As Bristol and I stood glancing about the foyer of the hotel, a plain-clothes officer whom I knew by sight came in and approached my companion. I could not divine the fact, of course, but I was about to hear news of the money-loving and greatly daring Graeco-Moslem.
The detective whispered something to Bristol, and the latter started, and paled. He turned to me.
“They haven’t overlooked him this time, Mr. Cavanagh,” he said. “Acepulos has been found dead in his room, nearly decapitated!”
I shuddered involuntarily. Even there, amid the chatter and laughter of those light-hearted tourists, the shadow of Hassan of Aleppo was falling upon me.
Bristol started immediately for Soho and I parted from him in the Strand, he proceeding west and I eastward, for I had occasion that morning to call at my bank. It was the time of the year when London is full of foreigners, and as I proceeded in the direction of Fleet Street I encountered more than one Oriental. To my excited imagination they all seemed to glance at me furtively, with menacing eyes, but in any event I knew that I had little to fear whilst I contrived to keep to the crowded thoroughfares. Solitude I dreaded and with good reason.
Then at the door of the bank I found fresh matter for reflection. The assistant manager, Mr. Colby, was escorting a lady to the door. As I stood aside, he walked with her to a handsome car which waited, and handed her in with marks of great deference. She was heavily veiled and I had no more than a glimpse of her, but she appeared to be of middle age and had gray hair and a very stately manner.
I told myself that I was unduly suspicious, suspicious of everyone and of everything; yet as I entered the bank I found myself wondering where I had seen that dignified, grayhaired figure before. I even thought of asking the manager the name of his distinguished customer, but did not do so, for in the circumstances such an inquiry must have appeared impertinent.
My business transacted, I came out again by the side entrance which opens on the little courtyard, for this branch of the London County and Provincial Bank occupies a corner site.
A ragged urchin who was apparently waiting for me handed me a note. I looked at him inquiringly.
“For me?” I said.
“Yes, sir. A dark gentleman pointed you out as you was goin’ into the bank.”
The note was written upon a half sheet of paper and, doubting if it was really intended for me, I unfolded it and read the following—
Mr. Cavanagh, take the keys of the case containing
the holy slipper to your hotel this evening without
“Who gave you this, boy?” I asked sharply.
“A foreign gentleman, sir, very dark—like an Indian.”
“Where is he?”
“He went off in a cab, sir, after he give me the note.”