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5 - 4

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« on: August 23, 2023, 12:33:45 pm »

5 - 4

HALSTEAD was waiting for me in the main entrance hall; he took me straight down to the swimming-pool, and made for a place on its edge where we could see swimmers on their way to and from the dressing-rooms. We sat down in the shadow of a pillar, behind a table.

‘Made any arrangements?’ he asked.

‘Sufficient,’ I answered.

‘Supposing I’m right?’ he said. ‘What do you propose?’

‘He’ll be stopped, questioned,’ I replied. ‘You, of course, can identify?’

‘If we see what I suggest we may see,’ he answered. ‘I’d swear to him! I don’t believe there’s another man in this world marked like that. I---by George, Camberwell, he’s here! Don’t look round---he’ll be passing right in front of us---glance to your left as he passes. Now. . . .’

I felt a great thump at my heart as I slewed my eyes round to the left. A rapid step or two; a man passed. And I nearly let his name out in a loud exclamation which it was all I could do to repress. Halstead, at the same instant, leaning towards me, caught my wrist in an iron grip.

‘H’sh!’ he whispered. ‘Steady! Know him?’

I recovered myself.

‘Yes!’ I said, my lips close to his ear. ‘Craye! Mr. Francis Craye---Lord Cheverdale’s business manager!’

Halstead’s lips curled.

‘Aye!’ he said. ‘I knew that, my lad. That’s what I wouldn’t tell you---I wanted you to see him. Craye? Aye---but if Craye isn’t Frank Crowther, I’m a Dutchman! However, we’ll see in a minute---he’ll be out of that dressing-room presently, with bare arms. Keep your eyes skinned.’

There was no need for that admonition. I sat as if fascinated, waiting. Five, ten minutes went by. Suddenly Halstead whispered.

‘Look out! He’s coming!’

Just as suddenly Craye appeared on the edge of the bath. Bare as to arms and legs, his left arm, raised for his plunge into the big pool, was next to us; the glow of an electric light fell full on the white flesh. A second . . . and we had seen, and he had plunged into the water.

Halstead got up, motioning to me to follow his example. We walked away from the edge of the swimming-pool.

‘That’s Crowther!’ he said. ‘As sure as I’m a living man, that’s Frank Crowther! As I said just now there’s no other man in this world with that mark on him. If I’d seen him swimming last night, I should have known him at once. As it was, in spite of his having grown a beard and moustache, I felt sure. And what are you going to do, now, Camberwell?’

‘The thing is, how long is he likely to stay here, at the club?’ I said. ‘If I’d any idea----’

‘He dined here last night,’ said Halstead. ‘He may do the same to-night. Do you want to get help? If so, I’ll keep an eye on him.’

Leaving him there, I went outside the club and looked about for Chippendale, who suddenly appeared, as if from nowhere, at my elbow.

‘Yes, sir?’ said Chippendale.

I told Chippendale just sufficient for him to know and tell Chaney, and bade him go straight off in a taxi-cab, tell Chaney to get assistance from the police headquarters and be in readiness outside the club when Craye left: meanwhile Halstead and I would watch. And when Chippendale had jumped into a taxi and gone off, I went back to the swimming-pool.

Craye was just emerging after his swim: once more I had a clear view of the tattoo mark---a black dragon, very vividly portrayed, curling clean round the fleshy part of his left arm. He disappeared into a dressing-room, and Halstead and I, retreating to a corner of the vestibule outside, sat down to await his coming out and to follow his further steps.

‘What about his recognizing you?’ I asked.

‘I don’t think he’ll know me from Adam,’ he answered. ‘It’s twelve years at least since we met, and in those days, I, like he himself, was clean-shaven. I’m anything but that now---oh, he’ll not know. Besides, I was a slim, athletic sort of chap in those days; now I suppose you’d call me portly. But what about you?---he knows you!’

‘I don’t suppose he’ll attach the slightest importance to it, if he sees me here,’ I replied. ‘I might be a member for all he knew. There’s a very heavy membership here, isn’t there?’

‘Several thousands,’ he assented. ‘Well, we mustn’t lose sight of him.’

Craye came away from the dressing-rooms just then. He went towards the stairs, looking neither right nor left, and we got up and followed at a little distance. Upstairs he turned into a bar. There, evidently awaiting him, was Paley. Together, they went up to the counter and ordered drinks. And as they stood with their backs to us, they did not see Halstead and myself, sitting in a corner near the door, until, some minutes later, they turned to leave the room. Then both saw me. Craye passed on with a mere nod of recognition. But Paley stopped---for once he had---or assumed---a smile that approached to geniality.

‘Didn’t know you were a member here, Camberwell,’ he observed, eyeing Halstead as he spoke. ‘Never remember seeing you here before!’

‘I’m not,’ I answered. ‘I’m dining here with my friend, who is.’

He glanced again at Halstead; then gave me an enquiring look.

‘Get any fresh information during your trip abroad?’ he asked. ‘Anything of any value?’

‘Something,’ I answered.

‘All to be kept in reserve, I suppose?’ he said, with a return to his usual cynical manner. ‘Well, I daresay we shall hear it at Cheverdale Lodge---I’ve been away for the last two or three days, but I shall be on duty there to-morrow morning.’

He nodded and went off, to join Craye, who was waiting for him outside the room; together they moved away towards the restaurant. And after a time we followed them, and over the dinner-table I told Halstead who Paley was, and of the suspicions Chaney and I had had concerning him.

‘And---next?’ asked Halstead.

‘Nothing to do now but wait---and watch---until Craye leaves,’ I said. ‘Chaney will be outside, with help. Then. . . .’

‘Yes?’ he said. ‘What then?’

‘He’ll be stopped---questioned. You’re ready to say he’s Frank Crowther?’

‘I’m ready to swear he’s Frank Crowther!’ he exclaimed. ‘He is Frank Crowther!’

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