The card they found in his pocket read:
COURS BELSUNCE, MARSEILLES
He was lying in a first class compartment of the Paris-Marseilles express, his throat cut from ear to ear. The only other occupants of the carriage were a blind man and a gentle old lady of eighty, who was hysterical from shock.
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William F. Bailey
The Rue Cannabiere is at once the Broadway and the Boulevard des Italiens of Marseilles, and it is more cosmopolitan than either. Between the big stores, the glittering cafes, restaurants and theaters that flank its width, walk yellow men from China, brown from India, black men from Bermuda or the Soudan, Arabs, Portuguese, Italians and Yankees. Turban and fez are as common on the Cannabiere as silk stockings and painted lips.
William F. Bailey, special agent for the Department of Justice, sat in a corner of the Restaurant Haxo, absorbed in a magnificent omelette and a cup of chocolate. The warm June sun sprayed through the windows, lacing floor and furniture with thongs of gold. From the window he could see the Vieux Port, with its bristle of masts. His unopened copy of the Matin was propped against a cruet on the center of the table.
Bailey had been in France a year, seeking “Beau” Nash, who was wanted in the United States on a dozen charges. Nash was of the highest type of criminal, but a man who had made enemies gratuitously. He kicked out of his path men who had enabled him to make a success of his nefarious calling. But even with information from a number of these Bailey had been unable to trace the old fox. “Railroad” Cartwright had failed to “get” the Beau in his day—failed, with a great incentive to urge him on; and so had a dozen others.
The agent thought of the words of Eddie Lenoir, when that disconsolate forger was last arrested:
“It ain’t no use,” Eddie had said; “things have got so with the wireless an’ cables an’ international police that there ain’t nowhere in the world a man can go where a red-faced Irishman with a badge won’t tap him on the shoulder an’ say, ‘Hello, Eddie, the old man wants to see you.’ Only one bird’s got you dicks stopped, an’ that’s Beau Nash.”
Bill recalled, with a grin of disgust, his answer, “Oh, we’ll get him all right. It’s only a matter of time.”
He had had a year, and from all indications was no closer to his quarry than when he started. Well, if Denise Girard, whom he loved, married him, Bailey could hardly call his European trip a failure, even though it might seem so in the eyes of his superiors.
The chatter of two men, drinking wine at a nearby table, annoyed him. One was tall and gaunt; the other stoop shouldered, slack chinned, pinched. Bailey, subconsciously, had heard the entire conversation. Apparently the big man was berating the other rather too harshly for that gentleman’s taste. He wound up with a gust, “Name of a dog, but you are a fine one to call yourself a railway man. Not all the way did I see you—lazy lizard—”
The little man sprang up, with a snarl at the edge of his lips. Then he glanced around, hesitated, and after a moment slouched out.
Bill yawned, and picked up his paper. In a flash his bored air dropped from him, and he stiffened with amazement. It was not the headlines telling of the death of Monsieur Bertal, but the fact that the dead chemist’s photograph was that of Beau Nash!
It required just two minutes for the agent to pay his bill and leave the Restaurant Haxo. The Prefecture of Police was only a short distance away, but fifty Frenchmen shrugged their shoulders and exclaimed anent the mad hurry of Americans as Bailey dashed by.
The prefect greeted him politely. Of a certainty the body was in the mortuary, and if Monsieur Bailey desired to view it there could be no possible objection. It also happened that the two occupants of the compartment at the time of the murder were in the prefecture, and it would be possible to speak with them. It was hoped that the distinguished American secret agent might aid them in this case.
Bailey followed a glum gendarme down a corridor to the room where the unfortunate flotsam of the city so often paid their final visits. There was something on one of the slabs—a rigid something covered with a white cloth. The agent turned down one corner of the sheet, and then replaced it. His search was ended. The lean face and drooping mustache, the graying yellow hair—It was Beau Nash beyond a doubt!
“You recognize him, monsieur?” asked the prefect, who had followed Bailey into the mortuary.
The American told him.
“It is not surprising to me. There is a chemical engineer named Bertal, who resides in Marseilles, but we learned that he is at home, having returned from Paris last night. And now, monsieur, if you will come with me to the office we will speak with Madame Berthier, who was in the compartment at the time of this man’s death.”
Madame Berthier, a delicate little lady of eighty, told Bailey, in a frightened voice, all she knew of the affair. No one in their senses could have suspected her, but the frightful experience had shaken her to the soul.
“We had passed Lyons, monsieur,” she explained. “It was late, nearly two in the morning. I was dozing. Monsieur Bertal was asleep in the corner directly opposite me; the blind man, Monsieur Robert, was beside him. The door of the compartment had been locked after we left Lyons. There was a young woman wearing a heavy veil in the next compartment when we left Paris. The police found no one else in the car but us when they investigated.”
She stopped, and covered her face with her quivering hands.
Bailey patted the old lady’s shoulder reassuringly, and after a moment she continued:
“I don’t know what time it was when I woke up. The lights cast only a dim blue haze over the compartment. I was a little dazed at first. I rubbed my eyes, and saw—saw Monsieur Bertal. He was sitting up very straight, his head tilted back against the cushion, his eyes staring at the ceiling. Then I saw the slash across his throat, and the b-blood soaking his shirt and vest. I screamed—and screamed. Monsieur Robert woke up, and asked me what was the matter. But I fainted—
“A peculiar case,” said the prefect; “we have absolutely no clue. If monsieur would help—”
Bailey nodded. “I’ll be glad to. It is necessary for me to cable the chief at once, but I will return and do all I can. Though I hope we can catch the murderer of Beau Nash, he has certainly done the world no harm in ridding it of that gentleman.”
Once more on the Rue Cannabiere, the American paused. He would probably be ordered home very shortly, and in the short time left him he would have to persuade Denise to marry him and accompany him to America.
Though he had known the girl for almost a year, he knew little or nothing of her family and antecedents. She was very beautiful, apparently had sufficient money for all her needs, was well educated and well bred. Also, she found it necessary to make trips to Paris every two weeks. That completed Denise Girard’s dossier so far as William Bailey was concerned.
It was sufficient that he loved her.
He walked as far as the Cours Saint Louis. There he swung aboard a tramcar, and after fifteen minutes’ ride dropped off opposite the marble grandeur of the Palais Longchamp. Denise’s apartment was very near.
Pondering there in the June sunshine as to the best course he should pursue, Bill Bailey received the greatest shock of his eventful life.
Denise came down the steps of her house, arm in arm with Beau Nash!
The drooping mustache, the graying yellow hair was that of the corpse who lay on the slab in the mortuary of the prefecture of police. And who could doubt from the stately and dangerous walk, from his eyes—so ice-cold, so fire-hot—from his deadly air of a bravo of fortune, that Nash was very sure of himself.
Apparently the pair did not see him. They walked down the street, talking earnestly. Bailey shook off his numbed surprise, and followed them. A question kept hammering in his brain. What was Denise doing with the Beau? What possible connection could his little sweetheart have with the most notorious criminal in Europe?
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The Parisian Apache
Bailey could have arrested Nash then and there, but the human instinct to find out what Denise was doing with this man overrode his first impulse to take the fellow into custody. They were in no hurry, made no effort at concealment, and Bailey, sheltered by the flowing stream of pedestrians, kept within easy reach of them.
At length they turned into the Place Moreau. It was market day, and even though late in the afternoon, the square was crowded. Sabots clattered on the cobble-stones; hogs squealed, ducks squawked; red-faced peasant women shouted prices for their fish and fowl and vegetables. Here wandered a steel helmeted poilu or a brown Tommy, there a pigeon-chested gendarme, flecks of color in the dull mass.
As Bailey started to cross the square three men stepped in his path. They were Parisians, of Montmartre or the outer boulevards. The cut of their clothes, a swagger from the hips and an unhealthy color proved that. They stopped him effectively without apparently attempting such a thing.
“Hello, American,” whined one. “We desire only the small courtesy of a match.”
“I’m in a hurry,” Bailey snapped, thrusting the spokesman to one side. “Get out of the way.”
Every bit of color fled from the apache’s face; his lips tightened into a white gash, and there was such malignant hatred in his eyes that Bailey’s hand involuntarily reached toward his hip. If ever murder was written in a human expression it was there in the Frenchman’s. Then the agent laughed, reached over and grasped the fellow’s wrist and twisted it until he howled with pain. The others, being cowards at heart, surged back. Bailey hurried across the square. But in the moment the Parisians had engaged his attention, Nash and Denise had disappeared.
Bailey was not a man to cry over spilt milk, but he was thoroughly disgusted at the turn affairs had taken. Much as he wanted to allow Nash further liberty so that he could discover the relationship between him and Denise it had become imperative to get the man under lock and key.
He telephoned to Captain Goulet, the prefect. It was Bailey’s plan to have a drag-net thrown around the city in the event of Nash’s attempting to slip out, and also to have the Place Moreau quarter thoroughly searched at once.
“Yes?” came Captain Goulet’s voice over the wire.
“This is Bailey.”
“Oh, Monsieur Bailey, I have the most—’’
“Just a moment, Captain. You remember that I identified the man who was murdered on the Marseilles express as Beau Nash. Shortly after leaving your office I saw Nash on the street, but he gave me the slip—”
“You—you saw Nash on the street?” asked the captain thickly. “Oh, mon Dieu! This matter is getting beyond our mortal bonds.”
“What do you mean?”
“The body of the man you identified as Nash has disappeared from the table in the mortuary!”
Bailey sucked in his breath in a gasp of surprise.
“Of a certainty.”
“And I saw Nash in the street five minutes afterward. I wonder—”
“Did you—did you notice his throat, monsieur ?”
“He wore a muffler,” said Bailey impatiently, “wrapped in two or three folds around his neck.”
“Then it was him,” wailed the prefect. “I fear nothing human, monsieur, but this has gotten beyond our realm. The man who lay on this table was as dead as Pontius Pilate—to that I’ll swear. Yet he disappears from my mortuary, and you meet him on the street. What can one do against a cadaver, monsieur?”
“Nonsense. Have all the stations and wharves watched, and send a dozen men dawn here to search the neighborhood. Dead or alive, we’re going to get Beau Nash. And I think that he will be able to tell us a few things to clear up the mystery of the Marseilles express. Will you do as I ask?”
“At once, monsieur.”
Bailey thoughtfully hung up the receiver, and walked again into the Place Moreau.
The shadows had lengthened. The hucksters in the square were packing up their stands and wares. In ten minutes more the place would be deserted, and then the police would come down like the historic Assyrian wolves—probably with as small success.
Looking up from his musings, Bailey saw Denise step out of a tavern on the farther side of the square. She looked around cautiously. Then, having reconnoitered the ground to her evident satisfaction, she went back into the house. Bailey ran across the street, shifting his revolver from his hip pocket to the side one of his coat.
The entrance from which Denise had looked did not lead through the cafe, but directly up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Its door was unlocked, and the agent pushed it open and went in.
No one there.
With his hand on the butt of his weapon, Bailey went up. Under his cautious step the ratty old stairway squeaked like an unoiled hinge. The place was dark as a well, and rank with the thousand odors of a cheap restaurant. Somewhere above lay the key to the most puzzling mystery that Bailey had ever investigated.
At the head of the second flight a gas jet burned blue in the foul air. Within the arc of its sickly radiance the portal of a room swung slightly ajar. He tiptoed forward, and urged the door open an inch or more. Every muscle in his body was tensed for the possible struggle.
Peering into the room, he caught the darker hulk of a bed in the gloom. From the arrangement of the bed-clothing it looked as though someone were sprawled on it. But, strain his ears as he might, Bailey could not hear that person breathing.
Moving with the greatest caution, the agent slipped through the door. A gas light, turned very low, was burning. His pistol clutched in his right hand, Bailey stretched out his left, and turned on the gas full blast.
There on the bed, its head slewed around until the throat-gash yawned like some horrid mouth, lay the body of the man who had been killed on the Marseilles express!
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Bailey went cold to the tips of his fingers at the horror of it. He was used to ghastly scenes, but none had ever affected him as did the lonely figure on the disordered bed. If it wasn’t Nash, who was it, and why had he been brought from his slab in the mortuary to this place?
The agent stepped toward the bed, and then a strong hand reached over his shoulder and tore away the pistol. Another was clapped over his mouth. So quickly was the attack made that before Bailey could shout or struggle he was on his back, his own handcuffs on his wrists, and a gag between his teeth.
The apache who had accosted him in the square grinned down at him.
“Ah, vieux cochon,” he snorted, “you are the trapped and not the trapper now. Of course, you understand that we are going to kill you. But first, by order of Monsieur Nash, I am to explain some things to you. He thought it a shame that you should die without first touching the edges of this mystery. Look.”
He walked to the bed, and Bailey’s sidelong glance followed him.
“This man’s name is not unfamiliar to you, monsieur,” said the apache. “It is John Sheppard, known as a cousin to Monsieur the Beau. The resemblance between the two is strong, but you will grant that the make-up is yet the work of a master-hand. The nose, see, it has been filled out with paraffin. The hair and mustache are dyed. This bluish scar at the angle of the jaw has been made with an electric needle.”
Of course, Bailey knew of Johnny Sheppard, who had been almost as notorious in his sphere as the Beau was in his. It was more than probable that Sheppard had consented to this disguise to throw the police off his cousin’s track. It accounted, anyway, for the widely varying reports of Nash’s whereabouts that had come to the agent’s ears.
The apache continued. “Monsieur Nash intended dispatching you, of course, who is the chief thorn in his side. He was afraid, however, that a more complete examination be made of Sheppard, with the consequent working back of your death to him. We were instructed to get the body. It was absurdly simple. We drew the gendarmes to the front of the prefecture by a false alarm. The mortuary faces on an alley, where we had a covered wagon. You see, it was so easy that even you might have done it.”
Bailey lay very still, hoping that the Frenchman, in his streak of garrulous boasting, might say still more. But the fellow had apparently fulfilled his instructions. He drew his revolver, and looked curiously down at the agent.
“They say Americans know how to die,” he observed casually. “We will see.”
Bill stiffened, but he kept his eyes fixed on the other’s yellow orbs. It was hard to die there, with so much of life before him, but the least he could do was to keep up a bold front. They wanted to see him wince, and he did not intend giving them that satisfaction.
The thug lifted his weapon, and his comrades crowded up, their rat faces glistening. Bailey’s fingers tightened, and his lips drew down in a hard line as he tensed himself for the shock—
A revolver exploded; another followed. Two of the Parisians fell. Their leader plunged for the open, and a huge, gray-haired gendarme deliberately shot him in the back. The apache spun around, and rocketed down the steps, to lie, an unkempt heap, at the bottom.
When Bailey was liberated he dashed downstairs and propped the dying man on his knee. There was much that the fellow could tell him if he would.
“Nom d’un nom!” the apache groaned. “I’m going . . . To think that a rotten gendarme should get me at last …”
“Who killed Sheppard?” Bailey demanded.
“He paid us … five hundred francs … Zut! Five hundred francs, and I haven’t spent a damned sou …”
“Who killed Sheppard?”
The Parisian rolled his pale eyes upward. “Parbleau! I’ll tell. Why not ? I got five hundred francs to finish you, and I haven’t spent a centime …” He sat up suddenly. “Be watchful of Bertal,” he gasped; “they are going to kill him.” Then his head sagged back, and he died very quietly in Bailey’s arms.
“They are going to kill Bertal!” The dead man’s warning rang in Bailey’s ears. What had the man Bertal, whose card had been found in the corpse’s pocket, to do with this affair? Just where did he fit into the distorted mosaic? The agent had known that the presence of Bertal’s card in Sheppard’s pocket could hardly have been due to chance. But he had had no time to investigate any of the little clues he had caught out of the tangled skein. Now his time would be further occupied in preventing some one from exterminating the unhappy Monsieur Bertal.
Bailey rose from his knees to find the gray mustached gendarme regarding him quizzically.
“I have under arrest,” said Sergeant Meaux, “a woman named Denise Girard. We found her on the third floor.”
Bailey’s voice was normal when he asked, “On what charge are you holding her?”
“She has confessed to the murder of the man who was found on the Paris-Marseilles express.”
“Nonsense!” said Bailey violently.
“Perhaps not, monsieur. She is quite positive in expressing herself. And, after all, it would not be the first woman who resorted to murder. It was a wise man who first said, “Cherchez la femme!”
Bailey stood silent, eyes on the ground. It was absurd to believe that his sweet girl had committed so shocking a crime. She had confessed. Bah! What the devil was a confession? Many an innocent person had confessed before this. But ugly doubt reared its head. Why was she so apparently friendly with Beau Nash? Why—
Bailey believed it would be better not to see Denise just then. He wanted time to get a clearer vision of the affair; to make a few investigations. So in company with a gendarme, he hurried into the street, and caught a tram-car in the direction of the Cours Belsunce.
A fog had settled down in earnest, wiping out the tops of the buildings, and making the street lights mere gray smudges in the darkness. He found Monsieur Bertal’s house with difficulty, posted his gendarme outside, and rang the bell.
The Bertal apartment was on the ground floor, as the neat brass plate under the window testified. Monsieur himself opened the door a crack, and looked rather suspiciously at his visitor. Then he bowed, and said:
“Come in, Monsieur Bailey.”
Bailey had not the faintest idea of how Eugene Bertal knew him, but he kept his wonder hidden and he and the gendarme walked in.
Old Bertal might just have stepped from a painting, with his high collar, white shirt front and neck cloth with its pleats and counterpleats. He made Bailey think of English inns, with roaring fire-places and guests thumping in from the lumbering coaches—of fat turkeys, egg nogg, toddy and the rest. In appearance he was a man after Dickens’ own heart—not the pursy French chemical engineer he was supposed to be. The room itself furthered that impression.
There was a huge four-poster bed, with chintz curtains; there was an ancient mahogany bureau, quaint brass candelabra, fine old engravings on the walls, rows of leather bound books. There were also big, helpless looking wadded chairs. The host waved his guest toward one of them.
Bailey sat down. “You know me apparently, monsieur, or else you are an extraordinarily good guesser. If that is the case, possibly you can guess why I am here.”
A bleak look came into the old man’s face. He nodded.
Bailey heard the creak of cautious footsteps in the next room. He knew that old Bertal lived alone, and that in all probability the newcomer was the messenger of death.
It was pitch dark beyond the portieres, but Bill seemed to sense a blacker shape flattened against the opposite wall. Without an instant’s hesitation, he flung himself, muscular hands outstretched at the intruder, while he shouted to Monsieur Bertal to turn on the light.
He crashed against an athletic body, and received a vicious blow in the face. They clenched, and in the struggle tore a handkerchief from his opponent’s face, but it was too dark for recognition. Bertal was taking an exasperatingly long time in reaching the electric switch.
Then someone struck Bailey from behind. He reeled back, loosening his hold. The intruder tore himself free, flung open the door, and clattered out through the hallway. Bertal turned on the lights. There was no one in the room save these two.
In the street the gendarme raised an enormous pother as he ran after the fellow, but Bailey did not aid him. He simply stood and looked at Bertal.
“An explanation would not be out of place,” he said coldly. “I risked my neck for you, and then you try to break it.”
“That is my affair,” said Bertal sullenly. “And now, we will get the principal business of your visit over and done with. I know why you—a detective—are here, and I confess freely. I killed John Sheppard on the Paris-Marseilles express!”
He opened a drawer in the table, and took out a knife, with a clotted blade.
“This is what I did it with,” he said.
When the gendarme returned, panting, and with nothing to show for his chase, Bailey left him in charge of the apartment, and took Bertal to the prefecture of police. He had not commented on Denise’s confession. He said nothing concerning this one.
Captain Goulet smiled grimly when the American explained that Bertal had shouldered responsibility for the murder. He shook his finger reprovingly, as though the old chemical engineer were a bad, bad boy.
“It is strange, very strange, Monsieur Bailey,” he said, “and, as you Yankees say, brisk business, eh. First Mademoiselle Girard confesses, then Monsieur Bertal, and just five minutes ago Monsieur Robert, the blind man, sent for us, and said that he alone was responsible for Sheppard’s death. Now, who is really telling the truth?”
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“Take Monsieur Bertal to a cell,” the prefect directed a gendarme. “I would like to know, Monsieur Bailey, just where we stand in this matter.
The Department of Justice man grunted. “So would I. As S. Holmes used to say, ‘It is a capital mistake to theorize before we have all the data.’ I am going out to get that data. Did you instruct the Chef de Gare to hold the murder car for my investigation, and also keep the entire train crew so I can interview them?”
“All right. Now, we’ll have the three confessors come out here one at a time, and tell us in detail just how they committed the crime. After that I’ll examine the car and the crew, and if that doesn’t get us some real information, I’ll go back to kindergarten.”
Goulet nodded his approbation.
“Bring in Mademoiselle Girard,” he directed.
Bailey promptly effaced himself from the scene by retiring behind a convenient screen, where he could see and hear without being observed himself.
Denise came in presently, her beautiful face white and tear stained. There were blue circles beneath her eyes, and her slender shoulders drooped. Bailey’s heart went out to her in a warm surge of love and pity. She was so young, and so much in need of help.
“Now, Mademoiselle Girard,” said the prefect in a normal conversational tone, “I want you to give me a straightforward description of what happened on the Paris-Marseilles express last night.”
“I—I told you once.”
“It is necessary that it be repeated.” He tapped his teeth with a penholder and looked at her quite calmly.
“Before we started from Paris,” she said hurriedly, “Sheppard, whom I knew, spoke to me insultingly. After we passed Lyons I thought I heard an exclamation of pain from the next compartment. I rose and went into the corridor. The door to the compartment was open. Sheppard seized me and drew me in. I—I knew what sort of a man he was, and, having a knife in my girdle, I pulled it out and struck blindly. He fell back on the seat, and I ran into my own compartment.”
“How is it that Madame Berthier and Monsieur Robert heard nothing of this?”
“There were no words passed—little noise. They were both sleeping.”
“You assume full responsibility for this man’s death?”
“I—I do,” she whispered.
“That is all,” said Goulet, motioning the gendarme to take her away. “Bring in Monsieur Robert,” he added.
“He has nothing to do with it—truly, truly he hasn’t,” the girl cried desperately over her shoulder.
When the blind man was led in the prefect addressed the same questions to him.
“I had every reason to hate that man,” answered Robert. “It is not necessary to explain motives—my confession obviates that. Sheppard felt safe with me because I am blind. I could tell by his breathing when he was asleep. When I was sure of it I felt for his throat—oh, so cautiously— and then used my knife.”
“What were your relative positions?” asked Bailey, coming from behind the screen.
“He was sitting next the window, I beside him.”
Bailey nodded gravely.
After the blind man was taken away Bertal was brought back again. He was visibly nervous.
“We want a detailed explanation from you,” Bailey explained.
“It will be brief. Long ago I had— for reasons that need no explanation— determined on the death of John Sheppard. He deserved it if ever a man did, but it was out of the question for me to kill him openly. I knew that he intended leaving Paris when he did. I knew exactly how the train ran; the track it used, its schedule, how it always came to a brief stop in the freight yards beyond Lyons. I learned what compartment Sheppard would occupy. Then I hid myself in a freight car beside the track used by the express. Fortune was kind to me—kinder than I expected. The train halted. I looked, and there, directly opposite me, I saw Sheppard asleep. I leaned across, resting my arm on the side of the express, and drove my knife into his throat. Then I walked back to Lyons, and two hours later caught another train to Marseilles.”
When Bertal had been escorted back to his cell. Captain Goulet looked quizzically at Bailey.
“The further we go the more tangled we get,” he observed. “Mon Dieu! What a fright I had when the body disappeared from the mortuary. I thought surely we had a ghost to deal with. But these are most palpably human folks, and each of their confessions are logical when taken alone. Together—” He shrugged his shoulders.
“We’ll straighten them out,” Bailey reassured him. “I’m off now, and I won’t be back until I’ve laid my hands on something definite.”
It was not until nine o’clock next morning that Bill returned, but he was as fresh and clear eyed as though he had been sleeping all night. Captain Goulet greeted him hopefully.
“I’ve made some progress,” the agent admitted in answer to the prefect’s question. “In fact, most of the mystery has disappeared. If you will have the three prisoners brought in again I think we can get the other phases cleared up.”
Bill flashed Denise a look that brought the color to her cheeks, and a faint smile in answer to his.
“The three of you,” he said, “have confessed to the murder of John Sheppard. There are some angles to this case that I don’t know, but I know that none of you had a hand in Sheppard’s death. In the first place, Mademoiselle Girard had absolutely nothing to do with it. She was on the train, but she left it at Dijon. I wired her description to the police at every stop the express made, and found that she registered at Dijon under the name of Madame Claire St. Pol. Isn’t that true, Denise?”
“Y-yes,” she admitted.
“Now, as to Monsieur Robert. His story was plausible. I carefully examined the spot where Sheppard had been sitting. There was a slash in the cushion, and spots of blood. But the nature of the cut, which was deep on the side toward Robert, and edged thinly toward the window, indicated that it had been made by someone outside the train. There were also drops of blood on the steps which conclusively proved that point. So, of the three confessionaires, it seemed most likely that Monsieur Bertal was the guilty party.”
The chemist nodded dully.
“As a matter of fact,” Bailey continued, “he had no more to do with Sheppard’s death than the other two. He declared that he had committed the crime while the Marseilles express halted in the freight yard beyond Lyons. As a matter of fact, the train did not stop. There was a clear track, and the express maintained a speed of thirty miles an hour through the yards. Hence, it was impossible for Bertal to have done as he claimed. Besides, Monsieur Bertal did not leave his hotel in Lyons until after the express had passed. I learned from his housekeeper the hotel he usually stayed at in that city, and found that he was aroused at five o’clock in the morning, had breakfast, and left, at six. That, I think, eliminates him.”
“Then who in the name of heaven,” burst out the puzzled Goulet, “killed John Sheppard?”
“That will come out presently,” said Bailey. “Just now I have a surprise for you.”
He flung open the door, and Beau Nash, his eyes wide and staring, not a fleck of color in his face, came in!
“There’s no use stalling,” he panted. “She didn’t kill him. I— I—why, I killed Johnny Sheppard myself!”
Bill Bailey laughed.
“That confession is the finest thing you ever did, Beau—the only clean, honest thing in your whole black record. But it won’t wash. You didn’t kill Johnny Sheppard any more than I did myself!”
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The Beau’s thin lips twitched like a snarling dog’s.
“Damn you!” he shouted. “I tell you I did. You’re not going to railroad her to the guillotine.”
“Of course not,” soothed Bailey. “I’m not in the habit of railroading people. I know you fairly well, Nash, and I thought that telegram would do the trick. You see, folks, I sent a wire, signed by one of the Beau’s apache friends, telling him that his sweetheart, Mazie Lee, had been arrested for this murder, and that she would be railroaded. As a matter of fact, Miss Lee is already on her way to England.”
Nash grated his teeth. “You devil.”
“It won’t do any good to indulge In personalities. I know who the murderer is, and I’ll produce him very shortly. Before I do, I want to clear up all the threads. I suppose everyone knows that the Beau is a member of a most respected family in Sussex, England. He organized the London Bank Gang, and later operated extensively in the United States. Sheppard, his cousin, was also a member of that gang. Now I want you, Denise, to tell me why you helped him, and why you confessed to Sheppard’s murder.”
The girl looked at Nash, paled, and then said bravely, “I was afraid that my father had killed him, as he had often threatened to do, and I wanted to protect him.”
“Your father?” said Bailey questioningly.
Denise made a gesture toward Monsieur Robert, the blind man.
“Nash and Sheppard had my father in their power. I aided them whenever they demanded it to save him. They treated me brutally at times, but I never dared resent it. When Sheppard was killed I believed that father did it. The thought was natural, for he was on his way to Marseilles with Nash’s cousin, and it could have been done while Sheppard slept. But father believed that I had slipped in, and killed the fellow. So he confessed to save me.”
Bailey pressed her cold fingers reassuringly. “It was very noble—very self-sacrificing of you both. But why did you assume the blame, Monsieur Bertal?”
“I,” said the chemist, his ascetic lips tightening, “was once a member of the London Bank Gang. I am an Englishman, though I have lived so long in France that I have almost forgotten the fact. Nash, with Sheppard’s connivance, did me a great wrong—never mind what. I pretended to have forgotten, and aided him while he was in Marseilles. But I had not forgotten—the old scars were still open. Through him I came to know Denise, and love her as a father. I writhed impotently at his treatment of her, which, to a girl of her spirit, was intolerable. When Sheppard was killed I had reasons to believe that she had done it, though there were others just as eager. When I learned of her arrest I decided to sacrifice myself for her. I am old and of little use—while she—Well, it doesn’t matter.”
“Sheppard, I suppose, had intended carrying nothing on his person that would identify him if anything happened. But he overlooked one of my cards. It was probably due to that that Nash believed I had killed his cousin, and in revenge sent his apaches to erase me from the scheme of things. I apologize for striking you, Bailey, but I wanted them to succeed, for I am very tired of life.”
“Have you anything to say, Nash?” asked the agent.
“Everything they’ve said is true,” Beau growled. “But I’d like to know who killed Johnny—damn his murderer!”
“The man who killed Sheppard thought he was you.”
Nash looked at Bailey with narrowing eyes.
“Who was it? You’ve got me just as you caught Eddie Lenoir, and the rest of the old gang, but I’m satisfied so long as Mazie is safe. If those apaches of mine had been just a bit quicker they would have killed you, and my plan would have worked out perfectly. But they didn’t. Now, the least you can do is to tell me who killed Johnny Sheppard.”
Bill touched a bell on the prefect’s desk. Two burly gendarmes came in with a stoop-shouldered, slack-chinned man of middle age between them—the man who had annoyed Bailey with his chatter in the Restaurant Haxo the day before.
“Harry Carstairs, by God!” cried Nash, taking an involuntary step backward.
“The murderer of John Sheppard, Beau,” said Bailey quietly, “and the man whose wife and fortune you stole—”
“I—I—why, I thought he was dead. How—how did you find him, Bailey—”
“I’ll admit that it was as much a matter of good luck as judgment,” the agent admitted. “Every indication pointed to Sheppard having been murdered in mistake for Nash. In his day the Beau made many enemies, but the man who had most cause to hate him was Harry Carstairs. The case is notorious even yet in the criminal circles of London. But Carstairs had disappeared—dropped out of sight entirely. He was reported to have died in Antwerp years ago.”
Sheppard had been killed by someone on the train—someone in his particular car. I eliminated the three passengers—Mademoiselle Girard, Madame Berthier and Monsieur Robert. That should leave only a member of the train crew. I examined the roof of the car. By the scratches of hobnailed shoes, it was apparent that someone had laid there, then swung down to the steps. I knew that in his earlier days Carstairs had been a railroader on the Midland and Sussex. Then, like a flash, I recalled a conversation I had heard in the Restaurant Haxo yesterday afternoon—a railway man berating an inferior for having kept out of sight all the way from Paris to Marseilles.
“So I lined up the crew, and picked out the man who had been in the restaurant. He denied any knowledge of the crime, of course. When I called him Carstairs, and outlined what I believed to have happened, he broke down, and confessed that he actually committed the crime.
“In the words of the song, that’s all there is, there isn’t any more.” He took Denise’s hand, “except for one thing. Will you come to America with me ?”
She bowed her splendid head.
“Yes,” she whispered, “I’ll go anywhere in the world—with you!”
~ The End ~