The Clue of the Twisted Candle

by Edgar Wallace

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Chapter IV

T. X. folded the telegram very carefully and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket.

He favoured the newcomer with a little bow and taking upon himself the honours of the establishment, pushed a chair to his visitor.

"I think you know my name," said Kara easily, "I am a friend of poor Lexman's."

"So I am told," said T. X.,"but don't let your friendship for Lexman prevent your sitting down."

For a moment the Greek was nonplussed and then, with a little smile and bow, he seated himself by the writing table.

"I am very distressed at this happening," he went on, "and I am more distressed because I feel that as I introduced Lexman to this unfortunate man, I am in a sense responsible."

"If I were you," said T. X., leaning back in the chair and looking half questioningly and half earnestly into the face of the other, "I shouldn't let that fact keep me awake at night. Most people are murdered as a result of an introduction. The cases where people murder total strangers are singularly rare. That I think is due to the insularity of our national character."

Again the other was taken back and puzzled by the flippancy of the man from whom he had expected at least the official manner.

"When did you see Mr. Vassalaro last?" asked T. X. pleasantly.

Kara raised his eyes as though considering.

"I think it must have been nearly a week ago."

"Think again," said T. X.

For a second the Greek started and again relaxed into a smile.

"I am afraid," he began.

"Don't worry about that," said T. X.,"but let me ask you this question. You were here last night when Mr. Lexman received a letter. That he did receive a letter, there is considerable evidence," he said as he saw the other hesitate, "because we have the supporting statements of the servant and the postman."

"I was here," said the other, deliberately, "and I was present when Mr. Lexman received a letter."

T. X. nodded.

"A letter written on some brownish paper and rather bulky," he suggested.

Again there was that momentary hesitation.

"I would not swear to the color of the paper or as to the bulk of the letter," he said.

"I should have thought you would," suggested T. X.,"because you see, you burnt the envelope, and I presumed you would have noticed that."

"I have no recollection of burning any envelope," said the other easily.

"At any rate," T. X. went on, "when Mr. Lexman read this letter out to you . . ."

"To which letter are you referring?" asked the other, with a lift of his eyebrows.

"Mr. Lexman received a threatening letter," repeated T. X. patiently, "which he read out to you, and which was addressed to him by Vassalaro. This letter was handed to you and you also read it. Mr. Lexman to your knowledge put the letter in his safe - in a steel drawer."

The other shook his head, smiling gently.

"I am afraid you've made a great mistake," he said almost apologetically, "though I have a recollection of his receiving a letter, I did not read it, nor was it read to me."

The eyes of T. X. narrowed to the very slits and his voice became metallic and hard.

"And if I put you into the box, will you swear, that you did not see that letter, nor read it, nor have it read to you, and that you have no knowledge whatever of such a letter having been received by Mr. Lexman?"

"Most certainly," said the other coolly.

"Would you swear that you have not seen Vassalaro for a week?"

"Certainly," smiled the Greek.

"That you did not in fact see him last night," persisted T. X., "and interview him on the station platform at Lewes, that you did not after leaving him continue on your way to London and then turn your car and return to the neighbourhood of Beston Tracey?"

The Greek was white to the lips, but not a muscle of his face moved.

"Will you also swear," continued T. X. inexorably, "that you did not stand at the corner of what is known as Mitre's Lot and re-enter a gate near to the side where your car was, and that you did not watch the whole tragedy?"

"I'd swear to that," Kara's voice was strained and cracked.

"Would you also swear as to the hour of your arrival in London?"

"Somewhere in the region of ten or eleven," said the Greek.

T. X. smiled.

"Would you swear that you did not go through Guilford at half-past twelve and pull up to replenish your petrol?"

The Greek had now recovered his self-possession and rose.

"You are a very clever man, Mr. Meredith - I think that is your name?"

"That is my name," said T. X. calmly. "There has been, no need for me to change it as often as you have found the necessity."

He saw the fire blazing in the other's eyes and knew that his shot had gone home.

"I am afraid I must go," said Kara. "I came here intending to see Mrs. Lexman, and I had no idea that I should meet a policeman."

"My dear Mr. Kara," said T. X.,rising and lighting a cigarette, "you will go through life enduring that unhappy experience."

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say. You will always be expecting to meet one person, and meeting another, and unless you are very fortunate indeed, that other will always be a policeman."

His eyes twinkled for he had recovered from the gust of anger which had swept through him.

"There are two pieces of evidence I require to save Mr. Lexman from very serious trouble," he said, "the first of these is the letter which was burnt, as you know."

"Yes," said Kara.

T. X. leant across the desk.

"How did you know" he snapped.

"Somebody told me, I don't know who it was."

"That's not true," replied T. X.; "nobody knows except myself and Mrs. Lexman."

"But my dear good fellow," said Kara, pulling on his gloves, "you have already asked me whether I didn't burn the letter."

"I said envelope," said T. X.,with a little laugh.

"And you were going to say something about the other clue?"

"The other is the revolver," said T. X.

"Mr. Lexman's revolver!" drawled the Greek.

"That we have," said T. X. shortly. "What we want is the weapon which the Greek had when he threatened Mr. Lexman."

"There, I'm afraid I cannot help you."

Kara walked to the door and T. X. followed.

"I think I will see Mrs. Lexman."

"I think not," said T. X.

The other turned with a sneer.

"Have you arrested her, too?" he asked.

"Pull yourself together!" said T. X. coarsely. He escorted Kara to his waiting limousine.

"You have a new chauffeur to-night, I observe," he said.

Kara towering with rage stepped daintily into the car.

"If you are writing to the other you might give him my love," said T. X.,"and make most tender enquiries after his mother. I particularly ask this.

Kara said nothing until the car was out of earshot then he lay back on the down cushions and abandoned himself to a paroxysm of rage and blasphemy.

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It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.