A Debt Discharged - Edgar Wallace - ebook

A Debt Discharged ebook

Edgar Wallace

0,0

Opis

Thomas Maple lives on Crystal Palace Road with his niece Verity. He works for a firm of bank note engravers. However, the dollar bills he shows Wentworth Gold are forgeries – perfect except for the missing Treasury sign. When Verity meets her new employer she develops serious misgivings, and arriving back home she can hear a menacing voice. „"A Debt Discharged"” is a novel about forged dollar bills and a young girl’s investigations into her suspicious new employer. These were largely adventure narratives with elements of crime or mystery, and usually combined a bombastic sensationalism with hammy violence.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 288

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

PROLOGUE

I. HELDER TELLS TALES

II. INTRODUCES VERITY MAPLE

III. MAPLE HAS A VISITOR

IV. A MESSAGE TO MR HELDER

V. COMSTOCK BELL MAKES READY

VI. COMSTOCK BELL CHANGES HIS MIND

VII. HELDER’S WAY

VIII. WHAT TOM MAPLE FOUND

IX. WILLETTS WRITES A LETTER

X. VERITY RECEIVES A PROPOSAL

XI. AN EXTRAORDINARY MARRIAGE

XII. THE PASSING OF WILLETTS

XIII. AN ARREST

XIV. MRS BELL LISTENS

XV. THE MESSAGE OF THE BILL

XVI. THE HOUSE PARTY AT COLLETT’S FOLLY

XVII. IN A JAIL

XVIII. THE WRITING ON THE BILL

XIX. WILLETTS

XX. HELDER SLIPS TO SEA

XXI. THE IRONY OF CHANCE

XXII. THE END

PROLOGUE

ON the afternoon of March 4th, 1913, M. Trebolino, the chief of the French Detective Department, was sitting in his office in a thoughtful frame of mind. His big desk chair had been drawn to an open fire which blazed cheerfully in the grate, for the day was piercingly cold and Paris lay under a mantle of snow.

France was passing through a passive period of lawfulness which was particularly complimentary to the genius of the Italian who had adopted the nationality of France with some profit to himself.

Crime ran in normal grooves, the mystery of the Seven Banks had been satisfactorily cleared up, and M. Trebolino was enjoying a rest. It was the bus driver’s holiday for him–no other would have pleased him. The smaller incidents, which ordinarily would have engaged the attention of his subordinates, were, in the circumstances, big enough to interest him, and such an incident now occupied the restless brain of the man who, perhaps, more than any other in modern times, fought crime effectively.

He reached forward and pressed a bell-push by the side of the fireplace, and a clerk answered the summons.

“Send M. Lecomte to me,” he said, without withdrawing his gaze from the dancing flames.

In a few moments there was a knock on the door and the dapper Lecomte, fated to take the place of his chief, came in.

“M. Lecomte,” said the great detective, looking up with a smile of welcome, “seat you, if you please. Have you heard of a certain ‘Crime Club’ which exists in this Paris of yours?”

M. Lecomte nodded.

“It is amusing, that ‘Cercle de Crime’, is it not?” Trebolino went on with a smile; “but I am not easy in my mind, and I think you had best break it up –students are the devil.”

“Will it not break itself?” asked Lecomte.

The detective pursed his lips as one who had thought both ways and was decided on one.

“What do you know of it?” he asked.

“No more than yourself,” said Lecomte, stretching out his fingers to the blaze, “a number of students join together, they have solemn rituals, passwords, oaths–the whole paraphernalia of mystic brotherhood, and they meet in divers secret places, all of which are known to the police a week before.”

He laughed softly, and Trebolino nodded.

“Each member swears to break some law of France,” Lecomte went on; “so far they have confined their illegalities to annoying one poor gendarme.”

“They threw one into the Seine,” commented the chief.

“And two of the rascals nearly lost their lives getting him out,” chuckled Lecomte; “we gave them three days’ detention and fined them each a hundred francs for that.”

“Nothing more?”

“Nothing more–their ‘crimes’ have never got beyond opéra bouffe.”

Still the chief was not satisfied.

“I think we will put a period to their folly,” he said. “I understand students, and know something of the emulating spirit of youth. There is a member–Willetts?”

Lecomte nodded.

“This Willetts,” said the chief slowly, “is something of an artist; he shares lodgings with another youth, Comstock Bell, an American.”

“He shared,” corrected the other. “Mr Bell is a rich man, and gratifies his whims; he is also a fastidious man–and Mr Willetts drinks.”

“So they have parted?” commented Trebolino, tapping his teeth with his ring. “I did not hear that; all that I heard was that they were conspiring together to give us an unpleasant surprise. You understand, my dear friend? No gendarme baiting, no smashing of municipal clocks, but crime, men’s crime.”

He rose abruptly.

“It is time we stopped this amusement–parbleu! The Quartier must find other diversion. I like my little students, they are bon garçon, but they must be naughty without being nasty. See to that, dear friend.”

Lecomte left the bureau with an inward smile, for he was a good friend of the students, dined with them at times and was a welcome figure in the ateliers.

That night after he had left the bureau he made his way to the Café of the Savages–a happy piece of prophetic nomenclature, he thought, for here the wilder spirits of the Latin Quarter congregated for dinner.

“Welcome, M. le procureur!” they greeted him.

Somebody made place for him at the big table in the inner salon. A handsome youth with a sweep of his hand cleared a space at the table.

Lecomte looked at the boy with more than usual interest. He was tall, fair, athletic, with big grey eyes that sparkled now with good nature.

“You have come in time, my policeman,” he said gravely, “to hear a fascinating discourse on the propriety of anarchism–our friend,” he jerked his head to a wild-haired French youth with an untidy beard – “our friend was remarking as you entered that the assassination of a policeman is justified by the divine Aristotle.”

“I am of the Stoics,” said Lecomte, “what would you?”

“Anarchy,” said the bearded youth fiercely, “is the real order, the true law–”

“And you have pink eyes and a green nose,” said the young chief of the police inconsequently, as he poured himself a glass of wine.

“I am prepared to debate that,” said the other, when the laughter which inconsequence invariably provokes had died down, “my friend Willetts–” he indicated a drowsy youth with a peaked white face, “my friend Willetts” –he proceeded to illustrate his argument on anarchy by drawing upon the experiences of his companion.

“Your friend also, M. Bell?” asked the policeman, lowering his voice.

The tall man raised his eyebrows.

“Why?” he asked coldly.

M. Lecomte shrugged his shoulders.

“We learn things,” he said vaguely, “especially concerning your ‘Crime Club.’”

A look of anxiety came into Comstock Bell’s eyes.

“That was a folly–” he began, then stopped short, and no effort of Lecomte could induce him to reopen the subject.

Only once did the famous “Cercle de Crime” arise in conversation.

A laughing question put by one of the students cut into the conversation and he shook his head reprovingly.

“No–he did not die. It takes worse than a ducking to kill a member of the municipal police–which reminds me, gentlemen, that I want you to put a period–to quote M. Trebolino–to this famous club of yours.”

“Après!”

It was the shrill voice of the young man addressed as Willetts that spoke. He had seemed to be dozing, taking little or no interest in the proceedings.

Lecomte, watching him, had marked the unhealthy pallor of his face, detected in the slight flush over the cheekbones, evidence of Willetts’ failing.

He had suddenly awakened from his somnolent mood. His eyes were wide open and bright.

“Après, Messieurs!” he said exultantly, “you shall shut down our little circle, but it shall justify its name, its aspirations, and its worthy members.”

Lecomte thought that Comstock Bell looked pale and his face a little drawn as the drunkard went on.

“Here is Mr Bell,” Willetts made an extravagant little bow to the other and would have fallen over the table, but the young man with anarchistic tendencies put out his hand and saved him.

“Mr Bell,” Willetts went on, “is the great American, a capitalist, and until recently my honoured companion in crime. But we have disagreed. Mr Bell is too nice,” there was a sneer in his laugh, “bourgeoise, by Bacchus! Unresponsive to the joie de vivre, which is every good student’s peculiar heritage. Moreover, a poltroon!”

He spat the word along the table; in his cups Willetts was a vicious brute, as all there knew.

Comstock Bell said nothing, eyeing the other steadily.

“We–” Willetts was going on, when a man came into the café, and searching the faces of the diners discerned Lecomte.

“One moment, gentlemen,” said the policeman, and rose to meet the newcomer. They conversed together in low tones. They saw Lecomte frown, heard his startled exclamation and saw him half turn. He continued talking, still in the same low tone, then he came back to the table.

“Gentlemen,” he said, and his voice had a hard ring, “this afternoon a fifty-pound English banknote was changed at Cook’s in the Place de l’Opéra –that note was a forgery.”

There was a dead silence.

“It was cashed by a student and on the back in pencil was written ‘C de C’ –that is no joke, and I shall ask the gentleman who was responsible to attend the bureau of the Chief of the Police tomorrow morning.”

*     *

*

No one attended M. Trebolino’s office on the following day. Willetts was called to London that same night; Comstock Bell left by the same train.

M. Lecomte saw them leave, though neither knew this. Three days later he received a £50 Bank of England note, with no name or address attached, but a typewritten note which said, “Make reparation to Messrs Cook.”

M. Lecomte reported the matter to his chief and Trebolino nodded.

“It is the best there should be no scandal.”

He put the forged note into his private cabinet and eventually forgot all about it.

Many years after the great detective was shot dead whilst attempting to arrest an anarchist; and his successor, searching his cabinet, came upon a £50 note, obviously forged.

“I will send this to the Bank of England,” he said, and Lecomte, who could have explained the circumstances under which the note came into Trebolino’s possession, was away in Lyons.

I. HELDER TELLS TALES

IT was Ladies’ Night at the Terriers, and the street before the big club-house was filled with luxurious motor cars, for the Terriers is a most fashionable club, and Ladies’ Night marks the opening of the season, though there are some who vainly imagine that the Duchess of Gurdmore’s ball inaugurates that period of strenuous festivity.

The great pillared hall was irrecognizable to the crusty habitués of the club; though they were not there to recognize it, for there was a section of the Terriers who solemnly cursed this Ladies’ Night, which meant a week’s inconvenience to them, the disturbance of the smooth current of their lives, the turning of the card-rooms into supping places and the introduction of new waiters.

But to most of the Terriers, Ladies’ Night was something to look forward to and something to look back upon, for here assembled not only all that was greatest and most beautiful in society, but brilliant men who ordinarily had neither time nor inclination to accept the Terriers’ hospitality.

It was a pouring wet night when Wentworth Gold ascended the marble steps of the club, made slow progress through the throng in the hall, and reached the cloakroom to deposit his hat and cloak, and his inevitable goloshes.

Wentworth Gold was a man who had unusual interests. He was an American of middle height, clean shaven, with hair parted in the middle and brushed back in the style of jeunesse dorée. He had shaggy eyebrows, a chin blue with shaving, and he wore pince-nez, behind which twinkled a pair of grey eyes.

He was not handsome, but he was immensely wise. Moreover, he was the type, rather ugly than plain, with which women fall easily in love.

He was American, and admitted his sin with a pride which was about three cents short of arrogance.

He lived in England and liked the English. He said this in a tone of good-natured tolerance which suggested he was trying to humour poor creatures whom fortune had denied the privilege of birth in Shusha, Pa. And he was immensely popular, because he was really a patriot and really American. His great-grandfather had heaved a brick at Lord Cornwallis or something of the sort, and in such soil as this is patriotism sown.

He did not wave little flags, he did not wear a pork-pie hat, nor had his tailor, but the aid of cotton-wool and stiffening, given him the athletic shoulders which are the charm of college youth and amuse Paris.

What Gold did for a living besides playing auction bridge at the Terriers’ Club few people knew. He called at the Embassy once or twice a week “for letters.” Sometimes he would call for those letters at three o’clock in the morning, and the Ambassador would interview him in his ambassadorial pyjamas.

There was such an interview when the President of a small but hilarious South American Republic decided on aggressive action with another small and equally aggressive nation with a contiguous border line.

The chronology of the day in question may be thus tabulated:

5:00 p.m. Sr Gonso de Silva (private secretary to HE the President of Furiria) arrived at the Carlton.

5:30 p.m. M. Dubec (agent of the Compagnie d’Artillerie Belgique) also arrived, and was closeted with the secretary.

8:00 p.m. They dined in a private room.

9:00 p.m. M. Dubec left for the Continent.

2:00 a.m. Wentworth S Gold arrived at the Embassy.

5:00 a.m Señor de Silva visited by Inspector Grayson (Special Foreign Section of the Criminal Investigation Department).

9:00 a.m Señor de Silva left London in a state of great annoyance for Paris.

11:00 a.m Inspector Grayson and Wentworth S Gold met by accident on the Thames Embankment and solemnly exchanged winks.

*     *

*

Wentworth Gold was a professional busybody. It was his business to know, and he knew. And much that he knew he kept to himself, for he had no confidant. He had no office, kept no clerks, occupied no official position, though he carried in his waistcoat pocket a little silver star which had a magic effect upon certain individuals; he had the entrée to all the best people, he was sometimes seen in the company of the worst, and he knew things.

He came back to the hall, passed up the great staircase, and leant over the balustrade to enjoy the spectacle afforded below.

He noticed the Spanish Ambassador with his beautiful daughter, and caught the eye of the Chargé d’Affaires of Italy; he saw Mrs Granger Collak sweep into the hall with her attendant train of young men, and wondered in a leisurely way what extraordinary gift women had, which enabled them to come straight from the mire of the Divorce Court to face the scornful glances of other women.

He saw Comstock Bell and kept his eye on him, because Comstock Bell interested him very deeply just then. A tall, young man, with a handsome Grecian face and broad shoulders, he stood out a conspicuous figure among the men. He was clean-shaven save for a slight moustache. There was a touch of grey at his temple which made him interesting: reputedly very rich and unmarried, he was the more interesting still to the women folk.

Gold, with his elbow on the balustrade, his fingers idly clasped, looked at him curiously. There was a strange sternness about this young man, who returned the greetings which were showered on him with little nods. There was a dip at the corner of his mouth and lines about his eyes which should not have been characteristics of one who had hardly seen his thirtieth birthday.

Bell stopped to speak with a group which gave him a smiling greeting, but only for a little while; then he passed into the reception room.

“Very curious,” said Mr Gold meditatively.

“What is very curious?” asked a voice.

A man leant over the balustrade at his side.

“Hullo, Helder!” said Gold, “does this sort of thing attract you?”

“I don’t know,” said the other lazily; “it is interesting in a way, and in a way it bores one. You were saying something was strange; what was it?”

Gold smiled, took his pince-nez from his waistcoat pocket, fixed them and scrutinized the other closely.

“Everything is strange,” he said, “life and the incidents of life; pleasure and the search for pleasure; ambition; folly; all these, judged from a normal standpoint, are strange. As a matter of fact I did not say ‘strange’ but ‘curious,’ but the word applies.”

The other man was also unmistakably American. He was tall, but more heavily built than Comstock Bell. He looked as if he loved good living; he was clean-shaven, and his face was plump; he had that red Cupid-bow mouth which most men detest. His forehead was bald and his hair was short and curly.

Cornelius Helder was a popular figure in London. He was so ready to laugh at people’s jokes, had a fund of good stories, and was au courant with most gossip which was worth suppressing.

“What is the normal standpoint?” he asked with a smile.

“The standpoint of a man who is not interested,” said Gold.

“I guess that is not you,” said the other; “you are interested in everything; a man was telling me the other day that you know more about the funny old politics of Europe than the American Ambassador.”

Gold was silent, and turned again to survey the crowd.

He did not like Helder, and he was a man who based his dislikes upon solid foundations.

He was silent for three minutes, watching the moving crowd below; a babble of sound, little spiral bursts of light laughter came up to him. Once he heard his name mentioned and smiled somewhat amusedly, because he was a man intensely acute of hearing as people had found to their sorrow.

“Did you see Comstock Bell?” asked Helder suddenly.

“Yes,” replied Gold, without taking his eyes from the floor.

“He looks worried doesn’t he?”

Gold shot a swift glance at the other.

“Does he?” he said.

“I thought so,” said Helder, “It is rather curious how a man with immense wealth such as he possesses, with every advantage a young man can have, should be worried.”

“I have heard of such cases,” replied Gold dryly.

“I was talking to Villier Lecomte the other day,” said Helder.

Gold was all attention; he knew that this was no idle conversation which the incident of the moment had provoked. Helder had sought him out deliberately and had something to say, and that something was about Comstock Bell.

“You were talking with whom?” he drawled.

“With Villier Lecomte. You know him, I suppose?”

Gold knew Lecomte; he was the chief of the Paris detective force.

It was no exaggeration to say that Gold knew him as well as he knew his own brother; but there were many reasons why he should not appear to be acquainted with him.

“No,” he said, “I don’t think I know the gentleman, though the name seems familiar.”

“He is the chief of the Paris police,” said Helder; “he was over here the other day, and I met him.”

“How interesting,” said Gold politely. “Well, and what had he got to say?”

“He was talking about Comstock Bell,” said Helder, and watched his hearer closely.

“What has Comstock Bell been doing to invite the attention of the chief of the Sureté–murder?”

Helder was watching him keenly.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.