But the police have dropped the case .
I want you to go to Pearson City and find out why -- first-hand stuff for your modern crime series .
Take the same train Diana Beauclerk took and get there at the same time .
Go to the same hotel and occupy the same suite -- 1105 '' .
`` Will the hotel rent it so soon after the crime '' ? ?
`` Why not ? ?
The police have finished with it .
Besides , the number of the suite hasn't been published in any newspaper .
To the hotel people , you'll just be an innocent tourist who happens to ask for that particular suite '' .
`` Still , they may not want to rent it '' .
`` That's your headache .
Once inside , keep your eyes open '' ! !
`` For what '' ! !
Alec was growing more and more skeptical .
`` The police will have gone over every square inch of the place with a fine-tooth comb .
The hotel people will have scoured and vacuumed it .
Ten to one , it's even been redecorated '' ! !
`` There's always a chance they may have overlooked something '' , returned the chief .
`` I'm betting on that chance .
Interview the bellboy and chambermaid who waited on Beauclerk .
Study the topography of the suite .
Soak up local color .
Reenact everything Beauclerk did .
Try to imagine you're going to be murdered yourself -- between eleven p.m. and one a.m. the night you arrive '' .
Alec smirked .
`` Cheerful way to spend an evening '' ! !
A sudden thought wiped the smirk from his face .
`` Suppose the murderer should return to the scene of the crime '' ! !
The chief's eyes gleamed .
He spoke softly .
`` That is exactly what I'm hoping for .
After all , the murderer is still at large .
And the key to the suite is still missing '' .
On the train Alec refreshed his memory of the Beauclerk case by reading teletype flimsies -- spot-news stories about the crime sent out by the Pearson City Star , a member of the Syndicate Press .
Diana Beauclerk was a second-rate actress living in New York .
Two weeks ago she had gone west to Pearson City .
Daniel Forbes , her divorced husband , lived there .
So did the firm of lawyers who had got her the divorce , Kimball and Stacy .
She reached Pearson City at nine p.m. and went straight to the Hotel Westmore .
She telephoned the junior partner of her law firm , Martin Stacy , and asked him to call at her hotel that evening .
At the time of her divorce Forbes had promised to pay her a lump sum in lieu of further alimony if she remarried .
According to Stacy , she told him she was planning to remarry and she wanted him to ask Forbes for the lump sum .
Stacy replied that it would bankrupt Forbes , who had just sunk all his money in a real estate venture .
Stacy said he left her suite at nine forty-five p.m. .
She was in good health and spirits , but still determined to get the money from Forbes .
No one saw Stacy leave .
No other visitor inquired for her that evening .
Next morning she was found dead in her suite with a bullet from a
Colt revolver in her brain .
According to the medical examiner , she was shot between eleven p.m. and one a.m. .
Her door was locked and the key was missing .
So was the gun .
When Alec finished reading he was sure that either Forbes or Stacy had killed Diana Beauclerk .
Forbes had motive and Stacy had opportunity .
Find a motive for Stacy or an opportunity for Forbes and the case would be solved .
The Hotel Westmore proved to be one of the older hotels in Pearson City , and definitely second-rate .
Alec's first impression of the lobby was gloomy , Victorian dignity -- black walnut and red plush , a black and white tiled floor , and Persian rugs .
He studied the night clerk as a man measures an adversary .
`` I'd like the room I had the last time '' .
`` Certainly , sir '' .
The clerk was young and limp , with a tired smile .
`` Do you recall the number '' ? ?
`` It was 1105 '' .
The clerk's smile congealed .
`` That suite is taken '' .
Alec's glance went to a chart of guest names and room numbers hanging on the wall behind the clerk .
Opposite the number 1105 stood one word : Unoccupied .
The clerk's glance followed Alec's .
`` We have better rooms vacant now '' , he babbled .
`` Larger and more comfortable .
At the same rate '' .
Alec's face was dark , blunt , and sulky .
He always looked impertinent and he could look dangerous .
He was looking dangerous now .
He raised his voice .
`` Anything wrong with the plumbing in 1105 '' ? ?
There was a sudden stillness in the lobby .
Two women , who had been chattering like parrots , were struck dumb .
A man , lighting a match for his cigar , paused until the flame burned his fingers .
Even the bellboys on their bench were listening .
The clerk's eyes flickered .
`` Of course not '' ! !
`` Anybody with a contagious disease been in there '' ? ?
`` No '' ! !
The clerk was almost hysterical .
`` It's just that -- well , 1105 is being redecorated '' .
`` I don't believe it '' .
Alec leaned on the desk , holding the clerk's eyes with his .
`` Suppose you tell me the real reason '' , he drawled .
`` There might be a story in it '' .
`` St-story '' ? ?
`` I'm with the Syndicated Press , Feature Service .
Either I get the story -- or I get the suite '' .
It was blackmail and the clerk knew it .
`` There is no story '' , he piped tremulously .
`` Front ! !
Show this gentleman to 1105 '' ! !
The stillness persisted as Alec followed a bellboy across the lobby to the elevator .
He could feel eyes on his back .
He wished it had not been necessary to announce the number of his suite quite so publicly .
The corridor on the eleventh floor was dimly lighted by electric globes at intervals of thirty feet .
A thick , crimson carpet muffled every footfall .
At the end of the corridor Alec noticed a door marked : Fire Stairs .
It was a neat setup for murder .
The bellboy unlocked a white door numbered 1105 .
The room was dark but a neon sign flashed and faded beyond the window .
A few snowflakes sifted down through that theatrical red glow , languid as falling feathers .
Hastily the boy switched on a ceiling light .
The room looked normal and even commonplace .
There was no hint of a violent struggle now .
Deal furniture with a mahogany finish was neatly arranged as if it stood in the window of a department store .
The blue rug was suspiciously bright and new .
It had never been stained with blood .
Table covers and towels were clean , ashtrays empty and supplied with fresh matches .
The mirror over the bureau was a blank eye , round and innocent .
Alec played the part of an innocent tourist .
`` Is there anything wrong with this room '' ? ?
`` N-no '' .
The boy dropped his eyes .
`` Afraid you'll lose your job if you don't keep your mouth shut '' ? ?
The boy raised his eyes .
`` Listen , mister .
If you want my advice , pack up and take the next train back to New York '' .
`` Were you on duty here two weeks ago '' ? ?
The boy hesitated .
Then , `` I'm not talking .
But I wouldn't spend a night in here for a million bucks '' ! !
He was in a hurry to get out of the room .
Alec gave him a tip and let him go .
Alone , Alec examined the doors .
There were three -- one leading to a bathroom , one to the hall , and one to the room next door which was immovable -- locked or bolted on the other side .
Alec locked the hall door and put the key with his watch on the bedside table .
It was just quarter of nine .
As he ranged his belongings on the bureau he noticed a film of white dust on the dark surface of the wood beyond the linen cover .
Not gray like the dust that collects in an unused room , but white .
Women didn't use white face powder nowadays , he recalled .
They used pink , tan , or cream powder .
Alec glanced into the bathroom .
Blood in the bathtub where the murderer appears to have washed his hands .
It seemed clean now , but Alec decided against a bath .
He crawled into bed and switched off the light .
In the darkness he could see the rosy reflection of the neon sign on the wall opposite the window .
It winked as steadily as a metronome -- on , off -- on , off .
In less than five minutes Alec was asleep .
He never knew just what woke him .
Yet suddenly he was wide-awake .
There was no sound and apparently no movement in the room except the noiseless pulsation of the red light on the wall .
He lay still , listening to the silence , watching the light .
Somewhere in the city a big clock sounded twelve solemn notes -- midnight .
According to the medical examiner she was shot between eleven p.m. and one a.m. .
Alec heard a faint sound .
His heart seemed to swell and knock against the wall of his chest .
For the sound was inside the room .
He let his eyelids droop and breathed heavily , feigning sleep .
The sound was coming nearer .
A monstrous shadow fell across the illuminated wall , distorted and indefinable .
When the neon sign faded out , the shadow disappeared .
When the neon sign flashed on , the shadow was still there .
It stretched to an impossible height , climbing the wall to the ceiling .
That meant that something between the light and its reflection on the wall was moving closer to the source of the light -- in this case , the window .
Cautiously Alec tensed his muscles , ready to jump .
The bedsprings betrayed him with a creak .
The shadow vanished .
Someone had moved beyond the range of the light from the window .
Abandoning caution , Alec leaped out of bed and groped for the light switch .
Before he could snap it on , a stinging blow caught him in the ribs .
He lashed out blindly with his right .
There was a thick , squashy crack of fist on flesh .
Something hard grazed his knuckles .
He put everything he had into the next and aimed down where the stomach ought to be .
Rough cloth rasped his fist .
There was a grunt , curiously inarticulate , like that of an animal in pain .
Something heavy shook the floor as it dropped .
Alec waited a moment , on guard .
Nothing happened .
Again he groped for the light switch .
The blue rug had been rolled up and stacked in one corner of the room .
On the bare floorboards a man lay face down .
He had a short , heavy , powerful body .
Alec turned him over and discovered a round , lumpy face with narrow , slanting eyes -- a primitive Tartar face from Russia or the Balkans .
The man's shoes were too pointed , his overcoat too broad at the shoulders and too narrow at the waist .
There was a slight bulge under the left armpit -- a shoulder holster .
Alec promptly removed the gun .
He was familiar with this type .
He had seen it in the lineup at Police Headquarters in New York , in Broadway night clubs and Seventh Avenue pool rooms , in the criminal courts .
But he was surprised to meet it here .
Diana Beauclerk had no connection with the underworld .
A professional gunman would not have killed her with a weapon of such small caliber as a
Nor would he choose a respectable hotel as the scene for a killing when it would be so much safer to take his victim for a one-way ride on a lonely country road .
The man's eyelids fluttered .
He opened his eyes .
`` What are you doing here '' ? ?
Demanded Alec .
The man made no reply .
His eyes were dazed .
His lips were bruised and swollen where Alec had hit him .
`` Did you kill Diana Beauclerk '' ? ?
Alec expected an indignant denial , but there was no response at all .
`` Oh , come on , snap out of it ! !
Or I'll turn you over to the police '' ! !
The silence was getting on Alec's nerves .
The man opened his mouth , but no words came .
Only that curious , animal grunting Alec had heard during their fight .
`` Don't you speak English '' ? ?
The man opened his mouth wider .
A forefinger pointed toward his gullet .
Alec leaned forward to look .
There were hideous scars inside the throat and the palate was mutilated .