The Yellow Streak

VALENTINE WILLIAMS November 15 1921

The Yellow Streak

VALENTINE WILLIAMS November 15 1921

The Yellow Streak

VALENTINE WILLIAMS

WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR—Mary Trevert, charming, young, aristocratic, to secure a comfortable income for her mother, agrees to marry Hartley Parrish, a soulless millionaire, though she loves Robin Greve, a promising young barrister. Parrish is killed by a mysterious pistol-shot in his library just after Greve parted with Mary during a quarrel. Circumstantial evidence would seem to prove that Greve was in the library at the moment Parrish met his death, and it is subsequently discovered that Parrish had made provision in his will that all his property was to pass to Mary in event of his demiseInspector-Detective Manderton, who personally takes up the case, finally tells Mary he is satisfied that Parrish shot himself, but hints that Greve’s presence in the library had something to do with driving him to the act. Jeekes, a shifty-eyed, nervous chief secretary for the dead man, discloses to Mary that Parrish kept a mysterious woman in France. Greve, continually shadowed by detectives, starts to work on a dim theory of his own, based on mysterious blue envelopes Parrish received through the mails periodically. Later disclosures indicate that two shots were fired, one of them from Parrish’s pistol, equipped with a silencer; the other from a gun in the hands of his unknown murderer. Mary goes to Holland to investigate.

LIFE is like a kaleidoscope, that ingenious toy which was the delight of the Victorian nursery. Like the glass fragments in its slide different in colour and shape, men’s lives lie about without seeming connection; then Fate gives the instrument a shake and behold! the fragments slide into position and form an intricate mosaic.

Mark how Fate proceeded on the wet and raw Sunday evening when Bruce Wright, at the instance of Mr. Manderton, quitted Robin Greve’s chambers in the Temple, leaving his friend and the detective alone together. To tell the truth, Bruce Wright was in no mood for facing the provincial gloom of a wet Sunday evening in London, nor did he find alluring the prospect of a suburban supperparty at the quiet house where he lived with his widowed mother and sisters in South Kensington. So in an irresolute, unsettled frame of mind, he let himself drift down the Strand unable to bring himself to go home or indeed, to form any plan.

He crossed Trafalgar Square, a nocturne in yellow and black—lights reflected yellow in pavements shining dark with wet,—and by and by found himself in Pall Mall. Here it was that Fate took a hand. At this moment it administered a preliminary jog to the kaleidoscope and brought the fragment labelled Bruce Wright into immediate proximity with the piece entitled Albert Edward Jeekes.

As Bruce Wright came along Pall Mall he saw Mr. Jeekes standing on the steps of his club. The little secretary appeared to be lost in thought, his chin thrust down on the crutch handle of the umbrella he clutched to himself. So absorbed was he in his meditations that he did not observe Bruce Wright stop and regard him. It was not until our young man had touched him on the arm that he looked up with a start.

“God bless my soul!”he exclaimed, “if it isn’t young Wright!”

NOW the sight of Jeekes had put a great idea into the head of our young friend. He had been more chagrined than he had let it appear to Robin Greve at his failure to recover the missing letter from the library at Harkings. To obtain the letter—or at any rate a copy of it—from Jeekes and to hand it to Robin Greve would, thought Bruce, restore his prestige as an amateur detective, at any rate in his own eyes. Moreover, a chat with Jeekes over the whole affair seemed a Heaven-sent exit from the impasse of boredom into which he had drifted this wet Sunday evening.

“How are you, Mr. Jeekes?” said Bruce, briskly. Mr. Jeekes was the form of address always'accorded to the principal secretary in the Hartley Parrish establishment and Bruce resumed it instinctively). “I was anxious to see you. I called in at the club this afternoon. Did you get my message?”

The little secretary blinked at him through his pince-

“There have been so many messages about this shocking affair that really I forget ”

He sighed heavily.

“Couldn’t I come in and have a yarn now?”

Bruce spoke cajolingly. But Mr. Jeekes wrinkled his brow fussily.

There was so much to do; he had had a long day: if

Wright would excuse him......

“As a matter of fact," explained Bruce with an eye on his man, “I wanted to see you particularly about a letter

“Some other time to-morrow......”

“Written on dark blue paper... you know, one of those letters H.P. made all the fuss about.”

Mr. Jeekes took his pince-nez from his nose, gave the glasses a hasty rub with his pocket-handkerchief and replaced them. He slanted a long narrow look at the young

Then, “What letter do you mean?” he asked composedly. *

“A letter which lay on H.P.’s desk in the library at Harkings when they found the body....”

“There was a letter there then... ?”

“Haven’t you got it?”

Jeekes shook his head.

“Come inside for a minute and tell me about this,” he said.

He led Bruce into the vast smoking room Qf the club. They took seats in a distant corner near the blazing fire. The room was practically deserted.

NOW Mr. Jeekes’ excessive carefulness about money had been a long-standing joke amongst his assistants when Bruce Wright had belonged to Hartley Parrish’s secretarial staff. Thrift had become . with him more than a habit. It was a positive obsession. It revealed itself in such petty meannesses as a perpetual cadging for matches or small change and a careful abstention from, any offer of hospitality.

Never in the whole course of his service had Bruce Wright heard of Mr. Jeekes taking anybody out to lunch or extending any of the usual hospitalities of life. He was not a little surprised, therefore, to hear Jeekes ask him what he would take.

Bruce said he would take some coffee.

“Have a liqueur? Have a cigar?” said Jeekes, turning to Bruce from the somnolent waiter who had answered the bell.

There was a strange eagerness, a sort of overdone cordiality, in the invitation which contrasted so strongly with the secretary’s habits that Bruce felt dimly suspicious. He suddenly formed the idea that Mr. Jeekes wantfd to pump him. He refused the liqueur but accepted a cigar. Jeekes waited until they had been served and the waiter had withdrawn silently into the dim vastness of the great • room before he spoke.

“Now then, young Wright,” he said, “what’s this about a letter? Tell me from the beginning. . .”

Bruce told him of the letter from Elias van der Spyck and Co. which Robin had seen upon the desk in the library at Harkings, of his (Bruce’s) journey down to Harkings that afternoon and of his failure to find the letter. “But why do you assume that I’ve got it?”

There was an air of forced joviality about Mr. Jeekes as he put the question which did not in the least, as he undoubtedly intended it should, disguise his eagerness. On the contrary it lent his rather undistinguished features an expression of cunning which can only be described as knavish. Bruce Wright who, as will already have been seen, was a young man with all his wits about him, did not fail to remark it. The result was that he hastily revised an intention half-formed in his mind of taking Jeekes a little way into his confidence regarding Robin Greve’s doubts and suspicions about Hartley Parrish's death. But he answered the secretary's question readily enough. "Because Miss Trevert told me you went to the lib-

rary immediately you arrived at Harkings last night. I consequently assumed that you must have taken away the letter seen by Robin Greve......”

Mr. Jeekes drew in his breath with a sucking sound. It was a little trick of his when about to speak.

“So you saw Miss Trevert at Harkings, eh?”

Bruce laughed.

“I did,” he said, “we had quite a dramatic meeting, too—it was like a scene from a film!”

A ND with a little good-humored exaggeration, he gave .A Mr. Jeekes a description of his encounter with Mary. And lest it should seem'that, young W right was allowing Mr. Jeekes to pump him, it should be stated that Bruce was well aware of one of the secretary’s most notable characteristics, a common failing, be it remarked, of the small-minded, and that was an overpowering suspicion of anything resembling a leading question. In order, therefore, to gain his confidence, he willingly satisfied the other's curiosity regarding his visit to Harkings, hoping thereby to extract some information as to the whereabouts of the letter on the slatey-blue paper.

“There was no letter of this description on the desk you say when you and Miss Trevert looked?” asked Jeekes when Bruce had finished his story.

"Nothing but circulars and bills," Bruce replied.

Mr. Jeekes leaned forward and drank off his coffee with a swift movement. Then he Baid carelessly:

“From what you tell me Miss Trevert would have been perhaps a minute alone in the room without your seeing her?”

Bruce agreed with a nod.

Adjusting his pince-nez on his noee the secretary rose to his feet. . .... .

‘‘Very glad to have seen you again, Wright, he said thrusting out a limp hand, "must run off now-mans of

work to get through. .”

Then Bruce risked his leading question.

"If you haven’t got this letter,” he observed, "what has become of it? Obviously the police are not likely to have taken it because they know nothing of its signifi-

"Quite. quite,” answered Mr. Jeekes absently but without replying to the young man’s question.

"But it does exist,” broke in Bruce quickly.

"Mr. Greve saw it and read it himself ...”

Mr. Jeekes laughed drily. “Don’t you forget. young Wright,” he said jerking his chin towards the youngster in a confidential sort of way, “don’t you forget that Mr.

Greve is anxious to find a plausible motive for Mr. Parrish’s suicide. People are talking. you understand!

That’s all I’ve got to say! Just you think

it over......”

Bruce Wright bristled up hotly at that.

“I don’t see you have any reason to try and impugn Greve’s motive for wishing to get at the bottom of this mysterious affair...”

Mr. Jeekes affected to be engrossed in the manicuring of his nails.

Very intently he rubbed the nails of one hand against the palm of the other. “No mystery!” he said decisively with a shake of the head. “No mystery whatsoever about it, young Wright except what the amateur detectives will try and make it out to be. Or has Mr. Greve discovered a mystery already?”

THE question came out artfully. But in the quick glance which accompanied it, there was an intent watchfulness which startled Bruce accustomed as he was to the mild and unemotional ways of the little secretary.

“Not that I know of,” said Bruce. “Greve is only puzzled like all of us that H.P. should have done a thing like this!”

Mr. Jeekes was perfectly impassive again. “The nerves, young Wright! The nerves!” he said impressively. "Harley Street, not Mr. Greve, will supply the motive to this sad affair, believe me!”

With that he accompanied the young man to the door of the club and from the vestibule watched him sally forth into the rain of Pall Mall.

Then Mr. Jeekes turned to the hall porter.

"Please get me Stevenish one-three-seven,” he said, “it’s a trunk call. Don’t let them put you off with ‘No reply.' It’s Harkings and they are expecting me to ring them. I shall be in the writing-room.”

When twenty minutes later Mr. Jeekes emerged from the Trunk Call telephone box in the club vestibule, his mouth was drooping at the corners and his hands trembled curiously. He went back to the writing-room and returned with a yellow telegram form. “Send a boy down to Charing Cross with that at once, please,” he said to the night porter.

FATE which had brought Bruce Wright face to face with Mr. Jeekes gave the kaleidoscope another jerk that night. As Bruce Wright entered the Tube Station at Dover Street to go home to South Kensington, it occurred to him that he would ring up Robin Greve at his chambers in the Temple and give him an outline of his (Bruce’s) 'alk with Jeekes. Bruce went to the public call-box in the station but the rhythmic ‘Zoom-er! Zoomer! Zoom-er!’ which announces that a number is engaged was all the satisfaction he got. The prospect of waiting about the draughty station exit did not appeal to him so he decided to go home and telephone Robin, as originally arranged, in the morning.

Just about the time that he made this resolve Robin in his rooms in the Temple was hanging up the receiver of his telephone with a dazed expression in his eyes. Mr. Manderton had rung him up with a piece of intelligence which fairly bewildered him. It bewildered Mr. Manderton also, as the detective was frank enough to acknowledge.

Mary Trevert had gone to Rotterdam for a few days in company with her cousin, Major Euan MacTavish. Mr. Manderton had received this astonishing information by telephone from Harkings a few minutes before.

“There’s only one thing for it, Manderton,” Robin had said, “I’ll have to go after her ...”

“The very thing I was about to suggest myself, Mr. Greve. And with the investigation in its present stage I don’t really feel justified in going off on a wild goose chase myself. There are several important enquiries going forward now notably as to where Mr. Parrish bought his pistol. But we certainly ought to find out what takes Miss Trevert careering off to Rotterdam in this way. . .. ’ “It seems almost incredible,” Robin had said, “but it looks to me as though Miss Trevert must have found out

something about the letter......”

“Or found it herself........”

“By Jove! She was in the library when Bruce Wright was there. This settles it, Manderton. I must go!” “Then,” said the detective, “I’m going to entrust you with that slotted sheet of paper again. For I have an idea, Mr. Greve, that you may get a glimpse of that letter before I do. I’ll send a messenger round with it at

THEN a difficulty arose. Manderton had not got the girl’s address. They had no address at Harkings. Nor did he know what train Miss Trevert had taken. She might have gone by the 9 p.m. that night. Had Mr. Greve got a passport? Yes, Robin had a passport but it was not viséd for Holland. That meant he could not leave until the following evening. Then Robin had a ‘brain wave.’

“There’s an air service to Rotterdam,” he exclaimed. “It doesn’t leave till noon. That will leave me time to get my passport stamped at the Dutch Consulate, to catch the air mail and be in Rotterdam by tea time!”

Air travel is so comfortably regulated at the present day that Robin Greve, looking back at his trip by air from Croydon Aerodrome to the big landing-ground outside Rotterdam, aeknowleged that he had more excitement in his efforts to stir a lethargic Dutch passport official in London into action so as to enable him to catch the air mail, than in the smooth and uneventful voyage across the Channel. He reached Rotterdam on a dull and muggy afternoon and lost no time in depositing his bag at the Grand Hotel. An enquiry at the office there satisfied him that Mary Trevert had not registered her name in the hotel book. Then he set out in a taxi upon a dreary round of the principal hotels.

But Fate which loves to make a sport of lovers played him a scurvy trick. In the course of his search it brought Robin to that very hotel towards which, at the selfsame moment, Mary Trevert was driving from the station. By the time she arrived Robin was gone and, with despair in his heart, had started on a tour of the secondclass hotels checking them by the Baedeker he had bought in the Strand that morning. It was eight o’clock by the time he had finished. He had drawn a blank.

AS HE sat at breakfast the next morning, enjoyir-g the admirable Dutch coffee, he reviewed the situation very calmly but very thoroughly. He told himself that he had no indication as to Mary Trevert’s business in Rotterdam save the supposition that she had found the van der Spyck letter and had come to Rotterdam to investigate the matter for herself. He realised that the hypothesis was thin for, in the first place, Mary could have no inkling as to the hidden significance of the document, and, in the second place, she was undoubtedly under the impression that Hartley Parrish was driven to

suicide by his—Robin’s—threats......”

But, in the absence of any other apparent explanation of the girl’s extraordinary decision to come to Rotterdam, Robin decided he would accept the theory that she had come about the van der Spyck letter. Where would her investigations lead her? To the offices of Elias van der Spyck & Co. to be sure!

The telephone directory showed that the offices were situated in the Oranien-Straat, about ten minutes’ walk from the hotel, in the business quarter of the city round the Bourse. Robin glanced at the clock. It was twenty minutes to ten.

A brisk walk of about ten minutes through the roaring streets of the city brought him to a big open square from which, he had been instructed, the Oranien-Straat turned off. He was just passing a large and important-looking post-office, when a man came hastily through the swingdoor and stopped irresolutely on the pavement in front, glancing to right and left as a man does who is looking for a cab. At the sight of him Robin could scaroely suppress an expression of amazement.

It was Mr. Jeekes.

CHAPTER XXII.

The Man With the Yellow Face.

IN a narrow, drowsy side-street at Rotterdam, bisected by a somnolent canal, stood flush with the red brick sidewalk a small clean house. Wire blinds affixed to the windows of its ground and first floors gave it a curious blinking air as though its eyes were only half open. To

the neat green front door was affixed a large brass plate inscribed with the single name: “SCHULZ.”

A large woman in a pink print dress with a white cloth bound about her head was vigorously polishing the plate as, on the morning following her departure from London, Mary Trevert, Dulkinghorn’s letter of introduction in her pocket, arrived in front of the residence of Mr. William Schulz.

Mary Trevert approached the woman.

“Schulz?” she asked.

“Nicht da,” replied the woman without looking up from her ribbing.

“Has he gonout?” asked Mary in English.

“Verstehe nicht'.” mumbled the woman.

But she put down her cleaning rag and breathing heavily mustered the girl with a leisurely stare.

Mary repeated the question in German «hereupon the woman brightened up considerably.

The Herr was not at home. The Herr had gone out. On business, jawohl. To the bank, perhaps. But the Herr would be back in time for Mittagessen at noon. There was beer soup followed by Rindfleisch.....

Mary hesitated ati ihstant. She was wondering whether she should leave her letter of introduction. She decided she would leave it. So she wrote on her card; "Anxious to see you as soon as possible,” and the name of her hotel and gave it, with the letter, to the woman. "Please see that Herr Schulz gets that directly he comes in,” she said. “It is important!”

“Gvt, gut'." said the woman, wiping her hands on her apron. She took the card and letter and Mary, thanking her, set off to go back to her hotel.

About twenty yards from Mr. Schulz’s house a narrowalley ran off. As Mary turned to regain the little footbridge across the canal to return to the noisy street which would take her back to the hotel she caught sight of a man disappearing down this alley.

QHE only had a glimpse of him but it was sufficient to startle her considerably. She had seemed to recognise the features of Mr. Albert Edward Jeekes.

“What an extraordinary thing!” Mary said to herself. “It can't be Mr. Jeekes. But if it is not, it is someone strikingly like him!”

She had not been back more than half an hour when a waiter came in to the lounge where she was sitting.

“Miss Trevert?” he said. “Zey ask for you at ze delephone!”

He took her to a cabin under the main staircase.

“This is Miss Trevert speaking!” said Mary.

“I am speaking for Mr. Schulz,” a man’s voice answered—rather a nasal voice with a shade of foreign inflexion—“he has had your letter. He is very sorry he has been detained in the country but would be very glad if you would lunch with him to-day at his country-house.”

“I shall be very pleased,” the girl replied.

“Is it far?”

“Only just outside Rotterdam,” the voice responded. “Mr. Schulz will send the car to the hotel to pick you up at 11.45. The driver will ask for you. Is that all right?”

“Certainly,” said Mary. “Please thank Mr. Schulz and tell him I will expect the car at a quarter to twelve!”

Punctually at the appointed hour an open touring car drove up to the hotel. Mary was waiting at the entrance. The driver was a young Dutchman in a blue serge suit. He jumped out and helped her into the car, then got back into the driving-seat and drove away.

A run of about twenty minutes through trim suburbs brought them out on a long straight road, paved with bricks and lined with poplars.

They followed the road for a bit, then branched off down a side turning which led to a black gate. It bore the name “Villa Bergendal” in white letters. The gate opened into a short drive fringed by thick laurel bushes which presently brought them in view of an ugly square red-brick house.

The car drew up at a creeper-hung porch

paved in red tiles. Ti e chauffeur helped Mary to alight and pushing open a glass door, ushered the girl into a square, comfortably furnished hall. Some handsome Oriental rugs were spread about; trophies of native weapons hung on the walls and there were some fine specimens of old Dutch chests and blue Delft ware.

' I 'HE chauffeur led the way across the hall to a door A at the far end. As Mary followed him something bright lying on one of the chests caught her eye. It was a vivid brown travelling ulster and on it lay a brow n tweed cap,

Mary Trevert was no fool. She was, on the contrary, a remarkably quick-witted young person. The sight of that rather “loud’ overcoat instantly recalled the strängetso strikingly resembling Mr. Jeekes who had disappeared down the lane as she w as coming away from Mr. Schulz’s house. Mr. Jeekes was in Rotterdam then and had, of course, been sent by her mother to look after her. What afoolshehad been, to allow Euan MacTavish to persuade her Jo tell her mother of her plans!

Mary suddenly felt very angry. With a heightened color she followed the chauffeur and passed through the door he held open for her. She found herself in a small, pleasant room with a bright note of color in the royal blue carpet and window curtains. A log fire burned cheerfully in the fireplace before which a large red leather Chesterfield was drawn up. On the walls hung some good old Dutch prints and there were a couple of bookcases containing books which, by their bindings at least, seemed old and valuable.

At the farther end of the room was another door across which a curtain of royal blue was drawn.

Mary had scarcely entered the room when this door opened and a man appeared.

HE WAS carefully dressed in a well-cut suit of some dark material and wore a handsome pearl pin in his black tie. He was

a dark, sallow type oí ihàti, his skm yellowed as though from long residence in the tropics. A small black moustache, carefully trained outwards from the lips, disclosed as he smiled a greeting at his visitor, a line of broke« yellow teeth. His hair, which was grizzled at the temples, was black and oily and brushed right back off theforehead. With his coarse black hair, his sallow skin and his small beady eyes, rather like a snake’s, there was something decidedly un-English about him. As Mary Trevert looked at him, somewhat taken aback by his sudden appearance, she became ÇÇBsçious of a vague feeling of mistrust welling up within heri

The mah closed the door behind him and advanced into* the room, his hand extended. Mary took it. It was dank and cold to the touch.

“A thousand apologies, my dear Mibs Trevert,” he said in a soft, silky voice, a trifle nasal, with a touch of Continental inflexion, “for asking you to comte but here to see me. The fact is I had an important business conference here this morning and I have a second one this aftferhoo«. It was materially impossible for me to come into Rotter^ dam But I am forgetting my manners. Let me introduce myself. I am Mr. Schulz. ...”

Mary Trevert looked at him thoughtfully. Was this the friend of Ernest Dulkinghom, the man of confidence to whom he had recommended her? A feeling of great uneasiness came over her. She listened. The house was absolutely still.

She fought down a sudden sensation of panic that made her want to scream, to bolt from the room into the fresh air, anywhere away from those snake eyes, that soft voice, that clammy hand, She collected her thoughts, remembered that Jeekes must be somewhere in the house as his outdoor things were in the hall. The recollection reminded her of her determination to tolerate no interference from Jeekes or her mother.

So she merely answered: “It was no trouble to come,” and waited for the man to speak again.

He pulled forward the Chesterfield and made her sit down beside him. “I had the letter of introduction,” he said, “and I want you to know that my services are entirely at your disposal. Now what can I do for you?"

He looked at the girl intently—rather anxiously, she thought.

“That was explained in the letter,” she answered meeting his gaze unflinchingly.

“Yes, yes, of course, I know. I meant in what way do you propose to make use of my ...... my local knowledge?”

“I will tell you that, Mr. Schulz,” Mary Trevert said in a measured

voice, “when you tell me what you think of the mission which has

brought me here.....”

The snake’s eyes nar• rowed a little. “For a young lady to have come out alone to Holland on a mission of this description speaks volumes for your pluck and self-reliance, Miss Trevert. ” "I ¡asked you what you thought of my mission to Holland. Mr. Schulz,” Mary interposed coldly.

IT WAS beginning to dawn on her that Mr. Schulz did not seem to know anything about the object of her visit but, on the contrary, was seeking to elicit this from her by a process of adroit cross-examination. She was rather puzzled, therefore, but also somewhat relieved when he said: “I can give you my opinion better after you have shown me the letter

"What letter?" said the girl. “The letter from Elias van der Spyck and Company, to be sure,”’ retorted the other quickly.

Mary dipped her hand into her

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black fox muff. Then she hesitated. She could not rid herself of the suspicion that this man with the sallow face and the yellow fangs was not to be trusted. She withdrew her hand.

“This is a very delicate matter, Mr. Schulz,” she said. “Our appointment was made by telephone and I think therefore I should ask you to show me Mr. ' Dulkinghorn’s letter of introduction before I go any further, so that I may feel quite sure in my mind that I am dealing with one in whom I know Mr. Dulkinghorn to have every confidence. ...”

Mr. Schulz’s yellow face went a shade yellower. “You are a guest in my house, Miss Trevert,” he said with offended dignity, “I scarcely expected you to impugn my good faith. Surely my word is sufficient. ..."

He turned his back on her and took a couple of paces into the room in apparent vexation. Then he returned and stood at the back of the Chesterfield behind her. His feet made no sound on the thick carpet but some vague instinct made Mary Trevert turn her head. She saw him standing there, twisting his hands nervously behind his back.

“Surely my word is sufficient . . .” he repeated.

“In business,” said Mary boldly, “one cannot be too careful.”

Mr. Schulz shrugged his shoulders.

“Since you insist,” he remarked. “But I think it is scarcely fair on our friend Dulkinghorn. The letter is in the safe in my office next door. If you will come along I will get it out and show it to you.”

[E SPOKE unconcernedly but stiffly I as though to emphasise the slight put upon his dignity. One hand thrust jauntily in his jacket pocket, he stepped across the carpet to the door with the blue curtain. He opened it, then stood back for the girl to pass in before him.

“After you!” he said.

He had placed himself so close to the doorway that the black fox about her neck brushed his face as she passed. Suddenly a warm, sickly whiff of some sweet-smelling odor came to her. She stopped on the instant, irresolute, alarmed. Then a dank hand was clapped on her face, covering nostrils and mouth with a soft cloth reeking with a horrible cloying drug. An arm with muscles like steel was passed round her waist and held her in a vicelike grip against which she struggled in vain. She felt her senses slipping, slipping

CHAPTER XXIII.

Two’s Company and

ON THE pavement opposite the postoffice stood one of those high pillars which are commonly used in Continental cities for the display of theatre and concert advertisements. Rob’n instantly stepped behind it. It was not that he wished to avoid being seen by Jeekes as much as that he had not decided in his mind what course he had best pursue. From behind the cover of the pillar he mustered his man.

The little secretary looked strange and unfamiliar in a sporting sort of traveling ulster of a tawny brown hue and a cap of the same stuff. But there was no mistaking the watery eyes, the sharp nose, the thin features. He had obviously not seen Robin. His whole attention was riveted on the street. He kept peering nervously to right and left as though ex• pecting someone.

Suddenly he stepped forward quickly to the curb. Then Robin saw an open car detach itself from the press of traffic in the square and driven very fast, approach the post-office. It was a large car with a grey body; a sallow man wearing a black felt hat sat at the wheel. The car drew up at the curb and halted within a few feet of the advertisement pillar. Robin backed hastily round it to escape observation. * , ,

“It’s all right,” Robin heard the man in the car say in English, “I telephoned the girl and she’s coming. What a piece of luck, eh?”

Robin heard the click of the car door as it swung open.

“..... Better get along out there at

once,” he heard the man in the car say, “I’m sending Jan in the car for her at.

Then Robin stepped out unexpectedly from behind his pillar and cannoned into Mr. Jeekes who was just entering the car. “Good morning,” said Robin with easy assurance, “I’m delighted to hear that you’ve found Miss Trevert, Jeekes, for, to tell you the truth, I was feeling somewhat uneasy about her......” .

The secretary’s face was a study. The surprise of seeing Robin, who had dropped, it seemed to him, out of the clouds into the city of Rotterdam, deprived him of speech for an instant. He blinked his eyes, looked this way and that and finally with a sort of blind gesture readjusted his pince-nez and glared at the intruder.

' I 'HEN, without a word, he got into the car. But Robin, with a firm hand, stayed the door which Jeekes would have closed behind him.

“Excuse me,” Robin remarked decidedly, “but I’m coming with you if your friend,”—at this he looked at the ■ man in the driving-seat,—“has no objection. ...”

Mr. Jeekes cast a frightened glance at the sallow man.

The latter said impatiently: “We’re

wasting time, Jeekes. Who is this gentle-

“This is Mr. Greve,” said the little secretary hurriedly, “a friend of Mr. Parrish and Miss Trevert. He was staying in the house at the time of the tragedy. He has, I understand, taken a prominent part in the investigations as to the motive of our poor friend's sad end. ...”

Mr. Jeekes looked to Robin as he said this as though for confirmation. The man at the driving-wheel turned and gave the little secretary a quick glance. Then he mustered Robin with a slow, insolent stare. He had a yellow face and small black eyes, quick and full of intelligence. Then he bowed.

“My name is Victor,” he said. “The sad news about Mr. Parrish was a great shock to me. I met him several times in London. Were you anxious to see Miss. . er... . Trevert? She has come to Rotterdam (so my friend Jeekes tells me) to look into certain important business transactions which the late Mr. Parrish had in hand at the time of his death. Did I understand you to say that you were uneasy about this lady? Is there any mystery about her journey?. ...”

For the moment Robin felt somewhat abashed. The question was rather a poser. Was there, in effect, any mystery about Mary’s trip to Rotterdam accompanied by her cousin? She had acquainted her people at Harkings with her plans. What if, after all, everything was open and above board and she had merely come to Rotterdam on business? It seemed difficult to believe? Surely in such a case the solicitor, Bardy, would have been the more suitable emissary ...

“You’ll forgive us, I’m sure,” the yellowfaced man remarked suavely, “but we’re in a great hurry. Would you mind closing that door?....”

ROBIN closed the door. But he got into the car first.

“It happens,” he said, “that I am particularly anxious to see Miss Trevert. As I gather you are going to meet her I feel sure you won’t mind my accompanying you...”

The yellow-faced man turned with an easy smile.

“Sorry,” he said, “but we are having a meeting with Miss Trevert on private business and I’m afraid we cannot take you along. Jeekes here, however, could take a message to Miss Trevert and if she wanted to see you

He broke off significantly and smiled slily at the secretary. Robin felt himself flush. So Jeekes had been telling tales out of school to Mr. Victor had he? The young man squared his jaw. That settled it. He would stay.

“I promise not to butt in on your private business,” he replied, “but I simply must see Miss Trevert before I go back to London. So if you don’t mind, I think I’ll come along ...”

The yellow-faced man glanced at his wrist watch.

“I can’t prevent you,” he exclaimed.. Then he rapped out something in Dutch to Jeekes. The secretary leaned forward to catch the remark. The yellow-faced man threw in the clutch.

“Goed!” (good) answered Jeekes in the same language and resumed his seat as the car glided smoothly away from the curb into the traffic of the busy square.

They threaded their way through the streets in silence.

THE car had put on speed as they left the more crowded streets and emerged into the suburbs. Now they were running over a broad straight main road lined with poplars. Robin wondered whither they were bound. He was about to put the question to the secretary when the man Victor turned his head and said over his shoulder:

“Nu!”

At the same moment the speed of the car sensibly diminished.

Jeekes put his arm across the young man at his side.

“That door," he said, touching his sleeve, “doesn’t seem to be properly shut. Would you mind...”

Robin pushed the door with his hand. “It seems all right,” he said.

“Permit me ...”

The secretary stretched across and pulled back the latch, releasing the door. It swung out.

“Now dose it,” said Mr. Jeekes.

The door was flapping to and fro with the swaying of the car over the rough road and Robin had to half rise in order to comply with the request. He was leaning forward steadying himself with one hand grasping the back of the drivingseat when he received a tremendous shove in the back. At the same moment the car seemed to leap forward. He made a desperate effort to regain his balance, failed and was whirled out head foremost on the side of the road.

Fortunately for himself he fell soft. The road ran here through a little wood of young oak and beech which came right down to the edge of the Chaussee. The ground was deep in withered leaves which, with the rain and the water draining from the road’s high camber, were soft and soggy. He sat up, his mouth full of mud, and his hair full of wet leaves, and felt himself carefully over. He contemplated rather ruefully a long rent in the left leg of his trousers just across the knee.

“Jeekes!” he murmured, “he pushed me out! The dirty dog!”

The chaussee was absolutely empty. About a hundred yards from where he stood in the direction in which the car had been traveling the road made a sharp bend to the right thus curtailing his view. Robin did not hesitate. Not waiting to retrieve his hat or even to wipe the mud from his face he started off at a brisk run along the road in the direction in which the car had disappeared. He had not gone far before he found that his heavy overcoat was seriously impeding him. He stripped it off and folding it, hid it beneath a bush just inside the plantation. Then he ran on again.

As he walked he scrutinised the roadway

for any track of a car. But on the hard brick pave wheels left no mark. The first side road he came to was likewise paved in brick. In grave perplexity Robin came to a halt.

Then his eye fell upon a puddle. It lay on the edge of the footpath bordering the chaussee about five yards beyond the turning. The soft mud which skirted it showed the punched out pattern of a studded tyre! The car had not taken this side road at any rate. It had probablypulled over on to the footpath to pass the manure cart which Robin had met. He pushed on again valiantly.

Another hundred yards brought him to a second side road. There was no pave here but a soft sandy surface. And it bore clearly imprinted in the mud the fresh tracks of a car as it had turned off the road.

Breaking into a run Robin followed the track down the turning. It led him to a black gate, beyond which was a twisting gravel drive fringed with high laurels. And the gravel showed the same tyre marks as the road.

He vaulted the gate lightly and ran up the drive. He was revolving in his head what his next move should be. Should he walk boldly into the house and confront Jeekes and his rascally looking companion or should he first spy out the ground and try and ascertain whether Mary had arrived? He decided on the latter course.

ACCORDINGLY, when an unexpected turn of the drive brought him in view of a white porch, he left the avenue and took cover behind the laurel bushes. Walking softly on the wet grass and keeping well down behind the laurels, he went forward parallel with the drive. It ran into a clean courtyard with a coachhouse or garage on one side and a small green door, seemingly a side entrance into the house, on the other.

There was no one in the courtyard and the house seemed perfectly quiet. From his post of observation behind the laurels, Robin observed that a tall window beside the green door commanded the view across the courtyard.

The window was open a lew inches at the top. From within the sound of voices reached him. Jeekes was speaking. Robin recognised his rather grating voice at once.

“......no more violence,” he was say-

ing, “first Greve and now the girl. I don’t like your methods, Victor. ..."

Very cautiously Robin dropped on on* knee and shuffled forward in this position until his eyes were on a level with the window-sill. He found himself looking into a narrow room, well lighted by a second window at the further end. It was apparently an office for there was a high desk running down the centre and a large safe occupied a prominent place against the wall.

Jeekes and the man Victor stood chatting at the desk. The yellow-faced man was grinning sardonically.

“Parrish don’t like your methods. I’ll be bound,” he retorted. “Don’t you worry about the little lady, Jeekes! Bless your heart, I won’t hurt her unless. . ” The loud throbbing of a car at the front of the house made Robin duck his head hastily. Crawling along until he came level with the porch he peeped through.

Mary Trevert w-as just entering the house.

To be Continued