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It was December 24th - Christmas Eve. Marion Kingship looked at the newspaper she was holding and she smiled. Tomorrow, it would be Christmas Day. And a few days after that, it would be her wedding day. At last, she was going to be happy!
She read the story in the newspaper again.
MARION KINGSHIP WILL BE MARRIED ON SATURDAY
Miss Marion Kingship, the daughter of Mr Leo Kingship, will be married on Saturday. Mr Kingship is the owner of Kingship Copper Incorporated, one of the most successful companies in the U.S. Miss Kingship will marry Mr Burton Corliss.
Mr Corliss was in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, and later he studied at Caldwell College, Wisconsin. He now works in the offices of Kingship Copper. Until last week, Miss Kingship worked at an advertising agency.
Marion smiled again. The last few months hadn’t been easy for her. At first, her father had been suspicious of Bud. “That young man doesn’t love you, he loves my money,” Leo said, after Marion told him about Bud. “First he tried to get the money from Ellen. Then she was killed. So now he’s trying to get it from you! I’m going to find out more about him.”
“If you do that,” Marion had replied angrily, “I’ll never speak to you again!”
Her father understood that she would do what she had said. He promised not to investigate Bud’s life. Ellen told him that she and Bud wanted to get married. She told Leo that they loved one another. “We’ll be so happy together,” she’d said. “We like all the same things. We like the same books and plays and paintings. We even like the same food!”
At last, Leo changed his mind about Bud and about the marriage. “My wife and two of my daughters are gone,” he’d said. “I don’t want you to go too, Marion.”
The following week, Leo had given Bud a good job with his company. And now he had bought the two young people a beautiful house in New York City. They were going to live there when they were married. Everything was going to be OK!
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Leo Kingship was working in his room at the Kingship Copper offices.
The phone on Leo’s desk rang and he answered it.
“There’s someone here who wants to talk to you urgently, sir,” his secretary said. “His name is Robert Dettweiler.”
A moment later, a young man entered the room. He was carrying two books and a newspaper. Leo Kingship looked at him for a moment.
“I’ve met you before,” he said. “But your name isn’t Dettweiler.”
“You’re right, sir,” the young man replied. “I’m Gordon Gant. We met at Blue River in March. I thought that you would refuse to see me today, if I told your secretary my real name. I came because I read a story in the newspaper this morning - a story about your daughter’s wedding. There’s something that I must tell you, sir.”
“Mr Gant,” Leo said, “please think carefully before you speak. In March, you told me and my daughter Marion about your meeting with Ellen. You told us that my daughter Dorothy had been murdered. You told us Ellen’s idea about the old, new, borrowed and blue things which Dorothy had been wearing. But the police said that Dorothy killed herself. And you couldn’t prove that somebody else had killed her.
“I believe that your reasons for telling us about Ellen’s ideas were good reasons - honest reasons,” Leo went on. “But the things that you told Marion and me upset us very much. Please don’t tell us the same things again now. The police will never find Ellen’s killer, and Dorothy killed herself. Marion is going to be married in a few days’ time. I want her to be happy, Mr Gant.”
“Please listen to me for a minute, sir,” Gant said. “I read that your daughter was going to marry Burton Corliss. I remembered that Corliss had been Ellen’s boyfriend at Caldwell College. And I wondered if this young man was more interested in your money than in your daughters. Didn’t you have that thought too? But then I began to wonder if Corliss had also known Dorothy. I wondered if he had been the father of her child. I didn’t know Corliss, but I began to wonder if he had been a student at Stoddard.”
“No, I’m sure that he wasn’t at Stoddard, Mr Gant,” Leo said. “You’re a student at Stoddard yourself. You were a second-year student at the same time as Dorothy - you told me that in March. If Corliss had been at Stoddard too, you would have known him.”
“That’s not true, sir,” Gant replied. “Stoddard is a very big university. There are more than twelve thousand students there. Nobody can know all the other students. Ellen thought that I knew Dorothy because we were in the same English class. She was wrong. It was a very big class, and I never spoke to Dorothy. But I told you something important in March. On the evening Ellen died, she left a message for me. The message said that Dorothy’s last boyfriend wasn’t in the English class.
“And this morning,” Gant went on, “I remembered something that I read in Ellen’s letter to Corliss. She said that she had first met him in the fall of 1950, at Caldwell. But Caldwell is a very small college, sir. There are only about eight hundred students at Caldwell. All the students there know each other. Corliss and Ellen were both third-year students there, but they only met at the beginning of their third year. So Corliss must have come to Caldwell from another college that fall. That’s why Ellen didn’t meet him earlier.
“This is what I think happened,” Gant went on. “Burton Corliss was at Stoddard. He became Dorothy’s boyfriend because she was your daughter - he wanted to marry a rich girl. When she became pregnant, he thought that you would be angry. He thought that you would stop giving Dorothy money. So he killed her! Then he moved to Caldwell because he still wanted your money, and he became Ellen’s boyfriend. When Ellen discovered that Dorothy had been murdered, Corliss killed her too, and he killed a young man who was helping her. And now Corliss has come to New York. Now he’ll get your money, by marrying Marion!”
“You can’t prove any of this,” Leo said angrily. “Why are you telling me about it now?”
“I only met Ellen for a few minutes, sir,” Gant replied gently. “But I liked her very much. I believe that people should know the truth about her death. And I think that Ellen’s killer should be punished.
“And I can prove that Corliss was a student at Stoddard,” he went on. “When I remembered the words in Ellen’s letter, I started to investigate.” He opened one of the books that he was carrying. “This is the Stoddard University Yearbook for 1949 to 1950. And here is a picture of Mr Corliss and a list of his classes.” He pointed at the page. “He wasn’t in Dorothy’s English class, but he was in her Philosophy and Economics classes! And they were very small classes. He must have known her!” Gant opened the other book. “Corliss is in the 1948-9 Yearbook too.”
“Oh, God!” Leo said miserably. “Why didn’t Marion tell me about this?”
“Perhaps she doesn’t know about it,” Gant replied. “The newspaper story says that Corliss was at Caldwell, but it says nothing about Stoddard. Why not? Perhaps Corliss hasn’t told anybody in New York that he was ever a student there. So perhaps Marion doesn’t know that he was a student there. And I think that you should tell her. I can’t prove that he killed Dorothy or Ellen yet. But I can prove that he knew Dorothy before he knew Ellen. And you can tell Marion that Mr Corliss is only interested in the Kingship money.”
“She won’t believe me, Mr Gant,” Leo replied. “She doesn’t trust me. And she’ll say, ‘Bud didn’t tell me that he knew Dorothy because he didn’t want to upset me.’ There’s nothing more I can do, Mr Gant. Corliss’s mother is coming to New York tonight. Marion will marry Corliss on Saturday. I can’t stop it.”
“Then I’ll have to continue my investigation,” Gant said. “Goodbye, Mr Kingship. Thank you for listening to me.” He turned and left the room.
That evening, Bud’s mother arrived in New York. She had dinner at Leo’s house. Marion was very happy to meet her. She liked Mrs Corliss very much.
“She’s a sweet lady,” Marion said to Bud, after his mother had gone back to her hotel. “And you’re a wonderful son to her.”
Mrs Corliss was going to spend Christmas Day with her son and the Kingships. Then she was going to stay in the city until the wedding, four days later. But she was going to spend the day before the wedding on her own, looking at the buildings of New York City, which she had never visited before. Leo had arranged for Bud, Marion and himself to visit Kingship Copper’s smelting works in Illinois on that day. Bud wanted to see the smelting works very much.
On the evening of December 27th, Gordon Gant knocked at the door of Leo Kingship’s house.
“Why are you here?” Leo said nervously, when he opened the door. “Marion mustn’t see you here. If she thinks that I’ve asked someone to investigate Corliss, she’ll never speak to me again.”
“Where is your daughter, sir?” asked Gant.
“She’s gone out with Corliss and his mother,” Leo replied. “You can come in for a few minutes, if you have something to tell me.”
“Listen to me, sir,” Gant said when they were sitting in Leo’s library. “Two days ago, I went to Menasset. I’ve never broken into anyone’s house before. But you told me that Mrs Corliss would be here in New York for Christmas. So I found out her address in Menasset, and I broke into the house. In a closet in Bud Corliss’s bedroom, I found a strong-box. I broke it open, sir. And in the box, I found these.”
Gant gave Leo some Kingship Copper brochures. They were worn and dirty. They had been read many times!
“And I also found this,” Gant went on. He gave Leo the piece of paper on which Bud had written the list of Marion’s tastes.
“I don’t know that you found these in Menasset,” said Leo. “You could have got the brochures from my offices. You could have written the list yourself!”
“Phone your offices tomorrow,” Gant replied. “Find out if brochures have ever been sent to Mr Burton Corliss. If the answer is yes, find out when they were sent.”
Leo picked up the phone and dialed a number. “I’ll do it now,” he said. “There’s always somebody working in the New York offices.”
A moment later he was talking to his secretary. Then there was silence for three or four minutes. Finally, Leo said, “I understand. Thank you.” And he put the phone down.
“You were right, Mr Gant,” he said. “I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you. Company brochures were sent to Burton Corliss, in Blue River, in early February last year. That was about ten weeks before Dorothy died. He must have made her pregnant soon after he received the brochures.” Leo put his hands over his face. “I’ll have to tell Marion about this. It won’t be easy.”
Then suddenly Leo was very angry. “You were right about Corliss wanting my money, Mr Gant,” he said. “And I think that you were right about Corliss being a murderer too! We can’t prove it - the police will never believe us. But if he killed my daughters, he must be punished for it! We have to make him confess to the murders. Will you help me?”
“Yes, I’ll help you, sir,” said Gant.
“I’ll tell Marion about this tonight,” said Leo. “She must help us too. She mustn’t tell Corliss what we know about him. If he finds out about that, he’ll escape. He’ll disappear. So Marion must pretend that she’s going to marry him on Saturday. And tomorrow, we’ll go to the smelting works. You must come too, Mr Gant. We’ll make Corliss confess there. He won’t be able to escape from the smelting works!”
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