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Dead Men's Money(Chapter12)

2006-08-28 23:36

  Chapter XII. The Salmon Gaff

  I gave such a jump on hearing this that Chisholm himself started, and he stared at me with a question in his eyes. But I was quick enough to let him know that he was giving me news that I hadn't heard until he opened his lips.

  "You don't tell me that!" I exclaimed. "What!——more of it?"

  "Aye!" he said. "You'll be thinking that this is all of a piece with the other affair. And to be sure, they found Crone's body close by where you found yon other man——Phillips."

  "Where, then?" I asked. "And when?"

  "I tell you, not an hour ago," he replied. "The news just came in. I was going down here to see if any of the neighbours at the shop saw Crone in any strange company last night."

  I hesitated for a second or two, and then spoke out.

  "I saw him myself last night," said I. "I went to his shop——maybe it was nine o'clock——to buy same bits of stuff to make Tom Dunlop a door to his rabbit-hutch, and I was there talking to him ten minutes or so. He was all right then——and I saw nobody else with him."

  "Aye, well, he never went home to his house last night," observed Chisholm. "I called in there on my way down——he lived, you know, in a cottage by the police-station, and I dropped in and asked the woman that keeps house for him had she seen him this morning, and she said he never came home last night at all. And no wonder——as things are!"

  "But you were saying where it happened," I said.

  "Where he was found?" said he. "Well, and it was where Till runs into Tweed——leastways, a bit up the Till. Do you know John McIlwraith's lad——yon youngster that they've had such a bother with about the school——always running away to his play, and stopping out at nights, and the like——there was the question of sending him to a reformatory, you'll remember? Aye, well, it turns out the young waster was out last night in those woods below Twizel, and early this morning——though he didn't let on at it till some time after——he saw the body of a man lying in one of them deep pools in Till. And when he himself was caught by Turndale, who was on the look out for him, he told of what he'd seen, and Turndale and some other men went there, and they found——Crone!"

  "You were saying there were marks of violence," said I.

  "I haven't seen them myself," he answered. "But by Turndale's account——it was him brought in the news——there is queer marks on the body. Like as if——as near as Turndale could describe it——as if the man had been struck down before he was drowned. Bruises, you understand."

  "Where is he?" I asked.

  "He's where they took Phillips," replied Chisholm. "Dod!——that's two of 'em that's been taken there within——aye, nearly within the week!"

  "What are you going to do, now?" I inquired.

  "I was just going, as I said, to ask a question or two down here——did anybody hear Crone say anything last night about going out that way?" he answered. "But, there, I don't see the good of it. Between you and me, Crone was a bit of a night-bird——I've suspected him of poaching, time and again. Well, he'll do no more of that! You'll be on your way to the office, likely?"

  "Straight there," said I. "I'll tell Mr. Lindsey of this."

  But when I reached the office, Mr. Lindsey, who had been out to get his lunch, knew all about it. He was standing outside the door, talking to Mr. Murray, and as I went up the superintendent turned away to the police station, and Mr. Lindsey took a step or two towards me.

  "Have you heard this about that man Crone?" he asked.

  "I've heard just now," I answered. "Chisholm told me."

  He looked at me, and I at him; there were questions in the eyes of both of us. But between parting from the police-sergeant and meeting Mr. Lindsey, I had made up my mind, by a bit of sharp thinking and reflection, on what my own plan of action was going to be about all this, once and for all, and I spoke before he could ask anything.

  "Chisholm," said I, "was down that way, wondering could he hear word of Crone's being seen with anybody last night. I saw Crone last night. I went to his shop, buying some bits of old stuff. He was all right then——I saw nothing. Chisholm——he says Crone was a poacher. That would account, likely, for his being out there."

  "Aye!" said Mr. Lindsey. "But——they say there's marks of violence on the body. And——the long and short of it is, my lad!" he went on, first interrupting himself, and then giving me an odd look; "the long and short of it is, it's a queer thing that Crone should have come by his death close to the spot where you found yon man Phillips! There may be nothing but coincidence in it——but there's no denying it's a queer thing. Go and order a conveyance, and we'll drive out yonder."

  In pursuance of the determination I had come to, I said no more about Crone to Mr. Lindsey. I had made up my mind on a certain course, and until it was taken I could not let out a word of what was by that time nobody's secret but mine to him, nor to any one——not even to Maisie Dunlop, to whom, purposely, I had not as yet said anything about my seeing Sir Gilbert Carstairs on the night of Phillips's murder. And all the way out to the inn there was silence between Mr. Lindsey and me, and the event of the morning, about Gilverthwaite's will, and the odd circumstance of its attestation by Michael Carstairs, was not once mentioned. We kept silence, indeed, until we were in the place to which they had carried Crone's dead body. Mr. Murray and Sergeant Chisholm had got there before us, and with them was a doctor——the same that had been fetched to Phillips——and they were all talking together quietly when we went in. The superintendent came up to Mr. Lindsey.

  "According to what the doctor here says," he whispered, jerking his head at the body, which lay on a table with a sheet thrown over it, "there's a question as to whether the man met his death by drowning. Look here!"

  He led us up to the table, drew back the sheet from the head and face, and motioning the doctor to come up, pointed to a mark that was just between the left temple and the top of the ear, where the hair was wearing thin.

  "D'ye see that, now?" he murmured. "You'll notice there's some sort of a weapon penetrated there——penetrated! But the doctor can say more than I can on that point."

  "The man was struck——felled——by some sort of a weapon," said the doctor. "It's penetrated, I should say from mere superficial examination, to the brain. You'll observe there's a bruise outwardly——aye, but this has been a sharp weapon as well, something with a point, and there's the puncture——how far it may extend I can't tell yet. But on the surface of things, Mr. Lindsey, I should incline to the opinion that the poor fellow was dead, or dying, when he was thrown into yon pool. Anyway, after a blow like that, he'd be unconscious. But I'm thinking he was dead before the water closed on him."

  Mr. Lindsey looked closer at the mark, and at the hole in the centre of it.

  "Has it struck any of you how that could be caused?" he asked suddenly. "It hasn't? Then I'll suggest something to you. There's an implement in pretty constant use hereabouts that would do just that——a salmon gaff!"

  The two police officials started——the doctor nodded his head.

  "Aye, and that's a sensible remark," said he. "A salmon gaff would just do it." He turned to Chisholm with a sharp look. "You were saying this man was suspected of poaching?" he asked. "Likely it'll have been some poaching affair he was after last night——him and others. And they may have quarrelled and come to blows——and there you are!"

  "Were there any signs of an affray close by——or near, on the bank?" asked Mr. Lindsey.

  "We're going down there now ourselves to have a look round," answered Mr. Murray. "But according to Turndale, the body was lying in a deep pool in the Till, under the trees on the bank——it might have lain there for many a month if it hadn't been for yon young McIlwraith that has a turn for prying into dark and out-of-the-way corners. Well, here's more matter for the coroner."

  Mr. Lindsey and I went back to Berwick after that. And, once more, he said little on the journey, except that it would be well if it came out that this was but a poaching affair in which Crone had got across with some companion of his; and for the rest of the afternoon he made no further remark to me about the matter, nor about the discovery of the morning. But as I was leaving the office at night, he gave me a word.

  "Say nothing about that will, to anybody," said he. "I'll think that matter over to-night, and see what'll come of my thinking. It's as I said before, Hugh——to get at the bottom of all this, we'll have to go back——maybe a far way."

  I said nothing and went home. For now I had work of my own——I was going to what I had resolved on after Chisholm told me the news about Crone. I would not tell my secret to Mr. Lindsey, nor to the police, nor even to Maisie. I would go straight and tell it to the one man whom it concerned——Sir Gilbert Carstairs. I would speak plainly to him, and be done with it. And as soon as I had eaten my supper, I mounted my bicycle, and, as the dusk was coming on, rode off to Hathercleugh House.

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