"It is not my business to discuss Captain Nepcote's private affairs with strangers." The woman turned back into her room without another word, closing the door behind her. "D n her!" muttered Caldew, in intense exasperation. "These ancient females learn the wisdom of controlling their natural garrulity when placed in charge of bachelors' flats," said Colwyn with a laugh.
Nepcote's statement on the previous night had led him to believe that Philip Heredith had suspected Nepcote's relations with his wife, but could not bring himself to disclose that when he sought assistance. It was Colwyn's experience that nothing was so rare as complete frankness from people who came to him for help.
"I have come here to investigate the case. The police account for the girl's possession of Captain Nepcote's revolver, with which Mrs. Heredith was shot, by the theory that she obtained it from the gun-room of the moat-house shortly before the murder. There is work for me to do both here and in London, in clearing up this point.
Merrington was forced back on the conclusion that the most important step towards the solution of the mystery was to lay hold of Nepcote, and to that end he directed his own efforts and that of the service of the great organization at his command. As the days went on, he supplemented his original arrangements for Nepcote's arrest with guileful traps.
He was forced by recent events to accept the theory of Nepcote's implication in the mystery, but he was not prepared to believe without much more definite proof that he was the murderer. He was still strong in his belief that Hazel Rath was the person who had killed Mrs. Heredith, whatever the young man's share in the crime might be.
Having taken these steps in the hope of starving Nepcote into surrender if he was not caught in the meantime, Merrington next directed the resources at his command to putting London through a fine-tooth comb, as he expressed it, in the effort to get hold of his man. But it was to chance that he owed his first indication of Nepcote's movements since his disappearance.
"Shall I mention his name, Mr. Heredith?" Phil nodded, as though he were unable to speak. "The man is Captain Nepcote." "Nepcote!" A swift flash of wrath came into Musard's heavy dark eyes as he uttered the name. Then, in a wider understanding of the sordid interpretation of Colwyn's story, he hesitatingly added: "I think I see. It was Nepcote's revolver. Was it he who shot Violet?"
Heredith had been shot by Nepcote's revolver, and by no other weapon. But the balance of probabilities in crime are sometimes turned by apparently irrelevant trifles which assume importance on investigation.
Nepcote's description was circulated to police stations, detectives were told off to keep an eye on outgoing trains and the docks, and the entrances to the tubes and underground railways were watched. After enclosing London, Merrington made a wider cast, and long before nightfall he had flung around England a net of fine meshes through which no man could wriggle.
Up till then the revolver had not been identified as Nepcote's. It seemed to me that the mere disclosure of that fact was sufficient to direct attention to Nepcote and bring to light his movements on that night. But the detective who came to see me about the revolver was too foolish and obstinate to grasp the importance of my information. It was then I decided to go to you.