Terror Keep - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Terror Keep ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Terror Keep” is a 1927 Edgar Wallace thriller featuring perhaps the most memorable of all Wallace’s heroes, Mr. J. G. Reeder. Reeder is at pains to point out that he is not a detective, which is technically true. He is not a policeman, and has no power to arrest suspects. He works as an investigator of banking crime, particularly forgery. He is nonetheless the terror of the criminal classes. This time detective and his attractive secretary, Margaret Belman, almost suffered the wrath of John Flack, an unusual villain who pairs maniacal insanity with genius. Detective and criminal are well matched and the reader is kept in the dark about the outcome of this deadly duel for a long time. „Terror Keep” is an exceptionally effective and thoroughly entertaining thriller.

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Liczba stron: 268

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Contents

FOREWORD

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

FOREWORD

RIGHTLY speaking, it is improper, not to say illegal, for those sadly privileged few who go in and out of Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, to have pointed out to them any particular character, however notorious he may have been or to what heights of public interest his infamy had carried him, before the testifying doctors and a merciful jury consigned him to this place without hope. But often had John Flack been pointed out as he shuffled about the grounds, his hands behind him, his chin on his breast, a tall, lean old man in an ill-fitting suit of drab clothing, who spoke to nobody and was spoken to by few.

“That is Flack–THE Flack–the cleverest crook in the world.... Crazy John Flack ... nine murders...”

In their queer, sane moments, men who were in Broadmoor for isolated homicides were rather proud of Old John. The officers who locked him up at night and watched him as he slept had little to say against him, because he gave no trouble, and through all the six years of his incarceration had never once been seized of those frenzies which so often end in the hospital for some poor innocent devil, and a rubber-padded cell for the frantic author of misfortune.

He spent most of his time writing and reading, for he was something of a genius with his pen, and wrote with extraordinary rapidity. He filled hundreds of little exercise books with his great treatise on crime. The governor humoured him; allowed him to retain the books, expecting in due course to add them to his already interesting museum.

Once, as a great concession, Old Jack gave him a book to read, and the governor read and gasped. It was entitled “Method of robbing a bank vault when only two guards are employed.” The governor, who had been a soldier, read and read, stopping now and then to rub his head; for this document, written in the neat, legible hand of John Flack, was curiously reminiscent of a divisional order for attack. No detail was too small to be noted; every contingency was provided for. Not only were the constituents of the drug to be employed to “settle the outer watchman” given, but there was an explanatory note which may be quoted:

“If this drug is not procurable, I advise that the operator should call upon a suburban doctor and describe the following symptoms.... The doctor will then prescribe the drug in a minute quantity. Six bottles of this medicine should be procured and the following method adopted to extract the drug....”

“Have you written much like this, Flack?” asked the wondering officer.

“This?” John Flack shrugged his lean shoulders. “I am doing this for amusement, just to test my memory. I have already written sixty-three books on the subject, and those works are beyond improvement. During the six years I have been here, I have not been able to think of a single improvement on my old system.”

Was he jesting? Was this a flight of a disordered mind? The governor, used as he was to his patients and their peculiar ways, was not certain.

“You mean you have written an encyclopædia of crime?” he asked incredulously. “Where is it to be found?”

Old Flack’s thin lips curled in a disdainful smile, but he made no answer.

Sixty-three hand-written volumes represented the life work of John Flack. It was the one achievement upon which he prided himself.

On another occasion, when the governor referred to his extraordinary literary labours, he said: “I have put a huge fortune in the hands of any clever man–providing, of course,” he mused, “that he is a man of resolution and the books fall into his hands at a very early date. In these days of scientific discovery, what is a novelty to-day is a commonplace to-morrow.”

The governor had his doubts as to the existence of these deplorable volumes, but very soon after the conversation took place he had to revise his judgment. Scotland Yard, which seldom if ever chases chimeras, sent down one Chief Inspector Simpson, who was a man entirely without imagination and had been promoted for it.

His interview with Crazy John Flack was a brief one. “About these books of yours, Jack,” he said. “It would be terrible if they fell into wrong hands. Ravini says you’ve got a hundred volumes hidden somewhere.”

“Ravini?” Old John Flack showed his teeth. “Listen, Simpson! You don’t think you’re going to keep me in this awful place all my life, do you? If you do, you’ve got another guess coming. I’ll skip one of these odd nights–you can tell the governor if you like–and then Ravini and I are going to have a little talk.”

His voice grew high and shrill. The old mad glitter that Simpson had seen before came back to his eyes.

“Do you ever have daydreams, Simpson? I have three! I’ve got a new method of getting away with a million: that’s one, but it’s not important. Another one is Reeder: you can tell J.G. what I say. It’s a dream of meeting him alone one nice, dark, foggy night, when the police can’t tell which way the screams are coming. And the third is Ravini: George Ravini’s got one chance, and that is for him to die before I get out!”

“You’re mad,” said Simpson.

“That’s what I’m here for,” said John Flack truthfully.

This conversation with Simpson and that with the governor were two of the longest he ever had, all the six years he was in Broadmoor. Mostly when he wasn’t writing he strolled about the grounds, his chin on his chest, his hands clasped behind him. Occasionally, he reached a certain place near the high wall, and it is said that he threw letters over, though this is very unlikely. What is more possible is that he found a messenger who carried his many and cryptic letters to the outer world and brought in exchange monosyllabic replies. He was very friendly with the officer in charge of his ward, and one early morning this man was discovered with his throat cut. The ward door was open, and John Flack had gone out into the world to realize his daydreams.

CHAPTER I

THERE were two subjects which irritated the mind of Margaret Belman as the Southern Express carried her toward Selford Junction and the branch line train which crawled from the junction to Siltbury. The first of these was, not unnaturally, the drastic changes she now contemplated, the second the effect they already had had upon Mr. J.G. Reeder, that mild and middle-aged man.

When she had announced that she was seeking a post in the country, he might at least have shown some evidence of regret; a certain glumness would have been appropriate, at any rate. Instead, he had brightened visibly at the prospect.

“I am afraid I shan’t be able to come to London very often,” she had said.

“That is good news,” said Mr. Reeder, and added some banality about the value of periodical changes of air and the beauty of getting near to nature.

In fact, he had been more cheerful than he had been for a week–which was rather exasperating.

Margaret Belman’s pretty face puckered as she recalled her disappointment and chagrin. All thoughts of dropping this application of hers disappeared. Not that she imagined for one moment that a six-hundred-a-year secretaryship was going to drop into her lap for the mere asking. She was wholly unsuited to the job; she had had no experience in hotel work; and the chances of her being accepted were remote.

As to the Italian who had made so many attempts to make her acquaintance–he was one of the unpleasant commonplaces so familiar to a girl who worked for her living that in ordinary circumstances she would not have given him a second thought.

But that morning he had followed her to the station, and she was certain that he had heard her tell the girl who came with her that she was returning by the 6:15. A policeman would deal effectively with him–if she cared to risk the publicity. But a girl, however annoyed, shrinks from such an ordeal; she must deal with him in her own way.

That was not a happy prospect, and the two matters in combination were sufficient to spoil what otherwise might have been a very happy or interesting afternoon.

As to Mr. Reeder–

Margaret Belman frowned. She was twenty-three, an age when youngish men are rather tiresome. On the other hand, men in the region of fifty are not especially attractive. She loathed Mr. Reeder’s side whiskers; they made him look rather like a Scottish butler. Of course, he was a dear....

Here the train reached the junction and she found herself at the surprisingly small station of Siltbury before she had quite made up her mind whether she was in love with Mr. Reeder or merely annoyed with him.

The driver of the station cab stopped his unhappy-looking horse before the small gateway and pointed with his whip.

“This is the best way in for you, miss,” he said. “Mr. Daver’s office is at the end of the path.”

He was a shrewd old man, who had driven many applicants for the post of secretary at Larmes Keep, and he guessed that this one, the prettiest of all, did not come as a guest. In the first place, she brought no baggage, and then, too, the ticket collector had come running after her to hand back the return half of her railway ticket, which she had absent-mindedly surrendered.

“I’d better wait for you, miss?”

“Oh, yes, please,” said Margaret Belman hastily as she got down from the dilapidated victoria.

“You got an appointment?”

The cabman was a local character, and local characters assume privileges.

“I ast you,” he explained carefully, “because lots of young wimmin have come up to Larmes without appointments and Mr. Daver wouldn’t see ‘em. They just cut out the advertisement and come along, but the ‘ad’ says write. I suppose I’ve made a dozen journeys with young wimmin who ain’t got appointments. I’m telling you for your own good.”

The girl smiled.

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