The vile, raw fog tore your throat and ravaged your eyes. You could not see your feet. You stumbled in your walk over poor men's graves.
The feel of Parker's old trench-coat beneath your fingers was comforting. You had felt it in worse places. You clung on now for fear you should get separated. The dim people moving in front of you were like Brocken spectres.
"Take care, gentlemen," said a toneless voice out of the yellow darkness, "there's an open grave just hereabouts."
You bore away to the right, and floundered in a mass of freshly turned clay.
"Hold up, old man," said Parker.
"Where is Lady Levy?"
"In the mortuary; the Duchess of Denver is with her. Your mother is wonderful, Peter."
"Isn't she?" said Lord Peter.
A dim blue light carried by somebody ahead wavered and stood still.
"Here you are," said a voice.
Two Dantesque shapes with pitchforks loomed up.
"Have you finished?" asked somebody.
"Nearly done, sir." The demons fell to work again with the pitchforks—no, spades.
Somebody sneezed. Parker located the sneezer and introduced him.
"Mr. Levett represents the Home Secretary. Lord Peter Wimsey. We are sorry to drag you out on such a day, Mr. Levett."
"It's all in the day's work," said Mr. Levett, hoarsely. He was muffled to the eyes.
The sound of the spades for many minutes. An iron noise of tools thrown down. Demons stooping and straining.
A black-bearded spectre at your elbow. Introduced. The Master of the Workhouse.
"A very painful matter, Lord Peter. You will forgive me for hoping you and Mr. Parker may be mistaken."
"I should like to be able to hope so too."
Something heaving, straining, coming up out of the ground.
"Steady, men. This way. Can you see? Be careful of the graves—they lie pretty thick hereabouts. Are you ready?"
"Right you are, sir. You go on with the lantern. We can follow you."
Lumbering footsteps. Catch hold of Parker's trench-coat again. "That you, old man? Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Levett—thought you were Parker."
"Hullo, Wimsey—here you are."
More graves. A headstone shouldered crookedly aslant. A trip and jerk over the edge of the rough grass. The squeal of gravel under your feet.
"This way, gentlemen, mind the step."
The mortuary. Raw red brick and sizzling gas-jets. Two women in black, and Dr. Grimbold. The coffin laid on the table with a heavy thump.
"'Ave you got that there screw-driver, Bill? Thank 'ee. Be keerful wi' the chisel now. Not much substance to these 'ere boards, sir."
Several long creaks. A sob. The Duchess's voice, kind but peremptory.
"Hush, Christine. You mustn't cry."
A mutter of voices. The lurching departure of the Dante demons—good, decent demons in corduroy.
Dr. Grimbold's voice—cool and detached as if in the consulting-room.
"Now—have you got that lamp, Mr. Wingate? Thank you. Yes, here on the table, please. Be careful not to catch your elbow in the flex, Mr. Levett. It would be better, I think, if you came on this side. Yes—yes—thank you. That's excellent."
The sudden brilliant circle of an electric lamp over the table. Dr. Grimbold's beard and spectacles. Mr. Levett blowing his nose. Parker bending close. The Master of the Workhouse peering over him. The rest of the room in the enhanced dimness of the gas-jets and the fog.
A low murmur of voices. All heads bent over the work.
Dr. Grimbold again—beyond the circle of the lamplight.
"We don't want to distress you unnecessarily, Lady Levy. If you will just tell us what to look for–the—? Yes, yes, certainly—and—yes—stopped with gold? Yes—the lower jaw, the last but one on the right? Yes—no teeth missing—no—yes? What kind of a mole? Yes—just over the left breast? Oh, I beg your pardon, just under—yes—appendicitis? Yes—a long one—yes—in the middle? Yes, I quite understand—a scar on the arm? Yes, I don't know if we shall be able to find that—yes—any little constitutional weakness that might—? Oh, yes—arthritis—yes—thank you, Lady Levy—that's very clear. Don't come unless I ask you to. Now, Wingate."
A pause. A murmur. "Pulled out? After death, you think—well, so do I. Where is Dr. Colegrove? You attended this man in the workhouse? Yes. Do you recollect—? No? You're quite certain about that? Yes—we mustn't make a mistake, you know. Yes, but there are reasons why Sir Julian can't be present; I'm asking you, Dr. Colegrove. Well, you're certain—that's all I want to know. Just bring the light closer, Mr. Wingate, if you please. These miserable shells let the damp in so quickly. Ah! what do you make of this? Yes—yes—well, that's rather unmistakable, isn't it? Who did the head? Oh, Freke—of course. I was going to say they did good work at St. Luke's. Beautiful, isn't it, Dr. Colegrove? A wonderful surgeon—I saw him when he was at Guy's. Oh, no, gave it up years ago. Nothing like keeping your hand in. Ah—yes, undoubtedly that's it. Have you a towel handy, sir? Thank you. Over the head, if you please—I think we might have another here. Now, Lady Levy—I am going to ask you to look at a scar, and see if you recognize it. I'm sure you are going to help us by being very firm. Take your time—you won't see anything more than you absolutely must."
"Lucy, don't leave me."
A space cleared at the table. The lamplight on the Duchess's white hair.
"Oh, yes—oh, yes! No, no—I couldn't be mistaken. There's that funny little kink in it. I've seen it hundreds of times. Oh, Lucy—Reuben!"
"Only a moment more, Lady Levy. The mole—"
"I—I think so—oh, yes, that is the very place."
"Yes. And the scar—was it three-cornered, just above the elbow?"
"Yes, oh, yes."
"Is this it?"
"I must ask you definitely, Lady Levy. Do you, from these three marks identify the body as that of your husband?"
"Oh! I must, mustn't I? Nobody else could have them just the same in just those places? It is my husband. It is Reuben. Oh—"
"Thank you, Lady Levy. You have been very brave and very helpful."
"But—I don't understand yet. How did he come here? Who did this dreadful thing?"
"Hush, dear," said the Duchess, "the man is going to be punished."
"Oh, but—how cruel! Poor Reuben! Who could have wanted to hurt him? Can I see his face?"
"No, dear," said the Duchess. "That isn't possible. Come away—you mustn't distress the doctors and people."
"No—no—they've all been so kind. Oh, Lucy!"
'We'll go home, dear. You don't want us any more, Dr. Grimbold?"
'No, Duchess, thank you. We are very grateful to you and to Lady Levy for coming."
There was a pause, while the two women went out, Parker, collected and helpful, escorting them to their waiting car. Then Dr. Grimbold again:
"I think Lord Peter Wimsey ought to see—the correctness of his deductions—Lord Peter—very painful—you may wish to see—yes, I was uneasy at the inquest—yes—Lady Levy—remarkably clear evidence—yes—most shocking case—ah, here's Mr. Parker—you and Lord Peter Wimsey entirely justified—do I really understand—? Really? I can hardly believe it—so distinguished a man—as you say, when a great brain turns to crime—yes—look here! Marvellous work—marvellous—somewhat obscured by this time, of course—but the most beautiful sections—here, you see, the left hemisphere—and here—through the corpus striatum—here again—the very track of the damage done by the blow—wonderful—guessed it—saw the effect of the blow as he struck it, you know—ah, I should like to see his brain, Mr. Parker—and to think that—heavens, Lord Peter, you don't know what a blow you have struck at the whole profession—the whole civilized world! Oh, my dear sir! Can you ask me? My lips are sealed of course—all our lips are sealed."
The way back through the burial ground. Fog again, and the squeal of wet gravel.
"Are your men ready, Charles?"
"They have gone. I sent them off when I saw Lady Levy to the car."
"Who is with them?"
"Yes—poor devil. They've had him up on the mat at headquarters for bungling the case. All that evidence of Thipps's about the night club was corroborated, you know. That girl he gave the gin-and-bitters to was caught, and came and identified him, and they decided their case wasn't good enough, and let Thipps and the Horrocks girl go. Then they told Sugg he had overstepped his duty and ought to have been more careful. So he ought, but he can't help being a fool. I was sorry for him. It may do him some good to be in at the death. After all, Peter, you and I had special advantages."
"Yes. Well, it doesn't matter. Whoever goes won't get there in time. Sugg's as good as another."
But Sugg—an experience rare in his career—was in time.
Parker and Lord Peter were at 110 Piccadilly. Lord Peter was playing Bach and Parker was reading Origen when Sugg was announced.
"We've got our man, sir," said he.
"Good God!" said Peter. "Alive?"
"We were just in time, my lord. We rang the bell and marched straight up past his man to the library. He was sitting there doing some writing. When we came in, he made a grab for his hypodermic, but we were too quick for him, my lord. We didn't mean to let him slip through our hands, having got so far. We searched him thoroughly and marched him off."
"He is actually in gaol, then?"
"Oh, yes—safe enough—with two warders to see he doesn't make away with himself."
"You surprise me, Inspector. Have a drink."
"Thank you, my lord. I may say that I'm very grateful to you—this case was turning out a pretty bad egg for me. If I was rude to your lordship—"
"Oh, it's all right, Inspector," said Lord Peter, hastily. "I don't see how you could possibly have worked it out. I had the good luck to know something about it from other sources."
"That's what Freke says." Already the great surgeon was a common criminal in the inspector's eyes—a mere surname. "He was writing a full confession when we got hold of him, addressed to your lordship. The police will have to have it, of course, but seeing it's written for you, I brought it along for you to see first. Here it is."
He handed Lord Peter a bulky document.
"Thanks," said Peter. "Like to hear it, Charles?"
Accordingly Lord Peter read it aloud.