“Not such delay as I’m thinking of,” answered Appleyard firmly. “She’s cute enough, this lady, and if she made herself scarce just now, she’d know very well that it would excite suspicion. Don’t let’s spoil things by being too previous. We’ve got a pretty good watch on her, you know. I should know very quickly if she cleared out of the Pompadour; you’d know if she didn’t turn up at Fullaway’s. Wait a bit, Mr. Allerdyke; it’s the best policy. You’ll come here to-morrow?”
“Eleven o’clock in the morning,” replied Allerdyke. “I’ll fix it with Gaffney to-night.”
He went back to the Waldorf, summoned Gaffney to his private room, and sent him to arrange matters with his brother. Gaffney accepted the commission with alacrity; his brother, he said, was just then out of a job, having lost a clerkship through the sudden bankruptcy of his employers; such a bit of business as that which Mr. Appleyard had entrusted to him was so much meat and drink to one of his tastes—in more ways than one.
“It’s the sort of thing he likes, sir,” remarked Gaffney, confidentially. “He’s always been a great hand at reading these detective tales, and to set him to watch anybody is like offering chickens to a nigger—he fair revels in it!”
“Well, there’s plenty for him to revel in,” observed Allerdyke grimly.
Plenty! he said to himself with a cynical laugh when Gaffney had left him—aye, plenty, and to spare. He spent the whole of that evening alone, turning every detail over in his own mind; he was still thinking, and speculating, and putting two and two together when he went to bed at eleven o’clock. And just as he was about to switch off his light a waiter knocked on his door.
“Gentleman downstairs, sir, very anxious to see you at once,” he said, when Allerdyke opened it. “His card, sir.”
Allerdyke gave one glance at the card—a plain bit of pasteboard on which one word had been hastily pencilled—
Chettle!—whom he had left only that morning in Hull, two hundred miles away, both of them agreed that the next step was still unseen, and that immediate action was yet problematical. Something had surely happened to bring Chettle up to town and to him.
“Show Mr. Chettle up here at once,” he said to the waiter. “And here—bring a small decanter of whisky and a syphon of soda-water and glasses. Be sharp with ’em.”
He pulled on a dressing-gown when the man had gone, and, tying its cord about his waist, went a step or two into the corridor to look out for his visitor. A few minutes elapsed; then the lift came up, and the waiter, killing two birds with one stone, appeared again, escorting the detective and carrying a tray. And Allerdyke, with a sly wink at Chettle, greeted him unconcernedly, ushered him into his room and chatted about nothing until the waiter had gone away. Then he turned on him eagerly.