Chapter 162353680

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter TitleTHE BLONDE LADY.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162353680
Full Date1899-01-07
Page Number43
Corrections0
Word Count1893
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Red-Headed Man
article text

CHAPTER II.—THE BLONDE LADY.

On Monday morning Darrel lingered over Ijjs breakfast, considering the woful issue of Jiis Saturday night's adventure. Tire alarm having been given by Bike, the cabman, the police had taken charge of the body and of tjio case, and had requested Darrel to hold himself in readiness to be called as a wit ness. But the novelist, although, willing to give evidence, wished to take a more active part in the matter. He desired to learn the motive for the crime, to discover the crimi nal, and ascertain by what means the mur dered man had been lured to bis death in Mortality-lane. In a word, Dairel wanted to change from spectator into actor, and to turn detective for the unriddling of this ex traordinary enigma. To him the experience of so strange a matter would he a liberal

education in realism.

While thus meditating a card wa^ brought to lum, inscribed, rather abruptly, with the curt name, "Tony." Wlio he might be Barrel could not guess, but the owner of this baronial appellation seeaned to think that it was sufficient to introduce him as one. not unknown to renown. Somewhat amused by this hinted vanity, Darrel gave orders that the visitor should be admitted, and speedily found himself face to face with a short, little man, smiling and voluble. Mr. Torry was extremely stout, with a plump, red-eheeked face, clean shaven, very white feetb, and a fringe ol scanty brown hair en circling a polished bald head. At first sight he looked a kindly, frivolous creature, but a closer inspection showed that his eyes con tradicted this opinion. These were of a greyish-blue, keen and . penetrating, and changed colour in accordance with the emo tions in their owner's mind. A man with such eyes could not be a fool, and, with cha racteristic caution, Darrel held bis peace until his visitor should explain }iis business.

This was done in a moment.

"I have called," said Mr. Torry, taking a chair uninvited, "to see you about this Mor tality-lane affair."

"From Scotland Yard?"

"From New Scotland Yard, to be precise. 1 am lorry, the detective, and the case 1 spoke of has been placed in my hands for

elucidation."

"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Torry," cried Darrel eagerly, "and any evidence I can give is afj your disposal. But I have a favour to ask of you."

"A favour!" cried Mr. Torry, in bis turn, 'Granted; I love doing favours." „

"Then do me this one," said Frank. 'Let me assist you in the conduct of this

case."

Mr. Tony's eyes flashed like steel, and bis mouth shut with a snap on the curt query—"Why?"

"Well," said Darrel, slowly, "you see, I am a novelist who tries to set fo-rth things as they are, for Die benefit of the B.P. I have written one or two detective novels, and have explained the mysteries of divers crimes, siiriply because, in the first instance, I invented those crimes. To parody Gil bert's song, I -made the crime fit the dis covery, and, so to speak, built up a house of cards, to be knocked down in the final chapter. Now here, Mr. Tony," pursued tbe young man, with uplifted finger, "here is a crime in actual life, of chance's own making, which I, not having conceived, can not elucidate. I therefore wish to set my wits to work, in order to learn if they will serve ine as well in fact as they have done in fiction. I desire to take an active part in the working out of this real problem, to see if . my lifjeraiy method of detective analysis is correct. On these grounds — purely selfish ones, I fear—1 ask you to let me assist you."

Mr. Torry, who had listened to this long speech with his head on one side like an 'elderly bird, nodded at its conclusion. "I need not take time to consider your re

quest," Bald he, briskly: "you aboil fee my rjght hand jt you wiilj oiit"—fliofe gravely

— on oaie condition." '

"And that is?"—

"That you let me 'guide you in every way/ and that you take no step without consult

ing me."

"Surely. «J am only tdo glad to bowto your eacperience and judgment."

"Then that settles it; we are partners. Your hand, Mr. Darnel," and novelist and detective shook hands on their agreement.

After coming to this conclusion they settled themselves to discuss the important matter which had brought them together.

"Our ffisk is to find out who .killed this red-haired man, I suppose?" said Darrel, slowly.

"lyell, not exactly, Sir. You see, I know who lulled him," replied the detective, nod ding.

Frank jumped to his feet. "You know who killed him?" he cried, in amazement.

"Yes. A lady with fair hair." "Are you sure?"

"Going by circumstantial evidence, I am," ,

"But are you sure? How do you know? Is she arrested?" The questions poured out of Darrei's mouth until Torry stopped him with a gesture:

"She is beyond the power of the law," said he. "She is—dead."

"Dead!" cried Darrel, recoiling. "Murdered."

"Another crime?"

"Precisely; and committed within an hour of the other. Red-hair was murdered, presumably, between the horns of twelve and one o'clock. Fair hair was stabbed between one and two-, also presumably."

"It seems all presumption, Mr. Torry." "Naturally," replied the detective, "and must continue so, until the post-mortem examination, which takes place to-morrow

at three."

"Where was the woman's body found?" "On the Embankment, to be precise," added Torry, using his favourite phrase. "The corpse was discovered on the steps of Cleopatra's Needle, leading down to the

water."

"Oh," said Darrel thoughtfully; "then the presumpton is that the assassin tried to throw the body of his victim into the

river?"

"I- think so; but probably he was in terrupted while dragging it down the steps, and was forced to lly.'"'

"Who found the body?"

"A tramp who went to wash his hands in the river at 6 o'clock in the morning. I was busy examining the clothes of the red haired man, when 1 heard of this new mur der. Learning that it was a woman, I burned off to view the body."

"Had you any particular reason for this haste?" "asked Frank.

"I bad a theory," rejoined Torry re flectively. "Rather far-i'elched, to be sure; still, a feasible theory. See here."

Froin his breast pocket the detective produced a narrow strip of black lace much torn, and threw it on the white cloth of the breakfast table. Darrel looked at it casually, and then glanced enquiringly at Torry.

"That lace," explained Torry, "was in the left-hand of the red-haired man; there

fore 1 judged that when stabb.ed by the j assassin he put ouifc his hand toward off the blow and mechanically clutched at the gar ments of his assailant. Now, men do not wear lace, so I naturally concluded that the person who killed him was a woman. You

follow me?"

Darrel nodded. "Yes, your theory is a natural One. But how did you connect the one woman with the other?"

"Well," said Torry, smoothing his bald head in a puzzled manner, "you have me there, for I don't exactly know how I eau explain my idea. It was a hash of genius, I suppose. I thought it peculiar that a man should have been murdered by a- woman, and then on the same night that a woman should have been killed also. The man was stabbed to the heart; the* woman was stabbed to the heart. The first was killed in Mortality-lane; the second on the Em bankment, no very great distance away. All these facts made me fancy that the one crime might be the outcome o-f the other."

"1 don't wonder at your fancy," said Darrel; "with such coincidences the same thought would have occurred bo me. Ho you went to look at the woman's body?"

"Yes; and I found lace on her mantle similar to that; also half a yard torn off the front. There is about half a yard there," said Torry, pointing to the lace on the table; "in fact, I have no doubt but that tlie woman murdered the man."

"It seems like it," assented Darrel; "but who murdered the woman?"

"All, that is the problem we have to solve, Mr. Darrel. There is no mark on the woman's linen, no letter in her pocket, no name on her handkerchief. She seems to have been a well-to-do woman, in easy cir cumstances, as her clothes are of good material and well made. How to establish her identity I really do not know; there is absolutely no point whence one can start."

"Why not start from the red-headed man?" suggested Frank.

"Why," said Torry, pinching his chin be tween his thumb and forefinger, "1 might do that if he had not been, disguised."

"Disguised?"

"Yes; the red hair is a wig, the led beard is false. The deceased is a gentle man of some age, nearer sixty than fifty." He has a plump face and a bald head with a fringe of white hair — something like mine," said Mr. Torry in parenthesis, "only my hair is brown. The man is clean

shaven and has several teeth stopped with : gold." !

"You think he is—or rather was—a gen

tleman ?"

"I'm sure of it. His hands and feet are carefully attended to, and his linen is be yond reproach."

"Ha! His linen. Is there no mark on it?"

"There is. He changed his outward gar ments, but not his linen or socks—which shows that he was an amateur in disguising himself. A man who was in the habit of

masquerading for evil purposes vould havef changed from lop to toe. But this pooar creature, not expecting to be murdered, never thought it was necessary to change anything but his outward aspect."

"Is there a name on his shirt, then?"

"No; there are initials. On his shirt, his undershirt, his pants, and on his sock* are two letters.'J. G.*" » .?

"The initials of his name."

"I should think so," replied Torry. "All his underclothes are in good taste and of an expensive quality. I judge him to be a rich

man."

"You speak of him in the present instead of the past," said Barrel grimly. "He is not a man now, but a thing. Well, Mr. Torry, can't you trace his identity by those

initials?"

"Doubtless; especially, as the name of the firm who made the sliirt is stamped on the neck of it—Harcot & Harcot, of Bond street. Oh, I don't think there will be any difficulty in identifying the man; but it will be more difficult to discdver the name

of the woman."

"I don't think so," argued Darrel. "The one crime includes the other, hind out the motive of the woman in killing the man, and you will, doubtless, f be led to discover the

reason she was killed herself. I should be gin from the clue of the initials."

"Perhaps I will," sard Torry thought fully;' "and failing that clue, I'll try the

other."

"The other! What other?" •

"Why," said the detective, looking directly at his companion, "the clue of the

Green Image."