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Authors: Elizabeth Daly

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BOOK: Any Shape or Form
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Griggs drummed on the mantelshelf. “We'll test the lamp for prints tomorrow, of course, but from what I could see there are none. It was held by the neck, and it could be wiped off in no time. And so we get to the reason why I'm not much interested in Miss Malcolm or Mrs. Drummond, though Mrs. Drummond's a bigger woman. The neck of that lamp is thick, and too short to be swung by both hands. A woman couldn't get a good grasp on it, and I don't think a woman's wrist could swing the lamp at all. I don't think a woman would have thought of using it singlehanded.

“And what's more, if Mrs. Drummond committed the murder she had to cross the room to get the lamp; what excuse would she give for doing that? Well, she might have offered to help fold that spread.”

Redfield said: “I shouldn't even have thought of that.”

“No, because you're thinking what I'm thinking, Mr. Redfield, whether you'll admit it or not: Malcolm had only to step in from the hall. Mr. Redfield, it's too easy. If Malcolm refused to pay blackmail, do you think his sister would refuse? And if you're wondering how his wife knew about his committing the murder, I can tell you just where she probably stood when he fired the rifle. She stood on the little path that goes down through the woods from the gate behind the tool house. She stood back of that wooden statue and looked through the hedge. I suppose you know that the hedge is thin there?”

“Yes,” said Johnny. “It's thin there.”

“She saw the whole thing. She knew by the way he acted, and by the spot he fired from, that he wasn't shooting at any crow. She may have hung around and heard enough to know that he'd fired at his stepmother and killed her. Anyhow, she saw Malcolm make his getaway, and then came back and got her bike and coasted off—but not far.

“When he kept that appointment with her this evening in her room—it may not have been an appointment, but I think she'd have made one somehow—I don't think he came through his sister's room. I think he came by way of the corridor in the north wing. Why should he tell his sister that he was going to commit another murder? But if he didn't know it himself, and did tell his sister he was going to talk to his wife, we'll never prove it. We might as well give up now and leave Cora Malcolm out. She never swung that vase, and I don't believe that she fired the rifle. It's a man's crime all the way through, and he had the other motive besides—he hated the woman, and he wanted to get rid of her.

“He was tied to her for life. Catch her giving him a divorce now!”

Redfield said: “Griggs, don't you suppose that your argument occurred to him? He's a clever boy. He'd see it all, no matter how wrought up he was. He'd never risk this murder.”

“Don't forget that knock on the head he got in France, Mr. Redfield. Don't suppose that that won't be his defense.”

“But Griggs, no good lawyer would allow him to plead guilty to homicide—not as things are. We'll all be in for a lot of suspicion. I'm afraid there will be a great deal of irrelevant matter dragged into the evidence by his counsel. That knock on the head will be a last resort, if it's ever used at all. Don't you agree with me, Gamadge?” Redfield looked ready to cry.

“Yes, Johnny, I agree with you.”

Griggs smiled grimly. “But considering his motive for the first murder, and considering the fact that he's the one who might have had a double motive for getting rid of his wife, you agree that I'm justified in making an arrest, Mr. Gamadge?”

“I think you're justified. Will you make it tonight?”

“No. I'm going to wait till tomorrow, till I have a chance to talk to Mosson.”

“I'd rather like to have a talk with Mr. Malcolm. He won't talk if he knows he's practically under arrest.”

“Everybody's practically under arrest. I won't lock him up in his room, if that's what you mean, but he'll leave his door open, and there'll be a man watching it. I don't suppose he'll try to commit suicide, and I don't suppose he'll murder his sister.”

“Commit suicide?” Redfield got up and slowly moved towards the door. “David Malcolm will fight to his last breath.”

“You get him a lawyer, Mr. Redfield, and let the lawyer do the fighting.”

Redfield went out into the hall, and Griggs turned from the fireplace and crossed to the studio door. He opened it. “All right,” he said, “Mr. Drummond.”

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Different Now

G
AMADGE WONDERED
for a moment after Drummond came in why he seemed like a stranger, then decided that it was because he looked on the point of exhaustion. Gamadge had never seen him even slightly, healthily tired before. After thirty-six holes of golf, or a tremendous climb in the woods, he had always been as fresh as a daisy and ready for anything. He had never been the one to want the evening bridge or poker game broken up, the club dance over.

Now his step dragged, his big shoulders drooped, his face was expressionless, sagging with fatigue. He looked bleakly at Griggs.

“I hope you won't insist on asking my wife any questions tonight, Lieutenant,” he said, and there was no truculence in the tone. He spoke slowly, carefully, drearily. “I know this is a very bad situation—”

“Yes,” said Griggs, snapping his words off. “It's all different now. No fooling now. Is Mrs. Drummond badly knocked out?”

“She was improving when I left; I found some of that—what do you call it?—spirits of ammonia in the bathroom. But she had a tough experience; terrible shock.” He went over to the fire, sat down, and put out his hands to the embers. When Gamadge bent to take a log out of the basket, however, he reacted like the country householder he was: “No, never mind. Don't burn up a fresh log so late—we aren't getting loads of wood in often.”

Griggs said: “I have to get her story, Drummond.”

“She's told me what happened. Won't that do tonight?”

“What does she say?”

“She'd been getting ready for bed, and she went into the bathroom to draw a hot bath. She saw that Mrs. Malcolm hadn't been before her—no towels had been used, and so on. She wondered if Mrs. Malcolm had what she needed. Knocked, didn't notice that there wasn't any answer, and opened the door. You know what she saw. No wonder she could only stand and scream.”

Griggs said: “Kind of her to go in. Kind of her to suggest that Mrs. Malcolm should spend the night here. I wouldn't have said from what went before that she'd bother about Mrs. David Malcolm.”

Drummond did not take his eyes from the dying fire. “Didn't care for her, of course,” he answered. “But after all there's a routine in these matters, if you've been brought up in a certain way. After Miss Ryder left, my wife was the oldest woman here. As for tonight, there was no maid on duty; and Redfield's better than most men about remembering such things, but after all he's a man. My wife thought Mrs. Malcolm might want something that we”—he shrugged the powerful shoulders—“wouldn't even think of. I don't know whether you're married...My wife does her hair up with dozens of gadgets, works like a dog over her face. Redfield wouldn't have stocked up the bathroom with all that.”

“I won't ask her any questions till morning, Drummond; but there's a woman coming up from Rivertown to go over her things and Miss Malcolm's things.”

“Oh Lord.”

“Can't be helped. Now about you.”

“I turned right in. I didn't see anything.”

“See anything?” Griggs looked at him. “Why should you have seen anything?”

“Thought you knew.” Drummond seemed surprised. “There's no bath attached to the room I was moved into when Mrs. David Malcolm decided to stay. I used Johnny's.”

“That's so. I forgot that.”

“But I wanted to leave it free for him, so I went down the wing the minute I got upstairs. My wife had moved my bag into my new room herself; I just took out some things and went to Johnny's bathroom and came back. Felt as if I'd been in a—felt tired. I pulled off my clothes and got into bed.”

“And didn't hear a sound.” Griggs supplied this gloomily.

“If I had, I shouldn't have paid any attention.”

“You were right across the corridor.”

“There are all kinds of sounds at night in the country. You don't pay attention, if you want to sleep. Especially in another man's house, where you don't worry about a loose slate on the roof or a loose shutter.”

“But you heard your wife scream.”

“That's different.”

“Well, just stay in your room for the rest of the night. It's all different now. And our men will be in the house pretty soon, and they won't want people underfoot.”

Drummond stood up. “Griggs—”

“Yes, Mr. Drummond?”

“For God's sake, haven't you any evidence about
this
murder?”

“We're getting along.”

“I suppose you're pretty well convinced that it's—that it's Malcolm?”

“You leave it to us.”

“I mean if it is, it's a psychopathic case. Have they got a man at Rivertown who understands that? If not, Redfield ought to—”

“Just leave it to us, Mr. Drummond.”

Drummond glanced vaguely about the room and at Gamadge, put his hands in his coat pockets, took them out again. He went across the room, hesitated at the door, and went out. They heard his heavy step on the stairs.

Griggs looked into the studio. “Miss Malcolm.”

She came in; the plum-colored robe was tied tightly about her waist, and she looked as slim and wiry as a boy. She stood waiting while Griggs closed the door.

“Miss Malcolm,” he said, “I don't intend to keep you long. First let me remind you that things are different now. I'll ask you to leave your bedroom door ajar. There's a woman coming up, I want you to cooperate; and she'll be looking in on you now and then all night.”

“I understand.”

“Now just a few questions. Did you leave your room after you went up tonight, until you heard Mrs. Drummond screaming?”

“No.”

“Did your brother come through to have a private word with his wife? That would be natural enough.”

“He didn't go out of the suite at all.”

“But you wouldn't have known it if he'd left for a minute or so by the door into the hall from his bedroom.”

“Yes, I should. We were talking.”

“All the time?”

“Yes. Most of it through the bathroom, with our doors open. Neither of us was tired. We were wide awake.”

Griggs and Miss Malcolm looked at each other calmly enough. At last Griggs said: “If that's the case there's no use in my keeping you any longer or asking you any more questions.”

She said: “I was going to tell you that after my brother's wife came this evening, and told us about the bicycle and everything, I thought it was she who had killed Mrs. Archibald Malcolm.”

“But you don't think so now?”

“I don't know what to think.”

“Miss Malcolm, if you know any earthly reason, except the obvious one, why either of those women should have been murdered, now's the time to come out with it. Don't try to spare anybody's feelings—it's too late for that. Nobody's feelings are going to be spared from now on, and anything you may know might keep some innocent party out of a lot of trouble. Just give me any reason you can think of why either of those women should have been killed.”

She said: “Nobody had any motive except my brother and me; we didn't kill them, and all we can think of is that somebody's gone insane.”

“Mr. Redfield or Mr. or Mrs. Drummond went insane?”

She was silent.

“Well, I'm sorry you can't help us out,” said Griggs in a casual tone. “Neither could Drummond. He suggested a psychiatrist for your brother, though.”

Gamadge said: “If your brother should be arrested on the evidence.”

After a moment she spoke in a low voice: “What can any of us say?”

“That's right, you're all in a spot. Well, you can go up, Miss Malcolm,” said Griggs.

When she had gone Griggs went and summoned the last of his witnesses. Malcolm came in, a slowly moving yellow-and-brown figure with a colorless face. The collar of his yellow pajamas was fastened up around his brown neck, and there was a brown-and-yellow scarf crossed below it. He was smoking.

“No questions, Mr. Malcolm, “ said Griggs briskly.

“No?”

“What's the use, when your sister has given you an alibi?”

“Very good of you to accept it.” The pale lips smiled.

“I might ask you if you know who killed your wife—just for the record.”

“I can't imagine who killed her.”

“I'll ask you to leave your door open tonight. A man will look in from time to time. He'll look in on the others.”

“Like the frontiers, on the sleeping trains in the old days.” Malcolm looked at Gamadge. “I wondered whether this gentleman would look in on me before he goes to bed.”

Griggs said that it was up to Mr. Gamadge. Gamadge said that he would look in.

Malcolm went at his deliberate pace into the hall, and they heard him say something lightly to the officer there.

Griggs sat down, clasped his hands between his knees, and gazed at the floor. He said: “Redfield's right; those two will fight like tigers. She's going to end up in a bad jam; as an accessory before and after the fact. I couldn't keep her out of it if I wanted to.”

“No; you couldn't.”

“Wonder what he wants to see you about. Perhaps”—Griggs looked up and grinned—“he wants to hire you.”

“Perhaps he does.”

“Hire you on spec. He'll have plenty of money if he gets off, and perhaps his sister'd pay you anyhow.”

“She might.”

“Don't get mad,” said Griggs, laughing. “I never heard that you made a practice of getting murderers out of trouble.”

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