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The Pit Prop Syndicate by Freeman Wills Croft

Part 6 out of 6

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been communicative, and Merriman had no idea how matters actually
stood.

It was therefore with feelings of pleasurable anticipation that he
received a telephone call from Willis at Scotland Yard.

"I have just returned from Bordeaux," the inspector said, "and I
am anxious to have a chat with Miss Coburn on some points that have
arisen. I should be glad of your presence also, if possible. Can
you arrange an interview?"

"Do you want her to come to town?"

"Not necessarily; I will go to EASTBOURNE if more convenient. But
our meeting must be kept strictly secret. The syndicate must not
get to know."

Merriman felt excitement and hope rising within him.

"Better go to EASTBOURNE then," he advised. "Come down with me
tonight by the 5.20 from Victoria."

"No," Willis answered, "we mustn't be seen together. I shall meet
you at the corner of the Grand Parade and Carlisle Road at nine
o'clock."

This being agreed on, both men began to make their arrangements.
In Merriman's case these consisted in throwing up his work at the
office and taking the first train to EASTBOURNE. At five o'clock
he was asking for Miss Coburn at Mrs. Luttrell's door.

"Dear Madeleine," he said, when he had told her his news, "you must
not begin to expect things. It may mean nothing at all. Don't
build on it."

But soon he had made her as much excited as he was himself. He
stayed for dinner, leaving shortly before nine to keep his
appointment with Willis. Both men were to return to the house,
when Madeleine would see them alone.

Inspector Willis did not travel by Merriman's train. Instead he
caught the 5.35 to Brighton, dined there, and then slipping out of
the hotel, motored over to EASTBOURNE. Dismissing his vehicle at
the Grand Hotel, he walked down the Parade and found Merriman at
the rendezvous. In ten minutes they were in Mrs. Luttrell's
drawing-room.

"I am sorry, Miss Coburn," Willis began politely, "to intrude on
you in this way, but the fact is, I want your help and indirectly
the help of Mr. Merriman. But it is only fair, I think, to tell
you first what has transpired since we last met. I must warn you,
however, that I can only do so in the strictest confidence. No
whisper of what I am going to say must pass the lips of either of
you."

"I promise," said Merriman instantly.

"And I," echoed Madeleine.

"I didn't require that assurance," Willis went on. "It is sufficient
that you understand the gravity of the situation. Well, after the
inquest I set to work," and he briefly related the story of his
investigations in London and in Hull, his discoveries at Ferriby,
his proof that Archer was the actual murderer, the details of the
smuggling organization and, finally, his suspicion that the other
members of the syndicate were privy to Mr. Coburn's death, together
with his failure to prove it.

His two listeners heard him with eager attention, in which interest
in his story was mingled with admiration of his achievement.

"So Hilliard was right about the brandy after all!" Merriman
exclaimed. He deserves some credit for that. I think he believed
in it all the time, in spite of our conclusion that we had proved
it impossible. By Jove! How you can be had!"

Willis turned to him.

"Don't be disappointed about your part in it, sir," he advised. "I
consider that you and Mr. Hilliard did uncommonly well. I may tell
you that I thought so much of your work that I checked nothing of
what you had done."

Merriman colored with pleasure.

"Jolly good of you to say so, I'm sure, inspector," he said; "but
I'm afraid most of the credit for that goes to Hilliard."

"It was your joint work I was speaking of," Willis insisted. "But
now to get on to business. As I said, my difficulty is that I
suspect the members of the syndicate of complicity in Mr. Coburn's
death, but I can't prove it. I have thought out a plan which may
or may not produce this proof. It is in this that I want your help."

"Mr. Inspector," cried Madeleine reproachfully, "need you ask for
it?"

Willis laughed.

"I don't think so. But I can't very well come in and command it,
you know."

"Of course you can," Madeleine returned. "You know very well that
in such a cause Mr. Merriman and I would do anything."

"I believe it, and I am going to put you to the test. I'll tell
you my idea. It has occurred to me that these people might be
made to give themselves away. Suppose they had one of their
private meetings to discuss the affairs of the syndicate, and that,
unknown to them, witnesses could be present to overhear what was
said. Would there not at least be a sporting chance that they
would incriminate themselves?"

"Yes!" said Merriman, much interested. "Likely enough. But I
don't see how you could arrange that."

Willis smiled slightly.

"I think it might be managed," he answered. "If a meeting were to
take place we could easily learn where it was to be held and hear
what went on. But the first point is the difficulty - the question
of the holding of the meeting. In the ordinary course there might
be none for months. Therefore we must take steps to have one
summoned. And that," he turned to Madeleine, "is where I want
your help."

His hearers stared, mystified, and Willis resumed.

"Something must happen of such importance to the welfare of the
syndicate that the leaders will decide that a full conference of
the members is necessary. So far as I can see, you alone can
cause that something to happen. I will tell you how. But I must
warn you that I fear it will rake up painful memories.

Madeleine, her lips parted, was hanging on his words.

"Go on," she said quickly, "we have settled all that."

"Thank you," said Willis, taking a sheet of paper from his pocket.
"I have here the draft of a letter which I want you to write to
Captain Beamish. You can phrase it as you like; in fact I want
it in your own words. Read it over and you will understand."

The draft ran as follows:

"SILVERDALE ROAD,
"EASTBOURNE.

"DEAR CAPTAIN BEAMISH, - In going over some papers belonging to
my late father, I learn to my surprise that he was not a salaried
official of your syndicate, but a partner. It seems to me,
therefore, that as his heir I am entitled to his share of the
capital of the concern, or at all events to the interest on it.
I have to express my astonishment that no recognition of this fact
has as yet been made by the syndicate.

"I may say that I have also come on some notes relative to the
business of the syndicate, which have filled me with anxiety and
dismay, but which I do not care to refer to in detail in writing.

"I think I should like an interview with you to hear your
explanation of these two matters, and to discuss what action is
to be taken with regard to them. You could perhaps find it
convenient to call on me here, or I could meet you in London if
you preferred it.

"Yours faithfully,
"MADELEINE COBURN."

Madeleine made a grimace as she read this letter.

"Oh," she cried, "but how could I do that? I didn't find any
notes, you know, and besides - it would be so dreadful - acting as
a decoy - "

"There's something more important than that," Merriman burst in
indignantly. "Do you realize, Mr. Inspector, that if Miss Coburn
were to send that letter she would put herself in very real danger?"

"Not at all," Willis answered quietly. "You have not heard my whole
scheme. My idea is that when Beamish gets that letter he will lay
it before Archer, and they will decide that they must find out what
Miss Coburn knows, and get her quieted about the money. They will
say: 'We didn't think she was that kind, but it's evident she is
out for what she can get. Let's pay her a thousand or two a year
as interest on her father's alleged share - it will be a drop in
the bucket to us, but it will seem a big thing to her - and that
will give us a hold on her keeping silence, if she really does know
anything.' Then Beamish will ask Miss Coburn to meet him, probably
in London. She will do so, not alone, but with some near friend,
perhaps yourself, Mr. Merriman, seeing you were at the clearing and
know something of the circumstances. You will be armed, and in
addition I shall have a couple of men from the Yard within call
- say, disguised as waiters, if a restaurant is chosen for the
meeting. You, Miss Coburn, will come out in a new light at that
meeting. You will put up a bluff. You will tell Captain Beamish
you know he is smuggling brandy, and that the money he offers won't
meet the case at all. You must have 25,000 pounds down paid as the
value of your father's share in the concern, and in such a way as
will raise no suspicion that you knew what was in progress. The
interview we can go into in detail later, but it must be so arranged
that Beamish will see Mr. Merriman's hand in the whole thing. On
the 25,000 pounds being paid the incriminating notes will be handed
over. You will explain that as a precautionary measure you have
sent them in a sealed envelope to your solicitor, together with a
statement of the whole case, with instructions to open the same that
afternoon if not reclaimed before that by yourself in person. Now
with regard to your objection, Miss Coburn. I quite realize what
an exceedingly nasty job this will be for you. In ordinary
circumstances I should not suggest it. But the people against whom
I ask you to act did not hesitate to lure your father into the cab
in which they intended to shoot him. They did this by a show of
friendliness, and by playing on the trust he reposed in them, and
they did it deliberately and in cold blood. You need not hesitate
from nice feeling to act as I suggest in order to get justice for
your father's memory."

Madeleine braced herself up.

"I know you are right, and if there is no other way I shall not
hesitate," she said, but there was a piteous look in her eyes.
"And you will help me, Seymour?" She looked appealingly at her
companion.

Merriman demurred on the ground that, even after taking all Willis's
precautions, the girl would still be in danger, but she would not
consider that aspect of the question at all, and at last he was
overborne. Madeleine with her companion's help then rewrote the
letter in her own phraseology, and addressed it to Captain Beamish,
c/o Messrs. The Landes Pit-Prop Syndicate, Ferriby, Hull. Having
arranged that he would receive immediate telephonic information of
a reply, Willis left the house and was driven back to Brighton.
Next morning he returned to London.

The Girondin, he reckoned, would reach Ferriby on the following
Friday, and on the Thursday he returned to Hull. He did not want
to be seen with Hunt, as he expected the latter's business would by
this time be too well known. He therefore went to a different
hotel, ringing up the Excise man and arranging a meeting for that
evening.

Hunt turned up about nine, and the two men retired to Willis's
bedroom, where the inspector described his doings at Bordeaux. Then
Hunt told of his discoveries since the other had left.

"I've got all I want at last," he said. "You remember we both
realized that those five houses were getting in vastly more brandy
than they could possibly sell? Well, I've found out how they are
getting rid of the surplus."

Willis looked his question.

"They are selling it round to other houses. They have three men
doing nothing else. They go in and buy anything from a bottle up
to three or four kegs, and there is always a good reason for the
purchase. Usually it is that they represent a publican whose stock
is just out, and who wants a quantity to keep him going. But the
point is that all the purchases are perfectly in order. They are
openly made and the full price is paid. But, following it up, I
discovered that there is afterwards a secret rebate. A small
percentage of the price is refunded. This pays everyone concerned
and ensures secrecy."

Willis nodded.

"It's well managed all through," he commented. "They deserved to
succeed."

"Yes, but they're not going to. All the same my discoveries won't
help you. I'm satisfied that none of these people know anything
of the main conspiracy."

Early on the following morning Willis was once more at work. Dawn
had not completely come when he motored from the city to the end
of the Ferriby lane. Ten minutes after leaving his car he was in
the ruined cottage. There he unearthed his telephone from the box
in which he had hidden it, and took up his old position at the
window, prepared to listen in to whatever messages might pass.

He had a longer vigil than on previous occasions, and it was not
until nearly four that he saw Archer lock the door of his office
and move towards the filing-room. Almost immediately came Benson's
voice calling: "Are you there?"

They conversed as before for a few minutes. The Girondin, it
appeared, had arrived some hours previously with a cargo of "1375."
It was clear that the members of the syndicate had agreed never
to mention the word "gallons." It was, Willis presumed, a likely
enough precaution against eavesdroppers, and he thought how much
sooner both Hilliard and himself would have guessed the real nature
of the conspiracy, had it not been observed.

Presently they came to the subject about which Willis was expecting
to hear. Beamish, the manager explained, was there and wished to
speak to Archer.

'That you, Archer?" came in what Willis believed he recognized as
the captain's voice. "I've had rather a nasty jar, a letter from
Madeleine Coburn. Wants Coburn's share in the affair, and hints
at knowledge of what we're really up to. Reads as if she was put
up to it by someone, probably that Merriman. Hold on a minute and
I'll read it to you." Then followed Madeleine's letter.

Archer's reply was short but lurid, and Willis, not withstanding
the seriousness of the matter, could not help smiling.

There was a pause, and then Archer asked:

"When did you get that?"

"Now, when we got in; but Benson tells me the letter has been
waiting for me for three days."

"You might read it again."

Beamish did so, and presently Archer went on:

"In my opinion, we needn't be unduly alarmed. Of course she may
know something, but I fancy it's what you say; that Merriman is
getting her to put up a bluff. But it'll take thinking over. I
have an appointment presently, and in any case we couldn't discuss
it adequately over the telephone. We must meet. Could you come
up to my house tonight?"

"Yes, if you think it wise?"

"It's not wise, but I think we must risk it. You're not known here.
But come alone; Benson shouldn't attempt it."

"Right. What time?"

"What about nine? I often work in the evenings, and I'm never
disturbed. Come round to my study window and I shall be there. Tap
lightly. The window is on the right-hand side of the house as you
come up the drive, the fourth from the corner. You can slip round
to it in the shadow of the bushes, and keep on the grass the whole
time."

"Right. Nine o'clock, then."

The switch of the telephone clicked, and presently Willis saw Archer
reappear in his office.

The inspector was disappointed. He had hoped that the conspirators
would have completed their plans over the telephone, and that he
would have had nothing to do but listen to what they arranged. Now
he saw that if he were to gain the information he required, it would
mean a vast deal more trouble, and perhaps danger as well.

He felt that at all costs he must be present at the interview in
Archer's study, but the more he thought about it, the more difficult
the accomplishment of this seemed. He was ignorant of the plan of
the house, or what hiding-places, if any, there might be in the
study, nor could he think of any scheme by which he could gain
admittance. Further, there was but little time in which to make
inquiries or arrangements, as he could not leave his present retreat
until dark, or say six o'clock. He saw the problem would be one of
the most difficult he had ever faced.

But the need for solving it was paramount, and when darkness had
set in he let himself out of the cottage and walked the mile or more
to Archer's residence. It was a big square block of a house,
approached by a short winding drive, on each side of which was a
border of rhododendrons. The porch was in front, and the group of
windows to the left of it were lighted up - the dining-room, Willis
imagined. He followed the directions given to Beamish and moved
round to the right, keeping well in the shadow of the shrubs. The
third and fourth windows from the corner on the right side were
also lighted up, and the inspector crept silently up and peeped
over the sill. The blinds were drawn down, but that on the third
window was not quite pulled to the bottom, and through the narrow
slit remaining he could see into the room.

It was empty, but evidently only for the time being, as a cheerful
fire burned in the grate. Furnished as a study, everything bore the
impress of wealth and culture. By looking from each end of the slot
in turn, nearly all the floor area and more than half of the walls
became visible, and a glance showed the inspector that nowhere in
his purview was there anything behind which he might conceal himself,
supposing he could obtain admission.

But could he obtain admission? He examined the sashes. They were
of steel, hinged and opening inwards in the French manner, and were
fastened by a handle which could not be turned from without. Had
they been the ordinary English sashes fastened with snibs he would
have had the window open in a few seconds, but with these he could
do nothing.

He moved round the house examining the other windows. All were
fitted with the same type of sash, and all were fastened. The
front door also was shut, and though he might have been able to open
it with his bent wire, he felt that to adventure himself into the
hall without any idea of the interior would be too dangerous. Here,
as always, he was hampered by the fact that discovery would mean
the ruin of his case.

Having completed the circuit of the building, he looked once more
through the study window. At once he saw that his opportunity was
gone. At the large desk sat Archer busily writing.

Various expedients to obtain admission to the house passed through
his brain, all to be rejected as impracticable. Unless some
unexpected incident occurred of which he could take advantage, he
began to fear he would be unable to accomplish his plan.

As by this time it was half past eight, he withdrew from the window
and took up his position behind a neighboring shrub. He did not
wish to be seen by Beamish, should the latter come early to the
rendezvous.

He had, however, to wait for more than half an hour before a dark
form became vaguely visible in the faint light which shone through
the study blinds. It approached the window, and a tap sounded on
the glass. In a moment the blind went up, the sash opened, the
figure passed through, the sash closed softly, and the blind was
once more drawn down. In three seconds Willis was back at the sill.

The slot under the blind still remained, the other window having
been opened. Willis first examined the fastening of the latter in
the hope of opening the sash enough to hear what was said, but to
his disappointment he found it tightly closed. He had therefore to
be content with observation through the slot.

He watched the two men sit down at either side of the fire, and light
cigars. Then Beamish handed the other a paper, presumably Madeleine's
letter. Archer having read it twice, a discussion began. At first
Archer seemed to be making some statement, to judge by the other's
rapt attention and the gestures of excitement or concern which he
made. But no word of the conversation reached the inspector's ears.

He watched for nearly two hours, getting gradually more and more
cramped from his stooping position, and chilled by the sharp autumn
air. During all that time the men talked. earnestly, then, shortly
after eleven, they got up and approached the window. Willis
retreated quickly behind his bush.

The window opened softly and Beamish stepped out to the grass, the
light shining on his strong, rather lowering face. Archer leaned
out of the window after him, and Willis heard him say in low tones,
"Then you'll speak up at eleven?" to which the other nodded and
silently withdrew. The window closed, the blind was lowered, and
all remained silent.

Willis waited for some minutes to let the captain get clear away,
then leaving his hiding-place and again keeping on the grass, he
passed down the drive and out on to the road. He was profoundly
disappointed. He had failed in his purpose, and the only ray of
light in the immediate horizon was that last remark of Archer's.
If it meant, as he presumed it did, that the men were to
communicate by the secret telephone at eleven in the morning, all
might not yet be lost. He might learn then what he had missed
tonight.

It seemed hardly worth while returning to Hull. He therefore went
to the Raven Bar in Ferriby, knocked up the landlord, and by
paying four or five times the proper amount, managed to get a meal
and some food for the next day. Then he returned to the deserted
cottage, he let himself in, closed the door behind him, and lying
down on the floor with his head on his arm, fell asleep.

Next morning found him back at his post at the broken window, with
the telephone receiver at his ear. His surmise at the meaning of
Archer's remark at the study window proved to be correct, for
precisely at eleven he heard the familiar: "Are you there?" which
heralded a conversation. Then Beamish's voice went on:

"I have talked this business over with Benson, and he makes a
SUGGESTION which I think is an improvement on our plan. He thinks
we should have our general meeting in London immediately after I
have interviewed Madeleine Coburn. The advantage of this scheme
would be that if we found she possessed really serious knowledge,
we could immediately consider our next move, and I could, if
necessary, see her again that night. Benson thinks I should fix
up a meeting with her at say 10.30 or 11, that I could then join
you at lunch at 1.30, after which we could discuss my report, and
I could see the girl again at 4 or 5 o'clock. It seems to me a
sound scheme. What do you say?"

"It has advantages," Archer answered slowly. "If you both think
it best, I'm quite agreeable. Where then should the meetings be
held?"

"In the case of Miss Coburn there would be no change in our last
night's arrangement; a private sitting-room at the Gresham would
still do excellently. If you're going to town you could fix up
some place for our own meeting - preferably close by."

"Very well, I'm going up on Tuesday in any case, and I'll arrange
something. I shall let Benson know, and he can tell you and the
others. I think we should all go up by separate trains. I shall
probably go by the 5.3 from Hull on the evening before. Let's see,
when will you be in again?"

"Monday week about midday, I expect. Benson could go up that
morning, Bulla and I separately by the 4, and Fox, Henri, and
Raymond, if he comes, by the first train next morning. How would
that do?"

"All right, I think. The meetings then will be on Tuesday at 11
and 1.30, Benson to give you the address of the second. We can
arrange at the meeting about returning to Hull."

"Righto," Beamish answered shortly, and the conversation ended.

Willis for once was greatly cheered by what he had overheard. His
failure on the previous evening was evidently not going to be so
serious as he had feared. He had in spite of it gained a knowledge
of the conspirators' plans, and he chuckled with delight as he
thought how excellently his ruse was working, and how completely
the gang were walking into the trap which he had prepared. As far
as he could see, he held all the trump cards of the situation, and
if he played his hand carefully he should undoubtedly get not only
the men, but the evidence to convict them.

To learn the rendezvous for the meeting of the syndicate he would
have to follow Archer to town, and shadow him as he did his business.
This was Saturday, and the managing director had said he was going
on the following Tuesday. From that there would be a week until
the meeting, which would give more than time to make the necessary
arrangements.

Willis remained in the cottage until dark that evening, then, making
his way to Ferriby station, returned to Hull. His first action on
reaching the city was to send a letter to Madeleine, asking her to
forward Beamish's reply to him at the Yard.

On Monday he began his shadowing of Archer, lest the latter should
go to town that day. But the distiller made no move until the
Tuesday, travelling up that morning by the 6.15 from Hull.

At 12.25 they reached King's Cross. Archer leisurely left the train,
and crossing the platform, stepped into a taxi and was driven away.
Willis, in a second taxi, followed about fifty yards behind. The
chase led westwards along the Euston Road until, turning to the
left down Gower Street, the leading vehicle pulled up at the door
of the Gresham Hotel in Bedford Square. Willis's taxi ran on past
the other, and through the backlight the inspector saw Archer alight
and pass into the hotel.

Stopping at a door in Bloomsbury Street, Willis sat watching. In
about five minutes Archer reappeared, and again entering his taxi,
was driven off southwards. Willis's car slid once more in behind
the other, and the chase recommenced. They crossed Oxford Street,
and passing down Charing Cross Road stopped at a small foreign
restaurant in a narrow lane off Cranbourne Street.

Willis's taxi repeated its previous maneuver, and halted opposite
a shop from where the inspector could see the other vehicle through
the backlight. He thought he had all the information he needed,
but there was the risk that Archer might not find the room he
required at the little restaurant and have to try elsewhere.

This second call lasted longer than the first, and a quarter of an
hour had passed before the distiller emerged and reentered his taxi.
This time the chase was short. At the Trocadero Archer got out,
dismissed his taxi, and passed into the building. Willis, following
discreetly, was in time to see the other seat himself at a table and
leisurely take up the bill of fare. Believing the quarry would
remain where he was for another half hour at least, the inspector
slipped unobserved out of the room, and jumping once more into his
taxi, was driven back to the little restaurant off Cranbourne Street.
He sent for the manager and drew him aside.

"I'm Inspector Willis from Scotland Yard," he said with a sharpness
strangely at variance with his usual easy-going mode of address.
"See here." He showed his credentials, at which the manager bowed
obsequiously. "I am following that gentleman who was in here
inquiring about a room a few minutes ago. I want to know what
passed between you."

The manager, who was a sly, evil-looking person seemingly of Eastern
blood, began to hedge, but Willis cut him short with scant ceremony.

"Now look here, my friend," he said brusquely, "I haven't time to
waste with you. That man that you were talking to is wanted for
murder, and what you have to decide is whether you're going to act
with the police or against them. If you give us any, trouble you
may find yourself in the dock as an accomplice after the fact. In
any case it's not healthy for a man in your position to run up
against the police."

His bluff had more effect that it might have had with an Englishman
in similar circumstances, and the manager became polite and anxious
to assist. Yes, the gentleman had come about a room. He had ordered
lunch in a private room for a party of seven for 1.30 on the
following Tuesday. He had been very particular about the room, had
insisted on seeing it, and had approved of it. It appeared the
party had some business to discuss after lunch, and the gentleman
had required a guarantee that they would not be interrupted. The
gentleman had given his name as Mr. Hodgson. The price had been
agreed on.

Willis in his turn demanded to see the room, and he was led
upstairs to a small and rather dark chamber, containing a fair-sized
oval table surrounded by red plush chairs, a red plush sofa along
one side, and a narrow sideboard along another. The walls supported
tawdry and dilapidated decorations, in which beveled mirrors and
faded gilding bore a prominent part. Two large but quite worthless
oil paintings hung above the fireplace and the sideboard
respectively, and the window was covered with gelatine paper
simulating stained glass.

Inspector Willis stood surveying the scene with a frown on his brow.
How on earth was he to secrete himself in this barely furnished
apartment? There was not room under the sofa, still less beneath
the sideboard. Nor was there any adjoining room or cupboard in
which he could hide, his keen ear pressed to the keyhole. It seemed
to him that in this case he was doing nothing but coming up against
one insoluble problem after another. Ruefully he recalled the
conversation in Archer's study, and he decided that, whatever it
cost in time and trouble, there must be no repetition of that fiasco.

He stood silently pondering over the problem, the manager
obsequiously bowing and rubbing his hands. And then the idea for
which he was hoping flashed into his mind. He walked to the wall
behind the sideboard and struck it sharply. It rang hollow.

"A partition?" he asked. "What is behind it?"

"Anozzer room, sair. A private room, same as dees."

"Show it to me."

The "ozzer room" was smaller, but otherwise similar to that they
had just left. The doors of the two rooms were beside each other,
leading on to the same passage.

"This will do," Willis declared. "Now look here, Mr. Manager, I
wish to overhear the conversation of your customers, and I may or
may not wish to arrest them. You will show them up and give them
lunch exactly as you have arranged. Some officers from the Yard
and myself will previously have hidden ourselves in here. See?"

The manager nodded.

"In the meantime I shall send a carpenter and have a hole made in
that partition between the two rooms, a hole about two feet by one,
behind the upper part of that picture that hangs above the sideboard.
Do you understand?"

The manager wrung his hands.

"Ach!" he cried. "But meine Zimmern! Mine rooms, zey veel pe
deestroyed!"

"Your rooms will be none the worse," Willis declared. "I will have
the damage made good, and I shall pay you reasonably well for
everything. You'll not lose if you act on the square, but if not - "
he stared aggressively in the other's face - "if the slightest hint
of my plan reaches any of the men - well, it will be ten years at
least."

"It shall be done! All shall happen as you say!"

"It had better," Willis rejoined, and with a menacing look he strode
out of the restaurant.

"The Gresham Hotel," he called to his driver, as he reentered his
taxi.

His manner to the manageress of the Bedford Square hotel was very
different from that displayed to the German. Introducing himself
as an inspector from the Yard, he inquired the purpose of Archer's
call. Without hesitation he was informed. The distiller had
engaged a private sitting-room for a business interview which was
to take place at eleven o'clock on the following Tuesday between a
Miss Coburn, a Mr. Merriman, and a Captain Beamish.

"So far so good," thought Willis exultingly, as he drove off.
"They're walking into the trap! I shall have them all. I shall
have them in a week."

At the Yard he dismissed his taxi, and on reaching his room he
found the letter he was expecting from Madeleine. It contained
that from Beamish, and the latter ran:

"FERRIBY, YORKS,
"Saturday.

"DEAR Miss COBURN,-I have just received your letter of 25th inst.,
and I hasten to reply.

"I am deeply grieved to learn that you consider yourself badly
treated by the members of the syndicate, and I may say at once
that I feel positive that any obligations which they may have
contracted will be immediately and honorably discharged.

"It is, however, news to me that your late father was a partner,
as I always imagined that he held his position as I do my own,
namely, as a salaried official who also receives a bonus based on
the profits of the concern.

"With regard to the notes you have found on the operations of the
syndicate, it is obvious that these must be capable of a simple
explanation, as there was nothing in the operations complicated or
difficult to understand.

"I shall be very pleased to fall in with your SUGGESTION that we
should meet and discuss the points at issue, and I would suggest
11 a.m. on Tuesday, 10th prox., at the Gresham Hotel in Bedford
Square, if this would suit you.

"With kind regards,
"Yours sincerely,
"WALTER BEAMISH."

Willis smiled as he read this effusion. It was really quite well
worded, and left the door open for any action which the syndicate
might decide on. "Ah, well, my friend," he thought grimly, "you'll
get a little surprise on Tuesday. You'll find Miss Coburn is not
to be caught as easily as you think. Just you wait and see."

For the next three or four days Willis busied himself in preparing
for his great coup. First he went down again to EASTBOURNE via
Brighton, and coached Madeleine and Merriman in the part they were
to play in the coming interview. Next he superintended the making
of the hole through the wall dividing the two private rooms at the
Cranbourne Street restaurant, and drilled the party of men who were
to occupy the annex. To his unbounded satisfaction, he found that
every word uttered at the table in the larger room was audible next
door to anyone standing at the aperture. Then he detailed two
picked men to wait within call of the private room at the Gresham
during the interview between Madeleine and Beamish. Finally, all
his preparations in London complete, he returned to Hull, and set
himself, by means of the secret telephone, to keep in touch with
the affairs of the syndicate.

CHAPTER 20

THE DOUBLE CROSS

Inspector Willis spent the Saturday before the fateful Tuesday at
the telephone in the empty cottage. Nothing of interest passed
over the wire, except that Benson informed his chief that he had
had a telegram from Beamish saying that, in order to reach Ferriby
at the prearranged hour, he was having to sail without a full cargo
of props, and that the two men went over again the various trains
by which they and their confederates would travel to London. Both
items pleased Willis, as it showed him that the plans originally
made were being adhered
to.

On Monday morning, as the critical hour of his coup approached, he
became restless and even nervous - so far, that is, as an inspector
of the Yard on duty can be nervous. So much depended on the results
of the next day and a half! His own fate hung in the balance as
well as that of the men against whom he had pitted himself; Miss
Coburn and Merriman too would be profoundly affected however the
affair ended, while to his department, and even to the nation at
large, his success would not be without importance.

He determined he would, if possible, see the various members of
the gang start, travelling himself in the train with Archer, as
the leader and the man most urgently "wanted." Benson, he
remembered, was to go first. Willis therefore haunted the Paragon
station, watching the trains leave, and he was well satisfied
when he saw Benson get on board the 9.10 a.m. By means of a word
of explanation and the passing of a couple of shillings, he
induced an official to examine the traveller's ticket, which
proved to be a third return to King's Cross.

Beamish and Bulla were to travel by the 4 p.m., and Willis, carefully
disguised as a deep-sea fisherman, watched them arrive separately,
take their tickets, and enter the train. Beamish travelled first,
and Bulla third, and again the inspector had their tickets examined,
and found they were for London.

Archer was to leave at 5.3, and Willis intended as a precautionary
measure to travel up with him and keep him under observation. Still
in his fisherman's disguise, he took his own ticket, got into the
rear of the train, and kept his eye on the platform until he saw
Archer pass, suitcase and rug in hand. Then cautiously looking out,
he watched the other get into the through coach for King's Cross.

As the train ran past the depot at Ferriby, Willis observed that the
Girondin was not discharging pit-props, but instead was loading casks
of some kind. He had noted on the previous Friday, when he had been
in the neighborhood, that some wagons of these casks had been shunted
inside the enclosure, and were being unloaded by the syndicate's men.
The casks looked like those in which the crude oil for the ship's
Diesel engines arrived, and the fact that she was loading them
unemptied-he presumed them unemptied seemed to indicate that the
pumping plant on the wharf was out of order.

The 5.3 p.m. ran, with a stop at Goole, to Doncaster, where the
through carriage was shunted on to one of the great expresses from
the north. More from force of habit than otherwise, Willis put his
head out of the window at Goole to watch if anyone should leave
Archer's carriage. But no one did.

At Doncaster Willis received something of a shock. As his train
drew into the station another was just coming out, and he idly ran
his eye along the line of coaches. A figure in the corner of a
third-class compartment attracted his attention. It seemed vaguely
familiar, but it was already out of sight before the inspector
realized that it was a likeness to Benson that had struck him. He
had not seen the man's face and at once dismissed the matter from
his mind with the careless thought that everyone has his double.
A moment later they pulled up at the platform.

Here again he put out his head, and it was not long before he saw
Archer alight and, evidently leaving his suitcase and rug to keep
his seat, move slowly down the platform. There was nothing
remarkable in this, as no less than seventeen minutes elapsed
between the arrival of the train from Hull and the departure of
that from London, and through passengers frequently left their
carriage while it was being shunted. At the same time Willis
unostentatiously followed, and presently saw Archer vanish into
the first-class refreshment room. He took up a position where he
had a good view of the door, and waited for the other's
reappearance.

But the distiller was in no hurry. Ten minutes elapsed, and still
he made no sign. The express from the north thundered in, the
engine hooked off, and shunting began. The train was due out at
6.22, and now the hands of the great clock pointed to 6.19. Willis
began to be perturbed. Had he missed his quarry?

At 6.20 he could stand it no longer, and at risk of meeting Archer,
should the latter at that moment decide to leave the refreshment
room, he pushed open the door and glanced in. And then he breathed
freely again. Archer was sitting at a table sipping what looked
like a whisky and soda. As Willis looked he saw him glance up at
the clock - now pointing to 6.21 - and calmly settle himself more
comfortably in his chair!

Why, the man would miss the train! Willis, with a sudden feeling
of disappointment, had an impulse to run over and remind him of the
hour at which it left. But he controlled himself in time, slipped
back to his post of observation, and took up his watch. In a few
seconds the train whistled, and pulled majestically out of the
station.

For fifteen minutes Willis waited, and then he saw the distiller
leave the refreshment room and walk slowly down the platform. As
Willis followed, it was clear to him that the other had deliberately
allowed his train to start without him, though what his motive had
been the inspector could not imagine. He now approached the
booking-office and apparently bought a ticket, afterwards turning
back down the platform.

Willis slipped into a doorway until he had passed, then hurrying to
the booking-window, explained who he was and asked to what station
the last comer had booked. He was told "Selby," and he retreated,
exasperated and puzzled beyond words. What could Archer be up to?

He bought a time-table and began to study the possibilities.
First he made himself clear as to the lie of the land. The main
line of the great East Coast route from London to Scotland
ran almost due north and south through Doncaster. Eighteen
miles to the north was Selby, the next important station. At
Selby a line running east and west crossed the other, leading in
one direction to Leeds and the west, in the other to Hull.

About half-way between Selby and Hull, at a place called
Staddlethorpe, a line branched off and ran south-westerly through
Goole to Doncaster. Selby, Staddlethorpe, and Doncaster therefore
formed a railway triangle, one of the sides of which, produced,
led to Hull. From this it followed, as indeed the inspector had
known, that passengers to and from Hull had two points of
connection with the main line, either direct to Selby, or through
Goole to Doncaster.

He began to study the trains. The first northwards was the 4 p.m.
dining-car express from King's Cross to Newcastle. It left
Doncaster at 7.56 and reached Selby at 8.21. Would Archer travel
by it? And if he did, what would be his next move?

For nearly an hour Willis sat huddled up in the corner of a seat,
his eye on Archer in the distance, and his mind wrestling with the
problem. For nearly an hour he racked his brains without result,
then suddenly a devastating idea flashed before his consciousness,
leaving him rigid with dismay. For a moment his mind refused to
accept so disastrous a possibility, but as he continued to think
over it he found that one puzzling and unrelated fact after another
took on a different complexion from that it had formerly borne;
that, moreover, it dropped into place and became part of a
connected whole.

to the North
|
|
|Selby Stsaalethorpt Hull
_x____________x______x_____x________x_______x______
Leeds | / Ferriby Hassle
| x Goole
| /
| /
| /
|/
x Dorcaster
|
from London

He saw now why Archer could not discuss Madeleine's letter over the
telephone, but was able to arrange in that way for the interview
with Beamish. He understood why Archer, standing at his study
window, had mentioned the call at eleven next morning. He realized
that Benson's amendment was probably arranged by Archer on the
previous evening. He saw why the Girondin had left the Lesque
without her full cargo, and why she was loading barrels at Ferriby.
He knew who it was he had seen passing in the other train as his
own reached Doncaster, and he grasped the reason for Archer's visit
to Selby. In a word, he saw he had been hoaxed - fooled - carefully,
systematically, and at every point. While he had been congratulating
himself on the completeness with which the conspirators had been
walking into his net, he had in reality been caught in theirs. He
had been like a child in their hands. They had evidently been
watching and countering his every step.

He saw now that his tapping of the secret telephone must have been
discovered, and that his enemies had used their discovery to mislead
him. They must have recognized that Madeleine's letter was inspired
by himself, and read his motives in making her send it. They had
then used the telephone to make him believe they were falling into
his trap, while their real plans were settled in Archer's study.

What those plans were he believed he now understood. There would be
no meetings in London on the following day. The meetings were
designed to bring him, Willis, to the Metropolis and keep him there.
By tomorrow the gang, convinced that discovery was imminent, would be
aboard the Girondin and on the high seas. They were, as he expressed
it to himself, "doing a bunk."

Therefore of necessity the Girondin would load barrelled oil to
drive her to some country where Scotland Yard detectives did not
flourish, and where extradition laws were of no account. Therefore
she must return light, or, he suspected, empty, as there would be
no time to unload. Moreover, a reason for this "lightness" must
be given him, lest he should notice the ship sitting high out of
the water, and suspect. And he now knew that it was really Benson
that he had seen returning to Ferriby via Goole, and that Archer
was doing the same via Selby.

He looked up the trains from Selby to Ferriby. There was only one.
It left Selby at 9.19, fifty-eight minutes after the Doncaster
train arrived there, and reached Ferriby at 10.7. It was now
getting on towards eight. He had nearly two and a half hours to
make his plans.

Though Willis was a little slow in thought he was prompt in action.
Feeling sure that Archer would indeed travel by the 7.56 to Selby,
he relaxed his watch and went to the telephone call office. There
he rang up the police station at Selby, asking for a plain-clothes
man and two constables to meet him at the train to make an arrest.
Also he asked for a fast car to be engaged to take him immediately
to Ferriby. He then called up the police in Hull, and had a long
talk with the superintendent. Finally it was arranged that a
sergeant and twelve men were to meet him on the shore at the back
of the signal cabin near the Ferriby depot, with a boat and a
grappling ladder for getting aboard the Girondin. This done,
Willis hurried back to the platform, reaching it just as the 7.56
came in. He watched Archer get on board, and then himself entered
another compartment.

At Selby the quarry alighted, and passed along the platform towards
the booking-office. Willis's police training instantly revealed to
him the plain-clothes man, and him he instructed to follow Archer
and learn to what station he booked. In a few moments the man
returned to say it was Ferriby. Then calling up the two constables,
the four officers followed the distiller into the first-class
waiting room, where he had taken cover. Willis walked up to him.

"Archibald Charles Archer," he said impressively, "I am Inspector
Willis of Scotland Yard. I have a warrant for your arrest on a
charge of murdering Francis Coburn in a cab in London on September
12 last. I have to warn you that anything you say may be used in
evidence."

For a moment the distiller seemed so overwhelmed with surprise as
to be incapable of movement, and before he could pull himself
together there was a click, and handcuffs gleamed on his wrists.
Then his eyes blazed, and with the inarticulate roar of a wild
beast he flung himself wildly on Willis, and, manacled as he was,
attempted to seize his throat. But the struggle was brief. In a
moment the three other men had torn him off, and he stood glaring
at his adversary, and uttering savage curses.

"You look after him, sergeant," Willis directed a little breathlessly,
as he tried to straighten the remnants of his tie. "I must go on to
Ferriby."

A powerful car was waiting outside the station, and Willis, jumping
in, offered the driver an extra pound if he was at Ferriby within
fifty minutes. He reckoned the distance was about twenty-five miles,
and he thought he should maintain at average of thirty miles an hour.

The night was intensely dark as the big vehicle swung out of Selby,
eastward bound. A slight wind blew in from the east, bearing a damp,
searching cold, more trying than frost. Willis, who had left his
coat in the London train, shivered as he drew the one rug the
vehicle contained up round his shoulders.

The road to Howden was broad and smooth, and the car made fine going.
But at Howden the main road turned north, and speed on the
comparatively inferior cross roads to Ferriby had to be reduced.
But Willis was not dissatisfied with their progress when at 9.38,
fifty-four minutes after leaving Selby, they pulled up in the
Ferriby lane, not far from the distillery and opposite the railway
signal cabin.

Having arranged with the driver to run up to the main road, wait
there until he heard four blasts on the Girondin's horn, and then
make for the syndicate's depot, the inspector dismounted, and
forcing his way through the railway fence, crossed the rails and
descended the low embankment on the river side. A moment later,
just as he reached the shore, the form of a man loomed up dimly
through the darkness.

"Who is there?" asked Willis softly.

"Constable Jones, sir," the figure answered. "Is that Inspector
Willis? Sergeant Hobbs is here with the boats."

Willis followed the other for fifty yards along the beach, until
they came on two boats, each containing half a dozen policemen. It
was still very dark; and the wind blew cold and raw. The silence
was broken only by the lapping of the waves on the shingle. Willis
felt that the night was ideal for his purpose. There was enough
noise from wind and water to muffle any sounds that the men might
make in getting aboard the Girondin, but not enough to prevent him
overhearing any conversation which might be in progress.

"We have just got here this minute, sir," the sergeant said. "I
hope we haven't kept you waiting."

"Just arrived myself," Willis returned. "You have twelve picked
men?"

"Yes, sir."

"Armed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. I need not remind you all not to fire except as a last
resort. What arrangements have you made for boarding?"

"We have a ladder with hooks at the top for catching on the taffrail."

"Your oars muffled?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. Now listen, and see that you are clear about what you
are to do. When we reach the ship get your ladder into position,
and I'll go up. You and the men follow. Keep beside me, sergeant.
We'll overhear what we can. When I give the signal, rush in and
arrest the whole gang. Do you follow?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then let us get under way."

They pushed off, passing like phantoms over the dark water. The
ship carried a riding light, to which they steered. She was lying,
Willis knew, bow upstream. The tide was flowing, and when they were
close by they ceased rowing and drifted down on to her stern. There
the leading boat dropped in beneath her counter, and the bowman made
the painter fast to her rudder post. The second boat's painter was
attached to the stern of the first, and the current swung both
alongside. The men, fending off, allowed their craft to come into
place without sound. The ladder was raised and hooked on, and
Willis, climbing up, stealthily raised his head above the taffrail.

The port side of the ship was, as on previous occasions, in complete
darkness, and Willis jerked the ladder as a signal to the others to
follow him. In a few seconds the fourteen men stood like shadows on
the lower deck. Then Willis, tiptoeing forward, began to climb the
ladder to the bridge deck, just as Hilliard had done some four months
earlier. As on that occasion, the starboard side of the ship, next
the wharf, was dimly lighted up. A light also showed in the window
of the captain's cabin, from which issued the sound of voices.

Willis posted his men in two groups at either end of the cabin, so
that at a given signal they could rush round in opposite directions
and reach the door. Then he and the sergeant crept forward and put
their ears to the window.

This time, though the glass was hooked back as before, the curtain
was pulled fully across the opening, so that the men could see
nothing and only partially hear what was said. Willis therefore
reached in and very gradually pulled it a little aside. Fortunately
no one noticed the movement, and the talk continued uninterruptedly.

The inspector could now see in. Five men were squeezed round the
tiny table. Beamish and Bulla sat along one side, directly facing
him. At the end was Fox. The remaining two had their backs to the
window, and were, the inspector believed, Raymond and Henri. Before
each man was a long tumbler of whisky and soda, and a box of cigars
lay on the table. All seemed nervous and excited, indeed as if
under an intolerable strain, and kept fidgeting and looking at their
watches. Conversation was evidently maintained with an effort, as a
thing necessary to keep them from a complete breakdown. Raymond was
speaking:

"And you saw him come out?" he was asking.

"Yes," Fox answered. "He came out sort of stealthy and looked
around. I didn't know who it was then, but I knew no one had any
business in the cottage at that hour, so I followed him to Ferriby
station. I saw his face by the lamps there."

"And you knew him?"

"No, but I recognized him as having been around with that Excise
inspector, and I guessed he was on to something."

"Oui, oui. Yes?" the Frenchman interrogated.

"Well, naturally I told the chief. He knew who it was."

"Bien! There is not - how do you say? - flies on Archer, n'est-ce
pas? And then?"

"The chief guessed who it was from the captain's description."

Fox nodded his head at Beamish. "You met him, eh, captain?"

"He stood me a drink," the big man answered, "but what he did it
for I don't know."

"But how did he get wise to the telephone?" Bulla rumbled.

"Can't find out," Fox replied, "but it showed he was wise to the
whole affair. Then there was that letter from Miss Coburn. That
gave the show away, because there could have been no papers like
she said, and she couldn't have discovered anything then that she
hadn't known at the clearing. Archer put Morton on to it, and he
found that this Willis went down to EASTBOURNE one night about two
days before the letter came. So that was that. Then he had me
watch for him going to the telephone, and he has fooled him about
proper. I guess he's in London now, arranging to arrest us all
tomorrow."

Bulla chuckled fatly.

"As you say," he nodded at Raymond, "there ain't no flies on
Archer, what?"

"I've always thought a lot of Archer," Beamish remarked, "but I
never thought so much of him as that night we drew lots for who
should put Coburn out of the way. When he drew the long taper
he never as much as turned a hair. That's the last time we had
a full meeting, and we never reckoned that this would be the next."

At this moment a train passed going towards Hull.

"There's his train," Fox cried. "He should be here soon."

"How long does it take to get from the station?" Raymond inquired.

"About fifteen minutes," Captain Beamish answered. "We're time
enough making a move."

The men showed more and more nervousness, but the talk dragged on
for some quarter of an hour. Suddenly from the wharf sounded the
approaching footsteps of a running man. He crossed the gangway and
raced up the ladder to the captain's cabin. The others sprang to
their feet as the door opened and Benson appeared.

"He hasn't come!" he cried excitedly. "I watched at the station
and he didn't get out!"

Consternation showed on every face, and Beamish swore bitterly.
There was a variety of comments and conjectures.

"There's no other train?"

"Only the express. It doesn't stop here, but it stops at Hassle
on notice to the guard."

"He may have missed the connection at Selby," Fox suggested. "In
that case he would motor."

Beamish spoke authoritatively.

"I wish, Benson, you would go and ring up the Central and see if
there has been any message."

Willis whispered to the sergeant, who, beckoning to two of his men,
crept hurriedly down the port ladder to the lower deck. In a
moment Benson followed down the starboard or lighted side. Willis
listened breathlessly above, heard what he was expecting - a sudden
scuffle, a muffled cry, a faint click, and then silence. He peeped
through the porthole. Fox was expounding his theory about the
railway connections, and none of those within had heard the sounds.
Presently the sergeant returned with his men.

"Trussed him up to the davit pole," he breathed in the inspector's
ear. "He won't give no trouble."

Willis nodded contentedly. That was one out of the way out of six,
and he had fourteen on his side.

Meanwhile the men in the cabin continued anxiously discussing their
leader's absence, until after a few minutes Beamish swore irritably.

"Curse that fool Benson," he growled. "What the blazes is keeping
him all this time? I had better go and hurry him up. If they've got
hold of Archer, it's time we were out of this."

Willis's hand closed on the sergeant's arm.

"Same thing again, but with three men," he whispered.

The four had hardly disappeared down the port ladder when Beamish
left his cabin and began to descend the starboard. Willis felt
that the crisis was upon him. He whispered to the remaining
constables, who closed in round the cabin door, then grasped his
revolver, and stood tense.

Suddenly a wild commotion arose on the lower deck. There was a
warning shout from Beamish, instantly muffled, a tramp of feet, a
pistol shot, and sounds of a violent struggle.

For a moment there was silence in the cabin, the men gazing at each
other with consternation on their faces. Then Bulla yelled: "Copped,
by heck!" and with an agility hardly credible in a man of his years,
whipped out a revolver, and sprang out of the cabin. Instantly he
was seized by three constables, and the four went swinging and
lurching across the deck, Bulla fighting desperately to turn his
weapon on his assailants. At the same moment Willis leaped to the
door, and with his automatic levelled, shouted, "Hands up, all of
you! You are covered from every quarter!"

Henri and Fox, who were next the door, obeyed as if in a stupor, but
Raymond's hand flew out, and a bullet whistled past the inspector's
head. Instantly Willis fired, and with a scream the Frenchman
staggered back.

It was the work of a few seconds for the remaining constables to
dash in under the inspector's pistol and handcuff the two men in
the cabin, and Willis then turned to see how the contests on deck
were faring. But these also were over. Both Beamish and Bulla,
borne down by the weight of numbers, had been secured.

The inspector next turned to examine Raymond. His shot had been
well aimed. The bullet had entered the base of the man's right
thumb, and passed out through his wrist. His life was not in
danger, but it would be many a long day before he would again
fire a revolver.

Four blasts on the Girondin's horn recalled Willis's car, and when,
some three hours later, the last batch of prisoners was safely
lodged in the Hull police station, Willis began to feel that the
end of his labors was at last coming in sight.

The arrests supplied the inspector with fresh material on
which to work. As a result of his careful investigation of the
movements of the prisoners during the previous three years,
the entire history of the Pit-Prop Syndicate was unravelled, as
well as the details of Coburn's murder.

It seemed that the original idea of the fraud was Raymond's. He
looked round for a likely English partner, selected Archer,
broached the subject to him, and found him willing to go in. Soon,
from his dominating personality, Archer became the leader. Details
were worked out, and the necessary confederates carefully chosen.
Beamish and Bulla went in as partners, the four being bound together
by their joint liability. The other three members were tools over
whom the quartet had obtained some hold. In Coburn's case, Archer
learned of the defalcations in time to make the erring cashier his
victim. He met the deficit in return for a signed confession of
guilt and an I 0 U for a sum that would have enabled the distiller
to sell the other up, and ruin his home and his future.

An incompletely erased address in a pocket diary belonging to
Beamish led Willis to a small shop on the south side of London,
where he discovered an assistant who had sold a square of black
serge to two men, about the time of Coburn's murder. The salesman
remembered the transaction because his customers had been unable
to describe what they wanted otherwise than by the word "cloth,"
which was not the technical name foy any of his commodities. The
fabric found in the cab was identical to that on the roll this man
stated he had used; moreover, he identified Beamish and Bulla as
the purchasers.

Willis had a routine search made of the restaurants of Soho, and at
last found that in which the conspirators had held their meetings
previous to the murder. There had been two. At the first, so
Willis learned from the description given by the proprietor, Coburn
had been present, but not at the second.

In spite of all his efforts he was unable to find the shop at which
the pistol had been bought, but he suspected the transaction had
been carried out by one of the other members of the gang, in order
as far as possible to share the responsibility for the crime.

On the Girondin was found the false bulkhead in Bulla's cabin,
behind which was placed the hidden brandy tank. The connection for
the shore pipe was concealed behind the back of the engineer's
wash-hand basin, which moved forward by means of a secret spring.

On the Girondin was also found something over 700,000 pounds, mostly
in Brazilian notes, and Benson admitted later that the plan had been
to scuttle the Girondin off the coast of Bahia, take to the boats
and row ashore at night, remaining in Brazil at least till the hue
and cry had died down. But instead all seven men received heavy
sentences. Archer paid for his crimes with his life, the others got
terms of from ten to fifteen years each. The managers of the
licensed houses in Hull were believed to have been in ignorance of
the larger fraud, and to have dealt privately and individually with
Archer, and they and their accomplices escaped with lighter penalties.

The mysterious Morton proved to be a private detective, employed by
Archer. He swore positively that he had no knowledge of the real
nature of the syndicate's operations, and though the judge's
strictures on his conduct were severe, no evidence could be found
against him, and he was not brought to trial.

Inspector Willis got his desired promotion out of the case, and
there was someone else who got more. About a month after the trial,
in the Holy Trinity Church, EASTBOURNE, a wedding was solemnized -
Seymour Merriman and Madeleine Coburn were united in the holy bonds
of matrimony. And Hilliard, assisting as best man, could not refrain
from whispering in his friend's ear as they turned to leave the
vestry, "Three cheers for the Pit-Prop Syndicate!"

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