Текст книги

Edgar Wallace
Jack O' Judgment

A week later, Stafford King came into the office of the First Commissioner of the Criminal Intelligence Department, and Sir Stanley looked up with a kindly but pitying look in his eye.

"Well, Stafford," he said gently, "sit down, won't you. What has happened?"

Stafford King shrugged his shoulders.

"Boundary is discharged," he said shortly.

Sir Stanley nodded.

"It was inevitable," he said, "I suppose there's no hope of connecting him and his gang with the death of Hanson?"

"Not a ghost of a hope, I am afraid," said Stafford, shaking his head. "Hanson was undoubtedly murdered, and the poison which killed him was in the glass of water which the usher brought. I've been examining the usher again to-day, and all he can remember is that he saw somebody pushing through the crowd at the back of the court, who handed the glass over the heads of the people. Nobody seems to have seen the man who passed it. That was the method by which the gang got rid of their traitor."

"Clever," said Sir Stanley, putting his finger-tips together. "They knew just the condition of mind in which Hanson would be when he came into court. They had the dope ready, and they knew that the detectives would allow the usher to bring the man water, when they would not allow anybody else to approach him. This is a pretty bad business, Stafford."

"I realise that," said the young chief. "Of course, I shall resign. There's nothing else to do. I thought we had him this time, especially with the evidence we had in relation to the Spillsbury case."

"You mean the letter which Spillsbury wrote to the woman Marsh? How did that come, by the way?"

"It reached Scotland Yard by post."

"Do you know who sent it?"

"There was no covering note at all," replied Stafford. "It was in a plain envelope with a typewritten address and was sent to me personally. The letter, of course, was valueless by itself."

"Have you made any search to discover the documents which Hanson spoke about?"

"We have searched everywhere," said the other a little wearily, "but it is a pretty hopeless business looking through London for a handful of documents. Anyway, friend Boundary is free."

The other was watching him closely.

"It is a bitter disappointment to you, my young friend," he said; "you've been working on the case for years. I fear you'll never have another such chance of putting Boundary in the dock. He's got a lot of public sympathy, too. Your thorough-paced rascal who escapes from the hands of the police has always a large following amongst the public, and I doubt whether the Home Secretary will sanction any further proceedings, unless we have most convincing proof. What's this?"

Stafford had laid a letter on the table.

"My resignation," said that young man grimly.

The First Commissioner took up the envelope and tore it in four pieces.

"It is not accepted," he said cheerfully; "you did your best, and you're no more responsible than I am. If you resign, I ought to resign, and so ought every officer who has been on this game. A few years ago I took exactly the same step—offered my resignation over a purely private and personal matter, and it was not accepted. I have been glad since, and so will you be. Go on with your work and give Boundary a rest for awhile."

Stafford was looking down at him abstractedly.

"Do you think we shall ever catch the fellow, sir?"

Sir Stanley smiled.

"Frankly, I don't," he admitted. "As I said before, the only danger I see to Boundary is this mysterious individual who apparently crops up now and again in his daily life, and who, I suspect, was the person who sent you the Spillsbury letter—the Jack o' Judgment, doesn't he call himself? Do you know what I think?" he asked quietly. "I think that if you found the 'Jack,' if you ran him to earth, stripped him of his mystic guise, you would discover somebody who has a greater grudge against Boundary than the police."

Stafford smiled.

"We can't run about after phantoms, sir," he said, with a touch of asperity in his voice.

The chief looked at him curiously.

"I hear you do quite a lot of running about," he said carelessly, as he began to arrange the papers on his table. "By the way, how is Miss White?"

Stafford flushed.

"She was very well when I saw her last night," he said stiffly; "she is leaving the stage."

"And her father?"

Stafford was silent for a second.

"He left his home a week before the case came into court and has not been seen since," he said.

The chief nodded.

"Whilst White is away and until he turns up I should keep a watchful eye on his daughter," he said.

"What do you mean, sir?" asked Stafford.

"I'm just making a suggestion," said the other. "Think it over."

Stafford thought it over on his way to meet the girl, who was waiting for him on a sunny seat in Temple Gardens, for the day was fine and even warm, and, two hours before luncheon, the place was comparatively empty of people.

She saw the trouble in his face and rose to meet him, and for a moment forgot her own distress of mind, her doubts and fears. Evidently she knew the reason for his attendance at Scotland Yard, and something of the interview which he had had.

"I offered my resignation," he replied, in answer to her unspoken question, "and Sir Stanley refused it."

"I think he was just," she said. "Why, it would be simply monstrous if your career were spoilt through no fault of your own."

He laughed.

"Don't let us talk about me," he said. "What have you done?"

"I've cancelled all my contracts; I have other work to do."

"How are–" He hesitated, but she knew just what he meant, and patted his arm gratefully.

"Thank you, I have all the money I want," she said. "Father left me quite a respectable balance. I am closing the house at Horsham and storing the furniture, and shall keep just sufficient to fill a little flat I have taken in Bloomsbury."

"But what are you going to do?" he asked curiously.

She shook her head.

"Oh, there are lots of things that a girl can do," she said vaguely, "besides going on the stage."