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- Raspberry Jam - 30/45 -
"Yes, ma'am, oh! all you like to--you can't deny it! Shane came to see me three times. I almost told him all the last time, for you steadily refused to see me--until to-day. And now, to-day, I put it to you, Eunice Embury, do you want me for friend--or foe?"
Fifi's blue eyes glittered, her red lips closed in a tight line, and her little pointed face was as the face of a wicked sprite. Eunice stood, surveying her. Tall, stately, beautiful, she towered above her guest, and looked down on her with a fine disdain.
Eunice's eyes were stormy, not glittering--desperate rather than defiant--she seemed almost like a fierce, powerful tiger appraising a small but very wily ferret.
"Is this a bargain?" she cried scathingly. "Are you offering to buy my friendship? I know you, Fifi Desternay! You are--a snake in the grass!"
Fifi clenched her little fists, drew her lips between her teeth, and fairly hissed, "Serpent, yourself! Murderess! I know all --and I shall tell all! You'll regret the day you scorned the friendship--the help of Fifi Desternay!"
"I don't want your help, at the price of friendship with you! I know you for what you are! My husband told me--others have told me! I did go to your house for the sake of winning money--yes, and I am ashamed of it! And I am ready to face any accusation, brave any suspicion, rather than be shielded from it, or helped out of it by you!"
"Fine words! but they mean nothing! You know you're justly accused! You know you're rightly suspected! But you are clever --you also know that no jury, in this enlightened age, will ever convict a woman! Especially a beautiful woman! You know you are safe from even the lightest sentence--and that though you are guilty--yes, guilty of the murder of your husband, you will get off scot free, because"--Fifi paused to give her last shot telling effect--"because your counsel, Alvord Hendricks, is in love with you! He will manage it, and what he can't accomplish, Mason Elliott can! With those two influential men, both in love with you, you can't be convicted--and probably you won't even be arrested!"
"Go!" said Eunice, and she folded her arms as she gazed at her angry antagonist. "Go! I scorn to refute or even answer your words."
"Because they're true! Because there is no answer!" Fifi fairly screamed. "You think you're a power! Because you're tall and statuesque and stunning! You know if those men can't keep you out of the court-room at least you are safe in the hands of any judge or jury, because they are men! You know if you smile at them--pathetically--if you cast those wonderful eyes of yours at them, they'll grovel at your feet! I know you, Eunice Embury! You're banking on your femininity to save you from your just fate."
"You judge me by yourself, Fifi. You are a power among men, most women are, but I do not bank on that--"
"Not alone! You bank on the fact that either Hendricks or Elliott would go through hell for you, and count it an easy journey. You rest easy in the knowledge that those two men can do just about anything they set their minds to--"
"Will you go?"
"Yes, I will go. And when Mr. Shane comes to see me again, I will tell him the truth--all the truth about the' Hamlet' play --and--it will be enough!"
"Tell him!" Eunice's eyes blazed now. "Tell him the truth--and add to it whatever lies your clever brain can invent! Do your worst Fifi Desternay; I am not afraid of you!"
"I am going, Eunice." Fifi moved slowly toward the door. "I shall tell the truth, but I shall add no lies--that will not be necessary!"
She disappeared, and Eunice stood, panting with excitement and indignation.
Aunt Abby came toward her. The old lady had been a witness of the whole scene--had, indeed, tried several times to utter a word of pacification, but neither of the women had so much as noticed her.
"Go away, Auntie, please," said Eunice. "I can't talk to you. I'm expecting Mason at any time now, and I want to get calmed down a little."
Miss Ames went to her room, and Eunice sat down on the davenport.
She sat upright, tensely quiet, and thought over all Fifi had said--all she had threatened.
"It would have been far better," Eunice told herself, "for my cause if I had held her friendship. And I could have done it, easily--but--Fifi's friendship would be worse than her enmity!"
When Mason Elliott came, Detective Driscoll was with him.
The net of the detectives was closing in around Eunice, and though both Elliott and Hendricks--as Fifi had truly surmised --were doing all in their power, the denouement was not far off --Eunice was in imminent danger of arrest at any moment.
"We've been talking about the will--Sanford's will," Elliott said, in a dreary tone, after the callers were seated, "and, Eunice, Mr. Driscoll chooses to think that the fact that San left practically everything to you, without any restraint in the way of trustees, or restriction of any sort, is another count against you."
Eunice smiled bravely. "But that isn't news," she said; "we all knew that my husband made me his sole--or rather principal --beneficiary. I know the consensus of opinion is that I murdered my husband that I might have his money--and full control of it. This is no new element."
"No;" said Driscoll, moved by the sight of the now patient, gentle face; "no; but we've added a few more facts--and look here, Mrs, Embury, it's this way. I've doped it out that there are five persons who could possibly have committed this--this crime. I'll speak plainly, for you have continually permitted me--even urged me to do so. Well, let us say Sanford Embury could have been killed by anyone of a certain five. And they size up like this: Mr. Elliott, here, and Mr. Alvord Hendricks may be said to have had motive but no opportunity."
"Motive?" said Eunice, in a tone of deepest possible scorn.
"Yes, ma'am. Mr. Elliott, now, is an admirer of yours--don't look offended, please; I'm speaking very seriously. It is among the possibilities that he wanted your husband out of his way."
Mason Elliott listened to this without any expression of annoyance. Indeed, he had heard this argument of Driscoll's before, and it affected him not at all.
"But, Mrs, Embury, Mr. Elliott had no opportunity. We have learned beyond all doubt that he was at his club or at his home all that night. Next, Mr. Hendricks had a motive. The rival candidates were both eager for election, and we must call that a motive for Mr. Hendricks to be willing to remove his opponent. But again, Mr. Hendricks had no opportunity. He was in Boston from the afternoon of the day before Mr. Embury's death until noon of the next day. That lets him out positively. Therefore, there are two with motives but no opportunity. Next, we must admit there were two who had opportunity, but no motive. I refer to Ferdinand, your butler, and Miss Ames, your aunt. These two could have managed to commit the deed, had they chosen, but we can find no motive to attribute to either of them. It has been suggested that Miss Ames might have had such a desire to rid you, Mrs. Embury, of a tyrannical husband, that she was guilty. But it is so highly improbable as to be almost unbelievable.
"Therefore, as I sum it up, the two who had motive without opportunity, and the two who had opportunity without motive, must all be disregarded, because of the one who had motive and opportunity both. Yourself, Mrs. Embury."
The arraignment was complete. Driscoll's quiet, even tones carried a sort of calm conviction.
"And so, Eunice," Mason Elliott spoke up, "I'm going to try one more chance. I've persuaded Mr. Driscoll to wait a day or two before progressing any further, and let me get Fleming Stone on this case."
"Very well," said Eunice, listlessly. "Who is he?"
"A celebrated detective. Mr. Driscoll makes no objection--which goes to prove what a good detective he is himself. His partner, Mr. Shane, is not so willing, but has grudgingly consented. In fact, they couldn't help themselves, for they are not quite sure that they have enough evidence to arrest you. Shane thinks that Stone will find out more, and so strengthen the case against you but Driscoll, bless him! thinks maybe Stone can find another suspect."
"I didn't exactly say I thought that, Mr. Elliott," said Driscoll. "I said I hoped it."
"We all hope it," returned Elliott.
"Hope while you may," and Driscoll sighed. "Fleming Stone has never failed to find the criminal yet. And if his findings verify mine, I shall be glad to put the responsibility on his shoulders."
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