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ANONYMOUS

THE MARKED HAND

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Ex Libris

First published in
Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, 19 June 1909

Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand, 7 August 1909 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-11-08
Produced by Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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I

BLAKE had run down to Marstingham for a week-end holiday. He had put up at the Norfolk, and was just enjoying his first mouthful of lunch, when a waiter came over and whispered in his ear that the manager would like to see him at once. Blake followed the man out, and found Paillard, the manager, looking very pale and excited.

"This way—this way!" he said, clutching Blake's sleeve and dragging him out of earshot of the attendants. "It is terrible—terrible! And in the busiest part of the season, too! What shall I do?"

"My good Paillard, if you were to start to tell me what someone else has done—I suppose someone has done something—we might be able to get on!"

"What has someone done? They have died—here, in my hotel, in the busiest month in the year! There will be enquiry; scandal; my customers will go!"

"Died?" said Blake.

"Well, then, you must send for a doctor."

"I have sent—yes, he is here waiting. It is the poor Mrs. Fotheringay—very handsome lady, very rich. You shall see!"

"But what can I do?"

"You can arrange so that there shall be no leak-out, no scandal!"

As he spoke he beckoned to a young man who was awaiting them farther down the corridor—evidently the doctor—and then proceeded to unlock a door.

They entered a fair-sized room. At a table near one of the windows was seated the huddled form of a woman. She had evidently been writing, and had fallen forward across the table. One arm—the left—was folded beneath her; the other lay limply on the table, the pen close to the nerveless fingers. She was dressed as though ready to go out; a splendid sable coat lay loosely across her shoulders.

The doctor laid a slim finger on the nerveless pulse, tried the flexibility of the wrist, and shook his head. Then he stooped to examine the down-drooping face; and Blake, seeing him arch his eyebrows involuntarily in surprise, looked also.

Mrs. Fotheringay had been an undeniably handsome woman of about thirty-seven; but now the features were drawn and distorted, as though by some terribly sharp spasm of pain, the mouth half open and twisted, and the nostrils pinched and drawn.

The doctor examined the eyes, and looked puzzled.

"When was she first discovered?" he asked.

"Barely five—six minutes ago. A servant came in, found her—thought she was in a faint, and ran to me. I send at once for you, monsieur, and for Monsieur Blake; for I touch her on the shoulder so, and know she is dead. Then I lock the door and wait till you come."

"She was just like this?"

"Yes; no one have touched her but I, just lightly on the shoulder so."

The doctor looked at Blake.

"This is rather queer," he said. "I don't believe she has been dead more than a quarter of an hour at the outside. It looks like a case of heart failure, and yet there is something in the face the distortion of the features."

Blake nodded.

"Well, there will have to be a postmortem, of course," continued the doctor; "so the sooner we can move her upstairs, whilst people are still at luncheon, the better."

"Paillard is anxious to avoid publicity as far as possible," asserted Blake; and gently raised the bowed head and shoulders.

As he did so he exposed the left hand to view. The back of it was uppermost, as it lay along the edge of the writing-table. Probably she had been using it to steady the paper as she wrote, for there was a half-finished letter and a ready-directed envelope on the table. Woman-like, she had addressed the envelope before completing the letter. But it was the hand itself which attracted Blake's attention; for, deeply impressed on the back of it, there was a livid, indented mark, of a peculiar shape, so clear that every detail was easily traceable.

He passed his finger lightly across it, stared at it again more attentively, and then began making an examination of the front of the dead woman's blouse.

"You say that you are positive that no one touched the body after death but you yourself, in the manner you described, Paillard?"

"Certain, monsieur!"

"Well, then, I can tell you that the body has not been only touched, but it has been robbed since death."

"Robbed! But how—of what?"

"There are valuable rings on her fingers," said the doctor; "and, if I'm any judge of stones, those pearls round her neck are worth a couple of years of my practice, to say nothing of her earrings and sables!"

"All the same, I repeat that she has been robbed, and there is the proof of it," said Blake? pointing to the hand; "and if she has been robbed, why not worse—why not worse?"

He fingered the dead woman's sables absently; it struck him as curious that she should have been wearing them. Outside, on the sea front, as a protection against a sudden chill wind, yes; but here, in the room, surely she would have flung them over the back or arm of her chair till she was ready for her walk?

Acting on a sudden impulse, he removed them, and as he did so Paillard and the doctor cried out. Blake alone remained silent, for he had half expected what they saw.

Well below the left shoulder was an angry, dark blotch on the creamy lace—a stain no larger than half-a-crown; but it told its own tale. Blake ripped the lace with the blade of his pocket-knife, and probed with his finger. It touched the jagged end of metal.

"She was stabbed from behind with a long, finely-tempered stiletto, hardly thicker than a woman's hatpin," he said; "and the blade was broken off short to staunch the bleeding. It must have been long enough to penetrate well into the heart, for death was instantaneous. Paillard, you must send for the police at once: the doctor and I will attend to what has to be done here. Above all things, let there he as little fuss as possible, and no one must know that a crime has been committed. Make out that it is a seizure or something. The doctor will back you up for the time-being."

Paillard hurried away, and Blake locked the door behind him. Then, taking a piece of paper and a pencil, he made detailed measurements of the indented mark on the woman's hand, and drew a diagram of it to scale.

"The crime," said Blake, "was committed by someone in the hotel—by someone who had had an opportunity of studying Mrs. Fotheringay closely, and who, I fancy, knew something of her history, whatever that may be."

"Why?"

"The windows face the front, which is crowded; and, in any case, they are inaccessible. The murderer must have come in by the door. This is a small hotel. The corridors are always under observation, the one leading into this especially so, for Paillard and some of the waiters were hanging about there. A strange face would have been noticed instantly, even supposing a stranger could have passed the hall-porter unnoticed. As to the poor woman's history, the address on this envelope may enlighten us. The unfinished letter is to a woman friend and is merely full of trivialities. The envelope, as yon see, is addressed to 'Madame Castillon, Rue Fouquet, Paris.' I think I'll leave you in charge and go round to the telegraph-office. I have several wires to send, and in this case every hour saved may be of importance."

II

NEITHER Paillard nor the doctor saw Blake again till dinner-time: in fact, after visiting the telegraph-office he had gone straight to town, and returned only just in time to dress for the evening meal.

He asked, on his way to the restaurant, whether any telegram had arrived for him, and was handed rather a bulky, orange-colored envelope. The contents of this he read over twice carefully: then he stuffed the flimsy sheets into an inner pocket, and went in to dine.

He occupied, at his own request, a small table near the door, and commanding a fair view of the room, and from behind an evening paper, propped against a bottle of wine, he took careful stock of his fellow-diners. He was still sitting there when the last of the visitors trooped out to enjoy their liqueurs on the terrace. Then, and not till then, he rose and sought out Paillard.

"I want yon to send for Dr. Hansom," he said: "also for the sergeant in charge of the case, and two plain-clothes men. Place them in that inner room there and leave the door ajar. Meanwhile, I want the key of Room 35, or your master-key. I suppose you have one?"

Paillard handed over his master-key, and signified his readiness to carry out the further orders implicitly. Blake merely nodded, and announced his intention of returning in a few minutes.

As a matter of fact, nearly a quarter of an hour elapsed before he put in an appearance, and Paillard was a fidgety heap of nervous agitation. Blake handed him back his master-key and produced a silver cigarette-case, which he placed on the table.

"Paillard," he said, "send a waiter to the occupier of Room 35. Tell him to say that a cigarette-case has been found which is believed to be his, and that you will be glad if he would come and see if he can identify it. I'll return as soon as he arrives."

And he slipped out of the room.

Three minutes later there came a tap at the door, and a small, dark man entered. He walked with a slight limp of the right leg, and, though wearing pince-nez, it was evident that his left eye was slightly defective.

"You have found a cigarette-case belonging to me?" he said enquiringly.

"It was brought to me," said Paillard; "and if you, monsieur, would examine it, and tell me it is yours—"

He completed the sentence with an expressive shrug. The newcomer glanced at the case and made as though to feel in his pockets.

"I was sure—" he began, and stopped abruptly as the lock of the door behind him clicked sharply. Blake had entered unperceived, turned the key on the inside, and withdrawn it.

"Good-evening, Bompard!" he said quietly. The man so addressed drew in a little hissing breath, and glanced at him evilly.

"I beg to inform you that my name is Raphael!"

"And was Bompard—quite so," said Blake pleasantly. "Ransom and the rest of you," he added, raising his voice, "come in, please. Sergeant, you will arrest this man Bompard on the charge of this morning murdering Mrs. Fotheringay!"


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.