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   Chapter 19 No.19

The Chase of the Golden Plate By Jacques Futrelle Characters: 8321

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Hutchinson Hatch remained with The Thinking Machine for more than an hour, and when he left his head was spinning with the multitude of instructions which had been heaped upon him.

"Meet me at noon in Detective Mallory's office at police headquarters," The Thinking Machine had said in conclusion. "Mr. Randolph and Miss Meredith will be there."

"Miss Meredith?" Hatch repeated. "She hasn't been arrested, you know, and I doubt if she will come."

"She will come," the scientist had replied, as if that settled it.

Next day the Supreme Intelligence was sitting in his private office. He had eaten the canary; mingled triumph and gratification beamed upon his countenance. The smile remained, but to it was added the quality of curiosity when the door opened and The Thinking Machine, accompanied by Dollie Meredith and Stuyvesant Randolph, entered.

"Mr. Hatch called yet?" inquired the scientist.

"No," responded the detective.

"Dear me!" grumbled the other. "It's one minute after twelve o'clock now. What could have delayed him?"

His answer was the clattering rush of a cab and the appearance of Hatch in person a moment later. He came into the room headlong, glanced around, then paused.

"Did you get it?" inquired The Thinking Machine.

"Yes, I got it, but--" began the reporter.

"Nothing else now," commanded the other.

There was a little pause as The Thinking Machine selected a chair. The others also sat down.

"Well?" inquired the Supreme Intelligence at last.

"I would like to ask, Mr. Mallory," the scientist said, "if it would be possible for me to convince you of Mr. Herbert's innocence of the charges against him?"

"It would not," replied the detective promptly. "It would not while the facts are before me, supplemented by the statement of Miss Meredith here-her confession."

Dollie coloured exquisitely and her lips trembled slightly.

"Would it be possible, Miss Meredith," the even voice went on, "to convince you of Mr. Herbert's innocence?"

"I-I don't think so," she faltered. "I-I know."

Tears which had been restrained with difficulty gushed forth suddenly, and The Thinking Machine squinted at her in pained surprise.

"Don't do that," he commanded. "It's-it's exceedingly irritating." He paused a moment, then turned suddenly to Mr. Randolph. "And you?" he asked.

Mr. Randolph shrugged his shoulders.

The Thinking Machine receded still further into his chair and stared dreamily upward with his long, slender fingers pressed tip to tip. Hatch knew the attitude; something was going to happen. He waited anxiously. Detective Mallory knew it, too, and wriggled uncomfortably.

"Suppose," the scientist began, "just suppose that we turn a little human intelligence on this problem for a change and see if we can't get the truth out of the blundering muddle that the police have helped to bring about. Let's use logic, inevitable logic, to show, simply enough, that instead of being guilty, Mr. Herbert is innocent."

Dolly Meredith suddenly leaned forward in her chair with flushed face, eyes widely opened and lips slightly parted. Detective Mallory also leaned forward in his chair, but there was a different expression on his face-oh, so different.

"Miss Meredith, we know you were in the automobile with the Burglar who stole the plate," The Thinking Machine went on. "You probably knew that he was wounded and possibly either aided in dressing the wound-as any woman would-or else saw him dress it himself?"

"I bound my handkerchief on it," replied the Girl. Her voice was low, almost a whisper.

"Where was the wound?"

"In the right shoulder," she replied.

"Back or front?" insisted the scientist.

"Back," she replied. "Very near the arm, an inch or so below the level of the shoulder."

Except for The Thinking Machine himself Hatch was the only person in the room to whom this statement meant anything, and he restrained a shout with difficulty.

"Now, Mr. Mallory," the scientist went on calmly, "do you happen to know Dr. Clarence Walpole?"

"I know of him, yes," replied the detective. "He is a man of considerable reputation."

"Would y

ou believe him under oath?"

"Why, certainly, of course."

The Supreme Intelligence tugged at his bristly moustache.

"If Doctor Walpole should dress a wound and should later, under oath, point out its exact location, you would believe him?"

"Why, I'd have to, of course."

"Very well," commented The Thinking Machine tersely. "Now I will state an incontrovertible scientific fact for your further enlightenment. You may verify it anyway you choose. This is, briefly, that the blood corpuscles in man average one-thirty-three hundredths of an inch in diameter. Remember that, please: one-thirty-three hundredths of an inch. The system of measurement has reached a state of perfection almost incomprehensible to the man who does not understand."

He paused for so long that Detective Mallory began to wriggle again. The others were leaning forward, listening with widely varied expressions on their faces.

"Now, Mr. Mallory," continued The Thinking Machine at last, "one of your men shot twice at the Burglar in the automobile, as I understand it?"

"Yes-two shots."

"Mr. Cunningham?"

"Yes, Detective Cunningham."

"Is he here now?"

The detective pressed a button on his desk and a uniformed man appeared. Instructions were given, and a moment later Detective Cunningham stood before them wonderingly.

"I suppose you can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt," resumed the scientist, still addressing Mr. Mallory, "that two shots-and only two-were fired?"

"I can prove it by twenty witnesses," was the reply.

"Good, very good," exclaimed the scientist, and he turned to Cunningham.

"You know that only two shots were fired?"

"I know it, yes," replied Cunningham. "I fired 'em."

"May I see your revolver?"

Cunningham produced the weapon and handed it over. The Thinking Machine merely glanced at it.

"This is the revolver you used?"

"Yes."

"Very well, then," remarked the scientist quietly, "on that statement alone Mr. Herbert is proven innocent of the charge against him."

There was an astonished gasp all around. Hatch was beginning to see what The Thinking Machine meant, and curiously watched the bewitchingly sorrowful face of Dollie Meredith. He saw all sorts of strange things there.

"Proven innocent?" snorted Detective Mallory. "Why, you've convicted him out of hand so far as I can see."

"Corpuscles in human blood average, as I said, one-thirty-three hundredths of an inch in diameter," resumed the scientist. "They vary slightly each way, of course. Now, the corpuscles of the Burglar in the automobile measured just one-thirty-one-forty-seven hundredths of an inch. Mr. Herbert's corpuscles, tested the same way, with the same instruments, measure precisely one-thirty-five-sixty hundredths." He stopped as if that were all.

"By George!" exclaimed Mr. Randolph. "By George!"

"That's all tommy-rot," Detective Mallory burst out. "That's nothing to a jury or to any other man with common sense."

"That difference in measurement proves beyond question that Mr. Herbert was not wounded while in the automobile," went on The Thinking Machine as if there had been no interruption. "Now, Mr. Cunningham, may I ask if the Burglar's back was toward you when you fired?"

"Yes. He was going away from me."

"Well, that statement agrees with the statement of Miss Meredith to show that the Burglar was wounded in the back. Doctor Walpole dressed Mr. Herbert's wound between two and three o'clock Friday morning following the masked ball. Mr. Herbert had been shot, but the wound was in the front of his right shoulder."

Delighted amazement radiated from Dollie Meredith's face; she clapped her hands involuntarily as she would have applauded a stage incident. Detective Mallory started to say something, then thought better of it and glared at Cunningham instead.

"Now, Mr. Cunningham says that he shot the Burglar with this revolver." The Thinking Machine waved the weapon under Detective Mallory's nose. "This is the usual police weapon. Its calibre is thirty-eight. Mr. Herbert was shot with a thirty-two calibre. Here is the bullet." And he tossed it on the desk.

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