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Robbing The Dead
The roar of the day was long since over. The rattle of vehicles, the tinkling of hansom
bells, the tooting of horns from motor-cars and cabs, the ceaseless tramp of footsteps, all
had died away. Outside, the streets were almost deserted. An occasional wayfarer passed
along the flagged pavement with speedy footsteps. Here and there a few lights glimmered
at the windows of some of the larger blocks of offices. The bustle of the day was
finished. There is no place in London so strangely quiet as the narrow thoroughfares of
the city proper when the hour approaches midnight.
Laverick, who since his partner's departure had been studying with infinite care his
private ledger, closed it at last with a little snap and leaned back in his chair. After all,
save that he had got rid of Morrison, it had been a wasted evening. Not even he, whose
financial astuteness no man had ever questioned, could raise from those piles of figures
any other answer save the one inevitable one, the knowledge of which had been like a
black nightmare stalking by his side for the last thirty-six hours. One by one during the
evening his clerks had left him, and it was a proof not only of his wonderful self-control
but also of the confidence which he invariably inspired, that not a single one of them had
the slightest idea how things were. Not a soul knew that the firm of Laverick & Morrison
was already practically derelict, that they had on the morrow twenty-five thousand
pounds to find, neither credit nor balance at their bankers, and eight hundred and fifty
pounds in the safe.
Laverick, haggard from his long vigil, locked up his books at last, turned out the lights,
and locking the doors behind him walked into the silent street. Instinctively he turned his
steps westwards. This might well be the last night on which he would care to show
himself in his accustomed haunts, the last night on which he could mix with his fellows
freely, and without that terrible sense of consciousness which follows upon disaster.
Already there was little enough left of it. It was too late to change and go to his club. The
places of amusement were already closed. To-morrow night, both club and theatres
would lie outside his world. He walked slowly, yet he had scarcely taken, in fact, a dozen
steps when, with a purely mechanical impulse, he paused by a stone-flagged entry to light
a cigarette. It was a passage, almost a tunnel for a few yards, leading to an open space, on
one side of which was an old churchyard - strange survival in such a part - and on the
other the offices of several firms of stockbrokers, a Russian banker, an actuary. It was the
barest of impulses which led him to glance up the entry before he blew out the match.
Then he gave a quick start and became for a moment paralyzed. Within a few feet of him
something was lying on the ground - a dark mass, black and soft - the body of a man,
perhaps. Just above it, a pair of eyes gleamed at him through the, semi-darkness.
Laverick at first had no thought of tragedy. It might be a tramp or a drunkard, perhaps, - a
fight, or a man taken ill. Then something sinister about the light of those burning eyes set
his heart beating faster. He struck another match with firm fingers, and bent forward.
What he saw upon the ground made him feel a little sick. What he saw racing away down
the passage prompted him to swift pursuit. Down the arched court into the open space he
ran, himself an athlete, but mocked by the swiftness of the shadowlike form which he
pursued. At the end was another street - empty. He looked up and down, seeking in vain