The Madame Has Completely Disappeared
The man who hesitatingly approached Detective Manners was obviously of the servant class. Manners sat alone in the upstairs room of the station. He watched the man cross the room.
"Excuse me, sir," said the stranger, "but are you the detective in charge?"
"Yes," said Manners. "What can I do for you?" The man glanced about him, and, seeing they were alone, he sighed and sat down heavily beside the desk.
"I—I dislike doing this," he began, "but I feel it my duty. The madame was always good to me. We thought it best that a report be made to the police."
Manners sat up. "Who are 'we'," he asked.
"Why, the cook, the second butler, and the maids, sir. And myself. I am head of the servants."
"You'd better begin at the beginning," said Manners.
The butler nodded gravely.
"That's right. I am John Fisher, and I have been in the service of Mr. Samuel Ryan for ten years. This is a delicate matter I am about to confide in you. The madame, who is a good many years younger than the master, has completely disappeared. The master's disposition is jealous; he was very jealous of the madame, because of his nature and because she, being much younger than he, liked to go out and enjoy herself, dancing and the like. Since she disappeared, four nights ago, the master has scarcely stirred from his rooms.
Manners had taken this in with professional ear, discounting the story because of servants' usual gossip.
"Probably Mrs. Ryan has just gone away for a time," he said easily.
The butler shook his head. "I do not think so. According to her maid, none of Mrs. Ryan's clothes are missing, except those she wore the night she disappeared."
This seemed to interest the detective. He drummed on the desk for a moment with his stubby fingers; then he rose and took up his hat, setting it at a jaunty angle.
"Come along," he said. "We'll go out and see Mr. Ryan. Hell be able to set matters straight."
The butler hesitated. "I would not wish him to know that I had reposted the matter—"
"All right. Give me the directions, and I'll give you a chance to get to the house first."
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A Refusal to Talk
It was almost ten p.m. when Manners stepped to the bell of the Long Island mansion set off by itself in immense grounds.
The second butler answered the door.
"I want to see Mr. Ryan," said Manners. "If he asks who it is, say it's the police."
The butler nodded understandingly. Evidently he was in league with Fisher. He asked Manners to come inside, and then went up the broad staircase.
He came down a minute later, looking frightened. "He—he refuses to see you. sir," he said. "He's in a terrible state. Perhaps you'd better come back—"
Manners shook his head roughly. "I'll go up," he said. "I'll make him talk to me."
"But—" began the butler, trying to stand in his way, though in a half-hearted fashion.
"I'll tell him I pushed my way in," said the detective. "Don't worry."
He went swiftly up the stairs, the butler behind him. "Where's his room?"
The butler pointed to a closed door.
Manners knocked with no uncertain fist upon the closed door. A heavy voice growled out a question.
"Detective Manners of New York City headquarters," called the detective through the closed door.
"Go away. I don't want to see a detective."
"The detective wants to see you, though," said Manners. "Open the door."
The voice showed the rage of the man inside.
"I'll break you, man, if you don't leave my house. What do you mean by forcing your way in here? I've given you fair warning: go away."
"If you don't open the door, I'll be forced to break it in," answered the detective, ignoring the threat.
A moment later, the door was unlocked from within and flung violently open. Before him stood a tall, sinister-looking man of sixty, hair in disorder, eyes sunken with deep circles about them, and drawn face. He wore a silk dressing-gown over his shirt and trousers, and his feet were encased in leather slippers. In one band he held a half-smoked cigar.
"Well—now what do you want?" he demanded.
"I want to speak to you," said the detective.
He pushed past the man into the room.
"Your wife has been missing for four days," said Manners, without waiting for the outburst. "Why have you made no report?"
"Who told you this?'' growled Ryan.
"The neighbors reported it," said Manners to protect Fisher.
"It's none of your damn business. What do you mean by breaking in this way?"
"It is the business of a policeman to investigate mysterious disappearances," said Manners. "Where is your wife?"
Ryan hesitated. Then he said, "She has gone away on a visit. Now, get out and leave me in peace."
"Where has she gone?"
Ryan's temper was not of the best, and at this persistence he flew into a terrible rage. For fully five minutes he stormed at the imperturbable Manners.
"Go to hell! Get out of my house! I'll break you, my man! You'll pay dearly for this intrusion."
"Where's Mrs. Ryan?" repeated Manners.
"I refuse to speak to you. If you don't go, I'll call my servants and have you thrown out."
Manners looked at the furious man. "If you do that," he said, "I'll be forced to put in a charge of murder against you."
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Mrs. Ryan's Dead Body
Ryan blanched. He went unsteadily to a large armchair and sank into it.
"Shut the door," he said at last.
Manners complied, and took a chair opposite Ryan. "What I am about to say you must hold confidential, strictly confidential," said Ryan.
He stared at the little fire in the fireplace nearby. "What has happened, then?" asked Manners.
"She has gone away with another man."
"Who's the other man?" asked Manners.
"A young whippersnapper named Carstairs. He lived nearby, and was here a great deal of the time."
"How do you know they went away together? Were they seen?"
Ryan shook his head. "I am certain of it, because he has disappeared also. His family called me to ask if he was here; he left the night my wife disappeared. They were seen walking together about the grounds at eight o'clock; at ten, I tried to find them and could not."
The detective could see the pain under which the man was laboring, the pain of jealousy and broken pride.
So this was the explanation of Mrs. Ryan's disappearance. Manners mused for a moment upon servants' gossip; then he rose.
"I'll leave you, then," he said. "I'm sorry I intruded."
Ryan spoke no more; Manners left him with his head sunk on his breast, staring at the fire.
Downstairs, Fisher, the butler, was waiting.
"Well," said the man, "did you find out what happened to the madame?"
Manners nodded. "She's gone away on a visit to a sick aunt," he said. "Don't worry about her. It's all right."
He left the house and went back to headquarters.
Next afternoon, he made a trip to the town on the outskirts of which Ryan lived. There he made inquiries concerning George Carstairs, the man Ryan said had run away with his wife, Elizabeth. The Carstairs' home was not so pretentious as Ryan's; the grounds were smaller and not so well kept Carstairs, a large blond man of thirty-five, had lived with his parents. He had the reputation of being rather fast.
Manners had a description of the woman, Elizabeth Ryan, as small, dark-haired, pretty.
"It's none of my business now," he thought.
But the picture of the sad husband sitting with his head sunk on his breast kept recurring to him.
"I wonder if I could get her back?" he said aloud.
It was worth trying. He made a visit to the home of Carstairs, and questioned the parents of the man, two old people who answered him politely but with a great deal of constraint. Evidently they knew or guessed where their son was. But they could not disclose his whereabouts to Manners.
The detective managed to steal a picture of the young man from a mantelpiece. He already had acquired one of Mrs. Ryan. With these, he broadcast a description of the runaways.
The days ran on, with no news. More cases, cruder and more pressing, took up Manners' thoughts.
Then he had a 'phone call from Fisher, the butler. The man's voice was very excited.
"Come out at once, said Fisher. "We've found something. Hurry!"
"What is it?" asked Manners.
"Mrs. Ryan's dead body," came the voice. "Hurry!"
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The Master's Heavy Cane
The perplexed Manners arrived after dark, and was met at the station by Fisher.
The butler was very perturbed, and spoke rapidly as the limousine whisked them toward Ryan's home.
"The gardener chanced upon it, sir," said Fisher. "She was but a foot or so under the ground, in the bushes."
"Have you told your master?" asked Manners.
"No. I thought it best to leave everything as it was, until you came. The gardener is guarding the spot."
In an outlying patch of hedge, they found the excited gardener, standing over the grave.
"Look what I've found, sir," he said, holding out a stick to the detective, who was already examining the body of the murdered woman by the aid of his flash.
Manners took the stick. It was a man's heavy cane.
"D'you know whose this is?" he asked.
After an examination, Fisher answered. "It's the master's," he said in a low voice.
"Where'd you find this?" asked Manners.
"It was in the bushes nearby," answered Phillips, the gardener.
An examination of the dead woman's throat showed marks of strangulation; her black hair held dried blood, and after a good look at the cane, Manners concluded that she had been struck upon the head with it.
Manners' mind was working fast. "If Ryan did this," he mused aloud, "we'll find Carstairs' body nearby."
All through the night, and into the morning, they searched for another grave, but in vain.
The exhausted detective at last left the search in the hands of the gardener, and went to the mansion. He discovered Ryan in his apartment.
"Your wife's body has been found," said Manners.
Ryan started. "My God! What do you mean?"
"She's been murdered—struck on the head, and strangled, too. What have you to say?"
"Say? What is there to say? Where is she?"
"Where's Carstairs' body?" the detective asked sternly. "Where did you hide it?"
"I? I hide Carstairs' body? Man, don't you see—he's killed her. He's killed her!"
"Your cane struck the blow that cither killed your wife or knocked her unconscious," said Manners coldly.
Ryan repeated his denials. He wept when he viewed the body of his wife.
The search for Carstairs' body went on. Ryan was taken into custody. The case was strong against him.
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Yes, I Killed her
Ryan had been in prison for two weeks, when Manners received a surprise. It was in the form of a message from the police of Chicago. Carstairs had been found, or a man answering Carstairs' description.
Ryan remembered his action—sending out descriptions of Mrs. Ryan and Carstairs—in order to bring back the runaway wife.
The detective went to Chicago.
He found at the police station a large, blond-headed man, with a light beard. Carstairs it was.
He answered Manners' questions wearily.
After some hours of questioning, the prisoner asked for a drink of water. He spoke in a husky tone.
"My God!" he said, "I'll tell you. You're driving me crazy. I'm almost crazy as it is. I can't get it off my mind. I loved her, I loved Elizabeth. I thought she loved me. We were together all the time.
"It was like this: I had been asking her to run away with me. Ryan was jealous of me. Elizabeth and I had been going out a great deal together. She half promised to go with me. That night I called at eight, and she came out with me for a walk. As we passed the rack in the hall, she picked up her husband's cane, and we stepped out into the grounds.
"I argued with her for a full hour; and she said she would never go with me, that she had thought it over, and knew she could not leave her husband.
"I was crazy for her; she had driven me beyond endurance. I tried to pick her up and carry her off; she struck at me with the cane, and I snatched it from her, and in blind frenzy, hit her over the head. In my rage, I grasped her throat as she lay there, scarcely breathing, telling her she must go with me.
"I came to myself a few moments later, and found she was dead. I tried to kill myself there, too; but I was too much of a coward. I buried her hastily, and, throwing the cane in the bushes after wiping it off, ran away. I have been wandering ever since. I'm glad it's all over. I could not have stood it much longer. Yes, I killed her," said Carstairs.
~ The End ~