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The Red Seal By Natalie Sumner Lincoln Characters: 15979

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06

Harry Kent rang the doorbell at the McIntyre residence for the fifth time, and wondered what had become of the faithful Grimes; the butler was usually the soul of promptness, and to keep a caller waiting on the doorstep would, in his category, rank as the height of impropriety. As Kent again raised his hand toward the bell, the door swung open suddenly and Barbara beckoned to him to come inside.

"The bell is out of order," she explained. "I saw you from the window. Hurry, and Grimes won't know that you are here," and she darted ahead of him into the reception room. Kent followed more slowly; he was hurt that she had had no other greeting for him.

"Babs, aren't you glad to see me?" he asked wistfully.

For an instant her eyes were lighted by her old sunny smile.

"You know I am," she whispered softly. As his arms closed around her and their lips met in a tender kiss she added fervently, "Oh, Harry, why didn't you make me marry you in the happy bygone days?"

"I asked you often enough," he declared.

"Will you go with me to Rockville at once?" Her face changed and she drew back from him. "No," she said. "It is selfish of me to think of my own happiness now."

"How about mine?" demanded Kent with warmth. "If you won't consider yourself, consider me."

"I do." She looked out of the window to conceal sudden blinding tears. There was a hint of hidden tragedy in her lovely face which went to Kent's heart.

"Sweetheart," his voice was very tender, "is there nothing I can do for you?"

"Nothing," she shook her head drearily. "This family must 'dree its weir.'"

Kent studied her in silence; that she was in deadly earnest he recognized, she was no hysterical fool or given to sentimental twaddle.

"You came to me on Wednesday to ask my aid in solving Jimmie Turnbull's death," he said. "I have learned certain facts-"

Barbara sprang to her feet. "Wait," she cautioned. "Let me close the door. Now, go on-" with her customary impetuosity she reseated herself.

"Before I do so, I must tell you, Babs, that I recognized the fraud you and Helen perpetrated at the coroner's inquest yesterday afternoon."


"Yes," quietly. "I am aware that you impersonated Helen on the witness stand and vice versa. You took a frightful risk."

"I don't see why," she protested. "In my testimony I told nothing but the truth."

"I never doubted you told the truth regarding the events of Monday night as you saw them, but the coroner's questions were put to you under the impression that you were Helen." Kent scrutinized her keenly. "Would Helen have been able to give the same answers that you did without perjuring herself?"

Barbara started and her face paled. "Are you insinuating that Helen killed Jimmie?" she cried.

"No," his emphatic denial was prompt. "But I do believe that she knows more of what transpired Monday night than she is willing to admit. Is that not so, Barbara?"

"Yes," she acknowledged reluctantly.

"Does she know who poisoned Jimmie?"

"No-no!" Barbara rested a firm hand on his shoulder. "I swear Helen does not know. You must believe me, Harry."

"She may not know," Kent spoke slowly. "But are you sure she does not suspect some one?"

"Well, what if I do?" asked Helen quietly, and Kent, looking around, found her standing just inside the door. Her entrance had been noiseless.

"You should tell the authorities, Helen." Kent rose as she passed him and selected a seat which brought her face somewhat in shadow. "If you do not you may retard justice."

"But if I speak I may involve the innocent," she retorted. "I-" her eyes shifted from him to Barbara and back again. "I cannot undertake that responsibility."

"Better that than let the guilty escape through your silence," protested Kent. "Possibly the theories of the police may coincide with yours.

"What are they?" asked Barbara impetuously.

Kent considered before replying. If Detective Ferguson had gone so far as to secure a search warrant to go through Rochester's apartment and office it would not be long before the fact of his being a "suspect" would be common property; there could, therefore, be no harm in his repeating Ferguson's conversation to the twins. In fact, as their legal representative, they were entitled to know the latest developments from him.

"Detective Ferguson believes that the poison was administered by Philip Rochester," he said finally, and watched to see how the announcement would affect them. Barbara's eyes opened to their widest extent, and back in her corner, into which she had gradually edged her chair, Helen emitted a long, long breath as her taut muscles relaxed.

"What makes Ferguson think Philip guilty?" demanded Barbara.

"It is known that he and Jimmie were not on good terms," replied Kent. "Then Rochester's disappearance after Jimmie's death lends color to the theory."

"Has Philip really disappeared?" asked Helen. "You showed me a telegram-"

"Apparently the telegram was a fake," admitted Kent. "The Cleveland police report that he is not at the address given in the telegram."

"But who could have an object in sending such a telegram?" asked Barbara slowly.

"Rochester, in the hope of throwing the police off his track, if he really killed Jimmie." Kent looked straight at Helen. "It was while searching our office safe for trace of Rochester's present address that Ferguson obtained possession of your sealed envelope."

Helen plucked nervously at the ribbon on her gown. "Did the detective open the envelope" she asked.


"Are you sure?"

"Positive; the red seal was unbroken."

"Tell us how the envelope came to be stolen from you," coaxed Barbara.

"We were in the little smoking porch off the dining room at the Club de Vingt." Barbara smiled her remembrance of it, and motioned Kent to continue. "Ferguson had just put down the envelope on the table and I started to pick it up when cheering in the dining room distracted my attention and I, with the others, went to see what it was about. When I returned to the porch the envelope was no longer on the table."

"Who were with you?" questioned Helen.

"Your father, Mrs. Brewster-"

"Of course," murmured Barbara. "Go on, Harry."

"Detective Ferguson and Ben Glymer," Barbara made a wry face, "and"-went on Kent, not heeding her, "each of these persons deny any further knowledge of the envelope, except they declare it was lying on the table when we all made a dash for the dining room.

"Who was the last to leave the porch?" asked Helen.

"Ben Clymer."

"And he saw no one take the envelope?"

"He declares that he had his back to the table, part of the time, but to the best of his knowledge no one took the envelope."

"One of them must have," insisted Barbara.

"The envelope hadn't legs or wings."

"One of them did take it," agreed Kent.

"But which one is the question. Frankly, to find the answer, I must know the contents of the envelope, Helen."


"Because then I will have some idea who would be enough interested in the envelope to steal it."

Helen considered him long and thoughtfully. "I cannot answer your question," she announced finally. She saw his face harden, and hastened to explain. "Not through any lack of confidence in you, Harry, b-b-but," she stumbled in her speech. "I-I do not know what the envelope contains."

Kent stared at her open-mouthed. "Then who requested you to lock the envelope in Rochester's safe?" he demanded, and receiving no reply, asked suddenly: "Was it Rochester?"

"I am not at liberty to tell you," she responded; her mouth set in obstinate lines and before he could press his request a second time, she asked: "Philip Rochester defended Jimmie in court when every one thought him a burglar; why then, should Philip have picked him out to attack-he is not a homicidal maniac?"

"No, but the police contend that Rochester recognized Jimmie in his make-up and decided to kill him; hop

ing his death would be attributed to angina pectoris, and no post-mortem held," wound up Kent.

"I don t quite understand"-Helen raised her handkerchief to her forehead and removed a drop of moisture. "How did Philip kill Jimmie there in court before us all?"

"Ferguson believes that he put the dose of aconitine in the glass of water which Jimmie asked for," explained Kent, and would have continued his remarks, but a scream from Barbara startled him.

"There, look at the window," she cried. "I saw a face peering in. Look quick, Harry, look!"

Kent needed no second bidding, but although he craned his head far outside the open window and gazed both up and down the street and along the path to the kitchen door, he failed to see any one. "Was it a man or woman?" he asked, turning back to the room.

"I-I couldn't tell; it was just a glimpse." Barbara stood resting one hand on the table, her weight leaning upon it. Not for words would she have had Kent know that her knees were shaking under her.

"Did you see the face, Helen?" As he put the question Kent looked around at the silent girl in the corner; she had slipped back in her chair and, with closed eyes, lay white-lipped and limp. With a leap Kent gained her side and his hand sought her pulse.

"Ring for brandy and water," he directed as Barbara came to his aid. "Helen has fainted."

Twenty minutes later Kent hastened out of the McIntyre house and, turning into Connecticut Avenue, boarded a street car headed south. After carrying Helen to the twins' sitting room he had assisted Barbara in reviving her. He had wondered at the time why Barbara had not summoned the servants, then concluded that neither sister wished a scene. That Helen was worse than she would admit he appreciated, and advised Barbara to send for Dr. Stone. The well-meant suggestion had apparently fallen on deaf ears, for no physician had appeared during the time he was in the house, nor had Barbara used the telephone, almost at her elbow as she sat by her sister's couch, to summon Dr. Stone. Kent had only waited long enough to convince himself that Helen was out of danger, and then had departed.

It was nearly one o'clock when he finally stepped inside his office, and he found his clerk and a dressy female bending eagerly over a newspaper. They looked up at his approach and Sylvester came forward.

"This is my wife, sir," he explained, and Kent bowed courteously to Mrs. Sylvester. "We were just reading this account of Mr. Rochester's disappearance; it's dreadful, sir, to think that the police believe him guilty of Mr. Turnbull's murder."

"Dreadful, indeed," agreed Kent; the news had been published even sooner than he had imagined. "What paper is that?"

"The noon edition of the Times." Sylvester handed it to him.

"Thanks," Kent flung down his hat and spread open the paper. "Who have been here to-day?"

"Colonel McIntyre, sir; he left a card for you." Sylvester hurried into Kent's office, to return a moment later with a visiting card. "He left this, sir, for you with most particular directions that it be handed to you at once on your arrival."

Kent read the curt message on the card without comment and tore the paste-board into tiny bits.

"Any one else been in this morning?" he asked.

"Yes, sir." Sylvester consulted a written memorandum. "Mr. Black called, also Colonel Thorne, Senator Harris, and Mrs. Brewster."

"Mrs. Brewster!" The newspaper slipped from Kent's fingers in his astonishment. "What did she want here?"

"To see you, sir, so she said, but she first asked for Mr. Rochester," explained Sylvester, stooping over to pick up the inside sheet of the Times which had separated from the others. "I told her that Mr. Rochester was unavoidably detained in Cleveland; then she said she would consult you and I let her wait in your office for the good part of an hour."

Kent thought a moment then walked toward his door; on its threshold he paused, struck by a sudden idea.

"Did Colonel McIntyre come with Mrs. Brewster?" he asked.

"No, Mr. Kent; he came in while she was here."

"And they went off together," volunteered Mrs. Sylvester, who had been a silent listener to their conversation. Kent started; he had forgotten the woman. "Excuse me, Mr. Kent," she continued, and stepped toward him. "I presume, likely, that you are very interested in this charge of murder against your partner, Mr. Rochester."

"I am," affirmed Kent, as Mrs. Sylvester paused.

"I am too, sir," she confided to him. "Cause you see I was in the court room when Mr. Turnbull died and I'm naturally interested."

"Naturally," agreed Kent with a commiserating glance at his clerk; the latter's wife threatened to be loquacious, and he judged from her looks that it was a habit which had grown with the years. As a general rule he abhorred talkative women, but-"And what took you to the police court on Tuesday morning?"

"Why, me and Mr. Sylvester have our little differences like other married couples," she explained. "And sometimes we ask the Court to settle them." She caught Kent's look of impatience and hurried her speech. "The burglar case came on just after ours was remanded, and seeing the McIntyre twins, whom I've often read about, I just thought I'd stay. Let me have that paper a minute."

"Certainly," Kent gave her the newspaper and she ran her finger down the columns devoted to the Turnbull case with a slowness that set his already excited nerves on edge.

"Here's what I'm looking for," she exclaimed triumphantly, a minute later, and pointed to the paragraph:

"Mrs. Margaret Perry Brewster, the fascinating widow, added

nothing material to the case in her testimony, and she was

quickly excused, after stating that she was told about the

tragedy by the McIntyre twins upon their return from the

Police Court."

"Well what of it?" asked Kent.

"Only this, Mr. Kent;" Mrs. Sylvester enjoyed nothing so much as talking to a good looking man, especially in the presence of her husband, and she could not refrain from a triumphant look at him as she went on with her remarks. "There was a female sitting on the bench next to me in Court; in fact, she and I were the only women on that side, and I kinder noticed her on that account, and then I saw she was all done up in veils-I couldn't see her face.

"I caught her peering this way and that during the burglar's hearing; I don't reckon she could see well through all the veils. Now, don't get impatient, Mr. Kent; I'm getting to my point-that woman sitting next to me in the police court was the widow Brewster."

"What!" Kent laughed unbelievingly. "Oh, come, you are mistaken."

"I am not, sir." Mrs. Sylvester spoke with conviction. "Now, why does Mrs. Brewster declare at the coroner's inquest that she only heard of the Turnbull tragedy from the McIntyre twins on their return home?"

"You must be mistaken," argued Kent.

"Why, you admit yourself that the woman was so swathed in veils that you could not see her face."

"No, but I heard her laugh in court," Mrs. Sylvester spoke in deep earnestness and Kent placed faith in her statement in spite of his outward skepticism. "And I heard her laugh in this corridor this morning and I placed her as the same woman. I asked Mr. Sylvester who she was, and he told me. I'd been reading this account of the Turnbull inquest, and I recollected seeing Mrs. Brewster's name, and my husband and I were just reading the account over when you came in."

Kent gazed in perplexity at Mrs. Sylvester. "Why did Mrs. Brewster laugh in the police court?" he asked.

"When Dr. Stone exclaimed to the deputy marshal-'Your prisoner appears ill!'" declared Mrs. Sylvester; she enjoyed the dramatic, and that Kent was hanging on her words she was fully aware, in spite of his expressionless face. "Dr. Stone lifted the burglar in his arms and then Mrs. Brewster laughed as she laughed in the corridor to-day-a soft gurgling laugh."

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