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   Chapter 6 REVELATIONS

Elusive Isabel By Jacques Futrelle Characters: 9988

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Some vague, indefinable shadow darkened Miss Thorne's clear, blue-gray eyes, in sharp contrast to the glow of radiant health in her cheeks, as she stepped from an automobile in front of the Venezuelan legation, and ran lightly up the steps. A liveried servant opened the door.

"A gentleman is waiting for you, Madam," he announced. "His card is here on the-"

"I was expecting him," she interrupted.

"Which room, please?"

"The blue room, Madam."

Miss Thorne passed along the hallway which led to a suite of small drawing-rooms opening on a garden in the rear, pushed aside the portières, and entered.

"I'm sorry I've kept you-" she began, and then, in a tone of surprise: "I beg your pardon."

A gentleman rose and bowed gravely.

"I am Mr. Grimm of the Secret Service," he informed her with frank courtesy. "I am afraid you were expecting some one else; I handed my card to the footman."

For an instant the blue-gray eyes opened wide in astonishment, and then some quick, subtle change swept over Miss Thorne's face. She smiled graciously and motioned him to a seat.

"This is quite a different meeting from the one Se?orita Rodriguez had planned, isn't it?" she asked.

There was a taunting curve on her scarlet lips; the shadow passed from her eyes; her slim, white hands lay idle in her lap. Mr. Grimm regarded her reflectively. There was a determination of steel back of this charming exterior; there was an indomitable will, a keen brain, and all of a woman's intuition to reckon with. She was silent, with a questioning upward slant of her arched brows.

"I am not mistaken in assuming that you are a secret agent of the Italian government, am I?" he queried finally.

"No," she responded readily.

"In that event I may speak with perfect frankness?" he went on. "It would be as useless as it would be absurd to approach the matter in any other manner?" It was a question.

Miss Thorne was still smiling, but again the vague, indefinable shadow, momentarily lifted, darkened her eyes.

"You may be frank, of course," she said pleasantly. "Please go on."

"Se?or Alvarez was shot at the German Embassy Ball last night," Mr. Grimm told her.

Miss Thorne nodded, as if in wonder.

"Did you, or did you not, shoot him?"

It was quite casual. She received the question without change of countenance, but involuntarily she caught her breath. It might have been a sigh of relief.

"Why do you come to me with such a query?" she asked in turn.

"I beg your pardon," interposed Mr. Grimm steadily. "Did you, or did you not, shoot him?"

"No, of course I didn't shoot him," was the reply. If there was any emotion in the tone it was merely impatience. "Why do you come to me?" she repeated.

"Why do I come to you?" Mr. Grimm echoed the question, while his listless eyes rested on her face. "I will be absolutely frank, as I feel sure you would be under the same circumstances." He paused a moment; she nodded. "Well, immediately after the shooting you ran along the hallway with a revolver in your hand; you ran down the steps into the kitchen, and out through the back door, where you entered an automobile. That is not conjecture; it is susceptible of proof by eye witnesses."

Miss Thorne rose suddenly with a queer, helpless little gesture of her arms, and walked to the window. She stood there for a long time with her hands clasped behind her back.

"That brings us to another question," Mr. Grimm continued mercilessly. "If you did not shoot Se?or Alvarez, do you know who did?"

There was another long pause.

"I want to believe you, Miss Thorne," he supplemented.

She turned quickly with something of defiance in her attitude.

"Yes, I know," she said slowly. "It were useless to deny it."

"Who was it?"

"I won't tell you."

Mr. Grimm leaned forward in his chair, and spoke earnestly.

"Understand, please, that by that answer you assume equal guilt with the person who actually did the shooting," he explained. "If you adhere to it you compel me to regard you as an accomplice." His questioning took a different line.

"Will you explain how the revolver came into your possession?"

"Oh, I-I picked it up in the hallway there," she replied vaguely.

"I want to believe you, Miss Thorne," Mr. Grimm said again.

"You may. I picked it up in the hallway," she repeated. "I saw it lying there and picked it up."

"Why that, instead of giving an alarm?"

"No alarm was necessary. The shot itself was an alarm."

"Then why," Mr. Grimm persisted coldly, "did you run along the hallway and escape by way of the kitchen? If you did not do the shooting, why the necessity of escape, carrying the revolver?"

There was that in the blue-gray eyes which brought Mr. Grimm to his feet. His hands gripped each other cruelly; his tone was calm as always.

"Why did you take the revolver?" he asked.

Miss Thorne's head drooped forward a little, and she was silent.

"There are only two possibilities, of

course," he went on. "First, that you, in spite of your denial, did the shooting."

"I did not!" The words fairly burst from her tightly closed lips.

"Or that you knew the revolver, and took it to save the person, man or woman, who fired the shot. I will assume, for the moment, that this is correct. Where is the revolver?"

From the adjoining room there came a slight noise, a faint breath of sound; or it might have been only an echo of silence. Their eyes were fixed each upon the others unwaveringly, with not a flicker to indicate that either had heard. After a moment Miss Thorne returned to her chair and sat down.

"It's rather a singular situation, isn't it, Mr. Grimm?" she inquired irrelevantly. "You, Mr. Grimm of the Secret Service of the United States; I, Isabel Thorne, a secret agent of Italy together here, one accusing the other of a crime, and perhaps with good reason."

"Where is the revolver?" Mr. Grimm insisted.

"If you were any one else but you! I could not afford to be frank with you and-"

"If you had been any one else but you I should have placed you under arrest when I entered the room."

She smiled, and inclined her head.

"I understand," she said pleasantly. "For the reason that you are Mr. Grimm of the Secret Service I shall tell you the truth. I did take the revolver because I knew who had fired the shot. Believe me when I tell you that that person did not act with my knowledge or consent. You do believe that? You do?" She was pleading, eager to convince him.

After a while Mr. Grimm nodded.

"The revolver is beyond your reach and shall remain so," she resumed. "According to your laws I suppose I am an accomplice. That is my misfortune. It will in no way alter my determination to keep silent. If I am arrested I can't help it." She studied his face with hopeful eyes. "Am I to be arrested?"

"Where is the paper that was taken from Se?or Alvarez immediately after he was shot?" Mr. Grimm queried.

"I don't know," she replied frankly.

"As I understand it, then, the motive for the shooting was to obtain possession of that paper? For your government?"

"The individual who shot Se?or Alvarez did obtain the paper, yes. And now, please, am I to be arrested?"

"And just what was the purpose, may I inquire, of the message you telegraphed with your fan in the ball-room?"

"You read that?" exclaimed Miss Thorne in mock astonishment. "You read that?"

"And the man who read that message? Perhaps he shot the se?or?"

"Perhaps," she taunted.

For a long time Mr. Grimm stood staring at her, staring, staring. She, too, rose, and faced him quietly.

"Am I to be arrested?" she asked again.

"Why do you make me do it?" he demanded.

"That is my affair."

Mr. Grimm laid a hand upon her arm, a hand that had never known nervousness. A moment longer he stared, and then:

"Madam, you are my prisoner for the attempted murder of Se?or Alvarez!"

The rings on the portières behind him clicked sharply, and the draperies parted. Mr. Grimm stood motionless, with his hand on Miss Thorne's arm.

"You were inquiring a moment ago for a revolver," came in a man's voice. "Here it is!"

Mr. Grimm found himself inspecting the weapon from the barrel end. After a moment his glance shifted to the blazing eyes of the man who held it-a young man, rather slight, with clean-cut, aristocratic features, and of the pronounced Italian type.

"He Found Himself inspecting the Weapon from the Barrel End."

"My God!" The words came from Miss Thorne's lips almost in a scream. "Don't-!"

"I did make some inquiries about a revolver, yes," Mr. Grimm interrupted quietly. "Is this the one?"

He raised his hand quite casually, and his fingers closed like steel around the weapon. Behind his back Miss Thorne made some quick emphatic gesture, and the new-comer released the revolver.

"I shall ask you, please, to free Miss Thorne," he requested courteously. "I shot Se?or Alvarez. I, too, am a secret agent of the Italian government, willing and able to defend myself. Miss Thorne has told you the truth; she had nothing whatever to do with it. She took the weapon and escaped because it was mine. Here is the paper that was taken from Se?or Alvarez," and he offered a sealed envelope. "I have read it; it is not what I expected. You may return it to Se?or Alvarez with my compliments."

After a moment Mr. Grimm's hand fell away from Miss Thorne's arm, and he regarded the new-comer with an interest in which admiration, even, played a part.

"Your name?" he asked finally.

"Pietro Petrozinni," was the ready reply. "As I say, I accept all responsibility."

A few minutes later Mr. Grimm and his prisoner passed out of the legation side by side, and strolled down the street together, in amicable conversation. Half an hour later Se?or Alvarez identified Pietro Petrozinni as the man who shot him; and the maid servant expressed a belief that he was the man who slammed the door in her face.

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