“What about not coming back all night, sir?” the manager asked.
“Lads will be lads,” Jimmy answered sententiously.
The manager showed an entire lack of sympathy with his attitude.
“Mr. Stanley Rees,” he said, “is a remarkably well-conducted, quiet young gentleman, very popular here amongst the domestics, and noted for keeping very early hours. He was engaged to dine out at Hampstead with some friends, who telephoned for him several times during the evening. He was also supping here with a gentleman who arrived and waited an hour for him.”
“Was he in good health?” Wingate enquired casually.
“Excellent, I should say, sir,” the manager replied. “He was a young gentleman who took remarkably good care of himself.”
“I know the sort,” Jimmy said complacently, watching his glass being filled. “A whisky and soda when the doctor orders it, and ginger ale with his luncheon.”
The manager was called away. Kendrick had become thoughtful.
“Queer thing,” he remarked, “that young Rees should have disappeared just as the B. & I. have become a feature on ‘Change. He was Phipps’ right-hand man in financial matters.”
“Disappearances in London seem a little out of date,” Wingate remarked, as he scrutinised the dish which the maitre d’hotel had brought for his inspection. “The missing person generally turns up and curses the scaremongers.—Lady Amesbury, this Maryland chicken is one of our favourite New York dishes. Kendrick, have some more wine. Wilshaw, your appetite has soon flagged.”
“All the same,” Kendrick mused, “it’s a dashed queer thing about Stanley Rees.”
After his guests had departed, Wingate had a few minutes alone with Josephine.
“I hate letting you go back to that house,” he admitted.
She laughed softly.
“Why, my dear,” she said, “think how necessary it is. For the first time, in my life I am absolutely looking forward to it. I never thought that I should live to associate romance with that ugly, brown-stone building.”
“If there’s the slightest hitch, you’ll let me hear, won’t you?” he begged. “The telephone is on to my room, and anything that happens unforeseen—remember this, Josephine—is a complete surprise to you. Everything is arranged so that you are not implicated in any way.”
“Pooh!” she scoffed. “Nothing will happen. You are invincible, John. You will conquer with these men as you have with poor me.”
“You have no regrets?” he asked, as they moved through the hall on the way out.
“I regret nothing,” she answered fervently. “I never shall.”
Wingate, after several strenuous hours spent in Slate’s office, returned to his rooms late that night, to find Peter Phipps awaiting him. There was something vaguely threatening about the bulky figure of the man standing gloomily upon the hearth rug, all the spurious good nature gone from his face, his brows knitted, his cheeks hanging a little and unusually pale. Wingate paused on the threshold of the room and his hand crept into his pocket. Phipps seemed to notice the gesture and shook his head.