Read CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH - MORE ABOUT MATEO SANZ of The Stretton Street Affair , free online book, by William Le Queux, on ReadCentral.com.

The means by which the unfortunate Baron van Veltrup had met with his death was as ingenious as that practised upon me by the expert thief, Despujol.  As I reflected upon all the details as related to me by the valet, Folcker, I suddenly recollected that the Baron’s strange visitor, the man who must have placed that sharp scrap of razor-blade within his glove at the moment when the unsuspicious victim had gone outside to speak with his servant, was described as a man with a red face and a dark moustache.

A man who answered such description was the elusive friend of Mademoiselle Jacquelot, of Montauban, the motor bandit Mateo Sanz ­the man who had so cleverly evaded the police, and who had no doubt been an intimate friend of Despujol!  In order to confirm my suspicions, I at once telegraphed to Senor Rivero in Madrid, urging him to send me a copy of the police photograph of Sanz for identification purposes.  That same day I received a reply which informed me that the photograph was in the post, hence I remained in Amsterdam awaiting its arrival.

Four days later it was handed to me, a photograph taken in several positions of the rather round-faced, florid man whom I had seen talking to Mademoiselle at the station at Montauban ­the man whom Rivero had followed, but who, on the French police going to arrest him, was found to have fled.

I carried the photograph to Folcker’s lodgings and there showed it to him.

“That is the man who met my master, sir!” he cried unhesitatingly.  “Only he wore round horn spectacles.  His face and moustache are the same.  He was not Dutch.”

“No.  This man is a Spaniard named Sanz, who is well known to the police,” I replied.

“Then they should arrest him, for he is no doubt responsible for my poor master’s death.”

We went together to the Bureau of Police where the valet formally identified the photograph, and made certain declarations concerning the malefactor in question.  These he signed.

“I happen to have seen this individual,” I explained to the police commissary.  “I was with Senor Rivero, head of the Spanish detective department, and we saw him at Montauban.  But though Senor Rivero followed him, he escaped.”

“Then he is wanted ­eh?”

“Yes ­for murder.”

The Dutch police official gave vent to a low grunt.

“Very well,” he said.  “I will have inquiry made.  I thank you very much for the information.”

It seemed to me that he was annoyed because I had dared to dispute his theory that the late Baron had died from natural causes.  He was a stolid man, who, having once made up his mind, would not hear any evidence to the contrary.

With failing heart I saw that to move him was hopeless, so next day I returned to London, piqued and angry, yet satisfied that I had discovered the true cause of the Baron’s lamentable death.

Weeks passed.  To pursue the inquiry further seemed quite hopeless.  The summer went by, but Mrs. Tennison and her daughter still remained in Lyons.  The reports were never hopeful.  My poor darling was just the same.  There recurred to her ever and anon a remembrance of those three colours which haunted her ­red, green and gold.

The Professor was most kind, Gabrielle’s mother wrote me.  He did everything in his power, and still persevered after failure upon failure.

“I fear poor Gabrielle will never recover,” she wrote in one of her letters.  “The Professor is always optimistic, but I can read that in his heart he has no hope.  The next step will, I dread to think, be hopeless imbecility!”

With that letter in my pocket I went to the office in Westminster each day with leaden heart.  The joys of life had become blotted out.  I cared for nothing, for no one, and my interest in living further had been suddenly swept away.

Harry Hambledon, as we sat together at breakfast each day, tried in vain to interest me in various ways.  He urged me one evening to go with him and Norah to the Palais de Danse, across Hammersmith Bridge, and I was forced to accept.  But instead of dancing I sat at a side table and sipped ice drinks.  Dancing had no attraction for me.

Very fortunately we were extremely busy at the office.  Four big contracts had been entered into by the firm for the lighting and telephones for four new hotels-de-luxe, one at Bude, in Cornwall, one in Knightsbridge, another at Llandudno, in North Wales, and the fourth at Cromer.  Hence I was compelled to be ever on the move between Wales, Norfolk, and Cornwall, and perhaps this sudden activity prevented me from brooding too closely over the hopeless condition of the girl with whom I was so deeply in love.  In these days electrical engineers have to be pretty active in order to pay their way, and though Francis and Goldsmith was an old-established firm, they were nothing if not up-to-date in their methods.

One morning as I sat in a corner of the London-Exeter express on my way down to Bude, I read in my paper the following: 

“Mr. Oswald De Gex, the well-known international financier, is to be entertained on Thursday next to luncheon by the Lord Mayor and Corporation at the Mansion House.  The Prime Ministers of Spain and the Netherlands, who are in London on official business, will be included among the guests.  Mr. De Gex, though he has a house in London, is seldom here.  He has recently been engaged in a great financial scheme to secure for England the whole of the output of the rich oil field recently discovered in Ecuador.”

So Oswald De Gex was still in London!  I held my breath.  With his wall of wealth before him he seemed invulnerable.  I recollected those crisp Bank of England notes which still reposed in a drawer at Rivermead Mansions ­the bribe I had so foolishly accepted to become his accomplice in that mysterious crime.

Gabrielle Engledue!  Who was the girl whose body, because of my false certificate, had been reduced to ashes in order to destroy all evidence of foul play?  Who was she ­and what was the motive?

If I could only ascertain the latter, then I might be able to reconstruct the crime slowly, piece by piece.  But as far as I could see there was an utter absence of motive.

Long ago I had arrived at the conclusion that by the death of the unknown girl named Engledue, the unscrupulous financier had added some considerable sum to his bank balance.  But how?  His crafty unscrupulousness was shown by the manner in which his partner, to whom he owed a big sum, had been cleverly secretly killed by a hireling ­a friend of the dead Despujol.  Oswald De Gex posed to the world as an honest and upright man of business whose financial aid was welcomed cordially by all the hard-up States in Europe.  He posed as a philanthropist, and as such earned a big reputation in those countries in which the operations of the all-powerful group he controlled were carried on.

But I knew his methods, and I sat staggered at the fact that the Corporation of the City of London were about to entertain him.  Yet money counts always.  Did not the Lord Mayor and Corporation once entertain the man who gave a service of gold communion-plate to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and who afterwards spent many years in one of His Majesty’s gaols?

My blood boiled within me when I read that announcement.  Yet on calmer consideration, I resolved to still wait and watch.

I returned to London on the following Friday, and in the train I read of the splendid luncheon given on the previous day to the arch-criminal and the eulogistic speeches made by two English politicians and the two foreign Premiers.

Oswald De Gex was declared to be one of the greatest financiers of the age, and there was a hint that a certain Allied Government was about to enlist his efforts with a view to extricate it from national bankruptcy.

De Gex was a man who thought and spoke in millions.  Accompanying the article was a photograph of him standing smiling beside the Lord Mayor as guest of the City of London.  Oswald De Gex seldom allowed himself to be photographed, but some enterprising Press photographer had no doubt snapped him unawares.

His hesitation to be photographed ­public man that he was ­was but natural.  Wherever you hear of people in the public eye, male or female, who will not allow their pictures to appear in the papers, you may always suspect in that hesitation a dread of the raking up of some hidden scandal.  Many a face which has looked out upon us from a pictorial newspaper or a “back-page” of one’s daily journal, has caused its owner much terror, and in more than one instance a rush into obscurity to avoid the police.

Scotland Yard and the Paris Sûreté have many albums of photographs, and it is not generally known that each day their counterparts are searched for in the daily journals.

Oswald De Gex had on that memorable day become, against his will no doubt, a lion of London.  One heard nothing of Mrs. De Gex.  She was still at the Villa Clementini no doubt.  Her name was never mentioned in the very eulogistic articles which innocent men of Fleet Street penned concerning the man of colossal finance.  One can never blame Fleet Street for “booming” any man or woman.  A couple of thousand pounds to a Press agent will secure for a burglar an invitation to dine at a peer’s table.  Plainly speaking, in Europe since the war, real merit has become almost a back number.  Money buys anything and anybody.

I fear that, young man as I still am, I am a fierce critic of the manners of our times.  I learned my, perhaps, old-fashioned ideas from my father, an honest, upright, country parson, who loved to ride with the hounds, who called a spade a spade, and openly denounced a liar as such.  He never minced matters, and stuck to his opinion, yet he was a pious, generous, open-hearted Englishman, who had no use for the “international financier,” who has lately become the pseudonym for a foreign adventurer.

The autumn days shortened and winter was approaching, for the east winds blew chill across the Thames into my room as I shaved before my window each morning.  Mrs. Tennison was still in Lyons, and Harry Hambledon went each morning to his sordid work at the Hammersmith Police Court, either prosecuting or defending in small cases.  His eloquence and shrewdness as an advocate had more than once been commented upon by the stipendiary, hence he was gradually working up quite a lucrative practice.

Things drifted along till the end of October.  De Gex was living at Stretton Street, very occupied, I ascertained, in arranging a great development scheme for Liberia, that independent State in West Africa.

In the City he was constantly expressing his regret at the unfortunate deaths of his partners, Count de Chamartin, of Madrid, and the Baron van Veltrup, of Amsterdam, but he had expressed himself ready to carry the great deal through himself, though it involved the speculation of nearly two millions sterling.

I could hardly take up any newspaper ­neither could you, my reader, for that matter ­unless I saw De Gex referred to, under another name, of course.  He went here and there, the guest of a Cabinet Minister, playing golf with a Leader of the House, or spending a week-end with a Duke, until it seemed that the world of Society had at last prevailed upon the mystery-man of millions to emerge from his shell and take up his position in Mayfair.

When I saw that he was the guest of certain hard-up members of the aristocracy, or of war profiteers, who, dropping their aitches, had bought ancestral homes, I merely smiled at the ignorance of those who were entertaining one of the greatest criminals in Europe.

In the watch I kept each evening upon the house in Stretton Street my friend Harry Hambledon assisted me.  As we lurked in doorways in the vicinity, we saw the great ones of London Society, of both sexes, going and coming, for Oswald De Gex had now commenced to entertain upon a lavish scale.  He gave smart dinner-parties and musical evenings, which the most exclusive set enjoyed.

One night, after it had grown dark, I sauntered along Park Lane, as was my habit, and having turned into Stretton Street noticed a rather shabbily dressed man, evidently a foreigner, descending the steps from De Gex’s door.  He turned in my direction, and we came face to face.

In an instant I recognized him as the Spaniard, Mateo Sanz!  He had never seen me before, therefore, when at a respectable distance, I turned and followed him along to a street off the Edgware Road, where he entered a third-class private hotel.

What, I wondered, was his object in visiting De Gex unless some other plot was in progress?  I, however, did not intend, now that I knew the truth concerning the death of the Baron in Amsterdam, that the assassin should escape.  Hence I took a taxi to Scotland Yard where I was interviewed by a detective-inspector to whom I revealed the hiding-place of the much-wanted criminal.

He thanked me, and then began to inquire what I knew concerning him.  In return, I told him of my friendship with the great Spanish detective Rivero, and how, with the latter, I had seen Sanz at the station at Montauban.

Presently he rose, and telling me he would search for any request from the Spanish Government for the man’s arrest, he left me.

He returned a quarter of an hour later with some papers in his hands, and said: 

“I find that the Madrid police have applied to us for this individual’s arrest, and here is his photograph,” and he showed me one similar to that which Rivero had sent me to Amsterdam.

I, of course, made no mention of Oswald De Gex, but it suddenly occurred to me that if Sanz were arrested De Gex might take fright, so I suggested that the Spaniard be kept under surveillance until the Spanish police were communicated with.

“I believe Senor Rivero suspects that Sanz is one of a very dangerous gang,” I said.  “If so, it would be well to arrest them all.”

“Are the others in London, do you think?” asked the tall, dark-haired official of the Criminal Investigation Department.

“Ah!  That I do not know,” was my reply.  “I only know that Mateo Sanz is a very dangerous person, who has been wanted for several years.”

“Well, we thank you very much for your information, sir, and we shall act upon it at once,” he replied.  And then I went along the stone corridor and out again into Parliament Street, well satisfied that I had, at last, placed one of the criminals in the hands of the police, who would, in due course, learn the true facts concerning Baron van Veltrup’s mysterious end.