A Strange Disappearance by Anna Katharine Green
Chapter IX. A Few Golden Hairs
When a few days from that I made my appearance before Mr. Gryce, it was to find him looking somewhat sober. "Those Schoenmakers," said he, "are making a deal of trouble. It seems they escaped the fellows up north and are now somewhere in this city, but where--"
An expressive gesture finished the sentence.
"Is that so?" exclaimed I. "Then we are sure to nab them. Given time and a pair of low, restless German thieves, I will wager anything, our hands will be upon them before the month is over. I only hope, when we do come across them, it will not be to find their betters too much mixed up with their devilish practices." And I related to him what Fanny had told me a few evenings before.
"The coil is tightening," said he. "What the end will be I don't know. Crime, said she? I wish I knew in what blind hole of the earth that girl we are after lies hidden."
As if in answer to this wish the door opened and one of our men came in with a letter in his hand. "Ha!" exclaimed Mr. Gryce, after he had perused it, "look at that."
I took the letter from his hand and read:
"Come," said I, "let's go and see for ourselves. If it should be the one--"
"The dinner party proposed by Mr. Blake for to-night, may have its interruptions," he remarked.
I do not wish to make my story any longer than is necessary, but I must say that when in an hour or so later, I stood with Mr. Gryce before the unconscious form of that poor drowned girl I felt an unusual degree of awe stealing over me: there was so much mystery connected with this affair, and the parties implicated were of such standing and repute.
I almost dreaded to see the covering removed from her face lest I should behold, what? I could not have told if I had tried.
"A trim made body enough," cried the official in charge as Mr. Gryce lifted an end of the cloth that enveloped her and threw it back. "Pity the features are not better preserved."
"No need for us to see the features," exclaimed I, pointing to the locks of golden red hair that hung in tangled masses about her. "The hair is enough; she is not the one." And I turned aside, asking myself if it was relief I felt.
To my surprise Mr. Gryce did not follow.
"Tall, thin, white face, black eyes." I heard him whisper to himself. "It is a pity the features are not better preserved."
"But," said I, taking him by the arm, "Fanny spoke particularly of her hair being black, while this girl's--Good heavens!" I suddenly ejaculated as I looked again at the prostrate form before me. "Yellow hair or black, this is the girl I saw him speaking to that day in Broome Street. I remember her clothes if nothing more." And opening my pocketbook, I took out the morsel of cloth I had plucked that day from the ash barrel, lifted up the discolored rags that hung about the body and compared the two. The pattern, texture and color were the same.
"Well," said Mr. Gryce, pointing to certain contusions, like marks from the blow of some heavy instrument on the head and bared arms of the girl before us; "he will have to answer me one question anyhow, and that is, who this poor creature is who lies here the victim of treachery or despair." And turning to the official he asked if there were any other signs of violence on the body.
The answer came deliberately, "Yes, she has evidently been battered to death."
Mr. Gryce's lips closed with grim decision. "A most brutal murder," said he and lifting up the cloth with a hand that visibly trembled, he softly covered her face.
"Well," said I as we slowly paced back up the pier, "there is one thing certain, she is not the one who disappeared from Mr. Blake's house."
"I am not so sure of that."
"How!" said I. "You believed Fanny lied when she gave that description of the missing girl upon which we have gone till now?"
Mr. Gryce smiled, and turning back, beckoned to the official behind us. "Let me have that description," said he, "which I distributed among the Harbor Police some days ago for the identification of a certain corpse I was on the lookout for."
The man opened his coat and drew out a printed paper which at Mr. Gryce's word he put into my hand. It ran as follows:
"I don't understand," began I.
But Mr. Gryce tapping me on the arm said in his most deliberate tones, "Next time you examine a room in which anything of a mysterious nature has occurred, look under the bureau and if you find a comb there with several long golden hairs tangled in it, be very sure before you draw any definite conclusions, that your Fannys know what they are talking about when they declare the girl who used that comb had black hair on her head."