“Now,” said Dexter, “you can do as you please, of course, but you know me pretty well and I advise you to sit quiet.”
“I am sitting quiet!” was the reply.
“I am sorry,” continued Dexter, with a quick glance at his maimed arm, “that I can’t tie you up, but I am expecting a friend any moment now.”
He suddenly raised the wicket with a twitch of his elbow and, without removing his gaze from the watchful detective, cried sharply—
But there was no reply.
“Good; he’s gone!”
Dexter sat down facing Bristol.
“I have lost my hand in this game, Mr. Bristol,” he said genially, “and had some narrow squeaks of losing my head; but having gone so far and lost so much I’m going through, if I don’t meet a funeral! You see I’m up against two tough propositions.”
Bristol nodded sympathetically.
“The first,” continued Dexter, “is you and Cavanagh, and English law generally. My idea—if I can get hold of the slipper again— oh! you needn’t stare; I’m out for it!—is to get the Antiquarian Institution to ransom it. It’s a line of commercial speculation I have worked successfully before. There’s a dozen rich highbrows, cranks to a man, connected with it, and they are my likeliest buyers—sure. But to keep the tone of the market healthy there’s Hassan of Aleppo, rot him! He’s a dangerous customer to approach, but you’ll note I’ve been in negotiation with him already and am still, if not booming, not much below par!”
“Quite so,” said Bristol. “But you’ve cut off a pretty hefty chew nevertheless. They used to call you The Stetson Man, you used to dress like a fashion plate and stop at the big hotels. Those days are past, Dexter, I’m sorry to note. You’re down to the skulking game now and you’re nearer an advert for Clarkson than Stein-Bloch!”
“Yep,” said Dexter sadly, “I plead guilty, but I think here’s Carneta!”
Bristol heard the door of the outer office open, and a moment later that upon which his gaze was set opened in turn, to admit a girl who was heavily veiled, and who started and stood still in the doorway, on perceiving the situation. Never for one unguarded moment did the American glance aside from his prisoner.
“The Inspector’s dropped in, Carneta!” he drawled in his strident way. “You’re handy with a ball of twine; see if you can induce him to stay the night!”
The girl, immediately recovering her composure, took off her hat in a businesslike way and began to look around her, evidently in search of a suitable length of rope with which to fasten up Bristol.
“Might I suggest,” said the detective, “that if you are shortly quitting these offices a couple of the window-cords neatly joined would serve admirably?”