The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter XXIV. Concerning Carl Federman
Next morning, as Allerdyke was leaving the hotel with the intention of going down to Gresham Street, one of the hall-porters ran after and hailed him.
"You're wanted at the telephone, sir," he said. "Call for you just come through."
Allerdyke went back, to find himself hailed by Blindway. Would he drive on to the Yard at once and bring Mr. Fullaway with him?--both were wanted, particularly in connection with the Perrigo information.
Allerdyke promised for himself, and went upstairs to find Fullaway. He met him coming down, and gave him the message. Fullaway looked undecided.
"You know what I told you yesterday, Allerdyke," he said. "I didn't want to be bothered further with these police chaps. Van Koon and I are on a line of our own, and--"
"As you like," interrupted Allerdyke, "but all the same, if I were in your place I shouldn't refuse a chance of acquiring information. Even if you don't want to tell the police anything, that's no reason why you shouldn't learn something from them."
"There's that in it, certainly," assented Fullaway. "All right. You get a taxi and I'll join you in a minute or two."
As they got out of one cab at the police headquarters Celia Lennard appeared in another. She made a little grimace as the two men greeted her.
"Again!" she exclaimed, "What are we going to be treated to now? More old women with vague stories, I suppose. What good is it at all? And when am I going to hear something about my jewels?"
"You never know what you're going to hear when you visit these palatial halls," answered Fullaway. "You may be going to have the biggest surprise of your life, you know. They sent for you?"
"Rang me up in the middle of my breakfast," answered Celia. "Well--let's find out what new sensation this is. Some extraordinary creature on view again, of course."
The creature on view proved to be a little fat man, obviously French or Swiss, who sat, his rotund figure tightly enveloped in a frock-coat, the lapel of which was decorated with a bit of ribbon, on the edge of a chair facing the chief's desk. He was a nervous, alert little man; his carefully trimmed moustache and pointed beard quivered with excitement; his dark eyes blazed. And at sight of the elegantly attired lady he bounced out of his chair, swept his silk hat to the ground, and executed a deep bow of the most extreme politeness.
"This," observed the chief, with a smile at his visitors, "is Monsieur Aristide Bonnechose. M. Bonnechose believes that he can tell us something. It is a supplement to what Mrs. Perrigo told us yesterday. It relates, of course to the young man whom Mrs. Perrigo told us of--the young man who led pugs in Kensington Gardens."
"The pogs of Madame, my spouse," said M. Bonnechose, with a bow and a solemn expression. "Two pogs--Fifi and Chou-Chou."
"M. Bonnechose," continued the chief, regarding his company with yet another smile, "is the proprietor of a--what is your establishment, monsieur?"
"Cafe-restaurant, monsieur," replied M. Bonnechose, promptly and politely. "Small, but elegant. Of my name, monsieur--the Cafe Bonnechose, Oxford Street. Established nine years--I succeeded to a former proprietor, Monsieur Jules, on his lamented decease."
"I think M. Bonnechose had better tell us his history in his own fashion," remarked the chief, looking around. "You are aware, Mr. Allerdyke, and you, too, Mr. Fullaway, and so I suppose are you Miss Lennard, that after hearing what Mrs. Perrigo had to tell us I put out a bill asking for information about the young man Mrs. Perrigo described, and the matter was also mentioned in last night's and this morning's papers. M. Bonnechose read about it in his newspaper, and so he came here at once. He tells me that he knew a young man who was good enough during the early spring, to occasionally take out Madame Bonnechose's prize dogs for an airing. That seems to have been the same man referred to by Mrs. Perrigo. Now, M. Bonnechose, give us the details."
M. Bonnechose set down his tall, very Parisian hat on the edge of the chief's desk, and proceeded to use his hands in conjunction with his tongue.
"With pleasure, monsieur," he responded. "It is this way, then. You will comprehend that Madame, my spouse, and myself are of the busiest. We do not keep a great staff; accordingly we have much to do ourselves. Consequently we have not much time to go out, to take the air. Madame, my spouse, she has a love for the dogs--she keeps two, Fifi and Chou-Chou--pogs. What they call pedigree dogs--valuable. Beautiful animals--but needing exercise. It is a trouble to Madame that they cannot disport themselves more frequently. Now, about the beginning of this spring, a young man--compatriot of my own--a Swiss from the Vaud canton--he begins coming to my cafe. Sometimes he comes for his lunch--sometimes he drops in, as they say, for a cup of coffee. We find out, he and I, that we come from the same district. In the event, we become friendly."
"This young man's name, M. Bonnechose?" asked the chief.
"What we knew him by--Federman," replied M. Bonnechose. "Carl Federman. He told me he was looking out for a job as valet to a rich man. He had been a waiter--somewhere in London--some hotel, I think--I did not pay much attention. Anyway, while he was looking for his job he certainly had plenty of money--plenty! He do himself very well with his lunches--sometimes he come and have his dinner at night. We are not expensive, you understand--nice lunch for two shillings, nice dinner for three--nothing to him, that--he always carry plenty of money in his pockets. Well, then, of course, having nothing to do, often he talks to me and Madame. One day we talk of the pogs, then walking about the establishment. He remarks that they are too fat. Madame sighs and says the poor darlings do not get sufficient exercise. He is good-natured, this Federman--he say at once 'I will exercise them--I, myself,' So he come next day, like a good friend, Madame puts blue ribbons on the pogs, and bids them behave nicely--away they go with Federman for the excursion. Many days he thus takes them--to Hyde Park, to Kensington Gardens--out of the neighbourliness, you understand. Madame is much obliged to him--she regards him as a kind young man--eh? And then, all of a sudden, we do not see Federman any more--no. Nor hear of him until monsieur asks for news of him in the papers. I see that news last night--Madame sees it! We start--we look at each other--we regard ourselves with comprehension. We both make the same exclamation--'It is Federman! He is wanted! He has done something!' Then Madame says, 'Aristide, in the morning, you will go to the police commissary,' I say 'It shall be done--we will have no mystery around the Cafe Bonnechose.' Monsieur, I am here--and I have spoken!"
"And that is all you know, M. Bonnechose?" asked the chief.
"All, monsieur, absolutely all!"
"About when was it that this young man first came to your cafe, then?"
"About the beginning of March, or end of February, monsieur--it was the beginning of the good weather, you understand."
"And he left off coming--when?"
"Beginning of April, monsieur--after that we never see him again. Often we say to ourselves, 'Where is Federman?' The pogs, they look at the seat which he was accustomed to take, as much as to ask the same question. But," concluded M. Bonnechose, with a dismal shake of his close-cropped head, and a spreading forth of his hands, "he never visit us no more--no!"
"Now, listen, M. Bonnechose," said the chief; "did this man ever give you any particulars about himself?"
"None but what I have told you, monsieur--and which I do not now remember."
"Ever tell you where he lived in London---at the time he was visiting you?"
"Did he ever come to your place accompanied by anybody? Bring any friends there?"
M. Bonnechose put himself into an attitude of deep thought. He remained in it for a moment or two; then he exchanged it for one of joyful recollection.
"On one occasion, a lady!" he exclaimed. "A Frenchwoman. Tall--that is, taller than is usual amongst Frenchwomen--slender--elegant. Dark--dark, black eyes--not beautiful, you understand, but--engaging."
"Lisette!" muttered Celia.
"On only one occasion, you say, M. Bonnechose?" asked the chief. "When was it?"
"About the time I speak of, monsieur. They came in one night--rather late. They had a light supper--nothing much."
"He did not tell you who she was?"
"Not a word, monsieur! He was, as a rule, very secretive, this Federman, saying little about his own affairs."
"You don't remember that he ever brought any one else there! No men, for instance?"
M. Bonnechose shook his head. Then, once again, his face brightened.
"No!" he said. "But once--just once--I saw Federman talking to a man in the street--Shaftesbury Avenue. A clean-shaven man, well built, brown hair--a Frenchman, I think. But, of course, a stranger to me."
The chief exchanged a glance with Allerdyke and Fullaway--both knew what that glance meant. M. Bonnechose's description tallied remarkably with that of the man who had gone to Eastbourne Terrace Hotel with Lisette Beaurepaire.
"A clean-shaven man, with brown hair, and well built, eh?" said the chief. "And when--"
Just then an interruption came in the person of a man who entered the room and gave evident signs of a desire to tell something to his superior. The chief left his chair, went across to the door, and received a communication which was evidently of considerable moment. He turned and beckoned Blindway; the three went out of the room. Several minutes passed; then the chief came back alone, and looked at his visitors with a glance of significance.
"We have just got news of something that relates, I think, to the very subject we were discussing," he said. "A young man has been found dead in bed at a City hotel this morning under very suspicious circumstances--circumstances very similar to those of the Eastbourne Terrace affair. And," he went on, glancing at a scrap of paper which he held in his hand, "the description of him very closely resembles that of this man Federman. Of course, it's not an uncommon type, but--"
"Another of 'em!" exclaimed Allerdyke. He had suddenly remembered what Chettle had said about the new bill being a possible death-warrant, and the words started irrepressibly to his lips. "Good Lord!"
The chief gave him a quick glance; it seemed as if he instinctively divined what was passing in Allerdyke's mind.
"I'm sorry to trouble you," he said, without referring to Allerdyke's interruption, "but I'm afraid I must ask you--all of you--to run down to this City hotel with me. We mustn't leave a stone unturned, and if any of you can identify this man--"
"Oh, you don't want me, surely!" cried Celia. "Please let me off--I do so hate that sort of thing!"
"Naturally," remarked the chief. "But I'm afraid I want you more than any one, Miss Lennard--you and M. Bonnechose. Come--we'll go at once--Blindway has gone down to get two cabs for us."
Blindway, M. Bonnechose, and Fullaway rode to the City in one cab; Celia, Allerdyke, and the chief in another. Their journey came to an end in a quiet old street near the Docks, and at the door of an old-fashioned looking hotel. There was a much-worried landlord, and a detective or two, and sundry police to meet them, and inquisitive eyes looked out of doors and round corners as they went upstairs to a door which was guarded by two constables. The chief turned to Celia with a word of encouragement.
"One look will answer the purpose," he said quietly. "But--look closely!"
The next moment all six were standing round a narrow bed on which was laid out the dead body of a young man. The face, calm, composed, looked more like that of a man who lay quietly and peacefully asleep than one who had died under suspicious circumstances.
"Well?" asked the chief presently. "What do you say, Miss Lennard?"
Celia caught her breath.
"This--this is the man who came to Hull," she whispered. "The man, you know, who called himself Lisette's brother. I knew him instantly."
"And you, M. Bonnechose?" said the chief. "Do you recognize him?"
The cafe-keeper, who had been making inarticulate murmurs of surprise and grief, nodded.
"Federman!" he said. "Oh, yes, monsieur--Federman, without doubt. Poor fellow!"
The chief turned to leave the room, saying quietly that that was all he wished. But Fullaway, who had been staring moodily at the dead man, suddenly stopped him. "Look here!" he said. "I know this man, too--but not as Federman. I'm not mistaken about him, and I don't think Miss Lennard or M. Bonnechose are, either. But I knew him as Fritz Ebers. He acted as my valet at the Waldorf from the beginning of April to about the end of the first week in May last. And--since we now know what we do--it's my opinion that there--there in that dead man--is the last of the puppets! The Frenchwoman--Lydenberg--now this fellow--all three got rid of! Now, then--where's the man who pulled the strings! Where's the arch-murderer!"