The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter XXIX. The Parcel from Hull
Chettle sat alone in the waiting-room, a monument of patient resignation to his fate. His hands were bunched on the head of his walking-stick, his chin propped on his hands; his eyes were bent on a certain spot on the carpet with a fixed stare. And when Allerdyke entered he sprang up as if roused from a fitful slumber.
"I should ha' been asleep in another minute, Mr. Allerdyke," he said apologetically. "Been waiting over an hour, sir--and I'm dog-tired. I've been at it, hard at it! every minute since I left you. And--I had to come. I've news."
"Come up," said Allerdyke. "I've news, too--it's been naught else but news all day. You haven't seen Fullaway while you've been waiting?"
"Seen nobody but the hotel folks," answered the detective. He followed Allerdyke up to his private sitting-room and sighed wearily as he dropped into a chair. "I'm dog-tired," he repeated. "Fair weary!"
"Have a drink," said Allerdyke, setting out his decanter and a syphon. "Take a stiff 'un--I'll have one myself. I'm tired, too. I wouldn't like this game to be on long, Chettle--it's too exhausting. But, by the Lord Harry!--I believe it's coming to an end at last!"
The detective, who had gladly helped himself to Allerdyke's whisky, took a long pull at his glass and sighed with relief.
"I believe so myself, Mr. Allerdyke," he said. "I do, indeed!--things are clearing, sir, though Heaven knows they're thick enough still. You say you've fresh news!"
Allerdyke lighted a cigar and pushed the box to his guest.
"Your news first," he said. "I daresay it's a bit out of the complete web--let's see if we can fit it in."
"It's this," answered Chettle, pulling his chair nearer to the table at which he and his host sat. "When I got back to Hull they told me at the police headquarters that a young man had been in two or three times, while I was away, asking if he could see the London detective who was down about the Station Hotel affair. They told him I'd gone up to town again, and tried to find out what he wanted, but he wouldn't tell them anything--said he'd either see me or go up to London himself. So then they let him know I was coming back, and told him he'd probably find me there at noon to-day. And at noon to-day he turns up at the police-station--a young fellow about twenty-five or so, who looked like what he was, a clerk. A very cute, sharp chap he was, the sort that's naturally keen about his own interests--name of Martindale--and before he'd say a word he wanted to see my credentials, and made me swear to treat what he said as private, and then he pulled out a copy of that reward bill of yours, and wanted to know a rare lot about that, all of which amounted to wanting to find out what chance he had of getting hold of some of the fifty thousand, if not all. And," continued Chettle with a laugh, "I'd a lot of talking and explaining and wheedling to do before he'd tell anything."
"Had he aught to tell?" asked Allerdyke. "So many of 'em think they have, and then they haven't."
"Oh, he'd something to tell!" replied Chettle. "Right enough, he'd a good deal to tell. This--he told me at last, as if every word he let out was worth a ransom, that he was a parcels office clerk in the North Eastern Railway Station at Hull, and that since the 13th of May until the day before yesterday he'd been away in the North of Scotland on his holidays--been home to his people, in fact--he is a Scotsman, which, of course, accounts for his keenness about the money. Now, then--on the night of May 12th--the night, as you know, Mr. Allerdyke, of your cousin's supposed murder, but anyway, of his arrival at Hull--this young man Martindale was on duty in the parcels office till a very late hour. About ten to a quarter past ten, as near as he could recollect, a gentleman came into the parcels office, carrying a small, square parcel, done up in brown paper and sealed in several places with black wax. He wanted to know when the next express would be leaving for London, and if he could send the parcel by it. Martindale told him there would be an express leaving for Selby very shortly, and there would be a connection there for a Great Northern express to King's Cross. The gentleman then wanted to know what time his parcel would be likely to be delivered in London if he sent it by that train. Martindale told him that as near as he could say it would be delivered by noon on the next morning, and added that he could, by paying an extra fee, have it specially registered and delivered. The gentleman at once acceded to this, handed the parcel over, paid for it, and left. And in a few minutes after that, Martindale himself gave the parcel to the guard of the outgoing train."
Chettle paused for a moment, and took a reflective pull at his glass.
"Now, then," he went on, after an evident recollecting of his facts, "Martindale, of course, never saw the gentleman again, and dismissed such a very ordinary matter from his mind. Early next morning he went off on his holiday--where he went, right away up in Sutherland, papers were few and far between. He only heard mere bits of news about all this affair. But when he got back he turned up the Hull newspapers, and became convinced that the man who sent that parcel was--your cousin!"
"Aye!" said Allerdyke, nodding his head. "Aye! I expected that."
"He was sure it was your cousin," continued Chettle, "from the description of him in the papers, and from one or two photos of him that had appeared, though, as you know, Mr. Allerdyke, those were poor things. But to make sure, I showed him the photo which is inside Lydenberg's watch-case. 'That's the man!' he said at once. 'I should have known him again anywhere--I'd a particularly good look at him.' Very well--that established who the sender of the parcel was. Now then, the next thing was--to whom was it sent. Well, this Martindale had copied down the name and address from the station books, and he handed me the slip of paper. Can you make any guess at it, Mr. Allerdyke?"
"Damn guess-work!" replied Allerdyke. "Speak out!"
Chettle leaned nearer, with an instinctive glance at the door. He lowered his voice to a whisper.
"That parcel was addressed to Franklin Fullaway, Esq., The Waldorf Hotel, Aldwych, London," he said. "There!"
Allerdyke slowly rose from his seat, stared at his visitor, half-moved across the floor, as if he had some instinctive notion of going somewhere--and then suddenly sat down again.
"Aye!" he said. "Aye!--but was it ever delivered?"
"I'm coming to that," replied Chettle. "That, of course, is the big thing--the prime consideration. I heard all this young fellow Martindale had to tell--nothing much more than that, except small details as to what would be the likely progress of the parcel, and then I gave him strict instructions to keep his own counsel until I saw him again--after which I caught the afternoon train to town. Martindale had told me where the parcel would be delivered from, so as soon as I arrived at King's Cross I went to the proper place. I had to tell 'em, of course, who I was, and what I was after, and to produce my credentials before they turned up their books and papers to trace the delivery of the parcel. That, of course, wasn't a long or difficult matter, as I had the exact date--May 13th. They soon put the delivery sheet of that particular morning before me. And there it all was--"
"And--it was delivered to and received by--who?" broke in Allerdyke eagerly. "Who, man?"
"Signed for by Mary Marlow for Franklin Fullaway," answered Chettle in the same low tones. "Delivered--here--about half-past twelve. So--there you are! That is--if you know where we are!"
Allerdyke, whose cigar had gone out, relighted it with a trembling hand.
"My God!" he said in a fierce, concentrated voice as he flung the match away. "This is getting--you're sure there was no mistaking the signature?" he went on, interrupting himself. "No mistake about it?"
"It was a woman's writing, and an educated woman's writing, anyway," said Chettle. "And plain enough. But there was one thing that rather struck me and that they couldn't explain, though they said I could have it explained by inquiry of the clerk who had the books in charge on May 13th and the boy who actually delivered the parcel--neither of 'em was about this evening."
"What?" demanded Allerdyke.
"Why, this," answered Chettle. "The parcel had evidently been signed for twice. The line on which the signatures were placed had two initials in pencil on it--scribbled hurriedly. The initials were 'F.F.' Over that was the other in ink--what I tell you: Mary Marlow for Frank Fullaway."
Allerdyke let his mind go back to the events of May 13th.
"You say the parcel was delivered here at twelve-thirty noon on May 13th?" he said presently. "Of course, Fullaway wasn't here then. He'd set off to me at Hull two or three hours before that. He joined me at Hull soon after two that day. And what I'm wondering is--does he know of that parcel's arrival here in his absence. Did he ever get it? If he did, why has he never mentioned it to me? Coming, as it did, from--James!"
"There's a much more important question than that, Mr. Allerdyke," said Chettle. "This--what was in that parcel?"
Allerdyke started. So far he had been concentrating on the facts given him by the detective--further he had not yet gone.
"Why!" he asked, a sudden suspicion beginning to dawn on him. "Good God!--you don't suggest--"
"My belief, Mr. Allerdyke," said Chettle, quietly and emphatically, "is that the parcel contained the Russian lady's jewels! I do believe it--and I'll lay anything I'm right, too."
Allerdyke shook his head.
"Nay, nay!" he said incredulously. "I can't think that James would send a quarter of a million pounds' worth of jewels in a brown paper parcel by train! Come, now!"
Chettle shook his head, too--but in contradiction, "I've known of much stranger things than that, Mr. Allerdyke," he said confidently. "Very much stranger things. Your cousin, according to your account of him, was an uncommonly sharp man. He was quick at sizing up things and people. He was the sort--as you've represented him to me--that was what's termed fertile in resource. Now, I've been theorizing a bit as I came up in the train; one's got to in my line, you know. Supposing your cousin got an idea that thieves were on his track?--supposing he himself fancied that there was danger in that hotel at Hull? What would occur to him but to get rid of his valuable consignment, as we'll call it? And what particular danger was there in sending a very ordinary-looking parcel as he did? The thing's done every day--by train or post every day valuable parcels of diamonds, for instance, are sent between London and Paris. The chances of that parcel being lost between Hull and this hotel were--infinitesimal! I honestly believe, sir, that those jewels were in that parcel--sent to be safe."
"In that case you'd have thought he'd have wired Fullaway of their dispatch," said Allerdyke.
"How do we know that he didn't intend to, first thing in the morning?" asked Chettle. "He probably did intend to--but he wasn't there to do it in the morning, poor gentleman! No--and now the thing is, Mr. Allerdyke--prompt action! What do you think, sir?"
"You mean--go and tell everything to your people at headquarters?" asked Allerdyke.
"I shall have to," answered Chettle. "There's no option for me--now. What I meant was--are you prepared to tell them all you know?"
"Yes!" replied Allerdyke. "At least, I will be in the morning--first thing. I'll just tell you how things have gone to-day. Now," he continued, when he had given Chettle a full account of the recent happenings, "you stay here to-night--you can have my chauffeur's room, next to mine--and in the morning I'll telephone to Appleyard to meet us outside of New Scotland Yard, and after a word or two with him, we'll see your chief, and then--"
Chettle shook his head.
"If that woman got a night's start, Mr. Allerdyke--" he began.
"Can't help it now," said Allerdyke decisively. "Besides, you don't know what Appleyard mayn't have learned during the night."
But when Appleyard met them in Whitehall next morning, in response to Allerdyke's telephone summons, his only news was that neither Rayner nor Miss Slade had returned to the Pompadour, and without another word Allerdyke motioned Chettle to lead the way to the man in authority.