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"Come in," said the Assistant Commissioner. The door opened and Chief Inspector Kerry entered. His face was as fresh-looking, his attire as spruce and his eyes were as bright, as though he had slept well, enjoyed his bath and partaken of an excellent breakfast. Whereas he had not been to bed during the preceding twenty-four hours, had breakfasted upon biscuits and coffee, and had spent the night and early morning in ceaseless toil. Nevertheless he had found time to visit a hairdressing saloon, for he prided himself upon the nicety of his personal appearance.
He laid his hat, cane and overall upon a chair, and from a pocket of his reefer jacket took out a big notebook.
"Good morning, sir," he said.
"Good morning, Chief Inspector," replied the Assistant Commissioner. "Pray be seated. No doubt"--he suppressed a weary sigh--"you have a long report to make. I observe that some of the papers have the news of Sir Lucien Pyne's death."
Chief Inspector Kerry smiled savagely.
"Twenty pressmen are sitting downstairs," he said "waiting for particulars. One of them got into my room." He opened his notebook. "He didn't stay long."
The Assistant Commissioner gazed wearily at his blotting-pad, striking imaginary chords upon the table-edge with his large widely extended fingers. He cleared his throat.
"Er--Chief Inspector," he said, "I fully recognize the difficulties which--you follow me? But the Press is the Press. Neither you nor I could hope to battle against such an institution even if we desired to do so. Where active resistance is useless, a little tact--you quite understand?"
"Quite, sir. Rely upon me," replied Kerry. "But I didn't mean to open my mouth until I had reported to you. Now, sir, here is a precis of evidence, nearly complete, written out clearly by Sergeant Coombes. You would probably prefer to read it?"
"Yes, yes, I will read it. But has Sergeant Coombes been on duty all night?"
"He has, sir, and so have I. Sergeant Coombes went home an hour ago."
"Ah," murmured the Assistant Commissioner
He took the notebook from Kerry, and resting his head upon his hand began to read. Kerry sat very upright in his chair, chewing slowly and watching the profile of the reader with his unwavering steel-blue eyes. The reading was twice punctuated by telephone messages, but the Assistant Commissioner apparently possessed the Napoleonic faculty of doing two things at once, for his gaze travelled uninterruptedly along the lines of the report throughout the time that he issued telephonic instructions.
When he had arrived at the final page of Coombes' neat, schoolboy writing, he did not look up for a minute or more, continuing to rest his head in the palm of his hand. Then:
"So far you have not succeeded in establishing the identity of the missing man, Kazmah?" he said.
"Not so far, sir," replied Kerry, enunciating the words with characteristic swift precision, each syllable distinct as the rap of a typewriter. "Inspector Whiteleaf, of Vine Street, has questioned all constables in the Piccadilly area, and we have seen members of the staffs of many shops and offices in the neighborhood, but no one is familiar with the appearance of the missing man."
"Ah--now, the Egyptian servant?"
Inspector Kerry moved his shoulders restlessly.
"Rashid is his name. Many of the people in the neighborhood knew him by sight, and at five o'clock this morning one of my assistants had the good luck to find out, from an Arab coffee-house keeper named Abdulla, where Rashid lived. He paid a visit to the place--it's off the West India Dock Road--half an hour later. But Rashid had gone. I regret to report that all traces of him have been lost."
"Ah--considering this circumstance side by side with the facts that no scrap of evidence has come to light in the Kazmah premises and that the late Sir Lucien's private books and papers cannot be found, what do you deduce, Chief Inspector?"
"My report indicates what I deduce, sir! An accomplice of Kazmah's must have been in Sir Lucien's household! Kazmah and Mrs. Irvin can only have left the premises by going up to the roof and across the leads to Sir Lucien's flat in Albemarle Street. I shall charge the man Juan Mareno."
"What has he to say?" murmured the Assistant Commissioner, absently turning over the pages of the notebook. "Ah, yes. 'Claims to be a citizen of the United States but has produced no papers. Engaged by Sir Lucien Pyne in San Francisco. Professes to have no evidence to offer. Admitted Mrs. Monte Irvin to Sir Lucien's flat on night of murder. Sir Lucien and Mrs. Irvin went out together shortly afterwards, and Sir Lucien ordered him (Mareno) to go for the car to garage in South Audley Street and drive to club, where Sir Lucien proposed to dine. Mareno claims to have followed instructions. After waiting near club for an hour, learned from hall porter that Sir Lucien had not been there that evening. Drove car back to garage and returned to Albemarle Street shortly after eight o'clock.' H'm. Is this confirmed in any way?"
Kerry's teeth snapped together viciously.
"Up to a point it is, sir. The club porter remembers Mareno inquiring about Sir Lucien, and the people at the garage testify that he took out the car and returned it as stated."
"No one has come forward who actually saw him waiting outside the club?"
"No one. But unfortunately it was a dark, misty night, and cars waiting for club members stand in a narrow side turning. Mareno is a surly brute, and he might have waited an hour without speaking to a soul. Unless another chauffeur happened to notice and recognize the car nobody would be any wiser."
The Assistant Commissioner sighed, glancing up for the first time.
"You don't think he waited outside the club at all?" he said.
"I don't, sir!" rapped Kerry.
The Assistant Commissioner rested his head upon his hand again.
"It doesn't seem to be germane to your case, Chief Inspector, in any event. There is no question of an alibi. Sir Lucien's wrist-watch was broken at seven-fifteen--evidently at the time of his death; and this man Mareno does not claim to have left the flat until after that hour."
"I know it, sir," said Kerry. "He took out the car at half-past seven. What I want to know is where he went to!"
The Assistant Commissioner glanced rapidly into the speaker's fierce eyes.
"From what you have gathered respecting the appearance of Kazmah, does it seem possible that Mareno may be Kazmah?"
"It does not, sir. Kazmah has been described to me, at first hand and at second hand. All descriptions tally in one respect: Kazmah has remarkably large eyes. In Miss Halley's evidence you will note that she refers to them as 'larger than any human eyes I have ever seen.' Now, Mareno has eyes like a pig!"
"Then I take it you are charging him as accessory?"
"Exactly, sir. Somebody got Kazmah and Mrs. Irvin away, and it can only have been Mareno. Sir Lucien had no other resident servant; he was a man who lived almost entirely at restaurants and clubs. Again, somebody cleaned up his papers, and it was somebody who knew where to look for them."
"Quite so--quite so," murmured the Assistant Commissioner. "Of course, we shall learn today something of his affairs from his banker. He must have banked somewhere. But surely, Chief Inspector, there is a safe or private bureau in his flat?"
"There is, sir," said Kerry grimly; "a safe. I had it opened at six o'clock this morning. It had been hastily cleaned out; not a doubt of it. I expect Sir Lucien carried the keys on his person. You will remember, sir, that his pockets had been emptied?"
"H'm," mused the Assistant Commissioner. "This Cubanis Cigarette Company, Chief Inspector?"
"Dummy goods!" rapped Kerry. "A blind. Just a back entrance to Kazmah's office. Premises were leased on behalf of an agent. This agent--a reputable man of business--paid the rent quarterly. I've seen him.
"And who was his client?" asked the Assistant Commissioner, displaying a faint trace of interest.
"A certain Mr. Isaacs!"
"Who can be traced?"
"Who can't be traced!"
Chief Inspector Kerry smiled, so that his large white teeth gleamed savagely.
"Mr. Isaacs represented himself as a dealer in Covent Garden who was leasing the office for a lady friend, and who desired, for domestic reasons, to cover his tracks. As ready money in large amounts changes hands in the market, Mr. Isaacs paid ready money to the agent. Beyond doubt the real source of the ready money was Kazmah's."
"But his address?"
"A hotel in Covent Garden."
"Where he lives?"
"Where he is known to the booking-clerk, a girl who allowed him to have letters addressed there. A man of smoke, sir, acting on behalf of someone in the background."
"Ah! and these Bond Street premises have been occupied by Kazmah for the past eight years?"
"So I am told. I have yet to see representatives of the landlord. I may add that Sir Lucien Pyne had lived in Albemarle Street for about the same time."
Wearily raising his head:
"The point is certainly significant," said the Assistant Commissioner. "Now we come to the drug traffic, Chief Inspector. You have found no trace of drugs on the premises?"
"Not a grain, sir!"
"In the office of the cigarette firm?"
"By the way, was there no staff attached to the latter concern?"
Kerry chewed viciously.
"No business of any kind seems to have been done there," he replied. "An office-boy employed by the solicitor on the same floor as Kazmah has seen a man and also a woman, go up to the third floor on several occasions, and he seems to think they went to the Cubanis office. But he's not sure, and he can give no useful description of the parties, anyway. Nobody in the building has ever seen the door open before this morning."
The Assistant Commissioner sighed yet more wearily.
"Apart from the suspicions of Miss Margaret Halley, you have no sound basis for supposing that Kazmah dealt in prohibited drugs?" he inquired.
"The evidence of Miss Halley, the letter left for her by Mrs. Irvin, and the fact that Mrs. Irvin said, in the presence of Mr. Quentin Gray, that she had 'a particular reason' for seeing Kazmah, point to it unmistakably, sir. Then, I have seen Mrs. Irvin's maid. (Mr. Monte Irvin is still too unwell to be interrogated.) The girl was very frightened, but she admitted outright that she had been in the habit of going regularly to Kazmah for certain perfumes. She wouldn't admit that she knew the flasks contained cocaine or veronal, but she did admit that her mistress had been addicted to the drug habit for several years. It began when she was on the stage."
"Ah, yes," murmured the Assistant Commissioner; "she was Rita Dresden, was she not--'The Maid of the Masque' A very pretty and talented actress. A pity--a great pity. So the girl, characteristically, is trying to save herself ?"
"She is," said Kerry grimly. "But it cuts no ice. There is another point. After this report was made out, a message reached me from Miss Halley, as a result of which I visited Mr. Quentin Gray early this morning."
"Dear, dear," sighed the Assistant Commissioner, "your intense zeal and activity are admirable, Chief Inspector, but appalling. And what did you learn?"
From an inside pocket Chief Inspector Kerry took out a plain brown paper packet containing several cigarettes and laid the packet on the table.
"I got these, sir," he said grimly. "They were left at Mr. Gray's some weeks ago by the late Sir Lucien. They are doped."
The Assistant Commissioner, his head resting upon his hand, gazed abstractedly at the packet. "If only you could trace the source of supply," he murmured.
"That brings me to my last point, sir. From Mrs. Irvin's maid I learned that her mistress was acquainted with a certain Mrs. Sin."
"Mrs. Sin? Incredible name."
"She's a woman reputed to be married to a Chinaman. Inspector Whiteleaf, of Vine Street, knows her by sight as one of the night-club birds--a sort of mysterious fungus, sir, flowering in the dark and fattening on gilded fools. Unless I'm greatly mistaken, Mrs. Sin is the link between the doped cigarettes and the missing Kazmah."
"Does anyone know where she lives?"
"Lots of 'em know!" snapped Kerry. "But it's making them speak."
"To whom do you more particularly refer, Chief Inspector?"
"To the moneyed asses and the brainless women belonging to a certain West End set, sir," said Kerry savagely. "They go in for every monstrosity from Buenos Ayres, Port Said and Pekin. They get up dances that would make a wooden horse blush. They eat hashish and they smoke opium. They inject morphine, and they would have their hair dyed blue if they heard it was 'being done.'"
"Ah," sighed the Assistant Commissioner, "a very delicate and complex case, Chief Inspector. The agony of mind which Mr. Irvin must be suffering is too horrible for one to contemplate. An admirable man, too; honorable and generous. I can conceive no theory to account for the disappearance of Mrs. Irvin other than that she was a party to the murder."
"No, sir," said Kerry guardedly. "But we have the dope clue to work on. That the Chinese receive stuff in the East End and that it's sold in the West End every constable in the force is well aware. Leman Street is getting busy, and every shady case in the Piccadilly area will be beaten up within the next twenty-four hours, too. It's purely departmental, sir, from now onwards, and merely a question of time. Therefore I don't doubt the issue."
Kerry paused, cleared his throat, and produced a foolscap envelope which he laid upon the table before the Assistant Commissioner.
"With very deep regret, sir," he said, "after a long and agreeable association with the Criminal Investigation Department, I have to tender you this."
The Assistant Commissioner took up the envelope and stared at it vaguely.
"Ah, yes, Chief Inspector," he murmured. "Perhaps I fail entirely to follow you; I am somewhat over-worked, as you know. What does this envelope contain?"
"My resignation, sir," replied Kerry.
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