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   Chapter 23 FLOTSAM AND JETSAM

That Mainwaring Affair By A. Maynard Barbour Characters: 19132

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


An hour later, the attorney and the detective reappeared, and, threading their way through the crowd still lingering about the hotel, walked rapidly down the street, arm in arm, conversing in low tones.

"A case of suicide, undoubtedly," said the attorney "and scarcely to be wondered at, taking all the circumstances into consideration. Do you know, I am now more than ever inclined to the belief that she was in some way connected with Hugh Mainwaring's death, and that, after such a revelation of her character as was made in court this morning, she feared further disclosures."

Mr. Whitney glanced at his companion, but the latter seemed engrossed with his own thoughts and made no reply.

"I never was so completely floored in my life," the attorney continued, "as when it came out that Harold Mainwaring was her son; and I yet fail to see the necessity for introducing that feature into the testimony. I should have thought that would have been passed over in silence."

"As near as I can judge from reading of the case," Merrick replied, "it seems to have been done with a purpose. His attorneys were leading up to that very point in such a manner that, when the climax was reached, she would involuntarily betray herself-as she did-thus confirming in the strongest manner the testimony already given."

"I believe you may be right," said the attorney, musingly, "though it had not occurred to me."

After a short pause, Merrick continued: "When I was first called to Fair Oaks, I suspected some relationship between that woman and the secretary, as he was then called; there was a marked resemblance between them; both had the same peculiar olive skin, while their features and carriage were almost identical."

"Yes, I recall your mentioning the likeness to me, and at the same time I was puzzled by the resemblance between him and Hugh Mainwaring. Well, I always said he was a mystery, and no wonder!"

They had reached the club-house by this time, and, as Merrick declined Mr. Whitney's invitation to enter, both men remained outside for a few moments. Once again, the attorney endeavored to sound the detective regarding his work and the progress he was making, but the latter suddenly became strangely uncommunicative.

"My client is going to charge Harold Mainwaring with the murder," said the attorney at last.

Merrick laughed scornfully, and for the second time that evening wheeled abruptly and turned down a side street, leaving Mr. Whitney standing upon the club-house steps, watching the rapidly retreating figure with mingled vexation and amusement.

"Something has upset Merrick," he soliloquized, as he finally turned towards the entrance; "who can he imagine is 'dogging' his tracks, as he terms it? These detectives seem about as jealous of their reputation as we lawyers are supposed to be. Ralph Mainwaring is going to engage 'the best legal talent that money can get!' H'm! when he comes to settle, he may find that my 'legal talent' will come just as high as the best of them."

Could Mr. Whitney have been present at a conference held that evening in one of the private parlors of the Waldorf, he might have had a better understanding of the cause of Merrick's perturbation.

Immediately upon returning to the hotel, Harold Mainwaring had communicated to the English attorney and to Mr. Scott the particulars of his interview with Mrs. LaGrange. Mr. Scott at once expressed his satisfaction at the outcome, in that she had rejected all offers of assistance except upon her own terms.

"That is best, that is best just as it is," he said, emphatically; "you do not want to be hampered with any obligations she might impose upon you, and as for ever recognizing or acknowledging any relationship, it is not to be thought of for one moment. Your course was right, perfectly right. But what was the statement of such importance which she was to make?"

"That is just what I am coming to," the young man replied; and drawing his chair closer to those of his companions, he repeated in low tones the secret intrusted to him by Mrs. LaGrange. The faces of the two men were a study as he ended his recital.

"Are you confident that she spoke the truth?" questioned Mr. Barton eagerly.

"I am positive that she did; she seemed like one terror-stricken, and said that the horror of it had haunted her day and night."

"There could be no reason in this instance for doubting her," commented Mr. Scott, thoughtfully; "she would have no motive for making such a statement if it were not true."

"My dear Mainwaring!" exclaimed the attorney, "it is what I have suspected ever since you gave me the details of the affair; you remember what I told you before we left London!"

"Certainly; but it seemed to me then too improbable."

"The improbable is, sometimes, what we must look for in cases like this," he replied; "McCabe should be put on to this immediately, and we must call Sutherland. I will summon him, myself, at once," and he left the room.

The foster-father and son, left for a few moments to themselves, had little to say, but sat looking into each other's faces with eyes full of meaning, each understanding what was in the other's heart. At last, as they heard returning footsteps, the elder man spoke,-

"It was a good thing you went there, my boy; come what may, you will never regret it."

"Never!" the other replied with emphasis.

It seemed but a few moments ere hurried steps were heard along the corridor, followed by a light, familiar knock, and Mr. Sutherland entered.

"I recognized your voice at the 'phone, Mr. Barton," said the attorney, after greetings had been exchanged, "and something in its tone, aside from the general import of your message, led me to believe that the call was of special importance, therefore I lost no time in coming here."

"You were correct," replied the English barrister; "we have made a most important discovery, bearing not only upon the case in hand, but also upon the Mainwaring murder case."

"Ah-h!" responded the attorney with evident interest; then drawing his chair near the group seated about the open fire, he asked, with a swift glance about the room, "But where is your 'clerk,' Mr. Barton? Should he not be present?"

"My 'clerk!'" replied Mr. Barton, with peculiar emphasis, and plainly appreciating the humor of the inquiry; "my 'clerk' is, I believe, at present engaged in most assiduously cultivating the acquaintance of Ralph Mainwaring's coachman."

Then, as Mr. Sutherland elevated his eyebrows in mute inquiry, he continued,-

"The coachman, I have understood, is a recent acquisition, taken, I believe, upon the recommendation of this Merrick; and while he seems eminently satisfactory as a coachman, I have my doubts as to whether he will prove quite so satisfactory to his superior officer upon his return."

"Ah, I see!" ejaculated the other; "he is what might be denominated a 'sub.'"

"Yes; and so exceedingly verdant that McCabe thought it worth while to make his acquaintance. But now to present business!"

Again the strange story was repeated, Mr. Sutherland listening with grave attention, which deepened as the recital proceeded, until, at its completion, he could scarcely restrain his enthusiasm; exultation was plainly written on his face, but there was a peculiar gentleness in his manner as he first approached his young client, saying in a low tone, as he cordially grasped his hand,-

"I realize, Mr. Mainwaring, all that this means to you, and I am sure you will understand me when I say that I congratulate you."

Harold Mainwaring bowed silently, and Mr. Sutherland, turning towards the English barrister, exclaimed, "This explains everything! This will make our case absolutely incontrovertible; but, first, we must secure that man at all hazards and at any cost just as quickly as possible; think what a witness he will make!"

"Just what I had in mind" was the response, "and McCabe is the man to locate him if he is upon the face of the earth. But we must decide immediately upon our own course of action, for this will necessitate certain changes in our plans, and we must act at once, and, at the same time, with the utmost caution and secrecy."

Dinner was ordered and served in the privacy of their own apartments that they might be entirely free from intrusion or interruptions during their deliberations, and it was at a late hour when, their consultation ended, they gathered about the open fire with their cigars, awaiting, with much self-congratulation and cheerful talk, the return of the absent McCabe.

"Confound it!" exclaimed Mr. Barton, presently, glancing at his watch; "what in the deuce is keeping that fellow so late? If we had not especially wanted him, he would have been here two hours ago."

"Perhaps," suggested Mr. Sutherland, "he may have found the coachman more communicative than he anticipated."

"He has doubtless struck some clue which he is following," was the reply; but at that instant there was a light tap at the door, and the man generally known as the English barrister's "clerk" entered.

"Well, Mac," said Mr. Barton, cheerfully, "'speak of the devil'-you know what follows! What luck to-night?"

"Very fair, sir," said the man, quietly taking in the situation at a glance, as he noted the eager, expectant faces of the four men, and, dropping into a chair near the group, he instantly assumed an attitude of close attention.

Ordinarily, McCabe was, as Mr. Whitney had remarked, rather an insignificant looking man

. He was below medium stature and somewhat dull in appearance, owing to the fact that he seemed to take little interest in his surroundings, while his face, when his eyes were concealed, as was generally the case, by the heavily drooping lids and long eyelashes, was absolutely expressionless. When, however, he raised his eyes and fixed them upon any one, the effect was much the same as though a search-light suddenly flashed in one's face; but this was only upon rare occasions, and few casual observers would dream of the keen perceptive faculties hidden beneath that quiet exterior.

"Tell us your story first, Mac," said Mr. Barton, after a moment's silence, thoroughly understanding his man, "ours will keep for a little bit."

"There's not much to tell, sir."

"How are you and the coachman coming on?"

"We'll not be very intimate after to-night, I'm thinking."

"How is that?" questioned the attorney, at the same time smiling broadly at his companions.

"Well, sir, there'll be no call for it, for one thing, as I've got all the points in the case I wanted; and for another, his chief returned this evening, and, from the few words I overheard upon his arrival, I don't think the coachman will feel over-confidential the next time he sees me," and McCabe smiled grimly to himself.

"So Merrick is back!" interposed Mr. Sutherland, laughing. "Did you and he meet?"

"Meet, sir? Ah, no, not much o' that! I heard a step coming up the stairs, and as I thought the room was hardly big enough for three, I excused myself to Mr. Jim Matheson-alias Matthews, the coachman-and made for the hall. We passed each other at the head of the stairs, and I cluttered down, making as much racket as I could; then at the foot of the stairs I took off my boots and crept upstairs again, more to hear the fellow's voice than anything else, so I could recognize him afterwards."

"What did you hear?" inquired Mr. Barton, as McCabe paused to light a cigar which Mr. Sutherland had handed him.

"I heard him say, 'Who was that I passed outside, Jim?' 'Only a cross-country friend of mine,' says Jim. 'What friends are you entertaining here in these quarters?' says he, kind o' sharp like. 'An' sure,' says Jim, 'it was only Dan McCoy, the clerk of the big London lawyer who has come over with the young Mr. Mainwaring I've heard you speak of, and a right clever fellow he is, too!' 'Clerk!' he roars out, 'clerk, you blithering idiot! he's no more clerk than you are coachman, nor half so much, for you're fit for nothing but to take care of horses all your days! Do you want to know,' says he, 'who you've been entertaining?' That's no more nor less than Dan McCabe, a Scotland Yard man they've brought over, nobody knows what for, but whatever his game, he's made you play into his hand! I didn't stay to hear more," McCabe concluded, "I got out."

"But how does this Merrick know you?" Mr. Barton inquired, as the laughter caused by McCabe's recital subsided.

"He doesn't know me, he only knows of me," the man replied. "I found that out an hour or two later, when I met him in a crowd at the Wellington Hotel;" the speaker glanced curiously in the direction of Harold Mainwaring for an instant, and then continued, "I knew him by his voice, but I spoke with him, and he had no idea who I was."

"But how has he heard of you?" persisted Mr. Barton.

"There was an American detective-a friend of his-who came over on the 'Campania' on the same trip with Mr. Mainwaring. He was following up a case in London, but he managed to keep his eye on Mr. Mainwaring and kept this Merrick posted of all that he was doing. It was because of some remarks of his that I got wind of, that I determined from the first to get onto his game."

"Well, Mac," said Mr. Barton, tentatively, "are you ready to go to work now?"

The keen eyes flashed for an instant in the attorney's face, then the man answered quietly, "If you've nothing to tell me, I'm ready to go to work on my own hook and in my own way; if you've anything to say, I'll hear it."

Mr. Barton glanced at the others. "We had better tell McCabe what we have learned, and also just what our plans are."

The others bowed in assent, and the chairs were drawn closer together while Mr. Barton, in low tones, told, as briefly and clearly as possible, the discovery which they had made. McCabe listened to the attorney's story, but whether or not the secret were already guessed by him, his face gave no sign. When it was ended he glanced curiously at Harold Mainwaring.

"Mrs. LaGrange told you this?"

"She did."

"At what time, if you please, sir?"

"At about half-past five."

"Are you aware, sir, that, with the exception of her maid, you are probably the last person who saw Mrs. LaGrange living?"

"Saw her living!" Harold Mainwaring repeated, astonished, while Mr. Barton demanded, "What do you mean, Mac?"

"I mean, sir," said McCabe, slowly, "that Mrs. LaGrange committed suicide at about seven o'clock this evening, less than two hours after Mr. Mainwaring saw her."

"When did you learn of this?" "What do you know of the affair?" questioned the attorneys quickly, while Harold Mainwaring, more deeply shocked than he would have thought possible, listened to the man's reply.

"I happened along by the Wellington about two hours ago, and saw considerable stir around there. I learned 'twas a case of suicide, but thought nothing of it till I heard the woman's name, then I dropped in and picked up the facts in the case," and he proceeded to relate the details of the affair.

As Harold Mainwaring listened, he recalled the looks and words of the wretched woman, her genuine misery, her falsehood and deceit, her piteous pleadings, and the final rage and scorn with which she had rejected his assistance even in the face of such desperation and despair; and a sickening sense of horror stole over him, rendering him almost oblivious to the conversation around him.

"'Twas there I saw this man Merrick," McCabe was saying in conclusion. "I heard him questioning the maid about Mr. Mainwaring's interview with the woman; he evidently was onto that. I saw the girl myself shortly afterwards and gave her a hint and a bit of money to keep her mouth shut about Mr. Mainwaring. She seemed pretty bright, and I think she will understand her business."

"Confound that meddlesome Yankee! what was he prowling around there for?" interrupted Mr. Scott, angrily. "He has no business prying into Harold Scott Mainwaring's affairs, and I'll have him understand it; let him attend to his own duties, and I think, from all reports, he will have his hands more than full then. Mr. Sutherland," he continued, addressing the attorney, "there's no knowing what that beastly bungler who calls himself a detective will do next; this thing is likely to be out in the morning papers with the boy's name mixed up in it, and it must be stopped right here. His name must be kept out of this at any price, and you probably can reach the New York press better than any one of us."

"You are right," said Mr. Sutherland, rising hastily and preparing to leave; "our client wants no notoriety of that sort; and I will make sure that nothing of the kind occurs. I have a friend who has unlimited influence with the newspaper men, and I will have him attend to the matter at once, and see to it that everything of that nature is suppressed."

"That is best," said Harold Mainwaring gravely, coming forward. "I would have rendered the woman any necessary assistance; I am willing to do whatever is needful now, but, living or dead, her name shall never be coupled with my father's name and mine."

"You understand, of course, that money is no object in this matter," added Mr. Scott.

"I understand perfectly, sir," said the attorney, courteously; "everything will be attended to; and, Mr. Barton, you will kindly confer with Mr. McCabe, and I will see you in the morning regarding your final decision. Good-night, gentlemen."

An hour later, McCabe took his departure. Of his own theories or plans he had said little more than that he was to leave the Waldorf that night for another part of the city, but all details for communication with him in case of necessity had been carefully arranged.

"Your 'clerk' has been suddenly called to London on important business," he said to Mr. Barton, with a quiet smile, adding, "You may meet me occasionally, but it's not likely or best that you recognize me, and when I have anything to report you will hear from me," and with these words he was gone.

When at last Harold Mainwaring and his foster-father were again by themselves, the latter, noting the younger man's abstraction, said,-

"This is naturally a great shock to you, my boy, but it is only what might be expected after such a life as hers. You have done nothing for which to censure yourself; you have done all that could be done under existing conditions, and more than was actually required of you; so you need have no regrets over the affair."

"I understand that, sir; but the thought that I cannot banish from my mind is, knowing so well her treachery and deceit, is it possible that she herself had a hand in the murder, and finding at last that there was no hope of gaining my friendship, did she fear the developments which might follow from what she had told?"

The elder man shook his head thoughtfully. "We cannot say, my boy; the thought occurred to me almost instantaneously, for, without doubt, she both hated and feared him; but time alone will tell."

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