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5 - 6

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« on: August 23, 2023, 12:52:18 pm »

5 - 6

IT was Chaney who broke the mere second’s silence---with one sharp word.

‘Well?’

The staccato tone pulled my wits together.

‘Have you seen them?’ I gasped. ‘You’ve watched the door?’

‘Seen---who?’ snapped Chaney.

‘Craye! Paley! Have you seen them come out? Since you’ve been----’

‘We’ve been watching that door ever since we came here, getting on to two hours ago. We’ve not seen either Craye or Paley. What about them?’

I made another gasp---I suppose it meant that I felt utterly baffled. And instead of answering the question I asked another.

‘Where’s Chippendale?’

The three men looked round as if they expected Chippendale to materialize there and then.

‘He was dodging around here, going up and down, not so long since,’ said Chaney. ‘But what of him? What’s happened---in there?’

Halstead intervened: he saw that I was half beside myself.

‘What’s happened, in there,’ he said, ‘is that Craye and Paley, by a clever dodge, which I was a damned fool for not seeing through, enticed Camberwell and myself into a private billiard-room, locked us in, and took the key away! That’s, roughly speaking, three quarters of an hour ago. And, of course, they left the club as soon as they’d got us fixed.’

‘But---Craye?’ exclaimed Chaney. ‘What’s he got to do with----’

I found my tongue again at that juncture.

‘None of you know!’ I exclaimed. ‘Halstead and I know---now! Craye is Crowther!’

The two detectives stared, uncomprehending. But Chaney let out a big oath.

‘Damnation!’ he burst out. ‘Why didn’t we think of that before! But is it certain?’

I pointed to Halstead.

‘Ask him!’ I said.

‘He’s Frank Crowther, right enough,’ declared Halstead. ‘You remember, Chaney, that I told you and Camberwell here, when you came to see me at Milthwaite, that Frank Crowther had a remarkable specimen of tattooing on his arm? Well, I gave Camberwell an opportunity this evening of seeing Craye in the swimming-pool inside this club, and he can tell you that----’

‘Oh, there’s no doubt that Craye is Crowther!’ I broke in impatiently. ‘The thing is---where have he and Paley gone? Let’s do something!’

But here Doxford put himself forward.

‘Steady, steady, Mr. Camberwell!’ he said. ‘You forget that all this is so much Greek and Hebrew to me and Windover. What is all this? Who is Crowther? What’s he got to do with this affair? Or if he’s Craye, what---we’re all in a fog, you know,’ he broke off. ‘At least we are. Smooth it out! Put it straight!’

‘In a few words?’ I exclaimed. ‘It would take a volume! But---can you follow this? The woman who was murdered in Little Custom Street----’

‘There were two women,’ interrupted Windover. ‘Which are you talking about?’

‘The first---the unknown woman,’ I went on impatiently. ‘The woman who’d called on Hannington at the Sentinel office. She was really a Mrs. Crowther, the wife of a man named Frank Crowther, who married her at Milthwaite, in Yorkshire, some years ago. And Crowther is Craye!’

‘Lord Cheverdale’s right hand?’ exclaimed Doxford.

‘Call him right and left, if you like,’ I said. ‘He’s Crowther!’

‘And about to marry his daughter?’ continued Doxford. ‘Do you really----’

Halstead laughed sardonically.

‘I don’t think that’ll come off, now!’ he said. ‘Come now, you fellows, what’s going to be done? I’m not a detective---I’m a plain Yorkshire business man, but I think you ought to get a move on. Craye and Paley are off! Seeing Camberwell and me together evidently aroused their suspicion---I daresay Crowther, alias Craye, recognized me, though he never showed a sign that he did---and they tricked us very neatly and made themselves scarce. So----’

‘But look here,’ persisted Doxford. ‘What are you suggesting, you two? Is it that these two men have something to do with the murders? Is it----’

I smacked both hands together in sheer impatience.

‘We’re suggesting what’s probably the exact truth!’ I exclaimed. ‘That Crowther murdered Hannington, and then his own wife, and then Mrs. Goodge and the Hindu! Now have you got it?’

‘But why---why?’ asked Doxford. ‘Why?’

‘Because Mrs. Crowther had turned up, and had identified Craye as her husband, Frank Crowther, and had told Hannington, who was an old friend!’ I answered, impatiently. ‘Don’t you see, man?---Craye was about to marry Miss Chever, and Mrs. Crowther’s presence.---Good God! it’s as plain as that paving-stone!’

‘I see---I see!’ said Doxford, slowly. ‘Um! But---this other chap, Paley? What about him? What’s he got to do with it?’

‘That’s plain, too,’ I answered. ‘Paley’s been some sort of an accessory. He knows something, at any rate. That’s evident, after his doings in concert with Craye, or Crowther, to-night.’

‘Accessory, eh?’ said Doxford, still ruminative. ‘Um! Well, that’s as bad as----’

‘I’ve got my own notion about that,’ interrupted Halstead. ‘My idea is that Craye is in Paley’s power. I think Paley found him out!’

Chaney clapped his hands together, as if a sudden burst of illumination had come upon him.

‘I see it!’ he exclaimed. ‘You see, Doxford,’ he went on. ‘You chaps don’t know what Camberwell and I know. You’ve gone on totally different lines---you thought these murders were political. Camberwell and I searched back into the life-history of the unknown woman, who, undoubtedly, was Mrs. Frank Crowther. Now, if you remember, Crowther---but we’ll call him Craye---had been dining with Lord Cheverdale on the night of the murders, and left on foot at a certain time. Now that I know all I do, I should say that he met Hannington in the grounds of Cheverdale Lodge, and Hannington who was by all accounts a very impetuous, impulsive man, with a hot temper, and enthusiastic about righting any wrongs, real or fancied, tackled him there and then about the news he’d received that afternoon from Mrs. Crowther: namely, that the Francis Craye who was Lord Cheverdale’s right-hand arm and was about to marry his daughter was in reality her husband, Frank Crowther. Whereupon Craye promptly knocked him on the head and killed him. After which---Hannington, no doubt, having told him, like a fool, where Mrs. Crowther was to be found, he went there and killed her. How’s that?’

‘Good!’ muttered Doxford. ‘I reckon you’ve hit it. But Paley?’

‘Why did Paley immediately leave Cheverdale Lodge as soon as the dead body of Hannington was discovered?’ continued Chaney. ‘For some reason or other he at once suspected Craye. And---he went after him. Camberwell and I know where Paley went. He drove to the bottom of Portland Place; he left his taxi-cab there and went along Riding House Street. He was away some little time (remember that he was in the immediate neighbourhood of Little Custom Street) but he came back to the cab and was driven to near Whitehall Gardens. Now Craye has a flat in or near Whitehall Gardens---Paley, of course, went to see Craye. And I should say that ever since then Paley has had Craye under his thumb. How’s that?’

‘Good!’ said Doxford. ‘Daresay it’ll work out. Of course, Paley’s an accessory, after the fact. But----’

Halstead made an impatient movement.

‘Aren’t you fellows going to do something?’ he asked. ‘Those two are off! But you’ve got to get ’em, you know. What’s the use of standing here in Pall Mall, jawing? Do something!’

‘Yes---what?’ asked Doxford. ‘Go to Craye’s flat, I suppose, and ask politely if Mr. Craye’s at home? Or to Cheverdale Lodge and enquire for Mr. Paley? However, we’ll do something. Come on to the Yard!’

We squeezed ourselves into a taxi-cab and went off to New Scotland Yard, Doxford, Windover, and Chaney discussing various technicalities as we went. But we were not destined to cross even the threshold of headquarters. As our cab drew up a couple of men came out, one of whom at once collared Doxford.

‘I say!’ he exclaimed. ‘There’s a message just come in. Man found shot dead in a flat in Riding House Street. Care to come along?’

Riding House Street? We five looked at each other in silence.

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