“Quick,” he said. “There’s a fellow back here badly hurt.”
They ran back around the corner, and found Aubrey walking rather shakily toward them. Immense relief swam through Roger’s brain.
“Look here,” he said, “I’m awfully sorry—are you hurt?”
Aubrey glared whitely at him, but was too stunned to speak. He grunted, and the others took him one on each side and supported him. Leary’s man ran inside the store and opened the little door of the freight elevator at the back of the shop. In this way, avoiding notice save by a few book-prowlers, Aubrey was carted into the shop as though he had been a parcel of second-hand books.
Mr. Warner greeted them at the back of the shop, a little surprised, but gentle as ever.
“What’s wrong?” he said.
“Oh, we’ve been fighting over a copy of Tooke’s Pantheon,” said Roger.
They led Aubrey into the little private office at the rear. Here they made him sit down in a chair and bathed his bleeding head with cold water. Philip Warner, always resourceful, produced some surgical plaster. Roger wanted to telephone for a doctor.
“Not on your life,” said Aubrey, pulling himself together. “See here, Mr. Mifflin, don’t flatter yourself you gave me this cut on the skull. I got that the other evening on Brooklyn Bridge, going home from your damned bookshop. Now if you and I can be alone for a few minutes, we’ve got to have a talk.”
“You utter idiot,” said Roger, half an hour later. “Why didn’t you tell me all this sooner? Good Lord, man, there’s some devil’s work going on!”
“How the deuce was I to know you knew nothing about it?” said Aubrey impatiently. “You’ll grant everything pointed against you? When I saw that guy go into the shop with his own key, what could I think but that you were in league with him? Gracious, man, are you so befuddled in your old books that you don’t see what’s going on round you?”
“What time did you say that was?” said Roger shortly.
“One o’clock Sunday morning.”
Roger thought a minute. “Yes, I was in the cellar with Bock,” he said. “Bock barked, and I thought it was rats. That fellow must have taken an impression of the lock and made himself a key. He’s been in the shop hundreds of times, and could easily do it. That explains the disappearing Cromwell. But why? What’s the idea?”
“For the love of heaven,” said Aubrey. “Let’s get back to Brooklyn as soon as we can. God only knows what may have happened. Fool that I was, to go away and leave those women all alone. Triple-distilled lunacy!”
“My dear fellow,” said Roger, “I was the fool to be lured off by a fake telephone call. Judging by what you say, Weintraub must have worked that also.”
Aubrey looked at his watch. “Just after three,” he said.