“How do you know all this?” asked Rolfe, who had been staring at Crewe with open-mouthed astonishment.
“That woman was not Mrs. Holymead,” continued Crewe. “I had a visit to-day from the woman who did these things, and as evidence of the truth of her story she brought me the revolver and the handkerchief.”
“What did she come to you for?” asked Rolfe, with breathless interest. “What did she want?”
“She came to me to make a full confession,” said Crewe, in even tones.
“A confession!” exclaimed Rolfe. “She ought to have come to the police. Why didn’t she come to us?”
Crewe smiled at the puzzled, indignant detective.
“I think she came to me because she wanted to mislead me,” he said.
Joe Leaver, worn out after nearly a week’s work of watching the movements of Mr. Holymead, had fallen asleep in an empty loft above a garage which overlooked Verney’s Hotel in Mayfair. He had seen Mr. Holymead disappear into the hotel, and he knew from the experience gained in his watch that the K.C. would spend the next couple of hours in dressing for dinner, sitting down to that meal, and smoking a cigar in the lounge. So Joe had relaxed, for the time being, the new task which his master had set him, and had flung himself on some straw in the loft to rest. He did not intend to go to sleep, but he was very tired, and in a few minutes he was in a profound slumber.
In his sleep Joe dreamed that he had attained the summit of his ambition, and was being paid a huge salary by an American film company to display himself in emotional dramas for the educational improvement of the British working classes. In his dream he had to rescue the heroine from the clutches of the villains who had carried her off. They had imprisoned her at the top of a “skyscraper” building and locked the lift, but Joe climbed the fire escape and caught the beautiful girl in his arms. The villains, who were on the watch, set fire to the building, and when Joe attempted to climb out of the window with the heroine clinging round his neck, the flames drove him back. As he stood there the wind swept a sheet of flame towards Joe until it scorched his face. The pain was so real that Joe opened his eyes and sprang up with a cry.
A man was standing over him, a man past middle age, short and broad in figure, whose clean-shaven face directed attention to his protruding jaw. He was wearing a blue serge suit which had seen much use.
“You are a sound sleeper, sonny,” said the man, grinning at Joe’s alarm. “But when you wake—why you wake up properly; I’ll say that for you. You nearly broke my pipe, you woke up that sudden.”
He made this remark with such a malicious grin that Joe, whose face was still smarting, had no hesitation in connecting his sudden awakening with the hot bowl of the man’s pipe. It was a joke Joe had often seen played on drunken men in Islington public-houses in his young days.