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9: Shino

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Author Topic: 9: Shino  (Read 29 times)
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« on: May 19, 2023, 11:03:32 am »

JENNISON chuckled to himself when he read the one word of that telegram. He felt pretty much as a spider might feel if it saw a fat and succulent fly walking deliberately into its parlour. He crushed the flimsy paper in his hand as he went out of the post office, and in the street tore it into a thousand sheets and dropped them in the gutter as he walked along; instinct prompted him to do this as a precautionary act of the highest importance. It wouldn’t be well, he argued, if anything happened to him, a street accident or something of that sort, to be found in possession of letter or message from Lady Cheale. But Lady Cheale! ah, Lady Cheale knew a damn sight more, sir, about that Alfred Jakyn business than she’d let out, so far---no error about that! And Lady Cheale was frightened---frightened of him, Albert Jennison! He had her in a leash---he could pull her this way and that, wherever and whenever he liked. He felt very grateful to the far-away President of the Western Lands Development, or whatever they called the thing, for offering five thousand pounds for news of Alfred Jakyn: he wished that worthy gentleman had gone a step farther and made it ten thousand. For whatever the amount, he felt sure he could get it---and a bit over---from Lady Cheale. Lady Cheale had a reason for keeping out of the business, and she’d pay---through the nose. He meant to let her see plainly when he met her that evening that she’d just got to pay---and that the market had improved. Six thousand would be a fair price now---what was worth five thousand to those American johnnies was worth six thousand to Lady Cheale.

Ruminating over what he considered the biggest stroke of luck he had ever known in his hitherto uneventful existence, Jennison strolled along to the corner of Praed Street. It was not yet noon; he hadn’t to meet Lady Cheale until six in the evening, and he began to wonder what to do with himself: leisure was unusual to him. But chancing to glance across the street he saw, alighting from a motor omnibus at the other side, the young gentleman who, as a pushing reporter, had interviewed him after the first inquest proceedings, and whom he remembered by the name of Trusford. Trusford, alert as ever, was standing on the pavement by this time, staring about him as if uncertain of his whereabouts. And at that, Jennison, resolving to keep an open countenance and close thoughts, crossed over and hailed him. Trusford started, grinned, and held out a friendly hand.

“Hallo, old bean!” he exclaimed. “What’re you doing in these parts and in your go-to-meeting raiment? Where’s the City?”

“Hang the City!” said Jennison. “Left it---come into a bit of money. What’re you doing round here?”

“Lucky devil!” remarked Trusford. “Don’t go through it too quickly, though. What am I doing round here? Same game, my son! Haven’t you seen my stuff in our holy rag every morning? I’ve been set apart, detailed, told off, to lay all my talents to work on that Jakyn case---making quite a feature of it, we are. Of course, a lot of the stuff I’ve written up so far is tripe---mere theory, suggestion, that sort of thing. But it keeps the public---our public---on the hop, and by-and-by I guess I’ll hit something big---may be going to within the half hour, possibly.”

“How?” asked Jennison.

Trusford pointed across the road.

“Come over to that saloon-bar and do a drink, and I’ll tell you,” he answered. “Don’t mind telling you, as you’re in the affair, so to speak. You don’t know anything more yourself, I suppose, anything new----?”

“No!” replied Jennison. “Haven’t been in the way to hear anything---been down in the country most of the time since I saw you.”

“Well, all this is between ourselves,” said Trusford. “Keep it dark! I’m only telling you because you promised to post me in anything you got to hear of, as, of course, you will, eh?”

“Oh, of course!” agreed Jennison. “You’re welcome to any news I get.”

“Well, this of mine may be something good and again it mayn’t,” said Trusford, leading the way into the saloon bar and up to its counter. “What’s yours---bitter beer? Best stuff, too, this time o’ day. Well, bring your liquor into that corner, and I’ll show you a bit of English as she’s wrote.”

Jennison looked on with close attention and absorbed interest while Trusford produced from a capacious pocket, evidently crammed full of papers, an envelope fashioned of extremely common, whitey-brown paper, and drew from it a leaf obviously torn from a cheap account book.

“This,” said Trusford, assuring himself by a glance that they were out of earshot in their corner, “was delivered at our office, addressed to the name of the paper only, and was in due course handed to me. There’s illiteracy all over it---big!---but it may mean something. Read it!”

Jennison took the dirty, much creased leaf, and read:

“Dere Sur,---If so be as the man wot writes them pieces in your paper about the Cartright Gardins affare likes to call at Petharford Mews, nere Paddington Stashun, and ask eny of the men wot he sees about for Shino, I can tell him sumthink wot may have toddo with wot he calls the mistry, though not sure, but likely to be worth knowing of and thort I would akwaint your paper with the same your truly is same should call between twelve and one o’clock noon if my most convenient me been then there for my dinner as a rule.”

“What d’you think of that?” asked Trusford. “Queer name, Shino, isn’t it?”

“Nick-name, I should imagine,” said Jennison. His wits were already at work, and he was wondering how to turn this to his own advantage. “Why should this chap apply to you instead of to the police?” he asked.

Trusford laughed the laugh of superior knowledge.

“Ah, my son!” he answered. “You don’t know these fellows as I do. That order has the greatest objection to telling anything to the police. But they’ll tell a newspaper man. Perhaps they think the police should find out things for themselves; perhaps there’s a natural enmity between ’em. Anyway, newspapers can get hold of information that the police never touch. Of course, I’m going to see Shino, whoever he may be. Now, where is Petherford Mews? You know?”

“No---but any policeman will,” said Jennison. “There’s one at the corner.”

“And we won’t ask him,” remarked Trusford. “We, too, can do without the police. We’ll ask a taxi-man---there’s a rank over there. Most of these mews have been converted into garages, though they retain their names.”

Petherford Mews, duly discovered, and within a hundred yards of where they had been talking, proved to be precisely what Trusford had prophesied. Instead of horses and vehicles, the mews was now full of taxi-cabs and their drivers, and one of these, to whom Trusford made application on entering the yard, nodded an instant affirmative to his question.

“Shino?” he said. “That’s him---a-getting his dinner there---that’s Shino!”

He pointed to a fat, red-faced man who sat on an upturned box ten yards away industriously consuming cold meat and bread with the aid of a large clasp-knife. Seen at close quarters, he appeared to be wrapped up in several overcoats, two or three mufflers, and a pair of knee-boots; above the mufflers a pair of small, shrewd eyes looked out above weather-beaten cheeks. Those eyes examined the two young men closely as they drew near, and fixed themselves finally on Trusford.

“Your name Shino?” asked the reporter.

“It ain’t, gov’nor, and that’s a fact!” answered the man readily. “But it’s the name I’m known by, and what I wrote to you in---for I reckon you’re the newspaper chap as I was expecting?”

“Just so!” agreed Trusford. “Came to see you at once, of course.”

Shino pointed his clasp-knife at Jennison.

“And this here young toff?” he asked. “Who’s he? ’Cause I ain’t going to have nothing to say to no blooming detective, nor plain-clothes man neither!”

“Oh, that’s all right!” answered Trusford, reassuringly. “He’s nothing of that sort---he’s a friend of mine---I’ll answer for him. You can say anything you like before him.”

“Ain’t going to say nothing at all, guv’nor, till I knows if it’s going to be worth something,” declared Shino. “And as I’ve been a-studying of it and think it is, I want to know how you’re a-going to line my pocket. You newspapers pays well for news---so I’m told.”

“You can depend on me,” replied Trusford. “If what you have to tell is really good stuff, you’ll get a nice reward. Look here! I’ll give you a fiver now, for whatever it is, and if it turns out to be valuable, you shall have more. What do you say to that?”

He drew a five-pound note from his pocket and handed it over, and Shino, securing it with avidity, shut up and put away his clasp-knife, and rose to his feet.

“I says that’ll do very handsome, guv’nor, and I trusts you for the balance!” he exclaimed. “But I ain’t going to talk in this here yard. You come along o’ me to a quiet little place as I knows on, just round the corner, and I’ll tell you all about it over a pint of ale.”

Jennison was becoming used to hole-and-corner work, and he felt quite at home when the man who had news to sell conducted him and Trusford to a snug resort in an adjacent street, where, reinforced by a pint of beer and a pipe of strong tobacco, he gave signs of knowing all about it.

“Leastways, approaching thereto, guv’nor!” said Shino. “Me having read your paper constant, and being a bloke as can put things together, I’ll tell you honest what I know, and to show what they call boner fydes I’ll give you my proper name and address, which it’s Clarence Augustus Johnson, Beamer Street Flats, Clerkenwell, and well known to everybody round that way as a highly respectable man what’s never been in no trouble. Clarence Augustus—but you can call me Shino—it don’t hurt none!”

“Well, what do you know, Shino?” inquired Trusford.

“This here, guv’nor! Of course, I used to drive a hansom in the old days, but since all this here motoring come in, I’ve took to taxi-cab business. I works the big stations, as a rule---Euston, St. Pancras, King’s Cross, and I works late of a night a good deal. Now, on that there Monday night when the bloke fell down and died in Cartwright Gardens, I was going towards Euston station, when, at, as near as I can tell, twenty minutes to eleven o’clock, two men---gentlemen---stopped me at the corner of Charles Street and Seymour Street----”

“Where’s that exactly?” asked Trusford.

“Just off the Euston Road, guv’nor---north side. They asked me if I was engaged, and when I said I wasn’t, they told me to take ’em up as far as the Cobden Statue----”

“Where’s that, too?” demanded the reporter.

“Corner of Eversholt Street---which is a countinywation of Seymour Street---and Hampstead Road, guv’nor. They got in, and I took them there.”

“Short ride?” asked Trusford.

“Matter o’ half-a-mile, guv’nor. They gets out at the statue, and one of ’em gives me half-a-dollar. ‘Look here,’ he says, ‘you wait here, just where you are. But if we aren’t back in twenty minutes, you can go.’ Then they walks off---sharp, as if they was in a hurry.”

“Any particular direction, Shino?”

“That’s what I’m coming to, guv’nor. Yes---they goes down Crowndale Road. And I lights my bit o’ baccy and waits.”

“Did they come back within the twenty minutes?”

“They did, guv’nor. They comes back within the time---a minute or so within the time. In they gets again, and tells me to go back to where I picked ’em up. I does so. They gets out there---corner o’ Charles Street---and the man what had give me the first half-dollar gives me another. They parted as soon as they got out o’ my cab---one, him what give me the half-dollars, goes along Charles Street; t’other, he walks forward towards the Euston Road.”

“And that was the last you saw of them, Shino?”

“The very last, guv’nor. I been round that quarter many a time since, o’ nights---of course, it’s my beat---but I ain’t seen neither on ’em.”

“What makes you think this has something to do with the Cartwright Gardens affair?”

“Well, guv’nor, I read your paper careful about that business---every piece what come out in it. And I see the picture of the man what died, mysterious-like, in Cartwright Gardens---Jakyn. Seemed to me that I saw a likeness between that there picture and one of the two men I been telling you about.”

“Which man?”

“Not the man that did the talking, guv’nor---t’other. Him what walked away to the Euston Road when they parted. Of course, it was a dark night, and them streets in that quarter isn’t over well lighted, but I see both men pretty plain, and it did strike me as there was a resemblance when I see the picture in the paper to the second man---him what didn’t do no talking. He was a tallish, fair-complexioned chap, that, and he hadn’t no overcoat on—he was in a dark suit, blue serge, as near as I can hit it.”

“Sounds like Jakyn,” murmured Trusford. “He was fair-complexioned, and he had a dark blue serge suit. But the other man, Shino---what was he like?”

“I see more of him---noticed him more, like---as he did the talking,” replied Shino. “He was a taller chap than t’other, dressed all in black---big black overcoat and one o’ them big black slouch hats. But I see little of his face, ’cause he was wearing a white muffler about his neck and half his physog was buried in it. What bit I could see of his face he seemed to be one o’ the pale-face sort.”

“Did you see where the two men went when they turned down Crowndale Road?” asked Trusford.

“I didn’t, guv’nor---I gave it no attention. My opinion is that they turned down a side street---there’s two or three about there. Wherever they went they weren’t long away, so they couldn’t have gone far.”

That was all that Shino could tell, and Trusford, bidding him keep his knowledge to himself and promising further reward, left him and went away with Jennison.

“That’s Jakyn we’ve just heard about!” he said, when they were out in the street. “Jakyn, as sure as fate! But---who was the other man? And where did they go in Crowndale Road? And why?”

“I suppose you’ll print all this to-morrow?” suggested Jennison.

“Do you, my son?” laughed Trusford satirically. “Then we shan’t! I shall keep every scrap of that to myself until I know more. You keep it dark, too. Look here!---if you’re doing nothing to-morrow, drop in at our office, and we’ll have another talk---you might help me about looking round that Euston district.”

Jennison promised, indifferent in reality as to whether he would keep his promise or not. He had added to his stock of knowledge, but he had no intention of adding to Trusford’s. Just then he had his own work to attend to---and at six o’clock it led him into Paddington station, to look out for Lady Cheale.

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