Saul and the Spinster - Aidan de Brune - ebook

Saul and the Spinster ebook

Aidan de Brune

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Opis

A murder is committed in a seedy nightclub... weird vandalism in a leading fashion salon... are they connected? An exiting page tuner full of intrigue and mystery, „Saul and the Spinster” is a must-read for all fans of thrilling crime fiction. A mysteriously complicated plot make this Aidan de Brune book great fun with the twists coming thick and fast. He provides a thrill of another sort! If you haven’t discovered the joys of de Brune’s mysteries there is a good place to start. Highly recommended.

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Liczba stron: 438

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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 I

DIZZY LAINE, baptised Paul Disraeli Laine, crime expert of the Post-Advertiser refers to Detective-Inspector Saul Murmer’s most celebrated case under the title of “Saul and the Spinster.”

Inspector Murmer blushes, insofar as any Inspector of police, be he English or Australian, can be said to blush.

Mrs. Dizzy Laine, nee Eva Poulton, and once subject of Inspector Murmer’s official suspicions, laughs gently and slightly; Miss Paddy Burke, a young lady who figures rather intimately in the case, matches the Inspector, blush for blush, glancing furtively at a certain young gentleman who appears incapable of proceeding more than six linear yards from her side.

There appears to be some doubt as to the exact point when Inspector Murmer first came in contact with Miss Mathilde Westways, the well known Sydney modiste, owner of Florabella and–the Spinster in the case.

Official records Indicate that the investigation was not allotted to Inspector Murmer by his superior officer, Superintendent George Dixon. Dizzy Laine voices the popular theory when he states that the case did not become official until just before Inspector Murmer discovered the solution of his problem; that the famous detective became involved in the matter through a very reprehensible habit he had acquired of frequenting notorious night-clubs when free from official duties.

Inspector Murmer retorts that journalists of the “Dizzy” persuasion should be confined in “unnamed” places when police matters are under discussion. Dizzy is rather too fond of referring to the affair; his wife prettily matronly and with her husband in complete subjection, sometimes bars discussions. Dizzy obeys, with a grin; to intimate friends he confides that his spouse shows no such reticence in the privacy of the connubial chamber, there frequently speculating when “it” will take place, and whether Florabella will be converted into a limited liability company with Inspector Murmer’s term of exchange expires, and he returns to the ugly red-brick building on the Thames Embankment, named New Scotland Yard.

So much will serve to Introduce the leading honest characters in what can be claimed to be-the most extraordinary case Inspector Murmer handled during his sojourn in Australia. Lacking the Inspector’s official reports for this narrative, Dizzy Laine’s rather highly-coloured journalese and personal reminiscences have been taken as a basis, amplified by Miss Paddy Burke’s retrospective suggestions. Both authorities declare the curtain to rise at the Green Lagoon night-club–and Miss Mathilde Westways raises no objections to this.

SAUL MURMER left Police Headquarters shortly after five o’clock on the 6th day of September, 1931. Passing through the big gates to Central-lane, he nodded recognition of the salute from the constable on duty, and walked up to Castlereagh Street. There he mounted a city-bound tram, and alighted at King Street. A short interval spent In shopping, and he boarded a car for King’s Cross. A few yards along Darlinghurst-road from the tram stop he entered a block of flats and ascended in the elevator to his own quarters. A shower and a change, and he went down to the restaurant in the building and dined.

This dally routine well performed, he returned to his sitting-room and gave his exclusive attention to that day’s newspapers. This last duty, in the mind of Inspector Murmer, was as essential as his dinner. He considered newspapers mines of information, especially regarding the activities of his frailer fellow-men. Many times the Inspector had speculated, sitting In the comfortable armchair fitting his rotund figure so perfectly, that if criminals realised the dangers of the publicity they sought in vanity, the tasks of magistrates, judges and juries would be considerably lighter, while the police force, and especially the detective branch, would be vastly overworked.

A little after eight o’clock Saul Murmur stacked his newspapers neatly on a side table and went to the house telephone. For some moments he lingered, the receiver to his ear, listening to the bell ringing in Inspector John Pater’s flat, in the same building. He realised that John Pater was not at home, and a few seconds later thanked the switch-girl for conveying that information to him verbally. He went to his bedroom and arrayed himself in the conventional evening attire of the Englishman the world over.

Descending to the main hall of the building, he paused at the office window, and again inquired regarding Inspector Pater. He was told that the officer had not yet returned home, and sighed. He had a feeling that he deserved companionship–and had elected John Pater victim. Now he would have to find entertainment for himself. He strolled out to the pavement and acknowledged the inquiring eye of an alert taxi-driver with a brief nod.

“Where to, sir?” asked the man when Saul Murmer was comfortably ensconced in the car. The Inspector pondered. Now he wondered why he had arrayed himself for the evening. Had he done so because he anticipated John Pater as companion to one of the gilded halls of Sydney entertainment? That might be correct. But John Pater was not with him. If he had anticipated being left to his own resources, would he have troubled to dress, or would he have arrayed his ample figure in a simple lounge suit and indulged himself in a stroll through one of Sydney’s quieter suburbs, speculating on the houses and the people he passed In the past, similar strolls had proved profitable to his reputation.

“Try the Green Lagoon,” decided, after a considerable pause.

“The Green Lagoon. Yes, sir.” The man closed the car door and trotted round the vehicle to his seat. A moment, and the car joined the stream of traffic heading city-wards.

Outside the noted night-club a commissionaire who gave the impression that he had recently resigned the field-marshalship of a South American army, deigned to open the car-door, saluting smartly. Saul Murmer alighted and descended the long flight of softly-carpeted stairs beyond the gaily illuminated doorway, to the lounge of the nightclub. There he was received by a severely garbed head-waiter, who bowed and preceded his important guest to a table set in a coveted corner of the large supper-room; an advantageous corner from which a full view of the dancing floor and the adjacent tables could be obtained.

Saul Murmer was well known at the Green Lagoon, and his partiality for this particular table understood and acquiesced in. Hardly had the inspector arranged his ample form to the chair, held by the head waiter, than the table waiter appeared at his elbow, carrying in a cradle basket a dirt-encrusted bottle, partly shrouded by a very white napkin.

“Expecting m’sieu, I took the liberty of ordering a bottle of wine,” announced the waiter in a soft whisper.

“And pubs shut at six–or should!” commented Saul Murmer. “The lowly navvy goes home thirsty, while we, in these glided haunts of vice–”

“Sir.” The head waiter, who had been standing close by, looked shocked–insofar as a valued client could shock a well-trained head waiter.

“Never mind,” decided the detective. “I will have a glass. I have an idea I telephoned the order for wine this morning.”

“M’sieu remembers!” agreed the night-club official, with a beaming smile.

“But didn’t I order two bottles? I shouldn’t be surprised if I had not,” continued the stout Inspector. “If John Pater turns up, I shall certainly want them. His thirst–”

“Supper, m’sieu?” A menu slid discreetly on the cloth before the detective.

“Ten-thirty.” Saul Murmer accepted the silver pencil tendered, and ticked off a series of dishes, “Um-m! I think that will do.”

“M’sieu performs admirably,” applauded the man. Suddenly the inspector found himself alone at the table, a glass of wine beaming benevolently up at him–and the intriguing bottle reposing in its cradle to one side.

Again settling himself comfortably in his chair, and savouring his first sip of the wine, Saul Murmer glanced about the room, discreetly lit to a dusky evening glow that partially hid, partially revealed, the few tables yet occupied. So far as his inquisition showed he had no acquaintances in the place. He did not want them or the moment; certainly not the usual acquaintances one makes at a night-club.

John Pater might follow him, although he had not left word of his destination at the flat-offices. Dizzy Laine might arrive; he and Mrs. Laine often danced. There were a few more whose company he might welcome, and the rest–His wandering eye came to a table on the opposite side of the dancing floor.

At It was seated a lady of middle age, very well dressed and preserving many of the charms of her youth, with an old-world air of dignity and reserve.

“Fine woman,” thought Saul Murmer, who was himself comfortably fleshed. “Apparently plenty of money; plenty of brains, too, Good business head. Someone’s wife having a lonesome night out? No.”

He had caught sight of a ringless left hand. “Spinster! Now what–”

The lady looked in his direction, and Saul Murmer quickly resumed his scrutiny of the room. He feared the lady might be embarrassed if she fond him staring at her.

“Though,” thought the inspector, “she is not the sort to show embarrassment at anything not entirely out of the ordinary; more likely to call the head waiter and send him with a message for me to abate the nuisance!”

He chuckled. “And I a detective-inspector of police!”

Automatically his eyes returned to the lady’s table. To his astonishment he found that she was looking at him, and that without a shade of embarrassment. Their eyes met for an instant and, to the detective’s amazement, the lady made a beckoning gesture with her fan–a fan that glittered in the pale greenish twilight that flooded the hall.

Saul Murmer hesitated, doubtful if the lady’s signal was intended for him. The gesture, slight and imperative, was repeated. The Inspector covered a sudden grin.

“A pick-up! I am surprised” he muttered. “Naughty! Does she realise that I’m a police officer? What a shock I’d be! But, who knows. Now–”

Inspector Murmer’s greatest grievance against Fate swept on him again with renewed force. He was totally unlike what a detective should be, in real life or in fiction. He was short; when he had joined the metropolitan police force he had barely topped the height standard, while succeeding years had, apparently, taken from those scanty inches. Girth had come to him, in spite of exercise and a pathetic devotion to patent reducing drugs. Big baby-blue, innocent-staring eyes looked out from a round face of girlish-textured skin, requiring but slight attention from the morning razor. His nose was small and, on the authority of an old schoolmate, now Chief-Inspector Murchison, of the “pug” variety. A well-formed chin was topped by a set of lips that might have been taken as a model of the perfect Cupid’s bow; and they were red, as if lip-sticked.

He was not a detective; not in appearance, Saul Murmer’s ideal detective stood five feet ten inches; had a slim body, of the strength and flexibility of whalebone; a sun-weathered countenance; and thin, hard lips that held dexterity in rolling black, rank cigars from side to side of his mouth.

The Inspector came out of his reverie to find Luke Lenoire, mâitre d’ hôtel of the Green Lagoon, silently awaiting his pleasure; before him on a small silver tray, lay a plainly engraved visiting card.

“Madame’s compliments, and she will be grateful if m’sieu will give her a few minutes of his most valuable time,” said the man gravely.

“A pick-up!” The Inspector puckered his full, red lips impishly. “Do you allow that sort of thing in your gilded halls of vice, Luke?”

“M’sieu jests.” The man smiled. “Madame is well-known at the Green Lagoon, and is of the most discreet.”

The Inspector glanced at the card before him. “Miss Mathilde Westways,” he read.

“Luke–” he paused. “Yes, Luke, will, you inform Madame I shall have the pleasure of attending her–in a few moments, when I recover from the shock, In a few moments.” The mâitre d’hôtel bowed, and faded into the gloom of the synthetic evening.

A minute, and he reappeared on the opposite side of the dance-floor. Miss Westways glanced up quickly, smiled and nodded. At the sign of approval the Inspector struggled to his feet and ambled across to the opposite table. Before the lady he halted and bowed, regretting that he had not Luke Lenoire’s supple figure and easy, practised obeisance.

“Detective-Inspector Saul Murmer.” Miss Westways’ voice was low, sweet and assured. “We have never been introduced, I believe, but–“ she hesitated. “Really, this is most embarrassing.”

A sudden suspicion came to the detective’s mind. “Shall we name this interview ‘official,’ Miss N Westways?” he asked; in very official tones. “You will understand, police inspectors on duty don’t wait for introductions.”

“How nice of you,” beamed the lady, obviously relieved. “May I assume that Mr. Paul Disraeli Laine has informed you–”

“Paul Disraeli–” Saul Murmer stuttered in amazement. “Oh, you mean Dizzy–”

“That is even better.” Miss Westways was now, entirely at ease. “May I understand that Dizzy has informed you of my trouble and–”

“Your trouble, Miss Westways–” The detective showed his perplexity. “What trouble?”

“My dilemma, yes, Inspector.” Miss Westways interrupted, speaking in matter-of-fact tones. “Someone is threatening my life.”

CHAPTER II

“PLEASE sit down, Inspector.” Miss Westways indicated the chair on the opposite side of the-table.

“Thank you.” Saul Murmer felt he was In need of a seat. It was not a strange experience for the Inspector to be informed by individuals that their lives were threatened. Investigation usually showed that the facts did not agree with conclusions, in spite of the wealth of details accompanying the complaints.

Saul Murmer smiled, recalling the case of Sir Abbeyford Aldersham, who almost caused the resignation of a Chief Constable, gave sleepless nights to a number of hard-working policemen, and agitated the press of England. A solution of the threatening letters was only obtained when, enraged by the authorities’ refusal to arrest his nephew and heir, Sir Abbeyford turned his hitherto unsuspected abilities as a letter-writer to an anonymous attack on the Chief Constable of his county.

A movement at his elbow caused him to look up. Henri was standing close beside him, his brows well-defined interrogation marks. The detective nodded and the man disappeared, to return almost immediately with the cradled bottle and glasses.

“If I may be permitted, Miss Westways.” The Inspector lifted his glass, watching the bubbles rise through the amber liquid. He felt he needed that drink; had already earned it. He drank delicately.

“You were saying, Miss Westways–?”

“I believe that my life is being threatened.” The lady repeated her statement gravely; then laughed. “No doubt you think I am mad, Inspector?”

“Not at all;” Saul Murmer was polite and abstractly truthful. If the lady had said “unbalanced” he would have been forced to silence, or untruthfulness. “Er–quite a number of people’s lives have been threatened at times.”

“And yet live out their numbered days. Is that what you Intended to say, Inspector?” Miss Westways laughed gently. “You were inferring that I have no reason to worry–yet you have no knowledge of the circumstances.”

“Is there a case–” The Inspector appeared to be addressing the tablecloth. He glanced furtively at the woman on the other side of the table. Somewhere in the forties, he decided; then flushed. He suddenly remembered that he was forty-six. And–she was wonderfully attractive! Brown hair, with a few peeping grey hairs that lent an illusion of moon-halo; a fair skin bearing just the right amount of make-up to perfect its attractiveness; a well-developed body, its charms accentuated by a dark grey dress that softly whispered “Paris”–and worn with that exclusive accent so rarely seen outside the city of feminine authority. And the card the mâitre d’hôtel had brought him had borne in one corner a single, quoted word.

No address was needed. Even essentially masculine Police Headquarters knew of “Florabella,” the Mecca of every Australian woman–the leading modiste establishment of Sydney.

“So many people desire death!” Saul Murmer looked up, his full girlish lips parted in a smile, the baby-stare eyes twinkling.

“Not for themselves, but for those they consider–er–redundant. Their reasons? Mainly an overworked inferiority complex! Er–you were saying, Miss Westways–”

The lady smiled; the exclusive feminine how far from gods they may be.

“You think I am–er–unbalanced, Inspector?”

“Not at all, Miss Westways.” The detective hastened to refute the idea. “I have admired the cool, collected manner in which you–er–discuss their–er–threat.” He paused helplessly.

Miss Westways went to his rescue.

“Why should be flurried and distressed?” A note of asperity came in her voice. “In a business matter–”

“Blackmail?” Saul Murmer nodded, speaking in a whisper. “In a sense, yes.” Mathilde Westways also nodded.

“I have received messages.”

“Ah!” Inspector Murmer sighed. He liked documentary evidence, especially in a blackmailing ease. “And the letters–”

Not wishing to embarrass the lady in the disclosures he now believed to be inevitable, Saul Murmer had half-turned from the table and was staring down the room in the direction of the entrance. Suddenly he stiffened slightly, then laughed. All he had seen was Mrs. Laine entering the room preceding a brilliantly dark young girl and her husband.

Eva Laine saw Miss Westways and directly she entered the room. She waved gaily, crossing the room directly to their table. Saul Murmer watched the group form, somewhat relieved that his tête-à-tête with Miss Westways had been interrupted. He had started the evening with thoughts anticipating enjoyment. Apparently he had been slated for disillusionment. John Pater had let him down, and Miss Westways had shown decided signs of repeating the performance.

Eva Laine’s appearance suggested relief; beside the most perfect dancing floor in Sydney she would permit nothing that savoured of serious life. In regard to the blackmailing letters, Saul Murmer decided that he could obtain them from Miss Westways at some other interview. He felt suddenly elated at the thought of another interview with this fascinating lady.

“Room for three more?” Eva called gaily as she came to the table.

“Only myself, a husband, a little girl. Auntie Westways, may I introduce your niece in a perfectly perfect new Florabella gown.”

The young girl curtsied deeply, spreading out the’ voluminous skirts of the lovely red frock. “Isn’t it adorable, Mattie. I couldn’t resist it this afternoon.” She swung with a flurry of flounces and frills on the waiting detective, holding out her hand frankly. “You’re Dizzy’s friend, Inspector Murmer, aren’t, you? I’m not going to say ‘Pleased to meet you’, for that would make Eva jealous; she looks on you as her own, private, particular lion, guaranteed to roar for her alone. She’s awfully mean, even with her husband! Why, this afternoon she wouldn’t even let me kiss him–and haven’t kissed–”

“Paddy!” Miss Westways’ tones were very firm.

“Yes, Mattie.” Paddy’s voice was suddenly meek. “Oh, the frock! I did tell Miss Lancing to put it down to my account, truly! And I haven’t had a frock for ages and ages. And I haven’t a rag–”

“There’s hardly a rag this side, Paddy,” said Dizzy judicially. He was standing behind the girl.

“Pig.” Paddy turned on the journalist. “For that–”

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