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   Chapter 7 No.7

The Chase of the Golden Plate By Jacques Futrelle Characters: 6234

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Those satellites of the Supreme Police Intelligence of the Metropolitan District who had been taking the Randolph mystery to pieces to see what made it tick, lined up in front of Detective Mallory, in his private office, at police headquarters, early Saturday evening. They did not seem happy. The Supreme Intelligence placed his feet on the desk and glowered; that was a part of the job.

"Well, Downey?" he asked.

"I went out to Seven Oaks and got the automobile the Burglar left, as you instructed," reported Downey. "Then I started out to find its owner, or someone who knew it. It didn't have a number on it, so the job wasn't easy, but I found the owner all right, all right."

Detective Mallory permitted himself to look interested.

"He lives at Merton, four miles from Seven Oaks," Downey resumed. "His name is Blake-William Blake. His auto was in the shed a hundred feet or so from his house on Thursday evening at nine o'clock. It wasn't there Friday morning."

"Umph!" remarked Detective Mallory.

"There is no question but what Blake told me the truth," Downey went on. "To me it seems provable that the Burglar went out from the city to Merton by train, stole the auto and ran it on to Seven Oaks. That's all there seems to be to it. Blake proved ownership of the machine and I left it with him."

The Supreme Intelligence chewed his cigar frantically.

"And the other machine?" he asked.

"I have here a blood-stained cushion, the back of a seat from the car in which the Burglar and the Girl escaped," continued Downey in a walk-right-up-ladies-and-gentlemen sort of voice. "I found the car late this afternoon at a garage in Pleasantville. We knew, of course, that it belonged to Nelson Sharp, a guest at the masked ball. According to the manager of the garage the car was standing in front of his place this morning when he arrived to open up. The number had been removed."

Detective Mallory examined the cushion which Downey handed to him. Several dark brown stains told the story-one of the occupants of the car had been wounded.

"Well, that's something," commented the Supreme Intelligence. "We know now that when Cunningham fired at least one of the persons in the car was hit, and we may make our search accordingly. The Burglar and the Girl probably left the car where it was found during the preceding night."

"It seems so," said Downey. "I shouldn't think they would have dared to keep it long. Autos of that size and power are too easily traced. I asked Mr. Sharp to run down and identify the car and he did so. The stains were new."

The Supreme Intelligence digested that in silence while his satellites studied his face, seeking some inkling of the convolutions of that marvellous mind.

"Very good, Downey," said Detective Mallory at last. "Now Cunningham?"

"Nothing," said Cunningham in shame and sorrow. "Nothing."

"Didn't you find anything at all about the premises?"

"Nothing," repeated Cunningham. "The Girl left no wrap at Seven Oaks. None of the servants remembers having seen her in the room where the wraps were checked. I searched all

around the place and found a dent in the ground under the smoking-room window, where the gold plate had been thrown, and there were what seemed to be footprints in the grass, but it was all nothing."

"We can't arrest a dent and footprints," said the Supreme Intelligence cuttingly.

The satellites laughed sadly. It was part of the deference they owed to the Supreme Intelligence.

"And you, Blanton?" asked Mr. Mallory. "What did you do with the list of invited guests?"

"I haven't got a good start yet," responded Blanton hopelessly. "There are three hundred and sixty names on the list. I have been able to see possibly thirty. It's worse than making a city directory. I won't be through for a month. Randolph and his wife checked off a large number of these whom they knew were there. The others I am looking up as rapidly as I can."

The detectives sat moodily thoughtful for uncounted minutes. Finally Detective Mallory broke the silence.

"'The stains were new'"

"There seems to be no question but that any clew that might have come from either of the automobiles is disposed of unless it is the fact that we now know one of the thieves was wounded. I readily see how the theft could have been committed by a man as bold as this fellow. Now we must concentrate all our efforts to running down the invited guests and learning just where they were that evening. All of you will have to get on this job and hustle it. We know that the Burglar did present an invitation-card with a name on it."

The detectives went their respective ways and then Detective Mallory deigned to receive representatives of the press, among them Hutchinson Hatch. Hatch was worried. He knew a whole lot of things, but they didn't do him any good. He felt that he could print nothing as it stood, yet he would not tell the police, because that would give it to everyone else, and he had a picture of how the Supreme Intelligence would tangle it if he got hold of it.

"Well, boys," said Detective Mallory smilingly, when the press filed in, "there's nothing to say. Frankly, I will tell you that we have not been able to learn anything-at least anything that can be given out. You know, of course, about the finding of the two automobiles that figured in the case, and the blood-stained cushion?"

The press nodded collectively.

"Well, that's all there is yet. My men are still at work, but I'm a little afraid the gold plate will never be found. It has probably been melted up. The cleverness of the thieves you can judge for yourself by the manner in which they handled the automobiles."

And yet Hatch was not surprised when, late that night, Police Headquarters made known the latest sensation. This was a bulletin, based on a telephone message from Stuyvesant Randolph to the effect that the gold plate had been returned by express to Seven Oaks. This mystified the police beyond description; but official mystification was as nothing to Hatch's state of mind. He knew of the scene in Dick Herbert's room and remembered Mr. Randolph's threat.

"Then Dick did have the plate," he told himself.

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