Submarine U93 Part 21

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Jimmy's case was altogether different. Young though he was, he found that on such an occasion as this sleep was no easy matter. Unlike the little sea-captain, his had not been a life of adventure and excitement.

Never in his wildest dreams had he thought it possible that he personally would take part in so tremendous an undertaking.

The whole thing was amazing. The Scotland Yard detective had appeared to have little or no doubt that "Valentine" was the Baron von Essling himself. It was, indeed, quite possible. Von Essling had told Rosencrantz that, in all probability, he would visit England, and he may have done so at the time of the outbreak of war. Also, there was nothing to prevent him repeating his visits, disguised and under an a.s.sumed name, as often as he liked. In these days of quick travelling, the journey across the Atlantic seldom occupies longer than seven days.

The secrecy with which the whole plot had been laid, and the care with which every detail had been considered, spoke volumes for German efficiency and organization. No one in London--least of all in the Edgware Road itself--had thought for a moment that the large block of untenanted flats had been purchased outright by the German Government, in order to be used as the headquarters of a gang of spies. The military attache went about his business in Was.h.i.+ngton, the capital of the United States, and no shred of suspicion rested upon himself.

Nothing had been overlooked. German agents had been found in Hull; and a fis.h.i.+ng smack, the "Marigold," was able to put out from an English port and patrol the high seas on behalf of the German Navy, which dared not show its face within range of the great fifteen-inch guns of the British super-Dreadnoughts. Stork had been specially selected for work of a singularly dangerous character, and there was little doubt that his services would prove of inestimable value to those who controlled the destiny of the most formidable nation in arms that any country has ever been called upon to face. But, perhaps, the most remarkable thing of all was that the whole plot should have been discovered as it seemed by a mere stroke of luck. Had it not been for the particular gust of wind--a little eddy in the air, in mid-Atlantic, hundreds of miles from the nearest land--that blew Stork's cypher message back upon the deck, nothing would have been found out, and the Secret Service Department in the of Berlin would have been able to carry out their plans unimpeded.

It was such thoughts as these that kept Jimmy Burke awake. And when, at last, he fell asleep, it was to dream in a vague disjointed way of Rosencrantz and Rudolf Stork, the thunder of the "Dresden's" guns, and the silent, shadowy form of the U93, gliding northward to the fog-soaked Dogger Bank.

How long he had actually been asleep he never had the least idea, when the door of the railway carriage was thrown open, and the guard seized both Crouch and Jimmy by the shoulders and shook them to wake them up.

"Here you are, sir! This is Hull."

Jimmy sat up and rubbed his eyes. It was broad daylight and bitterly cold. The few pa.s.sengers and railway servants that were to be seen upon the platform were all enwrapped in m.u.f.flers and overcoats.

Crouch sprang to his feet, cast aside his tartan rug, and jammed his battered white bowler on to the back of his head.

"Come on!" he cried. "If Stork's here, there's no time to lose."

CHAPTER XXI--On Board a White Star Liner

Whilst Jimmy and Crouch were travelling at the rate of about forty miles an hour upon the track of the Great Northern Railway, Superintendent-detective Etheridge was traversing the country every bit as rapidly, upon an almost parallel route.

Leaving Whitehall shortly after ten o'clock at night, he followed the old Roman road which goes by the name of Watling Street that runs from London to Chester. He knew what he was about; and he knew also that, provided the Rolls-Royce car met with no mishap upon the road, he could reach Liverpool before the "Baltic" sailed. He had already telegraphed to the police both at that place and at Hull, giving a detailed description of "Mr. Lewis Valentine" and Rudolf Stork. It was discovered afterwards--and we have already said as much--that his telegram reached Hull too late. Stork, with his usual luck, had arrived in the nick of time, and before Detective-inspector Manning could trace his whereabouts, he had embarked upon the "Marigold," and was well out to sea in one of those dripping, impenetrable fogs, which are of such common occurrence upon the Dogger Bank.

At Liverpool, however, the case was very different. The police in that city were warned in time; and besides, it so happened that the boat-train was delayed by the breaking down of an engine which obstructed the main-line traffic for several hours. The great White Star liner lay alongside her wharf, under steam, with her cargo all aboard; but, long before the first batch of pa.s.sengers had arrived, no less than six detectives and plain-clothes policemen were in possession of the gangways. A Mr. Lewis Valentine, registered as an American citizen, of Minneapolis, appeared in the list of pa.s.sengers; and the police were already in possession of Etheridge's description of the man he wanted.

In the meantime, the superintendent-detective himself was speeding northward upon the famous road that in bygone days had conducted the Roman legions to the strong fortified posts upon the frontier of Wales.

Etheridge knew the possibilities of the Rolls-Royce, which on many a previous occasion had stood him in good stead. It was by means of this car that he had captured Jack White, the famous Ealing murderer, and had been able to run down Joss Hubbard, the anarchist, whose arrest he brought about at the very moment when the criminal was setting foot upon the cross-Channel boat at Dover.

Towards morning, it rained steadily--a fine, drizzling rain which soon after daybreak turned to sleet. Even the main roads were covered with mud and slush, whereas the country lanes were converted into quagmires.

Hour by hour, the Rolls-Royce tore northward. Its great staring lights rushed through many a sleeping village. Its horn sounded repeatedly, giving ample warning to the few people who happened to be abroad--for the most part agricultural labourers going to their work in the small hours of the morning--that one of His Majesty's servants had urgent and important business to transact on behalf of the public safety.

In such a situation there was nothing novel as far as the superintendent-detective was concerned. He knew exactly where he was going, when he would get there, and what would--or what would not--happen, when he did. Accordingly, he folded his arms, turned up the collar of his fur coat, and lying well back in his seat, slept no less soundly, though not quite so noisily, as Captain Crouch himself.

He woke up as the car was entering Liverpool, pulled out his watch, and looked at the time. He had still three-quarters of an hour to spare; he would arrive on board the "Baltic" before she was due to sail.

Leaving the Rolls-Royce at the dock gates, he walked along the magnificent wharf owned by the White Star Company, where at the foot of the gangway he was recognized by one of the local detectives. Though no one, watching the two men's faces, would have imagined for a single instant that they had known each other for years, Etheridge gathered all the information he desired: namely, that the so-called "Mr. Valentine"

had not yet come on board.

He ascended the gangway to the main promenade deck, where, cigar in mouth, he leaned upon the taffrail, surveying the crowd of dock labourers, customs house officials and pa.s.sengers that was a.s.sembled under the wharf-shed.

Presently, a tall man approached who was wearing a heavy ulster, and who addressed Etheridge as if he were talking to an absolute stranger, though as a matter of fact he was no less a person than Superintendent-detective McGowan of Liverpool who had worked with Scotland Yard for years.

"I beg pardon, sir," said he, producing a cigarette from a morocco case, "but would you be so good as to oblige me with a light?"

Etheridge rummaged in his pockets, produced a box of safety matches, struck one, and held it in the hollow of both hands to screen the flame from the wind. When he was quite a.s.sured that the light would not be blown out, he leaned forward so that McGowan was not only able to light his cigarette, but to whisper in his colleague's ear. The words he used may, at first blush, seem somewhat vague; for all that, to the quick intelligence of the London detective they conveyed all the information he desired to know.

"D Forty-one," said McGowan, who then, having lighted his cigarette, thanked Etheridge, and strolled carelessly away.

Etheridge walked casually along the deck until he came to one of the lifts, where he asked the attendant to take him down to "D" deck. There, as if looking for his own cabin, he wandered about, until he came to number forty-one, which he promptly entered and where he seated himself in a comfortable armchair.

Then, producing a copy of the morning paper which he had purchased at the dock gates, he proceeded to read the news of the day. About the Baron von Essling he troubled himself not in the least. He never gave him a thought. He had gathered from McGowan that D41 was the number of the cabin that had been booked by "Mr. Valentine." Sooner or later, Valentine himself would arrive. Until that moment, Superintendent-detective Etheridge was determined to give the whole of his attention to the morning's news.

Suddenly, a steward entered, carrying a Gladstone bag. He appeared somewhat surprised to see the cabin in possession of the detective, of whose ident.i.ty he had no idea.

"This is the wrong cabin, sir," said he.

"I think not," said the other. "It has been booked by a Mr. Valentine, I believe. I have here a police warrant for his arrest."

The usual effect of a police warrant can only be described as electrical. The steward allowed the Gladstone bag to fall from his hand, and stood regarding the detective in amazement.

"What shall I do?" he asked.

"Mr. Valentine has come on board?" asked Etheridge, disregarding the steward's question.

"He is on the promenade deck now."

"Then show him down to his cabin, and leave us together. You need not trouble to remain at hand, as several of my a.s.sistants are on board the s.h.i.+p, and besides, I am provided with these," he added, producing a Colt revolver and a pair of handcuffs.

The steward went out, walking on tiptoe, with the demeanour of a man who is conscious that he finds himself on dangerous ground. And no sooner was the door closed than Etheridge flung himself at the Gladstone bag as a hungry dog might tackle a bone. To undo the straps was the work of a moment. Producing a skeleton key from his pocket, he succeeded in opening the lock, and then turned out the complete contents of the bag upon the floor.

He found nothing more suspicious than a suit of pyjamas, was.h.i.+ng materials and an extraordinary number of neckties of every conceivable colour, tone and shade. He bundled these back into the bag with scant ceremony; and no sooner had he done so than the door was opened, and there entered a man wearing a tweed suit and one of those soft felt hats which are so popular in the United States.

"I understood," said he, regarding Etheridge in surprise, "I understood this was my cabin--D41."

At that moment, there entered another steward--a thick-set man with a heavy, black moustache--who carried upon his back a large cabin-trunk, upon the lid of which were inscribed the words: "LEWIS N. VALENTINE, MINNEAPOLIS, MINN."

Now, Superintendent-detective Etheridge had already searched the archives of Scotland Yard for a photograph of von Essling; and there was no question but that this Mr. Lewis N. Valentine (of Minneapolis, Minn.) bore a striking resemblance to the military attache, with the exception of the trifling fact that von Essling wore a moustache and Valentine was clean-shaven.

The steward set down the trunk in the middle of the cabin, and then went out without a word, half closing the door. Etheridge and Valentine stood face to face, regarding each other closely, the one wondering whether he had found the right man, the suspicions of the other fully aroused.

Etheridge had a method of his own that seldom failed. It was his custom to confront suspected persons with the truth. On such occasions, it is extremely difficult not to give one's self away; the most hardened criminal is not capable of controlling his features or of finding suitable words of explanation, when he suddenly finds himself face to face with his own guilt. If "Valentine," or von Essling, were so obliging as to betray his own ident.i.ty, there was little doubt in the detective's mind that the necessary proof would be forthcoming, when the man's baggage was overhauled. However--as we shall see--Valentine himself was possessed of considerable presence of mind. He was a desperate man in a desperate situation, and was not likely to stick at trifles.

"To the best of my knowledge," said Etheridge bluntly, "this cabin was reserved for the Baron von Essling, a military attache to the German in Was.h.i.+ngton, who has certainly no right to be in England at the present time."

Valentine started. He was not sufficiently master of himself to prevent it. He drew back a quick step, and stared hard at Etheridge. His lips had parted, and the colour had vanished from his cheeks.

"What do you mean?" he exclaimed.

He got the better of his feelings in an instant, and feigned annoyance.

Etheridge, however, had already formed his own opinion, and was determined to arrest the man, at once.

"If you're wise," said he, "you'll speak the truth. It's my duty to warn you that anything you say may be used in evidence against you."

Submarine U93 Part 21

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Submarine U93 Part 21 summary

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