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ANONYMOUS

THE BROKEN TYPE-KEY

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RGL e-Book Cover

First published in Answers, Amalgamated Press, London, 8 January 1910
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand, 25 February 1910 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2021
Version Date: 2021-04-16
Produced by Roy Glashan
Proofread by Gordon Hobley

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright

Click here for more Sexton Blake stories


I.

"I WISH you'd give it up, father, and so does Kenneth. We shall be delighted for you to come and live with us; and, besides, if you gave up this hopeless task, Ken and I could be married at once, since the achievement of your task is the only obstacle you put between us."

The speaker was Winnie Alwyn. She was standing by her father's chair in the drawing-room of their flat in Chelsea. Her father had been singularly morose during the evening meal, and it seemed to the girl that he looked grimmer than she had ever before observed him to be.

"You are talking idle talk," he said coldly, "and you ought to know it. Shall I let Jaspar Fawcett slip through my fingers after giving two years to watching him as a cat watches a mouse, after planting nearly all I possessed in his thieving hands to gain his confidence, and, now that I have got his confidence, shall I throw it away and retire, and leave my son to wander the world a proscribed felon?"

"But, father, what can you hope to gain to-day or to-morrow," urged the girl, "that you might not have gained during these two years? Mr. Fawcett is not so mad as to keep proofs against himself all this time. Did any such proofs ever exist, he would have destroyed them long ago."

"That is where you are wrong," said the old man. "Jaspar Fawcett is not the man to throw away good diamonds. When he accused Bertram of stealing that packet of stones, and when only one was discovered, and that in Bertram's overcoat pocket, I took a copy of the description of the others. Fawcett dared not lie about them. The insurance people, who had to pay him over eight thousand pounds, insisted on each stone being traced to the man who sold it to Fawcett. He got the insurance, and he got the stones, the scoundrel. And, sooner or later, he will dribble the stones back upon the market. And it is there that I shall catch him. He is cunning. But it is rogue's cunning, and it will not match the craft of a father's vengeance.

"You and Kenneth cannot marry while this infamy is on us. You must wait till Bertram is cleared."

"Will you not even fix a term to it, then, father?" pleaded the girl. "Kenneth sees no infamy in marrying me now. Yet this quest may last for years and never be successful. It is not fair to Ken to keep him waiting indeterminately."

"Then let him go and wed elsewhere," said the old man fiercely. "For, till your brother is cleared or I am dead you shall never marry."

II.

"YOU are Mr. Sexton Blake?" It was Winnie Alwyn who spoke, and she had just been ushered into the detective's consulting-room. It was the evening of the day following the conversation with her father just recorded. The hour was not yet four, but a dense fog hung outside. The streets were grey with the dreadful greyness of the London snow.

"I am Sexton Blake," said the detective, wheeling a chair up to the fire. "I am afraid you are in trouble. Tell me all about it, and I promise you beforehand that I will do my best to help you."

The girl choked back a sob.

"It is about my father," she said. "He has been foully struck down. His life is hanging by a thread. You may have read about it in the evening papers. It happened at Mr. Fawcett's, the diamond merchant's in Brompton Road.

"But," said Blake, looking with a puzzled frown at the girl's card which Simmons had brought him, "your name is Alwyn, and the name of the clerk in the Brompton Road affair is Isaac Nutts."

"That was an assumed name," said the girl. "His real name is Gerard Alwyn. I will tell you the whole story, My brother Bertram was indentured to Mr. Fawcett five years ago. He got on very well for nearly three years. Then, one day, Mr. Fawcett accused him of stealing a packet of diamonds he had left by error on his table during the time he went out to lunch. Bertram was admittedly in the next room, which alone gave access to Mr. Fawcett's room, all the time. He was arrested at home the same evening. In his overcoat was found one of the diamonds. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. He escaped at the end of a year, and is still in hiding. My father and all of us believed in Bertram's innocence implicitly.

"My father determined to vindicate his good name. Wearing a beard and moustache to disguise his face, he sought employment, and gained it, with Mr. Fawcett. For two years he has watched in vain. Only last night I begged him to desist. But he refused. He was obsessed with the idea that Fawcett had robbed himself, and planted the consequences on Bertram in order that he might get the insurance money, and that, sooner or later, Fawcett would be tempted to let the stones trickle into the market. He went as usual to the office to-day; but when Mr. Fawcett came back from lunch it was to find my father lying, as he thought, dead on the floor of the office adjoining his own."

"One moment!" said Blake. "Was that the office he worked in? And in what did his work consist?"

"Lately, in confidential correspondence for Mr. Fawcett," answered the girl. "That is why his desk was changed, and he was put, some months ago, into the room leading into Mr. Fawcett's."

"And according to the papers," said Blake, "it appears that Fawcett found his safe drilled open and that a packet of mixed stones, worth some fourteen thousand pounds, had disappeared. This packet was also insured up to the hilt. It is, of course, an elementary precaution which every dealer in stones takes. But I must admit that there is something out of the common in the fact that both the thefts should occur in the luncheon hour, and that the clerk on duty should be, in each case, the victim."

"You agree, then, with my father," cried Winnie, "that Mr. Fawcett himself—"

"Is under observation, shall we say?" interrupted Blake, with a smile. "You wish me to investigate the whole matter?"

"Oh, if only you could find out the whole truth!" cried the girl.

"There have been stranger problems solved," said Blake. "I will see what can be done, Miss Alwyn. Did you, by the way, have a list of the stones which your brother was charged with stealing?"

"Yes," said the girl. "I have a clean copy of father's. Shall I send it to you!"

"I will call for it on my way to see your father," said Blake. "He was taken to St. George's, I believe?"

"Yes; but I had him brought home," said the girl. "I can drive you there in my taxi. It is not far. Only in Burton Gardens."

"Thank you," said Blake. "I will come at once."

III.

TWENTY minutes later Blake again stood in his rooms.

Five minutes had sufficed him, at Burton Gardens, to receive the list Winnie handed him, and to satisfy himself, from an examination of the wound in Alwyn's head, that the blow had been delivered from the back, from right to left, and by a man of about five foot four or a little over.

The case was beginning to interest him. He had one or two bows he rather wished to pull at a venture, but he was handicapped by his ignorance of the man and of the locality where he worked. He had learned from Winnie that Fawcett always kept open till six in the evening, and it was with the intention of visiting the premises in Brompton Road that Blake had passed back by his rooms to obtain one or two articles he might want.

It was nearly closing-time when he arrived at the diamond merchant's, but his card procured his instant admission. Mr. Fawcett stood about five foot nine, and seemed to take up a good half of his private room.

"I have heard of you, Mr. Blake," he said affably. "I suppose you represent someone in this case?"

"Certainly!" said Blake. "I represent Mr. Nutts' daughter, and, by a letter which reached me just as I was leaving my rooms, the insurance company."

"Ah, yes!" said Fawcett. "I always court the fullest enquiry. Now, what can I do to assist you, Mr. Blake?"

"That, I take it," said Blake, pointing to a heavy safe in a corner of the room, "is the safe you found drilled open and rifled?"

"It is," assented Fawcett. "I have not touched it. All that was valuable in it was taken out. There is nothing in it but old account books."

"Your desk was not disturbed at all?"

"Not in the slightest," replied Fawcett.

"And did anyone know you had that large packet of stones this morning?" pursued Blake. "Was there anyone but yourself could imagine that it would be in that safe at lunch-time to-day?"

"I can think of no one," said Fawcett, after a long pause. "I only completed their purchase at eleven. At twelve I took out insurance for them. At a quarter to one I reached my office, and put them at once in the safe. The list is here, see. You can keep it, and welcome. I have other copies."

"And what time did you go out to lunch?" asked Blake.

"At one exactly," said Fawcett; "and at about three or four minutes past one I ran back again for my gloves. Some of the clerks had gone, others were just going, to lunch. Nutts always took his lunch in the office. He was taking it when I passed through his office to mine. I nodded to him as I left again, and told him I should be back at two. At two, when I came back, I found him lying on his face, and almost dead. The rest, of course, you know."

"I should like to see exactly where you found him," said Biake, rising and leading the way to the communicating door. Fawcett followed him, and pointed out a spot between Nutts' desk and the fireplace, a spot about four feet six from the door, giving on to the corridor, where was the general office and the cutting-room. Near the desk also there lay overturned on the floor a typewriting machine.

"Looks as if the stricken man had plucked at it and upset it," said Blake.

"So it does," assented Fawcett.

"I do not think I need detain you," said Blake. "I should like to pry about by myself for a few minutes."

"As you wish," said Fawcett, and retired.

As the door closed on him, Blake picked up the typewriter and glanced at it. One of the shafts of the letters, with the letter itself, was broken clean away. But though the detective searched the office in every corner, not a trace of it could he find.

"That settles tho matter," he said, and, making his way to the street, he walked thoughtfully homewards.

IV.

"MR. Jaspar Fawcett, sir!"

It was the shrill voice of a page-boy who thus named the visitor and ushered him into a private room, furnished with more than usual magnificence, on the ground floor of the Albert Hotel, near Northumberland Avenue.

At a table at the far end of the room a man was sitting, and two shaded lamps on the table afforded all the light in the room. On the announcement of his visitor the man arose, and awaited his approach. It was obvious that he was a Hindoo of some pretensions to rank and wealth. As his eyes fell on his visitor, he gave a gesture of astonishment.

"But how is this?" he said. "There must be some mistake. The Mr. Fawcett I was expecting—"

"Sent me in his place," said his visitor. "I'm his nephew. When he got your wire, saying you could buy select packages to take back to India with your rajah, the old 'un nearly had a fit. He was robbed of about twenty thousand pounds' worth this morning. So we put him to bed, and I came to make arrangements."

The Hindoo examined him gravely. The youth was well dressed, well set-up, with a hard, keen, rather sneering face.

"That is a nasty wound you have on your hand," he said, pointing to an irregular, angry scar across the back of the left hand.

"A nothing," said the other. "I tore it with a nail this morning. Are we going to deal?"

"If you have anything good enough to show," replied the Hindoo.

"Cash, of course," said Fawcett junior.

The Hindoo laid a wad of notes on the table, and smiled.

The visitor unbuttoned his coat and drew from an inner pocket a chamois leather bag, the neck of which he untied, and the contents of which he poured on to the table.

The Hindoo ran his eyes over the precious stones, and gave a grunt of disgust as he picked out it a round button of ivory streaked with blood.

"What is this?" he asked.

"Confound it! How did that get there?" gasped his visitor, going suddenly pale. "I must have dropped it in by accident after I shot that rabbit."

He stretched out his hand to pick it up. There was the flash of steel and a click, and he found his wrists handcuffed and himself looking down the barrel of a revolver into the grim face of Sexton Blake, whose beard, turban, and glasses lay discarded on the floor.

"Exactly!" said Blake drily. "But it happens to be the top of the broken key with which Alwyn struck at you and wounded your hand, and winds up your account, my boy. I found your traces in the office lumber-room, and the spanner you used to fell Alwyn. I traced the spanner home to you through Weston's, in Long Acre, sent you that bogus telegram, and felt quite sure that you would not lose the opportunity of passing the stones to a rajah returning to India. Your uncle's downstairs. So are Miss Alwyn and her brother Bertram. I see you've got the stones he was accused of stealing there. There may be a little difficulty about his pardon, but he'll get it all right, and delight his old father's heart for many a long year that you'll pass in Portland."

And Blake's prophecy was more than fulfilled. For Fawcett did the handsome thing. He took the young man into partnership, and even old Alwyn finds him not such a bad sort when he comes in occasionally to smoke a cigar.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.