Michael’s Evil Deeds - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

Michael’s Evil Deeds ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim



Michael’s Evil Deeds’ (and they are very evil at times) is a rather ingenious crime novel in more ways than one. Firstly the 11 chapters each represent a separate incident but overall they do link together, if on occasions somewhat loosely. And secondly the tale is told by various of the protagonists so there is often a different point of view within each chapter.

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Liczba stron: 388

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The duel–or shall I call it, perhaps, vendetta–between Norman Greyes and myself–known under many aliases but christened Michael Sayers–commenced on the morning of the third of November, some years ago, when I left my suburban home at Brixton to catch my usual train to the city, and found myself confronted upon the pavement with the immediate chances of life or death.

I will admit that I was taken by surprise. Every man at Scotland Yard was known to me by name and reputation, and I was perfectly convinced in my own mind that there was no one in that much abused but, from our point of view, admirable institution, capable of penetrating the secrets of my daily life and discovering in me, the reputed Thomas Pugsley, leather agent of St. Thomas’ Street, Bermondsey, and Number 138, Woollerton Road, Brixton, the most accomplished and daring criminal of modern times. I knew at once, when I saw the police sergeant, with his two plain-clothes companions, crossing the road towards me, that some one else was taking a hand in the game. Even at that moment, when I had little time for observation, I saw the wellremembered figure of a man emerge from behind the curtains of Number 133, opposite, and it took me exactly ten seconds to realise that henceforth, after I had escaped from this present dilemma, I should have to move my pieces with greater circumspection across the chessboard of life. I recognized him the instant he appeared before the window. There were a few streaks of grey in his black hair, but his keen, grey eyes, his forceful mouth, his long, lean face were all unchanged. He was the one man in the old days whom we had all feared, the man whose retirement from the Force we had celebrated with a small but very select little dinner at the Café Royal. My old hatred of him blazed up as I realised the voluntary nature of his return to the career which he had abandoned. I made up my mind then that if ever the time came when I should be the arbiter of his fate, this man should have no quarter.

The street was a short one, and within fifty yards of a bustling thoroughfare. Nevertheless, at that early hour there were not many people about, and, as it afterwards transpired, witnesses of the spirited few seconds which followed were almost non-existent. It has always been my principle that the best form of defence is prompt attack. Whilst the inspector, therefore, stood with his mouth open ready to inform me that he held a warrant for my arrest, I shot him through the right shoulder blade. He staggered and would have fallen but for his two companions. Before they had propped him up against the railings and recovered from their surprise, I was round the corner of the street and in an empty telephone booth in the adjacent post-office.

I have always maintained that the Telephone Company is an unjustly abused institution. On this occasion, at any rate, my defence of them was justified. Within thirty seconds of asking for Number iooo Hop, I was speaking to the warehouseman whose duty it was to dust and keep in good order my samples of leather, which, to tell the truth, were rarely used. My few rapid words of instruction spoken, I turned my attention to those ingenious devices which, although savouring a little of the trickster, have on more than one occasion assisted me in preserving my liberty. I turned my overcoat, which, in place of a sober black garment, now became a covering of light grey tweed with a belt behind. I rolled my trousers up to the knee, disclosing very well cut brown leather gaiters. I left my black bowler hat in the telephone box, replacing it with a tweed cap; removed with a little pang of regret the most wonderful dark moustache which the hand of artist had ever fashioned, adjusted a pair of spectacles, and made my exit.

There was some commotion in the street outside, and the freckled young lady behind the counter paid scant attention to me.

“The telephone service doesn’t get any better,” I said pleasantly. It’s taken me nearly ten minutes to get two numbers.” She accepted my complaint with equanimity. Her attention was still on the street outside.

“What is it? A fire?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “Did you pay for both your calls?”

I assured her that I had done so and made my way into the street. There was a little crowd in Woollerton Road, and a motor ambulance came dashing by. I strolled along the broad thoroughfare until I came to a taxicab. I hailed the man and hesitated for a moment, glancing up at the sky.

“Is it going to keep fine?” I asked the driver.

He considered the point for a moment.

“Don’t fancy there’s much more rain about, guv’nor,” he replied.

“Then drive to Streatham Hill Station,” I directed.

From Streatham Hill I travelled to London Bridge by the electric railway, and from London Bridge I took a taxi to Waterloo. From Waterloo I caught the ten-forty train to Brookwood, and from the hotel there, where I paused for some slight refreshments, I engaged a taxicab to drive me to “Linkside”, the country retreat of a certain Mr. James Stanfield, situated on the fringe of Woking Golf Links. William, my man-of-all-work, was digging in the garden, and welcomed me with the bucolic indifference of his class. Janet, his niece, admitted me promptly to the house and received my unexpected visit with that respectful lack of curiosity which was a heritage of her earlier training as parlourmaid. She lit the fire in the little sitting room, and listened to my few remarks with imperturbable pleasantness. Yet on that morning, perhaps more than any other in my life, I felt a shadow of uneasiness concerning Janet. I watched her in silence, stooping over the fire, a young woman with a figure whose perfection her ill-fitting corsets and clothes failed altogether to conceal, pale of complexion, with introspective, queer-coloured eyes, closelipped, and with a mass of well-brushed, glossy brown hair. When she stood up, a little flushed with her exertions, she faced me for a moment, waiting for orders. I am not a susceptible man, but it struck me for the first time that the girl was more than ordinarily good-looking.

“Nothing has happened during my absence, Janet?” I enquired.

“Nothing at all, sir,” she replied.

“Nobody called?”

“There was a rate collector,” she said. “He wanted to know your address in London.”

“Did you tell him?”

“I do not know it, sir,” she reminded me quietly.

I removed my glasses and polished them. I am an expert physiognomist, but the girl’s impassivity baffled me.

“I will leave it with you before I go away next time,” I promised.

“Please put me out a grey tweed golf suit and stockings.”

“Shall you be requiring lunch, sir?” she asked.

“I will lunch at the Golf Club,” I told her. “I shall dine at home.”

“Is there anything particular you would like for dinner, sir?”

“I leave everything to you,” I replied.

She left me silently and without further remark. When I went i ipstairs, a few minutes later, my bedroom as usual was spotlessly aeat, my golfing clothes laid out without any single omission. I discarded my somewhat heterogeneous articles of attire, donned my golfing habiliments with some care, and made my way to the links. In the passage of the clubhouse I met the Secretary.

“Are you wanting a game this afternoon, Mr. Stanfield?” he asked.

“I should be glad of one,” I replied.

“There’s a man just come down,” he went on, “four handicap. You will find him in the luncheon room.”

I made my way there. Seated at a table alone was Sir Norman Greyes, the man who had watched for my arrest, a few hours ago, in Woollerton Road, Brixton.

Norman Greyes

I resigned my position at Scotland Yard early in the autumn of 19– for two reasons. First, as protest against an act of gross injustice which, although it did not affect me personally, was still bitterly resented by the majority of my fellow workers; and secondly because, through the unexpected death of a distant relative, I succeeded to a baronetcy and a sufficient income. I spent the best part of three years in travel, nearly half of which time I was in the United States. On my return to London I found myself, much against my will, hankering after my old profession. It was very clear to me that my old department had lost the mastery it had once attained over the criminal world. The problem of several cold- blooded murders and various large and daring robberies remained entirely unsolved. In the intervals of my country life, I began to study these from an outsider’s point of view, chiefly from the columns of the newspapers, but also to some extent from hints and information supplied to me by my friend Inspector Rimmington, who had been one of my colleagues in the old days and now held the post which I had vacated. Gradually I came to a certain conclusion, a conclusion which I kept largely to myself because I felt sure that no one at the Yard was likely to agree with me. I decided that the majority of these undetected crimes were due to one person, or rather to one gang of criminals presided over by one master mind. Purely from the inherited instinct of my long years of service in the Police Force, I set myself the task of hunting down this super-criminal. In November, 19–, I began to believe that I was on the right track.

There were three crimes which I became convinced had been committed by the same hand. The first was the great robbery of jewels from Messrs. Henson and Watts’ establishment in Regent Street, and the murder of the watchman, who was shot dead at his post. No trace of even a single article of this jewellery had ever been discovered. The second crime was the robbery of a number of bearer bonds from a messenger in a railway carriage on the London, Chatham and Dover line. The messenger was also shot, but recovered after six months’ nursing, although he could never give any coherent account of what had happened to him. The bonds were disposed of in South America at a considerable loss. The third was the robbery from Lord Wenderley’s house in Park Lane of a great collection of uncut jewels, and the serious wounding of Lord Wenderley himself, who was attacked in the dark and who neither saw nor heard anything of his assailant. There were other crimes which I thought might be connected with these, but these three, for various reasons, became linked together in my mind as the outcome of one man’s brain. I set myself the task of discovering this one man, and the day came at last when I really believed that I was in a position to lay my hand upon him. There is no necessity to detail the whole train of circumstantial evidence which finally brought me. to a certain conclusion. It is sufficient to say that after watching him for three weeks, I became convinced that a man by the name of Thomas Pugsley, carrying on business in Bermondsey as a leather agent, and living apparently the most respectable of lives at Brixton, was in some measure connected with these crimes. I discovered that his leather agency business was prosecuted without energy or attention, that his frequent absences from London were not in neighbourhoods where his wares could be pushed, and that he was often away for a month at a time, with his whereabouts unknown even to his landlady. The latter was a highly respectable woman at whose house he had lived for the last two years, and who I honestly believe was ignorant of her lodger’s antecedents, his habits and business. By taking rooms in the neighbourhood, I easily discovered all that she knew and one or two circumstances which lent colour to my suspicions. I placed these, before Rimmington and it was decided to make an arrest.

A more clumsy piece of business than this intended arrest was never planned or carried into effect. The inspector placed in charge of the affair by Rimmington, with his two subordinates, arrived at Brixton an hour later than the time fixed upon, accosted Pugsley in the street, and were very soon made aware of the class of person with whom they had to deal. Before the inspector could get out half a dozen words, he was lying on the pavement with a bullet through his shoulder. His companions dragged him on to the pavement and set him up against the railings. Then they turned to look for Pugsley. There was not a trace of him to be discovered anywhere. The amazing skill and cunning of the man was amply demonstrated on that morning. By some extraordinary means he seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. The books of his business, when examined, showed that he had done scarcely any business; his warehouseman was an honest but stupid fellow who knew nothing except that his master took numerous trips, he thought abroad, to obtain fresh agencies. There was enough money in the bank to pay all liabilities, but so far as Thomas Pugsley himself was concerned, he seemed to have walked off the edge of the world.

The morning which witnessed, however, the shooting of the inspector and the remarkable disappearance of the man in whom I was so deeply interested, was memorable, so far as I was concerned, for another noteworthy incident. Absolutely disgusted with the result of my six months’ labours, I determined to wipe the whole thing from my memory and travelled down to Woking with the intention of playing a round of golf. I was introduced by the Secretary to a resident of the place whose name was James Stanfield, and we had a round which ranks amongst the best I ever played in my life. Stanfield was a silent but by no means a gloomy person. He appeared to be about forty years of age and an absolute golf maniac. He played every shot with the most ridiculous care, but I must confess with also the most wonderful precision. His drives were never long, but they were long enough for him to escape trouble, and in the approximate eighty shots which he took to complete the course, I cannot remember one that was in any way fluffed or foozled. He beat me at the seventeenth hole, and it was whilst we stood together upon the eighteenth tee that the incident happened which was to bring still more excitement into the day. On our right was a small plantation of shrubs through which wound the path which my partner pointed out to me as leading to his house. Our attention was attracted by the continued barking of a small dog which had wandered from the adjacent foot-path. I had the curiosity to walk a step or two into the plantation to see what was the trouble. My companion, however, who was a little on my left, was the first to discover the cause of the dog’s excitement. At a little cry from him I hurried to his side. Stretched upon his back, with extended arms, and a small blue hole in his forehead, we found the body of a man. He was dead but still warm, and by an extraordinary chance I at once recognized him. He was one of the two plain-clothes policemen whom I had seen in Woollerton Road that morning, foiled in his attempt to arrest the man who had been passing under the name of Thomas Pugsley.

Janet Soale

Just before midday on Thursday, the third of November, my master made one of his unexpected reappearances. I was not surprised. Only the night before I had dreamed of him, and it seemed to me impossible that with my passionate prayers going out day by day, he should stay away much longer. When I first saw him turn in at the gate, I was filled with wild excitement. If he could have seen me at that moment, he would have known and understood everything. By the time he had reached the front door, however, and I had let him in, I had regained my self-control. I must have seemed to him just the ordinary well-mannered, wellconducted parlourmaid.

He changed his clothes and went off presently for his round of golf. When I went to his room to brush and press the clothes which he had taken off, I found, however, that he had placed them in a drawer and apparently locked it. The discovery, coming on the top of many others, gave me food for thought I resolved to watch the next morning’s newspapers. It was becoming more and more clear to me that there was something in my master’s manner of life which he was anxious to conceal from the world. I was the more convinced of this when I saw that in the top drawer, which he had opened to take out a tie, he had concealed a small revolver, loaded in all six chambers. A merchant with offices in the City and a country cottage for golf does not carry a loaded revolver about with him. My heart beat with excitement as I picked it up and handled it. I forgot my master’s indifference. I ignored the fact that, although I am well enough to look upon, and that my face and figure have won me more admirers than I could count on the fingers of both hands, he has never cast a second giance in my direction. I still had faith in myself if I chose to make the first advances. I have never made them to any man, but I have an instinct. I believe that he is cold and unresponsive from habit. I believe that if I could make him understand the fires which are burning me up night and day, he would throw off this mask of coldness and mystery, and give me that place in his life which I crave.

I was loitering about his room, looking still at that closed drawer, when to my amazement a man entered?a thin, weedy-looking person, with sunken cheeks and a straggling, sandy moustache. I am not easily frightened, but it gave me a turn when he closed the door behind him.

“What do you want?” I asked sharply. “How dare you come up here?”

He looked at me earnestly. It was obvious that my first thought was a mistaken one. This was not one of the admirers whom I found it difficult sometimes to keep at arm’s length.

“Young woman,” he said, “I am a police officer. You seem to be a sensible girl. Answer the questions which I ask, do not obstruct me in the course of my duty, and you will be rewarded.”

I looked at him in silence for several moments. I do not think that I changed colour or showed anything of the terror which sat in my heart. My master was in danger. All the time 1 stood there, I was thinking. How was I to help–How could I help–

“Your master returned here an hour or so ago,” this man continued, “and has now gone off to play golf. I want the clothes which he wore when he came down.”

“How do you know that he changed?” I asked.

“I saw him come in and I saw him go out,” was the quiet reply.

“This is his bedroom, is it not?”

“It is,” I admitted.

“Then the clothes must be here. Where are they?”

“I do not know,” I answered. “I was looking for them myself. I was just going into the bathroom next door to see if he had left them there.”

He stepped back and entered the bathroom. He was only gone for a few seconds, but I found time to take the revolver from the tie drawer and to slip it into my open pocket.

“The bath has not been used,” he said a little shortly, when he came back. “I should like you to stay with me whilst I search these drawers.”

I made no objection, and he made a hasty search of the contents of the first two. When he came to the bottom one and found it locked, he gave vent to a little exclamation.

“Have you the key of this drawer?” he demanded.

“No,” I answered. “My master has taken it with him.”

He made no bones for what he did, nor offered any apology.

With an instrument which he carried in his pocket, he forced the lock and bent over the contents of the drawer. He was a man addicted, I should imagine, to silence, but I heard him muttering to himself at what he found. When he stood up, there was a smile of triumph upon his lips.

“What time do you expect your master back?” he enquired.

“I do not know,” I answered. “He was lunching at the golf club and playing a round afterwards. About five o’clock, I should think.”

He walked to the window and stood looking out over the links. I, too, looked out. In the far distance we could see two men playing.

“Do you know the links?” he asked.

“Very well,” I told him. “I have lived here all my life.”

“What hole are they playing now?”

“The seventh.”

“What green is that just opposite?”

“The seventeenth.”

“Where is the tee for the eighteenth?”

“Just out of sight underneath the trees.”

He nodded, apparently well content. His eyes lingered upon me. I saw a look in his face to which I was perfectly well accustomed. He had discovered that in my quiet way I was goodlooking. He came a little nearer to me.

“Are you very fond of your master?” he asked.

“I see very little of him,” I answered. “He gives no trouble.”

“Do you know that you are rather a pretty girl?” he ventured, coming nearer still.

“I am always very careful of strangers who tell me so,” I retorted, taking a step backwards. He laughed.

“You’ll give me just one kiss for this?” he begged, holding out a pound note. “You’re an intelligent girl and you’ve told me just what I want to know.”

I looked at him curiously. If it were true that I was an intelligent girl, it was scarcely a compliment which I could return. For a police officer he must have been a hopeless idiot.

“I don’t allow any one to kiss me,” I objected, pushing the pound note away.

“You must put up with it just for once,” he insisted. I scarcely believed that he was in earnest–and for the first time in my life a man kissed me upon the lips. I can find no words even now to describe the fury which was born in my heart against him. I feared even to speak, lest my passionate words might carry some warning to him of the things which were in my heart. He seemed perfectly indifferent, however, and in a few minutes he strolled out and made his way across the garden to.the little spinney. I took up my master’s field glasses and satisfied myself that he was still a long distance away. I waited for a quarter of an hour. Then I took another path which led into the plantation and made my way cautiously to where the man was standing with folded arms, leaning against a tree. I drew nearer and nearer. I am light-footed and I have even been called stealthy. It was part of my early training as a parlourmaid to make no noise when I moved. So I stole to within a few yards of him, unperceived and unheard. I am not an emotional person, and my mind was quite made up as to what I meant to do. It was curious, however, how slight things left vivid memories with me during those few seconds. It was a queer, gusty November day, with tumbled masses of clouds in the sky, and a wind which bent the tops of the sparse trees and brought the leaves rustling down the muddy paths. A bird was singing just overhead, and I remember that in those strained moments I found myself translating his song. He was singing because he was glad to be alive in this wood full of dying autumnal things. Very soon there would be company for the creeping and crawling insects to whom winter meant death. And afterwards! I had a vivid little mind-picture of a crowded courthouse, of the judge who might try me and the jury who might pronounce my fate. For a moment I shivered. Then I thought of that loathsome caress. I thought of my master and I smiled. If he knew, he would thank me. Some day he would know!

I was so close that I think my victim felt the breath from my lips or the sensation of my approaching body. He turned quickly around and I saw his eyes wide-open with apprehension. He would have shrunk away but he seemed paralysed, and as he stood there I shot him through the forehead. He swayed on his feet, his mouth open like the mouth of an insane man. His eyes rolled, he pitched and fell forward on his face. I listened for a moment. Then I took the path back to the house. I had finished what I came out to do.


My round of golf with the man who was the declared hunter of my life and liberty afforded me no apprehension whatever, although I must confess that the first sight of Norman Greyes seated in the club luncheon room, only an hour or so after he had witnessed the abortive attempt to arrest me, was something of a shock. I came to the conclusion, however, that his presence here was accidental, and in no way connected with that harmless and respectable inhabitant of the neighbourhood, James Stanfield. I played golf steadily and with success. It was not until that startling discovery close to the eighteenth tee that my equanimity was seriously disturbed. As we looked down upon the dead body of the plain-clothes policeman whom I had last seen in Woollerton Road, we both recognized him. No hint of anything of the sort, however, escaped from my lips.

After the first few seconds of stupefaction, Greyes naturally took charge of the affair. He set the caddies to search all around for a weapon, and begged me to summon my gardener, or any one who might be of assistance. I called for Soale in vain, however, and remembering that he had asked leave to visit his brother at Mayford, I abandoned the quest. Subsequently, one of the men working on the course appeared, and we carried the body into my tool shed. Greyes locked the door and telephoned for the police and doctor.

“You will excuse my apparent officiousness,” he said, “but I once had some connection with Scotland Yard.”

“There is nothing to excuse,” I assured him. “I am only too thankful that you happened to be here. Do you think that it is a case of suicide?”

“I have reasons for doubting it,” he replied, “apart from which, if it were suicide, the weapon would have been found. As the event happened so close to your house and actually on your path, Mr. Stanfield, you will not mind, I am sure, if I ask your servants a few questions.”

“I shall be only too pleased,” I told him. “My staff is rather limited as I am only here occasionally. My gardener is out for the afternoon, so there only remains my maidservant.”

I led the way into the house. Janet was busy in the kitchen but came at once at our summons. As usual, she was wonderfully neat, and her manner, although reserved, was perfectly open.

“We want to know,” my companion asked, “whether there have been any callers at the house this afternoon?”

“None, sir,” she replied, “except the boy with the chicken I ordered for the master’s dinner.”

“Have you seen any one about the place?”

“No one, sir.”

“Did you hear anything which might have been the report of a pistol?”

“Nothing at all, sir.”

“Have you been outside the house yourself?”

The girl shook her head.

“I have had no occasion to go out, sir,” she replied. “I have been busy in the kitchen.”

Greyes nodded and dismissed her after a few more unimportant questions. Soon a police inspector arrived, and the doctor. I let them visit the scene of the crime alone. As soon as they had gone, I went upstairs. I looked in my tie drawer for the small revolver. It had gone. I looked in the bottom drawer, which I had left locked, for the clothes which I had worn when I had made my escape. The drawer had been forced open and they, too, had disappeared. Then I realised that I was faced with a problem. Some one had penetrated my defences. I had been–I probably still was– in danger. I went down to the study and summoned Janet once more to my presence. When she arrived, I took a seat between her and the door. I made her face the window. Down in the straggling plantation, the police inspector was still talking to Greyes.

“Do you know anything about this affair which you did not tell Sir Norman Greyes?” I asked her.

“Yes, sir,” she replied. I looked at her thoughtfully. She was very straight and shapely in the grey twilight. Her eyes met mine without flinching. I have been an indifferent student of women’s looks, but I realised then that they were a very beautiful though rather a cruel colour, greeny-brown of a light shade, with delicate lashes and finely cut eyebrows. There was a passionate curve to her lips which I had never before noticed. Her neatly braided hair was brown and lustrous.

“You had better tell me everything, Janet,” I enjoined.

“Soon after you had gone out,” she said, “the man who lies in the outhouse came here and asked me questions about you. He made his way into your bedroom. He was anxious to see the clothes in which you had travelled down. He opened the bottom drawer of your wardrobe and found them.”

“There was a revolver in the top drawer,” I remarked.

“I had discovered that and hidden it,” she replied.

“And after he had found my clothes?”

“He went down to the plantation to wait for you.”

“Did he say what he wanted?”

“He had told me that he was an officer of the police.”

“And then?”

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