Rodrigues Ottolengui.

Final Proof: or, The Value of Evidence



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"So he thinks."

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Barnes, immediately attentive.

"Just what I say. Old Berial thinks he's got the only screw-driver."

"But you know that there is another?"

"Who says so? I don't know anything of the sort."

"Why, then, do you cast a doubt upon the matter by saying that Mr. Berial thinks he has the only one?"

"Because I do doubt it, that's all."

"Why do you doubt it?"

"Oh, I don't know. A fellow can't always account for what he thinks, can he?"

"You must have some reason for thinking there may be a duplicate of that screw-driver."

"Well, what if I have?"

"I would like to know it."

"No doubt! But it ain't right to cast suspicions when you can't prove a thing, is it?"

"Perhaps others may find the proof."

"Just so. People in your trade are pretty good at that, I reckon."

"Good at what?"

"Proving things that don't exist."

"But if your suspicion is groundless, there can be no harm in telling it to me."

"Oh, there's grounds enough for what I think. Look here, suppose a case. Suppose a party, a young female party, dies. Suppose her folks think they'd like to have her hands crossed on her breast. Suppose a man, me, for instance, helps the boss fix up that young party with her hands crossed, and suppose there's a handsome shiner, a fust-water diamond, on one finger. Suppose we screw down that coffin lid tight at night, and the boss carts off his pet screw-driver. Then suppose next day, when he opens that coffin for the visitors to have a last look at the young person, that the other man, meanin' me, happens to notice that the shiner is missin'. If no other person notices it, that's because they're too busy grievin'. But that's the boss's luck, I say. The diamond's gone, just the same, ain't it? Now, you wouldn't want to claim that the young person come out of that patent box and give that diamond away in the night, would you? If she come out at all, I should say it was in the form of a ghost, and I never heard of ghosts wearin' diamonds, or givin' away finger rings. Did you?"

"Do you mean to say that such a thing as this has occurred?"

"Oh, I ain't sayin' a word. I don't make no accusations. You can draw your own conclusions. But in a case like that you would think there was more than one of them screw-drivers, now, wouldn't you?"

"I certainly should, unless we imagined that Mr. Berial himself returned to the house and stole the ring. But that, of course, is impossible."

"Is it?"

"Why, would you think that Mr. Berial would steal?"

"Who knows? We're all honest, till we're caught."

"Tell me this. If Mr. Berial keeps that screw-driver always in his own possession, how could any one have a duplicate of it made?"

"Dead easy. If you can't see that, you're as soft as the old man."

"Perhaps I am. But tell me how it could be done."

"Why, just see.

That tool is double-ended. But one end is just a common, ordinary screw-driver. You don't need to imitate that. The other end is just a screw that fits into the thread at the end of the bolts. Now old Berial keeps his precious screw-driver locked up, but the bolts lay around by the gross. Any man about the place could take one and have a screw cut to fit it, and there you are."

This was an important point, and Mr. Barnes was glad to have drawn it out. It now became only too plain that the patented device was no hindrance to any one knowing of it, and especially to one who had access to the bolts. This made it the more necessary to find the man Jerry.

"There was another man besides yourself who assisted at the Quadrant funeral, was there not?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"There was another man, but he didn't assist much. He was no good."

"What was this man's name?"

"That's why I say he's no good. He called himself Jerry Morton, but it didn't take me long to find out that his name was really Jerry Morgan. Now a man with two names is usually a crook, to my way of thinkin'."

"He gave up his job here this morning, did he not?"

"Did he?"

"Yes. Can you tell why he should have done so? Was he not well enough paid?"

"Too well, I take it. He got the same money I do, and I done twice as much work. So he's chucked it, has he? Well, I shouldn't wonder if there was good reason."

"What reason?"

"Oh, I don't know. That story about old Quadrant floatin' back was in the papers to-day, wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"Very well. There you are."

"You mean that this man Morgan might have had a hand in that?"

"Oh, he had a hand in it all right. So did I and the boss, for that matter. But the boss and me left him screwed tight in his box, and Jerry he was left behind to pick up, as it were. And he had the wagon too. Altogether, I should say he had the chance if anybody. But mind you, I ain't makin' no accusations."

"Then, if Jerry did this, he must have had a duplicate screw-driver?"

"You're improvin', you are. You begin to see things. But I never seen him with no screw-driver, remember that."

"Was he in Mr. Berial's employment at the time of the other affair?"

"What other affair?"

"The case of the young lady from whose finger the diamond ring was stolen."

"Oh, that. Why, he might have been, of course, but then, you know, we was only supposin' a case there. We didn't say that was a real affair." Randal laughed mockingly.

"Have you any idea as to where I could find this man Morgan?"

"I don't think you will find him."

"Why not?"

"Skipped, I guess. He wouldn't chuck this job just to take a holiday."

"Do you know where he lived?"

"Eleventh Avenue near Fifty-fourth Street. I don't know the number, but it was over the butcher shop."

"If this man Morgan did this thing, can you imagine why he did it?"

"For pay; you can bet on that. Morgan ain't the man as would take a risk like that for the fun of the thing."

"But how could he hope to be paid for such an act?"

"Oh, he wouldn't hope. You don't know Jerry. He'd be paid, part in advance anyway, and balance on demand."

"But who would pay him, and with what object?"

"Oh, I don't know. But let me tell you something. Them brothers weren't all so lovin' to one another as the outside world thinks. In the fust place, as I gathered by listenin' to the talk of the servants, the one they called Amos didn't waste no love on the dead one, though I guess the other one, Mark, liked him some. I think he liked the widow even better." Here he laughed. "Now the dead man wanted to be cremated – that is, he said so before he was dead. The widow didn't relish the idea, but she ain't strong-minded enough to push her views. Now we'll suppose a case again. I like that style, it don't commit you to anything. Well, suppose this fellow Mark thinks he'll get into the good graces of the widow by hindering the cremation. He stands out agin it. Amos he says the old fellow wanted to be burned, and let him burn. 'He'll burn in hell, anyway.' That nice, sweet remark he did make, I'll tell you that much. Then the brothers they quarrel. And a right good row they did have, so I hear. Now we'll suppose again. Why couldn't our friend, Mr. Mark, have got up this scheme to stop the cremation?"

Mr. Barnes was startled to hear this man suggest exactly what Mark himself had hinted at. Could it be only a coincidence or was it really the solution of the mystery? But if so, what of the body that was really cremated? But then again the only evidence in his possession on that point was the bare statement in the note received from Mr. Mitchel. Two constructions could be placed upon that note. First, it might have been honestly written by Mr. Mitchel, who really believed what he wrote, though, smart as he was, he might have been mistaken. Secondly, the note might merely have been written to send Mr. Barnes off on a wrong clue, thus leaving Mr. Mitchel a chance to follow up the right one. Resuming his conversation with Randal, Mr. Barnes said:

"Then you imagine that Mr. Mark Quadrant hired this man Morgan to take away the body and hide it until after the funeral?"

"Oh, I don't know. All I'll say is, I don't think Jerry would be too good for a little job like that. Say, you're not a bad sort, as detectives go. I don't mind givin' you a tip."

"I am much obliged, I am sure," said Mr. Barnes, smiling at the fellow's presumption.

"Don't mention it. I make no charge. But see. Have you looked at the corpse at the Morgue?"

"No. Why?"

"Well, I stopped in this morning and had a peep at him. I guess it's Quadrant all right."

"Have you any special way of knowing that?"

"Well, when the boss was injectin' the embalmin' fluid, he stuck the needle in the wrong place first, and had to put it in again. That made two holes. They're both there. You might wonder why we embalmed a body that was to be cremated. You see, we didn't know the family wasn't going to let him be seen, and we was makin' him look natural."

"And you are sure there are two punctures in the body at the Morgue?"

"Dead sure. That's a joke. But that ain't the tip I want to give you. This is another case of diamond rings."

"You mean that there were diamond rings left on the hand when the body was placed in the coffin?"

"One solitaire; a jim dandy. And likewise a ruby, set deep like a carbuncle, I think they call them other red stones. Then on the little finger of the other hand there was a solid gold ring, with a flat top to it, and a letter 'Q' in it, made of little diamonds. Them rings never reached the Morgue."

"But even so, that does not prove that they were taken by the man who removed the corpse from the coffin. They might have been taken by those who found the body in the river."

"Nit. Haven't you read the papers? Boys found it, but they called in the police to get it out of the water. Since then the police has been in charge. Now I ain't got none too good an opinion of the police myself, but they don't rob the dead. They squeeze the livin', all right, but not the dead. Put that down. You can believe, if you like, that Jerry carted that body off to the river and dumped it in, diamond rings and all. But as I said before, you don't know Jerry. No, sir, if I was you, I'd find them rings, and find out how they got there. And maybe I can help you there, too, – that is, if you'll make it worth my while."

Mr. Barnes understood the hint and responded promptly:

"Here is a five-dollar bill," said he. "And if you really tell me anything that aids me in finding the rings, I will give you ten more."

"That's the talk," said Randal, taking the money. "Well, it's this way. You'll find that crooks, like other fly birds, has regular haunts. Now I happen to know that Jerry spouted his watch, a silver affair, but a good timer, once, and I take it he'd carry the rings where he's known, 'specially as I'm pretty sure the pawnbroker ain't over inquisitive about where folks gets the things they borrow on. If I was you, I'd try the shop on Eleventh Avenue by Fiftieth Street. It don't look like a rich place, but that kind don't want to attract too much attention."

"I will go there. I have no doubt that if he took the rings we will find them at that place. One thing more. How was Mr. Quadrant dressed when you placed him in the coffin? The newspapers make no mention of the clothing found on him."

"Oh, we didn't dress him. You see, he was to be burned, so we just shrouded him. Nothin' but plain white cloth. No buttons or nothin' that wouldn't burn up. The body at the Morgue was found without no clothes of any kind. I'd recognize that shroud, though, if it turns up. So there's another point for you."

"One thing more. You are evidently sure that Mr. Quadrant's body was taken out of the coffin. Do you think, then, that the coffin was empty when they took it to the crematory?"

"Why, sure! What could there be in it?"

"Suppose I were to tell you that another detective has examined the ashes and declares that he can prove that a human body was burned with that coffin. What would you say?"

"I'd say he was a liar. I'd say he was riggin' you to get you off the scent. No, sir! Don't you follow no such blind trail as that."

VII

As Mr. Barnes left the undertaker's shop he observed Mr. Burrows coming towards him. It will be recalled that this young detective, now connected with the regular police force of the metropolis, had earlier in life been a prot?g? of Mr. Barnes. It was not difficult to guess from his being in this neighborhood that to him had been intrusted an investigation of the Quadrant mystery.

"Why, hello, Mr. Barnes," Mr. Burrows exclaimed, as he recognized his old friend. "What are you doing about here? Nosing into this Quadrant matter, I'll be bound."

"It is an attractive case," replied Mr. Barnes, in non-committal language. "Are you taking care of it for the office?"

"Yes; and the more I look into it the more complicated I find it. If you are doing any work on it, I wouldn't mind comparing notes."

"Very well, my boy," said Mr. Barnes, after a moment's thought, "I will confess that I have gone a little way into this. What have you done?"

"Well, in the first place, there was another examination by the doctors this morning. There isn't a shadow of doubt that the man at the Morgue was dead when thrown into the water. What's more, he died in his bed."

"Of what disease?"

"Cancer of the stomach. Put that down as fact number one. Fact number two is that the mark on his face is exactly the same, and from the same skin disease that old Quadrant had. Seems he also had a cancer, so I take it the identification is complete; especially as the family say it is their relative."

"Do they all agree to that?"

"Why, yes – that is, all except the youngest brother. He says he guesses it's his brother. Something about that man struck me as peculiar."

"Ah! Then you have seen him?"

"Yes. Don't care to talk to detectives. Wants the case hushed up; says there's nothing in it. Now I know there is something in it, and I am not sure he tells all he knows."

"Have you formed any definite conclusion as to the motive in this case?"

"The motive for what?"

"Why, for removing the body from the coffin."

"Well, I think the motive of the man who did it was money. What the motive of the man who hired him was, I can't prove yet."

"Oh! Then you think there are two in it?"

"Yes; I'm pretty sure of that. And I think I can put my finger on the man that made the actual transfer."

The two men were walking as they talked, Mr. Burrows having turned and joined the older detective. Mr. Barnes was surprised to find his friend advancing much the same theory as that held by Randal. He was more astonished, however, at the next reply elicited. He asked:

"Do you mind naming this man?"

"Not to you, if you keep it quiet till I'm ready to strike. I'm pretty sure that the party who carried the body away and put it in the river was the undertaker's assistant, a fellow who calls himself Randal."

Mr. Barnes started, but quickly regained his self-control. Then he said:

"Randal? Why, how could he have managed it?"

"Easily enough. It seems that the coffin was closed at five on the afternoon before the funeral, and the undertaker was told, in the presence of this fellow Randal, that it would not be opened again. Then the family went in to dine, and Berial and the other man, a fellow with an alias, but whose true name is Morgan, left the house, the other one, Randal, remaining behind to clear up. The undertaker's wagon was also there, and Randal drove it to the stables half an hour or so later."

Mr. Barnes noted here that there was a discrepancy between the facts as related by Mr. Burrows and as he himself had heard them. He had been told by Berial himself that it was "Jack" who had left the house with him, while Burrows evidently believed that it was Jack Randal who had been left behind. It was important, therefore, to learn whether there existed any other reason for suspecting Randal rather than Morgan.

"But though he may have had this opportunity," said Mr. Barnes, "you would hardly connect him with this matter without corroborative evidence."

"Oh, the case is not complete yet," said Mr. Burrows; "but I have had this fellow Randal watched for three days. We at the office knew about this identification before the newspapers got hold of it, be sure of that. Now one curious thing that he has done was to attempt to destroy some pawn-tickets."

"Pawn-tickets?"

"Yes. I was shadowing him myself last night, when I saw him tear up some paper and drop the pieces in the gutter at the side of the pavement. I let my man go on, for the sake of recovering those bits of paper. It took some perseverance and no little time, but I found them, and when put together, as I have said, they proved to be pawn-tickets."

"Have you looked at the property represented yet?"

"No. Would you like to go with me? We'll go together. I was about to make my first open appearance at the undertaker's shop to face this fellow, when you met me. But there's time enough for that. We'll go and look at the rings if you say the word."

"Rings, are they?" said Mr. Barnes. "Why, I would like nothing better. They might have been taken from the corpse."

"Haven't a doubt of it," said Mr. Burrows. "Here are the pawn-tickets. There are two of them. Both for rings." He handed the two pawn-tickets to Mr. Barnes. The pieces had been pasted on another bit of paper and the two were consequently now on a single sheet. Mr. Barnes looked at them closely and then said:

"Why, Burrows, these are made out in the name of Jerry Morgan. Are you sure you have made no mistake in this affair?"

"Mistake? Not a bit of it. That fellow thinks he is smart, but I don't agree with him. He imagines that we might guess that one of those who had the handling of the body did this job, and when he pawned the rings he just used the other fellow's name. It's an old trick, and not very good, either."

Mr. Barnes was not entirely convinced, though the theory was possible, nay, plausible. In which case, the tip which Randal had given to Mr. Barnes was merely a part of his rather commonplace scheme of self-protection at the expense of a fellow-workman. He was glad now that he had met Burrows, for his possession of the pawn-tickets made it easy to visit the pawnbroker and see the rings; while his connection with the regular force would enable him to seize them should they prove to have been stolen from the body of Mr. Quadrant. It was noteworthy that the pawn-tickets had been issued by the man to whose place Randal had directed him. Arrived there, Mr. Burrows demanded to see the rings, to which the pawnbroker at first demurred, arguing that the tickets had been torn, that they had not been issued to the one presenting them, and that unless they were to be redeemed he must charge a fee of twenty-five cents for showing the goods. To all of this Mr. Burrows listened patiently and then showing his shield said meaningly:

"Now, friend Isaac, you get those rings out, and it will be better for you. The Chief has had an eye on this little shop of yours for some time."

"So help me Moses!" said the man, "he can keep both eyes on if he likes."

But his demeanor changed, and with considerable alacrity he brought out the rings. There were three, just as Randal had described to Mr. Barnes, including the one with the initial "Q" set in diamonds.

"Who left these with you?" asked Mr. Burrows.

"The name is on the ticket," answered the pawnbroker.

"You are inaccurate, my friend. A name is on the ticket, yes, but not the name. Now tell me the truth."

"It's all straight. I ain't hiding anything. Morgan brought the things here."

"Morgan, eh? You are sure his name is Morgan? Quite sure?"

"Why, that's the name I know him by. Sometimes he goes by the name of Morton, I've heard. But with me it's always been Morgan, Jerry Morgan, just as it reads on the ticket."

"Oh, then you know this man Morgan?"

"No; only that he borrows money on security once in a while."

"Well, now, if his name is Morgan, did you think this ring with a 'Q' on it was his? Does 'Q' stand for Morgan?"

"That's none of my affair. Heavens, I can't ask everybody where they get things. They'd be insulted."

"Insulted! That's a good one. Well, when I get my hands on this chap he'll be badly insulted, for I'll ask him a lot of questions. Now, Isaac, let me tell you what this 'Q' stands for. It stands for Quadrant, and that's the name of the man found in the river lately, and these three rings came off his fingers. After death, Isaac; after death! What do you think of that?"

"You don't say! I'm astonished!"

"Are you, now? Never thought your friend Morgan or Morton, who works out by the day, and brought valuable diamonds to pawn, would do such a thing, did you? Thought he bought these things out of his wages, eh?"

"I never knew he wasn't honest, so help me Moses! or I wouldn't have had a thing to do with him."

"Perhaps not. You're too honest yourself to take 'swag' from a 'crook,' even though you loan about one quarter of the value."

"I gave him all he asked for. He promised to take them out again."

"Well, he won't, Isaac. I'll take them out myself."

"You don't mean you're going to keep the rings? Where do I come in?"



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