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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 21. Covering The Trail
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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 21. Covering The Trail Post by :hammer23 Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :May 2012 Read :1007

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The Daffodil Mystery - Chapter 21. Covering The Trail

CHAPTER XXI. COVERING THE TRAIL

Tarling had a brief interview with his assistant Whiteside, and the Inspector, to his surprise, accepted his view of Ling Chu's confession.

"I always thought Milburgh was a pretty cool customer," Whiteside said thoughtfully. "But he has more gall than I gave him credit for. I would certainly prefer to believe your Chink than I would believe Milburgh. And, by the way, your young lady has slipped the shadow."

"What are you talking about?" asked Tarling in surprise.

"I am referring to your Miss Odette Rider--and why on earth a grown-up police officer with your experience should blush, I can't imagine."

"I'm not blushing," said Tarling. "What about her?"

"I've had two men watching her," explained Whiteside, "and whenever she has taken her walks abroad she has been followed, as you know. In accordance with your instructions I was taking off those shadows to-morrow, but to-day she went to Bond Street, and either Jackson was careless--it was Jackson who was on the job--or else the young lady was very sharp; at any rate, he waited for half an hour for her to come out of the shop, and when she didn't appear he walked in and found there was another entrance through which she had gone. Since then she has not been back to the hotel."

"I don't like that," said Tarling, a little troubled. "I wished her to be under observation as much for her own protection as anything else. I wish you would keep a man at the hotel and telephone me just as soon as she returns."

Whiteside nodded.

"I've anticipated your wishes in that respect," he said. "Well, what is the next move?"

"I'm going to Hertford to see Miss Rider's mother; and incidentally, I may pick up Miss Rider, who is very likely to have gone home."

Whiteside nodded.

"What do you expect to find out from the mother?" he asked.

"I expect to learn a great deal," said Tarling. "There is still a minor mystery to be discovered. For example, who is the mysterious man who comes and goes to Hertford, and just why is Mrs. Rider living in luxury whilst her daughter is working for her living at Lyne's Store?"

"There's something in that," agreed Whiteside. "Would you like me to come along with you?"

"Thanks," smiled Tarling, "I can do that little job by myself."

"Reverting to Milburgh," began Whiteside.

"As we always revert to Milburgh," groaned Tarling. "Yes?"

"Well, I don't like his assurance," said Whiteside. "It looks as if all our hopes of getting a clue from the examination of Lyne's accounts are fated to be dashed."

"There's something in that," said Tarling. "I don't like it myself. The books are in the hands of one of the best chartered accountants in the country, and if there has been any monkey business, he is the fellow who is certain to find it; and not only that, but to trace whatever defalcations there are to the man responsible. Milburgh is not fool enough to imagine that he won't be found out once the accountants get busy, and his cheeriness in face of exposure is to say the least disconcerting."

Their little conference was being held in a prosaic public tea-room opposite the House of Commons--a tea-room the walls of which, had they ears, could have told not a few of Scotland Yard's most precious secrets.

Tarling was on the point of changing the subject when he remembered the parcel of books which had arrived at the accountant's office that morning.

"Rather late," said Whiteside thoughtfully. "By Jove! I wonder!"

"You wonder what?"

"I wonder if they were the three books that Milburgh bought yesterday?"

"The three ledgers?"

Whiteside nodded.

"But why on earth should he want to put in three new ledgers--they were new, weren't they? That doesn't seem to me to be a very intelligent suggestion. And yet----"

He jumped up, almost upsetting the table in his excitement.

"Quick, Whiteside! Get a cab while I settle the bill," he said.

"Where are you going?"

"Hurry up and get the cab!" said Tarling, and when he had rejoined his companion outside, and the taxi was bowling along the Thames Embankment: "I'm going to St. Mary Axe."

"So I gathered from your directions to the cabman," said Whiteside. "But why St. Mary Axe at this time of the afternoon? The very respectable Dashwood and Solomon will not be glad to see you until to-morrow."

"I'm going to see these books," said Tarling, "the books which Milburgh sent to the accountants this morning."

"What do you expect to find?"

"I'll tell you later," was Tarling's reply. He looked at his watch. "They won't be closed yet, thank heaven!"

The taxi was held up at the juncture of the Embankment and Blackfriars Bridge, and was held up again for a different reason in Queen Victoria Street. Suddenly there was a clang-clang of gongs, and all traffic drew to one side to allow the passage of a flying motor fire-engine. Another and another followed in succession.

"A big fire," said Whiteside. "Or it may be a little one, because they get very panicky in the City, and they'll put in a divisional call for a smoking chimney!"

The cab moved on, and had crossed Cannon Street, when it was again held up by another roaring motor, this time bearing a fire escape.

"Let's get out of the cab; we'll walk," said Tarling.

They jumped out, and Whiteside paid the driver.

"This way," said Tarling. "We'll make a short cut."

Whiteside had stopped to speak to a policeman.

"Where's the fire, constable?" he asked.

"St. Mary Axe, sir," was the policeman's reply. "A big firm of chartered accountants--Dashwood and Solomon. You know them, sir? I'm told the place is blazing from cellar to garret."

Tarling showed his teeth in an unamused grin as the words came to him.

"And all the proof of Milburgh's guilt gone up in smoke, eh?" he said. "I think I know what those books contained--a little clockwork detonator and a few pounds of thermite to burn up all the clues to the Daffodil Murder!"

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