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   Chapter 6 THE WATCH IN THE WATER PITCHER

The Deep Lake Mystery By Carolyn Wells Characters: 20271

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Well, Sally, is that all?"

"No, sir, not quite. Griscom found one more queer thing. He found Mr. Tracy's watch in the water pitcher."

"In the water pitcher!" Farrell exclaimed. "Was there water in the pitcher?"

"Oh, yes, sir, it was nearly full. And down at the bottom of it was the watch."

"How extraordinary. Is the watch going?"

"I don't know, sir. Griscom took it out of the pitcher, but I don't know what he did with it."

"Well, we'll see about it. If you've no more astonishing bits of information, you can run along, Sally."

The girl left the room, and we looked at one another, half smiling, half appalled.

"It's all so tawdry," Keeley Moore said, with an impatient shrug of his shoulders.

"Just what meaning do you attach to the word 'tawdry'?" asked Hart. "I can't seem to make it apply at all."

"Oh, I only mean these foolish clues that some practical joker has arranged are tawdry of intent. I may be obliged to change my mind, but just at present, I can't think that the person who killed Sampson Tracy is the person who stuck the feather duster behind his head and dropped his watch in the water pitcher. By the way, why did he have a water pitcher, with an elaborate bathroom at hand?"

"Call Griscom, let's find out a little more about it."

So the butler came at a summons, and explained that the water pitcher was a pitcher of drinking water that was placed on a table for him every night.

"Mr. Tracy didn't approve of thermos bottles," Griscom informed us. "He said they never seemed clean things to him. So he had a pitcher."

"When you found the watch, was it running?"

"No, sir, it was not."

"At what time had it stopped?"

Inspector Farrell awaited the answer with an air of one expecting a piece of important information. But he was disappointed.

"I didn't exactly notice, sir, but it isn't the watch Mr. Tracy was carrying. That is still under his pillow. This watch I found in the pitcher is an old one, and it was lying on his dressing table last night."

"Why was it there?"

"Mr. Tracy had it out, looking at it a day or two ago. He thought he would send it to a jeweller and have it put in order. The mainspring is broken, you see. But he didn't decide, and the watch lay there, in a little tray, with some other odds and ends of jewellery."

"Then, somebody took that watch and deliberately dropped it into the water pitcher?"

"That must be the truth, sir."

"Mr. Tracy never showed the slightest disposition toward any mental affection, did he?"

"Oh, no, indeed, sir. Nothing of that sort."

"Who do you think killed Mr. Tracy, Griscom?"

Farrell shot this question so suddenly that I was not surprised to see the butler turn pale and grasp at the chair in front of him to steady himself.

"I-I don't know, sir."

"Of course you don't know. I'm asking you what you think."

"Well, what can I think, but Mr. Ames."

"Mr. Ames! Why would he do such a thing?"

"Well, sir, it had to be somebody with motive. Mr. Ames had that, and likewise opportunity."

"You've been reading detective stories. You're very glib with your 'motive and opportunity'! How could Mr. Ames get in?"

"He carries a latchkey, sir."

"I don't mean into the house, I mean in the room, Mr. Tracy's room."

"Well, the door wasn't always locked at night. About half the time it was left unlocked."

"Then, how could he get out after the deed and leave the door locked on the inside?"

"That's more than I can tell you. I thought that's what you detectives were going to explain. But kill my master somebody did, and get out of the room, he did, too. So there must be an explanation somewhere."

"A secret passage, I suppose."

"No, sir. I'm ready to swear there's no secret passage in this house."

"You may not know of it."

"Well, sir, how could there be? That wing of Mr. Tracy's is foursquare. It has no L's or bays. You can measure it up and you'll find there's no bit of space unaccounted for. The rooms open into one another, and there's just the wall between, no room for a concealed staircase."

"How are you so sure? You been examining around?"

"Just that, sir, meaning no harm. But I somehow feel I've got to find out the truth of this whole thing, and so I've got to look into the conditions."

Keeley Moore gave Griscom a stare of decided interest. It was evident he thought the man knew rather more than he had credited him with.

Farrell and Hart were not so well pleased, apparently. They frowned a little, and the Inspector advised the butler not to exceed his orders or overstep his privileges.

And then it was lunch time, and Keeley, remembering his wife's hint of blackberry shortcake, decided we must go home at once.

"I want to think matters over a bit," he said to the police officers. "If you want me here, I will come when summoned, but otherwise I'll stay at home this afternoon. When will you have the inquest, Doctor Hart?"

"To-morrow," said the Coroner. "Though it will probably have to be adjourned. I confess I'm in a quandary. I scarcely know which way to look. You know I am relying on your help, Mr. Moore."

"I'll help all I can," Kee said, gravely. "But I think you've got a hard nut to crack."

"You mean the locked room--"

"No, I don't mean the locked room. That will explain itself, once you get the criminal."

"Then you mean all these bizarre clues we have to deal with."

"No, I don't mean those, either. The finding of the criminal will wipe those out at once. It's the hunt that is hard. The quarry is elusive and hard to track. Find the motive first; that's always a sound plan."

And with that Moore and I went off, leaving behind us a greatly perplexed pair of sleuths of the law.

A car belonging to the house conveyed us home, and by good luck we were not late for luncheon.

The shortcake materialized and proved worthy of all praise, and Kee refused to talk about the tragedy at all until the meal was over and we gathered in the lounge afterward.

Lora and Maud had heard only scraps of information from neighbours and tradesmen, but they had not been inquisitive, preferring to wait until we returned to tell them all about it.

And so the four of us sat down for a real confab.

I listened while Keeley told his wife all the information he had so far accumulated, and I couldn't help admiring the straightforward, clean-cut story he told. He might have been a skilled reporter, giving the known facts to the public.

Of course my conscience pricked me because I was holding back the very important bit of evidence that I seemed the only one to know. Apparently no one but myself had seen Alma Remsen go in her canoe to Pleasure Dome the night before at about half past one o'clock.

I might be accessory after the fact. I might be aiding and abetting a criminal, but, shameless that I was, I didn't care, and had no intention of telling my secret.

My justification, adequate in my own mind, was that I didn't for a minute believe Alma Remsen had killed her uncle. It was too incredible, too impossible. Go to his house, she did. Stay there about an hour, she did. But kill him, no! Perhaps she saw the deed committed, perhaps she arrived later, and saw the dead victim, perhaps-a very doubtful perhaps-she arranged the bizarre decorations, but strike the deadly blow-never!

So, I felt I had a right to keep still about the matter, for why drag the girl into detestable prominence, and have her wrongly suspected of crime, when all I had to do was to keep silence?

Lora listened quietly, with sundry intelligent nods of her head, and Maud Merrill was no less interested. I had great respect for the intelligence of both these women, and listened eagerly for their comments.

"Too many suspects," said Lora, as Kee finished his recital.

"Yes," agreed Maud, "there's positively nobody in the house outside suspicion."

"Then we must eliminate," said Kee.

"We can't exactly eliminate," Lora told him, "but we can guess who had the strongest motive."

"Guess!"

"That's all we can do. I can't see that there are any clues that mean anything. All those flowers and things were already in the room. As clues, they all go for nothing. The murderer was not necessarily a man of fantastic tastes or a child of playful tendencies, he only cut up those tricks so we would think he was."

"That's right," Kee said. "It wasn't even specially clever. He just picked up anything he saw about and laid it on the bed to fog things up. So what about motive? I can't imagine any one wanting to kill Tracy for anything except a sordid reason. Money, I am sure, is the only motive."

"Love?" I said. "Was no one else enamoured of the beautiful Mrs. Dallas, and wanted Tracy out of the way?"

"Of course, Charlie Everett adored her," Lora said, "but he wouldn't commit murder to get her. And if he did, he wouldn't choose such a horrible, brutal method. He'd shoot his victim, not assassinate him with a hammer and nail!"

"I think that, too," Kee declared. "To my mind, that nail business indicates a low type of personality. A servant seems the most likely. Griscom, for choice."

Now I knew Keeley Moore well enough to know that if he suggested Griscom, Griscom was not the man he suspected. He had a way of drawing out other people, by hints and allusions, in hope of getting a side light on his own suspect.

"If the motive was to achieve at once the legacy from the Tracy estate, then every inmate of that house is suspect. Farrell told me that Mr. Tracy's will left a substantial bequest to each of the servants, to the secretary and to Mr. Ames," I told my audience.

"All right," exclaimed Moore, "let's begin at the top. What have we got against Harper Ames?"

"His immediate need for money, his hateful, belligerent disposition, his love for Mrs. Dallas and his unhampered opportunity," I declared, promptly.

"I thought he was a woman hater," cried Maud Merrill. "Why do you say he was in love with her?"

"I may not be a detective," I said, "but I am not entirely a nincompoop. When I saw those two people

here last evening, I realized that whatever he calls himself, he's no woman hater where Mrs. Dallas is concerned. He adores her; in the language of the poet, he worships the ground she walks on."

"Norris is right about that," Keeley conceded. "I've seen it for some time. And when these avowed woman haters fall for a siren, they fall hard. Yes, Ames is head over ears in love with the lady, and for that very reason, he's out of the running. A man isn't going to commit murder to win a lady's hand. It's too dangerous a proceeding. If Ames were not in love with her, I might suspect him."

"But, hold on, Kee. There might be circumstances," I said, "in which Ames lost his head, or his temper, or both, and let fly at Tracy in an ungovernable fit of rage--"

"That murder wasn't done in an ungovernable fit of rage, it was a premeditated affair. Whoever did it, came prepared with that nail and a hammer--"

"Why a hammer?" I demanded. "The nail could have been driven in with any heavy object."

"Such as what?"

I ruminated over the appointments of the room as I remember them, and said, a little lamely, "Well, one could take off his shoe to drive the nail."

"Yes, one could," Kee assented, "but it doesn't sound likely--"

"The whole affair doesn't sound likely," I countered, "and anyway, it doesn't matter. Somebody did drive that nail, and what it was driven with is unimportant. As far as I can learn, they've found nothing conclusive in the way of fingerprints. I'm not keen on those things myself, but in New York they would have been fingerprinting the whole crowd of us."

"Of course, there are no available fingerprints on the nail," Kee said, "and that's the only thing that matters. I don't give a fig for all the feather dusters, flowers, oranges and such things."

"Not even the watch in the water pitcher?" I asked.

"Well, yes, I do consider the watch in the water pitcher. In fact, I think that's the key note of the whole performance."

"You've got to tell us why," I told him. "You can't say that and leave it unexplained."

"Indeed I can. A real detective never explains his cryptic utterances."

"You're not a real detective," I declared, solemnly.

"Why not?" and he glowered at me.

"Because you look like a detective. You're tall, and dark and hawk-eyed or hawk-nosed, or hawk-somethinged. Now, a real detective must always look utterly unlike the detective of fiction, and you're the very image of Sherlock Holmes."

"And I glory in it. But if you flatter yourself you're my Watson, you must cultivate the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit."

"I thought we were eliminating," put in Maud. "Who have we eliminated so far?"

"Your English is deplorable," Kee told her, "but I can deduce your meaning. Well, how about eliminating Ames?"

"No," I cried, "he's the one not to eliminate. There are too many counts against him. I say, let's begin at the other end of the line. The lesser servants."

"Cut out Sally Bray, then," Moore advised. "That girl never had the nerve to go a-murdering all by herself."

"Of course not," I agreed. "Though she may have gone with some companion."

"No, it isn't plausible. As to the servants, all we can say is that they could have had opportunity. The house servants, at any rate, could have had a duplicate key made to the Tracy suite--"

"But that wasn't needed. So far as we know the door wasn't locked when the murderer went in. But he left it locked when he came out."

"That's the point of the whole thing," Lora said, confidently. "You can't do this elimination you talk about, for every servant had a motive, if you count greed a motive, and every servant had a chance to get into the room unnoticed. Now it all comes back to the explanation of the intruder leaving the door locked behind him. Give me a possible explanation, Kee."

"There are but two," he said, thoughtfully. "I am sure there's no secret passage, for I measured and sounded the walls thoroughly. So it's either that the criminal had some clever mechanical contrivance with which he turned that key in the door behind him, or he jumped out of the window."

"Into the lake!" cried Lora.

"Yes, into the lake. It implies an expert diver, and it is a most dangerous proceeding, even then. But you asked for the possibilities."

"Is Everett or Dean an expert diver?" I asked.

"Everett is. Dean not."

"And Everett is in love with the Dallas, too. Well, we can hardly eliminate him, then."

"But I refuse to suspect a lover of murder," Kee insisted. "He must realize he will be suspected, if not convicted, and where would he stand with the fair one then?"

"Murderers don't always think ahead," I said, sagely.

"This one did. He thought far enough ahead to bring that horrible nail. We've no reason to think there was a nail lying about among the flowers and crackers."

"Isn't there a story about somebody being killed with a nail?" I asked.

"There is," Kee replied, "it's in Holy Writ. Jael killed Sisera, or Sisera killed Jael, I forget which, but the weapon was a nail driven in the victim's head."

"Yes," I returned, "I know, but I don't mean that story. There's another-by a Frenchman--"

"No," said Maud, in her quiet, confident way, "it's a Spanish story, by Pedro de Alarcón. The name of it is The Nail. It's a horrible tale, but the theme is a murder by a nail driven in a man's head."

"Then," and Kee shook himself, as if roused to action, "then we must look for a man who has read that story. Nobody would think of a nail, unless something had suggested it to him. I say that eliminates all the servants, unless, maybe, that chauffeur chap, Louis. I can't see any of the others reading Spanish stories, even in translation. Item one. Search the Tracy library for a copy of that story. Is it a whole book, Maud?"

"No. A short story. I read it in a collection of Spanish and Italian mystery tales. I have it at home, but there's no point to it in connection with this matter, except the nail."

"That association means something," Kee persisted. "When we do find the murderer, we'll find he got his notion from that story."

"Or from the Bible," I said.

"Maybe. But I think more likely Maud's story. As I remember it, the Scripture narrative is not very dramatic, and so, less likely to imbue our murderer's mind with the plan than the Spanish yarn is."

"Granting the Spanish story, then," I said, "can't we eliminate the servants? They'd surely not read such literature."

"All right, eliminate them for the moment," Kee agreed. "We can always go back to them if need be. That leaves us, in the house, Everett, Billy Dean and Ames. Help yourself."

"Ames," I said decidedly. "He's the very one to read morbid, sensational literature."

"But everybody reads detective stories nowadays," Lora said. "Especially the grave and reverend seigneurs who wouldn't be suspected of such tastes."

"This wasn't a detective story," Maud informed us. "It was a thriller, a scare story."

"All the same," I said, "and more in line with Ames's effects than straight detective yarns. I'm all for Ames. He wanted money, a lot of money, and Tracy wouldn't let him have it, so, as he would not only get a large bequest at Tracy's death, but, for all we know, could bury in oblivion his indebtedness to Tracy, of course he wanted Tracy out of the way. Moreover, if by the same token he could get the beautiful lady, that was an added inducement."

"I'm ready to admit all that," Kee was very thoughtful now; "and I can conceive of Ames in a murderer's r?le. But I happen to know he is no diver. He can swim a little, but not expertly, and he can scarcely dive at all."

"Perhaps," I offered, "he is a master-diver, and had kept it secret for this very reason. What do you know of his past?"

"Nothing at all. And Norris, that was clever of you. If Harper Ames came here to commit that murder and escape by the window, it would be in keeping with his diabolical astuteness to pretend to be inexpert at swimming."

"We're building up a case instead of eliminating," I said, secretly elated at Moore's word of praise. "But before we go on, what about the two secretaries? I mean, are they omnivorous readers?"

"Mr. Everett is," Maud volunteered. "He was here one night and we talked about books. We didn't talk very seriously, but I gathered he was widely read, and had really good taste in literature."

"And Everett is undoubtedly in love with Mrs. Dallas," Kee went on, "and of course, he will have a bequest, and of course, he could get out of the room as well as anybody else, and we know somebody did, so all things being equal, why not suspect Everett instead of Ames?"

"Because of the difference in the characters of the two men," Lora said, with emphasis. "I'm ready to grant a murderer may masquerade as an angel of light, but all the same, we have to judge our fellow men more or less by appearances, and I'll pick Ames for a criminal long before I'll choose Charlie Everett."

"And we're leaving out Billy Dean entirely?"

"I am," I said. "He's a nice, decent chap, and he's too young for a murderer, at least, with no motive other than a bit of money. He isn't in love with Mrs. Dallas, is he?"

"Lord, no. He's in love with the Remsen girl."

"Well, then," I said, "if that nice boy is in love with that nice girl, he's not going to commit a crime. I say, let's eliminate him."

"Then," Kee summed up, "we've eliminated everybody but Ames and Everett. Griscom is the only servant we could possibly suspect, and he is said to be devoted to his master, and too, I'm told he has a tidy sum laid by, so I don't see him driving nails into people."

"We can't get away from the nail and the sort of character it connotes," I said. "I stand by Ames until he's definitely eliminated."

"Well, I guess we're all agreed, then," and Keeley rose and stretched his long arms. "Now, I'm for a swim. Who'll go?"

We all went, and I found that the water of a sunny cove of Deep Lake was an ideal bathtub, and I forgot for the time being the sinister depths of the Sunless Sea.

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