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Murder in the Gunroom

Chapter 13
Rand found Gladys alone in the library. As she rose to greet him, he came close to her,
gesturing for silence with finger on lips.
"There's a perfect hell of a mess," he whispered. "Somebody murdered Arnold Rivers last
night."
She looked at him in horror. "Murdered? Who was it? How did it...?"
"I haven't time to talk about that right now," he told her. "Stephen Gresham and Pierre
Jarrett are on their way here, and I'd like you to keep the servants, and particularly
Walters, out of earshot of the gunroom while they're here. It seems that a number of the
best pistols have been stolen from the collection, sometime between the death of Mr.
Fleming and the time I saw the collection yesterday. Stephen and Pierre are going to help
me find out just what's been taken. I have an idea they might have been sold to Rivers.
That may have been why he was killed—to prevent him from implicating the thief."
"You think somebody here—the servants?" she asked.
"I can't see how it could have been an outsider. The stuff wasn't all taken at once; it must
have been moved out a piece at a time, and worthless pistols moved in and hung on the
racks to replace valuable pistols taken." He had left the library door purposely open;
when the doorbell rang, he heard it. "I'll let them in," he said. "You go and head Walters
off."
Rand hurried to the front door and admitted Gresham and Pierre, hustling them down the
hall, into the library, and up the spiral to the gunroom, while Gladys went to the foot of
the front stairs. Through the open gunroom door, Rand could hear her speaking to
Walters, as though sending him on some errand to the rear of the house. He closed the
door and turned to the others.
"We'll have to make it fast," he said. "Mrs. Fleming can't hold the butler off all day. Let's
start over here, and go around the racks."
They began at the left, with the wheel locks. Pierre put his finger immediately on the
shabby and disreputable specimen Rand had first noticed.
"Phew! Is that one a stinker!" he said. "What used to be there was a nice late sixteenth- or
early seventeenth-century North Italian pistol, all covered with steel filigree-work. A real
beauty; much better than average."
"Those Turkish atrocities," Gresham pointed out. "They're filling in for a pair of Lazarino
Cominazo snaphaunces that Lane Fleming paid seven hundred for, back in the mid-
thirties, and didn't pay a cent too much for, even then. Worth an easy thousand, now.
Remember the pair of Cominazo flintlocks illustrated in Pollard's Short History of
Firearms? These were even better, and snaphaunces."
 
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