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Title: The Guv'nor (1932)
Author: Edgar Wallace
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Language:  English
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Title: The Guv'nor (1932)
Author: Edgar Wallace




CHAPTER I

THE affair of Mary Keen was never forgotten by Robert Karl Kressholm. He
was a good hater, as Mr. J. G. Reeder was to say of him one day.

Yet it was an odd circumstance that Mary, dead and buried in Westbury
Churchyard, should remain as a raw place in the mind of a man who was,
to all appearance and certainly by protestation, madly in love with a
child--she was little more--who was twenty years his junior. But Bob
Kressholm was like that. He was vain, had complete and absolute
confidence in his own excellences. He might congratulate himself that he
was young at thirty-seven and looked younger; that he was good-looking
in an instantly impressing way and looked little older than at eighteen,
when Mary had chosen Red Joe Brady in preference to himself.

Mary was dead of a broken heart--she passed three days after Joe had
been released from a short-term sentence in Dartmoor. If Bob could have
found her he would have offered consolation of sorts, but Joe had very
carefully hidden her and his boy.

Kressholm never went to prison. He was too clever for that. Banks and
jewellers' stores might become impoverished in a night, but "the
Guv'nor" could not be associated with the happening. He was, he believed
with reason, the greatest organiser in what is picturesquely described
as "The Underworld." Nobody had ever brought a mind like his to the
business of burglary. He had his own office and plant in Antwerp for the
reconstruction of stolen goods. In Vienna a respectable broker handled
such bonds and negotiable stock as came his way. He could boast to such
intimates as Red Joe that he was "squawk-proof" and was justified in the
claim. He came down to Exeter, where Haddin's Amusement Park was
operating, partly to see and partly to dazzle Joe out of his dull but
respectable mode of living. A big Rolls limousine was an advertisement
of his own prosperity.

He did not see the balloon ascent, but the parachute dropped square in
the road before his car, and the chauffeur had just time to pull up on
the very edge of a tangled mass of cord, silk envelope and laughing
girlhood.

"Where the devil did you come from?"

"Out of the everywhere," she mocked him.

She wore a boy's trousers, a blue silk shirt and a beret--an unusual
head-dress in those days--and she was lovely: golden-haired,
fair-skinned and supple.

This was Wenna, daughter of Lew Haddin.

He drove her to the fair and delivered her to her father. Having come
for the day, he stayed for the week; Red Joe had a bed put for him in
his own caravan. Joe had a second van--a motor caravan, but this was not
in the fair-ground. It was garaged in the town. His guest heard about
this and drew his own conclusions--at the moment he was not interested
in Red Joe's dangerous hobby.

And every day he grew more and more fascinated by the girl. He brought
flowers to her, which she accepted, a jewelled bracelet, which she
refused. Fat Lew Haddin offered lame apologies, for he was a
good-natured man who gave things away rather readily and would have
married off his daughter to almost anybody rather than worry.

Red Joe added to his unpopularity and stirred up all the smouldering
embers of hatred by speaking very plainly to his guest.

"She's only a kid, Bob, and what have you and I to give any woman? The
certainty of getting her a pass on visiting day and the privilege of
writing her a letter once a month."

Kressholm answered coldly:

"Personally I've never been in stir, and I don't know what the
regulations are about wives visiting husbands, and that sort of thing.
Are you after her?"

"She's about the same age as my boy," said Joe wrathfully.

"Oh, you want her for the family, eh? You think you've got a call on all
the women in the world. You're getting _bourgeois_, Red, since you've
become a monkey dealer."

Red Joe wasn't quite sure what "bourgeois" meant, but he guessed it was
applied offensively. Bob lived mostly in Paris and spoke two or three
languages rather well. He was more than a little proud of his education,
which was the basis of his superiority complex. Wenna, who had been a
woman at twelve, had no doubts about Mr. Kressholm.

"What am I to do with this feller, Joe? The old man is no protection for
an innocent maiden; he wanted me to go riding with his lordship
yesterday, and saw nothing wrong in the idea that I should go up to
London for a week and stay with Kressholm's friends. Fathers are not
what they used to be."

Joe did not want to quarrel with his former associate; there were very
special reasons why he should not. But before he could discuss the
matter with Bob Kressholm, the girl had settled the affair.

There were two slaves of hers in the circus--Swedish gymnasts, who would
have strangled Bob Kressholm and sat up all night to bury him, but she
did not ask for outside help.

It happened in a little wood near the grounds on the last evening of the
fair. She gave nobody the details of the encounter, not even Red Joe.
All he knew was that Kressholm had left Exeter very hurriedly just as
soon as the knife wound on his shoulder was dressed and cauterised by a
local surgeon.

Wenna had learned quite a lot about knife play from one of her Swedish
gymnasts, who had left his country as a result of his dexterity in this
direction.

Thereafter Bob Kressholm had another grievance to nourish. A few months
after he returned to Paris he learned that Mr. J. G. Reeder was
interesting himself in a new issue of "slush" which, in the argot of the
initiated, means forged money. And then he remembered the locked motor
caravan which was Joe Brady's, but which he never slept in, or even
brought to the fair ground. He returned to London on the very day Mr.
Reeder had reached a certain conclusion.


CHAPTER II

"BRADY'S work," said J. G. Reeder.

He had fixed the bank-note against a lighted glass-screen and was
examining it through a magnifying glass.

It was the fourteenth five-pound note he had inspected that week. Mr.
Reeder knew all that there was to be known about forged bank-notes; he
was the greatest authority in the world on the subject of forgery, and
could, as a rule, detect a "wrong 'un" by feeling a corner of it. But
these notes, which had been put into circulation in the year 1921, were
not ordinary notes. They were so extraordinary that it required a
microscopic examination to discover their spurious nature. He looked
gloomily at the chief inspector (it was Ben Peary in those days) and
sighed.

"Mr. Joseph Brady," he repeated; "but Mr. Joseph Brady is now an honest
man. He is following a--um--peaceable and--er--picturesque profession."

"What profession?" asked Peary.

"Circus," replied Reeder soberly. "He was born in a circus--he has
returned to his--um--interesting and precarious element."

When Red Joe Brady had finished a comparatively light sentence for
forgery, he had announced his intention of going straight. It is a
laudable but not unusual decision that has been made by many men on
their release from prison. He told the governor of the gaol and the
chief warder, and, of course, the chaplain (who hoped much, but was
confident of little) that he had had enough of the crooked game and that
henceforth...

He told Mr. Reeder this, taking a special journey to Brockley for the
purpose.

Mr. Reeder expressed his praise at such an admirable resolution, but did
not believe him.

It was pretty well known that Joe had money--stacks of it, said his
envious competitors--for he was a careful man. He was not the kind that
squandered his illicit gains and he had made big money. For example;
what happened to the hundred thousand pounds bank robbery which was
never satisfactorily explained: Kressholm had his cut, of course, but it
was only a quarter. Bob used to brood on this; it was his illusion that
there wasn't a cleverer man at the game than he. Anyway, the red-haired
athlete, who had once been billed as Rufus Baldini, the Master of the
High Trapeze, and was known in the police circles as Red Joe, had a very
considerable nest-egg, maintained his boy at a first-class boarding
school and, generally speaking, was rich.

He came out of prison to take farewell of a dying wife at a moment of
crisis for Lew Haddin, of Haddin's Grand Travelling Amusement Park. That
fat and illiterate man had employed a secretary to manage his private
and business affairs, and the secretary had vanished with eighteen
thousand pounds which he had drawn from Lew's London bank. And at the
time Lew was wading through a deep and sticky patch of bad trading.

Joe was an excellent business man and, outside of his anti-social
activities, an honest man. The death of his wife and the consciousness
of new responsibilities had sobered him. He arrived at the psychological
moment, had in an accountant to expose the tangle at its worst, and
bought a half-interest in the amusement park, which for two years
enjoyed exceptional prosperity.

The underworld also has its artists who work for the joy of working.
There was no reason why Joe should fall again into temptation, but his
draughtsmanship was little short of perfection, and he found himself
drawing again. He might have confined himself to sketches of currency
for his own amusement if there had not fallen into his hands the "right
paper."

Now, the "right paper," is very hard to come by. As a rule, it does not
require such an expert as Mr. Reeder to detect the difference between
the paper on which English bank-notes are printed and the paper which is
made for the special use of forgers. You can buy in Germany passable
imitations which have the texture and the weight, and, to the inexpert
finger, the feel of a bank-note. It is very seldom that paper is
produced which defies detection.

Eight thousand sheets came to Joe from some well-intentioned confederate
of other days, and his first inclination was to make a bonfire of them;
but then the possibilities began to open up before his reluctant
eyes...There was sufficient electric power at his disposal from the many
dynamos they had in their outfit, and there were privacy and freedom
from observation...

Mr. Reeder located Joe and put him under observation. A surreptitious
search of his caravan revealed nothing. One morning Mr. Reeder packed
his bag and went north.

There was a great crowd of people in the Sanbay Fair Ground when Mr.
Reeder descended from the station fly which brought him to the outskirts
of the town; he had not come direct from the station. He and his
companion had made a very careful search of a caravan in a lock-up
garage at the Red Lion.

Haddin's Imperial Circus and Tropical Menagerie occupied the centre of
the ground. The tower of Haddin's Royal Razzy Glide showed above the
enormous tent, and Haddin's various side-shows filled all the vacant
sites. The municipality did not wholly approve of Haddin's, his band
wagons, his lions and tigers, his fat ladies and giants, but the
municipality made a small charge for admission to the ground, "for the
relief of rates."

Mr. Reeder paid a humble coin, stoutly ignored the blandishments of
dark-eyed ladies who offered him opportunities for shooting at the
celluloid balls which dipped and jumped on the top of a water jet, was
oblivious to the attractions of ring boards and other ingenious methods.

He had come too late for the only free attractions: the balloon ascent
and the parachute jump by "the Queen of the Air." She was at the moment
of Mr. Reeder's arrival resting in the big and comfortable caravan which
was Mr. Haddin's home and centre.

But it was to see the "Queen of the Air" that Mr. Reeder had taken this
long and troublesome journey. He sought out and found Red Joe Brady,
whose caravan was a picture of all that was neat and cosy. Brady opened
the door, saw Reeder at the foot of the steps, and for a moment said
nothing; then:

"Come up, will you?"

He had seen behind Mr. Reeder three men whose carriage and dress said
"detectives" loudly. "What's the idea, Mr. Reeder?"

Mr. Reeder shook his head sadly.

"All this is very unpleasant, Joe; and very unnecessary. I have searched
that caravan of yours at the garage. Need I say any more?"

Joe reached his hat and overcoat from the peg. "I'm ready when you are,"
he said.

Joe was like that. He never made trouble where trouble was futile, nor
excuses where they were vain.

Wenna heard the news after he had been taken away, and wept, not so much
for Joe as for Danny, the boy who had spent his holidays with the circus
and who had found his way into her susceptible heart.

Mr. Reeder was in the vestibule of the Old Bailey one day, and was
conscious that somebody was looking at him, and turned to meet the glare
of two eyes of burning blue fixed on him with an expression of malignity
which momentarily startled him. She was very lovely and very young, and
he was wondering in what circumstances he had deprived her of her
father's care, when she came across to him.

"You're Reeder?" Her voice was quivering with fury.

"That's my name," he said in his mild way. "To whom have I the honour--"

"You don't know me, but you will! I've heard about you. You're the man
who took Joe--took away Danny's father! You wicked old devil! You--
you--"

Mr. Reeder was more embarrassed to see her weep than to hear her
recriminations. He did not see her again for a very long time, and then
in circumstances which were even less pleasant.

Generally speaking, Red Joe Brady was lucky to get away with ten years.
Men had had lifers dished out to them for half that Joe had done.


CHAPTER III

AFTER his sentence Joe asked if he could see Mr. J. G. Reeder, and Mr.
Reeder, who had no qualms whatever about meeting men for whose arrest
and conviction he was responsible, went down to the cells under the
court and found Red Joe handcuffed in readiness for his departure by
taxi-cab to Wormwood Scrubbs.

Such occasions as these can be very painful, and it was not unusual for
a prisoner to express his frankest opinions about the man who had
brought him to ruin. But Joe was neither offensive nor reproachful. He
was a spare man of medium height, and was in the late thirties or the
early forties. His neatly brushed hair was flaming red--hence his
nickname.

He met the detective with a little smile and asked him to sit down.

"I've no complaints, Mr. Reeder--you gave me a square deal and told no
lies about me, and now I want to ask you a favour. I've got a boy at a
good school; he doesn't know anything about me and I don't want him to
know. I had the sense to put a bit of money aside and tie up the
interest so that the bank will pay his fees, and give him all the pocket
money he wants while I'm away. And a good friend of mine is going to
keep an eye on him. The police don't know anything about the boy or his
school. They're fair, I admit it, but they might go nosing around and
find out that he's my son. They're fair, but they're clumsy, and it
might happen that they'd give away the fact that his father was in
stir."

"It's very unlikely, Joe," said Reeder, and the prisoner nodded.

"It's unlikely but it happens," he said. "If it does I want you to step
in and look after the boy's interests. You can stop them going too far."

"Who is your 'good friend'?" asked Reeder, and the man hesitated.

"I can't tell you who he is--for reasons," he said.

There was something of uneasiness in his tone; only for the briefest
moment did he reveal his doubt.

"I've known him years; in fact, he and I courted the same lady--my poor
little wife, who's dead and gone. But he's a good scout and he's got
over all that."

"Is he straight?" asked Mr. Reeder.

Joe was silent, pondering this question.

"With me, yes. Bob Kressholm--well, you know him, but he's never been
'inside.'"

Mr. Reeder said nothing.

"He's clever too. One of the wisest men in this country."

Reeder turned his grave eyes upon the man.

"I'd like to help you, Joe; but you'd be wise to give me the name of the
school. I might do a little bit of overlooking myself."

Joe shook his head.

"I can't do that--I've asked Bob, and it would look as if I didn't trust
him. All I want to ask you to do is to cover up the kid if anything
comes out. I want that boy never to know what a crooked thing is."

The detective nodded, and they rose together. The taxi-cab was waiting
and two warders stood by the open door. Joe changed the subject and
considered his own and immediate misfortune.

"I can't understand how you got me," he said. "I thought I was well away
with that second caravan. I hand it to you, you're smart."

Mr. Reeder offered him no enlightenment, nor did he ask the name of the
boy. He knew that to the wild-eyed girl Red Joe was just "Danny's
father." The next day he went in search of Bob Kressholm.

He found Bob sipping an absinthe frappé in a café near Piccadilly
Circus. He was a lithe, dark man, who, in his confidence, surveyed the
approach of the detective without apprehension; but when Mr. Reeder sat
down by his side with a weary little sigh, Kressholm edged away from
him.

"I saw a friend of yours yesterday, Mr.--um--Kressholm."

"Red Joe--yuh! I saw he'd gone down."

"Looking after his son, eh? Guardian of innocent childhood, H'm?"

Kressholm moved uneasily.

"Why not? Joe's a pal of mine. Grand feller, Joe. We only quarrelled
twice--about women both times."

"You're a good hater," said Mr. Reeder gently.

He knew nothing then about Wenna Haddin and her ready knife. Nor what
she had said to him about Danny.

He saw the man's face twitch.

"I've forgotten all about it--women do not interest me really."

Mr. Reeder sat, his umbrella between his knees, his bony hands gripping
the crooked handle.

"H'm," he said, "a good hater. Joe wanted to know how he was caught. I
didn't tell him that somebody called me up on the 'phone and told me all
about the second caravan."

Kressholm turned his scowling face to the other.

"Who called you up?" he demanded truculently.

"You did," said Mr. Reeder softly. "You were under observation at the
time--you didn't know that, but you were. I knew you were a friend of
Brady's. I believe you were in the graft but I could never prove it. And
you were seen to telephone to me from a public booth in the Piccadilly
Tube at eleven twenty-seven one night--that was the hour at which the
information came to him. Be careful what you do with that boy, Mr.
Kressholm. That is all."

He got up, stood for a moment staring down at the uneasy man, and made
his leisurely way from the restaurant.

Kressholm left London a week later, and very rarely returned; in the
years that followed he proved himself an excellent organiser.

Danny Brady went out to him in less than a year.

In some mysterious way the story of his father's antecedents had reached
the headmaster of his select school, and his guardian was asked to
remove him. The boy came to see Wenna Haddin when the fair was at
Nottingham. She was less depressed by his expulsion (for it was no less)
than exhilarated by the prospect of his going to Paris.

A tall stripling, with dark auburn hair, he had grown since the girl had
seen him last. She listened gravely to the recital of his plans, and her
heart ached a little. If she did not like Mr. Reeder she hated Bob
Kressholm.

"He's a queer man, Danny. I hope you'll be all right."

"Stuff! Of course I'll be all right," he scoffed. "Bob's a grand man--he
wants me to call him Bob. Besides, he's a great friend of my father's."

She did not reply to this. Wenna was older than her years, knew men
instinctively, and bitterly regretted all she had said about Danny that
day in the wood, when she put into words the fantastical marriage plan
of Danny's father.

So Danny went out; he came back a year later, a man, a careless, worldly
young man, who had plenty of money to spend and had odd ideas about men
and women, and the rights of property.

She used to correspond with him. Sometimes he answered her letters,
sometimes months went past before he wrote to her.

Years went on, and Wenna seemed not a day older to him when he came back
under a strange name. The old troth was re-plighted. He had had some
experience in love-making. She felt curiously a stranger.

Two days after he left she heard of a big jewel robbery in Hatton
Garden, and, for no reason at all, knew that he was the "tall, slight
man" who had been seen to leave the office of a diamond merchant before
his unconscious figure was found huddled up behind his desk. For by now
Danny was an able lieutenant of the Governor.


CHAPTER IV

ALMOST everybody associating with the criminal world had heard of "the
Guv'nor." Scotland Yard referred to him jestingly. Inspector Gaylor did
not believe in governors, except the "guv'nors" who ran the whizzing
gangs, and he was acquainted with them because he had met and testified
against these minor bosses, and had had the satisfaction, which only a
policeman feels, in seeing them removed in the black van which runs
regularly between the Old Bailey and Pentonville Prison.

But the real Governor, the big man, was a myth, a mariner's tale. Even
when the jewel robberies began to assume serious proportions, nobody
dared suggest that this visionary character had any connection with the
crimes.

But to hundreds of lawless men, who spent the greater part of their
lives in the cells of convict prisons, the Governor was a holy reality.
He was immensely wealthy, he paid large sums to poor guys for their work
and spent fortunes to keep them out of prison. At the very suggestion
that a newcomer to Dartmoor was a highly paid lieutenant of the
Governor, he was treated with respect which amounted to reverence.

This shining and radiant figure was, alas, unreachable. Nobody knew his
identity. There was no channel by which a poor and bungling burglar
might approach his divinity. They told stories about him--half-true,
half-imaginary. He was a titled gentleman, who lived in a great house in
the country and had his own motor cars and horses. He was a publican who
kept a saloon in Islington. He was a trusted member of the C.I.D., who
misused his position to his great advantage.

Certainly he chose discreet men to serve him, for never had any crime
been brought home to him through the failure or loquacity of an
assistant.

"The Governor!" said Inspector Gaylor scornfully, when there was first
suggested to him the authorship of the Hatton Garden robbery. "You've
been reading detective stories. That's Harry Dyall's work."

But when they pulled in Harry Dyall, his alibi was police-proof, and the
more closely the crime was examined the more satisfied were the police
that the robbery had been carried out by a master--which Harry was not.

"That's no corporal's job--it's a general's. If Bob Kressholm was in
England I should say it was his," said Gaylor, who was called in by the
city police.

It is very difficult for the police to believe in organised systems of
crime carried out under the direction of one man.

"They meet in a dark cellar, I suppose," he sneered at the subordinate
to whom the Governor was becoming a reality. "Wear masks and whatnots.
Get that idea out of your mind, Simpson. Those things only happen in
books."

The Governor and his general staff did not meet in dark cellars, nor did
they wear masks. There is a big hotel near the Place de l'Opera in Paris
which is rather noisy and rather expensive. The noisiest of all the
rooms is the big saloon situated in one corner of the block. Here the
incessant pip-squeak of taxi-cabs, the deep boom of motor horns, the
thunder and ramble of cumbersome omnibuses are caught and amplified.

Four men played bridge; a fifth, and the younger, looked on impatiently.

The eldest of the four helped himself to a whisky and soda from a little
table at his side, and threw down a card. The others followed suit
mechanically. Nobody worried about the game. The cards might be
convenient if some unexpected visitor arrived, though it was very
unlikely that any such interruption would come.

"They called in Reeder over that Hauptman job of ours--you know that,
Tommy?"

The man he addressed nodded.

"Reeder?" asked the young watcher. "Isn't he the fellow who pinched my
father?"

Bob Kressholm nodded.

"Reeder is hot, but he doesn't as a rule touch anything but forgery. You
needn't worry about him, Danny. Yes, he pinched your father. You owe him
one for that."

The young man smiled.

"I remember--Wenna loathes him" he said. "Funny how women hold on to
their prejudices. I was talking to her last week--"

Bob Kressholm's eyelids snapped.

"Talking to her--was she in Paris?"

For a moment Danny was embarrassed.

"Yes; she came over with her father to see a turn at the Hippique."

Kressholm was about to say something, but changed his mind.

"Anyway, Reeder's working with the police--he is in the Public
Prosecutor's office now. You're not known in London, are you, Peter?"

Peter Hertz grunted something uncomplimentary about South Africa, a
country where he _was_ known, and Kressholm chuckled.

"Fine! But they don't send their prints over to Scotland Yard, so you're
safe. Now listen, I've got a job for you boys ..."

They listened for half an hour, and under his direction drew little
plans on the backs of bridge markers. At eleven they separated. Danny
Brady would have gone too, but the other asked him to wait behind.

"Stay on--I want to talk to you, kid." Kressholm was greyer than he had
been when Red Joe went down for his ten.

"Why didn't you tell me Wenna was over?" he asked.

Danny looked uncomfortable.

"I didn't think you'd be interested, Bob," he said. Kressholm forced a
smile.

"Always interested in Wenna--she doesn't like me. I saw her a couple of
months ago and she treated me like a dog! God, she's lovely!"

That came out involuntarily. Danny's discomfort increased.

"She said nothing about me?" The young man lied with a head shake. "You
and she are good friends, eh?"

"Why, yes. As a matter of fact, I gave her a ring--"

Kressholm nodded slowly; his blazing eyes were fixed on the carpet lest
they betrayed him.

"Is that so? Gave her a ring? That's fine. I suppose you'll be thinking
of throwing in your hand after this and settling down, eh? There's
circus blood in you too."

Danny's face went red.

"I'm not going back on you," he said loudly. "I owe a lot to you, Bob--"

"I don't know that you do," said the other.

Here he did an injustice to himself as a tutor. For five years he had
revealed wrong as an amusing kind of right, and black as an artistic
variant of white. Crime had no shabby background in the golden flood-light
of romance; its shabby rags, in the glamour with which he had invested
them, became delightful vestments.

"You're doing the job--you're the Big Shot in the game, Danny. I
wouldn't trust anybody but you. And talking of big shots--"

He went into his bedroom and came back with something in his hand that
glittered in the lights of the chandelier.

"That's the first time I've trusted you with a gun. Don't be afraid to
use it--you're not to get caught. There will be three cars planted for
you with the engines running. I'll give you the plan. I'll have an
aeroplane just outside of London. If you're pinched, don't worry: the
Governor will get you out."

The young man examined the revolver, fascinated. His hand trembled; he
had a moment of exaltation, such as the young knight must have felt when
the golden spurs were fastened to his heel.

"You can trust me, Governor," he breathed; "and if there's no get-out,
send me the _Life of Napoleon_."

The _Life of Napoleon_ had a special interest for the Governor's
friends.

He stayed on for an hour whilst Bob talked about West End jewellers,
their peculiarities and weaknesses.


CHAPTER V

MR. J. G. REEDER began to take a solicitous interest in West End
jewellers' shops soon after the Hauptmann affair. For the Hauptmann
affair was serious; that a shop manager should be bludgeoned in broad
daylight and three emerald necklaces snatched from a show-case was bad
enough; that the two thieves should escape with their booty was a very
black mark against police administration.

Questions were being asked in Parliament, an under-secretary interviewed
a police chief and made pointed comments on efficiency. Then it was that
Mr. Reeder was asked to "collaborate." He was a member of the Public
Prosecutor's staff, and for some strange reason was _persona grata_ at
Scotland Yard--which is odd, remembering how extremely unpopular
non-service detectives are at that institution.

So it came to be that Mr. Reeder spent quite a lot of time wandering
about the West End of London, his frock-coat buttoned tightly, his
square-topped bowler hat at the back of his head, a disconsolate figure
of a man. Jewellers came to know him; they were rather amused by his
helplessness and ignorance of the trade.

One of them spoke to Inspector Gaylor.

"What use would he be in a raid? He must be a hundred years old!"

"A hundred and seven," said Gaylor soberly. "At the same time I wouldn't
advise you to stand in his way if he's in a hurry."

Griddens was robbed that night, the contents of the strong room taken;
the night watchman was never seen again. Then the Western Jewellers
Trust had a visit which cost the underwriter twelve thousand pounds.
Mortimer Simms, the court jewellers, was robbed in daylight.

Mr. Reeder was in bed when two of these robberies occurred. When he
appeared after the Mortimer Simms affair he was subjected to a certain
amount of derision.

But Mr. Reeder was not distressed. He continued his studies and delved
into the mysteries of precious stones. He handled diamonds which were
not diamonds but white sapphires, to the top of which a slither of
diamond was attached. He examined samples of the faker's art which were
entirely new to the detective. He learned of Antwerp agencies which were
exclusively run for the disposal of stolen gems, and of other matters of
criminal ingenuity which, he confessed in a tone of mingled admiration
and shocked surprise, he had never dreamed about.

After the Mortimer Simms robbery he seldom left the West End; actually
lived in a small hotel near Jermyn Street, and applied himself more
closely to the study of jewels and their illicit collectors.

There was a long and blameless interval during which the Governor's men
did not operate. Then one day a typewritten letter came to Mr. Reeder.
It ran:

"Keep your eyes skinned. The Seven Sisters are going--and how! Conduit
Street will be getting lively soon."

There was no signature. The paper on which the letter was written had a
soft, matt surface such as you may find in the racks of any French
hotel, and the "e" in "eyes" had been inadvertently typed "é." A week
passed and nothing happened.

Then, on a dreary afternoon. ...

The Seven Sisters lay glittering in their blue velvet case for all who
cared to stop and admire. They had been written about and photographed,
and usually there was a sprinkling of people before Donnyburne's
plate-glass window, doing homage to these seven perfectly matched
diamonds which had once adorned a royal crown.

To-day, because it was raining and a gusty wind was blowing, people
hurried down Conduit Street without pausing before the big jeweller's
store to pay homage.

A big two-seater car drew slowly to the side of the kerb, passed in
front of a stationary taxi-cab and came to a halt twenty yards west of
Donnyburne's. A young man, wearing a long trench coat, got out at his
leisure, examined one of the front tyres carefully, and walked slowly to
the back of the car. A taxi driver, who stood on the edge of the kerb,
smoking a short clay pipe, looked at the young man curiously, though
there was little reason for curiosity, for there was nothing
extraordinary about him. He was rather good-looking; his skin was a deep
olive; on his upper lip was a small reddish moustache. The hair under
the soft hat was red too, but nobody observed him very closely at the
moment.

He walked back to Donnyburne's and stood before the window, examining
the Seven Sisters. Then, without haste, he seemed to be drawing a circle
with his finger. There was a curious squeaking sound, and when he pushed
at the window the circle of glass fell inward. He lifted the case,
snapped down the lid and walked back to where his car was waiting. The
taxi driver had his back towards him, and saw him pass and jump into the
car, which stood with its engines running. Then:

"Stop that man!"

Somebody screamed the words from the doorway of the jeweller's. It was
unfortunate that a policeman turned the corner and came into sight at
that moment. He saw the gesticulating shop assistant, and as the car
moved he leaped upon the running-board and caught the left arm of the
driver. For a second the young man jerked backward, but he could not
loose the hold. His knees gripped the steering column as the car
gathered speed; his right hand fell into his side pocket.

"That's yours," he said very calmly, and as cold-bloodedly as a butcher
might destroy a beast, he shot the policeman through the face.

It was done in a second. He dropped the gun to his side, gripped the
wheel and spun round the corner.

He had not seen the elderly man with the side whiskers and the queer top
hat, a man who, in spite of the rain, did not wear an overcoat nor was
his umbrella unfurled. If he had seen him he might not have considered
Mr. Reeder a serious obstacle to his plans. Indeed, he gasped his
amazement when, just as the car took a turn, he jumped to the
running-board.

"Stop, please!"

The driver dropped his hand to his side. Before he could raise it
something sprayed into his face, something that took the breath from his
body and left him fighting for air.

Mr. Reeder switched off the engine, guided the car to the kerb, and
allowed it to crash itself violently to a standstill against a
stationary lorry. It had hardly stopped before he gripped the young man
and dragged him on to the sidewalk.

Police whistles were blowing; he saw two policemen running, and handed
over his prisoner.

"Search him before you take him to the station," he said gently. "It is
quite permissible in the case of a man who is carrying dangerous
firearms."

He picked up the pistol from the seat of the car, examined it carefully
and dropped it into his pocket. The young man had recovered from the
shock of the ammonia fumes that had been vaporised into his face, and by
this time he was handcuffed. A cab drew up to the edge of the kerb, and
the policeman signalled him.

"No, no." Mr. Reeder was very insistent. "There is too little room in a
cab. Perhaps that gentleman would help us."

He nodded to a stout man in a big limousine which had pulled up to give
its occupant an opportunity of satisfying his curiosity.

The stout man went pale at the suggestion that his car should be used
for the conveyance of a murderer, but eventually he took his seat by the
driver. It was to Marlborough Street that the prisoner was taken, and
whilst the inspector was telephoning to Scotland Yard Mr. Reeder offered
intelligent advice.

"Take every stitch of his clothing from him and give him new clothes,
even if you have to buy them," he said. "I'm afraid I have a--um--
rather--um--criminal mind, and I am just putting myself in this--er--
unfortunate young man's place, and wondering exactly what I should do."

The clothing was removed; an old suit was discovered, and, by the time
Chief Inspector Gaylor arrived from Scotland Yard, Mr. Reeder was making
a very careful examination, not of the pockets, but of the lining of the
murderer's discarded waistcoat. Between the lining and the shaped cloth
of the breast he found a thin white paper which contained as much
reddish powder as could be put upon the little finger-tip. In the lining
of the coat he found its fellow. In the heel of the right boot, running
the length of the sole, was a double-edged knife, thin and very flexible
and keen.

"Pretty well equipped, Mr. Reeder." Gaylor viewed the discoveries with
interest. "It almost supports your view."

"It quite supports my view, Mr. Gaylor, if you will allow me to say so."
Mr. Reeder was apologetic. "As a rule I do not believe in--um--organised
crime. The story of Napoleon Fagins at the heads of large bodies of men
banded together for--um--illegal purposes is one at which--well,
frankly, I have smiled hitherto."

"He got away with the Seven Sisters, eh?" Mr. Gaylor looked around.
"Where are they?" Mr. Reeder shook his head.

"I'm afraid they're not here. That is one of the mysteries--indeed, the
only mystery--of the raid. The assistant saw him from the moment he
committed the crime till the moment he got into his car. When we
arrested him we found neither the diamonds nor the case. The car is in
the yard, being scientifically dissected, if I may employ so gruesome an
illustration. I picked up the machine as it came round the corner, and
there was no chance of his getting rid of the diamonds whilst he was
under my eye.

"I searched his pockets the moment the police came up. And that--um--is
that."

It was no coincidence that he had been in the region of Donnyburne's
that afternoon. Mr. Reeder did not as a rule pay very much attention to
anonymous "squawks," but he had been impressed by the paper, and the "e"
with the acute accent. Such an afternoon was climatically most
favourable for such a raid, and it was only by a fluke that he was not
an actual witness of the murder. He had heard the shot and almost
instantly the murderer's car had come into sight.

"He has given the name of John Smith, which is highly unimaginative.
There are no papers to identify him. The car was hired from the Golston
Garage--hired by the week, and a substantial deposit paid. John Smith
has been seen in the West End of London, but nothing is known against
him, and for the moment it is impossible to trace his address. I should
imagine that he was living at a good hotel somewhere in the West End of
London. He has lived in Paris, I should think; his shoes, his shirt and
his necktie are French made. He probably arrived in London a week ago."

There was nothing to be gained by questioning John Smith. He seemed to
feel the disgrace of wearing block-made clothes more acutely than the
brand of murderer, and when the inspector questioned him he was
indifferent and unrepentant.

"There's one thing I'd like to ask you--was that old bird who gassed me
J. G. Reeder? I'd like to have him alone for a few minutes."

"You with a gun, I suppose?" said Gaylor savagely.

He was no philosopher where a comrade had been killed in the execution
of his duty. People who kill policemen receive no consideration from
such of the police as happen to be alive.

"With your hands, eh? He'd beat the life out of you, you dirty
murderer!"

John Smith was amused.

"I shan't hang, don't worry," he said, almost airily. "Don't ask me who
my confederates are, because I wouldn't dream of telling you. Besides,
the new police regulations prevent your asking me questions, don't
they?"

He showed two rows of even white teeth in a smile.


CHAPTER VI

HE was as confident the next morning, the more so since his hotel
address had been discovered and he was allowed to wear his own clothes,
after they had been carefully searched.

The proceedings at the police court were formal. An indubitable murderer
was in custody, and for the moment the police were concentrating on
their search for the missing diamonds. Whither they had gone was a
mystery. The taximan whose cab was near Donnyburne's said he had seen
the murderer carrying a blue velvet case in his hand; that was the first
thing that aroused his suspicion. He had not seen the murder committed;
he had been looking round at the moment for his fare, a middle-aged lady
whom he had picked up at Victoria and who had kept him waiting an hour,
and eventually had not returned.

"It's the first time I've been bilked for ten years," he said. He had
this little trouble of his own.

He had heard the shot, had seen the car go round the corner, leaving a
dead man lying half in the road and half on the sidewalk, and had run to
his assistance. A woman who was walking on the other side of the road,
who also had heard the shot and had seen the machine pass on, was
emphatic that nothing had been thrown from the car, nor did it seem
likely to Mr. Reeder that the robber should attempt to throw away the
gems he had won so dearly.

The car, as he had said, had been inspected, the lining removed, and had
been stripped to its chassis and the inner panelling unscrewed. But
there was no sign of the seven diamonds.

Not for the first time in his life, Mr. J. G. Reeder was up against the
unbelievable. He had scoffed at gangs all his life; and here
undoubtedly, and in the heart of London, was operating no mere
confederacy of two or three men, whose acts were dictated by opportunity
and expediency, but a body directed by a master mind (Mr. Reeder
shuddered at the discovery that he was accepting such a bogey as a
master criminal), operating on pre-determined plans and embodying not
one branch of the criminal profession but several.

After the police court proceedings he went, as usual, by tramcar, a
sad-looking figure, sitting in a corner seat, resting his hands upon the
handle of his umbrella and expressing his gloom on his face.

The long journey was all too short for him, for he was resolving many
things in his mind.

It was dark when he came to Brockley Road. As he alighted from the car
and cautiously crossed that motor-infested thoroughfare he was amazed to
see a familiar figure standing on the corner of the street. Gaylor did
not often honour him by visiting the neighbourhood.

"You are here, are you?" Inspector Gaylor was obviously relieved.

Another man had alighted from the tramcar at the same time as Mr.
Reeder, but he had hardly noticed him.

"It's all right, Jackson." Gaylor addressed him familiarly. "You'll find
Benson up the road. Stay outside Mr. Reeder's house. I will give you
fresh instructions when I come out."

They passed into Mr. Reeder's modest domicile together.

"You've got a housekeeper, haven't you, Mr. Reeder? I'd like to talk to
her."

Mr. Reeder looked at him, pained.

"Aren't you being a little mysterious, my friend? You may think it odd,
but I detest mysteries."

He was saved the trouble of ringing for his housekeeper, for that
amiable lady came from some lower region to meet her employer.

"Has anybody been here?" asked Gaylor.

Mr. Reeder sighed, but did not protest.

"Yes, sir, a gentleman came with a letter. He said it was very urgent."

"Nothing else?" asked Gaylor. "He didn't leave a parcel?"

"No, sir," said the housekeeper, surprised.

Gaylor nodded.

The two men went to Mr. Reeder's study. The curtains were drawn, a
little fire burned in the grate. It was one of those high-ceilinged
rooms, and had an atmosphere of snug comfort. Gaylor closed the door.

"There's the letter." He pointed to the desk.

It was typewritten, addressed to "J. G. Reeder, Esq." and marked "Very
Urgent."

"Do you mind seeing what it says?"

Mr. Reeder opened the letter. It was a closely typed sheet of
manuscript, which had neither preamble nor signature. It ran:

"Re John Smith. I am asking you what may seem at first to be an
impossible favour. You are one of those who saw the shooting of
Constable Burnett, and your evidence will be of the greatest importance
in the forthcoming trial. I do not hope to save him if he comes into
court. If you will help him to escape by such methods as I will outline
to you, I will place to your credit the sum of fifty thousand pounds. If
you refuse, I will kill you. I am putting the matter very clearly, so
that there can be no mistake on either side. It is not necessary to tell
you that fifty thousand pounds will provide you with comfort for the
rest of your life and place you in a position of independence. I promise
you that your name will not be connected with the escape. John Smith
must not hang. I will stop at nothing to prevent this. Nothing is more
certain than that you will meet your death if you refuse to help. If you
are interested, and you agree, insert an advertisement in the agony
column of _The Times_ next Tuesday, in the following terms:

'JOHNNY,--meet me at the usual place.--JAMES.'

and we will go further into this matter."

Reeder put down the letter and stared incredulously at his companion.

"Well?" said Gaylor.

"Dear me, how stupid!" murmured Mr. Reeder. He looked up at the ceiling.
"That makes forty-one, or is it forty-two?"

"Forty-two what?" asked Gaylor curiously.

"Forty-two people have threatened to take my life if I didn't do
something or other, or because I have done something--or is it
forty-three?"

"I have had a similar letter," said Gaylor. "I found it at my house when
I got home to-night. Reeder, this is one of the biggest things we have
ever struck. It is certainly the biggest thing I have ever known in my
experience as a police officer. It is something more than an ordinary
gang. These people have money and probably influence, and for some
reason or other we have hurt them pretty badly when we took this young
man. What are you going to do?"

Mr. Reeder pursed his lips as if his immediate intention was to whistle.

"Naturally, I shall not put in the advertisement as our friend
suggests," he said. "Why next Tuesday? Why not to-morrow? What is the
reason for the delay? The letter was urgently delivered; it is sure to
call for an urgent reply. It is a little too obvious."

Gaylor nodded.

"That is what I thought. In other words, nothing will happen to you
until next Tuesday. My impression is that we are in for a troublesome
time almost immediately; that is why I telephoned to the Yard to have
one of my men pick you up and shadow you down here. These people will
move like lightning. Do you remember what this fellow said this morning
in court? The whole story was a fabrication and a case of mistaken
identity. That is a pretty conventional excuse, Reeder, but it was very
well timed. Who are the witnesses against this man? You are one of the
principals; I am, in a way, another. The shop assistant is a third. The
two policemen who arrested him hardly count. Huggins, the taxi-driver,
one of the most important, disappeared at six o'clock this evening."

Mr. Reeder nodded at him thoughtfully. "I foresaw that possibility," he
said.

"His taxi-cab was found in a side street off the Edgware Road," Gaylor
went on. "There was blood on the seat and on the window of the cab. He
lives over the mews very near the place where it was found. He hasn't
been home, and I don't suppose he'll come home," he added grimly. "I
have got two men looking after the shop assistant, who lives at Anerley.
He also has had a warning not to go to court. Does that strike you as
interesting?"

Mr. Reeder did not answer. He loosened his frock coat, put his hat
carefully on a side table and sat down at his desk. He stared absently
at Gaylor for some time before he spoke, then, opening a drawer, he took
out a folder and extracted two sheets of foolscap.

"It is very bad to have preconceived ideas, Mr. Gaylor," he said. "I did
not believe in gangs. I thought they were a figment--if you will excuse
the expression--of the novelist's imagination, and here I am discussing
them as seriously as though they were a normal condition of life. By the
way, I knew the cabman had disappeared. It was silly of us not to have
arrested him--in fact, I went to arrest him, and then I heard of the--
um--accident."

Gaylor gaped at him.

"Arrest him?" incredulously. "Why on earth?"

"He had the Seven Sisters--the diamonds. Obviously nobody else could
have had them. They were tossed into the cab by Smith--whose name, I
think, is Danny Brady--as he passed. In fact, the cab was planted there
for the purpose. Huggins--an interesting name--was one of the gang. The
blood-stained cab is picturesque, but unconvincing. I should have the
Channel ports very carefully watched and circulate a description of the--
um--deceased."


CHAPTER VII

Mr. Reeder's theory had a rapid confirmation. "Huggins" was picked up
the next night, not at a Channel port, but at Harwich, and he took his
place in the dock as an accessory to the murder.

Friday came and passed. There was no evidence of reprisal. Gaylor would
have placed detectives on guard before and in Mr. Reeder's house, but
that gentleman grew so unusually testy at the suggestion that the
inspector decided to let his colleague die any way he wished.

"I'll be--um--blowed!" said Mr. Reeder, and apologised for his vulgarity.
"That letter was what is called in America a--um--'front.' In other
words, it was a show-off and meant nothing. I suspect friend Kressholm
is establishing an alibi."

"A little late for an alibi," said Gaylor.

"Not so late as you think," was Reeder's cryptic reply.

It was during the trial of Daniel Brady that Kressholm came to London.
There was no reason why he should not. He held a British passport, and
there was not a scrap of evidence to connect him with the crime.

He had not been at his hotel five minutes when they telephoned from the
inquiry office to ask him if he would see a lady. Before they told him
Wenna's name he knew who it was.

Sorrow had refined, as it had aged, her. He never realised how much
older than Danny she was till he saw that pale, haggard face.

"I've seen Danny," she said breathlessly. "He told me that he was coming
to London. I've called here three times this afternoon. He believes in
you--"

"What did he tell you?" His voice was sharp.

Danny's confidence in him did not outweigh his alarm. That he should be
even remotely associated with this crime. ...

She shook her head impatiently.

"You needn't worry, Kressholm; I know you are in this. No, no, he didn't
tell me, but I know. What can we do? You've got to save him."

He was staring at her hungrily, and, distressed as she was, she did not
realise that even in this tragic moment his interest was for her and not
for the man who stood in the shadow of the scaffold.

"I don't know what we can do. I'm getting the best lawyers. Only
Reeder's tied him up pretty completely."

"Reeder" she gasped. "That old man! Has he done this?"

Bob Kressholm nodded.

"He's always been down on the Bradys," he said glibly. "That old bird
will rather die than let up on Danny. He was waiting for him--in fact,
he arrested him."

She sat down heavily in a chair and buried her face in her hands. He
stood looking at the slim, bent back. That must be the ring that Danny
gave her--the glittering sapphire on her finger. He went angrily hot at
the thought.

It must be ten years since that disagreeable episode in the wood. She
had forgotten all that perhaps ...he had been a little raw. At any rate,
she had forgiven him or she would not be here.

"I hate to see you like this, Wenna," he said. "I'll fix Reeder for you
one of these days."

She sprang to her feet, her eyes blazing.

"One of these days--you? Don't worry, Kressholm, I'll fix him. If
anything happens to Danny--" Her voice broke.

He soothed her with the clumsiness which was part of his insincerity.

She would have attended the trial, but he dissuaded her; she would upset
Danny, he said. In truth he was anxious that she should not meet Reeder,
that astute man who had a disconcerting habit of telling unpleasant
truths, and he was glad that the girl had taken his advice when, on the
opening day of the trial, Reeder approached him outside the Old Bailey.

"You're giving evidence, of course, Mr. Kressholm?"

The other man turned his suspicious eye upon his questioner.

"What do I know about it? I know Danny, of course, but I've been out of
the crooked game so long that he wouldn't have told me he was going to
do a fool thing like shooting a copper."

"Indeed?" Mr. Reeder inclined his head graciously. "I suppose that
governors do not take risks--"

"Governors!" said the man scornfully. "Where did you get that word?
You've been listening to those penny-dreadful flatties at the Yard! No,
I tried to keep the boy straight he's the son of my pal, and that's why
he is having all the legal assistance that money can buy."

"And Mr. Huggins--who, by the way, was identified this morning by a
South African police officer, who happened to be in London, as Peter
Hertz--is _his_ father a friend of yours?"

For a second Bob Kressholm was embarrassed.

"Naturally I shall look after him," he said at last. "I don't know the
bird, but they say that he is a friend of Danny's. I don't even know the
gang."

Mr. Reeder looked down at the pavement for a long time.

"Is there anything wrong with my boots?" asked Kressholm facetiously.

Mr. Reeder shook his head.

"No--only I shouldn't like to be standing in them," he said. "Red Joe
Brady is due for release in a month's time."

He left the master-man with this unpleasant reminder.

The trial ran its inevitable course. On the second day the jury retired
and returned with a verdict of guilty against Brady and Hertz. Danny was
sentenced to death and Hertz to fourteen years' penal servitude.

Mr. Reeder was not in court. It was not his business to be there, so he
did not hear the commendations of the judge, or see Danny's frosty smile
as the sentence of death was passed and there came to him the
realisation that the all-powerful Governor was for once impotent. He had
listened to Reeder's evidence closely, and only once did he appear
startled; that was when the detective told of the warning he had had
that the Seven Sisters were threatened.

Mr. Reeder read the account in the late editions of the newspapers and
sighed drearily.

Kressholm was not in court at the last, and had asked for an interview
with the young man, a request which was refused.

It was nearly midnight and Mr. Reeder was preparing to go to bed, when
he heard the front bell ring. He had had installed a small house
telephone on to the street. It saved him a lot of trouble when his
housekeeper had gone to bed. He pressed the knob which lit a small red
lamp in the lintel of the street door and incidentally showed the
concealed receiver of the 'phone, and asked:

"Who is there?"

To his surprise, "Kressholm" was the reply.

Kressholm was the last man in the world he expected to see that night.
He went downstairs slowly, switched on the light in the hall and opened
the door. The man was alone.

"I'm sorry to disturb you--" he began.

"I'll take your apologies in my office," said Reeder. "Do you mind
walking ahead of me?"

He followed the visitor into the big room which was office and
living-room, and, closing the door, pointed to a chair.

"I'll stand," said Kressholm shortly.

He was nervous. His restless hands moved from one button of his overcoat
to the other. He put down his hat in one place, took it up and put it
down in another.

"I want you to understand, Reeder," he began.

"Mister Reeder," said that gentleman gently. "If ever I put you in the
dock you can call me what you like; for the moment I would rather be
called 'mister' which means 'master,' and I will be your master sooner
or later, or my name is Smith!"

Kressholm was taken aback by the correction. He scowled a little and
then laughed nervously.  "Sorry, Mr. Reeder, but this case has rattled
me. You see, the boy was in my charge. His father and I were old
friends."

Mr. Reeder had sat down at his writing-table. He leaned back now and
sighed.

"Is all this necessary?" he asked. "It is not conscience that has
brought you here; it is blue funk, isn't it?"

Kressholm went an angry red.

"I am afraid of nobody in the world." He raised his voice. "Not you--,
and not that damned--"

"S-sh!" J. G. Reeder was apparently shocked. "I do not like strong
language. You are afraid of nobody but Red Joe. I wonder, too, if you
are afraid of that little circus girl who has paid several visits to
your hotel? Miss Haddin, isn't it?"

Bob Kressholm stared but said nothing. He found a difficulty in
speaking.

"She was--um--engaged to the young man. A fiery young woman; I remember
her--yes. If she knew what I know--"

"I don't know what you mean," said Kressholm huskily.

"Then let me tell you why you have called on me," said Mr. Reeder.

He folded his arms on the table and fixed the other with a steely eye.

"When I see his father, you want me to tell him that I and Mr. Gaylor
were offered fifty thousand pounds to secure his escape. We were also
threatened with death if we did not agree."

Kressholm's face was ludicrous in its blank amazement.

"That is just what you wished to ask me," Mr. Reeder went on; "but you
don't exactly know how to broach the subject. Well, it is difficult to
convey to a police officer the fact that you have both tried to bribe
and threaten him without involving yourself in a lot of trouble. I will
save you a little trouble, anyway. You were establishing your defence.
You trained this boy the way he has gone, and it is going to take the
whole Metropolitan Police Force to save your life. If you are wise you
will go back to France and let Red Joe give the French police the bother
of arresting him for your murder."

"If you think _I_ am afraid of Red Joe--"

Mr. Reeder nodded.

"You are terrified, and I think you have very good reason."

Reeder walked to the door and opened it.

"I don't want to talk to you any more, Kressholm." He glanced down. "I
see you are wearing shoes this evening. Well, I should not like to be in
those, either."

Kressholm gave no further explanation. None of his gang, seeing him now,
would have recognised the ruthless Governor they knew.


CHAPTER VIII

DANNY BRADY was a foolish young man, but he had quite enough
intelligence to know that his appeal, which he would make automatically,
was doomed to failure. He was completely satisfied on the subject when
the governor, making his morning visit to the condemned cell, told him
that a parcel of books had arrived for him.

He showed Danny the list and told him he could have one volume at a
time. Danny chose _The Life of Napoleon_. He spent the greater part of
the day writing a letter to the girl he would never see again, and took
_The Life of Napoleon_ to bed with him. About eleven o'clock he put the
book on the floor.

"Leave it there," he said to one of the watchers. "I don't think I am
going to sleep very well to-night."

Now, a condemned prisoner may not sleep with his face covered. When
Danny drew the coarse sheet over his head one of the watching warders
admonished him.

"Turn down that sheet!" he said.

Just at that moment the sheet began to go red very rapidly, for Danny
had cut his throat with a safety razor blade which had been carefully
bound into the cover of the book.

All the available doctors could not save Danny's life; he died before
twelve. The prison governor and four warders sat up all night long
taking evidence from the warders concerned.

Mr. Reeder went down and saw the book. Afterwards he called at a London
hotel where he knew Kressholm was staying. The man had recovered
something of his old poise. He expressed his deep sorrow at the death of
his young friend, but could give no information about that fatal _Life
of Napoleon_. He admitted that in his youth he had been a bookbinder--
that fact was registered on his documents at Scotland Yard, for Bob
Kressholm had been twice in the hands of the police.

"I know nothing about it," he said. "I only put 'bookbinder' because I
thought I'd get an easy job in prison. I don't see how the razor blade
could be put into the binding--"

"It is a very simple matter," said Mr. Reeder patiently. "The boy had
only to tear off the inside paper, and it was easy, because it was stuck
with gum that had not even been set."

He and Gaylor made a search of the man's baggage, but found nothing in
the nature of a bookbinding outfit. There was not sufficient evidence to
have justified an arrest, but Kressholm spent that night in Scotland
Yard answering interminable questions, and was a weary man when they had
finished with him.

The sensation came into the afternoon papers in the shape of a short
paragraph issued by Scotland Yard.

"Daniel Brady, lying under sentence of death, succeeded in committing
suicide last night at eleven o'clock. The weapon was a safety razor
blade which had been smuggled into the prisoner, bound in the cover of a
book, by some person or persons unknown."

It was the next day that the inquest provided the full story of the
tragedy. Mr. Reeder read it from start to finish, though he had heard
the evidence of every witness before the case came to court. He was
reading the newspaper in the room where he had interviewed Kressholm,
and had put it down by his side, when there was a tap at his door and
his housekeeper came in.

"Will you see a man named Joseph Brady?" she asked.

Mr. Reeder drew a long breath. He looked from the woman to the
newspaper, then picked up the paper, carefully folded it and put it into
his wastepaper basket.

"Yes, I will see Joseph Brady," he said softly.

Joe had not changed, save that his hair, which had been red, was almost
white, and the smooth face that Reeder had known was drawn and haggard.

Reeder pushed up a chair for the stricken man, and he dropped into it.
For fully five minutes neither spoke, then Joe lifted his head, and
said:

"Thank God he went that way!"

Reeder nodded.

"I read about the case in prison." Brady's voice was even and steady. "I
thought I'd get to London in time to see him, but I got there the
morning after it happened. I could have seen him then, but it would have
meant going to the inquiry and giving evidence, and telling a lot of
things that I want to keep to myself."

There was another long interregnum of silence. The man sat, head bent,
his arms folded on his breast. He showed no other evidence of his
emotion. After a while he looked up.

"You're as straight a man as I've ever met, Reeder. I've heard other
lags say they look upon you more as a pal than an enemy, but that isn't
why I've come to see you. I've come to talk about"--there was a pause--
"Kressholm--Bob Kressholm."

"Why bother with him?" asked Mr. Reeder, and knew he was saying
something very inane.

A quick smile came and left the man's face.

"I thought I'd tell you something. I know all that Kressholm's done to
my boy, and I know why he did it--about this kid Wenna, I mean. No, I
haven't seen her, I won't see her yet. I've been talking with the boys,
you know--the underworld, you call it--"

"I don't, but quite a lot of people do. And what did they tell you?"

"They say Danny was caught on a squeal--that somebody planted you to get
him. The same man, I guess, who told you about my printing plant in the
caravan." He paused expectantly, and when Mr. Reeder said nothing he
laughed harshly. "I thought so! I've got money--stacks of it. I'm one of
the few crooks who have ever made a fortune and kept it. I'm going to
spend that money wisely. I'm going to use it to kill Kressholm."

Mr. Reeder murmured something admonitory, but the man shook his head.

"I'm telling you that I'm going to kill him. That's going to be my
little joke. But I shan't be caught, and I shan't be punished. I'm going
to hang him, Reeder--hang him by the neck till he's dead. That's the
sentence I've passed on him! And neither you nor any other man will know
it. That's the thought that's keeping me sane."

"You're mad, you fool," said Mr. Reeder, with unusual roughness. "No
murderer ever gets away with it in this country. I'm not taking too much
notice of what you say--I feel terribly sorry for you. If I were not an--
um--officer of the law I should say he deserved almost anything that's
coming to him. Get out of the country--go to the Cape or somewhere. I'll
help you at Scotland Yard--"

Red Joe shook his head.

"I stay here. I'm not leaving this country even if Kressholm leaves.
He'll come back--there's nothing more certain than that--and I'll kill
him, Reeder! I came to tell you that, and to tell Scotland Yard that."

He picked up his hat and walked to the door. For once in his life Mr.
Reeder found himself entirely devoid of speech. He walked to the window
and looked out: a taxi-cab was waiting; he saw the man enter and drive
off, and, going back to the telephone, he called Gaylor.

The inspector was out and was not reachable. Mr. Reeder contented
himself with writing the gist of the interview and sending it by express
post to Scotland Yard.

It occurred to him afterwards that it was his duty to arrest the man
summarily; he was a convict on licence, and had uttered threats to
murder, which in itself was a felony. But somehow that solution never
occurred to Mr. Reeder. And it must be admitted, although he was on the
side of the law, that it took him a long time to energise himself into
ringing up the hotel where he knew Kressholm was staying. He did not
expect to find that good hater, and was surprised when, after a short
delay, Kressholm's voice replied to his.

The man listened and laughed scornfully. Evidently something had
happened which had removed his fear of Red Joe, and what that something
was Mr. Reeder was curious to know, but was not satisfied. It was Bob
Kressholm who pointed out the strict path of duty, and Mr. Reeder was
pardonably annoyed.

"If he threatened me why didn't you pinch him?" demanded Kressholm.
"You'd look silly if he did me in--but he won't."

"Why are you so sure, my dear friend?" asked Mr. Reeder gently.

"Because, my dear friend," mocked Kressholm's voice, "I am a pretty
difficult man to reach."


CHAPTER IX

MR. REEDER was well aware of the fact; Kressholm never moved without his
escort of gunmen. He had seen them hovering in the background that day
at the Old Bailey. Not for nothing was he called "the Governor"; the
very title presupposed a following. He had doubled his escort since he
heard that Red Joe was out of prison. His men slept in the rooms on
either side of his. He had a guard outside the hotel.

Kressholm would have gone to Paris--he knew the bolt holes better there,
and had a certain pull with important officials, and, but for Wenna, he
would have left England on the day of the inquest. But Wenna was
unusually humble and pathetically helpless. Old Lew Haddin came down to
London to bring her back to the show. He was not so much concerned by
the tragedy which had broken her as by the loss of an attraction.

"I'll come when I'm ready," she said.

Lew complained sadly to Kressholm that girls were quite different from
what they had been in the days of his mother.

"No respect for God or man--or fathers," he quavered. "She's afraid of
nothing. She was making lions jump through hoops when she was ten, and
she thinks no more of dropping two thousand feet on a parachute than you
and me would think of walking downstairs."

He complained, but left her alone.

She had so far forgotten her old detestation of Bob Kressholm that she
used to go to dinner with him in his suite. If she contributed nothing
to his happiness--for she would sit for hours, hardly speaking a word,
staring past him--she added zest and determination to this man who was
in her thrall. He saw a grand culmination to these years of
disappointment and rebuff. Red Joe he did not fear--he would be "taken
care of." If he were uneasy at all it was because Joe made no direct
attempt to see him, did not communicate by word or letter.

Though he professed to be without fear, he heaved a sigh of relief when
he heard, from the man whom he had set to shadow him, that Brady had
left one afternoon for the Continent. For one moment he had an idea of
ringing up Scotland Yard and reporting this irregularity. A convict is
not allowed to leave the district to which he is assigned, and a breach
of this law might bring about his return to prison to complete his
sentence.

Only once he spoke to Wenna Haddin about Joe. She answered his question
with a shake of the head.

"No, I haven't seen him--poor man; I expect he's too heartbroken to see
anybody. I think if anybody loved Danny as much as I did it was his
father."

She thought for a long time, then she said: "I'd like to see him.
Perhaps he'd help."

"With Reeder?" And, when she nodded: "Don't be silly! Joe thinks Reeder
is the best chap in the world! That surprises you, doesn't it? But then,
you see, Joe doesn't know what Reeder's done for him. That old man is as
artful as the devil. If you told Joe he'd laugh at you."

She was eyeing him steadily.

"Why? If you can convince me you could convince him."

He was rather taken aback.

"I didn't convince you, I merely told you the truth," he said.

She did not answer this, and he reached out and laid his hand on hers.
She made no attempt to withdraw it.

"Poor Red Joe!" Her voice softened.

He never knew how simple or complex she was; whether she was either, or
just a humdrum medium made radiant through the eyes of his passion. Old
Lew Haddin, white-haired and obese, could talk for hours in his
monotonous, sleep-making voice and always the subject was Wenna and her
peculiar values. Red Joe once said she had the brains of a general, but,
by accounts, some generals are rather stupid.

"Why poor Joe?" he asked, and suddenly tightened his grip on her hand.

"We have kept his caravan just as he left it," she said. "Nobody uses
it, of course; I tidy it every week. Lew grumbles at the cost of
haulage" (she invariably referred to her parent in this familiar way)
"and deducts it from Joe's share; he owns half the park." As she spoke
she looked at him oddly. "You are a friend of Joe's?"

"Yes."

She nodded.

"Then I can ask you something. He was charged with forging bank-notes,
wasn't he? Could they imprison him again supposing they found something
else against him?"

Kressholm became suddenly very attentive. "Like what?" he asked.

"Bonds and letters of credit. I found the plates in the wall lining of
the caravan. He had a sort of secret panel there. Nobody knew it."

Bob Kressholm's heart leapt.

"Are they there still?" he asked. He tried to give a note of
carelessness to his inquiry.

She nodded.

"Yes, the plates, and the papers, and everything, Could the law punish
him for that?"

He considered this.

"I shouldn't think so," he said.

He had hazy notions about the English law, but here he saw the making of
a second charge, which might easily dispose of a serious menace. She
told him that Joe had had an assistant, a man who still worked with the
circus, and who was the only person beside herself who had access to the
van.

When he left her that night Kressholm had made up his mind. He tried to
get in touch with the detective, but J. G. Reeder was out of town. He
was working on a case in the South of England. What that case was
Kressholm learned from the newspapers, and his hopes rose higher.


CHAPTER X

MR. REEDER was very heavily engaged, but found time to call at
Kressholm's hotel.

"I'd have come to you--" began Bob.

"I'd rather you didn't." J. G. could be offensive on occasions. "I have
already a--um--bad name in Brockley."

Kressholm swallowed this with a grin.

"I noticed in the newspapers that you were working on a case, and I
wondered if I could help you," he said. "I'd like to do you a turn if I
could."

"I'm so sure of that," murmured Mr. Reeder. "It is a great joy to know
that one's efforts are appreciated by the--um--unconvicted classes."

Without further preliminary Kressholm told him of what he had learnt
from the girl, and J. G. Reeder listened without apparent interest. Yet,
if this story were true, here was a big link in the chain he was piecing
together with such difficulty.

"Are you sure that this story isn't suggested by the foolish paragraph
you read in the newspapers?" he asked.

"If I die this minute--" began Kressholm.

"You would go straight to hell," said Mr. Reeder gravely. He was one of
those old-fashioned people who believed in hell.

"No, this is straight, Mr. Reeder," protested Kressholm. "I thought that
you ought to know this. I'm not telling you this because I am scared of
Joe, so that I want to get him out of the way. I am telling you--well,
because I feel that you ought to know."

Mr. Reeder nodded slowly.

"In the interest of justice, of course," he said. "Very--um--
commendable. Where is this--er--entertainment park at the present
moment?"

"They will be near Barnet next Monday," said Kressholm; then, anxiously:
"What is the law on the subject, Mr. Reeder?"

J. G. pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"I'm not a lawyer," he said. "But, of course, it is very, very wrong to--
um--be in possession of the instruments of forgery. And this assistant,
you say, is still carrying on the--er--bad work?"

"So she--so I understand," Kressholm corrected himself hastily.

He offered a suggestion which was received without comment: Joe's
caravan was invariably parked on the outside edge of the camp, and could
be approached without observation. The night watchman who patrolled the
fair-ground rarely went as far.

"I will undertake to get you the key of the van. As a matter of fact, I
am staying the night on Monday. I suppose you could get a search warrant
and that sort of thing; but I am asking you as a personal favour to make
sure I'm right before you get a warrant. I do not want to be brought
into this."

"You don't want to be brought into anything, Mr. Kressholm," said Reeder
unpleasantly. "Hitherto you have been very successful. Is the young lady
a friend of yours now?"

If he had stopped to think Bob Kressholm would have realised that no
young lady's name had been mentioned.

"We have always been good friends," he said, and then realised his
mistake. "I suppose you mean Miss Haddin I don't know what she's got to
do with it."

"A nice young lady, but rather--impetuous," said Mr. Reeder. "She
thought I was responsible for Joe's arrest, when really it was you. She
probably thinks I was responsible for Danny Brady's death, when it was--
um--you know, I think, who it was. It is all very interesting."

Mr. Reeder had something to think about. Nobody credited so staid and
matter-of-fact a man with such an insatiable sense of curiosity as he
possessed. All that night until he retired to his chaste bedroom he
pondered the information Bob Kressholm had offered. His acquaintance
with the law told him that the re-arrest of Red Joe would be followed by
an acquittal. The man had served imprisonment for an act of forgery and
if some other act, which had occurred concurrently, was revealed, the
law would take a lenient view.

The mysterious assistant was another matter. Mr. Reeder had not heard of
an assistant, but then there was quite a number of happenings about
which he knew nothing.

It was a coincidence that he had been occupied for two or three days
with the matter of forged letters of credit. There was no secret about
this. The fact that the forged letters had been cashed and that Mr. J.
G. Reeder, "the well-known forgery expert," had been in consultation
with certain bank managers in Brighton had been published in the morning
newspaper, and had been read by Kressholm. The man who was passing the
letters had also negotiated some bearer bonds of a spurious character.
That fact, too, was public property.

And yet all the evidence he had accumulated pointed to a certain
_hochstapler_ in Berlin, about whom the Berlin Criminal Police were
pursuing close inquiries. There was a German end to it beyond any doubt,
but that did not mean that the letters had not been forged in England. A
search warrant would be easy to secure, and as easy to execute. Yet he
hesitated to make the necessary application. If the truth be told, Mr.
Reeder had a sneaking sympathy with Red Joe.

The police thought they had removed every kind of plate and press from
the van. It was quite possible that the press had been renewed and was
being employed to print from the plates which only Joe could have made.
He consulted Gaylor on the subject, but the inspector was not
enthusiastic. It was one of those frequently recurring periods when the
police were unpopular because they had failed to secure two important
convictions, and the usual questions were being asked in the House of
Commons.

"It's the German crowd, I should think. Where did you get the
information from? I'm sorry."

That was a question that police officers did not ask Mr. Reeder; he
either volunteered the source or refused it, for he was very jealous
about betraying the confidence of the least worthy of men. There was
reason in this, because such revelations frequently compromised other
and more important "squeaks."

Reviewing all the possibilities, J. G. Reeder decided not to pay a
nocturnal visit to the Haddin menage, and when Mr. Kressholm rang him up
at his home, he cut short the elaboration of that gentleman's
instructions.

It was a disappointed man who travelled to Barnet on the Monday
afternoon, though his discomfort was short lived.

He had re-established contact with Wenna Haddin--an amazing
accomplishment, all the more remarkable because he had recovered all the
old fascination she had exercised. Ten years is a very long time; men
and women change in that period, especially women.

But time had stood still for Wenna; the slim beauty of her went to his
head like wine, and when she gave him a cold welcome at the door of the
big caravan which old Lew had built for her, he could have shut his eyes
and believed that it was only yesterday that their acquaintance had
ended dramatically in that little plantation near the Exeter fair-ground.

"Lew is away," she said. "He has gone to Liverpool to see a shipment of
wild beasts that have arrived from Africa. You will sleep in his van."

He glanced at her sleeping bunk, covered now with a gaily coloured
cloth. Above the head of the bed was a framed photograph of Danny Brady--
the only picture in the van.

"Poor old Dan!" he said. "I feel responsible." She looked at him
steadily.

"Why?" she asked.

Kressholm shrugged his shoulders.

"I should have given him a better training. Honestly, I tried to keep
him out of the crooked game, Wenna."

She smiled faintly.

"He was too useful for you to keep him out," she said. "Let us be
sincere with one another as far as we can be."

She had the disconcerting habit of directness--nobody made Bob Kressholm
feel so foolish as she did.

"You're 'the Governor,' aren't you? I've heard about you, of course,"
she went on. "We have all sorts of queer people working for us--old gaol
birds and people who should be if they had everything that was coming to
them. Were you in London when Danny was arrested?"

He shook his head.

"I rarely leave Paris." And then, feeling that the occasion called for a
little frankness: "I'll tell you the truth, Wenna. I knew that Danny was
doing this job. He was one of my best men. He was impetuous and
undisciplined. The last thing I said to him before he left Paris was
'For God's sake don't carry a gun.' He promised me he wouldn't."

She was looking past him out of the curtained window, and she sighed.

"Reeder, of course, knew as much about the business as I did--I'll hand
it to that old bird; he's got the best information bureau in the world."

She looked round at him.

"And yet he's never caught you," she said. "That's queer, isn't it?"

Bob Kressholm chuckled.

"The man who catches me has got to be up very early in the morning," he
said complacently.


CHAPTER XI

WENNA changed the subject abruptly, told him the news of the camp. They
had had to shoot an elephant the previous week; he had got out of hand
and attacked his keeper. Four new turns were coming from Germany, they
were acrobats; and a new woman rider.

He learned from another source, when he was wandering about the grounds,
watching the men renovating the vans, that Wenna had had a narrow escape
from death when the fair was at Nottingham. The old balloon in which she
made her spectacular ascent had burst in mid-air, and she had only just
time to release herself. Even then, the parachute did not open until she
was less than a hundred feet from the ground. Fortunately, she had
fallen on the top of a straw rick, uninjured.

He talked to her about this over the meal she had served in her van.

"It was nothing," she said carelessly. "I was hoping the parachute
wouldn't open--I'm glad it did now. There's something I want to do very
badly. Lew's got a new balloon; it's the one you saw being filled in the
grounds."

"You've got to cut this parachute jumping, Wenna," he said.

"Why?" she asked. She did not raise her eyes from her plate.

"You're going to cut the circus business altogether." His voice shook a
little. "This morning you said I was the Governor--I am. I've made a
fortune, Wenna, and I'm cutting my little circus too. I've bought a
villa at Como, where I'm going to live half the year, and I'm going to
travel the other half. I'm going to call it the Villa Wenna."

"Why?" she asked again, and when he spoke his voice was husky.

"I've wanted you all these years, and now more than ever. I've only
loved two women in my life, Wenna, and you make me forget the other
one."

She pushed the plate away from her and looked up at him suddenly.

"Is this a marriage proposal or are you suggesting one of those
attachments that are so popular in circuses?" she asked coolly.

Her self-possession took his breath away.

"Why, of course--marriage," he blurted. "You're thinking of what
happened that time at Exeter? I've hated myself ever since. Wenna, I'm
crazy about you."

He reached out for her hand, but this time she drew it away.

"I'll think about it," she said brusquely, and at that moment the big
Swede who was her servant came in with a huge pot of coffee.

He was a big man, hideously ugly, and lame in one leg, the result of a
bad fall; he and his brother had been Wenna's bodyguard as long as she
could remember. They were both past the age for active work in the ring,
but Kressholm had always thought, and had no reason to change his
opinion now, that he would prefer the hug of a bear to a rough and
tumble with these broad-shouldered giants.

"Stephan wears well," he said, when the man had gone, and added
jocularly: "I believe if you told him to cut my throat he'd do it."

She seemed disinclined to discuss Stephan, and when the table was
cleared she found a pack of cards and they played piquet together.
Throughout the game she seldom spoke, and he had the impression that her
mind was far away from the cards, though she played with all her old
skill. But in other respects she was vague, _distraite_, and when she
spoke at all, which was rarely, she gave him the impression that she was
making a conscious effort.

At the end she threw down her hand and leaned back in her folding chair
with a sigh.

"So you're going to marry me, are you, and take me away out of all this?
Como?" She shivered, and her face hardened. "That's where we were going,
to Como--Danny and I," she said, very evenly. And then she changed the
subject with that odd abruptness which he had observed of late. "Have
you seen Reeder?"

The question startled him out of his self-possession. "Reeder?" he
stammered. "No; why should I see Reeder? You've got that man on your
mind."

She nodded.

"Yes, very much on my mind. You haven't seen him?" Her eyes were
searching his face.

Kressholm laughed. He realised how artificial that laugh was. Wenna
turned to a cupboard set in the wall by the bed head, and, opening it,
took out a key.

"You asked me if you could look over Joe's van--here is the key of it.
You won't find the plates, and you're not to make any attempt. I'm
trying to get in touch with Joe. I want him to take the things away."

She was going to say something, but checked herself, walked to the door
and opened it.

"Good-night," she said.

He tried to take her hand, intending no more than to kiss it, but she
snatched it away from him and slammed the door before he was half-way
down the steps.

He found the Swede waiting to show him to his van.

"You want to see Joe's van, don't you?" He had a hoarse, deep voice
which was hardly human.

"Sure," said Kressholm. "You might show me where it is. I don't think
I'll look at it to-night; I'll wait till the morning."

The Swede led the way in silence past shrouded wagons and traction
engines, stopping before a van the contour of which, despite the
darkness, Kressholm recognised. He only wanted to locate it, in case
Reeder changed his mind. Then he followed the Swede back to his own
sleeping place, bade him good-night, and went inside, bolting the door.

Wenna puzzled him. He had the sense that she was expecting some
tremendous happening--her mind was certainly not upon her visitor.

By the aid of a travelling lamp which the Swede had lit for him,
Kressholm sat down to finish some important work that he had begun
before he had left London. It was true that he was surrendering the
title of which he was so proud, and the chieftainship of the group of
gangs which he had directed so skilfully. There was reason more or less;
his jewellery factory at Antwerp had been visited by the police, and
from the fact that they were accompanied by an English detective Bob
Kressholm guessed that this search was a direct consequence of the Seven
Sisters raid.

The French police were working too. He had received news that a "club"
of his had been raided; worse still, his own private apartments on the
Etoile had been visited by detectives and searched.

Unless he had fallen into some error, it was impossible that he could be
associated either with the gang or with the Antwerp establishment. His
connection with questionable enterprises was hidden four deep, and the
police would be clever to connect him with any of the big jewel
robberies which had exercised European police circles during the past
five years.

Now was a good time to finish, with Joe on his track, and Reeder knowing
considerably more about him than he had guessed.

He was totalling up his investments and bank balances in various parts
of Europe, and the sum of them was most satisfactory.

He undressed, put out the light and went to bed. He did not sleep well,
though the bed was comfortable enough. Somewhere in the fair-ground a
lion was roaring hungrily throughout the night. He dozed, only to wake
to a sound which, even in his sleep, had got on his nerves.

He looked at his watch; it had stopped, and, heaving out of bed, he went
to the door, drew aside the curtains and looked out.

He uttered an exclamation under his breath.

A man moved out of the shadow of a covered wagon a dozen yards away; and
then, to his amazement, he saw a girl's figure go to meet the unknown
watcher. A distant church bell boomed four o'clock.

The man and the girl had disappeared. Presently they came into view
again--it was Wenna. There was no other figure like hers in the world;
he could not be mistaken.

She stood for a little time, talking in whispers to the Swedish giant,
then stole away as softly as she had come.

He was puzzled, a little alarmed. What were they doing there at that
hour of the morning? He resolved to ask the girl at the first
opportunity. Though he had advertised his fearlessness, he shot a second
bolt on the door and went to bed. It was daylight when he woke to the
hammering on the door. The Swede was wearing his Sunday best suit and a
collar that fitted awkwardly round his muscular throat.

"If you want any breakfast you'd better have it," he growled. "Hans and
I are going away for the day."

He brought in a tray and put it on the bed whilst he fixed the table
folded against the wall of the caravan. When Kressholm had dressed and
shaved he went to the girl's van and found her sitting on the steps, a
cigarette between her white fingers. There was no evidence that she had
been up all night; she was as fresh and rested as though she had slept
the clock round.

"How did you sleep?" she asked, without looking at him.

"Badly. You ought to give those lions something to eat. Wenna, what were
you doing near my caravan at four this morning?"

He expected her to deny this, but to his surprise she did not attempt to
conceal her presence at that hour.

"Somebody left open a door of the monkey cage and a couple of them got
out," she said. "They usually obey me--we found them. Did I disturb you,
or was it the lions? They're old, and angry because they can never get
enough to eat. I want Lew to shoot them and get another pair. Sims, the
trainer, is afraid of them, which is bad--Lew will have to fire that
man. When a trainer is scared of the animals he's taming, he ought to
quit."

"I'll do a little taming," he said good-humouredly.

"You!" was all she said, but it annoyed him.

Before he could express his annoyance she went on.

"There was only one man who could deal with lions, and that was Joe.
They'd stand on their heads for him, though he was never a trainer. Give
me that key."

He had forgotten all about the key.

"I thought of looking round Joe's van," he said. "I've changed my mind."

She was waiting on the step to take the key from him.

Something was wrong; how badly wrong he could not guess. He did not know
that she had been waiting all that night for the advent of Mr. Reeder,
and that she had counted on his treachery to bring the detective into
her hands. Her hatred of the man who had brought her lover to his death
was an overwhelming obsession. Reeder did not know this; it was
unguessed even by Kressholm. He was to make a discovery before the night
was out.


CHAPTER XII

MR. REEDER had had a heavy day. He had been successful in isolating, if
not in capturing, the authors of the letter of credit. They were, as he
suspected, a German gang operating in Leipzig. That afternoon he spent
the greater part of an hour on the telephone, speaking to the German
police, and, though weary in mind and body, he had the satisfaction of
an accomplishment as he made his way home.

He left Scotland Yard just before dark, and reached home without any
mishap. His housekeeper came to him and reeled off the names of callers
and the gist of telephone messages. She had an unusual memory and rarely
committed telephone messages or even names and addresses to paper. He
listened with closed eyes, stirring his tea, as she went through her
record.

"A man called a quarter of an hour before you came in; a very tall man--
a foreigner, I think. He wanted to see you. He said his name was Jones."

"A very foreign name," murmured Mr. Reeder, in a facetious mood. "One of
the Joneses of Constantinople."

The housekeeper, who had no sense of humour at all, said she wasn't sure
about that.

"What did he want--just to see me?"

"That's all, sir. I thought he acted a bit odd." Mr. Reeder smiled
benevolently.

"All people act odd according to you, my dear lady. I'm afraid you have
a mystery complex. You read too many--um--detective stories. Did anybody
else call and act odd?"

She couldn't recall anybody who was not absolutely normal. Strange
people did come to this modest house in Brockley Road, and they had
names that were stranger than Jones. Mr. Reeder did not regard the
personality or business of this particular visitor worth considering,
and settled himself down to spend a peaceful evening preparatory to an
early retirement. He had hardly finished his toast when his housekeeper
came bustling in.

"He's called again--Jones. He says he's got a message from Mr. Brady--
Mr. Joseph Brady."

Reeder nodded.

"Show him up."

He had never before seen the big man who came awkwardly into the room;
he could not have forgotten a face like Stephan's.

"I come from Mr. Brady." He spoke very slowly, in the sing-sing tone of
a Scandinavian, and he was obviously ill at ease.

"What is the message?" asked Reeder. The man cleared his throat.

"He asked me to say you come to him because he is ill, and he dare not
come out because of all these talks about credit letters."

Mr. Reeder frowned. So far as he knew, Joe Brady was abroad.

"Where is he now?

"He is out of bed, got up," said the man, "and now he himself is
downstairs in the car."

"Tell him to come here."

The man shook his head.

"He will not come, that he says. If you will speak with him a little
while, he shall be very pleased. I was with him working at the circus,
the assistant of him."

Mr. Reeder remembered the mysterious assistant whom for a short space of
time he had suspected.

"All right; go down and wait. I will be with you very shortly."

It was not extraordinary for him to have these furtive interviews with
men who, wisely or wrongly, refused to come to his rooms, and although
it was not what he expected of Red Joe, there might be a very special
reason, and there was no harm in learning what it was.

When he got downstairs and closed the front door behind him he saw the
man waiting on the pavement. A spatter of rain was falling; the
beginnings of a north-west gale swept the deserted street. Near to the
kerb was what Reeder thought was a tradesman's small delivery van. He
did not give it a great deal of attention until the man pointed to the
curtained back of the vehicle.

"He is there. Because of his sickness we have to carry him on a bed."

J. G. Reeder was half-way to the van when he smelt the trap.

It was too late: an arm like a steel bar closed round his throat, a huge
hand covered his mouth. But it was no feeble old gentleman that the
Swede was throttling. Reeder wrenched round and, freeing his arm, struck
a blow which would have paralysed any man of ordinary strength.

"Hans!"

A second man leaped through the opening at the back of the van. Mr.
Reeder did not feel the stick that struck him. When he recovered he was
lying full length on a mattress. The car was apparently moving along a
main thoroughfare, for he could hear the clang of tramcar bells. His
hands and his legs were tied together, but they had not attempted to gag
him.

"If you make a noise I hit you with this iron bar," said a threatening
voice.

Stephan was squatting by his side.

Mr. Reeder's head ached a little, but not very much. He had, he boasted,
the thickest skull of any man associated with the police force. But he
would have dearly loved to have his hands free, and suggested this
course in a weak voice which advertised his feebleness to the hearers.
But they were adamant.

Where were they taking him? He tried to catch a glimpse of the road they
were following, but the tarpaulin covers at the back of the van had been
laced tight. They were still on the tram lines, and after a while he
guessed by the fall in temperature that they were crossing the river.

He was resigned to anything which might happen and was ready to justify
whatever disaster might overtake him. His stupidity had been
unbelievable. To be caught by a trick which would not deceive the most
junior detective that ever patrolled a London street! For that he
deserved everything that happened.

But why--why? He had no active enemies; none certainly who could
contrive so theatrical a vengeance. There were many who disliked him
intensely, and prayed nightly for something unpleasant to happen to him;
but they were first-year men, languishing in Dartmoor and Parkhurst, and
no scheme of reprisals survives the first twelve months of prison. They
would meet him when they were discharged with a self-conscious smile,
and apologise to him for all the things they had promised when they were
sentenced.

Kressholm's gang? It was hardly likely. Kressholm had nothing to gain.

Mr. Reeder then remembered the story of the caravan, the obvious step
that had been made to bring him to the amusement park. Kressholm
couldn't get him there one way, so he was trying another. And yet
Kressholm had no reason for taking a step which might jeopardise his own
safety.

The girl!

The solution came like a flash. Kressholm had been the dupe. Of course,
it was the girl who had told him all this fanciful story about forged
plates, and Kressholm had fallen for it. She knew he was a traitor,
then? That was some satisfaction, though little comfort. Mr. Reeder
began to take a serious view of the position. Men he knew, and he could
foretell to an _nth_ what steps they would take in certain
eventualities; but a woman was a mystery to Mr. Reeder, and had always
remained so. If this fiery young woman had any reason for avenging the
death of Danny Brady there might be some unhappy consequences to this
ride.

The journey seemed interminable, but after something that was over an
hour and seemed just within the limits of eternity, the car turned from
the road and jolted over a rough track. Mr. Reeder's hearing was very
good, though there were times when he pretended to be slightly deaf. He
heard strange sounds which could only have one significance. He was
being taken to a circus, and the mental prediction he had made was
fulfilled.

There had been a scheme to get him here, but he was perfectly certain
that Kressholm was not in it.

As the car stopped, Stephan leaned over, and folded a silk handkerchief
over his prisoner's mouth, knotting it tightly behind. He and the other
man, who descended from the driver's seat, lifted the detective and
carried him across the field.

Rain was falling more heavily now, and the wind was so strong that the
men staggered under their burden. Their progress took them past a
monstrous, pear-shaped object which swayed and rolled so far that it
touched one of his bearers.

This was the balloon on the trapeze of which Wenna swung to the awe of
rustic crowds.

Presently he felt himself being lifted into a caravan, and a few seconds
later was lying on the dusty floor. Red Joe's caravan--he recognised it,
and well he might, for he had once searched it most thoroughly. Stephan
dragged him partly to a sitting position and propped him against the
wall before he unfastened the handkerchief about the prisoner's mouth.

The only light came from a tiny oil lamp hanging on the wall, and by
this he saw that the windows of the caravan were shattered, as also was
the glass upper half of the door. Hans went out, but Stephan waited.

"I hope you won't have to wake the young lady from her beauty sleep,"
said Mr. Reeder politely.

"You shut up!" growled the Swede. "You'll be sorry when she comes!"

"I shan't be sorry when you go," said Mr. Reeder frankly. "You have
certainly the most unpleasant face I have ever seen. I hate to hurt your
feelings, but--ugh!"

Before the Swede could answer him the door was pulled open, and Wenna
Haddin came in. She wore no hat or coat; her blouse was spotted with
rain, her hair wildly dishevelled. She looked what she was, the very
spirit of fury.

"You know me?" she breathed.

He looked at her critically.

"Yes, I think so. ..."

"Danny's girl--you know that! You trapped Danny. ...I've always hated
you. You caught him, and then, when you knew he would appeal ..."

She stopped. The words would not come.

"I found another means of killing him?" said Mr. Reeder. "Did Kressholm
tell you that too?"

"You know what I'm going to do to you, don't you?" she went on
breathlessly. "I'm going to put you in the lions' cage, and if anybody
wants to know how it happened we'll tell them about a man who was
prowling in the night--a sneaking, prying old detective!"

She turned quickly. Somebody was turning the handle. Before she could
shoot the bolt Kressholm was in the caravan, looking from one to the
other.

"What's the idea? ...What are you doing?"

"What I tried to do last night," she said. Her voice was like steel.
"I've got Reeder to the camp, where I wanted him! I thought you'd bring
him--you told him all that I told you? Well, that was a lie--there are
no plates here. I read in the newspaper that he was looking for forged
letters of credit--and I passed this yarn on to you because I was sure
you'd squeal. Joe always said you were a squealer!"

"And Joe," said Mr. Reeder, "was right."

There was a certain flippancy in his tone, though there was little
excuse for light-heartedness.

"What are you going to do with him?"

Kressholm looked from the prisoner to the girl. The Governor governed
nobody now; he was ludicrously impotent.

"He's going into the lions' cage--that's where! Into the lions' cage--
and if you interfere I'll put you there too!"

She was half-hysterical. The actualities were more ugly than the plans
of vengeance she had dreamt of. She was stricken with horror at the
thing she planned to do.

The three of them stood looking down at where Reeder sat. Their backs to
the door, none saw it open, until a rush of cold air made the girl turn.

"Hallo! Giving a party?" said the newcomer.

And then he saw Reeder and his mouth opened wide.

"The man who murdered your son, Joe! Reeder--he sent you to prison. ..."

Her voice was shrill, unnatural. Watching her closely, Mr. Reeder saw
that she was on the verge of collapse. He saw something else: the
white-faced Kressholm edged back along the side of the big caravan, but
he did not pass Red Joe, whose hand shot out and gripped him.

"Is that so?" Red Joe's voice was a drawl. "Untie that gentleman. Hi,
you Swede, I'm talking to you!"

There was an automatic pistol in his other hand. The giant was glaring
at the intruder; at a signal from the girl he would have leaped to his
death, but she put out a shaking hand.

"Untie him. You don't know what you're doing, Joe."

"I guess I do," said Red Joe.

Mr. Reeder rose and stretched himself. By the time he had recovered the
circulation of his numbed hands he was alone in the locked caravan. He
thumped at the door, but without success. There was nothing to do but to
sit and wait.

Two hours passed, and then a key grated in the lock; the door swung
open. It was Red Joe. He came in, closing the door behind him, his hands
thrust deep into his pockets.

"There's a car waiting for you to take you home, Mr. Reeder," he said.
"I'm sorry this happened. This girl was mad. I guess she's always been a
little bit that way. She knows now--Kressholm told her the truth."

"Where is he?"

Joe's shoulders rose in a shrug.

"I've killed him," he said calmly. "She doesn't know; the two Swedes
don't know. I sent them to their caravan. But I killed him as I said I'd
kill him. I was going to shoot him, but then the other idea came to me.
It gave me a chance of keeping my promise--to kill him so as you'd never
find his body. I'm telling you this--we're alone together. If you can
catch me I'm willing to be caught."

"You're under arrest," said Reeder.

All that night the police searched the fair-ground but there was no
vestige of Kressholm. The night watchman had heard nothing; but then, he
had been busy pegging down flapping canvas, and an hour before dawn the
balloon had broken from its moorings and sailed away. The only people
who ever saw that balloon again were officers on a homeward-bound Cape
boat. They saw the big, sagging bag falling into the sea; there was no
car attached to it, but something was swaying to and fro in the gale.

"Almost looks like a man hanging from that balloon," said the chief
officer. He did not check the speed of the boat; the balloon had fallen
five miles away and a heavy sea was running.

This conversation was not repeated to Mr. Reeder for years afterwards.
Even then it was quite superfluous. He had already decided to his own
satisfaction the way Bob Kressholm went.



THE END





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