As soon as he was fully awake the following morning, Bob Eden's active brai_eturned to the problem with which it had been concerned when he dropped of_o sleep. Madden had killed a man. Cool, confident and self-possessed thoug_e always seemed, the millionaire had lost his head for once. Ignoring th_ossible effect of such an act on his fame, his high position, he had wit_urderous intent pulled the trigger on the gun Bill Hart had given him. Hi_light must have been desperate indeed.
Whom had he killed? That was something yet to be discovered. Why had he don_t? By his own confession, because he was afraid. Madden, whose very nam_truck terror to many and into whose presence lesser men came with awe an_rembling, had himself known the emotion of fear. Ridiculous, but "you wer_lways afraid of him," Thorn had said.
Some hidden door in the millionaire's past must be found and opened. First o_ll, the identity of the man who had gone west last Wednesday night on thi_onely ranch must be ascertained. Well, at least the mystery was beginning t_lear, the long sequence of inexplicable, maddening events since they came t_he desert was broken for a moment by a tangible bit of explanation. Here wa_ start, something into which they could get their teeth. From this they mus_ush on to—what?
Chan was waiting in the patio when Bob Eden came out. His face was decorate_ith a broad grin.
"Breakfast reposes on table," he announced. "Consume it speedily. Before u_tretches splendid day for investigation with no prying eyes."
"What's that?" asked Eden. "Nobody here? How about Gamble?"
Chan led the way to the living-room, and held Bob Eden's chair. "Oh, cut that, Charlie," the boy said. "You're not Ah Kim today. Do you mean to say tha_amble has also left us?"
Chan nodded. "Gamble develops keen yearning to visit Pasadena," he replied.
"On which journey he is welcome as one of his long-tailed rats."
Eden quaffed his orange juice. "Madden didn't want him, eh?"
"Not much," Chan answered. "I rise before day breaks and prepare breakfast, which are last night's orders. Madden and Thorn arrive, brushing persisten_leep out of eyes. Suddenly enters this Professor Gamble, plentifully awak_nd singing happy praise for desert sunrise. 'You are up early,' says Madden, growling like dissatisfied dog. 'Decided to take little journey to Pasaden_long with you,' announces Gamble. Madden purples like distant hills whe_vening comes, but regards me and quenches his reply. When he and Thorn ente_ig car, behold Mr. Gamble climbing into rear seat. If looks could assassinat_adden would then and there have rendered him extinct, but such are not th_ase. Car rolls off on to sunny road with Professor Gamble smiling pleasantl_n back. Welcome as long-tailed rat but not going to worry about it, than_ou."
Eden chuckled. "Well, it's a good thing from our standpoint, Charlie. I wa_ondering what we were going to do with Gamble nosing round. Big load off ou_houlders right away."
"Very true," agreed Chan. "Alone here, we relax all over place and find wha_s to find. How you like oatmeal, boy? Not so lumpy, if I may be permitted th_mmodesty."
"Charlie, the world lost a great chef when you became a policeman. But—th_evil! Who's that driving in?"
Chan went to the door. "No alarm necessary," he remarked. "Only Mr. Holley."
The editor appeared. "Here I am, up with the lark and ready for action," h_nnounced. "Want to be in on the big hunt, if you don't mind."
"Certainly don't," said Eden. "Glad to have you. We've had a bit of luc_lready." He explained about Gamble's departure.
Holley nodded wisely. "Of course Gamble went to Pasadena," he remarked. "He'_ot going to let Madden out of his sight. You know, I've had some flashes o_nspiration about this matter out here."
"Good for you," replied Eden. "For instance—"
"Oh, just wait a while. I'll dazzle you with them at the proper moment. Yo_ee, I used to do a lot of police reporting. Little bright eyes, I was ofte_alled."
"Pretty name," laughed Eden.
"Little bright eyes is here to look about," Holley continued. "First of all, we ought to decide what we're looking for."
"I guess we know that, don't we?" Eden asked.
"Oh, in a general way, but let's be explicit. To go back and start at th_eginning—that's the proper method, isn't it, Chan?"
Charlie shrugged. "Always done—in books," he said. "In real life, not so muc_o."
Holley smiled. "That's right—dampen my young enthusiasm. However, I am no_oing to recall a few facts. We needn't stress the side issues at present—th_earls, the activities of Shaky Phil in San Francisco, the murder of Louie, the disappearance of Madden's daughter—all these will be explained when we ge_he big answer. We are concerned today chiefly with the story of the ol_rospector."
"Who may have been lying, or mistaken," Eden suggested.
"Yes—his tale seems unbelievable, I admit. Without any evidence to back it up, I wouldn't pay much attention to it. However, we have that evidence. Don'_orget Tony's impassioned remarks, and his subsequent taking off. Mor_mportant still, there is Bill Hart's gun, with two empty chambers. Also th_ullet hole in the wall. What more do you want?"
"Oh, it seems to be well substantiated," Eden agreed.
"It is. No doubt about it—somebody was shot at this place Wednesday night. W_hought at first Thorn was the killer, now we switch to Madden. Madden lure_omebody to Thorn's room, or cornered him there, and killed him. Why? Becaus_e was afraid of him? We think hard about Wednesday night—and what do we wan_o know? We want to know—who was the third man?"
"The third man?" Eden repeated.
"Precisely. Ignore the prospector—who was at the ranch? Madden and Thorn—yes.
And one other. A man who, seeing his life in danger, called loudly for help. _an who, a moment later, lay on the floor beyond the bed, and whose shoe_lone were visible from where the prospector stood. Who was he? Where did h_ome from? When did he arrive? What was his business? Why was Madden afraid o_im? These are the questions to which we must now seek answers. Am I right, Sergeant Chan?"
"Undubitably," Charlie replied. "And how shall we find those answers? B_earching, perhaps. Humbly suggest we search."
"Every nook and corner of this ranch," agreed Holley. "We'll begin wit_adden's desk. Some stray bit of correspondence may throw unexpected light.
It's locked, of course. But I've brought along a pocketful of old keys—go_hem from a locksmith in town."
"You act like number one detective," Chan remarked.
"Thanks," answered Holley. He went over to the big flat-topped desk belongin_o the millionaire and began to experiment with various keys. In a few moment_e found the proper one and all the drawers stood open.
"Splendid work," said Chan.
"Not much here, though," Holley declared. He removed the papers from the to_eft-hand drawer and laid them on the blotting pad. Bob Eden lighted _igarette and strolled away. Somehow this idea of inspecting Madden's mail di_ot appeal to him.
The representatives of the police and the press, however, were not s_elicately minded. For more than half an hour Chan and the editor studied th_ontents of Madden's desk. They found nothing, save harmless an_nderstandable data of business deals, not a solitary scrap that could by th_idest stretch of the imagination throw any light on the identity or meanin_f the third man. Finally, perspiring and baffled, they gave up and th_rawers were relocked.
"Well," said Holley, "not so good, eh? Mark the desk off our list and let'_ove on."
"With your permission," Chan remarked, "we divide the labors. For yo_entlemen the inside of the house. I myself have fondly feeling for outdoors."
One by one, Holley and Eden searched the rooms. In the bedroom occupied by th_ecretary they saw for themselves the bullet hole in the wall. A_nvestigation of the bureau, however, revealed the fact that Bill Hart'_istol was no longer there. This was their sole discovery of any interest.
"We're up against it," admitted Holley, his cheerful manner waning. "Madden'_ clever man, and he didn't leave a warm trail, of course. Bu_omehow—somewhere—"
They returned to the living-room. Chan, hot and puffing, appeared suddenly a_he door. He dropped into a chair.
"What luck, Charlie?" Eden inquired.
"None whatever," admitted Chan gloomily. "Heavy disappointment causes my hear_o sag. No gambler myself, but would have offered huge wager something burie_n this ranch. When Madden, having shot, remarked, 'Shut up and forget. I wa_fraid and I killed. Now think quick what we had better do,' I would expec_irst thought is—burial. How else to dispose of dead? So just now I hav_xamined every inch of ground, with highest hope. No good. If burial made, i_as not here. I see by your faces you have similar bafflement to report."
"Haven't found a thing," Eden replied.
Chan sighed. "I drag the announcement forth in pain," he said. "But I now gaz_olemnly at stone wall."
They sat in helpless silence. "Well, let's not give up yet," Bob Ede_emarked. He leaned back in his chair and blew a ring of smoke toward th_aneled ceiling. "By the way, has it ever occurred to you that there must b_ome sort of attic above this room?"
Chan was instantly on his feet. "Clever suggestion," he cried. "Attic, yes, but how to ascend?" He stood staring at the ceiling a moment, then wen_uickly to a large closet in the rear of the room. "Somewhat humiliate_ituation for me," he announced. Crowding close beside him in the dim closet, the other two looked aloft at an unmistakable trap-door.
Bob Eden was selected for the climb, and with the aid of a stepladder Cha_rought from the barn, he managed it easily. Holley and the detective waite_elow. For a moment Eden stood in the attic, his head bent low, cobweb_aressing his face, while he sought to accustom his eyes to the faint light.
"Nothing here, I'm afraid," he called. "Oh, yes, there is. Wait a minute."
They heard him walking gingerly above, and clouds of dust descended on thei_eads. Presently he was lowering a bulky object through the narrow trap—_attered old Gladstone bag.
"Seems to be something in it," Eden announced.
They took it with eager hands, and set it on the desk in the sunny living- room. Bob Eden joined them.
"By gad," the boy said, "not much dust on it, is there? Must have been pu_here recently. Holley, here's where your keys come in handy."
It proved a simple matter for Holley to master the lock. The three men crowde_lose.
Chan lifted out a cheap toilet case, with the usual articles—a comb and brush, razors, shaving cream, tooth paste, then a few shirts, socks an_andkerchiefs. He examined the laundry mark.
"D—thirty-four," he announced.
"Meaning nothing," Eden said.
Chan was lifting a brown suit of clothes from the bottom of the bag.
"Made to order by tailor in New York," he said, after an inspection of th_nner coat pocket. "Name of purchaser, however, is blotted out by too muc_earing." He took from the side pockets a box of matches and a half-empt_acket of inexpensive cigarettes. "Finishing the coat," he added.
He turned his attention to the vest and luck smiled upon him. From the lowe_ight-hand pocket he removed an old-fashioned watch, attached to a heav_hain. The timepiece was silent; evidently it had been unwound for some time.
Quickly he pried open the back case, and a little grunt of satisfactio_scaped him. He passed the watch to Bob Eden.
"Presented to Jerry Delaney by his Old Friend, Honest Jack McGuire," read Ede_n a voice of triumph. "And the date—August twenty-sixth, 1913."
"Jerry Delaney!" cried Holley. "By heaven, we're getting on now. The name o_he third man was Jerry Delaney."
"Yet to be proved he was the third man," Chan cautioned. "This, however, ma_elp."
He produced a soiled bit of colored paper—a passenger's receipt for a Pullma_ompartment. "Compartment B—car 198," he read. "Chicago to Barstow." He turne_t over. "Date when used, February eighth, present year."
Bob Eden turned to a calendar. "Great stuff," he cried. "Jerry Delaney lef_hicago on February eighth—a week ago Sunday night. That got him into Barsto_ast Wednesday morning, February eleventh—the morning of the day he wa_illed. Some detectives, we are."
Chan was still busy with the vest. He brought forth a key ring with a fe_eys, then a worn newspaper clipping. The latter he handed to Eden.
"Read it, please?" he suggested.
Bob Eden read:
"Theater-goers of Los Angeles will be delighted to know that in the cast o_ne Night in June, the musical comedy opening at the Mason next Monday night, will be Miss Norma Fitzgerald. She has the role of Marcia, which calls for _ich soprano voice, and her vast army of admirers hereabouts know in advanc_ow well she will acquit herself in such a part. Miss Fitzgerald has been o_he stage twenty years—she went on as a mere child—and has appeared in suc_roductions as The Love Cure."
Eden paused. "There's a long list." He resumed reading:
"Matinees of One Night in June will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and fo_his engagement a special scale of prices has been inaugurated."
Eden put the clipping down on the table. "Well, that's one more fact abou_erry Delaney. He was interested in a soprano. So many men are—but still, i_ay lead somewhere."
"Poor Jerry," said Holley, looking down at the rather pitiful pile of th_an's possessions. "He won't need a hair-brush, or a razor, or a gold watc_here he's gone." He took up the watch and regarded it thoughtfully. "Hones_ack McGuire. I seem to have heard that name somewhere."
Chan was investigating the trousers pockets. He turned them out one by one, but found nothing.
"Search is now complete," he announced. "Humbly suggest we put all back as w_ound it. We have made delightful progress."
"I'll say we have," cried Eden, with enthusiasm. "More progress than I eve_hought possible. Last night we knew only that Madden had killed a man. Toda_e know the name of the man." He paused. "I don't suppose there can be an_oubt about it?" he inquired.
"Hardly," Holley replied. "A man doesn't part with such personal possession_s a hair-brush and a razor as long as he has any further use for them. I_e's through with them, he's through with life. Poor devil!"
"Let's go over it all again before we put these things away," said Eden.
"We've learned that the man Madden feared, the man he killed, was Jerr_elaney. What do we know of Delaney? He was not in very affluen_ircumstances, though he did have his clothes made by a tailor. Not a smar_ailor, judging by the address. He smoked Corsican cigarettes. Honest Jac_cGuire, whoever he may be, was an old friend of his, and thought so highly o_im he gave Jerry a watch. What else? Delaney was interested in an actres_amed Norma Fitzgerald. A week ago last Sunday he left Chicago at eigh_.M.—the Limited—for Barstow, riding in Compartment B, car 198. And that, _uess, about sums up what we know of Jerry Delaney."
Charlie Chan smiled. "Very good," he said. "A splendid list, rich wit_romise. But one fact you have missed complete."
"What's that?" inquired Eden.
"One very easy fact," continued Chan. "Take this vest once on Jerry Delaney.
Examine close—what do you discover?"
Carefully Eden looked over the vest, then with a puzzled air handed it t_olley, who did the same. Holley shook his head.
"Nothing?" asked Chan, laughing silently. "Can it be you are not such abl_etectives as I thought? Here—place hand in pocket—"
Bob Eden thrust his fingers into the pocket indicated by Chan. "It's chamois- lined," he said. "The watch pocket, that's all."
"True enough," answered Chan. "And on the left, I presume."
Eden looked foolish. "Oh," he admitted, "I get you. The watch pocket is on th_ight."
"And why," persisted Charlie. "With coat buttoned, certain man can not reac_atch easily when it reposes at left. Therefore he instructs tailor, mak_ocket for watch on right, please." He began to fold up the clothes in orde_o return them to the bag. "One other fact we know about Jerry Delaney, and i_ay be used in tracing his movements the day he came to this ranch. Jerr_elaney had peculiarity to be left-handed."
"Great Scott!" cried Holley suddenly. They turned to him. He had picked up th_atch again and was staring at it. "Honest Jack McGuire—I remember now."
"You know this McGuire?" inquired Chan quickly.
"I met him, long ago," Holley replied. "The first night I brought Mr. Eden ou_ere to the ranch, he asked me if I'd ever seen P.J. Madden before. I sai_hat twelve years ago I saw Madden in a gambling house on East Forty-fourt_treet, New York, dolled up like a prince and betting his head off. Madde_imself remembered the occasion when I spoke to him about it."
"But McGuire?" Chan wanted to know.
"I recall now that the name of the man who ran that gambling house was Jac_cGuire. Honest Jack, he had the nerve to call himself. It was a quee_oint—that was later proved. But Jack McGuire was Delaney's old friend—he gav_erry a watch as a token of their friendship. Gentlemen, this is interesting.
McGuire's gambling house on Forty-fourth Street comes back into the life o_.J. Madden."