Case without a Corpse
“And I’m beginning to agree with her,” said Stute, as we gratefully breathed fresh air again.
“Oh, come,” I said, “you’ve got another detail in your time-table. You know now that young Rogers came in while his uncle was having his evening stroll, and went out again presumably on foot.”
“Presumably, but not certainly. Remember that old Rogers describes him as coming in at eight o’clock, with his oilskins wet and muddy. Is one to suppose that he went out wearing those oilskins, but on foot? They’d be pretty trying to walk about in.”
“But on a wet night.”
“Well, we shall see. At least we know that he did come in between 6.30 and 7.0 and that he brought his motor-bike into the yard behind the shop.”
Stute left us soon after that, in none too good a temper. He seemed irritated, not so much because he had failed to solve the case, but because he had been baffled by a matter which had seemed so obvious. He could never forget that to the Yard it had at first not seemed worth investigation, that Beef had actually been told to clear it up himself. And he still could not reconcile himself to the fact that after these weeks of investigation he was still eluded not by a murderer but by a murder.
Beef suggested a game of darts that evening, and when we reached the Dragon we were met with still more discouraging news.
“George has turned up again, wheezed Sawyer across the counter to us.
“Who’s George?” I asked Beef.
“’Is brother, wot ’ad cleared out to escape ’is wife,’’ Beef explained.
“Yes, poor chap,” said Mr. Sawyer, I went over there yesterday and found him back in harness. It seemed she put his photo in the paper and the people where he was working saw it and it was all up with him.”
Secretly I had had a fancy for Mr. Sawyer’s brother as the person murdered by Rogers, so that it wasn’t hard for me to disguise my disappointment by an exaggerated sympathy with the returned prodigal.
“What a shame!” I said.
“You’re right. It is a shame,” said the publican. “She’s giving him no end of a time now she has got him back. When I was over there yesterday he didn’t dare stick his head out of the door without her being after him with that tongue of hers. You ought to hear her. And one of his men’s left who’d been with him for twelve years, because he said he couldn’t stand the way she’s been on to him while George was away.”
“It’s not right,” said Beef.
It’s not right,” agreed the publican, with even more emphasis. “She’s not much better with me. Got on to me as soon as I got there yesterday for helping George when he went off. Of course she’d got it out of him where he’d got the money from. You should have heard how she went for me over it. Ought to be in prison she said, for helping a man to desert his wife. I was as bad as George, she said. Then she started on about keeping a public house and all that.”
“And wot did you say?” asked Beef.
“Me? Well, for George’s sake I didn’t say much. It would only have made her worse with him after I’d gone. It turns out he’s been in London, and got work almost at once on a building job in Highgate somewhere. Only the silly chap went and give his own name when they asked him, and there you are. He says he was as comfortable as anything where he was, nice rooms and that, and if he wanted to go out for half an hour in the evening there was no one to say he shouldn’t.”
“What time did he leave here?” asked Beef thoughtfully.
“Yes. On the night he pushed off, I mean?”
“Well, I told you. ’E came in to borrow . . .”
“Yes, I know. But wot time did ’e leave the town, I mean?”
“Oh, I can’t tell you that.”
“I should like to know, though.”
“Why? You’re not trying to mix him up in this murder business, are you? Because if so I can tell you right away you’re talking silly—George wouldn’t hurt a fly, and if he was going to do anyone in we all know who it would be.”
Beef became pompous. “I ’ave to make my enquiries,” he said, “without respect for persons or private feelings. I shall probably ’ave an interview with your brother before long.”
“Well, go ahead and have it. And I hope she’s there, that’s all. I’d like to see her face when a policeman comes to the door, straight I would. I wouldn’t mind coming over to Claydon to see it for myself.”
“It’ll be with ’im I shall want to talk,” returned Beef solemnly.
Mr. Sawyer waddled off to serve someone on the other side of the bar, and I turned to Beef.
“Have you really any suspicions in this case?” I asked.
“I’m beginning to ’ave a h’inkling,” he returned. “One thing I’ll tell you, I don’t know no more than you do. I ’aven’t seen nothink nor ’eard nothink, wot you don’t know of. All I’ve got is an idea of wot may ’ave ’appened. And if you’d thought it out same as I ’ave you’d see just as much. Only . . .” he pulled at his ginger moustache and I really began to think he was getting conceited, “only, it takes training to solve anythink like this. Training, see? Not being in the police you couldn’t ’ardly be expected to’ve done it.”
“Why hasn’t Stute, then?” I asked quickly. “He’s had training enough, surely?”
Beef shook his head. “It’s all these modern methods wot confuses those chaps,” he said sadly, “Vucetich System, and Psy . . . Sy . . .”
“That’s it—Sickology. And tracing this, that and the other. And analysis and wot not. I go on wot I been taught.”
“Well, if you listen to wot I’m going to tell you, you’ll be able to solve these eases same as I do. Specially this case, which never needed no more than wot I know. First of all, when you find something connected with it wot you can’t account for, you puzzle it out, and puzzle it out, till you do, see? That’s the first thing. And the next thing is to believe nothink of wot you ’ears and only ’arf of wot you sees.”
“Do you mean that our witnesses have been lying?”
“Not necessary. I mean things aren’t always wot they appear to be.”
“Well. Go on.”
“That’s about all I can explain. The rest’s just experience. Police experience. You need that. Just like in this case. I don’t say I know the answer. I’ve got a lot to make sure of before I can say that. But I’ve got a pretty good idea. Whereas you’re all at sea. Why? No police training, that’s all. You’ve seen and ’eard everythink just as I ’ave. And don’t forget that if you make a book about it like you did about that other turn-out, don’t you go and make it appear as though I kept somethink up my sleeve. I know no more than wot you do. Only I know ’ow to put it together and make somethink of it.”
“Well, Sergeant. I shall be the first to congratulate you if you’ve got anywhere near the truth. But I can’t help feeling that Sawyer’s brother was your last chance.”
“Sawyer’s brother?” Beef laughed. “Why you didn’t think it was ’im young Rogers did for? Well, I’m blowed. You don’t ’arf swallow somethink. Why I could have told you that it wasn’t ’im weeks ago.”
“Then it must have been the foreigner.”
“Wot foreigner? Oh yes. I know ’oo you mean. Well, I shouldn’t bet on that if I was you.”
“Then I suppose you’re going to say that there wasn’t a murder at all?”
“Oh, no,” said Beef quite seriously. “I wasn’t going to say that. There was a murder, all right, and don’t you forget it.”