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Ashton-Kirk, Investigator online

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There were a few more questions, but as they drew out nothing of
interest, Stillman signified to Brolatsky that the interview was at an

"Now, you will go with Mr. Curran to police headquarters on the next
floor," said he, "and tell them what you have told me about this
Antonio Spatola."

Then he opened the door and stepped out.

"Curran," they heard him say, importantly.

"I want you to - " then the door closed, cutting the sentence short.

Pendleton gazed fixedly at Ashton-Kirk.

"I say," said he, "I'm not up in this sort of thing at all. I've been
putting two and two together, and it's led me into a deuce of a

Ashton-Kirk looked at him inquiringly; there was expectancy in the
investigator's eyes, but he said nothing.

"Perhaps you'll think that I'm all kinds of a fool," continued
Pendleton, "and maybe I am. But here are the things that I'm trying to
marshall in order. I'll take them just as they happened." He held up
one hand and with the other began to check off the counts upon his
fingers. "Yesterday you have a visit - a visit of a professional
nature - from Edyth Vale. Last night she strangely disappears for a
time. At a most unconventional hour this morning I find you at her
door. Then I learn that you are on your way to look into the details
of a murder that you had just heard of - somehow. Now I hear that Allan
Morris, Edyth's fiancé, has been, in rather an odd way, upon familiar
terms with the murdered man."

He paused as he checked this last count, still regarding his friend

"I don't claim," he went on, after a moment, "that these things have
anything to do with each other. But, somehow, they've got together in
my mind, and I can't - "

Here the door re-opened and Stillman entered, followed by the big

"Just take a chair, Mr. Berg," said the coroner, seating himself at
the desk and affixing his eyeglasses.

The German lowered his form into the chair indicated and folded his
fat hands across his monstrous paunch.

"Your name in full - is what?" asked Stillman with formality.

"Franz Berg. I sell me delicatessen at 478 Christie Place. I haf been
there for fifteen years."

"You were acquainted with the murdered man?"

The delicatessen dealer unfolded his hands and waved them

"I was aguainted with him - yes. But I was not friendly with him - no.
He is dead, ain't it? Und it's not right to say someding about the
dead. But he was no friend of mine."

"I understand. But tell me, Mr. Berg, how late do you keep your place

"In the summertime - seven o'clock. But after dose theaters open, I
stays me on the chob till twelve, or later somedimes. There is
one - two - three what you call burlesque places, right by me; and no
sooner do they close up, than right away those actor peoples come to
buy. I do a goot business, so I keep open."

"Then you were there until midnight last night?"

"More later than that yet."

"Was there any movement of any sort about Hume's place? Did you see or
hear anything?"

The great red face of Berg took on a solemn look.

"It is maybe not ride that I should say somedings," complained he.
"But if the law will not excuse me, I will say it, if it makes some
more trouble or not."

"It is vitally necessary," stated the young coroner, firmly, "that you
tell me everything you know about this matter."

"Well," said the delicatessen dealer, reluctantly, "last night as I
stood by my window looking oudside on the street, I see me that
Italian feller go by und turn in at the side door; a second lader I
hear him go up the steps to Hume's place."

"What Italian fellow do you refer to?"

"He lifs close by me, a few doors away. His name is Spatola, und he
plays the violin the gurb-stones beside."

"What time was it that you saw him?"

"Maybe elefen o'clock. I am not sure. But it was just a little while
before I got me the rush of customers from the theaters."

"Did you notice his manner? Was there anything unusual in his looks?"

"I had me only a glimbs of him. He looked about the same as effer. He
was in a hurry, for it rained a liddle; und under his coat yet he
carried his fiddle."

"If it was under his coat, how do you know it was his fiddle?"

The German scratched his head in a reflective way.

"I don't know it," said he at last. "But he somedimes takes his
instrument inside there, und I just get the notion that it was so.

"When did he come out?"

The man shook his head.

"I don'd know," he said.

"Do you mean that you saw no one come out?"

"No; I _did_ see someone come out. But first I see me someone else go

"Ah! And who was that?"

"I don't know his name; but I had seen him often before. He is a kind
of svell feller. He had a cane und plendy of style."

"And later you saw someone come out. Now, your use of the word
'someone' leads me to think that you do not know whether it was
Spatola or the stranger."

"I don'd," said Berg. "I was busy then. I just heard me someone rush
down the stairs, making plendy noise, und I heard that drunken Hume
lift up a window, stick out his head and call some names after him. My
customers laugh und think it's a joke; but I am ashamed such a
disgracefulness to have around my business yet."

"If Hume called after the person who left," said Stillman, acutely, to
Ashton-Kirk, "that eliminates one of the callers. It proves that Hume
was still alive after the man had gone."

"That is undoubtedly a fact," replied the investigator.

Stillman turned upon Berg with dignity.

"Surely you must have noticed the man if all that uproar attended his
exit. You must have detected enough to mark a difference between an
exceptionally well-dressed man and an Italian street musician."

Berg shook his big head.

"It was aboud twelve o'clock in the night-dime, und my customers
besides I had to pay some attention to," stated he.

The coroner was baffled by the man's positiveness.

"Well," said he, resignedly. "What else did you see?"

Berg shook his head once more.

"Nothing else. Putty soon I closed up and went home." Then a flash of
recollection came into his dull face. "As I went down the street I saw
some lights in Hume's windows. One of them windows was open - maybe the
one he sticked his head out of to call the man names - und I could hear
him laughing like he used to do when he was trying to make a jackass
of some peoples."

The coroner pondered. At length he said:

"This object that Spatola carried under his coat, now. Could it have
been a bayonet?"

"No, no," said Berg with conviction. "It vos too big. It vos bigger as
a half dozen bayonets already."

This seemed the limit of Berg's knowledge of the night's happenings;
a few more questions and then Stillman dismissed him. The door had
hardly closed when the telephone rang. After a few words, the coroner
hung up the receiver and turned to his visitors.

"I think," said he, with a smile of satisfaction, "that I've made the
police department sit up a little. They talked to all three of these
people before I had them, and didn't seem to get enough to make a
beginning. But just now," and the smile grew wider, "I've heard that
Osborne is on his way to arrest Antonio Spatola."



Berg was standing in the corridor waiting for the elevator when
Ashton-Kirk and Pendleton came out. The big German mopped his face
with a handkerchief, and said apologetically:

"A man can only tell what he knows, ain't it?"

Ashton-Kirk looked at him questioningly, but said nothing.

"To begin dot guess-work business when you are talking to the law
already, it is dangerous," stated Berg in an explanatory tone.

"Well," said Ashton-Kirk, "sometimes a good, pointed guess is of great
service, Mr. Berg. And," with a laugh, "as I am not the law and not
the least dangerous, suppose you make the one that I can see you
turning over in your mind."

"Oh," said Berg, "you are not the coroner's office in?"

"No; merely interested in this case, that's all."

The delicatessen dealer looked relieved.

"I don't want to get people in trouble," said he, guardedly. "But this
is what I guess. Late every night, about the time I shut up my place,
there is a cab comes und by the curbstone stands across the street. I
will not say what is der place it stands in front of; that is not my

"McCausland's gambling house, perhaps," suggested Ashton-Kirk.

The big German looked more relieved than ever.

"Ach, so you know about dot place, eh? All ride. Now I can speak out
and not be afraid to do some harm to nobody." He lowered his voice
still further. "Dot cab came last night as I was locking my door up,
und stands the curbstone by in front of McCausland's, waiting for a
chob. Maybe when I goes away home der driver he sees what happened at
Hume's afterwards, eh?"

"Excellent!" said Ashton-Kirk, his eyes alight. "Thanks for the hint,
Mr. Berg."

The delicatessen dealer lumbered into the elevator which had stopped;
Pendleton was about to follow, but his friend detained him, and the
car dropped downward without them.

"That cab," said Ashton-Kirk, "is sure to be a night-hawk; and more
than likely it is put up at Partridge's. Pardon me a moment."

There was a telephone booth at one side of the corridor; the speaker
went in and closed the door. After a few moments he came out.

"Just as I thought," he said, well pleased. "Partridge knew the cab
in a moment. The driver's name is Sams, and he lives at the place they
call the Beehive." He looked at his watch. "It wants but a few minutes
of four," he added, "and a night-hawk cabby will be just about
stirring. The Beehive is only three blocks away; suppose we go around
and look him up."

Pendleton agreed instantly; and after a brisk walk and a breathless
climb, they found themselves on the fourth floor of a huge brick
building where they had been directed by a meek-looking woman in a
dust-cap. A long hall with a great many doors upon each side, all
looking alike, stretched away before them.

"It's very plain that the only way to find Mr. Sams is to make a
noise," said Ashton-Kirk. And with that he stalked down the hall, his
heels clattering on the bare boards. "Hello," he cried loudly. "Sams
is wanted! Hello, Sams!"

A door opened, and a face covered with thick soap suds and surmounted
by a tangle of sandy hair looked out.

"Hello," growled this person, huskily. "Who wants him?"

"Very glad to see you, Mr. Sams," said Ashton-Kirk. "We have a small
matter of business with you that will require a few moments of your
time. May we come in?"

"Sure," said Sams.

They entered the room, which contained a bed, a trunk, a wash-stand,
and a chair.

"One of you can take the chair; the other can sit on the trunk," said
the hack driver, nodding toward these articles. Then he proceeded to
strop a razor at one of the windows. "Excuse me if I go on with this
reaping. I must go out and feed the horse, and then get breakfast."

"You breakfast rather late," commented Ashton-Kirk.

"I'm lucky to get it at any time, in this business," grumbled Sams.
"Out all night, sleep all day, and get blamed little for it, at that."

He posed before a small mirror stuck up beside the window and gave the
blade an experimental sweep across his face. Then he turned and asked

"Did youse gents want anything particular?"

"We'd like to ask a question or two regarding what happened last night
in Christie Place."

The cab driver's forehead corrugated; he closed his razor, laid it
down and shoved his' soapy face toward the speaker.

"Say," spoke he, roughly. "I drives people wherever they wants to go;
but I don't ask no questions."

"It's all right, Mr. Sams," said Ashton-Kirk. "The affair that I'm
looking up happened across the street - at Hume's - second floor of

"Oh!" Sams stared for a moment, then he took up his razor, turned his
back and went on with his shaving. But there was expectancy in his
attitude; and Ashton-Kirk smiled confidently.

"While you were drawn up in Christie Place, waiting for a fare," he
asked, "did you hear or see anything at 478?"

"I saw a light on the second floor - something I never saw before at
that hour. And I saw the Dutchman that keeps the store underneath
shutting up. And I heard somebody laughing upstairs," as a second
thought. "I think that's what made me notice the light."

"Nothing else?"

Sams shaved and considered. He wiped his razor at last, poured some
water in a bowl and doused his face. Then he took up a towel and began
applying it briskly.

The investigator, watching him closely, saw that he was not trying to
recall anything. It was plain that the man was merely calculating the
possibilities of harm to himself and patrons if he told what he knew.

"There has been a murder," said Ashton-Kirk, quietly, thinking to jog
him along.

Sams threw the towel from him and sat down upon the bed.

"A murder!" said he, his eyes and mouth wide open. "Well, what do you
know about that." He sat looking from one to the other of them,
dazedly, for a space; then he resumed: "Say, I thought there was
something queer about that stunt of hers!"

"Tell us about it," suggested Ashton-Kirk, crossing his legs and
clasping one knee with his hands.

The cabby considered once more.

"There's lots of things that a guy like me sees that look off color,"
he said, at length; "but we can't always pass any remarks about them.
It would be bad for business, you see. But this murder thing's a
different proposition, and here's where I tell it all. Last night
while I was waiting in front of McCausland's, I hears an automobile
turn into the street. It was some time after I got there. I wouldn't
have paid much attention to it, but you see there's a fellow been
trying to get my work with a taxicab, and I thought it was him."

"And it wasn't?"

"No, it was a private car - a Maillard, and there was a woman driving

The chair upon which Pendleton sat was an infirm one; it creaked
sharply as he made a sudden movement.

"She was going at a low speed," proceeded Sams, "and as she passed
Hume's I noticed her look up at the windows. After she disappeared
there wasn't a sound for a while. You see, nobody hardly ever passes
through Christie Place after one o'clock. Then I hears her coming
back. This time she stopped the car, got out and went to the door that
leads into Hume's place. There she stopped a little, as though she
didn't know whether to go in or not. But at last she went in."

Pendleton coughed huskily at this point; and his friend glancing at
him saw that his face was white.

"And up to that time," said Ashton-Kirk, "are you sure that there was
no movement - no sound - in the front room at Hume's?"

"As far as I noticed, there wasn't. But a few minutes after I heard
the woman go in, I _did_ hear some sounds."

The man stroked his shaven jaws in the deliberate manner of a person
about to precipitate a crisis. Pendleton leaned toward him, anxiously.

"What sort of sounds?" he asked.

"There were two," replied the cab driver. "The first was a revolver
shot; the second came right after, and was a kind of a scream - like
that of a parrot."

"And what then?" asked Ashton-Kirk, easily.

"There wasn't anything for a few minutes, anyway. But the revolver
shot had kind of got my attention, so I was taking notice of the
windows. Then suddenly I caught sight of the woman. You see, the
gas-light was near the window and she kind of leaned over and turned
it out. It was only for a time as long as that," and the man snapped
his fingers. "But I saw her plain. Then I heard her coming down the
stairs to the street - almost at a run. She banged the street door shut
after her, jumped into her car and went tearing away as if she was
crazy. I stayed fifteen minutes before I got a fare; but nothing else

Pendleton's hand closed hard on the edge of the chair he sat in. There
was a moment's silence; then Ashton-Kirk asked:

"Just where was your cab standing at this time?"

"Right in front of McCausland's door."

"And you were on the box?"


The investigator put a piece of money in the man's hand as he and
Pendleton arose and prepared to go.

"Say," said Sam curiously, "I've been in bed all day and ain't heard a
word of anything. Who's been done up?"

"Hume. Stabbed in the chest."

"Shot, you mean."

"No, I mean stabbed. With a bayonet."

The man stared wonderingly.

"G'way," he said.

They bid him good-day and tramped down the three long flights to the
street. Pendleton was silent, and walked with his head held down.

"We have more than an hour of good daylight left," said his friend, as
they reached the street. "And as I must have a good unrestricted look
at Hume's apartments before everything is hopelessly changed about,
suppose we go there now. We can get a taxi in the next street."

"Just a moment," said Pendleton. "Before we take another step in the
matter, Kirk, I must ask a question."

Ashton-Kirk put his hand upon his friend's shoulder.

"Don't," said he. "I know just what the question would be, and at the
present time I can't answer it. At this moment, except for some few
theories that I have yet to verify, I am as much puzzled as yourself."

"But," and there was a tremble in the speaker's voice, "you must
answer me, old chap - and you must answer now."

The catch in his voice, the expression upon the young man's face
caused Ashton-Kirk to grasp an astonishing fact. The hand that he had
laid upon Pendleton's shoulder tightened as he answered:

"Yes, Edyth Vale is concerned. As a rule I do not speak of my clients
to others, but in view of what you have already heard and seen, it
would be a waste of words to deny it. But, see here, there are lots of
things we don't know yet about this business. It may look very
different in a few hours. Come."

Pendleton gazed with sober eyes into the speaker's face for a moment.
Then he said:

"Let us get the cab; if you are to go over Hume's rooms before dark,
you haven't any too much time."

At the next corner they signaled a taxicab, and in a short time they
were set down in Christie Place. Paulson, the policeman, was standing

"How are you?" he greeted them affably.

"Been here all day?" asked Ashton-Kirk.

"Oh, no. Just come on. I'm the third shift since I saw you last."

"Nobody has been permitted to go upstairs, I presume?"

"Only the coroner's man, who came for the body. And they touched
nothing but the body. Our orders were strong on that."

"Has anything been heard as the result of the post-mortem?"

"It showed that Hume was in bad shape from too much drink. Then he had
a hard knock on the head, and the wound in his chest."

"But there was no sign of a bullet wound?"

"No," said Paulson, surprised. "Nothing like that."

"Just a moment," said the investigator to Pendleton. He crossed the
street, walked along for a few paces, then paused at the curb and
looked back toward Hume's doorway. Then he returned with quick steps
and an alert look in his eyes.

"Now we'll go upstairs," he said.

But before doing so he stopped and examined the lock of the street
door closely; then he mounted the stairs slowly, his glances seeming
to take in everything. At the top he paused, his head bent, apparently
in deep thought. Then he lifted it suddenly, and laughed exultantly.

"That's it," he said, "I'm quite sure that is it."

"I wouldn't doubt your word for an instant," said Pendleton, in
something like his old voice. "Whatever it is, I'm quite sure it is if
you say so."

The policeman on guard in the hall examined them carefully.

"All right," said he, after they had explained and he had verified it
by calling to his mate at the street door. "Go right to work, gents.
I'm here to see that nobody gets in from above by way of the scuttle,
and I guess I won't be in the way."

There were three gas branches at intervals along the length of the dim
hall, each with a cluster of four jets. Ashton-Kirk lighted all three
of these and began making a careful examination of the passage. Along
toward the rear was a stairway leading to the floor above. Next this
was a small room in which there was a water tap. At the extreme end of
the hall was a window with a green shade drawn to the bottom.

Ashton-Kirk regarded this for a moment intently. Then he reached up
and turned off the gas at the branch nearest the window. Daylight
could now be seen through the blind; the investigator pointed and

"This shows us something. About six inches of the bottom of the blind
is of a decidedly lighter color than the remainder. This is caused by
exposure to the light and indicates that this blind has seldom been
drawn in daylight as it is now."

He drew back the blind and looked at the side nearest the window. At
the top of the faded space was a heavy dark line.

"I'll modify that last statement," said he, with satisfaction. "I'll
go as far as to say, now, that the blind has never been drawn since it
was put up. This thick line marks the part that lay across the top of
the roller, and the dust seems never to have been disturbed."

The gas was lighted once more.

"Hume did not draw that curtain," said Ashton-Kirk, decidedly. "He
was too careless a man, apparently, to think of such a thing. The
intruders, whoever they were, did it; they had a light, perhaps, and
did not want to be - "

He paused abruptly here, and Pendleton heard him draw his breath
sharply between his teeth; his eyes were fixed upon the lowermost step
of the flight that led to the floor above.

One of the gas branches hung here; its full glare was thrown downward.
Following the fixed gaze of his friend, Pendleton saw two partly
burned matches, the stump of a candle, and some traces of tallow which
had fallen from the latter upon the step. To Pendleton's amazement,
his friend dropped to his knees before these as a heathen would before
an idol. With the utmost attention he examined them and the step upon
which they lay. Then he arose, enthusiasm upon his face.

"Beautiful!" he cried. "I do not recall ever having seen anything just
like it!" He slapped Pendleton upon the back with a heavy, hand. "Pen,
that stump of candle sheds more light than the finest arc lamp ever

"I'm watching and I'm listening," spoke Pendleton. "Also I'm agitating
my small portion of gray matter. But inspiration, it seems, is not for
me. So I'll have to ask you what these things tell you."

"Well, they give me a fairly good view of the man who, while he may
not actually have murdered Hume, had much to do with his taking off."
He bent over the lower step once more, then looked up with a smile
upon his face. "What would you say," asked he, "if I told you that I
draw from these things that the gentleman was short, well-dressed,
near-sighted and knew something of the modern German dramatists."

"I should say," replied Pendleton, firmly, "that you ought to have
your brain looked at. It sounds wrong to me."

Ashton-Kirk laughed, and started up the stairs toward the third floor.

"I'll return in a moment," he said. "Don't trouble to come up."

He was gone but a very little while, and when he returned his face
wore a satisfied look.

"The bolt of the scuttle is broken, just as Osborne said," he
reported. "And anyone who could gain the roof would have little
difficulty in effecting an entrance." He led the way down the hall,
saying as he went: "Now we'll browse around in the rooms for a while;
then we'll be off to dinner."

The storage room was entered first as upon the earlier visit, but
Ashton-Kirk wasted but little time upon it. In the front room,
however, he examined things with a minuteness that amazed Pendleton.
And yet everything was done quickly; like a keen-nosed hound, the
investigator went from one object to another; nothing seemed to escape
him, nothing was too small for his attention. One of the first things
that he did was to get a chair and plant it against the lettered door
that led directly into the hall. At the top was a gong with a
spring-hammer, one of the sort that rings its warning whenever the
door is opened; and this the investigator examined with care.

He then passed into the railed space where the body had lain and where
the darkened trail of blood still bore ghastly testimony to what had
occurred. The man's singular eyes scanned the floor, the walls, the
flat-topped desk. On this last his attention again became riveted; and
once more Pendleton heard his breath drawn sharply between his teeth.

"When Hume was struck upon the head," said Ashton-Kirk, after a

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