The Chief went to his private telephone

IT was after ten the next morning that Raymond, the butler, made the
discovery. Knocking at the door of Sir Anthony’s room and receiving no
answer, he opened it, and found the body of the valet.

Had Raymond, instead of calling in the policeman on point duty at the
corner, telephoned instead to New Scotland Yard, he would have found
coming, as a reply, neither Inspector Alanson or Fairchild, both being
away on duty. He would have found a much younger man acting as their
locum tenens. A clean-shaved, almost boyish person, suggestive of a café
waiter in his Sunday clothes. In other words, he would have found
Gustave Freyberger, then unknown, now a European celebrity.

Freyberger, a naturalized Englishman, was exactly twenty-six years of
age when the Gyde case fell into his hands like a gift from heaven and
it fell into his hands at half-past ten in the morning, heralded by the
ringing of the bell of the telephone connecting Marlborough Street
Police Station and New Scotland Yard.

It was half-past ten exactly when the message came through, and the
Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, who had just arrived,
received it in person.

“Who’s on duty?” he asked, and on being told “Freyberger,” sent for him.

“Take a cab,” he said, “and go at once to 110B Piccadilly—man dead
there—make your report to me personally here as soon as possible.”

“As soon as possible,” answered Freyberger, and, taking his hat and
overcoat from the waiting-room, he ran swiftly down the two flights of
stairs, across the hall, and into the street. There was nothing to
indicate that tragedy stood behind the solid and respectable oak doors
of No. 110B. They were opened by a policeman, and the detective, having
entered, they were immediately shut.

“You have touched nothing, altered nothing, meddled with nothing, I
hope,” said Freyberger, as he slipped out of his overcoat.

“Nothing,” replied the man in blue. “The corpse is just where it fell
when it expired.”

“Who sent for you?”

“The butler.”

“Call him up.”

The officer of the law disappeared for a moment, and then returned,
followed by Raymond. Raymond was very white and shaky, and had evidently
been fortifying himself with strong waters, but he was quite capable of
telling what he knew.

In a few words he told how Sir Anthony, his valet and secretary, had
arrived the night before; how the household had retired to rest; how he
had received instructions from the secretary, Mr Folgam, not to allow
him to be awakened till ten.

How he had searched for Leloir, without finding him, to tell him of this
order; how he had gone into the bedroom to find Leloir lying dead on the
floor, and Sir Anthony gone.

“Gone!” said Freyberger.

“The bed had not been slept in,” replied the other.

“Before proceeding further I will go up and see the body,” said the
detective. Raymond led the way, and Freyberger followed him to the fatal
bedroom; bending over the body was a tall, clean-shaved man.

“Dr Murrell,” said Raymond.

The doctor rose to his full height, and exposed what he had been bending
over. It was a sight that gave even Freyberger a thrill.

He introduced himself. “I can’t find a trace of injury,” said the police
surgeon.

“What do you think he died of?”

“Fright,” replied Dr Murrell. “Most possibly he had a weak heart, we
will see at the autopsy; but it was fright that killed him—look at his
face.”

Now Freyberger was a junior man at the Yard. He recognized at once that
this case was no ordinary case of a man being found dead. The position
of Gyde, his great place in the world, his absence, and the
extraordinary death of his valet, conspired to make it an affair of the
first importance.

A weak man might have sent for assistance, but he was not a weak man by
any manner of means, and as he stood looking at the object on the floor,
it seemed to him that he could hear the waters of that flood that leads
on to fortune.

In a moment he had made up his mind. Leaving the corpse exactly where it
lay, he withdrew downstairs to the dining-room, asking the people around
to accompany him.

He shut the dining-room door and began to interrogate Raymond.

“How many people slept in the house last night?”

“Sir Anthony, sir, myself, the secretary, Mr Folgam, Leloir and the
servants.” Then, answering the questions of the detective, he told
nearly all that we know.

As he was finishing, the door opened, and Mr Folgam came in; divining
the presence of the law he introduced himself, and told of the cry he
had heard and of how he had met Sir Anthony dressed, apparently, for
going out.

“In what state was the front door this morning,” asked Freyberger of
Raymond.

“The chain was undone, sir, all the bolts drawn, and the door held only
by the latch.”

“Had Sir Anthony any valuables in the house?”

“His jewels, sir, in the big Morocco case he always carries about with
him travelling; he keeps papers in it, but there are some very valuable
jewels.”

“Where is the case?”

“In the bedroom, sir.”

“Go with the constable and fetch it for me to see.”

Raymond departed, and returned with the case; it was open, at least it
was unlocked.

Freyberger opened it; there were no jewels in it, nothing but papers; he
gave it into the care of the constable. “How was Sir Anthony dressed
when you saw him at his bedroom door?” he asked, turning to Mr Folgam.

“Dressed for going out, even to his hat,” replied the secretary. “He had
a dark overcoat on; Sir Anthony nearly always dressed in dark things.”

“Did he seem excited?”

“Well, I could not see his face very well, and as to his manner, no, I
do not think it betrayed any excitement.”

Freyberger paused a moment in thought; Gyde vanishing from the house
without having slept in his bed, the vanishing of the jewels, the death
of Leloir, and the scream heard by Mr Folgam, all pointed towards the
sinister.

But it was all vague. Gyde might have gone out on some business of his
own at that late hour, taking his jewels with him; the scream heard by
Folgam might have been an illusion, the death of Leloir might have been
accidental. Each incident in itself was not impossible, viewed by the
light of natural causes, but the conjunction of the three spelt, in
lurid letters, crime.

There was work to be done, but it was not here.

“Who are Sir Anthony’s bankers?” asked Freyberger of Raymond.

“Coutts, sir.”

“Thanks, now I must be going. You will have the corpse removed to the
mortuary, and—should Sir Anthony return, you had better telephone us,
and we will send some one to interview him.”

Freyberger left the house with the doctor.

“It’s a queer case,” said the police surgeon.

“Very,” replied the other, hailing a passing hansom.

“I wonder what he saw before he died,” went on Dr Murrell.

“If we knew that,” replied the detective, “the case might not seem so
queer.”

“Or queerer?”

“Perhaps.”

“That man died of pure blank terror, I’ll stake my reputation on it,”
said Dr Murrell. “Out in Bulgaria, in the riot time, I saw a woman who
had died like that. I have made my mind up to try and find out.”

“What?”

“What he saw.”

“How?”

“I shall photograph the retina by Mendel’s process.”

“Ah!” said Freyberger.

“Whatever he saw was seen by electric light, for the lamps in the
bedroom were still alight when they found him. Electric light is more
favourable even than sunlight for retinal pictures; he died
instantaneously; the conditions could not well be more favourable.”

“You are a photographer?”

“Amateur,” replied the police surgeon, with a fine assumption of
modesty, considering that photography, its highways and byways, was the
hobby of his life.

“You will let me know if you are successful,” said the other, getting
into the cab.

“I will,” replied Dr Murrell.

When Freyberger reached the Yard, he had to wait for a full quarter of
an hour before being admitted to the presence of his chief.

He found the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department seated in
that half cheerful, half sinister room, which is the central bureau of
an army for ever at war with crime.

The walls of this room are hung with pictures of noted criminals; over
the mantel, in a glass case, are weird-looking instruments of the expert
burglars’ art.

In the centre of the room, at a large table covered with papers and
documents, sat the chief; a young man, well dressed and groomed, with a
quiet manner and a calm, cool, steadfast eye.

Freyberger, without much preliminary, plunged into the business before
him, and told all we know. Occasionally the young man at the table made
a note. He listened attentively, asking a question now and then.

When his subordinate had finished he said, “Is that all?”

“Yes, sir, that is all I have to say.”

“Hum—well, since you went, there has been a warrant issued for the
arrest of Sir Anthony Gyde.”

“A warrant,” said Freyberger. “I beg your pardon, sir—”

“Issued by Sir James Coatbank, Justice of the Peace for the Division of
Carlisle.”

“What is the charge?” asked Freyberger.

“Murder,” replied the chief. “I have been in telephonic communication
with Carlisle for the last quarter of an hour and have received all the
details. He is accused of the murder of a man named Klein in a cottage
on the fells, near Blencarn.” He then methodically, yet quickly, began
to give the details of the case, omitting nothing, yet not using an
unnecessary word. What he told Freyberger here follows, but in other
words.

BOB LEWTHWAITE, the child who had watched Sir Anthony Gyde entering and
leaving Skirle Cottage, was of a venturesome disposition. He feared few
things except “boggles.” He feared Klein a bit, but not nearly so much
as the other children of the village. The fact of Sir Anthony’s visit to
the cottage stirred his rustic imagination, and a great inspiration came
to him to do as young Britten had done, peep through the window.

He came down the fell side towards the cottage, half undecided in his
mind; at the fell foot he was half inclined to give up the business,
then, suddenly, he cast fear away, and crawling along by the cottage
wall reached the window, raised himself on tip-toe, and peeped.

What he saw he did not quite understand at first. Then it became
horribly clearer.

There was a great grey bundle on the white cottage-floor; then the
thing, on closer inspection, became a human body. But there was no head.
There was a pool of something dark near where the head ought to have
been.

It was Klein’s body; he recognized it, because of the clothes, a grey
homespun suit, that all the neighbourhood knew. It was Klein, but he had
no head.

Murder never occurred to the child; he only recognized the fact that the
man he had seen walking about the day before had suddenly lost his head,
and the horror of this fact, suddenly borne in on him, was greater than
he could well bear.

He ran he knew not whither, but presently he found himself sitting under
a wall shivering and shaking and very sick.

Then he went home, but he did not tell what he had seen.

He sat in a corner of his father’s cottage looking “waugh.” He would
take no tea, and he went to bed mum. But no sooner was he undressed and
between the sheets than suddenly, as if touched off, he began to bellow.

Then it all came out helter-skelter, and the horrified cottagers
listened to him as he told his gruesome tale.

There is scarcely a farm girl in Cumberland who has not a bicycle of her
own, and before the tale was well told Bob Lewthwaite’s eldest sister
had started to fetch the constable from Langwathby.

When he arrived, and when lamps were lit, the whole village, headed by
the policeman, made for Skirle Cottage.

The constable alone entered.

On the floor lay the body of Klein, headless and fearful to behold. It
was dressed in the well-known grey suit, but the clothes, for some
mysterious reason, were slashed, as if with a knife. The coat was open
and the waistcoat, but there were no wounds on the trunk that the
constable could see.

No knife or weapon of any sort was to be seen.

The room was furnished plainly, with a deal table, kitchen chairs and an
old horsehair sofa. Neither chairs or table were overset; there was no
mark at all of a struggle, nothing to hint of a tragedy enacted there,
nothing, that is to say, but the headless body lying upon the floor.

The constable, a man of great intelligence, closed the door on the
murmuring throng outside, and made a minute examination of the room.

He searched the floor carefully; there were no marks of footsteps, but
in a corner lay something white; he picked it up, it was a silk
handkerchief, marked with the initials “A.G.”

On the mantel, beside a tin candlestick, lay a letter, an envelope
containing the envelope and letter which Sir Anthony had received that
morning, and a sheet of paper on which was written:

“Paris, Feb. 8th.

”You will not escape me; neither you or the secret you carry, which is
also mine. If necessary, I will follow you to the ends of the earth—and
beyond,

“KLEIN.”

“SO,” said Freyberger, when this detailed description of the affair had
been given to him by his Chief, “it is briefly this: Gyde was being
blackmailed by this man; he called on him, murdered him, and cut off his
head, put it in a bag, came to London with the bag and slipped out of
his London house, carrying with him his jewels. It is an extraordinarily
strange case.”

“It seems clear enough.”

“Not to me, sir—excuse me for saying so.”

The Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department had long had his eye
on Freyberger. He recognized genius in the man. He knew his temperament
also, and that, if given a full rein and let speak and act as he liked
he blossomed; but, if snubbed or kept in check he wilted, and became
just an ordinary detective.

“Just explain yourself,” he said. “Give me the points in your mind that
strike you.”

“Well, sir,” said the other, “why did this man leave those utterly
damning letters behind him on the mantelpiece?”

“You know as well as I do,” replied the Chief, “that in every criminal’s
brain there is a black spot, a vacant point that betrays him, and leads
him to do some act, some extraordinarily stupid act, which in turn leads
him—here.”

“Quite so. Why did he cut off his victim’s head—what in the name of
heaven did he want to burden himself with a human head for? The man was
known in the neighbourhood, his body was there to be identified; taking
the head away would seem to serve no known purpose, unless he intended
to keep it as a curiosity or memento.”

“I confess it puzzles me,” replied the other.

“On top of these two puzzling facts,” went on Freyberger, “we have the
death of Leloir the valet.”

“He may have opened the bag and come upon the head.”

“I have thought of that, but the explanation does not satisfy me, for,
from the expression of his face—” Freyberger stopped.

“Yes?”

“Well, I am convinced he saw something worse than an ordinary human
head.”

“Remember that to open a bag and find a grizzly thing like that would
give even the most stout-hearted man a shock.”

Freyberger shook his head. “There was a look of wild horror on his face
that was caused, by what I know not, by what I even fail to imagine, but
by something, I am very sure, much worse than the sight of a human head.
I can almost fancy—”

“Well?”

Freyberger gave a little laugh, as if at the idea that had struck him.
“I can almost fancy a man dying with an expression on his face like that
after he had seen the—unimaginable. Excuse me, I am a German by birth,
and we Germans have wild thoughts sometimes. Let me be practical. With
your permission I will telephone now to Coutts’s, they are Sir Anthony’s
bankers; it may be as well to see if they have any knowledge of his
movements.”

“Use the telephone,” replied the Chief.

Freyberger went to the instrument, spoke through it, received an answer,
and spoke again. Then he listened attentively, and as he listened a
faint smile stole over his face.

“He has been there at ten o’clock this morning, just as they opened,
taken the box containing his late wife’s jewels, given a receipt for it,
and departed. He evidently determined to collect all his resources. He
has done it with great coolness. No professional criminal could have
done it better.”

“You must remember he was a financier,” said the other.

“True,” replied Freyberger, “and now, if you will permit me, sir, I will
go about the business of finding the cabman who drove him this morning,
or last night. He is pretty certain—” He stopped, for at that moment a
knock came to the door and a sergeant appeared.

“Telephone from Vine Street, sir, relative to 110B Piccadilly. A
dismembered human head has been discovered.”

“Ha!” said the chief. “Any details?”

“No, sir, only the statement.”

The Chief went to his private telephone and spoke through, “Messenger
come with word, no details, go at once Freyberger and report.”

FREYBERGER once told me that he often admired the fictional detective,
because of the ingenuity of his maker; but that the method of Lecocq,
Sherlock Holmes and Co., had a great defect if used in the pursuit of a
master criminal.

“You see,” said he, “that in a case like this you are not following the
traces of feet, but the working of a brain. Now the common criminal may
be taken by the methods of a Sherlock Holmes. The good Sherlock sees mud
of a certain character on a man’s boots, and concludes that the man has
been to Dulwich—or is it Leatherhead?—because mud of that description is
found there. Our Sherlock is all eyes, nothing escapes him. He is just
the sort of person I would choose to follow me if I were a criminal, for
I would leave traces behind me that he would be sure to follow and that
would eternally confound him. His methods would capture a bricklayer who
had murdered his wife, perhaps, but they would not capture me. I doubt
if I could capture myself,” said Freyberger, chuckling.

“My methods? Oh, in the ordinary cases ordinary methods, and in the
extraordinary cases extraordinary ones. I think there is a lot of
instinct in our work. I think a man’s mind works in ways we know little
of. Sub-consciously, we do a lot of real thinking.

“I have also some theories which I use; one especially.

“Every crime is a story containing a hero, often a heroine, and a large
or small collection of minor characters. The story ends with the
completion of the crime by the criminal hero.

“When I am called in to a really intricate case, I am like a person to
whom is handed the last chapter of the romance.

“If in that chapter subordinate characters left, it is generally enough
for me; one thing leads to another till the story is complete. I search
for mud on boots and stains on clothes, it is true, but I plunge, if
possible, into my hero’s mind and past. There lies the heart of the
mystery. If there is no hero to be found, there is a heroine. I have
dragged a murderer to the graveside through the mind and past of a
woman.

“I did so in the Gyde case. It is true I was helped by a man called
Hellier; but that has nothing to do with my theory.”

As he drove to Piccadilly he felt somewhat dissatisfied. Gyde, unable to
dispose of the head of his victim, had left it behind him at the house.
This showed a certain unresourcefulness in the man. Was he, after all,
on the track of a common, blundering assassin?

To Freyberger the chase was everything, the feeling in the dark for
another mind, and the gripping of it and the mastering of it.

A foeman worthy of his mettle, that was what he craved for and that was
what he was about to find. When he arrived, the door was opened for him
by a plain-clothes officer.

“Well, Jenkins,” said the detective, “what have we found?”

“The head of Sir Anthony Gyde, sir, I believe,” replied the officer.
Freyberger was taking off his overcoat; he paused with it half off.

“The head of Sir Anthony Gyde?”

“The butler, Raymond, says he can identify it,” replied Jenkins. “It was
found in a cupboard in the bedroom. I came directly from Vine Street
when the message arrived. They had not disturbed it, nor have I; just
left it exactly as we found it.”

“That’s perfectly right; come with me.”

They went upstairs.

A tall, narrow cupboard in the bedroom wall stood open; on one of the
shelves reposed the head of a bearded man. The skin of the face was
strangely brown and withered, the upper lip was drawn up as if in some
contortion of pain, exposing the teeth; one of these teeth was gold
crowned.

The thing was sufficiently frightful, but Freyberger took it down and
handled it as indifferently as though it had been a cabbage.

It was in this room that Leloir, on the night before, had died of
terror.

What had he seen, and how much had this head to do with the sight?

Freyberger wrapped a towel round the thing and gave it to the
plain-clothes officer to make a parcel of and remove to Vine Street.
Then he went down to interrogate Raymond.

He was seated in the servants’ parlour, white and shaken-looking. Was he
sure that the thing was the head of his master? Yes, only it looked
brown and to have been dead a long time. He was almost sure that the
thing was his master’s head.

Freyberger stood, with his eyes fixed upon the pattern of the drugget
carpet, lost in thought.

The case had suddenly, and at a stroke, become complex enough to satisfy
the most exigeant solver of riddles. If this was the head of Sir Anthony
Gyde, then the murderer of Klein had been in his turn murdered.

But Sir Anthony Gyde had been to his bankers that morning, and had
signed a receipt for his wife’s jewels and obtained them.

This being so, he must have been murdered in the interval.

It was now after one o’clock. He must, if this was indeed his head, have
been murdered and dismembered in the course of three hours, the head
conveyed to 110B Piccadilly, and placed where it was found.

Of course, this was absurd. Of one thing alone Freyberger felt sure.

If this were indeed the head of Sir Anthony, then the thing bore some
relation to the death of the valet Leloir. Whatever unthinkable tragedy,
whatever inconceivable transformation, had caused the valet to die of
terror, had some strong relationship to the presence of this head in the
place where it had been found.

The thing must be verified. He obtained the address of Sir Anthony’s
dentist from the butler, and having ordered a telegram to be sent to him
to call at Vine Street at his earliest convenience, he left the house.

IT was now half-past one. He knew that the Chief would be at luncheon,
so he determined to have luncheon himself before returning to the Yard.

He turned into Blanchard’s in Beak Street.

During the meal he did not think once of the case.

He knew the advantage of allowing a problem to cool itself, and he had
the power of detaching his mind from any business on hand and attaching
it to another affair; especially when the other affair was of an edible
nature.

He was a frank gourmet. When he had finished he lit a poisonous-looking
green cigar and strolled down Regent Street towards his destination.

He was thinking now about the case; reviewing it, gazing at it with his
mind’s eye as a Jew gazes at a lustrous jewel.

The thing was as full of fire and cloud and mystery as an opal. He felt
that, live as long as he might, he would never again find himself face
to face with a case so full of strange possibilities.

It was just now, walking down the crowded street, digesting his luncheon
and smoking his cigar, it was just now, that he felt in himself that
strange sixth sense stirring which so few men possess. The sense that
allows us to see without eyes, hear without ears and feel without hands.
The sense which allows us to say to a man whom we have not seen for
years, and whom we meet at a street corner: “It is strange, I was
thinking of you to-day, and, somehow, I expected to meet you.”

Freyberger, just now, was beginning to feel that, somewhere, lost in the
darkness of the world, there existed a mind antagonistic to his own, an
appalling mind, a mind of giant stature and dwarf-like subtlety and
crookedness.

He had not yet come to grips with it, but he felt it to be there, as one
man feels the presence of another in a darkened room. When he arrived at
the Yard, he found a new development. A cabman had been found who had
driven Sir Anthony Gyde on the night before. The Chief was still absent,
so Freyberger took it upon himself to interrogate the man.

He had picked Sir Anthony up in Piccadilly at twelve-thirty on the night
before and driven him to Howland Street. Was he sure it was Sir Anthony?
Certain. He had driven him before. Nearly every cabman, accustomed to
the West End, knew him.

His cab had been coming along slowly by the kerb when he saw Sir Anthony
come out of No. 110B. The baronet walked a few paces, stopped, looked
around, saw the cab and hailed it.

He ordered himself to be driven to Howland Street, gave no number,
stopped the cab towards the middle of the street and paid his fare with
a five-shilling piece, asking for no change.

He then walked down the street, and, opening a house door with a
latchkey, entered and closed the door behind him.

“Could you identify the house again?” asked Freyberger.

The man believed he could. It was a dingy house beside one that had been
new painted.

“How was Sir Anthony dressed?” asked the detective.

“All in dark clothes, wearing a tall hat and carrying a black bag in his
hand.”

“That will do,” replied Freyberger. “Is your cab outside?”

“It is, sir.”

“Come on then, you can take me to Howland Street, and if you can
identify the house I will give you something over your fare.”

The cabman followed the detective to the street, where his cab was
waiting.

Freyberger got in, the man got on the box, and they drove off.

That a millionaire of Gyde’s somewhat dubious moral character should
have a second house in London, the address of which was not printed on
his visiting cards, was not at all an out-of-the-way fact. Yet one might
have thought he would have chosen a more cheerful neighbourhood than
Howland Street.

About the middle of the thoroughfare the cab drew up.

“That is the place, sir,” said the man, pointing to a gaunt,
grimy-looking house standing by one that had been new painted. “That is
the house, if I’m not very much mistaken.”

“Wait for me,” said Freyberger. He knocked at the door.

The door, the knocker, the bell-pulls, all were in the last stage of
neglect, an old rug hung over the area railings and a milk can stood on
the step.

The door opened after he had knocked several times and rung twice.

“Are you the landlady?” asked Freyberger of the unwashed and
wilted-looking woman who obeyed the summons.

“I am.”

“May I come in and speak to you for a moment?”

“No, you don’t,” said the woman. “If you’re after Mr Tidmus he’s gone
away, and won’t be back, goodness knows when. What’s your business?”

“I’m after no one especially. I wish to ask you a question which you
will be pleased to answer me, for I am a detective from Scotland Yard,
Inspector Freyberger. A gentleman called here last night some time
between half-past twelve and one; he let himself in with a latchkey. He
was a bearded man, wearing a tall hat and carrying a bag. What do you
know about him?”

“Well, to be sure,” said the woman, in an interested voice. “And what’s
he been doing?”

“I think we had better come in and I will explain things, thank you—”
She let him enter, closed the door and led him into a dingy parlour.
“What he has been doing is neither here nor there. I want to know about
him. Does he live here?”

“No,” replied the landlady. “If he’s the man you mean he came here with
a letter from Mr Kolbecker asking me to let him use Mr Kolbecker’s room
for the night.”

“Ah!”

“Somewhere about ten to one it was. I’d been sitting up waiting for Mr
Giles. He plays the trombone at the Gaiety and mostly comes home late
and not to be trusted with candles.

“I hears a latchkey fumbling and I comes into the passage, and there was
a gentleman such as you name.

“He said, ‘Mrs Stevens?’ and I says, ‘That’s my name, and who are you?’
He says, ‘Mr Kolbecker has lent me his latchkey and allows me the use of
his room to-night.’ I says, ‘Oh!’ ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘and here’s a letter
from him.’ He hands me a letter; it was from Mr Kolbecker, and it said
to let the bearer use his room for the night as he was a friend. ‘All
right,’ I says, ‘the sheets are aired; and what might your name be?’ He
laughed when I said that, leastways, it wasn’t so much a laugh, it was
more liker the noise a hen makes clucking, only not so loud. ‘Anthony,’
he says. ‘Anthony what?’ I asks him. ‘Mr John Anthony, that’s my name,’
he answers me, and I shows him up. He went at eight this morning and
give the servant girl a shilling.”

“Have you the letter he brought?”

“No; he kept it.”

“How long has Mr Kolbecker been here?”

“Some six months, off and on, but for the last six weeks he has been up
in Cumberland.”

“Ah!” said Freyberger, “in Cumberland! What is he, this Mr Kolbecker?”

“He’s an artist.”

“An artist?”

“Oh, he’s all right. He pays his way regular. Keeps on his room and
sends me the money for it every fortnit regular.”

“Have you any of his letters?”

“I b’lieve I’ve got the last.” She went to a drawer and hunted amidst
some odds and ends.

“Here it is; no, ’tis only the envelope.”

“Give me the envelope,” said Freyberger. It was a narrow, shabby-looking
envelope, addressed in a curious-looking handwriting. It was post-marked
“Skirwith,” “Carlisle” and “London, W.C.”

“This is Mr Kolbecker’s handwriting?” asked the detective.

“It is.”

“I must keep this envelope, please.”

“No, you don’t,” replied the landlady, suddenly waxing wroth. “Here, you
gimme that envelope back; you comes in and asks me questions which I
answer about my lodgers. You say you’re from Scotland Yard. How’m I to
know? Gimme that back.”

Freyberger put the envelope in his pocket.

“If you want my credentials,” he said, “call in a constable; every man
in this division knows me. Now listen. Mr Kolbecker left you six weeks
ago and went to Cumberland?”

“Yes.”

“You have not seen him since?”

“No.”

“Well, from information in our hands, Mr Kolbecker went to live in
Cumberland, took a cottage there under the name of Klein; he was
murdered yesterday evening in a cottage on Blencarn Fell.”

“Murdered!” said the woman, staring open-mouthed at the detective.

“Yes, murdered, and the man who called here last night and slept in his
room was, we believe, the man who murdered him.”

“Well, to be sure!” said the woman, sitting down on a chair, placing her
hands upon her knees and staring at Freyberger.

She was restrained in her exclamation of astonishment because her
vocabulary was limited, but her wonder was deep; it was also tinged with
a not unpleasant feeling of excitement. Regret, perhaps, she had none.

Freyberger, in giving her the information, had departed from the
ordinary rule of his trade, to say nothing.

It is rarely that you find a detective speaking of any point in the case
he is investigating, except the point immediately at issue.

But Freyberger’s object just now was to inspect Kolbecker’s room; he had
no search warrant, time was precious. He wanted to make this Gyde case
his own, and the quickest way to obtain access to the place desired was
by bringing the woman in line with himself and not into opposition.

“So, you see,” he went on, “I have come here for no idle purpose or to
waste your time; you will be called, no doubt, as a witness. I want to
see this Mr Kolbecker’s room. Of course, without a search warrant, I
have no legal right to enter it; but it will take me some hours to
obtain one, and that will mean the loss of precious time. You wish to
assist the course of justice, I am sure.”

“Oh,” said the woman, “you may see his room, and welcome, if that is
all; but there’s nothing much to see, for he took all his things with
him when he went to Cumberland.”

“Well,” said the other, pleasantly, “we will go up and see what is to be
seen—if you will lead the way.”

The landlady led the way up three flights of stairs, Freyberger noting
everything as he followed.

He knew the house, though he had never been in it before; knew it, that
is to say, by its species. It was a lower, middle-class lodging house of
the Bohemian type, a place infested by broken-down or unfledged artists,
second-rate musicians, young foreigners of more or less talent living on
ten shillings a week and hope; a place where anything might occur, in an
artistic-Bohemian way, from a suicide to the construction of an
oratorio.

The woman opened the door of the top floor front.

“This is the room,” she said. It was very bare; a bed stood in one
corner, and a chest of drawers, with a looking-glass on top of it, in
the window.

A table stood in the middle, covered with an old red cloth.

There were two cane-bottomed chairs, and on the carpetless floor in the
corner, diagonally opposite to the bed, an old horseskin covered trunk.

Over the mantelpiece hung a cheap oleograph.

Freyberger stood in the doorway before entering. He seemed trying to
catch, so to speak, the expression of the room; to surprise it suddenly
out of some secret.

But there was nothing at all to tell of the personality of the
individual who had last occupied it.

Everything was in order.

In a room just like this, some months ago, two chairs drawn close
together at a table, a hairpin lying on the floor between them, and the
envelope of a letter stuck in the support of the looking-glass to keep
it straight, had gived him a clue that had brought a forger and his
mistress to justice.

But there was nothing here of any description to build a clue upon.

He inspected the floor narrowly, then the grate; then he lifted the lid
of the trunk, it was empty.

The two top drawers of the chest of drawers in the window were empty;
but the large middle drawer was heavy, and difficult to pull out.

It was nearly filled with large pieces of marble.

Freyberger whistled.

“Mr Kolbecker said that wasn’t to be touched on no account,” said the
woman. “It’s an old marble thing he broke up ’fore he went into the
country.”

Freyberger did not reply. He was examining the pieces of marble
attentively.

They were not simply rough lumps of marble; each was rough in part, and
partly smooth, and he had not been examining them for more than half a
minute when he discovered the fact that they were portions of a bust
broken to pieces by Kolbecker, for some reason or other, before he made
his mysterious journey to Cumberland under the name of Klein.

He drew the drawer bodily out of the chest of drawers, placed it on the
bed and sat down beside it.

Yes, without doubt, these broken up pieces of marble once constituted
the bust of a man. Here was part of the nose with the nostrils
delicately chiselled, here the chin, here a piece of the forehead.

Freyberger, dropping back into the drawer the pieces he had taken out,
fell for a moment into a reverie.

Kolbecker, the man whom Gyde had murdered, had suddenly assumed large
proportions in his intuitive brain.

What was the mystery surrounding this man?

He had gone to Cumberland to blackmail Gyde, assuming the name of Klein,
that was perfectly understandable. But why, in the name of common sense,
had he left his blackmailing letters behind him?

Gyde, driven to desperation, had murdered him. That, too, was
understandable, but why the mutilation?

How was it that he had so conveniently given Gyde the letter of
introduction to his landlady, thus giving his murderer a burrow to hide
in for the night?

Lastly, why, before leaving for Cumberland, had he smashed the bust to
pieces?

All these queries suddenly had caused in the brain of Freyberger a new
and absorbing interest.

Kolbecker, this mysterious artist, now was the object of his undivided
attention.

In the past of Kolbecker, he felt, lay the solution of the mystery.

This bust had been destroyed for some powerful motive.

To find out the motive it would be necessary to reconstruct the bust and
find out whom it represented, if possible, or what it represented.

To put the thing together again would be an extraordinarily difficult
piece of work. One man alone could do it, and Freyberger knew that man.

In ordinary course of events this drawerful of marble fragments would be
taken to the Yard and there placed with the other material evidence. But
this involved loss of time. Freyberger felt, with a strange assurity,
that in the thing lay a clue that might cast a strong light on the case.

To take it direct to the Yard would mean loss of time.

He determined on his own responsibility to take it to the man he knew
direct.

“I wish to take this drawer and its contents with me,” he said to the
woman who stood looking on. “I am quite prepared to give you a receipt
for it and, what is more, I will place in your hands the value of the
piece of furniture I have taken it from.”

“Well,” said the woman, “I suppose I can’t stop you, seeing what’s
happened. I ain’t of the having sort, but that chest of drawers cost me
a sovereign—_item_, eleven shillings in the Tottenham Court Road—and
without the drawer it ain’t worth tuppence.”

Freyberger took out his pocket-book, wrote a receipt, and placed it,
with a sovereign and a five-shilling piece, in her hand.

“There’s a sovereign,” he said, “and the five shillings is for a sheet
to wrap the thing up in. I’ll take a sheet off the bed, if you’ll let
me; get me some string, too, as much as you have got in the house.”

She fetched the string, and between them, they did the thing up
securely, then carrying it in his arms as tenderly as if it were a baby,
he left the house, got into the cab, and gave the man an address in Old
Compton Street, Soho.

THE cab drew up at the address in Old Compton Street given by Freyberger
to the driver. It was a small shop, filled with antiques, old china,
statuettes, renovated pictures.

Here the art of Japan drew a sword or flirted a fan at you; the Middle
Ages spoke through the mouthpiece of a battle-dented morion.

Behind the counter, in the midst of his treasures, mostly spurious, sat
the owner of the shop I. Antonides, smoking a cigarette and apparently
lost in reverie.

An old man, a very old man, was Antonides. A Greek of the modern Greeks,
with the head of a prophet and the hand of a money changer.

Behind that parchment-coloured forehead lay a knowledge of ancient and
modern art—profound almost as the subject itself.

Beauty of craftsmanship appealed to Antonides. He worshipped the Venus
of Milo, not for the divine beauty of her form, but for the cunning of
the hand that wrought her. A rose had no power to move his soul, but a
goblin by Calot, were it in the best style of that master, made him cry
out with pleasure.

He worshipped art for the sake of art, and he worshipped money for the
sake of money.

His fortune was reputed to be half a million, and he lived on a pound a
week.

He was very frank, with that frankness which sometimes veils the deepest
and most profound deceit; he had no loves or hates, no heart, no wife,
no children or relations. Only his money and his profound knowledge of
men and art.

There were many curiosities for sale in the shop of Antonides, but the
most curious of them all was Antonides, also on sale—at a price.

He nodded to Freyberger.

“I want you to do a little job for me, Mr Antonides.”

“What is the little job, Mr Freyberger?”

“Oh, it’s simple enough to you, impossible to anyone else.”

“Ah!”

“I want you to restore a broken—what shall I say—well, I believe it is a
marble bust.”

“Yes?”

“I want you to do more than restore it, for I want you to do the job as
quickly as possible.”

“Possibility has its limits,” said Antonides. “Show me the article.”

Freyberger went out and took from the cab the drawer wrapped in the
sheet, brought it in and unwrapped it.

Antonides examined the fragments.

“I will restore it for you,” he said, after examining minutely several
of the pieces and gauging in his mind the total number.

“How long will it take?”

“Oh—three days.”

“That won’t do. I want it by to-morrow morning.”

Antonides raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders.

“Look here,” said Freyberger. “What will you charge to do it in three
days?”

“You must understand,” replied Antonides, “that I do not restore marble.
I do not restore pictures now myself. I am getting old, Mr Freyberger.”

“We are all doing that. What will you charge—”

“Getting old,” continued Antonides, as though unconscious of the other’s
question, “costs money; one has to call in help. I have secured an
assistant, an Alsatian; his name is Lermina—”

“Yes, yes, but—”

“I taught him the art of restoration, the knowledge I have placed in
that man’s head,” said the old gentleman, suddenly pretending to turn
savage, “is worth a king’s ransom, and he has repaid me in the oldest
coinage of the world—ingratitude—”

“I know, but what will you charge—”

“One moment, I wish to explain my position. Lermina is a genius.”

“Yes, yes, I grant that—”

“You know what geniuses are, just spoiled children; well, he is also
about to get married—”

“What the devil has that to do with me—”

“One moment. A genius is bad enough to deal with, but a genius in love
is infinitely worse. I ask Lermina to restore this bust, he accepts the
commission, but he is in love and can’t be hurried. Three days, well,
with seven pounds in my hand I believe I could undertake to persuade him
to complete the thing in three days.”

“Well,” said Freyberger, who knew his man right to the place where his
heart ought to have been. “Three days won’t do for me. I must have the
thing completed by to-morrow morning at ten o’clock.”

Antonides said nothing, but, reaching down, produced an enormous
snuff-box from under the counter, took a pinch, tapped the box, and put
it back.

Then he smiled and shook his head.

“Come,” said Freyberger, patiently. “By ten o’clock to-morrow morning.”

“It’s impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible of this sort to you, if you are paid—”

“I would have to sit up all night—”

“Why, you said you had an assistant.”

“I would have to sit up all night helping him; it would be a two mans’
job.”

Then suddenly.

“Twenty pounds?”

“I’ll give you ten.”

“I never haggle.”

“I’ll give you ten.”

“Not a penny under twenty, not a brass farthing, not a denier under
twenty—look at my rent, look at my income-taxes to be paid. Five hundred
pounds they robbed me of this year in income-taxes alone.”

“Five hundred!”

“I mean fifty. I am a very poor man, Mr Freyberger—no, no, no, not a
penny under twenty.”

“All right,” said Freyberger. “If you won’t do the job I know a man who
will.”

He took the drawer and carried it to the door.

“Eighteen,” shrieked Antonides, as the detective fumbled with the door
latch.

“I tell you what,” said Freyberger. “I’ll give you fifteen, and that’s
my ultimatum.”

“Done,” said Antonides. As a matter of fact he would have done the job
for five pounds—for nothing. He divined, from the pieces he had
examined, that the thing was superexcellent and by a master’s hand, and
he would have been satisfied to have put it together on spec if he were
given a chance of purchasing it when completed.

Freyberger left the shop, and, getting into the cab, ordered the
cab-driver to take him to the Yard.

The War Office sometimes nods, and the Admiralty has been known to
indulge in reverie, but New Scotland Yard never sleeps.

The construction of the Criminal Investigation Department resembles the
construction of some beautiful and intricate piece of mechanism.

The detection of crime is its chief function, but it has others. It
keeps the eye of a stern father upon the law-breakers. There is not a
considerable criminal walking about free in London who is not known and
docketed at the Yard.

It knows more about him than he knows about himself; it knows his
height, weight and colour of his hair; it has the prints of his fingers
and the photograph of his face, it knows where he lodges and with whom
he associates, it knows the exact extent and bent of his moral twist.

When a crime of a special nature has been committed by some unknown
person, the Yard searches amongst the criminals who make that especial
crime their speciality.

One might fancy that in the case of a crime committed by a man in the
position of Sir Anthony Gyde, that the search for him would not be any
more difficult than the search for a professional criminal. As a matter
of fact, it is much more so.

Your non-professional law-breaker has no associates to betray him, and,
what is more, being a novice, he adopts no beaten methods. He will often
escape, because of his ignorance as to how he should hide, just as a
novice in fencing will sometimes, through his own stupidity and want of
knowledge, succeed in touching a master-at-arms.

There is nothing a detective dreads more than the ingenuous.

Whilst Freyberger had been pursuing his investigations, the Yard had not
been idle.

By eleven o’clock that morning an embargo had been laid upon all the
ports of England, as close as that which Buckingham laid in the case of
Anne of Austria’s jewels.

No person in the least like Sir Anthony Gyde could possibly have left
the Kingdom, unless by flight.

Every paper appearing after twelve carried his portrait far and wide. A
hundred and fifty detectives were at work upon the case, and not a train
left London for the north, south, east or west whose passengers were not
“filtered.”

The Yard knows the importance of acting promptly and efficiently in a
case like this. The first few hours are vital; it pours out money like
water. Should the required person escape the first furious rummaging of
the detective force the pursuit slackens, or seems to do so. In reality,
the nets are still out. Months pass, the suspected one feels himself no
longer searched for. “I am forgotten,” he says. Then one day he makes a
false move and feels a hand upon his shoulder.

When Freyberger returned to the Yard, he found his chief in consultation
with his subordinates.

When a crime of great magnitude or intricacy occurs, a council of the
brightest intelligences in the detective service is called.

It is technically known as the council of seven, which does not in the
least mean that the number of consultants are always seven, for
sometimes this or that member may be absent.

On this occasion there were only four men in consultation, including the
chief, but these four men constituted a galaxy of almost infernal
talent. They were seated about the room, and at the table, pen in hand,
sat the chief. Inspector Frost, a clean-shaved, youngish-looking man,
with a dark moustache twisted up at the ends, sat nearly opposite the
chief.

Standing at the table, hat in hand and preparing to go, stood a
medium-sized middle-aged man, with black hair, small black moustache,
fresh coloured face and an extraordinarily sharp and penetrating eye.

This was Professor Salt, the Home Office expert, the surgeon called in,
in all cases of murder, when the skill of a surgeon or pathologist can
be of any avail.

He had just been detailing the result of his examination of the head
found at 110B Piccadilly.

The dentist who attended Sir Anthony was, unfortunately, away on a
holiday in Cairo, so his evidence could not be obtained as to whether
the head was truly that of Sir Anthony or not. Several men who had known
him had examined the thing, and they all differed. Some said it most
certainly was; some recognized a strong likeness, but could not be sure;
several declared that, in their opinion, it wasn’t.

These people, who had been hurriedly summoned for the purpose of
identifying the thing, were of all grades and professions.

Club waiters, a nobleman or two, the servants of the house, and others.
When Freyberger, who was not a member of the high council, but who was
admitted on account of his being an active agent in the case, had closed
the door, saluted his chief and taken a modest seat in a corner of the
room, Professor Salt was just finishing the remarks he was making.

“You see,” he said, “it is a matter of extraordinary difficulty to say
exactly how long this head has been removed from the body; it has been
dipped in some agent or passed through some process, which has
discoloured the skin and shrunk the tissues. An acid might have done
this, but, unfortunately for that theory, the skin gives a slightly
alkaline reaction when touched with moist litmus paper. It has, to me,
the appearance of a head that had been dried just as you dry a ham, by
smoking it. Yet there is no trace of carbon to be found on the skin. I
confess I am somewhat at a loss, for a case of the kind has never come
before me up to this, and I believe it is unique in forensic medicine.
That head might have been removed from the body a year ago, so
dehydrated are the tissues. I do not say, having in view some unknown
preservative agent, that it may not have been removed twelve hours ago.
But I can say this, that whoever removed it was a most skilled
anatomist. I have had many cases of dismemberment; in all of them the
head has been hacked off through the cervical vertebra. This is quite
different, the head has been removed above the atlas, the ligaments
cleanly divided; no trace of hacking is discernible at the base of the
skull. The thing was not so much dismemberment as a surgical operation,
conducted with extraordinary skill, the most extraordinary skill. I do
not think,” he finished with a grim smile, “that I could have done the
thing so completely and artistically myself.” He buttoned up his
overcoat, bowed to the chief, nodded to the detectives and departed.

“Well, Freyberger?” said the chief, “what news have you brought?”

“First, sir, may I ask two questions? Has the dentist given his
decision? and have Coutts’s examined the handwriting of Sir Anthony
Gyde?”

“The dentist is absent and can’t be called,” replied the other. “And as
for the bankers, Sir Anthony went in, signed a receipt for the delivery
of the parcel containing his wife’s jewels, which receipt was handed to
the manager who released the jewels.

“The receipt was written before and handed to a man who knew Sir Anthony
Gyde perfectly well. He asked Sir Anthony would he care to see the
manager personally. Sir Anthony replied, no; that he was in a hurry. The
man, one of the chief clerks, is prepared to swear on oath that it was
Sir Anthony Gyde who signed the receipt, and no other. The chief cashier
received the receipt from the manager’s room, glanced at it, and passed
it. Not long ago, on our applying to him to glance at it again and make
sure, he has done so. He says he is sure that it is Sir Anthony’s
handwriting, but there is something about it that he can’t make out;
that it is not a forgery he is _certain_, but all the same, there is
something about it strange to him, some fine difference to the ordinary
writing of Sir Anthony.

“He says he would cash a cheque on the signature without a moment’s
hesitation; you know, in a forgery, it is the slavish imitation and
consequent cramping that marks the thing; no man’s handwriting is
exactly alike twice. Well, this thing is no slavish imitation of Gyde’s
handwriting; it is his, flowing and easy, and written under the eye of a
clerk. All the same, there is something about it strange. Gyde, it would
appear, must have been in a totally different frame of mind to what he
has ever been before in his life when he wrote that signature. I can
understand the cashier’s meaning, I think, for these men’s eyes and
brains are so wonderfully trained that they can tell from a signature
almost the emotions of the person to whom it belongs. Gyde may have been
under the influence of some extraordinary emotion, never felt by him
before, when he signed that receipt—as undoubtedly he was.”

Freyberger listened attentively, and then proceeded to give the results
of his investigations, speaking clearly and to the point.

He told how Gyde had hired the cab and driven to Howland Street,
presented a letter from Kolbecker and occupied his room; how Kolbecker
had lived in Cumberland for the last six weeks and had been paying for
his room in London, sending several postal orders to his landlady. “I
have secured the envelope of the last of these letters,” he said, taking
the envelope from his pocket.

“Give it to me,” said the chief.

He glanced at it, and a change came over his face.

“The Chief Constable of Cumberland has sent me, with splendid
promptitude, the blackmailing letters of Klein,” he said. “They arrived
only half an hour ago by special messenger. Here they are, and the
handwriting of Kolbecker is the handwriting of Klein.”

There could be no doubt; all three documents were in the same weird,
extraordinary hand.

“Gyde,” said Inspector Frost, “before he murdered his man must have got
him to write that letter. One can understand him, having the murder in
his mind, being wishful to have some hole or corner to hide in during
the night. He could not stay the night at Piccadilly, knowing that at
any moment he might be arrested.”

“Yet,” said Freyberger, “he went next morning to his bankers—an equally
dangerous proceeding.”

“The thing that strikes me,” said Inspector Dewhurst, “is, why did he go
to the Piccadilly house at all? We know he took his jewels with him, but
the jewels came up with him from the north. He could have easily taken
possession of his jewel case, sent his man on home with the rest of the
luggage, telling him that he would not be back till the morning, and
then have disappeared.”

“If he had done that,” said Freyberger, “the valet, Leloir, would now be
alive, and not dead of terror.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“Again,” said Inspector Long, a man with a black beard seated near one
of the windows, “that head found in the cupboard. It is not Klein’s, for
Klein was a clean-shaven man. We know, from the evidence of a
chambermaid, that there was nothing in the cupboard the day before. It
must have been put there during the night; therefore, it must have been
put there by either Gyde or his valet, for they alone were in the room,
therefore they must have brought it from the north. We know for certain
that a man was murdered and decapitated in the north by Sir Anthony
Gyde; there is not a hole in the evidence, the boy is perfectly
believable; he is borne out by half a dozen witnesses, who saw the
motor-car going and coming, and by the headless corpse of Klein. Well,
then, did Sir Anthony bring two heads in that bag with him, the head of
Klein and the one we found, which is so strangely like his own?”

There was another silence, and then Freyberger spoke, telling of the
pieces of marble he had found in the drawer and how he had taken them to
Antonides to be reconstructed.

“I did it on my own responsibility,” he said, “knowing the desperate
urgency of the matter; to-morrow we will see what the thing represents.”

“You did right,” said the chief. “In a case like this, seemingly most
intricate, it is often some by-bit of evidence that opens it up and
exposes everything to the light. One of the points that strike me most
is the anatomical knowledge and the dexterity shown in the removal of
the head.”

He ceased, for a knock came to the door and an officer entered with a
paper in his hand. “Report of the post-mortem examination of the body in
the Gyde case, sir, just telegraphed from Carlisle.”

“Give it me,” said the chief. He took the paper, and the officer
withdrew.

“‘Body of a fairly well-nourished man, dressed in grey tweed—clothes
slashed with a knife, but no wounds found on the body. _Head evidently
removed by a skilled anatomist_—Ha!—severed from neck where atlas meets
occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae divided at a single stroke.’ This, so
far from clearing matters, casts everything into a deeper darkness.” He
paused a moment, and then went on. “We have incontrovertible evidence
that yesterday afternoon Sir Anthony Gyde called upon the man Klein at a
cottage on Blencarn Fell, in Cumberland; that he stayed there an hour
and left with a black bag in his hand. Now, mark you, this boy,
Lewthwaite, had his eye on the cottage the whole time. A very few
minutes after Sir Anthony’s departure he peeped through the window, and
saw the murdered body of Klein lying upon the floor. The whole mass of
evidence goes to show that there were only two men concerned in this
tragedy, Gyde and Klein, for Lewthwaite saw no one in the room.”

“Might a third man have been in hiding in an upstairs room?” put in
Inspector Long.

“He might, but it is highly improbable. Besides, we have no use for a
third man, for the crux of the thing is this: Gyde murdered Klein and
decapitated him. The head found in the cupboard was the head he removed
from Klein’s body; we are almost bound to believe this, from the two
surgeons’ reports as to the manner of decapitation—well, the head
removed from the body of Klein was _not_ Klein’s head, for, leaving
small points aside, Klein was a clean-shaved man and the head was the
head of a bearded man.

“We can say now, almost for a certainty, that Klein has not been
murdered, and that the real victim is a man extraordinarily like Gyde,
the supposed murderer; more, several people have given evidence that the
head _is_ that of Gyde.”

“I for one agree with you, sir, that the head we have here in London and
the body that is lying in Cumberland are one a part of the other.”

It was Inspector Dewhurst who spoke.

“We know,” he continued, “that Sir Anthony went into the cottage and
went out, went to London, was recognized by numerous people; we know
that _he_ is alive; we know that a man very like him was murdered, a man
who, whatever he was, was not Klein. But we know that the only motive
for this deed was the blackmailing of Sir Anthony by Klein. Why, then,
did Sir Anthony murder this other man?”

“Why,” put in Freyberger, “were those blackmailing letters left behind.
We can imagine a novice capable of such a blunder, but the whole of this
affair has been conducted with such terrible precision and coolness that
we can scarcely consider its author capable of such a slip as that. May
I speak, sir?”

“It seems to me you are speaking,” said the chief, with a smile. “Go on,
Freyberger; I am always glad to hear your views.”

“Well, sir, it seems to me that there are many points in this case, each
giving the lie to the other, each extraordinary. I have never come
across such a chain of circumstances before. Accident might have cast
all these extraordinary circumstances together. Gyde may have gone to
murder his blackmailer, and found in the cottage, as well as his
intended victim, a man very like himself. Gyde may have murdered this
man for some reason or another and taken away his head; Gyde may have
left those letters behind him from some extraordinary blunder. Klein may
have given Gyde a written passport to his lodgings. Leloir, the valet,
may simply have died of heart-disease. Gyde may have been a skilled
anatomist, as well as a financier. All these are unlikely possibilities;
each, taken separately would not, in itself, cause us so very much
surprise, but taken _en masse_, the combination is almost impossible,
viewed as a combination caused by chance.

“If chance did not place these things in juxtaposition to confound our
powers of reasoning, what did?

“There is only one possible answer. The problem before us is the work of
some subtle and profound intelligence, that, for reasons of its own, has
committed a murder, and, for easily understandable reasons, has fouled
the traces, so that we are at fault and in confusion.” Freyberger paused
and then went on: “I believe, reviewing the facts, that this
intelligence, with which we are trying to grapple, is not that of Sir
Anthony Gyde.

“You see, if we admit him to be the murderer, we must admit him to have
committed so many self-condemning faults. Going openly to the cottage,
in a motor-car of all things; leaving the letters behind him to damn him
and expose his motive; removing his victim’s head yet leaving the body
behind; going to his house in Piccadilly; going to his bankers to take
away his jewels, when he could, if he chose, have removed his jewels,
collected his money, and, having made provision for his escape and his
future, then murdered Klein.”

“One moment,” said the chief. “Gyde was a passionate man; he may have
committed this murder in a fit of passion, and, in the upset of his
brain, left those letters behind.”

“Yes,” said Freyberger. “But the hand that did the decapitation did not
show any sign of brain-upset. Again, if a man murders another in hot
blood does he decapitate him? Not as a rule. Let us suppose this head
that of some unknown third party: of course, Gyde, if he were the
murderer, may have had some powerful reason for removing the head; but
why should he leave it in a cupboard in his own house in Piccadilly as
another damning piece of evidence against himself? You will excuse me,
sir, for speaking so long, but I wish to say this:

“The faults before us are the continuous chance blunders of an
unimaginable fool, if we view them as the faults committed by Sir
Anthony Gyde. Sir Anthony Gyde could not have committed them, we may say
_could not_, for they are too many to have been committed by a man with
any reason in his head, even though in criminal matters he is a fool.

“Well, then, we are driven upon the only other supposition; that Gyde
had nothing to do with the murder, and that these seeming faults are
really not faults, or in other words, they are faults committed
purposely by some keen intelligence to bring confusion into the case. I
think what I have said is almost mathematically demonstrable.

“I do not like to say any more, except this, that in my firm belief Sir
Anthony Gyde is innocent.”

There was a murmur from the other men present, a murmur of admiration
for the logical reasoning of the little German.

“Well,” said the chief, “your argument is clever. We must admit that, if
Gyde is the murderer, then Gyde has committed more faults in the
business than it is at all probable he would commit. If Gyde is not the
murderer, then, some other man is; if that is so, I am bound to admit
that this other man has not only successfully fouled his traces but has
cast, in some extraordinary manner, the onus of the affair upon Gyde.
The proof of that is,” he continued, with a short laugh, “he has made us
issue a warrant for Gyde’s arrest. Have you anything more to say,
Freyberger? What you have said already has been to the point.”

“Only this, sir. Dr Murrell is preparing the retina of the valet,
Leloir. He intends photographing it by Mendel’s process. He may, or may
not, succeed; the thing fails as a rule, or only gives the faintest blur
of a picture. But it seems that the rods and cones of the retina take a
far more powerful impression in a case like this, if the subject has
caught his last glimpse of earthly things by the electric light. It is
just possible that the retina of Leloir may give us a picture of what he
saw before he died.”

“The only two successful cases of the kind I have heard of,” said the
chief, “occurred in Germany.”

“That is true, sir,” replied Freyberger. “The case of Ludwig Baumer,
recounted by Casper; and the case of the courtesan, Gretchen Dreschfeld,
which Addeler, the professor of forensic medicine at Bonn, made such a
success of.”

“When did Dr Murrell say his results would be known?” asked the chief.

“He did not say, sir; but, with your permission, I will call upon him
now and see what hopes he can give us of a successful photograph.”

“Do so,” said the chief. And Freyberger departed.

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