16. Nicol Brinn Goes Out
Detective Sergeant Stokes was a big, dark, florid man, the word "constable"
written all over him. Indeed, as Wessex had complained more than once, the
mere sound of Stokes's footsteps was a danger signal for any crook. His respect
for his immediate superior, the detective inspector, was not great. The methods
of Wessex savoured too much of the French school to appeal to one of Stokes's
temperament and outlook upon life, especially upon that phase of life which
comes within the province of the criminal investigator.
Wessex's instructions with regard to Nicol Brinn had been succinct: "Watch Mr.
Brinn's chambers, make a note of all his visitors, but take no definite steps
respecting him personally without consulting me."
Armed with these instructions, the detective sergeant had undertaken his duties,
which had proved more or less tedious up to the time that a fashionably attired
woman of striking but unusual appearance had inquired of the hall porter upon
which floor Mr. Nicol Brinn resided.
In her manner the detective sergeant had perceived something furtive. There
was a hunted look in her eyes, too.
When, at the end of some fifteen or twenty minutes, she failed to reappear, he
determined to take the initiative himself. By intruding upon this prolonged
conference he hoped to learn something of value. Truth to tell, he was no master
of finesse, and had but recently been promoted from an East End district where
prompt physical action was of more value than subtlety.
As a result, then, he presently found himself in the presence of the immovable
Hoskins; and having caused his name to be announced, he was requested to
wait in the lobby for one minute. Exactly one minute had elapsed when he was
shown into that long, lofty room, which of late had been the scene of strange
Nicol Brinn was standing before the fireplace, hands clasped behind him, and a
long cigar protruding from the left corner of his mouth. No one else was present,