Scarhaven Keep by J. S. Fletcher
Chapter XXV. The Squire
Such of the folk of the "Angel" hotel--a night porter, a waiter, a chamber-maid--as were up and about that grey morning, wondered why the two old gentlemen who had arrived from London the day before should rise from their beds to hold a secret and mysterious conference with the three young ones who, with a charming if tired-looking young lady, drove up before the city clocks had struck six. But Sir Cresswell Oliver and Mr. Petherton knew that there was no time to be lost, and as soon as Audrey had been restored to and carried off by her mother to Mrs. Greyle's room, they summoned Vickers and Copplestone to a private parlour and demanded their latest news. Sir Cresswell listened eagerly, and in silence, until Copplestone described the return of the Pike; at that he broke his silence.
"That's precisely what I feared!" he exclaimed. "Of course, if she's been hurriedly repainted and renamed, she stands a fair chance of getting away. Our instructions to the patrol boats up there are to look for a certain vessel, the Pike--naturally they won't look for anything else. We must get the wireless to work at once."
"But there's this," said Copplestone. "They certainly fetched old Chatfield to make him hand over the gold! They won't go away without that! And he said that he'd hidden the gold somewhere near Scarhaven. Therefore, they'll have to come down this coast to get it."
"Not necessarily," replied Sir Cresswell, with a knowing shake of the head. "You may be sure they're alive to all the exigencies of the situation. They could do several things once they'd got Chatfield on board again. Some of them could land with him at some convenient port and make him take them to where he's hidden the money; they could recapture that and go off to some other port, to which the yacht had meanwhile been brought round. If we only knew where Chatfield had planted that money--"
"He said near Scarhaven, unmistakably," remarked Vickers.
"Near Scarhaven!" repeated Sir Cresswell, laughing dismally. "That's a wide term--a very wide one. Behind Scarhaven, as you all know, are hills and moors and valleys and ravines in which one could hide a Dreadnought! Well, that's all I can think of--getting into communication with patrol boats and coastguard stations all along the coast between here and Wick. And that mayn't be the least good. Somebody may have escorted Chatfield ashore after they left you yesterday, brought him hereabouts by rail or motor-car, and the yacht may have made a wide detour round the Shetlands and be now well on her way to the North Atlantic."
"But in that case--the money?" asked Copplestone.
"They would get hold of the money, take it clean away, and ship it from Liverpool, or Glasgow, or--anywhere," replied Sir Cresswell. "You may be sure they've plenty of resources at command, and that they'll work secretly. Of course, we must keep a look out round about here for any sign or reappearance of Chatfield, but, as I say, this country is so wild that he and his companions can easily elude observation, especially as they're sure to come by night. Still, we must do what we can, and at once. But first, there are one or two things I want to ask you young men--you said, Mr. Vickers, that Chatfield solemnly insisted to you that he did not know that the man who had posed as Marston Greyle was not Marston Greyle?"
"He did," replied Vickers, "and though Chatfield is an unmitigated old scoundrel, I believe him."
"You do!" exclaimed Gilling, who was listening eagerly. "Oh, come!"
"I do--as a professional man," answered Vickers, stoutly, and with an appealing glance at his brother solicitor. "Mr. Petherton will tell you that we lawyers have a curious gift of intuition. With all Chatfield's badness, I do really believe that the old fellow does not know whether the man we'll call the Squire is Marston Greyle or not! He's doubtful--he's puzzled--but he doesn't know."
"Odd!" murmured Sir Cresswell, after a minute's silence. "Odd! Very, very odd! That shows that there's still some extraordinary mystery about this which we haven't even guessed at. Well, now, another question--you got the idea that some one else was aboard the yacht?"
"Some one other than Andrius--in authority--yes!" answered Vickers. "We certainly thought that."
"Did you think it was the man we know as the Squire?" asked Sir Cresswell.
"We had a notion that he might be there," replied Vickers, with a glance at Copplestone. "Especially after what happened to Chatfield. Of course, we never saw him, or heard his voice, or saw a sign of him. Still, we fancied--"
Sir Cresswell rose from his chair and motioned to Petherton.
"Well," he said, "I think you and I, Petherton, had better complete our toilets, and then give a look in at the authorities here and find out if anything has been received by wireless or from the coastguard stations about the yacht. In the meantime," he added, turning to Vickers and Copplestone, "Gilling can tell you what's been going on in your absence--you'll learn from it that our impression is that the Squire, as we call him, was on the Pike with you."
The two elder men went away, and Copplestone turned to Gilling.
"What have you got?" he asked eagerly. "Live news!"
"Might have been livelier and more satisfactory," answered Gilling, "if it hadn't been for the factor which none of us can help--luck! We tracked the Squire."
"You did?" exclaimed Copplestone. "Where?"
"When I said we I should have said Swallow," continued Gilling. "You remember that afternoon of our return from Bristol, Copplestone? It seems ages away now, though as a matter of time it's only four days ago!--Well, that afternoon Swallow, who had had two or three more keeping a sharp look out for the Squire, got a telephone message from one of 'em saying that he'd tracked his man to the Fragonard Club. I'd gone home to my chambers, to rest a bit after our adventures at Bristol and Falmouth, so Swallow had to act on his own initiative. He set off for the Fragonard Club, and outside it met his man. This particular man had been keeping a watch for days on that tobacconist's shop in Wardour Street. That afternoon he suddenly saw the Squire leave it, by a side door. He followed him to the Fragonard Club, watched him enter; then he himself turned into a neighbouring bar and telephoned to Swallow. The Squire was still in the Fragonard when Swallow got there: from that time he kept a watch. The Squire remained in the Club for an hour--"
"Which proves," interrupted Copplestone, "that he's a member, and that I ought to have followed up my attempt to get in there."
"Well, anyway," continued Gilling, "there he was, and thence he eventually emerged, with a kit-bag. He got into a taxi, and Swallow heard him order its driver to go to King's Cross. Now Swallow was there alone--and he had just before that met his man scooting round to see if there was a rear exit from the Fragonard, and he hadn't returned. Swallow, of course, couldn't wait--every minute was precious. He followed the Squire to King's Cross, and heard him book for Northborough."
"Northborough!" exclaimed Copplestone, in surprise. "Not Norcaster? Ah, well, Northborough's a port, too, isn't it?"
"Northborough is as near to Scarhaven as Norcaster is, you know," said Gilling. "To Northborough he booked, anyhow. So did Swallow, who, now that he'd got him, was going to follow him to the North Pole, if need be. The train was just starting--Swallow had no time to communicate with me. Also, the train didn't stop until it reached Grantham. There he sent me a wire, saying he was on the track of his man. Well, they went on to Northborough, where they arrived late in the evening. There--what is it, Copplestone," he broke off, seeing signs of a desire to speak on Copplestone's part.
"You're talking of the very same afternoon and evening that I came down--four evenings ago," said Copplestone. "My train was the four o'clock--I got to Norcaster at ten--surely they didn't come on the same train!"
"I feel sure they did, but anyhow, these trains to the North are usually very long ones, and you were probably in a different part," replied Gilling. "Anyway, they got to Northborough soon after nine. Swallow followed his man on to the platform, out to some taxi-cabs, and heard him commission one of the chauffeurs to take him to Scarhaven. When they'd gone Swallow got hold of another taxi, and told its driver to take him to Scarhaven, too. Off they went--in a pitch-black night, I'm told--"
"We know that!" said Vickers with a glance at Copplestone. "We motored from Norcaster--just about the same time."
"Well," continued Gilling, "it was at any rate so dark that Swallow's driver, who appears to have been a very nervous chap, made very poor progress. Also he took one or two wrong turnings. Finally he ran his car into a guide post which stood where two roads forked--and there Swallow was landed, scarcely halfway to Scarhaven. They couldn't get the car to move, and it was some time before Swallow could persuade the landlord at the nearest inn to hire out a horse and trap to him. Altogether, it was near or just past midnight when he reached Scarhaven, and when he did get there, it was to see the lights of a steamer going out of the bay."
"The Pike, of course," muttered Copplestone.
"Of course--and some men on the quay told him," continued Gilling. "Well, that put Swallow in a fix. He was dead certain, of course, that his man was on that yacht. However, he didn't want to rouse suspicion, so he didn't ask any of those quayside men if they'd seen the Squire. Instead, remembering what I'd told him about Mrs. Greyle he asked for her house and was directed to it. He found Mrs. Greyle in a state of great anxiety. Her daughter had gone with you two to the yacht and had never returned; Mrs. Greyle, watching from her windows, had seen the yacht go out to sea. Swallow found her, of course, seriously alarmed as to what had happened. Of course, he told her what he had come down for and they consulted. Next morning--"
"Stop a bit," interrupted Vickers. "Didn't Mrs. Greyle get any message from the yacht about her daughter--Andrius said he'd sent one, anyway."
"A lie!" replied Gilling. "She got no message. The only consolation she had was that you and Copplestone were with Miss Greyle. Well, first thing next morning Swallow and Mrs. Greyle set every possible means to work. They went to the police--they wired to places up the coast and down the coast to keep a look out--and Swallow also wired full particulars to Sir Cresswell Oliver, with the result that Sir Cresswell went to the naval authorities and got them to set their craft up north to work. Having done all this, and finding that he could be of no more service at Scarhaven, Swallow returned to town to see me and to consult. Now, of course, we were in a position by then to approach that Fragonard Club--"
"Ah!" exclaimed Copplestone. "Just so!"
"The man, whoever he is, had been there an hour on the day Swallow and his man tracked him," continued Gilling. "Therefore, something must be known of him. Swallow and I, armed with certain credentials, went there. And--we could find out next to nothing. The hall porter there said he dimly remembered such a gentleman coming in and going upstairs, but he himself was new to his job, didn't know all the members--there are hundreds of 'em--and he took this man for a regular habitue. A waiter also had some sort of recollection of the man, and seeing him in conversation with another man whom he, the waiter, knew better, though he didn't know his name. Swallow is now moving everything to find that man--to find anybody who knows our man--and something will come of it, in the end--must do. In the meantime I came down here with Sir Cresswell and Mr. Petherton, to be on the spot. And, from your information, things will happen here! That hidden gold is the thing--they'll not leave that without an effort to get it. If we could only find out where that is and watch it--then our present object would be achieved."
"What is the present object?" asked Copplestone.
"Why," replied Gilling, "we've got warrants out against both Chatfield and the Squire for the murder of Bassett Oliver!--the police here have them in hand. Petherton's seen to that. And if they can only be laid hands on--What is it?" he asked turning to a sleepy-eyed waiter who, after a gentle tap at the door, put a shock head into the room. "Somebody want me?"
"That there man, sir--you know," said the waiter. "Here again, sir--stable-yard, sir."
Gilling jumped up and gave Copplestone a look.
"That's Spurge!" he muttered. "He said he'd be back at day-break. Wait here--I'll fetch him."