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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bag - Chapter 18. In Mr. Goodrich's Office
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The Gold Bag - Chapter 18. In Mr. Goodrich's Office Post by :wrayherring Category :Long Stories Author :Carolyn Wells Date :May 2012 Read :1889

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The Gold Bag - Chapter 18. In Mr. Goodrich's Office

CHAPTER XVIII. IN Mr. GOODRICH'S OFFICE

As was my duty I went next to the district attorney's office to tell him about Mrs. Cunningham and the gold bag, and to find out from him anything I could concerning Gregory Hall. I found Mr. Porter calling there, and both he and Mr. Goodrich welcomed me as a possible bringer of fresh news. When I said that I did know of new developments, Mr. Porter half rose from his chair.

"I dare say I've no business here," he said; "but you know the deep interest I take in this whole matter. Joseph Crawford was my lifelong friend and near neighbor, and if I can be in any way instrumental in freeing Florence from this web of suspicion--"

I turned on him angrily, and interrupted him by saying,

"Excuse me, Mr. Porter; no one has as yet voiced a suspicion against Miss Lloyd. For you to put such a thought into words, is starting a mine of trouble."

The older man looked at me indulgently, and I think his shrewd perceptions told him at once that I was more interested in Miss Lloyd than a mere detective need be.

"You are right," he said; "but I considered this a confidential session."

"It is," broke in Mr. Goodrich, "and if you will stay, Mr. Porter, I shall be glad to have you listen to whatever Mr. Burroughs has to tell us, and then give us the benefit of your advice."

I practically echoed the district attorney's words, for I knew Lemuel Porter to be a clear-headed and well-balanced business man, and his opinions well worth having.

So it was to two very interested hearers that I related first the story of Florence's coming downstairs at eleven o'clock on the fatal night, for a final endeavor to gain her uncle's consent to her betrothal.

"Then it was her bag!" exclaimed Mr. Porter. "I thought so all the time."

I said nothing at the moment and listened for Mr. Goodrich's comment.

"To my mind," said the district attorney slowly, "this story, told now by Miss Lloyd, is in her favor. If the girl were guilty, or had any guilty knowledge of the crime, she would not have told of this matter at all. It was not forced from her; she told it voluntarily, and I, for one, believe it."

"She told it," said I, "because she wished to take the responsibility of the fallen rose petals upon herself. Since we are speaking plainly, I may assure you, gentlemen, that she told of her later visit to the office because I hinted to her that the yellow leaves might implicate Gregory Hall."

"Then," said Mr. Goodrich triumphantly, "she herself suspects Mr. Hall, which proves that she is innocent."

"It doesn't prove her innocent of collusion," observed Mr. Porter.

"Nor does it prove that she suspects Mr. Hall," I added. "It merely shows that she fears others may suspect him."

"It is very complicated," said the district attorney.

"It is," I agreed, "and that is why I wish to send for the famous detective, Fleming Stone."

"Stone! Nonsense!" exclaimed Mr. Goodrich. "I have every confidence in your skill, Mr. Burroughs; I would not insult you by calling in another detective."

"Surely not," agreed Mr. Porter. "If you need help, Mr. Burroughs, confer with our local man, Mr. Parmalee. He's a pretty clever chap, and I don't know why you two don't work more together."

"We do work together," said I. "Mr. Parmalee is both clever and congenial, and we have done our best in the matter. But the days are going by and little of real importance has been discovered. However, I haven't told you as yet, the story of the gold bag. I have found its owner."

Of course there were exclamations of surprise at this, but realizing its importance they quietly listened to my story.

With scarcely a word of interruption from my hearers, I told them how I had found the card in the bag, how I had learned about Mrs. Purvis from headquarters, how I had gone to see her, and how it had all resulted in Mrs. Cunningham's visit to Miss Lloyd that morning.

"Well!" exclaimed Mr. Porter, as I concluded the narrative. "Well! Of all things! Well, I am amazed! Why, this gives a wide scope of possibilities. Scores of our people come out on that theatre train every night."

"But not scores of people would have a motive for putting Joseph Crawford out of the way," said Mr. Goodrich, who sat perplexedly frowning.

Then, by way of a trump card, I told them of the "extra" edition of the evening paper I had found in the office.

The district attorney stared at me, but still sat frowning and silent.

But Mr. Porter expressed his wonderment.

"How it all fits in!" he cried. "The bag, known to be from that late train; the paper, known to have been bought late in New York! Burroughs, you're a wonder! Indeed, we don't want any Fleming Stone, when you can do such clever sleuthing as this."

I stared at him. Nothing I had done seemed to me "clever sleuthing," nor did my simple discoveries seem to me of any great significance.

"I don't like it," said Mr. Goodrich, at last. "Everything so far known, both early and late information, seems to me to point to Gregory Hall and Florence Lloyd in collusion."

"But you said," I interrupted, "that Miss Lloyd's confession that she did go down-stairs late at night was in her favor."

"I said that before I knew about this bag story. Now I think the case is altered, and the two who had real motive are undoubtedly the suspects."

"But they had no motive," said Mr. Porter, "since Florence doesn't inherit the fortune."

"But they thought she did," explained the district attorney, "and so the motive was just as strong. Mr. Burroughs, I wish you would confer with Mr. Parmalee, and both of you set to work on the suggestions I have advanced. It is a painful outlook, to be sure, but justice is inexorable. You agree with me, Mr. Porter?"

Mr. Porter started, as if he, too, had been in a brown study.

"I do and I don't," he said. "Personally, I think both those young people are innocent, but if I am correct, no harm will be done by a further investigation of their movements on Tuesday night. I think Mr. Hall ought to tell where he was that night, if only in self-defense. If he proves he was in New York, and did not come out here, it will not only clear him, but also Florence. For I think no one suspects her of anything more than collusion with him."

Of course I had no mind to tell these men what Florence had told me confidentially about Mr. Hall's possible occupation Tuesday evening. They were determined to investigate that very question, and so, if her surmise were correct, it would disclose itself.

"Very well," I said, after listening to a little further discussion, which was really nothing but repetition, "then I will consult with Mr. Parmalee, and we will try to make further investigation of Mr. Hall's doings. But I'm ready to admit that it does not look easy to me to discover anything of importance. Mr. Hall is a secretive man, and unless we have a definite charge against him it is difficult to make him talk."

"Well, you can certainly learn something," said Mr. Goodrich. "At any rate devote a few days to the effort. I have confidence in you, Mr. Burroughs, and I don't think you need call in a man whom you consider your superior. But if you'll excuse me for making a suggestion, let me ask you to remember that a theory of Hall's guilt also possibly implicates Miss Lloyd. You will probably discover this for yourself, but don't let your natural chivalry toward a woman, and perhaps a personal element in this case, blind you to the facts."

Although he put it delicately, I quite understood that he had noticed my personal interest in Florence Lloyd, and so, as it was my duty to disregard that interest in my work, I practically promised to remember his injunction.

It was then that I admitted to myself the true state of my mind. I felt sure Florence was innocent, but I knew appearances were strongly against her, and I feared I should bungle the case because of the very intensity of my desire not to. And I thought that Fleming Stone, in spite of evidence, would be able to prove what I felt was the truth, that Florence was guiltless of all knowledge of or complicity in her uncle's death.

However, I had promised to go on with the quest, and I urged myself on, with the hope that further developments might clear Florence, even if they more deeply implicated Gregory Hall.

I went back to the inn, and spent some time in thinking over the matter, and methodically recording my conclusions. And, while I thought, I became more and more convinced that, whether Florence connived or not, Hall was the villain, and that he had actually slain his employer because he had threatened to disinherit his niece.

Perhaps when Hall came to the office, late that night, Mr. Crawford was already engaged in drawing up the new will, and in order to purloin it Hall had killed him, not knowing that the other will was already destroyed. And destroyed it must be, for surely Hall had no reason to steal or suppress the will that favored Florence.

As a next move, I decided to interview Mr. Hall.

Such talks as I had had with him so far, had been interrupted and unsatisfactory. Now I would see him alone, and learn something from his manner and appearance.

I found him, as I had expected, in the office of his late employer. He was surrounded with papers, and was evidently very busy, but he greeted me with a fair show of cordiality, and offered me a chair.

"I want to talk to you plainly, Mr. Hall," I said, "and as I see you're busy, I will be as brief as possible."

"I've been expecting you," said he calmly. "In fact, I'm rather surprised that you haven't been here before."

"Why?" said I, eying him closely.

"Only because the inquiries made at the inquest amounted to very little, and I assumed you would question all the members of the household again."

"I'm not sure that's necessary," I responded, following his example in adopting a light, casual tone. "I have no reason to suspect that the servants told other than the exact truth. I have talked to both the ladies, and now I've only a few questions to put to you."

He looked up, surprised at my self-satisfied air.

"Have you nailed the criminal?" he asked, with a greater show of interest than he had before evinced.

"Not exactly nailed him, perhaps. But we fancy we are on the scent."

"Resent what?" he asked, looking blank.

"I didn't say 'resent.' I said, we are on the scent."

"Oh, yes. And in what direction does it lead you?"

"In your direction," I said, willing to try what effect bluntness might have upon this composed young man.

"I beg your pardon?" he said, as if he hadn't heard me.

"Evidences are pointing toward you as the criminal," I said, determined to disturb his composure if I could.

Instead of showing surprise or anger, he gave a slight smile, as one would at an idea too ridiculous to be entertained for an instant. Somehow, that smile was more convincing to me than any verbal protestation could have been.

Then I realized that the man was doubtless a consummate actor, and he had carefully weighed the value of that supercilious smile against asseverations of innocence. So I went on:

"When did you first learn of the accident to the Atlantic liner, the North America?"

"I suppose you mean that question for a trap," he said coolly; "but I haven't the least objection to answering it. I bought a late 'extra' in New York City the night of the disaster."

"At what hour did you buy it?"

"I don't know exactly. It was some time after midnight."

Really, there was little use in questioning this man. If he had bought his paper at half-past eleven, as I felt positive he did, and if he had come out to Sedgwick on the twelve o'clock train, he was quite capable of answering me in this casual way, to throw me off the track.

Well, I would try once again.

"Excuse me, Mr. Hall, but I am obliged to ask you some personal questions now. Are you engaged to Miss Lloyd?"

"I beg your pardon?"

His continued requests for me to repeat my questions irritated me beyond endurance. Of course it was a bluff to gain time, but he did it so politely, I couldn't rebuke him.

"Are you engaged to Miss Lloyd?" I repeated.

"No, I think not," he said slowly. "She wants to break it off, and I, as a poor man, should not stand in the way of her making a brilliant marriage. She has many opportunities for such, as her uncle often told me, and I should be selfish indeed, now that she herself is poor, to hold her to her promise to me."

The hypocrite! To lay on Florence the responsibility for breaking the engagement. Truly, she was well rid of him, and I hoped I could convince her of the fact.

"But she is not so poor," I said. "Mr. Philip Crawford told me he intends to provide for her amply. And I'm sure that means a fair-sized fortune, for the Crawfords are generous people."

Gregory Hall's manner changed.

"Did Philip Crawford say that?" he cried. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure, as he said it to me."

"Then Florence and I may be happy yet," he said; and as I looked him straight in the eye, he had the grace to look ashamed of himself, and, with a rising color, he continued: "I hope you understand me, Mr. Burroughs. No man could ask a girl to marry him if he knew that meant condemning her to comparative poverty."

"No, of course not," said I sarcastically. "Then I assume that, so far as you are concerned, your engagement with Miss Lloyd is not broken?"

"By no means. In fact, I could not desert her just now, when there is a--well, a sort of a cloud over her."

"What do you mean?" I thundered. "There is no cloud over her."

"Well, you know, the gold bag and the yellow rose leaves..."

"Be silent! The gold bag has been claimed by its owner. But you are responsible for its presence in this room! You, who brought it from the midnight train, and left it here! You, who also left the late city newspaper here! You, who also dropped two yellow petals from the rose in your buttonhole."

Gregory Hall seemed to turn to stone as he listened to my words. He became white, then ashen gray. His hands clinched his chair-arms, and his eyes grew glassy and fixed.

I pushed home my advantage. "And therefore, traced by these undeniable evidences, I know that you are the slayer of Joseph Crawford. You killed your friend, your benefactor, your employer, in order that he might not disinherit the girl whose fortune you wish to acquire by marrying her!"

Though I had spoken in low tones, my own intense emotion made my words emphatic, and as I finished I was perhaps the more excited of the two.

For Hall's composure had returned; his face resumed its natural color; his eyes their normal expression--that of cold indifference.

"Mr. Burroughs," he said quietly, "you must be insane."

"That is no answer to my accusations," I stormed. "I tell you of the most conclusive evidence against yourself, and instead of any attempt to refute it you mildly remark, 'you are insane.' It is you who are insane, Mr. Hall, if you think you can escape arrest and trial for the murder of Joseph Crawford."

"Oh, I think I can," was his only answer, with that maddening little smile of his.

"Then where were you on Tuesday night?"

"Excuse me?"

"Where were you on Tuesday night?"

"That I refuse to tell--as I have refused before, and shall always refuse."

"Because you were here, and because you have too much wisdom to try to prove a false alibi."

He looked at me half admiringly. "You are right in that," he said. "It is extremely foolish for any one to fake an alibi, and I certainly never should try to do so."

"That's how I know you were here," I replied triumphantly.

"You do, do you? Well, Mr. Burroughs, I don't pretend to misunderstand you--for Miss Lloyd has told me all about Mrs. Cunningham and her bag that she left in the train. But I will say this if you think I came out on that midnight train, go and ask the conductor. He knows me, and as I often do come out on that train, he may remember that I was not on it that night. And while you're about it, and since you consider that late newspaper a clue, also ask him who was on the train that might have come here afterward."

If this was bluffing, it was a very clever bluff, and magnificently carried out. Probably his hope was that the conductor could not say definitely as to Hall's presence on the late train, and any other names he might mention would only complicate matters.

But before I left I made one more attempt to get at this man's secret.

"Mr. Hall," I began, "I am not unfriendly. In fact, for Miss Lloyd's sake as well as your own, I should like to remove every shadow of suspicion that hovers near either or both of you."

"I know that," he said quickly. "Don't think I can't see through your 'friendliness' to Miss Lloyd! But be careful there, Mr. Burroughs. A man does not allow too many 'friendly' glances toward the girl he is engaged to."

So he had discovered my secret! Well, perhaps it was a good thing. Now I could fight for Florence more openly if necessary.

"You are right, Mr. Hall," I went on. "I hold Miss Lloyd in very high esteem, and I assure you, as man to man, that so long as you and she are betrothed, neither of you will have cause to look on me as other than a detective earnest in his work in your behalf."

"Thank you," said Hall, a little taken aback by my frankness.

I went away soon after that, and without quizzing him any further, for, though I still suspected him, I realized that he would never say anything to incriminate himself.

The theory that the criminal was some one who came in on that midnight train was plausible indeed; but what a scope it offered!

Why, a total stranger to Sedgwick might have come and gone, entirely unobserved, in the crowd.

It was with little hope, therefore, that I arranged for an interview with the conductor of the train.

He lived in Hunterton, a few stations from West Sedgwick, and, after ascertaining by telephone that he could see me the next day, I went to his house.

"Well, no," he replied, after thinking over my query a bit; "I don't think Mr. Hall came out from New York that night. I'm 'most sure he didn't, because he usually gives me his newspaper as he steps off the train, and I didn't get any 'extra' that night."

Of course this wasn't positive proof that Hall wasn't there, so I asked him to tell me all the West Sedgwick people that he did remember as being on his train that night.

He mentioned a dozen or more, but they were nearly all names unknown to me.

"Do you remember the Cunninghams being on the train?" I asked.

"Those Marathon Park people? Oh, yes. They were a gay party,--coming back from a theatre supper, I suppose. And that reminds me: Philip Crawford sat right behind the Cunninghams. I forgot him before. Well, I guess that's all the West Sedgwick people I can remember."

I went away not much the wiser, but with a growing thought that buzzed in my brain.

It was absurd, of course. But he had said Philip Crawford had sat right behind Mrs. Cunningham. How, then, could he help seeing the gold bag she left behind, when she got out at the station just before West Sedgwick? Indeed, who else could have seen it but the man in the seat directly behind? Even if some one else had picked it up and carried it from the car, Mr. Crawford must have seen it.

Moreover, why hadn't he said he was on that train? Why conceal such a simple matter? Again, who had profited by the whole affair? And why had Gregory Hall said: "Ask the conductor who did get off that train?"

The rose petals were already explained by Florence. If, then, Philip Crawford had, much later, come to his brother's with the gold bag and the late newspaper, and had gone away and left them there, and had never told of all this, was there not a new direction in which to look?

But Philip Crawford! The dead man's own brother!

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