Case without a Corpse, Chapter Twenty-Seven

Case without a Corpse


But the last word for Stute came next morning in the shape of an air mail budget from Buenos Aires with a whole row of impressive looking Argentine stamps on it, together with an English translation which had been made in London for Stute’s convenience.
“I wonder what your ‘esteemed colleague’ has to say this time,” I said, when Galsworthy brought the thing in.
Stute rarely indulged in unnecessary conversation, and was soon studying the English document with a faint frown on his forehead.  When he had finished he handed it across to me.
“Esteemed friend,” it ran,
I thank you for your amiable communication.  I was delighted to note from it that you are good enough to express some praise for our system of fingerprint identification, and to hear that the information which we were most fortunately able to give you was of some service to you in your intricate and profound researches.  It is always a cause of pleasure to us to find that our system enables us to assist where other systems, however excellent in their way, could not do so.
Since I had the honour of writing to you there have been a number of developments in the case in our territory of which I think you should immediately be made aware.  Not having the benefit of your full confidence in this matter we are unable to judge of the extent to which our information will serve you but we are giving you the details here with in the supposition that you may find them useful.—
We have succeeded in identifying and arresting the persons in Buenos Aires who were engaged in the transportation of cocaine to Great Britain.  They are as follows:  Elias Ipriz (51), Contumelio Zaccharetti Zibar (47), Izaak Moise Barduski (34), Julio Alejandro Carneval (62), John Whitehouse Rigby (44), Jacobi Lazaro Coetho (27).
The subject Ipriz was the proprietor of a pharmacy, the subjects Zibar and Carneval acted as his dispensers and assistants, while the remaining persons were engaged in the difficult process of obtaining and supplying agents for the transport of the drugs.
We have become aware that large sums were placed to the credit of Ipriz through the Paris branch of an international bank, but we are unable of course to give you any information as to the identity of the person or persons who sent these sums in this way.
You will not think, I fervently hope, esteemed friend, that we have been dilatory or negligent in our attempts to obtain this latter information.  We realized very soon that if we were able to notify you of the identity of the purchaser of these drugs, the information would be of the greatest use to you not only in your pursuit of the criminals who are engaged in drug-smuggling, but possibly also in your investigation of the matter of the subject Alan Rogers, about whose confession of murder we have been able to read.
But it has been to no avail.  We have questioned each of the prisoners, and used the most rigorous methods possible for the eliciting of information.  But each has ardently professed that he was unaware of the identity of the person to whom they were sent.  An agent of this person arrived in the city as many as twelve years ago and arranged the matter which has continued uninterrupted since then.  The messengers were stewards on various boats, two of whom, if not all of whom, it appears, were ignorant of the contents of the packets they carried, and knew only that on handing them over in England they would receive a certain sum.  We believe that there were at least two other stewards engaged in this work, but unless it is by chance we are not likely ever to identify them.  Rogers was the only one of the men known to our prisoners by name.
Everything therefore points to the existence in your territory of a powerful person or persons who have been for years engaged in this traffic, and it is indeed fortunate that through the foresight and swift action of one of our investigating officers we were able to discover that the subject Alan Rogers was employed by this person or persons to collect the drugs from here.  It is our ardent hope, and indeed our conviction, that through the brilliant work of your department the criminals in England may now be unmasked, and the whole criminal traffic be brought summarily to a close.
But besides the need to convey to you the above information, I have another reason for giving myself the pleasure of addressing you now.  It is to report the return to Buenos Aires from England of my colleague the Subcomisario Heriberto Anselmi Dominguez who had been engaged in this case.  The Subcomisario Dominguez was deputed by me, with ratification from the Sub-Jefe de Policia, to proceed to Europe as a passenger on the ship on which the subject Alan Rogers was employed as a steward.
It was my wish that Rogers should be observed during his leave in England in the hope that it would be possible to discover to whom he handed the drugs he carried.  You may wonder, my dear friend, why we did not immediately notify you of our suspicions in this matter, and of the steps which we were taking to confirm them.  Our reason was simply that it is our policy in these matters to complete our case as far as possible by our own efforts before making an arrest.
At this point I could not repress a smile.  And Stute seeing to what point I had reached, joined me.
“Yes,” he said, “they wanted the credit all right.  They were going to come out with a sensational arrest of young Rogers when he returned to Buenos Aires, and have a complete case for us, including the receivers our end.  I can almost sympathize with them.  It’s bad luck that Rogers should have committed suicide at that point.”
“Very,” I said.
“But there’s worse luck than that.  Read on.
The Subcomisario Dominguez was unable to follow Rogers from the boat, as there was some confusion at the time of disembarkation.  But being determined to carry out his difficult task with all his recognized ability, he discovered from the officers of the steamship company by which Rogers was employed his address in the town of Braxham, and proceeded there by train on the morning of Tuesday, February 21st.  Unwilling to make any enquiry at the home of Rogers, he had no remedy but to hold himself in the principal street of the town in the hope that he might observe the man he sought.  But knowing that Rogers had the habits of an alcoholic addict, he remained principally in the neighbourhood of the largest hotel.
During the late afternoon his patience and vigilance were rewarded for he observed Rogers in the company of a young lady whom he described with enthusiasm as possessing all the charm and beauty of the famously lovely English blonde.  For the rest of that day he was able to follow the movements of the man Rogers who returned to his own address alone at 11.30 p.m.  The Subcomisario waited until midnight, and then, convinced that Rogers would not again emerge, sought a lodging.  But at this point he suffered a great disillusion for he discovered that by an Act of Parliament the various hotels close their doors at 10 o’clock, and that now at midnight the entire town was within doors and seemingly asleep.  The Subcomisario describes his emotions on this discovery with some vividness and a warmth which reflects rather strongly on the measures of your doubtless sagacious politicians.  He appears to have spent the night in the shelter of a bandstand in a public park, suffering considerably from the ferocity of the weather.
On the next day, the Wednesday, however, the Subcomisario with relentless determination returned to his duties, and saw the man Rogers emerge from the shop at which he lived.  The time was approximately 10.30.  The man was on a motor-bicycle.  Again at 2.20 the Subcomisario, at his observation point near the most important drinking-house of the town, saw Rogers enter with a middle-aged man, and followed them into the bar.  Such was their air of guilt, and so rapid was their exit when they saw him, that the Subcomisario is convinced that the elder man was involved in the traffic in noxious drugs.  He followed the two of them, saw the older go towards the railway station, and Rogers take his motor-bicycle from the grounds of a private hotel nearby.
He did not again see the subject Alan Rogers until some time after eight o’clock that evening when he saw him making once again for the Mitre Hotel.  The Subcomisario remained outside for some minutes and saw the blonde girl, whom he describes with a lyric ardour, approaching the hotel alone.  He is surprised at this as his experiences have hitherto been limited to his own country where it would be highly unusual for a young lady to enter a bar, least of all unaccompanied.  However, she had scarcely entered when a number of people began to emerge chattering excitedly.  The Subcomisario had not a great enough command of your delightful if complex language to gather what was the cause of their emotion, however.
Soon the young lady herself emerged, assisted by an older and heavier woman, and evidently suffering from some considerable strain.  The Subcomisario raised his hat and asked courteously the cause of the excitement, but was met by an angry retort.  He had therefore no alternative but to remain in the vicinity of the hotel until the man he was watching should appear.  In spite of the arrival and departure of a number of persons, all seeming under some stress, he saw no sign of Rogers until very late in the night, when to his astonishment he saw the man borne out by the publican and another elderly person of rather unintelligent aspect whom he reluctantly identified as the local Sergeant of Police.  A further person was with them, but the Subcomisario was unable to decide on his identity or connection with the matter.
He was able, however, to follow this cortège into the yard at the back of the hotel, and to see Rogers placed on a settee in a bare room.  He concealed himself in the urinal while the bearers entered the house.  He was under the impression that Rogers was inebriated but considered it his duty to confirm this belief.  He waited therefore until the household was asleep, then entered by the window of the room in which Rogers lay, finding the catch of the window of a type which he describes as constructed for the benefit of intending burglars.  He had just made the discovery that the subject Alan Rogers was dead when he was disturbed by the approach of someone from the room above, whose clumsy attempt to cross the floor unheard had been only too clear to him.  He left the premises, slept for an hour or two in the bandstand afore-mentioned, and returned to London by an early train.  He was then confined to his room with a severe attack of influenza due to exposure and under-nourishment.  He congratulated himself that he did not contract pneumonia.
All these details, dear friend, I give you in the hope that they may assist your investigation, though I feel that by the time you receive this your researches will have terminated successfully.
Allow me to salute you attentively, 
Your colleague and friend,
“Well,” I remarked, not very intelligently perhaps, “that about settles it.  Everything complete except a murder.  It all fits in like a jig saw.  Fairfax, Smythe, Sawyer, the foreigner all accounted for.  What now?”
Stute slammed on his hat rather viciously.  “Only one thing for it,” he said.  “I must go to the Yard and report.”