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    Chapter 31

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    Chapter 31
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    THE VOICE AGAIN

    He left the bank with the sense of having done his duty by himself. He had not planned the route by which he was leaving the country, or the hour. Much was to happen before he shook the dust of England from his feet, and as he had arranged matters he would have plenty of time to think things over before he made his departure.

    A great deal happened in the next few days to make him believe that the necessity for getting away was not very urgent. He met Stafford King in the Park one morning, and Stafford had been unusually communicative and friendly. Then the whispering voices in the flat had temporarily ceased, and Jack o' Judgment had given him no sign of his existence. It was five days after he had made his deposit in the bank that the first shock came to him. He found Snakit waiting on returning from a matinée, and the little detective was so important and mysterious that the colonel knew something had been discovered.

    "Well," he asked, closing the door, "what have you found?"

    "She is in communication with the police," said Snakit, "that's what I've found."

    "Lollie?"

    "Miss Marsh is the lady. In communication with the police," said the other impressively.

    "Now just tell me what you mean," said the colonel. "Do you mean she's on speaking terms with the policeman on point duty at Piccadilly Circus?"

    "I mean, sir," said Snakit with dignity, "that she's in the habit of meeting Mr. Stafford King, who is a well-known man at Scotland Yard----"

    "He's well-known here too," interrupted the colonel. "Where does she meet him?"

    "In all sorts of queer places--that's the suspicious part of it," said Snakit, who had joyously entered into the work which had been given to him, without realising its unlawful character.

    He had accepted without question the colonel's story that he was the victim of police persecution, and as this was the first news of any importance he had been able to bring to his employer, he was naturally inclined to make the most of it.

    "He has met her twice at eleven o clock at night, at the bottom of St. James's Street, and walked up with her, very deeply engaged in conversation," said Snakit, consulting his note-book. "He met her once at the foot of the steps leading down from Waterloo Place, and they were together for an hour. This morning," he went on, speaking slowly, and evidently this was his tit-bit, "this morning Mr. Stafford King went to the Cunard office in Cockspur Street and booked cabin seventeen on the shelter deck of the Lapland for New York."

    "In what name?"

    "In the name of Miss Isabel Trenton."

    The colonel nodded. It was a name that Lollie had used before, and the story rang true.

    "When does the Lapland sail?" he asked, and again the detective consulted his book.

    "Next Saturday," he said, "from Liverpool."

    "Very good," said the colonel; "thank you, Snakit, you've done very well. See if you can pick them up to-night, or, stay----" He thought a moment. "No, don't shadow her to-night. I'll have a talk with her."

    The news disturbed him. Lollie was getting ready to bolt--that was unimportant. But she was bolting with the assistance of the police, who had booked her passage. That meant that they had got as much out of her as she had to tell, and were clearing her out of the country before the blow fell. That was not only important, but it was grave. Either the police were going to strike at once or----

    An idea struck him, and he telephoned through to Pinto. Another got him into touch with Crewe, and these three were in consultation when Selby came that afternoon.

    He arrived at an unpropitious moment, for the colonel was in a cold fury, and the object of his wrath was Crewe, who sat with folded arms and tense face, looking down at the table.

    "That gentleman business is played out, Crewe," stormed the colonel, "and I'm just about tired of hearing what you won't do and what you will do! If Lollie's put us away, she has got to go through it."

    "What use will it be, supposing she has?" said the other doggedly. "I don't for a moment believe she has done anything of the sort. But suppose she has given you away, what are you going to do? Add to the indictment? She's sick of the game and wants to get away somewhere where she can live a decent life."

    "Oh, you've been discussing it with her, have you?" said the colonel with dangerous calm. "And maybe you also are sick of the game and want to get away and live a decent life? I remember hearing you say something of that sort a few weeks ago."

    "We're all sick of it," said Crewe. "Look at Pinto. Do you think he's keen?"

    Pinto started.

    "Why do you bring me into it?" he complained. "I'm standing by the colonel to the last. And I agree with him that we ought to know what Lollie told the police."

    "She's told them nothing," said Crewe. "She isn't that kind of girl. Besides, what does she know?"

    "She knows a lot," said the colonel. "I'll put a supposition to you. Suppose she's Jack o' Judgment?"

    Crewe looked at him in astonishment.

    "That's an absurd suggestion," he said. "How could she be?"

    "I'll tell you how she could be," said the colonel; "she has never been with us when Jack made his appearance--you'll grant that?"

    Crewe thought for a moment.

    "There you're wrong," he said; "she was with us the night Jack first came."

    The colonel was taken aback. A theory which he had formed was destroyed by that recollection.

    "So she was. That's right, she was there! I remember he insulted her. But I'm certain she's seen him since; I am certain she's been working hand-in-glove with him since. Who was the Jack who went to Yorkshire?"

    It was Crewe's turn to be nonplussed.

    "Jack o' Judgment must be working with a pal," the colonel went on triumphantly, "and I suggest that that pal is Lollie Marsh."

    "That's a lie!"

    The colonel looked up quickly.

    "Who said that?" he demanded harshly.

    Crewe shook his head.

    "It was not me," he said.

    "Was it you, Selby?"

    "Me?" said the astonished Selby. "No, I thought it was you who said it. It came from your end of the table, colonel."

    The colonel got up.

    "There's something wrong here," he said.

    "I've got it!" It was Pinto who spoke. "Did you notice anything peculiar about the voice, colonel?" he asked eagerly. "I did, the first time I heard it, and I've been wondering how I'd heard it before, and just now it has struck me. It was a gramophone voice!"

    "A gramophone voice?"

    "It sounded like a voice on a speaking machine."

    The colonel nodded slowly.

    "Now you come to mention it, I think you're right," he said; "it sounded familiar to me. Of course, it was a gramophone voice."

    They made a careful search of the apartment, taking down every book from the big shelf in one of the alcoves, and turning the leaves to discover the hidden machine. With this idea to guide them the search was more complete than it had been before. Every drawer in the desk was taken out, every scrap of furniture was minutely examined, even the massive legs of the colonel's writing table were tapped.

    Crewe took no part in the search, but watched it with a slight smile of amusement, and the colonel turning, detected this.

    "What the devil are you grinning about?" he said. "Why aren't you helping, Crewe? You've got an interest in this business."

    "Not such an interest that I'm going to fool around looking for a gramophone voice that goes off at appropriate intervals," said Crewe. "Doesn't it strike you that it would have to be a pretty smart gramophone to chip in at the right moment?"

    The colonel pondered this a minute and then went back to his place at the table, mopping his forehead.

    "Pinto's right," he said; "the fellow has smuggled some fool machine into the flat, and we shall discover it sooner or later. I don't know how he controls it, or who controls it"--he looked suspiciously at Crewe--"or who controls it," he repeated.

    "You said that before," said Crewe coolly.

    The colonel had something on his lips to say, but swallowed it.

    "We'll meet here to-night at eleven. I told Lollie to come. Now, Crewe," he said in a more gentle tone, "you're in this up to the neck, and you've got to go through with it. After all, your life and liberty are at stake as much as ours. If Lollie's played us false, we've got to be----"

    "Lollie has not played you false, colonel," said Crewe. His face was very pale, the colonel noticed. "I like that girl, and----"

    "So that's it," said the colonel, "a little love romance introduced into our sordid commercial lives! Maybe you know what she's been talking to Stafford King about?"

    Crewe did not immediately reply.

    "Do you?" asked the colonel.

    "I know she has been trying to get out of the country, to break with the gang, but that she has given you or any of us away is a lie. Lollie's had a rotten life, and she's just sick of it, that's all. Do you blame her?"

    "There's no question of blaming her or praising her," said the colonel patiently; "the question is whether we condemn her or whether she still has our confidence, and that we shall know to-night. You will be present, Crewe."

    "I shall be present, you may be sure," said Crewe, and there was a look on his face which Pinto, for one, did not like.
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