Emeline Cigrand visits her friends, the Lawrences, who also live in Holmes’s building. The building looks sad and gloomy to her, where before it had seemed inviting. She tells the Lawrences that she is leaving for Indiana for Christmas, and may not return. She adds that Holmes can get by without her if he needs to. Cigrand has begun to distrust Holmes, who may have “borrowed” her savings, promising to return it in the future.
Even when Cigrand becomes disillusioned with Holmes, she doesn’t understand the full extent of his crimes — she thinks he’s stolen some of her money, and has lied to her, but she doesn’t think that he’s a murderer.
Cigrand stops visiting the Lawrences, and they ask Holmes her whereabouts. Holmes replies that she has gone to be married in secret, and produces a cheaply printed leaflet announcing her engagement to one Robert E. Phelps. The Lawrences are suspicious that Cigrand left without saying goodbye or explaining herself. A bulletin arrives in Cigrand’s hometown, explaining that she “met her fate” in Chicago, in the sense of getting married.
Holmes’s explanation for Cigrand’s disappearance isn’t especially convincing, and the Lawrences remain unconvinced. The pun on “meeting one’s fate,” possibly penned by Holmes himself, suggests that Cigrand has died, not that she has gotten engaged.
Mrs. Lawrence presses Holmes for more information about Cigrand, but he divulges almost none. Lawrence begins to suspect that Holmes killed Cigrand, but she does not go to police or even leave Holmes’s building. Perhaps she, and the many other people who were suspicious of Holmes, felt that the police couldn’t have been of any help, since they were too busy and disorganized.
Larson suggests that the Lawrences didn’t investigate Holmes because they didn’t think the police could help. This is almost certainly true, but it’s also true that the Lawrences, and the other people who ignore Holmes’s actions, don’t care enough to investigate further — they don’t trust their instincts, and certainly don’t act on them.
Cigrand’s trunk, still packed with her possessions, arrives unattended in the town where she worked on the Keeley cure for alcoholism. Her family is confused, but assumes that she has married a wealthy man, and perhaps died in Europe.
The Cigrands are confused by Emeline’s death, but the thought of murder doesn’t occur to the, because it’s so unusual, and so far outside their experiences.
Cigrand’s family would have been more concerned had they known that Robert E. Phelps was an alias that Benjamin Pitezal used, and that Holmes has sent Charles Chappell a trunk with another human body in it, and asked him to remove the skin and muscle from it so that he could again sell the skeleton.
Chappell continues to ignore the signs that Holmes is a murderer, because he wants the money for cleaning the skeleton. Holmes, for his part, continues to demonstrate his willingness to lie and use aliases.
Later, the police find a footprint, clearly belonging to a woman, on the door of the vault in Holmes’s building. They guess that Holmes locked a woman in the vault and poured acid on the floor to remove the oxygen from the air more quickly; the woman, possibly Cigrand, tried to kick her way out while her feet were covered in the acid, leaving a clear print on the door. But this speculation did not begin until much later. For the time being, no one, Holmes included, noticed the footprint.
There is no way to be sure how Holmes killed Emeline, but this makes Larson’s description even more eerie. The tone of uncertainty makes it more difficult for us to wrap our heads around Holmes’s crime — it remains beyond our comprehension, and thus more terrifying.