The Man in Lower Ten
26. On To Richmond
Strangely enough, I was not disturbed that day. McKnight did not appear at all. I sat at
my desk and transacted routine business all afternoon, working with feverish energy.
Like a man on the verge of a critical illness or a hazardous journey, I cleared up my
correspondence, paid bills until I had writer's cramp from signing checks, read over my
will, and paid up my life insurance, made to the benefit of an elderly sister of my
mother's. I no longer dreaded arrest. After that morning in the station, I felt that anything
would be a relief from the tension. I went home with perfect openness, courting the
warrant that I knew was waiting, but I was not molested. The delay puzzled me. The
early part of the evening was uneventful. I read until late, with occasional lapses, when
my book lay at my elbow, and I smoked and thought. Mrs. Klopton closed the house with
ostentatious caution, about eleven, and hung around waiting to enlarge on the
outrageousness of the police search. I did not encourage her.
"One would think," she concluded pompously, one foot in the hall, "that you were
something you oughtn't to be, Mr. Lawrence. They acted as though you had committed a
"I'm not sure that I didn't, Mrs. Klopton," I said wearily. "Somebody did, the general
verdict seems to point my way."
She stared at me in speechless indignation. Then she flounced out. She came back once to
say that the paper predicted cooler weather, and that she had put a blanket on my bed,
but, to her disappointment, I refused to reopen the subject.
At half past eleven McKnight and Hotchkiss came in. Richey has a habit of stopping his
car in front of the house and honking until some one comes out. He has a code of signals
with the horn, which I never remember. Two long and a short blast mean, I believe,
"Send out a box of cigarettes," and six short blasts, which sound like a police call, mean
"Can you lend me some money?" To-night I knew something was up, for he got out and
rang the door-bell like a Christian.
They came into the library, and Hotchkiss wiped his collar until it gleamed. McKnight
was aggressively cheerful.
"Not pinched yet!" he exclaimed. "What do you think of that for luck! You always were a
fortunate devil, Lawrence."
"Yes," I assented, with some bitterness, "I hardly know how to contain myself for joy
sometimes. I suppose you know" - to Hotchkiss - "that the police were here while we
were at Cresson, and that they found the bag that I brought from the wreck?"
"Things are coming to a head," he said thoughtfully "unless a little plan that I have in
mind - " he hesitated.