For a few moments Conan Doyle watched Douglas in silence, while I watched the great author, trying to gauge the course of his thoughts.Conan Doyle rocked on his feet slightly, while pondering, until the wooden table beneath him began to squeak alarmingly, and he wisely chose to step half a pace forward -about as much as the tiny walkway between the bed and the wall allowed.At last Conan Doyle spoke, asking: “What caused you to break off your engagement to Maggie?”
Douglas sat up upon the inch thick mattress atop the thin wooden board which substituted for a bed, dangling his feet into the tiny aisle before answering, “A total misunderstanding, really.In those days I was a junior lecturer at London University.One of my pupils was a very attractive young Scots girl, who was having major difficulties with her studies.She came to me for help, and I began to give her private tuition a couple of nights a week.Maggie found out and completely misunderstood the situation. I tried my best to placate her, however, she refused to listen, and broke off our engagement.”
Douglas looked up at Conan Doyle on his left, then across to me on his right, then sat back upon the bed, yoga fashion, his back pressed hard against the tiled wall, before continuing, “Things probably would have sorted themselves out in time, if only Ian had not gone to console Maggie.”At this, Conan Doyle looked across at me and gave me a wry look, which I had difficulty interpreting.“As it was he did, and she married Ian on the rebound.”
Conan Doyle looked toward me again, raised a grey eyebrow in silent question, then turned back to face Andrew Douglas, to ask, “Then how did you and Maggie eventually get back together?”
“It happened about a year after they were married.Maggie came to me and told me that she was frightfully unhappy with Ian.He was a tyrant and beat her mercilessly, for the smallest of grievances.I explained to Maggie about my innocence with the Scots girl, whose name I cannot even remember, and so we started to see each other again. About six months later we became lovers.Only after Ian had made it quite plain that under no circumstances would he ever consider granting Maggie a divorce.As far as he was concerned, Maggie was his property and he refused to part with her.So we were left with a choice of either committing adultery, or else starving ourselves to please a tyrant.”
Conan Doyle raise a finger to prod at his thick moustache ruminatively for a moment, then said, “You say your brother treated Maggie like a tyrant.Is that how you remember Ian from your youth together?”
Andrew Douglas considered carefully for a few moments, before answering: “Well, Ian and I were never all of that close as children.I cannot in all truth say that he was an out and out tyrant, however, he certainly always insisted upon getting his own way...”He paused for a few seconds, then said, “I will be honest with you, Mr Holmes.I never loved my brother, Ian, and I cannot say that I am particularly sorry that he is dead, considering the way that he treated Maggie, however, I did not kill him.”
“Yet he was killed with your revolver,” pointed out Conan Doyle with his customary frankness.“How can you account for that?”
“I cannot account for it.I have no idea how the murderer could have got hold of my revolver.”
“Had you noticed the loss of your handgun, prior to last night?” I asked.
Andrew turned to face me and said, “Well, yes, yes I had.It disappeared about a month ago.On the first of last month, to be precise.”
“How can you be so certain of the date?” asked Conan Doyle.
“Because I noticed the loss of the weapon the day after visiting Ian.”
“Visiting your brother?” I asked.“But from the sounds of things I had assumed that you would not have been on speaking terms with your brother?”
“That is right, I wasn’t,” agreed Andrew Douglas, “however, I had received a telegram from Ian, asking me to visit him.It turned out that he had found out, somehow, about Maggie and I, and wanted to gloat over the fact that he would never grant her a divorce.”
“And so you argued with him?” asked Conan Doyle.
“Well...yes, but nothing ever came of it.”
Conan Doyle considered this for a moment, stroking one side of his moustache, with his right index finger, then asked, “Do you have any idea how your brother discovered your affair with Maggie?”
“No, none.At first I thought that Maggie must have broken down and confessed, however, she ardently denied it.Later, I assumed that Ian had simply deduced it from the facts that Maggie frequently spent nights away from home; she had asked him for a divorce, and, of course, we had been engaged before Maggie married Ian.”
Conan Doyle fingered his moustache again for a moment, then asked, “When did you notice the loss of your revolver?”
“Around noon on the day after my visit to Ian.”
“Do you always carry your revolver with you, whenever you go out of doors?”
“Yes, of course, these days you just have to.”
“So the weapon could have disappeared at any time while you were at your brother’s house, or after you returned home?”
“Yes, however, there is no way that Ian could have taken it, because he was never out of my sight, all of the time that I was over there.”
“Then you wore your overcoat throughout your visit?”
“Why, no, Mr Holmes.The maid, Bridget, took my hat and coat when I arrived, then returned them before I departed.”
“Then the maid could have taken the gun!” I pointed out.
Andrew Douglas turned to face me, his blue eyes sparkled in bewilderment as he asked, “Well, yes, yes she had every opportunity, but what would she have had to gain by killing Ian?”
“How long had Bridget been in the employ of your brother?” asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Douglas stopped to think, looking down at his feet, mouthing silent calculations to himself for a few moments before looking back up at the tall, grey-haired author to say, “A little more than fifteen years by my estimate.”
Conan Doyle and I exchanged glances, then the great author said, “Fifteen years?”
“Yes, since her early twenties.My brother was in his early thirties when he first engaged her.”
“Since well before Ian and Maggie were married,” said Conan Doyle; more as a statement than a question.
“Yes, nearly a decade before that.”
“Then perhaps Ian and Bridget had been having an affair,” I suggested, “then the maid stole Andrew’s revolver and killed her lover out of jealousy?Perhaps he had even promised to marry her, then jilted her to marry Margaret....”
Conan Doyle gave me a wry look, then said, “Perhaps, Doctor, however, it is dangerous to theorise too much ahead of the known facts.”
As we were speaking, there came the sound of footsteps outside in the corridor, then a key turned in the heavy lock -- miraculously on the first attempt -- and the iron door swung wide to reveal the tall, skeletal thin figure of Chief Inspector Lestrade.
Conan Doyle took his fob watch from his pocket, clicked the watch face open, then glanced toward the policeman to ask, “Time up, eh Chief Inspector?”
“No, no, you can stay as long as you like,” assured Lestrade. “You can make it twenty years, if you like.”
“Very droll,” I said.
“But there is another visitor here to see Mr Douglas.”
So saying, Lestrade stepped back into the slim corridor to allow Margaret Douglas to squeeze into the tiny cell.
Seeing his lover, Andrew Douglas climbed off the bunk bed and hurried across to embrace her, after squeezing passed Conan Doyle and I.
They embraced for a few moments, then the redhead broke away from her lover and walked across to Conan Doyle and said, “Oh Mr Holmes, I was hoping that I might find you still here.”
“Why, what is the matter?” asked Conan Doyle.
The beautiful redhead carried, on her left arm, a handbag which was enormous, almost a cloth suitcase.She delved down into the enormous bag for a few moments, her brow creasing in puzzlement as she tried first one compartment then another.
Finally, with a cry of success, she pulled out a crumpled sheet of note paper, which she handed to Conan Doyle.
The great author perused the single sheet for a moment, then his face began to cloud over and for only the second time I saw him show real emotion, anger at what he had read.
“What is it?” asked Andrew Douglas.
Conan Doyle first glanced toward the heavy iron door to make certain that Lestrade had closed the door behind him, then said, “It is a note from a Mr Wentworth, demanding five hundred pounds, in connection with the death of Ian Douglas!”
“Blackmail!” I asked, shocked.
Conan Doyle handed the sheet of note paper across to Andrew Douglas, who read it to himself, then said, “But this is outrageous!”
“That is what it would seem,” said Conan Doyle, in answer to my question.
“But we have nothing to hide!” insisted Andrew Douglas.II had nothing to do with Ian’s death.”
“It could be something to do with your relationship with your sister-in-law,” I pointed out.
“But how can that hurt us?” asked Margaret.“Now that Ian is dead, there is no one who it needs to be hidden from.”
“Except, of course, the police,” I said.
Andrew Douglas read the note a second time, then began to screw it up, until being stopped by Conan Doyle who said, “Evidence.In case you decide to sue Mr Wentworth.”
“Sue him?Of course, we’ll sue him!” insisted Andrew Douglas, almost shouting.
The heavy iron door squeaked open and Lestrade looked into the tiny cell to ask, “Everything all right in here?”
“Yes, Chief Inspector, I’m certain that we can solve this case without your assistance,” said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Lestrade’s face flushed red and his mouth opened to retort, however, obviously thinking better of it (clearly having lost many previous verbal encounters with the great author), he kept silent and swung the door closed again.
Conan Doyle uncreased the sheet of paper and examined it carefully, then said, “I wonder whether the morning papers have broken the news of Ian Douglas’s death yet?”He looked at his fob watch again, then added, “If they have even been distributed yet.”Andrew and Margaret looked at each other in puzzlement, then looked across at me for enlightenment, so I said, “Do you mean to say that this Wentworth could be the killer?”
“It would explain how he found out about the killing so soon,” agreed Conan Doyle.Then looking toward Margaret Douglas, he asked, “How and when was the letter delivered to you?”
“I found it placed upon the kitchen table, after you dropped me off at Andrew’s house,” said the beautiful redhead, “but it could have been placed there at anytime after Ian was killed, for all I know.”
Conan Doyle considered this for a moment, then said, “Well, Doctor, the game is afoot.”He walked across to tap upon the iron door which Lestrade swung wide to allow us to leave.
I squeezed passed Andrew and Margaret to reach the doorway, then stopped for a moment to look back at them.They were standing half a pace apart, obviously waiting for the door to close again, before embracing, both looking very weary.
“Don’t worry, young Andrew,” I said, although he were probably a year or two older than my own thirty-nine years, “Mr Con...Mr Holmes and I will soon have you released from here.”
“Don’t go making promises that you can’t keep, Doctor,” warned Lestrade, as he closed the heavy, iron door behind us.
“Nonsense, Lestrade,” said Conan Doyle, taking us both by surprise, “Andrew Douglas is no more guilty of murdering his brother, than Dr Carringbush or I am!”
It was still pouring rain when we left the police station, however, fortunately we were able to procure a taxi immediately.
Within ten minutes the vehicle pulled up outside a three-storeyed Gothic mansion in Goodge Street.
As we descended from the automobile, the rain began to pelt down until we could hardly see more than a few inches in front of our faces.The street was awash in murky, black water and I was thankful that the taxi had pulled up by the edge of the footpath.Following Conan Doyle’s example, I pulled the collar of my overcoat up as high as possible, bent my head and sprinted across to the ornate iron gate -- which fortunately was unlocked -- then across to the wide porch outside the house.
The front door was opened by a grey-haired matriarch, obviously the maid.As Conan Doyle introduced us and asked to be taken to see Mr Wentworth, I could not help but think that Wentworth must be quite successful at his profession, to be able to afford to own such a great house and to staff it as well.
A few minutes later we were ushered into a large library-reading room, upon the second floor.
The book-lined room would have put more than one lending library to shame.Three walls were lined from floor to ceiling with literally thousands of books, pamphlets, newspapers and magazines.
The centrepiece of the fourth wall was a large open fireplace, upon which a hefty log blazed.Before the fire sat a tall, dark-haired man, in his mid forties, I imagined.He was thin, almost to the point of emaciation, yet looked surprisingly strong despite that.
Wentworth, as I assumed him to be, was dressed in pyjamas and a silk dressing gown, leaving me wondering whether he had been awakened by his housekeeper, or whether he had not yet been to bed for the previous night.By his left hand was a small blackwood table, upon which sat a large crystal decanter of wine and a half filled glass.In his right hand he held a huge, black clay pipe, which had either gone out or else which he had not yet had the time to light.In his left hand he held a seemingly brand new copy of D.H.Lawrence’s novel, The Plumed Serpent, which had first been published the year before, in 1926.
Upon our entry, Wentworth immediately put down both the pipe and the novel and rose to greet us.
“Mrs Cunningham said that you were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?” said Wentworth, by way of greeting.
“That is correct.”
“Not the famous author?”
“He is,” I assured Wentworth, who immediately grasped the great author’s right hand and began to pump it furiously.
“Well, well, this really is a great honour,” said Wentworth, leading us across to the fireplace.“I have read all of your stories, Mr Conan Doyle.I particularly like The White Company and its sequel, Sir Nigel.”
Although obviously pleased at the compliment, Conan Doyle did his best to keep an even face as he said, “Most people seem to prefer my detective yarns.”
“Oh yes, well I’ve read those too, of course, but as a consulting detective myself, they are a little bit too much like shop.Whereas The White Company and Sir Nigel seem to so vibrantly picture that wonderful period in British history.”Conan Doyle was too modest to agree, so Wentworth turned toward me for confirmation, saying, “Don’t you agree, Dr Carringbush?”
I stammered a hasty agreement, then we arranged ourselves in armchairs around the blazing fire, with glasses of a very fine Madeira sherry in our hands, before Wentworth said, “Now, then, what was it that you wanted to see me about Mr Conan Doyle?”
“We are acting on the behalf of Mrs Margaret Douglas,” explained Conan Doyle.Taking the sheet of note paper from an inner pocket of his overcoat, he explained, “In connection with this letter which Mrs Douglas received from you earlier this morning.”
“Ah, my letter.”
“Blackmail is a very serious business!” I pointed out.
“Blackmail?” asked Wentworth, sounding genuinely surprised.
“Do you deny demanding money from Margaret Douglas?” asked Conan Doyle.“After all, it is right here in black and white.”
“No, no, I don’t deny asking her for the money, but I was not trying to blackmail her.”
“Merely asking for payment for services rendered.”
Conan Doyle and I exchanged glances, then I said, “But Margaret Douglas claims to have never heard of you before.”
“No doubt she never has.My business was with her husband, Ian Douglas.However, since he has been murdered, his estate goes to his widow, outstanding debts included.”
Conan Doyle and I exchanged glances again, then the great author said, “I hope that you will not take offence by what I am about to say, however, it is a common enough confidence trick to claim debts of the newly dead, relying upon the next-to-kin being too broken up with grief to question them.How can you prove that Ian Douglas really did owe you any money?”
“Quite simply, Mr Conan Doyle, because I have detailed notes and tape recordings of our various conversations.”
“Tape recordings?” I asked, having never heard the term before.Wentworth explained the process to us, and that although the process was still largely unknown outside police circles, tape recordings had been invented twenty-eight years earlier in 1899, by Danish inventor Valdemar Poulsen.
“Exactly what type of work were you engaged upon for Ian Douglas?” asked Conan Doyle.
“Well, I am a private investigator....”
I saw Conan Doyle’s eyes light up a split second before he said, “Then you were employed to follow Margaret Douglas?”
Taken by surprise, Wentworth said, “Well...er, yes.Very perceptive of you, Mr Conan Doyle.Ian Douglas suspected that his wife was having an affair, so he employed me to find out with whom.”
“And did you?”
“Oh yes, I followed Margaret Douglas to her brother-in-law’s residence on eleven separate occasions and took rather explicit photographs of them together on three different occasions.In fact I was in Andrew Douglas’s house when he was arrested for murdering his brother.Which is both how I found out so soon about Ian Douglas’s death, and also why I decided to leave the bill for my services for Margaret Douglas to find, since obviously her husband could no longer pay me.”
“How deplorable!” I said.
“Steady on, old fellow,” said Conan Doyle.“Mr Wentworth was only doing his job.”
“But what a job!” I insisted.
“No worse, surely, than the actions of Margaret and Andrew Douglas?” asked Wentworth.
“Why yes of course it is!”
“Steady on, old fellow,” repeated Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, making me blush in embarrassment at having lost my temper.“We are not here to judge Mr Wentworth...Or Andrew or Margaret Douglas.”
“Thank you, Mr Conan Doyle,” said Wentworth.
“But surely you cannot really expect Margaret Douglas to pay you for spying on her?” I persisted.
“I fully expect her to pay me for services rendered.Nothing more and nothing less.”
“And if she refuses to pay you, what then?”
For once Conan Doyle agreed with me, saying, “Yes, what then?I am sure that you can understand that under the circumstances, Margaret Douglas might be somewhat reluctant to pay you.”
“Why then I will be forced to take the matter to the courts.That is the usual method of dealing with defaulters.”
“It would seem to me that Andrew Douglas also has a very strong case to make out against you!” I said.“For breaking and entering, invasion of privacy....”
“Possibly so,” agreed the detective, “however, I am certain that he would not want the story of his affair with his sister-in-law being bandied about the court room...Not to mention Fleet Street.”
“I thought that you said that this isn’t blackmail!”
“I was hoping that you would be more understanding, Doctor.I have no wish to embarrass Andrew or Margaret Douglas.I only ask for what is my due.”
“And you shall have it,” said Conan Doyle, standing.II personally shall see that you receive payment in full.”
“Why that is most gracious of you, Mr Conan Doyle.I am sure that you can understand that in my business I must accept whatever work is offered me.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Still, you could attempt to steer clear of this kind of sordid business,” I insisted.
“Normally I do try to, where possible, Dr Carringbush.However, Ian Douglas was very insistent, he offered me payment considerably above my normal fee.”
“A very moral man, apparently,” I said, as Conan Doyle and I prepared to leave.
“On the contrary, Doctor, more like a hypocrite”
“A hypocrite?” I asked.“I don’t understand?”
“Well, Ian Douglas was positively livid after discovering his wife’s infidelity, yet he himself was also being unfaithful to her.”
“Ian Douglas was having an affair?” asked Conan Doyle.
“That is correct.”
“For how long had it been going on?”
“For at least fifteen years from what I could gather.Right up until Ian Douglas’s death.”
Conan Doyle rubbed his bushy grey moustache ruminatively with one finger for a second, then said, “Then he was having an affair with Bridget, his maid?”
Looking startled, Wentworth said, “That is right.”
“How did you uncover their relationship?”
“Well, Ian Douglas had told me to use every means at my disposal to acquire evidence against his wife, so I took the liberty of bugging their house.”
“Bugging?” I asked.“I don’t understand?”
“A bug is a small electronic transmitter which is hidden in a room , so that you may listen in on a private conversation,” explained Wentworth.“Sort of like a miniature telephone that cannot be hung up, so that it is always receiving.”
“Was Ian Douglas aware that you had bugged his house?” asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“Hardly, Mr Conan Doyle, or else he and Bridget would have been considerably more discrete...I saw no need to inform him, since he had given me carte blanche to do whatever I thought was necessary to collect evidence against his wife.”
“Then he intended to divorce her?” I asked, remembering that Andrew Douglas had claimed that his brother had refused to grant Margaret a divorce.
“I don’t think so,” said Wentworth.“My impression of Ian Douglas is that he was not the sort of man to give up anything which he considered to be his property, people included.I think it was much more likely that he wanted to use the evidence to rub in her face each time he refused to grant her a divorce.”
“How despicable!” I said.
Fortunately the rain had reduced to a mere drizzle by the time that we reached the street again.We hailed a taxi, and were soon being shown inside the dead man’s house by the maid, Bridget.
As we were shown upstairs to the third floor, where the murder had been committed, I took the opportunity to study the maid at length.If she had been employed by Ian Douglas for fifteen years, then she must have been employed straight out of school, since she looked hardly more than thirty years of age.She was an incredibly beautiful brunette, about five foot four inches tall, with a full hour-glass figure.I found myself wondering how she could have brought herself to waste her charms upon Ian Douglas in the latter stages of his life, when he would have been hideously disfigured by elephantiasis -- but then I supposed that perhaps after fifteen years she were too much in love to worry about looks.
As though aware that she was under scrutiny, the beautiful brunette began to wiggle her shapely hips in an exaggerated manner, as she climbed the stairs.
“Here you are gentlemen,” said Bridget, opening the door, then standing in the doorway so that we had to squeeze passed her to enter the room.
Ian Douglas’s bedroom was huge; the largest bedroom that I had ever seen; larger than many living rooms that I had seen.In the middle of the room was the largest double-bed that I had ever seen.It seemed extraordinarily solid, as though specially built to cater to the dead man’s great bulk, in the latter stages of his life.A small bookcase stood beside the bed, nearest the door to the corridor.On the opposite side of the room was a large dressing table upon which sat a brass-handled telephone, a black revolver, writing paraphernalia, and a man’s white glove.Near the end of the bed was a double-doored wardrobe, whose doors were flung wide, showing the wardrobe to be only half full -- which made me wonder whether Bridget had hastily removed some of her own clothing from the wardrobe before the police had arrived.
Upon first entering the room, I was amazed at how chilly it was.Looking across the room I noticed that one of the four panes in the small window had been broken. The glass still lay upon the carpet beneath the window.
In the opposite end of the room, Chief Inspector Lestrade stood peering down at the wooden-handled revolver upon the dressing table.Looking up at the sound of our entrance, he seemed less than pleased to see us.
“Ah, Mr Holmes, still working on the case, I see.I would have thought that you would have solved it by now.”
“Ah, Chief Inspector, still doing your own leg work, I see,” countered Conan Doyle.
“Just sifting through what the leg men have turned up.”
“The evidence, eh?” I said.
“Very astute of you, Doctor,” said Lestrade.
“Very substantial, is it?” asked Conan Doyle.
“On the contrary, very little at all.But still enough to convict Andrew Douglas I fancy.”
Conan Doyle and I walked across to the dressing table, where I moved to pick up the revolver, then stopped.“The murder weapon?” I said.“I suppose that I shouldn’t touch it?Fingers prints and all of that?”
“Help yourself,” offered Lestrade.“The lab boys have already examined it.”
“And?” asked Conan Doyle.
“Nothing,” conceded Lestrade, “clean as a whistle.”
“No finger prints?” asked Conan Doyle, sounding decidedly surprised.“What a pity.”
“Still, we know that the gun belongs to Andrew Douglas.”
“Who claims that the revolver went missing a month prior to the killing,” pointed out Conan Doyle.
“He told us that too, but, of course, it will never stand up in a court of law.”
Seeing Conan Doyle reaching, I held out the handgun in his direction, however, he ignored my gesture and reached passed me for the white glove.
Picking the glove up from the dressing table, Conan Doyle asked, “And just what is the significance of this in relationship to the killing, Chief Inspector?”
“Nothing, so far as we know.”
Peering at the glove, I noticed that it was a right-hand glove, made of expensive silk and monogrammed with the initials I.D., in gold lettering.
“Then why is it beside the murder weapon?” asked Conan Doyle.
“It was turned up by a young constable while we were looking through the dead man’s things,” explained Lestrade.“So we placed it upon the dresser on the off chance that it might be of some bearing to the investigation.”
“Did you question the maid about it?”
Sounding decidedly indignant, Lestrade said, “Yes, of course, Mr Conan Doyle.Scotland Yard does function in your absence, you know.The maid claims to know nothing about it, just says that the partner must have got itself lost somehow.”
Conan Doyle examined the glove closely, even turning it inside-out for a moment, then said, “And yet it is a nearly brand new glove, by the look of it.”
Taking the glove from the great author, Lestrade examined it closely for a moment, then said, “Why so it is, I never noticed.Do you think it is important, Mr Conan Doyle?”
“Perhaps, perhaps not, but it is worth noting,” said Conan Doyle.As Lestrade returned the white glove to the dressing table, Conan Doyle asked, “Nothing else, Chief Inspector?”
Lestrade scratched his head for a moment, deep in thought, then said, “Well, there is the broken glass.”He led us across to the opposite corner of the room, where the broken window glass still lay upon the carpet.“We think that this is how the killer entered the bedroom: through the window.”
“On the third storey?” I asked, as Conan Doyle stooped to examine the broken glass, careful not to kneel upon any shards.
“Well, if you would care to take a look, Doctor, you will see that there is a giant elm tree right outside the window.”
“An elm tree?” I echoed, looking out to where the tree stood, perhaps a yard away from the window sill.And sure enough, there was a thick branch only a few inches below the level of the sill.
Straightening again, Conan Doyle took a quick look out through the window, then turned toward Lestrade to ask, “So you theorise that Andrew Douglas climbed the elm tree, broke in the window pane, reached in to unlatch the window, stepped through into the room to kill his brother, Ian, then climbed out again, and back down the tree to make his escape?”
“That is what it looks like,” conceded Lestrade.
“Really, Lestrade?You amaze me.”
“Thank you, Mr Conan Doyle,” said the tall, lanky Chief Inspector, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“There are only three things wrong with that theory, Lestrade.”
“Only three things?” I asked.“I could think of three or four dozen.”
“Firstly, why did Andrew Douglas bother to go to all of that trouble, when he could have just as easily have knocked upon the front door and been admitted to see his brother.”
“Because he did not want the maid to see him enter the house,” suggested Lestrade.
“Yet he conveniently left his revolver behind so that she could identify it, after having shown it to his brother in her presence?”
“Very careless of him,” conceded Lestrade.
“Yes...unbelievably so,” said Conan Doyle.He paused for a moment, then added, “Secondly, how could he have climbed out and descended three storeys again, without being observed?Surely the gunshot would have awakened the entire neighbourhood?”
“Well...yes,” muttered Lestrade, scratching his head in a bemused fashion.
“Surely it would have been much more effective to enter the house through the front door, kill Ian Douglas, kill the maid, Bridget, then leave through the front door again...Taking the murder weapon with him as he left?”
“And the third point?” I asked.
“If you will examine the broken window glass,” we all stooped to do so, “you will notice from the way that it has fallen to the side of the room, that the window could not possibly have been closed when the glass was broken.”
“What?” asked Lestrade and I together.
Looking more closely, we could both see what the great author meant.The window was about eighteen inches away from the corner of the room, where the glass was scattered.Instead of opening upwards or outwards, as most windows do, this one opened inwards, which meant that someone could stand behind the opened window, while standing in the bedroom.
After considering this fact for a moment, Lestrade said, “Then it had to have been broken by the killer, after the murder had been committed?”
“A fair enough assumption,” agreed Conan Doyle.“It is rather unlikely that Ian Douglas would have just stood by and watched while the killer went through such an elaborate rigmarole.”
“But all of this points toward Andrew Douglas, not away from him,” insisted Lestrade.“Because, if the killer did not enter the house by way of the window, then he must have been admitted by the murdered man.And it would have been in Andrew Douglas’s best interests to make it look as though the killer had climbed in through the window.”
“Lestrade, you’re brilliant!” said Conan Doyle, making the Chief Inspector look startled.“And I’m an idiot!”
“Well, there is no need for sarcasm,” said Lestrade.
“That’s it, of course! Why didn’t I think of it before?” said Conan Doyle.He paced slowly back and forth between the broken glass and the dressing table a few times, then said, “Well, Doctor, all of the pieces are finally starting to come together.”
“What?” I asked.“I have to confess that I am still completely in the dark.”
“Then you can prove that Andrew Douglas killed his brother?” Lestrade asked the great author.
“On the contrary, Chief Inspector, I believe that I can prove that he did not.”
“What?But?” Lestrade scratched his scalp again for a moment, then said, “Well?Go on then.Don’t keep us in suspense.”
“Not yet, Lestrade, try to be patient.”
“I hope you realise that withholding evidence from the police is a criminal offence.”
“I am not withholding evidence, Lestrade.Merely delaying presenting it.I think that first I will need to have a word or two with the maid, Bridget.”
“The maid?But what has she got...?”
“Don’t you see, Chief Inspector?If the killer did not gain entrance through the window, then he must have entered through the front door.”
“Ergo the maid must have seen him?” I said.
“You would certainly think so, Dr Carringbush.”
“Yet she claims to have seen no one,” pointed out Lestrade.“Well, well, well, we will certainly need to have another little talk with our miss Bridget.”
END OF PART TWO:
© Copyright 2016 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.
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