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   Chapter 1 IN THE POLICE COURT

The Red Seal By Natalie Sumner Lincoln Characters: 12929

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06


Te Assistant District Attorney glanced down at the papers in his hand and then up at the well-dressed, stockily built man occupying the witness stand. His manner was conciliatory.

"According to your testimony, Mr. Clymer, the prisoner, John Sylvester, was honest and reliable, and faithfully performed his duties as confidential clerk," he stated. "Just when was Sylvester in your employ?"

"Sylvester was never in my employ," corrected Benjamin Augustus Clymer. The president of the Metropolis Trust Company was noted for his precision of speech. "During the winter of 1918 I shared an apartment with Judge James Hildebrand, who employed Sylvester."

"Was Sylvester addicted to drink?"

"No."

"Was he quarrelsome?"

"No."

"Was Sylvester married at that date?"

At the question a faint smile touched the corners of Clymer's clean shaven mouth and his eyes traveled involuntarily toward the over-dressed female whose charge of assault and battery against her husband had brought Clymer to the police court as a "character" witness in Sylvester's behalf.

"Sylvester left Judge Hildebrand to get married," he explained. "He was a model clerk; honest, sober, and industrious."

"That is all, Mr. Clymer." The Assistant District Attorney spoke in some haste. "You may retire, sir," and, as Clymer turned to vacate the witness box, he addressed the presiding judge.

Clymer did not catch his remarks as, on stepping down, he was button-holed by a man whose entrance had occurred a few minutes before through the swing door which gave exit from the space reserved for witnesses and lawyers into the body of the court room.

"Sit over here a second," the newcomer said in an undertone, indicating the long bench under the window. "Has Miss McIntyre been here?"

"Miss McIntyre-here?" Clymer stared in amazement at his questioner. "No, certainly not."

"Don't be so positive," retorted the lawyer heatedly, his color rising at the other's incredulous tone. "Helen McIntyre telephoned me to meet her, and-by Jove, here she comes," as a slight stir at the back of the court room caused him to glance in that direction.

A gray-haired patrolman, cap in hand, was in the lead of the small procession which filed up the aisle, and Clymer gazed in astonishment at Helen McIntyre and her twin sister, Barbara. What had brought them at that hour to the police court?

The court room was filled with men, both white and black, while a dozen or more slatternly negro women were seated here and there. The Assistant District Attorney's plea for a postponement of the Sylvester case on the ground of the absence of an important witness and the granting of his plea was entirely lost on the majority of those in the court room, their attention being wholly centered on Helen McIntyre and Barbara, whose bearing and clothes spoke of a fashionable and prosperous world to which nearly all present were utterly foreign.

Barbara, sensitive to the concentrated regard which their entrance had attracted, drew closer to Dr. Amos Stone, their family physician, who had accompanied them at her particular request. Except for Mrs. Sylvester, she and her sister were the only white women in the room.

Before they could take the seats to which they had been ushered, the clerk's stentorian tones sent the girls' names echoing down the court room and Barbara, much perturbed, found herself standing with Helen before the clerk's desk. There was a moment's wait and the deputy marshal, who had motioned to one of the prisoners sitting in the "cage" to step outside, emphasized his order with a muttered imprecation to hurry. A slouching figure finally shambled past him and stopped some little distance from the group in front of the Judge's bench.

"House-breaking," announced the clerk. "Charge brought by-" He looked up at the two girls.

"Miss Helen McIntyre," answered one of the twins composedly. "Daughter of Colonel Charles McIntyre of this city."

"Charge brought by Miss Helen McIntyre," continued the clerk, "against-" and his pointed finger indicated the seedy looking man slouching before them.

"Smith," said the latter, and his husky voice was barely audible.

"Smith," repeated the clerk. "First name-?"

"John," was the answer, given after a slight pause.

"John Smith, you are charged by Miss Helen McIntyre with house-breaking. What say you-guilty or not guilty?"

The man shifted his weight from one foot to the other and shot an uneasy look about him.

"Not guilty," he responded.

At that instant Helen caught sight of Benjamin Clymer and his companion, Philip Rochester, and her pale cheeks flushed faintly at the lawyer's approach. He had time but for a hasty handshake before the clerk administered the oath to the prisoner and the witnesses in the case.

Rochester walked back and resumed his seat by Clymer. Propping himself in the corner made by the bench and the cage, inside of which sat the prisoners, he opened his right hand and unfolded a small paper. He read the brief penciled message it contained not once but a dozen times. Folding the paper into minute dimensions he tucked it carefully inside his vest pocket and glanced sideways at Clymer. The banker hardly noticed his uneasy movements as he sat regarding Helen McIntyre standing in the witness box. Although paler than usual, the girl's manner was quiet, but Clymer, a close student of human nature, decided she was keeping her composure by will power alone, and his interest grew.

The Judge, from the Bench, was also regarding the handsome witness and the burglar with close attention. Colonel Charles McIntyre, a wealthy manufacturer, had, upon his retirement from active business, made the National Capital his home, and his name had become a household word for philanthropy, while his twin daughters were both popular in Washington's gay younger set. Several reporters of local papers, attracted by the mention of the McIntyre name, as well as by the twins' appearance, watched the scene with keen expectancy, eager for early morning "copy."

As the Assistant District Attorney rose to question Helen McIntyre, the Judge addressed him.

"Is the prisoner represented by counsel?" he asked.

For reply the burglar shook his head. Rising slowly to his feet, Philip Rochester advanced to the man's side.

"If it please the court," he began, "I will take the case for the prisoner."

His offer received a quick acceptance from the

Bench, but the scowl with which the burglar favored him was not pleasant. Hitching at his frayed flannel collar, the man partly turned his back on the lawyer and listened with a heavy frown to Helen's quick answers to the questions put to her.

"While waiting for my sister to return from a dance early this morning," she stated, "I went downstairs into the library, and as I entered it I saw a man slip across the room and into a coat closet. I retained enough presence of mind to steal across to the closet and turn the key in the door; then I ran to the window and fortunately saw Officer O'Ryan standing under the arc light across the street. I called him and he arrested the prisoner."

Her simple statement evoked a nod of approval from the Assistant District Attorney, and Rochester frowned as he waived his right to cross-examine her. The next witness was Officer O'Ryan, and his testimony confirmed Helen's.

"The prisoner was standing back among the coats in the closet," he said. "My automatic against his ribs brought him out."

"Did you search your prisoner?" asked Rochester, as he took the witness.

"Yes, sir.

"Find any concealed weapons?"

"No, sir."

"A burglar's kit?"

"No, sir."

"Did the prisoner make a statement after his arrest?"

"No, sir; he came along peaceably enough, hardly a word out of him," acknowledged O'Ryan regretfully. He enjoyed a reputation on the force as a "scrapper," and a willing prisoner was a disappointment to his naturally pugnacious disposition.

"Did you search the house?"

"Sure, and haven't I been telling you I did?" answered O'Ryan; his pride in his achievement in arresting a burglar in so fashionable a neighborhood as Sheridan Circle was giving place to resentment at Rochester's manner of addressing him. At a sign from the lawyer, he left the witness stand, and Rochester addressed the Judge.

"I ask the indulgence of the court for more time," he commenced, "that I may consult my client and find if he desires to call witnesses."

"The court finds," responded the Judge, "that a clear case of house-breaking has been proven against the prisoner by reputable witnesses. He will have to stand trial."

For the first time the prisoner raised his eyes from contemplation of the floor.

"I demand trial by jury," he announced.

"It is your right," acknowledged the Judge, and turned to consult his calendar.

Stepping forward, the deputy marshal laid his hand on the burglar's shoulder.

"Go inside," he directed and held open the cage door, which immediately swung back into place, and Rochester, following closely at the prisoner's heels, halted abruptly. A fit of coughing shook the burglar and he paused by the iron railing, gasping for breath.

"Water," he pleaded, and a court attendant handed a cup to Rochester, standing just outside the cage, and he passed it over the iron railing to the burglar. Then turning on his heel the lawyer rejoined Clymer, his discontent plainly discernible.

"A clear case against your client," remarked Clymer, reading his thoughts. "Don't take the affair to heart, man; you did your best under difficulties."

Rochester shook his head gloomily. "I might have-Jove! why didn't I ask for bail?"

"Bail!" The banker suppressed a chuckle as he eyed the threadbare suit and tattered appearance of the burglar, who had resumed his seat in the prisoner's cage. "Who would have stood surety for that scarecrow?"

"I would have." Rochester spoke with some vehemence, but his words were partly drowned by the violent fit of coughing which again shook the burglar, and before he could finish his sentence, Helen McIntyre stood at his elbow. She bowed gravely to Clymer who rose at her approach, and laid a persuasive hand on Rochester's sleeve.

"Will you come with us?" she asked. "Barbara and Dr. Stone are ready to leave. The doctor wishes to-" As she spoke she looked across at Stone, who stood opposite her in the little group. He failed to catch both her word and her eye, his gaze, passing over her shoulder, was riveted on the burglar.

"Something is wrong," he announced and pushed past Barbara. "Let me inside the cage," he directed as the deputy marshal kept the gate closed at his approach. "Your prisoner appears ill."

One glance at the burglar proved the truth of the physician's statement and the gate was hastily opened. Stone bent over the man, whose spasmodic breathing could be heard distinctly through the court room, then his gaze shifted to the other occupants of the cage.

"The man must have air," he declared. "Your aid here." Looking up his eyes met Clymer's, and the latter came swiftly into the cage, followed by Rochester, and the deputy marshal slammed the door shut behind them.

"Step out this way," he said, as Clymer aided the physician in lifting the burglar, and he led them into the ante-room whence prisoners were taken into the cage.

Stretching his burden on the floor, Stone tore open the man's shirt and felt his heart, while Clymer, spying a water cooler, sped across the room and returned immediately with a brimming glass.

"Here's water," he said, but Stone refused the proffered glass.

"No use," he announced. "The man is dead."

"Dead!" echoed the deputy marshal. "Well, I'll be-say, doctor," but Stone had darted out of the room, and he turned open-mouthed to Clymer. "If it wasn't Doctor Stone I would say he was crazy," he declared.

"Tut! Feel the man's heart and convince yourself," suggested Clymer tartly, and the deputy marshal, dropping on one knee, did so. Detecting no heart-beat, the officer passed his hand over the dead man's unshaven chin and across his forehead, brushing back the unkempt hair. Under his none too gentle touch the wig slipped back, revealing to his astonished gaze a head of short cropped, red hair.

Clymer, who had followed the deputy marshal's movements with interest, gave a shout which was echoed by Rochester and Dr. Stone, who returned at that moment.

"Good God!" gasped Clymer, shaken out of his accustomed calm. "Jimmie Turnbull!"

The deputy marshal eyed the startled men.

"You don't mean-" he stammered, and paused.

For answer Dr. Stone straightened the dead man and removed the wig.

"James Turnbull," he said gravely, and turning, addressed Rochester, who had dropped down on the nearest chair. "Cashier of the Metropolis Trust Company, Rochester, and your roommate, masquerading as a burglar."

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