Postmark Murder - Mignon G. Eberhart - E-Book
Beschreibung

After a rich man's death, heirs start to squabble - and die. When Conrad Stanley dies, Laura is the only heir not concerned with her slice of his estate. Orphaned at a young age, she was Stanley's ward, and cannot celebrate the death of the only father she ever knew. The executors of Stanley's will find that he had a Polish relative, Conrad Stanislowski, who is due part of the inheritance. A search for Stanislowski produces only his daughter: eight-year-old Jonny, who comes to Chicago to live with Laura. Soon a man claiming to be Stanislowski turns up at Laura's doorstep, demanding his daughter and his chunk of Stanley's wealth. When the mysterious interloper is found stabbed to death, Laura is a suspect. If she doesn't move fast, the only inheritance she gets from dear, departed Conrad will be a permanent stay in a federal prison. Review quote: "A nice example of [Eberhart's] powers ... Intelligently complicated." - The New Yorker. "One of the best mystifiers in America." - Gertrude Stein. "A weaver of mysteries that ... are something more than mere jig-saw puzzles." - The New York Times. "A star writer." - H. R. F. Keating, author of Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books. Biographical note: Mignon G. Eberhart (1899-1996) wrote dozens of mystery novels over nearly sixty years. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, she began writing in high school, swapping English essays with her fellow students in exchange for math homework. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, and in the 1920s began writing fiction in her spare time, publishing her first novel, The Patient in Room 18, in 1929. With the follow-up, While the Patient Slept (1931), she won a §5,000 Scotland Yard Prize, and by the end of the 1930s she was one of the most popular female mystery writers on the planet. Before Agatha Christie ever published a Miss Marple novel, Eberhart wrote romantic crime fiction with female leads. Eight of her books, including While the Patient Slept and Hasty Wedding (1938), were adapted for film. Elected a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master in 1971, Eberhart continued publishing roughly a book a year until the 1980s. Her final novel, Three Days for Emeralds, was published in 1988.

Sie lesen das E-Book in den Legimi-Apps auf:

Android
iOS
von Legimi
zertifizierten E-Readern
Kindle™-E-Readern
(für ausgewählte Pakete)

Seitenzahl:448

Das E-Book (TTS) können Sie hören im Abo „Legimi ohne Limit+” in Legimi-Apps auf:

Android
iOS

Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Twenty-nine

Thirty

Thirty-one

Thirty-two

Thirty-three

Thirty-four

Thirty-five

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

Begin Reading

About the Book

After a rich man’s death, heirs start to squabble - and die.

When Conrad Stanley dies, Laura is the only heir not concerned with her slice of his estate. Orphaned at a young age, she was Stanley’s ward, and cannot celebrate the death of the only father she ever knew.

The executors of Stanley’s will find that he had a Polish relative, Conrad Stanislowski, who is due part of the inheritance. A search for Stanislowski produces only his daughter: eight-year-old Jonny, who comes to Chicago to live with Laura. Soon a man claiming to be Stanislowski turns up at Laura’s doorstep, demanding his daughter and his chunk of Stanley’s wealth. When the mysterious interloper is found stabbed to death, Laura is a suspect. If she doesn’t move fast, the only inheritance she gets from dear, departed Conrad will be a permanent stay in a federal prison.

Review quote:

“A nice example of [Eberhart’s] powers ... Intelligently complicated.” - The New Yorker

“One of the best mystifiers in America.” - Gertrude Stein

“A weaver of mysteries that ... are something more than mere jig-saw puzzles.” - The New York Times

“A star writer.” - H. R. F. Keating, author of Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books

About the Author

Mignon G. Eberhart (1899–1996) wrote dozens of mystery novels over nearly sixty years. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, she began writing in high school, swapping English essays with her fellow students in exchange for math homework. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, and in the 1920s began writing fiction in her spare time, publishing her first novel, The Patient in Room 18, in 1929. With the follow-up, While the Patient Slept (1931), she won a $5,000 Scotland Yard Prize, and by the end of the 1930s she was one of the most popular female mystery writers on the planet.

Before Agatha Christie ever published a Miss Marple novel, Eberhart wrote romantic crime fiction with female leads. Eight of her books, including While the Patient Slept and Hasty Wedding (1938), were adapted for film. Elected a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master in 1971, Eberhart continued publishing roughly a book a year until the 1980s. Her final novel, Three Days for Emeralds, was published in 1988.

Postmark Murder

Mignon G. Eberhart

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1955, 1956 by Mignon G. Eberhart

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Heidi North

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-244-5

 

www.luebbe.de

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

ONE

MATT STOOD AT THE WINDOW, looked out at the gray lake, the gray December sky and talked of fear. “Fear is a virus,” he said. “It’s a creeping paralysis. It stops thinking. It stops action. In the end it destroys the heart and soul.” His rangy figure, his black head were outlined sharply against the gray light beyond him. There was a bitter anger in his voice, anger at the injustice of a world which can make a child its victim.

Laura glanced uneasily at Jonny. The child was listening too. She sat very still in an armchair which was too big for her, so that her feet dangled above the rug. She looked, now, very American in her short white socks and black-strapped pumps, her simple, blue wool dress with its pleated skirt and white round collar. Her smooth brown hair was parted in the middle and two fat braids ended in neatly tied red ribbons. Only her Slav blue eyes and the generous breadth of the cheekbones in her round little face suggested her Polish blood. Her eyes were suddenly very grave, watching Matt. Her lap was full of a tangle of new hair ribbons, yellow and blue and green and red, which Matt had brought her, and her square little hands were quiet, too, holding the ribbons.

The kitten sat beside her, a watchful regard on the ribbons. His eyes were as blue as Jonny’s.

Laura said, “Careful. She’s beginning to understand more English than we think.”

“I know.” Matt swung away from the window and came back to them. The slatey look left his eyes when he looked down at Jonny. He gave her a gay, reassuring twinkle. “Everything is all right now, Jonny. Good. Understand? Dobre.”

Jonny’s grave gaze searched his face for a moment. Then some inner secret alarm, which his voice when he spoke of fear (rather than the words of which she understood so little) had seemed to rouse, quieted. It was as if she had asked a question and he had answered it promptly and comfortingly. Gaiety came back into her face like sunshine. “Dobre,” she said. “Good.” The kitten made a dab at a ribbon, and Jonny laughed.

Matt said, “Well, I’ve got to be on my way. What do you want for Christmas, Jonny?”

“We mustn’t spoil her,” Laura said, but knew that she was smiling at the child as fondly as Matt.

“No fear of that,” Matt said, rather shortly. And, of course, he was right. They knew very little really of Jonny Stanislowski’s short past but they knew that in all probability it had not included gaiety and fun, walks along the lake and visits to the zoo, hair ribbons and Siamese kittens and all the little treats and surprises Matt arranged for her. Matt brought her some sort of present almost every day, and now Jonny seized upon the gaily wrapped box with confidence. It had been that which had brought forth his outburst of anger that afternoon. Jonny had run to the door to meet him. She had flung herself upon him; she had chattered in her own rapid, excited mixture of Polish and English, which was as a matter of fact mainly Polish, only studded by the few English words she knew but lighted by her gay, expressive face and gestures. Then she had gone through his overcoat pockets confidently in search of her present. She had found there the package of ribbons. She had opened it laughing and triumphant; it was a game she and Matt understood.

As Matt watched her his mobile Irish face had sobered. “Can you imagine that, Laura, a month ago! She’s a different child.” And then unexpectedly he had talked of fear, fear which can infect even an eight-year-old child.

Jonny understood about Christmas; she and Laura and Matt had all talked of it, Laura and Matt searching for words in the Polish dictionary with which Laura had supplied herself when Jonny was placed in her care, but baffled as usual by the pronunciation of the mysteriously placed consonants, resorting to English and to what Matt called sign language. Matt had told Jonny Christmas stories, with the child listening as intently as if she understood every word of them. He had recited “The Night before Christmas,” prompted, when memory failed, by Laura. Jonny had painstakingly recited it after him, a phrase at a time, pronouncing the strange English words with great care. She was delighted with the names of the reindeer and repeated them over and over, slowly and tentatively at first, then more confidently, “Up Donner, up Blitzen—”

She laughed at Matt now. “Saint Nich—o—las—” she said, carefully dividing the syllables.

“Right,” said Matt. “Old St. Nicholas is coming down the chimney with a bag full of presents. You wait and see.” He touched the child’s brown head, tweaked the square little chin, then went into the hall, got his hat and coat. Laura and Jonny followed. Matt said, “If it is a nice day tomorrow we might go to the zoo again. How about it?”

Jonny said clearly, her high childish voice vibrant with confidence and delight, “Bears.”

“Okay, honey, the bears it will be. And hot chocolate in the little restaurant in the trees.” Matt opened the door of the outside corridor and looked down at Laura. His eyes were suddenly very blue and dancing. He said unexpectedly, “You are a honey, too. Did that ever occur to you? See you tomorrow.”

He was off down the corridor toward the bank of elevators. Laura closed the door slowly—and something very gay and yet rather mysterious went out of the day.

She stood for a moment in the small entrance hall watching Jonny who now was making a game with the kitten, dangling a red ribbon and laughing as Suki darted at it with swift, sepia-colored paws.

Matt loved Jonny and Jonny loved Matt. And the moment little Jonny Stanislowski had walked down the gangway of the plane from Vienna, clinging hard to Matt’s hand, but with something sturdy and self-reliant about the small figure, too, she had walked also into Laura’s heart.

Perhaps she reminded Laura of her own childhood, not too far away, when Conrad Stanley—born Stanislowski—had been her only friend. So it was of course Laura’s duty to offer to see to Jonny temporarily, until something could be settled, for Laura, young as she was, had been named by Conrad Stanley as one of the trustees for the perplexing Stanislowski provision in his will. It was also her duty to take the child into her small apartment, if only to discharge in some small measure the deep debt of gratitude she owed Conrad Stanley and consequently to his little great-niece.

The circumstances in which little Jonny Stanislowski had come so unexpectedly to live with Laura were simple. Conrad Stanley, dying, had left a very large fund to his nephew, Conrad Stanislowski, living in Poland. All efforts to communicate with Conrad Stanislowski had failed, but his child, little Jonny, had been found and brought to America.

Doris Stanley was the obvious person to see to Jonny; she was Conrad’s young and lovely widow. Doris quite frankly had not wanted her. Charlie Stedman, who was Laura’s co-trustee and an old friend of Conrad Stanley’s, lived a comfortable bachelor existence at his club; clearly it was impossible for him to undertake Jonny’s care. Matt would have liked to take Jonny, but again it was not practicable.

Matt was not married; he was a lawyer, his office in the Loop; he was young, he had a small but growing practice; he lived in a hotel apartment. If he had taken Jonny it would have involved a troublesome business of finding a housekeeper and, indeed, a different and larger apartment. The practical problems of undertaking a child’s care were difficult to solve. But it had been Matt who found Jonny and brought her to America, for he was Doris Stanley’s lawyer.

He had once been engaged to Doris, before her marriage to Conrad; he had known Doris for many years, but he was her lawyer, too. When Conrad Stanley died, three years before, Doris had instantly turned all her affairs over to Matt. And that of course had involved Matt in the chore of carrying out the provisions of Conrad Stanley’s will. It had proved to be, in fact, a rather onerous chore for all of them, Laura and Charlie Stedman and Matt, that is. Doris, quite comprehensibly, had not been much interested in finding Jonny’s father, Conrad’s nephew, and certainly not much interested in Jonny.

But they had all met the plane, Laura, Charlie and Doris, riding to the airport in Doris’ luxurious, chauffeur-driven car. There had been a little discussion as to what to do with the child. Doris had said flatly that Jonny should be put straight into a boarding school; she had indeed made some preliminary arrangements. Charlie had debated it, as he always debated anything, and then said that that might be the best solution. Laura had thought of her own small apartment and the tiny extra bedroom across the hall from her own; it would be easy to transform that room into a child’s room with gay chintz on the bed and at the windows, a small chair, a little table, shelves for toys—her thoughts swept irresistibly on. However, she told herself firmly, it wasn’t possible for her to take Jonny.

Laura was a secretary for a law firm; she had got the job immediately after Conrad Stanley’s death. She worked for no particular member of the firm or staff; her services and those of several other trained secretaries were called upon as and when needed. It was consequently a busy and exacting sort of job, interesting in its variations and rewarding as a challenge. But the hours were long. She was away from home all day, leaving shortly after eight in the morning, coming home in the crowded bus which stopped eventually at the corner of Lake Shore Drive, a half-block from the towering apartment house. She reached her own apartment if she were lucky at about five-thirty. She was proud of her little apartment; it was small and inexpensive but it had light and air and sunshine and a wide view of Lake Michigan, and more than anything it was home, the only real home Laura had had since she was a child, almost as young as this strange little girl they were going to meet. But there was no place in it for a housekeeper as well as Jonny; besides, it would be almost impossible to find exactly the right kind of housekeeper, a motherly, sensible woman they could trust with the child. No, she couldn’t take Jonny.

The three of them stood in a little group, watching the plane land. It was a bright, windy day. Doris’ exquisite profile was almost buried in her furs; her smart black hat hugged her blond hair. Even there, in the windy, chill space at the gate, the scent of a perfume like carnations in a summer garden drifted like a fragrant little cloud from the handkerchief in Doris’ handbag as she took out a compact and scrutinized her lovely face in the tiny mirror. She moistened her pink lips and smiled, closed her handbag and watched the incoming plane.

Charlie stood beside her, watching the plane, too, as it came in to a landing. His head was bent against the wind; he held on his dignified gray homburg with one neatly gloved hand; the other was at Doris’ elbow. And then the plane moved slowly toward the gate and stopped. At last figures began to descend the gangway, hats and coats and skirts swirled by the wind, and Matt’s tall figure was among them. He saw them and waved and pointed them out to Jonny, who gave them a grave look and clung to Matt’s hand.

Doris flashed into vivacity when she saw Matt; her pansy-brown eyes and her pink lips smiled. She ran to meet the two figures; she kissed Matt; she greeted the lonely little figure beside Matt, briefly and it seemed to Laura perfunctorily. Jonny eyed Doris soberly and clung to Matt’s hand.

Doris was not at all pleased with the fact that there was a Jonny Stanislowski. And she liked a child to be attractive, well mannered and well dressed; Jonny was neither. Her little face was set, almost stolid in its immobility. She wore a faded, purplish coat which was too small for her, a round sailor hat which was too old for her, long black stockings and awkward, ugly shoes. Only her blue eyes, meeting Laura’s, betrayed the fact that she was frightened. Laura, unexpectedly, had bent and kissed Jonny. Matt then had kissed Laura, too, lightly, on the cheek, before he spoke to Charlie.

Afterwards in the car they talked of Jonny while the child sat, still and rather frightened, yet trying not to show it, close beside Matt. “I’ll take her to my apartment tonight,” Doris said. “But the place for her is Harthing. You know, the Harthing School for girls. I’ve already talked to Miss Harthing on the telephone. I am sure she will take Jonny.”

Charlie agreed. “It seems a good plan, at least until the estate is settled. Then we’ll have to make some permanent arrangement for her.”

But Laura looked at Matt and he was looking at her; then she said quite suddenly, “No, I’ll take her—I’ll give up my job. I can get another one later, when we decide what to do about her. I’d like to take her now.”

Doris bit her lip, but looked relieved. Charlie said after a moment, thoughtfully, that was very kind of Laura. Matt said, his eyes flashing blue, that it was splendid. “—It’s the perfect solution. I don’t want her to be put in school among strangers.”

“Laura is a stranger,” Doris said quickly. “We are all strangers, even you, Matt.”

He had Jonny’s hand close in his own big one. “Not I. We got acquainted. She’s a good little traveler.”

Charlie said sensibly that there was a matter of expense to consider; if Laura were serious in her offer to give up her job to look after Jonny, she must be reimbursed from the estate. “Don’t you agree, Matt? Doris?”

In the end it was settled without much discussion. Doris’ big car deposited Laura and Jonny and one of Matt’s big leather suitcases at the apartment house. The suitcase held an odd assortment of clothing—two dark woolen dresses which had obviously been passed on to Jonny as they were outgrown by other children, a woman’s sweater, darned, a heavy flannel petticoat, more long black stockings neatly rolled together, and a Paris doll, which Matt had given Jonny, wrapped tenderly in paper. The next day Laura and Jonny had gone shopping. That night Matt came to tell Laura the whole amazing story of finding her, of cutting through red tape, and of bringing her home. He had come nearly every day since then—to see Jonny of course, but Laura had seen him, too. But the daily visits would end in January; by then, three years after Conrad Stanley’s death, the estate would be settled. The permanent arrangement for Jonny would be made. And Matt’s daily visits would end, for almost certainly he and Doris Stanley would then be married.

So then, too, this curiously happy interlude for Laura would come to an end. Jonny would no longer provide a gay and warm focus; Laura would go back to work; the routine of her life would reestablish itself. It had been a pleasant routine, well flavored by her sense of independence. But it wouldn’t be so pleasant now and Laura knew why. She would miss Jonny—but she would also, too much, too constantly, too deeply and too hopelessly, miss Matt.

Jonny drew the red ribbon teasingly across the rug and the kitten sprang upon it furiously, its little black tail lashing in pretended anger. Just then someone knocked softly on the door. It was so unexpected that it startled her. It wasn’t Matt returning; he wouldn’t knock like that. The soft, almost furtive knock came again. She opened the door.

A man stood outside. He was rather small and thin, too small somehow for his clothes, which looked bulky and clumsy—foreign, Laura thought. He had a slender, pale face, a high, narrow forehead and sharp features, an intellectual face but a rather weak one. His eyes were pale blue, and looked washed out yet very intent. He said, “I am Conrad Stanislowski.”

TWO

“CONRAD—”LAURA STARED AT him incredulously. “But we tried to find you! For nearly three years we’ve tried to find you!”

“I was in Poland. May I come in?”

“Oh—oh, yes! Please come in.”

He slid instantly into the hall and closed the door behind him. There was something furtive, too, in his quick movements and in the way he closed the door. Suddenly Laura thought, he’s frightened. He said, however, quickly, “I’ve come to see my child. She’s here, isn’t she?”

Laura’s impulse was to say, certainly; she is in the next room. But in the very instant of speaking she remembered her responsibility as trustee. From his position directly before the door he could not see the living room, but she moved a few steps down the hall and closed the door into the living room. His eyes flickered; she was sure that he knew why she closed the door but he did not move. She said, “We didn’t expect you. We had given up trying to find you. We wrote you—so many times, but we didn’t hear from you. Two of our letters came back. They had been opened. They were marked ‘address unknown.’ ”

“Naturally. Probably your letters only made it harder for me to escape.”

“You speak English very well,” she said unexpectedly.

He shrugged. “Of course. That’s my job. Languages. Didn’t you know that?”

“As a matter of fact we could discover very little about you, only that you were born in Poland and were living there for a time after the war. Conrad—your uncle, Conrad Stanley, knew that although he did not know exactly where you were. We assumed that you were still in Poland up to the time when Jonny arrived at the orphanage two years ago.”

“And I suppose you also assumed that I was dead. Well, I’m not. Now may I see my child?”

Again Laura’s impulse was to let him see Jonny at once. Instead she put her hand apologetically but firmly on Conrad Stanislowski’s bony wrist. “I’m sorry. But as you know I am one of the trustees for the Stanley will. I must tell the others that you are here.”

“Before you let me see my child?”

“You must understand. It’s only a matter of identification. Formalities. Routine. I believe you but—”

“But there’s all that money,” he said, with a tinge of bitterness.

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “But Jonny is in my care. The others gave me that responsibility and I—”

He interrupted. “The others?”

“Yes—you must know. It was all in the letter which was left at the orphanage in Vienna?”

“Oh, the letter. Yes. Yes, I have it.”

“Then you know all about Conrad Stanley’s will.”

“Oh, yes. My uncle.”

“Matt told you about it in the letter. That’s Matt Cosden. He brought Jonny here. He is—he explained it all in the letter. He is Mrs. Stanley’s lawyer. And then, of course, there is another trustee, Charlie Stedman. All of them will be very interested to know that you have arrived. I will telephone to Matt and—”

“Wait, please!” he said, suddenly and peremptorily. “I would like to see my child first. Can’t all this—this formality wait?”

Laura hesitated. “I think I should let them know that you are here as soon as possible. And then, you see—well, they will expect you to give some proof of your identity.”

“I understand. There’s all that money!”

“Well, yes. They told me, Matt and Charlie Stedman, that when you came, if you came, we would have to be sure—”

“You want my dossier. Very well. I was born in Cracow.”

“Yes, we knew that.” Cracow: the cradle of culture, the begetter of scholars for one-time sturdy and self-reliant Poland. A Poland which for much of its life had suffered invasion, division and redivision, but somehow always had retained a stubborn flame of life, so it gathered itself together again, piece by piece, and limb by limb. Who can say, Laura thought, that this country is now dead, lost, forever surrendered? Poland had always somehow, sometime, asserted its own stubborn independence. Battered and bleeding after the German invasion in World War II, and then again made captive, still, somewhere, a secret flame of liberty might smolder. The man standing before her was a symbol of that.

He had not followed the swift course of her thoughts. He said slowly, as if merely reciting facts that were completely objective and impersonal, “I studied languages. I was going to teach. I went to England to study, and just before the war, when I knew the war was inevitable, I came to Poland again. I was there that September.”

His voice took on an even more impersonal and chilly quality, as if those terrible September days had killed feelings as they had destroyed cities and people. “Eventually I joined a Polish brigade. We were sent to Russia and then to Africa. After the war was over I returned. There were some difficult times; I need not go into that. However, I managed to live. I was married. Jonny was born. My wife—”  He checked himself almost imperceptibly; his eyes seemed suddenly very bleak and guarded, his face more closed in on itself. He went on rather quickly. “I was left to see to Jonny who was then two years old. I did my best but—that was not good enough. I wished to leave Poland, escape, but meantime I had to live and support Jonny. I became—that is, I joined the government party. I was a language expert.” He shrugged. “I was useful. Eventually I became a member of a minor commission. Two years ago I had a chance to send Jonny to Vienna. I intended to follow her as soon as possible and escape to England or America. However, it took a long time, two years in fact, before I contrived an errand to Vienna and had an opportunity to do so. When I went to the home where I expected to find Jonny, I found instead your letter.” He paused and looked at her steadily. “Now may I see my child?”

It was a reasonable and a factual account of himself. Laura forced herself to question it. She said, “You will have your passport, of course. Or the letter from Matt. Perhaps some means of identification.”

Again his face seemed to withdraw warily into itself. “I do have these things,” he said. His thin shoulders seemed to brace themselves under the awkwardly tailored coat. His rather weak chin lifted. There was a thin edge of defiance in his voice. “I have everything which you will need or any of the others will need to convince you that I am really the man I say I am. I do not have them with me. I do not intend to show them to you at this time.”

The defiance was as surprising as his flat statement. Laura said, “But—but I don’t understand. You must see that—”

He interrupted, “I only know that I want to see my child now. Only let me look at her, Miss March. I will not talk to her. I will not touch her. I will not speak to her. But I must see her—only for a moment.” He put a thin and shaking hand on the door.

And Laura thought, but Jonny will recognize him! That will be proof of his identity. She opened the door to the living room.

He took a quick step or two inside. Laura began “Jonny—” and stopped, for then she saw that Jonny had retreated swiftly as a bird into a thicket, to the cautious stillness and silence which had characterized her first few days with Laura, in a strange home, in a strange country.

She must have heard their voices in the hall, for she was standing now behind an armchair as if it were a bulwark. The kitten stood on the arm of the chair, humped up and gazing with serious blue eyes at this intruder. But Jonny’s face was completely still. She made no movement, she made no cry of recognition, she simply stood there, her eyes blue and fixed and perfectly blank.

The stillness and silence lasted for perhaps a few seconds. Then Conrad Stanislowski said to Laura, “Thank you,” and turned abruptly back into the hall.

“But you—please wait—where are you going?”

“I told you I would only look at her and be sure she was here.” He was already at the door to the corridor.

She cried, “But you can’t leave now. Let me phone the others—”

“No” he said sharply. “Don’t do that.” He took a long breath and said, “Miss March, I must ask you to do something—it is extremely important, otherwise I would not ask you to do it. You won’t understand—only believe me. I must ask you not to tell the others of my arrival. Not yet.”

“But I must tell them!” she cried. “I have to tell them. They will want to see you. Besides, Jonny—”

“That will wait,” he said. “Please promise me now, to keep my arrival a secret? I realize this is an extraordinary request. I must make it.”

Suddenly there was something desperate and beseeching in his face and his thin body. He opened the door.

“But—but I can’t let you go like this! Where are you going?”

He turned back. “I’ll tell you that. I got to a rooming house— 3936 Koska Street. I trust you, Miss March. I believe you will keep a promise. In a few days—only a few days, I’ll come back. I’ll do everything that’s required of me. I’ll show you all my credentials, all my cards of identification, everything. But until—”  He stopped, gave her one long intent look and unexpectedly, as if she had yielded to his appeal, said, “Thank you.” His thin figure with its bulky overcoat turned into the corridor and disappeared.

For a moment Laura did not move. Then she went to the door; he had already reached the bank of elevators. He did not look back; the door closed after him. Somehow she knew that it would have been useless to pursue him, useless to question him. But she stood for a moment staring at the blank, closed doors of the elevators, halfway down the corridor. They were as blank and in a way as baffling as that unexpected and extraordinary encounter.

Why had she let him leave, like that?

How could she have stopped him!

And when after some time she turned back into the hall again, Jonny also had disappeared and with her the kitten.

Jonny had not gone far. There was nowhere to go in Laura’s small apartment. She found the child back in her own small bedroom, bending over a book of drawings to be filled in with colored crayons. The kitten sat on the low play table beside the book, watching with deep concentration, for sometimes a crayon could be transformed into a moving object; Suki greatly interfered with the accuracy of Jonny’s drawing. But the child was apparently in engrossed study over the book of pictures. So that was all right, Laura thought, and returned to the living room.

For a long time she walked up and down the room, pausing to stare at nothing out the window, thinking of the curious affair of Conrad Stanislowski’s appearance. She had entirely mismanaged the interview.

Intending to do what she thought was right, she had only wounded him—and perhaps Jonny—by interfering with their reunion. And then she had let him go, not only with very few facts in her possession but with a tacit promise on her part to keep his arrival a secret.

Yes, she had mismanaged that curious but important interview. She had failed in her duty as trustee. Certainly she should not have allowed him to leave believing that she would keep his arrival a secret. Her obvious duty was to go straight to the telephone—tell Matt, tell Charlie, tell Doris of Conrad Stanislowski’s amazing appearance and of his still more amazing request to keep his arrival a secret.

Yet there was the pleading in his eyes, in his voice. There was something intangible, indescribable that touched her heart, and made her believe at least for the moment in him and in the validity of his request. Whatever the reasons for it were, just there and just then she had believed that there were reasons.

She thought unexpectedly, he doesn’t look like Conrad Stanley; there ought to be some family resemblance.

There was none. Conrad Stanley had been a stocky, strongly built man with a fresh color, wide cheekbones and a broad forehead, a firm and determined nose and chin, massive and blunt. He had had light, Slav blue eyes, but they were intelligent and determined, clear and sparkling—never a bleak and faded blue.

And Conrad had never been nervous, uncertain, desperate; he had always known exactly where he was going, and why, and how he was going to get there.

Laura had known Conrad Stanley and loved him since she was a very small child. She could not remember when Conrad Stanley had not been a part of her life.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!