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- Raspberry Jam - 40/45 -


She tucked herself into a big, cushioned chair, and drawing a smoking-stand nearer, fussed with its silver appointments.

"Lemme, ma'am," said Fibsy, eagerly, and, though it was his first attempt, he held a lighted match to her cigarette with real grace.

Then, drawing a long breath of relief at his success, he took a cigarette himself, and sat near her.

"Well," she began, "what's it all about? And, do tell me how you got in! I'm glad you did, though it was against orders. I've not seen anything so amusing as you for a long time!"

"This is my amusin' day," returned the boy, imperturbably. "I came to talk over things in general--"

"And what in particular?"

Fifi was enjoying herself. She felt almost sure the boy was a reporter of a new sort, but she was frankly curious.

"Well, ma'am," and here Fibsy changed his demeanor to a stern, scowling fierceness, "I'm a special investigator." He rose now, and strode about the room. "I'm engaged on the Embury murder case, and I'm here to ask you a few pointed questions about it."

"My heavens!" cried Fifi, "what are you talking about?"

"Don't scoff at me, ma'am; I'm in authority."

"Oh, well, go ahead. Why are you questioning me?"

"It's this way, ma'am." Fibsy sat down astride a chair, looking over the back of it at his hostess. "You and Mrs, Embury are bosom friends, I understand."

"From whom do you understand it?" was the tart response; "from Mrs, Embury?"

"In a manner o' speakin', yes; and then again, no. But aren't you?"

"We were. We were school friends, and have been intimates for years. But since her--trouble, Mrs, Embury has thrown me over --has discarded me utterly--I'm so sorry!"

Fifi daintily touched her eyes with a tiny square of monogrammed linen, and Fibsy said, gravely,

"Careful, there; don't dab your eyelashes too hard!"

"What!" Mrs, Desternay could scarcely believe her ears.

"Honest, you'd better look out. It's coming off now."

"Nothing of the sort," and Fifi whipped out a vanity case, and readjusted her cosmetic adornment.

"Then I take it you two are not friends?"

"We most certainly are not. I wouldn't do anything in the world to injure Eunice Embury--in fact, I'd help her, even now--though she scorned my assistance--but we're not friends--no!"

"All right, I just wanted to know. Ask right out--that's my motto."

"It seems to be! Anything else you are thirsting to learn?"

"Yes'm. You know that 'Hamlet' performance--you and Mis' Embury went to?"

"Yes," said Fifi, cautiously.

"You know you accused her of talkin' it over with you--"

"She did!"

"Yes'm--I know you say she did--I got that from Mr. Shane--but, lemme tell you, ma'am, friendly like, you want to be careful how you tell that yarn--'cause they's chance fer a perfectly good slander case against you!"

"What nonsense!" but Fifi paled a little under her delicate rouge.

"No nonsense whatsomever. But here's the point. Was there a witness to that conversation?"

"Why, let me see. We talked it over at the matinee--we were alone then--but, yes, of course--I recollect now--that same evening Eunice was here and Mr. Hendricks was, too, and Mr. Patterson--he lives in their apartment house--the Embury's, I mean-and we all talked about it! There! I guess that's witnesses enough!"

"I guess it is. But take it from me, lady, you're too pretty to get into a bothersome lawsuit--and I advise you to keep on the sunny side of the street, and let these shady matters alone."

"I'll gladly do so--honest, I don't want to get Eunice in bad--"

"Oh, no! we all know you don't want to get her in bad--unless it can be done with abserlute safety to your own precious self. Well--it can't, ma'am. You keep on like you've begun--and your middle name'll soon be trouble! Good morning, ma'am."

Fibsy rose, bowed and left the room so suddenly that Fifi hadn't time to stop him if she had wanted to. And he left behind him a decidedly scared little woman.

Fibsy then went straight to the offices of Mason Elliott.

He was admitted and given an audience at once.

"What is it, McGuire?" asked the broker.

"A lot of things, Mr. Elliott. First of all--I suppose the police are quite satisfied with the alibis of you and Mr. Hendricks?"

"Yes," and Elliott looked curiously into the grave, earnest little face. He had resented, at first, the work of this boy, but after Fleming Stone had explained his worth, Elliott soon began to see it for himself.

"They are unimpeachable," he went on; "I was at home, and Mr. Hendricks was in Boston. This has been proved over and over by many witnesses, both authentic and credible."

"Yes," Fibsy nodded. "I'm sure of it, too. And, of course, that lets you two out. Now, Mr. Elliott, the butler didn't do it F. Stone says that's a self-evident fact. Bringin' us back--as per usual to the two ladies. But, Mr. Elliott, neither of those ladies did it."

"Bless you, my boy, that's my own opinion, of course, but how can we prove it?"

Fibsy deeply appreciated the "we" and gave the speaker a grateful smile.

"There you are, Mr. Elliott, how can we? Mr. Stone, as you know, is the cleverest detective in the world, but he's no magician. He can't find the truth, if the truth is hidden in a place he can't get at."

"Have you any idea, McGuire, who the murderer was?"

"No, sir, I haven't. But I've an idea where to get an idea. And I want you to help me."

"Surely--that goes without saying."

"You'd do anything for Mrs, Embury, wouldn't you?"

"Anything." The simple assertion told the whole story, and Fibsy nodded with satisfaction.

"Then tell me truly, sir, please, wasn't Mr. Embury a--a--a--"

"Careful there--he's dead, you know."

"Yes, I know--but it's necessary, sir. Wasn't he a--I don't know the right term, but wasn't he a money-grabber?"

"In what way?" Elliott spoke very gravely.

You know best, sir. He was your partner--had been for some years. But--on the side, now--didn't he do this? Lend money-sorta personally, you know--on security."

"And if he did?"

"Didn't he demand big security--didn't he get men--his friends even--in his power--and then come down on 'em--oh, wasn't he a sort of a loan shark?"

"Where did you get all this?"

"I put together odds and ends of talk I've heard--and it must be so. That Mr. Patterson, now--"

"Patterson! What do you know of him?"

"Nothing, but that he owed Mr. Embury a lot, and his household stuff was the collateral--and--"

"Were did you learn that? I insist on knowing!"

"Servants' gossip, sir. I picked it up in the apartment house. He and the Emburys live in the same one, you know."

"McGuire, you are on a wrong trail. Mr. Embury may have lent money to his friends--may have had collateral security from them --probably did--but that's nothing to do with his being killed. And as it is a blot on his memory, I do not want the matter made public."


Raspberry Jam - 40/45

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