The Clue of the Twisted Candle

by Edgar Wallace

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Chapter XXIII

They went out and left them alone, two people who found in this moment a heaven which is not beyond the reach of humanity, but which is seldom attained to. Belinda Mary had an eager audience all to her very self.

"Of course she didn't die," she said scornfully. "Kara was playing on his fears all the time. He never even harmed her - in the way Mr. Lexman feared. He told Mrs. Lexman that her husband was dead just as he told John Lexman his wife was gone. What happened was that he brought her back to England - "

"Who?" asked T. X., incredulously.

"Grace Lexman," said the girl, with a smile. "You wouldn't think it possible, but when you realize that he had a yacht of his own and that he could travel up from whatever landing place he chose to his house in Cadogan Square by motorcar and that he could take her straight away into his cellar without disturbing his household, you'll understand that the only difficulty he had was in landing her. It was in the lower cellar that I found her."

"You found her in the cellar?" demanded the Chief Commissioner.

The girl nodded.

"I found her and the dog - you heard how Kara terrified her - and I killed the dog with my own hands," she said a little proudly, and then shivered. "It was very beastly," she admitted.

"And she's been living with you all this time and you've said nothing!" asked T. X., incredulously. Belinda Mary nodded.

"And that is why you didn't want me to know where you were living?" She nodded again.

"You see she was very ill," she said, "and I had to nurse her up, and of course I knew that it was Lexman who had killed Kara and I couldn't tell you about Grace Lexman without betraying him. So when Mr. Lexman decided to tell his story, I thought I'd better supply the grand de denouement."

The men looked at one another.

"What are you going to do about Lexman?" asked the Chief Commissioner, "and, by the way, T. X., how does all this fit your theories!"

"Fairly well," replied T. X. coolly; "obviously the man who committed the murder was the man introduced into the room as Gathercole and as obviously it was not Gathercole, although to all appearance, he had lost his left arm."

"Why obvious?" asked the Chief Commissioner.

"Because," answered T. X. Meredith, "the real Gathercole had lost his right arm - that was the one error Lexman made."

"H'm," the Chief pulled at his moustache and looked enquiringly round the room, "we have to make up our minds very quickly about Lexman," he said. "What do you think, Carlneau?"

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders.

"For my part I should not only importune your Home Secretary to pardon him, but I should recommend him for a pension," he said flippantly.

"What do you think, Savorsky?"

The Russian smiled a little.

"It is a very impressive story," he said dispassionately; "it occurs to me that if you intend bringing your M. Lexman to judgment you are likely to expose some very pretty scandals. Incidentally," he said, stroking his trim little moustache, "I might remark that any exposure which drew attention to the lawless conditions of Albania would not be regarded by my government with favour."

The Chief Commissioner's eyes twinkled and he nodded.

"That is also my view," said the Chief of the Italian bureau; "naturally we are greatly interested in all that happens on the Adriatic littoral. It seems to me that Kara has come to a very merciful end and I am not inclined to regard a prosecution of Mr. Lexman with equanimity."

"Well, I guess the political aspect of the case doesn't affect us very much," said O'Grady, "but as one who was once mighty near asphyxiated by stirring up the wrong kind of mud, I should leave the matter where it is."

The Chief Commissioner was deep in thought and Belinda Mary eyed him anxiously.

"Tell them to come in," he said bluntly.

The girl went and brought John Lexman and his wife, and they came in hand in hand supremely and serenely happy whatever the future might hold for them. The Chief Commissioner cleared his throat.

"Lexman, we're all very much obliged to you," he said, "for a very interesting story and a most interesting theory. What you have done, as I understand the matter," he proceeded deliberately, "is to put yourself in the murderer's place and advance a theory not only as to how the murder was actually committed, but as to the motive for that murder. It is, I might say, a remarkable piece of reconstruction," he spoke very deliberately, and swept away John Lexman's astonished interruption with a stern hand, "please wait and do not speak until I am out of hearing," he growled. "You have got into the skin of the actual assassin and have spoken most convincingly. One might almost think that the man who killed Remington Kara was actually standing before us. For that piece of impersonation we are all very grateful;" he glared round over his spectacles at his understanding colleagues and they murmured approvingly.

He looked at his watch.

"Now I am afraid I must be off," he crossed the room and put out his hand to John Lexman. "I wish you good luck," he said, and took both Grace Lexman's hands in his. "One of these days," he said paternally, "I shall come down to Beston Tracey and your husband shall tell me another and a happier story."

He paused at the door as he was going out and looking back caught the grateful eyes of Lexman.

"By the way, Mr. Lexman," he said hesitatingly, "I don't think I should ever write a story called 'The Clue of the Twisted Candle,' if I were you."

John Lexman shook his head.

"It will never be written," he said, " - by me."

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