Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: Clancy, Detective
Author: H Bedford-Jones
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0800341.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: April 2008
Date most recently updated: April 2008

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Clancy, Detective
Author: H Bedford-Jones

[The Blue Book Magazine, April 1926]


(The first of a captivating series detailing the exploits of the most
interesting detective since Sherlock Holmes--by the author of "Madagascar
Gold" and "Geyser Reef.")

Half a second more, and the truck would have backed the little old man
out of existence. It was one of those traffic jams for which Paris is
famous, at the corner of the narrow Rue Caumartin. Caught between two
lines of taxicabs, oblivious of the truck coming at him from behind, with
everybody vociferously shouting at everybody else, the old chap stood
bewildered and hesitant, or so I thought.

Consequently, I made a grab for him, rushed him under the nose of a taxi,
and literally carried him to the sidewalk. There, to my surprise, he
turned on me savagely with a flood of French.

"Save your breath," I said. "I don't savvy half what you say, anyhow--"

His face lighted up and he switched into English.

"American, are you? Well, what the purgatory do you mean by assaulting me
that way?"

"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "When a man saves your life, you jump on him!
In another--"

"Oh, you make me tired!" he snapped. "You're another fool tourist who
thinks this is America. Don't you know such things don't happen here?
They have jams, but accidents are rare, and they never run over anyone
except--"

"Suit yourself," I told him. "In another jiffy you'd have been the
exception, that's all."

He laughed suddenly and put out his hand. "Thanks," he said. "I was
thinking about something, to tell the truth. Perhaps you're right. Allow
me--"

He extended a card. I read: "Peter J. Clancy, D.D.S.," and then heard the
suggestion that we have a drink. I assented.

"Sorry I haven't a card, Doc," I said. "My finances haven't extended that
far yet. I came over here to take a newspaper job, got done out of it,
and am on my way to book steerage home again. Here's a cafe. My name's
Jim Logan."

We strolled into the cafe and ordered a drink, and I took stock of
Clancy.

He was a queer duck. He was small, about five foot five in his boots, and
had long gray hair and a gray imperial. His clothes were black once,
perhaps, but now they were greenish and frayed; he wore the red ribbon of
the Legion in his buttonhole. His face was wrinkled--kindly, shrewd
wrinkles, they were--and his eyes were very bright, of a piercing gray.
He wore the wide-brimmed black felt hat of the Parisian, and looked as
French as they make them.

"Glad to meet you, Logan," he said. "I've lived here fifteen years, and
sometimes I get pretty homesick. So you're going back steerage, eh?"

"Anyway at all," I said, sipping my Rossi. "This is the land of liberty,
all right, but what I need is a job and not liberty."

"Very well," he said, with a nod. "I'll give you a job--if you can tell
me the difference between a Sydney View and a Saint Helena grilled."

* * *

For a moment he had me stumped, until I saw in his eyes that he was
earnest enough, and deadly serious. Then I laughed. If this was a test,
he had chosen it just right for me!

"The difference would be about a hundred dollars, if both were in good
condition," I said. "Or, the difference between high value and
worthlessness, as you prefer."

"Good!" he exclaimed. "Then you collect stamps?"

"I don't," I told him frankly. "But I used to. And I know a good deal
about 'em. Do you?"

"Everybody in France does," he said. "Bless my soul, this is
providential, Logan! Do you know, I'm really in need of you? Can you
speak French?"

"Army French," I said. "I can understand it perfectly, but I'm no
linguist."

"Better and better! And I perceive you're something of a boxer, from the
way you handled your feet. You're powerful, you have a good brain, and
you're not afraid to look at a dead man, or you'd not be in the newspaper
game. I can use all these qualities."

"How?" I asked, rather amused, to tell the truth. "Pulling molars?"

"No." He glanced at his watch and paid for the drinks, with a careful
French tip. "We've got time--just. Have you a pencil? Give me that card
of mine."

I gave him card and pencil. He scribbled a few words in French and
returned them to me.

"My office is at 33 Bis, Rue Cambon," he said. "Second floor, French
style--you'd call it the third. You have some money?"

"Enough for my steerage passage home."

"Good. I needed a messenger--and I have him." He drew me out on the
sidewalk as he spoke. "Take a taxi and go to the Préfecture of Police,
the central bureau on the Ile de la Cité. Ask for the préfect
himself--show this card. It'll get you instant admittance. Tell him I
want to take over the case of the stamp dealer Colette, who was murdered
this morning in his shop in Rue St. Honoré, just around the corner. Tell
him I'll go there at twelve-thirty and want him to have all arrangements
made to put me in charge."

I took him by the arm.

"Listen, Doc," I said quietly. "This cat can jump three ways. Either
you're crazy, you're trying to work a practical joke on a tourist, or
else I'm in over my head. Which is it?"

He looked at me, and broke into a laugh.

"Oh! I forgot to explain, Logan. You see, I'm pretty well known at the
Préfecture, but my connection must remain unknown to the public at large.
I often take over interesting cases. This is most interesting--"
"Are you a dentist or a detective?" I demanded.

"Both," he said. "And good either way, young man! I'll give you a hundred
a month--not francs, but dollars--and all the rewards that happen along,
to throw in with me."

"You're on," I said. "I'll take a chance once, anyhow, and if the préfect
kicks me out, no harm done. I'll be back at your office by noon, if this
is on the level; if not, I'll be back there before then."
I hopped a passing taxi and went on my way.

* * *

To be honest, it seemed to me that the little dentist was probably just a
bit cracked in the upper story. From what I had seen of Paris, however,
this was nothing extraordinary, as anybody would know from walking down
the street a few blocks. If, by any accident, he could make good on his
promises, I would get on the inside of a few police jobs and this would
mean the glad hand to me at any newspaper office. I was risking nothing
except being kicked out at police headquarters, so it was a good gamble.

As my taxi purred up the quay toward Notre Dame, however, and I thought
things over, I grew less positive as to Clancy's mental disturbance.
Those sharp gray eyes of his were very sane, very humorous, sparkling
with vigor and acuity. It was much more likely that he was putting over a
practical joke, and that I would find myself politely deposited outside
the Préfecture with a gendarme for company.

"Well, I can risk that, too," I reflected. "Wonder if there was a murder
in Rue St. Honoré this morning? Come to think of it, I did see quite a
crowd down toward Castiglione. But that test question of his--there was a
queer one!"

No mistake about it, either. Only for the odd chance that I knew
something about stamp collection, about which all the French are crazy,
Clancy would not have gone on with his line of talk. This went to show he
was in earnest, and the whole affair left me up in the air and puzzled.

* * *

We got to the Préfecture at last, and I passed the sentries without
difficulty. Having applied for a card of identity after being tipped off
how to do it easily, I knew how much stock to take in the usual methods
of reaching anybody in Paris. Pull, influence and the back door were all
invented by Frenchmen.

I reached the offices of the prefect, and they were crowded. I beckoned
the gendarme and gave him Clancy's card. It bore, in French fashion, a
tiny miniature cross of the Legion of Honor after his name. With the
card, I gave him a ten franc note.

"My business is important, and I'm in a hurry," I said.

He shrugged and disappeared through a doorway. In two minutes he was back
again, holding the door open for me. Then I had an idea whether or not my
friend Clancy was crazy.

I was ushered into an office, where the préfect sat behind his desk,
talking with a man whom I recognized instantly from his pictures. He
happened to be the Premier of France, the actual ruler of a nation whose
president is a figurehead meant to preside over charity bazaars. I
waited. The Premier rose, shook hands, and departed. The chief of police
looked at me and then stood up for the usual handshake and polite
phrases.

Summoning up my best French, which was perfectly understood by chauffeurs
and the usual Parisian, but which made educated Frenchmen grin, I gave
him Clancy's message. He fingered his flowing whiskers, and then nodded.

"Very well, it shall be as M. Clancy wishes," he said. "Tell him,
however, that there is no mystery whatever in this case. Certain
fingerprints were found, left by the murderer. They were investigated.
The man who made them was arrested forty-five minutes ago. He cannot
account for his whereabouts during the early hours of the morning, and M.
Colette was murdered shortly after nine o'clock, upon his arrival to open
the shop. The murderer had been hiding there. He is a common Apache with
a bad record, Gersault by name."

"I'm surprised," I said.

"Most people are usually surprised by the efficiency of Paris police," he
returned, beaming on me. I gave him a smile.

"No, it's the other way round, monsieur. I'm surprised that you should be
so far behind the times as to place any dependence on fingerprints. It
has been proved over and over in the American courts that they can be
forged. There are different ways of transferring the fingerprints of an
innocent man to the scene of a crime. The chief of police of Los Angeles
was charged with a crime by a friend, who thus demonstrated the
feasibility of transferring prints, for by all evidence the chief was
guilty. The Australian courts have recognized these things and have
dismissed--"

The préfect rubbed his whiskers the wrong way, in some agitation.

"We are aware of these things, my friend," he said hastily. "We are aware
of them, I can assure you, and shall bring them all into consideration.
In the meantime, you will honor me by informing M. Clancy that full
details of the affair will be waiting for him at the scene of the crime,
by twelve-thirty. I shall be very glad to place the case in his hands,
and pending the result of his inquiry we shall do nothing, beyond keeping
the man Gersault in prison."

He bowed, I bowed, and with the parting ceremonial handshake, I got away.

It was five minutes to twelve when I reached Clancy's address in Rue
Cambon. It was an old barn of a place, gained through a courtyard, and
his offices were old-fashioned and high-ceilinged. He had a patient in
his dental chair, and nodded to me.

"I'll be free presently," he said, and there was a twinkle in his eye.

"So you didn't get kicked out?"

"No," I said, and let it go at that.

* * *

I had a look around the outer or waiting-room. Obviously, the old chap had
an eye for good furniture, and knew a rug when he saw one; he had few of
the gimcracks which crowd the usual office of the French professional
man.

At one side of the room was a big, glass-doored cabinet, standing open.
An unmistakable loose-leaf album lay inside, and I could not resist the
temptation to take it out and have a look. Then I saw half a dozen other
albums below. Glancing over the book, I found that Clancy had a superb
collection of Great Britain and colonies, largely in blocks of four. Then
I put back the album, as he escorted his patient to the door, and turned
to meet him.

"Isn't it rather injudicious to leave the cabinet open?" I asked.

"Nothing there worth your time or trouble," he answered. "Shut it, and
come along inside. We'll have a chat, and get a bite to eat when the
opportunity offers."

He must have left the cabinet open by forgetfulness, since it had a
spring lock, opening only to some intricate key. He motioned me to the
dental chair, and I declined promptly.

"Too reminiscent, thanks."

"Please yourself." He offered a cigarette. "Of course, our friend the
préfect has caught the murderer by this time?"

"How did you know that?"

"It's the usual custom, unless the affair is something very simple or
very big. Well, what happened?"

I told him, and he listened in silence until I had finished. Then those
bright gray eyes of his flamed suddenly.

"So you didn't think it unusual that the Premier would be calling on the
chief of police, eh?"

I whistled. Now that he mentioned it, the incident was unusual--in the
ordinary course of nature, it would have been the other way round. I said
so, and he nodded.

"Of course, of course. However, the préfect is unlike the majority of his
countrymen. He is not a stamp collector. He collects something, of
course--a Frenchman has to collect something--but he runs to coins."

"Old or new?" I queried facetiously. Clancy chuckled.

"Old. Hm! Our little murder case, except for the Premier calling on the
prefect, would be simple robbery--"

"How do you know the call has anything to do with this case?" I demanded.

"I don't. I just make a guess, my good friend! But yes, it would be
simple robbery."

He was silent for a moment, smoking thoughtfully, then he broke into
explanation.

"Colette had a pair of the Niger Coast one-pound surcharge--of which only
two copies were ever in existence. It is less known than the Mauritius
'post-office' stamp, but equally rare. The two stamps were overprinted
together, and one was subsequently torn off and used. What became of it
is unknown; neither the sender nor the recipient was a collector,
apparently. The other one came into Colette's hands about six months
ago. He has advertised it at the price of twenty-five thousand dollars,
but has not yet sold it. Thus, an apparent motive for robbery."

"The police have arrested a man named Gersault, of the Apache class, on
the strength of his fingerprints," I reminded him.

"And Gersault will probably confess," said Clancy. "We must look up
everything and everyone connected with him, and lose valuable
time--humph! Meanwhile, we'd better get along to the late and lamented
Colette's place. When we have played our little parts to the satisfaction
of M. le Préfect and his men, we'll begin the serious end of the
business--humph!"

* * *

For the time being, he forgot me, and went into dreamy abstraction. He
reached down his black felt hat, put it on and made for the door,
stroking his gray imperial. I followed him.

In two minutes we were in the Rue St. Honoré, and strode along till we
reached the tiny shop of Colette. The steel shutters were pulled down,
leaving the only entrance at the rear, by way of the courtyard. A
gendarme stood there--not the usual agent, but the rarely seen gendarme,
in all his glory--and he saluted Clancy at once. Clancy nodded
recognition.

"Ah, the préfect sent you, eh?"

"To receive you, monsieur," said the gendarme. He took out a sheaf of
papers and handed them to Clancy, who pocketed them impatiently. "The
formalities have been finished, but everything has been left untouched
for your inspection."

We went in, and he switched on the electric light. Narrow-fronted as it
was, the shop was twenty feet deep. In the right-hand corner at the back,
facing the rear entry, was a large safe. Anyone standing at the safe
would be invisible, for the entire window and front door were closed in
by cards of stamps offered for sale. Colette's body lay before the safe.
"Stabbed?" demanded Clancy abruptly.

The gendarme, who apparently had charge of the case, nodded.

"Under the left arm, monsieur. The main artery, not the heart."
"Where is the knife?"

"Not found, monsieur, but it was no knife. It was a long, stiletto-like
blade, very thin. The doctor could only judge from the nature of the
wound."

"Of course," said Clancy. He had an irritating way of saying the two
words, as though everything was clear to him. After the two questions, he
disregarded the body and turned his attention to the safe. "Gersault's
fingerprints were found here?"

The gendarme nodded and showed us. The safe door was partly open, and
Clancy took a magnifying glass from his pocket, pushing open the door.
The shelves were filled with albums, small classeurs or pocketbooks for
stamps, and loose sheets. Below these was a row of small drawers, one
standing open and empty. Clancy pointed down at it.

"Gersault's fingerprints there, also?"

"Yes, monsieur," answered the gendarme. "And on the front door, also?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"How much money did Gersault have on him when arrested?"

"Two thousand-franc notes, six hundred-franc notes, two ten-franc notes,
eighteen francs in bronze, two ten-centime copper pieces, and two
five-centime nickel pieces," said the gendarme without hesitation. "Also,
five Italian thousand-lire notes."

"Ah!" said Clancy in a curious tone. He turned and looked at me gravely.
"Logan, never dare tell me these police are not efficient!"

* * *

He went to the safe and peered into it, inquisitively. On the upper shelf
was a row of little books or carnets bound in morocco. One projected
slightly beyond its fellows, and it was bound in red, instead of in black
like the others. Clancy suddenly reached up and pulled it from its place,
and gave it a quick examination. Then he sniffed.

"So that's it!" he exclaimed. "There'd be no prints, of course--gloved
hands." He swept around and thrust it under my nose. "Know the smell?"

"Apple-blossom," I said promptly, wondering what he was driving at.

"Hm! They're so used to scenting themselves--" He broke off, and handled
the little carnet almost reverently. "He kept his rarities in this. A
true collector, Colette! Now, Logan, we'll see! Everything neat,
immaculate, in the best French manner--except this little book of
rarities! It's obvious. Everything's obvious!"

I watched him go through the little book page by page, entirely
disregarding the two of us. Here and there he lifted a specimen carefully
to inspect its back. There were things in this booklet to make my fingers
itch; the rare first printings of Newfoundland, French and English
colonials, early Mauritius--all with prices penciled beneath, of from one
to ten thousand francs, even more.

Clancy turned page after page. About two thirds of the way through, he
came to a page on which was a ruled oblong in the center, but no stamp.
Below the oblong was this inscription:

No. 37, Gibbons--10s., in black, on is.--$25, 000

The price of twenty-five thousand dollars, in dollars, showed that
Colette had hoped to sell the vanished stamp to some American tourist or
dealer. One might have equally set a value on the unique Guiana rarity,
on the Venus de Milo, or any other treasure of which only one specimen
exists. And Clancy examined this blank page very carefully with his
magnifying glass, and then held it under my nose.

"Gloves save prints," he observed grimly, "but they carry scent."

Apple-blossom again. The gendarme, who spoke English fluently, smiled.
"M. Clancy has found something?"

"What I sought is not here," said Clancy evasively, then his tone became
sharper. "I have finished, m'sieur. If you question Gersault, you'll find
that he'll confess to theft from this safe--"

"He has confessed, monsieur," said the gendarme. "A copy is in the
dossier I gave you."

"Good," said Clancy. "Take a look at the body, Logan. The rest is a
matter for the nose--the trained, inquisitive nose--and for plodding
research."

I looked at the dead man. A small, swarthy, fat little chap, he had been
one who dressed carefully for his business, with morning coat, starched
front and cuffs--even a rosebud in his buttonhole. The left arm was
stretched out away from the body. Under it, the coat had been pulled
away, vest and underwear cut to permit examination of the wound. From the
man's immaculate appearance, I concluded he had been caught unawares.
Whoever had looked at the wound had probably done the slight
disarrangement visible--or so I thought.

"Come along, Logan," said Clancy.

* * *

We said farewell to the gendarme, and went out to the street. Clancy led
the way, more or less in one of his absent-minded dreams, and I tagged
along toward the Madeleine. At the Trois Quartiers corner, he halted
suddenly.

"How much money have you, Logan?"

"All of it," I responded. "A couple of thousand francs."

"You may need to use some of it. I expect you to work--no Watson business
for you, my friend! I'm depending on you for a good deal. To follow your
nose, for one thing--would you know that smell again?"

"Anywhere," I answered readily. "It was faint, but remarkable. Quite
unlike the ordinary perfume, I imagine."

He nodded approvingly, then gave me a sample of his surprising general
knowledge.

"It's used very seldom--is made by an English firm, oddly enough. They
put it on the market some fifteen years ago and at first it swept things.
Then the demand died out, for this apple-blossom had no lasting
qualities. It could not be fixed, like ordinary perfume, but died out and
was gone. Women wouldn't use it, despite its rare flavor, for this
reason. There are others like it, of course, but none with its peculiar
bouquet. Think you'd be misled?"

"No," I said, with conviction. One could not easily be misled there.

"One thing will help you--whoever uses it, must use it heavily, owing to
its evanescent quality. Colette was murdered this morning. Whoever did
it, used this perfume at home, put on gloves, came straight to Colette's
place and killed him, then got the stamp. Perhaps took off the gloves to
pull the stamp loose and pocket it--well, no matter! You must follow your
nose."

"To find who uses this perfume--in Paris?" I laughed skeptically. "It's a
large order."

"You're not Watson--I hope," came the biting response. Then Clancy smiled
and put his hand on my shoulder. "Go to it! The stuff is imported from
England and very few people use it nowadays; that's all the help I can
give you. You're new to this game?"

I shrugged. "I'm a newspaper man."

"There are as big fools in that game as in others," he said calmly. "You
know enough, then, to neglect no customer who buys that scent. And
remember the sort of weapon used! I must interview Gersault and one or
two others. We'll meet around the dental chair at eight this evening--eh?
If not before."

"Right," I said.

* * *

Back in my youthful days, I once had a girl who liked apple-blossom
perfume, and I bought her so much of it, and she used it so freely, that
I became sick of the odor for life. The usual odor, that is. This one
particular brand was different, a sweet and freshly invigorating smell
that took one straight back to an apple orchard.

I left Clancy on the corner and ducked down to Prunier's for a bite to
eat. Not the grand joint where tourists get bled, but the little one
where you sit at the counter and pay French prices. And, as I crossed the
street intersection, apple-blossom struck at me from a gorgeous
limousine--the same rare scent. It's odd how you neglect the existence of
a thing until the need comes for finding it, and then you meet it from
every angle!

It was a big car. I was dodging through the traffic, and could only tell
from the back wheel hubs that it was of Italian make. When I reached
safety and turned to look, the limousine had swept away and gone in the
tide of traffic. I had to give it up and run along to get my sandwich and
demi of bock. There was no particular haste, for despite the apparent
magnitude of my task, I could do little until the noon hour was past and
the shops opened up at two.

A little reasoning over my lunch showed me that one who used
apple-blossom and knew Colette's, must be in the habit of shopping in the
Rue St. Honoré neighborhood among the solemn tourists with their long
purses and omnipresent canes. So I set forth to dip into the perfume
shops, even unto the Rue de Rivoli, but none of them yielded anything
beyond the modern variant of my apple-blossom--a sweeter, more enduring,
sickish smell. The one I wanted could not be fixed in its alcohol base,
so was not popular; but while it lasted, it was like a breath of orchard
with children playing in it.

I thought of an English druggist, and looked one up. Here I struck oil.
He found a wholesaler's list which gave the address of the Paris
importers of this stuff, he gave me a card and his blessing, and I
sallied forth on sounder premises.

This trail took me to a third-floor office near the Porte de St. Denis,
where the druggist's card made things easy for me. A very efficient girl
clerk looked up the four shops in Paris where this perfume was sold and
wrote down the addresses--four places in all Paris! Which shows how one
cannot see the trees for the forest. One of those shops, and the
likeliest, was in the Rue de Rivoli, not far from Rumpelmayer's, and had
been almost under my nose!

This shop drew me first. I found a stodgy, middle-aged man who regarded
my inquiries with distinct suspicion until, French fashion, I reached his
interest by telling my personal affairs, or seeming to. When my hints
made him understand that this was an affair of a secret passion and a
beautiful incognita, he woke up.

He had two steady customers for my apple-blossom. One was the Baronne de
la Seigny, at present in charge of a base hospital on the Moroccan front,
where her husband held high command. She, obviously, was out of it. The
other was a certain Madame de Lautenac, probably gone to her villa at
Nice, but perhaps still in Paris. The address of this so charming
madame--he hesitated doubtfully, but the fact of being in on the edge of
a love affair shattered his commercial virtue. So did my hundred-franc
note. I got the Lautenac address.

* * *

I departed for the other three establishments. In one I was refused
information point-blank: confidential hints effected nothing, nor did the
bank notes. I tried to buy two bottles of the perfume, but they had only
one. Back to the Porte St. Denis I went, interviewed the wholesaler's
clerk again, spent a little money. The last order from this shop had been
for three bottles, twelve months previously. Obviously, they had no
regular customer for it. Time gone to waste!

One other shop, toward the Place de la Republique, was uncertain of its
customers and afforded nothing. The fourth and last, near the Printemps,
yielded gracefully to my persuasion. Four regular customers; Marquise
d'Auteuil, a wealthy title bought under the Empire and of high society. A
première danseuse at one of the Folies run for tourists. A lady, about
whom the less said the better, just now sharing the establishment of a
deposed potentate from the far east; and last--ah! A milliner in the Rue
St. Honoré!

There came the difficulty; a flat-footed refusal to furnish names and
addresses of the last three.

The hunt was over, I told myself, and went for the milliner's address. I
bought her business name--Nicolette--for five hundred francs, and went my
way rejoicing to see her.

I think Nicolette had a lot of fun with me. She was fat and fifty, if a
day. When I asked to buy a hat and obviously knew nothing about
millinery, she gave me pleasant ridicule. Neither she nor her assistant
was perfumed. My idea of buying a hat without bringing a lady to try it
on struck them as delicious. When I asked abruptly if there were any
stamp dealers in the vicinity, they evidently thought me crazy.

"Ah! That poor M'sieur Colette was murdered this morning!" responded
Nicolette. "So far as I know, there are no others nearer than the Rue
Drouot. My husband, who was killed at Verdun, was a collectioneur, but I
myself am not interested. Perhaps if you will bring madame, or
mademoiselle, to choose her own hat--"

I got out of the place. In Paris, they suffer fools gladly.

The afternoon was wearily wasting along by this time. I went back to the
English druggist to make sure of my premises. No, the English makers
would supply only through the wholesale house; they were very strict
about it as regarded the Paris trade. I had missed nobody.

I went to Fauchon's, which opened earlier than most, and dined by myself.
The four shops selling my apple-blossom had not provided one decent clue
among them. The première danseuse and the potentate's lady friend I had
failed to locate, and Nicolette was ruled out. None of these was probably
on the lookout for a Niger Coast one-pound surcharge at any price, even
that of murder. There remained two very unlikely candidates--Madame de
Lautenac, who seemed out of the city, and the Marquise d'Auteuil, member
of very exclusive circles. I got an evening paper and read about the
murder of Colette.

Nothing new there, except that he was really an Italian, whose original
name had been Coletti.

* * *

In something of a bad humor, I entered Clancy's office at eight o'clock.
He was in the dental chair, with a packet of stamp mounts scattered over
the instrument tray, a loose-leaf album in his lap, and the operating
light blazing on him. He glanced up but did not rise.

"This business started me off again," he said dreamily. "Niger
Coast--mine is a fine set, too. The ten-shilling red surcharge on five
pence, for example: I came across it ten years ago at the Hotel Drouot--"
He closed the album and nodded happily.

"I've tracked down the apple-blossom," I said abruptly.

"With no result, eh?"

"How do you know that?"

"By your face. How much did you expend?"

I told him. He brought out a wad of notes and refunded my expenditures,
and I gave him an exact account of all I had done. He stroked his goatee
and nodded.

"You did well. Hm! The première danseuse can be ruled out--she would not
be up before noon, and those ladies are hard-working. They do not go
around sticking knives into shopkeepers. About Madame de Lautenac, I know
nothing; it will be easy to find whether she has gone to Nice. However, I
am attracted by the two remaining possibilities; the Marquise, and the
pretty favorite of the eastern potentate. She must be Lottie Harfleur--of
course!"

He got out of his chair and went to the shelves on the wall. He took down
first one and then another volume of "Le Bottin"--the voluminous
directory that will give you all France and its people, if you know how
to use the thing. Then he gave me a cigarette and lighted another at my
match, and smoked thoughtfully.

"There's a stamp auction tomorrow at the Drouot," he observed dreamily.
"Another of those sweet little games managed by the dealers for their own
benefit. Everything in Paris touches the Hotel Drouot at some point;
draft horses and Greek statuary, all come to the auction block
there--they sold Marie Antoinette's nightcap the other day. I'd be
tempted to look there, except--the Premier visiting the préfect of
police--"

"Politics?" I asked hopefully. Clancy smiled.

"Why not? This Colette was an Italian, yet in Paris you can never tell
who anybody is in reality. He may have been a secret agent for some
foreign government--anything! Yet, his murderer took a stamp of priceless
value, a Niger Coast stamp also, a colony in which few collectors here
are interested--"

He tossed his cigarette to the floor, French fashion, and stepped on it,
then looked at me. "Do you know any newspaper men here?"

"One or two," I said.

"Good. Find out all you can about the private life of the Marquise
d'Auteuil. Leave the others to me. Follow your nose. To tell the exact
truth," and he smiled in his whimsical, kindly fashion, "you and I are
both up a stump, young man! I want more information and I mean to have
it--from somewhere. There's something to this I don't know."

"Obviously," I said with heavy wit. He chuckled and slapped my shoulder.

"Right! We'll get it tomorrow. Follow your nose--follow your nose! Eight
tomorrow night at the dental chair, if not before. And here's luck to
you!"

I went back to my lodgings, feeling that my first essay as a detective
was not up to storybook style, by a long shot.

With Phil Brady, who does a weekly column for New York and syndicate
papers, and who knows everything and everybody in Paris, I had a nodding
acquaintance. Like most of the top-notch correspondents, Brady has the
Legion of Honor. I reached him by telephone, and next morning he met me
at a corner terrace table outside the Café Madrid. He was large,
comfortable and middle-aged, had married a Frenchwoman, and was
universally liked.

"Spill it," said Brady, when we had ordered a café fine. "What d'you
want?"

"The Marquise d'Auteuil," I said.

"Expensive," grunted Brady, "but get her if you want her--not with my
help. Run your own tourist agency. I thought this was serious business."

"Confound you!" I exclaimed. "I didn't mean what you mean. I've got a
line on something in this Colette murder affair, if you've heard of it,
and this dame is one of the exhibits."

"Oh!" Brady grinned. "Exclusive story to me when it's ready for release."

"Agreed. If I'm on the right track we'll both win."

"Who you working with or for?"

"A chap named Clancy."


He gave me a queer look. "Oh! You're a lucky devil. What do you want?"

"The lady's life history. Perhaps an introduction."

* * *

He grunted. "You don't want much. Meet me at the Gallos Café, back of
the Louvre store, at one-thirty. Best place to eat in the city and not a
confounded tourist to be seen. I don't carry life histories in my head,
but I'll have the dope for you then. Order a bottle of their Vouvray '06
but go light on it--strong stuff. What's back of this Colette murder?"

"Search me, so far. Know anything? Politics?"

He sniffed. "I know your friend Clancy--he doesn't fool away time on
nothing. If it's politics, it may reach anywhere. Well, see you for
lunch, then."

His opinion of my new employer was extremely reassuring, but I wondered
whether Clancy had not side-tracked me. It did not seem probable that a
marquise would have committed the murder, though I did not have any high
opinion of Continental nobility. Clancy's half-formed notions about the
Hotel Drouot, however, struck me as more to the point. This huge building
of lofty halls, center of all the auctions in Paris, was a remarkable
institution. Here were sold estates, goods seized for taxes, government
confiscations, collections of books, stamps, coins, everything! Few
tourists ever reached it: the place was haunted every afternoon by all
the antique dealers in Paris, by collectors of every walk in life, by
society women and hotel-keepers. Something might show up in line with my
quest at this afternoon's sale, and I determined to drop around.

* * *

At the time and place appointed, I met Brady again. He brought three
different portraits of the Marquise d'Auteuil, two being studio views and
the third a snap taken at Longchamps. This gave her as tall and willowy,
wearing the last thing in summer frocks, with a feather boa about her
swan-like neck--the odious phrase fitted her exactly. The portraits
showed her classic features as cold and proud, somewhere in the early
thirties, and I did not care for her looks a bit.

"And what about her?" I demanded.

"Convent educated," said Brady. "Daughter of Armand de Chevrier, of the
old noblesse. Married Auteuil at nineteen, when he was forty. They have a
big place in Auteuil, another at Cannes, another in Normandy, but have
let the chateaux--money is rather tight with them just at present.
Neither she nor her husband are up to snuff. He has his actresses, she
has her lovers, to put it baldly. Just now, Jean Galtier is the favorite
of the fair dame. That's about all the general information I can pick up,
and blessed if I can see where it would lead to the Colette affair."
I agreed with him. "Who's this Jean Galtier?"

"Average man about town," replied Brady. "If you golf, I can get you in
with him--if he's any use to you. He has money and time to spend, that's
all; a languid devil, despite his passion for golf."

"Does he collect stamps?"

"You can search me." Brady shook his head and attacked his Chateaubriand.
"However, I have something useful for you. There's a big political
reception in the Avenue Kléber tonight, with some of the press
invited--you can take my card and go if you like. Galtier will be there;
he has stock in a newspaper, which means politics. The Marquise may be
there. Georges Lebrun is the general master of ceremonies. Tell him I
sent you, and he can manage an introduction to the lady--if you want it."

I pocketed the pasteboards he handed me. "And the Marquis?"

"If he's not at the reception, you'll find her there, and vice versa,"
said Brady with a touch of cynical amusement. "He patronizes Montmartre,
however, rather than social affairs."

"And this Georges Lebrun?"

"You can't miss him. Just five feet, rosette of the Legion, beautiful
black hair with a white patch over the left brow. He's very proud of it.
Mention my name and he'll do anything in reason for you. I've a few
further details, if they're any use."

He had--many of them, and I wondered how he had got hold of them. An
expensive lady was the Marquise. He had a list of her debts, her habits,
and her companions; and before our luncheon was finished I had a worse
opinion of my fellow man than previously. It was a scandalously intimate
story, once Brady was fairly launched.

"She doesn't look it," I observed.

"Hm! Does any woman ever look it? Though at the back of my mind I think
you're barking up the wrong tree, and Gersault will go to the guillotine
for the murder. Why should a marquise murder a stamp-dealer?"
"I never said she did," I returned.

"Well, get the yarn, old man, and then spill it to me."
I promised and we separated.

* * *

Since it was now past two, I made for the Hotel Drouot, having nothing
better on hand. I knew the place slightly--knew it well enough not to
seek my quarry on the first floor, where only cheap things were sold. The
upper floor was devoted to collections and art sales, and for this I
struck.

Passing down the central hall, glancing at the huge rooms to either hand,
I came to a pause. To my right was the sale--chairs and benches three
deep around a green baize table the length of the room, with a scanty
crowd standing behind. Before the table was the desk of the auctioneer
and accountants. Commissaires displayed the lots, passing them around. To
one side of the desk sat the expert, who looked as though he might
possibly, as a baby, have suffered the indignity of a bath. He was
handing out the lots.

I wormed my way along to a good spot and waited. British colonials were
being sold. A scraggy old woman and a fat collector were pushing a first
issue Nauru ten-shilling to fabulous prices. Dealers around me whispered;
the woman had ten million stamps in her collection, the fat man was an
industrial millionaire. Both were fools, said the dealers angrily.

The next lot came up, and I started at hearing its description. Niger
Coast, ten-shilling surcharge on English five-penny! The catalog value of
the stamp was fifteen hundred francs. No dealer would pay more than five
or six hundred for it at the outside. The expert started the lot at fifty
francs.

The old woman and Fatty pushed it up to a hundred at once, then others
chipped in and it went to two hundred. "Two-fifty," said the expert, with
a magnificent air. This staggered the others: your Frenchman counts the
centimes, let alone the francs! However, Fatty came back, and the old
woman snapped into the bidding again, and they shoved it up to four
hundred.

Then, close beside me, spoke out a cool, lazy drawl. "Five hundred!" I
looked at the bidder. He was faultlessly attired and looked much out of
place here. He had been tailored and hatted at the best establishments;
was young, fairly good-looking, and like four out of five French people,
ran to nose.

The old woman glared; Fatty looked stupefied. The expert barked: "Cin
quante!" in a savage tone, as though to frighten off the exquisite. The
latter waited until the ivory hammer rose, then spoke again.
"Six hundred."

The expert shoved a dirty hand in the air, as though to say that the fool
could take the lot for all of him. Fatty examined the stamp, and nodded a
bid. The old woman fought him up to seven hundred. Again the ivory hammer
rose, and again the fashion-plate near me spoke.

"Seven-fifty."

One could see the old woman committing murder in her mind. "Soixante!"
she snapped, and Fatty stuck with her. Youth and beauty let them contest
it up to nine hundred, then came in with a flat bid of a thousand. All
eyes went to him. Fatty pulled at his collar apoplectically and shook his
head. The old woman snapped a raise of ten francs, and the exquisite went
to eleven hundred. That was killing. The hammer fell, and the commissaire
handed him the stamp.

"Name and address, monsieur, if you please." "Levallois, twenty Avenue
Wagram."

* * *

He paid, took his change, and then he sauntered out carelessly. I watched
one or two more lots go, but lost interest. I departed, sought the
chauffeurs' rendezvous near the end of the Passage Jouffroy, and ordered
a demi of brune.

Levallois! It was a keen letdown to me. Here was a Frenchman sufficiently
interested in Niger Coast stamps to pay eleven hundred francs--much more
than actual value--for one. I had confidently expected to hear him give
the name of Galtier. It was a stamp of the same set as that for which
Colette had been murdered, and the man had obviously attended the sale in
order to buy this one stamp and no others. My disappointment, then, was
acute. My notion of connecting Marquise d'Auteuil with the crime, through
him, had suffered a setback. If this had only been Galtier, I would have
been convinced.

I went along to my lodgings, across the river, and got into my glad rags.
By the time I got out and dined--the usual restaurant does not serve
until seven--it was nearly eight, and I went on to Clancy's
apartment-office. I found him working over some dental instruments.

"Going gay, are you?" he exclaimed. For response, I handed him the card
of invitation Brady had given me.

"Nine o'clock--that means nine-thirty," he commented. "On the trail of
the Marquise, eh? You've begun, but not finished, a good day's work."
"Then you think--"

Clancy shook his head. "I don't. It's fatal, in this game. I had an
interesting talk with Gersault." "Then you learned something?"

"No. The type of man, not the talk, was interesting. Not a sound tooth in
his head, and knows a dozen places to get absinth by asking for
Rossi-Vermouth."

"Sounds rather silly."

"All life is silly," said Clancy, and gave me a cigarette. "Why do any of
us ever do anything? Crackling of thorns under a pot, as the preacher
said a long time ago. Why did Colette deal in little bits of paper?
Silly. Sillier still to have any thousand-lire notes in his safe. Sillier
still of Gersault to take them. Why did the Premier call on the préfect
of police?"

"I'll bite," I said. "Why? What are you hinting at?"

"Politics," and Clancy chuckled. "Come, give an account of yourself."
I did so.

"Interesting," he commented. "This Levallois is a friend of Galtier.
You'll see him there tonight. I'm half tempted to be there myself--hm! Of
course. By the way, Madame de Lautenac is in town. She moves in the same
set. Well, run along! See you tomorrow if I'm not there tonight."

I ran along, feeling rather disgusted with my new profession.

* * *

The reception at a big mansion in the Avenue Kléber, being political, was
a full-dress affair, "le smoking" being held to its strictly masculine
place by fashionable Paris. My poor glad rags looked nothing at all amid
the uniforms, for your Frenchman runs to decoration and medals in
quantity, and is happy as a child when wearing high colors.

Lebrun was not hard to locate. He was almost a dwarf in size, but his
pride made up for lack of inches. When I presented Brady's card, he shook
hands warmly and spoke in English of a sort.

Yes, any friend of M'sieur Brady might rest assured of his services. Of
course, I would want to know who was who. He began pointing out couples,
lingering with appreciation upon their titles, and then going into a
cynical chronicle of their doings. It was amusing, but in the midst of
his discourse I caught a passing breath of apple-blossom.

To trace it was impossible. Everyone was perfumed insufferably, new
arrivals were coming in every moment, and I gave it up. Then Lebrun
interrupted some highly spiced tale to indicate a man just entering.

"There is Galtier, Jean Galtier."

I caught at the name. "The stamp collector?" Lebrun shrugged. "Why not?
Everyone collects stamps--perhaps Galtier does."

Pale-haired, chalky of face, indeterminate, thin-lipped, a man of perhaps
thirty-five, Galtier looked no man to be the lover of a fashionable
beauty. I understood that these women reduced their lovers to a platonic
state, however, making them fetch and carry more like dogs than men. For
such a part, it struck me, this Galtier would be an ideal subject.
"What does he do?" I asked.

"What would you do, if you could spend a thousand francs before breakfast
and not miss it?"

"Probably what he does," I said, and laughed.

"You would find him interesting," said Lebrun.

The spacious, ornately decorated salon, with its shifting groups, was
well filled. For the moment Lebrun left me, to speak with some friends.
Galtier came toward me, looking around as though in search of someone,
until he was within three feet of me. Then he spoke suddenly as someone
tapped him on the shoulder. That someone was Levallois.
"Ah, my dear friend! I was looking for you--"

"And," said Levallois, laughingly, "your dear friend will undertake no
more such commissions! It was very amusing, but a filthy place, filthy
people--bah!"

"You got it?" demanded Galtier.

Levallois nodded. "Eleven hundred francs, and the tax besides--"

"Spare me the details," said Galtier. "You did not bring it? Then, in the
morning."

"Yes. An excellent copy, too. You now have the set complete?"

Galtier shook his head mournfully. "Nobody will ever complete it," he
replied. "There are two I can never hope to see, at any price."

* * *

Obviously, Levallois had been buying the stamp at that sale for his
friend. Good! My hopes rose. I knew, too, that even if Galtier possessed
the stamp stolen from Colette, his statement would still be correct, for
three of those stamps are extremely rare. Of two, only two copies were
printed, and five copies of the third, making them easily among the
rarest stamps in the world.

Did Galtier hope to get one of the five copies, or did he already have
Colette's stamp? His words gave no clue, yet his manner showed that the
hobby was an absorbing one to him. I was now convinced that my time had
not been wholly wasted. Somehow, Galtier would prove to be connected with
the murder in the Rue St. Honoré.

Again, suddenly, the tang of apple-blossom drew my gaze swiftly around.
Now I saw the Marquise, recognizing her instantly. She was approaching
Galtier, and Levallois turned away. Galtier bowed over her hand, and my
eyes went to the diamond-studded object on her corsage--a tiny stiletto,
an ancient bit of gold-work. Its hilt would have meant a year's income to
me. Small as it was, it was large enough to let out a man's life.

The two talked together, low-voiced. Galtier seemed embarrassed, and I
thought she must be reproaching him. I could build it up in my
mind--despite Clancy's remark anent the folly of thinking. Galtier would
never murder for the sake of a stamp, which he might buy, but here was a
woman who would put her soul in pawn for the sake of the man she wanted.

Galtier had cooled toward her, then, and she wanted to keep him. She, not
he, had gone to Colette's shop. Perhaps Colette had promised the stamp to
someone else, and refused to sell it; perhaps she was unable to pay some
extortionate demand. Perhaps she had tried to steal it, and had been
detected--

No. Somehow, it wouldn't hold water, though it was very plausible. I
could not see a woman like this one killing Colette, though she had both
strength and courage for it. Then her voice lifted a little and reached
me clearly.

"Tomorrow, then, before déjeuner. A surprise for you, my friend--"

So, then, it was settled! She had the stamp, and on the morrow would hand
it over to him; such a gift would cement him firmly. She was safe enough,
for the supposed murderer was already in custody and the stamp would not
be traced--indeed, only Clancy had divined its loss.

* * *

The two parted. Galtier stood alone, rubbing his forehead and looking
distinctly relieved at her departure. Exactly. He was tired of the
intrigue, and she was mad to get him back at her beck and call.
Meantime, I thought, watch Galtier and let her alone. She had the stamp.
The chief thing would be to call at her house in the morning, and obtain
it. Clancy must handle this end of it, naturally. Galtier moved about the
place, speaking, shaking hands, kissing fingers. He still seemed
searching. Levallois had disappeared in the throng. I followed Galtier,
feeling awkward and conspicuous, yet exultant over my success--

Apple-blossom again! Galtier swung around, and a sparkle of animation
came into his face as he bowed above the hand of a very brunette, almost
swarthy, young woman. Her lack of any jewelry was noticeable. So was the
brilliance of her eyes, the extreme vigor and depth of her personality.
She was beautiful, and she had character plus. Galtier retained her hand
and beamed at her.

"It is good to see you again, mon ami!" she said. "You see, since you
would not come to Cannes, I have come back to Paris!"

"But you did not tell me!" he ejaculated.

She laughed. "I waited for tonight. You are leaving?"

"I am due at the Opéra, to my sorrow, madame!"

"But that does not take the entire evening," she said, with a significant
look. Galtier gave her an eager smile, and murmured something I could not
hear. Undoubtedly, he was going to call on her later in the evening,
whoever she was.

Knowing now that Galtier was bound for the Opéra and later for her, I
felt it was no use hanging on his trail longer, and I might as well drift
along. I obtained my things, and left the place, pausing at the entrance
to light a cigarette.

Two men were standing outside, talking. One was a tall man in brilliant
uniform--the minister of something, war or foreign affairs or state--and
the other was very short and dressed up to the nines. Both had their
backs to me. Suddenly the shorter man swung around, showing his
decorations in all their glory--

"You might bring up a taxi for me, Logan," he said.

I was stupefied, then went on past and at the street hailed a taxi.
Clancy here! Then something was up! I waited, standing in the
porte-cochère to which the taxicab had come. A moment more, and Clancy
appeared. He took my arm, and told the chauffeur to wait.
"But, m'sieur," came a flunky protesting, "it is not allowed here--there
will be other vehicles--" "The other vehicles," said Clancy dryly, "may
go somewhere else."

The flunky waxed indignant. A gendarme, stationed outside the place, came
up to us; he was the same who had come as messenger from the préfecture.
The flunky appealed to him hotly.

"But what has M. Clancy said?" asked the gendarme.

"That this species of a taxicab must stand here while others--"

"Then it must stand here," said the gendarme, and that was that.

Clancy drew me to one side, out of earshot, and lighted a cigarette.
"We're waiting for a lady," he said.

"I know," I told him. "I've got the whole thing clear enough now--"

* * *

He smoked silently while I outlined the case, but made no comment until I
was through. Then he chuckled.

"Suppose you listen to me--I've been busy. First, Gersault told me a
queer yarn. He passed the door of Colette's shop, saw it open, saw a
woman come out. He had a back view of her only. Then, glancing into the
shop, he saw a pair of feet--and knew something was up. He was sharp
enough to slip in. An open safe, a dead or dying man--why resist? He went
for the cash, got it, and slipped out and away. He left fingerprints,
however."

"And the woman was the marquise?"

"It was not," said Clancy, and laughed at my disconcerted expression.
"The description doesn't fit her--she's tall, above the average. Well,
you ran down the apple-blossom, and I ran down the narrowed trail. All
the time, I was wondering about Colette being an Italian, and the
thousand-lire notes Gersault had grabbed with the rest. There was one
lady unaccounted for, your Madame de Lautenac, presumably gone to the
Riviera. I found she had gone last week."

"So she's out of it too, then?"

"Not at all. She returned to Paris the night before Colette was killed.
So I looked her up--yes, my friend, I've been a busy man today! She has
an apartment in the Avenue Friedland, not far from here; she is
presumably a widow, but little is known about her. I had a chat with her
concierge this afternoon."

Significant enough. To every apartment-block a concierge--a registered
person, too, who must be responsible, who must be known to the police
as of good character. Male or female, a concierge in Paris does not get
the place easily. He knows every detail in the life of his tenants.

"Two minutes after you left me this evening," went on Clancy, "the
concierge telephoned me that Madame de Lautenac was departing shortly to
this reception. Also, her bonne à tout faire had departed, and her maid
was leaving for the night. So I dressed and went to her place--and
searched it. I had some luck, but there are many points I do not
understand, so we must wait for her to explain them."

I was bursting with questions, but just then came out to us the same
dignitary who had been talking with Clancy on the steps. The gendarme, at
one side, saluted him impressively. He glanced at me, and then spoke to
Clancy, with an anxious air.

"You did not say, monsieur, when you would let me know--"

"M. le Ministre is going to the Opéra, I think?" said Clancy
reflectively.

"But yes. We are very late now--but it is Faust, which matters nothing
until the ballet at the end--"

"Very well," said Clancy. "When the ballet begins, monsieur, I will come
to your loge, with the treaty."

The minister started. "You--you are certain?"

"I have promised, monsieur," said Clancy. He enjoyed being theatrical,
and laughed softly to himself when the minister departed.

"The treaty?" I demanded. "Clancy, what in the devil's name are you
driving at?"

He touched my arm. "You'll learn presently--there she comes, now! Madame
de Lautenac, poor woman! Come along."

I stared. The woman descending the short steps toward us, ordering her
car brought up, ordering our taxi out of the way, was the brunette with
whom Galtier had made an appointment. Madame de Lautenac! And she was
unescorted.

* * *

My friend removed his hat and bowed. "Madame, I have a taxicab awaiting
you," he said pleasantly.

She looked at him, with a puzzled frown. "You mistake, monsieur."

"Not at all, madame," returned Clancy. "If you will honor us, we will
escort you home in our taxicab, instead of in your car. Unless, of
course, madame would prefer going direct to the préfecture with a
gendarme."

Possibly a newspaper man sees more singular things than most people,
because he is looking for them. However, never have I seen anything more
swift and shocking than the change in Madame de Lautenac. One moment
proudly beautiful, the next she was shrinking in stark terror.

Clancy offered his arm, and mechanically she accepted. The three of us
went to the taxicab, and Clancy directed the driver. None of us spoke a
word on the way, and when the short drive was ended, Clancy ordered the
chauffeur to wait and the three of us went into the elevator and up to
her floor.

There, before her door, she paused and turned on us as though to resist
or protest. She lost her nerve again, and produced a key.

"Allow me, madame," said Clancy, and opened the door. "Into the small
salon, madame."

We followed her inside. She seemed dazed, hopeless, as she led us into a
very beautifully fitted salon. Then, throwing aside her wrap, she faced
us with returning composure and a hint of defiance.

"What does this mean--"

"It means we had better sit down, if madame will permit," said Clancy.
When she met his gaze, terror flickered again in her eyes. She seated
herself abruptly.

"What I would like most to know," said Clancy reflectively, as though we
were engaged in a light conversation over the coffee cups, "is the
connection between Madame de Lautenac and the stamp dealer Colette. I
refer, of course, to the antecedent connection."

"I never heard of such a man," said the woman coldly, her self-possession
returning.

"No?" said Clancy softly. He looked at me and smiled, and spoke in
English. "Did you notice that Colette's inside coat pocket had the lining
pulled out?"

"Perhaps it had," I said. "It had been disarranged by the surgeon, no
doubt."

"No, not by the surgeon." Clancy nodded and reverted to French. The
woman's eyes showed me she had understood every word perfectly. "I
suppose, madame, it is useless to ask for the document you took from
Colette's pocket after you stabbed him?"

* * *

Her pale face became yet paler, but her composure was perfect. Even her
fingers, which had been nervously playing with a handkerchief in her lap,
became still.

"I know nothing of what you refer to," she said calmly, her eyes fastened
on Clancy.

He nodded and turned to me.

"Will you be good enough to invert the Dresden china vase at the left of
the mantel?"

I rose, went to the mantel, took the vase from it, and inverted it.
Something heavy fell to the carpet, and I picked up one of those tiny
miniature swords which can be found everywhere in Paris. This one was a
rapier, perhaps six inches long, beautifully made and inlaid with gold.
It might have served as a cabinet curio, as a hair ornament, or as
anything. Halfway up the blade, toward the golden hilt, was a brownish
stain.

"Now, perhaps," said Clancy quietly, to the woman, "you will tell me the
antecedent connection between yourself and Colette?"

"He was my husband," she said, half whispering the words.

There was a moment of silence--a moment can be a long time. Only the
ticking of the clock on the mantel disturbed us, and I saw the woman's
eyes go to it with a sudden flash. She had remembered her appointment
with Galtier--there was still hope!

"The document," said Clancy gravely, "is for the present immaterial. I
wonder why you stopped to abstract a rare stamp from Colette's safe,
madame? There was your mistake."

"It is nothing to you," she answered, calm again. A good antagonist, this
woman! "I admit nothing. I know nothing."

"But," said Clancy inexorably, "you expect to give that stamp to Jean
Galtier in an hour or less."

She sagged a little, and her steady gaze flickered. Clancy saw it, and
drove home at once. "Perhaps you'd better give me the stamp, instead."
"Very well," she said, to my surprise.

On the table lay a card-case. She reached out and took it, opened it, and
extracted a tiny bit of paper. For a moment, it fell to me to see one of
the world's rarest stamps. Clancy held out his hand to take it.

Instead, with a swift movement she shot it into her mouth and swallowed
it.

* * *

Clancy uttered an exclamation of dismay. So rapid was her action, neither
of us had a chance to stop it, and Cleopatra's vinegar destroyed no
greater value than this little meal. Madame de Lautenac smiled slightly.

"I do not know what stamp you are talking about," she said calmly. "One
cannot have committed a crime without evidence--"

Clancy recovered, and pointed to the little rapier, which I had laid on
the table.

"The principal evidence, madame."

"Planted here by you, evidently during my absence."

Well shot. But Clancy only smiled.

"And then, madame, have we also planted the text of the Franco-Italian
treaty, which you removed from Colette's pocket?"

In a moment, her defiant beauty became haggard, she became an old woman.
The glitter of her eyes swept into a frightful despair. Somehow, Clancy
had nailed her this time.

"How long is it since you left Colette?" demanded Clancy.

"Six years," she whispered. "Because--because he was a spy for
Germany--in the war--"

"And you," said Clancy, pitiless, "take money from Moscow. Where is the
difference? This treaty was signed three days ago in Paris. You were told
at Cannes that Colette had it, for Germany. You were told to get it. You
came and got it. Then--the stamp! Why the stamp?"

"For--for Jean," she whispered, her face terrible to see.

"And he will be here for his stamp presently," said Clancy. "Good. Then
he, too, will become implicated in the murder--"

She half came to her feet.

"Stop, stop!" she cried out horribly. "He is innocent of it--he knows
nothing of it--you must not drag him into it!" She thrust a hand into her
low corsage and dragged out a paper packet, and flung it to the floor.
"There is the treaty--take it, but do not bring Jean into it--spare him,
spare him!"

She sank back, put her handkerchief to her face, and huddled down in her
chair.

Clancy picked up the paper packet and broke it open. He nodded slightly,
and put it in his pocket. Then he got out a cigarette and lighted it, and
handed me one.

"Well, Logan," he said in English, "I think we'd better be getting along.
We must not miss the ballet, you know. It wouldn't do to be late."
"But--"

I motioned toward the woman, who had not moved. Clancy sniffed slightly,
and I started. In place of apple-blossom, a thin odor of bitter almonds
was quivering on the air.

"A prussic-acid capsule in her handkerchief," said Clancy, with only a
glance at her huddled, motionless figure. "No need to verify it. Shall we
go?"

We went. Phil Brady did not get much of a story out of it, after all.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia