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   Chapter 2 THE GAME OF CONSEQUENCES

The Red Seal By Natalie Sumner Lincoln Characters: 10439

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06


Rochester did not appear to hear Dr. Stone's words. With eyes half starting from their sockets he sat staring at the dead man, completely oblivious of the others' presence. After watching him for a moment the physician turned briskly to the dazed deputy marshal.

"Summon the coroner," he directed. "We cannot move the body until he comes."

His curt tone brought the official's wits back with a jump and he made for the exit, only to be stopped at the threshold by a sandy-haired man just entering the room.

At the word coroner, Rochester raised himself from his bent attitude and brushed his hand across his eyes.

"No need for a coroner to diagnose the case," he objected. "Poor Turnbull always said he would go off like that."

Stone moved nearer. "Like that?" he questioned, pointing to the still figure. "Explain yourself, Rochester. Did Turnbull expect to die here in this manner?"

"No-no-certainly not." The lawyer moistened his dry lips. "But when a man has angina pectoris he knows the end may come at any moment and in any place. Turnbull made no secret of suffering from that disease." Rochester turned toward Clymer. "You knew it."

Benjamin Clymer, who had been gazing alternately at the dead man and vaguely about the room, looked startled at the abrupt question.

"I knew Turnbull had bad attacks of the heart; we all knew it at the bank," he stated. "But I understood the disease had responded to treatment."

"There is no cure for angina pectoris," declared Rochester.

"No permanent cure," amended Stone, and would have added more, but Rochester stopped him.

"Now that you know Turnbull died of angina pectoris there is no necessity of sending for the coroner," Rochester spoke in haste, his words tumbling over each other. "I will go at once and communicate with an undertaker." But before he could rise from his chair the sandy-haired man, who had conducted a whispered conversation with the deputy marshal, advanced toward the group.

"Just a moment, gentlemen," he said, and turned back a lapel of his coat and displayed a metal badge. "I am Ferguson of the Central Office. Do you know the deceased?"

"He was my intimate friend," announced Rochester before his companions could reply to the detective's question, which was addressed to all. "Mr. Clymer, here, can tell you that Jimmie Turnbull, cashier of his bank, was well known in financial and social Washington."

"How came he here in this fix?" asked Ferguson with more force than grammatic clarity.

"A sudden heart attack-angina pectoris, you know," replied Rochester glibly, "with fatal results."

"I wasn't alluding to what killed him," Ferguson explained. "But why was the cashier of the Metropolis Trust Company," he looked questioningly at Clymer whom he knew quite well by sight, "and a social high-light, decked out in these clothes and a wig, too?" leaning down, the better to examine the clothing on the dead man.

"He had just been held for the Grand Jury on a charge of house-breaking," volunteered the deputy marshal. "I reckon that brought on his heart-attack."

"True, true," agreed Rochester. "The excitement was too much for him."

"House-breaking" ejaculated the detective. "Dangerous sport for a man suffering with angina pectoris, aside from anything else. Who preferred charges?"

"The Misses McIntyre," answered the deputy marshal, to whom the question was addressed. "Like to interview them?"

"Yes."

"No, no!" Rochester was on his feet instantly. "There is no necessity to bring the twins out here-it's too tragic!"

"Tragic?" echoed Ferguson. "Why?"

"Why-why-Turnbull was arrested in their house," Rochester was commencing to stutter. "He was their friend-"

"Caught burglarizing, heh?" Ferguson's eyes glowed; the case already whetted his remarkably keen inquisitorial instinct which had gained him place and certain fame in the Washington police force. "Are the Misses McIntyre still in the building?"

"They were in the court room just before we brought Turnbull's body here," responded the deputy marshal. "I guess they are still waiting, eh, doctor?"

Stone, thus appealed to, nodded. "I agree with Mr. Rochester," he said, and the gravity of his manner impressed Ferguson. "It is better for me to break the news of Mr. Turnbull's death to the young ladies before bringing them here. Therefore, with your permission, Ferguson"-He got no further.

Through the outer entrance of the room came Helen McIntyre and her sister Barbara, conducted by the same bowing patrolman who had ushered them into the court room an hour before.

"My God! Too late!" stammered Rochester under his breath, and he turned in desperation to Benjamin Clymer. The bank president's state of mind at the extraordinary masquerade and sudden death of his popular and trusted cashier bordered on shocked horror, which had made him a passive witness of the rapidly shifting scene. Rochester clutched his arm in his agitation. "Get the twins out of here-do something, man! Don't you know that Turnbull was in love with-"

His fervid whisper penetrated further than he realized and one of the McIntyre twins looked inquiringly in their direction. Clymer, more startled than his

demeanor indicated, wondered if she had overheard Rochester's ejaculations, but whatever action the banker contemplated in response to the lawyer's appeal was checked by a scream from the girl on his right. With ashen face and trembling finger she pointed to Turnbull's body which suddenly confronted her as she walked forward.

"Who is it?" she gasped. "Babs, tell me!" And she held out her hand imploringly.

Her sister stepped to her side and bent over Turnbull. When she looked up her lips alone retained their color.

"Hush!" she implored, giving her sister a slight shake. "Hush! It is Jimmie Turnbull. Can you not see for yourself, dear?"

It seemed doubtful if Helen heard her; with attention wholly centered on the dead man she swayed on her feet, and Dr. Stone, thinking she was about to fall, placed a supporting arm about her.

"Do you not know Jimmie?" asked her sister. "Don't stare so, dearest." Her tone was pleading.

"Perhaps the young lady has some difficulty in recognizing Mr. Turnbull in his disguise," suggested Ferguson, who stood somewhat in the background but closely observing the scene.

"Disguise!" Helen raised her eyes and Ferguson, hardened as he had become to tragic scenes, felt a throb of pity as he caught the pent-up agony in her mute appeal.

"Yes, Miss," he said awkwardly. "The burglar you caught in your house was Mr. Turnbull in disguise."

Barbara McIntyre released her grasp of her sister's arm and collapsed on a chair. Stone, still supporting Helen, felt her muscles grow taut and an instant later she stepped back from his side and stood by her sister. As the two girls faced the circle of men, the likeness between them was extraordinary. Each had the same slight graceful figure, equal height; and feature for feature, coloring matching coloring, they were identical; their gowns, even, were cut on similar lines, only their hats varied in shape and color.

"Do I understand, gentlemen," Helen began, and her voice gained steadiness as she proceeded, "that the burglar whom Officer O'Ryan and I caught lurking in our house was James Turnbull?"

"He was," answered Ferguson, and Stone, as the twins looked dumbly at him, confirmed the detective's statement with a brief, "Yes."

The silence that ensued was broken by Barbara rising to her feet.

"Jimmie won his wager," she announced. Her gaze did not waver before the concentrated regard of the men facing her. "He broke into our house-but, oh, how can I pay my debt to him now that he is dead!"

"Hush!" Helen laid a cautioning hand on her sister's arm as the latter's voice gained in shrillness, the shrillness of approaching hysteria.

"I am all right, Helen." Barbara waved her away impatiently. "What caused Jimmie's death?"

"Angina pectoris," declared Rochester. "Too much excitement brought on a fatal attack." Barbara nodded dazedly. "I knew he had heart trouble, but-" She stepped toward Turnbull and her voice quivered with feeling. "Don't leave Jimmie lying there; take him to his room, doctor," turning entreatingly to Stone.

The physician looked at her compassionately. "I will, just as soon as the coroner views the body," he promised. "But come away now, Babs; this is no place for you and Helen." He signed to the deputy marshal to open the door as he walked across the room, Barbara keeping step with him, and her sister following in their wake. At the door Barbara paused and looked back.

"Will there be an inquest?" she asked.

"That's for the coroner to decide," responded Ferguson. "As long as Mr. Turnbull entered your house on a wager and died from an attack of angina pectoris the inquest is likely to be a mere formality. Ah, here is the coroner now," as a man paused in the doorway.

Helen McIntyre moved back from the door to make room for Coroner Penfield. Having had occasion to attend court that morning, he was passing the door when attracted by the group just inside the room. Courteously acknowledging Helen's act, Penfield stepped briskly across the threshold and stopped abruptly on catching sight of the lonely figure on the floor.

"Won't you hold an autopsy, Ferguson?" asked Clymer, breaking his long silence.

"No, sir, we never do when the cause of death is apparent," the detective bowed to Coroner Penfield. "Isn't that so, Coroner?"

Penfield nodded. "Unless the condition of the body indicates foul play or the relatives specially request it, we do not perform autopsies," he answered. "What has happened here?" and he gazed about with quickened interest.

"Mr. Turnbull, who masqueraded as a burglar on a wager with Miss McIntyre died suddenly from angina pectoris," explained the deputy marshal.

"Just a case of death from natural causes," broke in Rochester. "Please write out a permit for me to remove Turnbull's body, Dr. Penfield."

Helen McIntyre took a step forward. Her eyes, twice their accustomed size, shone brightly, in contrast to her dead white face. Carefully avoiding her sister's glance she addressed the coroner.

"I must insist," she began and stopped to control her voice. "As Mr. Turnbull's fiancee, I-" she faltered again. "I demand that an autopsy be held to determine the cause of his death."

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