THE BLACK BOX
THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY
Something in the nature of a conference was proceeding in Quest’s study. The Professor was there, seated in the most comfortable easy-chair, smoking without relish one of his host’s best cigars, watching with nervous impatience the closed door. Laura and Lenora were seated at the table, dressed for the street. They had the air of being prepared for some excursion. Quest, realising the Professor’s highly-strung state, had left him alone for a few moments and was studying a map of New York. The latter, however, was too ill at ease to keep silent for long.
“Our friend French,” he remarked, “gave you no clue, I suppose, as to the direction in which his investigations are leading him?”
Quest glanced up from the map.
“None at all. I know, however, that the house in which Lenora here was confined, is being watched closely.”
The Professor glanced towards the table before which Lenora was seated.
“It seems strange,” he continued, “that the young lady should have so little to tell us about her incarceration.”
Lenora shivered for a moment.
“What could there be to tell,” she asked, “except that it was all horrible, and that I felt things—felt dangers—which I couldn’t describe.”
The Professor gave vent to an impatient little exclamation.
“I am not speaking of fancies,” he persisted. “You had food brought to you, for instance. Could you never see the hand which placed it inside your room? Could you hear nothing of the footsteps of the person who brought it? Could you not even surmise whether it was a man or a woman?”
Lenora answered him with an evident effort. She had barely, as yet, recovered from the shock of those awful hours.
“The person who brought me the food,” she said, “came at night—never in the daytime. I never heard anything. The most I ever saw was once—I happened to be looking towards the door and I saw a pair of hands—nothing more—setting down a tray. I shrieked and called out. I think that I almost fainted. When I found courage enough to look, there was nothing there but the tray upon the floor.”
“You never heard, for instance, the rustling of a gown or the sound of a footstep?” the Professor asked. “You could not even say whether your jailer were man or woman?”
Lenora shook her head.
“All that I ever heard was the opening of the door. All that I ever saw was that pair of hands. One night I fancied—but that must have been a dream!”
“You fancied what?” the Professor persisted.
“That I saw a pair of eyes glaring at me,” Lenora replied, “eyes without any human body. I know that I ran round the room, calling out. When I dared to look again, there was nothing there.”
The Professor sighed as he turned away.
“It is evident, I am afraid,” he said, “that Miss Lenora’s evidence will help no one. As an expert in these affairs, Mr. Quest, does it not seem to you that her imprisonment was just a little purposeless? There seems to have been no attempt to harm her in any way whatever, that I can see.”
“Whoever took the risk of abducting her,” Quest pointed out grimly, “did it for a purpose. That purpose would probably have become developed in course of time. However we look at it, Mr. Ashleigh, there was only one man who must have been anxious to get her out of the way, and that man was Craig.”
The Professor’s manner betrayed some excitement.
“Then will you tell me this?” he demanded. “The young lady is confident that she locked Craig up in the coach-house and that the key was on the outside of the door, a fact which would prevent the lock being picked from inside, even if such a thing were possible. The window is small, and up almost in the roof. Will you tell me how Craig escaped from the coach-house in order to carry out this abduction—all within a few minutes, mind, of his having been left there? Will you tell me that, Mr. Sanford Quest?” the Professor concluded, with a note of triumph in his tone.
“That’s one of the troubles we are up against,” Quest admitted. “We have to remember this, though. The brain that planned the two murders here, that stole and restored Mrs. Rheinholdt’s jewels, that sends us those little billets-doux from time to time, is quite capable of finding a way out of a jerry-built garage.”
The Professor sniffed. He turned once more to Lenora.
“Young lady,” he said, “I will ask you this. I do not wish to seem obstinate in my refusal to accept Craig’s guilt as proved, but I would like to put this simple question to you. Did Craig’s demeanour during your conversation seem to you to indicate the master criminal? Did he seem to you to be possessed of supreme courage, of marvellous intelligence?”
Lenora smiled very faintly.
“I am afraid,” she replied, “that this time I’ll have to satisfy the Professor. He was white and trembling all the time. I thought him an arrant coward.”
The Professor smiled beatifically as he glanced around. He had the air of one propounding an unanswerable problem.
“You hear what Miss Lenora says? I ask you whether a man who even knew the meaning of the word fear could have carried out these ghastly crimes?”
“I have known cases,” Quest observed, “where the most cold-blooded criminals in the world have been stricken with the most deadly fear when it has come to a question of any personal danger. However,” he added, “here comes our friend French. I have an idea that he has something to tell us.”
They glanced expectantly towards the door as French entered. The Inspector, who was looking very spruce and well-brushed, wished them a general good-morning. His eyes rested last and longest upon Laura, who seemed, however, unconscious of his presence.
“Now, then, French,” Quest began, as he returned his greeting, “take a cigar, make yourself comfortable in that chair and let us have your news. As you see, we have obeyed orders. We are all ready to follow you anywhere you say.”
“It won’t be to the end of the world, anyway,” the Inspector remarked, as he lit his cigar. “I am going to propose a little excursion down Gayson Avenue way.”
“Back to that house?” Lenora exclaimed, with a grimace.
The Inspector nodded.
“We have had those boys at the station,” he went on, “and we have questioned them carefully. It seems that after they had picked up the ball, a man came out of the side entrance of the house, saw them reading Miss Lenora’s message, and shouted after them. The boys had sense enough to scoot. The man ran after them, but had to give it up. Here is their description of him.”
The Inspector took a piece of paper from his pocket. They all waited breathlessly.
“Had to drag this out of the boys, bit by bit,” the Inspector proceeded, “but boiled down and put into reasonable language, this is what it comes to. The man was of medium height, rather thin, pale, and dressed in black clothes. He had what they call anxious eyes, and after running a short distance he put his hand to his heart, as though out of breath. One of the boys thought his nose was a little hooked, and they both remarked upon the fact that although he shouted after them, he used no swear words, but simply tried to induce them to stop. This description suggest anything to you, gentlemen?”
“Craig,” Lenora said firmly.
“It is a very accurate description of Craig,” Sanford Quest agreed.
The Professor looked troubled, also a little perplexed. He said nothing, however.
“Under these circumstances,” the Inspector continued, “I have had the house watched, and I propose that we now search it systematically. It is very possible that something may transpire to help us. Of course, my men went through it roughly when we brought Miss Lenora away, but that wasn’t anything of a search to count, if the place really has become a haunt of criminals.”
“What about the ownership of the house?” Quest asked, as he took up his hat.
The Inspector nodded approvingly.
“I am making a few enquiries in that direction,” he announced. “I expect to have something to report very shortly.”
The Professor stood drawing on his gloves. The vague look of trouble still lingered in his face.
“Tell me again,” he begged, “the name of the avenue in which this residence is situated?”
“Gayson Avenue,” the inspector replied. “It’s a bit out of the way, but it’s not a bad neighbourhood.”
The Professor repeated the address to himself softly. For a moment he stood quite still. His manner showed signs of growing anxiety. He seemed to be trying to remember something.
“The name,” he admitted finally, as they moved towards the door, “suggests to me, I must confess—We are going to see the house, Inspector?”
“We are on our way there now, sir—that is, if the young ladies are willing?” he added, glancing at Laura.
“We’ve been waiting here with our hats on for the last half-hour,” Laura replied promptly. “You’ve stretched your ten minutes out some, Mr. French.”
The Inspector manoeuvred to let the others pass on, and descended the stairs by Laura’s side.
“Couldn’t help it,” he confided, lowering his tone a little. “Had some information come in about that house I couldn’t quite size up. You’re looking well this morning, Miss Laura.”
“Say, who are you guying!” she replied.
“I mean it,” the Inspector persisted. “That hat seems to suit you.”
Laura laughed at the top of her voice.
“Say, kid,” she exclaimed to Lenora, “the Inspector here’s setting up as a judge of millinery!”
Lenora turned and looked at them both with an air of blank astonishment. The Inspector was a little embarrassed.
“No need to give me away like that,” he muttered, as they reached the hall. “Now then, ladies and gentlemen, if you are ready.”
They took their places in the automobile and drove off. As they neared the vicinity of Gayson Avenue, the Professor began to show signs of renewed uneasiness. When they drew up at last outside the house, he gave a little exclamation. His face was grave, almost haggard.
“Mr. Quest,” he said, “Inspector French, I deeply regret that I have a statement to make.”
They both turned quickly towards him. The Inspector smiled in a confidential manner at Laura. It was obvious that he knew what was coming.
“Some years ago,” the Professor continued, “I bought this house and made a present of it to—”
“To whom?” Quest asked quickly.
“To my servant Craig,” the Professor admitted with a groan.
Lenora gave a little cry. She turned triumphantly towards the Inspector.
“All recollection as to its locality had escaped me,” the Professor continued sorrowfully. “I remember that it was on the anniversary of his having been with me for some fifteen years that I decided to show him some substantial mark of my appreciation. I knew that he was looking for a domicile for his father and mother, who are since both dead, and I requested a house agent to send me in a list of suitable residences. This, alas! was the one I purchased.”
Quest glanced around the place.
“I think,” he said, “that the Professor’s statement now removes any doubt as to Craig’s guilt. You are sure the house has been closely watched, Inspector?”
“Since I received certain information,” French replied, “I have had half-a-dozen of my best men in the vicinity. I can assure you that no one has entered or left it during the last twenty-four hours.”
They made their way to the piazza steps and entered by the front door. The house was an ordinary framework one of moderate size, in poor repair, and showing signs of great neglect. The rooms were barely furnished, and their first cursory search revealed no traces of habitation. There was still the broken skylight in the room which Lenora had occupied, and the bed upon which she had slept was still crumpled. French, who had been tapping the walls downstairs, called to them. They trooped down into the hall. The Inspector was standing before what appeared to be an ordinary panel.
“Look here,” he said, glancing out of the corner of his eye to be sure that Laura was there, “let me show you what I have just discovered.”
He felt with his thumb for a spring. In a moment or two a portion of the wall, about two feet in extent, slowly revolved, disclosing a small cupboard fitted with a telephone instrument.
“A telephone,” the Inspector remarked, pointing to it, “in an unoccupied house and a concealed cupboard. What do you think of that?”
The Professor shook his head.
“Don’t ask me,” he groaned.
French took the receiver from its rest and called up the exchange.
“Inspector French speaking,” he announced. “Kindly tell me what is the number of the telephone from which I am speaking, and who is the subscriber?”
He listened to the reply and asked another question.
“Can you tell me when this instrument was last used?… When?… Thank you!”
The Inspector hung up the receiver.
“The subscriber’s name,” he told them drily, “is Brown. The number is not entered in the book, by request. The telephone was used an hour ago from a call office, and connection was established. That is to say that some one spoke from this telephone.”
“Then if your men have maintained their search properly, that some one,” Quest said slowly, “must be in the house at the present moment.”
“Without a doubt,” the Inspector agreed. “I should like to suggest,” he went on, “that the two young ladies wait for us now in the automobile. If this man turns out as desperate as he has shown himself ingenious, there may be a little trouble.”
They both protested vigorously. Quest shrugged his shoulders.
“They must decide for themselves,” he said. “Personally, I like Lenora, who has had less experience of such adventures, to grow accustomed to danger…. With your permission, Inspector, I am going to search the front room on the first floor before we do anything else. I think that if you wait here I may be able to show you something directly.”
Quest ascended the stairs and entered a wholly unfurnished room on the left-hand side. He looked for a minute contemplatively at a large but rather shallow cupboard, the door of which stood open, and tapped lightly with his forefinger upon the back part of it. Then he withdrew a few feet and, drawing out his revolver, deliberately fired into the floor, a few inches inside. There was a half stifled cry. The false back suddenly swung open and a man rushed out. Quest’s revolver covered him, but there was no necessity for its use. Craig, smothered with dust, his face white as a piece of marble, even his jaw shaking with fear, was wholly unarmed. He seemed, in fact, incapable of any form of resistance. He threw himself upon his knees before Quest.
“Save me!” he begged. “Help me to get away from this house! You don’t belong to the police. I’ll give you every penny I have in the world to let me go!”
Quest smiled at him derisively.
“Get up,” he ordered.
Very slowly Craig obeyed him. He was a pitiful-looking object, but a single look into Quest’s face showed him the folly of any sort of appeal.
“Walk out of the room,” Quest ordered, “in front of me—so! Now, then, turn to the right and go down the stairs.”
They all gave a little cry as they saw him appear, a trembling, pitiful creature, glancing around like a trapped animal. He commenced to descend the stairs, holding tightly to the banisters. Quest remained on the landing above, his revolver in his hand. French waited in the hall below, also armed. Laura gripped Lenora’s arm in excitement.
“They’ve got him now!” she exclaimed. “Got him, sure!”
On the fourth or fifth stair, Craig hesitated. He suddenly saw the Professor standing below. He gripped the banisters with one hand. The other he flung out in a threatening gesture.
“You’ve given me away to these bloodhounds!” he cried,—“you, for whom I have toiled and slaved, whom I have followed all over the world, whom I have served faithfully with the last breath of my body and the last drop of blood in my veins! You have brought them here—tracked me down! You!”
The Professor shook his head sorrowfully.
“Craig,” he said, “you have been the best servant man ever had. If you are innocent of these crimes, you can clear yourself. If you are guilty, a dog’s death is none too good for you.”
Craig seemed to sway for a moment upon his feet. Only Lenora, from the hall, saw that he was fitting his right foot into what seemed to be a leather loop hanging from the banisters. Then a wild shout of surprise broke from the lips of all of them, followed by a moment of stupefied wonder. The whole staircase suddenly began to revolve. Craig, clinging to the banisters, disappeared. In a moment or two there was a fresh click. Another set of stairs, almost identical to the first, had taken their place.
“The cellar!” Quest shouted, as he rushed down the stairs. “Quick!”
They wrenched open the wooden door and hurried down the dark steps into the gloomy, unlit cellar. The place was crowded with packing-cases, and two large wine barrels stood in the corner. At the farther end was a door. Quest rushed for it and stood on guard. A moment later, however, he called to Laura and pressed his revolver into her hand.
“Stand here,” he ordered. “Shoot him if he tries to run out. I’ll search in the packing-cases. He might be dangerous.”
The Professor, out of breath, was leaning against one of the pillars, his arm passed around it for support. Lenora, with Quest and French, searched hastily amongst the packing-cases. Suddenly there was a loud crack, the sound of falling masonry, followed by a scream from Laura. French, with a roar of anger, rushed towards her. She was lying on her side, already half covered by falling bricks and masonry. He dragged her away, just in time.
“My God, she’s fainted!” he exclaimed.
“I haven’t,” Laura faltered, trying to open her eyes, “and I’m not going to, but I think my arm’s broken, and my side hurts.”
“The fellow’s not down here, anyway,” Quest declared. “Let’s help her upstairs and get her out of this devil’s house.”
They supported her up the steps and found a chair for her in the hall. She was white almost to the lips, but she struggled bravely to keep consciousness.
“Don’t you bother about me,” she begged. “Don’t let that blackguard go! You find him. I shall be all right.”
The Inspector swung open the telephone cupboard and called for an ambulance. Then Quest, who had been examining the staircase, suddenly gave a little exclamation.
“He’s done us!” he cried. “Look here, French, this is the original staircase. There’s the leather loop. I know it because there was a crack on the fourth stair. When we rushed down the cellar after him, he swung the thing round again and simply walked out of the front door. Damn it, man, it’s open!”
They hurried outside. French blew his whistle. One of the plain-clothes men came running up from the avenue. He was looking a little sheepish.
“What’s wrong?” French demanded.
“He’s gone off,” was the unwilling reply. “I guess that chap’s given us the slip.”
“Speak up,” French insisted.
“The only place,” the man went on, “we hadn’t our eyes glued on, was the front door. He must have come out through that. There’s been a motor truck with one or two queer-looking chaps in it, at the corner of the avenue there for the last ten minutes. I’d just made up my mind to stroll round and see what it was up to when Jim, who was on the other side, shouted out. A man jumped up into it and they made off at once.”
“Could he have come from this house?” French asked sternly.
“I guess, if he’d come out from the front door, he might just have done it,” the man admitted.
Quest and the Inspector exchanged glances.
“He’s done us!” Quest muttered,—“done us like a couple of greenhorns!”
The Inspector’s rubicund countenance was white with fury. His head kept turning in the direction of Laura, to whom the Professor was busy rendering first aid.
“If I never take another job on as long as I live,” he declared, “I’ll have that fellow before I’m through!”
The Professor roused himself from what had apparently been a very gloomy reverie.
“Well,” he announced, “I must go home. It has been very kind of you, Mr. Quest, to keep me here for so long.”
Quest glanced at the clock.
“Don’t hurry, Mr. Ashleigh,” he said. “We may get some news at any moment. French has a dozen men out on the search and he has promised to ring me up immediately he hears anything.”
The Professor sighed.
“A man,” he declared, “who for twenty years can deceive his master as utterly and completely as Craig has done me, who is capable of such diabolical outrages, and who, when capture stares him in the face, is capable of an escape such as he made to-day, is outside the laws of probability. Personally, I do not believe that I shall ever again see the face of my servant, any more than that you, Quest, will entirely solve the mystery of these murders and the theft of the Rheinholdt jewels.”
Lenora, who, with her hat on, was packing a small bag at the other end of the room, glanced up for a moment.
“The man is a demon!” she exclaimed. “He would have sacrificed us all, if he could. When I think of poor Laura lying there in the hospital, crushed almost to death, so that he could save his miserable carcass, and realise that he is free, I feel—”
She stopped short. Quest looked at her and nodded.
“Don’t mind hurting our feelings, Lenora,” he said. “French and I are up against it all right. We’re second best, at the present moment—I’ll admit that—but the end hasn’t come yet.”
“I am sorry,” she murmured. “I was led away for a moment. But, Mr. Quest,” she went on piteously, “can’t we do something? Laura’s so brave. She tried to laugh when I left her, an hour ago, but I could see all the time that she was suffering agony. Fancy a man doing that to a woman! It makes me feel that I can’t rest or sleep. I think that when I have left the hospital I shall just walk up and down the streets and watch and search.”
Quest shook his head.
“That sort of thing won’t do any good,” he declared. “It isn’t any use, Lenora, working without a plan. That’s why I’m here now, waiting. I want to formulate a plan first.”
“Who are we,” the Professor asked drearily, “to make plans against a fiend like that? What can we do against men who have revolving staircases and trolley-loads of river pirates waiting for them? You may be a scientific criminologist, Quest, but that fellow Craig is a scientific criminal, if ever there was one.”
Quest crossed the room towards his cigar cabinet, and opened it. His little start was apparent to both of them. Lenora laid down the bag which she had just lifted up. The Professor leaned forward in his chair.
“What is it, Quest?” he demanded.
Quest stretched out his hand and picked up from the top of the cigars a small black box! He laid it on the table.
“Unless I am very much mistaken,” he said, “it is another communication from our mysterious friend.”
“Impossible!” the Professor exclaimed hoarsely.
“How can he have been here?” Lenora cried.
Quest removed the lid from the box and drew out a circular card. Around the outside edge was a very clever pen and ink sketch of a lifebuoy, and inside the margin were several sentences of clear handwriting. In the middle was the signature—the clenched hands! Quest read the message aloud—
They all looked at one another.
“What does it mean?” Lenora gasped.
“A lifebuoy!” the Professor murmured.
They both stared at Quest, who remained silent, chewing hard at the end of his cigar.
“Every message,” he said, speaking half to himself, “has had some significance. What does this mean—a lifebuoy?”
He was silent for a moment. Then he turned suddenly to the Professor.
“What did you call those men in the motor-truck, Professor—river pirates? And a lifebuoy! Wait.”
He crossed the room towards his desk and returned with a list in his hand. He ran his finger down it, stopped and glanced at the date.
“The Durham,” he muttered, “cargo cotton, destination Southampton, sails at high tide on the 16th. Lenora, is that calendar right?”
“It’s the 16th, Mr. Quest,” she answered.
Quest crossed the room to the telephone.
“I want Number One Central, Exchange,” he said. “Thank you! Put me through to Mr. French’s office…. Hullo, French! I’ve got an idea. Can you come round here at once and bring an automobile? I want to get down to the docks—not where the passenger steamers start from—lower down…. Good! We’ll wait.”
Quest hung up the receiver.
“See here, Professor,” he continued, “that fellow wouldn’t dare to send this message if he wasn’t pretty sure of getting off. He’s made all his plans beforehand, but it’s my belief we shall just get our hands upon him, after all. Lenora, you’d better get along round to the hospital. You don’t come in this time. It’s bad enough to have Laura laid up—can’t risk you. There’ll be a little trouble, too, before we’re through, I’m afraid.”
Lenora sighed as she picked up her bag.
“If it weren’t for Laura,” she said, “you’d find it pretty hard to keep me away. I think that if I could see the handcuffs put on that man, it would be the happiest moment of my life.”
“We’ll get him all right,” Quest promised. “Remember me to Laura.”
“And present my compliments, also,” the Professor begged.
Lenora left them. The Professor, his spirits apparently a little improved by the prospect of action, accepted some whisky and a cigar. Presently they heard the automobile stop outside and French appeared.
“Anything doing?” he asked.
Quest showed him the card and the sailing list. The Inspector nodded.
“Say, that fellow’s some sport!” he remarked admiringly. “You wouldn’t believe it just to look at him. That staircase this afternoon, though, kind of teaches one not to trust to appearances. So you think he’s getting a move on him, Mr. Quest?”
“I think he had a truck waiting for him at the corner of Gayson Avenue,” Quest replied. “It was the machine my men went after. The men looked like river thugs, although I shouldn’t have thought of it if the Professor hadn’t used the word ‘river pirates.’ It’s quite clear that they took Craig down to the river. There’s only one likely ship sailing to-night and that’s the Durham. It’s my belief Craig’s on her.”
The Inspector glanced at the clock.
“Then we’ve got to make tracks,” he declared, “and pretty quick, too. She’ll be starting from somewhere about Number Twenty-eight dock, a long way down. Come along, gentlemen.”
They hurried out to the automobile and started off for the docks. The latter part of their journey was accomplished under difficulties, for the street was packed with drays and heavy vehicles. They reached dock Number Twenty-eight at last, however, and hurried through the shed on to the wharf. There were no signs of a steamer there.
“Where’s the Durham?” Quest asked one of the carters, who was just getting his team together.
The man pointed out to the middle of the river, where a small steamer was lying.
“There she is,” he replied. “She’ll be off in a few minutes. You’ll hear the sirens directly, when they begin to move down.”
Quest led the way quickly to the edge of the wharf. There was a small tug there, the crew of which were just making her fast for the night.
“Fifty dollars if you’ll take us out to the Durham and catch her before she sails,” Quest shouted to the man who seemed to be the captain. “What do you say?”
The man spat out a plug of tobacco from his mouth.
“I’d take you to hell for fifty dollars,” he answered tersely. “Step in. We’ll make it, if you look quick.”
They clambered down the iron ladder and jumped on to the deck of the tug. The captain seized the wheel. The two men who formed the crew took off their coats and waistcoats.
“Give it her, Jim,” the former ordered. “Now, then, here goes! We’ll just miss the ferry.”
They swung around and commenced their journey. Quest stood with his watch in his hand. They were getting up the anchor of the Durham, and from higher up the river came the screech of steamers beginning to move on their outward way.
“We’ll make it all right,” the captain assured them.
They were within a hundred yards of the Durham when Quest gave a little exclamation. From the other side of the steamer another tug shot away, turning back towards New York. Huddled up in the stern, half concealed in a tarpaulin, was a man in a plain black suit. Quest, with a little shout, recognised the man at the helm from his long brown beard.
“That’s one of those fellows who was in the truck,” he declared, “and that’s Craig in the stern! We’ve got him this time. Say, Captain, it’s that tug I want. Never mind about the steamer. Catch it and I’ll make it a hundred dollars!”
The man swung round the wheel, but he glanced at Quest a little doubtfully.
“Say, what is this show?” he asked.
Quest opened his coat and displayed his badge. He pointed to the Inspector.
“Police job. This is Inspector French, I am Sanford Quest.”
“Good enough,” the man replied. “What’s the bloke wanted for?”
“Murder,” Quest answered shortly.
“That so?” the other remarked. “Well, you’ll get him, sure! He’s looking pretty scared, too. You’d better keep your eyes open, though. I don’t know how many men there are on board, but that tug belongs to the toughest crew up the river. Got anything handy in the way of firearms?”
“You don’t need to worry,” he said. “We’ve automatics here, but as long as we’re heading them this way, they’ll know the game’s up.”
“We’ve got her!” the captain exclaimed. “There’s the ferry and the first of the steamers coming down in the middle. They’ll have to chuck it.”
Right ahead of them, blazing with lights, a huge ferry came churning the river up and sending great waves in their direction. On the other side, unnaturally large, loomed up the great bows of an ocean-going steamer. The tug was swung round and they ran up alongside. The man with the beard leaned over.
“Say, what’s your trouble?” he demanded.
The Inspector stepped forward.
“I want that man you’ve got under the tarpaulin,” he announced.
“Say, you ain’t the river police?”
“I’m Inspector French from headquarters,” was the curt reply. “The sooner you hand him over, the better for you.”
“Do you hear that, O’Toole?” the other remarked, swinging round on his heel. “Get up, you blackguard!”
A man rose from underneath the oilskin. He was wearing Craig’s clothes, but his face was the face of a stranger. As quick as lightning, Quest swung round in his place.
“He’s fooled us again!” he exclaimed. “Head her round, Captain—back to the Durham!”
The sailor shook his head.
“We’ve lost our chance, guvnor,” he pointed out, “Look!”
Quest set his teeth and gripped the Inspector’s arm. The place where the Durham had been anchored was empty. Already, half a mile down the river, with a trail of light behind and her siren shrieking, the Durham was standing out seawards.