The Pawns Count
A Story of Secret Service and the Great War
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Author of “Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo," “The Double Traitor,” etc.
WELL, that seems clear enough,” the young man muttered, thrusting the form into his waistcoat pocket. “You’re here to stay, I guess, Nikasti? I see you’ve brought your kit along."
“In case you decided to engage me, sir,” the man replied.
“Oh, you are engaged right enough,” Van Teyl assured him. “You’d better make the best job you can of putting out my evening clothes. If you ring for the floor valet, he’ll help you. The bedrooms are through that door.”
“Very good, sir!”
“I am going down to the barber’s now,” Van Teyl continued, rising to his feet. “Just remember this, Nikasti—what a name, by the bye!”
“I could be called Kato,” the man suggested.
“Kato for me all the time,” his prospective employer agreed. “Well, listen. My sister, Miss Van Teyl, arrives from Europe on the Lapland this evening. If she comes in or rings up, say I’m here and I want to see her at once. You understand?”
“I understand, sir.”
Van Teyl strolled out, and Kato disappeared into the inner room. The floor valet, dressed in the dark blue livery of the hotel, was already laying out his master’s dinner clothes. He eyed the intruder a little truculently.
“Who are you, any way?” he inquired.
“My name is Nikasti,” was the quiet reply. “Mr. Van Teyl has engaged me as his valet, to wait upon him and Mr. Fischer.”
The man laid down the shirt into which he was fixing the studs.
“That’s some news,” he remarked bitterly. “To wait on Mr. Van Teyl and Mr. Fischer, eh? What the hell do they want you for?”
Nikasti shook his head slowly. He was very small, and his dark eyes seemed filled with melancholy.
“It is not for a very long time,” he ven-
“Long enough to do me out of my five dollars’ tip every week,” the man grumbled. “I’m a married man, too, and a good American. Blast you fellows, coming and taking our jobs away! Can’t think what they let you into the country for.”
“I am sorry,” Nikasti murmured.
“Your sorrow don’t bring me in my five dollars,” the valet retorted bitterly. “There’s only two suites on this floor to work for, any way, and this is the only one worth a cent.”
“I am taking the situation,” the other explained, “for the sake of experience. I do not wish to rob you of your earnings.
I will pay you the five dollars a week while
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Graham, an English officer, invents a new explosive of tremendous poteer and tells about it at a fashionable London restaurant in the hearing of a number of people, including John Lutchester, another Englishman; Pamela Van Teyl, an American girl; Oscar Fischer, a German-American, and Baron Sunyea, a Japanese. He mysteriously disappears. Pamela, believing he has been overpowered and is being kept in some part of the restaurant, obtains information from two employees with reference to a deserted chapel beside the restaurant. She secures the key to the chapel. In the meantime Graham awakens from a drugged stupor to find himself in the chapel confronted with Fischer, who demands the formula for the new explosive. Lutchester rescues Graham and sends him under guard to a quiet country place, but on the way Graham is killed. In the meantime Pamela Van Teyl returns to America on the same boat as Fischer and finds that he is sharing rooms in New York with her brother with a Japanese valet named Nikasti.
I stay here. You shall help me with the
“That’s a deal, my little yellow-skinned kid,” the valet agreed in a tone of relief. “I’ll show you where the things are kept.”
His new coadjutor bowed.
“The telephone is ringing in the master’s room,” he observed. “You shall remain here and I will answer it.”
“That goes, Jappy," the man acquiesced. “If it’s a young lady take her name, but don’t say that Mr. Van Teyl’s about. Forward young baggages some of them are.”
Nikasti glided from the room, closed the door, and approached the telephone receiver.
“Yes,” he acknowledged, “these are the rooms of Mr. Van Teyl. . . No, madam, Mr. Van Teyl is not in at present.”
There was a moment’s pause. Nikasti’s face was impenetrable as he listened, but his eyes glowed.
“Yes, I understand, madam,” he said softly. “You are Miss Van Teyl, and you wish to speak to your brother. The moment Mr. Van Teyl returns I will ring you up or fetch you.”
He replaced the receiver upon its hook, and returned to the bedroom. For some little time he was initiated into the mysteries of his new master’s studs, boots and shoes, and general taste in wearing apparel. Then the latter entered the sittingroom, and Nikasti obeyed his summons.
“Anyone called me up?” he inquired.
“No cne, sir.”
Van Teyl glanced at the clock in an undecided manner.
“I’ll change right away,” he decided. “Just set things to rights in here, fill my cigarette case, and hang round by the telephone.”
NIKASTI bowed, and the young man disappeared into the inner room. His new attendant waited until the door was closed. Then he removed the receiver from its hook, laid it upon the table, and moved stealthily towards the open fireplace. For several moments he remained in an attitude of listening, then with quick, lithe fingers he drew from his pocket a cable dispatch, re-read it with an air of complete absorption, and committed it to the flames. He watched it burn, and turned away from the contemplation of its grey ashes with a sigh of content. Suddenly he started. The door of the sittingroom had been opened and closed. A tall, broad-shouldered man, wearing. goldrimmed spectacles, a long travelling coat and a Homburg hat, was standing watching him. Nikasti was only momentarily disturbed. His look of gentle inquiry was perfect.
“You wish to see my master—Mr. Van Teyl?” he asked.
“Where is he?” Fischer demanded.
“He is dressing in the next apartment.
I will take him your name.”
Fischer threw his coat and hat upon the table.
“That’ll do directly,” he replied. “So you’re Nikasti?”
They looked át one another for a moment. The face of the Japanese was smooth, bland, and imperturbable. His eyes were innocent even of any question. Fischer’s forehead was wrinkled and his brows drawn close together.
“I am Nikasti,” the other acknowledged —“Kato Nikasti. Mr. Van Teyl has just engaged me as his valet.”
“You can take off the gloves,” Fischer told him. “I am Oscar Fischer.”
“Oscar Fischer,” Nikasti repeated.
“Yes! . . Burning something when I came in, weren’t you? Looked like a cable, -eh?”
“A dispatch from London,” Nikasti confided.
“Nothing that would interest me, eh?” “It was a family message,” was the calm response. “It did not concern the affair which is between us.”
“How came you to speak English like this?” Fischer inquired.
“I was at Oxford University for two years,” Nikasti told him, “and in the Embassy at London for five more.”
“Before you took up your present job, eh?”
Nikasti assented silently. Fischer glanced around as though to make sure they were still alone.
“I have the communication with me,” he announced, “which we are to discuss. The terms of our proposal are clearly st;et out, and they are signed by the Highest of All himself. The letter embodying them
was handed to me three weeks ago today in Berlin. Have you been to Washington?”
Nikasti shook his head.
“I do not go to Washington,” he said. “You will understand that, diplomatically, as you would put it, I do not exist. Neither is it necessary. I am here to listen.” Fischer nodded.
“There need be very little delay, then,” he observed, “before we get to work.” Nikasti bowed and raised his forefinger in warning.
“I think,” he whispered, “that Mr. Van Teyl has finished dressing.”
VAN TEYL, as he hastened forward to meet his friend, presented at first sight a very good type of the wellgroomed, athletic young American. He was over six feet tall, with smooth, dark hair brushed back from his forehead, a strong, clean-shaven face and good features. Only, as he drew nearer, there was evident a slight, unnatural quivering at the corner of his lips. The cordiality of his greeting, too, was a little overdone.
“Welcome home, Fischer! Wrhy, man, you’re looking fine. Had a pleasant voyage?”
“Storms for the first few days—after that, all right,” Fischer replied.
“Not a sight of one. Seen your sister yet?”
“Not yet. I’ve been waiting about for a telephone message. She hadn’t arrived, a few minutes ago.”
“I want us three to meet—you and she and I—the first moment she sets foot in the hotel,” he declared.
“What’s the hurry?” Van Teyl demanded. “You must have seen plenty of her the last ten days.”
“That,” Fischer insisted, “was a different matter. See here, Jimmy, I’ll be frank with you.”
He walked to the door of the bedroom, opened it, and looked inside. Its sole occupant was Nikasti, who was at the far end, putting away some clothes. Fischer closed the door firmly and returned.
“I want you to understand this, James,” he began. “Your sister is meddling in certain things she’d best leave alone.” Van Teyl lit a cigarette.
“No use talking to me,” he observed. “Pamela’s her own mistress, and she’s gone her own way ever since she came of age.”
“She’s got to quit,” Fischer pronounced. “That’s all there is about it. You and I will have to talk this out. Where are you dining?”
“Downstairs,” Van Teyl replied gloomily. “I was thinking of waiting for Pamela.”
“You leave word to have your people let you know directly she arrives,” Fischer advised, “and come along with me.”
Van Teyl suffered himself to be led towards the door. Nikasti, with a due sense of his new duties, glided past them, rang for the lift and watched them descend. Fischer turned at once towards the dining-room.
“Thank God we’re in a civilized country,” he observed, “and that I don’t have to change when I don’t want to!”
They found a quiet table, and Fischer, displaying much interest in the menu, ordered a somewhat extensive dinner. “Grape fruit and Maryland chicken are
worth coming back to,” he declared. “Now see here, James, let’s get to business. You’ve got to help me with your sister.” “But how?” Van Teyl demanded. “Pamela and I are good pals, of course, but she has a will of her own in all she does, and I don’t fancy that anything I could say would influence her very much.” “There are two things about your sister,” Fischer continued. “The first is that she’s got to quit this secret service business she’s got herself mixed up in.” “Don’t talk nonsense!” Van Teyl exclaimed. “Pamela doesn’t care a fig about politics.”
Fischer grunted scornfully.
“You don't know much about your sister, young fellow,” he said. “Internal politics over here may not interest her a cent, but she’s crazy about America as a country, and she’s shrewd enough to see things coming that a great many of you over here aren’t looking for. Any way, she came bang up against me in a little
scheme I had on the night before I left Europe, and somewhere about her she’s got concealed a document which I’d gladly buy for a quarter of a million dollars.” Van Teyl drank off his second cocktail. “Some money!” he observed. “How did she come by the prize?”
“Played up for it, just as I did,” Fischer replied. “She was clever enough to make use of. my scaffolding, and got up the ladder first. I’m not squealing, but I’ve got to have that document, whatever it costs me.”
\TAN TEYL was silent for a moment.
’ There was an undercurrent of something threatening in his companion’s manner, of which he had taken note.
“And the second thing you mentioned?” he asked. “What is that?”
Fischer, as though to give due emphasis to his statement, indulged in a brief pause. Then he leaned a little forward and spoke very slowly and very forcibly.
“I want to marry her,” he declared.
Van Teyl leaned back in hi» chair and gazed at his vis-à-vis in blank astonish-
“You must be a damned fool, Fischer!” he exclaimed.
“You think so?” was the unruffled reply. “I wonder why?”
“I’ll tell you why, if you want to know,” Van Teyl continued bluntly. “I know of four of the richest and best-looking young men in America, two ambassadors, an English peer, and an Italian prince, who have proposed to Pamela during the last twelve months alone. She refused every one of them.”
"Well,” Fischer remarked, “she must marry some time.”
Van Teyl looked at him insolently.
“I shouldn't think you’d have a dog’s chance,” he pronounced.
There was a little glitter behind Fischer’s spectacles.
“Up till now,” he admitted smoothly, “I have not been fortunate. I must confess, however, that I was hoping for your good offices.”
"Pamela wouldn't take the slightest notice of anything I might say,” Van Teyl declared. “Besides, I should hate you to marry her.”
“A little blunt, are you not, my young friend?” F’ischer remarked amiably. “Still, to continue, there is also the matter of that document. I must confess that I exercised all my ingenuity to obtain possession of it on the steamer.”
“You would!” Van Teyl muttered.
“Your sister, however,” F’ischer continued, “was wise enough to have it locked up in the purser’s safe the moment she set foot upon the steamer. She gave me the slip when she got it back, and eluded me, somehow, on the quay. She will scarcely have had time to part with it yet, though. When she arrives here to-
night, it will in all probability be in her
“Well!” Van Teyl demanded. "You don't suggest that 1 should rob her of it, 1 suppose?”
“Not at all,” Fischer replied. “On the other hand, you might very well induce her to give it up voluntarily, or at least to treat with me.”
"You don't know Pamela,” was Van Teyl’s curt reply.
“I know her sufficiently,” F’ischer went on, leaning over the table, “to believe that she would sacrifice a great deal to save her brother from Sing-Sing.”
Van Teyl took the thrust badly. He started as though he had been stabbed, and his face became almost ghastly in its pallor. He tossed off u glass of wine hastily.
“Just what do you mean by that?” he asked thickly.
“Are you prepared,” Fischer continued, “to have me visit your office to-morrow morning and examine my accounts and securities in the presence of your part-
“Why not?” Van Teyl faltered. “What the hell do you mean?”
“I mean, James Van Teyl,” his companion declared, “that I should find you a matter of a hundred thousand dollars short. I mean that you've realized some of my securities, gambled on your own account with the proceeds, and lost. You did this ns regards one stock at least, with a forged transfer, which I hold.”
\T AN TEYL looked almost piteously ’ around. Life seemed suddenly to have become an unreal thing—the crowds of well-dressed diners, the gentle splashing of the water from the fountains in the winter-garden, the distant murmuring of music from behind the canopy of palms. So this was the end of it! All that week he had hoped against hope. He had been told of a sure thing. Next week he had meant to have a great gamble. Everything was to have gone his way, after all. And now it was too late. Fischer knew, and Fischer was a cruel man. . . .
The unnatural silence came to an end. Only Fischer’s voice seemed to come from a long way off.
“Drink your wine, James Van Teyl,” he advised, “and listen to me. You’ve been under obligations to me from the start. I meant you to be. I brought a great business to your firm, and 1 insisted upon having you interested. I had a motive, as I have for most things I do. You are well placed socially in New York, and I am not. You are also above suspicion, which I am not. It suited me to take this suite in the Plaza, nominally in our joint names, but to pay the whole account myself. It suited me because I required the shelter of your social position. You understand?”
“I always understood,” Van Teyl mut-
“Just so. Only, whereas you simply thought me a snob. I had in reality a different and very definite purpose. We come now, however, to your present obligation to me. I can, if I choose, tear up your forged transfer, submit to the loss of my money, and leave you secure. I shall do so if you are able to induce your sister to hand over to me those few lines of writing—to which, believe me, she has no earthly right—and to accept me as a prospective suitor.”
Van Teyl was drinking steadily now, but every mouthful of food seemed almost
to choke him. Red-eyed and defiant, he faced his torturer.
“You’re talking rot!” he declared. “Pamela wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth, and if she’s got anything she wants to keep, she’ll keep it.”
“And see her brother disgraced,” Fischer reminded him, “tried at the City Hall for theft and sent to Sing-Sing? It’s a good name in New York, yours, you know. The Van Teyls have held their heads high for more than one generation. Your sister will not fancy seeing it dragged down into the mire.”
For a single moment the young man seemed about to throw himself upon his companion. Fischer, perfectly unmoved, watched him, nevertheless, like a cat.
“Better sit tight,” he enjoined. “Drop it now or people will be watching us. I have ordered some of the old brandy. A liqueur or two will steady you, perhaps. Afterwards we will go upstairs and take your sister into our confidence.”
Van Teyl nodded.
“Very well,” he agreed hoarsely. “We’ll hear what Pamela has to say.”
NIKASTI, with a low bow, watched the disappearance of the lift into which his two new masters, James Van Teyl and Oscar Fischer, had stepped. He waited until the indicator registered its safe arrival on the ground floor. Then he slowly retraced his steps along the corridor, entered the sitting-room and took up the telephone receiver, which was still lying upon the table.
“Will you give me number 77,” he asked—“Miss Van Teyl's suite?”
There was a moment’s silence—then a voice at the other end to which he made obeisance.
“It is Miss Van Teyl who speaks? I am Mr. Van Teyl’s valet. Mr. Van Teyl is here now and will be glad if you will come in.”
He replaced the receiver, listened and waited. In a few moments there was the sound of a light footstep outside. The door was opened and Pamela entered. She was still wearing the grey tailor-made costume in which she had left the steamer.
“Why, where is Mr. Van Teyl?” she asked, looking around the room. “I have been ringing up for the last ten minutes and couldn’t get any answer. I did not realize that it was the next suite.”
“Mr. Van Teyl is close at hand, madam,” Nikasti replied. “If you will kindly be seated, I will fetch him.”
“How long have you been valet here?” Pamela asked curiously.
"For a few hours only, madam,” was the grave reply. “If you will be so good as to wait.”
He bowed low and left the room. Pamela took up an evening paper and for a few minutes buried herself in its contents. Then suddenly she held it away from her and listened. A queer and unaccountable impulse inspired her with a certain mistrust. There was no sound of movement in the adjoining bedchamber, nor any sign of her brother’s presence. She opened the door and peered in. It was empty and in darkness. Then, moved by that same unaccountable impulse, she crossed the room and listened at the door which led into her own suite, and which she perceived was bolted on this side as well as her own. She listened at first idly, afterwards breathlessly. In a few moments she
was convinced that her senses were not playing her false. Some one was moving stealthily about in her room, the key to which was even at that moment in her hand. She hastened to the door, to be confronted by another surprise. The handle turned but the door refused to open. She was locked in. . .
Pamela was both generous and insistent in the matter of bells. She found four, and she rang them all together. The consequences were speedy, and in their way satisfactory. • Nikasti himself, a breathless chambermaid, a hurt but dignified waiter, and the floor valet, who had not even stopped to put on his coat, entered together. They seemed a little stupefied at finding Pamela alone and no signs of any disturbance.
“Why was I locked in here?” Pamela demanded indignantly, taking them en bloc.
There was a little chorus of non-comprehension. Nikasti stepped forward, waved to the others to be silent, and bowed almost to the ground.
“It was a mistake easily to be understood, madam,” he explained. “The handle is a little stiff, perhaps, but the door was not locked. We all reached here together, I myself barely a yard in advance. No key was used—and behold!”
Pamela was disposed to argue, but a moment’s reflection induced her to change her mind. This falsehood of Nikasti’s was at least interesting. Sha waved the hotel servants away.
“I am sorry to have troubled you,” she said. “I will remember it when I pay my bill.”
THEY took their leave, Nikasti showing them out. When the last had departed, he turned back to the centre table, from the other side of which Pamela was watching him curiously.
“I cannot imagine,” she remarked, “how I could have made such a mistake about the door. I tried it twice or three times and it certainly seemed to me to be locked.”
Nikasti moved a step nearer towards her. Something of the servility of his manner had gone. For the first time she looked at him closely, appreciated the tense immobility of his features, the still, penetrating light of his cold eyes. A queer premonition of trouble for a moment unsteadied her.
“There was no mistake," he said softly. “The door was locked.”
Even then she did not fully understand the position. She leaned a little towards
“It was locked?” she repeated.
“I locked it," he told her. “It is locked now, securely. I have been searching in your room for something which I did not find. I think that you had better give it to me. It will save trouble.”
“Are you mad?” she demanded breathlessly.
“Do I seem so?” he replied. “There is no person more sane than I. I require from you the formula of the new explosive, which you stole in Henry’s restaurant eleven days ago.”
The sense of mystery passed. It was simply trouble of the ordinary sort from an unexpected source.
“Dear me!” she murmured. “Every one seems interested in my little adventure. How did you hear about it?”
“I destroyed the cable telling me of all that happened, only a few minutes ago,” he explained. “It was the foolish talk of
the young inventor which gave his secret to the world to scramble for.”
“It was very clever of your informant,” she remarked, “to suggest that I was the fortunate thief. Why not Oscar Fischer? It was his plot, not mine.”
The eyes of the little Japanese seemed suddenly to narrow. He realized quite well that she was talking simply to gain
“Madam,” he insisted, “the formula. It is for my country, and for my country I would risk much.”
“I do not doubt it,” she replied; “but if I hold it, I hold it for my country, too, and there is nothing you would risk for Japan from which I should shrink for America.”
He laid his hands upon the table. She turned her ring and clenched her hand. She could see his spring coming, realized in those few seconds that here was an opponent of more desperate and subtle calibre than Joseph. Whether her wits might have failed her, fate remained her friend. There was a knock at the door.
“You hear?” she cried breathlessly. “There is some one there. Shall I call out?”
His hands and knee were gone from the table. He was once more his old self, so completely the servant that for a moment even Pamela was puzzled. It seemed as though the events of the last few seconds might have been part of a disordered dream. Nikasti played to the cue of her fevered question and entirely ignored them. He opened the door with a respectful flourish—and John Lutchester walked
PAMELA’S first shock of surprise did not readily pass. In the first place, John Lutchester’s appearance in America at all was entirely unexpected. In the second, by what possible means could he have arrived at this precise and psychological moment?
“You!” she exclaimed, a little helplessly. “Mr. Lutchester!”
He smiled as he shook hands. Nikasti had slipped noiselessly from the room. Pamela made no effort to detain him. She had a curious feeling that the things which had passed between them concerned their two selves only. She had no desire whatever to hand him over to retributive justice.
“You are surprised,” he observed. “So far as my presence here is concerned, I knew quite well that I was coming some time ago, but it was one of those matters, you understand, Miss Van Teyl, that one is scarcely at liberty to talk about. I am here in connection with my work.”
“Your work,” she repeated weakly. “I thought that you were in the Ministry of Munitions?”
“Precisely,” he admitted. “I have a travelling inspectorship. You see, I don’t mind telling you this, but it is just aswell, if you will forgive my mentioning it, Miss Van Teyl, that these things are not. spoken of to anyone. My business over here is supposed to be a secret. I am going round some of the factories from which we are drawing supplies.”
She drew a long breath and began to feel a little more like herself.
“Well, after this,” she declared, “I shall be surprised at nothing. I have had one shock already this evening, and you are the second.”
Continued on page 83.
The Pawns Count
Continued from page 40.
“The first, I trust, was not disagreeable?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Without flattering you,” she answered, “I think I would say that I prefer the second.”
“I had an idea,” Lutchester remarked diffidently, “that my arrival seemed either opportune or inopportune—I could not quite tell which. Were you in any way troubled or embarrassed by the presence of the little Japanese gentleman?”
“Of course not,” she replied. “Why, he is Jimmy’s valet.”
“How absurd of me!” Lutchester murmured. “By the bye, if Jimmy is your brother—Mr. Van Teyl—I have a letter
to him from a pal in town—Dicky Green. It was to present it that I found my way up here this evening. I was told that he might put me in the way of a little golf during my spare time over here.”
He produced the note and laid it upon the table. Pamela glanced at it and then at Lutchester. He was carefully dressed in dinner-clothes, black tie and white waistcoat. He was, as usual, perfectly groomed and immaculate. He had what she would only describe to herself as an everyday air about him. He seemed entirely free from any mental pressure or the wear and tear of great events.
“Golf?” she repeated wonderingly. “You expect to have a little spare time, then?” “Well, I hope so,” Lutchester, replied.
“One must have exercise. By the by,” he went on, “is your brother in, do you happen to know? Perhaps it would be more convenient if I came round in the morning? I am staying in the hotel.” “Oh, for goodness sake, don’t go away,” she begged. “Jimmy will be here presently, for certain. To tell you the truth, we have been rather playing hide-and-seek this evening, but it hasn’t been altogether his fault. Please sit down over there— you will find cigarettes on the sideboard— and talk to me.”
“Delighted,” he agreed, taking the chair opposite to her. “I suppose you want to know what became of poor Graham?”
A sudden bewilderment appeared in her face. She leaned towards him. Her forehead was knitted, her eyes puzzled. There was a new problem to be solved.
“Why, Mr. Lutchester,” she demanded, “how on earth did you get here?”
“Across the Atlantic,” he replied amiably. “Bit too far the other way round.” “Yes, but what on?” she persisted. “I went straight on to ‘The Lapland’ after we parted last week, and only arrived here an hour or so ago. There was no other passenger steamer sailing for three days.” “I was a stowaway,” he told her confidentially—“helped to shovel coals all the way over.”
“Don’t talk nonsense!” she protested a little sharply. “I dislike mysteries. Look at you! A stowaway, indeed! Tell me the truth at once?”
He leaned forward in his chair towards her. An ingenuous smile parted his lips. He had the air of a school-boy repeating a mischievous secret.
“The fact is, Miss Van Teyl,” he confided, “I don’t want it talked about, you know, but I had a joy ride over.”
“A joy ride,” he repeated. “A cousin of mine is in command of a destroyer, and she was under orders to sail for New York. He hadn’t the slightest right, really, to bring a passenger, as she was coming over on a special mission, but I had word about the trip over here, so I slipped on board late one night—not a word to anyone, you understand—and—well, here I am. A more awful voyage,” he went on impressively, “you couldn’t imagine. I was sore all over within twentyfour hours of starting. There’s practically no deck on those things, you know, for sitting out or anything of that sort. The British Navy’s nowhere for comfort, I can tell you. The biggest liner for me, going back!”
Pamela was still a little dazed. Lutchester’s story did not sound in the least convincing. For the moment, however, she accepted his account of himself.
“Tell me now,” she begged, “about Captain Graham?”
“You haven’t heard, then?”
“I have heard nothing. How should I hear?”
“I took him straight back to my rooms after we left you,” Lutchester began. “He was in an awful state of nerves and drugs and drink. Then I put him to bed as soon as I could, and rang up a pal of mine at the War Office to take him in hand.”
“Do you believe,” she asked curiously, “that he had really been robbed of his formula?”
“Those amiable people who were interviewing him in the chapel seemed to think so,” Lutchester observed.
“But you. What do you think?” she persisted.
He smiled in superior fashion.
“I find it rather hard to bring myself to believe that anyone would take the trouble,” he confided. “I have heard it said in my department that there have been thirty-one new explosives invented since the beginning of the war. Two of them only are in use, and they’re not much better than the old stuff.”
Pamela nodded understandingly.
“All the same,” she remarked, “I am not at all sure that was the case with Captain Graham’s invention. There were rumors for days before that something wonderful was happening on Salisbury Plain. They had to cover up whole acres of ground after his last experiments, and a man who was down there told me that it seemed just as though the life had been sucked out of it.”
“Where did you collect all this information?” her visitor inquired.
She shrugged her shoulders.
“One hears everything in London.” Lutchester was sitting with his fingertips pressed together. For a moment his attention seemed fixed upon them. • “There are things,” he said, “which one hears, too, in the far corners of the world —on the Atlantic, for instance.”
“You have had some news?” she interrupted.
“It is really a private piece of information,” he told her, “and it won’t be in the papers—not the way the thing happened, anyway—but I don’t suppose there’s any harm in telling you, as we were both more or less mixed up in the affair. Graham was shot the next day, on his way up to Northumberland.”
“Shot?” she exclaimed incredulously. * “Murdered, if you’d like the whole thrill,” Lutchester continued. “Of course, we didn’t get many particulars in the wireless, but we gathered that he was shot by someone passing him in a more powerful car on a lonely stretch of the Great North Road.”
PAMELA shuddered. She was for the moment profoundly impressed. A certain air of unreality which had hung over the events of that night was suddenly banished. The whole tragedy rose up before her eyes. The effect of it was almost stupefying.
“Gave me quite a shock," Lutchester confided. “Somehow or other I had never been able to take that night quite seriously. There was more than a dash of melodrama in it, wasn’t there? Seems now as though those fellows must have been in earnest, though.”
“And as though Captain Graham’s formula,” she reminded him gravely, “was the real thing.”
“Whereupon,” Lutchester observed, “our first interest in the affair receives a certain stimulus. Someone stole the formula. To judge from the behavior of those amiable gentlemen connected with Henry s Restaurant, it wasn’t they. Someone had been before them. Have you any theories, Miss Van Teyl?”
“I can tell you who has, she replied. “Do you remember when we were all grouped around that notice—Mefiez-vous! Taisez-vous! Les oreilles ennemies vous ecoutent!”
“Of course I do,” he assented.
“Do you remember Baron Sunyea making a remark afterwards? He had been standing by and heard everything Graham
that I do,” Lutchester re-
gretted, “but I remember seeing him about the place.”
“You promise to say or do nothing without my permission, if I tell you something?” she went on.
“See, then, how diplomacy of secret serI vice work, or whatever you like to call it, can gather the ends of the world together! Only a quarter of an hour ago that Japanese valet of my brother’s, having searched my rooms in vain, demanded from me that formula!”
“From you?” Lutchester gasped. “But you haven’t got it!”
“Of course not. On the other hand : Sunyea pitched upon me as being one of the possible thieves, and cabled his inI structions over.”
“Have you got it?” he asked abruptly. “If I had,” she smiled, “I should not tell you.”
“But come,” he expostulated, “the thing’s no use to you.”
“So Baron Sunyea evidently thought,” she laughed. “We’ll leave that, if you don’t mind.”
; Lutchester was still looking a little bewildered.
“I had an idea when I came in,” he muttered, “that things were a little scrappy between you and the Japanese gentle-
She was suddenly serious.
“Now that I have told you the truth,” she said, “I really ought to thank you. I You certainly seem to have a knack of j appearing when you are wanted.”
“Fluke this time, I’m afraid,” he ack¡ nowledged, “but I rather like the suggestion. You ought to see a great deal of me, Miss Van Teyl. Do you realize that I am a stranger in New York, and any hospitality you can show me may be doubly rewarded? Are you going to take me round and show me the sights?”
“Are you going to have any time for sight-seeing?”
“Well, I hope so. Why not? A fellow can’t do more than a certain number of hours’ work in a day.”
She looked at him curiously.
“And yet,” she murmured, “you expect to win the war!”
“Of course we shall win the war,” he assured her confidently. “You haven’t any I doubt about that yourself, have you, Miss Van Teyl?”
“I don’t know,” she told him calmly. Lutchester was almost horrified. He rose to his feet and stood looking down at his companion.
“Tell me what on earth you mean?" he demanded. “We always win in the long run, even if we muddle things about a little.”
“I was just contrasting in my mind,” she said thoughtfully, “some of the Germans whom I have met since the war, with some of the Englishman. They aje taking it very seriously, you know, Mr. Lutchester. They don’t find time for luncheon-parties or sight-seeing.”
“That’s just their way,” he protested. “They turn themselves into machines. They are what we used to call suckers at school, but you can take my word for it that before next autumn they will be on the run.”
“You call them suckers,” she observed. “That’s because they’re always working, always studying, always experimenting.
! Supposing they got hold of something like this new explosive?”
“First of all,” he told her, “I don’t believe in it, and secondly, if it exists, the I formula isn’t in their hands.”
“Supposing it is in mine?” she suggested. “I might sell it to them.”
"I’d trust you all the time," he laughed light-heartedly. “I can’t see you giving a leg up to the Huns. Will you lunch
with me at one o’clock to-morrow, please?” “Certainly not,” she replied. “You must attend to your work, whatever it is.” “That’s all very well,” he grumbled, “but every one has an hour off for luncheon.”
“People who win wars don’t lunch,” she declared severely. "Here’s Jimmy—I can hear his voice—and he’s brought someone up with him. I’ll—let you know about lunch.”
The door opened. James Van Teyl and Fischer entered together.
T.IE first few seconds after the entrance of the two men were monopolized by the greetings of Pamela with her brother. Fischer stood a little in the background, his eyes fixed upon Lutchester. His brain was used to emergencies, but he found himself here confronted by an unanswerable problem.
“Say, this is Mr. Lutchester, isn't it?” he inquired, holding out his hand.
“The same,” Lutchester assented politely. “We met at Henry’s some ten days ago, didn’t we?”
“Mr. Lutchester has brought us a letter from Dicky Green. Jimmy,” Pamela explained, as she withdrew from her brother’s arms. “Quite unnecessary, as it happens, because I met him in London just before we sailed.”
“Very glad to meet you, Mr. Lutchester,” Jimmy declared, wringing his hand with American cordiality. “Dicky’s an old pal of mine—one of the best. We graduated in the same year from Har-
Conversation for a few minutes was platitudinal. Van Teyl, although he showed few signs of his recent excesses, was noisy and boisterous, clutching at this brief escape from a situation which he dreaded. Fischer on the other hand, remained in the background, ominously silent, thinking rapidly, speculating and theorizing as to the coincidence, if it were coincidence, of finding Lutchester and Pamela together. He listened to the former’s polite conversation, never once letting his eyes wander from his face. All his thoughts were concentrated upon one problem. The mysterious escape of Sandy Graham, which had sent him flying from the country, remained unsolved. Of Pamela’s share in it he had already his suspicions. Was it possible that Lutchester was the other and the central figure in that remarkable rescue? He waited his opportunity, and, during a momentary lull in the cheerful conversation, broke in with his first question.
“Say, Mr. Lutchester, you haven’t any twin brother, have you?”
“No brother at all,” Lutchester admitted.
“Then, how did you get over here? You were at Henry’s, weren’t you, on the night the Lapland sailed? You didn’t cross with us, and there’s no other steamer due for two days.”
“Then I can’t be here,” Lutchester declared. “The thing’s impossible.”
“Guess you’ll have to explain, if you want to save me from a sleepless night,” Fischer persisted.
Lutchester smiled. He had the air of one enjoying the situation immensely.
“Well,” he said, “I have had to confess to Miss Van Teyl here, so I may as well make a clean breast of it to you. To every one else I meet in New York, I shall say that I came over on the Lapland. I really came over on a destroyer.”
Fischer’s face seemed to become more set and grim than ever.
“A British destroyer,” he muttered to himself.
“It was a kind of joy-ride,” Lutchester explained confidentially, “a cousin of mine who was in command, came in to see me and say good-bye, just after I’d received my orders from the head of my department to come out here on the next steamer, and he smuggled me on board that night. Mum’s the word, though, if you please. We asked nobody’s leave. It would have taken about a month to have heard anything definite from the Admiralty.”
“A British destroyer come across the Atlantic, eh?” Fischer muttered. “She must have come out on a special mission, then, I imagine.”
“That is not for me to say,” Lutchester observed, with stiff reticence.
Pamela suddenly and purposely intervened. She turned towards Fischer.
“Mr. Lutchester brought some rather curious news,” she observed. “He got it by wireless. Do you remember all the fuss there was about the disappearance of Captain Holderness’s friend at Henry’s?”
“I heard something about it,” he admitted grimly.
“Well, Captain Graham was in my party, so naturally I was more interested than any one else. To all appearance he entered Henry’s Restaurant, walked up the stairs and disappeared into the skies. The place was ransacked everywhere for him, but he never turned up. Well, the very next day he was murdered in a motor car on his way to Northumberland.”
“Incredible!” Fischer murmured.
“Seems a queer set out,” Lutchester remarked, “but it’s quite true. He was supposed to have discovered a marvellous new explosive, the formula for which had been stolen. He was on his way up to Northumberland to make fresh experiments.”
“For myself I have little faith,” Fischer observed, “in any new explosives. In Germany they believe, I understand, that the limit of destructiveness has been attained.”
“The Germans should know,” Lutchester admitted carelessly. “I’m afraid they are still a good deal ahead of us in most scientific matters. I will take the liberty of calling some time to-morrow, Miss Van Teyl, and hope I shall have the pleasure of improving my acquaintance with your brother. Good-night, Mr. Fischer.”
“Are you staying in the hotel?” the latter inquired.
“On the eighteenth floor,” was the somewhat gloomy reply. “I shan’t be able to shave in front of the window without feeling giddy. However, I suppose that’s America. Good-bye, everybody.”
WITH a little inclusive and farewell bow he disappeared. They heard him make his way down the corridor and ring for the lift. Rather a curious silence ensued,. which was broken at last by Pamela.
“Is that,” she asked, throwing herself into an easy chair and selecting a cigarette, “just an ordinary type of a nice, well-
bred, unintelligent, self-sufficient Englishman, or--”
"Or what?” Fischer asked, with in-
Pamela watched the smoke curl from the end of her cigarette.
“Well, I scarcely know how to finish,” she confessed, “only sometimes when I am talking to him I feel that he can scarcely be as big a fool as he seems, and then I wonder. Jimmy,” she went on. shaking her head at him, “you’re not looking well. You’ve been sitting up too late and getting into bad habits during my absence. Open confession, now, if you please. If it’s a girl, I shall give you my blessing.”
Van Teyl groaned and said nothing. A foreboding of impending trouble depressed Pamela. She turned towards Fischer and found in his grim face confirmation of her fears.
"What does this mean?” she demanded.
“Your brother will explain," Fischer replied. “It is better that he should tell you everything.”
“Everything?” she repeated. “What is there to tell. What have you to do with my brother, anyway?” she added fiercely.
“You must not look at me as though I were in any way to blame for what has happened,” was the insistent reply. "On the contrary, I have been very lenient with your brother. I am still prepared to be lenient—upon certain conditi«ns."
The light of battle was in Pamela’s eyes. She fought against the significance of the man’s ominous words. This was his first blow, then, and directed against her.
“I begin to understand,” she said. “Please go on. Let me hear everything.”
Van Teyl had turned to the sideboard. He mixed and drank off a whisky and soda. Then he swung around.
“I’ll make a clean breast of it in a few ■words, Pamela,” he promised. “I’ve gambled with Fischer’s money, lost it, forged a transfer of his to meet my liabilities, and I am in his power. He could have me hammered and chucked into SingSing. if he wanted to. That’s all there is about it.”
Pamela stood the shock well. She turned to Fischer.
“How much of this are you responsible for?” she asked.
“That," he objected, “is an impudent question. It is not I who had the moulding of your brother’s character. It is not I who made him a forger and weakling.”
Van Teyl’s arm was upraised. An oath broke from his lips. Pamela seized him firmly and drew him away.
“Be ouiet. James,” she begged. “Let us hear what Mr. Fischer is going to do about it.”
“That depends upon you,” was the cold reply.
PAMELA stood at the head of the table, between the two men, and laughed. Her brother had sunk into a chair, and his head had dropped moodily upon his folded arms. She looked from one to the other and a new sense of strength inspired her. She felt that if she were not indeed entirely mistress of the situation, yet the elements of triumph were there to her
“This is living, at any rate,” she declared. “First of all I discover that your
Japanese servant is a spy-”
“Nikasti!” Van Teyl interrupted furiously. “Blast him! I knew that there was something wrong about that fellow, Fischer!”