Case with Ropes and Rings
However, I did not waste that time in which the conversation of Beef was suspended. Rather the contrary. I followed my usual custom of making a mental list of suspects and considering the possibilities of each of them. I often think that if Beef were more methodical in this kind of way he would arrive at his conclusions more quickly than he does. In this case I thought as follows:
Herbert Jones. The reasons for suspecting him were only too obvious. The man was desperate and, as I privately considered, not altogether sane. He could well be the mysterious stranger who had arrived at the White Horse that evening since Freda did not know Jones by sight. Again, it was quite possible that Lord Alan Foulkes was the young man who was blackmailing him. He would not have been doing it with the usual spirit of the blackmailer, but as a sort of joke, until the evening when Hadlow told him that he needed money. Whereupon Alan may well have thought of Herbert Jones, and decided to help his brother out at the Housemaster’s expense. It was not difficult to imagine, with a man of Jones’ character, things by which Alan had achieved his hold on him, and I was tempted to follow this line of argument by the fact that Alan had rung up his brother from a call-box in Gorridge at ten-thirty that evening. Where else, I wondered, could he have had any prospect of securing money that he could post straight away? Then again, there would be nothing very odd about Jones meeting him in the gymnasium to hand over what he had promised. But my strongest reason of all was a less logical one. I could imagine him doing it.
Barricharan. Again the possibilities were chiefly by instinct. When the young Indian had spoken in that indifferently amiable way about Alan, I had felt that it concealed some other emotion I could not name. He had a certain inscrutability, which I supposed was proper to his race, but which made me feel that anything might be expected from him—an act of great heroism or one of savagery. There were no clues or circumstances, so far as I knew, however, which made the suggestion more reasonable than that.
Felix Caspar. Now this seemed the most improbable of all. But I did not feel my list would be complete without Caspar’s name on it. He had been so closely associated with Alan that I had to include him. This murder—if murder it was—must be, I felt, some form of crime passionné. It must have been done out of revenge, hatred, or jealousy, for there was so little to gain otherwise that I could scarcely imagine anyone cutting off that young life for the sake of it (unless, as we had seen, it was Jones escaping from the blackmailer’s hold). I had no reason to suspect Caspar. Nothing that he had said suggested that he had anything to do with the crime. I doubted, in fact, if he were physically capable of strangling the other boy, even if it had been done, as it would appear to have been done, from behind. There might be some of the fierce jealousy of the intellectual for the nobler and more popular qualities of the other young man, though one could scarcely imagine that such an emotion could be strong enough.
Alfred Vickers. This dour, brutish man, I felt, might well be a murderer as far as his character went, and there were other possibilities which gave colour to this supposition. He was obviously in love with Freda, and violently jealous of young Alan’s success with the barmaid. Then again, he would have keys to the gymnasium. He was very obviously physically capable of the crime. He had been at the boxing that evening, and at the public-house afterwards. I privately put his name very far forward on my list of suspects, and determined to say nothing to Beef about this, for the fact that I suspected the man was enough to make the Sergeant pass him over.
Lord Hadlow. I felt that with a young man of this type anything was possible. I detest the West End jeunesse dorée, and remembered recent cases of violent robbery by people of exactly the type described as “Mayfair’s young men.” Also, we knew that he had been down that evening, and we had only his word for it that he had returned to London immediately after the fight. It was quite on the cards that his story of a telephone call from his brother was a complete fabrication, and that he had obtained the money by other means. Being an old boy, he would know his way about the school, and would probably have thought of some means of persuading Alan into the gym. at the time. Possibly the time of his return to London could be fixed by enquiries at his flat, but I decided to let Beef go his own way. I have learned not to make suggestions to him, for they all too frequently produce obstinacy In the Sergeant.
Danvers. Danvers, on his own admission, was actually the last person who knew of Alan alive. He said that Alan called out to him on his way back from the town that evening, while he was in bed with influenza. Who could say that the influenza was not an elaborate blind, and that the old man had actually been waiting for Lord Alan when he reappeared? As for motive, again this seemed extremely flimsy, but I could believe that years of unimaginative baiting by someone of Alan’s character had produced in the old porter a resentment so savage that he was capable of going to any lengths to avenge himself.
I came then to the almost inconceivable people whose names I had to include because they were at least on the spot and at least possibilities, however remote. There was, for instance, the Headmaster, fantastic though it was to imagine that an aloof and Christian gentleman could be guilty of an act so violent and low. Then again, Lord Edenbridge himself. If I suspected Lord Hadlow of fratricide, I saw no reason to exclude the Marquess from at least a possibility of guilt. I left all women out of the way as being incapable physically of the act in itself, Freda, Mrs. Jones and the Matron. It could not very well be thought of in this connection, for how in the world could any one of them have strangled the boy and afterwards pulled his body up by the rope over the beam? But Stringer’s name I felt should be added, if for no other reason than that it was he who found the body. Finally, I came to my brother.
I had put off consideration of his name till the last, for it produced a difficult ethical problem. A detective’s chronicler was, as I understood it, by duty bound to consider every possibility. Should a family tie interfere in such a matter? I felt that it should not, that art should come before blood relationship. So, without dwelling on the matter too dramatically, I let Vincent’s name be on my list. By the time I had completed this I found that we were already in the suburbs.