Four-Square Jane - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Four-Square Jane ebook

Edgar Wallace



Four-Square Jane is a daring and successful crook, created by the pen of Edgar Wallace, a famous British author of mystery genre. Her resourcefulness is boundless and she employs outstanding cunning to get away with a series of risky crimes performed with admirable cleverness, which cannot but evoke admiration. „Four-Square Jane” is not even a typical love story though there is a marriage in it. Often the women in this era detective novel start out strong but end up falling in love with someone and being controlled by some man. Jane takes life on her own terms and doesn’t let anyone push her around.

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MR JOE LEWINSTEIN slouched to one of the long windows which gave light to his magnificent drawing-room and stared gloomily across the lawn.

The beds of geraniums and lobelias were half-obscured by a driving mist of rain, and the well-kept lawns that were the pride of his many gardeners were sodden and, in places, under water.

“Of course it had to rain today,” he said bitterly.

His large and comfortable wife looked up over her glasses.

“Why, Joe,” she said, “what’s the good of grousing? They haven’t come down for an al fresco fête; they’ve come down for the dance and the shooting, and anything else they can get out of us.”

“Oh, shut up, Miriam,” said Mr Lewinstein irritably; “what does it matter what they’re coming for? It’s what I want them for myself. You don’t suppose I’ve risen from what I was to my present position without learning anything, do you?” Mr Lewinstein was fond of referring to his almost meteoric rise in the world of high finance, if not in the corresponding world of society. And, to do him justice, it must be added that such companies as he had promoted, and they were many, had been run on the most straightforward lines, nor had he, to use his own words, risked the money of the “widows and orphans.” At least, not unnecessarily.

“It’s knowing the right kind of people,” he continued, “and doing them the right kind of turns that counts. It’s easier to make your second million than your first, and I’m going to make it, Miriam,” he added, with grim determination. “I’m going to make it, and I’m not sticking at a few thousands in the way of expenses!”

A housewifely fear lest their entertainment that night was going to cost them thousands floated through Mrs Lewinstein’s mind, but she said nothing.

“I’ll bet they’ve never seen a ball like ours is tonight,” her husband continued with satisfaction, as he turned his back on the window and came slowly towards his partner, “and the company will be worth it, Miriam, you believe me. Everybody who’s anybody in the city is coming. There’ll be more jewels here tonight than even I could buy.”

His wife put down her paper with an impatient gesture.

“That’s what I’m thinking about,” she said. “I hope you know what you’re doing. It’s a big responsibility.”

“What do you mean by responsibility?” asked Joe Lewinstein.

“All this loose money lying about,” said his wife. “Don’t you read the paper? Don’t any of your friends tell you?”

Mr Lewinstein burst into a peal of husky laughter.

“Oh, I know what’s biting you,” he said. “You’re thinking of Four-Square Jane.”

“Four-Square Jane!” said the acid Mrs Lewinstein. “I’d give her Four-Square Jane if I had her in this house!”

“She’s no common burglar,” said Mr Lewinstein shaking his head, whether in admonition or admiration it was difficult to say. “My friend, Lord Belchester–my friend, Lord Belchester, told me it was an absolute mystery how his wife lost those emeralds of hers. He was very worried about it, was Belchester. He took about half the money he made out of Consolidated Grains to buy those emeralds, and they were lost about a month after he bought them. He thinks that the thief was one of his guests.”

“Why do they call her Four-Square Jane?” asked Mrs Lewinstein curiously.

Her husband shrugged his shoulders.

“She always leaves a certain mark behind her, a sort of printed label with four squares, and the letter J in the middle,” he said. “It was the police who called her Jane, and somehow the name has stuck.”

His wife picked up the paper and put it down again, looking thoughtfully into the fire.

“And you’re bringing all these people down here to stop the night, and you’re talking about them being loaded up with jewellery! You’ve got a nerve, Joe.”

Mr Lewinstein chuckled.

“I’ve got a detective, too,” he said. “I’ve asked Ross, who has the biggest private detective agency in London, to send me his best woman.”

“Goodness gracious,” said the dismayed Mrs Lewinstein, “you’re not having a woman here?”

“Yes, I am. She’s a lady, apparently one of the best girls Ross has got. He told me that in cases like this it’s much less noticeable to have a lady detective among the guests than a man. I told her to be here at seven.”

Undoubtedly the Lewinstein’s house-party was the most impressive affair that the county had seen. His guests were to arrive by a special train from London and were to be met at the station by a small fleet of motorcars, which he had pressed to his service from all available sources. His own car was waiting at the door ready to take him to the station to meet his “special” when a servant brought him a card.

“Miss Caroline Smith,” he read. On the corner was the name of the Ross Detective Agency.

“Tell the young lady I’ll see her in the library.”

He found her waiting for him. A personable, pretty girl, with remarkably shrewd and clever eyes that beamed behind rimless glasses and a veil, she met him with an elusive smile that came and went like sunshine on a wintry day.

“So you’re a lady detective, eh?” said Lewinstein with ponderous good humour; “you look young.”

“Why, yes,” said the girl, “even way home, where youth isn’t any handicap, I’m looked upon as being a trifle under the limit.”

“Oh, you’re from America, are you?” said Mr Lewinstein, interested.

The girl nodded.

“This is my first work in England, and naturally I am rather nervous.”

She had a pleasant voice, a soft drawl, which suggested to Mr Lewinstein, who had spent some years on the other side, that she came from one of the Southern States.

“Well, I suppose you pretty well know your duties in the game to suppress this Four-Square woman.”

She nodded.

“That may be a pretty tough proposition. You’ll give me leave to go where I like, and do practically what I like, won’t you? That is essential.”

“Certainly,” said Mr Lewinstein; “you will dine with us as our guest?”

“No, that doesn’t work,” she replied. “The time I ought to be looking round and taking notice, my attention is wholly absorbed by the man who is taking me down to dinner and wants my views on prohibition.

“So, if you please, I’d like the whole run of your house. I can be your young cousin, Miranda, from the high mountains of New Jersey. What about your servants?”

“I can trust them with my life,” said Mr Lewinstein.

She looked at him with a half-twinkle in her eyes.

“Can you tell me anything about this she-Raffles?” she asked.

“Nothing,” said her host, “except that she is one of these society swells who frequent such–well, such parties as I am giving tonight. There will be a lot of ladies here–some of the best in the land–that is what makes it so difficult. As likely as not she will be one of them.”

“Would you trust them all with your life?” she asked mischievously, and then going on: “I think I know your Four-Square woman. Mind,” she raised her hand, “I’m not going to say that I shall discover her here.”

“I hope to goodness you don’t,” said Joe heartily.

“Or if I do find her I’m going to denounce her. Perhaps you can tell me something else about her.”

Mr Lewinstein shook his head.

“The only thing I know is that when she’s made a haul, she usually leaves behind a mark.”

“That I know,” said the girl nodding. “She does that in order that suspicion shall not fall upon the servants.”

The girl thought a moment, tapping her teeth with a pencil, then she said: “Whatever I do, Mr Lewinstein, you must not regard as remarkable. I have set my mind on capturing Four-Square Jane, and starting my career in England with a big flourish of silver trumpets.” She smiled so charmingly that Mrs Lewinstein in the doorway raised her eyebrows.

“It is time you were going, Joseph,” she said severely. “What am I to do with this young woman?”

“Let somebody show her her room,” said the temporarily flustered Mr Lewinstein, and hurried out to the waiting car.

Mrs Lewinstein rang the bell. She had no interest in detectives, especially pretty detectives of twenty-three.

Adchester Manor House was a large establishment, but it was packed to its utmost capacity to accommodate the guests who arrived that night.

All Mrs Lewinstein had said–that these pretty women and amusing men had been lured into Buckinghamshire with a lively hope of favours to come– might be true. Joe Lewinstein was not only a power in the City, with the control of four great corporations, but the Lewinstein interests stretched from Colorado to Vladivostock.

It was a particularly brilliant party which sat down to dinner that night, and if Mr Lewinstein swelled a little with pride, that pride was certainly justified. On his right sat Lady Ovingham, a thin woman with the prettiness that consists chiefly of huge appealing eyes and an almost alarming pallor of skin. Her appearance greatly belied her character, for she was an unusually able business woman, and had partnered Mr Lewinstein in some of his safer speculations. An arm covered from wrist to elbow with diamond bracelets testified to the success of these ventures in finance, for Lady Ovingham had a way of investing her money in diamonds, for she knew that these stones would not suddenly depreciate in value.

The conversation was animated and, in many cases, hilarious, for Mr Lewinstein had mixed his guests as carefully as his butler had mixed the cocktails, and both things helped materially towards the success of the evening.

It was towards the end of the dinner that the first disagreeable incident occurred. His butler leant over him, ostensibly to pour out a glass of wine, and whispered: “That young lady that came this afternoon, sir, has been taken ill.”

“Ill!” said Mr Lewinstein in dismay. “What happened?”

“She complained of a bad headache, was seized with tremblings, and had to be taken up to her room,” said the butler in a low voice.

“Send into the village for the doctor.”

“I did, sir,” said the man, “but the doctor had been called away to London on an important consultation.”

Mr Lewinstein frowned. Then a little gleam of relief came to him. The detective had asked him not to be alarmed at anything that might happen. Possibly this was a ruse for her own purpose. She ought to have told him though, he complained to himself.

“Very good, wait till dinner is over,” he said. When that function was finished, and the guests had reached the coffee and cigarette stage before entering the big ballroom or retiring to their cards, Mr Lewinstein climbed to the third floor to the tiny bedroom which had been allocated by his lady wife as being adequate for a lady detective.

He knocked at the door.

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