`` Through a door conveniently unlocked '' , Madden supplemented .
`` That damn door '' , said the police chief .
`` A gift horse to be viewed with suspicion '' .
Madden's dark face wore a meditative look .
`` If there was collusion between an outside murderer and a member of the household it would be an elementary precaution to check on the door later .
And it makes a very poor red herring for an inside job .
Much better to break a cellar window '' .
`` Don't forget , there was the hope it would pass for a natural death '' , Pauling reminded him .
`` Well , with a house as big as that there must be at least one cellar window that wouldn't be noticed right away unless there was a police investigation '' .
`` Yeah .
And a pane of glass isn't hard to '' --
The telephone interrupted him .
He scooped up the receiver and said , `` Police chief '' , into the mouthpiece , and then , `` Oh yes , Mr. Benson .
I was hoping I'd hear from you today '' .
With his free hand he pulled a pad and pencil toward him and began to make notes as he listened , saying , `` Uh-huh '' and `` I see '' at intervals .
At last he said , `` Well , thank you for calling , Mr. Benson .
Although there was no doubt in my mind and we've been handling it as one I'm glad to have it made official '' .
He hung up .
`` Coroner '' , he said to Madden .
`` He's just heard from the pathologist who says Mrs. Meeker apparently died from suffocation '' .
Pauling looked at his notes .
`` Many minute hemorrhages in the lungs ; ;
particles of lint and thread in the mouth and nostrils .
Scrapings from the bed linen identical with the lint and thread found in the nasal and oral cavities .
No other cause of death apparent .
Trachea clear of mucus and foreign objects .
Brain examined for thrombosis , clot or hemorrhage .
No signs of these , no gross hemorrhage of lungs , heart , brain or stomach '' .
He paused .
`` That's about it .
Oh , the time of death .
The duration of the digestive process varies , the pathologist says , but the empty stomach and the findings in the upper gastrointestinal tract indicate that Mrs. Meeker died several hours after her seven-o'clock dinner .
Probably around midnight , give or take an hour either way '' .
Pauling paused again .
`` So there it is '' , he said .
`` Not your problem , of course , unless Johnston and the murderer are one and the same '' .
They discussed this possibility .
However likely it was , Pauling said , he couldn't limit himself to it .
He had to look for other prospects , other motives until more conclusive evidence pointing to Johnston came to light .
Madden , with his investigation centered on the fraud , said that tomorrow he would go to the Bronx bank through which Mrs. Meeker's checks to Johnston had cleared .
Arthur Williams had to be located , they agreed .
He might have been in collusion with Johnston on the fraud ; ;
he might be Mrs. Meeker's murderer or have played some part in her death .
This was Madden's suggestion ; ;
the police chief shook his head over it .
If Arthur Williams was involved in the fraud or the murder , then he too had another identity .
No one the Medfield police had questioned professed to know any more about him than about Johnston .
Scholarship applicant ? ?
Pauling looked doubtful .
Madden explained that he was thinking of an application sent directly to Mrs. Meeker .
Then he asked to use the phone and called Brian Thayer , who said that he was just leaving to keep a lunch date but would be home by two o'clock .
Madden said that he would see him at two and made another call , this one to Mrs. Meeker's lawyers .
Mr. Hohlbein was out for the day , but Mr. Garth would be free at one-thirty .
The secretary's tone indicated that an appointment at such short notice was a concession for which Madden should be duly grateful .
He inferred that Hohlbein and Garth were high-priced lawyers .
He had lunch with Pauling .
Promptly at one-thirty he entered Hohlbein and Garth's elegant suite of offices in Medfield's newest professional building .
He disliked Garth on sight , conservative clothes and haircut , smile a shade too earnestly boyish for a man who must be well into his thirties , handclasp too consciously quick and firm .
Youngish man on the make , Madden labeled him , and was ready to guess that in a correct , not too pushing fashion , the junior partner of the firm had political ambitions ; ;
that Mrs. Garth would be impeccably suitable as the wife of a rising young lawyer ; ;
that there were three children , two boys and a girl ; ;
that she was active in the Woman's Club and he in Lions , Rotary , and Jaycee ; ;
and finally , that neither of them had harbored an unorthodox opinion since their wedding day .
Madden knew that he could be completely wrong about all this , but also knew that he would go right on disliking Garth .
Garth was prepared to be helpful in what he referred to with fastidious distaste as this unfortunate Johnston affair , which would not , he said more than once , have ever come about if Mrs. Meeker had only seen fit to consult Mr. Hohlbein or him about it .
Madden regretted not being able to find fault with so true a statement .
He asked to see a copy of Mrs. Meeker's will .
Garth brought one out .
The date , October 8 , 1957 , immediately caught the inspector's eye .
`` Fairly recent '' , he remarked .
`` Was she in the habit of making new wills '' ? ?
`` Oh no .
She had reason to change the one she made right after Mr. Meeker's death .
Her estate had grown considerably .
She wanted to make a more equitable distribution of it among the groups that would benefit the most ; ;
particularly the scholarship fund .
At the time the will was drawn Mr. Hohlbein mentioned to me how mentally alert she seemed for her age , knowing just what changes she wanted made and so forth '' .
Garth hesitated .
`` Mr. Hohlbein and I have noticed some lapses since , though .
Most of them this past year , I'd say .
Even two or three years ago I doubt that she'd have become involved in this unfortunate Johnston affair .
She'd have consulted us , you see .
She always did before , and showed the utmost confidence in whatever we advised '' .
The inspector nodded , doubting this .
Mrs. Meeker hadn't struck him as ready to seek anyone's advice , least of all Garth's .
With her sharp tongue she'd have cut his pompousness to ribbons .
It would have been Hohlbein who handled her affairs .
Madden settled back to read the will .
He skimmed over the millions that went to Meeker Park , Medfield Hospital , the civic center , the Public Health Nursing Association , the library , and so on , pausing when he came to the scholarship fund .
Two millions were added to what had been set aside for it in Mrs. Meeker's lifetime , and the proviso made that as long as Brian Thayer continued to discharge his duties as administrator of the fund to the satisfaction of the board of trustees ( hereinafter appointed by the bank administering the estate ) he was to be retained in his present capacity at a salary commensurate with the increased responsibilities enlargement of the fund would entail .
A splendid vote of confidence in Thayer , Madden reflected .
Tenure , too .
Very nice for him .
He went on to personal bequests , a list of names largely unknown to him .
Twenty-five thousand to each of the great-nieces in Oregon ( not much to blood relatives out of millions ) ten thousand to this friend and that , five thousand to another ; ;
to Brian Thayer , the sum of ten thousand dollars ; ;
to the Pecks , ten thousand each ; ;
to Joan Sheldon the conditional bequest of ten thousand to be paid to her in the event that she was still in Mrs. Meeker's employ at the time of the latter's death .
( No additional five thousand for each year after Joan's twenty-first birthday ; ;
Mrs. Meeker hadn't got around to taking care of that .
Too bad , Madden thought .
Joan Sheldon had earned the larger bequest .
Mr. Hohlbein was left twenty thousand , Garth ten .
There were no other names Madden recognized .
Arthur Williams's might well have been included , he felt .
Mrs. Meeker had spent a small fortune on a search for him but had made no provision for him in her will if he should be found after her death , and had never mentioned his name to her lawyers .
Madden took up this point with Garth , who shrugged it off .
`` Old people have their idiosyncrasies '' .
`` This one came a bit high at thirty thousand or more .
`` Well , she had a number of them where money was concerned '' , Garth said .
`` Sometimes we'd have trouble persuading her to make tax-exempt charitable contributions , and I've known her to quarrel with a plumber over a bill for fixing a faucet ; ;
the next moment she'd put another half million into the scholarship fund or thirty thousand into something as impractical as this unfortunate Johnston affair .
There was no telling how she'd react to spending money '' .
Madden inquired next about the audit of the scholarship fund .
There was an annual audit , Garth informed him .
No discrepancies or shortages had ever been found .
Brian Thayer was a thoroughly honest and competent administrator .
His salary had reached the ten thousand mark .
His expenses ran another four or five thousand .
The lawyer didn't know him very well although he saw him occasionally at some dinner party -- Thayer , like himself , Madden reflected , was the extra man so prized by hostesses -- and found him easy enough to talk to .
But he didn't play golf , didn't seem to belong to any local clubs -- his work took him away a lot , of course -- which probably accounted for his tendency to keep to himself .
Garth's glance began to flicker to his watch .
He said that he had already told the police chief that he didn't know what insurance man had recommended Johnston to Mrs. Meeker .
He would offer no theory to account for her murder .
The whole thing , his manner conveyed , was so far outside the normal routine of Hohlbein and Garth that it practically demanded being swept under the rug .
No doubt Mrs. Meeker had snubbed him many a time and he felt no grief over her passing .
Even so , Madden's dislike of the suave , correct lawyer deepened .
It would be all right with him , he decided , if his investigation of the fraud , with its probable by-product of murder , led to Garth's door .
Motive ? ?
Ten-thousand-dollar bequest .
At first glance , not much of a motive for a man of his standing ; ;
but for all his air of affluence , who could tell what his private financial picture was ? ?
The inspector knew as he left that this was wishful thinking .
Nevertheless , he made a mental note to look into Garth's financial background .
Brian Thayer had a downtown address .
He lived in an apartment house not over three or four years old , a reclaimed island of landscaped brick and glass on the fringe of the business district .
He occupied a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor , using the second bedroom as his office .
Airy and bright , the apartment was furnished with good modern furniture , rugs , and draperies .
Done by a professional decorator , Madden thought , and somehow as impersonal , as unremarkable as its occupant .
In Dunston the rent would run close to two hundred a month ; ;
in Medfield , perhaps twenty-five less , not all of it paid by Thayer , who could charge off one room on his expense account .
He took Madden into the room he used as an office .
It contained a desk , files , a typewriter on a stand , and two big leather armchairs .
A newspaper open at stock-market reports lay on one of them .
Thayer folded it up and offered a drink .
The inspector declined .
To begin the interview , he asked if Thayer , with more time to think it over , could add to what he had said the other day about Johnston .
Thayer shook his head .
`` It's all I think about , too .
That and her death .
It's still unbelievable that it was murder .
For all her domineering ways , I can't conceive of her having had a deadly enemy '' .