Chapter III

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE POLICE came, and, as Fate would have it, under the command of Lieutenant Terrance Donovan, and after the arrival of the deputy coroner the body of Mason B. Thorn was removed to the small room off the library—a room that he had used for a study and in which was a large couch. It was laid upon the couch, near an open window. Then Terrance Donovan returned to the library. Mrs. Glassock was there, and Genevive. Percy Thorn sat on a sofa beside his aunt, who was weeping softly, trying to comfort her. Saranov stood before the cold fireplace smoking a cigaret. Goertz remained beside the door to his master’s study. There were three burly police officers and some of the maids and housemen, also, the latter standing near the hall doorway as though momentarily expecting to be banished.

“Now,” said Terrance Donovan, “I want to hear about this. Who saw the shooting?”

“No one,” replied his son, “as far as I have been able to discover. We all heard the shot. It was fired at precisely a quarter past two.” He glanced at Saranov, but the latter was looking at the ceiling. Nariva was not in the room. “I was the first to reach the hall. I found Mr. Thorn lying where you found him, but on his face. It was necessary fors me to turn him over to examine him for signs of life—otherwise the body was not disturbed.”

Neither Lieutenant Donovan nor Macklin had given any indication of their relationship or that they were even acquainted, owing to the fact that the latter was assuming a role necessary to the successful prosecution of his investigation and that exposure at this time would doubtless nullify all that the Department had accomplished.

“Who do you think might have had reason to wish to kill Mr. Thorn?” continued Lieutenant Donovan.

“I believe that no one could have had any reason for wishing to kill him,” replied Macklin. “To my knowledge he hadn’t an enemy in the world and I never heard him in altercation with anyone—he was a most kind and considerate man to his friends, his acquaintances and his servants, while his son and sister, the only members of his immediate family, were devoted to him.” He paused. “It is my belief, sir, that the shot that killed Mr. Thorn was intended for another.” As he spoke he looked directly at Saranov whose eyes were now upon him, and was rewarded by a slight narrowing of the other’s lids.

“Who followed you into the hall after the shot was fired?” asked the police official.

“I did,” said Saranov. “Mr. Donovan was standing over the body of Mr. Thorn as I came from my room. The hall was but dimly lighted, yet sufficiently to permit me to see Mr. Donovan. He was putting something in his hip pocket as I opened the door of my room.” The insinuation was obvious, and that it was thoroughly understood was manifest by the sound of quick intaking of breath by several of the occupants of the library—a natural reaction to mental shock and surprise.

Macklin smiled. “You better have me searched, Lieutenant,” he said.

“I object to his being searched or questioned farther by this officer,” protested Saranov.

“Why?” asked Lieutenant Donovan.

“Because you are his father,” replied the Assurian, and the effect of this second surprise was almost equal to that of the first. The chin of Mrs. Peabody Glassock dropped for an instant, and then she smiled superciliously.

“The count must have lost his mind,” she whispered to her daughter. “The very idea—Macklin Donovan the son of a common policeman!”

Genevive turned to a police officer standing behind them. “What is the lieutenant’s name?” she asked.

“Terrance Donovan, mum,” replied Officer McGroarty.

Mrs. Glassock appeared slightly groggy, but she was still in the ring. “Ridiculous!” she exclaimed. “He is of the Donovans of San Francisco.” She looked defiantly, and crushingly, at Officer McGroarty.

“Sure, mum,” said he, “an’ it wasn’t me that was after sayin’ he wasn’t—it was the djook over there,” and he nodded in the direction of Saranov.

Terrance Donovan eyed the Assurian for a moment before he replied. “What makes you think this man is my son?” he demanded.

Saranov hesitated. He seemed to regret that he had made the charge. He smiled deprecatingly and spread his palms before him with a shrug. “It was a matter of no moment until now,” he said. “One of the servants at Three Gables told my valet. I gave the matter no thought—scarcely believed it, in fact, until you arrived here tonight. Then I recalled.”

“How does it happen that you know my name?” asked Terrance Donovan.

Saranov was evidently nonplussed by the question. He realized his mistake instantly, but it was too late to remedy it—there was no reason in the world, that he would care to have these people know of, why he should have any knowledge whatever of the existence of Lieutenant Terrance Donovan. He sought to cover his confusion by a show of anger.

“It makes no difference how I know,” he snapped. “I do know, and I don’t purpose permitting the murderer of my friend to escape because he is the son of a police lieutenant. I demand that some other officer pursue this investigation.”

Terrance Donovan nodded. “You are right,” he said. “I think Captain Bushor is here now—I just heard the front door, and he was notified at his home at the time I left the station.”

“He does not deny that Macklin is his son,” whispered Genevive, to her mother.

“Preposterous,” said Mrs. Glassock, but she said it in a small voice—she was weakening.

“I always mistrusted him,” she added; “he never impressed me as one having the air of one to the manner born, as it were.”

At this juncture a large man in the uniform of a captain of police entered the room. He nodded to Lieutenant Donovan and crossed to his side. The two men whispered together in low tones for a few minutes, then Captain Bushor pointed a large forefinger at Count Boris Saranov.

“Do you accuse Mr. Macklin Donovan of the murder of Mason B. Thorn?” he asked.

“I accuse no one,” replied Saranov. “I merely relate what I witnessed.”

“What else did you witness beside what you have told Lieutenant Donovan?”

“After the police came, and while they were carrying Mr. Thorn’s body down stairs Mr. Donovan went to his room, took a piece of paper from his pocket and burned it.”

Macklin Donovan looked at the speaker in surprise. Saranov had spoken the truth, but how had he known?

“Perhaps,” continued the count, “he may have hidden his pistol at the same time, provided of course that it was he who shot Mr. Thorn. If the pistol is not in his possession now it may be in his room. He should be searched and so should his room.”

“Shure it’s a dhirty frame,” grumbled Officer McGroarty. “I’ve known Mackie Donovan since he was knee-high to nothin’ at all, an’ there ain’t a sneaky hair in his head.” He spoke in a whisper that was audible only to the Glassocks.

“Then you admit that he is the son of that person there,” accused Mrs. Glassock. “I am not in the least surprised. I have said right along that he had a low face.”

Genevive Glassock looked at her mother in wide-eyed astonishment. “I think he’s wonderful,” she said, “and I have changed my mind about marrying him.” She could not resist the temptation to punish her mother in retaliation for the older woman’s past unwelcome efforts at matchmaking.

“You will return to Philadelphia today,” snapped Mrs. Glassock.

Captain Bushor was searching Macklin for a weapon—which he did not find.

“Now we’ll take a look at your room,” he said. “You come along,” he pointed at Saranov. “The rest of you stay here. See that no one leaves the room, McGroarty.”

Lieutenant Donovan glanced quickly around the library as he accompanied Bushor, Saranov and Macklin toward the stairway. “Where’s the butler?” he demanded suddenly.

“Why, he was here just a moment ago,” replied Percy Thorn; “perhaps he’s stepped into the next room,” and he pointed to the study where his father’s body lay. “Goertz!” he called, but there was no response.

One of the policemen stepped into the adjoining room. “There ain’t no one in there,” he said, as he re-entered the library a moment later.

“Find him,” directed the captain, as he led the way up the stairs with Macklin Donovan at his side.

Upon the left of the landing half way up the stairs was a tall pier glass and as Macklin ascended upon Bushor’s right his eyes, turned toward the latter, who was speaking, viewed the mirror beyond the captain, whose eyes were turned away from it. Reflected in it, just for an instant, Macklin saw the shadowy figure of a woman dart into his room at the far end of the dimly lighted hall. He was upon the point of telling Bushor what he had seen when there flashed to his mind the realization that all the women in the house, save one, were in the library below, and that one was Nariva Saranov. An instant later they reached the head of the stairs in full view of the entire hallway. There had been no opportunity for whoever had entered his room to leave it. The hall had been lighted when last he passed through it after the officers had come, but now the lights were extinguished, the only illumination coming from the landing on the stairway. Who had extinguished them, and why? Possibly what he had just seen reflected in the mirror explained why.

The three men walked directly to Macklin’s room, which, like the hall, was in darkness, although Donovan distinctly recalled that the lamp on the reading table had been lighted when he left the room. Just inside the doorway was a switch which operated two inverted dome lights suspended from the ceiling. Macklin pressed this switch and the room was flooded with light.

“I suggest that you make a very thorough search,” said Saranov.

“When I want any suggestions from you I’ll ask you for ’em,” replied Bushor, tersely, and Saranov subsided, scowling.

“Got a gun, Macklin?” asked the captain.

“It’s in my dresser—top drawer on the left,” replied young Donovan, indicating the article of furniture with a jerk of his thumb.

Captain Bushor crossed to the dresser and opened the upper left hand drawer, in which he rummaged for a moment. “No gun here, Macklin,” he said.

Macklin Donovan knitted his brows. “It was there at the instant that Mr. Thorn was shot,” he said. “I had just placed it there. I do not know what has become of it.”

The police officer continued to ransack the dresser, and then each of the other pieces of furniture in the two rooms and the closet. Nowhere could he find a pistol. Saranov was quite evidently restraining a desire to speak, only with the greatest difficulty. At last he could hold his peace no longer. “Why don’t you search the bed?” he demanded, eagerly.

Macklin glanced quickly toward the bed, the covers at the foot of which, he noticed for the first time, were disarranged, as though they had been pulled out from the side and hastily tucked in again. Bushor examined several pieces of overstuffed furniture, apparently ignoring Saranov’s suggestion, then crossed to the bed and pulled the coverings aside. One by one he removed and shook them. Finally he turned the mattress completely off the springs. Saranov was almost standing on tip-toe. There was no weapon there!

Young Donovan was looking at Saranov, upon whom he kept his eyes as much as possible, and he saw the look of blank surprise that crossed the Assurian’s face when it became definitely evident that there was no pistol hidden in or about the bed.

All the time that the search had been going on Donovan had been awaiting the discovery of the person he had seen enter the room only a minute ahead of them, and as every nook and cranny was examined without revealing any hidden presence he was reduced to a state of surprise fully equaling that which Saranov had revealed when no pistol had been discovered beneath the mattress. Walking to one of the windows he looked out and examined the balconies along the front of the house—there was no one there.

They returned to the library just as the officer who had been detailed to find Goertz entered the room. “I’ve searched the whole house, Cap’n,” he said, “an’ he ain’t here. The house is being watched outside, front an’ back, an’ there ain’t no one gone out.”

Bushor nodded. “Then he must be inside,” he said. He turned to the company in the room. “You’ll all admit that there’s something peculiar about this case. I can lock you all up on suspicion, but I don’t want to do that. Right now there isn’t a case against anybody, and so I’ll give you your choice of remaining here under guard until morning, or goin’ to the station. Under the circumstances I can’t make any exceptions, and I’m stretchin’ a point in lettin’ you stay here. Which will it be?” They unanimously chose to remain in the house, under guard. “Now go to your rooms and stay there.” He walked from the room, beckoning Lieutenant Donovan to follow him. “I left ’em here,” he explained in a low voice, “because I think here is the best place to trap the murderer. He’s one of ’em, but I don’t know which one. Don’t let any one leave the house, and say, find that damned butler. See you about eight o’clock,” and he departed.

Beware! - Contents    |     Chapter IV

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