Together they hastened to the railroad building, Runnels telling all he knew of the tragedy as they went along. Cortlandt’s body, it seemed, had been found about daylight by a Spiggoty policeman, who had identified it. Becoming panic-stricken at the importance of his discovery, he had sounded the alarm, then reported directly to the Governor, whose house was close by. It was General Alfarez himself who had informed Mrs. Cortlandt over the telephone of her husband’s death. The whole city was alive with the news, the police were buzzing like bees. Rumors of suicide, murder, robbery were about, but no one seemed to know anything definite. Colonel Jolson in his motor-car had just come from Culebra, and Colonel Bland was on No. 5 from Gatun, hence Runnels’ desire to be at the station.
“It was suicide,” Kirk averred, with conviction. “The man was insane last night, and that accounts for what he said about me. He’s been sick for a long time.”
“If those boys will only keep their mouths shut!” Runnels said, anxiously. “There’s no telling what these Spiggoties might do if they heard about that row.”
“Cortlandt was an American.”
“But it happened in Panama, and it would be their affair.”
Although it was Sunday, the four young fellows who had taken part in the entertainment on the night before had gathered in the office, and at the appearance of Runnels greeted him eagerly. Toward Kirk, however, they maintained a disheartening constraint.
The Acting Superintendent began to caution them tersely.
“Boys, there’s no use to tell you that we must keep still about what happened last night. Kirk thinks Cortlandt’s mind was unbalanced; but whether it was or not, he left a widow, and what went on at that supper must never leak out.”
“Why do you think he was crazy?” Wade inquired.
“His actions last night would show it,” Kirk answered. “The man must have been out of his mind to believe or to say such a thing.”
“You mean, then, that he shot himself?”
“I don’t agree with you. I’ve seen crazy people, but he was as sane as any of us. And I don’t believe in secrecy, either. I think we ought to be entirely frank about the matter. The truth never hurt anybody.”
“It’s a bad business,” said Runnels, “and it’s something I for one don’t want to be mixed up in. I’ve heard rumors already about some sort of a quarrel at our party, so I’m afraid you fellows have been talking.”
Wade acknowledged it recklessly. “Yes, I’ll answer for my part, and I’m not going to make any promise of secrecy, either. If that affair had anything to do with Steve Cortlandt’s death, it ought to be known, so the man who did it can be made to answer.”
Into the office behind them came Ramon Alfarez and two Panamanian policemen, one evidently a sergeant.
“Eh, there you are!” Alfarez cried, as he caught sight of Kirk. Then he said something in Spanish to the sergeant, who advanced and laid hands upon the American. “You are arrest’.”