Chapter Sixteen. The Detective Calls

Mr. Penniket, to whom the two cousins and Mrs. Goldmark were evidently very well known, looked a polite enquiry at the stranger as he took the chair which Melky drew forward for him.

"As Mr. Purdie is presumably discussing this affair with you," he observed, "I take it that you intend him to hear anything I have to tell?"

"That's so, Mr. Penniket," answered Melky. "Mr. Purdie's one of us, so to speak--you can tell us anything you like, before him. We were going into details when you come--there's some strange business on, Mr. Penniket! And we want to get a bit clear about it before we tell the police what we know."

"You know something that they don't know?" asked Mr. Penniket.

"More than a bit!" replied Melky, laconically. "This here affair's revolving itself into a network, mister, out of which somebody's going to find it hard work to break through!"

The solicitor, who had been quietly inspecting Purdie, gave him a sly smile.

"Then before I tell you what I have just found out," he said, turning to Melky, "I think you had better tell me all you know, and what you have been discussing. Possibly, I may have something to tell which bears on our knowledge. Let us be clear!"

He listened carefully while Purdie, at Zillah's request, told him briefly what had been said before his arrival, and Purdie saw at once that none of the facts surprised him. He asked Mrs. Goldmark one or two questions about the man who was believed to have dropped one of his cuff-links in her restaurant; he asked Melky a question as to his discovery of the other; he made no comment on the answers which they gave him. Finally, he drew his chair nearer to the table at which they were sitting, and invited their attention with a glance.

"There is no doubt," he said, "that the circumstances centring round the death of my late client are remarkably mysterious! What we want to get at, put into a nut-shell, is just this--what happened in this parlour between half-past four and half-past five on Monday afternoon? We might even narrow that down to--what happened between ten minutes to five and ten minutes past five? Daniel Multenius was left alone--we know that. Some person undoubtedly came in here--perhaps more than one person came. Who was the person? Were there two persons? If there were two, did they come together--or singly, separately? All that will have to be solved before we find out who it was that assaulted my late client, and so injured him that he died under the shock. Now, Miss Wildrose, and Mr. Rubinstein, there's one fact which you may as well get into your minds at once. Your deceased relative had his secrets!"

Neither Zillah nor Purdie made any comment on this, and the solicitor, with a meaning look at Purdie, went on. "Not that Daniel Multenius revealed any of them to me!" he continued. "I have acted for him in legal matters for some years, but only in quite an ordinary way. He was a well- to-do man, Mr. Purdie--a rich man, in fact, and a considerable property owner--I did all his work of that sort. But as regards his secrets, I know nothing--except that since yesterday, I have discovered that he certainly had them. I have, as Miss Wildrose knows--and by her instructions--been making some enquiries at the bank where Mr. Multenius kept his account-- the Empire and Universal, in Lombard Street--and I have made some curious unearthings in the course of them. Now then, between ourselves--Mr. Purdie being represented to me as in your entire confidence--I may as well tell you that Daniel Multenius most certainly had dealings of a business nature completely outside his business as jeweller and pawnbroker in this shop. That's positively certain. And what is also certain is that in some of those dealings he was, in some way or another, intimately associated with the man whose name has already come up a good deal since Monday--Mr. Spencer Levendale!"

"S'elp me!" muttered Melky. "I heard Levendale, with my own two ears, say that he didn't know the poor old fellow!"

"Very likely," said Mr. Penniket, drily. "It was not convenient to him--we will assume--to admit that he did, just then. But I have discovered--from the bankers--that precisely two years ago, Mr. Spencer Levendale paid to Daniel Multenius a sum of ten thousand pounds. That's a fact!"

"For what, mister?" demanded Melky.

"Can't say--nobody can say," answered the solicitor. "All the same, he did--paid it in, himself, to Daniel Multenius's credit, at the Empire and Universal. It went into the ordinary account, in the ordinary way, and was used by Mr. Multenius as part of his own effects--as no doubt it was. Now," continued Mr. Penniket, turning to Zillah, "I want to ask you a particular question. I know you had assisted your grandfather a great deal of late years. Had you anything to do with his banking account?"

"No!" replied Zillah, promptly. "That's the one thing I never had anything to do with. I never saw his pass-book, nor his deposit-book, nor even his cheque-book. He kept all that to himself."

"Just so," said Mr. Penniket. "Then, of course, you don't know that he dealt with considerable sums--evidently quite outside this business. He made large--sometimes very heavy--payments. And--this, I am convinced, is of great importance to the question we are trying to solve--most of these payments were sent to South Africa."

The solicitor glanced round his audience as if anxious to see that its various members grasped the significance of this announcement. And Melky at once voiced the first impression of, at any rate, three of them.

"Levendale comes from those parts!" he muttered. "Came here some two or three years ago--by all I can gather."

"Just so," said Mr. Penniket. "Therefore, possibly this South African business, in which my late client was undoubtedly engaged, is connected with Mr. Levendale. That can be found out. But I have still more to tell you--perhaps, considering everything, the most important matter of the whole lot. On Monday morning last--that would be a few hours before his death--Mr. Multenius called at the bank and took from it a small packet which he had entrusted to his banker's keeping only a fortnight previously. The bankers do not know what was in that packet--he had more than once got them to take care of similar packets at one time or another. But they described it to me just now. A packet, evidently enclosing a small, hard box, some four or five inches square in all directions, wrapped in strong cartridge paper, and heavily sealed with red wax. It bore Mr. Multenius's name and address--written by himself. Now, then, Miss Wildrose--he took that packet away from the bank at about twelve-thirty on Monday noon. Have you seen anything of it?"

"Nothing!" answered Zillah with certainty. "There's no such packet here, Mr. Penniket. I've been through everything--safes, drawers, chests, since my grandfather died, and I've not found anything that I didn't know of. I remember that he went out last Monday morning--he was away two hours, and came in again about a quarter past one, but I never saw such a packet in his possession as that you describe. I know nothing of it."

"Well," said the solicitor, after a pause, "there are the facts. And the question now is--ought we not to tell all this to the police, at once? This connection of Levendale with my late client--as undoubted as it seems to have been secret--needs investigation. According to Mr. Purdie here-- Levendale has suddenly disappeared--or, at any rate, left home under mysterious circumstances. Has that disappearance anything to do with Multenius's death? Has it anything to do with the death of this next door man, Parslett, last night? And has Levendale any connections with the strange man who dropped one platinum solitaire stud in Mrs. Goldmark's restaurant, and another in this parlour?"

No one attempted to answer these questions for a moment; then, Melky, as if seized with a sudden inspiration, smote the table and leaned over it towards the solicitor.

"Mr. Penniket!" he said, glancing around him as if to invite approval of what he was about to say. "You're a lawyer, mister!--you can put things in order and present 'em as if they was in a catalogue! Take the whole business to New Scotland Yard, sir!--let the big men at headquarters have a go at it. That's what I say! There's some queer mystery at the bottom of all this, Mr. Penniket, and it ain't a one-man job. Go to the Yard, mister--let 'em try their brains on it!"

Zillah made a murmured remark which seemed to second her cousin's proposal, and Mr. Penniket turned to Purdie.

"I understand you to be a business man," he remarked. "What do you say?"

"As far as I can put things together," answered Purdie, "I fully agree that there is some extraordinary mystery round and about Mr. Multenius's death. And as the detective force at New Scotland Yard exists for the solution of such problems--why, I should certainly tell the authorities there everything that is known. Why not?"

"Very good," said Mr. Penniket. "Then it will be well if you two come with me. The more information we can give to the heads of the Criminal Investigation Department, the better. We'll go there at once."

In a few moments, the three men had gone, and Zillah and Mrs. Goldmark, left alone, looked at each other.

"Mrs. Goldmark!" said Zillah, after a long silence. "Did you see that man, yourself, who's supposed to have dropped that platinum solitaire in your restaurant?"

"Did I see him?" exclaimed Mrs. Goldmark. "Do I see you, Zillah? See him I did!--though never before, and never since! And ain't I the good memory for faces--and won't I know him again if he comes my way? Do you know what?--I ain't never forgotten a face what I've once looked at! Comes from keeping an eye on customers who looks as if they might have forgot to bring their moneys with 'em!"

"Well, I hope you'll see this man again," remarked Zillah. "I'd give a lot to get all the mystery cleared up."

Mrs. Goldmark observed that mysteries were not cleared up in a day, and presently went away to see that her business was being conducted properly. She was devoting herself to Zillah in very neighbourly fashion just then, but she had to keep running into the restaurant every hour or two to keep an eye on things. And during one of her absences, later in the early evening of that day, Zillah, alone in the house, answered a knock at the door, and opening it found Ayscough outside. His look betokened news, and Zillah led him into the parlour.

"Alone?" asked Ayscough. "Aye, well, I've something to tell you that I want you to keep to yourself--for a bit, anyway. Those rings, you know, that the young fellow, Lauriston, says are his, and had been his mother's?"

"Well?" said Zillah, faintly, and half-conscious of some coming bad news. "What of them?"

"Our people," continued the detective, "have had some expert chap-- jeweller, or something of that sort, examining those rings, and comparing them with the rings that are in your tray. And in that tray there are several rings which have a private mark inside them. Now, then!--those two rings which Lauriston claims are marked in exactly the same fashion!"