The Secret Adversary
Part 4 out of 6
fed up. I've half a mind to go back to the States right away."
"Oh no!" cried Tuppence. "We've got to find Tommy."
"I sure forgot Beresford," said Julius contritely. "That's so.
We must find him. But after--well, I've been day-dreaming ever
since I started on this trip--and these dreams are rotten poor
business. I'm quit of them. Say, Miss Tuppence, there's
something I'd like to ask you."
"You and Beresford. What about it?"
"I don't understand you," replied Tuppence with dignity, adding
rather inconsequently: "And, anyway, you're wrong!"
"Not got a sort of kindly feeling for one another?"
"Certainly not," said Tuppence with warmth. "Tommy and I are
"I guess every pair of lovers has said that sometime or another,"
"Nonsense!" snapped Tuppence. "Do I look the sort of girl that's
always falling in love with every man she meets?"
"You do not. You look the sort of girl that's mighty often
getting fallen in love with!"
"Oh!" said Tuppence, rather taken aback. "That's a compliment, I
"Sure. Now let's get down to this. Supposing we never find
"All right--say it! I can face facts. Supposing he's--dead!
"And all this business fiddles out. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," said Tuppence forlornly.
"You'll be darned lonesome, you poor kid."
"I shall be all right," snapped Tuppence with her usual
resentment of any kind of pity.
"What about marriage?" inquired Julius. "Got any views on the
"I intend to marry, of course," replied Tuppence. "That is,
if"--she paused, knew a momentary longing to draw back, and then
stuck to her guns bravely--"I can find some one rich enough to
make it worth my while. That's frank, isn't it? I dare say you
despise me for it."
"I never despise business instinct," said Julius. "What
particular figure have you in mind?"
"Figure?" asked Tuppence, puzzled. "Do you mean tall or short?"
"Oh, I--I haven't quite worked that out."
"What about me?"
"Oh, I couldn't!"
"I tell you I couldn't."
"Again, why not?"
"It would seem so unfair."
"I don't see anything unfair about it. I call your bluff, that's
all. I admire you immensely, Miss Tuppence, more than any girl
I've ever met. You're so darned plucky. I'd just love to give
you a real, rattling good time. Say the word, and we'll run
round right away to some high-class jeweller, and fix up the ring
"I can't," gasped Tuppence.
"Because of Beresford?"
"No, no, NO!"
Tuppence merely continued to shake her head violently.
"You can't reasonably expect more dollars than I've got."
"Oh, it isn't that," gasped Tuppence with an almost hysterical
laugh. "But thanking you very much, and all that, I think I'd
better say no."
"I'd be obliged if you'd do me the favour to think it over until
"It's no use."
"Still, I guess we'll leave it like that."
"Very well," said Tuppence meekly.
Neither of them spoke again until they reached the Ritz.
Tuppence went upstairs to her room. She felt morally battered to
the ground after her conflict with Julius's vigorous personality.
Sitting down in front of the glass, she stared at her own
reflection for some minutes.
"Fool," murmured Tuppence at length, making a grimace. "Little
fool. Everything you want--everything you've ever hoped for, and
you go and bleat out 'no' like an idiotic little sheep. It's your
one chance. Why don't you take it? Grab it? Snatch at it? What
more do you want?"
As if in answer to her own question, her eyes fell on a small
snapshot of Tommy that stood on her dressing-table in a shabby
frame. For a moment she struggled for self-control, and then
abandoning all presence, she held it to her lips and burst into a
fit of sobbing.
"Oh, Tommy, Tommy," she cried, "I do love you so--and I may never
see you again...."
At the end of five minutes Tuppence sat up, blew her nose, and
pushed back her hair.
"That's that," she observed sternly. "Let's look facts in the
face. I seem to have fallen in love--with an idiot of a boy who
probably doesn't care two straws about me." Here she paused.
"Anyway," she resumed, as though arguing with an unseen opponent,
"I don't KNOW that he does. He'd never have dared to say so.
I've always jumped on sentiment--and here I am being more
sentimental than anybody. What idiots girls are! I've always
thought so. I suppose I shall sleep with his photograph under my
pillow, and dream about him all night. It's dreadful to feel
you've been false to your principles."
Tuppence shook her head sadly, as she reviewed her backsliding.
"I don't know what to say to Julius, I'm sure. Oh, what a fool I
feel! I'll have to say SOMETHING--he's so American and thorough,
he'll insist upon having a reason. I wonder if he did find
anything in that safe----"
Tuppence's meditations went off on another tack. She reviewed
the events of last night carefully and persistently. Somehow,
they seemed bound up with Sir James's enigmatical words....
Suddenly she gave a great start--the colour faded out of her
face. Her eyes, fascinated, gazed in front of her, the pupils
"Impossible," she murmured. "Impossible! I must be going mad
even to think of such a thing...."
Monstrous--yet it explained everything....
After a moment's reflection she sat down and wrote a note,
weighing each word as she did so. Finally she nodded her head as
though satisfied, and slipped it into an envelope which she
addressed to Julius. She went down the passage to his
sitting-room and knocked at the door. As she had expected, the
room was empty. She left the note on the table.
A small page-boy was waiting outside her own door when she
returned to it.
"Telegram for you, miss."
Tuppence took it from the salver, and tore it open carelessly.
Then she gave a cry. The telegram was from Tommy!
FURTHER ADVENTURES OF TOMMY
FROM a darkness punctuated with throbbing stabs of fire, Tommy
dragged his senses slowly back to life. When he at last opened
his eyes, he was conscious of nothing but an excruciating pain
through his temples. He was vaguely aware of unfamiliar
surroundings. Where was he? What had happened? He blinked
feebly. This was not his bedroom at the Ritz. And what the
devil was the matter with his head?
"Damn!" said Tommy, and tried to sit up. He had remembered. He
was in that sinister house in Soho. He uttered a groan and fell
back. Through his almost-closed lids he reconnoitred carefully.
"He is coming to," remarked a voice very near Tommy's ear. He
recognized it at once for that of the bearded and efficient
German, and lay artistically inert. He felt that it would be a
pity to come round too soon; and until the pain in his head
became a little less acute, he felt quite incapable of collecting
his wits. Painfully he tried to puzzle out what had happened.
Obviously somebody must have crept up behind him as he listened
and struck him down with a blow on the head. They knew him now
for a spy, and would in all probability give him short shrift.
Undoubtedly he was in a tight place. Nobody knew where he was,
therefore he need expect no outside assistance, and must depend
solely on his own wits.
"Well, here goes," murmured Tommy to himself, and repeated his
"Damn!" he observed, and this time succeeded in sitting up.
In a minute the German stepped forward and placed a glass to his
lips, with the brief command "Drink." Tommy obeyed. The potency
of the draught made him choke, but it cleared his brain in a
He was lying on a couch in the room in which the meeting had been
held. On one side of him was the German, on the other the
villainous-faced doorkeeper who had let him in. The others were
grouped together at a little distance away. But Tommy missed one
face. The man known as Number One was no longer of the company.
"Feel better?" asked the German, as he removed the empty glass.
"Yes, thanks," returned Tommy cheerfully.
"Ah, my young friend, it is lucky for you your skull is so thick.
The good Conrad struck hard." He indicated the evil-faced
doorkeeper by a nod. The man grinned.
Tommy twisted his head round with an effort.
"Oh," he said, "so you're Conrad, are you? It strikes me the
thickness of my skull was lucky for you too. When I look at you I
feel it's almost a pity I've enabled you to cheat the hangman."
The man snarled, and the bearded man said quietly:
"He would have run no risk of that."
"Just as you like," replied Tommy. "I know it's the fashion to
run down the police. I rather believe in them myself."
His manner was nonchalant to the last degree. Tommy Beresford
was one of those young Englishmen not distinguished by any
special intellectual ability, but who are emphatically at their
best in what is known as a "tight place." Their natural
diffidence and caution fall from them like a glove. Tommy
realized perfectly that in his own wits lay the only chance of
escape, and behind his casual manner he was racking his brains
The cold accents of the German took up the conversation:
"Have you anything to say before you are put to death as a spy?"
"Simply lots of things," replied Tommy with the same urbanity as
"Do you deny that you were listening at that door?"
"I do not. I must really apologize--but your conversation was so
interesting that it overcame my scruples."
"How did you get in?"
"Dear old Conrad here." Tommy smiled deprecatingly at him. "I
hesitate to suggest pensioning off a faithful servant, but you
really ought to have a better watchdog."
Conrad snarled impotently, and said sullenly, as the man with the
beard swung round upon him:
"He gave the word. How was I to know?"
"Yes," Tommy chimed in. "How was he to know? Don't blame the
poor fellow. His hasty action has given me the pleasure of seeing
you all face to face."
He fancied that his words caused some discomposure among the
group, but the watchful German stilled it with a wave of his
"Dead men tell no tales," he said evenly.
"Ah," said Tommy, "but I'm not dead yet!"
"You soon will be, my young friend," said the German.
An assenting murmur came from the others.
Tommy's heart beat faster, but his casual pleasantness did not
"I think not," he said firmly. "I should have a great objection
He had got them puzzled, he saw that by the look on his captor's
"Can you give us any reason why we should not put you to death?"
asked the German.
"Several," replied Tommy. "Look here, you've been asking me a
lot of questions. Let me ask you one for a change. Why didn't
you kill me off at once before I regained consciousness?"
The German hesitated, and Tommy seized his advantage.
"Because you didn't know how much I knew--and where I obtained
that knowledge. If you kill me now, you never will know."
But here the emotions of Boris became too much for him. He
stepped forward waving his arms.
"You hell-hound of a spy," he screamed. "We will give you short
shrift. Kill him! Kill him!"
There was a roar of applause.
"You hear?" said the German, his eyes on Tommy. "What have you
to say to that?"
"Say?" Tommy shrugged his shoulders. "Pack of fools. Let them
ask themselves a few questions. How did I get into this place?
Remember what dear old Conrad said--WITH YOUR OWN PASSWORD,
wasn't it? How did I get hold of that? You don't suppose I came
up those steps haphazard and said the first thing that came into
Tommy was pleased with the concluding words of this speech. His
only regret was that Tuppence was not present to appreciate its
"That is true," said the working man suddenly. "Comrades, we
have been betrayed!"
An ugly murmur arose. Tommy smiled at them encouragingly.
"That's better. How can you hope to make a success of any job if
you don't use your brains?"
"You will tell us who has betrayed us," said the German. "But
that shall not save you--oh, no! You shall tell us all that you
know. Boris, here, knows pretty ways of making people speak!"
"Bah!" said Tommy scornfully, fighting down a singularly
unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. "You will neither
torture me nor kill me."
"And why not?" asked Boris.
"Because you'd kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," replied
There was a momentary pause. It seemed as though Tommy's
persistent assurance was at last conquering. They were no longer
completely sure of themselves. The man in the shabby clothes
stared at Tommy searchingly.
"He's bluffing you, Boris," he said quietly.
Tommy hated him. Had the man seen through him?
The German, with an effort, turned roughly to Tommy.
"What do you mean?"
"What do you think I mean?" parried Tommy, searching desperately
in his own mind.
Suddenly Boris stepped forward, and shook his fist in Tommy's
"Speak, you swine of an Englishman--speak!"
"Don't get so excited, my good fellow," said Tommy calmly.
"That's the worst of you foreigners. You can't keep calm. Now, I
ask you, do I look as though I thought there were the least
chance of your killing me?"
He looked confidently round, and was glad they could not hear the
persistent beating of his heart which gave the lie to his words.
"No," admitted Boris at last sullenly, "you do not."
"Thank God, he's not a mind reader," thought Tommy. Aloud he
pursued his advantage:
"And why am I so confident? Because I know something that puts
me in a position to propose a bargain."
"A bargain?" The bearded man took him up sharply.
"Yes--a bargain. My life and liberty against----" He paused.
The group pressed forward. You could have heard a pin drop.
Slowly Tommy spoke.
"The papers that Danvers brought over from America in the
The effect of his words was electrical. Every one was on his
feet. The German waved them back. He leaned over Tommy, his face
purple with excitement.
"Himmel! You have got them, then?"
With magnificent calm Tommy shook his head.
"You know where they are?" persisted the German.
Again Tommy shook his head. "Not in the least."
"Then--then----" angry and baffled, the words failed him.
Tommy looked round. He saw anger and bewilderment on every face,
but his calm assurance had done its work--no one doubted but that
something lay behind his words.
"I don't know where the papers are--but I believe that I can find
them. I have a theory----"
Tommy raised his hand, and silenced the clamours of disgust.
"I call it a theory--but I'm pretty sure of my facts--facts that
are known to no one but myself. In any case what do you lose? If
I can produce the papers--you give me my life and liberty in
exchange. Is it a bargain?"
"And if we refuse?" said the German quietly.
Tommy lay back on the couch.
"The 29th," he said thoughtfully, "is less than a fortnight
For a moment the German hesitated. Then he made a sign to
"Take him into the other room."
For five minutes, Tommy sat on the bed in the dingy room next
door. His heart was beating violently. He had risked all on this
throw. How would they decide? And all the while that this
agonized questioning went on within him, he talked flippantly to
Conrad, enraging the cross-grained doorkeeper to the point of
At last the door opened, and the German called imperiously to
Conrad to return.
"Let's hope the judge hasn't put his black cap on," remarked
Tommy frivolously. "That's right, Conrad, march me in. The
prisoner is at the bar, gentlemen."
The German was seated once more behind the table. He motioned to
Tommy to sit down opposite to him.
"We accept," he said harshly, "on terms. The papers must be
delivered to us before you go free."
"Idiot!" said Tommy amiably. "How do you think I can look for
them if you keep me tied by the leg here?"
"What do you expect, then?"
"I must have liberty to go about the business in my own way."
The German laughed.
"Do you think we are little children to let you walk out of here
leaving us a pretty story full of promises?"
"No," said Tommy thoughtfully. "Though infinitely simpler for
me, I did not really think you would agree to that plan. Very
well, we must arrange a compromise. How would it be if you
attached little Conrad here to my person. He's a faithful fellow,
and very ready with the fist."
"We prefer," said the German coldly, "that you should remain
here. One of our number will carry out your instructions
minutely. If the operations are complicated, he will return to
you with a report and you can instruct him further."
"You're tying my hands," complained Tommy. "It's a very delicate
affair, and the other fellow will muff it up as likely as not,
and then where shall I be? I don't believe one of you has got an
ounce of tact."
The German rapped the table.
"Those are our terms. Otherwise, death!"
Tommy leaned back wearily.
"I like your style. Curt, but attractive. So be it, then. But
one thing is essential, I must see the girl."
"Jane Finn, of course."
The other looked at him curiously for some minutes, then he said
slowly, and as though choosing his words with care:
"Do you not know that she can tell you nothing?"
Tommy's heart beat a little faster. Would he succeed in coming
face to face with the girl he was seeking?
"I shall not ask her to tell me anything," he said quietly. "Not
in so many words, that is."
"Then why see her?"
"To watch her face when I ask her one question," he replied at
Again there was a look in the German's eyes that Tommy did not
"She will not be able to answer your question."
"That does not matter. I shall have seen her face when I ask it."
"And you think that will tell you anything?" He gave a short
disagreeable laugh. More than ever, Tommy felt that there was a
factor somewhere that he did not understand. The German looked at
him searchingly. "I wonder whether, after all, you know as much
as we think?" he said softly.
Tommy felt his ascendancy less sure than a moment before. His
hold had slipped a little. But he was puzzled. What had he said
wrong? He spoke out on the impulse of the moment.
"There may be things that you know which I do not. I have not
pretended to be aware of all the details of your show. But
equally I've got something up my sleeve that you don't know
about. And that's where I mean to score. Danvers was a damned
clever fellow----" He broke off as if he had said too much.
But the German's face had lightened a little.
"Danvers," he murmured. "I see----" He paused a minute, then
waved to Conrad. "Take him away. Upstairs--you know."
"Wait a minute," said Tommy. "What about the girl?"
"That may perhaps be arranged."
"It must be."
"We will see about it. Only one person can decide that."
"Who?" asked Tommy. But he knew the answer.
"Shall I see him?"
"Come," said Conrad harshly.
Tommy rose obediently. Outside the door his gaoler motioned to
him to mount the stairs. He himself followed close behind. On
the floor above Conrad opened a door and Tommy passed into a
small room. Conrad lit a hissing gas burner and went out. Tommy
heard the sound of the key being turned in the lock.
He set to work to examine his prison. It was a smaller room than
the one downstairs, and there was something peculiarly airless
about the atmosphere of it. Then he realized that there was no
window. He walked round it. The walls were filthily dirty, as
everywhere else. Four pictures hung crookedly on the wall
representing scenes from Faust. Marguerite with her box of
jewels, the church scene, Siebel and his flowers, and Faust and
Mephistopheles. The latter brought Tommy's mind back to Mr.
Brown again. In this sealed and closed chamber, with its
close-fitting heavy door, he felt cut off from the world, and the
sinister power of the arch-criminal seemed more real. Shout as
he would, no one could ever hear him. The place was a living
With an effort Tommy pulled himself together. He sank on to the
bed and gave himself up to reflection. His head ached badly;
also, he was hungry. The silence of the place was dispiriting.
"Anyway," said Tommy, trying to cheer himself, "I shall see the
chief--the mysterious Mr. Brown and with a bit of luck in
bluffing I shall see the mysterious Jane Finn also. After
After that Tommy was forced to admit the prospect looked dreary.
THE troubles of the future, however, soon faded before the
troubles of the present. And of these, the most immediate and
pressing was that of hunger. Tommy had a healthy and vigorous
appetite. The steak and chips partaken of for lunch seemed now to
belong to another decade. He regretfully recognized the fact
that he would not make a success of a hunger strike.
He prowled aimlessly about his prison. Once or twice he
discarded dignity, and pounded on the door. But nobody answered
"Hang it all!" said Tommy indignantly. "They can't mean to
starve me to death." A new-born fear passed through his mind
that this might, perhaps, be one of those "pretty ways" of making
a prisoner speak, which had been attributed to Boris. But on
reflection he dismissed the idea.
"It's that sour faced brute Conrad," he decided. "That's a
fellow I shall enjoy getting even with one of these days. This is
just a bit of spite on his part. I'm certain of it."
Further meditations induced in him the feeling that it would be
extremely pleasant to bring something down with a whack on
Conrad's egg-shaped head. Tommy stroked his own head tenderly,
and gave himself up to the pleasures of imagination. Finally a
bright idea flashed across his brain. Why not convert imagination
into reality? Conrad was undoubtedly the tenant of the house.
The others, with the possible exception of the bearded German,
merely used it as a rendezvous. Therefore, why not wait in
ambush for Conrad behind the door, and when he entered bring down
a chair, or one of the decrepit pictures, smartly on to his head.
One would, of course, be careful not to hit too hard. And
then--and then, simply walk out! If he met anyone on the way
down, well----Tommy brightened at the thought of an encounter
with his fists. Such an affair was infinitely more in his line
than the verbal encounter of this afternoon. Intoxicated by his
plan, Tommy gently unhooked the picture of the Devil and Faust,
and settled himself in position. His hopes were high. The plan
seemed to him simple but excellent.
Time went on, but Conrad did not appear. Night and day were the
same in this prison room, but Tommy's wrist-watch, which enjoyed
a certain degree of accuracy, informed him that it was nine
o'clock in the evening. Tommy reflected gloomily that if supper
did not arrive soon it would be a question of waiting for
breakfast. At ten o'clock hope deserted him, and he flung
himself on the bed to seek consolation in sleep. In five minutes
his woes were forgotten.
The sound of the key turning in the lock awoke him from his
slumbers. Not belonging to the type of hero who is famous for
awaking in full possession of his faculties, Tommy merely blinked
at the ceiling and wondered vaguely where he was. Then he
remembered, and looked at his watch. It was eight o'clock.
"It's either early morning tea or breakfast," deduced the young
man, "and pray God it's the latter!"
The door swung open. Too late, Tommy remembered his scheme of
obliterating the unprepossessing Conrad. A moment later he was
glad that he had, for it was not Conrad who entered, but a girl.
She carried a tray which she set down on the table.
In the feeble light of the gas burner Tommy blinked at her. He
decided at once that she was one of the most beautiful girls he
had ever seen. Her hair was a full rich brown, with sudden glints
of gold in it as though there were imprisoned sunbeams struggling
in its depths. There was a wild-rose quality about her face. Her
eyes, set wide apart, were hazel, a golden hazel that again
recalled a memory of sunbeams.
A delirious thought shot through Tommy's mind.
"Are you Jane Finn?" he asked breathlessly.
The girl shook her head wonderingly.
"My name is Annette, monsieur."
She spoke in a soft, broken English.
"Oh!" said Tommy, rather taken aback. "Francaise?" he hazarded.
"Oui, monsieur. Monsieur parle francais?"
"Not for any length of time," said Tommy. "What's that?
The girl nodded. Tommy dropped off the bed and came and
inspected the contents of the tray. It consisted of a loaf, some
margarine, and a jug of coffee.
"The living is not equal to the Ritz," he observed with a sigh.
"But for what we are at last about to receive the Lord has made
me truly thankful. Amen."
He drew up a chair, and the girl turned away to the door.
"Wait a sec," cried Tommy. "There are lots of things I want to
ask you, Annette. What are you doing in this house? Don't tell
me you're Conrad's niece, or daughter, or anything, because I
can't believe it."
"I do the SERVICE, monsieur. I am not related to anybody."
"I see," said Tommy. "You know what I asked you just now. Have
you ever heard that name?"
"I have heard people speak of Jane Finn, I think."
"You don't know where she is?"
Annette shook her head.
"She's not in this house, for instance?"
"Oh no, monsieur. I must go now--they will be waiting for me."
She hurried out. The key turned in the lock.
"I wonder who 'they' are," mused Tommy, as he continued to make
inroads on the loaf. "With a bit of luck, that girl might help
me to get out of here. She doesn't look like one of the gang."
At one o'clock Annette reappeared with another tray, but this
time Conrad accompanied her.
"Good morning," said Tommy amiably. "You have NOT used Pear's
soap, I see."
Conrad growled threateningly.
"No light repartee, have you, old bean? There, there, we can't
always have brains as well as beauty. What have we for lunch?
Stew? How did I know? Elementary, my dear Watson--the smell of
onions is unmistakable."
"Talk away," grunted the man. "It's little enough time you'll
have to talk in, maybe."
The remark was unpleasant in its suggestion, but Tommy ignored
it. He sat down at the table.
"Retire, varlet," he said, with a wave of his hand. "Prate not to
That evening Tommy sat on the bed, and cogitated deeply. Would
Conrad again accompany the girl? If he did not, should he risk
trying to make an ally of her? He decided that he must leave no
stone unturned. His position was desperate.
At eight o'clock the familiar sound of the key turning made him
spring to his feet. The girl was alone.
"Shut the door," he commanded. "I want to speak to you." She
"Look here, Annette, I want you to help me get out of this." She
shook her head.
"Impossible. There are three of them on the floor below."
"Oh!" Tommy was secretly grateful for the information. "But you
would help me if you could?"
The girl hesitated.
"I think--they are my own people. You have spied upon them. They
are quite right to keep you here."
"They're a bad lot, Annette. If you'll help me, I'll take you
away from the lot of them. And you'd probably get a good whack
But the girl merely shook her head.
"I dare not, monsieur; I am afraid of them."
She turned away.
"Wouldn't you do anything to help another girl?" cried Tommy.
"She's about your age too. Won't you save her from their
"You mean Jane Finn?"
"It is her you came here to look for? Yes?"
The girl looked at him, then passed her hand across her forehead.
"Jane Finn. Always I hear that name. It is familiar."
Tommy came forward eagerly.
"You must know SOMETHING about her?"
But the girl turned away abruptly.
"I know nothing--only the name." She walked towards the door.
Suddenly she uttered a cry. Tommy stared. She had caught sight
of the picture he had laid against the wall the night before. For
a moment he caught a look of terror in her eyes. As inexplicably
it changed to relief. Then abruptly she went out of the room.
Tommy could make nothing of it. Did she fancy that he had meant
to attack her with it? Surely not. He rehung the picture on the
Three more days went by in dreary inaction. Tommy felt the
strain telling on his nerves. He saw no one but Conrad and
Annette, and the girl had become dumb. She spoke only in
monosyllables. A kind of dark suspicion smouldered in her eyes.
Tommy felt that if this solitary confinement went on much longer
he would go mad. He gathered from Conrad that they were waiting
for orders from "Mr. Brown." Perhaps, thought Tommy, he was
abroad or away, and they were obliged to wait for his return.
But the evening of the third day brought a rude awakening.
It was barely seven o'clock when he heard the tramp of footsteps
outside in the passage. In another minute the door was flung
open. Conrad entered. With him was the evil-looking Number 14.
Tommy's heart sank at the sight of them.
"Evenin', gov'nor," said the man with a leer. "Got those ropes,
The silent Conrad produced a length of fine cord. The next
minute Number 14's hands, horribly dexterous, were winding the
cord round his limbs, while Conrad held him down.
"What the devil----?" began Tommy.
But the slow, speechless grin of the silent Conrad froze the
words on his lips.
Number 14 proceeded deftly with his task. In another minute
Tommy was a mere helpless bundle. Then at last Conrad spoke:
"Thought you'd bluffed us, did you? With what you knew, and what
you didn't know. Bargained with us! And all the time it was
bluff! Bluff! You know less than a kitten. But your number's up
now all right, you b----swine."
Tommy lay silent. There was nothing to say. He had failed.
Somehow or other the omnipotent Mr. Brown had seen through his
pretensions. Suddenly a thought occurred to him.
"A very good speech, Conrad," he said approvingly. "But wherefore
the bonds and fetters? Why not let this kind gentleman here cut
my throat without delay?"
"Garn," said Number 14 unexpectedly. "Think we're as green as to
do you in here, and have the police nosing round? Not 'alf!
We've ordered the carriage for your lordship to-morrow mornin',
but in the meantime we're not taking any chances, see!"
"Nothing," said Tommy, "could be plainer than your words--unless
it was your face."
"Stow it," said Number 14.
"With pleasure," replied Tommy. "You're making a sad
mistake--but yours will be the loss."
"You don't kid us that way again," said Number 14. "Talking as
though you were still at the blooming Ritz, aren't you?"
Tommy made no reply. He was engaged in wondering how Mr. Brown
had discovered his identity. He decided that Tuppence, in the
throes of anxiety, had gone to the police, and that his
disappearance having been made public the gang had not been slow
to put two and two together.
The two men departed and the door slammed. Tommy was left to his
meditations. They were not pleasant ones. Already his limbs felt
cramped and stiff. He was utterly helpless, and he could see no
About an hour had passed when he heard the key softly turned, and
the door opened. It was Annette. Tommy's heart beat a little
faster. He had forgotten the girl. Was it possible that she had
come to his help?
Suddenly he heard Conrad's voice:
"Come out of it, Annette. He doesn't want any supper to-night."
"Oui, oui, je sais bien. But I must take the other tray. We need
the things on it."
"Well, hurry up," growled Conrad.
Without looking at Tommy the girl went over to the table, and
picked up the tray. She raised a hand and turned out the light.
"Curse you"--Conrad had come to the door--"why did you do that?"
"I always turn it out. You should have told me. Shall I relight
it, Monsieur Conrad?"
"No, come on out of it."
"Le beau petit monsieur," cried Annette, pausing by the bed in
the darkness. "You have tied him up well, hein? He is like a
trussed chicken!" The frank amusement in her tone jarred on the
boy; but at that moment, to his amazement, he felt her hand
running lightly over his bonds, and something small and cold was
pressed into the palm of his hand.
"Come on, Annette."
"Mais me voila."
The door shut. Tommy heard Conrad say:
"Lock it and give me the key."
The footsteps died away. Tommy lay petrified with amazement. The
object Annette had thrust into his hand was a small penknife, the
blade open. From the way she had studiously avoided looking at
him, and her action with the light, he came to the conclusion
that the room was overlooked. There must be a peep-hole somewhere
in the walls. Remembering how guarded she had always been in her
manner, he saw that he had probably been under observation all
the time. Had he said anything to give himself away? Hardly. He
had revealed a wish to escape and a desire to find Jane Finn, but
nothing that could have given a clue to his own identity. True,
his question to Annette had proved that he was personally
unacquainted with Jane Finn, but he had never pretended
otherwise. The question now was, did Annette really know more?
Were her denials intended primarily for the listeners? On that
point he could come to no conclusion.
But there was a more vital question that drove out all others.
Could he, bound as he was, manage to cut his bonds? He essayed
cautiously to rub the open blade up and down on the cord that
bound his two wrists together. It was an awkward business, and
drew a smothered "Ow" of pain from him as the knife cut into his
wrist. But slowly and doggedly he went on sawing to and fro. He
cut the flesh badly, but at last he felt the cord slacken. With
his hands free, the rest was easy. Five minutes later he stood
upright with some difficulty, owing to the cramp in his limbs.
His first care was to bind up his bleeding wrist. Then he sat on
the edge of the bed to think. Conrad had taken the key of the
door, so he could expect little more assistance from Annette.
The only outlet from the room was the door, consequently he would
perforce have to wait until the two men returned to fetch him.
But when they did . . . Tommy smiled! Moving with infinite
caution in the dark room, he found and unhooked the famous
picture. He felt an economical pleasure that his first plan would
not be wasted. There was now nothing to do but to wait. He
The night passed slowly. Tommy lived through an eternity of
hours, but at last he heard footsteps. He stood upright, drew a
deep breath, and clutched the picture firmly.
The door opened. A faint light streamed in from outside. Conrad
went straight towards the gas to light it. Tommy deeply regretted
that it was he who had entered first. It would have been pleasant
to get even with Conrad. Number 14 followed. As he stepped
across the threshold, Tommy brought the picture down with
terrific force on his head. Number 14 went down amidst a
stupendous crash of broken glass. In a minute Tommy had slipped
out and pulled to the door. The key was in the lock. He turned
it and withdrew it just as Conrad hurled himself against the door
from the inside with a volley of curses.
For a moment Tommy hesitated. There was the sound of some one
stirring on the floor below. Then the German's voice came up the
"Gott im Himmel! Conrad, what is it?"
Tommy felt a small hand thrust into his. Beside him stood
Annette. She pointed up a rickety ladder that apparently led to
"Quick--up here!" She dragged him after her up the ladder. In
another moment they were standing in a dusty garret littered with
lumber. Tommy looked round.
"This won't do. It's a regular trap. There's no way out."
"Hush! Wait." The girl put her finger to her lips. She crept to
the top of the ladder and listened.
The banging and beating on the door was terrific. The German and
another were trying to force the door in. Annette explained in a
"They will think you are still inside. They cannot hear what
Conrad says. The door is too thick."
"I thought you could hear what went on in the room?"
"There is a peep-hole into the next room. It was clever of you
to guess. But they will not think of that--they are only anxious
to get in."
"Yes--but look here----"
"Leave it to me." She bent down. To his amazement, Tommy saw
that she was fastening the end of a long piece of string to the
handle of a big cracked jug. She arranged it carefully, then
turned to Tommy.
"Have you the key of the door?"
"Give it to me."
He handed it to her.
"I am going down. Do you think you can go halfway, and then
swing yourself down BEHIND the ladder, so that they will not see
"There's a big cupboard in the shadow of the landing. Stand
behind it. Take the end of this string in your hand. When I've
let the others out--PULL!"
Before he had time to ask her anything more, she had flitted
lightly down the ladder and was in the midst of the group with a
"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?"
The German turned on her with an oath.
"Get out of this. Go to your room!"
Very cautiously Tommy swung himself down the back of the ladder.
So long as they did not turn round ... all was well. He crouched
behind the cupboard. They were still between him and the stairs.
"AH!" Annette appeared to stumble over something. She stooped.
"Mon Dieu, voila la clef!"
The German snatched it from her. He unlocked the door. Conrad
stumbled out, swearing.
"Where is he? Have you got him?"
"We have seen no one," said the German sharply. His face paled.
"Who do you mean?"
Conrad gave vent to another oath.
"He's got away."
"Impossible. He would have passed us."
At that moment, with an ecstatic smile Tommy pulled the string. A
crash of crockery came from the attic above. In a trice the men
were pushing each other up the rickety ladder and had disappeared
into the darkness above.
Quick as a flash Tommy leapt from his hiding-place and dashed
down the stairs, pulling the girl with him. There was no one in
the hall. He fumbled over the bolts and chain. At last they
yielded, the door swung open. He turned. Annette had
Tommy stood spell-bound. Had she run upstairs again? What
madness possessed her! He fumed with impatience, but he stood
his ground. He would not go without her.
And suddenly there was an outcry overhead, an exclamation from
the German, and then Annette's voice, clear and high:
"Ma foi, he has escaped! And quickly! Who would have thought
Tommy still stood rooted to the ground. Was that a command to
him to go? He fancied it was.
And then, louder still, the words floated down to him:
"This is a terrible house. I want to go back to Marguerite. To
Marguerite. TO MARGUERITE!"
Tommy had run back to the stairs. She wanted him to go and leave
her. But why? At all costs he must try and get her away with
him. Then his heart sank. Conrad was leaping down the stairs,
uttering a savage cry at the sight of him. After him came the
Tommy stopped Conrad's rush with a straight blow with his fist.
It caught the other on the point of the jaw and he fell like a
log. The second man tripped over his body and fell. From higher
up the staircase there was a flash, and a bullet grazed Tommy's
ear. He realized that it would be good for his health to get out
of this house as soon as possible. As regards Annette he could
do nothing. He had got even with Conrad, which was one
satisfaction. The blow had been a good one.
He leapt for the door, slamming it behind him. The square was
deserted. In front of the house was a baker's van. Evidently he
was to have been taken out of London in that, and his body found
many miles from the house in Soho. The driver jumped to the
pavement and tried to bar Tommy's way. Again Tommy's fist shot
out, and the driver sprawled on the pavement.
Tommy took to his heels and ran--none too soon. The front door
opened and a hail of bullets followed him. Fortunately none of
them hit him. He turned the corner of the square.
"There's one thing," he thought to himself, "they can't go on
shooting. They'll have the police after them if they do. I
wonder they dared to there."
He heard the footsteps of his pursuers behind him, and redoubled
his own pace. Once he got out of these by-ways he would be safe.
There would be a policeman about somewhere--not that he really
wanted to invoke the aid of the police if he could possibly do
without it. It meant explanations, and general awkwardness. In
another moment he had reason to bless his luck. He stumbled over
a prostrate figure, which started up with a yell of alarm and
dashed off down the street. Tommy drew back into a doorway. In a
minute he had the pleasure of seeing his two pursuers, of whom
the German was one, industriously tracking down the red herring!
Tommy sat down quietly on the doorstep and allowed a few moments
to elapse while he recovered his breath. Then he strolled gently
in the opposite direction. He glanced at his watch. It was a
little after half-past five. It was rapidly growing light. At
the next corner he passed a policeman. The policeman cast a
suspicious eye on him. Tommy felt slightly offended. Then,
passing his hand over his face, he laughed. He had not shaved or
washed for three days! What a guy he must look.
He betook himself without more ado to a Turkish Bath
establishment which he knew to be open all night. He emerged into
the busy daylight feeling himself once more, and able to make
First of all, he must have a square meal. He had eaten nothing
since midday yesterday. He turned into an A.B.C. shop and
ordered eggs and bacon and coffee. Whilst he ate, he read a
morning paper propped up in front of him. Suddenly he stiffened.
There was a long article on Kramenin, who was described as the
"man behind Bolshevism" in Russia, and who had just arrived in
London--some thought as an unofficial envoy. His career was
sketched lightly, and it was firmly asserted that he, and not the
figurehead leaders, had been the author of the Russian
In the centre of the page was his portrait.
"So that's who Number 1 is," said Tommy with his mouth full of
eggs and bacon. "Not a doubt about it, I must push on."
He paid for his breakfast, and betook himself to Whitehall. There
he sent up his name, and the message that it was urgent. A few
minutes later he was in the presence of the man who did not here
go by the name of "Mr. Carter." There was a frown on his face.
"Look here, you've no business to come asking for me in this way.
I thought that was distinctly understood?"
"It was, sir. But I judged it important to lose no time."
And as briefly and succinctly as possible he detailed the
experiences of the last few days.
Half-way through, Mr. Carter interrupted him to give a few
cryptic orders through the telephone. All traces of displeasure
had now left his face. He nodded energetically when Tommy had
"Quite right. Every moment's of value. Fear we shall be too
late anyway. They wouldn't wait. Would clear out at once.
Still, they may have left something behind them that will be a
clue. You say you've recognized Number 1 to be Kramenin? That's
important. We want something against him badly to prevent the
Cabinet falling on his neck too freely. What about the others?
You say two faces were familiar to you? One's a Labour man, you
think? Just look through these photos, and see if you can spot
A minute later, Tommy held one up. Mr. Carter exhibited some
"Ah, Westway! Shouldn't have thought it. Poses as being
moderate. As for the other fellow, I think I can give a good
guess." He handed another photograph to Tommy, and smiled at the
other's exclamation. "I'm right, then. Who is he? Irishman.
Prominent Unionist M.P. All a blind, of course. We've suspected
it--but couldn't get any proof. Yes, you've done very well, young
man. The 29th, you say, is the date. That gives us very little
time--very little time indeed."
"But----" Tommy hesitated.
Mr. Carter read his thoughts.
"We can deal with the General Strike menace, I think. It's a
toss-up--but we've got a sporting chance! But if that draft
treaty turns up--we're done. England will be plunged in anarchy.
Ah, what's that? The car? Come on, Beresford, we'll go and have
a look at this house of yours."
Two constables were on duty in front of the house in Soho. An
inspector reported to Mr. Carter in a low voice. The latter
turned to Tommy.
"The birds have flown--as we thought. We might as well go over
Going over the deserted house seemed to Tommy to partake of the
character of a dream. Everything was just as it had been. The
prison room with the crooked pictures, the broken jug in the
attic, the meeting room with its long table. But nowhere was
there a trace of papers. Everything of that kind had either been
destroyed or taken away. And there was no sign of Annette.
"What you tell me about the girl puzzled me," said Mr. Carter.
"You believe that she deliberately went back?"
"It would seem so, sir. She ran upstairs while I was getting.
the door open."
"H'm, she must belong to the gang, then; but, being a woman,
didn't feel like standing by to see a personable young man
killed. But evidently she's in with them, or she wouldn't have
"I can't believe she's really one of them, sir. She--seemed so
"Good-looking, I suppose?" said Mr. Carter with a smile that made
Tommy flush to the roots of his hair. He admitted Annette's
beauty rather shamefacedly.
"By the way," observed Mr. Carter, "have you shown yourself to
Miss Tuppence yet? She's been bombarding me with letters about
"Tuppence? I was afraid she might get a bit rattled. Did she go
to the police?"
Mr. Carter shook his head.
"Then I wonder how they twigged me."
Mr. Carter looked inquiringly at him, and Tommy explained. The
other nodded thoughtfully.
"True, that's rather a curious point. Unless the mention of the
Ritz was an accidental remark?"
"It might have been, sir. But they must have found out about me
suddenly in some way."
"Well," said Mr. Carter, looking round him, "there's nothing more
to be done here. What about some lunch with me?"
"Thanks awfully, sir. But I think I'd better get back and rout
"Of course. Give her my kind regards and tell her not to believe
you're killed too readily next time."
"I take a lot of killing, sir."
"So I perceive," said Mr. Carter dryly. "Well, good-bye.
Remember you're a marked man now, and take reasonable care of
"Thank you, sir."
Hailing a taxi briskly Tommy stepped in, and was swiftly borne to
the Ritz' dwelling the while on the pleasurable anticipation of
"Wonder what she's been up to. Dogging 'Rita' most likely. By
the way, I suppose that's who Annette meant by Marguerite. I
didn't get it at the time." The thought saddened him a little,
for it seemed to prove that Mrs. Vandemeyer and the girl were on
The taxi drew up at the Ritz. Tommy burst into its sacred
portals eagerly, but his enthusiasm received a check. He was
informed that Miss Cowley had gone out a quarter of an hour ago.
BAFFLED for the moment, Tommy strolled into the restaurant, and
ordered a meal of surpassing excellence. His four days'
imprisonment had taught him anew to value good food.
He was in the middle of conveying a particularly choice morsel of
Sole a la Jeanette to his mouth, when he caught sight of Julius
entering the room. Tommy waved a menu cheerfully, and succeeded
in attracting the other's attention. At the sight of Tommy,
Julius's eyes seemed as though they would pop out of his head.
He strode across, and pump-handled Tommy's hand with what seemed
to the latter quite unnecessary vigour.
"Holy snakes!" he ejaculated. "Is it really you?"
"Of course it is. Why shouldn't it be?"
"Why shouldn't it be? Say, man, don't you know you've been given
up for dead? I guess we'd have had a solemn requiem for you in
another few days."
"Who thought I was dead?" demanded Tommy.
"She remembered the proverb about the good dying young, I
suppose. There must be a certain amount of original sin in me to
have survived. Where is Tuppence, by the way?"
"Isn't she here?"
"No, the fellows at the office said she'd just gone out."
"Gone shopping, I guess. I dropped her here in the car about an
hour ago. But, say, can't you shed that British calm of yours,
and get down to it? What on God's earth have you been doing all
"If you're feeding here," replied Tommy, "order now. It's going
to be a long story."
Julius drew up a chair to the opposite side of the table,
summoned a hovering waiter, and dictated his wishes. Then he
turned to Tommy.
"Fire ahead. I guess you've had some few adventures."
"One or two," replied Tommy modestly, and plunged into his
Julius listened spellbound. Half the dishes that were placed
before him he forgot to eat. At the end he heaved a long sigh.
"Bully for you. Reads like a dime novel!"
"And now for the home front," said Tommy, stretching out his hand
for a peach.
"We-el," drawled Julius, "I don't mind admitting we've had some
He, in his turn, assumed the role of narrator. Beginning with his
unsuccessful reconnoitring at Bournemouth, he passed on to his
return to London, the buying of the car, the growing anxieties of
Tuppence, the call upon Sir James, and the sensational
occurrences of the previous night.
"But who killed her?" asked Tommy. "I don't quite understand."
"The doctor kidded himself she took it herself," replied Julius
"And Sir James? What did he think?"
"Being a legal luminary, he is likewise a human oyster," replied
Julius. "I should say he 'reserved judgment.' " He went on to
detail the events of the morning.
"Lost her memory, eh?" said Tommy with interest. "By Jove, that
explains why they looked at me so queerly when I spoke of
questioning her. Bit of a slip on my part, that! But it wasn't
the sort of thing a fellow would be likely to guess."
"They didn't give you any sort of hint as to where Jane was?"
Tommy shook his head regretfully.
"Not a word. I'm a bit of an ass, as you know. I ought to have
got more out of them somehow."
"I guess you're lucky to be here at all. That bluff of yours was
the goods all right. How you ever came to think of it all so pat
beats me to a frazzle!"
"I was in such a funk I had to think of something," said Tommy
There was a moment's pause, and then Tommy reverted to Mrs.
"There's no doubt it was chloral?"
"I believe not. At least they call it heart failure induced by
an overdose, or some such claptrap. It's all right. We don't
want to be worried with an inquest. But I guess Tuppence and I
and even the highbrow Sir James have all got the same idea."
"Mr. Brown?" hazarded Tommy.
"All the same," he said thoughtfully, "Mr. Brown hasn't got
wings. I don't see how he got in and out."
"How about some high-class thought transference stunt? Some
magnetic influence that irresistibly impelled Mrs. Vandemeyer to
Tommy looked at him with respect.
"Good, Julius. Distinctly good. Especially the phraseology. But
it leaves me cold. I yearn for a real Mr. Brown of flesh and
blood. I think the gifted young detectives must get to work,
study the entrances and exits, and tap the bumps on their
foreheads until the solution of the mystery dawns on them. Let's
go round to the scene of the crime. I wish we could get hold of
Tuppence. The Ritz would enjoy the spectacle of the glad
Inquiry at the office revealed the fact that Tuppence had not yet
"All the same, I guess I'll have a look round upstairs," said
Julius. "She might be in my sitting-room." He disappeared.
Suddenly a diminutive boy spoke at Tommy's elbow:
"The young lady--she's gone away by train, I think, sir," he
"What?" Tommy wheeled round upon him.
The small boy became pinker than before.
"The taxi, sir. I heard her tell the driver Charing Cross and to
Tommy stared at him, his eyes opening wide in surprise.
Emboldened, the small boy proceeded. "So I thought, having asked
for an A.B.C. and a Bradshaw."
Tommy interrupted him:
"When did she ask for an A.B.C. and a Bradshaw?"
"When I took her the telegram, sir."
"When was that?"
"About half-past twelve, sir."
"Tell me exactly what happened."
The small boy drew a long breath.
"I took up a telegram to No. 891--the lady was there. She opened
it and gave a gasp, and then she said, very jolly like: 'Bring me
up a Bradshaw, and an A.B.C., and look sharp, Henry.' My name
isn't Henry, but----"
"Never mind your name," said Tommy impatiently. "Go on."
"Yes, sir. I brought them, and she told me to wait, and looked
up something. And then she looks up at the clock, and 'Hurry up,'
she says. 'Tell them to get me a taxi,' and she begins a-shoving
on of her hat in front of the glass, and she was down in two
ticks, almost as quick as I was, and I seed her going down the
steps and into the taxi, and I heard her call out what I told
The small boy stopped and replenished his lungs. Tommy continued
to stare at him. At that moment Julius rejoined him. He held an
open letter in his hand.
"I say, Hersheimmer"--Tommy turned to him--"Tuppence has gone off
sleuthing on her own."
"Yes, she has. She went off in a taxi to Charing Cross in the
deuce of a hurry after getting a telegram." His eye fell on the
letter in Julius's hand. "Oh; she left a note for you. That's
all right. Where's she off to?"
Almost unconsciously, he held out his hand for the letter, but
Julius folded it up and placed it in his pocket. He seemed a
"I guess this is nothing to do with it. It's about something
else--something I asked her that she was to let me know about."
"Oh!" Tommy looked puzzled, and seemed waiting for more.
"See here," said Julius suddenly, "I'd better put you wise. I
asked Miss Tuppence to marry me this morning."
"Oh!" said Tommy mechanically. He felt dazed. Julius's words
were totally unexpected. For the moment they benumbed his brain.
"I'd like to tell you," continued Julius, "that before I
suggested anything of the kind to Miss Tuppence, I made it clear
that I didn't want to butt in in any way between her and you----"
Tommy roused himself.
"That's all right," he said quickly. "Tuppence and I have been
pals for years. Nothing more." He lit a cigarette with a hand
that shook ever so little. "That's quite all right. Tuppence
always said that she was looking out for----"
He stopped abruptly, his face crimsoning, but Julius was in no
"Oh, I guess it'll be the dollars that'll do the trick. Miss
Tuppence put me wise to that right away. There's no humbug about
her. We ought to gee along together very well."
Tommy looked at him curiously for a minute, as though he were
about to speak, then changed his mind and said nothing. Tuppence
and Julius! Well, why not? Had she not lamented the fact that
she knew no rich men? Had she not openly avowed her intention of
marrying for money if she ever had the chance? Her meeting with
the young American millionaire had given her the chance--and it
was unlikely she would be slow to avail herself of it. She was
out for money. She had always said so. Why blame her because
she had been true to her creed?
Nevertheless, Tommy did blame her. He was filled with a
passionate and utterly illogical resentment. It was all very
well to SAY things like that--but a REAL girl would never marry
for money. Tuppence was utterly cold-blooded and selfish, and he
would be delighted if he never saw her again! And it was a
Julius's voice broke in on these meditations.
"Yes, we ought to get along together very well. I've heard that
a girl always refuses you once--a sort of convention."
Tommy caught his arm.
"Refuses? Did you say REFUSES?"
"Sure thing. Didn't I tell you that? She just rapped out a 'no'
without any kind of reason to it. The eternal feminine, the Huns
call it, I've heard. But she'll come round right enough. Likely
enough, I hustled her some----"
But Tommy interrupted regardless of decorum.
"What did she say in that note?" he demanded fiercely.
The obliging Julius handed it to him.
"There's no earthly clue in it as to where she's gone," he
assured Tommy. "But you might as well see for yourself if you
don't believe me."
The note, in Tuppence's well-known schoolboy writing, ran as
"It's always better to have things in black and white. I don't
feel I can be bothered to think of marriage until Tommy is found.
Let's leave it till then.
Tommy handed it back, his eyes shining. His feelings had
undergone a sharp reaction. He now felt that Tuppence was all
that was noble and disinterested. Had she not refused Julius
without hesitation? True, the note betokened signs of weakening,
but he could excuse that. It read almost like a bribe to Julius
to spur him on in his efforts to find Tommy, but he supposed she
had not really meant it that way. Darling Tuppence, there was not
a girl in the world to touch her! When he saw her----His thoughts
were brought up with a sudden jerk.
"As you say," he remarked, pulling himself together, "there's not
a hint here as to what she's up to. Hi--Henry!"
The small boy came obediently. Tommy produced five shillings.
"One thing more. Do you remember what the young lady did with
Henry gasped and spoke.
"She crumpled it up into a ball and threw it into the grate, and
made a sort of noise like 'Whoop!' sir."
"Very graphic, Henry," said Tommy. "Here's your five shillings.
Come on, Julius. We must find that telegram."
They hurried upstairs. Tuppence had left the key in her door.
The room was as she had left it. In the fireplace was a crumpled
ball of orange and white. Tommy disentangled it and smoothed out
"Come at once, Moat House, Ebury, Yorkshire, great
They looked at each other in stupefaction. Julius spoke first:
"You didn't send it?"
"Of course not. What does it mean?"
"I guess it means the worst," said Julius quietly. "They've got
"Sure thing! They signed your name, and she fell into the trap
like a lamb."
"My God! What shall we do?"
"Get busy, and go after her! Right now! There's no time to
waste. It's almighty luck that she didn't take the wire with her.
If she had we'd probably never have traced her. But we've got to
hustle. Where's that Bradshaw?"
The energy of Julius was infectious. Left to himself, Tommy
would probably have sat down to think things out for a good
half-hour before he decided on a plan of action. But with Julius
Hersheimmer about, hustling was inevitable.
After a few muttered imprecations he handed the Bradshaw to Tommy
as being more conversant with its mysteries. Tommy abandoned it
in favour of an A.B.C.
"Here we are. Ebury, Yorks. From King's Cross. Or St. Pancras.
(Boy must have made a mistake. It was King's Cross, not CHARING
Cross.) 12.50, that's the train she went by. 2.10, that's gone.
3.20 is the next--and a damned slow train too."
"What about the car?"
Tommy shook his head.
"Send it up if you like, but we'd better stick to the train. The
great thing is to keep calm."
"That's so. But it gets my goat to think of that innocent young
girl in danger!"
Tommy nodded abstractedly. He was thinking. In a moment or two,
"I say, Julius, what do they want her for, anyway?"
"Eh? I don't get you?"
"What I mean is that I don't think it's their game to do her any
harm," explained Tommy, puckering his brow with the strain of his
mental processes. "She's a hostage, that's what she is. She's in
no immediate danger, because if we tumble on to anything, she'd
be damned useful to them. As long as they've got her, they've got
the whip hand of us. See?"
"Sure thing," said Julius thoughtfully. "That's so."
"Besides," added Tommy, as an afterthought, "I've great faith in
The journey was wearisome, with many stops, and crowded
carriages. They had to change twice, once at Doncaster, once at a
small junction. Ebury was a deserted station with a solitary
porter, to whom Tommy addressed himself:
"Can you tell me the way to the Moat House?"
"The Moat House? It's a tidy step from here. The big house near
the sea, you mean?"
Tommy assented brazenly. After listening to the porter's
meticulous but perplexing directions, they prepared to leave the
station. It was beginning to rain, and they turned up the collars
of their coats as they trudged through the slush of the road.
Suddenly Tommy halted.
"Wait a moment." He ran back to the station and tackled the
"Look here, do you remember a young lady who arrived by an
earlier train, the 12.50 from London? She'd probably ask you the
way to the Moat House."
He described Tuppence as well as he could, but the porter shook
his head. Several people had arrived by the train in question.
He could not call to mind one young lady in particular. But he
was quite certain that no one had asked him the way to the Moat
Tommy rejoined Julius, and explained. Depression was settling on
him like a leaden weight. He felt convinced that their quest was
going to be unsuccessful. The enemy had over three hours' start.
Three hours was more than enough for Mr. Brown. He would not
ignore the possibility of the telegram having been found.
The way seemed endless. Once they took the wrong turning and
went nearly half a mile out of their direction. It was past seven
o'clock when a small boy told them that "t' Moat House" was just
past the next corner.
A rusty iron gate swinging dismally on its hinges! An overgrown
drive thick with leaves. There was something about the place
that struck a chill to both their hearts. They went up the
deserted drive. The leaves deadened their footsteps. The
daylight was almost gone. It was like walking in a world of
ghosts. Overhead the branches flapped and creaked with a mournful
note. Occasionally a sodden leaf drifted silently down, startling
them with its cold touch on their cheek.
A turn of the drive brought them in sight of the house. That,
too, seemed empty and deserted. The shutters were closed, the
steps up to the door overgrown with moss. Was it indeed to this
desolate spot that Tuppence had been decoyed? It seemed hard to
believe that a human footstep had passed this way for months.
Julius jerked the rusty bell handle. A jangling peal rang
discordantly, echoing through the emptiness within. No one came.
They rang again and again--but there was no sign of life. Then
they walked completely round the house. Everywhere silence, and
shuttered windows. If they could believe the evidence of their
eyes the place was empty.
"Nothing doing," said Julius.
They retraced their steps slowly to the gate.
"There must be a village handy," continued the young American.
"We'd better make inquiries there. They'll know something about
the place, and whether there's been anyone there lately."
"Yes, that's not a bad idea."
Proceeding up the road, they soon came to a little hamlet. On the
outskirts of it, they met a workman swinging his bag of tools,
and Tommy stopped him with a question.
"The Moat House? It's empty. Been empty for years. Mrs;
Sweeny's got the key if you want to go over it--next to the post
Tommy thanked him. They soon found the post office, which was
also a sweet and general fancy shop, and knocked at the door of
the cottage next to it. A clean, wholesome-looking woman opened
it. She readily produced the key of the Moat House.
"Though I doubt if it's the kind of place to suit you, sir. In a
terrible state of repair. Ceilings leaking and all. 'Twould need
a lot of money spent on it."
"Thanks," said Tommy cheerily. "I dare say it'll be a washout,
but houses are scarce nowadays."
"That they are," declared the woman heartily. "My daughter and
son-in-law have been looking for a decent cottage for I don't
know how long. It's all the war. Upset things terribly, it has.
But excuse me, sir, it'll be too dark for you to see much of the
house. Hadn't you better wait until to-morrow?"
"That's all right. We'll have a look around this evening,
anyway. We'd have been here before only we lost our way. What's
the best place to stay at for the night round here?"
Mrs. Sweeny looked doubtful.
"There's the Yorkshire Arms, but it's not much of a place for
gentlemen like you."
"Oh, it will do very well. Thanks. By the way, you've not had a
young lady here asking for this key to-day?"
The woman shook her head.
"No one's been over the place for a long time."
"Thanks very much."
They retraced their steps to the Moat House. As the front door
swung back on its hinges, protesting loudly, Julius struck a
match and examined the floor carefully. Then he shook his head.
"I'd swear no one's passed this way. Look at the dust. Thick.
Not a sign of a footmark."
They wandered round the deserted house. Everywhere the same
tale. Thick layers of dust apparently undisturbed.
"This gets me," said Julius. "I don't believe Tuppence was ever
in this house."
"She must have been."
Julius shook his head without replying.
"We'll go over it again to-morrow," said Tommy. "Perhaps we'll
see more in the daylight."
On the morrow they took up the search once more, and were
reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the house had not been
invaded for some considerable time. They might have left the
village altogether but for a fortunate discovery of Tommy's. As
they were retracing their steps to the gate, he gave a sudden
cry, and stooping, picked something up from among the leaves, and
held it out to Julius. It was a small gold brooch.
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. I've often seen her wear it."
Julius drew a deep breath.
"I guess that settles it. She came as far as here, anyway.
We'll make that pub our head-quarters, and raise hell round here
until we find her. Somebody MUST have seen her."
Forthwith the campaign began. Tommy and Julius worked separately
and together, but the result was the same. Nobody answering to
Tuppence's description had been seen in the vicinity. They were
baffled--but not discouraged. Finally they altered their
tactics. Tuppence had certainly not remained long in the
neighbourhood of the Moat House. That pointed to her having been
overcome and carried away in a car. They renewed inquiries. Had
anyone seen a car standing somewhere near the Moat House that
day? Again they met with no success.
Julius wired to town for his own car, and they scoured the
neighbourhood daily with unflagging zeal. A grey limousine on
which they had set high hopes was traced to Harrogate, and turned
out to be the property of a highly respectable maiden lady!
Each day saw them set out on a new quest. Julius was like a
hound on the leash. He followed up the slenderest clue. Every
car that had passed through the village on the fateful day was
tracked down. He forced his way into country properties and
submitted the owners of the motors to a searching
cross-examination. His apologies were as thorough as his methods,
and seldom failed in disarming the indignation of his victims;
but, as day succeeded day, they were no nearer to discovering
Tuppence's whereabouts. So well had the abduction been planned
that the girl seemed literally to have vanished into thin air.
And another preoccupation was weighing on Tommy's mind.
"Do you know how long we've been here?" he asked one morning as
they sat facing each other at breakfast. "A week! We're no
nearer to finding Tuppence, and NEXT SUNDAY IS THE 29TH!"
"Shucks!" said Julius thoughtfully. "I'd almost forgotten about
the 29th. I've been thinking of nothing but Tuppence."
"So have I. At least, I hadn't forgotten about the 29th, but it
didn't seem to matter a damn in comparison to finding Tuppence.
But to-day's the 23rd, and time's getting short. If we're ever
going to get hold of her at all, we must do it before the
29th--her life won't be worth an hour's purchase afterwards. The
hostage game will be played out by then. I'm beginning to feel
that we've made a big mistake in the way we've set about this.
We've wasted time and we're no forrader."
"I'm with you there. We've been a couple of mutts, who've bitten
off a bigger bit than they can chew. I'm going to quit fooling
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you. I'm going to do what we ought to have done a
week ago. I'm going right back to London to put the case in the
hands of your British police. We fancied ourselves as sleuths.
Sleuths! It was a piece of damn-fool foolishness! I'm through!
I've had enough of it. Scotland Yard for me!"
"You're right," said Tommy slowly. "I wish to God we'd gone
there right away."
"Better late than never. We've been like a couple of babes
playing 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush.' Now I'm going
right along to Scotland Yard to ask them to take me by the hand
and show me the way I should go. I guess the professional always
scores over the amateur in the end. Are you coming along with
Tommy shook his head.
"What's the good? One of us is enough. I might as well stay
here and nose round a bit longer. Something MIGHT turn up. One
"Sure thing. Well, so long. I'll be back in a couple of shakes
with a few inspectors along. I shall tell them to pick out their
brightest and best."
But the course of events was not to follow the plan Julius had
laid down. Later in the day Tommy received a wire:
"Join me Manchester Midland Hotel. Important news--JULIUS."
At 7:30 that night Tommy alighted from a slow cross-country
train. Julius was on the platform.
"Thought you'd come by this train if you weren't out when my wire
Tommy grasped him by the arm.
"What is it? Is Tuppence found?"
Julius shook his head.
"No. But I found this waiting in London. Just arrived."
He handed the telegraph form to the other. Tommy's eyes opened
as he read:
"Jane Finn found. Come Manchester Midland Hotel
Julius took the form back and folded it up.
"Queer," he said thoughtfully. "I thought that lawyer chap had
"MY train got in half an hour ago," explained Julius, as he led
the way out of the station. "I reckoned you'd come by this
before I left London, and wired accordingly to Sir James. He's
booked rooms for us, and will be round to dine at eight."
"What made you think he'd ceased to take any interest in the
case?" asked Tommy curiously.
"What he said," replied Julius dryly. "The old bird's as close
as an oyster! Like all the darned lot of them, he wasn't going to
commit himself till he was sure he could deliver the goods."
"I wonder," said Tommy thoughtfully.
Julius turned on him.
"You wonder what?"
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