This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.
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Anna the Adventuress (1904) by E. Phillips Oppenheim
Chapter 24. A Case For The Police
After that first horrible moment it was perhaps Anna who was the more self-possessed. She dropped on her knees by his side, and gently unbuttoned his waistcoat. Then she looked up at Brendon.
"You must fetch a doctor," she said. "I do not think that he is quite dead."
"And leave you here alone?" he asked, in a hoarse whisper. "Come with me."
"I am not afraid," she answered. "Please hurry."
He reeled out of the room. Anna was afterwards astonished at her own self-possession. She bound a scarf tightly round the place where the blood seemed to be coming from. Then she stood up and looked around the room.
There were no evidences of any struggle, no overturned chairs or disarranged furniture. The grate was full of fluttering ashes of burnt paper, and the easy chair near the fire had evidently been used. On the floor was a handkerchief, a little morsel of lace. Anna saw it, and for the first time found herself trembling.
She moved towards it slowly and picked it up, holding it out in front of her whilst the familiar perfume seemed to assert itself with damning insistence. It was Annabel's. The lace was family lace, easily recognizable. The perfume was the only one she ever used. Annabel had been here then. It was she who had come out from the flat only a few minutes before. It was she----
Anna's nerves were not easily shaken, but she found herself suddenly clutching at the table for support. The room was reeling, or was it that she was going to faint? She recovered herself with a supreme effort. There were the burnt papers still in the grate. She took up the poker and stirred the fire vigorously. Almost at the same moment the door opened and Brendon entered, followed by the
Anna turned round with a start, which was almost of guilt, the poker still in
her hand. She met the keen grey eyes of a clean-shaven man, between
forty and fifty, quietly dressed in professional attire. Before he even glanced
at the man on the floor he stepped over to her side and took the poker from her.
"Forgive me, madam," he said stiffly, "but in such a case as this it is better that nothing in the room should be disturbed until the arrival of the police. You have been burning paper, I see."
"Are you a detective or a doctor?" she asked calmly. "Do you need me to remind you that your patient is bleeding to death?"
He dropped on his knees by the man's side and made a hurried examination.
"Who tied this scarf here?" he asked, looking up.
"I did," Anna answered. "I hope that it has not done any harm."
"He would have been dead before now without it," the doctor answered shortly. "Get me some brandy and my bag."
It was nearly half an hour before they dared ask him the question.
"Will he live?"
The doctor shook his head.
"It is very doubtful," he said. "You must send for the police at once, you know. You, sir," he added, turning to Brendon, "had better take my card round to the police station in Werner Street and ask that Detective Dorling be sent round here at once on urgent business."
"Is it necessary to send for the police?" Anna asked.
"Absolutely," the doctor answered, "and the sooner the better. This is a case either of suicide or murder. The police are concerned in it in either event."
"Please go then, Mr. Brendon," Anna said. "You will come back, won't you?"
He nodded cheerfully.
"Of course I will," he answered.
The doctor and Anna were left alone. Every moment or two he bent over his patient. He seemed to avoid meeting Anna's eyes as much as possible.
"Does he live here?" he asked her presently.
"I have no idea," Anna answered.
"Who is the tenant of these rooms?" he inquired.
"You will have no objection to his remaining here?" he asked. "A move of any sort would certainly be fatal."
"Of course not," Anna said. "Had he better have a nurse? I will be responsible for anything of that sort."
"If he lives through the next hour," the doctor answered, "I will send some one. Do you know anything of his friends? Is there any one for whom we ought to send?"
"I know very little of him beyond his name," Anna answered. "I know nothing whatever of his friends or his home. He used to live in a boarding-house in Russell Square. That is where I first knew him."
The doctor looked at her thoughtfully. Perhaps for the first time he realized that Anna was by no means an ordinary person. His patient was distinctly of a different order of life. It was possible that his first impressions had not been correct.
"Your name, I believe, is----"
"Pellissier," Anna answered.
"Allow me," the doctor said, "to give you a word of advice, Miss Pellissier. A detective will be here in a few moments to make inquiries into this affair. You may have something to conceal, you may not. Tell the whole truth. It always comes out sooner or later. Don't try to shield anybody or hide anything. It is bad policy."
Anna smiled very faintly.
"I thank you for your advice," she said. "I can assure you that it was quite unnecessary. I know less about this affair perhaps than you suppose. What I do know I shall have no hesitation in telling anyone who has the right to ask."
"Just so," the doctor remarked drily. "And if I were you I would keep away from the fire."
Brendon reappeared, followed by a tall thin man with a stubbly brown moustache and restless grey eyes. The doctor nodded to him curtly.
"Good evening, Dorling," he said. "Before you do anything else I should advise you to secure those charred fragments of paper from the grate. I know nothing about this affair, but some one has been burning documents."
The detective went down on his hands and knees. With delicate touch he rescued all that was possible of them, and made a careful little parcel. Then he stepped briskly to his feet and bent over the wounded man.
"Shot through the lungs," he remarked.
The doctor nodded.
"Bad hemorrhage," he said. "I am going to fetch some things that will be wanted if he pulls through the next hour. I found him lying like this, the bleeding partly stopped by this scarf, else he had been dead by now."
The doctor glanced towards Anna. Considering his convictions he felt that his remark was a generous one. Anna's face however was wholly impassive.
He took up his hat and went. The detective rapidly sketched the appearance of the room in his notebook, and picked up the pistol from under the table. Then he turned to Anna.
"Can you give me any information as to this affair?" he asked.
"I will tell you all that I know," Anna said. "My name is Anna Pellissier, sometimes called Annabel. I am engaged to sing every evening at the 'Unusual' music hall. This man's name is Montague Hill. I saw him first a few months ago at Mrs. White's boarding-house in Russell Square. He subjected me there to great annoyance by claiming me as his wife. As a matter of fact, I had never spoken to him before in my life. Since then he has persistently annoyed me. I have suspected him of possessing a skeleton key to my apartments. Tonight I locked up my flat at six o'clock. It was then, I am sure, empty. I dined with a friend and went to the 'Unusual.' At a quarter past eleven I returned here with this gentleman, Mr. Brendon. As we turned the corner of the street, I noticed that the electric light was burning in this room. We stopped for a moment to watch it, and almost immediately it was turned out. We came on here at once. I found the door locked as usual, but when we entered this room everything was as you see. Nothing has been touched since."
The detective nodded.
"A very clear statement, madam," he said. "From what you saw from the opposite pavement then, it is certain that some person who was able to move about was in this room only a minute or so before you entered it?"
"That is so," Anna answered.
"You met no one upon the stairs, or saw no one leave the flats?"
"No one," Anna answered firmly.
"Then either this man shot himself or some one else shot him immediately before your arrival--or rather if it was not himself the person who did it was in the room, say two minutes, before you arrived."
"That is so," Anna admitted.
"I will not trouble you with any questions about the other occupants of the flats," Mr. Dorling said. "I shall have to go through the building. You say that this gentleman was with you?"
"I was," Brendon answered, "most providentially."
"You did not notice anything which may have escaped this lady? You saw no one leave the flats?"
"No one," Brendon answered.
"You heard no pistol-shot?"
The detective turned again to Anna.
"You know of no one likely to have had a grudge against this man?" he asked.
"There is no one else who has a key to your rooms?"
"No one except my maid, who is away in Wiltshire."
"The inference is, then," the detective said smoothly, "that this man obtained admission to your rooms by means of a false key, that he burnt some papers here and shot himself within a few moments of your return. Either that or some other person also obtained admission here and shot him, and that person is either still upon the premises or escaped without your notice."
"I suppose," Anna said, "that those are reasonable deductions."
The detective thrust his notebook into his pocket.
"I brought a man with me who is posted outside," he remarked. "With your permission I should like to search the remainder of your rooms."
Anna showed him the way.
"Have either of you been out of this room since you discovered what had happened?" he asked.
"Mr. Brendon went for the doctor," Anna answered. "I have not left this apartment myself."
Nothing unusual was discovered in any other part of the flat. While they were still engaged in looking round the doctor returned with a nurse and assistant.
"With your permission," he said to Anna, "I shall arrange a bed for him where he is. There is scarcely one chance in a dozen of saving his life; there would be none at all if he were moved."
"You can make any arrangements you like," Anna declared. "I shall leave the flat to you and go to a hotel."
"You would perhaps be so good as to allow one of my men to accompany you and see you settled," Mr. Dorling said deferentially. "In the event of his death we should require you at once to attend at the inquest."
"I am going to pack my bag," Anna answered. "In five minutes I shall be ready."