The Middle Temple Murder by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter Thirty. Revelation
There was as much bright sunshine that morning in Middle Temple Lane as ever manages to get into it, and some of it was shining in the entry into which Spargo and Breton presently hurried. Full of haste as he was Breton paused at the foot of the stair. He looked down at the floor and at the wall at its side.
"Wasn't it there?" he said in a low voice, pointing at the place he looked at. "Wasn't it there, Spargo, just there, that Marbury, or, rather, Maitland, was found?"
"It was just there," answered Spargo.
"You saw him?"
"I saw him."
"Immediately after he was found. You know all that, Breton. Why do you ask now?"
Breton, who was still staring at the place on which he had fixed his eyes on walking into the entry, shook his head.
"Don't know," he answered. "I--but come on--let's see if old Cardlestone can tell us anything."
There was another charwoman, armed with pails and buckets, outside Cardlestone's door, into which she was just fitting a key. It was evident to Spargo that she knew Breton, for she smiled at him as she opened the door.
"I don't think Mr. Cardlestone'll be in, sir," she said. "He's generally gone out to breakfast at this time--him and Mr. Elphick goes together."
"Just see," said Breton. "I want to see him if he is in." The charwoman entered the chambers and immediately screamed.
"Quite so," remarked Spargo. "That's what I expected to hear. Cardlestone, you see, Breton, is also--off!"
Breton made no reply. He rushed after the charwoman, with Spargo in close attendance.
"Good God--another!" groaned Breton.
If the confusion in Elphick's rooms had been bad, that in Cardlestone's chambers was worse. Here again all the features of the previous scene were repeated--drawers had been torn open, papers thrown about; the hearth was choked with light ashes; everything was at sixes and sevens. An open door leading into an inner room showed that Cardlestone, like Elphick, had hastily packed a bag; like Elphick had changed his clothes, and had thrown his discarded garments anywhere, into any corner. Spargo began to realize what had taken place--Elphick, having made his own preparations for flight, had come to Cardlestone, and had expedited him, and they had fled together. But--why?
The charwoman sat down in the nearest chair and began to moan and sob; Breton strode forward, across the heaps of papers and miscellaneous objects tossed aside in that hurried search and clearing up, into the inner room. And Spargo, looking about him, suddenly caught sight of something lying on the floor at which he made a sharp clutch. He had just secured it and hurried it into his pocket when Breton came back.
"I don't know what all this means, Spargo," he said, almost wearily. "I suppose you do. Look here," he went on, turning to the charwoman, "stop that row--that'll do no good, you know. I suppose Mr. Cardlestone's gone away in a hurry. You'd better--what had she better do, Spargo?"
"Leave things exactly as they are, lock up the chambers, and as you're a friend of Mr. Cardlestone's give you the key," answered Spargo, with a significant glance. "Do that, now, and let's go--I've something to do." Once outside, with the startled charwoman gone away, Spargo turned to Breton.
"I'll tell you all I know, presently, Breton," he said. "In the meantime, I want to find out if the lodge porter saw Mr. Elphick or Mr. Cardlestone leave. I must know where they've gone--if I can only find out. I don't suppose they went on foot."
"All right," responded Breton, gloomily. "We'll go and ask. But this is all beyond me. You don't mean to say----"
"Wait a while," answered Spargo. "One thing at once," he continued, as they walked up Middle Temple Lane. "This is the first thing. You ask the porter if he's seen anything of either of them--he knows you."
The porter, duly interrogated, responded with alacrity.
"Anything of Mr. Elphick this morning, Mr. Breton?" he answered. "Certainly, sir. I got a taxi for Mr. Elphick and Mr. Cardlestone early this morning--soon after seven. Mr. Elphick said they were going to Paris, and they'd breakfast at Charing Cross before the train left."
"Say when they'd be back?" asked Breton, with an assumption of entire carelessness.
"No, sir, Mr. Elphick didn't," answered the porter. "But I should say they wouldn't be long because they'd only got small suit-cases with them--such as they'd put a day or two's things in, sir."
"All right," said Breton. He turned away towards Spargo who had already moved off. "What next?" he asked. "Charing Cross, I suppose!"
Spargo smiled and shook his head.
"No," he answered. "I've no use for Charing Cross. They haven't gone to Paris. That was all a blind. For the present let's go back to your chambers. Then I'll talk to you."
Once within Breton's inner room, with the door closed upon them, Spargo dropped into an easy-chair and looked at the young barrister with earnest attention.
"Breton!" he said. "I believe we're coming in sight of land. You want to save your prospective father-in-law, don't you?"
"Of course!" growled Breton. "That goes without saying. But----"
"But you may have to make some sacrifices in order to do it," said Spargo. "You see----"
"Sacrifices!" exclaimed Breton. "What----"
"You may have to sacrifice some ideas--you may find that you'll not be able to think as well of some people in the future as you have thought of them in the past. For instance--Mr. Elphick."
Breton's face grew dark.
"Speak plainly, Spargo!" he said. "It's best with me."
"Very well," replied Spargo. "Mr. Elphick, then, is in some way connected with this affair."
"You mean the--murder?"
"I mean the murder. So is Cardlestone. Of that I'm now dead certain. And that's why they're off. I startled Elphick last night. It's evident that he immediately communicated with Cardlestone, and that they made a rapid exit. Why?"
"Why? That's what I'm asking you! Why? Why? Why?"
"Because they're afraid of something coming out. And being afraid, their first instinct is to--run. They've run at the first alarm. Foolish--but instinctive."
Breton, who had flung himself into the elbow-chair at his desk, jumped to his feet and thumped his blotting-pad.
"Spargo!" he exclaimed. "Are you telling me that you accuse my guardian and his friend, Mr. Cardlestone. of being--murderers?"
"Nothing of the sort. I am accusing Mr. Elphick and Mr. Cardlestone of knowing more about the murder than they care to tell or want to tell. I am also accusing them, and especially your guardian, of knowing all about Maitland, alias Marbury. I made him confess last night that he knew this dead man to be John Maitland."
"I did. And now, Breton, since it's got to come out, well have the truth. Pull yourself together--get your nerves ready, for you'll have to stand a shock or two. But I know what I'm talking about--I can prove every word I'm going to say to you. And first let me ask you a few questions. Do you know anything about your parentage?"
"Nothing--beyond what Mr. Elphick has told me."
"And what was that?"
"That my parents were old friends of his, who died young, leaving me unprovided for, and that he took me up and looked after me."
"And he's never given you any documentary evidence of any sort to prove the truth of that story?"
"Never! I never questioned his statement. Why should I?"
"You never remember anything of your childhood--I mean of any person who was particularly near you in your childhood?"
"I remember the people who brought me up from the time I was three years old. And I have just a faint, shadowy recollection of some woman, a tall, dark woman, I think, before that."
"Miss Baylis," said Spargo to himself. "All right, Breton," he went on aloud. "I'm going to tell you the truth. I'll tell it to you straight out and give you all the explanations afterwards. Your real name is not Breton at all. Your real name is Maitland, and you're the only child of the man who was found murdered at the foot of Cardlestone's staircase!"
Spargo had been wondering how Breton would take this, and he gazed at him with some anxiety as he got out the last words. What would he do?--what would he say?--what----
Breton sat down quietly at his desk and looked Spargo hard between the eyes.
"Prove that to me, Spargo," he said, in hard, matter-of-fact tones. "Prove it to me, every word. Every word, Spargo!"
"I will--every word," he answered. "It's the right thing. Listen, then."
It was a quarter to twelve, Spargo noticed, throwing a glance at the clock outside, as he began his story; it was past one when he brought it to an end. And all that time Breton listened with the keenest attention, only asking a question now and then; now and then making a brief note on a sheet of paper which he had drawn to him.
"That's all," said Spargo at last.
"It's plenty," observed Breton laconically.
He sat staring at his notes for a moment; then he looked up at Spargo. "What do you really think?" he asked.
"About--what?" said Spargo.
"This flight of Elphick's and Cardlestone's."
"I think, as I said, that they knew something which they think may be forced upon them. I never saw a man in a greater fright than that I saw Elphick in last night. And it's evident that Cardlestone shares in that fright, or they wouldn't have gone off in this way together."
"Do you think they know anything of the actual murder?"
Spargo shook his head.
"I don't know. Probably. They know something. And--look here!"
Spargo put his hand in his breast pocket and drew something out which he handed to Breton, who gazed at it curiously.
"What's this?" he demanded. "Stamps?"
"That, from the description of Criedir, the stamp-dealer, is a sheet of those rare Australian stamps which Maitland had on him--carried on him. I picked it up just now in Cardlestone's room, when you were looking into his bedroom."
"But that, after all, proves nothing. Those mayn't be the identical stamps. And whether they are or not----" "What are the probabilities?" interrupted Spargo sharply. "I believe that those are the stamps which Maitland--your father!--had on him, and I want to know how they came to be in Cardlestone's rooms. And I will know."
Breton handed the stamps back.
"But the general thing, Spargo?" he said. "If they didn't murder--I can't realize the thing yet!--my father----"
"If they didn't murder your father, they know who did!" exclaimed Spargo. "Now, then, it's time for more action. Let Elphick and Cardlestone alone for the moment--they'll be tracked easily enough. I want to tackle something else for the moment. How do you get an authority from the Government to open a grave?"
"Order from the Home Secretary, which will have to be obtained by showing the very strongest reasons why it should be made."
"Good! We'll give the reasons. I want to have a grave opened."
"A grave opened! Whose grave?"
"The grave of the man Chamberlayne at Market Milcaster," replied Spargo.
"His? In Heaven's name, why?" he demanded.
Spargo laughed as he got up.
"Because I believe it's empty," he answered. "Because I believe that Chamberlayne is alive, and that his other name is--Cardlestone!"