The Middle Temple Murder by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter Five. Spargo Wishes to Specialize
The barrister and the journalist, left thus unceremoniously on a crowded pavement, looked at each other. Breton laughed.
"We don't seem to have gained much information," he remarked. "I'm about as wise as ever."
"No--wiser," said Spargo. "At any rate, I am. I know now that this dead man called himself John Marbury; that he came from Australia; that he only landed at Southampton yesterday morning, and that he was in the company last night of a man whom we have had described to us--a tall, grey-bearded, well-dressed man, presumably a gentleman."
Breton shrugged his shoulders.
"I should say that description would fit a hundred thousand men in London," he remarked.
"Exactly--so it would," answered Spargo. "But we know that it was one of the hundred thousand, or half-million, if you like. The thing is to find that one--the one."
"And you think you can do it?"
"I think I'm going to have a big try at it."
Breton shrugged his shoulders again.
"What?--by going up to every man who answers the description, and saying 'Sir, are you the man who accompanied John Marbury to the Aglo----"
Spargo suddenly interrupted him.
"Look here!" he said. "Didn't you say that you knew a man who lives in that block in the entry of which Marbury was found?"
"No, I didn't," answered Breton. "It was Mr. Elphick who said that. All the same, I do know that man--he's Mr. Cardlestone, another barrister. He and Mr. Elphick are friends--they're both enthusiastic philatelists--stamp collectors, you know--and I dare say Mr. Elphick was round there last night examining something new Cardlestone's got hold of. Why?"
"I'd like to go round there and make some enquiries," replied Spargo. "If you'd be kind enough to----"
"Oh, I'll go with you!" responded Breton, with alacrity. "I'm just as keen about this business as you are, Spargo! I want to know who this man Marbury is, and how he came to have my name and address on him. Now, if I had been a well-known man in my profession, you know, why--"
"Yes," said Spargo, as they got into a cab, "yes, that would have explained a lot. It seems to me that we'll get at the murderer through that scrap of paper a lot quicker than through Rathbury's line. Yes, that's what I think."
Breton looked at his companion with interest.
"But--you don't know what Rathbury's line is," he remarked.
"Yes, I do," said Spargo. "Rathbury's gone off to discover who the man is with whom Marbury left the Anglo-Orient Hotel last night. That's his line." "And you want----?"
"I want to find out the full significance of that bit of paper, and who wrote it," answered Spargo. "I want to know why that old man was coming to you when he was murdered."
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "I--I never thought of that. You--you really think he was coming to me when he was struck down?"
"Certain. Hadn't he got an address in the Temple? Wasn't he in the Temple? Of course, he was trying to find you."
"But--the late hour?"
"No matter. How else can you explain his presence in the Temple? I think he was asking his way. That's why I want to make some enquiries in this block."
It appeared to Spargo that a considerable number of people, chiefly of the office-boy variety, were desirous of making enquiries about the dead man. Being luncheon-hour, that bit of Middle Temple Lane where the body was found, was thick with the inquisitive and the sensation-seeker, for the news of the murder had spread, and though there was nothing to see but the bare stones on which the body had lain, there were more open mouths and staring eyes around the entry than Spargo had seen for many a day. And the nuisance had become so great that the occupants of the adjacent chambers had sent for a policeman to move the curious away, and when Spargo and his companion presented themselves at the entry this policeman was being lectured as to his duties by a little weazen-faced gentleman, in very snuffy and old-fashioned garments, and an ancient silk hat, who was obviously greatly exercised by the unwonted commotion.
"Drive them all out into the street!" exclaimed this personage. "Drive them all away, constable--into Fleet Street or upon the Embankment--anywhere, so long as you rid this place of them. This is a disgrace, and an inconvenience, a nuisance, a----"
"That's old Cardlestone," whispered Breton. "He's always irascible, and I don't suppose we'll get anything out of him. Mr. Cardlestone," he continued, making his way up to the old gentleman who was now retreating up the stone steps, brandishing an umbrella as ancient as himself. "I was just coming to see you, sir. This is Mr. Spargo, a journalist, who is much interested in this murder. He----"
"I know nothing about the murder, my dear sir!" exclaimed Mr. Cardlestone. "And I never talk to journalists--a pack of busybodies, sir, saving your presence. I am not aware that any murder has been committed, and I object to my doorway being filled by a pack of office boys and street loungers. Murder indeed! I suppose the man fell down these steps and broke his neck--drunk, most likely."
He opened his outer door as he spoke, and Breton, with a reassuring smile and a nod at Spargo, followed him into his chambers on the first landing, motioning the journalist to keep at their heels.
"Mr. Elphick tells me that he was with you until a late hour last evening, Mr. Cardlestone," he said. "Of course, neither of you heard anything suspicious?"
"What should we hear that was suspicious in the Temple, sir?" demanded Mr. Cardlestone, angrily. "I hope the Temple is free from that sort of thing, young Mr. Breton. Your respected guardian and myself had a quiet evening on our usual peaceful pursuits, and when he went away all was as quiet as the grave, sir. What may have gone on in the chambers above and around me I know not! Fortunately, our walls are thick, sir--substantial. I say, sir, the man probably fell down and broke his neck. What he was doing here, I do not presume to say."
"Well, it's guess, you know, Mr. Cardlestone," remarked Breton, again winking at Spargo. "But all that was found on this man was a scrap of paper on which my name and address were written. That's practically all that was known of him, except that he'd just arrived from Australia."
Mr. Cardlestone suddenly turned on the young barrister with a sharp, acute glance.
"Eh?" he exclaimed. "What's this? You say this man had your name and address on him, young Breton!--yours? And that he came from--Australia?"
"That's so," answered Breton. "That's all that's known."
Mr. Cardlestone put aside his umbrella, produced a bandanna handkerchief of strong colours, and blew his nose in a reflective fashion.
"That's a mysterious thing," he observed. "Um--does Elphick know all that?"
Breton looked at Spargo as if he was asking him for an explanation of Mr. Cardlestone's altered manner. And Spargo took up the conversation.
"No," he said. "All that Mr. Elphick knows is that Mr. Ronald Breton's name and address were on the scrap of paper found on the body. Mr. Elphick"--here Spargo paused and looked at Breton--"Mr. Elphick," he presently continued, slowly transferring his glance to the old barrister, "spoke of going to view the body."
"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Cardlestone, eagerly. "It can be seen? Then I'll go and see it. Where is it?"
"But--my dear sir!" he said. "Why?"
Mr. Cardlestone picked up his umbrella again.
"I feel a proper curiosity about a mystery which occurs at my very door," he said. "Also, I have known more than one man who went to Australia. This might--I say might, young gentlemen--might be a man I had once known. Show me where this body is."
Breton looked helplessly at Spargo: it was plain that he did not understand the turn that things were taking. But Spargo was quick to seize an opportunity. In another minute he was conducting Mr. Cardlestone through the ins and outs of the Temple towards Blackfriars. And as they turned into Tudor Street they encountered Mr. Elphick.
"I am going to the mortuary," he remarked. "So, I suppose, are you, Cardlestone? Has anything more been discovered, young man?"
Spargo tried a chance shot--at what he did not know. "The man's name was Marbury," he said. "He was from Australia."
He was keeping a keen eye on Mr. Elphick, but he failed to see that Mr. Elphick showed any of the surprise which Mr. Cardlestone had exhibited. Rather, he seemed indifferent.
"Oh?" he said--"Marbury? And from Australia. Well--I should like to see the body."
Spargo and Breton had to wait outside the mortuary while the two elder gentlemen went in. There was nothing to be learnt from either when they reappeared.
"We don't know the man," said Mr. Elphick, calmly. "As Mr. Cardlestone, I understand, has said to you already--we have known men who went to Australia, and as this man was evidently wandering about the Temple, we thought it might have been one of them, come back. But--we don't recognize him."
"Couldn't recognize him," said Mr. Cardlestone. "No!"
They went away together arm in arm, and Breton looked at Spargo.
"As if anybody on earth ever fancied they'd recognize him!" he said. "Well--what are you going to do now, Spargo? I must go."
Spargo, who had been digging his walking-stick into a crack in the pavement, came out of a fit of abstraction.
"I?" he said. "Oh--I'm going to the office." And he turned abruptly away, and walking straight off to the editorial rooms at the Watchman, made for one in which sat the official guardian of the editor. "Try to get me a few minutes with the chief," he said.
The private secretary looked up.
"Really important?" he asked.
"Big!" answered Spargo. "Fix it."
Once closeted with the great man, whose idiosyncrasies he knew pretty well by that time, Spargo lost no time.
"You've heard about this murder in Middle Temple Lane?" he suggested.
"The mere facts," replied the editor, tersely.
"I was there when the body was found," continued Spargo, and gave a brief resume of his doings. "I'm certain this is a most unusual affair," he went on. "It's as full of mystery as--as it could be. I want to give my attention to it. I want to specialize on it. I can make such a story of it as we haven't had for some time--ages. Let me have it. And to start with, let me have two columns for tomorrow morning. I'll make it--big!"
The editor looked across his desk at Spargo's eager face.
"Your other work?" he said.
"Well in hand," replied Spargo. "I'm ahead a whole week--both articles and reviews. I can tackle both."
The editor put his finger tips together.
"Have you got some idea about this, young man?" he asked.
"I've got a great idea," answered Spargo. He faced the great man squarely, and stared at him until he had brought a smile to the editorial face. "That's why I want to do it," he added. "And--it's not mere boasting nor over-confidence--I know I shall do it better than anybody else."
The editor considered matters for a brief moment.
"You mean to find out who killed this man?" he said at last.
Spargo nodded his head--twice.
"I'll find that out," he said doggedly.
The editor picked up a pencil, and bent to his desk.
"All right," he said. "Go ahead. You shall have your two columns."
Spargo went quietly away to his own nook and corner. He got hold of a block of paper and began to write. He was going to show how to do things.