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Authors: John Creasey

Tags: #Crime

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BOOK: The Blood Diamond
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‘Marjorie did, they're changing the bait.'

Mannering laughed: ‘No love for her now? What's really the trouble?'

‘I suppose it's Josh.'

‘Ah, yes. Bristow won't come and tell us all about everything, so we don't know whether Josh has a chance or not.'

‘We know he's still under remand.'

‘Yes. Any other reason for gloom?'

Lorna poked her fingers through her hair.

‘Not really. It's over and yet it isn't over, I feel as if we're going to get a nasty shock one of these days. John,
could
Larraby have lied?'

‘Yes.'

‘If Bristow proves that he did, then you and I—'

‘Come under deep suspicion for harbouring a crook, but we've been under suspicion before.'

‘Not quite like this.'

‘Worse.'

‘Darling, why pretend you're all happy and gay?'

Mannering laughed.

‘Would it help if I were glum and depressed? My mind won't depress, anyhow, I think you're right, there'll be another flare-up, and when it comes there'll be plenty of smoke but we won't get burned. I hope. The oddest part of an odd affair is the virtual disappearance of the Addel-Harding combination from the scene. Forsythe can't get a line on them beyond what we already know, and the police doubtless have it on their dossier. A nice, respectable if superior little crowd. If Bray hadn't died, they wouldn't even be on the suspect list If Marjorie hadn't come to see me – well, she did and I'm wasting our breath. And now Harding
pere
wants to see me. When do you think I can get up?'

‘What day is it?'

‘Friday.'

‘Three weeks next Friday.'

Mannering chuckled, and kissed her.

 

There was always a policeman in Green Street; always a feeling of being watched. After the third day, Mannering expected visitors – Paul Harding or the girl - and was disappointed because neither came. But Paul Harding telephoned each day, anxious and inquiring – and inviting. This, Tring and Larraby were the three main topics of conversation, until, on the seventh day, Lorna came into the bedroom and saw Mannering fully dressed.

‘Doctor said I could,' he protested before she said a word.

‘He didn't say you could go to Guildford.'

‘Coming?'

‘How did you guess—'

‘I heard you asking Forsythe for directions when he rang up last night.'

‘What else did you hear?'

‘That he hasn't found a picture of a male Adalgo, and doesn't understand why you want one.'

‘That's easy. If it's the face I expect, we won't have to ask many more questions. What else did your eavesdropping tell you?'

‘That Forsythe is spending a lot of time at Guildford, and concentrating on Marjorie. Can't you get her ripeness out of your mind?'

‘No. Can you?'

‘I wish we'd never heard of her. Don't go, John. Take me out to dinner.'

‘There's our old Josh, too.'

Lorna said: ‘Oh, you'd better go. Have one more day's rest, and—'

The telephone bell rang.

‘That'll be Paul,' Lorna said. ‘Why
do
they keep ringing?'

Mannering shrugged, and went to the telephone.

‘Perhaps my voice fascinates him. Hallo –
hallo,
Forsythe. Any news?'

Forsythe said: ‘Go to the Hardings' house, John, make it snappy and take a gun. I told you how to get there, last night. I can't stay.'

 

It was a warm morning with a cooling breeze. The
Talbot
had been polished during the few days of rest until it shone like a mirror. Mannering drove, glad to be at the wheel, to feel the easy freedom of his leg. It was his first real outing since his accident, and he enjoyed driving at speed along the Guildford Bypass. He was amused when he drove up the High Street, and glanced at the clock under which he had met Lopez's man. The urgency in Forsythe's call was dulled by the drive. The two mysteries still unanswered were the murder of Bray and the identity of the second party raiders at
Green Ways.
Were they connected?

‘Top of the hill, straight on, third right and first left,' said Mannering, glancing at a list of directions which Forsythe had given him. ‘Should I have telephoned Harding to say I was coming? Pity if he's out!'

‘Getting conventional, darling?'

‘Ogress,' said Mannering. ‘I—hallo, look.'

He had turned off the main road and, at the next corner they had to take, which should lead them to
The Lees,
was Forsythe. He glanced round, recognised them on the instant, and swung towards them. Mannering slowed down.

Forsythe exclaimed: ‘Give
The Lees
a miss for a jiffy – I've got something else.' He climbed into the back of the car, and dropped on to the seat. He was breathing heavily, and as Mannering passed the end of the road where
The Lees
stood, he glanced along it almost nervously.

Mannering took the next turning, and pulled up.

‘Now what's all this about?'

Forsythe patted his chest heavily.

‘I'll have to go into training, or stop smoking, or something! Sorry. I was coming to phone you again, and I didn't want to waste time. Also, I didn't want to be seen. You're going to thank me for this.'

‘For a newspaperman you take a hell of a time to get to the point,' Mannering said.

Forsythe said: ‘Believe it or not. Item one, I've seen Larraby's double.'

‘You've
what?'

‘No!' cried Lorna.

‘I saw him with my own eyes, and couldn't believe them at first. It's
not
Larraby. Even if our Josh weren't cooling his heels at Brixton, it still wouldn't be him. But the likeness knocked me over. He left the Hardings' house, in a fast car. On a dark night anyone could be muddled. Item two: there was a Guildford policeman watching the house until half an hour ago. He's vanished. This is the first time the house hasn't been watched; I've a lovely feeling the bobby's been biffed on the head. Say thanks.'

 

Chapter Twenty-two
THE MAN WHO WAS NOT LARRABY

 

Mannering said: ‘Yes. Thanks.' He grinned crookedly at the excitement in Lorna's eyes. ‘Meet my wife, who didn't want me to come.'

‘Josh wasn't lying,' sighed Lorna.

‘There isn't a shadow of doubt,' said Forsythe. ‘This merchant came out of
The Lees,
as bold as brass. I hopped along to call you, aiming to get back in three jiffs. And I ought to be on my way,' he said. ‘Drop me down where you picked me up, will you?'

Mannering let in the clutch, turned, and drove slowly to the end of the next road, talking all the time.

‘Keep a careful watch, especially after I've gone into the house. I'm going to see Harding, and if Larraby's double comes back it won't do any harm.'

‘What about Mrs. John?'

‘I'm going with him,' said Lorna. ‘I don't trust him with lusciousness which tempts him daily by telephone.'

Mannering patted the back of her hand.

‘You were coming,' he said. ‘Now you're not. You're going to wait for me in the car, because I might want to get off in a hurry and you drive quite nicely.'

Forsythe grinned.

‘Drop me here and have your fight alone,' he said, and looked round. ‘Hallo! I see a man wearing a black hat and brown shoes. Did you know Tring was on your tail?'

‘Tring's always on my tail,' said Mannering.

‘Well, it's you he's after.' Forsythe got out, waved to Tring and strolled towards
The Lees.
It was a big, grey-faced house which stood in its own grounds, not pretty, not ugly. A high grey wall surrounded it.

Mannering did not speak again until he pulled up outside.

‘I suppose you're right,' conceded Lorna.

‘This time, yes. Tanker will entertain you, my poppet. I won't turn into the drive, and you won't be seen from the house if you stay here.'

‘John, do you know why they want to see you?'

‘I've told you – for the Adalgo.'

 

Mannering left her at the wheel and walked along the drive of
The Lees.
It was a solidly-built, late Georgian period residence standing in well kept grounds. A youngish gardener was working among the flowers, which made a riot of colour in the bright sunlight. The gardener touched his cap and remarked that it was a nice day.

‘Wonderful!' agreed Mannering.

It was wonderful. He hoped he could see Larraby's face when he was told of this. He felt on top of the world; anxiety wouldn't last much longer, now.

He reached the massive, green-painted front door, and pressed the bright brass bell.

There was a long pause before he heard footsteps inside. With Tring nearby, and Lorna and Forsythe within hail, the signals were at ‘go's But for a missing policeman . . .

A woman was hurrying towards the front door, quick taps on a wooden floor.

Zara Addel opened the door, sleek, lovely, remote – and suddenly frightened, at sight of him.

She backed away when she saw who it was, and her hands rose to silk clad breasts which shimmered with her agitated breathing.

‘Good morning,' said Mannering brightly.

‘Good morning.'

‘Is Mr. Harding in? Not Paul, his father. He's asked me to call.'

‘Yes, I—I think so.' She had expected someone, but certainly not Mannering, and she wasn't sure of herself. ‘Will you please come in?'

She was more beautiful than he had realised; regal, too.

Mannering stepped into a spacious, well-furnished hall. Zara left him and ran upstairs. As she disappeared, Mannering looked round keenly. Some of the furniture was in the rococo Spanish-Moroccan style. A Spanish shawl, a lovely shimmering thing, hung on one wall.

Minutes ticked by; he thought a lot about a missing policeman, about Harding's daily message, the spider's invitation to the fly.

Then a door opened at the head of the stairs, and Paul Harding came running down.

‘Hallo, Mannering! This is wonderful!'

‘Nice of you.'

‘We'd given up thinking you would come,' said Paul. He looked boyish, delighted and eager. ‘My father won't keep you long.' He pushed open the door of the drawing-room wider, and stood aside for Mannering to pass.

‘I see you've other guests,' said Mannering.

‘Oh, hardly guests. Marjorie and Zara are staying here, they're almost members of the family.' Paul was brisk, proffered cigarettes and offered a drink.

‘It's a bit early,' Mannering demurred.

‘Oh, not for a small one,' insisted Paul. ‘Whisky?'

He busied himself with the drinks, and looked twice towards the door, doing everything jerkily; a man on edge. There wasn't a sound outside. Mannering glanced about this lovely room, and saw a small portrait, by itself on one wall. A crest on the frame was like a crown for the head.

It was the portrait of a young man, a handsome, dashing rakehell of a man – not Larraby, but as Larraby might have been, twenty years ago.

There was a word worked into the crest:
Adalgo.

Harding brought Mannering a whisky and soda.

‘An end to crime! But you thrive on it, don't you?'

Mannering laughed. ‘Is your father still buying?'

‘Oh, odds and ends,' said Paul. ‘He's not a big fish, you know, just likes a few sparklers about him.' The laugh which followed was forced, he looked at the door again. ‘He doesn't go in for it as you do, but he's always wanted to meet you. That's why—I think he's coming!' Paul stepped quickly to the door, as someone came down the stairs. Mannering moved so that he could see into the hall as the door opened.

Marjorie Addel appeared.

‘Oh, hallo!' exclaimed Paul. ‘It's you. Where's the old boy?'

‘He's coming,' said Marjorie. She was agitated; was she always like this? Her blue eyes were like deep pools. ‘Mr. Mannering. I want to apologise.'

‘Great Scott, why?'

‘For—for the way I behaved to you. It was crazy, I was beside myself.'

Then Harding came in.

He walked slowly, to impress. He was shorter than Paul; as short as Zara and – beautiful? That wasn't an absurd thought. He was a lean, grey haired, perfectly built man, and gravity sat on him like a clock, with something more – confidence, poise, self-possession – he had them all. He was exquisitely dressed; he didn't really belong here, had no place in this day and age.

He bowed.

‘This is Mr. Man—' Paul began.

‘Yes, Paul.' Harding smiled. ‘We will send for you and Marjorie.'

‘But—' Paul began to protest.

‘Come on, Paul.' Marjorie took his hand; as she passed Harding, Mannering had an absurd feeling that she would genuflect as before a presence.

The door closed.

Harding said: ‘I feel sure we shall understand each other.'

‘I hope so,' Mannering murmured.

‘Have you brought the Adalgo?'

Mannering said: ‘Did you think I would?'

‘Of course. That is why I sent for you.'

‘Well, we all make mistakes.'

‘In the past and present and future,' Harding said. His voice was mellow and aloof; like Zara's. ‘I make few mistakes.'

‘I wonder.'

Harding laughed; it was an icy sound.

‘You will find out You are going to give me the Adalgo diamond.'

‘Well, well! A free gift?'

‘As barter. The Adalgo for your freedom.'

It was warm in the room, but Harding, like his voice, was cold. Mannering watched him, fascinated and almost afraid.

‘You treasure freedom,' Harding said. ‘You can have it for the diamond. You see, I know
all
about you.'

He believed that; he made Mannering believe it. The room wasn't hot, it was cold.

‘That is why I invited you here,' said Harding. ‘As I say, I make few mistakes. I knew you would come eventually, Mr. Mannering. I have learned a great deal about you since our paths first crossed.'

Mannering said: ‘Is there much to learn?'

Harding's eyes were grey, clear as polished steel. There was a smile on his lips but none in that steel.

He had expected the visit; he'd been sure it would come.

‘I have also made a close study of criminal law,' he said. ‘That is necessary when one goes a little too near the dividing line between the legal and the criminal, a habit common to most collectors of precious stones. I know what is evidence and what is hearsay. What you and I talk about is hearsay, not evidence – you can safely discuss the truth with me, as freely as I can with you. I have been wanting the Adalgo diamond for some time – before you bought it. I did not know for sure that it was in your possession until recently, when you made such an ostentatious display of it in your window. Why
did
you do that, Mr. Mannering?'

‘Candles attract moths.'

‘I have no wings to singe,' said Harding. ‘I have been seeking the Adalgo diamond for a very close friend of mine.'

‘How close?'

‘Perhaps the phrase “a relation by marriage” will satisfy you?'

‘It'll pass.'

‘My wife, who died when Paul was born, was the second daughter of the Duke of Adalgo,' said Harding, calmly. ‘At the time of our marriage I had interests in Spain. The Adalgo family were and are my friends. But I do not think I need to go into great detail about them, Mr. Mannering. You know who they are, you know that they claim the Spanish throne, you know that they are never likely to ascend it unless they become so wealthy that they can press their claim. One of my tasks has been to make sure that they become so wealthy.'

‘Pedro Lopez had a cut at that.'

‘Lopez was never more than a mercenary – a good mercenary, yes, with the gift of oratory and the gift of organisation. But he lost his faith, soon after the Civil War. Since then he has been interested not in the fortunes of the family but of himself. You know the story of the imitation Adalgos and their sale as the genuine diamond, I presume.'

‘Yes.'

‘And you think Lopez was responsible for planning that?'

‘Wasn't he?'

‘No. I gave him instructions. Afterwards, he betrayed me and worked on his own. Consequently he is in prison, awaiting trial for murder. I don't think any man would enjoy prison, do you?'

‘Who killed Bray?' Mannering asked, flatly. ‘Remember we're being honest with each other.'

‘It is beside the point. I want to impress on you the fact that I am loyal to the Adalgo family. Whatever you have paid for it, whatever your legal right to it, the Adalgo diamond belongs to the Adalgo family.'

‘A case might be made out, but they sold—'

‘They did not sell it, Mannering. It was stolen from them by another bunch of the royal family. It was always the property of the House of Adalgo.'

Mannering laughed, and lit a cigarette. The laugh jarred, even on himself. This calm, coolly aggressive man had the same immature frankness as Marjorie; a form of naivete, but it wasn't childish and it could be damning.

‘Let's agree that it's morally theirs,' he said. ‘It's legally mine. It's value—'

‘It cannot be valued in terms of money. Listen to me. I knew what Lopez was doing. I wanted him to get the diamond, and planned to take it from him. That is why I arranged a visit to
Green Ways
on the evening you were there. Unfortunately the police came too soon. Did you give the diamond to him?'

‘I didn't go to the house.'

Harding smiled; he was utterly sure of himself, as if he didn't consider the possibility of failure.

‘You did, Mannering, and I can prove that you did.'

‘So you can work miracles and prove what isn't true.'

Harding smiled gently.

‘Yes, I could prove it, even if it weren't true. I have many friends, Mannering, who will swear black is white, if it will help the cause. I have others in high places and with influence internationally. There have been two campaigns running side by side. The one, you know about – Lopez, with his cunning and his treachery and his idiocy. He had no idea that I realised that he was going to—what is the word?—ah, yes, doublecross me. True, he forced me into making one of my few mistakes, by persuading me that the diamond in your window was not the Adalgo, and convincing me that Bray had the one I wanted. That is why I sent Marjorie and Paul to get Bray's gem from you. They were nervous, they did badly, but by the later talk of smuggling and Paul's most unfilial suspicions of me, there was an adequate explanation. You will also want to know why I told Paul to tell of my quarrel with Bray.'

Mannering said: ‘I'm dying to know.'

‘It's better that you should. When you know it all, you will realise the inevitability of giving me the Adalgo. I did quarrel with Bray. The police were bound to find out. So, I sent Paul to tell you of it, believing that it would excite your curiosity and bring you to see me. I did not know that Bray was dead until I saw the newspapers.'

‘Lies,' said Mannering.

‘Truth,' retorted Harding. ‘I believe that Lopez had discovered that I was watching him very closely, and killed Bray to make difficulties for me. He chose the shop, because it would embarrass Marjorie and Zara, and he thought that would distress me. It distressed the girls, that is all. There was really no need for them to worry. Remember that I have friends in high places, Mannering. I do not suggest that those friends could persuade the police to connive at crime, but Scotland Yard dare not hold me or any of my friends without the strongest possible evidence – and their evidence was not strong enough.'

Mannering said lightly: ‘You don't know the Yard – another of your mistakes. They let you go for one of two reasons: either they were satisfied that on the evidence they couldn't legally hold you, or else they gave you plenty of rope with which to hang yourself.'

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