The Evil Shepherd HTML version
Four men were discussing the verdict at the adjourned inquest upon Victor Bidlake, at
Soto's American Bar about a fortnight later. They were Robert Fairfax, a young actor in
musical comedy, peter Jacks, a cinema producer, Gerald Morse, a dress designer, and
Sidney Voss, a musical composer and librettist, all habitues of the place and members of
the little circle towards which the dead man had seemed, during the last few weeks of his
life, to have become attracted. At a table a short distance away, Francis Ledsam was
seated with a cocktail and a dish of almonds before him. He seemed to be studying an
evening paper and to be taking but the scantiest notice of the conversation at the bar.
"It just shows," Peter Jacks declared, "that crime is the easiest game in the world. Given a
reasonable amount of intelligence, and a murderer's business is about as simple as a
"The police," Gerald Morse, a pale-faced, anaemic-looking youth, declared, "rely upon
two things, circumstantial evidence and motive. In the present case there is no
circumstantial evidence, and as to motive, poor old Victor was too big a fool to have an
enemy in the world."
Sidney Voss, who was up for the Sheridan Club and had once been there, glanced
respectfully across at Francis.
"You ought to know something about crime and criminals, Mr. Ledsam," he said. "Have
you any theory about the affair?"
Francis set down the glass from which he had been drinking, and, folding up the evening
paper, laid it by the side of him.
"As a matter of fact," he answered calmly, "I have."
The few words, simply spoken, yet in their way charged with menace, thrilled through
the little room. Fairfax swung round upon his stool, a tall, aggressive-looking youth
whose good-looks were half eaten up with dissipation. His eyes were unnaturally bright,
the cloudy remains in his glass indicated absinthe.
"Listen, you fellows!" he exclaimed. "Mr. Francis Ledsam, the great criminal barrister, is
going to solve the mystery of poor old Victor's death for us!"
The three other young men all turned around from the bar. Their eyes and whole attention
seemed rivetted upon Francis. No one seemed to notice the newcomer who passed quietly
to a chair in the background, although he was a person of some note and interest to all of
them. Imperturbable and immaculate as ever, Sir Timothy Brast smiled amiably upon the
little gathering, summoned a waiter and ordered a Dry Martini.