Luck is against

DR GUSTAVUS MURRELL lived in Sackville Street, Piccadilly. He was a man
of private means, and he possessed a medical practice that brought him
in about a thousand a year. One of those pleasant practices, where the
lowest fee for looking at a tongue is a guinea, and for an operation
fifty.

He was a tall, well-groomed, handsome man of forty-five or so, with a
jovial blue eye and a hearty manner. You never would have imagined that
one of the chief hobbies of this healthy and happy-looking individual
was grubbing in the cesspit of crime. Yet it was.

Only one of his hobbies, for he had several, photography amongst the
rest.

Though a dilettante of criminal acts and possessed of a profound
penetrative power, as far as human motives were concerned, Dr Murrell
was no amateur detective. He studied criminals just as a botanist
studies fungi; they interested him, and he felt a sort of sympathy for
them, that sympathy which we all feel, more or less, for the things that
interest us.

He acted as police surgeon, because, in that position, he was brought
into contact with the people who helped to constitute his hobby. But he
never helped the police in the least, beyond the assistance that his
position bound him in duty to give.

On several occasions he could have given the police a clue that would
have helped them considerably in their work, yet he refrained. He was
the police surgeon, but he did not feel himself bound to help the police
beyond the help that his surgical knowledge was able to give.

In the case of the valet Leloir he did not care twopence whether the
result of his investigations brought a criminal to justice or cleared up
a mystery.

The thing was outside his province, and he embarked on it because he was
a photographer.

Freyberger arrived at Sackville Street about six, and found Dr Murrell
at home. The doctor was in his study, going over his case book, and he
bade his visitor be seated.

“You have called about the case I saw this morning, I suppose?” said Dr
Murrell. “Well, I have done what I said I would do. I have already
removed the right eye, stripped the retina, exposed it and got a result;
the picture is at present the size of a sixpence; my man is at work on
it now; it is being reproduced and magnified enormously, under the rays
of a five thousand candle-power arc-light. If you will call again
to-night I will show you the ultimate result, larger than a
cabinet-sized photograph.”

“You have got a picture?” said Freyberger.

“I have got a picture,” replied the other, “or fancy so, and, as I say,
you will be able to see it to-night.”

“What time shall I call?” asked the detective.

“Oh, about ten.”

“The body has been removed to the mortuary?”

“Yes, it was there I took the eye, substituting a glass one. The inquest
will be to-morrow, and, of course, the post-mortem. I expect the
post-mortem will show that the man had a weak heart.”

“You think he died of heart failure?”

“I have told you already he died of terror; but I think the heart
weakness was the secondary cause of his death. I see in the papers that
a warrant is out for Sir Anthony Gyde. Have you caught him yet?”

“No,” said Freyberger, “and we never will.”

The other looked surprised.

“I have only skimmed through the report in the paper,” he said. “From it
I gather that it is very clearly proved that he has murdered a man up in
Cumberland.”

“You have not seen the head, then, that was found in his house in
Piccadilly?”

“No, I was from home when they sent for me, and they called the Home
Office expert in.”

Freyberger gave him all the details we know, and the doctor sat
listening and tapping with his pencil on the desk.

“Well,” he said, when the other had finished, “you seem to have a pretty
tangled skein to unravel; what I can show you to-night may help you or
not. Call at ten; and now I must take leave of you, for I have another
patient to see before dinner.”

Freyberger bowed himself out. He had almost four hours to wait before
the appointment, and, having nothing particular to do, he determined to
make the best use he could of the time at his disposal, and have dinner.

He first telephoned to the Yard the result of his interview with Dr
Murrell, and then betook himself to a cheap restaurant in Soho, where he
proceeded to revel in Sauerkraut and beef, served with stewed plums,
slices of sausage and other Teutonic delicacies.

Throughout all the varied experiences of his life he had never felt so
much excitement as just now, waiting for the result of this sleight of
hand photography, this attempt to trick nature out of one of her darkest
secrets.

It was exactly ten o’clock when he reached the house in Sackville
Street, and was admitted.

The doctor was not at home, but he had given instructions that the
detective should be admitted to his private laboratory, there to await
him.

It was a large room at the back of the house, built on a space that had
once been a yard. It had a top light and something of the general aspect
of an artist’s studio.

Röntgen ray apparatuses, cameras, all sorts of odds and ends lay about,
speaking of the occupant’s bent.

Freyberger had not been waiting five minutes when the door opened, and
Dr Murrell, in evening dress, entered.

He held a small parcel in his hand.

“Good evening,” he said. “My assistant was called away half an hour ago,
and he left the result of his work for me; let’s see what it is.”

He undid the string from the parcel, and disclosed what at first sight
appeared to be a large cabinet photograph.

He approached an electric light, bearing it in his hand; in the full
glare of the light he examined it intently. Then he whistled softly to
himself. He seemed quite lost in contemplation of the thing.

Freyberger, unable to contain his curiosity, came up behind the doctor
and gazed over his shoulder at the photograph, mounted upon the card.

It was a large grey-coloured platinotype, showing a blurred and misty
picture; it was the picture of a human face.

It was the face, the sight of which had killed, from sheer terror, the
valet Leloir.

The arteries of the dead man’s retina had left their trace upon the
photograph, but they did not blur the face; their tracery could be seen
in the background, forming a sort of halo round the nebulous visage,
that held the two gazers with a witchery all its own.

“That is the result,” said the doctor, laying the photograph on a table
near by.

Freyberger moistened his lips.

“Scarcely pretty,” said Dr Murrell, taking a cigarette from a box near
by and offering his companion one.

“It is a face to give one pause,” said Freyberger, lighting his
cigarette in a meditative manner.

“I’m sure of this,” said Dr Murrell, leaning back against the
mantelpiece and glancing sideways at the thing on the table, “that half
of the impression that thing makes upon me is caused by the fact that I
have the knowledge of how it was obtained.

“The fact of finding a man dead of terror and then finding that picture
on his retina, is, I think, part of the reason why I feel—pretty sick.”

“It’s bad enough,” said Freyberger, bending over the table and staring
at the thing.

“The other part of the reason is the thing itself.”

Freyberger continued gazing without a word.

“You seem in love with it.”

“I am studying it, stripping it of all its accessories. This is the
portrait of a human face; it belonged to a person who was in the bedroom
of Sir Anthony Gyde just before the death of Leloir; the sight of it
killed Leloir, we may presume, from shock.”

“Yes.”

“Well, presumptions are sometimes wrong.”

“Explain yourself.”

“I am studying this face intently; it has all the features of an
ordinary human, though very evil, face; in repose one may fancy it
repulsive, but not especially alarming, certainly not alarming enough to
kill a man from shock.”

“Yes?”

“It is the expression of the thing that constitutes its chief feature.”

“Yes.”

“What is that expression? It is a compound of alarm and hatred.”

“Yes,” said the doctor, coming to the table and glancing at the thing,
and then returning to his post at the mantelpiece.

“Yes, I should say that is the expression—or at all events, a very good
imitation of it.”

“Well,” went on the other, “from the expression on this face I construct
the following hypothesis. Leloir suddenly entered his master’s bedroom
and found a stranger there, a stranger to whom the face whose picture we
see here belonged. He surprised him, perhaps, committing some act, to
which we have no clue; anyhow, he surprised him. Hence the expression.”

“I can understand that causing the expression of alarm. How about the
ferocious hatred we see here—”

“Mark you,” said Freyberger, “I did not say terror. I said alarm. If you
have ever alarmed a man and been attacked by him, you will understand
how closely allied alarm and hatred of the most ferocious description
may be. I have experienced the fact several times, I assure you, in the
course of my professional work.”

“I can imagine so.”

“Well, granting my supposition,” continued the other, “we may ask
ourselves, what was this man doing when Leloir surprised him? It was not
the face of the creature that killed Leloir with shock, we may presume,
but the act he was committing. What was that act?”

“Trying to murder Gyde, perhaps, since it is known that Gyde was in the
bedroom after the secretary heard that scream, which was evidently the
scream of Leloir dying.”

“I have quite cast Gyde out of my mind,” said Freyberger. “I have quite
come to the conclusion that Gyde has no more to do with this whole case
than the child unborn. I am firmly convinced—mind, I say this to you
privately—that the only criminal in this case is the man whom Gyde is
supposed to have murdered, that is to say, the artist Klein, _alias_
Kolbecker.

“I believe this face to be a portrait of Klein.

“I have no earthly idea yet of the full devilish ingenuity of the thing,
but I feel assured that, whoever was murdered in the cottage on the
fells of Cumberland, Klein is the murderer. Gyde may be alive, Gyde may
be dead, but I feel assured of this, that Klein murdered a man, and has
arranged matters so that the public believe that he is the victim and
Gyde the assassin. Now I must go, for there is much work to be done. May
I take this portrait with me; it is most important?”

“Certainly, if you will return it to me when you have done with it. I
want it for my museum.”

“I will return it,” said Freyberger. He did it up in the brown paper,
placed it in the pocket of his overcoat, and, bidding Doctor Murrell
good night, departed.

In Piccadilly he hailed a cab and drove to Howland Street, to the house
he had visited that afternoon.

On the way he reviewed many things in his mind.

He already had a theory. The theory that Gyde was innocent and Klein was
the assassin; he had also a suspicion that Gyde was dead.

That this theory and suspicion cast the whole affair into deeper
darkness was nothing if they were right.

Just now he felt that he was really coming to grips with that
intelligence which, earlier in the day, he had dimly felt to be in
antagonism with his own—the intelligence of the being whose terrible
portrait was in his pocket.

The landlady’s husband opened the door in response to his knock.

He was a colourless and apathetic individual, who, when Freyberger
introduced himself, showed him, without comment, into the fusty little
sitting-room.

“I am sorry to trouble you,” said Freyberger, when the woman appeared,
“but I have a portrait I wish to show you; it is, I believe, the
portrait of Mr Kolbecker.” He undid the covering of the parcel and
exposed the picture.

The woman looked at it.

“Do you recognize it?”

“No.”

Freyberger felt a chill of disappointment.

“And yet,” she said.

“Yes?”

“I dunno—I wouldn’t swear it wasn’t—but it’s different.”

“Yes, yes; of course, that picture would not represent him in his
ordinary state of mind; but if he were terribly angry about something,
might his face be like that?”

“I’ve never seen Mr Kolbecker put out; always most civil he was and paid
his way regular; he wasn’t a beauty, but I never found him anything but
a gentleman. Only just before he went away Mrs Stairs, who does the
rooms of the gentleman lodgers, said to me, ‘Mrs Summers, that man do
give me the creeps.’

“‘Which man?’ I says.

“‘The top-floor front,’ she replies.

“‘Mr Kolbecker?’ I said.

“‘Yes,’ she said, ‘the German.’

“‘Well,’ I replied to her, ‘as long as he don’t creep away without
settling his bill, it’s all I cares about him.’”

“You think this might possibly be a portrait of Mr Kolbecker?”

“Well, I couldn’t swear to it,” said she, fixing her gaze again upon the
thing. “At first, when you asked me, I’d have said not, but when I look
longer it seems to me there’s a likeness, but if you wish to see what he
was really like I can show you his photograph.”

“His photograph! Why did you not tell me you had one?”

“Because you never asked.”

“Of course, of course, it was my fault; but please, if you will be so
kind, let me see it.”

She left the room, and returned with a small photograph in her hand.
Freyberger almost snatched it from her, held it under the lamp and
examined it.

It was somewhat faded, and at the bottom of the card appeared the
photographer’s name and address.

“Gassard, 110 Boulevard St-Michel, Paris.”

He examined the face.

It was a face to give a physiognomist (to use Freyberger’s expression)
pause. A face quite impossible to describe. One might say that the cheek
bones were abnormally flat and the face very wide across them. That the
nose was terribly pinched at the root; that the eyes were somewhat of
the Mongolian type; all this would give no idea of the physiognomy upon
which Freyberger’s eyes were fixed.

It was a repulsive face, even in repose, and the most distinctive thing
about it was the expression, an expression cold and evil; a thoughtful
expression, that made one shudder in trying to conjure up the thoughts
that had given it birth; the expression of Osimandias, of the cruel and
cold and the diabolically clever.

Between this faded photograph and the retinal picture there lay a world
of difference, all the difference between a landscape seen in the calm
of a still winter’s day and the same landscape tempest torn; yet they
were pictures of the same person, and of this Freyberger felt sure.

He could fancy that brow suddenly contracted, those thin lips suddenly
puffed out, those nostrils expanded and the whole reptile hatred of the
demon-reptile brain suddenly writing itself in furious lines, speaking,
shrieking aloud.

A feeling of triumph filled his breast; he had got one step further
towards his antagonist.

He turned the back of the photograph to the light and examined it. There
was no writing upon it; and yet, on closer examination, there were some
indistinct scratches on the upper part, as though pencil writing had
once been there and erased. On closer examination still, he could just
make out what seemed a capital _M_, and close to the _M_ some letters
vaguely dented into the shiny card by the pressure of the pencil that
had written whatever had been written and erased.

“Thank you,” said Freyberger, when he had finished his inspection of the
thing. “This photograph is very interesting and it may help us
considerably in our work. May I keep it?”

“Well,” said the woman, “it is not mine to give; it was found in Mr
Kolbecker’s room by Mrs Stairs after he left for Cumberland, and she
brought it to me. It’s no value to me, and if it will help you to find
out who killed him you had better take it. Mind you, I look to you to
see me righted, and I don’t want this house brought into the papers;
it’s hard enough getting a living without getting a name for being mixed
up in murders.”

“I will see that you don’t suffer in any way,” replied the other, “and I
will give you a receipt for this photograph, just as I gave you one for
those pieces of marble this afternoon.”

He wrote out a receipt on a sheet of paper torn from his notebook, and
with the photograph in his possession left the house.

When he reached the Yard, it was a little after twelve.

The chief was absent, snatching a few hours’ sleep possibly, after a day
of fourteen hours’ solid work, in which the consideration of the Gyde
case had been only an item.

Inspector Dennison was in, and Freyberger found him and put the evidence
he had collected in his hands.

Freyberger had that tremendous advantage which helps a man along in the
world as much, or more, than industry or genius. He was a general
favourite. A favourite, not because he was all things to all men, or
gave the wall to any man, or truckled, or trimmed, or did anything
small, so as to make himself pleasing. He was a favourite because he was
straight and honest, always ready to help another man, ever ready to
praise what seemed to him praiseworthy or criticize what seemed to him
wrong. In fact, there was nothing small about him, except his person,
and even that was not particularly small, just a shade under the middle
size.

Inspector Dennison, a very big man, both physically and by reputation,
liked the little German, and when Freyberger showed him his results he
did not criticize them destructively. He went carefully through the
matter of the photographs without showing the slightest surprise at the
marvellous retinal picture.

He said he failed to see much resemblance between it and the French
photograph, but that possibly, allowing for the vast difference in
expression and the vagueness of the retinal picture, they might be
photographs of the same person.

He did not recognize so fully as Freyberger the possibility of connexion
between the hellish face and the subdued and self-contained face, but he
recognized it.

“There is something on the back of this photograph I want to examine
more attentively,” said Freyberger. “Something has been written with a
pencil; the writing has been rubbed out, but the dent remains. Have you
a lens, not a too powerful one?”

Dennison produced one from a drawer, and his companion took it and
proceeded to examine the marks.

“I can make out an _M_, there is then a space, over the space there are
two dots, a little further along occurs an _l_ followed by—is it a _t_
or an _l_? Ah! yes, it must be an _l_, though the loop is very
indistinct; then occurs an _i_ without a dot and an _r_. Thus:

“‘_M .. llir._’”

“That doesn’t tell much,” said Dennison.

“No,” replied Freyberger, “but it tells me one thing.”

“What is that?”

“That whatever was written was not written in English.”

“How so?”

“Those two accentuating dots are never used in English. They are used
sometimes—very rarely—in poetry, I believe, but we may suppose the
writing on this to have been in prose.”

“Let’s suppose so,” said Dennison. “Though I’ve seen poetry written on
the back of a photograph before this; it was in the case of a fellow
called Buckingham. He’d given it to his girl, and the next thing he did
was to murder her. His poetry hanged him.”

“I don’t know of any language,” said Freyberger, contemplatively, in
which the combination _llir_ might occur commonly; _lir_ is, of course,
common; _llir_ most uncommon; suppose it is an _e_, though there is no
perceptible loop—_ller_.

“That seems to me as uncommon as the other,” said Dennison.

“Ah!” cried Freyberger, suddenly, “I have it.”

“What?”

“See!”

Freyberger snatched a pen and wrote in large letters upon a sheet of
paper—

“_Müller._”

“By Jove, yes,” said Dennison, “that might be it.”

“I think it’s likely,” said the other. “First of all it’s a name, and a
name is the most likely thing to be written on a photograph. Then the
thing constructs itself easily. Dennison, without those two dots, the
idea would not have occurred to me. Those two dots may be the means of
finding our man. Another point, the writing, whatever it was, formed a
single word, and that word was erased.

“Now, what form of a single word is most likely to be carefully erased?
The name of a person, I think?”

“That is so.”

“I’m going home to bed now,” said Freyberger, “to get a few hours’
sleep, but before I go I will ring up Paris.”

“Yes,” said Dennison, “it’s well to give them all the facts now, and
they can make inquiries first thing in the morning.”

“The thing I’m bothered about,” said Freyberger, “is that I don’t know
whether Gassard is still in the Boulevard St-Michel. I was over there
two months ago on that bank-note forgery case, and I routed out all the
photographers in the Latin Quarter. I had a long list. If Gassard’s name
had been on that list, I almost think it would have sprung alive into my
head on reading it on this photo, for I have a memory that is not so
bad.”

He went to the telephone and rang up the Prefecture of Police. The reply
call did not come for five minutes. Then Freyberger put his ear to the
receiver.

A thin, acidulous voice came through the humming of the wires.

“I wish,” said Freyberger, speaking in excellent French, “to make some
inquiries as to M. Gassard, photographer, of Boulevard St-Michel. I wish
to know if he is still in business, and, if not, where he is to be
found,—Freyberger, Inspector, Scotland Yard.”

The answer did not come for ten minutes.

Then the bell rang and the thin voice replied.

“Gassard, of 110 Boulevard St-Michel, sold his business three years ago.
March 10, 19—, he left Paris. We have no trace of him. He was succeeded
by Madame——, a modiste.”

“Luck is against us,” said Freyberger, hanging up the receiver. “Never
mind, we have the name, and a name is a good deal in a case like this.”

FREYBERGER was up betimes next morning, and having called at the Yard
and found his chief not yet arrived, and no further news concerning the
Gyde case, he betook himself to Old Compton Street, Soho.

In Old Compton Street you may buy a French newspaper or a German
sausage. You can get anything in an Italian way, from a pound of
macaroni to a knife in your back, if you know the right way to look for
it. It is a street of many nations and its kerb is trodden by all sorts
of celebrities, from the new tenor at the Italian opera in furs, to
Enrico Malatesta in rags.

A dingy looking Hebrew boy was just taking down the shutters of
Antonides’ dusty-looking shop, when Freyberger arrived a few minutes
after nine.

The boy asked him to be seated, whilst he apprised his master of the
presence of a customer.

“He ain’t down yet,” said the youth. “Never comes into the shop till
half after eleven. I’m lockin’ the shop door on you whilst I go up, for
Mr Antonides said no one was to be left alone in the shop, unless the
door was locked on them, for fear they’d be carryin’ off sumefin.”

He locked the door, went upstairs and presently returned, saying that Mr
Antonides would be down in a minute.

Freyberger sat looking about him at the various objects of art, the
cracked china, the dingy pictures, the dented armour.

The old Greek did not make much money out of these things; his fortune
was derived from the occasional great deal that his genius was able to
bring off. The Hermes, dredged up from the sea by fishermen off Cape
Matapan, and now in possession of Droch, the German manure-millionaire
of Chicago, passed through the hands of Antonides and left three
thousand pounds in his pocket. Half a dozen broken pieces of marble,
bought from a fellow Greek for a few pounds, and restored, had resulted
in an almost perfect bust of Clytie, worth—the value of the cheque it
brought him is unknown.

He was the prince of restorers, whether in marble or canvas.

As Freyberger sat looking around him, he suddenly became aware of a new
object in his purview, that was not an object of art.

Through the half-opened door leading from the shop to the house, a long,
lean, claw-like hand was beckoning to him.

He arose and came towards it. It was the hand of Antonides, and
Antonides himself was waiting for him in the passage beyond the door.

The passage was dark, and so were the stairs up which Antonides led him.

“It’s done,” said the old man, pausing in the middle of the stairs and
speaking backwards over his shoulder at Freyberger. “I have completed
it.”

“I’m glad to hear that, but don’t stop; this staircase of yours is not
cheerful.”

Antonides went up two more steps and stopped again.

“I think you said fifteen guineas, Mr Freyberger?”

“Pounds.”

“Guineas.”

“Pounds.”

“Mr Freyberger!”

“Go on—I don’t mean go on talking, go on up the stairs. I’m not going to
give you a penny more than the fifteen pounds.”

“Why, God bless my soul!” shouted the old fellow, falling into one of
his simulated rages, “guineas were what I bargained for, guineas were in
my head; they kept me alive all last night working for you, and now you
say pounds.” Then, suddenly falling calm, “Never mind; wait till you see
it and you won’t say ‘pounds.’”

He led the way across a dingy and dimly lit landing into a room that was
simply packed with all sorts of lumber. Canvases, six deep, with their
faces turned to the wall, a torso just restored, a lay figure, masks and
moulds, a huge mass of plasticine on a board, strange-looking
instruments, and, on a bench near the window, something over which a
cloth was thrown.

“That’s it,” said Antonides, pointing to the object under the cloth. “I
have covered it that the plaster of the joinings may not dry too
quickly. You are on the Gyde case, Mr Freyberger?”

“How did you know that?”

“I’ll tell you soon, and I’ll tell you something more.”

“Yes.”

“You’ve lost fifteen shillings by making me that answer. You should have
answered me, ‘What makes you think that?’ That would have been
non-committal. You have as good as told me you are on the Gyde case;
never give information away for nothing, Mr Freyberger, unless it is
false.”

“Or useless.”

“True information is never useless—see, here, there’s my work.”

He took the covering from the object on the table and disclosed to view
the bust of a man.

It was an extraordinarily fine piece of work, full of life and vigour.
It represented a bearded man of about fifty.

Even a person who had never seen the original would say, on looking at
it: “That must be a good portrait.”

It had individuality.

That is to say, it had, what nearly all modern sculpture lacks, Life.

In portraiture there is only one real medium—marble. Paint, photography,
Berlin woolwork, all are pretty much on the same level when compared to
marble, cut by the chisel of a master.

Whoever has seen the statue of Demosthenes, by Praxiteles, has heard
Demosthenes speak; has seen him as he once stood in the Agora.

A man’s face is individuality, expressed by a million curves; in a
portrait these curves are suggested; in a bust they are reproduced.

This bust, reconstructed and unveiled by Antonides, was a triumph of
art.

“Ah!” said the old Greek, forgetting even gold for a moment and staring
at the thing he had unveiled. “What Philistine smashed it? If he wanted
to use his hammer why did he not wait for the next opening of the
English Royal Academy? But if he had done that, of course, he would not
have been a Philistine, but a lover of art.”

“It is a fine piece of work,” said Freyberger, “and you have done the
restoration not badly.”

“Which reminds me of my fifteen shillings,” replied the other.

“How?”

“This way. Detective Freyberger brings me a bust to reconstruct. Now,
detective officers, however clever, do not as a rule call upon me with
busts to be reconstructed without a motive. Do you know whom that piece
of marble represents?”

“No.”

Antonides rubbed his hands together. “Would you give me fifteen
shillings to learn?”

“I would.”

“Well, I already know that you are on the Gyde case, which is in all the
papers.”

“Who told you?”

“That bust, and you confirmed my knowledge by admitting the fact.”

“It may be a speaking likeness of some one, but I doubt if it is so full
of speech as that.”

“Oh, yes, it is; now do you know whom it represents?”

“I tell you again, No.”

“It is a bust of Sir Anthony Gyde.”

“Hum,” said Freyberger, concealing the satisfaction that this
confirmation of his already formed suspicion gave him. “And how do you
know that?”

“Good Lord,” said Antonides. “How do I know that? Why, he has been in my
shop twenty times, if once.”

“Here’s your fifteen shillings,” said the detective.

“And how about my fifteen pounds?”

“Here they are.”

“Thanks, and remember the words of an old man. If you had kept your
mouth shut, it might have saved you fifteen shillings, if I hadn’t known
for a certainty that you were on the Gyde case. Then I would have said,
‘Oh, he knows whom the thing represents,’ and I would have talked about
it and given information for nothing. You wish to take the thing away?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you can’t till this evening, for the joinings will not be firmly
set till then. I will send it for you to the Yard. It will be quite safe
here.”

“Very well. But don’t send it; one of our men will call for it. Yes, you
have made a very good job of it and I congratulate you. I know something
about art.”

“You?” said Antonides, contemptuously, pocketing the notes. “And what
branch of art do you know something about?”

“Cookery. I am going over to the Itala to have some breakfast; come with
me.”

“You pay?”

“Yes.”

Antonides grinned, wriggled out of the gabardine he wore, got into an
old frock coat that was hanging from a nail on the wall, put on an old
top-hat, led the way downstairs, set the Jew boy to clean some bronzes,
locked him into the shop, and, pocketing the key, followed Freyberger
across the way to the restaurant.

During breakfast he talked and Freyberger listened. He talked of the
bargains he had made, of the sales he had attended, of the men he had
seen swindled, omitting, by some lapse of memory, the men he had
swindled. He talked of modern and ancient art. “Sculptors,” he said;
“the race has vanished. Except the unknown man who chiselled that bust I
have just repaired, I know of no living sculptor.”

“You knew Sir Anthony Gyde well?” asked Freyberger.

“I knew him for years,” replied the art dealer, through whose brains the
fumes of the chianti he had drunk were pleasantly straying; “for years;
and mark you this, Mr Freyberger, I don’t believe that man could have
committed a murder, unless he went mad.”

“Why not?”

“He had not the eyes of a murderer, the cheek bones of a murderer, or
the thumbs of a murderer.”

“Oh, you are evidently a dilettante in murder.”

“No, I am not, but I am a man of the world, and I have seen much of
people. Sir Anthony Gyde—God help me! I sold him a Corot once that
was—well, no matter. What was I saying? Oh yes! murderers, as a rule,
are men with blue eyes, pale blue eyes. A murderer ought to have broad,
flat cheekbones, it’s a desperate bad sign in a man; Gyde had neither of
these points, nor the thumbs. Tropmann had enormous thumbs, but it is
not so much the size of the thumb as the character of it. I can’t
describe a brutal thumb no more than I can describe a beautiful face,
but I know it when I see it. A glass of Benedictine, please. Murderers
come into my shop, I won’t say every day, but often. My dear friend, the
world is full of them. You will ask, if that is so why are so
comparatively few murders committed? For this reason, very few people
have the motive for slaying a fellow man or woman. I myself cannot
remember a single time in my life when the commission of a murder would
have benefited me much, and when that murder could have been committed
by me with reasonable chance of not being discovered.

“Yes, want of motive and fear of the gallows, which is stronger in man
than the fear of God, keeps numerous people from figuring in wax in the
Chamber of Horrors of Madame Tussaud’s. But want of motive chiefly—”

Freyberger paid the bill, and leaving the gruesome old man to his
cigarettes and Benedictine, returned to the Yard. He felt himself a step
nearer to that unseen adversary, whose subtleties he was disclosing
piecemeal.

Why had Kolbecker a bust of Sir Anthony Gyde in his possession, a bust
most possibly constructed by himself? Why had he destroyed it?

It was only another unanswerable question amidst the many unanswerable
questions contained in this mysterious case, but in it Freyberger felt,
by instinct, lay the answer to all the other questions and the solution
of the whole riddle.

So completely had the dominating mind with which he was at war succeeded
in its work, that every clue the case presented added confusion to
confusion.

Yet at any moment some spark of information might make all these
conflicting pieces of evidence fly together and form a whole, just as
the electric spark in an atmosphere of oxygen and hydrogen causes the
atoms of gas to fly together and form clear water.

The chief received Freyberger and his evidence, and complimented him on
what he had done.

“We have little else,” said he. “Nothing material has turned up, only
this. Gyde called at Smith and Wilkinson’s, the jewellers, in Regent
Street, yesterday, signed a cheque for ten pounds and got them to cash
it. He called shortly after ten. That is to say, a few minutes after he
left Coutts’s.”

“Good Heavens,” said Freyberger, “when will the wonders of this case
cease? He had just left Coutts’s, where he could have cashed a cheque
for five hundred, and he goes into a jeweller’s and cashes a cheque for
ten.

“Mind you, the man is in fear of his life; he has collected all his
jewels. One would suppose he wanted to collect all the money he could,
too, yet he makes a cheque out for ten pounds only, and adds to his
traces by cashing it at a jeweller’s, when he could easily have cashed
it at his bankers.”

“That is so,” said the chief. “Yet the fact remains. The manager of
Smith and Wilkinson’s called at Vine Street this morning with the news.
Go to their shop and see what you can discover.”

Freyberger did not need to be told twice.

He found the manager of Smith and Wilkinson’s in.

He was a stout, florid man, with a short manner.

His tale was that at ten-fifteen or ten-twenty a.m. on the preceding day
Sir Anthony Gyde, a customer well-known to the firm, entered the shop
and asked him (Mr Freeman the manager) to cash a cheque for ten pounds.
Sir Anthony took his cheque book from his pocket and wrote out a cheque
for ten pounds, payable to himself, endorsed it, and handed it to him,
Freeman, who cashed it, giving gold.

“I should like to see the cheque,” said Freyberger.

The manager produced it. It was uncrossed.

“Have you presented it for payment yet?” asked the detective.

“Of course not, else it would not be here.”

“I have a grim suspicion that it would.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I believe it to be a forgery.”

“Nonsense,” said Freeman. There was an arrogance and a dash of impudence
in this man’s manner that irritated our friend Freyberger.

“You come with me to Coutts’s,” said he, “and we will see.”

“Yes,” said Freeman, “we will see.”

They took a hansom, and neither of them spoke a word till they drew up
at Coutts’s.

Freeman strutted in ahead of his companion and asked to see the manager
on important business; when the clerk showed the way to the manager’s
office, Freeman went first, Freyberger following humbly in his wake.
“Never mind,” thought Freyberger, “he’ll soon be playing another tune.”

The manager, an aristocratic-looking man with long white hands, side
whiskers and a bald head, turned over the cheque in a meditative manner.
“This cheque is perfectly in order,” he said.

“This gentleman seems to think otherwise,” said Freeman.

“Decidedly,” said Freyberger. “I am unacquainted with Sir Anthony Gyde’s
handwriting, but I have every reason to believe the signature on that
cheque to be a forgery.”

“Excuse me,” said the manager. “Er—your authority—you are?”

“Inspector Freyberger, of Scotland Yard.”

“Ah!” He rang the bell and ordered the chief cashier to be called. “Mr
S——,” said the manager, when that functionary appeared, “we have here a
cheque of Sir Anthony Gyde’s; cast your eye upon it and tell me, would
you cash it were it presented to you in the ordinary course of
business?”

The chief cashier cast his eye over the cheque just once.

“I would cash it,” he replied.

“It is, in your opinion, the writing of Sir Anthony Gyde?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you,” said the manager, and the cashier withdrew.

Freeman gave a self-satisfied and contemptuous sniff.

There is more, sometimes, in a sniff than can be conveyed by any number
or combination of words, and this sniff of Freeman’s went to the
detective’s marrow; it contained quite a lot of things,
self-commendation and contempt for the intelligence of Freyberger
included.

“Considering,” said Freeman, “that I have the pen in my pocket with
which I saw Sir Anthony write the cheque, I would have been justified in
presenting the thing for payment, notwithstanding the doubt cast upon it
by this man,” indicating Freyberger; “but he was so sure, that I
accompanied him here, losing precious time in the transaction. I shall
take care that the matter is represented to his superiors at New
Scotland Yard.”

“Oh,” said Freyberger, who had been plunged for a moment in thought, and
who seemed quite oblivious to the insulting remark just uttered. “You
have the pen in your pocket, have you, with which Sir Anthony wrote this
cheque? Please produce it.”

Freeman produced it with a compassionate smile. He was beginning to feel
almost sorry for the man he had brought to confusion.

Freyberger’s steel grey eyes sparkled for a second when he saw the pen.
It was a stylograph, not a fountain.

He wrote a few words on a piece of paper with the pen and then handed
it, with Sir Anthony’s cheque, to the manager.

“Could those two writings have come from the point of the same pen?” he
asked.

“Oh, dear no,” said the manager. “This,” pointing to Freyberger’s
writing, “is written with a stylograph; this,” pointing to the cheque of
Sir Anthony, “is written with an ordinary pen. The writing varies in
thickness. It is quite clear.”

“Quite,” said Freyberger.

Freeman flew into a rage. “You mean to suspect me——” he cried.

“I suspect you of nothing,” said Freyberger; “if I did I would take you
into custody. You have been simply imposed upon. _That cheque of Anthony
Gyde’s is genuine._ This is what has happened. A person whom you took
for Sir Anthony Gyde entered your shop yesterday morning. He had in his
pocket a stolen cheque of Sir Anthony’s.

“He asked you to cash a cheque; you consented, and lent him your pen. He
took a cheque book from his pocket, and wrote or pretended to write out
a cheque for ten pounds. He never gave you that cheque; by a sleight of
hand, simple enough, he gave you the genuine cheque, and you cashed it.”

“But why,” said the manager, “did he go to all this trouble? Why did he
not simply walk into Mr er—Freeman’s place of business and say, ‘I have
a cheque of mine here for ten pounds, will you cash it for me?’”

“I suspect,” said Freyberger, “that he wished to confuse the police. He
wished to make us believe that Sir Anthony Gyde was alive and well at
ten-twenty a.m. yesterday morning. The fact that he wrote that cheque at
ten o’clock yesterday morning would, I confess, have helped to shake a
certain theory that I have concerning the case.”

“But surely,” said the manager, “Sir Anthony _is_ alive. It is a
dreadful business, but I gather, from the papers, that he is alive and
being searched for.”

“That is as may be,” said Freyberger. Then, suddenly, “Hullo! hullo!
what’s this?”

He seized the cheque from the table. “It only shows how limited our
powers of perception are, and how, in fixing one’s eyes upon one part of
a thing, one loses sight of another. To-day is the eighth of the month.
What day of the month was yesterday, Mr Freeman?”

“The seventh,” said Freeman, in a sulky tone.

“And this cheque is dated the sixth.”

It was so. In considering the signature they had overlooked the fact
that the cheque was anti-dated.

“I think,” said Freyberger, “that this fact confirms my suspicion that
the cheque was not written yesterday in Messrs Smith and Wilkinson’s
shop.”

“You may be right,” said Freeman, “but I will swear that the person who
gave me that cheque was Sir Anthony Gyde.”

“Ah, Mr Freeman,” said Freyberger, in a bitter tone of voice, “if you
had only examined that cheque properly, if you had only said to
yourself, ‘This could not possibly have been written with my
stylograph,’ if you had only jumped across the counter and seized Sir
Anthony Gyde, as you call him, you would have helped Justice a long way
down a difficult road. But you are a tradesman, suspicious towards the
needy, unsuspicious towards the rich. Well, no matter—we will require
your evidence at the proper time. Meanwhile, I will impound this cheque,
giving the bank a receipt for it.”

He did this.

“If you will apply to our cashier,” said the manager to Freeman, “you
will receive the amount due on the cheque, as it is in order, and we
have absolute belief in your integrity in the matter, and the cheque has
not been stopped by the only person capable of stopping it, Sir Anthony
Gyde.”

FREYBERGER left the bank and betook himself to the Yard, there to report
proceedings.

Again he felt himself a step nearer this mysterious personage, whose
subtle and sinister processes he was slowly exposing to the light of
day, or rather to the light of reason. Not one, of all the things he had
discovered, would give in itself a clue. Collectively, they were
perplexing. But they had given to Freyberger this great advantage, he
was beginning to follow his adversary’s process of reasoning.

Their two minds, like two armies on a dark night, were already in touch.
Neither could see the other, except in occasional faint glimpses. But
any moment the moon might break through the clouds, giving light to
fight by, and the general action commence.

At the Yard no more information had come in of any worth. Several men
answering to the description of Sir Anthony Gyde had been arrested on
suspicion and had been released. Freyberger, off his own bat, had done
more to cast light on the case than the whole force of the Yard, and
though the light he had cast only showed a mass of confusion, the light
was not the less valuable for that. I have said that the chief, for some
time past, had recognized Freyberger as a coming man; this case had
already confirmed his judgement, and he was quite prepared to give him a
free hand and back him with all the colossal force at his disposal.

The power at the back of the Chief of the Criminal Investigation
Department is prodigious. He has the Treasury of England at his disposal
and the law officers of the Crown; an army of ten thousand picked men,
such men as are not to be found in the ranks of any other constabulary
in the world, and a general staff of the keenest detectives in Europe.
He can arrest and cast in prison, he can practically place an embargo on
ports. He holds the rod of the Wapentake, and there is only one living
man he may not touch with it—the King.

Freyberger, having detailed his actions, and given a hint of his private
opinions about the Gyde case, the chief fell into a reverie for a few
moments. Then he said:

“This man Klein, _alias_ Kolbecker; this man, whom you suppose also to
have figured under the name of Müller. Well, let us consider him a
moment. Since the hour when Sir Anthony Gyde called at the cottage,
since the hour Klein was supposed to be murdered in, we have had no hint
that Klein has been seen in the flesh, whereas we have numerous
witnesses who have incontestedly seen Gyde. If we suppose Klein to be
living and Gyde dead, this fact seems strange.”

“Excuse me, sir, but one man has seen Klein, _alias_ Kolbecker, _alias_
Müller—the valet Leloir. Witness the retinal photograph.”

“Yes, that is true, if we can consider the retinal photograph a true
picture of Klein. I have examined it in conjunction with the photo which
is incontestibly (from the landlady’s evidence) a photo of Klein; well,
I admit that the faces _may_ be photographs of the same person in
different moods of mind and taken under different conditions, but one
could not swear to the fact.”

“Sir,” replied the other, “there are many facts one cannot swear to—yet
they are facts. Instinct requires no affirmation, and some instinct
tells me that not only is Gyde guiltless of the murder of Klein, but
that Klein is the murderer of Gyde.

“The face of the man Müller, which is incontestably the face of the man
Klein, speaks to me in the old and long-written language of human
expression. It is a terrible face and full of evil, full of logic, and
subtlety and craft. It is the face of a mathematician, yet the face of a
satyr. It is cold as ice.

“The face in the retinal picture is filled with fire, the fire of the
infernal regions. I construct from the two pictures a personality rare
in the annals of crime. A criminal genius, actuated by more than
ordinary motives, using extraordinary precautions, inventing new ways.
The extraordinary folly of the ordinary criminal is nowhere to be found
in the mass of evidence before us. Even the cleverest criminal we know
of is clever only intermittently; his work is not, as a rule, a
masterpiece, thought out to the very last detail, if it is it is planned
on old-fashioned lines.

“I can say this of the Gyde case, that in my humble opinion it is a
flawless piece of criminal work carried out on entirely new-fashioned
lines. The work of a genius, and we must treat it as such. I have said
that I believe Klein is the active agent and is alive here in London
possibly. Well, I entreat you not to search for him in the ordinary way,
not to send his photograph to the papers. I could almost say not to
circulate his photograph amidst the force. Don’t search for him.”

“Why?”

“Because you will not find him. A man like that is not to be taken by
ordinary methods. Our one chance is to leave him lulled in security and
under the impression that Gyde is being pursued. Were he to see his
photograph in the papers, were he to imagine his photograph was in
circulation amongst the police, he would….”

“Yes?”

“Vanish, become some one else, or, at all events, his genius would not
nod in fancied security, but keep wide awake and watchful.”

“I will give you forty-eight hours, Freyberger,” said the chief,
“forty-eight hours to tackle this man in your own way; use all your
powers, do what you will. If, at the end of that time, you do not bring
me Klein or reasonable evidence that you are close on his track, I will
search for him in the ordinary way. I will drag London with a drag-net.”

“Forty-eight hours,” said Freyberger, “and only sixty minutes to every
hour; well, I can but try.”

FREYBERGER was now virtually in charge of the case.

He had forty-eight hours before him. He felt about the case just as an
engineer feels about some delicate piece of mechanism, which has not yet
been put in position, and which any jar or shock may destroy. He
shuddered to think of the brutal method of a dragnet search being
applied to the Gyde case.

It would be like chasing a moth with a pair of tongs. A million to one
the thing will not be caught and a certainty that if caught it will be
ruined.

He fancied the derision with which the dark spirit with which he was at
war would greet the efforts of the police.

It was half-past one now, the hour when he usually had luncheon, but
to-day he was not hungry. He went to a private room, got all the _pièces
de conviction_ together and then proceeded to go through the whole case,
incident by incident, item by item.

A few more details had come to light in the last few hours. The full
report of the post-mortem examination of the body found in the cottage
on the fells had come to hand.

There was mention of no mark upon it that might serve for
identification, the height before decapitation the surgeon judged would
have been about five feet eight inches. The underclothes were marked
“E.K.,” evidently Klein’s initials.

At five o’clock Freyberger had finished his review of the case, every
minutest detail was in his memory and ready to spring into position when
required.

He was just folding up his papers when a knock came to the door and an
officer entered with an envelope in his hand.

“From the chief,” said the messenger. Then he withdrew.

Freyberger opened the envelope. It contained a copy of a message just
received from Carlisle.

“Very sorry, one detail overlooked by some strange mischance in report
of Gyde case. Over second right costal cartilage of body found, are the
initials ‘E.K.,’ faintly tattooed.”

Freyberger gave a cry. The whole case for him had tumbled to pieces like
a house of cards. If “E.K.,” Klein’s initials, were tattooed on the
corpse, then the corpse was Klein’s, Gyde was a murderer, and Freyberger
a fool, so he told himself.

He paced the room rapidly in anger and irritation. The chance of his
life had not come then, he had been fighting air and all the time he had
fancied himself matched against a demon with the intellect of a Moltke!

Freyberger, so logical, so calm, so common-place-looking at ordinary
times, was terrible when in anger. His face quite changed and a new man
appeared; a ferocious and formidable individual, utterly destitute of
fear.

It was the second Freyberger who had arrested Macklin, the Fashion
Street murderer. Macklin, armed with a crow-bar, Freyberger, armed with
a walking-cane.

It was this second Freyberger who was now pacing the room, treading on
the fragments of his shattered theory. Suddenly he paused, placed his
hand, with fingers outspread, to his temples and stared before him at
the wall of the room, as though it were hyaline and through it he saw
something that fascinated, astonished and delighted him.

“Ah! what is this, what is this?” he murmured: “‘Two faint blue letters
tattooed over the second right costal cartilage’—The Lefarge case, the
bust, the man, the artist. My God! Why did not this occur to me before?
What is memory, what is memory, that she should hold such information
and yet withhold it till touched by a trifle? My theory is not
shattered. Though these letters, tattooed upon the corpse, plunges the
case into deeper depths, though they show a more profound mechanism,
what do I care for that, so long as they do not shatter my theory.”

He left the room, gave all the things he had been examining into the
safe keeping of the sergeant superintendent, and sought an interview
with the chief.

“I have received the information as to the tattooing, sir.”

“I think that disposes of Klein,” replied the chief.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but I imagine that in these two letters the
crux of the case lies. I believe these two letters are the point or
points for which I have been seeking. When I got your communication a
few minutes ago, I thought my theory shattered, but it has sprung to
life again, not only renewed, but added to. The complexity of the whole
thing has been increased doubly, but out of that complexity will now, I
believe, spring simplicity. I wish to go home and study some old notes;
if I may see you again, sir, in a few hours’ time I hope to put the Gyde
case before you in a new and most profoundly interesting light.”

“Do so,” replied the chief, “investigate in your own way and as deeply
as you will, but don’t be led away by your own imagination, Freyberger.”

“No, sir,” replied Freyberger, with the simplicity, or the apparent
simplicity, of a schoolboy replying to his master. Then he departed for
his own rooms that lay on the south side of the water.

I will lay it down as an axiom that a professional man is rarely of much
use if he be not acquainted with the literature of his profession. The
army man who knows little of the history of war, the doctor who cares
little for the history of medicine, the detective who knows nothing of
the history of crime, are members of society rarely rising to greatness.

Now Freyberger was a German, absorbed in his profession, and if you know
anything about Germans, you will agree with me that that statement
covers a great many things. He could speak four languages fluently:
English, German, French and Italian. Italian and French he had learned,
not for pleasure, but because he felt that they might be useful to him
in the pursuit of his vocation.

He read foreign newspapers and made notes of criminal cases that
interested him. He had done this for some ten years, and in his shabby
lodgings there were a series of notebooks containing the details of very
curious crimes. He knew as much about the poisoners, Palmer and
Smethurst, as though he had attended their trials, and from the
Brinvilliers case to the case of Monk Léothade, to the case of François
Lesnier, French criminal history was an open book to him.

The clocks were striking six when he arrived at his lodgings in Fox
Street, S.E.

He occupied a sitting-room and bedroom on the first floor. The walls of
the sitting-room were lined with books. It was a curious library. Any
general information you wanted you could find here, and a whole lot of
information by no means general. Amidst a host of books dealing with all
sorts of facts you might have found Schiller, and a first edition of
Heine’s lyrics stood upon a shelf above the last edition of _Casper’s
Forensic Medicine_.

Tea things were laid upon the table and a bright fire was burning upon
the hearth and it was an indication of the man’s nature, that, burning
as he was to be at his notes, he first had tea and fortified the inner
man with a meal that the inner man was badly in need of.

The notebooks, large volumes filled with press cuttings, were on a lower
shelf. He took a small ledger, looked up the letter L, found the
following entry: “Lefarge case, book B, page 115.”

Then he placed book B upon the table, opened it at page 115 and, drawing
up a chair, plunged into details.

He just scanned the columns of printed matter over first for names
before going through the case in detail. His heart bounded when he came
upon the name, “Müller,” and again upon the name Müller, and again and
again.

Müller had a lot to do with the business dealt with by all these columns
of printed matter.

That business was what is known in the annals of crime as the Lefarge
case; and it had occurred eight years previously in Paris, and the
details are as follows:

M. Lefarge, it appears, had owned a shop in the Rue de la Paix. He was a
jeweller and very wealthy. He was also a widower, and his family
consisted of one daughter, Cécile, whom we saw in the first pages of
this story, and who, at the time of the Lefarge tragedy, was just
sixteen years of age.

It appears that Lefarge had many friends south of the Seine; he was well
known in the Latin quarter as a patron of art and a merry companion when
the fit took him, and altogether as a good sort.

He did not make these excursions into the Quartier Latin entirely for
pleasure; he was a Norman, and had, even when engaged in the business of
pleasure, an eye to business.

The manufacturing of artistic jewellery stands amidst the highest of the
fine arts and amidst the Bohemians of the Boulevard St-Michel, M.
Lefarge had picked up more than one shabby individual with genius at his
finger tips and the mutual acquaintanceship had helped to enrich
considerably both the jeweller and the genius. Amongst these Bohemian
acquaintances of Lefarge there was a man named Müller. Müller was a
sculptor.

He was also without doubt a man of great genius. Without any doubt he
was also a great drinker, though no man had ever seen him drunk.

He had exhibited several bronzes at the Salon, one, “A Fight between two
Pterodactyls,” was of a ferocity to make one shudder. All his work was
stained by gloom and ferocity, yet all his work was the output of a
master. So said M. Le Notre in his funeral oration at the grave of
Müller, and the words, though spoken in the course of a funeral oration,
were strictly the truth.

Well, Müller one day made the acquaintance of M. Lefarge. The jeweller
was not only wealthy but vain, and before long he commissioned Müller to
execute a bust of himself (Lefarge) giving him numerous sittings for
that purpose.

He also wished for a bust of his daughter, but Cécile Lefarge positively
refused to sit. She had taken a dislike to the sculptor, one of those
dislikes that are born of instinct.

One dark day in October, Lefarge drove up to the house where Müller
lodged in the Rue de Turbigo. The concierge saw him enter. Müller was
in, he lived on the top floor, and up the stairs went Lefarge to visit
the sculptor.

An hour or so later he came down, carrying a black bag, got into his
carriage, and drove home to the Rue de la Paix. Here he collected all
his most valuable jewels. Jewels worth over a hundred thousand pounds.
He drove in his carriage with them to the corner of the Rue d’Amsterdam,
here he alighted. The coachman said he was carrying two bags, one the
bag he had brought from Müller’s house, the other the bag containing the
jewels. He told the coachman to wait for him, turned the corner of the
street, and was never seen again.

An hour later, in the Rue de Turbigo, Müller’s landlady took some coffee
up to him, she found his decapitated body lying on the floor. In the
pocket of Müller’s coat was a letter, the copy of a blackmailing letter
written by Müller to Lefarge some months before. In the description of
the dead body of Müller the existence was mentioned of two initials,
“W.M.” (the man’s initials) tattooed in pale blue ink over the second
right costal cartilage.

That no one had entered Müller’s room after Lefarge had left it was
indubitably proved by the concierge and several witnesses; proved so
conclusively that there could not be any manner of doubt that Lefarge
was the assassin. The collection of his jewels by Lefarge and his total
effacement after the event sealed the matter.

Freyberger, having gone carefully through the reports, took a pen and
began to draw up, for his own satisfaction, the points of similarity
between the Lefarge and the Gyde case. Roughly, they were these, each
assassin was a rich man, a man of pleasure and more or less dubious
morals. Each victim was an artist.

Müller, the victim of Lefarge, had made a bust of his assassin.

Klein, the victim of Gyde, had made a bust of his assassin.

Upon the body of Müller was found the copy of an old blackmailing letter
addressed to Lefarge.

In the room where Klein was found dead was found a copy of a
blackmailing letter addressed to Gyde.

Upon each of the murdered men’s chests were tattooed initials, exactly
in the same place, over the second right costal cartilage.

A strange similarity bound the two cases together, but the strangest
thing drawing the two cases together was the fact, the almost certain
fact, that Müller and Klein were one and the same person.

The fact that both men were artists of a high type, that both men were
blackmailers, that both men kept copies of old blackmailing letters in
their own handwriting—a most extraordinary blunder to commit—that both
men were decapitated in exactly the same manner, and that each man had
tattooed, in exactly the same place on his breast, his own initials, all
these facts crowned by the master fact that Klein had left behind him,
in his rooms in Howland Street, a portrait of himself with the name
“Müller” partly erased from the back. All these facts, I repeat, made it
quite clear to the mind of Freyberger that Klein and Müller were one and
the same person. If this was so, Lefarge could not have murdered Müller,
yet a frightful avalanche of evidence condemned him.

The evidence admitted of no cavil. No one else could have committed the
crime. The assassination of Müller by Lefarge was even more conclusively
proved than the assassination of Klein by Sir Anthony Gyde; for in the
cottage on the fells another person might conceivably have been hidden
at the time of the murder, but in the room in the Rue de Turbigo the
evidence conclusively proved that no one could have been there at the
critical moment but Lefarge and Müller.

The two cases, then, were connected together by many threads. At first
sight the fact of this intimate connexion between the Lefarge and the
Gyde case might seem to plunge the Gyde case into more profound
darkness, to heap perplexity on perplexity.

But to Freyberger the discovery of this connexion was a huge step
gained. Having verified the similarity of the incidents in the two cases
he did not bother about them for a moment, cast them aside, took a broad
view of the whole business and arrived at the grand conclusion that the
active criminal agent in the Lefarge case was also the active criminal
agent in the Gyde case.

“Now, if this is so,” argued Freyberger, “there are only four men to
pick our criminal agent from. He must be either Lefarge, Müller, Klein
or Gyde.

“Müller and Klein being the same person the case is reduced to a case of
three men from whom to pick our criminal.

“He cannot be Lefarge simply because Lefarge cannot be Gyde. He cannot
be Gyde simply because Gyde cannot be Lefarge. It must then be Klein,
_alias_ Müller.

“If my premise is correct, that Klein and Müller are one and the same
person, and that the active agent in both cases is the same man, then it
is mathematically proved that the criminal is Klein.

“It might be suggested that Lefarge, after murdering Müller, escaped,
changed his name became Sir Anthony Gyde, and murdered Klein in
precisely the same manner as he murdered Müller, that suggestion is at
once beaten to death by a hundred bludgeons in the form of records.

“Leaving aside the fact that it would be impossible for Lefarge to
masquerade as Gyde, we have the almost certain fact that Müller was
never murdered at all.

“The case is quite clear in my own mind. Nothing will shake my opinion.
I have the name of the man I am seeking for, I have his past history in
part.

“He is undoubtedly the greatest criminal the world has ever seen, and I
have not in the least fathomed his infernal method. The method by which
he has, I fully believe, murdered two men, making the world believe that
they have murdered him.

“What a strange thing is memory. I read the report of the Lefarge case
six months ago and more. The facts were in my brain, I never dreamt of
connecting them with the facts of the Gyde case until the words, ‘two
blue letters tattooed over the second right costal cartilage,’ rang the
bell and brought recollection to her duty.

“Those two letters seemed at first to shatter my theory. Behold! on
examination of what they recalled to my mind, they have been the means
of making my theory absolutely perfect, extending it, and sweeping the
real criminal towards my net.

“My theory before those letters were made known to me, consisted of the
idea that Gyde was innocent and that some one, presumably Klein, was
guilty of the murder in the cottage.

“Now my theory is that Gyde is innocent and that Klein is _certainly_
guilty not of the murder of some unknown man, but of Gyde. Yet the
mystery still remains of the tattooing. How is it that the initials of
Müller were tattooed on the breast of a corpse that could not have been
the corpse of Müller, and the initials of Klein on a corpse that I am
sure is not that of Klein? I cannot tell yet, but we shall see.”

HE returned the big volume of press cuttings to their shelf, put on his
hat and overcoat, lit a cigar, and left the house, taking his way to the
Yard.

The chief was away and Inspector Dennison was on duty.

“Well, Freyberger,” said the inspector, “and how’s the case going on?”

“Oh, fairly well,” said the other, “as far as I am concerned. I have
struck, I believe, an important development. I want a man sent to Paris
to-night, it’s urgent, you can act in the absence of the chief?”

“Yes.”

“We have had that photograph of Müller reproduced?”

“Yes, that has been done.”

“Well, I want a man to take it to Paris. I want careful inquiries to be
made amongst the artists of the Latin Quarter as to whether that is the
portrait of an artist named Müller, who was murdered by a Monsieur
Lefarge eight years ago. Here are the dates. I believe the thing will be
easily verified. M. Le Notre, the sculptor, knew the man or seems to
have known him from the funeral oration he made at his graveside.”

“What’s the connexion?” asked Dennison.

“Deep and most important. It has cleared the Gyde case up a good deal in
my mind, but I can’t stop to tell you details, for it would take an
hour. Will you send?”

“Yes,” replied Dennison. He wrote out full instructions on a sheet of
official paper, ordered a reprint of the Müller photograph to be brought
him, ordered a certain officer to be summoned, and ten minutes later the
man had departed for Victoria to catch the night mail to Paris.

“Now I’m going to ring them up, with your leave, and ask them some
questions,” said Freyberger, and five minutes later, with the receiver
at his ear, he was in connexion with the Paris prefecture and the thin
acerbitous voice of the night before was talking to him as though it had
only ceased speaking a moment ago.

Dennison, listening, heard:

“I wish to make some inquiries as to the Lefarge case, November 9, 18—,”
“Yes,” “The murder of the man Müller, Rue de Turbigo, No.—.” “Yes.”
“Ah.” “I wish to inquire as to whether any close relative of M. Lefarge
is still living,” “Yes.” “The daughter you say?” “You have her address?”
“Well, I wish her to come to London and bring with her all possible
evidence of the case, also to find out the whereabouts of the bust
executed by Müller of her father. To bring it with her if possible, and
to communicate with us as to when she will arrive in London, and where
we may see her as soon as possible. Thanks. We are sending an agent to
you to-night with a photograph of a man named Müller. We wish it
verified if possible, believing it to be the portrait of the Müller in
the Lefarge case. He was well known in the Quartier Latin, and M. Le
Notre may be able to identify. Thanks.”

He hung up the receiver.

HELLIER’S chambers in Clifford’s Inn were a part of the past. So was the
staircase that led to them.

Generations of lawyers and rats and the fogs of two hundred or so
Novembers had left their traces on wall and ceiling, on floors that
sagged, and stairs that groaned, and doors that jammed, and chimneys
that smoked.

On windy nights one heard all sorts of quaint arguments in the chimney
and behind the wainscoting. Steps of defunct lawyers sounded in the
passage outside and sitting by the flickering fire-light before the lamp
was lit you might, were you an imaginative man, have heard or seen
pretty much anything your fancy willed.

The rooms had a smell of their own, quite peculiar to themselves and not
unpleasant to an antiquarian mind.

A smell of must, or was it rats, or was it dead and gone lawyers? a
faint, faint perfume, which, if one could bottle, one might label
“Clifford’s Inn,” just as M. Warrick labels his productions, “Ess
Bouquet,” or “New-mown Hay.”

Hellier’s sitting-room was a comfortable enough place despite the doors
that would not open except when kicked, or at their own caprice, the
skeleton-suggesting cupboards, the creaking floor and the sounds and
scents of age.

There were plenty of books for one thing, a few good engravings, a
comfortable easy chair, a hospitable-looking tobacco jar, a cigar
cabinet not too big and not too small, a bright brass kettle on the hob,
a canister of green tea in one of the musty-fusty smelling cupboards and
a tantalus case on the table where Archbald’s _Lunacy_ reposed from its
labours of teaching under a volume of Baudelaire.

Evidently it was the room of a barrister with tastes of his own.

Hellier, since leaving Boulogne some weeks ago, with the _dossier_ of
the Lefarge case in his pocket, had spent some days in Paris.

He had gone into the case with that thoroughness which a man only
exhibits when urged by either of the two great motive powers of life,
ambition or love.

He had obtained an introduction to M. Hamard, he had interviewed the
detectives who had been engaged on the case, he had pored over files of
newspapers, and from M. Hamard, from the detectives, from the printed
reports, he had obtained only the one dreary and reiterated statement:
“M. Lefarge is guilty. The case admits of no other verdict. The thing is
conclusively proved and the affair is closed.”

He had returned to London and there again carefully sifted the evidence
alone in his rooms in Clifford’s Inn. Reviewing the whole matter, he
could not but come to the conclusion arrived at by M. Hamard, the
detectives and the newspapers. He could not but say to himself: “However
much I wish to believe the contrary, I _must_ believe what is the fact.
M. Lefarge was guilty of as cruel and calculated and cold-blooded a
murder as was ever committed by man.”

This was bad, for his love for Cécile Lefarge had grown into a passion.
One talks and laughs about heartache, but heartache is a pain beside
which all other pains are trifles. To be possessed by the image of a
woman, to love her and to know that she returns one’s love, to be
separated from her, to live without her and without assured hope of
possessing her is the cruellest torture ever inflicted by an all-wise
Providence on man.

Love is not blind, it confers the brightest and clearest vision to the
person it possesses. Hellier knew quite well, knew for a certainty,
that, till this cloud was cleared from her father’s name, Cécile Lefarge
would never marry.

She was the daughter of an assassin. He was quite prepared to forget the
fact. She could never do so. It was a penalty laid upon her by fate and
she would not palter with the fact, and unless her father’s name was, by
some miracle, cleared, she would go to her grave as she was, upheld by
that iron determination which women alone possess when the passions are
concerned and which is at once the most beautiful and the most terrible
trait in women.

And the thing was hopeless, for M. Lefarge’s name could never be
cleared, so Hellier told himself, as he sat gloomily over the fire in
his sitting-room at Clifford’s Inn.

During his research in Paris he had come across several facts in
connexion with the case that struck him especially.

One was that the head of the murdered man, Müller, had never been
recovered.

Another was of a different nature. In a copy of the Petit Journal, dated
some weeks after the day upon which the Lefarge tragedy had occurred, he
had come across the details of a murder committed in the neighbourhood
of Montmartre. The victim was an old man named Mesnier; he had been
killed in a most brutal manner and for no object apparently.

Mesnier lived in the Rue d’Antibes, a squalid street near the Moulin
Rouge. A man had been seen leaving his room and, as Mesnier had no
visitors as a rule, and the man had been seen leaving the room within a
very short time after the assassination occurred, the man was presumably
the criminal.

Alphonse Karr, the witness, an ex-waiter of the Théâtre-Concert Européen
of Montmartre, said that he would have sworn that this man was Wilhelm
Müller, whom he had often seen at the _chat noir_, only for the fact
that he knew that Müller was dead.

This paragraph greatly interested Hellier and he searched on through the
files of the _Petit Journal_ in hopes of finding more details of the
case. He found none.

But he found a headline that interested him in a copy of the _Petit
Journal_, dated some days after the murder of Mesnier. It ran:

“Another motiveless murder.”

It related to the murder of a woman named Sabatier, who had been found
strangled in a field near Paris.

There was no possible motive for the crime, the woman had a purse in her
hand containing twenty-five francs. The purse had not been taken, no
violence had been done to her, if we except the fact that she had been
strangled as though by some violent maniac.

“This case,” said the _Petit Journal_, “recalls that of the old man,
Mesnier, recorded by us some days since, in each the victim was
strangled, evidently by the grip of a powerful hand; in each there was
no motive for the crime, for it will be remembered that Mesnier had
received his quarterly annuity and the money, a fairly large sum, was
lying intact upon the table.”

Hellier, just by chance before dropping the file of the paper, turned a
page, and came upon the detail of another crime.

A child had been strangled on the high road leading to Villeneuve St
George’s, in the broad light of day.

A labourer had seen the occurrence from a distance. He saw the figure of
a man, he saw the child. He thought the man was playing with the child.
Then he saw the child lying on the high road and the man running away
across a field. He could give no definite description of the man. He was
about the middle height and dressed in dark clothes.

The case recalled the Sabatier case and the case of Mesnier.

Hellier searched on through the files of the paper. There was nothing
more. The assassin had vanished and was never captured, no similar
crimes were recorded. All these crimes had most probably been committed
by the same man. They ceased suddenly and were not repeated, they had
been committed for no apparent reason, most probably by some lunatic,
whose mania was destruction.

What had become of the lunatic, why had this sudden mania seized him?
why had it suddenly ceased? These questions were never answered. The
thing was one of those unsolved mysteries, with which the pigeon-holes
of the prefecture are stocked.

Hellier searched no more. The fact that Karr, the ex-café waiter, had
fancied a resemblance between the supposed assassin and Müller, the fact
of the similarity between the three crimes lay in his memory but they
did not stir his imagination.

Even love could not hide from him the fact that Lefarge was guilty and
Müller dead, and Cécile Lefarge the daughter of an assassin.

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