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CALL RI(;HTii Rici;ziavzD. ] ? THE MAN-HUNT ? HIJ By TOM GALLON, (m A( Author of "Tatterley," "The Great Gay Road," &c. /)? CHAPTER VII. J ENTEH IM. JAP. MAN. Manners was hot for starting then and there for his old rooms, and getting the matter done with; the wiser Hetty advised him against this with all her powers of pleading. "My dearest boy," she said as they sat side by side Oil the bench at the end of the long gallery, "why run into difficulties when they can be avoided? Wait at least for dark- ness, when there is a much smaller chance of your being' seen and recognised. Besides, that man-servant of yours, Kirby, who is such a sound sleeper, will by that time be in bed, if he is at the place at all, and you might creep about without disturbing him." I suppose you're right," he said grudg- ingly, "only I hate the idea of waiting. Be- sides, I mean to go to the office." "To the office!' she repeated, with a note of very real alarm in her voice. "Surely you won't be so mad as to do that." "My darling girl," said Manners earnestly, e "it is Sunday afternoon—getting on for the evening. The City will be as quiet as death. I must get into the office somehow or other, if only for half an hour. It's hard that a man should have to set out to steal his own, but that's what I must do. It's a great risk, I know, but it's a risk I must take. It'll be the office first—and my rooms after- wards." She was able to restrain his eagerness to the extent at, least of making him wait for a few hours; they put in that time in pacing the streets and talking. It seemed as though they would never find time to say to each other all that was in their hearts, and then, as darkness fell, Manners turned his face towards the Citv, for the first time since that memorable Saturday afternoon when he had left it. He walked swiftly, as though with a definite purpose, noticing no one, and apparently not being noticed by any one in turn, and co came at last to the little court in which his office was situated. Not a soul in sight, even though he walked to the end of the court and looked to right and left. The windows of the various houses stared blankly upon him; he might .have been in a city of the dead. He v-alked quickly up to the well-remembered door, thrust the ready key in the lock, and in a moment was inside, with the door closed. He stood looking about him in the gloom. There were the tall desks that had been occu- pied by the clerks, standing empty and ghost-like in the big outer office: there was that 'door marked "Private," which he had never expected to pass again. He opened it now, after standing listening for a moment, and "):Dt into the inner office. The high buildings opposite the windows seemed to shut out even what little light was left in the sky. Almost mechanically, and without thinking a lit the matter, Manners switched on the light that stood on his desk. He thought how wonderfully still everything was; he had never known the place without the bristle of work and of the hurrying City all about him. The offices were on the ground lfoor, and there had always been a noise of kvrrying feet through that court from morning till night. He proceeded rapidly with his search, taking a little money from his cash-box, but only a very little, and selecting a few papers that might be of use to him. He was going on with his work rapidly, and was enjoying it to such an extent that in sheer impudence he had opened a box of cigars and had lighted one, when he stopped, and stood per- fectly still, listening. On the flagged court outside the heavy, slow footsteps of a man could be heard distinctly pacing along. A policeman! What should he do? He stood there, in his shabby clothes, and with the keys of the place in his hands, and with the safe standing open; and flarino- there against the dark windows was the light on his desk. He thought for a moment that he would put that light out, but realised in the next,that that would be the act of a madman. He looked round the place quickly. In a corner hung an overcoat that he had been in the habit of keeping there-a long, substan- tial garment, and respectable. He stepped across quickly, and put it on; then, with the cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth, and his hands moving about rapidly over the desk and the papers on it, he waited for what was to happen. 'I'he footsteps outside had ceased; he knew then that the light had been seen. The next sound he heard was a puzzling one; some- thing like a scraping noise, as though some- one were scaling a wall with heavy boots on. He knew what it was in a moment; looking round with what boldness he could, he saw the top of the constable's helmet come up over the wire blind, and then the man's face appeared, looking in. The man was kneel- ing on the window-ledge. On all inspiration Manners, after the first start of surprise, nodded to the face, and smiled. Then, as the man still looked dubious, lie pointed to the papers on the desk, and to the open safe, as if to show that he was at work. And still the man looked in, and looked all round, without moving. Manners pointed to thfl door, and made a sign that he would let the man in; he was trapped, and there -s nothing else for it. The constable seemed satisfied, and dropped down to the ground. Manners looked round quickly for a moment, and then, opening a drawer in the desk, took out that revolver he had once before handled, and slipped it into his breast pocket. It might come to the that, perhaps, after all, he thought. He opened the outer door, keeping his coat buttoned about him; and found the con- stable standing there, bulky and immovable, and certainly suspicious. There was a little chain hanging at his breast, and Manners knew that at the end of that was a whistle, which could in a moment bring men hurrying from every direction. Nevertheless, he must try, if possible, to get rid of the man. "You startled me, constable," he said, in a voice lie strove hard to keep steady. "I'm "working late--oyertime, you know. I've got a lot of things to set straight." "That's all right, sir," said the man, still looking at him stolidly. "Only we 'ave to be careful, you know. I think I'll 'ave a look Tound, if you don't mind." "By all means," said Manners, stepping back for the man to enter. He closed the door, and led the way into the inner office the constable, in a non-committal sort of way, followed him, and looked round. "Making yourself comfortable, I see," he -said. "Might I ask if you 'appen to be the guv'nor—or one o' t he clprk; "I—I'm one of the clerks," said Manners. "They're winding up things here, you know, and the work's been tremendous." "This is the office, if I remember right, of the gentleman that came a cropper an' com- mitted suicide—ain't it?" asked the con- stable, looking round with renewed interest. "Rodnev Manners, I think, was the name." "That was the name—Rodney Manners," answered Manners. "And so you-one of the clerks, sir, I may say-you come up ere to finish work en Sun- day afternoon, an' ave a go at the guv'nor's cigars. Sort of when the cat's away—eh? Only in this case," his face broadened into a grin at his own humour—"in this case the cat 'appens to be dead." "Yes. I have been helping myself," said Manners, "and very good they are, too, Have one? He held out the box, "nd the constable, after shifting from one foot to the other a little uneasily, and even glancing at the win- dow, took one in a vcrv lartrr hand. "Have another," said Manners. So the constable took another. "i'11 smoke em later, thank you, sir," he observed, put- ting them with great care into an inner pocket. "I thought I'd just 'ave a look round, so as to make sure all was ight; we've got to be so careful in a place like the City." The man did not seem inclined to go, and Manners began to fidget, and to wonder how this thing was going to end. At any moment the mind of the man might leap to some more startling conclusion, and it might be a matter for that revolver after all. A thought occurred to him, and he strolled across carelessly to a cupboard, and opened it, and took out a decanter and a glass and a syphon. That action probably saved him for the moment, for a double reason; it served to mollify the constable, and at the same time to show that worthy man Manners' extraordinary familiarity with the place and all it contained. "The guv'nor's whisky, I suppose, sir," he said, as Manners poured out a stiff third of a tumbler and dashed in a little soda. "Well -ere'.s 'ealth, sir." He had got the tumbler to his lips, and was actually tilting back his head, when he stopped, looking across the top of it at Man- ners very slowly he lowered the glass, and held it in his hand. Manners felt himself swaying a little, for a sound had floated to his ears that was something more than start- ling. Someone at the outer door was striving to fit a key into the lock with much fumbling and noise. There, in the silence of the office, as they stared at each other, Manners and the constable could hear the scraping of feet as someone moved about impatiently and peered at the lock. "That's rum," said the constable, looking Bteadilv at Manners. "We seem to be busy here this even in' He took the precaution of finishing- his drink; leaned forwa-rd stiffly, and set the glass down on the desk. Manners wetted dry lips, and did some hard thinking. 1 his was certainly something he had not antici- pated. As it happened, the constable was not at all suspicious of Manners it was only the extraordinary combination of circum- stances—two surprises at once, as it weri- that had upset him. "I wonder what that is," said Manners quietly. "It really looks, constable, as if after all you're going to be busy. Some one is really breaking in, I'm afraid." "We shall 'ave to see about that," said the man, turning towards the door. "I'll just 'ave a look, and 6urprise 'em, whoever they are. You be good enough to keep still, will you ? Manners stood still t]>er<; in the office, gripping the desk, and waiting and listening. The constable strode to the door, and passed out into the outer office; Manners very quickly slipped to the door after him, and stood I gripping the lintel of it, still listening. In the utter silence of the place he could hear those ineffectual attempts to make the key work in the lock; he could hear the slow, heavy breathing of the constable standing just within the door. And then suddenly the door was thrown open, and the burly form of the constable filled it. and faced that some- one who had been trying to get in. "And wot may you 'appen to -,vaDt? demandc-d the policeman calmly. For a moment there was silence whoever was outside was too astounded to speak. Then a stuttering, halting voice exclaimed: "I—I've been trying to get in. This infernal key won't work." Manners knew that voice. The man was Murdoch Slade. He caught his breath, and looked round quickly there was no other way out of the place. To have attempted to raise the window—too heavy almost for one man to move—would have been to court certain disaster; he could only wait the j turn of events. Murder was not in his j heart, but he gripped the revolver, and slipped it to an easier place in the Docket of his overcoat. J "And who may you be. I should like to ■ know, that wants to get in 'ere on a Sunday: evenin'?" asked the constable. "There seems to be quite a lot of you about wantin' to get in 'ere." 1(,, t of is?" "A lot of us?" said Slade iiii a puzzled voice. "I don't understand what you mean. I can give you my card, if you want it. I've simply come down here, where I have been for the past day or two, to look over some papers. In some fashion or other I have got hold of the wrong keys, and I couldn't get in. But what are you doing here?" The constable was puzzled. Murdoch Sladc was obviously a gentleman, well dressed; moreover, he had made no attempt to run away. He stood with a bunch of keys in his hand, holding them out rather j helplessly towards the constable. This be- < came more than ever a matter to inquire into. The constable turned about a little j helplessly, and looked towards the inner office. "Well, I can't make it out," he said peevishly. "There's another of you in 'ere, going through the papers, an' 'aving the safe open an' what not; p'raps you'd better talk to 'im." "I'll talk to anyone that's here," said Slade aggressively, and stepped into the outer oÜiee. Now, the constable, in passing out, had pulled the door nearly shut behind him, and against that door Manners had been stand- ing. The moment he knew that the two men were coming in he made two springs, which landed him noiselessly at the and switched off the light; two more springs took him back to his place at the door. He flung the door open just as Slade with the constable came to it; and the constable stepped in, only to give an exclamation of surprise at finding the place in darkness. Manners stepped quickly through, and so came face to face with Murdoch Slade. In sheer desperation he struck in the semi- darkness full at the man, so that Slade reeled and fell over a stool, and went down with a crash. In a moment Manners was at the outer door, and had slammed it after him, and was racing for dear life and liberty through the court. The constable inside the room had some difficulty in finding the door, and when lie did had to wrestle for a moment or two with a frightened and infuriated man, who was no light weight, and who mistook him for his assailant. After that they had to find the outer door, and between them fumble for the lock; and after that to get into the court outside. So that by the time whistles were blowing and constables were hurrying from all directions, a clean-shaven man, re- spectably dressed in a long overcoat, was strolling comfortably along several streets away, with a cigar in the corner of his mouth, and with no one to know that his heart was beating hard enough to choke him. It had been a mere impulse on the part of Murdoch Slade to visit the office that evening. So much an impulse, in fact, that he had not even brought with him the bu-si- ness bunch of keys that had come into his hands he carried, as he thought, that small bunch of private keys that had belonged to Rodney Manners. Whereas, as we know, he really had with him those belonging to Hester Wake. For a long time after the blowing of the whistles had brought con- stables from all directions to the office, Murdoch Slade, with a damaged face, sat there thinking about the matter, and won- dering who it was that could possiblv have gained an entry to that place, and ]WYC bad th", keys with which to do it. The con- stable's description of a clean-shaven man in a long overcoat conveyed nothing to the mind of Murdoch Slade. Finally, as there was nothing to be done, he gave some neces- sary gratuities to the constables who had hurried there for nothing: declared, for purposes of his own, that the intruder had certainly not stolen anything, and declined to have the matter reported. He went off 'home, with a moody mind working round ( every point of the affair except the right one. As a matter of fact. the mind of Murdoch Slade worked slowly and v--th difficulty; he was not quick at jumping at right conclu- sions. In fact, he had a^ially reached his chambers (Overlooking the Green Park be- fore the mere fact of putting his key in the lock reminded him of a certain episode con- cerning other keys; he uttered an exclama- tion, and clappcd his hand to his forehead, as the remembrance swept over him of the borrowing of bunches of keys by Hester Wake on the previous day. W He went into his .rooms with a thoughtful face, and laid on a table the bunch of keys with which he had tried to enter the office that evening, and looked them over carefully. Hester Wake!" he whispered to himself at last. If it is possible that she changed the keys, with what purpose did she do it, and who was the man who knocked me down in the dark. He could get in easily enough, and evidently, from what the con- stable said, and from the condition in which we found the office, knew his way about. A clean-shaven man with a long overcoat." He got up and walked about the room, striving in vain to put that puzzle together. What had Hester Wake to do with a man who was an utter stranger— a man with a clean-shaven fice- He broke off again, to turn quickly, and grip at the table, breathing hard. There nad been a clean-shaven man, who had risen up out of certain bushes at the edge of the grounds in the country a night or two be- fore-a man round whom the dog of the dead Rodney Manners had jumped and frolicked. The thought was so horrible, and so hair-raising, and so altogether beyond the bounds of ordinary human possibilities, that Slade found it necessary to move across swiftly to a window and throw it open, and get a breath of air. After a little time he sat down at a table and wrote a note to Boyd Litchfield; sent it across the Park by his man-servant. The note must have been urgent, for Boyd Litchfield came hurrying and breathless; moreover, he cried out at sight of his friend's damaged face: "My dear, good friend, you've met with an accident," he exclaimed. Sit down, and don't chatter," retorted Slade, a little savagely. "I want you to look at that bunch of keys, and tell me if you've ever seen them before, or to whom they belong." Wonderingly and doubtfully Boyd Litch- field picked up the bunch of keys, and turned them over; shook. his head over them. I don't think I've ever seen them," he said, slowly. Stop a bit, though," he cried out, selecting the longest key, this looks* rather like a latch-key." Have you your own latch-key with you ? asked Slade. Without replying, Litchfield drew out that little bunch of three keys that had proved useless to Hester Wake, and laid one of the keys beside that longest one on the mys- terious bunch. As the two excited faces bent over them, each man gave a little faint exclamation; the keys matched perfectly. It's the same as my latch-key," ex- claimed Boyd Litchfield.' And belongs to Hester Wake," answered Slade. When she borrowed my keys yes- terday, in order to open some precious box, the key of which she was supposed to have bent and rendered useless, she did a little quick exchange, and took away the keys be- longing to Rodney Manners. I didn't sus- pect, and with the longest of these keys I tried this evening to get into the ofifce. Someone who had the original keys had fore- stalled me, and was there already." Who was it?" demanded Litchfield, staring at him with wide-opened eyes. How the deuce should I ex- claimed Slade, savagely. It was a man- and a man quick enough to elude a burly City constable and to give me this little mark." He pointed to his eye. So far as we know, a stranger who had the keys and got clear away. What I want to know is, what is Hester Wake doing to be assisting some stranger to get into that office?" "But suppose it was an accident; sup- pose she didn't mean to change the keys at all?" suggested Litchfield. "And suppose it was only some clerk, who had got hold of a key, and, knowing the muddled state of everything at that office since its owner's death, wa-s taking advantage of that fact to rob the place? Murdoch Slade looked thoughtful. There's something in what you say," he said, slowly. But I confess I don't like the turn events are taking. And another point occurs to me; whoever hag that bunch of keys is able to get into Rodney Manners' rooms; they are hiB private keys, and I ■' I don't see what you're driving at," said Litchfield, watching the other man intently. I'm driving at this," said Slade, seating himself on the table, and ticking off his points on his fingers. There's a con- spiracy of some sort, of which we know nothing; and those keys in the wrong hands may have extremely unpleasant consequences for us. Suppose"—he lowered his voice, and looked round quickly—"suppose some- one, some friend of Rodney Manners, has got hold of certain information that you and I only know concerning our little scheme, and, working in the dark, has secured these keys, and has gone down to the office to find out what he can. I've heard of a man be- fore now working to clear the memory of a dead friend, and to set him right with the world. I tell you, Litchfield, I don't like it." "What about those rooms of his?" whis- pered Litchfield after a pause. "I don't know anything about them; I haven't been near them. But one thing is certain; I'm going there to-night. If there is anyone there they've got to face me; I'll get to the bottom of this mystery, or I'll know the reason why. By the way," he added quickly, "where is Hester Wake?" "She had not returned when I came away, which was rather strange for her," said Litchfield. "I wish you'd take those keys," said Slade, pointing to them with a grin, "and when you next see Miss Hester Wake present them to her with my compliments. If you're careful you may catch from her expression or what she says whether she knows anything of this business or not." (To be Continued.)



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