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CLEEK OF SCOTLAND YARD
THOMAS W. HANSHEW
Copyright © 2017 by Thomas W. Hanshew.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Sheba Blake Publishing
Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing
First Edition: January 2017
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Affair of the Man Who Vanished
Mr. Maverick Narkom, Superintendent at Scotland Yard, flung aside the paper he was reading and wheeled round in his revolving desk-chair, all alert on the instant, like a terrier that scents a rat.
He knew well what the coming of the footsteps toward his private office portended; his messenger was returning at last.
Good! Now he would get at the facts of the matter, and be relieved from the sneers of carping critics and the pin pricks of overzealous reporters, who seemed to think that the Yard was to blame, and all the forces connected with it to be screamed at as incompetents if every evildoer in London was not instantly brought to book and his craftiest secrets promptly revealed.
Gad! Let them take on his job, then, if they thought the thing so easy! Let them have a go at this business of stopping at one's post until two o'clock in the morning trying to patch up the jumbled fragments of a puzzle of this sort, if they regarded it as such child's play--finding an assassin whom nobody had seen and who struck with a method which neither medical science nor legal acumen could trace or name. Then, by James....
The door opened and closed, and Detective Sergeant Petrie stepped into the room, removing his hat and standing at attention.
"Well?" rapped out the superintendent, in the sharp staccato of nervous impatience. "Speak up! It was a false alarm, was it not?"
"No, sir. It's even worse than reported. Quicker and sharper than any of the others. He's gone, sir."
"Gone? Good God! you don't mean dead?"
"Yes, sir. Dead as Julius Cæsar. Total collapse about twenty minutes after my arrival and went off like that"--snapping his fingers and giving his hand an outward fling. "Same way as the others, only, as I say, quicker, sir; and with no more trace of what caused it than the doctors were able to discover in the beginning. That makes five in the same mysterious way, Superintendent, and not a ghost of a clue yet. The papers will be ringing with it to-morrow."
"Ringing with it? Can they 'ring' any more than they are doing already?" Narkom threw up both arms and laughed the thin, mirthless laughter of utter despair. "Can they say anything worse than they have said? Blame any more unreasonably than they have blamed? It is small solace for the overburdened taxpayer to reflect that he may be done to death at any hour of the night, and that the heads of the institution he has so long and so consistently supported are capable of giving his stricken family nothing more in return than the "Dear me! dear me!" of utter bewilderment; and to prove anew that the efficiency of our boasted police-detective system may be classed under the head of "Brilliant Fiction." That sort of thing, day after day--as if I had done nothing but pile up failures of this kind since I came into office. No heed of the past six years' brilliant success. No thought for the manner in which the police departments of other countries were made to sit up and to marvel at our methods. Two months' failure and that doesn't count! By the Lord Harry! I'd give my head to make those newspaper fellows eat their words--gad, yes!"
"Why don't you, then, sir?" Petrie dropped his voice a tone or two and looked round over the angle of his shoulder as he spoke; then, recollecting the time and the improbability of anybody being within earshot, took heart of grace and spoke up bolder. "There's no use blinking the fact, Mr. Narkom; it was none of us--none of the regular force, I mean--that made the record of those years what it was. That chap Cleek was the man that did it, sir. You know that as well as I. I don't know whether you've fallen out with him or not; or if he's off on some secret mission that keeps him from handling Yard matters these days. But if he isn't, take my advice, sir, and put him on this case at once."
"Don't talk such rot!" flung out Narkom, impatiently. "Do you think I'd have waited until now to do it if it could be done? Put him on the case, indeed! How the devil am I to do it when I don't know where on earth to find him? He cleared out directly after that Panther's Paw case six months ago. Gave up his lodgings, sacked his housekeeper, laid off his assistant, Dollops, and went the Lord knows where and why."
"My hat! Then that's the reason we never hear any more of him in Yard matters, is it? I wondered! Disappeared, eh? Well, well! You don't think he can have gone back to his old lay--back to the wrong 'uns and his old 'Vanishing Cracksman's' tricks, do you, sir?"
"No, I don't. No backslider about that chap, by James! He's not built that way. Last time I saw him he was out shopping with Miss Ailsa Lorne--the girl who redeemed him--and judging from their manner toward each other, I rather fancied--well, never mind! That's got nothing to do with you. Besides, I feel sure that if they had, Mrs. Narkom and I would have been invited. All he said was that he was going to take a holiday. He didn't say why, and he didn't say where. I wish to heaven I'd asked him. I could have kicked myself for not having done so when that she-devil of a Frenchwoman managed to slip the leash and get off scot free."
"Mean that party we nabbed in the house at Roehampton along with the Mauravanian baron who got up that Silver Snare fake, don't you, sir? Margot, the Queen of the Apaches. Or, at least, that's who you declared she was, I recollect."
"And that's who I still declare she was!" rapped in Narkom, testily, "and what I'll continue to say while there's a breath left in me. I never actually saw the woman until that night, it is true, but Cleek told me she was Margot; and who should know better than he, when he was once her pal and partner? But it's one of the infernal drawbacks of British justice that a crook's word's as good as an officer's if it's not refuted by actual proof. The woman brought a dozen witnesses to prove that she was a respectable Austrian lady on a visit to her son in England; that the motor in which she was riding broke down before that Roehampton house about an hour before our descent upon it, and that she had merely been invited to step in and wait while the repairs were being attended to by her chauffeur. Of course such a chauffeur was forthcoming when she was brought up before the magistrate; and a garage-keeper was produced to back up his statement; so that when the Mauravanian prisoner 'confessed' from the dock that what the lady said was true, that settled it. I couldn't swear to her identity, and Cleek, who could, was gone--the Lord knows where; upon which the magistrate admitted the woman to bail and delivered her over to the custody of her solicitors pending my efforts to get somebody over from Paris to identify her. And no sooner is the vixen set at large than--presto!--away she goes, bag and baggage, out of the country, and not a man in England has seen hide nor hair of her since. Gad! if I could but have got word to Cleek at that time--just to put him on his guard against her. But I couldn't. I've no more idea than a child where the man went--not one."
"It's pretty safe odds to lay one's head against a brass farthing as to where the woman went, though, I reckon," said Petrie, stroking his chin. "Bunked it back to Paris, I expect, sir, and made for her hole like any other fox. I hear them French 'tecs are as keen to get hold of her as we were, but she slips 'em like an eel. Can't lay hands on her, and couldn't swear to her identity if they did. Not one in a hundred of 'em's ever seen her to be sure of her, I'm told."
"No, not one. Even Cleek himself knows nothing of who and what she really is. He confessed that to me. Their knowledge of each other began when they threw in their lot together for the first time, and ceased when they parted. Yes, I suppose she did go back to Paris, Petrie--it would be her safest place; and there'd be rich pickings there for her and her crew just now. The city is en fête, you know."
"Yes, sir. King Ulric of Mauravania is there as the guest of the Republic. Funny time for a king to go visiting another nation, sir, isn't it, when there's a revolution threatening in his own? Dunno much about the ways of kings, Superintendent, but if there was a row coming up in my house, you can bet all you're worth I'd be mighty sure to stop at home."
"Diplomacy, Petrie, diplomacy! he may be safer where he is. Rumours are afloat that Prince What's-his-name, son and heir of the late Queen Karma, is not only still living, but has, during the present year, secretly visited Mauravania in person. I see by the papers that that ripping old royalist, Count Irma, is implicated in the revolutionary movement and that, by the king's orders, he has been arrested and imprisoned in the Fort of Sulberga on a charge of sedition. Grand old johnny, that--I hope no harm comes to him. He was in England not so long ago. Came to consult Cleek about some business regarding a lost pearl, and I took no end of a fancy to him. Hope he pulls out all right; but if he doesn't--oh, well, we can't bother over other people's troubles--we've got enough of our own just now with these mysterious murders going on, and the newspapers hammering the Yard day in and day out. Gad! how I wish I knew how to get hold of Cleek--how I wish I did!"
"Can't you find somebody to put you on the lay, sir? some friend of his--somebody that's seen him, or maybe heard from him since you have?"