THE THINGS MEN DO: Chapter 15 – The End

THE THINGS MEN DO

JAMES HADLEY CHASE

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Detective Sergeant Hollis swung the police car to the kerb and
pulled up outside my garage.
“If we should want you again, Mr. Collins,” he said, as I
opened the car door, “I’ll come down and pick you up. You
won’t be out of reach for the next twenty-four hours, will you?”
“I’ll be here. If I happen to get called out I’ll tell my wife where you can find me.”
He gave me a quick searching glance.

“That would be helpful.” He smiled impersonally. “We
may need you in a hurry.”
I watched him drive away.
“That was a bad move, my friend,” I said to myself as I
stood on the edge of the kerb. “You’ve had your chance. You
won’t find me next time quite so easily.”

It had surprised me that Rawson had let me leave the police station. It seemed to me that he had enough evidence to arrest me out of hand. I was no longer taken in by his
friendly smile nor his benign interest. Nor had I been fooled
when he had apologetically suggested that Hollis should take my finger-prints.
“One of the gang may have handled this vacuum flask,
Mr. Collins,” he had said. “We may find prints on it.

As you and Yates have handled it it would help us to have your prints so we are not led astray.”
He appeared to accept my explanation that I had lent the
flask to Bill some weeks ago, and that Bill had forgotten to
return it but I wasn’t fooled. I had a growing conviction that he was playing with me like a cat plays with a mouse.

The final straw that convinced me he must be sure I was
a member of the gang was when I remembered, as Hollis
drove me back to Eagle Street, how Rawson had persuaded
me to part with my box of matches. All along I had felt there was some reason behind his request, and now I realized why.

The match I had used to hold together the two cut ends of the wire to the alarm bell was from this box. I had read enough about the scientific methods of detection to know the police would soon prove the match they had found in the mail van came from the box I had given Rawson.

I was pretty sure too that in spite of my care to wipe off
my prints when I had been working in the van, the chances
were a thousand to one, that I had left a print somewhere on
the van and the police would find it.

I suppose they would wait until they had compared the
match they had found in the van with the matches in the box
and until they had found one of my prints on the van before
they pounced. Or perhaps they wouldn’t pounce. Perhaps they
intended to watch me in the hope I would lead them to the rest of the gang.
But the chances were I had only a few more hours of
liberty left to me and that worried me. I wasn’t thinking of myself. I was worried I wouldn’t have time to find Dix, and if it was the last thing I did, I was going to find him.

I unlocked the garage doors and entered the dark, silent
garage. As I shot the bolts I heard Ann coming down the
stairs. I realized now that Ann presented a problem. For the
first time since I married her I was sharply a war that she was in the way. I had a job to do, and a job had to do alone.
“What happened, Harry?”

“Let’s go upstairs.”
We walked silently down the dimly lit garage, her hand in
mine, through the office and up the stairs into the sitting-room.

I dropped into an arm-chair and looked up at her white,
frightened face.
“It isn’t good, Ann.”
She knelt down beside me.
“Tell me.”
I told her. I kept nothing back. I told her how Bill had
died. I told her about the Vanguard and my stupid lie about the imaginary Manning. I told her how I had left the vacuum flask in the mail van, about the match and how Rawson had got the box of matches out of me.
“They found the flask in the van,” I concluded. “Rawson
pretended to believe me when I told him I had lent the flask to Bill, but it gave him the excuse to take my finger-prints.”

Ann caught her breath sharply.
“They’ve got your prints?”
“Yes. I couldn’t refuse. I know I must have left a print
somewhere on the van. They’re bound to find it. I don’t want to scare you, Ann, but we’ve got to face facts. They will arrest me very soon.”

“I can’t believe this is happening to us. How could you
have done this, Harry? What are we going to do?”
“It is happening to us. We’ve got to face it, Ann. It’s all
my fault, and you’re going to suffer. The best thing we can do now . . .”

“Wait! There is only one thing to do,” she said urgently.
“You must go back to the police and tell them the truth. You
must tell them exactly how it happened. You must go now.”
“It’s a little late for that. This is a murder case. They
would arrest me and keep me in jail, and what would happen
to you? Dix said he would take it out of you if I gave him away, and he would. He threatened to throw acid at you. I can’t tell
them the truth.”

“Do you think I care what he does to me? Our happiness
is far more important. You must tell them the truth. They’ll
believe you if you go to them now. Can’t you see that by telling them what happened they are bound to treat you leniently?
But if you let them find out before you tell them, they’ll treat you like the others.”

“It’s too late, Ann. I should have told them at once.
They’ll only think I’ve lost my nerve if I go to them now.”
“You’ve got to do it!” she cried, clutching hold of my
hand. “If you don’t, I will!”
“No, Ann.”
She stared up at me.
“You’re planning to do something, aren’t you? There’s
something about you, Harry, that worries me.”
“I’m going to duck out of sight.”

“You can’t do that! You mustn’t! Where would you go?
Don’t you see, darling, they will think you are as guilty as the rest of them if you run away. You couldn’t get far. They’d find you: they always do.”
“I’m going to duck out of sight, Ann,” I repeated “I’ve got a job to do. I’m sorry, but it’s a job I’ve got to do alone.”

“A job? What do you mean?”
“I’m going to find Dix.”
She stared at me blankly.
“But this is ridiculous. The police will find him. You can’t
do it, Harry. If you run away . . .”
“I want you to pack a few things, Ann, and go to your
mother. You’ll be safe in Leytonstone. Dix doesn’t know where your mother lives. I want you to go right away.”
“But, Harry, you can’t be serious. You’re frightening me.

I’m not going to leave you. I’m sure you’re going to do
something reckless.”
“You’re wasting time, Ann. Please pack what you want,
and please don’t argue about it”
“But, Harry, do you realize what you’re saying? If you run
away we may never see each other again. How can you hope
to remain long in hiding? You must go to the police now and
tell them the truth.”
“It’s too late for that, Ann. You must let me handle this
my way.”

She caught hold of my hand.
“For my sake, darling, face up to it. Don’t run away,” she
cried. “I’ll come with you. Oh, Harry, don’t break up our life
together! Please do what I ask.”

I realized now that she wouldn’t be put off. Time was
running out. I had to take another line of action.
“Give me a few minutes to think about it, Ann,” I said,
getting to my feet. “I’m going down to the office. I want a little time to get things straightened out in my mind. Give me half an hour, Ann.”

She looked searchingly at me.
“Exactly why do you want to find Dix?” she asked.
“I want to have the satisfaction of wrecking his plans.

He made a fool out of me; he killed Bill. I’d like to even things up with him before I go to jail, but maybe you’re right. Maybe the best thing I can do is to leave him to the police. Give me half an hour to make up my mind, Ann.”
She hesitated.

“Very well, Harry. I’ll wait here. Please be sensible about
this. You must go to the police and tell them the truth. It is the right and only thing to do.”
I put my arm round her and kssed her.

“Let me think about it.”
I went down the stairs and into the office. As soon as I
shut the door I opened the petty cash box and took from it
eight pound notes, two ten shilling notes and some silver.

I put the money in my pocket. Then I examined my cheque book. I had a balance of £52. I hastily wrote out a cheque in Ann’s favour for the full amount, then I took a sheet of notepaper and wrote her a note.

Darling Ann,
This must be good-bye. I haven’t time for long
explanations. I can’t let Dix get away with Bills death. I’ve got to find him and square the account. Bill and I shared so much of the past that you know nothing about that he became part of me. It was due to my own selfish and uncontrolled act that he is dead. I feel the best part of me died with him. What’s left of me isn’t important. I spoilt our lives when I broke my promise to you, and it can never be the same. I’m not going to prison
for a few years, knowing you are waiting for someone who
doesn’t exist any longer. This has got to be a clean break.

The inclosed cheque clears my account. Sell up here: you should get about two thousand for the equipment and the truck. It’s all yours.

Please go at once to your mother and keep under cover.
This gang is dangerous, and if they could get at me through
you, they will do so. So for my sake as well as your own, don’t
let them find you.

Forgive me for doing this to you if you can. It is better for us to break clean now. You will always be in my thoughts. I shall always love you. I have a job to do that must be done,
and only I alone can do it.
Good-bye, darling, Harry.

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