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- Secret Adversary - 50/59 -
"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?"
"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."
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