satisfactory as he had hoped would be the case.
He was in the habit of advancing money, and the gang owed him a considerable sum, money which had been advanced for the pursuit of various enterprises. To draw that money would leave the Gang Fund sadly depleted, and he could not afford to draw upon it at a moment when they were all on edge. Not only were the two principal subordinates in the condition of mind which led them to jump at every knock and start at every shadow, but he had been receiving urgent messages
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from all parts of the country from the other men, and he had determined upon a step which he had not taken for three years--a meeting of the full "Board" of his lawless organisation.
That night summonses went forth calling his "business associates" to an Extraordinary General Meeting of the North European Smelter Syndicate. This was one of the companies which he operated, and the existence of
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which was justified by a small smelting works in the North of England, and owed its international character to the fact that it had branch works in Sweden. Its turnover was small, its list of stockholders was select. A summons to a General Meeting of the North European Smelter Company meant that the affairs of the gang were critical, and in this spirit the call was obeyed.
The meeting was held in the banquet hall of a West End restaurant, and the twenty men who assembled differed very little in appearance from twenty other provincial business men who might have been gathered to discuss the affairs of any
Their coming excited
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no comment, and apparently did not even arouse the attention of vigilant Scotland Yard. Nor, had the colonel's speech been taken down by a shorthand writer and submitted to the police, could any suggestion be found of the significance
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of the meeting. He spoke of the difficulties of trading, of the "competition" with which the company was faced, and called upon all the shareholders to assist loyally the executive in a very critical and trying time. But those who listened knew very well that the "competition" was the competition of the police, and they had their own ideas as to what constituted the trying time to which the colonel made reference.
It was a very commonplace, ordinary company meeting, which ended in a conventional way by a vote of confidence in the directors. It was when that had been passed, and the meeting had been broken up, and members and officials were talking together, that the real business started.
Then it was that Selby, the stout little man whose special job was to act as intermediary between the company and its more criminal enterprises, received his instructions to speed up. Selby was the receiver of letters. A burglar or a pickpocket who acquired in the course of his activities documents and letters which had hitherto been worthless found a ready market through Selby. Eighty letters out of every hundred were absolutely valueless, but occasionally they would find a rich gem, a love letter discreetly cherished, on which a new "operation" would be based. Then would begin the torturing of a human soul, the opening of new vistas of despair, the stage be cleared for a new tragedy.
The colonel was to find that the chief anxiety of his "shareholders" was not as to the future of the company or as to the success of its trading. Again and again he was asked a question couched in identical word