The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter XII. The Third Murder
Fullaway's exclamation was followed by a murmur of astonishment from Celia, and by a low growl which meant many things from Allerdyke. The chief turned the banknotes over silently, moved to his desk, and picked up a reference book.
"I'm not very familiar with Russian money--paper or otherwise," he remarked. "How much does this represent in ours, now?"
"I can tell you that," said Fullaway, taking the wad of notes and rapidly counting them. "Five hundred pounds English," he announced. "And you see that all the notes are new--don't forget to note that."
"Yes?--what do you argue from it?" asked the chief, with obvious interest. "It proves--what?"
"That these notes were given to this woman in Russia, recently--most likely in St. Petersburg," replied the American. "And, in my opinion, their presence--their discovery--proves more. It suggests at any rate that this woman, the dead maid, was a tool in the conspiracy to rob Miss Lennard and Mr. James Allerdyke, that this money is her reward, or part of it, and that the whole scheme was hatched and engineered in Russia."
"Good!" muttered Allerdyke. "Now we're getting to business."
"We shall have to get some evidence from Russia," observed the chief meditatively. "That's very evident. If the thing began there, or was put into active shape there--"
"The Princess Nastirsevitch is on her way now," said Fullaway. He pulled out his pocket-book, and began searching amongst its papers. "Here you are," he continued producing a cablegram. "That's from the Princess--you see she says she's leaving for London at once, via Berlin and Calais, and will call upon me at my hotel as soon as she arrives. Now, that was sent off two days ago--she'd leave St. Petersburg that night. It's seventy-two hours' journey--three days. She'll be in London tomorrow evening."
The chief sat down at his desk and picked up a pen.
"Give me your addresses please, all of you," he said. "Then I can communicate with you at any moment. Miss Lennard, you mentioned Bedford Court Mansions. What number? Right.--yours, Mr. Fullaway, is the Waldorf Hotel--permanently there? Very good. You, Mr. Allerdyke, live in Bradford? It will be advisable, if you really want to clear up the mystery of your cousin's death, to remain in town for a few days, at any rate--now that we've got all this in hand, you'd better be close to the centre of things. Can you give me an address here?"
"I've a London office," answered Allerdyke. "I can always be heard of there when I'm in town. Allerdyke and Partners, Limited, Gresham Street--ask for Mr. Marshall Allerdyke. But as I'll have to put up here, I'll go to the Waldorf, with Mr. Fullaway, so if you want me you'll find me there. And look here," he went on, as the chief noted these particulars, "I want to know, to have some idea, you know, of what's going to be done. I tell you, I'll spare no time, labour, or expense in getting at the bottom of this! If it's a question of money, say the word, and--"
"All right, Mr. Allerdyke, leave it to us--for the present," said the chief, with an understanding smile. "I know what you mean. We're only beginning. This affair is doubtless a big thing, as Mr. Fullaway has suggested, and it will need some clever work. Now, at present, this case--the joint case of the Hull affair and the Eastbourne Terrace affair, for they're without doubt both parts of one serious whole--is in the hands of two of my best men. This is one of them: Detective-Sergeant Blindway. If and when Blindway wants any of you, he'll come to you. Miss Lennard, you'll be wanted at the inquest on your late maid--the Coroner's officer will let you know when. You two gentlemen will doubtless go with Miss Lennard. You'll all three certainly be wanted at that adjourned inquest at Hull. Now, that's all--except that when you, Miss Lennard, return home, you must at once begin searching for the references you had with your maid--let me have them as soon as they're found--and that you, Mr. Fullaway, must bring the Princess Nastirsevitch here as soon as you can after her arrival."
Outside New Scotland Yard Celia Lennard relieved her feelings with a fervent exclamation.
"I wish I'd never spent a penny on pearls or diamonds in my life!" she said vehemently. "Insane folly! What good have they done? Leading to all this bother, and to murder. What fools women are! All that money thrown away!--for of course I shall never see a sign of them again!"
"That's a rather hopeless way of looking at it," observed Fullaway. "You've got the cleverest police in Europe on the search for them; also you've got our friend Allerdyke and myself on the run, and we're neither of us exactly brainless. So hasten home in this taxi-cab, get some lunch, have an hour's nap, and then begin putting your papers straight and looking for those references. Search well!--you don't know what depends on it."
He and Allerdyke strolled up Whitehall when Celia had gone--in silence at first, both wrapped in meditation.
"There's only one thing one can say with any certainty about this affair, Allerdyke," remarked the American at last, "and that is precisely what the man we've been talking to said--it's a big do. The folk at the back of it are smart and clever and daring. We'll need all our wits. Well, come along to the Waldorf and let's lunch--then we'll talk some more. There's little to be done till the Princess turns up tomorrow."
"There's one thing I want to do at once," said Allerdyke. "If I'm going to stop in town I must wire to my housekeeper to send me clothes and linen, and to the manager at my mill. Then I'm with you--and I wish to Heaven we'd something to do! What I can't stand is this forced inaction, this hanging about, waiting, wondering, speculating--and doing naught!"
"We may be in action before you know it's at hand," said Fullaway. "In these cases you never know what a minute may bring forth. All we can do is to be ready."
He led the way to the nearest telegraph office and waited while Allerdyke sent off his messages. The performance of even this small task seemed to restore the Yorkshireman's spirits--he came away smiling.
"I've told my housekeeper to pack a couple of trunks with what I want, and to send my chauffeur, Gaffney, up with them, by the next express," he said. "I feel better after doing that. He's a smart chap, Gaffney--the sort that might be useful at a pinch. If any one wanted anything ferreted out, now!--he's the sense of an Airedale terrier, that chap!"
"High praise," laughed Fullaway. "And original too. Well, let's fix up and get some food, and then we'll go into my private rooms and have a talk over the situation."
Mr. Franklin Fullaway, following a certain modern fashion, introduced into life by twentieth-century company promoters and magnates of the high finance, had established his business quarters at his hotel. It was a wise and pleasant thing to do, he explained to Allerdyke; you had the advantage of living over the shop, as it were; of being able to go out of your private sitting-room into your business office; you had the bright and pleasant surroundings; you had, moreover, all the various rooms and saloons of a first-rate hotel wherein to entertain your clients if need be. Certainly you had to pay for these advantages and luxuries, but no more than you would have to lay out in the rents, rates, and taxes of palatial offices in a first-class business quarter.
"And my line of business demands luxurious fittings," remarked the American, as he installed Allerdyke in a sybaritic armchair and handed him a box of big cigars of a famous brand. "You're not the first millionaire that's come to anchor in that chair, you know!"
"If they're millionaires in penny-pieces, maybe not," answered Allerdyke. He lighted a cigar and glanced appraisingly at his surroundings--at the thick velvet pile of the carpets, the fine furniture, the bookcases filled with beautiful bindings, the choice bits of statuary, the two or three unmistakably good pictures. "Doing good business, I reckon?" he said, with true Yorkshire curiosity. "What's it run to, now?"
Fullaway showed his fine white teeth in a genial laugh.
"Oh, I've turned over two and three millions in a year in this little den!" he answered cheerily. "Varies, you know, according to what people have got to sell, and what good buyers there are knocking around."
"You keep a bit of sealing wax, of course?" suggested Allerdyke. "Take care that some of the brass sticks when you handle it, no doubt?"
"Commission and percentage, of course," responded Fullaway.
"Ah, well, you've an advantage over chaps like me," said Allerdyke. "Now, you shall take my case. We've made a pile of money in our firm, grandfather, father, and myself; but, Lord, man, you wouldn't believe what our expenses have been! Building mills, fitting machinery--and then, wages! Why, I pay wages to six hundred workpeople every Friday afternoon! Our wages bill runs to well over fourteen hundred pound a week. You've naught of that sort, of course--no great staff to keep up?"
"No," answered Fullaway. He nodded his head towards the door of a room through which they had just passed on their way into the agent's private apartments. "All the staff I have is the young lady you just saw--Mrs. Marlow. Invaluable!"
"Married woman?" inquired Allerdyke laconically.
"Young widow," answered Fullaway just as tersely. "Excellent business woman--been with me ever since I came here--three years. Speaks and writes several languages--well educated, good knowledge of my particular line of business. American--I knew her people very well. Of course, I don't require much assistance--merely clerical help, but it's got to be of a highly intelligent and specialized sort."
"Leave your business in her hands if need be, I reckon?" suggested Allerdyke, with a sidelong nod at the closed door.
"In ordinary matters, yes--comfortably," answered Fullaway. "She's a bit a specialist in two things that I'm mainly concerned in--pictures and diamonds. She can tell a genuine Old Master at a glance, and she knows a lot about diamonds--her father was in that trade at one time, out in South Africa."
"Clever woman to have," observed Allerdyke; "knows all your business, of course?"
"All the surface business," said Fullaway, "naturally! Anything but a confidential secretary would be useless to me, you know."
"Just so," agreed Allerdyke. "Told her about this affair yet?"
"I've had no chance so far," replied Fullaway. "I shall take her advice about it--she's a cute woman."
"Smart-looking, sure enough," said Allerdyke. He let his mind dwell for a moment on the picture which Mrs. Marlow had made as Fullaway led him through the office--a very well-gowned, pretty, alert, piquant little woman, still on the sunny side of thirty, who had given him a sharp glance out of unusually wide-awake eyes. "Aye, women are clever nowadays, no doubt--they'd show their grandmothers how to suck eggs in a good many new fashions. Well, now," he went on, stretching his long legs over Fullaway's beautiful Persian rug, "what do you make of this affair, Fullaway, in its present situation? There's no doubt that everything's considerably altered by what we've heard of this morning. Do you really think that this French maid affair is all of a piece, as one may term it, with the affair of my cousin James?"
"Yes--without doubt," replied Fullaway. "I believe the two affairs all spring from the same plot. That plot, in my opinion, has originated from a clever gang who, somehow or other, got to know that Mr. James Allerdyke was bringing over the Princess Nastirsevitch's jewels, and who also turned their eyes on Zelie de Longarde's valuables. The French maid, Lisette, was probably nothing but a tool, a cat's paw, and she, having done her work, has been cleverly removed so that she could never split. Further--"
A quiet knock at the door just then prefaced the entrance of Mrs. Marlow, who gave her employer an inquiring glance.
"Mr. Blindway to see you," she announced. "Shall I show him in?"
"At once!" replied Fullaway. He leapt from his chair, and going to the door called to the detective to enter. "News?" he asked excitedly, when Mrs. Marlow had retired, closing the door again. "What is it--important?"
The detective, who looked very solemn, drew a letter-case from his pocket, and slowly produced a telegram.
"Important enough," he answered. "This case is assuming a very strange complexion, gentlemen. This arrived from Hull half an hour ago, and the chief thought I'd better bring it on to you at once. You see what it is--"
He held the telegram out to both men, and they read it together, Fullaway muttering the words as he read--
From Chief Constable, Hull, to Superintendent C.I.D., New Scotland Yard.
Dr. Lydenberg, concerned in Allerdyke case, was shot dead in High Street here this morning by unseen person, who is up to now unarrested and to whose identity we have no clue.