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Title: The Man Who Knew
Author: Fred M White
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Man Who Knew
Author: Fred M White


*

Published in serial format in The Central Queensland Herald
(Rockhampton, Qld.) commencing Thursday 9 June, 1932.

*




CHAPTER I.

THE clock in the tower of St. Botolph's was booming the hour after
midnight, as Acting-Sergeant Philip Lashbrook came slowly along Orford
street, having accomplished the mission delegated to him by his superior
officer, and, therefore, being now more or less off duty, although he
was still wearing the badge of his office. So far as he could see, there
was not a soul in sight, not a sound to be heard either, except the
distant hum of traffic that came from Regent Crescent on his far right.
He gave a casual, but professional eye to the various shops as he walked
along. For Orford street is one of fashion, and some of the
establishments there are of world-wide renown. In a few moments now he
would be back at headquarters, and then free to seek his lodgings.

He came at length to the spot where Mansfield street crosses Orford
street at right angles. Along this former thoroughfare he flashed a
fleeting glance, and then, crossing the road, was about to resume his
patrol on the far side of Orford street, when he was suddenly pulled up
by a call that seemed to come to him from some spot in Mansfield street,
where he could dimly make out the figure of a man standing there.

"Hi, constable!" came a clear voice with no suggestion of agitation.
"You are wanted. Come this way."

Lashbrook turned in his tracks and approached the man who had hailed
him. By the light of a street lamp close by he saw a tall, wiry-looking
figure in evening dress, over which a light summer overcoat was
carelessly flung.

"What's the trouble, sir?" Lashbrook asked.

"Well, it seems to be this," the tall man said almost casually, as he
pointed down to an object lying half on the pavement, and half in the
gutter. "Unless I am greatly mistaken, it seems to me that I have found
a dead body."

Without comment, Lashbrook bent down over the inanimate object lying
there so silently. As he did so, he stiffened.

"Dead enough, sir!" he said. "And, if I am not greatly mistaken,
murdered."

Saying this, Lashbrook held up a hand which was smeared with blood. Then
he turned his lantern and flashed it full on the figure of the man in
evening dress, and immediately registered a mental photograph of what he
saw.

What he saw was a tall, athletic-looking individual of some fifty years
of age, with thin, aquiline features, and a resolute mouth under a
close-clipped military moustache. A man of some position, evidently, by
his easy carriage, and the accent in which he spoke. In that flash of
the lantern, Acting-Sergeant Lashbrook had visualised everything
connected with the man who stood opposite to him, noted one or two
peculiarities, and then had become the ordinary policeman once more.

"Perhaps you had better explain, sir," he said.

"I am afraid there is nothing to explain," the stranger said. "I was
coming along the road just now from spending the evening with a friend,
and was on my way to my club, thinking of nothing in particular, except
that I was feeling rather tired, when I came suddenly on this."

"Indeed, sir," Lashbrook said. "You saw nothing, I suppose? No sign of a
struggle or anything of that sort?"

"I have already told you that I saw and heard no sound of any sort. I
just blundered on this figure, lying in the gutter, indeed, I almost
passed it without noticing anything."

Once more Lashbrook bent over the body.

"A bit strange, sir, isn't it?" he said. "I mean, this poor fellow can't
have been dead many minutes. There is still a movement of the muscles,
and the body is quite warm. Are you quite sure, sir, that you heard
nothing?"

"Absolutely, my dear officer," the stranger said calmly. "It may seem
strange, to you that I didn't hear a shot fired."

"I said nothing about a shot," Lashbrook pointed out. "I don't know yet
whether the man was shot or stabbed."

"Oh, don't you?" the stranger asked indifferently. "One naturally
concludes, in a case of this sort, that either a revolver or automatic
has been used."

Lashbrook made no reply for a moment, but once more, with the aid of his
lantern, he examined the prone figure in the gutter.

"I think you are right, sir," he said presently. "This man has been
shot. Shot by somebody who came up behind him and murdered him at fairly
close quarters. If you look, you will see where the bullet entered under
the left shoulder blade. If it had been a knife, there would have been a
deeper cut in the deceased's overcoat. I am afraid I shall have to ask
you to give me your name and address and, perhaps, invite your company
with me as far as Wine street police station."

"Oh, certainly," the stranger said. "My name is Crafton, Selby Crafton,
and my address is the Wanderlust Club. Here is my card. Of course, I
will gladly give you all the assistance I can, which will not be very
much, I am afraid."

With that, the speaker handed over a visiting card which Lashbrook put
in his pocket. Then he put a whistle to his lips, and, almost instantly,
two policemen appeared, as if out of nowhere. The man stared at the blue
coated officers in amazement. He was evidently wondering where they came
from and where they had been hidden, for he had not seen a ghost of a
uniformed officer during the whole of his walk.

"Now, get busy," Lashbrook said curtly. "A man has been murdered here.
Shot in the last few minutes. This gentleman who found the body must
have come across it almost before the crime was committed and yet he
declares that he heard no sound of a shot and saw no one along the whole
length of the street. Call up the ambulance and let us get along to Wine
Street."

A few minutes later, the body of the murdered man had been conveyed to
the mortuary behind the police station, and there the sergeant in charge
proceeded to interrogate the man who had given the name of Crafton. The
latter, who seemed to be utterly unconcerned, answered every question
put to him readily enough and even smiled at a certain interrogation
that came from the lips of the sergeant.

"I have told you everything I can, officer," he said. "I heard no shot
fired and I saw no sign of a disturbance or struggle. I know you must do
your duty, but don't make it any harder for an unfortunate individual
like myself if you can help it. I might easily have ignored the body at
my feet as I passed it and left the finding of it to somebody else. But,
dash it all, officer, there is a certain duty one owes to society. That
last question you put to me had a most unpleasant suggestion about it.
You don't suppose I had anything to do with the crime, what?"

"I didn't infer that you had, sir," the sergeant in charge said.

"Oh, didn't you? Sounded like it, anyway. Just try and realise how easy
it would have been for me to have walked on down the road and said
nothing. There was not a soul in sight, except this officer here, and he
would have been none the wiser if I hadn't called him back. And now, if
you don't mind, I should like to get along as far as my club. What about
it?"

The sergeant in charge reddened slightly.

"No offence, sir," he said. "No offence. It's all right, Mr. Crafton. I
have your address, so that I shall know where to find you when the
inquest takes place. Of course, you understand that you will be called
as a witness."

Crafton intimated that he was quite aware of that and, after pausing
just a moment to light a cigarette, nodded generally in the direction of
the officers present and swaggered out of the station. He had hardly
disappeared when one of the men, who had been sitting quietly at the
table, rose and glanced significantly in the direction of his superior.

"All right, Simmons," the latter said. "Better follow him at a discreet
distance and see if he really does go into the Wanderlust Club. One
can't be too careful."

"But you don't suspect anything!" Lashbrook asked.

"Not for a moment," the sergeant smiled grimly. "But it is always as
well to be on the safe side. I don't exactly see a murderer summoning
the police within a few seconds of having committed a crime when he
could have walked away quietly and covered his tracks. But, at any rate,
there is no harm done by verifying the address of the man who found the
body. I suppose there was no trace of a weapon?"

"None whatever," Lashbrook said emphatically. "I saw to that, Sergeant.
There was no weapon lying in the road or on the path, and, after the
body had been removed, I lingered behind a minute or two to make a
thorough search. Whoever was responsible for the crime either carried
the revolver away with him or got rid of it in some safe place where it
couldn't be found. But what about calling in the police surgeon?"

The sergeant put through a call on the telephone and, ten minutes later,
Dr. Gott, the police surgeon, bustled into the station with a black bag
in his hand.

"You wanted me, Sergeant?" he asked. "Case of murder, isn't it? Knife or
revolver?"

"Revolver, doctor," the sergeant said. "Or, at least, some weapon with a
bullet in it."

"Then lead the way," the doctor said briefly.




CHAPTER II.


AT the end of an hour or so, the police surgeon made his report. The man
had been shot at fairly close range by someone standing behind him, for
the bullet had entered under the left shoulder blade, penetrating the
heart, so that the victim must have perished almost instantly. There
were bruises on his face which, no doubt, had been caused by violent
contact with the pavement as he fell. More than that, Dr. Gott had
extracted the bullet and handed it over to the sergeant in charge.

The latter regarded it long and patiently.

"Well," he said. "I have a good deal of experience with this sort of
thing. I was under the impression that no automatic or revolver existed
concerning which I know nothing, but I am bound to confess that I have
never seen a bullet like this before. Nickel cap, too. And a peculiar
shape. I should like to see the revolver this came from."

"Well, that is your business," the doctor said. "Meanwhile, if you don't
mind, I think I will toddle off to bed. Let me know when you have fixed
the hour and date of the inquest."

There was nothing more for it now but to wait upon events. There would
be an inquest later on, but, meanwhile, the police could do nothing and
move in no direction until the dead man had been identified. The hour
was too late to get in touch with the morning papers, but later on there
would be an item for the evening journals which might produce definite
results.

But when the evening papers appeared on the following afternoon, most of
them had varying paragraphs in connection with the murderous outrage
which had taken place the night before in Mansfield street. One
newspaper man, more enterprising than the rest, had managed to invade
the Wanderlust Club and there interviewed one of the leading characters
of the drama. He had walked into the club late in the afternoon and
coolly asked if he might have a few words with Mr. Selby Crafton, and
Crafton had come down into the strangers' room in no pleasant frame of
mind.

"Now, what the devil do you want?" he asked.

The question was put offensively enough, but the ambitious journalist in
search of a story is never deterred by such a little thing as that. The
representative of the 'Morning Cry' coolly stuck a cigarette in the
corner of his mouth and offered another one from his case to the
frowning Crafton.

"Well, you have got a nerve," the latter said, taking the cigarette,
nevertheless. "Get on with it."

"Well, it's like this, Mr. Crafton," the pressman went on coolly. "I got
a bit of information from Wine street police station this morning with
regard to that poor chap who was killed last night, and, when I knew
that you were mixed up with it, I thought I would toddle round here and
have a word or two with you."

"With the risk of being thrown into the street, eh?"

"All in a day's work," the little man said. "But you might just as well
tell me, because if you don't, you will have a score of my push round
here in the course of the day, all of them avid to interview you. Fact
of the matter is, I am saving you a lot of trouble. Let me have the
story I want and you can tell the rest of the chaps as they come along
that Tim Branston has been before them. That will send them off."

"Well, there is something in that," Crafton agreed. "Now, what,
precisely, do you want to know?"

"All about yourself," the reporter grinned.

"Oh, is that all? Like to see my birth certificate, I suppose?"

"No, nothing so personal. You see, I already know how you found the body
last night, and how you hailed Acting-Sergeant Lashbrook and all that
sort of thing. The first thing I am going to ask you is this: Did you
ever see the dead man before?"

"Of course I didn't." Crafton smiled. "If I had, do you suppose I should
have been fool enough to keep the fact from the police? Why, my good
ass, that would simply be asking for trouble. I don't want to be kept
dancing about London for the next three months at the tail of the
police. You see, I am a traveller, a wanderer on the face of the earth,
which most of us members of the Wanderlust are. Here to-day and gone
to-morrow, if you know what I mean. I have been doing this sort of thing
all my life. I could tell you a story or two if I liked."

The reporter grinned appreciatively.

"Ah, Secret Service, and all that sort of thing," he cried. "If you
don't mind my saying so, you look like a gentleman of that sort.
Military training written all over you and so forth. Well, sir, if you
can tell me a story or two of that kind, I shall be exceedingly
grateful. Spies and adventures on behalf of the Fatherland and what not.
See what I mean?"

"Oh, I see exactly what you mean," Crafton replied. "And that is exactly
what you are not going to get. If you insist upon knowing, I was in the
army at one time. After that, I was mixed up in a good many queer things
in the Near East, but, as far as details are concerned, no. You can tell
your readers that I was educated at a public school, and finished off at
Bonne. I can speak three or four languages fluently, and, without undue
modesty, I can tell you that I have done the State some service from
time to time. I am unmarried, and likely to be, and I am of independent
means. I have no local habitation in England, except the Wanderlust
Club, and I make very few friends. And with that, you will have to be
content."

Whereupon, the little man went his way, and in the late afternoon
edition of the 'Morning Cry' managed to spread himself out to the extent
of a couple of columns. There were others on the warpath, too, so that
by 6 o'clock in the evening the streets were echoing with the shouts of
the newsboys, proclaiming the latest details of the "'orrible murder in
Mansfield street." It happened, just then, that news was scarce, and
startling events few and far between, so that the Mansfield street
business created more of a sensation than otherwise might have been the
case.

Lashbrook and the sergeant in charge of Wine street police station noted
all this with grim satisfaction. Lashbrook transpired during the day to
help the authorities in any way, and there was always the hope that this
publicity, spreading as it did, far and wide, would induce some relative
of the murdered man to come forward and identify the body. Until that
was done, the hands of the police were tied, and they were rendered
helpless.

"Something is sure to come of this," the sergeant in charge said, as he
passed a sheaf of papers over to Lashbrook. "Funny thing, wasn't it,
that we shouldn't find a single paper or card or letter on the body?
Nothing but a few Treasury notes and some loose silver."

"Yes, and no way of identifying the clothing, either," Lashbrook agreed.
"It looks to me as if that poor chap removed everything from his suit of
clothes to his shirt that might lead us to some definite conclusion."

"That's right," the sergeant said. "I examined the tag on his coat
through a magnifying glass and I found distinct traces where threads had
been removed, just in the very place where you would expect to find a
tailor's tab at the back of the collar. Much the same thing with the
underclothing and handkerchief. The man was evidently an Englishman,
too. About 50 years of age, I should say, and of fairly good social
position. You can tell that by his linen, and the clothes he was
wearing."

Before Lashbrook could make any observation, a constable in uniform came
into the office, followed by a commissionaire in all the glory of gold
braid and blue uniform.

"The hall porter of the Wanderlust to see you, sir," he said. "He wants
to have a look at the body."

The sergeant sat up, alert at once.

"Do you think you can give us any information?" he snapped.

"Possibly," the commissionaire replied. "The secretary of the club sent
me round here because one of our members is missing. He went out last
night about ten o'clock, saying that he was expecting a friend and would
be back before midnight, but when we went to rouse him in his bedroom
this afternoon we found that he had not returned. I was reading all that
stuff about a murder in the evening papers and the secretary sent me
round here on the off chance that our member--well, you know."

"Come this way," the sergeant said.

A minute or two later, the sergeant and the commissionaire, together
with Lashbrook, foregathered in the mortuary, where the body was lying.

"Now, have a good look at him," the sergeant said. "It is not a pleasant
job, but it might be worse."

"Well, it might," the commissionaire said grimly. "But then, you see I
am an old soldier and it wouldn't be the first time that I have been in
contact with a corpse."

The sergeant flashed a strong light upon the silent figure there, and
immediately the man looking down on him stiffened.

"That's our man, Sergeant," he said hoarsely. "That is Mr. Andrew
Millar. One of our regular members. Funny, wasn't it, that he should
have been murdered like that, and that his body should have been found
by an other member, Mr. Crafton?"




CHAPTER III.


THE significance of the commissionaire's remark was by no means lost on
his hearers. It was indeed strange that the dead man and the individual
who found his body should belong to the same club, and more or less live
under the same roof. And not the least remarkable feature lay in the
fact that Selby Crafton had declared that he had never seen Andrew
Millar before.

But, on this point, the officer in charge of the proceedings was silent,
though he exchanged a significant glance with his subordinate. Then,
with a wave of his hand, he intimated to the witness that the interview
was closed.

"I don't think I want to detain you any longer," he said. "Of course,
you will have to give evidence at the inquest, which will probably take
place tomorrow, but, as to that, you will be notified all in good time."

But no sooner had the man in the resplendent livery departed than the
speaker turned eagerly to Lashbrook.

"This is a very strange thing," he said. "I suppose you noticed the
amazing coincidence?"

"Yes, sir," Lashbrook replied. "Of course I did. Still, it doesn't get
us very much further. You see, the Wanderlust Club is on my beat and I
happen to know a certain amount concerning it. Of course, it isn't a
swagger establishment likes The Travellers, for instance. But it is very
well known and some of its members are by way of being celebrities. Men
who travel all over the world, pioneers of civilisation, orchid
gatherers, and all that sort of thing. A good many of these are
foreigners. I suppose, altogether, that the club must number at least a
thousand members, so that you can conceive it is quite possible for two
men to use the club regularly and never meet one another."

"Yes, I know all about that, Lashbrook, but I dare say we shall learn a
good deal more during the course of to-morrow."

Quite a large gathering filled the Salisbury Hall next morning when the
inquest on Andrew Millar opened. It was not one of those international
crimes that appeal forcibly to public opinion, but seeing that things
were quiet just now, a large number of curious and morbid-minded people
came thronging through the doors of the hall, and were waiting eagerly
for what was likely to transpire when the coroner opened the
proceedings.

At the far end of the long table at which the functionary in question
presided was seated a dozen or more reporters with notebooks. These were
not all of the male sex, for at least two of them were women, one of
whom was young and attractive, dressed neatly in black with a small,
close-fitting hat that served to disguise the attractiveness of her
face. As Lashbrook stood there in the background, his eye roving from
place to place, it seemed to him, in a vague sort of way, that he had
seen that lady reporter before. Then the coroner began to speak and
Lashbrook became the mere policeman again.

The coroner was one of the pompous, fussy type, with an exaggerated
opinion of his own importance, and it seemed to Lashbrook that he was
wasting a good deal of time in coming to the main point. Then, at
length, the little man paused and looked up at the inspector who was in
charge of the proceedings and intimated that he would like the latter to
call his witnesses.

"Very good, sir," the inspector said. "Philip Lashbrook."

Philip stood forward. He took the oath and proceeded to give his
evidence in chief. It was no more than a bald statement of what had
happened in Mansfield street. But the Coroner did not appear to be
satisfied.

"Are you sure that is all you have to tell us, constable?" he asked.
"Are we to understand that you were called back just as you passed down
Orford street by the man who found the body? I mean that you heard and
saw nothing whatever until you were hailed by Selby Crafton, and went
back until you came to the place where that individual was standing by
the corpse."

"I heard and saw nothing, sir," Lashbrook affirmed. "I turned sharply to
my right when I reached the spot where Orford street crosses Mansfield
street, and I saw nobody. It was late at night and the place was
deserted."

"Can you give us the exact time?"

"I can, sir," Lashbrook went on. "As I came to the junction of the cross
roads, the clock in the steeple of St. Botolph's chimed the hour of one.
That I heard distinctly. It was only a few seconds after that when I
heard a shout and went back along the far side of Mansfield street where
I found Mr. Crafton by the body of the dead man."

"Yes, but according to your deposition, you decided that the murdered
man had only just died. Muscular action was still going on and the body
was quite warm. Do you mean to tell us that you did not hear a shot
fired?"

"I am quite sure I didn't, sir."

"And yet everything was absolutely silent."

"As silent as the grave, sir. I heard no shot. If there had been one I
must have heard it, even if I had been two or three hundred yards away."

The coroner fussed and fumed, in his important way, but nothing more
could be elicited from the witness, and he was told, more or less
peremptorily, to stand down. He was followed by the police surgeon,
whose evidence was purely technical, so that there was no opening for
the coroner's astuteness, and he was followed in turn by the
commissionaire of the Wanderlust Club, whose business it was to identify
the body formally. When he had done this, he turned as if to leave the
box, but the coroner had not done with him yet.

"One moment, my man, if you please," he said. "I presume you are well
acquainted with the appearance of deceased?"

"Oh, yes, sir," the witness said. "It is my business to know every
member by sight. Mr. Millar has been a member of the club ever since I
went there nearly twenty years ago."

"And he lived there regularly?"

"Well, on and off, as you might say, sir. He came and went, sometimes
being in London for months together and then, perhaps, a year or so
abroad. A very quiet, reserved gentleman who kept himself very much to
himself. I can't remember ever seeing him go in or out of the club with
another member."

"And just as reserved inside, I suppose?"

"Well, as to that, sir, I can't say because mine is more or less an
outdoor job. You will have to ask the secretary or one of the waiters as
to that matter."

At this point the inspector in charge interposed.

"We are calling the secretary of the club, sir," he explained. "He is
the next witness on my list."

A minute later, the secretary of the Wanderlust stopped briskly into the
box. It was not much he had to say, except that the dead man was a very
old member of the club, and that he had lived there, on and off, for
years. He had some sort of idea that the dead man was engaged in
Government business, but, as to that, he could not be definite. Mr.
Millar was an exceedingly reticent individual and rarely spoke to
anybody. He had no callers and no letters, and had never been seen to
post one in the pillar box that stood in the hall of the club.

"Then you know nothing about him?" the coroner snapped.

"Nothing whatever, sir. He was elected before my time and, so long as he
paid his bills regularly, it was no business of mine to inquire into his
movements."

"But you must know something about him. For instance, you know the bank
on which he drew his cheques."

"He never drew any cheques, sir. He paid his account regularly every
Monday morning in cash. It was his habit, when he returned from one of
his wanderings, to hand me over sums of money which, at his request, I
placed in the club safe. He came back to England about a month or so
ago, and the night he returned he gave me 500 in Treasury notes.
Subject to certain deductions, I have that sum of money at the present
moment."

The coroner fussed and fumed over his notes, evidently feeling that he
had come to something like a dead end. It was quite plain that the last
witness could say nothing more and after Crafton had given evidence as
to the finding of the body, the proceedings were adjourned for a week
and, thereupon, the disappointed spectators began to file out of court.
Already, most of the police officers present had vanished, leaving
Lashbrook behind.

He hardly knew why he lingered, save that he was interested in a lady
reporter, who was now completing her notes and putting up her papers
before leaving the hall. She rose presently and as she came closer to
Lashbrook, who was watching her every movement, she looked up for a
moment, so that he was enabled to get a full sight of that attractive
face of hers.

He gave a little whistle of astonishment and then smiled, as if
something had suddenly pleased him. As the girl in the small hat was
passing him he reached out a hand and touched her lightly on the
shoulder. She wheeled round swiftly.

"Surely," he said, "surely I am not mistaken. You must be my old
playmate Mary Heaton."




CHAPTER IV.


THE girl addressed as Mary Heaton flashed a glance at Lashbrook and then
her face suddenly wreathed in smiles. It was not till then that Philip
realised how really attractive and beautiful she was. Not precisely
beautiful in the classic sense of the world, but wonderfully alluring
with her grey-blue eyes and sunny hair and the clear ivory of her face,
that was innocent of anything in the way of powder.

The same Mary Heaton that Lashbrook had known years ago as a child, but
strangely different. For the pretty child had grown into the beautiful
woman, changed almost beyond recognition, but not so changed that
Lashbrook failed to recognise her.

"Why, it's dear old Phil," she cried. "Philip Lashbrook. The boy I used
to know before the war destroyed everything. The boy I used to play
with, and who was my hero in those happy days. Phil turned into a
policeman!"

"Ah, you are just the same Molly," Lashbrook laughed. "You have grown
older and--well, I don't wish to pay you any compliments, because your
mirror does that for you. Fancy me running against you like this. I
thought you were still in the old home."

"Oh, my dear boy, the old home has been broken up long ago. The home you
speak of was smashed up, and my father is no longer in the land of the
living. You see, he left me very badly off, so that I had to look to
myself."

"Just exactly my case," Lashbrook said. "When the war broke but the poor
old guv'nor lost all his pupils and that famous Army class of his was
dissolved for ever. And that is why I am a policeman to-day, Molly."

"Well, we both seem to have had our share of misfortunes," Molly Heaton
smiled. "Little we dreamt of the future in those dear old days when we
were young and had nothing to worry about. But, Philip, I am glad to
have met you again."

"Are you?" Phil grinned delightedly. "Well, it's mutual, anyhow. But I
suppose you have lots of friends."

"My dear boy, I have very few. You see, I have to work pretty hard to
get a living. When the crash came, and everything was realised, I had
less than a thousand pounds in the world. So I came up to London and
learnt typewriting and shorthand, and I managed to get a job as police
court reporter with an evening paper. Only a bit of a rag, but it is
enough to keep me in bread and cheese. Then I had a bit of luck. I found
a woman who was running a more or less flourishing typing agency, and
when she told me she was going to give it up in order to look after the
house of a widowed brother of hers, I bought the business. Oh, I am all
right now. But it's not altogether a bed of roses."

"Neither is mine," Philip said. "When our crash came, I was absolutely
at a loose end, and I could not find a job for love or money. I made an
effort to stay in the regular Army, but it was no good. Besides, I was
so unsettled that I couldn't buckle to anything regular. Then somebody
told me there was a good opening in the Police Force for a man of
education, and I made up my mind to join up. At the present moment I am
a sort of acting sergeant with every chance of promotion, especially if
I can get into Scotland Yard, which is my ambition. But look here,
Molly, we are not going to meet and part like this, are we?"

Those melting blue eyes looked smilingly into Lashbrook's face. There
was no resisting the appeal.

"Why, of course not, Phil," she said. "Do you think I can ever forget
those happy days when we went bird-nesting, and swimming, and rowing,
together. Why, I used to think then that there was nobody like you. And
when I come to look at you now--"

She broke off suddenly, and the colour flared in her face.

"That's right, that's right," Phil said hurriedly. "Now, listen to me,
Molly. After to-night I shall be free for two or three days. Just now I
have a special stunt on, which, of course, I shall not discuss with you.
But if I am successful in what I have undertaken, then it is more than
possible that I shall go up a step or two. Merely a little idea of my
own, which I have laid before my superiors, and they were good enough to
tell me to get on with it. Now, when my job is finished, I shall be less
tied than I am at present. I mean that next week I shall have my
evenings free. Now, what do you say to a little dinner in some quiet
restaurant and a show afterwards?"

"I should love it," Molly said heartily. "Of course I should. Do you
know, I haven't been inside a theatre for two years. A picture palace
now and then has been the limit of my extravagance."

"Well, I can say much the same thing," Phil smiled. "There is not very
much left of my pay after certain expenses have been deducted, but I
have managed to save a bit, all the same. Now, if you will let me have
your address--"

Molly Heaton produced from her bag a neat little business card in the
corner of which she pencilled her private address. This she handed to
Lashbrook, who put it carefully in his pocket.

"Now I really must run along," she said. "I have to transcribe all these
notes for my paper, after which any amount of work is waiting for me at
the office. But, oh, Phil, I am so glad to have met you again. I was
beginning to wonder if anything had happened to you. I should have
written to you if I had only known where to find you. When the time went
on and I heard nothing about you, I began to think you had emigrated
aboard, like so many of our countrymen. But, really, I must be getting
along; I mustn't stand chattering here all day."

"Oh, very well. All right," Phil said. "Next Monday evening, then, at 7
o'clock. I'll pick you up at your lodgings, and we will go out for the
evening and pretend for a few hours that we are people of importance,
roughing it with the best of them, and all that sort of thing. I have
got a dinner jacket somewhere."

A minute or two later, and Lashbrook was going thoughtfully on his way,
with a smile on his face, and a glow in his heart that he had not
experienced for a long time. Fancy meeting little Molly again like that!
Little Molly, who had grown from a pretty child into a beautiful woman.
Not much of a squire of dames was Philip Lashbrook, but somehow Molly
was different. She had always appealed to him, even when she was a
long-legged creature with a mop of hair hanging down her back. And now?

Well, Philip told himself, he must not think of that. What right had an
acting sergeant of the police, with nothing but his pay, to think of
pretty girls and a snug little home somewhere? Besides, Molly Heaton was
entitled to something better than that.

So, for the moment, at any rate, Lashbrook put the matter out of his
mind absolutely, and went back to his work. It was late in the evening,
long after 11 o'clock, before he turned his face once more in the
direction of Mansfield street. This was, ostensibly, his beat, although,
just now, he was more or less at a loose end with considerable latitude
as to his movements. There was something rather wrong going on in the
neighbourhood of Mansfield street, and, if his suspicions were correct,
and he had average luck, there was more than the chance of a sensational
arrest that would bring him under the immediate eye of his superiors.
And then, perhaps, he would be able to gratify his ambition and find
himself posted to Scotland Yard.

It was nearly 12 o'clock before he found himself in Mansfield street,
within a few yards of the spot where the body of the unfortunate Andrew
Miller had lain. And then, to his vexation, he saw, instead of the
deserted road which he had expected, a small gang of workmen engaged in
opening up a portion of the road which lay close to the pavement. There
were four or five of these men altogether, obviously of the navvy class,
and already they had torn up a part of the road fringing the curb.

Rather annoyed and put out by this Lashbrook approached the group and
asked what they were doing.

"Opening up a drain," a man who appeared to be the foreman said. "Bit of
a stoppage between one of the houses here and the main."

"Going to be long?" Lashbrook asked.

"No, only an hour or so," the workman explained. "'Ere, Bill, pull off
that cover and see if it's got anything to do with the trap. Eh, wot's
that? Something jammed in the trap, eh?"

"Something like that," a man muttered. "Eh, wot's this? looks to me like
one o' them there revolvers."

Lashbrook darted forward and took the object from the speaker's hand. He
thrilled as he held it up to the light. A new automatic, beyond the
shadow of a doubt.

"I think I will take care of this, if you don't mind," he said, speaking
as quietly as possible.

With that, he walked on, as if it was all in a day's work but he knew
that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that luck had handed him the weapon
with which Millar had been murdered.




CHAPTER V.


LASHBROOK dropped the revolver into his overcoat pocket as soon as he
had laid hands upon it, his idea being that the less the workmen saw of
it, the better. And then, as he strode along Mansfield street he
hesitated just a moment. Would it now, perhaps, be better to go back and
warn the workers to say nothing of their discovery? Perhaps, on the
other hand, it would be just as well to do nothing of the sort, because
it was long odds that those simple labourers working on the drain would
not dream of connecting the slim weapon in Lashbrook's pocket with the
crime that had taken place in the vicinity not so many hours before.

Therefore Lashbrook went quietly on his way, though he knew perfectly
well that, so far as his night's work was concerned, he was merely
wasting his time. As a matter of fact, the special duty to which he had
been allotted was to keep his eye upon a block of flats further along
the street, where it was suspected that a resident was running a
gambling club. It had been on Lashbrook's own information that the
authorities were acting, so that he had been given a free hand to carry
on his investigations. And he knew perfectly well that, with those
workmen so close at hand there would be no particular activity in the
suspected flat that night. Lashbrook felt that he was dealing with an
exceedingly cunning combination of criminals, and it was only common
sense to come to the conclusion that they would regard those workmen as
part of a ruse in connection with the police.

So that Lashbrook went quietly on his way and, having reported himself
to the sergeant in charge at Wine street, repaired presently to his own
bed-sitting room not far off, without saying a word as to the discovery
he had made.

He did not doubt for a moment that, by a fortuitous accident he had been
placed in possession of the weapon by means of which Andrew Millar had
been killed. Moreover, it was no business of the people in Wine street,
because, already, Scotland Yard had taken the case up, and it was to
headquarters that Lashbrook made up his mind to report his discovery.

In the seclusion of his modest quarters, he examined the weapon at his
leisure. It was an exceedingly neat weapon, small, except as to the
handle, which was long and slim and, so far as Lashbrook could see, the
automatic had not suffered by submersion in the drain. There was no sign
of rust or dirt, though, the thing was wet from the water in the trap,
and this, of course, had prevented the rust from accumulating anywhere.
It was a narrow weapon, too, not much more than half an inch in width,
so that it would have been an easy matter for the murderer to drop it
between the bars of the drain grating. Evidently, the whole thing had
been planned out to a nicety by some cunning criminal who was taking a
minimum of risk in the despatching of his victim. There was a clip of
six cartridges attached to the automatic, one only of which had been
exploded. Altogether, a very neat and compact affair of fine finish and
workmanship, but absolutely without identification marks of any kind.
The most minute examination of the automatic failed to disclose any
trace of its source.

And yet it seemed to Lashbrook that he had seen something like it
before. He could not think where or how. Probably a weapon manufactured
for some definite purpose, and what that purpose was it would be for
someone more expert than himself to discover.

It was well into the following afternoon on the next day before
Lashbrook made his way to Scotland Yard. He was in his civilian clothes,
but the presentation of his official card enabled him to enter into the
sacred precincts and obtain an audience with somebody in authority.

"I want to see one of the inspectors," he explained. "You see who I am.
I have certain information in connection with the murder of the man,
Millar, in Mansfield street, and I shall be very glad if you will take a
message up and put me in contact with anyone who can listen to what I
have to say."

"Oh, it's like that, is it?" the man to whom Lashbrook was speaking
smiled.

"Let me see--Lashbrook, Lashbrook. Oh, you are the man who found the
body?"

"That's right," Phil said curtly.

"Then you had better come this way with me."

So saying, the official led the way up a flight of stairs, and, leaving
Lashbrook in a waiting room for a moment or two, came back presently and
jerked a thumb in the direction of a door, which was situated at the end
of a long corridor.

"Go in there," he said.

Lashbrook entered the room to find a tall man seated at a big desk in a
window overlooking the river. He was a man of middle age, with grey hair
and a benign expression, and a pair of grey eyes with a sort of twinkle
in them. He looked on the whole, more like a distinguished actor than a
Scotland Yard inspector as he turned pleasantly in the intruder's
direction.

"Great Scott," he said quite unexpectedly. "Why, it's Philip Lashbrook.
Now, young fellow my lad, tell me what this means. And how long have you
been in the Force?"

Phil abated not a jot of his attitude.

"Good afternoon, sir," he said. "Acting-Sergeant Philip Lashbrook, at
your disposal. I have come here to make an important statement in
connection with the Mansfield street murder. I ought, perhaps, to have
mentioned it to my superior officer at Wine-st., but seeing that the
Yard has taken over the case, I thought it best to come direct to
headquarters."

Inspector Klein smiled blandly.

"Now, look here, Phil," he said. "What is the good of going on like
this? Of course, I quite appreciate the correctness of your attitude,
but when you come here you didn't expect to run into your old friend and
companion, Robert Klein. All in good time, my lad. Now, you knew
perfectly well where I was to be found, so why on earth didn't you come
to me in the first instance before you joined the Force? If you had, I
would have put you on the strength here at once. Good lord, man, do you
suppose that I should have lost the chance of getting hold of an officer
who did such fine service for his country during the war? Now, tell me,
how long have you been a bobby? We will get back to the official
attitude all in good time. Sit down and take a cigarette and tell me
your story at your ease."

There was nothing for it but to obey.

"Very well, old chap," Phil said. "I suppose there is nobody within
hearing, so I can speak freely."

"My dear fellow, that is just what I want you to do."

"Well, it's like this, Klein. When a year or two ago I found myself at a
loose end I tried all sorts of things, but I could not get hold of a job
for love or money. So, as I had little of the latter myself, I had to do
something. What better than the London Police Force? Oh, I knew
perfectly well that you held a position of authority, but, you see, as
the man said in the story, 'I 'as my pride'."

"I see," Klein twinkled. "Didn't want to be beholden to anybody. You
haven't changed a bit, Philip."

"Well, there it is," Lashbrook said. "I joined the Force and in two
years I have got where I am. But I need not tell you that my ambition is
to get my head in here."

"And it is going to be gratified," Klein said. "God bless my soul, you
are just the very class of man we are always praying for. An athlete and
a gentleman, to say nothing of being an excellent French scholar, with a
knowledge of German. But I see you are anxious to tell me something. So
get on with it. But understand this, Philip--you are not going to stay
where you are any longer. I can find you a corner here, where your
abilities will have full scope."

"That is awfully good of you," Philip said gratefully. "Of course, I
hadn't the remotest idea that I was going to run into you when I came
here. But that has nothing to do with it. Now, my dear old friend, if I
can drop the official for a moment or two, I should like to have your
opinion on this."

With that, Lashbrook drew the automatic from his pocket and laid it on
the table before his superior. Klein examined it minutely and then
turned for an explanation.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Well, unless I am greatly mistaken, it is the weapon that killed Andrew
Millar. But perhaps I had better tell you exactly how the thing came
into my hands."

Klein listened with the deepest attention to all that Phil had to say.
It was evident that the statement had made a considerable impression
upon him.

"I should think you are not very far wrong," he said thoughtfully.
"Yes--within a few feet of where the murdered man lay. A very neat
weapon, complete with a silencer. We will keep this little bit of
information to ourselves, if you don't mind. Now what, precisely, do you
want me to do?"




CHAPTER VI.


"Well, it may sound a bit like cheek on my part," Philip said. "But I
want you to arrange so that I can be put on to this job, because I have
an idea in the back of my head which may lead to important results."

"I can't promise to give you a free hand to the exclusion of everybody
else," Klein said. "But I can arrange for you to be taken over by the
Yard and allowed to follow up your own line. There will be one or two
others working in another direction, but that is no reason why you
should interfere with each other's work. However, what is the general
idea?"

"Well, I can hardly tell you yet," Philip confessed. "You see, it is
only a little theory of mine, and it came into my head the other night
as I was talking to Crafton, who is the man, you will remember,
responsible for directing my attention to the body. Just a trifle, but
as you know perfectly well, these trifles often lead to great results."

"Nobody knows better than I," Klein agreed. "But you are not seriously
suggesting that Crafton had anything to do with the murder of Andrew
Millar, are you?"

"No," Phil responded. "It is a bit of a coincidence that they both
belonged to the same club, though it is more than possible that they
were not acquainted. The Wanderlust boasts over a thousand members from
all parts of the world. So if one of these said he didn't know another
by sight, then we should have to take his word for it. Another thing, if
Crafton had had a hand in putting Millar out of the way, he would never
have stood there by the body and coolly called my attention to the fact
that it was lying there. He could have slipped away and none any the
wiser. Did you ever know of a case where an assassin shot his victim and
waited for the police to come along to identify the corpse?"

Klein nodded in agreement.

"Yes, I am quite with you," he said. "But what about this weapon? I
think we are right in assuming that it was with this automatic that
Millar was murdered. And, no doubt, everything has been planned out
beforehand. The unfortunate, followed by the murderer, who knew exactly
where that drain was, and that he would be able to down his man and drop
his weapon into a place where it might have lain for years without
discovery. I suppose you realise that we have got an exceedingly cunning
criminal to deal with. But don't let us get too far ahead. What I want
to know is where that automatic was made."

"Ah, that will take us some little time," Phil said. "It was evidently a
special weapon, made for a special purpose. Moreover, there is no sign
of what I might call its nationality. A strange thing, isn't it, that
the makers of such a fine piece of work should be ashamed or unwilling
to put their mark upon it? It may be of English manufacture; it may be
German, or French. But, somehow or other, I have an idea that I have
seen a weapon like it before. Do you remember an occasion, early in 1918
when every man we could scrape together was rushed up to Amiens when the
Germans were making their great push. It was a night in late April when
we managed to lay a spy by the heels."

"By Jove, I do," Klein said. "A German in British uniform. We only
tumbled to it by accident."

"Yes, and what happened? Before we could lay hands upon him the man was
dead. I mean to say, he saw exactly what was coming to him and
contrived, in some manner, to make away with himself. Just collapsed and
died, as we were on our way up the stairs to arrest him in the ruined
cottage where he had his quarters. Of course, we found no papers or
anything of that sort and no weapon, except an automatic pistol which,
now I come to remember it, was very like the one lying on the table
there."

"Ah, it all comes back fresh to my mind now," Klein said. "The man
contrived to poison himself in some way. And you are right about the
pistol he was carrying. It did bear a curious resemblance to the one you
found last night. Not that the fact helps us much."

"I am not so sure about that," Phil smiled. "If you will let me have
that revolver for a few hours, I think I shall be in a position to trace
it to the source of its manufacture. It's just a chance, of course. What
do you say?"

"Rather running a risk as far as I am concerned," Klein said. "But
still, you can have it, it you like."

"Then I am free to make my investigations."

"Yes, you can bank on that," Klein said. "I will make everything easy
for you. So get on with it, and don't give another thought to your
superiors in Wine street."

More than satisfied with his afternoon's work, Lashbrook went off
presently and, later on in the evening, found himself somewhere in the
neighbourhood of Hampstead. He came at length to one of the smaller side
streets, where he knocked at the door of a house in the terrace and
inquired of the slatternly servant who came to the door for one, Michel
Rothbarth.

"Yes," said the slovenly maid. "Mr. Rothbarth is in his room. Would you
like to see 'im?"

Phil gave his name and intimated that he had come there on purpose. A
minute later, he found himself in a small sitting room, where a man
about his own age looked up and regarded him through a pair of
horn-rimmed spectacles.

"Why," he exclaimed. "It's Philip Lashbrook. My dear fellow, I haven't
seen you for years. I suppose you are still friendly or you wouldn't be
here."

"That's right," Phil said. "Seems ages since we were at Bonne together,
and on the best of terms. And after that we met more than once in
London. Then the war, of which the least said the better. And that's
done and past now, and we can meet just as we used to do in the old
days."

"But how did you find me out?" Rothbarth asked.

"Oh, I have known for a long time that you were back in London at the
old job once more. I was going to look you up but really I haven't had
the time."

"And what are you doing now?" Rothbarth asked.

"Well, I am--or was till yesterday--a common or garden policeman,"
Lashbrook smiled. "And I daresay you will wonder if that fact has
anything to do with my visit here tonight. Well, as a matter of fact it
has."

Rothbarth looked up in some alarm.

"Nothing wrong, eh?" he asked uneasily.

"Oh, dear no. Not at least, as far as you are concerned. But it occurred
to me that you might be in a position to give me certain information.
You can speak as plainly as you like, because I have Scotland Yard
behind me. Now, I suppose you read something about that murder in
Mansfield street?"

"Certainly I did," Rothbarth agreed. "But you are not suggesting that I
can help you in that matter, are you?"

"Well in a way, I am. Because I know that you held a commission in the
German Army during the war. And, on one occasion, as I ascertained from
some prisoners we took, you were jolly near to falling into our hands.
Now, Rothbarth, the firm you represent in London has to do with small
arms, more or less."

"Quite right. Proceed," Rothbarth said.

"As agents for a manufacturing combine in Germany. Tell me if I am
wrong. No, I see I am not. Now, I am going to take you more or less into
my confidence. Unless we are greatly mistaken, we have found the weapon
with which Andrew Millar was shot. In fact, I have got it in my pocket
at the present moment. I have a sort of feeling that it is of German
manufacture and, if so, you may be in a position to put me in touch with
the makers. Here it is. Have a good look for yourself."

Rothbarth took up the weapon and, almost at once a dawning smile broke
out behind his spectacles.

"You have come to what you call the right shop, my boy," he said. "As a
matter of fact, I can tell you all about that weapon. It was designed
and manufactured in Munich, early in the war, for the use of what I must
call our spies. That is why there is no identification mark on it
whatever. You see, what we call a spy the other side calls a patriot--it
all depends upon the point of view. And you know the risks that attach
to war espionage. Well, suppose one of these secret service men fall
into the hands of the enemy. If they are clever enough, no papers are
found on them, nothing but a revolver, which cannot be identified as
made in their own country. But this particular weapon is quite familiar
to me. Each of our secret service men carried one when he was on active
service."

"Yes, I rather gathered that," Lashbrook said. "But what beats me is how
several of your country-men, who were caught behind our lines, managed
to do away with themselves just before they were laid by the heels."

Rothbarth smiled again as he took up the revolver, and, pressing a
spring just behind the trigger guard, detached the handle. This he
turned upside down and out of it fell a small capsule, together with a
long slender key.

"Well, what do you make of these?" he asked.

"Nothing of the capsule," Lashbrook said. "But the key looks more or
less familiar. Unless I am greatly mistaken, it is a key to a hiding
place in some safe deposit."




CHAPTER VII.


LASHBROOK fingered the key that had fallen from the base of the revolver
in a thoughtful mood before he turned to Rothbarth for some further
information.

"Your story is very interesting," he said. "But surely you did not
expect to find a key hidden in that weapon? And, if you did, what,
precisely, does it mean?"

"Well, I didn't," Rothbarth admitted. "To be quite candid, I don't in
the least understand how the key got there, or what it signifies. Mind
you, I was not surprised when the capsule rolled out, and I should not
have been much astonished if a paper or two had been concealed. You see,
it's like this. Those revolvers were made specially for our Secret
Service men. I don't suppose there are more than a couple of hundred of
them altogether, and they were recalled early in the war because the
heads of the German General Staff in Berlin had an uneasy suspicion that
your Intelligence Department had hit upon the secret. As a matter of
fact, a few months before the war I had one myself."

"But, my dear chap, you were in England then."

"Of course, I was," Rothbarth smiled. "I had been in England for three
years, but though I was connected with a business house, and doing my
best to make a fortune, I was an officer in a Brunswick regiment before
I came. There is no reason why I should not tell you the truth now.
Prior to 1914 I was supplying a lot of valuable information to Berlin.
So were hundreds of others of us, and we never realised that we were
under suspicion here until hostilities actually broke out. In the last
week of July, 1914, I had my call, and left England without undue
ostentation. Four days later, practically every spy in England was
rounded up and placed under arrest. It was a wonderfully smart piece of
work on the part of your Secret Service, and I take off my hat to them."

"Yes, I know all about that," Lashbrook said, "because you see, I was
connected with a branch of the Secret Service myself. As a matter of
fact I was acting in connection with the Belgian and French espionage
all through the war. But surely you can tell me something about this
key."

"Not a thing," Rothbarth declared. "It is pretty evident to me that one
of your men got hold of that automatic and discovered its secret
hiding-place. He must have used it for his own purpose afterwards and
hidden the key himself."

Lashbrook turned the key over in his hand and proceeded to examine it
carefully. He could see a number stamped on the barrel and something
that looked like a monogram.

"But this is English all right," he said. "Look at the word 'No,' which
is an abbreviation for number, in front of the figures. You wouldn't see
that on a German key. Unless I am altogether mistaken, this key is in
connection with a safe deposit somewhere. Then look at the monogram.
Let's see if I can make it out. 'M.L.S.' and yes, the word 'Co,' inside
the monogram. Let me think a minute. I've got it!--Martin Lane Safe
Company. Now, why the deuce did the man who murdered Andrew Millar with
this weapon throw it away? He must have known that inside the handle of
it was a key to a safe--unless, of course, he had called a day or two
before at the safe deposit and got away with the contents."

"Yes, and on the other hand, he may not have known that the key was
concealed in the handle of the automatic," Rothbarth replied.

"That is very smart of you," Lashbrook said. "However, before long we
shall know all about that. What I cannot understand is how that weapon
found its way into the hands of an Englishman."

"Can't you?" Rothbarth smiled. "I can. You are not going to tell me that
you believe every Englishman, and Frenchman and German was thoroughly
loyal during the war. My dear chap, there are traitors in every country.
I know there were in mine and I think you must admit the same thing."

"Grudgingly," Lashbrook said. "I came in contact with more than one of
that kind during the war. What novelists call double-crossing. Men who
didn't care a hang about their country so long as they sold to the best
personal advantage. I should think it is very likely that it was one of
these who was responsible for the death of Millar."

"After what you have just told me, I should not be at all surprised,"
Rothbarth agreed. "It is not a very savoury topic and I don't think we
need pursue it any further."

"There I agree with you," Lashbrook said. "I am very much obliged to you
for giving me a valuable piece of information which I should never have
discovered for myself and all I ask you to do is to say nothing of this
to anybody for the time being. But I am curious as to the capsule."

"Yes, and you had better be careful with it," Rothbarth said. "The
capsule contains enough prussic acid to kill a man in ten minutes. That
was the idea, you see. Supposing one of our men had certain plans or
information on this tissue paper hidden in the handle of the automatic
and found himself suddenly face to face with certain arrest. Which, in
other words, meant certain death. He would open the breach of the weapon
and close it again, after popping that capsule in his mouth. Then, when
he came to be searched, nothing would be found on him, except an
automatic which would not be suspicious in the circumstances."

Lashbrook nodded. He quite saw the logic of the German's remarks. Then,
after a little further desultory conversation, he went back to his own
bed-sitting room, and, for the time being, put the problem out of his
mind.

After breakfast, the next morning, he made his way as far as the
Wanderlust Club and there asked to see the secretary. The dapper little
man whom Lashbrook had seen at the inquest came forward and introduced
himself as John Clift. Lashbrook came straight to the point and
suggested that he would like to inspect the bedroom which Millar had
been occupying for some time before his death.

"Oh, you can do that with pleasure, officer," Clift said. "But I don't
think you will find much there. Only a battered old portmanteau
containing a certain amount of clothing, and a locked tin box. Beyond
that, nothing."

"I am obliged by your consideration," Lashbrook said, "by the way, I
suppose you haven't had any inquiry as to the dead man by any relatives
or friends?"

"Only one," the secretary explained. "A queer sort of fish who came here
late last night more or less intoxicated and declared that he was our
late member's brother. You see, he had been reading the papers and was
anxious, without further delay, to get his hands on the 480 odd in cash
which Mr. Millar had deposited in my keeping and which, at the present
moment, is in the safe."

"That's interesting," Lashbrook said. "We were wondering why nobody who
knew the poor fellow had come forward to claim relationship. You see,
until we can glean something about Mr. Andrew Millar's past we are more
or less at a loose end. Did the man you speak of leave any address? Or
did he leave you under the impression that it was a sort of a try on?"

"Not precisely," Clift explained. "There was a certain likeness between
the two men to give me reason to believe that the fellow was telling the
truth. Only, as I told you, he was a long way from being sober, and I
couldn't make much out of him. One of those men who has been a gentleman
once. You know what I mean. Good accent and manner and frightfully
shabby clothes, that had evidently been the work of a first class West
End tailor. I shouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that the
chap in question is an old jail bird. You see, Mr. Lashbrook, I have had
a good many years' acquaintance of all sorts and conditions of men, and
I flatter myself that I am a pretty good judge of character. That
half-defiant swagger, that furtive glancing over the left shoulder.
However, you will have a chance of interviewing the individual himself
if you care to come here to-morrow afternoon at 2 o'clock. He said he
should return then with his credentials, when he hoped that I should
hand that money over to him. In which hope, I need not tell you, he will
be disappointed. That money will remain in my safe until I am satisfied
that the proper legal claimant is entitled to it. And now, if you like,
I will show you Mr. Andrew Millar's bedroom."

It was exactly as the secretary had said. There was nothing in the room,
except a huge portmanteau filled with clothing, from which Lashbrook
noticed that every trace of identity had been removed. He turned it over
and over again and was fain, at length, to admit that there was nothing
of the slightest use to him in his search. Then he turned to the little
tin box, the lock of which he forced, and poured the contents out on to
the bed.

Here, again, he found himself baffled, for the box contained nothing but
a few letters from various correspondents, a heap of newspaper cuttings,
and, finally, a handful of photographs, one of which had been torn right
down the middle. More or less idly, Lashbrook sought for the second half
of the photograph, which, however, was nowhere to be found. Then, as he
closely examined the section in his hand, he smiled significantly to
himself, as he slipped the scrap of cardboard into his pocket.

"Found a clue, what?" Clift asked.

"Possibly," Lashbrook smiled. "A very slender one, anyway. But, then,
you never know."




CHAPTER VIII.


IT was late in the afternoon after Lashbrook's visit to the Wanderlust
Club that he found a note waiting for him at his lodgings from Mary
Heaton. In it she explained that she would be unable to meet him, as
arranged, on the Monday, as she had to go out of town on business, but
perhaps, if he was not otherwise engaged that night, he might find it
possible to call round at her rooms and thus put forward the dinner and
theatre engagement by a day or two.

Accordingly, a little after seven o'clock that evening, Lashbrook,
nicely turned out in a jacket suit, found himself on the way to a quiet
little restaurant in the neighbourhood of Soho, accompanied by Mary, who
was looking her best in a fur coat and a small, close-fitting hat.

"I hope you didn't mind, my altering the arrangements," she said. "But
you see, I have got to go down into the country on Monday, to do a day's
work for an old literary gentleman who refuses to let anyone but myself
do his typing!"

"And a very good judge, too," Lashbrook smiled. "As a matter of fact,
the change of programme suits me exceedingly well. You know that I have
been given, more or less, a free hand in the Mansfield street murder,
which I hope is going to prove a feather in my cap. But I have come up
against a bit of a snag and I don't want to go any further until I have
had an opportunity of consulting my old friend, Inspector Klein.
However, he has been called away to Manchester on some urgent business.
So I am marking time."

They reached the restaurant presently, where they had a small table to
themselves, and there, seated opposite each other, began to talk of old
times.

"This is exceedingly pleasant, Molly," Lashbrook said. "You can't tell
how pleased I am to meet you once more. You are just the same, and yet
you have changed in a way that fairly bewilders me. To think that my
wild, little tomboy playmate has grown into a beautiful woman, as you
have!"

"I suppose that is a compliment," Molly laughed. "But don't forget, my
dear Philip, that I have learnt a good deal of the world since those
happy days, and when a man pays me a compliment I am prone to wonder if
there is not some ulterior object behind it."

"Then you have very little else to do," Lashbrook said. "But, of course,
you know you have grown into a beautiful woman, and a jolly capable one,
too, I'm sure."

"Yes," Molly said thoughtfully, "I suppose I have, more or less. But
then, after my father died, I found life a bitter experience. You see,
for all my dear old dad was away from home a great deal, I had a very
pleasant house to live in, and a favourite relative to see that I didn't
get into much mischief. And then, suddenly, everything changed. My
father died and, very soon afterwards, that dear aunt of mine followed
him. And there was I, with my own living to get and not the slightest
knowledge of how to do it. Of course, I realised that my poor little
capital would not last for ever, and that is why I spent part of it in
learning typing and bookkeeping, and all that kind of thing, with a view
to starting for myself. And, on the whole, it seems to me that I have a
lot to be thankful for."

"You have a lot to take credit for," Lashbrook said. "You know, Molly, I
could never quite understand your household. Your father, Colonel
Heaton, seemed to spend so much time abroad. My old father often used to
wonder why, because the Colonel was fond of his home, and one of the
keenest hands with a rifle and a fishing rod that I ever saw. He taught
me pretty nearly all I know in the way of sport, and those pups of my
father's looked upon the Colonel as a sort of god. Did you ever discover
what mysterious occupation the Colonel was following?"

"Never," Molly said. "All I knew was that he used to get mysterious
envelopes from time to time--big official envelopes, with seals on the
back of them. And, after one of them came, he would tell me, quite
casually, that he was going to Paris or Rome, and he always seemed to be
vague as to when he would be back. Sometimes it was within a week and
sometimes he was away six months. But he never said anything to me about
his journeys, and never described them afterwards."

"So you don't know what he was up to?"

"Nothing in the least definite, Phil. Still, I have my ideas. Rather
romantic ideas, you may think. You see, in those days I used to read a
good deal of fiction, mostly of the school of Ouida. And that is why I
have always thought that my father had something to do with mysterious
diplomatic work. Government secrets and all that sort of thing. I
remember once, coming down to breakfast one morning and finding a huge,
swarthy-looking man with an enormous black moustache having breakfast
with my father. Where he came from or how he arrived, I never knew,
although I was up quite late on the previous evening. But I discovered
that he had reached the house after I had gone to bed and spent the
night there. I was told to call him Mr. Nemo, though, of course, that
was not his proper name. And then, very late that night he vanished as
mysteriously as he had come."

"All very exciting and dramatic," Lashbrook smiled. "Do you know, Molly.
I shouldn't be surprised if you were right."

"I am quite sure of it," Mary said emphatically. "And it was the matter
of my father's death that convinced me."

"Oh, how was that?" Lashbrook asked, "I always understood that he
perished during the War, when he was commanding a regiment."

Mary turned her blue eyes on her companion.

"Do you know, Phil, I don't believe he ever commanded a regiment at all.
I don't believe that he was in the War from the day it broke out until
his death. And I will tell you why. I never had the usual letter of
regret from the War Office and nothing but an unsigned letter to say
that Colonel Heaton had died in the service of his country. You can
guess what that means."

"Yes," Lashbrook said quietly. "I happen to know exactly what it means,
because, you see, throughout the War, I was an unofficial member of the
Secret Service myself. My knowledge of French and German gave me that
opportunity and showed me a phase of the War that I had never dreamt of
before. Of course, our Secret Service was wonderful, but it entailed
perils and dangers which are as bad, or rather worse, than those
encountered by the ordinary soldier, and without any of the rewards that
come to the gallant and brave in the heat of battle. If we pull off a
brilliant success, then somebody else always gets the credit. But if we
fail, or fall into the enemy's hands, then we are promptly disowned. My
dear girl, there is no harder work than that of the Secret Service.
Still, it is very fascinating and exciting, despite the fact that in
nine cases out of ten there is a rope or a bullet at the end of it."

"You must tell me all about it some day," Molly said. "Do you really
think my poor old father died like that?"

"I am pretty sure of it," Lashbrook replied. "The intimation you had
proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt. But isn't it time that we began
to think about getting along?"

It had been a delightful evening, Lashbrook told himself later on, after
he had seen Mary home, and was back again in his humble lodgings.
Perhaps the forerunner of a good many other delightful evenings, when
the Mansfield street murder was solved, and he had obtained the step
that Klein had promised him. Then, the next morning, back to work again.
But nothing to go upon, except that mysterious key and the section of a
torn photograph in his pocket.

But the photograph had told him something. It was only the smallest of
clues and might turn out, eventually, to be nothing more than a delusion
and a snare. It showed the ragged half of a face in profile, that of a
man with clean-cut, rather hawk-like features, and a well-shaped head
and a small ear. Evidently the photograph of a man of breeding and
education, with nothing on the back of it to show where or by whom it
was taken.

It seemed to Lashbrook to represent an amateur effort, for the picture
itself was mounted on a coarse blue background, on which two or three
misty capital letters had been fixed with a crude india rubber stamp. A
little thing in itself, but one that might easily lead to dramatic
results. Lashbrook carefully deposited the section of photograph in a
lock-up desk, and then, with the mysterious key in his pocket, set out
to make inquiries in Martin lane.

He came presently to a rather imposing-looking set of buildings in
granite which was the headquarters of the Martin Lane Safe Co. and here,
after producing his credentials, he asked to see somebody in authority
who could give him the desired information. There was some delay before
a man, who announced himself to be the deputy manager, came forward and
beckoned Lashbrook into his private office. His manner was curtly
official.

"You must understand, Mr. Lashbrook," he said, "that we do not usually
give information regarding our customers. But then, if you come as
apparently you do, with the authority of Scotland Yard behind you, it is
a different matter. I understand you have found one of our safe keys and
wish to know the name of the owner. If you will give me the key, I will
look the number up in the register and inform you. Perhaps you would
like to open the safe."

The man in authority was back within the next five minutes with a scrap
of paper in his hand.

"Here you are," he said. "I have here the name of the tenant of the
safe. The tenant in question has been using it for years. His name is
Colonel Heaton, of Croft Hatch, Bolbridge, Kent. And now after that, do
you wish the safe opened?"




CHAPTER IX.


IT was not an easy matter for Lashbrook to conceal the immense surprise
which he felt as he regarded the name on the slip of paper which the
manager had placed in his hand. But four years' training during the war
and his subsequent experience in the police stood him in good stead now,
so that he merely regarded the incident as a commonplace one with no
significance behind it.

"That is rather a strange thing," he said. "You see, I happen to know
something about Colonel Heaton. Now, would you mind telling me exactly
the date when the colonel took possession of the safe?"

This was not a difficult matter, and, in a few minutes, Lashbrook had
established the fact that the key of the safe had passed into the
possession of Mary Heaton's father within two years of the outbreak of
the Great War. There was no particular significance in this, but it
suggested something to Lashbrook which was not displeasing. That,
however, he would go into later.

"I suppose you are quite sure," he went on, "that this key is really the
original handed over to Colonel Heaton when he came to you first in the
year 1912."

The manager turned over the key in his hand, and then returned it to
Lashbrook with a smile.

"Absolutely," he said. "Our keys have certain peculiarities, what you
might call secret marks or characteristics. Of course, you can't see
them, but they are there, all the same. But perhaps you would like to
open the safe for yourself?"

Lashbrook hesitated just a moment. The temptation was very strong, but
he wisely put it on one side. The safe would have to be opened, and that
before long, but he had no intention of doing so alone. His idea was to
inform Klein of his discoveries and leave the latter the responsibility
of opening the safe. There was no hurry, for the simple reason that, so
long as he retained the key in his possession, nobody else could
forestall him.

"I don't think I will, if it is all the same to you," he said. "This is
a point where it seems to me that my superiors come in. I am much
obliged to you for your courtesy in this matter, but I don't think that,
for the moment, I will trouble you further."

Lashbrook went his way presently, more than satisfied with the way in
which things were shaping. He would have to see Andrew Millar's brother
a little later on, and, in due course, he made his way to the Wanderlust
Club, and there waited in conversation with the secretary, Clift, until
the other Millar put in an appearance.

He was exactly as the secretary had described him. A tall, slouching
man, red eyed and tremulous, and, withal, a swagger that did not suffice
to carry off the general seediness of the man, and the shabbiness of his
erstwhile fashionable attire. He looked like some broken-down sportsman
or business man of the stockbroking type who had met with misfortune,
or, what was much more probable, had reduced himself to this condition
with drink. For his hands were unsteady, and so was the weak, loose
mouth, half disguised by a dragging moustache that drooped at the
corners.

"This is Mr. Eden Millar," Clift said, by way of an introduction. "The
brother of our unfortunate member who was murdered the other night. This
man, Mr. Millar, is a police officer connected with Scotland Yard, who
has part of the case in hand."

Eden Miller favoured Lashbrook with an uneasy glance.

"Oh, he is, is he?" he muttered. "I don't see that that has anything to
do with me. I came here to get the balance of that 500 you hold on
behalf of my brother, and the sooner you hand it over the better I shall
be pleased."

"But the law doesn't act quite in that rapid way," Lashbrook pointed
out. "Possibly, you have every claim to it, but you will have to prove,
first, that your brother left no direct heirs behind him. For instance,
he might have been married, and the father of a family. He might have
other brothers."

"Well, he hasn't," Millar grumbled. "And no wife either. As far as I
know, I am the last of our family. That is, as far as our branch is
concerned. And I can do with that money. Moreover, I don't see why I
shouldn't have it. I shouldn't have known anything about there being any
cash if I hadn't read an account of the inquest, when Mr. Clift, here,
gave evidence."

"Whatever happens," Lashbrook said, "with regard to that money, it has
nothing whatever to do with my present inquiries. Now, Mr. Millar, I am
going to ask you a good many questions about your family history, and
your brother's past. First of all, would you mind telling me where and
when you last saw him alive."

"I haven't seen him for five or six years," Millar said. "Come to think
of it, it is more likely ten years since we met. Of course, I have had a
letter from him, from time to time, when he happened to be more or less
hard up and--"

"Stop a moment," Lashbrook said. "May I take it, without offence, that
your brother was a bit of an adventurer?"

"What the devil has that got to do with you?"

"Oh, of course, you need not answer me if you like," Lashbrook said.
"But I think you will see the advantage of doing so, instead of having a
good deal of family dirty linen washed in public through the medium of
the Coroner's Court. At any rate, you will have to give evidence at the
adjourned inquest, seeing that you claim to be the only relative of the
dead man, and a lot more information about yourself before Clift hands
over that money."

"Oh, go on," Millar snarled. "Be as curious as you like. Just as well,
perhaps, to tell you everything."

"Yes, I thought you would see reason," Lashbrook smiled. "Now, Mr.
Millar, was your brother ever in the hands of the police?"

"Not in this country, at any rate," Millar said.

"Well, abroad then. France or Belgium, or perhaps Italy?"

It was a pure shot on Lashbrook's part but, at the last word, Millar sat
up in an attitude of rigid attention.

"Ah, trust you police to know everything about a poor devil who is in
trouble," he sneered. "Well, he was in Italy towards the end of the war.
If you ask me what the trouble was, I can't tell you. But they threw the
poor devil into prison for some reason or another and there they kept
him for a year or two without trial, like they do in those God-forsaken
countries. He hadn't a shilling on him when he was arrested, and, if it
hadn't been for my sending him a pound or two every now and again, he
would have starved. Of course, he couldn't say what the charge was in
his letters, as it wouldn't have been allowed, but I fancy it was
something to do with the War."

"You haven't kept those letters, by any chance?"

"Of course I haven't," Millar declared. "Why should I? But I can tell
you this--my brother always hinted that when he got free then he knew
where to put his hands upon a fortune, and I was to share it. Mind, you,
I didn't believe a word of what Andrew said, because he was a
magnificent liar and, no doubt, thought he would get more cash out of me
than he did if I credited his story."

Lashbrook gazed thoughtfully at the speaker. It seemed to him that Eden
Millar was quite unconsciously giving him information which was going to
lead to great results later on.

"And that is all you can tell me?" he asked finally.

"That's all," Millar echoed. "And not a nice story, either. But you will
have to make the best of it."

A few minutes later, Millar departed unceremoniously, and Lashbrook
turned in the direction of the secretary.

"Well, Mr. Clift," he said. "I am obliged to you for the help you have
given me so far, but I think that you will be able to assist me still
further. Now, I don't know whether it struck you as being a strange
coincidence or not, but here is a case in which one of your club members
was murdered in the street and actually found within a few minutes of
the crime by another member."

"Well, it certainly does seem rather remarkable," Clift admitted. "But
surely you don't think that Mr. Selby Crafton had anything to do with
the death of his fellow member?"

"No," Lashbrook admitted. "There is not a shred of evidence to point to
this conclusion--so far."

"What do you mean by that, 'so far'?" Clift said. "My dear officer, you
don't expect me to believe that a man who deliberately murders another
would stand quietly by the body and wait for a policeman to come along,
whilst he pretended that he had nothing to do with the affair? According
to my ruling of the matter, if Mr. Crafton had killed Millar, he could
have got away with the greatest possible ease. It was very late at
night, there was not a soul within sight, and even you, who were not
very far off, heard and saw nothing. At least, that is what you said at
the inquest."

"Yes, that's all very plain and logical," Lashbrook smiled. "And I am
not going to argue with you, one way or the other. I should say,
offhand, that Mr. Crafton behaved just like any other gentleman would
who had the misfortune to find a dead body when he was returning home
late at night. But then, appearances are sometimes deceptive. You must
see that it is my duty to inquire very closely into the antecedents of
everybody more or less directly interested in the crime. Now, how long
has Mr. Crafton been a member of your club, and what do you know about
his past? What does he do, and from where does his income arise?"

"That is rather a large order," Clift smiled. "Crafton was a member here
before I took over the secretaryship, and, as far as I know, he is a man
of private means. At any rate, he never seems to be short of money, and
always pays his bills regularly."




CHAPTER X.


"IS he a man who travels much?" Lashbrook asked.

"Well--yes, I should say so. You see, most of our members do. That is
why we call ourselves the Wanderlust Club. We have members of every
nationality all over the world. They come; they go; they compare notes.
Here to-day and gone to-morrow sort of thing, and a good many of them
are pretty reticent. I know that a whole skein of our members were
interned during the war, and most of them are back now, just as if
nothing had happened."

"Yes, I have heard all that," Lashbrook said thoughtfully. "Now, Mr.
Clift, I want you to try and help me."

"All I can do, of course," Clift murmured.

"Thank you very much. I want you to find out all you can about Mr.
Crafton's coming and goings during the last six years. You can trace the
times he was in England or abroad by looking up his accounts in your
book. I need hardly say that you will be paid for all your trouble. I
suppose you can manage that all right."

"It's only a matter of time," Clift agreed.

"Very well, then. Perhaps in the course of the next week or so you can
post me all these details to an address I will give you, and, in the
interval, I want you to make cautious inquiries amongst your servants
and waiters as to whether any of them has ever seen Mr. Crafton in
conversation with the murdered man."

"Still harping upon Crafton as a potential criminal, what?"

"Nothing of the kind, my dear fellow, nothing of the kind. I am only
following the old-fashioned advice which tells us to leave no stone
unturned. It is the rule of the police to suspect everybody. It is just
possible that I may be keeping an eye upon you yourself."

"Don't try and alarm me," Clift smiled. "Anyhow, you can rely upon me to
do anything in my power to help you."

With that Lashbrook took his way along the street with a feeling that he
had been by no means wasting his time. The information he had gleaned
both in Martin lane, and also at the Wanderlust Club had been startling
enough in all conscience, but it left him in rather a muddled frame of
mind. It would be a long time before he arranged his discoveries into a
logical sequence.

To begin with, what en earth was the mystery behind that secret safe
which Colonel Heaton had been renting? And why did a man like that, who
was a typical English sportsman and a gentleman, need so furtive a
subterfuge? Perhaps that most important point would be solved when the
safe came to be opened, and Lashbrook put it out of his mind for the
moment. But he could not prevent himself from speculating as to how the
key to Heaton's safe found its way into the possession of the murderer
of Andrew Millar. Surely the criminal could not have been aware of the
fact that the automatic had concealed in its handle the key to a safe
which might, or might not contain articles of great value.

AND yet, possibly, Andrew Millar might have known that Col. Heaton was
in possession of a considerable sum of money which, for some reason or
another, he had hidden in a safe deposit because Andrew Millar's brother
had told him, only an hour or so before, that he had letters from his
murdered relative in which he had hinted more than broadly that there
was a fortune awaiting him when once he was free from his Italian
prison. It might be, as Eden Millar had suggested, that this was merely
a bait to extract a little more money, but in the light of what
Lashbrook knew, it looked very much as if Andrew Millar had been
speaking from his book when he wrote those letters to his brother. He
had, sooner or later, succeeded in regaining his freedom, and returned
to England, where he had taken up his residence once more in the
Wanderlust Club. Still, it was evident that, from that time on, he had
made no effort to communicate with his brother, although he was in
possession of 500 in hard cash which he handed over to the secretary
for safe custody.

At this moment Lashbrook paused in his walk, and, turning into the
nearest telephone booth, called up Clift.

"Sorry to worry you again," he said, when he got through. "But I am
going to ask you to undertake another little job. It's Lashbrook
speaking. Recognise my voice, don't you?"

"Yes, that's all right," Clift said. "Go on."

"Well, you know what I asked you to do just now concerning Crafton. I
want you to do exactly the same thing with regard to Andrew Millar. I
want to know how often he has been in the club as a resident since the
beginning of 1914 up to the night of his death. If you will tabulate
that, and let me have it with the other matter, I shall be obliged."

"Right ho," Clift replied. "Anything else?"

Lashbrook responded that that was all there was at the moment, and went
on his way. There was nothing further he could do until he had seen
Klein once more, and that was impossible until the latter came back from
his trip to Manchester.

The same afternoon that Klein returned, Lashbrook made it his business
to repair to Scotland Yard, where he found him seated at his desk, and
ready to hear all that he had to say.

"And that's not very much, I expect, is it?" Klein asked.

"Well, sir," Lashbrook said, in his most official manner, "it all
depends what you call very much. However, let me show you what I have
done, and then we can discuss the matter further."

With that remark, Lashbrook took the automatic from his pocket and,
pressing the spring, released the handle, at the same time dropping the
safe key and the capsule on the table.

"What the devil--" Klein said under his breath.

Lashbrook went on to explain at considerable length. He did not conceal
anything from Klein, except the torn photograph, the section of which he
had at that moment in his waistcoat pocket. But he did speak freely
enough as to what Rothbarth had told him, and the result of his
conversation with Eden Millar in the Wanderlust Club. But it was what he
had to say with regard to the safe deposit and Colonel Heaton which
seemed to interest Klein more than all the rest of the story put
together.

"Well, you certainly haven't lost any time," he said. "If you go on like
this, you will be one of our brightest ornaments before long. Now, what
do you make of it? Are you going to suggest that Millar was murdered
with the weapon, the hidden secret of which was unknown to the murderer?
In other words, that he was shot by Crafton, who quite coolly stood by
the body till you came along."

"I am not going as far as that," Lashbrook said cautiously. "Though I do
think that Crafton and Millar and my old friend, the late Colonel
Heaton, were all mixed up in some way together in this mysterious
business. What that business was we haven't the slightest means of
discovering, but I have a very shrewd suspicion that it was not entirely
unconnected with the Great War."

"Good lad," Klein said approvingly. "That is exactly the point that
occurred to me. But how, when, and where? You see, there are lots of
members of the Wanderlust Club who were engaged on mysterious missions
between 1914-18. A pretty queer lot they are at the Wanderlust. I dare
say a good many of them know what it means to be inside a jail--a
reckless crowd, to whom spying and all that kind of thing would appeal
instinctively, especially if there was a handsome reward attached to it.
See what I mean?"

"Absolutely," Lashbrook said. "Now, I was wondering if we couldn't get
the War Office to help us."

"In what way?" Klein asked.

"Well, it's through the War Office or the Foreign Office that our Secret
Service works and, in a case like this, I should say that they would be
only too glad to help, especially as Colonel Heaton belonged to the
latter branch. His daughter says--"

"It doesn't matter two straws what his daughter says," Klein interrupted
very emphatically. "You will find that the Foreign Office won't help us
an inch. You can try it, if you like, but you will find yourself up
against a blank wall over which it is impossible to climb. The Foreign
Office will tell you blandly that there is no such thing as a Secret
Service, or if, unfortunately, there is such an organisation, then that
is the first they have heard of it. Why, my dear boy, for all the war
has been over these many years, if Miss Heaton went to the Foreign
Office and asked how her father lost his life, then they would not tell
her. Even if she could prove that the Colonel met an untimely end by a
bullet or a rope in a foreign country, where he was engaged in
espionage, they would gaze at her blankly and tell her in diplomatic
language that there never was a Colonel Heaton who had anything to do
with that mythical Secret Service. Of course, as I said before, you can
try if you like, but, if you learn anything definite, then you will
succeed where I, with the Chief Commissioner's weight behind me, have
failed on two important occasions."

"You are not very encouraging, sir," Lashbrook said. "At any rate, we
can go along together and open that safe."

"Ah, now you are talking," Klein said, as he jumped to his feet. "Come
along. It won't take us many minutes."

A few words with the manager of the safe deposit company and the two men
were before the object of their search. Klein turned the key in the lock
and threw open the door, disclosing a number of grey paper bags with
certain characters on them. Into one he dipped his hand and produced a
number of gold coins. Rapidly he calculated the number of bags and their
contents.

"At least 20,000 in gold coins," he exclaimed. "And, by Jove, German
coins, too. Gold marks. And here is a strange thing. So far as I can
see, there isn't one of them that is dated antecedent to the year 1912."




CHAPTER XI.


INSPECTOR KLEIN said very little as he and his subordinate drove back to
Scotland Yard, and it was only when the two were shut up in the former's
private room that he dropped his official manner and spoke to Lashbrook
in friendly fashion.

"Now, young fellow," he said. "Will you kindly tell me what you make of
this little discovery?"

"Well, sir," Lashbrook replied. "I hoped to hear your views before I go
any farther."

"I think we had better drop that official business as long as we are
alone together," Klein said. "All very well when other people are about,
but, there is no getting away from the fact that you and I were on much
the same level during the war, and we did a good deal in the cause. Now,
as far as I can gather, you know quite a lot about the late Colonel
Heaton. One of these coincidences which the critical faculty ignores,
but which are deucedly useful to us police from time to time. Now, tell
me as much, as you can about Colonel Heaton's past life."

With that Philip went on to tell his superior officer a vast amount of
detail concerning his youth, and how, in those days before the war, he
and the colonel had been the best of friends. He spoke of his gallant
neighbour, and, incidentally, brought in the name of Mary Heaton, at
which Klein smiled.

"Oh, yes," he said. "Miss Heaton. I understand you ran against her quite
unexpectedly within the last few days. Now, would you mind telling me
what sort of a young lady she is?'"

With a suggestion of colour in his face Philip complied. He attempted to
make the description as bald as possible, but he could see that his
superior was not in the least deceived.

"Ah, quite a little love story in its way, eh?" Klein smiled, "The
pretty child grown into a beautiful woman. Self-reliant, and getting her
own living. There is the making of a romance here, Lashbrook. Only I
wouldn't allow it to interfere with your professional duties, if I were
you. Plenty of time for that."

"Well, there it is," Philip said. "Now, what I want to find out is this?
What are we to assume from the discovery we made with regard to those
gold marks, all of which must have been issued from the German mint
before the war?"

"Isn't that pretty obvious, my boy?"

"Well, I think it is," Phillip went on. "Colonel Heaton was engaged in
Secret Service work long before the war. I know that, because the last
time I saw Miss Heaton we discussed the matter. His strange absences
from home--sometimes they lasted for a day or two, and sometimes they
lasted for weeks or months. And, so far as I can gather, it was only at
rare intervals that his daughter heard from him when he was away. Then
there was the mysterious visit from the man with the black moustache I
have just been telling you about. I think it is a fair assumption,
therefore, that the colonel was working on behalf of the country."

"In other words, a spy."

"Yes, and not a nice word either. Still, I suppose that is about what it
comes to. A spy, from the foreigner's point of view, and a hero who
risks his life from ours. But don't you think we are wasting time, sir?
It is pretty plain to me that, sometime previous to 1914, a considerable
sum of money in German currency was placed at the disposal of Colonel
Heaton for some national purpose. He must have been trusted implicitly
by his superiors, which was only natural, because he was a man of the
highest integrity. My idea is that that money was placed at his
disposal, so that he could draw upon it from time to time without going
near to the heads of the mysterious Secret Service and asking for cash."

"On the whole, a fair assumption."

"Very well, then. Let us go on and presume that the Colonel met his
death before he had finished some big work, and that is why we found so
much gold in the safe."

"Yes, I think you are precisely right," Klein said thoughtfully.
"Anyway, it's a pretty tangle. Here we have a man like Andrew Millar,
killed in the street by a more or less mysterious character, and his
body found by another mysterious character, who gives the name of Selby
Crafton. Then, within a few hours, coincidence steps in again and you,
who practically found the body, managed to get hold of the weapon with
which he was killed. I am assuming, mind you, that there is no question
whatever about that. And then another tangle comes in. I mean, finding
the key concealed in the automatic, which key reveals to us that hidden
store of gold. Now, obviously, that key belonged to Colonel Heaton, who
must have known the secret hiding place in the handle of the
automatic--in other words, Andrew Millar was killed by a weapon that
belonged to Colonel Heaton. Dash it, it must have been Heaton's weapon,
or he would never have concealed the key of the safe in it. Now, how on
earth did that weapon manage to find its way into the possession of the
murderer? And why didn't he go to Martin Lane and collect the treasure
that was waiting for an owner? The ostensible owner was dead, so that
there was nothing in his way."

"Quite right, sir," Lashbrook said. "But isn't it equally obvious that
the man who had that weapon had not the least idea of what was hidden in
the handle of the automatic?"

"Of course, he hadn't, which makes it all the more amazing. Now, let us
assume, for a moment, that Andrew Millar knew something about Colonel
Heaton. We know, now, that towards the end of the war and for a year or
two afterward, Millar was in an Italian prison. It ought not to be
difficult to find out why, and how it was he came to be released without
any charge being brought against him. It is all pretty vague, but I
think if we can establish the fact that Colonel Heaton was engaged upon
espionage work in Italy, or somewhere beyond the frontier, there was
some kind of connection between himself and the man who was murdered in
Mansfield street. I would suggest that you see Miss Heaton and ask her
if she had ever heard from her father when he was in Italy."

"Yes, I think I can see what you are driving at," Lashbrook said. "I
will go round to her office presently and have a chat with her.
Meanwhile, what are you going to do about that German gold?"

"Nothing," Klein said curtly. "It's no use worrying about that. I am
ready to give long odds that that money will never be claimed by
anybody. Of course, there are a dozen people in England and men in high
places, too, who know all about it. But they would deny it unblushingly
if the matter were mentioned. I suppose your idea is to go to the
Foreign Office and see if you can find out when and where and why that
money was given to Heaton?"

"Well, I did think of it," Philip admitted.

"Ah, well, you can save your breath to cool your porridge, as the Scots
say. Have a try, if you like; in fact, I will give you a note of
introduction to one of the Foreign Office secretaries. But nothing will
ever come of it."

Armed with this document, Philip set off presently with a view to
calling on Mary, and afterwards doing the best he could with one of the
Foreign Office mandarins. He found Mary in a small suite of offices off
the Strand, where three or four girls were busy typing, and, in an inner
room, Mary herself, together with her chief assistant, whom she
introduced as Linda Waller.

Miss Waller was a slight, romantic-looking woman in the early thirties,
who looked up with an interested eye through big, horn-rimmed spectacles
as she heard Philip's name mentioned. She had seemingly heard something
of him and his profession, and was evidently thrilled to find herself
face to face with a real live detective.

"It's quite an adventure to meet you, Mr. Lashbrook," she said. "I have
never come in contact with a Scotland Yard official before. You don't
know how excited I am."

"Linda is a romanticist," Mary laughed. "I suppose she reads every
detective story that is written."

"Well, she is in pretty good company," Philip smiled. "I understand that
a great many of our leading men are prone to the same sort of weakness.
But I can assure you, Miss Waller, that there is very little that is
romantic in my business."

"Oh, please don't say that!" the little woman cried excitedly. "I should
never enjoy another book or a film dealing with crime again if you made
me believe that. Do you know that, if there is one thing I love more
than another, it is typing a crime story. We get a great many of them
here, from time to tine, and I always put them on one side to deal with
myself. And then, when I read them in magazines afterwards, it is nice
to feel that I saw them before anybody else."

"Yes," Mary explained. "We rather specialise in author's work in this
office. The woman from whom I bought this business is the daughter of a
novelist, so that she started with quite a literary clientele. We still
have it, I am thankful to say. But you didn't come and interrupt us in
the middle of our business to talk about detective stories, did you?"

"No, I came to ask you one or two questions with regard to your father,"
Philip explained. "It is a most remarkable thing, but he seems to have
been in some way mixed up with that Mansfield street murder. That is, of
course, indirectly."

Miss Waller gave a little cry of delight.

"How thrilling!" she breathed. "But, then, perhaps, you want to speak to
Miss Heaton alone?"

"It doesn't matter," Philip said. "You can stay if you like--only don't
discuss what you hear outside."




CHAPTER XII.


FOR the moment, at any rate, it was not Lashbrook's intention to say
anything about the discovery of those gold marks in Martin lane. All he
wanted to know was whether or not Mary had had any letters, or could
recollect any letters, that her father had written from Italy, either
just previous to the war, or during the course of hostilities.

"Now, let me see if I can remember," Mary said. "I did have letter from
my father occasionally when he was away on his mysterious journeys. But
they were few and far between, and never with addresses on them. For
some reason best known to himself, he did not desire that I should write
to him at any particular place. If anything extraordinary transpired,
then I was to write to him and address my letters through the medium of
some mysterious agents in London--Box something or another, you know
what I mean."

Philip knew exactly what she meant.

"And then, you see," Mary went on, "nothing extraordinary ever did
transpire, so that I had no occasion to use the medium of those agents.
But, when I come to think of it, I did have two letters at intervals. I
can't tell you what the postmark was, because I was never curious enough
to look. But I know that they both bore Italian postage stamps. Oh, yes,
and once one with an Austrian stamp."

Here was a bit of interesting information, though Lashbrook showed no
signs of the fact as he listened. He asked a few more questions and then
turned to go.

"What, are you leaving us already?" Linda Waller said disappointedly.
"Oh, do stop a bit and tell us something about that mysterious affair in
Mansfield street."

"I would if I could," Philip said, with an evasive smile. "I should like
to know a lot more about it myself. Now, perhaps you can help me, Miss
Waller."

"The very idea," the little woman giggled. "But do you know, Mr.
Lashbrook, when I read all about that murder in the papers, it struck
rather a familiar note. It seemed to me that I had heard somewhere or
another about a crime on exactly similar lines. I mean, the man lying
dead there and the other man in evening dress who called a passing
policeman's attention to the body. I am quite sure that I have heard
something like it before."

"In your reading, perhaps," Philip suggested.

"That's it," Miss Waller cried delightedly. "No, not something I had
read, but something I had typed, years ago. A story by some author whose
name I have forgotten, and who has probably never been heard of since.
Not a popular author, or I should not have forgotten it. Now, what was
the name of that story? Let me think. Yes, I have it. It was 'The Man
Who Knew.'"

"Now, that is rather interesting," Lashbrook murmured. "Do you happen to
remember any details of that story?"

"No, I can't say I do," she said regretfully. "But I think I can do
better than that. I think, if I make a careful search, I can find a copy
of the original."

"I should think that is highly probable," Mary remarked. "You see,
Philip, we do a good deal of work for authors from time to time and we
find them exceedingly careless with regard to their manuscript. So it is
our practice to take a carbon copy of all the stories we type in the way
of business and file them. There must be hundreds hidden away in a big
cupboard out on the landing. If you like, I will get Linda to look this
particular story up."

"I wish you would," Philip said. "I don't suppose for a moment anything
will come of it, but you never know. At any rate, it is rather
remarkable that somebody or another, at some time or another, has
written a story precisely on the lines of the Mansfield street murder.
Now, Miss Waller, if you don't mind, I will come back in a day or two in
the hope that you have been successful."

Miss Waller expressed her determination to do her best, and Lashbrook
departed presently with the idea of going as far as the Foreign Office
where, possibly, he might be able to carry his investigations a step or
two further.

Half an hour later, he found himself cooling his heels in a dreary
waiting-room before an immaculate youth came along with the intimation
that General Evanson would see him. This, of course, he owed entirely to
the note that Klein had given him. Upstairs in a luxuriously furnished
room, a little man, with grey hair and moustache, regarded him
distastefully through a highly polished monocle and asked him with
staccato rudeness, what he needed.

"Well, sir," Lashbrook said. "I think Inspector Klein's letter will
explain that. And if you can give me any information I shall be more
than obliged. You see, this afternoon Inspector Klein and myself visited
a safe deposit in Martin Lane, acting on information received, where we
found a large sum of gold and--"

"Gold, gold?" the General barked. "What on earth have I to do with gold?
You come here, asking us to take an interest in what appears to be a
police case and expect to cross-examine me as if I were in the
witness-box, dammit."

"I am very sorry, sir, to find that you have that impression," Philip
said. "But you see, we have every reason to believe that the money in
question was part of a sum handed over to the late Colonel Heaton in
connection with the Secret--"

"Secret--secret, sir. What on earth do we know about secrets here? Don't
you understand that this is the Foreign Office, where we have no
secrets? And even if we had, those fellows in the House of Commons would
soon drag them out of the Foreign Secretary. And who the deuce is
Colonel Heaton?"

"Colonel Heaton, sir," Philip said, with quiet determination, "was a
gallant officer who died in his country's service. I have that from his
sole representative. Therefore, as I had the honour to be attached
indirectly to the Service in question during the War, I have no
delusions. As to the circumstances in which my old friend laid down his
life--I need not remind you, sir, that an intimation from the Foreign
Office that a trusted officer has died in the interests of his country
means one thing and one thing only. That is why I am here in search of
information."

The little officer tapped his table impatiently.

"Don't you come here, sir, talking to me like that. If you think you are
going to bully me, you are greatly mistaken. I know nothing about a
Colonel Heaton, and, egad, I shall be very much surprised if you find
anyone under this roof who is not equally ignorant. And as to that money
you speak of, why, it is nothing to do with us. It has nothing to do
with the Secret Service, and if, as you maintain, a certain Colonel
Heaton died, leaving behind him a large sum of money in his safe, for
which nobody can account, then all I can say is that the Colonel's
family are lucky, devilish lucky."

Philip made one more attempt. He knew that he was up against a blank
wall, as Klein had told him he would be, but he was not going to give in
without one last struggle.

"The money I speak of sir, was in German gold marks, all minted before
the war. Perhaps that may induce you--"

"What, trying to bully me again? What have we to do with German gold
marks? If this mysterious Colonel Heaton liked to buy foreign gold and
hide it away in a safe there was nothing to stop him."

With that, the General smote on a bell, and immediately a subordinate
came into the room. The General turned to him.

"Take this man to No. 1056," he said.

Just that, and nothing more, so that a minute or two later, Philip found
himself standing opposite a short, chubby-looking individual, whose
hard, flinty, grey eyes seemed to belie the humorous lines about the
corner of his mouth. Philip had not the slightest notion to whom he was
talking, nor did the individual in question condescend to give his name.

"Yes," the grey-eyed man said crisply. "I have a fair idea of why you
are here, and, if you take my advice, you will just say, 'Good
afternoon' and go about your business. I may tell you that this is a
department where nobody knows anything. Worse than the Circumlocution
Office that Dickens wrote about."

"But you don't seem to understand," Philip protested. "Here am I, a
police officer, with the authority of Scotland Yard behind me, asking
for information which may lead to the conviction of the Mansfield street
murderer. I suppose even your department might have heard something
about that crime."

The humorous mouth trembled slightly, but there was no sign of amusement
in those flinty grey eyes.

"We admit nothing," the official said. "And we deny nothing. Tell me
your story, if you like."

For the second time, Philip went over the information that he had at his
command. He finished up by saying that he was personally acquainted with
some of the workings of the Secret Service.

"Quite an interesting story," the listener said drily. "But I can assure
you, my dear fellow, that we know nothing about Colonel Heaton or his
movements, nor how that German gold found its way into the Colonel's
possession. Nobody knows, and nobody ever will know. Tell me, about how
much money is there, and whether Colonel Heaton left any representatives
behind him."

Philip explained that the gold was worth about 20,000, and that Heaton
had left one daughter behind him. The flinty-eyed official rose from his
chair, and, taking Philip in quite a friendly arm, led him as far as the
door.

"My congratulations to Miss Heaton," he said. "A charming girl, I have
no doubt. Yes, I can see that you think so. In these hard times 20,000
is not to be sneezed at."




CHAPTER XIII.


MARY an heiress, Mary, a young and beautiful woman with an independent
income and, so far beyond the reach of a mere unit more or less
connected with the C.I.D. Mary with a fortune thrown into her lap, so
that she could turn her back upon those little rooms in Norfolk street,
Strand, and go back again, if she so pleased, to the country life that
she loved. There was no doubt whatever that, sooner or later, all that
gold in the Martin lane safe would be hers, to do as she liked with.
Philip knew quite enough about the ways and methods of the Secret
Service to realise that the treasure would never be claimed.

These rather melancholy thoughts occurred to him over and over again as
he made his way slowly along Whitehall once more in the direction of
Scotland Yard. It seemed to him that, as far as the interviews at the
Foreign Office were concerned, he had been more or less wasting his
time. Who the individual was he had interviewed last he had not the
slightest idea, neither did it matter much. At any rate, the man, though
known by number only, was evidently one who spoke with authority, and
his word would have to be accepted as final. All this Philip presently
confided to Klein, who listened with a sort of smiling sympathy.

"Just what I expected," he said. "I knew you would do no good by your
visit to the Foreign Office, and I could have told you before you
started--in fact, I did tell you--that you would learn exactly as much
as you have done. Bit of a blow for you, Lashbrook, isn't it?"

"In what way?" Lashbrook asked.

"I am not talking about your professional investigations now. I mean as
far as the young lady is concerned."

"Yes, I see what you mean," Philip said. "It does make a difference. I
don't even know where I stand. I don't mind telling you, my dear Klein,
as between friends, that I am more than interested in a certain lady who
shall be nameless. A few days ago, I should not have considered myself
in any way barred from speaking my mind, but now that the object of our
conversation is an heiress, it is a different thing altogether."

"Oh, I don't know," Klein said with a smile. "After all, 20,000 is not
a fortune, as things go nowadays. And a detective-sergeant at Scotland
Yard, who happens to be a man who has held His Majesty's commission and
has a brilliant career before him, is entitled to regard himself as good
enough for any woman."

"Do you actually mean that?" Philip exclaimed.

"That you are a detective-sergeant under my personal supervision? Yes,
certainly you are. Some people might call it a disgraceful job, but
between ourselves, I have wangled it all right. On your past record, my
boy. Now you are here with the rank I have just mentioned, there is no
reason why you shouldn't go to the top."

Philip expressed his gratitude more or less coherently, but Klein waved
that on one side.

"There is no room for sentiment here," he said. "What you have got to
do, in fact, what you must do, is to get to the bottom of the Mansfield
street murder. There are one or two other officers working on different
clues, but there is no reason why they should get in your way. Besides,
I have a strong suspicion that you have something to work on that is
known to nobody else."

"I have," Philip said, in a confident tone of voice, "I certainly have.
And if you like, I'll tell--"

"Don't you do anything of the kind," Klein interrupted. "Keep it to
yourself. But if you like to tell me, generally, on what lines you are
working, then I shall be glad to listen."

On that, Philip began to speak with regard to what he had heard from the
lips of Molly's dramatic assistant.

"That is rather singular," Klein said. "It may not lead to anything, but
I should certainly follow it up if I were you. And now, if you have
nothing more to say--"

Philip took the hint and vanished. It was a day later before he called
again at the typewriting establishment in Norfolk street, where he
discovered that Mary was out on some business or another, though Miss
Waller seemed delighted to see him.

"Well, have you found that story!" he asked.

"Oh, yes," Miss Waller exclaimed. "I have the carbon copy here so that
you can read it, if you like. Do you know, Mr. Lashbrook, it is really
remarkable how the story resembles the Mansfield street murder. Here is
a man found dead in a London street, very late at night, and he is
discovered by one who, apparently, has no connection whatever with him.
A gentleman in evening dress who is on the way back to his club. He
calls a policeman and, together, they view the body. Nobody would
possibly guess that the finder was the actual murderer, and the truth
would never have been discovered but for an ingenious clue, which is the
undoing of the criminal. In the case in question, the victim was shot
with a revolver and the weapon hidden in a drain close by. But read it
for yourself. It is an excellent story, as I think you will be prepared
to admit."

With this invitation, Philip lost no time in reading the story and, when
he had finished, he looked up in the eager face of Miss Waller and
smiled in a non-committal way.

"Well, what do you think of it?" she gurgled.

"Certainly there is an amazing resemblance between this piece of fiction
and the Mansfield street crime," he admitted. "But you are not going to
suggest that I should immediately arrest Mr. Selby Crafton on the
strength of it? It may be nothing more than a remarkable coincidence and
besides, there is nothing to connect Mr. Crafton with the writer of the
story. By the way, I see that the writer's name is Douglas Hume. Now,
who is Douglas Hume?"

Miss Waller shook her head regretfully.

"I have not the slightest idea," she said. "I typed that story, as I
told you before, and it came to us in the ordinary way of business. I
thought, at first, that that it had been brought to us by the writer
himself. But when I came to turn up the records, I found that it came by
post, accompanied by a postal order which covered the cost of typing.
Then it was sent back to the author in the ordinary way--"

"Yes, that is all very well," Phil interrupted. "But if there is
anything in this clue--and I am going to follow it up to the end--then I
must know the address of the author."

"Ah, that I can't give you," Miss Waller said. "It is two years since
the story was written, and I have forgotten all the circumstances. I
have not the remotest idea of the address to which we were to send the
typed story."

"And you don't even know if it was published or not?"

"Oh, it was published all right. I know that, because I happened to see
the title in a magazine a few months later. But I can't tell you what
the magazine was. All I remember is the title, because it struck me as
being so original and so mysterious."

"Well, there are ways and means of finding that out," Lashbrook said.
"Am I to understand that the author never came to you again? Rather
strange that, if he managed to find an editor who would pay him for his
yarn."

"Well, anyway, we never had another commission from him. And that is all
I can tell you. But don't you think that the whole thing is very
mysterious and striking?"

"You would jump to that conclusion," Phil said. "But don't forget that
there are thousands of short stories written every year, and hundreds of
crimes which may transpire to be much on the same lines as these
figments of an author's invention."

Philip remained a few minutes longer chatting with the romantic young
woman and then went apparently aimlessly on his way, as if he had put
the matter entirely out of his mind.

But he had done nothing of the sort. On the contrary, he was very much
impressed with what he had heard and read, so that presently he turned
his steps in the direction of the British Museum. There, in the
reading-room, he had a conversation with an assistant librarian, at the
same time disclosing his Scotland Yard rank.

"Just a routine matter," he said. "The verification of a bit of
information which may, or may not, lead to important results. Now, if
you will be good enough to show me into a private room where I can make
a thorough search of all the British magazines published during the last
two years, I shall be more than obliged."

"That is quite an easy matter," the librarian said. "If you will come
this way, I will give you every assistance."

For the next three or four hours Philip plodded wearily through a pile
of magazines large enough to fill a good-sized truck. It was getting
dusk before his patience was rewarded.

There, at length, in the September number of the West End Magazine of
two years ago, he found the story entitled 'The Man Who Knew,' under the
signature of Douglas Hume. With this in his possession, he went back to
his rooms, and, on the following morning, went as far as Farringdon
street, whence, from a certain big publishing establishment there, the
West End Magazine was issued.

The editor, no doubt, moved by Philip's professional card, saw him
without delay, and few minutes later the two were seated opposite one
another in the editor's sanctum.

"Anything I can do for you," the latter said. "Of course, if it is a
criminal affair--"

"It may be," Philip said cautiously. "Now do you know anything about an
author called Douglas Hume? He had a story in your September issue two
years ago."




CHAPTER XIV.


THE editor of the West End magazine sat up promptly, and a sudden light
flashed into his somewhat tired eyes.

"Ah, that blackguard!" he said. "If you can give me any information
about him that will put me on his track, I shall be infinitely obliged.
Because, about two and a half years ago, he did me, or my firm, rather,
out of fifteen guineas, and landed me in no end of trouble besides.
After that, he vanished, leaving no trace behind him, and we had to let
it go at that."

"Then you knew the man?" Philip asked.

"Never saw him in my life," the editor said. "My dear fellow, we hardly
ever do see our contributors. Of course, the bigger men come and go--I
mean the writers who are responsible for our serials. Men one meets on
friendly terms and exchanges gossip with at the Savage Club, and places
like that. But the casual contributor sends his work in by post, and it
goes back to him, or is published, as the case may be. If a yarn is
published, then he has his cheque in the course of time, and there is an
end of the matter."

"Then I take it that this particular contributor, Douglas Hume, was one
of those passing writers?"

"Exactly. The story came to me in the ordinary course of business, and I
read and approved of it, because I thought it jolly good. Moreover, I
still think so. I was so pleased with it that I sent a cheque almost at
once, and asked the writer if he had anything else he could send me to
read."

"And did he?" Philip asked.

"Not a line," the editor said. "Nothing. As a matter of fact, he never
wrote the first story even. He lifted it bodily from an American
magazine, published a year or two before, and put his name to it. This
name, of course, was a pseudonym. The mere fact that he called himself
Douglas Hume points to that distinctly."

"Rather a smart dodge, that," Philip commented.

"Yes," the editor snapped. "And a very old one. That trick has been
played upon editors more than once, and, no doubt, will be again. I
didn't know it until I got a lawyer's letter from New York claiming all
sorts of penalties for breach of contract, and it was a bit of good luck
for me that those people over there were content with a humble apology
and a paragraph in my magazine, explaining exactly how I had been
duped."

"I see. But why didn't you prosecute?"

"Now, isn't that rather a simple question for a detective to ask?" the
editor demanded. "You don't suppose the lowdown smarties who work that
trick ever use their own names, or even the address where they can be
found. No, my dear sir, they write under a nom-de-plume, and the address
they give is generally an accommodation one. A little tobacconist's or
news shop, in some obscure part of the town."

"I am obliged to you for that hint," Philip said. "Though I ought to
have suspected something of the kind. Now, Mr. Edmunds, let us come down
to business. I dare say you have been wondering all this time why I have
been so interested in the individual who foisted that story off on you.
I suppose you can give me this address, or, at least, the address to
which the cheque was sent."

"Yes, I think I can do that," the editor said. "It is not in my
department, but downstairs in the cashier's office they are pretty sure
to be able to trace the particular cheque for that story and the address
to which it was sent. Yes, they would make a note of the address in case
the cheque happened to be lost or stolen. If you are not in a particular
hurry, I will get one of my assistants to run down to the cashier's
office and inquire."

It was rather a long job, but, at the end of a quarter of an hour, the
assistant returned to the editor's office, with a slip of paper which he
handed to his chief.

"Here you are, Mr. Lashbrook," the latter said. "The address is 199,
Victoria Place, Camberwell. And if you can succeed in laying your hands
on our friend, Douglas Hume, then I shall feel under a personal
obligation, I suppose it is no use asking what he has done?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, I don't quite know myself," Philip smiled.
"But you may rest assured that I shall do my best to obtain an interview
with Mr. Douglas Hume, and I shan't be happy until I do so. You shall
know all in good time, the more so because it is probable that I shall
want you, later on, as a police witness."

"With all the pleasure in life," Edmunds said grimly. "I would give a
month's pay cheerfully, to find myself in the witness box with Mr.
Douglas Hume in the dock opposite me."

With this information in his possession, Philip was presently on his way
to Camberwell. He had been quite prepared to hear that the story in
question had been sent with a view to publication anonymously, and also
from an accommodation address. But the idea of lifting stories from
foreign magazines and planting them on English editors was knowledge to
him. He jumped off the 'bus presently and threaded his way through a
number of more or less mean streets until he came, at length, to
Victoria Place.

In spite of its high sounding name, it was little more than a slum, made
up of tenement houses, and one or two wretched shops, so small and
ill-stocked that it was a wonder how the keepers thereof contrived to
extract a bare living from them. No. 199 itself was a shade more
respectable than the rest, with a small window on each side of the door,
one filled with cheap sweets, and the other with newspapers and tobacco.
A big, over-blown female with a dirty face and watery eye, regarded
Philip suspiciously as he made his way into the shop and asked to see
the proprietor.

"Mr. Heron on the premises?'" he queried.

"No, 'e ain't," the woman snapped. "And, wot's more, 'e won't be back
for two or three days. Gorn dahn inter the country 'e 'as."

"Quite sure of that?" Philip demanded.

"Nah, look 'ere, guv'nor," the woman shrilled. "Don't you come 'ere
bullyin' me like that. I'm a respectable woman, I am, and me an' 'Eron
'as bin 'ere the last 16 years. An' 'oo may you be, if I may make so
bold to arsk? Comin' inter my shop and arskin' all sort of questions.
Answer me that, Nosey Parker."

By way of reply, Philip laid his official card on the counter. At the
mere sight of it the big woman wilted, and all the fight went out of
her. It was as if she had been a balloon suddenly pricked, so completely
did she collapse across the counter.

"I am sure I beg your pardon, sir," she said. "But I bin that worried
lately, I don't know whether I stand on my 'ead or my 'eels."

"I am sorry to hear it," Philip said abruptly. "But answer my question,
please. Where is your husband, and where can I see him?"

"Well, in a manner of speakin', you can see 'im at any time and in a
manner of speakin' you can't see 'im at all," the woman said. "Becos'
'Eron, you see, 'e's in Wandsworth Gaol."

"Wandsworth Gaol, eh?" Philip asked. "Convicted, or under remand, which?
And what's the charge?"

The woman explained that the partner of her joys and sorrows was on
remand in the prison in question, charged with being concerned with two
other men in connection with a robbery of silver plate from a country
house somewhere in Sussex.

"Ah, in that case, I think I had better go and see him," Philip said.
"Now look here, my good woman, I happen to know that you have been in
the habit of receiving letters here for different individuals who are
too modest to use their own addresses. You know what I mean. This sort
of thing has been going on for a long time and, no doubt, on more than
one occasion, robberies have been planned by this means."

"We do 'ave letters sometimes," the woman confessed, "an' we charges
two-pence apiece for the accommodation. But, lor' bless yer, sir, we
never knows wot those letters contains. It ain't no business of ours
wotever."

"No," Philip agreed. "Perhaps not. Now, I want you to cast your mind
back a year or two. Do you happen to remember letters coming here for a
man called Douglas Hume? Now, don't be in a hurry to answer and don't
try to lie to me. Because it is just possible, if you are amenable to
reason, that I might be able to make things a bit easier for your
husband, if you are disposed to assist me."

Philip had seen plainly enough that the woman had been on the verge of
prevarication, but when he spoke about her husband, she changed her mind
and almost smiled.

"Well, sir," she said. "Somehow or another, the name sounds familiar.
Let me think a bit. There was a gentleman as come down 'ere and arsks us
to take letters for him. The first time 'e come was about a year before
the War. Come reglur, 'e did for some months, and then we never seed 'im
again. Leastwise, not till 'bout two years ago, when 'e sends my old man
'arf a crown and tells us to forward letters as we got addressed 'ere to
another place in the West End. Which we did for two or three weeks and
then there come no more letters and none 'as come since."

"Did you make a note of that West End address?"

"I dare say we did at the time, but it is so long ago that there ain't
no trace of it left. It's no use, sir, I can't for the life of me think
where them letters was to be sent to."

That the woman was speaking the truth, Philip felt sure. Then another
idea flashed into his brain.

"You were speaking just now about what happened before the War," he
said. "I suppose from time to time, you have had a good many people
whose letters were addressed here. Any Germans amongst them?"

"That's a funny thing, sir," the woman said. "But we noticed as there
was quite a lot of Germans using the 'ouse for their letters. And a
queer lot they was."




CHAPTER XV.


IT seemed to Lashbrook when he turned his back upon the shabby little
shop in Camberwell that he had, by accident, hit upon one of the German
mediums by which certain individuals, more or less connected with the
Berlin Secret Service had communicated with their headquarters prior to
the war. At least, that is what Heron's wife had intimated when she had
been brought to reason and forced to speak more or less plainly.
Perhaps, if this was followed up, it would be possible to unravel the
tangled skein of mystery that surrounded the death of Andrew Millar.
There would be a lot to do yet before it was possible to lay the actual
criminal by the heels.

Up to a certain point there were indications that Selby Crafton might be
the murderer himself. And yet, on the other hand, there was nothing very
definite to go upon, even with the evidence of that magazine story
before him. To begin with, he had, as yet, not the slightest evidence
that the story had been written by Crafton, though he was practically
certain that, whoever it was who had played that trick on the editor of
the West End Magazine, was using a pseudonym to conceal his identity.

At the same time, it was just possible that the man, who at that moment
was languishing in Wandsworth Prison, might be able to speak more
definitely. If he could be induced to open his mouth on the promise to
make things easier for him at the forthcoming trial, then another piece
of the puzzle might be fitted into its proper place. At any rate there
was no hurry, and Lashbrook decided to move in another direction before
obtaining permission from the authorities to call upon Heron in
Wandsworth Gaol.

In the first place, he wanted to see Molly and tell her something about
the safe in Martin-lane, and what its contents meant to her. So far he
had not had an opportunity of mentioning the key which he had found in
the handle of the automatic. Indeed, there was no reason why he should,
because, when he had made that discovery through Rothbarth, he had not
dreamt that the key might turn out to be one of the most important
pieces of evidence in the series of clues, leading to the identity of
Andrew Millar's murderer. So Philip made a few inquiries in another
direction altogether, and it was not until the end of the week that he
went round to the offices in Norfolk street once more. That was on a
Saturday morning, when he found Molly had returned and was now clearing
up for the week with the idea of going off presently for an all too
brief holiday.

"It seems to me I have come just in time," Lashbrook said. "What do you
generally do with yourself at week-ends?"

Molly replied that it depended more or less upon the weather. If it was
fine, as this particular weekend appeared likely to be, then she usually
attended a matinee with an evening show to follow, and, on the Sunday, a
day with some friend or other not too far away from London, in some spot
that was not too popular. By which she meant overcrowded with sightseers
and trippers.

"Then you have no definite arrangements?" Philip asked.

"None whatever," Molly smiled.

"Then, perhaps, you will allow me to plan out a campaign for you,"
Philip suggested. "You can pick your own theatres or places of
entertainment, and to-morrow we can go off somewhere for the day in a
car. No, it isn't my car, but one that belongs to a friend of mine, who
lends it to me when he is not using it himself. He is in Paris just now,
so that I am free to borrow it. How does the idea strike you?"

"I should love it," Molly said enthusiastically.

"Very well. I am more or less at a loose end till Monday morning, though
I have one or two little things to do which will occupy my time till
about half-past 2. Then I can come round to your rooms and pick you up,
and we will spend the rest of the day in London just as you please.
Then, to-morrow, we will go to Hindhead, or some place like that, and
take our own provisions. I'll leave you to get them. Just a simple lunch
and a thermos flask, so that we can get a cup of tea in the afternoon
far away from the madding crowd. After that, back again in the evening
at our leisure."

"Lovely," Mollie cried enthusiastically. "It will be just like old times
to have you all to myself once more."

She looked up into his face with a smile that set his heart beating a
little faster, and caused him to stammer something more or less
incoherent in reply. He was her devoted slave now, and ready to obey her
slightest whim, though it only seemed the other day that the positions
had been entirely reversed. Strange that the passing of a few years
should have made all that difference.

So they passed the afternoon watching the comedy that Molly had
selected, and after that, another theatre followed. Then the Sunday
morning dawned, bright and clear, with a promise of a perfect day. So it
comes about that, some time in the afternoon the two were seated on an
open space, not far from the Hindhead Golf Links, where it seemed as if
they had the whole world to themselves. They talked about various
intimate things until, presently, the conversation veered round to the
Mansfield street murder.

"No, I can't say that I have made any very definite progress," Philip
said in reply to a question from Molly. "I feel pretty sure that I am on
the right track, but, for the present, the path ends more or less in a
blind alley."

"Won't you tell me something about it?" Molly asked. "Or perhaps you
would rather not talk State secrets even to me."

"I ought not to," Philip said. "But I am going to do so, all the same.
My dear girl, do you know I honestly believe that you have been,
indirectly, the cause of the first direct thread. I am alluding to the
story Miss Waller told me with regard to 'The Man Who Knew'."

Molly opened her eyes very widely.

"'The Man Who Knew'," she echoed. "That suggests all sorts of
possibilities. It might even mean the man who knew all about the
Mansfield street murder."

"I think that is more than probable. Now, let me tell you a few things.
You remember my telling you about the way in which the automatic, which
undoubtedly killed Andrew Millar, came into my hands."

"Of course I do," Molly exclaimed.

"Very well, then. That automatic is a very peculiar one. It was
manufactured in Germany for the use of the Secret Service there, and
abandoned during the war because--at least I think because--one of them
fell into English hands. I know as a fact that a weapon of this type
belonged to your father."

"To my father!" Molly echoed. "My father?"

"Yes, to your father. He had it once, and I presume it remained in his
possession for a considerable time. And then he either lost it or handed
it over to someone for some purpose which I have yet to ascertain. Any
rate, he had it."

"But how on earth do you know that?"

Whereupon, Philip went on to explain how he had taken his old friend and
college companion, Rothbarth, into his confidence, and thus the key to
the safe had come into his hands.

"Yes, that is all very well," Molly said. "But how do you know that that
key belonged to my father?"

"Well, I knew that, because the key was that belonging to a safe in a
deposit in Martin-lane. In fact, the name of the safe deposit was
stamped on the bow of the key. And then, to my astonishment, when I came
to make inquiries in Martin-lane, I discovered that the key belonged to
Colonel Heaton. After that, it was our positive duty to have the safe
opened, and to examine the contents. I took the precaution of asking
Inspector Klein to accompany me and, together, we explored the safe. But
you will never guess what we found inside."

"Oh, do go on," Molly cried excited. "You don't know to what extent you
are arousing my curiosity."

"Well, there was nothing inside, except a number of paper bags, each
containing a lot of gold coins. We estimated that those coins are worth
at least 20,000."

"It sounds incredible," Molly murmured. "Why, my dear old dad never had
that much money in his life. When he died, there was practically
nothing, except a thousand, with which I was enabled to train myself and
buy my business. And now you tell me that all that money was found in a
safe in Martin-lane."

"Yes, where it has been for years," Philip interrupted. "And, if I am
not greatly mistaken, a lot more besides, at one time."

"But why? For what object? He never gave me the slightest hint that he
was a comparatively rich man."

"He wasn't," Philip replied drily. "You see, that money didn't belong to
him at all. It wasn't English gold. It consisted entirely of German gold
marks, and, so far as we know, there is not a coin amongst them which
was not minted prior to the war. Don't you see what that means, Molly?"

"No, I don't," Molly said wondering.

"Well, it was like this. Your father was a member of the Secret Service.
If you didn't know that definitely before he died you knew it when you
got that cold, official intimation that he had perished in the service
of his country. Now, my interpretation of the whole thing is this.
Colonel Heaton was trusted implicitly by his superiors, who gave him the
handling of considerable sums of money wherewith to purchase military
and other information."

"Yes, I begin to understand that," Molly said. "Then you think the money
in the safe formed part of the fund? I suppose the Government will claim
that?"




CHAPTER XVI.


"NO, I don't think they will," Philip smiled. "In fact, I know they
won't. I made it my business to go to the Foreign Office, where I saw
two of the big, brass hats, both of whom treated me with scant ceremony.
I told them what we had found and I intimated pretty plainly that it
must be part of a fund that had been entrusted to Colonel Heaton for
Secret Service purposes. They declined all knowledge of any Colonel
Heaton, indeed, they declined all knowledge of any kind. They told me
that they had nothing to do with the money in the safe, and gave me a
pretty broad hint that they didn't care what became of it. One of these
mandarins went so far as to congratulate Colonel Heaton's daughter on
the fact that she was the mistress of 20,000. And that is absolutely a
fact, Molly. If you were to take that money in your two hands and offer
it to the people at the Foreign Office, they wouldn't look at it. They
would either give you in charge or hand you over to the police as a
wandering lunatic."

Molly turned her eyes upon her companion with undisguised amazement. She
was trying to grasp something which, for the time being, was utterly
beyond her comprehension.

"My dear Philip," she gasped. "What utter nonsense. That money does not
belong to me, and I cannot accept it."

"Then what is to become of it?" Phil asked. "It was deposited by your
father in that safe which he rented long before the War and, so far as I
can see, nobody is in the least likely to claim it. The brass hat I
subsequently interviewed told me quite plainly not to come bothering him
any more; yes he even told me that when I informed him that a little
candour on his part might lead to the arrest of the Mansfield street
murderer. Even that didn't move him. Now, look here, Molly, don't you be
quixotic. Your father died in the services of his country without the
expectation of fee or reward. He did his duty like the fine fellow that
he was, and gave his life unselfishly, with no regret, except that he
was leaving you, practically unprovided for. In cold-blooded English, he
was shot somewhere or another behind the enemy lines as a spy. We know
how different people regard a spy. At any rate, he died and, by an
extraordinary combination of circumstances, a large sum of money, placed
at his disposal by his own government, was left unspent. No doubt, at
some time or another, he asked somebody in authority to provide him with
a large sum in German gold and, doubtless through a mysterious channel,
this was done. I have a feeling that, originally, this German gold
amounted to a very large sum indeed. You can see why it was handed over
to your father. The big people behind him didn't want to be bothered
from time to time with the trouble of obtaining gold marks--oh well, you
see what I mean. At any rate, I am pretty sure that the man I
interviewed finally knew all about it. When I told him what amount of
money we had found he merely shrugged his shoulders. Now, if we had
discovered five times as much, he would probably have displayed some
sort of feeling. I rather gathered from his expression, and I watched
him very carefully, that he was perfectly aware of the fact that your
father had disposed of far the greater part of the sum allotted to him.
And now, Molly, what are you going to do about it?"

"What can I do about it?" Molly asked hopelessly.

A little of the astonishment gradually died out of Molly's eyes, and a
quick, eager expression took its place.

"20,000," she whispered. "That means 1000 a year, Philip. All my very
own if I must take it. Why, I shall dispose of my business to Linda
Waller, who will be only too glad to have the chance of buying it, and
go back to the old place in Kent where I was born. I know that the house
we lived in has been in the market for nearly three years because the
present owners can't sell it, and I would so gladly take it off their
hands. Oh, Phil, fancy being back there again, taking up the life I
liked so well, and knowing that I should have no further anxiety about
money."

"Yes, quite the heiress," Philip laughed none too steadily. "A wealthy
young woman with plenty of friends. Well, no one will grudge you your
good fortune. But, you won't altogether forget the humble policeman in
London who--"

"Forget!" Molly cried. "The very idea. Forget the man who has brought me
this amazing fortune! But for you, I should never have had it. And as if
I could forget you, Phil, in any case. You always came first, and you
always will. Don't you remember those early days when I used to follow
you about like a little dog, those days when you were a big schoolboy
and were so kind and considerate to me. Besides, you are not a common
policeman. You are a Detective-Sergeant at Scotland Yard."

"Yes," Philip said a little ruefully. "A detective-sergeant, with an
income of 6 a week. It won't be my fault if it isn't a good deal more,
one of these early days."

"Of course it will be a good deal more," Molly cried. "You are certain
to end up as a commissioner, or something of that sort. It's no fault of
yours that you have been waiting all this time for your chance. But, if
you like to give it up and look for something in the country, then,
perhaps--"

"Don't tempt me," Philip groaned. "I should like to be with you always,
Molly. It was going to tell you so after Klein had informed me of my
promotion. But this fortune of yours makes all the difference. Something
that has come between us."

Molly turned her glowing eyes on his face.

"Now, look here, Phil," she said. "Look at me and dare to tell me, if
you can, that anything that has happened is likely to make the least
difference to us. What does it matter what you are? What would it matter
if I were worth a million? If you care the least bit for me, and I
believe that you do--"

"More than that," Philip groaned. "I have never forgotten you, Molly,
no, not even during those years of my life when the war came between us,
and I didn't know whether I should ever see my little playmate again.
And then Fate threw us across one another's path, as if determined that
it was to be, and I found that that dear little engaging child had grown
into a beautiful woman."

"As beautiful as all that?" Molly laughed unsteadily.

"Yes, my dear, as beautiful as all that. And then I began to dream
dreams. I began to wonder if it was possible for a detective-sergeant at
Scotland Yard to--"

Philip broke off abruptly, conscious of the fact that the warmth of his
feelings was running away with him. But Molly, with her eyes bravely on
his face, took up the tale.

"To ask a struggling typist to share his humble lot. Really, my dear
Phil, you are far too modest. Don't you know that there is nobody but
yourself. Don't you believe that a small girl is as capable of loving a
man as well as a big one? And now, as we have come together again, there
is no one else in the way--"

"There never has been anybody else in the way," Philip said unsteadily.
"I have had no time for that sort of thing. There was always some sport
or another in the good old days to keep my mind off the opposite sex,
and then came the War. No time there again for anything, but what we had
to go through. And, after that, finding oneself more or less derelict in
London, trying to persuade oneself that one was back again in a land fit
for heroes to live in. By a fortunate chance, after I had been living
for a long time very near the starvation point, I decided to join the
police force, and they were glad of me. That is my history in brief,
little girl, and I am not altogether ashamed of it."

"Ashamed of it, my dear boy. Of course not, why should you be? If you
hadn't done that, goodness knows what would have happened. Certainly we
shouldn't have been sitting here together this lovely afternoon, with me
listening to a fairy story all about treasure galore and--well, making
indirect love to a man who is so blind that he is unable to do so for
himself. A nice state of affairs for a man who calls himself a
detective-sergeant at Scotland Yard!"

Molly ended on a laugh, but Phil could see that there were traces of
tears in her eyes, and that her red lips were very unsteady. And then,
almost before he knew what had happened, Molly was smiling and crying in
his arms, and he was covering her face with kisses.

"Well, you have been stupid," she said presently. "Fancy you sitting
here all this time waiting for me to propose to you when you ought to
have taken the initiative long ago. So different from the schoolboy who
used to order me about when I wore socks."

"Ah, well, I suppose time makes strange changes," Phil said, with a fine
originality. "But, look here, darling, let's be sensible for a moment.
You are no longer a struggling typist, but a well-born and accomplished
young woman who has 1000 a year in her own right. Mind you, I have
every sympathy with your desire to go back to the old home and take up
the old life. But what about me? I am not going to live on my wife's
income. I can assure you. Don't forget, I have got my ambition and now
that my foot is firmly planted on the ladder, I don't want to take it
off again. Besides, I have got to prove my metal. That Mansfield street
business is practically in my hands and my future depends upon its
success or failure."

"You won't fail," Molly declared. "You are going through with it and I'm
going to help you."




CHAPTER XVII.


THE shadows were beginning to lengthen and the sun to sink in the golden
west before Lashbrook came reluctantly back to earth again, and
suggested that it was time to move.

"Yes, I suppose it is," Molly said, with a little sigh. "But there is
one thing that we haven't settled on, Phil. You don't want to give up
your profession, and I should be sorry for you to do so, though it would
be nice to be always together."

"What's in the back of your mind?" Phil asked.

"Well, something like this," Molly replied. "Supposing that we don't
make any very definite arrangements for the early future. Suppose I
don't buy the old house--at least, not yet. But there is no reason why
we shouldn't have a little flat in town and a cottage in the country."

"That's not a bad idea. However, there is plenty of time to talk about
that. We must get back now."

So, for the time being, the two returned to London, and the business
that lay before them. Morning brought Lashbrook to a realisation of the
fact that he was, more or less, at a dead end so far as the Mansfield
street murder case was concerned, and, until the problem was
successfully solved, then he would see no great hopes for the future. He
had his own ideas, of course, and it seemed to him that it would be no
very difficult matter to place his hand upon the shoulder of the actual
criminal. But confronting the miscreant with his crime and proving it in
a court of law was an entirely different matter. And if he moved
precipitately, then he might scare his quarry and the whole scheme would
fall into ruin. If only he could find some clue leading up to the safe
key which had been discovered in the handle of the automatic, then he
could advance more boldly. But it seemed impossible to believe that the
man who had shot down Andrew Millar knew that the key lay snugly hidden
in the weapon with which the crime was committed. Nor could he see, as
far as he had gone, any particular reason for the crime at all.

There was nothing for it, therefore, but to plod doggedly on with the
off-chance of something definite turning up. At any rate, to follow up
his inquiries at the Wanderlust Club as to the movements of Selby
Crafton both before and after the war. And with this uppermost in his
mind he made his way on Monday morning as far as the Wanderlust Club and
there he managed to obtain a quiet interview with the secretary, Clift,
in his office.

"I dare say you know why I am here," Phil said.

"Well, I can give a pretty good guess," Clift smiled. "You want to know
all about Mr. Selby Crafton. Am I to take it definitely that you regard
him as the culprit?"

"Nothing of the sort," Phil said, crisply. "It is my business to suspect
everybody, but if you ask me if I have anything definite against
Crafton, I have to tell you that you are absolutely and entirely wrong.
Of course, it is a bit of a coincidence that Crafton and Millar both
belong to your club, and more than strange that one member should find
another murdered. But that doesn't prove anything. Still, for the sake
of argument, we will admit that Mr. Crafton is under suspicion. You will
remember what I asked you to do the last time I was here."

"Oh, I have not forgotten," Clift said. "I have made discreet inquiries
in every direction, and I can't find a single member of my staff who can
recollect seeing those two men together. I can't even ascertain that
they ever interchanged a word."

"Yes, I rather suspected that," Lashbrook said. "But what about the
other point I put to you? The dates when Millar and Crafton came and
went. For years back."

From a desk in his writing table, Clift produced a slip of paper which
he consulted carefully.

"Here you are," he said. "Up to 1913 both the men we are speaking about
were here pretty regularly. Just coming and going at intervals, but
never for very long. Then, in the summer of 1914--at the beginning of
August to be exact--they both vanished and I didn't see either of them
again for nearly two years. Then they began returning at longish
intervals and so on till the end of the war. Do these facts help you at
all?"

"To a certain extent," Philip admitted. "It proves that they either
joined the Forces or they were engaged upon work of a secret nature. I
shall be greatly surprised if it doesn't ultimately transpire that they
were abroad in some capacity or another. Possibly working for the
Government and possibly working against it. So far as my investigations
have proved, neither of them has reason to be particularly proud of his
past. And I should gather that the same remark applies to many other of
your members."

"You are about right there," Clift agreed. "Of course, we have a good
many members whose reputations are a credit to the club, but then on the
other hand, there are those of whom the less said the better. We lost a
great many members during the war--"

"Yes, mostly foreigners," Philip suggested.

"Quite right, Mr. Lashbrook, Germans. Scores of them never came back,
but quite a sprinkling of them did, though they were not particularly
welcome at first. But all that sort of feeling has died down in the
course of time, and there is no resentment felt to-day against the
presence of any German member."

"Then you really haven't got anything to tell me?" Philip asked

"I am afraid not," Clift said. "All I have been able to ascertain is
that somewhere about the end of the war Andrew Millar was detained by
the Italian authorities and thrown into gaol. But how long he was kept
there, and what the charge was, I have no notion whatever. I got that
information from a brother of Millar's. But, of course, you were present
when he told me."

"Of course I was," Phil exclaimed. "But I had forgotten all about it. I
have no doubt that, sooner or later, I shall be able to turn this
information to advantage."

There was no occasion to stay chatting with Clift any longer, so that
Phil went back to his headquarters where he was soon busy making
inquiries at to the antecedents of the man, Heron, and the reason why he
was being detained in Wandsworth Prison. When the facts were laid before
him, he gathered that it was rather a complicated case, in which several
men were implicated in connection with a rather sensational robbery of
valuable jewels somewhere in Surrey.

So far as Philip gathered, the whole thing had been carefully planned
out by some master crook, who was still at large. But a small clue had
led to the arrest of Heron, and this had been brought about by
carelessness on his part with regard to finger prints. The thieves had
got away with their booty, and, so far, no trace of it had been found.
But with his knowledge of such matters, Philip was fairly confident that
Heron and his fellow burglars were no more than mere pawns in the case.
They had actually carried out the work of breaking into the house and
getting away with the valuables according to plan. But these had been
handed over, no doubt, to the mastermind behind the robbery, and, in all
probability the others had received only a comparatively small reward
for the risks they had taken. This was more or less theory on Philip's
part, but quite good enough to go on with when he found himself later in
the same afternoon in the cell where Heron was confined.

The unfortunate individual looked up sullenly as he sat on his stool
with his head in his hands, and confronted Lashbrook, who regarded him
with a pleasant smile on his face.

"Now then," he said. "I want to have a little chat with you."

"Oh, you do, do you?" the prisoner said sulkily. "And wot may your name
be, mister?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, my name is Lashbrook, and I am a
detective-sergeant from Scotland Yard. Now, listen to me. You can give
me certain information if you like, or, on the other hand, you may
refuse it. But if you like to speak freely, then it is just possible
that I can do you a good turn later on, when it is time for your
appearance in the Central Criminal Court."

The sullen scowl lifted from the man's face, and he confronted Lashbrook
squarely for the first time. Then he rose to his feet, clicked his heels
together, and saluted.

"Oh, it's like that, is it, Heron?" Philip smiled.

"Yes--it's like that," Heron grinned. "I was in the army during the war,
and I knows an officer when I sees 'im. You may be a detective-sergeant
now, but I wouldn't mind betting 'arf a dollar as you was wearing a Sam
Brown a few years ago."

"Quite correct, Heron," Philip smiled. "I did hold His Majesty's
commission--in fact, I do still. Now, do you happen to have heard
anything in connection with a certain crime that took place in Mansfield
street a few days ago?"

"Well, I did read something about it in one of the papers they let us
see here," Heron said. "But, look 'ere, guv'nor, you ain't goin' to
infer as I 'ad anythink to do with that, are you?"

"Not for a moment," Philip said. "But, at the same time, you might be
able to give me some information--indirectly, I mean. Do you happen to
know if the name of Crafton is familiar to you?"

"Crafton!--Crafton!" Heron repeated slowly. "No, guv'nor, I never 'eard
that name afore. But, then, that don't signify nothing. The sort of
people I does business with go by all sorts o' names and the one as they
uses least is real."

"Yes, I understand that," Phil said. "But the man I am looking for is an
individual who used to have letters addressed to him from time to time
at Victoria Place, Camberwell."




CHAPTER XVIII.

HERON shot a suspicions glance at the speaker.

"Wot do you 'appen to know about that, mister?" he asked.

"Well, I will tell you," Lashbrook went on. "From information received I
called at your address in Camberwell and had a talk with your wife. She
wasn't very communicative at first, but when she found out who I was,
she spoke more freely. Now, I know that for years your shop has been a
sort of clearing house--not exactly for stolen goods, but for something
like it. In fact, just before the war, you came very near to being in
your present position."

Heron smiled, and then laughed outright.

"You're about correct there, guv'nor," he said. "There was me and Bill
Baines and Snuffy 'Awkins, all of us expectin' to be arrested at any
moment. Then the war broke out, and we 'listed in a body. There was
nobody to ask questions, and the recruiting sergeant was only too glad
to get 'old of us. And that's 'ow we got away from England, and we
stayed where we was put till the war was over. But only two of us came
back. 'Owever, when we did, everything 'ad blown over nicely, and you
can believe it or not, mister, but a year or two afterwards we was
absolutely on the square. And a fat lot of good that was. 'Arf starvin'
most of the time, and me living on the little bit wot the missus and
myself makes out of the shop. So we goes back to the old life again, and
'ere I am. And 'ere I shouldn't be but for one man--Got rot 'is
soul!--'oo double-crossed me an' left me an' my mate to face the music.
An' I don't mind telling you, guv'nor, straight, that when I am once
more free, I am going after that blighter, and, if I 'ave to swing for
'im, I shall."

"What's his name," Phil asked innocently.

"Oh no, you don't guv 'nor, oh no, you don't," Heron said, with a wag of
his head. "That's my secret. A gent 'e calls 'isself, and a gent by
birth I believe 'e is. One o' them sneerin', drawlin' sort o' swine, as
you see in some o' them West End bars. Speaks in a voice as seems to
come from the top of 'is 'ead. Very dossy clothes, but not so new as
they might be. The broken down type o' swell, as is to be met with on
any racecourse. Swagger as much as you like, and a big black moustache
as 'e was very proud of. Lord bless yer, I should know 'im if I met 'im
in the dark, and with me eyes shut."

"Well, never mind him for the moment. I want you to try and remember the
appearance of a man who used your shop two years ago for certain
letters. He called himself Douglas Hume."

Heron jumped half across his cell.

"Why, that's the perishing blighter I mean," he said, betraying himself
in the excitement of the moment. "Douglas 'Ume, eh? Don't I know 'im? Do
you suppose I should be 'ere now if I 'adn't? Only let me get my hands
on 'im--"

Heron broke off suddenly.

"I suppose he is not the same man, by any chance, who had a hand in the
jewel robbery which led to your arrest on the present charge?" Lashbrook
asked. "If he is--"

"Now you're goin' too far, guv'nor," Heron interrupted. "I'd walk round
the world barefooted to see Hume laid by the 'eels, but there's others
'oo are walking about outside to-day as I should 'ave to implicate at
the same time. But all you want to know about this 'ere Douglas 'Ume I
am willin' to tell you."

"Go on, then," Philip said encouragingly.

But it was very little that Heron had to say which was likely to be of
any use in connection with the Mansfield street crime. All Phil gathered
was that the individual who called himself Douglas Hume was a man of
something more than respectable family, and that he had been cast out by
his relatives long before. A man who lived entirely by his wits, and who
was ready, at all times, to exploit a new type of criminal to gain his
own ends.

"And this is all you have to tell me?" Phil queried at length. "I don't
suppose you happen to know what this man, Hume, was doing during the
war. I suppose you never met him?"

"No, sir, not so long as the fighting was going on. But I did come in
contact with 'im before I was demobbed, and that was when I were in
Paris. You see, for the last year of the fighting, my division was on
the Italian front, and when the war was over a lot of us found ourselves
in Paris, waitin' to get back to England. And one night in a sort of
pub--wot they calls an estaminet--I looks up from my glass and there I
see 'is lordship, as large as life. He was dressed in a sort of uniform
as wasn't English and wasn't altogether, French. An' quite the toff, I
assure you. An officer of some sort, because a lot of them pollus jumps
to their feet an' salutes 'im. Then 'e gives me the wink an' we goes
outside an' 'as a few words. Wanted to know when I was goin' 'ome an'
all that. Also where 'e could see me when we both gets back to England.
Says as he might be able to put a good job or two in my way, an' so I
tips 'im my address. But the name 'e gives me there wasn't 'Ume or
anything like it. It didn't worry me much becos I knew my man and I
knew, with any luck we should meet again."

"And did you meet again?" Philip asked.

"Course we did, a year or so later. And that's when I was told to call
'im Douglas 'Ume. 'E used my shop as an address where letters could be
left for 'im and sometimes 'e come to fetch them 'imself and sometimes
they was sent on to 'im to a place in the West End."

"You can't remember the address, I suppose?" Philip asked.

"No, I can't," Heron said, definitely enough. "But I must have jotted it
down somewhere. If I get out o' this mess, then I'll 'ave a good look
round and see if I can find it. It must be in the shop somewhere. But
then, 'ere I am, and 'ere I am likely to be for some time to come. It's
no good, guv'nor."

"I'm not so sure of that," Philip said. "Now, I am not going to ask you
to give your pals away, but if you can help us in any way to recover the
historic part of those treasures stolen, then it is just possible that
the charge against you may be withdrawn. Think it over, Heron, and I
will come and see you another day."

On the whole, a rather unsatisfactory interview, Philip thought, as he
left the prison. Still, he had not entirely wasted his time. If things
went as he hoped they would, then perhaps, a little later on, he might
find an exceedingly useful tool in James Heron. Certainly, that
individual had no reason to love the man, whom he knew as Douglas Hume,
and, of an equal certainty, this so-called Douglas Hume was the
so-called author of the plot which culminated in the comedy that hung
around the story called 'The Man Who Knew.' And the finger of suspicion
was pointing strongly to the truth that Douglas Hume and Selby Crafton
were one and the same, which meant, in other words, that Philip
practically had his hand upon the murderer of Andrew Millar.

But between mental certainty and absolute conviction a wide gulf still
yawned. It was all very well to maintain that Linda Waller's narrative
practically put the rope round Crafton's neck, but no jury would so far
commit themselves unless there was something far more definite to go on
than that. And the more Philip thought it over, the more sure he was
that the ultimate solution of the mystery lay somewhere between the
Wanderlust Club and the mean little shop in Victoria Place, Camberwell.

It was towards evening on the same day that an idea occurred to him
which he proceeded to put into operation without delay. Shortly before 7
o'clock, he found himself at Rothbarth's lodgings, asking for that
individual, and being told that he had just come in and would be having
his dinner in the course of a few minutes, without further ceremony,
Phil entered the sitting-room.

Rothbarth was standing by the fireplace, reading a letter and smoking a
cigarette, prior to his meal.

"Hello, my friend," he exclaimed. "Here again. More or less on the same
errand, I take it?"

"Well, indirectly," Phil said. "I can't tell you too much at present
because my lips are more or less sealed. But with any luck, you will be
able to read all about it in the papers before very long. I came here
to-night because I had an idea that you might be able to afford me a
little more information regarding the murder in Mansfield street. What
you told me about the revolver has been exceedingly useful, and the key
that you found in the handle thereof has opened more doors than one."

"Anything I can do, of course," Rothbarth murmured.

"Thanks very much. I am going to ask you to be candid with me. Of
course, anything you say will be treated as absolutely confidential.
Now, you told me a day or two ago that, before the War, you were a
German officer. Also that you were in England in those days with a view
to picking up certain information."

"In other words, a spy," Rothbarth smiled. "I am not going to deny it.
There were scores of us, dotted about all over England, though we were
not known to each other. My dear chap, I suppose I must have written
fifty letters containing information about your ships and dockyards and
fortifications. Why, your authorities were simply asking for it."

"Yes, I know all that now," Philip said. "But it must have been rather a
dangerous game. You didn't write those letters directly from your
address and you didn't get replies from headquarters sent to it. Now,
give me the name of your post office. I mean the innocent establishment
from which letters came and went."

"Let me see," Rothbarth said carefully. "It's so long ago I have almost
forgotten. Yes, it's beginning to come back to me now. Some place,
somewhere. Oh, yes, that's right. Number 199 Victoria Place, Camberwell.
Yes, that's right."




CHAPTER XIX.


ROTHBARTH'S natural curiosity with regard to the house in Victoria Place
was met by Philip with a smile.

"Later on, old chap," he said. "It's all part of the problem connected
with that automatic and the subsequent murder of Andrew Millar. You will
have to wait a day or two, and I can promise that you will be one of the
first to know."

All this time Klein had been discreetly obliterating himself, knowing
well enough that, when the proper moment arrived, Lashbrook would take
him into his confidence. And this more or less happened a day or so
later, when Lashbrook sought out his superior with the idea of gaining
his assistance.

"Yes," Klein said. "I thought you would come to me, sooner or later.
Now, tell me how far you have gone, and if I can be of any use to you, I
shall be delighted."

"Well, as a matter of fact," Lashbrook said, "I have gone quite a long
way, but I don't think you want to hear the story that is half finished.
To be perfectly candid, I am up against a snag, and I am going to ask
you if you can see your way to assist me in removing that same. Let us
go back for a minute or so to events that happened previous to the Great
War. Now, I have made a discovery, and more than that, I have confirmed
it, by a conversation I have been having with a German friend of mine. I
think I told you about Rothbarth."

"Rothbarth? Rothbarth?" Klein said thoughtfully. "Oh, yes, of course, I
remember now. He was that German officer chap who was engaged more or
less in some city business. Back again in England now."

"Yes, of course. He tells me that he was quite useful to his country in
1913 and '14. Not that he forwarded information directly, or received
letters in reply addressed to his lodgings."

Klein smiled drily.

"No, I suppose not. I suppose you mean that he had an accommodation
address in some obscure locality?"

"Precisely. And that accommodation address I have noted down in my
pocket book. Unless I am absolutely out in my calculations, the house in
question is mixed up with the murder of Andrew Millar. More than that, I
suspect that this little shop in an obscure quarter of the town was one
of the chosen houses from which a good deal of information trickled
across the Channel. I mean that not only Rothbarth used it, but a good
many others besides. What I want you to do is to put me in touch with
somebody who had that house under observation before the War. I am
confident that it was being watched."

"I have not the slightest doubt of it," Klein said. "'Precious few of
those places were not known to us. Although the Secret Service people
kept severely aloof from Scotland Yard, there were occasions when we
were useful to them, and then they didn't hesitate, through one of their
mysterious channels, to seek our assistance. Certain people would be
watched and all that sort of thing. Houses to be searched on the
pretence that they were being used for gambling purposes, and all that
camouflage. The man you want to see is Inspector McBride. He had that
branch entirely in his hands, and I think you will find him exceedingly
useful."

It was some little time before Lashbrook could get hold of the inspector
in question, but when he did so, he found that the inspector was a
perfect mine of information.

"Only too glad to help you," he said. "You have come to the right shop
for what you want. For quite a long time before the war I had certain
aliens under observation, and when those people at the top realised, as
they did, months before hostilities broke out, that trouble was
inevitable, I had a pretty broad hint to increase my activities. Not to
arrest any of those people, if that is what you are thinking about, but
to find out exactly what they were doing and who their correspondents
were. Especially who their correspondents were. And this means that
their letters were secretly opened by the Post Office authorities, and
the contents copied and passed over to me. Of course, this applied
equally to letters going out and coming in. And, by carefully sifting
these communications it was not a very difficult matter to find out
certain addresses in the obscure East End of London through which
correspondence passed, and to note down the shop or house which we had
reason to suspect. But, mind you, you must not jump to the conclusion
that these small shopkeepers themselves knew the use that was being made
of their premises. A good many of them don't know to this day what was
going on and how carefully, during the war, they were being shadowed."

"Yes, I suppose that is so," Philip said.

"Well, by this means we knew a great deal about the workings of the
German spy system in England. And when the proper time came, we laid
them all by the heels. It was a pretty clean sweep, carried out in
different parts of the country within a few hours, and, though one or
two people we were very anxious to meet managed to slip through the net,
we were satisfied with our haul."

"In other words, you got the lot, I suppose?"

"No, I can 't go quite so far as to say that. You see, a good many of
these chaps were German officers, and by some means or another, they
managed to get the tip whilst international negotiations were still
going on, and slipped out of the country. Is it any particular one you
are looking for?"

"That's right," Philip admitted.

"Very well, then. In that case, I, will turn out my papers and you can
go through them for yourself, You can understand why I have carefully
kept all those records, because you never can be quite sure when they
are likely to be useful. I know that there are at least half-a-dozen of
those ex-German officers back in London again who would carry on the
same game to-morrow if necessity called for it. Not that I am worrying
much about that, when we are on friendly terms with Germany again; but
then, you never know. However, I will just hand over those papers. You
can stay here as long as you like going through them. You won't
interrupt me, because you can work at another desk."

For the next two or three hours, Philip was patiently wading through a
whole mass of letters and correspondence, the greater part of which was
absolutely useless to him. Then, to his great delight, he came across
the name of Douglas Hume. He laid the letter in which Hume's name was
mentioned on McBride's desk.

"Do you know anything about this chap?" he asked crisply.

By way of reply, McBride went across to a file cabinet, and after going
through certain papers there, informed Philip that he remembered the
matter perfectly well now.

"Yes, there were some striking features in connection with this man," he
said. "An Englishman, of course."

"And a traitor, presumably, eh?"

"I don't think so. Let me think a minute. Yes, that's right. Hume was a
man of good family who met with misfortunes entirely due to his own
indiscretion. In fact, he was a bit of a bad lot. I never believed that
Hume was his proper name, and possibly I could give you his real name if
I had a little time."

Lashbrook could have done that himself, but it was not judicious to
mention it at that particular moment.

"Never mind about that," he said. "What I want to know is how he got
mixed up with this spy business."

"Well, as far as the records go, it seems that he offered his services.
He came to us and gave us quite a lot of useful information about an
alien who had a very nice place on the East Coast--an alien who passed
for an Englishman because he spoke our language perfectly. He was
understood by his neighbour to be a retired Australian farmer, whose
hobby it was to keep motor boats and do a great deal of fishing. Hume
told us about this man, so that in due course we were able to arrest
him. Then we discovered that Hume could speak two or three languages
fluently, and when he asked us if we could give him work in the same
direction, we were only too glad to avail ourselves of his services. So
we gave him more or less a free hand, and he posed, in certain quarters,
as an intensely patriotic German. Lots of good stuff he brought to us.
And then, just after the war broke out, he disappeared. I have never
seen or heard of him since. If you ask me what I think as to the cause
of this vanishing trick, I should say that he made a slip and was found
out. Murdered, probably."

"Very possibly," Philip murmured. "But rather strange that he should
have vanished just at the moment he was likely to be most useful, wasn't
it? I suppose it never occurred to you that he might have double-crossed
the authorities?"

The suggestion did not seem to surprise McBride particularly.

"Just as likely as not," he admitted. "It's not a pretty thought, but
every country has its traitors, and England was no exception to the
rule. I could tell you, if I liked, of more than one man who vanished
from the ken of his wife and family and was never heard of again.
Perhaps Douglas Hume was one of the same kidney. Anyhow, it doesn't
matter now."

After a little further desultory conversation, Lashbrook went his way,
and, at the earliest opportunity, sought out his friend and patron,
Inspector Klein.

"Well?" the latter asked. "Any good?"

"Oh, yes," Philip said. "I know a great deal more than I did when I got
up this morning. I am really beginning to see my way at last. One more
little thing, and I don't think that I shall have occasion to bother you
any further."




CHAPTER XX.


"And what is that," Klein asked.

"Well, you remember what I said to you with regard to that man, Heron?
He is under remand at the present moment in connection with a serious
burglary charge. And, by a strange coincidence he keeps that little news
shop in Camberwell, which was used by certain German agents before the
war as a clearing and despatching house for letters, to and from the
Continent. But, perhaps, I had better tell you all about that."

Whereupon Philip gave Klein a digest of the conversation he had been
recently holding with McBride.

"And now you will see what I am driving at," he went on. "Also, you can
see where my suspicions lie."

"Yes, I think that is pretty obvious," Klein murmured.

"Very well, then. Heron knows Douglas Hume, and we know him, too, though
under another name. I have got a little scheme which is likely to lead
to big results if I can only stage it properly. And this I can do with
your assistance. At some time or another, this Douglas Hume, as we will
continue to call him, played a pretty low down trick on Heron. And Heron
is so bitter about it that, if the two men meet, it is fairly certain
that murder will happen. Not that I care twopence whether Heron murders
Hume or not. But, at any rate, this must not happen until I have worked
that little stunt I talked about just now. I want those two men to
meet."

"Yes, but if what you say is correct, the last thing in the world Hume
will do is to give Heron a chance to meet him."

"No, you haven't quite got it right. As far as I can make out from the
talk I have had with Heron, Hume has not the slightest suspicion that
the other man has guessed at the identity of the rascal who has
double-crossed him. At least, so I think. But I am going to make sure
before I move another step."

"Quite right," Klein said approvingly. "But tell me, where do I come in?
And how are those two going to meet? It's long odds, from what I know
already, that Heron is booked for a term of penal servitude, in which
case, where are you?"

"AH, that I have gone into carefully," Philip said. "I have looked over
the depositions in the case, and it seems to me that the charge against
Heron is very weak. He was in that jewel robbery, of course, because his
finger prints proved it. But those finger prints were not taken in the
house from which the stuff was stolen, but on a car used by the
burglars. And, moreover, that car was a stolen one. It looks to me as if
Heron's defence will be that he was an innocent party, who consented to
drive the car under the impression that the burglars were actually on
their way to their own house. He will probably say that they put up a
story about their chauffeur being hurt, or something of that sort, and,
if Heron is defended by a smart counsel, as he probably will be, it is
even betting that he will be acquitted. But why proceed with the charge
against him at all?"

"My dear fellow," Klein protested.

"Oh, yes, I know it sounds rather eccentric," Lashbrook smiled. "But I
know what I am talking about. If you can manage this for me, I think I
can make you a promise that within a week or so we shall lay hands on
Andrew Millar's murderer."

It was apparent that Klein was particularly impressed by this very
definite statement.

"Well," he said. "I will see what I can do. Heron is to come up under
remand again to-morrow, and the case will be further adjourned. And, if
I can see my way to it, I will suggest that at to-morrow's hearing the
charge against Heron should be dropped, as the prosecution is not
prepared to go on with that part of the case. Will that suit you?"

Philip responded that it would suit him admirably and, later in the
afternoon, he was in a position to call at Wandsworth Prison and inform
Heron that, within a few hours, he would find himself once more at
liberty.

"But, mind you, Heron," he said. "No nonsense. If the prosecution had
gone on you would probably have found yourself in penal servitude for
the next five years. And you mustn't go away with the impression that I
have taken all this trouble merely because I have fallen in love with
that very prepossessing countenance of yours. You are going to do
exactly as I tell you, when and where I tell you, and ask no questions."

"Blimey, guv'nor," Heron said, with almost passionate gratitude. "But
you ain't 'arf a toff. Strike me pink, but I'd do anything for you. Only
say the word and--"

"There, that will do," Lashbrook said. "When you get out of here in the
morning, go straight home and stay there. Then search about until you
find that address in the West End where you can get in communication
with Mr. Douglas Hume. And, when that is done, write the gentleman a
letter."

A lurid light crept into Heron's eyes again, and, for a moment, a
passion of rage convulsed him.

"Write to 'im," he snarled. "Write to 'im. If I meet 'im I'll wring 'is
blinkin' neck."

"No, you won't," Lashbrook said firmly. "You'll do nothing of the sort.
I think you told me that Mr. Hume is quite ignorant of the fact that you
owe him a deep grudge."

"Aye, that's right," Heron chuckled. "'E don' know as I've tumbled to
'is little gime."

"Yes, that is exactly what I thought. And he must not know either, at
least, not just yet. You just write that letter in a friendly sort of
way and ask Hume to come down to Camberwell and see you. Drop him a
mysterious hint to the effect that there is trouble in the air for both
of you, and that, unless you can have a chat together, it may spell
disaster to both."

"Oh, orl right, sir, orl right," Heron said. "That little business 'll
keep. But when I've found that address, and made an appointment along o'
'Ume at my little plice, wot's to be the next move in the gime? And wot
am I goin' ter say?"

"That is exactly what I am here to tell you," Philip said. "Now, listen
to me carefully."

For the next few moments, Lashbrook spoke under his breath, and Heron
followed with rapt attention. Then gradually, a broad grin broke out on
his face, and he expressed his approval in a manner that was both lurid
and convincing.

"So that's the little gime, is it, sir?" he said. "Well, I'm on. You
give me the tip when to move, and I'll call you up on the telephone."

More than satisfied with this interview, Lashbrook turned his back on
the prison and, being at a loose end for the next few hours, he repaired
to his rooms where he lay down, and had a refreshing sleep, of which he
stood in considerable need. It was past 4 o'clock when he woke, and,
snatching a hasty tea, he went to his desk and took from it the section
of the photograph which he had found in the tin box belonging to Andrew
Millar.

This he had almost forgotten in his various activities during the last
few days, and now it seemed that the time had come to make some use of
what he was bound to regard as a definite clue. He turned the piece of
pasteboard over and pondered, not for the first time, upon the odd
letters made by the blue India rubber stamp--letters that read LES.

What on earth did this signify? It was evidently the name of a place,
but what place could possibly end in letters like those? And then it
suddenly flashed upon him. Why, Bruxelles, of course, spelt as the
Belgians themselves spell it. A photograph taken in Brussels, beyond the
shadow of a doubt, and taken, moreover, by someone who was either not
very professional, or had been in a hurry. Otherwise, there would have
been no India-rubber stamp on the back but a properly printed name and
address of the photographer. Or, possibly, the photograph was a police
one.

But, be that as it might, it was going to be Lashbrook's business to
find out who took that photograph, and when and in what circumstances.
That might easily be managed if the photograph was handed over to the
proper authorities at Scotland Yard who would, in due course,
communicate with the Brussels police. It might take some time to trace
the picture to its source, especially as it had been taken so long ago,
but that he would eventually be able to pick up the information he
desired, Lashbrook did not doubt for a moment.

He went off presently, and, shortly after 5 o'clock, turned into the
little offices in Norfolk street, Strand, where he found Molly just
packing up for the evening.

"Why, Philip," she exclaimed. "I didn't expect to see you here at this
time of the evening. Has anything happened?"

"Nothing particularly," Lashbrook explained. "I only want you to look at
this section of a photograph I have here. I want you to see if it in any
way resembles the similar type of man who called so mysteriously on your
father some time before the war. You remember, the man you found having
breakfast with him one morning."

Molly carefully examined the photograph, and then, picking up a pencil
from the table, she laid the sharpened point on a certain part of the
picture and smiled.

"There," she said. "That's the only trace of similarity I can see, but
it is a striking one."




CHAPTER XXI.


LASHBROOK smiled quietly to himself. In effect, Molly had confirmed a
suspicion that had been crystallising in his mind for some time, though
he was too much of the official to enlarge upon that, even to the woman
of his heart. All that would come in good time. A week, perhaps, or
less.

"My dear girl," he said. "You have spotted exactly the same thing that I
discovered for myself. But isn't there something about that photograph
that puzzles you?"

"I wonder how you guessed that. The photograph bears a very striking
likeness to the mysterious man who called upon my father that night
after I had gone to bed. The profile is very striking. But where is the
black moustache? This individual, whoever he may be, seems to have a
light brown moustache, or perhaps it might be a mousey colour, and not
very much of that."

"In fact it is just the toothbrush type that was so popular in the army.
I suppose it puzzles you to understand how a man can have a heavy black
moustache one day and a trifling affair of a different colour the next.
But I don't think we need worry about that. And now, Molly, I want you
to forget this little talk of ours for the next day or two."

Lashbrook put the section of the photograph back in his pocket and began
to talk about something else. Then, after seeing Molly home and making
arrangements with her for another meeting at an early date, he returned
to his bed-sitting-room to find two or three letters awaiting him there.
One of these, with an Italian stamp, he seized on eagerly and tore open.

It was written on the official note paper of the Rome Police Bureau and
addressed to him personally by some official there who had inscribed the
letter in his own handwriting and not typed it, as if the contents were
confidential, which they were.

"Amico Lashbrook," (it ran)--

"Ah, my friend, it is so good to hear from you again after all this long
time, yes? And it is good to know that you have decided to place those
so remarkable talents of yours at the disposal of your country. For, you
see, I have not forgotten those days when we worked together in the
interests of civilisation and humanity, and did our best for the common
cause. You will remember how we came together, after the disaster at
Caporetto. Ah, that was a dreadful time, a terrible time when the fate
of Italy hung in the balance, and ruin and desolation stared us in the
face.

"And none understood that better than yourself. It was you, with others
of your countrymen, who took your lives in your hands after Caporetto,
and went beyond the Austrian lines to find out for us the information
that we so sorely needed. And you find it, and it was largely due to you
and one more of your compatriots, that we were able to turn that
information to account.

"But you will say I am wasting my time in recalling these memories, but
I do so because I can never forget.

"But you want to know all about the man, Andrew Millar, who so long was
a prisoner in Rome. You want to know why we arrested him and why we
detained him so long.

"Well, we did that because we thought he was a traitor, not only to you
and your friends, but to Italy as well. He was attached to the person of
Colonel Heaton. Perhaps you may not know that. Perhaps you may not know
the name of Colonel Heaton at all. But he was a great man--a man of the
most amazing courage and audacity, and with a mind gigantic. He was with
us after Caporetto, because he was sent down to help us from one of your
headquarters in France. And the work he did and the information he sent
us from the other side of the Austrian lines was worth its weight in
gold a million times over. But, alas, he fell into the hands of the foe,
not because he made a mistake himself--for he never made a mistake--but
because he was betrayed by an Englishman whom he trusted. And that
Englishman was called Douglas Hume."

Lashbrook paused as he reached this point in the letter and allowed his
mind to wander slightly. He had expected certain useful information, but
a piece of news like this was utterly beyond his anticipation. He took
up the letter again.

"Of course, we did not find that out till long afterwards. This Douglas
Hume was a man of good education and family, who had fallen very low and
was prepared to do anything for money. But one of good address and
exceptional ability who, moreover, had served at one time in the British
Army. How he got into the confidence of those who employed him on Secret
Service work we never knew, but he was trusted and it was he who
betrayed Colonel Heaton into the hands of the Austrians. A double-dyed
traitor, at one time working on our side and perhaps the next day
working on the other. Anyway, Colonel Heaton was shot as a spy, but,
before his execution, he managed to smuggle a letter or two through to
us at Italian headquarters, and one of those letters he addressed to his
daughter. And that letter was lost. There was another letter which
seemed to imply that this Andrew Millar had been mainly instrumental in
betraying Colonel Heaton to his enemies. That letter might, or might
not, have been a forgery, but as to that I can't say definitely, because
everything was in confusion about that time, and we did not know what to
do for the best. At any rate, Andrew Millar was arrested and thrown into
gaol, where he was forgotten.

"You know how slow things are with us, and what a long time it takes
before we bring criminals to justice. So different from your system.
Anyway, Millar lay in prison for two or three years and then somebody
seemed to discover there was a charge of some sort against him. But the
War was over, Italy had struggled to her feet again and we were too busy
with other matters. So Andrew Millar was allowed to go, and that is all
I can tell you about him. I don't think he was a traitor myself. I think
that that scoundrel, Hume, had cunningly contrived to throw the onus of
his treachery upon Millar, so that if anything arose later, Hume would
have been able to bluff the matter out, because he was that sort of man,
and Millar had fallen into such drunken habits that nobody would have
taken his word for anything.

"And that, my dear friend, is about all I can tell you. I dare say that
you would very much like to know what happened to the letter that
Colonel Heaton addressed to his daughter, just previous to his
execution, but what became of it I don't know. It was lying in the
office here for some days after it arrived, and, during that time, both
Hume and Millar were in and out, making reports, or drawing money for
further expeditions. I should think it is exceedingly probable that one
of them stole it, but which one I can't say. I only hope that you will
solve that problem.

"And now, my dear Lashbrook, if there is anything more I can tell you,
please let me know. Write to me at the above address at any time, with
the assurance that at all times I shall be only too happy to meet with
your wishes.--In all friendship. Yours fraternally,--Carlo Montini."

For a long time Lashbrook pondered over this letter. To a certain
extent, it merely confirmed his own suspicions, though, from a practical
point of view, it did not get him much further. He had known before, of
course, that the man called Douglas Hume was a thorough-paced scoundrel,
but, so far, he could see nothing whatever in the way of legal evidence
to connect Hume with Selby Crafton. That there really was some
connection between the pair he felt certain, but certainly it was not
much good unless he had some really reliable evidence to go upon. And
even if he could find a common link between the two names, it did not
prove that Crafton had had any hand in the murder of Millar. It was just
possible that Millar had been murdered by another person altogether.
Still, the letter from Rome helped, and, as Philip sat there trying to
put the pieces of the puzzle together, he began to see dimly that there
was a way out of the impasse.

There was no reason, so far as he could see, why he should not make a
call at the Wanderlust Club and ask Crafton a few questions. Crafton had
been the man who had found the body and, therefore, would not be placed
upon his guard when he found himself called upon to answer a few
questions in connection with the crime. He had given evidence at the
first inquest hearing and had been told by the Coroner to hold himself
in readiness to appear again if necessary at the adjourned inquiry.
That, however, had been put off for some considerable time, entirely for
the convenience of the authorities.

The more Philip thought over this plan, the better it seemed to him. He
would go down to the Wanderlust Club the following morning and see
Crafton. He might, or he might not, induce the latter to make a
compromising statement, though he had not much hope of that, because he
knew that he was dealing with an exceedingly cunning and clever
scoundrel. But before that, he would call in at Scotland Yard and place
that photograph in the hands of the proper people who inquired into such
matters. It was spade work of the simplest kind and, no doubt, somebody
at Scotland Yard would be able to find out, through the Brussels police,
where, and in what circumstances, the photograph had been taken.

This having been accomplished in due course, Philip walked as far as the
Wanderlust Club on the following morning, and asked if he could see Mr.
Crafton. He was informed that Crafton was at breakfast. "Could the
waiter take a message?"




CHAPTER XXII.


A FEW minutes later, Crafton strolled into the waiting room in his most
superior and aloof manner, and demanded to know what the police officer
wanted with him.

"I hope to goodness you won't detain me long," he said. "I am rather
pressed for time, because I am going out of town within half an hour for
the week-end. In fact, I have already ordered my taxi, and it will be
here in twenty minutes."

"That will be quite long enough for my purpose," Lashbrook said curtly.
"I merely want to ask you a few questions."

"Fire away," Crafton said. "By the way, haven't I seen you before? Your
face is rather familiar."

"Well, you see," Philip explained. "I was the policeman who was on duty
in Mansfield street that night when you stumbled on the body of your
club-mate, Mr. Millar. I was in uniform then, which probably accounts
for the difference."

"But you are not a detective," Crafton said.

"I am," Philip replied. "New to the work, perhaps, but I have had a good
deal of experience in one way and another, most of it during the war.
Like yourself, sir, I was in a way, attached to the British Secret
Service."

"What the deuce do you mean?" Crafton asked. "Are you insinuating that I
had anything to do with the Service?"

"Lie number one," Phil thought to himself, though his face was an
absolute blank as Crafton spoke.

"Oh, very well, sir," he said. "If you deny my suggestion then I must,
of course, take your word for it."

"Of course you must," Crafton said rather uneasily. "But get to the
point, please."

"Oh, certainly. Am I to understand, Mr. Crafton that though the murdered
man was a member of this club, you never knew him or even spoke to him?"

"My dear sir, there are scores and scores of members of this club that I
don't know, even by name. I see them in the reading room, and the
smoking room, and so on, but I have no curiosity to know who they are.
You seem to forget the fact that this club numbers upwards at a thousand
members."

"Yes, perhaps I had overlooked that fact. So you have no sort of
knowledge of Mr. Millar, beyond the fact that he was a member of this
club? Now, look at this, Mr. Crafton. Did you ever happen to see a
weapon like it before?"

As he spoke, Philip drew the fatal automatic from his pocket, and handed
it over to his companion. Crafton turned it over idly, and passed it
back again.

"Never," he said. "New type to me altogether. But what has that pistol
to do with our case?"

"Well, that remains to be proved," Philip said. "I merely remark that it
was this automatic with which Mr. Millar was killed."

"How are you going to prove that?" Crafton asked swiftly.

"Well, I think the inference is pretty plain. The revolver was found in
a drain within a few feet of the spot, not many hours after the murder
was committed. By a strange coincidence, the weapon was passed on to me
by the workmen who found it. That is how I know I am holding in my hand
the weapon that was responsible for a dastardly crime."

Crafton shrugged his shoulders indifferently.

"Very likely," he said. "These things do turn up unexpectedly sometimes.
But why do you show me this?"

Philip pressed his hand on the spring on the top of the handle, and
disclosed the hollow space inside.

"That is why," he said. "A most ingenious arrangement for hiding
documents or articles of value. I may tell you, Mr. Crafton, that inside
that space I found the key of a safe which, when opened, disclosed a sum
of money amounting to 20,000."

Without warning, a burst of lurid profanity broke from Crafton's lips.
It was only for a few seconds he so far forgot himself and then he was
as coolly indolent as ever.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I am subject to that sort of thing. Shell
shock, you know, comes on me at all sorts of unexpected times."

"In that case," Phil said politely. "Perhaps I had better not worry you
any further. Another day when you are more yourself. Besides, you must
be wanting to get away."

Crafton undoubtedly was, for he looked at his watch and hurried out of
the room without a word of apology. Philip, hanging about as if time
were no particular object, had the satisfaction, a few moments later, of
seeing Crafton, with a small suitcase in his hand, jump into a taxi and
heard him order the driver to take him to Paddington station.

At any rate, Philip decided, here was no indication of any desire on
Crafton's part to make an escape. No doubt he really was going into the
country for the week-end, which was a fortunate chance which Philip had
no intention of losing. Once the taxi had disappeared, he turned to the
waiter and asked to speak to the manager immediately.

Clift came without delay and professed himself to be entirely at the
service of his visitor.

"No new developments, I suppose?" Philip asked.

"Not since you were here last, Mr. Lashbrook," Clift said. "Of course, I
have not been unmindful of your instructions and a pretty close watch
has been kept on Mr. Crafton. Are you still under the impression--"

"I am under no impressions at all," Philip interrupted. "I never said I
suspected Mr. Crafton of having any hand in that crime, and, if I were
to go into a Court of Law to-morrow I could not produce a scrap of
evidence against him. What I really said was that it is the business of
the police to suspect everybody."

"I am sure I am very sorry," Clift said. "Now, I have made still further
inquiries from the different servants we employ, most of whom have been
with us for years, and I can't find a single trace of anybody ever
seeing Crafton and Millar together, or exchanging a word. And if you
have no evidence against Mr. Crafton, why are you here this morning?"

"A very fair question," Philip replied, "I came, in the first instance,
to see Mr. Crafton himself, and on the whole, without going into
details, I may say that the inquiry was eminently satisfactory."

"Then you don't want anything more, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes, I do. Remember that we suspect everybody. We suspect certain
people, even when the evidence is dead against our convictions. And that
is why I propose, this morning, to take advantage of Mr. Crafton's
absence to make a thorough search of that gentleman's bedroom. No
objection, I suppose?"

"It wouldn't matter if I had," Clift said.

"Not a bit. Probably the door of the room is locked, but of course, you
have a duplicate key. If you haven't I must 'phone to Scotland Yard for
one of our experts to come and open the door for me."

"No occasion," Clift smiled. "We have a duplicate key to all the rooms.
I suppose, Mr. Lashbrook, this little burglary of ours is to be a
profound secret."

"Well, I think that goes without saying," Lashbrook replied. "I want you
to come with me, in case we discover anything of importance, in which
event you will be a witness."

"Very well," Clift said resignedly. "Though, mind you I don't like it.
Come this way."

The two were in Crafton's bedroom in a few moments, and Lashbrook looked
around him. It was a large and pleasant room, looking out on to the
street, and furnished with a bed and a lounge, together with a wardrobe,
a couple of arm chairs, and an old oak bureau, in front of which was
another chair.

"A very handsome piece of furniture, that," Lashbrook said. "The
property of the club, I presume?"

"No, sir," Clift explained. "That is Mr. Crafton's own property. It's
been here for years."

"Um--the drawers all unlocked, I see," Philip mused, as he tried them,
one after the other. "Evidently a very confiding person, Mr. Crafton.
What have we here? A certain amount of private correspondence, a whole
lot of maps and plans which, no doubt were of service during the war,
and quite a heap of fishing tackle. Beyond that, I can see nothing. But
then, you never know with these old-fashioned pieces of furniture. Do
you happen to have a foot-rule in the place, Mr. Clift?"

Clift came back in a few moments with an ordinary boxwood foot-rule in
his hand. With this, Lashbrook proceeded to measure the depth of the
drawers and, after he had done that, the depth of the bureau itself. As
he did so, he smiled.

"Ah, just as I thought," he said. "Behind that middle drawer there is a
space of about eight inches unaccounted for. A secret recess, of course.
Now, let's see if we can find the spring or knob that opens it."

A moment later, he pulled back a small square of wood, from behind which
he took a letter in a heavily sealed envelope. He glanced at it and a
sudden light flashed into his eyes.

For the envelope was in a handwriting which he had no difficulty in
recognising. It was the handwriting of Colonel Heaton and addressed to
Molly, at the old house in Kent. There was no shadow of a doubt about
that.




CHAPTER XXIII.


THE manager of The Wanderlust regarded Lashbrook with frank admiration.
Much as if he had been a conjurer who had performed some new and
wonderful trick.

"That was very smart of you," he said. "Have you found something that
you were looking for?"

"I was looking for nothing in particular," Philip admitted quite
candidly. "Though I did expect that my search here would not be exactly
a waste of time. Anyhow, there is a lot of spade work yet before I lay
my hand on Mr. Millar's murderer. All I ask is that you say nothing to a
soul as to this matter. A chance word may mean the ruin of my work."

Philip went on his way presently with the letter in his pocket. At the
first opportunity he examined it minutely with the aid of a strong
magnifying glass. He had more than suspected that the big red seal on
the back of the envelope had been tampered with, and this suspicion was
speedily confirmed. Beyond doubt the letter had been opened and sealed
again very carefully. But certain rough edges, and a break in the seal,
betrayed the work of the culprit. But why had the thief who had stolen
the letter been so anxious not to betray the fact that he had tampered
with it? That was what Philip had to discover.

But, be that as it may, the letter belonged to Molly, and to her Philip
repaired accordingly. Alone with her in her office, the letter was laid
on the table.

"Where did you find it?" Molly asked.

"Never mind," Philip said. "I can't tell even you yet. Let us say in the
course of my investigations. Of course, you recognise the handwriting on
the envelope?"

"My poor dear father's," Mollie almost whispered. "I suppose that you
guessed that."

"I was sure of it," Philip said. "And now didn't you think you had
better open it? No, no, not that way. Slit the flap of the envelope with
a paper-knife. It may be necessary later on to prove that the seal on
the flap has been tampered with."

Mollie proceeded to carry out his instructions, and the letter lay
before her. There was no address, but a date some time during the year
1918. The letter ran:--

My dearest child,

I am writing this in the hope that with good fortune, it will reach your
hands. It is a long chance, but I have to take it. I think you know, or
have guessed, what my occupation has been during the Great War. I cannot
be more definite than that because this letter may fall, probably will
fall, into the hands of my enemies.

I am somewhere where I ought not to be, and I have been found out.
Betrayed beyond the shadow of a doubt. It is a horrible thought that
this treachery comes from the hand of one of my own fellow countrymen,
whom I had trusted, and who is a traitor for the sake of money, the
worst type of creature. The name I cannot mention, but think of a time,
long ago, when you came down to breakfast in the old house and found me
in company with one who was not a guest when you went to bed the night
before.

Mollie broke off and looked at Philip. "The man with the black
moustache!" she cried.

"Precisely," Philip said dryly. "Go on."

Let us hope you have remembered, my child. I had nearly finished my work
before this disaster overcame me. A few hours more and I should have
been across the danger line. There were two men with me--the betrayer,
and another, less daring and bold, who is the weak reed I am relying on
to smuggle this letter to you. If he succeeds, he will hand over certain
belongings of mine and a certain weapon which has never left me since I
started on this, the last and most perilous journey of my career. Keep
it for my sake and handle it carefully.

In a few hours I shall be dead. Shot. You guess what this means. My very
dearest child. . . .

There was much more to the same effect. There were tears in Mollie's
eyes before she had finished. Then she looked up quickly as one of the
last lines in the letter struck her.

"Look at this, Phil," she cried. "The words, 'Do you remember our old
pastime?'"

"What does that mean?" Philip asked.

"A sort of game we used to play. Cyphers. Picking out letters in a piece
of prose so as to form words. Not very original, but likely to pass
observation by anyone not 'expert in' such matters. Hold the paper up to
the light, Phil. Place it against the pane of glass in the window. If
you do, I am sure you will find lots of minute holes in the paper, as if
pricked slightly with a pin. I am absolutely certain of it."

"By jove, you are right," Philip said after a test. "I will hold the
sheet of paper against the light, and whilst I read out the pricked
letters, you take them down."

When this was finished, Mollie proceeded to translate the individual
letters into words.

"I told you so, Phil," she cried, "I told you so. There is a secret
hiding place in the handle of the revolver and in it is a key to a safe
where money is deposited. You see--"

"Well, we know all that already," Philip interrupted. "We have secured
the key and the money."

"Thanks to you, dear," Mollie smiled. "My darling Dad goes on to speak
of it here in the pricket words which I have compiled from the chosen
letters. The man who betrayed him was Douglas Hume, and the man chosen
to smuggle the letter through was the murdered man, Andrew Millar. How
ghastly! But why did not Millar bring the letter direct to me?"

"Because he probably knew all about the money in the safe and the
temptation was too strong for him," Philip suggested. "But one thing he
did not know was where the key of the safe was concealed. He trusted to
luck to find it later on. He must have found out by some means or other
that the Colonel was handling large sums of German gold behind the
enemy's lines and probably knew something concerning the way in which,
from time to time, your father replenishes his store of cash. So did
that scoundrel, Douglas Hume, for that matter. Both those men were more
or less working together in the Secret Service. Then, when Hume's plans
were ripe, he betrayed your father and hoped to get away with the
balance of the German gold, knowing full well that the big men behind
the Service would never acknowledge to outsiders, as we are, that they
knew anything of the fund in the safe. The interview I had at the
Foreign Office proved that. Then, after Hume had played the double-dyed
traitor, he missed his mark over the key, and when he came back to
London when the war was over he hunted high and low for Millar, whom he
suspected of having the key of the safe. Millar did have it, as a matter
of fact, since it was hidden in the handle of the automatic, but that
was a thing of which he had no knowledge. All Millar had was this letter
to you, and he opened it and no doubt studied it hundreds of times, in
the hope of stumbling on a clue to the key. That's why he hid that
letter all these years. Doubtless Millar was fully aware of all your
movements, Mollie, and when he realised that you were compelled to work
for your living he came to the logical conclusion that you were in utter
ignorance of the safe and its contents. But he still stuck to the
letter. After the war he went abroad for a long time, and finally came
back not long since, and took up his old Quarters at the Wanderlust
Club."

"Where Douglas Hume found him," Mollie suggested.

"No doubt. Hoping to lay hands on the spoil, despite the fact that so
many years had elapsed."

"And murdered Millar," Mollie whispered. "I wonder why?"

"That is what I suggest," Philip said. "As to motive, who can tell? But
doubtless something connected with the money in that safe. You may be
sure all this long time Hume has been secretly on the track of his
victim. He may have thought that Millar at long last had solved the
problem and killed him with the idea, later on, of finding the clue. We
know that Hume was always hard up, indeed, that trick he played on the
editor of The West End Magazine proves that. We know beyond the shadow
of a doubt that Hume was with your father, together with Millar, behind
the Italian lines when the colonel was betrayed into the hands of the
foe. So far we have solved the problem."

"But Hume?" Mollie, asked. "What of him? And how are you going to prove
the crime against him? Anyway, he seems to have vanished. Perhaps dead."

"I don't think so," Philip said. "A man doesn't commit a murder and die
within the limit of a few days. At least, it would be a strange
coincidence if he did."

"But who is he? Where has he got to?"

"That question will be answered before long," Philip said with a smile.
"Patience, my dear. When the hour strikes, you are going to help. Does
the idea surprise you? Yes, I think that you will have a hand in the
arrest of the murderer."




CHAPTER XXIV.


MOLLIE lost a little of her wonderful colouring.

"I hope not directly," she said. "But I suppose that you mean in the way
of giving evidence, Phil?"

"That was my idea," Philip said. "Do you remember the section of a
photograph I showed you recently? But of course you do. The man with the
black moustache who came so mysteriously to your house before the war."

"You mean the man without the black moustache, Phil?"

"In the photograph, yes. Just a little military one. But you saw a
certain point of resemblance, didn't you?"

"A very striking point of resemblance," Mollie declared. "You are going
to suggest--"

"Nothing for the moment, Mollie. This is the stage where I have to
consult my very good friend, Inspector Klein. But you shall know
afterwards. Within four and twenty hours, I hope."

Inspector Klein welcomed his junior with his usual friendliness and
cordiality.

"Well, my boy," he said. "I can see by your expression that you have
news of grave import to tell. Mean to say that you have solved the
problem of the Mansfield street murder?"

"Practically," Philip said. "There is still a certain amount of spade
work to be done, but that I hope to finish on Monday, with the man,
Heron's, assistance. But before I go any further I want you to look at
this letter. I found it not so long ago in a secret drawer of an old
bureau in Selby Crafton's bedroom at the Wanderlust Club. Read it,
inspector."

"Very interesting," Klein said at length. "But it does not seem to get
us very much further."

Philip proceeded to explain the cypher, and at the same time handed
Klein Mollie's translation of the prickmarks. A low smile dawned on the
Inspector's face.

"Ah, now I begin to understand," he said. "But I don't see exactly where
Heron comes in."

Philip handed the section of photograph to the other, and began to
explain at some length.

"There!" he said at last. "Now you understand the connection between
Crafton and Hume. And so does Heron. That's why I wanted the latter
released. Because Hume ployed Heron a very dirty trick, some long time
ago, and Heron found it out, after a lapse of time, and is now thirsting
for Hume's blood. Hume does not know this yet, though he will on Monday,
when the two meet. It was I who arranged the meeting which takes place
at Heron's shop in Victoria Place, and I shall be there. In a place
where I can listen without being seen. Understand?"

And Klein declared emphatically that he did.

It was shortly after 2 o'clock on Monday afternoon that Philip made his
way in the direction of Victoria Place, Camberwell, with a view to
keeping his appointment. He dismissed his taxi at the corner of the
street and very cautiously covered the ground to his destination. His
coat collar was pulled up, and his hat drawn over his eyes. Heron,
lounging at the shop door, was waiting for him. Together they passed
into a dingy little room at the back of the shop, that gave on to a sort
of a tank which evidently served as a scullery and washplace to the
establishment. And there for half an hour Philip lay perdu.

Then voices, and the scent of a cigarette of quality which the newcomer
was smoking. It was not in the least difficult to recognise the voice of
the speaker.

"Well, here I am, Heron," came the patronising tones. "Most infernally
inconvenient, but, for the sake of old times, I decided to answer your
note in person. But you must understand that there can be no further
business dealings between us."

"I see," Heron muttered. "Times 'ave changed evidently. No further use
for my little plice for yer letters, eh? An' no little plants with John
'Eron to pull the chestnuts out o' the fire, an' be fobbed off with 5
per cent. of the plunder."

"My good man," the drawling, insolent voice responded, "you and your
kind always talk like that. Where would you be without education and
brains behind you? If you tried to pull off some plant, however simple
it looked, you would be laid by the heels before a day had passed over
your head. We do all the head work and the scheming. Sometimes, when a
big coup is decided on, it may take weeks, or even months, before we can
move with safety. And money, too. That Carton case cost a certain person
five hundred in ready money before we made our swoop."

"Yus, and I made the swoop, cully."

"You got the stuff away in a fast car, and all you had to do was to
enter the crib when it was a dead snip, and nobody into a position to
interfere. About as much danger as fetching a sack of potatoes from a
field. And what did you get for your trouble? Fifty pounds. One night's
work."

"That's orl very well, Mr. Blinkin' Hume--"

"Don't you dare to address me like that," the other man said. "Don't
dare to quarrel with me. Mr. Hume, please."

"Mr. Crafton, if yer like," Heron said sullenly.

Philip, in his hiding place, heard the sudden gasp that broke from the
lips of the visitor as Heron spoke.

"What--what do you mean by Crafton?" came the question.

"Ah, I ain't such a fool as yer make out," Heron jeered. "I knows orl
about yer. Yus, I knows as yer got more than one address. I cud a wrote
yer at that there swell club of yours, if I'd a mind. But wif orl yer
swank and you-be-damned airs, yer 'ad to come down 'ere when I sent for
yer because yer dared not make an enemy of John 'Eron. And if I tell yer
as I'm in need of a few 'undred quids you'll 'ave to find 'em."

"Blackmail, eh? Trying a new line?"

"Yer white-livered scoundrel, yer double-crossing scamp, yer yellow
dog," Heron burst out. "Who put Snippy Calligan away? An' the Lurcher
and me?"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

There was astonishment in the tone of the speaker, but there was also a
note of fear behind it. Philip, waiting there for his time to come, did
not fail to notice it.

"Well, I'll tell yer," Heron replied, in a menacing tone that caused the
other to shrink back. "I just come out of prison. A close shave of
gettin' a five stretch. But the cops 'ad other uses fer me, and they let
me go. But under remand and in the exercise yard one day who should I
meet but Flash Alf. No cause ter ask if yer knows him, cos yer do. And
he told me things. Told me orl about that Clapham Common wot I got two
year fer back in '94. Now, you skunk, wot abaht it?"

There was murder in that voice, and Philip recognised it as he crouched
there in the damp scullery. If Heron broke all the bounds of restraint,
then he would have to disclose himself, a thing he did not want to do
just yet.

"You think I betrayed you?" Hume asked.

"I don't think nothin' abaht it," Heron responded, in the same savage
tones. "I knows. But I couldn't prove it until 'ad me talk wif Flash
Alf. Now Mr. Crafton."

"Be careful," the other said. "Don't use that name any more than you can
help. Lord knows who is listening."

"The perlice, per'aps," Heron said, with a suggestion of humour that
naturally his visitor failed to understand. "But as says, afore, wot
abaht it?"

"It's a mistake, all a mistake. Only give me time to explain and I can
put everything right. And, if you want money, you can have it, lots of
money. Listen to me, Heron. I am on the track of a fortune. Over
20,000. The easiest money you ever heard of. Just lying about ready for
anybody to pick up, and nobody to claim it. The stuff is almost in my
hands, and when I finger it a thousand is yours. Come!"

"Lor, wot a liar the man is!" Heron said, with a sort of jeering
admiration. "Ought ter be a member o' Parlyment. Orl that money is
waitin' in the gutter, I don't think. And you wif abaht a bob to yer
nime. Quite the toff, o' course, wif all yer swell clobber. But yer
don't get away wif it like that. When I sent for yer this mornin' I
meant to cut yer throat, even if I 'ad to swing fer yer. But yer ain't
worf it, Mr. Crafton. And if I let yer go now never will I see yer again
nor your thousand pahnds. Turn out yer pockets, put all the posh yer got
'on the tyble there. That flash ring on yer finger and the gold watch
and chine. Sort o' security fer good behaviour."

From his hiding place Philip could hear the rustle of notes and the
rattle of coin, together with the clank of the watch on the table. Then
he stepped forth.

The eyes of the two men met. Crafton staggered and turned pale. That he
recognised Philip as the constable whom he had encountered on the night
of Millar's murder was beyond question.

"A plant," he murmured feebly.

"Call it that if you like," Philip said quietly. "Mr. Selby Crafton,
alias Douglas Hume, I hold a warrant for your arrest on a charge of
murder. The murder of Andrew Millar."




CHAPTER XXV.


A BITTER smile crossed Crafton's face. He looked straight into the eyes
of his accuser, and the shrug of his shoulders was suggestive of
surrender to superior force.

"Ah, a neat little plot," he sneered. "The price of Mr. John Heron's
liberty. Also the saving of much trouble in connecting Douglas Hume and
Selby Crafton. Sir Policeman, my very best congratulations. I little
thought when we met, that dramatic night in Mansfield street, that I was
face to face with one of the shining lights of the Scotland Yard
division."

It was all very well done. The bean idea attitude of the man of nerve
and courage, who is prepared to take any risk to attain his ends, and is
equally ready to face the desperate consequences should he fail. A pity,
thought Philip, that one so brave should be such an abandoned scoundrel.

But it was only for a moment that Crafton maintained his attitude or
indifferent aloofness. Suddenly his whole body stiffened and, with every
muscle keyed up to concert pitch, he sprang forward and swung a blow at
Philip which just missed his jaw and landed on his throat. But it served
to send Philip staggering backwards, whilst, with one bound, Crafton was
outside the kitchen door and into the street. Before Philip could
recover his balance and set off in pursuit, Crafton was running down the
street with a good twenty yards start.

He darted across the road at a right angle, blind to aught but safety.
There was a shout and a yell, and almost before Phil realised what had
happened Crafton was lying in the centre of a narrow street, and a
passing motor lorry pulled up with a grind of brakes and a skid on to
the pavement.

As if by magic a crowd of people had gathered round the still form lying
there, and a white-faced driver was protesting to heaven that he was not
in the least to blame.

"Bolted like a mad dog across the road, he did," the man almost
blubbered. "Seemed arf crazy like. Did it a purpose, I shouldn't
wonder."

A constable shouldered his way through the press.

"Here, what's all this?" he asked. "Now, then, some of you, keep back,
there. Give him air."

By this time Philip had reached the scene of the accident. He flashed
his official card in the constable's face. The latter fell back and
touched his helmet.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said. "I didn't know."

"Man escaping from custody," Philip panted. "Blundered right into the
lorry as he raced headlong across the road. It was no fault of the
driver. Call up assistance and send a cry for the ambulance. I'll take
charge here."

Half an hour later Philip was listening to what one of the house
surgeons at St. Angela's Hospital had to say.

"Pretty bad," he explained. "Injury to the spine, and I think, internal
injuries as well."

"Likely to be a long business?" Philip asked.

"Permanent, if you ask me," the surgeon declared. "What the papers call
fatal. Might drag on for a few days, but no longer. No pain to speak of,
poor chap, but none the less serious for that. Conscious already and
likely to remain so until the end. His own fault, he says. See him if
you like, but I should wait until we give you the tip."

There was nothing for it now but to get back to headquarters and report
to the authorities there. It was some time before Philip could obtain an
interview with Inspector Klein, but the latter was free at length, and
he welcomed Philip warmly, seeing that he had something important to
tell.

"Well," he asked. "Anything doing?"

"Meaning with regard to the Mansfield business, sir? I got my man all
right, in a way."

"What do you mean, 'in a way'?"

Philip proceeded to explain. He laid all the facts before his superior,
who listened in grim silence until the whole story was finished. Then he
permitted himself to indulge in a smile of congratulation.

"You have done exceedingly well," he said.

"I have been exceedingly lucky," Philip said modestly.

"Of course, you have, my dear boy," Klein agreed, "but my experience is
that good luck always follows sound, hard work. Luck, as you call it, is
always the policeman's friend. The biggest thing I ever pulled off was
the Wanstead murder case. Puzzled the Yard for eighteen months. No clue.
Then when I was put on to a piffling affair down at the Docks, connected
with cigar smuggling I hit, by the merest chance, on a clue that in the
end hanged three men. Well, you won't hang your man, and you won't get
any publicity or blaze of glory out of this stunt, the more especially
as the Foreign Office will stand between you and the gratification of
public curiosity, but I will see to it that recognition will be the most
good and that is here under this roof."

"That's very kind of you," Phillip said gratefully.

"Not at all, my boy, not at all. What a good man you are I learnt during
the war, and if you had come to me sooner and I should have had no
hesitation in backing you. And now you have made good off your own bat,
and solved a puzzle that would have been a credit to any of us here."

Philip left the office of his superior a little later with the feeling
that the world was treating him very well indeed. Not that he was taking
much credit to himself because he recognised how luck had played into
his hands. Not to mention what he owed to Mollie, and her help in
running the criminal to earth. And Mollie must be the first to know all
about it.

But it was not until the end of the week that Philip found an
opportunity of carrying out this intention. There were many interviews
with the great ones at the Yard, embracing Deputy Commissioners, and the
like, and many reports to make before it was possible to arrange an
interview with Mollie.

Then, of course, the Foreign Office took a hand in the game. Nothing
must transpire that involves in any way the connection between the
mandarins there and the Secret Service. If Crafton died, as seemed
inevitable, then the whole thing must be relegated to oblivion. And if,
before the end, he volunteered a statement, the same would have to be
carefully censored before it was made public property. And, meanwhile,
there Crafton was lying, save the bald statement that he was in extremis
and could not possibly recover. He was conscious and by no means
ungrateful for the care and attention which was bestowed on him, but in
manner he was sullen and reserved, and declined to speak of his friends.
These, he said, had long looked on him as dead, and therefore it was as
well to leave them happy in this belief. He had never been a credit to
them, and he had no wish to drag them painfully into the limelight.

And so the end of the week came before Philip found himself once more
alone with Mollie. It was after the luncheon hour, at a quiet little
place on the river, when, in the seclusion of a wood, that Phil
proceeded to unfold his tale.

"I did read something of it in the papers," Mollie said as Philip opened
the subject which was so near to the minds of them both. "About a man
called Crafton who was terribly hurt when trying to escape arrest. Of
course, I felt quite sure that he was the Crafton we are interested in."

"Quite right," Phil agreed. "As a matter of fact I was the officer who
was deputed to make the arrest. Crafton made a bolt for it, and, in his
blind hurry, ran right into a motor lorry. I suppose that is all the
papers told?"

"Every word," Mollie said. "There were no details. I have been terribly
curious to hear the rest."

"There can't be much you don't know," Phil observed. "My job was
definitely to establish the identity of Crafton with that man Hume,
whose name we stumbled on originally, owing to the fine, retentive
memory of Miss Waller in connection with her love of detective stories,
and that I did with the aid of Heron."

Mollie looked at Philip with a puzzled frown.

"Heron, Heron," she murmured. "Oh, yes. The man who kept the little shop
where Hume had his letters sent to, when he was cheating editors over
his stolen stories."

"That's the man, Mollie mine. But don't you think that I had better tell
the story in my own way?"

With a little smile of apology, Mollie settled down to hear what Philip
had to say. It was rather a long narrative, but by the time he had
finished there were no more questions to ask. "So there you are," Philip
said finally. "All I hope is that Crafton will make a clean breast of it
before he goes. I want to know the inner history of that secret fund,
and how Crafton got to know about it, and in what way he betrayed your
father. And how he came to the conclusion that Millar held the clue."

"Does it really much matter?" Mollie asked. "What most matters now is
what your superiors think of you, Phil."

"That is going to be all right, darling," Philip said. "My friend,
Klein, says so. We are going to be quite happy, Mollie."




CHAPTER XXVI.


MOLLIE snuggled up a little closer to her lover. She could see no cloud
on her horizon now.

"Isn't it perfect?" she sighed happily. "Just you and me, Phil, darling,
with all the world before us. And there has never been anyone but you
always--at least since I began to realise what love is. And now you are
going to be famous, and I shall be rich. Well, comparatively, anyway."

"Seeing me in your mind's eye Chief Commissioner at Scotland Yard,"
Philip laughed. "Nothing less, Mollie mine."

"And why not?" Mollie demanded. "With prospects like yours, Phil, we are
going to have that lovely flat in London and that country cottage. We
shall be able to afford both with your income and mine. And I know the
very place. Then a small car to run up and down. . . ."

So they built their rosy castle in the air until it began to grow late.
It was time to come back to earth again and face the realities of life.
A very happy and contented detective officer returned to his lodgings at
length, only to find that a telegram awaited him there.

It was brief, but pregnant enough, from St. Angela's Hospital, with the
information that Crafton was sinking fast and would like to see Philip
before the end. Ten minutes later he was seated by Crafton's bedside.

"I am glad you are not too late. No, I am not in pain, thank you. It may
strike you as a strange request on the part of dying man, but I should
like to know how you managed to guess my secret. First of all there is
something to be done. Get writing materials and ask one of the doctors
to come here, I want to make a statement."

A few minutes and Crafton's wishes were complied with.

"Now take down what I say," he told Philip. "The last dying speech and
confession of Selby Crafton, though that is not the name I was born to.
What that is nobody will ever know. Nor does it matter in the least. Are
you ready? Well, I murdered Andrew Millar because he had in his
possession, or I thought he had, that which would have enabled me to lay
hands on a fortune which was for the moment beyond my reach. My idea was
to locate that information, and get Millar out of the way, because he
was doing his best to secure the money for himself. In effect he was as
great a rascal as I am myself. So I tracked him down and shot him with
an automatic. Living under the same roof as he, that was not a difficult
matter, all the easier because we never spoke to one another, though we
were friendly enough at one time. I shot him with his own automatic
which I stole from his bedroom in his absence, and safely disposed of
the weapon. Then I stood by the body in the darkness of Mansfield street
and called the attention of a policeman to the corpse, it was a fine
piece of bluff that very nearly succeeded, but not quite. Have you got
all that down? It is all that is necessary and that is all I have to say
on the matter. Give me the pen to sign."

The all too brief, but absolutely complete confession was signed and
safely deposited in Philip's pocket after being witnessed, and then he
was alone with Crafton. The dying man spoke eagerly to the man by his
bedside.

"You are the fellow I really wanted to see," he said. "Now how did you
work it? How on earth did you get on to me? That bluff was foolproof.
And do you know everything? What I was after, for instance?"

"Meaning the money in the safe?" Phil inquired.

"Yes. I am going to tell you. Only there is no reason why the world at
large should know. There is a girl, the daughter of a certain Colonel
Heaton, who ought to have a lot of money her father earned, though in
strict equity he had no claim to it. But seeing that he died in the
service of his country--"

"At your hand practically," Philip interrupted.

"Well, it was either he or me," Crafton said quite coolly. "Being shot
is a nasty business. But, as you were one of us during the war, I need
not enlarge on the point. I found that out by making inquiries about
you, when I realised that you were casting suspicious glances in my
direction. Anyhow, though we were at work together behind the Austrian
lines, Heaton never trusted me. He preferred to confide in Millar, who,
as a matter of fact, was as big a rotter as I am. But I managed to get
Millar shoved into an Italian gaol, which meant that he might rot there
years before he was brought to trial. Meanwhile, knowing all about that
money in German gold marks deposited in a safe in London, I came back
after the Colonel's death to get it."

"Without the key to the safe."

"Precisely. When Millar was released and came back to the Wanderlust
Club, where I was located, I began to realise that he knew something. Of
course, he was after the money himself. And I imagined he had the key,
or some clue to it, hidden away in his bedroom. I did find in that
bedroom a letter addressed by the colonel to his daughter, and the old
man's pet automatic, and it was with this stolen weapon that I killed
Millar."

"I know," Philip said. "But there was another clue which I found in a
tin box in Millar's bedroom--half of a torn photograph which bore a
strong resemblance to you. This was taken in Brussels during the German
occupation, and traced. And the left ear showed a cauliflower injury
exactly the same as the one I see at this moment on your head--that
malformation I saw on the night of the murder, and made a note of."

"Yes, I suppose you would," Crafton gasped. "But, after all, that didn't
exactly prove anything."

"Well, you denied all knowledge of Millar. Strange that he should have a
portion of a photograph of you in his box--the same box from which you
stole the letter from Colonel Heaton to his daughter. I have that letter
also."

Crafton smiled faintly.

"Oh, you got that as well," he muttered. "From the old desk in my
bedroom. The letter I couldn't make out."

"That is so," Philip admitted. "The letter you stole from Millar and
held back, hoping that, if the worst came to the worst, you could
deliver it to Miss Heaton eventually with some clever story of having
found it, and after that strike some bargain with the young lady over
the money in the safe. Well, that letter covered a secret cypher
arranged between father and daughter for use in a crisis, and she
translated it for my benefit."

A long regretful sigh escaped the listener.

"Like that, was it?" he asked. "But how did you get on to the main idea?
I mean my bluff."

"You gave yourself away over that. And there again Miss Heaton played an
unconscious part. Of course, you knew that she was the owner of a typing
business. You must have known that."

"I did," Crafton admitted. "Go on."

"A business she bought, where she took over an assistant who had been
engaged there for years. A romantic sort of assistant who revelled in
detective stories. She remembered one she had typed long ago for a man
called Douglas Hume--"

"In other words, my alter ego," Crafton whispered.

"Exactly. A carbon copy of the story was produced, and the editor of the
swindled West End magazine interviewed. The address to which the cheque
for the borrowed story was sent was traced, and that is how I found John
Heron. I found him in gaol, and, for a consideration, obtained his
release. Then he sent for you and you deemed it prudent to respond. And,
because I was more or less present at that interview, I established the
connection between Crafton and Hume."

Crafton asked no more questions. His eyes closed and he lay rigid. He
had spoken his last word.

Back at Scotland Yard Philip laid the confession, and all the details he
had not hitherto disclosed, before Klein. Then he was piloted into the
office of a great man, who listened to all he had to say until he was
familiar with the minutest points. He regarded Philip with frank
approval.

"Very good indeed, my excellent officer," he said. "The inspector here
has given me your war record. I will see to it that you are not
forgotten. Good night."

"Praise from Sir Hubert Stanley," Klein grinned, when once more his
office was reached. "Oh, fortunate youth!"

"I am indeed," Philip said modestly.



THE END



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