Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: The Lonely House
Author: Arthur Gask
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1000851.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2010
Date most recently updated: December 2010

This eBook was produced by: Maurie Mulcahy

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Lonely House
Author: Arthur Gask

*

Published in The Advertiser, Adelaide, S.A.
24 September, 1929.


*


CHAPTER I. THE HOUSE OF EVIL.

The detective had been watching for four days before he realised
suddenly that the house was inhabited.

It was a sinister-looking house that stood alone upon a lonely shore in
South Australia, and it lay by the margin of the waves in a little sandy
cove between the dip of two high hills.

It was a place where few men came, for it was cut off from the distant
townships by long, barren wastes of rock-strewn land.

There were no roads nor tracks within many miles of it, and its only
highway was the dark and restless sea, forever teased and fretted by the
winds that blew across the gulf.

And for four whole days he had watched it through his binoculars from
the cliff less than two hundred yards away, and the whole time there had
been no suggestion about it of any life within.

It was a silent house, as still and silent as the grave.

Its door had never opened, he had seen no faces from its window and no
smoke had ever issued from its chimneys--yet in the falling light of
dusk that evening it had flashed to him, as lightning flashes through
the blackness of a midnight sky, that human beings were in hiding there.

And their hiding had been the closer because they had seen him watching.

Then they were evil-doers--they were creatures of crime.

* * * * * * * *

Exactly a week previously, and on a beautiful summer's evening towards
dusk, Gilbert Larose, the best known of all the detectives of the great
Commonwealth of Australia, was crouching down behind a small bush high
up upon the sides of Mount Lofty, watching with an annoyed and frowning
face four men who were climbing slowly up the slope towards him.

They were only about two hundred yards away, and through his binoculars
he could discern plainly the expressions upon their faces. They looked
alert and eager, as if they had some particular and important business
on hand.

They were sturdy, thick-set men, and were all armed with stout sticks.
They walked spread out, fanwise, with about ten yards between them, and
they peered intently into all the bushes as they passed.

"Now if it were not impossible," muttered the detective slowly, "if it
were not impossible, I would swear that they were looking for me." He
nodded his head. "Yes, and they'll find me, too. I ought never to have
camped with that cliff behind me. It serves me right." He glanced round
quickly in every direction.

"Ah!" he ejaculated, "but that rock might save me yet, if only I could
get there first."

He dropped sharply on to his hands and knees and rapidly, but with
extreme caution, began to crawl towards a small rock about a hundred
yards away.

"I may be able to dodge them there," he went on, "and, another chance
too, they mayn't have noticed my bicycle. But what a fool I've been!"

Suddenly then he heard a shout from one of the men. "They've seen me!"
exclaimed the detective disgustedly. "I knew I'd left it until too
late."

But he was mistaken.

"Hell! here's a snake," called out a voice excitedly, "a big
death-adder. Look out, you fellows--it'll be the very place for them
here."

"Kill him." shouted someone else. "Don't run behind, you idiot! He may
spring back. Hit him from the side."

There was a lot of noise, a chorus of shouting, and then the detective
heard an exultant cry.

"Got him! In the middle of the back, just as he was going to turn on me
too."

The detective stopped crawling, and looked round. The four men were all
close together now, and bending over the ground. There was an animated
discussion for a couple of minutes, and then one of them straightened
himself up and gave a long look round.

"Well. I'm tired of this," he announced emphatically, "we've come quite
far enough, and I'm going back on the road. I'm thirsty, and we shall be
too late to get a drink if we're not quick."

There was some talking amongst the other men, and then, apparently being
all in agreement, off they went at right angles to the way they had
previously come.

Smiling in his relief, Larose watched them disappear, and then, after a
long scrutiny to make sure that the coast was quite clear, he walked
down to where they had been standing.

He found the death-adder they had killed, all fouled over now in blood
and dust. The body was still quivering, and picking it up carefully, he
examined the evil-looking head. He pulled the jaws wide open, and
exposed the dreadful poison fangs. "Horrible," he exclaimed with a
shudder. "What agonies of death lay in those little fangs! But why had
it to die?" He sat down upon a bank, and with a handful of leaves,
almost reverently wiped clear the body from its stains. "Yes, it is
beautiful," he went on admiringly, "beautiful in its dreadful way. Its
coloring and its symmetry are perfect, but I wonder----"

He paused suddenly, for out of the corner of his eye he had seen
something moving among a heap of stones close by. He kept perfectly
still, and a moment later a second adder glided into the open, and,
raising its head off the ground, swayed itself gently from side to side.

"Evil to evil," whispered Larose very softly--"the way of the world for
all time."

He reached stealthily for a piece of rock that lay near to him, and
then, rising sharply to his feet, he hurled it on to the snake. The rock
dropped squarely on the reptile and broke its back. It writhed
viciously, but he picked up a big stone and quickly put it out of misery
by battering in its head.

"His wife probably or perhaps her husband," he remarked with a sigh,
"but it was best it should be so. Violence always for the enemies of the
world. A stick or a stone for those that creep and crawl and then, as we
get higher up, the lash, the prison, and the rope for humankind. Mercy's
a mistake with evildoers. The community must protect itself." He sighed
again. "And that is why such men as I have their work."

He walked back up the slope and then a thought struck him.

"But what were those men doing here?" he asked frowningly. "They
couldn't have come here after rabbits, for they had no guns. What were
they looking for?" He answered his own question. "Sheep probably. They
have lost some sheep." He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, they won't
disturb me again. I'll be off to-night. I was tired already of this
place, and I feel much stronger now. Yes, I'll start for Cape Jervis,
and I ought to do the seventy miles in two nights and a day."

The detective was on holiday in South Australia, but the vacation was
neither of his choice nor making. It had been forced upon him by the
incidence of a serious illness.

Bearing a charmed life among the desperate class in which he moved, and
apparently immune always to the dangers that threatened him in pursuit
of his calling, he had nevertheless fallen an easy prey to the minute
typhoid bacilli, and for days had hovered between life and death. Then,
convalescence supervening, he had been, ordered away for a complete
rest, and Adelaide had been chosen for him as being a city least likely
to remind him of his work. Adelaide was so quiet and peaceful, he had
been assured. Adelaide was so law-abiding, and so rarely there did Crime
lift up its baleful head.

So to South Australia, he had come, expecting to be intensely bored and
wondering gloomily how he would be able to fill in his time.

Then suddenly an idea had seized him just as the train was running down
through the hills into Adelaide, and he had laughed happily at the very
thought of it. It was a strange and extraordinary idea, but it would
provide him, he was sure, with an interesting holiday after all.

There should be no wearying hotel life for him, he told himself, no
monotonous days passed in seeing the sights, no bored waiting for the
holiday to end.

He knew what he would do. He would become a boy again and play at
hide-and-seek. He would play a game of make-believe. He would hide
himself away from everyone as if it were a matter of life or death.

He would imagine that he was an escaped convict, and would see if it
were possible for him to live undiscovered and unseen in South Australia
for six weeks. He would pretend that everyone was looking for him and
that he himself, for once, was pitted against the law.

He would secrete himself away among the hills, in the bush upon the
mountain sides, or in the lonely places on the sea-board where no one
ever came.

Yes, he would creep like a phantom over South Australia, and the winning
of the game would be--that no one should have set eyes on him until the
time was up.

The whole adventure would be of absorbing interest, and the quietness
and the solitude would be the very things that he was needing to rest
his nerves.

It was typical always of Larose to make up his mind quickly, and so
directly his train had drawn into the railway-station in Adelaide--he
had at once set about putting his ideas into execution.

Taking only a few things from his luggage, he had left his trunk in the
station cloak-room, and had then proceeded into the city to make some
purchases.

He had bought a bicycle, a small camping outfit and the least quantity
of provisions that he thought he would be able to make do with. A good
fisherman and no mean expert in the trapping of small game, he reckoned
that once well away from the city he would be easily able to provide
himself with food.

He had had one good meal at the Australasian Hotel, and then in the
failing light of the dusk he had slipped furtively into the Adelaide
hills, and like a shadow the darkness had swallowed him up.

For seven nights and six days he had lain hidden on Mount Lofty, and,
until the episode of the death-adders, no one had come near him or
disturbed him.

He had made his bivouac at the base of a stretch of grey cliff near the
summit. He had chosen the place there because he could light a fire and
the smoke could not be seen against the color of the cliff behind him,
and also because from his elevated position he could enjoy such a
magnificent panorama of the wide Adelaide plains, and the miles upon
miles of waving trees below.

As he had promised, he had given himself an easy restful time.

By night, he had slept the long deep slumbers of a man who was
convalescing from a serious illness, and by day he had basked idly in
the sun, watching a sub-conscious and disinterested sort of way the
comings and goings of the great city that lay outstretched beneath him.

As the crow flies he was quite close to Adelaide, and a bare seven miles
almost would have taken him into the very heart of the city itself.
Through his glasses he could see plainly the trams and motors gliding
through the streets and the people moving about like ants. Also, when
the wind was favorable, he could hear the hourly chimes from the big
clock on the Post Office opposite the Town Hall.

For four days and nights life had been quite uneventful, all peace and
quiet and rest, and then on the evening of the fifth day something had
happened, and henceforward a jarring note had been struck in the
otherwise perfect harmony of these beautiful trees and hills.

He sensed somehow that something unusual was happening about him.

Nothing indeed that occasioned him much interest, and nothing that moved
him even to speculate over-much as to its cause, but still--he felt that
things were now in some subtle way different from what they had been
before.

He noticed for one thing that there seemed to be more people than usual
moving on the roads that led to the hills, not people in motors, but
horsemen and people on foot. They seemed to hang about more, too, to be
longer in view, and to be from time to time talking in groups.

Then after dark he thought the lights were kept burning much later in
the scattered homes among the hills and upon two nights he had finally
dropped off to sleep with some of them still shining. Also at dusk once,
when he had been creeping as usual to the spring for water, a dog
somewhere had heard him and barked, and immediately three men had rushed
out of a nearby homestead, and for quite a long while had stood staring
round in every direction. About this last episode the detective had been
greatly annoyed, for it had made him about an hour late in filling his
can.

So had things been up to that last night when, shortly after eleven
o'clock he again took to the road.

He had provided himself with a map of South Australia, and he had a good
idea of the lie of the land. It was his intention to make for a lonely
stretch of coast near Cape Jervis, a part apparently untouched by roads
or tracks in any direction. He reckoned he had about eighty miles to
cover, and he was expecting to do it comfortably in the travelling of
two nights.

But he soon found he had greatly miscalculated his chance of progress
and he was hindered and delayed from the very beginning. Before even he
had gone half a mile from his bivouac on Mount Lofty, he had had to lift
his bicycle hurriedly off the road and hide himself in the thickets.

Two men had come by very slowly, and he was surprised to notice that,
although there was a new moon, they both were carrying lanterns.

A mile farther on and a man was leaning over some fencing, for all the
world as if he were waiting for someone, and it was an hour nearly
before he finally turned and went into the house that lay close behind.
Quite half a dozen times during the night, too, he saw people moving
about, and each time he had to wait until the road was clear. Morning
found him only about thirty miles from the city and he had to hide
during all the day in a clump of trees not three hundred yards from the
outlying houses of a small township.

The next night, however, he made a little better progress, but it was
not until dawn was breaking on the third day that he found himself at
the place for which he had originally set out.

He was then about seven miles off the track that led to the Cape Jervis
lighthouse, and for several hours he had seen no signs of human
habitation.

He was on a rugged promontory of land that jutted for about half a mile
into the sea. On one side the cliff was high and sheer, but on the other
side the ground sloped down gently for about three hundred yards to a
little sandy cove.

The place was studded everywhere about with big rocks.

"Just what I wanted," sighed the detective wearily. "I shall be all
alone here. I can bathe and fish, and there's a creek of fresh water
over there." He hastily unpacked his things and then, too tired to think
of preparing anything to eat, he spread his ground-sheet by the side of
a big rock and, making a pillow of his arm, in a few moments was fast
asleep.

He slept heavily until well past high noon, and it was then only the
glaring of the hot sun that awoke him.

He stood up, and, gazing interestedly around, was more pleased than ever
with his surroundings. He took out his binoculars and swept the
coastline in both directions as far as he could see.

"Excellent," he remarked, "I couldn't have found a better place. I can
see round everywhere for miles, except for that little dip in the cliff
over there. No one will be coming here, and there should be plenty of
rabbits and fish. I will have a glorious time. I will rest and sleep. I
will worry about nothing. I will start writing my memoirs and the world
will then know what a fine fellow I am," and he rubbed his hands
gleefully and laughed happily as a boy.

Methodically he proceeded to set up his camp. He lashed his little
lean-to tent securely to the rock and with his small mattock dug a deep
trench all round, in case it should come on to rain. Then he made
himself a neat fireplace with round stones, and gathering some dried
twigs together soon had a fire going and was boiling his billy.

"But I must be careful with the water," he said, shaking his head,
"until I make sure about that creek over there."

His simple meal over, he set out to explore, and a quarter of a mile
away found the creek as he had anticipated.

"Not too much water," he remarked, "but still it doesn't look as if it
would dry up before the time comes to leave here. Besides, we may get a
shower or two any day."

He had a long bathe off the sandy cove and then, after setting a few
rabbit snares, retired to his tent directly it began to get dark. The
exertions of the two previous days had tired him much more than he
thought.

The following day dawned bright and clear and he was early astir. He
found two nice young rabbits in his snares and was very pleased with his
good fortune.

"Everything here I could want," he exclaimed happily. "I couldn't wish
for anything more." He looked round on every side. "Alone in the great
heart of nature. Alone with the sea gulls the sea, the sun, and the
sky." He drew in deep breaths of the invigorating air. "Away from the
foul breath of the cities, away from the sordid struggles of competing
men, away from the black haunts of crime. Why I might be the only man
alive in the world now. I don't suppose, year upon year, anyone ever
comes here."

He walked meditatively down to the sandy cove and then it struck him
suddenly that he had not yet explored down the dip in the other cliffs,
the only spot that was not in view from his little tent by the big rock.

"I must go there at once," he smiled whimsically--"it is the only part
of my property that I haven't yet seen." Humming lightly to himself and
pausing many times to look back and enjoy the view, he climbed up over
the other side of the cove. It was a stiff climb and his legs ached when
he reached the top.

He sat down upon a rock, and then, his eyes roving with interest around
a startled exclamation burst from his lips.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed disappointedly, "why--there's a house, and I shall
be seen and lose the game," and immediately he dropped down behind the
rock exactly as if he had been shot.

Very cautiously then he peered round.

The cliff in front of him sloped down to another little bay, this time,
however, only about two hundred yards distant, and upon the edge of the
sands below was perched a small black house.

Viewed through his binoculars, he saw that the house was quite
substantially built and was square in shape. There was one large window
facing in his direction and at a good height from the ground.

By the side of the house, drawn up high above the sands, lay a
good-sized rowing boat.

"Whew," exclaimed the detective disgustedly. "Fishermen! Now, I wonder
if they are here now?"

For an hour and longer he lay with his eyes glued to his binoculars,
alternatively watching the house and sweeping round upon the cliffs on
every side.

But there was no sign of life anywhere except for about a dozen seagulls
which patrolled upon the sands before the house in a lively and animated
manner. Satisfied at last that at any rate for the time being there was
no one near, the detective pocketed his glasses and walked down to
investigate closer.

The sea-gull rose up screeching as he approached and it flew to a short
distance away, to resume their previous occupation of quarrelling with
each other.

The house was shut up and closed by a stout nail-studded door that was
securely locked.

"Hum!--an ugly house," muttered the detective, "and built quite a while
ago." He smiled to himself. "But there would be no difficulty about that
lock, if I were curious. Any bit of old wire would open it."

He walked round the house. It was built solidly of stone, but had a
sloping wooden roof. There were no windows to it other than the one he
had noticed from the cliff and that, from its position, appeared to
provide light only to some kind of upper room, for it was fully twelve
feet off the ground.

He stepped back several yards, hoping that from a greater distance he
would be able to look into the room, but the glass of the window was
almost black with dirt, and be obtained no reward for his pains.

"Funny place," he muttered. "I wonder how often anyone comes here." He
sighed. "I shall have to move off again I suppose, but I can wait, at
any rate, until someone comes. I'm quite safe. They'll never notice my
tent on the other cliff."

He turned round and examined the boat. There were no oars, and
everything movable in it had been taken away.

"Now, more than one person comes here," he said meditatively. "One
person certainly could push this boat down into the sea, but it would
require more than one person of ordinary strength to haul it up on the
bank where it is. It looks--hullo! it had a name on it once and it's
been scraped off."

He bent down and examined carefully the side of the boat. "Yes," he went
on, "and they've been at some pains to blacken the place where they
scraped the name away. They had no paint so they heated a piece of iron
or something, and then smeared the spot over with tar. Quite recently,
too, for it is not caked hard yet." He passed his fingers along the
wood. "Ah! it's quite smooth where there are no scratches. They scraped
it with a piece of glass." He nodded his head. "Now that's what I should
do if I had stolen the boat and had to take the name off in a hurry." He
looked up and frowned thoughtfully. "Really, I should like to see inside
this house."

He walked back and pushed hard against the door, but there was no
movement. It did not budge the fraction of an inch.

"Good lock," he muttered, "but still I could pick it in two
minutes,"--he shrugged his shoulders--"if I wanted to, which I do not."

But somehow he thought quite a lot about the house on his way back to
his tent, and as a result of his cogitations he returned there again in
the afternoon to have another look.

This time he had brought with him a piece of stout iron wire, which he
had taken from the luggage carrier of his bicycle.

The sea-gulls were still in evidence in front of the house, and he
frowned again when he caught sight of them.

"Hum!" he murmured--"it would almost seem that they were expecting to be
fed. Somebody evidently comes here pretty often--I must look out."

For quite a long while he manipulated with his piece of wire upon the
lock of the door, but to his disappointment he could make no impression
at all. He could not get the wire to catch anywhere.

"Now I would almost swear," he muttered, "that the door is not locked at
all. There seems to be no bolt to prise back."

But the door fitted too close in the jamb for him to form any certain
opinion as to whether his surmise were correct or not. He gave it up at
length, and sitting down, proceeded to light a cigarette. He regarded
the house very thoughtfully.

"Now why does it interest me at all?" he asked, very puzzled. "It's
quite an ordinary house, built, naturally, of the stone that is
plentiful about here. And that high window was undoubtedly designed to
give a light out to sea facing up the gulf, where the fishing grounds
probably are. Yes, quite an ordinary house, and yet--yet why was that
name so carefully scraped off the boat and tarred over so that the
scraping should not show? It puzzles me, for of course there was a
reason for it somewhere. Yes, it puzzles me."

He was a long while getting off to sleep that night, and with his last
waking moments his thoughts were of the black house.

In spite of his determination to forget everything that would remind him
of his normal work, his imagination would insist upon running in
familiar grooves, and he kept harping upon the probable association of
the house with evildoers.

It was not a house of simple fisherfolk, he told himself sleepily. It
did not belong to honest men. It was a rendezvous of murderers, it was a
place of crime, and it harbored breakers of the law.

He became quite annoyed with his imaginings at last and, making his mind
a blank, drew in deep heavy breaths and finally hypnotised himself to
sleep.

The next morning however, he found the same thoughts continually
recurring to his mind, and, partly to his amusement and partly to his
annoyance, the black house became the chief source of interest to him in
his enforced hours of solitude and ease.

He would climb up over the far cliff and almost the whole day long,
perching himself upon a big rock, watch the house below. All the time he
speculated idly, weaving romantic episodes of crime, with the square
black house always the storm-centre of his imaginings.

He did this almost continually for four days--four days of scorching and
terrific heat, with the sun all the time like one big red blister in the
sky, and then suddenly his mind seemed all at once to clear and all his
thoughts to crystallise into one strange and startling fact.

It burst upon him like a thunderclap that the house below was actually
inhabited and that he himself was being watched from within it all the
time.

He realised it all in an instant upon the fourth evening just before
dusk, but later, thinking it over, he saw that two things particularly
had led him up to this final conclusion and prepared his mind to accept
it irresistibly and without hesitation, as a fact.

When going for his water that morning he had noticed the imprint of a
boot in the mud by the side of the creek, but without giving any thought
to the matter he had taken it naturally for one he had himself made when
upon the same errand the previous day. He had, however, observed idly
how much larger the impression had grown, but he had attributed that to
the action of the water trickling down over the sides.

Then the second thing--subconsciously he had always been curious about
the seagulls. They had been so persistent in staying in front of the
house as if it were quite customary for them to pick up scraps thrown
outside. He knew how tame seagulls were everywhere in Australia and how
rarely they were harmed, and it had struck him over and over again that
these particular birds were waiting before the house in the expectation
of a meal.

Then had come the climax.

Sitting perfectly motionless, as he always did in his musings, he had
seen a fox come lurching down over the hill, and the animal, catching
sight of the seagulls, had at once started to stalk them. Crouching low
upon his stomach and taking cover of every rock and every depression in
the ground, he had crept furtively forward. He had reached the back of
the black house; he had crossed along the side and had progressed until
he had been almost level with the door; then--he had stopped suddenly as
if he had been turned to stone, and for five seconds had stood with one
paw raised and his head thrust forward exactly as if he were sniffing at
the door. Barely five seconds, and then--he was off back like an arrow
over the hill.

Like lightning had the meaning of it come to Larose.

The fox had sensed the smell of human beings and in the vicinity of
dreaded Man had flown for his very life.

The detective put up his glasses and covered the house. Then he sat
perfectly still again. The sun was sinking blood-red into the sea behind
him, and he knew his head and shoulders would be silhouetted in sharp
outline against the sky.

He held his breath in excitement, but his brain was cold and clear. He
must not betray himself; he must not give himself away. If anyone were
watching him it must not be known that he had noticed anything.

He wanted time to think, to gather in his thoughts. What did it mean if
the house were occupied?

If someone were there, if someone were hiding himself, then he was an
evildoer and he had good reason for keeping himself hidden. He had not
shown himself because he had seen there was a stranger about and was
afraid.

Then quickly the detective's thoughts ran on, and his mind harked back
to all the happenings since he had left the city.

Of course, he could understand everything now--the men who had killed
the death-adder, the horsemen he had seen upon the roads among the
hills, the lights burning in the houses late at night, and the many
people he had had to avoid when travelling from the city.

It was all clear now--everything fitted in so well.

Someone was 'wanted' in the State. Some crime had been committed
somewhere and everyone had been on the look-out for the perpetrator or
perpetrators of the deed. They had been picketing the roads, they had
been searching through the thickets round Mount Lofty, they had been
beating the bush all around the hills.

And now the very criminals that were being sought for were probably here
in hiding in that house below. And there must be two of them, for if
they had come by sea, as seemed most likely, one alone could not have
pulled up that heavy boat to where it lay. Yes, there were certainly two
of them, and for four days and nights he had been the whole time within
a few hundred yards of where they were concealed.

And they had seen him too.

There could be no doubt about it--they had seen him like a spy creeping
about their place of refuge.

They had watched him through the window, with his binoculars glued hour
after hour upon the house that sheltered them. They had heard him
prowling round and manipulating, too, with his piece of wire upon their
door.

Then what must they have been doing and what indeed must have been their
thoughts?

Their faces must have blanched in fear, their hearts must have drummed
against their ribs, and many times they must have held their breaths
lest he should hear their breathing through the walls.

They must have been agog, too, with doubt as to who he was and what was
his mission there. They must have felt like rats caught in a trap.

They must have suffered, too, in body as well as mind, for all the hot
days long they had lain sweltering behind the heat of that closed door.
No breezes from the sea had reached them, and they must have been almost
suffocated for want of air.

Then one of them from dire necessity had had probably to leave the house
for water, and at night he had crept like a stricken animal to the
creek. All the time then his heart must have been quaking and every
moment he must have been expecting the crack of a pistol and the tearing
of a bullet through his loins.

The detective puckered his brow in perplexity.

But what after all, if he were mistaken? What if it were all an
imagining and the fevered thoughts of a sick man's dream? He was not yet
completely recovered from his illness, and might not his mind be still
unsteady like his body?

He thought for a long while.

No, no, the evidence was cumulative in every way, and he understood,
too, now why he had not been able to pick the lock of that door. It had
not been locked at all, but simply bolted on the inside. That was why
his piece of wire had not been able to engage anywhere with the catch of
the lock. Oh! what a fool he had been!

Yes, things were clear now. Criminals or no criminals, crime or no
crime, the house in the falling darkness there, he was sure, harbored
humankind, and it was according to all the habits of his life that he
should at once take steps to find out what their hiding meant.



CHAPTER II.--RED DAWN.


Directly it was fully dark Larose crept back to his tent, and by the
light of a carefully screened oil lamp made ready for an adventure in
the night. He was determined to put his suspicions to the test.

He was going to watch the house until the moon rose, for he was sure
that after the burning heat of the day someone in the house of darkness
would be going again for water to the creek. He changed his boots for a
pair of rubber shoes, he buckled a small hunting knife to his belt, and
carefully cleaned and oiled the little automatic that was always on his
hip.

Half an hour later and he was crouching within a few feet of the door of
the black house. It was then just nine o'clock, and, as he knew the moon
would not rise until after three, he expected that a long vigil lay
before him.

He settled himself close to the wall, and strained his ears to catch the
slightest sound within the house. Everything was perfectly still. Not a
sound, not a movement to betoken that there were any living creatures
near.

An hour passed--two--three, and then suddenly the detective sat bolt
upright, and two seconds later had slipped to his hands and knees, and
was creeping like a shadow to the nail-studded door. He put his head
close down and then--he smiled. He was satisfied. He had smelt the odor
of tobacco smoke.

In a quarter of an hour he was back again in his tent and thinking hard.

Certainly he must learn something about the occupants of the black
house, but he must alter his tactics now. They must not catch sight of
him again; he must make them think he had left for good. He would move
his camp directly it got light, and take it away at least a mile, but he
himself would return at once, and from quite a different direction would
continue to watch, but now unseen.

There were plenty of places where he could find cover, and he could lie
even closer to the house than he had been before; then, when those who
were hiding saw no more sign of him, they would naturally think that he
had gone away and would come out. He would then see what manner of men
they were. But he must be careful, he must be very careful, he told
himself, for they were probably dangerous men who would not be over
squeamish in finding means to make him hold his tongue. If they caught
him, all the surroundings of the place were so lonely there would be
small chance of discovery if they did away with him by violence. They
could throw his body over the cliffs into the sea, and the sharks would
see to it that no evidence would ever be forthcoming as to how he had
met his end.

Then another thought struck him. Suppose already they were planning to
get hold of him and find out his business there! Suppose even now they
were out upon his track! For four days they had seen him watching the
house, and the uncertainty and anxiety they must have felt would surely
have gone a long way to make them willing now to take some risks.

No, no, they could not at any rate be searching for him yet. They could
not search among the rocks in the pitch dark, and they would not dare to
carry a light. But what about when the moon rose, as it would do between
three and four o'clock? They might slip out then and try to find out
where he was sleeping, or at any rate secrete themselves in some
convenient position, so that when morning came they would be able to
take him unawares. They knew from which direction he had always
appeared, and by making a detour they might, directly it grew light,
become the trackers instead of the tracked.

He smiled grimly to himself. Well, he would sleep away from "home." So
he picked up his ground-sheet and, without undressing, made his way to a
long flat rock about fifty yards away. No one could get behind him
there, he knew, for the rock was at the edge of the cliff, and on the
far side there was a sheer drop of a hundred feet and more to the sea
below. The cliff jutted out sharply and, high water or low, the waves
were always lapping at its base.

He looked at his watch. It was a quarter to one. Good! Then he had just
over three hours to sleep, and with his senses trained as they were he
could wake as he willed, at four o'clock. He spread his ground-sheet by
the side of the rock and, lying down, in five minutes was fast asleep.

He had dropped off quite certain that in the friendly darkness he was
secure from all harm and that no danger to him lurked anywhere. Yet such
is the uncertainty of life, a big tiger-snake lay coiled under the other
side of the rock, and not ten paces away a death-adder was sleeping in a
tuft of grass.

Towards morning there was a rustle of movement within the black house
and the beam of an electric torch shot across the floor. "Four o'clock,"
said a low voice, "and the moon is up. I'll unbolt the door and we'll go
round by the creek first."

Larose slept heavily and the three hours he had allotted lengthened
quickly into five. His senses might certainly be trained, as he had told
himself, but he had made no allowance for his recent illness, and Nature
now contemptuously ignored the resolutions he had made. It was after six
when he awoke and the sun was well up in the sky, and he only woke then
because he heard a sound near him, the crunch of a boot upon a stone.
Opening his eyes quickly, they nearly froze in his head. A man was
standing not five paces from him, leaning over the very rock under which
he lay.


The man was holding a pistol in one hand and with the other he was
shading his eyes from the sun. The end of a thick iron bar protruded
from the pocket of his coat. The man was burly and thickset, and he had
a big frowning face and a square jaw. He was unshaven and unkempt.
Standing with his head craned forward, he was sweeping his eyes round in
every direction. There was, however, something furtive in his movements,
as if he were anxious to see and yet not himself be seen. Suddenly, on
the instant, the expression of his face changed, his gaze became fixed,
his eyes stared and his mouth opened wide.


"He's seen my tent." muttered Larose softly. "Now--something's going to
happen," and the detective very gently drew out his own automatic and
released the safety catch.

The big man turned round and began to gesticulate wildly. Apparently he
was pointing out the direction of the tent to someone lower down the
cliff. Then he leant heavily upon the rock and, raising his pistol,
appeared to be taking deliberate and careful aim.


"Oh!" whispered the detective, "he's seen my haversack and thinks it's
me. He's going to shoot, the devil." But the big man was evidently
uncertain what to do. Three times he lifted his pistol and three times
he lowered it again to his side. Then he bent down as if he were trying
to peer under the flap of the tent.


The detective thought rapidly. The man meant murder without doubt. The
wretch was going to shoot on sight. It was no time for squeamishness,
and hesitation was a fool's card to play. Any moment the man might turn
his eyes and then his pistol would spit out instant death. Larose raised
his own pistol and covered him over the heart.

Then suddenly the man made to creep stealthily forward, and he looked
down to see where to plant his foot. His eyes met those of Larose, his
face grew ghastly, his jaw dropped, his hand--but there was a flash of
fire from under the rock, the crash of a pistol at close range, and
spinning round with a hoarse cry he fell backward to the edge of the
cliff. For perhaps five seconds he lay poised with inches only between
him and the drop to the sea, below. Then, a last convulsive shudder
shaking him, he turned on his side and suddenly, quicker than the eye
could follow, disappeared from view.

Larose sprang to his feet to look over the cliff, but instantly had
reason to regret his haste, for three bullets in quick succession
splattered on the rock. He threw himself down again and swore deeply at
his want of thought. Of course, he ought to have remembered there were
two of them, he told himself disgustedly. He had seen the man he had
shot beckoning to someone, and without doubt the other wretch was not
far away.

The detective's heart pumped like a piston. The position now was
menacing to a degree. His second adversary knew exactly where he lay,
but he himself had no means of knowing from which particular direction
danger threatened, and at any moment the pistol might open fire again.

Instantly the detective made up his mind. At all risks he must move
away. He knew the lie of all the rocks upon the cliff, and with caution
he ought to be able to work round, so that anyone who was stalking near
his tent would be taken in the rear.

Ah--a thought struck him. Better still, he would make for the black
house and lie in ambush there. That was the very thing. The man who was
after him would sooner or later return down the cliff, and then would
meet with a reception that was quite unexpected.

Larose said afterwards that all his life long he would remember the two
hours that followed. He had to make a long detour and crawl low upon the
ground the whole time. Never once did he dare to rise even to the level
of his knees, and very soon his muscles were so sore that he could have
cried out with the pain. His eyes were full of dust, the burning sun
beat down upon his head, he was saturated with perspiration, and a
fierce thirst tortured him.

Over every yard he covered he had to hold his pistol raised ready to
fire, and all the time he had to keep on looking backwards, in case he
should be sniped from behind. He was in both great physical and great
mental distress.

It was a dreadful journey, and a sigh of relief burst from him when
finally he had left the rocks behind, and was no longer in a position to
be taken unawares.

Then suddenly he smelt something burning, and straight before him he saw
faint spirals of smoke coming up from over the other side of the hill.

"Now, what the deuce?" he began, and then he rose abruptly to his feet
and raced across the turf to where he could look down over the cliff.

He whistled in astonishment. The black house was on fire. Smoke was
pouring out of the window, and he could hear the loud crackle of burning
wood.

For a moment the smoke formed a screen, and he could see nothing beyond
the house itself. Then a puff of wind came, and the screen suddenly
lifted.

A cry of dismay burst from his lips. The boat was no longer by the black
house. It was two hundred yards out to sea--there was a man in it, and
he was hoisting a sail.

* * * * * * *

An hour later, and a very tired Larose limped back to where he had left
his tent. In appearance he was very subdued.

He had watched the boat until it had become a mere white speck up the
gulf, he had searched fruitlessly among the burning embers in the black
house, and he had sighed many times as he had thought of all that had
happened and what it must mean to him now.

The rest and peace of his holiday had been rudely broken, and he must
return at once to his life's work. Crime and evil were calling to him,
and it was not in his nature to turn a deaf ear. He had become involved,
too, in happenings that were terrible, and it would trouble him all his
life long if he could not justify his actions.

He had killed a man of whom he knew nothing at a moment's notice almost,
and he must find out why it had been necessary to do it.

What now had been the reason for the deadly purpose of those in hiding
in the black house that they must murder him offhand, simply because
they had seen him watching in their vicinity? Why had they been hiding
there at all? Was not his surmise correct that they were fugitives from
the law, and 'wanted' for some dreadful crime?

Ah! But he would find out. He must find out, for his wounded pride
insisted that he should. He had cut a poor figure that morning. He had
greatly under-estimated the intelligence of those he had been up
against, and he had suffered accordingly.

To think that all the time he had been crawling along painfully among
the rocks on his stomach that second man had been calmly and
contemptuously preparing for his get-away!

With the tide low as it was it must have taken the wretch quite a long
while to drag that boat over the sands into the sea, and yet from all
appearance he had gone back afterwards with complete assurance to set
fire to the house.

The detective gritted his teeth in annoyance, but there was more
annoyance for him still when he got back to his camp.

A scene of destruction awaited him.

His haversack had been torn open and all his things strewn about. His
binoculars had been crushed viciously into the ground, the lenses and
the prisms all broken. His water-bottle had been cut and emptied, the
tyres of his bicycle slashed to ribbons, and his boots had been taken
away.

"Really, a most thorough workman," sighed Larose when at last he had
gauged to the full the extent of his misfortunes, "and most far-seeing,
too. Evidently I am to be delayed as long as possible from getting in
touch with the police." He nodded his head grimly. "Ah! but it will be a
great day for me when I have him in the dock. He's bested me now, but
I'll get him presently."



CHAPTER III.--THE MASTER MIND.


Some four days later the Chief Commissioner of the South Australian
Police was sitting alone in his room, at headquarters, in
Victoria-square.

He looked tired and anxious, and his face was puckered in a frown. He
was going through some papers and he signed from time to time.

He was a small spare man of wiry physique, about fifty years of age, and
his hair was growing grey about the temples. He had keen, shrewd eyes,
and a good chin, but the general effect of strength in his face was
marred to some extent by a certain weakness of the mouth. He had a small
moustache, spikily waxed at the ends. He was well, indeed almost
foppishly dressed, and he sported a large diamond pin in his cravat. His
hands were well cared for and white.

A police constable knocked and entered. He handed the Commissioner a
letter.

"Bearer waiting, Sir," he announced. "He gives his name as Hunter, and
says he would like to see you, if you could spare him a few minutes."

The Commissioner opened the letter and then at once elevated his
eyebrows.

"Show him in," he said briskly, adding after a second--"and if anyone
wants me now, say I am engaged for a few minutes."

A youngish-looking man was ushered in. He appeared to be somewhere in
the late twenties, and had a pleasant boyish face and smiling eyes. He
was well dressed and carried himself jauntily, as if life were very
happy for him and he were well satisfied with everything. He bowed
politely to the Chief Commissioner.

The latter waited until the door was shut, and then with a pleased and
interested expression upon his face rose from his chair.

"How do you do, Sir?" he began, smilingly. Then he seemed to start. He
looked down, and began to turn over the papers on his desk.

"Colonel Mackenzie suggested I should call upon you, Sir." said the
young man. "I have come over here on holiday, and he asked me to see you
and give you his kind regards."

"Yes, yes," said the Commissioner, looking up after quite a long pause.
"Please be seated. How is my old friend, Robert Mackenzie? I haven't
seen him for years."

"Andrew, Sir," corrected the young man deferentially, "Andrew, not
Robert, and he's quite well, I am glad to say."

"No more trouble with his heart, eh?" queried the Commissioner. "That
excessive cigarette smoking of his hasn't knocked him up then?" and he
regarded his visitor very keenly.

The young man smiled and shook his head. "He never smokes cigarettes,
Sir: nothing but a pipe, and as for his heart--well, I've known him,
almost intimately I may say, for seven years, and never seen him ill or
heard him complain."

"Ah!" said the Commissioner, "that's good to know, very good." and he
continued to regard the young man with a very thoughtful pair of eyes.

His visitor laughed shyly.

"Oh! it's quite all right, Sir, I am Gilbert Larose. I'm purposely
carrying no cards or letters of introduction on me because I am on
holiday, as I've told you, and am ordered to keep away from everything
connected with my work. I have just got over a bad bout of typhoid." His
eyes twinkled merrily. "I certainly have not had the pleasure of meeting
you before, but I've handled several cases for you over in New South
Wales, also I am well known to Inspector Davis and Sergeant Driller in
the force here. If you remember, it was I who found Laurence, the
absconding banker, for you last August and you were good enough then to
send me a letter of personal thanks, also----"

"Enough, enough," said the Commissioner, and he smilingly held out his
hand, "but there were suspicions, you know, and it was best that I
should make sure."

"Suspicions?" asked Larose, smiling back. "Pray what suspicions, sir?"

The Commissioner frowned. "Look here, young man," he said with mock
severity, "you come in here to interview me with a loaded Yankee pistol
in your hip pocket. You give the name of Hunter to the constable, you
tell me you are Gilbert Larose, and yet you are now staying at the
Southern Cross Hotel under the name of Edgar Barratt." His face broke
into an amused smile. "Now isn't that enough to make anyone suspicious
to start off with?"

The detective got very red. "Oh! you know then that I am at the Southern
Cross!" he exclaimed.

"Certainly," replied the Commissioner. "It is my business to know." He
laughed gently. "And I know a lot more about you, besides that. Listen!"
He picked up a paper from his desk and scanned down its contents. "You
arrived in Adelaide fifteen days ago. To be exact, upon the seventh of
the month, and you went off upon a bicycling expedition to a lonely part
of the coast. You returned the day before yesterday and put up, as I
have said, at the Southern Cross. Yesterday you spent two and a half
hours at the Public Library, looking through the newspaper files of the
past fortnight. You are interested in the escape of Miles Fallon from
the Stockade, and you are of opinion that it is gross carelessness on
our part that the murderer has slipped through our hands. This
morning--"--the Commissioner leant back in his chair and spoke as if
half in fun and half in earnest--"well, this morning you have come to
tell me you can find the fugitive, and that in due time you will claim
the 500 pounds reward that we are offering for his apprehension. Now is
not that so?"

The face of Larose was the very picture of astonishment and he regarded
the Commissioner with an expression that was almost frightened.

"You are correct, sir, as to my movement," he said very slowly, "but I
won't pretend that I know how you learnt them all."

"Oh! quite simple, Mr. Larose," chuckled the Commissioner, enjoying to
the full the detective's discomfiture. "Just one of those chance
happenings that come to us all at times. No, I won't try and mystify
you. We got on your track simply because of your curiosity yesterday at
headquarters here."

"My curiosity!" exclaimed the detective. "My curiosity here?"

"Yes, here!" laughed the Commissioner. He leant forward and pointed his
finger at the detective. "You were passing in the square here yesterday
morning, Mr. Larose, and you stopped to read the announcement on the
notice board outside. You read most carefully through the placard giving
the description of the escaped Miles Fallon, and the 500 pounds reward
offered for his apprehension. You then walked away but returned twice
again at short intervals to re-peruse the placard. Your obvious interest
attracted the attention of one of our plainclothes men who was on duty
in the station yard--we are all very much on the jumps just now about
anything concerning the missing man--and he followed after you the third
time when you went away. He watched you go straight into the Public
Library on North-terrace and saw you turning over the newspaper files.
He moved near to you and saw that you were reading everything you could
find about the murder at the Rialto Hotel. He is quite an intelligent
fellow, this plainclothes man of ours, and he snapped you with a pocket
camera as you came out of the library. Here, by the by, is the snapshot.
Quite good enough to enable me to recognise you when you came in here
three minutes ago. Your style of collar is rather high, and, if I may
say so, at once catches the eye. Well, he shadowed you next to the
Southern Cross Hotel, and when you were at lunch made some enquiries
about you." The Commissioner laughed again. "And with the connivance of
the manager he even went over your things in your room. He saw the
obviously recently-purchased fishing rod with Fleming's name upon it,
and also the Adelaide railway-station cloakroom ticket pasted on your
valise. He then proceeded to pursue his enquiries at both those places.
The number on the cloak-room ticket made quite clear how long the valise
had been left at the railway-station, and at Fleming's they remembered
you at once, when the snapshot was shown. They told him then that you
had had a strap sewn on to the case of the fishing rod so that you could
carry it on a bicycle. Also, you had asked them about the likely places
on the coast where you could catch snapper from the rocks."

The Commissioner leant back again in his chair in great good-humor. "All
very simple, isn't it, Mr. Larose? but it just shows how very dangerous
chance may be. Of course, we had nothing definite against you, but the
incomplete box of automatic cartridges in your valise made us curious
enough to want to keep an eye on you, and I have no doubt but that
someone even followed you here this morning. We don't like inter-State
visitors who carry arms you know. As to your opinions of the Rialto
Hotel affair, well,"--he shrugged his shoulders--"you pumped the head
waiter of the Southern Cross pretty thoroughly, now didn't you?"

The eyes of the detective were on the ground. He had been expecting far
more embarrassing disclosures and he was smiling in his relief. After a
moment's hesitation, he looked up.

"I see I'm quite a beginner in my profession, sir," he said humbly. "I
shall have to start at the bottom of the ladder again."

"Not at all, not at all," laughed the Commissioner, "you are still the
star detective of the Commonwealth, our one and only incomparable
Gilbert Larose." He suddenly became serious again. "But your visit to me
now. You came to suggest something?"

Again Larose hesitated. "I am on holiday, sir," he said. "I have been
very bad with typhoid and I came here to rest." He sighed. "But I am
bored, and this is a very interesting case."

The Commissioner nodded gloomily. "A very terrible case, too," he said.
"We are just at a dead end. The man has vanished completely, and there
is not the ghost of a clue to suggest where he has gone. The public are
calling out against us, and we are under a dreadful cloud. Your coming
may turn out to be most opportune, for we will clutch now at any straw.
No, no," he went on hurriedly, for he saw Larose smile. "I don't mean
that at all. You are not a straw. You would be a tower of strength to us
if you would help."

"But I act like a child now," said Larose sadly. "Or you wouldn't have
been able to turn me inside out like this. My illness has given me a
soft head."

The Commissioner spoke impressively.

"Mr. Larose, this should be just such a case as you would love. It
should appeal in every way to that strange instinct of yours. Nothing
apparently to help you. Nowhere to start off from. Only the bare and
naked fact that the prisoner escaped from our stockade here, when all
eyes must have been on him--in broad daylight, too."

The Commissioner pulled his chair forward.

"But come," he went on briskly, "you shall hear everything before you
decide. I will give you all the inside information from the very
beginning, and you can tell me then what you think."

He touched his bell, and the constable who had ushered in Larose
immediately reappeared.

"I am engaged," said the Commissioner curtly, "and I am not to be
disturbed." The constable retired.

"Now, Mr. Larose," said the Commissioner, folding his hands together and
lowering his voice almost to a whisper. "I'll tell you as strange a
story as has ever been recorded in all the black annals of Australian
crime, a story perhaps without parallel in its easy and contemptuous
flouting of the law." He raised his hand protestingly. "But please for
the moment forget everything that you have read in the papers yesterday,
and try and listen to me as if you had heard nothing of the matter
before. I want you to approach everything with an entirely open mind."

He paused for a moment as if to weigh his words.

"Now, to begin with, you know, of course, the social conditions
pertaining generally everywhere, all the world over, since the Great
War." Larose nodded. "Well, ours here are just the same. Money opens all
doors. Our social aristocracy is appraised to an extent on a strictly
cash basis, and if you have money to throw about you are assured of a
seat among the elect. Well, just about two years ago. Miles Fallon
descended on the city. He came as part proprietor and manager of the
Rialto, our crack hotel here. He was then about five-and-thirty years of
age and a good-looking, polished man of the world. He was a man of
personality, likeable and apparently with plenty of money, and was
received with open arms. He went everywhere, and was a favorite with
everyone. His name appeared almost every day in the social news. He was
received in quiet select circles, and he hobnobbed with the rich people
of importance in our State. He was lunched and tea-ed by the racing
clubs, and at many public functions he was prominently in evidence. In
effect, he was a big bug in our little insect world. Well--imagine the
absolute amazement of his admirers and friends when just a fortnight ago
he was arrested for murder. Yes! Caught at 2 o'clock in the morning,
practically in the very act, and seized when the body of his victim was
still quivering in the throes of death. He had smothered an old man, a
visitor to his own hotel, smothered him with a pillow, and it was only
by the merest chance, mind you, that he was caught.

"He had just committed the crime, and was creeping out of the bedroom,
attired in a dressing gown, and with his head muffled in a towel, when
he banged right into two night revellers who, in consideration of their
reputations, were sneaking up the corridor with their shoes off.

"Something about the appearance of Fallon made the two men immediately
suspicious--there was blood upon the towel, for one thing--and they
barred his way and asked him what was up.

"Then Fallon, quite unusually for him, for he has always had the
reputation of being a cool fellow, apparently lost his head and he
lunged out instantly and knocked down one of his interrogators, but the
other got in one under the jaw and Fallon collapsed.

"Then things happened very quickly.

"The bedroom door was still open, and while one of the men kept an eye
on Fallon the other went in and switched on the lights.

"A ghastly sight met him--an old man with a blue-black face, and a bed
with the pillows all smeared over with blood.

"Ten minutes later our men were on the spot, with a medical man close
upon their heels. It was remarked at once that the manager of the hotel
was not present, but the information was forthcoming that he could not
be found.

"It was seen immediately that the old man in the bed was beyond all aid,
and attention was accordingly turned to Fallon. He was still unconscious
from the blow he had received, and had not yet been recognised.

"He was carried into an empty bedroom and his face sponged with cold
water. Immediately then, the eyebrows and the moustache came away and,
to the consternation of these standing round, the assassin was
recognised as the suave and polite manager of the hotel."

The Commissioner raised his hand impressively. "Imagine the bombshell
when it became known in the city! Later in the day, Fallon was charged
with wilful murder and was lodged in the cells.

"The motive for the murder was quite plain. Robbery, pure and simple.
The victim was a well-to-do resident of Kapunda, and it appeared he had
come down the previous day to sell some property in the city. The sale
had been effected late in the afternoon and as is usual in such cases
the deal had been transacted in hard cash. In some way, Fallon must have
got to hear of it, and so in the dead of night he had gained entrance
into the old man's room with the master-key of the hotel. Absolute
murder was probably not intended, although from the contents of Fallons
dressing-gown pockets, the wretch was prepared to go pretty far. He was
carrying not only chloroform, but also tablets of sulphate of morphia
and a hypodermic syringe.

"What we think is, that the old man woke up as Fallon was attempting to
chloroform him, and then the latter, in a panic, seized upon a pillow as
the only way to quieten him. At any rate the old man had put up some
sort of a fight, for Fallon had bled profusely from the nose, and it was
actually the wretch's own blood that had made the character of the death
look so ghastly."

The commissioner stopped speaking to light a cigarette, and Larose
remarked thoughtfully:

"Was there any reason, do you know why the sleeping man should have been
disturbed at all?"

"Oh! yes," replied the Commissioner, "I was going to tell you. Fallon
was carrying away the old man's money belt that contained 3,800 pounds
in Treasury notes. The old chap had undoubtedly been wearing the belt in
bed, and from the disorder in the room we think Fallon had searched
everywhere else first, before turning to the sleeper and discovering the
belt on him."

"But how do you know," asked Larose, "that he had got the belt on him in
bed?"

"Because," replied the Commissioner, "it had been torn off so hurriedly
and with such violence that the straps were broken."

Larose made no comment, and the Commissioner continued.

"Well, two days later, a verdict of wilful murder was brought in in the
coroner's court, and Fallon was committed for trial. Now comes the most
disconcerting part of the whole business, and the one which, occasions
us such profound disquiet." The Commissioner spoke very slowly. "The
prisoner had not been in the stockade for forty-eight hours before he
walked out again in broad daylight, as if he had been no prisoner at
all."

The voice of the Commissioner took on a bitter and incredulous tone.

"Yes! Walked out as if he were a free man! Opened and shut his cell door
and vanished from that moment as if he had never existed at all! No one
heard his door open or shut, no one saw him go, no one noticed anything
at all and yet--yet the stockade yard was full of people, there were
guards on duty everywhere, and it was in the middle of the afternoon."

The commissioner dropped his voice still lower and leant forward across
his desk until his face was close to that of Larose.

"Now, what does that mean, sir I ask you? What does that mean?" His
voice rose and hardened. "It means, Mr. Larose, and that is why we in
authority are in such trouble here--it means that the miscreant Fallon
was only one of several. He must have had allies somewhere, confederates
both within the Stockade and without. He was one of a gang. We are sure
of it. But listen again." The Commissioner spoke now in his natural
voice. "Now, what happened after? We at once suspended two of the
warders at Blendiron, the assistant chief warder, who was in charge of
that part of the Stockade where Fallon was confined, and Bullock, a
warder under him, who had charge, amongst others, of the prisoner's
particular cell." The voice of the Commissioner was slow and solemn.
"Well, Blendiron, too, vanished off the face of the earth within
twenty-four hours, and Bullock was found drowned in the Torrens River
upon the evening of the next day." The Commissioner sat up with a jerk.
"Now, Mr. Larose, ask me what questions you like."

But the detective, it seemed, was in no hurry to ask any questions at
all. He was looking out of the window, and from the expression on his
face his thoughts were far away. It was quite a long while before he
spoke.

"The greater problem and the lesser," he said slowly. "Well, we'll take
the lesser first." He became brisk and animated. "Now how much start do
you think the prisoner had had, before you discovered that he had got
away?"

"Ten minutes," replied the Commissioner promptly, "not a second more. We
are sure of that because he had been out previously in the exercise
yard, and had just been returned to his cell to be in readiness for a
doctor who was coming to see him at 4 o'clock. He had been complaining
of a bad cough that would not let him sleep at night."

"And it was certain," asked Larose, "that he had escaped straight away
out of the stockade? I mean, he couldn't have been in hiding somewhere
in the buildings, and have got away later on?"

"No, quite impossible," replied the Commissioner, shaking his head: "he
must have got right away at once, for a quarter of a minute after we had
discovered that the cell was empty--not even a mouse could have got
outside the prison walls. Every crack and every crevice was gone through
with a fine comb."

"And no traces of him were found anywhere, afterwards?"

"None whatever," said the Commissioner. "It was just as if he had gone
up in smoke. No one had seen him, and there were no rumors even that
anyone like him had been seen outside on the road. He couldn't
immediately have got away to the city either, for we had drawn a cordon
round Adelaide at once. Nor could he have got out of the State, for
every road and every railway-station was watched--as indeed they have
been ever since."

"There was the sea," said the detective thoughtfully. "In the
description published of him, I remember he is described as tattooed
with an anchor upon one arm, and that almost certainly means that at one
time he has followed the sea. Yes, there was the sea, and I have always
noticed that a sailor-man in trouble turns back to the sea. That is his
first thought."

The Commissioner shook his head again. "No chance whatever," he
said--"every outgoing vessel was searched."

"But a boat," persisted the detective. "He might have gone off in a
boat."

"None was missing," said the Commissioner emphatically. "We thought of
that, and most exhaustive enquiries were made."

"But there was a fire," said the detective very softly. "I saw in the
newspapers that there was a fire on the night of the fifteenth in the
Port Adelaide docks, and that the sailing barque Clan Robert was burnt
to the water's edge." The tone of his voice became almost apologetic.
"Might not now the fire have been engineered to cover the theft of one
of the ship's boats?"

The face of the Commissioner grew rather pink.

"We had no report," he said brusquely, "that any of the ship's boats
were not burnt, too."

The detective did not press the point.

"And the warders who were suspended?" he asked. "Had you any reason to
suspect them of complicity in the escape? Anything definite, I mean."'

"No, not at the time," replied the Commissioner. "They appeared to be
quite as astounded as everyone else. They were both men of long service,
and we suspended them only as a matter of routine, until the official
enquiry should be held."

"And they are both beyond questioning now. One is missing, you say, and
the other dead?"

The Commissioner sighed wearily.

"Yes, it is mystery upon mystery, Mr. Larose, and we can make nothing of
it. It looks now as if they had been implicated and were removed
violently so that they should confess nothing. The man Bullock was of
weak temperament, and if he had had anything to tell we should have got
it all out of him very soon. But Blendiron was of quite a different
type. He was of the fighting kind, and very sure of himself. He was big
and burly in mind as well as in body. He would have been a hard nut to
crack, I admit."

The detective stooped down suddenly to adjust the lace of his shoe.

"And have you had no news at all," he said slowly, and without looking
up, "of this assistant chief warder, Blendiron, since that afternoon?"

"We know nothing," said the Commissioner, "except that he went straight
home that afternoon, appeared to be very depressed, went out again just
before 6 o'clock, and has never been seen since. Probably he was
murdered in some such way as Bullock had been. No doubt they both knew
too much, and were of no further use to their employers, so they were
got rid of as speedily as possible." He shrugged his shoulders. "At any
rate, that's what we think."

Larose made no comment. He had finished adjusting his shoe lace and was
now looking out of the window again. There was a long silence, and the
Commissioner chewed fiercely at the cold butt of his cigarette.
Suddenly, however, he spoke again.

"But that is not all I have to tell you, Mr. Larose. You spoke just now
of a greater and a lesser problem that lay before us, and you were quite
right. These events of a fortnight ago were not isolated happenings;
they were not events by themselves." He thumped his fist upon the desk.
"They were links in a chain of crime: they were two events in quite a
long series of crime."

He paused for a moment to relight his cigarette.

"But listen still further. For over a year now we have been conscious of
a peculiar current of evil-doing stirring in the city, and we who are in
authority are convinced there is a master criminal working here. There
have been numerous robberies in hotels principally. There have been
crimes of violence, murder has been done." He spoke with deliberation.
"They have been all well-planned crimes, too, well thought out and well
executed, and we have been baffled every time. No clues to pick up,
nothing we could ever follow on. To take only the last few months--all
crimes of night--a man drugged and robbed at the Gulf Hotel, a thousand
pounds and more filched from two inter-State visitors at the Grand
Australasian, a wealthy stockbroker stunned and his safe broken into
when he was working late at his office, and the naked body of a man,
tied up in a sheet, found under most suspicious circumstances in the
Torrens River at the foot of the weir. This last man was never
identified, but enquiries are now coming through from London for
information as to the whereabouts of a party who was carrying a parcel
of precious stones upon him, and who should have sailed from here by the
Nestor ten weeks ago, and the description tallies with that of the body
found in the Torrens weir." The voice of the Commissioner took on quite
a pathetic tone. "Now you can understand how worried we are. The Press
is up against us, the public is thirsting for our blood, and the other
States are jeering at this city as being the most criminal of all the
cities in the Commonwealth."

The detective smiled at the woebegone expression on the Commissioner's
face.

"But this escape, Sir, from the stockade," he asked--"surely you have
formed some theory as to how, when he had left his cell, he got away
from the building itself?"

"We have formed no theory, Mr. Larose," said the Commissioner solemnly.
"And it has amazed us all the time that even with the connivance of the
two officials he was able to get clear from the buildings. Blendiron and
Bullock could have helped him only a third of the way. He had to cross
parts of the prison over which they had no control. But see here, I'll
draw you a rough plan of the place." and the Commissioner took out his
fountain-pen and pulled a pad of paper before him. "Now, here is the
outer wall of the stockade, twenty-two feet high with the top four feet
made up of loose bricks. You understand, of course, no one can
consequently climb over without bringing down loose bricks and at once
attracting attention by the noise. Well, here in the middle are the
cells and here is the particular one where Fallon was confined. It opens
into this corridor, which is about twenty yards long. At the end of this
corridor comes the exercise yard. Unlock another door here and you are
in the general courtyard. You cross this courtyard and here are the
entrance gates to the stockade." He looked up at the detective. "You
see, Mr. Larose, Fallon had not only to get out of his cell and along
that first corridor, but he had also to open the door at the end, cross
over the exercise yard, unlock another door there, cross over the main
court-yard, and then induce the guard on duty at the entrance gates to
unlock them and let him through. It seems a sheer impossibility, for,
granting that Blendiron and Bullock had passed him through into the
exercise yard, their territory ended there, and he would have needed
more accomplices to see him clear of the entrance gates. The whole
prison couldn't have been in his pay, yet he would have been under the
observation of a score of pairs of eyes at least while passing through
the two yards to reach the entrance gates. Just think of that."

"But if he were disguised," said Larose, "he could manage it?"

"But a stranger would have been remarked," retorted the Commissioner
irritably. "And no one saw any stranger at all. Besides, if he were
disguised, as you say, what became then of his old clothes? When he was
remanded to the stockade he was wearing a light grey suit, and it was
not left behind when he escaped, so undoubtedly he was wearing it."

The detective asked another question.

"Who were actually present when the discovery was made that he had
escaped?"

"Three persons," replied the Commissioner. "Blendiron and Bullock and
Fallon's medical man, Dr. Van Steyne. It was like this, as I have in
part already explained to you. Fallon had complained that he was not
feeling well, and, taking the privilege of prisoners on remand, he asked
to see his own doctor. So they 'phoned to Dr. Van Steyne, who, by the
way, is a foremost consulting physician in South Australia, and he
arranged to come to the stockade about four o'clock. Accordingly at
three-forty-five Fallon was locked in his cell to be in readiness, and
within a few minutes--every one agrees certainly not more than ten--Dr.
Van Steyne arrived. He was taken straight to the cell, the door was
unlocked, and--the cell was found empty."

"And, of course, you asked the doctor," said Larose, "how the warders
seemed to take it and whether they showed great surprise?"

"Yes," replied the Commissioner. "Van Steyne happens to be an intimate
friend of mine, and I questioned him on the spot. At five minutes past
four I got a telephone message from the stockade, and I was down there
by a quarter past. I was told at first that the doctor had gone, but, I
found he was in the infirmary yard with the prison surgeon. I questioned
him minutely, and he was of opinion that the warders were in every way
as much astonished as he was. He said Bullock went white as a sheet, and
that Blendiron swore savagely."

There was a short silence, and then the Commissioner shrugged his
shoulders.

"Well, that is all I have to tell you, Mr. Larose," he said with a sigh,
"and I admit there is not much inducement for you to take up the case.
As to where Fallon is hiding, as I say, we have not the remotest idea,
and we don't know where to start looking." He smiled grimly. "Even you,
sir, with that fabled extra sense of yours would not know where to
begin. You would be bushed from the start."

"But I'm not so sure of that," said Larose thoughtfully. "There are some
things that occur to me, there are some--" He hesitated, and the
Commissioner broke in sharply.

"Oh! then you have some ideas, have you? You think that you can succeed
where we have failed." He frowned slightly. "Good, then, you shall go
down to the stockade at once. You shall--"

The detective shook his head. "No," he said quickly, "no, I'll take it
on, but it is not at the stockade where I shall start. It is at the
Rialto Hotel where I shall pick up the beginnings of the trail." He
looked thoughtfully at the Commissioner. "A man cannot live for two
years, you know, Mr. Commissioner, at any one place and not leave
something of his inclinations and the tendencies of his mind behind. So
we will gather up the threads of his life there, and they will help us
to determine most likely what he is doing now." The face of the
detective broke into a smile. "Yes, we must go to the place where he
lived, and perhaps then we shall hear his voice still, speaking in the
rooms that he inhabited, and maybe we shall even see his shadow still
moving on the wall."

The frown on the face of the Commissioner deepened. He was at no time a
man of much imagination, and he had no room in his psychology for
poetical ideas.

"Good!" he said drily. "Then you shall be taken to the Rialto instead. I
will detail Inspector Barnsley to go with you. He has been in charge of
the case from the beginning and knows all there is to know." A suspicion
of sarcasm crept into his voice. "And when you find out where Fallon is,
please ring me up at once. It will be the best piece of news that has
come in all my life and I shan't mind being disturbed. Now----" and he
reached towards his bell.

"One moment, please, before you ring," interrupted Larose quickly. "If
you don't mind. I should like as few people as possible to know that I
am here. I always work as much as I can--alone."

"Oh! certainly," replied the Commissioner. "No one, indeed, except
Inspector Barnsley, need know that you are helping us."

"And one other thing," went on Larose. "Before I meet anyone, I should
like to make some change in my appearance." He smiled apologetically.
"You see, sir, it is a rule of life with me never to be seen as my own
proper self when I'm engaged on a case. My chief in New South Wales is
very considerate and even when I am giving evidence in the courts allows
me to be, in part, disguised." He laughed. "I have found it most helpful
at times that some of my friends, even, don't know exactly what I am
like."

The Commissioner smiled. "Yes. I've heard all that about you, Mr.
Larose. They say you are the greatest master of disguise since Bousson
died." He puckered his forehead. "But is it really true that you can so
alter your appearance that I, for instance, shouldn't recognise you,
even if I were looking out for you and you stood close near me?"

"I ought to be able to, sir," replied Larose quietly. "That is, of
course," he added quickly, "unless you caught my features in repose. I
was on the stage once and 'make-up' is my long suit in criminal work."
He looked at his watch. "But I'll be back here in less than two hours
and you shall judge then for yourself. My name will be Huxley now, until
I've finished with the case."

"A rather overrated man, I'm afraid this Larose," sighed the
Commissioner when a couple of minutes later he was alone in his room,
"and I'm inclined almost to believe now that he owes most of his success
to his good luck." He sniffed contemptuously. "Shadows on the wall!
Well, he'll find none this time. He's up against something stiff here."

"Quite a pleasant man, the Commissioner," ruminated Gilbert Larose when
he was out again in the street. "Smart too in some ways." His face
clouded "But weak--rather weak. He's inclined to give up too easily and
he's afraid of what people say."



CHAPTER IV.--THE HOUND ON THE TRAIL.


That same afternoon two men walked into the entrance hall of the Rialto
Hotel and enquired for the managing accountant.

There was a flutter of interest in the reception office, for, although
in plain clothes, one of the men was recognised at once as
Detective-Inspector Barnsley, of the South Australian Police. The
features of the other were not familiar, but it was surmised instantly
by the clerk that he was a detective, too, for he had policeman written
all over him. Certainly he was not very tall, but his face was hard and
impassive as became a sleuth-hound of the law, and he walked with the
military precision of one who had for many years exercised in the
barrack yard. He had big boots with thick soles, and he eyed everyone in
true policeman fashion as potential criminals. The accountant appeared.

"We are going over Fallon's room again, Mr. Trewby," said Inspector
Barnsley, "and afterwards my colleague would like to have a short chat
with you. He is Detective Huxley, from Perth, and he is giving us a
hand."

The detective from Perth nodded, and his stern face relaxed into quite a
pleasant smile.

"Sorry to trouble you, Mr. Trewby," he said, "but I understand you have
been in personal contact with the late manager and have worked with him
ever since he has been here."

The accountant was a good-looking young fellow, of about six or
seven-and-twenty. He was well groomed and his hair was parted exactly in
the middle. He had had a college education, and he regarded detectives
generally as common and uneducated men. He had a rather supercilious
air. He bowed, however, politely.

"Yes. I have been accountant here for three years," he said, "and have
worked with the late manager for the last two."

"Well, you're the man I want," smiled Detective Huxley, "and I'm sure
you'll be able to help me."

They traversed a long corridor and then Inspector Barnsley, taking a key
from his pocket, opened a door at the far end and ushered the two into a
darkened room.

"This was Fallon's private room, Mr. Huxley," he explained as he pulled
up the blinds, "and it is practically exactly as he left it.
Everything's been gone through thoroughly, but nothing's been removed.
We've had possession of the key all the time."

Gilbert Larose, for, of course, it was he who was the assumed detective
from Perth, looked interestedly about him. The room was furnished as a
bed-sitting room, and was large and commodious, and luxurious in every
way. Everything spoke of comfort and of the best that money could buy. A
rich Turkey carpet, furniture of the most elaborate kind, valuable
etchings upon the walls, silverware in the corners, and at the far end,
in an alcove screened off by long silk curtains, a handsome Jacobean
bed.

"Hum!" murmured Larose, "appreciated the good things of life, this Mr.
Fallon. No anchorite here. Excellent taste, too." He examined the
etchings. "Quite valuable these, all signed. Rheims Cathedral, Notre
Dame, and a wonderful little bit of the Bois de Boulogne." (The
accountant opened his eyes--this rough looking detective's pronunciation
was quite perfect.) "Varnot's seascapes and a characteristic group of
pretty girls by Lionel Lindsay. This last one perhaps is one of the best
examples of Lindsay's finest work. Ah! his books. Now we shall see what
kind of man he is. Shakespeare, Kit Marlowe, Ibsen, Pinero, the plays of
Oscar Wilde. A student of the drama and quite catholic in his tastes!
'Life of Henry Irving,' 'Memoirs of Beebohm Tree,' Amateur Theatricals,
Lytton's 'Cardinal Richelieu,' with the parts scored. So, so--probably
an actor himself. Tupper's 'Principles of Surgery,' Giffen's 'Medical
Jurisprudence,' and Garrod's 'Materia Medica.' Dear me! Dear me! A
little out of date, but a student of medicine, too!"

For a few moments the detective glanced cursorily over the other books,
and then turned briskly to the well-groomed young accountant of the
hotel.

"Come, Mr. Trewby," he said, "you and I can now have our little talk.
We'll sit on that nice couch over there and have a cigarette. You see,"
he went on confidingly, "in some way you may perhaps hand over to us the
key to the whole situation, and we might learn through you where this
fellow has now gone. You know the man, you were in daily contact with
him, and you were aware, in common and everyday circumstances, of the
trend of his mind. So you can put us wise, perhaps better than anyone
else, as to his habits and inclinations, that we may be able to deduce
from what you tell us something of what we want to find out."

The accountant regarded Larose with more respect. In spite of his
prejudices he was impressed, and realised that the detective was of no
common and uneducated mind. He nodded his head.

"I shall be very pleased to tell you all I know," he said politely,
"but--," and he smiled, "please remember I am no detective like you, Mr.
Huxley."

"Heaven forbid," laughed Larose; "we have enough competition in our line
as it is. Well," he went on briskly, "as I take it, this Fallon of yours
was quite a likeable sort of man, and until the affair of a fortnight
ago you had no reason to suspect that there was anything at all abnormal
about him."

"No, no reason whatever," replied the accountant.

"He was a capable manager?" asked Larose.

"Certainly! We pride ourselves upon this being, as far as possible, an
ideal hotel."

"Now tell me his mode of life," said Larose. "What was the usual routine
of his day? Exactly, please."

"He was called at seven," said the accountant, speaking without feeling,
and exactly as if he were reading from a book, "and the morning papers
were taken in to him when he was called. He was in the office opening
the letters by eight o'clock. He had breakfast at half-past, and then he
went back to the office or was about the hotel until eleven. Then he
went out and transacted any necessary business in the city. He was back
for lunch before one, and after lunch rested or read in his room until
about three. He generally went out again then, and didn't return until
about six-thirty, when he came in for dinner."

"Where did he go in the afternoon?" asked the detective.

The accountant smiled. "I don't know. He never spoke to us about his
private affairs, but I think he generally went out for a game of bridge
at his club.

"What club?" asked Larose.

"The South Australian."

"The swell club of the city," commented Inspector Barnsley grimly. "All
well-to-do men there, and of different flesh and blood from common
fellows like you and me."

"What makes you think he went to the club?" asked Larose, ignoring the
interruption.

"Well, the club is quite close, and he didn't use his car."

"Oh!" said Larose. "About his car then. Where did he garage it?"

"At the back of the hotel, in our garage here."

"What make is it?"

"A single-seater Saul. A very fine car. It cost over a thousand pounds."

"Well go on. What happened after dinner?"

"He went out again for the evening, or else he entertained friends
here."

"He had a lot of friends?"

"Oh! yes! Quite a number."

"Well, who were his principal ones? Now please be exact here."

The accountant hesitated. "I really couldn't say. You see, so many
different people came here that I can't single out any particular ones.
I could name twenty different people right off with whom he was
particularly friendly, but I couldn't say whom he saw most."

"But the telephone?" persisted Larose. "You must have often heard him
speak on the 'phone?"

The accountant shook his head. "Very rarely, except on business. You
see, he had his private 'phone in here."

The detective thought for a moment.

"Well, what did he eat and drink?" he asked.

"Oh! almost everything," replied the accountant, looking mildly amused.
"He had the usual meals of the hotel always. Nothing extra except that
he drank two glasses of milk during the morning."

"He was a teetotaler?" asked the detective.


"By no means!" replied the accountant, "but he was very abstemious, and
never took alcohol except with his meals. Then he drank whisky as a rule
and occasionally champagne."

"Was he a man in good health?"

"Yes, except that he used to get very bad colds and then he'd have a
dreadful cough sometimes."

"Who was his doctor?"

"Dr. Van Steyne. He's been here when Mr. Fallon was ill."

The detective frowned, as if not much grist were coming to his mill.
"Now tell me," he asked--"Fallon could do pretty well as much as he
liked here couldn't he? There was no one, I mean, to interfere with him
in any way?"

The accountant shook his head. "No one," he replied. "He could come and
go when he pleased, and take what days off he liked."

"So, he took days off, did he? Many of them?"

"Well, not many, but sometimes he went away for four or five days."

"Where did he go?"

"He never told anybody. He went away in his car."

"Long journeys, do you think, far away from the city?"

The accountant hesitated.

"No. I don't think very far," he said slowly. "I don't think so, because
he never came back looking as if he had been much in the open air, and I
had always noticed that he sun-browned easily, in an afternoon, for
instance when he had been to the races."

"Oh!" said the detective, "and that is all you can surmise?"

"Yes," went on the accountant, and then he hesitated again. "But, still,
I think it must have been some little distance that he went, for he
always came back at night, about 10 o'clock or just before."

"How do you come to remember that particularly?" asked Larose.

"Because I lock the office at 10, and he was nearly always back just
before then."

"And when he went off on these holidays," said the detective, "what time
in the day did he start?"

"Oh! Always in the evening and pretty late. He always dined here before
he left."

The detective snapped his fingers triumphantly.

"Ah! now we're learning something," he exclaimed, "our gentleman came
and went always after dark. He didn't want to be seen, eh?"

The accountant looked thoughtful. "I never regarded it in that light,"
he said, "but still--"--he shrugged his shoulders--"it never interested
me at all until now."

"And how often did he take these days off," asked Larose sharply, "once
a month or so?"

"No, at no regular intervals. Sometimes he would not go away for months,
and then he would go away two weeks running."

"When was the last time he went away?" asked Larose. "Do you remember?"

"About five weeks ago I think, but I can easily make sure. He always
signed the cashbook every time before he went, and I can consequently
put an exact date to every holiday he took."

"Excellent," said Larose brightening up. "Then you might, please, let me
have a list straight away of the dates. They may be useful to us." He
thought for a moment and then stood up. "Well, thank you, Mr. Trewby,
that's all for the present, I think. I am much obliged to you for your
help. We won't keep you any longer. Inspector Barnsley and I will now go
over things here. One other question though. Who cleaned and looked over
his car?"

"Our man at the garage always. Mr. Fallen was most particular about his
car. He was very proud of it, and always had it very spick and span."

"Quite a profitable little conversation, that," remarked Larose, when
the accountant had left the room. "If we could only find out what these
outings meant, it might clear things up a lot." He looked thoughtfully
round the room. "Now, I think I'll go through his clothes first. They
will be a good indication of the kind of man he is."

He opened the large wardrobe and at once turned to Inspector Barnsley.

"A regular dandy!" he said with a grin, "and much better dressed than
either you or I, Inspector! More variety, too!" He picked out a coat and
carried it to the window. He scrutinised the tab under the collar, and
then carefully turned out the inner breast pocket and held it up to the
light. "Ah!" he exclaimed laconically, and returned swiftly to the
wardrobe. He abstracted another coat and submitted it to the same
scrutiny--a hurried glance at the tab under the collar, and the breast
pocket pulled out and held up to the light. The same process was gone
through with every coat that he could find, and then the waistcoats and
the trousers were each taken out and gone through in turn.

The inspector regarded him with a puzzled frown.

Suddenly Larose looked up and he spoke very sternly. "An habitual
criminal, Barnsley. A man who is old in crime."

Inspector Barnsley opened his eyes wide. He did not understand.

"Look at these clothes, my friend!" went on Larose. "Every mark of
identity in them taken out! These are good clothes, expensive clothes,
and made undoubtedly by tailors of high-class repute. And every tailor
who makes clothes such as these invariably puts in his own name, and
very often that of his client, too, somewhere upon a little tab.
Practically always it is sewn under the inner breast pocket of the coat.
It has been done so in all these coats, and in every single instance, as
I say, they have been taken out. Hold any of these inside breast pockets
up to the light and you can see where the stitches have been cut. Now
what does that mean?"

But the inspector made no response. He was a stolid, matter-of-fact man,
and Larose was tapping wires that belonged to another world.

Larose went on, and he spoke now very slowly and almost as if he were
speaking to himself.

"Well, it amounts to this. We can conclude that this man, from time to
time, was in the habit of going somewhere where his real identity was
unknown. He doubtless passed as someone different from the manager of
the Rialto Hotel. Periodically, we have learnt, he set off on
expeditions, and the first and last portions of these journeys must have
been fraught with certain elements of danger, for he accomplished them
in the hours of darkness, so that he might not be seen." The detective's
voice took on suddenly a sharp and decisive tone.

"But where's that box of make-up you said you found. Somewhere in the
desk, I believe."

"Second drawer down," replied the inspector promptly, "and it's just as
we found it. Nothing was touched."

Larose opened a small flat tin box, but here his inspection was quick
and soon over.

"Not been used often," he commented, "and only part of a much larger
outfit that he's got elsewhere. A sort of emergency affair I should say.
A little of everything, but in much smaller quantities than he could buy
at any shop. No place would sell the small quantities that are in this
box." He paused for a moment and looked thoughtfully round the room;
then he shook his head. "No, not anywhere in the hotel. He's got another
hiding-place somewhere, I'm sure." He turned to the inspector. "Well,
I'll go through his papers now. His pass-book first, please."

It was an hour and more before Larose rose from the desk, and his
comments were clear-cut and decisive.

"A gambler," he said, "and been losing heavily in stocks and shares.
Caught badly by the slump in lead. Plenty of money coming in but even
more going out. Those large cash deposits look peculiar, but I suppose
he would explain them by saying they were bets won on the racecourse.
Must have had some method, too, of getting rid of the original notes.
Naturally we----"

There was a knock on the door and the accountant entered. He handed a
paper to Larose.

"Here are the dates, Mr. Huxley, upon which Mr. Fallon was away from the
hotel during the past year. Eleven times, and the lengths of absence
vary from two to six days."

Larose thanked him and the accountant withdrew. The detective glanced
over the paper and then passed it over to his colleague.

"Can you make anything of it?" he asked. "Do you remember anything
happening upon these dates?"

"That I do!" exclaimed the inspector excitedly, the moment his eyes fell
on the paper. "Two things for sure--September 5 was the date of that
robbery at the Grand Australasian, and on the eleventh of October that
man was chloroformed and lost over 700 pounds in the Gulf Hotel. Great
Scot:--then they were Fallon's work. He was in those hotels in some
disguise."

"You are sure of these dates?" said Larose quickly; "you are quite
sure?"

"Sure!" groaned the inspector bitterly. "They left too unpleasant
memories behind them to be forgotten! The public roared at us, and the
press spoke openly of resignations and new blood wanted in the force.
Oh! If we could get that man!"

"All in good time," said Larose.

"We'll get him sure enough if he was involved in these other crimes, and
it looks as if he was." He spoke confidently. "No man can commit crime
after crime and cover up all his tracks. One day comes the fatal lapse,
and then it's all over with him and his number's up. We mayn't get the
man straight away, but through these other affairs we ought to be able
to find out with whom he has been working, and who, later on, engineered
that escape from the stockade. Yes, we may trace him back through them,
for almost certainly it is they who are hiding him now."

"Well, we're getting on," said the inspector hopefully; "at any rate I
feel much better about it than I did a couple of hours ago."

Larose smiled. "It's a good case, and I wouldn't have missed it for
worlds. But come now, have we sifted everything here? Have we, for one
thing, accounted for all his keys?"

"All on his chain," replied the Inspector. "There were nine of them and
I have ticked them all off."

"No others anywhere else?" asked Larose. "We want to be quite sure about
everything, you know."

"There are a couple of odd ones in a little purse somewhere, but they
look old and as if they haven't been used for a long time."

"Well, lets see them!" said Larose sharply. "You remember where they
are?"

"In one of those bottom drawers, I think." The inspector searched for a
couple of minutes. "Yes, here they are."

Larose took the purse he held out. It was a very small one and made of
kid.

"Held a cigar cutter once," he commented, "and probably--Hello! hello!
Who said these keys hadn't been used lately?" and he held the purse up
to his nose. "Why, man, they reek of kerosine!"

Quickly resuming his seat at the desk, he tilted the keys on to a sheet
of clean notepaper, and bent his face down over them.

"Yes, yes," he muttered, "it's the keys that smell. Someone has been
handling them with oily hands." He turned to the inspector. "Now they
were not touched here by any one of you who had got oil on his hands?"

"No, I'm sure of that," said the inspector, shaking his head. "I found
them myself in the corner of that bottom drawer, and I was the only one
to handle them. I put them back because I didn't think they were
anything important."

Larose made no remark. He was turning the little purse inside out and
shaking it over the sheet of paper. His eyebrows lifted. "Sand," he
muttered, "and quite a lot of it."' He intently scrutinised the two
keys. "One, a small Yale," he went on, "belonging to a small cupboard
probably, and the other--the other a cheap padlock key. Outdoor padlock
key," he added after a moment, "for there's rust in side the barrel from
the padlock itself. Plenty of rust." A thought seemed suddenly to strike
him, and he bent down and applied the tip of his tongue to the little
heap of sand upon the paper. "Salty," he muttered. "Sand from the
sea-shore. Now I thought it must be salt water that made the padlock so
rusty. Sand and sea-water. Now let me think."

He closed his eyes and leant back in the chair.

One, two, three minutes passed and Inspector Barnsley never took his
eyes off the detective's face. He, Henry Barnsley, of twenty and more
years in the force, was learning things from the younger man, and he was
quite prepared to pay tribute accordingly.

Larose opened his eyes at length, and, catching the inspector's intent
regard, perhaps read something, too, of the latter's thoughts.

He smiled pleasantly. "I think I've got it, Inspector," he said in quite
a cheerful tone of voice, "but I'll get you, if you please, to check my
deductions." He swung round in his chair. "Now, in the light of what we
have heard from the accountant, and what happened on certain of those
dates when Fallon was absent from this hotel, these two keys may prove
to be in vital relationship to what we want to know. As I look at it,
he's all along had another place somewhere. Not a place where he resided
when he went away, but a stepping-off place where he prepared himself
for some adventures, and this place I think must be an outhouse near the
sea. Look at the sand that I shook out from this little purse. You can
see from the barrel what a rusty padlock is served by the bigger
key--salt rust I am sure, because of its quantity and also because the
sand itself tastes salty. Now I don't think the place will turn out to
be a garage, because surely no one would secure a valuable
thousand-pound car with such a cheap and paltry padlock as undoubtedly
belongs to this key. Remember, we have learnt he was away sometimes for
as long a period as six days, and if he doubled back again incognito to
the city his car would have been left unattended all the time." Larose
sniffed. "Just think. A thousand-pound car secured by an eighteen-penny
padlock. No, no; it's not plausible on the face of it, and more
especially in the case of a man who, as we have just heard, was very
proud of his car."

"But why did he go away at all in his car?" asked the puzzled inspector.

"That's what we must find out," replied Larose. "Probably to give the
impression to everyone that he was going a distance from the city. But
we'll interview the garage man straight away. At any rate we know now
what questions to ask him."

Locking the door behind them, they passed out through the back of the
hotel into the yard. The garage of the hotel was a large one and had
accommodation for between twenty and thirty cars.

"Some of the finest cars in Australia are generally to be found here,"
remarked the inspector. "This is a rich man's hotel, you know."

They found the garage-man, busy cleaning a sumptuous limousine.
Inspector Barnsley introduced himself and his companion.

"We shall only keep you a few minutes," he said. "We want to look at the
late manager's car."

Without a word the man led them to a low grey single-seater at the end
of the garage. The car had beautiful lines and looked as polished and
glossy as if it had just come out of the showroom.

"Fine car," observed Larose admiringly, "and beautifully kept." He
smiled pleasantly at the man. "How long has Mr. Fallon had it?"

"Two years," was the reply. "He bought it just after I came here."

Larose took a long look again. "And when did he last use it?"

"The day before he was taken up," said the man. "He went out in it in
the afternoon."

"Tell me," said Larose--"he sometimes went touring in it, didn't he? He
was away touring for days at a time?"

"Well, he went away," replied the man slowly, "but he didn't tour much.
He didn't go far."

"Then how long were the journeys he took?" asked Larose.

The man stopped to think. "Sometimes twenty miles," he said, "sometimes
thirty. Never more than that."

"But when he was absent for nearly a week, for instance?" said Larose.
"Do you mean to say then he didn't go more than 30 miles?"

The man pointed to the speedometer. "Not by that," he replied, "nor by
the condition of the car. I don't remember any long journeys even when
he was away for five or six days."

There was a long silence, and Inspector Barnsley tried to catch Larose's
eye.

Presently, however, Larose spoke with an inflexion of carelessness in
his voice.

"You don't happen to know where he went anytime, do you?"

"He went to Henley Beach once," replied the man. "I happen to know
that."

Inspector Barnsley hardly breathed.

"On one of his long absences?"

The man nodded. "He was away five days that time, and his car went
exactly 22 miles."

"But how do you know he'd been to Henley?" and Larose spoke as though
the matter was of no particular interest to anybody.

The man laughed. "Only by accident," he said. "Mr. Fallon had had a
puncture, and put on the spare wheel. Then the damaged tube had been
repaired, and the garage people who had done the repair had left their
cost label on. I saw 'Norgate' on it, 'South Henley, 3/6.'"

Inspector Barnsley sighed deeply.

"How do you happen to remember he'd only done 22 miles that trip?" asked
Larose.

"Oh! when I saw he'd had a puncture I naturally wondered where he'd got
it, and I looked at the speedometer to see if he'd been far away from
the city."

"Did you tell him about the label?" asked Larose.

The man shook his head. "As a matter of fact. I never thought about it
again until you questioned me just now. It had quite gone out of my
mind."

Ten minutes later the two detectives were en route for Henley Beach, a
seaside suburb about seven miles distant from the city.


CHAPTER V.--THE GREY CAR.


Norgate's Garage at Henley Beach lay just off the main road and was
situated about 200 yards from the promenade. It was not large garage and
there were only two cars inside when the detectives walked in.

"Good!" commented Larose, "so much the better! He hasn't a large
connection evidently, and therefore will be more likely to remember
about Fallon's car."

A young fellow who was working at a bench left his job and came forward,
but Inspector Barnsley asked for the proprietor, and a big,
alert-looking man at once appeared. His jaw dropped a little when the
Inspector announced who they were and produced his official card.

"Oh! it's all right," smiled the Inspector, "we don't want you, Mr.
Norgate. We've only come to make some enquiries about a car you've had
in here."

The man smiled back. "At your service, gentlemen. I am sure," he said.
"A car been stolen somewhere?"

"No," replied the Inspector, "nothing of that, but we're looking for a
man who used to drive a Saul." He looked intently at the man. "Now, do
you happen to remember repairing a tyre for a single-seater Saul, two or
three months ago?"

Norgate shook his head, and smiled. "We repair a good many tyres," he
said slowly, "and I can't remember exactly everyone."

"But a Saul," persisted the Inspector, "a single-seater Saul! Come,
there are not so many Sauls about that you repair tyres for them every
day."

"No, certainly not," agreed the man, "and that should make it easier.
Bert!" he called out to the youth who had resumed his work at the bench,
"have we ever repaired a tyre, for Mr. Thompson, do you remember?
There's a Mr. Thompson who comes here in a single-seater Saul," he
added, for the benefit of the detectives.

The young fellow looked up. "Yes," he said, after a moment's thought. "I
vulcanised a patch for him once, on his spare."

"When was it?" asked his master.

"Oh, I don't remember that," replied Bert, "it must have been months and
months ago."

"Well, who's the Mr. Thompson," asked the Inspector sharply, "and where
does he come from?"

"He lives at Gawler," replied the garageman, "and he's one of the heads
in the railway repair shops there."

Inspector Barnsley looked rather nonplussed. "How long have you known
him?" he asked with a frown.

"Oh! a long time," replied Norgate. "He's been garaging here I should
think for quite a couple of years."

"Well, what sort of man is he?"

"Very pleasant gentleman. About 50, I should say. Fairly tall, but
stoops a little and has a small black moustache."

"Do you remember the number of his car?"

Norgate shook his head. "Know the number of Mr. Thompson's Saul, Bert?"
he called out. "No, gentlemen, I thought he wouldn't. You see, we never
think of a car by its number. Only by its make."

"Is it a grey car?" asked the Inspector in growing disappointment. "I
suppose you will be able to remember that?"

"Yes, it's a grey car right enough," said Norgate, smiling, "but then
practically all Sauls are grey. It's the color the chasses come out in
over here."

The Inspector looked as if for the moment he could think of no other
questions, and Larose now spoke for the first time.

"And this Mr. Thompson," he said carelessly, "has he a house down here
as well as at Gawler?"

"No-o," replied Norgate slowly, "he only comes down here for short
holidays occasionally. I understand he stops with friends."

"Well, who are his friends here?" asked Larose.

"I don't know even that," replied the garage-man, getting rather hot. "I
really know nothing about him except that his name is Thompson, that he
comes from Gawler, and that he has been garaging his car here, on and
off, for a long time."

"And how do you know he comes from Gawler and that his name is really
Thompson?" asked Larose.

"Well he told me so," said the garage-man, now beginning to be surly,
"in exactly the same way that you told me you were detectives." He
glared at his two visitors. "I've only your word to go on, you know.
Anyone can get hold of a card."

Larose made haste to mollify the man.

"Look here, Mr. Norgate," he said, "we don't want to annoy you by asking
unnecessary questions and wasting your time, but you see the position is
like this. As Inspector Barnsley has just told you, we are looking for a
man who has a single-seater Saul, and who had the tyre on his spare
wheel once repaired here. We think our man is your Mr. Thompson, and to
find out whether we are right or wrong is so simple a matter that it can
be done in a couple of minutes."

"All right," said Norgate gruffly, "go on, but all I know is, Mr.
Thompson is a very nice-spoken gentleman."

"Well," said Larose slowly, "has it ever happened that you have seen
this Mr. Thompson by daylight? Has he come to the garage at any time
except when it was getting late at night--when it was dark. I mean?"

The man thought for a moment. "No," he said, "but he explained that to
me. He said his holidays were short and he loved the sea and grudged
every minute he spent away from it. That's why he left at the earliest
possible moment to come here, and returned home as late as he could."

"Can you remember," went on Larose, fixing the uneasy garage-man with
his eye, "whether he has come here during the past twelve months about
eleven times, and has stopped here sometimes two days or so, but never
more than a week? And upon occasions have you ever seen anything of him
between the moment of his arrival and the moment when he went away?"

Norgate's face broke into a reluctant smile. "Really," he said, "you
almost make me feel suspicious now and yet,"--he hesitated--"the man who
came here was a very pleasant man."

"And our man, too, was a very pleasant man," said Larose sternly. "He
had to be to carry out the crimes that he did."

"What's he wanted for?" asked Norgate.

"Murder," said Larose, "and other crimes as well."

"Whew!" whistled the garage man, and his face got rather pale, "but he
didn't look that sort to me." He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, it's
nothing to do with us. We don't know anything about it anyhow." His
voice became resentful. "But how do you know the man you want ever had a
tyre repaired here?"

"Because he went back one night," said Larose, "with one of your labels
tied on to his spare wheel--'Norgate's Garage--vulcanising patch, 3/6.'
Listen, Mr. Norgate," went on the detective persuasively, "I feel sure
you can help us if you will, and you ought to, too, for that man has
been using your garage as a cover for his crimes. Upon each of those
nights he came down here from the city it was with some dreadful purpose
in his mind. He left his car in your care, and then, we are sure, took
himself off to some handy place he's got close near to alter his
appearance, and effect a disguise. Then he doubled back to the city and
you didn't see him again until one or other of his victims was robbed or
dead. Now you understand how serious a matter it is that we should find
out where he went when he came down here, for it is only by tracing his
movements in Henley that we can hope to get on the track of where he is
hiding now."

"Who is he?" asked the garage man, undoubtedly, from the expression on
his face, now impressed by what the detective had told him.

"I'll tell you later," said Larose grimly, "and when you know it will
open your eyes."

Norgate thought for a few moments. "Well, gentlemen," he said. "I'd help
you if I could, but honestly I haven't the remotest idea where he went.
He used to come down with his car, and always got my one lock-up shed
whenever it was disengaged, although I told him the Saul was just as
safe in here. Then he would take out his small portmanteau from the
dicky, have a short chat with us, and go off. Then we wouldn't see him
any more, as you say, until he returned with his portmanteau to take out
his car and go home again. That was all we ever had to do with him or he
with us."

"And you have no idea at all," asked Larose disappointedly, "in which
direction he went? None whatever?"

"None whatever," replied the man. "Ah! stay--" a look of importance came
suddenly into his face, and he paused dramatically. "Yes," he went on,
"I do think now I can tell you something. It's not much, but it may give
you an idea." He spoke with tantalising slowness. "It's like this. I
remember when I was called out one night several months ago, to a
breakdown on the Military Road, that just when I reached where the roads
fork at South Henley I saw Mr. Thompson coming up the road from the
beach. He was just passing under the lamp at the corner, and I think I
recognised him because of the portmanteau he was carrying. I remember
saying to myself, 'Oh! Then he's coming up for his car to-night.'"
Norgate smiled all over his face. "Now, does that help you?"

"Yes, it does," snapped Inspector Barnsley triumphantly. "It helps a
lot. I know exactly the road you mean, although my colleague doesn't.
He's a stranger here. Now, is there anything else you can tell us,
anything at all?" But Norgate shook his head, and after a minute or two
of further conversation the two detectives thanked him and left the
garage.

Inspector Barnsley took out his pocket handkerchief and mopped his
forehead. "Well, you're wonderful, Mr. Larose," he exclaimed, "and
everything is turning out exactly as you said. Of course, Fallon has got
one of those bathing sheds on the beach. That road where Norgate saw him
with his portmanteau leads down directly to them, and we shall be able
to guess too within a hundred yards which particular one he had. It must
be one nearly at the end."

They turned on to the esplanade in front of the jetty.

"See!" said the Inspector, pointing to the beach. "The bathing huts
begin here, and stretch along the sands for about a mile and a half.
Where he saw Fallon coming from would be just about where those first
sandhills are." He took out his watch. "But it's nearly six now, and too
late to do anything to-night. It would be quite dark before I could get
a squad ready and post them round while we searched."

"Yes," agreed Larose, "and we shan't lose anything by the delay. A few
hours more will make no difference now. Besides, there's that Dr. Van
Steyne to see at 8 o'clock, and I mustn't be late. He was none too
pleasant as it was, when I 'phoned him, and I mustn't keep him waiting
on any account."

They jumped into their waiting car, and with no delay were quickly being
driven back to the city.

"Now, tell me," asked Larose, "what kind of man is this great doctor of
yours I'm going to see?"

"Van Steyne?" said the Inspector. "Oh! He's one of the leading
physicians in the city now. I know him well. He used to be the prison
surgeon years ago. Very clever man, but very eccentric and cold as a
fish. You won't get much out of him."

"Difficult to handle?" asked Larose.

"Yes, and doesn't care a damn for anyone. All the big pots go to him,
but he treats everybody the same. If he's in a bad humor, policemen or
Prime Ministers--he tells them all off. Very touchy at times."

"Not popular then?" said Larose.

The Inspector hesitated. "Well, I wouldn't quite say that. Everybody
thinks he's a marvel of a doctor and he wasn't disliked either when he
was at the prison here. Used to be very kind to the old lags, and
sometimes would put them on infirmary diet when there wasn't apparently
anything the matter with them. At any rate, that's what was said at the
time."

"Got plenty of money?" said Larose.

The Inspector sniffed. "Tons of it. But where are you going to see him?
At his rooms on North terrace?"

"No, at his private house, up at Mitcham."

"Well, you won't need to ask if he's got money when you've been up
there," said the Inspector impressively. "It's a lovely place with four
or five acres of garden, and he has it all to himself. He's a bachelor,
but he keeps three maid-servants as well as a gardener and a chauffeur.
The chauffeur's an Indian and the great Van Steyne is driven through the
city like a nabob, in state. Everyone knows his turn-out."

And Larose certainly did find a lovely place when, at eight o'clock
sharp, he was ushered into the library of the house. Books lined the
walls everywhere except for a large picture, which was hung so as to
face the door.

The picture was a gruesome one, depicting a public execution in Korea. A
man had that instant been decapitated and the cut arteries were spurting
like fountains from the neck.

"Lord!" ejaculated Larose, "but what a picture to have in any private
house! Now that seems--"--he heard a soft footfall behind him and
stopped muttering, but did not turn round. "Taking stock of me," he
whispered to himself after a few moments. "Well, let him. It will be my
turn soon, and then we'll see who learns the most."

He heard a slight cough and at once faced round. A man was regarding him
with a hard, cold stare. The man was tall and good-looking, with a proud
scornful face. He had a broad forehead and big grey eyes, and was
clean-shaven except for some iron-grey whiskers that came halfway down.
His lips were slightly parted over strong white teeth, and he held his
head high. He wore large glasses with broad black rims and was in
evening dress.

"Dr. Van Steyne?" said Larose, and the man just inclined his head. "I'm
Detective Huxley, and I 'phoned you this afternoon. I apologise for
troubling you, but I thought, as his medical attendant you might perhaps
be able to tell me something as to the temperament and habits of the
late manager of the Rialto Hotel."

"But don't you know," said the doctor coldly, "that it is not usual for
members of my profession to discuss their patients with outsiders?"

"Quite so," replied the detective quickly, "but this is not an ordinary
occasion, Dr. Van Steyne, and the patient here is beyond all
consideration at all. He has forfeited all claim to the usual decencies
of life."

There was silence for a moment.

"Well, what is it you want to know?" asked the doctor curtly.

"Why do you think the prisoner sent urgently for you to the stockade?"
asked Larose. "He could have had the prison surgeon at once, if he had
wished."

"Well, apparently he didn't wish," replied the doctor brusquely. "He was
accustomed to me, and as a prisoner on remand he was entitled to call in
whom he chose, provided he was prepared to pay the fee."

"But what was the matter with him, do you think?" asked Larose.

"How on earth should I know?" replied the doctor petulantly and staring
hard at the detective as if he were surprised at the question being put.
"A medical man doesn't usually know what is the matter with people until
he has examined them, does he?"

Larose repressed his impatience.

"Has he been a patient of yours for long, Dr. Van Steyne?" he asked.
"About two years I should say," was the reply. "I can't remember
offhand."

"Have you attended him for any serious illness?" asked the detective.

"No--only for minor gastric troubles and some colds." Larose regarded
the doctor thoughtfully. "Well, what I want to know, sir, is this," he
said--"Can you tell me of any ailment from which Miles Fallon suffered
which would handicap him in his hiding away. Any little failing of his,
any idiosyncrasy that would help to betray him if, say, he were
disguised and moving amongst us still in our midst?"

"Well, he used to get feverish when he'd got a cold," replied the doctor
with a thoughtful expression, "but I don't see how that would help you,
unless you took everybody's temperature as you went along."

Larose swore softly to himself. There was a short pause and then he
smiled.

"But weren't you very surprised," he asked, "when you came to know what
sort of man this Fallon really was?"

The doctor looked at him with amused contempt.

"I am never surprised at anything, Mr. Detective," he replied. "Mental
aberrations, like physical ones, are always cropping up in my work."

"But did it never strike you when you were attending him," persisted
Larose, "that he was not a normal man, and that he was criminally
inclined?"

"But what is crime?" asked the doctor with some irritation, "and in what
way does it alter a man's appearance? You seem to think it's like
measles or smallpox! Crime is often only a matter of one's place of
residence, isn't it? Infanticide, for example, is murder here, but in
some other countries it is not even a punishable offence." His voice
took on a sneering tone. "Really, we are all much too parochial in our
ideas. We band ourselves together into communities and we frame certain
rules of conduct that we call laws. Then, when anyone fails to comply
with these arbitrary enactments that we have made, we say at once. 'Oh!
he has committed a crime! He is a criminal!' Now, is not that so?"

Larose laughed. "Well, Dr. Van Steyne," he replied, "it happens that I
have to earn my living by taking up those gentlemen who fall foul of our
little local laws, and I was hoping you might be able to assist me in
some way. You doctors notice a lot of things which we other folks would
miss."

"I am no detective," said the doctor coldly, "and in my dealings with my
patients I confine my observations always strictly to those matters that
are material to the ailment I am called upon to treat." He shrugged his
shoulders. "When I attended Mr. Fallon, he was simply a sick man to me."

"Very well, Doctor," said Larose politely, and he made a movement
towards the door. "I guess I'll be going now. You are altogether too
academical for me. I had hoped, if I may say it, for some human touch in
you, but yours, I see, is the purely scientific mind, and the murderer,
Fallon, is only of professional interest to you as a patient who was
occasionally afflicted with bad colds."

"Yes, that's it exactly," said Dr. Van Steyne, with a chilly smile. "He
was a patient with minor ailments to me, that was all."

"And that poor old man who was done to a dreadful death in the Rialto
Hotel," went on the detective, warming up, "evokes no sympathy in you?
He is only to be pitied. I suppose, by us poor folk of narrow and
parochial minds!"

The doctor frowned.

"That incident was regrettable," he said, "but, from the evidence
adduced at the inquest, I should say it was an accident. His death was
never intended. Robbery only was the motive there."

Larose curled his lips contemptuously, and walked again towards the
door. He had almost reached it when the doctor suddenly put up his hand.
"One moment," he said abruptly, "but I don't seem to have heard of you
before, and yet I know all the detectives here. You don't belong to this
city, I suppose?"

"No," said Larose shortly. "Adelaide's not my home."

"You come from another State?" asked the doctor. Larose nodded.

"From Victoria?" went on Van Steyne.

Larose thought it easiest to say "Yes." He wanted to get away.

But Dr. Van Steyne seemed interested at last. "Melbourne's a great
city," he observed. "There's more breadth in it than over here." He
spoke with mild enthusiasm. "They get some wonderful cases of obscure
diseases there, and a holiday at their hospitals is always well spent."
He smiled grimly. "But I'm afraid that would not appeal to you. By the
by," he went on, "do you happen to know anything of Sydney?"

"I've been there," replied Larose, "several times."

"Great city too," commented the doctor, and he looked intently at his
visitor. "They've got a wonderful man there in your line, I
understand--the detective, Gilbert Larose."

Larose felt his heart go thump and he eyed the doctor narrowly. "Yes,
he's pretty good," he said in a careless tone--"that is if he's got a
straight-out case to deal with but,"--he smiled--"as with all of us, he
can't make bricks without straw."

Dr. Van Steyne spoke thoughtfully.

"Do you know, Mr. Huxley," he said, "when you were questioning me just
now it struck me suddenly that you were asking just such things as would
spring from a mentality such as I understand is possessed by this great
Gilbert Larose." He smiled in quite a friendly manner and spread out his
hand's. "You are a man of imagination, Mr. Huxley. You are not dry as
dust! You were groping for that human touch you referred to just now."

Larose felt a cold shiver down his spine. This man was a thinker like
himself, and his thoughts did not run on conventional lines. He forced
himself to speak casually. "Well, we all have ways of working, doctor,
and I try to sweep my net as wide as possible."

"Quite right, quite right!" And then all at once Van Steyne's manner
became cold again. "Well, good evening. I regret I can be of no
assistance to you," and he opened the door for Larose to pass out.

"A queer man," muttered Larose as he walked down the drive, "and, with
all his cleverness, a screw loose somewhere. One of those bored
high-brows who think they leave a hole in every room when they walk
out." He shook his head. "He's a dangerous man, too, with those views of
his about crime. He was antagonistic to me all the time. Wouldn't tell
me anything about Fallon and didn't mention his cough." He frowned, "Now
I'd like to know more about this Dr. Van Steyne somehow. He puzzled me
for some reason. Yes, that's it--he puzzled me. There's something about
him I don't understand."



CHAPTER VI.--AN ARTIST IN CRIME


It was barely light the next morning when a police car with five men in
it came to a standstill off the main road behind the sandhills of Henley
Beach.

"We must be quick now," said Inspector Barnsley, who was one of the
five, "and get to work before the bathers come out. We don't want a
crowd looking on." He turned to his subordinates. "I've found out there
are a hundred and four bathing huts here, but I expect we shall get the
one we want among the first twenty. Marshall and Cornell, stay on the
top of the sandhills and keep an eye open for anyone coming round the
back of the huts. Stop everyone you see. You, Henderson, will come with
us."

The Inspector issued his commands like a general going into battle, and
he spoke with the confidence of a man who was assured of success.

"Now, Mr. Larose," he went on as they walked towards the sea, "if
there's anything in what you and I have put together, he's got a hut not
very far from here. I know this beach pretty well, and this end is the
loneliest part of all. I should say we ought to hit it off within a
couple of hundred yards."

Larose made no comment. He was taking in the peace and beauty of the
scene, the glory of the morning sky, the long golden sands, and the sea
that lapped so softly on the shore.

He sighed heavily. "And to think," he muttered, "that the evil of this
world is so often found in beautiful settings like this."

They turned round the bottom of the sandhills, and a long line of ugly
bathing huts came into view. They were of all shapes and sizes, and in
their construction utility had evidently been alone considered.

"Now, I don't suppose it will be a big one," said the Inspector, "and
there'll be nothing flashy about it to attract attention."

The first half dozen huts were quickly passed by. They were all fitted
with doors that locked and had no padlocks on them. Then suddenly the
inspector gripped Larose by the arm.

"Look!" he whispered excitedly. "That one's got a padlock on it, and a
common one like you described!"

They ran forward to the shed he pointed at. It was built solidly of
wood, and in size was about twelve feet square. The door was fastened
with a stout bolt, but the locking padlock was of an inexpensive kind.

"The key!" exclaimed the Inspector breathlessly, and he slipped an
automatic pistol from his pocket.

"But he can't be inside, man!" said Larose frowning. "He can't have
padlocked himself in!" And the Inspector rather sheepishly returned his
pistol to his pocket.

Larose inserted the key, the padlock opened, and the bolt was slipped
back. A wrench at the door and they were peering into the hut.

"Bah!" exclaimed the Inspector disappointedly, after a good look round,
"nothing much here."

The hut was sparely furnished, and its contents were soon taken in. A
form along one side, a chair, a little table and a small cupboard. Two
kerosine lamps were hanging on either side of a good sized mirror. There
was a shelf with a teapot and some cups and saucers on it. Two bathing
dresses and a towel hung upon a rail. A box of cigarettes about
half-full and some magazines lay upon the table, and a leather purse
upon the chair. Two pairs of sandshoes and an enamel basin on the floor
and--that was all.

The Inspector strode inside and pulled open the cupboard door,
disclosing a half-consumed packet of tea, an unopened tin of condensed
milk, and two unopened bottles of beer. Turning round his eyes fell on
the purse again. He opened it. Seven shillings in silver and two
pennies! He glared stolidly at Larose.

Quite a long silence then followed. The Sydney detective was still
standing by the door. He was busy taking in everything, but it was his
eyes only that moved. His head and body were quite motionless.

Inspector Barnsley spoke first, and he spoke with studied carelessness.

"Nothing much here," he remarked, "but perhaps we've got the wrong hut."

"No," replied Larose, shaking his head, "this is his right enough." He
pointed to the mirror. "Look! A lamp on each side for his make-up. But
come, let's see that basin now."

He held the basin up to the light, he let the sun's rays fall direct
upon it, and sniffled hard several times.

"Grease paint!" he nodded to the Inspector. "You can smell it
easily--it's hard to get off." He smiled. "I'm quite satisfied."

"But there's nothing here to help us," exclaimed the Inspector
irritably. He waved his arm round. "There's nothing here."

"Pooh-pooh!" said Larose calmly. "We haven't looked yet. He's got his
hiding place under the floor. You see, Inspector," he continued
meditatively, "once we suppose we are right in thinking that this is
Fallon's hut, everything we see here can only tend to strengthen that
conviction. Note the carelessness and the abandon that would disarm all
suspicion. The cheap padlock almost inviting a break-in, but at the same
time striking the warning note--'It is not worth risking, nothing of
value inside!' The affectation of complete innocence everywhere! All the
trifling little valuables placed openly in view. The cigarettes, the
bottles of beer and the money in the purse upon the chair. Just as if
the owner of the hut were exclaiming to any possible thieves--'Here you
are, gentlemen, here are all the little luxuries that anyone could
possibly expect to find in a bathing hut like this, so don't waste any
time looking further, it will not be of any use.'" Larose smiled in
great good humor. "You see what I mean, Inspector, now don't you?"

Inspector Barnsley nodded. "Very clever, Mr. Larose, and, as you explain
it, as plain apparently as A B C, but--" he grinned slyly--"now comes
the acid test, sir. Shall we actually find anything hidden under the
floor?" and he bent down and began tapping on the boards.

"I don't think they'll come up singly," said Larose thoughtfully. "Most
likely three or four of them will come up together. Probably they're
hinged. I've seen hiding-places under floors like this before."

For some minutes the two were busy on their knees, but there were no
loose boards anywhere, and they could detect no sign of any possible
movement in any direction. The boards were of stout jarrah, nailed down
with good-sized nails, and the whole floor was as firm and solid as if
it were made of cement.

The Inspector soon began to lose hope, but Larose was cool and
unperturbed.

"You see," he said presently, "if Fallon were the man I take him to be,
he wouldn't have many weak links in his chain, and his hiding-place
would be a good one. But let's look outside now."

They walked round the hut, and at the back Larose knelt down and began
scraping away the sand near the foundations. "There might be a fastening
here," he explained, "holding some of the boards to the joists. I found
it like that in a case once."

He thrust his hand deep down into the sand, first in one place and then
in another. Then all at once he gave a quiet chuckle of satisfaction,
and looked up smilingly at his companion.

"A bolt," he whispered. He slid his hand along under the sand. "And
another! Now, wait a moment, and we shall see something."

A minute later they were back inside the hut. "Pull that form away,"
said Larose sharply, "the floor'll come up then. Now see if we can't
move something. Ah! I thought so, hinged, as I expected! Where's your
knife? That's right, up they come!" and the three end boards swung up
together from the floor.

The Inspector rose to his feet and saluted Larose gravely. "It's an
honor to work with you, sir," he said simply. "I shall remember this all
my life."

But Larose was far too occupied to make any reply. He was on his knees
and pulling eagerly at a sheet of canvas that was covering over a
large-sized chest.

"Now for our little key," he exclaimed, "and we shall know the worst."

There was a click as the key turned in the lock, and immediately he
lifted up the lid of the chest.

A moment's breathless silence, and then Inspector Barnsley ejaculated,
delightedly:--"Whew! enough evidence here to sink a ship!"

A wig, an automatic pistol and a vicious-looking knuckle-duster lay in
full view upon a neatly-folded suit of clothes. A pair of surgical
rubber gloves and a cloth mask with small eyeholes in it reposed on a
little wooden tray, and a green-colored glass-stoppered bottle was
tucked away at one side.

"Quite a pleasant little collection," remarked Larose drily, "and
symptomatic of a most gentlemanly and Christian state of mind. But now,
Inspector, if you'll clear the table, I'll hand up the articles one by
one."

But the little table was many times too small to accommodate all the
contents of the chest, and long before the latter was emptied they were
piled all round upon the floor. There were three suits of clothes, quite
a collection of hats, a quantity of underlinen, some collars and ties
and three pairs of shoes. A long flat box underneath was elaborately
fitted up with pigments, bottles of dyes and brushes and various odds
and ends for making up. There were three wigs altogether, and several
moustaches and eyebrows of varying colors and sizes.

"A very thorough workman," said Larose thoughtfully, "as I have been of
opinion all along." He shook his head slowly. "We have no novice here."

The Inspector held up the green bottle. "Chloroform," he exclaimed. "And
plenty of it!"

"Ten ounces," observed Larose. "Now, I wonder who supplied him with
quantities like that? The drugs he had on him that night at the Rialto
prove that he's got a friend somewhere in the drug line, and
notice!--every bottle here has had the label scraped off." The detective
spoke very solemnly. "Now notice this. On nothing we have taken out of
the chest is there a single mark of origin. Not a name, not an initial,
and even the very markings on the collars have been cut out. This Fallon
made certain that nothing he might ever leave behind him should give him
away. He is a man old in the ways of crime."

"But we don't seem to have got any farther, do we?" said the Inspector
dubiously. "Even though we have unearthed all these things? We are no
nearer finding out where he is hiding himself now."

"Oh! I wouldn't say that," returned Larose quickly. "We may be able to
find out by means of some of these clothes, with whom he has been
associating, and get him that way in the end. But let's look again at
that first suit we took out. Being on the top of everything else it was
probably the one he last wore when he was out on his criminal stunts."

The detective picked up the suit. It was of thick cloth and of a rather
conspicuous pepper and salt grey color. The pockets were all empty, but
in the fob of the waistcoat there was a heavy gold chain, and attached
to the chain were two massive gold seals.

"An old man's suit," said Larose meditatively. "Good clothes but badly
cut. Ready made. Yes, he was undoubtedly going about as an old man here.
An old boy from the country probably, of substantial means. Note the
stout gold chain and the heavy old-fashioned seals. Perhaps he made out
he had a sheep station or farmed in some big way. And that grey wig, of
course, went with the suit. Look at the hairs on the shoulders here. And
there's the hat, too, to match, and those collars of the old style.
Why--I can almost picture him in my mind's eye!"

The Inspector was not too hopeful, but dissembled his doubts with a
smile. "Well, what's our next move?" he asked.

"Put back everything into the chest," said Larose, "and we'll cart it
back to the city." He thought for a moment. "And if you get me the
largest photo you can of our esteemed friend, Miles Fallon, to-morrow
maybe we'll ring up another act of this interesting drama of resourceful
crime."

It was late that night and Larose had just got into bed. He had switched
off the light and lay with his eyes closed--thinking.

"I've had a busy day and I'm very tired," he said to himself, "but
before I go to sleep I must just sum up and see how things stand. Now it
was undoubtedly partly through the aid of Blendiron, the assistant head
warder, and Bullock, the other warder, that Fallon got away from the
stockade. In collusion with others outside, in some way they made the
escape possible, and when we find out exactly how it was done we shall
probably find it was accomplished in a very simple, and almost obvious
manner. Well, Fallon disappeared in broad daylight that afternoon and
hid somewhere until the evening of the following day. Then, I feel sure
he was joined by Blendiron, and the two together set fire to the Clan
Robert, and in the confusion that ensued got off in one of the ship's
boats. They reached that lonely coast beyond Cape Jervis--for of course
the two men hiding there were they, and felt quite secure until I
accidentally appeared upon the scene. Then they got rattled and tried to
finish me, but instead--I shot Blendiron and fed him to the sharks. Then
Fallon made off in the boat again, and sailed off up the gulf in the
direction of Port Adelaide. Now I don't for a moment regret having shot
Blendiron. It was a necessary thing to do and besides, from what I have
learnt to-day, he was a blackguard, and the world is well rid of him. He
was a brute to his wife anyhow, and when I interviewed her this morning
she was quite chirpy at the idea that he might never come back, and her
only worry was as to when she would be able to draw the insurance
money."

Larose puckered up his eyebrows and smiled in the dark. "Yes, it was
funny talking pleasantly with a woman whose husband you have killed! But
as she was in ignorance that I had done it, there was no embarrassment
on either side. Well. Blendiron is dead for certain, and I've no doubt
he killed Bullock. That's supported by what I found out about his
conversation with Bullock that evening over Bullock's garden gate, when
Bullock nodded and replied 'All right!' That man next door swore to me
he was not twenty feet away, and heard the 'all right' distinctly. That
'all right' I am sure meant that Bullock was to meet his superior
somewhere later, and meet him he probably did, to die for his pains. The
medical evidence was conclusive that he had been struck a violent blow
on the head before he was drowned, and that looks as if he might have
been walking in front of someone he was not afraid of, down one of those
narrow paths that lead to the river near where his body was found among
the reeds. He was killed from all I can make out because, as the Chief
Commissioner said, he was a weak man and under cross-examination would
have broken down. But why now did Blendiron himself cut and run? Perhaps
because he expected that too awkward questions would be asked at the
enquiry and felt he could not face the music. It might also be that he
was afraid other tracks of his might be uncovered, particularly so if he
was responsible for Bullock's death. At any rate, I am quite sure his
flight was not unpremeditated, for he had drawn out all his savings from
the bank three days before, and had shot his dog because he said it was
getting too old. And the dog, as far as I can gather, was the only thing
he had ever cared for at all.

"Well, Blendiron and Bullock are finished with, and I can wipe them off,
but what about Fallon, and where is he? What became of him when, by pure
chance I made him bolt from his hole? Did he sail away across the gulf
and make for another lonely beach upon the other side, or did he hide
himself away upon some uninhabited rock? No, I don't think he did either
for his was a nature to face danger rather than to avoid it. Besides,
when he slashed my bicycle tyres that morning and took away my boots, it
was evidently in his mind to hinder my giving information to the
authorities. He wanted time to slip past them to some hiding-place
before they had had warning and could prevent him. So now let me think
of what Fallon may have done. What should I have done if I had been in
his shoes? Probably--go for help again to those who had already helped
me--go to my friends! And, if so, where would those friends be? In the
city of course, here in Adelaide! I had been helped here by them to
escape and why should they not be ready and willing to help me again?
Yes, that's what the rascal undoubtedly did--bolted! back here to the
city, believing it to be the safest place, with the hunt for him having
to some extent died down."

Larose opened his eyes wide and glared into the darkness.

"But why am I so certain that he had confederates about the city, and
that he had not been working alone all the time? Now I don't regard
either Blendiron or Bullock as confederates: they were just emergency
helpers, and had been bribed only for the occasion to help him get out
of the stockade. If he had not been imprisoned there he would probably
have never heard of them, nor they of him. I am thinking of assistance
that he received in carrying out those hotel and other crimes. Now I
have gone carefully into the reports of all the last five other
robberies with violence that lately have so puzzled the authorities
here. They were all Fallon's work, of course: they were his special type
of crime, and, besides, to clinch things finally, on each occasion when
they took place he was absent from the managing of his hotel. Well, what
strikes me here is that apparently the ground had always been surveyed
beforehand for him, and he only came in at the psychological moment to
collect the cash. Except in one case, his victims were all visitors to
the city--not residents here, and, strangely enough, they were all
elderly persons. (Ah! I must look into that, too, when I am not so
tired!) It seems to me that he got reliable information from somewhere
about his victims, for he never struck unless he struck it rich.
Somebody, for instance, informed him that old Mr. McTavish was worth
robbing at the Gulf Hotel, and he learnt somewhere that the Dawsons had
the ready cash upon them at the Grand Australasian, and he robbed them
upon the second night after, they arrived in the city, and so on and so
on. Always, it seemed, his prey was pointed out to him, and he pounced
at once."

The detective paused for a few moments in his meditations, and then he
nodded his head.

"Yes, I am sure he had confederates somewhere, for how otherwise can we
account for his escape? Ah! that escape was clever, but it was not only
the two warders that helped him there; they played only minor parts. As
the Chief Commissioner pointed out, they could not have spirited him
across the courtyard under the eyes of everyone there, and they could
not have opened the outer gate for him and enabled him to pass through
the guards. No, there were others in it, and others outside. I am sure
of that."

Larose yawned sleepily and turned on to his side.

"Well, well, to-morrow I'll start going after the gang, and if I uncover
any of them it will be a pointer to friend Fallon, too. But I must be
careful, I must be very careful, indeed, not to let them find out I am
on their track. They can have no idea as to who the man was who shot
Blendiron on the cliff, and they must be greatly puzzled. I must not on
any account put them on their guard, and I must keep away from every
place where the actual robberies occurred, for they'll probably have got
their spies there. Like Fallon, I must have everything ready before I
strike. I'll, I'll--oh! hang it. I'll go to sleep. I've worried my poor
brain enough for to-day. Yes, I'll go to sleep."



CHAPTER VII.--THE BAIT OF LAROSE.


During the ensuing three days a pleasant-looking old gentleman might
often have been observed perambulating the main streets of Adelaide, the
beautiful city of the plains. He seemed a jovial old chap, and was
peculiarly dressed in a country sort of way. Anyone could have seen at
once that the city was not his home.

He wore a lightish grey suit of a rather heavy cut, a big grey felt hat
and a large collar of an old-fashioned style. His boots were stout and
very square in shape, and it was obvious that comfort and not fashion
had guided him in their selection. His hair was grey almost to
whiteness, he had a heavy moustache and a small, pointed and
well-trimmed beard. He wore large horn-rimmed glasses.

But his attire generally, would by no means have suggested to anyone
that he was not well supplied with the means of enjoying the good things
of life. For there was an air of prosperous solidity about him, as was
evidenced by a thick gold watch chain and two heavy gold seals.

He was an energetic old boy in spite of his apparent age, for both
mornings and afternoons he took his constitutionals regularly, and never
seemed to get tired no matter how long he had been walking about.

He was interested in everything, and at busy street corners he would
sometimes stand for five and ten minutes at a time, watching the people
and the traffic with his keen blue eyes taking in all the happenings
that were going on around him.

He would walk up King William street as far as the General Post Office,
and there he would mount the steps, and, in full view of all passersby,
carefully study the weather reports in the big glass cases. Then he
would walk back again as far as Rundle-street and go down to the Arcade.
Then he would turn around and go up to the General Post-Office again. He
would do this many times, and in the course of the day must have walked
many miles.

He was greatly interested in the railway-station too, and was invariably
to be found waiting by the barrier when the long-distance trains came
in. The East-West Continental train from Perth, the Broken Hill express,
and the great Melbourne express never arrived when he was not there. And
yet the strange part of it was, directly the passengers began to stream
through the barrier, he had always got his back turned towards them. It
really seemed as if he were desirous of giving everyone anything but the
view of his face.

He would wait patiently until all the passengers had passed through,
then off he would go to resume his city perambulations again.

He was a lonely old man, and seemed to have no friends, for no one ever
spoke to him. Lots of people looked at him, and when they did so he
always looked hard at them in return, as though he would not have been
by any means averse to make acquaintance.

For three days his pilgrimage was without event, but on the fourth day
something happened, and at last he found someone to speak to.

He was standing looking into a tobacconist's shop and close up to the
window, when suddenly he felt a hand upon his shoulder, and a hearty
voice exclaimed.

"Hello! Mr. Heggarty! Here's luck--seeing you!"

Something like a wave of intense emotion seemed instantly to pass
through the old man's body, and it was almost with an effort that he
turned himself round to confront the speaker.

"Oh! I beg your pardon, sir," exclaimed a well-dressed young fellow in
confusion, "but I made a mistake. I thought it was someone else. I'm so
sorry."

But the old gentleman smiled in great good humor. He had quite recovered
his tranquillity.

"Not at all, not at all," he said quickly, "and you are not the first
who's mistaken me for this Mr. Heggarty. Twice this week already I have
been spoken to for him."

"It's the clothes, sir," stammered the young man, "and the hat and the
color of your hair. They reminded me exactly of my friend. When you had
your back to me just now, I was quite certain it was he."

The old gentleman's eyes twinkled. "And I'm really not at all like him,
they say."

"Oh, no, not a bit," replied the young man. "It's only when you've got
your back turned that anyone would make the mistake," He bowed politely
and smiled now in his turn. "Well, I am glad you're not offended, sir,"
and he made to move on.

But the old gentleman was evidently unwilling that the matter should end
there. "One moment, my young friend," he said, and his voice took on a
serious tone. "Now I can only accept your apology upon one condition."
His eyes twinkled again. "You must have something to drink with me
before you go."

The young man laughed. "Certainly," he replied readily--"as a matter of
fact, I was just going to have a drink myself."

The old gentleman led the way to the bar of the Southern Cross, and in a
few moments they were seated at a small table.

"Well, here's luck," said the old gentleman, when they had received what
he had ordered.

"Ching, ching," replied the young man, "and may we always be thirsty."

There was a silence for a few moments, and then the old gentleman asked
carelessly, "And where was it you happened to meet this esteemed Mr.
Heggarty of yours?"

"At the Grand Australasian," replied the young man. "I was there for a
few days in November."

"He seems to have been a very decent sort of chap from all I have
heard," said the old gentleman.

"Oh, one of the best. Indeed, a charming old man."

"Where does he hail from, do you know? I am always wondering if he's the
Mr. Charles Heggarty from Kapunda."

The young man shook his head. "No, he's Sam Heggarty, and he comes from
somewhere in New South Wales. On the border near Queensland, I believe."

"And he's in sheep, isn't he?" asked the old gentleman.

"Yes, in sheep, and done pretty well too, I should say. He must be a
very well-to-do man."

"Plenty of friends at the Grand Australasian?"

The young man was quite enthusiastic. "Oh! yes, everyone likes him. He
was so unaffected and so kind."

"Who were his best friends there?" asked the old man curiously. "I
expect I know lots of people he knows."

The young man considered. "Really, I don't think he had any best
friends. He seemed to go about at different times with everyone."

"Did he play a good game at cards?"

The young man laughed merrily. "Cards!" he exclaimed. "Why, bless your
heart, the old boy's never played a game in his life. He didn't know one
card from another. He's a real old innocent, and that's why we all liked
him so."

They talked together for some minutes longer and then, exchanging names,
parted with polite au revoirs in King William-street.

The young man went off upon his business, and the old gentleman made
quickly for a public telephone box.

"Put me through to Inspector Barnsley, please," he said sharply, when he
had received the number he had called for.

"Is that you, Inspector? You know who's speaking. Well, I've found out
something about him--something that will help us now. I'm going home to
make a change. Meet me outside the G.P.O. at two sharp. Don't speak to
me when you see me, but just follow where I go. Understand? All
right--everything's quite OK."

At five minutes past two exactly, Larose and Inspector Barnsley walked
into the vestibule of the Grand Australasian Hotel.

"Now you do all the questioning," said Larose, "and don't introduce me.
I want to watch them as they are speaking to you. Above all they mustn't
know whom we are enquiring about."

Inspector Barnsley asked for the manager.

"About that robbery here last month, Mr. Plover," he said, when the
manager appeared. "I want to look again, please, at the signatures in
the visitors' book for the days about that period."

"Certainly, Inspector," replied the manager politely. "If you come into
my room I'll have the book brought in there." He glanced casually, but
with no curiosity, at Larose, and led the way out of the hall.

"Hum!" muttered Larose, "nothing doing there. He's quite conventional
and the family-man type."

The book was brought in and the manager, seeing he was not wanted,
retired. Larose turned over the pages quickly.

"Here it is," he said. "Sam Heggarty, Sydney. Disguised handwriting of
course." He took a slip of paper out of his pocket and compared some
writing on it with the signature in the book. "Yes, it's him all right.
Note the slope of the letters and the distances between the words.
Distance between words has always a most deadly significance, Inspector,
for, however disguised a man's handwriting may be, the distance between
his words never varies the thousandth part of an inch. I've always
noticed that. But now ask for the daily ledger, and we'll see if he had
any visitors in to meals. Suggest we go into the office, and I can give
'the one over' to the staff there at the same time."

But the ledger afforded no clues to anything, and the Inspector looked
covertly at Larose for the next move.

"Ask to see the hall-book," whispered Larose. "He may have had some
callers coming for him, and if he wasn't on the spot their names may
perhaps have been put down. There's just a chance."

But the perusal of the hall-book proved to be a lengthy business, and
many pages had to be turned over before they came to the dates they
wanted. The book was kept by the hall-porter, and was the pencilled
record of all the casual happenings in the vestibule of the hotel. The
parcels that were sent out, the parcels that came in, the registered
letters that were signed for, the times the visitors wanted to be
called, and the messages that had been left for them.

Patiently Larose went through page after page, and then suddenly his
body stiffened and his finger stopped fixed upon a line.

"Mr. Heggarty," he read, "to ring up Central 975 directly he comes in."
He looked significantly at Inspector Barnsley.

"Perhaps something here," he whispered. "At any rate this seems to be
all. Keep them in conversation," he went on, "whilst I'm in the
'phonebox. Notice particularly if anyone leaves the office, and tries to
get near to hear what I say."

He went quickly across the hall and shut himself in one of the three
telephone boxes there.

"Enquiry please," he said very softly, and then a moment later; "Will
you please tell me whose number is Central 975?"

Back came the answer in less than half a minute. "Dr. Van Steyne, 198,
North-terrace."

"Whew!" whistled Larose, with his forehead suddenly damp with
perspiration. "What a find!"

About an hour later a boyish-looking young man rang the bell of Dr. Van
Steyne's consulting rooms upon North-terrace, and, on being received by
the nurse, asked if he were too late to consult the doctor that
afternoon.

The nurse was a pretty girl, about three or four-and-twenty, and she
smiled as if she were rather amused at the request.

"The doctor never consults without an appointment," she informed the
visitor, "and he is full up with appointments now until the end of next
week. Would you like me to arrange one for you then?"

The young man looked very crestfallen. "But I've come such a long way to
see him," he said, "and I can only be in Adelaide for a few days. Mine
is such a very urgent case."

The pretty nurse looked quite sorry. The young man had an engaging
manner, and he seemed very distressed.

"It's for yourself, of course?" she asked.

The young man nodded. "I did so want to see him," he pleaded, "if it
could possibly be arranged."

The nurse looked very sympathetic. "But I'm afraid it's quite hopeless,"
she said: "he's so very full up." She hesitated a moment. "Unless of
course somebody else's appointment should fall through."

"Oh! I should be so grateful," said the young man, "if you could
possibly put me in. I'm over from Sydney and I've heard such a lot about
Dr. Van Steyne. I'm so anxious to see him."

"Well, leave me your address," said the nurse, "and I'll see what I can
do. I'll 'phone you up to-morrow morning directly after I've opened the
letters. It sometimes happens a patient puts off. What is your name,
please, and where are you staying?"

"Gerald Tennant," replied the young man. "Grand Australasian Hotel."

"Very well," said the nurse smiling. "I'll 'phone you in any case about
nine o'clock."

"What a pretty girl," murmured the detective as he turned away from the
terrace, "and what a lovely little figure she had got. Now if I were a
marrying man that's just the sort of wife I'd choose." He sighed
heavily. "But fancy a girl like her waiting on a man like Van Steyne.
It's worse than Beauty and the Beast."

It was again at a late hour when, that night, Larose put himself to bed,
among the luxurious surroundings of the Grand Australasian Hotel.

"I had to come here," he muttered, "although I may get nothing out of it
at all. Still, at any rate it's a treat to be one's self again if only
for a little while. I'm sick of punishing my poor face so much, and I'm
sick too of wearing Huxley's awkward clothes. Now I must get in touch
with that Van Steyne at once. It's incredible but it's as plain as
daylight now that he's a confederate of Fallon. In some evil way these
two had interests in common, for twice already in these short happenings
of crime have I discovered their tracks converging. Van Steyne no doubt
had some fateful message for Fallon that morning at the Gulf Hotel, and
later it was not chance only that took him to the stockade at the exact
moment when it was discovered that Fallon had made his break-away. No,
they were linked together. And what is more probable than that Van
Steyne is shielding Fallon now? Van Steyne is a man of courage--note
that mouth and chin of his, he is contemptuous of the conventional moral
code, and if I am any judge of character, he would delight in pitting
himself against the law." The detective shook his head and frowned. "But
how am I to get at him--how am I to launch any attack? Well, I'll see
him to-morrow or the next day or one day soon, and then I'll learn where
to begin. However strong he may be, he'll have his weakness, all men of
his type have. There'll be a chink in his armor somewhere. He was on his
guard with me the other night, but when we meet again he'll be his
natural self and with any luck at all I'll--I'll see into his very
soul."

Larose dropped off to sleep presently, but strangely enough--such are
the ways of life--his last thoughts were not of the unravelling of
crime, not of the missing man, Miles Fallon, not of the sinister figure
of the great Dr. Van Steyne, but only of the dark and lovely eyes of the
girl who had opened the door to him that afternoon upon North-terrace.



CHAPTER VIII.--A MASTER--TOO.


It was always an obsession with Larose that a person hugging to some
guilty knowledge had never quite the equanimity of a perfectly
well-balanced mind, for his thoughts, the detective averred, would be
continually harking back to the secret he possessed. He would have an
atmosphere about him, too, different from that of normal people, and, in
proportion to the magnitude of the wrong-doing in which he was involved,
he would exhibit signs and symptoms which to a mind trained to watch for
and note such things would soon become apparent.

So Larose was sure that once he got in touch with Dr. Van Steyne, once
he got in a close and intimate relationship with him, he would find out
something that would give him inspiration to determine in what
particular direction other discoveries might lie.

And he was quite confident, too, that psychologically he would be more
than a match for the doctor. The latter would be suspecting nothing,
whereas he, Larose, would be suspicious of everything, and, added to
that, would be in the happy position of being able to attack with
nothing to worry him as to the provision of any defence.

So, it was in a very cheerful frame of mind that the following morning a
few minutes after nine he received the intimation that he was wanted on
the 'phone.

"Is that you, Mr. Tennant? It's Dr. Van Steyne's nurse speaking. Yes, I
can put you in this morning. The doctor will see you at eleven-thirty.
No, not at all. It's quite all right, but please be here to time, sharp,
for the doctor has a very busy day."

Larose hung up the receiver and drew in a deep breath. "Now we shall
see," he said to himself. "The credible--and Van Steyne is the victim of
some extraordinary mistake, the incredible--and with all his talents and
good name he is yet a consorter with murderers and thieves. Well, we
shall soon find out now."

A few minutes before half-past eleven he was ushered into the
waiting-room on North-terrace. The pretty nurse was all smiles, and he
thought once again how charming she was. There was no one else in the
room, and he thanked her for arranging the appointment so quickly,
hoping she had not been inconvenienced in having to ring up so early.

She laughed lightly. "Oh! nine o'clock isn't early for me. I'm always
here at half-past eight to unlock the rooms for the cleaner."

The bell rang, and a woman came in to make an appointment.

"The doctor knew you were down in the city, Mrs. James," said the nurse,
smiling. "He passed your car parked in King William-street yesterday."

"So he saw us," said the woman. "We didn't see him."

"No, he didn't see any of you," replied the nurse. "The car was empty
when he passed, but he noticed the number."

"What!" said the woman--"he knew our number?"

"Yes, he remembered there were five threes in it. He told me it was
thirty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty-three."

"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed the woman, "fancy his remembering that,
and noticing it too among all the other cars."

The nurse smiled again. "He notices and remembers everything. He never
forgets."

"Ah!" murmured Larose, who had been an interested listener to the
conversation. "I've stumbled on something hot here." His breath came a
little quicker. "What if he should spot me! Lord! if he should notice
anything to remind him of Huxley--now." He shook his head. "No, I was
well disguised, and he only saw me at night, too."

The nurse went out to show the woman to the door and Larose sprang
nimbly to his feet. He darted over to the window and examined the catch.
"Quite easy, but just as well to know," he muttered. "Knowledge is
always useful, but I wonder now in which room they keep the boots." His
eyes fell upon a woman's handbag on the desk. The corner of a railway
ticket was protruding from the outside pocket. He tip-toed over and
pulled it out. "Glenelg," he whispered, "she lives at Glenelg." He heard
the hall door close, and in two seconds was back again in his chair.
There was the sharp ping of another bell, and immediately the nurse came
and said that the doctor was ready.

With a heart that beat a little faster, the detective was ushered into
the consulting-room. Dr. Van Steyne was drying his hands. He gave his
visitor one sharp glance over and then motioned him to a chair. "Good
morning," he said, "sit down please," and, the drying of his hands
completed, he seated himself at the desk. He drew a card from an hides
box and began to write.

"Your name, please," he said, "and your address."

"Gerald Tennant," replied Larose, "Grand Australasian Hotel."

"Your occupation?" asked the doctor.

"Warehouseman," said Larose promptly, and at once his heart calmed down.
The battle had begun.

The doctor wrote for a few seconds, and Larose regarded him intently.
Yes, the man had a strong face, a masterful and purposeful face, and,
even as he wrote, the expression on it was that of one who was very sure
of himself.

"No faltering there," thought the detective, "no indecision and probably
no conscience either if the owner of it were determined to do wrong."
And yet it was a face that demanded respect, for there was a certain
grandeur in it, and there would be kindness and pity, even, in the
relaxing of those lips. There was humor there, too, although it might be
that it was grim. His handwriting, moreover, was just what one would
have expected from such a temperament, it was--

The doctor wheeled round in his chair and looked intently at Larose.

"Now tell me what your trouble is, please," he said in cold and even
tones.

"I haven't been feeling at all well lately," began the detective, who
had carefully thought out his tale. "I suffer from severe headaches, I
sleep very badly, and I have no appetite at all. The pain in my head is
terrible sometimes and it makes me feel weak and ill. Nothing I have
taken seems to do me any good."

"Whereabouts do you get the pain?" asked the doctor.

"In my forehead and just above my ears," replied the detective.

"And how long have you been having these pains?"

"Oh! about six weeks, and they are getting worse."

"When do they come on?"

"I've nearly always got them--I've got them now, but they're worse in
the evening." Dr. Van Steyne leant over and laid his fingers upon the
detective's pulse. Then a minute later he said curtly--

"Will you take off your clothes, please."

"Which ones?" asked the detective.

"All of them," said the doctor. "I want you quite naked."

Dissembling his astonishment, and with a reluctant sigh, Larose began to
strip. "Damn!" he thought, "I didn't bargain for this. If I'm not
careful I shall be out of my depth soon."

Slipping off his shoes, he took off his coat and trousers and deposited
them upon a couch.

"No, not there," said the doctor, and he himself picked up the garments
off the couch and laid them across a chair. "I shall want you to lie
down on the couch while I examine you."

Larose made an inward grimace, but proceeding with his disrobement in a
few moments stood naked as he was born. He lay down upon the couch as
directed, and without a word then the doctor proceeded to examine him.

For quite a long time there was silence in the room, while the
detective, with all the concentration in his power, endeavored to absorb
the personality of the man who was bending over him.

"Yes," he concluded, "he'll be deuced difficult to take in, at any rate.
He's very capable, and his hands are the hands of an artist in whatever
walk of life."

Only once the doctor spoke, and then he shot out abruptly--"You're a
warehouseman, you say?"

"Yes," replied the detective, "in the softgoods line." The examination
continued for some minutes. Finally the doctor stood the detective in
the full light of the window, and examined his face and eyes under a
powerful magnifying glass.

"I've finished now, thank you," he said, and the detective would have
sworn that a grim smile was lurking round the comers of his mouth. "You
can put on your clothes. Yours is not an unusual case," he went on after
a moment. "Ever had a blow on the head, a severe blow, I mean--ever been
stunned?"

"No-o," replied Larose hesitatingly; "at any rate, not that I remember."

The doctor smiled drily. "Well, you would remember, if you had, now
wouldn't you, Mr. Tennant?" He looked intently at the detective. "A
warehouseman, you said you are?"

"Yes," replied Larose with an unpleasant feeling over his heart. "I'm a
warehouseman."

"But your biceps are not developed as they should be," said the doctor,
"if you were in the habit of handling heavy packages. The muscles of
your arms are just ordinary, and all your pronounced muscular
development is in your legs. It seems to me as if walking about were
more in your line." He smiled again. "But you have had an adventurous
career anyhow, Mr. Tennant." He pointed with a long forefinger. "A
bullet wound in your arm there!"

"Yes, I was shot once when out kangarooing," said Larose hurriedly, with
his heart going uncomfortably fast.

The face of the doctor clouded instantly.

"No, no," he said sternly "the bullet from a small pistol hit you
there."

"Yes," agreed Larose promptly, "they were pistolling a wounded kangaroo
and I got in the way."

The doctor laughed. "Very ingenious, I am sure!" Then his voice hardened
scornfully. "And that wound on your right shoulder, and that above your
left wrist, and those two ribs broken, and that incised wound on your
thigh--all done kangarooing, too?"

He looked disdainful. "Really, I'm not a child! I've served in two wars.
I was an army surgeon once."

Larose drew in his features to the wooden expression of a mask. To his
disgust he realised that he was being outflanked, but he determined at
any rate to retire in good order. He made no comment.

The doctor went on. "The skin of your face too is peculiar. Under the
magnifying glass the epidermis shows up very mottled and rough, as if
you were in the habit of using pigments a good deal, a condition I have
only noticed in actors and in persons who have had often to adopt a
disguise." He smiled as if he were amused. "And added to all these, I
notice you are carrying an automatic. Oh! yes, I felt it when I was
lifting your trousers just now." His smile broadened almost to real
friendliness. "So do you wonder when I conclude that your career must
have been an adventurous one?"

Larose regarded him with steady eyes. He was up against the unexpected
with a vengeance, and all his life's training told him that he could
only hope to baffle his adversary by neither admitting nor denying
anything.

But the doctor had not finished. He lifted up his hands as if mildly
protesting. "But please realise I am in no way concerned with your
private affairs. You challenged me, however, when you told me you were a
warehouseman and I knew you were not. That was all. I am a man of
observation, as undoubtedly, too, are you." He paused a moment. "Thank
goodness I am not conventional. Your morals or your code of life are no
concern of mine. You can be any thing for all I care. I am no policeman,
and the social order can take care of itself. So much for that."

He sat down in his chair and spoke now in sympathetic tones.

"But about these headaches of yours. Unless your eyes are the cause,
which I do not think is so, they are probably only of nervous origin.
You live on your nerves, you must understand. In the few minutes that
you have been here I have discerned exactly what your temperament is.
You have one of those restless brains that are never still. Now the
moment you entered this room you began snap-shotting everything on to
your mind. You had forgotten all your own troubles, and were busy
collecting data about me that could be of no possible service to you.
You craned your neck round to see what my handwriting was like, you were
interested that I had a private telephone here, and when I was making my
examination just now you were far more concerned with me than with your
ailments." The doctor smiled in a friendly way. "Now is not that so, Mr.
Tennant--is not that a true statement of facts?"

The detective felt too crestfallen to dispute any point. He had come
into the room expecting that all the discoveries would be wholly on his
side, and to his disgust he had found instead that it was he himself who
had been turned inside out, and that he was up against a mind quite as
trained and subtle as his own.

He answered very meekly. "Well, I'm always worrying about everything and
that's why, I expect, I can't sleep."

The doctor picked up his pen. "Well I'll give you a prescription. You
had better try that, and if you are not better come and see me again in
a week. My nurse shall make a provisional appointment for you."

Five minutes later and Larose stepped out on to the terrace. He looked
worried. "I didn't come too well out of that," he thought, "but then he
was fighting all the time on his own ground. Besides, a man can't think
of anything when he's naked; he's as helpless as a fool!" He shook his
head angrily, and then his eyes gleamed. "But he's in it right enough;
he was mixed up in it all, and he's the most dangerous type of criminal,
too, that we can have. He is highly educated, and yet his sense of right
and wrong is warped. He would regard crime as a sort of sport. He was
sympathetic with me the moment he thought he had found out I was a
crook." He shook his head again. "But there, I can't imagine him robbing
anyone--himself--it would be too vulgar for him. He might perhaps take
life without a scruple, but robbery--no! He might incite others and
cynically urge them on. Then he would help them if they got into
trouble. Yes, that's it! He's helping Miles Fallon now. I'm sure of it."

But the detective, in spite of the conviction that he was right, felt
very downcast. His consultation with the doctor had not helped him
forward in any way, and he did not know where to make the next move.

"Well, I'll go and have a bit of a sleep," he said, "and I shall feel
fresher then."

He turned into the Botanic Garden and lay down under a tree. It was a
beautiful summer's day, but the heat was tempered by a gentle wind. He
pillowed his head upon his arm, and in five minutes was fast asleep.

It was a good three hours before he awoke, and then he sat up and rubbed
his eyes. He felt the better for his rest, and at once all his old
confidence revived.

"Now, Gilbert, my boy," he said, "you must get to work again. You must
elaborate your ideas. You have unmasked the central character in this
pretty little drama, and for the moment you must concentrate on him. Ah!
Now something strikes me! I must spend an hour alone in that Van
Steyne's room. His papers might be interesting and his case-book, too."

Walking meditatively out of the gardens, he turned up North-terrace, and
then, just before reaching the gates of the Adelaide Hospital, he saw a
large limousine draw smartly to the kerb and the object of his thoughts
jump out.

"Whew! The devil himself!" he ejaculated. "And his Indian chauffeur,
too!"

Dr. Van Steyne walked briskly into the hospital, and Larose, making sure
that the coast was quite clear, approached near to the limousine.

"Now I'll have a good look at this chap," he thought. "Barnsley says
they're thick as thieves together, and the blighter therefore may be
mixed up in it, too. Oh! He wears dark glasses, does he? And yet from
where he comes from he shouldn't mind any glare!"

But, as if in answer to the detective's sudden suspicion, the chauffeur
at that very moment took off the glasses and disclosed a pair of dreamy
brown eyes. His face was dark and swarthy, but it was by no means
unpleasant, and the expression on it was mild and gentle as a child's.
He polished the glasses with a handkerchief, and then, replacing them,
picked up a newspaper from under the seat and commenced to read.

Larose frowned. "Another innocent," he remarked, "or, at any rate, no
partner in crime." He walked up and spoke to the chauffeur.

"Can you tell me, please, the way to the General Post-office?" he asked.
"I am a stranger here."

Instantly the man put down his paper. "Certainly, sir," he said in
perfect English. "Take that street over there, and the third turning to
the right. It's about half a mile."

Larose moved off. "Really," he said whimsically, "the doctor picks his
servants well. That chap knows no more than does the nurse."



CHAPTER IX.--ROMANCE AND REALITY.


A few minutes after six that evening Dr. Van Steyne's pretty nurse was
walking briskly along North-terrace in the direction of the
railway-station. She wore a dress of light grey and a smart blue hat.

"Oh! there's that nice young Mr. Tennant!" she exclaimed interestedly.
"Now, I wonder if he'll recognise me without my uniform? I expect he
will." But apparently Mr. Tennant did not recognise her, for, although
their paths almost converged as they reached the railway-station, he
passed on in the direction of the booking-office.

The nurse tripped down the stairs, and then, finding she had plenty of
time, stopped before the book-stall to glance over the books and
magazines. At the same time she managed to keep a covert eye upon the
people who were hurrying past behind her.

Presently, as, of course, she was not expecting, the pleasant-looking
young Mr. Tennant came into view again. He bought a paper at the
book-stall, and then, turning round, almost touched her as he was about
to pass by. He gave her a careless look over, and puckered his eyes as
if he were puzzled, but finally his face broke into a delighted smile.
He took off his hat with a flourish.

"Fancy meeting you here!" he said. "I couldn't believe my eyes at
first."

"But you didn't recognise me," said the nurse demurely. "You had
forgotten me so soon."

"Not for worlds," laughed the young fellow warmly. "I was only puzzled
for the moment, but I knew there could not be two young ladies like you
in Adelaide." He looked up at the clock. "But I've got to go to
Glenelg," he said sorrowfully. "I've got to catch the 6.15."

"Well, you must be quick," said the nurse, smiling. "You've only got
three minutes." She blushed prettily, "I'm going there by that train
myself."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Mr. Tennant. "What a bit of good luck! I hate
travelling by myself, and it will be delightful having you to talk to."

They walked quickly down the platform, and the nurse, who evidently knew
which part of the train would be the least crowded, took him to the far
end, where they obtained a carriage to themselves.

"Gee!" whispered Larose to himself, "she's got some pluck, this little
one, but I'll swear she's just as good as gold." He sat down opposite,
and looked at her with admiring eyes. "But you haven't introduced
yourself yet," he said. "Now, tell me your name--I'm sure it'll be a
pretty one."

The girl laughed with just a slightly heightened color. "Well, it isn't,
and it's a very common one," she said. "I'm just Mary Brown."

"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Tennant, "and Mary's my favorite name."

"Of course," said the girl smiling, "and I suppose Brown is another
favorite of yours, too."

"Well, Brown is quite nice," said Mr. Tennant, with a grave, judicial
air, "and it suggests kindness and common sense, and not being stuck-up
or proud."

The girl shook her head. "Really, Mr. Tennant, you're quite a diplomat,"
she laughed. "And I really can't help remarking how well you look."

"Oh!" said the young man quickly, "there's nothing much the matter with
me. I've only got headaches, and your doctor said they are all due to my
nerves. He said, too, that I must take things easy or have a holiday, or
get married, or do something desperate like that."

The girl smiled, and he went on. "But I say! That doctor of yours is a
wonderful man. He must be awfully clever."

Miss Brown was enthusiastic. "He is wonderful, Mr. Tennant. There's no
one like him in all Australia. He reads everyone like an open book."

The young man shifted uneasily in his seat. "I saw him out in his car
this afternoon, with the Indian chauffeur," he said.

"Yes, Ameer Ali always drives him," replied the girl. She laughed, "I
expect Ali is as well known in Adelaide as the doctor."

"How long has Dr. Van Steyne had him?" asked the young man carelessly.

"About twelve years, I believe. The doctor saved Ali's life once
somewhere in India, and he's been almost like the doctor's slave ever
since."

"Great friends?" asked Mr. Tennant, and he was thoughtful for a few
moments when the girl replied--"Friends! why he'd do any mortal thing
for the doctor. He'd lay down his life."

The journey to Glenelg was quite a short one, many times too short for
both young Mr. Tennant and the detective, Gilbert Larose. But there was
time for the girl to say quite a lot to her diverting companion. He
learnt among other things that she had no parents, and that she and two
sisters, who were both older than she, shared a bungalow between them.
The bungalow, however, really belonged to her elder sister, who was a
widow. They kept no maid, they all went out to work during the day, and
whoever got home first prepared the evening meal. One of her sisters
worked in a lawyer's office, and had about the same hours as she did,
but the other one, the widow, who was a nurse like herself, had a much
harder time and rarely got home before eight. Indeed it was often much
later and that night, for instance, she expected it would not be before
nine, which was a shame, for directly after tea on warm days they all
went into the sea, as they were going to do that very evening.

When they arrived at Glenelg and had passed out of the station, the girl
stopped and held out her hand.

"Well, you'll want to go now," she said. "My road turns off here and I
expect you're going into the town."

"Oh! no," replied Mr. Tennant, "this road will do for me. I see it leads
down towards the sea and I'm going on to the Esplanade, besides,"--and
he laughed--"I may as well make sure that nobody runs off with you
before you get home."

The girl pretended to look sad. "I'm never in any such danger," she
retorted. "Everyone's much too proper in South Australia for things like
that to happen."

They walked on for a few minutes, and then she pointed to a pretty
little bungalow that was separated from the road by a short stretch of
garden surrounded by a high hedge. "That's where we live," she said,
"and if you turn round that corner there's a short cut over the field
straight down to the Esplanade."

They stopped in front of the garden gate and for a moment an
embarrassing silence fell upon them both. He looked at her gravely, but
she had her eyes upon the ground.

"Well, I don't suppose I shall be seeing you again," she said presently.

"Oh! won't you?" said Mr. Tennant quickly. "I hope--I hope,"--he
hesitated. "I shan't be leaving Adelaide now quite as soon as I thought,
and I shall have to come down to Glenelg several times, I expect." His
face brightened as if he had just thought of something. "I might give
you a look up one evening if you wouldn't mind."

The girl spoke with studied carelessness. "Yes, do if you're passing. We
shall be very pleased." She smiled. "I'll introduce you to my
sisters--they're both pretty girls."

With no further excuse to linger, the young man bade her good-bye and
with slow and thoughtful steps went down the road. Reaching the end of
the garden, however, and turning round the corner as he had been
directed, he stopped for a moment for a last glimpse of the girl. He
peered through the hedge and was just in time to see her tilt up a big
flower-pot on the verandah and pick up a key.

"O woman, woman," he thought, shaking his head; "the very first place
where everyone would look."

Opening the door, the girl went into the house, and then suddenly the
detective held his breath. The look of the lover faded from his face,
and he was Larose, the detective, at once again.

"The keys of Van Steyne's rooms," he muttered--"she's got them in her
bag. When her sister comes home, and after they've had tea, they'll go
out for a swim. They'll put the door key under the pot again for the
coming home of the other sister later on. There will be no one in the
house then, and I could nip in and get an impression of them."

He thought rapidly. He had resolved to get into the doctor's room
somehow, and the exact way seemed now made easy for him. There would be
no delay either--an important point, for every day now, he was sure, was
important. If Fallon were in hiding somewhere in the city he would not
be kept there an hour longer than could be helped, and directly it was
considered safe he would be spirited out of the State. Then all traces
of him might be obliterated forever. But Larose was torn with
conflicting emotions. It was mean, he told himself, to take advantage of
the trustfulness of the girl, and yet it was his duty to make full use
of the opportunity that presented itself. Yes, it was his duty. Besides,
he consoled himself, the girl would never know, she would never be aware
of what he had done. He turned back and walked quickly into the town. He
went into a toyshop and bought a packet of plasticine. Then as an
after-thought he went into an ironmonger's for a screwdriver.

"You never know," he decided, "and it's always well to be prepared."

A big, red-headed policeman was in the shop when he went in, buying a
pocket-knife, and Larose had to wait some minutes whilst the man was
being served. The policeman was very particular to obtain the exact kind
of knife he wanted, and the ironmonger became quite irritable. But the
big policeman was coolly persistent, and indeed was so long in making
his choice that at length the ironmonger left him and attended to Larose
instead.

The detective was mildly amused, and eyed the procrastinating guardian
of the law with interest. "A rough diamond," was his mental comment,
"but shrewd and determined--very."

He made his way back in a circuitous way to the vicinity of the house
where the nurse lived and sat down among some trees in the field close
by. He was near enough to the house to be able to watch all who came in
and out, and yet far enough away not to be recognised even if anyone
were on the look-out for him.

He looked at his watch. It was only a quarter-past seven. "Dear me!" he
ejaculated, "and what a lot has happened in the last hour!" Then his
thoughts reverted fondly to the pretty nurse of Dr. Van Steyne.

During the next quarter of an hour only about half a dozen people passed
along the road that skirted the field where he was resting, but one, he
was not too pleased to note, was the red-haired policeman he had seen in
the ironmonger's shop.

He frowned in annoyance. "A policeman's the last person I want about
just now," he growled, "but there--I don't suppose for a moment that
he's noticed me."

And undoubtedly he was right, for the policeman marched by without
giving a glance in his direction.

The vigil of the detective was very short, for before even twenty
minutes had passed he saw two figures emerge from the house where the
nurse lived, and trip blithely in the direction of the sea. They were in
bathing caps and dresses, and had thrown light cloaks over their
shoulders.

"Now for it," he said, and the moment they had turned the corner he was
walking toward the house.

He sauntered into the garden nonchalantly, as if it were all his own,
went straight to the flower-pot as if he were accustomed to do so every
evening of his life, slipped out the key as a matter of course, and in
half a minute was in the house.

Then his movements became panther like in their quickness. The front
door opened directly into a large room, and into this room opened three
others. None of the doors was closed, and a lightning glance sufficed to
show him that two bedrooms and a kitchen lay behind them. But he was
concerned with the sitting-room first. He darted to a large couch and
each in turn lifted up the three cushions that lay there, taking
scrupulous care, however, to return them to exactly the positions they
had occupied before. Then he looked behind the curtains, under the
chairs, inside the sideboard, and above a large shelf of books.

But all these searchings took only a few seconds, and they were passed
through so quickly that it almost seemed as if no results had been
expected from them.

Then he turned to the bedrooms, and the first one he looked into
contained two beds. One was unruffled and undisturbed, but upon the
other were a small attache-case and some folded clothes.

"Not hers," he said, and in three strides he was looking into the other
bedroom. His heart gave a big thud. Over a chair back hung a light grey
frock and on the chest of drawers was a blue hat. On the narrow bed were
a pair of grey silk stockings and a little heap of dainty lingerie, the
latter evidently, from its abandon, hurriedly discarded.

The face of the detective went very red, for with the thoughts that
possessed him for the girl it seemed almost an outrage for him to be
there.

But to the ordinarily-minded man there is always something very sacred
about the sleeping-chamber of a young girl. It speaks somehow of the
greatest mystery of life and it suggests the fragrance of a flower that
has hitherto bowed its head only to the ceiling of the sky. It whispers
of the gift of innocence that can only be given once and of the sadness
of the breaking of a beautiful dream where the awakening is never quite
so sweet as the thoughts in the slumber that preceded it.

But it was his duty, so Larose shut his jaws with a snap and got to
business. He went straight to the head of the bed. "After 'under the
flower pot.'" he remarked grimly, "'under the mattress' follows as a
matter of course."

He lifted up the corner of the mattress and drew out, as he expected,
the nurse's handbag. Opening it quickly he abstracted four keys on a
split ring.

"The front, door," he said inspecting them, "the doctor's room, the
waiting room, and--" he hesitated a moment--"and probably the key of
little Mary's desk."

In three minutes he had taken careful impressions of all four keys with
the plasticine that he had bought, and wiping them carefully had
returned them to the bag, and the bag to its hiding-place under the
mattress. He looked at his watch.

"Quick work." he whispered. "I have been in the house exactly seven
minutes."

He tip-toed out of the bedroom into the sitting-room, and crept softly
across to the window. Then his face puckered suddenly in an annoyed
frown.

"Hullo! what's up?" he said. "Why are those two boys staring over here?"

From his position he could see along the path that led to the garden
gate, and out across to the road beyond. On the other side of the road
two boys were standing and staring with interested eyes towards the
house.

"What's up?" he asked again, and his frown deepened.

The sun was sinking fast, and as he watched, it dipped behind the top of
the high garden hedge.

"Damn!" swore the detective suddenly. "There's a policeman there and
that's why those boys are watching!"

A head with a policeman's helmet on it was sharply silhouetted through
the hedge.

Larose grinned in spite of his dismay. "My red-headed friend," he
remarked drily, "and doubtless he's had his eye on me all the time. He
saw me buy that screwdriver in the shop, and then he saw me again among
those trees, and he was suspicious. Well, I thought in the shop he
looked shrewd and determined, and now I suppose he's waiting to pounce
upon me when I come out. Damn!--I'm in a nice hole. I've been blundering
again." He stopped in disgust and looked round the room. A look of
relief crossed his face. "Ah! there's a telephone. I can ring up
Barnsley to come and rescue me, but "--his face clouded again--"confound
it! I haven't the remotest idea where I am! I don't know the name of the
house or the name of the street either. Oh! what an ass I've been."

He looked out of the window again. The two boys were still there, and
more of the policeman had come into view. He was discernible down to his
belt now.

The sweat broke on to the forehead of Larose. All his plans were going
astray and he was faced not only with defeat, but with humiliation as
well. If the policeman outside got hold of him, no explanation would be
accepted until he was in the presence of the Superintendent in the
police-station at Glenelg, and by that time all the mischief would have
been done. He would have been seen being arrested when coming out of the
house, and the news would travel like wild fire down the street, and of
course the nurse and her sisters would be among the first to hear of it.
Then it would get round to Van Steyne, and the latter with that acute
brain of his would begin analysing things, and would get suspicious at
once.

Then the shame of being shown up before the girl! How mean she would
think him, and how detestable, how--he dashed over to the telephone in
desperation and then suddenly a little inset card above the instrument
caught his eye.

"Glenelg 606," he read.

He gazed dully at it for a second, and then moistened his dry lips and
smiled.

"A chance," he whispered, "just a chance if they are quick enough in
replying."

He snatched up the receiver. "Put me through to Information, please."
There was a short silence, and then he rattled sharply, "Will you tell
me, please, whose number is Glenelg 606?"

There was a much longer silence then, and he glanced back out of the
window. He could see almost all of the policeman now, and the fellow
looked very big and formidable with the sun's glare right behind him.

"Mrs. Bailey, you say, number twenty-one, Acacia-road, Glenelg. Thank
you," and he hung up the receiver, to snatch it down furiously again in
two seconds.

"Police Headquarters in Victoria square," he snapped, "and be quick,
please. The matter's urgent, and I don't remember the number."

In less than half a minute the call was put through, and to the great
thankfulness of Larose he was informed that Inspector Barnsley was on
the premises. Almost immediately there came the Inspector's voice.

"You know who's speaking?" said Larose. "Well, I'm in trouble. I can't
stop to explain everything now, but I'm in a Mrs. Bailey's house, number
twenty-one, Acacia-road, Glenelg, and one of the local police has
tracked me here. He thinks I'm on the crook, and is waiting outside to
nab me as I come out. His presence is attracting attention in the
neighborhood, and I can't leave the house. Ring up the Glenelg
Superintendent like lightning, and tell him to send instantly to fetch
the man away. He's a tall, thin, red-headed chap. Be quick, please.
Good-bye."

Larose returned to the window and looked out. The sun had dropped behind
a distant building, and he could no longer see the policeman through the
hedge. The little boys, however, were still there, and they had been
joined now by a woman, to whom they were apparently explaining the
situation.

"Damn!" swore Larose for the third time. "We'll have all the town here
soon if they don't send quickly."

About five minutes of intense anxiety followed, and Larose rattled the
chairs about to let the policeman know he was still in the house. It was
vital that the latter should not come into the garden, for in that case
someone would be sure to be telling the sisters later that a policeman
had been visiting the house.

Presently, to his great joy, a second policeman on a bicycle shot by the
garden gate, and he heard the sound of his feet as he jumped off on to
the ground. Then he heard gruff voices, and a few seconds later the eyes
of the woman and the little boys opposite were turned along the
direction of the road. They were evidently watching the two policeman go
off. A moment later and the three of them disappeared as well.

Larose waited until he thought the coast was quite clear, and then
sauntered slowly out. He quickened his footsteps directly he was well
away from the house, and made straight for the railway station.

Partly to his amusement and partly to his annoyance, he plumped right
into the red-headed policeman as he was going through the station gates.
The latter gave him a solemn stare. The detective was passing by without
any sign of recognition, when a sudden impulse seized him and he
stopped.

"You're a smart chap," he said, "and I should be proud to have you
working under me. I'm a Commonwealth man." he added in a whisper, "and
know what I'm saying. I'll mention you to the Chief Commissioner."

The big policeman eyed him very gravely, his face got red, and then up
went his arm and he made a respectful salute.

"Good," muttered Larose as he walked up the platform. "I'm not a back
number by any means. If I can convince a hard-headed policeman with my
bare word then I'm getting back to my old form again, I'm Gilbert
Larose," and he smiled as if he were amused.

The following evening, when dusk had just fallen, a man walked quickly
up the steps of the building on North-terrace in which Dr. Van Steyne
had his chambers, and opening the front door with a latch-key let
himself in.

The hall was deep with shadows, but the man did not switch on the
lights. For quite three minutes he stood perfectly still--listening.
Then, apparently satisfied that he was the sole occupant of the
building, he tip-toed to the door of Dr. Van Steyne's consulting room
and inserted a key in the lock. The door opened noiselessly, and the man
crept into the room. He closed the door quietly behind him.

Then he switched on an electric torch and moved over to the desk. The
desk was a large roll-top one and contrary, apparently, to his
expectations it was unlocked. He pulled up the revolving chair and sat
down. Then he took a slip of paper out of his pocket and appeared to
refresh his memory about some names and dates.

Then, each in turn, he proceeded to go through the books before him.
One, marked in gold letters upon its cover "Diary," took him a long time
to consider, and he nodded his head often during his perusal.

"Six appointments cancelled on the afternoon that Fallon escaped," he
muttered once, "and no entry made of the visit to the stockade."

Then the card-index system recording the cases and histories of all the
consulting patients greatly interested him, and he had to refer to his
slip of paper more than once. He smiled grimly as he picked up one from
out of the T's and read:--

"Tennant, Gerald. Grand Australasian Hotel. Headaches, frontal region.
No definite cause. Condition of debility. Neurotic," and
underneath:--"See other side."

He turned the card over and read:--

"Assumed name. Interesting character. Probably member of the criminal
class. Scars from three bullet wounds on body, also one from knife, also
indications of two fractured ribs. Was carrying automatic! If had not
been in debilitated condition, should have been inclined to believe he
was consulting me for some ulterior reason."

Then the bank pass-book was gone through, and the nocturnal visitor
whistled when a particular entry caught his eye. "Circumstantial
evidence," he muttered. "It convinces me although it might not convince
the jury in a court of law."

It was an hour, fully, before he had seen all he wanted to and then,
making sure to leave every book in the exact position in which he had
found it, he made his way into the waiting-room, and opened the nurse's
desk. But there the examination was very brief. He turned over the pages
of the appointment book, and appeared to be very thoughtful when he came
to a certain date. He ran his electric torch down the binding, and after
a few seconds nodded his head as if he were quite sure about something.
Then he turned to the big cupboard in the corner of the room and went
through a lot of bills upon a file. Finally he switched off his torch
and, leaning back in an armchair, seemed almost to have gone to sleep.
In five minutes, however, he was up again and noiselessly closing all
the doors behind him, he passed like a shadow out of the building into
the night.



CHAPTER X.--AT MIDNIGHT.


It was night, warm, beautiful and starry, and a scented softness hung
over the high-walled garden of Dr. Van Steyne. The flowers were
sleeping, but in their slumbers still they gave up their incense to the
air.

It was nearly half-past ten, and the big mansion, save in one place, was
everywhere in darkness. From one window came out a thin ray of light.

A man sat alone in a long room, a room that spoke of culture and
refinement, and the means of purchasing beautiful things. There was the
small light of a reading-lamp burning upon a desk, with the shade turned
over so that the room was full of shadows.

The man was not reading. He was thinking, and from the expression on his
face his thoughts were not unpleasant ones. His eyes were dreamily
half-closed, and there were tender lines about his mouth. From time to
time he smiled happily.

Presently he looked at the clock, and then he rose to his feet and
tiptoed to the large French window at the end of the room. Very quietly
he drew back the heavy curtain and lifted up a corner of the blind.

For a few moments he stood watching, and then the tension of his face
relaxed. He had heard light footsteps upon the gravel path. Quickly but
noiselessly he unlatched the window and held it open. A shadow detached
itself from the darkness outside, and the figure of a woman tripped over
the threshold into the room. The window was reclosed without a sound,
and the heavy curtain drawn over once again.

"Dear," whispered a gentle voice, "I'm late, I know, but only three
minutes this time."

"Three minutes seemed hours, darling." whispered back the man, "but
after certain punishments you will be forgiven in due course. Take off
your cloak."

The woman was dark-eyed and pretty, and her figure was moulded in the
round and supple glory of young womanhood. She was about six or
seven-and-twenty. She was in evening dress, and the ivory of her skin
stood out against the blackness of the room. Her face was very tender.

The man held her at arms' length for a few moments, regarding her with
the serene passion of a lover whose privileges are assured. Then he drew
her gently to him and their faces touched. Hers upturned and with her
eyes shut--his bending over and with his eyes wide open. He lifted her
on to the couch.

The silence of the room enveloped them, and the shadows were very still.

Presently, however, the woman stirred, and disentangled herself from the
man's arms.

"Wait, dear," she said. "No more just now. I want to talk to you. I've
been thinking of things to-day."

The man smiled indulgently. "But I'd rather kiss you than talk."

The woman ignored the interruption. "You know I love you--but of course
you do or I shouldn't be here." Her voice quavered a little. "What I've
been thinking of is--how is it all going to end?"

The man stroked her hand. "But why should it end at all, sweetheart? Can
we not always meet each other--"--he sighed--"until I grow old?"

"But things will be so different soon," went on the woman. "Remember, in
a month now I shall be free."

"You were free from the first moment when you kissed me," said the man.
"Your bonds were broken then."

The woman bent down and laid her face against his. "But you can marry me
in a month, Arnold, and I shall be all yours then, in the endless way."

The man stirred uneasily. "Bonds that would chafe, sweetheart," he said
softly. "Steel that would be weaker than the gossamer of love. Iron that
would rust soon under the moisture of your tears."

The woman gripped his arm. "Dearest, I don't understand you. Why should
I be unhappy as your wife? All marriages are not unhappy, if mine was."
Her voice quavered again. "Why do you never talk of the future? Why is
it always now--to-day--tonight, with you?"

The man sat up and took both her hands in his. "Sweetheart," he said,
"tell me--aren't you happy now?"

"Yes, I'm happy. I love coming here. You're all in all to me, and I
count the days until the night is yours again. Yours--mine--and ours."

"And I almost count the minutes, sweetheart." He clasped her in his
arms. "What could be happier than our meetings here? The mystery of
them, the secrecy and the ecstasy of being all alone."

But the woman shook herself free. "Dearest," she said, and there was a
trace of resentment in her tones, "I know all that, but there's no
lasting content in it for me. I'm always asking myself 'why does he
never mention marriage?--and am I always to be only his mistress--'."
The darkness of the room hid the crimsoning of her face. "Am I always to
love only by stealth?" She began to cry. "I have given up everything for
you, and you are not willing to give all back in return."

The man spoke very gently. "But have I wronged you, sweetheart, have I
done you any harm?" His voice hardened a little. "Remember how it was
with you when I first met you two years ago. You were tied to a man you
loathed. Your husband was a drunkard and worse than that, for he was
physically cruel to you, and yet you could not leave him because of your
child. You were friendless, and you had no resources, and, as you told
me, your life was up against a blank wall. Well--I altered all that and
I made it possible for you to leave him. I found you a position where
you could earn your living for yourself, and I saw to it that everything
possible was done for your child. Unhappily, you lost your little one,
and then--then in your sorrows you came, in reality, into my life." His
voice grew very tender. "We became lovers, darling. You gave me as you
have just said--everything. Your love and yourself, a woman's last gift.
Well, I could not marry you, for you were still tied, but I arranged
that you should never want. I settled sufficient on you so that you
should be free from money cares for all your life." He stroked her head
fondly. "What more can you want, sweetheart? There has been no
publicity, and no scandal, and no one knows what we have been to one
another. Your husband is simply divorcing you for desertion, that is
all."

The woman shook her head. "But I want you to marry me," she said. "I
want to be with you always and to share your life."

"And if you tired of me," said the man gravely, "it would be the old
story once again."

"But I shouldn't tire of you. I am old enough to choose wisely now. I am
sure of that."

"You might, sweetheart." He smiled sadly. "Remember, good lovers often
make bad husbands and bad wives."

The woman tapped her foot impatiently. "But you don't understand what I
mean, you don't see--"--impulsively she threw her arms round his neck
and buried her face upon his shoulder. Her voice dropped to a whisper.
"I want a baby, dearest--I want a child by you."

It was the man now who was stirred. He breathed deeply and the arm that
clasped her shook.

"Poor little woman," he exclaimed, "poor little woman, so that's the
trouble is it?"

"Yes, that's what I want," she whispered. She looked up at him and went
on earnestly. "You see, dearest, the climax of passion is not the end of
everything to a woman, it is the noon-tide and not the sunset of her
desire." A pleading note crept into her voice. "Now why don't you ask me
to marry you?"

The face of the man was very grave. He had turned his eyes away and was
staring into the shadows of the room.

After a long while he spoke.

"I never meant to tell you," he said, "but I see now it is right that
you should know. I can never marry because parentage must not come to
me." He spoke more slowly. "My father died in an asylum for the insane."

The woman looked at him with frightened eyes, the darkness in the
chamber seemed to deepen and the lamp upon the desk burn very low.

The man went on, but his voice had steadied now, and it assumed even and
matter-of-fact tones.

"My family history is unhappily a very bad one. There has been insanity
in it for three generations. My father--his father--his father before
him had madness in their veins, and I, whose life's work has lain among
diseases, am averse from propagating disease myself." He signed heavily.
"My race must die out."

He got up and paced restlessly down the room, but then he turned
suddenly and faced her again. He bent his head down towards her.

"Sweetheart," he said tenderly, "I know the risks of married life. You
and I would grow careless, and one day you would whisper to me of a new
life coming, and then--then,"--he drew in his breath sharply--"the
violent rending of your dear body, or the alternative--the dread shadow
of an insane child for ever darkening both our lives."

She found her voice at last. "But you are not mad, dearest. No man could
be saner than you."

He smiled grimly. "Sweetheart, I am forty-five; my father went into an
asylum at forty-seven." He sat down upon the couch beside her. "Listen
and I'll tell you something of my mother's life, and you may judge then
what might perhaps come to you. My mother was by nature a good
woman--sweet, gentle and kind. She lived in Queensland, and she married
my father when she was twenty and he was thirty five. He was a bad
husband to her, bad because he was not in his right mind. Long before he
was certified he should have been put away. He made her life a hell.
Then one day she met someone else, and in time she came to believe there
might yet be happiness in her life if only she would take courage in her
hands. Brought almost to the verge of self-destruction by my father's
treatment of her, she at last left him and went to live under the
protection of the other man that she had learnt to love. Then--what
happened?" He ground his teeth together. "All the world knew how she had
suffered, all the world knew she had been a martyr in her married life,
and yet,"--his lips curled to a bitter sneer--"because she had broken
the social law the world spurned her as the harlot on the streets, and
society slammed every door in her gentle face." He spoke with an effort.
"She felt it! Yes, with all her courage she felt it, and her crowning
sorrow was that they dragged me from her--me, her only child. Well, my
father divorced her, and then, not two months after her second marriage,
a railway accident left her a widow and unprovided for. Sickness fell
upon her and she died, almost from starvation. I think, in a Sydney
slum." He smiled sadly. "Now that was what came from marrying a madman,
dear."

The woman shook her head unconvinced. "But you are not mad, you--"

"No, sweetheart," said the man tenderly, "and I may never be; but there
is always the dread, and I would not bind you by chains you could not
break. Oh! dearest," he went on passionately "let us take what the gods
have given us. Let us dream before the morning breaks. Life is so
short--and we shall only live once."

At half-past one in the morning a man outside in the shrubbery whistled
softly to himself.

"Whew!" he exclaimed, "a woman! Now I thought I smelt scent after she
had gone in." He shook his head thoughtfully. "Well, I shall have to
revise my estimate of the great doctor, that's all. He's got a human
side to him that I didn't expect." He bent low down and ran swiftly
across the lawn. "It's not what I'm looking for," he panted, "but still,
it's best to find out who she is. A man like Van Steyne will work with
all sorts of tools."



CHAPTER XI.--THE BATTLE OPENS.


A week later, a rather weary-looking Larose was ushered into the
presence of the Chief Commissioner of the South Australian Police.
"Sir," he said abruptly, and without any preamble of civilities,
directly they were alone. "I want a search-warrant to go through Dr. Van
Steyne's house at West Mitcham."

"Dr. Van Steyne's!" exclaimed the Commissioner frowning. "Why what on
earth do you want that for?"

"He's hiding Miles Fallon," said the detective grimly, "and it's my
belief we shall find the man somewhere about the house."

"Hiding Miles Fallon?" echoed the Commissioner incredulously, and as if
he had not heard aright. "Dr. Van Steyne hiding Miles Fallon?"

"Yes," replied Larose, "they have been working hand in glove together,
and everything points to their being now under the same roof."

The Commissioner gasped. "I don't know what you mean! Dr. Van Steyne is
a friend of mine as well as my medical adviser and I was dining with him
at his house no later than the beginning of this week!"

"Yes," remarked the detective, "on Tuesday, to be exact, and something
he learnt that night put him on his guard at once. My work has been made
more difficult ever since."

The face of the Commissioner grew red with anger. "It is impossible!
Ridiculous!" he exclaimed. "The doctor is a refined and cultured man,
and I am proud to reckon him as my friend."

"Well, he's a friend of Miles Fallon too," commented the detective
bluntly, "and it is he who has baulked you all along. He engineered and
carried out the escape from the Stockade, amongst other things."

The Commissioner leant back in his chair, and regarded the detective as
if the latter were not in his right mind. But the detective was quite
unperturbed, and indeed returned the stare with a certain amount of
resentment in his eyes.

"Yes," he remarked brusquely, after a moment's silence, "and did you
happen to mention anything on Tuesday night about my being here? Did my
name crop up at all?"

The face of the Commissioner reddened to a deeper hue, and he looked
more angry still, but the detective had turned his eyes away now and was
looking out of the window. "I only thought, I only thought," he went on
much more gently, "that perhaps you had, because from the instant you
left his house that night he took several precautions." Larose looked
round again and faced the Commissioner. "I was watching in the garden
all that evening, and knew you were a guest there. I saw you come and
go, and directly you had left--it was nearly midnight--Dr. Van Steyne
switched on the verandah lights and left them on till morning, so that
by no chance could anyone approach near to the house without being seen.
Then the next day he was undoubtedly fidgety, and whenever he got in or
out of his car, wherever he happened to be, he looked up and down the
road, as if he thought he were being followed. Consequently we had a lot
of difficulty in shadowing him without being seen."

The Commissioner sighed and leant back again in his chair.

"But I don't understand you at all, Mr. Larose," he said. "Will you
please explain first. You are like a man who has rushed in here with a
bomb. But sit down and take your time."

The detective sat down as directed and proceeded to regard the
Commissioner with a pair of very keen blue eyes.

"Sir," he said quietly, "if you will listen to me for only a few
minutes, I will convince you that I am neither mad nor dreaming. However
extraordinary it may seem to you, I am certain of what I am telling you.
I was never more sure of anything in my life than that Dr. Van Steyne is
mixed up in it all. But one thing, first, please," and he looked the
Commissioner straight in the face. "Now does the doctor know I am over
here?"

The face of the Commissioner grew red again, and he drummed with his
fingers upon the desk. He hesitated for a moment and then reluctantly
nodded his head.

"Yes, he does know," he said slowly. "It came out accidentally after
dinner that night. He told me of your visit to him as the detective,
Huxley, and he asked me where you came from. I told him from Sydney.
Then he said, 'Oh! But he told me Melbourne,' and I laughed and said,
'Well, you see in our work it doesn't always do to let everyone know the
exact truth; we have to prevaricate sometimes.' Then he asked me
directly if you were Gilbert Larose for, he added, if we were being
helped from Sydney, you would naturally be the one to come." The
Commissioner looked very embarrassed. "And I, seeing no reason for
reticence with him, just replied 'Yes!'"

Larose appeared at once to dismiss the matter as if it were of no
further interest, and was all deference and politeness again. "How long
have you known the doctor, sir?" he asked.

"Oh! I should say about seven years," replied the Commissioner
thoughtfully. "I knew him before I was appointed here."

"Seven years!" commented the detective, meditatively. "Then you should
have learnt something of his character, by now."

"Certainly, I have," was the emphatic reply, "and, as I say, he is a
refined and cultured man. A man one can always trust, although I admit
he is cynical and eccentric at times."

"Hum!--interested in crime generally?" queried the detective. "And
curious about criminal matters over here?"

The Commissioner frowned. "Interested in crime as a medical man
naturally would be, and most sympathetic with us. I can tell you, in all
our difficulties over here."

"Of course, of course," said Larose drily, "and no doubt setting inside
information every time that would be most useful to him if he were the
man I say. As for his sympathy," the detective saw the anger rising in
the Commissioner's face, and discreetly cut short what he had been
intending to say. Instead, taking some papers quickly out of his pocket,
he spread them before him, and dropped his voice into quiet and
business-like tones. "Now, sir," he said. "I'll lay everything before
you, and of course it will be for you to say what is necessary to be
done. I've got it all cut and dried, and it won't take very long." He
picked up one of the papers. "Now Inspector Barnsley has told you
everything up to where we found out that Fallon had been staying as a
Mr. Sam Heggarty at the Grand Australasian Hotel. You know the results
of our enquiries up to then."

The Commissioner nodded surlily. He was too annoyed to speak.

"Well," went on Larose, "at first we could find out nothing about the
disguised old man. He was just an ordinary visitor to the hotel, liked
by everyone but with no particular friends. Nothing unusual about him,
nothing to give any clues at all. Then, at last I came across his name
in the hall-porter's book. There was an entry in it for him to ring up a
certain number directly he came in." The detective paused for a moment
and then spoke impressively. "And that number, sir, was Central 975, the
number of Dr. Van Steyne."

The Commissioner interrupted. "Well, that's not much to go on," he said
sharply, "if you don't know what he was being wanted for."

"Not too much to go on, perhaps," replied the detective slowly, "but it
became significant later on when going I through the records of those
five robberies that you mentioned to me. I found--I found,"--he spoke
almost in a whisper--"I found that every one of the victims had been a
patient of Dr. Van Steyne."

"Good Lord!" ejaculated the Commissioner, startled at last, "you are
sure of that?"

"Quite sure," said Larose. "About all of them now I have direct proof.
The man killed by Fallon in the Rialto we traced straight away through a
medicine bottle we found in his room. It had got the label of Burden,
the chemist of King William-street, on it, and through the number we
ascertained that the prescription had been given by Van Steyne."

The Commissioner appeared to be too dumbfounded to speak. His jaw had
dropped and his face had gone quite pale.

"But I am taking things out of their proper order," continued the
detective. "To return to where we had discovered that Fallon had been
rung up by the doctor--I decided then to interview the doctor at once. I
had seen him before, as you know, as the detective, Huxley, and upon
that occasion even had been peculiarly interested by two things. One,
the doctor was openly sympathetic with breakers of the law, and, two, he
had deliberately kept from me certain information that he might easily
have given about Fallon. The accountant at the Rialto had told us that
he was continually suffering from colds, and at such times was troubled
by a hacking cough at night, directly he lay down. Well, when I asked
Van Steyne if there was anything in any way unusual about Fallon's
health, he replied emphatically that there was nothing that he knew of."
The detective looked down at his notes. "Also, I was particularly struck
in that interview by the fact that the doctor seemed to be unnecessarily
antagonistic, and I could not understand why he should not have done his
best to help me instead of trying to thwart me as he did. But I'll come
now to this second interview, and there I consulted him as a patient. I
wanted to see him when he was his natural self. I went without being in
any way disguised, expecting, of course, to be subjected to a close
examination, and, by Jove! I was, too! He made me strip, and he examined
every part of me." The detective sighed. "I found him a man very
difficult to deceive--in fact, he caught me out several times. His
observations were shrewd, and his deductions excellent. He saw the scars
from some bullet wounds that I have on my body, and declined point-blank
to accept the explanations that I gave. Also he made it clear to me that
he knew I was lying when I told him the supposed occupation that I
followed. Honestly, I believe the man thought I was one of the criminal
classes." The detective laughed. "But I got to know several things,
anyhow, and I formed the opinion, too, that the man was capable of
anything, was non-moral, and would stick at nothing to gain his ends. So
directly I left him I went ahead with my enquiries in one particular
direction, and endeavored to find out in what way I could link him up
with any of the crimes with which Fallon had undoubtedly been concerned.
Now it had already struck me as strange that all the victims of these
robberies should have been elderly persons, but it came upon me like a
thunderclap when I found out that one after another, they had all been
patients of the same medical man, and that medical man, Van Steyne
himself. His co-operation then with Fallon, although no actual proof was
yet forthcoming, seemed at once to be quite clear."

"But how did you ascertain that they had all been his patients?" asked
the Commissioner gloomily.

Larose looked just a trifle uneasy. "I straightaway traced his
connection with the man killed at the Rialto, as I have told you,
through the label on the medicine bottle found in his room, and as to
the others--well, I found all their names on the indexed cards in the
doctor's consulting-room on North-terrace." The detective hesitated a
moment. "I made a little excursion there one night and had quite an
interesting time."

"You broke in?" asked the Commissioner, sharply.

"No-o," replied the detective, shaking his head. "I got in and without
doing any damage. I found means of opening the doors."

The Commissioner frowned. "But please remember, Mr. Larose, I have no
official cognizance of that fact," he said drily. "My functions here are
to support and not encourage any belittling of the law."

"Of course, of course," agreed Larose hurriedly, and as if only anxious
to get on with his recital. "Well, besides the finding of these names,
both in the card index and in the appointment book as well, I came
across one other very significant thing. You remember you told me when I
first saw you in this room of the naked body of an unknown man found one
morning in the Torrens River? And how, later, enquiries had come through
from London that pointed to the stranger as being a visitor with a
parcel of precious stones in his possession?"

"Yes," nodded the Commissioner, "and we are sure now of the identity of
the man. His name was William Thrush, and he should have sailed from
here by the Nestor on October 29th." He drew in his features as if he
were expecting a blow. "He also had been staying at the Rialto Hotel."

"And was last seen," added Larose briskly, "two days before the boat was
due to sail, on the morning of October 29th, when he had been heard
complaining at the hotel that he had been feeling very unwell."

"Oh!" said the Commissioner with some irritation. "Well, what of that?
Had he been visiting Dr. Van Steyne too?"

The detective shook his head slowly.

"Shall we ever know? No entry of that name to be found anywhere,
but--"--Larose spoke almost in a whisper again--"the nurse's hall book
at the consulting rooms on North-terrace has been tampered with, and the
two pages for October the 28th and 29th are torn out--consequently no
record exists as to what patients consulted Dr. Van Steyne on those two
particular days."

The face of the Commissioner was very thoughtful. He was inscribing
meaningless lines and circles upon the blotting paper on his desk.

Larose continued. "Well, we come now to the escape from the stockade,
and I want you to follow me very carefully here, please." He paused for
a few seconds. "Now you were summoned hurriedly from headquarters just
after four that afternoon,"--the Commissioner nodded--"and you had no
knowledge at that moment that Fallon had requisitioned the services of
Dr. Van Steyne at all."

"No," replied the Commissioner, "that matter would not have come before
me. The superintendent of the stockade would deal with the request."

"Well," asked Larose, "and when did you first become aware that the
doctor had been called to the stockade at all?"

"Upon my arrival at the entrance gates," replied the Commissioner. "I
saw his car standing there. I saw his Indian chauffeur at once."

"And you were informed directly you went in that it was to see Miles
Fallon that he had been summoned?"

"Yes, because it was explained to me that the prisoner had been locked
in his cell to await the doctor's arrival, and that it had only been
when the cell was actually opened for the doctor to go in that it was
discovered Fallon had escaped."

"And it was Bullock who unlocked the cell door, with Blendiron and Van
Steyne standing behind him, was it not?"

"Yes, and the three of them therefore learnt simultaneously of the
prisoner's escape," said the Commissioner.

"Exactly," remarked the detective drily, "and no doubt it was the shock
of their lives." He paused again for a moment. "Well, when you arrived,
the three of them were no longer together. You saw at first only Bullock
and Blendiron, and you heard the story from their lips?"

"Yes," replied the Commissioner, "and I questioned them minutely on
every point."

"And then?" asked the detective sharply, "then? Now please be careful
here, for we are approaching the climax of the whole affair. Then you
asked for Dr. Van Steyne, as you told me in our first interview here."
He picked up one of his slips of paper and looked down. "Your exact
words were--'I asked for the doctor and was at first told that he had
left the stockade. I found, however, they were mistaken.'"

The Commissioner frowned. "Yes," he answered slowly, and as if he were
grasping for the significance of the facts, "I asked then where Dr. Van
Steyne was. I wanted naturally to obtain corroboration of the account
that the two warders had given me, and--and I was told as you remind
me--" his words came now more slowly still--"I was told by someone that
he had already left."

"Who told you that?" snapped Larose.

The Commissioner searched his memory hard. "I can't remember," he
replied after a moment, "but it must have been one of the prison
officers. There were several standing round."

"And then?" said Larose eagerly, "go on please."

"Oh! then," sighed the Commissioner, as if he could see no good in the
examination and wished it over, "then someone mentioned that Dr. Van
Steyne was in the superintendent's room and,"--he smiled--"I found him
there."

The detective smiled too and his voice was gentle as a little child's.
"And so, Mr. Commissioner, right under the very eyes of everyone, the
man had escaped. Right under the eyes of warders, guards and other
prisoners he had passed out of his cell, down the corridor and across
the yard. The staff had nodded to him, the prisoners at work had noticed
him and the gates had been opened for him, like a conquering hero to
pass through." The voice of the detective took on a sarcastic tone.
"Really, it only wanted a brass band to put the finishing touch to the
whole affair, a brass band and everyone to stop and lift their hats." He
threw himself back disgustedly in his chair. "Oh! can't you see that
there were two Dr. Van Steynes in the prison that afternoon and each one
the exact counterpart of one another? Can't you realise that Miles
Fallon escaped that afternoon disguised as Van Steyne, that he was the
first Van Steyne to go out and that according to all outward appearances
you were being correctly informed when it was told you that the doctor
had gone." The detective gathered up his papers as if the last word had
been said. "It's all as plain as daylight now to me."

The Chief Commissioner of the South Australian Police sat motionless in
his chair. His eyes were opened wide and a look of incredulity had
frozen on his face. It almost seemed as if he hardly breathed. There was
a long silence, and then at length he sighed.

"We were children," he said very gently, "but--"--he shrugged his
shoulders--"we had no suspicion that afternoon and you have knowledge
now that was hidden from us then."

Instantly Larose sensed a rebuke and instantly, too, the generosity of
his nature made him realise that it was deserved. He spoke humbly and
with respect.

"You are right, Sir, and I too should have been a child that afternoon
had I been there. The whole thing was presented to you upon barely a
second's notice and of all people, at that moment, it would have been
most ludicrous to suspect Dr. Van Steyne." He smiled with the enthusiasm
of a boy. "But it all fits in now, Sir, doesn't it?"

The Commissioner nodded grimly. "Given the compliancy of the two
warders, it could all have been done."

"Yes," said Larose, "and to an adept at making up, as Fallon undoubtedly
is, the personation of Dr. Van Steyne would be quite simple. In build
and figure the two men are not unalike and the whole personality of the
doctor is an ideal one for copying in other respects. The sober,
professional attire, the black morning coat and the black cravat, the
big rimmed glasses, and the grey suede gloves, and the usual doctor's
bag. And then the man himself. The bushy eyebrows and the iron-grey
hair, the suggestion of whiskers and the prominent front teeth. Oh! yes,
his whole appearance is unusual, and to those accustomed to seeing him
one glance only would always satisfy and fill the eye." The detective
spoke admiringly. "And the whole method and thoroughness of all their
preparations! Everything smuggled into the cell whilst the prisoner was
at exercise, and then the get-away timed to the exact minute. The true
Van Steyne arriving at the gates at a quarter to four, the false Van
Steyne ready and waiting, leaving five minutes after in the certainty
that the guard at the gate would be changed exactly at four o'clock, and
that the same guard would not be on duty to see two Dr. Van Steynes
going off, one after the other." The detective rubbed his hands together
with enthusiasm. "As pretty a little plot as the most exacting critic
would require and most efficiently carried out to the minutest detail."

The Commissioner frowned. "But I walked out, I remember now, with the
doctor to his car. It was out there in the same place outside."

"Yes," said the detective promptly, "and it was facing away from the
city. The doctor jumped in quickly and it was driven off in the
direction of Port Adelaide. He told you he had a consultation at
Semaphore."

The Commissioner smiled faintly. "You might almost have been present,
Mr. Larose. How do you know?"

"Oh!" replied the detective. "The man who was on duty at the gate told
me. He remembered it quite well. He happened to be particularly
interested in the doctor, for he had been a patient of his once."

"And where, then, was Fallon all the time?" asked the Commissioner.

Larose laughed drily. "Covered by the doctor's large kangaroo rug,
probably, on the floor at the back of the car. Goodness knows; the car's
roomy enough, anyhow." He shook his head and frowned. "But that's where
we must start guessing, sir. My own opinion is that he was driven away
and hidden somewhere in Port Adelaide until he could clear off upon the
following night. Oh! One thing more,"--the detective looked down at the
notes--"I went through Van Steyne's passbook when I got into his rooms
that night, and I saw that on the morning of the day that Fallon
escaped, the doctor drew out 600 pounds from the Bank of Adelaide. The
cheque was drawn to 'Self.'"

The Commissioner sighed deeply and took up his pen. "It all seems a
nightmare to me," he said, "but still what you have told me now
certainly deserves very serious consideration, and, although some of it
is only very ingenious supposition on your part, still, on the whole, I
am obliged to admit that you have made out a certain case against Dr.
Van Steyne." He hesitated and frowned. "But a search-warrant now to go
through his house!" He spoke seriously. "Think what a dreadful scandal
if we strike and find nothing there! The doctor is one of our most
prominent public men, and is respected by everyone. It would be a
veritable catastrophe for us at headquarters here if it turned out that
we were wrong."

"I know that, sir," said Larose quickly, "but I am convinced he has got
Miles Fallon somewhere about his house. I am sure of it."

"And your reasons?" asked the Commissioner. "Remember, you have given me
no reasons as yet."

"Sir," said Larose distinctly and deliberately, "for a week now I have
been watching his house, and, except for short snatches of sleep, night
and day I have been about the place. As far as is possible, without
actually being one of them, I know the routine of the daily life of
everyone in the establishment. And one thing is very certain to me.
Since that night when you dined at the house and it was mentioned that I
was working on the case, there has been a pronounced uneasiness apparent
in the attitude of two of the inmates there. In that of the doctor
himself and in that of Ameer Ali. They are both on the alert, and the
chauffeur especially so. They never come anywhere into the garden now
without looking inquisitively about. The doctor gives a long sweep round
in every direction and the chauffeur cocks his eye into every bush. Then
directly they drive out of the gates on their way to the city in the
morning the doctor looks up and down the road with a quick movement of
his head, and the same just before he goes into the gates when coming
home in the evening. He always turns round and looks back."

"But you may be imagining all this," said the Commissioner coldly--"one
is always inclined to see what one expects."

"No," said Larose quickly, "I don't imagine it, sir. It was never
apparent until after last Tuesday night, but still that is no concrete
evidence, I admit. However, there are other things." He leant over
towards the Commissioner and lowered his voice. "For two nights now, at
intervals someone has been coughing somewhere in Van Steyne's house, and
whoever it is makes desperate efforts to strangle the cough." He
emphasised his point with upraised hand. "Now, you remember what the
accountant at the Rialto told us about Fallon's cough?"

"But where does the cough come from?" asked the Commissioner. "It may be
one of the maids."

"No, it is a man's cough," said the detective emphatically. "I am sure
of that." He paused considering. "But where it comes from I am never
certain. Sometimes it seems to come from the garage and sometimes from
somewhere about the doctor's rooms."

"But where can they be hiding him," asked the Commissioner, "without the
whole house knowing everything about it? Dr. Van Steyne keeps three
maids and a gardener, besides the chauffeur, and you don't surely
suggest they are all in the plot."

"No, not for a moment," returned the detective quickly. "As I take it,
Van Steyne is far too cautious a man to have any but Ameer Ali in his
confidence. Fallon sleeps either in the garage or comes into the
doctor's study for the night. You see," he went on rather ruefully,
"because of the lights being always burning now on the verandah, I can't
get within fifty yards of the house. There is not cover for a mouse to
hide, and consequently I can't locate with any degree of certainty where
the cough comes from."

"But what do they do with him during the day," asked the Commissioner,
with some irritation, "when Ali and Dr. Van Steyne are up in the city?"

"Ah! there the mystery," said Larose. "Ali always locks the garage at
West Mitcham when he leaves each morning, but still I'm not certain
Fallon remains there." He paused for a moment. "Do you know I sometimes
think they take him with them up in the car."

"Up in the car?" queried the Commissioner.

"Yes, up in the car, hidden under the rug."

"How do you know that?"

"I don't know it. I am only inclined to believe it as probable, because
an expensive lock has been fitted recently to the door of Van Steyne's
garage behind North-terrace, and, moreover, an electrical connection has
been installed there which rings a bell in the house directly the garage
door is opened. I have heard the bell go when I have been in hiding in
the yard. Oh! yes, and another thing. Ali buys two pint bottles of milk
every day and during the morning unlocks the garage to put them in the
car. You remember we were told at the Rialto that Fallon drank a lot of
milk."

The Commissioner looked dubious. "Well, how do you know he hasn't always
been buying two bottles of milk. He may have been getting them for
years."

Larose shook his head. "No, sir," he said, "he's only been buying them
for about a fortnight. We followed him and made enquiries at the shop.
Oh! and yet another thing, before I forget, to suggest that Van Steyne
and Fallon have been working together. When I was going through the
North-terrace rooms the other night, I saw from an invoice on a file
that on September the 21st last the doctor bought a ten-ounce bottle of
chloroform from Faulding's, the wholesale chemists." He looked hard at
the Commissioner. "Well, you will remember, sir, that Fallon had an
unopened bottle of that size in his hut at Henley Beach. Evidently Van
Steyne had passed it over to him and bought it expressly for him, too.
Consulting physicians don't need chloroform in their work."

The Commissioner made no comment. He was drumming again with his fingers
on the desk, and had got his eyes anywhere but on Larose.

"Damn!" swore the detective under his breath. "He wants a devil of a lot
of convincing. He's afraid."

A long silence followed and then it was Larose who spoke again.

"You see, sir," he said, and there was almost a note of reproach in his
tone, "I am only able to prosecute my enquiries in any direction to a
certain limited extent, for I am always handicapped by the knowledge
that I must never let the other side suspect. But mind you--" and he
spoke with great earnestness now--"they have become very uneasy, as I
have pointed out; they are watchful and they are on the defence. A
little more, a very little more, and from all I know of criminal
ways--there will be a bolt to another hole."

The Commissioner looked thoughtfully at the detective, "But to hark back
a moment, please," he said slowly. "You told me just now that they had
just recently had an expensive lock fitted to the North-terrace garage
door. Now how do you know it's been recently fitted?"

"Because Ali's not too handy yet in opening it," replied Larose
promptly. "The key fits in upside down, and he fumbles with it every
time. Besides, there are still some little bits of shavings lying round
in the yard, and you can see where they planed away the wood to get the
lock in against the jamb of the door. From the marks outside the new
lock appears to be bigger than the old one."

"Hum!" muttered the Commissioner, reluctantly. "Well, as I take it, all
your superstructure of evidence against Dr. Van Steyne has for its base
the fact that, when Fallon was staying at the Grand Australasian Hotel,
a message was left for him to ring up the doctor's telephone number when
he came in."

"Oh! dear no," said Larose hurriedly. "That's not the base! That's the
apex of the building! It's true I caught sight of that first, but I
worked downward, and with each step my building became broader. I found
Fallon and Van Steyne, not linked together by the mere incident of one
telephone call, but by a score and more of happenings that make it
impossible not to believe they are conspirators together."

The Commissioner fidgeted in his chair, but after a moment he sat up
with some appearance of resolution and unscrewed the top off his
fountain pen.

"Well, you shall have your search warrant," he said with a grimace, "but
the Lord help us if you are wrong. One thing remember, please. When you
execute it, don't let it appear to be a personal matter directed against
Van Steyne himself. Say it has been reported that a man resembling Miles
Fallon has been seen in the neighborhood, and you are making a search
all round. That will in some way cover us if we draw blank. You
understand?"

"Certainly, sir," replied Larose, "it shall be executed in that way,"
and he added under his breath, "The man's afraid still."



CHAPTER XII.--THE SEARCH-WARRANT.


The following morning at ten minutes past eight precisely two motor
cars, arriving swiftly from opposite directions, dropped twelve tall and
hefty-looking members of the South Australian police in front of the
entrance gates of the garden of Dr. Van Steyne at West Mitcham.

Exactly at the same moment Inspector Barnsley and Detective Huxley
arrived at the gates on foot.

"Now, take your places," said the Inspector sharply, "half of you to
come inside, and the others to picket the whole place. You can't make
any mistake, for the high wall runs all round without a break. Keep your
eyes skinned and stop anyone who drops over. Keep in touch with one
another all the time and have your whistles ready. Now hand out the
dog."

A perky looking terrier held in by a short leash was produced from one
of the cars, and passed to the Inspector.

"Now, Mr. Huxley," said the latter after a few moments, "we are all
ready and a mouse can't creep through!"

Noiselessly closing the gates behind them, the little party walked
quickly up the drive. Rounding a sharp bend the house immediately came
into view.

Beyond the house was the motor garage, and before the open doors of the
latter stood a large limousine. A man was busy sponging it down.

"The chauffeur," snapped the inspector, "Ameer Ali. Well, at any rate,
we shan't take him by surprise. Quick, you fellows," he went on, "three
of you round the other side of the house, and keep your eye on the other
end of the garage from there. The garage has doors at both ends,
remember. Stop anyone that comes out, but don't interfere with Ali. You
all know him. You others wait here."

The Inspector and Detective Huxley approached the front door. It was
open, and a smart-looking maid could be seen inside dusting round the
hall. She looked up curiously.

"We want to see the doctor," said Inspector Barnsley, walking in without
any ceremony. "Take us to him at once, please."

"He's at breakfast," replied the girl frowning, "and I don't know
whether he'll be able to see you yet. I'll go--"

"And we'll follow," broke in the inspector grimly. "Take us there at
once, please. Our business is important."

For the moment, it seemed, the girl was going to refuse, but, apparently
thinking better of it, she tossed her head and with heightened color
went down the hall and tapped on a door at the end.

"Two persons to see you, sir," she said, when in response to her knock a
voice had bade her come in and she had opened the door. "I told
them----"

But Inspector Barnsley had pushed by her, and entered the room to
confront Dr. Van Steyne who had just risen from the breakfast-table and
was standing with a newspaper in his hand.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Van Steyne," began the inspector, "I----"

"Not at all, Inspector," interrupted the doctor pleasantly, "and you
come in too, Mr. Huxley. You're not disturbing me--I've finished my
meal."

The inspector produced a paper from his pocket, and cleared his throat
as if he were facing an unpleasant task. "I have a--" he began.

But Dr. Van Steyne held up his hand. "One moment, please," and he looked
past his visitors to the maid who was standing behind. "Grace," he said
sharply, "tell Ali to come and bring some tools with him. I told him to
see to my bell yesterday and he's forgotten all about it. Also, the fan
in the dining-room's gone wrong. Tell him to come at once."

"Very good, sir," replied the maid, and she went out and closed the
door.

Detective Huxley made a quick movement, as if he, too, were leaving the
room, but he checked himself almost instantly, and a grim smile curled
to the comers of his mouth.

"No, no, it doesn't matter," he muttered. "He can't get away, and it'll
be all the same in the end. Besides, I want to keep an eye on my
gentleman here for the moment. I must see how he takes it and be ready,
too, to ginger up Barnsley. The Inspector doesn't like the job."

"Well, gentleman," said Dr. Van Steyne politely, "and what is it you
want?"

The Inspector held out a paper. He cleared his throat again and spoke in
a gruff voice.

"I have a search-warrant, sir, to go through the house and grounds. We
are looking for the escaped prisoner, Miles Fallon, and believe he is
hiding himself there. We have got our men posted all round the place."

A look of mingled anger and astonishment surged into the doctor's face,
and he almost snatched the paper from the Inspector's hand. He glanced
down rapidly over its contents and then he drew in his features to a
black scowl.

"Who told you?" he asked sneeringly. "How did you find it out?"

Inspector Barnsley looked uncomfortable. He could not forget the many
occasions upon which he had taken orders from the doctor when, years
ago, the great man had been the official surgeon to the force.

"There have been rumors, doctor," he stammered, "that someone like Miles
Fallon has been seen here about the house. This search-warrant is not
directed against you."

"But it's an insult," snarled the doctor with suppressed fury, "it's an
insult all the same!" He raised his voice. "It's a damnable insult to me
and, worse still, it's ridiculous too! What should I have to do with
Miles Fallon anyhow?"

"But, we've got to make the search," said the Inspector weakly. "We have
to act on information received."

"Have to?" repeated the doctor, contemptuously. "Who informed you, pray,
that Fallon had been here? Who suggested--" He turned with a swift
movement and pointed angrily at Detective Huxley. "It's you, fellow, who
are at the bottom of all this. It's you--"--but in a single second all
his resentment seemed to die, and his voice dropped instantly to an
amused and mocking tone. "You, Detective Huxley, from Melbourne or
Timbuctoo? You--"

There was a gentle knock upon the door, and it opened noiselessly to
admit of the dark-skinned chauffeur, Ameer Ali. He salaamed gravely to
the doctor and then stood motionless, regarding his master intently, as
if he were quite unaware there was anyone else in the room.

The doctor with a sneering smile waved his hand in introduction. "Ameer
Ali," he announced, "my worthy chauffeur. Non-European, Asiatic, a
descendant of thugs, but no relation that I know of to the absent Mr.
Fallon." He seemed suddenly to remember something. "Ah! but by the by
you know Inspector Barnsley, don't you, Ali? He's ridden behind you many
times in my car. Yes, I thought so. And this is Detective Huxley.
Detective Huxley, my chauffeur, Ameer Ali. Salaam, Ali, salaam. He is a
great man, this Detective Huxley. He comes from, he comes from--"--the
doctor hesitated. "Now where do you come from, Mr. Huxley? Is it
Melbourne or New South Wales?" He smiled sardonically. "Really you seem
to have so many places of origin that it is quite impossible for me to
keep pace with all their locations." He turned sharply to the inspector.
"But assure Mr. Huxley that this is my chauffeur, please. He may perhaps
be thinking that Ali is Miles Fallon in disguise. This man is my
chauffeur isn't he?"

Inspector Barnsley nodded sullenly. "That's him right enough."

"And to make quite certain, how long have you known Ali here?" pressed
the doctor.

"Oh, a long time," said the Inspector with a jerk of his head. "Ten
years, perhaps fifteen."

The doctor turned to his chauffeur. "And do you know, Ali," he said
smilingly, "they say we are hiding Mr. Fallon here--that you have got
him in the garage most likely, and they believe, perhaps, that even
since they have arrived in here I have sent you some secret message by
the maid to pack the poor chap away. Mr. Huxley was most uneasy a minute
or two ago, when Grace went out to call you in."

The chauffeur stood as if he were carved in stone. He made no movement,
and his eyes never for one second left his master's face.

"Yes," went on the doctor, working himself up, "and they consider the
whole matter so serious that--who do you think they have sent for to
help them in their search?" With dramatic suddenness, his arm shot out
again, and for the second time he pointed at Detective Huxley. "Look,
Ali, look." His voice vibrated to a deeper tone. "It is our good
fortune, we are privileged--" he made a low bow--"we are honored to be
hunted down by the celebrated, the arch-tracker of crime--Gilbert
Larose."

Inspector Barnsley swore under his breath. Detective Huxley smiled and
shrugged his shoulders, and the chauffeur, after one swift glance in the
direction indicated, resumed his placid contemplation of his master's
face.

Larose stepped forward as if for the first time he had found his cue.
"Well, Doctor," he said pleasantly, "and if we don't find him there'll
be no harm done anyhow." He made a move towards the door. "But if you
don't mind, we'd better be starting to look now. We're only taking up
your time in talking here."

Dr. Van Steyne had quite recovered his composure. "Oh, do as you like!"
he replied scornfully, "but you'll excuse me, of course, if I don't come
with you. I've some letters to write now." He looked towards his desk,
and then apparently his eye fell again on Ameer Ali. "Oh, damn you.
Ali," he swore angrily, as if relieved to be able to vent his anger upon
someone, "why didn't you do this bell as I told you yesterday? And the
fan, too, you've never touched." He smiled sneeringly again. "Really,
I'll put Gilbert Larose on you if you don't mind, and he'll report to me
how you waste your time."

"Look out," whispered Larose sharply to the Inspector as they both left
the room, "he meant something by that. He's playing with us somewhere."

"I don't think much of it," replied the Inspector, shaking his head. "It
looks now like a mistake to me."

"Pooh!--pooh!" said Larose confidently. "He was acting the whole time.
Didn't you see the sweat marks on the table when he took away his hand?
We're on the right track sure enough!"

They went back to the front door. "We'll have the dog now, please," said
Larose to one of the detectives who was waiting outside. "Seen anyone
moving about?"

"Only the chauffeur," replied the man. "He came out from the garage and
went in here."

"That's all right," said the Inspector, "we saw him, too."

Taking the dog with them, they went back through the hall and then, just
when they were passing the breakfast-room door, Larose stopped suddenly.

"We shall want the keys if there are any cupboards to open," he
whispered--"you just step into Van Steyne and ask where we shall get
them. I won't come with you because seeing me will only enrage him
again. I'll go on and wait for you in that room on the left. I think
from the windows that it's the dining-room."

The door of the room he pointed to was ajar, and, leaving the Inspector,
Larose walked in. Ali, the chauffeur, was squatted down just inside, and
with an array of tools before him was proceeding to unscrew an electric
fan. The detective gave him one glance over and then looked round the
room. He was soon, however, assured that there was no place there where
anyone could hide. It was a large room, but contained very little
furniture. He looked in the sideboard, under the sofa, and behind the
big armchairs. "No, no," he muttered, "if there is any secret
hiding-place it will be in the garden or the garage. A hiding-place in
the house--and the three maids would have to be taken into his
confidence, and that, with a man of the mentality of the doctor, is
quite unthinkable."

Leaving the room with no more ado he met Inspector Barnsley just
outside.

"He says no keys will be required," said the latter; "everything
everywhere is unlocked." The Inspector lowered his voice to a whisper.
"I've altered my mind now. He was distinctly nervous when I went in, and
all the time he seemed to be listening for something while he was
talking to me."

"Quite so!" answered Larose briskly, but puckering his forehead a
little, "and I hope he'll soon be hearing something that won't be quite
to his liking, we'll go through the house now, although I don't suppose
for a moment we shall find him there. It won't take us long."

The house was very quickly gone through. In spite of its old-world
surroundings, it was comparatively speaking quite a modern house, and in
every way up to date in the simplicity of its furnishings. There were no
carpets anywhere, only rugs on the polished floors, and although all the
rooms were large and spacious there were, as in the dining-room, no
heavy pieces of furniture.

"Not room for a mouse to hide," was the verdict of Inspector Barnsley a
few minutes later. "We'd better get on to the garage at once: that's the
only likely place I can think of." He chuckled quietly. "Well, if
Fallon's anywhere about, he won't have been able to move a yard. We've
got everywhere perfectly surrounded."

"Seen anybody?" asked Larose of one of the detectives who was standing
outside, near the back door.

"Only the chauffeur," was the reply. "He came from the garage and went
into the house, directly after you did."

They approached the garage, and Larose retrieved an automatic from his
hip-pocket.

"I'll go first," he said sharply to the inspector, "and don't you stand
directly behind me. Before now I've seen a bullet go through two men."

The garage was a large one and housed three cars. As the inspector had
informed his men, it was open at both ends. Big sliding doors admitted
entrance or exit of the cars in either direction, and a car in going out
could circle round either side of the house to reach the drive that led
to the entrance gates. The chauffeur's quarters consisted of one long
single room running the whole length of the garage, with its one door
opening inside the garage itself, and exactly in the middle.

Larose approached warily, holding his automatic ready. The door of the
chauffeur's room was wide open, and, walking in, he saw with one rapid
glance that there was no one in it.

Like the house itself the room was sparely furnished. A stretcher bed in
one corner, a table in the centre, two wooden chairs, a large cupboard
that stood open, and that was all. The floor of the room was of cement
with strips of matting laid across it, and the ceiling was the roof of
galvanized iron. There was one long window about six feet off the
ground, the opening and shutting of which was operated by cords hitched
on to catches on the wall.

A few seconds only sufficed to show that there was no one hiding
anywhere.

"Now, for the grounds," said Larose briskly, in no wise showing any
disappointment he may have felt. "We must go over them every inch."

About twenty yards from the garage an old man, very bent, was hoeing
among some rows of potatoes.

"Morgan, the gardener," remarked the Inspector. "Been with Van Steyne
for donkey's years. Drinks, and is very stupid and rather deaf."

Larose nodded, and then for some reason turned and directed his steps as
if to pass close by the gardener. Then, like lightning, his arm shot out
and he clutched the old man in a grip of steel.

"Don't move," he hissed, "don't struggle or I'll break your arm."

But there was obviously no need to warn, for the old man just sagged
heavily in the detective's arms; indeed, he would have slipped down
completely if the latter had not held him up. His ragged hat fell off,
to be followed immediately by a shabby old brown wig.

"What's the matter?" panted the Inspector, who had run breathlessly from
another path. "That's Morgan, I told you, the gardener."

"Look at him now," said Larose sharply, "without that wig."

"But it is Morgan," persisted the Inspector, and then his face broke
suddenly into a delighted grin. "He always wears that wig. He got badly
burnt about the head when he got drunk one night, about three years
ago."

The face of the detective crimsoned in vexation, and he lowered the limp
body of the old man quickly to the ground.

"And what about this pistol?" he asked sharply, as he plucked an
automatic from the gardener's hip pocket? "Does a gardener usually carry
a gun? I saw the shape of it as he was bending down."

The grin faded from the Inspector's face, and with widely-opened eyes he
took the weapon that Larose held out. "A Bayard," he ejaculated, "and
loaded in all chambers! Now, that's a rum thing."

He jerked the gardener to his feet. "Now you, Morgan, what do you mean
by carrying this?" he shouted in the old man's ear. "What do you want
with a pistol here? Where's your license, man?"

The gardener glared angrily at his captors. His eyes were bleary and he
had the tremulous lower lip of the confirmed drunkard.

"It's not mine," he growled. "I just found the damn thing." He rubbed
his arm and scowled resentfully at Larose. "What the hell did you nip
like that for?"

"Sorry, old man," said Larose loudly, but in most conciliatory tones,
and picking up the wig and the hat. "I mistook you for another chap." He
fished two half-crowns out of his pocket. "Here, take these and have a
good drink presently."

The old man's face lost its angry look. He spat on the coins and then
winked jovially at Larose, who continued.

"But when did you find this pistol, Morgan?"

"Not ten minutes ago," replied the old man, "over in the tomater bed
there."

"Show us the exact spot," said Larose.

The gardener took them about 20 paces. "That's where it was, by that
plant there."

"Whom does it belong to?" asked Larose.

"Dunno," replied the gardener, "never seen it before. The boss, I
expect."

"Well, what were you going to do with it?" said Larose.

"Why, give it to the boss, of course, when he comes out."

"Not to Ali? You weren't going to give it to him?"

The gardener looked at Larose in disgust. "Give it to Ali?" he sneered.
"Not me. I never speak to the damned black. I never go near him."

"Well, who do you think's likely to have dropped it here?" asked Larose.

"Dunno," said the gardener, now himself looking very puzzled. "No one's
supposed to come here except me." He scratched his head. "It warn't here
last night either, because I was picking from that very row."

"What time do you start work?" asked Larose. "Oh! any time after 6,"
replied the gardener. "I live in that shed there," and he pointed to the
far end of the grounds.

"Now, look here," said Larose confidentially, "we're police officers, as
I expect you guess."

"I know Mr. Barnsley," grinned the gardener. "I've been fined once or
twice when I've had too many spots!"

"Well," went on Larose, "we're looking for Miles Fallon, that chap who
escaped from the stockade, and he's supposed to have been seen about
here. Now, have you caught sight of him at all? Have you seen anyone
strange about here?"

The gardener did not appear to be much interested. He shook his head.
"No, I never seen him. I never seen no man here except Ali, and the
boss, and I'm always about."

Larose regarded the old man intently. No, here was no plotter. The man
was speaking the truth. He frowned.

"Well, about this pistol. We'll take it, and if you don't say a word to
anyone there'll be a half-note for you later on. Understand?"

The gardener nodded and, the two now turning away, picked up his hoe and
plodded on with his work again.

"Well, that's something, Inspector," said Larose, and he darted his eyes
round in every direction. "It means he's somewhere here and, what's
more, without his gun now. We needn't be so careful."

For an hour, and more, the detectives searched through the grounds, but
without the slightest promise of any success. Every yard of the garden
was gone over, the plantation was examined as through a
magnifying-glass, and every brick almost of the wall scrutinised for a
secret exit. The terrier was hustled this way and that to smell out a
fugitive somewhere. But no sign of anyone was forthcoming, no suggestion
of any place where a man could hide, no suspicion anywhere of anything
unusual.

At last then, Larose allowed his face to show something of the
disappointment that he felt. He puckered his forehead and moistened his
lips as if his mouth were dry.

"But this pistol," he muttered--"I can't be very wrong. A house of
innocence--and there would be no loaded automatic to be found in the
garden."

They returned to the garage, and then a ray of hope seemed to rise to
the detective's face again.

"Now, Inspector," he said briskly, "let you and me go in together, and
try and get the proper atmosphere of the place. It's here in this
garage, I am sure, that the battle is going to be either lost or won. We
mayn't find the man now, but we ought at any rate to learn whether he
has been here or not."

Each in turn he carefully examined the three cars. He scrutinised the
upholstery, and went over every inch of the seats.

Then he turned to the chauffeur's room and for a long time stood still
upon the threshold.

"Now let me see," he muttered. "Let me take it all in. What can this
room tell me? I must read from the Book of Little Things. These very
walls may speak if I am patient enough."

His eyes roved round the chamber floor, walls, roofing, the contents of
the open cupboard, the bed, the things upon the shelves.

There was a long silence and then he walked quickly over to the bed. He
bent low down and with his eyes only an inch or two off the pillow moved
his head to and fro. Suddenly then he straightened himself, and turned
to the Inspector.

"Bah!" he said bitterly, "we've been tricked somewhere. This pillow
reeks of aniseed--and it was aniseed cough lozenges that we found in the
hotel in Fallon's room. Fallon slept in this bed last night, and Ali in
one of the cars. If you're curious, Inspector," he continued, and his
voice dropped to careless and indifferent tones, "just look on the back
seat of that limousine. That folded rug there's been used as a pillow,
and you can see two of Ali's black hairs upon it."

He scowled and gritted his teeth together. "But we're not done with yet,
we'll go over the whole place again, we'll--"--he hesitated, and then
shook his head slowly. "No! We're beaten this round, and if we search
any more now the result will be only just the same. They've been too
clever for us somehow, and our only chance now lies in playing the
waiting game. We'll let them think we believe it's hopeless, and then,
having been so successful in fooling us as they undoubtedly have been,
they'll be content with the present arrangements and we'll get another
chance. Yes, that's it. We'll get another chance." He sighed heavily.
"Call up your men, Inspector, and we'll go back with our tails between
our legs."

"Well, are you satisfied now, Mr. Larose?" asked the Chief Commissioner
with a bitter smile, when a couple of hours later Larose was making his
report. "You've got me in a nice mess anyhow, and I don't know where the
end will be."

"But I'm certain I did not mislead you, sir!" said Larose firmly. "I'm
certain that we failed simply because we were dealing with an
intelligence acuter than our own. Our appearance this morning could not
by any possibility have been anticipated, yet--"--he hesitated--"it had
been prepared for in every way." He sighed. "But it was a near thing
anyhow, and at one moment, I am convinced, we were within a hair's
breadth of success."

"But you had the place surrounded," said the Commissioner querulously,
"and you went through everywhere, so how could anyone possibly escape?"

"I don't know," said Larose slowly, and he sighed again. "That's where
we got beat." His voice hardened. "But listen, sir, and then perhaps
you'll realise better what I mean." He raised his hand impressively.
"That was no house of innocence we went through this morning. It was no
place where there was nothing to hide. There was a secret there, and
those guarding it were on tenterhooks the whole time. Look for one thing
at this automatic here--do innocent parties carry loaded pistols about
their gardens during the early morning hours or during the night?"

"But the gardener," said the Commissioner crossly, "may have lied when
he told you that he picked it up. It may have been his all the time, and
he probably denied it because he had not a license to carry firearms. He
may have had it for his own protection, living alone as he does in that
old shed."

"But he did not lie, sir," said Larose solemnly. "There was moist earth
in the end of the barrel when I pulled it from his pocket, and I
particularly noticed there was no bulge in the pocket after I had taken
the pistol out. You can tell at a glance the hip-pocket that has been
carrying a pistol."

"Well," said the Commissioner brusquely, "what else?"

"Then, Dr. Van Steyne had all the appearance of a man in a corner," said
Larose. "He was like a man who had been taking things very lightly, and
then suddenly found himself in a situation of grave peril. He acted
superbly, but that he was acting I am positive. He burst into a sweat
when Inspector Barnsley handed him the search warrant, and he had to
steady himself by gripping to the table. With all his courage, he was
like a man at bay."

"And next?" demanded the Commissioner.

"Next," replied the detective--and he seemed to hearten himself with his
argument--"next there was the garage, and in the garage we found many
things to suggest at once that more than one person was living under
that roof. Too much food, to begin with, for one man to be consuming,
and too great a variety, and some of it of too fine a quality for the
likely tastes of Ameer Ali the chauffeur. I saw French mustard in the
cupboard, and, by-the-by, two recent champagne corks upon the rubbish
heap outside. Then there were four eggshells in the kitchen tidy from
the remains of the meal this morning, and the dregs of both coffee and
cocoa, too." The detective smiled for the first time. "Now, is it
reasonable to suppose that one person would have had both cocoa and
coffee at the same meal? About this cocoa and coffee, moreover, there
was something very significant which seemed to me to point undoubtedly
to the recent coming to the garage of another individual of different
tastes. It was in this way--I noticed that all the unpacketed stores of
the kitchen were kept in old cocoa tins. A cocoa tin for the salt--one
for the sugar--one for the rice, and cocoa tins for other things, too,
suggesting that cocoa all along had been the one habitual drink. Then,
suddenly, coffee had been introduced, and a partly filled coffee tin and
a partly filled cocoa tin came to stand in rivalry, side by side. But
only one coffee tin, notice! Just as if it had only recently happened
that cocoa no longer completely filled the bill. Coffee--"

"Small things, Mr. Larose," interrupted the Commissioner impatiently.
"Reasoning--very ingenious, I admit, but,"--he shrugged his
shoulders--"small things, as I say."

"Then when we come to the sleeping arrangements," went on Larose, as if
the interruption did not refer to him, "and there it was certain to my
mind that two persons had been sleeping in the garage. A folded rug had
been used for a pillow in one of the cars, and there were black hairs
upon it that might have come from Ali, the chauffeur. Then on the pillow
on the bed there was a strong smell of aniseed and,"--he looked intently
at the Commissioner--"you will remember, sir the aniseed cough lozenges
that we found in Fallon's bedroom at the Rialto Hotel. I think--"

"But Mr. Larose," burst in the Commissioner, "what good are all these
things, if you didn't find your man? According to your own showing he
couldn't possibly have got away! You had seen to it that the house had
been watched for days, and the search warrant was executed with a cordon
of our men posted round. If Fallon then were in the place, drinking this
coffee, and consuming all the delicacies as you suggest, how in the name
of fortune did he vanish when you appeared without warning and turned
over, as you have told me, every stick and stone of that place? How--"

The telephone bell rang sharply and the Commissioner picked up the
receiver.

"Who wants to speak to me? Oh! oh!--" He hesitated a moment. "Yes, I
suppose so. Put him through."

He covered over the mouth of the receiver with his hand and darted a
quick warning glance at Larose. "Hush," he whispered sharply. "It's Dr.
Van Steyne, and I shall have to mollify the man!" He dropped his hand to
the table and his face broke into a forced smile. "Oh! Is that you,
doctor? Yes, yes. Ha! ha!--only a matter of form, of course, very
annoying but we had to do it. Had to act on information received. Of
course, of course, but then I knew someone would be going for my scalp
in any case. I was between the devil and the deep sea. Oh, I know, I
know, but then if I hadn't done it someone would have got up in
Parliament and said I was shielding one of my friends. You know what
those beggars are, and I am a public official, you see. Always getting
into hot water somewhere. Yes, yes, quite a joke, but we were told
someone like him had been seen in your garden. Quite satisfied?
Certainly I am. Well, well. A very zealous man." The Commissioner turned
round and winked at Larose. "Oh, yes, very capable, but of course
everyone is liable to make mistakes, and he made a bad one here. No,
indeed! I don't know what he'll suggest next. Perhaps he'll be raiding
my place now! Ha! Ha! What? A pistol, did they. Oh! you lost it yourself
last night. Well I'll see to it. Of course. You shall have it back
to-night. No, dear no! The matter's ended, and I'll find myself a small
bottle and drink it with you when we meet next at the club. So long.
Good-bye."

The Commissioner hung up the receiver, and turned with a wry smile to
Larose.

"Unfortunate that you should be here, Mr. Larose, but at any rate you
got a certain idea of what is in my mind. Half of what I said was true
and the other half was, well--prevarication or--be charitable to me and
call it, tact."

He spoke with an effort. "You see, Mr. Larose, I really don't know what
to think. One moment, you almost convince me with an array of startling
facts, and the next I rub my eyes and think the whole suggestion too
absurd for words." An expression of intense annoyance crossed over his
face. "Yes, and on the face of it, it is absurd. It is impossible."

"What did he say about the pistol?" asked Larose quite unmoved by the
outburst of the Commissioner.

"He said it was his, and that he must have dropped it in the garden last
night. The gardener told him you had taken it away."

"Oh, indeed!" said Larose sarcastically. "Then he must have gone out
directly after we had left, to pump Morgan about what we had done. From
my own personal observation on the house, he never goes near or speaks
to Morgan, and the gardener is much too stupid to have gone up himself
on his own initiative and told about the pistol we had taken from him.
Besides, the man was half sozzled with beer this morning."

The Commissioner made no comment. His whole attitude was that of a man
who was very sorry for himself, and had been badly served.

The detective rose to his feet. "Well, sir," he said wearily, "I'll
report to you again later on. I'm not finished with yet."

The Commissioner sighed. "But no more search-warrants, if you please,
Mr. Larose," he said weakly, "and keep out of the doctor's sight. I
don't want to be embroiled again with him at whatever cost. Enough harm
has been done in that direction already...."

"A weak man, that Commissioner," frowned the detective when he was once
again in the street. "I shall have to act now on my own. I shall get no
more encouragement from him." His face brightened. "But one thing at any
rate is good. If Fallon is still there, they won't be shifting him away.
They'll decide now that that's the safest place in the State seeing that
the Chief Commissioner seems to be frightened that a search-warrant was
issued at all. Yes, that's my strong card. Van Steyne will keep Fallon
close to him for a time. Yes, I'll go no trumps on that. Now I'll think
out what I must do."

* * * * * * * *

Two mornings later Dr. Van Steyne was going through the day's
appointments with his pretty nurse.

"Oh! by the by," he said slowly and as if smiling to himself, "that
young Mr. Tennant who came the week before last--he's not 'phoned up for
another appointment, has he?"

"Oh! by-the-by," she said slowly, "and I don't think he'll want one.
He's ever so much better. I happened to see him last night."

Dr. Van Steyne was running his finger down the names in the appointment
book. "Mrs. Shearer, Mr. Mildred, Miss Giles," he muttered. He looked up
suddenly as if he had only just caught what the girl had said. "Oh! you
saw him," he asked, "young Mr. Tennant, did you?"

The girl got a little red. "Yes," she replied carelessly. "He was
bathing with us last night at Glenelg, with my sisters and me. We met
him on the beach."

For a moment there was silence: the doctor was preoccupied and still
going through the names in his book.

"A very heavy day," he remarked at length, "and I particularly wanted to
get off early this afternoon, too." He handed the book back to the girl
and then looked up at her and smiled. "Oh! that young Mr. Tennant we
were speaking of," he said, as if he had only at that very moment
remembered they had been talking about him. "So you were bathing with
him, were you, nurse?" He pursed up his lips. "I'm shocked." The girl
laughed lightly.

"He's got friends down at Glenelg, doctor, and we've seen him several
times."

Dr. Van Steyne became serious. "I suppose he's told you who he really
is, Mary? Tennant's not his real name, and he's a detective from New
South Wales."

"He's Gilbert Larose, doctor," replied the girl importantly. "He only
took the other name because he's here on a holiday, and didn't want
anybody to know."

"Indeed," remarked Dr. Van Steyne thoughtfully, "and when, pray, did he
tell you he was Gilbert Larose?"

"Last night--because he's going home this evening." She got rather red
again, and moved towards the door.

"Did he ever ask you any questions about me, Mary?" asked the doctor
frowning.

The girl shook her head. "No, doctor, but he spoke about you often. He
said he knew your house at West Mitcham and what a lovely garden you had
got. He's very interested in flowers."

The doctor regarded his nurse very thoughtfully, and then he smiled.
"Well, don't you lose your heart there, Mary. He's a very nice young
man, but he may be married already for all you know."

The girl smiled back. "He says he isn't, doctor, but then--"--she cast
her eyes demurely down--"I know what men are." She went out and closed
the door softly behind her.

"Now, I wonder if that piece of information that he's going away were
intended for me?" muttered Dr. Van Steyne. "I believe it is proverbial
among the so-called criminal classes that when Gilbert Larose is most
open he is hiding most, that when he speaks most he is most silent, and
that when he is doing nothing he is working at his hardest." The doctor
rested his head upon his hands. "But why now has he singled me out, why
has he come near me at all? Why have I crossed his path or rather why
has he crossed mine? However did he come to connect me with Fallon in
the first instance?" He frowned and then smiled again. "Well, I must ask
my dear Commissioner. I'll make a point of seeing him to-morrow, and
then he'll lay bare his little soul."

He rang the bell for the first patient to be shown in.



CHAPTER XIII.--SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT.


One waning night that same week, in the dark minutes that precede the
dawn a shadowy figure dropped stealthily over the high wall that
surrounded the garden of Dr. Van Steyne. It was clutching to a large
bundle, and it alighted just behind a bed of tall artichoke plants. It
fell exactly as a dead body would fall, and for quite a long time no
sign of any further movement followed. Then softly the tops of the
artichokes began to sway, and the face of a man peered out into the
dimness from among the leaves.

The man looked round intently on every side and then apparently
satisfied that he was quite alone, turned to his bundle and brought out
three thin iron rods. These he drove quickly into a bare patch of ground
at intervals of a few feet, with each one about a yard distant from the
face of the wall. Than he produced a length of canvas and stretched it
out in front of the rods, attaching it to the two end ones with small
clips of steel. The canvas was painted to match the color of the wall,
and it formed a sort of screen about three feet in height and seven feet
long. In daylight it would be in full view both of the garage and the
house, but so natural was the coloring of the canvas that unless anyone
should approach to within a few feet he would not be aware that it was
not part of the wall itself.

It made a hiding-place where no one would have thought it possible to
contrive one. The man spread out a rug behind the canvas and lay down.

Morning soon came, and in due time the household awoke and the daily
routine of everyone's life began.

Morgan appeared from his shed. Ameer Ali swung back the garage doors,
and a maid came out of the house and shook some mats. In their separate
ways they went about their several tasks, and in their own minds,
probably, the day was in no way different from the day that preceded it,
nor would it be very different either from the day that would follow on.

And yet--there was a difference, and had they only known it the
surroundings of their lives were not the same.

There was a watcher at the foot of that high wall, and every happening
in that garden and outside that house was recorded in the memory of one
who would forget nothing, and who would use all his knowledge for the
furthering of his own aims.

* * * * * * * *

Then it seemed in the days which followed that there were two Morgans in
that garden of Dr. Van Steyne--two gardeners with bent backs and shabby
coats, two with the same brown wigs and disreputable turned-down hats.
But, strange to say, these two gardeners were never to be seen at the
same time, and though similar in appearance their habits were quite
different, and their personalities were not by any means akin.

One of them took no notice of anything that went on around him. He was
heavy-minded and dull of brain. He did all his work in the garden
mechanically, and had no interests there beyond his potatoes, his
cabbages, and his beans. Also, he turned very often to his shed to take
his ease, and he lubricated his throat very often with liquid from a big
stone jar that smell of beer. He seemed well supplied with money, but he
often counted the silver in his pocket as if he were both impressed and
surprised to find so much there.

And the other? The other Morgan was all eyes and ears--and was alert in
every way! He seemed to know to the exact second when the first Morgan
had gone into the shed. Then he would rise mysteriously from the ground
nearby, where the artichokes grew. He would steal to the shed door and
peer through a crevice to see what his double was doing. Then if he
heard snores, or saw indications that the contents of the stone jar were
getting low, he would unobtrusively borrow a rake or a hoe and carry on.
He would wander all round the garden in search of erring weeds, he would
keep an eye on everything that went on about the house, and he would be
for ever coming back and finding work not far away from the garage
doors. Then when night came his activities would be redoubled--but to
quite a different way. He would prowl like a phantom about the place
when everything was quiet, listening, watching, listening. For hours at
a time he would crouch in the shadows by the garage doors, straining his
ears to hear someone speak or--cough. Then he would steal to the long
French windows of the house when the lights told him that Dr. Van Steyne
was in his study, and keep patient vigil there--watching and listening
for the faintest sound.

He very rarely seemed to sleep, this second Morgan, and except for a few
hours in the dead of night when he slipped back over the wall, he was
always on duty.

In this manner for four days Larose lived in the garden of Dr. Van
Steyne, and whenever the gardener was safe in his shed he roamed where
he would. He always felt secure, too, when behind his canvas screen,
for, nothing being planted there, there was no reason for anyone to come
near. He saw very little of Van Steyne, for the master of the house
never came into the garden, and very rarely visited the garage either.
The chauffeur, too, kept close to his own quarters, and indeed was never
seen outside except when cleaning or driving one of the cars.

After the first day the detective lost something of the high opinion
that he had entertained of Ameer Ali as a chauffeur. The man, except at
spasmodic intervals, never seemed too keen on his work, and set about
everything as if he were tired and his duties were a bore. He did not
always clean the car as thoroughly as he should have done, and each time
he hosed it down he splashed water clumsily all around.

"Wouldn't do for me," muttered Larose once. "The doctor's got hold of
two slackers in Morgan and Ali, but I suppose he puts up with them
because they've been with him so long. I wonder now if Ali takes drugs.
He looks dopey enough for anything."

The daily routine of things was always very much the same. At six
o'clock or thereabouts the milkman arrived, and Larose noticed that he
was the only tradesman who called at both the garage and the house. At
seven or later, Morgan came out of his shed with his wig and his pipe,
and started work. He always looked sodden and bleary-eyed, yet strangely
enough he worked best in the mornings, and Larose quickly realised that
he had been a competent gardener once. At about eight o'clock Ameer Ali
appeared. He rolled open the garage doors, had a good stare all
round--Larose always noticed that--and then pushed out the limousine and
started hosing in the concrete yard. At about nine-thirty he went back
into the garage, and there was no more seen of him until a few minutes
before ten when, having donned his uniform, he drove out the car to pick
up the doctor at the front door.

Then nothing much happened until six o'clock, when the doctor arrived
home again and Ali drove the car into the garage and closed the doors.
After that no more was seen of Ali or the doctor until the next morning.
Neither of them ever went out again after they had once returned home.

During the day the garage was left wide open, and Larose, emboldened by
the continual silence, at last upon the fourth day ventured to enter it.

He gripped his automatic in his jacket pocket, and his heart beat very
rapidly when from out of the hot noonday sun he tiptoed softly inside.
He had been prepared for anything, a flash from another automatic, a
figure hurling itself upon him, or Miles Fallon lying asleep upon the
bed. But he found--nothing! Just the empty, silent garage, with
everything disposed conventionally and in order!

He had another disappointment, too.

He examined the French mustard, the unusual condiments, and the coffee
in the tin, and upon all of them, he saw at once, good inroads had been
made since last he had been there. The coffee tin was a large one, and
now there was less than a quarter left. "Ah!" he muttered disgustedly.
"I must have made a mistake about that coffee and those other things."

He also smelt carefully round the bed again, but, sniff as he would, he
was unable to detect any scent of aniseed. Also there was no folded rug
in the car and no suggestive black hairs lying round.

"Gone!" was his disgusted exclamation. "He was packed away after all!
They knew that damned Commissioner had got the wind up, and so Fallon
went whilst the going was good."

Later that afternoon Larose lay on his rug behind the stretch of canvas
and, shutting his eyes tightly, endeavored to think everything out.

"Now, am I wrong after all?" he wondered. "Have I given myself all this
trouble for nothing?" He sighed deeply. "I believe I'm losing grip!"

"Now let me see," he went on. "A great doctor, a man of education, a man
of science and--the criminal Fallon. A man of culture and a man of
crime. Can there be any connection between the two? Ah! but the doctor's
not a normal man. Look at that picture in his study, remember his
expressions of sympathy for breakers of the law, and how he sneered that
the community was only a form of trade union for the selfish benefit of
itself!" The detective frowned. "A man of courage too: a man of great
courage, a man who would take risks, a man who would enjoy danger as a
sport. No, no, the material is certainly there. He would be proudly
contemptuous of the view of the world. He would help Fallon from pure
devilry. The crimes of the man would amuse him, and he would befriend
him all he could. Now let me see again--let me see."

But Larose was very tired and the sun was very hot. He was grateful for
the pleasant shade the artichokes cast, and gradually the tense muscles
of his body relaxed; his eyelids were no longer closed tightly and at
effort they met deliciously of their own accord. He continued to think,
but he thought every moment slower and more slowly. He repeated himself
many times, and then the softness of his whispers soothed him and--he
fell asleep.

It was past 6 when he awoke, and his sleep was only broken then by the
noise of the car coming to the garage from the house. He sat up with a
jerk, and was just in time to see the limousine disappear between the
garage doors.

"Cripes!" he exclaimed, looking at his watch. "I've slept for five
hours." He smiled faintly. "But I wonder if I missed anything. No, I
don't think so." He drank some tepid water from a bottle at his side,
and made a wry face.

"I'm fed up with all these discomforts," he murmured, "and I'm doing no
good as far as I can see. I'll clear off to-night, I think, and the
crooks in Adelaide can do all they want to for all I care. I've lost my
punch and become a dud somehow."

He lay back again, and then suddenly, about a minute later, he heard
footsteps on the gravel path. He was up on his knees in an instant, and,
peering through the canvas, saw Dr. Van Steyne coming down the drive,
carrying something in his hand that in the distance looked like a
bottle. The doctor reached the garage doors and made to slide one back,
but apparently it was fastened on the inside, for he began to knock
softly with his knuckles.

"It is I," Larose heard him say, "you've forgotten something."

The door was drawn back gently and there was a laugh. A few whispered
words followed, and then Van Steyne at once turned away and the door was
drawn to again.

"Now what does that mean," muttered the detective with a frown, "and why
the devil was there any need for them to whisper what they had to say?
Why, too, did Ali bolt the door inside? I didn't know he did that
before."

He lay down again behind his screen. "And if I've been wrong all along,"
he went on, "why is there something secret going on between master and
man?" He shook his head. "It's not like Van Steyne to wait upon his
chauffeur, and if he had anything to give him why the deuce didn't he
send it by one of the maids? Or, better still, why didn't he ring the
garage bell? Why?--"--but suddenly there came up the faint but distinct
sound of the popping of a cork.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed the detective, "the doctor brought him a bottle
of champagne. That's what he handed in and that's what Ali had
forgotten. Champagne for the chauffeur! Champagne--"--he clenched his
hands in his excitement and his eyes blazed. "It's not for Ali," he
whispered hoarsely--"it's for Fallon--Fallon's come back."

The face of the detective went white as death, and he could but with
difficulty get his breath. "Fallon back," he repeated hoarsely. "But
what can I do? I'm all alone."

He lay back and closed his eyes. "Now don't get excited, Gilbert," he
said shakily. "Take plenty of time and keep your head cool! You've been
in worse difficulties than this and yet come out top in the end. It's
true you've only got yourself to depend on, and that the odds against
you are three to one! But remember that you are in the lucky position of
being able to take the other side by surprise. You are attacking and not
being attacked. It is your turn to make the move, and you can take your
time." His face clouded over with an uneasy frown. "But can you take
your time, Gilbert? That's it! Are the others just going to sit still
whilst you do all the brain work and elaborate some plan to rope them
in?" He shook his head. "No, I don't think so. They'll be scheming just
the same as you are, they'll be looking for an opening, they'll--" He
hesitated, and then went on very slowly. "And I believe--I almost
believe they're going to do something straightaway now." He thought for
a long moment. "Yes, the popping of that champagne cork suggests to me
that they are drinking to the success of something, and that that bottle
was opened to mark an event. Something is going to be attempted in the
next few hours."

He passed his hand across his forehead. "But I can do nothing." he said
wearily. "I can only wait--and watch."

The evening drew gradually in, the shadows lengthened, and darkness
stole gently over the garden of Dr. Van Steyne. All was peace and rest
and calm in the scent of the sleeping flowers and with the soft sighing
of the night wind in the trees.

"Curse it," swore the detective softly, "I'm tired as a dog already, and
yet I musn't close my eyes a moment tonight!"

The hours went slowly by and the lights of the house were extinguished
one by one, until just before eleven--and then another light went up
suddenly and sparks began to fly from a small chimney.

"The bath-heater!" exclaimed Larose. "I've never known the doctor start
as late as that." He smiled grimly. "But what a dope I am, perhaps, to
be sitting here rubbing my eyes with nothing more important going on
than the great man taking his bath! Am I imagining things again?"

He lay back and closed his eyes luxuriously, and then a moment later he
was galvanised into watchfulness again. He heard the garage door grate
softly, and, springing to his knees, in the faint light of the moon saw
the dark face of Ameer Ali peering out.

The chauffeur took a long and cautious look round.

"Oh! oh!" whispered Larose with animation, "something's going on and so
I wasn't wrong after all."

For a few moments the chauffeur stood quite still and then, stepping
outside, he pulled the door carefully to and locked it behind him. Then
he proceeded with swift steps along the garden path towards the back of
the house.

He reached the side door and at once disappeared into the house.

At that very moment a clock in a neighboring church began to chime the
hour.

"Timed to the exact second," ejaculated the detective. He nodded his
head thoughtfully. "Yes, something's going to happen to-night! They've
got Fallon back in the garage, and Ali and Van Steyne are now arranging
to get him away."



CHAPTER XIV.--THE MASK--OFF.


As Larose had seen, the chauffeur entered the house by the side door.
The door was closed when he reached it, but he did not knock, for it was
opened the moment after he arrived. It was opened silently, and it was
closed behind him, too, without a sound.

"Tiptoe," whispered Dr. Van Steyne warningly--for it was he who opened
the door. "The maids are not asleep yet. I heard them talking just now."

The chauffeur followed Van Steyne along the passage, and they proceeded
noiselessly into the latter's study. The door was closed softly, and
then the chauffeur threw himself down into an armchair.

"Damn!" he swore irritably. "I'm sick of this!"

Dr. Van Steyne laughed as if he were amused.

"But my dear Miles," he exclaimed, "at any rate, it's better than the
stockade. Indeed, you might have been hanged by now but for our poor
services. Ali's and mine. Have a cigarette?"

The chauffeur winced but took the preferred cigarette. "You always were
blunt, Arnold," he said rather reproachfully. "You never trouble to wrap
things up."

Dr. Van Steyne smiled. "Truth, my friend, truth. I have a passion for
truth except when dealing with the minions of the law." He looked
curiously at his companion. "But what are you particularly sick of
to-night, just when you know it is all coming to an end?"

"Oh, this chauffeur business," replied Miles Fallon. "And everything
besides! It's been hell these last few days. That morphia stunt of yours
has got on my stomach as well as my nerves. I've been as heavy as lead
all day."

"But you had to have it, my friend," replied the doctor emphatically. "I
wouldn't have had you coughing at night for worlds! Up against a man
like Larose, I wouldn't take any chance, however remote." He turned a
professional eye upon Fallon. "But I quite understand how you've been
feeling with the big doses I had to give you, and I confess that the
consequences of the drug have not been without their unpleasantness for
me, too. I tell you frankly I shall be glad when Ali is back and at the
wheel again. Your driving has been most erratic and, as you know, we've
had quite a number of most narrow escapes. For a few seconds this
morning I would have staked my life that you were going head-on for that
tram, and your woman, too, this evening, was within inches of an early
grave."

"Well, it's over now," said Fallon wearily, "and to-morrow literally I
shall sink or swim. One thing, I'll never be taken alive."

"And I shouldn't be either, if I were you," remarked the doctor
feelingly, "for the death you could give yourself would at any rate be
pleasanter than the decease the authorities would give you here."

"But I'd have liked to have settled with that Larose," snarled Fallon
bitterly. "He's been the cause of all the worry to us. I'd have liked to
have put a bullet in him before I went."

"No chance at all," said the doctor convincingly. "We shan't be meeting
Larose again now that obliging Chief Commissioner has taken him off our
track, unless, unless--." He frowned and shook his head. "Besides, I
shouldn't have countenanced it in any case myself. Quite enough blood
has been shed already."

"But he shot Blendiron," said Fallon sullenly. "He was that man on the
Cliff."

"No doubt, no doubt," said the doctor, coolly. "But then Blendiron
deserved to die. Blendiron was a coarse and brutal man, and a murderer
to boot. I've always been sorry we ever had to employ him. It's annoyed
me all along."

Fallon eyed the doctor intently. "You're a strange man, Arnold," he
said, "and I've often wondered why you've gone as far as you have in
befriending me."

The doctor laughed. "And I've often wondered that too, my friend." He
shrugged his shoulders. "But it was a game to me--it was an escape from
the monotony of life. It was delicious to watch the clumsy police
floundering after the mysterious criminal, and I loved to see you like a
weasel among the fowls. After all, as far as I helped you, you only took
from those who had plenty, and you were paying back to society part of
the debt that is owing to me." His voice grew hard and bitter. "I curse
the world daily for the way they treated me and mine. I've not
forgotten, and I never shall." He calmed himself. "But I tell you
frankly, Miles, I'm glad you're going. As I have mentioned to you
several times already, that affair at the Rialto was altogether over the
line. Even now, the memory of your violence to that poor old man appals
me."

"But it was an accident, as I've always told you," returned Fallon
sullenly. "I had to finish him or I should have been caught myself."

The doctor pursed his lips up grimly. "You were no longer an artist
there, Miles. I miss the touch of the master hand. You bungled things
badly, and you rang the curtain down in a horrible manner on our little
play."

"Well, I'm glad you had some amusement out of it, Arnold, for that's all
you did get anyway."

"Oh, yes, I certainly had some amusement out of it," agreed Van Steyne
cheerfully. He smiled and rubbed his hands. "Really, I think the most
thrilling moment of my life was when Barnsley and Ali were with me in
here, and at the same time you and Larose were closeted in the dining
room. Yes, it was thrilling, but--" his voice suddenly grew serious and
he looked grave, "I think then I felt fear."

"Fear!" exclaimed Miles Fallon, sitting up with a shiver. "Why, it was
nearer panic with me! I was biting my tongue to keep back a cry, and if
I hadn't had my back turned to that damned Larose he'd have seen the
blood on my lips." He passed his hands over his eyes. "Bah! we ran it
too fine that time."

"Not at all, not at all," retorted the doctor, who had now recovered his
cheerfulness. "It was all right if we only kept our heads." He laughed.
"It was the master-stroke of a mastermind. Everything foreseen, arranged
for, and timed to the exact second." He shook his head. "Ah, Miles, my
friend, if I had only willed it, I could have been a greater criminal
even than you, for I should always have anticipated everything. I should
have always been prepared."

"No doubt, Arnold," said Fallon drily. "You've a wonderful imagination
for so cold-blooded a type. But, by the by, talking about anticipations,
do you know I've been having some faint suspicions about that damned
gardener of yours these last two days, and if I had been stopping any
longer I should have been inclined to give him the once-over at close
quarters. Do you think he could have been got at, to do a bit of spying
for anyone?"

"Morgan?" said the doctor frowning. "What on earth do you mean?"

"Oh! nothing particular," replied Fallon quickly, "but he rather worried
me both yesterday and to-day, and I've had a feeling several times that
there was something about him that was unusual."

"Explain, please," said the doctor sharply.

"Well, he's been more busy about the garden for one thing, more than is
usual for him with his lazy habits. Then, again, when I've had the
garage doors open, he's always somehow found work to do close near. He's
never had his back towards me, always his face. He's been watching me, I
think."

Dr. Van Steyne regarded his companion very thoughtfully, and then shook
his head. "It's impossible," he said slowly. "Morgan has not
intelligence enough to plot. He would be a bent tool in anybody's
hands."

Fallon looked obstinate. "Well, he's different anyhow. I'm sure of
that." There was a moment's silence and then he went on. "But that other
thing puzzles me, Arnold, and I shall go away with the same big hungry
aching query in my mind--how did this Gilbert Larose come to give any
attention to you? How did he ever come to guess that you had got me
here?"

Dr. Van Steyne spoke very slowly.

"He didn't guess, Miles--he knew. In some unerring way he sensed there
were bonds between us, and out of a million chances he dropped like a
plummet on the right one. I am convinced now that he suspected me from
the very beginning, that he was curious from the first moment that he
spoke to me in the room. Mind you,"--and the doctor held up his finger
warningly--"it was quite an accident that he ever went down by Cape
Jervis; it was chance alone that took him there. What happened on those
cliffs interested him, and he followed you up. He is a remarkable man."

"Too damned remarkable to please me!" commented Miles Fallon. "The
fellow ought to be shot." He yawned and looked up at the clock. "But my
bath, Arnold--don't you think I'd better have it now? There's a lot to
do yet, and I've only got about four hours."

"Yes, yes," replied the doctor, "go and have it at once! It'll take some
soaking to get all that stain away, but you'll find the water hot.
Change your things in my room, and when you come back we'll go over the
final arrangements." He smiled grimly. "I too shall be glad when all
this excitement is over. I want some peace of mind."

Opening the door very gently, Fallon left the room and Dr. Van Steyne
sank back into his armchair. An uneasy look had come into his face and
he frowned heavily.

"But that's curious what Miles said about Morgan," he muttered, "and I
don't like it too much somehow. Miles can't be too observant with all
that morphia he's been taking, and for him to have noticed anything is
rather strange. The Commissioner says he thinks Larose has gone back,
but he is not sure of it,"--his eyes hardened--"and neither am I. What
if Larose has got hold of Morgan, somehow? Yet, no, that is impossible.
But what if he has got Morgan away and is taking his place? That sounds
impossible, too, but then they say anything is possible with Larose.
Larose is a superman, he is the evil genius of crime, he--"--the doctor
got up and began pacing the room. "Well, it's easy to make sure. I dare
say I'm a fool, but I'll go out and see. We are too near success now to
take any risks."

He opened a drawer in the desk and picked out an electric torch. Then,
switching out the lights in the room, he tip-toed to the French window,
unfastened the catch, and crept outside. He hesitated a moment, as if
uncertain in which direction to go, and then turned and went cautiously
round the house, in the opposite way to that leading to the garage.
Avoiding as much as possible the gravel paths, he passed through a small
plantation and reached the gardener's shed from the back. He heard
snores proceeding from the inside.

"Quite healthy snores," he muttered grimly, "but then--whoever is in
there may have seen me cross in the moonlight, and to snore would be his
first idea. Everyone who wishes to feign sleep always snores. It's laid
down in all the melodramas that it must be so."

Passing round to the front of the shed he found the door open and,
peering inside, he saw by the moonlight a recumbent figure upon the bed.
The sleeper lay with his face towards the wall, but one arm lay turned
back and hung partly over the side of the narrow bed. The doctor crept
in and flashed his torch upon the uncovered hand.

"Morgan, right enough," he whispered. "I should know those dreadful
hands anywhere. Now as to whether he's feigning sleep, or is awake and
has been spying on us." He laid his fingers very gently upon the
snorer's pulse. "Not sixty," he went on, "and it would have been at
least a hundred and twenty if he knew that I was standing here."

He tiptoed out of the shed and turned back towards the house. For a few
seconds it seemed as if he were going to return by a different way, but
a broad belt of moonlight across the path apparently made him change his
mind, and he went back the same way that he had come.

Upon what little things do big things depend! Had the doctor but carried
out his first intention he would have run right into Larose, who was
crouching near the side door of the house. The detective had got his hat
off and was fanning himself vigorously with a facsimile of Morgan's old
brown wig. The night was very hot.

It was an anxious and uneasy vigil for the detective in the evening
hours, and many times he began to think that Ali was going to spend the
whole night in the house.

He had left his shelter by the high wall and had taken up a position
behind a plot of beans. There he was nearer the house and could keep a
closer watch upon the side door. He had to be very careful how he moved,
for the moon was half full, and in some places the garden was almost as
light as day. Twice, however, he took a risk and crept round to the
front of the house, but, seeing a light still in the doctor's study he
returned again to his crouching among the beans.

Midnight was sounded by some distant chimes--one o'clock, and then
presently by his watch he saw it was nearly a quarter to two. At that
moment he heard a slight sound, the side door was gently opened and Dr.
Van Steyne came out. The door was immediately closed again. The doctor
carried a rucksack and a small bag and he was fully dressed.

The detective's heart beat quickly. "He's going out somewhere," he
whispered. "He's got his hat on and that's his luggage. He's going away
with Fallon."

The doctor passed close near to where Larose was crouching, so near that
the latter could detect the strong odour of cigars about his clothes.

"His house-jacket!" he muttered, "and Manillos! I should know that smell
anywhere." He smiled wrily. "I could enjoy one now, myself."

The doctor went straight to the garage and, fumbling for a moment with
the key, unlocked the door and let himself in. He closed the door
carefully with the minimum amount of noise.

Larose remained crouching where he was. "Now that's funny," he frowned,
"what's become of Ali? They can't surely be going without him. Perhaps
they're coming out singly to make less noise." He shook his head. "No,
it's hardly that. Van Steyne has closed the garage door."

He waited expectantly for more than ten minutes, but nothing further
happened, and he left the shelter of the beans and scouted round the
house. The place was all in darkness now and not a sound was to be
heard. The distant clock struck two o'clock.

The detective was very puzzled. He retraced his steps and, after a
moment's hesitation, worked his way through the bushes round to the
garage. Hoisting himself up on the wall, he saw there was a light
burning in the chauffeur's room, and straining his ears he thought he
heard low voices inside. He would have sworn once too that he heard a
chuckling laugh.

"Cripes!" he exclaimed disgustedly. "Now I wonder if Ali has gone in
through the other door! He could have dodged me when I was down among
the beans, or he might have come out by the side door, when I went to
see if the lights were still on in the front of the house." He rubbed
his eyes ruefully. "But this means not a wink of sleep for me at all.
I'll get back to the artichokes and watch from there. If anyone should
come out suddenly, they'd catch me here."

But it was not destined he should do more watching that night, for a
heavy bank of clouds came and obscured the moon from sight. There were
no stars and he could not see five yards beyond his face.

"Damn!" said Larose, "I must get nearer at once. I can hear when I can't
see, so I'll have to lie among the cabbages now." He sighed whimsically.
"Really, I'm having quite a vegetable night."

He felt his way to where he knew the cabbages were, and lay down
uncomfortably between the rows. "Now, it only wants a shower of rain,"
he thought, "and my misery will be complete. It looks like coming, too."

But happily no rain came, although the clouds continued to obscure the
moon from view. Larose lay motionless in the inky darkness, straining
his ears to catch the slightest sound. The minutes lengthened and he
heard the chimes of three and four.

"In half an hour now," he reflected, "it will be beginning to get light,
and I shall have to shift my quarters again. I've had a rotten night,
and I've got nothing much for all my pains. But I'm sure somehow
something's going to happen yet. I feel it in my bones."

Suddenly he heard steps upon the gravel--the hesitating, cautious steps
of a man who was picking his way in the darkness. They came from the
direction of the drive leading to the gate.

He was alert on the instant.

The steps came nearer and nearer, and then he heard a gentle tapping
somewhere quite close. There was a half-minute's silence, and then came
the unmistakable grating of the sliding garage door. A short whispered
colloquy followed and then there was more grating. This time, however,
the grating was continued for much longer.

"Hullo! hullo!" exclaimed Larose. "Why! they're sliding back both
doors!" The detective's heart beat wildly in excitement. "They're going
to get out one of the cars."

For half a second there was the quick flash of an electric torch, and he
saw the big limousine being pushed out into the yard. He heard it pulled
up with the brake, and then the torch was flashed again.

Dr. Van Steyne was getting into the tonneau, and Ali upon the driver's
seat.

More whispering followed, and then Ali started the engine sharply and
let in the clutch. At the same moment he switched on the lights and the
car began quickly to glide away.

Larose had not a second even to make up his mind. He sprang up from
among the cabbage rows and dashing after the car jumped lightly on to
the luggage-grid behind.

The car quickly gathered pace and, sweeping round the front of the
house, passed up the drive, and then to the road outside.

"I'm in for it," said the detective grimly, "and the play's beginning in
real earnest now. All the actors are present, for I'll swear that
Fallon's under one of the rugs in the car. They're smuggling him off
just like they did when they got him away from the stockade."

He made sure that his pistol was quite handy in his pocket, and then
shook his head solemnly. "Yes, but this is a tragedy and not a comedy
we're going to play. It'll be a play in one act too, and, unless I am
very much mistaken, the Angel of Death is included in the cast."



CHAPTER XV.--THE RIVER OF DEATH.


Ameer Ali was a daring driver, and the roads were clear. The big car
sped on as if it were pursued by evil spirits. Its great lights flashed
like ogres' eyes, and its huge engine roared as if it were a hurricane
enchained. Down a broad highway through avenues of ghostly trees, over
the dim park lands, through dark and silent city streets, and then over
park lands once again, until the long Port-road was reached.

"They're going to Port Adelaide," said the detective, gripping like grim
death to his uncomfortable seat, "and they don't intend that anyone
should overtake them either. We must be touching fifty at least."

But Larose soon learnt that Port Adelaide was not to be their
destination, for the car ran through with very little slackening of
speed and then turned off along the road towards the Outer Harbor.

The dawn began now to manifest its coming, and was ushered in by great
gusts of wind that swept boisterously from the direction of the sea.

They soon left behind all signs of habitation, and were running across
the great arm of flat sand country that stretches between the Port River
and St. Vincent's Gulf. A few miles at speed, and then the car slackened
down to take a rough track that turned off at right angles in the
direction of the river and away from the sea. Larose craned his neck
round to see where they were going.

"I don't like it, Gilbert," he remarked anxiously. "There won't be any
cover here in five minutes, and when the light gets stronger and they
stop they'll see me at once before I can fade away."

A rough and bumpy few minutes, and then the car gained a smoother track
and began to run by the side of the river. At this spot the river was
about three hundred yards wide, and its dark and swollen waters ran
swiftly between low embankments to the sea. There was a sting of salt in
the air, and the wind was lashing the water into waves.

"A lonely place," thought the detective with a shiver, "and an
evil-looking one, too. I've let myself in for something. Just the very
spot--"

But his cogitations were interrupted, for the car began to slow down and
then stopped altogether. He heard one of the doors open, and saw that
Dr. Van Steyne was getting out. Like lightning Larose realised that it
was his opportunity. He slipped off the luggage grid on the far side of
the car, and threw himself like a shadow into a ditch flanking the road.
He crouched low down. A hoarse voice cried, "All right," a door was
banged, and then off went the car without a moments delay.

"Lord," ejaculated the detective, "and now what next?" He waited a
minute and then looked cautiously over the side of the ditch.

There was no one in sight.

Fearful that he had been cheated, he darted across the road and then as
suddenly jerked himself to a standstill.

Not a dozen feet away, Dr. Van Steyne was bending down over the
embankment, and pulling in a small dinghy that was moored in the shelter
of some nearly submerged piles.

Across on the other side of the river and out of the main current were
moored several small vessels, one of which in the rapidly growing light
looked like a motor boat.

A big ruck-sack and a small handbag lay on the ground beside the doctor.

The detective stood as if fascinated, he no longer knew how to act. His
indecision certainly was only of a few seconds' duration, but those
seconds, brief as they were, were fatal to his having any choice in the
matter at all.

He had just decided to creep back at from the security of the ditch
watch where the dinghy went, when a sudden gust of wind lifted off his
hat and deposited it roughly at the doctor's feet. Van Steyne sprang
round as if he had been shot, with a look of startled terror on his
face. He just clapped eyes on the crouching figure of the detective, and
then like lightning his hand went to his hip. He snatched out a pistol
and without the hesitation of a fraction of a second fired point blank
at Larose's heart.

Then his mouth gaped, and he stood staring as if waiting for his victim
to fall.

But Larose stool solid as a rock--sheer amazement bereft him of power of
action and paralysed his limbs.

Suddenly, then, the expression of Van Steyne's face altered. His mouth
snapped tightly to, his eyebrows came together, and he looked puzzled
and surprised. Some five seconds of intense silence, and then, with a
furious oath upon his lips his right arm again shot forward and he fired
at Larose for the second time.

But apparently the detective was still unharmed, and his period of
inactivity, too, had passed.

"You scoundrel," he shrieked, and his right arm went back and then shot
out, too.

There was a flash of fire and a red bubble burst upon the forehead of
Van Steyne. The wind caught it and in an instant his face was flecked
over with blood. He uttered a deep moan, his body swayed, and in the
flicker of an eye he toppled over the embankment and was lost to view.
In his fall, the ruck-sack went with him.

Horrified at the turn events had taken, Larose struggled to get his
breath. He felt as if his heart were going to burst.

"My God!" he exclaimed, almost choking in his emotion, "but that was a
near thing. I could even smell the powder when he fired. How he missed
me, I don't know." He looked at the smoking pistol in his hand. "But
I've killed Dr. Van Steyne," he went on hoarsely. "I've shot the wrong
man." The sweat burst upon his forehead in big drops. "But I had to, I
had to," he said shakily--"it was his life or mine, and he was a devil,
anyhow."

He sprang to the embankment and looked over. He saw the body only a few
yards distant, floating face down, but the strong current was rapidly
drawing it into mid-stream. Suddenly it became animated in a series of
quick jerks, as if it were still alive, and the detective saw close to
it a dark fin.

"Sharks!" he ejaculated, with a face white to the very lips, "what a
dreadful end!"

The body disappeared from view.

The detective sat down on the embankment to recover. He shook from head
to foot.

"Fate! fate! It is fate," he muttered. "I was destined to be the
avenger. First Blendiron, and then Van Steyne." He sighed heavily. "But
I have still to get the worst one of them all." He shivered. "Oh, but I
was near to death. He missed me when it was impossible to miss." A
puzzled look came into his face. "And yet he brought up his gun like a
man accustomed to shoot."

He looked across the river. "But where was he going to?" he went on.
"Fallon must be somewhere over there for he evidently wasn't in the car
after all. On one of those boats most likely, and probably a witness of
our little play. The first shot would have brought him up on deck, and
then he must have seen what happened in the end. Possibly he's watching
me now through his binoculars. But what was Van Steyne taking to him, I
wonder. And what can I do next?" He shook his head sadly. "No, I can do
nothing for the moment. I must get back to the city at once."

His eyes fell on the small handbag and he picked it up. "Locked, of
course, and Van Steyne has got the key. Well, I'll not open it here. It
can wait till I get back, but I must hurry now."

At an ambling run he started back along the way the car had come. Not a
habitation, not a living soul in sight. Only the swift-moving river and
the dreary wastes of sparsely covered sand.

The detective's thoughts ran on.

"But, Good Lord! aren't things complicated now, and what on earth am I
to tell the Chief Commissioner?" He frowned uneasily. "And how much will
he believe if I tell him all? The man's decidedly antagonistic to me
now, and he may doubt if I am speaking the truth. I've no witnesses to
support my story, and not a shred of evidence, except this bag. I'm
half--I'm half inclined to keep everything to myself and still go after
Fallon in my own way." He whistled softly. "But what a sensation there
will be when it gets known that the great Van Steyne has disappeared!
The darling of the ailing rich, and the doyen of all the doctors here!
And shouldn't I come in for it, too, if they knew that I had shot him!"
He frowned again. "Yes, things are not, too promising for me, and I must
be careful what I do. One thing, I'll get back to West Mitcham right at
once, and remove all traces of my having been there, also, also,"--and
his eyes glistened--"I'd like to get a chance now of getting into Van
Steyne's room. His papers might be interesting, and I might be able to
draw some conclusions as to what steps have been taken to get Fallon
away. These clever men like Van Steyne still often make mistakes." He
thought for some moments. "Yes, I'll chance it anyhow."

A quarter of an hour later he reached the main road. Then, to his great
satisfaction, he saw a motor lorry coming from the direction of the
Outer Harbor and he hailed it as it drew level.

"Going to the city, mate?" he shouted. "I'm worth a couple of bob."

The man nodded and pulled up, and the detective jumped on, hoping now
for a speedy arrival in the city.

But the lorry was not too speedy, and there were several stops on the
way and in the end it was fully an hour and a half before he reached his
lodgings. He left there the still unopened bag, and made at once for the
General Post-Office, where he waited for a West Mitcham tram to come
along.

While waiting he suddenly caught sight of Inspector Barnsley standing on
the pavement and, a thought striking him, he moved close up and touched
the Inspector on the arm.

The latter looked round and then scowled angrily at the dirty-looking
fellow who stood near him.

"Hush, I'm Larose," came a hoarse whisper. "Move back a bit--I want to
speak to you."

"Not giving it up then, Mr. Larose," said Barnsley as they walked away.
"The Chiefs pretty sick with you, but he thinks you've left the State."

The detective ignored the remark.

"Tell me, Inspector," he asked, "do you know a place on the left bank of
the Port river, only about a couple of miles from the Outer Harbor I
should say where there are stone steps leading down from a low
embankment, and where there is a mooring-place for small vessels
opposite?"

"Yes," replied the inspector promptly. "It's called Fisher's Bend. Boats
are out of the current there."

"And how do you get to Fisher's Bend by road?" asked Larose.

The Inspector pursed up his lips. "Never been," he said, "but I know
it's a terrible road and a long way round." He grinned. "Got the oil yet
about Fallon?"

Larose shook his head. "Not yet." He grinned back at the Inspector.
"Later on. Good-bye."

"Oh! one moment," said the Inspector as Larose was turning away. "You
know, the chief thinks you're all wrong about Van Steyne, but I
don't--quite." He frowned. "And I'll tell you why. You remember that
time when you sent me in to the doctor to ask for his keys, the morning
when we were searching the house?"

"Yes," said Larose. "Well, what then?"

"Well," said the Inspector slowly, "for some reason I've often thought
of that moment since, and I am sure now there was something fishy going
on, and that Ali was in it up to the neck too."

"Why?" demanded Larose quickly, with his eyes narrowing to two little
slits.

"Why?" repeated the Inspector impressively--"because it has come back to
me many times since that Ameer Ali was shivering. He'd got his back to
me unscrewing that posh-button on the desk, but I have remembered often
that his hands were shaking. It strikes me as very suspicious, because
I've known Ali for many years, and he's quite an emotionless man. A man
of wood where his feelings are concerned."

The face of Larose was a study. His eyes glared, and he looked suddenly
white and drawn.

"You--saw--Ali--standing--by--the--doctor?" he said chokingly--"when--I
--was--in--the--dining-room?"

There was a long moment's silence.

"Well, I must be going," said Larose very quietly, and moved off without
another word.

He groaned when he had gone about a dozen yards.

"And I think myself a detective!" His voice choked again. "I'm only a
boob after all. Of course that was what they did. There were two Alis
that morning--one came in by the front door and the other by the back,
both at the same time. Barnsley saw one in the doctor's study, when at
the same moment I was ogling the other in the dining-room." He clenched
his hands. "Fallon was probably the one I saw because there was no
shivering there. His nerves would be under cast-iron control. Oh! oh!"
he groaned again. "I had him right in my hands, and then I let him slip
through."

Gradually he calmed himself down, and then set his face in determined
lines. "Well, they've not bested me in every way," he sneered. "Van
Steyne made food for the sharks this morning, and as for Fallon he's not
safe even yet. Now for West Mitcham, and I'll see if I can't get into
the doctor's room."

He boarded a Mitcham tram and considered how he would continue his
campaign. He was uncertain for one thing as to how he could best
approach the Van Steyne garden now in broad daylight, when fortunately
the matter was decided for him.

Just where the tram stopped at the terminus he caught sight of Morgan
going into a public house, and it was plain that the gardener was
already staggering drunk.

"Good!" said the detective grimly, and then he smiled--"my luck's
beginning and the stars are fighting for me now. I'm going still to be
Morgan for a little while. It's a good thing I didn't change my
clothes."

Arriving at Dr. Van Steyne's, he saw Ali in front of the garage hosing
down the car.

"I suppose it is Ali," he mused thoughtfully, "but of course it is. They
got Fallon away somehow the very day we searched, I'll bet." He frowned.
"Anyhow, I'll have a good look at the gentleman to make sure, and then
if all's O.K. I'll see about getting into the house."

He skirted round to the back of the garden and made for Morgan's shed.

"I'll get a hoe now," he said, "and do a bit among the parsnips. I shall
be close up and can get a good view." For ten minutes he watched Ali
cleaning down the car. The chauffeur whistled as he worked.

"Seems brighter this morning," remarked the detective, "and more
energetic too." He caught his breath. "Good God! what would he say if he
knew he was never to see his master again!"

A shabby looking car came up the drive and drove towards the garage. In
the buckboard behind it were two new tyres. The driver, jumping out,
stepped up to Ali and clapped him familiarly upon the shoulder.

"Two beauties, my lad," he said heartily, "and don't you grouse this
time."

He dumped the two tyres off the car. Ali regarded them dubiously.

"Hope they'll be better," he said in his gentle voice, "than the last
ones were."

"That's what you said before," exclaimed the tyre-man with indignation.
"The very words you used to me last year." He mimicked the chauffeur's
voice. "Hope they'll be better than the last ones were." He spat on the
ground. "And what's been wrong with any of them, pray?"

"They wear out sooner than they should," replied Ali, "with the small
mileage that we do." He looked up reproachfully. "And you told the
doctor it was because of the way I drove."

"And quite true," said the tyre-man truculently. "You use your brakes
far too much. I'm always telling you that." Ali picked up his
wash-leather, and resumed the interrupted polishing of the car.

"But there!" said the tyre-man taking off his hat, and mopping his head
with a greasy-looking handkerchief. "I'm not a man to cheat anyone.
You'll find these all right." He became amiable and friendly again, and
eyed the chauffeur as a brother. "Now what about a drink. I could just
do with one now."

"Cocoa," said Ali politely. "I never drink anything else."

The detective bending over the parsnips groaned.

"Cocoa be damned," said the tyreman scornfully--"not got any beer?"

Ali shook his head. "Only cocoa," he said. "I never drink beer." The
tyre-man jumped on to his car in contempt. "Good-bye, sonny. I know now
why you'll never make a decent driver. Cocoa," he snorted, "on a hot day
like this!" and he backed round the car and drove off in great disgust.

"That's Ali right enough," sighed Larose from among the parsnips. "It's
no good waiting here."

He was just about to move off when he heard footsteps on the ground
round the other side of the garage, and a pleasant cultured voice called
out.

"Now don't be long please, Ali. I must be off in less than ten minutes.
I told you I wanted to be early this morning."

The speaker appeared in sight round the garage door.

It was Dr. Van Steyne and he was smoking a big cigar.

Looking back in after days, Larose always regarded it as one of the
wonderful happenings of his life that he did not fall prostrate among
the parsnips when at that moment by the garage he saw Dr. Van Steyne
alive and unharmed in the flesh.

He, Larose, was then of all people in a condition to fall an easy prey
to any untoward shock.

He was almost at the end of his tether, a physical and mental wreck.

He had had no sleep for more than thirty hours and his repose for many
days previously had been of a scanty and insufficient nature. He had not
broken his fast since the previous afternoon. He was weak and had never
really fully recovered from a very serious illness. He had had moments
of intense and poignant emotion that very morning, and mentally he was
fretted and chafed with the bitter memories of failure and
disappointments on every side.

So it would not have been any wonder if he had completely collapsed
right away and been unconscious for many minutes of all that happened
next.

But no--he just continued hoeing among the parsnips and took notice of
everything that was going on.

With his back still bent, he watched Ali and the doctor out of the comer
of his eye.

Dr. Van Steyne stood observing Ali as he put the finishing polish on the
car.

"Yes, you're a good man, Ali," he said pleasantly, "and it's a credit to
you the way you keep my cars." He laughed lightly. "But I suppose you
found you had a lot to do this morning."

Ali laughed too. "Yes, and some of the mud was caked very badly, too."

"Well, well," commented the doctor, "each one to his trade, all the
world over. It's always true."

He turned round and now saw the gardener for the first time. He stared
hard for a long moment, and then he put up his hand and passed it over
his face.

Then he turned back and watched Ali again. A minute later and he yawned
as if he were rather tired.

"Well, don't be long," he said, and he spoke very slowly. "Bring it up
in five minutes," and he left the garage and walked up to the house.

In less even than the prescribed five minutes, the car was at the front
door. There was a short delay before the doctor came out, and then the
car door was banged and the car swept up the drive.

Larose trailing his hoe behind him, tottered into the gardener's shed.
He threw himself upon the bed and lay with his head held tightly in his
hands. His eyes stared up at the roof but he saw nothing.

His thoughts were bitter, for everything was clear now. He had been
beaten on the field of battle of his own choosing--he had been the blind
hunter with his quarry just before him. He had had his prey under his
very eyes during every one of the past four days and had not known it.
Fallon had been the chauffeur in the garage during the whole time he,
Larose, had been keeping watch. Fallon had been close near him, and save
when out driving with Dr. Van Steyne, the two had lived and slept almost
side by side.

Oh! it was agony to think of it, the hunter and the hunted in the same
lair, and neither of them aware of the other's presence.

Then from last night, Fallon had been Ali, the chauffeur, no longer. He
had bathed and changed in Van Steyne's house, and then disguised as the
doctor himself had gone back to the garage, to wait for the return of
the real Ali in the dying hours of the night.

Then he had been whirled away to escape in some vessel lying in the Port
river.

Ah! but he had not escaped. He, Larose, had been the master there.
Fallon was dead, and he had died with a bullet between his eyes. The
dark waters had taken him, and the sharks had been his grave. Fallon
would rob and murder no longer, and if he had escaped one tribunal--he
had been hurried bloodily before another. He was----

But a shadow fell across the open door of the shed, and the detective
started to his feet. "Mr. Morgan," came a woman's voice, "here's a
letter for you from the master. He told me to give it you at once. I'll
put it here outside."

Larose waited until the sound of the woman's retreating footsteps had
died away. Then he peered cautiously round the shed door and, seeing no
one about, picked up an envelope lying on the ground.

The envelope was unaddressed, and he hesitated a moment before he opened
it. Then he unfolded the single sheet of paper it contained and--the
writing danced before his eyes.

He read:--

"Thursday, 9.25 a.m.

"My Dear Mr. Larose,--

"You really need not bother to hoe between those parsnips any more.
Morgan did them well enough last week, and there are now many more
important things wanting to be done. So really if you are in such a
passion to do some gardening, you might try your hand at nailing up
those creepers by my study window. I have twice reprimanded Morgan for
not attending to them.

"By the by, if you should have half an hour to spare, I should like to
have a chat with you before you leave our beautiful city. I am to be
found at home, as you know, almost every evening, and for instance shall
be free tonight, any time after eight.

"Hoping you are sleeping better and not working too hard with all your
many varied interests.

"Believe me, my dear Mr. Larose,

"Your admiring friend,

"ARNOLD VAN STEYNE."

"P.S.--I gave Morgan the day off, and he went away before eight this
morning. I understand a near relative of his died yesterday."

Larose suddenly became calm. "Yes, quite a sportsman," he commented. He
sighed heavily. "Really, I wish he had been on my side."



CHAPTER XVI.--THE TRIUMPHS OF LAROSE.


Dismantling his canvas screen, and with no attempt now at any
concealment, the detective left the garden of Dr. Van Steyne and
returned in a very chastened frame of mind to his lodgings in the city.
Then, for the first time, he gave attention to the small handbag that he
had picked up after the morning's dreadful happenings upon the
embankment by the Port River.

For a few minutes he tried to pick the lock with a piece of wire, but,
meeting with no success, he finally forced the bag open with a
screwdriver, and soon had all the contents spread out upon the table.

For the moment there seemed nothing of much interest. A small bottle of
tincture of iodine, a phial of morphia tablets, a roll of adhesive
plaster, and a large packet of aniseed cough lozenges. About a couple of
dozen fish-hooks, a hundred .32 pistol cartridges, and two boxes of
large-size Turkish cigarettes.

"I might perhaps be able to nail Van Steyne upon some of these things,"
he mused thoughtfully. "Perhaps on those cigarettes; they are an
expensive kind, and it might be remembered who bought them. However, I
won't try now. I've slipped badly on the main issue, and the chief
criminals are done with, anyhow."

The last thing that he turned over was a small brown paper packet, well
tied round with string and fastened with black sealing-wax at both ends.
It was heavy, and yet it was not solid. It rustled when he pinched it.
He cut the string and, breaking the sealing wax, unfolded the paper
wrapping.

A roll of dirty-looking wash-leather was revealed.

"Whew," he whistled, and his eyes opened very wide, "precious stones!"

With hands that trembled slightly he untied the tape that bound it and
spread out the roll.

There were a dozen pockets, and in each was tightly tucked a small white
tissue paper packet.

At random he pulled out one of them and, holding his hands over the
table, carefully unfolded it. The sparkle of a score and more of fine
diamonds flashed upon his eyes.

"Lord!" he ejaculated, "there's a fortune here!" Their glinting beauty
fascinated him, and for a few minutes he gave himself up to a rapt
contemplation. With a good knowledge of precious stones, he perceived
they were gems of fine quality.

Then he frowned as if some chord of memory had been stirred in him, and
at once he was the cold and unromantic detective again.

He turned over the wash-leather roll, and in one corner he saw inked in
bold characters. "William Thrush."

"Exactly," he said, "and William Thrush was the man whose naked body
they found in the river by the weir. He was the man who disappeared from
the Rialto Hotel and who was carrying a parcel of diamonds on him. Well,
here's something tangible for that doubting Commissioner at last!" He
frowned again. "But, really, I'm almost sorry to help him to any success
at all." He sighed. "I think--I think I am beginning to dislike that
Commissioner."

It was just after lunch-time when Larose, now spick and span, and his
natural self in well-cut and well-fitting clothes, presented himself at
the police headquarters in Victoria-square and asked to see the Chief
Commissioner.

He gave his proper name, and was mildly gratified with the interest that
it invoked. But he was kept waiting for so long that he at length asked
the constable on duty if the Commissioner had been told that he was
there.

"Yes," replied the man rather apologetically, "and I'm sure I don't know
why he is keeping you. He was only talking about golf to a friend of his
when I went in."

But minute after minute went by, and still no summons came. Larose
looked at his watch and his pleasant face clouded over.

"Well, I'll give him three minutes more," he remarked angrily to
himself, "and after that he can go to the devil."

Almost immediately after, however he heard voices, and the Chief
Commissioner appeared, ushering out in plus fours a stout,
sporting-looking man.

"Ha! Ha!" laughed the latter. "That was a good one, but not so good as
the others. I can't think how you can remember them all, Chief!"

Larose clenched his teeth. So he had been kept waiting, had he, whilst
the Commissioner told a number of stories, with no doubt suitable
intervals between them for merriment! He, Larose, acknowledged the
premier detective of New South Wales, and always received at
headquarters in Sydney with an importance barely less than was accorded
to the Chief Commissioner there himself: He, Larose, who was never kept
waiting, he--but suddenly he calmed himself, and with an even placid
face followed the Commissioner into the latter's room.

The Commissioner lost no time in opening the conversation, and, before
even either of them were seated, began in quick and querulous tones.

"But I quite thought you had left the city, Mr. Larose. Inspector
Barnsley gave me to understand you were going back some days ago, and I
only learnt to the contrary this morning when I met Dr. Van Steyne quite
by chance at the club. He said you were still watching him, although he
didn't tell me how he knew."

He paused as if to give Larose an opportunity to explain, but the
detective made no comment. He was looking indifferently out or the
window.

The voice of the Commissioner hardened. "But you must realise, Mr.
Larose, you've got me into very serious trouble, and if Dr. Van Steyne
hadn't happened to be a friend of mine a grave scandal would have
occurred, and I might, indeed, have been asked to resign." He spread out
his hands. "People have been everywhere commenting on that search at
West Mitcham, and we have had great difficulty in keeping it out of the
press."

"I suppose so," agreed Larose politely. "It would have made excellent
copy."

"But it was a dreadful mistake, Mr. Larose. It was terrible judgment on
your part. You see it now."

Larose made no reply.

"I ought never to have allowed it," went on the Commissioner. "There
were no facts before us really to warrant it, and I've regretted it
bitterly ever since."

But Larose was still silent, and, after an awkward pause, the
Commissioner continued in the same fretful manner.

"The fact that all the victims happened to be patients of Dr. Van Steyne
explains nothing, for, of course, as the leading physician in the State,
he was consulted by practically all the visitors to the city." He leant
forward to the detective. "Now you realise that they would, don't you?"

Larose yawned and then nodded his head. "Yes, of course," he said. "It
would be quite natural."

"Then about that telephone call to Fallon at the Grand Australasian
Hotel--Dr. Van Steyne says he remembers nothing about it."

"How would he after all this time?" agreed Larose, and he yawned again.

The Commissioner looked uncomfortable. "You see, I had to give him some
little explanation when I met him to-day," he went on hesitatingly. "I
think he deserved it. I think it was due to him after the annoyance we
have put him to."

"Quite so," said Larose, "quite so."

"Then about his helping in Fallon's escape from the stockade--it was all
conjecture on your part, now, wasn't it?"

"All conjecture," agreed Larose again. "And his association with Fallon,
all conjecture, too?"

Larose looked at the commissioner and nodded.

The Commissioner paused. Somehow he felt awkward. He wished the
detective would have more to say. He had expected argument and
contradiction and, instead, the man was admitting everything and in the
most off-hand and casual manner, too. He forced his face into a watery
smile.

"Well, Mr. Larose, we all make mistakes sometimes, and yours were
certainly not as bad as some I've seen made. After all, no lasting harm
has probably been done, your position here being quite unofficial." His
smile became more genuine. "But really up to a certain point I think
your discoveries were very good, and you brought some things to light in
quite a clever way." He shrugged his shoulders. "But where did they lead
us to? Nowhere."

"Nowhere," echoed the detective, as if very dejected, "nowhere."

"We were bushed."

"Yes, bushed."

The Commissioner now in his turn looked out of the window. It seemed
that he had finished his remarks. There was a long silence, and then he
looked up at the clock.

"Well," he said almost briskly. "I am sure I am very obliged to you for
your help, but I have an appointment at half-past two and so it must be
goodbye now." He laughed good-humoredly. "I expect we shall have to
catch Fallon and Blendiron ourselves if they are to be found anywhere,"
and he stood up to intimate that the interview was over.

But the detective was apparently in no hurry to go and remained seated,
regarding the Commissioner with an inscrutable expression upon his face.

"About those two--Fallon and Blendiron," he said slowly after a long
pause--"I shouldn't build too much on ever seeing them again, for I
believe,"--his voice became very low and solemn--"I believe they are
dead."

"Dead!" exclaimed the Commissioner quickly, "and why do you say that?"

"Because," replied the detective, "because I believe I shot them
myself." He smiled and then at once went on more quickly. "Oh! I beg
your pardon, I mean, I conjecture that I shot them. That sounds better,
now doesn't it?"

The Commissioner glared at Larose as if he thought the latter had gone
mad.

"What do you mean?" he asked brusquely. "I don't understand."

Larose rose laughing to his feet. "Well, I say they're conjectures, for
after our little talk just now I'm afraid to call them facts. You see,
sir," he explained, "you regard so many things that I am certain of as
only conjectures, that now I'm afraid to state anything positively in
case you should convince me that I'm not stating the truth." His eyes
glistened in triumph. "But look here, I'll show you something!" He put
his hand back to his hip-pocket and brought out a little well-worn
leather purse.

"I have had an adventurous life, you must understand, sir," he said
respectfully, "and for ten years in New South Wales I've been in the
very thick of crime. I've been put on all the obscure murder cases in my
State, and, rightly or wrongly, I've sent eleven men up to the rope,
I've often been in danger and I've had to defend myself." His voice
hardened. "Yes, more than once I've killed in self-defence. I've always
been pretty handy with my pistol and I--but there, I'll not talk any
more of that, I'll show you some little souvenirs instead." He smiled
apologetically as if he were rather ashamed of what he was going to
confess. "I've a weakness that very few of my friends even know of. I
keep little mementoes that are associated with important events in my
life and--"--he opened the little purse--"here are two."

With dramatic swiftness he plumped down two spent pistol cartridges upon
the desk before the mystified Commissioner, and his voice grew cold and
deadly.

"Look at the dates and the Initials scratched there upon the sides," he
said sternly. "One, Jan. 2. 27, initials, G.B.--I'm told Blendiron's
Christian name was George--and the other Jan. 29. 27, M.F., January
29th. Sir--this morning." For perhaps a full minute the Commissioner was
allowed to stare open-mouthed at the two little objects placed before
him, and then Larose swept them back into the purse.

"Dreams, Mr. Commissioner," he sneered sarcastically, "dreams and
conjectures, no doubt, for I'm only a dud detective after all. My reason
is always faulty and my judgments are always bad." His voice rose and it
was harsh in anger. "And here's another dream for you, another
conjecture, and this one you can keep and ponder over at your leisure."

He snatched a small brown paper packet from his pocket and threw it on
the desk.

"The precious stones of William Thrush, sir," he said curtly. "The
diamonds that they are enquiring about from London! Those that belong to
the dead man picked up by the Torrens Weir! I found them--I found them
under a gooseberry bush upon the parklands. He must have dropped them
there, I think, before he fell into the water. At any rate, that's all I
am obliged to tell you, for, of course--my position here is quite
unofficial, as you have just observed."

He inclined his head curtly and moved towards the door.

"Good morning, sir--I'll go now, for you mustn't forget you've an
appointment at half-past two!" and before the astounded Chief
Commissioner could make any comment the door closed, and the head of the
South Australian police was alone in his room.

"Good Lord!" he ejaculated feebly after a moment. "What does it all
mean?" He took up the brown paper parcel and began untying the strings.

At half-past eight that same evening Larose was ushered by the trim
parlor-maid into Dr. Van Steyne's study at his palatial residence at
West Mitcham. The doctor, who had been reclining in an armchair, rose at
once to his feet.

"Good evening, Mr. Larose," he said smilingly. "I'm very pleased you've
come. Will you shake hands?"

"Certainly," replied the detective, and he added significantly: "I've
shaken hands before now with men who were about to be hanged."

The doctor made a grimace. "Oh! come now, Mr. Larose," he said rather
reproachfully. "Don't be too hard on me all at once!" He laughed as if
he were amused. "Have a cigarette, will you? There's a box behind you
there."

Larose helped himself to one and sat down in the chair indicated by his
host. Then there followed a full minute of complete silence, although
the portents of the room were anything but those of peace. The
atmosphere was electric and exactly as if it encompassed two
adversaries, each with a deadly purpose, but each waiting for the other
to commence the attack. The doctor was the first one to break the
silence. "I had a long conversation this morning with our friend the
Chief Commissioner," he said slowly, "and I confess he surprised me with
his recital of some of your adventures." Van Steyne smiled drily.
"Apparently you're not in great favor with him just now."

"No," said the detective indifferently. "I suffered an eclipse."

"A shame," said the doctor warmly, "because all the time--"--he
hesitated--"all the time you were--"

"Right," interrupted the detective sharply. "All the time I was right."

"You say so," said the doctor, and he inclined his head and smiled
again, "but perhaps that is your opinion only. You may be mistaken
still."

Larose made no reply--he was looking up towards the ceiling and blowing
wreaths of smoke.

There was a long silence again and then once more it was Van Steyne who
spoke first.

"A great battle, Mr. Larose," he said, "an epic fight, but--"--he smiled
grimly--"I think the victory was mine."

"Not at all," said the detective brusquely, "you just saved yourself,
that was all? Otherwise you were beaten, all along the line."

"Oh!" ejaculated the doctor sarcastically. "That's news to me!"

"I killed Blendiron," said Larose--"it was I who shot him on the cliff."

"Granted," replied the doctor, "but that's your only point."

Larose waited a moment and he eyed Van Steyne intently to note how he
would parry the next blow.

"I killed Miles Fallon," he snapped sharply. "I shot him at
fire-thirty-five this morning by the bank of the Port River at Fisher's
Bend, and the sharks took his body down afterwards."

Dr. Van Steyne gave a violent start. Incredulity and amazement leapt to
his face, his eyes glared, and he held his breath. Then with a great
effort he pulled himself together. His eyelids drooped and the amazement
on his face died down to be replaced by an appearance of icy calm.

"Yes," went on Larose, enjoying for the second time that day a triumph
totally unexpected by the adversary to whom he had been opposed. "I shot
Miles Fallon this morning, and this afternoon I handed over to the
Commissioner of Police the William Thrush diamonds that Fallon was
taking away."

Dr. Van Steyne passed his hand up to his forehead and rose to his feet.

"Excuse me a moment," he said shakily. "I'm rather upset," and walking
slowly towards the sideboard he helped himself to some brandy from a
decanter.

Larose smoked stolidly at his cigarette. Outwardly he was quite
indifferent to the shock that Dr. Van Steyne was experiencing, but
inwardly he was feeling very sorry for the man. The blow had been a
knock-down one, and the position of the fighters was now completely
reversed.

The doctor returned in a minute or so to his chair, and with a brave
effort at nonchalance relighted his cigarette. He looked curiously at
Larose and sighed.

"I believe, Mr. Larose," he said slowly, and after a long pause, "that
you are a man of honor, and not given to the telling of lies."

Larose smiled drily. "I have my own code of honor, Dr. Van Steyne, and I
don't lie where the big things of life are concerned." His voice was
firm and convincing. "I killed Miles Fallon and I have given the
diamonds to the Commissioner, as I have just said."

"But how did you come to find Fallon at all?" asked the doctor, speaking
with an obvious effort.

"I was a passenger, too, on your limousine when Ameer Ali drove him away
this morning. I was on the luggage-grid behind. I had been watching in
the garden the whole night."

"And his body," asked the doctor thoughtfully, "you say it is gone?"

"Yes, it toppled back into the river," said Larose, "and I saw it pulled
under by the sharks." He nodded his head. "So you are quite safe there."

Again there was silence, and then the doctor spoke as if he had quite
recovered his composure.

"Well, let us know where we both stand," he said in a matter of fact
tone. "Let us both put all our cards upon the table. You didn't come
here for nothing, I am sure."

"No," replied Larose. "I am curious, and I want to clear up several
things."

"But what is my position now?" asked the doctor frowning--"you don't
expect me to say anything that will incriminate myself!"

"There can be no incrimination, Dr. Van Steyne," said the detective
sternly. "I know nearly everything about you already, as you perhaps can
guess. I know what you have done, but--"--and he paused a moment--"I
tell you with great regret that I have no legal proof that can take you
into a court of law. The things I know are only believed in by myself. I
am unable to prove them. I have no witnesses!" He smiled whimsically. "I
have killed them all!"

"But," questioned the doctor quickly, "what about the Commissioner of
the Police. What did he say to your tale?"

A contemptuous expression crossed into the detective's face. "Bah!" he
exclaimed. "I didn't tell him much. He was rude to me, and jumped down
my throat directly I went in. He didn't give me an opportunity to tell
him anything. He said they would get Blendiron and Fallon for
themselves, if they were to be got, and when I told him they were both
dead he glared at me as if I were mad." Larose laughed. "I didn't tell
him how I got the diamonds either. I just plumped them down before him
and came away." He shrugged his shoulders. "Yes, I have done with him,
and I return to Sydney to-morrow, or at any rate in a few days."

Dr. Van Steyne regarded the detective curiously. "And that is your
position, finally," he said. "You have finished trying to bring me in?"

"I don't lie," said the detective frowning, and then he added
scornfully--"The Chief Commissioner of the Police is unwittingly your
buckler and defence, although--"--he became calm and emotionless
again--"although if he were my stanch ally there is still not sufficient
evidence against you, as I say, to indict you before any court. If there
were----"

"Well, if there were," asked Dr. Van Steyne, seeing that the detective
hesitated.

"I should not be here now," replied Larose sharply, "confiding in you
like this."

The doctor seemed satisfied. "But tell me!" he said slowly, his voice
shaking a little--"How did it happen that you shot Miles Fallon this
morning?"

"I shot him in self-defence," replied Larose, "believing at the time
that he was you. After your car had left us both on the embankment,
accidentally he became aware that I was watching him, and he instantly
fired twice at me before I had even got my own gun out."

"Oh! he fired at you twice," said the doctor, frowning.

"Yes, at about five yards' distance only, and--he missed me both times."

"Missed you twice at five yards!" said the doctor scornfully, and he
gave a contemptuous laugh. "Why, man! Miles Fallon was a dead shot!" He
leant over towards the detective and spoke in cold and measured tones.
"Do you know, sir, he could have pinked you straight between the eyes
every time at twenty yards! There was no man in all Australia a quicker
or a surer shot. I've seen him often on the target and know what he
was."

"Well, he missed me," said Larose complacently, "or I shouldn't be here
speaking to you now. He had every chance."

"He had no chance, sir," said the doctor sternly, "and it is I--"--his
voice shook again--"it is I, I know now, whom am responsible for his
death."

"Indeed," said Larose politely, "but I don't see it anyhow."

"But for me," went on Dr. Van Steyne solemnly, "it is you and not he who
would have been given to the Port River and the sharks."

"Doped, eh?" queried Larose, impressed now by the other's earnestness.
He shook his head. "No, he was too ready with the gun for that."

Dr. Van Steyne swung round in his chair and pulled out one of the
drawers in the desk. For a few moments he groped inside and then,
turning round, held out the contents of his open hand.

"Look!" he said quietly, "and you'll understand why you are not dead."
He paused dramatically. "There were no bullets in the cartridges that he
fired. I had taken them out."

The eyes of the detective opened very wide. His face paled, and his
mouth suddenly grew dry.

"Count them," went on the doctor grimly. "Two, four, six, seven and
look--on each one the pincer marks where I gripped them to pull them
out. I did it last night. He left his clothes in here, when he was
having his bath."

Larose spoke with a catch in his voice. "What was your game?" he asked
hoarsely.

The doctor sighed and returned the bullets to the drawer in the desk. "I
wanted no more bloodshed," he said wearily, "and I knew Fallon was a
violent man."

There was another silence in the room. The detective was recalling every
moment of that early morning to his mind. The dawn rising over those
drear wastes of sand, the long and lonely road by the river, the
boisterous wind, the swiftly rushing waters, and the wonder in the eyes
of the miscreant who had stood with the smoking pistol lowered in his
hand. Yes, death had been very near him then, but it had not been, as he
had thought, the death to receive--it had been instead only the death to
give. He, only, had been the possible doner. He had no doubts--he was
quite convinced.

He looked up searchingly at the doctor. The latter's eyes were on the
ground, and it was evident that his thoughts too were far away.

"But why were you mixed up with Fallon at all?" asked the detective
sharply. "That's what I want to know. How were you a gainer by his
crimes? Money was surely no temptation to you. With all your work you
are wealthy enough. Why did you help, or, at any rate, why did you
shield the man and, knowing he was a murderer. Why did you befriend him
as you did?"

Van Steyne regarded the detective very solemnly. "He was my cousin," he
said quietly. "We were of the same blood, and I helped him in his need."

"Ah!" exclaimed the detective, and a light leapt to his eyes, "then that
is why he could disguise himself so easily as you. Yes, yes, I see it
now. The same type of head, a similar profile, and the stoop of the
shoulders like yours. No wonder they were deceived when he escaped from
the Stockade."

The doctor smiled. "Your deductions were excellent then," he said, "and
when our worthy commissioner opened his mind to me, as I have told you
he did very freely this morning, I was greatly intrigued by his
confidences, although by no means for the reasons he imagined."

"But you countenanced murder if you did not actually help commit it,"
said Larose sternly. "What about that man Thrush with the diamonds in
his belt? You were privy to murder there."

"No, no!" remonstrated Dr. Van Steyne, quickly--"that was no murder."

"The man died suddenly in my rooms, of heart seizure, angina pectoris.
He was a late patient, and my nurse had gone directly after he was shown
in. I was alone with him until Fallon by chance arrived.

"We found the diamonds in the dead man's belt, and then--"--the doctor
hesitated--"and then I let Fallon have his way, provided he removed the
body, which he did."

"But you kept the stones here all the time?" asked the detective.

"Yes, Fallon had no private safe at the Rialto, and he asked me to keep
them until he went to Europe, to dispose of them next year."

"But why did you countenance Fallon in his thefts?" persisted Larose.
"You knew all the time what was going on and, besides that, you put him
wise as to who had come down to the city and which of them were worth
robbing."

The doctor laughed sardonically. "It amused me," he replied, "that was
all. I was not pecuniarily the gainer, as you have said, but I was
entertained by the frights the public got and by the frantic rushing
about of the police. The newspaper daily reports were like instalments
of an exciting serial story to me." He yawned. "They relieved the
monotony of life!"

"Your consideration for the feelings of the community," said the
detective sarcastically, "was most commendable and society, I am sure--"

"Society!" interrupted the doctor angrily. "Ah! there you have it.
You'll understand now why I acted as I did. You've touched the hatred of
my life." He shot out his arm towards Larose, and his voice was menacing
and hard. "Society, sir, can claim no consideration from me! It fell
like a scourge on all my boyhood's days! It killed my mother, the only
being--"--he halted just a fraction of a second--"save one, that I have
ever loved. It has embittered every waking moment of my life and I wish
it every harm and evil that its enemies can give." He snapped his
fingers. "So much for that!"

Larose made no comment; he had stirred waters murky and tragic, but of
no concern to him, and he waited for them to subside.

There was a moment's pause and then the doctor added--"But I confess
things for some time had begun to go much farther than I had intended
they should. My cousin was a man difficult to restrain, and he revelled
in the dangers that he ran." The doctor laughed suddenly. "But what do
you think of me, Mr. Larose," he asked--"am I a new type to you?"

The detective regarded his interrogator very gravely.

"No," he said thoughtfully. "Lots of men like you have lived in history,
and their records occur often in the annals of crime. You belong to a
most dangerous class of criminal, because at moments you endow your evil
doing with a chivalry that belongs to conduct of quite a different
nature, and in those who have not directly suffered by your wickedness
you might in some degree excite admiration. People are sorry for such as
you to be laid by the heels." He nodded his head emphatically. "Yes,
sir, in my opinion you are a bad and a dangerous man!"

"Exactly," smiled the doctor, apparently in no wise offended by the
strictures the detective had passed on him, "bad and dangerous,
according to your ideas of life." He paused to shake the ashes from his
cigarette. "But has it ever struck you. Mr. Detective, that we are all
very much as God has made us, and that to a great extent we cannot help
ourselves? The babe who is born with his eyes close together will grow
up a cunning man; the youth with a retreating chin will be weak and
irresolute, and the sensual person was marked for sensuality by his lips
and mouth from the very moment that he saw the light."

"Very interesting, doctor," said the detective grimly, "and so,
according to you we have very little choice in the shaping of our
lives."

"Very little," repeated the doctor emphatically. "Heredity is the
overlord of all our ways. Nature stamps us, as I say, from the very
beginning, and we are all only creatures of her varying moulds. Notice
for yourself. The wide-headed man, for example, is always a fighter like
all other wide-headed animals--like the lion, the tiger, and the bear;
whilst the narrow-headed man is mild and peace-loving, like the other
narrow-headed animals, like the sheep, the rabbit, and the deer. Can
they help themselves? Think now for yourself. But come," he went on
smilingly after a moment, "we'll leave these philosophical matters
alone. I want to ask you several things." He leant forward in his chair.
"Now was it quite by chance that you went to Cape Jervis? I think it
was."

"Yes," nodded Larose. "I was on a holiday, and I chose that part of the
coast because it was unfrequented and quiet."

"Well," said the doctor sadly, "it was a malign chance as far as they
were concerned. But for you they would probably have got safely out of
the State later on when the hue and cry had died down. Your coming
scared them quite a lot, I can tell you, and they couldn't size up the
situation. They thought at first you were one of a fishing party camping
in one of the other bays. If they had known you were there alone they
would have gone for you straight away, for they were desperate men. But
it took them four days to make up their minds, and then they acted too
late."

"I wasn't certain myself," said Larose, "that anyone was in the house
until that last evening, and then it came to me all at once."

"And Miles Fallon saw that it had, too," said the doctor emphatically.
"He had far better binoculars than yours, and at that short distance
could watch every expression on your face. He had the glasses on you
every moment of that evening, and he swore he could tell to the exact
second when you became sure that someone was in the house. He said it
was when a fox came scouting near them, and then ran for his life, when
he must have caught their smell. Fallon saw you were startled, and then
you jerked up your glasses and glued them on to the house. You never
once looked at the retreating fox, which in his mind was highly
suspicious and not natural."

"He was right," said Larose reluctantly. "Somehow we never think that
the other fellow can reason like ourselves."

"But you were lucky to escape from Blendiron that next morning,"
continued the doctor. "Fallon said the man passed right in front of you
before he went round to the other side of that rock, and he must have
missed stepping on you by inches. Fallon would have had you himself,
too, if it hadn't been for the light. He couldn't pick you up against
the rock. He thought--"

"But about Blendiron," interrupted the detective, "how did you know
before I told you this evening that it was I who was the man on the
cliff who shot him?"

"You consulted me professionally, Mr. Larose," replied the doctor
blandly. "I was suspicious of your automatic and your scars. I mentioned
them to Miles Fallon in here in conversation that same evening, and from
my description of you he recognised you at once as the man who had been
watching the house by the cliffs." The doctor pursed up his lips and
shook his head reprovingly. "Ah, that was a mistake, sir, a very bad
mistake as it happened, for you let me know that you were curious in my
direction, and I pumped the Chief Commissioner at once. Yes, you gave us
warning, and we made our preparations immediately to deal with any
contingency, including the one that did actually arise when you came
here with a your search warrant. We were quite ready for you."

"Yes, yes, I know," said the detective testily, "and Fallon was produced
as the double of Ameer Ali. The real Ali fiddled with that bell there
upon your desk, whilst Fallon, the pretender, unscrewed the electric fan
in the dining-room. One came in by the front door, the other by the
back. Very simple, but it was bad luck only that we were taken in by it.
It was not a sound gamble, and its success was due solely to the fact
that Barnsley and I had unluckily divided our forces. If we had kept
together--"--he looked sternly at the doctor--"you would have been in
the stockade now, awaiting trial."

Dr. Van Steyne laughed. "Really, Mr. Larose, you are a truly wonderful
man. You seem to learn all things, although unhappily for yourself you
always learn them all just a little bit too late."

Larose frowned. "But about Blendiron--he killed Bullock, of course?"

Van Steyne nodded. "I am sure so," he said gravely, "but under what
circumstances I don't know. Fallon told me that even he himself had
never got at the exact truth. At any rate, Blendiron and Bullock
quarrelled that evening. Blendiron admitted it. And one significant
fact, too--no mention was made by the authorities of 500 pound in notes
that should have been in Bullock's possession when he died."

"Oh! they got 500 pounds, did they?" asked Larose.

"Yes, 500 pounds each," replied the doctor, "and both of them might
still have been at their posts now if Blendiron hadn't lost his head and
bolted with my cousin. Mind you," and the speaker's voice was
convincing. "I have never countenanced violence, and after that tragedy
at the Rialto I told Miles Fallon that he must go out of my life for
ever. I said I would help him out of the State, and when I had done that
I had finished with him for good."

A thought seemed suddenly to strike the doctor.

"But you, yourself, Mr. Larose--have you no feelings of compunction that
you have killed these two men?"

"None whatever," said the detective emphatically. "It is my trade to
bring death to such creatures as they. My only regret is that their
endings were unaccompanied by the pomp and ceremonial of the law. They
had no moments of the sufferings that they gave to others." He paused.
"But I did my best."

"And so the manner of their passing," said Van Steyne thoughtfully,
"will be unknown to anyone save to you and me?"

"Until the sea gives up its dead," added Larose, "whenever that may be."

There was a brief silence, and the detective rose to his feet.

"You are a strange man, Dr. Van Steyne," he said solemnly, "and, if you
will take it from me, the wrong in you comes out mainly because you have
no stability in your life. A wife and children might save you perhaps,
and be the hostages that you would give to the community for your good
conduct in the years to come. Alone--and you will drift into a madhouse
or, worse still, you will swing in the hangman's rope. I've seen others
like you, and know what your kind is like." He smiled apologetically.
"So much for my little sermon, sir. I'll bid you good-night now."

"Thank you, Mr. Larose," said the doctor slowly and as though he were
very tired. "I'll think over your advice." He rose to his feet too.
"We'll not offer to shake hands. We know too much about each other now.
That hand--"--he hesitated.

"Yes," said Larose quietly, "I understand."

"And would you please mind letting yourself out?" went on the doctor.
"The heat I think has made me feel rather faint."

"Certainly," said Larose. "Good night."

"And good-bye," said the doctor. The door closed softly and Dr. Van
Steyne sank back into his chair. He switched off the light and closed
his eyes.



CHAPTER XVII.--THE SWEETNESS OF LIFE.


Daylight had nearly gone, and in the falling dusk Gilbert Larose was
walking with the pretty nurse of Dr. Van Steyne upon the sands of
Glenelg. They had been out for a stroll and were returning home. The
girl's hair was untidy and her face was flushed.

"A nice sight I look, to go through the town," she said with an effort
to appear indignant.

"Yes, you do," said Larose admiringly, "but you can't help it so there's
no occasion to be proud."

"You'd no business to kiss me like that," said the girl, tossing her
head.

"Like what?" asked Larose innocently. "Like you did behind that
sandhill. We're not formally engaged, you know."

"Well, they weren't formal kisses, were they?"

The girl turned her head away and bit her lip. Larose whistled
cheerfully. "My collar's all crumpled up too," he said, "and I shall
have to buy a new one to-morrow. You must have been very rough. But I'm
not complaining," he went on hastily. "I'd go through it all again if
you asked me."

The girl looked straight before her. "Perhaps I shall never marry," she
said presently.

"Perhaps not," said Larose. He laughed reassuringly. "But I guess you
will. Your luck's in, you're booked. I've told you so."

"And how do I know you're not married already?" asked the girl with a
studied appearance of indifference.

"You don't know," said Larose, and he stroked his face dubiously. "We
shall have to risk that." He pretended to sigh. "At any rate I should
only get about two years. Judges are very lenient nowadays."

"And you mayn't be earning enough either to keep a wife," went on the
girl.

"Well, you'll soon be able to find out that," said Larose airily, "and,
if I'm not, you can go out and work yourself. I'll stop at home then and
mind the ba--, I mean I'll stop at home and read. I'm fond of books."

"I wonder if I'm really silly in trusting you," said the girl
thoughtfully. "I've known you for such a little while." She lifted her
head sharply. "But quick, let go my hand, there are some people coming
round that boat there. Let go of my hand at once, I say.
Please--Gilbert, dear! please."

They walked on with some distance between them, and then, the boat
passed, Larose slipped his arm into hers again.

"Yes, I must go back to Sydney tomorrow, Mary," he said sadly, "but a
month from to-day I'll be here again and then--"

"I'll give you my answer," said the girl softly.

They stopped for a moment, and the darkness hid them. Then, both
sighing, they walked on.

The girl's hair was now even more untidy.

* * * * * * * *

It was night in a high-walled garden, and the scented darkness clung
like a mantle of forgetfulness upon the sleeping world.

It was really an enchanted garden, for it belonged to fairy-land, and
was full of unreal things.

A man and a woman were walking there, and they were very close together.
The man had his arm round the woman's waist, and she was leaning back
heavily upon him. Her face was upturned and her eyes had something in
them of the light of the stars. The man's head bent down from time to
time and then he kissed the woman on the lips. There were flowers of
wondrous beauty all around them in that fairy garden, but none were half
as beautiful as the passionflowers that were twining round their hearts.

Presently the man spoke, and the tree-tops heard the words that the
night-wind carried up among their leaves.

"And I should never have dared to marry you, darling, if he had not been
so positive. He is the greatest living authority, and he writes so
strongly that never in all his experience has he known madness to
descend through three generations. It is inevitable, he says, that the
taint will have died out. Also--"

But the night-wind was sighing now among the roses and the tree-tops
heard no more.



CHAPTER XVIII.--HOSTAGES: THE TIMES OF ADELAIDE.


"On the 13th instant at The Cedars, West Mitcham, to the wife of Arnold
Van Steyne--a son (Gilbert Arnold.")

Extract from a letter written in Sydney:--

"--and thank you so much, dear. The little woollen ones are too sweet
for anything, and I have been taking them out and looking at them ever
since. I shall have quite enough now. No, I am not making an invalid of
myself anyhow. I help a lot with the housework, and go out for a walk
every day.

"I am very happy. Think of me in about a fortnight's time, but I am sure
I shall be quite all right.

"Your loving sister.

"MARY."



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia