Room 13

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 27

MR. REEDER sidled into the room apologetically, closing the door behind him.

"All alone, Mr. Legge?" he asked. "I thought you had company?"

"I had some friends, but they've gone."

"Your son gone, too?" Reeder stared helplessly from one corner of the room to the other. "Dear me, this is a disappointment, a great disappointment."

Emanuel was thinking quickly. In all probability the shabby detective had been watching the front of the house, and would know that they had not left that way. He took a bold step.

"They left a quarter of an hour ago. Peter and Johnny went down the fire-escape—my boy's car was in the yard. We never like to have a car in front of the club premises; people talk so much. And after the publicity we've had—"

Mr. Reeder checked him with a mild murmur of agreement.

"That was the car, was it? I saw it go and wondered what it was all about—Number XC. 9712, blue-painted limousine—Daimler—I may be wrong, but it seemed like a Daimler to me. I know so little about motor-cars that I could be very easily mistaken, and my eyesight is not as good as it used to be."

Emanuel cursed him under his breath.

"Yes, it was a Daimler," he said, "one we bought cheap at the sales."

The absent-minded visitor's eyes were fixed on the table.

"Took their wine-glasses with them?" he asked gently. "I think it is a pretty custom, taking souvenirs of a great occasion. I'm sure they were very happy."

How had he got in, wondered Emanuel? Stevens had strict orders to stop him, and Fernando was at the end of the L-shaped passage. As if he divined the thought that was passing through Legge's mind, Mr. Reeder answered the unspoken question.

"I took the liberty of coming up the fire-escape, too," he said. "It was an interesting experience. One is a little old to begin experiments, and I am not the sort of man that cares very much for climbing, particularly at night."

Following the direction of his eyes, Emanuel saw that a small square of the rusty trousers had been worn, and through the opening a bony white knee.

"Yes, I came up the fire-escape, and fortunately the window was open. I thought I would give you a pleasant surprise. By the way, the escape doesn't go any higher than this floor? That is curious, because, you know, my dear Mr. Legge, it might well happen, in the event of fire, that people would be driven to the roof. If I remember rightly, there is nothing on the roof but a square superstructure—store-room, isn't it? Let me think. Yes, it's a store-room, I'm sure."

"The truth is," interrupted Emanuel, "I had two old acquaintances here, Johnny Gray and Peter Kane. I think you know Peter?"

The other inclined his head gently.

"And they got just a little too merry. I suppose Johnny's not used to wine, and Peter's been a teetotaller for years." He paused. "In fact, they were rather the worse for drink."

"That's very sad." Mr. Reeder shook his head. "Personally, I am a great believer in prohibition. I would prohibit wine and beer, and crooks and forgers, tale-tellers, poisoners"—he paused at the word—"druggers would be a better word," he said. "They took their glasses with them, did they? I hope they will return them. I should not like to think that people I—er—like would be guilty of so despicable a practice as—er—the petty theft of—er—wine-glasses."

Again his melancholy eyes fell on the table.

"And they only had soup! It is very unusual to get bottled before you've finished the soup, isn't it? I mean, in respectable circles," he added apologetically.

He looked back at the open door over his spectacles.

"I wonder," he mused, "how they got down that fire-escape in the dark in such a sad condition?"

Again his expressionless eyes returned to Emanuel.

"If you see them again, will you tell them that I expect both Mr. Kane and Mr. Johnny—what is his name?—Gray, that is it! to keep an appointment they made with me for to-morrow morning? And that if they do not turn up at my house at ten o'clock… "

He stopped, pursing up his lips as though he were going to whistle. Emanuel wondered what was coming next, and was not left long in doubt.

"Did you feel the cold very much in Dartmoor? They tell me that the winters are very trying, particularly for people of an advanced age. Of course," Mr. Reeder went on, "one can have friends there; one can even have relations there. I suppose it makes things much easier if you know your son or some other close relative is living on the same landing—there are three landings, are there not? But it is much nicer to live in comfort in London, Mr. Legge—to have a cosy little suite in Bloomsbury, such as you have got; to go where you like without a screw following you—I think 'screw' is a very vulgar word, but it means 'warder,' does it not?"

He walked to the door and turned slowly.

"You won't forget that I expect to meet Mr. Peter Kane and Mr. John Gray tomorrow at my house at half-past ten—you won't forget, will you?"

He closed the door carefully behind him, and, with his great umbrella hooked on to his arm, passed along the corridor into the purview of the astounded Fernando, astounding the jailers on guard at the end.

"Good evening," murmured Mr. Reeder as he passed.

Fernando was too overcome to make a courteous reply.

Stevens saw him as he came into the main corridor, and gasped.

"When did you come in, Mr. Reeder?"

"Nobody has ever seen you come in, but lots of people see you go out," said Reeder good-humouredly. "On the other land, there are people who are seen coming into this club whom nobody sees go out. Mr. Gray didn't pass this way, or Mr. Kane?"

"No, sir," said Stevens in surprise. "Have they gone?"

Reeder sighed heavily.

"Yes, they've gone," he said. "I hope not for long, but they've certainly gone. Good night, Stevens. By the way, your name isn't Stevens, is it? I seem to remember you"—he screwed up his eyes as though he had difficulty in recalling the memory—" I seem to remember your name wasn't Stevens, let us say, eight years ago."

Stevens flushed.

"It is the name I'm known as now, sir."

"A very good name, too, an excellent name," murmured Mr. Reeder as he stepped into the elevator. "And after all, we must try to live down the past. And I'd be the last to remind you of your—er—misfortune."

When he reached the street, two men who had been standing on the opposite sidewalk crossed to him.

"They've gone," said Mr. Reeder. "They were in that car, as I feared. All stations must be warned, and particularly the town stations just outside of London, to hold up the car. You have its number. You had better watch this place till the morning," he said to one of them.

"Very good, sir."

"I want you especially to follow Emanuel, and keep him under observation until to-morrow morning."

The detective left on duty waited with that philosophical patience which is the greater part of the average detective's equipment, until three o'clock in the morning; and at that hour, when daylight was coming into the sky, Emanuel had not put in an appearance. Stevens went off duty half an hour after Mr. Reeder's departure. At two o'clock the head waiter and three others left, Fernando locking the door. Then, a few minutes before three, the squat figure of Pietro, muffled up in a heavy overcoat, and he too locked the door behind him, disappearing in the direction of Shaftesbury Avenue. At half-past three the detective left a policeman to watch the house, and got on the 'phone to Mr. Reeder, who was staying in town.

"Dear me!" said Mr. Reeder, an even more incongruous sight in pyjamas which were a little too small for him, though happily there were no spectators of his agitation. "Not gone, you say? I will come round."

It was daylight when he arrived. The gate in the yard was opened with a skeleton key (the climb so graphically described by Mr. Reeder was entirely fictitious, and the cut in his trousers was due to catching a jagged nail in one of the packing-cases with which the yard was littered), and he mounted the iron stairway to the third floor.

The window through which he had made his ingress on the previous evening was closed and fastened, but, with the skill of a professional burglar, Mr. Reeder forced back the catch and, opening the window, stepped in.

There was enough daylight to see his whereabouts. Unerringly he made for Emanuel's office. The door had been forced, and there was no need to use the skeleton key. There was no sign of Emanuel, and Reeder came out to hear the report of the detective, who had made a rapid search of the club.

"All the doors are open except No. 13, sir," he said. "That's bolted on the inside. I've got the lock open."

"Try No. 12," said Reeder. "There are two ways in—one by way of a door, which you'll find behind a curtain in the corner of the room, and the other way through the buffet, which communicates with the buffet in No. 13. Break nothing if you can help it, because I don't want my visit here advertised."

He followed the detective into No. 12, and found that there was no necessity to use the buffet entrance, for the communicating door was unlocked. He stepped into No. 13; it was in complete darkness.

"Humph!" said Mr. Reeder, and sniffed. "One of you go along this wall and find the switch. Be careful you don't step on something."

"What is there?"

"I think you'll find… however, turn on the light."

The detective felt his way along the wall, and presently his finger touched a switch and he turned it down. And then they saw all that Mr. Reeder suspected. Sprawled across the table was a still figure—a horrible sight, for the man who had killed Emanuel Legge had used the poker which, twisted and bloodstained, lay amidst the wreckage of rare glass and once snowy napery.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.