The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, by Fergus Hume

Chapter 14.

Another Richmond in the Field.

There is an old adage that says “Like draws to like.” The antithesis of this is probably that “Unlike repels unlike.” But there are times when individualism does not enter into the matter, and Fate alone, by throwing two persons together, sets up a state, congenial or uncongenial, as the case may be. Fate chose to throw together Mr. Gorby and Mr. Kilsip, and each was something more than uncongenial to the other. Each was equally clever in their common profession; each was a universal favourite, yet each hated the other. They were as fire and water to one another, and when they came together, invariably there was trouble.

Kilsip was tall and slender; Gorby was short and stout. Kilsip looked clever; Gorby wore a smile of self-satisfaction; which alone was sufficient to prevent his doing so. Yet, singularly enough, it was this very smile that proved most useful to Gorby in the pursuit of his calling. It enabled him to come at information where his sharp-looking colleague might try in vain. The hearts of all went forth to Gorby’s sweet smile and insinuating manner. But when Kilsip appeared people were wont to shut up, and to retire promptly, like alarmed snails, within their shells. Gorby gave the lie direct to those who hold that the face is ever the index to the mind. Kilsip, on the other hand, with his hawk-like countenance, his brilliant black eyes, hooked nose, and small thin-lipped mouth, endorsed the theory. His complexion was quite colourless, and his hair was jet black. Altogether, he could not be called fair to look upon. His craft and cunning were of the snake-like order. So long as he conducted his enquiries in secret he was generally successful; but once let him appear personally on the scene, and failure was assured to him. Thus, while Kilsip passed as the cleverer, Gorby was invariably the more successful — at all events, ostensibly.

When, therefore, this hansom cab murder case was put into Gorby’s hands, the soul of Kilsip was smitten with envy, and when Fitzgerald was arrested, and all the evidence collected by Gorby seemed to point so conclusively to his guilt, Kilsip writhed in secret over the triumph of his enemy. Though he would only have been too glad to say that Gorby had got hold of the wrong man, yet the evidence was so conclusive that such a thought never entered his head until he received a note from Mr. Calton, asking him to call at his office that evening at eight o’clock, with reference to the murder.

Kilsip knew that Calton was counsel for the prisoner. He guessed that he was wanted to follow up a clue. And he determined to devote himself to whatever Calton might require of him, if only to prove Gorby to be wrong. So pleased was he at the mere possibility of triumphing over his rival, that on casually meeting him, he stopped and invited him to drink.

The primary effect of his sudden and unusual hospitality was to arouse all Gorby’s suspicions; but on second thoughts, deeming himself quite a match for Kilsip, both mentally and physically, Gorby accepted the invitation.

“Ah!” said Kilsip, in his soft, low voice, rubbing his lean white hands together, as they sat over their drinks, “you’re a lucky man to have laid your hands on that hansom cab murderer so quickly.”

“Yes; I flatter myself I did manage it pretty well,” said Gorby, lighting his pipe. “I had no idea that it would be so simple — though, mind you, it required a lot of thought before I got a proper start.”

“I suppose you’re pretty sure he’s the man you want?” pursued Kilsip, softly, with a brilliant flash of his black eyes.

“Pretty sure, indeed!” retorted Mr. Gorby, scornfully, “there ain’t no pretty sure about it. I’d take my Bible oath he’s the man. He and Whyte hated one another. He says to Whyte, ‘I’ll kill you, if I’ve got to do it in the open street.’ He meets Whyte drunk, a fact which he acknowledges himself; he clears out, and the cabman swears he comes back; then he gets into the cab with a living man, and when he comes out leaves a dead one; he drives to East Melbourne and gets into the house at a time which his landlady can prove — just the time that a cab would take to drive from the Grammar School on the St. Kilda Road. If you ain’t a fool, Kilsip, you’ll see as there’s no doubt about it.”

“It looks all square enough,” said Kilsip, who wondered what evidence Calton could have found to contradict such a plain statement of fact. “And what’s his defence?”

“Mr. Calton’s the only man as knows that,” answered Gorby, finishing his drink; “but, clever and all as he is, he can’t put anything in, that can go against my evidence.”

“Don’t you be too sure of that,” sneered Kilsip, whose soul was devoured with envy.

“Oh! but I am,” retorted Gorby, getting as red as a turkey-cock at the sneer. “You’re jealous, you are, because you haven’t got a finger in the pie.”

“Ah! but I may have yet.”

“Going a-hunting yourself, are you?” said Gorby, with an indignant snort. “A-hunting for what — for a man as is already caught?”

“I don’t believe you’ve got the right man,” remarked Kilsip, deliberately.

Mr. Gorby looked upon him with a smile of pity.

“No! of course you don’t, just because I’ve caught him; perhaps, when you see him hanged, you’ll believe it then?”

“You’re a smart man, you are,” retorted Kilsip; “but you ain’t the Pope to be infallible.”

“And what grounds have you for saying he’s not the right man?” demanded Gorby.

Kilsip smiled, and stole softly across the room like a cat.

“You don’t think I’m such a fool as to tell you? But you ain’t so safe nor clever as you think,” and, with another irritating smile, he went out.

“He’s a regular snake,” said Gorby to himself, as the door closed on his brother detective; “but he’s bragging now. There isn’t a link missing in the chain of evidence against Fitzgerald, so I defy him. He can do his worst.”

At eight o’clock on that night the soft-footed and soft-voiced detective presented himself at Calton’s office. He found the lawyer impatiently waiting for him. Kilsip closed the door softly, and then taking a seat opposite to Calton, waited for him to speak. The lawyer, however, first handed him a cigar, and then producing a bottle of whisky and two glasses from some mysterious recess, he filled one and pushed it towards the detective. Kilsip accepted these little attentions with the utmost gravity, yet they were not without their effect on him, as the keen-eyed lawyer saw. Calton was a great believer in diplomacy, and never lost an opportunity of inculcating it into young men starting in life. “Diplomacy,” said Calton, to one young aspirant for legal honours, “is the oil we cast on the troubled waters of social, professional, and political life; and if you can, by a little tact, manage mankind, you are pretty certain to get on in this world.”

Calton was a man who practised what he preached. He believed Kilsip to have that feline nature, which likes to be stroked, to be made much of, and he paid him these little attentions, knowing full well they would bear their fruit. He also knew that Kilsip entertained no friendly feeling for Gorby, that, in fact, he bore him hatred, and he determined that this feeling which existed between the two men, should serve him to the end he had in view.

“I suppose,” he said, leaning back in his chair, and watching the wreaths of blue smoke curling from his cigar, “I suppose you know all the ins and the outs of the hansom cab murder?”

“I should rather think so,” said Kilsip, with a curious light in his queer eyes. “Why, Gorby does nothing but brag about it, and his smartness in catching the supposed murderer!”

“Aha!” said Calton, leaning forward, and putting his arms on the table. “Supposed murderer. Eh! Does that mean that he hasn’t been convicted by a jury, or that you think that Fitzgerald is innocent?”

Kilsip stared hard at the lawyer, in a vague kind of way, slowly rubbing his hands together.

“Well,” he said at length, in a deliberate manner, “before I got your note, I was convinced Gorby had got hold of the right man, but when I heard that you wanted to see me, and knowing you are defending the prisoner, I guessed that you must have found something in his favour which you wanted me to look after.”

“Right!” said Calton, laconically.

“As Mr. Fitzgerald said he met Whyte at the corner and hailed the cab — ” went on the detective.

“How do you know that?” interrupted Calton, sharply.

“Gorby told me.”

“How the devil did he find out?” cried the lawyer, with genuine surprise.

“Because he is always poking and prying about,” said Kilsip, forgetting, in his indignation, that such poking and prying formed part of detective business. “But, at any rate,” he went on quickly, “if Mr. Fitzgerald did leave Mr. Whyte, the only chance he’s got of proving his innocence is that he did not come back, as the cabman alleged.”

“Then, I suppose, you think that Fitzgerald will prove an alibi,” said Calton.

“Well, sir,” answered Kilsip, modestly, “of course you know more about the case than I do, but that is the only defence I can see he can make.”

“Well, he’s not going to put in such a defence.”

“Then he must be guilty,” said Kilsip, promptly.

“Not necessarily,” returned the barrister, drily.

“But if he wants to save his neck, he’ll have to prove an alibi,” persisted the other.

“That’s just where the point is,” answered Calton. “He doesn’t want to save his neck.”

Kilsip, looking rather bewildered, took a sip of whisky, and waited to hear what Mr. Calton had to say.

“The fact is,” said Calton, lighting a fresh cigar, “he has some extraordinary idea in his head. He refuses absolutely to say where he was on that night.”

“I understand,” said Kilsip, nodding his head. “Woman?”

“No, nothing of the kind,” retorted Calton, hastily. “I thought so at first, but I was wrong. He went to see a dying woman, who wished to tell him something.”

“What about?”

“That’s just what I can’t tell you,” answered Calton quickly. “It must have been something important, for she sent for him in great haste — and he was by her bedside between the hours of one and two on Friday morning.”

“Then he did not return to the cab?”

“No, he did not, he went to keep his appointment, but, for some reason or other, he won’t tell where this appointment was. I went to his rooms to-day and found this half-burnt letter, asking him to come.”

Calton handed the letter to Kilsip, who placed it on the table and examined it carefully.

“This was written on Thursday,” said the detective.

“Of course — you can see that from the date; and Whyte was murdered on Friday, the 27th.”

“It was written at something Villa, Toorak,” pursued Kilsip, still examining the paper. “Oh! I understand; he went down there.”

“Hardly,” retorted Calton, in a sarcastic tone. “He couldn’t very well go down there, have an interview, and be back in East Melbourne in one hour — the cabman Royston can prove that he was at Russell Street at one o’clock, and his landlady that he entered his lodging in East Melbourne at two — no, he wasn’t at Toorak.”

“When was this letter delivered?”

“Shortly before twelve o’clock, at the Melbourne Club, by a girl, who, from what the waiter saw of her, appears to be a disreputable individual — you will see it says bearer will wait him at Bourke Street, and as another street is mentioned, and as Fitzgerald, after leaving Whyte, went down Russell Street to keep his appointment, the most logical conclusion is that the bearer of the letter waited for him at the corner of Bourke and Russell Streets. Now,” went on the lawyer, “I want to find out who the girl that brought the letter is!”

“But how?”

“God bless my soul, Kilsip! How stupid you are,” cried Calton, his irritation getting the better of him. “Can’t you understand — that paper came from one of the back slums — therefore it must have been stolen.”

A sudden light flashed into Kilsip’s eyes.

“Talbot Villa, Toorak,” he cried quickly, snatching up the letter again, and examining it with great attention, “where that burglary took place.”

“Exactly,” said Calton, smiling complacently. “Now do you understand what I want — you must take me to the crib in the back slums where the articles stolen from the house in Toorak were hidden. This paper” — pointing to the letter — “is part of the swag left behind, and must have been used by someone there. Brian Fitzgerald obeyed the directions given in the letter, and he was there, at the time of the murder.”

“I understand,” said Kilsip, with a gratified purr. “There were four men engaged in that burglary, and they hid the swag at Mother Guttersnipe’s crib, in a lane off Little Bourke Street — but hang it, a swell like Mr. Fitzgerald, in evening dress, couldn’t very well have gone down there unless — ”

“He had some one with him well-known in the locality,” finished Calton, rapidly. “Exactly, that woman who delivered the letter at the Club guided him. Judging from the waiter’s description of her appearance, I should think she was pretty well known about the slums.”

“Well,” said Kilsip, rising and looking at his watch, “it is now nine o’clock, so if you like we will go to the old hag’s place at once — dying woman,” he said, as if struck by a sudden thought, “there was a woman who died there about four weeks ago.”

“Who was she?” asked Calton, who was putting on his overcoat.

“Some relation of Mother Guttersnipe’s, I fancy,” answered Kilsip, as they left the office. “I don’t know exactly what she was — she was called the ‘Queen,’ and a precious handsome woman she must have been — came from Sydney about three months ago, and from what I can make out, was not long from England, died of consumption on the Thursday night before the murder.”

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42