Part 3 out of 5
waiting-room to which repaired every official of the police
service who found time hanging on his hands. On the afternoon of
Miss Holland's surprising adventure, a plainclothes man of "D"
Division brought to Mr. Mansus's room a very scared domestic
servant, voluble, tearful and agonizingly penitent. It was a mood
not wholly unfamiliar to a police officer of twenty years
experience and Mr. Mansus was not impressed.
"If you will kindly shut up," he said, blending his natural
politeness with his employment of the vernacular, "and if you will
also answer a few questions I will save you a lot of trouble. You
were Lady Bartholomew's maid weren't you?"
"Yes, sir," sobbed the red-eyed Mary Ann.
"And you have been detected trying to pawn a gold bracelet, the
property of Lady Bartholomew?"
The maid gulped, nodded and started breathlessly upon a recital of
"Yes, sir - but she practically gave it to me, sir, and I haven't
had my wages for two months, sir, and she can give that foreigner
thousands and thousands of pounds at a time, sir, but her poor
servants she can't pay - no, she can't. And if Sir William knew
especially about my lady's cards and about the snuffbox, what
would he think, I wonder, and I'm going to have my rights, for if
she can pay thousands to a swell like Mr. Kara she can pay me
and - "
Mansus jerked his head.
"Take her down to the cells," he said briefly, and they led her
away, a wailing, woeful figure of amateur larcenist.
In three minutes Mansus was with T. X. and had reduced the girl's
incoherence to something like order.
"This is important," said T. X.; "produce the Abigail."
"The - ?" asked the puzzled officer.
"The skivvy - slavey - hired help - get busy," said T. X.
They brought her to T. X. in a condition bordering upon collapse.
"Get her a cup of tea," said the wise chief. "Sit down, Mary Ann,
and forget all your troubles."
"Oh, sir, I've never been in this position before," she began, as
she flopped into the chair they put for her.
"Then you've had a very tiring time," said T. X. "Now listen - "
"I've been respectable - "
"Forget it!" said T. X., wearily. "Listen! If you'll tell me
the whole truth about Lady Bartholomew and the money she paid to
Mr. Kara - "
"Two thousand pounds - two separate thousand and by all accounts-"
"If you will tell me the truth, I'll compound a felony and let you
It was a long time before he could prevail upon her to clear her
speech of the ego which insisted upon intruding. There were gaps
in her narrative which he bridged. In the main it was a
believable story. Lady Bartholomew had lost money and had
borrowed from Kara. She had given as security, the snuffbox
presented to her husband's father, a doctor, by one of the Czars
for services rendered, and was "all blue enamel and gold, and
foreign words in diamonds." On the question of the amount Lady
Bartholomew had borrowed, Abigail was very vague. All that she
knew was that my lady had paid back two thousand pounds and that
she was still very distressed ("in a fit" was the phrase the girl
used), because apparently Kara refused to restore the box.
There had evidently been terrible scenes in the Bartholomew
menage, hysterics and what not, the principal breakdown having
occurred when Belinda Mary came home from school in France.
"Miss Bartholomew is home then. Where is she?" asked T. X.
Here the girl was more vague than ever. She thought the young
lady had gone back again, anyway Miss Belinda had been very much
upset. Miss Belinda had seen Dr. Williams and advised that her
mother should go away for a change.
"Miss Belinda seems to be a precocious young person," said T. X.
"Did she by any chance see Mr. Kara?"
"Oh, no," explained the girl. "Miss Belinda was above that sort
of person. Miss Belinda was a lady, if ever there was one."
"And how old is this interesting young woman?" asked T. X.
"She is nineteen," said the girl, and the Commissioner, who had
pictured Belinda in short plaid frocks and long pigtails, and had
moreover visualised her as a freckled little girl with thin legs
and snub nose, was abashed.
He delivered a short lecture on the sacred rights of property,
paid the girl the three months' wages which were due to her - he
had no doubt as to the legality of her claim - and dismissed her
with instructions to go back to the house, pack her box and clear
After the girl had gone, T. X. sat down to consider the position.
He might see Kara and since Kara had expressed his contrition and
was probably in a more humble state of mind, he might make
reparation. Then again he might not. Mansus was waiting and T.
X. walked back with him to his little office.
"I hardly know what to make of it," he said in despair.
"If you can give me Kara's motive, sir, I can give you a
solution," said Mansus.
T. X. shook his head.
"That is exactly what I am unable to give you," he said.
He perched himself on Mansus's desk and lit a cigar.
"I have a good mind to go round and see him," he said after a
"Why not telephone to him?" asked Mansus. "There is his 'phone
straight into his boudoir."
He pointed to a small telephone in a corner of the room.
"Oh, he persuaded the Commissioner to run the wire, did he?" said
T. X. interested, and walked over to the telephone.
He fingered the receiver for a little while and was about to take
it off, but changed his mind.
"I think not," he said, "I'll go round and see him to-morrow. I
don't hope to succeed in extracting the confidence in the case of
Lady Bartholomew, which he denied me over poor Lexman."
"I suppose you'll never give up hope of seeing Mr. Lexman again,"
smiled Mansus, busily arranging a new blotting pad.
Before T. X. could answer there came a knock at the door, and a
uniformed policeman, entered. He saluted T. X.
"They've just sent an urgent letter across from your office, sir.
I said I thought you were here."
He handed the missive to the Commissioner. T. X. took it and
glanced at the typewritten address. It was marked "urgent" and
"by hand." He took up the thin, steel, paper-knife from the desk
and slit open the envelope. The letter consisted of three or four
pages of manuscript and, unlike the envelope, it was handwritten.
"My dear T. X.," it began, and the handwriting was familiar.
Mansus, watching the Commissioner, saw the puzzled frown gather on
his superior's forehead, saw the eyebrows arch and the mouth open
in astonishment, saw him hastily turn to the last page to read the
signature and then
"Howling apples!" gasped T. X. "It's from John Lexman!"
His hand shook as he turned the closely written pages. The letter
was dated that afternoon. There was no other address than
"My dear T. X.," it began, "I do not doubt that this letter will
give you a little shock, because most of my friends will have
believed that I am gone beyond return. Fortunately or
unfortunately that is not so. For myself I could wish - but I am
not going to take a very gloomy view since I am genuinely pleased
at the thought that I shall be meeting you again. Forgive this
letter if it is incoherent but I have only this moment returned
and am writing at the Charing Cross Hotel. I am not staying here,
but I will let you have my address later. The crossing has been a
very severe one so you must forgive me if my letter sounds a
little disjointed. You will be sorry to hear that my dear wife is
dead. She died abroad about six months ago. I do not wish to
talk very much about it so you will forgive me if I do not tell
you any more.
"My principal object in writing to you at the moment is an
official one. I suppose I am still amenable to punishment and I
have decided to surrender myself to the authorities to-night. You
used to have a most excellent assistant in Superintendent Mansus,
and if it is convenient to you, as I hope it will be, I will
report myself to him at 10.15. At any rate, my dear T. X., I do
not wish to mix you up in my affairs and if you will let me do
this business through Mansus I shall be very much obliged to you.
"I know there is no great punishment awaiting me, because my
pardon was apparently signed on the night before my escape. I
shall not have much to tell you, because there is not much in the
past two years that I would care to recall. We endured a great
deal of unhappiness and death was very merciful when it took my
beloved from me.
"Do you ever see Kara in these days?
"Will you tell Mansus to expect me at between ten and half-past,
and if he will give instructions to the officer on duty in the
hall I will come straight up to his room.
"With affectionate regards, my dear fellow, I am,
T. X. read the letter over twice and his eyes were troubled.
"Poor girl," he said softly, and handed the letter to Mansus. "He
evidently wants to see you because he is afraid of using my
friendship to his advantage. I shall be here, nevertheless."
"What will be the formality?" asked Mansus.
"There will be no formality," said the other briskly. "I will
secure the necessary pardon from the Home Secretary and in point
of fact I have it already promised, in writing."
He walked back to Whitehall, his mind fully occupied with the
momentous events of the day. It was a raw February evening, sleet
was falling in the street, a piercing easterly wind drove even
through his thick overcoat. In such doorways as offered
protection from the bitter elements the wreckage of humanity which
clings to the West end of London, as the singed moth flutters
about the flame that destroys it, were huddled for warmth.
T. X. was a man of vast human sympathies.
All his experience with the criminal world, all his
disappointments, all his disillusions had failed to quench the
pity for his unfortunate fellows. He made it a rule on such
nights as these, that if, by chance, returning late to his office
he should find such a shivering piece of jetsam sheltering in his
own doorway, he would give him or her the price of a bed.
In his own quaint way he derived a certain speculative excitement
from this practice. If the doorway was empty he regarded himself
as a winner, if some one stood sheltered in the deep recess which
is a feature of the old Georgian houses in this historic
thoroughfare, he would lose to the extent of a shilling.
He peered forward through the semi-darkness as he neared the door
of his offices.
"I've lost," he said, and stripped his gloves preparatory to
groping in his pocket for a coin.
Somebody was standing in the entrance, but it was obviously a very
respectable somebody. A dumpy, motherly somebody in a seal-skin
coat and a preposterous bonnet.
"Hullo," said T. X. in surprise, "are you trying to get in here?"
"I want to see Mr. Meredith," said the visitor, in the mincing
affected tones of one who excused the vulgar source of her
prosperity by frequently reiterated claims to having seen better
"Your longing shall be gratified," said T. X. gravely.
He unlocked the heavy door, passed through the uncarpeted passage
- there are no frills on Government offices - and led the way up
the stairs to the suite on the first floor which constituted his
He switched on all the lights and surveyed his visitor, a
comfortable person of the landlady type.
"A good sort," thought T. X., "but somewhat overweighted with
lorgnettes and seal-skin."
"You will pardon my coming to see you at this hour of the night,"
she began deprecatingly, "but as my dear father used to say, 'Hopi
soit qui mal y pense.'"
"Your dear father being in the garter business?" suggested T. X.
humorously. "Won't you sit down, Mrs.- "
"Mrs. Cassley," beamed the lady as she seated herself. "He was in
the paper hanging business. But needs must, when the devil
drives, as the saying goes."
"What particular devil is driving you, Mrs. Cassley?" asked T.
X., somewhat at a loss to understand the object of this visit.
"I may be doing wrong," began the lady, pursing her lips, "and two
blacks will never make a white."
"And all that glitters is not gold," suggested T. X. a little
wearily. "Will you please tell me your business, Mrs. Cassley? I
am a very hungry man."
"Well, it's like this, sir," said Mrs. Cassley, dropping her
erudition, and coming down to bedrock homeliness; "I've got a
young lady stopping with me, as respectable a gel as I've had to
deal with. And I know what respectability is, I might tell you,
for I've taken professional boarders and I have been housekeeper
to a doctor."
"You are well qualified to speak," said T. X. with a smile. "And
what about this particular young lady of yours! By the way what
is your address?"
"86a Marylebone Road," said the lady.
T. X. sat up.
"Yes?" he said quickly. "What about your young lady?"
"She works as far as I can understand," said the loquacious
landlady, "with a certain Mr. Kara in the typewriting line. She
came to me four months ago."
"Never mind when she came to you," said T. X. impatiently. "Have
you a message from the lady?"
"Well, it's like this, sir," said Mrs. Cassley, leaning forward
confidentially and speaking in the hollow tone which she had
decided should accompany any revelation to a police officer, "this
young lady said to me, 'If I don't come any night by 8 o'clock you
must go to T. X. and tell him - '!"
She paused dramatically.
"Yes, yes," said T. X. quickly, "for heaven's sake go on, woman."
"'Tell him,'" said Mrs. Cassley, "'that Belinda Mary - ' "
He sprang to his feet.
"Belinda Mary!" he breathed, "Belinda Mary!" In a flash he saw it
all. This girl with a knowledge of modern Greek, who was working
in Kara's house, was there for a purpose. Kara had something of
her mother's, something that was vital and which he would not part
with, and she had adopted this method of securing that some thing.
Mrs. Cassley was prattling on, but her voice was merely a haze of
sound to him. It brought a strange glow to his heart that Belinda
Mary should have thought of him.
"Only as a policeman, of course," said the still, small voice of
his official self. "Perhaps!" said the human T. X., defiantly.
He got on the telephone to Mansus and gave a few instructions.
"You stay here," he ordered the astounded Mrs. Cassley; "I am
going to make a few investigations."
Kara was at home, but was in bed. T. X. remembered that this
extraordinary man invariably went to bed early and that it was his
practice to receive visitors in this guarded room of his. He was
admitted almost at once and found Kara in his silk dressing-gown
lying on the bed smoking. The heat of the room was unbearable
even on that bleak February night.
"This is a pleasant surprise," said Kara, sitting up; "I hope you
don't mind my dishabille."
T. X. came straight to the point.
"Where is Miss Holland!" he asked.
"Miss Holland?" Kara's eyebrows advertised his astonishment.
"What an extraordinary question to ask me, my dear man! At her
home, or at the theatre or in a cinema palace - I don't know how
these people employ their evenings."
"She is not at home," said T. X., "and I have reason to believe
that she has not left this house."
"What a suspicious person you are, Mr. Meredith!" Kara rang the
bell and Fisher came in with a cup of coffee on a tray.
"Fisher," drawled Kara. "Mr. Meredith is anxious to know where
Miss Holland is. Will you be good enough to tell him, you know
more about her movements than I do."
"As far as I know, sir," said Fisher deferentially, "she left the
house about 5.30, her usual hour. She sent me out a little before
five on a message and when I came back her hat and her coat had
gone, so I presume she had gone also."
"Did you see her go?" asked T. X.
The man shook his head.
"No, sir, I very seldom see the lady come or go. There has been
no restrictions placed upon the young lady and she has been at
liberty to move about as she likes. I think I am correct in
saying that, sir," he turned to Kara.
"You will probably find her at home."
He shook his finger waggishly at T. X.
"What a dog you are," he jibed, "I ought to keep the beauties of
my household veiled, as we do in the East, and especially when I
have a susceptible policeman wandering at large."
T. X. gave jest for jest. There was nothing to be gained by
making trouble here. After a few amiable commonplaces he took his
departure. He found Mrs. Cassley being entertained by Mansus with
a wholly fictitious description of the famous criminals he had
"I can only suggest that you go home," said T. X. "I will send a
police officer with you to report to me, but in all probability
you will find the lady has returned. She may have had a
difficulty in getting a bus on a night like this."
A detective was summoned from Scotland Yard and accompanied by him
Mrs. Cassley returned to her domicile with a certain importance.
T. X. looked at his watch. It was a quarter to ten.
"Whatever happens, I must see old Lexman," he said. "Tell the
best men we've got in the department to stand by for
eventualities. This is going to be one of my busy days."
Kara lay back on his down pillows with a sneer on his face and his
brain very busy. What started the train of thought he did not
know, but at that moment his mind was very far away. It carried
him back a dozen years to a dirty little peasant's cabin on the
hillside outside Durazzo, to the livid face of a young Albanian
chief, who had lost at Kara's whim all that life held for a man,
to the hateful eyes of the girl's father, who stood with folded
arms glaring down at the bound and manacled figure on the floor,
to the smoke-stained rafters of this peasant cottage and the
dancing shadows on the roof, to that terrible hour of waiting when
he sat bound to a post with a candle flickering and spluttering
lower and lower to the little heap of gunpowder that would start
the trail toward the clumsy infernal machine under his chair. He
remembered the day well because it was Candlemas day, and this was
the anniversary. He remembered other things more pleasant. The
beat of hoofs on the rocky roadway, the crash of the door falling
in when the Turkish Gendarmes had battered a way to his rescue.
He remembered with a savage joy the spectacle of his would-be
assassins twitching and struggling on the gallows at Pezara and -
he heard the faint tinkle of the front door bell.
Had T. X. returned! He slipped from the bed and went to the door,
opened it slightly and listened. T. X. with a search warrant
might be a source of panic especially if-he shrugged his
shoulders. He had satisfied T. X. and allayed his suspicions. He
would get Fisher out of the way that night and make sure.
The voice from the hall below was loud and gruff. Who could it
be! Then he heard Fisher's foot on the stairs and the valet
"Will you see Mr. Gathercole now!"
Kara breathed a sigh of relief and his face was wreathed in
"Why, of course. Tell him to come up. Ask him if he minds seeing
me in my room."
"I told him you were in bed, sir, and he used shocking language,"
"Send him up," he said, and then as Fisher was going out of the
room he called him back.
"By the way, Fisher, after Mr. Gathercole has gone, you may go out
for the night. You've got somewhere to go, I suppose, and you
needn't come back until the morning."
"Yes, sir," said the servant.
Such an instruction was remarkably pleasing to him. There was
much that he had to do and that night's freedom would assist him
"Perhaps" Kara hesitated, "perhaps you had better wait until
eleven o'clock. Bring me up some sandwiches and a large glass of
milk. Or better still, place them on a plate in the hall."
"Very good, sir," said the man and withdrew.
Down below, that grotesque figure with his shiny hat and his
ragged beard was walking up and down the tesselated hallway
muttering to himself and staring at the various objects in the
hall with a certain amused antagonism.
"Mr. Kara will see you, sir," said Fisher.
"Oh!" said the other glaring at the unoffending Fisher, "that's
very good of him. Very good of this person to see a scholar and a
gentleman who has been about his dirty business for three years.
Grown grey in his service! Do you understand that, my man!"
"Yes, sir," said Fisher.
The man thrust out his face.
"Do you see those grey hairs in my beard"
The embarrassed Fisher grinned.
"Is it grey!" challenged the visitor, with a roar.
"Yes, sir," said the valet hastily.
"Is it real grey?" insisted the visitor. "Pull one out and see!"
The startled Fisher drew back with an apologetic smile.
"I couldn't think of doing a thing like that, sir."
"Oh, you couldn't," sneered the visitor; "then lead on!"
Fisher showed the way up the stairs. This time the traveller
carried no books. His left arm hung limply by his side and Fisher
privately gathered that the hand had got loose from the detaining
pocket without its owner being aware of the fact. He pushed open
the door and announced, "Mr. Gathercole," and Kara came forward
with a smile to meet his agent, who, with top hat still on the top
of his head, and his overcoat dangling about his heels, must have
made a remarkable picture.
Fisher closed the door behind them and returned to his duties in
the hall below. Ten minutes later he heard the door opened and
the booming voice of the stranger came down to him. Fisher went
up the stairs to meet him and found hire addressing the occupant
of the room in his own eccentric fashion.
"No more Patagonia!" he roared, "no more Tierra del Fuego!" he
"Certainly!" He replied to some question, "but not Patagonia," he
paused again, and Fisher standing at the foot of the stairs
wondered what had occurred to make the visitor so genial.
"I suppose your cheque will be honoured all right?" asked the
visitor sardonically, and then burst into a little chuckle of
laughter as he carefully closed the door.
He came down the corridor talking to himself, and greeted Fisher.
"Damn all Greeks," he said jovially, and Fisher could do no more
than smile reproachfully, the smile being his very own, the
reproach being on behalf of the master who paid him.
The traveller touched the other on the chest with his right hand.
"Never trust a Greek," he said, "always get your money in advance.
Is that clear to you?"
"Yes, sir," said Fisher, "but I think you will always find that
Mr. Kara is always most generous about money."
"Don't you believe it, don't you believe it, my poor man," said
the other, "you - "
At that moment there came from Kara's room a faint "clang."
"What's that" asked the visitor a little startled.
"Mr. Kara's put down his steel latch," said Fisher with a smile,
"which means that he is not to be disturbed until - " he looked at
his watch, "until eleven o'clock at any rate."
"He's a funk!" snapped the other, "a beastly funk!"
He stamped down the stairs as though testing the weight of every
tread, opened the front door without assistance, slammed it behind
him and disappeared into the night.
Fisher, his hands in his pockets, looked after the departing
stranger, nodding his head in reprobation.
"You're a queer old devil," he said, and looked at his watch
It wanted five minutes to ten.
"IF you would care to come in, sir, I'm sure Lexman would be glad
to see you," said T. X.; "it's very kind of you to take an
interest in the matter."
The Chief Commissioner of Police growled something about being
paid to take an interest in everybody and strolled with T. X. down
one of the apparently endless corridors of Scotland Yard.
"You won't have any bother about the pardon," he said. "I was
dining to-night with old man Bartholomew and he will fix that up
in the morning."
"There will be no necessity to detain Lexman in custody?" asked T.
The Chief shook his head.
"None whatever," he said.
There was a pause, then,
"By the way, did Bartholomew mention Belinda Mary!"
The white-haired chief looked round in astonishment.
"And who the devil is Belinda Mary?" he asked.
T. X. went red.
"Belinda Mary," he said a little quickly, "is Bartholomew's
"By Jove," said the Commissioner, "now you mention it, he did -
she is still in France."
"Oh, is she?" said T. X. innocently, and in his heart of hearts he
wished most fervently that she was. They came to the room which
Mansus occupied and found that admirable man waiting.
Wherever policemen meet, their conversation naturally drifts to
"shop" and in two minutes the three were discussing with some
animation and much difference of opinion, as far as T. X. was
concerned, a series of frauds which had been perpetrated in the
Midlands, and which have nothing to do with this story.
"Your friend is late," said the Chief Commissioner.
"There he is," cried T. X., springing up. He heard a familiar
footstep on the flagged corridor, and sprung out of the room to
meet the newcomer.
For a moment he stood wringing the hand of this grave man, his
heart too full for words.
"My dear chap!" he said at last, "you don't know how glad I am to
John Lexman said nothing, then,
"I am sorry to bring you into this business, T. X.," he said
"Nonsense," said the other, "come in and see the Chief."
He took John by the arm and led him into the Superintendent's
There was a change in John Lexman. A subtle shifting of balance
which was not readily discoverable. His face was older, the
mobile mouth a little more grimly set, the eyes more deeply lined.
He was in evening dress and looked, as T. X. thought, a typical,
clean, English gentleman, such an one as any self-respecting valet
would be proud to say he had "turned out."
T. X. looking at him carefully could see no great change, save
that down one side of his smooth shaven cheek ran the scar of an
old wound; which could not have been much more than superficial.
"I must apologize for this kit," said John, taking off his
overcoat and laying it across the back of a chair, "but the fact
is I was so bored this evening that I had to do something to pass
the time away, so I dressed and went to the theatre - and was more
bored than ever."
T. X. noticed that he did not smile and that when he spoke it was
slowly and carefully, as though he were weighing the value of
"Now," he went on, "I have come to deliver myself into your
"I suppose you have not seen Kara?" said T. X.
"I have no desire to see Kara," was the short reply.
"Well, Mr. Lexman," broke in the Chief, "I don't think you are
going to have any difficulty about your escape. By the way, I
suppose it was by aeroplane?"
"And you had an assistant?"
Again Lexman nodded.
"Unless you press me I would rather not discuss the matter for
some little time, Sir George," he said, "there is much that will
happen before the full story of my escape is made known."
Sir George nodded.
"We will leave it at that," he said cheerily, "and now I hope you
have come back to delight us all with one of your wonderful
"For the time being I have done with wonderful plots," said John
Lexman in that even, deliberate tone of his. "I hope to leave
London next week for New York and take up such of the threads of
life as remain. The greater thread has gone."
The Chief Commissioner understood.
The silence which followed was broken by the loud and insistent
ringing of the telephone bell.
"Hullo," said Mansus rising quickly; "that's Kara's bell"
With two quick strides he was at the telephone and lifted down the
"Hullo," he cried. "Hullo," he cried again. There was no reply,
only the continuous buzzing, and when he hung up the receiver
again, the bell continued ringing.
The three policemen looked at one another.
"There's trouble there," said Mansus.
"Take off the receiver," said T. X., "and try again."
Mansus obeyed, but there was no response.
"I am afraid this is not my affair," said John Lexman gathering up
his coat. "What do you wish me to do, Sir George?"
"Come along to-morrow morning and see us, Lexman," said Sir
George, offering his hand.
"Where are you staying!" asked T. X.
"At the Great Midland," replied the other, "at least my bags have
gone on there."
"I'll come along and see you to-morrow morning. It's curious this
should have happened the night you returned," he said, gripping
the other's shoulder affectionately.
John Lexman did not speak for the moment.
"If anything happened to Kara," he said slowly, "if the worst that
was possible happened to him, believe me I should not weep."
T. X. looked down into the other's eyes sympathetically.
"I think he has hurt you pretty badly, old man," he said gently.
John Lexman nodded.
"He has, damn him," he said between his teeth.
The Chief Commissioner's motor car was waiting outside and in this
T. X., Mansus, and a detective-sergeant were whirled off to
Cadogan Square. Fisher was in the hall when they rung the bell
and opened the door instantly.
He was frankly surprised to see his visitors. Mr. Kara was in his
room he explained resentfully, as though T. X. should have been
aware of the fact without being told. He had heard no bell
ringing and indeed had not been summoned to the room.
"I have to see him at eleven o'clock," he said, "and I have had
standing instructions not to go to him unless I am sent for."
T. X. led the way upstairs, and went straight to Kara's room. He
knocked, but there was no reply. He knocked again and on this
failing to evoke any response kicked heavily at the door.
"Have you a telephone downstairs!" he asked.
"Yes, sir," replied Fisher.
T. X. turned to the detective-sergeant.
"'Phone to the Yard," he said, "and get a man up with a bag of
tools. We shall have to pick this lock and I haven't got my case
"Picking the lock would be no good, sir," said Fisher, an
interested spectator, "Mr. Kara's got the latch down."
"I forgot that," said T. X. "Tell him to bring his saw, we'll
have to cut through the panel here."
While they were waiting for the arrival of the police officer T.
X. strove to attract the attention of the inmates of the room, but
"Does he take opium or anything!" asked Mansus.
Fisher shook his head.
"I've never known him to take any of that kind of stuff," he said.
T. X. made a rapid survey of the other rooms on that floor. The
room next to Kara's was the library, beyond that was a dressing
room which, according to Fisher, Miss Holland had used, and at the
farthermost end of the corridor was the dining room.
Facing the dining room was a small service lift and by its side a
storeroom in which were a number of trunks, including a very large
one smothered in injunctions in three different languages to
"handle with care." There was nothing else of interest on this
floor and the upper and lower floors could wait. In a quarter of
an hour the carpenter had arrived from Scotland Yard, and had
bored a hole in the rosewood panel of Kara's room and was busily
applying his slender saw.
Through the hole he cut T. X. could see no more than that the room
was in darkness save for the glow of a blazing fire. He inserted
his hand, groped for the knob of the steel latch, which he had
remarked on his previous visit to the room, lifted it and the door
"Keep outside, everybody," he ordered.
He felt for the switch of the electric, found it and instantly the
room was flooded with light. The bed was hidden by the open door.
T. X. took one stride into the room and saw enough. Kara was
lying half on and half off the bed. He was quite dead and the
blood-stained patch above his heart told its own story.
T. X. stood looking down at him, saw the frozen horror on the dead
man's face, then drew his eyes away and slowly surveyed the room.
There in the middle of the carpet he found his clue, a bent and
twisted little candle such as you find on children's Christmas
It was Mansus who found the second candle, a stouter affair. It
lay underneath the bed. The telephone, which stood on a fairly
large-sized table by the side of the bed, was overturned and the
receiver was on the floor. By its side were two books, one being
the "Balkan Question," by Villari, and the other "Travels and
Politics in the Near East," by Miller. With them was a long,
There was nothing else on the bedside-table save a silver
cigarette box. T. X. drew on a pair of gloves and examined the
bright surface for finger-prints, but a superficial view revealed
no such clue.
"Open the window," said T. X., "the heat here is intolerable. Be
very careful, Mansus. By the way, is the window fastened?"
"Very well fastened," said the superintendent after a careful
He pushed back the fastenings, lifted the window and as he did, a
harsh bell rang in the basement.
"That is the burglar alarm, I suppose," said T. X.; "go down and
stop that bell."
He addressed Fisher, who stood with a troubled face at the door.
When he had disappeared T. X. gave a significant glance to one of
the waiting officers and the man sauntered after the valet.
Fisher stopped the bell and came back to the hall and stood before
the hall fire, a very troubled man. Near the fire was a big,
oaken writing table and on this there lay a small envelope which
he did not remember having seen before, though it might have been
there for some time, for he had spent a greater portion of the
evening in the kitchen with the cook.
He picked up the envelope, and, with a start, recognised that it
was addressed to himself. He opened it and took out a card.
There were only a few words written upon it, but they were
sufficient to banish all the colour from his face and set his
hands shaking. He took the envelope and card and flung them into
It so happened that, at that moment, Mansus had called from
upstairs, and the officer, who had been told off to keep the valet
under observation, ran up in answer to the summons. For a moment
Fisher hesitated, then hatless and coatless as he was, he crept to
the door, opened it, leaving it ajar behind him and darting down
the steps, ran like a hare from the house.
The doctor, who came a little later, was cautious as to the hour
"If you got your telephone message at 10.25, as you say, that was
probably the hour he was killed," he said. "I could not tell
within half an hour. Obviously the man who killed him gripped his
throat with his left hand - there are the bruises on his neck -
and stabbed him with the right."
It was at this time that the disappearance of Fisher was noticed,
but the cross-examination of the terrified Mrs. Beale removed any
doubt that T. X. had as to the man's guilt.
"You had better send out an 'All Stations' message and pull him
in," said T. X. "He was with the cook from the moment the visitor
left until a few minutes before we rang. Besides which it is
obviously impossible for anybody to have got into this room or out
again. Have you searched the dead man?"
Mansus produced a tray on which Kara's belongings had been
disposed. The ordinary keys Mrs. Beale was able to identify.
There were one or two which were beyond her. T. X. recognised one
of these as the key of the safe, but two smaller keys baffled him
not a little, and Mrs. Beale was at first unable to assist him.
"The only thing I can think of, sir," she said, "is the wine
"The wine cellar?" said T. X. slowly. "That must be - " he
The greater tragedy of the evening, with all its mystifying
aspects had not banished from his mind the thought of the girl -
that Belinda Mary, who had called upon him in her hour of danger
as he divined. Perhaps - he descended into the kitchen and was
brought face to face with the unpainted door.
"It looks more like a prison than a wine cellar," he said.
"That's what I've always thought, sir," said Mrs. Beale, "and
sometimes I've had a horrible feeling of fear."
He cut short her loquacity by inserting one of the keys in the
lock - it did not turn, but he had more success with the second.
The lock snapped back easily and he pulled the door back. He
found the inner door bolted top and bottom. The bolts slipped
back in their well-oiled sockets without any effort. Evidently
Kara used this place pretty frequently, thought T. X.
He pushed the door open and stopped with an exclamation of
surprise. The cellar apartment was brilliantly lit - but it was
"This beats the band," said T. X.
He saw something on the table and lifted it up. It was a pair of
long-bladed scissors and about the handle was wound a
handkerchief. It was not this fact which startled him, but that
the scissors' blades were dappled with blood and blood, too, was
on the handkerchief. He unwound the flimsy piece of cambric and
stared at the monogram "B. M. B."
He looked around. Nobody had seen the weapon and he dropped it in
his overcoat pocket, and walked from the cellar to the kitchen
where Mrs. Beale and Mansus awaited him.
"There is a lower cellar, is there not!" he asked in a strained
"That was bricked up when Mr. Kara took the house," explained the
"There is nothing more to look for here," he said.
He walked slowly up the stairs to the library, his mind in a
whirl. That he, an accredited officer of police, sworn to the
business of criminal detection, should attempt to screen one who
was conceivably a criminal was inexplicable. But if the girl had
committed this crime, how had she reached Kara's room and why had
she returned to the locked cellar!
He sent for Mrs. Beale to interrogate her. She had heard nothing
and she had been in the kitchen all the evening. One fact she did
reveal, however, that Fisher had gone from the kitchen and had
been absent a quarter of an hour and had returned a little
"Stay here," said T. X., and went down again to the cellar to make
a further search.
"Probably there is some way out of this subterranean jail," he
thought and a diligent search of the room soon revealed it.
He found the iron trap, pulled it open, and slipped down the
stairs. He, too, was puzzled by the luxurious character of the
vault. He passed from room to room and finally came to the inner
chamber where a light was burning.
The light, as he discovered, proceeded from a small reading lamp
which stood by the side of a small brass bedstead. The bed had
recently been slept in, but there was no sign of any occupant. T.
X. conducted a very careful search and had no difficulty in
finding the bricked up door. Other exits there were none.
The floor was of wood block laid on concrete, the ventilation was
excellent and in one of the recesses which had evidently held at
so time or other, a large wine bin, there was a prefect electrical
cooking plant. In a small larder were a number of baskets,
bearing the name of a well-known caterer, one of them containing
an excellent assortment of cold and potted meats, preserves, etc.
T. X. went back to the bedroom and took the little lamp from the
table by the side of the bed and began a more careful examination.
Presently he found traces of blood, and followed an irregular
trail to the outer room. He lost it suddenly at the foot of
stairs leading down from the upper cellar. Then he struck it
again. He had reached the end of his electric cord and was now
depending upon an electric torch he hid taken from his pocket.
There were indications of something heavy having been dragged
across the room and he saw that it led to a small bathroom. He
had made a cursory examination of this well-appointed apartment,
and now he proceeded to make a close investigation and was well
The bathroom was the only apartment which possess anything
resembling a door - a two-fold screen and - as he pressed this
back, he felt some thing which prevented its wider extension. He
slipped into the room and flashed his lamp in the space behind the
screen. There stiff in death with glazed eyes and lolling tongue
lay a great gaunt dog, his yellow fangs exposed in a last grimace.
About the neck was a collar and attached to that, a few links of
broken chain. T. X. mounted the steps thoughtfully and passed out
to the kitchen.
Did Belinda Mary stab Kara or kill the dog? That she killed one
hound or the other was certain. That she killed both was
After a busy and sleepless night he came down to report to the
Chief Commissioner the next morning. The evening newspaper bills
were filled with the "Chelsea Sensation" but the information given
was of a meagre character.
Since Fisher had disappeared, many of the details which could have
been secured by the enterprising pressmen were missing. There was
no reference to the visit of Mr. Gathercole and in self-defence
the press had fallen back upon a statement, which at an earlier
period had crept into the newspapers in one of those chatty
paragraphs which begin "I saw my friend Kara at Giros" and end
with a brief but inaccurate summary of his hobbies. The paragraph
had been to the effect that Mr. Kara had been in fear of his life
for some time, as a result of a blood feud which existed between
himself and another Albanian family. Small wonder, therefore, the
murder was everywhere referred to as "the political crime of the
"So far," reported T. X. to his superior, "I have been unable to
trace either Gathercole or the valet. The only thing we know
about Gathercole is that he sent his article to The Times with his
card. The servants of his Club are very vague as to his
whereabouts. He is a very eccentric man, who only comes in
occasionally, and the steward whom I interviewed says that it
frequently happened that Gathercole arrived and departed without
anybody being aware of the fact. We have been to his old lodgings
in Lincoln's Inn, but apparently he sold up there before he went
away to the wilds of Patagonia and relinquished his tenancy.
"The only clue I have is that a man answering to some extent to
his description left by the eleven o'clock train for Paris last
"You have seen the secretary of course," said the Chief.
It was a question which T. X. had been dreading.
"Gone too," he answered shortly; "in fact she has not been seen
since 5:30 yesterday evening."
Sir George leant back in his chair and rumpled his thick grey
"The only person who seems to have remained," he said with heavy
sarcasm, "was Kara himself. Would you like me to put somebody
else on this case - it isn't exactly your job - or will you carry
"I prefer to carry it on, sir," said T. X. firmly.
"Have you found out anything more about Kara?"
T. X. nodded.
"All that I have discovered about him is eminently discreditable,"
he said. "He seems to have had an ambition to occupy a very
important position in Albania. To this end he had bribed and
subsidized the Turkish and Albanian officials and had a fairly
large following in that country. Bartholomew tells me that Kara
had already sounded him as to the possibility of the British
Government recognising a fait accompli in Albania and had been
inducing him to use his influence with the Cabinet to recognize
the consequence of any revolution. There is no doubt whatever
that Kara has engineered all the political assassinations which
have been such a feature in the news from Albania during this past
year. We also found in the house very large sums of money and
documents which we have handed over to the Foreign Office for
Sir George thought for a long time.
Then he said, "I have an idea that if you find your secretary you
will be half way to solving the mystery."
T. X. went out from the office in anything but a joyous mood. He
was on his way to lunch when he remembered his promise to call
upon John Lexman.
Could Lexman supply a key which would unravel this tragic tangle?
He leant out of his taxi-cab and redirected the driver. It
happened that the cab drove up to the door of the Great Midland
Hotel as John Lexman was coming out.
"Come and lunch with me," said T. X. "I suppose you've heard all
"I read about Kara being killed, if that's what you mean," said
the other. "It was rather a coincidence that I should have been
discussing the matter last night at the very moment when his
telephone bell rang - I wish to heaven you hadn't been in this,"
he said fretfully.
"Why?" asked the astonished Assistant Commissioner, "and what do
you mean by 'in it'?"
"In the concrete sense I wish you had not been present when I
returned," said the other moodily, "I wanted to be finished with
the whole sordid business without in any way involving my
"I think you are too sensitive," laughed the other, clapping him
on the shoulder. "I want you to unburden yourself to me, my dear
chap, and tell me anything you can that will help me to clear up
John Lexman looked straight ahead with a worried frown.
"I would do almost anything for you, T. X.," he said quietly, "the
more so since I know how good you were to Grace, but I can't help
you in this matter. I hated Kara living, I hate him dead," he
cried, and there was a passion in his voice which was
unmistakable; "he was the vilest thing that ever drew the breath
of life. There was no villainy too despicable, no cruelty so
horrid but that he gloried in it. If ever the devil were
incarnate on earth he took the shape and the form of Remington
Kara. He died too merciful a death by all accounts. But if there
is a God, this man will suffer for his crimes in hell through all
T. X. looked at him in astonishment. The hate in the man's face
took his breath away. Never before had he experienced or
witnessed such a vehemence of loathing.
"What did Kara do to you?" he demanded.
The other looked out of the window.
"I am sorry," he said in a milder tone; "that is my weakness.
Some day I will tell you the whole story but for the moment it
were better that it were not told. I will tell you this," he
turned round and faced the detective squarely, "Kara tortured and
killed my wife."
T. X. said no more.
Half way through lunch he returned indirectly to the subject.
"Do you know Gathercole?" he asked.
T. X. nodded.
"I think you asked me that question once before, or perhaps it was
somebody else. Yes, I know him, rather an eccentric man with an
"That's the cove," said T. X. with a little sigh; "he's one of the
few men I want to meet just now."
"Because he was apparently the last man to see Kara alive."
John Lexman looked at the other with an impatient jerk of his
"You don't suspect Gathercole, do you?" he asked.
"Hardly," said the other drily; "in the first place the man that
committed this murder had two hands and needed them both. No, I
only want to ask that gentleman the subject of his conversation.
I also want to know who was in the room with Kara when Gathercole
"H'm," said John Lexman.
"Even if I found who the third person was, I am still puzzled as
to how they got out and fastened the heavy latch behind them. Now
in the old days, Lexman," he said good humouredly, "you would have
made a fine mystery story out of this. How would you have made
your man escape?"
Lexman thought for a while.
"Have you examined the safe!" he asked.
"Yes," said the other.
"Was there very much in it?"
T. X. looked at him in astonishment.
"Just the ordinary books and things. Why do you ask?"
"Suppose there were two doors to that safe, one on the outside of
the room and one on the inside, would it be possible to pass
through the safe and go down the wall?"
"I have thought of that," said T. X.
"Of course," said Lexman, leaning back and toying with a
salt-spoon, "in writing a story where one hasn't got to deal with
the absolute possibilities, one could always have made Kara have a
safe of that character in order to make his escape in the event of
danger. He might keep a rope ladder stored inside, open the back
door, throw out his ladder to a friend and by some trick
arrangement could detach the ladder and allow the door to swing to
"A very ingenious idea," said T. X., "but unfortunately it doesn't
work in this case. I have seen the makers of the safe and there
is nothing very eccentric about it except the fact that it is
mounted as it is. Can you offer another suggestion?"
John Lexman thought again.
"I will not suggest trap doors, or secret panels or anything so
banal," he said, "nor mysterious springs in the wall which, when
touched, reveal secret staircases."
He smiled slightly.
"In my early days, I must confess I, was rather keen upon that
sort of thing, but age has brought experience and I have
discovered the impossibility of bringing an architect to one's way
of thinking even in so commonplace a matter as the position of a
scullery. It would be much more difficult to induce him to
construct a house with double walls and secret chambers."
T. X. waited patiently.
"There is a possibility, of course," said Lexman slowly, "that the
steel latch may have been raised by somebody outside by some
ingenious magnetic arrangement and lowered in a similar manner."
"I have thought about it," said T. X. triumphantly, "and I have
made the most elaborate tests only this morning. It is quite
impossible to raise the steel latch because once it is dropped it
cannot be raised again except by means of the knob, the pulling of
which releases the catch which holds the bar securely in its
place. Try another one, John."
John Lexman threw back his head in a noiseless laugh.
"Why I should be helping you to discover the murderer of Kara is
beyond my understanding," he said, "but I will give you another
theory, at the same time warning you that I may be putting you off
the track. For God knows I have more reason to murder Kara than
any man in the world."
He thought a while.
"The chimney was of course impossible?"
"There was a big fire burning in the grate," explained T. X.; "so
big indeed that the room was stifling."
John Lexman nodded.
"That was Kara's way," he said; "as a matter of fact I know the
suggestion about magnetism in the steel bar was impossible,
because I was friendly with Kara when he had that bar put in and
pretty well know the mechanism, although I had forgotten it for
the moment. What is your own theory, by the way?"
T. X. pursed his lips.
"My theory isn't very clearly formed," he said cautiously, "but so
far as it goes, it is that Kara was lying on the bed probably
reading one of the books which were found by the bedside when his
assailant suddenly came upon him. Kara seized the telephone to
call for assistance and was promptly killed."
Again there was silence.
"That is a theory," said John Lexman. with his curious
deliberation of speech, "but as I say I refuse to be definite -
have you found the weapon?"
T. X. shook his head.
"Were there any peculiar features about the room which astonished
you, and which you have not told me?"
T. X. hesitated.
"There were two candles," he said, "one in the middle of the room
and one under the bed. That in the middle of the room was a small
Christmas candle, the one under the bed was the ordinary candle of
commerce evidently roughly cut and probably cut in the room. We
found traces of candle chips on the floor and it is evident to me
that the portion which was cut off was thrown into the fire, for
here again we have a trace of grease."
"Anything further?" he asked.
"The smaller candle was twisted into a sort of corkscrew shape."
"The Clue of the Twisted Candle," mused John Lexman "that's a very
good title - Kara hated candles."
Lexman leant back in his chair, selected a cigarette from a silver
"In my wanderings," he said, "I have been to many strange places.
I have been to the country which you probably do not know, and
which the traveller who writes books about countries seldom
visits. There are queer little villages perched on the spurs of
the bleakest hills you ever saw. I have lived with communities
which acknowledge no king and no government. These have their
laws handed down to them from father to son - it is a nation
without a written language. They administer their laws rigidly
and drastically. The punishments they award are cruel - inhuman.
I have seen, the woman taken in adultery stoned to death as in the
best Biblical traditions, and I have seen the thief blinded."
T. X. shivered.
"I have seen the false witness stand up in a barbaric market place
whilst his tongue was torn from him. Sometimes the Turks or the
piebald governments of the state sent down a few gendarmes and
tried a sort of sporadic administration of the country. It
usually ended in the representative of the law lapsing into
barbarism, or else disappearing from the face of the earth, with a
whole community of murderers eager to testify, with singular
unanimity, to the fact that he had either committed suicide or had
gone off with the wife of one of the townsmen.
"In some of these communities the candle plays a big part. It is
not the candle of commerce as you know it, but a dip made from
mutton fat. Strap three between the fingers of your hands and
keep the hand rigid with two flat pieces of wood; then let the
candles burn down lower and lower - can you imagine? Or set a
candle in a gunpowder trail and lead the trail to a well-oiled
heap of shavings thoughtfully heaped about your naked feet. Or a
candle fixed to the shaved head of a man - there are hundreds of
variations and the candle plays a part in all of them. I don't
know which Kara had cause to hate the worst, but I know one or two
that he has employed."
"Was he as bad as that?" asked T. X.
John Lexman laughed.
"You don't know how bad he was," he said.
Towards the end of the luncheon the waiter brought a note in to T.
X. which had been sent on from his office.
"Dear Mr. Meredith,
"In. answer to your enquiry I believe my daughter is in London,
but I did not know it until this morning. My banker informs me
that my daughter called at the bank this morning and drew a
considerable sum of money from her private account, but where she
has gone and what she is doing with the money I do not know. I
need hardly tell you that I am very worried about this matter and
I should be glad if you could explain what it is all about."
It was signed "William Bartholomew."
T. X. groaned.
"If I had only had the sense to go to the bank this morning, I
should have seen her," he said. "I'm going to lose my job over
The other looked troubled.
"You don't seriously mean that"
"Not exactly," smiled T. X., "but I don't think the Chief is very
pleased with me just now. You see I have butted into this
business without any authority - it isn't exactly in my
department. But you have not given me your theory about the
"I have no theory to offer," said the other, folding up his
serviette; "the candles suggest a typical Albanian murder. I do
not say that it was so, I merely say that by their presence they
suggest a crime of this character."
With this T. X. had to be content.
If it were not his business to interest himself in commonplace
murder - though this hardly fitted such a description - it was
part of the peculiar function which his department exercised to
restore to Lady Bartholomew a certain very elaborate snuff-box
which he discovered in the safe.
Letters had been found amongst his papers which made clear the
part which Kara had played. Though he had not been a vulgar
blackmailer he had retained his hold, not only upon this
particular property of Lady Bartholomew, but upon certain other
articles which were discovered, with no other object, apparently,
than to compel influence from quarters likely to be of assistance
to him in his schemes.
The inquest on the murdered man which the Assistant Commissioner
attended produced nothing in the shape of evidence and the
coroner's verdict of "murder against some person or persons
unknown" was only to be expected.
T. X. spent a very busy and a very tiring week tracing elusive
clues which led him nowhere. He had a letter from John Lexman
announcing the fact that he intended leaving for the United
States. He had received a very good offer from a firm of magazine
publishers in New York and was going out to take up the
Meredith's plans were now in fair shape. He had decided upon the
line of action he would take and in the pursuance of this he
interviewed his Chief and the Minister of Justice.
"Yes, I have heard from my daughter," said that great man
uncomfortably, "and really she has placed me in a most
embarrassing position. I cannot tell you, Mr. Meredith, exactly
in what manner she has done this, but I can assure you she has."
"Can I see her letter or telegram?" asked T. X.
"I am afraid that is impossible," said the other solemnly; "she
begged me to keep her communication very secret. I have written
to my wife and asked her to come home. I feel the constant strain
to which I am being subjected is more than human man can endure."
"I suppose," said T. X. patiently, "it is impossible for you to
tell me to what address you have replied?"
"To no address," answered the other and corrected himself
hurriedly; "that is to say I only received the telegram - the
message this morning and there is no address - to reply to."
"I see," said T. X.
That afternoon he instructed his secretary.
"I want a copy of all the agony advertisements in to-morrow's
papers and in the last editions of the evening papers - have them
ready for me tomorrow morning when I come."
They were waiting for him when he reached the office at nine
o'clock the next day and he went through them carefully.
Presently he found the message he was seeking.
B. M. You place me awkward position. Very thoughtless. Have
received package addressed your mother which have placed in
mother's sitting-room. Cannot understand why you want me to go
away week-end and give servants holiday but have done so. Shall
require very full explanation. Matter gone far enough. Father.
"This," said T. X. exultantly, as he read the advertisement, "is
where I get busy."
February as a rule is not a month of fogs, but rather a month of
tempestuous gales, of frosts and snowfalls, but the night of
February 17th, 19--, was one of calm and mist. It was not the
typical London fog so dreaded by the foreigner, but one of those
little patchy mists which smoke through the streets, now
enshrouding and making the nearest object invisible, now clearing
away to the finest diaphanous filament of pale grey.
Sir William Bartholomew had a house in Portman Place, which is a
wide thoroughfare, filled with solemn edifices of unlovely and
forbidding exterior, but remarkably comfortable within. Shortly
before eleven on the night of February 17th, a taxi drew up at the
junction of Sussex Street and Portman Place, and a girl alighted.
The fog at that moment was denser than usual and she hesitated a
moment before she left the shelter which the cab afforded.
She gave the driver a few instructions and walked on with a firm
step, turning abruptly and mounting the steps of Number 173. Very
quickly she inserted her key in the lock, pushed the door open and
closed it behind her. She switched on the hall light. The house
sounded hollow and deserted, a fact which afforded her
considerable satisfaction. She turned the light out and found her
way up the broad stairs to the first floor, paused for a moment to
switch on another light which she knew would not be observable
from the street outside and mounted the second flight.
Miss Belinda Mary Bartholomew congratulated herself upon the
success of her scheme, and the only doubt that was in her mind now
was whether the boudoir had been locked, but her father was rather
careless in such matters and Jacks the butler was one of those
dear, silly, old men who never locked anything, and, in
consequence, faced every audit with a long face and a longer tale
of the peculations of occasional servants.
To her immense relief the handle turned and the door opened to her
touch. Somebody had had the sense to pull down the blinds and the
curtains were drawn. She switched on the light with a sigh of
relief. Her mother's writing table was covered with unopened
letters, but she brushed these aside in her search for the little
parcel. It was not there and her heart sank. Perhaps she had put
it in one of the drawers. She tried them all without result.
She stood by the desk a picture of perplexity, biting a finger
"Thank goodness!" she said with a jump, for she saw the parcel on
the mantel shelf, crossed the room and took it down.
With eager hands she tore off the covering and came to the
familiar leather case. Not until she had opened the padded lid
and had seen the snuffbox reposing in a bed of cotton wool did she
relapse into a long sigh of relief.
"Thank heaven for that," she said aloud.
"And me," said a voice.
She sprang up and turned round with a look of terror.
"Mr. - Mr. Meredith," she stammered.
T. X. stood by the window curtains from whence he had made his
dramatic entry upon the scene.
"I say you have to thank me also, Miss Bartholomew," he said
"How do you know my name?" she asked with some curiosity.
"I know everything in the world," he answered, and she smiled.
Suddenly her face went serious and she demanded sharply
"Who sent you after me - Mr. Kara?"
"Mr. Kara?" he repeated, in wonder.
"He threatened to send for the police," she went on rapidly, "and
I told him he might do so. I didn't mind the police - it was Kara
I was afraid of. You know what I went for, my mother's property."
She held the snuff-box in her outstretched hand.
"He accused me of stealing and was hateful, and then he put me
downstairs in that awful cellar and - "
"And?" suggested T. X.
"That's all," she replied with tightened lips; "what are you going
to do now?"
"I am going to ask you a few questions if I may," he said. "In
the first place have you not heard anything about Mr. Kara since
you went away?"
She shook her head.
"I have kept out of his way," she said grimly.
"Have you seen the newspapers?" he asked.
"I have seen the advertisement column - I wired asking Papa to
reply to my telegram."
"I know - I saw it," he smiled; "that is what brought me here."
"I was afraid it would," she said ruefully; "father is awfully
loquacious in print - he makes speeches you know. All I wanted
him to say was yes or no. What do you mean about the newspapers?"
she went on. "Is anything wrong with mother?"
He shook his head.
"So far as I know Lady Bartholomew is in the best of health and is
on her way home."
"Then what do you mean by asking me about the newspapers!" she
demanded; "why should I see the newspapers - what is there for me
"About Kara?" he suggested.
She shook her head in bewilderment.
"I know and want to know nothing about Kara. Why do you say this
"Because," said T. X. slowly, "on the night you disappeared from
Cadogan Square, Remington Kara was murdered."
"Murdered," she gasped.
"He was stabbed to the heart by some person or persons unknown."
T. X. took his hand from his pocket and pulled something out which
was wrapped in tissue paper. This he carefully removed and the
girl watched with fascinated gaze, and with an awful sense of
apprehension. Presently the object was revealed. It was a pair
of scissors with the handle wrapped about with a small
handkerchief dappled with brown stains. She took a step backward,
raising her hands to her cheeks.
"My scissors," she said huskily; "you won't think - "
She stared up at him, fear and indignation struggling for mastery.
"I don't think you committed the murder," he smiled; "if that's
what you mean to ask me, but if anybody else found those scissors
and had identified this handkerchief you would have been in rather
a fix, my young friend."
She looked at the scissors and shuddered.
"I did kill something," she said in a low voice, "an awful dog ...
I don't know how I did it, but the beastly thing jumped at me and
I just stabbed him and killed him, and I am glad," she nodded many
times and repeated, "I am glad."
"So I gather - I found the dog and now perhaps you'll explain why
I didn't find you?"
Again she hesitated and he felt that she was hiding something from
"I don't know why you didn't find me," she said; "I was there."
"How did you get out?"
"How did you get out?" she challenged him boldly.
"I got out through the door," he confessed; "it seems a
ridiculously commonplace way of leaving but that's the only way I
"And that's how I got out," she answered, with a little smile.
"But it was locked."
"I see now," she said; "I was in the cellar. I heard your key in
the lock and bolted down the trap, leaving those awful scissors
behind. I thought it was Kara with some of his friends and then
the voices died away and I ventured to come up and found you had
left the door open. So - so I - "
These queer little pauses puzzled T. X. There was something she
was not telling him. Something she had yet to reveal.
"So I got away you see," she went on. "I came out into the
kitchen; there was nobody there, and I passed through the area
door and up the steps and just round the corner I found a taxicab,
and that is all."
She spread out her hands in a dramatic little gesture.
"And that is all, is it?" said T. X.
"That is all," she repeated; "now what are you going to do?"
T. X. looked up at the ceiling and stroked his chin.
"I suppose that I ought to arrest you. I feel that something is
due from me. May I ask if you were sleeping in the bed
"In the lower cellar?" she demanded, - a little pause and then,
"Yes, I was sleeping in the cellar downstairs."
There was that interval of hesitation almost between each word.
"What are you going to do?" she asked again.
She was feeling more sure of herself and had suppressed the panic
which his sudden appearance had produced in her. He rumpled his
hair, a gross imitation, did she but know it, of one of his
chief's mannerisms and she observed that his hair was very thick
and inclined to curl. She saw also that he was passably good
looking, had fine grey eyes, a straight nose and a most firm chin.
"I think," she suggested gently, "you had better arrest me."
"Don't be silly," he begged.
She stared at him in amazement.
"What did you say?" she asked wrathfully.
"I said 'don't be silly,'" repeated the calm young man.
"Do you know that you're being very rude?" she asked.
He seemed interested and surprised at this novel view of his
"Of course," she went on carefully smoothing her dress and
avoiding his eye, "I know you think I am silly and that I've got a
most comic name."
"I have never said your name was comic," he replied coldly; "I
would not take so great a liberty."
"You said it was 'weird' which was worse," she claimed.
"I may have said it was 'weird,"' he admitted, "but that's rather
different to saying it was 'comic.' There is dignity in weird
things. For example, nightmares aren't comic but they're weird."
"Thank you," she said pointedly.
"Not that I mean your name is anything approaching a nightmare."
He made this concession with a most magnificent sweep of hand as
though he were a king conceding her the right to remain covered in
his presence. "I think that Belinda Ann - "
"Belinda Mary," she corrected.
"Belinda Mary, I was going to say, or as a matter of fact," he
floundered, "I was going to say Belinda and Mary."
"You were going to say nothing of the kind," she corrected him.
"Anyway, I think Belinda Mary is a very pretty name."
"You think nothing of the sort."
She saw the laughter in his eyes and felt an insane desire to
"You said it was a weird name and you think it is a weird name,
but I really can't be bothered considering everybody's views. I
think it's a weird name, too. I was named after an aunt," she
added in self-defence.
"There you have the advantage of me," he inclined his head
politely; "I was named after my father's favourite dog."
"What does T. X. stand for?" she asked curiously.
"Thomas Xavier," he said, and she leant back in the big chair on
the edge of which a few minutes before she had perched herself in
trepidation and dissolved into a fit of immoderate laughter.
"It is comic, isn't it?" he asked.
"Oh, I am sorry I'm so rude," she gasped. "Fancy being called
Tommy Xavier - I mean Thomas Xavier."
"You may call me Tommy if you wish - most of my friends do."
"Unfortunately I'm not your friend," she said, still smiling and
wiping the tears from her eyes, "so I shall go on calling you Mr.
Meredith if you don't mind."
She looked at her watch.
"If you are not going to arrest me I'm going," she said.
"I have certainly no intention of arresting you," said he, "but I
am going to see you home!"
She jumped up smartly.
"You're not," she commanded.
She was so definite in this that he was startled.
"My dear child," he protested.
"Please don't 'dear child' me," she said seriously; "you're going
to be a good little Tommy and let me go home by myself."
She held out her hand frankly and the laughing appeal in her eyes
"Well, I'll see you to a cab," he insisted.
"And listen while I give the driver instructions where he is to
She shook her head reprovingly.
"It must be an awful thing to be a policeman."
He stood back with folded arms, a stern frown on his face.
"Don't you trust me?" he asked.
"No," she replied.
"Quite right," he approved; "anyway I'll see you to the cab and
you can tell the driver to go to Charing Cross station and on your
way you can change your direction."
"And you promise you won't follow me?" she asked.
"On my honour," he swore; "on one condition though."
"I will make no conditions," she replied haughtily.
"Please come down from your great big horse," he begged, "and
listen to reason. The condition I make is that I can always bring
you to an appointed rendezvous whenever I want you. Honestly,
this is necessary, Belinda Mary."
"Miss Bartholomew," she corrected, coldly.
"It is necessary," he went on, "as you will understand. Promise
me that, if I put an advertisement in the agonies of either an
evening paper which I will name or in the Morning Port, you will
keep the appointment I fix, if it is humanly possible."
She hesitated a moment, then held out her hand.
"I promise," she said.
"Good for you, Belinda Mary," said he, and tucking her arm in his
he led her out of the room switching off the light and racing her
down the stairs.
If there was a lot of the schoolgirl left in Belinda Mary
Bartholomew, no less of the schoolboy was there in this
Commissioner of Police. He would have danced her through the fog,
contemptuous of the proprieties, but he wasn't so very anxious to
get her to her cab and to lose sight of her.
"Good-night," he said, holding her hand.
"That's the third time you've shaken hands with me to-night," she
"Don't let us have any unpleasantness at the last," he pleaded,
"I have promised," she replied.
"And one day," he went on, "you will tell me all that happened in
"I have told you," she said in a low voice.
"You have not told me everything, child."
He handed her into the cab. He shut the door behind her and leant
through the open window.
"Victoria or Marble Arch?" he asked politely.
"Charing Cross," she replied, with a little laugh.
He watched the cab drive away and then suddenly it stopped and a
figure lent out from the window beckoning him frantically. He ran
up to her.
"Suppose I want you," she asked.
"Advertise," he said promptly, "beginning your advertisement 'Dear
"I shall put 'T. X.,' " she said indignantly.
"Then I shall take no notice of your advertisement," he replied
and stood in the middle of the street, his hat in his hand, to the
intense annoyance of a taxi-cab driver who literally all but ran
him down and in a figurative sense did so until T. X. was out of
Thomas Xavier Meredith was a shrewd young man. It was said of him
by Signor Paulo Coselli, the eminent criminologist, that he had a
gift of intuition which was abnormal. Probably the mystery of the
twisted candle was solved by him long before any other person in
the world had the dimmest idea that it was capable of solution.
The house in Cadogan Square was still in the hands of the police.
To this house and particularly to Kara's bedroom T. X. from time
to time repaired, and reproduced as far as possible the conditions
which obtained on the night of the murder. He had the same
stifling fire, the same locked door. The latch was dropped in its
socket, whilst T. X., with a stop watch in his hand, made
elaborate calculations and acted certain parts which he did not
reveal to a soul.
Three times, accompanied by Mansus, he went to the house, three
times went to the death chamber and was alone on one occasion for
an hour and a half whilst the patient Mansus waited outside.
Three times he emerged looking graver on each occasion, and after
the third visit he called into consultation John Lexman.
Lexman had been spending some time in the country, having deferred
his trip to the United States.
"This case puzzles me more and more, John," said T. X., troubled
out of his usual boisterous self, "and thank heaven it worries
other people besides me. De Mainau came over from France the
other day and brought all his best sleuths, whilst O'Grady of the
New York central office paid a flying visit just to get hold of
the facts. Not one of them has given me the real solution, though
they've all been rather ingenious. Gathercole has vanished and is
probably on his way to some undiscoverable region, and our people
have not yet traced the valet."
"He should be the easiest for you," said John Lexman,
"Why Gathercole should go off I can't understand," T. X.
continued. "According to the story which was told me by Fisher,
his last words to Kara were to the effect that he was expecting a
cheque or that he had received a cheque. No cheque has been
presented or drawn and apparently Gathercole has gone off without
waiting for any payment. An examination of, Kara's books show
nothing against the Gathercole account save the sum of 600 pounds
which was originally advanced, and now to upset all my
calculations, look at this."
He took from his pocketbook a newspaper cutting and pushed it
across the table, for they were dining together at the Carlton.
John Lexman picked up the slip and read. It was evidently from a
New York paper:
"Further news has now come to hand by the Antarctic Trading
Company's steamer, Cyprus, concerning the wreck of the City of the
Argentine. It is believed that this ill-fated vessel, which
called at South American ports, lost her propellor and drifted
south out of the track of shipping. This theory is now confirmed.
Apparently the ship struck an iceberg on December 23rd and
foundered with all aboard save a few men who were able to launch a
boat and who were picked up by the Cyprus. The following is the
John Lexman ran down the list until he came upon the name which
was evidently underlined in ink by T. X. That name was George
Gathercole and after it in brackets (Explorer).
"If that were true, then, Gathercole could not have come to
"He may have taken another boat," said T. X., "and I cabled to the
Steamship Company without any great success. Apparently
Gathercole was an eccentric sort of man and lived in terror of
being overcrowded. It was a habit of his to make provisional
bookings by every available steamer. The company can tell me no
more than that he had booked, but whether he shipped on the City
of the Argentine or not, they do not know."