When she had gone Slivers locked up his office, and sallied forth to find the missing Villiers, but though he went all over town to that gentleman’s favourite haunts, mostly bars, yet he could see nothing of him; and on making inquiries heard that he had not been seen in Ballarat all day. This was so contrary to Villiers’ general habits that Slivers became suspicious, and as he walked home thinking over the subject he came to the conclusion there was something up.
‘If,’ said Slivers, pausing on the pavement and addressing a street lamp, ’he doesn’t turn up to-morrow I’ll have a look for him again. If that don’t do I’ll tell the police, and I shouldn’t wonder,’ went on Slivers, musingly, ’I shouldn’t wonder if they called on Madame Midas.’
SLIVERS IN SEARCH OF EVIDENCE
Slivers was puzzled over Villiers’ disappearance, so he determined to go in search of evidence against Madame Midas, though for what reason he wanted evidence against her no one but himself—and perhaps Billy—knew. But then Slivers always was an enigma regarding his reasons for doing things, and even the Sphinx would have found him a difficult riddle to solve.
The reasons he had for turning detective were simply these: It soon became known that Madame Midas had been robbed by her husband of the famous nugget, and great was the indignation of everyone against Mr Villiers. That gentleman would have fared very badly if he had made his appearance, but for some reason or another he did not venture forth. In fact, he had completely disappeared, and where he was no one knew. The last person who saw him was Barty Jarper, who left him at the corner of Lydiard and Sturt Streets, when Mr Villiers had announced his intention of going home. Mrs Cheedle, however, asserted positively that she had never set eyes on him since the time she stated to Slivers, and as it was now nearly two weeks since he had disappeared things were beginning to look serious. The generally received explanation was that he had bolted with the nugget, but as he could hardly dispose of such a large mass of gold without suspicion, and as the police both in Ballarat and Melbourne had made inquiries, which proved futile, this theory began to lose ground.
It was at this period that Slivers asserted himself—coming forward, he hinted in an ambiguous sort of way that Villiers had met with foul play, and that some people had their reasons for wishing to get rid of him. This was clearly an insinuation against Madame Midas, but everyone refused to believe such an impossible story, so Slivers determined to make good his words, and went in search of evidence.
The Wopples Family having left Ballarat, Slivers was unable to see Mr Theodore Wopples, who had been in Villiers’ company on the night of his disappearance.
Mr Barty Jarper, however, had not yet departed, so Slivers waylaid him, and asked him in a casual way to drop into his office and have a drink, with a view of finding out from him all the events of that night.