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Title: The Happy Couple Author: Max Afford * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1501161h.html Language: English Date first posted: November 2015 Most recent update: November 2015 Project Gutenberg of 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 Licence which may be viewed online.
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IT WAS JUST TEN O'CLOCK when Steve Harper laid down his novel and stretched himself in the deep armchair. He was tired of the printed word and it was too early for bed.
He was deliberating whether he would take a stroll when the telephone on the small glass topped table at his elbow rang sharply.
Harper reached across and lifted the receiver.
A deep voice, subdued but authoritative, answered. "This is Inspector Conway, of the C.I.B., Mr. Harper. Sorry to disturb you. But we understand that you act as legal adviser to Mr. George Wingate?"
"Yes. Wingate is one of my closest friends."
"So we understood." There was a slight pause before the unseen speaker continued. "Could you come over to his flat straight away?"
Little wrinkles of bewilderment formed between Harper's eyes. "Of course, if it's necessary. But why...?"
The deep official voice said levelly, "Mr. Wingate committed suicide in his own living-room about half an hour ago."
"Suicide!" The shocked, blank amazement that dulled Steve's mind was concentrated into that sharp exclamation. "Of course, I'll come right away...now!" Slowly he replaced the receiver. He did not notice how badly his hand was trembling.
It was not until ten minutes later, when he sat behind the wheel of his car, purring over the wet, dark roads, that the full realisation of the tragedy came to him.
It seemed ridiculous to mention the words in the same breath—they were poles apart...night and day, black and white, cowardice and courage! There must be some mistake!
Again and again his mind hammered that point home, yet in spite of this some whispering caution told him it was true that the natural order of things had been reversed, and that bluff, hearty George Wingate had indeed taken his own life!
Steve had known Wingate since their days at school; they had grown up together and chosen different professions while remaining the best of friends.
It was the attraction of opposites—quiet, studious Steve Harper had made an admirable foil for the happy-go-lucky, clowning Wingate.
Life for this big man had seemed one long chuckle; one never saw him without a smile or a cheerful word on his lips. At parties and dinners it was always Wingate who kept the festivities going with some funny story or crazy stunt.
People said he was irresponsible, a child who had never grown up, yet there were few who were not charmed by his personality and his immense and overwhelming zest for life.
Matrimony had sobered George Wingate but little.
When he married shy Olga Martino, the half-Russian, half-Italian dancing teacher, people were amazed at the union. Olga, with her pale, slavonic face and her sombre, brooding eyes, seemed an oddly assorted mate for her intensely extroverted husband.
Steve, who had been best man at the wedding, secretly questioned this union of substance and pale shadow, and at the same time offered up a secret prayer that neither was making a mistake.
And his prayer was answered. After twelve months, the couple seemed happier than ever.
True, there were occasions when Wingate's clowning and his love of practical jokes aroused traces of irritation in his wife's serious, reserved nature. But these were trivialities, to be expected during the process of mutual adjustment.
Practically every person envied George Wingate, this prosperous, cheerful man who found twenty-four hours too short for his harum-scarum course through life.
Harper gave a little shiver and pressed the foot-brake, easing the single-seater gently to the pavement. Climbing out, he stood before the lighted block of flats for some moments.
From one of the windows floated dance music from a radio; shadows cast on the blind of another showed a party in progress. It was an incongruous setting for a violent death.
Even now, as he crossed the entrance hall and rang the bell of the ground-floor flat, he had a half-conviction that it was some fantastic error, that George, red-faced and ebullient, would answer the door, clap him on the back, and ask him to name his drink.
But it was a stranger who ushered him inside, a stocky, firm-jawed individual in quiet clothes who introduced himself as Inspector Conway. The hushed silence in the flat told its own story as the two men stood there together in the little entrance hall.
Conway said quietly: "Good of you to come, Mr. Harper. Mrs. Wingate asked me to ring you. It's a terrible blow to her." The Inspector's eyes slid toward an adjoining door. "The whole thing happened so suddenly. He was entertaining some friends at bridge when it happened. I've sent them home..."
They passed from the tiny hall into the living-room. Harper had just time to take in the two card tables and the scattered cards when he saw Olga standing at the far end of the room.
Even in the midst of tragedy Olga Wingate remained one of the most beautiful women Harper had ever seen. A long green frock emphasised the ebon sheen of her smooth hair. Her eyes were so large as to shadow her long face.
She gave a soft, choking cry and ran to him.
"Oh, Steve...Steve..." She clung to him, and, comforting, he placed one arm about her shoulders. "I can't believe it—I can't! Not what they say...about George...of all people..." He could feel her thin strong body trembling and twitching under his arm.
"How did it happen?" asked Harper quietly.
Suddenly, as though conscious of the Inspector's eyes on her, Olga moved away from Harper. She seemed embarrassed at her outburst, and now, as she strove for control, her tone was almost wooden.
"We had the Morrisons and the Traceys for dinner. Afterwards, I suggested bridge...you know how Emily Tracey loves a game! George was in great spirits..."
For a moment, her level tone faltered. "He had drunk a little too much at dinner," she went on, "and was more...more amusing than ever..."
She paused. No one spoke.
"We...we played bridge until nine-thirty. Then George was dummy. Major Morrison offered him a cigarette. George took it and rose from the table. He said he had something to show us and walked into the dining-room. He wasn't gone more than a minute. Suddenly we heard a shot. We ran into the room...and there...on the floor..."
The words choked suddenly in Olga Wingate's throat. She covered her face with her hands and sank into a chair, rocking backwards and forwards.
"Oh, Steve," she moaned. "Steve, you've got to help me! Why did he do it? Why...?"
Inspector Conway attempted clumsily gentle words. Harper stood miserably, shocked by the death of his friend, horrified by the patent grief of this lovely woman. He made a mental effort to clutch at something tangible in the dark chaos of his mind.
"He...he wasn't worried over anything...finance...business...?"
Mrs. Wingate shook her head. She dried her eyes on a small handkerchief and made another effort at control. "I know of nothing, Steve...nothing at all unless..."
"It was some secret anxiety...something so serious he wouldn't confide in me...for fear of upsetting me..." She broke off with a quick, foreign gesture. "Yet that is silly! What could be more upsetting than what has happened...?"
Harper turned from the woman to face the Inspector.
"I suppose it is suicide?"
Conway nodded. "No doubt about that, sir," he replied. "If there was anything to suggest...the other, well, it might make the business something less of a puzzle! But there isn't—the gun was still in his hand when he dropped."
Steve reached for his cigarette case. "Might I have a look?" he murmured. "He was my best friend, you know..."
"Of course. This way..."
The Inspector turned. Harper gave a brief glance at the woman huddled in the chair, then he turned and followed the official through the folding doors into the dining-room. Inside, Conway was removing a sheet from the sprawled figure on the floor.
"It's not very pretty," he said briefly. "The charge got him full in the face."
Steve Harper was not an emotional man. Years in his chosen profession had taught him to mask his feelings very successfully. But as he stood looking down at the body of his friend, his throat closed and a sudden mist blurred his sight. He gave a shudder of repulsion and turned away.
Conway muttered, "He must have held the gun about twelve inches from his face." He gestured to the table. "There's the weapon."
Steve glanced at it. A black automatic about five inches long, it seemed little more than a toy. Ridiculously small to have done this majestic act; taken the life of one the world could ill afford to lose. Yet, behind this tiny weapon had been a man's will. The will to die.
Almost as though divining his thoughts, the Inspector said quietly. "I'd call this one of the bravest suicides I know..."
Steve said bitterly, "Is there such a thing as a brave suicide?"
Conway nodded. "Imagine staring at that barrel and slowly pressing the trigger! That takes courage. Or lack of imagination! Yet, from what I hear of this man..." His voice slowed, stopped.
Harper was watching him, reading faint and puzzled doubt in the grey eyes, seeing it etched in the wrinkled forehead.
"Something troubling you about this, Inspector?" he asked quietly.
"But you said it was straight out?"
"In some ways it is," Conway told him. "But in others...Look here, Mr. Harper, does a man commit suicide on the spur of the moment, like this? What sort of chap is it who laughs and talks with his guests one minute and takes his own life the next? And why? Where's the motive?"
A slight sound at the door made them turn suddenly. Olga Wingate stood there, her eyes fixed on the body of her husband, that lovely oval face a pale mask of horror. But in that moment Steve Harper had a curious fleeting sense that the expression on the woman's face was not caused by the sight of that disfigured thing on the carpet.
Something else had brought terror to that face, terror that was tinged with...yes...anxiety.
Olga Wingate was afraid!
But even as he sought that ivory mask for confirmation, dark lashes veiled the eyes, and Mrs. Wingate turned her face away. She said huskily:
"Steve, would you...attend to everything? You know so much more about these things...I'm going to lie down..."
She moved slowly from the room, one hand outstretched as though feeling blindly. Behind her, Inspector Conway was replacing the sheet over the body on the floor.
They buried George Wingate on the following day.
After the first shock, Harper's cold, analytical self was once more in control. And during the twenty four hours that passed between death and burial, he had driven his mind furiously.
Something was wrong! Something he had sensed in Mrs. Wingate's face as she stood there listening to Inspector Conway's doubts.
Yet whatever way his thoughts turned, back they came to the one indisputable fact—George Wingate had risen from that card table, walked into his own dining-room and, without pause or qualm, shot himself through the head with an automatic pistol!
"Almost as though he were hypnotised," muttered Harper, then smiled wryly at his own imaginings. People are not hypnotised into suicide, especially people like George Wingate.
The funeral was a melancholy business. After the ceremony, the mourners returned to the flat, impregnated with that subtle perfume of banked flowers hanging heavily like the very aura of death.
Mrs. Wingate retired to her room to rest after the ordeal. Friends drifted about in an aimless, subdued manner, talking hushed trivialities, inwardly questioning when they might with decency slip away.
Steve was relieved when the officiating minister brought him a message that Mrs. Wingate would like to speak to him, and that she would be waiting in her husband's study.
Harper slipped thankfully away from the living-room. But Wingate's apartment, with its sporting prints and the college oar decorating one corner, was empty. Steve did not linger there—memories were too vivid. He would probably find Olga in her own room.
He crossed the corridor and tapped softly. There was no answer. He tapped again, then pushed open the door and peered inside.
Olga Wingate's bedroom was small, faintly scented, and bright with satin cushions. But stronger than the perfume was the smell of burning that sent Harper's eyes to the large bronze ashtray on the small table near the bed.
But it was empty and polished clean. His wandering gaze moved to the fireplace, flickered, halted.
The grate was half filled with charred paper, gently rustling and faintly smoking.
Steve's first emotion was surprise. In this over-tidy, ordered room, that blackened bundle in the grate was as incongruous as a pair of hobnailed boots.
After surprise came curiosity. Was this the reason Olga had gone to her room? What was it that must be burned without further delay?
Quickly, he crossed to the grate and poking among the charred fragments that flaked under his groping fingers found a small wedge of paper that had escaped destruction. It was obviously the corner of a letter; he could make out a few isolated words in bold masculine handwriting.
Harper drew a sudden sharp breath, every latent suspicion crystallising sharply in his mind. He turned over the small wedge of paper. Again he read the words.
"...cannot fail. Ever your own...Mischa."
At the sound of footsteps he thrust the fragment of paper into his pocket and moved quickly from the fireplace.
Olga Wingate entered. Seeing him, she stopped short and her mouth set thinly. She could not quite control her voice when she spoke.
"Steve! Whatever are you doing in here? I said George's study..." Abruptly she paused and made a helpless little gesture. "Oh, what does it matter?" The words were heavy with dull resignation. "What does anything matter now?"
"I waited for you in the study," Harper said quietly. "When you didn't come, I took the liberty of coming here. I hope you don't mind."
"Mind?" She came forward, completely at ease now. "What a strange thing to say, Steve. We're friends. Why should I mind?"
He countered her question with another. "What was it you wanted, Olga?"
Mrs. Wingate crossed to a small cabinet, opened a drawer, and took out a bunch of keys.
"These belonged to George," she said quietly. "You'll find his private papers in the bureau in his study. If you'd relieve me of the business responsibility..."
"Later, I'd like to have a talk with you about...myself."
"Yourself?" Steve asked quickly.
Olga had taken a cigarette from the silver box. Now she was lighting it, eyes on the match flame, avoiding his face. "I think I'll go away, Steve. Travel and try to forget."
"There's no reason why you shouldn't. You're a rich woman now."
Now the dark eyes came up, soft with anguished appeal. "Steve...!"
Harper said coldly. "Well, it's true, isn't it?"
Those long, beautifully shaped hands made another gesture, this time of distaste. "You should know that better than I. And I don't think this is the time to discuss such things. I...I'd rather not talk about them."
In that moment, Steve hated her.
Not trusting himself to speak, he nodded and turned away. He was conscious that Olga was watching him, that she had glimpsed the expression that crossed his face. He was aware that she was coming to him and turned as he felt her hand on his arm.
"Steve..." her voice was gentle, soft as her swimming eyes. "Steve, I know it's been a terrible shock to you. But don't take it out on me. Try to remember that I'm suffering, too." She touched her eyes with a damp handkerchief. "I was...very fond of him, too, you know."
"I'm sorry..." Steve wanted to say more, but the words wouldn't come. "Is there anything else?'
"Yes." Olga moved back to the bureau and took out that wicked toy-like automatic. Holding it limply, she returned.
"Inspector Conway gave me this yesterday. I want you to take it away—where I can never see it again!" And as he reached for it, she drew a sharp breath of protest.
"Steve, be careful! Conway tells me it's still loaded! I couldn't bear another...accident..."
Back in Wingate's study, Steve Harper lit a cigarette and sat down in his friend's sagging armchair, watching the film of smoke rise and curl in the air.
His mind was busy with that fragment of paper and the scrawled words which already he knew by heart.
"...cannot fail. Ever your own...Mischa."
Inspector Conway had asked, "Where's the motive?" Was it here in black and white? This man...the unknown Mischa and Olga Wingate. Mischa, who signed himself 'Ever your own'"?
Here was logic at last. Olga had sought another man and Wingate, proud to the last, had carried on with the enormous pretence, so that not even his closest friend suspected the truth.
When had Wingate found out? Perhaps he had discovered the letters—passionate letters which Olga had burnt in a frenzy of guilt and remorse.
Steve could imagine the scene; Wingate incredulous, still half-trusting, willing to be convinced; Olga sullen, evasive, until some blundering remark touched her on the raw. Then flashing out with the truth, bitter, seeking only to wound.
But how long had this been going on? Weeks...months...until at last George Wingate could bear it no longer and rising that night from the bridge table...
Harper moved irritably in his chair. No! He sought logic and found only melodrama Olga might have acted like that but never her husband. And there were too many loose ends.
Wingate, a fundamentally simple man, could never hide his true feelings. Elated or depressed, the whole world knew of it. And witnesses had sworn that on the night of the tragedy Wingate had been unusually happy, without a care.
Yet, less than ten minutes later...
Groping in his pocket. Harper found the tiny wedge of paper and scrutinised it afresh. If calligraphy was any guide, this Mischa would be a bold, swaggering fellow. There was power and ruthlessness in the thick, heavy downstrokes, arrogance in the flowing signature.
And what was the significance of the words "Cannot fail..."?
Something jingled in his fingers. For the first time he became aware that he was still holding the keys of George's desk, which Olga had given him.
Crushing out his cigarette, Steve rose and crossed to the heavy, old fashioned desk with its ribbed roller top. He set about the task of finding individual keys to fit the locks of the drawers down either side.
One by one the compartments yielded their contents—business correspondence, cheque-book stubs, bills unpaid and bills receipted, and once (subtle epitaph to his late friend) a packet of funny picture postcards.
Among this collection was a small square of pasteboard that had obviously accompanied a gift from Olga. Steve glanced at the prim, well-formed handwriting before he put the card aside.
"George, darling—here's something after your own heart. I picked it up this afternoon in town. You can trot it out to show the Morrisons to-night. Love, Olga."
The significance of this message did not dawn on Harper until a few moments later. He picked up the card and read the lines again.
Then he shook his head. No erring wife had written in that tone of gentle tolerance. Certainly not Olga, who was smoulderingly slow to forget an injury or a quarrel.
If this gift had changed hands a few hours before the bridge party yesterday—and the reference to the Morrisons proved that beyond all doubt—then Steve's theory regarding an estrangement was completely false!
Shrugging, Harper leaned forward and fitted a key into the last drawer.
Inside were more letters: letters and photographs and cuttings from magazines, advertisements relating to tricks and novelties such as might gladden the heart of a schoolboy.
Steve spilt the contents across the desk top and thumbed through them one by one. The folded circular was almost at the bottom of the pile.
His mind busy with a dozen recollections of the past, now brought vividly to the surface by a snapshot or a creased invitation card, Steve's eyes flicked mechanically over the black lettering.
Next moment he stiffened and with fingers that seemed suddenly unmanageable unfolded the circular and spread it wide on the desk...
"Oh, no..." said Steve Harper.
And then, as he read the printed words a second time..."Yes...yes!" And now incredulity had given way to a sickening realisation and a black, bitter rage that caused the words on the circular to waver and swim.
He closed his eyes.
Then, very deliberately, he folded the printed paper and rose to his feet. He knew also exactly where to look for the last piece in this crazy jigsaw. Yet no longer crazy, but now brutally, ruthlessly clear with all the logic of perfect planning.
He went straight back to Olga Wingate's bedroom, paused outside the door and knocked.
There was no answer. Without further summons, Steve entered, closing the door behind him.
Where would she have hidden it? What, in this softly silken room, offered the best chance of concealment?
His mind suggested a dozen places, but now he must think not with his own brain, but with Olga's. Where would this strange woman, having committed a murder with an unsuspected weapon, hide the instrument?
An unsuspected weapon, he thought again.
Therefore the hiding-place could not be complicated, lest this very fact arouse suspicion. It must be somewhere obvious, yet not too obvious. A handbag, or a drawer, or even the pocket of a jacket...
Steve crossed to the wardrobe against the wall and swung open the door. A dozen frocks, neatly arranged on hangers, faced him.
His exploring fingers riffled through them, disturbing a breath of perfume that hung on the quiet air. They yielded nothing. He closed the door sharply and moved to the bureau near the bed. But five minutes' careful investigation there proved as fruitless as before.
As he slammed the last drawer shut. Steve passed a worried hand over his face, to find it wet with perspiration.
Then he saw the handbag.
It was square and black and shiny; it had a catch like a small coiled snake which defied his trembling fingers for a few seconds. Then the lid snapped back and he emptied its varied contents on to the counterpane.
And there, among the phial of nail polish, the lipstick, the mirror and compact, the small silver comb, and a dozen other trivial articles, there it was.
At first glance it appeared to be a small automatic, twin of the murderous weapon he still carried in his pocket. Steve picked it up and, tightening his grip on the butt, pulled the trigger.
From the stocky barrel, a fat cigarette shot out, hit the bed and ricocheted to the floor. With the pressure of his finger came another and another until half a dozen cigarettes lay scattered on the carpet.
Still holding the toy, Steve reached in his pocket and flicked open the folded circular and read it for the third time. In bold type, it was headed, "Astounding Novelty! Surprise Your Friends!" A glowing description of the novelty followed.
"The Peerless Automatic Cigarette Case," Steve read on, "is the exact size, shape, and weight of the genuine article. Fool your friends! Harmless yet effective! The terror of Housebreakers! The Surprise of a Lifetime!
"Astound your friends with the Ching Lung Soo bullet trick! Hold the cigarette case about twelve inches from your face, press the trigger, and catch the cigarette in your mouth..."
Steve Harper's fingers closed convulsively round the paper, his mind a background of flickering words and dancing images!
"George, darling, here's something...I picked it up this afternoon in town...show the Morrisons tonight..."; George, slightly drunk, wandering happily into the living room...; "...exact size, shape and weight of the genuine article..."; "...hold the cigarette case about twelve inches from your face..."
Olga Wingate stood just inside the door, watching him. For a moment she had eyes for nothing save that pale, set face, then she glanced down at his right hand.
Harper said nothing, but stood watching her...watching those slim fingers crawl suddenly to her throat, almost as though she felt the shadow of the noose fall across it. She seemed to swallow before she spoke.
Harper said, "You did this thing. You and this man, Mischa." It was a statement.
Their glances met, locked. For five dragging seconds, the tension stretched. Then she said quietly, "What are you going to do about it?"
Steve Harper slipped the toy cigarette-case into his pocket. "I have my duty, not only as friend, but as a citizen. I am going to see you convicted of the crime of deliberate and calculated murder!"
Olga Wingate merely looked at him and about that lovely mouth there was gentle amusement. She came forward, sat down on the bed, and tapped the counterpane.
"Sit down, Steve," she said.
His lean body tightened in an instinctive shrinking.
"You're evil," he whispered, "evil! You ought to be destroyed!"
Olga Wingate said calmly, "You're making a fool of yourself, Steve. It's all right to do it here. I don't mind! But watch what you do...outside. Are you really prepared to have me arrested? To go into court with a story about a ridiculous toy that committed murder?"
"You changed that toy...for the real thing!"
That pale, oval face, child-like, bland, innocent, stared at him. "But why should I? We were so happy together, George and I. Everyone knew that! And what have you to prove otherwise? A few words on a corner of a letter...words which I could explain in a dozen innocent ways!"
Harper said bitterly: "And how would you explain the substitution of weapons?"
"Substitution? What substitution? I know nothing of that, Steve. But I think it quite likely that George confused the real thing for the toy. So would the jury—particularly as I can bring forward witnesses to prove that George had been...drinking that night."
Mrs. Wingate stood up. Calm, poised, confident, she put out her hand. "I think you'd better let me have that stupid toy before it causes more trouble."
Steve Harper knew—and the realisation sickened him—that this woman spoke the truth. What could he bring forward to support his story? Suspicions—and a fragment of charred paper. A clever lawyer could explain those scattered words in a dozen innocent ways.
"I think you'd better let me have
that stupid toy," Olga said,
holding out her hand.
And Olga Wingate would have more than expert legal advice. Steve could already visualise her appearance in court; she would choose the blackest mourning to set off the pale, tragic face and the dark eyes, luminous with unshed tears.
His fingers closed around the article in his pocket. He said quietly: "If I give this thing back to you, will you promise me one thing?"
"What do you ask?"
"That you will get out of this country and never set foot in it again as long as you live!"
Olga Wingate nodded and her expression was almost sedate.
"Mischa has made all arrangements for that. I told you I wanted to travel...and forget." She held out her hand. "Now, may I have George's little toy?"
Because there was nothing else to do, he handed it across. Olga took it, balanced it carefully in her hand.
Steve asked abruptly: "When did you begin to hate him?"
"After we were married. Not long after—two months, perhaps three. I realised what a bitter mistake I'd made. It was like being married to a mountebank—a great fool who acted like a child. It was all so different from what I expected..."
She paused. Harper did not speak. "It was, I think, the shame of it all. When we visited friends they expected him to perform for their amusement, and he, poor fool, loved it. The life of the party—but what kind of a life for me?"
"Leave Mischa out of this!"
Steve said bitterly, "Because he evolved this plan of murder?"
"It was my plan—all mine! Mischa and I were together—in the ballet! Those wonderful days! I'm going to live them over again now."
Now the fire was back in her face, the color of it in her cheeks, the blaze of it in her dark eyes. She came forward and stood over him.
"You want to know the whole story? I bought this toy for George and persuaded him to learn the trick of catching the cigarettes in his mouth. Mischa's only part was to get the automatic and load it.
"Last night I changed the toys before we started the bridge game. I knew George could never resist showing off in front of friends. He'd been drinking at dinner and his mind wasn't very clear. So he left the bridge table, walked into the dining-room, and picked up the loaded automatic."
A cynical smile curled on her lips. "He didn't even know the difference!"
She threw back her head and chuckled.
"Imagine it, Stephen! George picks up the automatic. He must have one practice shot before the performance. So he raises the weapon and holds it so..." She held the object in her hand level with her own dark eyes.
"And then, poor clown, he pulls the trigger...like this!"
In that closed room, the detonation shook the pictures on the walls. The body of Olga Wingate dropped to the floor, the automatic still clutched in her fingers. The faint reek of burnt powder hung on the still air.
Stephen Harper said softly: "He didn't even know the difference, Olga..."
And then suddenly he choked, feeling very sick. Rising, he moved blindly from that silken room and the battered thing lying on the floor.
In George Wingate's study it was quite five minutes before he could steady his hand sufficiently to lift the receiver and dial a number.
The voice of Inspector Conway sounded at the other end, a quiet, authoritative voice, a little shocked out of its calmness as Harper made his explanation.
"It all happened so suddenly, Inspector. I had given Mrs. Wingate her husband's automatic and, abruptly, she turned it on herself. Wingate's death probably played on her mind. You see...I believe they were one of the world's happiest couples."
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