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    Chapter 8

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    Chapter 8
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    THE LISTENER AT THE DOOR

    Maisie White had taken up her abode in a modest flat in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury. The building had been originally intended for a dwelling house, but its enterprising owner had fitted a kitchenette and a bathroom to every floor and had made each suite self-contained.

    She found the one bedroom and a sitting-room quite sufficient for her needs. Since the day of her father's departure she had not heard from him, and she had resolutely refused to worry. What was Solomon White's association with the Boundary gang, she could only guess. She knew it had been an important one, but her fears on his behalf had less to do with the action the police might take against him than with Boundary's sinister threat.

    She had other reasons for leaving the stage than she had told Stafford King. On the stage she was a marked woman and her movements could be followed for at least three hours in the day, and she was anxious for more anonymity. She was conscious of two facts as she opened the outer door that night to let herself into the hallway, and hurried up to her apartments. The first was that she had been followed home, and that impression was the more important of the two. She did not switch on the light when she entered her room, but bolting the door behind her, she moved swiftly to the window and raised it noiselessly. Looking out, she saw two men on the opposite side of the street, standing together in consultation. It was too dark to recognise them, but she thought that one figure was Pinto Silva.

    She was not frightened, but nevertheless she looked thoughtfully at the telephone, and her hand was on the receiver before she changed her mind. After all, they would know where she lived and an inquiry at her agents or even at the theatre would tell them to where her letters had been readdressed. She hesitated a moment, then pulled down the blinds and switched on the light.

    Outside the two men saw the light flash up and watched her shadow cross the blind.

    "It is Maisie all right," said Pinto. "Now tell me what happened."

    In a few words Crewe described the scene which he had witnessed in the Albemarle flat.

    "Impossible!" said Pinto; "are you suggesting that Maisie is Jack o' Judgment?"

    Crewe shrugged.

    "I know nothing about it," he said; "there are the facts."

    Pinto looked up at the light again.

    "I'm going across to see her," he said, and Crewe made a grimace.

    "Is that wise?" he asked; "she doesn't know we have followed her home. Won't she be suspicious?"

    Pinto shrugged.

    "She's a pretty clever girl that," he said, "and if she doesn't know we're outside, there's nothing of Solomon White in her composition."

    He crossed the road and struck a match to discover which was her bell. He guessed right the first time. Maisie heard the tinkle and knew what it portended. She had not started to disrobe, and after a few moments' hesitation she went down the stairs and opened the door.

    "It is rather a late hour to call on you," said Pinto pleasantly, "but we saw you going away from Albemarle Place, and could not overtake you."

    There was a question in his voice, though he did not give it actual words.

    "It is rather late for small talk," she said coolly. "Is there any reason for your call?"

    "Well, Miss White, there were several things I wanted to talk to you about," said Pinto, taken aback by her calm. "Have you heard from your father?"

    "Don't you think," she said, "it would be better if you came at a more conventional hour? I don't feel inclined to gossip on the doorstep and I'm afraid I can't ask you in."

    "The colonel is worrying," Pinto hastened to explain. "You see, Solly's one of his best friends."

    The girl laughed softly.

    "I know," she said. "I heard the colonel talking to my father at Horsham," she added meaningly.

    "You've got to make allowances for the colonel," urged Pinto; "he lost his temper, but he's feeling all right now. Couldn't you persuade your father to communicate with us--with him?"

    She shook her head.

    "I am not in a position to communicate with my father," she replied quietly. "I am just as ignorant of his whereabouts as you are. If anybody is anxious it is surely myself, Mr. Silva."

    "And another point," Silva went on, so that there should be no gap in the conversation, "why did you give up your theatrical engagements, Maisie? I took a lot of trouble to get them for you, and it is stupid to jeopardise your career. I have plenty of influence, but managers will not stand that kind of treatment, and when you go back----"

    "I am not going back," she said. "Really, Mr. Silva, you must excuse me to-night. I am very tired after a hard day's work----" she checked herself.

    "What are you doing now, Maisie?" asked Silva curiously.

    "I have no wish to prolong this conversation," said the girl, "but there is one thing I should like to say, and that is that I would prefer you to call me Miss White."

    "All right, all right," said Silva genially, "and what were you doing at the flat to-night, Mai--Miss White?"

    "Good night," said the girl and closed the door in his face.

    He cursed angrily in the dark and raised his hand to rap on the panel of the door, but thought better of it and, turning, walked back to the interested Crewe, who stood in the shadow of a lamp-post watching the scene.

    "Well?" asked Crewe.

    "Confound the girl, she won't talk," grumbled Silva. "I'd give something to break that pride of hers, Crewe. By jove, I'll do it one of these days," he added between his teeth.

    Crewe laughed.

    "There's no sense in going off the deep end because a girl turns you down," he said. "What did she say about the flat? And what did she say about her visit to Albemarle Place?"

    "She said nothing," said the other shortly. "Come along, let's go back to the colonel."

    On the return journey he declined to be drawn into any kind of conversation, and Crewe, after one or two attempts to procure enlightenment as to the result of the interview, relapsed into silence.

    They found the colonel waiting for them, and to all appearances the colonel was undisturbed by the happenings of the evening.

    "Well?" he asked.

    "She admits she was here," said Pinto.

    "What was she doing?"

    "You'd better ask her yourself," said the other with some asperity. "I tell you, colonel, I can't handle that woman."

    "Nobody ever thought you could," said the colonel. "Did she give you any idea as to what her business was?"

    Pinto shook his head and the colonel paced the big room thoughtfully, his big hands in his pockets.

    "Here's a situation," he said. "There's some outsider who's following every movement we make, who knew that boob from Huddersfield was coming, and who knew what our business was. That somebody was this infernal Jack o' Judgment, but who is Jack o' Judgment, hey?"

    He looked round fiercely.

    "I'll tell you who he is," he went on, speaking slowly "He's somebody who knows our gang as well as we know it ourselves, somebody who has been on the inside, somebody who has access, or who has had access, to our working methods. In fact," he said using his pet phrase, "a business associate."

    "Rubbish!" said Pinto.

    This polished man of Portugal, who had come into the gang very late in the day, was one of the few people who were privileged to offer blunt opposition to the leader of the Boundary Gang.

    "You might as well say it is I, or that it is Crewe, or Dempsey, or Selby----"

    "Or White," said the colonel slowly; "don't forget White."

    They stared at him.

    "What do you mean?" asked Crewe with a frown.

    White had been a favourite of his.

    "How could it be White?"

    "Why shouldn't it be White?" said the colonel. "When did Jack o' Judgment make his first appearance? I'll tell you. About the time we started getting busy framing up something against White. Did we ever see him when White was with us--no! Isn't it obviously somebody who has been a business associate and knows our little ways? Why, of course it is. Tell me somebody else?

    "You don't suggest it is 'Snow' Gregory, anyway?" he added sarcastically.

    Crewe shivered and half-closed his eyes.

    "For heaven's sake don't mention 'Snow' Gregory," he said irritably.

    "Why shouldn't I?" snarled the colonel. "He's worth money and life and liberty to us, Crewe. He's an awful example that keeps some of our business associates on the straight path. Not," he added with elaborate care, "not that we were in any way responsible for his untimely end. But he died--providentially. A doper's bad enough, but a doper who talks and boasts and tells me, as he told me in this very room, just where he'd put me, is a mighty dangerous man, Crewe."

    "Did he do that?" asked Crewe with interest.

    The colonel nodded.

    "In this very room where you're standing," he said impressively, "at the end of that table he stood, all lit up with 'coco' and he told me things about our organisation that I thought nobody knew but myself. That's the worst of drugs," he said, shaking his head reprovingly; "you never know how clever they'll make a man, and they made 'Snow' a bit too clever. I'm not saying that I regretted his death--far from it. I don't know how he got mixed up in the affair----"

    "Oh, shut up!" growled Pinto; "why go on acting before us? We were all in it."

    "Hush!" said the colonel with a glance at the door.

    There was a silence. All eyes were fixed on the door.

    "Did you hear anything?" asked the colonel under his breath.

    His face was a shade paler than they had ever remembered seeing it.

    "It is nothing," said Pinto; "that fellow's got on your nerves."

    The colonel walked to the sideboard and poured out a generous portion of whisky and drank it at a gulp.

    "Lots of things are getting on my nerves," he said, "but nothing gets on my nerves so much as losing money. Crewe, we've got to go after that Yorkshireman again--at least somebody has got to go after him."

    "And that somebody is not going to be me," said Crewe quietly. "I did my part of the business. Let Pinto have a cut."

    Pinto Silva shook his head.

    "We'll drop him," he said decisively, and for the first time Crewe realised how dominating a factor Pinto had become in the government of the band.

    "We'll drop him----"

    Suddenly he stopped and craned his head round.

    It was he who had heard something near the door, and now with noiseless steps he tiptoed across the room to the door, and gripping the handle, opened it suddenly. A gun had appeared in his hand, but he did not use it. Instead, he darted through the open doorway and they heard the sound of a struggle. Presently he came back, dragging by the collar a man.

    "Got him!" he said triumphantly, and hurled his captive into the nearest chair.
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