Major Haynes of the Secret Service - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Major Haynes of the Secret Service ebook

Edgar Wallace



Major Haynes of the Secret Service” is a fine series of Wallace stories about wartime espionage. During the First World War Edgar Wallace wrote a number of morale-boosting tales about the skill and derring-do of the British military and intelligence services, mostly in the form of series published under such titles as „Tam o’ the Scoots,” „Companions of the Ace High,” and „Clarence-Private”. Several series were published in the form of dramatic pseudo-documentary accounts of what he claimed to be true stories. Three espionage series in this category are known to have been published in British newspapers. Two of these featured an intelligence agent by the name of Major Haynes and made their first appearance in the Dundee paper Thomson’s Weekly News.

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ONE warm night in June two men sat in the deserted smoke-room of Brown’s Club.

Between them on a dwarf table was a tray containing coffee and liqueurs. Haynes, who was one of the two, was smoking a cigarette through a long amber holder; his companion, a tall, thick-set civilian, keen-eyed, alert, and impressively capable-looking, smoked a cigar.

“You certainly look dandy in that uniform, Hi,” said the guest approvingly.

Chief Healy, of the newly-created C.E. Branch of the U.S. Intelligence Bureau, had a sense of humour.

“I feel safer with you in that kit,” he nodded; “it kind of settles you in my mind. I hate to tell you so, but I have always accepted you with reservations–there’s a grand criminal lost in you.”

“Quite right,” agreed the other lazily; “that is why I hold my job, and that is probably the reason you hold yours. Counter-espionage work calls for the illegal mind. That is where some of our people–and yours–go wrong. They put a man on to a clever devil who spends five-sixths of his time preparing alibis, and they wonder why patient investigation produces no other evidence than that when the crime was committed at 7.30 p.m. in Paris the accused was seen playing patience in Biarritz. You know the type–absolutely unconvictable.”

Healy nodded again.

“Here’s a case in point which will interest you,” Haynes went on, and drawing a flat leather case from the pocket of his uniform jacket he laid it open upon the table. “Do you know that lady?”

The case contained the portrait of a girl. It was a beautiful face that Healy viewed. There was a delicacy in its moulding and a wide-eyed innocence in its expression that was disarming. The little portrait case was fitted for two photographs, but in the second space, facing the picture, was a sheet of stiff paper covered with figures in a microscopic hand.

“A code?” asked Healy looking up.

“Hardly,” smiled the other, “no cipher above a nine. Note how every figure is equidistant from the other, and how even ones occupy as much space as the eights. A work of care, eh? Now, take a pencil and draw a line from the first of the nines to the nearest four–you needn’t worry about disfiguring the card, it is a photographic reproduction. Go from 9 to 4, from 4 to 9, and continue.”

He watched the chief’s pencil moving amidst the figures.

“Phew!” cried Healy suddenly. “Why, this is a drawing of a gun.”

“Of the new Whelt mortar,” said Haynes: “clever, isn’t it? That lady is the Princess Sabochiffski, the daughter of a high Russian official, and was until a month ago occupying one of the best suites at the best hotel in London.”

“Wasn’t that enough?”

“Not on your life.” Haynes shook his head. “In the first place the card was not found in the lady’s possession. It was discovered in the post–just a postal picture view of the Houses of Parliament. You know the method of ‘detection’?”

“Sure. Take one well-nourished postcard, steam slowly over alcohol until the edges gape, carefully strip picture until the writing is revealed, and serve the sender hot.”

“There’s a chef lost in you, Jim,” laughed Haynes. “Well–there it is. The postcard is traced to the Princess–of course, we have no direct proof. This isn’t a job for a flat-footed policeman with a notebook. You can’t do any of that grand spying work that you read about in exciting fiction.”

Healy rolled his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other and chuckled.

“A masked figure rubbering secret drawers? No, I guess that’s out. What did you do?”

“It was absurdly simple. One of the aviation people offered to take her for a flight–the lady is keen on that sort of thing. Took her out to sea–lost his bearings–forced landing in Holland–apologies to the lady–machine and aviator interned. Cost, about two thousand and the temporary loss of a man, but it saved complications.”

“She tried to get back?”

“Sure thing–but there were passport difficulties. The lady’s relatives were furious, but what would you do? Passport difficulties are the common lot in ‘these iron times.’ God bless the German for the phrase.”

He beckoned a club waiter and paid his bill.

“Where now?” asked Healy.

“Home–gentle recreation–sleep,” said Haynes.

“Fine–I’m going along to your Scotland Yard. I’ve got to fit things in if I am to sail by Thursday.”

A waiter came toward them carrying a letter.

“For me?” asked Major Haynes.

He picked up the envelope and glanced at its flap.

“Hotel Astoria–good lord!”

He tore open the envelope and extracted a letter, read it in silence, and handed it to his companion.

Jim Healy fixed his glasses and read:–

Dear Major Haynes,

You will be surprised to receive this! Such a strange thing happened. As you know, I was at the Hague till this morning through some stupid trouble about my passport. This morning Mr. Van John very kindly took me on a trip in his airplane, and just the same thing happened as happened a month ago. We got lost in the mist and made a forced landing in Essex! Am I not unfortunate, and won’t you please come along and see me?

Sincerely yours,

Olga Sabochiffski.

They looked at one another, and Haynes was the first to grin.

“Well, what do you know about that?” asked Healy in a tone of admiration. “That dame has left you no alternative, Hi–you’ll have to bounce or be bounced. You didn’t tell me you were on calling terms.”

“I’m not,” said Haynes quietly; “that’s the queer thing about it. I’ve never met her or corresponded with her. I was under the impression that she was unaware of my existence–so far as her deportation was concerned. She’s been busy in Holland, and Berlin has put her wise. This is a challenge.”

He flourished the letter, and a bright light shone in his eyes.

The two men walked out of the club together, and parted at the corner of Brook Street.

“If I were you,” said Healy at parting, “I’d go along to the Minister of the Interior or the Lord High State Secretary, or whoever is the guy responsible, and I’d get a repatriation order and fix her straight away.”

Haynes shook his head.

“The cave-man system of diplomacy doesn’t go with a first cousin to the Czarina and the niece of the Russian Minister of War,” he said. “I’m going along to see Olga.”

He hailed a taxi and drove, first to his flat, depositing the flat leather case in a place of security. Then he sat down in his dark study and thought. Here was a girl engaged in espionage work of a particularly dangerous character. She was admitted to the best and most exclusive naval and military circles, she was very beautiful, and she was extremely clever.

He changed his mind about interviewing his superior, and drove to the private residence of a permanent Secretary to the Home Office, being at once admitted to the presence of that great man. The old official listened to the brief narration, and when Haynes had finished stretched back in his chair and shook his head.

“The position with regard to Russia is too volatile. We pretty well know that the Government is letting us down, and I agree with you that this girl is probably working for Germany. Branstoff knows it, but is helpless. We cannot afford to antagonise further certain people in the Czarina’s entourage, and a deportation order would, in all probability, lead to such a breach. Take any course you wish, but I warn you that the Government will, if expedient, repudiate any action of yours which you may take. The girl is known to be a pro-German–even the Russian Court has protested to her cousin and uncle.”

“But why–she’s a pure Russian?”

The Secretary shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t understand women–do you?”

“Like a book,” said Major Haynes arrogantly.

He had no settled plan in his mind when he was ushered into the private sitting-room of Princess Sabochiffski.

A slight figure rose from a settee to give him a smiling welcome. She was undeniably lovely. The face was perfect of its type. (“Her eyes alone were worth a pilgrimage,” he wrote to Healy). And there was in her every movement a charm most delicate and rare.

“Major Haynes?” she said. “I’m so glad you came–I wanted to see you dreadfully.”

“And here I am, Princess, in my most dreadful and sinister aspect,” he laughed as he took her hand.

She looked him fearlessly in the eyes.

“You’re not so dreadful as I thought you would be,” she said quietly. “As a rule I hate meeting clever men–they are so disappointing.”

She pushed a low easy chair forward, and with a little bow he placed it in position–but not the position she had chosen.

“You do not like to sit with your back to a door, of course,” she laughed. “You prefer your back to a window–even though there is a fire-escape balcony outside, and you might be as easily shot from there as from my bedroom–ah! I see you think I am really dangerous.”

(“Her laughter was like a peal of silver bells, believe me,” wrote the irrepressible Haynes.)

“In a sense I think you are, Princess,” he said gallantly, “but since we have drifted into frankness, I may say that I shifted the position of my chair in order that I might see you better.”

She settled herself in one corner of the deep couch, and folding her arms across its end faced him.

“You wonder why I sent for you,” she said, “bravado, you think–no, that is not it. Possibly I have made a mistake in asking you to come–I have just a little nervous feeling that I have been imprudent. You wish me to tell you something about myself? No? Well, you know it all, yes?”

“First at the beginning,” she went on, never taking her eyes off him, “I was educated in Germany.”

“At the Akademie of Frau Stephan, Bismarck Strasse, Karlsruhe,” murmured Haynes, and there was a glint of amusement in the girl’s fine eyes.

“I see–you have my dossier. Tell me, then, where shall I begin? I lived in Berlin up to the beginning of the war, when I went to Petrograd. There I remained until December, 1915–you see, I wish to inform you.”

Haynes nodded.

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