THE YELLOW STREAK
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR.—Mary Trevert, charming, young, aristocratic, in order to secure a comfortable income for her mother, has agreed, to marry Hartley Parrish-, a hard, cold man of immense wealth, in preference to Robin G rere, a young man of promise and good tools but slim of purse. Following a quarrel,
Greve leaves girl, making dark insinuations about Parrish—a shot in the library is heard, and later, Parrish is found on the floor before his desk, a bullet hole, through his heart. Subsequent investigation proves that Parrish did not shoot himself. During an examination of Mary Trevcrt, the inspector of detectives produces a sealed letter from. Parrish to Miss Trevert in which the millionaire stated, that he had made provision for her future should anything happen to him. The investigations of Inspector-Detective Manderton make things look blacker than ever for Greve, who, the butler tells the distracted Miss Trevert., was seen to enter the library just before the shot was heard. Greve claims he did not go into the library, but. out the side door into the gardens. Greve starts an investigation on his own account in the course of which he discovers that Parrish’s window was unbolted the day he was shot. Horace, Mary’s brother, requests Robin to leave the house. Mary tells her mother and brother that, Robin had asked her to marry him, a few minutes before the tragedy, and when he was informed of her engagement to Parrish, left her, hot-foot for the library. Lady Margaret suggests Mary might as well marry Robin notv, but Mary vigorously demurs, till his name is cleared, at least. Manderton surprises Lady Margaret and Mary by suggesting that a verdict of “suicide whilst of unsound nitind” can be returned if no further evidence is adduced.
CHAPTER XII (Continued)
"AND are you personally satisfied,”—Mary’s voice broke in clear and unimpassioned, “are you personally satisfied Mr. Manderton, that Mr. Parrish shot himself?”
The detective cast an appealing glance at the tops of his well-burnished boots:
“Yes, Miss, I think I may say I am. ...”
“And what about the evidence of Bude, who said he heard voices in the library. . . . ”
Mr. Manderton gave his shoulders the merest suspicion of a shrug. He raised his hands and dropped them to his sides.
“I had hoped, my lady,” he said throwing a glance at Lady Margaret, “and you, Miss, that I had made it clear that in the circumstances we need not pursue that matter any further....”
Lady Margaret bowed to signify that the interview was at an end. But Mary Trevert left her side and walked to the door.
“Will you come downstairs with me, Mr. Manderton,” she said. “I should like to speak to you alone for a minute!”
She led the way downstairs through the hall and out into the drive. They took a dozen steps in silence. Then she said:
“Who was it speaking to Mr. Parrish in the library?” “Undoubtedly Mr. Greve,” replied the man without hesitation.
“Why undoubtedly?” asked the girl.
“It could have been no one else. We know that he left you hot to get at Mr. Parrish and have words with him. Bude heard them talking with voices raised aloud.” “But if the door were locked?”
“Mr. Parrish may have opened it and locked it again, Mr. Greve getting out by the window. But there are no traces of that.. . .one would look to find marks on the paint on the inside. Besides, a little test we made this morning suggests that Mr. Greve spoke to Mr. Parrish through the window....”
“Was the window open?”
“Yes, Miss, it probably was. The fire had been smoking in the library. Mr. Parrish had complained to Bude about it. Besides we have found Mr. Parrish’s finger-prints on the inside of the window-frame. Outside we found other finger-prints. .. .Sir Horace’s. Sir Horace was good enough to allow his to be taken.”
Mary Trevert stopped. She put her hand on the detective’s arm.
“Mr. Manderton,” she said, “if you are satisfied, then believe me, I am!”
The detective bowed.
“Miss Trevert,” he said—and he spoke perfectly respectfully though his words were blunt—“I can well believe that!”
The girl looked up quickly. She scanned his face rather apprehensively.
"What do you mean?” she asked, “I don’t understand . . . . ”
“I mean,” was the detective’s answer given in his quiet level voice, “that when you attempted to mislead Inspector Humphries you did nobody any good!”
The girl bent her head without replying and in silence they regained the house. At the house door they parted, Mary going indoors while the detective remained standing on the drive. Very deliberately he produced a short briar pipe, cut a stub of dark plug tobacco from a flat piece he carried in his pocket, crammed the tobacco into his pipe and lit it.
“He told me about that fat butler’s evidence,” he said to himself, “he put me wise about that window being open; he gave me the office about the paint on the finger-nails of Mr. H. P ”
He ticked off each point on his fingers with the stem of his pipe.
“Why?” said Mr. Manderton aloud, addressing a laurel-bush.
CHAPTER XIII Jeekes
MR. ALBERT EDWARD JEEKES, Parrish’s principal private secretary, lunched with Lady Margaret, Mary and Horace. Dr. Romain seemed not to have got over his embarrassment of the morning for he did not put in an appearance.
“When I heard the news at the club, Miss Trevert,” said Jeekes, “you could have knocked me down with a feather. Mr. Parrish, as all of us knew, worked himself a great deal too hard, sometimes not knocking off for his tea, even, and wore his nerves all to pieces. But I never dreamed it would come to this. Ah! he’s a great loss and what we shall do without him I don’t know. There was a piece in one of the papers about him to-day—perhaps you saw it?—it called him ‘one of the captains of industry of modern England’.”
“You were always a great help to him, Mr. Jeekes,” said Mary, who was touched by the little man’s heroworship, “I am sure you realised that he appreciated you.”
“Well,” replied Mr. Jeekes rubbing the palms of his hands together, “he did a great deal for me. Took me out of a City office where I was getting two pound five a week. That’s what he did. It was a shipping firm. I tell you this because it has a bearing, Miss Trevert, on what is to follow. Why did he pick me? I’ll tell you.” He was passing through the front office with one of our principals when he asked him, just casually, what Union Pacific stood at. The boss didn’t know.
“‘A hundred and eighty seven London parity’ says I. He turned round and looked at me. ‘How do you know that?’ says he, rather surprised, this being in a shipping office, you understand.
“T take an interest in the markets,’ I replied.
“‘Do you?’ he says, ‘then you might do for me,’ and tells me to come and see him.
“I went. He made me an offer. When I heard the figure. .. .my word!” Mr. Jeekes paused. Then added
“And I had meant to work for him to my dying day!”
LIE Y were in the billiard-room seated on the selfsame settee, Mary reflected, on which she and Robin had sat—how long ago it seemed! though only yesterday. Mary had carried the secretary off after luncheon in order to unfold to him a plan which she had been turning over in her mind ever .since her conversation with the detective.
“And what are you going to do now, Mr. Jeekes?” she asked.
The little man pursed up his lips. “Well,” he said, “I’ll have to get something else, I expect. I’m not expecting to find anything so good as I had with Mr. Parrish. And things are pretty crowded in the City, Miss Trevert, what with all the boys back from the war, God bless ’em, and glad we are to see them, I’m sure. I hope you’ll realise, Miss Trevert, that anything I can do to help to put Mr. Parrish’s affairs straight. ... ”
Mary broke in, "that I hope you will not contemplate any change, Mr. Jeekes. You know more about Mr. Parrish's affairs than anybody else and I shall be very glad if you will
stay on and help me. You know I have been left sole executrix. . . . ”
“Miss Trevert,” the little man stammered in his embarrassment, “this is handsome of you. I surely thought you would have wished to make your own arrangements, appoint your own secretaries....”
Mr. Jeekes broke off and looked at her, blinking hard. “Not at all,” said Mary. “Everything shall be as it was. I am sure that Mr. Bardy will approve. Besides Mr. Jeekes, I want your assistance in something else. ...” “Anything in my power. . .. ” began Jeekes. “Listen,” said Mary.
She was all her old self-composed self now, a charming figure in her plain blue serge suit with a white silken shirt and black tie—the best approach to mourning her wardrobe could afford. Already the short winter afternoon was drawing in. Mysterious shadows lurked in the corners .of the long narrow room.
“Listen,” said Mary, leaning forward. “I want to know why Mr. Parrish killed himself. I mean to know. And I want you, Mr. Jeekes, to help me to find out.” Something stirred ever so faintly in the remote recesses of the billiard-room. A loose board or something creaked softly and was silent.
“What was that?” . the girl called out sharply. “Who’s there?”
MR. JEEKES got up and walked over to the door. It was ajar. He closed it.
“Just a board creaking,” he said, as he resumed his
“I want your aid in finding out the motive for this terrible deed,”—Mary Trevert was speaking again— “I can’t understand. .. .1 don’t see clear... .”•
“Miss Trevert,” said Mr. Jeekes, clearing his throat fussily, “I fear we must look for the motive in the state of poor Mr. Parrish’s nerves. An uncommonly highstrung man he always was and he smoked those long black strong cigars of his from morning till night. Sir Winterton Maire told him flatly—Mr. Parrish, I recollect, repeated his very words to me after Sir Winterton had examined him—that if he did not take a complete rest and give up smoking, he would not be answerable for the consequences. Therefore, Miss Trevert. ...”
“Mr. Jeekes,” answered the girl, “I knew Mr. Parrish pretty well. A woman, you know, gets to the heart of a man’s character very often quicker than his daily associates in business. And I know that Mr. Parrish was the last man in the world to have done a thing like that. He was so.... so undaunted. He made nothing of difficulties. He relied wholly on himself. That was the secret of his success. For him to have killed himself like this makes me feel convinced that there was same hidden reason, far stronger, far more terrible, than any question of nerves. . .. ”
Leaning forward, her hands clasped tightly in front of
lier, Mary Trevert raised her dark eyes to the little secretary’s face.
“Many men have a secret in their lives,” she said in a low voice. “Do you.know of anything in Mr. Parrish’s life which an enemy might have made use of to drive him to his death?”
Her manner was so intense that Mr. Jeekes quite lost his self-composure. He clutched at his pince-nez and readjusted them upon his nose to cover his embarrassment. The secretary was not used to gazing at beautiful women whose expressive features showed as clearly as this the play of the emotions.
“Miss Trevert,” he said presently, “I know of no such secret. But then what do I—what does anyone—know of Mr. Parrish’s former life?”
“We might make enquiries in South AfricaV’ ventured the girl.
“I doubt if we should learn anything much through that,” said the secretary. “Of course, Mr. Parrish had great responsibilities and responsibility means worry. ...”
A SILENCE fell on them both. From somewhere in the dark shadow's above the fire glowing red through the falling twilight a clock chimed once. There was a faint rustling from the neighbourhood of the door. Mr. Jeekes started violently. A coal dropped noisily into the fireplace.
“There was something else,” said Mary, ignoring the interruption and paused. She did not look up when she spoke again.
“There is often a woman in eases like this,” she began reluctantly.
Mr. Jeekes looked extremely uncomfortable.
“Miss Trevert,” he said, “I beg you will not press me on that score. ...”
“Why?” asked the girl bluntly.
“Because. .. .because,”—Mr. Jeekes stumbled sadly over his words—“because, dear me, there are some things which really I couldn’t possibly discuss.... if you’ll excuse me.... ”
“Oh, but you can discuss everything, Mr. Jeekes,” replied Mary Trevert composedly. “I am not a child, you know. I am perfectly well aware that there is a woman somewhere in the life of every man, very often two or three. I haven’t got any illusions on the subject, I assure you. I never, supposed for a moment that I was the first woman in Mr. Parrish’s life. ...”
This candour seemed to administer a knock-out blow to the little secretary’s Victorian mind. He was speechless. He took off his pince-nez, blindly polished them with his pocket-handkerchief and replaced them upon his nose. His fingers trembled violently.
“I have no wish to appear vulgarly curious,” the girl went on—Mr. Jeekes made a quick gesture of dissent —“but I am anxious to know whether Mr. Parrish was being blackmailed. . . .or anything like that. .”
“Oh no, Miss Trevert, I do assure you,” the little man expostulated in hasty denial. “Nothing like that, I am convinced. At least, that is to say. . .”
He rose to his feet, clutching the little attaché case which he invariably carried with him as a kind of emblem of office.
-“And now, if you’ll excuse me,
Miss Trevert,” he said mutteringly,
“I should really be going. I am due at Mr. Bardy’s office at five o’clock. He is coming up from the country specially to meet me. There is so much to discuss with regard to _ this terrible
Pie glanced at his watch.
“With the roads as greasy as they are,” he added, “it will take me all my time in the car to... . ”
HE CAST a panic-stricken glance around him. But Mary Trevert held him fast.
“You didn’t finish what you -were saying about Mr. Parrish, Mr. Jeekes,” she said impassively. The secretary made no sign, but he looked a trifle sullen.
“I don’t think you realise, Mr. Jeekes,” she said, “that other people besides myself are keenly interested in the motives for Mr. Parrish’s suicide. The police profess to be willing to accept the testimony of the. specialists as satisfactory medical evidence about his state of mind. But I distrust that man, Manderton. He is not satisfied, Mr. Jeekes. He won’t rest until he knows the truth.”
The secretary cast her a frightened glance.
“But Mr. Manderton told me himself, Miss Trevert,” he affirmed, .“that the verdict would be ‘Suicide while temporarily insane’ on Sir Winterton Maire’s evidence
Mary Trevert tapped the ground impatiently with her
“Manderton will get at the truth, I tell you,” she said. “He’s that kind of-man. Do you want me to find out from them? At the inquest perhaps?”
The secretary put his attaché case down on the lounge
“Of course, that would be most improper, Miss Trevert,” he said. “But your question embarrasses me. It embarrasses me very much. ...”
“What are you keeping back from me, Mr. Jeekes?” the girl demanded imperiously.
The secretary mopped his forehead with his handkerchief. Then, as though with an effort, he spoke.
“There is a lady, a French lady, who draws an income from Mr. Parrish. .. . ”
The girl remained impassive but her eyes grew rather
“These payments are still going on?” she asked. Jeekes hesitated. Then he nodded.
“Yes,” he said.
“Well? Was she blackmailing. .. .him?”
“No, no,” Mr. Jeekes averred hastily. “But there was some unpleasantness some months ago. . . ,er. . . .a county court action, to be precise, about some bills she owed. Mr. Parrish was very angry about it and settled to prevent it coming into court. But there was some talk about it. . . .in legal circles. ...”
He threw a rather scared glance at the girl.
“Please explain yourself, Mr. Jeekes,” she said coldly. “I don’t understand.. . . ”
“Her lawyer was Le Hagen—it’s a shady firm with a big criminal practice. They sometimes brief Mr. Greve
Mary Trevert clasped and unclasped her hands quickly.
“I quite understand, Mr. -Jeekes,” she said. “You needn’t say any more. ...”
CHE turned away in a manner that implied dismissal.
_ It was as though she had forgotten the secretary’s existence. He picked up his attaché case and walked slowly to the door.
A sharp exclamation broke from his lips.
“Miss Trevert,” he cried, “the door. . . .1 shut it a little while back. . . .look, it’s ajar!”
The girl who stood at the fire switched on the electric light by the mantelpiece.
“Is. . . .is. . . .the door defective? Doesn’t it shut properly?”
The little secretary forced out the questions in an agitated voice.
The girl walked across the room and shut the door. It closed perfectly, a piece of solid, well-fitting oak.
“What does it mean?” said Mr. Jeekes in a whisper. “You understand, I should not wish what I told you just now about Mr. Parrish to be overheard. ...”
They opened the door again. The dusky corridor was empty.
CHAPTER XIV A Sheet of Blue Paper
'"pHE sight of that crumpled ball of dark blue paper I brought back to Robin’s mind with astonishing vividness every detail of the scene in the library. Once more he looked into Hartley Parrish’s staring, unseeing eyes, saw the firelight gleam again on the heavy gold signet ring on the dead man’s hand, the tag of the dead man’s bootlace as it trailed from one sprawling foot across the carpet. Once more he felt the dark cloud of the mystery envelope him as a mist and with a little sigh he smoothed out the crumpled paper.
It was an ordinary quarto sheet of stoutish paper, with a glazed surface, of an unusual shade of blue, darker than what the stationers call “azure” yet lighter than legal blue. At the top right-hand corner was typewritten a date:—“Nov. 25”. Otherwise the sheet was blank.
The curious thing about it was that a number of rectangular slits had been cut in the paper. Robin counted them. There were seven. They were of varying sizes, the largest a little over an inch, the smallest not more than a quarter of an inch in length. In depth they measured about an eighth of an inch.
Robin stared at the paper uncomprehendingly. He remembered perfectly where he had found it on the floor of the library at Harkings, between the dead body and the
waste paper basket. The basket, he recalled, stood out in the open just clear of the deskon the left hand side. From the position in which it was lying the ball of paper might have been aimed for the waste paper basket and, missing it, have fallen on the carpet.
Robin turned the sheet over. The back was blank. Then he held the paper up to the light. Yes, there was a water-mark. Now it was easily discernible. “EGMONT FF. QU”. he made out.
The train was slowing down. Robin glanced out of the window and saw that they were crossing the river in the murky gloom of a London winter Sunday. He balanced the sheet of paper in his hands for a moment. Then he folded it carefully into four and stowed it away in his cigarette-case.
The next moment the train thumped
its way slowly and noisily into Charing Cross.
A taxi deposited him at the Middle Temple Gate. He walked the short distance to the set of chambers he occupied. On his front door a piece of paper was pinned. By the rambling caligraphy and the phonetic English he recognised the hand of his “laundress.”
“Dcre sir,” it ran, “rar. rite call he want to see u pertikler i tole im as you was in country & give im ur adress hope i dun rite mrs bragg.”
ROBIN had scarcely got his key in the door of his “oak” when there was a step on the stair. A nicelooking young man with close-cropped fair hair appeared round the turn of the staircase.
“Hullo, Robin,” he exclaimed impetuously, “I am glad to have caught you like this. Your woman gave me your address so I rang up Harkings at once and they told me you had just gone back to town. So I came straight here. You remember me, don’t you? Bruce Wright. . . . But perhaps I’m butting in. If you’d rather see me someother time......”
“My dear boy,” said Robin, motioning him into the flat, “of course, I remember you. Only I didn’t recognise you just for the minute. Shove your hat down here in the hall. And as for butting in,” he threw open the door of the living room, “why! I think there is no other man in England I would so gladly see at this very moment as yourself.”
The living-room was a bright and cheery place, tastefully furnished in old oak with gay chintz curtains. It looked out on an old-world paved court in the centre of which stood a solitary soot-laden plane tree.
“What’s this rot about Parrish having committed suicide?” demanded the boy abruptly.
Robin gave him in the briefest terms an outline of the tragedy.
“Poor old H.P., eh?” mused young Wright, “who’d have thought it?”
“But the idea of suicide is preposterous,” he broke out suddenly, “I knew Parrish probably better than anybody. He would never have done a thing like that. It must have been an accident. . ”
Robin shook his head.
“That possibility is ruled out by the medical evidence,” he said and stoppedshort.
BRUCE WRIGHT, who
had been pacing up and down the room, halted in front of the barris-
“I tell you that Parrish was not the man to commit suicide. Nothing would have ever forced him to take his own life. You know I was working with him as his personal secretary every day for more than two years and I am
He resumed his pacing up and down the room.
“Has it ever occurred to you, Robin,” he said presently, “that practically nothing is known of H.P.’s antecedents? For instance, do you know where he was born?”
“I understood he was a Canadian,” replied Robin with a shrewd glance at the flushed face of the boy.
“He’s lived in Canada,” said Wright, “but originally he was a Cockney, from the London slums.
And I believe I am the only person who knows that. . . . ”
Robin pushed an armchair at his companion.
“Sit down and tell me about it,” he commanded.
The boy dropped into the chair.
It was after I had been only a few months with him,” he began, “shortly afterl was discharged from the army with that lung wound of mine. We were driving back in the car from some munition works near Ealing and the chauffeur took a wrong turning near Wormwood Scrubs and got into a maze of dirty streets round there. ...”
“I know,” commented Robin, “Notting Dale, they
“H.P. wasn’t noticing much,” Wright went on, “as he was dictating letters to me—we used to do a lot of work in the Rolls-Royce in those rush days—but directly he noticed that the chauffeur was uncertain of the road, he shoved his head out of the window and put him right at once. I suppose I seemed surprised at him knowing his way about those parts for he laughed at me and said: I was born and brought up down here, Bruce, in a little greengrocer’s shop just off the Latimer Road.’ I said nothing because I didn’t want to interrupt his train of thought. He had never talked to me or Jeekes or any of us like that before.
By Gad,’ he went on, ‘how the smell of the place brings back those days to me—the smell of decayed fruit, of stale fish, of dirt! Why, it seems like yesterday that Victor Marbran and I used to drive round uncle’s cart with vegetables and coal. What a life to escape from, Bruce my boy! Gad, you can count yourself lucky!’
He was like a man talking to himself. I asked him how he had broken away from it all. At that he laughed, a bitter hard sort of laugh. ‘By having the guts to break away from it, boy,’ he said. ‘It was I who made Victor Marbran come away with me. We worked our passages out to the Cape and made our way up country to Matabeleland. That was in the early days of Rhodes and Barney Barnato—long before I went to Canada. I made Victor’s fortune for him and mine as well. But I made more than Victor and he never forgave me. He’d
do me a bad turn if he could____’
Then he broke off short and went on with his dictating......”
^ Did he ever come back to this phase of his life?” Only when he got out of the car that morning. He said to me ‘Forget what I told you to-day, young fellow. Never rake up a man’s past!’ And he never mentioned the subject again. Of course, I didn’t either....”
QTRETcHED full length in his chair, his eyes fixed t(°n the ceiling, Robin remained lost in thought.
The conversation came back to me to-day,” said the boy, when I read of Parrish’s death. And I wondered. ” “Well?"
“Whether the secret of his death may not be found somewhere in his adventurous past. You see he said that Victor Marbran was an enemy. Then there was something else. I never told you—when you took all that trouble to get me another job after Parrish had sacked me—the exact reason for my dismissal. You never asked me either. That was decent of you, Robin.. ”
“Well, I’ll tell you now,” he said. “When I joined H.P.’s staff after I got out of the army I was put under old Jeekes, of course, to learn the work. One of the first injunctions he gave me was with regards to Mr. Parrish’s letters. I suppose you know more or less how secretaries of a big business man like Hartley Parrish work. They open all letters, lay the important ones before the big man for him to deal with per-
"I liked you, Bruce," said
sonally, make a digest of the others or deal with them dirRobin nodded.
“Well,” the boy resumed, “the first thing old Jekees told me was that letters arriving in a blue envelope and marked ‘Personal’ were never to be opened....”
“In a blue envelope?” echoed Robin quickly.
“Yes, a particular kind of blue—Jeekes showed me one as a guide. Well, these letters were to be handed to Mr. Parrish unopened.” ....
Robin had stood up.
“That’s odd,” he said, diving in his pocket.
“I say, hold on a bit,” protested the boy, “this is really rather important what I am telling you. I’ll never finish if you keep on interrupting.”
"Sorry, Bruce,” , said Robin, and sat down again.
DUT he began to play restlessly with his cigarette-*-* case which he had drawn from his pocket.
“Well, of course,” Bruce resumed, “I wasn’t much of a private secretary really and one day I forgot all about this injunction. Some days old H.P. got as many as three hundred letters. I was alone at Harkings with him,
I remember. Jeekes was up at Sheffield and the other secretaries were away ill or something, and in the rush of dealing with this enormous mail I slit one of these blue envelopes open with the rest. I only discovered what I had done after I had got all the letters sorted out, this one with the rest. So I went straight to Old H.P. and told him. By Jove!”
“What happened?” said Robin.
“He got into the most paralytic rage,” said Bruce, “I have never seen a man in such an absolute frenzy of passion. He went right off the hooks, just like that! He fairly put the wind up me. For a minute I thought he was going to kill me. He snatched the letter out of my hand, called me every name under the sun and finally shouted: ‘You’re fired, d’ye hear? I won’t employ
men who disobey my orders! Get out of this before I do you mischief! I went straight off. And I never saw him again... . ”
Robin Greve looked very serious. But his face displayed no emotion as he asked:
“And what was in the letter for him to make such a fuss about?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders.
“That was the extraordinary part of it. The letter was perfectly harmless. It was an ordinary business letter from a firm in Holland. ...”
“In Holland?” cried Greve. “Did you say in Holland? Tell me the name? No, wait, see if I can remember. ‘Van’ something—‘Speck’ or ‘Spike’....”
“I remember the name perfectly,” answered Bruce, rather puzzled by the other’s sudden outburst, “it was Van der Spyck and Co. of Rotterdam. We had a good deal of correspondence with them....”
Robin Qreve had opened his cigarette case and drawn from it a creased square of blue paper folded twice across. Unfolding it he held up the sheet he had found in the library at Harkings.
“Is that the paper those letters were written on?” he asked.
Bruce took the sheet from him. He held it up to the
light. □: P
“Why, yes,” came the prompt answer. “I’d know it in a minute. Look, it’s the same watermark—‘Egmont’. Where did you get hold of it?” 1
“Bruce,” said Robin gravely, without answering the question, we’re getting into deep water, boy!”
CHAPTER XV Shadows
ROBIN GREVE stood for an instant in silence by the window of his rooms. His fingers hammered out a tattoo on the pane. His eyes were fixed on the windows of the chambers across the court. But they did not take in the pleasant prospect of the tall, ivy-frame casements in their mellow setting of warm red brick. He was trying to fix a mental photograph of a letter— typewritten on paper of
dark slatey blue—which he had seen on Hal’l;'-ey Parrish’s desk in the library at Harkings on the previ § afternoon.
Prompted by Bruce Wright, he could now r^a.\\ the heading clearly: “ELIAS VAN DER SPvrif & CO.
GENERAL IMPORTERS, ROTTERDAM” stood printed before his eyes as plainly as though he still held the typewritten sheet in front of him. But the mind
plays curious tricks. Robin’s brain had registered the name; yet it recorded no impression of the contents of the letter. Beyond the fact that it dealt in plain commercial fashion with some shipments or other he could recall •no particular whatever of it.
“But where did you get hold of this sheet of paper?” Bruce Wright’s voice broke in impatiently behind him. “I’m most frightfully interested to know. .. . ”
“Found it on the floor beside Parrish’s body,” answered Robin briefly. “There was a letter, too, on the same paper.... ”
“By Gad!” exclaimed the boy eagerly, “have you got that too?”
Robin shook his head.
“It was only your story that made me think of it.
• I had the letter. But I left it where I found it—on Parrish’s desk in the library....."
“But you read it.,. .you know what was in it?”
Robin shrugged his shoulders.
“It was a perfectly straightforward business letter something about steel shipments.... I don’t remember any more. ...”
“A straightforward business letter,” commented the boy. “Like the letter I read, eh?
“Tell me, Bruce,” said Robin after a moment’s silence, “during the time you were with Hartley Parrish I suppose these blue letters came pretty often?”
Young Wright wrinkled his brpw in thought.
“It’s rather difficult to say. You see, there were three of us besides old Jeekes and of course, these letters might have come without my knowing anything about it. But during the seven months I worked with H.P. I suppose about half a dozen of these letters passed through my hands They used to worry H.P., you know, Robin. ...”
“Worry him?” exclaimed Robin sharply, “how do you mean?”
“Well,” said Bruce, “Parrish was a very easy-going fellow, you know. He worked everyone—himself included—like the devil, of course.' But he was hardly ever nervy or grumpy. And so I was a bit surprised to find—after I had been with him for a time—that every now and then he sort of shrivelled up. He used to look. .. . well, careworn and.... haggard. And at these times he was pretty short with all of us. It was such an extraordinary change from his usual cheery, optimistic self that sometimes I suspected him of dope or some horror like that. . ”
ROBIN shook his head. He had a sudden vision of Hartley Parrish, one of his long, black Partagas thrust at an aggressive angle from a corner of his mouth, virile, battling, strong.
“Oh, no,” he said, “not dope. . ”
“No, no, I know,” the boy went on quickly.
“It wasn’t dope.
It was fear...”
Robin swung round from the -window.
“Fear? Fear of what?”
The boy cast a frightened glance over his shoulder rather as if he fancied he might be overheard.
“Of those letters,” he replied.
“I am sure it was that. I watched him and... and I know. Every time he got one of those letters in the blueish envelopes these curious fits of gloom came over him. Robin. ...” “What, Bruce?”
“I think he was being blackmailed!”
The barrister nodded thoughtfully.
“Don’t you agree?”
The boy awaited his answer eagerly.
“Something very like that,” replied the other.
Then suddenly he smashed his fist into the open palm of his other hand.
“But he wouldn’t have taken it lying down,” he cried “Hartley Parrish was a fighter, Bruce. Did you ever know a man who could best him? No, no, it won’t fit! Besides....’’
He broke off and thought for an instant.
“We must get that letter from Harkings,” he said presently. “Jeekes ydll have it. We can do nothing
His voice died away. Bruce, sunk in one of the big leather armchairs, was astonished to see him slip quickly away from the window and ensconce himself behind one of the chintz curtains.
“Here, Bruce,” Robin called softly across the room. “Just come here. But take care not to show yourself. Look out, keep behind the curtain and here.... peep out through this chink!”
Young Wright peered through a narrow slit between the curtain and the window-frame. In the far corner of the court-yard beneath the windows where a short round iron post marked a narrow passage leading to the adjoining court a man was standing. He wore a shabby suit and a blue handkerchief knotted about his neck served him as substitute for the more conventional collar and tie. His body was more than half concealed by the side of the house along which the passage ran. But his face was clearly distinguishable—a peaky, thin face, the upper part in the shadow of the peak of a discoloured tweed cap.
“He’s been there on and off all the time we’ve been talking,” said Robin. “I wasn’t sure at first. But now I’m certain. He’s watching these windows! Look!”
BRISKLY the watcher’s heàd was withdrawn to emerge again, slowly and cautiously, in a little while.
“But who is he? What does he want?” asked Bruce. “I haven’t an idea,” retorted Robin Greve. “But I could guess. Tell me, Bruce,” he went on, stepping back from the window and motioning the boy to do the same, “did you notice anybody following you when you came here?”
Bruce shook his head.
“I’m pretty sure nobody did. You see, I came in from the Strand, down Middle Temple Lane. Once service has started at Temple Church there’s not a mouse stirring in the Inn till the church is out. I think I should have noticed if anyone had followed me up to your chambers”. Robin set his chin squarely.
“Then he came after TO«!” he said. “Bruce, you’ll have to go to Harkings and get that letter!”
“By all means,” answered the boy. “But, I say, they won’t much like me butting in, will they?”
“You’ll have to say you came down to offer your sympathy... .volunteer your services .... oh, anything. But you must get that letter! Do you understand, Bruce? You must get that letter—if you have to steal it!”
The boy gave a long whistle.
“That’s rather a tall order, isn’t, it?” he said.
Robin nodded. His face was very grave. “Yes,” he said presently, “I suppose it
is. But there is something.....something
horrible behind this case, Bruce, something dark and.... and mysterious. And I mean to get to the bottom of it. With your help. Or alone!”
Bruce put his hand impulsively on the other’s arm.
“You can count on me, you know,” he said. “But don’t you think. ...”
He broke off shyly.
“Don’t you think you’d better tell me what you know. And what you suspect!” Robin hesitated.
“Yes,” he said, “that’s fair. I suppose I ought. But there’s not much to tell, Bruce. Just before Hartley Parrish was found dead I asked Miss Trevert to marry me. I was too late. She was already engaged to Hartley Parrish. I was horrified. .
I know some things about Parrish.... we had words and I went off. Five minutes later Miss Trevert went to fetch Parrish in to tea and heard a shot behind the locked door of the library. Horace Trevert got in through the window and found Parrish dead. Everyone down at Harkings believes that I went in and threatened Parrish so that he committed suicide..” “Whom do you mean by everyone?”
Robin laughed drily.
“Mary Trevert, her mother, Horace Trevert.... ” “The police, too?”
“Certainly. The police more than anybody?”
“By Jove!” commented the boy.
'*You ask me what I suspect,” Robin continued. “I admit I have no positive proof. But I suspect that Hartley Parrish did not die by his own hand!”
Bruce Wright looked up with a startled expression on his face.
“You mean that he was murdered?”
“But how? Why?”
'T'HEN Robin t-old him of the experiment in the libA rary, of the open window and of the bullet mark he had discovered in the rosary.
“What I want to know,” he said, “and what I am determined to find out beyond any possible doubt is whether the bullet found in Hartley Parrish’s body was fired from his pistol. But before we reach that point we have to explain how it happened that only one shot was heard and how a bullet which apparently came from Parrish’s pistol, was found in his body. ...”
“If Mr. Parrish was murdered, the murderer , might have turned the gun round in Parrish’s hand and forced him to shoot himself....”
“Hardly,” said Robin, “Remember, Mary Trevert was at the door when the shot was fired. Your theory presupposes the employment of force, in other words a 'struggle. Miss Trevert heard no scuffling. No, I’ve thought of that. .. .it won’t do.. ..”
“Have you any suspicion of who the murderer might be?”
Robin shook his head decidedly.
“Not a shadow of an idea,” he affirmed positively. “But I have a notion that we shall find a clue in this letter which, like a blithering fool, I left on Parrish’s desk. It’s the first glimmer of hope I’ve yet seen....” Bruce Wright squared his shoulders and threw his head back.
“I’ll get it for you,” he said.
“Good boy,” said Robin, “But Bruce,” he went on, "you’ll have to go carefully. My name is mud in that house. You mustn’t say you come from me. And if you ask boldly for the letter, they won’t give it to you. Jeekes might, if he’s there and you approach him cautiously. But for Heaven’s sake, don’t try any diplomacy on Manderton. . . .that’s the Scotland Yard man. He’s as wary as a fox and.sharp as needles.”
Bruce Wright buttoned up his coat with an air of finality.
“Leave'it to me,” he said.“I know Harkings like my pocket. Besides I’ve got a friend there ...”
“Who might that be?” queried the barrister.
“Bude,” answered the boy and laid a finger on his
“But,” he pursued, jerking his head in the direction of the window, “what are we going to do about him out there?”
“Him?” he said. “Oh, I’m going to take him out for an airing.”
ROBIN stepped out into the hall. He returned wearing his hat and overcoat. In his hand were two Yale keys strung on a wisp of pink tape.
“Listen, Bruce,” he said. “Give me ten minutes’ start to get rid of this jackal. Then clear out. There’s a train to Stevenish at 3.23. If you get on the Underground at the Temple you ought to be able to make it easily. Here are the keys of the chambers. I can put you up here to-night if you like. I’ll expect you when 1 see you....with that letter. Savvy?”
The boy stood up.
“You’ll have that letter to-night,” he answered. “But in the meantime,” he waved the blue sheet with its mysterious slots at Robin, “what do. you make of this?” Robin took the sheet of paper from him and replaced it in his cigarette case.
“Perhaps, when we have the letter,” he replied, “I shall be able to answer that question!”
Then he lit a cigarette, gave the boy his hand and a minute later Bruce Wright, watching through the chink of the curtain from the window of Robin Grove’s chambers saw a lanky form shuffle quickly across the court, and follow Robin round the angle of the house.
Robin strode quickly through the maze of narrow passages and tranquil, echoing courts into the Sabbath stillness of the Strand. An occasional halt at. a shop window was sufficient to assure him that the watcher of the Temple was still on his heels. The man, he was interested to see, played his part very unobtrusively, shambling along in nonchalant fashion, mostly hugging the sides of the houses, ready to dart out of sight into a doorway or down a side turning, should he by any mischance arrive too close on the heels of his quarry.
As he walked along Robin turned over in his mind the means for getting rid of his shadow. Should he dive into a Tube station and plunge headlong down the steps
Continued on page 39
Continued from page 25
He rejected this idea as calculated to let the tracker know that his presence was suspected. Then he reviewed in his mind the various establishments he knew _ of In London with double entrances thinking that he might slip in by the one entrance and emerge by the other.
TN Pall Mall he came upon Tony Grandell, whom he had last seen playing bridge in the company dug-out on the Flesquières Ridge. Then he had been in ‘battle order,’ camouflaged as a private soldier, as officers were ordered to go over the top in the latter phases of the war. •
Now he was resplendent in what the invitation cards call ‘Morning Dress’ crowned by what must certainly have been the most relucent top-hat in London.
“Hullo, hullo, hullo!” cried Tony on catching sight of him, “stand to your kits and so forth. And how is my merry company commander? Robin, dear, come and relieve the medieval gloom of lunch with my aunt at Mart’s!”
He linked his arm affectionately in Robin’s.
Mart’s! Robin’s brain snatched at the word. Mart’s most respectable of ‘family hotels’, wedged in between two quiet streets off Piccadilly with an entrance from both. If ever a man wanted to dodge a sleuth, especially a grimy tatterdermalion like the one sidling up Pall Mall behind them...
“Tony, old son,” said Robin, “I won’t lunch with you even to set the hoard in a roar at your aunt’s luncheon-party.
But I’ll walk up to Mart’s with you for I’m going there myself. .. . ”
They entered Mart’s together and parted in the vestibule where Tony gravely informed his ‘dear old scream’ that he must fly 'to his ‘avuncular luncheon.’
Robin walked quickly through the hotel and left by the other entrance. The street was almost deserted. Of the man with the dingy neckerchief there was no sign. Robin hurried into Piccadilly and hopped on a ’bus which put him down at his club facing the Green Park.
He had a late lunch there and afterwards took a taxi back to the Temple.
The day-light was falling as he crossed the courtyard in front of his chambers.
In the centre the smoke-blackened plane tree throned it in unchallenged solitude.
But as Robin’s footsteps echoed across the flags something more substantial than a shadow seemed to melt into the gathering dusk in the corner where the narrow passage ran. Robin stopped to listen at the entrance of his chambers. Ashe stood there he heard a heavy tread on the stone steps within. He turned to face a solidly built swarthy-looking man who emerged from the building.
He favoured Robin with a leisurely, searching stare then strode heavily across the courtyard to the little passage, where he disappeared from view.
Robin looked after him. The man was a stranger—the occupants of the other chambers were all known to him. With a thoughtful expression on his face Robin •entered the house and mounted to his rooms.
CHAPTER XVI The Intruder.
DA---!” exclaimed Bruce Wright.
He stood in the great porch at Harkings, his finger on the electric bell. No sound came in response to the pressure, nor anyone to open the door. Thus he had stood for fully ten minutes listening in vain for any sound within the house. All was still as death. He began to think the bell was out of order. He had forgotten Hartley Parrish’s insistence on quiet. All bells at Harkings rang, discreetly muted, in the servants’ hall.
He stepped out of the porch on to the drive. The weather had improved and under a freshening wind, the country was drying up. As he reached the hard gravel, he heard footsteps. Bude appeared, his collar turned up, his swallow-tails floating in the wind.
“Now be off with you!” he cried as soon as he caught sight of the trim figure in the grey overcoat, “how many more of ye have I to tell there’s nothing for you to get here! Go on, get out before I put the dog on you!”
He waved an imperious hand at Bruce. “Hullo, Bude,” said the boy, “you’ve grown very inhospitable all of a sudden!” “God bless my soul, if it isn’t young Mr. Wright!” exclaimed the butler. “And I thought it was another of those dratted reporters. It’s been ring, ring, ring the whole blessed morning, sir, you can be-
lieve me, as if they owned the place, wanting to interview me and Mr. Jeekes and Miss Trevert and the Lord knows who else. Lot of interfering busybodies, I call ’em! I’d shut up all noospapers by law if I had my way. ...”
“Is Mr. Jeekes here, Bude?” asked
‘Tie’s gone off to London hi the car,
sir......But won’t you come in, Mr.
Wright? If you wouldn’t mind coming in by the side door. 1 have to keep the front, door closed to shut them scribbling fellows out. One of them had the face to ask me to let him into the library to take a photograph. ...”
HE LED the way round the side of the house to the glass door in the library corridor.
“This is a sad business, Bude!” said
“Ah, indeed it is, sir,” he sighed. “He had his faults had Mr. Parrish, as well you know, Mr. Wright. But he was an open-handed gentleman, that I will say, and we’ll all miss him at Harkings....”
They were now in the corridor. Bude jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
“It was in there they found him,” he said in a low voice, “with a hole plumb over the heart.” His voice sank to a whisper.
“There’s blood on the carpet,” he added impressively.
“I should like just to take a peep at the room, Bude,” ventured the boy casting a sidelong glance at the butler.
“Can’t be done, sir,” said Bude shaking his head, “orders of Detective-Inspector Manderton. The police is very strict, Mr. Wright, sir!”
“There seems to be no one around just now, Bude,” the young man wheedled. “There can’t be any harm in my just going in for a second?. ...”
“Go in you should, Mr. Wright, sir,” said the butler genially, “if I had my way. But the door’s locked. And what’s more the police have the key.”
“Is the detective anywhere about?” asked Bruce.
“No, sir,” answered Bude. “He’s gone off to town, too! And he don’t expect to be back before the inquest. That’s for Topsday!”
“But isn’t there another key anywhere?” persisted the boy.
“No, sir,” said Bude positively, “there isn’t but the one. And that’s in Mr. Manderton’s vest pocket!”
Young Wright wrinkled his brow in perplexity. He was very young but he had a fine strain of perseverance in him. He was not nearly at the end of his resources, he told himself.
“Well then,” he said suddenly, “I’m going outside to have a look through the window. I remember you can see into the library from the path round the house!” He darted out, the butler, protesting, lumbering along behind him.
“Mr. Wright,” he panted as he ran, “you didn’t really ought.... if anyone should come.. . . ”
BUT Bruce Wright was already at the window. The butler found him leaning on the sill, peering with an air of frightened curiosity into the empty room.
“The glazier from Stevenish,”—Bude’s voice breathed the words hoarsely in Wright’s ear—“is coming to-morrow morn* ing to put the window in. He wouldn’t come to-day, him being a chapelgoer and religious. It was there we found poor Mr. Parrish—d’you see, sir, just between the window and the desk!. ... ”
But Bruce Wright did not heed him. His eyes were fixed on the big writingdesk, on the line of black japanned lettertrays set out in orderly array. Outside the short winter afternoon was drawing in fast and the light was failing. Dusky shadows within the library made it difficult to distinguish objects clearly.
A voice close at hand cried out sharply: “Mr. Bude! Mr. Bu-u-ude!”
“They’re calling me!” whispered the butler in his ear with a tug at his sleeve, “come away, sir!”
But Bruce shook him off. He heard the man’s heavy tread on the gravel, then a door slam.
How dark the room was growing to be sure! Strain his eyes as he might, he could not get a clear view of the contents of the letter-trays on the desk. But their high backs hid their contents from his eyes. Even when he hoisted himself on to the window-sill he could not get a better view.
He dropped back on to the gravel path and listened. The wind soughel sadly in the bare tree-tops, somewhere in the distance a dog barked hoarsely, insistently; otherwise not a sound was to be heard. He cast a cautious glance round the side of the house. The glass door was shut; the lamp in the corridor had not been lit.
Hoisting himself up to the window-sill again, he crooked one knee on the rough edge and thrusting one arm through the broken pane of glass, unbolted the window. Then steadying himself with one hand, with the other he very gently pushed up the window, threw his legs across the sill and droppedinto the library. Very deliberately, he turned and pushed the window softly down behind him.
Some unconscious prompting, perhaps an unfamiliar surface beneath his feet, made' him look down. Where his feet rested on the mole-grey carpet a wide dark patch stood out from the delicate shade of the rug. For a moment a spasm of physical nausea caught him.
“How beastly!” he whispered to himself and took a step towards the desk.
EVERYTHING was arranged just as he always remembered it to have been. All the letter-trays save one were empty. In that was a little pile of papers held down by a massive marble paper-weight. Quickly he stepped round the desk.
He had put out his hand to lift the weight when there was a gentle rattle at the door.
Bruce Wright wheeled instantly round, back to the desk to face the door, which, in the gathering dusk, was now but a square patch of darkness among the shadows at the far end of the library. He stood absolutely still, rooted to the spot, his heart thumping so fast that, in that silent room, he could hear the rapid beats.
Someone was unlocking the library door. As realization came to the boy, he tiptoed rapidly round the desk, the sound of his feet muffled by the heavy pile carpet, and reached the' window. There was a click as the lock of the door was shot back. Without further hesitation Bruce stepped behind the long curtains which fell from the top of the window to the floor.
The curtains, of some heavy gray material, were quite opaque. Bruce realised, with a sinking heart, that he must depend on his ears to discover the identity of this mysterious interloper. He dared not look out from his hiding-place—at least not until he could be sure that the newcomer had his back to the window. He remained, rigid and vigilant, straining his ears to catch the slightest sound, scarcely daring to breathe.
He heard the door open, heard it softly close again. Then.... silence. Not another sound. The boy remembered the heavy pile carpet and cursed his luck. He would have to risk a peep round the curtains. But not yet! He must wait...
A very slight rustling, a faint prolonged rustling, caught his ear. It came nearer, then stopped. There was a little rattling noise from somewhere close at hand, a small clinking sound.
Then silence fell again.
THE wind whooshed sadly round the house, the window clattered dismally in its frame, the curtains tugged fretfully before the cold breeze which blew in at the broken pane. But the silence in the room was absolute.
It began to oppress the boy. Frightened him. He felt an uncontrollable desire to look out into the room and establish the identity of the mysterious entrant. He glided his hand towards the window-frame in the hope that he might find a chink between curtain and wall through which he might risk a peep into the room. But the curtain was fastened to the wall.
The room was almost entirely dark now. Only behind him was a patch_ of grey light where the lowering evening sky was framed in the window. He began to draw the curtain very slowly towards him, at the same time leaning to the right. Very cautiously he applied one eye to the edge of the curtain.
As he did so a bright light struck him full in the face. ‘ It streamed from a lamp on the desk and almost blinded him. It was a reading-lamp and the bulb had been turned up so as to throw a beam on the curtain behind which the boy was sheltering.
Behind the desk, straining back in terror, stood a slim, girlish figure. The details of her dress were lost in the gathering shadows but her face stood out in the gloom, a pale oval. Bruce could see the dark line made by the lashes on her cheek.
At the sight of her he stepped boldly forth from his hiding-place, shielding his eyes from the light with his hand.
“It’s Bruce Wright, Miss Trevert,” he said, “don’t you remember me?” To be Continued