Death of a Celebrity - Hulbert Footner - ebook

Death of a Celebrity ebook

Hulbert Footner

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Many guys wanted the playwright, Gavin Dordress, to die. Especially on the night of his party. Gail Garrett and Bea Townley openly quarreled for the main role in the play. The next morning Gavin Dordress was found shot to death, a chessman imprinted on his forehead, and nearby a letter of farewell that sounded suspiciously like one of his stage characters speaking. Then a new and amazing hint hastened the seemingly hopeless hunt.

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Liczba stron: 339

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Contents

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 I

MISS GAIL GARRETT, accompanied by her elderly maid, Catherine, was on her way to dinner at Gavin Dordress’. She was appearing in Robert Greenfield’s play. White Orchids, at the time, and the party had been arranged for Sunday night to suit her convenience. She had not the expression of one who is looking forward to a good time. In the seclusion of the car her beautiful face was tense and stormy. When the cab stopped, she saw several men with square boxes hanging around the apartment house door, and she hesitated before getting out. “Press photographers? Who do you suppose tipped them off? Gavin wouldn’t.”

“They always seem to know where you’re going to be, Miss,” said Catherine.

It was a small apartment house, one tenant to a floor, and there was nobody to open the door of the car. “I don’t see why Gavin lives in such a dump,” grumbled Miss Garrett. “He doesn’t have to. Get out first and keep my skirt off the running- board.”

Catherine obeyed. Miss Garrett settled the collar of her ermine coat more becomingly around her neck, and assumed the famous smile. When she had descended, Catherine closed the door of the car, and hung behind so that she would not spoil the pictures. All the photographers tried to crowd in front of the star simultaneously. “Walk slowly,” said one. “Give us a chance.” Another was crying: “Look at me, Miss Garrett. Look at me!”

She smiled, the bulbs flashed; they made way for her, and she entered the building. As the sober Catherine followed, one of the young men winked at her broadly. “Hi, Toots!” he said softly.

Catherine glared at him, and all the young men laughed.

The entrance door led directly into a small, square foyer with a single elevator. The operator was a sharp-featured young white man with an insinuating smile. As soon as he had closed the elevator door, he turned around, saying: “Good-evening, Miss Garrett. Hope it’s not a liberty, but I seen you in your play on Thursday night. It was swell!”

Gail smiled automatically. “Thank you.” He went on: “If you would give me your autograph, Miss Garrett, I would value it above anything I own.” From his pocket he produced a fountain pen and a little pad. “I can’t write with my gloves on.”

“Sure you can! Plenty good enough.”

“Didn’t I give you my autograph before?”

“No, Miss,” he said with an open-eyed candour that was a little overdone. “Must have been one of the other boys.”

“Watch your car!” said Catherine nervously.

“That’s all right. She stops automatic at the top.”

At that moment the car did stop. As the operator still stood offering her the pen and the pad, Gail took them and scribbled her name as the quickest way of getting rid of him. “He had a nerve!” muttered Catherine when the elevator door closed.

“I am the servant of the public,” murmured Gail plaintively.

The door of the apartment was opened, not by Gavin’s Hillman, but a man engaged for the evening.

From the foyer double glass doors led into a sunroom which was filled with growing plants and had a little fountain playing in the middle. It was the penthouse which had attracted Gavin to the otherwise undistinguished apartment house on Madison Avenue. He had leased it while the building was still going up, and had designed the big sunroom after his own ideas. One side of it, filled with glass, made an immense how jutting into the roof- garden. Gavin was in the sunroom now, mixing a cocktail at a portable bar. Gail waved her hand to him and turned aside in the corridor leading to the bedrooms.

“You needn’t trouble to show me,” she said to the servant. “I know the way.”

In the guest-room Catherine took her mistress’ cape, and handed her what she required from the little dressing-case the maid carried. Gail studied herself in the mirror with the anxiety of a beauty of forty-three. Her figure was still willowy, but after forty, blonde hair, no matter what you do to it, is apt to betray. She was wearing a virginal dress of white chiffon with puffs at the shoulders and a skirt shirred in tiers. The tense look in her eyes displeased her.

“Eye-drops,” she said, and Catherine got out the bottle and the dropper.

“How do I look?” asked Gail when this operation was finished.

“Lovely, Miss,” said Catherine. “White suits you so well!”

“That’s what you always say,” grumbled Gail, “whether I am wearing black or red or green.”

Catherine primmed her lips a little. It was as if she had said: “Then why ask?”

“You may go now,” said Gail. “Tell Martin I shan’t want him again to-night. I’ll taxi home.”

“Is it safe?” murmured Catherine.

“If not, somebody will bring me.”

When she entered the sunroom Gavin came to meet her. He was frankly forty-five and handsomer than he had ever been, the lines in his face were lines of distinction.

“Lovely!” he murmured, picking up her hand and conveying it to his lips.

Gait’s smile became tight. “Only my hand?” she said.

“The servant is still in sight.”

She looked over her shoulder. “He’s gone now.”

He pressed her lips lightly with his own.

A flicker of anger crossed Gail’s face. “It wasn’t always like that,” she said.

“I didn’t want to rumple you, my dear.”

“Ah, don’t make pretences! I can see through you perfectly!”

“Cigarette?” he said, offering the box.

“No!” She immediately changed her mind, and helped herself. She turned away, and glancing in a mirror, tried to smooth her face out. “You can’t make me quarrel with you,” she said.

“I’m not trying to.” He was smiling broadly and that angered her afresh.

She struggled with it. “How about the new play? Is it finished?”

“All but,” he said. “In another week.”

“Tell me about it.”

“My dear,” he protested, “you know I never talk about my work. Wasn’t it Stevenson who said you must never show unfinished work to anybody?”

“That’s not what Stevenson said. He said never show unfinished work to women or fools.”

“Well, I never show it to anybody.”

“So you say. Mack Townley has announced that he is going to produce the play in January.”

“That’s the usual press stuff. Mack knows no more about the play than its title: The Changeling.”

“Do you mean to say he is willing to produce it sight unseen?”

“Well, after we have been working together for eighteen years that’s not very strange...Cocktail?”

“No, thank you.”

“I have got to the age where I need it.”

“This talk of your growing old is all nonsense,” said Gail angrily. “It doesn’t fool me.”

“You’re wrong,” said Gavin, holding his glass up to the light. “It’s the cause of the misunderstanding between us. I am getting old.”

She bit her lip.

“Well, never mind that...Am I to have the leading part in the new play?”

“Ah, don’t let’s talk business,” said Gavin cajolingly.

“I insist on an answer! That’s why I came early. You never give me a chance to see you alone. I have to make my plans as well as Mack Townley.”

“There is no part in it worthy of you,” said Gavin. “It’s a man’s play.”

“There must be a woman in it, or it wouldn’t be your play.”

“The only important woman’s part is that of a young girl.”

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