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Our Library => J. S. Fletcher - The Cartwright Gardens Murder (1924) => Topic started by: Admin on May 20, 2023, 09:25:11 am



Title: 18: He Knows Nothing
Post by: Admin on May 20, 2023, 09:25:11 am
IT was well for Jennison that the waiter just then came back with the cigars, and that Womersley motioned him to wait until the coffee had been brought; the delay gave him time to think. But think as hard as he might, he could see no way of evading the ordeal before him, and he was still upset and thrown out of his balance by the detective’s sudden descent. His fingers trembled as he cut off the end of his cigar; his hand shook as he lifted it to his lips. And Womersley recognised his nervousness, and knowing that a nervous man is useless at a crisis, spoke again, reassuringly.

“Take your time, my lad!” he said. “No hurry!---but it’ll pay you to be candid---as candid as Green’s been. If you want a word of advice from me---out with everything!”

Jennison waited until the coffee had been set before them, then he glanced at Womersley and ventured a question.

“What---what did Green tell you?” he asked. “If I knew----”

“And I don’t mind telling you,” broke in Womersley. “This!” He gave his captive a hasty outline of the waiter’s story, watching its effect on him. “Now, what do you say to that, Jennison?” he asked. “Anything to contradict in it?”

“No!” replied Jennison. “That’s all true. But if I did act in that matter, it was all on behalf of Lady Cheale. Lady Cheale’s at the bottom of everything! I---I was only an agent.”

Womersley signed to his two companions to listen attentively, and bent across the table to Jennison.

“Now look here, my lad,” he said, “you’re in a devil of a hole, and it rests with yourself to get out of it. The best thing you can do is to make a clean breast of everything, as Green’s done. You’ve been up to some underhand business all through this affair, you know, and I’ve been on your track for days, and found out a good deal about you that you’d be surprised to hear of. Now, you answer a question or two, Jennison---it’ll be to your advantage. How did you get to connect Lady Cheale with that Cartwright Gardens business?”

Jennison was beginning to think more clearly; he was beginning to wonder, too, if he couldn’t rush the situation, bad as it was, to his own advantage. He had gathered the fact that the big lanky fellow who sat at his right elbow was a New York man, and putting two and two together he concluded that he was the representative of the Western Lands people---and had five thousand pounds to give away. There might be a chance, yet!---and he suddenly glanced at Womersley with the alertness of a man who had taken a decision.

“I picked up a scrap of paper, on the spot where Jakyn died, with her handwriting on it!” he answered.

“How did you know that?” demanded Womersley. “You weren’t familiar with the writing!”

“No! But just afterwards I learnt from Chrissie Walker, the barmaid at the Cat and Bagpipe, that Jakyn, whom she recognised from the photograph in the papers, had been in there with a lady on the evening of his death---from ten to ten-thirty. That gave me an idea, and I went to the Euston Hotel, compared my bit of paper with the hotel paper, and saw they were identical. Then I found out from Green that a lady had been writing in the smoking-room when Jakyn went in there, and I came to the conclusion that it was she who’d written the note I’d found, making an appointment with Jakyn at the corner of Endsleigh Gardens, close by the Cat and Bagpipe. Then I got Green to find out, from the hotel register, and from the head waiter, who this lady was, and I found she was Lady Cheale.”

“Well?”

“I went down there to see her, and told her what I knew---that she’d been with Alfred Jakyn at the Cat and Bagpipe.”

“Well?”

“She---she offered me something----”

“Better say money, straight out, Jennison!”

“Well, money, then---to keep quiet about it. I gathered she had strong reasons for not wishing it to be known that she’d met Alfred Jakyn---that she knew him at all---very strong reasons.”

“Did she give you any idea of what they were?”

“No! Neither then nor at any time! I don’t know what they were. I don’t know anything, beyond what I’m telling you.”

“Did she give you the money?”

“Yes!”

“Where?”

“At a restaurant---a sort of swell tea-room---in Chester.”

“Well, you may as well tell us how much, Jennison?”

“It was a thousand pounds---in bank-notes. I was to go to Italy with it, and she was to send me another thousand there, to Rome, when I’d settled down there.”

“And you didn’t go, of course?”

“I should have gone. But when I got back to town, or, rather on the way, I saw the announcement of the Western Lands reward, and so I wrote to her, enclosing a cutting of it. She---she came up here next day to see me.”

“Because, no doubt, you’d told her in your letter that you wanted more!” observed Womersley. “Come, now?”

“I didn’t see why I should be a loser!” answered Jennison sullenly. “These people were offering more----”

“Well---go on, and never mind that. She came, you say. Did she give you more?”

“No! She arranged a meeting for next day. But I followed her; I wanted to know where she was going. I followed her to Charles Street, near Euston. She went into a place there that I found was a surgery for very poor people---a sixpenny surgery. I looked through the window and saw her and Dr. Syphax in an inner room. So I walked in.”

“To let her see that you meant business, eh?”

“I wanted her to know that I considered the affair more serious than she admitted, perhaps. But I shouldn’t have gone in if I hadn’t seen Syphax there. Besides, I knew something about Syphax.”

“What did you know?”

“Well, there’s a newspaper reporter, Trusford, the fellow you gave that photograph to, after the inquest proceedings, who’s on the search in this case. I met him near here one morning, and went with him to see a taxi-cab driver called Shino, who told us that on the night of Jakyn’s death he drove a man resembling Jakyn and another man resembling Syphax from the corner of Charles Street and Seymour Street to Crowndale Road. He waited for them at the Cobden Statue, and drove them back to where he’d picked them up. The Syphax man went away along Charles Street; the Jakyn man towards the Euston Road.”

“What time was that?”

“All around eleven o’clock.”

“How long did the man wait for them at the Cobden Statue?”

“Inside half an hour, anyway.”

“We must see into that! Well, you walked in on Syphax and Lady Cheale. What took place then?”

“I told her straight out I’d followed her because I didn’t trust her, and I was certain that she was concealing more than she’d told me of. There was a bit of an angry discussion between me and Syphax. He said it was quite true that Lady Cheale wanted to keep her name out of this Jakyn affair, but she knew nothing whatever as to the cause of Jakyn’s death---nothing!”

“Said it as if he meant it?”

“I’m sure he meant it. He spoke most positively. He said that neither Lady Cheale nor he himself had the ghost of an idea as to how Alfred Jakyn came by his death, though they both knew him, and had both seen him that night, but there were the very strongest, gravest reasons why Lady Cheale’s name should not be brought in, and it must be kept out at any cost---any cost.”

“That, no doubt, suited you! Well---and what then?”

“We all three had a talk, and a long talk. Syphax said that it was all very well making it worth my while to hold my tongue, but there were two other people whose silence was just as important as mine---Green and Chrissie Walker---and they would have to be got hold of. And---well, I offered to get hold of them.”

“Just so, Jennison! And you did---next day?”

“Yes. Next day. I knew Chrissie Walker’s habits pretty well---I knew that she went out of an afternoon and returned to the Cat and Bagpipe about five-thirty, so I watched for her, and met her, and talked her round, and took her to Syphax’s place in Charles Street. Then----”

“Half a minute! Did Chrissie Walker tell you that she’d just been to the neighbouring police station?”

Jennison started. And Womersley knew at once that Miss Walker had not told. Jennison’s start and his stare indicated complete surprise and chagrin.

“Been to the police station?---that afternoon?” he exclaimed. “No! Had she?”

“Never mind!” said Womersley. “Go on! Then, I suppose, you went to waylay Green?”

“Yes.”

“And took him to the same place. Very well---we know most of the rest. But now, where is this girl---Chrissie Walker?”

“She went away north, that night, very late---I believe to some friends in Northumberland.”

“With her money in her pocket?”

“Yes.”

“You paid Green, and I suppose you paid her? Well---who furnished you with the money?”

“Lady Cheale. She brought it in bank-notes.”

“Just so! And---your share? What were you to have?”

Jennison hesitated.

“Come now, out with it!” said Womersley. “You may as well!”

“Well, I was to have what I’d already got made up to what the Western Lands was offering,” admitted Jennison.

“Was to have! Haven’t you got it?”

“No! I was to meet Lady Cheale about it to-morrow morning.”

“I hope you will meet Lady Cheale to-morrow,” said Womersley, with a grim smile at his two assistants. “I hope to see you both---face to face. But now, Jennison, as Lady Cheale is, evidently, in London, do you know where she is?”

“No! She’s not at the Euston Hotel, though; I know that.”

“Where were you to meet her to-morrow?”

“Here in Paddington---at a confectioner’s in Spring Street.”

“You’ve no idea where she is to-night?”

“I haven’t. But----”

“Well, what?”

“She seems to be very confidential with Syphax,” said Jennison.

“Very good! Now then, Jennison, you’ve done right in making a clean breast, but I want you to give me an absolutely truthful answer to a direct question. Out of all this, have you learned anything really definite---do you know anything definite---as to who poisoned Alfred Jakyn?”

But Jennison shook his head in emphatic and unqualified denial.

“No!” he said. “I know nothing! Absolutely nothing! I haven’t even an idea!”

“You never heard anything that made you suspect either of these two---Dr. Syphax and Lady Cheale?” suggested Womersley.

“From them, no!” replied Jennison. He had been gaining confidence during Womersley’s examination of him, and he was now disposed to talk, and talk freely. “I never heard either of them say anything that would have made me, or anybody, suspect them of actually poisoning Jakyn. Still, I’d my own ideas, you know.”

“Well, let’s hear a few of them,” said Womersley. “What were they?”

“Well, there’s no doubt that Lady Cheale was alone with Jakyn in the saloon at the Cat and Bagpipe,” answered Jennison. “She’d an opportunity there, I should think, of putting something into what he was drinking---whisky and soda, that was, so the barmaid said. He’d two whiskies and soda there. And I know there was an opportunity, because I questioned Chrissie Walker closely about what happened. While they were there, Jakyn left Lady Cheale for a minute or two in the alcove in which they were sitting and went to the counter to buy a cigar. Lady Cheale had a chance then of dropping something in his glass.”

“Well?” said Womersley. “And what other ideas?---about Syphax, for instance?”

“Well, there’s no doubt Alfred Jakyn was in Syphax’s company late that evening,” said Jennison. “I don’t think there’s the least doubt that the men who were driven by the taxi-cab man, Shino, from Charles Street corner to the Cobden Statue were Syphax and Jakyn. Syphax may have poisoned him.”

“But still you don’t know anything that you can call definite?” said Womersley. “What you really know is that for some reason or other which you can’t account for, Lady Cheale was desperately anxious that her name shouldn’t come out. That’s all?”

“That’s all---yes,” agreed Jennison. “Silence!---that’s what she wants. Willing to pay anything for it, too!”

“What part did Syphax take in these proceedings at Charles Street?” inquired Womersley.

“Next to none! My opinion,” said Jennison, “is that he was mad---angry---at being mixed up in it. I don’t think he liked Lady Cheale being there, or bringing the rest of us there. It struck me she’d sort of thrown herself on his mercy. Now and then he said to her that all this was for her to decide---he seemed as if he wanted to wash his hands of it.”

“Didn’t do much talking, eh?” suggested Womersley.

“He did none about any actual arrangements,” replied Jennison. “He seemed impatient, restless---as if he wanted to clear us all out.”

“Did you gather that he and Lady Cheale seemed to know each other pretty well?---as if they were old friends or acquaintances?”

“They seemed to know each other well enough,” answered Jennison. “Every now and then, when she was talking to me, or to the others, she appealed to Syphax. It was then---on such occasions---that he replied as I’ve told you---that she must decide for herself.”

“Did you ever hear either of them mention Sir John Cheale?”

“Sir John? No!---except that when I first saw her at Cheale Court, she told me to leave Sir John’s name out of it.”

Womersley glanced at his two companions, and rising, beckoned them aside.

“He knows nothing!” he muttered, nodding towards Jennison. “Nothing definite! But these other two do---the woman and the doctor. We must get on to them. We don’t know where she is, of course. May have gone back to Chester. But Syphax---hallo, what’s this?” A waiter had come into the room and was speaking to Jennison. Jennison listened, rose, and approached Womersley.

“I’m wanted on the telephone,” he said. “I---I can’t think who it can be---unless it’s---her! Can I go?”

“With me!” said Womersley. “Come on, where is it?” He walked with Jennison to the telephone and stood by his side. A moment later, Jennison turned a surprised face on him.

“It’s Trusford!” he said. “That reporter I told you about. He wants me to meet him at once at the corner of Charles Street---got something important! What shall I say?”