—but Sanford lent money to men—to his friends—who were in great exigency—who gave their choicest belongings, their treasures as security—and then—he had no leniency—no compassion for them—”
“Why should he have?”
“Because—well, there is a justice, that is almost criminal. Sanford was a—a Shylock! There, can you understand now?”
“Who were his debtors? Alvord?”
“Yes; Hendricks was one who owed him enormous sums—and he was going to make lots of trouble—I mean Sanford was—why, Eunice, in Sanford’s private safe are practically all of Hendricks’ stocks and bonds, put up as collateral. Sanford holds mortgages on all Hendricks’ belongings—real estate, furniture—everything. Now, just at the time Sanford died these notes were due—this indebtedness of Hendricks to Sanford had to be paid, and merely the fact of San’s death occurring just when it did saved Alvord from financial ruin.”
“Do you mean Sanford would have insisted on the payment?”
“Then—oh, Mason I can’t say it—I wouldn’t breathe it to any one but you but could Alvord have killed Sanford?”