EMANUEL LEGGE was half-way home before he could sort out his impressions. He went back to the Bloomsbury Hotel where he was staying. There was no message for him, and there had been no callers. It was now seven o'clock. He wondered whether Jeff had restrained his impatience. Jeff must be told and warned. Johnny Gray, dead or maimed in a hospital, had ceased to be a factor. Peter Kane, for all his cunning and his vengefulness, might be dismissed as a source of danger. It was Mr. J. G. Reeder who filled his thoughts, the bored Civil Servant with a weak voice, who had such a surprising knowledge of things, and whose continuous pointed references to Jeffrey filled him with unquiet. Jeffrey must clear out of the country, and must go while the going was good. If he hadn't been such a fool, he would have moved that night. Now, that was impossible.
Peter had not arrived at the Charlton, or the men whom Legge had set to watch would have reported. If it had not been for the disturbing interview he had had with Reeder, he would have been more worried about Peter Kane; for when Peter delayed action, he was dangerous.
At eight o'clock that night, a small boy brought him a note to the hotel. It was addressed "E. Legge," and the envelope was grimy with much handling. Emanuel took the letter to his room and locked the door before he opened it. It was from a man who was very much on the inside of things, one of Jeff's shrewd but illiterate assistants, first lieutenant of the Big Printer, and a man to be implicitly trusted.
There were six closely written pages, ill-spelt and blotted. Emanuel read the letter a dozen times, and when he finished, there was panic in his heart.
"Johnny Gray got out of the tunnel all right, and he's going to squeak to Reeder," was the dramatic beginning, and there was a great deal more… .
Emanuel knew a club in the West End of London, and his name was numbered amongst the members, even in the days when he had little opportunity of exercising his membership. It was a club rather unlike any other, and occupied the third and fourth floor of a building, the lower floors being in the possession of an Italian restaurateur. Normally, the proprietor of a fairly popular restaurant would not hire out his upper floors to so formidable a rival; but the proprietors of the club were also proprietors of the building, the restaurant keeper being merely a tenant.
It suited the membership of the Highlow Club to have their premises a little remote. It suited them better that no stairway led from the lower to the upper floors. Members of the club went down a narrow passage by the side of the restaurant entrance. From the end of the passage ran a small elevator, which carried them to the third floor. The County Council, in granting this concession, insisted upon a very complete fire escape system outside the building—a command which very well suited the members. Some there were who found it convenient to enter the premises by this latter method and a window leading into the club was left unfastened day and night against such a contingency.
On the flat roof of the building was a small superstructure, which was never used by the club members; whilst another part of the building, which also belonged exclusively to the Highlow, was the basement, to which the restaurant proprietor had no access—much to his annoyance, since it necessitated the building of a wine storage room in the limited space in the courtyard behind.
Stepping out of the elevator into a broad passage, well carpeted, its austere walls hung with etchings, Emanuel Legge was greeted respectfully by the liveried porter who sat behind a desk within sight of the lift. There was every reason why Emanuel should be respected at the Highlow, for he was, in truth, the proprietor of the club, and his son had exercised control of the place during many of the years his father had been in prison.
The porter, who was a big ex-prize fighter, expressly engaged for the purpose for which he was frequently required, hurried from his tiny perch to stand deferentially before his master.
"Anybody here?" asked Legge.
The man mentioned a few names.
"Let me see the engagement book," said the other, and the man produced from beneath the ledge of his desk a small, red book, and Emanuel turned the pages. The old man's hand ran down the list, and suddenly stopped.
"Oh, yes," he said softly, closing the book and handing it back.
"Are you expecting anybody, Mr. Legge?" asked the porter.
"No, I'm not expecting anybody… only I wondered… "
"Mr. Jeffrey got married to-day, I hear, sir? I'm sure all the staff wish him joy."
All the staff did not wish Mr. Jeffrey Legge joy, for neither he nor his father were greatly popular, even in the tolerant society of the Highlow, and moreover, strange as it may appear, very few people knew him by sight.
"That's very good of you, very good indeed," murmured Emanuel absently.
"Are you dining here, sir?"
"No, no, I'm not dining here. I just looked in, that is all." He stepped back into the elevator, and the porter watched it drop with pleasure. It was half-past eight; the glow was dying in the sky, and the lights were beginning to twinkle in the streets, as Emanuel walked steadily towards Shaftesbury Avenue.
Providentially, he was at the corner of a side street when he saw Peter Kane. He was near enough to note that under his thin overcoat Peter was in evening dress. Slipping into the doorway, he watched the man pass. Peter was absorbed in thought; his eyes were on the ground, and he had no interest for anything but the tremendous problem which occupied his mind.
Legge came back to the corner of the street and watched him furtively. Opposite the club, Peter stopped, looked up for a while, and passed on. The watcher laughed to himself. That club could have no pleasant memories for Peter Kane that night; it was in the Highlow that he had met the "young Canadian officer" and had "rescued" him, as he had thought, from his dangerous surroundings. There had Peter been trapped, for the introduction of Jeff Legge was most skilfully arranged. Going into the club one night, Peter saw, as he thought, a young, good-looking soldier boy in the hands of a gang of cardsharpers, and the "rescued officer" had been most grateful, and had called upon Peter at the earliest opportunity. So simple, so very simple, to catch Peter. It would be a more difficult matter, thought Emanuel, for Peter to catch him.
He waited until the figure had disappeared in the gloom of the evening, and then walked back to the Avenue. This comedy over, there remained the knowledge of stark tragedy, of danger to his boy, and the upsetting of all his plans, and, the most dreadful of all possibilities, the snaring of the Big Printer. This night would the battle be fought, this night of nights would victory or defeat be in his hands, Reeder—Johnny—Peter Kane—all opposed him, innocent of their co-operation, and in his hands a hostage beyond price—the body and soul of Marney Legge.
He had scarcely disappeared when another person known to him came quickly along the quiet street, turned into the club entrance, and, despite the expostulations of the elevator man, insisted upon being taken up. The porter had heard the warning bell and stood waiting to receive her when the door of the elevator opened.
"Where's Emanuel?" she asked.
"Just gone," said the porter.
"That's a lie. I should have seen him if he'd just gone."
She was obviously labouring under some emotion, and the porter, an expert on all stages of feminine emotionalism, shrewdly diagnosed the reason for her wildness of manner and speech.
"Been a wedding to-day, hasn't there?" he asked with heavy jocularity. "Now, Lila, what's the good of kicking up a fuss? You know you oughtn't to come here. Mr. Legge gave orders you weren't to be admitted whilst you were at Kane's."
"Where is Emanuel?" she asked.
"I tell you he's just gone out," said the porter in a tone of ponderous despair. "What a woman you are! You don't believe anything!"
"Has he gone back to his hotel?"
"That's just where he has gone. Now be wise, girl, and beat it. Anybody might be coming here—Johnny Gray was in last night, and he's a pal of Peter's."
"Johnny knows all about me," she said impatiently. "Besides, I've left Peter's house."
She stood undecidedly at the entrance of the open elevator, and then, when the porter was preparing some of his finest arguments for her rapid disappearance, she stepped into the lift and was taken down.
The Highlow was a curious club, for it had no common room. Fourteen private dining-rooms and a large and elegantly furnished card-room constituted the premises. Meals were served from the restaurant below, being brought up by service lift to a small pantry. The members of the club had not the club feeling in the best sense of the word. They included men and women, but the chief reason for the club's existence was that it afforded a safe and not unpleasant meeting-place for members of the common class, and gave necessary seclusion for the slaughter of such innocents as came within the influence of its more dexterous members. How well its inner secrets were kept is best illustrated by the fact that Peter Kane had been a member for twenty years without knowing that his sometime companion in crime had any official connection with its control. Nor was it ever hinted to him that the man who was directing the club's activities during Emanuel's enforced absence, was his son.
Peter was a very infrequent visitor to the Highlow; and indeed, on the occasion of his first meeting with the spurious Major Floyd, he had been tricked into coming, though this he did not know.
The porter was busy until half-past nine. Little parties came, were checked off in the book, and then—he looked at his watch.
"Twenty-five to ten," he said, and pushed a bell button.
A waiter appeared from the side passage.
"Put a bottle of wine in No. 13," he said.
The waiter looked at him surprised.
"No. 13?" he said, as if he could not believe his ears.
"I said it," confirmed the porter.
Jeffrey ate a solitary dinner. The humour of the situation did not appeal to him. On his honeymoon, he and his wife were dining, a locked door between them. But he could wait.
Again he tried the queer-shaped pliers upon the key of the second bedroom. The key turned readily. He put the tool into his pocket with a sense of power. The clatter of a table being cleared came to him from the other room, and presently he heard the outer door close and a click of the key turning. He lit his fourth cigar and stepped out on to the balcony, surveying the crowded street with a dispassionate interest. It was theatre time. Cars were rolling up to the Haymarket; the long queue that he had seen waiting at the doors of the cheaper parts of the house had disappeared; a restaurant immediately opposite was blazing with lights; and on a corner of the street a band of ex-soldiers were playing the overture of "Lohengrin."
Glancing down into the street, he distinguished one of the "minders" his father had put there for his protection, and grinned. Peter could not know; he would have been here before. As to Johnny… ? Emanuel had been very confident that Johnny presented no danger, and it rather looked as though Emanuel's view was right. But if Peter knew, why hadn't he come?
He strolled back to the room, looked at the girl's door and walked toward it.
"Marney!" he called softly.
There was no answer. He knocked on the panel.
"Marney, come along. I want to talk to you. You needn't open the door. I just wanted to ask you something."
Still there was no answer. He tried the door; it was locked.
"Are you there?" he called sharply, but she did not reply.
He pulled the pliers from his pocket, and, pushing the narrow nose into the keyhole, gripped the end of the key and turned it. Then, flinging open the door, he rushed in.
The room was empty, and the big bathroom that led out of the suite was empty also. He ran to the passage door: it was locked—locked from the outside. In a sweat of fear he flew through the saloon into the corridor, and the first person he saw was the floor waiter.
"Madam, sir? Yes, she went out a little time ago."
"Went out, you fool? Where?" stormed Jeff.
"I don't know, sir. She just went out. I saw her going along the corridor."
Jeff seized his hat and went down the stairs three at a time. The reception clerk had not seen the girl, nor had any of the pages, or the porter on the door. Oblivious to any immediate danger, he dashed out into the street, and, looking up and down, saw the minder and called him.
"She hasn't come out this entrance. There's another in "Pall Mall," he explained. "Jimmy Low's there."
But the second man on the Pall Mall entrance had not seen her either. Jeff went back to interview the manager.
"There is no other way out. Sir, unless she went down the service stairs."
"It was that cursed maid, the Welsh woman," snarled Jeffrey. "Who is she? Can I see her?"
"She went off duty this afternoon, sir," said the manager. "Is there anything I can do? Perhaps the lady has gone out for a little walk? Does she know London?"
Jeff did not stop to reply: he fled up the stairs, back to the room, and made a quick search. The girl's dressing-case, which he knew had been taken into the bedroom, was gone. Something on the floor attracted his attention. He picked it up, and read the few scribbled lines, torn from a notebook; and as he read, a light came into his eyes. Very carefully he folded the crumpled sheet and put it into his pocket. Then he went back to his sitting-room, and sat for a long time in the big arm-chair, his legs thrust out before him, his hands deep in his trousers pockets, and his thoughts were not wholly unpleasant.
The light was now nearly gone, and he got up. "Room thirteen," he said. "Room thirteen is going to hold a few surprises to-night!"