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Page 203 text:
s M Js Clje 1911 Colonial Ccfjo " My time in London was drawing to a close when one morning just after breakfast, the butler entered with the morning ' s mail. Gilder was busy, so he handed me the bundle of correspondence, which I immediately sorted over. Picking out the " Daily News, " I tossed a budget of letters to my companion. Hardly had the paper touched my hand before these startling headlines riveted my attention : " Mysterious Disappearance of John Proctor. " June 12, Special Telegram: — John Proctor, owner of the beautiful old Inglewood ilanor hou.se near this city, disappeared last night, and though every effort was made to find him, until twelve o ' clock today no trace of him could be discovered. Hut what is still more mysterious, every window and door of the house was securely locked. As the missing man ' s wife is dead, and his only son is a dissolute prodigal, he was alone on the fateful night. The butler, who occupies a basement room just under that of his employer, sa.vs that Proctor, after locking all the doors and windows carefully, went to bed al)out ten o ' clock. lie heard footsteps in his master ' s room about midnight, but thinking Proctor was probably restless, paid no attention to the noise. He also asserts that it would have been impossible to unlock the doors of the house, — three of which would have to be unfastened before reaching Proctor ' s room — with a skeleton key, as these locks are of widely different type ; in fact, all outside doors, to suit a whim of the owner, are fitted with combination locks of a very complicated nature. The butler is an old family servant, honorable and esteemed, and is not suspected. The room when broken into smelled very slightly of ether, itut it seems impossible that a human being other than John Proctor could have entered the room. As the night was warm, the occupant had opened the windows, but like all old-fashioned houses in this locality, the windows were securely barred, and evidently had not been tampered with. There was not even a chimney in the room, but the room adjoining contained quite a large one. But here again solution of the mystery is impossible. The door was securely locked. No one but John Proctor had keys to the house. These were found in his room, under his pillow. " This, then, is the mystery which confronts us. A man has vanished from a strongly locked and barred house during a dark and windy night — fi ' om a house which, it would seem, was impervious to the supernatural, not to mention anything mortal. The wind makes impossible the use of blood hounds. The missing man comes of a small family. He has but one son, Sam Proctor, who ran away from home and is leading the life of a dissolute sailor. He has also a nephew, Sidney i ' l ' iH-tm ' . who is living ni ' ar Ximes, in southei-n France. ' ' " The twelfth, why that was yesterday, " I mused, handing the jiajier to Gilder. Hardly had Gilder read the story when a ringing of the doorbell an- 195
Page 202 text:
m- Ct)c 1911 Colonial (Ecljo ' Mimmm The Dead Man Who Returned jE were sitting in my office, smoking and idly dreaming as the wreaths of snioive curled slowly towards the ceiling, when Lawson broke the silence with : " Say, Boli, in nil yon; ' detective expe- riences I ' ve heard, yon have never told me how Gilder managed that Proctor aft ' air, which at the time yon seemed to think hope- less. " " Well, " I said, " 1 am not busy this morning, so I will give you the whole story as I rememlier it, but as some ol " the principal facts are contained in a few newspaper clippings, 1 shall first look them up. " After a short search among my files, I found the desired clii)inngs, and taking a fresh cigar, settled myself comfortably in my easy chair to tell another of the remarkable experiences with which the life of this eminent detective was tilled. " As you know, Lawson, Gilder and I were boyhood chums, and carried this intimacy into our business relations when we started a detective agency together. Gilder, however, soon outstripped me in proficiency. Then when a Loudon firm was the victim of an enormous theft — I ' ve told you that Loudon story, have I not? " " Yes. " " Well, no native detective seemed al)le to catch the criminals, so an agent was sent over to secure an American expert. Gilder was recommended for the case, aud accepted at a large salary. He managed this case so successfully that he was oil ' ered every inducement to remain in London. lie decided to make London his permanent head(iuarters, aud insisted that I should accom- pany him. 1 replied that London crooks are too thick-headed for me, and I preferred to sharpen my wits in better company. " As both of us are men of few words, our partnership was soon dissolved, and Gilder was on his way to London. " A short time after, a big diamond house in New York — the Thompson- Cottrell Company I believe — lost some valuable diamonds en route for London. They suspected that the thief had landed on English soil, and so detailed me to unravel the mystery. " As soon as Gilder learned that I was in the city, he gave me a very cor- dial invitation to stay with him. Of course nothing could have pleased me better, and at his very comfortable, and I may say, costly apartments, I stayed for two weeks, duriug which time no clue to the diamond mystery could be found. 194
Page 204 text:
v mmn % )t 1911 Colonial Ccljo noiuici ' ii the uuiuiug of a iiicsseugcr lioy. Tlic telugraui was, of course, a sum- mons to Inglewood. Gilder was ready to go iu an instant — lie always kept a suitcase packed for emergencies. " Come go up with me, " was his laconic invitation. I quickly threw a few necessary things into my grip, and in scarcely a moment later, we were upon the .street, had hailed a cab, and were going at breakneck speed to catch the next train for , which was due to leave in five minutes. " Once we were upon the train, iny companion became very silent, and hardly a word was spoken during the journey. As soon as we reached Ingle- wood, after a mile drive from the railroad station, Gilder began to search the beautifid old house for clues. On through the rooms he went, his expression- less face showing that he was deeply puzzled. Finally he returned to the un- fortunate man ' s room. This he began to examine for sliding panels, or other means of exit apart from the door. I meanwhile rummaged around in Proctor ' s private desk, thinking that perhaps the missing man had left there something indicative of his present whereabouts. Finally I came to a will. T opened it and read the few words it contained. " 1, Oliver Proctor, " (this was the kidnapped man ' s father), " do hereby will to my second sou, John, all my real estate and personal propertj ' ; said estate to be bequeathed at his death to my grandson, Sidney Proctor, or, in event of his death or other disfinalification to hold said property, to Sam Proctor. Witness my hand, Oliver Proctor. " " Sidney Proctor, then, would inherit the property, and it seemed to me that he might have killed his uncle. On second thought I abandoned the idea, as it would have been entirely too dangerous for him to undertake such a move. " ]My work was interrupted l)y the butler announcing dinner, or luncheon I should say, and Gilder seemed more cheerful. He relaxed into his usual self, joking about some of his past experiences. I knew him too well to ask him his views upon the present case, and merely showed him the will. He read it over and laid it nonchalently aside while he proceeded to lunch. " After lunch he proposed a walk, and we went far out into the country. " We passed several deserted houses, and came at last to a cottage, small, but well kept and beautiful. Gilder, jerking his thumb in that direction, remarked casually: " Sidney ' s English home. " " ' What ' s that funny looking glass house on top? ' I queried. ' Evidently he is not in a position to throw stones. ' ' I believe it is a sort of chemical laboratory and observatory. You know he used to be a professor of chemistry in some college — I can ' t recall the name. ' " Thus time passed for several days, the only variation of the monotony 196
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