Sir Adam Disappeared - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

Sir Adam Disappeared ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Opis

Scotland Yard unearths the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy, eccentric banker, the reason for a dead man in his bank, and the vanishing of the bank’s funds. The background shifts from the bank to the club, and the missing millionaire’s known habits give necessary leads to the unscrambling of the mystery. Oppenheim continues to hold up his end. An enjoyable read! E. Phillips Oppenheim was a British author who wrote nearly 150 novels during his career. He styled himself as the „prince of storytellers,” and is credited with creating the ‘rogue male’ genre of adventure thrillers and was one of the earliest writers of spy fiction.

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Liczba stron: 370

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Contents

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

XXIII

XXIV

XXV

XXVI

XXVII

XXVIII

XXIX

I

Adam Blockton, on the day of his curious disappearance, passed the time between half-past twelve and ten minutes past one precisely as he had passed that particular period of his life on every morning of the year except Sundays for a quarter of a century–seated in a large leather easy chair pulled up towards the bay window of the Norchester County Club. He sipped champagne from a pint bottle of old Veuve Clicquot, smoked with obvious pleasure a shabby blackened pipe, and carried on a mumbling conversation which sounded like a monologue but was really addressed to the statue a few yards away from the pavement outside–the statue of an elderly man in a long frock coat, whose singularly benevolent appearance was sufficient evidence of a life of municipal triumphs and a generously used chequebook.

On that particular morning, however, as several people afterwards testified, there was a slight flush upon the leathery cheeks of the elderly gentleman in the armchair, an unusual light, too, in his clear blue eyes. He beckoned to the only other occupant of the room, Giles Mowbray, his solicitor, a man of apparently about the same age as himself, who was searching for a newspaper at the round table in the middle of the apartment.

“Come you here, Giles,” he ordered.

Giles Mowbray shuffled deferentially across to the speaker. He had been solicitor to Sir Adam Blockton since the day he had received his articles and entered his father’s firm, but he sometimes felt that he knew as little about the man and his affairs now as fifty years ago. Sir Adam pointed with his pipe to the statue outside.

“Do you see the old man, Giles?” he asked.

“Seen him most mornings, Adam, for half a century.”

“There is something different about him to-day,” Sir Adam persisted. “Look at the old hypocrite. There’s something in his face–he’s got a smile coming. I believe he knows.”

“Knows what?”

Sir Adam grinned and indulged in a single interjection.

“Ah!”

The lawyer had never been a man of imagination and he looked puzzled, as indeed he was.

“I cannot see any change,” he confessed.

Adam Blockton replaced his pipe in his mouth, sucked it slowly and sipped his wine. The lawyer, in a moment of retrospect, meditated upon the fact that never once, in the twenty or thirty years during which he had carried out his present morning’s programme, had he offered to share with anyone the contents of his carefully frozen bottle.

“You are a fool, Giles,” his old friend declared abruptly.

“Maybe, Adam,” was the indifferent reply.

“How long have you been my lawyer?”

“Getting on for fifty years.”

“How much do you know of my affairs?”

“Nothing.”

Adam Blockton chuckled.

“You speak the truth, anyway,” he observed. “You know nothing of my affairs, Giles, nor does my solitary cashier, nor do those two clerks who stand behind their mahogany desks and pay out my money or draw it in. Neither does he,” Sir Adam concluded, pointing with his pipe to the statue outside.

The lawyer was a trifle uneasy as he glanced through the fine, rounded window at the cold granite figure upon its pedestal.

“You are a very rich man, Adam,” he mumbled. “That the whole world knows. You are almost the last man in the United Kingdom who owns a bank of his own and refuses to incorporate for fear of having to issue a balance sheet, they say,” he added with a wheezy chuckle. “You are one who has kept a tight hold on his own moneybags. Some day–”

“Some day,” Adam Blockton interrupted ruthlessly. “How many more years do you suppose there are for me? I have been asking that old blitherer outside. That’s one reason why the grin that you can’t see is there on his face. I am eighty-seven, Giles.”

“You are as strong as a horse,” the other declared. “Why, your father–there he stands still proud and disdainful after all these years of Norchester fogs and rains. He was over eighty when they made the drawings for that statue.”

Adam Blockton had the air of one who had ceased to listen. The club steward, according to custom, came softly into the room a few moments later, filled up the glass of its most distinguished member and leaned over his chair.

“Ten minutes past one, Sir Adam,” he announced deferentially. “Your cutlets are coming up.”

Adam Blockton gave signs of assent and waved the man away. The lawyer, too, shuffled off. He knew his old friend better than to linger. Sir Adam, who was alone now in the room, leaned back in his chair, a queer, faraway look in his narrow, ferretlike eyes as he gazed out at that stony, unresponsive figure. It was a showery day in May and the raindrops from a recent downpour were tumbling down the window pane. Nevertheless, the face of the statue was still clearly visible. It seemed to the old man seated there in his chair, with his pipe growing cold in his fingers, that the fancied grin was also still there upon those carved lips.

The steward, in the busy luncheon-room of the club, glanced up at the clock and frowned. It was two minutes after the time when the multi-millionaire banker was accustomed to take his place and the entrée dish with its silver cover had already been reverently placed in front of the chosen chair. He turned and left the room, crossed the hall and entered the reading lounge.

“Sir Adam,” he announced, “your cutlets–”

He went no further. The hall across which he had passed had been empty, the room in which he stood was empty, the easy chair was unoccupied. Sir Adam Blockton had disappeared.

II

The first few hours of this singular disappearance of its most notable member from the exclusive club in the heart of a busy city were filled with curiosity rather than apprehension. Towards evening, however, there was a development of the latter sentiment. An informal meeting was held at the club, at which were present Mr. Giles Mowbray, the solicitor, who, owing to his somewhat upset condition, was accompanied by his nephew, Mr. Martin Mowbray; Captain Elmhurst, the Chief Constable; Mr. Richard Groome, the cashier of the bank, and, standing respectfully in the background, Henry Lawford, the chief steward and manager of the club.

Mr. Giles Mowbray, still a trifle incoherent from the shock, presented the case.

“Sir Adam came in at exactly his customary time,” he told the little company. “He occupied his usual chair, was served with his usual drink by Lawford here, everything was only a page out of his everyday history. He called me over to listen to one of his usual jeers against his father’s statue. He seemed well enough in health but inclined to wander. I left him preparing to finish his glass of wine and I expected to see him in the dining room within a few minutes according to his day-by-day custom. That is all I have to tell you, gentlemen.”

Captain Elmhurst, a slim, middle-aged man who had preserved his military appearance and manner of speech, nodded comprehendingly.

“Well, that is simple enough,” he said. “Let us go back a little. Tell us what you saw of Sir Adam during the morning, Mr. Groome.”

“Scarcely anything, sir,” the cashier, a withered-looking little person, grey-haired, bespectacled and with a very anxious expression, replied. “Nothing unusual happened at the bank. At half-past nine punctually Sir Adam arrived. He wished me good morning, he wished the two other gentlemen associated with the bank good morning and went into his private room. There were very few letters and most of these were advertisements. In about ten minutes I received my usual summons to enter. Sir Adam was reading the Times and smoking his pipe.

“‘Nothing important for you, Groome,’ he said, pushing a little pile towards me. ‘Four or five enterprising tradesmen who desire to open an account with the firm. The rest are advertisements and prospectuses.’”

“Do you think,” Captain Elmhurst asked, “that Sir Adam gave you all the letters he received?”

“With the exception of one which he left unopened upon the table, sir, I am sure of it.”

“There were no signs of papers having been destroyed or anything in the wastepaper basket?” the Chief Constable continued. “This is an entirely informal meeting, you understand, Mr. Groome, and you will not be betraying a confidence if you give us an exact idea of the contents of the letters handed to you for attention.”

“Certainly, sir–certainly,” Groome replied nervously. “There were five applications to open accounts with the bank and as is our custom we sent a printed slip announcing that the firm was not seeking any further business and that we must respectfully decline negotiations.”

“And the remainder of the papers?”

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