Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Stalking Death - Part 1 of 9

The Stalking Death - Part 1 of 9
Beginning Lacey Amy’s Newest and Most Dramatic Story
A serialized novel starting from The Canadian Magazine, July, 1932. Illustrated by Carl Shreve
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, December, 2015. [For research purposes only, please.../drf]

ADOLPH AULINLOCH beamed at the long line of cards before him and dapped a lean, sensitive hand triumphantly on the table. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed.
Phyliss, his pretty, young wife looked up for a moment indifferently from the fashion magazine. Not that she was really indifferent to this husband of hers; she wished she could be. All the time she had been conscious that, as usual, he was cheating himself into winning. There was a point where Adolph Aulinloch’s insensibility to defeat definitely ended.
“The very first try—” he began, in his subdued way. The long double note of a police whistle shrilled through the open window, and Phyliss lifted her head sharply, to find her husband peering at her through his heavy eyebrows. For a moment they stared at each other across the cards, she as yet merely curious, he plainly startled, as though that unfamiliar sound carried with it a sinister significance.
Automatically inserting a marker in the magazine, she let it slip to the floor and started for the window. Her husband did not move. One hand held poised over the cards, his ear was turned to the street outside, his eyes unfocussed.
With a jerk Phyliss sent the blind rattling to the top. A crowd was out there on the street, a growing crowd, but she was scarcely aware of it, for behind her Adolph still sat motionless. As she turned fretfully toward him, oppressed suddenly by a sense of impending disaster, like a man rudely awakened from a deep sleep he lurched across the room toward her and peered over her shoulder.
Across the street, against the steps of a house whose dark windows added a touch of mystery, a policeman stood, his whistle between his lips, holding the crowd back.
The shrill note cut into the room, and Aulinloch shuddered, Phyliss, too, felt a tremor strike through her, and she faced her husband enquiringly. Neither spoke, but it was as if the room in which they stood, and not the street below, was the stage of an unrehearsed drama. Adolph stepped back where his wife could not see him.
At that moment the policeman moved aside, and suddenly Phyliss was swept backward.
What—what is it?” she queried, her voice low.
Adolph made no answer; he had thrown the window up. Phyliss crowded against him, staring.
Behind the policeman, an arm drooping over the top step, lay a man, motionless, twisted. In the dim light they could see nothing more.
“Someone in a fit,” Phyliss murmured. But she knew better.
So did Adolph, for he threw her a look that at any other time would have sent her stiffly from the room. But now it was only part of the cloud of foreboding, of mystery, that had settled over her.
More policemen came, fighting through the crowd, led by a young man of evident authority who bored his way to the steps and, wheeling about, lifted his eyes straight to the two absorbed spectators in the open window.
Adolph Aulinloch shrank back and reached to close the blind.
Phyliss caught his arm. “Don’t. Why do you do that?”
For a moment or two they faced each other.
“I hate—things like that,” he muttered apologetically. “Death—and all that.”
“We don’t know he’s dead.”
He shivered. “See how he lies.”
She could fight it no longer. “Is it—murder?
“Why do you ask that? he sputtered. Then, ashamed: “It may be a motor accident.”
“We’d have heard it. She realized how their posi­tions had altered. It was he now who fought reality.
The official who had looked up at them flashed an electric torch in the face of the outstretched form, and Aulinloch staggered back, clutching his wife’s arm.
“My God!” he breathed. “Did you see—did you see? It’s Fergus Stirling!”


Phyliss Aulinloch stood rigid. It was not the shock of her husband’s announcement but of his agitation, of that claw-like clutch on her arm, with its suggestion of unaccustomed violence.
Fergus Stirling she knew only as a rival dealer in gems, with a leaning toward antiques. Adolph had often mentioned him, frankly jealous, always bitter. But then, these dealers in precious stones were ever at one another’s throats, competing for business in unbusinesslike ways. There was Freyseng the big bully, and Kalmberg the pig, and McElheren the hyprocrite, and Zaharoff, and Stirling, and several more. And, up to a fortnight ago, Austin Larned, the only one she had cared to know. The rest were “foreigners”—but no more “foreign” than her own husband. Austin Larned had been different. Only a fortnight ago!
She turned wonderingly to her husband. “Two of them dead—two in as many weeks!” she whispered.
“What about it?” he snapped. “People die—”
“Two jewelers!” she murmured.
He glared at her. But in a moment he was him­self, calm and gently smiling. The hand that still held her arm gave it an affectionate squeeze.
“Jewelers have their time, like anyone else.”
“You were serious enough about it a moment ago,” she returned, twisting free.
“It was—startling . . . Fergus Stirling! . . . A jeweler, too, as you say! It is strange.”
His swift change of moods puzzled her. “It must be murder, Adolph. The house is empty—the Morgans are away . . . Did he make a habit of carrying valuables on him?”

SHE was not interested in the reply. What was in her mind was the difference in Adolph’s manner when he had learned of Austin Larned’s death. She had read it in the afternoon paper and spoken of it on Adolph’s return from the office. Such a lonely life, a bachelor; and such a pitifully lonely death—found dead in his bed, and no one but an old house­keeper about the place. Adolph had heard the story through with a shrug—and eaten a good dinner.
Adolph had made some answer now but she had not heard. She saw him turn to the card table and lean his hands on it, staring at the wall. She saw several of the cards slip to the floor unnoticed. A silence filled the room, so solid that against it the noise from the street struck in vain.
“What would Mr. Stirling be doing—out there?” she asked.
“How should I know?” he returned irritably. “Why do you ask me these questions?” He continued to stare at the wall. “I’d like—to know that—myself—what was he—doing there?”
The heaping mystery of it all angered her.
“What does it matter to you?” she said. “Why do you ask yourself these questions?”
The shock of her retort brought him to himself, courteous, tight-lipped, a hang-over from their courtship days when, fresh from her quarrel with Brander Charlesworth, she had bewildered herself and her friends by accepting this mid­dle-aged lapidary whom she and her friends met only at the golf club.
“Of course, Phyliss. What does it matter—to us?”
But she knew it mattered a great deal to both of them.
He started for the door. “I’ll go down and see what’s happened.”
Phyliss returned thoughtfully to the window. In the few seconds she had been away the crowd had trebled in size. There were now six policemen, picked out by the headlights of the cars blocked by the crowd an energetic officer was clearing from the roadway.

SHE tried to concentrate on the scene, but even the limp outstretched body failed to hold her attention. Something else pressed on her, some fresh mystery that grew as the seconds passed almost to the proportions of a nightmare. In a last desperate struggle toward reason she asked herself why it all mattered so much to her.
Then, in a flash, she understood in part; Adolph, who had left so hastily to investigate, had not yet left the house! That she knew it so well was less impres­sive than the rest that she knew and how she knew it. Never before had she realized that the light from the vestibule reflected on the pave­ment outside, yet now that the reflection was missing it was as if she could see Adolph, cowering in the dark down there, peering through the glass of the front door. What did it all mean?
Half-formed questions and less than half-replies flooded her. She recalled his strange conduct from the moment the whistle sounded—that stiffening of his body, those staring eyes, those spasms of movement and of temper, his curi­osity linked with secrecy. Stirling’s death could mean nothing to him. Business rivals came and went with no appreciable result, the battle of wits would continue. A ruthless business it was, this traffic in precious stones, without compromise, often untroubled by business ethics, deadly to business friend­ships.
How far, she had often wondered, did the moral taint spread?
And now this man she knew so slightly, despite their four years of married life, kept piling mystery on mystery. She hurried from the room. Quietly she descended the stairs and, skirting the wall of the hall that her shadow might not fall on the glass of the vestibule door, she threw the door open. But Adolph had heard. The outer door was just closing, and be­fore she could reach it Adolph had dropped down the steps and was swallowed in the crowd.
At that moment their next door neighbour, a Mr. Callaghan whom they scarcely knew, ran down his own steps and pushed his way toward the centre of the crowd.
Phyliss watched the tall figure as it advanced, puzzling at her in­terest. Then she saw Adolph slip along the fence and fall in behind Callaghan.


CALLAGHAN continued to crowd toward the circle of officers, and at his heels, like a tug behind a steam ship, went Aulinloch. An officer stopped them. Callaghan looked over his head.
“Who’s in charge here?”
The policeman, who had thrust a powerful hand into Callaghan's chest, looked him over. “Inspector Broughton—there.”
“I want to see him. I have information for him.”
The officer retired and presently returned with a sturdy, youthful looking official in plain clothes. “This is Inspector Broughton, sir.”
“You’re in charge here, Inspector?" asked Callaghan. “I live right across the street. Twenty minutes ago I saw—”
The detective tapped him sharply on the arm. “All right. I’ll come with you. One moment, please.”
He returned to the group about the body and issued some instructions. “Now,” he said, urging Callaghan ahead of him. Adolph Aulinloch tried to slip from their path, but Callaghan recognized him.
“Hello, Mr. Aulinloch. This is something new for our neighborhood, isn’t it?”
Aulinloch only grunted and edged away. Inspector Broughton touched him on the arm.
“I saw you and—a woman at that window up there a few minutes ago. Yes, I see her now at the front door.”

AULINLOCH followed the pointing finger. There against the hall light, though the vesti­bule was dark, Phyliss was plainly visible.
“You were there yourself just now,” the Inspector said. “Will you come with us, Mr. Aulinloch?”
“But—but we saw nothing, my wife and I. We heard the whistle—that’s all.”
“All right, come and tell me about it.” Inspector Broughton took him by the shoulder in a friendly but firm grip and made for the sidewalk. “We’ll go some­where where we can talk. One never can tell what little thing may help us. How about your house, Mr. Aulinloch?”
He paused, but Aulinloch made no reply.
“It would be better.” the Inspector said, “than bring­ing your wife somewhere else.”
“Certainly, oh, certainly.” Aulinlock pushed ahead. “Come along in.” But with his back to them he scowled at the black profile of his wife. “I was watch­ing the crowd," he said over his shoulder. “I thought I might find out what happened without getting into the crowd.”
“When you couldn’t, you decided to find out, crowd or no crowd. And then the brutal police blocked you.” The Inspector laughed.
“This crowd doesn't give one much chance,” Aulinloch replied.
“For your benefit.” said the Inspector, “the police will talk. The dead man’s name is Stirling, Fergus Stirling. Let’s see, Mr. Aulinloch, he’d be in the same business as yourself, wouldn’t he?”
“Is he—dead?” Aulinloch asked, in a hushed voice.
“Worse than dead—murdered! Shot through the head!”

CALLAGHAN and Aulinloch started to speak together. Both were certain no shot had been fired where the body was found.
“He’s been dead at least an hour,” the Inspector told them. “But we’ll talk of that inside . . . Ah, she’s gone!”
For Phyliss, seeing them coming, Inspector Brough­ton’s hand on her husband’s shoulder, had fled in a panic. Though the Inspector wore no uniform, she recognized him as the official who had stared at them so curiously as they stood in the window.
In the hall she caught at the newel post for support. All the vague mystery of the evening massed to one factual terror: Adolph was arrested! And the most disturbing part of it was that she was not surprised.
Panic carried her to the top of the stairs, but there she pulled herself back to a semblance of self-control. Of course Adolph was not arrested. That was no official hand on his shoulder. For a moment she up­braided herself for disloyalty and crude unfairness.
Swiftly she descended to the lower hall.
She received them with, she thought, no outward sign of her recent alarm.
“This, Phyliss, is Inspector Broughton. My wife, Inspector.” The old-fashioned grace, so familiar to her in their daily relations, helped to reassure her.
Inspector Broughton stepped forward and peered into her face, and suddenly his hand reached out. Wonderingly, trembling a little in spite of herself, she took it.
“I was invited in, Mrs. Aulinloch,” he said apolo­getically. “We had to get away somewhere to talk. Your husband and Mr. Callaghan—and yourself—are the first who offered to tell us anything.”
Phyliss had turned to the stairs. “What my hus­band and I can tell you, Inspector, won’t be much use to you. But please come up to the living room. Good evening, Mr. Callaghan.” She started up the stairs. “My husband tells me it’s Mr. Stirling, Inspector.”

IN the silence that followed she knew she had somehow made a slip, and she hurried her steps. Adolph explained:
“Yes, I thought I recognized Stirling when you turned your torch on his face, Inspector.”
Without stopping to choose her words Phyliss hastened to her husband’s support:
“Yes, Adolph said right away it was Mr. Stirling. I couldn't have recognized him myself.”
She was aware that the line behind her had halted, and she turned. The Inspector was looking back to­ward the street.
“You must have good eyesight, Mr. Aulinloch—all that distance, and just a torchlight.”
Aulinloch agreed that he had.
“But Adolph knew him, you see,” Phyliss plunged on. “The light was bright enough, and we were look­ing straight down on it. I don’t know Mr. Stirling myself. Besides, I was more interested in the crowd and the police. We had heard the police whistle, you see. Such a thing to happen on our quiet street! We don’t give the police much trouble around here, do we?”
She knew she was talking fast and inconsequentially, but she could not help it. She was more afraid of silence than of anything else. And why had she brought them upstairs and not said the little they had to say right there in the hall, or in the small sitting room? They had nothing to tell. What Mr. Callaghan had was no concern of theirs.
From the end of the line Adolph said: “Mr. Stirling was murdered, Phyliss!”
“Murdered? Surely not! Not just out there almost on our door­step!”
“He was shot, Mrs. Aulinloch.” the Inspector said.
“I tell the Inspector, Phyliss, he couldn’t have been shot out there or we’d have heard it. We’ve been sit­ting there in the living room for an hour and a half, and a noise like that—impossible!”
Phyliss stopped short, momentarily blocking the line. The power seemed to leave her legs, and she grasped the railing to steady herself. Sitting in the living room—for an hour and a half! With a rush she started on. At her back no one spoke—just the firm tread of the Inspector and behind him the other two who did not count. Inside the living room she faced about. She must see the In­spector—must see.
But the detective was looking at the carpet beside the table.
“The whistle disturbed you,” be said, pointing to the scattered cards. On one of them was the indentation of Adolph’s heel, and the detective picked it up.
Aulinloch stepped forward. “They're not my wife’s. I was playing solitaire when the whistle blew. I must have—dropped them. Phyliss was read­ing.” He pointed to the magazine on the floor. “A shrill sound like that—a police whistle—naturally it was disturbing.”
“Of course, of course.” The Inspector picked up the magazine and placed it on the table. “Shall we sit down? I don’t wish to waste time, if you please.”

AULINLOCH waved to the chairs, while he placed beside the Inspector an old rosewood teapoy. Lifting the lid, he proudly displayed the filled compartments—cigars and cigarettes, and in the centre space a damp sponge and a gold lighter.
The Inspector bent over the rebuilt smoking stand. “Great idea, and such a sightly piece. As a rule I despise these juggled antiques—electric lights made from old lamps and bottles and vases, writing desks from spinets and harpsichords, pillars from bed posts, and things like that. Design and purpose worked to­gether in the old days, and we aren’t competent to re­shape them. But this, now”—he drew out a drawer where none had seemed to be, exposing a nest of en­amelled ash trays—“this is fine. A secret drawer, too.” Aulinloch had watched with frank surprise. “You're the first to find that drawer, Inspector. My wife bought the piece in England on our wedding trip four years ago. I had it refitted.”
“And I wouldn’t wonder,” the Inspector chuckled, “if you had a few words over it—your first quarrel.”
“She didn’t like it at first,” Aulinloch admitted. “I think she’s reconciled now.”
Phyliss heard as if it were a play. They had both appealed to her, but she gave no sign that she heard. Her mind was too full for that. Through it all she had a feeling that Inspector Broughton was as conscious of her as she of him.
“Let’s get to work,” he said briskly. He selected a cigar, lit it, drew two or three puffs experimentally—and, though satisfaction beamed from his face, he set the cigar back in one of the little trays and never touched it again, “You first, Mr. Aulinloch. You’ve been sitting here all evening, you say?”
“I was sitting there at the table playing Miss Mulligan—”
“All evening, you say?”
Aulinloch nodded. Phyliss saw it from the corner of her eye; but what she saw better was the Inspector intent on her as she idly flipped the corners of the pages of the magazine.
“I’d just won the game—” Aulinloch was saying.
“I see. And you heard nothing from the street that you can associate with the murder—no shot, no cry, no running feet?”
“Nothing whatever. Did you Phyliss?”
She was forced into it then. “No,” she replied shortly.
Aulinloch hurried on: “Of course there are always street noises, like passing cars, and newsboys, and—”
“Did you hear a car stop?”
“No-o. But perhaps we wouldn’t notice that.”
Inspector Broughton went to the window. “Was it open like this?”
“Not so much. Only a couple of inches.”
The detective lowered it to that distance. Suddenly a muffled explosion made everyone in the room but the Inspector jump.
“Only a photographer's flash,” he explained. “You all certainly heard that—and it wasn’t much like a pistol shot.”
“We’re nervous,” Phyliss explained quickly, “keyed up. We’re listening.”
“Yes . . . I see you’re nervous.”
The Inspector began to pace the room. “You can offer no information whatever,” he murmured. “That’s too bad . . . Nothing in the last hour and a half! . . . Now you, Mr. Callaghan.”


THE Inspector dropped into a chair. He seemed to be interested only in the cigar that lay in the enamelled tray.
Callaghan began importantly. He was a tall, raw-boned man, self-conscious and nervous, saved from a perpetual inferiority complex only by a studied dignity that sometimes had its effect.
“I think I have something to tell you, something that will interest you. Of course, it may mean nothing . . . but for several nights a man has been hanging about out there. I’ve seen him.”
“Why didn’t you inform the police?”
“I suspected nothing, of course. In fact, I paid little attention. If I had I’d probably have thought he was waiting for one of the maids. . . . Something like that did run through my head.”
“You saw the body, Mr. Callaghan. Would you say Mr. Stirling was the man you saw before?”
“I knew Stirling,” Callaghan said. “No, it wouldn’t be he—not the same size or shape. This fellow seemed bigger; I’d call him fat.”
Aulinloch stirred, and the Inspector turned to him.
“Can you think of any reason why Stirling would be watching your house?”
Aulinloch, who had been staring at Callaghan, started. “Watching my house—Stirling? Of course he couldn’t have been doing that. We don’t much more than know each other by sight.”
“Then,” said the Inspector, “do you know reason why would wish to keep an eye on you—or on anyone in this house?”
“No reason whatever,” Aulinloch replied sharply. But the hand on his knee opened and closed.
The Inspector eyed that restless hand. “And yet Starling and you were—rivals . . . I hoped you might help. If it was Stirling Mr. Callaghan saw, do you still see no explanation?
“None whatever. I’m sorry I can’t be of help. I never even saw this man Mr. Callaghan says he saw—and Im sure Phyliss didn’t either.” He glanced at Phyliss, but she sat still as a statue, staring at the window. “The little I know of Stirling,” Aulinloch hurried on, “was in a business way. He was not a rival, as you call him. Im not conscious even of considering him a competitor. Anyway, all that has nothing to do with—with his murder, has it?”

THE note of irritation arose from Inspector Broughton's cold attention, as if so many things were more important than what Aulinloch was saying.
“Did you, Mr. Callaghan,” the Inspector asked, “ever see this man by daylight?”
Callaghan had not. “If I had I’d have known if it was Stirling.”
Aulinloch was not satisfied to be dropped. “You don’t suggest, Inspector, that Stirling was out there night after night to watch someone in this house? I know enough of him to assure you that’s foolish.”
“Murder is foolish, Mr. Aulinloch. . . . But murder there was. I wish things in my profession were established as easily as that. Unfortunate­ly we deal with facts, not theories. I suggest nothing. What I want from you is facts. Mr. Callaghan has given me one; another is that on those same steps Fergus Stirling was found mur­dered. Your assurance that the other man was not Stirling is—uninterest­ing. You can’t even theorize about him. . . . For all you know it may have been Stirling.”
“Is it theorizing,” Aulinloch replied dryly, “to suggest that he may have been watching Mr. Callaghan’s house and not mine? But you’ve already made up your mind.”
He had gone too far, and in some confusion he looked away. Phyliss regarded him in a puzzled way.
“Yes, I’ve made up my mind—not to be misled by theories,” the Inspector retorted quietly. “I welcome ideas.”
“You’ve heard only part of it,” Callaghan broke in. “Not half an hour ago—it may have been a bit more—anyway, it wasn’t long before I heard the police whistle—I was standing by my front window in the dark. My wife had gone out, and I had dawdled over the evening paper at the table. I was undecided whether to go to the club or finish a thriller I’m reading. Greta Garbo’s at the Palace tonight, too.
“As I was saying, I was thinking it over when I noticed a car standing before the Morgan house. I noticed it because the Morgans have been away at their summer place for three weeks.”
He stopped, pleased with the effect of his story. Inspector Broughton’s quiet manner had left him.
“Go on. If people remembered more of what they see, our work would be simpler. Try to remember everything—everything. This was, you’re quite sure, not long before the police whistled?”
“About fifteen minutes, I should say, or perhaps twenty. I didn’t leave the dining room until half-past eight, and I stood under the hall light run­ning over the stock markets for a few minutes. It must have been close to nine, or a few minutes after, when I went to the front window. The car was there then, but I did not notice it at first.”
“Did you see anything else—any person, any movement?”
Callaghan shook his head. “It was there only a few seconds after I noticed it, then it drove away—to the west, the way it was facing, so I had no chance to see inside it. Anyway, it’s so dark out there I wouldn’t have been able to see much.”
“Can you describe the car?”
“I should say it was a Packard—some large car like that. In the light at the corner I saw it looked fresh—a blue, I should think. And,” proudly, “I got more than that, though I don’t understand why: I caught a bit of the license number—H 48 something. There were two or three more figures but I didn’t catch them. . . . Funny—I wasn’t conscious of noticing what I now recall. It just comes back to me.”

PHYLISS AULINLOCH turned slowly back to the room. Slowly her eyes swung around the walls. They reached her husband’s face, paused for a moment, and slid on. But in that moment she noted that he had sunk back, his elbows resting on the arms of the chair, his hands locked before his chin. He ap­peared uninterested.
Inspector Broughton made a few notes.
“If you can’t recall more of the number, Mr. Callaghan, dismiss it from your mind. These visual pic­tures sometimes flash back in detail days afterwards. . . . At any rate, you’ve given me something to work on. . . . Then you were unaware of the body there—if it was there at the time?”
“The next I knew the whistle was blowing.”
“Thank you.” The Inspector put the notebook away and rose. As he reached the door he turned with an abrupt movement that startled them. “I can’t help thinking there’s more—if you only realized it.” He eyed them in turn.
Aulinloch had risen to usher the detective out, and he stood aside, as if nothing that happened now could concern him. Callaghan was strain­ing to remember more. Phyliss stared at the window, her face set and a little pale.
“Good night, Mrs. Aulinloch. I’m sorry to have troubled you—and your husband. I’ll see you all again.” Callaghan, too, left, Aulinloch at­tending them to the front door.
It was a long time before he resumed. Phyliss, looking down in the street, saw nothing there. She wondered if Adolph had gone to his room without his punctilious good­night—if that, too, was to rise be­tween them, to add to the wall that had grown during the last half hour.
At last she heard him climbing the stairs. He came slowly, noisily . . . along the hall . . . into the living room.
She did not turn, yet she knew he had glanced swiftly at her as he en­tered, knew he had taken his seat beside the table, that he stooped to re­cover the rest of the fallen cards; and as he straightened he glanced at her again. Under those heavy brows.
“Nasty affair,” he murmured, ar­ranging the cards. “Awfully upset­ting. . . . Poor Stirling! . . . Per­haps he did carry valuables on him, as you suggested. . . . Most of us do.”
She had come back to the table. He reached to a vest pocket and produced a large yellow heart-shaped diamond, surrounded in an old-fashioned way with pearls.
“Like this,” he said. He did not look at her.
Phyliss did not move. One of Aulinloch’s hands passed caressingly over the gleaming jewel and his face softened. Momentarily he had for­gotten that unresponsive woman be­yond the table.
Moments passed. The hand above the jewel held still, the fingers wav­ered.
“You didn’t see this, Phyliss. I picked it up today. I thought you might like it.” He pushed it across the table, skilfully directing the flash of the central facet toward her.
Phyliss did not so much as look at it. “I’m going to bed,” she said, in a tight voice.
With the glass knob of the door in her hand she turned. Her husband was shuffling the cards automatically. The flashing jewel lay unnoticed on the wine-colored tablecover, neglected, insulted.
“Adolph,” she said, in the same tight voice, “you knew Fergus Stir­ling—rather well.”
She waited. He said nothing.
“And it wasn’t the police whistle made you scatter the cards.”
She waited again. Adolph’s hands fumbled with the cards.
“And,” dully now, “you were in this room only a few minutes before the whistle blew. . . . I only hope we can make our stories agree.”
She opened the door and went out into the hall. To remain would have embarrassed them both to a crisis she dare not face. Adolph did not wish to speak—and she did not wish to hear what he would say if she forced him to speak.
Back in the living room Adolph Aulinloch continued mechanically to shuffle two packs of miniature playing cards.


INSPECTOR Broughton’s feet came down from the desk with a thump that shook the windows. He reached to an electric button.
“Bring me an assortment of wire nails, Mason, quick! There’ll be some out there somewhere. And a hammer—and a piece of wood—a board or something. Quick!”
While he waited he tramped the floor, mumbling, waving his arms.
“By gosh, that’s an idea! . . . By gosh!”
An officer brought a box of nails, a rusty hammer, and a length of inch pine board. He showed no surprise, no curiosity. He felt none. The In­spector was always experimenting, al­ways fiddling with things.
The latter emptied the box on the blotter. From the pile he selected an assortment of sizes and shoved the rest back. The longest nail he ex­amined and discarded. A smaller one he drove through the board, drew it out, and bent over the hole that re­mained. With a frown he repeated the procedure with another nail.
With evident disgust he selected a smaller size and, holding two of them end to end, eyed them dubiously. Suddenly his eyes flashed, and a satis­fied smile curled the corners of his lips. Again he pressed the electric bell.
“Send Platt in,” he ordered.
Platt entered, to find his superior whistling unmusically, a broad grin on his face, rocking back and forward in the swivel chair.
“Platt, I believe I’ve struck it. As an old teacher of mine used to say: ‘anyone can see through a pail when the bottom's kicked out.’ So I’m tak­ing no credit for this. We’ll go right to the house now and see—” A knock on the door interrupted them. “What the deuce is it now, Sergeant?” he protested, as that official looked in.
“Man to see you, sir.”
Inspector Broughton waved him away. “I’m busy. I won’t see anyone.”
“It’s about the Stirling murder, sir.”
“Eh, what’s that?” A film seemed to drop over the Inspector’s eyes. “Who is it? A smallish man—with a lean face and a composed manner—oh, very composed. That the fellow?”
The sergeant grinned. “Not if I’m seeing right, sir. This one would do for the fat boy in a side-show. I didn’t dare ask him to sit down for fear I’d have to break the chair arms off him. And he ain’t composed, not by a darn sight.”

INSPECTOR Broughton frowned at the wall. “A—fat man? . . . The Stirling case? . . . Oh, well, roll him in, sergeant, and let’s get a look at him. Don’t go, Platt. . . . You know, Platt, I’m a little disappointed. I expected—someone else . . . rather early, too. I didn’t know anyone else was interested.” He threw the morn­ing paper over the pile of nails.
The door opened and the Inspec­tor’s caller looked nervously about the room.
“Come in, sir, come in,” urged the Inspector.
The sergeant had not exaggerated. He was a very fat man, appearing fatter than he really was because of the roundness of his cheeks: the other features of his face were smothered in curves. A foolish smile flickered around his lips, and a pair of ratty little eyes were little more than con­jecture. Yet the Inspector felt certain those eyes missed nothing.
The Inspector waited, sizing his visitor up. Platt tried to look of no more importance than the chair on which he sat.
Sharply Inspector Broughton rap­ped the desk. He wished to have a better view of those ratty eyes. He prided himself on reading the eye, believing it more revealing than the tongue.
“You may say anything about the Stirling affair before Mr. Platt,” he said. “He’s working on the case. Please sit down.”

THE stranger sat down, and the Inspector noted that, though he had not even glanced at the chair, he found its centre exactly.
“I’d prefer to see you alone, Inspec­tor.” the man said, in a wheezy voice. “But if you say it’s all right.”
“Quite all right. Platt is as inter­ested in the case as I am. Anything you have to say would go to him any­way. . . . I’m trying to place you. I’ve seen you before—here in the city.”
The pits that were eyes turned to the Inspector, and the depressions flitting around his mouth became a smile.
“Yes, Inspector, you’ve seen me, all right. More than once. I’m sure. My name is Kalmberg—Simon Kalmberg, of Kalmberg and Offenbach. I’m real­ly the whole firm since my partner died.”
“Yes, yes.” The Inspector leaned forward genially. “Of course, I re­member now—the jewelers. One of the really important firms of the city. I ask your pardon for not recognizing you. You see, my connection with jewelers is seldom more than official—and I don’t recall ever being called in officially by your firm. A substan­tial firm in a solid, regular way of business, I should say.”
He saw that he was winning his visitor from his uneasiness, and he continued blandly: “I can assure you that should I have important business in your line the firm of Kalmberg and Offenbach will have first chance. You see,” smiling, “every morning on my way to the office I regulate my watch by your chronometer.”
Kalmberg’s fat face contrived a grin. “You should come right inside, Inspector. My men would be glad to regulate your watch for you—with my compliments.”
“Platt,” said the Inspector solemnly, “I count on you not to report this bribe.”
Kalmberg laughed wheezily and ended it with an asthmatic cough. He was comfortable now.

THE Inspector dropped his eyes to the desk. A solitary nail was in sight and he thrust it back beneath the newspaper. “If you can tell us anything about this unfortun­ate, this terrible, affair, Mr. Kalm­berg, we’ll be indebted to you. At present we’ve arrived nowhere. It was murder, of course, but the inex­plicable nature of the crime and its surrounding circumstances, and the complete absence of clues, is tying our hands. It may be said that we haven’t yet made a move.”
Kalmberg coughed. The Inspector would have given much to know the origin of that cough—embarrassment, or a tickling of the throat, or mere habit.
“I may have come on a fool’s errance,” Kalmbcrg began uneasily, “but I thought you ought to know. You’ll be in the best position to weigh the value of what I have to say. . . . At the same time I’ve felt since I read of the crime in the papers this morning that perhaps I oughtn’t to mention what I saw. You see, I don’t want to ring in an innocent man. And I’m quite sure he’s innocent. That’s why I want your promise that my name won’t be brought into the affair.”
“But, Mr. Kalmberg, I can’t pro­mise that. The best I can do is to assure you that your name will not be mentioned if it can be avoided. This is not James Broughton you’re talking to but Inspector Broughton. I’ve no control over conditions that may make it necessary to divulge what you tell me.”
“Of course, of course,” Kalmberg agreed hastily. “I understand. There’s really no reason why it should be kept secret, except that—well, you’ll understand before I’m through. I’d like—I’d like my name to be kept out of it until you’ve solved the case—run down the murderer of Fergus Stir­ling. I don’t mind then, and if I’ve done anything to assist the law no one will be happier than I. It’s this way, Inspector”—he slid forward in his chair and rested his pudgy hands on the Inspector’s desk—“last night I stayed late at the store. A new ship­ment of diamonds had arrived from Amsterdam during the day, and my diamond man and I spent the evening sizing them up and marking them for the use we’ll make of them. It must have been a quarter after eight before I left the store to walk home.”

AT the surprise in the In­spector’s face he smiled. “I don’t look it, Inspector, but I walk a lot. Slimming, the girls would call it.” He chuckled fatly. “Anyway, I walked home last night. It was when I was walking along Armour Street—”
“That’s where Stirling lived,” the Inspector broke in.
“Yes, I’m coming to that—”
“And where do you live, Mr. Kalmberg?”
“On Midvale Drive,” Kalmberg re­plied proudly.
“Oh! You walked home—from the store—to Midvale Drive,” Inspector Broughton murmured. “Out of your way, wasn’t it?”
Kalmberg’s fat face reddened. “Yes, a little. I went that way to lengthen the walk.”
“A trifle ambitious—and dangerous, wasn’t it, on an empty stomach—for a large man?”
“But it wasn’t on an empty stom­ach,” Kalmberg protested peevishly. “I’d sent my diamond man out for a snack before seven o’clock. That’s my dinner hour. Well, as I was saying, I reached Armour Street, and I was passing Stirling’s house when I saw a car in front of it. No-o, not quite in front of it, and that’s what attracted my attention, I expect. It was oppo­site the dividing iron fence between Stirling’s and the property above. It was Adolph Aulinloch’s car!”
He sat back, his hands folded over his stomach, to appraise the effect of his announcement.

HE must have been dis­appointed, for neither Inspector Broughton nor Platt showed surprise or unusual interest. The hand of the former continued a monotonous and meaningless upending of the pencil it held, and Platt stared stupidly at a fly buzzing against one of the win­dows. But the Inspector had missed nothing—especially those ratty eyes that momentarily seemed to project themselves from their fat-walled de­pressions.
“Yes?” the Inspector said encour­agingly.
“I’m sure it was Aulinloch’s car,” Kalmberg repeated, as if the official mind must have missed the point.
The Inspector nodded. “All right. Assume it was Aulinloch’s car. Go on.”
Kalmberg shifted in his chair, his fat hands gripping and loosening. “Well—you see—you see—what would Aulinloch’s car be doing in front of Stirling’s house just about the time he was murdered?”
“But we don’t—or the public doesn’t—know the time of Stirling’s murder—or anything else but that the body was found on certain steps far from his home.” He noted that the small eyes of the man across the desk dis­appeared almost entirely, and he hur­ried on without waiting for an an­swer: “As to what his car was do­ing there—I’m sure I don’t know. Do you? Or perhaps you think we should enquire. That should be easy to find out . . . You say you left the store about a quarter after eight. You’re sure of the hour?”
“Absolutely. I set my watch by the chronometer—as you do each day. I remember that it was eighteen min­utes after. As I figure it I’d be at Stirling’s place about twenty minutes to nine—perhaps a few minutes earl­ier. The papers say the body was found not long after nine o’clock.”

INSPECTOR Broughton sat for a few moments without speaking, jabbing at the blotter with the pencil.
“You know Aulinloch well, don’t you? A close friend of his?”
Kalmberg stiffened. “I certainly am not. In fact, I barely know him. Of course we in the same line of busi­ness keep track of one another, us jewelers and lapidaries. Outside busi­ness I know nothing of him—”
“Did you see Aulinloch himself, by any chance?”
Kalmberg had not. “The car was empty when I saw it.” He telescoped lower in the chair, eyeing the de­tective suspiciously. “You can see I want my name kept out of it.”
Inspector Broughton agreed that the wish was natural. “Do you know,” he asked, “of any business connec­tion or friendly relations existing be­tween Aulinloch and Stirling?"
Kalmberg hesitated, and his eyes sought the floor. The Inspector re­peated the question.
“I’m trying to think,” Kalmberg re­plied impatiently. “No-o, I can’t say I know of any connection. And I’m quite sure they weren’t friends. I mean,” he added quickly, “we jewel­ers never have much to do with one another. I don’t suppose there’s any business where the men in it are less—friendly.”
“That would cover you and Stirling, too, wouldn’t it?” the detective asked innocently.
Kalmberg bounced in his chair. “What do you mean by that?”
“I was just illustrating your com­ment,” the Inspector replied, in a soothing tone. “Gem experts are unfriendly—that’s what you meant . . . So we don’t know of any con­nection between Aulinloch and Stir­ling, none whatever.”
“There was his car,” Kalmberg snapped.

THE Inspector saw that he had gone far enough. “Yes . . . of course that makes it different—sort of establishes a connection with­out further evidence—if we can prove it was his car . . . If we can prove it was in front of Stirling’s house and not his neighbour’s. We appreciate all you’ve told us, Mr. Kalmberg. Anything that happened about Stir­ling’s house last night is of vital im­portance . . . Your remark about Aulinloch’s car being there about the time Stirling was murdered interests me—seeing that Stirling’s body was found three miles away.”
Kalmberg’s small eyes came out a little to peer cunningly at the In­spector. “If he was shot,” he said, “It couldn’t have been done right there on Aulinloch’s steps—where he was found, I mean.”
“But the papers made no mention of Aulinloch’s steps,” the Inspector murmured. “The body was found on Mr. Morgan’s steps. Why couldn’t he have been shot there, Mr. Kalmberg?”
“Because it would have been too risky—right there on the public street. Someone would surely have heard.”
The Inspector looked thoughtful. “Speaking of Aulinloch’s car being there about the time Stirling was mur­dered—I wonder if anyone saw you there, too.” He stared innocently at the ceiling, while Kalmberg studied that impassive face and was silent. Then he chuckled.
“You have me there, Inspector. But I’m just telling you what I saw. It probably isn’t any use to you.”
“On the contrary it’s invaluable . . . Because Stirling wasn’t murdered on the steps where we found the body. No, we happen to know that. He was murdered elsewhere and the body was taken there. By the mur­derer, of course.”

Inspector Broughton paused to make some notes on a pad before him. “Yes. shooting would be risky—almost anywhere. Tell me. Mr. Kalmberg, did you notice any life about the Stirling house as you passed? The family are away, you know and only one servant left in the house.”
Kalmberg reflected. “I did look at the house as I passed—naturally I did, wondering what Aulinloch would be doing there. Yes, there was a light. It was in one of the front rooms downstairs—the long one at the side, an art gallery, I believe. Stirling went in for that sort of thing—talked art in his advertisements—worked up a reputation that way . . . Yes, and the vestibule light was lit, too—or some light inside the front door, if it is a vestibule. I’ve never been in the house, so I don’t know the plan.”
“When we went to the house after the murder,” the Inspector said, “we found the very lights you mention—in the gallery and the vestibule—and not another in the whole house.”
He picked up a pen and, reaching to a cupboard in the lower part of the desk, brought out a large ink bottle with a screw top. For a few mom­ents he struggled with it, stifled an exclamation, wiped his hands on his handkerchief, and tried again in vain.
“I’ve got the slipperiest hands.” he grumbled, and eyed the bottle malevolently.
He had pushed the bottle away from him. Kalmberg leaned over and picked it up. “I can’t be certain there were no other lights,” he said, “but I think that was all. I remember thinking one would know by the looks of the house the family was away. I was interested, as I said, because I had no idea Aulinlock and Stirling had any­thing to do with each other. Stirl­ing was—a bit proud and stand-offish, you might say.”
As he talked he worked at the bot­tle. Suddenly the top came loose in his fingers, and with a slight flourish he placed bottle and top back on the desk.
The Inspector eyed him with admir­ation. “I couldn’t budge it,” he said. . . . “After all, the matter of the lights is of little consequence . . . I take it you passed along and saw nothing more?”
“That’s so." Kalmberg heaved his fat body from the chair. “If it’s any help to you—I hope you can keep my name out of it, Inspector.
He bowed himself out hurriedly, knocking against the side of the door in his haste.

The door was scarcely closed when the Inspector gingerly picked up the top of the ink bottle and screwed it in place. He rang the bell.
“Get the finger-prints off this, Mason,” he ordered, “and bring it right back.”
While he waited he wrote. The bottle was returned. The Inspector passed it to Platt.
“Have a try at that, Platt.”
Platt gripped the bottle tightly, re­garding his superior questioningly. “What’s the idea, Inspector? . . . Say, this is tight.” With a final effort he released the top. A look of under­standing came into his eyes. “I—see! What a pair of hands friend Kalmberg has! . . . And how freely—and loosely—he talks!”
“Yet,” said the Inspector thought­fully, “I believe every word he says—so far as it goes . . . What I’d like to know is how far towards the whole truth it does go. Kalmberg is much too clever to be caught in a lie about facts we can uncover. And he was much too delighted to get Aulinloch into trouble to risk hav­ing the whole story repudiated by the discovery of even the whitest of lies. He wouldn’t for the world have us think he’s interested in a brutal mur­der except to help the police. You had some trouble with that top, didn’t you, Platt? Kalmberg didn’t.”
“And so, Inspector?”
“And so he’s quite capable of mak­ing the marks we found on Stirling’s throat.”
“But if Aulinloch’s car was there at the time he said?”
“Don’t puncture my little thrills, Platt. I think I’ll run around and have a friendly chat with Adolph Aulinloch before he’s prepared for me. Perhaps he’ll be as frank as our friend Kalmberg—when he knows what we know.”
But Aulinloch beat him to it. At that moment he was announced.
(To be continued)
Link to Part2

No comments:

Blog Archive

Countries we have visited

About Me

My photo

As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.