FICTION

The MYSTERY TICKET

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM May 15 1933
FICTION

The MYSTERY TICKET

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM May 15 1933

The MYSTERY TICKET

FICTION

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

MALCOLM GOSSETT and his beautiful young wife were standing under the outside canopy of the Opéra Comique, watching with true Anglo-Saxon composure the driving rain in the boulevard and the frantic struggles on the part of everyone to secure some sort of vehicle. Gossett, who was rather good at such things, had already sent off the commissionaire in search of the car hired for the evening and. with the certainty of his imminent return, smoked a cigarette in comfort with Cynthia’s hand tucked under his arm.

"Sure you’re not cold, darling?" he asked.

“Not a bit." she answered with a little squeeze. “Isn’t it fun watching all these people?’’

. "Rather,” he agreed enthusiastically. “Queer types, some of them.”

The outward flow was becoming thinner as the theatre emptied. In the distance Gossett could set' their car making slow but sure progress toward the front. A brawny, thickset man in opera hat and evening clothes with a very resplendent lady on his arm pushed his way past them. Gossett looked after lum w ith mild distaste. Suddenly his expression changed. It seemed to him that something might be about to happen.

“Look how angry those two men seem to be,” Cynthia exclaimed. "I hope there isn’t going to be a fight. Let’s get away. Quickly."

For once Gossett was inattentive. His professional instincts were aroused. The woman with the man who had annoyed him were in the act of stepping into a luxurious limousine when two passers-by Englishmen, flashily but ill dressed and having the appearance of second-rate bookmakers accosted the latter. They were only a few yards away and their voices were easily audible.

"Strike me lucky, it’s Ned at last." one of them exclaimed, catching hold of the brawny man’s disengaged arm. "Say, young fellow, we’ve got to have a word with you.”

"Don’t let him get away, Sandy.” his companion cried in excitement. "Look at his togs and the sparklers on Bella!” The man whose progress had been interrupted swung round with an oath. He was coarse of visage and had the features of a prizefighter. He wrenched his arm loose with a force which sent his assailant reeling back. It was curious, however, that he answered not a syllable.

"Don’t have anything to say to them. Ned.” the woman advised, as she stepped into the car. "We don’t want any trouble.”

In Paris things go ill with shabbily dressed foreigners who try to force themselves upon limousine-riding gentlemen in evening dress and with hastily produced fifty-franc notes in

BACK IN HIS OFFICE a week later.

cheerful as a man should be who has enjoyed a brief holiday in Paris with his w ife, Gossett took up his book of "cases” and glanced them through to see if there were any loose ends which needed attention. In the midst of his task the telephone rang and Littledale. his lawyer friend, announced himself at the other end of the wire.

“That Gossett?”

"Speaking.”

"How was Paris?”

"Fine.”

"The little lady as beautiful as ever?”

"They seemed to think so over there.”

"You re a lucky fellow,” the lawyer continued. “Listen. I’m sending you round a rummy cove to talk to.”

“Is he in trouble?”

“I should say roughly from what I know’ of the gang who are annoyed with him that he very soon will be. Like a wise man. he wants to take precautions. It isn’t a police job. He and his pals have both been across the line. I don’t know whether you‘11 see a way of helping him or whether you'll think it worth while. Please yourself. I’m afraid it will be a roughish business anyway.”

“Money good?” Gossett asked.

"It’s queer money but there’s plenty of it,” w’as the somewhat cryptic reply. "See you later.”

their hands. Twro commissionaires hindered the further approach of the would-be disturbers of the peace. The door was slammed. There were respectful salutes and good nights, and the limousine drove off. The last Gossett saw of the two baffled aggressors was that they had boarded a taxi and, leaning out of the window, were furiously signalling to the chauffeur to follow the fast disappearing limousine.

“There’s a little drama in real life for you,” Gossett remarked as he almost carried Cynthia across the wet pavement into the car. “The gentleman in the magnificent attire, I should say, had done his pals in the eye sometime or other.” “Horrible people, all of them,” Cynthia exclaimed, nestling up to her husband. “I’m glad there wasn’t a fight, though.” "I shouldn't be surprised,” Gossett reflected, “if the fight will come later.”

Gossett replaced the receiver and continued his task. In less than ten minutes his office boy appeared.

“A gentleman to see you, sir,” he announced. “Says he comes from Sir George Littledale.”

“Show him in.’’ Gossett directed.

The newcomer swaggered into the room, bringing with him a vivid memory of the crowded boulevard outside the Opéra Comique, the florid lady covered with diamonds, a glittering limousine and two angry but thwarted aggressors. He was dressed in a dark-blue suit which was well enoughin its way, but he sported with it a brown bowler hat, a magenta tie and tan shoes of too vivid a shade. One arir. wras in a sling, which was perhaps the reason why he did not offer to shake hands. His features were coarse but not strikingly unpleasant, and he had a determined jaw.

“You’re Mr. Gossett, I suppose,” he said. “I’m Ned Burroughs. You may have heard of me. I was in the boxing game till last spring.”

“Yes, I've heard of you.” Gossett acknowledged. “You were a middleweight, weren’t you? Beat Jenks at the National two years ago.”

“I can see you’re a sport,” Burroughs observed with 2 grin as he sank, uninvited, into the visitors’ chair. “Littledale, the lawyer, sent me here.”

“A good friend of mine,” Gossett observed. “What can I do for you?”

“The Lord knows what you or any man can do for me,” was the somewhat gloomy reply. “I'd a mind to struggle through the business myself, but Bella—that's my missus —she was all for my going to the cops. I didn’t tell her, but they wouldn’t be looking up my sheet. Old Littledale did a neat job for me once, so I went and told him my troubles. He sent me on to you, and here I am.”

“I ve seen you before,” Gossett confided. “Two men tried to stop you coming out of the Opéra Comique in Paris about a month ago. You got away from them, though.” Burroughs leaned back in his chair and whistled.

Lord love us, but it’s a small world.” he declared. “They were two of the gang I got mixed up with when I was in the game. They re kind of sore now. Don't know' as I wonder at it.”

Try and tell me your story as briefly as you can.” Gossett begged. "I’ll ask you any questions that are necessary.”

Got to do it my own way,” Burroughs insisted, “but I’m all for cutting the cackle down myself. This business started in the private bar of the Golden Calf down in Aldersgate.’ “And what happened there?”

“Me and those two you saw in Paris and two more pals were having our afternoon sluice when in comes Billy Dawson, the bookmaker, all in a sweat and hurry. Gat wick was just over and the favorite had romjx-d home. 1 le put out his arms and he tried to draw us all together.

“ ‘Boys,’ he cried. ‘I’m in it up to the neck. I’ve paid out nearly two hundred quid on the course, so ’elp me. I got a lift home—never a drink or a bite and I’m a fiver short for the little bugs round here. They'll be after me in a minute. For old times’ sake, cough up a fiver between you.’ ”

Gossett moved uneasily in his seat.

“I suppose all this is necessary.” he ventured.

“Sit you tight and hold your jaw,” Burroughs enjoined. “You’ll see how necessary it is before you've another grey hair in your head. This is the truth I'm telling you. Billy was outside our clique, and me and my four pals didn't quite see why we should worry about him. Then down he slaps on the table a book of sweepstake tickets for the Grand National and a paper or two.

“‘There you are.’he said. ‘All paid for and verified. Five quids worth. You can surely squeeze up the money between you for them.’ ”

“That doesn’t sound so unreasonable,” Gossett remarked.

“We coughed it up all right,” Burroughs continued.

“There was ten tickets still in the book, he told us. Two others he’d given his wife. The five of us took two each—at least that’s what we thought—and when the evening crowd came in, there was Billy with a pint of the best we’d stood him in front of the bar paying out like a bloomin’ lord. All serene, you’d think. So it was. This is where the jim-jams commenced, though. When I got ’ome I found I’d got three tickets instead of two. He'd only given his missus one, and there was two stuck together as natty as could be.” “Well, what did you do about that?” Gossett asked, beginning to get mildly interested.

“Well, I signs up the first two of ’em.” Burroughs confided; "1 did all that wasnecessary and in they went to the pool we’d agreed on. The odd one 1 nursed a bit. You might not think to look at me but I’m a superstitious sort of chap, and thaUxld ticket looked to me worth all the rest put together. I went about the matter a trifle cunning. I used a different what do you make-believe name for it —called it the Mr. Holbom ticket, and put it away by itself.”

Gossett shook his head.

“Bad business that,” he murmured.

"Who are you getting at?” he demanded angrily. “There wasn’t one of the other chaps who wouldn’t have done the same. The only question was which could do it the cleverest. You hold on a bit. I guess you know what happened.” Gossett sat suddenly upright in his chair.

“My goodness!” he exclaimed. "That was what the papers called ‘the mystery ticket.' ”

“You’ve got it right, guvnor.” the other admitted with a chuckle. "Well, the time went on, and. blow me. on the day of the draw, I was down at Tom Merry’s gymnasium training for a Saturday night bout down in Bermondsey when I got a telegram —Mr. Holbom had drawn the favorite. Kilkenny Cat.”

GOSSETT was interested enough now. He had purchased a book of tickets on every race since the sweepstakes were started and never yet drawn a horse.

“It’s lucky I’m a clear-headed sort of chap,” Ned Burroughs went on complacently. "I thought this out cool and proper. The ticket I’d won with was the one over, and it ’adn't got nothing to do with the pool. \\ hat I done was this. I legged it off to Littledale and I put it up to him. 1

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wanted to step clean out for the moment with a view of coming in later on. You get me?”

“I’m afraid I do.” Gossett assented. “What do you mean, ‘afraid?’ ” Ned Burroughs demanded with a note of truculence in his tone. “Never you mind about that. I gave Sir George Littledale what you call a power of attorney, but I gave him also the straight word. That odd ticket was a gift to me and it meant something. I’m not greedy as a rule, but I wanted the whole scoop. Not a quarter share was he to sell. I wanted the lot. And I got it. You know that. Kilkenny Cat won by the last jump and a hundred yards, and two hundred and eighty thousand quid came my way.”

“And I often wondered,” Gossett said half to himself, “whether anyone knew the truth about that missing ticket.”

“Well, there it is,” Burroughs declared. “Of course, I didn’t waste no time. I was up at the Golden Calf making as much noise as the others. ‘Where’s that blasted ticket?’ was what we were all asking one another. We got Billy Dawson right on the spot and we put him through it all right. He didn’t know nothing about it, poor chap. How should he? The ticket that won was one of the two he said he’d given to his wife, but she up and swore she’d only had one, and one was all our boys were able to trace. I don’t reckon any money went their way, and money smells in our parts and there ain’t a snitch of it round them folks. All that Billy could say was that he must have dropped it in the street, but whoever had got hold of it was blasted artful. And with all the different tales there’s none of the newspapers yet got it right. I put it about before the trouble began that I’d backed the first and second with all I’d got, so they didn’t think anything of my being a bit flush. However, in the long run there was whispers that got about. It wasn’t likely I was going on with twenty-pound fights with a quarter of a million ]X)unds in the bank. Then them two saw me in Paris, and the fat was in the fire.” “I don’t wonder at it,” Gossett remarked. ‘T reckon they’d tumbled to it,” Burroughs went on after a brief pause, "that Mr. Holborn was me and that I’d got hold of that extra ticket. Anyway, three of ’em—Sandy Ladd, Dick Fuller and that Malay chap who does a bit of doctoring, Ali Marka he calls himself—they fetches up one day at our new flat in Hampstead. Better get it over and done with, I thought, so I has ’em shown into the drawing-room, and when they were all sitting there in a row with their hats in their hands I went in.

“ ‘What’s it all about?’ I asks. ‘Supposing I have gone up a bit in the world, what with my wife having come into money and one thing and another, where’s your grouse?’ “That Ali Marka is the man who answers me. He went to some sort of European university and he talks like a kind of toff.

“ ‘Ned Burroughs,’ he says smoothlike, ‘it’s our opinion that you got hold of that third ticket.’

“ ‘What if I did?’ I asks.

“ ‘The tickets in that book,’ he went on quietly, ‘belonged equally to those of us who found Billy Dawson the money and made the pool.’

“ ‘You think so,’ I says. ‘Anyway it’s right so far as our two each was concerned. The third ticket was a chancy one. It came up from the floor or fluttered down from the ceiling, whichever you like, but it warn’t in that pool.’

“ ‘You mean that you’re not going to divide up?’ Ali Marka asks softly.

“ ‘There ain’t nothing that belongs to anyone else to divide up,’ I answers. ‘That third ticket belonged to me, and no one else had even a smell of it. There isn’t another one of you would have had the pluck to give it a run. Anyway I did. I won the money and I'm going to stick to it.’ ”

GOSSETT whistled softly to himself.

Despite his disgust, the man’s story was thrilling.

“How did they take that?” he asked. “They was frothing at the mouth,” Burroughs grinned. "But how do you suppose they was going to take it? I could have knocked any one of them into mincemeat any moment if he’d cut up rough. And they darned well knew' it. They argued a bit, but I wasn’t having any. I offered ’em a drink for the sake of old times, but they wouldn’t act pally. This Ali Marka he spoke up quietj-and dangerous-like.

“ ‘Ned Burroughs,’ he said, ‘justice is justice. We believe that you drew' over two hundred thousand pounds on your ticket. That should have been divided into five sums of forty thousand each. We want our money.’

“Well, Mr. Gossett, you being a gentlej man, I won’t tell you what my answer was because maybe we others do use our tongues a bit rough at times, but I let ’em know that there wras nothing coming. Then that i there Malay chap spoke up again.

“ ‘Ned Burroughs,’ he said, ‘we’ve talked this over a great deal and we’ve come to a very final and definite conclusion. You’re ! right in one thing you’ve said —we should ' never have kept the ticket. We should have sold for the thirty thousand pounds. Five into thirty is six. We don’t w'ant trouble. ¡ Give us our six thousand pounds each, and ; we’ll leave you alone with the rest.’ ”

“I should call that a very fair offer,” Gossett declared. “I hope you agreed.”

“No fear,” Burroughs exclaimed contemptuously. “I’m not parting with any thousands of pounds to any scum like that. I’m doing what any one of them would have I done. I’m holding on to the lot, and I’m telling ’em if they want it they can come l and get it.”

“So far,” Gossett remarked, “you seem ! to have a mind of your own and the whole ! affair seems to have gone your way. Now : w'hat is your trouble?”

Burroughs slipped his arm out of the sling and took off what seemed to be half a glove j and half a bandage. An exclamation of horror escaped Gossett. Where the little finger liad been there remained only a stump barely healed over.

“That’s the beginning of my trouble,” the ¡ ex-prizéfighter observed. “Done in my own flat—three o’clock in the morning. I was a bit squiffy when I went to bed. I know that because Bella wouldn’t have me near her. I don’t know exactly when it happened. I was kind of sleeping, and I went off smelling that sort of sickly stuff they give you in hospitals. When I woke up—sick as a dog I was, too—there was my hand bandaged up with the little finger missing and a printed note on the pillow: ‘This is number one.

The others in rotation.’ ”

Burroughs, with the aid of his teeth, bound up his hand again. Gossett, not often taken aback, was feeling somewhat stupefied.

“But what have you done about it?” he asked. “Have you been to the police?” Burroughs had the air of one about to spit upon the floor. Apparently he remembered where he was just in time.

“Police,” he scoffed. “I’m not quite a big enough fool for that. If I gave them boys away to the police, I might be in worse trouble than this myself. You’ve got your way of living, guvnor, and we’ve got ours.

If we’re up against trouble from one another it isn’t the police that’s going to help us. What I’ve done is what Littledale advised método. I’ve come to you instead.”

“You want my advice?” Gossett asked. “That’s what I’m here for, mister.”

“You can have it quick,” Gossett assured him. “Pay up those six thousand pounds to each of your friends and end the trouble.” Burroughs scratched the side of his head. He was both bewildered and scornful.

“Guv’nor,” he said, “if I’d been willing to pay up all those chaps want from me, what would have been the sense in coming to you?”

“Ask yourself any riddles you like,” Gossett replied. “I say they’re letting you off lightly and you ought to pay. If you

come home drunk at nights and you daren’t go to the police, it seems to me you might find yourself in a pretty bad way before long.”

‘‘You can’t help me set about those chai« on the quiet like?” Burroughs enquired, reaching down for his hat. “I can tell you their runs.”

“I certainly cannot,” Gossett told him emphatically.

Burroughs stood up.

“How much do I owe you for what you calls your advice?” he asked surlily.

“Nothing at all except your absence,” was the curt reply. “Make it quick, please, and don’t let me see you again.”

Burroughs looked threatening.

"Do you want a clout on the ear’ole?” he enquired.

Gossett’s hand had stolen into his righthand drawer, and with a little click he released the safety catch of his revolver.

“1 keep this for bullies,” he observed. "You’ve got to,” the ex-prizefighter remarked as he turned away. “You’d ’ave to grow a bit before you could fight for yourself.”

UNDER THE circumstances it was a complete surprise to Malcolm Gossett when, a month later, his clerk announced that Mr. Ned Burroughs was outside and would like a few words with him. Gossett’s first impulse was to refuse to see him. He changed his mind, however, and his visitor was promptly ushered in. Gossett could not refrain from an exclamation of dismay at the first sight of him.

“They’ve got me down, you see, guv’nor,” Burroughs remarked drearily as, with the help of a stick, he sank into a chair.

Gossett was genuinely shocked. For all his coarseness and swagger, Ned Burroughs had been a fine figure of a man. Today he was, or appeared to be, a complete wreck.

I Ie must have lost at least two stone and his clothes hung limply about him. The puffiness of his cheeks had all gone, his face was drawn, and under his eyes there shone the reflection of some inward and haunting fear. His arm was still in a sling.

“What’s happened to you?” Gossett asked kindly. “You look as though you’d been ill.” “What’s ’appened to me?” Burroughs repeated in a hollow tone.

He touched his bandaged arm.

“Two more gone,” he went on hoarsely. "One at Monte Carlo. Can you beat that? Staying at a big hotel under another name, with my wife in the next room. The other in Cornwall. Cornwall!” he repeated. “The most lonesome bit of country I’ve ever struck. You’d have said any man might ’ave got lost there. Not a bit of it. The second night it was. I did have a week’s peace at Monte Carlo.”

“Look here.” Gossett insisted. “I don’t know what your code is or anything of that sort, but this has got to stop. It’s the most brutal thing I ever heard of. If you won’t go to the police I shall.”

There was no answering light of hope in the other’s face.

“If you go to the police,” he croaked, “that’s the end of me. I can't stop you. I’m not man enough these days, but I tell you that if you go I’m done for.”

“Better run a little risk than die by inches like that,” Gossett pointed out.

Burroughs shook his head.

“Look here,” he confided, “I’ve been to Sir George Littledale. He can’t act for me.

I don’t blame him. He couldn’t deal with criminals because it’s unprofessional; that’s the sort of swab he handed out to me. I want to save my life, Mr. Gossett. You’re outside that professional touch, ain’t you?” “I certainly am,” Gossett assented. “At the same time

“Don’t let’s waste breath.” Burroughs interrupted. “I ain't got too much these days. There’s four of them blokes. There's Sandy Ladd, there’s Dick Fuller, there’s Dagger Clemson them three don’t count. They’re dumb. There’s only one devil who’s working this on me and that’s Ali Marka. He’s the devil himself.”

He moved his arm with a spasm of pain and looked down at the many bandages.

“There ain't nobody but a devil could have thought this out.” he groaned. ’T’ll never be able to hit a man again. I'm done for the ring, for anything. I wish that darned ticket had blown away before it got gummed to the other. You’ve got what they call ‘nerve,’ ain’t you, guv’nor?”

“I think so,” Gossett admitted.

“You’ve got to go and see Ali Marka. You’ve got to make terms with him. Any terms. They can have their six thousand each and welcome. They can ’ave more. I’ll go ’alves. I would do more than that. They’ll have to leave me enough to live on because I’m no use now for anything. They can have the rest. I’ve got to sleep at night now and then or I’ll go crazy. It’s got so as I fancy if I ’ear the wind blowing that it’s a footstep coming soft, just treading on a cushion of air or summat like that, then I get a jab of pain and my linger begins to twitch. It’s torture.”

“Look here. Burroughs,” Gossett said. “I will do what I can to help you, but the first and most important thing I have to say is this, and don’t you forget it. It is a police job now, whatever it may have been in the old days. I will handle it for you through Scotland Yard. You won’t need to go near the place yourself.”

“If you talk that way, guv’nor, till Doomsday,” Burroughs in isted, “it won’t make any difference to me. If the police step in they will know where the information came from and I’m bust. Ali Marka’s address is 131 Commercial Street. He does some doctoring there. Lord have mercy upon his patients! You go and see him. I was a bit fresh to you last time. Sorry. There’s a fifty quid note I brought with me. That’ll pay for the time before, too. You go down there, guv’nor. You see how I am. ; The money, most of it, is in the bank. There need be no delay—Bank of England ! notes tonight if they want it. You can drop a hint to that blasted Asiatic if he’s difficult. I'm not feeling like waiting for his next visit. I’ve got my left arm still and though I ain’t got much strength left. I’ve got j enough to squeeze the life out of a mangy ! packet of bones like him. ”

“I’ll hint at something of the sort if I feel j it necessary,” Gossett promised. “In the | meantime leave me your address.”

“We’re at the Waldorf ’otel,” Burroughs confided. “We did try the country out Godaiming way, but it was a bit quiet for the missus. I ain’t had the heart to enter a public house for weeks, but I likes to know that they’re round. Bring me good news tonight, guv’nor, and you shall have another of those notes and a skinful of the best thrown in.”

“I’ll do my best,” Gossett promised.

THE HOUR which Gossett spent waiting in that perfectly bare squalid little i apartment behind what Ali Marka chose to f call his surgery was. he decided afterward, one of the most miserable he had ever spent in his life. The limits of his endurance were j almost reached when the door was quietly | opened and Ali Marka, in a brown duster, ! his black hair brushed straight back, his ; black eyes like sloes gleaming in their sallow j setting, entered the room. He was perfectly : composed except that he seemed a little1 breathless. Gossett looked him over and had hard work to repress a shiver. He was ! not in the least inclined to waste words. “You are Ali Marka?” he asked sharply. “That is my name,” the other replied. ! “You wish to see me, yes? You came at an ; unfortunate time. I have many patients — because I treat some of them for nothing. It I is a poor neighborhood and they appreciate ! charity.”

Gossett half closed his eyes. There were things which he had heard during the last hour.

“They receive charity from you?” he asked scornfully.

“Indeed, yes,” was the suave reply. “You have perhaps thought I am not qualified. I may not put my brass plate outside, but for j skill I might find my place in Harley Street.

1 am an M.D. of London.”

“An unfrocked’ one, I should think,” Gossett observed.

The shot told. The man stood as though turned to stone.

“The laws in this country are strange.” he said after a brief pause. “One suffers for helping the unfortunate. What is your wish?”

“I came on behalf of Ned Burroughs,” Gossett announced. “He offers an arrangement.”

A terrible smile, very thin and very faint, parted Ali Marka's cruel lips.

‘‘So he has had enough,” he murmured. “It is early. He has still a finger and a thumb upon his right hand.”

“Let us have no misunderstanding.” Gossett went on coldly. “If it lay with me you would be in prison in half an hour. I am only an agent, however. I have accepted my client’s confidence and I have to preserve it. What cash sum will satisfy you and your partners?”

The Malay stroked his chin.

"A gross act of deceit,” he said, “is hard to pardon.”

“How much?” Gossett jxxsisted.

“What has Ned Burroughs left out of the proceeds of that stolen ticket?” Ali Marka asked.

“The greater portion of it,” Gossett replied. “He offers you the half.”

“Dear me, he becomes more generous. The half.”

“The whole thing can be arranged this afternoon. Make up your mind. Burroughs is penitent. He knows he did a foolish thing. After all, though, it was not a crime.”

The Malay lifted his eyes. He met Gossett’s and the first sign of emotion escaped him. He shivered very slightly.

“Often,” he murmured, “a doctor is called a criminal when he is doing his best to save life.”

“And often.” Gossett retorted, “he is called a criminal when he is doing his best to extinguish it.”

The Malay rubbed his hands together slowly. His head was downcast.

“I shall not deal with you,” he said. “I will see my friends. At eleven o’clock tonight Burroughs can come here. I will give him his answer.”

”1 think—” Gossett began.

Ali Marka opened the door.

“That is all,” he said.

ÇIR GEORGE LITTLEDALE. for the G first time in his life, called in to see Gossett on his way to his office on the following morning. He carried a morning paper in his hand. Gossett was already

poring over his. They studied the headlines together.

Barbarous Murder in the East End Native Asiatic Doctor Strangled and Beaten to Death No Trace of the Assassin

Gossett lifted his head. Littledale was watching him with a question in his eyes. The former leaned back in his place and pushed the paper away.

“No business of mine.” he observed. Littledale was faintly troubled.

“It’s a horrible affair,” he said gravely. : “So I believe,” Gossett rejoined, “was the Asiatic doctor.”

THE END of the whole affair, so far as Gossett was concerned, came a few j months later when he was taking a hasty j meal with his wife in one of the crowded grill rooms of theatreland.

“Malcolm,” she whispered, “do you see those very funny people a few tables away? The big man keeps on looking at you—I don’t know how to express it—almost wistfully. You see, he’s wearing a glove on his right hand and I can’t help thinking that those are artificial fingers. He uses them quite naturally, though. I wonder whether it was the war.”

Gossett turned his head. A partially transformed Dick Fuller and Sandy Ladd, with womenkind to match, were apparentlybeing entertained by Ned Burroughs and his more than ever buxom and resplendent | spouse. The former, soberly attired in dinner clothes and of much improved appearance, j was discreetly toying with his wineglass, and in his eyes was a curious expression half j —as Cynthia had put it—wistful and half deprecating. He raised his wineglass a little and Gossett at once seized his own and followed suit. Ned Burroughs grinned. Everything that was decent and gcxxlhumored in his face seemed to come to the surface, and there was something of silent gratitude in his reception of Gossett’s smile and little nod as he set down his empty wineglass and turned away.

“You did know him then,” Cynthia exj claimed. “He has been watching you for' such a long time.”

Gossett nodded.

“An old client.” he confided. “He cost me I a good deal of thought at one time. I think I ¡ came to the right decision, however. You are right about the fingers, but it wasn’t j the war.”