Cleek of Scotland Yard - Thomas W. Hanshew - ebook

Cleek of Scotland Yard ebook

Thomas W. Hanshew

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Hamilton Cleek is back – or is he? Margot, Queen of the Apaches, the notorious French criminal gang, has been released on bail and vanished, Inspector Narkom of Scotland Yard has a series of inexplicable murders to solve, there is talk of revolution in Mauravania. And Cleek is missing. The stories collected here are some of the best about the clever and resourceful private detective Cleek, the man of the forty faces, who through his talents for disguise solves crime and mystery in London. Hold on to your hats for another thrilling ride as spying, murder, mysterious disappearances, jewel theft and horse theft, bombs and political intrigue rear their ugly heads. The stories range from well-done mysteries involving excellent deductive reasoning to fast-paced action tales set in exotic locales with highly romanticized villains.

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Liczba stron: 556

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Contents

PROLOGUE. THE AFFAIR OF THE MAN WHO VANISHED

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER XXXVIII

EPILOGUE. THE AFFAIR OF THE MAN WHO WAS FOUND

PROLOGUE. 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?”

“Oh, don’t talk rubbish!” snapped Narkom, with a short, derisive laugh. “Friends, indeed! What friends has he outside of myself? Who knows him any better than I know him–and what do I know of him, at that? Nothing–not where he comes from; not what his real name may be; not a living thing but that he chooses to call himself Hamilton Cleek and to fight in the interest of the law as strenuously as he once fought against it. And where will I find a man who has ‘seen’ him, as you suggest–or would know if he had seen him–when he has that amazing birth gift to fall back upon? You never saw his real face–never in all your life. I never saw it but twice, and even I–why, he might pass me in the street a dozen times a day and I’d never know him if I looked straight into his eyes. He’d come like a shot if he knew I wanted him–gad, yes! But he doesn’t; and there you are.”

Imagination was never one of Petrie’s strong points. His mind moved always along well-prepared grooves to time-honoured ends. It found one of those grooves and moved along it now.

“Why don’t you advertise for him, then?” he suggested. “Put a Personal in the morning papers, sir. Chap like that’s sure to read the news every day; and it’s bound to come to his notice sooner or later. Or if it doesn’t, why, people will get to knowing that the Yard’s lost him and get to talking about it and maybe he’ll learn of it that way.”

Narkom looked at him. The suggestion was so bald, so painfully ordinary and commonplace, that, heretofore, it had never occurred to him. To associate Cleek’s name with the banalities of the everyday Agony Column; to connect him with the appeals of the scullery and the methods of the raw amateur! The very outrageousness of the thing was its best passport to success.

“By James, I believe there’s something in that!” he said, abruptly. “If you get people to talking... Well, it doesn’t matter, so that he hears–so that he finds out I want him. You ring up the Daily Mail while I’m scratching off an ad. Tell ‘em it’s simply got to go in the morning’s issue. I’ll give it to them over the line myself in a minute.”

He lurched over to his desk, drove a pen into the ink pot, and made such good haste in marshalling his straggling thoughts that he had the thing finished before Petrie had got farther than “Yes; Scotland Yard. Hold the line, please; Superintendent Narkom wants to speak to you.”

The Yard’s requests are at all times treated with respect and courtesy by the controlling forces of the daily press, so it fell out that, late as the hour was, “space” was accorded, and, in the morning, half a dozen papers bore this notice prominently displayed:

“CLEEK–Where are you? Urgently needed. Communicate at once.–Maverick Narkom.„

The expected came to pass; and the unexpected followed close upon its heels. The daily press, publishing the full account of the latest addition to the already long list of mysterious murders which, for a fortnight past, had been adding nervous terrors to the public mind, screamed afresh–as Narkom knew that it would–and went into paroxysms of the Reporters’ Disease until the very paper was yellow with the froth of it. The afternoon editions were still worse–for, between breakfast and lunch time, yet another man had fallen victim to the mysterious assassin–and sheets pink and sheets green, sheets gray and sheets yellow were scattering panic from one end of London to the other. The police-detective system of the country was rotten! The Government should interfere–must interfere! It was a national disgrace that the foremost city of the civilized world should be terrorized in this appalling fashion and the author of the outrages remain undetected! Could anything be more appalling?

It could, and–it was! When night came and the evening papers were supplanting the afternoon ones, that something “more appalling”–known hours before to the Yard itself–was glaring out on every bulletin and every front page in words like these:

LONDON’S REIGN OF TERROR APPALLING ATROCITY IN CLARGES STREET SHOCKING DYNAMITE OUTRAGE

Clarges Street! The old “magic” street of those “magic” old times of Cleek, and the Red Limousine, and the Riddles that were unriddled for the asking! Narkom grabbed the report the instant he heard that name and began to read it breathlessly.

It was the usual station advice ticked through to headquarters and deciphered by the operator there, and it ran tersely, thus:

“4:28 P. M. Attempt made by unknown parties to blow up house in Clarges Street, Piccadilly. Partially successful. Three persons injured and two killed. No clue to motive. Occupants, family from Essex. Only moved in two days ago. House been vacant for months previously. Formerly occupied by retired seafaring man named Capt. Horatio Burbage, who–-”

Narkom read no farther. He flung the paper aside with a sort of mingled laugh and blub and collapsed into his chair with his eyes hidden in the crook of an upthrown arm, and the muscles of his mouth twitching.

“Now I know why he cleared out! Good old Cleek! Bully old Cleek!” he said to himself; and stopped suddenly, as though something had got into his throat and half choked him. But after a moment or two he jumped to his feet and began walking up and down the room, his face fairly glowing; and if he had put his thoughts into words they would have run like this:

“Margot’s crew, of course. And he must have guessed that something of the sort would happen some time if he stopped there after that Silver Snare business at Roehampton–either from her lot or from the followers of that Mauravanian johnnie who was at the back of it. They were after him even in that little game, those two. I wonder why? What the dickens, when one comes to think of it, could have made the Prime Minister of Mauravania interest himself in an Apache trick to ‘do in’ an ex-cracksman? Gad! she flies high, sometimes, that Margot! Prime Minister of Mauravania! And the fool faced fifteen years hard to do the thing and let her get off scot free! Faced it and–took it; and is taking it still, for the sake of helping her to wipe off an old score against a reformed criminal. Wonder if Cleek ever crossed him in something? Wonder if he, too, was on the ‘crooked side’ once, and wanted to make sure of its never being shown up? Oh, well, he got his medicine. And so, too, will this unknown murderer who’s doing the secret killing in London, now that this Clarges Street affair is over. Bully old Cleek! Slipped ‘em again! Had their second shot and missed you! Now you’ll come out of hiding, old chap, and we shall have the good old times once more.”

His eye fell upon the ever-ready telephone. He stopped short in his purposeless walking and nodded and smiled to it.

“We’ll have you singing your old tune before long, my friend,” he said, optimistically. “I know my man–gad, yes! He’ll let no grass grow under his feet now that this thing’s over. I shall hear soon–yes, by James! I shall.”

His optimism was splendidly rewarded. Not, however, from the quarter nor in the manner he expected. It had but just gone half-past seven when a tap sounded, the door of his office swung inward, and the porter stepped into the room.

“Person wanting to speak with you, sir, in private,” he announced. “Says it’s about some Personal in the morning paper.”

“Send him in–send him in at once!” rapped out Narkom excitedly. “Move sharp; and don’t let anybody else in until I give the word.”

Then, as soon as the porter had disappeared, he crossed the room, twitched the thick curtains over the window, switched on the electric light, wheeled another big chair up beside his desk and, with face aglow, jerked open a drawer and got out a cigarette box which had not seen the light for weeks.

Quick as he was, the door opened and shut again before the lid of the box could be thrown back, and into the room stepped Cleek’s henchman–Dollops.

“Hullo! You, is it, you blessed young monkey?” said Narkom gayly, as he looked up and saw the boy. “Knew I’d hear to-day–knew it, by James! Sent you for me, has he, eh? Is he coming himself or does he want me to go to him? Speak up, and–Good Lord! what’s the matter with you? What’s up? Anything wrong?”

Dollops had turned the colour of an under-baked biscuit and was looking at him with eyes of absolute despair.

“Sir,” he said, moving quickly forward and speaking in the breathless manner of a spent runner–“Sir, I was a-hopin’ it was a fake, and to hear you speak like that–Gawd’s truth, guv’ner, you don’t mean as it’s real, sir, do you? That you don’t know either?”

“Know? Know what?”

“Where he is–wot’s become of him? Mr. Cleek, the guv’ner, sir. I made sure that you’d know if anybody would. That’s wot made me come, sir. I’d ‘a’ gone off me bloomin’ dot if I hadn’t–after you a-puttin’ in that Personal and him never a-turnin’ up like he’d ort. Sir, do you mean to say as you don’t know where he is, and haven’t seen him even yet?”

“No, I’ve not. Good Lord! haven’t you?”

“No, sir. I aren’t clapped eyes on him since he sent me off to the bloomin’ seaside six months ago. All he told me when we come to part was that Miss Lorne was goin’ out to India on a short visit to Cap’n and Mrs. ‘Awksley–Lady Chepstow as was, sir–and that directly she was gone he’d be knockin’ about for a time on his own, and I wasn’t to worry over him. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him, sir, since that hour.”

“Nor heard from him?” Narkom’s voice was thick and the hand he laid on the chair-back hard shut.

“Oh, yes, sir, I’ve heard–I’d have gone off my bloomin’ dot if I hadn’t done that. Heard from him twice. Once when he wrote and gimme my orders about the new place he’s took up the river–four weeks ago. The second time, last Friday, sir, when he wrote me the thing that’s fetched me here–that’s been tearin’ the heart out of me ever since I heard at Charing Cross about wot’s happened at Clarges Street, sir.”

“And what was that?”

“Why, sir, he wrote that he’d jist remembered about some papers as he’d left behind the wainscot in his old den, and that he’d get the key and drop in at the old Clarges Street house on the way ‘ome. Said he’d arrive in England either yesterday afternoon or this one, sir; but whichever it was, he’d wire me from Dover before he took the train. And he never done it, sir–my Gawd! he never done it in this world!”

“Good God!” Narkom flung out the words in a sort of panic, his lips twitching, his whole body shaking, his face like the face of a dead man.

“He never done it, I tell you!” pursued Dollops in an absolute tremble of fright. “I haven’t never had a blessed line; and now this here awful thing has happened. And if he done what he said he was a-goin’ to do–if he come to town and went to that house–-”

If he said more, the clanging of a bell drowned it completely. Narkom had turned to his desk and was hammering furiously upon the call gong. A scurry of flying feet came up the outer passage, the door opened in a flash, and the porter was there. And behind him Lennard, the chauffeur, who guessed from that excited summons that there would be a call for him.

“The limousine–as quick as you can get her round!” said Narkom in the sharp staccato of excitement. “To the scene of the explosion in Clarges Street first, and if the bodies of the victims have been removed, then to the mortuary without an instant’s delay.”

He dashed into the inner room, grabbed his hat and coat down from the hook where they were hanging, and dashed back again like a man in a panic.

“Come on!” he said, beckoning to Dollops as he flung open the door and ran out into the passage. “If they’ve ‘done him in’–him!–if they’ve ‘got him’ after all–-Come on! come on!”

Dollops “came on” with a rush; and two minutes later the red limousine swung out into the roadway and took the distance between Scotland Yard and Clarges Street at a mile-a-minute clip.

*     *

*

Arrival at the scene of the disaster elicited the fact that the remains–literally “remains,” since they had been well-nigh blown to fragments–had, indeed, been removed to the mortuary; so thither Narkom and Dollops followed them, their fears being in no wise lightened by learning that the bodies were undeniably those of men. As the features of both victims were beyond any possibility of recognition, identification could, of course, be arrived at only through bodily marks; and Dollops’s close association with Cleek rendered him particularly capable of speaking with authority regarding those of his master. It was, therefore, a source of unspeakable delight to both Narkom and himself, when, after close and minute examination of the remains, he was able to say, positively, “Sir, whatever’s become of him, praise God, neither of these here two dead men is him, bless his heart!”

“So they didn’t get him after all!” supplemented Narkom, laughing for the first time in hours. “Still, it cannot be doubted that whoever committed this outrage was after him, since the people who have suffered are complete strangers to the locality and had only just moved into the house. No doubt the person or persons who threw the bomb knew of Cleek’s having at one time lived there as ‘Captain Burbage’–Margot did, for one–and finding the house still occupied, and not knowing of his removal–why, there you are.”

“Margot!” The name brought back all Dollops’ banished fears. He switched round on the superintendent and laid a nervous clutch on his sleeve. “And Margot’s ‘lay’ is Paris. Sir, I didn’t tell you, did I, that it was from there the guv’ner wrote those two letters to me?”

“Cinnamon! From Paris?”

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