Saturday, 6 February 2016
The Stalking Death - Part 9 of 9
The Stalking Death - Part 9 of 9
Lacey Amy’s Newest and Most Dramatic Story (Luke Allan)
A serialized novel from The Canadian Magazine, March, 1933. Illustrated by Carl Shreve.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, February, 2016.
Four minutes later—four minutes too late—Inspector Broughton and Arnold Platt ran into the lane behind Aulinloch’s house and crept up to the library windows. Aulinloch had left the lights burning. Placing an ear against a window-frame, the Inspector listened.
“They’re gone!” he whispered, angry and chagrinned. “Now what? It would have been better, Platt, if you’d stuck around instead of calling me.”
They retired to the lane and in the darkness discussed the next move. It was decided to make sure at all costs if Aulinloch was at home and Platt was despatched to a telephone.
Platt returned to report that Aulinloch was not at home. Mrs. Aulinloch, too, was out. All the servants knew was that Aulinloch had been in the library a short time ago and had left the house hurriedly.
Inspector Broughton was excited.
“There’s a bad tangle here somewhere, Platt. Our first move is to get away to Freyseng’s place and find out how he managed to escape Falkner. If anyone could keep an eye on him I figured Falkner was the man. It looks as if we’ve under-estimated Freyseng . . . I’m not sure there’d be a man on Kalmberg in time: I gave orders for that shortly after dinner—when I couldn’t find him myself in the short time I had. Come along. I’m in a hurry and I don’t know why.”
They hurried to the car and in fifteen minutes they were running past Freyseng’s great palace. As usual the conservatory was alight, but the rest of the house was dark except for the servants’ quarters in the rear, and a hall light. The Inspector got out and, working his way across the lawn, found that Freyseng’s suite, too, was dark.
Worked up now to an unusual excitement, he found a telephone booth and called up the station. There he learned that Falkner had reported an hour before. Freyseng had got away from him. The first Falkner knew that he had left the house was when he heard the engine of a car in the garage start up. Before Falkner could interfere a car darted down the drive and he had time only to see against the light the big figure of the man he was set to watch.
“That’s the missing link, Platt,” Inspector Broughton sighed. “He picked up Kalmberg and went straight to Aulinloch’s. Now we’ll try Kalmberg’s. I’ve a hunch we’ll find something there.”
They did find something—something that made even the Inspector shudder.
In a silence that lasted until they were well on their way Freyseng and Kalmberg drove toward
Tonight, with no moon, the street seemed more shadowed by the thickly growing
Kalmberg felt it, shivered to it. Crouched in his seat, the suitcase behind his feet, he peered from side to side.
Freyseng saw it, and his lip curled.
“If you’re scared,” he said, “you can leave the suitcase in the house with me tonight.”
But Kalmberg was not frightened enough for that.
“I’ll be all right,” he replied. “Once I get the suitcase in the house it’s all right. Not even the servants know of the safe.”
Freyseng was thinking. “If that Chinaman’s on the watch in front of your place, like he was before, we can fool him. We won’t stop on
Midvale Drive; we’ll go to the corner
behind and you can get out there. The Chinaman can’t be watching for that.
Then you can sneak back and get into your house by the driveway, see? I’ll be
near enough to hear you if you shout. I have my gun.”
They turned into the side street. Kalmberg, peering up
Drive, saw a car drawn against the curb not far
from his house. He shivered. At the next corner Freyseng pulled up and Kalmberg
climbed out. Gritting his teeth, he crept back with the suitcase toward his
He tried to stiffen himself by remembering that Freyseng was within call.
He reached the driveway, darted in and dropped to the shelter of the nearest bush. There he cowered, examining the way ahead, identifying every shadow along the side of the house.
It took time to work up courage to leave the friendly shadow in which he crouched. So many other shadows dotted the lawn—and none of them friendly at a distance. They, too, might conceal someone. The Chinaman!
He tried to scoff at his fears. Wasn't this his own lawn—where nothing ever happened? But someone had shot at Freyseng from his lawn—and out there on
Midvale Drive the Chinaman had lain in
wait for him!
He reached the corner of the house—the front corner.
There the gardener had planted a shrubbery extending in ornamental design several feet into the lawn. As he neared it and was about to drop into the shadows, a sudden sense of danger sent him slanting away toward the open lawn.
It was too late. A long arm reached from the shrubbery. Five inhumanly strong fingers closed around his neck and dragged him into the deeper gloom.
In the depths of the shadows those digging fingers sank deeper and held. One final inhuman kick to the twisted body, and the suitcase was clutched in one of those powerful hands.
As the murderer emerged to the open lawn a Chinaman blocked his way! A knife flashed. Kalmberg’s murderer leaped back in time to avoid the thrust and the next instant he had fired an automatic from his hip. The Chinaman staggered but did not retreat. Like a wild animal he sprang forward.
They were back in the shrubbery again now, fighting in the dark. The Chinaman had grabbed the hand that held the gun, and in a moment it came hurtling out on the lawn. Someone gasped—a hideous, broken gasp. There was strange sounds. Silence.
Someone ran from the shrubbery and picked up the old leather suitcase. It was the Chinaman.
He had scarcely disappeared when a second Chinaman came along the path Kalmberg had followed.
Into the ornamental shrubbery at the corner of the house the second Chinaman darted—and pitched headlong over two bodies that lay side by side. With a stifled exclamation he picked himself up and leaned over to feel what had tripped him. Then he staggered into the lawn, stared wildly about, and sneaked swiftly back toward the driveway.
Phyliss aulinloch had just returned to the house. It was almost eleven o'clock, and she wondered if Adolph was in bed.
She realized now how comparatively simple had been her life before Brander Charlesworth had come to her with the story of the deal in jade. Before that she had pitied herself, but reason had told her where the responsibility lay and she had held her course accordingly. But since she knew about the jade every wifely act, every wifely look, every wifely compromise, had become a strain.
She tried to blame Brander and to some extent succeeded.
As noiselessly as she could she let herself into her own suite and sank into the nearest chair to decide what she could do. Life could not continue like this . . .
The opening of the front door downstairs brought her keenly alert to what was happening. The sound, low as it was, seemed to strike every nerve in her body. She knew it was Adolph, felt it was Adolph; yet the furtive soundlessness of it was unusual for him. Slowly she rose to her feet, startled and curious. She heard him pick her way back along the hall to his library. Then a long silence.
Phyliss waited, standing where she was, convinced that somehow life had reached a crisis for her. Her face was deadly pale.
She knew that when Adolph came upstairs he would come to her! Knew it tremblingly.
. . . After a long time he came. Though she expected it, his low knock on her door sent her heart leaping.
“Is that you, Adolph?” she whispered through the door.
She recognized his voice, though she did not hear what he said. She opened the door.
He was dressed for the street, but at sight of her he automatically removed his hat. Stepping inside, he closed the door behind him. She retreated beyond the table and stood facing him. He did not move.
“I find I must go to
tonight, Phyliss,” he said, in a strange voice. “I must catch the midnight
train. Pressing business.” New York
She nodded; she could not trust herself to speak. Something was working to a crisis, a crisis of frightful significance.
There seemed nothing more to say, but he did not go.
“You’ll have to hurry,” she warned in a flat voice.
But still he did not move.
“It’s very important business, Phyliss. I may have to rush across to
somewhere. If you don’t hear from me—” London
At the dull uncertainty of it she faced him again. She noticed then how pale he was, how stiffly he stood; as he spoke his lips scarcely moved. Some unusual emotion, she guessed with misgiving, surged behind that still exterior. She saw him sway toward her, as if he demanded a decent farewell, but he recovered himself and stiffened. She wondered if, after all these cold years, there was going to be a scene, some demonstration of affection, of regret at parting.
“Do you think,” she began inanely, “you’ll have to go so far?” She moved further behind the table.
A cold smile creased his face. He saw and understood.
Without so much as a bow, stiff as a soldier, he turned to leave; and she thought of him, with a sudden surge of pity, as a soldier steeling himself to face death. Never before had she considered that if she suffered, he suffered much more.
He must have sensed the softening in the atmosphere of the room, for he spoke over his shoulder:
“If I have to go—if it is necessary to cross to
long stay, would you—would you come to me if I cabled?”
The words came stumbling pathetically over one another.
Her reply was prompt: “Certainly. If it’s necessary.”
“Yes—‘if it’s necessary’,” he murmured.
Then without another word he left her, merely bowing as he closed the door.
She heard him descend the stairs, slowly, step by step, and go out. Presently two men came out, the taxi driver carrying a suitcases. Her husband stepped wearily into the car. As he dropped into the seat he pressed his face against the glass and looked straight up at her. She waved to him. He smiled—and was gone,
Brander charlesworth was fortunate in finding an empty lower berth on the midnight train. He had not planned to leave the city until his work was done, and then to pay a flying visit to his mother whom he had seen off that evening.
But now, almost at haphazard, he had taken this train in the opposite direction.
In ones and twos his travelling companions came along the passage and passed back to their berths. He wondered if he wouldn't be less conspicuous in the smoking compartment—
The porter came grunting along the passage. He came into sight and turned into the drawing room section.
The interior of the drawing room section clicked into view with the turning of the switch. The berths were not made up, so that Brander had a vague impression of a compartment taken late, after the register was handed to the train.
Someone, a man, had entered behind the porter, crowding close on his heels, nervously close. Brander read that much without noticing the man himself.
A bell sounded, an official called “all aboard!” the train started gently.
Brander retired to the smoking compartment. He found it difficult to think—to realize the turn in his run of luck. He wondered if brooding had not played him a trick.
“Yo’ be’th is ready, suh,” the Porter said to him.
Brander found himself in the narrow passage. He hesitated before the drawing room door then, throwing back his shoulders, he knocked softly.
After a moment the turn-bolt slipped back and the door opened a crack. With a savage thrust Brander Charlesworth pushed through and closed the door behind him.
“Well. Aulinloch.” he growled, “so you think to sneak away from it do you?”
“I don’t understand, Charlesworth.” Aulinloch said wearily. “Except that you mean to be impertinent.”
“Don’t waste time playing the old role with me,” Brander interposed. “You can’t impress me now. I know too much of what’s been going on.”
Aulinloch lost none of his outward composure. “It must be interesting to know so much. Might I share it?”
Beads of perspiration broke out on Brander’s face. He wanted to crash his fists into that cold, sneering face, to throttle the smirk from it. But he controlled himself.
“Let’s go back to the beginning.” he said.
“So long ago as that?” Aulinloch queried. “Is it to be a serial? Very well, start at the very beginning—at the time you lost your head because you were unable to keep the woman I married.”
The cool insult of it, the very defiance of the man on the couch, held Brander where he was.
“Only a damned bounder and cad would bring his wife’s name into this,” he raved. “You were never anything else. But, since you’ve brought Phyliss’s name in, let me tell you she never loved you as she did me; she never will—and you know it.”
The blow struck home—he knew it by the slight pucker about Aulinloch’s eyes.
“Perhaps,” the latter said, “you think she loves you still. You’ve looked for evidence, haven’t you. You came to my house—”
“Stop it, you beast, or I’ll tear you to pieces with my hands,” Brander threatened. He took a step forward.
Aulinloch did not move a muscle. But suddenly the muzzle of an automatic pointed straight at Brander’s breast.
The young man stared at it fascinated—fascinated by two thoughts: here was justification for attack, but he realized how rashly he had burst into the room with plans such as his.
“You haven’t the nerve to shoot, Adolph Aulinloch.”
“Haven’t I? Stop and reflect, Brander Charlesworth. You threatened all of us—I can prove that.” He hesitated, and a quick frown fled across his face. “You threatened all seven of us,” he went on. “You came to my house in my absence and, I suppose, threatened my wife—who is loyal enough to tell me the story if I wish it. You’ve been sneaking about the city, practically in hiding. Why? Reflect. You were here the night
Stirling was murdered.
You were here the night McElheren was murdered. You were here even when Larned
died—if he died—and Zaharoff was killed. A Chinaman has done it—we and the
police know that . . . And no one could masquerade as a Chinaman as well as
you. And, now you’ve forced your way into my compartment and threatened me.
Doesn’t that seem to be a good case for self- defence if I pull the trigger? If
you wish to test it—”
Brander knew he meant what he said, that Aulinloch would welcome an excuse to pull the trigger. He knew, too, he would get away with it. But he was not afraid.
“Yes, I did call on your wife. Once, and once only. And, as you seem to know, we quarreled more irreconcilably than we ever did to give you a chance to marry her. Any woman who can bring herself to defend a man like you, husband or not, has no interest for me . . . I called: to beg her to get back the jade you practically stole from my mother. She refused. You’re welcome to her. But I’ll tell you this, too, that she’s more loyal to you than you know how to be to her.”
Aulinloch’s lips worked “You told her I robbed your mother, did you? . . It explains many things.”
His eyes half closed.
“I told her the exact truth’’ . . .
“The truth as you see it in your blind prejudice,” Aulinloch said, angry for the first time. “Did you tell her your mother had consulted seven of us, and we all gave the same answer?”
“I not only told her but I emphasized it,” Brander scoffed. “You weren’t content to rob her but you induced six men of similar conscience to join in a concerted robbery. Your wife knows all about it.”
Aulinloch’s eyes blazed.
“If you’re so certain of the robbery, why don’t you take it to court? After all no one compelled your mother to sell, she did it of her own free will.”
“She had to,” Brander confessed miserably. “She had to have the money.”
Aulinloch looked him over with contempt. “I see. It’s as I thought—she had to have the money for a gambling, spendthrift son. Did you tell Phyliss that? But never mind. If that’s all you’d better go—and as quietly as you came.”
He swayed sideways, as if the strain were too much for him; but quickly he was himself again. He smiled, a pathetic, weary smile.
Brander closed his teeth.
“I’m not going till you give me back those carvings.”
He was watching his chance to leap—aware that Aulinloch was not apt to offer that chance.
Aulinloch went on:
“How can you get them back when they’re sold?”
“I know they aren’t sold. You can’t get away with a crime like that.”
Aulinloch stiffened away from the wall. His face seemed to have grown thinner and whiter. “Get out. Get out quick. Surely you can’t realize how you tempt me! What has happened the others you threatened? Now you force your way in here to murder me. Simple reasoning, isn’t it? . . Do you realize what your death would mean to me—to my home—to my happiness?”
His arm straightened slowly, the gun pointed, a bright glitter came into his feverish eyes; but his forehead was lined with pain.
Brander stood still. He knew if he moved a muscle Aulinloch would pull the trigger. All the suffering of four years was massed in that lean face—and here at the end of his gun was relief.
Suddenly Aulinloch’s arm went limp. The gun clattered to the floor. He smiled wanly.
“No—I can’t. What would be the gain? You’d better—leave me—please.”
Suddenly he braced away from the wall and his head thrust forward. He pointed. Brander was conscious then of a slight sound behind him and he wheeled to face it. The lock rattled and the door shot open, almost knocking him from his feet. In the doorway stood Inspector Broughton, at his back the big black porter with round, frightened eyes.
Inspector Broughton stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. In silence he looked from Brander to Aulinloch. His face was very stern.
A slow smile dawned on Aulinloch’s face. He pointed to the gun on the floor, and the Inspector stooped quickly and picked it up.
“Whose is this?” he demanded.
Aulinloch shrugged his shoulders. “I tried to use it. I couldn’t.” His voice was low and weary, he leaned back against the wall.
The Inspector watched him curiously without a word.
“What would be the gain?” Aulinloch murmured. He made a hopeless gesture with his hands, “It wouldn’t—win me—anything I want.”
The other two in the room stared at him. There was something pathetically submissive, defeated, about Aulinloch, as he sat hugging his arms to his chest as if he were cold.
“That’s right, Inspector,” Brander heard himself saying. “He might have shot me. He dropped the gun before you touched the door. We had no idea you were about.”
The Inspector braced himself. He stepped forward. His hand fell on Aulinloch’s shoulder. “Adolph Aulinloch, I arrest you for the murder of Jenifred Freyseng.”
Only Brander Charlesworth showed surprise. Aulinloch said nothing. His head was tilted weakly back against the wall, his eyes were closed. He looked weary to death.
Aulinloch opend his eyes. In that moment or two they had gone bloodshot. “Is Kalmberg dead, too?” he asked.
“You killed him?” the Inspector countered sharply.
“You’re wrong, Inspector . . . You’re wrong all along the line. You make charges. Where’s your evidence?”
“We suspect you of other murders, too. I must warn you that anything you say will be used against you in court.”
“And what—I don’t say, as well.” Aulinloch’s eyes twinkled. “You plan to use what anyone else says against me, too.”
“You knew Kalmberg was dead,” the Inspector said. “We’ll use that knowledge, you may be sure. But no, we don’t suspect you of all the murders. You didn’t murder Fergus Stirling—though there was sufficient evidence to convict you. At the time of his murder you were prying about the home of this young man’s mother.”
Brander’s eyes widened.
Aulinloch looked startled. “You’re very clever,” he said, non-committally.
Brander took a step toward him and glared into his face. “Ah-h! I wonder.”
Aulinloch returned his gaze with composure. “How nice it would be—for the police—if I confessed to everything you wish. A signed confession—with a witness—the face of the police saved! You accomplished so little, Inspector, toward solving the crimes, didn’t you? Annoying—disconcerting . . . Well, I’m sorry; I’m confessing nothing. Let’s start with that and save a lot of futile questioning and bullying, Inspector.”
“We can prove enough against you, Aulinloch,” the Inspector said grimly, “to send you to the gallows. I’m arresting you for one definite crime. We’ll look into the others later.”
“At any rate,” said Aulinloch, almost flippantly, “you acquit me of the murder of Fergus Stirling. How indulgent! Then I probably could get an alibi for the Zaharoff murder.”
“You need no alibi for that—we know who committed that crime.”
“So do I,” Aulinloch told him calmly. “It was Jenifred Freyseng.”
Inspector Broughton could not conceal his surprise. “How did you know?”
“I’ve known all along the sort of man Freyseng was. I’ve known he had to be watched or I, too, would go the way of
Stirling and Zaharoff—and
Larned, perhaps. I’m no professional detective, either. I could have told you
that long ago.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because . . . Freyseng was no friend of mine but—Oh, these unfinished explanations!” He grinned.
It was like a death mask. “Would you mind telling me how you knew he murdered Zaharoff?”
“He gave himself away, first of all. I paid him a visit last night at his house. He told me of having been out for a drive, when he was attracted to the scene of Zaharoff’s death by the crowd. When he reached the scene he saw Zaharoff’s body, he says, lying along the seat in the burned car. As a matter of fact, while the body actually was found in that position, the first arrival dragged it out on the grass.
“But before that I was suspicious of Freyseng. It was he murdered Fergus Stirling. That, too, he carelessly gave away in our little conversation. He knew more of the
Stirling affair than the public could know. He knew
that Stirling was not murdered where he was found, and, after talking too much
of Stirling being shot, he placed his finger
on the exact spot where the bullet was supposed to enter, though he could not
have seen the body unless he was the murderer . . . In addition, he made a
Aulinloch lurched away from the wall and stared at the Inspector. “He—made a—confession? Freyseng confessed?” He closed his eyes quickly, and a wave of colour betrayed confusion.
“Ah!” A cold smile crossed the Inspector’s face. “That surprises you. You didn’t think he could—that there was any life left in him. The condition you left him in. But you failed to make allowance for the man’s vitality. When I found Freyseng he was not quite dead, but he knew he was dying, and he told everything. He confessed to the murders of
Stirling and Zaharoff.”
Aulinloch’s face twitched. “So he was a coward, after all?”
“Freyseng died at least with confession on his lips, Aulinloch. He’ll have less to answer for in the next world. He confessed that he sent a false message to get Zaharoff into that quiet side road. There he waylaid him, struck him on the head, and arranged the rest. Stirling he murdered in
kitchen —and Freyseng choked him to unconsciousness. It was a nail
not a bullet that made the hole in his head and Stirling
was already dead.
“It was he took your car from the garage. He thought to fix the murder on you. I confess it was effective for a time.”
Aulinloch listened attentively. “You were very subtle, Inspector. I knew you suspected me.” He closed his eyes again. “And still you offer no evidence against me . . . Would it help you to know that from the first there’s been a Chinaman mixed up in this?”
As he talked Brander Charlesworth crowded into the corner, his face red, his eyes on the floor. Inspector Broughton wheeled on him suddenly.
“Charlesworth, it’s up to you to explain a Chinese costume I found just now in your suitcase out there.”
Aulinloch chuckled. “I thought you’d add two and two, Inspector—even without finding the costume. See that face of his? As Chinese as a Westerner can be. Charlesworth was born and raised in
He thought his mother had been swindled and he came around to the seven of us
in the deal and threatened us to our faces.” China
Inspector Broughton and Brander Charlesworth faced each other.
“I’ll tell the whole story, as I know it,” Brander began. “Part of what Aulinloch has said is right—as far as it goes. I thought I might get the jade back—I was very angry—and not very particular how I did it. But I never contemplated murder. My plan was to pass as a Chinaman to these scoundrels and frighten them—
“I saved this man from a real robber,” Brander continued. “But, Inspector, I wasn’t the only Chinaman in it. One came to my mother’s house last night and attacked us both—tied mother up and struck me down in the dark when I went home unexpectedly. Only the arrival of—of this man’s wife saved my life, I believe.
“I may as well tell it all,” Brander went on. “Tonight I saw that Chinaman again. He was running from Kalmberg’s lawn. I caught only a glimpse of him. I had heard a shot near the house, and I was making for it across the lawn. I, too, was dressed as a Chinaman. Then—then I stumbled over two bodies.”
Aulinloch smiled. “There you have it, Inspector—a witness for the prosecution, and he admits it was a Chinaman.
“As for that deal in Jade. Is buying at a bargain a crime?”
“I’m not concerned about that just now,” said the Inspector. “The crime I’m taking you for—”
“Hadn’t you better hang onto young Charlesworth, while you’re at it?” asked Aulinloch. “He admits he was at the scene of some crime tonight. I take it that’s the murder of Freyseng—”
“Of Freyseng and Kalmberg,” said the Inspector, “I found both in the shrubbery at Kalmberg’s house. Kalmberg was strangled to death. Freyseng had done that when—this Chinaman attacked him.”
“And Charlesworth admits he was a Chinaman at the scene of that crime!” Aulinloch looked from one to the other, his face twisted to a wan smile.
“What were you doing there, Charlesworth?” the Inspector demanded.
Brander sighed. “I’ve been wildly foolish. I see it now. I was on my way to Kalmberg’s house to frighten him as part of my plan. I saw how easy it was the night I broke into Aulinloch’s office. I pushed my way in as the men there went to leave, thinking to force Aulinloch to open his safe.”
“You’ve sailed close to the law, young man,” warned the Inspector. “It’s only good fortune that I’m not forced to arrest you, too . . . But this turns out to be a curious game you were all playing. You were a Chinaman; we know McElheren was, too; and I’m certain Aulinloch was a third. Well,” turning to the latter, “get your things together. We get off at the first stop.”
Aulinloch did not move. The Inspector glanced about the small compartment. He saw the two suitcases on the upper berth and lifted one to the floor. Aulinloch watched with flaming eyes as he stooped to open it.
Brander uttered a sharp cry of warning and leaped, but the Inspector had already dropped sideways to the floor. With a lightning spring he was on his feet. On the floor beside the open suitcase lay Aulinloch, Brander Charlesworth gripping his arms. And a long knife quivered in the wooden side of the lower berth!
With a jerk Inspector Broughton lifted Aulinloch back to the couch and snapped handcuffs over his wrists. His face was red with chagrin and anger.
“Thanks, Charlesworth. I wasn’t looking for that.”
He bent over the open suitcase and drew from it a handful of black silk. It was a complete Chinese costume! He pulled the knife from the berth. It was dark with congealed blood!
Inspector Broughton held the knife up.
“Blood, Aulinloch, the blood of two men—two confederates in another crime—Freyseng and McElheren. It was you pencilled that note on the paper on his desk; you did it to frighten Freyseng and Kalmberg and to mislead the police. . . . Three of you masquerading as a Chinaman, and all for the same purpose!”
Aulinloch gave no sign that he heard. His deathly white cheeks seemed to have caved in, his head leaned back against the wall. With his handcuffed hands he pressed his side. The Inspector and Brander regarded him anxiously.
Suddenly his lips parted. “I almost succeeded—everywhere. . .” Aulinloch’s shoulders sagged. “It can’t be hidden any longer—from Phyliss. I had hoped to save her from this. Besides—Yes, I killed Larned. The evening he died they all met in the library. I put a slow poison in one of the glasses. He was unlucky. Even that early I planned to get rid of them all, one by one.
“Then someone forestalled me:
Stirling was murdered. It
frightened me. . . When Zaharoff was killed I knew right away it was no
accident—I knew someone was after us. I wasn’t sure if it was Freyseng or
“But that didn’t change my plan. Each death meant added profit. It spurred me on. It came to look like a race between me and the other killer. Last night I worked fast. From Mrs. Charlesworth’s I went to McElheren’s. You know the rest. I wrote that little note on the paper to fool you.”
“But,” the Inspector told him, “you didn’t wait to see what McElheren wrote with his own blood just before he died: ‘The jade carvings.’ It was that gave us our first definite clue. I never had any faith in the Chinaman angle.”
Aulinloch murmured: “McElheren—wrote—that! And I left him dead, I thought.
“That’s what greed does. . .”
“Have you sold the jade?” Brander demanded.
Aulinloch opened his eyes and looked for a long time straight into his. “I’ll give you the address,” he said, “If you’ll hold a paper for me to write.”
Brander did not quite understand. By the look in Aulinloch’s eyes he scented something not intended for the Inspector. Holding the paper so the latter could not see, he watched Aulinloch write: “Thomas Greenshields,
3808 Fifth Avenue, will pay you a million
for them.” He folded the paper and thrust it into his pocket.
“Listen to me,” Aulinloch whispered. He was breathing hard. “I want to tell it all. After McElheren’s death Kalmberg and Freyseng got together to rob me of the jade. They forced me to hand it over to Kalmberg. He and Freyseng went away together with the jade from my house. I followed them.
“You’ve beaten us, Inspector. We had no idea you were after us . . . I followed them. I had my Chinese dress with me. I changed in the taxi without the driver noticing the change. I had no idea what their plan was, except that I was to be done out of the jade. I saw Kalmberg leave Freyseng’s car and start toward the house. All I had to do was to waylay Kalmberg in the darkness of his own grounds and—take the suitcase from him. He would be too terrified of the Chinaman to resist. Please believe me when I say I had no intention of killing him.
“I reached the lawn in time, I thought. I saw Kalmberg cowering in the shadows. I saw him run toward the corner of the house, but as he passed the shrubbery there he seemed to shrink away from it Then he disappeared. I waited for a few moments. I listened. Then a rustle of someone came from the shrubbery. It was Freyseng—and he carried the suitcase of jade . . . I killed him. I knew he had killed Kalmberg.”
The Inspector frowned—hesitated—“There was a shot,” he said. “Who fired it?”
“Freyseng. He had a gun with him.”
“Did he shoot at you or at Kalmberg?”
“At me. It—didn’t stop me. I think I could have gone on and killed him if my heart had been riddled. It was destined.”
“He missed you—so close as that?” the Inspector asked.
Aulinloch smiled. “He hit me. I’m dying.”
Inspector Broughton tore the coat away. A wet stain showed through the vest.
“I scarcely—felt it—at first,” Aulinloch continued feebly. “I had the jade. I hurried home and bandaged it myself as best I could.
“My wife was there but I couldn’t ask her. All my married life has been a struggle to conceal from her the man she married . . . to earn her love. I might have succeeded in the first if it hadn’t been for the jade. The second—was hopeless. Often I thought life wasn’t worth living without it. Then the jade brought new interest, new zest—new hopes. I took it as a symbol that I might still win.”
As he talked, Inspector Broughton had bared the bandage. A single glance and he rose and went to the door.
“We’ll have the train stopped at the first station,” he said, and went out.
For a time not a sound but Aulinloch’s heavy breathing broke the silence of the small room. Brander took a pillow from one of the berths and gently lifted Aulinloch’s head and slipped it underneath.
Aulinloch touched him with his manacled hands. “No use, Charlesworth. It’s too late. I’m no use to anyone now, anyway . . . except the police—and they can well do without me.”
He pointed to the upper berth. “There—there—quick! The suitcase—the jade—it’s there! It’s yours. I give it back to you. Phyliss never loved anyone but you.”
Miserable, confused, Brander automatically lifted the suitcase down and set it near the door. A moment later the Inspector hurried in. A strange man in pyjamas was with him.
“This is a doctor, Aulinloch. He’ll see what can be done for you till we reach a station.”
Brander picked up the suitcase. Inspector Broughton watched him. As he unlocked the handcuffs from Aulinloch’s hands he was very gentle.
Phyliss Aulinloch sat in her own sitting room before the window. It looked on the garden at the rear.
Her thoughts turned to Brander. Where was he? What would he think now? She had rejected him brutally, insolently, to take a—a murderer! Love could never enter her life again.
A maid came soft-footed to announce a caller. Phyliss shook her head—she would see no one. But she took the card.
“Mr. James Broughton.”
By the card she knew Inspector Broughton had come unofficially, that he had come as a friend. She had nothing against him; indeed, from the first he had shown consideration beyond what later revelations showed to be warranted.
Inspector Broughton entered. He was ill at ease, very solemn, very uncertain of himself. He bowed stiffly.
“Please forgive—a friend, Mrs. Aulinloch,” he murmured. “I wanted to speak to you.”
“There’s nothing to forgive—a friend.” On an impulse she extended her hand.
“I wish for just three minutes you’d forget my share in—what happened.”
“There’s no need of that, Mr. Broughton,” she told him. “I don’t blame you . . . I don’t blame anyone—anyone but myself. Things have happened. I see how I was to blame for much of it. I filled no place in my husband’s life, no satisfying place.”
He gulped, shifted his knees. “I hope you won’t think it mere curiosity if I ask if your husband left you—ah—provided for, financially independent.
“There were some jade carvings. He said—a valuable collection, I believe. They belonged to your late husband. He had them in a suitcase when we found him on the train at the time of his death. They—disappeared.”
Phyliss had risen from her chair, she faced him anxiously, “Disappeared, you say? But, Inspector, you must get them back for me. It’s important, very important, that they be found and returned.”
Inspector Broughton sighed. “I’ll get them,” he said.
As he turned to leave, the maid knocked. A card was handed in. The Inspector waited as Phyliss read.
“Please bring him up here, Bertha,” Phyliss said. “As a friend, Inspector. I want you here.”
The door burst open and Brander Charlesworth rushed in. He was excited. In his hand he carried an old leather suitcase. At sight of the Inspector he made a futile effort to swing it behind him.
The Inspector coughed, sidled to the door, and went out.
Phyliss Aulinloch started forward to stop him, but she was too late. Then she returned quickly behind the table.
Brander did not look at her—he dare not.
“There’s something of yours, Phyliss. Mr. Aulinloch had it—I brought it away from the train . . . to you.”
“I know what it is, Brander,” she said. “The jade was never my husband’s. It belongs to your mother.”
Brander’s young face was troubled. “I was afraid—it might be like that. I shouldn’t have taken it, but he—asked me to. I had no right to come to you the other day and say what I did—the way I did.”
“I won t take them,” she repeated stubbornly. “They belong to your mother.”
Brander frowned. “It—it isn’t easy for me, Phyliss,” he stammered. “You see, I can’t take them. Your husband bought them. It’s fine of you, I know—Your husband paid for them—he paid three thousand five hundred dollars. Mother can’t take them back because—”
“All right. Pay me the three thousand five hundred and call it settled.”
“But that’s the trouble—I can’t. I haven’t anything like that to my name.”
She crossed the room toward him. “Brander,” she chided, “why do you come into this affair at all? It’s solely between your mother and me.”
“But mother won’t—”
“Oh we can arrange that some way. Take the awful things out of this house, Brander; they’ve brought nothing but trouble and unhappiness—and crime. They were innocent enough in your mother’s hands. They aren’t that here.”
“Phyliss . . .” he said slowly. “I’ve changed my job . . . for the better. I’m on a
Tomorrow I start for New York
for them. I’ll be gone six months. After that—why—I’m coming back. Good bye!” Geneva
He picked up the suitcase and ran from the room.
Phyliss tiptoed to the door, a happy smile on her face, and listened to the last echo of his hurrying feet.
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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.