The Door with Seven Locks

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Chapter 11

MR HAVELOCK had scarcely reached his office the following morning when Dick arrived. The bushy brows of that gentleman rose at the sight of his visitor. "I've come to make a confession, Mr Havelock," he began. "That sounds ominous," said the other, his eyes twinkling.

"Maybe it's more ominous than it sounds," said Dick. "I've kept something back from you - information which ought to be in your hands."

Briefly he told the story of the blotting - paper he had found in the hotel in Buenos Aires.

"Obviously Lord Selford is in communication with this person. Because I wasn't quite sure how the land lay, and whether there was something behind Selford's absence from England, I took the trouble to investigate."

"Mr Bertram Cody?" frowned Havelock, "I seem to remember that name."

"Possibly you recall the sale of an Australian property

Havelock's face lightened.

"Why, of course, that is it!" he said. "There was some talk of gold being found on the property. I saw the announcement in The Times. Cody, of course! But he doesn't know Lord Selford."

"Then why should Selford write to him?"

"Perhaps he wrote to his lordship first," suggested Mr Havelock, obviously perturbed. "Did you ask him, by the way, whether he knew our young friend?"

Dick nodded.

"He denies all knowledge and all correspondence, which sounded queer to me. Have you ever seen anything like this?"

He laid on the table the little pocketbook he had taken from the doctor's desk, and, unfolding it, showed the key. Mr Havelock picked it up and examined it curiously.

"That is a queer - looking thing. What is it - a key?" he asked. "How did you get this?"

"I found it," said the unabashed Dick. "It was in a notebook that I - borrowed. You will see that the book is full of entries relating to Lord Selford's movements. Here is Buenos Aires and the date he was there; here is the date of his arrival in Shanghai; the date he left San Francisco - in fact, this is a very complete memorandum of Lord Selford's movements during the past eight months."

Havelock turned the pages slowly.

"This is certainly extraordinary," he said. "You say he denies knowing Selford?"

"Absolutely. He swore he'd never seen him or had any correspondence with him. Selford has done all his business in connection with the sale of the Australian business through you."

Mr Havelock nodded.

"That is true," he said. "I remember the circumstances well. My managing clerk carried through that transaction."

"Do you know a fellow named Stalletti? He lives in a house on the London road, halfway to Brighton."

He saw Mr Havelock start.

"Yes, I know Stalletti, but I haven't seen his house for years. As a matter of fact, it is one of Selford's properties, too - most of the land thereabouts is part of the Selford estate. Cody must be a leaseholder of ours. As for Gallows Cottage, I remember that we leased it to Stalletti after his trouble in London. He was prosecuted for practising vivisection without a licence," he explained. "An uncleanly, Svengali - looking man."

"That describes him so completely," said Dick, "that a policeman could recognize him!"

"What has he been doing?"

"Why, I'll tell you," said Dick slowly.

He had good reason for his tardiness, for the solution of the Selford mystery had come to him with dramatic suddenness, and he was trying to think of two things at one and the same time, to piece together loose ends to which he might well devote the labour of months. Nevertheless, his story was a fairly faithful narrative of his adventure.

"Have you been to the police?" asked Havelock, when he had finished.

"No, sir. I can never get it out of my mind that I am the police - all the police I'm interested in." He scratched his chin meditatively. "I certainly might have seen old man Sneed," he said.

"Who is Sneed?" demanded Havelock. "A Scotland Yard man," replied Dick slowly. "Sneed's strong for mysteries."

"A detective?" he asked.

"Yes. What does Stalletti do for a living, Mr Havelock?"

"I'm blessed if I know," said the lawyer. "He is really a brilliant pathologist, but his experiments are a little too peculiar for the modem school. By Jove! I remember now. When Stalletti took the house, it was on the recommendation of Cody. Wait a moment, I'll turn it up," He hurried from the room and came back in a few minutes with a letter - book in his hand.

"That is so," he said. "Cody, if you remember, had just bought the Australian property, and it was a month after that transaction was completed that we gave Stalletti a lease on Gallows Cottage. A dramatic name, Mr Martin, but a gallows in fact used to stand somewhere about there in the bad old times."

"It'll stand somewhere about there in the good new times," said Dick, "if that thug digs any more holes for me!"

He had learned all he wanted to know - indeed, much more than he expected; and he returned to Clargate Gardens only to pack his two suitcases and to give the astonished old woman who looked after the flat in his absence a month's holiday.

"I guess a month will be just long enough. You can go to the sea or you can go to the mountains, Rebecca, but there's one place that's barred, and it's this little old home of mine."

"But why, sir - -?" began the woman.

Dick was very firm on the point, uttered horrific threats as to what would happen to the lady if she dared so much as look in during the period of her leave.

His flat was one of many in an apartment block, and to the janitor he gave instructions about his letters, which were to be sent to Scotland Yard to await his arrival. He did not notify Mr Havelock of his plans, considering that at this stage of the special investigations which he was preparing to undertake, it would be advisable not to take any man into his confidence.

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