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Dead Men's Money(Chapter6)

2006-08-28 23:34

  Chapter VI. Mr. John Phillips

  He began to put back the various boxes and parcels into the chest as he spoke, and we all looked at each other as men might look who, taking a way unknown to them, come up against a blank wall. But Chisholm, who was a sharp fellow, with a good headpiece on him, suddenly spoke.

  "There's the fact that the murdered man sent that letter from Peebles," said he, "and that he himself appears to have travelled from Peebles but yesterday. We might be hearing something of him at Peebles, and from what we might hear, there or elsewhere, we might get some connection between the two of them."

  "You're right in all that, sergeant," said Mr. Lindsey, "and it's to Peebles some of you'll have to go. For the thing's plain——that man has been murdered by somebody, and the first way to get at the somebody is to find out who the murdered man is, and why he came into these parts. As for him," he continued, pointing significantly to the bed, "his secret——whatever it is——has gone with him. And our question now is, Can we get at it in any other way?"

  We had more talk downstairs, and it was settled that Chisholm and I should go on to Peebles by the first train that morning, find out what we could there, and work back to the Cornhill station, where, according to the half-ticket which had been found on him, the murdered man appeared to have come on the evening of his death. Meanwhile, Murray would have the scene of the murder thoroughly and strictly searched——the daylight might reveal things which we had not been able to discover by the light of the lamps.

  "And there's another thing you can do," suggested Lindsey. "That scrap of a bill-head with a name and address in Dundee on it, that you found on him, you might wire there and see if anything is known of the man. Any bit of information you can get in that way——"

  "You're forgetting, Mr. Lindsey, that we don't know any name by which we can call the man," objected Chisholm. "We'll have to find a name for him before we can wire to Dundee or anywhere else. But if we can trace a name to him in Peebles——"

  "Aye, that'll be the way of it," said Murray. "Let's be getting all the information we can during the day, and I'll settle with the coroner's officer for the inquest at yon inn where you've taken him——it can't be held before tomorrow morning. Mr. Lindsey," he went on, "what are you going to do as regards this man that's lying dead upstairs? Mrs. Moneylaws says the doctor had been twice with him, and'll be able to give a certificate, so there'll be no inquest about him; but what's to be done about his friends and relations? It's likely there'll be somebody, somewhere. And——all that money on him and in his chest?"

  Mr. Lindsey shook his head and smiled.

  "If you think all this'll be done in hole-and-corner fashion, superintendent," he said, "you're not the wise man I take you for. Lord bless you, man, the news'll be all over the country within forty-eight hours! If this Gilverthwaite has folk of his own, they'll be here fast as crows hurry to a new-sown field! Let the news of it once out, and you'll wish that such men as newspaper reporters had never been born. You can't keep these things quiet; and if we're going to get to the bottom of all this, then publicity's the very thing that's needed."

  All this was said in the presence of my mother, who, being by nature as quiet a body as ever lived, was by no means pleased to know that her house was, as it were, to be made a centre of attraction. And when Mr. Lindsey and the police had gone away, and she began getting some breakfast ready for me before my going to meet Chisholm at the station, she set on to bewail our misfortune in ever taking Gilverthwaite into the house, and so getting mixed up with such awful things as murder. She should have had references with the man, she said, before taking him in, and so have known who she was dealing with. And nothing that either I or Maisie——who was still there, staying to be of help, Tom Dunlop having gone home to tell his father the great news——could say would drive out of her head the idea that Gilverthwaite, somehow or other, had something to do with the killing of the strange man. And, womanlike, and not being over-amenable to reason, she saw no cause for a great fuss about the affair in her own house, at any rate. The man was dead, she said, and let them get him put decently away, and hold his money till somebody came forward to claim it——all quietly and without the pieces in the paper that Mr. Lindsey talked about.

  "And how are we to let people know anything about him if there isn't news in the papers?" I asked. "It's only that way that we can let his relatives know he's dead, mother. You're forgetting that we don't even know where the man's from!"

  "Maybe I've a better idea of where he was from, when he came here, than any lawyer-folk or police-folk either, my man!" she retorted, giving me and Maisie a sharp look. "I've eyes in my head, anyway, and it doesn't take me long to see a thing that's put plain before them."

  "Well?" said I, seeing quick enough that she'd some notion in her mind. "You've found something out?"

  Without answering the question in words she went out of the kitchen and up the stairs, and presently came back to us, carrying in one hand a man's collar and in the other Gilverthwaite's blue serge jacket. And she turned the inside of the collar to us, pointing her finger to some words stamped in black on the linen.

  "Take heed of that!" she said. "He'd a dozen of those collars, brand-new, when he came, and this, you see, is where he bought them; and where he bought them, there, too, he bought his ready-made suit of clothes——that was brand-new as well,——here's the name on a tab inside the coat: Brown Brothers, Gentlemen's Outfitters, Exchange Street, Liverpool. What does all that prove but that it was from Liverpool he came?"

  "Aye!" I said. "And it proves, too, that he was wanting an outfit when he came to Liverpool from——where? A long way further afield, I'm thinking! But it's something to know as much as that, and you've no doubt hit on a clue that might be useful, mother. And if we can find out that the other man came from Liverpool, too, why then——"

  But I stopped short there, having a sudden vision of a very wide world of which Liverpool was but an outlet. Where had Gilverthwaite last come from when he struck Liverpool, and set himself up with new clothes and linen? And had this mysterious man who had met such a terrible fate come also from some far-off part, to join him in whatever it was that had brought Gilverthwaite to Berwick? And——a far more important thing,——mysterious as these two men were, what about the equally mysterious man that was somewhere in the background——the murderer?

  Chisholm and I had no great difficulty——indeed, we had nothing that you might call a difficulty——in finding out something about the murdered man at Peebles. We had the half-ticket with us, and we soon got hold of the booking-clerk who had issued it on the previous afternoon. He remembered the looks of the man to whom he had sold it, and described him to us well enough. Moreover, he found us a ticket-collector who remembered that same man arriving in Peebles two days before, and giving up a ticket from Glasgow. He had a reason for remembering him, for the man had asked him to recommend him to a good hotel, and had given him a two-shilling piece for his trouble. So far, then, we had plain sailing, and it continued plain and easy during the short time we stayed in Peebles. And it came to this: the man we were asking about came to the town early in the afternoon of the day before the murder; he put himself up at the best hotel in the place; he was in and out of it all the afternoon and evening; he stayed there until the middle of the afternoon of the next day, when he paid his bill and left. And there was the name he had written in the register book——Mr. John Phillips, Glasgow.

  Chisholm drew me out of the hotel where we had heard all this and pulled the scrap of bill-head from his pocket-book.

  "Now that we've got the name to go on," said he, "we'll send a wire to this address in Dundee asking if anything's known there of Mr. John Phillips. And we'll have the reply sent to Berwick——it'll be waiting us when we get back this morning."

  The name and address in Dundee was of one Gavin Smeaton, Agent, 131A Bank Street. And the question which Chisholm sent him over the wire was plain and direct enough: Could he give the Berwick police any information about a man named John Phillips, found dead, on whose body Mr. Smeaton's name and address had been discovered?

  "We may get something out of that," said Chisholm, as we left the post-office, "and we may get nothing. And now that we do know that this man left here for Coldstream, let's get back there, and go on with our tracing of his movements last night."

  But when we had got back to our own district we were quickly at a dead loss. The folk at Cornhill station remembered the man well enough. He had arrived there about half-past eight the previous evening. He had been seen to go down the road to the bridge which leads over the Tweed to Coldstream. We could not find out that he had asked the way of anybody——he appeared to have just walked that way as if he were well acquainted with the place. But we got news of him at an inn just across the bridge. Such a man——a gentleman, the inn folk called him——had walked in there, asked for a glass of whisky, lingered for a few minutes while he drank it, and had gone out again. And from that point we lost all trace of him. We were now, of course, within a few miles of the place where the man had been murdered, and the people on both sides of the river were all in a high state of excitement about it; but we could learn nothing more. From the moment of the man's leaving the inn on the Coldstream side of the bridge, nobody seemed to have seen him until I myself found his body.

  There was another back-set for us when we reached Berwick——in the reply from Dundee. It was brief and decisive enough. "Have no knowledge whatever of any person named John Phillips——Gavin Smeaton." So, for the moment, there was nothing to be gained from that quarter.

  Mr. Lindsey and I were at the inn where the body had been taken, and where the inquest was to be held, early next morning, in company with the police, and amidst a crowd that had gathered from all parts of the country. As we hung about, waiting the coroner's arrival, a gentleman rode up on a fine bay horse——a good-looking elderly man, whose coming attracted much attention. He dismounted and came towards the inn door, and as he drew the glove off his right hand I saw that the first and second fingers of that hand were missing. Here, without doubt, was the man whom I had seen at the cross-roads just before my discovery of the murder!

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