Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Stalking Death - Part 7 of 9

 The Stalking Death - Part 7 of 9
Lacey Amy’s Newest and Most Dramatic Story (Luke Allan)
A serialized novel from The Canadian Magazine, January, 1933. Illustrated by Carl Shreve
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, January, 2016.
The story so far
A Group of six jewellers have banded together to defraud an elderly widow, Mrs. Charlesworth, by purchasing from her some almost priceless jade carv­ings, after one and another of them had declared these carvings virtually worthless.
Phyliss Aulinloch, wife of Adolph Aulinloch, one of the jewellers, whom she has married in a fit of pique when her engagement with Brander Charlesworth, son of the widow, was broken, is startled by the sudden blast of a police whistle. She looks out of the window to sec a crumpled form on the steps of the house opposite. It turns out to be Fergus Stirling, one of the conspiring jewellers, and Aulinloch remembers that only a week before another of the group had been found dead in bed, victim of a sudden seizure.
Inspector Broughton questions Aulinloch closely. Next day Kalmberg, another of the jewellers, visits the inspector and tells of seeing Aulinloch’s car in a suspicious place at the time of the murder. The inspec­tor discovers that Stirling had been strangled, and by a clever ruse discovers that Kalmberg was powerful enough to have committed the deed easily.
Adolph Aulinloch calls his confederates in confer­ence to decide on the disposal of the jade, and while there they learn of the motor accident that is fatal to Zaharoff, another of their number, under suspicious circumstances.
Terrified by this news, the group is still more ter­rified that one of their number will take advantage of them. They are fearful that the violent deaths that have followed the group may be the work of some native of China, to whom the jade is sacred, but they are fearful also that they may not profit by the deal. .Aulinloch suggests the possibility that Brander Charlesworth may be the murderer, to avenge the trick they have played on his mother, and Inspector Broughton in his office entertains somewhat the same idea, remem­bering Brander’s former relationship with Aulinloch’s wife, and how much it would benefit the young man if suspicion of murder could be thrown around Aulinloch.
McElheren, one of the conspirators, secures a notor­ious character, Tubby Peters, who manages to get into Aulinloch’s office, whom he binds and gags, after he has forced him to open the safe. He has abstracted the suitcase supposed to contain the jade, when he in turn is interrupted by Brander, disguised as a Chinaman, who succeeds in carrying away the case, only to find it is a substitute. He visits Phyliss and tells her the whole story.
And the Story Continues

At the darkest spot on a dark side street Gideon McElheren, after a careful look in both directions, parked his car, climbed out, and stood uncertainly in its shadow. Then, taking a long breath, he walked to the corner and turned into a street of small shops. Not far from the corner he slid into a recessed doorway and knocked on the door.
From the inner office where the only light in the place scarcely cast a shadow, trotted Aaron Goldstein. McElheren, watching him, shuddered, so surely yet so noiselessly he came. Had he himself been less visible he would have turned and fled. Something prophetic—an omen. He braced himself against it.
The door opened and McElheren slid through. The blinds were drawn tight.
Half an hour later Goldstein emerged from the shop, trotted to the corner, and turned into the side street. Climbing into McElheren’s car, he ran it before the store and stopped. He had scarcely stepped out when a Chinaman raced across the sidewalk and leaped in. Goldstein closed the door. A great sigh of relief came back to him from the shadowed interior.
Goldstein draped himself through the open window. “You’re all right,” he declared soothingly, “quite all right. All you got to do is remember to stoop a bit more. You’ll pass for a Chink anywhere. I did a good job on you, if I do say it myself. Well,” as the car, started suddenly, almost throwing him from his feet, “remember me to the boys at the lodge.”
“And,” he added, recovering his balance, “I guess that’ll spoil his evening.”
McElheren, narrowly avoiding a car at the corner, swept into the darkest streets he could find. He was perspiring profusely, and he remembered that his hand­kerchief was in the suit in the back of the car. Feeling better after a time, he turned into the street on which Aulinloch lived. But it took him some time more to make up his mind. When he had passed the house twice, he pulled in to the curb on the side street and found his handkerchief. His face, slightly stained yellow, he handled with caution.
It bad been a day of crowding impatience, of nag­ging fears and timid hopes. From long before nine in the morning he had waited in the store for Tubby Peters to report. But Peters had not put in an appearance. Had the scoundrel double-crossed him? What could one expect from such a rogue?
Toward evening he had summoned up courage to call up Aulinloch, and what he had heard had sent him into a gloomy silence, locked in his office. The one bright spot was the reflection that he had made provision for such a contretemps by his appointment with Goldstein.
Someone was coming along the street—a man, dragging his feet, keeping to the shadows. With a feeling of sympathy McElheren leaned through the window. Then he called out excitedly:
“Say—say. you! Mr. Peters! I began waiting for you all day. What happened? You didn't come.” Tubby Peters had slunk into still deeper shadows at the first call, but now he approached the car and looked in. He saw a Chinaman. He said nothing, but his head and shoulders crept further through the open window.
“Why didn’t you come and report?” McElheren complained. “I made a bargain with you—”
Tubby Peters thrust an arm through. “You—made a—bargain!” he snorted. “Sure you did. And it’s off. The damned old suitcase is still there—and I’m still here, no thanks to you . . . And you’re still there. And now”—his fist shot out and caught McElheren on the side of the forehead—“perhaps you’re a bit stiller, you rat. You would double-cross me, would you? And if I had my gun I’d know what to do with it.”
McElheren crashed backward and lay limp against the back of the seat. Tubby Peters, unhurried, opened the sedan door and looked in. He was looking for—well, almost anything. He saw the bundle of clothes and readied for it. But the sound of approaching foot­steps sent him quickly around the back of the car and across the street. There he broke into a run.
McElheren was more surprised and shocked than hurt. His assailant had not much more than reached the other side of the street before the car was moving forward again. With one hand he gingerly touched his forehead. It was sore, but not nearly as sore as he felt inside. Stopping the car, he reached to the bundle of clothes in the back scat and took from a pocket an automatic. This he slid beneath the silk coat of his costume.
That was the sort of rogue the world was full of! The ingrate! Fifteen dollars, and what had he got for it? Nothing but a blow in the face! He gnashed, his teeth and was comforted by, the feel of the gun in his pocket.
With his courage stiffened he pulled up on the street from which led the lane to Aulinloch’s garage. When the street was clear he left the car, entered the dark lane, and climbed the fence into Aulinloch’s back garden.
Only once had he been in the house; that was the night they had met in the library—the night, he remem­bered now, before Larned had been found dead in his bed. But in that visit he had informed himself of the arrangement of the downstairs rooms. Of the up­stairs he knew nothing. The relations between Aulinloch and his wife were better known than either of them suspected, and to McElheren it was a familiar picture of domestic infelicity. It told him Aulinloch, were he at home, would be sitting by himself in that library of his.
To his surprise Aulinloch’s library was dark. And Aulinloch had the reputation of spending his even­ings at home! McElheren glared at the dark door and felt defeated.
Presently he detached himself from the shrubbery in which he had taken shelter and picked his way toward the front of the house. There he saw that a front room upstairs was lighted. As he watched, a light footstep near at hand sent him cowering to cover. Phyliss Aulinloch passed and ran up the steps to the front door.
With a snarl McElheren hurried to the back of the house again.
As he came within sight of the library door letting into the garden he had just time to drop to the shelter of a bush when the door opened and closed softly. There was something uncanny and sinister about it, and McElheren’s knees shook. At first he could see nothing but the dark spot that was the door, appearing and vanishing. Then dimly he made out a shape—a man! He was creeping toward the gar­age! But he did not enter. Instead he climbed the fence into the lane!
Against the sky McElheren saw—a Chinaman!

XXIX

Phyliss had taken her neglected exercise after dark. Throughout the afternoon she had forgotten it, seated with folded hands in her own sitting room, wondering what was to happen next—where fate was leading her.
The cool air, the tingle of blood racing through her after a brisk walk of a couple of miles, had cleared her head and brightened some of the duller colours. She remembered that Adolph was going out, but he had not said when, and she did not wish to appear to be waiting out until he was gone. Not half a dozen times since their marriage had she been out at night without him—and not much oftener with him. That living room upstairs had come to feel like a prison—serving a sentence she had passed on herself.
She had her key out as she ran up the steps, and she was quickly in the vestibule. Through the frosted glass of the inner door she saw a shadow flit across from the stairs and with a curiosity that bewildered her she opened the door and stepped through.
For a moment she saw nothing, then, as her eyes passed back to the dark end of the hall they picked out a moving shadow. A Chinaman!
She thought of Brander Charlesworth’s disguise, but her heart told her it was not to be. A lump leaped into her throat. Even without Brander’s warning, without the shock of a stranger alone in her own hall, the slinking way the Chinaman vanished was enough to terrify her. She did not run, she did not scream. Just for a moment or two she clutched the newel post to steady herself, staring into the empty hall. She knew she had not been deceived by the fears crowding about her of late.
Her courage returned with the thought that she might be alone in the house. Where the Chinaman had gone she could not be sure. The door to the kitchen quarters was there, but, listening, she heard a servant moving about out there. More likely he had gone into her husband’s library.
If Adolph were upstairs! She ran up. At the top of the stairs a sudden thought made her cling to the railing, swaying dizzily. A Chinaman—the Chinaman Brander had warned her against—the Chinaman Adolph unquestionably feared—and Adolph alone in the house, except for a servant far away downstairs! And the Chinaman had certainly come down the stairs!
She remembered the jade carvings!
But the living room was empty. The relief of it sent her hurrying to the hall below and back to her husband’s library. Without opening the door she could see beneath it that the room was dark. She stood listening. Then, boldly throwing open the door, she switched on the centre lights. There was no one there. But by certain signs she read that her husband had been there since dinner. The evening paper lay on the desk, half of it disarranged. With no sense of fear now she opened the door leading to the garden and looked out.
There was nothing to be seen but the dim shape of the garage, the line of the fence against the street lights beyond, and the silent clumps of shrubbery. A knock on the door of Adolph’s suite upstairs and a glance assured her he had left the house.
Adolph had not told her why he was going out, and she seated herself in the living room to await his return.
Presently she rose, hurried back to her own suite, and in a minute or two emerged dressed for the street. Letting herself out into the back garden, she went to the garage. To her surprise the Pierce-Arrow was in its place. She ran out her own car, backing it through and swinging expertly into the lane but with reckless haste.

Brander charlesworth with plans he dare not mention to his mother, had not told her that he had been granted two weeks’ holiday; but that he had to conceal from his mother. Since that first night he had not seen her again, having made his headquarters in another part of the city.
But tonight something urged him to visit her.
The empty suitcase had weighed heavily on his spirits. He did not know how he could have been deceived, but he realized that in the excitement of the moment almost anything was possible.
His worse than fruitless visit to Phyliss had added a new misery; so that he was painfully conscious of the hopelessness of the task he had set himself. Also he was beginning to realize its perils and its possible drift. The scheme Aulinloch had used to defeat him and the robber proved the value he attached to the carvings; it convinced Brander more than ever that they were jade.
Those carvings! They had thrown a spell over them all.
McElheren's part in the affair did not surprise him. That hypocritical schemer’s visit to his mother had shown of what he was capable; this fresh exhibi­tion of roguery was a mere detail in a crooked game.
To think he had baulked the robber—at such risk to himself! Thinking it over, Brander regretted the part he had played. Far easier to get the jade from McElheren by hook or crook than from the cool man Phyliss had married. There were times when he thought of going to Aulinloch and exposing McEl­heren’s schemes, but that would have involved himself, and he knew it would not profit him. At present, at any rate, he had the advantage of knowing where the jade was.
Four of them remained—four of the original seven to reckon with. He counted them over and over—Aulinloch, McElheren, Kalmberg, Freyseng. Four of them—the most dangerous and determined four, the most cunning, the most difficult to deal with. But the diminishing number offered hope. Three were gone—and no one accused of arranging it. A clever crime, that murder of Stirling’s—a frank, open murder, and the police still in the dark. He wondered if Aulinloch was under suspicion—Aulinloch, Phyliss’s husband.
Should he tell the police what he knew? That, to­gether with the place where the body was found, would surely bring Aulinloch under the critical eye of the police. But there were too many good reasons for keeping himself from police attention. Three of the seven gone! Was that the end? Could the four who remained protect themselves from a similar fate? But one more and the police would surely strike the trail of the jade carvings.
The sum of Brander Charlesworth’s musings was that, if he was unable to get the jade himself, better leave it where it was. If anything happened Aulinloch, Phyliss would have it. But was he sure of that? He had an idea all was not well between Phyliss and her husband, in spite of her determined loyalty. Loyalty alone would never satisfy Adolph Aulinloch. If any­thing happened him would his discontent show itself in cutting Phyliss off in his will?
If anything happened Aulinloch! If anything hap­pened Aulinloch! The phrase kept revolving in his mind. It came to haunt him, to stand before him as the one certain solution of his troubles. Two birds with one stone!
He must do something. The immediate urge was a growing sense of defeat, a cloud that hung over his head, jeering at him, nagging him, pointing the way. Memory of his mother's patient love, her gentle trust­fulness, her sacrifice for him—the despicable robbery of which she had been the victim—goaded him to action. Everything was seen through a clouded glass.
He got out his car and, on a lonely street, changed to his Chinese dress. Then he drove straight to Aul­inloch’s house. . . .

He had changed back to his own clothes and outwardly himself and as he drove up to his mother’s house he was surprised to see it in dark­ness. He had never known her to go out in the evening, had never heard her speak of friendships that would take her out after dark; and he knew she had no amusements.
His heart thumped loudly as he stopped the car and peered along the walk to the dark front door. Through all his own desperate plans he had never thought of anything happening his mother. The robbery she had suffered had surely been the utmost of calamity that could befall her. But now, staring at the dark house, he thought of far worse things.
He tried to laugh his fears away, to force himself to drive on to the garage where he parked his car when at home. She would be at a neighbor’s—or mak­ing some belated purchase—or she was tired and had gone to bed early.
But nothing allayed that driving fear, and he climbed from the car and started up the walk. He did not try the front door but passed on to the back. She might be in the kitchen with the blinds drawn. But there was no light there, and the back door was locked. He remembered then that she always kept that door locked when in the front of the house; he had warned her to do that. He hurried to the front.
That door, too, was locked.
For a time he stood listening. Something mysterious about it—something threatening, horrible—as if ears listened behind that locked door, and eyes watched from behind the drawn blinds; as if evil hands were at work inside.
He ran back to the kitchen window that was always kept open on a screen in warm weather. But it, too, was closed! And locked! Back to the front once more, faint with fear, he automatically turned the knob. The door opened in his hand. He rushed in.

XXX

Beside a teakwood table that was one of the few remaining treasures brought with them on their return from China Mrs. Charlesworth sat mending.
She smiled as she worked. She had not seen her boy for three days, had had no word from him, but Brander was such an irregular correspondent; and it was after his longest silences that he was apt to appear on one of his stolen visits. However, she had no hope of that for a few weeks now.
The work dropped to her knee and she sat back to think. She rocked as she thought—and the smile left her face, to give place to a troubled frown. Brander had certainly not been himself of late.
On his last three visits, all since the sale of the carvings, he had brought with him almost as much worry as pleasure.
She thought of Phyliss. Had Phyliss’s marriage altered Brander—had it robbed him of his merry ways, eaten into the frank light-heartedness that had always kept him, in her eyes, so immune from the evils of the world about her? . . . Phyliss would have made such a lovely wife for him—such a sweet daughter for her­self.
And now—now a bitterness had crept into his outlook, a sharpness of tongue, a brooding violence, that often pained her. With a shudder she re­called the years in China.
Even yet it haunted her. Right here in her own country the sight of a Chinaman made her shudder.
She moved the lamp nearer and picked up her work. Electric light was all right for quick illumination in passing from room to room, but for sewing and reading she must have the lamp.
A knock on the door startled her.
It was such a gentle, appealing knock, like a small child frightened in the dark. She dropped her work and hurried to open the door.
As it opened she started back.
Beyond the low step, his foot edging into the crack, stood a smirking Chinaman! And before Mrs. Charlesworth had time for more than a rush of terror he had glided through and closed the door behind him.
Speechless for a moment, terrified, longing to scream, she steadied herself. “What do you want?” Her voice, when she found it, was no more than a husky whisper.
The Chinaman bowed to his waist, but he did not move from before the door. Mrs. Charlesworth knew those bows.
“Shall we sit down?” he said, in perfect English.

He had taken control from the moment the door opened. Seizing the nearest chair, he drew it before the door. He did not remove his little round hat, but she was accustomed to that. What did surprise her was the absence of dialect, though she realized her unfamiliarity with the transplanted Chinaman. That and the completeness of his garb. She never remembered seeing a Chinaman dressed thus in the city.
All the grim resistance to danger and the terror it brought, that had sustained her during those trying years in China, mustered to her support now, and she seated herself with an outward calmness that gave no hint of the turmoil within.
But she did not deceive the stranger seated between her and the door.
“You don’t need to be frightened,” he said. . . . “You don’t need to be,” he repeated significantly.
“Certainly not,” she said. “I’ve lived in China.” She settled back in her chair, her hands folded loosely in her lap; but her mind worked rapidly.
Suddenly the Chinaman’s manner altered. “But you are frightened,” he declared grimly. “And you might well be—unless you’re careful.” He leaned for­ward, his hands planted firmly on his silk-clad knees. “I’ve come about those sacred Chinese carvings you had, those symbols of our most sacred worship.”
It did not surprise her. “I’ve nothing to do with them now—I sold them.”
He scowled at her. “What difference does that make? You brought them from China—you’re re­sponsible for them. . . . You played with them, abused them, profaned them—”
“I did nothing of the kind,” she returned indignant­ly. “At least, not intentionally,” she added. Inwardly she trembled.
“They were given us." she continued bravely, “by a great mandarin—”
“A renegade. He was doomed for his sins. He died a violent death.”
Mrs. Charlesworth quailed. “I—I didn’t know that”
She had tried from the first to pierce the shadow that lay about the spot where he had chosen to sit. The lamp shade made of him little more than a sinister shape. So much about him puzzled her. Her experi­ence in China made her sensitive to abnormalities—but what did she know of the Chinese in other lands? . . . An educated man—she knew that.
The Chinaman grew impatient under her silent scrutiny.
“You sold them,” he snarled. “Sold our deities. Sold them! You must bear the responsibility!”
She rallied against the threatening tone and words.
“I dare to face your punishment. I stake my gods against yours . . . And don’t forget we have laws to deal with men like you.”
The Chinaman snapped his fingers. “Your police! We know how to handle them. Muddle-heads, that’s all. You and yours will suffer—and the police—”
Fear that was not personal made her cry out. “You mean—my son, too? You threaten him as well as me—when he has had nothing to do with the carvings?”
“Your son will be attended to in due time.”
She flamed out at him. “You come here to me, a defenceless woman! Go to him and tell him to his face what you’ve told me. He’ll know how to deal with you.” A sudden thought came to her. “If you wait you may see him tonight. I expect him any moment.”
The Chinaman rose quickly. “Coming here—to­night?”
Mrs. Charlesworth smiled. “You don’t seem so brave now. It’s only with women—”
She tried to swing away as he leaped toward her, but she was powerless against him; and beyond a moaning sound she could make no outcry.
“We’ll deal with him—tonight, then,” he snarled.
With the sewing she had been mending he bound her to the chair in which she sat. A gag of mending pieces looked clumsy but was effective enough. Then he picked her and the chair up and carried them to the dark parlor and closed the door on her.
He worked fast, panting with exertion and nervous­ness. First he locked the front door, then the back, closed and locked the open kitchen window he hap­pened to notice in passing, and returned to the front room. At the sound of a distant car he puffed out the lamp.
He heard the car stop before the house. He heard. Brander Charlesworth try both doors and the kitchen window. A thought came to him and he crept to the front door and unlocked it.

XXXI

Calling his mother’s name, Brander rushed into the dark room. For the moment he was unable to reason. He was certain something had hap­pened his mother, something dread­ful. Never before had he returned without her welcoming smile, never at such an early hour without the gleam of the light on her grey hair and sweet face.
Three steps inside the room he stopped suddenly and listened, hold­ing his breath. In that moment he knew he was not alone. He never knew whether it was a whisper of sound, or some animal instinct, but he leaped quickly aside. It was that that saved him in part. Something heavy crashed on head and shoulder,

was certain something had hap­pened his mother, something dread­ful. Never before had he returned without her welcoming smile, never at such an early hour without the gleam of the light on her grey hair and sweet face.
Three steps inside the room he
 

stopped suddenly and listened, hold­ing his breath. In that moment he knew he was not alone. He never knew whether it was a whisper of sound, or some animal instinct, but he leaped quickly aside. It was that that saved him in part. Something heavy crashed on head and shoulder,
 
knocking him to the floor. Moment­arily it dazed him, but he was con­scious of a splintered chair falling about him.
As he lay, incapable of movement, a terrible silence reigned about him. His assailant was there somewhere close at hand—waiting, he knew, to renew the attack at the first sign of resistance. But that did not deter him. He must know where his mother was—what had happened her.
It drove all caution from his mind and he staggered to his feet and rush­ed toward where he thought his as­sailant was. But another chair block­ed him and he crashed headlong into the wall.
It must have been a matter of minutes before he came to, for he found himself bound hand and foot, and a head-splitting pain shot through him from his right temple.
Low voices worked into his con­sciousness. They came from the parlor, and with a surge of joy he recognized his mother’s as one of them. All about lay darkness. Mrs. Charlesworth was speaking, pleading, but Brander was too fuddled to real­ize what she said until the answer came, in a hoarse, snarling whisper:
“He’s tied like a dog, the dog of a foreigner he is, scoffer and blas­phemer. You’ll never see him again.” A gloating laugh at the end.
Brander’s senses returned with a rush. He could not hear what his mother said. He could not shout, for his mouth was closed with a make­shift gag. He decided that his only hope was to roll to the door, which stood open, and there do something to attract the attention of a passer-by.
As carefully as he could he started to put the plan into execution. All the light he had came from the open door, and there was no street-light near the house. He had crossed half the distance when, impatient and anxious, he commenced to roll more quickly. His hip struck a piece of the broken chair and flipped it up­ward, to fall back with a resounding crash.
Instantly the voices from the parlor ceased, and Brander heard the man coming.
At that instant he heard another sound—the opening of the front gate. He tried to shout but couldn’t. A light step came quickly up the wooden walk. The ruffian had reached the living room now. He, too, heard the footsteps and, with a low curse, he ran to the front door. Against the dim light by the sky Brander recog­nized a Chinaman.
The footsteps along the walk came on, but less quickly now. Brander groaned, his best effort toward a warning shout. Suddenly the China­man dived through the door and Brander saw him cut across the lawn.
Recklessly he rolled to the door and peered along the walk. Some­one was there—a woman—standing still, half turned as if to flee, staring in the direction the Chinaman had gone. Brander groaned and with his heels pounded on the floor. The wo­man turned swiftly.
The next instant Phyliss Aulinloch was bending over him!

XXXII

It was night. A man walked thoughtfully along Midvale Drive, one of the best residential streets of the city. At least it was until two or three years ago.
Simon Kalmberg lived there, and only last year Jenifred Freyseng had purchased the showiest property on the street.
The man who came up the street, moving steadily from shadow to shadow cast by a double row of trees, was Inspector Broughton. Before Freyseng’s house he paused and look­ed it over speculatively. He even laid a hand on the massive iron gate. But after several moments’ hesitation he turned away and passed up the street.
Two blocks further along, also on a corner, was the home to which Simon Kalmberg had moved two years before—at that time the only “foreigner” on the exclusive drive—at the demand of an unloving wife. He himself had observed all the modesty of an interloper, and even his wife quickly awakened to the fact that location was not everything.
Her last chance had gone with the flaming arrival of Freyseng and his garish pretentiousness. The result was that Kalmberg and his wife hated him murderously.
Then, too, Freyseng had bullied and tricked him so often in business that Kalmberg’s hatred was a consuming thing.
At Kalmberg’s gate Inspector Broughton pulled up again. But only for an instant—little more than was needed to turn about and retrace his steps. Back down the street he went.
He was still half a block above Freyseng's house when a revolver shot broke the staid silence of the neighborhood. Almost before it could register in his brain the Inspector was running at top speed. Without paus­ing in his stride he cleared Freyseng’s iron fence. A flutter of movement at the rear corner of the house directed his rush thereafter.
Rounding the corner of the house in full stride, he caught another, a better, glimpse of his quarry against the lighted side street. It was a Chinaman!
The next instant he went sprawling on the gravel drive, tripped by the low iron fence about a flower bed. So fast had he been moving, and so unexpected was his downfall, that he lay for a moment dazed. When he picked himself up he ran on to the street. Three hundred yards away the red light of a car taunted him.
Hurrying back to the house, he was met by a frightened butler.
“Where’s your telephone?” Inspec­tor Broughton demanded. “Quick! I’m a police officer.”
The butler led in the back way to the kitchen telephone, and the In­spector put through a hurry call to the station to round up every China­man they saw in a car.
As he turned from the 'phone three frightened servants clustered about him. He looked them over.
“Now, what happened?”
But they knew no more than he did himself; they had heard the shot and that was all.
“Where’s your master? Tell him I want to see him right away.” He handed his card to the butler and was ushered into a small room off the front hall.
It seemed hours before Freyseng appeared. He was dressed in a heavy silk dressing gown, the gold braided tassels reaching almost to his red Turkish slippers. On his head he wore the tall red fez of the more modern Turk. Though he entered leisurely, his face was white and in his eyes was the glare of recent shock.
Inspector Broughton greeted him sarcastically. “What’s all the rush about, Freyseng?”
Freyseng looked puzzled. “But there is no rush, Inspector.” He dropped his eyes to the card he held in his hand. “I—I vas a little dis­turbed, of course. I thought it might be a trick—this card, because the first time failed.”
“The first time? What do you mean?”
“Someone shot at me. My butler tells me you chased the fellow—”
“Was that shot fired at you? Go on, what’s the story?”
Freyseng sat down with a flop that revealed how upset he was.
“There isn’t any story but that. In­spector. Someone shot at me—from the lawn outside. My rooms are up­stairs on that side—I have a large suite there: the house is far larger than I need—”
“For Heaven's sake!” the Inspector broke in. “I don’t care if it smothers you; what I want is about this shoot­ing.”
Freyseng reddened with anger. “I was up there. I had the window up, and I went to put it down a little. I was standing there and someone shot at me, that’s all. It missed me.”
“Did the bullet enter the room?” The Inspector was on his feet.
“It struck the stone sill.”
Inspector Broughton threw up his hands disconsolately. “Have you any idea who might want to—to kill you?” he asked.
“So many—maybe.” Freyseng shrugged. “How does anyone know that? I don't know what people shoot at their friends for.”
“ ‘Their friends?’ What do you mean by that?”
Freyseng’s flat face creased to a smile. “All my life I know my best friends are my worst enemies. Do you not find that?”
“If that’s the kind of friends you have, Mr. Freyseng,” said the Inspec­tor grimly, “I’ll trouble you for their names.”
“But that is impossible. I don’t know which are my friends. It would be a very long list, and that would be no good, would it?”
Inspector Broughton scowled. “You don’t seem anxious to help, do you?”
“On the contrary, Inspector.” Frey­seng was recovering self-confidence. “I’d give much to know which is a friend like that—to shoot me. But if I don’t know any more than I tell you, what can I say?”
The Inspector looked him over. He could have regretted the bad aim of the gunman. "Do you know any Chinamen?” he demanded abruptly.
Freyseng came slowly forward in his chair, and the Inspector fancied his face paled a little. “Why do you ask that? Do you mean—it was a Chinaman?”
“I saw one running away.”
“And you didn’t catch him?”
“If you hadn’t cluttered your place with silly faldedals I’d have had a chance.” He realized that Freyseng was getting under his skin, and he pulled himself back to a calmer ex­terior. “I tripped over a flowerbed.”
Freyseng was unconscious of the Inspector’s irritation. “It’s good you were here,” he said. “This is the first time I have had anything to do with the police,” he offered. “It’s a new experience.”
“Isn’t being shot at another?” asked the Inspector dryly.
“Certainly, oh, certainly.” He puff­ed in a leisurely way.
“Then,” said the Inspector, “if you haven’t a thing to tell me, perhaps your servants can throw some light on things.”
Freyseng’s indifference passed. He straightened and eyed the Inspector suspiciously. “If you had my experi­ence of servants,” he said, “you’d know what gossips they are.”
“If you had my experience,” re­torted the Inspector, “you’d learn to sift the grain from the chaff. Don’t be afraid, Mr. Freyseng—”
“Afraid? Me? I’m not afraid—not afraid of anything, Inspector. . . . Not even of the police—because I make a point of obeying the law.”
“Some people obey the law instinc­tively. By the way, Mr. Freyseng, I was on the way to talk to you when this happened.”
Freyseng sat very still for a mo­ment. “To talk to me? What about?”
“It may be wasting our time, but perhaps you’ve noticed the casualty list among your fellow-jewellers of late.”
Freyseng's cigar had gone out. Now he sent it rolling across his mouth and back again. “I have, In­spector . . . but I didn’t think any­one else would. Just a couple of days ago I was talking about it to Aulinloch and Kalmberg—” he stopped abruptly, and the cigar rolled again. “I just happened to meet them, and I laughed and said 'we'd have to look out’.”
“You’re a friend of Aulinloch’s and Kalmberg’s?”
“Did you ever hear of any jewellers and gem experts that were friends?”
“But apparently you meet and talk with them.”
“Of course—in a way. But just business. We have to keep trace of one another, you know.” He winked ponderously. “So when three of my friends—you know what I mean—they are snuffed off, like Larned, and Stirling, and Zaharoff—”
“Why do you say that, Mr. Frey­seng—‘snuffed off’?” the Inspector asked sharply.
“It’s slang for ‘died’, isn’t it . . . And wasn’t Stirling murdered? Shot through the head, wasn’t he?” He touched a spot on his forehead. “And then the body was carried through the city and put right there in front of Aulinloch’s house, eh? . . . Well, doesn’t that make you wonder—about the other two, I mean? I wonder. Maybe I’m wrong.”
“But Larned died in his bed—of heart disease,” the Inspector said. He was watching Freyseng closely with­out seeming to. “And Zaharoff—any one is apt to run up against a car accident.”
“An accident.” Freyseng nodded thoughtfully. “And accidents like that—they’re so easy to—arrange. Ain’t it?”
“Are they easier to arrange for jewellers than for others—or does their death mean more to those who are left?”
Freyseng glanced at him sharply. “If you mean it lessens competition, that doesn’t worry me, one way or the other. I have all the business I can handle. Of course, I can’t speak for my fellows.” He swept a hand about the gorgeous room. “Then is that all you came to see me about, Inspector?” He made a movement as if to rise and end the call.
“Not quite. I was going to ask if you have any reason to suspect that you’re in danger—or any of your fellows. I’m calling on them, too. I have my answer in your case be­fore I open your gate . . . And that’s important because . . . because poison has been found in Larned’s stomach! We’ve had a post-mortem.”
Freyseng’s manner altered instantly. “Poisoned—Larned poisoned?” The cigar hung limp from his heavy lips.
“The police,” the Inspector explain­ed, “accepted the word of Larned’s doctor that he had heart disease, and there were no outward signs of poison. He was out the night before, and he may have swallowed the poison any­where and any time after dinner. He would feel no distressing effects for hours, and then it would be too late.”
“Do you know—where he was—that night?” Freyseng asked. He himself knew one place—with the rest of them in Aulinloch’s library discussing the deal in jade.
“I’m afraid it’s too late now,” said the Inspector.
Freyseng removed his fez and rumpled his bristling hair with a coarse hand.
“Bad,” he murmured, “very bad. . . . And then—after that—what about Zaharoff? You think he—he—”
“You knew Zaharoff rather well, didn’t you?” the Inspector asked.
“No-o, I wouldn’t say that, not quite that I knew him better than the others. His death was a shock to me.” But, he added, “Zaharoff was a poor driver. It didn’t seem pos­sible it could have been anything but an accident. I saw it afterwards, you see.”
“You recognized Zaharoff?”
“Of course, of course. No, not by himself, because he was all burnt! But I know his Cadillac.”
“You recognized—”
From the rear of the house came the sound of a bell, and a moment later the butler passed softly along the hall outside and opened the in­side door. Freyseng had turned sharply toward the hall, tense and listening.
The outer door opened. An excited voice spoke.
Freyseng leaped to his feet and, without a word to the Inspector, left the room. On the step Simon Kalmberg, his ratty eyes blazing with ex­citement, his round face wet with perspiration, cried out at sight of him. Freyseng made a quick gesture of dismissal.
But Inspector Broughton had fol­lowed into the hall.
“Oh, Mr. Kalmberg! How for­tunate! This will save me a visit tonight. Come in, come in!”

XXXIII

McElheren recovered slowly from his panic at sight of the Chinaman climbing the fence beside Aulinloch’s garage. But with re­covery his imagination became more active.
The jade carvings again!
He knew it as well as if the China­man, in the uncanny way peculiar to them, had known he was there and come straight to his hiding place to exact the penalty for being mixed up in the deal. All along he had been dubious of it. At the best it was risky—risk of exposure; and he knew something of the reverence accorded jade among the Chinese.
Then his reflections took another slant. What had the Chinaman been doing in Aulinloch’s house? Was not his slinking manner—sneaking from the darkened room and climbing out to the lane—answer complete?
Was, then, Aulinloch the next? Had he paid the penalty they must all pay sooner or later if they kept the jade? Was Aulinloch lying somewhere be­hind those dark windows, stiff and cold, victim of a Chinaman’s idea of sacrilege?
Crowding on the picture of Aulin­loch murdered came another thought: There would be only three now to share the profit—another fifty thou­sand or so! Fate had played into his hands, had simplified the task he had set himself. The jade was in Aulin­loch’s safe, but he, McElheren, held a paper that made the jade his—his alone! That is—if he had the nerve to claim it and face the ensuing fight with Kalmberg and Freyseng.
As he climbed the fence, after a careful examination of the lane to see no one was there, he felt that things were not much simpler after all. Could he—or they—hope to get rid of the jade before another victim was sacrificed to it? If not, who would be the next? In two weeks four of them gone—he counted Aulinloch out because it pleased him to! How sure­ly the jade was getting them all! But the Chinaman would not injure him—him, the least important, the one who had played a minor part in the purchase! But Kalmberg and Frey­seng—they were so much better able than he to take care of themselves.
He found his car and drove straight to Midvale Drive. Leaving the car parked on a side street, he crept into the grounds about Freyseng’s house.
* * *
He never knew how narrowly he had escaped, for he was unaware that Inspector Broughton had chased him. In his race for the car he saw noth­ing behind but only what lay ahead. Freyseng had offered a better and quicker target than he had hoped for, but he knew he had missed. Better luck next time. And there was still Kalmberg.
In fifteen minutes he was back on Midvale Drive, this time seated in his car parked against the walk opposite Kalmberg’s house. For several min­utes he sat, thinking things over, re­vising his plans.
He had just opened the car door when he saw a movement among the shadows of Kalmberg’s lawn. Some­one was coming toward the gate, avoiding the lighter walk. McElheren dropped back on the seat of the car and watched.
Whoever was there on the dark lawn did not wish to be seen. A dim shape appeared and disappeared, pass­ing from shadow to shadow, scarcely visible against a dark background.
It was Kalmberg himself.
He came straight across the street. McElheren, trembling now more than curious, crouched low. Kalmberg came on, rounded the back of the car, and slanted across the grass border to the sidewalk. Perhaps it was the open car door, perhaps some emanation from McElheren, but at that moment Kalmberg turned and looked into the car. McElheren had gripped himself to still the shaking of his body.
At the moment Kalmberg faced him a vagrant breeze wafted aside some of the foliage of an intruding tree and the street light fell full into the car. Kalmberg saw—a Chinaman! With a wheezy gasp he staggered hack, crowding to the other side of the walk. Then, his head turned awkwardly over his shoulder, he started off down the street at a run­ning walk.
McElheren was bewildered as well as frightened. Then he remembered his disguise. He remembered how he hated these men. With baleful eyes he watched Kalmberg's hurrying form—and he knew where he was going. To Freyseng’s! He started the car and followed at a distance.

(To be continued) (link to next)

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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.