The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter XIII. Ambler Appleyard
Fullaway laid the telegram down on his table and looked from it to the detective.
"Shot dead--High Street--this morning?" he said wonderingly. "Why!--that means, of course, in broad daylight--in a busy street, I suppose? And yet--no clue. How could a man be shot dead under such circumstances without the murderer being seen and followed?"
"You don't know Hull very well," remarked Allerdyke, who had been pulling his moustache and frowning over the telegram, "else you'd know how that could be done easy enough in High Street. High Street," he went on, turning to the detective, "is the oldest street in the town. It's the old merchant street. Half of it--lower end--is more or less in ruins. There are old houses there which aren't tenanted. Back of these houses are courts and alleys and queer entries, leading on one side to the river, and on the other to side streets. A man could be lured into one of those places and put out of the way easily and quietly enough. Or he could be shot by anybody lurking in one of those houses, and the murderer could be got away unobserved with the greatest ease. That's probably what's happened--I know that street as well as I know by own house--I'm not surprised by that! What I'm surprised about is to hear that Lydenberg has been shot at all. And the question is--is his murder of a piece with all the rest of this damnable mystery, or is it clean apart from it? Understand, Fullaway?"
"I'm thinking," answered the American. "It takes a lot of thinking, too."
"You see," continued Allerdyke, turning to Blindway again, "we're all in a hole--in a regular fog. We know naught! literally naught. This Lydenberg was a foreigner--Swede, Norwegian, Dane, or something. We know nothing of him, except that he said he'd come to Hull on business. He may have been shot for all sorts of reasons--private, political. We don't know. But--mark me!--if his murder's connected with the others, if it's all of a piece with my cousin's murder, and that French girl's, why then--"
He paused, shaking his head emphatically, and the other two, impressed by his earnestness, waited until he spoke again.
"Then," he continued at last, after a space of silence, during which he seemed to be reflecting with added strenuousness--"then, by Heaven! we're up against something that's going to take it out of us before we get at the truth. That's a dead certainty. If this is all conspiracy, it's a big 'un--a colossal thing! What say, Fullaway?"
"I should say you're right," replied Fullaway. "I've been trying to figure things up while you talked, though I gave you both ears. It looks as if this Lydenberg had been shot in order to keep his tongue quiet forever. Maybe he knew something, and was likely to split. What are your people going to do about this?" he asked turning to the detective. "I suppose you'll go down to Hull at once?"
"I shan't," answered Blindway. "I've enough to do here. One of our men has already gone--he's on his way. We shall have to wait for news. I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Allerdyke--it's a big thing, a very big thing. If Mr. Allerdyke's cousin was really murdered, and if the Frenchwoman's death arose out of that, and now Lydenberg's, there's a clever combination at work. And--where's the least clue to it?"
Allerdyke helped himself to a fresh cigar out of a box which lay on Fullaway's table, lighted it, and smoked in silence for a minute or two. The other men, feeling instinctively that he was thinking, waited.
"Look you here!" he exclaimed suddenly. "Clue? Yes, that's what we want. Where's that clue likely to be found? Why, in this, and this only--who knew, person or persons, that my cousin was bringing those jewels from the Princess Nastirsevitch to this country? Get to know that, and it narrows the field, d'ye see?"
"There's the question of Miss Lennard's jewels, too," remarked Fullaway.
"That may be--perhaps was--a side-issue," said Allerdyke. "It may have come into the big scheme as an after-thought. But, anyway, that's what we want--a first clue. And I don't see how that's to be got at until this Princess arrives here. You see, she may have talked, she may have let it out in confidence--to somebody who abused her confidence. What is certain is that somebody must have got to know of this proposed deal between the Princess and your man, Fullaway, and have laid plans accordingly to rob the Princess's messenger--my cousin James. D'ye see, the deal was known of at two ends--to you here, to this Princess, through James, over there, in Russia. Now, then, where did the secret get out? Did it get out there, or here?"
"Not here, of course!" answered Fullaway, with emphasis. "That's dead sure. Over there, of a certainty. The robbery was engineered from there."
"Then, in that case, there's naught to do but wait the arrival of the Princess," said Allerdyke. "And you say she'll be here to-morrow night. In the meantime no doubt you police gentlemen'll get more news about this last affair at Hull, and perhaps Miss Lennard'll find those references about the Frenchwoman, and maybe we shall mop things up bit by bit--for mopped up they'll have to be, or my name isn't what it is! Fullaway," he went on, rising from his chair, "I'll have to leave you--yon man o' mine'll be arriving from Yorkshire with my things before long, and I must go down to the hotel office and make arrangements about him. See you later--at dinner to-night, here, eh?"
He lounged away through the outer office, giving the smart lady secretary a keen glance as he passed her and getting an equally scrutinizing, if swift, look in return.
"Clever!" mused Allerdyke as he closed the door behind him. "Deuced clever, that young woman. Um--well, it's a pretty coil, to be sure!"
He went down to the office, made full and precise arrangements about Gaffney, who was to be given a room close to his own, left some instructions as to what was to be done with him on arrival, and then, hands in pockets, strolled out into Aldwych and walked towards the Strand, his eyes bent on the ground as if he strove to find in those hard pavements some solution of all these difficulties. And suddenly he lifted his head and muttered a few emphatic words half aloud, regardless of whoever might overhear them.
"I wish to Heaven I'd a right good, hard-headed Yorkshireman to talk to!" he said. "A chap with some gumption about him! These Cockneys and Americans are all very well in their way, but--"
Then he pulled himself up sharply. An idea, a name, had flashed into his mental field of vision as if sent in answer to his prayer. And still regardless of bystanders he slapped his thigh delightedly.
"Ambler Appleyard!" he exclaimed. "The very man! Here, you!"
The last two words were addressed to a taxi-cab driver whose car stood at the head of the line by the Gaiety Theatre. Allerdyke crossed from the pavement and jumped in.
"Run down to this end of Gresham Street," he said. "Go quick as you can."
He wondered as he sped along the crowded London streets why he had not thought of Ambler Appleyard before. Ambler Appleyard was the manager of his own London warehouse, a smart, clever, pushing young Bradford man who had been in charge of the London business of Allerdyke and Partners, Limited, for the last three years. He had come to London with his brains already sharpened--three years of business life in the Metropolis had made them all the sharper. Allerdyke rubbed his hands with satisfaction. Exchange of confidence with a fellow-Yorkshireman was the very thing he wanted.
He got out of his cab at the Aldersgate end of Gresham Street, and walked quickly along until he came to a highly polished brass plate on which his own name was deeply engraven. Running up a few steps into a warehouse stored with neat packages of dress goods, he encountered a couple of warehousemen engaged in sorting and classifying a consignment of fabrics just arrived from Bradford. Allerdyke, whose visits to his London warehouse were fairly frequent, and usually without notice, nodded affably to both and walked across the floor to an inner office. He opened the door without ceremony, closed it carefully behind him, and stepping forward to the occupant of the room, who sat busily writing at a desk, with his back to the entrant, and continued to write without moving or looking round, gave him a resounding smack on the shoulder.
"The very man I want, Ambler, my lad!" he said. "Sit up!"
Ambler Appleyard raised his head, slowly twisted in his revolving chair, and looked quietly at his employer. And Allerdyke, dropping into an easy-chair by the fireplace, over which hung a fine steel engraving of himself, flanked by photographs of the Bradford mills and the Bradford warehouse, looked at his London manager, secretly admiring the shrewdness and self-possession evidenced in the young man's face. Appleyard was certainly no beauty; his outstanding features were sandy-coloured hair, freckled cheeks, a snub nose, and a decidedly wide mouth; moreover, his ears, unusually large, stood out from the sides of his head in very prominent fashion, and gave a beholder the impression that they were perpetually stretched to attention. But he was the owner of a well-shaped forehead, a pair of steady and honest blue eyes, and a firmly cut square chin, and his entire atmosphere conveyed the idea of capacity, resource, and energy. It pleased Allerdyke, too, to see that the young man was attentive to his own personal appearance--his well-cut garments bore the undoubted stamp of the Savile Row tailor; the silk hat which covered his crop of sandy hair was the latest thing in Sackville Street headgear; from top to toe he was the smart man-about-town. And that was the sort of man Marshall Allerdyke liked to have about him, and to see as heads of his departments--not fops, nor dandies, but men who knew the commercial value of good appearance and smart finish.
"I didn't know you were in town, Mr. Allerdyke," said the London manager quietly. "Still, one never knows where you are these days."
"I've scarcely known that myself, my lad, these last seventy-two hours," replied Allerdyke. "You mightn't think it, but at this time yesterday I was going full tilt up to Edinburgh. I want to tell you about that, Ambler--I want some advice. But business first--aught new?"
"I've brought that South American contract off," replied Appleyard. "Fixed it this morning."
"Good!" said Allerdyke. "What's it run to, like?"
"Seventy-five thousand," answered Appleyard. "Nice bit of profit on that, Mr. Allerdyke."
"Good--good!" repeated Allerdyke. "Aught else?"
"Naught--at present. Naught out of the usual, anyway," said the manager.
He took off his hat, laid aside the papers he had been busy with on Allerdyke's entrance, and twisted his chair round to the hearth. "This advice, then?" he asked quietly. "I'm free now."
"Aye!" said Allerdyke. He sat reflecting for a moment, and then turned to his manager with a sudden question.
"Have you heard all this about my cousin James?" he asked with sharp directness.
Appleyard lifted a couple of newspapers from his desk.
"No more than what's in these," he answered. "One tells of his sudden death at Hull; the other begins to hint that there was something queer about it."
"Queer!" exclaimed Allerdyke. "Aye, and more than queer, my lad. Our James was murdered! Now, then, Ambler, I've come here to tell you all the story--you must listen to every detail. I know your brains--keep 'em fixed on what I'm going to tell; hear it all; weigh it up, and then tell me what you make of it; for I'm damned if I can make either head or tail, back, side, or front of the whole thing--so far. Happen you can see a bit of light. Listen, now."
Allerdyke, from long training in business habits, was a good teller of a plain and straightforward tale: Appleyard, for the same reason, was a good listener. So one man talked, in low, earnest tones, checking off his points as he made them, taking care that he emphasized the principal items of his news and dwelt lightly on the connecting links, and the other listened in silence, keeping a concentrated attention and storing away the facts in his memory as they were duly marshalled before him. For a good hour one brain gave out, and the other took in, and without waste of words.
It came to an end at last, and master looked at man.
"Well?" said Allerdyke, after a silence that was full of meaning--"well?"
"Take some thinking about," answered Appleyard tersely. "It's a big thing--a devilish clever thing, too. There's one fact strikes me at once, though. The news about the Nastirsevitch jewels leaked out somewhere, Mr. Allerdyke. That's certain. Either here in London, or over there in Russia, it leaked out. Now until this Princess comes you've no means of knowing if the leakage was over yonder. But there's one thing you do know now--at this very minute. There were three people here in England who knew that the jewels were on the way from Russia, in Mr. James Allerdyke's charge. Those three were this man Fullaway, his lady secretary, and Delkin, the Chicago millionaire! Now, then, Mr. Allerdyke--how much, or what, do you know about any one of 'em?"