Chapter Thirty-Eight. The Jew and The Jap

When Melky Rubinstein slipped quietly out of the police-station, he crossed the street, and taking up a position just within a narrow alley on the other side, set himself to watch the door which he had just quitted. There was a deep design in his mind, and he meant to carry it out--alone.

Mr. Mori Yada, apparently as cool and unconcerned as ever, presently tripped down the steps of the police-station and went leisurely off, swinging his neatly rolled umbrella. As long as he was within sight of the police-station windows he kept up the same gentle pace--but as soon as he had turned the first corner his steps were quickened, and he made for a spot to which Melky had expected him to make--a cab-rank, on which two or three taxi-cabs were drawn up. He had reached the first, and was addressing the driver, when Melky, who had kept a few yards in the rear, stole gently up to his side and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Mister!" said Melky. "A word--in private!"

Yada turned on his interrupter with the swiftness of a snake, and for a second his white teeth showed themselves in an unmistakable snarl, and a savage gleam came into his dark eyes. Both snarl and gleam passed as quickly as they had come, and the next instant he was smiling--as blandly as ever.

"Oh, yes!" he said. "It is you--how do you do? Perhaps you are going my way--I can give you a lift--Yes?"

Melky drew his man away a yard or two, and lowered his voice to a whisper.

"Mister!" he said, with a note of deep confidence which made Yada look at him with a sudden sense of fear. "Mister!--I wouldn't go no way at all if I was you--just now. You're in danger, mister--you shoved your head into the lions' den when you walked in where I've just seen you! Deep, deep is them fellows, mister!--they're having you on toast. I know where you're thinking of going, mister, in that cab. Don't go--take my tip!"

"How do you know where I'm going?" demanded Yada.

"I was looking over Levendale's shoulder when he wrote that bit of a cheque, mister," answered Melky, in his quietest accents. "You're off to his bank to turn it into cash. And--if you walk into that bank--well, you'll never walk out again, alone! Mister!--they're going to collar you there--there's a trap laid for you!"

Melky was watching Yada's face out of his own eye-corners, and he saw the olive-tinted skin pale a little, and the crafty eyes contract. And on the instant he pursued his tactics and his advantage. He had purposely steered the Japanese into a more crowded part of the street, and now he edged him into a bye-alley which led to a rookery of narrow bye-streets beyond. He felt that Yada was yielding--oppressed by a fear of the unknown. But suddenly Yada paused--drawing back from the hand which Melky had kept on his arm.

"What are you after?" he demanded. "What is your game, eh? You think to alarm me!--what do you want?"

"Nothing unreasonable, mister," answered Melky. "You'll easily satisfy me. Game? Come, now, mister--I know your game! Bank first--to get some ready-- then somewhere to pick up a bit of luggage--then, a railway station. That's it, ain't it, now? No blooming good, mister--they're ready for you the minute you walk into that bank! If they don't take you then, they'll only wait to follow you to the station. Mister!--you ain't a cat's chance!--you're done--if you don't make it worth my while to help you! See?"

Yada looked round, doubtfully. They had turned two or three corners by that time, and were in a main street, which lay at the back of Praed Street. He glanced at Melky's face--which suggested just then nothing but cunning and stratagem.

"What can you do for me?" he asked. "How much do you want? You want money, eh?"

"Make it a hundred quid, mister," said Melky. "Just a hundred of the best, and I'll put you where all the police in London won't find you for the rest of today, and get you out of it at night in such a fashion that you'll be as safe as if you was at home. You won't never see your home in Japan, again, mister, if you don't depend on yours truly! And a hundred ain't nothing--considering what you've got at stake."

"I haven't a hundred pounds to give you," answered Yada. "I have scarcely any money but this cheque."

"In course you ain't, mister!" agreed Melky. "I twigged your game straight off--you only came there to the police-station to put yourself in funds for your journey! But that's all right!--you come along of me, and let me put you in safety--then you give me that cheque--I'll get it cashed in ten minutes without going to any banks--see? Friend o' mine hereabouts--he'll cash it at his bank close by--anybody'll cash a cheque o' Levendale's. Come on, now, mister. We're close to that little port o' refuge I'm telling you about."

The bluff was going down--Melky felt, as much as saw, that Yada was swallowing it in buckets. And he slipped his hand within his companion's arm, piloted him along the street, across Praed Street, round the back of the houses into the narrow passage which communicated with the rear of the late Daniel Multenius's premises, and in at the little door which opened on the parlour wherein so many events had recently taken place.

"Where are you taking me?" asked Yada, suspiciously, as they crossed the threshold.

"All serene, mister!" answered Melky, reassuringly. "Friend o' mine here --my cousin. All right--and all secure. You're as safe here as you will be in your grave, mister--s'elp me, you are! Zillah!"

Zillah walked into the parlour and justified Melky's supreme confidence in her by showing no surprise or embarrassment. She gave Yada the merest glance, and turned to Melky.

"Bit o' business with this young gentleman, Zillah," said Melky. "That little room, upstairs, now--what?" "Oh, all right!" said Zillah, indifferently. "You know your way--you'll be quiet enough there."

Melky signed to Yada to follow him, and led the way up the stairs to the very top of the house. He conducted the Japanese into the small room in which were some ancient moth-and-worm-eaten bits of furniture, an old chest or two, and a plenitude of dust--and carefully closed the door when he and his captive had got inside.

"Now, mister!" he said, "you're as safe here as you could be in any spot in the wide world. Let's get to business--and let's understand each other. You want that cheque turned into cash--you want to get out of London tonight? All right--then hand over your check and keep quiet till I come back. Is there anything else now--any bit of luggage you want?"

"You do all this if I pay you one hundred pounds?" asked Yada.

"That'll do me, mister," answered Melky. "I'm a poor fellow, d'ye see?--I don't pick up a hundred quid every day, I assure you! So if there is anything--"

"A suit-case--at the luggage office at Oxford Circus Tube," said Yada. "I must have it--papers, you understand. If you will get me that--"

"Give me the ticket--and that cheque," said Melky. He slipped the two bits of paper into his pocket, and made for the door. "I'll turn the key outside," he said. "You'll be safer. Make yourself comfortable, mister-- I'll be back in an hour with the money and the goods."

Two minutes later Melky confronted Zillah in the parlour and grinned at her. Zillah regarded him suspiciously.

"What's this, Melky?" she demanded. "What're you up to?"

"Zillah!" said Melky, "you'll be proud of your cousin, Melky Rubinstein, before ever it's dinner-time--you will do, Zillah! And in the meantime, keep your counsel, Zillah, while he fetches a nice large policeman."

"Is that Japanese locked in that little room?" asked Zillah.

Melky tapped the side of his nose, and without a word looked out into the street. A policeman, large enough for all practical purposes, was lounging along the side-walk; another, equally bulky, was looking into a shop- window twenty yards away across the street. Within a couple of minutes Melky had both in the back-parlour and was giving them and Zillah a swift but particular account of his schemes.

"You're sure you're right, Melky?" asked Zillah. "You're not making any mistake?"

"Mistake!" exclaimed Melky, satirically. "You'll see about that in a minute! Now," he added, turning to the policemen, "you come quietly up-- and do exactly what I've told you. We'll soon know about mistakes, Zillah!"

Yada, left to himself, had spent his time in gazing out of the dirty window of his prison. There was not much of a prospect. The window commanded the various backyards of that quarter. As if to consider any possible chance of escape, he looked out. There was a projection beneath him, a convenient water-pipe--he might make a perilous descent, if need arose. But, somehow, he believed in that little Jew: he believed, much more, in the little Jew's greed for a hundred pounds of ready money. The little Jew with the cunning smile had seen his chance of making a quiet penny, and had taken it--it was all right, said Yada, all right. And yet, there was one horrible thought--supposing, now that Melky had got the cheque, that he cashed it and made off with all the money, never to return?

On top of that thought, Melky did return--much sooner than Yada had expected. He opened the door and beckoned the prisoner out into the dark lobby at the top of the stairs.

"Come here a minute, mister," said Melky, invitingly. "Just a word!"

Yada, all unsuspecting, stepped out--and found his arms firmly gripped by two bulky policemen. The policemen were very quiet--but Melky laughed gleefully while Yada screamed and cursed him. And while he laughed Melky went through his prisoner's pockets in a knowing and skilful fashion, and when he had found what he expected to find, he made his helpers lock Yada up again, and taking them downstairs to the parlour laid his discoveries on the table before them and Zillah. There was a great orange-yellow diamond in various folds of tissue-paper, and a thick wad of bank-notes, with an indiarubber band round them.

These valuables lay, carelessly displayed, on the table when the party from Pilmansey's Tea Rooms came tumbling into the shop and the parlour, an hour later. Melky was calmly smoking a cigar--and he went on smoking it as he led the Inspector and his men upstairs to the prisoner. He could not deprive himself of the pleasure of a dig at Ayscough.

"Went one better than you again, Mr. Ayscough," he said, as he laid his hand on the key of the locked room. "Now if I hadn't seen through my young gentleman--"

But there, as Melky threw open the door, his words of assurance came to an end. His face dropped as he stared into an empty room. Yada had risked his neck, and gone down the water-pipe.