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

 

Title: The Get-Back
Author: Edgar Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1400661h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  Feb 2014
Most recent update: Feb 2014

This eBook was produced by Roy Glashan from a donated text.

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

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

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

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

GO TO Project Gutenberg Australia HOME PAGE


The Get-Back

by

Edgar Wallace

Cover Image

A SUPERINTENDENT MINTER ("SOOPER") STORY

First published in Cassell's Magazine, December 1925
Published in The Saturday Evening Post, December 5, 1925



BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE

Superintendent Minter of the London Metropolitan Police, known by the nickname "Sooper", is the protagonist of several works that Edgar Wallace published in the 1920's. These include the novel Big Foot (1927) and the collection The Lone House Mystery and Other Stories (1929). Several short stories featuring the "Sooper" appeared in magazines in 1925 but were not collected during the author's lifetime. These include "The Get-Back," "The House of the Candles," and "The Little Dragon of Jade," all of which are available at Roy Glashan's Library and Project Gutenberg Australia. —RG



Cover Image

Issue of The Saturday Evening Post with "The Get-Back"



THE cleverest thing about a crook is the policeman who is following him, and even he wouldn't be asked to take the chair at a lecture on human intelligence.

When I was a young officer I got all the psych—what's the word? Psychology, that's it—of the criminal mind from a man I pinched for bag-snatching.

'I don't mind going inside. Sergeant,' he said: 'it gives me time to think.'

'And what do you think about, you poor nut?' I asked him.

'New ways of snatching bags,' he said.

Jail is hell to people who are never likely to go there; and it's pretty bad for folks who hoped they wouldn't go there; but for the birds who've got to know every rose in the warden's garden and have their particular taste in cells, it is a home from home. After all, there are hundreds of men and women who live in prisons all their lives without knowing it. The hooter brings them out of their cells, and they march off to the workshop, where they do their hard labour; when that is over, they march back to their cells and go to sleep. They may walk round to the pictures and maybe they see a football match, but the big things of life are eating and sleeping and paying the rent and worrying about the interest on the mortgage or the instalment that's due on the new motorbike. In prison you get everything except worry.

Thieving, like poetry and red hair, runs in families. Nobody knows why decent parents should rear crooks and murderers—it's one of the inscru— whatever the word is, acts of nature. There were three brothers named Larsen; they were all well brought up, they were all clever, and they all went to jail.

When young Harry Larsen and his brother Joe came out of Wandsworth after a nine months' sentence. I went down to meet 'em. They were nice boys, but they suffered from illusions. Illusion Number One was that there was a way of getting a lot of money all at once without working for it. It is the illusion that makes people play the races and buy oil plots and thieve.

Illusion Number Two was that, in spite of all previous troubles, they would succeed next time and get away with enough money to live happy ever after in some country where the extradition law didn't operate.

I liked the boys; I had sent them down twice, but I liked 'em because they were clever and bore no malice—at least, not towards me.

Now, my idea and object in turning myself into a Prison Gate Helpers League was to discover whether they bore any malice against Edward Lasthall. Personally, if I had been one of the two Larsen boys, I should have taken a gun and filled Mr Edward Lasthall full of nickel projectiles. I am speaking now as a born savage with a normal human being's natural drift towards homicide. Because nothing short of death and destruction was good enough for Ed Lasthall—from every point of view except mine, as a Superintendent of Police, and perhaps a judge and jury.

There have been some beautiful words in the English language that have been degraded by misuse, but you couldn't call Ed mean without glorifyin' the expression and putting it up amongst the high-flown compliments. He was a money-lender, and a pretty rich man, and he banked with the Nethersole Company, one of the few private banks in London. I happen to know this because, when little Pat Larsen was arrested for forging and uttering a cheque for eighty pounds, I had charge of the case. Pat was in Ed's office: he got the job himself, the boys keeping well in the background because they wanted the kid to go straight and to start fair without being handicapped, as he would have been if Ed Lasthall knew that his brothers were on the register.

Ed had his office at Notting Hill Gate, and he did a few things that weren't legitimate money-lending. He was the biggest diamond fence in London. If you were on the crook, and you snatched a tiara or a necklace, and you took the trouble to take the stones out of their setting, you could plant them with Ed and get about a hundredth part of their value. We raided his office once or twice, following in a well-known thief, but we never caught him with the goods.

It isn't necessary to explain that we never actually raided him, and that we always pretended it was his client we were after, but it amounted to the same thing.

I did not find out till a long time after how he got rid of the sparklers. His offices were on the third floor, and consisted of two rooms. On the second floor was a little office which had the name 'William Stott and Sons—Furriers' painted on the glass panel. That office was his, and his long-nosed sister used to sit there all the time he was upstairs, facing the door. At the first sign of danger—and she knew every C.I.D. man in the division by sight—she sounded a buzzer.

By the side of Ed's desk was a speaking tube. If the warning came when he was handling stones, he dropped them one by one down the tube, and they fell into a wool-lined box in Sarah's office. Simple? I should say it was. Only I used to think that the speaking-tube went through to his clerk in the room next door, and I didn't know Sarah was his dear relative until after the trouble. He got rid of his clerk, and that is when Pat saw the advertisement and answered it.

Pat was caught so simply that it doesn't seem true. An American crook named Wilson robbed a suite at the Green Park Hotel, and got away with eight hundred pounds and two diamond rings. If he hadn't been greedy he wouldn't have been pinched, but he wasn't satisfied with the money; he had two beautiful stones, and down he went to Ed's office. It was after banking hours, and Ed had run short of money. Would Wilson take a cheque? Wilson didn't want to very much, but he had got nervous about carrying the stones around, and Ed wrote him a 'pay bearer' cheque and Wilson went out. Now it happened that we had received an 'all stations' warning about the robbery and a description of the wanted man. It was an act of lunacy on the part of Wilson to stay in London after he'd made his bust, but, as I've said before, if a man could think straight he wouldn't act crooked.

As the American left the office Sergeant Brett, who had spotted him going in, walked over and tapped him.

'Come for a walk, Wilson—my chief wants to see you about your registration papers.'

Wilson knew all that stuff about 'registration papers,' and took a quick decision. When he saw Brett's two men close on him, he took another and went quietly. When they got him to the station and 'ran him down,' they found most of the money and the cheque in his pockets.

I went personally to Ed's office, and I had only to look at his face to know that he saw his number and landing. But he pulled a bluff.

'I never gave that cheque or signed it,' he said; and here was the curious thing. The cheque hadn't been torn from his current book. It was one he had been carrying around in his pocket for months (that is my theory; I've never been able to prove it).

'I didn't see this man Jones' (Wilson's name on the cheque). 'My clerk interviewed him.'

I noticed that he was talking very loudly, and I thought that it was for the benefit of the clerk in the next room. Sarah wasn't known to me then, and how should I know that she was listening at the door?

'I want to search your office, Lasthall,' I said, 'and maybe I shall ask you to come along to the station to see this man Wilson.'

Now in this country you cannot search an office without a warrant signed by a magistrate, but I figured that he would not dare refuse.

'You can do as you blame please,' he said. 'My own opinion is that my clerk knows more about this than I do. I've seen him imitating my signature.'

He was still talking loudly, and this puzzled me. It wasn't likely that his clerk would take any blame that was coming. After I had turned over his room, we went into the outer office, but nobody was there. The boy had gone home, it appears, and we made our examination without his help. In the top right drawer we found the two stones, and on the blotting-pad, written three or four times, the words. 'Edward Lasthall,' and they were pretty good imitations of Ed's signature.

Sarah was a quick and a bold worker. How bold she was you can gather, for she gave evidence not only before the magistrate, but before the judge, that she had seen the boy and Wilson in conversation on the landing, and noticed Pat Larsen take something from the man. Wilson didn't squeal, naturally. Ed was a very useful man in many ways. By some pull he had got himself made a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex, and used to sit on the bench and try poachers! And a J.P. can sign passports and do a whole lot of things that can help a man considerably.

Pat was sent down for eighteen months—he was under twenty, and had never done a crooked thing in his life. That was the cruel part of it: I knew that he was innocent, but could say no word to save him, especially after it was known that he was a Larsen and that two of his brothers were 'inside.'

And that is just why I went down to Wandsworth to do rescue work. For one thing, I wanted to rescue Ed Lasthall from his evil surroundings and put him in a nice moral jail.

As nine o'clock struck, the two boys came out through the little wicket-gate in their crumpled suits. They saw me at once, and came over towards me.

'What's the idea, Sooper?' asked Joe. 'You've got nothing on us.'

They thought it was a prison-gate arrest. We sometimes take a man as he comes out of jail for some offence he committed before he went in.

'Nothing at all, boys.' I said in a hurry. 'Only I thought I'd come along and see if there was anything I could do for you.'

Harry smiled lopsidedly and jerked his thumb at the prison door.

'You can walk in there and bring out Pat,' he said. 'You put him there.'

'Aw, listen,' said Joe, with a grin, 'what's the sense of bluffin', Sooper? You know who put Pat away. And, Sooper, we are going to make Ed Lasthall be very, very sorry for himself!'

Harry nodded.

'And when we've skinned him, we're going abroad to live on the hide,' he said. 'And Pat's joining us. We've given him the town and the place and the best way of getting there.'

Personally. I take very little notice of threats when they are made at the right end of a sentence—which is the beginning. It doesn't worry me any when the man I've sent down turns as he leaves the dock and tells me what is going to happen to my face when he leaves jail. That is natural. After his time's up. he usually comes along to see me and apologize. But to be threatened after a sentence is through—that is different.

'Skin him if you can, Harry.' I said. 'But there are eighteen thousand policemen in London whose job it is to see that you don't get away with the pelt.'

And then I began to talk to them about Ed. I thought that, being sore, they would squeal a little. You see, I happened to know that Pat was the apple of their eyes, and that, if I got to them quick enough, they would spill everything in the basin. But I was wrong.

'It's no use trying to smoodge us, Sooper,' said Joe, shaking his head. 'We've never had any dealings with this man Lasthall. He doesn't know us, and we don't know him. But we're going to get better acquainted. Even Pat wasn't aware that he was a fence, though everybody else in town seems to have known it.

I had my little car on the spot, and drove them to a coffee-shop in Wandsworth, where we had breakfast together. We talked about old friends inside and out, but all the time the Larsen boys were on their guard, and I got nothing out of them that I could put into an autobiography, if I ever wrote one. The food was better in Wandsworth than Pentonville; Hawkey, the coiner, was in charge of the library, and the 'screws' were more reasonable. In thieves' slang 'screw' means 'to look.' and warders and guards are called by that name because they look through the peepholes into the cells. They told me, before I left, that they were going to stay with relations at Lewisham, but that meant nothing.

Ordinarily, I warn a man who has been threatened at the wrong end of a sentence, but Ed was my lawful prey, and I was looking forward to the day when I should put him in the steel pen and read over a charge to him. And those kind of birds you don't warn.

When I saw him a few days after, he was coming out of Nethersole's Bank looking as black as thunder. His face changed a little when he saw me, but he was too mad to hide his feelings.

'Morning. Sooper—what's the matter with that bank? I've been a client for twelve years, and they treat me like a dog!'

'What's the trouble?' I asked him.

It appeared that he had been negotiating for the purchase of a big block of flats in Baker Street. He bought and sold property as a side-line, and always at a profit, but this was one of his biggest deals.

'I've never had less than thirty-five thousand pounds in my current account,' he said, 'and they know that I'm as solid at Rothschilds, and yet when I ask them for a twenty-thousand loan to finish this deal they treat me as if I were a thief. And I only want the money for three days and can lodge the deeds against the loan!'

The sum he had to find was seventy thousand, which meant that his fluid account was somewhere in the neighbourhood of fifty thousand pounds. That is pretty big money in loose cash, and no business man would keep as much in his current account; but I have in my mind the idea that Ed expected a day would come when he would have to jump for safety—and jump quick.

That's deduction, or maybe guesswork, or possibly good police work, for we had made a few discoveries about Ed Lasthall. Number One was his relationship with Sarah. Number Two was a seagoing motorboat that he kept in the estuary of the Thames.

'1'11 change my bank,' he said. 'These old-fashioned private banks aren't safe, anyway.'

Nobody knew better than Ed that Nethersole's was one of the toniest banks in London. All the big swells kept their private accounts with Nethersole's. and it was a good advertisement for Ed to be able to put 'Nethersole's Bank' on his notepaper.

I don't suppose that he was seriously inconvenienced, because he had money on discount at the Credit Lyonnais. Anyway. I heard that the deal had gone through.

I had Sergeant Brett into my office the day after I met Lasthall.

'Watch out for the Larsen boys.' I told him, for my job was to keep the police end of the business in good shape and order. Brett had to know what the trouble was, and when I explained he seemed amused.

'Thieves big and little have been trying to get money out of Ed ever since I've been in this division. Before he died, poor old Looey busted his house in Colville Gardens, and got nothing out of it but nine months' hard labour. The Larsen boys will have to improve on their style to have any hope of catching Lasthall.'

I don't know that I agreed with him. As I have said before, all criminals are fools, and for this reason: they never choose the right material. Their workmanship is fine, but in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they are in the position of carpenters working on steel. There never was a good watch-maker who could do much with a pick and a shovel, and the Larsen boys had worked some of their cleverest gags on people with as much imagination as the average cow, and naturally they had come unstuck.

The boys were kind of superior confidence-men, and they had got into trouble because they had operated on brokers and businessmen instead of on poets, parsons and ad writers. I've studied their methods very carefully, and I'm bound to admit that their graft was the cleverest that has ever come under my notice. But they had failed because they were aiming at the wrong target.

For a swindle to succeed it is necessary that everybody concerned, including the poor pigeon, should have the minds of swindlers. No con man has ever made money except out of the potentially dishonest. I think 'potentially' is the right word, but if it isn't you'll know what I mean.

I saw nothing of the boys, nor did Brett, and it looked as though the Larsens had gone honest. There was no mention of them, either in confidentials or in the Hue-and-Cry. and although I read the newspapers carefully, I could find no record of a City merchant buying blocks of shares in North African gold mines or oil concessions in Bessarabia.

The two boys had a little money put by (Joe was the saver of the family), and there was just a chance that they had decided to quit and had found work that hadn't got a come-back. But I was wrong, I got the story afterwards from Ed, and it wasn't an easy story to get, because every few sentences he either knocked his head against the wall or stopped to remark what he'd do to the Larsens if he ever laid his hands on them. And when he wasn't doing that he was praying that the Lord would do something vicious to Joe and Harry at that very minute. I never knew Ed had any religion in his system until then, but apparently he was rather strong for prayer.

About the middle of April he had a letter from a man called Weiss, asking him on what terms he'd loan him a thousand pounds. Ed did a lot of advertising and had a pretty large connexion. He sent Mr Weiss the usual inquiry form; you know the kind of thing I mean—kindly state age, colour of eyes, where born, how often bankrupt—and in reply he had a strange letter, which I have seen:

DEAR SIR,—I need hardly tell you that I have not given you my own name. I am in terrible trouble, not on my own account but on account of my brother. I am still hoping that the blow may be averted, and that it will not be necessary for me to come to you for money. How terrible it is that the sins of others should be visited upon the innocent! Your most kind and generous letter has touched me very deeply. I feel indeed that in you I have a good and loyal friend. I will write to you later when matters develop.

Yours sincerely, M. WEISS


The letter was dated from an accommodation address in South London, and Ed's 'kind and generous letter' he wrote about was the usual brotherly hokum that Ed sent out to all prospective clients.

Lasthall wasn't so much puzzled by the letter as I should have been. I guess he had a pretty curious correspondence; and being a professional moneylender, he knew that nobody borrows for themselves. They always want the money for a dear friend or for a husband or to help somebody else. They've either backed a bill for a near relation, or they've been the victims of other people's circumstances.

Nothing further came, and Mr Weiss had gone out of Ed's memory until the third day of May, which was a Friday.

Edward was sitting in his office reading a sporting paper. He was going away to Brighton that night to spend the weekend, and he was only waiting till Sarah brought up some letters for him to sign before he left the office. He had read through yesterday's racing and was wondering if any of his clients had been hit when his new clerk came in and said there was a young man who wanted to see him.

'What is his name?'

'Mr Weiss,' replied the girl: and then Ed remembered the mad letter he had had from him.

'Shoot him in,' he said, and a second or two later Mr Weiss came in.

Ed said he was a young and artistic looking man, and so far as I can understand, Ed got the notion that he was artistic because he wore no waistcoat, had a big black, flowing tie and longish hair. He seemed in a terrible state of agitation: his lips were trembling, and he couldn't keep still for a second. He was hardly in the chair where Lasthall politely asked him to sit than he was on his feet again, walking up and down the room.

'Forgive me,' he said (Ed Lasthall repeated the conversation word for word: I guess it had burnt itself in pretty deeply). 'Forgive me, Mr Lasthall, but I hardly know whether I'm standing on my head or my heels. This is dreadful—dreadful! I've guessed the truth all these months, yet the news has come as a blow to me. Oh, Johnny, Johnny, how could you!'

He wrung his hands like a man in the last stages of despair.

'Calm yourself, Mr Weiss,' said Ed. He had seen folk carry on in that way before, but it was usually after a loan came due.

'My name isn't Weiss,' the young man replied, 'I am Arthur Jorlton.'

Now Ed had no knowledge of art or poetry, but there was a dim idea at the back of his mind that he had either seen the name in the paper or had heard of it before.

'I am Arthur Jorlton,' said the young man rather impatiently. 'You must know my work? I have a play at the Everywoman's Theatre.'

And then Ed remembered. It was one of those highbrow plays that the critics like but the public won't pay to see, all about souls and the rights of women to do as they darned well please, and Ed, who was strong for girl and music shows, had enough knowledge of the theatre to know that Tombstones (that was the name of the play) was an artistic success and was losing money.

'Why, yes. Mr Jorlton. I know your work very well,' he said. That play of yours is one of the greatest we've ever had on the stage and shows that the British drama is coming back to its own.'

He remembered this bit from a criticism he'd read.

'Artistic success?' said Jorlton bitterly. 'And here am I on the very threshold of fame... and this has happened!'

Ed waited to hear what 'this' was.

'I have feared it,' said Mr Jorlton, throwing his arms about like an actor. 'I taxed him with it in March. I said, "John, I cannot understand how, on your salary, you can afford to keep this expensive flat and to play the races as you do." He told me that he was earning a lot of money by his literary work, and, like a fool, I believed him.'

'And what has he done?' asked Ed very gently. He was beginning to get the hang of the situation.

'What has he done?' Mr Jorlton turned round on him fiercely. 'He has not only ruined himself irretrievably, he has not only ruined me, but by his wicked folly he has dragged down thousands of innocent men and women to penury!'

Ed looked at the clock: it was ten minutes past three, and he was due to catch the 3.40 for Brighton.

'Now listen. Mr Jorlton. You come along and see me on Monday morning and we'll have a heart-to-heart talk—'

'On Monday morning it will be too late,' said the young man, who became calm in an instant and, pulling up his chair to the other side of the desk, sat down. 'Mr Lasthall. I am not a businessman,' he said. 'You would hardly expect that in one of my temperament. I am a writer, a dreamer, a poet, if you will. Only the terrible force of necessity would have brought me to you, but I am encouraged by the humanity of your letter. I want to borrow three thousand pounds for a fortnight.'

'Really!' said Ed politely. 'That's a very large sum. Mr Jorlton, and, of course, you have security?'

Nobody who had ever been to borrow money from Ed had had security, and he nearly dropped off his chair when the man took out of his pocket a thick envelope and produced a bundle of War Loan scrip.

'There is a thousand pounds' worth of War Loan here.' he said. 'But a thousand pounds is not enough, and although I know nothing of business I realize that it is foolish to ask you to accept a thousand pounds' worth of security for a loan of three thousand.'

Ed looked at the scrip and then at Mr Jorlton.

'It is certainly not a proposition that I could listen to.' he said. 'I'm willing to give you a thousand pound loan on the security of this stock—'

The young man shook his head.

'That is not enough. Indeed, three thousand pounds is not enough, but it would stave off the ruin which I fear is inevitable. The auditors are making a very careful examination of the books, and I am afraid the bank suspect something is wrong.'

'The bank?' said Ed quickly. 'Which bank is this?'

But Mr Jorlton was not agreeable to telling that.

'It is a private bank, that is all I can tell you.'

'And your brother has been robbing it?' asked Ed. 'How much money has he taken?'

Mr Jorlton sighed wearily.

'I can't tell you exactly. It must be between a hundred and fifty thousand and two hundred thousand. Sufficient, I fear, unless the joint-stock banks come to their rescue, to ruin this unfortunate house.'

He took a drink of water to steady himself.

'It's Nethersole's Bank, isn't it?' he asked, and the young man looked at him suspiciously.

'How did you know that?'

'Never mind, but I knew it.' said Ed roughly, 'is it or is it not?'

'It is,' said Mr Jorlton in a whisper.

Ed sat back in his chair and did some quick thinking.

'Have these defalcations been discovered?' he asked.

'Not yet,' said Mr Jorlton, 'but I fear—'

'Never mind what you fear. You say the auditors are in and the loss hasn't been discovered? How much money has your brother taken?'

The young man pulled a small book from his pocket and turned the leaves.

'He has a record of a hundred and sixty-one thousand pounds. It has been taken from the account of a very rich man named Buckler—'

Ed knew Buckler: a retired wine merchant who lived in Ladbroke Grove. As I say, Ed was a quick thinker. Nethersole's principal branch was at Notting Hill, and the peculiarity of the bank was that it kept on the premises an enormous cash reserve.

'Is your brother at the bank?' he asked.

'No.' said the young man. 'He has absented himself today. I couldn't let him run the risk of arrest. He sent a message to say that he was sick. Now, Mr Lasthall, can you help me?'

Ed looked at the clock again: it was twenty past three: the bank closed at half past.

'Just wait here.' he said. 'I'll go along to my bank and get some money, and then I'll fix you.'

He seized his cheque-book, dashed downstairs and hailed a taxi. He only had about five hundred yards to go, but time was precious, and three minutes later he walked into the bank and made his way to the desk of the old cashier who usually attended to him. There were two or three people waiting to cash cheques or pay in, and Ed got almost beside himself as the hands of the clock moved towards half past three. At last it came to his turn.

'Good afternoon. Mr Lasthall.' said the old clerk, who was rather talkative. 'I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, but we're rather short-handed just now. One of our clerks is away ill—a young man whom you may have remembered seeing. He's a brother of Jorlton, the playwright.'

'Yes, yes,' said Ed. 'Very interesting. Will you tell me the amount of my balance?'

'We can't tell you anything.' said the oldish boy. 'We've got the auditors in just now...'

Ed waited, hardly daring to draw a breath. By and by the cashier came back and pushed a slip under the grille. 38,500 was the amount, and with shaking hands Ed drew a cheque. The cashier looked at it.

'That nearly closes your account, Mr Lasthall.' he said.

Ed muttered something about buying property, and the cashier went away. He was gone a long time, and Ed was beginning to feel hot under the collar when the old gentleman came back and, laying a bundle of notes on the counter, counted them slowly.

The outer doors of the bank were closed by then, but that didn't matter to Ed Lasthall as he stuffed the money into his pocket with a feeling that he had been hauled into a boat after going down for the third time.

The porter opened the door for him and he went out into the street and was turning towards Notting Hill Gate when somebody called to him peremptorily, and he turned to see a strange and official-looking young man.

'Your name is Lasthall, isn't it? I'm Sergeant Jefferson from Scotland Yard. Will you come along and see Sooper? He wants to speak to you.'

'Sooper?' said Ed in surprise. 'What does he want with me?'

'They'll tell you that at the Yard.'

'But he's not at the Yard—' began Ed.

'I don't want to argue with you,' said Sergeant Jefferson shortly. 'If it's any news to you, you're under arrest!'

Lasthall nearly dropped. I guess he'd been expecting a squeal from some of the stone stealers for a very long time.

'Sooper has got nothing on me.' he said, 'and if you arrest me there's going to be bad trouble.'

There was a car waiting, and at Jefferson's signal it pulled up by the side of the kerb, and Ed was pushed in.

'There's no sense in getting up in the air about this,' said Jefferson. 'The Yard is always making mistakes, and probably this is one. And, anyway, I'm only doing my duty.'

This calmed Ed Lasthall, though he was a bit shaken, I imagine, and when Jefferson offered him his case he took a cigarette with a laugh.

'There's trouble coming to those people at the Yard,' he boasted. 'I'm not the man to stand for this sort of thing.'

'I'll bet you're not,' said the sergeant.

Ed told me that it was after he'd smoked half-way through the cigarette that he began to feel sleepy, but he was suspicious of nothing.

At eleven o'clock that night Ed, covered with dust and looking as if he had been passed through a cinder sifter, staggered into the police station near Chislehurst Common. He hadn't any idea what had happened to him except that he'd gone to sleep, and that when he woke up he was lying on the grass with a pillow under his head, no money in his pocket, and a tongue like sandpaper. They brought him along to me, and he spilt his story with all kinds of emotional variations, and as soon as I'd heard it through I sent out a hurry call to pull in the brothers Larsen.

Of course there was a young man at the bank called Jorlton, and he was the brother of the dramatist: but the 'dramatist' who called on Ed Lasthall and scared him into drawing his money from the bank was Joe Larsen, and the artistic detective was his brother Harry. I s'pose Joe was the car driver—Ed Lasthall remembered that he wore goggles. It was the cleverest thing that has ever been done in our division.

We never caught the Larsens. When Pat came out of prison we put him under observation, but he slipped us and disappeared from England. The only clue I had was that whilst he was in prison he was learning Spanish, and that's no clue, except for detectives who go around deducting and theorizing.

The only good thing that came out of it was that Nethersole's Bank, which is as sound as the Bank of England, closed Ed's account: but he must have had plenty of money, for when we pinched him, a year later, in connection with the Duchess of Helboro's diamonds, he briefed the best counsel in England and got away with three years when he ought to have had seven.


THE END

This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia