The boy nodded his head, and turned away. As he went down the hall again to the front door he gave an imitation of a man walking with extended arms across a plank spanning a chasm.
“Picture mad,” commented Crewe, as he watched him.
“I didn’t quite understand you, sir,” replied the butler.
“Spends all his spare time in cinemas,” said Crewe, “and when he is not there he is acting picture dramas. His ambition in life is to be a cinema actor.”
Crewe engaged Police-Constable Flack in conversation while waiting for Mr. Holymead to take his departure. Flack had so little professional pride that he was pleased at meeting a gentleman who usurped the functions of a detective without having had any police training, and who could beat the best of the Scotland Yard men like shelling peas, as he confided to his wife that night. He was especially flattered at the interest Crewe seemed to display in his long connection with the police force, and also in his private affairs. The constable was explaining with parental vanity the precocious cleverness of his youngest child, a girl of two, when Holymead made his appearance, and he became aware that Mr. Crewe’s interest in children was at an end.
“Look at that man,” said Crewe, in a sharp imperative tone to the police-constable, as the K.C. was walking down the path of the Italian garden to the plantation. “You saw him come in?”
“Do you see any difference?”
“No, sir; he’s the same man,” said Flack, with stolid certainty.
“Anything about him that is different?” continued Crewe.
Police-Constable Flack looked at Crewe in some bewilderment. He was not a deductive expert, and, as he told his wife afterwards, he did not know what the detective was “driving at.” He took another long look at Holymead, who was then within a few yards of the plantation on his way to the gates, and remarked, in a hesitating tone, as though to justify his failure:
“Well, you see, sir, when he was coming in it was the front view I saw, now I can only see his back.”
But before he had finished speaking Crewe had left him and was following the K.C. Holymead had gone into the house without a walking-stick, and had reappeared carrying one on his arm. Crewe admired the cool audacity which had prompted Holymead to go into a house where a murder had been committed to recover his stick under the very eyes of the police, and he immediately formed the conclusion that the K.C. had come to the house to recover the stick for some urgent reason possibly not unconnected with the crime. And it was apparent that Holymead was a shrewd judge of human nature, Crewe reflected, for he calculated that the rareness of the quality of observation, even in those who, like Flack, were supposed to keep their eyes open, would permit him to do so unnoticed.
As Crewe went down the path he beckoned to the boy Joe, who at the moment was acting the part of a comic dentist binding a recalcitrant patient to a chair, using an immense old-fashioned straight-backed chair which stood in the hall, for his stage setting. Joe overtook his master as he entered the ornamental plantation in front of the house, and Crewe quickly whispered his instructions, as the retreating figure of the K.C. threaded the wood towards the gates.