Date Tags stories

The figure in blue overalls to which he referred at once drew every eye. It was not elegant or elegantly disposed, as were the others in that window. And there was something else about it that provoked a sudden shriek, and a flop, from someone in the crowd. Most of the spectators now concentrated on giving the fainting one as little air as possible. The few who remained at the sash window gasped and stared, or shivered. For there is a difference between even the best wax model and the appearance of a dead man beside it. While they shuddered and debated, the bricklayer darted across the road to a policeman and spoke to him energetically.

Then, with the policeman at his heels, he hurried in through the principal door of the great stores. Someone in the meantime had removed the public nuisance, who had fainted, and the rest of the crowd surged back to see the horror. By the time a few more people had fainted and been duly removed, those next to the window saw a door panel open at the back, and the blue-coated policeman passed through it. He was followed into the ‘ballroom’ by an alarmed shopwalker, and, when they had passed through, the supererogatory figure of the bricklayer was framed in the doorway.

There was a hush outside as the constable advanced to the figure in blue overalls, reached out a long arm, and gripped its shoulder. There was a scream as the figure overbalanced and fell down, while the mask came off, and where it had been there was disclosed a face that was quite white, but had no other visible relation to wax, and bore a striking likeness to that of Mr Tobias Mander. Then the shopwalker turned and bellowed something, and, like the safety curtain at a fire in a theatre, the blinds came down with a rush, and blotted out every trace of the tragedy from the public view. The constable was one of those very superior policemen who have joined up since the war. He recognised Mr Mander, and he recognised the nature of the wound which had put an end to that consummate commercial impresario.

With Kephim looking on, he made a rapid but careful survey of the big drawing-room, then passed on to a dining-room that opened out of it. There was nothing in either to suggest a crime, or to hint that a woman had visited it lately. From there they entered the billiard-room, and a study. But Devenish did not linger long at any particular spot. His assistants, when they had finished below, would make a minute search, and photograph whatever was necessary for the exposure of finger-prints. Then they visited four bedrooms, and ended up in a room, with two windows facing to the rear of the Store, one of which was fitted up as a workshop, and the other as a sort of store for metal and spare parts. In the workshop proper, there was a lathe, two benches, various band-saws for cutting metal, and an aero-engine of a rather unusual kind.