“There’s that scoundrel Bob Rogers, who slipped through our hands over the Ealing case, and his pal, Breaker Jim, who’s just done seven years, looking down and grinning at us,” he angrily whispered. “I’ll give them something to grin about before they’re much older. You’d think Breaker would have had enough of the Old Bailey to last him a lifetime. And look at that row alongside of them—there’s Morris, Hart, Harry the Hooker, and that chap Willis who murdered the pawnbroker in Commercial Road last year, only we could never sheet it home to him. And two rows behind them is old Charlie, the Covent Garden ‘drop,’ with Holder Jack and Kemp, Birchill’s mate. Why, they’re everywhere. The inquest was nothing to this, Rolfe.”
“Kemp must be thanking his lucky stars he wasn’t in that Riversbrook job with Fred Birchill,” said Rolfe, “for they usually work together. And there’s Crewe, up in the gallery.”
“Where?” exclaimed Inspector Chippenfield, with an indignant start.
“Up there behind that pillar there—no, the next one. See, he’s looking down at you.”
Crewe caught the inspector’s eye, and nodded and smiled in a friendly fashion, but Inspector Chippenfield returned the salutation with a haughty glare.
“The impudence of that chap is beyond belief,” he said to his subordinate. “One would have thought he’d have kept away from court after his wild-goose chase to Scotland and piling up expenses, but not him! Brazen impudence is the stock-in-trade of the private detective. If Scotland Yard had a little more of the impudence of the private detective, Rolfe, we should be better appreciated.”
“I suppose he’s come in the hopes of seeing the jury acquit Birchill,” said Rolfe.
“No doubt,” replied Inspector Chippenfield. “But he’s come to the wrong shop. A good jury should convict without leaving the box if the case is properly put before them by the prosecution. Crewe would like to triumph over us, but it is our turn to win.”
But Inspector Chippenfield was wrong in thinking that Crewe’s presence in court was due to a desire for the humiliation of his rivals. Crewe had spent most of the previous night reading and revising his summaries and notes of the Riversbrook case, and in minutely reviewing his investigations of it. Over several pipes in the early morning hours he pondered long and deeply on the secret of Sir Horace Fewbanks’s murder, without finding a solution which satisfactorily accounted for all the strange features of the case. But one thing he felt sure of was that Birchill had not committed the murder. He based that belief partly on the butler’s confession, and partly on his own discoveries. He believed Hill to be a cunning scoundrel who had overreached the police for some purpose of his own by accusing Birchill, and who, to make his story more probable, had even implicated himself in the supposed burglary as a terrorised accomplice. And Crewe had been unable to test