The Man Who Fell Through the Earth - Carolyn Wells - ebook
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One of the occasions when I experienced “that grand and glorious feeling” was when my law business had achieved proportions that justified my removal from my old office to new and more commodious quarters. I selected a somewhat pretentious building on Madison Avenue between Thirtieth and Fortieth Streets, and it was a red-letter day for me when I moved into my pleasant rooms on its top floor. The Puritan Trust Company occupied all of the ground floor and there were also some of the private offices of that institution on the top floor, as well as a few offices to be let. My rooms were well located and delightfully light, and I furnished them with care, selecting chairs and desks of a dignified type, and rugs of appropriately quiet coloring. I also selected my stenographer with care, and Norah MacCormack was a red-haired piece of perfection. If she had a weakness, it was for reading detective stories, but I condoned that, for in my hammocky moods I, too, dipped into the tangled-web school of fiction.

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Carolyn Wells

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Table of contents

CHAPTER I Moving Shadow-Shapes

CHAPTER II Jenny’s Version

CHAPTER III The Elevator

CHAPTER IV The Black Squall

CHAPTER V Olive Raynor

CHAPTER VI Clews

CHAPTER VII Hudson’s Errand

CHAPTER VIII The Man Who Fell Through the Earth

CHAPTER IX The Man in Boston

CHAPTER X Penny Wise and Zizi

CHAPTER XI Case Rivers

CHAPTER XII The Link

CHAPTER XIII Olive’s Adventure

CHAPTER XIV Where is Manning?

CHAPTER XV Wise’s Pipe Dream

CHAPTER XVI The Snowflake

CHAPTER XVII Zizi’s Hunch

CHAPTER XVIII Clear as Crystal

CHAPTER I Moving Shadow-Shapes

One of the occasions when I experienced “that grand and glorious feeling” was when my law business had achieved proportions that justified my removal from my old office to new and more commodious quarters. I selected a somewhat pretentious building on Madison Avenue between Thirtieth and Fortieth Streets, and it was a red-letter day for me when I moved into my pleasant rooms on its top floor.The Puritan Trust Company occupied all of the ground floor and there were also some of the private offices of that institution on the top floor, as well as a few offices to be let.My rooms were well located and delightfully light, and I furnished them with care, selecting chairs and desks of a dignified type, and rugs of appropriately quiet coloring. I also selected my stenographer with care, and Norah MacCormack was a red-haired piece of perfection. If she had a weakness, it was for reading detective stories, but I condoned that, for in my hammocky moods I, too, dipped into the tangled-web school of fiction.And, without undue conceit, I felt that I could give most specimens of the genus Sherlock cards and spades and beat them at their own game of deduction. I practiced it on Norah sometimes. She would bring me a veil or glove of some friend of hers, and I would try to deduce the friend’s traits of character. My successes and failures were about fifty-fifty, but Norah thought I improved with practice, and, anyway, it exercised my intelligence.I had failed to pass examination for the army, because of a defect, negligible, it seemed to me, in my eyesight. I was deeply disappointed, but as the law of compensation is usually in force, I unexpectedly proved to be of some use to my Government after all.Across the hall from me was the private office of Amos Gately, the President of the Puritan Trust Company, and a man of city-wide reputation. I didn’t know the great financier personally, but everyone knew of him, and his name was a synonym for all that is sound, honorable, and philanthropic in the money mart. He was of that frequently seen type, with the silver gray hair that so becomingly accompanies deep-set dark eyes.And yet, I had never seen Mr. Gately himself. My knowledge of him was gained from his frequent portraiture in the papers or in an occasional magazine. And I had gathered, in a vague way, that he was a connoisseur of the fine arts, and that his offices, as well as his home, were palatial in their appointments.I may as well admit, therefore, that going in and out of my own rooms I often looked toward his door, in hopes that I might get a glimpse, at least, of the treasures within. But so far I had not done so.To be sure, I had only occupied my own suite about a week and then again Mr. Gately was not always in his private offices during business hours. Doubtless, much of the time he was down in the banking rooms.There was a yellow-haired stenographer, who wore her hair in ear-muffs, and who was, I should say, addicted to the vanity-case. This young person, Norah had informed me, was Jenny Boyd.And that sums up the whole of my intimate knowledge of Amos Gately—until the day of the black snow squall!I daresay my prehistoric ancestors were sun-worshipers. At any rate, I am perfectly happy when the sun shines, and utterly miserable on a gloomy day. Of course, after sunset, I don’t care, but days when artificial light must be used, I get fidgety and am positively unable to concentrate on any important line of thought.And so, when Norah snapped on her green-shaded desk light in mid-afternoon, I impulsively jumped up to go home. I could stand electrically lighted rooms better in my diggings than in the work-compelling atmosphere of my office. “ Finish that bit of work,” I told my competent assistant, “and then go home yourself. I’m going now.” “ But it’s only three o’clock, Mr. Brice,” and Norah’s gray eyes looked up from the clicking keys. “ I know it, but a snow storm is brewing,—and Lord knows there’s snow enough in town now!” “ There is so! I’m thinking they won’t get the black mountains out of the side streets before Fourth of July,—and the poor White Wings working themselves to death!” “ Statistics haven’t yet proved that cause of death prevalent among snow-shovelers,” I returned, “but I’m pretty sure there’s more chance for it coming to them!”I hate snow. For the ocular defect that kept me out of the army is corrected by not altogether unbecoming glasses, but when these are moistened or misted by falling snow, I am greatly incommoded. So I determined to reach home, if possible, before the squall which was so indubitably imminent.I snugged into my overcoat, and jammed my hat well down on my head, for the wind was already blowing a gale. “ Get away soon, Norah,” I said, as I opened the door into the hall, “and if it proves a blizzard you needn’t show up tomorrow.” “ Oh, I’ll be here, Mr. Brice,” she returned, in her cheery way, and resumed her clicking.The offices of Mr. Gately, opposite mine, had three doors to the hall, meaning, I assumed, three rooms in his suite.My own door was exactly opposite the middle one of the three. On that was the number two. To its left was number one, and to its right, number three.Each of these three doors had an upper panel of thick, clouded glass, and, as the hall was not yet lighted and Mr. Gately’s rooms were, I could see quite plainly the shadows of two heads on the middle door,—the door numbered two.Perhaps I am unduly curious, perhaps it was merely a natural interest, but I stood still a moment, outside my own door, and watched the two shadowed heads.The rippled clouding of the glass made their outlines somewhat vague, but I could distinguish the fine, thick mane of Amos Gately, as I had so often seen it pictured. The other was merely a human shadow with no striking characteristics.It was evident their interview was not amicable. I heard a loud, explosive “No!” from one or other of them, and then both figures rose and there was a hand-to-hand struggle. Their voices indicated a desperate quarrel, though no words were distinguishable.And then, as I looked, the shadows blurred into one another,—swayed,—separated, and then a pistol shot rang out, followed immediately by a woman’s shrill scream.Impulsively I sprang across the hall, and turned the knob of door number two,—the one opposite my own door, and the one through which I had seen the shadowed actions.But the door would not open.I hesitated only an instant and then hurried to the door next on the right, number three.This, too, was fastened on the inside, so I ran back to the only other door, number one,—to the left of the middle door.This door opened at my touch, and I found myself in the first of Amos Gately’s magnificent rooms.Beyond one quick, admiring glance, I paid no attention to the beautiful appointments, and I opened the communicating door into the next or middle room.This, like the first, contained no human being, but it was filled with the smoke and the odor of a recently fired pistol.I looked around, aghast. This was the room where the altercation had taken place, where two men had grappled, where a pistol had been fired, and moreover, where a woman had screamed. Where were these people?In the next room, of course, I reasoned.With eager curiosity, I went on into the third room. It was empty.And that was all the rooms of the suite.Where were the people I had seen and heard? That is, I had seen their shadows on the glass door, and human shadows cannot appear without people to cast them. Where were the men who had fought? Where was the woman who had screamed? And who were they?Dazed, I went back through the rooms. Their several uses were clear enough. Number one was the entrance office. There was an attendant’s desk, a typewriter, reception chairs, and all the effects of the first stage of an interview with the great man.The second office, beyond a doubt, was Mr. Gately’s sanctum. A stunning mahogany table-desk was in the middle of the floor, and a large, unusually fine swivel-chair stood behind it. On the desk, things were somewhat disordered. The telephone was upset, the papers pushed into an untidy heap, a pen-tray overturned, and a chair opposite the big desk chair lay over on its side, as if Mr. Gately’s visitor had risen hurriedly. The last room, number three, was, clearly, the very holy of holies. Surely, only the most important or most beloved guests were received in here. It was furnished as richly as a royal salon, yet all in most perfect taste and quiet harmony. The general coloring of draperies and upholstery was soft blue, and splendid pictures hung on the wall. Also, there was a huge war map of Europe, and indicative pins stuck in it proved Mr. Gately’s intense interest in the progress of events over there.But though tempted to feast my eyes on the art treasures all about, I eagerly pursued my quest for the vanished human beings I sought.There was no one in any of these three rooms, and I could see no exit, save into the hall from which I had entered. I looked into three or four cupboards, but they were full of books and papers, and no sign of a hidden human being, alive or dead, could I find.Perhaps the strangeness of it all blunted my efficiency. I had always flattered myself that I was at my best in an emergency, but all previous emergencies in which I had found myself were trivial and unimportant compared with this.I felt as if I had been at a moving picture show. I had seen, as on the screen, a man shot, perhaps killed, and now all the actors had vanished as completely as they do when the movie is over.Then, for I am not entirely devoid of conscience, it occurred to me that I had a duty,—that it was incumbent upon me to report to somebody. I thought of the police, but was it right to call them when I had so vague a report to make? What could I tell them? That I had seen shadows fighting? Heard a woman scream? Smelled smoke? Heard the report of a pistol? A whimsical thought came that the report of the pistol was the only definite report I could swear to!Yet the whole scene was definite enough to me.I had seen two men fighting,—shadows, to be sure, but shadows of real men. I had heard their voices raised in dissension of some sort, I had seen a scuffle and had heard a shot, of which I had afterward smelled the smoke, and,—most incriminating of all,—I had heard a woman’s scream. A scream, too, of terror, as for her life!And then, I had immediately entered these rooms, and I had found them empty of all human presence, but with the smoke still hanging low, to prove my observations had been real, and no figment of my imagination.I believed I had latent detective ability. Well, surely here was a chance to exercise it!What more bewildering mystery could be desired than to witness a shooting, and, breaking in upon the scene, to find no victim, no criminal, and no weapon!I hunted for the pistol, but found no more trace of that than of the hand that had fired it.My brain felt queer; I said to myself, over and over, “a fight, a shot, a scream! No victim, no criminal, no weapon!”I looked out in the hall again. I had already looked out two or three times, but I had seen no one. However, I didn’t suppose the villain and his victim had gone down by the elevator or by the stairway.But where were they? And where was the woman who had screamed?Perhaps it was she who had been shot. Why did I assume that Mr. Gately was the victim? Could not he have been the criminal?The thought of Amos Gately in the rôle of murderer was a little too absurd! Still, the whole situation was absurd.For me, Tom Brice, to be involved in this baffling mystery was the height of all that was incredible!And yet, was I involved? I had only to walk out and go home to be out of it all. No one had seen me and no one could know I had been there.And then something sinister overcame me. A kind of cold dread of the whole affair; an uncanny feeling that I was drawn into a fearful web of circumstances from which I could not honorably escape, if, indeed, I could escape at all. The three Gately rooms, though lighted, felt dark and eerie. I glanced out of a window. The sky was almost black and scattering snowflakes were falling. I realized, too, that though the place was lighted, the fixtures were those great alabaster bowls, and, as they hung from the ceiling, they seemed to give out a ghostly radiance that emphasized the strange silence.For, in my increasingly nervous state, the silence was intensified and it seemed the silence of death,—not the mere quiet of an empty room.I pulled myself together, for I had not lost all sense of my duty. I must do something, I told myself, sternly,—but what?My hand crept toward the telephone that lay, turned over on its side, on Mr. Gately’s desk.But I drew back quickly, not so much because of a disinclination to touch the thing that had perhaps figured in a tragedy but because of a dim instinct of leaving everything untouched as a possible clew.Clew! The very word helped restore my equilibrium. There had been a crime of some sort,—at least, there had been a shooting, and I had been an eye-witness, even if my eyes had seen only shadows.My rôle, then, was an important one. My duty was to tell what I had seen and render any assistance I could. But I wouldn’t use that telephone. It must be out of order, anyway, or the operator downstairs would be looking after it. I would go back to my own office and call up somebody. As I crossed the hall, I was still debating whether that somebody would better be the police or the bank people downstairs. The latter, I decided, for it was their place to look after their president, not mine.I found Norah putting on her hat. The sight of her shrewd gray eyes and intelligent face caused an outburst of confidence, and I told her the whole story as fast as I could rattle it out. “ Oh, Mr. Brice,” she exclaimed, her eyes wide with excitement, “let me go over there! May I?” “ Wait a minute, Norah: I think I ought to speak to the bank people. I think I’ll telephone down and ask if Mr. Gately is down there. You know it may not have been Mr. Gately at all, whose shadow I saw——” “ Ooh, yes, it was! You couldn’t mistake his head, and, too, who else would be in there? Please, Mr. Brice, wait just a minute before you telephone,—let me take one look round,—you don’t want to make a—to look foolish, you know.”She had so nearly warned me against making a fool of myself, that I took the hint, and I followed her across the hall.She went in quickly at the door of room number one. One glance around it and she said, “This is the first office, you see: callers come here, the secretary or stenographer takes their names and all that, and shows them into Mr. Gately’s office.”As Norah spoke she went on to the second room. Oblivious to its grandeur and luxury, she gave swift, darting glances here and there and said positively: “Of course, it was Mr. Gately who was shot, and by a woman too!” “ The woman who screamed?” “ No: more likely not. I expect the woman who screamed was his stenographer. I know her,—at least, I’ve seen her. A little doll-faced jig, who belongs about third from the end, in the chorus! Be sure she’d scream at the pistol shot, but the lady who fired the shot wouldn’t.” “ But I saw the scrimmage and it was a man who shot.” “ Are you sure? That thick, clouded glass blurs a shadow beyond recognition.” “ What makes you think it was a woman, then?” “ This,” and Norah pointed to a hatpin that lay on the big desk.It was a fine-looking pin, with a big head, but when I was about to pick it up Norah dissuaded me. “ Don’t touch it,” she warned; “you know, Mr. Brice, we’ve really no right here and we simply must not touch anything.” “ But, Norah,” I began, my common sense and good judgment having returned to me with the advent of human companionship, “I don’t want to do anything wrong. If we’ve no right here, for Heaven’s sake, let’s get out!” “ Yes, in a minute, but let me think what you ought to do. And, oh, do let me take a minute to look round!” “ No, girl; this is no time to satisfy your curiosity or, to enjoy a sight of these——” “ Oh, I don’t mean that! But I want to see if there isn’t some clew or some bit of evidence to the whole thing. It is too weird! too impossible that three people should have disappeared into nothingness! Where are they?”Norah looked in the same closets I had explored; she drew aside window draperies and portières, she hastily glanced under desks and tables, not so much, I felt sure, in expectation of finding anyone, as with a general idea of searching the place thoroughly.She scrutinized the desk fittings of the stenographer. “ Everything of the best,” she commented, “but very little real work done up here. I fancy these offices of Mr. Gately’s are more for private conferences and personal appointments than any real business matters.” “ Which would account for the lady’s hatpin,” I observed. “ Yes; but how did they get out? You looked out in the hall, at once, you say?” “ Yes; I came quickly through these three rooms, and then looked out into the hall at once, and there was no elevator in sight nor could I see anyone on the stairs.” “ Well, there’s not much to be seen here. I suppose you’d better call up the bank people. Though if they thought there was anything queer they’d be up here by this time.”I left Norah in Mr. Gately’s rooms while I went back to my own office and called up the Puritan Trust Company.A polite voice assured me that they knew nothing of Mr. Gately’s whereabouts at that moment, but if I would leave a message he would ultimately receive it.So, then, I told them, in part, what had happened, or, rather, what I believed had happened, and still a little unconcerned, the polite man agreed to send somebody up. “ Stuffy people!” I said to Norah, as I returned to the room she was in. “They seemed to think me officious.” “ I feared they would, Mr. Brice, but you had to do it. There’s no doubt Mr. Gately left this room in mad haste. See, here’s his personal checkbook on his desk, and he drew a check today.” “ Nothing remarkable in his drawing a check,” I observed, “but decidedly peculiar to leave his checkbook around so carelessly. As you say, Norah, he left in a hurry.” “ But how did he leave?” “ That’s the mystery; and I, for one, give it up. I’m quite willing to wait until some greater brain than mine works out the problem.” “ But it’s incomprehensible,” Norah went on; “where’s Jenny?” “ For that matter,” I countered, “where’s Mr. Gately? Where’s his angry visitor, male or female? and, finally, where’s the pistol that made the sound and smoke of which I had positive evidence?” “ We may find that,” suggested Norah, hopefully.But careful search failed to discover any firearms, as it had failed to reveal the actors of the drama.Nor did the representative from the bank come up at once. This seemed queer, I thought, and with a sudden impulse to find out something, I declared I was going down to the bank myself. “ Go on,” said Norah, “I’ll stay here, for I must know what they find out when they do come.”I went out into the hall and pushed the “Down” button of the elevator. “ Be careful,” Norah warned me, as the car was heard ascending, “say very little, Mr. Brice, except to the proper authorities. This may be a terrible thing, and you mustn’t get mixed up in it until you know more about it. You were not only the first to discover the disappearance,—but you and I are apparently the only ones in this corridor who know of it yet, we may be——” “ Suspected of the abduction of Amos Gately! Hardly! Don’t let your detective instinct run away with you Norah!”And then the elevator door slid open and I got into the car.

CHAPTER II Jenny’s Version

The elevators in the building were run by girls, and the one I entered was in charge of Minny Boyd, a sister of Jenny, who was in Mr. Gately’s office.As soon as I stepped into the car I saw that Minny was in a state of excitement. “ What’s the matter?” I asked, sympathetically. “ Oh, Mr. Brice,” and the girl burst into tears, “Jenny said——” “ Well,” I urged, as she hesitated, “what did Jenny say?” “ Don’t you know anything about it?” “ About what?” I asked, trying to be casual. “ Why, about Mr. Gately.” “ And what about him?” “ He’s gone! Disappeared!” “ Amos Gately? The president of the Puritan Trust Company! Minny, what do you mean?” “ Why, Mr. Brice, only a little while ago, I took Jenny down. She was crying like everything and she said that Mr. Gately had been shot!” “ Shot?” “ Yes, that’s what she said——” “ Who shot him?” “ I don’t know, but Jenny was nearly crazy! I told her to go to the lunchroom,—that’s where the girls go when off duty,—and I said I’d come to her as soon as I could. I can’t leave my car, you know.” “ Of course not, Minny,” I agreed; “but what did Jenny mean? Did she see Mr. Gately shot?” “ No, I don’t think so,—but she heard a pistol fired off, and she—she——” “ What did she do?” “ She ran into Mr. Gately’s private office,—and, he wasn’t there! And then she—oh, I suppose she hadn’t any right to do it,—but she ran on to his own personal room,—the one where she is never allowed to go,—and there wasn’t anybody there! So Jenny was scared out of her senses, and she ran out here,—to the hall, I mean,—and I took her downstairs,—and oh, Mr. Brice, I’ve got to stop at this floor,—there’s a call,—and please don’t say anything about it,—I mean don’t tell I said anything—for Jenny told me not to——”I saw Minny was in great perturbation, and I forebore to question her further, for just then we stopped at the seventh floor and a man entered the elevator.I knew him,—that is, I knew he was George Rodman,—but I wasn’t sufficiently acquainted to speak to him.So the three of us went on down in silence, past the other floors, and reached the ground floor, where Rodman and I got out.Waiting to go up, I found Mr. Pitt, a discount clerk of the Puritan Trust Company. “ This is Mr. Brice?” he said, in a superior way.I resented the superiority, but I admitted his soft impeachment. “ And you say there is something to be investigated in Mr. Gately’s offices?” he went on, as if I were a Food Administrator, or something. “ Well,” I returned, a little curtly, “I chanced to see and hear and smell a pistol shot,—and further looking into the matter failed to show anybody killed or wounded or—in fact, failed to disclose anybody whatever on the job, and I confess it all looks to me mighty queer!” “ And may I ask why it appeals to you as queer?”I looked Friend Pitt square in the eye, and I said, “It seems to me queer that a bank president should drop out of existence and even out of his business affiliations in one minute without any recognition of the fact.” “ Perhaps you overestimate an outside interest,” said Pitt. “You must know it is really none of the business of the Puritan Trust Company what Mr. Gately does in his leisure hours.” “ Very well, Mr. Pitt,” I returned, “then let us go and interview the young woman who is Mr. Gately’s stenographer and who is even now in hysterics in the employees’ lunchroom.”Mr. Pitt seemed duly impressed and together we went to find Jenny.The lunchroom for the employees of the building was a pleasant place, on the ground floor, and therein we found Jenny, the yellow-haired stenographer of Amos Gately.The girl was, without doubt, hysterical, and her account of the shooting was disjointed and incoherent.Moreover, Mr. Pitt was of the supercilious type, the kind who never believes anything, and his manner, as he listened to Jenny’s story, was incredulous and almost scoffing.So Jenny’s story, though to me illuminating, was, I felt sure, to Pitt, of little value. “ Oh,” Jenny exclaimed, “I was in my room, the first room, and I didn’t mean to listen,—I never do! and then, all of a sudden, I heard somebody threatening Mr. Gately! That made me listen,—I don’t care if it was wrong—and then, I heard somebody quarreling with Mr. Gately.” “ How do you know they were quarreling?” interposed Pitt’s cold voice. “ I couldn’t help knowing, sir. I heard Mr. Gately’s usually pleasant voice raised as if in anger, and I heard the visitor’s voice, high and angry too.” “ You didn’t know the visitor’s voice? you had never heard it before?” asked Pitt. “ No, sir; I’ve no idea who he could have been!” and the foolish little Jenny bridled and looked like an innocent ingénue.I broke in. “ But didn’t you admit all visitors or callers to Mr. Gately?” I demanded.Jenny looked at me. “No, sir,” she replied; “I received all who came to my door, but there were others!” “ Where did they enter?” asked Pitt. “ Oh, they came in at the other doors. You see, I only looked after my own room. Of course, if Miss Raynor came,—or anybody that Mr. Gately knew personally——” Jenny paused discreetly. “ And did Miss Raynor come this morning?” I asked. “ Yes,” Jenny replied, “she did. That is, not this morning, but early this afternoon. I know Miss Raynor very well.”Mr. Pitt seemed a little disturbed from his usual calm, and with evident reluctance said to me, “I think, Mr. Brice, that this matter is more serious than I thought. It seems to me that it would be wise to refer the whole matter to Mr. Talcott, the secretary of the Trust Company.”Now, I was only too glad to refer the matter to anybody who could be considered authoritative, and I agreed at once. “ Moreover,” said Mr. Pitt, as he gave an anxious glance at Jenny, “I think it well to take this young woman along, as she is the secretary of Mr. Gately and may know——” “ Oh, no, sir,” cried Jenny, “I don’t know anything! Please don’t ask me questions!”Jenny’s perturbation seemed to make Mr. Pitt’s intentions more definite, and he corralled the young woman, as he also swept me along.In a moment, we were all going into the offices of the Puritan Trust Company.And here, Mr. Pitt faded from view, and he left us in the august presence of Mr. Talcott, the secretary of the Company.I found myself in the quiet, pleasant atmosphere of the usual banker’s office, and Mr. Talcott, a kindly gentleman of middle-aged aristocracy, began to question me. “ It seems to me, Mr. Brice,” he began, “that this story of yours about Mr. Gately is not only important but mysterious.” “ I think so, Mr. Talcott,” I responded, “and yet, the whole crux of the matter is whether Mr. Gately is, at present, in some one of his offices, or, perhaps at his home, or whether his whereabouts are undetermined.” “ Of course, Mr. Brice,” the secretary went on, “it is none of our business where Mr. Gately is, outside of his banking hours; and yet, in view of Mr. Pitt’s report of your account, it is incumbent upon us, the officers of the Trust Company, to look into the matter. Will you tell me, please, all you know of the circumstances pertaining to Mr. Gately’s disappearance,—if he has disappeared?” “ If he has disappeared!” I snapped back; “and, pray, sir, if he has not disappeared, where is he?”Mr. Talcott, still unmoved, responded, “That is aside the question, for the moment. What do you know of the matter, Mr. Brice?”I replied by telling him all I knew of the whole affair, from the time I first saw the shadows until the moment when I went down in the elevator and met Mr. Pitt.He listened with deepest attention, and then, seemingly unimpressed by my story, began to question Jenny.This volatile young lady had regained her mental balance, and was more than ready to dilate upon her experiences. “ Yes, sir,” she said, “I was sitting at my desk, and nobody had come in for an hour or so, when, all of a sudden, I heard talking in Mr. Gately’s room.” “ Do callers usually go through your room?” Mr. Talcott inquired. “ Yes, sir,—that is, unless they’re Mr. Gately’s personal friends,—like Miss Raynor or somebody.” “ Who is Miss Raynor?” I broke in. “ His ward,” said Mr. Talcott, briefly. “Go on, Jenny; nobody had gone through your room?” “ No, sir; and so, I was startled to hear somebody scrapping with Mr. Gately.” “ Scrapping?” “ Yes, sir; sort of quarreling, you know; I——” “ Did you listen?” “ Not exactly that, sir, but I couldn’t help hearing the angry voices, though I didn’t make out the words.” “ Be careful, Jenny,” Talcott’s tones were stern, “don’t assume more than you can be sure was meant.” “ Then I can’t assume anything,” said Jenny, crisply, “for I didn’t hear a single word,—only I did feel sure the two of ’em was scrapping.” “ You heard, then, angry voices?” “ Yes, sir, just that. And right straight afterward, a pistol shot.” “ In Mr. Gately’s room?” “ Yes, sir. And then I ran in there to see what it meant,——” “ Weren’t you frightened?” “ No, sir; I didn’t stop to think there was anything to be frightened of. But when I got in there, and saw——” “ Well, go on,—what did you see?” “ A man, with a pistol in his hand, running out of the door——” “ Which door?” “ The door of number three,—that’s Mr. Gately’s own particular private room,—well, he was running out of that door, with a pistol in his hand,—and the pistol was smoking, sir!”Jenny’s foolish little face was red with excitement and her lips trembled as she told her story. It was impossible to disbelieve her,—there could be no doubt of her fidelity to detail.But Talcott was imperturbable. “ The pistol was smoking,” he repeated, “where did the man go with it?” “ I don’t know, sir,” said Jenny; “I ran out to the hall after him,—I think I saw him run down the staircase, but I,—I was so scared with it all, I jumped into the elevator,—Minny’s elevator,—and came downstairs myself.” “ And then?” prompted Talcott. “ Then, sir,—oh, I don’t know,—I think I lost my head—it was all so queer, you know——” “ Yes, yes,” said Talcott, soothingly,—he was a most courteous man, “yes, Miss Jenny,—I don’t wonder you were upset. Now, I think, if you will accompany us, we will go upstairs to Mr. Gately’s rooms.”It seemed to me that Mr. Talcott did not pay sufficient attention to my presence, but I forgave this, because I felt sure he would be only too glad to avail himself of my services later on. So I followed him and the tow-headed Jenny up to the offices of the bank president.We did not go up in Minny’s elevator, but in another one, and our appearance at the door of Mr. Gately’s office number one, was met by Norah,—my Norah, who received us with an air of grave importance.She was unawed by the sight of Mr. Talcott, imposing though he was, and was clearly scornful of Jenny, who had already assumed a jaunty manner.But Jenny was quite self-possessed, and with a toss of her head at Norah she started to explain. “ I was in here, at my desk, Mr. Talcott,” she began, volubly; “and in Mr. Gately’s office, I heard somebody talking pretty sharp——” “ A man?” “ Yes, sir.” “ How did he get in, if not through your room?” “ Oh, people often went through the hall doors of number two or three, and sometimes they came through my room.” “ Who went through your room this afternoon?” “ Only three people. An old man named Smith——” “ What was his business?” “ I’m not quite sure, but it had to do with his getting a part salary from Mr. Gately; he was a down-and-outer, and he hoped Mr. Gately would help him through.” “ And did he?” “ Oh, yes, sir! Mr. Gately always was soft-hearted and never turned down anybody in need.” “ And the other callers?” “ There was an old lady, to see about her husband’s pension,—and——” “ Well? I suppose not all the callers were beneficiaries?” “ No, sir. One was a—a lady.” “ A lady? Describe her.” “ Why, she was Miss Olive Raynor,—Mr. Gately’s ward.” “ Oh, Miss Raynor. Well, there’s no use discussing her. Were there any other ladies?” “ No, sir.” “ Nor any other men?” “ No, sir; that is, not through my room. You know, people could go in to Mr. Gately’s private offices without going through my room.” “ Yes, I know. But couldn’t you see them?” “ Only dimly,—through the clouded glass window between my room and Mr. Gately’s.” “ And what did you see of the callers in Mr. Gately’s room just before you heard the shot fired?”Jenny looked dubious. She seemed inclined not to tell all she knew. But Mr. Talcott spoke sharply. “ Come,” he said; “speak up. Tell all you know.” “ I didn’t hear anybody come in,” said Jenny, slowly; “and then, all of a sudden, I heard loud voices,—and then, I heard quarrelly words——” “ Quarrelly?” “ Yes, sir, as if somebody was threatening Mr. Gately. I didn’t hear clearly, but I heard enough to make me look through the window between the two rooms——” “ This window?” “ Yes, sir,” and Jenny nodded at the clouded glass pane between her room and Mr. Gately’s office. “And I saw sort of shadows,—and then in a minute I saw the shadows get up—you know, Mr. Gately and another man,—and then,—I heard a pistol fired off, and I yelled!” “ It was your scream I heard, then!” I exclaimed. “ I don’t know,” Jenny replied, “but I did scream, because I am fearfully scared of pistol shots, and I didn’t know who was shooting.” “ What did you do next?” asked Mr. Talcott, in his quiet way. “ I ran into Mr. Gately’s room——” “ And you weren’t frightened?” “ Not for myself. I was frightened of the shot,—I always am afraid of firearms, but I wanted to know what was doing. So, I opened the door and ran in——” “ Yes; and?” “ I saw nobody in Mr. Gately’s room,—I mean this room next to mine,—so I ran on, to the third room,—I am not supposed to go in there,—but I did, and there I saw a man just going out to the hall and in his hand was a smoking revolver.” “ Out to the hall? Did you follow him?” “ Of course I did! But he ran down the staircase. I didn’t go down that way, because I thought I’d get down quicker and head him off by going down in the elevator.” “ So you went down in the elevator?” “ Yes, sir. It was Minny’s elevator,—Minny’s my sister,—and after I got in,—and saw Minny, I got sort of hysterical and nervous, and I couldn’t remember what I was about.” “ What became of the man?” asked Talcott, uninterested in Jenny’s nerves. “ I don’t know, sir. I was so rattled,—and I only saw him a moment,—and——” “ Would you know him if you saw him again?” “ I don’t know,—I don’t think so.” “ I wish you could say yes,—it may be of gravest importance.”But Jenny seemed to resent Mr. Talcott’s desire. “ I don’t see how you could expect it, sir,” she said, pettishly; “I saw him only in a glimpse,—I was scared to death at the sound of the pistol shot,—and when I burst into this room and found Mr. Gately gone I was so kerflummixed I didn’t know what I was about! That I didn’t!” “ And yet,” Norah remarked, quietly, “after you went downstairs and these gentlemen found you in the lunchroom, you were perfectly calm and collected——” “ Nothing of the sort!” blazed back Jenny; “I’m all on edge! My nerves are completely unstrung!” “ Quite so,” said Mr. Talcott, kindly, “and I suggest that you go back to the lunchroom, Miss Jenny, and rest and calm yourself. But please remain there, until I call for you again.”Jenny looked a little disappointed at being thus thrust out of the limelight, but as Mr. Talcott held the door open for her, she had no choice but to depart, and we presently heard her go down in her sister’s elevator. “ Now,” Mr. Talcott resumed, “we will look into this matter further. “