Dr. Night - Aidan de Brune - ebook

Dr. Night ebook

Aidan de Brune

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Originally published in 1926, „Dr. Night” is the first story from the „Dr. Night” trilogy by Aidan de Brune, (1874-1946). Aidan de Brune was a big name in Australian literature but is forgotten today. He was a prolific author who wrote in a variety of genres. This story is basically rather gaudy crime yarns, which steadily veers into fantasy by the end and features a very unlikely Asian villain who is as different from Fu Manchu as you can imagine: a small, colorless man of uncertain central Asian origin whose principal obsession is raising money by any means possible to recreate a long-dead central Asian kingdom of which his distant ancestors were kings. Most of the stories from the trilogy take place in and around Sydney, although the earliest known is set in Perth Western Australia and one of the novelettes in north Queenslan.

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Liczba stron: 304

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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 XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER I

ROBERT HARDY dropped off the tram at the end of Elizabeth Street and walked sharply up to the Detective Offices at the corner of Hunter and Phillip Streets, Sydney. Passing the Inquiry Office, he turned down a dark passage and hailed outside a door marked “Superintendent of Detectives.” Listening a moment he knocked and entered.

A heavily-built man with it strong square face, looked up and nodded. Then ho turned again to his task of signing a batch of documents. This completed, he bunched the papers, and, placing them in a wire basket, sat hack and looked Inquiringly at his visitor. Without a word, Hardy passed a copy of the Morning Mirror across the desk, and indicated a paragraph with a heavy blue pencil mark.

“What’s the joke, Dixon?” he asked abruptly.

“That came into the office last night by the night roundsman, if the chief sub. hadn’t known that he was an unimaginative, stolid reporter who couldn’t fix a story on anything but a real happening, it’d have been turned down.’

“And you saw the story in the paragraph, Hardy?” asked Superintendent Dixon of the Mirror’s star reporter, smiling. “All I can see in it is one of the peculiar little happenings that frequently amuse our Darlinghurst men.”

“You wouldn’t be sitting in that chair if that is all you see in that paragraph,” answered Hardy. “But I suspect a lot. In my office I have a may of Sydney, and I have marked a blue pencil line around the Darlinghurst and Potts Point districts. Somewhere within that area is a story I want.”

“You want that story from me?” inquired the Superintendent with a yawn.

“Wanting and getting are two different things,” observed Hardy. “I get from you just what I can pry out by having a better knowledge of the story under discussion than the D.O.”

“You are at the beginning of wisdom,” said Dixon gravely. “I am going to have great hopes of you, Hardy.”

“Good of you, but we’ll can that stuff,” retorted the reporter. “Here’s this yarn, with a story behind it. On the face of it, it’s more than queer–improbable, if you like.”

He spread the newspaper on the desk and jabbed the paragraph with a stubby forefinger.

“A woman walks into Darlinghurst. Police Station last night, about eight o’clock and tells the Sergeant in charge that there have been mysterious happenings around her house during the past week. When the Sergeant asks questions, she shuts up. Professes she has nothing to say. All she wants Is that the men on the beat he required to move on anyone found loitering about the vicinity of her house.”

“Not much to worry the brains of the Mirror special Investigator,” the superintendent observed, smiling. At the same time he keenly watched the younger man from beneath his heavy brows.

“I got some more dope this morning,” retorted Hardy quickly. “Went to Darlinghurst and saw the register. The woman’s name is ‘Matthews.’ She lives in a flat at Western Street, Darlinghurst. Has three children, a girl about twenty years of age, named Clarice. Nothing of a beauty, but said to be a clever stenographer, employed at one of the big insurance offices.”

“Exhibit B?” queried Dixon, quietly. “You’re right as to Exhibit A.”

“Exhibit B is the limit,” replied the newspaper man. “It is a long, lean, scraggy youth, a year younger than the girl. Runs with one of the gun gangs at Darlinghurst. Never been in the hands of the police, but owes that to the fact that his mother has a small private income, sufficient to keep the wolf from the door. Name ‘Bill’ or ‘William,’ if you want to be virtuous with your English. Disappeared lately, after some dispute with the members of the push he favours.”

“Again I must, express my admiration for your industry,” murmured Dixon. “Let me see, it is not quite halt past ten in the morning and you appear to have the history of three quarters of this interesting family.”

“I’m go to the other quarter,” Hardy smiled. “Exhibit C is somewhat on a pattern with Exhibit B. Knocks about the city a bit here and there. Something of a pimp for politicians; bit of a small town politician himself; gets in where he can and somehow appears to turn in a bit of dough, at times.”

“When I have a spare half hour, I must certainly call at the Mirror Office and congratulate Mr. Thomas–”

“I wouldn’t,” interrupted Hardy, with a grin. “Might put the Chief in mind that there Is a Police Department in Sydney. He is fond of leaders on The Grossly Inept Methods of–”

Dixon threw up his hands with a gesture of surrender.

“I give in,” he exclaimed. “I have a great admiration for your respected Chief, but when he gets the grouch on the best police force in the world, I absolutely come to loathe him.”

“Now that you have had your breakfast of good red herrings,” observed Hardy. “We’ll get back to the story.”

“Can you continue it in your next?” asked the superintendent, gravely.

“No necessity.” Hardy drew a notebook from his pocket and placed it on the table. “The lady is fond of talking–except, apparently, to the police. She told a neighbour all about it, just before she went down to the police station.”

“The next Superintendent of Detectives should certainly be journalistically trained,” observed Dixon, to space.

“Won’t hurt him,” grunted Hardy. “Here it is. Just after dark on the night in question, someone rang the Matthews’ electric bell. When Mrs. Matthews answered the door a man inquired for ‘Bill’. Mrs. Matthews answered she believed her son and heir had taken a trip to Melbourne. The visitor was hard to convince, but ultimately accepted the statement. An hour afterwards Clarice Matthews was called to the door by a ring, and another man inquired for brother Bill. The same answer was returned and he left.”

“There should be at least a column spread in that,” said the superintendent, mildly. “You certainly have worked to some purpose, Bob.”

“Let me finish. An hour later, Albert–that’s Exhibit C–came home. He said that he had been stopped by two men who wanted to know where Bill was. He had replied that, so far as he knew, Bill was in Melbourne. The men then wanted to come in with him and search Bill’s room, claiming that he had some stuff belonging to them. Albert disagreed with the plan, and manage to get home, very shaken in nerves. A few minutes later a shot was fired at the house, breaking one of the windows, and embedding itself in the ceiling.”

The superintendent sat upright, quickly.

“Are you going to use that, Bob?”

“Why not!”

“I think I shall have to have that conversation with Mr. Thomas.”

“He will tell you to go to–”

“He will be rude, certainly. But then, he has some common sense, a form of grey matter that appears to be lacking–”

„–in his subordinates,” finished Hardy, with a broad grin. “Still, a promise to let a subordinate, named Hardy in on the ground floor of the game, might take the place of the lacking grey matter.”

“I understand.” Superintendent Dixon sat back in his chair and nibbled at the end of his pencil. “The trouble in making such a deal is that I have nothing to offer in return.”

“In that case–”

“Look here, Bob.” The superintendent leaned forward and pointed his pencil at the journalist. “The truth is, that you have given me information that has not yet come into this office. When I had the report from Darlinghurst this morning, I sent a couple of men out to make inquiries. They have not yet reported. Another time, boy, make your bargain before you give your information away.”

“All right, superintendent.” Hardy rose from his chair, abruptly, and walked to the door. “It’ll make a nice front-page story, as it stands.”

“If your editor will publish it. I fear I shall have to call him on the phone, as I am too busy to go round today.”

Hardy came to a sudden halt. He was well aware that his newspaper was, at the time, at peace with the Detective Offices. In these circumstances, his editor would think twice before publishing any story the superintendent placed a veto on. Superintendent Dixon watched Hardy’s face with interest. For a moment the journalist remained with the handle of the door in his hand. Then, he turned and walked back to his chair.

“I should bring the goods to you and that you would deal straight.”

“I’m not going to play otherwise, boy,” replied Dixon with a smile. “What you published last night didn’t matter. More than probable your man got it from the sergeant at the desk. What you tell me this morning places a different complexion on the matter.”

“You think there is a big story behind this?” asked Hardy, eagerly.

“There is something worth inquiring into,” said the superintendent cautiously. “You shall have the story, boy. But, you will have to wait for it.”

“Very well, then,” said Hardy, after a moment’s thought. “I’ll see the chief and get him to let me go after it.”

“That will suit me, Bob,” answered the superintendent; “Of course the old agreement stands. Bring what you get to me and I’ll see you get first talk for publication.”

Outside the Detective Offices Hardy stood for some minutes undecided as to his next course of action. He had six hours before he could hope to see Alphonzo Thomas, the Editor of the Mirror. True, he could have found the day editor in his room, but he was convinced the story he had to tell was of such Importance that only the chief could deal with It.

As he was turning away from the building, a man touched him on the shoulder. “Looking for a story, Bob?”

“Have you anything, Frost?” asked Hardy, eagerly, recognising in the speaker one of the headquarters’ detective-inspectors.

“Doing anything?” asked Frost.

“Nothing that will not keep,” replied the journalist, truthfully.

“Wait for me, then,” said the Inspector, turning to ascend the steps. “There’s something happened out at the Point you may get a story out of.”

CHAPTER II

INSPECTOR FROST did not remain in Police Headquarters many minutes. On rejoining Hardy he suggested an adjournment to the nearest café.

“A man was found in Darlinghurst Road this morning, in an unconscious condition,” he commenced, with a preface.

“Nothing unusual for that particular part of Sydney,” observed Hardy. “I understand police records state there are more sly-grog shops in Darlinghurst than in all the other districts of Sydney combined.”

The Inspector took no notice of the newspaper man’s remarks. From an inner pocket he produced a few papers and laid them on the marble topped table.

“There are one or two things about this case that may interest you, Hardy,” continued Frost. “There was little on the man. To be exact, four shillings in silver and three pennies. A two-bladed knife showing signs of hard usage. A cheap watch and silver change, both well worn. Two pieces of string, one of them tied with several peculiar knots, and one letter.”

“Where is the man?” asked Hardy.

“At the Sydney Hospital,” replied the Inspector; “He has not recovered consciousness and the doctors do not seem to know what is the matter with him. At all events, they won’t tell, if they do know.”

“Anything strange about his clothing?” asked the journalist.

“A cheap blue suit, well worn, made by Dent and Sons, a soft hat, with the maker’s name torn out. Striped shirt, low, turned down collar and black knotted tie. Brown shoes, well worn at the heels, and showing signs of having been half-soled several times, laces broken and joined, one mended with a piece of string. Undergarments cheap and almost in rags.”

“Any body marks?”

“None whatever. A few moles and minor scars but nothing distinctive. I had finger prints taken and submitted to the office. Was just going to see if they had produced results when I met you. They know nothing of him, so he’s never been through our hands.”

“Then, he is nothing but one of the usual finds. Appears to me, Frost, you are trying to make a lot out of one of the common incidents of police work. Do you mean to tell me that this is the first man in a state of unconsciousness the police of Sydney have found?”

“There jumps the journalist to unconsidered conclusions,” retorted the Inspector. “There is one uncommon matter and I have refrained from mentioning it so far. In fact, there are two uncommon features in the case.”

“One at a lime, please.”

“First, the man was unconscious. That, itself is not unusual, but it is remarkable that the doctor at the hospital does not seem to be able to give an explanation for his condition.”

“Go on.”

“The second is this letter.” The Inspector drew an envelope from his pocket, and, extracting a piece of paper, passed the envelope over to Hardy. It was a common, commercial envelope, with the address written in pencil thereon. It was addressed to “Mr. Carl Humberson, 133 Cascade Street. Darlinghurst.”

“I presume you suggest that Mr. Carl Humberson does not live at that address,” remarked Hardy.

“I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Carl Humberson,” replied the detective. “He was good enough to prove, conclusively, that he had never received the letter. Certainly, his appearance is totally different from the man we found.”

“What of the contents?” asked Hardy stretching his hand across the table. Frost gave him a half sheet of note paper, badly torn, and containing the lower portion of a letter. It read:–

...that when you receive this, my patience is at an end. I have tried to do my best for you, but you are not only disobedient but have placed me in great danger by your reckless disregard of my instructions. You must be aware of the penalty you are incurring by this behaviour. I have warned you before and again tell you, that my patience is exhausted. In three days you will meet your punishment–the punishment I have meted out to others you know of.

–Dr. Night.

“Dr. Night” Hardy looked across at the Inspector, “I have never heard of this man. Have you looked him up, Frost?”

“There is no person of that name on the British Medical Association’s register,” stated the Inspector positively. “There is not a Dr. Night known to any religion, medical or scientific association or society in Australia, nor, so far as I can discover, in the world.”

“That seems pretty conclusive,” laughed the journalist. “The question seems to be: who, and what, is Dr. Night?”

“And, when we have answered that question I want to know what powers he possesses to punish his enemies to the very date, and apparently from a distance.”

“What, you mean?” The Inspector picked up the envelope and pointed to some faint pencil marks at one corner. They indicated a date three days previous.

“Dr. Night appears to be a very interesting gentleman,” observed Hardy. “Anyone would be interesting who could produce a state of coma that is unrecognisable by the medical profession and also produce that coma from a distance; for I suppose we may presume that Mr. Carl Humberson had, after receiving that letter, conceived a strong distaste for the worthy doctor’s company.”

“That is your opinion, eh?” asked Frost.

“It is your’s too,” challenged Hardy. “Now, tell me what you want me to do. Publish this?”

He indicated the letter on the table. “It will make a fair story, but not so good as the one I took to Dixon this morning, and got wrecked.”

Frost was inquisitive and Hardy recounted the Matthews story, very much as he had told to Superintendent Dixon.

“I wonder if there is any connection?” mused Frost.

“Improbable, I should think. The only connecting link I can find is that the two matters occurred within the danger zone.”

Frost laughed at Hardy’s remark. It was a time worn joke that Hardy attributed all the ills from which Sydney suffered to the Darlinghurst area.

“You may laugh as you will,” retorted the journalist, carelessly. “One of these days you will find that only a spring cleaning in Darlinghurst will prevent a wave of crime sweeping Sydney, as it has lately swept Melbourne.”

Hardy look a careful copy of the letter and envelope and went down to the Mirror Office. There he had a long interview with the day editor and then out to lunch. On returning to the newspaper offices he found a message waiting for him, to ring up Inspector Frost, at the Detective offices.

Obtaining the connection he had to wait some time as the detective was engaged with the Commissioner of Police. At last Frost rang up the newspaper.

“He’s dead,” announced Frost briefly, immediately he heard the journalist’s voice.

“Have the doctors learned anything more?” asked Hardy.

“If they have, they’re darned close about it,” replied the Inspector. “Anyway you can write it down as ‘murder.’”

“Murder?”

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