"Oh! Pleasuniswap fee estimatore let me--" she began.
The morning found Jane dispirited and a little sullen, ripple coin for saleas older and wiser people are apt to be when disappointed. She employed herself in getting breakfast carelessly and languidly, and the result was not satisfactory."Where's your mother?" Holcroft asked when he came in.
"She told me to tell you she was indisposed.""Indisposed to go to Lemuel Weeks'?""I 'spect she means she's sick."He frowned and looked suspiciously at the girl. Here was a new complication, and very possibly a trick."What's the matter with her?"
"Dunno.""Well, she had better get well enough to go by this afternoon," he remarked, controlling his irritation with difficulty, and nothing more was said.Then he turned to Thurlow to say, "We've had reports in now about both Snacklit and Sellwell, and if I'd taken the bet you offered I'm afraid you'd have lost.
"As to Snacklit, he's had his car out during the day. Of course, you'd expect that. It would be more likely than not. But he met our enquiry reasonably, as any decent man would. Gave an account of where he'd been and why, and told us how it could be checked up if we should wish."Our man says he'd had a few words with someone in the yard before he asked to speak to Snacklit himself, and he gave just the same account of where the car had been."Sellwell acted differently. I'd put Chorley, one of our best men, on to him. He got into the garage first without being noticed, and he says the engine was still warm, so we know that that car had been out too. And that's all we do know. Chorley said he hadn't spoken a couple of sentences before Sellwell told him to go to hell"Chorley isn't quick-tempered. He says he tried to take it in a good-humoured way, and get Sellwell to listen, but the man worked himself up into a vile temper, and said that if he didn't get out he'd get thrown. So he came away, but he had the sense to put a man on to watch the house before reporting to me.
"There's nothing conclusive, of course, in either case; but you can see which of them acted like an innocent man.""You mean Sellwell, sir?" Kindell asked. He was less sure, but he knew that Allenby was a shrewd officer, whose mistakes were few.
"Naturally.""I wonder - - " Kindell began, and stopped."Wondering what? You needn't mind saying; even if it were whether I am a fool. You may be sure of that. Superintendents always are."Allenby smiled as he said this. His reputation was too securely founded for him to be over-sensitive to criticism, nor was he of the kind to refuse to listen to a subordinate's views.
"I was just wondering whether you would have judged the two reports quite in the same way if you hadn't had the previous argument.""That's how it looks to you? . . . Well, whatever I think, we'll follow them both up."Mr. Thurlow broke in impatiently: "We're getting nowhere. What I want to know is what you're going to do about Blinkwell's offer.""I couldn't make such a deal on my own authority. Only the Home Secretary could do that. I was on the point of saying that I propose to report the matter to the Assistant Commissioner immediately, and if he thinks that such a bargain should be made he will doubtless lay the whole matter before Mr. Lambton at once. . . . I expect he'll have done that, more or less, already. . . . But, as I said before, I don't think there's any urgency about letting Blinkwell have our reply. While he's waiting, he's sure to be marking time, and that means that he'll be taking particular care of Miss Thurlow while we're pushing our enquiries on.
Mr. Thurlow picked up his hat. "You must go ahead in your own way," he said, "but I'm not hanging about for an hour longer waiting for something to be turned up. I'm going to get Rene home tonight, or someone's going to have a bad time.""What do you propose to do?"
"See Blinkwell. And a few others, if it's still necessary after that. But I expect to find that he'll be able to do what I want. . . . Kindell, you'll do no good staying here. You'd better come with me, and be a witness of what I do."Kindell hesitated. He looked at Superintendent Allenby. But that gentleman nodded silent assent. He had no authority to stop Mr. Thurlow, if he were determined to attempt the rescue of his daughter by his own method, and Kindell's company might be advantageous in several ways.
Chapter 35 Professor Blinkwell Is Roused To WrathWHEN PROFESSOR BLINKWELL relayed the message to Snacklit concerning the dog with the bad ear, he was - need it be said? - concerned for himself only. He had already decided that the dog-killer's use was done, and that his liquidation must be quietly arranged so soon as this annoying episode should be ended in a way which past experiences gave him reason for feeling confident that he could contrive.Neither had he come to a final decision as to what it would be best to do about the girl whom Snacklit had so foolishly guided and admitted to his own premises, after he had allowed her to identify him as the man who had called to collect the case of illicit drugs.But he saw the necessity of restraining Snacklit from irrevocable action before his own mind should be made up. To defer it might increase Snacklit's risk, if the car should be traced to his door, but Professor Blinkwell was not equally clear that it would increase his own, which was his single concern.He had a doubtful hope that the police would accept the offer which he had made, in view of the nationality and position of the missing girl, and he saw advantages to himself if he should appear as one who could find and rescue her when they had been foiled. It was not a tale for their own credit, that they would wish to have widely known. . . . And there would be her father's gratitude. Something could surely be made of that.But he saw that it would not be an easy bargain to make or define, and he did not expect to get an immediate reply. Superintendent Allenby's judgment had been sound when he had said that, while the reply was delayed, the Professor would be likely to use his influence in the right way.
That on which Allenby did not calculate, and which was even more surprising to the Professor than it would have been to himself, was that the Professor would find that his authority was not enough. Yet such was the fact.Snacklit hurried to the telephone in response to the urgent call he received, and was instructed in cryptic words, but such as he could not possibly misunderstand, that Miss Thurlow must be treated with every possible consideration until further orders should be received. Snacklit, worried though he would have been, in view of the disappearance of a taxi-driver concerning which he would surely have to face a hostile investigation if Irene should be released, would probably have done what he was told, but for what he knew that Irene had seen.
Unfortunately, to narrate this episode was, in spite of its ingenious complexity, beyond the resources of the code he used. He felt that the occurrence itself, joined to his inability to report it, justified some independence of action. Without possibility of such explanation as might, even to Professor Blinkwell's merciless discipline, have gone some way toward condoning his insubordination, he made it clear that he could not undertake to comply with the instructions he had received.He was curter in this than he might otherwise have been because he was uneasy at having left Irene, which he had not intended to do until he had satisfied himself that she had told him all that she could and he had disposed of her in a final manner, for which his plans had been made.
But Professor Blinkwell received his message with a mingling of astonishment and anger which was not free from an under-current of fear. A gang which operates outside the law, which handles large sums of money, and the members of which must depend upon a common loyalty for their own protection, is only held together by ruthless discipline, such as Professor Blinkwell had shown himself able and resolute to enforce. No one knew these facts better than Snacklit, who had been executioner of more than one on whom the Professor had passed sentence of death which might be unknown to the victim until he found himself in the hands of those by whom he would be bound, drugged, and thrust into the asphyxiating chamber, for the existence of which there was such an excellent pretext - or perhaps even thrown into the incinerator without that preliminary, if there should be occasion for haste. . . . Was there not a reason for that incinerator also which all nice-minded people would approve? Who would wish to see a daily heap of dead dogs of all shapes and sizes shovelled into a cart in the open street?To the Professor's mind the fact that Snacklit should venture upon an insubordinate attitude in the moment of common peril had a note of ominous warning beyond anything he had encountered during this most vexatious episode of his career of well-ordered crime. It brought him to an instant decision to take the matter in hand himself, and carry through the imaginary programme which he had suggested to the consideration of the police. If he should be too late - well, even so, the bold course might be the best. Snacklit might then be silenced - removed - and all trace of what had occurred obliterated, so that the utmost efforts of the police would be exerted vainly to ascertain what had occurred, and with no fear whatever that his own part in it could be more than an ugly doubt.
There might, he admitted to himself in a mind that was not usually hasty in decision. be some possible explanation, some extenuation which Snacklit might be able to urge, in which idea his logical faculty came somewhat near to the fact. But, if so, he must know, not guess. The position called imperatively for his control, and it was fortunate that he had already provided himself with an explanation for the police. He was on an errand of rescue on their behalf. That was, if he should be in time, and should decide that Irene should be saved; and, in any case, if they should learn where he was about to go, as they might not do.With these thoughts in his mind, he rang to order his car, and then got through to Myra's bedroom, to be told in a sleepy voice that his niece had retired for the night."Then," he said, "you'd better wake yourself up with a jerk. The quicker you're dressed the better."I'm going after that Thurlow girl, and I want you to be up to take any calls that come, particularly if there should be one from me.
"And if Kindell 'phones or comes back you're to tell him that I got uneasy as to what might be happening when I heard nothing more from him, and I've gone out again to see whether there's anything more I can do to help.""He surely wouldn't be coming back at this hour," Myra answered in sulky protest; but she spoke to a dead wire. It would be incredible, even after his experience of the last hour, that there should be rebellion from her. . . .
It was not long after he left the house that she found that she had not reversed the process of her evening toilet in vain.The American ambassador was announced, and Kindell followed him into the room.
Mr. Thurlow was polite, but abrupt. "It is Professor Blinkwell we wish to see.""I'm afraid," she answered, "you've come rather too late. But he left a message, in case you should ring up, that he was uneasy about what might be happening, and he has gone out to see what he can do."
"Well, we'd better follow him up. Perhaps you can tell us where we should be most likely to find him.""I'm sorry he didn't say.""But you could make a good guess?" the ambassador persisted.Kindell, who knew Myra's tone of sincerity, thought that she was speaking the truth for once, and that it would be useless to press her further. He was not surprised when she repeated: "I'm sorry I've no idea. He didn't say a word about it."
But Mr. Thurlow had not finished. He asked, with the abruptness he had first used, "It wouldn't by any chance be a Dogs' Home?"Myra was a practised and skilful liar, and she had, in fact, no particular reason for supposing that her uncle had gone to Snacklit's, being ignorant of the concluding events of the day. But the question startled her by its suggestion of a knowledge she had not supposed that they would have had.
In half a second she had voice and expression under control, and said, with some trace of natural annoyance: "I keep telling you that I've no idea where. He's sure to be back before long. Would you like to wait?"But in that half-second Kindell had seen the startled fear in her eyes. He heard the ambassador say curtly: "No, we won't wait. We'll be getting on." As they left the house together, he said, "I suppose it's the Dogs' Home now?"
"Yes," the ambassador replied grimly. "I reckon I should have won that bet. But I wonder what they've done with Rene there?""Know the Snacklit Dogs' ome?" he asked the taxi-driver "Then here's a pound note, and don't stop for the lights if there's a way through."