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   Chapter 7 THE RED SEAL

The Red Seal By Natalie Sumner Lincoln Characters: 16941

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06


The gloomy morning, with leaden skies and intermittent rain, reflected Harry Kent's state of mind. He could not fix his attention on the business letters which Sylvester placed before him; instead, his thoughts reverted to the scene in Rochester's and Turnbull's apartment the night before, the elusive visitor he had found there on his arrival, his interview with Detective Ferguson, and above all the handkerchief, saturated with amyl nitrite, and bearing the small embroidered letter "B"-the initial, insignificant in size, but fraught with dire possibilities if, as Ferguson hinted, Turnbull had been put to death by an over-dose of the drug. "B "-Barbara; Barbara-"B"-his mind rang the changes; pshaw! other names than Barbara began with "B."

"Shall I transcribe your notes, Mr. Kent?" asked Sylvester, and Kent awakened from his reverie, discovered that he had scrawled the name Barbara and capital "Bs" on the writing pad. He tore off the sheet and crumpled it into a small ball. "No, my notes are unimportant." Kent unlocked his desk and took some manuscript from one of the drawers. "Make four copies of this brief, then call up the printer and ask how soon he will complete the work on hand. Has Mr. Clymer telephoned?"

"Not this morning." Sylvester rose, papers in hand. "There has been a Mr. Parker of the Post who telephones regularly once an hour to ask for Mr. Rochester's address and when he is expected at the office." He paused and looked inquiringly at Kent. "What shall I say the next time he calls?"

"Switch him on my phone," briefly. "That is all now, Sylvester. I must be in court by noon, so have the brief copied by eleven."

"Yes, sir," and Sylvester departed, only to return a second later. "Miss McIntyre to see you," he announced, and stood aside to allow the girl to enter.

It was the first time Kent had seen Helen since the tragedy of Tuesday, and as he advanced to greet her he noted with concern her air of distress and the troubled look in her eyes. Her composed manner was obviously only maintained by the exertion of self-control, for the hand she offered him was unsteady.

"You are so kind," she murmured as he placed a chair for her. "Babs told me you have promised your aid, and so I have come-" she pressed one hand to her side as if she found breathing difficult and Kent, reaching for his pitcher of ice water which stood near at hand, filled a tumbler and gave it to her.

"Take a little," he coaxed as she moved as if to refuse the glass. "Why didn't you telephone and I would have called on you; in fact, I planned to run in and see you this afternoon.

"It is wiser to have our talk here," she replied. Setting down the empty glass she gazed about the office and her face brightened at sight of a safe standing in one corner. "Is that yours or Philip's?" she asked, pointing to it.

"The safe? Oh, it's for our joint use, owned by the firm, you know," explained Kent, somewhat puzzled by her eagerness.

"Do you keep your private papers there, as well as the firm's?"

"Oh, yes; Philip has retained one section and I the other." Kent walked over and threw open the massive door which he had unlocked on entering the office and left ajar. "Would you like to see the arrangements of the compartments?"

Without answering Helen crossed the room and stood by his side.

"Which is Philip's section?" she asked.

"This," and Kent touched the side of the safe.

Helen turned around and inspected the office; the outer door through which she had entered was closed, as were also the private door leading directly into the outside corridor, and the one opening into the closet. Convinced that they were really alone, she took from her leather hand-bag a white envelope and handed it to Kent.

"Please put this in Philip's compartment," she said, and as he hesitated, she added pleadingly, "Please do it, Harry, and ask no questions."

Kent looked at her wonderingly; the girl was obviously laboring under intense excitement of some sort, which might at any moment break into hysteria. Bottling up his curiosity, he stooped down in front of the safe.

"Certainly I will put the envelope away for you," he agreed cheerily. "Wait, though, I must find if Philip left the key of the compartment on his bunch." He took from his pocket the keys he had found so useful the night before, and selected one that resembled the key to his own compartment, and inserted it in the lock. To his surprise he discovered the compartment was already unlocked. Without comment he pulled open the inside drawer and started to lay the white envelope on top of the papers already there, when he hesitated.

"The envelope is unaddressed, Helen," he remarked, extending it toward her. She waved it back.

"It is sealed with red wax," she stated. "That is all that is necessary for identification."

Kent turned over the envelope-the flap was held down securely with a large red seal which bore the one letter "B." He dropped the envelope inside the drawer, locked the compartment, and closed the door of the safe.

"Let us talk," he suggested and led the way back to their chairs. "Helen," he began, after she was seated. "There is nothing I will not do for your sister Barbara," his manner grew earnest. "I-" he flushed; baring his feelings to another, no matter how sympathetic that other was, was foreign to his reserved nature. "I love her beyond words to express. I tell you this to-to-gain your trust."

"You already have it, Harry!" Impulsively Helen extended her hand, and he held it in a firm clasp for a second. "Babs and I have come at once to you in our trouble."

"Yes, but you have only hinted what that trouble, was," he reminded her gently. "I cannot really aid you until you give me your full confidence."

Helen looked away from him and out of the window. The relief, which had lighted her face a moment before, had vanished. It was some minutes before she answered.

"Babs told you that I suspected Jimmie did not die from angina pectoris-" She spoke with an effort.

"Yes."

She waited a second before continuing her remarks. "I have asked the coroner to make an investigation." She paused again, then added with more animation, "He is the one to tell us if a crime has been committed."

"He can tell if death has been accelerated by a weapon, or a drug," responded Kent; he was weighing his words carefully so that she might understand him fully. "But to constitute a crime, it has to be proved first, that the act has been committed, and second, that a guilty mind or malice prompted it. Can you furnish a clew to establish either of the last mentioned facts in connection with Jimmie's death?"

Kent wondered if she had heard him, she was so long in replying, and he was about to repeat his question when she addressed him.

"Have you heard from Coroner Penfield?"

"No. I tried several times to get him on the telephone, but without success," replied Kent; his disappointment at not receiving an answer to his question showed in his manner. "I went to Penfield's house last night, but he had been called away on a case and, although I waited until nearly ten o'clock, he had not returned when I left. Have you had word from him?"

"Not-not directly." She had been nervously twisting her handkerchief about in her fingers; suddenly she turned and looked full at Kent, her eyes burning feverishly. "I would give all I possess, my hope of future happiness even, if I could prove that Jimmie died from angina pectoris."

Kent looked at her in mingled sympathy and doubt.-What did her words imply-further tragedy?

"Jimmie might not have died from angina pectoris," he said, "and still not have been poisoned-"

"You mean-"

"Suicide."

Slowly Helen took in his meaning, but she volunteered no remark, and Kent after a pause, added, "While I have not seen Coroner Penfield I did hear last night what killed Jimmie." Helen straightened up, one hand pressed to her heart. "It was a lethal dose of amyl nitrite."

"Amyl nitrite," she repeated. "Yes, I have heard that it is given for heart trouble. How"-she looked at him queerly. "How is it administered?"

"By crushing a capsule in a handkerchief and inhaling its fumes "-he was watching her closely. "The handkerchief Jimmie was seen to use just before he died was found to contain two or more broken capsules."

Helen sat immovable for over a minute, then she bowed her head and burst into dry tearles

s sobs which wracked her body. Kent laid a tender hand on her shoulder, then concluding it was better for her to have her cry out, he wandered aimlessly about the office waiting for her to regain her composure.

He stopped before one of the windows facing south and stared moodily at the Belasco Theater. That playhouse had surely never staged a more complicated mystery than the one he had set himself to unravel. What consolation could he offer Helen? If he encouraged her belief in his theory that Jimmie committed suicide he would have to establish a motive for suicide, and that motive might prove to be the theft of Colonel McIntyre's valuable securities. Threatened with exposure as a thief and forger, Jimmie had committed suicide, so would run the verdict; the fact of his suicide was proof of his guilt of the crime Colonel McIntyre virtually charged him with, and vice versa.

What had been discovered to point to murder? The finding of a handkerchief, saturated with amyl nitrite, which had not belonged to the dead man. Proof-bah! it was ridiculous! What more likely than that Jimmie, while in the McIntyre house before his arrest as a burglar, had picked up one of Barbara's handkerchiefs, stuffed it inside his pocket, and when threatened with exposure on being held for the grand jury, had, in desperation, crushed the amyl nitrite capsules in Barbara's handkerchief and killed himself.

Kent drew a long, long sigh. His faith in Jimmie's honesty was shaken at last by the accumulative evidence, and he was convinced that he had found the solution to the problem, but how impart it to the weeping girl? To prove her lover a thief, forger, and suicide was indeed a task he shrank from.

A ring at the telephone caused Kent to move hastily to the instrument; when he hung up the receiver Helen was adjusting her veil before a mirror over the mantel.

"Colonel McIntyre is in the next room," he said, keeping his voice lowered.

"My father!" Helen's eyes were hard and dry. "Does he know that I am here?"

"I don't know; Sylvester simply said he had called to see me and is waiting in the outer office." Observing her indecision, Kent opened the door leading directly into the corridor. "You can leave this way without encountering Colonel McIntyre."

Helen hurried through the door and paused in the corridor to whisper feverishly in Kent's ear, "Promise me you will remain faithful to Barbara whatever develops."

"I will!" Kent's pledge rang out clearly, and Helen with a lighter heart turned to walk away when a telegraph boy appeared around the corner of the corridor and thrust a yellow envelope at Kent, who stood half inside his office watching Helen.

"Sign here," the boy said, indicating the line on the receipt slip, and getting it back, departed.

Motioning to Helen to wait, Kent tore open the telegram. It was from Cleveland and dated the night before. The message ran: Called to Cleveland. Address City Club. Rochester.

Without comment Kent held out the telegram so that Helen could read it.

"What!" she exclaimed. "Philip in Cleveland last night. I-I-don't understand." And looking at her Kent was astounded at the flash of terror which shone for an instant in her eyes. Before he had time to question her she bolted around the corridor.

Kent remained staring ahead for an instant then returned thoughtfully to his office, and within a second Sylvester received a telephone message to show Colonel McIntyre into Kent's office. Not only Colonel McIntyre followed the clerk into the room but Benjamin Clymer. "Any further developments, Kent?" inquired the banker. "No, we can't sit down; just dropped in to see you a minute."

"There is nothing new," Kent had made instant decision; such information regarding the death of Turnbull as he had gleaned from Ferguson, and the events of the night before should be confided to Clymer alone, and not in the presence of Colonel McIntyre.

"Did you search Turnbull's apartment last night as you spoke of doing?" asked McIntyre.

"I did, and found no trace of your securities, Colonel."

McIntyre lifted his eyebrows as he smiled sarcastically. "Can I see Rochester?" he asked.

"He is in Cleveland; I don't know just when he will be back."

"Indeed? Too bad you haven't the benefit of his advice," remarked McIntyre insolently. "At Clymer's request, Kent, I have allowed you until Saturday night to find the securities and either clear Turnbull's name or admit his guilt; there remain two days and a half before I take the affair in my own hands and make it public."

"I hope to establish Turnbull's innocence before that time," retorted Kent coolly.

Inwardly his spirits sank; had not every effort on his part brought but further proof of Jimmie's guilt? That McIntyre would make no attempt to hush up the scandal was obvious.

"Keep me informed of your progress," McIntyre's manner was domineering and Kent felt the blood mount to his temples, but he was determined not to lose his temper whatever the provocation; McIntyre was Barbara's father.

Clymer, aware that the atmosphere was getting strained, diplomatically intervened.

"Dine with me to-night, Kent," he said. "Perhaps you will then have some news that will throw light on the present whereabouts of the securities. I found, on making inquiries, that they have not been offered for sale in the usual channels. Come, McIntyre, I have a directors' meeting in twenty minutes."

McIntyre, who had been swinging his walking stick from one hand to the other in marked impatience, turned to Kent, his manner more conciliatory.

"Pleasant quarters you have," he remarked. "Does Rochester share his room with you?"

"No, Colonel, his is across the ante-room where you waited a few minutes ago," explained Kent as he accompanied his visitors to the door. "This is my office."

"Ah, yes, I thought as much on seeing only one desk," McIntyre's manner grew more cordial. "Does Rochester's furniture duplicate yours, safe and all?"

"Safe-no, he has none; that is the firm's safe." Kent was becoming restless under so many personal questions. "Good-by, Mr. Clymer."

"Don't forget to-night at eight," the banker reminded him before stepping into the corridor. "We'll dine at the Club de Vingt. Come along, McIntyre."

Sylvester stopped Kent on his way back to his office and handed him the neatly typewritten copies of his brief, and with a word of thanks the lawyer went over to his desk and, gathering such papers as he required at the court house, he thrust them and the brief into his leather bag, but instead of hurrying on his way, he stood still to consider the events of the morning.

Helen McIntyre, during their interview, had not responded to his appeal for her confidence, nor vouchsafed any reason for her belief that Jimmie Turnbull had been the victim of foul play. And Colonel McIntyre had given him only until Saturday night to solve the problem! Kent's overwrought feelings found vent in an emphatic oath.

"Excuse me," exclaimed Sylvester mildly from the doorway. "I knocked and understood you to say come in.

"Well, what is it?" Kent's nerves were getting a bit raw; a glance at his watch showed him he had a slender margin only in which to reach the court house in time for his appointment. Not even waiting for the clerk's reply he snatched up his brief case and made for the private door leading into the corridor. But he was destined not to get away without another interruption.

As Sylvester was hastily explaining, "Two gentlemen to see you, Mr. Kent," the clerk was thrust aside and Detective Ferguson entered, accompanied by a deputy marshal.

"Sorry to detain you, Mr. Kent," exclaimed the detective. "I came to tell you that Coroner Penfield has just called an inquest for this afternoon to inquire into Jimmie Turnbull's death. Where's your partner, Mr. Rochester?" looking around inquiringly.

"In Cleveland. Won't I do?" replied Kent, his appointment forgotten in the news that Ferguson had just given him.

"No, we didn't come for legal advice," Ferguson smiled; then grew serious. "What's Mr. Rochester's address?"

Kent walked over to his desk and picked up the telegram. "The City Club, Cleveland," he stated.

"Thanks," Ferguson jotted down the address in his note-book. "Jones, here," placing his hand on his companion, "came to serve Mr. Rochester with a subpoena; he's wanted at the Turnbull inquest as a material witness."

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