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Dick Martin is leaving Scotland Yard. His final job, investigating a stolen book, takes him via a meeting with Doctor Stalletti. Tommy Crawler, Bertram Cody s chauffeur, is also there. Arriving home, Martin finds Lew Pheeney being followed by a man for whom he recently worked. Doing what? demands Martin. Lew finally confesses. I was trying to open a dead man s tomb! Thetelephone rings. It is Mr Havelock.
DICK MARTIN’S last official job (as he believed) was to pull in Lew Pheeney, who was wanted in connection with the Helborough bank robbery. He found Lew in a little Soho cafe, just as he was finishing his coffee.
“What’s the idea, colonel?” asked Lew, almost genially, as he got his hat.
“The inspector wants to talk to you about that Helborough job,” said Dick.
Lew’s nose wrinkled in contempt.
“Helborough grandmothers!” he said scornfully. “I’m out of that bank business - thought you knew it. What are you doing in the force, Martin? They told me that you’d run into money and had quit.”
“I’m quitting. You’re my last bit of business.”
“Too bad you’re falling down on the last lap!” grinned Lew. “I’ve got forty - five well - oiled alibis. I’m surprised at you, Martin. You know I don’t ‘blow’ banks; locks are my speciality - -“
“What were you doing at ten o’clock on Tuesday night?”
A broad smile illuminated the homely face of the burglar.
“If I told you, you’d think I was lying.”
“Give me a chance,” pleaded Dick, his blue eyes twinkling.
Lew did not reply at once. He seemed to be pondering the dangers of too great frankness. But when he had seen all sides of the matter, he spoke the truth.
“I was doing a private job - a job I don’t want to talk about. It was dirty, but honest.”
“And were you well paid?” asked his captor, polite but incredulous.
“I was - I got one hundred and fifty pounds on account. That makes you jump, but it is the truth. I was picking locks, certainly the toughest locks I’ve ever struck, and it was a kind of horrible job I wouldn’t do again for a car - load of money. You don’t believe me, but I can prove that I spent the night at the Royal Arms, Chichester, that I was there at eight o’clock to dinner and at eleven o’clock to sleep. So you can forget all that Helborough bank stuff. I know the gang that did it, and you know ‘em too, and we don’t change cards.”
They kept Lew in the cells all night whilst inquiries were pursued. Remarkably enough, he had not only stayed at the Royal Arms at Chichester, but had stayed in his own name; and it was true that at a quarter to eleven, before the Hedborough bank robbers had left the premises, he was taking a drink in his room, sixty miles away. So authority released Lew in the morning and Dick went into breakfast with him, because, between the professional thief - taker and the professional burglar there is no real ill - feeling, and Sub - Inspector Richard Martin was almost as popular with the criminal classes as he was at police headquarters.
“Ho, Mr Martin, I’m not going to tell you anything more than I’ve already told you,” said Lew good - humouredly. “And when you call me a liar, I’m not so much as hurt in my feelings. I got a hundred an’ fifty pounds, and I’d have got a thousand if I’d pulled it off. You can guess all round it, but you’ll never guess right.”
Dick Martin was eyeing him keenly. “You’ve got a good story in your mind - spill it,” he said.
He waited suggestively, but Lew Pheeney shook his head. “I’m not telling. The story would give away a man who’s not a good fellow, and not one I admire; but I can’t let my personal feelings get the better of me, and you’ll have to go on guessing. And I’m not lying, I’ll tell you how it happened.” He gulped down a cup of hot coffee and pushed cup and saucer away from him. “I don’t know this fellow who asked me to do the work - not personally. He’s been in trouble for something or other, but that’s no business of mine. One night he met me, introduced himself, and I went to his house - brr!” he shivered. “Martin, a crook is a pretty clean man - at least, all the crooks I know; and thieving’s just a game with two players; me and the police. If they snooker me, good luck to ‘em! If I can beat them, good luck to me! But there’s some dirt that makes me sick, just makes my stomach turn over. When he told me the job he wanted me for, I thought he was joking, and my first idea was to turn it in right away. But I’m just the most curious creature that ever lived, and it was a new experience, so, after a lot of think, I said ‘Yes’. Mind you, there was nothing dishonest in it. All he wanted to do was to take a peep at something. What was behind it I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it, but the locks beat me.”
“A lawyer’s safe?” suggested the interested detective, The other shook his head. He turned the subject abruptly; spoke of his plans - he was leaving for the United States to join his brother, who was an honest builder.
“We’re both going out of the game together, Martin,” he smiled. “You’re too good a man for a policeman, and I’m too much of a gentleman to be on the crook. I shouldn’t be surprised if we met one of these days.”
Dick went back to the Yard to make, as he thought, a final report to his immediate chief. Captain Sneed sniffed.
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