The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Chapter V. The Woman in the Next Car
With the departure of the conductor and the doctor, the group around lower ten broke up, to re-form in smaller knots through the car. The porter remained on guard. With something of relief I sank into a seat. I wanted to think, to try to remember the details of the previous night. But my inquisitive acquaintance had other intentions. He came up and sat down beside me. Like the conductor, he had taken notes of the dead man's belongings, his name, address, clothing and the general circumstances of the crime. Now with his little note-book open before him, he prepared to enjoy the minor sensation of the robbery.
"And now for the second victim," he began cheerfully. "What is your name and address, please?" I eyed him with suspicion.
"I have lost everything but my name and address," I parried. "What do you want them for? Publication?"
"Oh, no; dear, no!" he said, shocked at my misapprehension. "Merely for my own enlightenment. I like to gather data of this kind and draw my own conclusions. Most interesting and engrossing. Once or twice I have forestalled the results of police investigation - but entirely for my own amusement."
I nodded tolerantly. Most of us have hobbies; I knew a man once who carried his handkerchief up his sleeve and had a mania for old colored prints cut out of Godey's Lady's Book.
"I use that inductive method originated by Poe and followed since with such success by Conan Doyle. Have you ever read Gaboriau? Ah, you have missed a treat, indeed. And now, to get down to business, what is the name of our escaped thief and probable murderer?"
"How on earth do I know?" I demanded impatiently. "He didn't write it in blood anywhere, did he?"
The little man looked hurt and disappointed.
"Do you mean to say," he asked, "that the pockets of those clothes are entirely empty?" The pockets! In the excitement I had forgotten entirely the sealskin grip which the porter now sat at my feet, and I had not investigated the pockets at all. With the inquisitive man's pencil taking note of everything that I found, I emptied them on the opposite seat.
Upper left-hand waist-coat, two lead pencils and a fountain pen; lower right waist-coat, match-box and a small stamp book; right-hand pocket coat, pair of gray suede gloves, new, size seven and a half; left-hand pocket, gun-metal cigarette case studded with pearls, half-full of Egyptian cigarettes. The trousers pockets contained a gold penknife, a small amount of money in bills and change, and a handkerchief with the initial "S" on it.
Further search through the coat discovered a card-case with cards bearing the name Henry Pinckney Sullivan, and a leather flask with gold mountings, filled with what seemed to be very fair whisky, and monogrammed H. P. S.
"His name evidently is Henry Pinckney Sullivan," said the cheerful follower of Poe, as he wrote it down. "Address as yet unknown. Blond, probably. Have you noticed that it is almost always the blond men who affect a very light gray, with a touch of red in the scarf? Fact, I assure you. I kept a record once of the summer attire of men, and ninety per cent, followed my rule. Dark men like you affect navy blue, or brown."
In spite of myself I was amused at the man's shrewdness.
"Yes; the suit he took was dark - a blue," I said. He rubbed his hands and smiled at me delightedly. "Then you wore black shoes, not tan," he said, with a glance at the aggressive yellow ones I wore.
"Right again," I acknowledged. "Black low shoes and black embroidered hose. If you keep on you'll have a motive for the crime, and the murderer's present place of hiding. And if you come back to the smoker with me, I'll give you an opportunity to judge if he knew good whisky from bad."
I put the articles from the pockets back again and got up. "I wonder if there is a diner on?" I said. "I need something sustaining after all this."
I was conscious then of some one at my elbow. I turned to see the young woman whose face was so vaguely familiar. In the very act of speaking she drew back suddenly and colored.
"Oh, - I beg your pardon," she said hurriedly, "I - thought you were - some one else." She was looking in a puzzled fashion at my coat. I felt all the cringing guilt of a man who has accidentally picked up the wrong umbrella: my borrowed collar sat tight on my neck.
"I'm sorry," I said idiotically. "I'm sorry, but - I'm not." I have learned since that she has bright brown hair, with a loose wave in it that drops over her ears, and dark blue eyes with black lashes and - but what does it matter? One enjoys a picture as a whole: not as the sum of its parts.
She saw the flask then, and her errand came back to her. "One of the ladies at the end of car has fainted," she explained. "I thought perhaps a stimulant - "
I picked up the flask at once and followed my guide down the aisle. Two or three women were working over the woman who had fainted. They had opened her collar and taken out her hairpins, whatever good that might do. The stout woman was vigorously rubbing her wrists, with the idea, no doubt, of working up her pulse! The unconscious woman was the one for whom I had secured lower eleven at the station.
I poured a little liquor in a bungling masculine fashion between her lips as she leaned back, with closed eyes. She choked, coughed, and rallied somewhat.
"Poor thing," said the stout lady. "As she lies back that way I could almost think it was my mother; she used to faint so much."
"It would make anybody faint," chimed in another. "Murder and robbery in one night and on one car. I'm thankful I always wear my rings in a bag around my neck - even if they do get under me and keep me awake."
The girl in blue was looking at us with wide, startled eyes. I saw her pale a little, saw the quick, apprehensive glance which she threw at her traveling companion, the small woman I had noticed before. There was an exchange - almost a clash - of glances. The small woman frowned. That was all. I turned my attention again to my patient.
She had revived somewhat, and now she asked to have the window opened. The train had stopped again and the car was oppressively hot. People around were looking at their watches and grumbling over the delay. The doctor bustled in with a remark about its being his busy day. The amateur detective and the porter together mounted guard over lower ten. Outside the heat rose in shimmering waves from the tracks: the very wood of the car was hot to touch. A Camberwell Beauty darted through the open door and made its way, in erratic plunges, great wings waving, down the sunny aisle. All around lay the peace of harvested fields, the quiet of the country.