MoboReader > Horror > The Red Seal

   Chapter 4 BARBARA ENGAGES COUNSEL

The Red Seal By Natalie Sumner Lincoln Characters: 21182

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06


Bidding a hasty good morning to the elevator girl, Harry Kent, suit-case in hand, entered the cage and was carried up to the fourth floor of the Wilkins Building. Several business acquaintances stopped to chat with him as he walked down the corridor to his office, and it was fully fifteen minutes before he turned the knob of the door bearing the firm name-ROCHESTER AND KENT, ATTORNEYS-on its glass panel. As he stepped inside the anteroom which separated the two offices occupied respectively by him and his senior partner, Philip Rochester, a stranger rose from the clerk's desk.

"Yes, sir?" he asked interrogatively.

Kent eyed him in surprise. "Mr. Rochester here?" he inquired.

"No, sir. It am in charge of the office."

"You are!" Kent's surprise increased. "I happen to be Mr. Kent, junior partner in this firm."

"I beg your pardon, sir." The dapper clerk bowed and hurrying to his desk took up a letter. "Mr. Rochester left this for you, Mr. Kent, before his departure last night."

"His departure!" Kent deposited his suit-case on one of the chairs and tore open the envelope. The note was a scrawl, which he had some difficulty in deciphering.

"Dear Kent," it ran. "Am called out of town; will be back Saturday. Saunders gave me some of his cheek this afternoon, so I fired him. I engaged John Sylvester to fill his place, who comes highly recommended. He will report for work to-morrow. Ta-ta-PHIL."

Kent thrust the note into his pocket and picked up his suit-case.

"Mr. Rochester states that he has engaged you," he said. "Your references-?"

"Here, sir." The clerk handed him a folded paper, and Kent ran his eyes down the sheet from the sentence: "To whom it may concern" to the signature, Clark Hildebrand. The statement spoke in high terms of John Sylvester, confidential clerk.

"I can refer you to my other employers, Mr. Kent," Sylvester volunteered as the young lawyer stood regarding the paper. "If you, desire further information there is Mr. Clymer and-"

"No, Judge Hildebrand's recommendation is sufficient." And at Kent's smile the clerk's anxious expression vanished. "Did Mr. Rochester give you any outline of the work?"

"Yes, sir; he told me to file the papers in the Hitchcock case, and attend to the morning correspondence."

"Very good. Has any one called this morning?"

"No, sir. These letters were addressed to you personally, and I have not opened them," Sylvester handed a neatly arranged package to Kent. "These," indicating several letters lying open on his desk, "are to the firm."

"Bring them to me in half an hour," and Kent walked into his private office, carefully closing the door behind him. Opening his suit-case he took out his brief bag and laid it on the desk in front of him together with the package of letters. Instead of opening the letters immediately, he tilted back in his chair and regarded the opposite wall in deep thought. Philip Rochester could not have selected a worse time to absent himself; three important cases were on the calendar for immediate trial and much depended on the firm's successful handling of them. Kent swore softly under his breath; his last warning to Rochester, that he would dissolve their partnership if the older man continued to neglect his practice, had been given only a month before and upon Kent's return from eight months' service in the Judge Advocate General's Department in France. Apparently his warning had fallen on deaf ears and Rochester was indulging in another periodic spree, for so Kent concluded, recalling the unsteady penmanship of the note handed to him by the new clerk, John Sylvester.

Kent was still frowning at the opposite wall when a faint knock sounded, and at his call Sylvester entered.

"Here are the letters received this morning, sir, and type-written copies of the answers to yesterday's correspondence which Mr. Rochester dictated before leaving," Sylvester explained as he placed the papers on Kent's desk. "If you will o.k. them, I will mail them at once."

Kent went through the letters with care, and the new clerk rose in his estimation as he read the excellent dictation of the clearly typed answers.

"These will do admirably," he announced. "Sit down and I will reply to the other letters."

At the end of an hour Sylvester closed his stenographic note book and collected the correspondence, by that time scattered over Kent's desk.

"I'll have these notes ready for your signature before lunch," he said as he picked up a newspaper from the floor where it had tumbled during Kent's search for some particular letter heads. "I brought in the morning paper, sir; thought perhaps you had not seen it."

"Thanks." Kent swung his chair nearer the window and opened the newspaper. He had purchased a copy when walking through Union Station on his arrival, but had left it in the cafeteria where he had snatched a cup of coffee and hot rolls before hurrying to his office.

He read a column devoted to international affairs, scanned an account of a senatorial wrangle, and was about to turn to the second page, whistling cheerily, when his attention was arrested by the headings:

BANK CASHIER DIES IN POLICE COURT

JAMES TURNBULL, MISTAKEN FOR BURGLAR,

SUFFERS FATAL ATTACK OF ANGINA PECTORIS

Kent's whistle stopped abruptly, and clutching the paper in both hands, he devoured the short account printed under the scare heads:

"While masquerading as a burglar on a wager,

James Turnbull, cashier of the Metropolis Trust

Company, was arrested by Officer O'Ryan at an

early hour yesterday morning in the residence of

Colonel Charles McIntyre.

"Officer O'Ryan conducted his prisoner to the

8th Precinct Police Station, and later he was

arraigned in the police court. The Misses

McIntyre appeared in person to prefer the

charges against the supposed burglar, who, on

being sworn, gave the name of John Smith.

"Philip Rochester, the well known criminal

lawyer, was assigned by the court to defend the

prisoner. Upon the evidence submitted Judge

Mackall held the prisoner for trial by the grand

jury.

"It was just after the Judge's announcement

that 'John Smith,' then sitting in the prisoners

cage, was seized with the attack of angina pectoris

which ended so fatally a few minutes later.

It was not until after he had expired that those

rendering him medical assistance became aware

that he was James Turnbull in disguise.

"James Turnbull was a native of Washington,

his father, the late Hon Josiah Turnbull of

Connecticut, having made this city his permanent

home in the early '90s. Mr. Turnbull was looked

upon as one of the rising young men in banking

circles; he was also prominent socially, was a

member of the Alibi, Metropolitan, and Country

Clubs, and until recently was active in all forms

of athletics, when his ill-health precluded active

exercise.

"Officer O'Ryan, who was greatly shocked by

the fatal termination to Mr. Turnbull's rash

wager, stated to the representatives of the press

that Mr. Turnbull gave no hint of his identity

while being interrogated at the 8th Precinct

Station. Friends attribute Mr. Turnbull's

disinclination to reveal himself to the court, to

his enjoyment of a practical joke, not realizing

that the resultant excitement of the scene would

react on his weak heart.

"Mr. Turnbull is survived by a great aunt; he had

no nearer relatives living. It is a singular

coincidence that the lawyer appointed by the

court to defend Turnbull was his intimate friend,

Philip Rochester, who made his home with the

deceased."

Kent read the column over and over, then, letting the paper slip to the floor, sat back in his chair, too dumb-founded for words. Jimmie Turnbull arrested as a burglar in the home of the girl he loved on charges preferred by her, and defended in court by his intimate friend, both of whom were unaware of his identity! Kent rumpled his fair hair until it stood upright. And Jimmie's death had followed almost immediately as the result of over-excitement!

Kent's eyes grew moist; he had been very fond of the eccentric, lovable bank cashier, whose knack of performing many a kindly act, unsolicited, had endeared him to friends and acquaintances alike. Kent had seen much of him after his return from France, for Jimmie's attention to Helen McIntyre had been only second to Kent's devotion to the latter's sister, Barbara. The two men had one bond in common. Colonel McIntyre disliked them and discouraged their calling, to the secret fury of both, but love had found a way-Kent's eyes kindled at the recollection of Barbara's half-shy, wholly tender reception of his ardent pleading.

Turnbull's courtship had met with a set-back where he had least expected it-Philip Rochester had fallen deeply in love with Helen and, encouraged by her father, had pressed his suit with ardor. Frequent quarrels between the two close friends had been the outcome, and Jimmie had confided to Kent, before the latter left on the business trip to Chicago from which he had returned that morning, that the situation had become intolerable and he had notified Rochester that he would no longer share his apartment with him, and to look for other quarters as quickly as possible.

So buried was Kent in his thoughts that he never heard Sylvester's knock, and it was not until the clerk stood at his elbow that he awoke from his absorption.

"A lady to see you, Mr. Kent," he announced. "Shall I show her in?"

"Certainly-her name?"

"She gave none." Sylvester paused on his way back to the door. "It is one of the Misses McIntyre."

"Good Lord!" Kent was on his feet, straightening his tie and brushing his rumpled hair. "Here, wait a minute"-clutching a whisk broom in a frantic endeavor to remove some of the signs of travel which still clung to him. But he had only opportunity for one dab at his left shoulder before Barbara entered the office. All else forgotten, Kent tossed down the whisk broom and the next instant he had clasped her hand in both of his, his eyes telling more eloquently than his stumbling words, his joy at seeing her again.

"This is a business call," she stated demurely, "on you and Mr. Rochester." Her lovely eyes held a glint of mischief as she mentioned Kent's partner, then her expression grew serious. "I want legal advice."

"I am afraid you will have to put up with me," Kent moved his chair closer to the one she had selected by the desk. "Rochester is out of to

wn."

"What!" Barbara sat bolt upright. "Where-where's he gone?"

"I don't know"-Kent pulled Rochester's letter out of his pocket and re-read it. "He did not mention where he was going."

Barbara stared at him; she had paled.

"When did Philip leave?"

"Last night, I presume." Kent tipped back his chair and pressed a buzzer; a second later Sylvester appeared in the doorway.

"Did Mr. Rochester tell you where he was going?" he asked the clerk.

"No, sir. Mr. Rochester stated that you had his address.

"I?" Kent concealed his growing surprise. "Did he leave any message for me, other than the letter?"

"No, sir.

"At what hour did he leave the office?"

"I can't say, sir; he was still here when I went away at five o'clock. He gave me a key to the office so that I could get in this morning." Kent remained silent, and he added, "Is that all, sir?"

"Yes, thanks," and the clerk retired.

As the door closed Barbara turned to Kent. "Have you heard about Jimmie Turnbull?"

Her voice was a bit breathless as she put the question, but Kent, puzzling over his partner's eccentric conduct, hardly noted her agitation.

"Yes. I saw the account just now in the morning paper," he answered. "A shocking affair. Poor Turnbull! He was a good fellow."

"He was!" Barbara spoke with unaccustomed vehemence, and looking at her Kent saw that her eyes were filled with tears. Impulsively he threw his arm about her, holding her close.

"My heart's dearest," he murmured fondly. "If there is anything-anything I can do-"

Barbara straightened up and winked away the tears. "There is," she said tersely. "Investigate Jimmie's death."

Kent gazed at her in astonishment. "Please explain," he suggested. "The morning paper states very plainly that the cause of death was an attack of angina pectoris."

"Yes, I know, and that is what Philip Rochester contends also." Barbara paused and glanced about the office; they had the room to themselves. "B-but Helen believes otherwise."

Kent drew back. "What do you mean, Babs?" he demanded.

"Just that," Barbara spoke wearily, and Kent, giving her close attention, grew aware of dark shadows under her eyes which told plainly of a sleepless night. "I want to engage you as our counsel to help Helen find out about Jimmie's death."

"Find out what?" asked Kent, his bewilderment increasing. "Do you mean that Jimmie's death was not the result of a dangerous heart disease, but of foul play?"

Barbara nodded her head vigorously. "Yes."

Kent sat back in his chair and regarded her in silence for a second. "How could that be, Babs, in an open police court with dozens of spectators all about?" he asked. "The slightest attempt to kill him would have been frustrated by the police officials; remember, a prisoner especially, is hedged in and guarded."

"Well, he wasn't so very hedged in," retorted Barbara. "I was there and saw how closely people approached Jimmie."

"Did you observe any one hand him anything?"

"N-no," Barbara drawled the word as she strove to visualize the scene in the court room; then catching Kent's look of doubt she added with unmistakable emphasis. "Helen and I do not believe that Jimmie died from natural causes; we think the tragedy should be investigated." Her soft voice deepened. "I must know the truth, Harry, dear; for I feel that perhaps I am responsible for Jimmie's death."

"You!" Kent's voice rose in indignant protest. "Absurd!"

"No, it isn't If it had not been for my wager with Jimmie, he never would have entered our house disguised as a burglar."

"What brought about the wager?"

"Last Sunday Helen was boasting of her two new police dogs which Philip Rochester recently gave her, and said how safe she felt. We've had several burglaries in our neighborhood," Barbara explained, "and when Jimmie scoffed at the dogs, I bet him that he could not break into the house without the dogs arousing the household. I never once thought about Jimmie's heart trouble," she confessed, and her lips quivered. "I feel so guilty."

"You are inconsistent, Babs," chided Kent gently. "One moment you reproach yourself for being the cause of bringing on Jimmie's heart attack, and the next you declare you believe he died through foul play. You," looking at her tenderly, while a whimsical smile softened his stern mouth, "don't go so far as to claim you murdered him, do you?"

"Of course I didn't!" Barbara spoke with indignant emphasis, and her fingers snapped in uncontrollable nervousness. "Jimmie was very dear"-she hesitated-"to us. Neither Helen nor I can leave a stone unturned until we know without a shadow of a doubt what killed him."

"That is easily proven," declared Kent. "An autopsy-"

"Helen asked the coroner to hold one."

Kent stared-the twins were certainly in earnest.

"My advice to you is to wait until you hear the result of the post-mortem from Coroner Penfield," he said gravely. "Until we know definitely what killed Jimmie, speculation is idle."

Barbara rose at once. "I thought you would be more sympathetic," she remarked, and her voice was a bit unsteady. "I am sorry to have troubled you."

In an instant Kent was by her side. "Barbara," he entreated. "I promise solemnly to aid you in every possible way. My only happiness is in serving you," his voice was very tender. "I slave here day in and day out that I may sometime be able to make a home for you. Don't leave me in anger."

"I was not angry, only deeply hurt," Barbara confessed. "I have so longed to see you. I-I needed you! I-" The rest was lost as she bowed her head against Kent's broad shoulder, and his impassioned whispers of devotion brought solace to her troubled spirit.

"I must go," declared Barbara ten minutes later. "Father would make a fearful scene if he knew I had been here to see you." She picked up her hand-bag, preparatory to leaving. "Then I can tell Helen that you will aid us?"

"Yes." Kent stopped on his way to the door. "I will try and see the coroner this afternoon. In the meantime, Babs, can't you tell me what makes you suspect that Jimmie might have been killed?"

"I have nothing tangible to go on," she admitted. "Only a woman's instinct-"

Kent did not smile. "Instinct," he repeated thoughtfully. "Well, does your instinct hazard a guess as to the weapon, the opportunity, and the motive for such a crime? Jimmie Turnbull hadn't an enemy in the world."

Barbara looked at him oddly. "Suppose you find the answer to those conundrums," she suggested. "Don't come to the elevator; Margaret Brewster may see you with me, and she would tell father of our meeting."

"Is Mrs. Brewster still with you?" asked Kent, paying no attention to her protests as he accompanied her down the corridor. "I understood she planned to return to the West last week."

"She did, but father persuaded her to prolong her visit," Barbara was guilty of a grimace, then hailing the descending elevator she bolted into it and waved her good-by to Kent as the cage shot downward.

When Kent reentered his office he found Sylvester hanging up the telephone receiver.

"Mr. Clymer has telephoned to ask if you will come to the Metropolis Trust Company at once," he said, and before Kent could frame a reply he had darted into the coat closet and brought out his hat and cane, and handed them to him.

"Don't wait for me, but go out for your luncheon," directed Kent, observing the hour. "I have my key and can get in when I return if you should not be here," and not waiting to hear Sylvester's thanks, he hurried away.

The clock over the bank had just struck noon when Kent reached the fine office building which housed the Metropolis Trust Company, and as he entered the bank, a messenger stopped him.

"Mr. Clymer is waiting for you in his private office, sir," he said, and led the way past the long rows of mahogany counters and plate glass windows to the back of the bank, finally stopping before a door bearing the name, in modest lettering-BENJAMIN AUGUSTUS CLYMER. The bank president was sensitive on one point; he never permitted initials only to be used before his name. The messenger's deferential knock was answered by a gruff command to enter. Clymer welcomed Kent with an air of relief.

"You know Colonel McIntyre," he said by way of introduction, and Kent became aware that the tall man lounging with his back to him in one of the leather covered chairs was Barbara's father. Colonel McIntyre returned Kent's bow with a curt nod, and then Clymer pushed forward a chair.

"Sit down, Kent," he began. "You have already handled several confidential affairs for the bank in a satisfactory manner, and I have sent for you to-day to ask your aid in an urgent matter. Before I go further I must ask you to treat what I am about to say as strictly confidential."

"Certainly, Mr. Clymer."

"Good! Then draw up your chair." Clymer waited until Kent had complied with his request. "You have heard of Jimmie Turnbull's sudden and tragic death?"

"Yes."

"As you know, he was cashier of this bank." Clymer spoke with deliberation. "Soon after word reached here of his death, the vice-president and treasurer of the bank had a careful examination made of his books and accounts." Clymer paused to clear his throat; he was troubled with an irritating cough. "Turnbull's accounts were found in first class order."

"I am sure they would be, Mr. Clymer," exclaimed Kent warmly. "Any one who knew Jimmie would never doubt his honesty."

McIntyre turned in his chair and regarded the speaker with no friendly eye, but aside from that, took no part in the conversation. Clymer did not at once resume speaking.

"To-day," he commenced finally, "Colonel McIntyre called at the bank and asked the treasurer, Mr. Gilmore, for certain valuable negotiable securities which he left in the bank's care a month ago. Mr. Gilmore told Colonel McIntyre that these securities had been given to Jimmie Turnbull last Saturday on his presentation of a letter from McIntyre requesting that they be turned over to the bank's cashier. McIntyre expressed his surprise and asked to see the letter "-Clymer paused and took a paper from his desk. "Here is the letter."

Kent took the paper and examined it closely.

"This is perfectly in order," he said. "A clear statement in Colonel McIntyre's handwriting and on his stationery."

For the first time Colonel McIntyre addressed him.

"The letter is in order," he acknowledged, "and written on my stationery, but it was not written by me. The letter is a clever forgery."

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