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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
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    At Blackheath

    It was on a Friday night, and a thin film of fog lay over the City, the forerunner of those dense mists which in a month's time would make the town uninhabitable.

    Jim Morlake had finished the light dinner which the Moor had served, and was reading the evening newspaper with the air of one who hoped to find something amusing in its pages, but had very little expectation of his hopes being realised. Binger had gone home earlier than usual, with instructions not to return for three days, for that night Morlake intended returning to Wold House, and his suitcase awaited him in the hall. He could have gone earlier, but the fog had been unusually thick that afternoon, and he was waiting for it to disperse. The car was at the door, and, putting down the newspaper, he walked to the window, pulled aside the heavy curtains and looked out.

    "I think I will go now, Mahmet," he said, and at that moment the telephone bell rang sharply.

    He took up the instrument, and a strange and excited voice called him by name.

    "Is that Mr. Morlake?... I am speaking from Blackheath. Binger has been knocked down by a motor-bus and has been taken to 12 Cranfield Gardens. Can you come at once?"

    "Is he badly hurt?" asked Morlake quickly.

    "He is not expected to live," was the answer. "I am Dr. Grainger."

    Jim only waited long enough to discover the exact location of Cranfield Gardens, and a few minutes later he was driving at full speed in the direction of Blackheath. The fog in the south of London was thicker than he had anticipated, and progress was slow, but it cleared at New Cross and presently disappeared altogether, and he looked up into an unclouded sky, in which the stars were twinkling frostily.

    Lieber, watching the flat, saw the car depart, and, hastening to a public telephone booth, gave a number. It was Marborne who answered him.

    "He's gone," said Lieber breathlessly. "Went away at five minutes past ten."

    "Is he alone?"

    "Yes, driving his own car. And he looked to be in a hurry."

    Marborne hung up the telephone receiver, paid the proprietor of the little Greenwich restaurant, in which he had been waiting for an hour for the news, and hurried out to where Slone and Colley were waiting for him.

    "There is no time to be lost, Colley. Get into that house just as quickly as you can."

    "It's early yet, Mr. Marborne. They won't be in bed," protested Colley.

    "The whole house goes to bed at nine," said the other impatiently. "Do you think I haven't made sure of that?"

    The car that had been hired for the night carried them to Blackheath, and at the corner of Cranfield Gardens Colley received his instructions.

    "You'll get through the pantry window and up to the first floor. If you like to smash one of the glass cases where the jewellery is kept, you can. Now there will be no risk, Colley. As soon as you've done your work and got the family aroused, get out. You haven't any time to spare."

    The burglar slunk away into the darkness, and the uncomfortable Slone interrogated his superior.

    "It's crude, inspector. He'll never fall into a trap as open as that," he said. "He'll go straight to his servant's house and he'll find him at home."

    "I tell you he will come straight here. I could tell by his voice, when I called him up, that he is worried about Binger."

    The two men walked rapidly down Cranfield Gardens and turned into a gateway.

    "I can hear the sound of a car coming up the hill," said Marborne suddenly. "Get into the shadow of the steps."

    "I don't like it," growled Slone. "It's too easy, I tell you. It can't go right----"

    "Shut up!" hissed the other. "Here is the car."

    Turning from Blackheath Hill, Jim Morlake stopped the machine and alighted. No. 12 was the fourth house from that end of the street he had entered, a high-fronted, sombre house, showing no sign of light. He had unlatched and passed through the wooden gate before the absence of the red light which usually advertises a doctor's house occurred to him, and he walked back to inspect the gate posts to make sure. Yes, it was No. 12. Hesitating no longer, he walked up the path and mounted the stone steps. As he did so, he heard, from inside the house, a shot and the thump of heavy feet in the hall, and drew back.

    And then there came to him instinctively an understanding of his danger, and he flew down the steps. Two strides he took in the direction of the gate, and something struck him. He half turned, dazed and semi-conscious, and again the blow fell and everything went dark.

    When he recovered consciousness, he was lying on a hard wooden form, and a man was doing something to his head. He opened his eyes, and in the dim light of the cell in which he lay he saw a bearded figure fixing a bandage.

    "Lie down," said the doctor authoritatively, and Jim obeyed.

    It was a cell: he had recognised the character of the apartment the moment he had opened his eyes. How had he got there, and what had happened? Then he remembered the blow that had struck him down. His head was throbbing painfully; he had an uncomfortable feeling of restriction about his hands, and, looking at them, he saw that they were clipped together with handcuffs.

    "Why am I here?" he asked.

    "I daresay the inspector will tell you all about it," said the doctor as he pinned the ends of the bandage and stepped back to admire his handiwork.

    "Oh, he will, will he?" said Jim dully. "Well, I should very much like him to come and give his explanation. How is Binger?" He smiled faintly. "I suppose the Binger story was a fake? The inspector to whom you refer is Inspector Marborne?"

    "You'd better ask him," said the diplomatic doctor. "He will be here in a few minutes."

    He went out, and the cell door clanged on James Morlake. With some difficulty he raised himself to a sitting position and took stock of his unhappy state. Mechanically he put his hand in his pocket: it was empty. He tried another with a similar result. His watch and chain had gone, his cigarette-case, everything he had possessed had been taken from him.

    He was very much alert now; he even forgot the physical pain he suffered.

    There was a click of a lock, the cell door opened, and Marborne came in with a smile of triumph on his face.

    "Well, Morlake, we've got you at last!"

    "I ought to have given you those matches," said Jim coolly; "and really, if I'd known that you had taken such a fancy to them, Marborne, that you would waylay and rob me, I'd have saved you the trouble."

    "I don't know what you mean about matches," said Marborne brusquely. "All I know is that we've caught you with the goods. You know my name?"

    "I know your name," nodded Jim. "You're Inspector Marborne."

    "I am Inspector Marborne," said the man in his best official manner, "and I shall charge you with burglariously entering No. 12 Cranfield Gardens last night. I shall further charge you with being in possession of a loaded revolver and house-breaking implements. I shall further charge you with breaking and entering the Burlington Safe Deposit on the seventeenth of this month, and still further with breaking and entering the Home Counties Bank on the twelfth of August."

    He paused.

    "Don't let me interrupt your curious recital," said Jim. "You will also caution me that anything I say may be used in evidence against me. That is your duty, you know, inspector, but you omitted the customary caution."

    The detective was scrutinising him keenly.

    "You'll be interested to know that I've also arrested your accomplice, Jane Smith," he said, and Jim chuckled.

    "I'm delighted! I should very much like to see Jane Smith. And have you arrested our friend Hamon too?"

    The detective smiled indulgently.

    "None of that, Morlake," he said. "You know I've not arrested Mr. Hamon. What charge could you make against him?"

    Jim was silent for a moment, and then:

    "Wilful murder," he said quietly; "and I should charge you with being an accomplice after the fact."
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