Room 13

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Chapter 28

IT was unnecessary to call a doctor to satisfy the police. Emanuel Legge had passed beyond the sphere of his evil activities.

"The poker came from—where?" mused Mr. Reeder, examining the weapon thoughtfully. He glanced down at the little fireplace. The poker and tongs and shovel were intact, and this was of a heavier type than was used in the sitting-rooms.

Deftly he searched the dead man's pockets, and in the waistcoat he found a little card inscribed with a telephone number, "Horsham 98753." Peter's. That had no special significance at the moment, and Reeder put it with the other documents that he had extracted from the dead man's pockets. Later came an inspector to take charge of the case.

"There was some sort of struggle, I imagine," said Mr. Reeder. "The right wrist, I think you'll find, is broken. Legge's revolver was underneath the table. He probably pulled it, and it was struck from his hand. I don't think you'll want me any more, inspector."

He was examining the main corridor when the telephone switchboard at the back of Stevens's little desk gave him an idea. He put through a call to Horsham, and, in spite of the earliness of the hour, was almost immediately answered.

"Who is that?" he asked.

"I'm Mr. Kane's servant," said a husky Voice.

"Oh, is it Barney? Is your master at home yet?"

"No, sir. Who is it speaking?"

"It is Mr. Reeder… .Will you tell Miss Kane to come to the telephone?"

"She's not here either. I've been trying to get on to Johnny Gray all night, but his servant says he's out."

"Where is Miss Kane?" asked Reeder quickly.

"I don't know, sir. Somebody came for her in the night in a car, and she went away, leaving the door open. It was the wind slamming it that woke me up."

It was so long before Mr. Reeder answered that Barney thought he had gone away.

"Did nobody call for her during the evening? Did she have any telephone messages?"

"One, sir, about ten o'clock. I think it was her father, from the way she was speaking."

Again a long interval of silence, and then: "I will come straight down to Horsham," said Mr. Reeder, and from the pleasant and conversational quality of his voice, Barney took comfort; though, if he had known the man better, he would have realised that Mr. Reeder was most ordinary when he was most perturbed.

Mr. Reeder pushed the telephone away from him and stood up.

So they had got Marney. There was no other explanation. The dinner party had been arranged to dispose of the men who could protect her. Where had they been taken?

He went back to the old man's office, which was undergoing a search at the hands of a police officer.

"I particularly want to see immediately any document referring to Mr Peter Kane," he said "any road maps which you may find here, and especially letters address to Emanuel Legge by his son. You know, of course, that this office was broken into? There should be something in the shape of clues." <

The officer shook his head. "I'm afraid, Mr. Reeder, we won't find much here," he said. "So far, I've only come across old bills and business letters which you might find in any office."

The detective looked round.

"There is no safe?" he asked.

All the timidity and deference in his manner had gone. He was patently a man of affairs.

"Yes, sir, the safe's behind that panelling. I'll get it open this morning. But I shouldn't imagine that Legge would leave anything compromising on the premises. Besides, his son has had charge of the Highlow for years. Previous to that, they had a manager who is now doing time. Before him, if I remember right, that fellow Fenner, who has been in boob for burglary."

"Fenner?" said the other sharply. "I didn't know he ever managed this club."

"He used to, but he had a quarrel with the old man. I've got an idea they were in jug together."

Fenner's was not the type of mentality one would expect to find among the officers of a club, even a club of the standing of the Highlow: but there was this about the Highlow, that it required less intelligence than sympathy with a certain type of client.

Reeder was assisting the officer by taking out the contents of the pigeon-holes, when his hand touched a knob.

"Hallo, what is this?" he said, and turned it.

The whole desk shifted slightly, and, pulling, he revealed the door to the spiral staircase.

"This is very interesting," he said. He ascended as far as the top landing. There was evidently a door here, but every effort he made to force it ended in failure. He came down again, continuing to the basement, and this time he was joined by the inspector in charge of the case.

"Rather hot," said Mr. Reeder, as he opened the door. "I should say there is a fire burning here."

It took him some time to discover the light connections, and when he did, he whistled. For, lying by the side of the red-hot stove, he saw a piece of shining metal and recognised it. It was an engraver's plate, and one glance told him that it was the finished plate from which £5 notes could be printed.

The basement was empty, and for a second the mystery of the copper plate baffled him.

"We may not have found the Big Printer, but we've certainly found the Big Engraver," he said. "This plate was engraved somewhere upstairs." He pointed to the shaft. "What is it doing down here? Of course!" He slapped his thigh exultantly. "I never dreamt he was right—but he always is right!"

"Who?" asked the officer.

"An old friend of mine, whose theory was that the plates from which the slush was printed were engraved within easy reach of a furnace, into which, in case of a police visitation, they could be pushed and destroyed. And, of course, the engraving plant is somewhere upstairs. But why they should throw down a perfectly new piece of work, and at a time when the attendant was absent, is beyond me. Unless… Get me an axe; I want to see the room on the roof."

The space was too limited for the full swing of an axe, and it was nearly an hour before at last the door leading to the engraver's room was smashed in. The room was flooded with sunshine, for the skylight had not been covered. Reeder's sharp eyes took in the table with a glance, and then he looked beyond, and took a step backward. Lying by the wall, dishevelled, mud-stained, his white dress-shirt crumpled to a pulp, was Peter Kane, and he was asleep!

They dragged him to a chair, bathed his face with cold water, but even then he took a long time to recover.

"He has been drugged: that's obvious," said Mr. Reeder, and scrutinised the hands of the unconscious man for a sign of blood. But though they were covered with rust and grime, Reeder found not so much as one spot of blood; and the first words that Peter uttered, on recovering consciousness, confirmed the view that he was ignorant of the murder.

"Where is Emanuel?" he asked drowsily. "Have you got him?"

"No; but somebody has got him," said Reeder gently, and the shock of the news brought Peter Kane wide awake.

"Murdered!" he said unbelievingly. "Are you sure? Of course, I'm mad to ask you that." He passed his hand wearily across his forehead. "No, I know nothing about it. I suppose you suspect me, and I don't mind telling you that I was willing to murder him if I could have found him."

Briefly he related what had happened at the dinner.

"I knew that I was doped, but dope works slowly on me, and the only chance I had was to sham dead. Emanuel gave me a thump in the jaw, and that was my excuse for going out. They got me downstairs into the yard and put me into the car first. I slipped out the other side as soon as the nigger went up to get Johnny. There were a lot of old cement sacks lying about, and I threw a couple on to the floor, hoping that in the darkness they would mistake the bundle for me. Then I lay down amongst the packing-cases and waited. I guessed they'd brought down Johnny, but I was powerless to help him. When the car had gone, and Pietro had gone up again, I followed. I suppose the dope was getting busy, and if I'd had any sense, I should have got over the gate. My first thought was that they might have taken my gun away and left it in the room. I tried to open the door, but it was locked."

"Are you sure of that, Peter?"

"Absolutely sure."

"How long after was this?"

"About half an hour. It took me all that time to get up the stairs, because I had to fight the dope all the way. I heard somebody moving about, and slipped into one of the other rooms, and then I heard the window pulled down and locked. I didn't want to go to sleep, for fear they discovered me; but I must have dozed, for when I woke up, it was dark and cold, and I heard no sound at all. I tried the door of thirteen again, but could make no impression on it. So I went to Emanuel's office. I know the place very well: I used to go in there in the old days, before Emanuel went to jail, and I knew all about the spiral staircase to the roof. All along I suspected that the hut they'd put on the roof was the place where the slush was printed. But here I was mistaken, for I had no sooner got into the room than I saw that it was where the engraver worked. There was a plate on the edge of a shaft. I suppose I was still dizzy, because I fumbled at it. It slipped through my hand, and I heard a clang come up from somewhere below."

"How did you get into this room?"

"The door was open," was the surprising reply. "I have an idea that it is one of those doors that can only be opened and closed from the inside. The real door of the room is in the room in Emanuel's office. It is the only way in, and the only way out, both from the basement and the room on the roof. I don't know what happened after that. I must have lain down, for by now the dope was working powerfully. I ought to let Marney know I'm all right. She'll be worried… ."

He saw something in the detective's face, something that made his heart sink.

"Marney! Is anything wrong with Marney?" he asked quickly.

"I don't know. She went out last night—or rather, early this morning—and has not been seen since."

Peter listened, stricken dumb by the news. It seemed to Mr. Reeder that he aged ten years in as few minutes.

"Now, Kane, you've got to tell me all you know about Legge," said Reeder kindly. "I haven't any doubt that Jeffrey's taken her to the big printing place. Where is it?"

Peter shook his head.

"I haven't the least idea," he said. "The earlier slush was printed in this building; in fact, it was printed in Room 13. I've known that for a long time. But as the business grew, young Legge had to find another works. Where he has found it is a mystery to me, and to most other people."

"But you must have heard rumours?" persisted Reeder.

Again Peter shook his head.

"Remember that I mix very little with people of my own profession, or my late profession," he said. "Johnny and old Barney are about the only crooks I know, outside of the Legge family. And Stevens, of course—he was in jail ten years ago. I've lost touch with all the others, and my news has come through Barney, though most of Barney's gossip is unreliable."

They reached Barney by telephone, but he was unable to give any information that was of the slightest use. All that he knew was that the printing works were supposed to be somewhere in the West.

"Johnny knows more about it than I do, or than anybody. All the boys agree as to that," said Barney. "They told him a lot in 'boob'."

Leaving Peter to return home, Mr. Reeder made a call at Johnny's flat. Parker was up. He had been notified earlier in the morning of his master's disappearance, but he had no explanation to offer.

He was preparing to give a list of the clothes that Johnny had been wearing, but Reeder cut him short impatiently.

"Try to think of Mr. Gray as a human being, and not as a tailor's dummy," he said wrathfully. "You realise that he is in very grave danger?"

"I am not at all worried, sir," said the precise Parker. "Mr. Gray was wearing his new sock suspenders—"

For once Mr. Reeder forgot himself.

"You're a damned fool, Parker," he said.

"I hope not, sir." said Parker as he bowed him out.

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