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The Secret Adversary - Chapter 24 - Julius Takes a Hand

1. Prologue

2. Chapter 1 - The Young Adventurers, Ltd.

3. Chapter 2 - Mr. Whittington's Offer

4. Chapter 3 - A Set Back

5. Chapter 4 - Who is Jane Finn?

6. Chapter 5 - Mr. Julius P. Hersheimmer

7. Chapter 6 - A Plan of Campaign

8. Chapter 7 - The House in Soho

9. Chapter 8 - The Adventures of Tommy

10. Chapter 9 - Tuppence Enters Domestic Service

11. Chapter 10 - Enter Sir James Peel Edgerton

12. Chapter 11 - Julius Tells a Story

13. Chapter 12 - A Friend in Need

14. Chapter 13 - The Vigil

15. Chapter 14 - A Consultation

16. Chapter 15 - Tuppence Receives a Proposal

17. Chapter 16 - Further Adventures of Tommy

18. Chapter 17 - Annette

19. Chapter 18 - The Telegram

20. Chapter 19 - Jane Finn

21. Chapter 20 - Too Late

22. Chapter 21 - Tommy Makes a Discovery

23. Chapter 22 - In Downing Street

24. Chapter 23 - A Rage Against Time

25. Chapter 24 - Julius Takes a Hand

26. Chapter 25 - Jane's Story

27. Chapter 26 - Mr. Brown

28. Chapter 27 - A Supper Party at the Savoy

29. Chapter 28 - And After







IN his suite at Claridge's, Kramenin reclined on a couch and
dictated to his secretary in sibilant Russian.

Presently the telephone at the secretary's elbow purred, and he
took up the receiver, spoke for a minute or two, then turned to
his employer.

"Some one below is asking for you."

"Who is it?"

"He gives the name of Mr. Julius P. Hersheimmer."

"Hersheimmer," repeated Kramenin thoughtfully. "I have heard
that name before."

"His father was one of the steel kings of America," explained the
secretary, whose business it was to know everything. "This young
man must be a millionaire several times over."

The other's eyes narrowed appreciatively.

"You had better go down and see him, Ivan. Find out what he
wants."

The secretary obeyed, closing the door noiselessly behind him. In
a few minutes he returned.

"He declines to state his business--says it is entirely private
and personal, and that he must see you."

"A millionaire several times over," murmured Kramenin. "Bring
him up, my dear Ivan."

The secretary left the room once more, and returned escorting
Julius.

"Monsieur Kramenin?" said the latter abruptly.

The Russian, studying him attentively with his pale venomous
eyes, bowed.

"Pleased to meet you," said the American. "I've got some very
important business I'd like to talk over with you, if I can see
you alone." He looked pointedly at the other.

"My secretary, Monsieur Grieber, from whom I have no secrets."

"That may be so--but I have," said Julius dryly. "So I'd be
obliged if you'd tell him to scoot."

"Ivan," said the Russian softly, "perhaps you would not mind
retiring into the next room----"

"The next room won't do," interrupted Julius. "I know these
ducal suites--and I want this one plumb empty except for you and
me. Send him round to a store to buy a penn'orth of peanuts."

Though not particularly enjoying the American's free and easy
manner of speech, Kramenin was devoured by curiosity. "Will your
business take long to state?"

"Might be an all night job if you caught on."

"Very good, Ivan. I shall not require you again this evening. Go
to the theatre--take a night off."

"Thank you, your excellency."

The secretary bowed and departed.

Julius stood at the door watching his retreat. Finally, with a
satisfied sigh, he closed it, and came back to his position in
the centre of the room.

"Now, Mr. Hersheimmer, perhaps you will be so kind as to come to
the point?"

"I guess that won't take a minute," drawled Julius. Then, with
an abrupt change of manner: "Hands up--or I shoot!"

For a moment Kramenin stared blindly into the big automatic,
then, with almost comical haste, he flung up his hands above his
head. In that instant Julius had taken his measure. The man he
had to deal with was an abject physical coward--the rest would be
easy.

"This is an outrage," cried the Russian in a high hysterical
voice. "An outrage! Do you mean to kill me?"

"Not if you keep your voice down. Don't go edging sideways
towards that bell. That's better."

"What do you want? Do nothing rashly. Remember my life is of
the utmost value to my country. I may have been maligned----"

"I reckon," said Julius, "that the man who let daylight into you
would be doing humanity a good turn. But you needn't worry any.
I'm not proposing to kill you this trip--that is, if you're
reasonable."

The Russian quailed before the stern menace in the other's eyes.
He passed his tongue over his dry lips.

"What do you want? Money?"

"No. I want Jane Finn."

"Jane Finn? I--never heard of her!"

"You're a darned liar! You know perfectly who I mean."

"I tell you I've never heard of the girl."

"And I tell you," retorted Julius, "that Little Willie here is
just hopping mad to go off!"

The Russian wilted visibly.

"You wouldn't dare----"

"Oh, yes, I would, son!"

Kramenin must have recognized something in the voice that carried
conviction, for he said sullenly:

"Well? Granted I do know who you mean--what of it?"

"You will tell me now--right here--where she is to be found."

Kramenin shook his head.

"I daren't."

"Why not?"

"I daren't. You ask an impossibility."

"Afraid, eh? Of whom? Mr. Brown? Ah, that tickles you up!
There is such a person, then? I doubted it. And the mere
mention of him scares you stiff!"

"I have seen him," said the Russian slowly. "Spoken to him face
to face. I did not know it until afterwards. He was one of a
crowd. I should not know him again. Who is he really? I do not
know. But I know this--he is a man to fear."

"He'll never know," said Julius.

"He knows everything--and his vengeance is swift. Even
I--Kramenin!--would not be exempt!"

"Then you won't do as I ask you?"

"You ask an impossibility."

"Sure that's a pity for you," said Julius cheerfully. "But the
world in general will benefit." He raised the revolver.

"Stop," shrieked the Russian. "You cannot mean to shoot me?"

"Of course I do. I've always heard you Revolutionists held life
cheap, but it seems there's a difference when it's your own life
in question. I gave you just one chance of saving your dirty
skin, and that you wouldn't take!"

"They would kill me!"

"Well," said Julius pleasantly, "it's up to you. But I'll just
say this. Little Willie here is a dead cert, and if I was you I'd
take a sporting chance with Mr. Brown!"

"You will hang if you shoot me," muttered the Russian
irresolutely.

"No, stranger, that's where you're wrong. You forget the
dollars. A big crowd of solicitors will get busy, and they'll get
some high-brow doctors on the job, and the end of it all will be
that they'll say my brain was unhinged. I shall spend a few
months in a quiet sanatorium, my mental health will improve, the
doctors will declare me sane again, and all will end happily for
little Julius. I guess I can bear a few months' retirement in
order to rid the world of you, but don't you kid yourself I'll
hang for it!"

The Russian believed him. Corrupt himself, he believed
implicitly in the power of money. He had read of American murder
trials running much on the lines indicated by Julius. He had
bought and sold justice himself. This virile young American, with
the significant drawling voice, had the whip hand of him.

"I'm going to count five," continued Julius, "and I guess, if you
let me get past four, you needn't worry any about Mr. Brown.
Maybe he'll send some flowers to the funeral, but YOU won't smell
them! Are you ready? I'll begin. One--two three--four----"

The Russian interrupted with a shriek:

"Do not shoot. I will do all you wish."

Julius lowered the revolver.

"I thought you'd hear sense. Where is the girl?"

"At Gatehouse, in Kent. Astley Priors, the place is called."

"Is she a prisoner there?"

"She's not allowed to leave the house--though it's safe enough
really. The little fool has lost her memory, curse her!"

"That's been annoying for you and your friends, I reckon. What
about the other girl, the one you decoyed away over a week ago?"

"She's there too," said the Russian sullenly.

"That's good," said Julius. "Isn't it all panning out
beautifully? And a lovely night for the run!"

"What run?" demanded Kramenin, with a stare.

"Down to Gatehouse, sure. I hope you're fond of motoring?"

"What do you mean? I refuse to go."

"Now don't get mad. You must see I'm not such a kid as to leave
you here. You'd ring up your friends on that telephone first
thing! Ah!" He observed the fall on the other's face. "You
see, you'd got it all fixed. No, sir, you're coming along with
me. This your bedroom next door here? Walk right in. Little
Willie and I will come behind. Put on a thick coat, that's
right. Fur lined? And you a Socialist! Now we're ready. We
walk downstairs and out through the hall to where my car's
waiting. And don't you forget I've got you covered every inch of
the way. I can shoot just as well through my coat pocket. One
word, or a glance even, at one of those liveried menials, and
there'll sure be a strange face in the Sulphur and Brimstone
Works!"

Together they descended the stairs, and passed out to the waiting
car. The Russian was shaking with rage. The hotel servants
surrounded them. A cry hovered on his lips, but at the last
minute his nerve failed him. The American was a man of his word.

When they reached the car, Julius breathed a sigh of relief. The
danger-zone was passed. Fear had successfully hypnotized the man
by his side.

"Get in," he ordered. Then as he caught the other's sidelong
glance, "No, the chauffeur won't help you any. Naval man. Was on
a submarine in Russia when the Revolution broke out. A brother of
his was murdered by your people. George!"

"Yes, sir?" The chauffeur turned his head.

"This gentleman is a Russian Bolshevik. We don't want to shoot
him, but it may be necessary. You understand?"

"Perfectly, sir."

"I want to go to Gatehouse in Kent. Know the road at all?"

"Yes, sir, it will be about an hour and a half's run."

"Make it an hour. I'm in a hurry."

"I'll do my best, sir." The car shot forward through the
traffic.

Julius ensconced himself comfortably by the side of his victim.
He kept his hand in the pocket of his coat, but his manner was
urbane to the last degree.

"There was a man I shot once in Arizona----" he began cheerfully.

At the end of the hour's run the unfortunate Kramenin was more
dead than alive. In succession to the anecdote of the Arizona
man, there had been a tough from 'Frisco, and an episode in the
Rockies. Julius's narrative style, if not strictly accurate, was
picturesque!

Slowing down, the chauffeur called over his shoulder that they
were just coming into Gatehouse. Julius bade the Russian direct
them. His plan was to drive straight up to the house. There
Kramenin was to ask for the two girls. Julius explained to him
that Little Willie would not be tolerant of failure. Kramenin, by
this time, was as putty in the other's hands. The terrific pace
they had come had still further unmanned him. He had given
himself up for dead at every corner.

The car swept up the drive, and stopped before the porch. The
chauffeur looked round for orders.

"Turn the car first, George. Then ring the bell, and get back to
your place. Keep the engine going, and be ready to scoot like
hell when I give the word."

"Very good, sir."

The front door was opened by the butler. Kramenin felt the
muzzle of the revolver pressed against his ribs.

"Now," hissed Julius. "And be careful."

The Russian beckoned. His lips were white, and his voice was not
very steady:

"It is I--Kramenin! Bring down the girl at once! There is no
time to lose!"

Whittington had come down the steps. He uttered an exclamation
of astonishment at seeing the other.

"You! What's up? Surely you know the plan----"

Kramenin interrupted him, using the words that have created many
unnecessary panics:

"We have been betrayed! Plans must be abandoned. We must save
our own skins. The girl! And at once! It's our only chance."

Whittington hesitated, but for hardly a moment.

"You have orders--from HIM?"

"Naturally! Should I be here otherwise? Hurry! There is no
time to be lost. The other little fool had better come too."

Whittington turned and ran back into the house. The agonizing
minutes went by. Then--two figures hastily huddled in cloaks
appeared on the steps and were hustled into the car. The smaller
of the two was inclined to resist and Whittington shoved her in
unceremoniously. Julius leaned forward, and in doing so the
light from the open door lit up his face. Another man on the
steps behind Whittington gave a startled exclamation. Concealment
was at an end.

"Get a move on, George," shouted Julius.

The chauffeur slipped in his clutch, and with a bound the car
started.

The man on the steps uttered an oath. His hand went to his
pocket. There was a flash and a report. The bullet just missed
the taller girl by an inch.

"Get down, Jane," cried Julius. "Flat on the bottom of the car."
He thrust her sharply forward, then standing up, he took careful
aim and fired.

"Have you hit him?" cried Tuppence eagerly.

"Sure," replied Julius. "He isn't killed, though. Skunks like
that take a lot of killing. Are you all right, Tuppence?"

"Of course I am. Where's Tommy? And who's this?" She indicated
the shivering Kramenin.

"Tommy's making tracks for the Argentine. I guess he thought
you'd turned up your toes. Steady through the gate, George!
That's right. It'll take 'em at least five minutes to get busy
after us. They'll use the telephone, I guess, so look out for
snares ahead--and don't take the direct route. Who's this, did
you say, Tuppence? Let me present Monsieur Kramenin. I
persuaded him to come on the trip for his health."

The Russian remained mute, still livid with terror.

"But what made them let us go?" demanded Tuppence suspiciously.

"I reckon Monsieur Kramenin here asked them so prettily they just
couldn't refuse!"

This was too much for the Russian. He burst out vehemently:

"Curse you--curse you! They know now that I betrayed them. My
life won't be safe for an hour in this country."

"That's so," assented Julius. "I'd advise you to make tracks for
Russia right away."

"Let me go, then," cried the other. "I have done what you asked.
Why do you still keep me with you?"

"Not for the pleasure of your company. I guess you can get right
off now if you want to. I thought you'd rather I tooled you back
to London."

"You may never reach London," snarled the other. "Let me go here
and now."

"Sure thing. Pull up, George. The gentleman's not making the
return trip. If I ever come to Russia, Monsieur Kramenin, I shall
expect a rousing welcome, and----"

But before Julius had finished his speech, and before the car had
finally halted, the Russian had swung himself out and disappeared
into the night.

"Just a mite impatient to leave us," commented Julius, as the car
gathered way again. "And no idea of saying good-bye politely to
the ladies. Say, Jane, you can get up on the seat now."

For the first time the girl spoke.

"How did you 'persuade' him?" she asked.

Julius tapped his revolver.

"Little Willie here takes the credit!"

"Splendid!" cried the girl. The colour surged into her face, her
eyes looked admiringly at Julius.

"Annette and I didn't know what was going to happen to us," said
Tuppence. "Old Whittington hurried us off. We thought it was
lambs to the slaughter."

"Annette," said Julius. "Is that what you call her?"

His mind seemed to be trying to adjust itself to a new idea.

"It's her name," said Tuppence, opening her eyes very wide.

"Shucks!" retorted Julius. "She may think it's her name, because
her memory's gone, poor kid. But it's the one real and original
Jane Finn we've got here."

"What?" cried Tuppence.

But she was interrupted. With an angry spurt, a bullet embedded
itself in the upholstery of the car just behind her head.

"Down with you," cried Julius. "It's an ambush. These guys have
got busy pretty quickly. Push her a bit, George."

The car fairly leapt forward. Three more shots rang out, but
went happily wide. Julius, upright, leant over the back of the
car.

"Nothing to shoot at," he announced gloomily. "But I guess
there'll be another little picnic soon. Ah!"

He raised his hand to his cheek.

"You are hurt?" said Annette quickly.

"Only a scratch."

The girl sprang to her feet.

"Let me out! Let me out, I say! Stop the car. It is me they're
after. I'm the one they want. You shall not lose your lives
because of me. Let me go." She was fumbling with the fastenings
of the door.

Julius took her by both arms, and looked at her. She had spoken
with no trace of foreign accent.

"Sit down, kid," he said gently. "I guess there's nothing wrong
with your memory. Been fooling them all the time, eh?"

The girl looked at him, nodded, and then suddenly burst into
tears. Julius patted her on the shoulder.

"There, there--just you sit tight. We're not going to let you
quit."

Through her sobs the girl said indistinctly:

"You're from home. I can tell by your voice. It makes me
home-sick."

"Sure I'm from home. I'm your cousin--Julius Hersheimmer. I
came over to Europe on purpose to find you--and a pretty dance
you've led me."

The car slackened speed. George spoke over his shoulder:

"Cross-roads here, sir. I'm not sure of the way."

The car slowed down till it hardly moved. As it did so a figure
climbed suddenly over the back, and plunged head first into the
midst of them.

"Sorry," said Tommy, extricating himself.

A mass of confused exclamations greeted him. He replied to them
severally:

"Was in the bushes by the drive. Hung on behind. Couldn't let
you know before at the pace you were going. It was all I could
do to hang on. Now then, you girls, get out!"

"Get out?"

"Yes. There's a station just up that road. Train due in three
minutes. You'll catch it if you hurry."

"What the devil are you driving at?" demanded Julius. "Do you
think you can fool them by leaving the car?"

"You and I aren't going to leave the car. Only the girls."

"You're crazed, Beresford. Stark staring mad! You can't let
those girls go off alone. It'll be the end of it if you do."

Tommy turned to Tuppence.

"Get out at once, Tuppence. Take her with you, and do just as I
say. No one will do you any harm. You're safe. Take the train
to London. Go straight to Sir James Peel Edgerton. Mr. Carter
lives out of town, but you'll be safe with him."

"Darn you!" cried Julius. "You're mad. Jane, you stay where you
are."

With a sudden swift movement, Tommy snatched the revolver from
Julius's hand, and levelled it at him.

"Now will you believe I'm in earnest? Get out, both of you, and
do as I say--or I'll shoot!"

Tuppence sprang out, dragging the unwilling Jane after her.

"Come on, it's all right. If Tommy's sure--he's sure. Be quick.
We'll miss the train."

They started running.

Julius's pent-up rage burst forth.

"What the hell----"

Tommy interrupted him.

"Dry up! I want a few words with you, Mr. Julius Hersheimmer."




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