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|The Quest of the Sacred Slipper||Sax Rohmer|
The Watcher In Bank Chambers
|Page 2 of 5||
"Yes, sir?" said the boy tentatively.
Bristol produced a card which bore the uncompromising legend: John Henry Smith.
"Take my card to Mr. Boulter, boy," he said tersely. The boy stared.
"Mr. Boulter, sir? There isn't any one of that name here."
"Oh!" said Bristol, looking around him in apparent surprise: "how long is he gone?"
"I don't know, sir. I've only been here three weeks, and Mr. Knowlson only took the offices a month ago."
"Oh" commented Bristol, "then take my card to Mr. Knowlson; he
will probably be able to give me Mr. Boulter's present address."
The boy hesitated. The detective had that authoritative manner which awes the youthful mind.
"He's out, sir," he said, but without conviction.
"Is he?" rapped Bristol "Well, I'll leave my card."
He turned and quitted the office, carefully closing the door behind him. Three seconds later he reopened it, and peering in, was in time to see the boy knock upon the private door. A little wicket, or movable panel, was let down, the card of John Henry Smith was passed through to someone unseen, and the wicket was reclosed!
The boy turned and met the wrathful eye of the detective. Bristol reentered, closing the door behind him.
"See here, young fellow," said he, "I don't stand for those tricks! Why didn't you tell me Mr. Knowlson was in?"
"I'm very sorry, sir!" - the boy quailed beneath his glance - "but he won't see any one who hasn't an appointment."
"Is there someone with him, then?"
"Well, what's he doing?"
"I don't know, sir; I've never been in to see!"
"What! never been in that room?"
"Never!" declared the boy solemnly. "And I don't mind telling you," he added, recovering something of his natural confidence, "that I am leaving on the 31st. This job ain't any use to me!"
"Too much work?" suggested Bristol.
"No work at all !" returned the boy indignantly. "I'm just here for a blessed buffer, that's what I'm here for, a buffer!"
"What do you mean?"
"I just have to sit here and see that nobody gets into that office. Lively, ain't it? Where's the prospects?"
Bristol surveyed him thoughtfully.
"Look here, my lad," he said quietly; "is that door locked?"
"Always," replied the boy.
"Does Mr. Knowlson come to that shutter when you knock?"
"Then go and knock!"
The boy obeyed with alacrity. He rapped loudly on the door, not noticing or not caring that the visitor was standing directly behind him. The shutter was lowered and a grizzled, bearded face showed for a moment through the opening.
Bristol leant over the boy and pushed a card through into the hand of the man beyond. On this occasion it did not bear the legend "John Henry Smith," but the following -
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