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XIII. Connor Takes a
IT is an axiom at Scotland Yard, "Beware of an audience." Enemies of our police system advance many and curious reasons for this bashfulness. In particular they place a sinister interpretation upon the desire of the police to carry out their work without fuss and without ostentation, for the police have an embarrassing system of midnight arrests. Unless you advertise the fact, or unless your case is of sufficient importance to merit notice in the evening newspapers, there is no reason why your disappearance from society should excite comment, or why the excuse, put forward for your absence from your accustomed haunts, that you have gone abroad should not be accepted without question.
Interviewing his wise chief, Angel received some excellent advice.
"If you've got to arrest him, do it quietly. If, as you suggest, he barricades himself in his house, or takes refuge in his patent vault, leave him alone. We want no fuss, and we want no newspaper sensations. If you can square up the Reale business without arresting him, by all means do so. We shall probably get him in er what do you call it, Angel? oh, yes, 'the ordinary way of business.'"
"Very good, sir," said Angel, nothing loth to carry out the plan.
"From what I know of this class of man," the Assistant-Commissioner went on, fingering his grizzled moustache, "he will do nothing. He will go about his daily life as though nothing had happened; you will find him in his office this morning, and if you went to arrest him you'd be shot dead. No, if you take my advice you'll leave him severely alone for the present. He won't run away."
So Angel thanked his chief and departed.
Throughout the morning he was obsessed by a desire to see the lawyer. By midday this had become so overmastering that he put on his hat and sauntered down to Lincoln's Inn Fields.
"Yes, Mr. Spedding was in," said a sober clerk, and after consulting his employer "Mr. Spedding would see him"
The lawyer was sitting behind a big desk covered with beribboned bundles of papers. He greeted Angel with a smile, and pointed to a chair on the other side of the desk.
"I've been in court most of the morning," he said blandly, "but I'm at liberty for half an hour. What can I do for you?"
Angel looked at him in undisguised admiration.
"You're a wonderful chap," he said with a shake of his head.
"You're admiring me," said the lawyer, fingering a paperknife, "in very much the same way as an enthusiastic naturalist admires the markings of a horned viper."
"That is very nicely put," said Angel truthfully.
The lawyer had dropped his eyes on to the desk before him; then he looked up.
"What is it to be?" he asked.
"A truce," said Angel.
"I thought you would say that," replied Spedding comfortably, "because I suppose you know "
"Oh, yes," said Angel with nonchalant ease, "I know that the right hand which is so carelessly reposing on your knee holds a weapon of remarkable precision."
"You are well advised," said the lawyer, with a slight bow.
"Of course," said Angel, "there is a warrant in existence for your arrest."
"Of course," agreed Spedding politely.
"I got it as a precautionary measure," Angel went on in his most affable manner.
"Naturally," said the lawyer; "and now "
"Oh, now," said Angel, "I wanted to give you formal notice that, on behalf of Miss Kent, we intend opening the safe tomorrow."
"I will be there," said the lawyer, and rang a bell.
"And," added Angel in a lower voice, "keep out of Jimmy's way."
Spedding's lips twitched, the only sign of nervousness he had shown during the interview, but he made no reply. As the clerk stood waiting at the open door, Spedding, with his most gracious smile, said
"Er and did you get home safely this morning?"
"Quite, thank you," replied Angel, in no wise perturbed by the man's audacity.
"Did you find your country quarters er comfortable?"
"Perfectly," said Angel, rising to the occasion, "but the function was a failure."
"The function?" The lawyer bit at the bait Angel had thrown.
"Yes," said the detective, his hand on the door, "the house-warming, you know."
Angel chuckled to himself all the way back to the Embankment. His grim little jest pleased him so much that he must needs call in and tell his chief, and the chief's smile was very flattering.
"You're a bright boy," he said, "but when the day comes for you to arrest that lawyer gentleman, I trust you will, as a precautionary measure, purge your soul of all frivolities, and prepare yourself for a better world."
"If," said Angel, "I do not see the humorous side of being killed, I shall regard my life as badly ended."
"Get out," ordered the Commissioner, and Angel got.
He realized as the afternoon wore on that he was very tired, and snatched a couple of hours' sleep before keeping the appointment he had made with Jimmy earlier in the day. Whilst he was dressing Jimmy came in Jimmy rather white, with a surgical bandage round his head, and carrying with him the pungent scent of iodoform.
"Hullo," said Angel in astonishment, "what on earth have you been doing?"
Jimmy cast an eye round the room in search of the most luxurious chair before replying.
"Ah," he said with a sigh of contentment as he seated himself, "that's better."
Angel pointed to the bandage.
"When did this happen?"
"An hour or so ago," said Jimmy. "Spedding is a most active man."
"Conventionally?" he asked.
"Artistically," responded Jimmy, nodding his bandaged head. "A runaway motor-car that followed my cab beautifully done. The cab-horse was killed and the driver has a concussion, but I saw the wheeze and jumped."
"Got the chauffeur?" asked Angel anxiously.
"Yes; it was in the City. You know the City police? Well, they had him in three seconds. He tried to bolt, but that's a fool's game in the City."
"Was it Spedding's chauffeur?"
Jimmy smiled pityingly.
"Of course not. That's where the art of the thing comes in."
Angel looked grave for a minute.
"I think we ought to 'pull' our friend," he said.
"I don't agree with you," said Jimmy. "It would be ever so much more comfortable for you and me, but it will be ever so much better to finish up the Reale business first."
"Great minds!" murmured Angel, remembering his chief's advice. "I suppose Mr. Spedding will lay for me tonight."
"You can bet your life on that," said Jimmy cheerfully.
As he was speaking, a servant came into the room with a letter. When the man had gone, Angel opened and read it. His grin grew broader as he perused it.
"Listen!" he said. "It's from Miss Kent."
Jimmy was all attention.
"Dear Mr. Angel,
"Spedding has trapped me again. Whilst I was shopping this afternoon, two men came up to me and asked me to accompany them. They said they were police officers, and wanted me in connection with last night's affair. I was so worried that I went with them. They took me to a strange house in Kensington... For Heaven's sake, come to me!... "
Jimmy's face was so white that Angel thought he would faint.
"The hounds!" he cried. "Angel, we must "
"You must sit down," said Angel, "or you'll be having a fit."
He examined the letter again. "It's beautifully done," he said. "Scrawled on a torn draper's bill in pencil, it might very easily be her writing."
He put the missive carefully in a drawer of his desk, and locked it.
"Unfortunately for the success of that scheme, Mr. Spedding, I have four men watching Miss Kent's house day and night, and being in telephonic communication, I happen to know that that young lady has not left her house all day."
He looked at Jimmy, white and shaking.
"Buck up, Jimmy," he said kindly. "Your bang on the head has upset you more than you think."
"But the letter?" asked Jimmy.
"A little fake," said Angel airily, "Mr. Spedding's little ballon d'essai, so foolishly simple that I think Spedding must be losing his nerve and balance. I'd like to bet that this house is being watched to see the effect of the note." (Angel would have won his bet.) "Now the only question is, what little program have they arranged for me this evening?"
Jimmy was thoughtful.
"I don't know," he said slowly, "but I should think it would be wiser for you to keep indoors. You might make me up a bed in your sitting-room, and if there is any bother, we can share it."
"And whistle to keep my courage up?" sneered Angel. "I'll make you up a bed with all the pleasure in life; but I'm going out, Jimmy, and I'll take you with me, if you'll agree to come along and find a man who will replace that conspicuous white bandage by something less blood-curdling."
They found a man in Devonshire Place who was a mutual friend of both. He was a specialist in unpronounceable diseases, a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George, a Fellow of the two Colleges, and the author of half a dozen works of medical science. Angel addressed him as "Bill"
The great surgeon deftly dressed the damaged head of Jimmy, and wisely asked no questions. He knew them both, and had been at Oxford with one, and he permitted himself to indulge in caustic comments on their mode of life and the possibilities of their end.
"If you didn't jaw so much," said Angel, "I'd employ you regularly; as it is, I am very doubtful if I shall ever bring you another case."
"For which," said Sir William Farran, as he clipped the loose ends of the dressing, "I am greatly obliged to you, Angel Esquire. You are the sort of patient I like to see about once a year just about Christmas-time, when I am surfeited with charity toward mankind, when I need a healthy moral corrective to tone down the bright picture to its normal grayness that's the time you're welcome, Angel."
"Fine!" said Angel ecstatically. "I'd like to see that sentence in a book, with illustrations."
The surgeon smiled good-humouredly. He put a final touch to the dressing.
"There you are," he said. "Thank you, Bill," said Jimmy. "You're getting fat."
"Thank you for nothing," said the surgeon indignantly.
Angel struck a more serious tone when he asked the surgeon in an undertone, just as they were taking their departure
"Where will you be tonight?"
The surgeon consulted a little engagement book.
"I am dining at the 'Ritz' with some people at eight. We are going on to the Gaiety afterwards, and I shall be home by twelve. Why?"
"There's a gentleman," said Angel confidentially, "who will make a valiant attempt to kill one of us, or both of us tonight, and he might just fail; so it would be as well to know where you are, if you are wanted. Mind you," added Angel with a grin, "you might be wanted for him."
"You're a queer bird," said the surgeon, "and Jimmy's a queerer one. Well, off you go, you two fellows; you'll be getting my house a bad name."
Outside in the street the two ingrates continued their discussion on the corpulence that attends success in life.
They walked leisurely to Piccadilly, and turned towards the circus. It is interesting to record the fact that for no apparent reason they struck off into side streets, made unexpected excursions into adjoining squares, took unnecessary short cuts through mews, and finally, finding themselves at the Oxford Street end of Charing Cross Road, they hailed a hansom, and drove eastward rapidly. Angel shouted up some directions through the trap in the roof.
"I am moved to give the two gentlemen who are following me what in sporting parlance is called 'a run for their money,'" he said.
He lifted the flap at the back of the cab, glanced through the little window, and groaned. Then he gave fresh directions to the cabman.
"Drive to the 'Troc,'" he called, and to Jimmy he added, "If we must die, let us die full of good food."
In the thronged grill-room of the brightly-lighted restaurant the two men found a table so placed that it commanded a view of the room. They took their seats, and whilst Jimmy ordered the dinner Angel watched the stream of people entering.
He saw a dapper little man, with swarthy face and coal-black eyes, eyebrows and moustache, come through the glass doors. He stood for a breathing space at the door, his bright eyes flashing from face to face. Then he caught Angel's steady gaze, and his eyes rested a little longer on the pair. Then Angel beckoned him. He hesitated for a second, then walked slowly toward them.
Jimmy pulled a chair from the table, and again he hesitated as if in doubt; then slowly he seated himself, glancing from one to the other suspiciously.
"Monsieur Callvet, ne c'est pas?" asked Angel.
"That is my name," the other answered in French.
"Permit me to introduce myself,"
"I know you," said the little man shortly. "You are a detective."
"It is my fortune," said Angel, ignoring the bitterness in the man's tone.
"You wish to speak to me?"
"Yes," replied Angel. "First, I would ask why you have been following us for the last hour?"
The man shrugged his shoulders.
"Monsieur is mistaken."
Jimmy had been very quiet during the evening. Now he addressed the Frenchman.
"Callvet," he said briefly, "do you know who I am?"
"Yes, you are also a detective."
Jimmy looked him straight in the eyes.
"I am not a detective, Callvet, as you well know. I am" he felt an unusual repugnance at using the next words "I am Jimmy of Cairo. You know me?"
"I have heard of you," said the man doggedly.
"What you are now I do not know," said Jimmy contemptuously. "I have known you as all things as an ornament of the young Egypt party, as a tout for Reale, as a trader in beastliness."
The conversation was in colloquial French, and Jimmy used a phrase which is calculated to raise the hair of the most brazen scoundrel. But this man shrugged his shoulders and rose to go. Jimmy caught his sleeve and detained him.
"Callvet," he said, "go back to Mr. Spedding, your employer, and tell him the job is too dangerous. Tell him that one of the men, at least, knows enough about you to send you to New Caledonia, or else "
"Or else?" demanded the man defiantly.
"Or else," said Jimmy in his hesitating way, "I'll be sending word to the French Ambassador that 'Monsieur Plessey' is in London."
The face of the man turned a sickly green.
"Monsieur je n'en vois pas la nιcessitι," he muttered.
"And who is Plessey?" asked Angel when the man had gone.
"A murderer greatly wanted by the French police," said Jimmy, "and Spedding has well chosen his instrument. Angel, there will be trouble before the evening is over."
They ate their dinner in silence, lingering over the coffee. The Frenchman had taken a table at the other side of the room. Once when Angel went out he made as though to leave, but seeing that Jimmy did not move, he changed his mind.
Angel dawdled through the sweet, and took an unconscionable time over his coffee. Jimmy, fretting to be gone, groaned as his volatile companion ordered yet another liqueur.
"That's horribly insidious muck to drink," grumbled Jimmy.
"Inelegant, but true," said Angel.
He was amused at the obvious efforts of the spy at the other table to kill time also. Then suddenly Angel rose, leaving his drink untasted, and reached for his hat.
"Come along," he said briskly.
"This is very sudden," remarked the impatient Jimmy.
They walked to the desk and paid their bill, and out of the corner of his eye Angel could see the dapper Frenchman following them out.
They stepped out along Shaftesbury Avenue; then Jimmy stopped and fumbled in his pocket. In his search he turned round, facing the direction from which he had come. The dapper Frenchman was sauntering toward him, whilst behind him came two roughly-dressed men. Then Jimmy saw the two men quicken their pace Passing one on each side of Callvet, each took an arm affectionately, and the three turned into Rupert Street, Angel and Jimmy following.
Jimmy saw the three bunched together, and heard the click of the handcuffs. Then Angel whistled a passing cab. The captive's voice rose. "Stick a handkerchief in his mouth," said Angel, and one of the men obeyed. The two stood watching the cab till it turned the corner.
"There is no sense in taking unnecessary risks," said Angel cheerfully. "It is one thing being a fool, and another being a silly fool. Now we'll go along and see what else happens."
He explained as he proceeded
"I've wanted Callvet for quite a long time he's on the list, so to speak. I lost sight of him a year ago. How Spedding got him is a mystery. If the truth be told, he's got a nodding acquaintance with half the crooks in London... had a big criminal practice before he went into the more lucrative side of the law."
A big crowd had gathered at the corner of the Haymarket, and with one accord they avoided it.
"Curiosity," Angel prattled on, "has been the undoing of many a poor soul. Keep away from crowds, Jimmy."
They walked on till they came to Angel's flat in Jermyn Street.
"Spedding will duplicate and triplicate his schemes for catching us tonight," said Jimmy.
"He will," agreed Angel, and opened the door of the house in which his rooms were. The narrow passageway, in which a light usually burned day and night, was in darkness.
"Oh, no," said Angel, stepping back into the street, "oh, indeed no!"
During their walk Jimmy had had a suspicion that they had been followed. This suspicion was confirmed when Angel whistled, and two men crossed the road and joined them.
"Lend me your lamp, Johnson," said Angel, and taking the bright little electric lamp in his hand, he entered the passage, followed by the others. They reached the foot of the stairs, then Angel reached back his hand without a word, and one of the two men placed therein a stick. Cautiously the party advanced up the stairway that led to Angel's room.
"Somebody has been here," said Angel, and pointed to a patch of mud on the carpet. The door was ajar, and Jimmy sent it open with a kick; then Angel put his arm cautiously into the room and turned on the light, and the party waited in the darkness for a movement.
There was no sign, and they entered. It did not require any great ingenuity to see that the place had been visited. Half-opened drawers, their contents thrown on the floor, and all the evidence of a hurried search met their eyes.
They passed from the little sitting-room to the bedroom, and here again the visitors had left traces of their investigations.
"Hullo!" Jimmy stopped and picked up a soft felt hat. He looked inside; the dull lining bore the name of an Egyptian hatter. "Connor's!" he said.
"Ah!" said Angel softly, "so Connor takes a hand, does he?"
One of the detectives who had followed them in grasped Angel's arm.
"Look, sir!" he whispered.
Half-hidden by the heavy hangings of the window, a man crouched in the shadow.
"Come out of that!" cried Angel.
Then something in the man's attitude arrested his speech. He slipped forward and pulled back the curtain.
"Connor!" he cried.
Connor it was indeed, stone dead, with a bullet hole in the centre of his forehead.