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    Chapter 33

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    Chapter 33
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    WHERE THE VOICE LIVED

    "Open it," said the colonel in a low voice; "open it, Crewe"--he pulled open the drawer and took out something--"and if it is Jack o' Judgment----"

    Crewe opened the door, his heart beating at a furious rate, but it was Selby who came into the room and faced the half-levelled gun of the colonel.

    "What do you want?" asked Boundary quickly. "You fool, I told you not to lose sight of her----"

    "But when is she coming down?" asked Selby. "I've been waiting there all this time and there's a policeman at the corner of the street--I wondered whether you had seen him too."

    "Not come down?" said the colonel. "She left here five minutes ago!"

    "She hasn't come down," he said, "and I've certainly not passed her on the stairs. Is there any other way out?"

    "No way that she could use," said the colonel shaking his head. "I've had new locks put on all the doors." He thought a moment. "If she hasn't come down she's gone up."

    They went up the stairs together and searched, first Pinto's flat, and then the store-rooms and empty apartments on the floor higher up.

    "Go down to the door and wait, in case she tries to get out," said the colonel.

    He returned to the room with the two men and they looked at one another in frank astonishment.

    "Have you any idea what's happened, Crewe?" asked the colonel suspiciously.

    "No idea in the world," said Crewe.

    "But she went downstairs," said the colonel. "I heard the alarm click."

    "The alarm?" questioned Crewe.

    "I've got a buzzer under one of the treads of the stairs," said the colonel. "It is useful to know when people are coming up."

    * * * * * * *

    Ten minutes passed and Selby returned to say that the policeman had been making inquiries as to whom the car belonged.

    "You'd better get it away," said the colonel, "and send away your men."

    "They've gone," said the other. "I wasn't taking any risks."

    He disappeared to carry out the colonel's instructions, and they heard the whine of the moving car.

    Boundary unlocked his tantalus and took out a full decanter of whisky. Without a word he poured three stiff doses into as many glasses and filled them with soda. Each man was thinking, and thinking after his own interests.

    "Well, gentlemen," said the colonel at last. "I incline to give this business best."

    He looked up and saw the dagger which Pinto had thrown. It was still embedded in the wall.

    "It isn't enough that I should have Jack o' Judgment messing my room about," he growled, "but you must do something to the same wall! Pull it out and don't let me see it again, Pinto."

    The Portuguese smiled sheepishly, walked to the wall and gripped the handle. Evidently the point had embedded in a lath, for the knife did not move. He pulled again, exerting all his strength and this time succeeded in extracting not only the knife but a large portion of the plaster and a strip of the wallpaper.

    "You fool!" said the colonel angrily, "see what you have done--Jumping Moses!"

    He walked to the wall and stared, for the dislodgment of plaster and paper had revealed three round black discs, set flush with the plaster and only separated from the room by the wallpaper, which had been stripped.

    "Jumping Moses!" said the colonel softly. "Detectaphones!"

    He took Pinto's knife from his hand and prised one of the discs loose. It was attached to a wire which was embedded in the plaster and this the colonel severed with a stroke of the knife.

    "This is the business end of a microphone," he said.

    "The voice!" gasped Pinto, and the colonel nodded.

    "Of course. I was mad not to guess that," he said. "That's how he heard and that's how he spoke. Now, we're going to get to the bottom of this."

    With a knife he slashed the plaster and exposed three wires that led straight downward and apparently through the floor. The colonel rested and eyed the debris thoughtfully.

    "What is under this flat? Lee's office, isn't it? Of course, Lee's!" he said. "I'm the fool!"

    He handed the knife back to Pinto, took an electric torch from his pocket and led the way from the flat. They passed down the half-darkened stairs to the floor beneath, on which was situated the three sets of offices. The colonel took a bunch of keys and tried them on the door of the surveyor's office. Presently he found one that fitted, and the door opened. He fumbled about for the electric switch, found it and flooded the room with light. It was a very ordinary clerk's office, with a small counter, the flap of which was raised. Inside the flap he saw something white on the floor, and, stooping, picked it up. It was a lady's handkerchief.

    "L," he read. "That sounds like Lollie. Do you know this, Crewe?"

    Crewe took the handkerchief and nodded.

    "That is Lollie's," he said shortly.

    "I thought so. This is where she was when we were looking for her. Here with Jack o' Judgment, eh? Let's try the inner office."

    The inner office was locked, but he had no difficulty in gaining admission. Inside this was a private office which was simply furnished and had in one corner what appeared to be a telephone box. He opened the glass door and flashed his lamp inside. There was a little desk, a pair of receivers fastened to a headpiece, and a small vulcanite transmitter.

    "This is where he sat," said the colonel meditatively, pointing to a stool, "and this----" he lifted up the earpieces--"is how he heard all our very interesting conversations. Go upstairs, Pinto, I want to try this transmitter."

    He fixed the receiver to his ears and waited, and presently he heard distinctly the sound of Pinto closing the door of the room upstairs. Then he spoke through the receiver.

    "Do you hear me, Pinto?"

    "I hear you distinctly," said Pinto's voice.

    "Speak a little lower. Carry on a conversation with yourself and let me try to hear you."

    Pinto obeyed. He recited something from the Orpheum revue, a line or two of a song, and the colonel heard distinctly every syllable. He replaced the earpieces where he had found them, closed the door of the box and that of the outer office, and led the way upstairs. The whisky still stood upon the table and he lifted a glass and drained it at a draught.

    "If you're a linguist, Crewe, you'll have heard of the phrase: Sauve qui peut. It means 'Git!' And that's the advice I'm giving and taking. To-morrow we'll meet to liquidate the Boundary Gang and split the Gang Fund."

    He turned his companions out to get what sleep they could. For him there was little sleep that night. Before the dawn came, he was at Twickenham, examining a big motor-launch that lay in a boat-house. It was the launch which should have carried Lollie Marsh and Selby on their river and sea journey. It was provisioned and ready for the trip. But first the colonel had to take from a locker in the stern of the boat a small black box and disconnect the wires from certain terminals before he stopped a little clock which ticked noisily. He had tuned his bomb to go off at four in the morning, by which time, he calculated, Lollie Marsh and her escort would be well out to sea. For the colonel regarded no evidence that might be brought against him as unimportant.
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