THE GRELL MYSTERY
BY FRANK FROEST
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY FRANK FROEST
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY EDWARD J. CLODE
THE GRELL MYSTERY
Outside the St. Jermyn's Club the rain pelted pitilessly upon deserted pavements. Mr. Robert Grell leaned his arms on the table and stared steadily out through the steaming window-panes for a second. His shoulders lifted in a shrug that was almost a shiver.
"It's a deuce of a night," he exclaimed with conviction.
There was a faint trace of accent in his voice—an almost imperceptible drawl, such as might remain in the speech of an American who had travelled widely and rubbed shoulders with all sorts and conditions of men.
His companion lifted his eyebrows whimsically and nipped the end from a cigar.
"It is," he agreed. "But the way you put it is more like plain Bob Grell of the old days than the polished Mr. Robert Grell, social idol, millionaire and diplomat, and winner of the greatest matrimonial prize in London."
Grell tugged at his drooping iron-grey moustache. "That's all right," he said. "This is not a meeting of the Royal Society. Here, in my own club, I claim the right of every free-born citizen to condemn the weather—or anything else—in any language I choose. Great Scott, Fairfield! You don't expect me to wear my mantle all the time. I should explode if I didn't have a safety valve."
Sir Ralph Fairfield nodded. He understood. For years the two had been close friends, and in certain phases of temperament they were much alike. Both had tasted deeply of the sweets and hardships of life. Both had known the fierce wander-lust that drives men into strange places to suffer hunger, thirst, hardship and death itself for the sheer love of the game, and both had achieved something more than national fame. Fairfield as a fertile writer on ethnography and travel; and Grell equally as a daring explorer, and as a man who had made his mark in the politics and finance of the United States. More than once he had been employed on delicate diplomatic missions for his Government, and always he had succeeded. Great things were within his reach when he had suddenly announced his intention of giving up business, politics and travel to settle in England and lead the life of a gentleman of leisure. He had bought a thousand acres in Sussex, and rented a town house in Grosvenor Gardens.
Then he had met Lady Eileen Meredith, daughter of the Duke of Burghley. Like others, he had fallen a victim to her grey eyes. The piquant beauty, the supple grace, the intangible charm of the girl had aroused his desire. A man who always achieved his ends, he set himself to woo and win her with fierce impetuosity. He had won. Now he was spending his last night of bachelordom at his club.
A man of about forty-five, he carried himself well and the evening dress he wore showed his upright muscular figure to advantage. Every movement he made had a swift grace that reminded one irresistibly of a tiger, with its suggestion of reserve force. His close-cropped hair and a drooping moustache were prematurely grey. He had a trick of looking at one through half-closed eyelids that gave the totally erroneous impression that he was half asleep. The face was square, the chin dogged, the lips, half-hidden by the moustache, thin and tightly pressed together. He was the type of man who emerges victor in any contest, whether of wits or muscle. Plain and direct when it suited his purpose; subtle master of intrigue when subtlety was needed.
A nervous gust of wind flung the rain fiercely against the window. Sir Ralph Fairfield uncrossed his knees with care for the scrupulous crease in his trousers.
"You're a great man, Bob," he said slowly. "You take it quite as a matter of course that you should win the prettiest girl in the three kingdoms." His voice became meditative. "I wonder how married life will suit you. You know, you're not altogether the type of a man one associates with the domestic hearthstone."
Their eyes met. The twinkle of humour which was in the baronet's did not reflect itself in the other's. Grell, too, was wondering whether he was fitted for domestic life. He had a taste for introspection, and was speculating how far the joyous girl who had confided her heart to his keeping would fit in with the scheme of things. He roused himself with an effort and glanced at his watch. It was half-past nine.
"You make a mistake, Fairfield," he laughed. "Eileen and I fit each other, and you'll see we'll settle down all right. Care to see the present I'm giving her to-morrow? It's to be a little surprise. Look here!"
He inserted a hand in his breast pocket and produced a flat case of blue Morocco leather. He touched a spring: "There!"
Soft, shimmering white against the sombre velvet lining reposed a string of pearls which even the untrained eye of Fairfield knew must be of enormous value. Each gem was perfect in its soft purity, and they had been matched with scrupulous care. Grell picked it up and dangled it on his forefinger, so that the crimson glow of the shaded electric lights was reflected in the smooth surface of the jewels.
"Pretty toy, isn't it?" he commented. "I gave Streeters carte blanche to do the best they could."
He dropped the necklace carelessly back in its case, snapped the catch, and placed it in his pocket. Fairfield's jerk of the head was significant.
"And you are fool enough to carry the thing around loose in your pocket. Good heavens, man! Do you know that there are people who would not stick at murder to get a thing like that?"
The other laughed easily. "Don't you worry, Fairfield. You're the only person I've shown it to, and I'm not afraid you'll sandbag me." He changed the subject abruptly. "By the way, I've got an engagement I want to keep. Do you mind answering the telephone if I'm rung up by any one? Say I'm here, but I'm frightfully busy clearing up some business matters, will you?"
The baronet frowned half in perplexity, half in protest. "Why—forgive me, Bob—why not say that you are gone out to keep an appointment?"
Grell was plainly a little embarrassed, but he strove to disguise the fact. "Oh, it's only a fancy of mine," he retorted lightly. "I shan't be gone long. You'll do it, won't you?"
"Of course," agreed Sir Ralph, still frowning.
"That's all right, then. Thanks. I'll be back in half an hour."
He strode away with an abrupt nod. Shortly afterwards Fairfield heard a taxicab scurry away down the sodden street. He leaned back in his chair and puffed a cloud of smoke towards the ceiling. There was a dim uneasiness in his mind, though he could have given no reason for it. He picked up an evening paper and threw it aside. Then he strolled up into the cardroom and tried to interest himself in watching a game of bridge. But the play only bored him. Time hung heavily on his hands. A servant spoke to him. Instantly he rose and made his way to the telephone. A call had been made for Grell.
"Hello! Is that you, dear? This is Eileen speaking.... I can't hear. What do you say?"
It was the clear, musical voice of the girl Robert Grell was to marry. Fairfield wondered if his friend had expected this.
"This is not Mr. Grell," he said. "This is Fairfield—Sir Ralph Fairfield—speaking."
"Oh!" He could detect the disappointment in her voice. "Is he there? I am Lady Eileen Meredith."
Fairfield mentally cursed the false position in which he found himself. He was usually a ready-witted man, but now he found himself stammering almost incoherently.
"Yes—no—yes. He is here, Lady Eileen, but he has a guest whom it is impossible for him to leave. It's a matter of settling up an important diplomatic question, I believe. Can I give him any message?"
"No, thank you, Sir Ralph." The voice had become cold and dignified. He could picture her chagrin, and again anathematised Grell in his thoughts. "Has he been there long? When do you think he will be free?"
"I can't say, I'm sure. He met me here for dinner at seven and has been here since."
He hung up the receiver viciously. He had not expected to have to lie to Grell's fiancee when he had promised not to disclose his friend's absence from the club. It was too bad of Grell. His eye met the clock, and with a start he realised that it was a few minutes to eleven o'clock. Grell had been gone an hour and a half.
"Queer chap," he murmured to himself, as he lit a fresh cigar and selected a comfortable chair in the deserted smoking-room. "He's certainly in love with her all right, but it's strange that he should have used me to put her off to-night like that. Wonder what it means."
* * * * *
Two hours later a wild-eyed, breathless servant bareheaded in the pouring rain, was stammering incoherently to a police-constable in Grosvenor Gardens that Mr. Robert Grell had been found murdered in his study.
The shattering ring of the telephone awoke Heldon Foyle with a start. There was only one place from which he was likely to be rung up at one o'clock in the morning, and he was reaching for his clothes with one hand even while he answered.
"That you, sir?"... The voice at the other end was tremulous and excited. "This is the Yard speaking—Flack. Mr. Grell, the American explorer, has been killed—murdered ... yes ... at his house in Grosvenor Gardens. The butler found him...."
When a man has passed thirty years in the service of the Criminal Investigation Department at New Scotland Yard his nerves are pretty well shock-proof. Few emergencies can shake him—not even the murder of so distinguished a man as Robert Grell. Heldon Foyle gave a momentary gasp, and then wasted no further time in astonishment. There were certain obvious things to be done at once. For, up to a point, the science of detection is merely a matter of routine. He flung back his orders curtly and concisely.
"Right. I'm coming straight down. I suppose the local division inspector is on it. Send for Chief Inspector Green and Inspector Waverley, and let the finger-print people know. I shall want one of their best men. Let one of our photographers go to the house and wait for me. Send a messenger to Professor Harding, and telephone to the assistant commissioner. Tell any of the people who are at the house not to touch anything and to detain every one there. And Flack—Flack. Not a word to the newspaper men. We don't want any leakage yet."
He hung up the receiver and began to dress hurriedly, but methodically. He was a methodical man. Resolutely he put from his mind all thoughts of the murder. No good would come of spinning theories until he had all the available facts.
For ten years Heldon Foyle had been the actual executive chief of the Criminal Investigation Department. He rarely wore a dressing-gown and never played the violin. But he had a fine taste in cigars, and was as well-dressed a man as might be found between Temple Bar and Hyde Park Corner. He did not wear policemen's boots, nor, for the matter of that, would he have allowed any of the six hundred odd men who were under his control to wear them. He would have passed without remark in a crowd of West-end clubmen. It is an aim of the good detective to fit his surroundings, whether they be in Kensington or the Whitechapel Road.
A suggestion of immense strength was in his broad shoulders and deep chest. His square, strong face and heavy jaw was redeemed from sternness by a twinkle of humour in the eyes. That same sense of humour had often saved him from making mistakes, although it is not a popular attribute of story-book detectives. His carefully kept brown moustache was daintily upturned at the ends. There was grim tenacity written all over the man, but none but his intimates knew how it was wedded to pliant resource and fertile invention.
Down a quiet street a motor-car throbbed its way and stopped before the door of his quiet suburban home. It had been sent from Scotland Yard.
"Don't worry about speed limits," he said quietly as he stepped in. "Refer any one to me who tries to stop you. Get to Grosvenor Gardens as quickly as you can."
The driver touched his hat, and the car leapt forward with a jerk. A man with tenderer nerves than Foyle would have found it a startling journey. They swept round corners almost on two wheels, skidded on the greasy roads, and once narrowly escaped running down one of London's outcasts who was shuffling across the road with the painful shamble that seems to be the hall-mark of beggars and tramps. Few, save policemen on night duty, were about to mark their wild career.
As they drew up before the pillared portico of the great house in Grosvenor Gardens a couple of policemen moved out of the shadow of the railing and saluted.
Foyle nodded and walked up the steps. The door had flown open before he touched the bell, and a lanky man with slightly bent shoulders was outlined in the radiant glow of the electric light. It was Bolt, the divisional detective inspector, a quiet, grave man who, save on exceptional occasions, was with his staff responsible for the investigation of all crime in his district.
"You're the first to come, sir," he said in a quiet, melancholy tone. "It's a terrible job, this."
He spoke professionally. Living as they do in an atmosphere of crime, always among major and minor tragedies, C.I.D. men—official detectives prefer the term—are forced to view their work objectively, like doctors and journalists. All murders are terrible—as murders. A detective cannot allow his sympathies or sensibility to pain or grief to hamper him in his work. In Bolt's sense the case was terrible because it was difficult to investigate; because, unless the perpetrators were discovered and arrested, discredit would be brought upon the service and glaring contents-bills declare the inefficiency of the department to the world. The C.I.D. is very jealous of its reputation.
"Yes," agreed Foyle. "Where is the butler? He found the body, I'm told. Fetch him into some room where I can talk to him."
The butler, a middle-aged man, nervous, white-faced and half-distracted, was brought into a little sitting-room. His eyes moved restlessly to and from the detective: his fingers were twitching uneasily.
Foyle shot one swift appraising glance at him. Then he nodded to a chair.
"Sit down, my man," he said, and his voice was silky and smooth. "Get him a drink, Bolt. He'll feel better after that. Now, what's your name?—Wills?—Pull yourself together. There's nothing to be alarmed about. Just take your own time and tell us all about it."
There was no hint of officialdom in his manner. It was the sympathetic attitude of one friend towards another. Wills gulped down a strong mixture of brandy and soda which Bolt held out to him, and a tinge of colour returned to his pale cheeks.
"It was awful, sir—awful," he said shakily. "Mr. Grell came in shortly before ten, and left word that if a lady came to see him she was to be brought straight into his study. She drove up in a motor-car a few minutes afterwards and went up to him."
"What was her name? What was she like?" interrupted Bolt. Foyle held up his hand warningly to his subordinate.
Wills quivered all over, and words forsook him for a moment. Then he went on—
"I—I don't know. Ivan, Mr. Grell's valet, let her in. I saw her pass through the hall. She was tall and slim, but she wore a heavy veil, so I didn't see her face. I don't know when she left, but I went up to the study at one o'clock to ask if anything was needed before I went to bed. I could get no answer, although I knocked loudly two or three times; so I opened the door. My God! I..."
He flung his hands over his eyes and collapsed in an infantile paroxysm of tears.
Foyle rose and touched him gently on the shoulder. "Yes, then?"
"The room was only dimly lit, sir, and I could see that he was lying on the couch, rather awkwardly, his face turned from me. I thought he might have dozed off, and I went into the room and touched him on the shoulder. My hand came away wet!" His voice rose to a scream. "It was blood—blood everywhere—and he with a knife in his heart."
Foyle leaned over the table. "Where's Ivan?—Russian, I suppose, by the name? He must be about the house somewhere."
"I haven't seen him since he let the lady in," faltered the butler.
The superintendent never answered. Bolt had silently disappeared. For five minutes silence reigned in the little room. Then the door was pushed open violently and Bolt entered like a stone propelled from a catapult.
"Ivan has gone—vanished!" he cried.
Foyle caressed his chin with his well-manicured hand.
"H'm!" he said reflectively. "Don't let's jump to conclusions too quickly, Mr. Bolt. There's a doctor here, I suppose? Take this man to him, and when he's a bit calmer take a statement from him. I'll leave Ivan to you. Get some of the servants to give you a description of him, and 'phone it through to Flack at the Yard. Let him send it out as an 'all station' message, and get in touch with the railway stations. The chap can't have got far. Detain on suspicion. No arrest. Hello, there's the bell. That's some of our people, I expect. All right, I'll answer. You get on with that."
He had not raised his voice in giving his directions. He was as cool and matter-of-fact as a business man giving instructions to his secretary, yet he was throwing a net round London. Within five minutes of the time Bolt had gathered his description, the private telegraph that links Scotland Yard with all the police stations of London would be setting twenty thousand men on the alert for the missing servant. The great railway stations would be watched, and every policeman and detective wherever he might be stationed would know exactly the appearance of the man wanted, from the colour of his hair and his eyes to the pattern of his socks.
Foyle opened the door to a little cluster of grave-faced men. Sir Hilary Thornton, the assistant commissioner, was there; Professor Harding, an expert retained by the authorities, and a medical man whose scientific researches in connection with the Gould poisoning case had sent a man to the gallows, and whose aid had been most important in solving many murder mysteries; Grant of the finger-print department, a wizard in all matters relating to identification; a couple of men from his department bearing cameras, and lastly the senior officer of the Criminal Investigation Department, Green, and his assistant, Waverley.
Sir Hilary drew Foyle a little aside, and they conversed in low tones. Professor Harding, with a nod to the superintendent, had gone upstairs to where the divisional surgeon and another doctor were waiting with Lomont, the secretary of the murdered man, outside the door of the room where Robert Grell lay dead.
The doctors had done no more than ascertain he was dead, and Foyle himself had purposely not gone near the room until Harding had an opportunity of making his examinations.
"I shall take charge of this myself, if you do not mind, Sir Hilary," Foyle was saying. "Mainland is capable of looking after the routine work of the department, and in the case of a man of Mr. Grell's importance——"
"That is what I should have suggested," said Sir Hilary. "We must get to the bottom of this at all costs. You know Mr. Grell was to have been married to Lady Eileen Meredith at St. Margaret's, Westminster, this morning. It's a bad business. Let's see what Harding's got to say."
Their feet sank noiselessly into the thick carpet of the stairs as they moved towards the death-chamber. From an open doorway near the landing a flood of light issued.
"Very handy for any one to get away," commented Foyle. "The stairs lead direct to the hall, and there are only two rooms to pass. This carpet would deaden footsteps too."
They entered softly. Some one had turned all the lights on in the room, and it was bathed in brilliance.
A dying fire flickered in the grate; bookcases lined the red-papered walls, which were broken here and there by curios and sporting trophies gathered from many countries. There were a few etchings, which had evidently been chosen with the skill of a connoisseur.
Parallel with the window was a desk, scrupulously tidy. Half a dozen chairs were scattered about, and in a recess was a couch, over which the angular frock-coated figure of Professor Harding was bent. He looked up as the two men approached.
"It's clearly murder," he said. "He was probably killed between ten and eleven—stabbed through the heart. Curious weapon used too—look!"
He moved aside and for the first time Foyle got a view of the body. Robert Grell lay sprawled awkwardly on the couch, his face turned towards the wall, one leg trailing on the floor. A dark crimson stain soiled the white surface of his shirt, and one side of his dinner jacket was wringing wet. The dagger still remained in the wound, and it was that riveted Foyle's attention. He stepped back quickly to one of the men at the door.
"Send Mr. Grant to me," he ordered.
Returning to the body, he gently withdrew the knife, handling it with the most delicate care. "I've never seen anything like this before," he said. "Queer thing, isn't it?"
It was a sheath knife with a blade of finely tempered steel about three inches long and as sharp as a razor. Its abnormality lay in a hilt of smooth white ivory set horizontally and not vertically to the blade, as is a rule with most knives.
Foyle carried it in the palm of his hand nearer to the light and squinted at it from various angles. One at least of the observers guessed his purpose. But the detective seemed dissatisfied.
"Can't see anything," he grumbled peevishly. "Ah, there you are, Grant. I want to see whether we can make anything of this. Let me have a little graphite, will you?"
The finger-print expert took an envelope from his pocket and handed it to the superintendent. From it Foyle scattered fine black powder on the hilt. A little cry of satisfaction came from his lips as he blew the stuff away in a little dark cloud. Those in the room crowded around.
Outlined in black against the white surface of the ivory were four finger-prints. The two centre ones were sharp and distinct, the outside prints were fainter and more blurred.
"By Jove, that's good!" exclaimed the professor.
Foyle rubbed his chin and handed the weapon to Grant without replying. "Get one of your men to photograph those and have them enlarged. At any rate, it's something to go on with. It would be as well to compare 'em with the records, though I doubt whether that will be of much use." He drew his watch from his pocket and glanced at it. "Now, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I should like to have the room to myself for a little while. And, Grant, send Green and the photographer up, and tell Waverley to act with Bolt in examining the servants."
The room cleared. Harding lingered to exchange a few words with the superintendent.
"I can do nothing, Mr. Foyle," he said. "From a medical point of view it is all straightforward. There can be no question about the time and cause of death. Good night,—or rather, good morning."
"Thank you, Mr. Harding, good morning."
His eyes were roving restlessly about the room, and he dictated the work the photographer was to do with scrupulous care. Half a dozen times a dazzling flash of magnesium powder lit up the place. Photographs of the room in sections were being taken. Then with a curt order to the photographer to return immediately to Scotland Yard and develop his negatives, he drew up a chair to the couch and began to go methodically through the pockets of the dead man.
Green stood by, a note-book in hand. Now and again Foyle dictated swiftly. He was a man who knew the value of order and system. Every step in the investigation of a crime is reduced to writing, collected, indexed, and filed together, so that the whole history of a case is instantly available at any time. He was carrying out the regular routine.
Only two things of any consequence rewarded his search—one was a note from Sir Ralph Fairfield confirming an appointment with Grell to dine at the St. Jermyn's Club the previous evening; the other was a miniature set in diamonds of a girl, dark and black-haired, with an insolent piquant beauty.
"I've seen that face before somewhere," mused the superintendent. "Green, there's a 'Who's Who' on the desk behind you. I want Sir Ralph Fairfield."
Rapidly he scanned the score of lines of small type devoted to the baronet. They told him little that he had not known before. Fairfield was in his forty-third year, was the ninth baronet, and had great estates in Hampshire and Scotland. He was a traveller and a student. His town address was given as the Albany.
"You'd better go round to Fairfield's place, Green. Tell him what's happened and bring him here at once."
As the chief inspector, a grim, silent man, left, Foyle turned again to his work. He began a careful search of the room, even rummaging among the litter in the waste-paper basket. But there was nothing else that might help to throw the faintest light on the tragedy.
A discreet knock on the door preceded Waverley's entrance with a report of the examination of every one in the house. He had gathered little beyond the fact that Grell, when not concerned in social duties, was a man of irregular comings and goings, and that Ivan, his personal valet, was a man he had brought from St. Petersburg, who spoke French but little English, and had consequently associated little with the other servants.
Foyle subsided into his chair with his forehead puckered into a series of little wrinkles. He rested his chin on his hand and gazed into vacancy. There might be a hundred solutions to the riddle. Where was the motive? Was it blackmail? Was it revenge? Was it jealousy? Was it robbery? Was it a political crime? Was it the work of a madman? Who was the mysterious veiled woman? Was she associated with the crime?
These and a hundred other questions beat insistently on his brain, and to none of them could he see the answer. He pictured the queer dagger, but flog his memory as he would he could not think where it might have been procured. In the morning he would set a score of men making inquiries at every place in London where such a thing was likely to have been obtained.
He was in the position of a man who might solve a puzzle by hard, painstaking experiment and inquiry, but rather hoped that some brilliant flash of inspiration or luck might give him the key that would fit it together at once. They rarely do come.
Once Lomont, Grell's secretary, knocked and entered with a question on his lips. Foyle waved him impatiently away.
"I will see you later on, Mr. Lomont. I am too busy to see you now. Mr. Waverley or Mr. Bolt will see to you."
The man vanished, and a moment or two later a discreet tap at the door heralded the return of Green, accompanied by Sir Ralph Fairfield.
The baronet's hand was cold as it met that of Foyle, and his haggard face was averted as though to avoid the searching gaze of the detective.
Fairfield, awakened from sleep by the news of the murder of his friend, had stared stupidly at the detective Foyle had sent to him.
"Grell killed!" he exclaimed, "Why, he was with me last night. It is incredible—awful. Of course, I'll come at once—though I don't see what use I can be. What time was he murdered?"
"About ten o'clock. So far as we know you were the last person to see him alive—except the murderer," said Green. "Believe me, we're sorry to have to trouble you."
The baronet's face had suddenly gone the colour of white paper. A sickening dread had suddenly swept over him. His hands trembled as he adjusted his overcoat. He remembered that he had assured Lady Eileen that Grell had been with him at the club from six till eleven. What complexion would that statement bear when it was exposed as a lie—in the light of the tragedy? His throat worked as he realised that he might even be suspected of the crime.
The ordinary person suddenly involved in the whirlpool of crime is always staggered. There is ever the feeling, conscious or unconscious: "Why out of so many millions of people should this happen to me?" So it was with Sir Ralph Fairfield. He pictured the agony in Eileen Meredith's eyes when she heard of the death of her lover, pictured her denunciation of his lie. The truth would only sound lame if he were to tell it. Who would believe it? Like a man stricken dumb he descended in the lift with Green, out into the wild night in a taxicab, his thoughts a chaos.
He was neither a coward nor a fool. He had known close acquaintance with sudden death before. But that was different. It had not happened so. He was incapable of connected thought. One thing only he was clear upon—he must see Eileen, tell her the truth and throw himself on her mercy. Meanwhile he would answer no questions until he had considered the matter quietly.
This was his state of mind when he shook hands with Foyle. He had schooled his voice, and it was in a quiet tone that he spoke.
"It's a horrible thing, this," he said, twirling his hat between his long, nervous fingers.
Foyle was studying him closely. The movement of the hands was not lost upon him.
"Yes," he agreed, stroking his chin. "I asked you to come here because Mr. Grell dined with you last night. Do you know if he left you to keep an appointment?"
"No—that is, it might have been so. He left me, and I understood he would be back. He did not return."
"At what time?"
Fairfield hesitated a second before replying. Then, "I haven't the remotest idea."
The face of Foyle gave no indication of the surprise he felt. He did not press the question, but slid off to another.
"Do you know of any woman who was likely to visit him at that time of night?"
"Great heavens, no, man! Do you suspect a woman? He——" He checked himself, and looked curiously at the detective. "Mr. Grell was a friend of mine," he went on more quietly. "Things are bad enough as they are, but you know that he had influential friends both here and in America. They won't thank you, Mr. Foyle, for trying to go into such things."
Heldon Foyle's eyes lingered in quiet scrutiny on the other's face.
"I shall do what I consider to be my duty," he said, his voice a little hard. "Come, Sir Ralph, you will see I must do my best to bring the murderer of this man to justice. Had Mr. Grell any relations?"
"I don't believe there's one in the wide world."
"And you don't remember what time he left? Try, Sir Ralph. It is important. Before you came I sent a man to the club, and none of the servants recollects seeing either of you go. They say he was with you most of the evening. You can clear up this matter of time."
"I don't remember what time he left me."
The baronet's voice was hoarse and strained. Foyle rose and stood towering over him.
"You are lying," he said deliberately.
Sir Ralph recoiled as though he had been struck in the face. A quick wave of crimson had mounted to his temples. Instinctively his hands clenched. Then regaining a little control of himself he wheeled about without a word. His hand was on the handle of the door when the superintendent's suave voice brought him to a halt.
"Oh, by the way, Sir Ralph, you might look at this before you go, and say whether you recognise it."
He held his clenched hand out, and suddenly unclasped it to disclose the miniature set in diamonds.
Sir Ralph gave a start. "By Jove, it's little Lola of Vienna!" he exclaimed. Then realised that he had been trapped. "But I shall tell you nothing about her," he snapped.
"Thank you, Sir Ralph," said the other quietly.
"But this I think it right you should know," went on Fairfield, standing with one hand still on the handle of the door: "When Grell was with me last night he showed me a pearl necklace, which he said he had bought as a wedding present for Lady Eileen Meredith. If you have not found it, it may give you some motive for the tragedy."
"Ah!" said Foyle unemotionally.
Day had long dawned ere Foyle and his staff had finished their work at the great house in Grosvenor Gardens. There had been much to do, for every person who might possibly throw a light on the tragedy had to be questioned and requestioned. The place had been thoroughly searched from attic to cellar, for letters or for the jewels that, if Sir Ralph Fairfield were right, were missing.
Much more there would be to do, but for the moment they could go no further. Foyle returned wearily to Scotland Yard to learn that of the finger-prints on the dagger two were too blurred to serve for purposes of identification. He ordered the miniature to be photographed, and held a short consultation with the assistant commissioner. The watch kept for Ivan had so far been without avail. In the corridor, early as it was, a dozen journalists were waiting. Foyle submitted good-humouredly to their questions as they grouped themselves about his room.
"Yes. Of course, I'll let you know all about it," he protested. "I'll have the facts typed out for you, and you can embroider them yourselves. There's a description of a man we'd like to get hold of—not necessarily the murderer, but he might be an important witness. Be sure and put that in."
He always had an air of engaging candour when dealing with newspaper men. Sometimes they were useful, and he never failed to supply them with just as much information about a case as would in any event leak out. That saved them trouble and made them grateful. He went away now to have the bare details of the murder put into shape. When he returned he held the diamond-set miniature in his hand.
"This has been left at the Lost Property Office," he declared unblushingly. "It's pretty valuable, so they've put it into our hands to find the owner. Any of you boys know the lady?"
Some of them examined it with polite interest. They were more concerned with the murder of a famous man. Lost trinkets were small beer at such time. Only Jerrold of The Wire made any suggestion.
"Reminds me of that Russian princess woman who's been staying at the Palatial, only it's too young for her. What's her name?—Petrovska, I think."
"Thanks," said Foyle; "it doesn't matter much. Ah, here's your stuff. Good-bye, boys, and don't worry me more than you can help. This thing is going to keep us pretty busy."
He saw them out of the room and carefully closed the door. Sitting at his desk he lifted the receiver from the telephone.
"Get the Palatial Hotel," he ordered. "Hello! That the Palatial? Is the Princess Petrovska there? What? Left last night at ten o'clock? Did she say where she was going? No, I see. Good-bye."
He scribbled a few words on a slip of paper, and touching the bell gave it to the man who answered. "Send that to St. Petersburg at once."
It was a communication to the Chief of the Russian police, asking that inquiries should be made as to the antecedents of the Princess.
For the next three hours men were coming rapidly in and out of the superintendent's office, receiving instructions and making reports. Practically the whole of the six hundred men of the C.I.D. were engaged on the case, for there was no avenue of investigation so slender but that there might be something at the end of it. Neither Foyle nor his lieutenants were men to leave anything to chance. Green was seated opposite to him, discussing the progress they had made.
The superintendent leaned back wearily in his chair. Some one handed him a slim envelope. He tore it open and slowly studied the cipher in which the message was written. It read—
"Silinsky, Chief of Police, St. Petersburg. To Foyle, Superintendent C.I.D., London.
"Woman you mention formerly Lola Rachael, believed born Paris; formerly on stage, Vienna; married Prince Petrovska, 1898. Husband died suddenly 1900. Travels much. No further particulars known."
Foyle stroked his chin gravely. "Formerly Lola Rachael," he murmured. "And Sir Ralph recognised the miniature as little Lola of Vienna. She's worth looking after. We must find her, Green. What about this man Ivan?"
"No trace of him yet, sir, but I don't think he can give us the slip. He hadn't much time to get away. By the way, sir, what do you think of Sir Ralph?"
"I don't know. He's keeping something back for some reason. You'd better have him shadowed, Green. Go yourself, and take a good man with you. He mustn't be let out of sight night or day. I may tackle him again later on."
"Very good, sir. Waverley's still at Grosvenor Gardens. Will you be going back there?"
"I don't know. I want to look through the records of the Convict Supervision Office for the last ten years. I have an idea that I may strike something."
Green was too wise a man to ask questions of his chief. He slipped from the room. Half an hour later Foyle dashed out of the room hatless, and, picking up a taxicab, drove at top speed to Grosvenor Gardens. He was greeted at the door by Lomont.
"What is it?" he demanded, the excitement of the detective communicating itself to him. "Have you carried the case any further?"
"I don't know," replied the detective. "I must see the body again. Come up with me."
In the death-chamber he carefully locked the door. A heavy ink-well stood on the desk. He twisted up a piece of paper and dipped it in. Then, approaching the murdered man, he smeared the fingers of his right hand with the blackened paper and pressed them lightly on a piece of blotting paper. The secretary, in utter bewilderment, watched him compare the prints with a piece of paper he took from his pocket.
"What is it?" he repeated again.
"Mr. Lomont," replied the detective gravely, "I wish I knew. Unless our whole system of identification is wrong—and that is incredible—that man who lies dead there is not Robert Grell."
Lomont reeled dizzily, and his hand sought the support of the wall. To him Foyle's voice sounded unreal. He stared at the detective as though doubtful of his sanity. His life had been hitherto ordered, placid. That there were such things as crimes, murders, detectives, he knew. He had read of them in the newspapers. But hitherto they had only been names to him—something to make the paper more readable.
He was a thin-faced man of about thirty, with somewhat sallow cheeks on which there was now a hectic flush, a high-pitched forehead that seemed to have contracted into a perpetual frown, and colourless eyes. The son of a well-known barrister, he had tried his luck in the City after leaving Cambridge. In a few years the respectable income he had started with had dwindled under the drain of his speculations, and it was then that a friend had recommended him to Robert Grell, who was about to take up his residence in England. James Lomont had jumped at the chance, for the salary was respectable and would enable him to maintain a certain footing in society.
"Not Robert Grell!" he echoed incredulously.
Foyle fancied that there was some quality other than incredulity in the tone, but decided that he was mistaken. The young man's nerves were shaken up. So far as time would allow he had gathered all there was to know about him. Lomont had not escaped the network of inquiry that was being woven about all who had associated with Robert Grell.
No fewer than three chapters in a book the Criminal Investigation Department had commenced compiling were devoted to him. They lay with others neatly typed and indexed in Heldon Foyle's office.
One was his signed statement of events on the night of the tragedy. The last time he had seen Grell alive was at half-past six, when his employer had left for the St. Jermyn's Club. He himself had gone to the Savoy Theatre, and, returning some time after eleven, had let himself in with his own key and gone straight to bed. He had only been aroused when the police took possession of the house. The third was headed: "Inquiries as to career of, and corroboration of statements made by, James Lomont."
The curtains had remained drawn, and only a dim light filtered through into the room. Foyle lifted a little green-shaded electric lamp from the table, and switched on the light so that it fell on the face of the dead man.
"Look," he said, in a quiet voice, "do you recognise your chief?"
The young man flung back his shoulders with a jerk, as though overcoming his own feelings, and approached the body with evident distaste. His hands, slender as a woman's, were tight-clenched, and his breath came and went in nervous spasms. For a moment he gazed, and then shook his head weakly.
"It is not," he whispered with dry lips. "There is an old scar across the temple. Mr. Grell's face was not disfigured." He stretched out a hand and clutched the superintendent nervously by the shoulder. "Who is this man, Mr. Foyle? What does it all mean? Where is Mr. Grell?"
Foyle's hand had stolen to his chin and he rubbed it vigorously.
"I don't know what it means," he confessed irritably. "You know as much as I do now. This man is not Robert Grell, though he is astonishingly like him. Now, Mr. Lomont, I rely on you not to breathe a word of this to a living soul until I give you permission. This secret must remain between our two selves for the time being."
In spite of his air of candour, Heldon Foyle had not revealed all he knew. He left the house pondering deeply.
"You see, sir," he explained to the Assistant Commissioner later, "no one who knew Grell had seen the body closely. The butler had taken it for granted that it was his master. It was pure luck with me. In looking through the records in search of this woman Petrovska, I hit against the picture of Goldenburg. It was so like Grell that I went off at once to compare finger-prints. They tallied; and then young Lomont spoke of the scar. Though what Harry Goldenburg should be doing in Grell's house, with Grell's clothes, and with Grell's property in the pockets, is more than I can fathom."
Sir Hilary Thornton drummed on his desk with his right hand.
"Isn't this the Goldenburg who engineered the South American gold mine swindle?" he asked.
"That's the man," agreed Foyle, not without a note of rueful admiration. "He'd got half-a-dozen of the best-known and richest peers in England to promise support, when we spoilt his game. No one would prosecute. He always had luck, had Goldenburg. He's been at the back of a score of big things, but we could never get legal proof against him. He was a cunning rascal—educated, plausible, reckless. Well, he's gone now, and he's given us as tough a nut to crack as ever he did while he was alive."
"How did you get his finger-prints if he was never convicted?" asked Sir Hilary with interest.
Foyle looked his superior full in the face and smiled.
"I arrested him myself, on a charge of pocket-picking in Piccadilly," he said. "Of course, he never picked a pocket in his life—he was too big a crook for that. But we got a remand, and that gave us a chance to get his photograph and prints for the records. We offered no evidence on the second hearing. It was perhaps not strictly legal, but——" The superintendent's features relaxed into a smile. "He never brought an action for malicious prosecution."
"And about Grell? How do you propose to find him?"
Foyle drew his chair up to the table and scribbled busily for a few minutes on a sheet of paper. He carefully blotted it, and handed the result of his labours to Sir Hilary, who nodded approval as he read it.
"You think we shall catch one man by advertising for another?"
"I think it worth trying, sir," retorted the superintendent curtly. "The description and the photograph fit like a glove—and we shan't be giving anything away."
As Heldon Foyle passed through the little back door leading to the courtyard of Scotland Yard an hour later, he stopped for an instant to study a poster that was being placed among the notices on the board in the door. It ran:
HARRY GOLDENBURG, alias THE HON. RUPERT BAXTER, MAX SMITH, JOHN BROOKS, etc.
Wanted For MURDER.
DESCRIPTION.—Age, about 45; height, about 6 ft. 1 in.; complexion, bronzed; square features; grey hair; drooping grey moustache; upright carriage.
NOTE.—Henry Goldenburg has travelled extensively, and is an American by birth, but his accent is almost imperceptible. He speaks several languages, and has resided in Paris, Madrid, and Rome.
The above Reward will be paid to any person (other than a member of any Police force in the United Kingdom) who gives such information as will lead to the apprehension of the above-named person.
The superintendent had wasted no time.
The first grey daylight had found Sir Ralph Fairfield pacing his sitting-room with uneven strides, his hands clasped behind his back, the stump of a cold cigar between his teeth. His interview with Heldon Foyle had not been calculated to calm him.
"I'm a fool—a fool," he told himself. "Why should they suspect me? What have I to gain by Grell's death?"
It was the attitude of a man trying to convince himself. There was one reason why he might be supposed to wish his friend out of the way, but he dared not even shape the thought. There was one person who might guess, and it was she whose lips he hoped to seal. A quick dread came to him. Suppose the police had already gone to her. The thought stung him to action. He had not even removed his hat and coat since his return from Grosvenor Gardens. He made his way to the street and walked briskly along until he sighted a taxicab.
"507 Berkeley Square," he told the driver.
It was a surprised footman who opened the door of the Duke of Burghley's house. Fairfield, at the man's look of astonishment, remembered that he was unshaven, and that his clothes had been thrown on haphazard. It was a queer thought to intrude at such a time. But he was usually a scrupulously dressed man, and the triviality worried him.
"Lady Eileen Meredith. I must see her at once," he said peremptorily. "Don't stand staring at me, man. You know me."
The footman coughed apologetically.
"Yes, Sir Ralph. Lady Eileen is not up yet. If it is important I can get a maid to call her. Shall I tell his Grace?"
"No. It is of the utmost importance that I see her personally immediately."
Sir Ralph breathed a sigh of relief as he was ushered into the cool morning room and the door closed behind him. At all events, the police had not seen her yet. He was first. That meant he would have to break the news to her. How would she take it?
"The poor little girl!" he muttered to himself. And then the door clicked.
Eileen Meredith stood there, a pink dressing-gown enveloping her graceful figure from shoulders to feet. There was questioning wonder in her grey eyes as she extended her hand, but no alarm. He almost wished there was. It would have made things easier.
"You, Sir Ralph?" she cried. "What has brought you here so early? Has Bob repented of his bargain and sent you to call it off at the last moment?"
The man fumbled for words. Now that he was face to face with her the phrase he had so laboriously worked out to lead up to the news had deserted him. He pushed a chair towards her.
"Er—won't you sit down?" he said awkwardly.
He was striving for an opening. Both words and tone called the girl's direct attention to the haggard face, the feverish eyes. Her fears were alight on the instant. She regarded him with parted lips and gripped his arm impulsively.
"Something has happened!" she cried apprehensively. "Why do you look like that? What is it?" Her voice rose and she tried to shake the silent man. "Answer—why don't you answer? Is he ill—dead?"
Sir Ralph choked over his reply.
"He was killed last night—murdered."
It was out at last. He had blundered clumsily, and he knew it. The colour drained from Eileen's face and she stood rigid as a statue for a moment. Then slowly she swayed forward. He stretched out his arms to prevent her from falling. She waved him aside dumbly and tottered to a couch. His directness had been more merciful than he had thought. She was stunned, dazed by her calamity. Her very silence frightened the man. She sat bolt upright, her hand resting limply in her lap and her dull eyes staring into vacancy. A tiny clock on the mantelpiece ticked loudly.
"Dead!" she whispered at last. There was no trace of unsteadiness in her voice and her eyes were dry. She spoke mechanically. "And it is our wedding-day! Dead! Bob is dead?"
Her hair had fallen about her shoulders, and, beautiful in her grief, she inspired the man with almost supernatural awe. He had moved to the mantelpiece and, resting an arm upon it and one foot upon the fender, remained looking down upon her. He was waiting until the first numbness of the shock had passed. The little clock on the mantelpiece had ticked out ten minutes ere she spoke again. But her voice was pitched in more natural tones, and her face had regained something of its colour.
"How did it happen?"
Haltingly he gave such details as he knew. Her eyes were fixed on his face as he narrated his story. He hesitated as he referred to his telephone conversation with her. In her clear eyes he saw challenging scorn and stopped abruptly.
"You say that Bob asked you to lie to me?" she demanded.
"Not to you in particular. To any one who rang up. I couldn't know whether he wished his instructions to apply to you."
"No, no, of course not," she interposed quickly, but with a tightening of the heart he recognised the bitterness of her tone. For all her soft daintiness, there was something of the tigress in Eileen Meredith.
The man she loved was dead. Well, she would have her vengeance—somehow, on some one. She was ready to suspect without thinking. And Sir Ralph Fairfield had laid himself open to suspicion.
"He was killed before eleven," she went on remorselessly, "and you told me he was in the club with you at that time."
"You don't believe me." He held out his arms to her imploringly, and then dropped them to his side. "I give you my word that everything I have told you is true. Why should I lie now?"
She wheeled on him passionately.
"You ask me that?" she said tensely. "You who thought he was in your way—that what you could not gain while he was living you might take when he was dead. Do you think your smooth-faced hypocrisy deceives me now? You pretended to accept your dismissal, pretended to be still my friend—and his."
Her anger disconcerted the man more than her anguish had done. His breath caught sharply.
"You don't realise what you are saying," he said, speaking calmly with an effort. "Because I once loved you—love you still if you will—before ever Robert Grell came into your life, you hint an unthinkable thing."
She crossed the room in a graceful swirl of draperies, and laid a finger on the bell. Her features were set. She was in no state to weigh the justice or injustice of the implied accusation she had made. And the man, for his part, felt his oppression brushed away by anger at her readiness to judge him.
"We shall see whether the police believe it unthinkable," she said coldly.
A servant tapped discreetly and opened the door.
"Show this person out," she said.
Sir Ralph bowed mechanically. There was nothing more to be said. He knew that in her present condition an appeal to her to suppress the story of the telephone message would be worse than useless. As he passed down the steps and into the street, a man sauntered idly a dozen yards behind him. And thirty yards behind that man was another whom the baronet might have recognised as Chief Detective-Inspector Green—had he seen him.
Within the house a girl, no longer upheld by the strength of passionate denunciation, had collapsed on a couch, a huddled heap of draperies, sobbing as though her heart would break.
It was an hour after Fairfield had left her before Eileen Meredith's sobs died away in the deserted room. There was none to hear or see, and she gave way to her grief uncontrolled. Gradually the first shock passed. Her calmness came back to her, but she was a different woman to the vivacious, sunny girl who had looked forward to her wedding-day. Her face was set stonily, and in the grey depths of her eyes there lurked in place of laughter an implacable determination.
She had loved Robert Grell with the fierce, passionate devotion of a strong nature. The sudden news of his death had brought out the primitive woman bent on vengeance. It was no impulse of suddenly shattered nerves that had made her turn on Fairfield. To coldly analyse the facts for and against him was beyond her. She only thought of the man who had a possible motive for slaying her lover and had had a possible opportunity.
Yet none would have guessed the burning emotion that thrilled in her veins as she submitted to the ministrations of her maid. She had not even troubled to tell her father, although the elderly peer was her only near relative. Not until he was seated at breakfast did she inform him in level, passionless tones of what had happened. Even then she said nothing of her suspicions of Ralph Fairfield. But for her pale face she might have been speaking of something in which she was but slightly interested.
The Duke of Burghley dropped his knife and fork at her first words. As she finished, he stood over her and passed a hand tenderly around her.
"My poor, poor little girl," he said. "This is terrible. Fairfield ought to have seen me first. I must telephone for your aunt to come and stay here until we can get away."
She shook her head a trifle impatiently.
"I don't want her, father. She cannot help me. I would rather be here alone with you. It would drive me mad to have sympathy showered on me. I want to see no one. I want to be left to myself."
"But—my dear, I know it is a shock, but you cannot be allowed to brood——"
She rose abruptly from the table and put him from her.
"I shall not brood," she said. "I shall work. I am going to Scotland Yard to learn what they know."
"Yes, yes, if you wish it," he said soothingly. "We will go at once. I will order the car now."
"I would rather go alone, if you don't mind," she said decisively, and the door closed behind her.
"She always was headstrong," remarked the Duke of Burghley to the devilled kidneys, and stared moodily into the fire.
Since his wife had died he had always been governed by his impetuous, strong-willed daughter, and accepted the situation philosophically so long as he had his books and his club. He led a complacent life from which he was rarely stirred. But he was hit harder than he cared to admit by the way in which she accepted the tragedy. He wondered vaguely what he ought to do, and decided to consult Brown—Brown being the senior member of his firm of family solicitors.
In his room at Scotland Yard Superintendent Heldon Foyle, a cigar between his teeth, was studying the book which his staff was compiling. Already it formed a bulky volume of many hundred typewritten pages. Here were reports, signed statements, photographs, personal descriptions, facsimiles of finger-prints, telegrams, letters, surveyors' plans, notes—everything, important and unimportant, that might have a possible bearing on the case. The superintendent turned over the pages with a moistened forefinger, and made a note now and again on a writing-pad by his side.
"Puzzling cases are like a jig-saw puzzle," he had once said. "You juggle about with the facts until you find two or three that fit together. They give you the key, and you build the rest up round 'em. But it's no good trying to do it unless you've got your box of pieces complete."
His box of pieces was not complete, and he knew it. Nevertheless, he could not resist trying to fit them together. But the announcement made by his clerk of the arrival of Lady Eileen Meredith came while he was still puzzling. She stood in the doorway, a dainty figure in furs, a heavy veil drawn over her face.
"Mr. Foyle?" she asked hesitatingly.
He bowed and wheeled a big arm-chair near his desk.
"Yes. Won't you sit down, Lady Eileen? You have just missed one of our men. I sent him round to break the news to you. I need not tell you that we recognise how you must feel in these terrible circumstances. We shall trouble you as little as possible after you have answered a few questions."
He was studying her shrewdly while he spoke, and her strange composure struck him at once. Even to her he had decided to say nothing of the identity of the murdered man. That could wait until he had had a better opportunity to judge her.
She sat down and rested her chin on one slim, gloved hand, her elbow on the desk.
"That's very good of you," she said formally. And then broke direct into her mission. "Have you found out anything, Mr. Foyle?"
"It's rather early to say anything yet," he hedged. "Our inquiries are not completed."
"There is no need for further inquiry. I can tell you who the murderer is."
Superintendent Foyle coughed and idly shifted a piece of paper over the notes on his blotting-pad. His face was inscrutable. She could not tell whether her statement had startled him or not. For all the change in his expression she might have merely remarked that the weather was fine. Had it been any one else he would have said that before the day was out he expected a dozen or more people to tell him that they knew the murderer—and that in each case the selection would be different. As it was he merely said with polite interest—
"Ah, that will save us a great deal of trouble. Who is it?"
"He is—I believe him to be Sir Ralph Fairfield."
The superintendent's eyelids flickered curiously; otherwise he gave no sign of the quickening of his interest. He was a judge of men, and although Fairfield had rebuffed him he did not believe him to be a murderer. Still, one never knew. Those who kill are not cast in one mould. If Sir Ralph had slain Goldenburg in mistake for Grell, and Lady Eileen knew there must be a motive—for that motive he had to look no further than the beautiful, unsmiling face before him.
"You realise that you are making a very grave accusation, Lady Eileen?" he said. "What reason should there be?"
She spoke rapidly, steadily, and he did not interrupt her. His pen rushed swiftly across the paper, taking down her words. They would presently be neatly typed and added to the book. When she paused, he replaced the pen tidily in its rack.
"This is what it comes to—that at eleven o'clock Sir Ralph said Mr. Grell was with him. You say that you had refused an offer of marriage from Sir Ralph, and think that he murdered Mr. Grell from jealousy. I may say that, though we know Sir Ralph was at his club for dinner and at eleven o'clock, we can find neither servants nor members who can say for certain that he was there at the time the murder was committed."
She caught her breath. "Then it was he!" she exclaimed eagerly. "Bob had not another enemy in the world. You will arrest him."
"Not yet," Foyle retorted, and noted that her face fell. "All this is only suspicion. We must have proof to satisfy a jury before we can do anything with a man in Sir Ralph's position. And now, if you don't mind, I should like to put a few other questions to you."
When she left after half an hour, Foyle threw back his head with a jerk.
"A pleasant girl," he commented. "Seems wonderfully anxious to have Fairfield hanged. I suppose she was really infatuated with Grell. You never know how women are going to take things. I wonder if I can get a set of his finger-prints. That ought to settle the matter one way or the other, so far as he is concerned. But it won't clear up what Goldenburg was doing in Grell's place. I'll have to fix that somehow."
The overmastering energy of Heldon Foyle was at once the envy and despair of his subordinates. There was a story that once he went without sleep for a week while unravelling the mystery of the robbery of the Countess of Enver's pearls. That was probably exaggerated, but he certainly spent no unnecessary time for rest or food when work was toward—and he saw also that his staff were urged to the limits of human endurance.
Having spent four hours sleeping in his clothes, he deemed that he had paid full courtesy to nature. He unlocked a drawer, picked out a deadly little automatic pistol, and dropped it into his jacket pocket. He rarely went armed, and had never fired a shot in his life save at a target. But on certain occasions a pistol was useful to "back a bluff." And on the mission he had in mind he might need something. He felt in his breast-pocket to make certain that the enlarged photograph of the finger-prints found on the dagger were there, and sallied forth into the dusk.
In his own mind he had definitely decided on the immediately important points in the inquiry. There was Ivan, the missing servant, to be found, as also the Princess Petrovska. The police of a dozen countries were keeping a look-out for them. Then there was the knife with its quaint, horizontal hilt of ivory. Rigorous inquiry had failed to elicit its place of origin, yet so strange a weapon once seen would infallibly be recognised again. Finally, there was the question of Sir Ralph Fairfield.
The evening papers had seized avidly on a mystery after their own heart, and glaring contents-bills told of "Millionaire Murdered on Wedding Eve. Strange Mystery." But Foyle had already seen the papers. He held straight on for the Albany.
"Was Sir Ralph Fairfield in?" The question was superfluous, for he had already seen Chief Detective-Inspector Green standing outside apparently much interested in an evening paper. And Green would not have been there unless Sir Ralph were about.
Foyle was received coldly by the baronet, and his quick eyes noted a half-empty decanter on the table. Fairfield was palpably nervous and ill at ease. He was plainly distrustful of his visitor's purpose. The detective was apologetic and good-humoured.
"I have come to apologise for my rudeness at Grosvenor Gardens," he began. "I was worried, and you were, of course, upset. Now we are both more calm, I come to ask you if you would like to add anything to what you said. Of course, you'll be called to give evidence at the inquest, and it would make it easier for you as well as for us if we knew what you were going to say."
Fairfield shrugged his shoulders. "I have told you all you will learn from me," he said quickly. "I suppose you've seen Lady Eileen Meredith."
"No." The lie was prompt, but the superintendent salved his conscience with the thought that it was a necessary one. "I don't know that she can tell us anything of value."
An expression of relief flitted over the face of Grell's friend. After all, it was something to have the worst postponed. A man may face swift danger with debonair courage, may be undaunted by perils or emergencies of sport, of travel, of everyday life. But few innocent men can believe that a net is slowly closing round them which will end in the obloquy of the Central Criminal Court, or in a shameful death, without feeling something of the terror of the hunted. "The terror of the law" is very real in such cases. Fairfield was no coward, but his nerves had begun to go under the strain of the suspense. It would have been different had he been able to do anything—to find relief in action. But he had to remain passively impotent.
"Well," he said, "I expect you're very busy, Mr. Foyle. I don't want to keep you."
The detective received the snub with an amiable smile. "I won't force my company on you, Sir Ralph. If you will just dictate to me a description of the string of pearls that Grell showed you, I will go. Can you let me have a pen and some paper?"
Ungraciously enough Fairfield flung open a small inlaid writing-desk, and Foyle took down the description as though he really needed it. As he finished he held out the pen to Fairfield.
"Will you sign that, please? No, here."
Their hands were almost touching. Foyle half rose and stumbled clumsily, clutching the other's wrist to save himself. The baronet's hand and fingers were pressed down heavily on the still wet writing. The detective recovered his balance and apologised profusely, at the same time picking up the sheet of paper.
"I don't know how I came to do that. I am very sorry. It's smudged the paper a bit, but that won't matter. It's still readable. Good-bye, Sir Ralph."
So admirably had the accident been contrived that even Fairfield never suspected that it was anything but genuine. In a public telephone-box, a few hundred yards away, Heldon Foyle was examining the half-sheet of notepaper side by side with the photograph of the finger-prints on the dagger. A telephone-box is admirably constructed for the private examination of documents if one's back is towards the door and one is bent over the directory. Line by line Foyle traced "laterals," "lakes," and "accidentals," calling to his aid a magnifying glass from his waistcoat pocket.
When he emerged he was rubbing his chin vigorously. The prints were totally different. Sir Ralph Fairfield was not the murderer of the man so astoundingly like Robert Grell.
The evidence of the finger-prints was entirely negative. Though Foyle believed that Fairfield was innocent, he never permitted himself to be swayed by his opinions into neglecting a possibility. It was still possible that the baronet might have been concerned in the crime even though they were some one else's prints on the dagger. At any rate Fairfield was suppressing something. It could do no harm to continue the watch that had been set upon him. So Foyle left Green and his companion to continue their unobtrusive vigil.
To justify his stay in the box—for he was artist enough to do things thoroughly even though it might be unnecessary—he lifted the receiver and put a call through to Scotland Yard.
"This is Foyle speaking," he said when at last he had got the man he asked for. "Is there anything fresh for me?"
"Nothing important, sir, except that Blake has found a curiosity dealer who says that the knife is one that must have come from South America. It is, he says, an unusual sort of Mexican dagger."
"Oh. Is the man who says that to be relied on? He isn't just guessing? We can do all the guessing we want ourselves."
"No, sir, we think he's all right. It's Marfield—one of the biggest men in the trade. By the way, sir, there's a lot of newspaper men been asking for you since you left. They want to know about Goldenburg."
"So do I," retorted the other. "You'd better be strictly truthful with 'em, Mainland. Tell 'em you know no more than is on the reward bill. They won't believe you, anyway. You can say I've gone home to bed, and that there will be nothing more doing this evening. Good-bye."
"A Mexican dagger," he muttered to himself as he left the telephone-box. "Now, if I were a story-book detective I should assume that the murderer was either a South American or had travelled in South America. It looked the kind of thing a woman might carry in her garter. And a veiled woman called on him that night"—he made a wry face. "Foyle, my lad, you're assuming things. That way madness lies. The dagger might have been bought anywhere as a curiosity, and the veiled woman may have been a purely innocent caller."
His meditations had brought him to a great restaurant off the Strand. He passed through the swing doors into the lavishly gilded dining-room, and selected a table somewhere near the centre. With the air of a man taking his ease after a strenuous day in the City, he ordered his dinner carefully, seeking the waiter's advice now and again. Then his eye roved carelessly over the throng of diners while he waited for his orders to be fulfilled. The apparently casual scrutiny lasted rather less than a minute. Then he shifted his seat so that he could see without effort the table where two men lingered over their liqueurs. A moment later one of the men noted the solitary figure of the detective.
He emptied his glass without haste and signalled to the waiter. Before that functionary had made out the bill Foyle had strolled over to the table, his face beaming, his hand outstretched.
"How are you, Eden?" he cried effusively. "Who'd have thought of seeing you here! Business good? Still picking flowers?"
An expression of annoyance crossed the face of the slighter built of the two men, yet he shook hands readily.
"Why, it's Mr. Foyle!" he exclaimed heartily. "How are you? We were just going. Let me introduce Mr. Maxwell."
They called him the Garden of Eden at Scotland Yard—probably because the unwary might have thought him full of innocence. His smooth, bronzed boyish face showed ingenuousness and candour in every line. A glittering diamond pin adorned his necktie, a massive gold chain spanned his waistcoat, a gold ring with a single great ruby was on his finger. That was the only ostentation about him, and his quiet, well-cut clothes were in good taste.
Foyle acknowledged the introduction.
"From the colonies, I suppose, Mr. Maxwell? I suppose Eden has told you he's just come over." Eden surveyed the detective with wide-open, innocent blue eyes in which there dwelt hurt reproach. "I hate to separate you, but I've got important business with him. Perhaps you'll meet another time."
"Yes, you'll excuse me now, old man," chimed in Eden blandly. "Call for me at the Palatial at eleven to-morrow, and we'll make a day of it."
Maxwell had no sooner accepted his dismissal than Foyle led the other over to his table. Eden walked with the manner of one uncertain what was about to happen.
"It is all right, Mr. Foyle," he protested eagerly. "It is all right. I haven't touched him for a sou."
Foyle began on the soup placidly.
"You're a joker, Jimmy," he smiled. "Don't get uneasy. I'm not going to carry you inside. Only you'll have to leave the Palatial to-night, Jimmy—to-night, do you understand? And if Maxwell turns up with a complaint against you there'll be pretty bad trouble. You'll be put out of temptation for good and all. There's such a thing as preventive detention in this country now, you know."
The Garden of Eden looked pained.
"Truth, Mr. Foyle, I haven't done a thing," he declared earnestly. "I'm trying the straight game now."
Heldon Foyle wagged his head.
"And staying at the Palatial," he smiled. "Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy! I believe you, of course." And he went on with his soup.
Suddenly he looked up. "When did you last see Goldenburg?" he demanded curtly. "No nonsense, mind, Jimmy."
Eden's face had cleared. "So that's the lay, is it?" he said with relief. "I saw the bills out for him, and I don't mind helping you if I can, Mr. Foyle. He was never what you'd call a proper pal, and I don't bear any malice, though you've just done me out of a cool five hundred. That mug who's just gone"—he jerked his head towards the door—"was going to follow my tip and back a horse that won't win to-morrow. That's a bit hard, isn't it, Mr. Foyle?"
From his breast-pocket Foyle took a ten-pound note and slid it across the table. He followed Eden's meaning.
"Cough it up," he advised.
The Garden of Eden took the note and thrust it into his trousers pocket.
"He was in Victoria Station, talking to a foreign-looking chap, on Wednesday night." A look of astonishment crossed his face while he spoke. "By the living jingo, there's the very man he was talking to coming in now."
Foyle folded his serviette neatly and rose.
"Right, Jimmy. I'll talk to you later. Go to the Yard and wait till I come," he said, and, walking swiftly across the room, thrust his arm through that of the new arrival.
"You are the man who used to be Mr. Grell's valet," he said quietly in French. "I am a police officer, and you must come with me."
The man tried to jerk himself free, but the detective's fingers closed tightly about his wrist.
"There is no use making a scene, my man," he said, still speaking in French, his voice stern, but pitched in a low key. "You are Ivan something-or-other, and you know of the murder of your master. So come along."
"It's a mistake," protested the other volubly in the same language. His words slurred into each other in his excitement. "I am not the man you take me for. I am Pierre Bazarre, a jeweller of Paris, and I have my credentials. I will not submit to this abominable outrage. I know nothing of M. Grell; you shall not arrest me——"
Heldon Foyle cut him short. He had, without the appearance of force, quietly forced his prisoner outside the restaurant and signalled to a passing taxicab.
"I am not arresting you," he said, ignoring the protestations of the other. "I am going to detain you till you give a satisfactory explanation of your reason for leaving Mr. Grell's house on the night of the murder."
They were on the edge of the pavement close to the cab. Ivan with a quick oath wheeled inward, and struck savagely at the superintendent's face. Foyle's grip did not relax. He merely lowered his head, seemingly without haste, and, as the man swung forward with the momentum of the blow, jabbed with his own free hand at his body. So neatly was it done that passers-by saw nothing but an apparently drunken man collapse on the pavement in spite of the endeavours of his friend to hold him up.
The whole breath had been knocked out of Ivan's body by those two swift body-blows. Before he could recover, Foyle had lifted him bodily into the cab.
"King Street," he said quietly to the driver, and sat down opposite to Ivan, alert and watchful.
"Sorry if I hurt you," he apologised. "It will be all right in a minute. It has only upset your wind a little. That will pass off."
Ivan, his hands pressed tightly to the pit of his stomach, groaned. Presently he straightened himself up, and Foyle, calmly ignoring the assault, produced a cigar-case.
"Have a cigar? I've no doubt you'll be able to make things all right when we get to the station. There's nothing to worry about. You will just have a little talk with me, and as soon as one or two points are cleared up you'll be able to go."
The case was struck angrily aside. Foyle smiled, and although his whole body was taut in anticipation of any fresh attempt at violence, he quietly struck a match and lit one himself.
"As you like," he said imperturbably. "They're good cigars. I have them sent over to me by a friend direct from Havana."
All the while he was speaking he was scrutinising the man who had been Grell's valet with deliberate care. Ivan was sleek and well-groomed, with a dark face and prominent cheekbones that betrayed his Caucasian origin. The brows were drawn tightly in a surly frown; a heavy dark moustache hid the upper lip, and though the shoulders were sloping he was obviously a man of considerable physical strength.
Foyle felt that it was going to be no easy matter to win this man's confidence. Yet he was determined to do so. Beyond the fact that he had vanished when the murder was discovered, there was nothing so far to suggest that he was the actual culprit. Certain it was, however, that he must have knowledge of matters which would prove valuable. If he would volunteer the information, well and good. The detective did not wish to have to question him, for such a course, however advisable it might appear, could be made to assume an ugly look in the hands of the astute counsel, should the man be charged with the crime. Where by French or American methods a statement might have been extracted by bullying or by cross-examination, here it had to be extracted by diplomacy if possible.
Sullen and silent, Ivan alighted from the cab as it drew up under the blue lamp outside King Street police station. He passed arm-in-arm with Foyle up the steps. With a nod to the uniformed inspector in the outer office, the superintendent led him into the offices set apart for the divisional detachment of the Criminal Investigation Department. A broad-shouldered man with side whiskers, who was writing at a desk, looked up as they entered.
"Good morning, Mr. Norman," said Foyle. "This gentleman wants to tell me something about the Grell case. Just give him a chair, will you, and send in a shorthand writer who understands French to take a statement."
"I shall make no statement," broke in the Russian angrily, speaking in French, but with a readiness that showed he was able to follow English. "It's all a mistake—a mistake for which you will pay heavily."
"Ah! that's just what I wish to get at. There seems to be a little confusion. Perhaps I have been over-zealous, but the fact is, Monsieur—er—Bazarre, you are wearing a false moustache, and that rather aroused my suspicions—see?"
His hand did not seem to move, yet a second later the heavy moustache had been torn from the man's face. He started to his feet with an exclamation. Foyle waved him back to his chair.
"I only wanted to feel sure that I was right. Now, monsieur, I want to make it clear that I have no right to ask you anything. If you wish to say anything, it will be taken down, and what action I take depends on what you say."
Ivan scowled into the fire and preserved a stubborn silence. Whether he knew it or not, he held all the advantage. Unless he committed himself by some incautious word, there was little to implicate him in the murder. Suspicion there might be, but legal proof there was none. It would scarcely do to arrest him on such flimsy evidence. The Russian police had failed to trace his antecedents, and the Criminal Investigation Department were ignorant even of his surname. He had been known simply as Ivan at Grosvenor Gardens.
Foyle tried again, and this time his voice was silky and soft as ever as he uttered a plainer threat.
"I want to help you if I can. I don't want to have to charge you with the murder of Mr. Grell."
The warm blood surged crimson to Ivan's face. In an instant he was out of his chair and had leapt at the throat of the detective. So rapid, so unexpected was the movement that, although Heldon Foyle had not ceased his careful watchfulness, and although he writhed quickly aside, he was borne back by his assailant. The two crashed heavily to the floor. As they rolled over, struggling desperately, the grip upon the detective's throat grew ever tighter and tighter.
Half a dozen men had rushed into the room at the noise of the struggle, and strove vainly to tear the Russian from his hold. But he hung on with the tenacity of a mastiff. There was a ringing in Foyle's ear and a red blur before his eyes. With a superhuman effort he got his elbow under the Russian's chin and pressed it back sharply.
The grip relaxed ever so slightly, but it was enough. Instantly Foyle had wrested himself free, and Ivan was pinioned to the floor by the others.
"Handcuffs," said the superintendent sharply.
Some one got a pair on the prisoner's wrists, and he was jerked none too gently to his feet. A couple of men still held him. At a word from Foyle the others had gone about their business, with the exception of Norman. The superintendent flicked the dust from his clothes, and picked something, which had fallen during the struggle, from the floor.
"You admit you are Ivan, then?" he said quietly.
The Russian showed his teeth in a beast-like snarl.
"Yes, I am Ivan," he said. "Make what you can of that, but you cannot have me hanged for the murder of Mr. Grell—and you know why."
"Because Mr. Grell is not dead," retorted the detective smoothly. "Yes, I know that."
He counted the rough-and-tumble but little against the fact that the Russian had now admitted that he knew it was not Grell's body that had been found in the study. Here was a starting-point at last.
"What I want now," he went on slowly, "is an explanation of how you came to have possession of these."
He held up the thing he had picked from the floor. It was a case of blue Morocco leather, and as he opened it a magnificent string of pearls showed startlingly white against a dark background.
"These pearls were bought at Streeters' by Mr. Grell as a wedding present to Lady Eileen Meredith," he said. "How do they come in your possession?"
"They were given to me by Mr. Grell," cried Ivan. The fierce passion that had made him attack Foyle on the hint of arrest seemed to have melted away.
Heldon Foyle's mask of a face showed no sign of the incredulity he felt. He made no comment, but ran his hands swiftly through the Russian's pockets, piling money, keys, watch, and other articles in a little heap on the table. Beyond a single letter there were no documents on the man. He scanned the missive quickly. It was an ordinary commonplace note from a jeweller in Paris, addressed to Ivan Abramovitch. This he placed aside.
"May as well have his finger-prints," he said, and one of the officers present pressed Ivan's hands on a piece of inky tin, and then on a piece of paper. The superintendent glanced casually at the impression.
"All right," he said. "Take those handcuffs off. You may go, Mr. Abramovitch."
The Russian stood motionless, as though not understanding. Foyle wheeled about as though the whole matter had been dismissed from his mind, and caught Norman by the sleeve.
"Drop everything," he said in a curt whisper. "Take a couple of men and don't let that man out of your sight for an instant. I'll have you relieved from the Yard in an hour's time."
"Aren't you going to charge him, sir?" asked the other in astonishment.
"Not likely," said Foyle, with a laugh.
Heldon Foyle walked thoughtfully back to Scotland Yard, satisfied that the shadowing of Ivan Abramovitch was in competent hands. With the strong man's confidence in himself, he had no fears as to his decision to release the man. He was beginning to have a shadowy idea of the relation of pieces in his jig-saw puzzle. Ivan, he knew, ought to have been arrested if only for failing to give a satisfactory account of his possession of the pearl necklace. But the superintendent had, as he mentally phrased it, "tied a string to him," and it would not be his fault if nothing resulted.
It was well after midnight before he had finished his work at Scotland Yard. He had had a long interview with the Garden of Eden, in which promises were adroitly mingled with threats. In the result the "bunco-steerer" had promised to keep his eyes and ears alert for news of any one resembling Goldenburg. There was a string of other callers who had been discreetly sorted out by the superintendent's diplomatic lieutenants. Finally, he pulled out the book which dealt with the case, and with the aid of a typist added several more chapters. With a sigh of relief, he at last sauntered out into the cool, fresh midnight air.
Nine o'clock next morning saw him again in his office. Sir Hilary Thornton was his first caller. Foyle put aside his reports at his chief's opening question.
"Yes, we've taken every human precaution to preserve secrecy," he replied. "Every one who knows that it is not Grell's body in the house has been pledged to hold his tongue. I have managed to get the inquest put back for three days, so that there will be no evidence of identification till then. That gives us a chance. And I've made out a confidential report to be sent to the Foreign Office, so that Grell's Government shan't get restive. Here are the latest reports, sir."
The Assistant Commissioner bent over the sheaf of typewritten documents for a little in complete absorption. As he came to the last sheet he gave a start of surprise.
"So you let this man Ivan go? Do you think that wise?"
"I'm fishing," answered Foyle enigmatically. "I couldn't have better bait than Ivan. There are three men sticking to him like limpets now, and a couple are keeping an eye on Sir Ralph Fairfield. I think that will be all right. Do you remember the Mighton Grange case? We knew there had been a murder, but couldn't do anything till we found the body. Dutful, the murderer, would have slid off to some place where there's no extradition, but for the fact that I had him arrested on a charge of being in the unlawful possession of a pickaxe handle. This affair is the converse of that. We can't afford to have Ivan under lock and key."
Sir Hilary Thornton bit his lip and looked steadfastly at the scarlet geranium on the window-sill, as though in search of enlightenment.
"I believe I see," he exclaimed after a pause. "Ivan must have been something more than a valet. He's a superior type of man, and the conclusion to be drawn if he knows that Grell is alive——"
"Precisely," interrupted the superintendent.
"Any result from the offer of a reward for Goldenburg?"
A flicker of amusement dwelt in Heldon Foyle's blue eyes. "Yes. He has been seen by different people within an hour or two of each other in Glasgow, Southampton, Gloucester, Cherbourg, Plymouth, and Cardiff. Our information on that point is not precisely helpful. Of course, we've got the local police making inquiries in each case, but I don't anticipate they will find out much. Still, it will keep 'em amused."
The necessity of a conference broke up further conversation. Gathered in the building were some thirty or forty departmental chiefs of the C.I.D., the picked men of their profession. Most of them were divisional detective inspectors who were in charge of districts, and some few were men who had special duties. They were ranged about tables in a lofty room, its green distempered walls hung with stiff photographs of living and retired officials. Men of all types were there, from the spruce, smartly groomed detectives of the West End to the burly, ill-dressed detectives of the East. Between them they spoke every known language. Here was Penny, who had specialised in forgeries; Brown, who knew every trick of coiners; Malby, the terror of race-course sharps; Menzies, who had as keen a scent for the gambling hell as a hound for a fox; Poole, who was intimate with the ways of railway thieves and shoplifters. Not one but thoroughly understood his profession, and knew where to look for his information.
Foyle took the chair, and the buzz of conversation became general. It was a business conference of experts. Views were exchanged on concrete problems; the movements of well-known criminals discussed. "Velvet-fingered Ned" had disappeared from Islington and reappeared in Brixton. "Tony" Smith was due out of prison. Mike O'Brien had patched up the peace with "Yid" Foster, and when they got together——
So the talk went on, and so every district learned what was taking place in other districts. The superintendent sat silent for a while, listening. At last his smooth voice broke in.
"The man Ivan, whose description was circulated, is not to be touched now. Tell your men to let him alone if they come across him."
There was a deep chorus, "Very good, sir," and Foyle, with a nod of dismissal, left the room. He stopped to make an inquiry in the clerk's office, and passing along the corridor unlocked a door and pressed a bell.
In under half an hour a big labourer, with corduroys tied about the knees, lurched unsteadily out of the Lost Property Office and passed into Whitehall. Rough, tousled hair, an unkempt moustache, and a day's growth of beard on the chin were details warranted to stand inspection. Heldon Foyle rarely used a disguise, but when he did he was careful that nothing should get out of order. Hair and moustache were his own, dyed and brushed cunningly. Yet, when he reeled against Green near the Albany, the inspector, who was an observant man, pushed him roughly aside with an anathema on his clumsiness.
"Didn't 'urt you, did it?" stormed the labourer aggressively. "'Course I look where I'm going." Then in a lower tone: "I'm Foyle. I got your telephone message. Anything moving now?"
"If you don't go away I shall call a constable." Green had been quick to see his cue and spoke loudly. He went on rapidly. "He hasn't stirred out. A post-office messenger has just gone in with a letter for him. I said I was expecting one, and got a glimpse at it."
"All right, old pal. Don't get excited. You go home and tell the missus all about it," retorted the labourer.
Green walked rapidly away, spoke a few words to a man who was standing on the other side of the road, deeply interested in a bookseller's window, and departed.
The superintendent felt in his pockets and produced a couple of boxes of matches. A constable strolled up, dignified and stern. A swift word in an undertone sent him away with burning cheeks.
In half an hour Foyle had sold a box of matches, for which he received sixpence with profuse thanks and inward disgust. If he sold his second box and still hung about, his loitering without excuse might attract undesirable attention. The contingency, however, did not arise, for a minute or two later Fairfield himself strolled into the street. Foyle rushed to open the door of a taxicab, which he hailed, but another tout was before him. Nevertheless, he heard the address.
"Grave Street, Whitechapel," he murmured to himself, as the cab slipped away. "Ivan has got to work."
A short argument with a second cab-driver, who distrusted his appearance, was cut short by a deposit of five shillings as a guarantee of good faith, and the superintendent also began the journey. Behind him a third cab carried the man who had been so deeply interested in the bookseller's window.
Grave Street, Whitechapel, is not a savoury neighbourhood. One may pass from end to end of its squalid length and hear scarce a word of English. Yiddish is the language most favoured by its cosmopolitan population, although one may hear now and again Polish, Russian, or German. In its barrack-like houses, rising sheer from the pavement, a chain of tenancy obtains, ranging from the actual householder to the tenant of half a room, who sublets corners of the meagre space on terms payable strictly in advance. A score of people will herd together in a room a few feet square, and never realise that they are cramped for space.
Here you will find petty thieves, versatile rascals ripe for any mischief, and sweated factory workers; here sallow-faced anarchists boldly denounce the existing order of things to their fellows and scheme the millennium. Slatternly women quarrel at the doors, and horse-flesh is a staple article of diet.
The neatly dressed Fairfield descending at the end of the street from his taxicab was as conspicuous among the unshaven idlers who hung about the pavements as the moon among the stars.
Sir Ralph picked his way towards a newspaper shop, his mind full of the message that had brought him to the spot. The letter delivered by the messenger had contained but a few words in printed characters.
"If you would learn the truth about the murder in Grosvenor Gardens, come immediately to No. — Grave Street."
There was no signature, no clue to the identity of the writer. Fairfield had leapt at the chance to do something. Even if it were a hoax it would occupy his mind for a time, and take his thoughts away from the sinister shadow that overhung him. Somehow, however, he did not think it was a hoax.
The newspaper shop displayed the number given in the note on its grimy facia. The baronet, as he moved towards it, was unconscious of the slouching figure of the labourer, who had been selling matches near the Albany, a few paces behind him. His foot was on the threshold of the shop when a man, black-bearded and swarthy, pressed an envelope into his hand.
Foyle watched the incident and his pace quickened. Before Fairfield had time to do more than glance at the inscription of the envelope he was abreast. He lurched inward and his fingers snatched quickly at the note. The next instant he was running with long, even strides for the open of the main road.
It was barefaced robbery, of course, but he had not the inclination to stick at trifles. That the note had some bearing on the case he was investigating he felt certain. There was only one way to get it at once, and that was to steal. Anywhere else but in Grave Street he would have waited to face the matter out. Not that Grave Street would have frowned upon a theft, but that he would have been forced to reveal his identity, and Grave Street was not a healthy neighbourhood for solitary detectives.
Sir Ralph stood thunderstruck, but some one else acted. The black-bearded man had disappeared. From somewhere there were a couple of dull thuds like a hammer falling upon wood, and Foyle heard the whistle of bullets over his head.
"I'll get even for that," he muttered between his teeth, but his headlong flight never slackened.
Behind him was a clatter of pursuing feet. Fairfield, recovering himself, had raised a cry and it was taken up.
"Stop thief! Hold him!"
He passed the man who had been so eagerly intent on the bookshop. The man made a clutch at him, missed and fell headlong right in the path of Fairfield, now a few paces behind. The baronet tripped over his body and was thrown violently to the ground.
Foyle made a mental note in favour of Detective-Sergeant Chambers, who had so adroitly intercepted the pursuit. As he came to the main road he slackened his pace to a sharp walk, and dived into an underground station. He breathed a sigh of relief as he passed down the steps to the platform.
He had anticipated trouble, but pistol-shots in broad daylight, even in Grave Street, had been outside his calculations. He had recognised the peculiar report of an automatic pistol. His adversaries, whoever they might be, were obviously very much in earnest. Pistol-shooting at detectives is not a commonplace pastime even with the most reckless of criminals. Foyle decided on another and early visit to Grave Street, and promised himself grimly that the target should be some one else, if it came to shooting again. He was in danger of losing his temper.
Not until he had got in the train did he open the note that was still between his fingers. He frowned as he read it.
"Curse it! This comes of acting on impulse. Why couldn't I have waited! I had the whole thing in my hands."
The note said simply—
"I am alive. I must see you. Follow the man who gives you this note.—R. G."
Heldon Foyle had seen much of Robert Grell's writing during his search of the house in Grosvenor Gardens, and had no doubt that the note was his. His peace of mind was not increased by the reflection that had he waited and continued to shadow Fairfield he might have discovered the whereabouts of the missing diplomat. Now he had merely given notice as plainly as though he had shouted from the housetops that Fairfield was under observation. He had committed a blunder, and he did not forgive blunders easily, especially in himself.
Even a bath and a change into his normal clothing did not restore his equanimity. In his office he found Green, with a strange excitement in his usually stolid face.
"Hello, Mr. Green. What's wrong?" he demanded.
The veteran chief detective-inspector pulled at his moustache.
"I don't know, sir, yet. You've come just in time. Waverley is missing.
"Waverley missing! That's nonsense. He was put on to relieve Norman in shadowing Ivan Abramovitch."
"He's missing," repeated the other doggedly. "Ivan went into a shop with an entrance in two streets, and the man who was assisting Waverley slipped round to the other side. He waited there an hour, and then went to look for Waverley."
The superintendent gave a short, contemptuous laugh.
"Green, I guess you've been working too hard lately. You ought to apply for a fortnight's leave. Can't you see, Ivan came out and that Waverley never had time to give the tip to his man, but followed him straight away? There ought to have been three men on the job."
Green drew himself up stiffly. Foyle had not recovered from the irritation caused by his own mistake, otherwise he would not have spoken as he did. Green was not the kind of man to hastily jump to conclusions.
"A third was not available when Waverley left," he said. "Here is why I say Waverley is missing. It came by messenger five minutes ago, addressed to you. As senior officer I opened it."
Foyle took a typewritten sheet of paper from the other's hand. It read simply—
"DEAR MR. FOYLE,—You had better call your men off. We have got one of them safe, and hold him as a hostage for our own safety. If your people go on trying to make things unpleasant for us, things will get unpleasant for him. This is not melodrama, but brutal fact."
There was no signature. Foyle's square jaw became set and grim. He had no doubt that the unknown writer fully meant the threat. He liked Waverley, yet the thought of the other's peril did not sway him for a moment. The man had fallen a victim to one of the risks of his profession.
"Do they expect us to back down?" asked the superintendent harshly. "If Waverley has been fool enough to get himself in a fix, he must take his chance if we can't get him out. Let's have a look at this paper."
He thrust his hand in a drawer, and, flinging a pinch of black powder on the letter, sifted it gingerly to and fro. In a few seconds four finger-prints stared out blackly from the white surface. They were at right angles to the type, and just beneath it. Foyle's face relaxed in a pleased smile.
"They've given us something that may help us, after all, Green," he cried. "Look here; these two middle ones are the prints on the dagger. Now let's see if we can learn anything from the typing."
Half an hour later three men stood in a tiny room, darkened, save for a vivid patch of white on a screen a yard and a half square. Foyle and Green watched the screen intently as the third man inserted the slide in the powerful magic lantern. Magnified enormously, the typewritten characters stood out vividly black against the white.
"What do you make of it, Green?" asked the superintendent after a pause.
"Remington machine, latest pattern," answered the other briefly. "The letter 'b' slightly battered, and the 'o' out of alignment. Used by a beginner. There is double spacing between some of the lines and single in others. A capital 'W' has been superimposed on a small one."
"That's so," agreed his superior thoughtfully. "You might see if the Remington people can give us any help with that. If possible, get a list of all the people who have bought machines during this last six weeks. It's a long shot, but long shots sometimes come off. And if you come into my room I'll give you a pistol. It'll be as well for you to carry one while you're on this case. I was shot at myself, to-day."
"Thank you, sir, I think I'll do without one," said the other quietly. "My two fists are good enough for me."