第3章 THE CASE OF THE REGISTERED LETTER(2)
"They say" - Miss Graumann's voice quavered - "they say that Albert was the last person known to have been in Sider's room; they say that it was his revolver, found in the room.That is the dreadful part of it - it was his revolver.He acknowledges it, but he did not know, until the police showed it to him, that the weapon was not in its usual place in his study.They tell me that everything speaks for his guilt, but I cannot believe it - I cannot.He says he is innocent in spite of everything.I believe him.I brought him up, sir; I was like his own mother to him.He never knew any other mother.He never lied to me, not once, when he was a little boy, and I don't believe he'd lie to me now, now that he's a man of forty-five.He says he did not kill John Siders.Oh, I know, even without his saying it, that he would not do such a thing.""Can you tell us anything more about the murder itself?" questioned Muller gently."Is there any possibility of suicide? Or was there a robbery?""They say it was no suicide, sir, and that there was a large sum of money missing.But why should Albert take any one else's money?
He has money of his own, and he earns a good income besides - we have all that we need.Oh, it is some dreadful mistake! There is the newspaper account of the discovery of the body.Perhaps Mr.
Muller might like to read that." She pointed to a sheet of newspaper on the desk.The commissioner handed it to Muller.It was an evening paper, dated G-, September 24th, and it gave an elaborate account, in provincial journalese, of the discovery that morning of the body of John Siders, evidently murdered, in his lodgings.The main facts to be gathered from the long-winded story were as follows:
John Siders had rented the rooms in which he met his death about ten days before, paying a month's rent in advance.The lodgings consisted of two rooms in a little house in a quiet street.It was a street of simple two-story, one and two family dwellings, occupied by artisans and small tradespeople.There were many open spaces, gardens and vacant lots in the street.The house in which Siders lodged belonged to a travelling salesman by the name of Winter.The man was away from home a great deal, and his wife, with her child and an old servant, lived in the lower part of the house, while the rooms occupied by Siders were in the upper story.Siders lived very quietly, going out frequently in the afternoon, but returning early in the evening.He had said to his landlady that he had many friends in G-.But during the time of his stay in the house he had had but one caller, a gentleman who came on the evening of the 23rd of September.The old maid had opened the door for him and showed him to Mr.Siders' rooms.She described this visitor as having a full black beard, and wearing a broad-brimmed grey felt hat.Nobody saw the man go out, for the old maid, the only person in the house at the time, had retired early.Mrs.Winter and her little girl were spending the night with the former's mother in a distant part of the city.The next morning the old servant, taking the lodger's coffee up to him at the usual hour, found him dead on the floor of his sitting-room, shot through the heart.The woman ran screaming from the house and alarmed the neighbours.A policeman at the corner heard the noise, and led the crowd up to the room where the dead man lay.It was plain to be seen that this was not a case of suicide.Everywhere were signs of a terrible struggle.The furniture was overturned, the dressing-table and the cupboard were open and their contents scattered on the floor, one of the window curtains was torn into strips, as if the victim had been trying to escape by way of the window, but had been dragged back into the room by his murderer.An overturned ink bottle on the table had spattered wide, and added to the general confusion.In the midst of the disorder lay the body of the murdered man, now cold in the rigour of death.
The police commissioner arrived soon, took possession of the rooms, and made a thorough examination of the premises.A letter found on the desk gave another proof, if such were needed, that this was not a case of suicide.This letter was in the handwriting of the dead man, and read as follows:
I appreciate greatly all the kindness shown me by yourself and your good wife.I have been more successful than I thought possible in overcoming the obstacles you know of.Therefore, I shall be very glad to join you day after to-morrow, Sunday, in the proposed excursion.I will call for you at 8 A.M.- the cab and the champagne will be my share of the trip.We'll have a jolly day and drink a glass or two to our plans for the future.
With best greetings for both of you, Your old friend, John G-, Friday, Sept.23rd.
An envelope, not yet addressed, lay beside this letter.It was clear that the man who penned these words had no thought of suicide.
On the contrary, he was looking forward to a day of pleasure in the near future, and laying plans for the time to come.The murderer's bullet had pierced a heart pulsing with the joy of life.
This was the gist of the account in.the evening paper.Muller read it through carefully, lingering over several points which seemed to interest him particularly.Then he turned to Miss Babette Graumann."And then what happened?" he asked.
Grace Isabel Colbron,Augusta Groner