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" f. 14 MAD LAUGHTER s -i r tetf^Atap Â»Â» cpnmiL ?Â·*Â·Â·Â· Â»a^ctiTiqi-afVmj8My Â»Â«Â· MYSTERY STOHY * \ by MILES 8UKTON CHAPTER 29 ' Pollard's first act on reaching Scotland Yard was to take the tin containing the door-knob to the fingerprint department, acd to give the official in charge there certain instructions,,Heathen requested an interview with the assistant commissioner, which was readily granted. ' Â· t " i s fr j "Well, Pollard, what do you make of this "business of the Maharajah's Rubles?" was Sir Edric's greeting. Â·Td like to discuss It with you? Blr.'lf I may," replied Pollard gravely. "I think I've got a line upon it already.',' ' ' ' Â· v , "Good man.'" exclaimed Sir Edrlc. MFlre away. What have you discovered?" "I'll give you the details later,'sir. The theft was organized by some cne who must have been acquainted with Mr. Ibbotson jand hla house in Park Lane. It has evidently been In preparation for some tlnfe. The first move was mad? last September, when Mr. Ibbotson's keys were taken from rhis pocket at t the Eros night-club,' and wax 'Impressions made'of the key of the safe and the front door." ' ( ' ' Sir Edrlc smiled. "I shouldn't be surprised at anything .happening at some of these_places," he remarked. "You've no clew, to who took, the keys?,?Ona of the waiters. I sup- !Â»*,?''* - . V ' ''/, PolJard shook his head., "One of the members, I fancy, i sir," he replied. "You get alt sorts of queer people at these posh places. Why I spent three, or .four night at the Eros, myself, when 1 1 was looking into that .Crampton affair, and jolly glad I was .when it was over. Well, what's one t man's meat is another man's poison, I suppose, air. But it's a,queer thing that this should hava happened in September, long before' Mr. Ibbotson bought the' rubies." "I don't think that need worry' you, Pollard," remarked Sir Edrlc.' "I Ima'glne the Idea'then was merely to secure a means of access to Mr. Ibbotson's safe. You see, he is pretty well known as'a buyer of valuables. He deals In these things as a sort of .hobby.' I have no doubt that when he bought'the'rubles, he had some customer In his mind who Â·would take them off his hands at a profit' This habit of his being known, Â· it 'was pretty certain that sooner or later the' safe would contain something worth, going for." "Ah, Jbat explains It, sir," replied Pollard, in a tone , of satisfaction. "Now yesterday afternoon Mr. Ibbotson had arjanged v to go down for a couple of nights to his son's place Ui Surrey. The thief must,have known of this, so far as I can see, and decided to go,for the rabies in his absence. Anyhow, he rang up Mr. Ibbotson just before he started, saying he was his solicitor's clerk, and gave, a message about some property that Mr. Ibbotson'is buying. Now, that shows that the thief must have, known a good'deal about his affairs. At all events, he knew the name of the solicitor!and the'fact i that M^. Ibbotson was buying property." Â«. . "I'm' afraid that leaves t you a pretty-wide field to cover," said Sir Edrlc. "Ibbotson, as I told you, Is it retired money-lender,'and I expect th8,t lota of unfortunate people have good cause to know the name oÂ£ hia solicitors. As to the purchase of the property, well, Ibbotson, by all accounts, is very fond oÂ£ boasting to his many acquaintances of his means and the use^ he makes of them. I expect plenty of people knew about this property." / Â· "Well, that's as may be, sir," admitted Pollard, rather reluctantly. "Now, as it happens/the 'telephone message was: so Â·worded that- it left Mr. Ibbotson uncertain as to whether or -not ne would havp to -return to, London 1^31 night If ,a further message was .sent'down to him in Surrey, he was'to cqnie'back. If not, he could stay 'where he was. This was evidently to prevent the butler bolting the front door," ' "I see," remarked Sir, Edric. "The thief had ^merely to walk into the house after the servants had gone to bed." , l - , , "Exaqtly,' sir^Now, as It happens, the constable on beat saw the man enter i the house.'.Naturally, he took no particular notice, and, he'didn't see the man's face. He drove up'in a car,'which did not wait, and let himself ,in with a latch-key. He' was In evening dress, and : must have been a pretty 'cool hand, He just went down t to the basement, unlocked the bUtler'g Â·pantry, opened the safe with* a key, and took out the. rubies. All he had to dp then was to open the door again and walk out But it was ,so easy that He got careless. He made one mistake, and that's where we caught him our, sir." ' "This sounds interesting," observed Sir Edrlc, "You don't seem to have wasted your time, Pollard. What was this mistake he made?"' 'iHe left perfect imprint of n!s fingers on the handle, of tfce pantry door, sir," replied Pollard Impressively. - ' "Oau the fingerprint people' identify it?" asked Sir Edric quickly. "It's just this matter of identification I want to talk to you about, sir,'' replied Pollard. ','Wil^you ey- cUse me a minute while I see if the fingerprint i people have got the photograph ready?" Pollard left the room, to re-appear shortly with an envelope and 'tne door-knob, which he Â· had rfemoved from the house in'Park,Lane. "This, is the handle 'of the pantr^ door, sir,'; he said, holding it out for the chiefs inspection. "You see what a beautiful 1 impression it is. It couldn't be better. r You can see practically ^the whole hand, if you turn it round, sir." '"Excellent!" : exclaimed Sir Edric. 'I that that even the crudest amateur had learned to use gloves by this time. It looks rather as if one of Ibbotson's friends ha,d been trying his 'prenticfe hand.' Unless, of course, he took the rubies himself. We've heard of such things before." Pollard shook his head.: "I thot of that myself, sir," he replied.v 'But as soon as I saw these fingerprints I knew that couldn't be the :ase.' 1/11 ask you to look at these, if you, don't mind." He picked up the envelope, and drew from it three photographs, marked respectively A 1 ? B, and C. A and B were photographs of the prints of the first two ,fingers and thump .of a right hand, O was in two, parts, one the first two fingers and thumb, the other, the rest of a right hand. The Assistant Commissioner placed the three photographs on the desk before, hini, and .'examined -them for several minutes in silence. "I'm not an expert," he remarked at last. "But It looks to me very^mtich as trio,these three^prints had all been made by the same hand." - ''They tell me in the finger-print department that there can / be- no doubt of it, sir," replied Pollard. "Now, as it happens, I procured them all myself. And as I'll explain, sir 1 , I know whom they belong to." , "Can you lay your hands on him?" inquired Sir Edric eagerly. "I think so, sir," replied Pollard. "But there are one or two things I'd like to explain first. As I told you, sir, I have been watching the Margate^ Jetty at Wapping. I arranged with the landlord that all the glasses used there of an evening were to be put aside. I had a man go round in the morning, before they were washed, and dust them over! I've got quite "a, decent collection of prints that way. Mpat of-them were the same, night after night. They'd be the regular' customers. But in some cases I .only got one print, which means ; that the owner of. it only visits the place occasionally. Now, sir, the photograph marked A belongs to one of these occasional visitors." 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