He saw that Mr. Kemp was following him and led the way into an unfrequented corner of the smoking room, where, with the information that Mr. Holymead would come to him in a few moments, he asked Mr. Kemp to be seated.
The manager withdrew a few yards, and then took up a position which enabled him to guard the hotel guests from having their digestions interfered with by the contaminating spectacle of a seedy man. To the manager’s great relief, Mr. Holymead appeared, having been informed by the hall porter that a party who said his name was Kemp had asked to see him. The manager hurried towards Mr. Holymead and endeavoured to explain and apologise, but the K.C. assured him that there was nothing to apologise for. He went over to the corner of the smoking room, where the visitor who had caused so much perturbation was waiting for him.
“Well, Kemp, what do you want?” There was nothing in his manner to indicate that he was put out by Mr. Kemp’s appearance. He spoke in quiet even tones such as would seem to suggest that he was well acquainted with his visitor.
“Can I speak to you on the quiet for a moment, sir?” whispered Kemp hoarsely.
Holymead looked round the room. The manager had gone back to the booking office and Hawkins had vanished. The few people who were in the room seemed occupied with their own affairs.
“No one will overhear us if we speak quietly,” he said as he took a seat close to Kemp. “What is it?”
“You’re watched and followed, sir,” said Kemp in a whisper. “Somebody has been watching this place for days past and whenever you go out you’re followed.”
“By whom?” asked Holymead.
“By a varmint of a boy—a slippery young imp whose father’s in gaol for a long stretch. I got hold of him this afternoon and told him what I’d do to him if he kept on with his game. He’s living in an old loft at the back of the hotel garage, and he keeps a watch on you day and night. I thought I’d better come here and tell you, as you mightn’t know about him.”
“You did quite right, Kemp. What’s this boy like?”
“An undersized putty-faced brat with a big head. He’s about fourteen or fifteen, I should say.”
“Who is he? Do you know him?”
“Leaver is the name, sir. To tell you the truth, I don’t know him as well as I know his father. His father is a ‘lifer’ for manslaughter. I’ve known him both in and out of gaol. And when I was coming out four months ago Bob Leaver, this here boy’s father, asked me to look up his family and send him word about them. I went to the address Bob told me, in Islington, but I found they had all gone. The mother was dead and the kids—a girl and this here boy—had cleared out. The old Jew who had the second-hand clothes shop Mrs. Leaver used to keep told me that the boy had gone off with that private detective, Crewe, more than two years ago. So it looks to me as if he has turned nark and Crewe has put him on to watch you.”