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Title: Three Of Them
Author: Fred M White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1200301h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: January 2012
Date most recently updated: January 2012

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Three Of Them


Fred M. White

Illustrated by Victor Venner

First published in Pearson's Magazine, US edition, December 1900

Three Of Them


NEWTON MOORE, the famous Secret Service Agent, came down buoyantly to an early breakfast. The idea of his forthcoming holiday was by no means displeasing. Moreover, he could breakfast for once without his heart in his mouth. In imagination he could see down the Hobby Drive to Clovelly, the lobsters creamy and pungent, the blue flash of old china on the New Inn walls.

Therefore he glanced casually at the roughly scrawled names forwarded to him from Scotland Yard daily. On this sheet figured the names of such cosmopolitan scoundrels as were likely to be of use to Moore in the way of business. The knowledge that this or that foreign ruffian was in London often proved of invaluable assistance to him in his investigations.

Moore made a mental note of one or two names quite mechanically. He had no anticipation of having to use any of them, but this was a habit of his. Then he opened his newspaper and commenced to read. A sort of groan escaped him. He pushed his untasted breakfast away.

"No holiday for me," he muttered. "This isn't altogether a police case, I fear. I may be sent for at any moment."

The paragraph which had so suddenly changed all Moore's views of life was prominently set out in leaded type:


At a late hour last night information reached us to the effect that Mr. Gordon Mayne, one of the Permanent Under-Secretaries at the Foreign Office, had been found brutally murdered in his private room. It appears that the unfortunate gentleman had an important document to dispatch after dinner, and for that purpose retired to the office, which is usually deserted at so late an hour. At ten o'clock Mr. Mayne was discovered by his friend Colonel Constance (who had called to pick him up by appointment), lying quite dead upon the floor and still bleeding from a wound in the region of the heart. Signs of a struggle were manifest, and it is clear that the deceased gentleman did not succumb without a fight for life. The motive for the crime is not clear as yet, for when our representative called upon Colonel Constance, the latter refused all information.

Moore cleared the table and proceeded to study with a lively interest his list of names by favor of Scotland Yard. He had more than an instinct that the matter was going to concern him. Therefore, when his man—an ex-sergeant in the Criminal Investigation Department—gravely announced Colonel Constance he evinced no manner of surprise.

"Show him up, Painter," he said. "You can get rid of that holiday garb of yours—no Clovelly for the present, worse luck."

Painter bowed and retired. He was accustomed to life's little ironies. Colonel Constance came up white and agitated.

"I've come straight here from an interview with the Foreign Secretary with a view to placing this ghastly business in your hands. The Chief thought that it would save time."

I am placing this ghastly business in your hands

"Wise man, the Chief," laughed Moore. "Is the thing in my line?"

"Certainly it is. The reason why Mayne returned to the office last night was because he had to send the draft heads of an Anglo-German agreement to the Premier who is in Scotland. That agreement, though on the face of it commercial, is meant to have an important bearing upon the future of Europe. I need not tell you that Russia or France would pay any money for an advance proof of it. A wire has just come from the Premier saying he has had no letter from Mayne, and the draft cannot be found anywhere. There you have the motive for the murder and the cause. The rest is for you to find out."

Moore looked thoughtful for a moment.

"Of course the police are investigating?" he asked.

"Of course. They may be of use to you. But they don't know anything about this agreement, and they don't know who are the three miscreants?"

"Three! How do you know that?"

Colonel Constance produced a sheet of notepaper. On it in a feeble hand three words had been written—the words: "Three of them." This, Constance explained, had been placed on record by Gordon Mayne.

"That seems all right," Moore said thoughtfully. "It is a good thing you came to me, because I know all the little bands of scoundrels who are on this game, and I could spot the actual murderers in four guesses. Anything else?"

Constance produced the head of a rose from his pocket. It was a red bloom a little more than half blown, and now withered and wilted.

"Where did you get that from?" Moore asked.

"I found it this morning under the table in poor Mayne's room," Constance explained.

"I was trying to find those Minutes when I came upon it. There is just the chance that it may be of use to you."

Moore's eyes flashed.

"It will be of the greatest possible assistance to me," he said. "You cannot overestimate the importance of these brown, scentless petals. Of course I am going on pure theory at present, but so confident do I feel of my ground that were I in Paris, I would go to Charet and accuse him of being accessory before and after the fact to the murder of Gordon Mayne."

"I seem to have some vague recollection of the name," Constance murmured.

"Charet is a picturesque and many-sided scoundrel," Moore explained. "He has a happy knack of getting the chestnuts pulled for him. He knows more of European underground politics than any one alive. At present he is the president of what he calls a Legalist Society with open designs on the thrones of France and England. People laugh at the idea, but at the same time it enables some of the choicest ruffianism in Europe to gather together unmolested. One or two wealthy asses are supplying the money for the present campaign, so that Charet is living in clover over in Paris yonder. I hear his card parties are quite a feature at present."

"What's the rose got to do with all this?"

"Everything, my dear fellow. That is the badge of the order. Gordon Mayne was too austere a man to care for personal adornment, therefore this rose belonged to one of his murderers. As we know, there were three of them. I don't doubt that the other men were wearing red roses also. What I have to find are three men in Charet's employ."

"Who may have crossed the channel already."

"Not they. Every port will be watched for a day or two. For the next week they will lie low in London. I presume those Minutes were in cypher."

"Certainly, but a man like Charet will make light of cyphers."

"He will when he gets the papers," Moore said drily. "I shall have plenty of time to lay my plans so as to intercept them. And now I am going out to have a little chat with one of the murderers."

Constance surveyed Moore through his eye-glass with amazement.

"I never knew you to bluff before," he said faintly.

"Neither do I now," Moore responded. "I am quite au fait with every foreign ruffian in England. This list contains the name of one man I am anxious to see. I am sure he can give me the desired information."

Moore rang his bell, and the stolid Painter appeared. A name, followed by an address, both taken from the Scotland Yard slip, was placed in his hand.

"You know Lebastier?" Moore asked. "Very good. He is to be heard of at that address. Go and find him. When you have done so, run him to earth, send an express messenger with the information where he is to be found on a card in cypher. And please go at once, Painter."

Painter bowed and departed. Nearly two hours passed before a hansom dashed into the street and a smart messenger boy skipped across the pavement. Moore took the card with its apparently meaningless message and translated it.

Lebastier at present in the Café Universal playing dominoes. Seems likely to be settled for some time.

A little later, and Moore strolled into the cafe in question. It was fairly well filled with men, the babel of tongues was polyglot, the sharp clip of the dominoes rattled on the marble tables. Moore had no difficulty in recognising his man playing with another Frenchman. The game was a long one, but it came to an end at length.

The stranger to Moore shook his head, rose, bowed with exaggerated politeness, and departed. Lebastier looked around him for another victim. No other seemed ready to oblige him. He sighed gently, tossed away his cigarette, and gave himself up to meditation.

Moore crossed over and touched him on the shoulder.

"I thought. "he said gently, "I thought it was understood that you were not to come to England any more. Have you forgotten that an English jail is not adapted to delicate constitutions?"

An English jail is not adapted to delicate constitutions


LEBASTIER arose to his feet in a dazed kind of way, then as suddenly collapsed again so that his hat fell to the floor. He was dressed in a frock suit, with hat and boots of the best make. Like most of his class, however, he had no nice discriminations as to the value of a spotless shirt, to say nothing of a clean collar. The frock coat was dirty, and the stalk of a withered flower was in his button-hole.

The small, mean face was white as the dominoes on the table. Moore regarded his victim with grim amusement.

"You seem to be disturbed about something," he said. "perhaps you have had a loss. Yes, on mature consideration, I am sure you have had a loss."

"A loss, M'sieur?" Lebastier stammered. "I do not understand."

"Ah, your trouble has impaired your usually keen instinct," Moore responded. The other writhed under the prick of the gentle irony. "You always were fond of pretty things, Jules, such as flowers and the like. I see the rose is missing from your button-hole. You should be more careful with your gage d'amour, Jules. But fortunately I can supply you with the missing flower; permit me to do so."

Moore took the head of the withered rose from his pocket, and surely enough, it fitted the dry stalk in Lebastier's button-hole. It was a pure slice of luck, but then luck has a way of favoring the man with the keenest intellect.

"You have omitted to thank me," Moore continued. "You are doubtless overcome by your feelings. You lost that rose last night. Dc you know where?"

"I—I couldn't say," Lebastier stammered.

"I can," Moore said grimly. "It was found in the room of a man who had been murdered last night. If I called the police and said to them that here is one of the murderers of Mr. Gordon Mayne, you would stand a good chance of finishing your interesting career at the end of a rope. I may say at once that my appearance here is no accident. I had you followed. And I knew perfectly well that you were in that bureau last night. Where are the other two?"

Lebastier gasped. Surely this man must be the devil. It was useless to try the gentle art of prevarication on one so keen, so discriminating.

"I have not seen L'Esterre and Daronne," Lebastier gurgled, "since—"

"Since you parted with them last night," said Moore, suppressing the delight he felt in the certain knowledge of the other two assassins. "You had better make a clean breast of it. I know all about Charet and the rest of you, to say nothing of your sham Legalist Society. Who has those papers?"

Again Lebastier gurgled. Something like tears rose to the eyes of the scoundrel, his frame shook with an agitation not wholly due to absinthe. Never had fate proved more unkind.

"All three of us," he said in a fixed, husky voice.

Moore smiled. He understood perfectly what Lebastier meant.

"You could not trust one another," he said. "And those papers are exceedingly valuable. You divide them between you, and they are to be handed over to Charet at the first favorable opportunity. Give me your share of the documents."

Lebastier handed over two sheets of paper with the docility of a well-trained spaniel. Moore had no reason to ask if he had any more.

"Where are the other two?" he asked. Lebastier shrugged his shoulders. He protested by all he held most sacred that he had not the slightest idea. He had carried out his part of the programme, and all that had remained—failing this deplorable accident—was to deliver the third of the agreement up to Charet on the first opportunity.

"I fancy you are speaking the truth," Moore replied. "You speak it with difficulty, but then you are so short of practice. You can go now if you choose. I have no further use for you for the present. But you will be watched night and day. If you attempt in any way to communicate with L'Esterre or Daronne you will be arrested. I have spoken."

And Moore strolled away with the air of a victor. Not that he felt like one by any means, for there was much to be done as yet. His mission would fail completely unless he could get without delay on the track of the other two ruffians. If they reached Charet before he could lay hands upon them, then his present success would be absolutely futile.

He knew perfectly well how that class of men mistrusted one another. For all he could say to the contrary, spies might have been watching his interview with Lebastier. Moore's mood was not altogether an enviable one as he returned thoughtfully homewards. The major part of the afternoon was spent in sending and receiving telegrams from a trusted private agent in Paris, who had acted under Moore's instructions on previous occasions. It was necessary that Charet's house should be watched.

One consolation Moore had during the next two days. He was perfectly certain from information received that neither L'Esterre nor Daronne had crossed the Channel. It was a mere matter of money, but no letter had emanated from Charet's house, or been received there without the contents being duly noted by Moore's deputy in Paris.

"$2500 a day is a pretty stiff figure to pay for the privilege of perusing the correspondence of Charet," Moore murmured, "but then I am to spare no money. If I could only invoke the aid of the Parisian police!"

This, however, was impossible. It would be no great matter to have L'Esterre and Daronne arrested at Calais or Dieppe, and searched, but those papers would promptly be deciphered, and in a few hours the contents would be in possession of the French Government. It would be just as well to leave the whole scheme to Charet as that. No, those two ruffians would have to be watched, and tricked out of those Minutes, unless Moore could get on their track in England, when the strong arm of the law could be invoked in safety.

Moore twisted a cigarette, and lit it thoughtfully. For a long time he lay back in his chair watching the blue smoke curling upwards. Directly L'Esterre and his companion reached Paris, they would be identified. The stations were being closely watched. But that would not be of the slightest use to Moore unless he could fall upon the ruffians and rob them forcibly. And again, this would lead to the French Government learning everything.

"I must find some way to trick them in Paris," the smoker muttered.

Another cigarette followed. A score of schemes were thought out and abandoned as being too complicated. The fox had a dozen ways of escape from the hounds, and fell into their jaws at last. The cat had one avenue and escaped by it. Moore's method must be like that of the cat.

The nimble brain was not invoked in vain. The scheme came floating on the wings of imagination. It seemed to Moore that he had heard something like it before, and that not in the pages of fiction. He jumped to his feet with a cry.

"Perfect!" he exclaimed; "and so beautifully simple. Even Charet will never suspect that he is being made the victim of a fraud."

Moore rang the bell and Painter entered.

"We are going to cross over to Paris to-night," Moore explained. "We'll use those clerical disguises—they look so intensely respectable."


IF ALL went well now, Moore could see his way to a brilliant and successful coup. He had thought the matter carefully out; unless some accident happened he could not fail.

A few hours later and he strode into a small office high up above the Rue de L'Europe where his Paris agent transacted business. A little man with a mild air and an eye like cold steel regarded him interrogatively.

"What can I do for M'sieur?" he murmured.

"Thought you wouldn't know me, Chabot," Moore responded in his natural voice. "I always find this disguise an exceedingly effective one."

Sadi Chabot muttered polite congratulations. The little man with the cold eye had a vast admiration for Moore and his methods.

"I didn't expect to see you," he said.

"After what you wired me I fully anticipated that you would have managed to capture L'Esterre and Daronne in England."

"So I should under ordinary circumstances," Moore replied. "But I prefer on mature consideration to tackle them on their own ground."

"Still, you can hope for no assistance from the authorities here."

Moore helped himself to a cigarette.

"I am quite aware of that," he said. "The greatest misfortune that could happen to me would be for Daronne and L'Esterre to fall into the hands of the Paris police. I should never see those precious papers again, and Heaven only knows what mischief might happen. Rut once I am in possession of the documents, it will not be long before the murderers of Gordon Mayne are in the hands of the authorities. I only hope the police may not blunder on the scent until I am ready for them."

"You have a scheme, of course?" Chabot asked.

"I have a scheme, and a very good scheme, too. I am not going into details at present, my dear Chabot, but you will see L'Esterre and Daronne yield up those papers to me in the mildest possible manner, and Charet will look on without protest."

Chabot smiled approval. He was a brilliant strategist himself, but he knew Moore to be a better.

"What it is to have imagination," he replied. "May I be permitted to be present when the time comes?"

"I intend you to play a prominent part in the comedy," said Moore. "Can you find me four men who will do as they are told, and who can be absolutely relied upon?"

Chabot flicked the ash of his cigarette. He winked and tapped his pocket.

"You are an excellent paymaster," he said, "and money can do anything. You may make your mind easy on that score."

"Good," Moore exclaimed. "Get your men together without delay. Also, you will have them all measured for a certain garb I intend to have made for them. Then you will arrange for them to be here at eight o'clock every night until such time as they will be required."

Chabot's eyes sparkled for a moment. Here was a mystery, and a mystery was a thing he dearly loved.

"The ground is all cleared," Moore resumed. "In case of accidents, I deemed it best to have Lebastier arrested on some trivial charge so that he can do no mischief for a day or two. Before long, L'Esterre and Daronne will be on their way to Paris. Those two rascals thoroughly distrust one another, and therefore they will probably come over together. If they miss Lebastier, they will be all the more anxious to get rid of those papers without delay. You have made it impossible for my two ruffians to enter Paris without their presence being known here?"

Chabot gave the most definite assurance on this point; as Moore had instructed, no expense had been spared. Every way by which criminals could enter Paris had been closely watched by men who were up to their work and who, moreover, knew L'Esterre and Daronne by sight. Within an hour of their arrival, be it by day or night, Chabot would know. And in this kind of work, Chabot was unsurpassed.

"Well, at any rate, that's off my mind." Moore proceeded. "And now tell me something about Charet. What is the new game?"

"I don't fancy there is any particular game on at present," Chabot replied. "As you know, Charet is playing the gentlemanly Legalist at present. He has taken a magnificent, furnished hotel in the Rue de la Paix, where he holds nightly receptions. Oh, they are what you call swagger, I tell you."

"Half the ruffians in Europe there, I suppose?"

"Not just now—Charet is playing it high, though I daresay it all covers a good deal of rascality. I have no doubt the business you are here on was hatched yonder."

"I'm certain of it," Moore said curtly. "Go on."

"Well, Charet's occupation is at present that of le roi s'amuse. As a matter of fact, he is probably waiting for L'Esterre and Co."

"So am I," Moore muttered. "What goes on at these receptions?"

"Gambling for the most part," Chabot replied. "There are one or two women of dubious antecedents, but the bulk are men. The gambling is heavy. There is a Russian friend of mine who goes there for political purposes, and he tells me it is no rare thing to see thirty or forty thousand francs on the table at the same time."

Moore's eyes sparkled. He had counted on this.

"In that case success is assured," he said.

"Get your men together at once, and don't forget those measurements."

In less than an hour Chabot had carried out his instructions to the letter. Within an

hour of that time Moore had given a pretty order to a Paris military tailor with a deposit on account, and a promise that if the things were delivered to-morrow the bill would not be too closely criticised.

The next day followed without anything transpiring. On the following evening Moore, dining peacefully in his favorite cafe, was invaded by Chabot, the glow in his eyes alone betraying his excitement.

"They have arrived," he whispered. "They came by the Gare du Nord but one hour ago. Then they proceeded after a change to the hotel of Charet. They have been there some minutes."

'They have arrived,' he whispered.

Moore pushed his plate aside. The hour was at hand, and food interested him no longer.

"Get your men together without delay," he said.

"The men are already waiting at my office."

"Good! Come along then. The comedy is about to be played. Before I sleep to-night I am going to get those papers."

They plunged into the darkness together.

An hour later and five men in long cloaks and slouch hats were creeping along, taking advantage of the gloom. In course of time they arrived at their destination. Moore opened the door of the hotel and walked boldly in.


THE arch scoundrel, Charet, was riding at present on one of his periodical waves of prosperity. Like most adventurers, he found life a checkered business. He had known dire want more than once. He had known the inside of a prison also. But he had never reached so high a mark as this before. The hotel was furnished with lavish splendor. The electric lights gleamed everywhere. As yet the spacious saloon was sparsely filled by groups of men who smoked cigarettes and drank iced champagne. Charet moved from group to group, exchanging jests with one and another of his guests.

A large man with a light manner was Charet. He had all the cool nerve of his class, and were he going to keep an appointment with "Monsieur de Paris" in the morning he would have puffed his cigarette and quaffed his wine with the same gusto.

Two or three gorgeous footmen were clearing the long tables and scattering packs of cards over them. Gradually the glittering saloon was filling up. But though Charet seemed to have an eye and a word for every new-comer, he continued to glance with some anxiety at the door.

Suddenly he broke off a gay conversation and started, as his eye fell upon two men who had just entered. Both were clad in immaculate evening dress, and both had red roses in their button-holes.

"At last," Charet murmured, "at last. I was beginning to fear—"

He broke off and edged towards the door. He greeted his new guests with effusion, and kissed them on either cheek.

"The pleasure of the evening is complete," he said. "You have succeeded?"

The taller of the two men nodded. His smaller companion smiled and tapped his breast pocket significantly.

"Everything went as smooth as ice," said Daronne, for so the speaker was. "It was with regret that we were compelled to use violence."

"Ah, I read of it," Charet whispered. "The poor man died. But you got away without leaving any clue behind you?"

"Absolutely," L'Esterre remarked. The sinister smile marred an otherwise not-displeasing countenance. "We divided the agreement into three parts. Has Lebastier come on with his yet?"

"Lebastier is always late," Charet said with a sneer. "He will hide for a week yet. That man was ever a coward. But you have the papers?"

He spoke with the greatest eagerness. He extended a hand that shook slightly.

L'Esterre smiled, but made no motion to respond.

"Later on, my good friend," he said, "later on, when your guests have departed, we will conclude the business and take the money."

L'Esterre lounged over to one of the card-tables followed by Daronne. Charet had no alternative but to submit. By this time the play was fast and furious. A grim silence prevailed, broken only by the shuffling of the cards, the clink of gold, and the rustle of paper money. Even those who were not playing were intent upon the game. A tall man, with a face like a hawk, was winning heavily. An ever-increasing pile of gold stood by his elbow.

"I stake ten thousand francs," he muttered hoarsely.

He won. A murmur ran round the table.

Then the door opened softly, and five men in the uniform of police officers crept in. The door closed softly, the key turned with a snap.

On nerves strained to the highest tension the noise sounded like a pistol-shot. A dozen heads were turned. Charet plunged for the fireplace.

"Police," he cried. "Turn out the lights."

"Stand still, all of you," a voice thundered out. "Stand, or I shoot. Do as you are told, and no great harm will be done. Refuse, and—"

The pause was significant. Evidently the little officer was not jesting. A revolver gleamed in a hand as steady as a rock.

A revolver gleamed in a hand as steady as a rock.

"Clear the tables of all money and cards and seal it up in the bags," the officer said sharply. "Then take the names and addresses of all present."

Charet came forward angrily.

"What is the charge?" he demanded.

"Keeping a common gambling house contrary to the Code," was the reply. "To-morrow you will appear before the Juge d'Instruction in the Rue Maison. Meanwhile, I am going to search you all."

Charet fumed and fretted. This meant a heavy fine, no doubt, but there were urgent reasons why two men in the crowd should not be searched. L'Esterre and Daronne were creeping towards the door. Needless to say, they were being more carefully watched than the rest.

"Those men are seeking to escape," the officer cried, "secure them. They and their host shall be the first to be searched."

"This is an outrage," Charet screamed, livid with impotent fury. "The Chamber shall hear of this. Are you cowards going to stand it?"

An uneasy movement of the crowd followed. There was red-hot blood there reeking and fuming, and desperate courage enough to furnish a forlorn hope, out to defy the law when armed was another matter.

Despite protestations and curses, Charet, with L'Esterre and Daronne, were driven into an ante-room, and the door closed upon them. They were three to three, but one of the police trio stood by revolver in hand.

"Get on with your work," he said. "You are wasting time."

In vain L'Esterre and his companion pleaded and protested. They would have fought for it but for the grim blue shimmer of that revolver barrel. A slight officer in glasses, who had not hitherto spoken, stripped the coat off the back of each. In the breast pocket of either coat he came upon some papers, which he proceeded to examine more or less carelessly.

He came upon some papers.

But at the same time it was all he could do to restrain the yell of exulting joy that rose lo his lips. With hands that trembled he made a show of wrapping up the papers and sealing them officially. The officer in charge of the party gave him a significant glance, and he nodded.

"You can return to the saloon now," the former remarked. "The others have probably turned out all their papers by this time, and thus saved my men in the other room from a tedious business."

It was even as the dapper superintendent had prophesied. A little later on and three officers were placing the whole motley collection in a cab, after which they disappeared with their booty.

"May my guests depart now?" Charet asked ironically.

"They may," was the unruffled reply.

"We have the names and addresses of all of them. They will appear to-morrow as I directed. For the rest I can only regret that I have put you to so great an inconvenience, and wish you good night."

The speaker swaggered away, followed by his slim subordinate in the spectacles. They turned into a dim side street in silence. Then they glanced at one another, and broke into a ripple of laughter.

"Well, what do you think of the comedy, M'sieur Moore?" Chabot asked.

"I think you played your part splendidly," said Moore. "When you come to think of it, my scheme was absurdly simple. We merely personate police officers raiding an alleged gambling den, and those fellows submit with the docility of sheep. Most men are sheep, after all. The gamblers were utterly taken in, and I got all I wanted without the slightest trouble."

Moore tapped his pocket significantly. He puffed at his cigarette with evident enjoyment.

"What about the money and all the miscellaneous papers?" Chabot asked.

"Oh, they were all shot down into Charet"s cellars," Moore explained. "The money will be a big haul for somebody. You may be pretty certain that not one man in a hundred of those fellows will show up before the magistrate to-morrow. L'Esterre and Daronne will be on their way from Paris by this time. Believing that the police have that agreement, they will not dare to stay. Now that my lips are no longer sealed, I can put the police on their track. And a pretty hunt I expect our detectives will have."

Chabot gave a dry little chuckle.

"No, they won't," he said. "It occurred to me how frightened those men would be when they had to part with those papers, and I put on a couple of men in plain clothes to follow them. By the time your detectives are ready we shall know exactly where to look for our men."

"You are a clever man, Chabot," replied Moore.

"Not so clever as you," Chabot said with a pleased red on his cheeks. "Of all the smart things you have ever done, you have never accomplished anything more sweetly simple and ingenious than this."

Everybody will remember the capture of the murderers of Gordon Mayne, and how they subsequently paid the penalty of their crime.

The police were supposed to have done smart work there, but so far as the general public were concerned the story of the red rose and the sham police raid that really led to the dispatch of three infamous criminals is now told for the first time.


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