Chapter Thirty. The Mortuary
 

Melky, who had grown breathless in his efforts to carry out his companion's wishes, turned and looked at him with no attempt to conceal his wonder.

"Well, s'elp me if you ain't a cool 'un, Mr. Ayscough!" he exclaimed. "Here you troubles to track a chap to this here Underground Railway, seen him pop into it like a rabbit into a hole--and let's him go! What did we follow him up Gower Street for? Just to see him set off for a ride?"

"All right, my lad!" repeated Ayscough. "You don't quite understand our little ways. Wait here a minute."

He drew one of his cards from his pocket and carrying it into the booking office exchanged a few words with the clerk at the window. Presently he rejoined Melky. "He took a ticket for Whitechapel," remarked Ayscough as he strolled quietly up. "Ah! now what does a young Japanese medical student want going down that way at eleven o'clock at night? Something special, no doubt, Mr. Rubinstein. However, I'm going westward just now. Just going to have a look in at the Great Western Hotel, to see if Mr. Purdie heard anything from that American chap--and then I'm for home and bed. Like to come to the hotel with me?"

"Strikes me we might as well make a night of it!" remarked Melky as they recrossed the road and sought a west-bound train. "We've had such an evening as I never expected! Mr. Ayscough! when on earth is this going to come to something like a clearing-up?"

Ayscough settled himself in a corner of a smoking-carriage and leaned back.

"My own opinion," he said, "is that it's coming to an end. Tomorrow, the news of the Chinaman's murder'll be the talk of the town. And if that doesn't fetch Levendale out of whatever cranny he's crept into, hanged if I know what will!"

"Ah! you think that, do you?" said Melky. "But--why should that news fetch him out?"

"Don't know!" replied Ayscough, almost unconcernedly. "But I'm almost certain that it will. You see--I think Levendale's looking for Chen Li. Now, if Levendale hears that Chen Li's lying dead in our mortuary--what? See?"

Melky murmured that Mr. Ayscough was a cute 'un, and relapsed into thought until the train pulled up at Praed Street. He followed the detective up the streets and across the road to the hotel, dumbly wondering how many times that day he had been in and about that quarter on this apparently interminable chase. He was getting dazed--but Ayscough who was still smoking the cigar which Yada had given him, strode along into the hotel entrance apparently as fresh as paint.

Purdie had a private sitting-room in connection with his bedroom, and there they found him and Lauriston, both smoking pipes and each evidently full of thought and speculation. They jumped to their feet as the detective entered.

"I say!" exclaimed Lauriston. "Is this true?--this about the Chinese chap? Is it what they think at your police-station?--connected with the other affairs? We've been waiting, hoping you'd come in!"

"Ah!" said Ayscough, dropping into a chair. "We've been pretty busy, me and Mr. Rubinstein there--we've had what you might call a pretty full evening's work of it. Yes--it's true enough, gentlemen--another step in the ladder--another brick in the building! We're getting on, Mr. Purdie, we're getting on! So you've been round to our place?--they told you, there!"

"They gave us a mere outline," answered Purdie. "Just the bare facts. I suppose you've heard nothing of the other Chinaman?"

"Not a circumstance--as yet," said Ayscough. "But I'm in hopes--I've done a bit, I think, towards it--with Mr. Rubinstein's help, though he doesn't quite understand my methods. But you, gentlemen--I came in to hear if you'd anything to tell about Guyler. What did he think about what John Purvis had to tell us this afternoon?"

"He wasn't surprised," answered Purdie. "Don't you remember that he assured us from the very start that diamonds would be found to be at the bottom of this. But he surprised us!"

"Aye? How?" asked Ayscough. "Some news?"

"Guyler swears that he saw Stephen Purvis this very morning," replied Purdie. "He's confident of it!"

"Saw Stephen Purvis--this very morning!" exclaimed Ayscough. "Where, now?"

"Guyler had business down in the City--in the far end of it," said Purdie. "He was crossing Bishopsgate when he saw Stephen Purvis--he swears it was Stephen Purvis!--nothing can shake him! He, Purvis, was just turning the corner into a narrow alley running out of the street. Guyler rushed after him--he'd disappeared. Guyler waited, watching that alley, he says, like a cat watches a mouse-hole--and all in vain. He watched for an hour--it was no good."

"Pooh!" said Ayscough. "If it was Purvis, he'd walked straight through the alley and gone out at the other end."

"No!" remarked Lauriston. "At least, not according to Guyler. Guyler says it was a long, narrow alley--Purvis could have reached one end by the time he'd reached the other. He says--Guyler--that on each side of that alley there are suites of offices--he reckoned there were a few hundred separate offices in the lot, and that it would take him a week to make enquiry at the doors of each. But he's certain that Purvis disappeared into one block of them and dead certain that it was Stephen Purvis that he saw. So-- Purvis is alive!"

"Where's the other Purvis--the farmer?" asked Ayscough.

"Stopping with Guyler at the Great Northern," answered Lauriston. "We've all four been down in the City, looking round, this evening. Guyler and John Purvis are going down again first thing in the morning. John Purvis, of course, is immensely relieved to know that Guyler's certain about his brother. I say!--do you know what Guyler's theory is about that diamond of Stephen's?"

"No--and what might Mr. Guyler's theory be, now Mr. Lauriston?" enquired the detective. "There's such a lot of ingenious theories about that one may as well try to take in another. Mr. Rubinstein there is about weary of theories."

But Melky was pricking his ears at the mere mention of anything relating to the diamond.

"That's his chaff, Mr. Lauriston," he said. "Never mind him! What does Guyler think?"

"Well, of course, Guyler doesn't know yet about the Chinese development," said Lauriston. "Guyler thinks the robbery has been the work of a gang--a clever lot of diamond thieves who knew about Stephen Purvis's find of the orange-yellow thing and put in a lot of big work about getting it when it reached England. And he believes that that gang has kidnapped Levendale, and that Stephen Purvis is working in secret to get at them. That's Guyler's notion, anyhow."

"Well!" said Ayscough. "And there may be something in it! For this search --how do we know that at any rate one of these Chinamen mayn't have had some connection with this gang? You never know--and to get a dead straight line at a thing's almost impossible. However, we've taken steps to have the news about the diamond and about this Chen Li appear in tomorrow morning's papers, and if that doesn't rouse the whole town--"

A tap at the door prefaced the entrance of a waiter, who looked apologetically at its inmates.

"Beg pardon, gentlemen," he said, "Mr. Ayscough? Gentleman outside would like a word with you, if you please, sir."

Ayscough picked up his hat and walked out--there, waiting a little way down the corridor, an impressive figure in his big black cloak and wide- brimmed hat, stood Dr. Mirandolet. He strode forward as the detective advanced.

"I heard you were here, so I came up," he said, leading Ayscough away. "Look here, my friend--one of your people has told me of this affair at Molteno Lodge--the discovery of the Chinaman's dead body."

"That young fellow, Rubinstein, who called on you early this evening, and got me to accompany him discovered it," said Ayscough, who was wondering what the doctor was after. "I was with him."

"I have heard, too," continued Mirandolet, "also from one of your people, about the strange story of the diamond which came out this afternoon, from the owner's brother. Now--I'll tell you why after--I want to see that dead Chinaman! I've a particular reason. Will you come with me to the mortuary?"

Ayscough's curiosity was aroused by Mirandolet's manner, and without going back to Purdie's room, he set out with him. Mirandolet remained strangely silent until they came to the street in which the mortuary stood.

"A strange and mysterious matter this, my friend!" he said. "That little Rubinstein man might have had some curious premonition when he came to me tonight with his odd question about Chinese!"

"Just what I said myself, doctor!" agreed Ayscough.

"It did look as if he'd a sort of foreboding, eh? But--Hullo!"

He stopped short as a taxi-cab driven at a considerable speed, came rushing down the street and passing them swiftly turned into the wider road beyond. And the sudden exclamation was forced from his lips because it seemed to him that as the cab sped by he saw a yellow-hued face within it--for the fraction of a second. Quick as that glimpse was, Ayscough was still quicker as he glanced at the number on the back of the car--and memorized it.

"Odd!" he muttered, "odd! Now, I could have sworn--" He broke off, and hurried after Mirandolet who had stridden ahead. "Here we are, doctor," he said, as they came to the door of the mortuary. "There's a man on night duty here, so there's no difficulty about getting in."

There was a drawing of bolts, a turning of keys; the door opened, and a man looked out and seeing Ayscough and Dr. Mirandolet, admitted them into an ante-room and turned up the gas.

"We want to see that Chinaman, George," said the detective. "Shan't keep you long."

"There's a young foreign doctor just been to see him, Mr. Ayscough," said the man. "You'd pass his car down the street--he hasn't been gone three minutes. Young Japanese--brought your card with him."

Ayscough turned on the man as if he had given him the most startling news in the world.

"What?" he exclaimed, "Japanese? Brought my card?"

"Showed me it as soon as he got here," answered the attendant, surprised at Ayscough's amazement. "Said you'd given it to him, so that he could call here and identify the body. So, of course, I let him go in."

Ayscough opened his mouth in sheer amazement. But before he could get out a word, Mirandolet spoke, seizing the mortuary-keeper by the arm in his eagerness.

"You let that man--a Japanese--see the dead Chinaman--alone?" he demanded.

"Why, of course!" the attendant answered surlily. "He'd Mr. Ayscough's card, and--"

Mirandolet dropped the man's arm and threw up his own long white hands.

"Merciful Powers!" he vociferated. "He has stolen the diamond!"