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The man with the hunted look got off the tram at the last stop in William Street, which is just before William Street runs into all the other intersecting roads at the top of the hill and becomes the Cross of King’s Cross. The trams go up the middle of the roadway there, and the man got off quickly and ran for the pavement.

He was a thin, ferret-faced man with thin sandy hair and a wisp of moustache so fair as to be almost invisible against the skin. He was dressed in a blue suit, black snap-brim felt hat and black shoes with square toes. His shirt was white, and his tie was a pale-blue satin creation. His name was Eddie Stacker, he was on his way home after having spent the evening with a girl named Coelhita, and for him that night, so he believed, King’s Cross was the danger zone. Because King’s Cross was the working ground of the man they called Genius, and Eddie had squealed on Genius.

He dived into a side street that would bring him out into Victoria Street a little distance down from the Cross, and pondered on these things. He didn’t know it, but he was wrong in two major items. The first was that Coelhita wasn’t his girl; she was Genius’s and she was placing Eddie on a string for Genius. And the second was that King’s Cross was quite safe for him that night; it was the next night that he was going to run into the trouble that ends all troubles.

Coelhita knew he had squealed and was worried about it. At least she had said she was worried. They had spent a lot of time talking about it. Eddie hadn’t wanted to talk about it at all, he had other ideas on how to pass the time with Coelhita, but over and over again she had brought him back to it. She had kept on asking questions. Questions like, for instance, what had he actually said about Genius?

As a matter of fact, while he had said a few things about the activities of Genius, he hadn’t been able to say very much about the man himself, because nobody seemed to know just who Genius was. If he had a name, nobody knew it. Only a very few people knew him, to talk to, that is, but quite a number knew of him. Genius was a mystery man; one of those men who, without ever having done a stroke of honest work in their lives or possessing any income or assets discernible to the Commissioner of Taxation, always seem to be able to lay their hands on money when money is wanted. Genius was a “fixer.” He could get anything for you—at a price—when no one else could: a flat, bottled beer, dope, prohibited imports, call girls—anything. There are a number of fixers in Sydney, but sometimes they fail to deliver the goods. Genius never failed, which was why they had given him that name. Genius, it was said, would safely convert a live nuisance into a dead body for you, if you were willing to pay his price.

The police had heard of Genius. Inspector Tyson was very anxious to meet him and so had listened attentively and appreciatively to what Eddie Stacker had had to say about him, even though it hadn’t greatly added to what the inspector already knew or suspected. But he had learnt one thing from Eddie: he had learnt where, if he was lucky, he might find Genius. And while Eddie had been with Coelhita that evening he had gone looking for him. But he hadn’t been lucky. . . .

Eddie came into Victoria Street a safe distance down from the Cross, hesitated, darted across it and dived into Earl Street.

King’s Cross is the recognised home of the foreign colony in Sydney, the Bohemian quarter; and the hub of it, round about that bottleneck into William Street, is, after dark, in contradistinction to the rest of the outlying city, a place of light and movement and people. Too much light, in Eddie’s opinion, too much movement, too many people. Somewhere in the chattering throngs idly drifting up and down Bayswater and Darlinghurst Roads could be sharp eyes on the lookout for him.

But at the same time the district is honeycombed by narrow little lanes and passages and alleyways, and it was through this maze that Eddie was threading his way. And Earl Street is possibly the shabbiest part of the maze; a grim little thoroughfare, a street’s backside. Halfway along its short length it turns left and, without changing its back alley character in the slightest degree, becomes Earl Place. Earl Place, however, opens on to the respectable spaciousness of Springfield Avenue; and where it does so, for the last few yards, it blossoms with stunning suddenness into a façade.

Eddie didn’t like the idea of traversing Springfield Avenue, but there was no help for it. He had to go down there a little way to get to a comfortably dark and squeezed-up little cul-de-sac, from which he could slink into another dark alley dignified by the name of Llankelly Place.

He approached the end of Earl Place cautiously. Suddenly he stopped with his heart in his mouth. Two dark figures, menacing in the deliberation of their tread, had appeared in the opening. Eddie was on the point of turning and running back to Victoria Street when he checked himself and looked again. The confident, unhurried, loose-limbed walk of one of the figures—the tall thin frame—the set of the head . . . Inspector Tyson for a deener.

And Inspector Tyson it was, accompanied by Detective Etherege.

“Well, well!” The inspector greeted him kindly. “Eddie Stacker. Forgive the censorious note, Eddie, but isn’t it a little late for one so virtuous and industrious to be out and about?”

“Been seein’ the girl friend,” replied Eddie jauntily.

“Ah!” murmured Tyson, still kindly. “ ‘In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thought of love.’ . . . Do you know who penned those words, Richard?”—to Detective Etherege—“Your esteemed ancestor maybe?”

“Search me!” muttered his stolid young companion, not taking the enquiry seriously. Old Tyson was like that, a talkative old devil when he felt like it.

Old Tyson turned back to Eddie. His tones were still silky, but somehow the kindliness had gone from him. To Eddie’s ears they sounded a thought threatening.

“He wasn’t there, Eddie.”

Eddie nodded with instant comprehension. “That’s all I know, Inspector. He’s there sometimes, so Nick the Greek says. But y’ never know when.”

“Um. . . . Beware the Greeks, Eddie, when they come bearing gifts.”


“We have this evening had the felicity of speaking with the Greek gentleman, Richard and I. Not so long ago. Odd as it may sound in your shell-like ears, little one, he swore he had never laid eyes on our friend. In fact, he said he didn’t know what you were talking about.”

“He’s lyin’! He told me—Look, Inspector, it was like this. I seen the back of this bloke goin’ through the doorway, and I said to Nick the Greek, ‘Who’s that?’ and Nick the Greek said—”

“Tut, tut!” The kindly note was back in Tyson’s voice. “I believe you, Eddie. I do not believe the Greek gentleman. I have noticed that when I start asking him questions English becomes an extremely difficult language for him. I agree with you, Eddie. . . .” He laid a fatherly hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “Make a note of that. Jot it down in your diary. Once Inspector Tyson agreed with you. But I grow prolix. There—um—there isn’t anything more you could tell me about our mutual friend? You haven’t learnt anything new from, say, Coelhita Torres?”

“Coelhita?” cried Eddie shrilly. “Howja know I—?”

“Oh, tut, Eddie! We know you have succumbed to the charms of the lovely Coelhita. And can we blame you for it? No, we cannot,” said Inspector Tyson judiciously. “Paraphrasing someone or another, a beautiful woman is the noblest work of God. I merely wondered—”

“She doesn’t know anythin’, Inspector. Don’t suppose she’s even heard of him.”

“Does she know you—?”


“I thought perhaps she might. Love, Eddie, is apt to make a young man garrulous—Did you say anything, Richard?”

“Me? No, Inspector,” said Detective Etherege, who nevertheless had definitely snorted.

“Look, Inspector,” pleaded Eddie. “Keep her out of it, willya? She doesn’t know anythin’. If I find out any more I’ll tell y’. Honest.”

Tyson dapped him on the shoulder again. “I’m sure you will,” he told him heartily. “I’m sure you will. You’re a good boy, Eddie, and we’re good to good boys. So, as I presume you are on your way to the chaste seclusion of your couch, we shall accompany you to your place of abode just to see that no harm befalls you on the wayside.”

So Eddie went the rest of the way home under police protection. And for that night at least he was safe.


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