Текст книги

Edgar Wallace
Jack O' Judgment


"Who is it?" asked the colonel.

The door opened slowly. A gloved hand, and then a white, hooded face, slipped through the narrow entry.

"Jack o' Judgment! Poor old Jack o' Judgment come to make a call," chuckled the hateful voice. "Down, dog; down!" He flourished the long-barrelled revolver theatrically, then turned with a chuckle of laughter to the gaping Mr. Crotin.

"Poor Jacob!" he crooned, "he has sold his birthright for a mess of pottage! Don't touch that paper, Crewe, or you die the death!"

His hand leapt out and snatched the transfer, which he thrust into the hand of the wool-spinner.

"Get out and go home, my poor sheep," he said, "back to the blankets! Do you think they'd be satisfied with one mill? They'd come for a mill every year and they'd never leave you till you were dead or broke. Go to the police, my poor lamb, and tell them your sad story. Go to the admirable Mr. Stafford King—he'll fall on your neck. You won't, I see you won't!"

The laughter rose again, and then swiftly with one arm he swung back the merchant and stood in silence till the door of the flat slammed.

The colonel found his voice.

"I don't know who you are," he said, breathing heavily, "but I'll make a bargain with you. I've offered a hundred thousand pounds to anybody who gets you. I'll offer you the same amount to leave me alone."

"Make it a hundred thousand millions!" said Jack o' Judgment in his curious, squeaky voice, "give me the moon and an apple, and I'm yours!"

He was gone before they could realise he had passed through the door, and he had left the flat before either moved.

"Quick! The window!" said the colonel.

The window commanded a view of the front entrance of Albemarle House, and the entry was well lighted. They reached the window in time to see the Yorkshireman emerge with unsteady steps and stride into the night. They waited for their visitor to follow. A minute, two minutes passed, and then somebody walked down the steps to the light. It was a woman, and as she turned her face the colonel gasped.

"Maisie White!" he said in a wondering voice. "What the devil is she doing here?"

CHAPTER VIII

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.
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