Cleek of scotland yard.., p.1
Cleek of Scotland Yard: Detective Stories, p.1A. E. W. Mason
CLEEK OF SCOTLAND YARD
"My only kingdom is here ... in this dear woman'sarms. Walk with me, Ailsa ... as my queen _and_ my wife."]
The International Adventure Library
Three Owls Edition
CLEEK OF SCOTLAND YARD
T. P. Hanshew
Author of "Cleek the Master Detective","Cleek's Government Cases" etc.
W. R. Caldwell & Co.New York
Copyright, 1912, 1913, 1914, byDoubleday, Page & Company
All rights reserved, including that oftranslation into foreign languages,including the Scandinavian.
Cleek of Scotland Yard
The Affair of the Man Who Vanished
Mr. Maverick Narkom, Superintendent at Scotland Yard, flung asidethe paper he was reading and wheeled round in his revolvingdesk-chair, all alert on the instant, like a terrier that scents arat.
He knew well what the coming of the footsteps toward his privateoffice portended; his messenger was returning at last.
Good! Now he would get at the facts of the matter, and be relievedfrom the sneers of carping critics and the pin pricks of overzealousreporters, who seemed to think that the Yard was to blame, and allthe forces connected with it to be screamed at as incompetents ifevery evildoer in London was not instantly brought to book and hiscraftiest secrets promptly revealed.
Gad! Let them take on his job, then, if they thought the thing soeasy! Let them have a go at this business of stopping at one's postuntil two o'clock in the morning trying to patch up the jumbledfragments of a puzzle of this sort, if they regarded it as suchchild's play--finding an assassin whom nobody had seen and who struckwith a method which neither medical science nor legal acumen couldtrace or name. _Then_, by James....
The door opened and closed, and Detective Sergeant Petrie steppedinto the room, removing his hat and standing at attention.
"Well?" rapped out the superintendent, in the sharp staccato ofnervous impatience. "Speak up! It was a false alarm, was it not?"
"No, sir. It's even worse than reported. Quicker and sharper thanany of the others. He's gone, sir."
"Gone? Good God! you don't mean _dead_?"
"Yes, sir. Dead as Julius Caesar. Total collapse about twenty minutesafter my arrival and went off like that"--snapping his fingers andgiving his hand an outward fling. "Same way as the others, only,as I say, quicker, sir; and with no more trace of what caused itthan the doctors were able to discover in the beginning. That makesfive in the same mysterious way, Superintendent, and not a ghostof a clue yet. The papers will be ringing with it to-morrow."
"Ringing with it? Can they 'ring' any more than they are doingalready?" Narkom threw up both arms and laughed the thin, mirthlesslaughter of utter despair. "Can they say anything worse than theyhave said? Blame any more unreasonably than they have blamed? Itis small solace for the overburdened taxpayer to reflect that hemay be done to death at any hour of the night, and that the headsof the institution he has so long and so consistently supportedare capable of giving his stricken family nothing more in returnthan the "Dear me! dear me!" of utter bewilderment; and to proveanew that the efficiency of our boasted police-detective systemmay be classed under the head of "Brilliant Fiction." That sortof thing, day after day--as if I had done nothing but pile upfailures of this kind since I came into office. No heed of thepast six years' brilliant success. No thought for the manner in whichthe police departments of other countries were made to sit up andto marvel at our methods. Two months' failure and _that_ doesn'tcount! By the Lord Harry! I'd give my head to make those newspaperfellows eat their words--gad, yes!"
"Why don't you, then, sir?" Petrie dropped his voice a tone ortwo and looked round over the angle of his shoulder as he spoke;then, recollecting the time and the improbability of anybody beingwithin earshot, took heart of grace and spoke up bolder. "There'sno use blinking the fact, Mr. Narkom; it was none of us--none ofthe regular force, I mean--that made the record of those years whatit was. That chap Cleek was the man that did it, sir. You knowthat as well as I. I don't know whether you've fallen out withhim or not; or if he's off on some secret mission that keeps himfrom handling Yard matters these days. But if he isn't, take myadvice, sir, and put him on this case at once."
"Don't talk such rot!" flung out Narkom, impatiently. "Do you thinkI'd have waited until now to do it if it could be done? Put him onthe case, indeed! How the devil am I to do it when I don't knowwhere on earth to find him? He cleared out directly after thatPanther's Paw case six months ago. Gave up his lodgings, sackedhis housekeeper, laid off his assistant, Dollops, and went theLord knows where and why."
"My hat! Then that's the reason we never hear any more of him in Yardmatters, is it? I wondered! Disappeared, eh? Well, well! You don'tthink he can have gone back to his old lay--back to the wrong 'unsand his old 'Vanishing Cracksman's' tricks, do you, sir?"
"No, I don't. No backslider about that chap, by James! He's not builtthat way. Last time I saw him he was out shopping with Miss AilsaLorne--the girl who redeemed him--and judging from their mannertoward each other, I rather fancied--well, never mind! That's gotnothing to do with you. Besides, I feel sure that if they had, Mrs.Narkom and I would have been invited. All he said was that he wasgoing to take a holiday. He didn't say why, and he didn't say where.I wish to heaven I'd asked him. I could have kicked myself for nothaving done so when that she-devil of a Frenchwoman managed to slipthe leash and get off scot free."
"Mean that party we nabbed in the house at Roehampton along withthe Mauravanian baron who got up that Silver Snare fake, don't you,sir? Margot, the Queen of the Apaches. Or, at least, that's who youdeclared she was, I recollect."
"And that's who I still declare she was!" rapped in Narkom, testily,"and what I'll continue to say while there's a breath left in me.I never actually saw the woman until that night, it is true, butCleek told me she was Margot; and who should know better thanhe, when he was once her pal and partner? But it's one of theinfernal drawbacks of British justice that a crook's word's as goodas an officer's if it's not refuted by actual proof. The womanbrought a dozen witnesses to prove that she was a respectableAustrian lady on a visit to her son in England; that the motor inwhich she was riding broke down before that Roehampton house aboutan hour before our descent upon it, and that she had merely beeninvited to step in and wait while the repairs were being attendedto by her chauffeur. Of course such a chauffeur was forthcomingwhen she was brought up before the magistrate; and a garage-keeperwas produced to back up his statement; so that when the Mauravanianprisoner 'confessed' from the dock that what the lady said wastrue, that settled it. _I_ couldn't swear to her identity, andCleek, who could, was gone--the Lord knows where; upon which themagistrate admitted the woman to bail and delivered her over to thecustody of her solicitors pending my efforts to get somebodyover from Paris to identify her. And no sooner is the vixen set atlarge than--presto!--away she goes, bag and baggage, out of thecountry, and not a man in England has seen hide nor hair of hersince. Gad! if I could but have got word to Cleek at that time--justto put him on his guard against her. But I couldn't. I've no moreidea than a child where the man went--not one."
"It's pretty safe odds to lay one's head against a brass farthing asto where the woman went, though, I reckon," said Petrie, strokinghis chin. "Bunked it back to Paris, I expect, sir, and made for herhole like any other fox. I hear them French 'tecs are as keen to gethold of her as we were, but she slips 'em like an eel. Can't layhands on her, and couldn't swear to her identity if they did. Not onein a hundred of 'em's ever seen her to be sure of her, I'm told."
"No, not one.
"Yes, sir. King Ulric of Mauravania is there as the guest of theRepublic. Funny time for a king to go visiting another nation, sir,isn't it, when there's a revolution threatening in his own? Dunnomuch about the ways of kings, Superintendent, but if there was arow coming up in _my_ house, you can bet all you're worth I'd bemighty sure to stop at home."
"Diplomacy, Petrie, diplomacy! he may be safer where he is. Rumoursare afloat that Prince What's-his-name, son and heir of the lateQueen Karma, is not only still living, but has, during the presentyear, secretly visited Mauravania in person. I see by the papersthat that ripping old royalist, Count Irma, is implicated in therevolutionary movement and that, by the king's orders, he has beenarrested and imprisoned in the Fort of Sulberga on a charge ofsedition. Grand old johnny, that--I hope no harm comes to him. Hewas in England not so long ago. Came to consult Cleek about somebusiness regarding a lost pearl, and I took no end of a fancy tohim. Hope he pulls out all right; but if he doesn't--oh, well, wecan't bother over other people's troubles--we've got enough ofour own just now with these mysterious murders going on, and thenewspapers hammering the Yard day in and day out. Gad! how I wishI knew how to get hold of Cleek--how I wish I did!"
"Can't you find somebody to put you on the lay, sir? some friend ofhis--somebody that's seen him, or maybe heard from him since youhave?"
"Oh, don't talk rubbish!" snapped Narkom, with a short, derisivelaugh. "Friends, indeed! What friends has he outside of myself? Whoknows him any better than I know him--and what do I know of him, atthat? Nothing--not where he comes from; not what his real name maybe; not a living thing but that he chooses to call himself HamiltonCleek and to fight in the interest of the law as strenuously as heonce fought against it. And where will I find a man who has 'seen'him, as you suggest--or would know if he had seen him--when he hasthat amazing birth gift to fall back upon? _You_ never saw hisreal face--never in all your life. _I_ never saw it but twice, andeven I--why, he might pass me in the street a dozen times a day andI'd never know him if I looked straight into his eyes. He'd comelike a shot if he knew I wanted him--gad, yes! But he doesn't; andthere you are."
Imagination was never one of Petrie's strong points. His mind movedalways along well-prepared grooves to time-honoured ends. It foundone of those grooves and moved along it now.
"Why don't you advertise for him, then?" he suggested. "Put aPersonal in the morning papers, sir. Chap like that's sure to readthe news every day; and it's bound to come to his notice sooneror later. Or if it doesn't, why, people will get to knowing that theYard's lost him and get to talking about it and maybe he'll learnof it that way."
Narkom looked at him. The suggestion was so bald, so painfullyordinary and commonplace, that, heretofore, it had never occurred tohim. To associate Cleek's name with the banalities of the everydayAgony Column; to connect _him_ with the appeals of the sculleryand the methods of the raw amateur! The very outrageousness of thething was its best passport to success.
"By James, I believe there's something in that!" he said, abruptly."If you get people to talking.... Well, it doesn't matter, so thathe _hears_--so that he finds out I want him. You ring up the _DailyMail_ while I'm scratching off an ad. Tell 'em it's simply got togo in the morning's issue. I'll give it to them over the line myselfin a minute."
He lurched over to his desk, drove a pen into the ink pot, and madesuch good haste in marshalling his straggling thoughts that he hadthe thing finished before Petrie had got farther than "Yes; ScotlandYard. Hold the line, please; Superintendent Narkom wants to speak toyou."
The Yard's requests are at all times treated with respect andcourtesy by the controlling forces of the daily press, so it fellout that, late as the hour was, "space" was accorded, and, in themorning, half a dozen papers bore this notice prominently displayed:
"CLEEK--Where are you? Urgently needed. Communicate at once.--_Maverick Narkom._"
The expected came to pass; and the unexpected followed close uponits heels. The daily press, publishing the full account of thelatest addition to the already long list of mysterious murders which,for a fortnight past, had been adding nervous terrors to the publicmind, screamed afresh--as Narkom knew that it would--and wentinto paroxysms of the Reporters' Disease until the very paper wasyellow with the froth of it. The afternoon editions were stillworse--for, between breakfast and lunch time, yet another man hadfallen victim to the mysterious assassin--and sheets pink andsheets green, sheets gray and sheets yellow were scattering panicfrom one end of London to the other. The police-detective systemof the country was rotten! The Government should interfere--mustinterfere! It was a national disgrace that the foremost city of thecivilized world should be terrorized in this appalling fashion andthe author of the outrages remain undetected! Could anything bemore appalling?
It could, and--it was! When night came and the evening paperswere supplanting the afternoon ones, that something "moreappalling"--known hours before to the Yard itself--was glaring out onevery bulletin and every front page in words like these:
LONDON'S REIGN OF TERROR APPALLING ATROCITY IN CLARGES STREET SHOCKING DYNAMITE OUTRAGE
Clarges Street! The old "magic" street of those "magic" old times ofCleek, and the Red Limousine, and the Riddles that were unriddled forthe asking! Narkom grabbed the report the instant he heard that nameand began to read it breathlessly.
It was the usual station advice ticked through to headquarters anddeciphered by the operator there, and it ran tersely, thus:
"4:28 P. M. Attempt made by unknown parties to blow up house in Clarges Street, Piccadilly. Partially successful. Three persons injured and two killed. No clue to motive. Occupants, family from Essex. Only moved in two days ago. House been vacant for months previously. Formerly occupied by retired seafaring man named Capt. Horatio Burbage, who----"
Narkom read no farther. He flung the paper aside with a sort ofmingled laugh and blub and collapsed into his chair with his eyeshidden in the crook of an upthrown arm, and the muscles of his mouthtwitching.
"Now I know why he cleared out! Good old Cleek! Bully old Cleek!"he said to himself; and stopped suddenly, as though something had gotinto his throat and half choked him. But after a moment or two hejumped to his feet and began walking up and down the room, his facefairly glowing; and if he had put his thoughts into words they wouldhave run like this:
"Margot's crew, of course. And he must have guessed that something ofthe sort would happen _some_ time if he stopped there after thatSilver Snare business at Roehampton--either from her lot or from thefollowers of that Mauravanian johnnie who was at the back of it.They were after him even in that little game, those two. I wonderwhy? What the dickens, when one comes to think of it, could have madethe Prime Minister of Mauravania interest himself in an Apache trickto 'do in' an ex-cracksman? Gad! she flies high, sometimes, thatMargot! Prime Minister of Mauravania! And the fool faced fifteenyears hard to do the thing and let her get off scot free! Faced itand--took it; and is taking it still, for the sake of helping herto wipe off an old score against a reformed criminal. Wonder ifCleek ever crossed _him_ in something? Wonder if he, too, was on the'crooked side' once, and wanted to make sure of its never beingshown up? Oh, well, he got his medicine. And so, too, will thisunknown murderer who's doing the secret killing in London, now thatthis Clarges Street affair is over. Bully old Cleek! Slipped 'emagain! Had their second shot and missed you! Now you'll come outof hiding, old chap, and we shall have the good old times once more."
His eye fell upon the ever-ready telephone. He stopped sho
"We'll have you singing your old tune before long, my friend," hesaid, optimistically. "I know my man--gad, yes! He'll let no grassgrow under _his_ feet now that this thing's over. I shall hearsoon--yes, by James! I shall."
His optimism was splendidly rewarded. Not, however, from the quarternor in the manner he expected. It had but just gone half-past sevenwhen a tap sounded, the door of his office swung inward, and theporter stepped into the room.
"Person wanting to speak with you, sir, in private," he announced."Says it's about some Personal in the morning paper."
"Send him in--send him in at once!" rapped out Narkom excitedly."Move sharp; and don't let anybody else in until I give the word."
Then, as soon as the porter had disappeared, he crossed the room,twitched the thick curtains over the window, switched on the electriclight, wheeled another big chair up beside his desk and, with faceaglow, jerked open a drawer and got out a cigarette box which hadnot seen the light for weeks.
Quick as he was, the door opened and shut again before the lid ofthe box could be thrown back, and into the room stepped Cleek'shenchman--Dollops.
"Hullo! You, is it, you blessed young monkey?" said Narkom gayly,as he looked up and saw the boy. "Knew I'd hear to-day--knew it, byJames! Sent you for me, has he, eh? Is he coming himself or does hewant me to go to him? Speak up, and--Good Lord! what's the matterwith you? What's up? Anything wrong?"
Dollops had turned the colour of an under-baked biscuit and waslooking at him with eyes of absolute despair.
"Sir," he said, moving quickly forward and speaking in the breathlessmanner of a spent runner--"Sir, I was a-hopin' it was a fake, andto hear you speak like that--Gawd's truth, guv'ner, you don't meanas it's real, sir, do you? That _you_ don't know either?"
"Know? Know what?"
"Where he is--wot's become of him? Mr. Cleek, the guv'ner, sir.I made sure that you'd know if anybody would. That's wot made mecome, sir. I'd 'a' gone off me bloomin' dot if I hadn't--after youa-puttin' in that Personal and him never a-turnin' up like he'dort. Sir, do you mean to say as you don't know _where_ he is, andhaven't seen him even yet?"
"No, I've not. Good Lord! haven't you?"
"No, sir. I aren't clapped eyes on him since he sent me off to thebloomin' seaside six months ago. All he told me when we come to partwas that Miss Lorne was goin' out to India on a short visit to Cap'nand Mrs. 'Awksley--Lady Chepstow as was, sir--and that directlyshe was gone he'd be knockin' about for a time on his own, and Iwasn't to worry over him. I haven't seen hide nor hair of him, sir,since that hour."
"Nor heard from him?" Narkom's voice was thick and the hand he laidon the chair-back hard shut.
"Oh, yes, sir, I've heard--I'd have gone off my bloomin' dot if Ihadn't done _that_. Heard from him twice. Once when he wrote andgimme my orders about the new place he's took up the river--fourweeks ago. The second time, last Friday, sir, when he wrote me thething that's fetched me here--that's been tearin' the heart out of meever since I heard at Charing Cross about wot's happened at ClargesStreet, sir."
"And what was that?"
"Why, sir, he wrote that he'd jist remembered about some papers ashe'd left behind the wainscot in his old den, and that he'd get thekey and drop in at the old Clarges Street house on the way 'ome.Said he'd arrive in England either yesterday afternoon or this one,sir; but whichever it was, he'd wire me from Dover before he tookthe train. And he never done it, sir--my Gawd! he never done it inthis world!"
"Good God!" Narkom flung out the words in a sort of panic, his lipstwitching, his whole body shaking, his face like the face of a deadman.
"He never done it, I tell you!" pursued Dollops in an absolutetremble of fright. "I haven't never had a blessed line; and nowthis here awful thing has happened. And if he done what he saidhe was a-goin' to do--if he come to town and went to that house----"
If he said more, the clanging of a bell drowned it completely. Narkomhad turned to his desk and was hammering furiously upon the callgong. A scurry of flying feet came up the outer passage, the dooropened in a flash, and the porter was there. And behind him Lennard,the chauffeur, who guessed from that excited summons that therewould be a call for _him_.
"The limousine--as quick as you can get her round!" said Narkom inthe sharp staccato of excitement. "To the scene of the explosion inClarges Street first, and if the bodies of the victims have beenremoved, then to the mortuary without an instant's delay."
He dashed into the inner room, grabbed his hat and coat down from thehook where they were hanging, and dashed back again like a man ina panic.
"Come on!" he said, beckoning to Dollops as he flung open the doorand ran out into the passage. "If they've 'done him in'--_him!_--ifthey've 'got him' after all----Come on! come on!"
Dollops "came on" with a rush; and two minutes later the redlimousine swung out into the roadway and took the distance betweenScotland Yard and Clarges Street at a mile-a-minute clip.
* * * * *
Arrival at the scene of the disaster elicited the fact that theremains--literally "remains," since they had been well-nigh blownto fragments--had, indeed, been removed to the mortuary; so thitherNarkom and Dollops followed them, their fears being in no wiselightened by learning that the bodies were undeniably those of men.As the features of both victims were beyond any possibility ofrecognition, identification could, of course, be arrived at onlythrough bodily marks; and Dollops's close association with Cleekrendered him particularly capable of speaking with authorityregarding those of his master. It was, therefore, a source ofunspeakable delight to both Narkom and himself, when, after close andminute examination of the remains, he was able to say, positively,"Sir, whatever's become of him, praise God, neither of these here twodead men is him, bless his heart!"
"So they didn't get him after all!" supplemented Narkom, laughingfor the first time in hours. "Still, it cannot be doubted thatwhoever committed this outrage was after him, since the peoplewho have suffered are complete strangers to the locality and hadonly just moved into the house. No doubt the person or persons whothrew the bomb knew of Cleek's having at one time lived there as'Captain Burbage'--Margot did, for one--and finding the house stilloccupied, and not knowing of his removal--why, there you are."
"Margot!" The name brought back all Dollops' banished fears. Heswitched round on the superintendent and laid a nervous clutch onhis sleeve. "And Margot's 'lay' is Paris. Sir, I didn't tell you,did I, that it was from there the guv'ner wrote those two lettersto me?"
"Cinnamon! From Paris?"
"Yes, sir. He didn't say from wot part of the city nor wot he wasa-doin' there, anyways, but--my hat! listen here, sir. _They're_there--them Mauravanian johnnies--and the Apaches and Margot there,too, and you know how both lots has their knife into him. I dunnowot the Mauravanians is got against him, sir (he never tellsnothin' to nobody, he don't), but most like it's summink he doneto some of 'em that time he went out there about the lost pearl; but_they're_ after him, and the Apaches is after him, and between thetwo!... Guv'ner!"--his voice rose thin and shrill--"guv'ner, if onelot don't get him, the other may; and--sir--there's Apaches inLondon this very night. I know! I've seen 'em."
"Seen them? When? Where?"
"At Charing Cross station, sir, jist before I went to the Yardto see you. As I hadn't had no telegram from the guv'ner, like Iwas promised, I went there on the off chance, hopin' to meet him whenthe boat train come in. And there I see 'em, sir, a-loungin' roundthe platform where the Dover train goes out at nine to catch thenight boat back to Calais, sir. I spotted 'em on the instant--fromtheir walk, their way of carryin' of theirselves, their manner ofwearin' of their bloomin' hair. Laughin' among themselves they wasand lookin' round at the entrance every now and then like as theywas expectin' some one to come and join 'em; and I see, too, asthey was a-goin' back to where they come from, 'cause they'd thereturn halves of their tickets in their hatbands. One of 'em, hebuys a paper at
They were back on the pavement, within sight of the limousine,when the boy said this. Narkom brought the car to his side withone excited word, and fairly wrenched open the door.
"To Charing Cross station--as fast as you can streak it!" he said,excitedly. "The last train for the night boat leaves at nine sharp.Catch it, if you rack the motor to pieces."
"Crumbs! A minute and a half!" commented Lennard, as he consultedthe clock dial beside him; then, just waiting for Narkom and Dollopsto jump into the vehicle, he brought her head round with a swing,threw back the clutch, and let her go full tilt.
But even the best of motors cannot accomplish the impossible. Thegates were closed, the signal down, the last train already outsidethe station when they reached it, and not even the mandate of thelaw might hope to stay it or to call it back.
"Plenty of petrol?" Narkom faced round as he spoke and looked atLennard.
"All right--_beat it!_ The boat sails from Dover at eleven. I've gotto catch it. Understand?"
"Yes, sir. But you could wire down and have her held over till we getthere, Superintendent."
"Not for the world! She must sail on time; I must get aboard withoutbeing noticed--without some persons I'm following having the leastcause for suspicion. Beat that train--do you hear me?--_beat_ it! Iwant to get there and get aboard that boat before the others arrive.Do you want any further incentive than that? If so, here it is foryou: Mr. Cleek's in Paris! Mr. Cleek's in danger!"
"Mr. Cleek? God's truth! Hop in sir, hop in! I'll have you thereahead of that train if I dash down the Admiralty Pier in flames fromfront to rear. Just let me get to the open road, sir, and I'll showyou something to make you sit up."
He did. Once out of the track of all traffic, and with the lightsof the city well at his back, he strapped his goggles tight, jerkedhis cap down to his eyebrows, and leaned over the wheel.
"For Mr. Cleek--do you hear?" he said, addressing the car as if itwere a human being. "Now, then, show what you're made of! There! Takeyour head! Now _go_, you vixen! GO!"
There was a sudden roar, a sudden leap; then the car shot forward asthough all the gales of all the universe were sweeping it on, andthe wild race to the coast began.
Narkom jerked down the blinds, turned on the light, and flung openthe locker, as they pounded on.
"Dip in. Get something that can be made to fit you," he said toDollops. "We can't risk any of those fellows identifying you asthe chap who was hanging round the station to-night. Toss me overthat wig--the gray one--in the far corner there. God knows whatwe're on the track of, but if it leads to Cleek I'll follow it tothe end of time!" Then, lifting his voice until it sounded abovethe motor's roar, "Faster, Lennard, faster!" he called. "Give itto her! give it to her! We've got to beat that train if it kills us!"
They did beat it. The engine's light was not even in sight when thebright glare of the moon on the Channel's waters flashed up out ofthe darkness before them; nor was the sound of the train's comingeven faintly audible as yet, when, a few minutes later, the limousineswung down the incline and came to a standstill within a stone'sthrow of the entrance to the pier, at whose extreme end the packetlay, with gangways down and fires up and her huge bulk rising andfalling with the movements of the waves.
"Beat her, you see, sir," said Lennard, chuckling as he got down andopened the door for the superintendent to alight. "Better not goany nearer, sir, with the car. There's a chap down there standingby the gangplank and he seems interested in us from the way he'swatching. Jumped up like a shot and came down the gangplank theinstant he heard us coming. Better do the rest of the journey afoot,sir, and make a pretence of paying me--as if I was a public taxi.What'll I do? Stop here until morning?"
"Yes. Put up at a garage; and if I don't return by the first boat,get back to town. Meantime, cut off somewhere and ring up the Yard.Tell 'em where I've gone. Now then, Dollops, come on!"
A moment later the limousine had swung off into the darkness anddisappeared, and what might properly have been taken for a coupleof English curates on their way to a Continental holiday moveddown the long pier between the glimmering and inadequate lampsto the waiting boat. But long before they reached it the figureat the gangplank--the tall, erect figure of a man whom the mostcasual observer must have recognized as one who had known militarytraining--had changed its alert attitude and was sauntering upand down as if, when they came nearer and the light allowed himto see what they were, he had lost all interest in them and theirdoings. Narkom gave the man a glance from the tail of his eye asthey went up the gangplank and boarded the boat, and brief as thatglance was, it was sufficient to assure him of two things: First,that the man was not only strikingly handsome but bore himself withan air which spoke of culture, birth, position; second, that hewas a foreigner, with the fair hair and the slightly hooked nosewhich was so characteristic of the Mauravanians.
With Dollops at his side, Narkom slunk aft, where the lights wereless brilliant and the stern of the boat hung over the dark, stillwaters, and pausing there, turned and looked back at the waiting man.
A French sailor was moving past in the darkness. He stopped the manand spoke to him.
"Tell me," he said, slipping a shilling into the fellow's hand, "doyou happen to know who that gentleman is, standing on the pier there?"
"Yes, m'sieur. He is equerry to his Majesty King Ulric of Mauravania.He has crossed with us frequently during his Majesty's sojourn inParis."
"Gawd's truth, sir," whispered Dollops, plucking nervously at thesuperintendent's sleeve as the sailor, after touching his cap withhis forefinger, passed on. "Apaches at one end and them Mauravanianjohnnies at the other! I tell you they're a-workin' hand in hand forsome reason--workin' against _him_!"
Narkom lifted a silencing hand and turned to move away where therewould be less likelihood of anything they might say being overheard;for at that moment a voice had sounded and from a most unusualquarter. Unnoticed until now, a fisher's boat, which for some timehad been nearing the shore, swept under the packet's stern andgrazed along the stone front of the pier.
"Voila, m'sieur," said, in French, the man who sailed it. "Have Inot kept my word and brought your excellency across in safety andwith speed?"
"Yes," replied the passenger whom the fisher addressed. He spoke inperfect French, and with the smoothness of a man of the better class."You have done well indeed. Also it was better than waiting about atCalais for the morning boat. I can now catch the very first trainto London. Fast is she? There is your money. Adieu!"
Then came the sound of some one leaving the boat and scramblingup the water stairs, and hard on the heels of it the first whistle ofthe coming train. Narkom, glancing round, saw a slouching, ill-cladfellow whose appearance was in distinct contrast with his voice andmanner of speaking, come into view upon the summit of the pier.His complexion was sallow, his matted hair seemed to have gone foryears uncombed; a Turkish fez, dirty and discoloured, was on hishead, and over his arm hung several bits of tapestry and shiningstuff which betokened his calling as that of a seller of Orientaldraperies.
This much Narkom saw and would have gone on his way, giving thefellow no second thought, but that a curious thing happened. Movingaway toward the footpath which led from the pier to the town, thepedler caught sight suddenly of the man standing at the gangplank;he halted abruptly, looked round to make sure that no one waswatching, then, without more ado, turned round suddenly on hisheel, walked straightway to the gangplank and boarded t
By this time the train had arrived, the pier was alive with people,porters were running back and forth with luggage, and there wasbustle and confusion everywhere. Narkom looked along the length ofthe vessel to the teeming gangway. The Mauravanian was still there,alert as before, his fixed eyes keenly watching.
A crowd came stringing along, bags and bundles done up in gaudyhandkerchiefs in their hands, laughing, jostling, jabbering togetherin low-class French.
"Here they are, guv'ner--the Apaches!" said Dollops in a whisper."That's the lot, sir. Keep your eye on them as they come aboard,and if they are with him--Crumbs! Not a sign; not a blessed one!"For the Apaches, stringing up the gangplank by twos and threes andcoming within brushing distance of the waiting man, passed on as theOriental pedler had passed on, taking no notice of him, nor he ofthem, nor yet of how, as they advanced, the pedler slouched forwardand slipped into the thick of them.
"By James! one of them--that's what the fellow is!" said Narkom, ashe observed this. "If during the voyage the Mauravanian speaks toone man of the lot----"
He stopped and sucked in his breath and let the rest of the sentencego by default. For of a sudden there had come into sight upon thepier a dapper little French dandy, fuzzy of moustache, mincing ofgait, with a flower in his buttonhole and a shining "topper" on hisbeautifully pomaded head; and it came upon Narkom with a shock ofremembrance that he had seen this selfsame living fashion platepass by Scotland Yard twice that very day!
Onward he came, this pretty monsieur, with his jaunty air and hislovely "wine-glass waist," onward, and up the gangway and aboard thepacket; and there the Mauravanian still stood, looking out over thecrowd and taking no more heed of him than he had taken of anybodyelse. But with the vanishing of this exquisite, to whom he hadpaid no heed, his alertness and his interest seemed somehow toevaporate; for he turned now and again to watch the sailors and thelongshoremen at their several duties, and strolled leisurely aboardand stood lounging against the rail of the lower deck when the callof "All ashore that's going!" rang through the vessel's length,and was still lounging there when the packet cast off her mooring,and swinging her bows round in the direction of France, creamedher way out into the Channel and headed for Calais.
A wind, unnoticed in the safe shelter of the harbour, playedboisterously across the chopping waves as the vessel forged outward,sending clouds of spray sweeping over the bows and along the decks,and such passengers as refrained from seeking the shelter of thesaloon and smoke-room sought refuge by crowding aft.
"Come!" whispered Narkom, tapping Dollops' arm. "We can neithertalk nor watch here with safety in this crowd. Let us go 'forrard.'Better a drenching in loneliness than shelter with a crowd like this.Come along!"
The boy obeyed without a murmur, following the larger and heavierbuilt "curate" along the wet decks to the deserted bows, andfinding safe retreat with him there in the dark shadow cast by atarpaulin-covered lifeboat. From this safe shelter they could,by craning their necks, get a half view of the interior of thesmoke-room through its hooked-back door; and their first glance inthat direction pinned their interest, for the pretty "Monsieur"was there, smoking a cigarette and sipping now and again at a glassof absinthe which stood on a little round table at his elbow.But of the Mauravanian or the Apaches or of the Oriental pedler,there was neither sight nor sound, nor had there been since thevessel started.
"What do you make of it?" queried Narkom, when at the end of an hourthe dim outlines of the French coast blurred the clear silver of themoonlit sky. "Have we come on a wild goose chase, do you think? Whatdo you suppose has become of the Apaches and of the pedler chap?"
"Travellin' second class," said Dollops, after stealing out andmaking a round of the vessel and creeping back into the shadow ofthe lifeboat unseen. "Pallin' with 'em, he is, sir. Makin' a play ofsellin' 'em things for their donahs--for the sake of appearances.One of 'em, he is; and if either that Frenchy or that Mauravanianjohnny is mixed up with them--lay low! Smeller to the ground, sir,and eyes and ears wide open! We'll know wot's wot now!"
For of a sudden the Mauravanian had come into view far down the wetand glistening promenade deck and was whistling a curious, liltingair as he strolled along past the open door of the smoke-room.
Just the mere twitch of "Monsieur's" head told when he heard thattune. He finished his absinthe, flung aside his cigarette, andstrolled leisurely out upon the deck. The Mauravanian was at theafter end of the promenade--a glance told him that. He set his faceresolutely in the direction of the bows and sauntered leisurelyalong. He moved on quietly, until he came to the very end of thecovered promenade where the curving front of the deckhouse lookedout upon the spray-washed forward deck, then stopped and planted hisback against it and stood silently waiting, not ten feet distantfrom where Narkom and Dollops crouched.
A minute later the Mauravanian, continuing what was to allappearances a lonely and aimless promenade round the vessel,came abreast of that spot and of him.
And then, the deluge!
"Monsieur" spoke out--guardedly, but in a clear, crisp tone that leftno room for doubt upon _one_ point, at least.
"Mon ami, it is done--it is accomplished," that crisp voice said."You shall report that to his Majesty's ministers. Voila, it is done!"
"It is not done!" replied the Mauravanian, in a swift, biting,emphatic whisper. "You jump to conclusions too quickly. Here! takethis. It is an evening paper. The thing was useless--he was notthere!"
"Not there! Grande Dieu!"
"Sh-h! Take it--read it. I will see you when we land. Not here--itis too dangerous. Au revoir!"
Then he passed on and round the curve of the deckhouse to thepromenade on the other side; and "Monsieur," with the paper hardshut in the grip of a tense hand, moved fleetly back toward thesmoke-room.
But not unknown any longer.
"Gawd's truth--a woman!" gulped Dollops in a shaking voice.
"No, not a woman--a devil!" said Narkom through his teeth. "Margot,by James! Margot, herself! And what is he--what is Cleek?--that aking should enter into compact with a woman to kill him? Margot, dashher! Well, I'll have you now, my lady--yes, by James, I will!"
"Guv'ner! Gawd's truth, sir, where are you going?"
"To the operator in charge of the wireless--to send a message to thechief of the Calais police to meet me on arrival!" said Narkom inreply. "Stop where you are. Lay low! Wait for me. We'll land in adozen minutes' time. I'll have that Jezebel and her confederates andI'll rout out Cleek and get him beyond the clutches of them if I tearup all France to do it."
"Gawd bless you, sir, Gawd bless you and forgive me!" said Dollopswith a lump in his throat and a mist in his eyes. "I said often youwas a sosidge and a muff, sir, but you aren't--you're a man!"
Narkom did not hear. He was gone already--down the deck to the cabinof the wireless operator. In another moment he had passed in, shutthe door behind him, and the Law at sea was talking to the Law ashorethrough the blue ether and across the moonlit waves.
* * * * *
It was ten minutes later. The message had gone its way and Narkom wasback in the lifeboat's shadow again, and close on the bows thelamps of Calais pier shone yellow in the blue-and-silver darkness.On the deck below people were bustling about and making for theplace where the gangplank was to be thrust out presently, and linkboat and shore together. On the quay, customs officials were makingready for the coming inspection, porters were scuttling about intheir blue smocks and peaked caps, and, back of all, the outlinesof Calais Town loomed, shadowy and grim through the crowding gloom.
The loneliness of the upper deck offered its attractions
"So, you have read: you understand how useless it was?" theMauravanian said, joining her again at the deckhouse, where shestood with the crumpled newspaper in her hand. "His Majesty's pursecannot be lightened of all that promised sum for any such bungle asthis. Speak quickly; where may we go to talk in safety? I cannotrisk it here--I will not risk it in the train. Must we wait untilwe reach Paris, mademoiselle? Or have you a lair of your own here?"
"I have 'lairs,' as you term them, in half the cities of France,Monsieur le Comte," she answered with a vicious little note ofresentment in her voice. "And I do not work for nothing--no, not I! Ipaid for my adherence to his Majesty's Prime Minister and I intendto be paid for my services to his Majesty's self, even though I havethis once failed. It must be settled, that question, at once andfor all--now--to-night."
"I guessed it would be like that," he answered, with a jerk of hisshoulders. "Where shall it be, then? Speak quickly. They are makingthe landing and I must not be seen talking with you after we goashore. Where, then?"
"At the Inn of the Seven Sinners--on the Quai d'Lorme--a gunshotdistant. Any cocher will take you there."
"Is it safe?"
"All my 'lairs' are safe, monsieur. It overhangs the water. And ifstrangers come, there is a trap with a bolt on the under side. Oneway: to the town and the sewers and forty other inns. The other:to a motor boat, always in readiness for instant use. You couldchoose for yourself should occasion come. You will not find theplace shut--my 'lairs' never are. A password? No, there is none--forany but the Brotherhood. Nor will you need one. You remember oldMarise of the 'Twisted Arm' in Paris? Well, she serves at the SevenSinners now. I have promoted Madame Serpice to the 'Twisted Arm'.She will know you, will Marise. Say to her I am coming shortly. Sheand her mates will raise the roof with joy, and--la! la! The gangwayis out. They are calling all ashore. Look for me and my lads closeon your heels when you arrive. Au revoir."
"Au revoir," he repeated, and slipping by went below and made hisway ashore.
She waited that he might get well on his way--that none might by anypossibility associate them--then turning, went down after him andout to the pier, where her crew were already forgathering; and whenor how she passed the word to them that it was not Paris to-nightbut the Inn of the Seven Sinners, neither Narkom nor Dollops coulddecide, close as they came on after her, for she seemed to speak tono one.
"No Inn of the Seven Sinners for you to-night, my lady, if my friendM. Ducroix has attended to that wireless message properly," mutteredNarkom as he followed her. "Look sharp, Dollops, and if you seea Sergeant de Ville let me know. They've no luggage, that lot,and, besides, they are natives, so they will pass the customs in ajiffy. Hullo! there goes that pedler chap--and without his fez orhis draperies, b'gad! Through the customs like a flash, the bounder!And there go the others, too. And she after them--she, by James! God!Where are Ducroix and his men? Why aren't they here?"--lookingvainly about for some sign of the Chief of Police. "I can't doanything without _him_--here, on foreign soil. Why in heaven's namedoesn't the man come?"
"Maybe he hasn't had time, guv'ner--maybe he wasn't on hand when themessage arrived," hazarded Dollops. "It's not fifteen minutes alltold since it was dispatched. So if----"
"There she goes! there she goes! Passed, and through the customs in awink, the Jezebel!" interposed Narkom, in a fever of excitement, ashe saw Margot go by the inspector at the door and walk out into thestreets of the city. "Lord! if she slips me now----"
"She shan't!" cut in Dollops, jerking down his hat brim and turningup his collar. "Wait here till the cops come. I'll nip out after herand see where she goes. Like as not the cops'll know the place whenyou mention it; but if they don't--watch out for me; I'll come backand lead 'em."
Then he moved hurriedly forward, passed the inspector, and was gonein a twinkling.
For ten wretched minutes after he, too, had passed the customs andwas at liberty to leave, Narkom paced up and down and fretted andfumed before a sound of clanking sabres caught his ear and, lookinground, he saw M. Ducroix enter the place at the head of a detachmentof police. He hurried to him and in a word made himself known.
"Ten million pardons, m'sieur; but I was absent when the message heshall be deliver," exclaimed Ducroix in broken English. "I shall comeand shall bring my men as soon as he shall be receive. M'sieur, whoshall it be this great criminal you demand of me to arrest? Is hehere?"
"No, no. A moment, Ducroix. Do you know a place called the Inn ofthe Seven Sinners?"
"Perfectly. It is but a stone's throw distant--on the Quai d'Lorme."
"Come with me to it, then. I'll make you the most envied man inFrance, Ducroix: I'll deliver into your hands that witch of theunderworld, Margot, the Queen of the Apaches!"
Ducroix's face lit up like a face transfigured.
"M'sieur!" he cried. "That woman? You can give me that woman? Youknow her? You can recognize her? But, yes, I remember! You shall haveher in your hands once in your own country, but she shall slip you,as she shall slip everybody!"
"She won't slip _you_, then, I promise you that!" said Narkom."Reward and glory, both shall be yours. I have followed her acrossthe channel, Ducroix. I know where she is to be found for acertainty. She is at the Inn of the Seven Sinners. Just take methere and I'll turn the Jezebel over to you."
Ducroix needed no urging. The prospect of such a capture madehim fairly beside himself with delight. In twenty swift words hetranslated this glorious news to his men--setting them as wild withexcitement as he was himself--then with a sharp, "Come, m'sieur!" heturned on his heel and led the breathless race for the goal.
Halfway down the narrow, ink-black street that led to the inn theyencountered Dollops pelting back at full speed.
"Come on, guv'ner, come on, all of you!" he broke out as he cameabreast of them. "She's there--they're all there--kickin' up Meg'sdiversions, sir, and singin' and dancin' like mad. And, sir, he'sthere, too--the pedler chap! I see him come up and sneak in with therest. Come on! This way, all of you."
If they had merely run before, they all but flew now; for thissecond assurance that Margot, the great and long-sought-for Margot,was actually within their reach served to spur every man tooutdo himself; so that it was but a minute or two later whenthey came in sight of the inn and bore down upon it in a solidphalanx. And then--just then--when another minute would havesettled everything--the demon of mischance chose to play them ascurvy trick.
All they knew of it was that an Apache coming out of the building forsome purpose of his own looked up and saw them, then faced roundand bent back in the doorway; that of a sudden a very tornado ofmusic and laughter and singing and dancing rolled out into thenight, and that when they came pounding up to the doorway, the fellowwas lounging there serenely smoking; and, inside, his colleagueswere holding a revel wild enough to wake the dead.
In the winking of an eye he was carried off his feet and swept on bythis sudden inrush of the law; the door clashed open, the littleslatted barrier beyond was knocked aside, and the police were pouringinto the room and running headlong into a spinning mass of wilddancers.
The band ceased suddenly as they appeared, the dancers cried out asif in a panic of alarm, and at Ducroix's commanding "Surrender in thename of the Law!" a fat woman behind the bar flung up her arms andvoiced a despairing shriek.
"Soul of misfortune! for what, m'sieur--for what?" she cried. "Itis no sin to laugh and dance. We break no law, my customers and I.What is it you want that you come in upon us like this?"
Ah, what indeed? Not anything that could be seen. A glance round theroom showed nothing and no one but these suddenly disturbed dancers,and of Margot and the Mauravanian never a sign.
"M'sieur!" began Ducroix, turning to Narkom, whose despair was onlytoo evident, and who, in company with Dollops, was rushing about theplace pushing people
Narkom did not answer. Of a sudden, however, he remembered what hadbeen said of the trap and, pushing aside a group of girls standingover it, found it in the middle of the floor.
"Here it is--this is the way she got out!" he shouted. "Bolted, byJames! bolted on the under side! Up with it, up with it--the Jezebelgot out this way." But though Ducroix and Dollops aided him, andthey pulled and tugged and tugged and pulled, they could not budgeit one inch.
"M'sieur, no--what madness! He is not a trap--? no, he is not a trapat all!" protested old Marise. "It is but a square where the floorbroke and was mended! Mother of misfortune, it is nothing but that."
What response Narkom might have made was checked by a suddendiscovery. Huddling in a corner, feigning a drunken sleep, hesaw a man lying with his face hidden in his folded arms. It wasthe pedler. He pounced on the man and jerked up his head beforethe fellow could prevent it or could dream of what was about tohappen.
"Here's one of them at least!" he cried, and fell to shaking him withall his force. "Here's one of Margot's pals, Ducroix. You shan't goempty-handed after all."
A cry of consternation fluttered through the gathering as he broughtthe man's face into view. Evidently they were past masters of theart of acting, these Apaches, for one might have sworn that everyman and every woman of them was taken aback by the fellow's presence.
"Mother of Miracles! who shall the man be?" exclaimed Marise."Messieurs, I know him not. I have not seen him in all my lifebefore. Cochon, speak up! Who are you, that you come in like this andget a respectable widow in trouble, dog? Eh?"
The man made a motion first to his ears, then to his mouth, then fellto making movements in the sign language, but spoke never a word.
"La, la! he is a deaf mute, m'sieur," said Ducroix. "He hears notand speaks not, poor unfortunate."
"Oh, doesn't he?" said Narkom with an ugly laugh. "He spoke wellenough a couple of hours back, I promise you. My young friend hereand I heard him when he paid off the fisherman who had carried himover to Dover just before he sneaked aboard the packet to come backwith Margot and the Mauravanian."
The eyes of the Apaches flew to the man's face with a sudden keeninterest which only they might understand; but he still stood,wagging his great head either drunkenly or idiotically, and pointingto ears and mouth.
"Lay hold of him--run him in!" said Narkom, whirling him across intothe arms of a couple of stalwart Sergeants de Ville. "I'll go beforethe magistrate and lay a charge against him in the morning that willopen your eyes when you hear it. One of a bloodthirsty, dynamitingcrew, the dog! Lay fast hold of him! don't let him get away on yourlives! God! to have lost that woman! to have lost her after all!"
It was a sore blow, certainly, but there was nothing to do but togrin and bear it; for to seek Margot at any of the inns which mightcommunicate with the sewer trap, or to hunt for her and a motor boaton the dark water's surface, was in very truth like looking for aneedle in a haystack, and quite as hopeless. He therefore, decidedto go, for the rest of the night, to the nearest hotel; and waitingonly to see the pedler carried away in safe custody, and promising tobe on hand when he was brought up before the local magistrate in themorning, took Dollops by the arm and dejectedly went his way.
* * * * *
The morning saw him living up to his promise; and long before thearrival of the magistrate or, indeed, before the night's harvestof prisoners was brought over from the lockup and thrust intothe three little "detention rooms" below the court, he was therewith Dollops and Ducroix, observing with wonder that groups ofevil-looking fellows of the Apache breed were hanging round thebuilding as he approached, and that later on others of the samekidney slipped in and took seats in the little courtroom and keptconstantly whispering one to the other while they waited for themorning session to begin.
"Gawd's truth, guv'ner, look at 'em--the 'ole blessed place is alivewith the bounders," whispered Dollops. "Wot do you think they areup to, sir? Makin' a rush and settin' the pedler free when he comesup before the Beak? There's twenty of 'em waitin' round the door ifthere's one."
Narkom made no reply. The arrival of the magistrate focussed all eyeson the bench and riveted his attention with the rest.
The proceedings opened with all the trivial cases first--thenight's sweep of the dragnet: drunks and disorderlies, vagrantsand pariahs. One by one these were brought in and paid their finesand went their way, unheeded; for this part of the morning'sproceedings interested nobody, not even the Apaches. The list wasdragged through monotonously; the last blear-eyed sot--a hideous,cadaverous, monkey-faced wretch whose brutal countenance sickenedNarkom when he shambled up in his filthy rags--had paid his fine, andgone his way, and there remained now but a case of attemptedsuicide to be disposed of before the serious cases began. This latteroccupied the magistrate's time and attention for perhaps twentyminutes or so, then that, too, was disposed of; and then a voicewas heard calling out for the unknown man arrested last night at theInn of the Seven Sinners to be brought forward.
In an instant a ripple of excitement ran through the little court.The Apache fraternity sat up within and passed the word to the Apachefraternity without, and these stood at attention--close-lipped,dark-browed, eager, like human tigers waiting for the word tospring. Every eye was fixed on the door through which that pretendedmute should be led in; but although others had come at the firstcall, he came not even at the second, and the magistrate had justissued an impatient command for the case to be called yet a thirdtime, when there was a clatter of hasty footsteps and the keeper ofthe detention rooms burst into the court pale as a dead man andshaking in every nerve.
"M'sieur le Juge!" he cried out, extending his two arms. "Soul ofMisfortunes, how shall I tell? He is not there--he is gone--he isescape, that unknown one. When I shall unlock the room and callfor Jean Lamareau, the drunkard, at the case before the last,there shall come out of the dimness to me what I shall think is heand I shall bring him here and he shall be fine and dismissed. But,m'sieur, he shall not be Jean Lamareau after all! I shall go now andcall for the unknown and I shall get no answer; I shall go in andmake of the place light, and there he shall be, that real JeanLamareau--stripped of his clothes, choked to unconsciousness, aloneon the floor, and the other shall have paid his fine and gone!"
A great cry went up, a wild confusion filled the court. The Apacheswithin rose and ran with the news to the Apaches without; andthese, joining forces, scattered and ran through the streets in thedirection the escaped prisoner had been seen to take.
But through it all Narkom sat there squeezing his hands togetherand laughing in little shaking gusts that had a heart throb waveringthrough them; for to him this could mean but one thing.
"Cleek!" he said, leaning down and shrilling a joyous whisper intoDollops' ear. "But one man in all the world could have done thatthing--but one man in all the world would have dared. It was he--itwas Cleek! God bless his bully soul!"
"Amen, sir," said Dollops, swallowing something; then he rose atNarkom's bidding and followed him outside.
A minute later a gamin brushing against them put out a grimy handand said whiningly:
"Boulogne, messieurs. Quai des Anges. Third house back from thewaterside; in time for the noon boat across to Folkestone. Giveme two francs, please. The monsieur said you would if I said that toyou when you came out."
The two francs were in his hand almost as he ceased speaking, and inless than a minute later a fiacre was whirling Narkom and Dollops offto the railway station and the next outgoing train to Boulogne. Itwas still short of midday when they arrived at the Quai des Angesand made their way to the third house back from the waterside--alittle tavern with a toy garden in front and a sort of boweredarcade behind--and there under an almond tree, with a cigarettebetween his finger
"Guv'ner! Oh, Gawd bless you, guv'ner, is it really you again?" saidDollops, rushing up to him like a girl to a lover.
"Yes, it is really I," he answered with one of his easy laughs. Thenhe rose and held out his hand as Narkom advanced; and for a momentor two they stood there palm in palm, saying not one word, makingnot one sound.
"Nearly did for me, my overzealous friend," said Cleek, after atime. "I could have kicked you when you turned up with that lot atthe Seven Sinners. Another ten minutes and I'd have had that in myhands which would have compelled his Majesty of Mauravania to giveIrma his liberty and to abdicate in his consort's favour. But youcame, you dear old blunderer; and when I looked up and recognizedyou--well, let it pass! I was on my way back to London when I chancedto see Count Waldemar on watch beside the gangway of the Calaispacket--he had slipped me, the hound, slipped me in Paris--and I sawmy chance to run him down. Gad! it was a close squeak that, whenyou let those Apaches know that I had just crossed over from thisside and had gone aboard the packet because I saw Waldemar. Theyguessed then. I couldn't speak there, and I dared not speak in thecourt. They were there, on every hand--inside the building andout--waiting to knife me the instant they were sure. I had to getout--I had to get past them, and--voila."
He turned and laid an affectionate hand on Dollops' shoulder andlaughed softly and pleasantly.
"New place all right, old chap? Garden doing well, and all my trapsin shipshape order, eh?"
"Yes, sir, Gawd bless you, sir. Everything, sir, everything."
"Good lad! Then we'll be off to them. My holiday is over, Mr. Narkom,and I'm going back into harness again. You want me, I see, and Isaid I'd come if you did. Give me a few days' rest in old England,dear friend, and then--out with your riddles and I'm your man again."
Cleek of Scotland Yard: Detective Stories by A. E. W. Mason / Mystery & Detective have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes