Fullaway exchanged looks with the other men. Once more he assumed the office of spokesman.
"Perhaps you have not told them precisely what it is they're to find," he suggested. "What is it now, Mademoiselle? The Pinkie Pell necklace for instance!"
The prima donna, who was already retreating through the door of the bedroom on whose threshold she had been standing, flashed a scornful look at her questioner over the point of her white shoulder.
"Pinkie Pell necklace!" she exclaimed. "Everything's gone! The whole lot! Look at that—not so much as a ring left in it!"
She pointed a slender, quivering finger to a box which stood, lid thrown open, on a table in the sitting-room, by which the detectives were standing, open-mouthed, and obviously puzzled. Allerdyke, following the pointing finger, noted that the box was a very ordinary-looking affair—a tiny square chest of polished wood, fitted with a brass swing handle. It might have held a small type-writing machine; it might have been a medicine chest; it certainly did not look the sort of thing in which one would carry priceless jewels. But Mademoiselle de Longarde was speaking again.
"That's what I always carried my jewels in—in their cases," she said. "And they were all in there when I left Christiania a few days ago, and that box has never been out of my sight—so to speak—since. And when I opened it here to-night, wanting the things, it was as empty as it is now. And if I behave handsomely, and go with Weiss there, to fulfil this engagement, it'll only be on condition that you stop here, Fullaway, and do your level best to get me my jewels back. I've done all I can—I've told the manager there, and I've told those two policemen, and not a man of them seems able to suggest anything! Perhaps you can."
With that she disappeared and slammed the door of the bedroom, and the six men, left in a bunch, looked at each other. Then one of the detectives spoke, shaking his head and smiling grimly.
"It's all very well to say we suggest nothing," he said. "We want some facts to go on first. Up to now, all the lady's done is to storm at us and at everybody—she seems to think all Edinburgh's in a conspiracy to rob her! We don't know any circumstances yet, except that she says she's been robbed. Perhaps—"
"Wait a bit," interrupted Fullaway. "Let us get her off to her engagement. Then we can talk. I suppose," he continued, turning to the manager, "she first announced her loss to you?"
"She announced her loss to the whole world, in a way of speaking," answered the manager, with a dry laugh.
"She screamed it out over the main staircase into the hall! Everybody in the place knows it by this time—she took good care they should. I don't know how she can have been robbed—so far as I can learn she's scarcely been out of these rooms since she came into them yesterday afternoon. The grand piano had been put in for her before she arrived, and she's spent all her time singing and playing—I don't believe she's ever left the hotel. And as I pointed out to her when she fetched me up, she found this box locked when she went to it—why didn't the thieves carry it bodily away? Why—"
"Just so—just so!" broke in Fullaway. "I quite appreciate your points. But there is more in this than meets the first glance. Let us get Mademoiselle off to her engagement, I say—that's the first thing. Then we can do business. Weiss," he continued, drawing the concert-director aside, "you must arrange to let her appear as soon as possible after you get back to the hall, and to put forward her appearance in the second half of your program, so that she can return here as soon as possible—she'll only be in irrepressible fidgets until she knows what's been done. And—you know what she is!—you ought to be very thankful that she's allowed herself to be persuaded to go with you. Mademoiselle," he went on, as the prima donna, fully attired, but innocent of jewelled ornament, swept into the room, "you are doing the right thing—bravely! Go, sing—sing your best, your divinest—let your admiring audience recognize that you have a soul above even serious misfortune. Meanwhile, allow me to order your supper to be served in this room, for eleven o'clock, and permit me and my friend, Mr. Allerdyke, to invite ourselves to share it with you. Then—we will give you some news that will interest and astonish you."
"That only makes me all the more frantic to get back," exclaimed the prima donna. "Come along, now, Weiss—you've got a car outside, I suppose? Hurry, then, and let me get it over."
When the vastly relieved concert-director had led his bundle of silks and laces safely out, Fullaway laughed and turned to the other men.
"Now, gentlemen," he said, "perhaps we can have a little quiet talk about this affair." He flung himself into a seat and nodded at the hotel-manager. "Just tell us exactly what's happened since Mademoiselle arrived here," he said. "Let's get an accurate notion of all her doings. She came—when?"
"She got here about the beginning of yesterday afternoon," answered the manager, who did not appear to be too well pleased about this disturbance of his usual proceedings. "She has always had this suite of rooms whenever she has sung in Edinburgh before, and it was understood that whenever she wrote or wired for them we were to arrange for a grand piano, properly tuned to concert-pitch, to be put in for her. She wrote for the suite over a fortnight ago from Russia, and, of course, we had everything in readiness for her. She turned up, as I say, yesterday, alone—she explained something about her maid having been obliged to leave her on arrival in England, and since she came she's had the services of one of our smartest chambermaids, whom she herself picked out after carefully inspecting a whole dozen of them. That chambermaid can tell you that Mademoiselle's scarcely left her rooms since then, and it's an absolute mystery to me that any person could get in here, open this box, and abstract its contents. As I say—if anybody wanted to steal her jewels, why didn't he pick up this box and carry it bodily off instead of hanging about to pick the lock? I don't believe—"
"Ah, quite so!" interrupted Fullaway. "I quite agree with you. Now, at what time did Mademoiselle announce the loss of her jewels?"
"Oh, about—say, an hour ago. This chambermaid—she's there in the bedroom now—was helping her to dress for the concert. She—Mademoiselle—went to this box to get out what ornaments she wanted. According to the girl, she let out an awful scream, and, just as she was, rushed to the head of the main stairs—these rooms, as you see, are on our first floor—and began to shout for me, for anybody, for everybody. The hall below was just then full of people—coming in and out of the dining-room and so on. She set the whole place going with the noise she made," added the manager, visibly annoyed. "It would have been far better if she'd shown some reserve—"
"Reserve is certainly an admirable quality," commented Fullaway, "but it is foreign to young ladies of Mademoiselle's temperament. Well—and then?"
"Oh, then, of course, I came up to her suite. She showed me this box. It had stood, she declared, on a table by her bedside, close to her pillows, from the moment she entered her rooms yesterday. She swore that it ought to have been full of her jewels—in cases. When she had opened it—just before this—it was empty. Of course, she demanded the instant presence of the police. Also, she insisted that I should at once, that minute, lock every door in the hotel, and arrest every person in it until their effects and themselves could be rigorously searched and examined. Ridiculous!"
"As you doubtless said," remarked Fullaway.
"No—I said nothing. Instead I telephoned for police assistance. These two officers came. And," concluded the manager, with a sympathetic glance at the detectives, "since they came Mademoiselle has done nothing but insist on arresting every soul within these walls—she seems to think there's a universal conspiracy against her."
"Exactly," said Fullaway. "It is precisely what she would think—under the circumstances. Now let us see this chambermaid."
The manager opened the door of the bedroom, and called in a pretty, somewhat shy, Scotch damsel, who betrayed a becoming confusion at the sight of so many strangers. But she gave a plain and straightforward account of her relations with Mademoiselle since the arrival of yesterday. She had been in almost constant attendance on Mademoiselle ever since her election to the post of temporary maid—had never left her save at meal-times. The little chest had stood at Mademoiselle's bed-head always—she had never seen it moved, or opened. There was a door leading into the bedroom from the corridor. Mademoiselle had never left the suite of rooms since her arrival. She had talked that morning of going for a drive, but rain had begun to fall, and she had stayed in. Mademoiselle had seemed utterly horrified when she discovered her loss. For a moment she had sunk on her bed as if she were going to faint; then she had rushed out into the corridor, just as she was, screaming for the manager and the police.
When the pretty chambermaid had retired, Fullaway took up the box from which the missing property was believed to have been abstracted. He examined it with seeming indifference, yet he announced its particulars and specifications with business-like accuracy.
"Well—this chest, cabinet, or box," he observed carelessly. "Let us look at it. Here, gentlemen, we have a piece of well-made work. It is—yes, eighteen inches square all ways. It is made of—yes, rosewood. Its corners, you see, are clamped with brass. It has a swing handle, fitted into this brass plate which is sunk into the lid. It has also three brass letters sunk into that lid—Z. D. L. Its lock does not appear to be of anything but an ordinary nature. Taking it altogether, I don't think this is the sort of thing in which you would believe a lady was carrying several thousand pounds' worth of pearls and diamonds. Eh?"
One of the detectives stirred uneasily—he did not quite understand the American's light and easy manner, and he seemed to suspect him of persiflage.
"We ought to be furnished with a list of the missing articles," he said. "That's the first thing."
"By no means," replied Fullaway. "That, my dear sir, is neither the first, nor the second, nor the third thing. There is much to do before we get to that stage. At present, you, gentlemen, cannot do anything. To-morrow morning, perhaps, when I have consulted with Mademoiselle de Longarde, I may call you in again—or call upon you. In the meantime, there's no need to detain you. Now," he continued, turning to the manager, when the detectives, somewhat puzzled and bewildered, had left the room, "will you see that your nicest supper is served—for three—in this room at eleven o'clock, against Mademoiselle's return? Send up your best champagne. And do not allow yourself to dwell on Mademoiselle's agitation on discovering her loss. That agitation was natural. If it is any consolation to you, I will give you a conclusion which may be satisfactory to your peace of mind as manager. What is it? Merely this—that though Mademoiselle de Longarde has undoubtedly lost her jewels, they were certainly not stolen from her in this hotel!"
THE LADY'S MAID'S MOTHER
When the manager, much appeased and relieved in mind, had gone, Fullaway tapped at the door of the bedroom, summoned the pretty chambermaid, and handed her the rosewood box.
"Put this back exactly where Mademoiselle has kept it since she came here," he commanded. "Now you yourself—you're going to stay in the rooms until she comes back from the concert? That's right—if she returns before my friend and I come up again, tell her that we shall present ourselves at five minutes to eleven. Come downstairs, Allerdyke," he proceeded, leading the way from the room. "We must book rooms for the night here, so we'll send to the station for our things and make our arrangements, after which we'll smoke a cigar and talk—I am beginning to see chinks of daylight."
He led Allerdyke down to the office, completed the necessary arrangements, and went on to the smoking-room, in a quiet corner of which he pulled out his cigar-case.
"Well?" he said. "What do you think now?"
"I think you're a smart chap," answered Allerdyke bluntly. "You did all that very well. I said naught, but I kept an eye and an ear open. You'll do."
"Very complimentary!—but I wasn't asking you what you thought about me," said Fullaway, with a laugh. "I'm asking you what you think of the situation, as illuminated by this last episode?"
"Well, I'm still reflecting on what you said to that manager chap," answered Allerdyke. "You really think this young woman has lost her jewels?"
"Oh, no doubt, no doubt at all," replied Fullaway. "Mademoiselle is impetuous, impulsive, demonstrative, much given to insisting on her own way, but she's absolutely honest and truthful, and I've no doubt whatever—none!—that she's been robbed. But—not here. She never brought those jewels here. They were not in that box when she came here. Mademoiselle, my dear sir, was relieved of those jewels either on the steamer, as she crossed from, Christiania to Hull, or during the few hours she spent at the Hull hotel. The whole thing—the robbery from your cousin, the robbery from Mademoiselle de Longarde—is all the work of a particularly clever and brilliant gang of international thieves; and, by the holy smoke, sir, we've got our hands full! For there isn't a clue to the identity of the operators, so far, unless the lady with whom we are going to sup can help us to one."
Allerdyke ruminated over this for a moment or two. Then, after lighting the cigar which Fullaway had offered him, he shook his head—in grim affirmation.
"I shouldn't wonder," he said. "Certainly, it seems a big thing. You're figuring on its having been a carefully concocted scheme? No mere chance affair, eh?"
"This sort of thing's never done by chance," responded the American. "This is the work of very clever and accomplished thieves who somehow became aware of two facts. One, that your cousin was bringing with him to England the jewels of the Princess Nastirsevitch. The other, that Mademoiselle Zelie de Longarde carried her pearls and diamonds in an innocent-looking rosewood box. My dear sir! you observed that I examined that box with seeming carelessness—in reality, I was looking at it with the eye of a trained observer. I am one of those people who, from having knocked about the world a lot, engaging in a multifarious variety of occupations, have picked up a queer scrap-heap of knowledge, and I will lay you any odds you like that I am absolutely correct in affirming that the box which I just now handed to Maggie, the chambermaid, was newly made by a Russian cabinet-maker within the last four weeks!"
"For a purpose?" suggested Allerdyke.
"Just so—for a purpose," assented Fullaway. "That purpose being, of course, its substitution for the real original article. You did not handle the box which is now upstairs—it is carefully weighted, though it is empty. I believe—nay, I am sure, it contains a sheet of lead under its delicate lining of satin. That, of course, was to deceive Mademoiselle. You heard her say that the jewels were in her box at Christiania, and that she never opened the box until this evening here in Edinburgh? Very good—between here and Christiania somebody substituted the imitation box for the real one. Ah!—in all these great criminal operations there is nothing like sticking to the old, well-worn, tried-and-proved tricks of the trade!—they are like well-oiled, well-practised machinery. And now we come back to the real, great, anxious question—Who did it? And there, Allerdyke, we are at present—only at present, mind!—up against a very big, blank wall."
"On the other side of which, my lad, lies the secret of the murder of my cousin," said Allerdyke grimly. "Mind you that! That's what I'm after, Fullaway. Damn all these jewels and things, in comparison with that!—it's that I'm after, I tell you again, and a thousand times again. And I'm considering if I'm doing any good hanging round here after this singing woman when the probable sphere of action lies yonder away at Hull, eh?"
"The proper—not probable—sphere of action, my dear sir, is the supper-table to which we're presently going," answered Fullaway, with supreme assurance. "What the singing woman, as you call her, can tell us will most likely make all the difference in the world to our investigations. Remember the shoe-buckle! Have it ready to exhibit when I lead up to it. Then—we shall see."
The prima donna, back for her engagement at eleven o'clock, came in flushed and smiling—the extraordinary warmth and fervour of her reception by the audience which she had at first been so inclined to treat with scant courtesy had restored her to good humour, and when she had eaten a few mouthfuls of delicate food and drunk her first glass of champagne she began to laugh almost light-heartedly.
"Well, I suppose you've been doing your best, Fullaway," she said, with easy familiarity. "I declare you turned up at the very moment, for that fat Weiss would have been no good. But I'm still wondering how you came to be here, and what this gentleman—Mr. Allerdyke, is it?—is doing here with you. Allerdyke, now—well, that's the same name as that of a man I came across from Christiania with, and left at Hull."
Fullaway kicked Allerdyke under the table.
"You haven't heard of that Mr. Allerdyke since you left him at Hull, then?" he asked, gazing intently at their hostess.
"Heard? How should I hear?" asked the prima donna. "He was just a travelling acquaintance. All the same, I had certainly fixed up to see him in London on a business matter."
"You don't read the newspapers, then?" suggested Fullaway.
"Not unless there's something about myself in them," she answered, with an arch smile at Allerdyke.
"If you'd read this morning's papers, you'd have seen that the Mr. Allerdyke with whom you travelled—this gentleman's cousin, by the by—was found dead in his room at the hotel in Hull not so long after you quitted it," said Fullaway coolly. "In fact, he must have been dead when you passed his door on your way out."
The prima donna was genuinely shocked. She set down the glass which she was just lifting to her lips; her large, handsome eyes dilated, her lips quivered a little. She turned a look of sympathy on Allerdyke, who, at that moment, realized that she was a very beautiful woman.
"You don't say so!" she exclaimed. "Well, I'm really grieved to hear that—I am! Dead?—and when I left! Why, I was in his room that very night we reached Hull, having a talk on the business matter I mentioned just now—he was well enough and lively enough then, I'll swear. Dead!—why, what did he die of?"
The two men looked at each other. There was a brief pause; then Allerdyke slowly produced a small packet, wrapped in tissue-paper, from his waistcoat pocket. He laid it on the table at his side and looked at his hostess.
"I knew you had been in my cousin's room," he said. "You left or dropped your shoe-buckle there. I found it when I searched his room. Then the hotel manager showed me your wire. Here's the buckle."
He was watching her narrowly as he spoke, and his glance deepened in intensity as he handed over the little packet and watched her unwrap the paper. But there was not a sign of anything but a little surprised satisfaction in the prima donna's face as she recognized her lost property, and her eyes were ingenuous enough as she turned them on him.
"Why, of course, that's mine!" she exclaimed. "I'm ever so much obliged to you, Mr. Allerdyke. Yes, I wired to the hotel, in my proper name, you know—Zelie de Longarde is only my professional name. I didn't want to lose that buckle—it was part of a birthday present from my mother. But you don't mean to say that you travelled all the way to Edinburgh to hand me that! Surely not?"
"No!" replied Allerdyke. He wanted to take a direct share in the talking, and went resolutely ahead now that the chance had come. "No—not at all. I knew you'd come to Edinburgh—found it out from that chauffeur who was driving you when you and I met at Howden the night before last, and so I came on to find you. I want to ask you some questions about my cousin, and maybe to get you to come and give evidence at the inquest on him."
"Inquest!" she exclaimed. "I know what that means, of course. Why—you don't say there's been anything wrong?"
"I believe my cousin was murdered that night," answered Allerdyke. "So, too, does Fullaway there. And you were probably the last person who ever spoke to him alive. Now, you see, I'm a plain, blunt-spoken sort of chap—I ask people straight questions. What did you go into his room to talk to him about?"
"Business!" she replied, with a directness which impressed both men. "Mere business. He and I had several conversations on board the Perisco—I made out he was a clever business man. I want to invest some money—he advised me to put it into a development company in Norway, which is doing big things in fir and pine. I went into his room to look at some plans and papers—he gave me some prospectuses which are in that bag there just now—-I was reading them over again only this evening. That's all. I wasn't there many minutes—and, as I told you, he was very well, very brisk and lively then."
"Did he show you any valuables that he had with him—jewels?" asked Allerdyke brusquely.
"Jewels! Valuables!" she answered. "No—certainly not."
"Nor when you were on the steamer?"
"No—nor at any time," she said. "Jewels?—why—what makes you ask such a question?"
"Because my cousin had in his possession a consignment of such things, of great value, and we believe that he was murdered for them—that's why," replied Allerdyke. "He had them when he left Christiania—he had them when he entered the Hull hotel—"
Fullaway, who had been listening intently, leant forward with a shake of his head.
"Stop at that, Allerdyke," he said. "We don't know, now, that he did have them when he entered the hotel at Hull! He mayn't have had. Miss Lennard—we'll drop the professional name and turn to the real one," he said, with a bow to the prima donna—"Miss Lennard here thinks she had her jewels in her little box when she entered the Hull hotel, and also when she came to this hotel, here in Edinburgh, but—"
"Do you mean to say that I hadn't?" she exclaimed. "Do you mean—"
"I mean," replied Fullaway, "that, knowing what I now know, I believe that both you and the dead man, James Allerdyke, were robbed on the Perisco. And I want to ask you a question at once. Where is your maid!"
Celia Lennard dropped her knife and fork and sat back, suddenly turning pale.
"My maid!" she said faintly. "Good heavens! you don't think—oh, you aren't suggesting that she's the thief? Because—oh, this is dreadful! You see—I never thought of it before—when she and I arrived at Hull that night she was met by a man who described himself as her brother. He was in a great state of agitation—he said he'd rushed up to Hull to meet her, to beg her to go straight with him to their mother, who was dying in London. Of course, I let her go at once—they drove straight from the riverside at Hull to the station to catch the train. What else could I do? I never suspected anything. Oh!"
Fullaway leaned across the table and filled his hostess's glass.
"Now," he said, motioning her to drink, "you know your maid's name and address, don't you? Let me have them at once, and within a couple of hours we'll know if the story about the dying mother was true."
THE SECOND MURDER
It had been very evident to Allerdyke that ever since Fullaway had mentioned the matter of the missing maid, Celia Lennard had become a victim to doubt, suspicion, and uncertainty. Her colour came and went; her eyes began to show signs of tears; her voice shook. And now, at the American's direct question, she wrung her hands with an almost despairing gesture.
"But I can't!" she exclaimed. "I don't know her address—how should I? It's somewhere in London—Bloomsbury, I think—but even then I don't know if that's where her mother lives, to whom she said she was going. I did know her address—I mean I remembered it for a while, at the time I engaged her—a year ago, but I've forgotten it. Oh! do you really think she's robbed me, or helped to rob me?"
"Never mind opinions," answered Fullaway curtly. "They're no good. Is this the maid you brought with you once or twice when you called at my office some time ago, over the Pinkie Pell deal?"
"Yes—yes, the same!" she answered.
"A Frenchwoman?" said Fullaway.
"Yes—Lisette. Of course she went with me to your office—that was eight or nine months ago, and I've had her a year. And I had excellent testimonials with her, too. Oh, I can't think that—"
"Can't you make an effort to remember her address?" urged Fullaway. "What can we do until we know that?"
Celia drew her fine eyebrows together in a palpable effort to think.
"I've got it somewhere," she said at last. "I must have it somewhere—most likely in an address-book at my flat—I should be sure to put it down at the time."
"Who is there at your flat?" asked Fullaway.
"My housekeeper and a maid," answered Celia. "They're always there, whether I'm at home or not. But they couldn't get at what you want—all my papers and things are locked up—and in a hopeless state of confusion, too."
Fullaway pushed aside his plate.
"Then there's only one thing to be done," he said, with an accent of finality. "We must go up to town at once."
Allerdyke, still quietly eating his supper, looked up.
"That's just what I was going to suggest," he said. "There's no good to be done hanging about here. Let's get on to the scene of operations. If Miss Lennard's maid has stolen her jewels, she's probably had some hand in the theft from my cousin. We must find her. Now, then, let me come in. I'll look up the train, settle up with these hotel folk, and we'll be off. You give your attention to your packing, Miss Lennard, and leave the rest to me—you won't mind travelling the night?"
Celia shook her head.
"I don't mind travelling all night for half a dozen nights if I can track my lost property," she said lugubriously. "You're dead sure it's no use stopping here?—that the robbery didn't take place here?"
"Sure!" answered Fullaway. "We must get off. That French damsel's got to be found—somehow."
The supper-party came to an end—the prima donna and her temporary maid began to bustle with garments and trunks, the two men attended to all other necessary matters, and at two o'clock in the morning the three sped out of Edinburgh for the South, each secretly wondering what was going to come of their journey. Allerdyke, preparing to go to sleep in the compartment which he and Fullaway occupied by themselves, dropped one grim remark to his companion as he settled himself.
"Seems like a wild-goose chase this, my lad, but it's one we've got to go through with! What'll the next stage be?"
The next stage was an arrival in London in the middle of a lovely May morning, a swift drive to Celia Lennard's flat in Bedford Court Mansions, the hurried rummaging of its owner amongst an extraordinary mass of papers, books, and documents, and the ultimate discovery of the French maid's address. Celia held it up with a sigh of vast relief, which changed into a groan of despairing doubt.
"There it is!" she exclaimed. "Lisette Beaurepaire, 911 Bernard Street, Bloomsbury—I knew it was Bloomsbury. That's where she lived when I engaged her, anyhow—but then her sick mother mayn't live there! The man who met her at Hull, who said he was her brother, didn't say where the mother lived, except that it was in London."
"We must go to Bernard Street, anyway, at once," said Fullaway. "We may get some information there."
But such information as they got on the door-step of 911 Bernard Street was scanty and useless. The house was a typical Bloomsbury lodging-place, let off in floors and rooms. Its proprietor, summoned from a neighbouring house, recollected, with considerable difficulty and after consultation of a penny pocket-book, that he had certainly let a top-floor room to a young Frenchwoman about a year ago, but he had never caught her name properly, and simply had her noted down as Mamselle. She had paid her rent regularly, and had remained in the house five weeks—that was all he knew about her. Had he ever seen her since? Not that he knew of—in fact, he shouldn't know her if he saw her—they were all pretty much alike, these young Frenchwomen. Did he know where she came from to his house—where she went from his house? Not he! he knew no more than what he had just told.
"What now?" asked Allerdyke as the three searchers paced dejectedly up the street. "This is doing no good—it's worse than the Hull affair. However, there's one thing suggests itself to me. Didn't you say," he went on, turning to Celia, "that you had some very good testimonials with this young woman? If so, and you've still got them, we might trace her in that way."
"I had some, and I may have them still, but you saw just now what an awful mess all my letters and papers are in," replied Celia, almost tearfully. "I always do get things like that into hopeless confusion—I never know what to destroy and what to keep, and they accumulate so. It would take hours upon hours to look for those letters, and in the meantime—"
"In the meantime," remarked Fullaway as he signalled to a taxi-cab, "there's only one thing to be done. We must go to the police. Get in, both of you, and let's make haste to New Scotland Yard."
Once more Allerdyke received an impression of the American's usefulness and practical acquaintance with things. Fullaway seemed to know exactly what to do, whom to approach, how to go about the business in hand; within a few minutes all three were closeted with a high official of the Criminal Investigation Department, a man who might have been a barrister, a medical specialist, or a scientist of distinction, and who maintained an unmoved countenance and a perfect silence while Fullaway unfolded the story. He and Allerdyke had held a brief consultation as they drove from Bloomsbury to Whitehall, and they had decided that as things had now reached a critical stage it would be best to tell the authorities everything. Therefore the American narrated the entire sequence of events as they related not only to Mademoiselle de Longarde's loss but to the death of James Allerdyke and the disappearance of the Nastirsevitch valuables. And the official heard, and made mental notes, soaking everything into some proper cell of his brain, and he said nothing until Fullaway had come to an end, and at that end he turned to Celia Lennard.
"You can, of course, describe your maid?" he asked.
"Certainly!" answered Celia. "To every detail."
"Do so, if you please," continued the official, producing a pile of papers from a drawer and turning them over until he came to one which he drew from the rest.
"A Frenchwoman," said Celia. "Aged, I should say, about twenty-six. Tall. Slender—but not thin. Of a very good figure. Black hair—a quantity of it. Black eyes—very penetrating. Fresh colour. Not exactly pretty, but attractive—in the real Parisian way—she is a Parisian. Dressed—when she left me at Hull—in a black tailor-made coat and skirt, and carrying a travelling coat of black, lined with fur—one I gave her in Russia."
"Her luggage?" asked the official.
"She had a suit-case: a medium-sized one."
"Large enough, I presume, to conceal the jewel-box your friend has told me about just now?"
The official put his papers back in the drawer and turned to his visitors with a business-like look which finally settled itself on Celia's face.
"You must be prepared to hear some serious news," he said. "I mean about this woman. I have no doubt from what you have just told me that I know where she is."
"Where?" demanded Celia excitedly. "You know? Where, then?"
"Lying in the mortuary at Paddington," answered the official quietly.
In spite of Celia's strong nerves she half rose in her seat—only to drop back with a sharp exclamation.
"Dead! Probably murdered. And I should say," continued the official, with a glance at the two men, "murdered in the same way as the gentleman you have told me of was murdered at Hull—by some subtle, strange, and secret poison."
No one spoke for a minute or two. When the silence was broken it was by Allerdyke.
"I should like to know about this," he said in a hard, keen voice. "I'm getting about sick of delay in this affair of my cousin's, and if this murder of the young woman is all of a piece with his, why, then, the sooner we all get to work the better. I'm not going to spare time, labour, nor expense in running that lot down, d'you understand? Money's naught to me—I'm willing—"
"We are already at work, Mr. Allerdyke," said the official, interrupting him quietly. "We've been at work in the affair of the young woman for twenty-four hours, and although you didn't know of it, we've heard of the affair of your cousin at Hull, and the two cases are so similar that when you came in I was wondering if there was any connection between them. Now, as regards the young woman. You may or may not be aware that in Eastbourne Terrace, Paddington, a street of houses which runs alongside the departure platform of the Great Western Railway, there are a number of small private hotels, which are largely used by railway passengers. To one of these hotels, about nine o'clock on the evening of May 13th (just about twenty-four hours after you, Miss Lennard, landed at Hull), there came a man and a woman, who represented themselves as brother and sister, and took two rooms for the night. The woman answers the description of your maid—as to the man, I will give you a description of him later. These two, who had for luggage such a medium-sized suit-case as that Miss Lennard has spoken of, partook of some supper and retired. There was nothing noticeable about them—they seemed to be quiet, respectable people—foreigners who spoke English very well. Nothing was heard of them until next morning at eight o'clock, when the man rang his bell and asked for tea to be brought up for both. This was done—he took it in at his door, and was seen to hand a cup in at his sister's door, close by. An hour later he came downstairs and gave instructions that his sister was not to be disturbed—she was tired and wanted to rest, he said, and she would ring when she wanted attendance. He then booked the two rooms again for the succeeding night, and, going into the coffee-room, ate a very good breakfast, taking his time over it. That done, he lounged about a little, smoking, and eventually crossed the road towards the station—since when he has not been seen. The day passed on—the woman neither rang her bell nor came down. When evening arrived, as the man had not returned, and no response could be got to repeated knocks at the door, the landlady opened it with a master-key, and entered the room. She found the woman dead—and according to the medical evidence she had been dead since ten or eleven o'clock in the morning. Then, of course, the police were called in. There was nothing in the room or in the suit-case to establish or suggest identity. The body was removed, and an autopsy has been held. And the conclusion of the medical men is that this woman has been secretly and subtly poisoned."
Here the official paused, rang a bell, and remained silent until a quiet-looking, middle-aged man who might have been a highly respectable butler entered the room: then he turned again to his visitors.
"I want you, Miss Lennard, to accompany this man—one of my officers—to the mortuary, to see if you can identify the body I have told you of. Perhaps you gentlemen will accompany Miss Lennard? Then," he continued, rising, "if you will all return here, we will go into this matter further, and see if we can throw more light on it."
Allerdyke's next impressions were of a swift drive across London to a quiet retreat in Paddington, where, in a red-brick building set amidst trees, official-faced men conducted him and his two companions into a sort of annex, one side of which was covered with sheet glass. On the other side of that glass he became aware of a still figure, shrouded and arranged in formal lines, of a white face, set amidst dark hair ... then as in a dream he heard Celia Lennard's frightened whisper—
"That's she—that's Lisette! Oh, for God's sake, take me out!"
THE RUSSIAN BANK-NOTES
The three searchers into what was rapidly becoming a most complicated mystery drove back to New Scotland Yard in a silence which lasted until they were set down at the door of the department whereat they had interviewed the high official. Celia Lennard was thoroughly upset; the sight of the dead woman had disturbed her even more than she let her companions see; she remained dumb and rigid, staring straight before her as if she still gazed on the white face set in its frame of dark hair. Allerdyke, too, stared at the crowds in the streets as if they were abstract visions—his keen brain felt dazed and mystified by this accumulation of strange events. And Fullaway, active and mercurial though he was, made no attempt at conversation—he sat with knitted forehead, trying to think, to account, to surmise, only conscious that he was up against a bigger mystery than life had ever shown him up to then.
The detective who had accompanied them to the mortuary conducted the three straight back to his chief's office—the chief, noticing the effect of the visit on Celia, hastened to give her a chair at the side of his desk, and looked at her with a lessening of his official manner. He signed to the other two to sit down, and motioned the detective to remain. Then he turned to Celia.
"You recognized the woman?" he said softly. "Just so. I thought you would, and I was sorry to ask you to perform such an unpleasant task but it was absolutely necessary. Now," he continued, taking up his bundle of papers again, "I want you to describe the man who met you and your maid on your arrival at Hull the other night. Of course you saw him?"
"Certainly I saw him," replied Celia. "And I should know him again anywhere—the scoundrel!"
The high official smiled and glanced at Fullaway.
"You are thinking, Miss Lennard, that the man you then saw is the man who accompanied your maid to the hotel in which she was found dead," he said. "Well, that may be so—but it mayn't. That is why I want you to give us an accurate description of the man you saw. You described the maid very well indeed. Now describe the man."
"I can do that quite well," said Celia, with assurance. "And I can tell you the circumstances. The steamer—the Perisco—got into the river at Hull about a quarter to nine and anchored off the Victoria Pier. We understood that she couldn't get into dock just then because of the tide, and that we must go on shore by tender. A tender came off—some of the people on board it came on our deck. There was a good deal of bustle. I went down to my cabin to see after something or other. Lisette came to me there, evidently much agitated, saying that her brother had come off on the tender to fetch her at once to their mother who was ill in London—dying. She begged to be allowed to go with him. Of course I said she might. She immediately picked up her suit-case and travelling coat out of our pile of luggage, and I went up with her on deck. She and the man—her brother, as I understood—got into a small boat which was alongside and went straight off to the pier: the tender was not leaving for shore for some time. And—that was the last I saw of her. It was all done in a minute or two."
"Now—the man," suggested the chief softly.
"A young man—about Lisette's age, I should say—twenty-seven to thirty anyway. Tallish. Dark hair, moustache, eyes, and complexion. Good-looking—in a foreign way. I had no doubt he was her brother—he looked French, though he spoke English quite well and without accent. Very respectably dressed in dark clothes and overcoat. He would have passed for a well-to-do clerk—that type. I spoke to him—a few words. He spoke well—had very polite, almost polished manners. Of course he was hurried—wanting to get Lisette away—he said they could just catch the last train to London."
The chief shook his head.
"Not the man who accompanied her to the Paddington Hotel," he said. "Listen—this is the description of that man, as given to the police by the landlady and her servants: 'Age, presumably between forty and forty-five years, medium height. Brown hair. Clean-shaven. Dressed in grey tweed suit, over which he wore a fawn-coloured overcoat. Deerstalker hat—light brown. Brown brogue shoes.' That, you see," continued the chief, "describes a quite different person. You do not recognize the description as that of any man you have ever seen in company with your late maid, Miss Lennard?"
"I never saw my maid in any man's company," replied Celia. "Since I first engaged her we have not been much in London. I was in New York and Chicago for a time last year; then in Paris; then in Milan and Turin; lately in Moscow and St. Petersburg. When we were at home, here in London, she certainly had time of her own—her evenings out, you know—but of course I don't know with whom she spent them. No—I don't know any man answering that description."
The chief folded up his papers and restored them to his desk.
"Now that you are here," he said, "you may as well give me a few particulars about your doings on the Perisco, especially as they relate to Mr. James Allerdyke. When and where did you make his acquaintance?"
"On the steamer—a few hours after we left Christiania," replied Celia.
"Just as fellow-passengers, I suppose?"
"Quite so—just that. We sat next to each other at meals."
"Do you know where his cabin was on the steamer?"
"Yes, exactly opposite my own. He and I, I believe, were the only passengers who had cabins all to ourselves."
"Did he ever mention to you these valuables which Mr. Fullaway tells us he was carrying to England!"
"No—never at any time."
"Did you see him leave the Perisco for the shore?"
"Why, yes, certainly! As a matter of fact, he and I came ashore at Hull together, ahead of any other passengers. After Lisette had left the steamer with her brother, I happened to come across Mr. James Allerdyke. I told him what had just occurred, and asked him if he would help me about my things, as my maid had gone. He immediately suggested that we shouldn't wait for the tender, but should get a boat of our own—there were several lying around. He said he was in a great hurry to get ashore, because he'd a friend awaiting him at the Station Hotel. So he got a boat, and his things and mine were put into it, and we left the steamer, and were rowed to the landing-stage, just opposite."
"And you, of course, carried your jewel-case—or what you believed to be your jewel-case—the duplicate chest which you subsequently carried to Edinburgh?"
"Yes, of course—I had it in my hand when Lisette left, and, I never left hold of it until I got into the hotel."
"Do you remember if Mr. James Allerdyke carried anything in his hand?"
"Yes, he carried a hand-bag. He had that bag in his hand when I met him on deck; he kept it on his knee in the boat, and in the cab in which we drove to the hotel from the landing-stage; I saw him carrying it upstairs after we got to the hotel. What is more, I saw him bring it into the coffee-room later on, and place it on the table at which he had some supper. I saw it again in his room when I went in there to look at the plans of the Norwegian estate which he had told me about. He didn't take those plans out of that hand-bag; he took them out of a side flap-pocket in a suit-case."
"Did you have supper with him that night?"
"No—I was sitting at another table, talking to a lady who had been with us on the Perisco. A lot of Perisco passengers—twenty, at least—had come to the hotel by that time."
"Did any of them join Mr. James Allerdyke—at his table, I mean?"
"I don't remember—no, I think not. He sat at a table, one end of which adjoined the wall—he put the hand-bag at that end. I remember wondering why he carried his bag about with him. But then I, of course, was carrying what I believed to be my jewel-case."
"Did you see him talking to any of your fellow-passengers that night?"
"Oh, yes—to two or three of them—in the hall of the hotel. I didn't know who they were, particularly—except the doctor with the big beard. I saw him talking to Mr. Allerdyke at the door of the smoking-room."
"Had you taken any special notice of your fellow passengers on board the Perisco?"
"No—not at all. They were just the usual sort of passengers—I wasn't interested in them. Of course, I talked to some of them, in the ordinary way, as one does talk on board ship. But I don't remember anything particular about them, nor any of their names, even if I ever knew their names. Of course I remember Mr. James Allerdyke's name, because of the business talk."
The chief, who had been making shorthand notes of this conversation, paused for a moment, evidently considering matters, and then turned to Celia with a smile.
"Why did you leave the hotel at Hull so suddenly?" he asked. "I daresay you had good reasons, but I should just like to know what they were, if you don't mind."
"I'd no reason at all," replied Celia, with almost blunt directness. "At least, if I had, they were only a woman's reasons. I was a bit upset at being left alone. I didn't like the hotel. I knew I shouldn't sleep. It was a most beautiful moonlight night, and I suddenly thought I'd like to go motoring. I knew enough of the geography of those parts to know if I motored across country I should strike the Great Northern main line somewhere and catch a train to Edinburgh in the early morning. So—I just cleared out."
"Ah—you see you had quite a number of reasons!" said the chief, smiling again. "Very well. Now then, before you go, Miss Lennard, I want you to do just one thing more which may be useful to us in our work." He turned to the detective. "Get those things," he said quietly. "Bring the lot in here."
Celia made a little sound of distaste as the detective presently returned to the room carrying in one hand a brown leather suit-case, and in the other a cardboard dress-box, to which was strapped a travelling-coat, lined with fur. Her face, which had regained its colour, paled again.
"Lisette's things!" she muttered. "Oh—I don't—don't like to see them! What is it you want?"
"We want you to identify them—and, if you will, to look them over," replied the chief. "The cardboard box contains everything she was wearing when she went to the hotel in Eastbourne Terrace; the suit-case and coat are what she took in with her. Spread the things out on that side table," he continued, turning to the detective.
"Let Miss Lennard look them over."
Celia performed the task required of her with dislike—it seemed somehow as if she were inspecting the dead woman afresh. She hurried over the task.
"All these things are hers, of course," she said. "That's the suit-case she had with her when she left me at Hull, and that's the coat I gave her—and the other things are hers, too. Oh—I don't like looking at them. Can't we go, please?"
"One moment," said the chief. "I wanted to tell you that amongst all these things there is nothing that establishes the woman's identity—I mean in the way of papers or anything of that sort. There were no letters in this case—not a scrap of paper. There is money in that purse—two or three pounds in gold, some silver. There is her watch—a good gold watch—and there are two or three rings she was wearing. Now we have only made a superficial examination of all these personal belongings—can you, as her mistress, suggest if she was likely to hide anything in her clothing, and if so, in what article? You might save us some trouble, Miss Lennard."
Allerdyke, who was more interested in Celia than in what was going on, saw a sudden gleam come into her eyes—her feminine spirit of curiosity was aroused. She hesitated, turned back to the side-table, paused before the various articles laid out there, took up and fingered two or three, and suddenly wheeled round on the men, exhibiting a quilted handkerchief case.
"There's something been sewn into the padding of this!" she said. "I can feel it. Can any one lend me pocket-scissors or a penknife?"
The men gathered round as Celia's deft fingers ripped open the satin covering: a moment later she drew out a wad of folded paper and handed it to the chief. Fullaway and Allerdyke craned their necks over his shoulders as he unwrapped and spread the bits of paper out before them. And it was Fullaway who broke the silence with a sharp exclamation.
"Bank-notes!" he said. "Russian bank-notes! And new ones!"
THE THIRD MURDER
Fullaway's exclamation was followed by a murmur of astonishment from Celia, and by a low growl which meant many things from Allerdyke. The chief turned the banknotes over silently, moved to his desk, and picked up a reference book.
"I'm not very familiar with Russian money—paper or otherwise," he remarked. "How much does this represent in ours, now?"
"I can tell you that," said Fullaway, taking the wad of notes and rapidly counting them. "Five hundred pounds English," he announced. "And you see that all the notes are new—don't forget to note that."
"Yes?—what do you argue from it?" asked the chief, with obvious interest. "It proves—what?"
"That these notes were given to this woman in Russia, recently—most likely in St. Petersburg," replied the American. "And, in my opinion, their presence—their discovery—proves more. It suggests at any rate that this woman, the dead maid, was a tool in the conspiracy to rob Miss Lennard and Mr. James Allerdyke, that this money is her reward, or part of it, and that the whole scheme was hatched and engineered in Russia."
"Good!" muttered Allerdyke. "Now we're getting to business."
"We shall have to get some evidence from Russia," observed the chief meditatively. "That's very evident. If the thing began there, or was put into active shape there—"
"The Princess Nastirsevitch is on her way now," said Fullaway. He pulled out his pocket-book, and began searching amongst its papers. "Here you are," he continued producing a cablegram. "That's from the Princess—you see she says she's leaving for London at once, via Berlin and Calais, and will call upon me at my hotel as soon as she arrives. Now, that was sent off two days ago—she'd leave St. Petersburg that night. It's seventy-two hours' journey—three days. She'll be in London tomorrow evening."
The chief sat down at his desk and picked up a pen.
"Give me your addresses please, all of you," he said. "Then I can communicate with you at any moment. Miss Lennard, you mentioned Bedford Court Mansions. What number? Right.—yours, Mr. Fullaway, is the Waldorf Hotel—permanently there? Very good. You, Mr. Allerdyke, live in Bradford? It will be advisable, if you really want to clear up the mystery of your cousin's death, to remain in town for a few days, at any rate—now that we've got all this in hand, you'd better be close to the centre of things. Can you give me an address here?"
"I've a London office," answered Allerdyke. "I can always be heard of there when I'm in town. Allerdyke and Partners, Limited, Gresham Street—ask for Mr. Marshall Allerdyke. But as I'll have to put up here, I'll go to the Waldorf, with Mr. Fullaway, so if you want me you'll find me there. And look here," he went on, as the chief noted these particulars, "I want to know, to have some idea, you know, of what's going to be done. I tell you, I'll spare no time, labour, or expense in getting at the bottom of this! If it's a question of money, say the word, and—"
"All right, Mr. Allerdyke, leave it to us—for the present," said the chief, with an understanding smile. "I know what you mean. We're only beginning. This affair is doubtless a big thing, as Mr. Fullaway has suggested, and it will need some clever work. Now, at present, this case—the joint case of the Hull affair and the Eastbourne Terrace affair, for they're without doubt both parts of one serious whole—is in the hands of two of my best men. This is one of them: Detective-Sergeant Blindway. If and when Blindway wants any of you, he'll come to you. Miss Lennard, you'll be wanted at the inquest on your late maid—the Coroner's officer will let you know when. You two gentlemen will doubtless go with Miss Lennard. You'll all three certainly be wanted at that adjourned inquest at Hull. Now, that's all—except that when you, Miss Lennard, return home, you must at once begin searching for the references you had with your maid—let me have them as soon as they're found—and that you, Mr. Fullaway, must bring the Princess Nastirsevitch here as soon as you can after her arrival."
Outside New Scotland Yard Celia Lennard relieved her feelings with a fervent exclamation.
"I wish I'd never spent a penny on pearls or diamonds in my life!" she said vehemently. "Insane folly! What good have they done? Leading to all this bother, and to murder. What fools women are! All that money thrown away!—for of course I shall never see a sign of them again!"
"That's a rather hopeless way of looking at it," observed Fullaway. "You've got the cleverest police in Europe on the search for them; also you've got our friend Allerdyke and myself on the run, and we're neither of us exactly brainless. So hasten home in this taxi-cab, get some lunch, have an hour's nap, and then begin putting your papers straight and looking for those references. Search well!—you don't know what depends on it."
He and Allerdyke strolled up Whitehall when Celia had gone—in silence at first, both wrapped in meditation.
"There's only one thing one can say with any certainty about this affair, Allerdyke," remarked the American at last, "and that is precisely what the man we've been talking to said—it's a big do. The folk at the back of it are smart and clever and daring. We'll need all our wits. Well, come along to the Waldorf and let's lunch—then we'll talk some more. There's little to be done till the Princess turns up tomorrow."
"There's one thing I want to do at once," said Allerdyke. "If I'm going to stop in town I must wire to my housekeeper to send me clothes and linen, and to the manager at my mill. Then I'm with you—and I wish to Heaven we'd something to do! What I can't stand is this forced inaction, this hanging about, waiting, wondering, speculating—and doing naught!"
"We may be in action before you know it's at hand," said Fullaway. "In these cases you never know what a minute may bring forth. All we can do is to be ready."
He led the way to the nearest telegraph office and waited while Allerdyke sent off his messages. The performance of even this small task seemed to restore the Yorkshireman's spirits—he came away smiling.
"I've told my housekeeper to pack a couple of trunks with what I want, and to send my chauffeur, Gaffney, up with them, by the next express," he said. "I feel better after doing that. He's a smart chap, Gaffney—the sort that might be useful at a pinch. If any one wanted anything ferreted out, now!—he's the sense of an Airedale terrier, that chap!"
"High praise," laughed Fullaway. "And original too. Well, let's fix up and get some food, and then we'll go into my private rooms and have a talk over the situation."
Mr. Franklin Fullaway, following a certain modern fashion, introduced into life by twentieth-century company promoters and magnates of the high finance, had established his business quarters at his hotel. It was a wise and pleasant thing to do, he explained to Allerdyke; you had the advantage of living over the shop, as it were; of being able to go out of your private sitting-room into your business office; you had the bright and pleasant surroundings; you had, moreover, all the various rooms and saloons of a first-rate hotel wherein to entertain your clients if need be. Certainly you had to pay for these advantages and luxuries, but no more than you would have to lay out in the rents, rates, and taxes of palatial offices in a first-class business quarter.
"And my line of business demands luxurious fittings," remarked the American, as he installed Allerdyke in a sybaritic armchair and handed him a box of big cigars of a famous brand. "You're not the first millionaire that's come to anchor in that chair, you know!"
"If they're millionaires in penny-pieces, maybe not," answered Allerdyke. He lighted a cigar and glanced appraisingly at his surroundings—at the thick velvet pile of the carpets, the fine furniture, the bookcases filled with beautiful bindings, the choice bits of statuary, the two or three unmistakably good pictures. "Doing good business, I reckon?" he said, with true Yorkshire curiosity. "What's it run to, now?"
Fullaway showed his fine white teeth in a genial laugh.
"Oh, I've turned over two and three millions in a year in this little den!" he answered cheerily. "Varies, you know, according to what people have got to sell, and what good buyers there are knocking around."
"You keep a bit of sealing wax, of course?" suggested Allerdyke. "Take care that some of the brass sticks when you handle it, no doubt?"
"Commission and percentage, of course," responded Fullaway.
"Ah, well, you've an advantage over chaps like me," said Allerdyke. "Now, you shall take my case. We've made a pile of money in our firm, grandfather, father, and myself; but, Lord, man, you wouldn't believe what our expenses have been! Building mills, fitting machinery—and then, wages! Why, I pay wages to six hundred workpeople every Friday afternoon! Our wages bill runs to well over fourteen hundred pound a week. You've naught of that sort, of course—no great staff to keep up?"
"No," answered Fullaway. He nodded his head towards the door of a room through which they had just passed on their way into the agent's private apartments. "All the staff I have is the young lady you just saw—Mrs. Marlow. Invaluable!"
"Married woman?" inquired Allerdyke laconically.
"Young widow," answered Fullaway just as tersely. "Excellent business woman—been with me ever since I came here—three years. Speaks and writes several languages—well educated, good knowledge of my particular line of business. American—I knew her people very well. Of course, I don't require much assistance—merely clerical help, but it's got to be of a highly intelligent and specialized sort."
"Leave your business in her hands if need be, I reckon?" suggested Allerdyke, with a sidelong nod at the closed door.
"In ordinary matters, yes—comfortably," answered Fullaway. "She's a bit a specialist in two things that I'm mainly concerned in—pictures and diamonds. She can tell a genuine Old Master at a glance, and she knows a lot about diamonds—her father was in that trade at one time, out in South Africa."
"Clever woman to have," observed Allerdyke; "knows all your business, of course?"
"All the surface business," said Fullaway, "naturally! Anything but a confidential secretary would be useless to me, you know."
"Just so," agreed Allerdyke. "Told her about this affair yet?"
"I've had no chance so far," replied Fullaway. "I shall take her advice about it—she's a cute woman."
"Smart-looking, sure enough," said Allerdyke. He let his mind dwell for a moment on the picture which Mrs. Marlow had made as Fullaway led him through the office—a very well-gowned, pretty, alert, piquant little woman, still on the sunny side of thirty, who had given him a sharp glance out of unusually wide-awake eyes. "Aye, women are clever nowadays, no doubt—they'd show their grandmothers how to suck eggs in a good many new fashions. Well, now," he went on, stretching his long legs over Fullaway's beautiful Persian rug, "what do you make of this affair, Fullaway, in its present situation? There's no doubt that everything's considerably altered by what we've heard of this morning. Do you really think that this French maid affair is all of a piece, as one may term it, with the affair of my cousin James?"
"Yes—without doubt," replied Fullaway. "I believe the two affairs all spring from the same plot. That plot, in my opinion, has originated from a clever gang who, somehow or other, got to know that Mr. James Allerdyke was bringing over the Princess Nastirsevitch's jewels, and who also turned their eyes on Zelie de Longarde's valuables. The French maid, Lisette, was probably nothing but a tool, a cat's paw, and she, having done her work, has been cleverly removed so that she could never split. Further—"
A quiet knock at the door just then prefaced the entrance of Mrs. Marlow, who gave her employer an inquiring glance.
"Mr. Blindway to see you," she announced. "Shall I show him in?"
"At once!" replied Fullaway. He leapt from his chair, and going to the door called to the detective to enter. "News?" he asked excitedly, when Mrs. Marlow had retired, closing the door again. "What is it—important?"
The detective, who looked very solemn, drew a letter-case from his pocket, and slowly produced a telegram.
"Important enough," he answered. "This case is assuming a very strange complexion, gentlemen. This arrived from Hull half an hour ago, and the chief thought I'd better bring it on to you at once. You see what it is—"
He held the telegram out to both men, and they read it together, Fullaway muttering the words as he read—
From Chief Constable, Hull, to Superintendent C.I.D., New Scotland Yard.
Dr. Lydenberg, concerned in Allerdyke case, was shot dead in High Street here this morning by unseen person, who is up to now unarrested and to whose identity we have no clue.
Fullaway laid the telegram down on his table and looked from it to the detective.
"Shot dead—High Street—this morning?" he said wonderingly. "Why!—that means, of course, in broad daylight—in a busy street, I suppose? And yet—no clue. How could a man be shot dead under such circumstances without the murderer being seen and followed?"
"You don't know Hull very well," remarked Allerdyke, who had been pulling his moustache and frowning over the telegram, "else you'd know how that could be done easy enough in High Street. High Street," he went on, turning to the detective, "is the oldest street in the town. It's the old merchant street. Half of it—lower end—is more or less in ruins. There are old houses there which aren't tenanted. Back of these houses are courts and alleys and queer entries, leading on one side to the river, and on the other to side streets. A man could be lured into one of those places and put out of the way easily and quietly enough. Or he could be shot by anybody lurking in one of those houses, and the murderer could be got away unobserved with the greatest ease. That's probably what's happened—I know that street as well as I know by own house—I'm not surprised by that! What I'm surprised about is to hear that Lydenberg has been shot at all. And the question is—is his murder of a piece with all the rest of this damnable mystery, or is it clean apart from it? Understand, Fullaway?"
"I'm thinking," answered the American. "It takes a lot of thinking, too."
"You see," continued Allerdyke, turning to Blindway again, "we're all in a hole—in a regular fog. We know naught! literally naught. This Lydenberg was a foreigner—Swede, Norwegian, Dane, or something. We know nothing of him, except that he said he'd come to Hull on business. He may have been shot for all sorts of reasons—private, political. We don't know. But—mark me!—if his murder's connected with the others, if it's all of a piece with my cousin's murder, and that French girl's, why then—"
He paused, shaking his head emphatically, and the other two, impressed by his earnestness, waited until he spoke again.
"Then," he continued at last, after a space of silence, during which he seemed to be reflecting with added strenuousness—"then, by Heaven! we're up against something that's going to take it out of us before we get at the truth. That's a dead certainty. If this is all conspiracy, it's a big 'un—a colossal thing! What say, Fullaway?"
"I should say you're right," replied Fullaway. "I've been trying to figure things up while you talked, though I gave you both ears. It looks as if this Lydenberg had been shot in order to keep his tongue quiet forever. Maybe he knew something, and was likely to split. What are your people going to do about this?" he asked turning to the detective. "I suppose you'll go down to Hull at once?"
"I shan't," answered Blindway. "I've enough to do here. One of our men has already gone—he's on his way. We shall have to wait for news. I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Allerdyke—it's a big thing, a very big thing. If Mr. Allerdyke's cousin was really murdered, and if the Frenchwoman's death arose out of that, and now Lydenberg's, there's a clever combination at work. And—where's the least clue to it?"
Allerdyke helped himself to a fresh cigar out of a box which lay on Fullaway's table, lighted it, and smoked in silence for a minute or two. The other men, feeling instinctively that he was thinking, waited.
"Look you here!" he exclaimed suddenly. "Clue? Yes, that's what we want. Where's that clue likely to be found? Why, in this, and this only—who knew, person or persons, that my cousin was bringing those jewels from the Princess Nastirsevitch to this country? Get to know that, and it narrows the field, d'ye see?"
"There's the question of Miss Lennard's jewels, too," remarked Fullaway.
"That may be—perhaps was—a side-issue," said Allerdyke. "It may have come into the big scheme as an after-thought. But, anyway, that's what we want—a first clue. And I don't see how that's to be got at until this Princess arrives here. You see, she may have talked, she may have let it out in confidence—to somebody who abused her confidence. What is certain is that somebody must have got to know of this proposed deal between the Princess and your man, Fullaway, and have laid plans accordingly to rob the Princess's messenger—my cousin James. D'ye see, the deal was known of at two ends—to you here, to this Princess, through James, over there, in Russia. Now, then, where did the secret get out? Did it get out there, or here?"
"Not here, of course!" answered Fullaway, with emphasis. "That's dead sure. Over there, of a certainty. The robbery was engineered from there."
"Then, in that case, there's naught to do but wait the arrival of the Princess," said Allerdyke. "And you say she'll be here to-morrow night. In the meantime no doubt you police gentlemen'll get more news about this last affair at Hull, and perhaps Miss Lennard'll find those references about the Frenchwoman, and maybe we shall mop things up bit by bit—for mopped up they'll have to be, or my name isn't what it is! Fullaway," he went on, rising from his chair, "I'll have to leave you—yon man o' mine'll be arriving from Yorkshire with my things before long, and I must go down to the hotel office and make arrangements about him. See you later—at dinner to-night, here, eh?"
He lounged away through the outer office, giving the smart lady secretary a keen glance as he passed her and getting an equally scrutinizing, if swift, look in return.
"Clever!" mused Allerdyke as he closed the door behind him. "Deuced clever, that young woman. Um—well, it's a pretty coil, to be sure!"
He went down to the office, made full and precise arrangements about Gaffney, who was to be given a room close to his own, left some instructions as to what was to be done with him on arrival, and then, hands in pockets, strolled out into Aldwych and walked towards the Strand, his eyes bent on the ground as if he strove to find in those hard pavements some solution of all these difficulties. And suddenly he lifted his head and muttered a few emphatic words half aloud, regardless of whoever might overhear them.
"I wish to Heaven I'd a right good, hard-headed Yorkshireman to talk to!" he said. "A chap with some gumption about him! These Cockneys and Americans are all very well in their way, but—"
Then he pulled himself up sharply. An idea, a name, had flashed into his mental field of vision as if sent in answer to his prayer. And still regardless of bystanders he slapped his thigh delightedly.
"Ambler Appleyard!" he exclaimed. "The very man! Here, you!"
The last two words were addressed to a taxi-cab driver whose car stood at the head of the line by the Gaiety Theatre. Allerdyke crossed from the pavement and jumped in.
"Run down to this end of Gresham Street," he said. "Go quick as you can."
He wondered as he sped along the crowded London streets why he had not thought of Ambler Appleyard before. Ambler Appleyard was the manager of his own London warehouse, a smart, clever, pushing young Bradford man who had been in charge of the London business of Allerdyke and Partners, Limited, for the last three years. He had come to London with his brains already sharpened—three years of business life in the Metropolis had made them all the sharper. Allerdyke rubbed his hands with satisfaction. Exchange of confidence with a fellow-Yorkshireman was the very thing he wanted.
He got out of his cab at the Aldersgate end of Gresham Street, and walked quickly along until he came to a highly polished brass plate on which his own name was deeply engraven. Running up a few steps into a warehouse stored with neat packages of dress goods, he encountered a couple of warehousemen engaged in sorting and classifying a consignment of fabrics just arrived from Bradford. Allerdyke, whose visits to his London warehouse were fairly frequent, and usually without notice, nodded affably to both and walked across the floor to an inner office. He opened the door without ceremony, closed it carefully behind him, and stepping forward to the occupant of the room, who sat busily writing at a desk, with his back to the entrant, and continued to write without moving or looking round, gave him a resounding smack on the shoulder.
"The very man I want, Ambler, my lad!" he said. "Sit up!"
Ambler Appleyard raised his head, slowly twisted in his revolving chair, and looked quietly at his employer. And Allerdyke, dropping into an easy-chair by the fireplace, over which hung a fine steel engraving of himself, flanked by photographs of the Bradford mills and the Bradford warehouse, looked at his London manager, secretly admiring the shrewdness and self-possession evidenced in the young man's face. Appleyard was certainly no beauty; his outstanding features were sandy-coloured hair, freckled cheeks, a snub nose, and a decidedly wide mouth; moreover, his ears, unusually large, stood out from the sides of his head in very prominent fashion, and gave a beholder the impression that they were perpetually stretched to attention. But he was the owner of a well-shaped forehead, a pair of steady and honest blue eyes, and a firmly cut square chin, and his entire atmosphere conveyed the idea of capacity, resource, and energy. It pleased Allerdyke, too, to see that the young man was attentive to his own personal appearance—his well-cut garments bore the undoubted stamp of the Savile Row tailor; the silk hat which covered his crop of sandy hair was the latest thing in Sackville Street headgear; from top to toe he was the smart man-about-town. And that was the sort of man Marshall Allerdyke liked to have about him, and to see as heads of his departments—not fops, nor dandies, but men who knew the commercial value of good appearance and smart finish.
"I didn't know you were in town, Mr. Allerdyke," said the London manager quietly. "Still, one never knows where you are these days."
"I've scarcely known that myself, my lad, these last seventy-two hours," replied Allerdyke. "You mightn't think it, but at this time yesterday I was going full tilt up to Edinburgh. I want to tell you about that, Ambler—I want some advice. But business first—aught new?"
"I've brought that South American contract off," replied Appleyard. "Fixed it this morning."
"Good!" said Allerdyke. "What's it run to, like?"
"Seventy-five thousand," answered Appleyard. "Nice bit of profit on that, Mr. Allerdyke."
"Good—good!" repeated Allerdyke. "Aught else?"
"Naught—at present. Naught out of the usual, anyway," said the manager.
He took off his hat, laid aside the papers he had been busy with on Allerdyke's entrance, and twisted his chair round to the hearth. "This advice, then?" he asked quietly. "I'm free now."
"Aye!" said Allerdyke. He sat reflecting for a moment, and then turned to his manager with a sudden question.
"Have you heard all this about my cousin James?" he asked with sharp directness.
Appleyard lifted a couple of newspapers from his desk.
"No more than what's in these," he answered. "One tells of his sudden death at Hull; the other begins to hint that there was something queer about it."
"Queer!" exclaimed Allerdyke. "Aye, and more than queer, my lad. Our James was murdered! Now, then, Ambler, I've come here to tell you all the story—you must listen to every detail. I know your brains—keep 'em fixed on what I'm going to tell; hear it all; weigh it up, and then tell me what you make of it; for I'm damned if I can make either head or tail, back, side, or front of the whole thing—so far. Happen you can see a bit of light. Listen, now."
Allerdyke, from long training in business habits, was a good teller of a plain and straightforward tale: Appleyard, for the same reason, was a good listener. So one man talked, in low, earnest tones, checking off his points as he made them, taking care that he emphasized the principal items of his news and dwelt lightly on the connecting links, and the other listened in silence, keeping a concentrated attention and storing away the facts in his memory as they were duly marshalled before him. For a good hour one brain gave out, and the other took in, and without waste of words.
It came to an end at last, and master looked at man.
"Well?" said Allerdyke, after a silence that was full of meaning—"well?"
"Take some thinking about," answered Appleyard tersely. "It's a big thing—a devilish clever thing, too. There's one fact strikes me at once, though. The news about the Nastirsevitch jewels leaked out somewhere, Mr. Allerdyke. That's certain. Either here in London, or over there in Russia, it leaked out. Now until this Princess comes you've no means of knowing if the leakage was over yonder. But there's one thing you do know now—at this very minute. There were three people here in England who knew that the jewels were on the way from Russia, in Mr. James Allerdyke's charge. Those three were this man Fullaway, his lady secretary, and Delkin, the Chicago millionaire! Now, then, Mr. Allerdyke—how much, or what, do you know about any one of 'em?"
FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS REWARD
Allerdyke encountered this direct question with a long, fixed stare of growing comprehension; his silence showed that he was gradually taking in its significance.
"Aye, just so!" he said at last. "Just so! How much do I know of any of 'em? Well, of Fullaway no more than I've seen. Of his secretary no more than what I've seen and heard. Of Delkin no more than that such a man exists. Sum total—what!"
"Next to naught," said Appleyard. "In a case like this you ought to know more. Fullaway may be all right. Fullaway may be all wrong. His lady secretary may be as right as he is, or as wrong as he is. As to Delkin—he might be a creature of Fullaway's imagination. Put it all to yourself now, Mr. Allerdyke—on the face of what you've told me, these three people—two of 'em, at any rate, for a certainty—knew about these valuables coming over in Mr. James's charge. So far as you know, your cousin had 'em when he left Christiania and reached Hull. There they disappear. So far as you're aware, nobody but these people knew of their coming—no other people in England knew, at any rate, so far, I repeat, as your knowledge goes. I should want to know something about these three, if I were in your place, Mr. Allerdyke."
"Aye—aye!" replied Allerdyke. "I see your point. Well, I've been in Fullaway's company now for two days—there's no denying he's a smart chap, a clever chap, and he seems to be doing good business. Moreover, Ambler, my lad, James knew him and James wasn't the sort to take up with wrong 'uns. As to the secretary, I can't say. Besides, Fullaway said this afternoon that he hadn't told her all about it yet."
"All about the Hull affair and the Lennard affair, I took that to mean from your account," remarked Appleyard. "If she's his confidential secretary, with access to his papers and business, she'd know all about the Princess transaction. Now, of course, an inquiry or two of the usual sort would satisfy you about Fullaway—I mean as a business man. An inquiry or two would tell you all about Delkin. But you can't get to know all about Mrs. Marlow from any inquiry. And you can't find out all about Fullaway from any inquiry. He may be the straightest business man in all London—and yet have a finger in this pie, and his secretary with him. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds' worth of jewels, Mr. Allerdyke, is—a temptation! And—these folks knew the jewels were on the way. What's more, they'd time to intercept their bearer—Mr. James."
Allerdyke rubbed his chin and knitted his brows in obvious bewilderment. "There must ha' been more than them in at it," he said musingly. "A regular gang of 'em, judging by results."
"Every gang has its ganger," replied Appleyard, with a knowing smile. "There's no doubt this is a big thing—but there must be a central point, a head, a controlling authority in it. We come back, you see, after all, to where we started—these people were the only people in England who knew about these jewels, so far as we know."
"Aye, but only so far as we know," said Allerdyke. "There may have been others. There may have been folks who got to know about them over there in Russia and who communicated their knowledge to some folks here. And there's always this to be borne in mind—the affair, the plot, may have been originated there, and worked from there. Remember that!"
"Quite so—and you can't decide on anything relating to that until this Princess comes," agreed Appleyard. "It'll have to rest till you've heard all she has to say, and then you'll know where you are. But in the meantime you can find out a bit about Fullaway and this millionaire man—I can find out for you, if you like, in a few hours."
"Do, my lad!" said Allerdyke. "It's always well to know who you're dealing with. Aye—make an inquiry or two."
"But remember that all I can inquire about will be in the ordinary business way," continued Appleyard. "I can ascertain if there is a Delkin in town, who's a Chicago millionaire, and if Fullaway's a reputable business man—but that'll be all. As to the secretary, I can't do anything."
"I'll keep an eye on her myself," said Allerdyke. "Well, do this, then, and let me know the results. I've put up at the Waldorf, and there I shall stop while all this is being investigated here in London, but I shall pop in and out here, of course. And now I'll go back there and find out if there's any fresh news from the police or from Hull. I reckon there'll be some fine reading in the newspapers in a day or two, Ambler—it'll all have to come out now."
In this supposition Allerdyke was right. The police authorities, finding that the affair had assumed dimensions of an astonishing magnitude, decided to seek the aid of the Press, and to publish the entire story in the fullest possible fashion. And Allerdyke and all London woke next morning to find the newspapers alive with a new sensation, and every other man asking his neighbour what it all meant. Three mysterious murders—two big thefts—together—the newspaper world had known nothing like it for years, and the only regrets in Fleet Street were those of the men who would have sacrificed their very noses to have got the story exclusively to themselves. But the police authorities had exercised a wise generosity, and no one newspaper knew more than another at that stage—they all, as Fullaway said to Allerdyke at breakfast, got a fair start, and from that one could run their own race.
"We shall be to these Pressmen as a pot of honey to flies," he observed. "Take my advice, Allerdyke—see none of them, and if you should—as you will—get buttonholed and held up, refuse to say a word."
"You can leave that to me," answered Allerdyke, with a twitch of his determined jaw. "It 'ud be a clever newspaper chap that would get aught out of me. I've other fish to fry than to talk to these gentry. And what good will all this newspaper stuff do?"
"Lots!" replied Fullaway. "It will draw attention. There'll already be a few thousand amateur detectives looking out for the man who left the French maid dead in Eastbourne Terrace, and a few hundred amateur criminologists racking their brains for a plausible theory of the whole thing. Oh, yes, it's a good thing to arouse public interest, Allerdyke. All that's wanted now is a rousing reward. Have you thought of that?"
"Didn't I mention it to the man at Scotland Yard yesterday?" said Allerdyke. "I'm game to find aught reasonable in the way of brass. But," he added, with a touch of true Yorkshire caution, "I've been thinking that over during the night, and it seems to me that there are two other parties who ought to come in at it, with me, of course. Miss Lennard and the Princess, d'ye see? If they're willing, I am."
"You mean a joint reward for the detection of the murderer and the recovery of the jewels?" suggested Fullaway.
"Well, you can be pretty certain, by now, that the murders and the thefts are all the work of one gang," replied Allerdyke. "So it's long as it's short. These two women want their pearls and their diamonds back—I want to know who killed my cousin James. We're all three in the same boat, really; so if we make up a good, substantial purse between us—what?"
"Good!" agreed Fullaway. "We'll hear what the Princess says when she arrives to-night. I guess we shall all know better where we exactly are when we've heard what she has to say."
"If she's like most women that's lost aught in the way of finery," remarked Allerdyke drily, "she'll have plenty to say."
That night he had abundant opportunity of hearing the Princess Nastirsevitch's views on the situation, freely expressed. He himself fetched Celia Lennard to the conference at New Scotland Yard; they found Fullaway and the Princess already there, in full blast of debate. Allerdyke inspected the new arrival with keen interest and found her a well-preserved, handsome woman of middle-age, sharp, smart, and American to the finger-tips. The official whom they had met before was already questioning her, and for Allerdyke's benefit he repeated what had already transpired.
"The Princess affirms, Mr. Allerdyke, that not a soul but herself and your cousin, Mr. James Allerdyke, knew of this affair," he said. "I am right, am I not, madame," he went on, turning to the Princess, "in saying that not one word of this transaction, or proposed transaction, was ever mentioned by you to any person but Mr. James Allerdyke?"
"To no other person than Mr. James Allerdyke," assented the Princess firmly. "It would have been strange conduct on my part, I think, if I had told anybody else anything about it!—my object, of course, being secrecy. From the moment I first mentioned it to Mr. James Allerdyke until I arrived here just now and met Mr. Fullaway there, I never spoke of the matter to any one!"
The official looked at Allerdyke as if inviting him to ask any question that occurred to him, and Allerdyke immediately brought up that which had been in his mind ever since his discovery of James Allerdyke's pocket-diary.
"How came you to repose such confidence in my cousin, ma'am?" he asked brusquely. "I always thought I was pretty deep in his counsels, but I never heard him mention your name. Did he know you well?"
"I had known Mr. James Allerdyke for a little over a year," replied the Princess. "I met him first in Paris—then on the Riviera—then in Russia. The fact is, he did some business for me. I had every confidence in him—the fullest confidence. I knew he was a thoroughly straight man. And just as I had decided to sell these jewels'—all my own property, mind—in order to clear off the whole lot of the mortgages on my son's estate, so's he could come into them quite unencumbered, I happened to meet Mr. James Allerdyke in St. Petersburg—that's of course, a few weeks ago—and I immediately took him into my confidence and asked his help. With the result," added the Princess, "that he cabled to Mr. Fullaway there and that all this has come about! I tell you in the most emphatic manner at my command," she went on, turning to the official, and tapping the edge of his desk as if to accentuate her words, "it's impossible that anybody over there in Russia could have known of my arrangements with Mr. James Allerdyke—utterly impossible. For I never spoke of them to any one there, and I'm sure he would not!"
"Impossible is a big word, Princess," said the official. "There may have been ways of leakage. Did you exchange any correspondence on the matter?"
"Not a line!" replied the Princess. "There was no need. We met three times and arranged everything. The only correspondence there was—if you could call it correspondence—was the exchange of cablegrams between Mr. James Allerdyke and Mr. Fullaway. I saw those cablegrams—of course the jewels were mentioned. But I don't believe Mr. James Allerdyke was the sort of man to leave his cablegrams lying around for somebody else to see. I know he had them in his pocket-book. No!" she went on, with added emphasis and conviction. "The thing did not start over there, I'm sure. It's been put up here, in London."
"Well," observed the official, after a pause, "there's only one thing more I want to ask you just now, Princess. You gave these immensely valuable jewels to Mr. James Allerdyke? Did he hand you any receipt for them?"
"A receipt which I've got here," answered the Princess, tapping her hand-bag. "And it's all in his handwriting, and made out in the form of an inventory—all that was at his suggestion."
"And how," asked the official, "were the jewels packed when given to him?"
"Very simply," said the Princess. "That was his suggestion, too. They were wrapped up in soft paper and chamois leather, and put into an old cigar-box which he placed in his small travelling-bag. That bag, he said, would never go out of his sight until he reached London, where, when he'd exhibited the jewels to Mr. Fullaway's client, he was to lodge them in a bank. It seemed to him that the cigar-box was a good notion—the jewels themselves didn't take up so much room as you might think, and he laid some very ordinary things over the top of the package—a cake or two of soap, a sponge, and things like that—so that, supposing the cigar-box had been opened, its contents would have seemed very ordinary, you understand?"