“I’ve got it! Sympathetic Ink!”
“You think so?”
“Worth trying anyhow. Heat usually does the trick. Get some sticks. We’ll make a fire.”
In a few minutes the little fire of twigs and leaves was blazing merrily. Tommy held the sheet of paper near the glow. The paper curled a little with the heat. Nothing more.
Suddenly Julius grasped his arm, and pointed to where characters were appearing in a faint brown colour.
“Gee whiz! You’ve got it! Say, that idea of yours was great. It never occurred to me.”
Tommy held the paper in position some minutes longer until he judged the heat had done its work. Then he withdrew it. A moment later he uttered a cry.
Across the sheet in neat brown printing ran the words: With the compliments of Mr. Brown.
TOMMY MAKES A DISCOVERY
For a moment or two they stood staring at each other stupidly, dazed with the shock. Somehow, inexplicably, Mr. Brown had forestalled them. Tommy accepted defeat quietly. Not so Julius.
“How in tarnation did he get ahead of us? That’s what beats me!” he ended up.
Tommy shook his head, and said dully:
“It accounts for the stitches being new. We might have guessed....”
“Never mind the darned stitches. How did he get ahead of us? We hustled all we knew. It’s downright impossible for anyone to get here quicker than we did. And, anyway, how did he know? Do you reckon there was a dictaphone in Jane’s room? I guess there must have been.”
But Tommy’s common sense pointed out objections.
“No one could have known beforehand that she was going to be in that house—much less that particular room.”
“That’s so,” admitted Julius. “Then one of the nurses was a crook and listened at the door. How’s that?”
“I don’t see that it matters anyway,” said Tommy wearily. “He may have found out some months ago, and removed the papers, then——No, by Jove, that won’t wash! They’d have been published at once.”
“Sure thing they would! No, some one’s got ahead of us to-day by an hour or so. But how they did it gets my goat.”
“I wish that chap Peel Edgerton had been with us,” said Tommy thoughtfully.
“Why?” Julius stared. “The mischief was done when we came.”
“Yes——” Tommy hesitated. He could not explain his own feeling—the illogical idea that the K.C.’s presence would somehow have averted the catastrophe. He reverted to his former point of view. “It’s no good arguing about how it was done. The game’s up. We’ve failed. There’s only one thing for me to do.”
“Get back to London as soon as possible. Mr. Carter must be warned. It’s only a matter of hours now before the blow falls. But, at any rate, he ought to know the worst.”