until - - " She broke off. "Albert, there's a telephone here,
The boy shook his head.
"The flats mostly have their own, miss. But there's a box just
round the corner."
"Go to it then, at once, and ring up the Ritz Hotel. Ask for Mr.
Hersheimmer, and when you get him tell him to get Sir James and
come on at once, as Mrs. Vandemeyer is trying to hook it. If you
can't get him, ring up Sir James Peel Edgerton, you'll find his
number in the book, and tell him what's happening. You won't
forget the names, will you?"
Albert repeated them glibly. "You trust to me, miss, it'll be
all right. But what about you? Aren't you afraid to trust
yourself with her?"
"No, no, that's all right. BUT GO AND TELEPHONE. Be quick."
Drawing a long breath, Tuppence entered the Mansions and ran up
to the door of No. 20. How she was to detain Mrs. Vandemeyer
until the two men arrived, she did not know, but somehow or other
it had to be done, and she must accomplish the task
single-handed. What had occasioned this precipitate departure?
Did Mrs. Vandemeyer suspect her?
Speculations were idle. Tuppence pressed the bell firmly. She
might learn something from the cook.
Nothing happened and, after waiting some minutes, Tuppence
pressed the bell again, keeping her finger on the button for some
little while. At last she heard footsteps inside, and a moment
later Mrs. Vandemeyer herself opened the door. She lifted her
eyebrows at the sight of the girl.
"I had a touch of toothache, ma'am," said Tuppence glibly. "So
thought it better to come home and have a quiet evening."
Mrs. Vandemeyer said nothing, but she drew back and let Tuppence
pass into the hall.
"How unfortunate for you," she said coldly. "You had better go
"Oh, I shall be all right in the kitchen, ma'am. Cook will - - "
"Cook is out," said Mrs. Vandemeyer, in a rather disagreeable
tone. "I sent her out. So you see you had better go to bed."
Suddenly Tuppence felt afraid. There was a ring in Mrs.
Vandemeyer's voice that she did not like at all. Also, the other
woman was slowly edging her up the passage. Tuppence turned at
"I don't want - - "
Then, in a flash, a rim of cold steel touched her temple, and
Mrs. Vandemeyer's voice rose cold and menacing:
"You damned little fool! Do you think I don't know? No, don't
answer. If you struggle or cry out, I'll shoot you like a dog."
The rim of steel pressed a little harder against the girl's
"Now then, march," went on Mrs. Vandemeyer. "This way - into my
room. In a minute, when I've done with you, you'll go to bed as I
told you to. And you'll sleep - oh yes, my little spy, you'll
sleep all right!"
There was a sort of hideous geniality in the last words which
Tuppence did not at all like. For the moment there was nothing
to be done, and she walked obediently into Mrs. Vandemeyer's
bedroom. The pistol never left her forehead. The room was in a
state of wild disorder, clothes were flung about right and left,
a suit-case and a hat box, half-packed, stood in the middle of
Tuppence pulled herself together with an effort. Her voice shook
a little, but she spoke out bravely.
"Come now," she said. "This is nonsense. You can't shoot me.
Why, every one in the building would hear the report."
"I'd risk that," said Mrs. Vandemeyer cheerfully. "But, as long
as you don't sing out for help, you're all right - and I don't
think you will. You're a clever girl. You deceived ME all right.
I hadn't a suspicion of you! So I've no doubt that you understand
perfectly well that this is where I'm on top and you're
underneath. Now then - sit on the bed. Put your hands above your
head, and if you value your life don't move them."
Tuppence obeyed passively. Her good sense told her that there
was nothing else to do but accept the situation. If she shrieked
for help there was very little chance of anyone hearing her,
whereas there was probably quite a good chance of Mrs.
Vandemeyer's shooting her. In the meantime, every minute of delay
gained was valuable.
Mrs. Vandemeyer laid down the revolver on the edge of the
washstand within reach of her hand, and, still eyeing Tuppence
like a lynx in case the girl should attempt to move, she took a
little stoppered bottle from its place on the marble and poured
some of its contents into a glass which she filled up with water.
"What's that?" asked Tuppence sharply.
"Something to make you sleep soundly."
Tuppence paled a little.
"Are you going to poison me?" she asked in a whisper.
"Perhaps," said Mrs. Vandemeyer, smiling agreeably.
"Then I shan't drink it," said Tuppence firmly. "I'd much rather
be shot. At any rate that would make a row, and some one might
hear it. But I won't be killed off quietly like a lamb."
Mrs. Vandemeyer stamped her foot.
"Don't be a little fool! Do you really think I want a hue and
cry for murder out after me? If you've any sense at all, you'll
realize that poisoning you wouldn't suit my book at all. It's a
sleeping draught, that's all. You'll wake up to-morrow morning
none the worse. I simply don't want the bother of tying you up
and gagging you. That's the alternative - and you won't like it, I
can tell you! I can be very rough if I choose. So drink this
down like a good girl, and you'll be none the worse for it."
In her heart of hearts Tuppence believed her. The arguments she
had adduced rang true. It was a simple and effective method of
getting her out of the way for the time being. Nevertheless, the
girl did not take kindly to the idea of being tamely put to sleep
without as much as one bid for freedom. She felt that once Mrs.
Vandemeyer gave them the slip, the last hope of finding Tommy
would be gone.
Tuppence was quick in her mental processes. All these
reflections passed through her mind in a flash, and she saw where
a chance, a very problematical chance, lay, and she determined to
risk all in one supreme effort.
Accordingly, she lurched suddenly off the bed and fell on her
knees before Mrs. Vandemeyer, clutching her skirts frantically.
"I don't believe it," she moaned. "It's poison - I know it's
poison. Oh, don't make me drink it" - her voice rose to a
shriek - "don't make me drink it!"
Mrs. Vandemeyer, glass in hand, looked down with a curling lip at
this sudden collapse.
"Get up, you little idiot! Don't go on drivelling there. How you
ever had the nerve to play your part as you did I can't think."
She stamped her foot. "Get up, I say."
But Tuppence continued to cling and sob, interjecting her sobs
with incoherent appeals for mercy. Every minute gained was to
the good. Moreover, as she grovelled, she moved imperceptibly
nearer to her objective.
Mrs. Vandemeyer gave a sharp impatient exclamation, and jerked
the girl to her knees.
"Drink it at once!" Imperiously she pressed the glass to the
Tuppence gave one last despairing moan.
"You swear it won't hurt me?" she temporized.
"Of course it won't hurt you. Don't be a fool."
"Will you swear it?"
"Yes, yes," said the other impatiently. "I swear it."
Tuppence raised a trembling left hand to the glass.
"Very well." Her mouth opened meekly.
Mrs. Vandemeyer gave a sigh of relief, off her guard for the
moment. Then, quick as a flash, Tuppence jerked the glass upward
as hard as she could. The fluid in it splashed into Mrs.
Vandemeyer's face, and during her momentary gasp, Tuppence's
right hand shot out and grasped the revolver where it lay on the
edge of the washstand. The next moment she had sprung back a
pace, and the revolver pointed straight at Mrs. Vandemeyer's
heart, with no unsteadiness in the hand that held it.
In the moment of victory, Tuppence betrayed a somewhat
"Now who's on top and who's underneath?" she crowed.
The other's face was convulsed with rage. For a minute Tuppence
thought she was going to spring upon her, which would have placed
the girl in an unpleasant dilemma, since she meant to draw the
line at actually letting off the revolver. However, with an
effort Mrs. Vandemeyer controlled herself, and at last a slow
evil smile crept over her face.
"Not a fool, then, after all! You did that well, girl. But you
shall pay for it - oh, yes, you shall pay for it! I have a long
"I'm surprised you should have been gulfed so easily," said
Tuppence scornfully. "Did you really think I was the kind of
girl to roll about on the floor and whine for mercy?"
"You may do - some day!" said the other significantly.
The cold malignity of her manner sent an unpleasant chill down
Tuppence's spine, but she was not going to give in to it.
"Supposing we sit down," she said pleasantly. "Our present
attitude is a little melodramatic. No - not on the bed. Draw a
chair up to the table, that's right. Now I'll sit opposite you
with the revolver in front of me - just in case of accidents.
Splendid. Now, let's talk."
"What about?" said Mrs. Vandemeyer sullenly.
Tuppence eyed her thoughtfully for a minute. She was remembering
several things. Boris's words, "I believe you would sell - us!"
and her answer, "The price would have to be enormous," given
lightly, it was true, yet might not there be a substratum of
truth in it? Long ago, had not Whittington asked: "Who's been
blabbing? Rita?" Would Rita Vandemeyer prove to be the weak
spot in the armour of Mr. Brown?
Keeping her eyes fixed steadily on the other's face, Tuppence
"Money - - "
Mrs. Vandemeyer started. Clearly, the reply was unexpected.
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you. You said just now that you had a long memory. A
long memory isn't half as useful as a long purse! I dare say it
relieves your feelings a good deal to plan out all sorts of
dreadful things to do to me, but is that PRACTICAL? Revenge is
very unsatisfactory. Every one always says so. But
money" - Tuppence warmed to her pet creed - "well, there's nothing
unsatisfactory about money, is there?"
"Do you think," said Mrs. Vandemeyer scornfully, "that I am the
kind of woman to sell my friends?"
"Yes," said Tuppence promptly. "If the price was big enough."
"A paltry hundred pounds or so!"
"No," said Tuppence. "I should suggest - a hundred thousand!"
Her economical spirit did not permit her to mention the whole
million dollars suggested by Julius.
A flush crept over Mrs. Vandemeyer's face.
"What did you say?" she asked, her fingers playing nervously with
a brooch on her breast. In that moment Tuppence knew that the
fish was hooked, and for the first time she felt a horror of her
own money-loving spirit. It gave her a dreadful sense of kinship
to the woman fronting her.
"A hundred thousand pounds," repeated Tuppence.
The light died out of Mrs. Vandemeyer's eyes. She leaned back in
"Bah!" she said. "You haven't got it."
"No," admitted Tuppence, "I haven't - but I know some one who
"A friend of mine."
"Must be a millionaire," remarked Mrs. Vandemeyer unbelievingly.
"As a matter of fact he is. He's an American. He'll pay you
that without a murmur. You can take it from me that it's a
perfectly genuine proposition."
Mrs. Vandemeyer sat up again.
"I'm inclined to believe you," she said slowly.
There was silence between them for some time, then Mrs.
Vandemeyer looked up.
"What does he want to know, this friend of yours?"
Tuppence went through a momentary struggle, but it was Julius's
money, and his interests must come first.
"He wants to know where Jane Finn is," she said boldly.
Mrs. Vandemeyer showed no surprise.
"I'm not sure where she is at the present moment," she replied.
"But you could find out?"
"Oh, yes," returned Mrs. Vandemeyer carelessly. "There would be
no difficulty about that."
"Then" - Tuppence's voice shook a little - "there's a boy, a friend
of mine. I'm afraid something's happened to him, through your pal
"What's his name?"
"Never heard of him. But I'll ask Boris. He'll tell me anything
"Thank you." Tuppence felt a terrific rise in her spirits. It
impelled her to more audacious efforts. "There's one thing
Tuppence leaned forward and lowered her voice.
"WHO IS MR. BROWN?"
Her quick eyes saw the sudden paling of the beautiful face. With
an effort Mrs. Vandemeyer pulled herself together and tried to
resume her former manner. But the attempt was a mere parody.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"You can't have learnt much about us if you don't know that
NOBODY KNOWS WHO MR. BROWN IS...."
"You do," said Tuppence quietly.
Again the colour deserted the other's face.
"What makes you think that?"
"I don't know," said the girl truthfully. "But I'm sure."
Mrs. Vandemeyer stared in front of her for a long time.
"Yes," she said hoarsely, at last, "I know. I was beautiful, you
see - very beautiful - "
"You are still," said Tuppence with admiration.
Mrs. Vandemeyer shook her head. There was a strange gleam in her
"Not beautiful enough," she said in a soft dangerous voice.
"Not - beautiful - enough! And sometimes, lately, I've been
afraid.... It's dangerous to know too much!" She leaned forward
across the table. "Swear that my name shan't be brought into
it - that no one shall ever know."
"I swear it. And, once's he caught, you'll be out of danger."
A terrified look swept across Mrs. Vandemeyer's face.
"Shall I? Shall I ever be?" She clutched Tuppence's arm.
"You're sure about the money?"
"When shall I have it? There must be no delay."
"This friend of mine will be here presently. He may have to send
cables, or something like that. But there won't be any
delay - he's a terrific hustler."
A resolute look settled on Mrs. Vandemeyer's face.
"I'll do it. It's a great sum of money, and besides" - she gave a
curious smile - "it is not - wise to throw over a woman like me!"
For a moment or two, she remained smiling, and lightly tapping
her fingers on the table. Suddenly she started, and her face
"What was that?"
"I heard nothing."
Mrs. Vandemeyer gazed round her fearfully.
"If there should be some one listening - - "
"Nonsense. Who could there be?"
"Even the walls might have ears," whispered the other. "I tell
you I'm frightened. You don't know him!"
"Think of the hundred thousand pounds," said Tuppence soothingly.
Mrs. Vandemeyer passed her tongue over her dried lips.
"You don't know him," she reiterated hoarsely. "He's - ah!"
With a shriek of terror she sprang to her feet. Her outstretched
hand pointed over Tuppence's head. Then she swayed to the ground
in a dead faint.
Tuppence looked round to see what had startled her.
In the doorway were Sir James Peel Edgerton and Julius
SIR James brushed past Julius and hurriedly bent over the fallen
"Heart," he said sharply. "Seeing us so suddenly must have given
her a shock. Brandy - and quickly, or she'll slip through our
Julius hurried to the washstand.
"Not there," said Tuppence over her shoulder. "In the tantalus
in the dining-room. Second door down the passage."
Between them Sir James and Tuppence lifted Mrs. Vandemeyer and
carried her to the bed. There they dashed water on her face, but
with no result. The lawyer fingered her pulse.
"Touch and go," he muttered. "I wish that young fellow would
hurry up with the brandy."
At that moment Julius re-entered the room, carrying a glass half
full of the spirit which he handed to Sir James. While Tuppence
lifted her head the lawyer tried to force a little of the spirit
between her closed lips. Finally the woman opened her eyes
feebly. Tuppence held the glass to her lips.
Mrs. Vandemeyer complied. The brandy brought the colour back to
her white cheeks, and revived her in a marvellous fashion. She
tried to sit up - then fell back with a groan, her hand to her
"It's my heart," she whispered. "I mustn't talk."
She lay back with closed eyes.
Sir James kept his finger on her wrist a minute longer, then
withdrew it with a nod.
"She'll do now."
All three moved away, and stood together talking in low voices.
One and all were conscious of a certain feeling of anticlimax.
Clearly any scheme for cross-questioning the lady was out of the
question for the moment. For the time being they were baffled,
and could do nothing.
Tuppence related how Mrs. Vandemeyer had declared herself willing
to disclose the identity of Mr. Brown, and how she had consented
to discover and reveal to them the whereabouts of Jane Finn.
Julius was congratulatory.
"That's all right, Miss Tuppence. Splendid! I guess that
hundred thousand pounds will look just as good in the morning to
the lady as it did over night. There's nothing to worry over.
She won't speak without the cash anyway, you bet!"
There was certainly a good deal of common sense in this, and
Tuppence felt a little comforted.
"What you say is true," said Sir James meditatively. "I must
confess, however, that I cannot help wishing we had not
interrupted at the minute we did. Still, it cannot be helped, it
is only a matter of waiting until the morning."
He looked across at the inert figure on the bed. Mrs. Vandemeyer
lay perfectly passive with closed eyes. He shook his head.
"Well," said Tuppence, with an attempt at cheerfulness, "we must
wait until the morning, that's all. But I don't think we ought
to leave the flat."
"What about leaving that bright boy of yours on guard?"
"Albert? And suppose she came round again and hooked it. Albert
couldn't stop her."
"I guess she won't want to make tracks away from the dollars."
"She might. She seemed very frightened of 'Mr. Brown.' "
"What? Real plumb scared of him?"
"Yes. She looked round and said even walls had ears."
"Maybe she meant a dictaphone," said Julius with interest.
"Miss Tuppence is right," said Sir James quietly. "We must not
leave the flat - if only for Mrs. Vandemeyer's sake."
Julius stared at him.
"You think he'd get after her? Between now and to-morrow
morning. How could he know, even?"
"You forget your own suggestion of a dictaphone," said Sir James
dryly. "We have a very formidable adversary. I believe, if we
exercise all due care, that there is a very good chance of his
being delivered into our hands. But we must neglect no
precaution. We have an important witness, but she must be
safeguarded. I would suggest that Miss Tuppence should go to
bed, and that you and I, Mr. Hersheimmer, should share the
Tuppence was about to protest, but happening to glance at the bed
she saw Mrs. Vandemeyer, her eyes half-open, with such an
expression of mingled fear and malevolence on her face that it
quite froze the words on her lips.
For a moment she wondered whether the faint and the heart attack
had been a gigantic sham, but remembering the deadly pallor she
could hardly credit the supposition. As she looked the expression
disappeared as by magic, and Mrs. Vandemeyer lay inert and
motionless as before. For a moment the girl fancied she must have
dreamt it. But she determined nevertheless to be on the alert.
"Well," said Julius, "I guess we'd better make a move out of here
The others fell in with his suggestion. Sir James again felt
Mrs. Vandemeyer's pulse.
"Perfectly satisfactory," he said in a low voice to Tuppence.
"She'll be absolutely all right after a night's rest."
The girl hesitated a moment by the bed. The intensity of the
expression she had surprised had impressed her powerfully. Mrs.
Vandemeyer lifted her lids. She seemed to be struggling to
speak. Tuppence bent over her.
"Don't - leave - - " she seemed unable to proceed, murmuring
something that sounded like "sleepy." Then she tried again.
Tuppence bent lower still. It was only a breath.
"Mr. - Brown - - " The voice stopped.
But the half-closed eyes seemed still to send an agonized
Moved by a sudden impulse, the girl said quickly:
"I shan't leave the flat. I shall sit up all night."
A flash of relief showed before the lids descended once more.
Apparently Mrs. Vandemeyer slept. But her words had awakened a
new uneasiness in Tuppence. What had she meant by that low
murmur: "Mr. Brown?" Tuppence caught herself nervously looking
over her shoulder. The big wardrobe loomed up in a sinister
fashion before her eyes. Plenty of room for a man to hide in
that.... Half-ashamed of herself, Tuppence pulled it open and
looked inside. No one - of course! She stooped down and looked
under the bed. There was no other possible hiding-place.
Tuppence gave her familiar shake of the shoulders. It was
absurd, this giving way to nerves! Slowly she went out of the
room. Julius and Sir James were talking in a low voice. Sir James
turned to her.
"Lock the door on the outside, please, Miss Tuppence, and take
out the key. There must be no chance of anyone entering that
The gravity of his manner impressed them, and Tuppence felt less
ashamed of her attack of "nerves."
"Say," remarked Julius suddenly, "there's Tuppence's bright boy.
I guess I'd better go down and ease his young mind. That's some
"How did you get in, by the way?" asked Tuppence suddenly. "I
forgot to ask."
"Well, Albert got me on the phone all right. I ran round for Sir
James here, and we came right on. The boy was on the look out
for us, and was just a mite worried about what might have
happened to you. He'd been listening outside the door of the
flat, but couldn't hear anything. Anyhow he suggested sending us
up in the coal lift instead of ringing the bell. And sure enough
we landed in the scullery and came right along to find you.
Albert's still below, and must be just hopping mad by this time."
With which Julius departed abruptly.
"Now then, Miss Tuppence," said Sir James, "you know this place
better than I do. Where do you suggest we should take up our
Tuppence considered for a moment or two.
"I think Mrs. Vandemeyer's boudoir would be the most
comfortable," she said at last, and led the way there.
Sir James looked round approvingly.
"This will do very well, and now, my dear young lady, do go to
bed and get some sleep."
Tuppence shook her head resolutely.
"I couldn't, thank you, Sir James. I should dream of Mr. Brown
"But you'll be so tired, child."
"No, I shan't. I'd rather stay up - really."
The lawyer gave in.
Julius reappeared some minutes later, having reassured Albert and
rewarded him lavishly for his services. Having in his turn failed
to persuade Tuppence to go to bed, he said decisively:
"At any rate, you've got to have something to eat right away.
Where's the larder?"
Tuppence directed him, and he returned in a few minutes with a
cold pie and three plates.
After a hearty meal, the girl felt inclined to pooh-pooh her
fancies of half an hour before. The power of the money bribe
could not fail.
"And now, Miss Tuppence," said Sir James, "we want to hear your
"That's so," agreed Julius.
Tuppence narrated her adventures with some complacence. Julius
occasionally interjected an admiring "Bully." Sir James said
nothing until she had finished, when his quiet "well done, Miss
Tuppence," made her flush with pleasure.
"There's one thing I don't get clearly," said Julius. "What put
her up to clearing out?"
"I don't know," confessed Tuppence.
Sir James stroked his chin thoughtfully.
"The room was in great disorder. That looks as though her flight
was unpremeditated. Almost as though she got a sudden warning to
go from some one."
"Mr. Brown, I suppose," said Julius scoffingly.
The lawyer looked at him deliberately for a minute or two.
"Why not?" he said. "Remember, you yourself have once been
worsted by him."
Julius flushed with vexation.
"I feel just mad when I think of how I handed out Jane's
photograph to him like a lamb. Gee, if I ever lay hands on it
again, I'll freeze on to it like - like hell!"
"That contingency is likely to be a remote one," said the other
"I guess you're right," said Julius frankly. "And, in any case,
it's the original I'm out after. Where do you think she can be,
The lawyer shook his head.
"Impossible to say. But I've a very good idea where she has
"You have? Where?"
Sir James smiled.
"At the scene of your nocturnal adventures, the Bournemouth