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24. To Introduce 719
Some moments of silence followed. Sounds of traffic from the Embankment
penetrated dimly to the room of the Assistant Commissioner; ringing of tram bells
and that vague sustained noise which is created by the whirring of countless
wheels along hard pavements. Finally:
"You have selected a curious moment to retire, Chief Inspector," said the Assistant
Commissioner. "Your prospects were never better. No doubt you have considered
the question of your pension?"
"I know what I'm giving up, sir," replied Kerry.
The Assistant Commissioner slowly revolved in his chair and gazed sadly at the
speaker. Chief Inspector Kerry met his glance with that fearless, unflinching stare
which lent him so formidable an appearance.
"You might care to favor me with some explanation which I can lay before the
Chief Commissioner?"
Kerry snapped his white teeth together viciously.
"May I take it, sir, that you accept my resignation?"
"Certainly not. I will place it before the responsible authority. I can do no more."
"Without disrespect, sir, I want to speak to you as man to man. As a private citizen
I could do it. As your subordinate I can't."
The Assistant Commissioner sighed, stroking his neatly brushed hair with one
large hand.
"Equally without disrespect, Chief Inspector," he murmured, "it is news for me to
learn that you have ever refrained from speaking your mind either in my presence
or in the presence of any man."
Kerry smiled, unable wholly to conceal a sense of gratified vanity.
"Well, sir," he said, "you have my resignation before you, and I'm prepared to abide
by the consequences. What I want to say is this: I'm a man that has worked hard
all his life to earn the respect and the trust of his employers. I am supposed to be
Chief Inspector of this department, and as Chief Inspector I'll kow-tow to nothing
on two legs once I've been put in charge of a case. I work right in the sunshine.
There's no grafting about me. I draw my salary every week, and any man that says
I earn sixpence in the dark is at liberty to walk right in here and deposit his funeral
expenses. If I'm supposed to be under a cloud--there's my reply. But I demand a
public inquiry."
At ever increasing speed, succinctly, viciously he rapped out the words. His red
face grew more red, and his steel-blue eyes more fierce. The Assistant
Commissioner exhibited bewilderment. As the high tones ceased:
"Really, Chief Inspector," he said, "you pain and surprise me. I do not profess to be
ignorant of the cause of your--annoyance. But perhaps if I acquaint you with the
facts of my own position in the matter you will be open to reconsider your
Kerry cleared his throat loudly.