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The Yellow Streak by Williams, Valentine

Part 3 out of 5

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seems like yesterday that Victor Marbran and I used to drive round
uncle's cart with vegetables and coal. What a life to escape from,
Bruce, my boy! Gad, you can count yourself lucky!'

"He was like a man talking to himself. I asked him how he had broken
away from it all. At that he laughed, a bitter, hard sort of laugh. 'By
having the guts to break away from it, boy,' he said. 'It was I who made
Victor Marbran come away with me. We worked our passages out to the Cape
and made our way up-country to Matabeleland. That was in the early days
of Rhodes and Barney Barnato--long before I went to Canada. I made
Victor's fortune for him and mine as well. But I made more than Victor
and he never forgave me. He'd do me a bad turn if he could ...'

"Then he broke off short and went on with his dictating ..."

"Did he ever come back to this phase of his life?"

"Only when we got out of the car that morning. He said to me: 'Forget
what I told you to-day, young fellow. Never rake up a man's past!' And
he never mentioned the subject again. Of course, I didn't either ..."

Stretched full length in his chair, his eyes fixed on the ceiling, Robin
remained lost in thought.

"The conversation came back to me to-day," said the boy, "when I read of
Parrish's death. And I wondered ..."


"Whether the secret of his death may not be found somewhere in his
adventurous past. You see he said that Victor Marbran was an enemy. Then
there was something else. I never told you--when you took all that
trouble to get me another job after Parrish had sacked me--the exact
reason for my dismissal. You never asked me either. That was decent of
you, Robin ..."

"I liked you, Bruce," said Robin shortly.

"Well, I'll tell you now," he said. "When I joined H.P.'s staff after I
got out of the Army, I was put under old Jeekes, of course, to learn the
work. One of the first injunctions he gave me was with regard to Mr.
Parrish's letters. I suppose you know more or less how secretaries of a
big business man like Hartley Parrish work. They open all letters, lay
the important ones before the big man for him to deal with personally,
make a digest of the others or deal with them direct ..."

Robin nodded.

"Well," the boy resumed, "the first thing old Jeekes told me was that
letters arriving in a blue envelope and marked 'Personal' were never to
be opened ..."

"In a blue envelope?" echoed Robin quickly.

"Yes, a particular kind of blue--a sort of slatey-blue--Jeekes showed me
one as a guide. Well, these letters were to be handed to Mr. Parrish

Robin had stood up.

"That's odd," he said, diving in his pocket.

"I say, hold on a bit," protested the boy, "this is really rather
important what I am telling you. I'll never finish if you keep on

"Sorry, Bruce," said Robin, and sat down again.

But he began to play restlessly with his cigarette case which he had
drawn from his pocket.

"Well, of course," Bruce resumed, "I wasn't much of a private secretary
really, and one day I forgot all about this injunction. Some days old
H.P. got as many as three hundred letters. I was alone at Harkings with
him, I remember, Jeekes was up at Sheffield and the other secretaries
were away ill or something, and in the rush of dealing with this
enormous mail I slit one of these blue envelopes open with the rest. I
discovered what I had done only after I had got all the letters sorted
out, this one with the rest. So I went straight to old H.P. and told
him. By Jove!"

"What happened?" said Robin.

"He got into the most paralytic rage," said Bruce. "I have never seen a
man in such an absolute frenzy of passion. He went right off the hooks,
just like that! He fairly put the wind up me. For a minute I thought he
was going to kill me. He snatched the letter out of my hand, called me
every name under the sun, and finally shouted: 'You're fired, d'ye hear?
I won't employ men who disobey my orders! Get out of this before I do
you a mischief! I went straight off. And I never saw him again ..."

Robin Greve looked very serious. But his face displayed no emotion as he

"And what was in the letter for him to make such a fuss about?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders.

"That was the extraordinary part of it. The letter was perfectly
harmless. It was an ordinary business letter from a firm in Holland ..."

"In Holland?" cried Greve. "Did you say in Holland? Tell me the name!
No, wait, see if I can remember. 'Van' something--'Speck' or 'Spike' ..."

"I remember the name perfectly," answered Bruce, rather puzzled by the
other's sudden outburst; "it was Van der Spyck and Co. of Rotterdam. We
had a good deal of correspondence with them ..."

Robin Greve had opened his cigarette-case and drawn from it a creased
square of blue paper folded twice across. Unfolding it, he held up the
sheet he had found in the library at Harkings.

"Is that the paper those letters were written on?" he asked.

Bruce took the sheet from him. He held it up to the light.

"Why, yes," came the prompt answer. "I'd know it in a minute. Look, it's
the same water-mark. 'Egmont.' Where did you get hold of it?"

"Bruce," said Robin gravely, without answering the question, "we're
getting into deep water, boy!"



Robert Greve stood for an instant in silence by the window of his rooms.
His fingers hammered out a tattoo on the pane. His eyes were fixed on
the windows of the chambers across the court. But they did not take in
the pleasant prospect of the tall, ivy-framed casements in their mellow
setting of warm red brick. He was trying to fix a mental photograph of a
letter--typewritten on paper of dark slatey blue--which he had seen on
Hartley Parrish's desk in the library at Harkings on the previous

Prompted by Bruce Wright, he could now recall the heading clearly.
before his eyes as plainly as though he still held the typewritten sheet
in front of him. But the mind plays curious tricks. Robin's brain had
registered the name; yet it recorded no impression of the contents of
the letter. Beyond the fact that it dealt in plain commercial fashion
with some shipments or other, he could recall no particular whatever of

"But where did you get hold of this sheet of paper?" Bruce Wright's
voice broke in impatiently behind him. "I'm most frightfully interested
to know ..."

"Found it on the floor beside Parrish's body," answered Robin briefly.
"There was a letter, too, on the same paper ..."

"By Gad!" exclaimed the boy eagerly, "have you got that too?"

Robin shook his head.

"It was only your story that made me think of it. I had the letter. But
I left it where I found it--on Parrish's desk in the library ..."

"But you read it ... you know what was in it?"

Robin shrugged his shoulders.

"It was a perfectly straightforward business letter ... something about
steel shipments ... I don't remember any more ..."

"A straightforward business letter," commented the boy. "Like the letter
I read, eh?..."

"Tell me, Bruce," said Robin, after a moment's silence, "during the time
you were with Hartley Parrish, I suppose these blue letters came pretty

Young Wright wrinkled his brow in thought.

"It's rather difficult to say. You see, there were three of us besides
old Jeekes, and, of course, these letters might have come without my
knowledge anything about it. But during the seven months I worked with
H.P. I suppose about half a dozen of these letters passed through my
hands. They used to worry H.P., you know, Robin ..."

"Worry him?" exclaimed Robin sharply; "how do you mean?"

"Well," said Bruce, "Parrish was a very easygoing fellow, you know. He
worked every one--himself included--like the devil, of course. But he
was hardly ever nervy or grumpy. And so I was a bit surprised to
find--after I had been with him for a time--that every now and then he
sort of shrivelled up. He used to look ... well, careworn and ... and
haggard. And at these times he was pretty short with all of us. It was
such an extraordinary change from his usual cheery, optimistic self that
sometimes I suspected him of dope or some horror like that ..."

Robin shook his head. He had a sudden vision of Hartley Parrish, one of
his long, black Partagas thrust at an aggressive angle from a corner of
his mouth, virile, battling, strong.

"Oh, no," he said, "not dope ..."

"No, no, I know," the boy went on quickly. "It wasn't dope. It was
fear ..."

Robin swung round from the window.

"Fear? Fear of what?"

The boy cast a frightened glance over his shoulder rather as if he
fancied he might be overheard.

"Of those letters," he replied. "I am sure it was that. I watched him
and ... and I _know_. Every time he got one of those letters in the
bluish envelopes, these curious fits of gloom came over him. Robin ..."

"What, Bruce?"

"I think he was being blackmailed!"

The barrister nodded thoughtfully.

"Don't you agree?"

The boy awaited his answer eagerly.

"Something very like that," replied the other.

Then suddenly he smashed his fist into the open palm of his other hand.

"But he wouldn't have taken it lying down!" he cried. "Hartley Parrish
was a fighter, Bruce. Did you ever know a man who could best him? No,
no, it won't fit! Besides ..."

He broke off and thought for an instant.

"We must get that letter from Harkings," he said presently. "Jeekes will
have it. We can do nothing until ..."

His voice died away. Bruce, sunk in one of the big leather armchairs,
was astonished to see him slip quickly away from the window and ensconce
himself behind one of the chintz curtains.

"Here, Bruce," Robin called softly across the room. "Just come here.
But take care not to show yourself. Look out, keep behind the curtain
and here ... peep out through this chink!"

Young Wright peered through a narrow slit between the curtain and the
window-frame. In the far corner of the courtyard beneath the windows,
where a short round iron post marked a narrow passage leading to the
adjoining court, a man was standing. He wore a shabby suit and a blue
handkerchief knotted about his neck served him as a substitute for the
more conventional collar and tie. His body was more than half concealed
by the side of the house along which the passage ran. But his face was
clearly distinguishable--a peaky, thin face, the upper part in the
shadow of the peak of a discoloured tweed cap.

"He's been there on and off all the time we've been talking," said
Robin. "I wasn't sure at first. But now I'm certain. He's watching these
windows! Look!"

Briskly the watcher's head was withdrawn to emerge again, slowly and
cautiously, in a little while.

"But who is he? What does he want?" asked Bruce.

"I haven't an idea," retorted Robin Greve. "But I could guess. Tell me,
Bruce," he went on, stepping back from the window and motioning the boy
to do the same, "did you notice anybody following you when you came

Bruce shook his head.

"I'm pretty sure nobody did. You see, I came in from the Strand, down
Middle Temple Lane. Once service has started at Temple Church there's
not a mouse stirring in the Inn till the church is out. I think I should
have noticed if any one had followed me up to your chambers ..."

Robin set his chin squarely.

"Then he came after me," he said. "Bruce, you'll have to go to Harkings
and get that letter!"

"By all means," answered the boy. "But, I say, they won't much like me
butting in, will they?"

"You'll have to say you came down to offer your sympathy, ... volunteer
your services ... oh, anything. But you _must_ get that letter! Do you
understand, Bruce? _You must get that letter_--if you have to steal

The boy gave a long whistle.

"That's rather a tall order, isn't it?" he said.

Robin nodded. His face was very grave.

"Yes," he said presently, "I suppose it is. But there is something ...
something horrible behind this case, Bruce, something dark and..and
mysterious. And I mean to get to the bottom of it. With your help. Or

Bruce put his hand impulsively on the other's arm.

"You can count on me, you know," he said. "But don't you think ..."

He broke off shyly.


"Don't you think you'd better tell me what you know. And what you

Robin hesitated.

"Yes," he said, "that's fair. I suppose I ought. But there's not much to
tell, Bruce. Just before Hartley Parrish was found dead, I asked Miss
Trevert to marry me. I was too late. She was already engaged to Hartley
Parrish. I was horrified ... I know some things about Parrish ... we had
words and I went off. Five minutes later Miss Trevert went to fetch
Parrish in to tea and heard a shot behind the locked door of the
library. Horace Trevert got in through the window and found Parrish
dead. Every one down at Harkings believes that I went in and threatened
Parrish so that he committed suicide ..."

"Whom do you mean by every one?"

Robin laughed drily. "Mary Trevert, her mother, Horace Trevert ..."

"The police, too?"

"Certainly. The police more than anybody!"

"By Jove!" commented the boy.

"You ask me what I suspect," Robin continued. "I admit I have no
positive proof. But I suspect that Hartley Parrish did not die by his
own hand!"

Bruce Wright looked up with a startled expression on his face.

"You mean that he was murdered?"

"I do!"

"But how? Why?"

Then Robin told him of the experiment in the library, of the open window
and of the bullet mark he had discovered in the rosery.

"What I want to know," he said, "and what I am determined to find out
beyond any possible doubt, is whether the bullet found in Hartley
Parrish's body was fired from _his_ pistol. But before we reach that
point we have to explain how it happened that only one shot was heard
and how a bullet which _apparently_ came from Parrish's pistol was found
in his body ..."

"If Mr. Parrish was murdered, the murderer might have turned the gun
round in Parrish's hand and forced him to shoot himself ..."

"Hardly," said Robin. "Remember, Mary Trevert was at the door when the
shot was fired. Your theory presupposes the employment of force, in
other words, a struggle. Miss Trevert heard no scuffling. No, I've
thought of that.. it won't do ..."

"Have you any suspicion of who the murderer might be?"

Robin shook his head decidedly.

"Not a shadow of an idea," he affirmed positively. "But I have a notion
that we shall find a clue in this letter which, like a blithering fool,
I left on Parrish's desk. It's the first glimmer of hope I've seen yet ..."

Bruce Wright squared his shoulders and threw his head back.

"I'll get it for you," he said.

"Good boy," said Robin. "But, Bruce," he went on, "you'll have to go
carefully. My name is mud in that house. You mustn't say you come from
me. And if you ask boldly for the letter, they won't give it to you.
Jeekes might, if he's there and you approach him cautiously. But, for
Heaven's sake, don't try any diplomacy on Manderton ... that's the
Scotland Yard man. He's as wary as a fox and sharp as needles."

Bruce Wright buttoned up his coat with an air of finality.

"Leave it to me," he said, "I know Harkings like my pocket. Besides I've
got a friend there ..."

"Who might that be?" queried the barrister.

"Bude," answered the boy and laid a finger on his lips.

"But," he pursued, jerking his head in the direction of the window,
"what are we going to do about him out there?"

Robin laughed.

"Him?" he said. "Oh, I'm going to take him out for an airing!"

Robin stepped out into the hall. He returned wearing his hat and
overcoat. In his hand were two yale keys strung on a wisp of pink tape.

"Listen, Bruce," he said. "Give me ten minutes' start to get rid of this
jackal. Then clear out. There's a train to Stevenish at 3.23. If you get
on the Underground at the Temple you ought to be able to make it easily.
Here are the keys of the chambers. I can put you up here to-night if you
like. I'll expect you when I see you ... with that letter. Savvy?"

The boy stood up.

"You'll have that letter to-night," he answered. "But in the
meantime,"--he waved the blue sheet with its mysterious slots at
Robin,--"what do you make of this?"

Robin took the sheet of paper from him and replaced it in his

"Perhaps, when we have the letter," he replied, "I shall be able to
answer that question!"

Then he lit a cigarette, gave the boy his hand, and a minute later Bruce
Wright, watching through the chink of the curtain from the window of
Robin Greve's chambers, saw a lanky form shuffle across the court and
follow Robin round the angle of the house.

Robin strode quickly through the maze of narrow passages and tranquil,
echoing courts into the Sabbath stillness of the Strand. An occasional
halt at a shop-window was sufficient to assure him that the watcher of
the Temple was still on his heels. The man, he was interested to see,
played his part very unobtrusively, shambling along in nonchalant
fashion, mostly hugging the sides of the houses, ready to dart out of
sight into a doorway or down a side turning, should he by any mischance
arrive too close on the heels of his quarry.

As he walked along, Robin turned over in his mind the best means for
getting rid of his shadow. Should he dive into a Tube station and plunge
headlong down the steps? He rejected this idea as calculated to let the
tracker know that his presence was suspected. Then he reviewed in his
mind the various establishments he knew of in London with double
entrances, thinking that he might slip in by the one entrance and
emerge by the other.

In Pall Mall he came upon Tony Grandell, whom he had last seen playing
bridge in the company dugout on the Flesquieres Kidge. Then he had been
in "battle order," camouflaged as a private soldier, as officers were
ordered to go over the top in the latter phases of the war. Now he was
resplendent in what the invitation cards call "Morning Dress" crowned by
what must certainly have been the most relucent top-hat in London.

"Hullo, hullo, hullo!" cried Tony, on catching sight of him; "stand to
your kits and so forth! And how is my merry company commander? Robin,
dear, come and relieve the medieval gloom of lunch with my aunt at

He linked his arm affectionately in Robin's.

Mart's! Robin's brain snatched at the word. Mart's! most respectable of
"family hotels," wedged in between two quiet streets off Piccadilly with
an entrance from both. If ever a man wanted to dodge a sleuth,
especially a grimy tatterdemalion like the one sidling up Pall Mall
behind them ...

"Tony, old son," said Robin, "I won't lunch with you even to set the
board in a roar at your aunt's luncheon-party. But I'll walk up to
Mart's with you, for I'm going there myself ..."

They entered Mart's together and parted in the vestibule, where Tony
gravely informed his "dear old scream" that he must fly to his
"avuncular luncheon." Robin walked quickly through the hotel and left by
the other entrance. The street was almost deserted. Of the man with the
dingy neckerchief there was no sign. Robin hurried into Piccadilly and
hopped on a 'bus which put him down at his club facing the Green Park.

He had a late lunch there and afterwards took a taxi back to the Temple.
The daylight was failing as he crossed the courtyard in front of his
chambers. In the centre the smoke-blackened plane-tree throned it in
unchallenged solitude. But, as Robin's footsteps echoed across the
flags, something more substantial than a shadow seemed to melt into the
gathering dusk in the corner where the narrow passage ran.

Robin stopped to listen at the entrance to his chambers. As he stood
there he heard a heavy tread on the stone steps within. He turned to
face a solidly built swarthy-looking man who emerged from the building.

He favoured Robin with a leisurely, searching stare, then strode heavily
across the courtyard to the little passage where he disappeared from

Robin looked after him. The man was a stranger: the occupants of the
other chambers were all known to him. With a thoughtful expression on
his face Robin entered the house and mounted to his rooms.



"D----!" exclaimed Bruce Wright.

He stood in the great porch at Harkings, his finger on the electric
bell. No sound came in response to the pressure, nor any one to open the
door. Thus he had stood for fully ten minutes listening in vain for any
sound within the house. All was still as death. He began to think that
the bell was out of order. He had forgotten Hartley Parrish's insistence
on quiet. All bells at Harkings rang, discreetly muted, in the servants'

He stepped out of the porch on to the drive. The weather had improved
and, under a freshening wind, the country was drying up. As he reached
the hard gravel, he heard footsteps, Bude appeared, his collar turned
up, his swallow-tails floating in the wind.

"Now, be off with you!" he cried as soon as he caught sight of the trim
figure in the grey overcoat; "how many more of ye have I to tell there's
nothing for you to get here! Go on, get out before I put the dog on

He waved an imperious hand at Bruce.

"Hullo, Bude," said the boy, "you've grown very inhospitable all of a

"God bless my soul if it isn't young Mr. Wright!" exclaimed the butler.
"And I thought it was another of those dratted reporters. It's been
ring, ring, ring the whole blessed morning, sir, you can believe me, as
if they owned the place, wanting to interview me and Mr. Jeekes and Miss
Trevert and the Lord knows who else. Lot of interfering busybodies, _I_
call 'em! I'd shut up all noospapers by law if I had my way ..."

"Is Mr. Jeekes here, Bude?" asked Bruce.

"He's gone off to London in the car, sir ... But won't you come in, Mr.
Wright? If you wouldn't mind coming in by the side door. I have to keep
the front door closed to shut them scribbling fellows out. One of them
had the face to ask me to let him into the library to take a
photograph ..."

He led the way round the side of the house to the glass door in the
library corridor.

"This is a sad business, Bude!" said Bruce.

"Ah, indeed, it is, sir," he sighed. "He had his faults had Mr. Parrish,
as well _you_ know, Mr. Wright. But he was an open-handed gentleman,
that I will say, and we'll all miss him at Harkings ..."

They were now in the corridor. Bude jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

"It was in there they found him," he said in a low voice, "with a hole
plumb over the heart."

His voice sank to a whisper. "There's blood on the carpet!" he added

"I should like just to take a peep at the room, Bude," ventured the boy,
casting a sidelong glance at the butler.

"Can't be done, sir," said Bude, shaking his head; "orders of
Detective-Inspector Manderton. The police is very strict, Mr. Wright,

"There seems to be no one around just now, Bude," the young man
wheedled. "There can't be any harm in my just going in for a second?..."

"Go in you should, Mr. Wright, sir," said the butler genially, "if I had
my way. But the door's locked. And, what's more, the police have the

"Is the detective anywhere about?" asked Bruce.

"No, sir," answered Bude. "He's gone off to town, too! And he don't
expect to be back before the inquest. That's for Toosday!"

"But isn't there another key anywhere?" persisted the boy.

"No, sir," said Bude positively, "there isn't but the one. And that's
in Mr. Manderton's vest pocket!"

Young Wright wrinkled his brow in perplexity. He was very young, but he
had a fine strain of perseverance in him. He was not nearly at the end
of his resources, he told himself.

"Well, then," he said suddenly, "I'm going outside to have a look
through the window. I remember you can see into the library from the
path round the house!"

He darted out, the butler, protesting, lumbering along behind him.

"Mr. Wright," he panted as he ran, "you didn't reelly ought ... If any
one should come ..."

But Bruce Wright was already at the window. The butler found him leaning
on the sill, peering with an air of frightened curiosity into the empty

"The glazier from Stevenish"--Bude's voice breathed the words hoarsely
in Wright's ear--"is coming to-morrow morning to put the window in. He
wouldn't come to-day, him being a chapel-goer and religious. It was
there we found poor Mr. Parrish--d'you see, sir, just between the window
and the desk!"

But Bruce Wright did not heed him. His eyes were fixed on the big
writing-desk, on the line of black japanned letter-trays set out in
orderly array. Outside, the short winter afternoon was drawing in fast,
and the light was failing. Dusky shadows within the library made it
difficult to distinguish objects clearly.

A voice close at hand cried out sharply:

"Mr. Bude! Mr. Bu-u-ude!"

"They're calling me!" whispered the butler in his ear with a tug at his
sleeve; "come away, sir!"

But Bruce shook him off. He heard the man's heavy tread on the gravel,
then a door slam.

How dark the room was growing, to be sure! Strain his eyes as he might,
he could not get a clear view of the contents of the letter-trays on the
desk. But their high backs hid their contents from his eyes. Even when
he hoisted himself on to the window-sill he could not get a better view.

He dropped back on to the gravel path and listened. The wind soughed
sadly in the bare tree-tops, somewhere in the distance a dog barked
hoarsely, insistently; otherwise not a sound was to be heard. He cast a
cautious glance round the side of the house. The glass door was shut;
the lamp in the corridor had not been lit.

Hoisting himself up to the window-sill again, he crooked one knee on the
rough edge and thrusting one arm through the broken pane of glass,
unbolted the window. Then, steadying himself with one hand, with the
other he very gently pushed up the window, threw his legs across the
sill, and dropped into the library. Very deliberately, he turned and
pushed the window softly down behind him.

Some unconscious prompting, perhaps an unfamiliar surface beneath his
feet, made him look down. Where his feet rested on the mole-grey carpet
a wide dark patch stood out from the delicate shade of the rug. For a
moment a spasm of physical nausea caught him.

"How beastly!" he whispered to himself and took a step towards the desk.

Hartley Parrish's desk was arranged just as he always remembered it to
have been. All the letter-trays save one were empty. In that was a
little pile of papers held down by a massive marble paper-weight.
Quickly he stepped round the desk.

He had put out his hand to lift the weight when there was a gentle
rattle at the door.

Bruce Wright wheeled instantly round, back to the desk, to face the
door, which, in the gathering dusk, was now but a squarer patch of
darkness among the shadows at the far end of the library. He stood
absolutely still, rooted to the spot, his heart thumping so fast that,
in that silent room, he could hear the rapid beats.

Some one was unlocking the library door. As realization came to the
boy, he tiptoed rapidly round the desk, the sound of his feet muffled by
the heavy pile carpet, and reached the window. There was a click as the
lock of the door was shot back. Without further hesitation Bruce stepped
behind the long curtains which fell from the top of the window to the

The curtains, of some heavy grey material, were quite opaque. Bruce
realized, with a sinking heart, that he must depend on his ears to
discover the identity of this mysterious interloper. He dared not look
out from his hiding-place--at least not until he could be sure that the
newcomer had his back to the window. He remained, rigid and vigilant,
straining his ears to catch the slightest sound, scarcely daring to

He heard the door open, heard it softly close again. Then ... silence.
Not another sound. The boy remembered the heavy pile carpet and cursed
his luck. He would have to risk a peep round the curtains. But not yet!
He must wait ...

A very slight rustling, a faint prolonged rustling, caught his ear. It
came nearer, then stopped. There was a little rattling noise from
somewhere close at hand, a small clinking sound.

Then silence fell again.

The wind whooshed sadly round the house, the window clattered dismally
in its frame, the curtains tugged fretfully before the cold breeze which
blew in at the broken pane. But the silence in the room was absolute.

It began to oppress the boy. It frightened him. He felt an
uncontrollable desire to look out into the room and establish the
identity of the mysterious entrant. He glided his hand towards the
window-frame in the hope that he might find a chink between curtain and
wall through which he might risk a peep into the room. But the curtain
was fastened to the wall.

The room was almost entirely dark now. Only behind him was a patch of
grey light where the lowering evening sky was framed in the window. He
began to draw the curtain very slowly towards him, at the same time
leaning to the right. Very cautiously he applied one eye to the edge of
the curtain.

As he did so a bright light struck him full in the face. It streamed
full from a lamp on the desk and almost blinded him. It was a
reading-lamp and the bulb had been turned up so as to throw a beam on
the curtain behind which the boy was sheltering.

Behind the desk, straining back in terror, stood a slim, girlish figure.
The details of her dress were lost in the gathering shadows, but her
face stood out in the gloom, a pale oval. Bruce could see the dark line
made by the lashes on her cheek.

At the sight of her, he stepped boldly forth from his hiding-place,
shielding his eyes from the light with his hand.

"It's Bruce Wright, Miss Trevert," he said, "don't you remember me?"



"Oh!" cried the girl, "you frightened me! You frightened me! What do you
want here ... in this horrible room?"

She was trembling. One slim hand plucked nervously at her dress. Her
breath came and went quickly.

"I saw the curtain move. I thought it was the wind at first. But then I
saw the outline of your fingers. And I imagined it was he ... come
back ..."

"Miss Trevert," said the boy abashed, "I must have frightened you
terribly. I had no idea it was you!"

"But why are you hiding here? How did you get in? What do you want in
this house?"

She spoke quickly, nervously. Some papers she held in her hand shook
with her emotion. Bruce Wright stepped to the desk and turned the bulb
of the reading-lamp down into its normal position.

"I must apologize most sincerely for the fright I gave you," he said.
"But, believe me, Miss Trevert, I had no idea that anybody could gain
access to this room. I climbed in through the window. Bude told me that
the police had taken away the key ..."

The girl made an impatient gesture.

"But why have you come here?" she said. "What do you want?"

The boy measured her with a narrow glance. He was young, but he was
shrewd. He saw her frank eyes, her candid, open mien, and he took a
rapid decision.

"I think I have come," he answered slowly, "for the same purpose as

And he looked at the papers in her hand.

"I used to be Mr. Parrish's secretary, you know," he said.

The girl sighed--a little fluttering sigh--and looked earnestly at him.

"I remember," she said. "Hartley liked you. He was sorry that he sent
you away. He often spoke of you to me. But why have you come back? What
do you mean by saying you have come for the same purpose as myself?"

Bruce Wright looked at the array of letter-trays. The marble
paper-weight had been displaced. The tray in which it had lain was
empty. He looked at the sheaf of papers in the girl's hand.

"I wanted to see," he replied, "whether there was anything here ... on
his desk ... which would explain the mystery of his death ..."

The girl spread out the papers in her hand on the big blotter.

She laid the papers out in a row and leant forward, her white arms
resting on the desk. From the other side of the desk the boy leant
eagerly forward and scanned the line of papers.

At the first glimpse his face fell. The girl, eyeing him closely, marked
the change which came over his features.

There were seven papers of various kinds, both printed and written, and
they were all on white paper.

The boy shook his head and swept the papers together into a heap.

"It's not there?" queried the girl eagerly.

"No!" said Bruce absent-mindedly, glancing round the desk.

"What isn't?" flashed back the girl.

Bruce Wright felt his face redden with vexation. What sort of a
confidential emissary was he to fall into a simple trap like this?

The girl smiled rather wanly.

"Now I know what you meant by saying you had come for the same purpose
as myself," she said. "I suppose we both thought we might find
something, a letter, perhaps, which would explain why Mr. Parrish did
this dreadful thing, something to relieve this awful uncertainty about ...
about his motive. Well, I've searched the desk ... and there's
nothing! Nothing but just these prospectuses and receipts which were in
the letter-tray here. They must have come by the post yesterday morning.
And there's nothing of any importance in the drawers ... only household
receipts and the wages book and a few odd things like that! You can see
for yourself ..."

The lower part of the desk consisted of three drawers flanked on either
side by cupboards. Mary Trevert pulled out the drawers and opened the
cupboards. Two of the drawers were entirely empty and one of the
cupboards contained nothing but a stack of cigar boxes. One drawer held
various papers appertaining to the house. There was no sign of any
letter written on the slatey-blue paper.

The boy looked very hard at Mary.

"You say there was nothing in the letter-tray but these papers here?" he

"Nothing but these," replied the girl.

"You didn't notice any official-looking letter on bluish paper?" he
ventured to ask.

"No," answered the girl. "I found nothing but these."

The boy thought for a moment.

"Do you know," he asked, "whether the police or anybody have been
through the desk?"

"I don't know at all," said Mary, smoothing back a lock of hair from her
temple; "I daresay Mr. Jeekes had a look round, as he had a meeting with
Mr. Parrish's lawyer in town this afternoon!"

She had lost all trace of her fright and was now quite calm and

"Do you know for certain whether Mr. Jeekes was in here?" asked Bruce.

"Oh, yes. The first thing he did on arriving last night was to go to the

"I suppose Jeekes is coming back here to-night?"

No, she told him. Mr. Jeekes did not expect to return to Harkings until
the inquest on Tuesday.

Bruce Wright picked up his hat.

"I must apologize again, Miss Trevert," he said, "for making such an
unconventional entrance and giving you such a fright. But I felt I could
not rest until I had investigated matters for myself. I would have
presented myself in the ordinary way, but, as I told you, Bude told me
the police had locked up the room and taken away the key ..."

Mary Trevert smiled forgivingly.

"So they did," she said. "But Jay--Mr. Parrish's man, you know--had
another key. He brought it to me."

She looked at Bruce with a whimsical little smile.

"You must have been very uncomfortable behind those curtains," she said.
"I believe you were just as frightened as I was."

She walked round the desk to the window.

"It was a good hiding-place," she remarked, "but not much good as an
observation post. Why! you could see nothing of the room. The curtains
are much too thick!"

"Not a thing," Bruce agreed rather ruefully. "I thought you were the

He held out his hand to take his leave with a smile. He was a
charming-looking boy with a remarkably serene expression which went well
with close-cropped golden hair.

Mary Trevert did not take his hand for an instant. Looking down at the
point of her small black suede shoe she said shyly:

"Mr. Wright, you are a friend of Mr. Greve, aren't you?"

"Rather!" was the enthusiastic answer.

"Do you see him often?"

The boy's eyes narrowed suddenly. Was this a cross-examination?

"Oh, yes," he replied, "every now and then!"

Mary Trevert raised her eyes to his.

"Will you do something for me?" she said. "Tell Mr. Greve not to trust
Manderton. He will know whom I mean. Tell him to be on his guard against
that man. Say he means mischief. Tell him, above all things, to be
careful. Make him go away ... go abroad until this thing has blown
over ..."

She spoke with intense earnestness, her dark eyes fixed on Bruce
Wright's face.

"But promise me you won't say this comes from me! Do you understand?
There are reasons, very strong reasons, for this. Will you promise?"

"Of course!"

She took Bruce's outstretched hand.

"I promise," he said.

"You mustn't go without tea," said the girl. "Besides,"--she glanced at
a little platinum watch on her wrist,--"there's not another train until
six. There is no need for you to start yet. I don't like being left
alone. Mother has one of her headaches, and Horace and Dr. Romain have
gone to Stevenish. Come up to my sitting-room!"

She led the way out of the library, locking the door behind them, and
together they went up to the Chinese boudoir where tea was laid on a low
table before a bright fire. In the dainty room with its bright colours
they seemed far removed from the tragedy which had darkened Harkings.

They had finished tea when a tap came at the door. Bude appeared. He
cast a reproachful look at Bruce.

"Jay would be glad to have a word with you, Miss," he said.

The girl excused herself and left the room. She was absent for about ten
minutes. When she returned, she had a little furrow of perplexity
between her brows. She walked over to the open fireplace and stood
silent for an instant, her foot tapping the hearth-rug.

"Mr. Wright," she said presently, "I'm going to tell you something that
Jay has just told me. I want your advice ..."

The boy looked at her interrogatively. But he did not speak.

"I think this is rather important," the girl went on, "but I don't quite
understand in what way it is. Jay tells me that Mr. Parrish had on his
pistol a sort of steel fitting attached to the end ... you know, the
part you shoot out of. Mr. Parrish used to keep his automatic in a
drawer in his dressing-room, and Jay has often seen it there with this
attachment fitted on. Well, when Mr. Parrish was discovered in the
library yesterday, this thing was no longer on the pistol. And Jay says
it's not to be found!..."

"That's rather strange!" commented Bruce. "But what was this steel
contraption for, do you know? Was it a patent sight or something?"

"Jay doesn't know," answered the girl.

"Would you mind if I spoke to Jay myself?" asked the young man.

In reply the girl touched the bell beside the fireplace. Bude answered
the summons and was despatched to find Jay. He appeared in due course, a
tall, dark, sleek young man wearing a swallow-tail coat and striped

"How are you, Jay?" said Bruce affably.

"Very well, thank you, sir," replied the valet.

"Miss Trevert was telling me about this appliance which you say Mr.
Parrish had on his automatic. Could you describe it to me?"

"Well, sir," answered the man rather haltingly, "it was a little sort of
cup made of steel or gun-metal fitting closely over the barrel ..."

"And you don't know what it was for?"

"No, sir!"

"Was it a sight, do you think?"

"I can't say, I'm sure, sir!"

"You know what a sight looks like, I suppose. Was there a bead on it or
anything like it?"

"I can't say, I'm sure, sir. I never gave any particular heed to it. I
used to see the automatic lying in the drawer of the wardrobe in Mr.
Parrish's room in a wash-leather case. I noticed this steel appliance,
sir, because the case wouldn't shut over the pistol with it on and the
butt used to stick out."

"When did you last notice Mr. Parrish's automatic?"

"It would be Thursday or Friday, sir. I went to that drawer to get Mr.
Parrish an old stock to go riding in as some new ones he had bought were
stiff and hurt him."

"And this steel cup was on the pistol then?"

"Oh, yes, sir!"

"And you say it was not on the pistol when Mr. Parrish's body was

"No, sir!"

"Are you sure of this?"

"Yes, sir. I was one of the first in the room, and I saw the pistol in
Mr. Parrish's hand, and there was no sign of the cup, sir. So I've had a
good look among his things and I can't find it anywhere!"

Bruce Wright pondered a minute.

"Try and think, Jay," he said, "if you can't remember anything more
about this steel cup, as you call it. Where did Mr. Parrish buy it?"

"Can't say, I'm sure, sir. He had it before ever I took service with

Jay put his hand to his forehead for an instant.

"Now I come to think of it," he said, "there was the name of the shop or
maker on it, stamped on the steel. 'Maxim,' that was the name, now I put
my mind back, with a number ..."

"Maxim?" echoed Bruce Wright. "Did you say Maxim?"

"Yes, sir! That was the name!" replied the valet impassively.

"By Jove!" said the boy half to himself. Then he said aloud to Jay:

"Did you tell the police about this?"

Jay looked somewhat uncomfortable.

"No, sir."

"Why not?"

Jay looked at Mary Trevert.

"Well, sir, I thought perhaps I'd better tell Miss Trevert first. Bude
thought so, too. That there Manderton has made so much unpleasantness in
the house with his prying ways that I said to myself, sir ..."

Bruce Wright looked at Mary.

"Would you mind if I asked Jay not to say anything about this to anybody
just for the present?" he asked.

"You hear what Mr. Wright says, Jay," said Mary. "I don't want you to
say anything about this matter just yet. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Miss. Will that be all, Miss?"

"Yes, thank you, Jay!"

"Thanks very much, Jay," said the boy. "This may be important. Mum's the
word, though!"

"I _quite_ understand, sir," answered the valet and left the room.

Hardly had the door closed on him than the girl turned eagerly to Bruce.

"It _is_ important?" she asked.

"It may be," was the guarded reply.

"Don't leave me in the dark like this," the girl pleaded. "This horrible
affair goes on growing and growing, and at every step it seems more
bewildering ... more ghastly. Tell me where it is leading, Mr. Wright! I
can't stand the suspense much more!"

Her voice broke, and she turned her face away.

"You must be brave, Miss Trevert," said the boy, putting his hand on her
shoulder. "Don't ask me to tell you more now. Your friends are working
to get at the truth ..."

"The truth!" cried the girl. "God knows where the truth will lead us!"

Bruce Wright hesitated a moment.

"I don't think you have any need to fear the truth!" he said presently.

The girl took her handkerchief from her face and looked at him with
brimming eyes.

"You know more than you let me think you did," she said brokenly. "But
you are a friend of mine, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Bruce, and added boldly:

"And of his too!"

She did not speak again, but gave him her hand. He clasped it and went
out hurriedly to catch his train back to London.



That faithful servitor of Fleet Street, the Law Courts clock, had just
finished striking seven. It boomed out the hour, stroke by stroke,
solemnly, inexorably, like a grim old judge summing up and driving home,
point by point, an irrefutable charge. The heavy strokes broke in upon
the fitful doze into which Robin Greve, stretched out in an armchair in
his living-room, had dropped.

He roused up with a start. There was the click of a key in the lock of
his front door. Bruce Wright burst into the room.

The boy shut the door quickly and locked it. He was rather pale and
seemed perturbed. On seeing Robin he jerked his head in the direction of
the courtyard.

"I suppose you know they're still outside?" he said.

Robin nodded nonchalantly.

"There are three of them now," the boy went on. "Robin, I don't like it.
Something's going to happen. You'll want to mind yourself ... if it's
not too late already!"

He stepped across to the window and bending down, peered cautiously
round the curtain.

Robin Greve laughed.

"Bah!" he said, "they can't touch me!"

"You're wrong," Bruce retorted without changing his position. "They can
and they will. Don't think Manderton is a fool, Robin. He means
mischief ..."

Robin raised his eyebrows.

"Does he?" he said. "Now I wonder who told you that ..."

"Friends of yours at Harkings asked me to warn you ..." began Bruce

"My friends are scarcely in the majority there," retorted Robin. "Whom
do you mean exactly?"

But the boy ignored the question.

"Three men watching the house!" he exclaimed; "don't you think that
_this_ looks as though Manderton meant business?"

He returned to his post of observation at the curtain.

Robin laughed cynically.

"Manderton doesn't worry me any," he said cheerfully. "The man's the
victim of an _idée fixe_. He believes Parrish killed himself just as
firmly as he believes that I frightened or bullied Parrish into doing
it ..."

"Don't be too sure about that, Robin," said the boy, dropping the
curtain and coming back to Robin's chair. "He may want you to think
that. But how can we tell how much he knows?"

Robin flicked the ash off his cigarette disdainfully.

"These promoted policemen make me tired," he said.

Bruce Wright shook his head quickly with a little gesture of

"You don't understand," he said. "There's fresh evidence ..."

Robin Greve looked up with real interest in his eyes. His bantering
manner had vanished.

"You've got that letter?" he asked eagerly.

Bruce shook his head.

"No, not that," he said. Then leaning forward he added in a low voice:

"Have you ever heard of the Maxim silencer?"

"I believe I have, vaguely," replied Robin. "Isn't it something to do
with a motor engine?"

"No," said Bruce. "It's an extraordinary invention which absolutely
suppresses the noise of the discharge of a gun."

Robin shot a quick glance at the speaker.

"Go on," he said.

"It's a marvelous thing, really," the boy continued, warming to his
theme. "A man at Havre had one when I was at the base there, during the
war. It's a little cup-shaped steel fitting that goes over the barrel.
You can fire a rifle fitted with one of these silencers in a small room
and it makes no more noise than a fairly loud sneeze ..."


Robin was listening intently now.

"Parrish had a Maxim silencer," Bruce went on impressively.

"_Parrish_ had?"

"It was fitted on his automatic pistol, the one he had in his hand when
they found him ..."

"There was no attachment of any kind on the gun Parrish was holding when
he was discovered yesterday afternoon," declared Robin positively; "I
can vouch for that. I was there almost immediately after they found him.
And if there had been anything of the kind Horace Trevert would
certainly have mentioned it ..."

"I know. Jay, who came in soon after you, was surprised to see that the
silencer was not on the pistol. And he made a point of looking for it ..."

"But how do you know that Parrish had it on the pistol?..."

"Well, we don't know for certain. But we do know that it was permanently
fitted to his automatic. Jay has often seen it. And if Parrish did
remove it, he didn't leave it lying around any where. Jay has looked
all through his things without finding it ..."

"When did Jay see it last?"

"On Thursday!"

"But are you sure that this is the same pistol as the one which Jay has
been in the habit of seeing?"

"Jay is absolutely sure. He says that Parrish only had the one automatic
which he always kept in the same drawer in his dressing-room ..."

Robin was silent for a moment. Very deliberately he filled his pipe, lit
it, and drew until it burned comfortably. Then he said slowly:

"This means that Hartley Parrish was murdered, Bruce, old man. All
through I have been puzzling my mind to reconcile the unquestionable
circumstance that two bullets were fired--I told you of the bullet mark
I found on the upright in the rosery--with the undoubted fact that only
one report was heard. We can therefore presume, either that Hartley
Parrish first fired one shot from his pistol with the silencer fitted
and then removed the silencer and fired another shot without it, thereby
killing himself, or that the second shot was fired by the person whose
interest it was to get rid of the silencer. There is no possible or
plausible reason why Parrish should have fired first one shot with the
silencer and then one without. Therefore, I find myself irresistibly
compelled to the conclusion that the shot heard by Mary Trevert was
fired by the person who killed Parrish. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly," answered Bruce.

"Now, then," the barrister proceeded, thoughtfully puffing at his pipe,
"one weak point about my deductions is that they all hang on the
question as to whether, at the time of the tragedy, Parrish actually had
the silencer on his pistol or not. That is really the acid test of
Manderton's suicide theory. You said, I think, that a rifle fired with
the silencer attachment makes no more noise than the sound of a loud

"That's right," agreed Bruce; "a sort of harsh, spluttering noise. Not
so loud either, Robin. Ph ... t-t-t! Like that!"

"Loud enough to be heard through a door, would you say?"

"Oh, I think so!"

Robin thought intently for a moment.

"Then Mary is the only one who can put us right on that point. Assuming
that two shots were fired--and that bullet mark in the rosery is, I
think, conclusive on that head--and knowing that she heard the loud
report of the one, presumably, if Parrish had the silencer on his
automatic, Mary must have heard the _muffled_ report of the other. What
it comes to is this, Mary heard the shot fired that killed Parrish. Did
she hear the shot he fired at his murderer?"

"By Gad!" exclaimed Bruce Wright impressively, "I believe you've got it,
Robin! Parrish fired at somebody at the window--a silent shot--and the
other fellow fired back the shot that Mary Trevert heard, the shot that
killed Parrish. Isn't that the way you figure it out?"

"Not so fast, young man," remarked Robin. "Let's first find out whether
Mary actually heard the muffled shot and, if so, _when ... before_ or
_after_ the loud report."

He glanced across at the window and then at Bruce,

"I suppose this discovery about the silencer is responsible for the
deputation waiting in the courtyard," he said drily.

"The police don't know about it yet," replied Bruce; "at least they
didn't when I left."

Robin shook his head dubiously.

"If the servants know it, Manderton will worm it out of them. Hasn't he
cross-examined Jay?"

"Yes," said Bruce. "But he got nothing out of him about this. Manderton
seems to have put everybody's back up. He gets nothing out of the
servants ..."

"If Parrish had had this silencer for some time, you may be sure that
other people know about it. These silencers must be pretty rare in
England. You see, an average person like myself didn't know what it was.
By the way, another point which we haven't yet cleared up is this:
supposing we are right in believing Parrish to have been murdered, how
do you explain the fact that the bullet removed from his body fitted his

"That's a puzzler, I must say!" said Bruce.

"There's only one possible explanation, I think," Robin went on, "and
that is that Parrish was shot by a pistol of exactly the same calibre as
his own. For the murderer to have killed Parrish with his own weapon
would have been difficult without a struggle. But Miss Trevert heard no
struggle. For murderer and his victim to have pistols of the same
calibre argues a rather remarkable coincidence, I grant you. But then
life is full of coincidences! We meet them every day in the law. Though,
I admit, this is a coincidence which requires some explaining ..."

He fell into a brown study which Bruce interrupted by suddenly
remembering that he had had no lunch.

For answer Robin pointed at the sideboard.

"There's a cloth in there," he said, "also the whisky, if my laundress
has left any, and a siphon and there should be some claret--Mrs. Bragg
doesn't care about red wine. Set the table, and I'll take a root round
in the kitchen and dig up some tinned stuff."

They supped off a tinned tongue and some _pâté de foie gras_. Over their
meal Bruce told Robin of his adventure in the library at Harkings.

"Jeekes must have collected that letter," Bruce said. "Before I came to
you, I went to Lincoln's Inn Fields to see if he was still at Bardy's--
Parrish's solicitor, you know. But the office was closed, and the place
in darkness. I went on to the Junior Pantheon, that's Jeekes's club, but
he wasn't in. He hadn't been there all day, the porter told me. So I
left a note asking him to ring you up here ..."

"The case reeks of blackmail," said Robin thoughtfully, "but I am
wondering how much we shall glean from this precious letter when we do
see it. I am glad you asked Jeekes to ring me up, though. He should be
able to tell us something about these mysterious letters on the blue
paper that used to put Parrish in such a stew ... Hullo, who can that

An electric bell trilled through the flat. It rang once ... twice ...
and then a third time, a long, insistent peal.

"See who's there, will you, Bruce?" said Robin.

"Suppose it's the police ..." began the boy.

Robin shrugged his shoulders.

"You can say I'm at home and ask them in," he said.

He heard the heavy oaken door swing open, a murmur of voices in the
hall. The next moment Detective-Inspector Manderton entered the



The detective's manner had undergone some subtle change which Robin,
watching him closely as he came into the room, was quick to note. Mr.
Manderton made an effort to retain his old air of rather patronizing
swagger; but he seemed less sure of himself than was his wont. In fact,
he appeared to be a little anxious.

He walked briskly into the sitting-room and looked quickly from Bruce to

"Mr. Greve," he said, "you can help me if you will by answering a few
questions ..."

With another glance at Bruce Wright he added:

"... in private."

Bruce, obedient to a sign from Robin, said he would ring up in the
morning and prepared to take his leave. Robin turned to the detective.

"There are some of your men, I believe," he said coldly, "watching this
house. Would it be asking too much to request that my friend here might
be permitted to return home unescorted?"

"He needn't worry," replied Manderton with a significant smile.
"There's no one outside now!..."

They watched Bruce Wright pass into the hall and collect his hat and
coat. As the front door slammed behind him, the detective added:

"I took 'em off myself soon after seven o'clock!"

"Why?" asked Robin bluntly.

Mr. Manderton dropped his heavy form into a chair.

"I'm a plain man, Mr. Greve," he said, "and I'm not above owning to it,
I hope, when I'm wrong. For some little time now it has struck me that
our lines of investigation run parallel ..."

"Instead of crossing!"

"Instead of crossing--exactly!"

"It's a pity you did not grasp that very obvious fact earlier," observed
Robin pointedly.

Mr. Manderton crossed one leg over the other and, his finger-tips
pressed together, looked at Robin.

"Will you help me?" he asked simply.

"Do you want my help?"

Mr. Manderton nodded.

"Allies, then?"

"Allies it is!"

Robin pointed to the table.

"It's dry work talking," he said. "Won't you take a drink?"

"Thanks, I don't drink. But I'll have a cigar if I may. Thank you!"

The detective helped himself to a cheroot from a box on the table and
lit up. Then, affecting to scan the end of his cigar with great
attention, he asked abruptly:

"What do you know of the woman calling herself Madame de Malpas?"

Robin pursed up his lips rather disdainfully.

"One of the late Mr. Parrish's lady friends," he replied. "I expect you
know that!"

"Do you know where she lives?" pursued the detective, ignoring the
implied question.

"She's dead."

A flicker of interest appeared for an instant in Mr. Manderton's keen

"You're sure of that?"

"Certainly," answered Robin.

"Who told you?"

"Le Hagen--the solicitor, you know. He acted for this Malpas woman on
one or two occasions."

"When did she die?"

"Six or seven months ago ..."

"Did Jeekes know about it?"

"Jeekes? Do you mean Parrish's secretary?

"It's funny your asking that. As a matter of fact, it was through Jeekes
that I heard the lady was dead. I was in Le Hagen's office one day when
Jeekes came in, and Le Hagen told me Jeekes had come to pay in a cheque
for the cost of the funeral and the transport of the body to France."

"This was six or seven months ago, you say? I take it, then, that any
allowance that Parrish was in the habit of making to this woman has

"I tell you the lady is dead!"

"Then what would you say if I informed you that Mr. Jeekes had declared
that these payments were still going on ..."

Robin shrugged his shoulders.

"I should say he was lying ..."

"I agree. But why?"

"Whom did he tell this to?"

"Miss Trevert!"

"Miss Trevert?"

Robin repeated the name in amazement.

"I don't understand," he said. "Why on earth should Jeekes blacken his
employer's character to Miss Trevert? What conceivable motive could he
have had? Did she tell you this?"

"No," said Manderton; "I heard him tell her myself."

"Do you mean to tell me," protested Robin, growing more and more
puzzled, "that Jeekes told Miss Trevert this offensive and deliberate
lie in your presence!"

"Well," remarked Mr. Manderton slowly, "I don't know about his saying
this in my presence exactly. But I heard him tell her for all that.
Walls have ears, you know--particularly if the door is ajar!"

He looked shrewdly at Robin, then dropped his eyes to the floor.

"He also told her that Le Hagen and you were in business relations ..."

Robin sat up at this.

"Ah!" he said shortly. "I see what you're getting at now. Our friend has
been trying to set Miss Trevert against me, eh? But why? I don't even
know this man Jeekes except to have nodded 'Good-morning' to him a few
times. Why on earth should he of all men go out of his way to slander me
to Miss Trevert, to throw suspicion ..."

He broke off short and looked at the detective.

Mr. Manderton caressed his big black moustache.

"Yes," he repeated suavely, "you were saying 'to cast suspicion' ..."

The eyes of the two men met. Then the detective leaned back in his
chair and, blowing a cloud of smoke from his lips, said:

"Mr. Greve, you've been thinking ahead of me on this case. What you've
told me so far I've checked. And you're right. Dead right. And since
you're, in a manner of speaking, one of the parties interested in
getting things cleared up, I'd like you to tell me just simply what idea
you've formed about it ..."

"Gladly," answered the barrister. "And to start with let me tell you
that the case stinks of blackmail ..."

"Steady on," interposed the detective. "I thought so, too, at first.
I've been into all that. Mr. Parrish made a clean break with the last of
his lady friends about two months since; and, as far as our
investigations go, there has been no blackmail in connection with any of
his women pals. Vine Street knows all about Master Parrish. There were
complaints about some of his little parties up in town. But I don't
believe there's a woman in this case ..."

"I didn't say there was," retorted Robin. "The blackmail is probably
being levied from Holland. A threat of violence was finally carried into
effect on Saturday evening between 5 and 5.15 P.M. by some one
conversant with the lie of the land at Harkings. This individual, armed
with an automatic Browning of the same calibre as Mr. Parrish's, shot
at Parrish through the open window of the library and killed
him--probably in self-defence, after Parrish had had a shot at him ..."

"Steady there, whoa!" said Mr. Manderton in a jocular way clearly
expressive of his incredulity; "there was only one shot ..."

"There were _two_," was Robin's dispassionate reply. "Though maybe only
one was heard. Parrish had a Maxim silencer on his gun ..."

Mr. Manderton was now thoroughly alert.

"How did you find that out?" he asked.

"Jay, Parrish's man, came forward and volunteered this evidence ..."

"He said nothing about it when I questioned him," grumbled the

Robin laughed.

"You're a terror to the confirmed criminal, they tell me, Manderton," he
said, "but you obviously don't understand that complicated mechanism
known as the domestic servant. No servant at Harkings will voluntarily
tell _you_ anything ..."

Mr. Manderton, who had stood up, shook his big frame impatiently.

"Explain the rest of your theories," he said harshly. "What's all this
about blackmail being levied from Holland?"

Then Robin Greve told him of the letters written on the slatey-blue
paper and of their effect upon Parrish, and of the letter headed, "Elias
van der Spyck & Co., General Importers, Rotterdam," which had lain on
the desk in the library when Parrish's dead body had been found.

Manderton nodded gloomily.

"It was there right enough," he remarked. "I saw it. A letter about
steel shipments and the dockers' strike, wasn't it? As there seemed
nothing to it, I left it with the other papers for Jeekes, the secretary
chap. But what evidence is there that this was blackmail?"

"This," said Robin, and showed the detective the sheet of blue paper
with its series of slits. "Manderton," he said, "these letters written
on this blue paper were in code, I feel sure. Why should not this be the
key? You see it bears a date--'Nov. 25.' May it not refer to that
letter? I found it by Parrish's body on the carpet in the library. I
would have given it to you at Harkings, but I shoved it in my pocket and
forgot all about it until I was in the train coming up to town this

Mr. Manderton took the sheet of paper, turned it over, and held it up to
the light. Then, without comment, he put it away in the pocket of his

"If Parrish killed himself," Robin went on earnestly, "that letter drove
him to it. If, on the other hand, he was murdered, may not that letter
have contained a warning?"

"I should prefer to suspend judgment until we've seen the letter, Mr.
Greve," said the detective bluntly. "We must get it from Jeekes. In the
meantime, what makes you think that the murderer (to follow up your
theory) was conversant with the lay of the land at Harkings?"

"Because," answered Robin, "the murderer left no tracks on the grass or
flower-beds. He stuck to the hard gravel path throughout. That path,
which runs from the drive through the rosery to the gravel path round
the house just under the library window, is precious hard to find in the
dark, especially where it leaves the drive, as at the outset it is a
mere thread between the rhododendron bushes. And, as I know from
experience, unless you are acquainted with the turns in the path, it is
very easy to get off it in the dark, especially in the rosery, and go
blundering on to the flower-beds. And I'll tell you something else about
the murderer. He--or she--was of small stature--not much above five
foot six in height. The upward diagonal course of the bullet through
Parrish's heart shows that ..."

Mr. Manderton shook his head dubiously.

"Very ingenious," he commented. "But you go rather fast, Mr. Greve. We
must test your theory link by link. There may be an explanation for
Jeekes's apparently inexplicable lie to the young lady. Let's see him
and hear what he says. The grounds at Harkings must be searched for this
second bullet, if second bullet there is, the mark on the tree examined
by an expert. And since two bullets argue two pistols in this case, let
us see what result we get from our enquiries as to where Mr. Parrish
bought his pistol. He may have had two pistols ..."

"If Parrish used a silencer," remarked Robin, quite undisconcerted by
the other's lack of enthusiasm, "and my theory that two shots were fired
is correct, there must have been two reports, a loud one and a muffled
one. Miss Trevert heard one report, as we know. Did she hear a second?"

"She said nothing about it," remarked the detective.

"She was probably asked nothing about it. But we can get this point
cleared up at once. There's the telephone. Ring up Harkings and ask her

"Why not?" said Mr. Manderton and moved to the telephone.

There is little delay on the long-distance lines on a Sunday evening,
and the call to Harkins came through almost at once. Bude answered the
telephone at Harkings. Manderton asked for Miss Trevert. The butler
replied that Miss Trevert was no longer at Harkings. She had gone to the
Continent for a few days.

This plain statement, retailed in the fortissimo voice which Bude
reserved for use on the telephone, produced a remarkable effect on the
detective. He grew red in the face.

"What's that?" he cried assertively. "Gone to the Continent? I should
have been told about this. Why wasn't I informed? What part of the
Continent has she gone to?"

Mr. Manderton's questions, rapped out with a rasping vigour that
recalled a machine-gun firing, brought Robin to his feet in an instant.
He crossed over to the desk on which the telephone stood.

Manderton placed one big palm over the transmitter and turned to Robin.

"She's gone to the Continent and left no address," he said quickly.

"Ask him if Lady Margaret is there," suggested Robin.

Mr. Manderton spoke into the telephone again. Lady Margaret had gone to
bed, Bude answered, and her ladyship was much put out by Miss Trevert
gallivanting off like that by herself with only a scribbled note left to
say that she had gone.

Had Bude got the note?

No, Mr. Manderton, sir, he had not. But Lady Margaret had shown it to
him. It had simply stated that Miss Trevert had gone off to the
Continent and would be back in a few days.

Again the detective turned to Robin at his elbow.

"These country bumpkins!" he said savagely. "I must go to the Yard and
get Humphries on the 'phone. He may have telegraphed me about it. You
stay here and I'll ring you later if there's any news. What do you make
of it, Mr. Greve?"

"It beats me," was Robin's rueful comment. "And what about the inquest?
It's for Tuesday, isn't it? Miss Trevert will have to give evidence, I
take it?..."

"Oh," said Mr. Manderton, picking up his hat and speaking in an offhand
way, "I'm getting _that_ adjourned for a week!"

"The inquest adjourned! Why?"

There was a twinkle in the detective's eye as he replied.

"I thought, maybe, I might get further evidence ..."

Robin caught the expression and smiled.

"And when did you come to this decision, may I ask?"

"After our little experiment in the garden this morning," was the
detective's prompt reply.

Robin looked at him fixedly.

"But, see here," he said, "apparently it was to the deductions you
formed from the result of that experiment that I owe the attentions of
your colleagues who have been hanging round the house all day. And yet
you now come to me and invite my assistance. Mr. Manderton, I don't get
it at all!"

"Mr. Greve," replied the detective, "Miss Trevert tried to shield you.
That made me suspicious. You tried to force my investigations into an
entirely new path. That deepened my suspicions. I believed it to be my
duty to ascertain your movements after leaving Harkings. But then I
heard Jeekes make an apparently gratuitously false statement to Miss
Trevert with an implication against you. That, to some extent, cleared
you in my eyes. I say 'to some extent' because I will not deny that I
thought I might be taking a risk in coming to you like this. You see I
am frank!..."

The smile had left Greve's face and he looked rather grim.

"You're pretty deep, aren't you?" was his brief comment.



Major Euan MacTavish was packing. A heavy and well-worn leather
portmanteau, much adorned with foreign luggage labels, stood in the
centre of the floor. From a litter of objects piled up on a side table
the Major was transferring to it various brown-paper packages which he
checked by a list in his hand.

The Major always packed for himself. He packed with the neatness and
rapidity derived from long experience of travel. As a matter of fact, he
could not afford a manservant any more than he could allow himself
quarters more luxurious than the rather grimy bedroom in Bury Street
which housed him during his transient appearances in town. The
remuneration doled out by the Foreign Office to the quiet and
unobtrusive gentlemen known as King's messengers is, in point of fact,
out of all proportion to the prestige and glamour surrounding the silver
greyhound badge, an example of which was tucked away in a pocket of the
Major's blue serge jacket hanging over the back of a chair.

"Let's see," said the Major, addressing a large brown-paper covered
package standing in the corner of the room, "you're the bird-cage for
Lady Sylvia at The Hague. Two pounds of candles for Mrs. Harry Deepdale
at Berlin; the razor blades for Sir Archibald at Prague; the Teddy bear
for Marjorie; polo-balls for the Hussars at Constantinople--there! I
think that's the lot! Hullo, hullo, who the devil's that?"

With a groaning of wires a jangling bell tinkled through the hall (the
Major's bedroom was on the ground floor). Sims, the aged ex-butler, who,
with his wife, "did for" his lodgers in more ways than one, was out and
the single servant-maid had her Sunday off. Euan MacTavish glanced at
his wrist watch. It showed the hour to be ten minutes past nine. A
flowered silk smoking-coat over his evening clothes and a briar pipe in
his mouth, he went out into the hall and opened the front door.

It was a drenching night. The lamps from a taxi which throbbed dully in
the street outside the house threw a gleaming band of light on the
shining pavement. At the door stood a taxi-driver.

"There's a lady asking for Major MacTavish," he said, pointing at the
cab. The Major stepped across to the cab and opened the door.

"Oh, Euan," said a girl's voice, "how lucky I am to catch you!"

"Why, Mary," exclaimed the Major, "what on earth brings you round to me
on a night like this? I only came up from the country this afternoon and
I'm off for Constantinople in the morning!"

"Euan," said Mary Trevert, "I want to talk to you. Where can we talk?"

The Major raised his eyebrows. He was a little man with grizzled hair
and finely cut, rather sharp features.

"Well," he remarked, "there's not a soul in the house, and I've only got
a bedroom here. Though we're cousins, Mary, my dear, I don't know that
you ought to...."

"You're a silly old-fashioned old dear," exclaimed the girl, "and I'm
coming in. No, I'll keep the cab. We shall want it!"

"All right," said the Major, helping her to alight. "I tell you what.
We'll go into Harry Prankhurst's sitting-room. He's away for the
week-end, anyway!"

He took Mary Trevert into a room off the hall and switched on the
electric light. Then for the first time he saw how pale she looked.

"My dear," he said, "I know what an awful shock you've had...."

"You've heard about it?"

"I saw it in the Sunday papers. I was going to write to you."

"Euan," the girl began in a nervous, hasty way, "I have to go to Holland
at once. There is not a moment to lose. I want you to help me get my
passport viséed."

"But, my dear girl," exclaimed the Major, aghast, "you can't go to
Holland like this alone. Does your mother know about it?"

The girl shook her head.

"It's no good trying to stop me, Euan," she declared. "I mean to go,
anyway. As a matter of fact, Mother doesn't know. I merely left word
that I had gone to the Continent for a few days. Nobody knows about
Holland except you. And if you won't help me I suppose I shall have to
go to Harry Tadworth at the Foreign Office. I came to you first because
he's always so stuffy ..."

Euan MacTavish pushed the girl into a chair and gave her a cigarette. He
lit it for her and took one himself. His pipe had vanished into his

"Of course, I'll help you," he said. "Now, tell me all about it!"

"Before ... this happened I had promised Hartley Parrish to marry him,"
began the girl. "The doctors say his nerves were wrong. I don't believe
a word of it. He was full of the joy of life. He was very fond of me. He
was always talking of what we should do when we were married. He never
would have killed himself without some tremendously powerful motive.
Even then I can't believe it possible ..."

She made a little nervous gesture.

"After he ... did it," she went on, "I found this letter on his desk. It
came to him from Holland. I mean to see the people who wrote it and
discover if they can throw any light on ... on ... the affair ..."

She had taken from her muff a letter, folded in four, written on paper
of a curious dark slatey-blue colour.

"Won't you show me the letter?"

"You promise to say nothing about it to any one?"

He nodded.

"Of course."

Without a word the girl gave him the letter. With slow deliberation he
unfolded it. The letter was typewritten and headed: "Elias van der Spyck
& Co. General Importers, Rotterdam."

This was the letter:

ROTTERDAM Rotterdam 25th Nov.


Dear Mr. Parrish,

Your favor of even date to hand and contents
noted. The last delivery of steel was to time but we have had
warning from the railway authorities that labour troubles at the
docks are likely to delay future consignments. If you don't
mind we should prefer to settle the question of future
delivery by Nov. 27 as we have a board meeting on the 30th
inst. While we fully appreciate your own difficulties with
labour at home, you will understand that this is a question
which we cannot afford to adjourn _sine die_.

Yours faithfully,

The signature was illegible.

Euan MacTavish folded the letter again and handed it back to Mary.

"That doesn't take me any farther," he said. "What do the police think
of it?"

"They haven't seen it," was the girl's reply. "I took it without them
knowing. I mean to make my own investigations about this ..."

"But, my dear Mary," exclaimed the little Major in a shocked voice, "you
can't do things that way! Don't you see you may be hindering the course
of justice? The police may attach the greatest importance to this
letter ..."

"You're quite right," retorted the girl, "they do!"

"Then why have you kept it from them?"

Mary Trevert dropped her eyes and a little band of crimson flushed into
her cheeks.

"Because," she commenced, "because ... well, because they are trying to
implicate a friend of mine ..."

The Major took the girl's hand.

"Mary," he said, "I've known you all your life. I've knocked about a
good bit and know something of the world, I believe. Suppose you tell me
all about it ..."

Mary Trevert hesitated. Then she said, her hands nervously toying with
her muff:

"We believe that Robin Greve--you know whom I mean--had a conversation
with Hartley just before he ... he shot himself. That very afternoon
Robin had asked me to marry him, but I told him about my engagement. He
said some awful things about Hartley and rushed away. Ten minutes later
Hartley Parrish committed suicide. And there _was_ some one talking to
him in the library. Bude, the butler, heard the voices. This afternoon I
went down to the library alone ... to see if I could discover anything
likely to throw any light on poor Hartley's death. This was the only
letter I could find. It was tucked away between two letter-trays. One
tray fitted into the other, and this letter had slipped between. It
seems to have been overlooked both by Mr. Parrish's secretary and the
police ..."

"But I confess," argued the Major, "that I don't see how this letter,
which appears to be a very ordinary business communication, implicates
anybody at all. Why shouldn't the police see it?..."

"Because," said Mary, "directly after discovering it I found Bruce
Wright, who used to be one of Mr. Parrish's private secretaries, hiding
behind the curtains in the library. Now, Bruce Wright is a great friend
of Robin Greve's, and I immediately suspected that Robin had sent him
to Harkings, particularly as ..."

"As what?..."

"As he practically admitted to me, that he had come for a letter written
on slatey-blue official-looking paper."

The girl held up the letter from Rotterdam.

"All this," the girl continued, "made me think that this letter must
have had something to do with Hartley's death ..."

"Surely an additional reason for giving it to the police!..."

Mary Trevert set her mouth in an obstinate line.

"No!" she affirmed uncompromisingly. "The police believe that, as the
result of a scene between Hartley and Robin, Hartley killed himself.
Until I've found out for certain whether this letter implicates Robin or
not, I sha'n't give it to the police ..."

"But, if Greve really had nothing to do with this shocking tragedy, the
police can very easily clear him. Surely they are the best judges of his
guilt ..."

Again a touch of warm colour suffused the girl's cheeks. Euan MacTavish
remarked it and looked at her wistfully.

"Well, well," he observed gently, "perhaps they're not, after all!"

The girl looked up at him.

"Euan, dear," she said impulsively, "I knew you'd understand. Robin and
Hartley may have had a row, but it was nothing worse. Robin is incapable
of having threatened--blackmailed--Hartley, as the police seem to
imagine. I am greatly upset by it all; I can't see things clear at all;
but I'm determined not to give the police a weapon like this to use
against Robin until I know whether it is sharp or blunt, until I have

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