Текст книги

Edgar Wallace
Jack O' Judgment


"You amongst others. Pinto Silva, 'Swell' Crewe and Selby, to name a few."

Colonel Boundary permitted himself to chuckle.

"On what charge?" he asked, "tell me that, Solly? The cleverest men in Scotland Yard have been laying for me for years and they haven't got away with it. Maybe they have your assistance and that dog Hanson–"

"That's a lie," interrupted White, "so far as I am concerned—I know nothing about Hanson."

"Hanson," said the colonel slowly, "is a thief. He bolted with £300 of mine, as I've reported to the police."

"I see," said White with a little smile of contempt, "got your charge in first, eh, colonel—discredit the witness. And what have you framed for me?"

"Nothing," said the colonel, "except this. I've just had from the bank a cheque for £4,000 drawn in your favour on our joint account and purporting to be signed by Silva and myself."

"As it happens," said White, "it was signed by you fellows in my presence."

The colonel shook his head.

"Obdurate to the last, brazening it out to the end—why not make a frank confession to an old business associate, Solly? I came here to see you about that cheque."

"That's the game, is it?" said White. "You are going to charge me with forgery, and suppose I spill it?"

"Spill what?" asked the colonel innocently. "If by 'spill' you mean make a statement to the police derogatory to myself and my business associates, what can you tell? I can bring a dozen witnesses to prove that both Pinto and I were in Brighton the morning that cheque was signed."

"You came up by car at night," said White harshly. "We arranged to meet outside Guildford to split the loot."

"Loot?" said Colonel Boundary, puzzled. "I don't understand you."

"I'll put it plainer," said White, his eyes like smouldering fire: "a year ago you got young Balston the shipowner to put fifty thousand pounds into a fake company."

He heard Maisie gasp, but went on.

"How you did it I'm not going to tell before the girl, but it was blackmail which you and Pinto engineered. He paid his last instalment—the four thousand pounds was my share."

Colonel Boundary rose and looked at his watch.

"I have a taxi-cab waiting, and with a taxi-cab time is money. If you are going to bring in the name of an innocent young man, who will certainly deny that he had any connection with myself and my business associates, that is a matter for your own conscience. I tell you I know nothing about this cheque. I have made your daughter an offer."

"I can guess what it is," interrupted White, "and I can tell you this, Boundary, that if you are going to sell me, I'll be even with you, if I wait twenty years! If you imagine I am going to let my daughter into that filthy gang–" His voice broke, and it was some time before he could recover himself. "Do your worst. But I'll have you, Boundary! I don't doubt that you'll get a conviction, and you know the things that I can't talk about, and I'll have to take my medicine, but you are not going to escape."

"Wait, colonel." It was the girl who spoke in so low a voice that he would not have heard her, but that he was expecting her to speak. "Do you mean that you will—prosecute my father?"

"With law-abiding people," said the colonel profoundly, "the demands of justice come first. I must do my duty to the state, but if you should change your mind–"

"She won't change her mind," roared White.

With one stride he had passed between the colonel and the door. Only for a second he stood, and then he fell back.

"Do your worst," he said huskily, and Colonel Boundary passed out, pocketing the revolver which had come from nowhere into his hand, and presently they heard the purr of the departing motor.

He came to Horsham station in a thoughtful frame of mind. He was still thinking profoundly when he reached Victoria.

Then, as he stepped on the platform, a hand was laid on his arm, and he turned to meet the smiling face of Stafford King.

"Hullo," said the colonel, and something within him went cold.

"Sorry to break in on your reverie, colonel," said Stafford King, "but I've a warrant for your arrest."

"What is the charge?" asked the colonel, his face grey.

"Blackmail and conspiracy," said King, and saw with amazement the look of relief in the other's eyes.

Then:

"Boundary," he said between his teeth, "you thought I wanted you for 'Snow' Gregory!"

The colonel said nothing.

CHAPTER V

IN THE MAGISTRATE'S COURT

Never before in history had the dingy little street, in which North Lambeth Police Court stands, witnessed such scenes as were presented on that memorable 4th of December, when counsel for the Crown opened the case against Colonel Dan Boundary.

Long before the building was open the precincts of the court were besieged by people anxious to secure one of the very few seats which were available for the public. By nine o'clock it became necessary to summon a special force of police to clear a way for the numerous motor-cars which came bowling from every point of the compass and which were afterwards parked in the narrow side streets, to the intense amazement and interest of the curious denizens of the unsavoury neighbourhood in which the court is located.

Admission was by ticket. Even the reporters, those favoured servants of democracy, had need to produce a printed pass before the scrutinising policeman at the door allowed them to enter. Every available seat had been allotted. Even the magistrate's sacristy had been invaded, and chairs stood three-deep to left and right of him.

There were some who came out of sheer morbid curiosity, in order that they might boast that they were present when this remarkable case was heard. There were others who came, inwardly quaking at the revelations which were promised or hinted at in the daily Press, for the influence which the Boundary gang exercised was wide and far-reaching.

A young man stood upon the congested pavement, watching with evident impatience the arrival of belated cars. The magistrate had already come and had disappeared behind the slate-coloured gates which led to the courtyard. Stafford saw fashionably-dressed women and (with a smile) worried-looking men who were figures in the political and social world, and presently he involuntarily stepped forward into the roadway as though to meet the electric limousine which came noiselessly to the main entrance.

The solitary occupant of the car was a man of sixty—a grey-haired gentleman of medium height, dressed with scrupulous care, and wearing on his clean-shaven face a perpetual smile, as though life were an amusement which never palled.

Stafford King took the extended hand with a little twinkle in his eye.

"I was afraid we shouldn't be able to keep your place for you, Sir Stanley," he said.

Sir Stanley Belcom, First Commissioner of Criminal Intelligence, accentuated his smile.

"Well, Stafford," he drawled, "I've come to see the culminating triumph of your official career."

Stafford King made a little grimace.

"I hope so," he said dryly.

"I hope so, too," said the baronet, "yet—I'll tell you frankly, Stafford, I have a feeling that the ordinary processes of the law are inadequate to trap this organisation. The law has too wide a mesh to deal with the terror which this man exercises. Such men are the only justification of lynch law, the quick, sharp justice which is administered without subtlety and without quibble."

Stafford looked at the other and made no attempt to hide his astonishment.