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2: I Meet Hugh Drummond

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« on: November 18, 2023, 10:19:14 am »

I HAVE purposely alluded at some length to that last conversation between Robin Gaunt and myself at Prince's. Apart altogether from the fact that he was my friend, it is only fair that his true character should be known. At the time, it may be remembered, there were all sorts of wild and malicious rumours going round about him. From being an absolutely unknown man as far as the general public was concerned, he attained the notoriety of a popular film star.

It was inevitable, of course: the whole affair was so bizarre and extraordinary that it captivated the popular fancy. And the most favourite explanation was the most unjust of all to Robin. It was that he was a cold-blooded scientist who had been experimenting on his own dog. A sort of super-vivisectionist: a monster without a heart, who had been interrupted in the middle of his abominable work by the Australian, whom he had murdered in a fit of rage; and then, a little alarmed at having killed a man as well as a dog and a guinea-pig, he had rung me up on the telephone as a blind, and fled.

Apart from ignoring the question of the blood, it was ridiculous to anyone who knew him, but there is no doubt that as an explanation of what had occurred it was the one that had most adherents. Certainly the possibility of Robin having killed the Australian---it transpired that he was one David Ganton, a wealthy man, who had been staying at the Ritz---was entertained for a considerable time. Until, in fact . . . But of that in due course.

I wish now to show how it was that theory started, and why it was that at the inquest I made no mention of the conversation I have recorded. For my lips were sealed by the interview which occurred the following morning. I was rung up on the telephone at eleven o'clock, and an unknown voice spoke from the other end.

"Is that Mr. Stockton? It is Major Jackson speaking. I hope it won't be inconvenient for you to come round at once to the War Office in connection with the affair last night. Ask for G branch, Room 38. Instructions will be sent down, so you will have no delay at the door."

To Room 38, G Branch, I accordingly went, there to find four people already assembled. Seated at a desk was a tanned, keen-faced man who had soldier written all over him; whilst standing against the mantelpiece, smoking a cigarette, was a younger man, whom I recognised, as soon as he spoke, as the man who had rung me up. The other two consisted of Inspector MacIver and a thin-lipped man wearing pince-nez whose face seemed vaguely familiar.

"Mr. Stockton?" Major Jackson stepped forward and shook hands. "This is General Darton"---he indicated the man at the desk---"and this is Sir John Dallas. Inspector MacIver I think you know."

That was why Sir John's face had seemed familiar. As soon as I heard the name I remembered having seen his photograph in a recent copy of the Sphere, as the author of an exhaustive book on toxicology.

"Sit down, Mr. Stockton," said the General, "and please smoke if you want to. You can guess, of course, the reason we have asked you to come round. . . ."

"I told him, sir," put in Major Jackson.

"Good! Though I expect it was unnecessary. Now, Mr. Stockton, we have heard from Inspector MacIver an account of last night and what you told him. But we think it would be more satisfactory if we could hear it from you first hand."

So once again I told them everything I knew. I recalled as far as possible, word for word, my conversation with Robin at dinner, and I noticed that the two officers glanced at one another significantly more than once. But they listened in silence, save for one interruption when I mentioned his notion of fighting indiscriminately against both sides.

It was the General who smiled at that and remarked that as an idea it had at any rate the merit of novelty.

Then I went on and outlined what had happened up till the arrival of the Inspector, paying, naturally, particular attention to the death of the constable. And it was at that point that Sir John spoke for the first time.

"Did you happen to see what part of the dog the constable touched?" he said.

"Roughly, I did, Sir John. He laid his hand on the dog's ribs just above the left shoulder."

He nodded as if satisfied.

"I thought as much. Now another thing. You saw this man die in front of your eyes. Did the manner of his death create any particular impression on your brain apart from its amazing suddenness?"

"It produced the impression that he had acute pain spreading from his fingers up his arm. The whole arm seemed to twist and writhe, and then he was dead."

And once again Sir John nodded as if satisfied.

"There is only one other point which I might mention," I concluded. "The Inspector can tell you everything that happened while he was there. As we got out of our taxi in Clarges Street, another car drove slowly by. And our driver told us that it was the same car that had been standing for hours about a hundred yards further down the road. It was empty, and this is the number." I handed the slip of paper to MacIver, who glanced at it and gave a short laugh. "It struck us both that we might have been followed."

"This car was found deserted in South Audley Street this morning," he said. "Its rightful owner was arrested for being hopelessly drunk in Peckham last night at about half-past nine. And he swears by all his gods that the only drink he'd had was one whisky-and-soda with a man who was a stranger to him. His car was standing in front of the pub at the time, and he remembers nothing more till he woke up in his cell with his boots off."

"That would seem to prove outside influence at work, Inspector," said the General.

"Maybe, sir," said MacIver cautiously. "Maybe not. Though it does point that way."

"But, good Heavens, General," I cried, "surely there can be no doubt about that. What other possible solution can there be?"

For a moment or two he drummed with his fingers on the desk.

"That brings us, Mr. Stockton," he said gravely, "to the main reason which made us ask you to come round here this morning. We have decided to take you into our confidence, and rely upon your absolute discretion. I feel sure we can do that."

"Certainly, sir," I said.

"In the first place, then, you must know that the Army Council regard this as a most serious matter. There is no doubt whatever that Gaunt was a most brilliant man: his work during the war proved that. But, as you know yourself, the Armistice prevented any practical test. And there is a vast difference between theory and practice. However, with a man like that one is prepared to take a good deal on trust, and when he asked to be allowed to give us a demonstration to-day we granted his request at once. I may say that at the time of the Armistice there were still two points where his discovery failed. The first and lesser of the two lay in the stuff itself; the second and greater lay in the method of distributing it. In applying to us for his demonstration he claimed to have overcome both these difficulties.

"At the time when the war ended it was, as you can guess, a very closely guarded secret. Not more than four men knew anything about it. And then, the war over, and the necessity for its use no longer existing, the whole thing was rather pigeon-holed. In fact it was only the day before yesterday, on the receipt of Gaunt's request, that the matter was unearthed again. Naturally we imagined that it was still just as close a secret as ever. The events of last night prove that it cannot have been, unless my alternative theory should prove to be correct. And if that is so, Stockton, we are confronted with the unpleasant fact that someone is in possession of this very dangerous secret. Even in its Armistice stage the matter would be serious enough; but if Gaunt's claims are correct, words are inadequate to express the dangers of the situation. Now, as anyone who is in the slightest degree in touch with the European pulse to-day knows, we are living on the edge of a volcano. And nothing must be done to start an eruption. Nothing, you understand. All personal feelings must go to the wall. In a moment or two I shall ask Sir John to say a few words, and from him you will realise that the first and lesser of the two points has evidently been rectified by Gaunt. What of the second and greater one? Until we know that, nothing must even be hinted at in the papers as to the nature of the issues at stake. And that brings me to my point. When you give your evidence at the inquest, Stockton, I want you to obliterate from your mind the conversation you had with Gaunt last night. The whole force of Scotland Yard is being employed to try and clear this thing up, and secrecy is essential. And we therefore rely entirely on your discretion and that of your friend, Mr. Sinclair."

"You can certainly rely on him, sir," I said. "But what am I to say, then? I must give some explanation?"

"Precisely: you must give some explanation," he agreed. "But before I suggest to you what that explanation might be, I will ask Sir John to run over once more the conclusions he has arrived at."

"They are quite obvious," said the celebrated toxicologist. "As you may be aware, the vast majority of poisons must either be swallowed or injected to prove fatal. With the first class we are not concerned, but only with the second. In this second class the primary necessity is the introduction of the poison into a vein. You may have the bite of a snake, the use of a hypodermic syringe, or the prick of a poisoned dart---each of which causes a definite puncture in the skin through which the poison passes into a vein. And in each of those cases the puncture is caused mechanically---by the snake's fang, or the dart, as the case may be.

"Now there is another tiny class of poisons---it is really a subdivision of the second class---of which, frankly, we know very little. Some expert toxicologists are even inclined to dismiss them as legendary. I'm not sure that I myself didn't belong to their number until this morning. Evidence is in existence---but it is not reliable---of the use of these poisons by the Borgias, and by the Aztecs of Mexico. They were reputed to kill by mere external application, without the necessity of a puncture in the skin. They were supposed to generate some strange shattering force, which killed the victim by shock. Now that is absurd: no poison can kill unless it reacts point-blank on the heart. In other words, a puncture is necessary, and this class supplies its own punctures.

"You remember the policeman's last words---'The dog is burning hot.' What he felt was a mass of small open blisters breaking out on his hand, through which the poison passed into his veins and up his arm to his heart. Had he touched the dog anywhere else nothing would have happened: as bad luck would have it he put his hand on the very spot where the poison had been applied to the dog.

"So much is clear. In all three cases that eruption of open blisters is there: in the dog above its shoulder, in the policeman on his hand, and in the case of the Australian on his right temple. And excepting in those places it is perfectly safe to touch the bodies.

"Now I was in that house at four o'clock this morning: the Inspector, very rightly, judged that time was an important factor and called me up. I took down with me several guinea-pigs, and I carried out a series of tests. I held a guinea-pig against the danger spot in each body, and the three guinea-pigs all died. I did the same an hour later. The one I put against the dog died: the one I put against the policeman's hand died, but the one I put on the Australian's forehead did not. It is possible that that means that the Australian was killed some time before the dog: on the other hand, it may merely prove that the dog's long coat retained the poison more effectively. Finally, I used three more guinea-pigs at six o'clock, and nothing happened to any of them.

"My conclusions, therefore, are as follows: and, needless to say, they concern only the poison itself and not what actually happened last night. Mr. Gaunt has discovered a poison which, judging from the few tests I have carried out already, is unknown to science. It kills almost instantaneously when applied externally to the bare skin. Its effect lingers for some time, but only on the actual place on the body where it was applied. And after a lapse of seven or eight hours no further trace of it remains. As to the method of application I can give no positive opinion. One thing, however, is clear: the person using it would have to exercise the utmost caution. If it is fatal to his victim, it is equally fatal to the operator should it touch him. It is therefore probable that the glove found on the floor was worn by the man using the stuff. And I put forward as a possible opinion the idea of something in the nature of a garden syringe which could be used to throw a jet in any required direction."

He paused and glanced at the General.

"I think that that is all I've got to say, except that I propose to carry on with further experiments to see if I can isolate this poison. But I confess that I'm not hopeful. If I was able to obtain some of the liquid neat I should be more confident, but I can only try my best."

"Thank you very much, Sir John," answered the soldier. "Now, Stockton, you see the position. It seems pretty clear, as I said before, that Gaunt has solved one difficulty, by perfecting the stuff: has he solved the other as to the means of distribution? A syringe such as Sir John suggests may be deadly against an individual in a room: used by an army in the field anything of that sort would be useless; just as after the first surprise in the war, Flammenwerfer were useless. Until we know that second point, therefore, the less said about this matter the better. And so we come to what you are going to say. It will be distasteful to you, for Gaunt was your friend, but it is your plain and obvious duty. We are faced with the necessity of inventing a plausible explanation, and the Inspector has suggested the following as filling the bill."

And then he put forward the theory to which I have already alluded. He admitted that he didn't believe in it himself: he went so far as to say that he wished to Heaven he could.

"It will, of course, be unnecessary and undesirable for you to advance this theory yourself," he concluded. "All that is required of you is that you should keep your mouth shut when it is advanced. Because the devil of it is, Stockton, that the signs of struggle on the Australian preclude any idea of accident and subsequent loss of head on the part of Gaunt."

For a time I sat in silence whilst they all stared at me. To deliberately allow one's pal to be branded as a murderer is not pleasant. But it was clear that there were bigger issues at stake than that, and at length I rose. What had to be, had to be.

"I quite understand, sir," I said. "And I will get in touch with Sinclair at once, and see that he says nothing."

"Good," said the General, holding out his hand. "I knew I could rely on you."

"Inquest to-morrow," put in MacIver. "I'll notify you as to time and place."

And with that I left and went in search of Toby Sinclair. I found him in his rooms consuming breakfast, whilst, seated in an easy-chair with his feet on the mantelpiece, was a vast man whom I had never seen before. It was my first meeting with Drummond.

"Hullo! old man: take a pew," cried Toby, waving half an impaled sausage at a chair. "That little fellow sitting opposite you is Drummond. I think I mentioned him to you last night."

"Morning," said Drummond, uncoiling himself and standing up. We shook hands, and I wished we hadn't. "Hear you had some fun and games last night."

"I've been telling him, Stockton, about our little effort," said Sinclair, lighting a cigarette.

"Well, don't tell anyone else," I remarked. "I've just come from the War Office, and they're somewhat on the buzz. In fact, they regard the matter devilish seriously. It's bound to come out, of course, that a new and deadly form of poison was in action last night, but it's got to rest at that."

I ran briefly over what General Darton and Sir John had said, and they both listened without interruption. And though it did not strike me particularly at the time, one small fact made a subconscious impression on my mind which subsequent knowledge of Drummond was to confirm. As I say, they both listened without interruption, but Drummond listened without movement. From the moment I started speaking till I'd finished he sat motionless in his chair, with his eyes fixed on me, and I don't believe he even blinked.

"What do you think of it, Hugh?" said Sinclair, after I'd finished.

"This beer ain't fit to drink, Toby. That's what I think." He rose and strolled over to the window. "Absolutely not fit to drink."

"Very interesting," I remarked sarcastically. "The point is doubtless of paramount importance, but may I ask you to be good enough to promise me that what you've heard goes no farther. The matter is somewhat serious."

"The matter of this foul ale is a deuced sight more serious," he answered genially. "Toby, old lad, something will have to be done about it. In fact, something is going to be done about it now."

He strolled out of the room, and I looked at Sinclair in blank amazement.

"What on earth is the man up to?" I said angrily. "Does he think this thing is a jest?"

Toby Sinclair was looking a bit surprised himself.

"You can never tell what old Hugh thinks," he began apologetically, only to break off as a loud squealing noise was heard on the stairs. And the next moment Drummond entered holding a small and very frightened man by the ear.

"Foul beer, Toby," he remarked. "Almost foul enough for this little lump of intelligence to be made to drink as a punishment. Now, rat face, what excuse have you got to offer for living?"

"You let me go," whined his prisoner, "or I'll 'ave the perlice on yer."

"I think not, little man," said Drummond quietly. "Anyway I'll chance it. Now who told you to watch this house?"

"I ain't watching it, governor: strite I ain't."

His shifty eyes were darting this way and that, looking for a way of escape.

"I'm an honest man, I am, and---oh! Gawd, guv'nor, lemme go. You're breaking my arm."

"I asked you a question, you little swine," said Drummond. "And if you don't answer it, I will break your arm. And that thing you call a face as well. Now, who told you to watch this house?"

"A bloke wot I don't know," answered the man sullenly. "'E promised me 'arf a quid if I did wot 'e told me."

"And what did he tell you to do?"

"Foller that there gent if he went out." He pointed at Sinclair with a grimy finger. "Foller 'im and mark down where 'e went to."

"And how were you to recognise me?" asked Toby.

"'E showed me a photer, 'e did. A swell photer."

For a moment or two Sinclair stared at the man in amazement: then he crossed over to a writing-table in the corner.

"Well, I'm damned," he muttered, as he opened a big cardboard cover with a photographer's name printed on it. "I'll swear there were six here yesterday, and there are only five now. Was that the photograph he showed you?"

He held one up in front of the man.

"That's it, governor: that's the very one."

"There is a certain atmosphere of rapidity about this," murmured Drummond, "that appeals to me."

He thoughtfully contemplated his captive.

"Where were you to report the result of what you found out?" he went on. "Where were you going to meet him, to get your half-quid?"

"Down at the Three Cows in Peckham, guv'nor: to-night at nine."

I gave a little exclamation, and Drummond glanced at me inquiringly.

"Not now," I said. "Afterwards," and he nodded.

"Listen here, little man," he remarked quietly. "Do you want to earn a fiver?"

"You bet yer life I do, sir," answered the other earnestly.

"Well, if you do exactly what I tell you to do, you shall. This gentleman whose photo you have seen is shortly going out. He is going to lunch at Hatchett's in Piccadilly. After lunch he will take a little walk in the Park, and after that he will return here. He will probably dine at the Berkeley. At nine o'clock to-night you will be in the Three Cows at Peckham, and you will report this gentleman's movements to the man who promised you half a quid. If you do that---exactly as I have told you---you can come back here to-morrow morning about this time and you'll get a fiver."

"You swear there ain't no catch, guv'nor?" said the other.

"I swear there's no catch," said Drummond quietly.

"Right, sir, I'll do it. Is that all you want with me now?"

"Yes: clear out. And don't make any mistake about what you've got to do."

"Trust me, sir."

He touched a finger to his forehead and dodged out of the room.

"A distinct air of rapidity," repeated Drummond thoughtfully. "I wonder if he'll do it."

"How did you know he was watching the house?" I asked curiously.

"It stuck out a yard," he answered. "He was on the pavement when I came here an hour ago, and he's not a Clarges Street type. What was it hit your fancy over the Three Cows?"

"The real driver of the taxi that followed us last night was drugged in a Peckham pub by a man he didn't know. Presumably it was the Three Cows."

"Then possibly we shall meet the man who followed you last night at nine o'clock this evening. Which will be one step up the ladder at any rate."

He picked up his hat and lit a cigarette.

"By the way, what's the number of your house?"

"3-B. It's about ten doors down towards Piccadilly."

And suddenly he gave a grin of pure joy.

"Is it possible, my jovial bucks," he cried, "that once again we are on the war-path? That through the unpleasant object who has lately honoured us with his presence we shall be led to higher and worthier game? Anyway we can but baptize such a wonderful thought in a Martini or even two."

We followed him down the stairs, and Toby smiled as he saw the look on my face.

"It's all right, old man," he remarked. "He's always like this."

"And why not, forsooth?" boomed Drummond, waving his stick joyfully in the air. "Eat, drink and be merry. . . . Don't you agree with me, sir?"

He stopped suddenly in front of a complete stranger, who stared at him in blank amazement.

"Who the devil are you, sir?" he spluttered. "And what do you mean by speaking to me?"

"I liked your face," said Drummond calmly. "It's the sort of face that inspires confidence in canaries and white mice. Good-morning: sorry I can't ask you to lunch."

"But the man is mad," I murmured helplessly to Toby as we turned into Piccadilly.

"There is generally method therein," he answered, and Drummond smiled.

"He knows not our ways, Toby," he remarked. "But judging by appearances you're evidently the important one, Stockton. That one only stuck out a foot."

"Do you mean to say that that man you spoke to was on the look-out for me?" I stammered.

"What the dickens did you think he was doing? Growing water-cress on the pavement?"

He dismissed the matter with a wave of his hand.

"Yes, Toby," he went on. "I have distinct hopes. Matters seem to me to be marching well. And if we adopt reasonable precautions this afternoon it seems to me that they may march even better this evening under the hospitable roof of the Three Cows."

He turned in to Hatchett's.

"We may as well conform to the first part of the programme at any rate. And over some oysters we'll discuss the first move."

"Which is?" I asked.

"How to get you two fellows to my house without your being followed. Because I feel that for any hope of success in the salubrious suburb of Peckham we must effect one or two changes in our personal appearance, and I have all the necessary wherewithal in Brook Street. Toby's little pal, I think, we can neglect: it's that other bloke who is after you that will want watching."

He gave a short laugh.

"Talk of the devil; here he is. Don't look round either of you, but he's taken a table near the door. Well, well: now the fun begins. He is ordering the plat du jour and a whisky-and-soda: moreover, he is adopting the somewhat unusual custom of paying in advance. Most thoughtful of him. It goes to my heart to think that his money will be wasted."

He signalled to the head waiter, who came at once.

"Add this little lot to my account," said Drummond. "We've suddenly remembered we're supposed to be lunching in Hampstead. Now, you two---up the stairs: through Burlington Arcade, into a taxi and straight to Brook Street. I'll deal with this bloke."

Looking back on things now after the lapse of many months, one of the strangest things to me is the habit of unquestioning obedience to Drummond into which I dropped at once. If someone tells me to do a thing, my nature as a general rule impels me to do the exact reverse. In the Army I never took kindly to discipline. And yet when Drummond gave an order I never questioned, I never hesitated. I mention this fact merely to emphasise the peculiar influence he had on people with whom he came in contact, and the extraordinary personality which he tried to obscure by an air of fatuous nonsense. And though it took me some weeks to realise it, yet the fact remains that that first day I met him I did what he said with the same readiness as I did in days to come after I had grown to know him better.

And I remember another thing which struck me very forcibly that day. I stopped at the top of the stairs for a moment or two to see the fun. Drummond was half-way up when he dropped his stick. And in stooping to pick it up he completely blocked the gangway. Behind him, dancing furiously from side to side in his endeavours to pass, was the other man.

"Why, it's the man with the charming face," cried Drummond genially. "But I wish you wouldn't hop, laddie. It's so damned bad for the tum-tum."

I heard no more: Toby Sinclair, swearing vigorously under his breath, dragged me into Piccadilly.

"Confound you, Stockton, why the devil don't you do what you're told? I was half-way along Burlington Arcade before I realised you weren't there. You'd better take it here and now that if Hugh tells you to do a thing he means it to be done exactly as he said. And he said nothing about standing and watching him."

"Damn Drummond and everything connected with him," I said irritably. "Who is he anyway to give me orders?"

He laughed quietly as we got into the taxi.

"I'm sorry, old man," he said. "I was forgetting for the moment that you only met him for the first time to-day. You'll laugh yourself in a few days when you recall that remark of yours."

I did; but at the time I was peevish.

"If there's a man living in England to-day," he went on, "who is more capable than Hugh of finding out what happened last night I'd like to meet him."

And I smiled my incredulity. To tell the truth, the things that had happened since my return from the War Office had rather driven that interview from my mind. But now I had leisure to recall it, and the more I thought of it the less I liked it. It is all very well in theory to say that there are occasions when an individual must suffer for the good of the state, but in practice it is most unpleasant when that individual is your own particular friend. Your friend, too, who has called to you for help and whom you have failed. Mercifully Robin had neither kith nor kin, which eased my mind a certain amount: by allowing this false impression to be given at the inquest I was harming no one, except Robin himself. And if he was dead, sooner or later his body would be found, which would prove beyond a doubt that he was not the original culprit: whereas if he was alive the time would come when I should be able to explain. For all that, nothing could alter the fact that I disliked my rôle, and not the less because it was compulsory.

I said as much that afternoon as we sat in Drummond's study. He had come in about two hours after us, and he seemed a bit silent and thoughtful.

"You can't help it, Stockton," he said. "And probably Gaunt if he knew would be the first man to realise the necessity. It's not that that's worrying me." He rose and went to the window. "I'm thinking I've made a fool of myself. I don't see a sign of anyone: I haven't for the last hour---and I took Ted's car out of St. James's Square, and have been all round London in it; but I'm afraid I've transferred attention to myself. There was just a second or two on the stairs at Hatchett's when our little lad of the genial face looked at me with the utmost suspicion."

He resumed his chair and stretched out his legs.

"However, we can but chance it. It may lead to something."

"It's very good of you," I said a little doubtfully. "But I really don't know if---I mean, the police and all that, don't you know. They've got the thing in hand."

He gazed at me in genuine amazement.

"Good Lord! my dear man," he remarked, "if you want to leave the thing to old MacIver and Co., say the word. I mean it's your palaver, and I wouldn't butt in for the world. Or if you want to handle the thing yourself I'm away out from this moment. And you can have the free run of my various wardrobes if you want to go to Peckham to-night."

I couldn't help it: I burst out laughing.

"Frankly, it would never have dawned on me to go to Peckham to-night," I said. "Incidentally if it hadn't been for you I shouldn't have known anything about Peckham, for I should never have had the nerve to pull that little blighter into Toby's rooms even if I'd realised he was watching the house---which I shouldn't have. What I meant was that it seemed very good of you to worry over a thing like this---seeing that you don't even know Gaunt."

An expression of profound relief had replaced the amazement.

"By Jove! old man," he remarked, "you gave me a nasty fright then. What on earth does it matter if I know Gaunt or not? Opportunities of this sort are far too rare to stand on ceremony. What I was afraid of was that you might want to keep it all for yourself. And I can assure you that lots of amusing little shows I've had in the past have started much less promisingly than this. You get Toby to tell you about 'em while I go and rout out some togs for to-night."

"What an amazing bloke he is," I said as the door closed behind him. And Toby Sinclair smiled thoughtfully.

"In the words of the American philosopher, you have delivered yourself of a perfectly true mouthful. And now, if you take my advice, you'll get some sleep. For with Hugh on the war-path, and if we have any luck, you won't get much to-night."

He curled himself up in a chair, and in a few minutes he was fast asleep. But try as I would I could not follow his example. There was a sense of unreality about the whole thing: events seemed to be moving with that queer, jumbled incoherence that belongs to a dream. Robin's despairing cry: the policeman crashing to the floor like a bullock in a slaughter-house: the dead Australian who had fought so fiercely. And against whom? Who was it who had come into that room the night before? What was happening there even as Robin got through to me on the 'phone?

And suddenly I seemed to see it all. The door was opening slowly, and Robin was staring at it. For a moment or two we watched it, and then I could bear the suspense no longer. I hurled myself forward, to find myself in the grip of a huge black-bearded man with a yellow handkerchief knotted round his throat.

"You swine," I shouted, and then I looked round stupidly.

For the room had changed, and the noise of a passing taxi came from Brook Street.

"Three hours of the best," said the big man genially, and a nasty-looking little Jew clerk behind him laughed. "It's half-past seven, and time you altered your appearance."

"Good Lord!" I muttered with an attempt at a grin. "I'm awfully sorry: I must have been dreaming."

"It was a deuced agile dream," answered Drummond. "My right sock suspender is embedded about half-an-inch in my legs. Toby saw you coming and dodged."

He turned to the little Jew, who was lighting a cigarette.

"Make some cocktails, old man, while I rig up Stockton."

"Great Scott!" I said. "I'd never have known either of you."

"You won't know yourself in twenty minutes," answered Drummond. "You're going to be a mechanic with Communistic tendencies, and my third revolver."

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