The After House (Chapter 9, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 9

MY first thought had been for the women, and, unluckily, to save
them a shock I had all evidences of the crime cleared away as
quickly as possible. Stains that might have been of invaluable
service in determining the murderer were washed away almost before
they were dry. I realized this now, too late. But the axe remained,
and I felt that its handle probably contained a record for more
skillful eyes than mine to read, prints that under the microscope
would reveal the murderer's identity as clearly as a photograph.

I sent for Burns, who reported that he had locked the axe in the
captain's cabin. He gave me the key, which I fastened to a string
and hung around my neck under my shirt. He also reported that, as
I had suggested, the crew had gone, two at a time, into the
forecastle, and had brought up what they needed to stay on deck.
The forecastle had been closed and locked in the presence of the
crew, and the key given to Burns, who fastened it to his watch-chain.
The two hatchways leading to the hold had been fastened down also,
and Oleson, who was ship's carpenter, had nailed them fast.

The crew had been instructed to stay aft of the wheel, except when
on watch. Thus the helmsman need not be alone. As I have said, the
door at the top of the companion steps, near the wheel, was closed
and locked, and entrance to the after house was to be gained only
by the forward companion. It was the intention of Burns and myself
to keep watch here, amidships.

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