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Authors: Elizabeth Daly

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“You might mention now whether you saw him walk up or down the road afterwards.”

“I never noticed.”

“I walked down the road,” said Malcolm, “past this gate and on down to the lower gate. I went through the flower garden to the archway that leads into the orchard, and I went through the orchard and down to the swimming pool. I didn't see Mr. Redfield in the vegetable garden as I went past; he was behind the sunflowers. I didn't see Mr. Drummond in the flower garden as I cut across to the orchard; he was behind the cosmos. I didn't see a soul. I cut these things”—he lifted the wild asters, looked at them, and dropped his arm—“and then I came back through the orchard and across the corner of the flower garden and along the turf path around to the gate that leads to this lawn. And I didn't see a soul that time, either.”

“Drummond was already here by that time.”

“So he was.”

“Well then.” Gamadge's eyes left him, to rest successively on the other faces that were turned to his. “The evidence is now at hand…What must we conclude from it? We must conclude—if the witnesses are all to be believed—that somebody got in.”

The faces confronting him expressed an almost ludicrous astonishment.

“It's not physically impossible, is it Johnny?” asked Gamadge. “Some enemy of Mrs. Malcolm's
could
have come into the grounds, overheard the talk about the rifle in the rose garden, watched to see where Mrs. Malcolm went, and seized the opportunity?”

Redfield, his face clearing a little, said after a pause that it was certainly possible. “Of course the only way to get in is by the front,” he explained slowly. “There's no back way except the gate from our lane down there to the swimming pool; but that's padlocked, and I'm the only one that has a key. We're completely wired until you come out on the drive. But the servants were all busy in the house this afternoon, and there's nobody in the garage now.” He looked greatly puzzled. “Somebody could get by,” he admitted, his words dragging. “I hope to God they did.”

“It's the picture we're offering to the police,” said Gamadge. “Our private investigation has collapsed; nobody saw anybody, nobody has an alibi, and so far as we're concerned, Mrs. Malcolm wasn't killed at all. We must suggest an outsider; in which case the inquiry will be based on motive—or mania.

“But can we suggest our outsider's method of escape? It was touch and go, you understand; I might have run after the murderer without stopping to find out whether Mrs. Malcolm was dead or not. I had forty yards to run, but I can't see that the outsider would have had twenty. Up into the woods—a step. Down to the flower garden—a few yards. Across to the picking garden or the greenhouse—” He smiled. “Excuse me; I must include all possibilities, you know—twenty yards. Circuitous route through the lower and south woods, back to the front drive—easy.

“And of course it's for the police to resolve the difficulties: the coincidences, and the failure of our outsider to be seen by us.

“Johnny, whom do we call? The sheriff at Old Bridge?”

Johnny mumbled: “Old fellow. I don't think…Gamadge!”

“Johnny?”

“The police—they won't go after an outsider simply because we tell them to!”

“No, of course not. They have no tact; they can't afford tact. They won't respect our feelings—they're not allowed to, in a murder case. Here we are, six suspects, if my cousin Abigail is out of it. She won't be, until they've combed the woods for false Solomon's-seal. They'll fix on the rifle, you know. I mean they'll ask who knew it was in the rose garden.

“I knew it was there, Blanche Drummond and Mr. Malcolm knew it was there. Unless others hung about the place and heard us talking about it—rather cryptically, too—the others, Miss Malcolm and you and Drummond, didn't know where it was.

“Why should they have hung about the place? Well, Miss Malcolm had earlier expressed interest in the Apollo, and she herself tells us that she heard voices in the rose garden. Drummond might have finished cutting his flowers, wandered up to see what the rest of us were doing. You might have had some errand in the place.

“And to any of you retreat would, as I have said before, been safe, and safer because you all had flowers in your hands—except Miss Malcolm, who still carries her croquet mallet. Innocent occupations, and convincing enough to
us.
I rush down here and through the wicket gate; and I see somebody approaching with a bunch of flowers. I rush to the flower garden, and I see Walter and his chrysanthemums. I rush up the slope, and I meet Miss Malcolm, ready for her game.

“Now we must call the sheriff, Redfield.”

Redfield said wearily: “The sheriff won't do. State police barracks outside of Rivertown. We'd better have them. Call Griggs, Gamadge; Griggs knows us. I'm going up to the rockery to stay with
her.
I shan't touch her, Gamadge, but I'm going to stay there till they come.”

Abigail walked across to join them. “I'll go with you, Johnny.”

“Thanks, Abby. You would.”

As they went off Blanche Drummond asked:

“Henry, can I go home?”

“Blanche, you must know you can't.”

“Well, I suppose I can go up to the house.”

“Certainly.”

She went up the lawn, past the rose garden, past the thick shrubbery on her right that concealed the rockery, on to the house. Malcolm waited until she had gone, and then reached his sister in long strides. She looked as if she might sink to the grass, but he put an arm about her shoulders. They followed Blanche.

Gamadge said: “You'll have to telephone, Walter. I must stay down here.”

Drummond had been looking after the Malcolms. He collected himself, and went up the lawn as far as the rose garden. But there he stopped and turned.

“Gamadge,” he said explosively, “we're all more concerned in this than you are, and I'm a lawyer, and I'm familiar with sporting rifles. We had to take your word for it about conditions in there.” He jerked his head. “The police will have to take your word for it. Ought to have another opinion.”

“Well, Walter,” said Gamadge cheerfully, “that can only mean that you think I may go in there again and alter something. I don't know why you should think that, but I agree with you that you may as well see the place as it is and check up on my description. I'll go in with you.”

Drummond stood looking at him.

“You can't mean,” said Gamadge, “that you want to go in alone? What would that do to the evidence? Do you want to tell the police, and state at the inquest, that you insisted on going in there alone?”

Drummond stood obstinately where he was, scowling.

“Well,” said Gamadge, taking a cigarette, “I can't stop you. You'd make two of me in cross section. But I think we ought to keep the record clear as far as possible, and as it is I can swear that since I was there nothing has been tampered with, nothing planted, and nothing taken away. And I can also swear, and I don't think I'll be challenged on that point, that I haven't an earthly tie—except old acquaintance—with anybody in the case except Abby.”

Drummond stood irresolute; the heads of the chrysanthemums that he still carried trailed on the grass.

“I'll tell you what,” said Gamadge. “I'll call to Abby—she won't mind telephoning the state police. Then we can both stay here until they come.”

Drummond opened and closed his free hand.

“And I may add,” said Gamadge, “that I don't think they'll find I missed anything.”

Drummond, without another word, turned and walked up the lawn. Gamadge watched him go; then he went and sat down against one of the entrance posts of the rose garden. He was far from comfortable; the sun-baked ground was hard, rose thorns made themselves felt through the back of his coat, and a chill breeze came up as the sun went down. But he stayed where he was until a young state policeman, gun in hand, came down the slope from the house.

“You Mr. Gamadge?”

“I am.” Gamadge rose with alacrity.

“Lieutenant Griggs wants to see you up at the house. And county's here—Mr. Mosson.” He came past Gamadge, and looked into the rose garden. “Jeeps!” he exclaimed. “What's that?”

“That is a garden decoration.”

“Was that thing what was holding the rifle?”

“Yes.”

“My oh my.”

“Are you staying down here, Officer, until the experts come?”

“Right here. They'll be slow, it's Sunday.”

“Everything happens on Sunday,” said Gamadge, dusting off mown grass and twigs. “Have you noticed? Toothaches; and refrigerators break down, and fuses blow.”

“And there's murder on the routes, only it always comes out manslaughter or unavoidable accident.”

“Might I ask if you're going in there, Officer?”

“I am if I want to disobey orders.”

“Do you?”

“No.”

“I won't presume to warn you that there just might be footprints somewhere.”

“Lieutenant Griggs had the same idea.”

Gamadge went off up the slope, but when he reached the upper corner of the rose garden he paused and looked over his shoulder. Seeing that the officer was staring fixedly into the enclosure, quite fascinated by Apollo, he turned left instead of going on to the house.

Halfway along the west side of the garden he swung right and went through shrubbery to the tool house. Hands in pockets, head a little down, he looked the very picture of an idler lost in meditation; but he was retracing the paths that might have been taken by a murderer.

He stopped at the tool house steps to look at Cora Malcolm's cigarette end and burnt match, which lay in the grass beside them; he went into the tool house, and wandered about there. He looked into the open box which contained the croquet set; the red mallet wasn't there, of course, but the red ball was. She hadn't taken that.

He came out again, passed behind the tool house and through the gate into the woods, and went down the trail that led to the Loop. He paused at a spot behind the rose garden where the hedge was thin, where he could see Apollo. The props supporting him came through the fence and disappeared in a wide strip of brushwood and dead leaves. Gamadge stood for a moment gazing at the averted figure of the sun god, at the fold of tunic where the green props fitted so securely. A bare shoulder emerged from the tunic; so pitted and scarred it was, such an ugly gray, that it was less like wood than like a fragment of abandoned wasp's nest. He turned away and went on down the trail to the Loop.

He followed it down to the lower gate that led into the flower garden, not turning aside to visit the greenhouse or the kitchen gardens; went through the gate, and along a path to the high wall of cosmos. He passed behind this, and returned to the gate by the path that skirted the orchard. He did not go into the orchard.

Retracing his way, he came out behind the tool house; cut from that point to the side lawn, and in the fading light reached the terrace steps.

CHAPTER SIX
Gouch

L
IEUTENANT GRIGGS
of the Rivertown state police had a short, square face which seldom showed other expression than a granite calm. But although the daylight lamp on Redfield's studio worktable did not light up his features, which were in shadow, the shadow was not deep enough to hide the fact that the lieutenant's brow was furrowed.

There were three comfortable couches in the studio, one flanking either end of the fireplace, in which a fire burned, and one beneath the east windows. Redfield lay on this last, his eyes closed and his pose one of exhaustion. Gamadge sat on the couch to the left of the hearth, and on the other, facing him, sat Mr. Ellsworth Mosson, State's Attorney of Rivertown.

The studio was a splendid room, with a big rounded window along its south wall, and casement windows to the east and west. Redfield said that it was the only studio on earth which had no north light, but then his work could be done in any light; he seldom used color. There was color, though, in a delightful flower piece, done in opaque tints on gray paper, that hung over the mantel. Bold and stylized without being too mannered, it was Redfield at his best.

He had at first intended the studio to be neutral in tone, and its decorative scheme was based on an arrangement of black, white, and silver; but when it came to furnishings his earlier taste for color had triumphed. The curtains and upholstery had somehow ended by blooming with big red roses, while one interesting note was struck by a large armchair in violent blue.

There were small tables in front of the fire, one holding a bottle of whisky, a siphon, and a bowl of ice, besides Mr. Mosson's highball. The other stood at Gamadge's elbow, and upon it stood
his
highball. Redfield's glass was in his hand. Lieutenant Griggs refused to drink while investigating a case on the premises.

He said, looking at his clasped hands, “It ought to be an accident. I wish it was an accident. But it wasn't, Mr. Redfield. That bullet came out of that twenty-two, and Mr. Gamadge was right about where it was fired from. He was right about those piled turfs, too; they were fresh out of the ground. Any of the people there could have fired that shot, but we can leave Miss Ryder out of it. Unless”—he smiled gloomily—“our men do find any of those red berries on the place nearer than where you all say she picked them.”

“They don't grow on her little place down the hill,” said Gamadge, also smiling a little. “And I don't in any case think she brought them along with her in her pocket.”

“Thank goodness,” said Mosson, who was a lank, tow-headed, normally cheerful man without illusions of any kind. “The thought of Abby Ryder as a murder suspect really is not bearable.”

“She'd play up,” said Gamadge. “And so will I, if you like.”

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