East and West - Talbot Mundy - ebook

East and West ebook

Talbot Mundy

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This is the fourth book of the succesful mystery series Madame Storey, by canadian-american author Hulbert Footner. Almost unknown today, Footner was a Candadian journalist and author of many adventure and mystery novels. In „The Doctor Who Held Hands” Madame Storey is asked to help in stopping the pseudo-psychological activities of a doctor who has set himself up as a „psycho-synthetist”, seemingly to help his patients, but in fact blackmailing them... Storey is almost imprisoned in her movements from the very start giving the story a bit of claustrophobic feel until little by little she finds a way to break out of the surveillance. The story has a lot of action and a neat twist in the final paragraph.

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Liczba stron: 325

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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 I

MOSES LAFAYETTE O’LEARY tossed his soiled pith helmet to a coolie. Sweat streamed down his almost liver-colored face from a mass of black hair that curled with quite un-oriental vigor. He looked like a vaudeville Irish version of a Hindu without a turban. He squinted toward the setting sun. The Kadur River, where it circled the city wall, was blood-red.

“Blood!” he remarked. “If I was superstitious–”

He entered Captain Carl Norwood’s tent. Norwood’s native servant objected. O’Leary smote the servant. He removed a whiskey bottle, two long tumblers and a siphon from the ice-box at the rear, and came out winking at Sergeant Stoddart, who was shirt-sleeved, sweating, muscular and thirsty.

“Caught you!” said Stoddart.

O’Leary grinned. “All you’re fit to catch is hell and malaria. I’m taking pity on you. Here.” They sat, on cases of surveyors’ instruments, facing each other. O’Leary observed:

“As a sergeant of sappers, you’re a sap sergeant. You believe you’re here to find out why the Kadur River is all silted up. As if nobody knew it. You’ll sweat. You’ll wade. You’ll work. You’ll catch diseases; and you’ll draw your pay, if you live. Pretty soon now you’ll be sent home on a troop-ship to tell the English in the pubs how you’d rule India if you was commander-in-chief. You’d look handsome in a cocked hat.”

“Kid yourself you know a lot, don’t you?” said Stoddart. “This is good whiskey.”

“Sure I know a lot. I’m three men. You’re only what’s left of one, and white at that. I draw one-third your pay for using three times your brains. You only know what you’re told, all tripe and army regulations. Hindsight. Mine’s foresight.”

“You’re like all Eurasians,” said Stoddart. “You’d bet on all three horses in a three-horse race, and then set yourself up as a clairvoyant, along of having picked the winner. The secret of why the Kadur River has silted up is like a dog’s bone that he buries in sight of half the county. The priests have a diamond mine, and they’re critturs o’ habit. They dig by day. Come night-time, they’ve been dumping clay into the river since Noah’s Deluge.”

“Don’t you take the Scriptures in vain,” said O’Leary. “Noah was a saint, which is more than you are. Stick to your river survey. Watch out that the dam don’t break and learn you what a deluge is. Your job is to work with a dumpy and tape and a couple o’ poles, and set down figures to be stuck away in a file. My job’s to look for the reasons o’ things. I’m good at it.”

“I’ll admit,” said Stoddart, “you could find a drink in the Sahara. What d’you kid yourself you’re here to find out?”

“Your Uncle Moses, which is what I’m known as, will be looking for the promised land for your betters to make a mess of. Your Uncle Lafayette, which is my favorite name with the women, will be acting vigorous and gallant, same as usual, on supernumerary’s pay. The O’Leary of me being Irish, there’s no foretelling what I’ll do. Except, I’ll do it. Why d’you suppose they sent Captain Carl High-cockalorum Norwood and his easy smile, to Kadur, on a survey, that a saphead sergeant such as you are could tackle? And why did they send me along with him? They don’t mind saving pension money by sending you to die o’ malaria, but they don’t waste valuable men like me. Soon as I know what kind of trouble the Captain gets himself into, I’ll show you how he gets fetched out of it. No, no more whiskey. I’ll have to lie about this, as it is. One lie’s plenty. You’re a Protestant; you don’t have to confess your lies.”

“Won’t that Goanese priest let one lie cover two drinks?”

“No. He knows me. He’ll suspect two motives. I might risk it, if you could tell me where the Captain’s heading for this minute.”

“Easy,” said Stoddart. “Pass the bottle. Captain Norwood is on his way to the Residency to report arrival.”

O’Leary kept his hand on the bottle: “What else?”

“Nothing else. Regulation routine. In case you don’t happen to know it, and you’re an ignorant savage, a Resident at the court of a Maharajah is an Army officer who’s no good at soldiering. So they put him in the ‘political.’ As a rule he’s no good at that either. He’s a sort of ambassador. He attends functions. And he keeps out o’ trouble whenever he can. They tell me this Resident is a dabster at doing nothing and keeping it wrapped in cellophane.”

O’Leary passed the bottle: “Well, you get your drink, but you don’t deserve it. I’ll bet my month’s pay against yours that the Captain’s in trouble already. Trouble’s what he came here for. Did you ever know Norwood not to get what he’s after?”

“There’s someone else after something,” said Stoddart, staring over the rim of his tumbler, beyond O’Leary. “I’ll bet you know who he is. And I’ll bet you know what he wants, you bleeding ferret. What is it?”

“You’d better scram,” O’Leary answered. “Secrets and sergeants don’t mix good.”

Stoddart snorted: “There you go, murdering the King’s English, as well as not minding your own business. You picked up the word scram in the movies and you think it’s clever. The trouble with you is, Moses, that you try to talk too many languages, but you can’t shoot a bee-line in one of them. Talk English.”

“I will,” said O’Leary. “You scram. That gentleman who’s making you so curious is going to have to talk English too, on account o’ my dignity.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s the oil-can.”

“Meaning what?” asked Stoddart. “He looks greasy enough from the heat, but you haven’t looked at him, so you didn’t mean that.”

“All right, I’ll educate you. After that, you scram and learn English. I’m keeping him waiting o’ purpose.”

“On account of your dignity?”

“No. My dignity is like that bottle nose o’ yours: it’s been punched a time or two, but there it is. It’s inseparable and I’ll be buried with it. I’m keeping him waiting on account o’ his indignity that needs a bit o’ taking notice of, so it won’t be no secret from him. His name is Noor Mahlam. No, not baa-lamb. Mahlam. He’s the oil-can that goes around dripping the lies into the local works to make ‘em grind good, and smell rotten and sound scandalous.”

“Reporter for the local paper?” asked Stoddart.

“No. He’s from the red-light district.” Stoddart grinned. “Seeing he’s a friend of yours, I might have guessed that.”

“You’ve drunk your drink, so scram.”

“I’d like another drink.”

“‘Twouldn’t be good for you, and you know it. What you want is information about the red-light district. Well, I’ll tell you. Kadur City is hot.”

“You bet it’s hot,” said Stoddart. “It’s a hundred and five this minute, in the shade of my awning. But I suppose you had morals in mind.”

“Morals is right,” said O’Leary. “This place has the hottest morals this side o’ hell, unless maybe perhaps Lahore goes it one worse.”

“I never was in Lahore,” said Stoddart. “That’s why you’re still in the Army. Stay away from Lahore, and maybe you’ll get home safe to England with a pension. Lahore is full o’ women. And believe me, they’re women. I mean, not ladies.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. I’ve heard tell of ‘em.”

“And those women o’ Lahore,” said Moses O’Leary, “are about the square root of one-tenth of one per cent as bad as the men. This man Noor Mahlam, who is squinting right now at the back o’ my neck, is a jewel in the crown of Kadur’s infamy. He thinks he’s tough, but he’s only crooked. He can eke himself a living in Kadur. But even the police o’ Lahore would laugh at him. He couldn’t live there long enough to starve.”

“What do you suppose he wants?” asked Stoddart.

“He wants news, you sapper. He wants to know why Captain Catch-em-alive-o Carl Norwood is in Kadur.”

“You’ll tell him?”

“Bet your boots and medals I’ll tell him.”

“Will you give him a drink?”

“I will not. For the sake of a harmless innocent like you I don’t mind letting down my dignity at times. But I wouldn’t steal Captain Norwood’s whiskey for that buzzard.”

“He doesn’t look like a buzzard. He looks fat and good natured.”

“You’re too innocent. Boy, when you get home to London they’ll pay you money to believe what you read in the daily paper. Now scram. I’ve kept that bloke waiting long enough–no, you don’t! You let go o’ that bottle. It’s Captain Norwood’s.”

Moses Lafayette O’Leary took a private swig from the bottle inside Norwood’s tent, and then put it away in the chop-box. With his hands in his trouser pockets for the sake of dignity, he strode toward the tree beneath which Noor Mahlam sat wondering how to broach the subject of his meditations. He did not appear to be wondering. His black turban only partly concealed a philosopher’s forehead. His silver-brimmed spectacles enhanced the mellow mildness of intelligent dark brown eyes. His nose was fleshy and good humored. His black beard and moustache were well cared for. They concealed something. His mouth was not in evidence. He arose to greet Moses O’Leary and, judging by the movement of his beard, he smiled, but the smile was invisible. At close quarters it was evident that his bulk was mostly fat, not muscle. He fitted flabbily into a bazaar-made black alpaca European suit.

O’Leary smiled too, genially. And he was polite, because Indians always are polite to one another and the Eurasian can swing from pole to pole of convention as readily as a thermometer registers change. There was nothing insincere about that, and it implied no concession to the other’s prejudices. He took the upper hand at once by speaking English:

“How d’you do, Noor Mahlam.”

“How do you do, sir.”

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