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|The Secret Adversary||Agatha Christie|
XXII In Downing Street
|Page 3 of 3||
"Exactly. I asked the young man with some curiosity what he had done with the photograph. He replied that he had put it back where he found it." The lawyer paused again. "That was good, you know--distinctly good. He can use his brains, that young fellow. I congratulated him. The discovery was a providential one. Of course, from the moment that the girl in Manchester was proved to be a plant everything was altered. Young Beresford saw that for himself without my having to tell it him. But he felt he couldn't trust his judgment on the subject of Miss Cowley. Did I think she was alive? I told him, duly weighing the evidence, that there was a very decided chance in favour of it. That brought us back to the telegram."
"I advised him to apply to you for a copy of the original wire. It had occurred to me as probable that, after Miss Cowley flung it on the floor, certain words might have been erased and altered with the express intention of setting searchers on a false trail."
Carter nodded. He took a sheet from his pocket, and read aloud:
"Come at once, Astley Priors, Gatehouse, Kent. Great developments--TOMMY.
"Very simple," said Sir James, "and very ingenious. Just a few words to alter, and the thing was done. And the one important clue they overlooked."
"What was that?"
"The page-boy's statement that Miss Cowley drove to Charing Cross. They were so sure of themselves that they took it for granted he had made a mistake."
"Then young Beresford is now?"
"At Gatehouse, Kent, unless I am much mistaken."
Mr. Carter looked at him curiously.
"I rather wonder you're not there too, Peel Edgerton?"
"Ah, I'm busy on a case."
"I thought you were on your holiday?"
"Oh, I've not been briefed. Perhaps it would be more correct to say I'm preparing a case. Any more facts about that American chap for me?"
"I'm afraid not. Is it important to find out who he was?"
"Oh, I know who he was," said Sir James easily. "I can't prove it yet--but I know."
The other two asked no questions. They had an instinct that it would be mere waste of breath.
"But what I don't understand," said the Prime-Minister suddenly, "is how that photograph came to be in Mr. Hersheimmer's drawer?"
"Perhaps it never left it," suggested the lawyer gently.
"But the bogus inspector? Inspector Brown?"
"Ah!" said Sir James thoughtfully. He rose to his feet. "I mustn't keep you. Go on with the affairs of the nation. I must get back to--my case."
Two days later Julius Hersheimmer returned from Manchester. A note from Tommy lay on his table:
"Sorry I lost my temper. In case I don't see you again, good-bye. I've been offered a job in the Argentine, and might as well take it. "Yours, "TOMMY BERESFORD."
A peculiar smile lingered for a moment on Julius's face. He threw the letter into the waste-paper basket.
"The darned fool!" he murmured.
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