“A good thing as it happened,” said Mr. Kemp.
“I had nothing to do with it,” said Fred, earnestly.
“I never said you had,” replied Mr. Kemp.
“Nothing whatever to do with it,” continued the young man with emphasis. “That’s not my sort of game.”
“I’m not saying anything, Fred,” replied the elder man. “But whoever done it might have done it by accident-like.”
“Accident or no accident, I had nothing to do with it, thank God.”
“That is all right, Fred. I’m not saying you know anything about it. But even if you did you’d find I could be trusted. I don’t go blabbing round to everybody.”
“I know you don’t. But as I said before I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t go there that night—I changed my mind.”
“A very lucky thing then, because if they do look you up you can prove an alibi.”
“Yes,” said Fred, “I can prove an alibi easy enough. But what makes you talk about them looking me up? Why should they get into me—why should they look me up? I’ve told you I didn’t go there.”
“That is all right, Fred,” said the other, in a soothing tone. “If that pal of yours keeps his mouth shut there is nothing to put them on your tracks. But I don’t like the looks of him. He seems to me a bit nervous, and if they put him through the third degree he’ll squeak. That’s my impression.”
“If he squeaks he’ll have to settle with me,” said Fred. “And he’ll find there is something to pay. If he tries to put me away I’ll—I’ll—I’ll do him in.”
“Kincher” instead of being horrified at this sentiment seemed to approve of it as the right thing to be done. “I’d let him know if I was you, Fred,” he said. “I didn’t like the look of him. The reason I came out here to-day was to have a look at him. And when I saw him in the box I said to myself, ’Well, I’m glad I’ve staked nothing on you, for it seems to me that you’ll crack up if the police shake their thumb-screws in your face.’ I felt glad I hadn’t accepted your invitation to make it a two-handed job, Fred. It was the fact that some one else I’d never seen had put up the job that kept me out of it when you asked me to go with you. A man can’t be too careful—especially after he’s had a long spell in ‘stir,’ But of course you’re all right if you changed your mind and didn’t go up there. But if I was you I’d have my alibi ready. It is no good leaving things until the police are at the door and making one up on the spur of the moment.”
“Yes, I’ll see about it,” said Fred. “It’s a good idea.”
“Come in and have a drink, Fred,” said “Kincher.” “It will do you good. It was dry work listening to them talking up there about the murder.”
Fred accompanied Mr. Kemp into the bar of the hotel they reached, and the elder man, after an inquiring glance at his companion, ordered two whiskies. “Kincher” added water to the contents of each glass, and, lifting his glass in his right hand, waited until Fred had done the same and then said: