It had not been an easy matter to find the thousand pounds, and in the interval he had twice seen Mr. Timmins, and vainly tried to beat down his price. The money was finally squeezed out of Stephen Foster, with extreme reluctance on his part, and by means which he resented bitterly but was powerless to combat. He had angrily upbraided his unscrupulous young confederate, who would not even tell him for what purpose he wanted the sum. Nevill was indifferent to Stephen Foster’s wrath and reproaches. He had accomplished his object, and he was too hardened by this time to feel any twinges of conscience. He was now going to meet the man Timmins by appointment, and buy from him the valuable papers in his possession.
It was nine o’clock when the cab put him down in one of the noisy thoroughfares of Kentish Town. He paid the driver, and entered a public house on the corner. He ordered a light stimulant, and on the strength of it he re-examined the rather vague written directions Mr. Timmins had given him. He came out five minutes later, and turned eastward into a gloomy and squalid neighborhood. He lost his bearings twice, and then found himself at one end of Peckwater street. He took the first turn to the left, and began to count the houses and scan their numbers.
While Nevill was speeding along the Kentish Town road in a cab, Mr. Timmins, alias Noah Hawker, was at home in the dingy little room which he had selected for his residence in London. With a short pipe between his teeth, he reclined in a wooden chair, which was tipped back against the wall. On a table, within easy reach of him, were a packet of tobacco and a bottle of stout. A candle furnished light.
“I wonder if the bloke’ll turn up,” he reflected, as he puffed rank smoke from his mouth. “If he don’t he knows what to expect—I ain’t a man to go back on my word. But I needn’t fear. He’ll come all right, and he’ll have the dust with him. Is it likely he’d throw away a fortune, such as I’m offerin’ him? Not a bit of it! I’ll be glad when the thing is done and over with. A thousand pounds ain’t to be laughed at. I’ll go abroad and spend it, where the sun shines in winter and—”
At this point Mr. Hawker’s soliloquies were interrupted by footsteps just outside the room.
“That’s my swell,” he thought, “and he’s a bit early. He must be in a hurry to get hold of the documents.”
The door opened quickly and sharply, and two sinewy, plainly-dressed men stepped into the room. Hawker knew his visitors to be detectives.
His jaw dropped, his face turned livid with rage and fear, and he tried to thrust one hand behind him. But the move was anticipated, and he abandoned all thought of resistance when the muzzle of a revolver stared him in the eyes.
“None of that, Hawker,” said the detective who held the weapon. “You’d best come quietly. Didn’t expect to catch us napping, did you?”