Clubfoot the Avenger - Valentine Williams - ebook

Clubfoot the Avenger ebook

Valentine Williams

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Opis

Clubfoot the Avenger is a delightful treasure hunt on the Pacific island from the fearless Major Oakuvuda. The circumstances of how Okuvud gains knowledge of the treasures and the subsequent pursuit of the sworn enemy of Okuvud, clubfoot, made for a swift, intense and fascinating reading highlighted by romantic interest and a satisfactory ending.

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Liczba stron: 244

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Contents

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I. THE PURPLE CABRIOLET

CHAPTER II. ENTER MISS VERA SLADE

CHAPTER III. THE MAN WITH THE CLUBFOOT

CHAPTER IV. THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF MISS PATRICIA MAXWELL

CHAPTER V. THE IKON OF SMOLENSK

CHAPTER VI. THE SECRET OF THE IKON

CHAPTER VII. THE UNSEEN MENACE

CHAPTER VIII. THE TOP FLAT

CHAPTER IX. THE FOOTSTEP IN THE DARK

CHAPTER X. IN WHICH DESMOND OKEWOOD FINDS CLUBFOOT IN STRANGE COMPANY

CHAPTER XI. THE CONSTANTINOPLE COURIER

CHAPTER XII. XENIA

CHAPTER XIII. IN WHICH CHECK PROVES TO BE CHECKMATE

CHAPTER XIV. THE GIRL AT THE HEXAGON

CHAPTER XV. THE DECOY

CHAPTER XVI. THE HOUSE IN PIMLICO

CHAPTER XVII. THE MEETING

CHAPTER XVIII. THE CHAMOIS LEATHER PACKET

CHAPTER XIX. A FLIGHT AND WHAT CAME OF IT

CHAPTER XX. IN WHICH MISS MARY BREWSTER SPEAKS HER MIND

INTRODUCTION

At the risk of straining an old and valued friendship, I have persuaded Major Desmond Okewood and his brother to allow me to set down in narrative form some account of a remarkable series of events that, for reasons sufficiently obvious, have never been fully described.

It is now some eighteen months since Dr. Adolf Grundt, the notorious German Secret Service agent, better known to the British Intelligence Corps as “The Man with the Club Foot,” was last heard of; and there appears to remain no valid grounds why the extraordinary happenings which marked his reappearance in England should not now be related, especially as they were sedulously withheld from the newspapers at the time.

Though Major Desmond Okewood and his brother, Mr. Francis Okewood, played a prominent part in these strange adventures, I have been unable to persuade either of them to tell the story himself. It has therefore fallen to my lot to be the Froissart of this chronicle. I do not fear criticism; for my severest critics have been the brothers themselves. Desmond Okewood, for instance, jibs strongly at what he calls my “incurable love of the dramatic”; while Francis, after reading through my much-censored and revised manuscript, pitched it back at me with the curt remark that the interesting thing about Secret Service yarns is what you are obliged to leave out.

On this plea, then, that in Secret Service matters the whole truth can seldom be told, I would claim indulgence; and, further, on the score that this narrative has been pieced together from talks, often spasmodic and disjointed, with my two friends in all manner of odd places–the golf links, the tennis court, in the train, the Berkeley grill, the smoke-room of the Senior. Sometimes I questioned; but more often I was a listener when a chance remark, a name read in a newspaper, a face seen in a crowd, started the flow of reminiscence. And so, little by little, I gathered the facts about the reëmergence out of the fire and smoke of the World War of this extraordinary character, who, in his day, wielded only less power in Imperial Germany than the Emperor himself.

In a short span of years immense changes have taken place in Europe. To-day it is a far cry to the times of Dr. Grundt and the “G” Branch of Section Seven of the Prussian Political Police. As head of the ex-Kaiser’s personal Secret Service, “der Stelze,” as the Germans nicknamed him from his crippled foot, was the all-powerful instrument of the anger and suspicion of the capricious and neurotic William II. In Germany his very existence was a mere rumour whispered only in the highest circles; and abroad, except in the innermost ring of the Secret Service, he was quite unknown. In the archives of the French Foreign Office there is, I understand, a dossier dealing with his activities of the time of the Algeciras Conference and, later, on the occasion of King Edward’s meeting with the Czar at Reval.

My friends, the two Okewoods, are reticent on this point; but I make no doubt that they, who originally encompassed the downfall of “der Stelze,” know more about the secret history of his career than any other man living, except the ex-Emperor himself. Perhaps, now that memoirs are the fashion, from the seclusion of the little property he is known to possess in southern Germany, The Man with the Clubfoot may one day give the world some pages from his career. If he tell the truth–and Desmond Okewood says he is the kind of man who glories in the blackest crimes–his revelations should eclipse the memoirs of Sénart or Vidocq.

I have begun, as a story-teller should, at the beginning and set down the extraordinary circumstances of the first case to engage the attention of my two friends on the reappearance of Dr. Grundt in England. The affair of the purple cabriolet, which the newspapers at the time reported as a case of suicide, was actually the fourth link in the horrifying chain of crimes which marked Dr. Grundt’s campaign of vengeance against the British Secret Service. I have made it my point of departure, however, because it was not until after the mysterious deaths of Sir Wetherby Soukes, Colonel Branxe, and Mr. Fawcett Wilbur that Desmond and Francis Okewood, who had already retired from the Secret Service, were called back to the sphere of their former activity.

CHAPTER I. THE PURPLE CABRIOLET

It was a wet night. The rain fell in torrents. The low archway leading into Pump Yard, Saint James’s, framed a nocturne of London beneath weeping skies. The street beyond was a shining sheet of wet, the lamps making blurred streaks of yellow on the gleaming surface of the asphalt. Within, on the rough cobbles of the yard, the rain splashed and spurted like a thousand dancing knives.

On either side of the small square cars were drawn up in two long lines, the overflow from the lock-ups of the garage set all round the yard. At the open door of a plum-coloured cabriolet, his oilskins shining black in the pale rays of a gas-lamp above his head, a policeman stood, peering over the shoulder of a man in a raincoat who was busying himself over something inside the car. Behind him a glistening umbrella almost completely obscured the form of another man who was talking in whispers to a gnome-like figure in overalls, a sack flung over his head and shoulders in protection against the persistent rain.

Presently from the direction of the street came the grating of changing gears, the throb of an engine. Blazing head-lights clove the hazy chiaroscuro of the yard and a car, high-splashed with mud, drove slowly in. It stopped, the hand-brake jarred, and, with a jerk, the headlights were extinguished. A young man in a heavy overcoat laboriously disentangled himself from behind the driving-wheel and stepped out from under the sopping hood, stretching his legs and stamping his feet as though stiff with cold.

On catching sight of him, the man with the umbrella fussed up. He disclosed a face that was grey with apprehension.

“Whatever do you think has happened, Major Okewood?” he said in a hoarse whisper. “There’s a dead man in the Lancia there!”

He jerked his head backwards in the direction of the cabriolet.

The newcomer, who was vigorously rubbing his numbed hands together, glanced up quickly. He had a lean, clever face with very keen blue eyes and a small dark moustache. Of medium height, he looked as fit as nails.

“What is it, Fink?” he demanded. “A fit or something?”

Fink, who was foreman of the garage, shook his head impressively.

“It’s a suicide. Leastwise, that’s what the doctor says. Poisoned hisself. There’s a bottle on the mat inside the car!”

“Oh!” exclaimed the young man, interested. “Who is it? One of your customers?”

“Never set eyes on him before nor yet the car. He’s a poorly dressed sort of chap. I think he jest crawled in there out of the wet to die!”

“Poor devil!” Okewood remarked. “Who found him?”

“Jake here,” said Fink, indicating the dripping goblin at his side. “He had to open the door of the Lancia to get by, and blessed if he didn’t see a bloke’s boot sticking out from under the rug!”

The gnome, who was one of the washers, eagerly took up the tale.

“It give me a proper turn, I tell yer,” he croaked. “I lifts the rug and there ‘e wor, lyin’ acrorst the car! An’ stiff, Mister! Blimey, like a poker, ‘e wor! An’ twisted up, too, somethink crool! ‘Strewth! ‘E might ‘a’ bin a ‘oop, ‘e wor that bent! An’ ‘is fyce! Gawd! It wor enough to give a bloke the ‘orrors, strite!”

And he wiped his nose abstractedly on the back of his hand.

The young man walked across the yard to the purple car. The doctor had just finished his examination and had stepped back. The torch-lamp on the constable’s belt lit up the interior of the Lancia. Its broad white beam fell upon a figure that was lying half on the floor, half on the seat. The body was bent like a bow. The head was flung so far back that the arched spine scarce touched the broad cushioned seat, and the body rested on the head and the heels. The arms were stretched stiffly out, the hands half closed.

As the old washer had said, the face was, indeed, terrible. The glazed eyes, half open, were seared with fear, but, in hideous contrast, the mouth was twisted up into a leery, fatuous grin. He was a middle-aged man, inclining to corpulence, with a clean-shaven face and high cheek-bones, very black eyebrows, and jet-black hair cut en brosse. He was wearing a long drab overcoat which, hanging open, disclosed beneath it a shabby blue jacket and a pair of old khaki trousers.

“Strychnine!” said the doctor–he held up a small medicine bottle, empty and without a label. “That grin is very characteristic. The risus sardonicus, we call it. And the muscles are as hard as a board. He’s been dead for hours, I should say. When did the car come in?”

“Round about five o’clock, George said,” the foreman replied. “A young fellow brought it. Said he’d be back later to fetch it away. My word! He’ll get a nasty jar when he turns up!”

“Have you any idea who the dead man is?” Okewood asked the doctor.

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