Текст книги

Edgar Wallace
Jack O' Judgment

"Send somebody to get my car," he snapped.

He waited impatiently, chewing his cigar, till the dripping figure of the doorkeeper reappeared with the information that the car was at the end of the passage. He put up his umbrella and walked through the pelting rain to where his limousine stood.

Pinto Silva was angry, and his anger was of the hateful, smouldering type which grew in strength from moment to moment and from hour to hour. How dare she treat him like this? She, who owed her engagement to his influence, and whose fortune and future were in his hands. He would speak to the colonel and the colonel could speak to her father. He had had enough of this.

He recognised with a start that he was afraid of the girl. It was incredible, but it was true. He had never felt that way to a woman before, but there was something in her eyes, a cold disdain which cowed even as it maddened him.

The car drew up before a block of buildings in a deserted West End thoroughfare. He flashed on the electric light and saw that the hour was a little after eleven. The last thing in the world he wanted was to take part in a conference that night. But if he wanted anything less, it was to cross the colonel at this moment of crisis.

He walked through the dark vestibule and entered an automatic lift, which carried him to the third floor. Here, the landing and the corridor were illuminated by one small electric lamp sufficient to light him to the heavy walnut doors which led to the office of the Spillsbury Syndicate. He opened the door with a latchkey and found himself in a big lobby, carpeted and furnished in good style.

A man was sitting before a radiator, a paper pad upon his knees, and he was making notes with a pencil. He looked up startled as the other entered and nodded. It was Olaf Hanson, the colonel's clerk—and Olaf, with his flat expressionless face, and his stiff upstanding hair, always reminded Pinto of a Struwwelpeter which had been cropped.

"Hullo, Hanson, is the colonel inside?"

The man nodded.

"They're waiting for you," he said.

His voice was hard and unsympathetic, and his thin lips snapped out every syllable.

"Aren't you coming in?" asked Pinto in surprise, his hand upon the door.

The man called Hanson shook his head.

"I've got to go to the colonel's flat," he said, "to get some papers. Besides, they don't want me."

He smiled quickly and wanly. It was a grimace rather than an expression of amusement and Pinto eyed him narrowly. He had, however, the good sense to ask no further questions. Turning the handle of the door, he walked into the large, ornate apartment.

In the centre of the room was a big table and the chairs at its sides were, for the most part, filled.

He dropped into a seat on the colonel's right and nodded to the others at the table. Most of the principals were there—"Swell" Crewe, Jackson, Cresswell, and at the farther end of the table, Lollie Marsh with her baby face and her permanent expression of open-mouthed wonder.

"Where's White?" he asked.

The colonel was reading a letter and did not immediately reply. Presently he took off his pince-nez and put them into his pocket.

"Where's White?" he repeated. "White isn't here. No, White isn't here," he repeated significantly.

"What's wrong?" asked Pinto quickly.

The colonel scratched his chin and looked up to the ceiling.

"I'm settling up this Spillsbury business," he said. "White isn't in it."

"Why not?" asked Pinto.

"He never was in it," said the colonel evasively. "It was not the kind of business that White would like to be in. I guess he's getting religious or something, or maybe it's that daughter of his."

The eyelids of Pinto Silva narrowed at the reference to Maisie White and he was on the point of remarking that he had just left her, but changed his mind.

"Does she know anything about—about her father?" he asked.

The colonel smiled.

"Why, no—unless you've told her."

"I'm not on those terms," said Pinto savagely. "I'm getting tired of that girl's airs and graces, colonel, after what we've done for her!"

"You'll get tireder, Pinto," said a voice from the end of the table and he turned round to meet the laughing eyes of Lollie Marsh.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I've been out taking a look at her to-day," she said, and the colonel scowled at her.

"You were out taking a look at something else if I remember rightly," he said quietly. "I told you to get after Stafford King."

"And I got after him," she said, "and after the girl too."

"What do you mean?"

"That's a bit of news for you, isn't it?" She was delighted to drop the bombshell: "you can't shadow Stafford King without crossing the tracks of Maisie White."

The colonel uttered an exclamation.

"What do you mean?" he asked again.

"Didn't you know they were acquainted? Didn't you know that Stafford King goes down to Horsham to see her, and takes her to dinner twice a week?"

They looked at one another in consternation. Maisie White was the daughter of a man who, next to the colonel, had been the most daring member of the gang, who had organised more coups than any other man, save its leader. The news that the daughter of Solomon White was meeting the Chief of the Criminal Intelligence Department, was incredible and stunning.

"So that's it, is it?" said the colonel, licking his dry lips. "That's why Solomon White's fed up with the life and wants to break away."

He turned to Pinto Silva, whose face was set and hard.

"I thought you were keen on that girl, Pinto," he said coarsely. "We left the way open to you. What do you know about it?"

"Nothing," said the man shortly. "I don't believe it."

"Don't believe it," broke in the girl. "Listen! There was a matinée at the Orpheum to-day and King went there. I followed him in and got a seat next to him and tried to get friendly. But he had only eyes for the girl on the stage, and I might as well have been the paper on the wall for all the notice he took of me. After her turn, he went out and waited for her at the stage door. They went to Roymoyers for tea. I went back to the theatre and saw her dresser. She is the woman I recommended when Pinto put her on the stage."

"What sort of work is Maisie doing?" asked the saturnine Crewe.

"Male impersonations," said the girl. "Say! she looks dandy in a man's kit! She's the best male impersonator I've ever seen. Why, when she talks–"

"Never mind about that," interrupted the colonel, "what did you discover?"

"I discovered that Stafford King comes regularly to the theatre, that he takes her to dinner and that he visits the house at Horsham."