A Shilling for Candles, by Josephine Tey

Chapter 19

The person who wasn’t comforted was Jammy. The buoyant, the resilient, the hard-boiled but bouncing Jammy. He had eaten at his favorite pub (black coffee might be all very well for worried police officials and actors who had to think of their figure, but Jammy dealt only in other people’s worries and remembered his figure only when his tailor measured him) and nothing during lunch had been right. The beef had been a shade too “done,” the beer had been a shade too warm, the waiter had had hiccoughs, the potatoes were soapy, the cabinet pudding had tasted of baking soda, and they were out of his usual cigarettes. And so his feeling of being ill-used and misunderstood, instead of being charmed away by food and drink, had grown into an exasperation with the world in general. He looked sourly over his glass at his colleagues and contemporaries, laughing and talking over the coarse white cloths, and they, unused to a glower on his brow, paused in their traffic to tease him.

“What is it, Jammy? Pyorrhea?”

“No. He’s practicing to be a dictator. You begin with the expression.”

“No you don’t,” said a third. “You begin with the hair.”

“And an arm movement. Arms are very important. Look at Napoleon. Never been more than a corporal if he hadn’t thought up that arm-on-chest business. Pregnant, you know.”

“If it’s pregnant Jammy is, he’d better have the idea in the office, not here. I don’t think the child’s going to be a pleasant sight.”

Jammy consigned them all to perdition, and went out to find a tobacconist who kept his brand of cigarettes. What did the Yard want to take it like that for? Everyone knew that what you wrote in a paper was just eyewash. When it wasn’t bilgewater. If you stopped being dramatic over little tuppenny no-account things, people might begin to suspect that they were no-account, and then they’d stop buying papers. And where would the Press barons, and Jammy, and a lot of innocent shareholders be then? You’d got to provide emotions for all those moribund wage-earners who were too tired or too dumb to feel anything on their own behalf. If you couldn’t freeze their blood, then you could sell them a good sob or two. That story about Clay’s early days in the factory had been pure jam — even if that horse-faced dame had led him up the garden about knowing Chris, blast her. But you couldn’t always rise to thrills or sobs, and if there was one emotion that the British public loved to wallow in it was being righteously indignant. So he, Jammy, had provided a wallow for them. The Yard knew quite well that tomorrow all these indignant people wouldn’t remember a thing about it, so what the hell! What was there to get sore about? That “hounding innocents to death” was just a phrase. Practically a cliche it was. Nothing in that to make a sensible person touchy. The Yard were feeling a bit thin in the skin, that was what. They knew quite well that this shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. Far be it from him to crab another fellow’s work, but some of that article had been practically true, now he came to think of it. Not the “hounding to death,” of course. But some of the other bits. It really was something amounting to a disgrace — oh, well, disgrace was a bit strong; but regrettable, anyhow, that such a thing should occur in a force that thought it was efficient. They were so very superior and keep-off-the-grass when times were good; they couldn’t expect sympathy when they made a bloomer. Now if they were to let the Press in on the inside, the way they did in America, things like that simply wouldn’t happen. He, Jammy Hopkins, might be only a crime reporter, but he knew just as much about crime and its detection as any police force. If the “old man” were to give him leave, and the police the use of their files, he would have the man who killed Clay inside prison walls — and on the front page, of course — inside a week. Imagination, that’s what the Yard needed. And he had plenty of it. All he needed was a chance.

He bought his cigarettes, emptied them gloomily into the gold case his provincial colleagues had given him when he left for London (it was whispered that the munificence was more the expression of thankfulness than of devotion), and went gloomily back to the office. In the front entrance of that up-to-the-minute cathedral which is the headquarters of the Clarion, he encountered young Musker, one of the junior reporters, on his way out. He nodded briefly, and without stopping made the conventional greeting.

“Where you off to?”

“Lecture on stars,” said Musker, with no great enthusiasm.

“Very interesting, astronomy,” reproved Jammy.

“Not astronomy. Astrology.” The boy was turning from the shade of the entrance into the sunlit street. “Woman called Pope or something.”

“Pope!” Jammy stood arrested halfway to the lift door. “You don’t mean Keats, do you?”

“Is it Keats?” Musker looked at the card again. “Yes, so it is. I knew it was a poet. Hey, what’s the matter?” as Jammy caught him by the arm and dragged him back into the hall.

“Matter is you’re not going to any astrology lecture,” said Jammy, propeling him into the lift.

“Well!” said the astonished Musker. “For this relief much thanks, but why? You got a ‘thing’ about astrology?”

Jammy dragged him into an office and assaulted with his rapid speech the placid pink man behind the desk.

“But, Jammy,” said the placid one when he could get a word in edgeways, “it was Blake’s assignment. He was the obvious person for it: doesn’t he tell the world every week on Page 6 what is going to happen to it for the next seven days? It’s his subject: astrology. What he didn’t foresee was that his wife would have a baby this week instead of next. So I let him off and sent Musker instead.”

“Musker!” said Jammy. “Say, don’t you know that this is the woman who foretold Clay’s death? The woman the Courier is running to give horoscopes at a shilling a time?”

“What of it?”

“What of it! Man, she’s news!”

“She’s the Courier’s news. And about dead at that. I killed a story about her yesterday.”

“All right, then, she’s dead. But a lot of ‘interesting’ people must be interested in her at this moment. And the most interested of the lot is going to be the man who made her prophecy come true! For all we know she may have been responsible for giving him the idea; her and her prophecies. Keats may be dead, but her vicinity isn’t. Not by a long chalk.” He leaned forward and took the card that the Musker boy was still holding. “Find something for this nice boy to do this afternoon. He doesn’t like astrology. See you later.”

“But what about that story for —”

“All right, you’ll have your story. And perhaps another one into the bargain!”

As Jammy was shot downwards in the lift he flicked the card in his hand with a reflective thumb. The Elwes Hall! Lydia was coming on!

“Know the best way to success, Pete?” he said to the liftman.

“All right, I’ll buy,” said Pete.

“Choose a good brand of hooey.”

“You should know!” grinned Pete, and Jammy made a pass at him as he stepped through the doors. Pete had known him since — well, if not since his short-pant days, at least since his wrong-kind-of-collar days.

The Elwes Hall was in Wigmore Street: a nice neighborhood; which had been responsible in no small measure for its success. Chamber music was much more attractive when one could combine it with tea at one’s club and seeing about that frock at Debenham’s. And the plump sopranos who were flattered at the hush that attended their lieder never guessed at the crepe-versussatin that filled their listeners’ minds. It was a pleasant little place: small enough to be intimate, large enough not to be huddled. As Jammy made his way to a seat, he observed that it was filled with the most fashionable audience that he had seen at any gathering since the Beaushire–Curzon wedding. Not only was “smart” society present in bulk, but there was a blue-blooded leaven of what Jammy usually called “duchessesup-for-the-day”: of those long-shoed, long-nosed, long-pedigreed people who lived on their places and not on their wits. And sprinkled over the gathering, of course, were the cranks.

The cranks came not for the thrill, nor because Lydia’s mother had been the third daughter of an impoverished marquis, but because the Lion, the Bull, and the Crab were household pets of theirs, the houses of the Zodiac their spiritual home. There was no mistaking them: their pale eyes rested on the middle distance, their clothes looked like a bargain basement after a stay-in strike, and it seemed that they all wore the same string of sixpenny beads around their thin necks.

Jammy refused the seat which had been reserved for the Clarion representative, and insisted on having one among the palms on the far side of the hall below the platform. This had been refused, with varying degrees of indignation, by both those who had come to see Lydia and those who had come to be seen. But Jammy belonged to neither of these. What Jammy had come to see was the audience. And the seat half buried in Messrs. Willoughby’s decorations provided as good a view of the audience as anything but the platform itself could afford.

Next to him was a shabby little man of thirty-five or so, who eyed Jammy as he sat down and presently leaned over until his rabbit-mouth was an inch from Jammy’s ear, and breathed:

“Wonderful woman!”

This Jammy took to refer to Lydia. “Wonderful,” he agreed. “You know her?”

The shabby man (“crank,” said Jammy’s mind, placing him) hesitated, and then said: “No. But I knew Christine Clay.” And further converse was prevented by the arrival of Lydia and her chairman on the platform.

Lydia was at the best of times a poor speaker. She had a high thin voice, and when she became enthusiastic or excited her delivery was painfully like a very old gramophone record played on a very cheap gramophone. Jammy’s attention soon wandered. He had heard Lydia on her favorite subject too often. His eyes began to quarter the crowded little hall. If he had bumped off Clay, and was still, thanks to the inadequacy of the police, both unsuspected and at large, would he or would he not come to see the woman who had prophesied for Clay the end he had brought about?

Jammy decided that, on the whole, he would. The Clay murderer was clever. That was admitted. And he must now be hugging himself over his cleverness. Thinking how superior a man of his caliber was to the ordinary rules that hedged common mortals. That was a common frame of mind in persons who achieved a planned murder. They had planned something forbidden, and had brought it off. It went to their heads like wine. They looked around for more “dares” to bring off, as children play “last across the road.” This, this orthodox gathering of orthodox people in one of the most orthodox districts in London, was a perfect “dare.” In every mind in that hall the thought of Christine’s death was uppermost. It was not mentioned from the platform, of course; the dignities must be observed. The lecture was a simple lecture on astrology; its history and its meaning. But all these people — or nearly all — had come to the gathering because nearly a year ago Lydia had had that lucky brain wave about the manner of Christine Clay’s death. Christine was almost as much part of the gathering as Lydia herself; the hall was full of her. Yes, it would give Jammy, hypothetical murderer, a great kick to be one of that audience.

He looked at the audience now, pluming himself on the imagination that had got him where he was; the imagination that Grant, poor dear idiot, could never aspire to. He wished he had brought Bartholomew along. Bart was much better informed where the society racket was concerned than he was. It was Bart’s business to be descriptive: and at whatever was “descriptive”— weddings, motor racing, launches, or whatnot — the same faces from the racket turned up. Bart would have been useful.

But Jammy knew enough of those faces to keep him interested.

“On the other hand,” said Lydia, “Capricorn people are often melancholic, doubtful of themselves, and perverse. On a lower plane still, they are gloomy, miserly, and deceptive.” But Jammy was not listening. In any case he did not know which of the signs had had the honor of assisting at his birth, and did not care. Lydia had several times told him that he was “typically, oh, but typically, Aries” but he never remembered. All hooey.

There was the Duchess of Trent in the third row. She, poor, silly, unhappy wretch, had the perfect alibi. She had been going to have a luncheon for Christine: a luncheon that would make her the most envied hostess in London instead of a rather tiresome back number, and Christine had gone and died on her.

Jammy’s eye wandered, and paused at a good-looking dark face in the fourth row. Very familiar that face; as familiar as the head on a coin. Why? He didn’t know the man; would swear he had never seen him in the flesh.

And then it came to him. It was Gene Lejeune; the actor who had been engaged to play opposite Clay in her third and last picture in England: the picture she had never made. It was rumored that Lejeune was glad that he would never have to make that picture; Clay’s brilliance habitually made her men look like penny candles; but that was hardly a good reason for getting up at dawn to hold her head under water until she died. Jammy wasn’t greatly interested in Lejeune. Next to him was a fashion plate in black and white. Marta Hallard. Of course. Marta had been given the part that Clay had been scheduled to play. Marta was not in the Clay class, but holding up production was likely to prove expensive, and Marta had poise, sophistication, sufficient acting ability, sufficient personality, and what Coyne called “class.” She was now Lejeune’s leading woman. Or was he her leading man? It would be difficult to say which of these two was the “supporting” one. Neither of them was in the first flight. Considered simply as a partnership, it was likely to prove much more successful than the Clay–Lejeune one would have been. A step up — a big step up for Marta — and more chance to shine for Lejeune. Yes, Christine’s death had been a lucky break for both of them.

He heard in his mind a girl’s voice saying, “You, of course, murdered her yourself.” Who had said that? Yes, that Judy girl who played dumb blondes. And she had said it about Marta. That Saturday night when he and Grant had met on the doorstep of Marta’s flat and had been entertained by her. The Judy person had said it with that sulky air of defiance that she used to life’s most trivial activities. And they had taken it as a joke. Someone else had laughed and agreed, supplying the motive: “Of course! You wanted that part for yourself?” And the conversation had flowed on in unbroken superficiality.

Well, ambition was one of the better-known incentives to murder. It came, well up the list, just below passion and greed. But Marta Hallard was Marta Hallard. Murder and that brittle, insincere sophisticate were poles apart. She didn’t even play murder well on the stage, now he came to think of it. She had always the air of saying at the back of her mind, “Too tiresome, all this earnestness.” If she didn’t find murder humorless, she would undoubtedly find it plebeian. No, he could imagine Marta being a murderee, but not a murderer.

He became aware that Marta was paying no attention whatever to Lydia. All her interest — and it was a fixed and whole-hearted interest — was centered on someone to her right in the row in front. Jammy’s eyes followed the imaginary dotted line of her glance and came to rest, a little surprised, on a nondescript little man. Incredulous, he traveled the dotted line again. But the answer was still the small round-faced man with the sleepy expression. Now what could interest Marta Hallard in that very commercial exterior and that far from exciting —

And then Sammy remembered who that little man was. He was Jason Harmer, the songwriter. One of Christine’s best friends. Marta’s “merry kettle.” And, if women’s judgment was to be accepted, anything but unexciting. In fact, that was the chap who was popularly supposed to have been Christine Clay’s lover. Jammy’s mind did the equivalent of a long, low whistle. Well, well, so that was Jay Harmer. He had never seen him off a song cover until now. Queer taste women had, and no mistake.

Harmer was listening to Lydia with a rapt and childlike interest. Jammy wondered how anyone could remain unaware of so concentrated a battery of attention as Marta Hallard was directing on him. There he sat, short-necked and placid, while Marta’s brilliant eyes bored into the side of his head. A lot of hooey, that about making people turn by just looking at them. And what, in any case, was the reason for Marta’s secret interest? For secret it was. The brim of her hat hid her eyes from her escort, and she had taken it for granted that the eyes of everyone else were on the lecturer. Unconscious of being watched, she was letting her eyes have their fill of Harmer. Why?

Was it a “heart” interest — and if so, just how much of a heart interest? Or was it that, in spite of her companionship of him that night at her flat, she was seeing Jason Harmer as a possible murderer?

For nearly fifteen minutes Jammy watched them both, his mind full of speculation. Again and again his glance went over the crowded little hall and came back to them. Interest there was plenty elsewhere, but not interest like this.

He remembered Marta’s instant refutal of the suggestion that there was more than friendship between Harmer and Christine Clay. What did that mean? Was she interested in him herself? And how much? How much would Marta Hallard be interested? Enough to get rid of a rival?

He found himself wondering if Marta was a good swimmer, and pulled himself up. Fifteen minutes ago he had laughed at the very thought of Marta as a person passionate to the point of murder. The very idea had been ludicrous.

But that was before he had observed her interest — her strange consuming interest — in Jason. Supposing — just supposing; to pass the time while that woman made her boring way through the planets and back again — that Marta was in love with this Harmer fellow. That made Christine a double rival of hers, didn’t it? Christine had been where Marta, for all her fashionable crust of superficiality and indifference, would have given her right hand to be: at the top of her professional tree. So often Marta had been within sight of that top, only to have the branch she relied on break and let her down. Certainly, and beyond any doubt, Marta wanted professional success. And certainly, for all her fair words, she had bitterly grudged the little factory hand from the Midlands her staggering, and as it seemed too easy, achievement. Five years ago Marta had been very nearly where she was now: famous, successful, financially sound, and with the top of the tree — that elusive, giddy top — somewhere in sight. It had been somewhere in sight for five years. And meanwhile an unknown dancer from a Broadway musical had sung, danced, and acted her way to canonization.

It was no wonder if Marta’s fair words where Christine was concerned were the merest lip service. And supposing that Christine had not only the position she had thirsted after, but the man she desired? What then? Was that enough to make Marta Hallard hate to the point of murder?

Where was Marta when Christine was drowned? In Grosvenor Square, presumably. After all, she was playing in that thing at the St. James’s. No, wait! At that Saturday night party something was said about her being away! What was it? What was it? She had said something about hard-working actresses, and Clement Clements had mocked, saying: “Hard-working, forsooth. And you’ve just had a week off to go dashing around the Continent!” She had said: “Not a week, Clement! Only four days. And an actress can presumably play with a broken spine but never with a gumboil.”

Clement had said that the gumboil didn’t prevent her having a grand time at Deauville. And she had said: “Not Deauville. Le Touquet.”

Le Touquet. That was where she had been. And she had come back in time for the Saturday matinee. They had talked about the reception she had had, and the size of the “house,” and the rage of her understudy. She had come back after four days at Le Touquet! She was in Le Touquet, just across the channel, when Christine died.

“If parents would only study their children’s horoscopes with the same diligence that they use to study their diets,” Lydia was saying, shrill as a sparrow and about as impressive, “the world would be a much happier place.”

“Le Touquet! Le Touquet!” exulted Jammy’s mind. Now he was getting somewhere! Marta Hallard was not only within reach of Christine on that fatal morning, but she had the means to cover the distance easily. Le Touquet had opened the doors of his memory. Clements and she and Jammy in that far corner by the cocktail cupboard, and she answering Clements’s idle questions. She had flown over, it appeared, with someone in a private plane, and had come back by the same method. And the plane had been an amphibian!

On that misty morning a plane had landed either on the downs or on the sea, had stayed a little, and had gone again without having entered into the consciousness of any but one lonely swimmer. Jammy was so sure of it that he could see the thing come out of the fog like a great bird and drop onto the water.

Who had piloted that plane? Not Harmer. Harmer hadn’t been out of England. That was why the police were taking such an interest in him. Harmer had been only too much on the spot. He had an alibi of sorts, but Jammy didn’t know whether it was a good one or not. The police were so damned secretive. Well, he was on the track of something that the police, for all their vaunted efficiency, had missed. Marta was a friend of Grant’s: it was natural that he should overlook her: he had never seen her look at Harmer, as Jammy was seeing her now; and he didn’t know about that plane, Jammy would take his oath. And the plane made all the difference.

And if it was a case of a plane, then there were two in the business. The pilot, if not an accomplice, was certainly an accessory before the fact.

At this point Jammy mentally stopped to draw breath. He looked surprisedly along the well-dressed silent rows to the smart black-and-white figure in the middle distance. What connection had that familiar presence with the person his mind had drawn? There was the real Marta Hallard, her soigne, gracious, serene self. How had he let his mind make her into something so tortured, so desperate?

But she was still looking every now and then at Jason, her eyes resting longer on him than they did on Lydia. And there was something in that unguarded face that joined the real Marta to that shadowy one that his imagination had created. Whatever she might be, Marta Hallard was after all capable of strong feeling.

A patter like rain fell into Jammy’s thoughts; the polite percussion of gloved hand on gloved hand. Lydia had apparently reached her peroration. Jammy sighed happily and felt for his hat. He wanted to get out into the air and think what his next move was to be. He hadn’t been so excited since Old Man Willindon had given him the exclusive story of how and why he had beaten his wife into pulp.

But there was going to be a question time, it would seem. Miss Keats, sipping water and smiling benevolently between sips, was waiting for the audience to collect its wits. Then some bold spirit began, and presently questions were raining around her. Some were amusing; and the audience, a little tired by the warm air, Lydia’s voice, and the dullish lecture, laughed easily in relief. Presently the questions grew more intimate, and then — so inevitably that half the audience could see it coming — the query came:

Was it true that Miss Keats accurately foretold the manner of Christine Clay’s death?

There was a shocked and eager silence. Lydia said, simply and with more dignity than she usually possessed, that it was true; that she had often foretold the future truly from a horoscope. She gave some instances.

Emboldened by the growing intimacy of the atmosphere, someone asked if she was helped in her reading of horoscopes by second sight. She waited so long before answering that stillness fell back on the moving heads and hands; their eyes watched her expectantly.

“Yes,” she said, at length. “Yes. It is not a matter that I like to discuss. But there are times when I have known, beyond reason, that a thing is so.” She paused a moment, as if in doubt, and then took three steps forward to the edge of the platform with such impetuosity that it seemed that she meant to walk forward on to thin air. “And one thing I have known ever since I stepped on the platform. The murderer of Christine Clay is here in this hall.”

It is said that ninety-nine people out of a hundred, receiving a telegram reading All is discovered: fly, will snatch a toothbrush and make for the garage. Lydia’s words were so unexpected, and their meaning when understood so horrifying, that there was a moment of blank silence. And then the rush began, like the first breath of a hurricane through palm trees. Above the rising babel, chairs shrieked like human beings as they were thrust out of the way. And the more they were thrust aside, the greater the chaos and the more frantic the anxiety of the escapers to reach the door. Not one in the crowd knew what they were escaping from. With most of them it began as a desire to escape from a tense situation; they belonged, as a class, to people who hate “awkwardness.” But the difficulty of reaching the door through the scattered chairs and the densely packed crowd increased their natural desire to escape, into something like panic.

The chairman was saying something that was meant to be reassuring, to tide over the situation: but he was quite inaudible. Someone had gone to Lydia, and Jammy heard her say:

“What made me say that? Oh, what made me say that?”

He had moved forward to mount the platform, all the journalist in him tingling with anticipation. But as he laid his hand on the platform edge to vault, he recognized Lydia’s escort. It was the fellow from the Courier. She was practically the Courier’s property, he remembered. It was a million to one against his getting a word with her, and, at these odds, it wasn’t worth the effort. There was better game, after all. When Lydia had made that incredible statement, Jammy, having abruptly pulled his own jaw into place, had turned to see how two people took the shock.

Marta had gone quite white, and a look of something like fury had come into her face. She had been one of the first to get to her feet, moving so abruptly that Lejeune was taken by surprise and had to fish his hat from under her heels. She had made for the door without a second glance at the platform or Lydia, but since she had had a seat in the front rows she had become firmly wedged halfway down the hall, where confusion became worse confounded by someone having violent hysteria.

Jason Harmer, on the other hand, had not moved a muscle. He had gone on looking at Lydia with the same pleased interest during and after her staggering announcement as he had shown before. He had made no move to get up until people began to walk over him. Then he rose leisurely, helped a woman to climb over a chair that was blocking her path, patted his pocket to assure himself that something or other was there (his gloves probably), and turned to the door.

It took Jammy several minutes of scientific shoving to reach Marta, wedged in an alcove between two radiators.

“The silly fools!” she said viciously, when Jammy had reminded her who he was. And she glared, with most unHallard-like lack of poise, at her fellow beings.

“Nicer with an orchestra pit between, aren’t they?”

Marta remembered that these were her public, and he could see her automatically pull herself together. But she was still what Jammy called “het up.”

“Amazing business,” he said, prompting. And in explanation: “Miss Keats.”

“An utterly disgusting exhibition!”

“Disgusting?” said Jammy, at a loss. “Why doesn’t she turn cartwheels in the Strand?”

“You think this was just a publicity stunt?”

“What do you call it? A sign from Heaven?”

“But you said yourself, Miss Hallard, that night you were so kind as to put up with me, that she isn’t a quack. That she really —”

“Of course she isn’t a quack! She has done some amazing horoscopes. But that is a very different matter from this finding of murderers at a penny a time. If Lydia doesn’t take care,” she said after a pause and with venom, “she will end by being an Aimee McPherson!”

It occurred to Jammy that this was hardly the line he had expected Marta to hand out. He didn’t know what he had expected. But somehow it wasn’t this. Into the pause that tone: e: doubt made, she said in a new crisp tone.

“This isn’t by any chance an interview, is it, Mr. Hopkins? Because if so, please understand quite clearly that I have said none of these things.”

“All right, Miss Hallard, you haven’t said a word. Unless the police ask me, of course,” he added, smiling.

“I don’t think the police are on speaking terms with you,” she said. “And now, if you will be so kind as to stand a little to your left, I think I can get past you into that space over there.”

She nodded to him, smiled a little, pushed her scented person past him into the place of vantage, and was swallowed up in the crowd.

“Not a ha’penny change!” said Jammy to himself. And ruefully began to push his way back to where he had last seen Jason Harmer. Dowagers cursed him and debutantes glared, but half Jammy’s life had been spent in getting through crowds. He made a good job of it.

“And what do you think of this, Mr. Harmer?”

Jason eyed him in a good-humored silence. “How much?” he said at last. “How much what?”

“How much for my golden words?”

“A free copy of the paper.”

Jason laughed, then his face grew sober. “Well, I think it has been a most instructive afternoon. You believe in this star stuff?”

“Can’t say I do.”

“Me, I’m not so sure. There’s a lot in that crack about more things in heaven and earth whatever-it-is. I’ve seen some funny things happen in the village where I was born. Witchcraft and that. No accounting for any of it by any natural means. Makes you wonder.”

“Where was that?”

Jason looked suddenly startled for the first time that afternoon. “East of Europe,” he said abruptly. And went on: “That Miss Keats, she’s a wonder. Not a canny thing to have around the house, though. No, sir! Must spoil your chances of matrimony quite a bit to be able to see what’s going to happen. To say nothing of what has been happening. Every man has a right to his alibis.”

Was no one, thought Jammy in exasperation, going to take the expected line of country this afternoon! Perhaps if he pushed his way into Lydia’s presence, she at least would behave according to the pattern he had marked out for her.

“You believe that Miss Keats was genuinely feeling the presence of evil when she made that statement?” he pursued hopefully.

“Sure, sure!” Jason looked a little surprised. “You don’t make a fool of yourself that way unless you’re pretty worked up.

“I noticed you weren’t very surprised by the statement.”

“I been in the States fifteen years. Nothing surprises me anymore. Ever seen Holy Rollers? Ever seen Coney Island? Ever seen a tramp trying to sell a gold mine? Go west, young man, go west!”

“I’m going home to bed,” said Jammy, and took his pushing way through the crowd.

But by the time he had reached the vestibule, he had recovered a little. He adjusted his collar and waited to see the crowd move past. Once outside the inner door, and breathing the secure air of Wigmore Street, they recovered from their fright and broke with one accord into excited speech.

But Jammy gleaned little from their unguarded chatter.

And then over their heads he saw a face that made him pause. A fair face with light lashes and the look of a rather kind terrier. He knew that man. His name was Sanger. And the last time he had seen him was sitting at a desk in Scotland Yard.

So Grant had had a little imagination after all!

Jammy flung his hat disgustedly on and went out to think things over.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04