Harvard Has a Homicide
AMATEUR though he was, Jupiter Jones — the eccentric graduate student who discovered Albert Singer’s body — had certain advantages over Sergeant Rankin of the Cambridge police when it came to following up clues and finding motives in the murder of the celebrated Fine Arts professor. For Jupiter could work from the inside: he knew Arthur and Connie Fairchild, for instance, and Professor Hadley, — three of the suspects in the case, — so that he was more readily convinced than the detective of their innocence. But Fitzgerald, the visiting portraitist, was another matter — and Miss Slade, Singer’s secretary, whose reticence and mysterious behavior after her hysterical accusation of Fitzgerald had become increasingly significant. However, Jupiter could scarcely take all the credit, since without the skillful observations of Betty Mahan, pretty and engaging librarian at the Fogg Museum, — and almost Jupiter’s single pretext for ever visiting that institution, — all his suspicions and well-laid plan of action might have come to nothing. . . .
JUPITER was dressing. After the Slade interview he had decided some exercise would be in order and he had played squash with Bob Berrings. There was still no news from the Sergeant.
He went out, got his car, and picked up Betty. She had on a neat little hat and coat. She was n’t quite a blonde.
‘ Lovely as always,’ said Jupiter.
‘How hangs the horrible Harvard homicide?’
‘How long did it take you to think that up?’ he grinned.
By the time they had reached Locke Ober’s and Jupiter had ordered the meal and cocktails she was up to date.
‘Did you see Miss Slade?’
He nodded. ‘Reticent is the word for Slade.’ Betty frowned. ‘I think Miss Slade knows something.’
‘I think she thinks she knows something,’ Jupiter qualified.
’The same old psychoanalyst,’ sneered Betty. ‘Are n’t you afraid of Freud?’
He disregarded her. ‘Let me see that piece of newspaper you found.’
She handed it to him. ‘I don’t see why you want to see it. There’s nothing except a date.’
He looked at it. ‘Nothing but the date, but it’s from the Herald.’
She was startled. ‘How do you know that?’
He smiled condescendingly. ‘From the type, darling.’
‘You’re marvelous,’ she cooed. ‘So what?’
‘So we can find the story that goes with it.’
‘Granted that you can find the paper, how will you know what story goes with it?’
‘I may be able to recognize it.’
‘H’m,’ she mused, cocking her eyebrow. ‘Let’s find that paper.’
Jupiter held up his hand. ‘All in good time. The surroundings are very pleasant here and I’m loath to leave. ’
‘Look me in the eye, Jupiter,’ she said seriously. ‘Have you any ideas or even suspicions about the murder?’
‘Why, certainly, I have hundreds.’ Then he saw she was in earnest. ‘To tell the truth, I have n’t, but there are some things I can’t quite make out. Very likely they have nothing to do with it.’
‘And they are?’
‘Odd. Have you ever seen Fitzgerald’s portrait of Singer?’
‘No, why?’ ‘Ever hear anything about it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She set her glass down with a bang. ‘Don’t talk like that. I don’t like you when you’re supercilious. You must have had some reason to ask me that.’
‘Quiet, child,’ he soothed. ‘I meant I did n’t know why you had n’t seen the portrait or heard about it.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, but it did n’t sound like that.’
Jupiter smiled. ‘I did n’t mean it to. However, it is funny that I ’ve never seen it or heard about it, and neither has Miss Slade. You’d think a man like Singer, with a portrait by as famous an artist as Fitzgerald, would say something about it. Although Fitzgerald himself told me it was n’t very complimentary.’
‘And all that proves?’
‘Nothing,’ he said, rising. ‘Shall we find that newspaper?’
Jupiter paid the check without blenching and they went out into the night. At the Herald Building he inquired into the whereabouts of old issues. A girl led them to the files. She looked as if she recognized Jupiter in connection with the Singer case.
Just to be safe he said, ‘We ’re looking for a recipe on how to make old Scottish porridge.’
Betty bit her lip.
‘If I remember correctly it was in the March fourth paper,’ said Jupiter.
The girl pointed to a file. ‘It will be there. You can look through them,’
She left as fast as she could.
Jupiter was looking through the paper for March fourth.
Betty laughed. ‘Hey, you’ve got the wrong number — it was March third.’
He did n’t look up. ‘Don’t be dull — stories in newspapers are dated the day before.’
He continued his search. ‘Of course it would help if I had some idea of what to expect. I’m counting on my intuition. How large a clipping was it? A column? Half a column?’
‘Nearer half, I guess; it was n’t very long.’
He was nearing the back page. ’Well, well, we’re lucky — here she is.’
They read it together.
NEW YORK DEALER FINDS FAMOUS PAINTING
Early Titian Turns up in Forgotten Collection
NEW YORK, Mar. 3 (AP) — A painting, purporting to be in the hand of Titian, was found in a collection of otherwise worthless copies by Mark Epstein, noted dealer in rare art works. In an interview, Mr. Epstein said that there could be little doubt that the painting was an original by the famous Venetian Renaissance artist. The subject was an allegorical scene undoubtedly painted during the latter part of the artist’s career. Exhaustive tests by the new X-ray method failed to disclose anything to disprove Mr. Epstein’s belief that the work was original. Among the other paintings which are said to be remarkable copies of existing works were likenesses of three paintings now in the Fogg Museum at Cambridge. They are a “Crucifixion” by Perugino, a “Madonna” by Lorenzo Lotto, and a portrait of a soldier by Tiepolo. Mr. Epstein would not disclose where he had purchased the collection, but said that they had come from Italy.
Jupiter said, ‘See anything particularly murderous about that?’
Betty sighed, ’No, I’m sorry. You were right about Miss Slade; she tore that up in small pieces just for the hell of it when she saw me in the basement. Do you know, I read that little story when it came out; I’d forgotten all about it.’
Jupiter tore out the clipping and put it in his pocket.
’We ’ll save it, anyway. They won’t miss it. Now if it’s not against your principles we might have a drink.’
They found a quiet bar and sat on stools in front of it.
Betty toyed with her Scotch. ‘Sorry to cause you all the trouble of that newspaper, Jupiter.’
‘No trouble,’ he answered. Then to the bartender, ‘Got a phone, Jack?’
The bartender jerked a thumb toward the back of the room. ‘Pay station,’ he communicated.
Jupiter handed him a dollar, asking for change.
‘Going to make a late date?’ asked Belty, without conviction.
‘I’ll be right back. Look after her, Jack.’
The bartender flashed the bored smile of all good bartenders.
Jupiter dropped a nickel and dialed Information.
‘I have a task for you,’ he told the operator. ‘I want a man in New York City named Epstein — Mark Epstein. There are undoubtedly several Epsteins in New York, but this one’s an art dealer. . . . Yes, person to person. . . . No, call me back. I’ll be here, thanks.’
He slid back on to his stool.
Betty said, ‘It’s a beautiful act, but if I Did n’t have a lot of self-control, I’d poison your drink. Who did you call?’
‘I’m trying to get Mark Epstein,’ he said, sipping.
She opened her eyes very wide. The effect was not lost on the bartender.
‘Not the Mark Epstein of New York?’ she gasped.
‘The very same.’
‘What are you calling him for?’
‘I just want to talk to him. Something’s been missing in my life and I just discovered it was not knowing Mark Epstein.’
Betty spluttered. The telephone bell eased matters.
Jupiter leaped into the booth.
A voice said, ‘I have Mr. Epstein; were you calling him?’
‘Yes, thanks,’ said Jupiter.
‘One dollar and thirty-five cents, please,’ caroled the operator.
The bell tinkled merrily as Jupiter deposited coins.
‘Hello, Mr. Epstein? . . . This is Lieutenant Harrigan of the Cambridge homicide squad.’
He could hear Mr. Epstein swallow. ‘Yes?’
‘I’m investigating the Singer murder at Harvard. Have you heard about it?’
Mr. Epstein said, ‘Er, of course — what can I do for you ? ’
‘There was a story in the paper about ten days ago about a collection of pictures you had found in Italy.’
‘In that collection were some copies of paintings now in the Fogg Museum in Cambridge. Are you sure the ones in your collection are copies?’
Mr. Epstein took his time before answering. ’That seems a queer question. Is there any reason why they should n’t be copies?’
‘I’m asking you, Mr. Epstein, if you’re sure yours are copies?’
‘Yes, I’m sure,’ he answered.
‘Have you made tests?’
’Of course. All my pictures go through the same tests. They are very excellent copies, nothing more.‘
‘ Have you ever seen the paintings now in the Fogg?’
‘Yes, several years ago.’
‘Did you study them?’
‘I don’t see what you ’re getting at, Lieutenant. I did n’t study them, but I naturally took it for granted they were genuine. There must be authorities there who can tell. I can’t understand why you called me.’
Jupiter gritted his teeth. ‘Please remember, Mr. Epstein, that I am a police officer and would n’t call you without reason. I’m interested to know where your collection was procured.’
Mr. Epstein coughed. ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t answer that question. The former owner in Italy specified that I was n’t to give out that information.’
‘I don’t have to remind you that this is an investigation into a murder,’ said Jupiter as seriously as he could.
‘I realize that, Lieutenant, but the source from which I get my paintings has nothing to do with a murder. I will try and help all I can, but I cannot disclose a business secret. If you will give me some hint as to what you’re trying to learn I’ll be glad to help you.’
‘Don’t bother. Thank you very much, Mr. Epstein. I may call you again.‘
Jupiter hung up.
‘Damn,’ he said. ‘Anyway, I doubt if brother Mark gets much sleep to-night.’
He went back to the bar.
‘Well, what did you find out?’
‘Nothing. A blank. But I did n’t expect much.’
He got up. ‘The time has come to ask Fitzgerald some pointed questions. If I was n’t so lazy I ’d go out and see him; as it is, the phone will have to do.’ Fitzgerald was in.
Jupiter said, ‘This is Jones. Do you remember me ? ’
Fitzgerald said yes, he did.
‘The police are about to make an arrest in the Singer case, but, before they do, would you mind telling me how much Singer owed you?’
There was a pause while Fitzgerald got his breath.
‘Will you repeat that?’ he asked weakly.
‘How much Singer owed me?’
‘Yes, that’s it.’
‘ Why in the world do you want to know that?’
’Is there any reason why you should n’t tell me?’
Jupiter said, ‘Let it go. Did you ever hear of Lotto’s “Madonna”?’
There was no reply for a full half minute.
Fitzgerald said, ‘Are you drunk?’
‘I may be.’
‘ Where are you ? ’
‘Why are you calling me?’
‘I was lonely.’
‘I think you’re crazy. The nest time I see Sergeant Rankin I’ll tell him so.’
‘You’ll see him. Good night.’
He hung up and went back to the bar. Betty had never seen him looking so happy.
‘Did you ask him questions?’
‘No, he asked me questions. It was great fun.’
She tipped back on her stool and surveyed him critically. ‘When are you going to tell me what it’s all about?’
‘As soon as I know myself. Let’s go to the Ritz; I like a sumptuous atmosphere when I think.’
Driving to the hotel, Jupiter indulged in some strenuous speculation. His telephone calls to Epstein and Fitzgerald had produced nothing of any value, yet he felt he was on the track of something. Whether it had anything to do with Singer’s murder he did not know. He was sure Rankin would n’t be any help to him at the moment and he saw no reason for getting hold of him. Hadley might help, but that entailed a trip to Cambridge. All in all, he thought, the Ritz Bar is unquestionably the best place for me. Going down the steps into the bar, he saw a familiar face in a corner. It was Renier, the wavy-haired Frenchman.
‘Well, well, just the person who can help me in my troubles.’
‘Who?’ asked Betty, looking for a girl.
Jupiter pointed. ‘The Personage. Come.’
They stopped at the Frenchman’s table. He was alone.
Jupiter said, ‘I owe you an apology for running away so quickly this morning. This is Mr. Renier, Miss Mahan. Miss Mahan, Mr. Renier.’
Renier jumped to his feet and bowed, and said precisely, ‘ Will you not sit down?‘
They sat down.
Jupiter said, ‘Miss Mahan is associated with the Museum. She works there occasionally.’
‘Yes, of course, I remember her,’ said Renier like a true Frenchman.
Jupiter ordered drinks.
Renier said, ‘I did not comprehend your sudden departure this morning. Did you find what you were looking for? The newspapers to-night said no word about the solution of the mystery.’
‘It’s not solved yet,’ answered Jupiter. ‘Are you staying here?’
‘Yes. I leave to-morrow. I am sorry; I have enjoyed Boston so much.’
Jupiter said, ‘I’ve always been interested in how people go about discovering fake paintings, Mr. Renier — you must be quite an authority on that. Could you tell me something about it?’
The Frenchman stopped gazing at Betty. ‘What? Fake paintings? Oh, I see — yes, of course — you mean forgeries. Copies?’
‘Yes. In the case of two paintings of the same subject — if you know one is original, how do you pick the fake?’
‘Oh, that! That is simple, very simple. We make very few mistakes in that to-day. That is, of course, if the copy is new, not painted at the time of the original.’
‘But you hear all the time about fakes that have been made by criminals with the idea of selling them as originals.’
Renier frowned. ‘Yes, that is true. They are clever, some of those fellows, but now with the X-ray we can see through them. Ha, ha! That is good, is it not? We can see through them?’
He continued, ‘Besides the X-ray, we can tell by the pigments. Voilà! Old pigments are not, as you say, affected by alcohol. New ones, ah, they melt. And the canvas! That is another way, also. Machine-built canvas and handmade canvas, they are not alike. But it is hard to tell. It is a very great task, very great. It is for the chemists — they understand the paint. There is much to it. It is — let me see — it is a lifework. A lifework.’
Jupiter said, ‘Then it would take laboratory work to find out if a painting was a fake?’
‘Oh yes. But non. No, if the faker, as you say, was not clever, an expert in such matters could discover in a second if the work was false.’
‘It would take someone who had had lots of experience to turn out a first-class fraud?’
Renier laughed. ‘Oh, yes, yes, yes. I have met these men who devote all their lives to studying one master so that they could make one copy of the work. An ordinary artist could never make a good forgery. Jamais!’
Jupiter sipped his drink thoughtfully.
The Frenchman pulled out his watch. ‘Ah, mon Dieu, it is late. I must retire; I have to catch a train early in the morning.’
He got up,
Jupiter rose with him. ‘Well, thanks a lot, Mr. Renier. This morning you unwittingly gave me a tip and now you’ve helped me some more. If I do solve this case, you’ll know you helped a lot.’
Renier gave a short bow. ‘ Au ’voir, Miss Mahan. Good night, Mr. —er —’
‘Jones — ah yes. Bonsoir, Mr. Jones.’
He tiptoed out of the room.
‘I like his hair. He may be light on his feet, but I like his hair,’ said Betty into her glass.
‘You’re getting to the sentimental stage. It’s a bad sign.’
When they were finishing their second round, Jupiter said suddenly, ‘Would you care to join me in a small robbery?’
She clapped her hands. ‘Oh, goody! A robbery! But, Jupiter, you never told me you were on the Lampoon! ’
‘Very funny. Come on.’
They got up. Jupiter scribbled his name across the back of the check.
They drove out to Cambridge. Jupiter parked the car near the back entrance to the Museum.
‘All set?’ he asked.
Betty whispered, ‘ You re sure your gun s loaded?’
‘Quiet,’ commanded Jupiter.
There was a light shining through a window in the basement; the night watchman with his police dog was sitting inside. Jupiter knocked on the door. The man peered out skeptically. Then he saw Betty. He opened the door.
Betty said, ‘Greetings, Abner. We’ve come to read the gas meter.’
The man’s mouth dropped open as if someone had cut the muscles in his jaw.
Now, Miss Mahan — what do you want?’
’Mr. Jones, here, has a test in Fine Arts to-morrow and he’s forgotten to study the slides. It’s so like him.‘
Jupiter said, ‘Pay no attention to her, Abner; we want to look at Singer’s office.’
They started to walk in. Abner backed away doubtfully. ’I don’t know as I ought, Miss Mahan. I have orders . .
‘Listen, Abner, we just want to see some papers in Singer’s office. I’m working with the police on the murder; it’s perfectly O.K.,’ explained Jupiter.
‘That’s right,’ added Betty. ‘The Sergeant has a bad cold and asked Mr. Jones to carry on for him. Would n’t you like your picture in the paper?’
Abner was swamped by the barrage. ‘Well, as long as you ’re here, Miss Mahan,’ he quavered.
The police dog was n’t as convinced as Abner. He gave a few abortive snarls before the watchman soothed him.
Jupiter said, ‘Did Singer ever work here at night that you can remember?’
Abner scratched his head. ‘Lemme see — I don’t remember ever seeing him.’
‘Not recently?’ said Jupiter. ’Say three weeks or a month ago?’
A light broke over his face. ‘Now that you mention it, he did. About a month ago. Came in about nine — said he had important work to finish. Could n’t wait until morning.’
Jupiter was jubilant. ‘Did he have a bundle with him? Say about this size?’ He made a rough demonstration of a twofoot square.
‘ Yes, he did! Told me he was going to the laboratory.’
‘And he took it out with him?’
‘How long did he stay?’
Abner surveyed the ceiling. ‘I don’t know. Not more’n a half hour.’
‘Did you stay down here all the time?’
‘Sure. Why not?’ He seemed to feel a little guilty.
‘Good,’ said Jupiter. ‘Let’s go up and see his office.’
Abner switched on a light and they walked through the basement. Going up the stairs, their footsteps echoed through the empty building. It was dark on the main floor; the watchman took out a flashlight.
They went through the library and Abner turned on a light in Singer’s office. Jupiter went straight to the desk, opened the drawer, and began going over its contents. No one spoke while he examined every drawer. It took him about five minutes.
‘Can’t find it?’ asked Betty.
Jupiter did n’t look up. ‘Try the files.’
Betty went over to the cabinet against the wall.
Jupiter got up and took Abner aside.
‘Listen, Abner, I’ve got to go to the toilet. Let me borrow your flashlight a minute. You stay here with Miss Mahan; I think she’s a little frightened.’
Abner acquiesced. The spirit of guarding frightened ladies had not died in him.
Jupiter took the flashlight and went out through the library into the hall. The toilet was in the basement, but Jupiter went upstairs to the galleries. He flashed the light on several paintings before he found the one he wanted. The beautifully sad face of Lotto’s ‘Madonna’ in her cool blue robes shone in the light.
He set the fight on the floor and carefully lifted the painting from the wall. Even in the darkness he could see the white spot on the wall where the painting had been. He picked up the light and carried the painting silently down the stairs. When he arrived at the main floor, he kept on down the stairs to the basement. The police dog growled somewhere in the dark. Jupiter flashed the light in his eyes.
‘Nice doggie,’ he said nervously.
The dog was disgruntled, but not belligerent.
Jupiter opened the basement door, went out, and placed the painting gently in an ashcan. Then he went back inside. He ran upstairs and entered Singer’s office. It had taken him three minutes.
Betty looked up curiously from the files.
‘Have you got it?’ asked Jupiter.
She shook her head. ‘No.’
‘ Let me look.’ He went over and opened one of the small drawers. After a couple of minutes he said, ‘Ah!’ and drew out a card. It was a list of Singer’s tutees for the year 1932. He put it in his pocket.
They started to go out. Betty said, ‘You’ve been perfectly grand, Abner. We won’t forget about this.’
At the basement door Abner said,‘You’re sure it’s all right, him taking that paper, Miss Mahan?’
Betty smiled. ‘Don’t you worry, now, everything’s going to come out right in the end.’
They went out. Abner watched them start up the driveway, then turned back into the cellar. Jupiter walked back quickly, took the painting out of the ashcan, and hurried up to the car.
In the car Betty said, ‘Smooth. Every move a picture. Now that you have it, what are you going to do with it?’
He started the motor. ‘Back in town.’
‘Going to let the pretty Frenchman have a look at it? He ’ll be mad if you wake him up.’
‘That’s an idea, but I’ve got a better one. Ever hear of Geoffrey Chalmers?’
She had n’t. On the trip back to Boston he told her about him.
Chalmers was an artist of indeterminate age. He had a studio in the lee of Beacon Hill filled with drawings and paintings that had never been exhibited. Jupiter had met him back in the speak-easy days and Chalmers had taken him to his studio. He had dropped in on him off and on and Chalmers had even given him one of his drawings — a grotesque charcoal of fishing boats done in Brittany. His unaccountable horror of exhibitions had kept him out of the limelight that his few friends thought he deserved. He had made a precarious living out of copying early American paintings for high schools and public buildings. In out-of-the-way places some of these had been accepted as originals.
‘In his way, he’s a genius. Unfortunately the curse of drink is upon him and he has n’t done anything for years,’ Jupiter concluded.
He stopped the car. They got out and walked up a dark flight of stone steps, stopping in front of a grimy doorway. Jupiter walked in without ringing a bell.
‘We’re very informal here. I hope he’s up. It’s the top floor.’
The stairway was both badly lighted and badly ventilated.
At the top of the stairs Jupiter knocked at the door and it was opened by Chalmers. He was a stubby little gray-haired man with short fat hands and fingers.
He said, ‘Ah, Jones, my boy, come in, come in.’
Jupiter introduced Betty and they entered.
The room looked precisely like a movingpicture set of a degenerate artist’s studio. Chalmers pushed a pile of clothes out of a chair.
‘Please sit down, Miss Mahan. You took me unawares to-night, Jones; had I known of your coming, I should have made suitable arrangements. The studio seems to have suffered from the absence of my charwoman to-day.’
Jupiter smiled. The room had n’t been swept for weeks.
Chalmers saw the painting that Jupiter was carrying.
‘Ah, what have you there, my boy?’
Jupiter held up the painting. ’This is the Fogg Museum’s famous Lotto.‘
The artist peered at it. ‘Oh, of course, the “Madonna”—a lovely thing. But where did this come from, Jones?’
‘He stole it,’ explained Betty simply.
‘ Do you think you could tell if this was a fake?’ asked Jupiter.
’My dear fellow, do you mean to say you stole this from the Museum?’ He was aghast.
‘But whatever for?’
‘Heavens!’ said Betty. ‘I don’t think he’s heard about the murder!’
Chalmers was all eyes. ‘Murder? What murder? ’
‘Did n’t you see a paper to-day?’ asked Jupiter.
Chalmers looked from one to the other. ‘Paper? No, I rarely read a newspaper.’
They told him about the murder.
‘And you think this painting has something to do with it?’ asked Chalmers when they had finished.
‘It may,’ said Jupiter. ‘That’s why I wondered if you could tell if it was genuine.’
The artist took out a pair of bent spectacles and put them carefully on his nose. ‘If the authorities at Harvard have been taken in by a fraud, I scarcely think that I shall be able to shed much light on the problem. However . . .‘
He switched on an overhead light and placed the painting delicately on a table. His putty-like hands moved surely like a surgeon cutting an appendix. He placed the gilt frame on the floor and turned the picture in its stretcher to look at the canvas backing. Using a magnifying glass, he examined the wood of the stretcher and the canvas. Betty and Jupiter watched him eagerly.
‘Yes, yes,’ he nodded. ‘Wood’s old, yes
— h’m — canvas seems genuine — can’t tell. Hard to, you know, without a microscope. Don’t need one. Let’s see, now.’ He turned the picture to examine the paint.
Even without the glass, Jupiter could see the tiny rectangular cracks in the paint.
‘See that cracking?’ said Chalmers. ‘Paint cracks that way with time. All paint does it, but you can get the same thing using a varnish. Special antique varnish — buy it in a store — used it myself hundreds of times. Proves nothing. Make a test now
— only thing I can do. I’m not a chemist
— know nothing about pigments, really. Does n’t matter. Most forgers use the same pigments that were common at the time of the original.’
He straightened up, walked to a cabinet that was filled with paint tubes and brushes stiff with dried pigment, and returned with a bottle and a piece of waste.
He held up the bottle. ‘Alcohol. Pity to waste it on this, eh, Jones? Won’t use much. See if the paint is old. Simple test, but effective.’
’Yes,’said Jupiter, ‘I’ve heard of it.’
Chalmers soaked the waste in alcohol and began rubbing it gently over a small corner of the picture. Then he held up the rag. It was tinted a light brown; the color of the paint where he had rubbed was a dark blue. He frowned.
‘Just the varnish. It would come off anyway.’
Betty said, ‘If, by any chance, you’re wrong about this, Jupiter, you’re going to have fun explaining to the authorities.
‘Oh, no. You took all the responsibility. Don’t you remember telling Abner?’
Chalmers interrupted. ‘That does n’t necessarily prove that the paint is old, my friends. A thin coat of size between the paint and the varnish would protect the paint from the alcohol. A chemist could tell us whether or not such a coat has been applied in this case. However . . .’ He spread his hands hopelessly. ’I am not a chemist.‘
Jupiter said, ‘H’m —you don’t know of any other way you could tell if the painting was a fake?’
‘Surely, there are many ways. But you see we have only this one painting to go on. We have nothing to compare it with. Laboratory tests could tell us, but I have no laboratory.’
‘That would take a hell of a lot of time,’ mused Jupiter.
‘There is a way,’ said Chalmers, ‘but unfortunately it would damage the painting slightly.’
‘I could scrape down a small portion of the paint and then apply the alcohol. That would prove conclusively if the paint was old, but it would leave rather an unsightly spot on the canvas, I’m afraid.’
Jupiter licked his lips. ‘How large a spot?’
‘About two inches square would do it, I think. A chemist could accomplish the same thing without leaving a trace.’
‘Try it,’ said Jupiter shortly.
‘I’m afraid I could n’t take the responsibility, Jones. It would be almost impossible to restore the damage adequately.’
‘I’ll take the responsibility. Go ahead.’
The artist shrugged and picked a scraping knife from the floor. He placed a block of wood under the canvas and with rapid yet careful strokes removed the top layer of paint from a corner of the picture. It left a faintly greenish spot on the canvas.
‘It comes off easily,’ he said. ‘Now for the test.’
Chalmers took a fresh piece of waste and dipped it in the alcohol. Betty sucked in her breath. Jupiter held an unlighted cigarette in his hand. The artist flourished the waste over the painting. He rubbed the cleared spot quickly and then removed the waste. The spot where he had worked was clear of paint. The base on the canvas showed through clearly.
‘The painting,’ said Chalmers unnecessarily, ‘is not genuine.’
Betty tittered foolishly.
Jupiter dried the sweat from the palms of his hands on his coat.
Chalmers went on, ‘I should hazard that this picture was painted not more than five years ago.’
Jupiter lit a match and said, ’I knew it all along.‘
‘Give me a cigarette,’ said Betty.
He tossed her one. Chalmers was examining the cloth, covered now with greenish blue paint.
He said, ’There’s not the slightest doubt — I’m quite convinced of that. Lotto worked about four hundred years ago; naturally his pigments would not be soluble in alcohol to-day.‘
Jupiter was putting on his coat. ‘Mr. Chalmers, you’ve been invaluable, but I’m going to ask you to wait until to-morrow morning before I tell you anything. Do you suppose you could be at the Museum at nine-thirty?’
Chalmers nodded. ‘I suppose you have your reasons, but I’ll admit I’m engulfed with curiosity. You can count on my being present in the morning. Now I think I shall go out and get a newspaper.’
They went out together. Jupiter had replaced the painting in its frame and carried it under his arm. They left Chalmers at the car and again started back to Cambridge.
Betty pestered him for details, but he was uncommunicative. He walked with her to her door.
‘ Would you like to know who painted the picture?’ he asked.
‘No, of course not; I’m not the least interested.’
‘Fitzgerald painted it.’
She sat down on the steps. ‘Is that true, Jupiter?’ she asked seriously. ‘ Unless I’m wrong about everything else.’
‘Then he killed Singer? Is that what you think?’
He got up. She stood up with him.
‘Won’t you tell me about it, please?’
He kissed her quickly and competently. ‘Wait until to-morrow.’
‘You’re a selfish brute and I won’t sleep at all to-night. Good night, Jupiter, I’ve had a lovely time.’
He decided to leave his car outside, so he parked near Hallowed House and walked to his room, still carrying the painting.
He’d been locked out of his room so many times because he had forgotten his keys that he had solved the problem by never locking his door. He walked in, set the painting against the wall, and reached for the light.
He never reached it. Something hard and heavy hit him solidly on the back of his head. He went to his knees, but he did n’t go out.
‘That’s considered illegal in most leagues, you bastard.’ He was surprised to find himself speaking.
He rocked to his feet, holding his arms over his head against another attack. There was none. Dizzily he saw someone open the door and rush out into the hall. He started to follow, but a tidal wave of nausea hit him before he reached the door.
He made the toilet by inches.
It did n’t occur to him that he had a slight concussion.
Back in the other room, he turned on a light.
Nothing had been touched. ‘Jones, old man, you’ve just been the victim of an attempted murder,’ he mumbled. He walked shakily to the door and locked it. ‘If anyone wants to come back and shoot me through the window he’s welcome.’
He undressed with fumbling fingers. Any idea of chasing his assailant was far from his thoughts.
For the second night he fell into bed.
For a while after he had opened his eyes he could n’t distinguish the ringing in his ears from the telephone bell. Then he rolled out of bed, noting blearily that it was eight-thirty. In the other room he picked up the phone and collapsed with it on the couch.
‘Ungh?’ he managed.
‘This is Rankin. Are you awake?’
‘There seems to be some question about it?’
‘Well, snap out of it; I’ve got some news for you.’
He opened his eyes and saw the painting against the wall opposite him.
‘If you think you have news, Inspector, you ought to hear what I’ve got.’
‘What’s that?’ asked Rankin quickly.
‘I’ve solved your murder case,’ he said.
Rankin said, ‘You have, huh? Who did it?’
‘It’ll take some explaining. Have you seen Fitzgerald this morning, by any chance?’ He was enjoying the thought of the Sergeant’s face.
Then Rankin floored him. ‘Yes, I’ve seen him,’ he said quietly.
Jupiter swallowed. He had n’t expected that. ‘You’ve seen him? What did he say?’
‘He could n’t say anything — he was dead.’
Jupiter reeled mentally. He opened his mouth and shut it again.
Finally he said weakly, ‘Tell me about it, Inspector.’
‘I’ve just been up there. Fitzgerald killed himself sometime last night.’
’Yaah. He s had the desk at the hotel call him every morning at seven-thirty since he ’s been there. They called him this morning and got no answer; finally they investigated and called me. He poured a can of ether on to a handkerchief, slapped it over his face, and lay down on his bed. He never woke up. Been dead about eight hours when we got there. How does that fit with your theory?’
Jupiter thought awhile. ‘He did n’t leave a note or anything?’
‘No. He did n’t leave a thing. Just went to sleep.’
’You have n’t any reason for his doing it, have you?’
‘No, that’s why I called you. You said you’d solved the case just now. Do you still think so?’
‘Yes, I still think so — I know so. But it spoils the act I was going to put on for you. I wanted Fitzgerald in person. Can you be at the Museum at nine-thirty? I’ll tell you all about it then.’
‘I’ll be there.’
They hung up.
Jupiter got up, walked into the bathroom, and took three aspirins. He felt jittery; the knock on the head had been harder than he’d realized.
Sylvester came in bearing the morning orange juice. Jupiter sipped it slowly and settled back on the couch. Fitzgerald was dead. Perhaps it’s better, he thought, but I was planning a dramatic scene for this morning. He wondered why Rankin had n’t been more aroused by his announcement of the solution of the case.
‘Run out and get some coffee, Sylvester. My head needs clearing.’
Jupiter picked up the phone book and began dialing numbers.
He was making his last call when Sylvester returned.
Jupiter walked into the Museum a little after nine-thirty and found his audience waiting. Sylvester, carrying the painting, followed him. They created quite a stir.
A few students, a pair of instructors, and several policemen stood outside the main assembly gaping. Sergeant Rankin, Hadley, Sampson, Betty, Miss Slade, Chalmers, and Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild were gathered in a curious and nervous group.
Jupiter said, ‘Good morning, everyone; shall we go upstairs?’
He tried to sound like a professor greeting a class. He succeeded.
They trooped upstairs. Rankin gave orders to keep outsiders out. Betty walked beside Jupiter.
They went into the central gallery. Jupiter took the painting from Sylvester and hung it in its place.
Hadley started to sputter when he saw the ruined corner.
Rankin stopped him. ‘I don’t know any more about this than the rest of you. Please let Mr. Jones do the talking.’
‘Thank you, Sergeant,’ said Jupiter. ‘If you will bear with me for a few minutes I think I can clear up the murder of Professor Singer.’
The air was tense. Better than Jupiter had hoped. Everyone had heard of Fitzgerald’s suicide, They waited breathlessly. Betty stood back against the wall, smiling faintly.
Jupiter continued, ‘It’s hard to know where to begin. As the Sergeant will tell you, I had no idea of all this yesterday afternoon. Miss Mahan stumbled on one point that seemed to connect a few things that I had thought of myself.’
Betty glared at him.
‘You will remember, Sergeant, when Mr. Fitzgerald came to Singer’s room the night of the murder and Miss Slade accused him of the murder, he said that he was owed money for a portrait he had done of Singer. Well, I’d never seen the portrait myself, which, after all, is n’t unusual, but I asked Miss Slade and Miss Mahan if they had ever seen it. They had n’t. Have you ever seen it or heard about it, Professor Hadley?’
Hadley’s head jerked up. ‘Me? Portrait? No, I — er — that is, no.’
They looked at each other and shook their heads.
‘Then I’in forced to believe that Fitzgerald never painted it. You’ll also remember, Inspector, the memorandum Singer left on his desk. It was marked important and read “Con plus Mad.” I thought at the time it was a lecture note, the plus sign being Singer’s abbreviation for a Crucifixion, the “Mad” for Madonna, and the “Con” for Condottiere. I was right about the abbreviations, but they were n’t lecture notes. When I found this,‘ — he took out the clipping, — ‘with the help of Miss Mahan, I decided that Singer’s memorandum was something quite different.’
He stopped. Miss Slade had paled noticeably when he had taken out the clipping.
‘I’ll read it,’ he said, and did. ‘You see, Singer’s memorandum meant those three paintings. The Madonna was the Lotto. The Crucifixion was the Perugino, and Tiepolo’s portrait of a soldier must be “Con,”the Condottiere.’
Jupiter went on, ‘All this does n’t make sense to you now probably, but I’ll try to explain. First, Singer made a special note of those three paintings and marked it important. Second, a dealer in New York had copies of those three paintings which he himself said were excellent. Third, as some of you may not know, Singer had been planning to retire at the end of this year. You all knew him, and none of you will believe, I think, that he would retire without sufficient money to be comfortable. I personally don’t think he had enough to be comfortable without the salary he was getting here at Harvard. Fourth, let’s see — fourth, Fitzgerald never painted Singer’s portrait — yet he was owed enough money to make him burst out in front of Miss Slade. And, last, Miss Slade must have known something was going on when she tore up this clipping yesterday afternoon.’
He had expected her to pass out or scream, but she did neither. She pressed her lips tighter together and clenched her long, bony hands in front of her.
Everyone stared at her, but she did n’t speak.
Jupiter coughed and continued, ’Bearing all this in mind, I decided something was rotten in the Fogg Museum. I telephoned Mr. Epstein in New York. Why I did still remains a mystery to me. He added nothing to what I knew, merely saying that his pictures were copies and that they had come from Italy. Miss Mahan and I then negotiated a small robbery out here. I chose the Lotto because it was the first one of the three that I found. Mr. Chalmers, will you please step forward.’
Mr. Chalmers stepped forward. He was wearing his best suit and he looked unusually clean.
Jupiter took him by the arm. ‘Mr. Chalmers is an artist, an excellent artist — some of you may have heard of him. Now, Mr. Chalmers, will you please tell us about this painting.’
Chalmers cleared his throat and bowed. ‘Mr. Jones brought me this painting last evening. He persuaded me to make a few tests to determine whether it was an original. I have had some experience in this kind of work, but unfortunately I have a very limited laboratory in which to carry on the work. However, I made one test which would prove beyond all conceivable doubt whether the painting was a forgery. This test showed that the painting was a clever and skillful work, but nevertheless a copy from the original.’
There was a general intake of breath.
Hadley stuttered, ‘ Why — why — that’s impossible — really, I mean . . .’
Fairchild said, ‘I’ll be damned!’
Rankin growled, ‘Go ahead, Jones.’
‘And that,’ said Jupiter impressively, ‘brings us to the end of what might be called the Prologue of our little drama.’ Things were going better than he had expected. ’By now, some of you have probably guessed who painted this “Lotto”; and the person who painted that also painted the Perugino “Crucifixion” and the Tiepolo “Condottiere.” It’s really too bad Mr. Fitzgerald is n’t here to claim the honor and let us compliment him on his dexterity. However — from now on I am guessing. I may not be right on the details, but I think a checkup will prove that I’m not far off. Miss Slade, if you care to add any bits of information I should be delighted to hear them.’
Miss Slade maintained her stony silence.
‘These paintings were purchased by the Museum five years ago. Is that correct, Professor Hadley?’
‘Five years ago? Er, no, Mr. Jones — four, I believe. Yes, that’s it — four.’
Jupiter nodded. ‘Four years ago. Professor Singer supervised the purchase, and the original pictures — not these that we have here now — were duly hung amid the proper ceremony. But before all this happened Singer had hatched as pretty a plan for gypping the Museum out of a hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars as you’d like to see.’
He paused. It was well-timed. Miss Slade had slumped a little. Hadley gaped openly. Rankin was smiling.
‘As a glance at the catalogue will show, Singer bought the paintings in Paris in the spring and brought them back with him in the fall. It so happened that Fitzgerald was there in Paris also. I don’t know that for a fact, but he must have been. Anyway, Singer persuaded him to get down to work and make forgeries of the paintings. He told Fitzgerald about his plan and it seemed to Fitzgerald too good to pass up. The plan was this: With the copies all made, Singer returns to Cambridge with the originals, and after the experts have gone over them they’ll be hung up. He keeps the copies in storage somewhere until he’s ready to use them. They decide to hold off for a few years until the excitement has died down around the Museum. Time passes. Remember that they were playing for big stakes and time did n’t matter to them. All right, Singer scouts for a dealer in New York, who turns out to be our old friend Mr. Epstein, and it takes on the proportions of a gang. The idea is that Singer will switch the paintings, send the originals to New York, and have them turn up as copies.
‘Singer’s murder, however, knocked the bottom out of the whole affair. It was the one thing that would throw the whole business off, so let’s pretend he was never murdered. The paintings turn up in Mr. Epstein’s collection as copies. They are advertised as such and experts come to look at them. Pretty soon someone is going to say, “ You know, Mr. Epstein, these may be copies, but they’re damn good ones; why don’t you take them to Cambridge and compare them with the originals?” And that’s what Mr. Epstein does. What does he find? He finds that the Fogg’s paintings are the copies and his are the originals. Everyone’s shocked, terribly shocked, no one more than Singer. He is dumbfounded! He says, “This is impossible! I myself and other experts made tests when I bought the originals. How could we have made a mistake?” There is much talk and excitement, but there’s no getting around the fact that the Fogg has a set of neat but worthless copies. Well, Singer takes the blame; he says, “I must have been wrong, but I was so sure ...” People are sorry; they say what a marvelous man Singer is to take the blame on his own shoulders. Of course, he takes the blame, but the insurance company pays. And in due time Mr. Epstein sells his originals at a pretty price either to the Fogg again or to a collector. Epstein, Fitzgerald, and Singer split the cash between them.’
There was a meaty silence.
Finally Mrs. Fairchild said, ‘But that’s so — so fantastic!’
Sampson said, ’It’s impossible, Jones. There would be an investigation and the whole thing would be traced to Singer. He’d never take the chance.’
‘That’s true, sir,’ said Jupiter. ‘There certainly would be an investigation. You can’t see an insurance company paying out that much money without looking into it fairly closely. But, you see, Singer’s murder brought the whole thing to light. If he had still been alive, it would have been much different. As I said, I’m merely guessing as to how they went about it, but you can bet fairly safely that Epstein had his answers ready. Look, the first thing an investigator would want to know is where Epstein got his originals in the first place. Remember that this little party had been planned for four years, or even more, for all I know. Well, I should imagine Singer and Epstein would have that worked out. They probably have an Italian count ready to swear that the paintings have been in his family for generations. I think that end would be covered. I don’t see how they could possibly trace it to Singer. Look at the man. He’s a highly respected member of the Harvard faculty, an expert on Italian painting, and he’s taking the blame on himself. He may have been planning to retire in disgrace. You’ve got to keep in mind the point that fake paintings are turning up all the time both in this country and abroad. I’m not saying Singer did n’t take a small chance of being caught, but it was a tiny one against his cut of sixty or seventy thousand dollars.’
Rankin was still smiling. ‘Let’s let that go for a while, Jones. I’m interested in finding out about the murder.’
‘ Right,’ said Jupiter, leaning back against the wall. His head was still pounding. ‘We ’ll consider that I’m right in my theory about the paintings. Let’s go back a little. The originals have been hanging here in the Museum for four years. Singer and Fitzgerald are stalling, waiting for an appropriate time to shift the paintings. Singer gets to thinking; he says to himself, “Why should I split this cash three ways? I’ll have to let a dealer in anyway, there’s no getting around that. But what about Fitzgerald? Can’t I cut him out? Certainly I can.” In other words, he decides to put the double cross on brother Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had made the forgeries, old wood, old canvas — good fakes; he was in deep. If Singer cuts him out with a paltry ten thousand dollars he can’t say anything to anyone without getting involved himself. So Singer goes ahead without him. A month ago he switches the paintings and sends the originals down to New York. There is no hue and cry around the Museum, as no one recognizes the copies as copies. All right. Epstein conies out with his statement in the paper and right here there’s a small question in my mind. Fitzgerald was in Cambridge at the time the clipping appeared, and I don’t know whether he saw it or not. It was near the back page and there’s a chance he did n’t. I think he did n’t. The day of the murder he’s in the Museum and he looks at the three pictures which he supposes are still the originals, and to his amazement he finds they ’re his own copies. He rushes downstairs to find Singer. He finds him in his office and he says, “What the hell goes on here, anyway? I want an explanation and I want a good one!"‘
Miss Slade opened her mouth, shut it, and then said, ‘Yes, yes, that is right. He said something like that; then Professor Singer said, “We can’t talk here; come to my room at six to-night.” That was the first I knew about it.’
‘Right. Fitzgerald went to Singer’s room at six. Singer told him he was sorry, but he was expecting someone else and for him to come back at eight-thirty.’
Mrs. Fairchild blushed slightly and took a deep breath.
Jupiter continued, ‘Fitzgerald went up to the Square and thought the thing over while he drank a couple of beers. He realized something was wrong and he even suspected that Singer was putting the screws on him. He decided the hell with waiting, and hurried through his last drink. He went back and found Singer alone. The conversation probably went something like this. Fitzgerald: “ What’s the idea of going ahead without me?” Singer: “Why should n’t I go ahead without you? All you did was paint the copies; I’m taking the responsibility. I’m giving you ten thousand dollars and you ’re lucky to get that.” Fitzgerald: “Not enough. We went into this thing together.” Singer: “We went in together, but now you’re out, my friend, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Fitzgerald lost his head, saw the knife on the desk, and picked it up. He said, “Oh yes, there’s something I can do about it!” And he stabbed Singer neatly through the heart.’
‘Then what?’ asked the Sergeant.
‘Fitzgerald went back to his room in a daze. He began to think the whole thing over and realized he’d made a bad mistake, but there was nothing he could do about it. He was pretty sure no one had seen him go in or come out of Singer’s room, so he decided to appear on the scene at the time when he was supposed to meet Singer. He went down there and found you, Sergeant, and everything was going nicely until Miss Slade came in and accused him of the murder. He had a bad moment, because he did n’t know how much she knew. He passed it off with the story of the portrait and you let him go. As long as the plot of the fake paintings did n’t turn up, he was all right. He thought about it and figured he could get in touch with Epstein and work things out. They could n’t trace the copies to him, anyway. He was sitting pretty. I mean he was until I telephoned him and made some cracks about Lotto’s “Madonna” and how much did Singer owe him. Then he knew he was on the spot, because I was on to something. I should n’t have called him at all, but at the time I did n’t know very much and hoped to frighten him into saying something. Well, I frightened him into committing suicide.’
The Fairchilds were murmuring. Sampson was talking to Hadley. Everyone was relaxed.
Jupiter held up his hands for silence.
‘My friends, I think you’ll all agree that my theory is sound,’ he said. ‘But there’s just one little point that I have left out. And that point is that Fitzgerald did n’t kill Singer and he did n’t kill himself.’
It was hard to describe. Faces fell as if some giant hand had passed over them, leaving eyes bulging and mouths gaping.
Rankin was the first to speak.
‘How the hell did you know that?’
Jupiter stared at the Sergeant.
‘Do you mean to say you knew Fitzgerald didn’t do it?’ he asked incredulously.
‘I want to know how you knew he did n’t,’ demanded the Sergeant.
‘The guy who killed Singer and Fitzgerald is about halfway to New York by this time, if he’s not there already,’ said Jupiter.
‘No, he’s not,’ said Rankin. He walked out into the hall. He was n’t gone long. When he came back he was with Illinois. Illinois was holding by the arm an exquisite little man with wavy hair. It was Renier.
’Here’s your murderer,’said Rankin.
Hadley looked as if he were going to faint.
Miss Slade did.
Jupiter leaned on Sylvester. Chalmers was making motions with his hands, but not saying anything. Mrs. Fairchild was bending over Miss Slade. No one else paid any attention to her.
Rankin said, ‘Tell me how you knew about it, Jones.’
‘I don’t see how you did it, Inspector, but I’ll tell you what I know. Up until this morning I thought Fitzgerald really had done it, but when you telephoned and told me he had killed himself and had been dead eight hours I did n’t know what to think. You see, someone was waiting up for me when I got back to my room last night and tried to put me on the spot. I thought it was Fitzgerald come to put me out of the way after my talk with him on the phone. But it could n’t have been, because he was dead at the time. Who could have whacked me, then? I knew it must have been someone who knew that I was getting hot on the trail, but who? Epstein knew I was, but he was in New York, and as a matter of fact he does n’t even know who I am. Fitzgerald was dead. Then I had a brain wave. I thought of Renier. I had talked with him in the Ritz earlier in the evening; he was an art dealer from Paris; Singer had bought the paintings in Paris; he was on the scene. As a matter of fact, I even knew he asked how to get to Hallowell House on the night of the murder. Joe, the Italian who runs the cigar store, tried to describe him to me. I telephoned the Ritz this morning on a hunch and found that Renier had checked out at eleven-thirty last night. He had told me he was spending the night at the hotel. The whole thing was sewed up when I gave Joe his description this morning and he remembered him as the man who had asked how to get to Hallowell House at about six-fifteen the night of the murder.’
‘How did you know Fitzgerald had n’t committed suicide?’ asked the Sergeant.
Jupiter smiled. ‘I did n’t. I was just gambling on that. It seemed too much of a coincidence, that’s all. I don’t believe Singer ever made up that plan to ream the Museum. It was Renier’s brain child. Singer just got the idea of double-crossing both Fitzgerald and Renier. He almost succeeded because Renier could never say anything about the plot without exposing himself as a crook. He was in the same boat as Fitzgerald.’
Everyone was surprised when Renier started to speak. His voice was high and thin, his accent more pronounced. He glared at Jupiter.
‘Monsieur Jones is clever, very clever. He is right about your Professor Singer. He was a dog. I kill him! I will tell you.’
Suddenly Jupiter felt sorry for him. He could n’t tell why — after all, the man had tried to kill him.
Rankin said, ‘You don’t have to talk, Renier. You’re entitled to a lawyer.’
The Frenchman snarled, ‘A lawyer! He could not assist me very much, I believe. Eh bien, it is as the young man say. It is my plot, the plot of the pictures. Monsieur Fitzgerald painted the copies — masterpieces each one. A clever man. I have everything ready, nothing can go wrong. The plan is perfect. But Singer, ah!’ Illinois took a firmer grip on his arm. ‘He was greedy. He — what is the word? — double cross. He wanted all the money. I am in Paris two weeks ago; I pick up the paper and read the announcement. A man, a Mr. Epstein, of whom I have never heard, has the copies. What do I think? I think Professor Singer is up to something, as you say, so I come to America.’
‘ Did you see the paintings in New York? ’ asked Jupiter.
‘ Oui, I see them. They are the originals.
I come to Cambridge to talk with Singer. He does not expect me until yesterday. I go to his house. He tells me I am not to get any of the money. He says he has made the arrangements. I am not to get any money! ’
His voice was raised to a scream. One arm was waving in the air.
‘I have planned for four years to get that money. Four years I have waited! And now I am to get nothing! Nothing! I am enraged. I see there is nothing I can do to stop Singer. I can say nothing. I — I kill him with the knife on his desk. Merde! Death is too good for your Professor Singer!’
Renier was holding his audience. His famous wavy hair was down over his face.
Rankin said, ‘Then what?’
’I go away from there. I go back to the hotel; I wait. I read the newspapers — there is no mention of a man like myself. I am expected at the Museum; I must be calm. I come to Cambridge and I learn that the man Fitzgerald is in Cambridge also. I am frightened; I think that he may give away the plot when he learns I am here. There is nothing to do but wait. The evening papers say that Fitzgerald has been questioned, but they do not say what he has told them.’
He stopped, shaking his head slowly. Jupiter could understand the agony of suspense he must have suffered.
’I decide to wait until morning before I go back to New York. In the evening, this young man Jones meets me and asks me questions about paintings. I know he is trying to solve the crime. He must have a reason to ask me these things. I am horrified. I say to myself Fitzgerald wall say something soon and I will be found out. I must act. I go to my room and try to think what to do.
’I tell myself that Fitzgerald must die. He must die in such a way that it appears he has killed himself. He will be blamed for the murder of Singer! It is a good idea. I telephone him and say I am coming to see him. I find the number of his room. I buy a can of ether at the druggist. I go to Fitzgerald’s hotel. I take the elevator to the fifth floor and I walk down to the third — no one must know I have been to see him. It is a clever plot. We talk for a little time.’ His voice was getting weaker. It was little better than a whisper. ‘I must act. I must kill him. I — ’
He collapsed on Illinois’s arm. The policeman pulled him to his feet, but he was limp, his face gray.
Rankin said, ‘I think I can finish his story. He hit Fitzgerald over the head with a candlestick. I don’t know how he did it, but there was a mark on his head when we found him. I guess he just meant to knock him out easy and not leave a mark. Well, then he took Fitzgerald’s handkerchief and poured ether over it until he was dead. He put him on the bed and straightened out the room. Then he left.’
‘That’s fine,’ said Jupiter. ‘But why did he try to kill me? ’
Renier had opened his eyes. He stared at Jupiter.
‘I do not know%’ he whispered. ‘I lose my head when I leave Fitzgerald. I say to myself this young man knows something. Maybe he knows that I killed Singer. He must die too. If you are dead, Fitzgerald will be blamed for that also.’
Jupiter said, ‘But why did you run out after you hit me? Why did n’t you hang around and finish the job?’
Renier hung his head. ‘I think the first blow will make you unconscious. I am frightened when you speak to me.’
‘But why did n’t you come back?’
The Frenchman had collapsed again. Rankin ordered Illinois to take him out. When he had gone, there was a short silence in the room.
Jupiter turned to the Sergeant. ‘Now you might explain a few things yourself, Inspector. How did you get hold of Renier?’
The Sergeant smiled. ’Oh, I’ve had him locked up since last night. He confessed killing Singer when I first spoke to him.’
Of all the shocks Jupiter had had that morning that shook him most.
‘You had him locked up last night?’
‘Sure, he confessed killing Singer; but when he found I did n’t know anything more about it, he shut up like a clam. That’s why I wanted your explanation this morning. I had no motive for his doing it.’
‘But how did you pick him up? Or why, if you had no motive ? ’
Rankin was grinning. ‘One of my men picked him up on a charge of assault.’
‘Assault! On who — or whom? ’
‘On you,’ said Rankin.
Jupiter leaned back against the wall. Things were happening much too fast. His head could n’t stand it.
The Sergeant went on: ‘I’ve had a man following you since the night of the murder. How else do you think I’d know you went to see the Fairchilds?’
Jupiter saw the light. ‘ That’s what I’d call dirty politics, Inspector. Then this hound of yours trailed me last night?’
‘Right,’ said Rankin. ‘He followed you to your room and was waiting outside when Renier came running out carrying a piece of pipe in his hands.’
Jupiter thought that one over for a minute. Then he said, ‘And one of your men, one of Cambridge’s policemen, left me to bleed to death while he hurried Renier off to the station?’
‘Oh, no. You see, he had strict orders not to let you know he was following you. He recognized Renier as the man you’d been talking with at the Ritz earlier in the evening. He was all set to go in and see you when your light went on and he saw you walking around inside perfectly healthy.’
‘Perfectly healthy!’ growled Jupiter.
‘There’s not much more,’ went on Rankin. ‘Renier wouldn’t talk after he had admitted killing Singer. He said nothing about Fitzgerald and I was more than surprised when I got that call from the hotel this morning. Renier is better at thinking up plots to steal paintings than he is at making a murder look like a suicide. I don’t think there ever was a suicide by the use of ether. Even if Fitzgerald had poured the whole can on his handkerchief it would have evaporated before he was dead. You have to keep applying the stuff in small doses to kill a man, and that’s what Renier did, Fitzgerald could never have done it himself. And also there was that bump on his head, which was hard to explain. Renier had meant it to be a light whack, but the examiner found it just the same. Renier would have been better off if he’d never decided to put Fitzgerald out of the way.’
Against the Museum regulations, Jupiter lit a cigarette.
He said, ‘Well, why did you tell me Fitzgerald had killed himself this morning?’
‘I’m sorry about that, Jones,’ said Rankin. ‘It was professional jealousy, I guess.
I was trying to cross you up. I still did n’t know how much you knew about everything that had happened. You fooled me when you said Fitzgerald did n’t kill Singer. I thought all along you believed it.’
‘Well, I guess we came out about even, Inspector.’
Miss Slade was on her feet. The Sergeant faced her.
‘How much did you know about this, Miss Slade?’
She was shaky, but she did n’t collapse. ‘I knew about the paintings, but I did n’t know who had killed Professor Singer. I’d suspected that something was bothering him for some time, but I did n’t know what it was. When Mr. Fitzgerald said he owed money for a portrait I knew he wms lying. The news of Professor Singer’s death was a terrible shock to me; I could n’t think clearly. ... I — I can’t think clearly yet — oh, it’s dreadful — it’s —’
She was weeping.
‘I think she knew something about the paintings, but nothing definite,’ said Jupiter. ‘ If she’d told us what she suspected it would have saved us a good deal of trouble.’
‘But we wouldn’t have had so much fun,’ said Betty.
‘True,’ answered Jupiter. ‘And Fitzgerald might have still been alive. But then, he would have gone to jail for a while anyway.’
Rankin addressed the audience. ‘Well, there does n’t seem to be much more we can do here. I’m certainly glad everything is cleared up.’
Hadley said, ‘But the paintings? What about them? Shall we get the originals back?’
‘Sure,’ said Jupiter. ‘The Inspector will get his buddies down in New York to pick up Epstein and everything will be all right.’
The Fairchilds were leaving. Sampson and Hadley joined them. Miss Slade walked out alone. Chalmers was talking with Sylvester, whose eyes had n’t stopped rolling from the time he came into the room.
Rankin came over to Jupiter and Betty. They shook hands.
The Sergeant said, ’Jones, if you ever want a job as a detective, I think I can get you one.‘
‘No, thanks, Inspector, I’ll keep my amateur standing. If we have another murder, maybe you’ll trust me a little more.’
The Sergeant grinned. ‘Hell, I’ll put you in charge of the case.’
He went out.
Jupiter said to Betty, ‘Well, my pretty friend, I suggest you knock off work for the day and that we go in town and have a little champagne by way of celebration.’
‘You would,’ said Betty.