25. Night-Life Of Soho
It was close upon midnight when Detective-Sergeant Coombes appeared in a
certain narrow West End thoroughfare, which was lined with taxicabs and private
cars. He wore a dark overcoat and a tweed cap, and although his chin was buried
in the genial folds of a woollen comforter, and his cap was pulled down over his
eyes, his sly smile could easily be detected even in the dim light afforded by the
car lamps. He seemed to have business of a mysterious nature among the
cabmen; for with each of them in turn he conducted a brief conversation, passing
unobtrusively from cab to cab, and making certain entries in a notebook. Finally he
disappeared. No one actually saw him go, and no one had actually seen him
arrive. At one moment, however, he was there; in the next he was gone.
Five minutes later Chief Inspector Kerry entered the street. His dark overcoat and
white silk muffler concealed a spruce dress suit, a fact betrayed by black, braided
trousers, unusually tight-fitting, and boots which almost glittered. He carried the
silver-headed malacca cane, and had retained his narrow-brimmed howler at its
customary jaunty angle.
Passing the lines of waiting vehicles, he walked into the entrance of a popular
night-club which faced the narrow street. On a lounge immediately inside the
doorway a heated young man was sitting fanning his dancing partner and gazing
into her weakly pretty face in vacuous adoration.
Kerry paused for a moment, staring at the pair. The man returned his stare, looking
him up and down in a manner meant to be contemptuous. Kerry's fierce, intolerant
gaze became transferred to the face and then the figure of the woman. He tilted his
hat further forward and turned aside. The woman's glance followed him, to the
marked disgust of her companion
"Oh," she whispered, "what a delightfully savage man! He looks positively
uncivilized. I have no doubt he drags women about by their hair. I do hope he's a
Mollie Gretna spoke loudly enough for Kerry to hear her, but unmoved by her
admiration he stepped up to the reception office. He was in high good humor. He
had spent the afternoon agreeably, interviewing certain officials charged with
policing the East End of London, and had succeeded, to quote his own language,
"in getting a gale up." Despite the coldness of the weather, he had left two
inspectors and a speechlessly indignant superintendent bathed in perspiration.
"Are you a member, sir?" inquired the girl behind the desk.
Kerry smiled genially. A newsboy thrust open the swing-door, yelling: "Bond Street
murder! A fresh development. Late speshul!"
"Oh!" cried Mollie Gretna to her companion, "get me a paper. Be quick! I am so
Kerry took up a pen, and in large bold hand-writing inscribed the following across
two pages of the visitors' book:
"Chief Inspector Kerry. Criminal Investigation Department."