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something, I mean, other than the mere words which have puzzled us all
so much. Won't you tell me?"

Now, Paul Harley had determined, since the girl was unacquainted with
Nicol Brinn, to conceal from her all that he had learned from that
extraordinary man. In this determination he had been actuated, too, by
the promptings of the note of danger which, once seemingly attuned to
the movements of Sir Charles Abingdon, had, after the surgeon's death,
apparently become centred upon himself and upon Nicol Brinn. He dreaded
the thought that the cloud might stretch out over the life of this girl
who sat beside him and whom he felt so urgently called upon to protect
from such a menace.

The cloud? What was this cloud, whence did it emanate, and by whom had
it been called into being? He looked into the violet eyes, and as a
while before he had moved alone through the wilderness of London now he
seemed to be alone with Phil Abingdon on the border of a spirit world
which had no existence for the multitudes around. Psychically, he
was very close to her at that moment; and when he replied he replied
evasively: "I have absolutely no scrap of evidence, Miss Abingdon,
pointing to foul play. The circumstances were peculiar, of course, but
I have every confidence in Doctor McMurdoch's efficiency. Since he is
satisfied, it would be mere impertinence on my part to question his
verdict."

Phil Abingdon repeated the weary sigh and turned her head aside,
glancing down to where with one small shoe she was restlessly tapping
the floor of the cab. They were both silent for some moments.

"Don't you trust me?" she asked, suddenly. "Or don't you think I am
clever enough to share your confidence?"

As she spoke she looked at him challengingly, and he felt all the force
of personality which underlay her outward lightness of manner.

"I both trust you and respect your intelligence," he answered, quietly.
"If I withhold anything from you, I am prompted by a very different
motive from the one you suggest."

"Then you are keeping something from me," she said, softly. "I knew you
were."

"Miss Abingdon," replied Harley, "when the worst trials of this affair
are over, I want to have a long talk with you. Until then, won't you
believe that I am acting for the best?"

But Phil Abingdon's glance was unrelenting.

"In your opinion it may be so, but you won't do me the honour of
consulting mine."

Harley had half anticipated this attitude, but had hoped that she
would not adopt it. She possessed in a high degree the feminine art of
provoking a quarrel. But he found much consolation in the fact that she
had thus shifted the discussion from the abstract to the personal. He
smiled slightly, and Phil Abingdon's expression relaxed in response and
she lowered her eyes quickly. "Why do you persistently treat me like a
child?" she said.

"I don't know," replied Harley, delighted but bewildered by her sudden
change of mood. "Perhaps because I want to."

She did not answer him, but stared abstractedly out of the cab window;
and Harley did not break this silence, much as he would have liked to do
so. He was mentally reviewing his labours of the preceding day when, in
the character of a Colonial visitor with much time on his hands, he had
haunted the Savoy for hours in the hope of obtaining a glimpse of Ormuz
Khan. His vigil had been fruitless, and on returning by a roundabout
route to his office he had bitterly charged himself with wasting
valuable time upon a side issue. Yet when, later, he had sat in his
study endeavouring to arrange his ideas in order, he had discovered many
points in his own defence.

If his ineffective surveillance of Ormuz Khan had been dictated by
interest in Phil Abingdon rather than by strictly professional motives,
it was, nevertheless, an ordinary part of the conduct of such a case.
But while he had personally undertaken the matter of his excellency
he had left the work of studying the activities of Nicol Brinn to an
assistant. He could not succeed in convincing himself that, on the
evidence available, the movements of the Oriental gentleman were more
important than those of the American.

"Here we are," said Phil Abingdon.

She alighted, and Harley dismissed the cabman and followed the girl
into Doctor McMurdoch's house. Here he made the acquaintance of Mrs.
McMurdoch, who, as experience had taught him to anticipate, was as plump
and merry and vivacious as her husband was lean, gloomy, and taciturn.
But she was a perfect well of sympathy, as her treatment of the bereaved
girl showed. She took her in her arms and hugged her in a way that was
good to see.

"We were waiting for you, dear," she said when the formality of
presenting Harley was over. "Are you quite sure that you want to go?"

Phil Abingdon nodded pathetically. She had raised her veil, and Harley
could see that her eyes were full of tears. "I should like to see the
flowers," she answered.

She was staying at the McMurdochs' house, and as the object at present
in view was that of a visit to her old home, from which the funeral
of Sir Charles Abingdon was to take place on the morrow, Harley became
suddenly conscious of the fact that his presence was inopportune.

"I believe you want to see me, Doctor McMurdoch," he said, turning to
the dour physician. "Shall I await your return or do you expect to be
detained?"

But Phil Abingdon had her own views on the matter. She stepped up beside
him and linked her arm in his.

"Please come with me, Mr. Harley," she pleaded. "I want you to."

As a result he found himself a few minutes later entering the hall
of the late Sir Charles's house. The gloved hand resting on his arm
trembled, but when he looked down solicitously into Phil Abingdon's
face she smiled bravely, and momentarily her clasp tightened as if to
reassure him.

It seemed quite natural that she should derive comfort from the presence
of this comparative stranger; and neither of the two, as they
stood there looking at the tributes to the memory of the late Sir
Charles - which overflowed from a neighbouring room into the lobby
and were even piled upon the library table - were conscious of any
strangeness in the situation.

The first thing that had struck Harley on entering the house had been
an overpowering perfume of hyacinths. Now he saw whence it arose; for,
conspicuous amid the wreaths and crosses, was an enormous device formed
of hyacinths. Its proportions dwarfed those of all the others.

Mrs. Howett, the housekeeper, a sad-eyed little figure, appeared now
from behind the bank of flowers. Her grief could not rob her of that
Old World manner which was hers, and she saluted the visitors with a bow
which promised to develop into a curtsey. Noting the direction of Phil
Abingdon's glance, which was set upon a card attached to the wreath of
hyacinths: "It was the first to arrive, Miss Phil," she said. "Isn't it
beautiful?"

"It's wonderful," said the girl, moving forward and drawing Harley along
with her. She glanced from the card up to his face, which was set in a
rather grim expression.

"Ormuz Khan has been so good," she said. "He sent his secretary to see
if he could be of any assistance yesterday, but I certainly had not
expected this."

Her eyes filled with tears again, and, because he thought they were
tears of gratitude, Harley clenched his hand tightly so that the muscles
of his forearm became taut to Phil Abingdon's touch. She looked up at
him, smiling pathetically: "Don't you think it was awfully kind of him?"
she asked.

"Very," replied Harley.

A dry and sepulchral cough of approval came from Doctor McMurdoch; and
Harley divined with joy that when the ordeal of the next day was over
Phil Abingdon would have to face cross-examination by the conscientious
Scotsman respecting this stranger whose attentions, if Orientally
extravagant, were instinct with such generous sympathy.

For some reason the heavy perfume of the hyacinths affected him
unpleasantly. All his old doubts and suspicions found a new life, so
that his share in the conversation which presently arose became confined
to a few laconic answers to direct questions.

He was angry, and his anger was more than half directed against himself,
because he knew that he had no shadow of right to question this girl
about her friendships or even to advise her. He determined, however,
even at the cost of incurring a rebuke, to urge Doctor McMurdoch to
employ all the influence he possessed to terminate an acquaintanceship
which could not be otherwise than undesirable, if it was not actually
dangerous.

When, presently, the party returned to the neighbouring house of the
physician, however, Harley's plans in this respect were destroyed by
the action of Doctor McMurdoch, in whose composition tact was not a
predominant factor. Almost before they were seated in the doctor's
drawing room he voiced his disapproval. "Phil," he said, ignoring a
silent appeal from his wife, "this is, mayhap, no time to speak of the
matter, but I'm not glad to see the hyacinths."

Phil Abingdon's chin quivered rebelliously, and, to Harley's dismay,
it was upon him that she fixed her gaze in replying. "Perhaps you also
disapprove of his excellency's kindness?" she said, indignantly.

Harley found himself temporarily at a loss for words. She was perfectly
well aware that he disapproved, and now was taking a cruel pleasure in
reminding him of the fact that he was not entitled to do so. Had he
been capable of that calm analysis to which ordinarily he submitted all
psychological problems, he must have found matter for rejoicing in
this desire of the girl's to hurt him. "I am afraid, Miss Abingdon," he
replied, quietly, "that the matter is not one in which I am entitled to
express my opinion."

She continued to look at him challengingly, but:

"Quite right, Mr. Harley," said Doctor McMurdoch, "but if you were, your
opinion would be the same as mine."

Mrs. McMurdoch's glance became positively beseeching, but the physician
ignored it. "As your father's oldest friend," he continued, "I feel
called upon to remark that it isn't usual for strangers to thrust their
attentions upon a bereaved family."

"Oh," said Phil Abingdon with animation, "do I understand that this is
also your opinion, Mr. Harley?"

"As a man of the world," declared Doctor McMurdoch, gloomily, "it cannot
fail to be."

Tardily enough he now succumbed to the silent entreaties of his wife.
"I will speak of this later," he concluded. "Mayhap I should not have
spoken now."

Tears began to trickle down Phil Abingdon's cheeks.

"Oh, my dear, my dear!" cried little Mrs. McMurdoch, running to her
side.

But the girl sprang up, escaping from the encircling arm of the motherly
old lady. She shook her head disdainfully, as if to banish tears and
weakness, and glanced rapidly around from face to face. "I think you are
all perfectly cruel and horrible," she said in a choking voice, turned,
and ran out.

A distant door banged.

"H'm," muttered Doctor McMurdoch, "I've put my foot in it."

His wife looked at him in speechless indignation and then followed Phil
Abingdon from the room.



CHAPTER IX. TWO REPORTS

On returning to his office Paul Harley found awaiting him the report
of the man to whom he had entrusted the study of the movements of Nicol
Brinn. His mood was a disturbed one, and he had observed none of his
customary precautions in coming from Doctor McMurdoch's house. He
wondered if the surveillance which he had once detected had ceased.
Perhaps the chambers of Nicol Brinn were the true danger zone upon which
these subtle but powerful forces now were focussed. On the other hand,
he was quite well aware that his movements might have been watched
almost uninterruptedly since the hour that Sir Charles Abingdon had
visited his office.

During the previous day, in his attempt to learn the identity of
Ormuz Khan, he had covered his tracks with his customary care. He had
sufficient faith in his knowledge of disguise, which was extensive,
to believe that those mysterious persons who were interested in his
movements remained unaware of the fact that the simple-minded visitor
from Vancouver who had spent several hours in and about the Savoy, and
Paul Harley of Chancery Lane, were one and the same.

His brain was far too alertly engaged with troubled thoughts of Phil
Abingdon to be susceptible to the influence of those delicate etheric
waves which he had come to recognize as the note of danger. Practically
there had been no development whatever in the investigation, and he was
almost tempted to believe that the whole thing was a mirage, when the
sight of the typewritten report translated him mentally to the luxurious
chambers in Piccadilly.

Again, almost clairvoyantly, he saw the stoical American seated before
the empty fireplace, his foot restlessly tapping the fender. Again he
heard the curious, high tones: "I'll tell you... You have opened the
gates of hell...."

The whole scene, with its tantalizing undercurrent of mystery, was
reenacted before his inner vision. He seemed to hear Nicol Brinn,
startled from his reverie, exclaim: "I think it was an owl.... We
sometimes get them over from the Green Park...."

Why should so simple an incident have produced so singular an effect?
For the face of the speaker had been ashen.

Then the pendulum swung inevitably back: "You are all perfectly cruel
and horrible...."

Paul Harley clenched his hands, frowning at the Burmese cabinet as
though he hated it.

How persistently the voice of Phil Abingdon rang in his ears! He could
not forget her lightest words. How hopelessly her bewitching image
intruded itself between his reasoning mind and the problem upon which he
sought to concentrate.

Miss Smith, the typist, had gone, for it was after six o'clock, and
Innes alone was on duty. He came in as Harley, placing his hat and cane
upon the big writing table, sat down to study the report.

"Inspector Wessex rang up, Mr. Harley, about an hour ago. He said he
would be at the Yard until six."

"Has he obtained any information?" asked Paul Harley, wearily, glancing
at his little table clock.

"He said he had had insufficient time to do much in the matter, but that
there were one or two outstanding facts which might interest you."

"Did he seem to be surprised?"

"He did," confessed Innes. "He said that Ormuz Khan was a well-known
figure in financial circles, and asked me in what way you were
interested in him."

"Ah!" murmured Harley. He took up the telephone. "City 400," he said....
"Is that the Commissioner's Office, New Scotland Yard? ... Paul Harley
speaking. Would you please inquire if Detective Inspector Wessex has
gone?"

While awaiting a reply he looked up at Innes. "Is there anything else?"
he asked.

"Only the letters, Mr. Harley."

"No callers?"

"No."

"Leave the letters, then; I will see to them. You need not wait." A
moment later, as his secretary bade him good-night and went out of the
office:

"Hello," said Harley, speaking into the mouthpiece... "The inspector
has gone? Perhaps you would ask him to ring me up in the morning." He
replaced the receiver on the hook.

Resting his chin in his hands, he began to read from the typewritten
pages before him. His assistant's report was conceived as follows:

'Re Mr. Nicol Brinn of Raleigh House, Piccadilly, W. I.

'Mr. Nicol Brinn is an American citizen, born at Cincinnati, Ohio,
February 15, 1884. He is the son of John Nicolas Brinn of the same
city, founder of the firm of J. Nicolas Brinn, Incorporated, later
reconstituted under the style of Brinn's Universal Electric Supply
Corporation.

'Nicol Brinn is a graduate of Harvard. He has travelled extensively
in nearly all parts of the world and has access to the best society
of Europe and America. He has a reputation for eccentricity, has won
numerous sporting events as a gentleman rider; was the first airman to
fly over the Rockies; took part in the Uruguay rebellion of 1904, and
held the rank of lieutenant colonel of field artillery with the American
forces during the Great War.

'He has published a work on big game and has contributed numerous travel
articles to American periodicals. On the death of Mr. Brinn, senior, in
1914, he inherited an enormous fortune and a preponderating influence
in the B.U.E.S.C. He has never taken any active part in conduct of the
concern, but has lived a restless and wandering life in various parts of
the world.

'Mr. Nicol Brinn is a confirmed bachelor. I have been unable to find
that he has ever taken the slightest interest in any woman other than
his mother throughout his career. Mrs. J. Nicolas Brinn is still living
in Cincinnati, and there is said to be a strong bond of affection
between mother and son. His movements on yesterday, 4th June, 1921, were
as follows:

'He came out of his chambers at eight o'clock and rode for an hour in
the park, when he returned and remained indoors until midday. He then
drove to the Carlton, where he lunched with the Foreign Secretary, with
whom he remained engaged in earnest conversation until ten minutes to
three. The Rt. Hon. gentleman proceeded to the House of Commons and Mr.
Brinn to an auction at Christie's. He bought two oil paintings. He then
returned to his chambers and did not reappear again until seven o'clock.
He dined alone at a small and unfashionable restaurant in Soho, went on
to his box at Covent Garden, where he remained for an hour, also alone,
and then went home. He had no callers throughout the day.'

Deliberately Paul Harley had read the report, only removing his hand
from his chin to turn over the pages. Now from the cabinet at his elbow
he took out his tin of tobacco and, filling and lighting a pipe, lay
back, eyes half closed, considering what he had learned respecting Nicol
Brinn.

That he was concerned in the death of Sir Charles Abingdon he did
not believe for a moment; but that this elusive case, which upon
investigation only seemed the more obscure, was nevertheless a case of
deliberate murder he was as firmly convinced as ever. Of the identity of
the murderer, of his motive, he had not the haziest idea, but that the
cloud which he had pictured as overhanging the life of the late Sir
Charles was a reality and not a myth of the imagination he became more
completely convinced with each new failure to pick up a clue.

He found himself helplessly tied. In which direction should he move and
to what end? Inclination prompted him in one direction, common sense
held him back. As was his custom, he took a pencil and wrote upon a
little block:

Find means to force Brinn to speak.

He lay back in his chair again, deep in thought, and presently added the
note:

Obtain interview with Ormuz Khan.

Just as he replaced the pencil on the table, his telephone bell rang.
The caller proved to be his friend, Inspector Wessex.

"Hello, Mr. Harley," said the inspector. "I had occasion to return to
the Yard, and they told me you had rung up. I don't know why you are
interested in this Ormuz Khan, unless you want to raise a loan."

Paul Harley laughed. "I gather that he is a man of extensive means,"
he replied, "but hitherto he has remained outside my radius of
observation."

"And outside mine," declared the inspector. "He hasn't the most distant
connection with anything crooked. It gave me a lot of trouble to find
out what little I have found out. Briefly, all I have to tell you is
this: Ormuz Khan - who is apparently entitled to be addressed as
'his excellency' - is a director of the Imperial Bank of Iran, and
is associated, too, with one of the Ottoman banks. I presume his
nationality is Persian, but I can't be sure of it. He periodically turns
up in the various big capitals when international loans and that sort of
thing are being negotiated. I understand that he has a flat somewhere
in Paris, and the Service de Surete tells me that his name is good for
several million francs over there. He appears to have a certain fondness
for London during the spring and early summer months, and I am told he
has a fine place in Surrey. He is at present living at Savoy Court.
He appears to be something of a dandy and to be very partial
to the fair sex, but nevertheless there is nothing wrong with
his reputation,considering, I mean, that the man is a sort of
Eastern multimillionaire."

"Ah!" said Harley, who had been listening eagerly. "Is that the extent
of your information, Wessex?"

"That's it," replied Wessex, with a laugh. "I hope you'll find it
useful, but I doubt it. He hasn't been picking pockets or anything, has
he?"

"No," said Harley, shortly. "I don't apprehend that his excellency will
ever appear in your province, Wessex. My interest in him is of a purely
personal nature. Thanks for all the trouble you have taken."

Paul Harley began to pace the office. From a professional point of view
the information was uninteresting enough, but from another point of
view it had awakened again that impotent anger which he had too often
experienced in these recent, strangely restless days.

At all costs he must see Ormuz Khan, although how he was to obtain
access to this man who apparently never left his private apartments (if
the day of his vigil at the Savoy had been a typical one) he failed to
imagine.

Nevertheless, pausing at the table, he again took up his pencil, and
to the note "Obtain interview with Ormuz Khan" he added the one word,
underlined:

"To-morrow."



CHAPTER X. HIS EXCELLENCY ORMUZ KHAN

The city clocks were chiming the hour of ten on the following morning
when a page from the Savoy approached the shop of Mr. Jarvis, bootmaker,
which is situated at no great distance from the hotel. The impudent face
of the small boy wore an expression of serio-comic fright as he pushed
open the door and entered the shop.

Jarvis, the bootmaker, belonged to a rapidly disappearing class of
British tradesmen. He buckled to no one, but took an artistic pride in
his own handiwork, criticism from a layman merely provoking a scornful
anger which had lost Jarvis many good customers.

He was engaged, at the moment of the page's entrance, in a little
fitting room at the back of his cramped premises, but through the
doorway the boy could see the red, bespectacled face with its fringe of
bristling white beard, in which he detected all the tokens of brewing
storm. He whistled softly in self-sympathy.

"Yes, sir," Jarvis was saying to an invisible patron, "it's a welcome
sight to see a real Englishman walk into my shop nowadays. London isn't
London, sir, since the war, and the Strand will never be the Strand
again." He turned to his assistant, who stood beside him, bootjack in
hand. "If he sends them back again," he directed, "tell him to go to
one of the French firms in Regent Street who cater to dainty ladies." He
positively snorted with indignation, while the page, listening, whistled
again and looked down at the parcel which he carried.

"An unwelcome customer, Jarvis?" inquired the voice of the man in the
fitting room.

"Quite unwelcome," said Jarvis. "I don't want him. I have more work than
I know how to turn out. I wish he would go elsewhere. I wish - "

He paused. He had seen the page boy. The latter, having undone his
parcel, was holding out a pair of elegant, fawn-coloured shoes.

"Great Moses!" breathed Jarvis. "He's had the cheek to send them back
again!"

"His excellency - " began the page, when Jarvis snatched the shoes from
his hand and hurled them to the other end of the shop. His white beard
positively bristled.

"Tell his excellency," he shouted, "to go to the devil, with my
compliments!"

So positively ferocious was his aspect that the boy, with upraised arm,
backed hastily out into the street. Safety won: "Blimey!" exclaimed the
youth. "He's the warm goods, he is!"

He paused for several moments, staring in a kind of stupefied admiration
at the closed door of Mr. Jarvis's establishment. He whistled again,
softly, and then began to run - for the formidable Mr. Jarvis suddenly
opened the door. "Hi, boy!" he called to the page. The page hesitated,
glancing back doubtfully. "Tell his excellency that I will send round in
about half an hour to remeasure his foot."

"D'you mean it?" inquired the boy, impudently - "or is there a catch in
it?"

"I'll tan your hide, my lad!" cried the bootmaker - "and I mean that!
Take my message and keep your mouth shut."

The boy departed, grinning, and little more than half an hour later a
respectable-looking man presented himself at Savoy Court, inquiring of
the attendant near the elevator for the apartments of "his excellency,"


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