The Piping Days of Peace
A new Mata Hari in a strange setting—A tale of the secret service in strife-torn Jerusalem
THE GATES of Jerusalem were shut, one April afternoon in 1936. There was a cavernous roar. Shops closed. Shutters up. Stretcher-bearers carrying wounded Jews and Arabs. Airplanes circled like roaring buzzards. Armored trucks patrolled the suburbs.
Outside the gates, people clamored to get in. Inside, swarms of Europeans and Orientals all mixed together, sweaty with anguish, wanted to get out and go home. A crowd near the Jaffa Gate cursed the police—a squad of twenty, watching for real danger.
Danger appeared as suddenly as one of those blasts of wind that smite the sails on the Ionian Sea. Eleven Arabs in striped burnooses, armed with butchers’ knives because the authorities can’t take away butchers’ knives in the name of law and order, charged out from the narrow upper end of David Street, with the ends of their kuffiyehs in their teeth to hide their faces.
Inaudible in that uproar, they cracked full pelt into the unarmed crowd, of whom about a fifth were women. Three men in the midst of the crowd distinguished themselves by keeping cool. One, dressed in Arab clothing, looked alert and competent. He wore Arab clothing and stank high, like any other poor fish out of water. He carried a black leather satchel by a strap over his shoulder. The quiet man in a khaki suit who stood near him, appeared so bovine that almost no one noticed him, except that those who had stood nearest said afterward that he smelt of lavender. But when he did move, he was as quick as lightning. The third man, in a blue serge suit, attracted no notice at all, but his name was Twirp, and his eyes were incredulous, alert; their pupils were the color of old ale.
The Arabs’ ferocity was all the more effective because it was silent. They had less than sixty seconds for their purpose. The police had seen them and wrere on the move, but couldn’t use firearms because of the crowd. The Arabs struck at the heart of the crowd, in wedge formation, like the blow of an axe. A couple of women and nine or ten men were knifed or clubbed unconscious before they knew what had struck them.
The man with the satchel saw his chance, knocked down a couple of people, and started to run. The bovine man in khaki who smelt of lavender, seemed to awake out of a dream; he leaped after him, drove a long knife into his back between the shoulder blades, withdrew the knife and cut the satchel strap. It was done in the tenth of a second.
But the strap was in some way twisted in the victim’s clothing. He fell on top of the satchel. His murderer knelt, groped and cut the satchel open. He grabbed something out of it. Less than a second later, five of the onrushing Arabs reached him, threw a cloak over his head and shoulders, surrounded him and sccx)ted. They went out of the crowd as they had come in, like a blast of hot wind, leaving two of their number dead from jx>lice bullets and a third dying. The remainder, with the man in khaki, got clear away.
One minor casualty was the man in blue serge. He sat up between a wounded Russian and a trampled Roumanian Jewess, rubbing his head. Suddenly he recovered his senses. One half breath aricad of the police he pounced on the leather satchel. th»ust his hand in and removed a package wrapped in bla(w'waterpnxjf cloth. A policeman’s foot missed his wrist try the width of a film of sweat.
“Death for looting! Let go! Hand that over!”
HPHE MAN helped himself to his feet by clutching the policeman’s forearm. As they swayed together, he whispered. The policeman shook him off angrily:
“Twirgfl Never heard o’ you. Looting—”
Mafy>r John Borwiek, acting chief of the Army Intelligence, came out from the hotel, hardly fifty paces distant. Uniformstaff tabs—medal ribbons—spry and dapper.
“All right, constable. Twirp is one of my specials. Give that to me, Twirp. Are you hurt biudly?” t v
“My feelings are. Letting myself get knocked ouV; after all these years o’ special duty! Didn’t duck quick eiSough. Getting sentimental, I reckon, mooning over Joe Blades.” “You need work !” Borwiek examined the empty satchel, then the dead man, pulling back the Arab headdress. In an inner pocket he found a letter in a soiled envelope.
“Huh! Addressed to Giuseppe Moroni. So that’s who he is.”
uporwick opened it. A mere love letter, in Italian. He drew Twirp aside.
“Did you see who killed him?”
T\yirp was fingering his head. “Court evidence? He had his back toward me. I stopped a hot one. Since it’s you that’s asking, no, I couldn’t. I’m pretty sure it was that Hungarian spy, Gabor. And I know them Arabs. They’re that Syrian lot.”
“Get your head attended to. Then keep after them. They’ll have hidden a change of clothing in charge of someone. They can only get out of the city by way of the gates. The Damascus Gate will be opened first, as soon as rioting permits, so go there. I will tell the officer on duty to pass anyone through on your signal. I don’t want them arrested, because they may have hidden what I’m after. I will send two specials to obey your orders. Not a word to the police.
Report only to me.”
Twirp stuffed his hands into his trousers pockets and strolled away to find a first-aid station.
Major Borwiek used the phone in the hotel. Twenty minutes later they let him out through the Damascus Gate and he whirled away toward the Mount of Olives, almost invisible in the car’s own dust cloud. On the steps of the Administration Building, Lieutenant Harding waited for him—blueeyed, fair-haired, in flannels; the youngest Intelligence officer on Borwiek’s staff.
“Sorry, sir. I was on the tennis court when I was called to the phone. No time to get into uniform. How’s business in the city? Booming?”
“Ten or eleven dead. About forty wounded. The police can handle it. But no more tennis!”
“It w'as bumble-puppy with the princess. She’s taking lessons, in high heels. The acting chief is waiting for us, sir. He was in his office, but he may have melted by now' and run out through a hole in the floor. He sweats each time the phone rings, and it rings twice for every time an Arab musses up a Zionist or vice versa.”
“You impudent young cockerel ! When you’ve a dunghill of your own, you’ll crow less.”
Borwiek led along the echoing corridor, upstairs to an office that W'as once the German Kaiser’s bedroom. At the first glimpse of Borwfick’s face, the acting high commissioner sent his secretary out of the room. He pushed aside the day’s decoded wireless messages and telegrams, wiped his face with a handkerchief and grinned as a man does wrho faces the dentist.
“Tell me. I see you’re loaded.”
OORWICK took the armchair facing him, laid the black package on the desk and patted it:
“I have here half the recipe for one w'orld war with trimmings. The Intelligence has been on the lookout for this for weeks. It’s a windfall. I advise you to have no official knowledge of it. It was stolen from the Italians’ number one in Beirut—you know who he is—by a man named Giuseppe Moroni, who has just now been murdered, I believe by an international crook named Gabor. This is almost certainly one half of the coded details of the Italian plan for a concerted uprising—Syria, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, in the event of European war. The other half is missing.”
“Oh, my stars! Better notify London.”
“Why hurry? We can’t swear yet what it is.
Harding should be able to tell us within a few hours, if he’s lucky. He has only half a document to work on.”
“Where do you suppose the other half is?”
“If I only knew!” said Borwiek. “It would be worth whatever price the wildest lunatic would care to name. It might mean no war for a couple of years. The Italians are feeling their oats over this Ethiopian business, but they wouldn’t dare to start a big show without knowing they could raise the Arab world against us and the French, just as we raised ’em against the Turks in 1915. We can spike that, if this is the key to their secret network.”
The acting high commissioner raised his eyebrows: “You propose to let Harding
“He shall work on it in the strong-room.
Can you get hold of Cartwright?”
The acting high commissioner phoned.
Captain Cartwright entered. Borwiek told him. Harding and Cartwright went out, taking the package with them.
“You trust Harding? The confidential report about him is—”
“I know. I wrote it. Sings, dances, good amateur actor, fair hair, blue eyes, and a flair for women. He’s a genius at guessing the key to a code and then working it out. Intuitive.
Keen as mustard. By the time I’ve licked him into shape, he’ll be a first-class man."
"Flair, you say, for women? Fool for women ! That princess, for instance. Barton wants her deported.”
“Well, thank heaven. Barton is only the chief of police. He would deport me if he
could!” said Borwiek. “She isn’t a princess, of course, you know that? French papers. Parisian Jewess-actress mother. Unknown father. Studied for the stage in Milan. Married an Italian, who died of being on the wTong side of the political fence. It was rumored she betrayed him but I don’t know about that. She went to Syria, where she married again. She is one of three widow’s of a Bedouin sheikh from Deir ez Zor beyond Damascus.”
“Barton says her rented house is a rendezvous for undesirables. I know for a fact that Harding visits her, and Barton tells me—”
“I wish Barton would mind his own business,” said Borwiek. “When I phoned him just now that a man named Gabor killed Moroni, he as good as told me to go to the devil.”
The acting high commissioner protested: “I do wish,
Borwiek, that you and Barton could forget your dislike of each other. At a time like this, if the police and the Intelligence can’t work together, anything may happen. Please don’t think I’m preaching, but within a hundred miles or so of here, remember, there are two great war fleets cleared for action, while you and Barton niggle ! Who knows what they’ll do at Geneva? Who knows what is really at the bottom of this Arab-Zionist mess? There’s an Italian army in Libya. The French are in a mess in Syria, and that doesn’t mean any sugar for us. The Turks are marching on the Dardanelles. Palestine and TransJordania are like a nest of hornets. You know what is happening in Arabia. It needs exactly one neglected spark to start a worse catastrophe than 1914, and there are at least a thousand agents—”
Borwick humored him. “I could name you fifty, not counting Gabor, whose Hungarian brains are a goulash of treachery. Gabor is a free lance. All the other spies work in gangs, employing every trick known to human ingenuity to get the other gang to throw the first stone. But it’s the second stone that counts. He who hits back starts the war.”
“Spies everywhere !”
“Harmless rotters, most of ’em. Good ones are rare. The Italians, dammit, have caught one of our very best men in Libya. A man named Joe Blades.”
“I hadn’t heard of it.”
“You’re not supposed to know that our spies exist. We are an innocent administration—an oasis of virtue, completely surrounded by turpitude. Butter wouldn’t melt in our mouths.”
“W’ell, if Harding is as enamored of that princess as Barton thinks, you’d better tell him to keep away from her. A lovesick youngster is a bad risk, if the woman has brains. Have you forgotten Mata Hari?”
“Mata Hari was a fool for men,” said Borwick. “She had spyitis, a form of mania with well-known symptoms, lloved too many men too carelessly. So she was shot. But did they shoot her lovers?”
“Watch him, Borwick. Please be careful.”
Borwick walked to the uninspiring-looking building where the Intelligence of the entire Near East is concentrated within limestone walls. He went straight to his own office. For a while he sat still at his desk, consulting memoranda. He was doing his best to pull out his scrubby mustache by the roots when Twirp phoned. He listened, asking no questions. Then:
“All right. Carry on, Twirp.”
There were other phone calls. Waiting for them, he paced the floor, frowning. With the greying tufts of hair above his pointed ears, he resembled a worried satyr. Subordinates had learned to let him alone when he was in that mood. At last he went into the strongroom, where Cartwright and Harding had their heads together at a desk.
“Well?” he demanded.
T-IARDING looked up, laughed, and shook his head: “Might stumble on it. But it might take a million years. One half isn’t any good without the other. Probably the halves key together, so that whoever has both can decipher the whole, but not otherwise.”
For a minute or two, Borwick stared at the handmade book. It contained about 300 pages of script as beautifully written as the engraving on a banknote. He toyed with the waterproof black cloth envelope. Suddenly he slipped that in his tunic pocket.
“Lock the book away,” he commanded. “You’re in charge of it, Cartwright. Come into my room, Harding.” He was just in time to answer the phone. “All right, Twirp. That’s good work. Carry on.”
He hung up and smiled at Harding. “You’ve a date with the princess?”
“Dinner tonight. At her house.”
“Take that phone and call it off. If she asks why, say you’re working in your own quarters, on a secret document, to be decoded in a hurry. If she invites you to come later in the evening, say yes.”
Harding phoned and hung up, grinning. “Any time between now and daybreak. Music.”
“In war time, we could search her house,” said Borwick. “But these are the piping days of peace, my lad. If she hasn’t the other half of that code, we’re up a tree.”
Harding lost his grin. “You think she has it?”
“If so, she will break her limit to get our half. She won’t sell. She has two thousand quid in the bank. French papers, but she’s working for Italy. The Italians know what they’ve lost. They’ve put her on the trail. She would like to take both documents to Rome herself and get the full credit.”
“Could you count me out of this, sir?”
“Hah ! Get a bit drunk tonight, my boy, and blurt out something about the code you’re working on. It won’t hurt if she learns that the top left-hand drawer of your desk is where you keep things.”
Borwick took the black waterproof envelope from his tunic pocket, packed it full of blank paper, and sealed it carefully with red wax.
BORWICK drove to Jaffa, drew the list of steamship reservations blank, but learned, through a spy on the waterfront, that a Greek spongeboat was awaiting an unlawful passenger who had paid through the nose in advance and had promised an even larger sum to be paid at an unknown destination. All the following day he was busy checking Twirp’s reports and instructing Harding. By nine at night he was on the roof of the Administration Building, pacing up and down beside the acting high commissioner.
Jerusalem lay like a City of Dreams. Some of them bad dreams; as, for instance, the lights and the drone of the belated Air Force Patrol, homing dragons with colored eyes, from beyond the Jordan. The tombstones in the Valley of Jehoshaphat were wan, like moonlit bones. The Dome of the Rock loomed, solemn and serenely Arabic, in silhouette above the city walls against the starlit sky. One couldn’t see the sentries posted in the city streets, nor hear the curfew kennelled threats within the ancient walls.
In the opposite direction, the Dead Sea lay like a mirror in which the moonlit Hills of Moab pondered scars of their romantic past. There were threats over there beyond Jordan, too, unkennelled, and no curfew.
The acting high commissioner spoke bitterly, like a rejected lover: “Jerusalem, City of Peace! The cursed place has ruined everyone who ever tried to purge or please it ! This riot’s over, and not much damage. But what next? Barton, by the way, has been complaining that you make demands on him for men that are beyond all reason.”
“Has he caught that fellow Gabor, who killed Moroni?” Borwick answered.
“I don’t know. One hundred and ninety cablegrams today from all over the world. Seven coded wiggings from Whitehall ! Pontius Pilate had a cushy sinecure compared to this. Six weeks before Caesar could interfere. I would like to blow up that blasted wireless tower. Imagine Whitehall spending taxpayers’ money to warn me to be cautious! How long should it take young Harding to decode that cursed thing?”
Borwick answered patiently: “Give him time. He is doing his best.”
“Is he? Barton says he was with that princess last night.” There began a dog fight somewhere in the distance. No noise carries through the night more stridently. The acting high commissioner set his teeth and turned toward the stairhead to get away from the nerve-racking din. But another noise stopped him.
“Now what the devil was that?”
It was sudden. It left no echo. A strange, blanketed sound, not far oil. One of those ominous noises that don’t explain themselves.
“If it’s bad news we’ll know in a minute,” Borwick answered.
The acting high commissioner resumed his pacing up and down the roof-walk. His cigar went out three times. He threw it over the parapet and stood staring at the great wireless mast and what looked, in the dark, like a township that glowed at its base.
“Lock that away in your desk drawer and have the key in your pocket tonight.”
“Makes me feel pretty mean, sir.” “Am I commissioned merely to consider your sentiment, young fellami-lad?”
“Couldn’t you simply arrest her on Barton’s say-so and then—”
“No. If she has the other half of that code, she’ll have hidden it well. We’d find nothing. Our only chance will be to catch her with it at the moment when she’s ready to bolt. I will know when she’s ready. This may be rather dangerous for you, so keep cool and, mind you, no heroics. If anybody raids your quarters and you resist, you might get hurt, and then think what the ladies would miss.” "Am I to sit and be shot at?” “You’d be a cheap price for that document ! One gay Lothario against the plans for a war ! However, there are reasons why I think you won’t get killed if you keep your hair on. Meanwhile, play her.”
“Borwick,” he said, “I hate to put my foot down. But I feel I must. Young Harding must stay away from that woman. I intend as soon as possible to back up Barton’s recommendation and have her run out of the country. What is Harding doing at the moment?”
Continued on page 41
Continued from page 9—Starts on page 7 -
“Hello,” said Borwick. “Here comes bad news.”
TT WAS certainly not good news. Barton, the chief of police, hesitated for a moment, conferring in undertones with Captain Cartwright, under the arch over the door at the head of the stairway. They strode forward. Barton spoke:
“Young Harding has just killed himself. I warned you about him and women.” The acting high commissioner became suddenly frozenly calm. “And . . ,?”he demanded.
Cartwright answered: “I checked up at once, sir. It’s in the strong-room, sealed.” The chief of police moved, better to enjoy the expression of Borwick’s face. “I was driving in that direction,” he remarked. “I heard the noise. I have suspected young Harding for several weeks, so I took a look. Coates was with me as it happened. He’s there now. A drawer of Harding’s desk was open and empty. When you’ve checked up, Major Borwick, let me know what’s missing. Perhaps the police can recover it for you.”
“Have you found Gabor yet?” Borwick retorted.
“If there ever was such a person he has jumped the country,” said Barton. “Your men have misinformed you. I don’t wonder you need my men! I have done what you asked. Inspector Lewisohn and ten men are cooling their heels where you said you wanted them. I had to take them off riot duty.”
“You’ll be decorated for your riot work,” said Borwick. “I feel sure of it.” The acting high commissioner drew Borwick aside. “Your man. Go and see to it, Borwick. Avoid all the scandal you possibly can, and keep me posted.”
Cartwright followed, but Borwick was two or three strides ahead of him by the time they had covered the quarter-mile and reached the neat row of official-looking limestone bungalows. The dog fight was still raging in the near distance; it sounded as if a couple of dozen curs had joined in. There was a sentry already posted at Harding’s door. Borwick returned his salute.
“How many have been in here?”
“Three, sir, since I was posted. They’re in there now. Surgeon-Major Coates and two other officers.”
Borwick and Cartwright entered the room on the right of the passage. The surgeon got up from beside the body on the floor. He had been kneeling on a couple of books, and the books were of no further use to anyone. He looked keenly at Borwick, speechless. Borwick glanced around the room. It was simply furnished —desk, table, chairs, a bookcase, tennis racket, golf clubs, lots of photographs of women, some shelves of books. The top drawer of the desk was open; nothing in it. One end of the table in the middle of the room was badly smashed and not good to look at twice. There was some wire on the table, leading to dry batteries in a grocery carton on the floor.
“Head blown clean off,” said the surgeon. “Dynamite in his mouth apparently. It may have been some otlÆr explosive, and it may possibly have been hung around his neck. There was a switch in front of him, pieces of the switch are in his body. The evidence of identity is on the table, removed from his trousers pockets. Both nis hands were blown off. He was wearing shirt and flannel trousers.”
There was an awful mess everywhere, but they had covered the worst of it with a sheet off the bed in the next room. Only the dead man’s brown shoes were visible, sticking out at the end of the sheet. Borwick examined the shoes.
“Coates, how much will you put your name to?”
“Instantaneous death, from an explosion caused by making contact with a switch that the deceased could have manipulated himself.”
“Someone please pull off his right shoe and sock,” said Borwick.
The surgeon cut off the sock. Borwick glanced at the dead man’s ankle.
“Can we keep this secret?” he asked. “How about the sentry? Quarantine him? Seal the place until daylight? Cartwright, will you attend to that?”
Borwick went to the phone in the passage and ordered his car. He walked to meet it. He had nearly reached the guarded entrance of the wireless station when the headlights spotted him and the car came to a squealing halt. He faced about in time to see a human shadow vanish into the deeper shadow of the wall.
“Caught you that time,” he remarked. “Does your head hurt? Are you sleepy?” “I’m all right.”
“Then get in.”
rTv\VIRP obeyed. There was nothing whatever about Twirp to arrest attention. One could swear one hadn’t seen him; and if ten men saw him, they might swear on stacks of Bibles to ten different descriptions.
Borwick spoke to the driver: “What is wrong with your brakes?”
“This cursed Jerusalem dust ’ud find its way into—”
“Very good, sir.”
Borwick got in. Dust leaped. The car became a mere anonymous official whirlwind.
“Talk,” said Borwick.
Twirp’s voice had no resonance. “They used a car that don’t belong to her. I got the license number. They’d a dog with them, and they started a fight at the end of the street with the auditor’s dog. You know that one; he could kill a camel; he fights over half a county, raising all the hell there is. You’d have thought Jerusalem was being looted by the Chinese. It was neat work. Whoever wasn’t in bed turned out to stop the murder. Barring me, no one noticed that Harding had visitors. But did they kill him? There was an explosion like the sound of TNT in shallow water. Pretty soon after that, their car cleared out and I lay low to wait for you. Have they killed him?”
“Dynamite,” said Borwick. “Recognize them?”
“Four, yes, on the way in. Couldn’t see the fifth man. he was between two others. Couldn’t spot ’em on the way out, or they’d have seen me. They’re that same Syrian gang that I’ve been tracking. Any news of my mate, Blades, in Libya?”
“No. The Italians have him incommunicado.”
“Will they shoot him?”
“No. We’re not at war—yet! Ten cr twelve years in some prison on an island.” Twirp sighed. “It’s rough on Joe.” “Stop your dirging. Now, Twirp, remember: tell the police nothing. Simply show Inspector Lewisohn your identification card in case he doesn’t know you. Then pounce. If I know Lewisohn, he’ll do it cleverly.”
The car drew up at an iron gate in a high limestone wall. The brakes squealed.
“Damn!” said Borwick. “Are we launching the Queen Mary?” Then: “See here, Twirp, you and Fitzsimmons do what you can to those brakes. Use lots of oil. Never mind if they don’t hold. Risk your necks. Mustn’t make any noise. Those Syrians will be jumpy.”
“Jumpy?” Twirp answered. “They believe they’re smart. They’ve had time to change their clothes and put the car away. They’ll be burning the clothes they took off. As I told you over the phone, they’ve a fire-pit all ready for burning evidence.”
The driver got down to ring the bell at the gate. It clanged like half a dozen camel bells.
“Try a window, Twirp, when you come back.”
The gate opened, released by a pull-wire from the house. It clanged shut behind Borwick. There was no sign or sound of a servant. No dog. The house was large —flowered terraces and outside stairways. No lights on the ground floor. Plenty of light through the chinks of five shutters on the floor above. The front door was opened by a harass in gorgeous uniform. It appeared he mistook Major Borwick for someone else.
“She is not at home,” he remarked in Arabic.
“Give her my card.”
The harass hesitated. But Borwick was in uniform, so he ushered him into a small reception room and went upstairs. Borwick opened a window, unlocked the shutter, closed the window without fastening it and removed the key from the lock in the door. He hid the key under a vase.
The harass returned and invited him upstairs. The house was wonderfully furnished. Hammered iron stair-rails,
polished olivewood doors. Samarkand and Bokhara, lavender.
Borwick was shown into ceilinged room and kept
Rugs from A smell of
a long, highwaiting for several minutes. He used the phone at the desk.
“Major Borwick speaking. Lewisohn? Twirp is on the way. Yes, do whatever Twirp tells you.”
T-TE HUNG UP and examined the room.
One window in the longer wall had been left open for ventilation, but the others were all curtained. He tried a door in the long wall that had no windows. He listened. He drummed on the panel with his fingernails as if wondering what to do next. He turned toward the grand piano.
She entered then, quite suddenly, a shade too obviously unembarrassed by a visitor at that late hour. She looked less than thirty, slightly hardened by experience, not coarsened. Very beautiful, and very skilful in presenting beauty to observant eyes. Not noticeably made up. A Parisian travelling frock. Her eyes were black, like a Cuban.’s, liquid, humorous, and just a bit too bold beneath their long dark lashes.
“Major Borwick, how delightful! You are the one man in Jerusalem I have been longing to meet!”
“It’s a weird hour to choose to call on you,” said Borwick. “We officers are kept too busy to behave like normal human beings. You have been so hospitable to some of our junior officers that envy, if nothing else, would have brought me.”
They sat facing each other, as alert as a cat and a dog, but neither one showing it.
“Then there is another reason? How disappointing. I was feeling flattered. A cigarette? A cigar? May I offer you wine?”
“Why yes,” said Borwick,
It was ready, with biscuits, on a wheeled table behind a curtain. She fetched wineglasses from a cabinet and set a filled glass at each end of the table. They sipped and set the glasses down.
“Now,” said Borwick, “I am here to win your confidence. Suppose we exchange glasses and drink good luck to each other. That’s a grand old custom.”
He leaned over and made the exchange before she could prevent it, raised the glass that had been hers and drained it:
“Au lever de rideau! Won’t you drink too?”
“My doctor has forbidden wine. You pardon me?”
“It is very good wine,” said Borwick, glancing at the grand piano. “You play? Sing? What a view there must be through the window. May I see it?”
“Why, of course. But it is quite an ordinary view—rocks, olive trees—macabre —triste.”
On her way to the window she slightly raised the top of the piano to release the edge of an embrqidered cover that had caught when someone closed it. Borwick followed her out to the balcony. For a minute they stood side by side in silence, framed against the light from the room. Borwick pulled out his handkerchief; it was folded, so he shook it. A motor horn mooed like a cow in the distance. He flapped the handkerchief at a big moth and stuck it back in his pocket.
“Yes,” he said, “that view is as you call it—triste. Aren’t you nervous with so few servants?”
“Oh, I have several,” she answered. “Syrians. I gave them leave to be absent tonight. There is a wedding or something. They will be back soon.”
“Have they permits to go out after curfew?”
“Oh, is that necessary?”
"DORWICK faced her and laughed. -L' “When Jerusalem riots, even a princess would need a permit to be out after curfew. However, let’s go in. I want to talk to you about young Harding. Shall I close the window? Shall I draw the curtain? Why do you suppose Harding killed himself?”
“What are you saying? He is dead? Charley Harding is dead? But Major Borwick, this is—dreadful !”
“Yes,” he said, “that beautiful blueeved boy. You knew him well, I believe.” “I ...”
Borwick prompted her: “You were
expecting him tonight? A little tête à tête —singing beside him at the grand piano? Shall we sit down?”
She almost collapsed in her chair. For a moment she covered her face with her verybeautiful hands, then, suddenly:
“But why should he have killed himself?”
“I don’t know. Had you turned him down?”
“What do you mean? You shock me !” “Well,” said Borwick, “I wasn’t shocked when you tried to drug me just now. What was it? Cannabis indica? Marijuana? Something to intoxicate, make amorous, disperse the inhibitions and deprive of judgment?”
She stood up. “If you came here to insult me you have already succeeded. Please go.”
“Insult >rou? I invite your confidence!” Before she could attempt to do it, he picked up her wineglass and dumped its contents into a flower vase. “Now sit down again, princess, and tell me why you had prepared to drug young Harding.” “It is false.”
“Yes, yes. We have destroyed the evidence. I did that to gain your confidence. Did you gain Charley Harding’s? Was he drunk last night? Did he—” “People are not encouraged to get drunk in my house, Major Borwick.” “Didn’t he tell you where he keeps his secret documents?”
“I don’t understand you. I know nothing of any documents.”
“Could he have been murdered?”
“By whom? Only last night, here at my piano while I accompanied his singing, I was thinking he could have no enemies— none.”
“Is killing only done by people’s enemies?” asked Borwick. “Is there no other possible motive than personal enmity to explain a headless corpse and an empty desk drawer? A document is missing. Can you throw any light on it?” “No.”
A motor horn mooed outside the front gate. The princess tried to hide excitement, but she failed.
“They shall show you the door.” Borwick smiled. “Out after dark without a permit, princess? They are in the gaol already, or on the way there. That is my car.”
“You are a police agent?”
“You flatter me!”
“What do you think you have found out?”
“Nothing,” Borwick answered. “And I can’t ask poor Harding, can I? What is left to me except to ask you? Why have you kept hidden in your house a spy named Gabor? Is he here now?”
She eyed him warily. He knew too much. She made the best of it. “He was here. But I learned he is a thief and a murderer. I sent him away.”
Borwick raised his eyebrows. “The police?”
“They might have misunderstood.”
He nodded, smiled. “And what did Gabor leave behind him?”
Someone knocked. Borwick answered; “You, Twirp? Come in.”
HPWIRP EASED himself into the room -*■ and closed the door behind him, expressionless except that his eyelids fluttered. “No accidents,” he said, “but the brakes are lousy.”
“You must excuse my man Twirp,” said Borwick. “He has no manners since he left the army. He has adopted what he tells me is the proletarian attitude. If he ever calls me Comrade Borwick, I will kill him. But he may get killed first coming in through windows. Shall I ask Twirp to look for that document that is missing from Harding’s desk drawer?”
“Why look for it in my house?” she demanded.
“Mightn’t he have left it here last night by oversight due to comprehensible emotion?”
Her eyes betrayed her at last. She hesitated, puzzled, suspicious, glancing from one to the other. She played a losing hazard.
“Y'es. I remember. He did leave a package. I put it away.”
She went to the wineglass cabinet and produced the package that Borwick had packed with plain paper. The seals were broken. Borwick smiled, tossing the package to Twirp.
“Did you keep the spy Gabor behind that door? Isn’t he there now?’
“He was in the cellar.”
“Now, now, now. Twirp has examined the cellar. Y'our kavass is in there, out of mischief. Twirp’s eyelids are incomparably less divine than yours, but they are deuced useful. They can flagwag information. Force that door, Twirp.”
“No! Y'ou shall not ! This is infamous. In there is my personal luggage—my wardrobe—
“Stored in lavender?” asked Borwick. “Gabor, who killed Giuseppe Moroni, smelt of lavender, they tell me. Go ahead, Twirp. Force that door open.”
The princess went and stood with her back to the grand piano, hands behind her. “I defy you !”
“Ah!” said Borwick. “Hah-hah! Quick, Twirp ! Jump on the piano !”
Twirp jumped. The piano-top barely missed crushing her fingers. Twirp grinned.
“Down below that open window,” he said, “there’s a deep well.”
“Very good girl,” said Borwick. “I admire that. If you had aimed straight, we might have fished for weeks. The bottoms of all these deep wells are full of holes and broken rock. A mess of inky pulp wouldn’t have been much use to us, would it? That was very good last-ditch tactics. You should have a medal for that. And now open the door.”
“I will not! Is there no law in this
“Princess, don’t you think it probable, that if I meant to be so deuced legal, you and the prison matron would already have made each other’s acquaintance? I know where Gabor is. I know what happened to him. Open that door.”
Her shoulders drooped. She gave up, glancing at a bureau over by the open window. “I will get you the key.”
“Twirp will get it for you.”
She began to run, but Twirp was too quick. Before she could turn again, Borwick had raised the top of the piano. He snatched out a package wrapped in black cloth. He examined it, kissed it, chuckled.
"Princess, you will have to warn your Italian number one to teach his agents to avoid unconscious habit. Women in a hurry almost always hide things in pianos. You were ready to bolt, weren’t you? So you hid this where you could lay your hand on it the moment your Syrians came with the other half? When what they brought turned out to be a dummy, why didn’t you throw it down that well? It links you with those Syrians. Were you too upset to think about it?”
“Go to hell,” she answered.
Twirp laughed. “Here’s the key, and here’s what else was in the drawer.” He displayed a repeating pistol.
“Whom would you have shot?” asked Borwick.
“Prison!” She shuddered. “Do you think I will endure that?”
"Stand by that open window, Twirp. She’s a hit hysterical. Be gentle with her if she tries to jump out. Princess, prisons are not nice cages for naughty angels. I have what I came for. Your Syrians, I am afraid, will have to get what is coming to them. They have killed altogether too i many people.”
I O HE SHRUGGED her shoulders. “You ^ have been very clever. If it is true they are your prisoners, you will do as you like with them, of course.”
“They will hang,” said Borwick.
She looked relieved. “What do you propose to do with me?”
“Exactly what I please,” he answered. “You are a mere poker chip. I intend to swap you. The Italians have caught a man named Joe Blades in Libya. Blades is a blue chip. How blue do you think you are? A certain secret Italian agent—you can probably guess who he is—shall be notified tomorrow morning that if Joe Blades should reach Egypt unharmed, there will be no objection to your leaving Palestine by any route you please.”
She instantly recovered her poise. She became sarcastic. “Aren’t you flattering me, Major Borwick?”
“Ask Twirp,” he answered.
Twirp squeaked like a leashed fox terrier: “I might have known you’d stand by Joe Blades.”
Borwick took no notice of him. He watched the princess. “And now open that door. Go in there and apologize to young Harding for having kept him gagged and tied so that he could only signal with his heels.”
She stared. “You knew' that?”
“Of course I knew. Do you still mistake me for a policeman?”
She laughed, shrugged her shoulders, took the key from Twirp, unlocked the door and half closed it behind her. Twirp stuck his head through and watched. Borwick went to the phone.
“Number two line—the chief of police . . . You, Barton? Borwick speaking. Have you caught Gabor? No? Incredible! Well, you’ll find him on the floor beneath a sheet in Harding’s room. Yes, that’s Gabor. You should have examined the corpse. Do you remember giving first aid to Harding after the auditor’s dog bit him in the ankle on the tennis court? . . .Yes, Harding is here. He is kissing the princess. Scandalous, eh, what? Should I stop it? Love him? No. I suspect she’d like to kill him . . . What’s that? Oh yes, Lewisohn did nicely. We showed him the men who murdered Gabor and they’re in the lockup. Cheerio, Barton.”
He hung up and laughed at Harding. “All right?”
“Thirsty! Those swine stuck a gag in my teeth. Give me a drink someone.” “This glass! Throw those biscuits down the well, Twirp. You and your two specials will have to keep the princess under observation until further orders.” Borwick fetched a clean glass from the cabinet, wiped it with a napkin, filled it with wine and gave it to the princess. She drank this time. She needed it. She and Borwick laughed in each other’s faces.
“Princess, I knew you were too sentimental to let your Syrian gang murder young Harding. And of course, you wanted that beast Gabor disposed of, because he knew too much. It was a tolerably simple guess that you would kidnap Harding and put Gabor in his place. But who thought of the dog fight?” “I do my own thinking, thank you.” “What would you have done with Harding if I hadn’t thought faster than you did, princess?”
“I would have taken out that gag,” she answered, “for fear of spoiling his beautiful teeth. I would have left him drugged and tied, to take his chance of being found before he starved.”
“That was giving me the breaks,” Harding chuckled. “Wine, please.”
She turned on him. “I was too sentimental! Babyface, had I known what a diplomat you are—
“Now, now, now,” said Borwick. “These are the piping days of peace, so no hostilities! Harding, I don’t care a damn what time it is. My car’s outside.” He handed him the black cloth package. “Take that to the office at once, wake Cartwright, use both documents and get to work ! Send, the car back for me . . . Princess, shall we finish our conversation?”