Bull-dog Drummond/Chapter 5
IN WHICH THERE IS TROUBLE AT GORING
"Did you have a good night, Mullings?" remarked Hugh as he got into his car.
The man grinned sheepishly.
"I dunno what the game was, sir, but I ain't for many more of them. They're about the ugliest crowd of blackguards in that there 'ouse that I ever wants to see again."
"How many did you see altogether?" asked Drummond.
"I saw six actual like, sir; but I 'eard others talking."
The car slowed up before the post office and Hugh got out. There were one or two things he proposed to do in London before going to Goring, and it struck him that a wire to Peter Darrell might allay that gentleman's uneasiness if he was late in getting down. So new was he to the tortuous ways of crime, that the foolishness of the proceeding never entered his head: up to date in his life, if he had wished to send a wire he had sent one. And so it may be deemed a sheer fluke on his part, that a man dawdling by the counter aroused his suspicions. He was a perfectly ordinary man, chatting casually with the girl on the other side; but it chanced that, just as Hugh was holding the post office pencil up, and gazing at its so-called point with an air of resigned anguish, the perfectly ordinary man ceased chatting and looked at him. Hugh caught his eye for a fleeting second; then the conversation continued. And as he turned to pull out the pad of forms, it struck him that the man had looked away just a trifle too quickly…
A grin spread slowly over his face, and after a moment's hesitation he proceeded to compose a short wire. He wrote it in block letters for additional clearness; he also pressed his hardest as befitted a blunt pencil. Then with the form in his hand he advanced to the counter.
"How long will it take to deliver in London?" he asked the girl…
The girl was not helpful. It depended, he gathered, on a variety of circumstances, of which not the least was the perfectly ordinary man who talked so charmingly. She did not say so, in so many words, but Hugh respected her none the less for her maidenly reticence.
"I don't think I'll bother, then," he said, thrusting the wire into his pocket. "Good morning…"
He walked to the door, and shortly afterwards his car rolled down the street. He would have liked to remain and see the finish of his little jest, but, as is so often the case, imagination is better than reality. Certain it is that he chuckled consumedly the whole way up to London, whereas the actual finish was tame.
With what the girl considered peculiar abruptness, the perfectly ordinary man concluded his conversation with her, and decided that he too would send a wire. And then, after a long and thoughtful pause at the writing-bench, she distinctly heard an unmistakable "Damn!" Then he walked out, and she saw him no more.
Moreover, it is to be regretted that the perfectly ordinary man told a lie a little later in the day, when giving his report to someone whose neck apparently inconvenienced him greatly. But then a lie is frequently more tactful than the truth, and to have announced that the sole result of his morning's labours had been to decipher a wire addressed to The Elms, which contained the cryptic remark, "Stung again, stiff neck, stung again," would not have been tactful. So he lied, as has been stated, thereby showing his wisdom.…
But though Drummond chuckled to himself as the car rushed through the fresh morning air, once or twice a gleam that was not altogether amusement shone in his eyes. For four years he had played one game where no mistakes were allowed; the little incident of the post office had helped to bring to his mind the certainty that he had now embarked on another where the conditions were much the same. That he had scored up to date was luck rather than good management, and he was far too shrewd not to realise it. Now he was marked, and luck with a marked man cannot be tempted too far.
Alone and practically unguarded he had challenged a gang of international criminals: a gang not only utterly unscrupulous, but controlled by a master-mind. Of its power as yet he had no clear idea; of its size and immediate object he had even less. Perhaps it was as well. Had he realised even dimly the immensity of the issues he was up against, had he had but an inkling of the magnitude of the plot conceived in the sinister brain of his host of the previous evening, then, cheery optimist though he was, even Hugh Drummond might have wavered. But he had no such inkling, and so the gleam in his eyes was but transitory, the chuckle that succeeded it more whole-hearted than before. Was it not sport in a land flowing with strikes and profiteers; sport such as his soul loved?
"I am afraid, Mullings," he said as the car stopped in front of his club, "that the kindly gentleman with whom we spent last night has repudiated his obligations. He refuses to meet the bill I gave him for your services. Just wait here a moment."
He went inside, returning in a few moments with a folded cheque.
"Round the corner, Mullings, and an obliging fellah in a black coat will shove you out the necessary Bradburys."
The man glanced at the cheque.
"Fifty quid, sir!" he gasped. "Why—it's too much, sir…I…"
"The labourer, Mullings, is worthy of his hire. You have been of the very greatest assistance to me; and, incidentally, it is more than likely that I may want you again. Now; where can I get hold of you?"
"13, Green Street, 'Oxton, sir, 'll always find me. And any time, sir, as you wants me, I'd like to come just for the sport of the thing."
"Good lad. And it may be sooner than you think."
With a cheery laugh he turned back into his club, and for a moment or two the ex-soldier stood looking after him. Then with great deliberation he turned to the chauffeur, and spat reflectively.
"If there was more like 'im, and less like 'im"—he indicated a stout vulgarian rolling past in a large car and dreadful clothes—"things wouldn't 'appen such as is 'appening to-day. Ho! no…"
With which weighty dictum Mr. Mullings, late private of the Royal Loamshires, turned his steps in the direction of the "obliging fellah in a black coat."
Inside the Junior Sports Club, Hugh Drummond was burying his nose in a large tankard of the ale for which that cheery pot-house was still famous. And in the intervals of this most delightful pastime he was trying to make up his mind on a peculiarly knotty point. Should he or should he not communicate with the police on the matter? He felt that as a respectable citizen of the country it was undoubtedly his duty to tell somebody something. The point was who to tell and what to tell him. On the subject of Scotland Yard his ideas were nebulous; he had a vague impression that one filled in a form and waited—tedious operations, both.
"Besides, dear old flick," he murmured abstractedly to the portrait of the founder of the club, who had drunk the cellar dry and then died, "am I a respectable citizen? Can it be said with any certainty, that if I filled in a form saying all that had happened in the last two days, I shouldn't be put in quod myself?"
He sighed profoundly and gazed out into the sunny square. A waiter was arranging the first editions of the evening papers on a table, and Hugh beckoned to him to bring one. His mind was still occupied with his problem, and almost mechanically he glanced over the columns. Cricket, racing, the latest divorce case and the latest strike—all the usual headings were there. And he was just putting down the paper, to again concentrate on his problem, when a paragraph caught his eye.
"STRANGE MURDER IN BELFAST
"The man whose body was discovered in such peculiar circumstances near the docks has been identified as Mr. James Granger, the confidential secretary to Mr. Hiram Potts, the American multi-millionaire, at present in this country. The unfortunate victim of this dastardly outrage—his head, as we reported in our last night's issue, was nearly severed from his body—had apparently been sent over on business by Mr. Potts, and had arrived the preceding day. What he was doing in the locality in which he was found is a mystery.
"We understand that Mr. Potts, who has recently been indisposed, has returned to the Carlton, and is greatly upset at the sudden tragedy.
"The police are confident that they will shortly obtain a clue, though the rough element in the locality where the murder was committed presents great difficulties. It seems clear that the motive was robbery, as all the murdered man's pockets were rifled. But the most peculiar thing about the case is the extraordinary care taken by the murderer to prevent the identification of the body. Every article of clothing, even down to the murdered man's socks, had had the name torn out, and it was only through the criminal overlooking the tailor's tab inside the inner breast-pocket of Mr. Granger's coat that the police were enabled to identify the body."
Drummond laid down the paper on his knees, and stared a little dazedly at the club's immoral founder.
"Holy smoke! laddie," he murmured, "that man Peterson ought to be on the committee here. Verily, I believe, he could galvanise the staff into some semblance of activity."
"Did you order anything, sir?" A waiter paused beside him.
"No," murmured Drummond, "but I will rectify the omission. Another large tankard of ale."
The waiter departed, and Hugh picked up the paper again.
"We understand," he murmured gently to himself, "that Mr. Potts, who has recently been indisposed, has returned to the Carlton…Now that's very interesting…" He lit a cigarette and lay back in his chair. "I was under the impression that Mr. Potts was safely tucked up in bed, consuming semolina pudding, at Goring. It requires elucidation."
"I beg your pardon, sir," remarked the waiter, placing the beer on the table beside him.
"You needn't," returned Hugh. "Up to date you have justified my fondest expectations. And as a further proof of my good will, I would like you to get me a trunk call—2 X Goring."
A few minutes later he was in the telephone box.
"Peter, I have seldom been so glad to hear your voice. Is all well? Good. Don't mention any names. Our guest is there, is he? Gone on strike against more milk puddings, you say. Coax him, Peter. Make a noise like a sturgeon, and he'll think it's caviare. Have you seen the papers? There are interesting doings in Belfast, which concern us rather intimately. I'll be down later, and we'll have a pow-wow."
He hung up the receiver and stepped out of the box.
"If, Algy," he remarked to a man who was looking at the tape machine outside, "the paper says a blighter's somewhere and you know he's somewhere else—what do you do?"
"Up to date in such cases I have always shot the editor," murmured Algy Longworth. "Come and feed."
"You're so helpful, Algy. A perfect rock of strength. Do you want a job?"
"What sort of a job?" demanded the other suspiciously.
"Oh not work, dear old boy. Damn it, man—you know me better than that, surely!"
"People are so funny nowadays," returned Longworth gloomily. "The most unlikely souls seem to be doing things and trying to look as if they were necessary. What is this job?"
Together the two men strolled into the luncheon-room, and long after the cheese had been finished, Algy Longworth was still listening in silence to his companion.
"My dear old bean," he murmured ecstatically as Hugh finished, "my very dear old bean. I think it's the most priceless thing I ever heard. Enrol me as a member of the band. And, incidentally, Toby Sinclair is running round in circles asking for trouble. Let's rope him in."
"Go and find him this afternoon, Algy," said Hugh, rising. "And tell him to keep his mouth shut. I'd come with you, but it occurs to me that the wretched Potts, bathed in tears at the Carlton, is in need of sympathy. I would have him weep on my shoulder awhile. So long, old dear. You'll hear from me in a day or two."
It was as he reached the pavement that Algy dashed out after him, with genuine alarm written all over his face.
"Hugh," he spluttered, "there's only one stipulation. An armistice must be declared during Ascot week."
With a thoughtful smile on his face Drummond sauntered along Pall Mall. He had told Longworth more or less on the spur of the moment, knowing that gentleman's capabilities to a nicety. Under a cloak of assumed flippancy he concealed an iron nerve which had never yet failed him; and, in spite of the fact that he wore an entirely unnecessary eyeglass, he could see farther into a brick wall than most of the people who called him a fool.
It was his suggestion of telling Toby Sinclair that caused the smile. For it had started a train of thought in Drummond's mind which seemed to him to be good. If Sinclair—why not two or three more equally trusty sportsmen? Why not a gang of the boys?
Toby possessed a V.C., and a good one—for there are grades of the V.C., and those grades are appreciated to a nicety by the recipient's brother officers if not by the general public. The show would fit Toby like a glove…Then there was Ted Jerningham, who combined the rôles of an amateur actor of more than average merit with an ability to hit anything at any range with every conceivable type of firearm. And Jerry Seymour in the Flying Corps…Not a bad thing to have a flying man—up one's sleeve…And possibly someone versed in the ways of tanks might come in handy…
The smile broadened to a grin; surely life was very good. And then the grin faded, and something suspiciously like a frown took its place. For he had arrived at the Carlton, and reality had come back to him. He seemed to see the almost headless body of a man lying in a Belfast slum…
"Mr. Potts will see no one, sir," remarked the man to whom he addressed his question. "You are about the twentieth gentleman who has been here already to-day."
Hugh had expected this, and smiled genially.
"Precisely, my stout fellow," he remarked, "but I'll lay a small amount of money that they were newspaper men. Now, I'm not. And I think that if you will have this note delivered to Mr. Potts, he will see me."
He sat down at a table, and drew a sheet of paper towards him. Two facts were certain: first, that the man upstairs was not the real Potts; second, that he was one of Peterson's gang. The difficulty was to know exactly how to word the note. There might be some mystic pass-word, the omission of which would prove him an impostor at once. At length he took a pen and wrote rapidly; he would have to chance it.
"Urgent. A message from headquarters."
He sealed the envelope and handed it with the necessary five shillings for postage to the man. Then he sat down to wait. It was going to be a ticklish interview if he was to learn anything, but the thrill of the game had fairly got him by now, and he watched eagerly for the messenger's return. After what seemed an interminable delay he saw him crossing the lounge.
"Mr. Potts will see you, sir. Will you come this way?"
"Is he alone?" said Hugh, as they were whirled up in the lift.
"Yes, sir. I think he was expecting you."
"Indeed," murmured Hugh. "How nice it is to have one's expectations realised."
He followed his guide along a corridor, and paused outside a door while he went into a room. He heard a murmur of voices, and then the man reappeared.
"This way, sir," he said, and Hugh stepped inside, to stop with an involuntary gasp of surprise. The man seated in the chair was Potts, to all intents and purposes. The likeness was extraordinary, and had he not known that the real article was at Goring he would have been completely deceived himself.
The man waited till the door was closed: then he rose and stepped forward suspiciously.
"I don't know you," he said. "Who are you?"
"Since when has everyone employed by headquarters known one another?" Drummond returned guardedly. "And, incidentally, your likeness to our lamented friend is wonderful. It very nearly deceived even me."
The man, not ill-pleased, gave a short laugh.
"It'll pass, I think. But it's risky. These cursed reporters have been badgering the whole morning…And if his wife or somebody comes over, what then?"
Drummond nodded in agreement.
"Quite so. But what can you do?"
"It wasn't like Rosca to bungle in Belfast. He's never left a clue before, and he had plenty of time to do the job properly."
"A name inside a breast-pocket might easily be overlooked," remarked Hugh, seizing the obvious clue.
"Are you making excuses for him?" snarled the other. "He's failed, and failure is death. Such is our rule. Would you have it altered?"
"Most certainly not. The issues are far too great for any weakness…"
"You're right, my friend—you're right. Long live the Brotherhood." He stared out of the window with smouldering eyes, and Hugh preserved a discreet silence. Then suddenly the other broke out again… "Have they killed that insolent puppy of a soldier yet?"
"Er—not yet," murmured Hugh mildly.
"They must find the American at once." The man thumped the table emphatically. "It was important before—at least his money was. Now with this blunder—it's vital."
"Precisely," said Hugh. "Precisely."
"I've already interviewed one man from Scotland Yard, but every hour increases the danger. However, you have a message for me. What is it?"
Hugh rose and casually picked up his hat. He had got more out of the interview than he had hoped for, and there was nothing to be gained by prolonging it. But it struck him that Mr. Potts's impersonator was a man of unpleasant disposition, and that tactically a flanking movement to the door was indicated. And, being of an open nature himself, it is possible that the real state of affairs showed for a moment on his face. Be that as it may, something suddenly aroused the other's suspicions, and with a snarl of fury he sprang past Hugh to the door.
"Who are you?" He spat the words out venomously, at the same time whipping an ugly-looking knife out of his pocket.
Hugh replaced his hat and stick on the table and grinned gently.
"I am the insolent puppy of a soldier, dear old bird," he remarked, watching the other warily. "And if I was you I'd put the tooth-pick away.…You might hurt yourself——"
As he spoke he was edging, little by little, towards the other man, who crouched snarling by the door. His eyes, grim and determined, never left the other's face; his hands, apparently hanging listless by his sides, were tingling with the joy of what he knew was coming.
"And the penalty of failure is death, isn't it, dear one?" He spoke almost dreamily; but not for an instant did his attention relax. The words of Olaki, his Japanese instructor, were ringing through his brain: "Distract his attention if you can; but, as you value your life, don't let him distract yours."
And so, almost imperceptibly, he crept towards the other man, talking gently.
"Such is your rule. And I think you have failed, haven't you, you unpleasant specimen of humanity? How will they kill you, I wonder?"
It was at that moment that the man made his mistake. It is a mistake that has nipped the life of many a promising pussy in the bud, at the hands, or rather the teeth, of a dog that knows. He looked away; only for a moment—but he looked away. Just as a cat's nerves give after a while and it looks round for an avenue of escape, so did the crouching man take his eyes from Hugh. And quick as any dog, Hugh sprang.
With his left hand he seized the man's right wrist, with his right he seized his throat. Then he forced him upright against the door and held him there. Little by little the grip of his right hand tightened, till the other's eyes were starting from his head, and he plucked at Hugh's face with an impotent left arm, an arm not long enough by three inches to do any damage. And all the while the soldier smiled gently, and stared into the other's eyes. Even when inch by inch he shifted his grip on the man's knife hand he never took his eyes from his opponent's face; even when with a sudden gasp of agony the man dropped his knife from fingers which, of a sudden, had become numb, the steady merciless glance still bored into his brain.
"You're not very clever at it, are you?" said Hugh softly. "It would be so easy to kill you now, and, except for the inconvenience I should undoubtedly suffer, it mightn't be a bad idea. But they know me downstairs, and it would make it so awkward when I wanted to dine here again.…So, taking everything into account, I think——"
There was a sudden lightning movement, a heave and a quick jerk. The impersonator of Potts was dimly conscious of flying through the air, and of hitting the floor some yards from the door. He then became acutely conscious that the floor was hard, and that being winded is a most painful experience. Doubled up and groaning, he watched Hugh pick up his hat and stick, and make for the door. He made a frantic effort to rise, but the pain was too great, and he rolled over cursing, while the soldier, his hand on the door-knob, laughed gently.
"I'll keep the tooth-pick," he remarked, "as memento."
The next moment he was striding along the corridor towards the lift. As a fight it had been a poor one, but his brain was busy with the information he had heard. True, it had been scrappy in the extreme, and, in part, had only confirmed what he had suspected all along. The wretched Granger had been foully done to death, for no other reason than that he was the millionaire's secretary. Hugh's jaw tightened; it revolted his sense of sport. It wasn't as if the poor blighter had done anything; merely because he existed and might ask inconvenient questions he had been removed. And as the lift shot downwards, and the remembrance of the grim struggle he had had in the darkness of The Elms the night before came back to his mind, he wondered once again if he had done wisely in not breaking Peterson's neck while he had had the chance.
He was still debating the question in his mind as he crossed the tea-lounge. And almost unconsciously he glanced toward the table where three days before he had had tea with Phyllis Benton, and had been more than half inclined to believe that the whole thing was an elaborate leg-pull.…
"Why, Captain Drummond, you look pensive." A well-known voice from a table at his side made him look down, and he bowed a little grimly. Irma Peterson was regarding him with a mocking smile.
He glanced at her companion, a young man whose face seemed vaguely familiar to him, and then his eyes rested once more on the girl. Even his masculine intelligence could appreciate the perfection—in a slightly foreign style—of her clothes; and, as to her beauty, he had never been under any delusions. Nor, apparently, was her escort, whose expression was not one of unalloyed pleasure at the interruption of his tête-à-tête.
"The Carlton seems rather a favourite resort of yours," she continued, watching him through half-closed eyes. "I think you're wise to make the most of it while you can."
"While I can?" said Hugh. "That sounds rather depressing."
"I've done my best," continued the girl, "but matters have passed out of my hands, I'm afraid."
Again Hugh glanced at her companion, but he had risen and was talking to some people who had just come in.
"Is he one of the firm?" he remarked. "His face seems familiar."
"Oh, no!" said the girl. "He is—just a friend. What have you been doing this afternoon?"
"That, at any rate, is straight and to the point," laughed Hugh. "If you want to know, I've just had a most depressing interview."
"You're a very busy person, aren't you, my ugly one?" she murmured.
"The poor fellow, when I left him, was quite prostrated with grief, and—er—pain," he went on mildly.
"Would it be indiscreet to ask who the poor fellow is?" she asked.
"A friend of your father's, I think," said Hugh, with a profound sigh. "So sad. I hope Mr. Peterson's neck is less stiff by now?"
The girl began to laugh softly.
"Not very much, I'm afraid. And it's made him a little irritable. Won't you wait and see him?"
"Is he here now?" said Hugh quickly.
"Yes," answered the girl. 'With his friend whom you've just left. You're quick, mon ami—quite quick." She leaned forward suddenly. "Now, why don't you join us instead of so foolishly trying to fight us? Believe me, Monsieur Hugh, it is the only thing that can possibly save you. You know too much."
"Is the invitation to amalgamate official, or from your own charming brain?" murmured Hugh.
"Made on the spur of the moment," she said lightly. "But it may be regarded as official."
"I'm afraid it must be declined on the spur of the moment," he answered in the same tone. "And equally to be regarded as official. Well, au revoir. Please tell Mr. Peterson how sorry I am to have missed him."
"I will most certainly," answered the girl. "But then, mon ami, you will be seeing him again soon, without doubt…"
She waved a charming hand in farewell, and turned to her companion, who was beginning to manifest symptoms of impatience. But Drummond, though he went into the hall outside, did not immediately leave the hotel. Instead, he button-holed an exquisite being arrayed in gorgeous apparel, and led him to a point of vantage.
"You see that girl," he remarked, "having tea with a man at the third table from the big palm? Now, can you tell me who the man is? I seem to know his face, but I can't put a name to it."
"That, sir," murmured the exquisite being, with the faintest perceptible scorn of such ignorance, "is the Marquis of Laidley. His lordship is frequently here."
"Laidley!" cried Hugh, in sudden excitement. "Laidley! The Duke of Lampshire's son! You priceless old stuffed tomato—the plot thickens."
Completely regardless of the scandalised horror on the exquisite being's face, he smote him heavily in the stomach and stepped into Pall Mall. For clean before his memory had come three lines on the scrap of paper he had torn from the table at The Elms that first night, when he had grabbed the dazed millionaire from under Peterson's nose.
|earl necklace and the|
|are at present|
|chess of Lamp-|
The Duchess of Lampshire's pearls were world-famous; the Marquis of Laidley was apparently enjoying his tea. And between the two there seemed to be a connection rather too obvious to be missed.
"I'm glad you two fellows came down," said Hugh thoughtfully, as he entered the sitting-room of his bungalow at Goring. Dinner was over, and stretched in three chairs were Peter Darrell, Algy Longworth, and Toby Sinclair. The air was thick with smoke, and two dogs lay curled up on the mat, asleep. "Did you know that a man came here this afternoon, Peter?"
Darrell yawned and stretched himself.
"I did not. Who was it?"
"Mrs. Denny has just told me." Hugh reached out a hand for his pipe, and proceeded to stuff it with tobacco. "He came about the water."
"Seems a very righteous proceeding, dear old thing," said Algy lazily.
"And he told her that I had told him to come. Unfortunately, I'd done nothing of the sort."
His three listeners sat up and stared at him.
"What do you mean, Hugh?" asked Toby Sinclair at length.
"It's pretty obvious, old boy," said Hugh grimly. "He no more came about the water than he came about my aunt. I should say that about five hours ago Peterson found out that our one and only Hiram C. Potts was upstairs."
"Good Lord!" spluttered Darrell, by now very wide awake. "How the devil has he done it?"
"There are no flies on the gentleman," remarked Hugh. "I didn't expect he'd do it quite so quick, I must admit. But it wasn't very difficult for him to find out that I had a bungalow here, and so he drew the covert."
"And he's found the bally fox," said Algy. "What do we do, sergeant-major?"
"We take it in turns—two at a time—to sit up with Potts." Hugh glanced at the other three. "Damn it—you blighters—wake up!"
Darrell struggled to his feet and walked up and down the room.
"I don't know what it is," he said, rubbing his eyes, "I feel most infernally sleepy."
"Well, listen to me—confound you…Toby!" Hugh hurled a tobacco-pouch at the offender's head.
"Sorry, old man." With a start Sinclair sat up in his chair and blinked at Hugh.
"They're almost certain to try and get him to-night," went on Hugh. "Having given the show away by leaving a clue on the wretched secretary, they must get the real man as soon as possible. It's far too dangerous to leave the—leave the——" His head dropped forward on his chest: a short, half-strangled snore came from his lips. It had the effect of waking him for the moment, and he staggered to his feet.
The other three, sprawling in their chairs, were openly and unashamedly asleep; even the dogs lay in fantastic attitudes, breathing heavily, inert like logs.
"Wake up!" shouted Hugh wildly. "For God's sake—wake up! We've been drugged!"
An iron weight seemed to be pressing down on his eyelids: the desire for sleep grew stronger and stronger. For a few moments more he fought against it, hopelessly, despairingly; while his legs seemed not to belong to him, and there was a roaring noise in his ears. And then, just before unconsciousness overcame him, there came to his bemused brain the sound of a whistle thrice repeated from outside the window. With a last stupendous effort he fought his way towards it, and for a moment he stared into the darkness. There were dim figures moving through the shrubs, and suddenly one seemed to detach itself. It came nearer, and the light fell on the man's face. His nose and mouth were covered with a sort of pad, but the cold, sneering eyes were unmistakable.
"Lakington!" gasped Hugh, and then the roaring noise increased in his head; his legs struck work altogether. He collapsed on the floor and lay sprawling, while Lakington, his face pressed against the glass outside, watched in silence.
"Draw the curtains." Lakington was speaking, his voice muffled behind the pad, and one of the men did as he said. There were four in all, each with a similar pad over his mouth and nose. "Where did you put the generator, Brownlow?"
"In the coal-scuttle." A man whom Mrs. Denny would have had no difficulty in recognising, even with the mask on his face, carefully lifted a small black box out of the scuttle from behind some coal, and shook it gently, holding it to his ear. "It's finished," he remarked, and Lakington nodded.
"An ingenious invention is gas," he said, addressing another of the men. "We owe your nation quite a debt of gratitude for the idea."
A guttural grunt left no doubt as to what that nation was, and Lakington dropped the box into his pocket.
"Go and get him," he ordered briefly, and the others left the room.
Contemptuously Lakington kicked one of the dogs; it rolled over and lay motionless in its new position. Then he went in turn to each of the three men sprawling in the chairs. With no attempt at gentleness he turned their faces up to the light, and studied them deliberately; then he let their heads roll back again with a thud. Finally he went to the window and stared down at Drummond. In his eyes was a look of cold fury, and he kicked the unconscious man savagely in the ribs.
"You young swine," he muttered. "Do you think I'll forget that blow on the jaw!"
He took another box out of his pocket and looked at it lovingly.
"Shall I?" With a short laugh he replaced it. "It's too good a death for you, Captain Drummond, D.S.O., M.C. Just to snuff out in your sleep. No, my friend, I think I can devise something better than that; something really artistic."
Two other men came in as he turned away, and Lakington looked at them.
"Well," he asked, "have you got the old woman?"
"Bound and gagged in the kitchen," answered one of them laconically. "Are you going to do this crowd in?"
The speaker looked at the unconscious men with hatred in his eyes.
"They encumber the earth—this breed of puppy."
"They will not encumber it for long," said Lakington softly. "But the one in the window there is not going to die quite so easily. I have a small unsettled score with him…"
"All right; he's in the car." A voice came from outside the window, and with a last look at Hugh Drummond, Lakington turned away.
"Then we'll go," he remarked. "Au revoir, my blundering young bull. Before I've finished with you, you'll scream for mercy. And you won't get it…"
Through the still night air there came the thrumming of the engine of a powerful car. Gradually it died away and there was silence. Only the murmur of the river over the weir broke the silence, save for an owl which hooted mournfully in a tree near by. And then, with a sudden crack, Peter Darrell's head rolled over and hit the arm of his chair.