“That’ll be the Wrychester Second Friendly,” answered Mitchington. “There are two such societies in the town—the first’s patronized by small tradesmen and the like; the second by workingmen. The second does take deposits from its members. The office is in Fladgate—secretary’s name outside —Mr. Stebbing. What are you after?”
“Tell you later,” said Jettison. “Just an idea.”
He went leisurely out and across the market square and into the narrow, old-world street called Fladgate, along which he strolled as if doing no more than looking about him until he came to an ancient shop which had been converted into an office, and had a wire blind over the lower half of its front window, wherein was woven in conspicuous gilt letters Wrychester Second Friendly Society—George Stebbing, Secretary. Nothing betokened romance or mystery in that essentially humble place, but it was in Jettison’s mind that when he crossed its threshold he was on his way to discovering something that would possibly clear up the problem on which he was engaged.
The staff of the Second Friendly was inconsiderable in numbers—an outer office harboured a small boy and a tall young man; an inner one accommodated Mr. Stebbing, also a young man, sandy-haired and freckled, who, having inspected Detective-Sergeant Jettison’s professional card, gave him the best chair in the room and stared at him with a mingling of awe and curiosity which plainly showed that he had never entertained a detective before. And as if to show his visitor that he realized the seriousness of the occasion, he nodded meaningly at his door.
“All safe, here, sir!” he whispered. “Well fitting doors in these old houses—knew how to make ’em in those days. No chance of being overheard here—what can I do for you, sir?”
“Thank you—much obliged to you,” said Jettison. “No objection to my pipe, I suppose? Just so. Ah!—well, between you and me, Mr. Stebbing, I’m down here in connection with that Collishaw case—you know.”
“I know, sir—poor fellow!” said the secretary. “Cruel thing, sir, if the man was put an end to. One of our members, was Collishaw, sir.”
“So I understand,” remarked Jettison. “That’s what I’ve come about. Bit of information, on the quiet, eh? Strictly between our two selves—for the present.”
Stebbing nodded and winked, as if he had been doing business with detectives all his life. “To be sure, sir, to be sure!” he responded with alacrity. “Just between you and me and the door post!-all right. Anything I can do, Mr. Jettison, shall be done. But it’s more in the way of what I can tell, I suppose?”
“Something of that sort,” replied Jettison in his slow, easy-going fashion. “I want to know a thing or two. Yours is a working-man’s society, I think? Aye—and I understand you’ve a system whereby such a man can put his bits of savings by in your hands?”