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17: Home-Made Toffee

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Author Topic: 17: Home-Made Toffee  (Read 24 times)
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« on: May 20, 2023, 08:40:24 am »

WOMERSLEY rose from his seat, glanced at his watch, consulted his time-table, and, crossing over to the window, beckoned to Holaday to join him there.

“What do you think of all that?” he asked in an undertone.

“Pretty much what I expected,” answered the American. “And I guess we’d better be making tracks for London! Of course, the telegram we’ve heard about, that Lady Cheale got very early this morning, was from Syphax. That’s in consequence of our call on him last night. He’s warned her.”

“The worst of it is, she’s got several hours’ start of us,” said Womersley. “We can’t get back to town before evening, and she’ll have been there a couple of hours now---we should pass her going up as we came down. However, we’ve got something to go on now. And, as you say, we’d better shift. As regards this chap----” He turned and went back to the table. “Now, look here, Green,” he continued, “I think you’ve made a clean breast of it.”

“Upon my honour, Mr. Womersley, I’ve told you everything I know!” protested the footman. “I haven’t kept a thing back!”

“Very well,” said Womersley. “All the same, I think you’d better clear out of this---you can’t stop here after giving Lady Cheale away, you know. Now, will you do what I tell you?”

“Certainly, Mr. Womersley---anything, sir,” replied Green. “I don’t want to stop here---I’ve been afraid there was something wrong ever since Jennison bundled me off so sharply. You see, Mr. Womersley, they had me at a disadvantage---they sprang it on me, sudden, and got me before I’d time to think. And there was the money, the five hundred pounds---shoved right under my nose, gentlemen! And what am I to do about that, Mr. Womersley?”

“Take care of it!” answered Womersley, with a grim laugh. “Where is it?” The footman tapped his right side.

“Here, sir, in a body belt,” he replied. “At least, there’s four hundred and eighty of it, all in notes. I used a bit of it, buying things in Chester yesterday.”

“Well, don’t use any more,” said Womersley. “Now listen---you pack up anything you have here, and come back to London this evening. Go back to that club you live at---I’ll come there for you to-morrow morning, if I want you. And don’t bother about that money; there’s a big reward out for news of Alfred Jakyn, and you’ll get more than you have there.”

“Thank you, Mr. Womersley, thank you, sir!” exclaimed Green, apparently immensely relieved to find that he was not to be led away in handcuffs. “I’ll do exactly what you say. But the butler, sir?---perhaps you’ll say a word or two?”

“I’ll speak to him,” assented Womersley. He went outside and found the butler waiting in the hall. “Look here!” he said. “This man Green will have to leave here this afternoon---I’ve given him strict orders that he’s to pack up whatever he has and to come up to town by an evening train---I shall probably want him to-morrow morning. So you mustn’t put anything in his way, and if Lady Cheale should return here to-night, or during the night, you can give her my card, and tell her that Green has left by my instructions---she’ll understand.”

“I hope there’s nothing seriously wrong?” said the butler plaintively. “Sir John being away, and her ladyship, too----”

“There’s something very seriously wrong!” answered Womersley, “as you’ll probably hear in due time. But that’s all I want at present.” He consulted his time-table again, went back and gave the footman a further instruction, and beckoned Holaday out to the car in which they had ridden over from Chester. “Filled up a hole or two in the net this morning, I think!” he said with a laugh, as they went off. “It was an inspiration, after all, that notion of yours about following up Millie Clover! But what do you make of it?”

“I should like to get hold of that man Jennison,” answered Holaday. “Seems to me he’s a sort of mainspring in this machinery.”

“We’ll get hold of the young devil right enough, if he’s in England!” affirmed Womersley. “I’ve never trusted him since I first set eyes on him, but I made the mistake of thinking him more a fool than a knave. We’ll be on to his track as soon as we strike London. Now look here---it’s now one o’clock. There’s an express at two-thirty---that leaves us time for lunch at the station. We’re due at Euston about six, and I’m going to wire to a colleague of mine, Kellington, to meet us there. And then we’ll just go along to the Great Western Hotel and find out if the Mr. A. Jennings to whom Lady Cheale wrote yesterday is Mr. Albert Jennison.”

“Well, I reckon he is,” said Holaday. “But I don’t suppose we shall find him there. You can bet your stars that if the waiter and the barmaid got five hundred pounds each out of Lady Cheale, Jennison got a lot more and has gone away with it!”

“I don’t know!” said Womersley. “Jennison, I think, is probably one of these people who believe that if you want to make yourself scarce, the best thing is to take lodgings next door. They’re not far wrong, either!---as my experience goes. I once searched London high and low for a man who’d made a disappearance from his family, and found at the end that he’d been living all the time three or four doors from them. No! I think we shall find Jennison at that hotel---that’s my impression!”

“What I’d like is to find Lady Cheale,” remarked Holaday. “Though we’ll not get information out of her as easily as you got it out of the footman fellow.”

“Information!” exclaimed Womersley. “Pooh! I think Lady Cheale poisoned Jakyn!” Holaday wagged his head to and fro and smiled in his peculiar fashion.

“Well, I don’t go as far as all that,” he said. “But I think she knows a lot---a lot that I want to know!”

“I say she poisoned him when they were together in that Cat and Bagpipe,” declared Womersley stoutly. “Dropped something in his glass when he wasn’t looking. For some reason and purpose of her own, of course. Jennison came to that conclusion when he found out she’d been there, and he’s blackmailed her. Clear as crystal, my boy! I see all the whole thing!”

“Good!” said Holaday, with a chuckle. “That simplifies matters---for you. But---I don’t!”

Womersley took no notice of his companion’s uncertainty. He saw a clear case before him, and was jubilant in consequence.

“Hang those Home Office experts!” he exclaimed. “If only they’d tell me how Jakyn was poisoned---I mean by what---it ’ud be a help that I badly want. They’ve been messing about, speculating, thinking, and I don’t know what, all this time, and never said anything definite. What’s the use of being experts if----”

But when the train ran into Euston, and Womersley’s colleague, Kellington, met them, there was the very news that Womersley wanted---in part, at any rate.

“Come into the refreshment room a few minutes,” said Kellington, when Womersley had introduced Holaday to him. “I’ve something to tell you: a report from those Home Office experts---it came in this afternoon.” He led them into a quiet corner, and when each had got a glass before him, bent over the table. “They’ve found out how Alfred Jakyn was poisoned!” he whispered. “Fact!---at last! And hang me if I’m not surprised that they never thought of it before!”

“Well?” demanded Womersley.

Kellington smiled, as a man smiles who has a good tale to tell.

“You mayn’t remember,” he went on, “that when Alfred Jakyn’s personal effects were taken off him, after his removal to the mortuary, there was amongst them, found in an outer pocket of his coat, a small tin box.”

“Yes, I do!” interrupted Womersley. “Ought to! I took it out myself.”

“Well, evidently nobody paid any attention to it at the time,” continued Kellington. “And so far as we’re informed, the doctors only got hold of it during this last day or two. But they did get hold of it, and they found it contained some pieces of home-made toffee—just ordinary home-made toffee. Six or seven pieces---small lumps, you know, broken up. And they experimented with them, yesterday and this morning. A lump was given to a dog. The dog showed no sign of anything out of the ordinary for exactly forty-five minutes. Then he just laid down and died!---died straight off! Another lump was tried on a cat. Same effect---except that the cat survived five minutes longer. But in each case---instantaneous death, when it did come on. And, of course, that’s how Alfred Jakyn got this poison. Home-made toffee! Now then---who gave it to him?”

“The box is no clue,” observed Womersley. “I remember it---plain tin.”

“No wrapper, no label; nothing on it in the way of lettering,” agreed Kellington. “I’ve seen it---saw it this afternoon.”

“What was the poison?” asked Womersley.

“They haven’t said---if they know; that’s all they have said---what I’ve told you. But I rather gathered,” added Kellington, “that though they now know its effects, they’re confoundedly puzzled as to its nature! And---but you know how close they are!”

Womersley nodded and took a reflective pull at the contents of his glass.

“Well,” he said. “That’s something. Now we’d better tell you what we’ve been after to-day, and then consult about a move I want to make to-night. It’s like this----” Kellington listened attentively to Womersley’s story of his day’s doings, and at the end shook his head.

“He’ll be off!” he said. “Your friend there’s right. Waste of time, my lad, to go on to Paddington. I should go to Brunswick Square---to that doctor’s.”

“No!” declared Womersley determinedly. “I’m going to the Great Western Hotel. Bet you three drinks he’s there! Going there, anyhow---we’ll try Syphax later.”

The other men saw that he was bent on finding Jennison before doing anything else, and then rose with him. But Holaday tapped him on the arm as they walked out of the refreshment room.

“Look here!” he said. “This Jennison, now? Supposing we find him at that hotel we’re going to---what are you going to do with him?”

“There’s one thing certain about that, my lad!” replied Womersley. “If I put my hand on him, I shan’t take it off again---until I’m satisfied. In other words, I shan’t let him go! That’s why I wired for Kellington to meet us. If we get Jennison, we stick to him!”

“You’ll arrest him?” suggested Holaday.

“Well, we needn’t put it into such plain language,” said Womersley. “We shall just ask him to come with us---we shall show him that we’re so fond of his company that we can’t do without it---see? Oh, that’ll be all right. Once let me get him, and he won’t go out of my sight until he’s either given a full satisfactory explanation---or been safely locked up!”

“That’s about it!” assented Kellington. “Let’s hope he’s there. He’s had time to make a fair start, you know, Womersley!”

“I’ve a feeling that he’ll be there,” retorted Womersley. “I’ve a notion that he selected that particular place for a particular reason. But come on---we’ll charter a taxi, and we shall know in a few minutes.”

He said little to his companions during the rapid run to Praed Street, but when the cab pulled up at the entrance to the Great Western Hotel, he motioned them to keep their seats.

“You stop here until I’ve made an inquiry or two,” he said as he got out. “I’ll come back as soon as I know whether he’s still here or if he’s left. And then----” He went away with a meaning nod---and in a few minutes was back with another.

“Mr. Jennings is here!” he whispered. “Mr. Jennings has been here some days. And at this present moment Mr. Jennings is dining. But he’ll be out of the dining-room in a few minutes---so come on!”

He led them into the hotel and along the hall to the neighbourhood of the entrance to the coffee-room, where he indicated chairs and lounges set about the walls.

“Now, look here,” he said, “we don’t want to make any fuss, any scene. You drop into a seat on that side of the door, Kellington, and busy yourself with a newspaper; you curl your long legs in that lounge over there, Holaday, and pretend you don’t know either of us. When he comes out, I’ll accost him; then you stroll up, Holaday, and when I suggest the smoking-room, you come after us, Kellington, see?”

“Suppose he shows fight?” suggested Kellington. “What then?”

“Fight? He?” sneered Womersley. “You mean flight, more likely! There’ll be neither flight nor fight, my boy! My impression is that he’ll wilt up like a flower under frost! And now, keep your eyes open.”

Some minutes went by. People began to come out of the dining-room---men, women.

And suddenly, alone, Jennison came out. He was in his smartest attire; he was apparently very much at home, very much at his ease, and as he passed through the door he was fingering a gold-tipped cigarette. And as he paused in the hall to draw a match from an obviously brand-new solid silver match-box, Womersley, stealing up from behind, tapped his elbow.

“Evening, Mr. Jennison!” he said. “Glad to find you! Perhaps you’ll make it convenient to take your after-dinner smoke with me and my friend, Mr. Holaday, of New York, in a quiet corner of the smoking-room? More private there, Mr. Jennison!---we don’t want to make a scene here.”

Holaday had come up by that time, and at sight of his tall figure and of Womersley’s threatening eyes, Jennison paled and trembled, and looked as if he were going to fulfil the detective’s prophecy. He dropped his match, stooped, picked it up, and in that action gained a little courage.

“What---what do you want?” he demanded, with some show of bravado. “What business have you coming here?”

“Now be careful, my lad!” said Womersley. “And be polite---or you’ll be outside and on your way elsewhere in two shakes. Come on into that smoking-room, now---here’s another friend of mine who’s dying to make your acquaintance---Detective-Sergeant Kellington, of the Yard.”

Jennison gave in. He glanced from one man to the other, and turned towards the smoking-room. There were several men in it already, lighting cigars or pipes, and he bent hurriedly towards Womersley.

“For God’s sake, don’t let anybody here know what you’re after!” he whispered. “There are men here---gentlemen---who know me.”

“As Mr. Jennings, of course!” sneered Womersley. “Don’t be alarmed, my lad! Here, we’re friends of yours, called in to see you. Order coffee---and cigars, if you like---and we’ll make a little party round the table in that nice cosy corner. And you can sit in the corner, and we’ll sit between you and the way out!---we’re so glad to see you, d’you see, Mr. Jennings, that we can’t run the risk of your slipping away from us!”

Jennison mechanically took the seat which Womersley pointed out, and, summoning a waiter, ordered him to bring coffee and cigars for four. He managed to control his voice, and to show something of a front until the waiter had gone, but his hands were shaking and there was sweat on his forehead when Womersley, who sat opposite to him, leaned across the little table and spoke pointedly.

“Now, my lad,” said Womersley, “you listen to me! We’ve got you, fair and square, and there’s no getting away from us. And I’ll throw one card out of my hand straight down before you---and you can take a good stare at it. Listen! We’ve just come from Cheale Court, from seeing Green, the waiter, and Green’s made a clean breast of everything he knows. And now you’d better do the same!”

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