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10: The Sixpenny Surgery

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Author Topic: 10: The Sixpenny Surgery  (Read 26 times)
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« on: May 19, 2023, 11:33:52 am »

BETWEEN leaving Trusford and keeping his appointment, Jennison did a lot of serious thinking. He had little doubt that the second of the two men seen by Shino on the night of Alfred Jakyn’s death was Alfred Jakyn himself. Jennison, in consequence of many years’ residence in it, knew the Euston district of London as intimately as he knew the one street of his native village. And when he left the newspaper reporter and went off to lunch at his hotel, he reckoned up times and distances, bearing the taxi-driver’s story steadily in mind. It was a bit like a jig-saw puzzle, thought Jennison, but a very, very easy one! Everything pieced together splendidly, and everything fitted in and round Alfred Jakyn. Just before ten o’clock Alfred Jakyn leaves the Euston Hotel, and at ten meets Lady Cheale at the west end of Endsleigh Gardens. He and Lady Cheale turn into the saloon of the Cat and Bagpipe, close by. They leave it about ten-thirty: from then a veil falls over their movements. Or---had done so, until Shino lifts it. Supposing Shino’s man in the dark blue serge suit is Alfred Jakyn, then things come out quite clearly again. It would take Alfred Jakyn, an alert, vigorous man, eight or ten minutes at the very outside to walk from the Cat and Bagpipe to Charles Street. Take it for granted that he did walk to Charles Street, Lady Cheale having parted with him outside the tavern, and returned to her hotel---what was obvious then, was that he went, hurried, perhaps, to Charles Street, to meet another person. That person, undoubtedly, was the man in the black clothes and white muffler. With him Alfred Jakyn at once repaired to the corner of Charles Street and encountered Shino and his cab. The times again fitted in perfectly. When Shino brought the two men back and set them down, and Alfred Jakyn walked away, it would be, almost to a second, exactly ten minutes past eleven. And from that point in Cartwright Gardens where Alfred Jakyn collapsed and died, it was---at the rate he was walking when Jennison saw him from his open window---only a few minutes’ walk. So he had ample time to do it---too much time, indeed. And Jennison settled over his coffee and cigarette that there were three points arising out of what Shino had told:

1.---Who was the man who got into the taxi-cab with Alfred Jakyn?

2.---Why did this man and Alfred Jakyn go to Crowndale Road?

3.---Did Alfred Jakyn call anywhere or meet anybody during the time which elapsed between his leaving Shino’s cab and falling dead in Cartwright Gardens?

And after that came another, which, Jennison being constituted as he was, interested him far more than the previous three: How far did all this concern him in his dealings with Lady Cheale? In other words, how was he going to profit by his chance meeting with Trusford, the reporter, and Shino, the taxi-cab driver? He had no illusions now as to his own policy. Perhaps, he said to himself, he had first gone into this thing from a desire for change, a longing for adventure, but from an early stage of its progress he had seen that there was money, big money, in it, and thenceforward his one idea was personal profit. And as he had said, earlier in the day, chuckling over the welcome thought, the market had improved: that American cablegram had altered things. With the knowledge that what he could tell was worth some or all of five thousand pounds to the signatories of that message, he could approach Lady Cheale with more confidence. Lady Cheale, for reasons of her own, wanted her name suppressed, wanted to be kept out of it---at all costs! And therefore . . . Lady Cheale would pay.

He began to wonder, as he lounged away his time in the hotel smoking-room, if Lady Cheale knew anything, anything really definite, about Alfred Jakyn’s movements after they parted company with him outside the Cat and Bagpipe? Did she send him to that Charles Street district? Did she suggest his going there? It was certainly significant that within a comparatively short time of his leaving her he was in the company of a man in Charles Street, who, taking the times into consideration, must have been waiting for him. Did Lady Cheale know that man? Did she know why he and Alfred Jakyn went together to Crowndale Road? Questions---all questions, mused Jennison: it was wonderful, and puzzling, too, how one question was generated by a previous one. And when he began to speculate on yet one more---would it be wise (in his own interests) to tell Lady Cheale what he had learned from Shino, and watch the effect on her? It would show her that he, Jennison, knew more than she was aware of; that he was in earnest, was seriously at work, and might suddenly hit on a discovery that would ruin her. Should he lay his cards on the table and let her see that. . . .

But he dismissed the idea as speedily as it had arisen. No!---he would keep to his policy of saying as little as possible, and learning all that he could. He was absolutely sure of one thing---Lady Cheale would do anything, pay anything, to keep secret the fact that she met Alfred Jakyn and was with him in the saloon of the Cat and Bagpipe for half an hour on the evening of his death. That was good enough for the present state of affairs; a strong string on which to play for a time; he would stick to it until he saw reason to try another. And if he could get any news out of Lady Cheale, any information, any hint or suggestion, all the better.

Lady Cheale came to the place of meeting appointed by Jennison at the exact moment he had fixed. She was plainly dressed, and heavily veiled; it was obvious to Jennison, watching her from a carefully-selected point of observation, that she did not wish to be recognised or to attract attention. And Jennison, having made sure, as far as he could, that she was unattended, went quietly up to her and greeted her in his politest fashion---politeness, he was well aware, cost nothing. But this politeness produced no more than a mere nod from Lady Cheale---a silent intimation that she was aware of his presence. Yet he saw that for all her reserve of manner she was nervous, and he was clever enough to avoid letting her see that he saw anything. He drew away from the crowd around the bookstall, signifying by a glance that she should follow---and in spite of her chilly attitude, she followed.

“Where do you want me to go?” she demanded in a low voice. “I’m not going----”

“Nowhere where you don’t wish to go, Lady Cheale,” interrupted Jennison. “There’s no need! We can do our bit of talk anywhere---walking up and down this platform, if you like. But I should suggest a cosy corner in the tea-room---why not be comfortable while we’re about it?”

She made no opposition to that, and Jennison led her into the tea-room, found a quiet nook, and took upon himself to order tea. And when the waitress had left them he looked across the table and smiled---confident in his own powers. But Lady Cheale gave him a glance which would have made a more observant man remember that if you corner a cat it will probably fly at you.

“This is all right, I think,” said Jennison.

“Why have you brought me to London?” demanded Lady Cheale suddenly.

“Obvious!” retorted Jennison. “Circumstances have changed since I saw you. By the announcement in the paper---which I sent you---and which, no doubt, surprised you!”

“No!” answered Lady Cheale. “I wasn’t surprised.”

“Not?” exclaimed Jennison, taken aback. “Not by that---that offer from the American people? Why not?”

“Because I expected something of the sort. He---Alfred Jakyn---told me he was over here on business for that company. I thought they would offer some reward for news of him.”

Jennison remained silent for a minute or two, drumming the table and staring at her. He hadn’t expected this; it put a new complexion on things. And before he could think what to say, Lady Cheale spoke again.

“It’s no affair of mine that they have offered a reward,” she said. “All I am concerned with is that it should not be known---for reasons of my own---that I saw and was with Alfred Jakyn that evening, between ten and ten-thirty. I paid you to keep silence on that point, and bought that note from you. Without that note you can prove nothing----”

“Oh, but you’re wrong there!” said Jennison, hastily. “The note’s nothing! There’s the evidence of the girl---the barmaid----”

“I should deny it,” interrupted Lady Cheale calmly. “My word is as good as hers: better, indeed. I should say she was mistaken---I wasn’t there. I repeat---now that the note is destroyed, you can’t prove that I met Alfred Jakyn.”

The waitress came with the tea just then, and her presence for a minute or two gave Jennison a chance to think over his next move. He resolved on a bold one.

“Lady Cheale,” he said, bending across the table when they were once more alone, “just understand, once for all, that you’re wrong! I didn’t tell you everything when we were talking in your park last Sunday afternoon. The truth is, I know a lot more than you’ve any idea of. Now, you say you were with Alfred Jakyn from ten to ten-thirty on the evening of his death, and you imply that you know no more of his movements. Very good---let me tell you straight out, I don’t believe you! For, though I haven’t told you up to now, I know of his movements after ten-thirty! And to prove to you that I do, let me mention the names of two streets in the Euston district to you---Charles Street, Crowndale Road! Now, Lady Cheale, how does that bit of news strike you---and what do these names suggest? Come!”

He saw at once that his stray shot had gone home. Lady Cheale turned pale, and an undeniable look of fear came into her eyes.

“What---what do you know about those streets---and---and Alfred Jakyn?” she asked. “What?”

Jennison shook his head.

“Enough to warrant me in going to the police and claiming that reward!” he answered. “Come, Lady Cheale, let’s do business! I don’t want to go to the police---I want to keep my bargain with you. But you must see that the market’s improved---since last Sunday. That American offer has sent up my stock by leaps and bounds, Lady Cheale! It’s like this---I can go and sell my information to these people for five thousand pounds. Therefore, it’s worth five thousand pounds---to you!”

He was watching her closely, and he saw a certain sullen look come over her face.

“You’re blackmailing me,” she muttered. “If I told the police----”

“You know as well as I do that you’re not in a position to tell the police anything, Lady Cheale,” said Jennison quickly. “If you go to the police at all, they’ll ask awkward questions. They’ll want to know a lot about your doings that evening, and about your relations with Alfred Jakyn: they’ll want----”

“I’m not concerned with what they’d want,” said Lady Cheale. “What do you want?”

“Not to lose anything!” replied Jennison promptly. “I want as good terms from you as I could get from these American people. I’ve got the knowledge, the information---I’d far rather sell to you than to them. Or, to put it plainly, I’d far rather you paid me not to sell to them. Come, now!”

Lady Cheale, who had made but a mere pretence of drinking her tea, suddenly picked up her handbag and rose.

“Meet me here to-morrow morning at half-past twelve,” she said. “Be in here---you can order some lunch or something. That’s all I’m going to say now---but I shall be here alone, at the time I’ve mentioned.”

She went swiftly away between the tables, and for half a minute Jennison remained in his place watching her go. Then a sudden notion shot into his mind, and, slipping some silver into the hand of the waitress with a hurried whisper that he couldn’t wait for the change, he hurried after his late companion. The sudden notion was that he would follow her. For he had an idea that Lady Cheale was probably going to consult somebody as to her further action in this matter, and if she was, he wanted to know where she went and to whom.

Jennison had no great trouble in tracing his quarry along the crowded platform. At that hour of the early evening Paddington station was densely thronged by folk going homeward to western suburbs and up-river resorts, and he found it easy to keep himself unseen while he kept Lady Cheale in sight. His one fear was that she might get into a taxi-cab and drive away before he could hail another. But instead of turning to the entrance of the station she went straight down the long departure platform to the sloping subway leading to the Underground Railway. He followed her down that, moving still more warily lest she should turn and see him. But the subway was even more crowded than the station above, and it was easy work to follow her along there and through the barrier on to the Metropolitan and District platform. That, too, was thronged, and Jennison saw at once that as long as he kept himself at a safe distance he could keep an eye on Lady Cheale’s movements with ease and safety.

An east-bound train rattled in, and Lady Cheale slipped into a first-class car. Jennison entered the next, placing himself in such a position that he could watch the exit of the other. He foresaw that his chief difficulty would be when Lady Cheale got out of the train; the farther east they went, the fewer passengers would leave; people did not go to the City nor to the East End at that hour; rather, it was just then that everybody came away from those quarters, at the end of the day’s work. He would have to be cautious when Lady Cheale and he quitted that train, he said to himself---one glance behind, on a stairway, or in a passage, and she would see him. But fortunately for Jennison’s plans, Lady Cheale left the train at Euston Square, where, luckily, a great many other passengers left it to catch trains in the big terminus close by, and within a couple of minutes Jennison found himself in the familiar Euston Road, with Lady Cheale, all unsuspecting and unconscious of his presence, a dozen yards ahead of him.

Jennison now began to think that he was wasting his time and his ingenuity, and that he had followed Lady Cheale merely to see her go into the Euston Hotel, where, he knew, she usually stayed when in town. But he was speedily reassured; instead of making for the Euston Hotel, Lady Cheale turned away and went up Seymour Street. And she had not gone far up there when she turned again---into Charles Street . . . and Jennison suddenly realised that he was probably on the verge of the biggest discovery he had yet made. For it was of Seymour Street and Charles Street that Shino had talked that morning---and here they were, and here was Lady Cheale, pacing their frowsy pavements, and here was he, Jennison, dogging her footsteps!

It was a poor, shabby, down-at-heel and out-at-elbow district that, smelling of all sorts of nasty things from cheap burning oil to fried fish, and Jennison wondered whatever had brought Lady Cheale into it. But presently Lady Cheale disappeared. She shot aside, swiftly, into a doorway; the doorway of a shop or office, the lower part of the one window of which was obscured by white paint, on which were two lines of black lettering. Using as much caution as a cat, Jennison stole up to the place and read the lettering as he slipped past. What he read amazed him as much as the fact of Lady Cheale’s having gone in there.

SURGERY
Hours, 6.30 to 9.30 p.m. Advice and Medicine,
Sixpence.


As soon as Jennison saw that, he shot across the street---to reflect and to watch. He had heard of these cheap places before; places where you got medical advice and a bottle of stuff for half a crown or a shilling, but he had never heard of a sixpenny establishment. Yet there it was---and Lady Cheale was in it. Very well. . . .

Jennison watched from across the street for some time. He saw several poorly-clad people enter and leave the surgery door. At last he crossed over, and, after inspecting the window, found a place where the paint was worn off, and peeping through it, looked into the interior. He saw a sort of waiting-room, shabby and ill-furnished, and just then empty; at its farther side was a door, wide open, communicating with an inner room. And in that he saw Lady Cheale talking, rapidly and earnestly, to a man who wore a white linen coat, and he had his back to Jennison. But suddenly the man turned, and Jennison knew him at once. Dr. Syphax!

Without pausing to consider or reflect, Jennison stepped to the outer door, pushed it open, and walked in upon Lady Cheale and her companion.
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