Arthur Hornblow.

The Argyle case online

. (page 12 of 14)
Online LibraryArthur HornblowThe Argyle case → online text (page 12 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

away while we can."

He shook his head. Doggedly he replied:

"I won't go till my work is done."

" But they may get you."

"No, they won't. They may get my body, but
not me."

"You'd kill yourself?"

"Yes, I'd kill myself."

She threw her arms desperately around his neck.
Imploringly she cried:

"But think of me, Friederick! Think of me! What
would I do if you were gone ? "

He turned and patted her affectionately on the

"Don't worry, dear. They haven't got Fred
Kreisler yet. I'll give a good account of myself, I
promise you."

Reassured, she smiled again. Lightly she said:


" Perhaps we exaggerate the danger. How should
they find us out here?"

He shook his head.

"They can find a needle in the dark. It's their
business. You never know when you give them a
clue. I don't think it was wise to bring that girl
here. I know I gave my consent, but it was a

"I couldn't help it," she replied, hurriedly. "It
would have aroused Kayton's suspicion if I had
refused. He would have at once suspected some-
thing was wrong and come here to investigate.
Then the jig would have been up."

Kreisler nodded.

"You are right, dear. There was no way out
of it."

As he spoke the electric buzzer spluttered and
crackled. Some one had opened the street-door and
was coming up-stairs. Quickly Kreisler jumped up.

"That must be Skidd!" he exclaimed.

Going to the top of the stairs, he peered over a
moment, while she watched him anxiously. After a
few moments he returned into the room and said:

"No, it's Hurley."

Mrs. Martin made a gesture of disapproval.

"Hurley? He ought to know better than this.
He oughtn't to come here now."

"It's because Gage telephoned him about that

"Oh yes."

Kreisler laughed. Cynically he said:

"He is always finding fault with the things we do,
and it is he who makes the mistakes."



The door opened, and Mr. Hurley appeared. The
lawyer was immaculately dressed, in frock-coat,
gloves, silk hat, and gaiters, all of which looked
strangely out of place amid such sordid surroundings.
Mrs. Martin advanced to meet him. Severely she

"You are wrong to come here!"

He paid no attention to her. Arrogant and
aggressive, he advanced into the room with an air
of authority. Slamming his hat and cane down on
the table and throwing his coat on a chair, he de-

"What's all this I hear about your bringing a
strange woman here?"

"That's all right," exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "You
needn't worry about that. I know what I'm doing."

The lawyer took a seat near the table. Insolently
he demanded:

"What are you doing?"

Kreisler, who had been going on with his work in
silence, now looked up. Quietly he said:

"Don't be so rough. She can explain to you."

The counterfeiter rose, put the bogus banknotes
in the money-box, and locked it. Still seated and
aggressive, Hurley asked:

"Who is it?"

"Miss Masuret."

The attorney bounded on his chair. This was
even worse than he had imagined.

"What? Here?"

Mrs. Martin nodded.

"Kayton asked me to take charge of her."

Their visitor stared at her as if he thought she

14 201


had taken leave of her senses. Throwing up his
arms in indignant astonishment, he cried:

"My God! Are you crazy?"

She shook her head as she replied, quietly:

"It would have been crazy to refuse."

For a moment the attorney was too much over-
come to speak. Finally he spluttered:

"This is a plant!"

"Listen," she began.

But he refused to listen. He saw only the danger
to them all by this girl's presence in the house. No
doubt everything that had occurred had already
been reported to Kay ton. Throwing up his hands
in discouragement, he cried:

"The one person in the world that you should
have kept farthest away from!"

Kreisler looked up. With some impatience he
exclaimed :

"Don't talk so much, Hurley! Listen! Listen!"

Mrs. Martin drew up a chair. Bending forward,
she said, earnestly:

"When I went in yesterday about the legacy-
he was planning to have the girl disappear. He
wanted to protect her from reporters. And besides,
he suspected some one in the Argyle house, and he
wanted to throw suspicion on her and put them off
their guard. It was my telling him I had furnished
rooms that put the idea in his head. He thought,
of course, that I must be under obligations to Mr.
Argyle. I couldn't refuse to take her without
arousing his suspicions. How could I? What ex-
cuse could I give? I couldn't tell him why we didn't
want her here."



Kreisler had risen, and in deep thought paced
slowly up and down the room. Turning round, he

"It would have been better to let that legacy

Suddenly Mr. Hurley bent forward. Something
in her recital had tickled his sense of humor.

"Hold on! Wait! Wait a minute! What was
that? Do you mean to tell me that he's using us
to throw the real criminals off their guard ?"

"Yes. Because he wanted her to disappear.
Don't you understand? He put the whole plan
right in my hands. He was puzzling about it when
I came in. She was there, and he was trying to
make some arrangement."

"Well, by God!"

Springing to his feet, the lawyer burst into one of
his fits of boisterous, convulsive laughter. Ex-
plosively he exclaimed:

"Never-Sleep Kay ton! Isn't he wonderful, this
great detective? Never-Fail Kayton!"

Again he was taken with a fit of laughter, until
he was almost blue in the face.

Kreisler glanced at Mrs. Martin and looked anx-
iously at the door and window. Such laughter as
that might be heard in the street below and attract
attention. Approaching the lawyer, he said, warn-

"Hush, man, hush!"

But Mr. Hurley, once started, was not easy to
control. To him the notion of using them to throw
the real criminals off their guard was inexpressibly
droll, and could only have originated in the brain



of an ass like Kayton. Hilariously he burst out

"Oh, it's all advertising! He's a pinhead!"
Going back to the table and pointing to the things
scattered about the room, he added: "If he knew
the tricks of some of this double-jointed furniture,
eh, Kreisler?"

Again the counterfeiter held up his hand warn-

"Hush! Not so loud!"

More calmly, the attorney went on:

"Have you see the papers? They're full of her
flight. Everybody is sure of her guilt now."

Mrs. Martin looked up anxiously.

" How terrible ! Who is it that Kayton suspects ?"

The lawyer smiled. With self-satisfaction he said :

"How could you guess? A man with a mind like
that! I suppose he thinks it's Bruce because he
hasn't taken him into his confidence. The boy's
distracted; he's got the whole city searching for

Mrs. Martin turned to Kreisler. Anxiously she

"Friederick, if they never find out the truth,
they'll never clear her. And if they do find out-
Mr. Hurley interrupted her with a gesture.
Scornfully he exclaimed:

"Oh, they'll never find out! Kayton will cook
up some story to vindicate the girl and cover his

Rising from his seat, he went toward the door.
Turning, he asked:

"Has he been here?"




Stopping and coming back to the table, he ex-
claimed, testily:

"You should have told me. Suppose I'd met him

"I never dreamed you'd come, and how could I
explain all this over a telephone?"

"What did he say?"

"That his plans were working out satisfactorily
and he thought he'd get the murderer through an
old servant he'd found."

Again the lawyer burst into a noisy fit of laughter.

"Really! Why, / put that notion into his

Anxious to get rid of their unwelcome visitor, Mrs.
Martin looked pointedly at the clock.

"Do you think it wise for you to come here?"
she asked.

Mr. Hurley picked up his coat and hat. Hastily
he answered:

"No. Most assuredly not, and I'm going right
away." As Kreisler went to unlock the door, the
lawyer added, with mock politeness:

"Mrs. Martin, I have to thank you for a most
enjoyable visit. I'm afraid I sha'n't have the pleas-
ure again for some time. Doctor, if I were you, I
would interrupt the practice of my profession while
Miss Masuret is in the house. If Kayton should call
and get on the wrong floor he might have a shock."

Kreisler looked grave. Quietly he said:

"I think, Mr. Hurley, that if I were you I should
leave town."

"Leave town? And miss these consultations with


Kay ton? Oh no; I've too much sense of humor for

Again he laughed hilariously. Kreisler held up a
warning hand and he stopped abruptly. Turning
quickly on his heel, he stammered a hasty good
night, and disappeared.


TOCKING the door carefully behind the lawyer,
*-i Kreisler came back to where Mrs. Martin was
sitting. Shaking his head ominously, he said:

"He should have kept away from that detective.
It is a bad thing when apprehension makes a man
too bold. He should not sniff around traps."

As he spoke the electric buzzer sounded. Mrs.
Martin, startled, half jumped up, but the counter-
feiter waved her back.

"It's only Hurley going out," he said, calmly.

He sank into a chair and sat staring moodily into
space, while his companion sat and watched him in
silence. At last, as if giving expression to thoughts
that had been worrying her, she exclaimed:

" Friederick, what have I done to Mary ? I've tried
to keep our lives as far apart as I could, but it seems
as if the devil had drawn us together to ruin her."

Kreisler shook his head.

"It is not so. It's the luck of the game just a
little bad luck. It will pass."

Again the buzzer sounded its crackling note of
warning. Once more Mrs. Martin sprang to her
feet, Kreisler following more leisurely. Going to the
door, he said:

"That must be Skidd." He has been gone a long
time. Something must have detained him."



As he opened the door an angry voice was heard
on the staircase saying:

"I know what I'm talking about."

"Oh, shut up!" retorted the voice of Simeon Gage.

Kreisler looked back into the room where Mrs.
Martin was waiting apprehensively. With a re-
assuring nod he said:

"Yes, it is Skidd. Gage is with him."

"I tell you I saw him on the corner," said the first
voice again.

"I tell you to shut up!" retorted Gage.

Kreisler smiled.

"I'm afraid Skidd has been drinking," he said.

He came back into the room, followed by a burly,
pugnacious - looking individual whose watery eyes
and ruddy nose suggested a more than passing
acquaintance with the whisky-bottle. As the new-
comer entered he turned to Gage, who followed close
at his heels, and spluttered:

"I tell you I know what I'm talking about."

The pickpocket entered excitedly and ran at once
to the window. Breathlessly he exclaimed :

"Shut that door! This house is watched!"

Mrs. Martin, in alarm, rushed instinctively to

"Friederick!" she exclaimed.

The counterfeiter turned a shade paler as he put
his arm protectingly about her. Shaking his head
disdainfully, he said:

"Nonsense! I don't believe it."

Sobered to some extent by what he had seen in the
street below, but still too much intoxicated for dis-
tinct utterance, Skidd broke in, angrily:



"Don't you? Do you believe I'm drunk? Well,
they didn't get me so drunk I couldn't keep my eye
on them."

Mrs. Martin advanced toward them.

"Who is it? What has happened ?" she demanded.

The pickpocket gave his tight trousers a significant

"Some one's on to us," he leered.

Calmed sufficiently to get his breath, Skidd ex-
plained what had aroused his suspicion.

"A wise young guy tried to warm up to me in a
saloon, and I couldn't get him drunk and, believe
me, there's something doing when I can't get a man
drunk. He was pouring his into the spittoon. When
I shook him off I hiked around here and got a look
out. They keep passing the house. They don't
stop, but they're the same ones, and there's a new
newsboy over on the corner. That's damn funny,
now, ain't it?"

Kreisler listened in silence. What he heard must
have made some impression on him, for in the midst
of Skidd's narrative he went quickly to the table
and began to remove all vestiges of incriminating
evidence. He took the banknotes from the drying-
frame, put the bottle, pan, glove, and measuring-
glass in the cupboard, extinguished the lamp, and
replaced the tin money-box in the closet. Going to
Mrs. Martin, he took from her the photographic
camera and put it also in the closet, which he lockec 1 ,

Skidd staggered to his feet and looked at his com-
panions as if asking them to offer some explanation.
But no one spoke, and he went on :

"What I want to know is, are they after us, or are


they after that new skirt you've got in here? Who is
she ? What's she wanted for ? What are we running
here, anyway a white-slave annex?"

Mrs. Martin shook her head.

"She's all right, Skidd. She's not wanted for
anything. I know all about her."

"Well, what's she so damned mysterious about
herself for? What do you keep her shut up in that
room for? I may be drunk, but I ain't so drunk I
can't be suspicious. I want to see that girl."

"That's impossible," said Mrs. Martin, quietly.

He eyed her suspiciously.

"Why is it impossible? There's something wrong
around here, and it's all happened since that girl came
your pocket picked, me pickled, and a bunch of
plain-clothes men patrolling the block. We need a
quiet life for this business." Tearfully he added:
"I'd like to look her over. She can't fool me.
I've got a light burning in one good eye that ain't

Gage pointed to the door. Warningly he said:

"Well, Bill, you'd better hit the hay. You've got
a ticket for a long dream."

Skidd grinned. ^\

"Come on down, Simmie, and tuck me in."

As Kreisler unlocked the door the pickpocket
shook his head.

"I've got too much tuckin' in to do right here,
Bill. You go along now get sobered up. We may
need you."

The fellow started toward the door. When he
reached it he turned round, and in a maudlin manner
he stammered:



"Good night, Mrs. Martin. I apologize I simply

Throwing the door open, he staggered back a step
or two and then lurched forward and out.

Kreisler, with an exclamation of disgust, closed the
door and went back to the table.

"All this trouble for nothing," he grumbled.

Gage shook his head distrustfully. Going toward
the door, he said:

"Well, I fly this coop in the morning early

Mrs. Martin turned to Kreisler. Anxiously she

"Is everything safe?"

He nodded.


Gage grinned.

"Nobody could find that stuff but the rats."

As he spoke there was a loud knocking at the door.
Outside Skidd's voice was heard saying:

"Mrs. Martin! Mrs. Martin! Open the door-
open the door!"

Gage ran quickly to open the door and then came
back into the room. As the door opened Skidd
rushed irr, his face scarlet, his eyes protruding with
fear and rage. Excitedly he cried:

"There's a man there's a man down there!"

As he spoke Kayton entered the room, followed
by Mary.


THE detective came boldly in, making a great fuss
of virtuous indignation and concealing only with
difficulty the satisfaction he felt at the excellent op-
portunity which Skidd's drunken familiarity had af-
forded to meet the crooks at close range. Mary,
realizing that the long-dreaded crisis was now at
hand, but determined to help to the extent of her
power the man who had rendered her such signal
and unforgettable service, stood in the background
pale and trembling.

Advancing threateningly on the retreating and
now thoroughly sobered Skidd, Kayton thundered:

"What do you mean by trying to force your way
into this young lady's room?" Turning to Mrs.
Martin, he added: "Mrs. Martin, is this the sort of
protection she's to have in your house?"

For all reply she turned to the offender and pointed
to the door. Sharply she said:

"Mr. Skidd, go to your room." Then address-
ing Kayton, she added, apologetically: "He's been

Prodded by Gage, the bibulous and befuddled
Skidd went protestingly to the door, still unable
to understand what the stranger was doing there
or why his associates seemed to be disposed to take
his part.



"Who is he?" he whispered to the pickpocket.

"Go to your room!" repeated Mrs. Martin, sternly.

Again Gage tugged at his sleeve.

"Come along, Bill." .

"Well, who the hell is he?" repeated Skidd, more

Kayton stepped forward and, addressing Kreisler,
who stood by, a silent spectator of the scene, said
more amiably:

"Of course, if he's been drinking, he probably
made a mistake in the room. I'm sorry if we dis-
turbed you; but won't you see that Miss Masuret
is not further annoyed?"

The counterfeiter eyed the detective narrowly,
but there was no sign of fear on his face. A little
diplomacy might save the situation. Skidd was a
damned fool. What did he want to kick up a
rumpus for? If they appeared decent, perhaps sus-
picion would be disarmed and they would be left
alone. Cordially he replied:

"I will see that the young lady is not molested
in future."

"Thank you."

"Pardon me," said Kreisler, politely, as he passed
in front of the detective to go to the door.

"Certainly," replied Kayton, in the same tone,
not to be outdone in courtesy.

Kreisler went out, closing the door behind him.
When he had disappeared Kayton made a quick
step forward to where Mrs. Martin was standing,
looking furtively yet tenderly at Mary.

"Mrs. Martin, can't you arrange to give her a
room near your own ?"



For a moment she looked at him and made no
reply. Then with an effort she said:

"Mr. Kayton, I think it would be much better
if you would take Miss . Masuret away. You can
see for yourself that I can't protect her in a house of
this sort. I can't have the responsibility."

Kayton shrugged his shoulders. With studied
carelessness he replied:

"I can't take her away now. This house is being

The woman started violently.

"What do you mean?" she exclaimed.

The detective hastened to explain.

"It has evidently leaked out that she is here.
They may be reporters. They may be police de-
tectives. Young Mr. Argyle has the whole force
searching for her. I can't take her away without
showing my hand, and she can't go alone. Isn't
there a back way so you could escape with her to
a hotel?"

Mrs. Martin shook her head.

"It's impossible," she murmured.

Mary now stepped forward.

"Let me go alone," she said.

"No no!"

Cautiously Kayton went to the door and opened
it with a quick jerk, as if expecting to surprise an
eavesdropper. Finding no one, he closed it again
and came to where the woman stood. Addressing
Mrs. Martin, he said, firmly:

"You've got to go!"

She shook her head. Firmly she said:

"I shall not leave this house."


He looked at her in silence for a moment. Evi-
dently, nothing he could say or do would influence
this woman. She had a stronger character than he
gave her credit for. There was no use beating about
the bush any longer. Dropping the mask, he
said frankly:

"Mrs. Martin, the men who are watching this
house are operatives of the government's Secret
Service. Some one living here has been uttering
counterfeit money."

"My God!" she cried, instinctively starting for
the door.

Quickly stepping forward, he intercepted her.

"Wait! I cannot permit you to speak to any one
in this house or do anything to defeat the law in
this matter."

Stepping back and trying to control herself, she

"Who is it?"

"I'll not tell you."

"What does it all mean?"

He made no reply, but pointed to the door.

"I advise you to go with Miss Masuret now.
Will you?"


She sat down on a chair, an expression of deter-
mined resolution on her face.

"Very well, then."

Involuntarily, Mary made an exclamation of dis-

"What is it?" asked Kay ton, going up to her.

"Nothing! Nothing!"

The detective returned to where Mrs. Martin was


sitting. Standing before her with folded arms, he
said, deliberately:

"Mrs. Martin, my men are watching this house.
The 'Personal' you answered was a plant." His
listener started up in terror and then sank back with
a groan as he went on: "There was no such legacy.
I discovered that you and your husband are engaged
with others in a gigantic counterfeiting scheme. I
cannot promise you immunity from prosecution, but
if you will do what is right by assisting the law,
that fact will be taken into consideration by the
prosecuting officers. I may be able to assist you
there; but in return you must do something for

"What?" she asked, almost inarticulately.

"Who killed John Argyle?"

Rising to her feet, she staggered to the door.

"Why do you ask me? I don't know! I don't

"You're the one person who does know!"

"I don't know anything about it."

"You do, and you can save yourself by telling."

She halted, her face deathly pale, and supported
herself on the back of a chair. Tremulously she said :

"I don't care for myself! I don't care but for
one thing in the world! What are you going to do
to Dr. Kreisler? What are you going to do to Dr.

Kayton shook his head.

"I can't do anything for Dr. Kreisler."

She gave a shriek like an infuriated tigress.

"You must! You shall!" she screamed, at the
top of her voice.


The commotion was heard outside, for Kreisler
re-entered the room hurriedly. His quick, keen
glance flashed inquiringly over the group.

"What's this? What's the matter?" he de-
manded, sternly.

Mrs. Martin rushed over to him. Regardless of
the consequences, her first instinct was to give the
alarm to the man she loved. Breathlessly she cried:

"This man is Kay ton! He's trapped us!'*

The counterfeiter's lips tightened, and, drawing a
few steps back, he closed the door and locked it.
Calmly he replied:

"Quietly, my dear, quietly. He, too, is in the trap !
Now what is it?"

Kayton stepped forward. Fearlessly he said:

"Kreisler, the game's up. You are under arrest!
Your wife is implicated with you and others in this
counterfeiting. I have offered her a chance to save
herself if she will tell me who killed John Argyle."

The counterfeiter shook his head.

"She knows nothing about it."

"She knows everything about it," retorted the
detective, decidedly.

Mrs. Martin laid her hand on her husband's arm.
Despairingly she cried:

"Friederick, can't you do something?"

The counterfeiter fell back, and, drawing a revolver,
he said, grimly:

"I can kill him!"

Before he could pull the trigger, Mrs. Martin
sprang at the hand holding the weapon.

"No, no, don't!" she cried.

While Kreisler hesitated, Kayton turned quickly

is 217


in the direction of the detectaphone. Loudly he
exclaimed :

"I'm trapped, boys! Come and get me!"

Mary, in an agony of suspense, not knowing what
dreadful tragedy each second would bring, retreated
to the end of the room, covering her face with her
hands. The excitement was too much for her nerves.
As she saw Kayton threatened with instant death,
she gave a shriek and fainted, falling heavily on the
sofa. Seeing her fall, Kayton rushed quickly to the
window and threw up the sash to let in some air.
Turning to Mrs. Martin, he pointed to the prostrate

"Your daughter she's fainted!"

The woman stared at him in astonishment.

"What ' she stammered. "You know you
know she's my daughter!"

Kneeling at the couch, Kayton took Mary's hands
in his and patted them; then, taking a brandy-flask
from his pocket, he put a few drops on her mouth.
Contemptuously he cried :

"Do you think I'd have sent her here if I hadn't
known you were her mother? I was a fool ever to
have let her come. I wouldn't have her hurt or even
frightened for all the damned counterfeiters in the
world! She's the gentlest thing I ever met. Good
God, haven't you any feeling for her at all ? I might
have known I couldn't trust her to a woman who
left her when she was a baby for a crook like Kreisler!"

Mrs. Martin staggered forward and gave a little
exclamation of triumph. Turning to Kreisler, she
cried :

"Friederick, we've got him!"


The counterfeiter stared, not understanding.

"What do you mean?"

She pointed to the detective, still on his knees at the
side of the prostrate girl.

"He's in love with her!"

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14

Online LibraryArthur HornblowThe Argyle case → online text (page 12 of 14)