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Title: The Blue Daffodil Author: Fred M. White * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1600041h.html Language: English Date first posted: Fed 2016 Most recent update: Feb 2018 This eBook was produced by Lyn and Maurie Mulcahy and Roy Glashan. 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
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This book may well be the last novel that Fred M. White wrote before his death in 1935. A hitherto "unknown" work, it was discovered in 2015 by Lynn and Maurie Mulcahy at Trove, the on-line archive of the National Library of Australia, where the earliest record of publication dates from 1934. In that year, on December 17, the Melbourne newspaper The Age published the first of 26 installments, the last of which appeared on January 22, 1935. The novel was reprinted by The South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus, beginning on January 31, 1936. Since The Blue Daffodil was published so shortly before White's death, it is fair to surmise that neither the author nor his estate ever attempted to have it published in book form.
On Friday, December 14. 1934, The Age advertised White's novel with the words:
A new serial story entitled "The Blue Daffodil" will begin in "The Age" on Monday. The author is Fred. M. White. The story opens in the London home of John Garnstone, an elderly bachelor and antique dealer. Garnstone is an enthusiastic horticulturist, and is growing a plant of incalculable value, a blue daffodil, on the roof conservatory of his house. He lives alone except for a servant, Isaac Gunter, and his ward and secretary, Vera Zaroff, the last of a line of Russian aristocrats, who is known as Miss Goff. On the night of the return from Brazil of Captain Brentford, who has been collecting rare plants and curios for Garnstone, the young explorer asks Vera to marry him. That night she discovers the dead body of John Garnstone. Scotland Yard is called in, and before long events take one surprising turn after another. The existence of a gang of dangerous international crooks is disclosed, and it is learnt that Garnstone was a man of far different characteristics from what had been supposed. Blackmail, theft and murder run their course, but the crimes are brought home when the detectives are on the point of defeat. A love interest threads its way through this quick-moving story of adventure and mystery.
Thanks and credit for preparing this work for publication in book form go to Lyn and Maurie Mulcahy. —R.G.
JOHN GARNSTONE, generally known as Professor Garnstone, sat at a table in his more or less armoured quarters contemplating an array of gold and silver treasures that might have formed what was once known as a king's ransom. Gold plate, silver plate worth ten times its weight in the more precious metal, gems of price, each of them with a history, such a collection as no museum or collection in Europe could boast.
For Garnstone was by far the most noted judge of such things in his generation. He bought and sold and valued as he had done for the last 40 years; he had been the welcome guest of princes and magnates, for his judgment was unerring and his word was undisputed in the sale rooms of London and Paris. His own collection was rumoured to be unequalled, and his present wealth was estimated at a million.
An old man, this John Garnstone. Tall and thin and spare with a fine head crowned with a mass of silver hair, an imposing old man, rather hard of feature and reserved in manner as if he were the recipient of secrets—as doubtless he was. A man apparently without friends, outside his business, unless one counted his secretary, Vera Zaroff and Captain Ronald Brentford, late of the Indian Army, and now a professional hunter of rare flora on behalf of his employer. For, outside his business, Garnstone had one mastering passion—the propagation and cross fertilization of flowers. He was prepared to go to any length to obtain the rare. His one great ambition was to give the world a blue daffodil. It was Brentford's main business to discover this or something like a bulb from which the perfect flower might be bred.
From somewhere in the Caucasus slopes leading up from the Black Sea, Brentford had discovered a pale simulacrum of the flower, and this bulb had formed the basis of Garnstone's excursions into Mendelism. At the moment he seemed to be on the verge of success. In his roof conservatory was a solitary bulb in a pot already showing leaf, and when this bloomed, Garnstone was convinced that he would have reached his desideratum at last. Three weeks more, and then——
It was in a strange quarter of Town in which Garnstone had, so to speak, pitched his camp. He had purchased a more or less derelict block of offices which had long been in Chancery, and on the top storey he had dug himself in. In the basement lived the caretaker with the ground floor let as a warehouse, above that a whole floor was vacant and over that a suite of rooms, where Garnstone lived and had his being. For the most part he used a sort of office-library with a bedroom leading out of it. There was a large dining-room, and on the far side of that the bedroom occupied by Vera Zaroff, the lady secretary. As for meals, they were all taken out—even breakfast—and whatever house work was required was part of the duties of one, Isaac Gunter, the bachelor caretaker, who lived in the basement.
Garnstone was taking no risks so far as burglars were concerned. It was common knowledge that besides his own many priceless treasures he frequently held in temporary possession historic valuables on behalf of royal and other clients. The very latest thing in the way of safes was not entirely satisfactory, so that Garnstone had caused a door of steel and reinforced concrete to be built into the entrance to the upper floor, the master-key of which he alone held.
Above this city fortress was the flat lead-covered roof given over almost entirely to the great conservatory where the flowers flourished despite London fog and mist since the roof caught all the sunshine and looked over the river without much intervening obstruction.
The sun was shining into the flat that early autumn morning as Garnstone sat at his big desk going over his treasures. He placed them presently on a large Queen Anne salver, and locked them securely away. He touched a bell on his desk.
Into the room came Vera Zaroff, a slim creature moving with the easy grace of a deer. Young and beautiful, her dark loveliness was enhanced by the fact that her hair, which grew naturally, was white as frosted silver. And so it had been since her 15th year, when she lost both her parents abroad.
This last member of an aristocratic family had reached London almost penniless, and there had found Garnstone, whom she had known as a child since he once visited her ancestral home with a view to arranging and valuing the immense family treasures. All these had afterwards been lost during the misfortunes that had broken her father's heart.
Despite his reserve and natural coldness, Garnstone had a warm corner in his heart for Vera. Moreover she had proved her worth as a secretary. Now she was more or less in his confidence, and more like a daughter than a paid servant.
"Good morning," she said in her perfect English. "I did not hear you come in last night, and began to fear——"
"I was detained by the Duke of Middlesex," Garnstone explained. "Also I heard a rumour that Brentford had returned from Brazil. Has he written by any chance?"
A warm wave of colour stained Vera's cheek.
"There is nothing in this morning's correspondence," Vera said, "but then he never writes when he is on his way home. It will be very nice to see him again."
Calmly as she spoke Vera could not keep out of her voice a little thrill which was not lost on her employer. He smiled like some benevolent old aristocrat though who he was and whence he came none could as much as guess.
As Vera stooped to hide a certain confusion, her eye fell on some glittering object on the floor. She bent to pick it up, and a cry of admiration broke from her lips at the sight of the little gold box in her hand.
A snuff-box evidently made in some remote period, on the lid of it a miniature exquisitely painted of some Court beauty, the face surrounded with brilliants. The background was red and black enamel, with a monogram inserted in rubies.
"What a lovely thing," Vera cried. "And what a lovely face! Strange, yet oddly familiar. If——"
An instant later the box was snatched from her hand with a force which was almost painful. Vera started back at the changed expression on Garnstone's face. The bland benevolence was no longer there, the mouth was drawn in a hard line of cunning and rage—such an expression as Vera had never seen before. It was only for an instant, but the impression on Vera's mind was clear and vivid.
"A sacred memory," Garnstone murmured with a return of his normal manner. "Most careless of me. It must have fallen from the table when I was examining some objects of art just now. I will return it to the safe."
For a moment the incident passed. But Vera was to recall it in dramatic circumstances before long.
Then there were letters to be written to clients all over the world, catalogues to mark until the hour for tea arrived. This appeared through the medium of Gunter, the caretaker, a man who might have been earlier in his career either a prize-fighter or a burglar of the Bill Sikes school. The front door of the fortress was unlocked to admit him, and on his heels came a youngish-looking man at the sight of whom Vera flushed and her hands trembled ever so slightly.
"Ronald," she whispered, but the new-comer caught the word and the tender light behind his smile was more eloquent than any word would have been.
"Vera, I kiss your hand," Ronald Brentford cried. "So good to be back home once more. I trust I see you well, sir. And the Blue Daffodil? Has that burgeoned yet?"
"I hope that you are back in time to see its birth, my young friend," Garnstone smiled. "There is a bursting bulb in the conservatory—but I must not anticipate. Sit down and relate your adventures over a cup of tea."
"I am afraid there is little to tell," Ronald said. "It seems to me that the Brazilian forests are played out so far as new flora is concerned. That is unless you are prepared to fit out a full-dress expedition to explore lands where no single hunter dare venture alone. At my hotel I have a few new orchids of no striking beauty and little use. I worked my way back through Asia Minor and once more visited the slopes of the Caucasus hoping to find some further development of the Blue Daffodil without effect."
"Were you near Batoum?" Vera asked. "You remember that we had a summer palace there in the old days; at least Mr. Garnstone does. A lovely place on the Black Sea."
"Of course I remember it well, Vera," Garnstone said, with a wave of his hand. "Some of my happiest days were spent there with your father and mother."
"I saw it," Brentford explained. "My passport allowed me to go anywhere. The Zaroff Palace is now a sort of residential barracks for the ironstone workers, and the once fine park is a crater from which the ironstone is raised. I seem to remember that the Caucasian Blue Daffodil formed part of your coat of arms, Vera."
"Well, I should hardly call it a blue flower," Vera said with a smile. "Rather a dirty mauve. And not much of a bloom either. Isn't it rather strange that you should have found the basic flower of Mr. Garnstone's ambition near my home?"
"Not at all," Garnstone interrupted. "Don't forget that I was on terms of intimate friendship with your family, Vera. It was the discovery of one of those mauve flowers close to your summer palace that first inspired me with the desire to perfect the Blue Daffodil. Cause and effect, my dear."
"Then within a month or so?" Ronald suggested.
"Somewhere about that, my boy. Meanwhile I have plenty of other work for you to do. A few days' holiday, and then——"
"Doesn't Vera deserve one, too?" Brentford asked. "That is unless you have other views for her. I rather hoped I was to have the honour of taking her out to dine to-night."
"Why not?" Garnstone smiled. "I propose to dine here and do a little work, afterwards. Vera can have the key. I know I can trust it in her hands."
"I should love it," Vera murmured.
HERE was a great concession, and the lovers knew it. There were two keys to the fortress, one of which was a master, the other for the use of Vera when Garnstone was away, and she had need to leave the premises. And the way in which the keys were worked in the front door lock was known only to Garnstone and his trusted secretary. A certain gadget had to be manipulated first, and this, working automatically, was so ingeniously hidden that nobody who managed to steal the key could possibly find it or indeed be aware that it existed. Thieves had attempted to enter the old millionaire's stronghold, but with no success. In front of the building was a powerful standard lamp which was always turned on at night from inside Garnstone's library. Of this the police were aware and would act promptly in case the light failed. There was a side window to the building, but this led to a blind alley, also the side of the building lacked anything in the shape of water pipes, while such windows as had been there at one time were now bricked up so that the side of the house presented an entirely flat surface to any enterprising burglar who had an ambition to enter the fortress.
It was just after seven o'clock when Vera left the flat, carefully closing the door behind her. She heard the great steel bolts click into their places, and then adjusted the ingenious gadget on the outside. This could be manipulated from the inside by a master key in case of emergency. And in case Garnstone wanted to go out, he would inform Gunter of the fact by house telephone and take that bodyguard with him which was a rigid rule where night excursions were concerned. That was if Garnstone was carrying valuables on his person.
Vera walked along in the direction of the Premium Hotel, where Ronald was to meet her, feeling that she had not a care in the world. She was happy and comfortable in her work; she was in the enjoyment of more money than she could spend seeing that she had no friends of either sex and therefore had no occasion to fritter her salary away on pleasures.
All the same there were times when she longed for some change from the monotony of the fortress. She knew that she would be well provided for when Garnstone was no more, as did Ronny Brentford himself. That Ronnie had fallen in love with her was a wonderful and delightful thing, but then Ronnie was so often on his travels, and Garnstone was not supposed to know that the young people had come to an understanding.
But had they really come to an understanding? Vera asked herself as she walked along. There was nothing on her left hand to prove the fact, but perhaps after to-night.
There was a delicate flush on her face and a sparkle in her eyes as she entered the lounge where Ronnie Brentford was eagerly awaiting her. And when she bared her head showing the mass of silver hair in striking contrast to her dark colouring, many admiring glances were turned in her direction. Not that she noticed these in the dazzle of lights, the flowers on the shaded tables and the life and movement about her.
But she did not fail to see the proud gleam in Ronnie's eyes as he escorted her to a table reserved in one corner of the room. There they took their seats, and now Vera had an opportunity to study the gay scene about her. As she did so all the colour drained from her cheeks, and for a moment it seemed to Brentford that she was on the point of fainting.
"What is the matter, darling?" he whispered.
It was the first time that term of endearment had passed his lips, and Vera thrilled to it. All the same, she indicated a dark, rather distinguished man with a black moustache and short beard, who was sitting at a nearby table in company with a pretty girl in red.
"That man there," Vera whispered. "Paul Manstar. At one time my father's secretary. He has changed little, but I recognise him. I was but a child at the time, but I shall never forget him."
"But he can't hurt you," Ronnie pointed out.
"I know, I know," Vera murmured. "But the sight of him brings it all back. The man who owed us everything. And the man who stole thousands of pounds worth of treasures."
"I'll make it my business to learn something about him," Ronnie declared grimly, "but probably you will never see him again, darling."
Brentford's voice trailed off on the last endearing word, and once more Vera thrilled to it. She shook off her terror, and smiled into her companion's eyes. In a few moments the man with the black beard was forgotten.
"I shall have to stay in London and look after you I can see," Ronnie said. "You live too much alone with that old man. The mere fact that he is going to leave you a lot of money some day is not everything. And 'some day' may be a long way off, sweetheart. Vera, can't you imagine why I asked you to come here with me to-night?"
"To—give me pleasure," Vera murmured.
"And both of us happiness, I hope," Ronnie said. "Vera, you must know that I love you. I have done so since the very first day we met. I am not so poor that we shall have to wait. I don't want you to desert the old man who has been so good to both of us, but the time must come when—but perhaps I am taking too much for granted. Still, if you think you can possibly care for me one of these days . . ."
Her dark eyes met his grey ones.
"I could ask no greater happiness," she said steadily. "What more could any girl wish for than a good man's love? Let me make a confession, my Ronnie. When you asked me to dine with you to-night I prayed for something like this. From the first it has always been you, Ronnie. Oh, it is lovely to feel that I am no longer in the world with nobody to confide in or seek out if I needed a haven of rest. Ronnie, you have lifted the one great shadow from my heart."
She paused, conscious that other eyes were watching her, and laughed with the sheer joy of life. What did it matter what they ate or drank? What did anything matter just then?
"Let's make the best of the shining hour," Ronnie cried gaily. "When we have finished here we will go on to some show and perhaps a dance. You have your pass-key so that it does not matter what time you get home. I shall see you as far as the fortress door anyway."
And Vera was content to leave it at that. But it was only when dinner was over and she and her lover were in a taxi on the way to the Coliseum that Vera experienced the full measure of her happiness. With Ronnie's arms about her and his lips on hers she drank the full contentment of life.
"We will keep our secret to ourselves darling," Ronald said as they sat in the darkness of the taxi. "Take this ring that I brought with me in case my love was returned, and wear it about your neck for the present. We don't want to upset the old man before it is necessary. Hold it to the light. Then tell me if my taste meets with your approval."
"Won't you put it on?" Vera asked.
"Of course," Ronald cried. "How stupid of me."
He slipped the diamond and platinum circle about the slender finger where it fitted to perfection.
"How lovely, and yet how simple," Vera murmured in a rapture of delight. "I should like to wear it always; I should like to flash it in the face of the world and say it was given me by the best man I know—the man I am going to marry. But perhaps you are right. Still Mr. Garnstone may choose to retire one of these days and then——"
"Never!" Ronald cried emphatically. "The fascination of his job will never grow less. The handling of historic gems and plate forms part of his life."
"Shared by the Blue Daffodil," Vera laughed. "Don't forget that, Ronnie."
"Which flower he thinks he has found," Brentford pointed out. "With that ambition satisfied, he will be all the more keen on his life's work. Moreover, he may not be quite as rich as we think he is. He spends recklessly doing research work for other people, and merely takes his trade commission. Also he is fond of money. He pays neither of us too much, and Gunter, who has been with him all these years, never sees more than his few shillings a week. Nor dare he ask for a few shillings in advance."
It was with a sigh that at length the lovers parted at the entrance of the old building, and Brentford lingered on the pavement until he heard the clicking in the bolts of the steel door, so that he knew Vera to be safe inside.
Meanwhile Vera had closed the door behind her and satisfied herself that all was well. Doubtless Garnstone had long since retired, so that to all practical purposes Vera had the flat to herself. She would not seek her bedroom yet for sleep was far away. She would go into the library and read for a time.
Five minutes later a cry rang out a cry so loud that it might have been heard in the street. It reached the ears of Gunter in his bedroom, and brought him to his feet. Scrambling into his clothes he raced up the stairs. Then the cry again—-one word:
GUNTER pounded on the steel door with horny fists.
"For God's sake open the door, miss!" he cried. "It's Gunter. Can't you recognise my voice?"
To everybody outside the fortress, save Garnstone and Ronnie Brentford, Vera was known as Miss Goff. So pure was her English that such a deception was easy.
Again Gunter smote on the metal. Presently he could hear a movement inside, then a rattle of a key. A moment later the door swung back, and Gunter entered, whereupon the door was closed and locked once more.
Vera stood there, her face drained of colour, her limbs shaking like some slender reed swaying in the wind. She was holding on to consciousness by sheer strength of will.
"What's happened miss?" Gunter asked hoarsely.
Vera pointed in the direction of the library. So far she had not been able to speak. All the same, she followed Gunter who advanced without sign of fear. Inside the big room the lights were blazing brilliantly, showing up every corner. On the Persian rug in front of an Empire table used as a desk Garnstone lay as if asleep.
But it was the sleep of death. His face was turned upwards showing a white expanse of shirt over which lay a patch of blood. A dark stain smeared the rug under him, Gunter bent down and examined the still form.
"Dead," he whispered. "And what's more—murdered. If he killed himself where is the knife? I don't see no signs of a weapon nowhere. Nor——"
The caretaker glanced about him. First, at the great safe in one corner of the room where once there had been a lift shaft. No sign of tampering there. A tug at the handle proved that the safe was still locked, the window facing the road and the other on the right looking into the alley-way were also latched. Then how had the murderer managed to find his way into the flat? Certainly nobody admitted by Garnstone himself since the steel door, once closed from either side, could not be opened again without knowledge of its workings. If the culprit had been admitted by Garnstone during Vera's absence, and killed, then the murderer would be hoist with his own petard, for he could never have got free of the flat again.
"I—I found him there like that when I came in just now," Vera whispered. "It was just after half-past twelve by the clock over the fireplace when I opened the steel door. I came in here for a book as I did not feel sleepy. It was a most dreadful shock, Gunter. What shall we do?"
"The police," Gunter suggested. "And a doctor, though he won't be much use. I'll go——"
"No, no," Vera cried. "Not yet. I am afraid of being left here alone. Suppose the murderer is still hiding on the premises. He must be. How could he get away without knowing the secrets of the door? He could never have got out again. Help me to find him, Gunter.
"If he's here, miss, I'll find him," Gunter cried. "You just stay here whilst I have a hunt round."
But there was no sign of the miscreant anywhere. Even the trap leading to the leads above where the conservatory had its place was locked and bolted from the inside so that any person trying to enter by means of the roof would be equally at fault.
"Nothing living anywhere, miss," Gunter declared.
"More than strange," Vera said. "But Gunter—are you sure that Mr. Garnstone did not leave the flat some time whilst I was away? I mean, did he go out at all?"
"Not to my knowledge, miss," Gunter declared. "Couldn't have done without my seeing him as I was in my room from the minute you left this evening until I went to bed, and that was after the turn of midnight."
"Then why is he in dress clothes?" Vera asked. "When I left he was in a morning suit."
Gunter scratched his head in a puzzled sort of way. At the same time he started and his eyelids drooped, a fact that was not altogether lost on Vera. But then Gunter was as powerless to enter the flat as any stranger.
With an effort Vera pulled herself together.
"We are wasting precious time now," she said. "Go and telephone to the police, and look up the nearest doctor. I am not afraid to wait her alone any longer."
It was a trying ordeal all the same being alone with the dead man so that Vera was thankful when there came a tap on the door, and a voice asking for admission.
"The police," the voice said. "Chief Inspector Medway. Will you kindly admit me, Miss Goff."
Vera hastened to comply. Left there alone a little while longer and she would have collapsed altogether. To her came a man in the middle thirties, dressed in a well-cut grey suit and carrying a velour hat in his hand. If not a gentleman, then a very good imitation of one both in manner and speech. Vera heaved a little sigh of relief. This man would understand.
"So sorry to trouble you like this, Miss Goff," he said with sympathy in his tone. "Directly I heard who it was who had been a victim, I decided to come myself. I happened to be detained late at the Yard, and so—but let us not waste time, which is so precious in a case like this. Please be seated, and tell me all you know."
Under this soothing treatment, Vera soon regained her usual clarity of mind. Medway listened patiently until at length he began to ask questions.
"How long have you been here?" he began. "I mean in your present occupation?"
"Just over two years," Vera explained. "But I am not an Englishwoman, Inspector Medway."
"Indeed, madam, you surprise me. But please proceed—and omit nothing. You have no idea what trivial details lead sometimes to great results."
Vera took the inspector at his word. She spoke of days when she lived abroad, and how she had come to England to an old friend of the family—John Garnstone. How she had become in law an English citizen and gradually become necessary to Garnstone, and, in a way, gained his confidence.
"All most interesting," Medway said. "I can quite understand why your employer came to dig himself in here. No doubt many attempts have been made to rob him—this time, I should say, unsuccessfully. However, we shall see. You might open the door again, for, if I mistake not, the doctor is coming up the stairs."
Into the flat came a little lame man with a quick bustling manner, who proclaimed himself to be Dr. Paul Little, of Sefton Square, saying that he had been called by telephone in connexion with something that savored of murder. In a few words, Medway made him wise to the situation.
"And now that you are here, Doctor, we can't do better than view the body. Indeed, I ought to have done that at first. Miss Goff will remain where she is."
Vera asked for nothing better. She knew that the inspector was saving her as much as possible whilst they pursued their grim task. As to that, Dr. Little, after one glance at the body, proclaimed it to be that of a dead man.
"Murdered beyond the shadow of a doubt," he declared without the slightest hesitation. "Stabbed through the heart by a dagger thrust with such force that the point of it penetrated the skin under the shoulder blade. I expect to find that prick when the clothes are removed."
"No suspicion of suicide?" Medway suggested.
"Absolutely out of the question," Little declared. "No man could have driven a knife into his own breast with the force which was behind that blow."
There was little more that the man of science could say or do.
"About how long dead?" Medway asked.
"Not much more than an hour," was the reply; "roughly round about midnight. Rigor mortis has not yet set in. Was there nobody on the premises at the time?"
"That I have to ascertain," Medway said drily. The doctor was unwittingly trespassing on his preserves. "There is a mystery here that will take some solving."
Presently there came men with cameras, and others with some sort of powder for the taking of fingerprints. Their operations took a long time, and when these minions of the law had departed, Medway asked to see Vera again.
"I have been looking round," he told her. "So far as we can tell at present, we have only discovered the finger-prints of two people—those, probably of Mr. Garnstone and your own. But the motive for the crime puzzles me. Nothing seems to be missing, and the safe is securely locked. I have never seen a safe like this one before. Nobody could lock it or unlock it without knowledge of the secret process behind it. Are you one in that secret?"
Vera shook her head emphatically.
"There are some things that Mr. Garnstone never spoke about, and the safe was one of them. He had it specially made by a noted firm in Oxford Street—Landcraft and Co. They may help."
Medway made a careful note of the address.
"There is very little that escapes you Miss Goff," Medway smiled. "I can't even find a maker's name on the safe. Not that I expect to find a clue there. What is baffling me is the way in which the murderer managed to get in and out of the flat so easily. That door, for instance. He could neither have opened it nor shut it. The same with the safe. The trap leading to the leads is intact, and the windows latched. Moreover, the strong electric light outside the building is still burning. There is the side window, of course, which looks down into the alley-way, but that is a good 30 feet from the ground. I have examined the outside ledge with a strong glass, but the grime there has not been disturbed in the slightest. For the moment I am absolutely baffled. No way in or no way out, and no motive—so far as I can see. Perhaps when we come to see the safe opened we shall find something."
That, however was going to be a matter of some time. For Messrs Landcraft declared that the formula had been destroyed after delivery of the safe and their work finished. Their expert might be able to reconstruct his invention though that might be a matter of months. Garnstone had asked for something that could not be duplicated, and got it. Hence the destruction of the formula.
A baffled inspector of police turned sadly away.
MEDWAY sat in the office of Deputy Commissioner Sir Giles Fairchild, discussing the strange case of John Garnstone.
"A big man in his way, Medway," Sir Giles said, "I might almost say an international character. For the present I am leaving the case entirely in your hands. So far there seems nothing to report. Now as to——"
Sir Giles broke off as a constable entered.
"Gentleman to see you, sir," he said. "Says it is very important. The Garnstone case, I think, sir."
"Indeed, Brooks. Then send him in at once."
There entered a tall dark man with clipped moustache and beard, a glass in his left eye. He bowed with the easy grace of a man accustomed to society.
"Sir Giles Fairchild, I think," he said, unerringly, picking out the superior man. "My name is Tanberg—Efan Tanberg. A Rumanian to be precise. Educated in this country, and of what you call independent means. Also a dealer in art treasures in an amateur way. Purely for a pastime, you understand. I had some dealings with the late John Garnstone."
Sir Giles showed signs of interest. Medway said nothing. "If you can tell us anything——"
"That is for you to judge, sir. I only heard about the case yesterday, as I have been out of Town. The papers say that the unfortunate man was not outside his flat on the night of his murder. If you are of the same opinion, then all I can say is that you are mistaken. On that tragic evening Mr. Garnstone met me by appointment in the lounge of the Regal Palace at nine o'clock on a small matter of business. He arrived in a small two-seater car which he said was his own, and was with me there until after the clock struck ten. The head waiter will confirm this as he knew Mr. Garnstone by sight."
"Interesting, decidedly interesting," Sir Giles murmured, with a glance at Medway, who nodded. "Have you any idea of the direction in which Mr. Garnstone went when he left you?"
"Ah, that I cannot say," the Rumanian replied. "But he said something about an appointment somewhere in the Minories with a Jew dealer who had picked up something out of the common. That was the last I saw of him."
"Very strange," Sir Giles murmured. "The caretaker under Mr. Garnstone's flat declares that he never left the place all the evening. Do you know the flat, sir?"
"No I don't," Tanberg replied. "Secluded, and fortified like a castle, I am told by dealers who have been there. But what I say is true, and others can confirm it. But that is not what I came here to speak about, singular as the whole thing is. In point of fact I want to get hold of something which belongs to me, and which I passed over for valuing purposes to Garnstone on night of his death. A gold and enamel cup set with gems and almost priceless. It is probably in his safe."
"Oh, you know he has a safe," Medway challenged.
"Why-er-yes," Tanberg stammered. "At least I presume so. A man like that handling precious articles almost every day is pretty sure to have one. Besides, didn't the papers say that the safe was intact? Not even open."
As a matter of fact the papers had said nothing of the kind for the simple reason that the information had been kept back from them, and only routine details had been furnished to the army of reporters seeking news.
"Probably they did," Medway agreed with some show of confusion, though he felt none. In his mind here was a man worth keeping an eye on. "Sorry I asked that question sir."
The Rumanian ignored him entirely.
"I suppose I can have my cup," he said to Sir Giles. "I shall be prepared to prove my claim, of course. Possibly the article is somewhere about the flat."
"In that case," Medway suggested, "why not come and see for yourself."
"My chief inspector here will give you every facility," Sir Giles said, smiling genially. "Any time you——"
"As a matter of fact I am just going that way, and you might like to accompany me," Medway interrupted.
There was nothing the stranger would like better. It was not for him to see the significant glance that passed between the two officers as he moved towards the door. It was pretty plain that here was a man to be watched. Not necessarily a criminal, but one who could tell things if necessary. Before the two reached the flat Medway had elicited the name of the place and street where Tanberg was living without the latter giving, as he thought, anything away.
Before they arrived at their destination, Brentford had come to the flat. Owing to one cause and another he had not seen Vera since the murder so that he was all the more anxious to meet her again. The inquest on Garnstone would be held on the morrow when both he and Vera would have to give evidence. In the meantime the body had been removed to a mortuary, and the flat was open to those who had business there.
One of these early days the safe would be dismantled and opened, but not yet. Meanwhile there was much to be done in the way of correspondence, and some attempt made to clear up the murdered man's affairs. There were no books since they were deposited in the safe every night, and handed out each morning when the day's business began. So that Vera was free to come and go as she liked, only nothing would ever persuade her to sleep in that building again.
Brentford found her pouring over a mass of correspondence in the small room used as an office. She rose quickly as he came towards her, and the next moment lay sobbing in his arms. For a few moments he made no effort to restrain her tears.
"You poor darling," he whispered presently, "what a cruel ordeal for you. And what a mystery! I should have said that no criminal could manage to gain entrance here. The police are just as puzzled as ourselves. Medway, who has the case in hand, came to see me this morning. I think he wanted to make sure of your movements on the night of the crime. Some person is suspected but I don't know whom. What's this I hear about the safe? Can't the key be found?"
"Not up to now," Vera explained. "All the poor man's key's were on a ring in his trousers pocket, but not one of them was anything like the key he treasured, and never left out of his possession. And yet I know he always kept it on that ring. It is as if he anticipated trouble."
"Looks very like it," Ronnie murmured. "It is more than possible that the police will have us under observation. Who are these men coming up the stairs?"
A moment later Medway and his companion came into the room. Medway advanced towards Vera.
"Come to trouble you again, Miss Goff," he smiled. "I have a gentleman here who knows something of Mr. Garnstone's later movements. This is Mr. Tanberg, Miss Goff. I may explain, sir, that Miss Goff is, or rather was, Mr. Garnstone's private secretary. She may be able to help you."
Vera looked the stranger steadily in the face. There was no sign of any kind from which she could draw a deduction. And, on his part he was evidently meeting the beautiful and fascinating woman for the first time. She could see admiration and something more in those dark eyes of his then he glanced away from her as if conscious that he was showing his feelings too much and spoke to her quite normally.
"I am very sorry to trouble you," he said. "But you see, I happened to meet Mr. Garnstone on the night of his death."
"Really?" Vera exclaimed. "But we have every reason to believe that he never left the flat. I went out myself somewhere about seven o'clock to dine with my friend Mr. Brentford here, and I returned somewhere around half-past twelve. The caretaker Gunter, who lives in the basement, is prepared to swear that, up to twelve o'clock, at any rate, Mr. Garnstone was in the flat."
"Nevertheless, he was in my company from nine till ten," the stranger said. "But we need not go into that—it is all part of the puzzle the police have to solve. What I came here to identify, if I can find it, is a gold cup that I gave Mr. Garnstone on the night of his death for the—er—purpose of valuation. If you have seen anything of it——"
Vera declared that nothing of any value outside the furniture of the flat had been discovered. Many things might, or might not, be in the safe but so far, there had been no effort made to open it.
"Oh, well, I suppose I must be satisfied for the present," Tanberg said. "No doubt it is inside the safe. I came along on the off chance of finding my cup, but I was not particularly sanguine. Please pardon my obtrusion."
With that, the stranger made Vera a graceful bow and left the flat, in company with Medway. The latter was not prepared to lose sight of his companion for the moment. And directly the door closed behind them Vera turned to her friend.
"I can't understand it," she said, showing every sign of agitation. "Mr. Garnstone away from the flat when we know he did not move all that evening. Gunter could not possibly be mistaken. But that is not the worst. I hope I didn't show any alarm when the stranger came in."
"Why should you?" Brentford asked.
"I had every reason," Vera murmured. "Have you forgotten already the man I pointed out to you in the restaurant? The man who came here just now called himself Tanberg, but he was Paul Manstar, the scoundrel who robbed and ruined us."
"I HOPE that Tanberg did not recognise you," Ronnie said.
"I am quite sure he did not," Vera replied. "I gave him every chance. I forced myself to look deliberately into his bold eyes, and could read no recognition there. Ronnie, he must never know who I am—never."
"No need for that," Brentford agreed. "You have always been 'Miss Goff' ever since you came here, and now that poor Garnstone is dead, the secret is ours—and Medway's, of course. He wants all the help we can give him. But, for the moment at any rate, we will keep this business of Manstar alias Tanberg to ourselves. Because, you see, Vera, I am going to take a hand in this game and never rest until the murderer has been brought to justice. I mistrust this Manstar fellow who, I think, may be of use to us. Now, why did he want to see over the flat?"
"For some sinister purpose I am sure," Vera cried. "I believe that the story of the gold cup was untrue. I don't believe that there is any gold cup. Remember how cooly he behaved when no such cup was found. He wasn't even annoyed over it. There is something evil here, and we have got to get to the bottom of it, Ronnie."
And there for the moment they left it. Nothing further could be done until the safe was opened. Meanwhile Vera, who had taken rooms close by, came in to the flat every day to deal with letters and other matter that poured in from all parts of Europe. Whenever it was necessary she could reach Brentford by telephone and in addition they were together most evenings.
A day or two passed before Brentford could make a personal contact with Medway, and, when he did, it was only to find that the inspector was as much in the dark as ever.
"The most baffling case I ever handled," he admitted quite freely. "Not a thread to hang on to. I am still as convinced as ever that Garnstone was taken by surprise that night by some scoundrel who managed to find a way into the flat. Given that, I am at the end of my resources."
"I don't think so," Ronald said, smiling. "Now I am interested in that Rumanian gentleman who visited the flat in search of a gold cup—or so he says. I'm not suggesting that he murdered the poor old gentleman, but I do suggest that he could tell us quite a lot if he were so disposed. I don't know whether you are keeping an eye on him or, if you know——"
"Were he lives," Medway interrupted. "Yes, I found that much out from the man himself. He was kind enough to ask me to dine with him one night which I may or may not do. But one of my men has been told off to keep an eye on him and make a note of his movements and the sort of company he keeps. One never knows what is going to turn up."
"Any luck so far?" Brentford asked.
"Well, no, but I have not been altogether idle. I have seen Mr. Garnstone's lawyers, for instance. I rather wanted to have a look at the old man's will. They hadn't got it—nothing but draft instructions made some time ago. Mr. Garnstone took the original away with him a month ago; probably it is in the safe. Then I went to Mr. Garnstone's bankers, and there I did make something of a discovery."
"I am all attention," Brentford murmured.
"Very well. On the morning of the crime, Mr. Garnstone came into the bank and drew out a thousand pounds in Bank of England notes—mostly fivers. Of these I have the numbers. Sooner or later the present holder will cash one or more of these and then we shall learn something. As far as I remember, no money was found on the body save a few treasury notes. I particularly want to know where that big money went."
"Very interesting," Brentford commented. "The missing clue may be behind the bank paper. But what about Tanberg and his statement to the effect that he and Garnstone met in the lounge of the Regal Palace on the night of the murder? Gunter swore his master never left the flat that night—at least not much before midnight, by which time he was dead."
"That part I am on my way to investigate at this very moment, and if you like you can come along."
Brentford wanted nothing better. Ere long the two were in close conversation with the head waiter at the Regal Palace.
"Oh, yes, sir," he said in answer to Medway's question. "I knew Mr. Garnstone very well. He frequently dined here. Was he here on the night of his murder? No doubt whatever about it. He spoke to me when he came in and when shortly before 10 o'clock he went off in his little two seater car. Two or three of our waiters will tell you the same thing."
Medway professed himself satisfied on the point after he had questioned others of the staff.
"Very strange," he whispered to Brentford. "Gunter must have been entirely mistaken or was not telling the truth for some reason or another. Now for the hall porter."
But that individual was as firm in his statement as the rest of the staff. He distinctly remembered Mr. Garnstone leaving the lounge with a gentleman whom he knew by the name of Tanberg. A foreigner, he was, and a regular customer of late. The two stood on the pavement chatting before Mr. Garnstone climbed into his two seater, saying something about a man he was to visit who lived somewhere down east—Whitechapel Road, the hall porter thought. Not that he was listening.
"Did Mr. Tanberg go with him?" Medway asked.
"No sir," the porter replied. "He came back into the lounge, and there he stayed till about eleven o'clock after which he left on foot, the night being fine."
"Strange, very strange," Medway ruminated as they turned their backs on the hotel. "Gunter tells me that Mr. Garnstone had no car. Did you know of one?"
"Most certainly not," Brentford, declared emphatically. "He professed a real hatred of cars. And as to driving one——"
"Well, there you are, anyway," Medway said. "We have a number of reliable witnesses who have nothing, to gain by paltering with the truth who knew that Garnstone not only owned a car but actually drove it. Through London streets, too. Now, what do you think of that, my friend?"
"I wonder if the hall porter knew the number of the car?"
"Now that is a real brain wave!" Medway cried. "Though I ought to have thought of it myself. Just a moment."
Medway retraced his footsteps only to return a few moments later with a half-amused look on his face.
"Got it," he said. "And yet not got it. The man is certain that the number is ZX 1001."
"What do you mean, not got it?"
"Simply this—there is no such number, couldn't be. Now I wonder what that old chap was up to. Keeping a secret car in some equally secret garage whilst vowing that the sight of a car was anathema to him. It would seem that the great man was leading a double life. What I am asking myself at moment is whether there is a secret passage from the flat to the street. It must either be that or Gunter is in the conspiracy and is the finest liar I ever met. Yet I have a feeling that Gunter quite believes in what he says."
"What is the next move now?" Brentford asked.
"Why to trace that car. I shall have to send out a general call. That is a description, to the street patrols, of the car, its make, colour and so on. It's any odds I shall pick up something in the next 24 hours."
Medway was not very far off in his prophesy, for late the following afternoon a constable presented himself at the Yard with a request to see Inspector Medway. Presently the two were sitting in Medway's office.
"About that motor car, sir," the man began. "I was on duty a few nights ago and——"
"Stop a moment," Medway interrupted. "Which night? And what fixes it on your memory?"
"It was the night of the flat murder sir."
"Good man," Medway murmured. "Go on."
"Well sir, I went on night duty at the usual hour. Down Whitechapel Road way, that is. At about 10.20 I saw a small car coming east. In it was a single person. The car tallied in every way with that described in the general call."
"Stop there for a bit," Medway interpolated. "Did you take any particular notice of the driver?"
"No sir; I can't say I did."
"But you might recognise him if you saw him again?"
"I think I should, sir, especially in the face of what happened afterwards. You see sir——"
Once more Medway held up his hand for silence. From a bundle of cuttings on his desk he produced a photograph evidently taken from some picture paper.
"Now try and describe the car driver," he commanded.
"Very tall and thin, sir. White hair and the features of an aristocrat. Commanding-looking gentleman. Might have been a general or a statesman."
Medway passed the cutting over to his visitor.
"Something like that, for instance?" he asked.
"Why sir, it is the very gentleman. Of course I don't know his name, only the number of the car."
Medway smiled, for he had carefully removed the letterpress from the cutting. Time enough for that later on. "And the number of the car is ZX1001 eh? Yes, I can see it is without asking. But that is not what jogged your memory. Something out of the common happened."
"Not so much, after all, sir. Just another car coming in the opposite direction, and a skid which forced the two seater on to the pavement. Front wheel buckled and so on. The old gentleman got out undamaged, and declined to make any charge against the other driver. Quite polite he was, about it. So he hopped into a taxi, saying that he would send for his car almost at once, as he knew of a garage not far off."
"So that you did not see him again?"
"No sir, I didn't. Just as I came that way again there was a mechanic and his mate tinkering with the car and fixing a new wheel. They had just about finished when I turned up, and off they went before I could ask a question."
"Um," Medway muttered thoughtfully. "I presume that you might be able to recognise those mechanics again?"
"I don't think so," the officer replied, with a shake of his head. "They were very dirty and black as sweeps, besides being in dungarees. Anything else, sir?"
Medway shook his head in turn, and for a long time after the officer had gone sat there plunged in deep thought.
"I wonder," he said, earnestly to himself. "I wonder."
LORD GLENDAY was naturally indignant as millionaires are apt to be when things go wrong or they suffer some loss which is no fault of their own. And such a misfortune had overtaken Alan, first Baron Glenday, when expert thieves broke into his fine place in Sussex, and helped themselves to most of his artistic treasures. The mere fact that they were insured up to their full value did little to restore his lordship's equanimity.
"Over a month ago, and not one single practical move on the part of the police," he told Sir Giles Fairchild in the latter's sanctum in Scotland Yard. "I gave your people a full list and description and you have not even advertised them. A premium on dishonest pawnbrokers, I call it."
"We have our reasons," Sir Giles replied. "And we are not entirely without a clue to act upon. For the present we prefer to leave the public in ignorance of what is missing. We have reason to think that one of the treasures is in certain hands. That we can get, but if we do, the rest will never be heard of again. Please yourself, Glenday—get the one article back and lose the rest, or leave us a little more time, and in all probability recover everything."
Scotland Yard commissioners are not to be bluffed, and his lordship wisely recognised the fact. He made a dignified exit as Medway entered the room.
"Worrying you again, sir?" Medway asked.
"Something like that," Sir Giles agreed. "But he has set me thinking. I have here a list of Glenday's missing art treasures. Amongst them is a gold and enamel cup set in brilliants and monogrammed. It has just occurred to me that there is a hunt being made for another gold cup which the man you were telling me about claimed."
"Oh, yes," Medway cried. "The man called Tanberg, who says that a similar article was left in the possession of Mr. Garnstone prior to his murder. You think it might be the same? Very odd that you should have mentioned it sir."
"What! Do you think so, too?"
"Well, I won't go as far as that, sir. But one never knows when some important clue may turn up. So I put one of my best men to shadow Mr. Tanberg. The fellow seems to know all sorts and conditions of people. Dines in Mayfair and is a guest at some of the very best houses. But knows some very shady characters as well. The refugee type amongst others. Doesn't appear to have a banking account, but pays everybody. Lives in a fine service flat and has plenty of money to spend. But who he is, and where he really comes from, nobody knows."
"Worth watching, you think?"
"I certainly do, sir. It looks to me as if he has the cheek to claim property belonging to other people. Meaning that he seeks to prove the ownership of some precious article which he knows was in Garnstone's possession at the time of his death. And yet when he heard that Garnstone was no more he was as cool as ice about it. A bit queer, that, seeing that he was in the company of Garnstone within two hours of his death."
"And you dare not cross-examine him," Sir Giles said chaffingly. "But what about Garnstone, and that secret visit to some place in the East End, and the car which you were told he hated. Any car, that is. Don't you think it possible that Garnstone was up to some shady business connected with his legitimate business? A man in his position would make an ideal 'fence'. Known and trusted by everybody from crowned heads downwards, handling gems of price as if they were so many pebbles. And I have heard it said that he was a veritable miser, grudging the spending of every penny. Outside his lady secretary, and that traveller of his he cared for nothing. At any rate such is the result of my fishing inquiries."
"There may be something in what you say, sir. At any rate, I won't rule it out as a possible solution. If Garnstone was a fence, then he was a precious grasping one. One can imagine him incurring the bitter enmity of some deluded burglar who came to him hoping for hundreds and getting tens. There are half a dozen burglars in London who would murder a man for less than that. The Lefton gang, for instance."
"I have not put them out of the picture," Sir Giles said, with a grim smile. "Now another question. Have you heard anything respecting the garage to which Garnstone's car was taken on the night of the accident?"
"Not a word, sir. Curious thing, isn't it. Every known garage within a mile of the spot where the smash happened has been visited without result. And nobody has come forward to inquire as to the ownership of the car."
"Um. Looks to me like a hidden garage somewhere. A place where the car was kept by persons in Garnstone's pay. Criminals he had a hold on. You don't suppose that Captain Brentford or the secretary are in the secret?"
"Not for a moment sir. If you had seen the lady on the night of murder, as I did, then you would have ruled her out without the slightest hesitation. The captain the same. Anyhow, we have plenty to go on with as it is. I am going to find that garage if it takes me a month. Somehow I think the end of the long thread is somewhere there."
"Well, good hunting," Sir Giles said as he rose. "If you fail, then we shall own defeat."
"We are not going to be defeated, sir," Medway said through closed teeth. "I haven't finished with that car business. It is just possible that the two-seater has already been changed out of recognition, but what about the maker's name on the engine? I might find this though it is like looking for a ruby dropped on the Pebble Ridge. Garnstone must have bought it sometime, somewhere. Perhaps I can find some trace of a receipt amongst that mass of papers in his big desk. I will see if the beautiful secretary can help me."
Medway gave orders for a more extensive search with special attention to the movements of the Lefton gang, whose activities always interested him. Within 24 hours came a report from White chapel way that the elder Lefton had been seen the night before leaving his house in a car that almost distinctly tallied with the missing two-seater.
"Only the number is different, sir," said the constable, who came in with the information. "Another officer and myself followed in another car, but lost our man at Ealing. I feel pretty sure that we were on the track of the right car."
"Well, it can't be helped," Medway said, philosophically. "But now that you know, keep a close eye on Lefton's place. I had better detail a couple of men to keep watch."
It was all very baffling and disappointing. Directly anything like a thread appeared above ground it vanished like a mole in a meadow. Nor was there anything to throw light on the mysterious car amongst Garnstone's papers. Moreover, Vera was inclined to resent Medway's veiled hints as to certain activities of the dead man. So far as she was concerned, he had been more like a father to her than anything else.
"But wasn't he very mean?" Medway asked.
"As far as money was concerned—yes," Vera conceded. "But we all have our little weaknesses. Mr. Garnstone hoped to retire before long and devote himself to floriculture, which was a passion with him. It is a most expensive hobby, so that he wanted a large fortune to maintain his hot-houses. That was why he was so close about money."
"But why did he profess to hate motors, when he had one himself, and knew how to drive it, even in London traffic?"
Vera shook her head hopelessly.
"Ah, that is beyond me altogether," she said. "Until you and the others were so definite I should have been certain there was a mistake somewhere. Again, why did Mr. Garnstone assure me that he was not going out that night when all along he was going to keep an appointment with that awful man?"
"Meaning Tanberg," Medway suggested. "But why do you speak of him in such terms?"
Vera pulled herself up quickly. She had not intended to say quite so much—at least not at present.
"We have met before," she said. "Our meeting has nothing to do with the present case, and I wish to forget the matter. Please do not further question me."
More mystery, thought Medway to himself, as he left the flat, little knowing that Vera had a mystery—and a distressing one at that, to worry her. And it would until Ronnie came along to take her out to tea as promised. She was waiting for him now, having cleared up the correspondence for the day.
Brentford arrived presently, having put aside all painful thoughts, as he always did when giving Vera pleasure. But he was struck immediately by the strained look on that lovely face, and the drawn lines about the scarlet mouth.
"Why, what is the matter, darling?" he asked. "You look as if you had seen a ghost."
"Ronnie, the most dreadful thing has happened. I only found it out half an hour ago. On the roof looking to the conservatory. Nobody has been up there but me since the crime. I can't think how I came to miss it. But, Ronnie, the Blue Daffodil has vanished—pot and all. How on earth was it stolen?—and why?"
WHAT an amazing business it was from whatever point of view one regarded it. All sorts of strange things happening without one of them pointing towards a definite conclusion. And now here was another startling development that threw no light whatever on the tragedy of Garnstone's death.
"Are you quite sure?" Ronnie asked. "I mean are you sure the bulb was there in its pot on the night that our poor friend was murdered?"
"Absolutely certain," Vera replied. "Not long before I joined you at the Premium I was in the conservatory. I went up there on the roof to make sure that the heating apparatus was working properly. As you know, the conservatory is connected with the central heating of the flat, so that no special furnace is required. I looked at the bulb to see what progress it was making, as I generally do. I know it was there when I left the flat, but how and when it vanished I cannot say. Since the murder I have not given the Blue Daffodil a thought. There were so many other things to think of. Do you think Mr. Garnstone took it with him when he went out that night to keep his appointment with the man man who calls himself Tanberg."
"I should say that it is exceedingly unlikely," Ronnie said. "I can't see him carting that pot half over London. Nor can I believe that the so-called Tanberg was the least interested in a new daffodil or any other flower for that matter. Nor can I see the murderer risking his neck for a bulb in a pot, even if he knew the value of it."
"Is it very valuable, do you think Ronnie?"
"Probably. Worth a thousand pounds perhaps. An entirely new flower might fetch that sum. But think of the danger to the thief. So far as he knows to the contrary, a score of people might be in the secret. Therefore, any attempt to commercialise it would be simply asking for trouble."
"And yet for some reason or other the bulb was stolen, and stolen on the night of the murder. Nobody could possibly have been in the flat since without using my key, and that has never left my possession for a moment."
"Don't be too sure of that, Vera," Brentford said. "The man who murdered our friend contrived to obtain entrance and exit. Since the tragedy nobody has slept in the flat, which is deserted directly you leave in the afternoon taking care to close the steel door behind you. But there must be some way in and out or Mr. Garnstone would be alive at this moment. It would be safe for the miscreant to come here again any night."
Vera gave it up in despair. There was sound logic behind what Brentford was saying. She shuddered to think of that foul monster being in a position to visit the flat at any time he liked after nightfall. Perhaps even in daylight . . .
"What shall we do about it, darling?" she asked forlornly.
"Very little for the moment," Brentford said. "I must see Medway about this; he may be able to suggest something."
The inspector almost laughed as he heard the story that Brentford had to tell. Not that he was in the least amused.
"I am so hopelessly fogged," he confessed candidly. "The further we go the deeper we seem to be in the labyrinth. What are we to make of a criminal who does not stop at murder, but has a love of flowers? Now how the deuce did he glean his intimate knowledge of Garnstone's hobbies and household generally? And again—what was behind those car expeditions in a shady part of London? In a car which obviously he had hidden in some garage the whereabouts of which we can't trace."
"Yes, I know all about that," Brentford said impatiently. "But here is a new bright light altogether. What do you think about it? Can we make a move in that direction?"
"Possibly," Medway said. "We are bound to suppose that the criminal knew the value of what he stole. How he got to know that value does not for the moment matter. But one thing we can be sure of—he is no horticulturist. His brand of rascality has no use for Love amongst the Roses. By this time he has probably disposed of the bulb to some enthusiastic amateur for a good round sum. Probably the flower had developed into bloom first. Showing colour, wasn't it?"
"So I have been informed," Brentford said.
"So much the better," Medway cried. "So much the easier then. This is where Broadcasting House comes in."
"What has broadcasting House to do with it?"
"S.O.S." Medway grinned. "A police message. Something like this. 'The police are anxious to trace the whereabouts of a blue daffodil in a small pot which was removed from a house in London, and believed subsequently sold. Will the purchaser please communicate with New Scotland Yard, telephone number, Whitehall 1212.' or something to that effect. Walk with me as far as Portland Place and we will put the matter through."
It was getting late on the same evening when Medway got what he believed to be the first real clue to the mystery of Garnstone's death. It was just a tiny thread, but at least something to go on. A sergeant attached to the City force came into his office having a report to make.
"It is about that two-seater, sir," he began. "We had a bit of luck just after dark. I was watching a house down Whitechapel way in connexion with another matter when who should come out, but the elder Lefton. He gave a sort of whistle when a little two-seater rolled up. Just the very spit of the car for which the general call went out. Into that my gentleman stepped and drove off, leaving the man who brought the car behind him. I had a police car handy so I followed. Not half a mile away Lefton stopped before a respectable-looking house in a back street. An empty house as far as I could judge. But a house with folding doors. Out my man got, and taking a key from his pocket, unlocked the doors, me hiding in an area opposite. Directly my man saw an empty street he drove the car through the double doors and closed them behind him. Directly he came out again I got busy. You know, sir."
"Meaning a little gentle burglary, eh?"
"That's it, sir. Well, as I expected, the house was empty. But the whole of the ground floor has been knocked into one and fitted out with a regular garage equipage. Three cars there, two of them flyers and a two-seater. Half a dozen number-plates under the seat amongst other things. But I managed to get the engine number and maker all right, and then I thought it wise to come away. Particulars in my note-book, sir."
"Quite a neat piece of work, Huxtable," Medway said as he jotted down the figures and the name he needed. "No suspicion aroused and nobody any the wiser. Now we can get on."
But, all the same the 'getting on' was not so easy as it might have been. It took Medway three whole days before he could trace the manufacturers of the little car and then a series of telephone calls ranging over three counties. Then, finally to an agent who had bought the car second-hand, eventually selling it to a visitor who had paid for it by cheque. Fortunately, the dealer possessed a good memory for names, the more so as he was in a small way of business. Yes, he was quite sure the name was Garnstone. Moreover Vera remembered that about the time of the purchase her employer was in Norwich where the deal took place.
So Garnstone was in some underhand way connected with one of the most dangerous gangs of thieves in London. Yet what could be the link between a man with an international reputation and such people as the Lefton contingent? But that such a link existed Medway was now certain. Could it be possible that Mr. Garnstone, in his hunt for treasures, had dealings with those whose business was to steal them?
And where did that man Tanberg come in? That he was in some way connected with the tragedy Medway felt certain. Tanberg was being carefully shadowed, and if the man was in any way in touch with the Lefton gang, then Medway would in time know.
So it happened two days later that Medway found himself in a disreputable public house in Limehouse, disguised as a dock labourer. This as the result of a report from one of his confidential agents. And once there, he had not very long to wait. First came the elder Lefton with the air of a man who is in perfectly congenial surroundings. He sat down calling for a double rum, and sprawled there evidently waiting for someone.
Then the man Tanberg came in. He wore a check cap pulled down over his ears and a dingy suit of rusty brown. Round his head was a bandage as if he had met with some accident, but this was evidently part of his disguise. For the best part of an hour the pair talked in whispers, with drinks in between. Most of these Tanberg paid for, changing a five pound note for the purpose. It was some time after they had gone before Medway loafed up to the bar. He pulled a number of dingy Treasury notes and some silver from his pocket.
"Say, mister," he began. "I got to send a month's cash to the misses in Liverpool. I got some small notes and a lot of silver, but I can't put that in an envelope. Can you happen to oblige with a fiver for this lot?"
"Happen I can," the landlord said. "I just changed a fiver fer the gent what's gone out."
The transaction completed, Medway made the best of his way back to headquarters. He had established the truth of his information, the business of the banknote being a pure shot in the dark. But he whistled long and low when he came to compare the number to those in the sequence that Garnstone had drawn from his bank on the day of the murder.
"A real bit of luck," he murmured. "Actually one of the missing notes out of Garnstone's thousand pounds. One never knows until one tries. Our friend is short of legitimate cash or he is getting careless. Well, I can afford to wait now though I could pull Tanberg in on a fair charge. Every move he makes now will be recorded. Quite a natty little disguise of his, and good enough if I hadn't been actually expecting him."
Medway was all the more satisfied because he felt that once one of those notes was cashed others would follow. Probably the owners, or present owners rather, were not aware that the police knew of the bank transaction. If they had thought that the notes would have been sold on the Continent at about a third of their face value. A side in the game that was not likely to appeal to a crook of Tanberg's calibre.
Medway was still turning this over in his mind when an officer came in evidently acting under instructions.
"There is a gentleman here, sir, who wants to see somebody in authority. Deputy-Commissioner thinks he would be likely to interest you. The flat murder business, sir."
"Send him in," Medway directed.
There entered a little old man with a fussy air and a certain absence of mind about him.
"Dear me!" he said. "So this is Scotland Yard. I called to see somebody interested in the Blue Daffodil. As a matter of fact, the thing is in my possession."
THE little old man gazed about him under penthouse brows like some rather intelligent parrot. It was difficult to decide whether or not he was impressed by his surroundings. For there was nothing here to speak of the majesty of the law or strike terror into the breast of the malefactor.
"So this really is Scotland Yard?" he muttered. "Very foolish of me to come here—no business of mine."
Evidently an eccentric, Medway thought. But with nothing of the criminal type about him.
"Excuse me, sir!—" Medway said. "But didn't you come here on some errand? The Blue Daffodil, you know."
"God bless my soul!" the little man said. "So I did—so I did! Something I heard when turning on my wireless a night or two ago for the second new bulletin. Police anxious to trace the whereabouts of a blue daffodil—an impossible flower I should have said. A dream, sir!—a dream! But such a flower does exist, and is at present in my hot-house."
"I am exceedingly glad to hear it," Medway said. "You are, I presume, interested in flowers?"
"Interested, sir!—interested! I live for them. Any horticulturist worthy of the name knows Septimus Deacon—meaning myself. I am a man of independent means and live at Buxted, in Sussex. Lived there all my life. Propagating new flowers. But nothing so novel as a blue daffodil. A lovely blue with an orange centre. You must come and see it."
"I most certainly will," Medway responded heartily. "Any time convenient to you. But do I understand that the bulb in question is one of your own producing?"
"Indeed not," the little man sighed. "As a matter of fact I bought it. Lots of people come to me with floral novelties, or what they deem to be novelties, because my name is so widely known. It was a travelling hawker of carnation roots who brought the bulb to me. Only a week or so ago. He seemed to know its value for he asked a big price."
"Which price you paid. How much was that?"
"Fifty pounds. I ought, perhaps to have made some inquiries first, but I was too anxious to get the flower."
"You would recognise that hawker again?"
"Really, I am not so sure about that," the little man confessed. "In the first place my sight is none too good. Also it was rather a dull day."
"But what type of man? One sees all sorts and conditions of men reduced to hawking. The seller might have been a gentleman down on his luck."
"Oh, he wasn't that," Mr. Deacon replied. "No mistaking a gentleman, even in rags. More of the superior labouring class. He had a beard, I noticed, streaked with grey. Probably about fifty years of age. But I think I should recognise his voice. He sort of whistled through his teeth."
Many more questions did Medway ask, but all to no practical effect. Of course the man was a sham hawker and his basket of carnation roots a mere blind.
"Well, thank you very much," Medway said at length. "Our talk may produce good results. It is our business to trace the seller, and you are to say nothing of this interview until we have finished our case."
Once having got rid of his visitor, Medway lost no time in reporting the interview to Sir Giles Fairchild.
"Not much light on the subject," Sir Giles said. "But every little clue points in the same direction. It is pretty obvious that our flower seller can throw a deal of light on the big tragedy—if we can only get hold of him."
"That might not be so very difficult, sir," Medway said. "But I expect that the man never called on anybody but Mr. Deacon. That gentleman was deliberately picked out as the one widely known floriculturist who would be the most likely to purchase the bulb. There is a gang here working together, and one of the lot was desperately hard up for money. Hence the stealing of the bulb in circumstances concerning which we still remain in abysmal ignorance. All the same, we are getting on."
So for the moment, the hunt was transferred to the district round and about Buxted. But the pair of sleuths detailed for the purpose had nothing definite to report after three days of intensive investigation. Medway listened to what the leader of his human bloodhounds had to say.
"A blind alley sir," he declared. "At no single house within a mile of Buxted did any hawker offer plant for sale. But that you probably expected to hear, sir."
"I should have been very surprised otherwise," Medway said with a patient smile. "Anything else, Proctor?"
"Just one other little thing, sir," Proctor said. "In a dry ditch half a mile from Mr. Deacon's house we came on a basket containing a few carnation roots faded and withered.
"Ah, thrown away directly the big deal was completed. But one thing I fail to understand. So good a judge as Mr. Deacon would have smelt a rat directly he saw those carnation roots."
"In the ordinary way, yes, sir. But each root was carefully wrapped and labelled though probably they were no more than common pinks. That is an old dodge with some flower hawkers who travel the country, and no purchaser can tell until months later when blooming time comes. That's why I brought two or three of those labels with me."
"Good work," Medway said approvingly. "Let us see if these labels lead us anywhere."
The officer produced the labels from his pocket book. They were printed on some sort of stout parchment paper, and various names of well-known carnations prominently displayed. Each of the slips bore the initials "A.B."
"Evidently turned out by some firm who do a lot of printing for the flower trade. Now who the deuce is, or are 'A.B.'? Let us see if I can find them in the London Directory."
Surely enough, after a long and patient search, the name came to light in the Directory. Abel Barnes and Co., printers to the flower trade with offices in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. Medway smiled his satisfaction.
"Better pop round and make inquiries," he directed briskly. "Take the people there to a certain extent into your confidence. That ought to buck them up."
In the course of an hour Proctor was back again with some exceedingly interesting information. The labels on the carnations were their manufacture right enough, and they remembered selling a score or so of them to a customer within the past week or more. Man with a beard, shabbily dressed, and evidently belonging to the working class. Certainly the assistant who sold the tickets would know him again.
"Well, that is something gained," Medway cried. "See if he can give you any further information."
Medway was not destined to be alone for long since his man had hardly departed before Mr. Deacon was announced. The little man was in his usual state of fussy excitement with a suggestion that he had something important to say.
"I had to come up to Town on business to-day, and thought I might look you up. An idea struck me yesterday. You did not exactly tell me that the Blue Daffodil had been stolen, though your manner inferred it."
"You might have made a worse guess," Medway said.
"I knew it," the little man cried, "I knew it! Now there is only one flower expert in England who could have raised a blue daffodil, and he is, or was, my old friend John Garnstone. The poor fellow who was so mysteriously murdered."
"Oh, an old friend of yours, was he? Strange that this fact should not have leaked out during our interview. You see I have that case in hand, and very intricate it is. I dare say, now we have gone so far, that the Blue Daffodil is mixed up in the tragedy though I can't see exactly how."
"Then the Blue Daffodil belonged to poor Garnstone. I might have guessed as much. Somebody stole it."
"Precisely. There is no doubt about that. And the thief sold it to you, Mr. Deacon. If we could lay him by the heels we should be a long way to solving that murder."
The little man danced about excitedly.
"You don't say so," he cried. "What a pity it is that my sight is so bad. Then I might have recognised him."
"You are familiar with Mr. Garnstone's flat, I suppose?"
"No, strange to say, I have never been inside it. I was going to call but never did. I should very much like to have a look at that wonderful conservatory."
"Then come along with me now," Medway suggested. "You may see something there of interest to both of us."
The little man asked for nothing better. A taxi conveyed Medway and his companion as far as the flat, and in it Deacon waited until Medway made sure Vera was there.
"Mr. Garnstone's lady secretary is in charge for the present so I won't drag you up the stairs until I make sure that she is on the premises. Just a moment."
But Vera was not there. Down the stairs Medway shouted to Gunter, who replied that Miss Goff was gone for the day.
"The man, the voice," Deacon whispered as Medway rejoined him. "The creature you were speaking to. The voice with the whistle in it. As sure as you are alive that was the very man who sold me the Blue Daffodil."
MEDWAY grasped Deacon by the hand almost savagely.
"You are absolutely sure of that?" he demanded. "You are ready to swear to that voice?"
"My dear sir, my very dear sir, why this emotion?" the little man said. "Are you blind to the fact that when Dame Nature deprives us of one sense, she strengthens another. With my eyes failing, I became concious that my hearing was growing more acute. I tell you that is the man."
"Would you like speech with him?" Medway asked. "I may tell you that the man is clean shaven."
"But there are such things as false beards, Mr. Policeman. But I can see that you are not entirely satisfied. I will stay here hidden in the cab whilst you lure the fellow to the door-step and get him to speak."
Which Medway proceeded to do. A minute had hardly passed before he noticed a sort of whistle between the teeth when Gunter answered his questions. Undoubtedly the little man was right.
"Are you satisfied now?" he asked.
"Perfectly," Medway admitted. "But you see I had to make perfectly certain before I took definite action. You have done the State some service, sir, and I am infinitely obliged. For the moment I shall not trouble you further. In the meantime please retain the Blue Daffodil and take care of it."
The little man went his way presently, and Medway returned to headquarters in thoughtful mood. There was no doubt in his mind that Gunter had stolen the Blue Daffodil, and sold it to Deacon for a substantial sum. The theft had been deliberately planned, and the potential purchaser chosen in advance. Gunter was assured of his market before the theft was committed. He had only to disguise himself, and the thing was done.
Again Gunter was the only person besides Brentford and the lady secretary who could possibly get into and out of the flat. And Gunter only at such times as some labour was called for. That angle of the crime pointed only to Gunter. Moreover, it was absurd to suppose that the actual criminal entered the flat for the sole purpose of stealing the flower. And even if he had, surely he would not have left the disposal of it to Gunter. It was a case of the game not being worth the candle.
No, Gunter was the culprit, working on his own at a moment when he was at his wit's end to obtain £50 for one purpose or another. Had Garnstone lived the theft would most assuredly have been detected, and the thief recognised at once. Then what was the desperate need to run such a risk.
Gunter was no murderer, of that Medway felt assured. But he might know something about the crime. And in some way the Blue Daffodil might have been mixed up in it. Therefore Medway resolved on a bold course. If it failed he would be none the worse off, and if it succeeded then . . . Thus it came about that next morning Gunter found himself being escorted to Scotland Yard. Not in custody or anything like that, but in company with a friendly policeman who had been sent by Inspector Medway with a view to asking Gunter a few questions relating to the recent crime. For Medway was shrewd enough to know that the atmosphere of the Yard would not be without an impression on the victim. Moreover, Gunter had something worrying at his conscious already.
Medway was genial and smiling as he motioned his victim to a chair, and passed over to him a box of cigarettes, and invited him to smoke.
"I won't keep you long," he said. "Just a few questions, Gunter. First of all, how long were you in Mr. Garnstone's employ? When did you first go to the flat?"
Gunter pondered over the question for a moment.
"I can't speak exactly, sir," he said. "But somewhere round about three years."
"And what were you doing before?"
"Out of work, sir. General laborer. Docks and so on."
"Um, yes. Bit of a pugilist, too, eh?"
"I could box a bit," Gunter grinned. "Mr. Garnstone, he found that out afore he engaged me. A rare hand at finding things out, he were. After a bit he used to take me about with him on his travels as a sort of bodyguard. Many a time when he had valuables on him have I slept on a rug inside his bedroom door. Not as nobody ever troubled us."
"Then you made yourself generally useful about the flat. Washing down and cleaning, bed-making and the like. You had no key to the flat or means of entrance at odd times."
"Never, sir," said Gunter with an earnestness that carried conviction with it. "I couldn't have got into the flat until Mr. Garnstone gave me a call on the house telephone after he were about in the morning. Miss Goff, she had a key some time after she come, but I never seen it."
"And you were never alone in the flat?"
"Never once, sir, on my solemn oath."
"Do any work inside the conservatory?" Medway asked as if quite casually. "Cleaning up and all that."
"Now and again, sir. Perhaps once a week."
"Then of course you know all about those wonderful flowers. The Blue Daffodil, for instance."
For the first time Gunter betrayed signs of uneasiness. A little bead of sweat trickled down his nose.
"I did hear something about that," Gunter said, and the whistle between his teeth grew more pronounced. "But I dunno anything about flowers sir."
Medway's manner suddenly changed. His face grew hard, his lips set in a rigid line as his finger pointed at Gunter.
"Then why did you steal the Blue Daffodil?" he shouted.
Gunter almost collapsed in his chair. A feeble denial came from his lips, but no conviction showed now.
"It's no use, Gunter," Medway went on. "For some reason or other you stole that bulb and sold it. I am not accusing you of a hand in Mr. Garnstone's murder, but I know that in some way there is a connexion between that and the missing flower. Now if you like to speak you may—I am putting no pressure on you one way or another. But I can keep you here in custody and charge you with stealing a piece of property."
"I never did," Gunter said sullenly.
"No? Then let me ask you a question. Did you ever hear the name of Mr. Septimus Deacon, of Buxted, a great authority on flowers? You needn't answer unless you like."
Lower and lower Gunter wilted in his chair whilst he shook his head as if in pain. Not yet was he entirely beaten.
"And another question," Medway went on mercilessly. "Did you ever meet a man in the neighbourhood of Buxted, a man with a beard who was peddling carnation roots?"
Gunter fairly gasped. His tongue lolled out of the corner of his mouth his lips were dry and parched.
"A beard may be an effective disguise," Medway proceeded as if speaking to himself. "But to disguise the human voice is harder. Your voice Gunter, is a peculiar one since you whistle through that missing front tooth as you speak. You have been identified as the seller of the Blue Daffodil through that little defect. Sooner or later you will be confronted with Mr. Deacon. You will be in the dock and he in the witness box. Later on, a detective officer will have something to say about your past. And that won't help you, Gunter."
All this was part truth and part bluff, but it lost nothing in its effect on the man writhing in his chair.
"What I should like to know," Medway resumed, "is why you took such a desperate risk when you stole that flower? You were bound to be found out in a few hours if your master had lived, and nobody knows that better than yourself. You need not tell me unless you like, but I am curious to know the desperate need you had for £50. If I knew that, things might be made easier for you. I say might, Gunter."
A deep sigh shook Gunter's giant frame.
"You got me, sir," he said hoarsely, "got me on a bit of toast. I did steal that there flower what I heard master say was worth its weight in gold, and damn the consequences. More'n once I heard about that blinking flower and how a Mr. Deacon would give his head to possess it. It wasn't hard to find out where he lived, and as to the rest you are quite correct sir. But there is one thing that nobody knows, and that's as my master was one of the meanest screws on earth. If I'd been sentenced to death and five bob would have saved me, he wouldn't have forked out."
"But wouldn't he have prosecuted you?"
"No, fear! He'd got a stranglehold on me, and I had him by the short hairs. I was being blackmailed, sir. I daren't come to you gentlemen here because of the past, which I hoped was buried—and it worn't by a long chalk. But prosecuted! You makes me laugh. Because I'll tell you something. You know a lot about that Lefton gang? Well the boss was at the head of it. Been so for years."
It was with the greatest difficulty that Medway prevented himself from leaping from his chair.
"We know a whole lot about them," he said, speaking as calmly as he could. "Before long——"
He checked himself purposely, hoping to hear more. It came without any encouragement from him.
"I hope so, sir," Gunter said, piously. "But if what I got to tell you comes out. I'm as good as dead."
"I don't think so," Medway smiled. "We can go through the farce of prosecuting you for the theft of the flower without saying anything about the past, and giving the magistrate a tip to bind you over. Then no rascal who is bleeding you will think that you have given anything away."
"Sounds good to me," Gunter grinned. "Do you happen to know as the boss were out of the flat on the night of the murder? I see him go out though I never let on at that there short first inquest hearing what was adjourned. I was afraid to tell about that journey the boss took because he was up to one of his little games along with the Leftons."
"What particular games?"
"Lor, lumme, I don't know sir. And old Lefton, he ain't going to tell. But one thing I did find out. My old boss is the biggest 'fence' in London."
"You are able to prove that?" Medway asked.
"Prove it! Course I can when the time comes. And I can tell you all about that little brown car as you don't know of."
"There you are mistaken," Medway said. He wanted no half confidences now that matters had gone so far. "You mean the two-seater in the secret garage with the double doors. The one that was damaged on the night of the murder. Go on!"
GUNTER gazed open-mouthed at Medway. What manner of man was this who seemed to know everything without being told? No use trying to disguise the truth from him.
"Lor', love-a-duck!" he muttered. "What's the use of telling yer a story when you have heard it afore? Maybe you know where the little two-seater is hidden."
"Oh yes," Medway said quite casually. "I can put my hand on it at any moment. Who does it belong to—I mean who has owned it since it came from Norwich."
"Well, if that don't beat the band!" Gunter cried. "And them Leftons walking about like ignorant kids as don't know a danger signal when they see one."
"Never mind that, Gunter. A ghastly murder has been committed in most mysterious circumstances which have utterly baffled us. I don't mind telling you so much because the police are not what is called infallible. I want to get my hands on some likely clue to that murder, and if you can help, so much the better for you. I still have a feeling that the Blue Daffodil had something to do with it, although a mere plain theft seems to clear up that point. You stole it because you were desperately pushed for money to buy a little peace from a blackmailer. Do you suppose that you have heard the last of him?"
"He swore on his oath, sir——"
"Um. Do you think that the oath of a blackmailer is worth a brass farthing? Better tell me all about it, Gunter. If you can help me, then I will stretch a point and help you."
"Even if it is a case of forgery, sir?"
"Yes, even then. You have done something wrong, Gunter, and this fellow can give you away. You had better make a clean breast of it, and even if I can't help you, I will respect your confidence. Now then—out with it."
Gunter hesitated for a moment before he spoke.
"Well, it's like this, sir," he said. "For years I was on my uppers. Desperate like. Sleeping on the Embankment and all that. Then I come in touch with an old lag who put me on to a foreign bloke—one of the swell brigade. Regular toff, he were, but rotten all through. Forging Bank of England notes, and passing 'em off on the continent. Me, I was just a bloke out er work, a carpenter by trade, see? My game was to carry the stuff about in my bag of tools, the foreign bloke taking no risk of being arrested with the snide stuff on him. One night in Hamburg I got pinched—drunk, I was, and when they come to search my bag, what ho! There was only three of us in the little station house, so I made a fight for it. Being a bit of a bruiser, it wasn't long before I was legging it down the street to a place where I knew I could hide until the chase got tired, and a week later I was back in England. But not afore my finger-prints was took in the station-house.
"After a long time I met Mr. Garnstone, and entered his service. Sort of body-guard, you know. It was only by accident as I learnt about his double life. No business of mine I thinks, so long as my quarters was snug and the pay regular. And then about six months ago, I banged into my old toff in Regent street—looking as if he hadn't had a square meal in weeks. Clothes in rags almost. He asked me for a fiver, and I refused. Then he began to threaten. He would put the German police on to me, and those fingerprints would do the rest. There was no charge against him, he had never been seen in company. So, you see, sir, he was all right, and I had to pay. I'd saved a bit when with my late boss, and he had every penny of that. When I told him so, he laughed, and said as how the boss had thousands, at the same time hinting at Mr. Garnstone's double life.
"By this time the foreign bloke was turned out swell as he was when I first knew him, mostly due to the money he got from me. Then you could have struck me all of a heap when one day he called as bold as brass asking to see the boss. So I gives his name to the old gentleman on the house telephone, and I am told to show him up, which I did."
"One moment," Medway interrupted. "What was the name of this man who was fleecing you?"
"Two names, he had, sir. When I first knew him it was Manstar, but now he calls hisself Tanberg."
No sign came from Medway, though this piece of priceless information caused a fine inward glow of satisfaction.
"Do you know his present address?" he asked.
Gunter was posted so far, and gave the number of the street in which Tanberg—to use his present name—resided. It was not for Medway to say that he had this particular already.
"I think I can put a spoke in his wheel," he said. "The next time he asks for money tell him to go to the devil. Call his bluff. He dare not give you away. Now tell me all you now about the Garnstone-Lefton connexion."
"I'll do my best, sir. I know a lot about them Leftons. Never been in gaol either father or son, yet, though the police know their little game. Sort of go between when a big burglary has been pulled off. Within a few hours the stuff passes to the Leftons, who used to call up my old boss from some call office, using some few code words for the purpose. Sometimes the old man worked alone if the Leftons were suspicious that the police were on the watch. Then when the code came on the telephone the old man set out by bus for the Commercial Road, and took out his two-seater. Sometimes the car was garaged off the Commercial Road, sometimes close to the flat. In the latter case he took the car out openly, and worked the oracle on his own. He would drive to some chosen spot down East and meet his man who had to give a certain password. Then the messenger was blindfolded and taken to some house, which I know nothing of, and there the stuff was handed over to Mr. Garnstone for cash. Mind you, this game always began in a back street, where it was very dark, and the old man wore a sort of mask before he responded to the signal."
"How did you know that?" Medway asked.
"Because I followed the boss once on my motor cycle, and saw most of the game. I told a lie when I said he never left the flat on the night of his death."
"I was pretty sure of that," Medway said. "Go on."
"He did go out that night about nine o'clock on one of his little games for he crept downstairs as if wishing to get out without being seen. He had a little despatch-case in his hand, and his head was muffled up. On the door-step he dropped the case and swore at hisself for doing so. I think——"
"Just a moment," Medway interrupted. "Was the case you speak of light or heavy."
"Very light, sir, but heavy enough when he came back an hour or two later," Gunter chuckled. "That's why I was certain that he had been up to one of his little games. And that's about all I can tell you, sir."
And quite enough, too, Medway thought when once more he was alone with his own thoughts. Remarkable that a man like Garnstone, standing so high as he did, should stoop so low as to become a common trafficker in stolen goods. His mere social status should have come between him and such criminality.
And yet the opportunities were unique. Who would suspect a man handling half the art treasures in Europe of such a trade? And what had become of most of the £1,000 that Garnstone had drawn from his bank on the morning of his murder. Certainly the man who now called himself Tanberg had had one of the notes and probably more than one. Therefore it was fair to presume that Garnstone and Tanberg were engaged in some sinister deal in which the alleged gold cup played some part.
That was if there was such a thing as a gold cup. As likely, perhaps, that Tanberg should have some overpowering reason to see the inside of Garnstone's safe directly he heard that the old man had met with his death. Or was the gold cup a mere excuse for the visit to the flat to remove some evidence the murderer had left behind him, Tanberg being himself the criminal.
Certainly, suspicions pointed that way. But, then, how on earth did Tanberg get into the flat after the old man's return? According to Gunter's recent evidence—evidence which Medway had no reason to doubt—Garnstone had returned alone. He had fastened the steel door behind him, a precaution he was never known to forget, and Vera had found it fast when she returned from her evening out. It was possible that the safe held a clue to the mystery though no search had been made there. To break into such a complicated piece of engineering would be a matter of days though it was possible that the key to the letter combinations might be found after a further search. Strange that this should be missing unless the murderer had taken it away so as to gain time. Surely if same was in Tanberg's possession he would have made an excuse to find it or how otherwise could he establish the whereabouts of the gold cup.
"We must have that safe opened," Medway told the deputy commissioner bluntly. "They say that it means taking half the side of the house down or something like that, but it must be done. We are wasting precious time, and giving the criminal too great a chance of covering his tracks. Will you give me the necessary instructions, sir?"
Sir Giles scribbled a few words on a sheet of paper, and handed it to his subordinate. Almost before Medway reached his room the telephone bell rang. He took up the receiver.
"Yes, Medway speaking," he said. "Who is it?"
"Miss Goff," a voice replied. "We have found the letter key to the safe, Inspector. Perhaps you would like to come round here and see it opened."
"I'll be round in ten minutes," Medway said crisply.
BUT it was considerably more than ten minutes before Medway reached the flat. He had first of all to listen to a telephone call that caused him to smile cheerfully to himself.
"All right, Huxtable," he said at length. "I will be down there about ten o'clock this evening. Get another man or two. Yes, I think we had better be inside the building—we might pick up something by a little eavesdropping. Then we can make a raid as if we were outside all the time. You do the arrest business as they reach the street, and then we will come on the scene as if by accident. So long."
The line went dead, and Medway took his way in the direction of the flat using a taxi for the purpose. He dismissed his driver some hundred yards from the flat, reaching it on foot. But he did not at once proceed to mount the stairs.
First of all he wanted a few words with Gunter, so he crept down into the basement and called the caretaker by name. At once Gunter appeared.
"Now look here, my man," Medway said. "There is nothing against you remember, and there won't be so long as you play the game by me. So far you have."
"Course I have," Gunter growled. "I ain't looking for no trouble with that there murder still unsolved. Already, I've told you a lot as I didn't need to."
"True enough," Medway agreed. "Now cast your mind back to the night of the crime. You told me that Mr. Garnstone went out carrying a dispatch-case which seemed to be empty."
"Empty it was, sir. Give you my word."
"Very well. When Mr. Garnstone came back in his car which he had picked up somewhere——"
Gunter made a noise that was intended for laughter.
"Love-a-duck," he said. "When he was on those games do you suppose the boss came back with a torchlight procession and a brass band! Not he. He just left the car a few hundred yards away, where somebody was waiting to take it back home again, and sneaked into the house on his toes."
"Um. As he did that night, I presume."
"That there presuming of yourn is correct, sir. 'Cause I see him come back. Just as I was thinking about bed."
Medway asked no further questions. A certain suspicion in his mind was confirmed. Then he proceeded upstairs to the flat where he knew that Vera and Brentford were awaiting him.
"I am so glad you have come," Vera said. "We didn't think it wise to open the safe before your arrival."
"Quite right," Medway agreed. "Never interfere when the police have taken a hand."
He turned away to examine the safe that stood in one corner of the room—a most formidable affair that revolved almost at a touch. There was not a single inch of it where a burglar's tool could get a grip. Medway had seen many safes, but not one more impregnable than this. It was the very latest that the brain of an engineer could devise.
"How on earth do you open it?" he asked.
"It is a double letter combination," Vera replied. "Two words in parallel. I am the only person in the world to whom the secret was confided. And only then because Mr. Garnstone trusted me in case he might want something out of the safe, I could send it to him."
"Where did you stumble across the combination," Medway asked. "Had you forgotten it?"
"I am afraid that I haven't made myself quite plain," Vera replied. "There are no less than eight combinations, and the lock can be set to any of them. It was only one of these combinations the late Mr. Garnstone confided to me, and the safe was set to that when Mr. Garnstone was on his travels. I very much doubt that my figures, or letters, rather, will open the safe now. Probably the code word has been changed since I held the secret. But as you were informed over the telephone, the whole combination has been found. I have been searching for it high and low. It was tucked in the back of a picture frame. But let us——"
Medway held up a protesting hand.
"Not yet," he said. "I have my very good reasons for not opening the safe to-day—to-morrow things may be very different. I am pretty sure they will be. When the safe is opened I want two people to be present, and I want them to feel sure nobody has forestalled them. At the same time I must ask you to hand over to me the paper on which those combinations are recorded. I will produce it at the right moment."
Vera glanced at Brentford who nodded approval. Then she took from her handbag a strip of parchment on which a number of words were written in parallel columns.
"There is nothing more to be said, then," she sighed.
"Not in that direction," Medway said. "But in another direction I have something to reveal. Miss Goff did it ever occur to you that your employer was a clever criminal."
Vera was profoundly shocked and showed it.
"The mere suggestion is offensive," she declared. "Why, Mr. Garnstone was an intimate friend of my family. Many times he was trusted with valuables beyond price. And consider his international reputation."
"Nevertheless, what I say is true," Medway went on. "It was his wonderful record that gave him the opportunity he wanted. He had very little money to start with, and though his commission meant a lot, his passion for flowers ran him into thousands a year. I am sure Mr. Brentford will bear me out in that."
"Thousands, of course," Brentford agreed. "But——"
"There are no 'buts'," Medway interrupted. "I know that Garnstone was the master 'fence' in Europe, though this knowledge has only come my way quite recently. Perhaps you, Miss Goff, are ignorant of the fact that Mr. Garnstone possessed a two-seater motor car and drove it expertly."
Vera regarded the speaker with helpless amazement.
"Quite true," Medway said. "And what is more, that car was used by the owner on the night of his death—in fact he was out of the flat until very late. Now this I know because the car has been identified as the property of Mr. Garnstone, and the purchase of the same traced to him. In the face of what I have just told you, it will not be difficult for you to see why I don't want that safe opened at the moment. I have every reason to believe that it contains a lot of stolen property—stuff which is not easily disposed of, and therefore has to be placed in cold storage, so to speak, until the time is ripe for sending it across the water. I only ask you to be patient for a day or so. But make it your business to be here some time to-morrow afternoon, when you will see startling developments."
Medway went off presently leaving Vera and her lover to ponder over his disclosures. He himself had plenty of work to occupy his energies for the rest of the day, and nine o'clock in the evening found him not far off the secret garage where the little two-seater was in hiding.
He was not wearing his uniform, nor was the man who accompanied him at a respectful distance, as if there had been no sort of connexion between the two. When the back street was clear, Medway crossed the road and tapped in a peculiar way on the door of the garage with the double entrance.
It was opened almost immediately an inch or two by someone inside, and closed once more as soon as Medway and his companion were safely inside.
"Good work, Huxtables," Medway whispered. "I presume that those rascals will be along soon."
"Bound to be," Huxtable said. "There's a job on down Epping way which I got on to, so that the working party of the gang are likely to run into trouble presently. Lefton and his son are going down to bring the swag away, and that's why they will be here presently for the two-seater. There's a nice dark corner there where we can hide till the moment comes to help in the little game which they are playing."
An hour passed in the pitchy darkness of the garage before the door was softly opened and two men entered. As they closed the door one of them switched on the lights, disclosing the Semitic features of the two men, one old and gizzled, with a pair of foxy eyes full of cunning and greed. The second man was a younger replica and if possible, more vulpine and predatory. Father Lefton held out a grimy claw.
"Got the spondulicks, Ben?" he asked eagerly.
"Aye, I got the stuff old 'un," the dutiful son grunted in response. "But not until I threatened to chuck the job. Tried to come the posh swell over me, he did. But I soon showed him I wasn't taking any. I told him plain that those boys of ours was working on a cash basis, and that the stuff would have to be handed to them the very minute they turned over the goods to us. And then he parted but not before."
"How much, Benny dear, how much?" the old man asked.
"Two hundred quid, same as you told me to ask. But I had to take it in Bank of England notes."
"That don't matter," the elder Lefton shuckled. "We can give him away if things go wrong with those notes. How do we know how he got them?"
"All the same, we can give a pretty good guess," the younger man said in a hoarse whisper. "But it's no business of ours."
"That's right, Benny. Hand the stuff over."
Grudgingly Ben Lefton took from his breast pocket a packet of what the watchers saw were palpably Bank of England notes. With a grin the old man transferred them to his own pocket.
"Good boy, Benny," he said. "Now you run out the little car and we will be moving."
With that the car was moved in the direction of the door and thence into the street, but not before Ben Lefton had glanced outside to make sure the coast was clear.
Then things began to happen. Out of nowhere two plain clothes constables appeared accompanied by an officer in uniform, and then, from behind, came Medway and his man.
"What's all this about?" Medway demanded.
The men standing round saluted. The Leftons stood there in the grasp of two stalwart policemen.
"Breaking into a garage and stealing a car, sir," one of the officers explained. "These men are Lefton, father and son. Chaps we have had our eye on for a long time. Caught in the very act, sir. Opened the door with a skeleton key and took out the car that's standing there. Bring 'em along lads, to the station. Like to come along, sir?"
"Very much," Medway said drily. "I may have a word to say about this business. Lead the way, Sergeant."
ONCE in the station house Medway lost no time in getting busy. From the uneasy glances in his direction it was plain that he was no stranger to the prisoners. That they would be detained for the night was certain whilst the question of bail when they came before the magistrate on the morrow was very much in the balance. It was that packet of banknotes in his pocket that so sorely troubled Levi Lefton.
"You know me, don't you?" Medway asked.
"By sight, sir, only by sight," Levi said. "Never had the pleasure of your company before, sir."
He might have added that he knew most of the lights of Scotland Yard by sight.
"Now listen," Medway went on "You can answer certain questions or you can keep your mouth shut. I only want what you care to volunteer. For instance how do you account for the £200 in Bank of England notes which you have in your pocket at the present moment."
Levi's jaw dropped until it seemed to disappear into his beard that quivered like a leaf in the wind.
"I never got no notes from anybody. A poor man——"
"Search him," Medway commanded tersely.
The notes duly appeared, and were laid on the table. Medway ruffled them over casually, idly noting the serial numbers. But there was in his eye the gleam of the hunter when he sights his quarry. He picked up the notes, and placed them in his wallet.
"I will be responsible for these for the moment," he said casually. "Detain these two and oppose bail when they come before the magistrates in the morning. I may have a much more serious charge to make later on. Make them comfortable for the night. Perhaps there will be others to keep them company."
"But it is monstrous," Levi screamed. "You take my own money from me, and charge me with stealing my own car."
"Oh, is that so?" Medway asked. "I was under the impression that the car belonged to one John Garnstone, who was murdered some time ago. But as to that it will be a matter for a police court. And you won't need that money to-night because your friends out Epping way will not have earned it. By this time their efforts have been checkmated. In other words, they are in custody. Perhaps, on the whole, Levi, you had better say nothing. It doesn't matter either way."
Levi fairly wept in his beard, half stunned as he was by the knowledge the police seemed to have gathered concerning his efforts and movements during the last few hours. He was still bemoaning his fate as Medway, who was more than satisfied with the events of the evening, left the station.
Not that he had finished yet by any means. First of all, back to the Yard again where he took out the bank notes and examined them thoroughly. There were five £10 notes, and 30 of the denomination of £5, more than one was stained a rusty red in patches.
But the important point was that they tallied with those which Garnstone had drawn from his bank on the morning of his murder. Nor was Medway in the least surprised to discover this. It helped to confirm a theory, but that theory was in the early stages of speculation yet.
Late as it was, Medway had still to make two calls; the first took him in a taxi as far as Park Street where he stopped at one of the fine houses there, and asked for Lord Glenday.
"I am afraid I am a bit late," he told the footman who flung open the door, "but if you will tell his lordship that Chief Inspector Medway is here, probably he will forgive me for troubling him at such an hour."
"His lordship is here, sir, and alone, her ladyship being at the opera," the man volunteered. "If you will come in, sir, I will mention your presence to his lordship."
"The great City magnate was only too ready to see his visitor, especially if it had anything to do with the recent burglary.
"Sit down and have a whisky and soda with me," he said quite genially. "I presume you have something interesting to say with regard to my lost property."
"I hope so," Medway replied, "but that depends to a certain extent on yourself. But I am rather sanguine that I can show you some of it. You will recall of course, the murder of Mr. John Garnstone a little time ago."
"Most amazing affair," Lord Glenday cried, "just shows you that nobody is safe whatever precautions one takes. I knew the man well—had business with him. Several pieces in my collection were bought through him. Man who went everywhere and was the friend of princes."
This was just the opening that Medway wanted, and he lost no time in grasping it.
"Well, my lord," he said, "it is just possible that some of your stuff had drifted back to Mr. Garnstone's hands again. If so, it might be in his safe which we have only managed to find the key of recently. If you can make it convenient to call at deceased's flat sometime to-morrow afternoon—say three o'clock when the safe is formally opened it might be to your advantage. I have the key so that nothing can be done until I am there to see."
"Count me in," the great man said. "Nothing shall stand in the way. Three o'clock. All right, my friend."
Medway stopped just long enough to take a whisky and soda before departing on his final errand that night. But it was a much longer job than the first, it being long after the midnight hour before Medway ran the man Tanberg to earth in his luxurious flat. The Rumanian eyed him with open suspicion, and his hand moved mechanically towards a drawer at the table before which he was sitting. If Medway had come with a warrant for the other's arrest the visit would have ended in tragedy, and the policeman made a mental note accordingly.
"I wanted to see you concerning that gold cup of yours, the one you handed to Mr. Garnstone an hour or so before he died, and which you thought must be in his safe."
"Very little doubt about that," Tanberg replied. "I handed it to him in the lounge of the Regal Palace on the night in question when he told me he was on his way home."
"Does that mean you sold it to him?" Medway asked.
"Well, more or less. We had a bit of an argument about the price so we left it for further discussion. As Mr. Garnstone was a man to be trusted, I let him have the cup which he took saying he was going straight home. As you know, only one person saw him alive afterwards."
"Rather lucky for you that no money passed," Medway smiled in his most pleasant manner; "though, come to think of it, he might have given you a cheque."
"I tell you no money passed," Tanberg snarled.
Medway duly apologised. But one thing he had discovered—so far the Leftons had made no attempt to get in touch with Tanberg over the matter of the sheaf of banknotes. Probably they never would since the gang engaged on the abortive robbery was in gaol by this time so that it might be inferred that they had been paid in advance for a raid that had never come off.
The Leftons would be charged with breaking and entering and the stealing of a car so that the money found on Levi could be legitimately claimed by some trusted relative, seeing that no charge could arise out of the possession of so much paper money. Moreover, they might bring suborned witnesses to prove that the Leftons had permission to use that car and make free of the garage. All this flashed through Medway's mind.
"Well, it's like this," he went on. "We are opening Mr. Garnstone's safe to-morrow at three o'clock, and I want you to be there to identify your property if it is inside."
"Right you are," Tanberg cried. "Count me in."
It was Tanberg who was the last to arrive at the appointed time next day. He appeared to be somewhat taken aback when he caught sight of Lord Glenday as Medway did not fail to note. Then he proceeded to open the safe and look inside.
There was only one article there—a magnificent gold cup richly decorated and with a monogram in brilliants. Tanberg advanced with a smile on his face.
"My Cup," he cried. "I could swear to it anywhere."
"Then there must be a pair of them," Glenday said in cold tones. "Before I handle that cup let me tell everybody here that I bought it from a dealer in Amsterdam a year ago. When I purchase a treasure like that I invariably have my private mark stamped on it. Mr. Medway, if you will look at the foot of the cup inside you will see my initials under a Maltese cross together with the date of purchase. If I am wrong, then I have no business here and will take my leave."
"The cup is mine," Tanberg shouted.
"But Lord Glenday is perfectly correct," Medway pointed out, "for here are the marks he indicated. In the face of that what more is there to be said?"
"Nevertheless I still claim my property," Tanberg growled.
"In which case the police will retain it," Medway said with a finality that spoke of authority. "There may be some litigation over this treasure."
All this time Vera had been looking on in fascinated astonishment. She sidled up to Ronald and whispered in his ear.
"Darling, they are both wrong," she said breathlessly. "The cup is mine. I recognised it instantly. It is part of the treasure stolen from our summer palace near Batoum. That monogram was that of my ancesstress, Olga Zaroff, who lived 150 years ago. What shall we do about it?"
"Nothing for the present," Ronald whispered.
MEDWAY did not fail to note the difference between the two men before him in their reactions to the matter of the gold cup. The millionaire icily cold and sure of his ground, Tanberg in a suppressed fury at the dramatic turn of events. Despite the man's undoubted good looks and social gloss, despite his perfectly cut morning suit, he was a sorry figure by the side of Lord Glenday. Try as he would to carry it out with a swagger, the brooding suspicion darkened his eyes as if he were some wild animal suspecting a trap.
"As you like," he said thickly. "It is all the same to me. There is some infernal trickery here, and I warn you, Lord Glenday, I shall not take it lying down."
The great man shrugged his shoulders.
"As you will, sir," he said. "Meanwhile matters must be left in the hands of the police. And, with that, let me wish you all a very good afternoon."
With a bow for Vera, Glenday stalked out, followed a moment later by the discomfited Tanberg.
Brentford turned to Vera.
"You had better tell Mr. Medway everything," he suggested.
Thereupon Vera told her tale.
"That cup is really mine," she said. "I have not had it in my hands since it was taken from the safe, but I can tell you every detail of it."
"Better make sure before we go any further," Medway suggested. "Take the cup in your hand, Miss Goff."
"It is hardly necessary," Vera declared as she turned the treasure over in her hand. "Yes, this is mine. Note those flowers in enamel round the rim. Those represent the daffodils that used to grow in Southern Russia. They are interwoven into our coat of arms, but why I don't know. It is almost a compliment to call them blue, as they are a sort of pale mauve. Mr. Brentford can tell you all about that."
"I can," Ronald interposed. "I brought some of the bulbs home for Mr. Garnstone, and from them he evolved the real Blue Daffodil of which you know."
"Oh, yes, I know all about that," Medway smiled. "It seems to me that the Blue Daffodil is going to play a star part in the tragedy we have to solve. And that man Tanberg could tell us a whole lot if he could be induced to speak."
"You think he was involved in the murder?" Ronnie asked.
"Well, I won't go as far as that. But of one thing there can't be a shadow of doubt. After that cup was stolen from Lord Glenday it passed into the hands of Tanberg, though innocently or not it is impossible to say. All the same, there is something wrong about that chap."
"Wrong!" Vera cried. "He is a villain of the worst possible type. He owed everything to my father, who raised him from the gutter."
"What a good thing he does not recognise you," Medway said. "That would have spoilt everything."
"I feel quite easy on that score," Vera said. "There has been no recognition."
"But where does all this lead," Brentford asked.
"I wish I could tell you," Medway lamented. "But one thing is very certain. Tanberg knew that the gold cup was in Mr. Garnstone's possession at the time he was murdered. My theory is that the cup was handed over to Garnstone not before but after the money changed hands. Then Tanberg had an idea. He'd got the money, and thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to get the cup again. Hence his appearance at Scotland Yard. Then Tanberg came here to bluff it out, being certain that the cup was in the safe. And he might have got away with it if the safe could have been opened there and then. When I talked the matter over with him he seemed to put all his cards on the table, but there must have been an ace or two up his sleeve. However, one fact I can prove beyond a doubt. Tanberg did not tell me himself, but I have actually in my possession £200 in notes, which passed from Tanberg to a shady confederate. Mr. Garnstone drew them with others from the bank on the morning of his death."
"Can't you arrest him on that?" Ronnie asked.
"I could, of course, but I don't want to. The fellow's audacity is so colossal that sooner or later he will make some slip, and then my turn will come. There are men of his type so clever that they regard the rest of the world as fools, and I am sure that Tanberg thinks he is fooling me."
Medway went away presently with a view to learning something of his prisoners down East. He wanted to interview the elder Lefton in the dread surroundings of the prison cell. But that was not to be, for the simple reason that the Leftons had been before the bench that morning, and released on bail which was immediately forthcoming, so that the wily pair of Jews were free to do as they liked for the next seven days.
Medway fairly boiled over when he heard of this. Now the Leftons would lose no time in getting in touch with Tanberg, if they had not already done so. In which case some cunning tale would be hatched to account for the possession of the bank notes.
There was only one thing for it—both the Leftons and Tanberg must be carefully watched. It might even be possible to get on to their meeting place and hear something of their conversation. Meanwhile something had to be done.
"Put me on to 0072 City," he said. "See if Lord Glenday is still in his office. If so, I want a word with him."
It being barely four o'clock, Lord Glenday was still in his office and alone for a few moments.
"What I want to know," Medway said, "is the name of the man or firm from whom you purchased the gold cup."
"Oh then you are sure that it is mine?"
"By purchase—yes. I am quite satisfied as to that."
"Well, I bought it in Amsterdam. Hold on a moment, and I will refer to my private diary, where I have a number of addresses where I have made purchases . . . Here you are. Paul Nester, 105 Pester Avenue, Amsterdam. I paid £1,000 for the cup, which is worth ten times that amount. One of the very best bargains I ever made. Anything more?"
There being nothing further to be said, Medway rang off. A few moments later he was on to the police headquarters at Amsterdam. Did the authorities there know anything concerning an art dealer one Paul Nester, who carried on business at 105 Pester Avenue, in that city? Amsterdam did not, but would make inquiries and let Mr. Medway know.
At the end of an hour the reply came. Paul Nester was no longer in business, his shop had changed hands, the present owner knowing nothing of his predecessor. Nester had vanished owing much money, and had never been seen since. There was no criminal charge against him, so that the police had not been called upon to interfere. It was not very helpful.
All the same it was very much as Medway had expected. He had meanwhile given instructions to have both the Leftons and Tanberg carefully watched, and shortly after seven o'clock the first report came in.
"Speaking from a call office, sir," a voice said. "Mr. Tanberg has just left his flat. Johnson is following him. He is shabbily dressed, and wearing a beard and glasses. But I spotted him from his walk. Sort of swagger, get-out-of-my-way. You will hear from Johnson presently."
But the clock was striking 10 o'clock before the voice of Johnson drifted in over the telephone.
"That you sir?" the voice said. "Johnson speaking. I have been relieved by Makins. At present Tanberg is inside a pub at Wapping. Shady sort of place off Nightingale Lane. Been raided twice, and the landlord warned. Went inside, I did, and ordered a drink. Tanberg in the bar evidently waiting for somebody. Anything more I can do, sir?"
"Yes," Medway said, "describe the pub? Any place where one could hide? What is the pub called?"
The shady house of call was the Two Cows situated next to a yard where some sort of carpentry went on. There were two or three sheds there in which to lie "perdu" if necessary. The landlord's name was Geary; he was under suspicion of being concerned in a job lately brought off in Kent.
Medway rapidly made up his mind. He would pay a visit to this public-house and spy out the land for himself. Moreover he would go with a warrant in his pocket for the arrest of the man Geary on a charge of burglary. Some sort of disguise would be needed, and this Medway proceeded to don. When he had done he presented a presentment of a drunken loafer out of work. A police car carried him as far as Nightingale Lane, where he alighted and went the rest of the way on foot.
His luck was evidently in, for the first person he recognised there was Tanberg and all the easier because of his disguise. The Rumanian sat by himself, seeming to have little use for the rest of the company. He scowled from time to time as he glanced at the clock over the bar and the flash of anger grew in his eyes as the elder Lefton crept into the room.
"Been long enough about it," he growled. "I have been here for ages. Why didn't you come before?"
"My dear, it wasn't safe," Lefton said ingratiatingly. "It wasn't quite safe. I had the feeling that I was being followed. So I come the long way round."
"Well, let's get on with it. I can't stay here all night."
Lefton made a sign to the landlord who left the bar and opened a door leading into another room. He had hardly ushered Tanberg and Lefton into this private apartment when Medway called him aside with an air of command.
"Look here, Geary," he said. "I am a police officer, and I hold a warrant for your arrest. It is up to you to say whether I execute it or not. Give me the chance of overhearing what those two men are talking about, and I can make things easy for you. Otherwise I search the premises."
The landlord hesitated not at all. These men were nothing to him, they did not belong to his gang.
"All right, sir," he said humbly. "Follow me and I will show you where you can hear everything."
PRESENTLY Medway found himself outside the house and on a patch of ground overlooking the carpenter's premises on the left; thence down a sort of alley-way that ended in a door which the guide opened into something like darkness.
"Here you are, sir," he whispered. "A dozen steps or so, and you come to a door leading directly into the room where them two fellows are. You can't mistake it."
"All right," Medway replied. "I won't trouble you any further. No steps to stumble over, eh?"
The man called Geary gave the desired assurance, and with a wave of a hand was dismissed. Very shortly Medway crept along the cavernous passage until his groping hands touched a door, and immediately the sound of voices could be heard. Moreover, the door was an old one with many cracks in it so that Medway could see what was taking place inside. The figures of the two men were quite plain to him.
They were seated in front of a table on which stood a bottle and two glasses together with a syphon of soda water. They were talking in the most casual way about racing, and for a quarter of an hour Medway listened to trivialities which seemed likely to continue for some time.
Then, as a sudden thought occurred to him, Medway cursed softly to himself. Those men knew perfectly well that he was listening, and had known it all along. Geary had nipped back and warned them of the danger. They were playing with him and laughing in their sleeves.
For the moment checkmate was complete. But Medway was too old a hand at the game to accept defeat. He crept away as gently as he had come, and faded into the darkness of the night. Before he slept, however, he had reported his failure to Sir Giles Fairchild, suggesting other methods on the morrow.
"Yes, I think you are right," came the voice over the telephone. "Get what you want early in the morning, and I will sign it directly I reach the office."
With a certain document in his pocket, Medway was about to leave the Yard next morning soon after 10 o'clock when he saw Ronald Brentford awaiting him on the doorstep.
"Rather early to see you here," Medway said. "Anything happened? You look rather put put."
"Not that exactly," Ronald said. "But something is in the wind all the time. Gunter was on the 'phone to me just now and swears that somebody tried to enter the flat last night. I thought that you would like to know."
"And you thought right, Mr. Brentford. I am in no hurry for the moment, so I will come along with you and see Gunter."
Gunter had quite a lot to say. He had been out quite late the previous evening, in fact had not got back till after midnight. He had left the flat in darkness and in darkness it was when he returned. He made no move to switch on a light until he reached his quarters in the basement knowing the way blindfold. Then he heard a noise overhead. As far as he could make out the noise came from the top flat and inside the steel door.
"Very strange, I think, seeing that the steel door was firmly shut when Miss Goff left at five o'clock, me going up when she was gone to make certain the flat was safe. So in my stockings I creeps up in the darkness, and sure enough I heard somebody inside. I couldn't get at him, you see, because I could no more open the door than either of you two gents. So I bangs on the door crying out to know who was there to which there worn't no reply. Then I heard a sort of scratching and rattling and after that nothing. But I'll take my oath as there was some cove in Mr. Garnstone's sitting-room last night."
"More mystery," Ronald sighed. "Anyway we may find something up there when Miss Goff comes along with the key of the flat as usual."
There was not long to wait, for Vera appeared presently with her key after which a search was made of the flat without finding that anything had been disturbed. There was nothing save an impression of a heavy heel mark on the thick Persian rug in front of the desk where Mr. Garnstone was in the habit of writing his letters. As to the rest the flat was exactly as Medway had seen it on his last visit there. But most assuredly that heavy heel mark was something really new.
He made a rapid calculation in his mind. It had not been much after ten the previous night when he abandoned his fruitless vigil in the Wapping public house so that Tanberg and Lefton would be free to leave later, and one, or both of them could reach the neighborhood long before 11 o'clock. For, despite the absence of any actual fact to go upon he was certain in his mind that Tanberg was behind the whole business. And this latest audacity absolutely staggered him.
"Strange, very strange," he muttered. "All the same I am trying a little experiment that may tend to shed some light on the mystery."
"Anything we may not know?" Brentford asked.
"Oh, no. Only it makes me look like a fool. Still the man who never makes mistakes never makes anything. I lost the last trick, which makes me all the more keen to win next one. But I will tell you what happened last night."
Very simply Medway told his story. Then he took from his pocket a sheet of paper, and showed it to his listeners.
"Now, that," he explained, "is a search warrant. Yesterday I had a warrant for the arrest of the man Geary which I used to force him to do my bidding. And this he did to a certain extent, the scoundrel. No doubt he is now chuckling over the way in which he fooled the police. In less than an hour's time a most unpleasant surprise awaits him."
"I should like to see his face when you show him that piece of paper," Brentford chuckled. "I wonder if there is any objection to my coming along."
"Well, it's rather unusual," Medway replied. "But you can if you like. But I warn you there is a chance of a rough house—especially if there is anything to conceal. I shall probably ask you to play sentry guard outside a back door, in fact the door that played its part last night. That is by the side of a master carpenter's shop and yard."
"Count me in," Ronald said with relish. "I love a scrap. Most old rugger men do."
Yes, that was all very well Medway thought, when the rules of the game were observed, but not where knuckle-dusters and sandbags come in. Anyway, if Brentford chose to take the risk it was nobody's business but his own.
About an hour later Medway, accompanied by two men in plain clothes walked into the Two Cows, where the landlord was lounging behind the bar. It being close time for drinks, the place was empty. Geary glanced half defiantly at his visitors, though there was a gleam of fear in his shifty eyes when Medway made himself known.
"Do any good last night?" he asked.
"That remains to be seen," Medway replied. "No, I don't want you, Geary, at least this time. What I promised yesterday I hold to. But I am not my own master, as you probably know. All the same, my errand is no pleasant one. I have here what is called a search warrant."
"Mean to say, search my premises? Not likely."
"Now, no nonsense," Medway said sharply. "I have two good men here and others outside—especially one guarding the door you introduced me to last night. So you just sit there quietly whilst my little lot goes over the house. No, don't you touch that bell under the counter or I shall have to handcuff you. I know you have queer customers sleeping on the premises, and I don't want a rough house if I can help it. Now, you chaps!"
Geary subsided muttering to himself. Medway sat opposite him whilst his men vanished on their search. It was a long time before one of the searchers returned carrying a big suit case that seemed to be heavy.
"Got quite a lot of stuff here, sir," he reported. "It looks like the Caversham plate. Found it in the cistern. Jones is bringing a lot more."
"Good," Medway said. "Anybody sleeping upstairs?"
"One or two of the regulars, sir. Mostly old lags. But they lay down quiet when told that none of them was wanted."
"All right. Better take Geary and hand him over to Andrews outside. I suppose that there is a woman somewhere on the premises. Get her to come and look after things whilst you two continue the search. I'll get back to headquarters now as I have something pressing on hand."
Meanwhile out there facing the carpenter's yard, Ronald was awaiting events. But the best part of an hour passed and he was getting bored and half inclined to sleep. It was only the activities in the carpenter's open shop that kept him from utter boredom.
Then suddenly he was acutely alive. The sight of a light ladder propped up against a wall started a train of thought that caused him to tingle from head to foot. He came forward eagerly as Medway appeared on the scene.
"Medway," he said, in hoarse tones "I believe I have solved the problem of illicit entry into Garnstone's flat."
"You don't say? An idea or a plain fact?"
"Well, an idea, or the germ of one," Brentford replied. "But I am not going to enlarge upon it as yet."
RONALD BRENTFORD did not seem willing to explain any further. The glow of inspiration had fled almost before he had spoken of it to Medway. There would be plenty of time to take the detective into his confidence when he had a little more practical detail to go on.
"If you don't mind," he said, "I had rather hold back until I am a little more sure of my ground. I am only a novice at this sort of game, and I might lure you off your own track at a time when you begin to see daylight. Another day or two . . . By the way, did you have any luck just now?"
Without going any further along the lines of Ronald's vague suggestion, Medway briefly told him what had happened during the raid on the Two Cows. On the whole he was satisfied with his morning's work, and said so.
"Though it was pretty dull for you," he concluded. "All the same, you have learnt what patience we detectives have to exercise in the pursuit of our duties. I am prepared to wager a small sum that you noticed nothing likely to be of the slightest use to me."
Ronald smiled, and shook his head.
"I am not going to argue that point with you," he said. "All the same it did occur to me that this carpenter's yard would make a fine bolt-hole in case the public house was raided at some unexpected moment—I mean, by way of the door I am still guarding. Lots of little hiding places there provided that the knight of the shaving plane was party to the contract. It is not very far from the yard to the river, and a handy boat there would do the rest. Who is this carpenter?"
"Quite a respectable man so far as my information goes," Medway smiled. "You don't suppose that we work hap-hazard. There is nothing against Ling Choo."
"A Chinaman!" Brentford cried. "I know something about the gentle Mogul. A good enough chap if you play the game with him, but if you don't then look to yourself. I would to have speech with this carpenter."
"What do you know of the wily Celestial," Medway asked.
"Quite a whole lot, my boy. You seem to forget that I have travelled all over the globe hunting rare flowers for the late Mr. Garnstone. No foreign devil has penetrated farther into Central China than yours truly. What about it?"
Willing to indulge a man in the career of his humour, Medway crossed the yard and demanded to see Ling Choo, who came without delay, almond eyes blinking behind horn-rimmed glasses and ingratiating in manner.
"What can I do for the honorable gentleman?" he asked.
Ronald uttered a few queer-sounding words under his breath and Ling Choo responded with an illuminating smile. For a few minutes Medway had perforce to listen to a tongue that he did not in the least understand.
"This man is all right," Brentford said at length, speaking in French. "He says he has been here for years making furniture of a certain kind. Light stuff for week-end cottages and small houses. Mostly of hollow woods of various kinds. I should say decidedly honest and all that."
"I'd like to look over the workshops," Ronald went on, now addressing Ling Choo in English. "I'm looking for something in your line."
"It will be ploud to me," Ling Choo replied. "My poor house is yours, and all that is in it."
Brentford apparently wanted to see everything. There was an uneasy restlessness in his manner that was not lost on Medway. The best part of an hour had elapsed before Brentford appeared to be satisfied. Even then he did not turn to go.
"You have lots of chance customers?" he asked Ling Choo.
"Not so many outside the tlade," the Chinaman replied. "I make for the tlade. Then sometimes a gentlemon comes along and wants something to his own fancy. Such as a deck-chair to use on board ship. I had one a little time ago."
"That's odd," Brentford responded. "A friend of mine not long ago told me he had had a deck-chair specially made for him by a clever workman in cane and hollow wood. I wonder if it was the same man."
"It is possible," Ling Choo murmured. "The honorable gentleman who was my patron was called Tanberg."
Medway could hardly repress a start. But Brentford smiled with the air of a man who has made a discovery. Certainly it was strange how Tanberg's name came cropping up in all sorts of places. And what in the name of fate did he want a special kind of deck-chair for? It almost looked as if the man were contemplating flight. If he did, then something had happened to shake his audacity to such an extent that he had abandoned any idea of recovering possession of the gold cup.
"Now what does it all mean?" he asked Brentford once they were on their way westward. "You have got me completely fogged. If you have made any discovery——"
"I haven't," Brentford smiled. "Up to the present I have merely an idea, and what I heard just now justifies me in taking a certain line. But until I have a real clue in my hands I prefer to act the part of the Sphinx."
And with that Medway was fain to be contented. The two parted presently, Medway for the Yard and Brentford towards the flat where he hoped to find Vera.
But there was something to do before the hour when it was usual to take Vera out to tea, and that something lay quite close to the vicinity of the flat.
Ronnie strolled along casually until he came close to the block of three buildings, the third of which contained the flat. The first building was, of course, no more, since it had been burnt down not long ago, and apparently was likely to remain for some time, little better than a blackened ruin.
In front of it was the usual hoarding plastered with the inevitable posters, and a sort of broken down door for the admission of such casual labour as was necessary from time to time. As soon as the street was clear Ronnie darted for the door, and once inside, contemplated the ruins with something more than a casual eye.
Part of the roof was still standing and leaning against its next door neighbour. The rest of the building had collapsed, leaving the grates and fire-places more or less intact. The fire had done its work effectively, for the ground was one mass of ashes with here and there fragments of unburnt woodwork.
All these things Brentford studied carefully. He was where he could not be overlooked or attract the attention of the curious passer-by. Then he began poking about in the black mass on the floor with his walking stick.
Presently something came to light—Something that glistened in the sunshine as if it had been polished, taking the form of a stout bamboo stake some nine feet long. It was almost clean and untouched by the fire. Strange that it should be so when it was light and dry and the first lick of flame must have set it alight. Yet here it was in the midst of what must have been a blazing inferno.
Brentford examined it carefully, the bamboo pole was notched at intervals of about a foot each all down its length, and the sight of this brought a grim smile to his lips. Luck was with him as he peered cautiously into the street where no pedestrian was passing. He lifted the pole which was little more than a featherweight, and hastened with it until he came to the flat buildings. There he handed his prize to Gunter who regarded both man and article with great surprise.
"Why, what the devil, sir——" he began.
"Never mind about that, Gunter," Brentford commanded. "You take that and ask no questions. Put it away carefully, and don't speak of it to a soul. Miss Vera about?"
Gunter said that the lady in question was in the flat, and that he was acting as her bodyguard as usual. As he was telling this Vera herself appeared.
"Finished for the day?" Ronnie asked.
Vera smilingly assented. She was at the disposal of her lover for as long as he pleased. So that a few minutes later they were seated in a cosy tea-room where they had a table out of earshot of other customers.
Very soon the conversation veered round to the one topic that so closely appealed to them both.
"Do you know darling, that I have practically cleared up everything I can as regards Mr. Garnstone's business matters? I can do no more at the flat; indeed, it has been a dreadful ordeal working there at all. I had a letter this morning from our dead friend's solicitors saying that they have no funds with which to pay me any more salary. It means that I am dismissed, and have to look elsewhere for a living."
"Bad as all that?" Ronnie smiled. "In that case the sooner we are married the better."
"Oh, but Ronnie darling, I couldn't. I mean until this dreadful mystery is cleared up. Besides, I have saved some money—more than £200. So you see, I shall have something to go on with until you and Mr. Medway solve the problem of the poor old man's death."
"To say nothing of what he has left you, darling."
"But how do you know that he has left me anything—or you either, for the matter of that? He certainly left a will, but that seems to have vanished—at any rate, it was not in the safe, nor is it amongst the private papers. The lawyers say it is possible that the court will act on the draft will in their possession, but not until they have advertised for months for next-of-kin."
"But the old man told me he had no relations."
"Nonsense, dearest boy. Everybody has relations—without knowing it sometimes. There will be scores of these when once the advertisements begin to appear. If they don't, it may be years before the court gives judgment in our favour. But I hate to talk like this, Ronnie."
"Of course, you do, darling," Ronnie agreed. "But that will business is all part of the mystery we have to solve. And when we have found out who it was who managed to get into the flat and out again, we shall be in sight of the murderers."
Vera's eyes lighted up swiftly.
"Ronnie, you have discovered something," she cried. "I can judge by the sound of your voice. What is it?"
"Only a little light at present," Ronnie said. "Don't ask yet or you may be disappointed. But something has happened to-day that gives me a whole lot to think about. A day or two, and I hope all the cards will be on the table."
SIR GILES FAIRCHILD was expressing himself pretty freely with regard to the flat murder. Time was getting on and nothing seemed to be done with a view to solving the mystery. Had Medway anything to report.
"Well, no, sir," Medway admitted. "Everything seems to have gone wrong with my arrangements. It was a fatal mistake to allow the Leftons out on bail. So long as they were safe under lock and key I could move in a certain direction, but with those two at large my hands are tied."
"Then you think they are connected with the crime?"
"Indirectly at any rate," Medway said. "But not as the actual murderers. That showed courage and daring, and those Jews are not built that way. But they know who the criminal is, and that is why I have them under close observation."
"All the same they will never speak so long as their necks are not in danger. We know that they were in close connexion with Garnstone with regard to his criminal activities, and that they acted as his go-between when certain loot had to change hands. Witness the business of the secret garage of which the Lefton's had the run. We also know that Garnstone drew £1,000 from the bank on the morning of his death, and that a large part of it found its way into the hands of the man who calls himself Tanberg. By the way have you traced him?"
"As to his record, sir, you mean? I am making inquiries in several directions, and a certain amount of information has come to hand. The man is no Rumanian, but a renegade Russian. His real name is Manstar, not that it matters very much either way."
"Oh, but it does," Sir Giles said. "I also have been making inquiries through diplomatic channels. That man, I found, was once a trusted servant of the great Zaroff family and managed their estate on the Black Sea. After feathering his own nest for years, he robbed them of the Zaroff jewels, and plate—worth an immense sum I believe. I shall be vastly mistaken if that gold cup wasn't part of the plunder. Hence some of his recent activities."
Medway listened to all this with the deepest interest. His chief was confirming all that Vera had told him some time before.
"All most valuable, sir," he cried. "The gold cup found its way to Amsterdam where a sort of bogus business was opened in the name of Paul Nester with a view to a sale of the cup to Lord Glenday. You will remember that this Paul Nester could not be found—even if he ever existed, but he was in business long enough to lure Lord Glenday over there, and sell him the cup. That is how I see it, sir."
"Reasoning quite sound," Sir Giles smiled. "Then later on the cup was stolen, and once more fell into Tanberg's hands—via the Leftons probably. I mean they were the receivers acting under Garnstone. But somehow or other Tanberg managed to snaffle the cup and sold it to Garnstone an hour or two before the latter was killed. And Garnstone paid for the cup in banknotes, a portion of which was passed over to the elder Lefton and subsequently confiscated by you."
"That seems all plain sailing, sir," Medway grinned, "but only to a certain point. We can pin the handling of those notes on to Tanberg, though he stoutly denies that Garnstone paid for the cup at the moment he received it. You see Tanberg doesn't know what we know, but Levi Lefton must have an inkling. So far, at any rate, Lefton hasn't told Tanberg that the notes were not paid away as payment for the attempted burglary at Epping, or if he has, it will be to swear that the arrested men were paid in advance. Lefton would probably cling to the hope that sooner or later he will recover that money from the police."
"I am inclined to agree with you," Sir Giles said. "But why not play off one party against the other?"
"Well, isn't it perfectly plain? Here you have the Leftons on bail, and trembling in their shoes lest Tanberg should find out their duplicity, and those abortive burglars who so signally failed at Epping, in custody. Suppose we manage to arrange bail for those burglar bunglers, and leave them to face the Leftons? As they were not paid in advance they are pretty sure to demand money under threats, which money will be refused. Then you get in touch with the two sides, and it is long odds that you learn something."
So when the Epping burglars came up for the first hearing bail was forthcoming, which meant that they were free for the next fortnight. And as Medway expected, they were not long in seeking out the Leftons. Medway knew this in consequence of the close shadowing of the now free men.
There emerged presently into the Whitechapel Road a couple of angry and disgruntled men. So angry that when Medway came up and spoke to them and offered refreshment of a liquid nature they rose to it with one accord, though their experience told them that they were in contact with a police officer.
"Leftons let you down, eh?" Medway asked when the glasses had been replenished for the second time. "Always stipulate for cash when dealing with that tribe."
"Lefton swore he hadn't got a bob until the posh came along, which was to be when we'd done the trick," growled Spink, who appeared to be the leader of the two. "And when we asked for a few quids to carry on with just now Levi Lefton laughed. Said we'd ditched the whole business and didn't deserve nothing. But me and Bill Marcus here will get even yet."
Medway lingered a little longer. In a way he had made friends with these men even to the disclosing of his name, and for the moment, had learnt all he wanted. So now, being sure of his facts, he went off presently in search of Levi Lefton.
The wily old rascal received his visitor with a grin. He had a pretty intimate knowledge of the law, and so far as he could see, the case against him was a thin one.
"Anything I can do to help you, my dear?" he said. "A pleasure to help the police."
"Very properly expressed," Medway replied. "Then perhaps you will tell me where you got those banknotes we found on your person when you were arrested."
"Betting," Lefton responded promptly. "Lingfield Park that very same afternoon."
Medway thought a moment before he replied. Checking his memory, he realised that Lingfield Park races did take place on the date indicated.
"And the name of the bookie?" he demanded.
Lefton threw up his hands in despair.
"I was afraid you were going to ask me that question," he moaned. "The man wath a stranger to me. In the silver ring we was. I backed three winners and a double, and all come off. But I should know that man again."
"No doubt," Medway said drily. "But never mind about him for the moment. Because he doesn't exist. Now let me tell you something, Levi. Those notes we took from you were drawn by Mr. Garnstone from his bank on the morning of his murder. I have the numbers to prove it. Later on they were in your possession, and if you don't want to hang for murder, you had better tell me the truth. You needn't incriminate yourself, and if you refuse to answer then I have no more to say."
Lefton crumpled up in his chair. It was as if Medway had struck him a mortal blow. But there was not so much guilt in his eyes as fear. Frank and deadly fear.
"I will tell the truth," he screamed. "I got those notes from Tanberg. They were to be paid to those two chaps who were to blow that crib at Epping. As they bungled it. I thought I might as well keep them, and pretend to Tanberg that Spink and Marcus were paid in advance. And that's the truth."
"I know it is," Medway said, "and a pretty ghastly truth, too. Do you know that Tanberg was with Mr. Garnstone on the night that he was killed?"
A feeble moan was Lefton's only response.
"Yes, I see you do," Medway went on. "Now listen to me. If you try to help me I will do my best to help you. I want you to get Tanberg down here in this house. You must arrange to have the place entirely to yourself. Then you are to tell Tanberg the truth about the notes."
"If I do he will murder me," Lefton wept.
"Nonsense, man. If he shows violence I shall come out of my hiding place and help you. I shall be in that cupboard listening to your conversation. When the trap is ready, let me know."
Three days later there came a letter from Lefton to the effect that 10 o'clock that night would be the time. But it was nearly half an hour later before Medway reached the house, which was all in darkness. He knocked on the door three times without any reply, and then turned the knob and entered. Still the same strange silence. Had Lefton gone back on his word?
Medway struck a match and glanced about him. He could see no sign of illumination anywhere. He struck another match, and this time illumination came with a vengeance.
For Lefton was lying face upwards on the floor with a trickle of blood oozing from his left breast—dead beyond recall.
The man had been murdered, and that within the last few minutes, for the wound still flowed and the body was warm. Medway ran into the road to summon assistance.
MEDWAY was back in the house again almost as soon as he left it. Was he losing his head over this affair? Had the mere spectacle of a corpse deprived him of his reasoning faculties? And what would they say at Scotland Yard when they heard how he had behaved like a frightened child.
Of course he ought not to have left the house, but waited in that little, grimy front sitting-room until he could hail a passer-by by tapping on the window.
He had found a body still quivering with a knife thrust through the heart, a body barely dead, and had rushed into the street as a demented woman might have done. That deadly glow had perhaps been struck whilst he was knocking at the door.
Medway began his search. Not by means of the window in the front room had the murderer vanished, for that was closed and latched. Nor by the kitchen door which was bolted on the inside. The two bedrooms overhead were empty, though over one of the beds was a trap door leading to the roof. That also was secured by two bolts which were shot home. They were well-oiled bolts sliding easily into the framework, and evidently intended for use in case of a raid and an escape by means of the roof. But there was not a sign to be seen of the criminal.
Then back to the sitting-room again as there came sound of measured tread. A blue uniform topped with a helmet came striding past the window. Medway drummed on the dusty panes.
The constable stopped. Then very slowly he entered the house and confronted Medway with a suspicious eye.
"What all this about?" he demanded.
"That," Medway said tersely as he pointed to the body on the floor. "That. And it's murder. Now don't begin to talk, my good fellow, but lend a hand here. If you want to know, I am Inspector Medway of the Yard, and I came here by appointment to meet the man who is lying there. A minute or two earlier, and I might have caught the murderer red-handed."
The man in blue saluted.
"Anything, I can do, sir," he said.
"Come on then. Lift the body carefully and turn it on the face. Hullo, what's this?"
"This" was a tightly clenched right hand holding a long, thin shagreen sheath which evidently belonged to a dagger or some lethal weapon. A slender weapon no doubt, but one capable of inflicting a mortal wound.
This Medway took carefully from the clenched hand, using a silk handkerchief for the purpose with a view to fingerprints, and laid it on one side for the moment. There was something else tangled with the twisted fingers in the shape of a small fragment of fine cloth with a brown thread of silk running through it—a matter of less than a square inch. This Medway deposited in his pocket book.
"I'll take this shagreen case with me to the Yard, and see if it helps," he said. "Meanwhile you had better stay here until I can have you relieved. If——"
Whatever Medway was going to say was interrupted by the sudden appearance of the younger Lefton. He evidently expected to see Medway there, but the presence of the policeman startled him. If things had gone wrong . . .
"Yes, they evidently have," Medway said as if reading the thoughts of Ben Lefton. "Your poor father——"
He got no further for the young man had caught sight of the body. A quick cry broke from his lips as he scooped down and bent over the corpse. Then he was himself again, save for a wild gleam in his dark eyes.
"I was half afraid of something like this when my father sent me out of the house this evening telling me not to come back for an hour or two. Always the same, he was, never trusting to nobody. But I found out—I always find out. He ought to have come to you, sir, but he thought it too dangerous."
"Oh did he?" Medway asked. "Did he say so?"
"He never said nothing, swelp me. But he mutters to himself, see? A habit of his when he is bothered. Doesn't know when he does it. So when your name came out tea-time and I got my orders, I put things together. And I was right."
No filial affection here, Medway thought; no feeling whatever for the dead man. Probably a smug satisfaction seeing that Levi Lefton had been reputed as a miser, and the owner of considerable property, both real and personal.
"You thought that trouble was brewing?" Medway asked.
"I was absolutely sure of it," Ben Lefton declared.
"Then whom do you suspect?" Medway demanded. "Come, out with it. Who killed, your father?"
For the first time the young man showed signs of emotion. He writhed and twisted with both hands pressed to his abdomen as if suffering some great pain there.
"I don't know," he groaned. "I don't know. It isn't any use guessing, mister, because that might get me into trouble. I don't want a knife in my back."
The man was shaking from head to foot with abject fear. Medway regarded him with fine contempt.
"A pretty fine son you are," he said. "Thinking only of your own skin, whilst your father lies dead at your feet. And all the police in London behind you."
Young Lefton gave a ghastly grin.
"They were behind him too," he muttered. "But that didn't save his life, mister. You find the murderer and put him safe under lock and key, and then perhaps—perhaps, mind you—I got something to say. But you'll never catch him—never."
It was useless to prolong the conversation as Medway saw to his disgust. Under the old rules of police procedure he could have subjected this youth to something like a mild form of the third degree, but not now.
In quite a savage mood he made his way the next morning to Scotland Yard. He wanted to talk this new development over with Sir Giles, but the latter was not in his office, and would not return before afternoon.
There came to him presently the officer in charge of the finger-prints department with no welcome news. He passed the Shagreen case over to his superior.
"No good, sir," he said. "Plenty finger marks, but all so jumbled up that we can make nothing of them. Impression of gloves, too. Premeditated business, I should say."
"And you would be right. We have a most daring and clever scoundrel to deal with here. Man who anticipates every move we make. I am absolutely beaten."
It was the same tale Medway had to tell Sir Giles when came to talk the matter over in the afternoon.
"I can see daylight nowhere, sir," Medway confessed as he sat in the great man's sanctum. "I made an appointment to meet Levi Lefton in his own house for 10 o'clock last night. A perfectly safe place to meet—or so I thought. I never mentioned to a soul what I was doing. Yet this fiend, who, I am sure, is the creature that killed Garnstone as well, seemed to divine what was in the air, and beat me by a short head, so to speak."
"Um!—were you on the spot to time?" Sir Giles asked.
"Well—no, I wasn't. As a matter of fact, I was nearly half an hour late. Detained over that Hackney shooting affair by a witness whose evidence wasn't worth twopence. Matter of the number of a motor car."
"Find that witness again, Medway?"
"Probably—if I wanted him, which I don't."
"Which is a pity, my friend. Because in all probability the man was sent there on purpose to detain you."
"I never thought of that," Medway said miserably. "It is possible you are right, sir. But what an infernally audacious thing to do—not to say risky."
"Not so risky, after all," Sir Giles smiled. "Lots of men would play a game like that for a fiver."
Medway pondered over this problem moodily. If he had been diddled in this way within the four walls of Scotland Yard itself, then he would never hear the last of it. He might even be asked to tender his resignation. Sir Giles evidently guessed what was passing in his subordinate's mind when he spoke again.
"I wouldn't let that worry you unduly," he said. "It was only an idea that flashed across my brain. After all, that witness might have been genuine. If that turns out to be the case, I am the fool, not you."
"Very good of you to put it that way, sir," Medway said gratefully. "But there is no getting away from the fact the man who killed Levi Lefton knew that I had arranged a meeting with him last night. Now how on earth——"
"Levi Lefton must have told somebody," Sir Giles said. "He must. Where was he last night?"
Medway couldn't say, but he would try to find out. It was at that moment that he recollected what Ben Lefton had said as to his father's habit of thinking aloud. At any rate some possible explanation might come that way. He would send for Ben and interview him at the Yard. Perhaps the awesome atmosphere of the place might have a Salutary effect.
The morning papers had contained brief reports of the crime and the evening publications had elicited further facts. Thus "The Planet."
MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL
"A well-known Whitechapel resident, Mr. Levi Lefton was found dead in his house last night with every evidence that he was the victim of murder. He was discovered with a wound that had penetrated the heart producing instant death. Oddly enough deceased was discovered by a prominent member of the C.I.D., who had an appointment with him. So far no sort of clue has been discovered beyond the sheath of a knife on which possibly finger-prints may be found."
Medway tossed the paper aside in disgust. It was pretty plain that Ben Lefton had been talking not only to the policeman left in charge, but to the Press fraternity who had scented the tragedy from afar off after the manner of their kind.
The very last thing Medway wanted was for the detail of the knife sheath to become public property. He sat down and wrote a command to Ben Lefton to come and see him at half-past ten the following morning, and this being done he put the matter out of his mind for the moment. Perhaps Brentford might have some more to say regarding his brainwave. But Ronnie was not available; having taken Vera out to dinner.
WHERE, Medway asked Brentford's landlord over the telephone was the latter dining? The Regal Palace, was the answer. Captain Brentford had made that plain in case anyone wanted to see him in the course of the evening. It was a habit of that gentleman to do so. "And a very good habit, too," Medway told himself. "A pity all men were not so business-like."
There were two or three reasons why Medway wanted a few words with Brentford. To begin with, had that astute young man gone any further with his attempt to solve the problem as to how the murderer had made his way into Garnstone's fortress? If that riddle could be solved then the rest would be something like plain sailing. But that was not the only thing.
There was the queer case or sheath in which was placed the weapon by which Levi Lefton had been murdered. The blade of this was little more than half-an-inch wide as the autopsy had proved and some nine inches in length; moreover it had been driven home as the bloodstains on the haft showed. Round the top of the sheath ran a gold band about as broad as an ordinary match and on it a series of tiny tool chasings with a series of three seed sapphires set in pyramid fashion. Ancient workmanship beyond a shadow of a doubt with, at the point of the sheath, a gold mounting with some strange lettering thereon.
It seemed to Medway that he had noticed something like this on the gold cup, but on this point he was uncertain. Nor could he make any comparison for the moment seeing that the gold cup was locked away in the official safe. However, all in good time. Meanwhile no harm could come from a visit to the Regal Palace.
In the interim, however, Brentford had been passing what he would describe as a busy day. Most of this had been spent in probing around the ruins of the fire which had happened so near to Garnstone's flat. There was not much difficulty as to that because once inside the hoarding with its flamboyant posters depicting the vagaries of film stars, it was quite easy to avoid anything in the way of lookers-on.
It was by no means a pleasant job. However Brentford had come prepared for it. In an old grey suit of very shabby plus fours and hobnailed shoes, to say nothing of a cap of sorts, he dived in and out under the friendly cover of the flaming posters, but so far all in vain. There was some twenty yards either way of huddled desolation, piled up rubbish, most of it reduced to cinders by the duplex action of fire and water.
But Brentford knew only too well that the thing he was looking for was here and he was going to find it if he had to turn over every inch of the terrain. The missing part of the jig-saw puzzle must be there otherwise why was part of it rescued more or less from the ruins? Brentford could not visualise the owner of the second part so to speak, leaving it behind and going away with the other piece. There would be no sense in that at all. Unless, perhaps, he had been scared off at the last moment which did not seem likely.
In his mind's eye, Brentford could visualise every action on the criminal's part from the moment he had set out on his murderous errand until the minute when he had made good his escape leaving, as he thought, no kind of evidence behind him. Just the one act of carelessness that the clever criminal almost inevitably commits, believing himself perfectly beyond the law.
With a fork he had found amongst the ruins Brentford turned over the debris until the sweat poured down his face. But no sign of what he wanted showed itself. By the time he had made his final exit for the day it was time to dress for dinner. However, with nothing else to do and many days before him, he did not despair. If the needle was in the rick of hay, then he was going to find it if it took him a month.
He picked up Vera outside her lodgings and a taxi took them speedily to the Regal Palace. Already he had ordered a table there in a secluded corner of the room where they could see without being seen by other diners with whom the dining room was fairly full.
Vera's spirits rose as she looked about her. She loved the subdued lights and the flowers on the tables, the exquisite dresses and the murmur of conversation. It was such a lovely change after the drudgery of the daily round. Yet she knew that this sort of thing could not last. Ere long she would have to find something to do by way of earning a living as would Ronnie also because his funds did not permit of the marriage he was urging upon her.
"We must not come here again, Ronnie darling," she sighed. "I am getting too fond of this sort of life. We should never be able to afford it."
"Have you forgotten the old man's will, sweetheart?"
"My dear, we dare not count on it. Nor would you be happy on money earned by the worst kind of dishonesty. You seem to have forgotten that side of Mr. Garnstone's life."
"Upon my word, I had," Ronnie confessed. "Of course that makes all the difference. Though he must have made a big fortune in his legitimate business."
Dinner was almost over before Medway made his appearance. He came in quietly and unrecognised as he made his way to the table where the lovers were seated.
"So sorry to disturb you," he said. "But there is something I want to show you."
"Pull up a chair," Brentford said. "Mean to say that you have made an important discovery?"
"I wish I had," Medway sighed. "But Miss Goff may be able to help in a way. I have here in my pocket a grim piece of evidence concerning the death of that man, Levi Lefton. It is a horrible time to come barging in like this, but my time is so occupied that really——"
"Oh please don't apologise," Vera said quietly, though a cloud seemed to pass over her happiness. "If I can help you in any way, I will. But what connexion can there be between our mystery and that case?"
"Because," Medway said, "unless I am altogether mistaken, both crimes were committed by the same man. However, will you be so good as to look at this."
With that he produced the shagreen case from his pocket, and handed it over for Vera's inspection. There was a puzzled frown on her face as she turned it over in her hands. Then suddenly her face cleared and her eyes grew bright.
"Why of course," she said. "This once belonged to my family. It was the centre of an arms trophy and stood against a wall in the lounge. Those tiny designs are the stalks of flowers and the sapphires form the bloom. The Blue Daffodil which is incorporated in the family arms."
"No getting away from the Blue Daffodil," Ronnie said. "It seems to crop up everywhere. First the bulb belonging to the old gentleman which was stolen by Gunter, then the gold cup purchased by Lord Glenday and claimed by Tanberg, and now this sheath from which I presume came the knife that killed Lefton."
"Perfectly correct," Medway agreed. "It was taken from Lefton's fingers. As to the knife. I can say nothing. The murderer probably took that with him. But——"
Medway paused suddenly with his eyes turned in the direction of the door. There was Tanberg looking for a table and with him the same pretty and alluring girl who had been his companion when, on a former occasion, Brentford and Vera were in the same room. From where they were seated the watchers could see without being seen, so that every movement on the part of the newcomers was perfectly plain.
Tanberg found a table presently, and motioned his friend to a chair, into which she sank gracefully and began to look about her. She wore no jewels save a sort of sunburst of diamonds in the centre of her corsage.
Almost at the same moment another woman entered the dining room and glanced about her. She was quite alone. A woman, tall and dark, with flashing, fearless eyes that denoted a proud and independent spirit—in fact, a woman quite capable of taking care of herself the world over. Superbly handsome, though a little past her first youth.
Very slowly, like a yacht in full sail, she sauntered up the room until she reached the table where Tanberg and the girl were seated. Then without a word or change of expression, she bent down and literally tore the flashing ornament from the girl's breast, and dropped it into the bag she was carrying.
The girl fell back in her chair white to the lips, far too astonished to utter a sound. With a murderous expression on his face, Tanberg looked up at the handsome stranger.
"Pretty bold, aren't you?" he asked in a hoarse whisper that carried to the ears of the listeners, though nobody else seemed to realise what was going on. "Put that back unless you want me to hand you over to the police."
"Police!" the woman sneered. "Audacious as you are, you dare not. Those diamonds are as much mine as anybody's. Given and taken back as the mood strikes you. How many women have you dazzled with them, I wonder?"
With that she turned on her heel and sailed out of the room, much as if the place belonged to her. Before she had reached the entrance, Medway was on his feet.
"I'll follow her," he said. "There is nobody else to do so. Keep your eye on the other two, Brentford, and don't lose sight of them. Put Miss Goff into a cab and let her go home. I must see what becomes of that girl. We are on the verge of a great discovery unless I am entirely mistaken."
"EVERY time I see that man or even hear his name mentioned a cold chill runs down my spine," said Vera with a shudder as she looked away from Tanberg. "Whoever that pretty girl with him is, I am sorry for her."
And she was a pretty girl as Ronnie was more than prepared to admit. Young and fair, with regular features lit up by a pair of dark blue eyes. The mouth was a little petulant and weak suggesting lack of character and resolution, in short the type of womanhood that would be as wax in hands like those of a rascal such as Tanberg.
The two were talking earnestly together now, the girl with a face alternately red and white with a suggestion of angry tears in her eyes. It was quite evident that Tanberg was trying to soothe her wounded vanity, for he was exerting all his powers of fascination to explain away the strange events of the past few minutes. A few words reached Brentford's ears.
"But why did you let her?" the girl said.
"My dearest child, what would you have me do?" Tanberg replied in his most honied tones. "Make a scene here? The very last thing I want."
"But she said that the diamonds were hers."
"Well, in a manner of speaking, they were. There was a time when we fancied that we were in love with each other, but that was before I found her out. A selfish and grasping creature only out to get what she could without giving anything in return. Playing one man off against another. And I strongly objected to be that other. There was the most unpleasant scene between us. She flung that diamond ornament at my feet as if it had been glass. Do you blame me for picking it up?"
The girl shrugged her shoulders sulkily.
"Then why come and steal it back?" she asked.
"Why? Who can fathom the feminine breast? Jealously. One of your poets has said that hell knows no fury like a woman scorned. She must have seen us together, and hated you because she recognised a beauty beyond her own. She must have seen you wearing my diamonds, and inspired by wild passion, followed us here and behaved as she did to-night. But what does it matter? I have other gems that shall be yours if you like."
The girl rose and resumed her wrap.
"I am going home," she said. "I couldn't stay here after this. Order me a taxi."
She moved towards the door closely followed by Tanberg. Evidently he was not going to lose sight of her whilst she was in her present mood.
Brentford turned to Vera. "Darling," he whispered hurriedly, "you will have to make your way home alone. There is no help for it. I must help Medway as far as possible."
Five minutes later a taxi driver with an unexpected ten shilling note in his pocket was following another cab at a respectful distance. The journey was a fairly long one, ending presently in one of the many respectable streets between Barons Court and West Kensington stations. Brentford could see the foremost cab stopped before one of the houses there, and the girl alighting with Tanberg behind her.
"Pull up," Brentford directed. "Then back your car round the corner. Wait for me there till I return when I may want you again. In any case there is more where that note came from. Do you know the name of this street?"
"Right your are, sir," the cabman grinned. "Been her afore, I have. Name of the street is Glanby."
The pair in front still stood on the pavement. Evidently Tanberg was trying to make the girl do something which did not fit in with her present mood. Brentford crept cautiously along the deserted street, taking advantage of the fact that the couple had their backs towards him. Soon he was hidden in a doorway on the far side of the road from whence he could both see and hear what was going on.
"Now, don't be silly, Doris," Tanberg was saying. "Why spoil the evening for a bit of temper. It's quite early yet, so why not an hour or so at some night club? We haven't had a dance for ages."
There was all this and much more before the girl began to weaken. At last she smiled and laughed with a gesture of surrender. Tanberg pushed home his advantage.
"All right," she said. "Just for an hour. But I must go into the house and make a few changes. Another frock. I won't keep you five minutes."
She was as good as her word, for presently the two cabs were moving westward. Arrived at a somewhat dubious club where both proprietor and patron were inclined to take risks. Brentford found himself duly enrolled as a member on putting a pound note on the desk of the cashier. Now he was free of the club to do as he pleased and dance or drink as the mood moved him. The place was crowded with all sorts and conditions of people from wearers of the strawberry leaves down to members of the swell mob. There was an utter lack of ceremony so that the choosing of partners called for no introductions. No doubt there was a thrill for her ladyship to find herself in the arms of a man pointed out to her as a well-known swindler or burglar.
She and her gilded sisters had come there in search of new sensations, leaving theatres and evening parties behind them with more than a chance of taking part in a police raid and appearing at Bow Street in the morning.
All of which Brentford took in with a cynical eye. Still, he was there for one purpose only, and of that he was not likely to lose sight. He sat down at a remote table with an expensive drink before him—some vile brand of champagne which he had not the remotest intention of drinking. From where he sat he could see everything that was going on. He could see the pretty girl in the arms of Tanberg, and his gorge rose at the sight.
Then something happened. A large woman, old enough to know better, was revolving in the arms of a professional partner with, most conspicuously displayed, a pearl necklace of price about her fat neck. Tanberg, who was dancing with a visitor who obviously came from some South American state, made a slight slip and came violently in contact with the lady of the pearls. A strange lapse on the part of so perfect a dancer.
This all took place in a flash, and only a split second later the obese lady was on her feet helped by Tanberg, who was making the most profuse apologies. But in that instant Ronnie discovered that the pearl necklace was no longer round the neck of the owner.
Tanberg released his partner, and came back to the table where just now he and the girl Doris were seated. The pretty girl welcomed Tanberg with a smile when he came back to her, and in doing so knocked her handbag on to the floor. As he stooped to replace it, Brentford noticed that he hastily released the catch and placed something inside.
As if this had been a signal for trouble, a great cry arose that Lady Longton had lost her famous pearl necklace. Instantly half the dancers there were on their hands and looking for the missing treasures. Above the din there rose the voice of a youngish-looking man making a challenge.
"No occasion for all this bother," he said. "I know where the missing necklace is to be found."
A tense silence followed. The speaker led the way to the table where Tanberg and his companion were seated and pointed an accusing finger in the direction of the girl.
"The necklace is in your bag," he said. "It was passed to you by someone I could not see for the moment because of the many dancers on the floor. But I am correct in what I say."
Tanberg jumped angrily from his chair.
"Monstrous!" he cried. "Infamous! I can vouch for this lady. She is incapable of such a thing."
"Nevertheless I cannot withdraw what I have said," the accuser went on. "I represent the police. Scotland Yard, to be exact. Search that bag, Jones."
Out of nowhere two policemen appeared. True, they were in evening dress, but the word policeman was written all over them. The pearl necklace was quickly exposed to view, and placed in the pudgy hands of the owner.
"Your's my lady?" she was asked.
"Mine undoubtedly," came the reply. "So very clever of you officer. But I make no charge."
The Yard man suppressed a smile. He could quite understand why her ladyship preferred to make no charge seeing that publicity of that kind was the last thing she desired.
"I am afraid the matter is out of your hands, my lady," came the reply. "As a matter of fact this young woman has been under my eye for some time past. Jones, please."
Jones aforesaid laid a hand on the girl's arm.
"Better come along with me," he said. "You had better not interfere, sir. Only make things more unpleasant."
This to Tanberg who was beginning to expostulate. He dropped back with a vague threat of what might happen later. A few seconds later, and the dance was in full swing.
Taking advantage of this, Brentford approached the man who appeared to be in charge of the plain clothes men.
"A word with you," he said. "I came here to-night at the urgent request of Chief Inspector Medway. There was no time to call in professional assistance, hence my intrusion. My name is Ronald Brentford, at one time of the Intelligence."
"So was I," the other man said. "Detective Inspector Evan Brookes. There were numbers in those days."
"And mine was S.B. 106," Ronnie smiled.
"All right, sir," Brookes replied. "Say on."
"Well, I followed that girl here at the special request of Mr. Medway. But more especially her companion. I have been watching them carefully the last hour. I didn't actually see the man steal the necklace, but I saw how cleverly he barged into Lady Longton and her partner, and I actually saw the pearls hidden in the handbag by the fellow who calls himself Tanberg. My belief is that the girl is innocent."
"Uh! What you say does make a difference. But the girl has drifted in to queer company of late. When I said I had had my eye on her for some time, I was exaggerating a little because I didn't want to lose my case. I won't charge her yet, but wait until we can get hold of Medway. All the same I shall have to detain the young woman for the present. If we decide to release her Lady Longton won't weep."
Brentford decided to leave it at that for the moment, the more so as nothing could be done until he had seen Medway again. But he felt that his evening had by no means been wasted.
THE task that Medway had set for himself was not nearly so difficult as that assigned to Brentford nor did it entail so long a journey. Moreover there was no call for pursuit in the ordinary sense of the word seeing that the dark lady came and went on foot. A leisurely stroll as far as Regent Street and a turn or two ended in a block of modest flats on a two storey basis, and into one of these blocks the woman entered. Medway was so close behind her that he could actually see the number of the flat where his quarry entered. She closed the door behind her, leaving Medway to study the neat brass plate with which it was decorated.
From this Medway learnt that the occupant was one Madame Nordiva, teacher of theatrical dancing. After a little hesitation he laid a finger on the electric bell whereupon the dark lady came herself to demand what her visitor wanted.
"Just a few words with you," he answered. "You see I am a police officer, and therefore——"
Medway allowed his voice to trail off incoherently, hoping that the announcement would have some effect. But the dark lady never turned a hair. She merely regarded her caller with a cold contempt, waiting for his further explanation.
"If I may be permitted to enter," Medway suggested.
"As you will," the woman said coldly. "I am quite alone here, and unprotected. You may or may not be what you pretend, but I am not afraid."
Medway could see as much for himself. This was not the type of woman to be afraid of anything. She stood quietly aside so that he might pass into a neat sitting room in which Madame Nordiva indicated a chair. Then she took a seat apposite him and signed to him to explain.
"First I had better give you my card," Medway said as he took out his case. "Just as well for you to know that you are not dealing with an imposter."
"I can see that," Madame said. "I am rather a good judge of a man—I have had much experience of your sex."
There was a concentrated bitterness in the last part of the remark that was not lost to Medway.
"Though you never can tell," he said. "It is just as well to be on the safe side, especially when you are unprotected and have on your person a piece of jewellery worth anything up to £5,000."
For the first time the woman showed signs of interest. But of fear there was no suggestion at all.
"How do you know that?" she asked.
"I could make a mystery of it if I liked," Medway said with a smile, "but I won't. As a matter of fact I was in the Regal Palace dining-room to-night when you came in. I saw everything that happened so far as you were concerned which is why I took the liberty of following you here. Now it struck me as a very strange thing that a man like Mr. Tanberg should take such an action on your part lying down. He would have made a fuss had he duly dared—perhaps given you in custody."
"Me!" the woman laughed. "He dared not."
"Yes, I gathered that much. But I am not sure he wouldn't have murdered you had the interview taken place in some dark corner. That is how I read his face."
"I have heard worse guesses," Madame Nordiva said in the coolest possible tone. "As a matter of fact, those fine diamonds were given to me years ago, and recovered by means of a trick. I merely took a dramatic step to get my own back. I knew that Efan Tanberg dared not interfere. But what is all this to you, Mr. Policeman? You are not here to try and bounce me out of what is legally mine."
"Perfectly correct," Medway said. "It is Tanberg whom I am interested in. If I were not sure that you can give me a whole lot of information about him, I should not be here at this moment. Of course, I can't make you speak . . ."
"Nobody could do that," the woman said grimly. "Tanberg is nothing to me—absolutely nothing."
"Not now, perhaps, but what about the past?" Medway asked shrewdly. "I gather from what you say that at some time in the past Tanberg gave you those diamonds. He must have been very much in love to have done that."
Medway fired this shot blindly, but he could see plainly that it had struck a mark. Just for a moment the woman's expression changed to one of concentrated fury. A woman scorned, Medway decided, and a jealous one to boot.
"Very well," Medway went on, "I presume that the fair girl of restaurant has usurped your place."
"One of many," the woman breathed heavily.
"But the only one who wears your jewels, madame. Therefore, the very latest of Tanberg's loves. I am not concerned with her for the moment—she is in other hands. But as to Tanberg? You have no love for him left."
"Love!" the woman cried. "Love! Don't make me laugh."
"Women are strange creatures," Medway went on. "Love turns to hate, and as suddenly reverses. I have known a woman give a criminal away out of revenge, and then weep bitterly because she has done so. Let me jog your memory. How long is it since Tanberg was known as Paul Manstar?"
He had touched her at last; the arrow had gone home to the feather. He saw the dark eyes dilate, and the widening of the nostrils. But not with fear.
"I am not quite myself to-night," she said. "My nerve is not what it used to be. Come and see me again. Any night after six o'clock will find me here. Now please go."
It was shortly after nine the next morning that Brentford called Medway up and told him of the previous night's adventure. Half an hour later the two were in a police cell interviewing the girl known as Doris Reeve. She smiled faintly and dried her tears as Medway described the situation.
"You are free to go at any moment," Medway concluded. "There is going to be no fuss and no prosecution. Tanberg played a cruel trick on you to shield himself in case he was detected. If I were you, young lady, I should give——"
"Never," the girl cried, "never again. What a fool I have been. All this comes of trying to be independent. You see I have a small income of my own and I wanted to become a great actress. So I came to London into lodgings. Then I met Tanberg at a night club. He said he had fallen in love with me at first sight, and, like an idiot I believed him. You can guess how flattered I was. Then he gave me those diamonds and took me to see his cottage in the country where he spends week-ends. A lovely little place, 10 miles from Brighton."
"One moment," Medway interrupted. "What is the name of this cottage, and where situated?"
"Mile End it is called. The village is Barcombe. Tanberg was not known there by his usual name, but Alexis. It was a whim of his, he said. We are going to honeymoon there."
Medway listened gravely. Here was a lovely innocent snatched from what was certain to have become a career of crime by a set of circumstances over which she had no control. On the contrary, she had come along with some priceless information.
"I do hope I shall not have to give evidence," Doris said imploringly. "It would be dreadful."
"Make your mind quite easy about that," Medway assured her once more. "I will see to it that Tanberg does not molest you any further. If he does let us know. But I don't imagine that you will ever see the scoundrel again. But there is one thing I must ask you to do, Miss Reeve."
"Oh anything. I am most grateful."
"Well, the best thing you can do is to go home and stay there. It is bad for girls like you to be alone in the world."
"I am going to-day," Doris said firmly. "But what is it you want me to do first?"
"Go back to your lodgings and stay there until six o'clock to-night. Then I will fetch you. We shall only want you for about half an hour at the most."
True to his word, Medway picked up Doris shortly before the time appointed and conveyed her to the flat occupied by Madame Nordiva. Doris started back and her cheeks flamed as she saw who it was who confronted her. Medway—perfectly at his ease—made a smiling introduction.
"You two have met before," he said. "Miss Reeve, the late possessor of those diamonds, met Madame Nordiva, the lawful owner, at least so we believe for the moment. Now Miss Reeve, how did those stones come to belong to you?"
"They were given to me by Tanberg," Doris replied simply. "He told me they were historic and had belonged to his family for generations."
"He made love to you?" Madame smiled hardly.
"He asked me to marry him. He told me that he was a rich man and head of a great Rumanian family. He spoke of his lands and forests, and showed me other jewels."
"Where was that?" Medway asked sharply.
"At the Country cottage I told you about. He has them there in a safe. But I was not to speak of that until after we were married. Which will never be now."
"And never could be," Madame laughed shrilly, "because he is married already. Who is his wife? My dear innocent, that happy woman stands before you. I am his wife. Something to be proud of, is it not?"
THE fair-haired girl gasped. Then the rich red poured into her cheeks as she half collapsed in an agony of shame and confusion. In a dim kind of way she was beginning to understand why Medway had brought her here.
"Oh, how dreadful!" she cried.
"For you or me?" Madame Nordiva asked with something like pity in her sombre eyes. "I am sorry for you, my child, for you are little better. Do you begin to realise what a narrow escape you have had? That man would never have married you even if I did not stand in the way. I suppose Mr. Policeman here brought you with a view to driving the lesson home."
"Something rather like that," Medway admitted.
"Also in the hope that I might speak freely," Madame laughed harshly. "Well, I am going to. God forbid that I should stand by and see an innocent girl walk into the same trap that I did. That man would merely have used you and your fresh loveliness as a bait for the robbing of trusting fools. Oh, you need not protest. I was just as indignant years ago when I was warned. At any rate the scoundrel did marry me."
The last remark struck home as the speaker intended that it should, and once more Doris blushed vividly.
"I was not devoid of physical attraction then," the woman went on, "and it seemed as if the world was at my feet. I was going to become a famous tragic actress. Then I met Efan Tanberg, or, to give him his proper name, Paul Manstar. Oh, yes, the rich Rumanian with his estates and castles. So infatuated was I that I left the stage and married him.
"I was his complete slave. Ah, what do you cool English know about passion? Even when I found him out for the adventurer he is, I loved him. So long as I deluded myself that he was faithful to me, the rest mattered nothing. And even when I knew that there was a great swindle being launched, I was ready to play my part—and did. It was after one of these successful raids that I came into possession of those diamonds which you know of as my share of the plunder. Two years later when Paul was tired of me, and when I had found him out where another woman was concerned he managed to get the stones back by a trick and went away leaving me penniless.
"Gradually I managed to establish something like a connexion in the art dancing line. But always I vowed to get those stones back. Then one night I saw you, my child, with Paul at some theatre show when you were wearing my diamonds. I was desperate and ready for anything. Jealous, too, if you like. I did not know where to turn for money. For one thing my rent was overdue and the landlord threatening. So I decided on a bold stroke, and, like most bold strokes, it was successful. But Mr. Policeman here chanced to see the little drama, and followed me here. I had to tell him the truth, and I am glad now that I did. Probably, my child, you were followed at the same time."
"She was," Medway admitted. "The whole thing was too interesting for me to drop. You see, in my line, it is unwise to overlook interesting events like that in the Regal Palace. Nor has my time been wasted."
There was little more to be said or done for the moment except to see Doris safe to her lodgings and explain her absence the previous night after which Medway lost no time in getting in touch with Brentford who hurried round to Scotland Yard after a few words on the telephone.
There he listened to what Medway had to say with regard to his recent movements, and waited for the next move.
"What do you propose now?" he asked.
"Well, to tell you the truth," Medway said, "I was contemplating a little trip into the country. Green fields and woods so restful to the soul. Say down Sussex way."
"Tanberg's cottage for a dollar," Brentford cried.
"Guessed it the very first time," Medway replied. "I want to have a peep inside the rural paradise where Tanberg hides as Alexis. It's long odds that the plots are hatched there and the booty stowed away until a convenient time for turning it into cash. However, we shall see."
"After dark, plus search warrant, eh?"
"Search warrant be blowed," Medway laughed. "Nothing of the sort. Broad daylight, my friend. I have ascertained that our man left for Paris this morning for a day or two, so he is out of the way. Also I am told that unless Alexis is in residence the cottage is closed. When our man is taking his ease he employs a deaf and dumb housekeeper who lives in the village to look after him. Like to come along?"
Brentford wanted nothing better. So shortly after two of the clock they set out for Barcombe on an errand that seemed likely to achieve definite results. It was not difficult to locate Mile End cottage, for it was marked on the ordinance map at the end of a lane that seemed to lead nowhere. Nearby was a wood into which Medway drove the car.
"No sense in leaving that outside the cottage," he said. "Only attract any curious passer-by."
The place looked innocent enough with its neat garden, and secluded enough for the seeker after solitude. A lattice window yielded to Medway's expert touch, and a moment later he and Brentford were inside the building.
"Very neat," Medway commented. "Just the sort of place for a retired bachelor. All in the best of taste, too. Old oak undoubtedly genuine. This is the sitting-room. Overhead three bedrooms, and bath. And there's the safe."
He pointed to one corner of the room where a solid-looking safe was built into the wall. But a casual inspection of this brought about disappointment.
"The confounded thing is open," Medway cried. "And as empty as Mother Hubbard's cupboard. It looks to me as if we had run into the trail of some successful plant. Most of the plunder on its way to Paris by this time with Tanberg."
"A day after the fair," Brentford said. "Looks as if we shall have our journey for our pains."
"Maybe," Medway agreed. "But I am not going to chuck it just yet. You never known your luck."
At the back of the house Brentford sat and smoked half a dozen cigarettes whilst Medway made a thorough search. Then a shout recalled him to the sitting room, where Medway stood with eager light in his eyes.
"Smoked out the fox?" Brentford asked.
"The next best thing to it. Look here."
Medway had removed a picture from the wall—a picture in a deep oak frame so deep that it had attracted Medway's attention. The painting was on a panel, the whole thing being so light that the woodwork could not be solid. At the back were two tiny screws which Medway began to manipulate with the point of his pocket knife. With a little coaxing they came out leaving a square hollow some two inches deep exposed to the view. And in this a flat parcel tied with string.
"Bank-notes, or call me a Dutchman," Medway cried. "A little store in case of sheer necessity. It seems——"
He broke off suddenly, and pulled out his pocket book.
"By the Lord Harry, this seems something like a find," he almost whispered. "If I am wrong, we are no worse off, but if I am right, then things will move rapidly."
Spread out on a table now were bank notes of various denominations, all of which Medway carefully compared with certain numbers jotted down in his pocket book.
"I'm right," he said, "dead right. You remember the £1,000 in notes drawn by Garnstone on the morning of his death."
"As if I were likely to forget! Did not you trace £200 in notes to Levi Lefton who stuck to them pretending he had paid them over to the gang who tried on the burglary Epping way."
"Go up top," Medway smiled. "Well, here are the rest of those notes. What price that for a find?"
It was even as Medway said. Every note corresponded with the list in his pocket book.
"I could arrest Tanberg on this," he said.
"Yes, and what would the charge be?"
Medway looked a little confused for the moment.
"I don't know much about the law," Brentford went on quietly. "But it is for you to prove the prisoner guilty, not for him to prove his innocence. Suppose Tanberg refuses to say how these notes came into his possession. Suppose that he says they were handed to him in the way of business. Snide business if you like. We are bound to admit that poor old Garnstone was leading a double life, also that possibly he was in league with Tanberg. How much further does that get you."
Medway was fain to admit the logic of the argument.
"What we have to do is to connect Tanberg in some way with the murder of Garnstone. When Tanberg attempted by sheer bluff to get hold of the gold cup, he told you that he had sold it the night before to Garnstone, but that he had not been paid. I suggest that that was a lie. He was paid in notes amounting to £1,000. We have traced those notes to him, it is true, but that is not enough. If we could only trace the way in which the murder was committed——"
"Which you promised to do," Medway pointed out.
"I did nothing of the sort," Brentford retorted. "I said I had an inspiration and so I have. I am working on it day by day. You can help if you like."
"Nothing I would like better!" Medway cried.
"Patience," Brentford smiled. "What I am working on is a jig-saw puzzle. I have fitted one half the pieces together but the other half eludes me. If I can find one missing element, then I can show you how Garnstone was murdered. The whole thing is so easy that one simply overlooks it. Have you read the mystery stories by Poe?"
"Not since I was a boy," Medway said.
"Well you will possibly remember the story of the purloined letter which nobody could find because it was hidden in a place where everybody could actually see it."
"Yes, I remember that," Medway admitted. "Also the mystery of Marie Roget. Dashed fine yarns. You mean to say the problem of Garnstone's death is looking us in the face?"
"Well, I won't go quite so far as that," Brentford said smilingly. "But when the light came to me I wondered that I had not thought of it before. Meanwhile what are you going to do with those notes? Take them with you or leave them in their hiding place until the dramatic moment arrives? I should put them back."
"Precisely what I am going to do," Medway said grimly. "The cheese is toasted, so we'll leave it in the trap. Maybe we shall catch the mouse that way."
"Call him a rat," Brentford said between his teeth.
"YOU have missed your vocation," Medway smiled. "You ought to be a detective like me."
"Well, I was," Brentford replied. "Or something like it. Intelligence at one time. But never mind that. As there is little to serve by staying here hadn't we better get a move on?"
A few moments later and the car was on the way back to Town. Once well under way, Brentford took up the tale.
"Now look here, Medway," he began. "I want you to put yourself in my hands for an hour or two this afternoon. Can you meet me close by the Garnstone premises about four o'clock."
"Of course," Medway agreed promptly. "I believe you are going to show me something interesting."
They parted in due course, Medway making his way back to headquarters, where work awaited him. But that work was destined to stand over for the present as a constable in uniform came into Medway's office with the information that Ben Lefton had been waiting in an outer office for some time.
"Like a cat on hot bricks, he is sir," the policeman explained. "Can't sit down. Asking for you every 10 seconds. Rigged-out up to the nines, too."
"Bring him in," Medway directed. "And see that we are not disturbed."
Benjamin Lefton crept into the room like a whipped dog until the door was closed behind him. Then he pulled himself together into something like the semblance of a man. He was dressed in perfectly-upholstered morning garb complete with white spats over patent leather shoes, and carrying in his hand a top hat of the glossiest kind. Diamonds sparkled on his stubby fingers, and in his Ascot tie. Overdressed, Medway decided, though Lefton would have indignantly denied the suggestion.
But all this show of sartorial splendour did not disguise the mingled fear and malice in the man's eyes. Something had greatly disturbed him or he would never have thrust his head inside such a place as Scotland Yard.
"Sit down," Medway commanded. "A cigarette?"
Lefton writhed about on his seat, although he gladly accepted the proffered cigarette. He panted as if short of breath.
"Spill the beans, Benny," Medway said encouragingly. "I am all attention. Something about your father, isn't it?"
Lefton showed the whites of his eyes. When he spoke all the gloss had vanished, and the stark child of the Ghetto stood confessed. The vernacular took the place of that neat English which Ben had so carefully studied in his role of a man about town. The frequenter of bars, the follower of race meetings and other pleasure grounds where the genus thug is to be marked down for future plucking.
"Vun thing at a time, Mr. Medway," he gabbled. "In the first place, Tanberg. He's bolted."
"I don't think so," Medway said. "Only a little trip to Paris. Back again before the week is out."
Lefton's voice rose to a scream.
"Bolted, I tell you, bolted. And lot's more, he has taken most of the Lord Glenday stuff with him."
Medway never batted an eyelid. His line was to assume that all this was no news to him.
"Double-crossed you, in fact," Medway smiled. "But isn't it rather dangerous for you to come and tell me this even if it is no news to me? Your hands are not clean."
"Ain't they, mister? Vell, they are so far as Lord Glenday's posh is concerned. My farder is dead now, and nobody can't touch him vich is vy I am talking to you like this. I vasn't in the Glenday bithness ath I can prove, being elsevere at the time."
"But your father was?"
"Am I denying it, mister? Vild hosses won't get me to say who did the actual job, but it was put up between my farder and that damned Tanberg. And now he's got clear with the lot."
"You can make your mind quite easy on that score," Medway said with an assured air he was far from feeling. "I know exactly where to put my hand on Tanberg when I want him. So this is where you get your own back, eh?"
"He robbed my farder," Lefton cried indignantly. "There is honor amongst thieves. Vy didn't he give my farder his share like an honest man?"
Medway manfully suppressed a smile.
"You never know in this wicked world," he said. "But Tanberg is coming back. Don't forget that business of the gold cup, Benny. Tanberg means to have that if he has to bluff until he is black in the face. There is no limit to the audacity of that man. You see, Benny, he does not realise yet that he is under suspicion for the murder of your father."
Lefton jumped from his chair. It was impossible for him to turn pale, but he changed to a dirty yellow instead.
"You know that, too?" he gasped.
"Better tell me the whole story so as to see if it fits in with my information," Medway said. "Never mind about your silly little revenge for the moment. Don't you know perfectly well that Tanberg murdered your father? And don't you know why? He wanted to recover those banknotes paid to Levi towards the cost of that abortive burglary down Epping way."
"But farder hadn't got 'em," Lefton screamed. "You took the notes wen ve vos at Garnstone's secret garage."
"Precisely, Benny. But Tanberg didn't know that. He was under the impression that Levi had simply pocketed those notes, and pretended that he had passed them on in the course of business. He wanted those notes back badly—why, is my business. Tell me all you knew about the murder, Benny."
"Vell, it was like this," Lefton muttered. "The old man never told me everything. Said I was extravagant, and spent far too much money. But I never got my proper share, though farder was vot you call a varn man. I found out he had a secret appointment on morning of his death ven he told me to clear out for the day. I didn't. I crept back into the house by the back way and I listened. Mine farder and Tanberg in a proper row. Just as I vos about to interfere came a knock at the front door, and the row ceased. So, thinking there was no more use stopping there, I come away to learn later of the murder. This is the truth vich I vill svare in any court in the land."
"I believe you, Benny," Medway said, "all the more because I was the man who knocked on the door, and found the body in the sitting-room. I can't stay talking to you any longer now, as I have a call elsewhere, but you can rest assured that Tanberg is not going to get away with it. Being so loving a son, the fact will warm your kind heart, I'm sure."
It was shortly after four o'clock when Medway met Brentford outside the burnt building and followed him inside wondering what all this mystery was about. Once inside, and shielded from public view, Brentford began to talk.
"I want you to help me to find something," he said. "I have one half of it, but we simply must find the other. It is a stout bamboo pole about nine feet in length. It is certainly here, but so far has eluded me. Now come along."
Medway came along accordingly. He was not going to ask any questions until he saw that Brentford was in a position to answer them. So for an hour or more the search went on. Then it seemed to Medway that he could see behind a heap of charred fragments something that looked like a hook sticking upwards. This he endeavoured to raise, but in vain. It took both of them all they knew before the whole of the hook came in sight, when it was seen that a long bamboo pole was attached to the end of it.
"Eureka," Brentford cried. "I knew the thing was here."
With his handkerchief he cleaned the whole length of the pole and examined it carefully. Like the other pole in his possession it was notched at regular intervals down the whole length. Brentford smiled in triumph.
"Where are we now?" Medway asked.
"Practically through," Brentford replied. "But one thing at a time. Look at this for a moment."
With the hooked pole in his hand Brentford went as far as the blackened wall where he upraised the staff so as to hook the contrivance into the fireplace on the first floor. With the aid thus afforded, he climbed up until he reached the iron fireplace and sat there for a moment.
"By this hook and ladder gadget I could reach the roof," he said as he came down. "But that is only what I might call one of the lights to the acrostic. Now come with me, and I will show you something more."
They were down in Gunter's quarters a few minutes later when the caretaker was dismissed on some concocted errand so that the two had the room to themselves. From the area passage Brentford produced the twin pole together with some short pieces of stout rope knotted at either end.
"This is going to hang the murderer of poor old Garnstone at any rate," Brentford said. "But we can't do any more until Miss Goff comes along with the key of the flat. She will be here any moment now, and then we shall see what we shall see."
ALL the same Medway was still puzzled as his face showed, and Brentford rather enjoyed his perplexity.
"Let us go a step further," he said. "Oblige me by placing those bamboo poles on the floor about fifteen inches apart, keeping them quite parallel. Very good. Turn them over so that the notched sires are uppermost."
"And the next move, please," Medway asked.
From one corner of the room Brentford produced a handful of short pieces of rope fifteen inches in length and tightly knotted at both ends.
"Now then," he said. "Let us fit these short ropes into the slots on either of the two poles."
This Brentford proceeded to do. Once the work was ended he turned to Medway with a smile.
"What have we there?" he asked.
"Well, I suppose we might call it a sort of a ladder," Medway replied. "But where does that get us?"
"Quite a long way as you will see later on. What do you think that contraption weighs altogether."
Medway balanced the improvised ladder in his hand.
"Not more than six pounds," he declared.
"Very well, then; something quite easy to carry about and not likely to attract much attention. A man might walk along the street carrying one of these poles under his arm without being suspected of anything sinister. If he carried the poles one at a time the most inquisitive policeman would never dream that mischief was afoot. That is just what our man did, knowing that in the ruins of the fire and behind the hoarding he could hide his stock-in-trade with perfect safety. The mistake he made was in leaving those useful implements more or less hidden in the ruins of that building. You have told me more than once that every criminal, however clever, always commits some act that leads eventually to his conviction. And that is precisely what the man we are after did."
"Quite logical," Medway murmured. "Go on."
"Cela! When our man had finished with his implement, he just took it to pieces and thrust the poles into that mass of ruins never dreaming that a mere amateur like me would have the right inspiration. The odds were a million to one against it, but for once the odds came off. I venture to prophesy——"
Brentford broke off as Gunter appeared with the information that Miss Goff had arrived and was in the flat.
"Ah, now we can get on!" Brentford exclaimed.
Vera raised her eyebrows as the two men entered the flat.
"Why what on earth have you got there, Ronnie," she asked as she noted the ladder. "Has anything happened?"
"A great deal, darling," Ronnie said gravely. "We are hot on the trail of the criminal who murdered Mr. Garnstone. But let me make you wise as to recent events."
Briefly Brentford told Vera exactly what he had just disclosed to Medway. Then he took the bamboo ladder and propped it against the sitting-room window that looked down to the dark way some 30 feet below.
"Now Medway," he directed, "open that window. Then lean out and attach the hooks of the ladder on to the iron guttering that forms the rain spouting. By the way, I had to buy the missing hook, though you can see where the original one was screwed into the top of the first pole we found. But that is a mere detail. Now, please."
Medway was only too eager to obey. The ladder was hooked to the spouting where it held firmly.
"Give it a hearty pull," Brentford directed. "Then tell me if it will support a man."
Medway was quite sure it would. Also he was quite sure now what Brentford was driving at.
"Well, there you are," the latter said. "Now you know how the murderer entered the flat. By means of the hooks on the ladder he contrived to reach the roof on the ruin using those practically intact fire-places as resting places. Then he climbed over the roof next door, and lowered himself by means of that light ladder until he was exactly in front of the side window. Nobody could possibly see him owing to the darkness of the alley and the fact that he was perched 30 feet above ground. A thin-bladed knife opened the window which was relatched later on by a fine pliable wire worked round the catch?"
"And then what happened?" Vera asked.
"Who can tell exactly?" Brentford declared. "Goodness only knows what the criminal came for, but I strongly suspect that the gold cup was the lure. I am the more convinced of this because there was nothing else in the safe when it came to be opened. Anyhow the murderer came and went by the way of that ladder taking it with him and smothering the two poles in masses of charred ruins. That was his great mistake."
"The inevitable mistake," Medway agreed. "Who would ever dream that an outsider would solve the problem, which had so puzzled the brains of Scotland Yard."
"But how did you arrive at such a conclusion, Ronnie?" Vera asked. "And how clever of you!"
"Not very clever," Brentford said modestly. "It was a pure fluke. To begin with I began to wonder if it were just possible for anyone to reach the flat by means of the roof. So I decided to study my theory from the potential field of action. By that I mean those ruins. I could potter about there as much as I liked without interference or arousing curiosity. The first thing to encourage me lay in those fire-places. I could visualise a man of muscle using them to reach the roof next door provided he had a sort of ladder with hooks at the upper end like those used by the fire brigade. It would have to be a very light ladder so that the criminal could play about with it, reach the top storey, and thence on to our neighbour's roof. The rest, of course would be child's play.
"My first bit of luck lay in the finding of the initial pole. Now what was this doing in a mass of charred timbers where, had it been there when the fire broke out, it would have been burnt like tinder amidst the flames? But it wasn't. The pole was as fresh and glossy as if it had just come from a carpenter's shop. When I saw those notches it was patent to me that I had one side of the necessary ladder in my possession. But, seek as I would, I could not find the counterpart. Our friend Medway did that for me, after which the rest was easy."
"What is to happen now!" Vera asked. She turned to Medway as she spoke.
"We have a long way to go yet," he said. "We have a most clever criminal to deal with, though, like most of his class, he is inclined to be careless. When he left the flat in the same manner by which he came, it seemed to him that he had nothing more to trouble about in that direction. So he merely dismantled his ladder and shoved the poles into the pile of ruins. Nobody would ever be likely to find them there, and even if workmen did so afterwards, the poles would only be carted away with other rubbish. But we know now exactly how the murderer managed to enter the flat when nobody was there but the owner, and that without disturbing Gunter down in the basement."
"Then there is very little gained," Vera sighed.
"Oh, I wouldn't go as far as that," Medway declared. "It is all to the good that we know how the crime was committed. A few days and perhaps . . ."
It was not until Medway and Brentford were away together that the former began to speak more freely.
"I hope I didn't seem to belittle your work unduly," he said. "On the contrary, you have done the state some service, and the state is not likely to forget it. Sir Giles Fairchild will know how to appreciate your work. But I didn't like to discuss the crime before that young lady. As a matter of fact I have more than a suspicion."
"Strangely enough, so have I," Brentford said drily.
"So I more than suspected. But there is no occasion to mention names. Best keep those to ourselves."
"Then you don't propose to take action yet?"
"Not for a day or two at any rate. But there is one thing I may mention—relying on your discretion—and that is the strange similarity between the way both Mr. Garnstone and Levi Lefton were done to death. Stabbed in the same heart region with a blow struck upward by a thin-bladed knife of the stiletto type. Just the sort of knife that would fit into the sheath which is now in my possession."
"In other words, a double murder."
"Looks to me like it," Medway said. "But we shall know more about that when those adjourned inquests are held. We are having these kept back for a purpose. Now another phase on the cases. Isn't it strange how the affair of the Blue Daffodil keeps cropping up all through the drama? The gold cup Tanberg claims as his own, though Lord Glenday has proved by his private mark that he bought the cup in Amsterdam. Then the cup is stolen from his lordship's house in Park Street, and when Miss Goff or Miss Zaroff sees it she says it was stolen from her parents. Then again, we have the Blue Daffodil flower itself purloined by Gunter in order to raise money for a person who is blackmailing him."
"A bewildering business altogether," Brentford agreed.
"Yes, and then there happens the murder of Levi Lefton to complicate matters still further. He was killed almost in my sight by a man who barely escaped detection, leaving behind him the sheath of a knife which has a Blue Daffodil design on it—a sheath which also once belonged to the Zaroffs."
"And here we come in direct contact with Tanberg who was once in the Zaroff employ. Don't you think he could tell us a whole lot if he could be induced to speak."
"I'm absolutely sure of it?" Medway declared. "We may find it possible to make him speak."
"You don't think he has fled the country then?"
"I am absolutely sure he hasn't. Nor has he gone off with all the loot stolen from Lord Glenday. At the present moment the man is closely watched by the Paris police, and every move he makes will be reported to me. Besides, he is not going to relinquish his claim on the gold cup so easily. Give him all the rope he wants, I say. Now is there anything more you want to know, or alternately can you give me another pointer?"
Brentford smiled as if something amused him.
"Just one little thing," he said. "I propose to take a taxi as far as Wapping. Off Nightingale Lane, you know. The place where I kept watch. Like to come along."
A sudden light flashed into Medway's eyes.
"Rather!" he cried. "I shall forget my own name next."
THERE was something else that Medway might have forgotten and Brentford promptly reminded him of the fact.
"Exactly what I was going to suggest," Medway said. "Now that I am awake, my faculties are functioning normally. By all means let us drop in at Scotland Yard before proceeding further. Yes, I have got the thing you want. Come along."
It was but a few moments that the two lingered at the Yard, and then proceeded eastwards in a taxi. Presently they came to a turning off Nightingale Lane, where was situated the shady public house called the Two Cows where, a short time before, Medway made a raid whilst Brentford kept guard on the back door that gave a view of Ling Choo's premises next door.
Brentford indicated the public house.
"Anybody there likely to overlook us?" he asked.
"Not in the least," Medway explained. "For the moment that interesting tenement is without a landlord. He'll almost certainly lose his license over this business."
Almost as he spoke a police van turned the corner and pulled up at a sign from Medway.
"Hang on," he said to the driver. "When you hear me whistle, bring the stuff along."
With that, he and Brentford proceeded to make their way into the Chinaman's yard where two or three hands were at work. Ling Choo himself appeared with his usual smile, and an inquiry as to what he could do for the honorable gentlemen.
"You had better explain," Medway suggested to Brentford.
"Well, it's like this, Ling Choo. I want a couple of bamboo poles about nine feet long and three inches in diameter. Do you happen to have anything of the sort on the premises?"
"Alle litee," the Chinaman declared. "Plenty lot of poles. I makee the furniture. Many big shops in London come to me for my goods. If the honorable gentlemen will come this way I will show them over my stock."
In a kind of warehouse were bamboo poles by the thousand. Some thick, some thin, adaptable for all kinds of light furniture. Ling Choo indicated the stock with a wave of the hand. Then Brentford picked out two lengths of the bamboo which exactly corresponded with those he had found in the ruins adjacent to Garnstone's flat. These were a little longer perhaps, but in all other respects corresponding.
Brentford nodded significantly, and Medway whistled. In reply one of the passengers in the police van came forward carrying the two poles he had fetched from Gutter's basement as ordered during the recent call at the Yard. To these Brentford called Ling Choo's attention.
"I want something exactly like that," he said. "You ought to be able to match those two."
Ling Choo smiled in his blandest manner.
"Many times over," he said. "These comes from the same part of India where I get all of mine. And they were mine not long back. That little close cut is what you might call my tlade mark. I seem to lemember the honorable gentleman who came here, and bought them. I look in my book and see."
The Chinaman vanished for a few minutes ere he returned with the same bland smile on his features.
"I thought I lemembered," he said. "A gentleman who came in his own car, and took them away with him."
"Evidently a friend of ours," Medway put in casually. "Tall, dark man somewhere about middle aged. Would you recognise him if you saw him again, Ling Choo?"
"Never do I forget a face," Ling Choo boasted.
"Anything like this?" Medway asked. At the same time he took from his pocket-book a photograph which he handed to the Chinaman. Ling Choo hardly glanced at it before returning it with a smile of recognition.
"That is the same honorable gentleman," he declared firmly. "I recognise him at once."
"Then you lose your bet," said Medway with a wink for Brentford alone. "I knew you were mistaken."
"Looks like it," Brentford said casually. "Not my friend anyhow. Now, Mr. Ling Choo, will you be good enough to send those poles to this address, and I will pay for them. How much?"
Ling Choo named a price, and the transaction was complete. A little later and Brentford and his companion were once more on their way westward.
"That snapshot was most useful," Brentford said. "It clinches the whole business. How on earth did you manage to get Tanberg before the camera."
"I didn't," Medway grinned, "I have had my eye on that elusive gentleman from the first. So I had him dogged until, with a pinhole camera my man got him. All the same I hardly expected that picture to come in so dramatically useful. Mind you we have been amazingly lucky. We know now how Mr. Garnstone's flat was entered and by whom. Ling Choo's evidence will go far to hang the criminal, and a better witness we could not find. But we have a long way to go yet."
"So I suppose," Brentford agreed, "but did you know that Tanberg had a car of his own?"
"He hadn't. But he wasn't going to take any risks. There would be no delivery of those poles to an address that could be traced. He probably borrowed a car, by which I mean stole it. Easy enough to abandon it later on. The fellow took no risks until he felt himself to be quite safe which was the very point where he began to grow careless. I mean when he abandoned those bamboo poles in the fire ruins. That was a fatal mistake owing to that inspiration of yours. He had to convey those two poles separately to the ruins under cover of the darkness. That was fairly safe. But after entrance to the flat and the murder and the escape by retracing his steps, it wasn't good enough to recover the improvised ladder piece, and smuggle it into his flat. Who was likely to find those poles, let alone discover the use to which they had been put?"
"You don't think Tanberg has bolted?" Brentford asked.
"Not he. Not that type. Besides, he hasn't the least idea that he is suspected. Again, he has more than an inkling as to where the bulk of Lord Glenday's treasures are hidden, and he means to have his share of the plunder. Directly he returns from Paris I am going to drop him a friendly note asking him to come and see me at the Yard."
Medway refused to say more than that, and the two parted for the time being. A day or two passed before Brentford heard from Medway that Tanberg was back again, and proposed to avail himself of the invitation to Scotland Yard.
So Tanberg turned up at the appointed time very spick and perfectly self-possessed. He flung himself into a chair, and accepted the cigarette offered to him.
"You wanted to see me," he drawled. "Anything my dear fellow that I can do for you will be a pleasure."
"Very nice of you to say so," Medway smiled. "Now in the first place, what about that gold cup? You claim it as your property. Can you prove your title?"
"When the proper time comes," Tanberg smiled. "You are puzzled over the Glenday claim?"
"Naturally. Lord Glenday is a man above suspicion. He is rich, and a collector of note. He is prepared to swear that he purchased the cup in Amsterdam from a dealer——"
"Who cannot be traced, remember."
"I am not so sure of that," Medway said thoughtfully. "We have means here that outside people little dream of. The name of the Amsterdam dealer is Paul Nester. Do you know it?"
For the first time Tanberg showed signs of uneasiness. He pretended to search his memory.
"Paul Nester," he repeated. "Oh, yes. It comes back to me now. The very man who sold that gold cup for me, and went off with the proceeds. If you can trace him——"
"We have traced him," Medway said crisply.
Once more Tanberg showed signs of confusion.
"Where is he now?" he asked unsteadily.
"I rather fancy that he is in this room at the present moment," Medway said softly. "I suggest that you are Paul Nester and that the man who acted as your puppet posed as yourself. From behind the scenes you were the seller of the cup which was stolen from Lord Glenday's house. You can't have forgotten that Lord Glenday showed us his private mark on the cup, which must have been a shock for you. Now, according to your own statement, on the night when Mr. Garnstone was murdered, you were with him up to about ten o'clock."
"Have I ever denied it?" Tanberg cried.
"Not that I am aware of. Also you say that you handed the cup for valuation to Mr. Garnstone that evening. Moreover, you received no money."
"Isn't this all ancient history?" Tanberg sneered.
"But history all the same," Medway said. "You can tell me as much or as little as you like, because I ought to caution you before I go any further. If Mr. Garnstone paid you no money that night how did you manage to come into possession of the sum of £1,000 in notes which he drew from the bank on the morning of his death?"
"You are trying to trap me," Tanberg said furiously.
"Oh, no," Medway said. "You are under arrest charged with the murders of Mr. Garnstone and Levi Lefton. If you like to say any more you can. But it may be used in evidence against you."
VERY little attention had been paid by the Press to the murder of Levi Lefton, which was regarded as one of those sordid crimes that are only too frequent in that part of London where the poorer classes predominate. There was nothing in this Whitechapel crime to show that it was in any way connected with the mystery surrounding the death of Mr. Garnstone.
And the Press had had enough and to spare in connexion with that sensational outrage. Every criminal "expert" in the Metropolis had something to say in his newspaper anent the police and their methods. Various clues were hinted but nothing came of these, and the case looked like being relegated to the limbo of baffling mysteries when it became known that the police had made an arrest, which fact brought Pressmen hot-foot to Bow street when Tanberg made his first appearance before the magistrate, concerned with the hearing.
This was merely a formal affair lasting but a few minutes, after which proceedings were adjourned for a fortnight when Tanberg appeared again.
From the first he carried himself with the greatest coolness and poise. Nor would he avail himself of legal aid. He wanted no solicitor or lawyer to represent him, and his attitude he maintained from first to last. He would defend himself when the proper time came to do so.
The proper time came when at length the prisoner stood in the dock of the Central Criminal Court charged with the murder of Professor Garnstone on a certain date. For the moment the charge concerning Levi Lefton was not in the indictment. That would come later if the present proceedings proved abortive.
Once the proceedings were opened sensation followed on sensation. Counsel for the Crown did not seek to hide the fact that the murdered man had lived a double life. It was alleged, and would be proved in due course, that John Garnstone had taken advantage of his high standing as a technical art expert to traffic with international thieves, and was, in fact, the greatest receiver of stolen treasures in Europe. It was true that with the exception of one historic piece of gold plate, nothing had been discovered in the dead man's safe when it came to be opened. But that piece of gold plate formed one of the clues which led to Tanberg as the murderer. The prisoner had claimed that he had parted with it an hour or two before John Garnstone died without at the same time being paid for it.
Call Alfred Preece.
Alfred Preece deposed that he was chief cashier in the bank where the dead man had an account. On the morning of the murder deceased had called at the bank and drew £1,000 in notes of various denominations, numbers of which witness put in. Having done this, Mr. Preece retired after Tanberg had intimated that he had no questions to ask.
Call Inspector Medway.
Inspector Medway had a long story to tell. First of all how he traced a portion of the fatal notes to Levi Lefton to whom they were paid by the prisoner with a view to finding the cash needed for a certain burglary in the neighbourhood of Epping. How that attempt had failed and how Levi Lefton had purposely kept back his share of the notes, at the same time telling the prisoner that he had parted with them.
"As to the rest of the notes?" counsel asked.
"These I produce," Medway said. "I have them here for the inspection of the Court."
As those fatal scraps were handed round for the Judge and jury to examine, Tanberg for the first time showed signs that he was feeling the strain.
"Where did you find these?" counsel questioned.
"In a cottage at Barcombe in Sussex where the prisoner has a week-end cottage, and where he is known as Alexis. They were discovered behind a picture frame. In fact the picture frame had a double back. When I removed this, the notes were found."
Tanberg passed a hand across his heated face. But no other sign did he give and no question did he ask.
Then came another sensation when Vera came forward to give her testimony. When the name of Vera Zaroof was announced and Miss Goff stepped into the witness-box, Tanberg started and fixed a long look upon her. There was both rage and fear in his sombre eyes as he recognised the child he had known years ago. What a fool he had been not to have known her when last they had met!
Vera told her simple story which earned conviction with it to every listener in Court. When she had finished, she had stripped every rag of respectability from Tanberg's shoulders. Nor was the prisoner in better case by the time that Lord Glenday had told his side of the history of the gold cup.
But all this was very far from bringing home the actual crime to the man in the dock. Not until Ronald Brentford had told what he had discovered and how he had followed it up did Tanberg begin to realise that the shadow of the rope was closing round his neck.
And so the mystery of the Garnstone fortress and the one way into it was explained at last. Those innocent-looking bamboo poles were the instruments sending a man to his death.
Finally when Ling Choo left the witness-box there was not a soul in Court who was not ready to pronounce Tanberg guilty. By this time he seemed to have abandoned all hope. His face was pinched and haggard, his eyes dilated with fear.
"That is my case m'lord," Crown counsel said. "The rest is in the hands of the jury."
His lordship summed up dead against the prisoner. He could see nothing to mitigate against a verdict which——
And so on for the best part of an hour, after which the jury retired for consultation. They were not long away, and when they returned it was plain to see what the verdict was.
"You are agreed on your verdict?" came the question.
"We are," the foreman replied. "We are unanimously of opinion that John Garnstone met with his death at the hands of the prisoner whom we find guilty."
"A verdict in which I concur," the Judge said. "Prisoner at the bar, have you anything to say before I proceed to pass sentence upon you?"
Tanberg shook his head. He was past words. He sagged in the dock and would have collapsed like an empty sack but for the fact that a warder supported him. He did not hear the solemn words from the bench nor the invocation to a higher power.
It was all over and the excited spectators streamed out of court. Almost before they were all in the street there came the newsboys yelling of the latest phase in the fortress murder, and the word "Verdict" on the posters.
"And what now?" Brentford asked Medway as they made their way through the throng. "Somehow I can't feel that this is the finish. Justice has been done, but we won't know now why Tanberg killed his victim."
"And I don't suppose we ever will," Medway replied. "To my mind criminal and dead man were in leagues together in some way which ended in a quarrel after which Tanberg was out for revenge. But let us go somewhere and discuss the matter over a meal. And bring Miss Zaroff along. I expect that this business has been a bit of a strain for her."
For the moment Brentford had forgotten Vera. Anyway she could not be far off, neither was she, being in the midst of a mob of reporters all eager to discover something for their readers concerning a romantic and tragic history. To rescue her was a work of some difficulty, but it was accomplished at last so that the trio was at length free to seek privacy.
"The Carlton," Medway suggested. "Miss Zaroff, you look absolutely fagged out. I suggest something in the pâté de foi gras line with a couple of glasses of champagne."
"It was an ordeal," Vera admitted. "I was so thankful that that man only looked at me once. But this is not the end of the mystery surely. The empty safe, the missing will. Please do not think me mercenary. That old man was very kind to me and I am grateful. Also he was a friend of my family. And I am sure that all his money was not made dishonestly."
"It will be difficult to separate the sheep from the goats," Medway pointed out. "You would not care to touch money that was in any way tainted, I am sure."
"Of course not," Vera agreed. "But the safe was empty except for the gold cup. Where has everything gone? What has become of all Lord Glenday's treasures?"
"I'd like to have another look at that safe," Medway said thoughtfully. "Remember we only examined it visually and thought no more about it when it proved to be empty. What do you say to a visit to the flat when we have refreshed ourselves and with no higher command to bother us."
Without much hope of any latent discovery, they proceeded to the flat where Vera produced the key to the safe. This was built in one corner of the room, so that only the great steel door showed in the centre of the masonry. There was no sign of anything inside, though Medway probed the sides of the interior with a poker taken from the fireplace.
"Absolutely nothing," he said forlornly.
The poker slipped from his hand and clanged on the floor of the safe. The hollow boom followed, at the sound of which Medway pricked up his ears.
"Something strange here," he said. "Just as if there was something in the way of a cavity under the steel door."
"I expect there is," Vera said. "The safe was built over a lift shaft, so Mr. Garnstone told me once."
"You don't say!" Medway cried. "Let me have a light here. Anyone of those electric bulbs will do. Unship one, Mr. Brentford, and let me have it. Miss Zaroff, is there such a thing in the flat as a length of flex."
"In the conservatory," Vera explained. "There are a lot of temporary lights there."
With the aid of his impromptu apparatus, Medway began a close examination of the interior of the safe. Here and there were certain knobs corresponding to others the opposite side. With these Medway began to play. Then something clicked sharply, and immediately the door of the safe began to rise until it fitted like a glove into a series of slots.
But that was not all. With a sort of rumble something came up from the bottom of the old lift shaft and rattled down on the floor of the safe, making a fresh bottom altogether.
"Mr. Garnstone's little secret," Medway chuckled. "He must have employed two separate safe-makers—the second lot that arranged this clever contrivance."
"But look at it!" Brentford cried. "Practically a new safe, and not empty. Packed with stuff."
It was even as he had said. Here was a new deposit crammed with valuables and arranged on shelves, two complete sets of business ledgers and books. There was one lot under the other, and on the top a sealed envelope addressed to Ronald Brentford and Vera Zaroff. It was endorsed in bold lettering. And the endorsement was:
"My Will. To be opened only by those to whom it is addressed."
"Something like a find!" Medway exclaimed. "Better open that envelope without delay."
WITH trembling fingers Vera proceeded to do so. Inside was a smaller envelope containing the Will itself, but covering a letter which Vera proceeded to read.
"This is addressed to you and me, Ronald," she said by way of introduction. "Shall I go on with it?"
Both Brentford and Medway signified assent. Then in a low voice, Vera read as follows:—
"My dear young friends—Sooner or later one must die, and I am no exception to the rule. I am an old man feeling that my time is short. But quite apart from the stern decrees of nature, I have an enemy who will, given the opportunity, anticipate the inevitable end. Whether I deserve that enemy or not is beside the question. When two master criminals fall out, one of them has to go, and that one, I feel sure, will be myself. Hence my fortress home which was not entirely designed for the baffling of thieves though it afforded me an excuse for something dramatic in the way of protection.
"Yes, I am a master criminal. For years I have been living a double life and piling up money at the expense of those who have trusted me and regarded me as the soul of honour. But never have I betrayed the confidence of a friend.
"In common parlance I am a receiver of stolen goods. Perhaps the greatest that ever lived. For years the international police have been searching for me, never dreaming that Professor Garnstone, the leading authority on art treasures was the man.
"But the danger was always there. As I began so I had to continue, and I might have died with my secret buried in the grave. Or I might be murdered before I could make any move in the way of restitution. If I do fall before the knife of my enemy it is possible that the whole sorry story will be told. I am guarding against that as far as I can.
"When the secret of my safe comes to light as it must, I desire that so far as possible my memory shall not be blackened more than is necessary.
"Therefore, ever since my criminal career began I have kept two entirely separate sets of books showing both my legitimate dealings and the fortune arising therefrom and the other fortune I have collected through downright criminal methods. These sets of books will be found in the safe, that is when its secret comes to light. The set of books marked 'A' show the cloven hoof, the set marked 'B' deal only with clean and honest money.
"That part of my fortune is my own, and I can leave it to whom I like. It is a very large sum of money, and you will see by my will that I leave it all to you two in equal shares. In the 'B' ledgers you will find a list of my securities and share certificates which are in the hands of a certain bank in the name of which you will find in one of the honest ledgers.
"But the greater bulk of my money—called 'mine' for the sake of explanation—is in the hands of the bank from whence I draw what is required for illegitimate purposes."
Vera paused, and looked up inquiringly.
"He means," Medway explained, "that the latter bank is whence he drew that £1,000 on the morning of his death. He was careful to keep the two banking accounts quite separate, so that his executors—who will have to know everything needful—can dispose of those ill-gotten gains to the best advantage. You will probably find that these executors are his solicitors. But I shall be greatly surprised if there is any mention of a double set of ledgers in the will."
Vera proceeded with her reading.
"My will does not mention my two accounts. That part is for the ear of you two alone. But my executors must be told. In any case, they could not act legally otherwise."
Vera looked up with a puzzled expression.
"But why make it worse for his memory," she asked.
"It doesn't," Medway said. "Wills are deposited at Somerset House, and anybody on payment of one shilling can read them. Any inquisitive Press man might take it into his head to read the will, and if he did; could make a whole lot of sensational matter out of it. The main contents will be published in the newspapers, especially the amount left, and the beneficiaries, but who is to know, when it becomes necessary to obtain probate with a view to legacy and succession duty, how much the estate is divided between the honest and criminal side? The executors will know that, of course, but so long as the income tax people are satisfied, it matters little how the residue is divided. And there is no reason why you people should refuse to accept the money which is proved to have been honestly earned. It is not often that people who lead a double life are so careful to discriminate."
"Sounds like a logical argument," Brentford said. "But go on Vera. We are interrupting you."
"There is very little more," Vera said. With that she took up the story again.
"I nominate as my executors the firm of solicitors whose name appears in this will. They drew up the document, and have a draft of it. I am getting tired of writing, and my head is so in a whirl that I repeat myself. I do hope that this money will bring you more happiness than it has ever brought me, and if you decide to share it as man and wife, it will mean a consummation I have long desired.
"Your affectionate friend,"
There was a long silence as Vera concluded.
"And the next thing to do?" Brentford asked.
"The lawyers," Medway suggested. "The rest is up to them. If I were you I should lock up the safe, and lose no time in getting round to Lincoln's Inn Fields with a view to placing both the key and the will in the hands of the executors. I shouldn't open one of those books even."
Brentford seemed to think this good advice so that he and Vera set out at once for the offices of the lawyers who would handle the case in future. After some little time they managed to obtain an interview with the head of the firm, who, for once in his dry, legal life, was astonished at the story his clients had to tell. He sat for quite a long time grasping his chin when he had read the letter. Then he compared it with the will before he ventured on an opinion.
"You did quite right in coming straight here," he said in his most judicial manner. "Really a most amazing story. Of course certain things, not to the credit of my late client, came out at the trial of Tanberg, but that will soon be forgotten and we can manage to keep the rest a secret between us. Also it was wise to bring us the key of the safe. For the moment things must remain in our hands."
"Of course," Brentford agreed.
"So for the present, we will wish you good morning."
* * * *
It was some months before the tangled skein was unravelled, but the time came when the executors reported that everything was in order, and restitution as far as it was possible made to those who had suffered at Garnstone's hands. When the safe came to be examined it was found to contain a wealth of treasures including most of the priceless stuff stolen from Lord Glenday. No doubt, as Medway pointed out, this was what Tanberg was after when Garnstone met his death. But as to that Tanberg said nothing. He went to his appointed end without saying one single word about himself from the day of his conviction until he stood on the scaffold with the hangman's rope about his neck.
With the future more or less assured, Brentford failed to see why he and Vera should wait any longer. Ronnie's idea was to buy some ideal house in the country and settle down there as a sportsman and gentleman farmer. "I have had quite enough wandering," he told Vera, "and you don't want any more adventures."
"Indeed, I don't darling," Vera agreed fervently. "A country life in England would be ideal."
"Then why wait any longer," Brentford urged. "Let us lose no time in looking around. What else is our new car for? Do you mind trying Sussex first?"
"Anywhere so long as it is with you," Vera murmured.
And so it was decided. The Ideal Sussex house was found complete with its Jacobean furniture, and only a quiet wedding was needed now to round off the romance. Medway acted as best man in an otherwise empty church after which the party made their way to the Carlton for a modest wedding breakfast.
And there a surprise awaited them in the person of Lord Glenday apparently in jovial mood.
"I feel very much hurt," he said. "All things considered I think I ought to have been asked to the wedding. I only learnt of it by accident at the last moment. But I am not going to be done out of my one chance of saluting the bride and giving her a suitable wedding present."
With that the great man stooped and laid his lips on Vera's blushing cheek. At the same time he handed her a substantial looking packet. "Just a little reminder," he said. "Open it."
Vera gave a little cry of pleasure as she tore off the covering, and exposed the famous gold cup to view.
"Oh, how generous of you," she cried. "I shall treasure this always, the one thing that links my old home to the new. I am the happiest girl in England, to-day!"
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