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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 19
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    THE COLONEL IS SHOCKED

    "The Putney mystery," said the Daily Megaphone, "surpasses any of recent years in its sensational character. There is a touch of the bizarre in this grim spectacle of the dead man at the door of the empty house, and the swaying figure of his murderer hanging in the kitchen, with no other mark of identification than a playing card pinned to his breast.

    "The tragedy can be reconstructed up to a point. Mr. White was evidently killed in the garden by the Frenchman who was found hanging. The automatic pistol in his pocket, which had recently been discharged, might support this theory even if the police had not found tracks of his feet in the laurels. But who hanged the man Raoul with a hangman's rope? That is the supreme mystery of all. The Putney police can offer no information on the subject, and Scotland Yard is as reticent. The circumstances of the discovery are as follows. At three o'clock on the morning of the 4th, Police-Constable Robinson, who was patrolling his beat, entered the garden, as is customary when houses are empty, to see if any doors had been forced. There had been an epidemic of burglaries in the region of Putney Heath during the past two or three months, and the police are exercising unusual vigilance in relation to these houses. The constable might not have made his inspection that night but for the fact that the garden gate had been left wide open...."

    Here followed an account of how the body was found and how further investigation led the constable to the kitchen to make his second gruesome discovery.

    Colonel Boundary folded up the paper slowly and put it down. He had bought a copy of an early edition of the evening newspaper as he was stepping into his car, and now he was driving slowly through the park. He lit a cigar and gazed stolidly from the window. But his face showed no sign of mental perturbation.

    The car had made the circuit of the Park twice when, turning again by Marble Arch, he saw Crewe standing on the sidewalk. A word to his chauffeur, and the machine drew up.

    "Come in," he said curtly, and the other obeyed.

    The hand that he lifted to take his cigarette from his lips trembled, and the colonel eyed him with quiet amusement.

    "They've got you rattled too, have they?" he said.

    "My God! It's awful!" said Crewe. "Awful!"

    "What's awful about it?" asked the colonel. "White's dead, ain't he? And Raoul's dead, ain't he? Two men who might talk and give a lot of trouble."

    "What did he say before he died? That's what I've been thinking. What did he say?"

    "Who? Raoul?" demanded the colonel. He had asked himself the same question before. "What could he say? Anyway, if he had a statement to make, and his statement was worth taking, why, he'd be alive to-day! Raoul was the one witness that they wanted, if they only knew it. They've bungled pretty badly, whoever they are."

    "This Jack o' Judgment," quavered Crewe, his mouth working. "Who is he? What is he?"

    "How do I know?" snarled the colonel. "You ask me these fool questions--do you expect a reply? They're dead, and that's done with. I'd sooner he killed Raoul than made a mess of my room, anyway!"

    "Why did he do it?" asked Crewe.

    The colonel growled something about fools and their questions, but offered no explanation.

    "It may have been a monkey trick to make us change, our quarters--the stuff was sulphuretted hydrogen and asafoetida. It may have been just bravado, but if he thinks he can scare me----"

    He sucked viciously at his cigar end.

    "I've got workmen in to strip the walls and re-paper the bit that's soiled," he said. "I'll be back there to-night."

    The colonel threw the end of his cigar from the window and relapsed into moody reverie. When he spoke it was in a more cheerful tone.

    "Crewe," he said, "that guy at Scotland Yard has given me an idea."

    "Which guy?" asked Crewe, steadying his voice.

    "The First Commissioner," said the colonel, lighting another cigar. "He particularly wanted to know if 'Snow' had any relations. Curse 'Snow'!" he said between his teeth, and dropping his mask of urbanity. "I wish he'd--well, it doesn't matter; he's dead, anyway--he's dead."

    "Relations?" said Crewe. "Did you tell him anything?"

    "I told him all I knew, and that was very little," said the colonel, "but it struck me that Sir Stanley knows much more about this fellow 'Snow' than we do. At any rate, somebody's been making inquiries, and I guess that somebody is the fellow who settled Raoul."

    "Jack o' Judgment?"

    "Jack o' Judgment," repeated the colonel grimly. "You showed 'Snow' Gregory into the gang--what do you know about him?"

    Crewe shook his head.

    "Very little," he said. "I met him in Monte Carlo. He was down and out. He seemed a likely fellow--educated, a gentleman and all that sort of thing--and when I found that he'd hit the dope, I thought he'd be the kind of man you might want."

    The colonel nodded.

    "He never talked about his relations. The only thing I know was that he had a father or an uncle, who was in India, and I gathered that he had forged his name to a bill. When I arrived in Monte Carlo he was spending the money as fast as he could. I guess that was why he called himself Gregory, for I'm sure it wasn't his name."

    "You're sure he never spoke of a brother?"

    "Never," said Crewe; "he never talked about himself at all. He was generally under the influence of dope or was recovering from it."

    The colonel pushed back his hat and rubbed his forehead.

    "There must be some way of identifying him," he said. "He came from Oxford, you say?"

    "Yes, I know that," said Crewe; "he spoke of it once."

    "What house in Oxford? There are several colleges, aren't there?"

    "From Balliol," said Crewe. "I distinctly remember him talking about Balliol."

    "What year would that be?"

    Crewe reflected.

    "He left college two years before I met him at Monte Carlo," he said; "that would be----" He gave the year.

    "Well, it is pretty simple," said the colonel. "Send a man to Oxford and get the names of all the men that left Balliol in that year. Find out how many you can trace, and I dare say that will narrow the search down to two or three men. Now get after this at once, Crewe. Spare no expense. If it costs half a million I'm going to discover who Mr. Jack o' Judgment is when he's at home."

    He dismissed Crewe and gave fresh instructions to his driver, and ten minutes later he was stepping out of his limousine at the entrance to Scotland Yard.

    Stafford King was not in, or at any rate was not available. Greatly daring, the colonel sent his card to the First Commissioner. Sir Stanley Belcom read the name and raised his eyebrows.

    "Show him in," he said, and for the second time the colonel was ushered into the presence of the chief.

    "Well, colonel," said Sir Stanley, "this is rather a dreadful business."

    "Terrible, terrible!" said the colonel, shaking his head. "Solomon White was one of my best friends. I've been searching for him for weeks."

    "So I've heard," said Sir Stanley dryly. "Have you any theory?"

    "None whatever."

    "What about this man called Raoul? Is he unknown to you?" asked Sir Stanley.

    "That's what I've come to see you about, sir," said the colonel in a confidential tone. "You remember the last time I was here, you suggested that possibly the murderer of poor Gregory might be a Frenchman. You remember how you told me that these French assassins have a trick of leaving some fantastic card or sign of their handiwork?"

    Sir Stanley nodded.

    "Well, here you have the same thing repeated," said the colonel triumphantly, "and the identical card. Do you think, sir, that the murderer of my poor friend Gregory and my poor friend White was the same man?"

    "In fact, Raoul?" asked Sir Stanley.

    The colonel nodded, and for a few moments Sir Stanley communed with his well-kept finger-nails.

    "I don't think it will do any harm if I tell you that that is my theory also, Colonel Boundary," he said, "and, giving confidence for confidence, would you have any objection to telling me whether Raoul is one of your--er--business associates?"

    There was just the slightest shade of irony in the last two words, but the colonel preferred to ignore it.

    "I'm very glad you asked me that question, sir," he said with a sigh, so palpably a sigh of relief that the recording angel might be excused if he were deceived. "I have never seen Raoul before. In fact, my knowledge of Frenchmen is a very small one. I do very little business in France, and I certainly do no business at all with men of that class."

    "What class?" asked the other quickly.

    The colonel shrugged his big shoulders.

    "I am only going on what the newspapers say," he said. "They suggest that this man is an apache."

    "You do not know him?" asked Sir Stanley after a pause.

    "I have never seen him in my life," said the colonel.

    Again Sir Stanley examined his finger-nails as though searching for some flaw.

    "Then you will be surprised to learn," he drawled at last, "that you sat next to him in the cooling-room of the Yildiz Turkish Baths."

    The colonel's heart missed a beat, but he did not flinch.

    "You surprise me," he said. "I have only been to the Turkish baths once during the past three months, and that was yesterday."

    Sir Stanley nodded.

    "According to my information, which was supplied to me by my very able assistant, Mr. Stafford King, that was also the morning when Raoul was seen to enter that building."

    "And he sat next to me?" said the colonel incredulously.

    "He sat next to you," said Sir Stanley, with evidence of enjoyment.

    "Well, that is the most amazing coincidence," exclaimed the colonel, "I have ever met with in my life! To imagine that that scoundrel sat shoulder to shoulder with me--good heavens! It makes me hot to think about it."

    "I was afraid it would," said the First Commissioner.

    He pressed the bell and his secretary came in.

    "See if Mr. Stafford King is in the building, and tell him to come to me, please," he said. "You see, colonel, we were hoping you would supply us with a great deal of very useful information. We naturally thought it was something more than a coincidence that this man and you should foregather at a Turkish bath--a most admirable rendezvous, by the way."

    "You may accept my word of honour," said Colonel Boundary impressively, "that I had no more idea of that man's presence, or of his identity, or of his very existence, than you had."

    Stafford King came in at that moment, and the colonel, noting the haggard face and the look of care in the dark-lined eyes, felt a certain amount of satisfaction.

    "I've just been telling the colonel about his meeting in the Turkish baths," said Sir Stanley. "I suppose there is no doubt at all as to that happening?"

    "None whatever, sir," said Stafford shortly. "Both the colonel and this man were seen by Sergeant Livingstone."

    "The colonel suggests that it was a coincidence, and that he has never spoken to the man," said Sir Stanley. "What do you say to that, King?"

    Stafford King's lips curled.

    "If the colonel says so, of course, it must be true."

    "Sarcasm never worries me," said the colonel. "I'm always getting into trouble, and I'm always getting out again. Give a dog a bad name and----"

    He stopped. There arose in his mind a mental picture of a man swinging in an underground kitchen, and in spite of his self-control he shuddered.

    "And hang him, eh?" said Sir Stanley. "Now, I'm going to put matters to you very plainly, colonel. There have been three or four very unpleasant happenings. There has been the death of the chief witness for the Crown against you; there has been the death of this unhappy man White, who was closely associated with you in your business deals, and who had recently broken away from you, unless our information is inaccurate; there is the death of Raoul, who was seen seated next to you and apparently carrying on a conversation behind a fan."

    "He never spoke a word to me," protested the colonel.

    "And we have the disappearance of Miss White, which is one of the most important of the happenings, because we have reason to believe that Miss White, at any rate, is still alive," said Sir Stanley, taking no notice of the interruption. "Now, colonel, you may or may not have the key to all these mysteries. You may or may not know who your mysterious friend, the Jack o' Judgment----"

    "He's no friend of mine, by heaven!" said the colonel, and neither man doubted that he spoke the truth.

    "As I say, you may know all these things. But principally at this moment we are anxious to secure authentic news concerning Miss White. Both I and Mr. Stafford King have particular reasons for desiring information on that subject. Can you help us?"

    The colonel shook his head.

    "If by spending a hundred thousand pounds I could help you, I would do it," he said fervently, "but as to Miss White and where she is, I am as much at sea as you. Do you believe that, sir?"

    "No," said Sir Stanley truthfully; "I don't."
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