The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter III. The Shoe Buckle
Once outside the death-chamber, Allerdyke asked the manager to give him a bedroom with a sitting-room attached to it, and to put Gaffney in another room close by--he should be obliged, he said, to stay at the hotel until the inquest was over and arrangements had been made for his cousin's funeral. The manager at once took him to a suite of three rooms at the end of the corridor which they were then in. Allerdyke took it at once, sent Gaffney down to bring up certain things from the car, and detained the manager for a moment's conversation.
"I suppose you'd a fair lot of people come in last night from that Christiania boat?" he asked.
"Some fifteen or twenty," answered the manager.
"Did you happen to see my cousin in conversation with any of them?" inquired Allerdyke.
The manager shrugged his shoulders. He was not definitely sure about that; he had a notion that he had seen Mr. James Allerdyke talking with some of the Perisco passengers, but the notion was vague.
"You know how it is," he went on. "People come in--they stand about talking in the hall--groups, you know--they go from one to another. I think I saw him talking to that doctor who's in there now with Dr. Orwin--the man with the big beard--and to a lady who came at the same time. There were several ladies in the party--the passengers were all about in the hall, and in the coffee-room, and so on. There are a lot of other people in the house, too, of course."
"It's this way," said Allerdyke. "I'm not at all satisfied about what these doctors say, so far. They may be right, of course--probably are. Still I want to know all I can, and, naturally, I'd like to know who the people were that my cousin was last in company with. You never know what may have happened--there's often something that doesn't show at first."
"There was--nothing missing in his room, I hope?" asked the manager with professional anxiety.
"Nothing that I know of," answered Allerdyke. "My man and I have searched him, and taken possession of everything--all that he had on him is in that bag, and I'm going to examine it now. No--I don't think anything had been taken from him, judging by what I've seen."
"You wouldn't like me to send for the police?" suggested the manager.
"Not at present," replied Allerdyke. "Not, at any rate, until these doctors say something more definite--they'll know more presently, no doubt. Of course, you've a list of all the people who came in last night?"
"They would all register," answered the manager. "But then, you know, sir, many of them will be going this morning--most of them are only breaking their journey. You can look over the register whenever you like."
"Later on," said Allerdyke. "In the meantime, I'll examine these things. Send me up some coffee as soon as your people are stirring."
He unlocked the hand-bag when the manager had left him. It seemed to his practical and methodical mind that his first duty was to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the various personal effects which he and Gaffney had found on the dead man. Of the valuables he took little notice; it was very evident, in his opinion, that if James Allerdyke's death had been brought about by some sort of foul play--a suspicion which had instantly crossed his mind as soon as he discovered that his cousin was dead--the object of his destroyer had not been robbery. James had always been accustomed to carrying a considerable sum of money on him; Gaffney's search had brought a considerable sum to light. James also wore a very valuable watch and chain and two fine diamond rings; there they all were. Not robbery--no; at least, not robbery of the ordinary sort. But--had there been robbery of another, a bigger, a subtle, and deep-designed sort? James was a man of many affairs and schemes--he might have had valuable securities, papers relating to designs, papers containing secrets of great moment; he was interested, for example, in several patents--he might have had documents pertinent to some affair of such importance that ill-disposed folk, eager to seize them, might have murdered him in order to gain possession of them. There were many possibilities, and there was always--to Allerdyke's mind--the improbability that James had died through sudden illness.
Now that Marshall Allerdyke's mind was clearing, getting free of the first effects of the sudden shock of finding his cousin dead, doubt and uneasiness as to the whole episode were rising strongly within him. He and James had been brought up together; they had never been apart from each other for more than a few months at a time during thirty-five years, and he flattered himself that he knew James as well as any man of James's acquaintance. He could not remember that his cousin had ever made any complaint of illness or indisposition; he had certainly never had any serious sickness in his life. As to heart trouble, Allerdyke knew that a few years previous to his death, James had taken out a life-policy with a first-rate office, and had been passed as a first-class life: he remembered, as he sat there thinking over these things, the self-satisfied grin with which James had come and told him that the examining doctor had declared him to be as sound as a bell. It was true, of course, that disease might have set in after that--still, it was only six weeks since he had seen James and James was then looking in a fit, healthy, hearty state. He had gone off on one of his Russian journeys as full of life and spirits as a man could be--and had not the hotel manager just said that he seemed full of health, full of go, at ten o'clock last night? And yet, within a couple of hours or so--according to what the medical men thought from their hurried examination--this active vigorous man was dead--swiftly and mysteriously dead.
Allerdyke felt--felt intensely--that there was something deeply strange in all this, and yet it was beyond him, with his limited knowledge, to account for James's sudden death, except on the hypothesis suggested by the two doctors. All sorts of vague, half-formed thoughts were in his mind. Was there any person who desired James's death? Had any one tracked him to this place--got rid of him by some subtle means? Had--
"Pshaw!" he muttered, suddenly interrupting his train of thought, and recognizing how shapeless and futile it all was. "It just comes to this--I'm asking myself if the poor lad was murdered! And what have I to go on? Naught--naught at all!"
Nevertheless, there were papers before him which had been taken from James's pocket; there was the little journal or diary which he always carried, and in which, to Allerdyke's knowledge, he always jotted down a brief note of each day's proceedings wherever he went. He could examine these, at any rate--they might cast some light on his cousin's recent doings.
He began with the diary, turning over its pages until he came to the date on which James had left Bradford for St. Petersburg. That was on March 30th. He had travelled to the Russian capital overland--by way of Berlin and Vilna, at each of which places he had evidently broken his journey. From St. Petersburg he had gone on to Moscow, where he had spent the better part of a week. All his movements were clearly set out in the brief pencilled entries in the journal. From Moscow he had returned to St. Petersburg; there he had stayed a fortnight; thence he had journeyed to Revel, from Revel he had crossed the Baltic to Stockholm; from Stockholm he had gone across country to Christiania. And from Christiania he had sailed for Hull to meet his death in that adjacent room where the doctors were now busied with his body.
Marshall Allerdyke, though he had no actual monetary connection with them, had always possessed a fairly accurate knowledge of his cousin's business affairs--James was the sort of man who talked freely to his intimates about his doings. Therefore Allerdyke was able to make out from the journal what James had done during his stay at St. Petersburg, in Moscow, in Revel, and in Stockholm, in all of which places he had irons of one sort or another in the fire. He recognized the names of various firms upon which James had called--these names were as familiar to him as those of the big manufacturing concerns in his own town. James had been to see this man, this man had been to see James. He had dined with such an one; such an one had dined with him. Ordinarily innocent entries, all these; there was no subtle significance to be attached to any of them: they were just the sort of entries which the busy commercial man, engaged in operations of some magnitude, would make for his own convenience.
There was, in short, nothing in that tiny book--a mere, waistcoat-pocket sort of affair--which Allerdyke was at a loss to understand, or which excited any wonder or speculation in him: with one exception. That exception was in three entries: brief, bald, mere lines, all made during James's second stay--the fortnight period--in St. Petersburg. They were:--
April 18: Met Princess.
April 20: Lunched with Princess.
April 23: Princess dined with me.
These entries puzzled Allerdyke. His cousin had been going over to Russia at least twice a year for three years, but he had never heard him mention that he had formed the acquaintance of any person of princely rank. Who was this Princess with whom James had evidently become on such friendly terms that they had lunched and dined together? James had twice written to him during his absence--he had both letters in his pocket then, and one of them was dated from St. Petersburg on April 24th, but there was no mention of any Princess in either. Seeking for an explanation, he came to the conclusion that James, who had a slight weakness for the society of ladies connected with the stage, had made the acquaintance of some actress or other, ballet-dancer, singer, artiste, and had given her the nickname of Princess.
That was all there was to be got from the diary. It amounted to nothing. There were, however, the loose papers. He began to examine these methodically. They were few in number--James was the sort of man who never keeps anything which can be destroyed: Allerdyke knew from experience that he had a horror of accumulating what he called rubbish. These papers, fastened together with a band of india-rubber, were all business documents, with one exception--a letter from Allerdyke himself addressed to Stockholm, to wait James's arrival. There were some specifications relating to building property; there was a schedule of the timber then standing in a certain pine forest in Sweden in which James had a valuable share; there was a balance-sheet of a Moscow trading concern in which he had invested money; there were odds and ends of a similar nature--all financial. From these papers Allerdyke could only select one which he did not understand, which conveyed no meaning to him. This was a telegram, dispatched from London on April 21st, at eleven o'clock in the morning. He spread it out on the table and slowly read it:--
"To James Allerdyke, Hotel Grand Monarch, St. Petersburg_.
"Your wire received. If Princess will confide goods to your care to personally bring over here have no doubt matter can be speedily and satisfactorily arranged. Have important client now in town until middle May who seems to be best man to approach and is likely to be a generous buyer.
"FRANKLIN FULLAWAY, Waldorf Hotel, London."
Here was another surprise: Allerdyke had never in his life heard James mention the name--Franklin Fullaway. Yet here Mr. Franklin Fullaway, whoever he might be, was wiring to James as only a business acquaintance of some standing would wire. And here again was the mention of a Princess--presumably, nay, evidently, the Princess to whom reference was made in the diary. And there was mention, too, of goods--probably valuable goods--to be confided to James's care for conveyance to England, to London, for sale to some prospective purchaser. If James had brought them, where were they? So far as Allerdyke had ascertained, James had no luggage beyond his big suitcase and the handbag which now stood on the table before his own eyes--he was a man for travelling light, James, and never encumbered himself with more than indispensable necessities. Where, then--
A tap at the door of the sitting-room prefaced the entry of the two medical men.
"We heard from the manager that you were in this room Mr. Allerdyke," said Dr. Orwin. "Well, we made a further examination of your relative, and we still incline to the opinion expressed already. Now, if you approve it, I will arrange at once for communicating with the Coroner, removing the body, and having an autopsy performed. As Dr. Lydenberg has business in the town which will keep him here a few days, he will join me, and it will be more satisfactory to you, no doubt, if another doctor is called--I should advise the professional police surgeon. If you will leave it to me--"
"I'll leave everything of that sort to you, doctor," said Allerdyke. "I'm much obliged to both of you, gentlemen. You understand what I'm anxious about?--I want to be certain--certain, mind you!--of the cause of my cousin's death. Now you speak of removing him? Then I'll just go and take a look at him before that's done."
He presently locked up his rooms, leaving the hand-bag there, also locked, and went alone to the room in which James lay dead. Most folks who knew Marshall Allerdyke considered him a hard, unsentimental man, but there were tears in his eyes as he stooped over his cousin's body and laid his hand on the cold forehead. Once more he broke into familiar, muttered speech.
"If there's been aught wrong, lad," he said. "Aught foul or underhand, I'll right thee!--by God, I will!"
Then he stooped lower and kissed the dead man's cheek, and pressed the still hands. It was with an effort that he turned away and regained his self-command--and it was in that moment that his eyes, slightly blurred as they were, caught sight of an object which lay half-concealed by a corner of the hearth-rug--a glittering, shining object, which threw back the gleam of the still burning electric light. He strode across the room and picked it up--the gold buckle of a woman's shoe, studded with real, if tiny, diamonds.