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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Box With Broken Seals (strange Case Of Mr. Jocelyn Thew) - Chapter 15
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The Box With Broken Seals (strange Case Of Mr. Jocelyn Thew) - Chapter 15 Post by :YUMGAL01 Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2792

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The Box With Broken Seals (strange Case Of Mr. Jocelyn Thew) - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

The morning--grey, slightly wet--broke upon Liverpool docks, the ugliest place in the ugliest city of Europe. A thin stream of people descended at irregular intervals down the gangway from the _City of Boston to the dock, and disappeared in various directions. Amongst the first came a melancholy little procession--a coffin carried by two ship's stewards, with Doctor Gant in solitary attendance behind. After the passengers came a sprinkling of the ship's officers, all very smart and in a great hurry. Then there was a pause of several hours. About midday, two men--Brightman and a stranger--came down the covered way into the dock and boarded the steamer. They were shown at once into the captain's room, where Crawshay and Captain Jones were awaiting them.

"This," Brightman said, introducing his companion, "is Mr. Andelsen. I was fortunate enough to find him on the point of leaving for London."

Mr. Andelsen shook hands and accepted a chair. Upon the table in front of the captain was the sealed dispatch box. Crawshay had a suggestion to make.

"I think," he said, "that Miss Beverley should be here herself when this is opened."

"I have no objection," Brightman assented.

The captain rang for his steward and sent down a message. Mr. Andelsen--a tall, thin man, dressed in a sombre grey suit--handled the seals for a moment, looked at the address of the box, and shook his head.

"I could not take upon myself the responsibility of opening this," he declared. "It is certainly the seal of the Embassy of my country, but the box is addressed specifically to our Foreign Secretary at the Capital."

"We quite appreciate that," Crawshay admitted. "The captain, I believe, is not asking you to break it. We simply wish you to be present while we do so, in order to prove that no disrespect is intended to your country, and in order that you yourself may have an opportunity of taking a note of the contents."

"So long as it is understood that I am only here as a witness," the consul acquiesced, a little doubtfully, "I am quite willing to remain."

Katharine was presently ushered in. She was dressed for landing in a smart tailor-made suit, and her appearance was entirely cheerful. Crawshay stepped forward and handed her a chair.

"Dear me," she said, "this all seems very formidable! Am I under arrest or anything?"

"The captain is about to open the dispatch box found in your trunk, Miss Beverley," Crawshay explained, "in the presence of Mr. Andelsen here, who represents the country whose seals are attached. I have already expressed my opinion that this box has been surreptitiously placed amongst your belongings, and although, of course, our chief object was to gain possession of it, I regret very much the position in which you are placed."

"You are very kind, Mr. Crawshay," she rejoined, without much feeling. "It is certainly a fact that I never saw the box before it was dragged out of my trunk yesterday."

The captain broke the seals, untied the tape, and with a chisel and hammer knocked the top off the box. They all, with the exception of Katharine, gathered around him breathlessly as he shook out the contents on to the table. They were all sharers in the same shock of surprise as the neatly folded packets of ordinary writing paper were one by one disclosed. Crawshay seized one and dragged it to the light. The captain kept on picking them up and throwing them down again. Brightman mechanically followed his example.

"The whole thing's a bluff!" Crawshay exclaimed. "These sheets of paper are all blank! There isn't any trace even of invisible ink."

The consul rose to his feet with a heavy frown.

"This is a very obvious practical joke," he said angrily. "It seems a pity that I should have been compelled to miss my train to town."

"A practical joke!" the captain repeated. "If it is I'm damned if I understand the point of it!"

"Give me the envelope which held the notes," Crawshay demanded.

The captain unlocked his safe and produced it. Crawshay glanced through some of the documents hastily.

"These are all bogus, too!" he exclaimed. "There are no such streets as this in New York--no such names. The whole thing's a sell!"

"But what the--what in thunder does it all mean?" the captain demanded, pulling himself up as he glanced towards Katharine.

Brightman, who had scarcely spoken a word, leaned across the table.

"Probably," he said drily, "it means that some one a little cleverer than us has got away with the real stuff whilst we played around with this rubbish."

"But how?" Crawshay expostulated. "Not a soul has left this ship who hasn't been searched to the skin. The luggage in the hold is going out trunk by trunk, after every cubic foot has been ransacked. We have had a guard at every gangway since we were docked."

There was a knock at the door. The ship's doctor entered. He glanced at the little company and hesitated.

"I beg your pardon, Captain," he said, "could I have a word with you?"

The captain moved towards the threshold.

"Ship's business, Doctor?"

"It's just a queer idea of mine about these papers," the doctor confessed. "It's perhaps scarcely worth mentioning--"

"You'd better come in and tell us about it," the captain insisted. "That's what we're all talking about at the present moment."

Crawshay closed the door behind the newcomer, whose manner was still to some extent apologetic.

"It's really rather a mad idea," the latter began, "and I understand you found a part of what you were searching for, at any rate. But you know the man Phillips, who'd been operated upon for appendicitis--your patient, Miss Beverley, who died during the voyage?"

"What about him?" the captain demanded.

"Just one thing," the Doctor continued. "There was no doubt whatever that he had been operated upon for appendicitis, there was no doubt about the complications, there was no doubt about his death. I helped Doctor Gant--who seemed a very reasonable person, and who is known to me as one of the physicians at Miss Beverley's hospital--in various small details, and at his request I went over the clothing of the dead man and even knocked the coffin to see that it hadn't a double bottom. Doctor Gant appeared to welcome investigation in every shape and form, and yet, now that it's all over, there is one curious thing which rather bothers me."

"Get on with it, man," the captain admonished. "Can't you see that we're all in a fever about this business?"

The doctor produced from his pocket a small strip of very fine quality bandaging.

"It's just this," he explained. "They left this fragment of bandaging in the stateroom. Phillips was bound up with it around the wound, as was quite natural, but it isn't ordinary stuff, you see. It's made double like a tube, with silk inside. He must have had a dozen yards of this around his leg and side, which of course was not disturbed. It's a horrible idea to a layman, I know," he went on, turning apologetically to Katharine,--

"Captain, will you send at once for the steward," Crawshay interrupted, "who carried the coffin out?"

The captain sent a message to the lower deck. Katharine was leaning a little forward, intensely interested.

"Perhaps, Miss Beverley, you can throw some light upon this?" the former enquired--"in your capacity as nurse, I mean."

She shook her head.

"I am sorry that I cannot," she replied. "As a matter of fact, I was never allowed to touch the bandages. Doctor Gant did all that himself."

"Have you ever seen any bandaging of this sort?" Brightman asked, showing her the fragment which he had taken from the doctor's fingers.

"Never."

Crawshay drew a little breath between his teeth. He was on the point of speech when a steward knocked at the door. The captain called him in.

"Harrison," he asked, "were you one of the stewards who was looking after Doctor Gant?"

"Yes, sir," the man replied.

"You helped to carry the coffin out, didn't you?"

"That's so, sir. We were off at six o'clock this morning."

"Was there a hearse waiting?"

The steward shook his head.

"There was a big motor car outside, sir. We put the coffin in that and the doctor drove off with it--said he was to take it down to the place where the man had lived, for burial."

"Do you know where that was?"

"No idea, sir."

The captain glanced towards Brightman.

"Do you want to ask the man any questions?"

"Questions? No, sir!" the detective replied bitterly. "We've been done--that's all there is about it. Never mind, they've only got six hours' start. We'll have that car traced, and--"

"Does any one know what time Mr. Jocelyn Thew left the steamer?" Crawshay interrupted.

"He got away last night," the steward replied. "There were three or four of them went up to the Adelphi to sleep. Some of them came back for their baggage this morning, but I haven't seen Mr. Jocelyn Thew."

Katharine rose to her feet. Her tone and expression were impenetrable.

"Am I still suspect?" she asked.

Crawshay glanced at Brightman, who shook his head.

"There is no charge against you. Miss Beverley," he admitted stiffly. "So far as I am concerned, you are at liberty to leave the ship whenever you please."

She held out her hand to the captain.

"I can't make up my mind, Captain," she said, smiling at him delightfully, "as to what sort of a voyage I have had on this steamer, but I do congratulate you on that escape from the raider. Good-by!"

Crawshay walked with her along the deserted deck as far as the gangway.

"I am afraid I cannot offer my escort any further, Miss Beverley," he regretted. "I must have a little conversation with Brightman here."

"Of course," she answered. "I quite understand. Perhaps we may meet in London. It seems a pity, doesn't it," she went on sympathetically, "that that wonderful voyage of yours was taken for nothing? Some one on this ship has been very clever indeed."

"Some one has," Crawshay replied bitterly, "and you and I both know who it is, Miss Beverley. But," he went on, holding the gangway railing as she turned to descend, "it's only the first part of the game that's over. Our friend has won on the sea, but I have an idea that we shall have him on land. We shall have him yet, and we'll catch him red-handed if I have anything to do with it. Will you wish us luck?"

She turned and looked at him. Her lips parted as though she were about to speak. Instead she broke into a little laugh, and, turning away, descended the gangway. From the dock she looked up again at Crawshay.

"Do come and look me up if you are in town," she begged. "I shall stay at Claridge's, and I shall be interested to hear how you get on."

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CHAPTER XVIThe _City of Boston docked in Liverpool on Sunday night. On Tuesday, at five o'clock in the afternoon, Crawshay, who had been waiting at Euston Station for a quarter of an hour or so, almost dragged Brightman out of the long train which drew slowly into the station. "We'll take a taxi somewhere," the former said. "It's the safest place to talk in. Any other luggage?" "Only the bag I'm carrying," the detective replied. "I have got some more stuff coming up, if you want me to keep on this job." "I think I shall," Crawshay told him. "I want
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CHAPTER XIVThe _City of Boston passed through the danger zone in safety, and dropped anchor in the Mersey only a few hours later than the time of her expected arrival. Towards the close of a somewhat uproarious dinner, during which many bottles of champagne were emptied to various toasts, Captain Jones quite unexpectedly entered the saloon, and, waving his hand in response to the cheers which greeted him, made his way to his usual table, from which he addressed the little company. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I have an announcement to make to which I beg you will listen with
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