“How many men were there in the room?”
“About twenty, I guess.”
“Were the lights turned off before you turned around, or after?”
“I don’t remember that; it might have been after.” And suddenly poor bewildered Peter cried: “It makes me feel like a fool. Of course I ought to have talked to the fellow, and made sure it was Joe Angell before I turned away again; but I thought sure it was him. The idea it could be anybody else never crossed my mind.”
“But you’re sure it was Jerry Rudd that was talking to him?”
“Yes, it was Jerry Rudd, because his face was toward me.”
“Was it Rudd or was it the other fellow that made the reply about the `sab-cat’?” And then Peter was bewildered and tied himself up, and led them into a long process of cross-questioning; and in the middle of it came the detective, bringing the book on sabotage with McCormick’s name written in the fly-leaf, and with the ground plan of a house between the pages.
They all crowded around to look at the plan, and the idea occurred to several of them at once: Could it be Nelse Ackerman’s house? The Chief of Police turned to his phone, and called up the great banker’s secretary. Would he please describe Mr. Ackerman’s house; and the chief listened to the description. “There’s a cross mark on this plan—the north side of the house, a little to the west of the center. What could that be?” Then, “My God!” And then, “Will you come down here to my office right away and bring the architect’s plan of the house so we can compare them?” The Chief turned to the others, and said, “That cross mark in the house is the sleeping porch on the second floor where Mr. Ackerman sleeps!”
So then they forgot for a while their doubts about Peter. It was fascinating, this work of tracing out the details of the conspiracy, and fitting them together like a picture puzzle. It seemed quite certain to all of them that this insignificant and scared little man whom they had been examining could never have prepared so ingenious and intricate a design. No, it must really be that some master mind, some devilish intriguer was at work to spread red ruin in American City!
They dismissed Peter for the present, sending him back to his cell. He stayed there for two days with no one to advise him, and no hint as to his fate. They did not allow newspapers in the jail, but they had left Peter his money, and so on the second day he succeeded in bribing one of his keepers and obtaining a copy of the American City “Times,” with all the details of the amazing sensation spread out on the front page.