“When I catch up level with him, Joe, you are to run into him accidentally from behind, and knock his stick off his arm, so that it falls near me. I will pick it up and return it to him. I must handle the stick—you understand? Do not wait to see how he takes it when you bump into him—get off round the corner at once and wait for me.”
Crewe quickened his pace to overtake the man in front of him. He gave no glance backward at the boy, for he knew his instructions would be carried out faithfully and intelligently. He allowed Holymead to reach the big open gates, and turn from the gravelled carriage drive into the private street. Then he hurried after him and drew level with Holymead. As he did so there was a sound of running footsteps from behind, and then a shout. Joe had cleverly tripped and fallen heavily between the two men, bringing down Holymead in his fall. The K.C.’s stick flew off his arm and bounded half a dozen yards away. Crewe stepped forward quickly, secured the stick, glanced quickly at the monogram engraved on it, and held it out to Holymead, who was brushing the dust off his clothes with vexatious remarks about the clumsiness and impudence of street boys. For a moment he seemed to hesitate about taking the stick.
“I believe this is yours,” said Crewe politely.
“Ah—yes. Thank you,” said the K.C., giving him a keen suspicious glance.
Crewe had well-furnished offices in Holborn but lived in a luxurious flat in Jermyn Street. Although he went to and fro between them daily, his personality was almost a dual one, though not consciously so; his passion for crime investigation was distinct—in outward seeming, at all events—from his polished West End life of wealthy ease. Grave, self-contained, and inscrutable, he slipped from one to the other with an effortless regularity, and the fashionable folk with whom he mixed in his leisured bachelor existence in the West End, apart from knowing him as the famous Crewe, had even less knowledge of the real man behind his suave exterior than the clients who visited his inquiry rooms in Holborn to confide in him their stories of suffering, shame, or crimes committed against them. His commissionaire and body-servant, Stork, had once, in a rare—almost unique—convivial moment, declared to the caretaker of the building that he knew no more about his master after ten years than he did the first day he entered his service. He was deep beyond all belief, was Stork’s opinion, delivered with reluctant admiration.
Although Crewe did not allow the externals of his two existences to become involved, his chief interest in life was in his work. He had originally taken up detective work more as a relief from the boredom of his lot as a wealthy young man, leading an aimless, useless life with others of his class, than by deliberate choice of his vocation. His initial successes surprised him; then the work absorbed him and became his life’s career. He had achieved some memorable successes and he had made a few failures, but the failures belonged to the earlier portion of his career, before he had learnt to trust thoroughly in his own great gifts of intuition and insight, and that uncanny imagination which sometimes carried him successfully through when all else failed.