The River Knows
professionals are fast. Very fast.”
    Royce cleared his throat. “Beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but your strongbox is an Apollo Patented Safe.”
    “What of it?” Elwin demanded, forcing himself to hang on to his patience.
    “They’re known for being impossible to crack without the aid of an explosive device,” Royce said. “And there weren’t any used last night. Explosives, that is.”
    “Damn it, Stalbridge is not a professional safecracker.” Elwin surged up out of his chair and started to pace the room. “He’s a gentleman.”
    Quinby’s mouth twisted in a derisive smile, but he did not offer a comment.
    Elwin tensed. “What do you find so amusing, Quinby?”
    “Just struck me that, although there seems to be an unwritten rule that says a member of the lower classes can’t aspire to be a gentleman, there’s no law that says a gentleman can’t become a member of the criminal class.”
    Insolent bastard, Elwin thought, but he refused to allow himself to be drawn into a discussion of the niceties of social rank with a man who had come out of the gutters of London.
    “My point,” he said aloud, “is that Stalbridge has no reason to turn to burglary or safecracking. The family has become extremely wealthy in the past few years. And where in blazes would a gentleman learn the trade of safecracking?”
    “Good point,” Quinby said. “Probably not the sort of thing they teach at Oxford and Cambridge.”
    Elwin clamped his teeth together. He could not afford to let Quinby distract him. He had to keep his attention fixed on the problem at hand.
    Royce cleared his throat again. “Beggin’ yer pardon, sir.”
    Elwin sighed. “What is it now, Royce?”
    “The name Stalbridge, sir,” Royce said diffidently. “Would there be any connection to Mr. Marcus Stalbridge, the gentleman who designed the Apollo Patented Safe?”
    Elwin felt as if he had been struck by lightning. He turned slowly, slack jawed.
    “What’s this?” he said tightly. “Marcus Stalbridge designed my safe?”
    Quinby scowled. “What the devil are you talking about, Royce?”
    Royce fidgeted nervously. “Got a cousin who knows a bit about the safecracking business.”
    “That would be Bert,” Quinby said. “And the reason he knows something about the business is because he is a professional safecracker.”
    “Retired now,” Royce said hastily.
    “Get on with it,” Elwin snapped.
    “Yes, sir.” Royce shifted uneasily on his big feet. “It’s just that I’ve heard Bert talk about the subject. More than once he’s told me that, generally speaking, the professionals avoid Apollos because in the end the only way inside is to blow a hole in them.”
    Elwin gripped the back of a reading chair. “What are you getting at, Royce?”
    “Explosives create a lot of noise and draw attention, which is not what your average safecracker is after,” Royce explained, assuming an instructive mien. “Especially if the safe happens to be located in a private house like this one, where there are usually a number of people on the premises.”
    “I am not interested in how one cracks a safe,” Elwin said, spacing each word out with great care the way one does when conversing with an idiot. “Tell me more about Marcus Stalbridge.”
    Royce’s head bobbed up and down several times. “Yes, sir. Well, the thing is, sir, Marcus Stalbridge is much admired by my cousin and certain of his, uh, colleagues on account of he holds the patent on the Apollo.”
    “Damnation.” Elwin wanted to throw something at the nearest wall. “Anthony Stalbridge grew up in the household of a man who invented the most secure safe on the market, the very safe I happen to own. If anyone would know the secret of opening an Apollo, it would be him.”
    “Or his father,” Royce pointed out helpfully.
    “Bah. Marcus Stalbridge was not here last night. His son was.”
    “What of the woman, Mrs. Bryce?” Quinby asked.
    “She’s not important.” Elwin waved that

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