Chapter XIV. Fifty Thousand Pounds Reward
 

Allerdyke encountered this direct question with a long, fixed stare of growing comprehension; his silence showed that he was gradually taking in its significance.

"Aye, just so!" he said at last. "Just so! How much do I know of any of 'em? Well, of Fullaway no more than I've seen. Of his secretary no more than what I've seen and heard. Of Delkin no more than that such a man exists. Sum total--what!"

"Next to naught," said Appleyard. "In a case like this you ought to know more. Fullaway may be all right. Fullaway may be all wrong. His lady secretary may be as right as he is, or as wrong as he is. As to Delkin--he might be a creature of Fullaway's imagination. Put it all to yourself now, Mr. Allerdyke--on the face of what you've told me, these three people--two of 'em, at any rate, for a certainty--knew about these valuables coming over in Mr. James's charge. So far as you know, your cousin had 'em when he left Christiania and reached Hull. There they disappear. So far as you're aware, nobody but these people knew of their coming--no other people in England knew, at any rate, so far, I repeat, as your knowledge goes. I should want to know something about these three, if I were in your place, Mr. Allerdyke."

"Aye--aye!" replied Allerdyke. "I see your point. Well, I've been in Fullaway's company now for two days--there's no denying he's a smart chap, a clever chap, and he seems to be doing good business. Moreover, Ambler, my lad, James knew him and James wasn't the sort to take up with wrong 'uns. As to the secretary, I can't say. Besides, Fullaway said this afternoon that he hadn't told her all about it yet."

"All about the Hull affair and the Lennard affair, I took that to mean from your account," remarked Appleyard. "If she's his confidential secretary, with access to his papers and business, she'd know all about the Princess transaction. Now, of course, an inquiry or two of the usual sort would satisfy you about Fullaway--I mean as a business man. An inquiry or two would tell you all about Delkin. But you can't get to know all about Mrs. Marlow from any inquiry. And you can't find out all about Fullaway from any inquiry. He may be the straightest business man in all London--and yet have a finger in this pie, and his secretary with him. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds' worth of jewels, Mr. Allerdyke, is--a temptation! And--these folks knew the jewels were on the way. What's more, they'd time to intercept their bearer--Mr. James."

Allerdyke rubbed his chin and knitted his brows in obvious bewilderment. "There must ha' been more than them in at it," he said musingly. "A regular gang of 'em, judging by results."

"Every gang has its ganger," replied Appleyard, with a knowing smile. "There's no doubt this is a big thing--but there must be a central point, a head, a controlling authority in it. We come back, you see, after all, to where we started--these people were the only people in England who knew about these jewels, so far as we know."

"Aye, but only so far as we know," said Allerdyke. "There may have been others. There may have been folks who got to know about them over there in Russia and who communicated their knowledge to some folks here. And there's always this to be borne in mind--the affair, the plot, may have been originated there, and worked from there. Remember that!"

"Quite so--and you can't decide on anything relating to that until this Princess comes," agreed Appleyard. "It'll have to rest till you've heard all she has to say, and then you'll know where you are. But in the meantime you can find out a bit about Fullaway and this millionaire man--I can find out for you, if you like, in a few hours."

"Do, my lad!" said Allerdyke. "It's always well to know who you're dealing with. Aye--make an inquiry or two."

"But remember that all I can inquire about will be in the ordinary business way," continued Appleyard. "I can ascertain if there is a Delkin in town, who's a Chicago millionaire, and if Fullaway's a reputable business man--but that'll be all. As to the secretary, I can't do anything."

"I'll keep an eye on her myself," said Allerdyke. "Well, do this, then, and let me know the results. I've put up at the Waldorf, and there I shall stop while all this is being investigated here in London, but I shall pop in and out here, of course. And now I'll go back there and find out if there's any fresh news from the police or from Hull. I reckon there'll be some fine reading in the newspapers in a day or two, Ambler--it'll all have to come out now."

In this supposition Allerdyke was right. The police authorities, finding that the affair had assumed dimensions of an astonishing magnitude, decided to seek the aid of the Press, and to publish the entire story in the fullest possible fashion. And Allerdyke and all London woke next morning to find the newspapers alive with a new sensation, and every other man asking his neighbour what it all meant. Three mysterious murders--two big thefts--together--the newspaper world had known nothing like it for years, and the only regrets in Fleet Street were those of the men who would have sacrificed their very noses to have got the story exclusively to themselves. But the police authorities had exercised a wise generosity, and no one newspaper knew more than another at that stage--they all, as Fullaway said to Allerdyke at breakfast, got a fair start, and from that one could run their own race.

"We shall be to these Pressmen as a pot of honey to flies," he observed. "Take my advice, Allerdyke--see none of them, and if you should--as you will--get buttonholed and held up, refuse to say a word."

"You can leave that to me," answered Allerdyke, with a twitch of his determined jaw. "It 'ud be a clever newspaper chap that would get aught out of me. I've other fish to fry than to talk to these gentry. And what good will all this newspaper stuff do?"

"Lots!" replied Fullaway. "It will draw attention. There'll already be a few thousand amateur detectives looking out for the man who left the French maid dead in Eastbourne Terrace, and a few hundred amateur criminologists racking their brains for a plausible theory of the whole thing. Oh, yes, it's a good thing to arouse public interest, Allerdyke. All that's wanted now is a rousing reward. Have you thought of that?"

"Didn't I mention it to the man at Scotland Yard yesterday?" said Allerdyke. "I'm game to find aught reasonable in the way of brass. But," he added, with a touch of true Yorkshire caution, "I've been thinking that over during the night, and it seems to me that there are two other parties who ought to come in at it, with me, of course. Miss Lennard and the Princess, d'ye see? If they're willing, I am."

"You mean a joint reward for the detection of the murderer and the recovery of the jewels?" suggested Fullaway.

"Well, you can be pretty certain, by now, that the murders and the thefts are all the work of one gang," replied Allerdyke. "So it's long as it's short. These two women want their pearls and their diamonds back--I want to know who killed my cousin James. We're all three in the same boat, really; so if we make up a good, substantial purse between us--what?"

"Good!" agreed Fullaway. "We'll hear what the Princess says when she arrives to-night. I guess we shall all know better where we exactly are when we've heard what she has to say."

"If she's like most women that's lost aught in the way of finery," remarked Allerdyke drily, "she'll have plenty to say."

That night he had abundant opportunity of hearing the Princess Nastirsevitch's views on the situation, freely expressed. He himself fetched Celia Lennard to the conference at New Scotland Yard; they found Fullaway and the Princess already there, in full blast of debate. Allerdyke inspected the new arrival with keen interest and found her a well-preserved, handsome woman of middle-age, sharp, smart, and American to the finger-tips. The official whom they had met before was already questioning her, and for Allerdyke's benefit he repeated what had already transpired.

"The Princess affirms, Mr. Allerdyke, that not a soul but herself and your cousin, Mr. James Allerdyke, knew of this affair," he said. "I am right, am I not, madame," he went on, turning to the Princess, "in saying that not one word of this transaction, or proposed transaction, was ever mentioned by you to any person but Mr. James Allerdyke?"

"To no other person than Mr. James Allerdyke," assented the Princess firmly. "It would have been strange conduct on my part, I think, if I had told anybody else anything about it!--my object, of course, being secrecy. From the moment I first mentioned it to Mr. James Allerdyke until I arrived here just now and met Mr. Fullaway there, I never spoke of the matter to any one!"

The official looked at Allerdyke as if inviting him to ask any question that occurred to him, and Allerdyke immediately brought up that which had been in his mind ever since his discovery of James Allerdyke's pocket-diary.

"How came you to repose such confidence in my cousin, ma'am?" he asked brusquely. "I always thought I was pretty deep in his counsels, but I never heard him mention your name. Did he know you well?"

"I had known Mr. James Allerdyke for a little over a year," replied the Princess. "I met him first in Paris--then on the Riviera--then in Russia. The fact is, he did some business for me. I had every confidence in him--the fullest confidence. I knew he was a thoroughly straight man. And just as I had decided to sell these jewels'--all my own property, mind--in order to clear off the whole lot of the mortgages on my son's estate, so's he could come into them quite unencumbered, I happened to meet Mr. James Allerdyke in St. Petersburg--that's of course, a few weeks ago--and I immediately took him into my confidence and asked his help. With the result," added the Princess, "that he cabled to Mr. Fullaway there and that all this has come about! I tell you in the most emphatic manner at my command," she went on, turning to the official, and tapping the edge of his desk as if to accentuate her words, "it's impossible that anybody over there in Russia could have known of my arrangements with Mr. James Allerdyke--utterly impossible. For I never spoke of them to any one there, and I'm sure he would not!"

"Impossible is a big word, Princess," said the official. "There may have been ways of leakage. Did you exchange any correspondence on the matter?"

"Not a line!" replied the Princess. "There was no need. We met three times and arranged everything. The only correspondence there was--if you could call it correspondence--was the exchange of cablegrams between Mr. James Allerdyke and Mr. Fullaway. I saw those cablegrams--of course the jewels were mentioned. But I don't believe Mr. James Allerdyke was the sort of man to leave his cablegrams lying around for somebody else to see. I know he had them in his pocket-book. No!" she went on, with added emphasis and conviction. "The thing did not start over there, I'm sure. It's been put up here, in London."

"Well," observed the official, after a pause, "there's only one thing more I want to ask you just now, Princess. You gave these immensely valuable jewels to Mr. James Allerdyke? Did he hand you any receipt for them?"

"A receipt which I've got here," answered the Princess, tapping her hand-bag. "And it's all in his handwriting, and made out in the form of an inventory--all that was at his suggestion."

"And how," asked the official, "were the jewels packed when given to him?"

"Very simply," said the Princess. "That was his suggestion, too. They were wrapped up in soft paper and chamois leather, and put into an old cigar-box which he placed in his small travelling-bag. That bag, he said, would never go out of his sight until he reached London, where, when he'd exhibited the jewels to Mr. Fullaway's client, he was to lodge them in a bank. It seemed to him that the cigar-box was a good notion--the jewels themselves didn't take up so much room as you might think, and he laid some very ordinary things over the top of the package--a cake or two of soap, a sponge, and things like that--so that, supposing the cigar-box had been opened, its contents would have seemed very ordinary, you understand?"

"And yet," said the official softly, "the thieves evidently went straight for that cigar-box when the critical moment came. Well," he continued, looking round at his visitors, "I don't know that we can do more to-night. Is there anything any of you ladies or gentlemen wish to suggest?"

"Yes!" said Allerdyke. "In my opinion a most important thing. It's my decided conviction that in this case we've got to offer a reward--no mere trifling sum, but one that'll set a few fingers tingling. And it's my concern, and the Princess's, and Miss Lennard's. And if you'll permit us three to have a quiet talk in yon corner of your room, I'll tell you its result when we've finished."

The result of that quiet talk--chiefly conducted by Allerdyke with masculine force and vigour--was that by noon of next day the exterior of every London police-station attracted vast attention by reason of a freshly-posted bill. It was a long bill, and it set out the surface particulars of three murders, and of two robberies in connection therewith. The particulars made interesting reading enough--but the real fascination of the bill was in its big, staring headline--

FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS REWARD.