Chapter XXVII. Crown Evidence




The appearance of the violet-enamelled motor brougham upholstered in cream, and driven by a chauffeur in a violet and cream livery, created some slight sensation in Spenser Road, S.E. Mollie Gretna's conspicuous car was familiar enough to residents in the West End of London, but to lower middle-class suburbia it came as something of a shock. More than one window curtain moved suspiciously, suggesting a hidden but watchful presence, when the glittering vehicle stopped before the gate of number 67; and the lady at number 68 seized an evidently rare opportunity to come out and polish her letter-box.

She was rewarded by an unobstructed view of the smartest woman in London (thus spake society paragraphers) and of the most expensive set of furs in Europe, also of a perfectly gowned slim figure. Of Mollie's disdainful face, with its slightly uptilted nose, she had no more than a glimpse.

A neat maid, evidently Scotch, admitted the dazzling visitor to number 67; and Spenser Road waited and wondered. It was something to do with the Bond Street murder! Small girls appeared from doorways suddenly opened and darted off to advise less-watchful neighbors.

Kerry, who had been at work until close upon dawn in the mysterious underworld of Soho was sleeping, but Mrs. Kerry received Mollie in a formal little drawing-room, which, unlike the cosy, homely dining- room, possessed that frigid atmosphere which belongs to uninhabited apartments. In a rather handsome cabinet were a number of trophies associated with the detective's successful cases. The cabinet itself was a present from a Regent Street firm for whom Kerry had recovered valuable property.

Mary Kerry, dressed in a plain blouse and skirt, exhibited no trace of nervousness in the presence of her aristocratic and fashionable caller. Indeed, Mollie afterwards declared that "she was quite a ladylike person. But rather tin tabernacley, my dear."

"Did ye wish to see Chief Inspector Kerry parteecularly?" asked Mary, watching her visitor with calm, observant eyes.

"Oh, most particularly!" cried Mollie, in a flutter of excitement. "Of course I don't know what you must think of me for calling at such a preposterous hour, but there are some things that simply can't wait."

"Aye," murmured Mrs. Kerry. "'Twill be yon Bond Street affair?"

"Oh, yes, it is, Mrs. Kerry. Doesn't the very name of Bond Street turn your blood cold? I am simply shivering with fear!"

"As the wife of a Chief Inspector I am maybe more used to tragedies than yoursel', madam. But it surely is a sair grim business. My husband is resting now. He was hard at work a' the night. Nae doubt ye'll be wishin' tee see him privately?"

"Oh, if you please. I am so sorry to disturb him. I can imagine that he must be literally exhausted after spending a whole night among dreadful people."

Mary Kerry stood up.

"If ye'll excuse me for a moment I'll awaken him," she said. "Our household is sma'."

"Oh, of course! I quite understand, Mrs. Kerry! So sorry. But so good of you."

"Might I offer ye a glass o' sherry an' a biscuit?"

"I simply couldn't dream of troubling you! Please don't suggest such a thing. I feel covered with guilt already. Many thanks nevertheless."

Mary Kerry withdrew, leaving Mollie alone. As soon as the door closed Mollie stood up and began to inspect the trophies in the cabinet. She was far too restless and excited to remain sitting down. She looked at the presentation clock on the mantelpiece and puzzled over the signatures engraved upon a large silver dish which commemorated the joy displayed by the Criminal Investigation Department upon the occasion of Kerry's promotion to the post of Chief Inspector.

The door opened and Kerry came in. He had arisen and completed his toilet in several seconds less than five minutes. But his spotlessly neat attire would have survived inspection by the most lynx-eyed martinet in the Brigade of Guards. As he smiled at his visitor with fierce geniality, Mollie blushed like a young girl.

Chief Inspector Kerry was a much bigger man than she had believed him to be. The impression left upon her memory by his brief appearance at the night club had been that of a small, dapper figure. Now, as he stood in the little drawing-room, she saw that he was not much if anything below the average height of Englishmen, and that he possessed wonderfully broad shoulders. In fact, Kerry was deceptive. His compact neatness and the smallness of his feet and hands, together with those swift, lithe movements which commonly belong to men of light physique, curiously combined to deceive the beholder, but masked eleven stones (*note: 1 stone = 14 pounds) of bone and muscle.

"Very good of you to offer information, miss," he said. "I'm willing to admit that I can do with it."

He opened a bureau and took out a writing-block and a fountain pen. Then he turned and stared hard at Mollie. She quickly lowered her eyes.

"Excuse me," said Kerry, "but didn't I see you somewhere last night?"

"Yes," she said. "I was sitting just inside the door at--"

"Right! I remember," interrupted Kerry. He continued to stare. "Before you say any more, miss, I have to remind you that I am a police officer, and that you may be called upon to swear to the truth of any information you may give me."

"Oh, of course! I know."

"You know? Very well, then; we can get on. Who gave you my address?"

At the question, so abruptly asked, Mollie felt herself blushing again. It was delightful to know that she could still blush. "Oh-- I . . . that is, I asked Scotland Yard "

She bestowed a swift, half-veiled glance at her interrogator, but he offered her no help, and:

"They wouldn't tell me," she continued. "So--I had to find out. You see, I heard you were trying to get information which I thought perhaps I could give."

"So you went to the trouble to find my private address rather than to the nearest police station," said Kerry. "Might I ask you from whom you heard that I wanted this information?"

"Well--it's in the papers, isn't it?"

"It is certainly. But it occurred to me that someone. . . connected might have told you as well."

"Actually, someone did: Miss Margaret Halley."

"Good!" rapped Kerry. "Now we're coming to it. She told you to come to me?"

"Oh, no!" cried Mollie--"she didn't. She told me to tell her so that she could tell the Home office."

"Eh?" said Kerry, "eh?" He bent forward, staring fiercely. "Please tell me exactly what Miss Halley wanted to know."

The intensity of his gaze Mollie found very perturbing, but:

"She wanted me to tell her where Mrs. Sin lived," she replied.

Kerry experienced a quickening of the pulse. In the failure of the C.I.D. to trace the abode of the notorious Mrs. Sin he had suspected double-dealing. He counted it unbelievable that a figure so conspicuous in certain circles could evade official quest even for forty-eight hours. K Division's explanation, too, that there were no less than eighty Chinamen resident in and about Limehouse whose names either began or ended with Sin, he looked upon as a paltry evasion. That very morning he had awakened from a species of nightmare wherein 719 had affected the arrest of Kazmah and Mrs. Sin and had rescued Mrs. Irvin from the clutches of the former. Now--here was hope. 719 would seem to be as hopelessly in the dark as everybody else.

"You refused?" he rapped.

"Of course I did, Inspector," said Mollie, with a timid, tender glance. "I thought you were the proper person to tell."

"Then you know?" asked Kerry, unable to conceal his eagerness.

"Yes," sighed Mollie. "Unfortunately--I know. Oh Inspector, how can I explain it to you?"

"Don't trouble, miss. Just give me the address and I'll ask no questions!"

His keenness was thrilling, infectious. As a result of the night's "beating" he had a list of some twenty names whose owners might have been patrons of Kazmah and some of whom might know Mrs. Sin. But he had learned from bitter experience how difficult it was to induce such people to give useful evidence. There was practically no means of forcing them to speak if they chose, from selfish motives, to be silent. They could be forced to appear in court, but anything elicited in public was worse than useless. Furthermore, Kerry could not afford to wait. Mollie replied excitedly:

"Oh, Inspector, I know you will think me simply an appalling person when I tell you; but I have been to Mrs. Sin's house--'The House of a Hundred Raptures' she calls it--"

"Yes, yes! But--the address?"

"However can I tell you the address, Inspector? I could drive you there, but I haven't the very haziest idea of the name of the horrible street! One drives along dreadful roads where there are stalls and Jews for quite an interminable time, and then over a sort of canal, and then round to the right all among ships and horrid Chinamen. Then, there is a doorway in a little court, and Mrs. Sin's husband sits inside a smelly room with a positively ferocious raven who shrieks about legs and policemen! Oh! Can I ever forget it!"

"One moment, miss, one moment," said Kerry, keeping an iron control upon himself. "What is the name of Mrs. Sin's husband?"

"Oh, let me think! I can always remember it by recalling the croak of the raven." She raised one hand to her brow, posing reflectively, and began to murmur:

"Sin Sin Ah . . . Sin Sin Jar . . . Sin Sin--Oh! I have it! Sin Sin Wa!"

"Good!" rapped Kerry, and made a note on the block. "Sin Sin Wa, and he has a pet raven, you say, who talks?"

"Who positively talks like some horrid old woman!" cried Mollie. "He has only one eye."

"The raven?"

"The raven, yes--and also the Chinaman."

"What!"

"Oh! it's a nightmare to behold them together!" declared Mollie, clasping her hands and bending forward.

She was gaining courage, and now looked almost boldly into the fierce eyes of the Chief Inspector.

"Describe the house," he said succinctly. "Take your time and use your own words."

Thereupon Mollie launched into a description of Sin Sin Wa's opium- house. Kerry, his eyes fixed upon her face, listened silently. Then:

"These little rooms are really next door?" he asked.

"I suppose so, Inspector. We always went through the back of a cupboard!"

"Can you give me names of others who used this place?"

"Well"--Mollie hesitated--"poor Rita, of course and Sir Lucien. Then, Cyrus Kilfane used to go."

"Kilfane? The American actor?"

"Yes."

"H'm. He's back in America, Sir Lucien is dead, and Mrs. Irvin is missing. Nobody else?"

Mollie shook her head.

"Who first took you there?"

"Cyrus Kilfane."

"Not Sir Lucien?"

"Oh, no. But both of them had been before."

"What was Kazmah's connection with Mrs. Sin and her husband?"

"I have no idea, Inspector. Kazmah used to supply cocaine and veronal and trional and heroin, but those who wanted to smoke opium he sent to Mrs. Sin."

"What! he gave them her address?"

"No, no! He gave her their address."

"I see. She called?"

"Yes. Oh, Inspector"--Mollie bent farther forward--"I can see in your eyes that you think I am fabulously wicked! Shall I be arrested?"

Kerry coughed drily and stood up.

"Probably not, miss. But you may be required to give evidence."

"Oh, actually?" cried Mollie, also standing up and approaching nearer.

"Yes. Shall you object?"

Mollie looked into his eyes.

"Not if I can be of the slightest assistance to you, Inspector."

A theory to explain why this social butterfly had sought him out as a recipient of her compromising confidences presented itself to Kerry's mind. He was a modest man, having neither time nor inclination for gallantries, and this was the first occasion throughout his professional career upon which he had obtained valuable evidence on the strength of his personal attractions. He doubted the accuracy of his deduction. But, Mollie at that moment lowering her lashes and then rapidly raising them again, Kerry was compelled to accept his own astonishing theory.

"And she is the daughter of a peer!" he reflected. "No wonder it has been hard to get evidence."

He glanced rapidly in the direction of the door. There were several details which were by no means clear, but he decided to act upon the information already given and to get rid of his visitor without delay. Where some of the most dangerous criminals in Europe and America had failed, Mollie Gretna had succeeded in making Red Kerry nervous.

"I am much indebted to you, miss," he said, and opened the door.

"Oh, it has been delightful to confess to you, Inspector!" declared Mollie. "I will give you my card, and I shall expect you to come to me for any further information you may want. If I have to be brought to court, you will tell me, won't you?"

"Rely upon me, miss," replied Kerry shortly.

He escorted Mollie to her brougham, observed by no less than six discreetly hidden neighbors. And as the brougham was driven off she waved her hand to him! Kerry felt a hot flush spreading over his red countenance, for the veiled onlookers had not escaped his attention. As he re-entered the house:

"Yon's a bad woman," said his wife, emerging from the dining-room.

"I believe you may be right, Mary," replied Kerry confusedly.

"I kenned it when fairst I set een upon her painted face. I kenned it the now when she lookit sideways at ye. If yon's a grand lady, she's a woman o' puir repute. The Lord gi'e us grace."



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