Chapter XXXIII. The Smart Miss Slade
 

In no city of the world is a crowd so quickly collected as in London; in none is one so easily satisfied and dispersed. Within five minutes the detectives had hurried their three captives away towards the nearest cab-rank, and the people who had left their tea and their cakes to gather round, to stare, and to listen had gone back to their tables to discuss this latest excitement. But the chief and Allerdyke, Fullaway and Appleyard, Miss Slade and Rayner stood in a little group on the grass and looked at each other. Eventually, all looks except Rayner's centred on Miss Slade, who, somewhat out of breath from her tussle, was settling her hat and otherwise composing herself. And it was Miss Slade who spoke first when the party, as a party, found itself capable of speech.

"I don't know who it was," observed Miss Slade, rather more than a little acidly, "who came interfering in my business, but whoever he was he nearly spoilt it."

She darted a much-displeased look at the chief, who hastened to exculpate himself.

"Not I!" he said with a smile. "So don't blame me, Miss Slade. I was merely a looker-on, a passive spectator--until the right moment arrived. Do I gather that the right moment had not actually arrived--for your purpose?"

"You do," answered Miss Slade. "It hadn't. If you had all waited a few moments you would have had all three men in conference round one of those tables, and they could have been taken with far less fuss and bother--and far less danger to me. It's the greatest wonder in the world that I'm not lying dead on that grass!"

"We are devoutly thankful that you are not," said the chief fervently. "But--you're not! And the main thing is that the three men are in custody, and as for interference--"

"It was Chilverton," interrupted Fullaway, who had been staring at his mysterious secretary as if she were some rare object which he had never seen before. "Chilverton!--all Chilverton's fault. As soon as he set eyes on Van Koon nothing would hold him. And what I want to know--"

"We all want to know a good deal," remarked the chief, glancing invitingly at Miss Slade. "Miss Slade has no doubt a good deal to tell. I suggest that we walk across to those very convenient chairs which I see over there by the shrubbery--then perhaps--"

"I want to know a good deal, too," said Miss Slade.

"I don't know who you are, to start with, and I don't know why Mr. Appleyard happens to be here, to end with."

Appleyard answered these two questions readily.

"I'm here because I happen to be Mr. Allerdyke's London representative," he said. "This gentleman is a very highly placed official of the Criminal Investigation Department."

Miss Slade, having composed herself, favoured the chief with a deliberate inspection.

"Oh! in that case," she remarked, "in that case, I suppose I had better satisfy your curiosity. That is," she continued, turning to Rayner, "if Mr. Rayner thinks I may?"

"I was going to suggest it," answered Rayner. "Let's sit down and tell them all about it."

The party of six went across to the quiet spot which the chief had indicated, and Fullaway and Appleyard obligingly arranged the chairs in a group. Seated in the midst and quite conscious that she was the centre of attraction in several ways, Miss Slade began her explanation of the events and mysteries which had culminated in the recent sensational event.

"I daresay," she said, looking round her, "that some of you know a great deal more about this affair than I do. What I do know, however, is this--the three men who have just been removed are without doubt the arch-spirits of the combination which robbed Miss Lennard, attempted to rob Mr. James Allerdyke, possibly murdered Mr. James Allerdyke, and certainly murdered Lydenberg, Lisette Beaurepaire, and Ebers. Van Koon is an American crook, whose real name is Vankin; Merrifield, as you know, is Mr. Delkin's secretary; the other man is one Otto Schmall, a German chemist, and a most remarkably clever person, who has a shop and a chemical manufactory in Whitechapel. He's an expert in poison--and I think you will have some interesting matters to deal with when you come to tackle his share. Well, that's plain fact; and now you want to know how I--and Mr. Rayner--found all this out."

"Chiefly you," murmured Rayner, "chiefly you!"

"You had better let your minds go back to the morning of the 13th May last," continued Miss Slade, paying no apparent heed to this interruption. "On that morning I arrived at Mr. Fullaway's office at my usual time, ten o'clock, to find that Mr. Fullaway had departed suddenly, earlier in the morning, for Hull. I at once guessed why he had gone--I knew that Mr. James Allerdyke, in charge of the Princess Nastirsevitch's jewels, was to have landed at Hull the night before, and I concluded that Mr. Fullaway had set off to meet him. But Mr. Fullaway has a bad habit of leaving letters and telegrams lying about, for any one to see, and within a few minutes I found on his desk a telegram from Mr. Marshall Allerdyke, dispatched early that morning from Hull, saying that his cousin had died suddenly during the night. That, of course, definitely explained Mr. Fullaway's departure, and it also made me wonder, knowing all I did know, if the jewels were safe.

"This, I repeat, was about ten to half-past ten o'clock. About twelve o'clock of that morning, the 13th, Mr. Van Koon, whom I knew as a resident in the hotel, and a frequent caller on Mr. Fullaway, came in. He wanted Mr. Fullaway to cash a cheque for him. I told him that I could do that, and I took his cheque, wrote out one of my own and went up town to Parr's Bank, at the bottom of St. Martin's Lane, to get the cash for him. Mr. Van Koon stayed in the office, reading a bundle of American newspapers which had just been delivered. I was away from the office perhaps forty minutes or so; when I returned he was still there. I gave him the money; he thanked me, and went away.

"Towards the end of that afternoon, just before I was leaving the office, I got a wire from Mr. Fullaway, from Hull. It was quite short--it merely informed me that Mr. James Allerdyke was dead, under mysterious circumstances, and that the Nastirsevitch property was missing. Of course, I knew what that meant, and I drew my own conclusions.

"Now I come to the 14th--a critical day, so far as I am concerned. During the morning a parcels-van boy came into the office. He said that on the previous day, about half-past twelve o'clock, he had brought a small parcel there, addressed to Mr. Fullaway, and had handed it to a gentleman who was reading newspapers, and who had answered 'Yes' when inquired of as Mr. Fullaway. This gentleman--who, of course, was Van Koon--had signed for the parcel by scribbling two initials 'F. F.' in the proper space. The boy, who said he was new to his job, told me that the clerk at the parcels office objected to this as not being a proper signature, and had told him to call next time he was passing and get the thing put right. He accordingly handed me the sheet, and I, believing that this was some small parcel which Van Koon had taken in, signed for, and placed somewhere in the office or in Mr. Fullaway's private room, signed my own name, for Franklin Fullaway, over the penciled initials. And as I did so I noticed that the parcel had been sent from Hull.

"When the boy had gone I looked for that parcel. I could not find it anywhere. It was certainly not in the office, nor in any of the rooms of Mr. Fullaway's suite. I was half minded to go to Mr. Van Koon and ask about it, but I decided that I wouldn't; I thought I would wait until Mr. Fullaway returned. But all the time I was wondering what parcel it could be that was sent from Hull, and certainly dispatched from there on the very evening before Mr. Fullaway's hurried journey.

"Nothing happened until Mr. Fullaway came back. Then a lot of things happened all at once. There was the news he brought about the Hull affair. Then there was the affair of the French maid. A great deal got into the newspapers. Mr. Rayner and I, who live at the same boarding-house, began to discuss matters. I heard, through Mr. Fullaway, that there was likelihood of a big reward, and I determined to have a try for it--in conjunction with Mr. Rayner. And so I kept my own counsel--I said nothing about the affair of the parcel."

Fullaway, who had been manifesting signs of impatience and irritation during the last few minutes, here snapped out a question.

"Why didn't you tell me at once about the parcel?" he demanded. "It was your duty!"

Miss Slade gave her employer a cool glance.

"Possibly!" she retorted. "But you are much too careless to be entrusted with secrets, Mr. Fullaway. I knew that if I told you about that parcel you'd spoil everything at once. I wanted to do things my own way. I took my own way--and it's come out all right, for everybody. Now, don't you or anybody interrupt again--I'm telling it all in order."

Fullaway made an inarticulate growling protest, but Miss Slade took no notice and continued in even, dispassionate tones, as if she had been explained a mathematical problem.

"The affair prospered. The Princess came. The reward of fifty thousand pounds was offered. Then Mr. Rayner and I put our heads together more seriously. Much, of course, depended upon me, as I was on the spot. I wanted a chance to get into Van Koon's rooms, some time when he was out. Fortunately the chance came. One afternoon, when Van Koon was in our office, he and Mr. Fullaway settled to dine out together and go to the theatre afterwards. That gave me my opportunity. I made an excuse about staying late at Mr. Fullaway's office and when both men were clear away I let myself into Van Koon's room--I'd already made preparations for that--and proceeded to search. I found the parcel. It was a small, square parcel, done up in brown paper and sealed with black wax; it had been opened, the original wrapper put on again, and the seals resealed. I took it into Mr. Fullaway's rooms and opened it, carefully. Inside I found a small cigar-box, and in it the Princess's jewels. I took them out. Then I put certain articles of corresponding weight into the box, did it up again precisely as I had found it, smeared over the seals with more black wax, went back to Van Koon's room with it, and placed it again where I had found it--in a small suit-case.

"I now knew, of course, that Mr. James Allerdyke had sent those jewels direct to Mr. Fullaway, immediately on his arrival in Hull, and that they had fallen by sheer accident into Van Koon's hands. But I wanted to know more. I wanted to know if Van Koon had any connection with this affair, and if, when he saw that the parcel was from Hull, he had immediately jumped to the conclusion that it might be from James Allerdyke, and might contain the actual valuables. Fortunately, Mr. Rayner had already made arrangements with a noted private inquiry agent to have Van Koon most carefully and closely watched. And the very day after I found and took possession of the jewels we received a report from this agent that Van Koon was in the habit of visiting the shop and manufactory of a German chemist named Schmall, in Whitechapel. Further, he had twice come away from it, after lengthy visits, in company with a man whom the agent's employees had tracked to the Hotel Cecil, and whom I knew, from their description, to be Mr. Merrifield, Mr. Delkin's private secretary.

"Naturally, having discovered this, we gave instructions for a keener watch than ever to be kept on both these men. But the name of the German chemist gave me personally a new and most important clue. There had been employed at the Waldorf Hotel, for some weeks up to the end of the first week in May, a German-Swiss young man, who then called himself Ebers. He acted as valet to several residents; amongst others, Mr. Fullaway. He was often in and out of Mr. Fullaway's rooms. Once, Mr. Fullaway being out, and I having nothing to do, I was cleaning up some photographic apparatus which I had there. This man Ebers came in with some clothes of Mr. Fullaway's. Seeing what I was doing, he got talking to me about photography, saying that he himself was an amateur. He recommended to me certain materials and things of that sort which he said he could get from a friend of his, a chemist, who was an enthusiastic photographer and manufactured chemicals and things used in photography. I gave him some money to get me a supply of things, and he brought various packets and parcels to me two or three days later. Each packet bore the name of Otto Schmall, and an address in a street which runs off Mile End Road.

"Now, when the private inquiry agent made his reports to Mr. Rayner and myself about Van Koon, and told us where he had been tracked to more than once, I, of course, remembered the name of Schmall, and Mr. Rayner and I began to put certain facts together. They were these:

"First.--Ebers had easy access to Mr. Fullaway's room at all hours, and was often in them when both Mr. Fullaway and I were out. Mr. Fullaway is notoriously careless in leaving papers and documents, letters and telegrams lying around. Ebers had abundant opportunities of reading lots of documents relating to (1) the Pinkie Pell pearls, and (2) the proposed Nastirsevitch deal.

"Second.--Ebers was a friend of Sehmall. Schmall was evidently a man of great cleverness in chemistry.

"Third.--All the circumstances of Mr. James Allerdyke's death, and of Lisette Beaurepaire's death, pointed to unusually skillful poisoning. Who was better able to engineer that than a clever chemist?

"Fourth.--The jewels belonging to the Princess Nastirsevitch had undoubtedly fallen into Van Koon's hands. Van Koon was a friend of Schmall. So also, evidently, was Merrifield. Now, Merrifield, as Delkin's secretary, knew of the proposed deal.

"Obviously, then, Schmall, Van Koon, and Merrifield were in league--whether Ebers was also in league, or was a catspaw, we did not trouble to decide. But there was another fact which seemed to have some bearing, though it is one which I have never yet worked out--perhaps some of you know something of it. It was this: Just before he went to Russia, Mr. James Allerdyke, being in town, gave me a photograph of himself which Mr. Marshall Allerdyke had recently taken. I kept that photo lying on my desk at Mr. Fullaway's for some time. One day I missed it. It is such an unusual thing for me to misplace anything that I turned over every paper on my desk in searching for it. It was not to be found. Four days later I found it, exactly where it ought to have been. Now, you can draw your own conclusions from that--mine are that Ebers stole it, so that he could reproduce it in order to give his reproduction to some person who wanted to identify James Allerdyke at sight.

"However, to go forward to the discovery which we made about Schmall, Van Koon, and Merrifield. As soon as we made that discovery, Mr. Rayner was for going to the police at once, but I thought not--there was still certain evidence which I wanted, so that the case could be presented without a flaw. However, all of a sudden I saw that we should have to act. Ebers was found dead in a small hotel near the Docks, and at a conference in which Mr. Fullaway insisted I should join, in his rooms, and at which Van Koon, who had been playing a bluff game, was present, there was enough said to convince me that Van Koon and his associates would take alarm and be off with what they believed themselves to possess--the jewels in that parcel. So then Mr. Rayner and I determined on big measures. And they were risky ones--for me.

"I had already been down, more than once, into Whitechapel, and had bought things at Schmall's shop, and I was convinced that he was the man who accompanied Lisette Beaurepaire to that little hotel in Eastbourne Terrace. Now that the critical moment came, after the Ebers-Federman affair, I went there again. I got Schmall outside his premises. I took a bold step. I told him that I was a woman detective, who, for purposes of my own, had been working this case, and that I was in full possession of the facts. If I had not taken the precaution to tell him this in the thick of a crowded street, he would have killed me on the spot! Then I went on to tell him more. I said that his accomplice had led him to believe that he had the Nastirsevitch jewels in a parcel in his possession. I said that Van Koon was wrong--I had them myself--I told him how I got them. He nearly collapsed at that--I restored him by saying that the real object of my visit to him was to do a deal with him. I said that it did not matter two pins to me what he and his accomplices had done--what I was out for was money, nothing but money. How much would he and the others put up for the jewels and my silence? I reminded him of the fifty thousand pound reward. He glared at me like the devil he is, and said that he'd a mind to kill me there and then, whatever happened. Whereupon I told him that I had a revolver in my jacket pocket, that it was trained on him, and that if he moved, my finger would move just as quick, and I invited him to be sensible. It was nothing but a question of money, I said---how much would they give? Finally, we settled it at sixty thousand pounds. He was to meet me here--to-day at two--the other two were to be about--the money was to be paid to me on production of the jewels, for which purpose one of them was to go with me to my boarding-house. And--you know the rest."

Miss Slade came to a sudden stop. She glanced at Rayner, who had been watching the effect of her story on the other men.

"At least," she added suddenly, "you know all that's really important. As Ebers' affair was in the City, we warned the City police and left things with them. I think that's all. Except, of course, Mr. Marshall Allerdyke, that we formally claim the reward for which you're responsible. And--equally of course--that Mr. Rayner and I will hand over her jewels in the course of this afternoon to the Princess. Miss Lennard's property, I should say, you'll find hidden away on Schmall's premises. Yes--that's all."

"Except this," said the chief quietly. He unwrapped the newspaper in which he had carried his small parcel and revealed its contents to Miss Slade. "The jewels, you see, Miss Slade, are here. It has been my painful duty to visit your hotel, and to possess myself of them. Sorry but--"

Miss Slade gave one glance of astonishment at the chief and his exhibit; then she laughed in his face.

"Don't apologize, and don't trouble yourself!" she said suavely. "But you're a bit off it, all the same. Those are some paste things which Mr. Rayner got together for me in case it came to being obliged to exhibit some to the crooks. You don't think, really, that I was going to run any risks with the genuine articles? Sakes--they're all right! They're deposited, snug and safe, at my bankers, and if you'll get a cab, we'll drive there and get them!"