I rolled my trousers up to the knee, disclosing very well cut brown leather gaiters. I strolled along the broad thoroughfare until I came to a taxicab. "Then drive to Streatham Hill Station," I directed.
I left my black bowler hat in the telephone box, replacing it with a tweed cap; removed with a little pang of regret the most wonderful dark moustache which the hand of artist had ever fashioned, adjusted a pair of spectacles, and made my exit. I hailed the man and hesitated for a moment, glancing up at the sky. From Streatham Hill I travelled to London Bridge by the electric railway, and from London Bridge I took a taxi to Waterloo.
I made up my mind then that if ever the time came when I should be the arbiter of his fate, this man should have no quarter.
The street was a short one, and within fifty yards of a bustling thoroughfare.
Gradually I came to a certain conclusion, a conclusion which I kept largely to myself because I felt sure that no one at the Yard was likely to agree with me.
I decided that the majority of these undetected crimes were due to one person, or rather to one gang of criminals presided over by one master mind.
Thomas' Street, Bermondsey, and Number 138, Woollerton Road, Brixton, the most accomplished and daring criminal of modern times.Purely from the inherited instinct of my long years of service in the Police Force, I set myself the task of hunting down this super-criminal.In November, 19—, I began to believe that I was on the right track.Nevertheless, at that early hour there were not many people about, and, as it afterwards transpired, witnesses of the spirited few seconds which followed were almost non-existent.It has always been my principle that the best form of defence is prompt attack.I knew at once, when I saw the police sergeant, with his two plain-clothes companions, crossing the road towards me, that some one else was taking a hand in the game.Even at that moment, when I had little time for observation, I saw the wellremembered figure of a man emerge from behind the curtains of Number 133, opposite, and it took me exactly ten seconds to realise that henceforth, after I had escaped from this present dilemma, I should have to move my pieces with greater circumspection across the chessboard of life.It's taken me nearly ten minutes to get two numbers." She accepted my complaint with equanimity. William, my man-of-all-work, was digging in the garden, and welcomed me with the bucolic indifference of his class.Janet, his niece, admitted me promptly to the house and received my unexpected visit with that respectful lack of curiosity which was a heritage of her earlier training as parlourmaid.I recognized him the instant he appeared before the window.There were a few streaks of grey in his black hair, but his keen, grey eyes, his forceful mouth, his long, lean face were all unchanged.