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23: Wanted!

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Author Topic: 23: Wanted!  (Read 165 times)
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« on: May 20, 2023, 12:25:09 pm »

WOMERSLEY had a grip of Jennison’s arm before Jennison had fully realised what he had run into. He slewed him round with a jerk and a stern ejaculation.

“Now then,” he demanded, “what’s up now?---what are you after?---what are you doing here?”

Jennison twisted himself out of the detective’s clutch and sheered off a little.

“You keep your hands to yourself, Womersley!” he answered defiantly. “I’m here on my own business, and I reckon you’d give a good deal to know what it is! Will know what it is, will you? Not till I’ve had a word or two with him,” continued Jennison, pointing to Holaday. “I may tell the two of you, then---but not till then! And you can bluster as much as you like,” he went on, as Womersley began to show signs of anger. “I know something, and I’m top dog in this! Show any more of that, and I’m off . . . elsewhere!”

“Well, now, what is it?” asked Holaday, interposing himself between them. “You want a word or two with me----”

“Come aside!” said Jennison. He retreated a few yards along the street, eyeing Womersley jealously. “Look here!” he went on, as the American came up to him, smiling good-humouredly. “That offer of your company’s?---the reward, five thousand---does it hold good? Will it be paid?”

“Sure!” answered Holaday. “No doubt of it---if the conditions are fulfilled.”

“If I told you something that fulfilled the conditions, you’d see that I got it?” persisted Jennison. “You really would, honest Injun?”

“Honest Injun!” laughed Holaday.

“I’m trusting you!” said Jennison. He turned and beckoned Womersley, imperiously. “Come here, you!” he commanded. “I’ve got Holaday’s word, and now I’ll tell you what I’ve just found out. Now you listen as you’ve never listened in your lives. . . .”

Jennison’s small bit of literary ability helped him to present his story with an eye to dramatic effect. He told his hearers why he had come up to Crowndale Road, what he had seen in the herbalist’s shop in the side street, what he had heard from the greengrocer. The more he told the more eagerly the two men listened, and at the end Womersley made a move for the corner.

“Shop still open?” he asked.

“Unless she’s come back and locked the door,” answered Jennison. “Which isn’t likely!”

He led them round to the shop and into it, and into the parlour, and finally upstairs, indicating various things in corroboration of his story. His companions saw for themselves, looked, wondered, surmised. In the bedroom, Womersley, turning over the discarded garments, picked up a lady’s handkerchief, and, after a moment’s examination of it, held it towards Holaday, pointing to a corner.

“Look at that!” he said.

Holaday looked and started. There, daintily woven into the fabric was a name---Isabel Jakyn. He made a sound expressive of surprise.

“Just so!” remarked Womersley. “That’s what I feel! And yet---not so surprising after all. Come along downstairs.”

He put the handkerchief in his pocket, and led the way back to the street. And once outside the shop door, Jennison, looking round, saw Trusford at the corner, glancing up and down. Womersley, too, saw him, and beckoned.

“Look here,” he said, turning to Jennison as the reporter came running up, “you’ve done a bit of good work this morning, and now you can do more. Stop here, and look after the place while Holaday and I do a bit of investigating. If the woman turns up----”

“She won’t!” said Jennison.

“Well, if she does, send Trusford for the nearest policeman, and tell him what’s going on, and that I shall be back,” continued Womersley. “You can tell Trusford all about it---but no printing or anything yet, mind you! Just give me that telegram---I want to look into that! And now, don’t leave that shop till I’m back, or you hear from me.”

He put the telegram into his pocket, and, touching Holaday on the arm, went across the street. The greengrocer stood at his door, keenly interested.

“You’ve given our friend across there a bit of information,” said Womersley, putting his card into the man’s hand. “Can you give me a bit more? The shop opposite, you say, is kept by a Mrs. Reegrater, and there’s a lady who’s very similar to her in appearance, who, you believe, is the real proprietor, and is there of a night, leaving late? Just so! Now, have you ever seen that lady in the daytime?”

“No, never!” replied the greengrocer. “Only at nights, late.”

“Have you ever seen her and Mrs. Reegrater together?”

“No, I never have. I’ve never seen Mrs. Reegrater except for a minute or so, looking out of her shop door. The lady I never saw at any time except late at night.”

“When did you see her last?”

“Can’t be sure whether it was last night or night before. It’s always very late. I’m a late man myself---I often smoke a pipe, strolling up and down, last thing, and that’s when I’ve generally seen her.”

“Much obliged to you!” said Womersley.

He motioned Holaday to follow him, gave a glance at the herbalist’s shop, inside the door of which Jennison and Trusford were visible in excited conversation, and walked towards the corner. There he drew out the telegram.

“See where that was sent off from?” he asked. “Grenville Street. But you don’t know where Grenville Street is, nor what its present significance is! Grenville Street, my boy, is at the bottom of Brunswick Square, close to---Syphax’s!”

Holaday whistled.

“To be sure!” said Womersley. “That’s it! Now, let’s get a taxi and hurry down to the Grenville Street post office. I want to know who sent that telegram to Mrs. Reegrater, and as it’s scarcely three hours since it was sent we shall easily find out. Was it Syphax, or was it Mrs. Nicholas Jakyn? For it strikes me, Holaday, that the mysterious lady who comes to that shop of a night, is the doctor’s sister, the aunt of Alfred! What do you think? Hallo!---there’s a taxi yonder. Hi! Yes,” he went on, as the cab turned and came along to them, “what do you think?”

Holaday was standing at the edge of the pavement, his arms folded, his eyes cast down, apparently at the toes of his big shoes, his mouth set in a straight line. Suddenly he looked up; his mouth relaxed into an almost seraphic smile, and he laughed, as if an amusing idea had come to him.

“I’ll tell you what I think!” he said. “I think that Mrs. Reegrater and Mrs. Nicholas Jakyn are one and the same person! Sure!”

Womersley uttered an exclamation that was half sceptical, half acquiescent.

“Ah, you’re thinking that, are you?” he said. “Well, I’m beginning to suspect it. It may be so! But I don’t know!”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt of it,” answered Holaday as they settled themselves in the cab. “Put things together. Alfred Jakyn said to Syphax when he rejoined him after strolling around in this Crowndale Road that he’d come across a bit of a mystery. From what we know now, I take it that what he’d come across was his aunt---keeping that herbalist’s shop under the name of Reegrater.

“Reconstruct it for yourself---he wanders around while he’s waiting for Syphax; he sees a light in the shop window, he goes and peers in, he sees his aunt. He enters. We don’t know what happens then, but I guess she gave him that home-made toffee!---gave him a lump of it there and then, maybe, with perhaps a jocular reference to the fact that she knew he used to have a sweet tooth. Clever woman, no doubt, this Mrs. Nicholas Jakyn---unscrupulous, too! But---is she identical with Mrs. Reegrater? I think so. That man who sells potatoes and carrots says that he never saw Mrs. Reegrater and the mysterious lady, together. Sometimes he saw one---sometimes another. Now I take it that Mrs. Nicholas Jakyn ran that shop---she was Mrs. Reegrater when she ran it, and she was Mrs. Jakyn when she left it. And from the fact that she’d had her breakfast, or was getting it there this morning, I conclude that occasionally she spent the night there---in fact, I reckon that we’ve hit on a very good instance of a double life. But we, or you, can find that out; that parlourmaid of Syphax’s can tell if Mrs. Nicholas was out o’ nights much, and, in fact, a good deal about her habits. And---the daughter knows!”

“Oh, the daughter!” exclaimed Womersley. “She knows a damned lot! Been shielding her mother, of course. Don’t you remember what the parlourmaid told me she’d overheard? Well---it’s natural for a daughter to shield her mother! But it makes her accessory. I expect it was the daughter sent this telegram. But I’ll know that in two minutes when we strike the post office.”

“Oh, the daughter sent it!” said Holaday. “Something roused her suspicions this morning that things were at the climax. That’s been the way of it---and it’s given the woman a good two hours’ start.”

“Start or no start, I’ll run her down!” muttered Womersley. He bade Holaday remain in the cab when they reached the Grenville Street post office, hurried in, and within a minute or two was back. “That’s settled,” he said, with a nod. “The daughter’s sent it! Handed it in herself---they know her well enough there. Well---we’re close to Syphax’s! I’ll pay this man, and then . . .”

The house in Brunswick Square looked innocent enough in its high respectability. It was a smart house, seen from outside---brightly polished windows, shining paint and brass, clean blinds and curtains, and well-kept house. And the parlourmaid who presently responded to Womersley’s knock looked in keeping with it in her coquettish cap and apron. But the cap wagged vigorously above her glossy hair as she saw who the callers were.

“Not a soul in!” she exclaimed, before Womersley could speak. “All out!”

Womersley stepped across the threshold, motioning Holaday to follow him. He signed to the girl to shut the door.

“Look here,” he said in a significant whisper, “what’s been going on here this morning? But first---was Mrs. Jakyn in last night?”

The parlourmaid shook her head.

“No! I might have told you before, but I never thought of it. She’s often out at night---I’ve an idea she goes nursing---or something. And, of course, she’s out all day, as a rule. No---she wasn’t here at all last night.”

“Well, this morning? What about the doctor---and Miss Jakyn? Notice anything about them---or hear anything?”

“I heard him talking to her at breakfast, a good deal. Of course, I couldn’t catch what it was, but I was in and out of the room, and I heard bits. He seemed to be telling her something about some talk he’d had last night. I heard your name once.”

“He’s been telling her about the talk at the Midland Hotel,” muttered Womersley in an aside to Holaday. “Well,” he continued, turning to the girl, “and after that?”

“Nothing, except that soon after the doctor had gone out---he went out very early this morning---I saw Miss Belyna at the desk in the dining-room writing on a telegram form. She went out with it herself. When she came back she went upstairs and came down again dressed for going out, and she told me that she’d not be in during the morning. Then she went away, and, of course, she’s not come back yet.”

“Just so!” said Womersley, nudging Holaday’s elbow. “You don’t know where she went?”

“She turned down towards Guildford Street,” replied the girl. “That’s all I know. She was walking then, but she might have got a taxi round the corner---she always goes about in taxis when she does go out. Generally, I call one for her---but this morning she didn’t tell me to.”

“You don’t know where Dr. Syphax is?” asked Womersley.

“Gone on his rounds, I expect, but I don’t know where. He’s generally in by one o’clock,” said the parlourmaid.

“We’ll likely look in again---about that time,” said Womersley. “If any of them come in, don’t say we’ve been here---keep that to yourself.” He led Holaday from the house, walked a few yards down the square, and turned to his companion with a cynical laugh.

“Got the start of us---as they usually do, Holaday!” he remarked. “But in this case, it’s not a long one, and I think they’ll be tracked pretty easily. Now, we’ll ring up for help, get Kellington and another or two of our men, and start the hunt! Come along!”

But at the corner Holaday paused. He gave Womersley one of his curious smiles and shook his head.

“Well, you’ll excuse me, Womersley!” he said. “I’m through! That’s your job---it’s not mine. My job’s done! I came over on behalf of our company to make sure either that Alfred Jakyn was murdered to prevent him doing our business, or he wasn’t! I know now that he wasn’t. Alfred Jakyn was murdered by his aunt so that she and her children could come in for the money! I’m satisfied of that---and so my work’s done! And I’m not going to take any share in hunting women, anyway. Not to my taste!”

“Criminals! One of ’em, anyhow!” exclaimed Womersley. “A murderess!”

“No doubt---but not my job!” said Holaday drily. “Yours! So I’ll tell you good-bye!”

Without as much as a handshake, or the conventional remark that he’d been glad to meet Womersley, Holaday nodded and turned his big shoes in the direction of his hotel; nor, having turned, did he once look round again. For a moment the detective stood, staring after his retreating figure---then, with a muttered exclamation of mingled surprise and amusement, he, too, turned on his heel, and made for the nearest telephone-box.

THE END

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