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The Unofficial Spy
by [?]

The detective looked at him earnestly for a time as if he hesitated to retail what might be merely pure gossip.

“The clerk does not know this absolutely, but from his acquaintance with society news and the illustrated papers he is sure that he recognised her. He says that he feels positive that it was Miss Catharine Lovelace.”

“The Southern heiress,” exclaimed Kennedy. “Why, the papers say that she is engaged “

“Exactly,” cut in McBride, “the heiress who is rumoured to be engaged to the Duc de Chateaurouge.

Kennedy and I exchanged, glances. “Yes,” I added, recollecting a remark I had heard a few days before from our society reporter on the Star, “I believe it has been said that Chateaurouge is in this country, incognito.”

“A pretty slender thread on which to hang an identification,” McBride hastened to remark. “Newspaper photographs are not the best means of recognising anybody. Whatever there may be in it, the fact remains that Madame de Nevers, supposing that to be her real name, has been dead for at least a day or two. The first thing to be determined is whether this is a death from natural causes, a suicide, or a murder. After we have determined that we shall be in a position to run down this Lovelace clue.”

Kennedy said nothing and I could not gather whether he placed greater or less value on the suspicion of the hotel clerk. He had been making a casual examination of the body on the bed, and finding nothing he looked intently about the room as if seeking some evidence of how the crime had been committed.

To me the thing seemed incomprehensible, that without an outcry being overheard by any of the guests a murder could have been done in a crowded hotel in which the rooms on every side had been occupied and people had been passing through the halls at all hours. Had it indeed been a suicide, in spite of McBride’s evident conviction to the contrary?

A low exclamation from Kennedy attracted our attention. Caught in the filmy lace folds of the woman’s dress he had found a few small and thin pieces of glass. He was regarding them with an interest that was oblivious to everything else. As he turned them over and over and tried to fit them together they seemed to form at least a part of what had once been a hollow globe of very thin glass, perhaps a quarter of an inch or so in diameter.

“How was the body discovered?” asked Craig at length, looking up at McBride quickly.

“Day before yesterday Madame’s maid went to the cashier,” repeated the detective slowly as if rehearsing the case as much for his own information as ours, “and said that Madame had asked her to say to him that she was going away for a few days and that under no circumstances was her room to be disturbed in her absence. The maid was commissioned to pay the bill, not only for the time they had been here, but also for the remainder of the week, when Madame would most likely return, if not earlier. The bill was made out and paid.

“Since then only the chambermaid has entered this suite. The key to that closet over in the corner was gone, and it might have hidden its secret until the end of the week or perhaps a day or two longer, if the chambermaid hadn’t been a bit curious. She hunted till she found another key that fitted, and opened the closet door, apparently to see what Madame had been so particular to lock up in her absence. There lay the body of Madame, fully dressed, wedged into the narrow space and huddled up in a corner. The chambermaid screamed and the secret was out.”

“And Madame de Nevers’s maid? What has become of her?” asked Kennedy eagerly.