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"No," he said readily. "I've only been in Paris once or twice in my life, and then only bittorrent versions listfor weekends. It isn't reasonable to suppose that I should be personally acquainted with the police here, let alone want to murder them. It seems too absurd to take seriously."

Alberto and Sophie remained seated on the bencardano smart contracts timelinech without saying anything. The pigeons craned their necks and cooed, now and then being startled by a bicycle or a sudden movement."I have to go home and prepare for the party," said Sophie at last.

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"But before we part, I'll show you a white crow. It is nearer than we think, you see."Alberto got up and led the way back into the bookstore. This time they walked past all the books on supernatural phenomena and stopped by a flimsy shelf at the very back of the store. Above the shelf hung a very small card. PHILOSOPHY, it read.Alberto pointed down at a particular book, and Sophie gasped as she read the title: Sophie's World."Would you like me to buy it for you?""I don't know if I dare."

Shortly afterward, however, she was on her way home with the book in one hand and a little bag of things for the garden party in the other.Nevertheless, she condescended to reply, with an exaggeration ofthe aristocratic drawl to indicate her displeasure.

"I was introduced to Miss Turner," she explained, "by Mr. RichardGilder. Perhaps you have heard of his father, the owner of theEmporium.""Oh, yes, I've heard of his father, and of him, too," Burkeadmitted, placatingly.But the girl relaxed not a whit in her attitude of offense."Then," she went on severely, "you must see at once that you areentirely mistaken in this matter." Her blue eyes widened furtheras she stared accusingly at the Inspector, who betrayed evidencesof perplexity, and hesitated for an answer. Then, the doll-like,charming face took on a softer look, which had in it a suggestionof appeal."Don't you see it?" she demanded.

"Well, no," Burke rejoined uneasily; "not exactly, I don't!" Inthe presence of this delicate and graceful femininity, heexperienced a sudden, novel distaste for his usual sledge-hammermethods of attack in interrogation. Yet, his duty required thathe should continue his questioning. He found himself in factbetween the devil and the deep sea--though this particular devilappeared rather as an angel of light.Now, at his somewhat feeble remark in reply to her query, thechildish face grew as hard as its curving contours would permit.

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"Sir!" she cried indignantly. Her little head was thrown back inscornful reproof, and she turned a shoulder toward the officialcontemptuously."Now, now!" Burke exclaimed in remonstrance. After all, he couldnot be brutal with this guileless maiden. He must, however, makethe situation clear to her, lest she think him a beast--whichwould never do!"You see, young lady," he went on with a gentleness of voice andmanner that would have been inconceivable to Dacey and ChicagoRed; "you see, the fact is that, even if you were introduced tothis Mary Turner by young Mr. Gilder, this same Mary Turnerherself is an ex-convict, and she's just been arrested formurder."At the dread word, a startling change was wrought in the girl.She wheeled to face the Inspector, her slender body swaying alittle toward him. The rather heavy brows were lifted slightlyin a disbelieving stare. The red lips were parted, rounded to atremulous horror.

"Murder!" she gasped; and then was silent."Yes," Burke went on, wholly at ease now, since he had broken theice thus effectually. "You see, if there's a mistake about you,you don't want it to go any further --not a mite further, that'ssure. So, you see, now, that's one of the reasons why I mustknow just who you are." Then, in his turn, Burke put the querythat the girl had put to him a little while before. "You seethat, don't you?""Oh, yes, yes!" was the instant agreement. "You should have toldme all about this horrid thing in the first place." Now, thegirl's manner was transformed. She smiled wistfully on theInspector, and the glance of the blue eyes was very kind, subtlyalluring. Yet in this unbending, there appeared even moredecisively than hitherto the fine qualities in bearing of onedelicately nurtured. She sank down in a chair by the desk, andforthwith spoke with a simplicity that in itself was somehowpeculiarly potent in its effect on the official who gaveattentive ear."My name is Helen Travers West," she announced.Burke started a little in his seat, and regarded the speaker witha new deference as he heard that name uttered.

"Not the daughter of the railway president?" he inquired."Yes," the girl admitted. Then, anew, she displayed a seriousagitation over the thought of any possible publicity in thisaffair.

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"Oh, please, don't tell any one," she begged prettily. The blueeyes were very imploring, beguiling, too. The timid smile thatwreathed the tiny mouth was marvelously winning. The neatlygloved little hands were held outstretched, clasped insupplication. "Surely, sir, you see now quite plainly why itmust never be known by any one in all the wide, wide world that Ihave ever been brought to this perfectly dreadful place--thoughyou have been quite nice!" Her voice dropped to a note of musicalprayerfulness. The words were spoken very softly and veryslowly, with intonations difficult for a man to deny. "Pleaselet me go home." She plucked a minute handkerchief from herhandbag, put it to her eyes, and began to sob quietly.The burly Inspector of Police was moved to quick sympathy.

Really, when all was said and done, it was a shame that one likeher should by some freak of fate have become involved in thesordid, vicious things that his profession made it obligatory onhim to investigate. There was a considerable hint of the paternalin his air as he made an attempt to offer consolation to theafflicted damsel."That's all right, little lady," he exclaimed cheerfully. "Now,don't you be worried--not a little bit. Take it from me, MissWest.... Just go ahead, and tell me all you know about thisTurner woman. Did you see her yesterday?"The girl's sobs ceased. After a final dab with the minutehandkerchief, she leaned forward a little toward the Inspector,and proceeded to put a question to him with great eagerness."Will you let me go home as soon as I've told you the teensylittle I know?""Yes," Burke agreed promptly, with an encouraging smile. And fora good measure of reassurance, he added as one might to analarmed child: "No one is going to hurt you, young lady.""Well, then, you see, it was this way," began the briskexplanation. "Mr. Gilder was calling on me one afternoon, and hesaid to me then that he knew a very charming young woman,who----"Here the speech ended abruptly, and once again the handkerchiefwas brought into play as the sobbing broke forth with increasedviolence. Presently, the girl's voice rose in a wail."Oh, this is dreadful--dreadful!" In the final word, the wailbroke to a moan.Burke felt himself vaguely guilty as the cause of such sufferingon the part of one so young, so fair, so innocent. As a culprit,he sought his best to afford a measure of soothing for this griefthat had had its source in his performance of duty."That's all right, little lady," he urged in a voice as nearlymellifluous as he could contrive with its mighty volume. "That'sall right. I have to keep on telling you. Nobody's going tohurt you--not a little bit. Believe me! Why, nobody ever wouldwant to hurt you!"But his well-meant attempt to assuage the stricken creature's wowas futile. The sobbing continued. With it came a plaintivecry, many times repeated, softly, but very miserably.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!""Isn't there something else you can tell me about this woman?"Burke inquired in desperation before the plaintive outburst. Hehoped to distract her from such grief over her predicament.The girl gave no least heed to the question.

"Oh, I'm so frightened!" she gasped."Tut, tut!" the Inspector chided. "Now, I tell you there'snothing at all for you to be afraid of.""I'm afraid!" the girl asserted dismally. "I'm afraid youwill--put me--in a cell!" Her voice sank to a murmur hardlyaudible as she spoke the words so fraught with dread import toone of her refined sensibilities.

"Pooh!" Burke returned, gallantly. "Why, my dear young lady,nobody in the world could think of you and a cell at the sametime--no, indeed!"Instantly, the girl responded to this bald flattery. She fairlyradiated appreciation of the compliment, as she turned her eyes,dewy with tears, on the somewhat flustered Inspector."Oh, thank you!" she exclaimed, with naive enjoyment.

Forthwith, Burke set out to make the most of this favorableopportunity."Are you sure you've told me all you know about this woman?" hequestioned."Oh, yes! I've only seen her two or three times," came the readyresponse. The voice changed to supplication, and again theclasped hands were extended beseechingly."Oh, please, Commissioner! Won't you let me go home?"The use of a title higher than his own flattered the Inspector,and he was moved to graciousness. Besides, it was obvious thathis police net in this instance had enmeshed only the mostharmless of doves. He smiled encouragingly.

"Well, now, little lady," he said, almost tenderly, "if I let yougo now, will you promise to let me know if you are able to thinkof anything else about this Turner woman?""I will--indeed, I will!" came the fervent assurance. There wassomething almost--quite provocative in the flash of gratitudethat shone forth from the blue eyes of the girl in that moment ofher superlative relief. It moved Burke to a desire forrehabilitation in her estimation."Now, you see," he went on in his heavy voice, yet very kindly,and with a sort of massive playfulness in his manner," no one hashurt you--not even a little bit, after all. Now, you run righthome to your mother."The girl did not need to be told twice. On the instant, shesprang up joyously, and started toward the door, with a finalravishing smile for the pleased official at the desk.

"I'll go just as fast as ever I can," the musical voice madeassurance blithely."Give my compliments to your father," Burke requestedcourteously. "And tell him I'm sorry I frightened you."The girl turned at the door.... After all, too great haste mightbe indiscreet.

"I will, Commissioner," she promised, with an arch smile. "And Iknow papa will be so grateful to you for all your kindness tome!"It was at this critical moment that Cassidy entered from theopposite side of the office. As his eyes fell on the girl at thedoor across from him, his stolid face lighted in a grin. And, inthat same instant of recognition between the two, the color wentout of the girl's face. The little red lips snapped together ina line of supreme disgust against this vicissitude of fate afterall her manoeuverings in the face of the enemy. She stoodmotionless in wordless dismay, impotent before this disasterforced on her by untoward chance."Hello, Aggie!" the detective remarked, with a smirk, while theInspector stared from one to the other with rounded eyes ofwonder, and his jaw dropped from the stark surprise of this newdevelopment.

The girl returned deliberately to the chair she had occupiedthrough the interview with the Inspector, and dropped into itweakly. Her form rested there limply now, and the blue eyesstared disconsolately at the blank wall before her. She realizedthat fate had decreed defeat for her in the game. It was after aminute of silence in which the two men sat staring that at lastshe spoke with a savage wrath against the pit into which she hadfallen after her arduous efforts."Ain't that the damnedest luck!"For a little interval still, Burke turned his glances from thegirl to Cassidy, and then back again to the girl, who satimmobile with her blue eyes steadfastly fixed on the wall. Thepolice official was, in truth, totally bewildered. Here wasinexplicable mystery. Finally, he addressed the detective curtly."Cassidy, do you know this woman?""Sure, I do!" came the placid answer. He went on to explain withthe direct brevity of his kind. "She's little Aggie Lynch--con'woman, from Buffalo--two years for blackmail--did her time atBurnsing."With this succinct narrative concerning the girl who sat mute andmotionless in the chair with her eyes fast on the wall, Cassidyrelapsed into silence, during which he stared rather perplexedlyat his chief, who seemed to be in the throes of unusual emotion.

As the detective expressed it in his own vernacular: For thefirst time in his experience, the Inspector appeared to beactually "rattled."For a little time, there was silence, the while Burke sat staringat the averted face of the girl. His expression was that of onewho has just undergone a soul-stirring shock. Then, presently,he set his features grimly, rose from his chair, and walked to aposition directly in the front of the girl, who still refused tolook in his direction."Young woman----" he began, severely. Then, of a sudden helaughed. "You picked the right business, all right, all right!"he said, with a certain enthusiasm. He laughed aloud until hiseyes were only slits, and his ample paunch trembled vehemently.

"Well," he went on, at last, "I certainly have to hand it to you,kid. You're a beaut'!"Aggie sniffed vehemently in rebuke of the gross partiality offate in his behalf."Just as I had him goin'!" she said bitterly, as if inself-communion, without shifting her gaze from the blank surfaceof the wall.

Now, however, Burke was reminded once again of his officialduties, and he turned quickly to the attentive Cassidy."Have you got a picture of this young woman?" he askedbrusquely. And when Cassidy had replied in the negative, heagain faced the adventuress with a mocking grin--in whichmockery, too, was a fair fragment for himself, who had been sothoroughly within her toils of blandishment.

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster