A MODEL CRIME.
BY W. PETT RIDGE.
ILLUSTRATED BY HAL HURST.
THE two swollen-eyed men from Bethnal Green rubbed their stubbly chins thoughtfully with the palms of their hands. They glanced at the yellow young man in the armchair, and then out of the window at Jermyn Street. The yellow young man was Mr. P. Rawlings, from San Domingo, and these were his chambers.
"Wot d'ye mike of it, Jimes?"
"It's thick," whispered James, hoarsely. "Vurry thick, Awlbert."
"T'ent as though this gent wanted the other gent abslootly mide off with," urged Albert.
"I should strongly object," interposed young Mr. Rawlings from the armchair, in his thin high voice, "if anything of the kind were done. Understand that, once for all. There must be no great harm done to Mr. Burleigh. He is simply to be kept out of the way for a month. He proposes to start shortly for a quiet trip on the Continent, and——"
"Before his merridge," remarked James.
Mr. P. Rawlings threw his black cigar into the fire with an impetuous exclamation.
"Be-fore his merridge," echoed Albert.
"He must be abducted and kept quietly for a space until I give the word," said young Mr. Rawlings.
The two men glanced at each other again.
"He's a biggish chep," remarked Albert.
"Chlorryfom might do it," said James, thoughtfully. "But it's a precious risky job. Do you 'appen to know the lidy he's going to merry, sir?"
It was a most unfortunate question.
"What the devil has that to do with you, man! There is your business. Mind it."
Mr. P. Rawlings was in a great rage. He had started up from his chair, and stood glaring with his small black eyes at the two men.
"No 'arm done, sir," said James, in a conciliatory way, "I on'y asted the question. I wish to Gaud he wasn't a M.P., that's all. They're such a fussy lot, and you see he's a important chep. Why, I see his portraits are in the shop-windows, and he's in Madame Tussaud's, and——"
"I know, I know. It makes me hate him all the more."
"Got to be done to-night, has it, sir?"
"This very night. He walks round St. James's Park between nine and ten. What you ought to do is——"
A long detailed explanation. The two Bethnal Green gentlemen listened with great attention, nodding now and again as sign of their acceptance of the suggestions.
"If I were abroad," said Mr, P. Rawlings at the conclusion, "this could be done as easily as the striking of a match."
"Ah!" said James, bitterly, "that's just where it is. You're in 'appy England now, the 'ome of the free, where for the leastest little thing a man finds hisself locked up. Still, we'll do wot we can, won't we, Awlbert?"
He closed his left eye for a moment as he looked at his colleague.
"We will that," responded Albert. "The best of men can do no more."
"You understand," said Mr. P. Rawlings, decidedly, "that I give you nothing now. Come back here this evening and take me to the place where he is, and the money is yours."
"I could 'ave done with a bit on account," said James.
"Not a penny," said Mr. Rawlings, definitely.
The two Bethnal Green gentlemen sighed a protest against the dogmatism of Capital.
"Well, if you won't, mawster," said Albert, philosophically, "I suppose you wont."
The House that evening was unusually full. There was some excitement in the air, and earlier in the afternoon the Inspector had shaken up nearly a helmet full of tickets for the Strangers' Gallery. The space dividing Ministers was littered with the strips of paper which members tear up when they are in an emotional mood, and no one was perfectly asleep. The youthful-looking member who was addressing the House came to his peroration. He glanced at a small red bonnet in the Ladies' Gallery.
"For my part, Mr. Speaker, I can only say, that so long as life remains with me—and that period may be short, and it may be long—I shall not cease to present with all the vigour in my power the arguments to which the House has so generously listened this evening."
Enthusiastic cheering, as Mr. Gerald Burleigh resumed his seat. Congratulators nodded from the front bench of his own side. A pleasant little note of felicitation tossed across from the opposite side. Young Mr. Burleigh, M.P., hurried round to meet the small red bonnet.
"You are going for your usual walk round St. James's Park, I know," said the Red Bonnet, pleasantly.
"No, I am not, dear. I'm going to stroll with you on the terrace."
"Well," the Red Bonnet gave a sigh as affectation of regret, "it is useless to argue with a Member of Parliament. I only hope that my cousin—Bother!"
Mr. P. Rawlings, blinking his small black eyes, said he was pretty middling. How was Mr. Burleigh? Burleigh, without answering, said that Mr. Rawlings's cousin and he were just about to stroll on the Terrace, so that they would have to say good-bye to Mr. Rawlings.
"Burleigh," Mr. Rawlings took the young member aside. "I want to speak to her as a member of the family about money matters. I want to do something rather handsome for her when this affair of yours comes off."
"You're very good," said Mr. Burleigh. He said this unwillingly, for he usually told the truth. "But, really, I don't know——"
"No, you don't. I'm not so bad as you think, Burleigh. I've got a heart after all, although my manner is a little odd at times. Now, you go for your usual run and I'll talk to her."
Mr. P. Rawlings insisted on walking out of St. Stephen's and across the yard with Gerald Burleigh. He seemed to talk rather quickly, and with a dread of anything like a pause in the conversation. Outside the gates he stopped.
"I must hurry back to my cousin," he said. He looked across the road and took his scarlet silk handkerchief from his pocket. The two Bethnal Green gentlemen standing on the opposite side of the road saw this, and then, shading their eyes, looked up at the clock. "You won't be more than half-an-hour?"
"Less," said Gerald Burleigh.
And striding across the road, St. James's Park way, he disappeared from sight.
"Nah, for this desprit deed," said James, with much good-humour. "Is Ginger in Birdkige Walk with his keb?"
Albert nodded, and smiled the confident smile of a general who sees success.
"It's the biggest old beano I was ever in," he said. "I will sy this for you, Jimes. You're a perfect mausterpiece."
Mr. P. Rawlings did not return to his cousin. Instead he took a swift cab to his rooms in Jermyn Street, and, arriving there, walked up and down outside. He was in a great state of nervousness, and he managed, in peering anxiously towards the end of the street, to drop bis pince nez and smash the glasses.
"Well, I'm hanged!" said Mr. P. Rawlings. Which remark was, of course, premature.
A cab drove up. On the top was a long orange case, corded up. Out of the door stepped James; James, in a state of much disorder, red stains on his band, a look of extreme fright on his swollen countenance. Albert behind him trembling obviously with horror.
"Well," said Mr. Rawlings, with an attempt at cheeriness, "you're soon back. You've managed it, I hope?"
"Yus," said James, hoarsely. His voice sounded like the voice of a blanket. "Yus, we've managed it. For Gaud's sike, sir, go upstairs."
Mr. P. Rawlings did so. He left the door open for the two men to follow, and switched on the light in his rooms. He picked out a particularly strong cigar, as though to honour the occasion, and stood the liqueur stand on the table. Then, with his back to the fire, he awaited their coming.
"Mind the corners, Jimes," said Albert "Lift your end, cawn't ye?"
"Aint I aliften my end?" said James, in a hoarse whisper. "It's bloomin' 'eavy. Nah then, al-together! That's it."
They brought in the long case and placed it carefully on two chairs. Mr. P. Rawlings started forward.
"Stand back, sir," whispered James. "Don't touch the 'orrid thing until you've 'eard the tile. Awlbert, shet the doar."
"What on earth have you got there?" cried Mr. Rawlings, excitedly.
"He's not on earth," said James, reverently, "He's in 'Eaven, poor chap, or 'Ell as the kise may be. Can't you turn the lights dahn a bit, sir?"
There was a break in the voice of the Bethnal Green gentleman. He untied the cord as the yellow Mr. Rawlings and the trembling Albert stood by. Albert poured out some port in a tumbler; James turned over the top lid of the case and lifted a handkerchief from the end.
"Great God," cried Mr. Rawlings. "You've killed him!"
The two men took their caps off reverently as they looked with every sign of remorse at the placid face, Mr. Rawlings gazed at the smoothly parted hair, the neat moustache, the strong chin, the——
"Tell me what it means," he cried, feeling for the broken pince nez. "Why have you done this? Why have you brought him here?" The two men did not answer. "Do you know who you are? You are"—he gave the word in a muffled scream—"murderers."
The two men started as Mr. Rawlings, half white now and half yellow, hissed the word at them.
"It was an oversight, I admit," explained James, slowly. "I s'pose we used too much chlorryfom. But if you're going to call us nimes, mister, perhaps we can find a title or two for you."
"What is it to do with me?"
"A prutty tidy bit," said James, with much decision. "For one thing we're a goin' to leave Mr. Burleigh here, and we're a goin', Awlbert and me, to give ourselves up at Vine Street. There's nothing like being perfectly strite forward in these matters. And your nime will be mentioned as 'aving egged us on to the deed."
Mr. Rawlings screamed. He rushed to the door and turned the key.
"You have done this purposely," he exclaimed. "You blackguards."
"We didn't do it purposely," remarked Albert, setting down the tumbler; "but we cert'ny are blaiguards. All free of us are."
"Come on, Awlbert," said James, "It's no use arguing the question. Let's get down to Vine Street and see the Inspector. How might you spell your nime, mister?"
"Look here," young Mr. Rawlings breathed quickly. "Look here. I'm going away. I am going to leave London at once."
"No daht," said James, ironically. "O no daht. And leave us two gentlemen to bear the brunt of it all."
"You have only to—to dispose of the body," said Mr. Rawlings, appealingly. "You can easily do that."
"Ho, yus,"said Albert. "Nothing easier I'm sure." He laughed a short sharp laugh of derision. "It's quite a everyday job this is."
"Look here," cried Mi. Rawlings. He laid a hand on James's sleeve in an imploring manner. "If I give you"—he whispered a large sum—"will you get rid of it? I shall catch the morning mail at Charing Cross, and go right away—for good."
James hesitated. He drew Ins colleague aside, and conferred with him.
"Look 'ere sir. We're lettin' you 'ave it all your own way, I know, but if you'll double that figure, we'll—well, we'll do wot we can."
"And you will take this—this away?"
He looked with loathing at the ghastly upturned face in the long wooden box.
"No cheques mind you," said James, with sudden suspicion.
"Notes and gold, my good man, notes and gold."
The transaction took but a few minutes. Then the two men lifted the long box and carried it slowly downstairs.
"Give us a 'and, Ginger," said James to the red-haired cabman. "The gent don't want it awfter all."
A yellow frightened face watched them between the curtains of the first floor window. The cab drove off slowly and solemnly St. James's Street way. At the corner it stopped.
"There's on'y one thing now," remarked James. "How are you going to get rid of the body of this onfortunate young Member of Parliament."
He laughed with the satisfied air of a man who has done a good night's work.
"Tell ye wot," said Albert, "I'll tell ye wot. Tike it back to the Marylebone Road where we pinched it from; stick it outside the blooming Exhibition and let old Tussaud, or wotever hisnime is, find his property there in the morning. Is that good enough?"
James slapped his colleague on the knee.
"My boy," answered James, with much good-humour, "it's great, I never 'ave give back anything before as I borrowed, but just for once, I'll do it."
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
The longest-living author of this work died in 1930, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 92 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.
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