THE Big Five at Scotland Yard filled Dick Martin's dining room, waiting for the verdict of the medical man who had been hastily summoned. The doctor came in in a few minutes. "So far as I can tell by a superficial examination," he said, "he's been dead for some hours, and was either strangled or his neck was broken."
In spite of his self - control, Dick shivered. He had slept in the room that night, where, behind the polished door, lay that ghastly secret. "There was no sign of a struggle, Martin?" asked one of the officers.
"None whatever," said Dick emphatically. "I am inclined to agree with the doctor: I should think that he was struck by something heavy and killed instantly. But how they got into the flat. God knows!"
Inquiries of the girl who worked the night elevator were unsatisfactory, because she could remember nobody having come into the flat after Dick had gone out.
The six detectives made a minute examination of the premises.
"There's only one way he could have come in," said Sneed when the inspection was over, "and that is through the kitchenette."
There was a door in the kitchen leading to a tiny balcony, by the side of which ran an outside service lift, used, as Dick explained, to convey tradesmen's parcels from the courtyard below, and worked from the ground level by a small handle and winch.
"You don't remember if this kitchen door was bolted?" asked Sneed.
The troubled young man explained that he had not been in the kitchen after his return on the previous night. But his housekeeper, who was hovering tearfully in the background, volunteered the information that the door was open when she had come that morning.
Dick looked down into the yard. The flat was sixty feet from the ground, and although it was possible that the intruder had climbed the ropes of the service lift, it seemed a feat beyond the power of most burglars.
"He gave you no indication as to who the man was he feared?" asked Sneed, when the rest of the Yard officers had gone back to headquarters.
"No," Dick shook his head. "He told me nothing. He was scared, and I'm sure his story was perfectly true - namely, that he was engaged to rob a grave, and that he had an idea that the man who made the engagement would have killed him if he had succeeded in his task."
Dick went down to Lincoln's Inn Fields that morning and had an interview with Mr Havelock, who had already read the account in the evening newspapers, though Lew's strange story was suppressed by the police even at the inquest.
"Yes, I was afraid this might interfere with our plans, but I'm not particular to a week or two, and if you must remain behind for inquiries, I will still further extend the period. Though in a sense the matter is urgent, it is not immediately so."
There was a conference of Yard officials, and it was agreed that Dick should be allowed to leave England immediately after the inquest, unless an arrest was made, on the understanding that he was to keep in touch with headquarters, so that, should the murderer be found, it would be possible for him to return to give evidence at the trial. This arrangement he conveyed to Mr Havelock.
The inquest was held on the Friday, and, after Dick's evidence, adjourned for an indefinite period. On the Saturday morning at twelve o'clock he left England, on the wildest chase that any man had ever undertaken. And behind him, did he but know it, stalked the shadow of death.