There followed a few days of
pleasurable interest to all Englishmen
who travelled in the tube and
read their halfpenny papers.
A great and enlightened Press
had already solved the problem
of creating the sensational without
the aid of facts. This sudden
deluge, therefore, of undoubtedly
tragical happenings became almost
an embarrassment to them. Black
headlines, notes of exclamation,
the use of superlative adjectives,
scarcely met the case. The murder
of Mr. Hamilton Fynes was strange
enough. Here was an unknown man,
holding a small position in his
own country,--a man apparently
without friends or social position.
He travelled over from America,
merely a unit amongst the host
of other passengers; yet his
first action, on arriving at
Liverpool, was to make use of
privileges which belonged to
an altogether different class
of person, and culminated in
his arrival at Euston in a special
train with a dagger driven through
his heart! Here was material
enough for a least a fortnight
of sensations and countersensations,
of rumored arrests and strange
theories. Yet within the space
of twenty-four hours the affair
of Mr. Hamilton Fynes had become
a small thing, had shrunk almost
into insignificance by the side
of the other still more dramatic,
still more wonderful happening.
Somewhere between the Savoy Hotel
and Melbourne Square, Kensington,
a young American gentleman of
great strength, of undoubted
position, the nephew of a Minister,
and himself secretary to the
Ambassador of his country in
London, had met with his death
in a still more mysterious, still
more amazing fashion. He had
left the hotel in an ordinary
taxicab, which had stopped on
the way to pick up no other passenger.
He had left the Savoy alone,
and he was discovered in Melbourne
Square alone. Yet, somewhere
between these two points, notwithstanding
the fact that the aggressor must
have entered the cab either with
or without his consent, Mr. Richard
Vanderpole, without a struggle,
without any cry sufficiently
loud to reach the driver or attract
the attention of any passer-by,
had been strangled to death by
a person who had disappeared
as though from the face of the
earth. The facts seemed almost
unbelievable, and yet they were
facts. The driver of the taxi
knew only that three times during
the course of his drive he had
been caught in a block and had
had to wait for a few seconds--once
at the entrance to Trafalgar
Square, again at the junction
of Haymarket and Pall Mall, and,
for a third time, opposite the
Hyde Park Hotel. At neither of
these halting places had he heard
any one enter or leave the taxi.
He had heard no summons from
his fare, even though a tube,
which was in perfect working
order, was fixed close to the
back of his head. He had known
nothing, in fact, until a policeman
had stopped him, having caught
a glimpse of the ghastly face
inside. There was no evidence
which served to throw a single
gleam of light upon the affair.
Mr. Vanderpole had called at
the Savoy Hotel upon a travelling
American, who had written to
the Embassy asking for some advice
as to introducing American patents
into Great Britain and France.
He left there to meet his chief,
who was dining down in Kensington,
with the intention of returning
at once to join the Duchess of
Devenham's theatre party. He
was in no manner of trouble.
It was not suggested that any
one had any cause for enmity
against him. Yet this attack
upon him must have been carefully
planned and carried out by a
person of great strength and
wonderful nerve. The newspaper-reading
public in London love their thrills,
and they had one here which needed
no artificial embellishments
from the pens of those trained
in an atmosphere of imagination.
The simple truth was, in itself,
horrifying. There was scarcely
a man or woman who drove in a
taxicab about the west end of
London during the next few days
without a little thrill of emotion.
The murder of Mr. Richard Vanderpole
took place on a Thursday night.
On Monday morning a gentleman
of middle age, fashionably but
quietly dressed, wearing a flower
in his buttonhole, patent boots,
and a silk hat which he had carefully
deposited upon the floor, was
sitting closeted with Miss Penelope
Morse. It was obvious that that
young lady did not altogether
appreciate the honor done to
her by a visit from so distinguished
a person as Inspector Jacks!
"I am sorry," he said, "that
you should find my visit in the
least offensive, Miss Morse.
I have approached you, so far
as possible, as an ordinary visitor,
and no one connected with your
household can have any idea as
to my identity or the nature
of my business. I have done this
out of consideration to your
feelings. At the same time I
have my duty to perform and it
must be done."
"What I cannot understand," Penelope
said coldly, "is why you should
bother me about your duty. When
I saw you at the Carlton Hotel,
I told you exactly how much I
knew of Mr. Hamilton Fynes."
"My dear young lady," Inspector
Jacks said, "I will not ask for
your sympathy, for I am afraid
I should ask in vain; but we
are just now, we people at Scotland
Yard, up against one of the most
extraordinary problems which
have ever been put before us.
We have had two murders occurring
in two days, which have this
much, at least, in common--that
they have been the work of so
accomplished a criminal that
at the present moment, although
I should not like to tell every
one as much, we have not in either
case the ghost of a clue."
"That sounds very stupid of
you," Penelope remarked, "but
I still ask--"
"Don't ask for a minute or
two," the Inspector interrupted. "I
think I remarked just now that
these two crimes had one thing
in common, and that was the fact
that they had both been perpetrated
by a criminal of unusual accomplishments.
They also have one other point
"What is that?" Penelope
"The victim in both cases was
an American," the Inspector said.
Penelope sat very still. She
felt the steely eyes of the man
who had chosen his seat so carefully,
fixed upon her face.
"You do not connect the two
affairs in any way?" she asked.
"That is what we are asking
ourselves," Mr. Jacks continued. "In
the absence of any definite clue,
coincidences such as this are
always interesting. In this case,
as it happens, we can take them
even a little further. We find
that you, for instance, Miss
Penelope Morse, a young American
lady, celebrated for her wit
and accomplishments, and well
known in London society, were
to have lunched with Mr. Hamilton
Fynes on the day when he made
his tragical arrival in London;
we find too, curiously enough,
that you were one of the party
with whom Mr. Richard Vanderpole
was to have dined and gone to
the theatre on the night of his
Penelope shivered, and half
closed her eyes.
"Don't you think," she said, "that
the shock of this coincidence,
as you call it, has been quite
sufficient, without having you
come here to remind me of it?"
"Madam," Mr. Jacks said, "I
have not come here to gratify
any personal curiosity. I have
come here in the cause of justice.
You should find me a welcome
visitor, for both these men who
have lost their lives were friends
"I should be very sorry indeed," Penelope
answered, "to stand in the way
of justice. No one can hope more
fervently than I do that the
perpetrator of these deeds will
be found and punished. But what
I cannot understand is your coming
here and reopening the subject
with me. I tell you again that
I have no possible information
"Perhaps not," the Inspector
declared, "but, on the other
hand, there are certain questions
which you can answer me,--answer
them, I mean, not grudgingly
and as though in duty bound,--answer
them intelligently, and with
some apprehension of the things
which lie behind."
"And what is the thing that
lies behind them?" she asked.
"A theory, madam," the Inspector
answered,--"no more. But in this
case, unfortunately, we have
not passed the stage of theories.
My theory, at the present moment,
is that the murderer of these
two men was the same person."
"You have evidence to that
effect," she said, suddenly surprised
to find that her voice had sunk
to a whisper.
"Very little," Mr. Jacks admitted; "but,
you see, in the case of theories
one must build them brick by
brick. Then if, after all, as
we reach the end, the foundation
was false, well, we must watch
them collapse and start again."
"Supposing we leave these generalities," Penelope
remarked, "and get on with those
questions which you wish to ask
me. My aunt, as you may have
heard, is an invalid, and although
she seldom leaves her room, this
is one of the afternoons when
she sometimes sits here for a
short time. I should not care
to have her find you."
The Inspector leaned back in
his chair. It was a very pleasant
drawing room, looking out upon
the Park. A little French clock,
a masterpiece of workmanship,
was ticking gayly upon the mantelpiece.
Two toy Pomeranians were half
hidden in the great rug. The
walls were of light blue, soft,
yet full of color, and the carpet,
of some plain material, was of
the same shade. The perfume of
flowers--the faint sweetness
of mimosa and the sicklier fragrance
of hyacinths--seemed almost overwhelming,
for the fire was warm and the
windows closed. By the side of
Penelope's chair were a new novel
and a couple of illustrated papers,
and Mr. Jacks noticed that although
a paper cutter was lying by their
side the leaves of all were uncut.
"These questions," he said, "may
seem to you irrelevant, yet please
answer them if you can. Mr. Hamilton
Fynes, for instance,--was he,
to your knowledge, acquainted
with Mr. Richard Vanderpole?"
"I have never heard them speak
of one another," Penelope answered. "I
should think it very unlikely."
"You have no knowledge of any
common pursuit or interest in
life which the two men may have
shared?" the Inspector asked. "A
hobby, for instance,--a collection
of postage stamps, china, any
common aim of any sort?"
She shook her head.
"I knew little
of Mr. Fynes' tastes. Dicky--I
mean Mr. Vanderpole--had
none at all except an enthusiasm
for his profession and a love
"His profession," the Inspector
repeated. "Mr. Vanderpole was
attached to the American Embassy,
was he not?"
"I believe so," Penelope
"Mr. Hamilton Fynes," the Inspector
continued, "might almost have
been said to have followed the
"Surely not!" Penelope objected. "I
always understood that Mr. Fynes
was employed in a Government
office at Washington,--something
to do with the Customs, I thought,
or forest duties."
Mr. Jacks nodded thoughtfully.
"I am not aware, as yet," he
said, "of the precise nature
of Mr. Fynes' occupation. I only
knew that it was, in some shape
or form, Government work."
"You know as much about it," she
answered, "as I do."
"We have sent," the Inspector
continued smoothly, "a special
man out to Washington to make
all inquiries that are possible
on the spot, and incidentally,
to go through the effects of
the deceased, with a view to
tracing any complications in
which he may have been involved
in this country."
Penelope opened her lips, but
closed them again.
"I am not, however," the Inspector
continued, "very sanguine of
success. In the case of Mr. Vanderpole,
for instance, there could have
been nothing of the sort. He
was too young, altogether too
much of a boy, to have had enemies
so bitterly disposed towards
him. There is another explanation
somewhere, I feel convinced,
at the root of the matter."
"You do not believe, then," asked
Penelope, "that robbery was really
"Not ordinary robbery," Mr.
Jacks answered. "A man who was
capable of these two crimes is
capable of easier and greater
things. I mean," he explained, "that
he could have attempted enterprises
of a far more remunerative character,
with a prospect of complete success."
"Will you forgive me," she
said, "if I ask you to go on
with your questions, providing
you have any more to ask me?
Notwithstanding the excellence
of your disguise," she remarked
with a faint curl of the lips, "I
might find it somewhat difficult
to explain your presence if my
aunt or any visitors should come
"I am sorry, Miss Morse," the
Inspector said quietly, "to find
you so unsympathetic. Had I found
you differently disposed, I was
going to ask you to put yourself
in my place. I was going to ask
you to look at these two tragedies
from my point of view and from
your own at the same time, and
I was going to ask you whether
any possible motive suggested
itself to you, any possible person
or cause, which might be benefited
by the removal of these two men."
"If you think, Mr. Jacks," Penelope
said, "that I am keeping anything
from you, you are very much mistaken.
Such sympathy as I have would
certainly be with those who are
attempting to bring to justice
the perpetrator of such unmentionable
crimes. What I object to is the
unpleasantness of being associated
with your inquiries when I am
absolutely unable to give you
the least help, or to supply
you with any information which
is not equally attainable to
"As, for instance?" the
"You are a detective," Penelope
said coldly. "You do not need
me to point out certain things
to you. Mr. Hamilton Fynes was
robbed and murdered--an American
citizen on his way to London.
Mr. Richard Vanderpole is also
murdered, after a call upon Mr.
James B. Coulson, the only acquaintance
whom Mr. Fynes is known to have
possessed in this country. Did
Mr. Fynes share secrets with
Mr. Coulson? If so, did Mr. Coulson
pass them on to Mr. Vanderpole,
and for that reason did Mr. Vanderpole
meet with the same death, at
the same hands, as had befallen
Inspector Jacks moved his head
"It is admirably put," he assented, "and
"It is not my place to make
suggestions to you," Penelope
said. "If you are able to connect
Mr. Fynes with the American Government,
you arrive at the possibility
of these murders having been
committed for some political
end. I presume you read your
Inspector Jacks smiled, picked
up his hat and bowed, while Penelope,
with a sigh of relief, moved
over to the bell.
"My dear young lady," he said, "you
do not understand how important
even the point of view of another
person is to a man who is struggling
to build up a theory. Whether
you have helped me as much as
you could," he added, looking
her in the face, "you only can
tell, but you have certainly
helped me a little."
The footman had entered. The
Inspector turned to follow him.
Penelope remained as she had
been standing, the hand which
had touched the bell fallen to
her side, her eyes fixed upon
him with a new light stirring
their quiet depths.
"One moment, Morton," she said. "Wait
outside. Mr. Jacks," she added,
as the door closed, "what do
you mean? What can I have told
you? How can I have helped you?"
The Inspector stood very still
for a brief space of time, very
still and very silent. His face,
too, was quite expressionless.
Yet his tone, when he spoke,
seemed to have taken to itself
a note of sternness.
"If you had chosen," he said
slowly, "to have become my ally
in this matter, to have ranged
yourself altogether on the side
of the law, my answer would have
been ready enough. What you have
told me, however, you have told
me against your will and not
in actual words. You have told
me in such a way, too," he added, "that
it is impossible for me to doubt
your intention to mislead me.
I am forced to conclude that
we stand on opposite sides of
the way. I shall not trouble
you any more, Miss Morse."
He turned to the door. Penelope
remained motionless for several
moments, listening to his retreating