MR. EMANUEL LEGGE had a great deal of business to do in London. The closing of the club had sadly interfered with the amenities of the Highlow, for many of its patrons and members were, not unnaturally, reluctant to be found on premises subject, at any moment, to the visitation of inquisitive police officers. Stevens, the porter, had been reinstated, though his conduct, in Emanuel's opinion, had been open to the gravest suspicion. In other ways he was a reliable man, and one whose services were not lightly to be dispensed with. To his surprise, when he had come to admonish the porter, that individual had taken the wind out of his sails by announcing his intention of retiring unless the staff was changed. And he had his way, the staff in question being the elevator boy, Benny.
"Benny squeaked on me," said Stevens briefly, "and I'm not going to have a squeaker round."
"He squeaked to me, my friend," said Emanuel, showing his teeth unpleasantly. "He told me you tried to shield Johnny Gray."
"He's a member, ain't he?" asked the porter truculently. "How do I know what members you want put away, and what members you want hidden? Of course, I helped the Captain—or thought I was trying to help him. That's my job."
There was a great deal of logic in this. Benny, the elevator boy, was replaced.
Stepping out of the lift, Emanuel saw the prints of muddy boots in the hall, and they were wet.
"Who is here?" he asked.
"Nobody in particular."
Legge pointed to the footprints.
"Somebody has been here recently," he said.
"They're mine," said Stevens without hesitation. "I went out to get a cab for Monty Ford."
"Are there any mats?" snapped Emanuel.
Stevens did not answer.
There was a great deal of work for Emanuel to do. For example, there was the matter of a certain house in Berkeley Square to be cleared off. Though he was no longer in active work, he did a lot of crooked financing, and the house had been taken with his money. It was hired furnished for a year, and it was the intention of his associates to run an exclusive gambling club. Unfortunately, the owner, who had a very valuable collection of paintings and old jewellery, discovered the character of the new tenant (a dummy of Legge's) and had promptly cancelled the agreement. Roughly, the venture had cost Emanuel a thousand, and he hated losing good money.
It was late that night when he left the club. He was sleeping in town, intending to travel down to his convalescent son by an early train in the morning. It had been raining heavily, and the street was empty when he went out of the club, pulling the collar of his macintosh about his neck.
He had taken two strides when a man stepped out of the shadow of a doorway and planted himself squarely in his path. Emanuel's hand dropped to his pocket, for he was that rarest variety of criminal, an English gunman.
"Keep your artillery out of action, Legge," said a voice that was strangely familiar.
He peered forward, but in the shadow he could not distinguish the stranger's face.
"Who are you?"
"An old friend of yours," was the reply. "Don't tell me you've forgotten all your pals! Why, you'll be passing a screw in the street one of these days without touching your hat to him."
And then it dawned upon Emanuel.
"Oh… you're Fenner, aren't you?"
"I'm Fenner," admitted the man. "Who else could I be? I've been waiting to see you, Mr. Emanuel Legge. I wondered if you would remember a fellow you sent to the triangle… fifteen lashes I had. You've never had a 'bashing,' have you, Legge? It's not so nice as you'd think. When they'd took me back to my cell and put that big bit of lint on my shoulder, I laid on my face for a week. Naturally, that interfered with my sleeping, though it helped me a whole lot to think. And what I thought was this, Emanuel, that a thousand a stroke wouldn't be too much to ask from the man who got it for me."
Legge's lip twisted in a sneer.
"Oh, it's 'the black' you're after, is it? Fifteen thousand pounds, is that your price?"
"I could do a lot with fifteen thousand, Legge. I can go abroad and have a good time—maybe, take a house in the country."
"What's the matter with Dartmoor?" snarled Emanuel. "You'll get no fifteen thousand from me—not fifteen thousand cents, not fifteen thousand grains of sand. Get out of my way!"
He lurched forward, and the man slipped aside. He had seen what was in the old man's hand.
Legge turned as he passed, facing him and walking sideways, alert to meet any attempt which was launched.
"That's a pretty gun of yours, Legge," drawled the convict. "Maybe I shall meet you one of these days when you won't be in a position to pull it."
A thought struck Emanuel Legge, and he walked slowly back to the man, and his tone was mild, even conciliatory.
"What's the good of making a fuss, Fenner? I didn't give you away. Half a dozen people saw you cosh that screw."
"But half a dozen didn't come forward, did they?" asked Fenner wrathfully. "You were the only prisoner; there was not a screw in sight."
"That's a long time ago," said Emanuel after a pause. "You're not going to make any trouble now, are you? Fifteen thousand pounds is out of the question. It is ridiculous to ask me for that. But if a couple of hundred will do you any good, why, I'll send it to you."
"I'll have it now," said Fenner.
"You won't have it now, because I haven't got it," replied Emanuel. "Tell me where you're to be found, and I'll send a boy along with it in the morning."
Fenner hesitated. He was surprised even to touch for a couple of hundred.
"I'm staying at Rowton House, Wimborne Street, Pimlico."
"In your own name?"
"In the name of Fenner," the other evaded, "and that's good enough for you."
Emanuel memorised the address.
"It will be there at ten o'clock," he said. "You're a mug to quarrel with me. I could put you on to a job where you could have made not fifteen, but twenty thousand."
All the anger had died out of the burglar's tone when he asked:
"There's a house in Berkeley Square," said Emanuel quickly, and gave the number.
It was providential that he had remembered that white elephant of his. And he knew, too, that at that moment the house was empty but for a caretaker.
"Just wait here," he said, and went back into the club and to his little office on the third floor.
Opening a drawer of his desk, he took out a small bunch of keys, the duplicates that had been made during the brief period that the original keys had been in his possession. He found Fenner waiting where he had left him.
"Here are the keys. The house is empty. One of our people borrowed the keys and got cold feet at the last minute. There's about eight thousand pounds' worth of jewellery in a safe—you can't miss it. It is in the principal drawing-room—in show cases—go and take a look at it. And there's plate worth a fortune."
The man jingled the keys in his hand.
"Why haven't you gone after it, Emanuel?"
"Because it's not my graft," said Emanuel. "I'm running straight now. But I want my cut, Fenner. Don't run away with any idea that you're getting this for nothing. You've got a couple of nights to do the job; after that, you haven't the ghost of a chance, because the family will be coming back."
"But why do you give it to me?" asked Fenner, still suspicious.
"Because there's nobody else," was the almost convincing reply. "It may be that the jewellery is not there at all," went on Emanuel frankly. "It may have been taken away. But there is plenty of plate. I wouldn't have given it to you if I'd got the right man—I doubt whether I'm going to get my cut from you."
"You'll get your cut," said the other roughly. "I'm a fool to go after this, knowing what a squeaker you are, but I'll take the risk. If you put a point on me over this, Emanuel, I'll kill you. And I mean it."
"I'm sick of getting news about my murder," said Emanuel calmly. "If you don't want to do it, leave it. I'll send you up a couple of hundred in the morning, and that's all I'll do for you. Give me back those keys."
"I'll think about it," said the man, and turned away without another word.
It was one o'clock, and Emanuel went back to the club, working the automatic lift himself to the second floor.
"Everybody gone, Stevens?" he asked.
The porter stifled a yawn and shook his head.
"There's a lady and a gentleman"—he emphasised the word—"in No. 8. They've been quarrelling since nine o'clock. They ought to be finished by now."
"Put my office through to the exchange," said Emanuel. Behind the porter's desk was a small switchboard, and he thrust in the two plugs. Presently the disc showed him that Emanuel was through.
Mr. Legge had many friends amongst the minor members of the Criminal Investigation Department. They were not inexpensive acquaintances, but they could on occasion be extremely useful. That night, in some respects, Emanuel's luck was in, when he found Sergeant Shilto in his office. There had been a jewel theft at one of the theatres, which had kept the sergeant busy.
"Is that you, Shilto?" asked Legge in a low voice. "It's Manileg." He gave his telegraphic address, which also served as a nom de plume when such delicate negotiations as these were going through.
"Yes, Mr. Manileg?" said the officer, alert, for Emanuel did not call up police headquarters unless there was something unusual afoot.
"Do you want a cop—a real one?" asked Legge in a voice little above a whisper. "There's a man named Fenner—"
"The old lag?" asked Shilto. "Yes, I saw him to-day. What's he doing?"
"He's knocking off a little silver, from 973, Berkeley Square. Be at the front door: you'll probably see him go in. You want to be careful, because he's got a gun. If you hurry, you'll get there in front of him. Good-night."
He hung up the receiver and smiled. The simplicity of the average criminal always amused Emanuel Legge.