The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, by Fergus Hume

Chapter 26.

Kilsip has a Theory of His Own.

Mr. Calton sat in his office reading a letter he had just received from Fitzgerald, and judging from the complacent smile upon his face it seemed to give him the greatest satisfaction.

“I know,” wrote Brian, “that now you have taken up the affair, you will not stop until you find out everything, so, as I want the matter to rest as at present, I will anticipate you, and reveal all. You were right in your conjecture that I knew something likely to lead to the detection of Whyte’s murderer; but when I tell you my reasons for keeping such a thing secret, I am sure you will not blame me. Mind you, I do not say that I know who committed the murder; but I have suspicions — very strong suspicions — and I wish to God Rosanna Moore had died before she told me what she did. However, I will tell you all, and leave you to judge as to whether I was justified in concealing what I was told. I will call at your office some time next week, and then you will learn everything that Rosanna Moore told me; but once that you are possessed of the knowledge you will pity me.”

“Most extraordinary,” mused Calton, leaning back in his chair, as he laid down the letter. “I wonder if he’s about to tell me that he killed Whyte after all, and that Sal Rawlins perjured herself to save him! No, that’s nonsense, or she’d have turned up in better time, and wouldn’t have risked his neck up to the last moment. Though I make it a rule never to be surprised at anything, I expect what Brian Fitzgerald has to tell me will startle me considerably. I’ve never met with such an extraordinary case, and from all appearances the end isn’t reached yet. After all,” said Mr. Calton, thoughtfully, “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Here a knock came to the door, and in answer to an invitation to enter, it opened, and Kilsip glided into the room.

“You’re not engaged, sir?” he said, in his soft, low voice.

“Oh, dear, no,” answered Calton, carelessly; “come in — come in!”

Kilsip closed the door softly, and gliding along in his usual velvet-footed manner, sat down in a chair near Calton’s, and placing his hat on the ground, looked keenly at the barrister.

“Well, Kilsip,” said Calton, with a yawn, playing with his, watch chain, “any good news to tell me?”

“Well, nothing particularly new,” purred the detective, rubbing his hands together.

“Nothing new, and nothing true, and no matter,” said Calton, quoting Emerson. “And what have you come to see me about?”

“The Hansom Cab Murder,” replied the other quietly.

“The deuce!” cried Calton, startled out of his professional dignity. “And have you found out who did it?”

“No!” answered Kilsip, rather dismally; “but I have, an idea.”

“So had Gorby,” retorted Calton, dryly, “an idea that ended in smoke. Have you any practical proofs?”

“Not yet.”

“That means you are going to get some?”

“If possible.”

“Much virtue in ‘if,’” quoted Calton, picking up a pencil, and scribbling idly on his blotting paper. “And to whom does your suspicion point?”

“Aha!” said Mr. Kilsip, cautiously.

“Don’t know him,” answered the other, coolly; “family name Humbug, I presume. Bosh! Whom do you suspect?”

Kilsip looked round cautiously, as if to make sure they were alone, and then said, in a stage whisper —

“Roger Moreland!”

“That was the young man that gave evidence as to how Whyte got drunk?”

Kilsip nodded.

“Well, and how do you connect him with the murder?”

“Do you remember in the evidence given by the cabmen, Royston and Rankin, they both swore that the man who was with Whyte on that night wore a diamond ring on the forefinger of the right hand?”

“What of that? Nearly every second man in Melbourne wears a diamond ring?”

“But not on the forefinger of the right hand.”

“Oh! And Moreland wears a ring in that way?”

“Yes!”

“Merely a coincidence. Is that all your proof?”

“All I can obtain at present.”

“It’s very weak,” said Calton, scornfully.

“The weakest proofs may form a chain to hang a man,” observed Kilsip, sententiously.

“Moreland gave his evidence clearly enough,” said Calton, rising, and pacing the room. “He met Whyte; they got drunk together. Whyte went out of the hotel, and shortly afterwards Moreland followed with the coat, which was left behind by Whyte, and then someone snatched it from him.”

“Ah, did they?” interrupted Kilsip, quickly.

“So Moreland says,” said Calton, stopping short. “I understand; you think Moreland was not so drunk as he would make out, and that after following Whyte outside, he put on his coat, and got into the cab with him.”

“That is my theory.”

“It’s ingenious enough,” said the barrister; “but why should Moreland murder Whyte? What motive had he?”

“Those papers — ”

“Pshaw! another idea of Gorby’s,” said Calton, angrily. “How do you know there were any papers?”

The fact is, Calton did not intend Kilsip to know that Whyte really had papers until he heard what Fitzgerald had to tell him.

“And another thing,” said Calton, resuming his walk, “if your theory is correct, which I don’t think it is, what became of Whyte’s coat? Has Moreland got it?”

“No, he has not,” answered the detective, decisively.

“You seem very positive about it,” said the lawyer, after a moment’s pause. “Did you ask Moreland about it?”

A reproachful look came into Kilsip’s white face.

“Not quite so green,” he said, forcing a smile. “I thought you’d a better opinion of me than that, Mr. Calton. Ask him? — no.”

“Then how did you find out?”

“The fact is, Moreland is employed as a barman in the Kangaroo Hotel.”

“A barman!” echoed Calton; “and he came out here as a gentleman of independent fortune. Why, hang it, man, that in itself is sufficient to prove that he had no motive to murder Whyte. Moreland pretty well lived on Whyte, so what could have induced him to kill his golden goose, and become a barman — pshaw! the idea is absurd.”

“Well, you may be right about the matter,” said Kilsip, rather angrily; “and if Gorby makes mistakes I don’t pretend to be infallible. But, at all events, when I saw Moreland in the bar he wore a silver ring on the forefinger of his right hand.”

“Silver isn’t a diamond.”

“No; but it shows that was the finger he was accustomed to wear his ring on. When I saw that, I determined to search his room. I managed to do so while he was out, and found — ”

“A mare’s nest?”

Kilsip nodded.

“And so your castle of cards falls to the ground,” said Calton, jestingly. “Your idea is absurd. Moreland no more committed the murder than I did. Why, he was too drunk on that night to do anything.”

“Humph — so he says.”

“Well, men don’t calumniate themselves for nothing.”

“It was a lesser danger to avert a greater one,” replied Kilsip, coolly. “I am sure that Moreland was not drunk on that night. He only said so to escape awkward questions as to his movements. Depend upon it he knows more than he lets out.”

“Well, and how do you intend to set about the matter?”

“I shall start looking for the coat first.”

“Ah I you think he has hidden it?”

“I am sure of it. My theory is this. When Moreland got out of the cab at Powlett Street — ”

“But he didn’t,” interrupted Calton, angrily.

“Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that he did,” said Kilsip, quietly. “I say when he left the cab he walked up Powlett Street, turned to the left down George Street, and walked back to town through the Fitzroy Gardens, then, knowing that the coat was noticeable, he threw it away, or rather, hid it, and walked out of the Gardens through the town — ”

“In evening dress — more noticeable than the coat.”

“He wasn’t in evening dress,” said Kilsip, quietly.

“No, neither was he,” observed Calton, eagerly, recalling the evidence at the trial. “Another blow to your theory. The murderer was in evening dress — the cabman said so.”

“Yes; because he had seen Mr. Fitzgerald in evening dress a few minutes before, and thought that he was the same man who got into the cab with Whyte.”

“Well, what of that?”

“If you remember, the second man had his coat buttoned up. Moreland wore dark trousers — at least, I suppose so — and, with the coat buttoned up, it was easy for the cabman to make the mistake, believing, as he did, that it was Mr. Fitzgerald.”

“That sounds better,” said Calton, thoughtfully. “And what are you going to do?”

“Look for the coat in the Fitzroy Gardens.”

“Pshaw! a wild goose chase.”

“Possibly,” said Kilsip, as he arose to go.

“And when shall I see you again?” said Calton.

“Oh, to-night,” said Kilsip, pausing at, the door. “I had nearly forgotten, Mother Guttersnipe wants to see you.”

“Why? What’s up?”

“She’s dying, and wants to tell you some secret.”

“Rosanna Moore, by Jove!” said Calton. “She’ll tell me something about her. I’ll get to the bottom of this yet. All right, I’ll be here at eight o’clock.”

“Very well, sir!” and the detective glided out.

“I wonder if that old woman knows anything?” said Calton to himself, as he, resumed his seat. “She may have overheard some conversation between Whyte and his mistress, and intends to divulge it. Well, I’m afraid when Fitzgerald does confess, I shall know all about it beforehand.”

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