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Ghosts I have Met and Some Others

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Author Topic: Ghosts I have Met and Some Others  (Read 555 times)
Keeper of the Seven Keys
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« Reply #105 on: November 03, 2009, 02:27:57 am »

"It's from that fellow Barker," I said.

"Barker!" cried Parton. "What on earth has Barker been writing to
you about?"

"He is in trouble," I replied, as I read the letter.

"Financial, I presume, and wants a lift?" suggested Parton.

"Worse than that," said I, "he is in prison in London."

"Wha-a-at?" ejaculated Parton. "In prison in London? What for?"

"On suspicion of having murdered an innkeeper in the South of
England on Tuesday, August 16th."

"Well, I'm sorry to say that I believe he was guilty," returned
Parton, without reflecting that the 16th day of August was the day
upon which he and I had first encountered Barker.

"That's your prejudice, Jack," said I. "If you'll think a minute
you'll know he was innocent. He was here on August 16th--last
Tuesday. It was then that you and I saw him for the first time
limping along the road and bleeding from a wound in the shoulder."

"Was Tuesday the 16th?" said Parton, counting the days backward on
his fingers. "That's a fact. It was--but it's none of my affair
anyhow. It is too blessed queer for me to mix myself up in it, and I
say let him languish in jail. He deserved it for something, I am
sure-"

"Well, I'm not so confoundedly heartless," I returned, pounding the
table with my fist, indignant that Parton should allow his
prejudices to run away with his sense of justice. "I'm going to
London to do as he asks."

"What does he want you to do? Prove an alibi?"

"Precisely; and I'm going and you're going, and I shall see if the
landlord here won't let me take one of his boys along to support our
testimony--at my own expense if need be."

"You're right, old chap," returned Parton, after a moment of
internal struggle. "I suppose we really ought to help the fellow out
of his scrape; but I'm decidedly averse to getting mixed up in an
affair of any kind with a man like Carleton Barker, much less in an
affair with murder in it. Is he specific about the murder?"

"No. He refers me to the London papers of the 17th and 18th for
details. He hadn't time to write more, because he comes up for
examination on Tuesday morning, and as our presence is essential to
his case he was necessarily hurried."

"It's deucedly hard luck for us," said Parton, ruefully. "It means
no Scotland this trip."

"How about Barker's luck?" I asked. "He isn't fighting for a
Scottish trip--he's fighting for his life."

And so it happened that on Monday morning, instead of starting for
Edinburgh, we boarded the train for London at Car-lisle. We tried to
get copies of the newspapers containing accounts of the crime that
had been committed, but our efforts were unavailing, and it was not
until we arrived in London and were visited by Barker's attorneys
that we obtained any detailed information whatsoever of the murder;
and when we did get it we were more than ever regretful to be mixed
up in it, for it was an unusually brutal murder. Strange to say, the
evidence against Barker was extraordinarily convincing, considering
that at the time of the commission of the crime he was hundreds of
miles from the scene. There was testimony from railway guards,
neighbors of the murdered innkeeper, and others, that it was Barker
and no one else who committed the crime. His identification was
complete, and the wound in his shoulder was shown almost beyond the
possibility of doubt to have been inflicted by the murdered man in
self-defence.

"Our only hope," said the attorney, gravely, "is in proving an
alibi. I do not know what to believe myself, the chain of evidence
against my client is so complete; and yet he asserts his innocence,
and has stated to me that you two gentlemen could assist in proving
it. If you actually encountered Carleton Barker in the neighborhood
of Keswick on the 16th of this month, the whole case against him
falls to the ground. If not, I fear his outlook has the gallows at
the small end of the perspective."

"We certainly did meet a Carleton Barker at Keswick on Tuesday,
August 16th," returned Parton; "and he was wounded in the shoulder,
and his appearance was what might have been expected of one who had
been through just such a frightful murder as we understand this to
have been; but this was explained to us as due to a fall over rocks
in the vicinity of the Scales Tarn--which was plausible enough to
satisfy my friend here."
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