The Avenger - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Avenger ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Opis

Over a period of time, men disappear, and later their heads are found. Meanwhile a young actress in a small part in a film on location, is disturbed by the actions of the owner of the place where they are filming. A detective comes to investigate, and finds many puzzling things going on. Several of the characters are suspicious, in one way or another, and as the plot unfolds, it grips you. Edgar Wallace’s „The Avenger” is a perfectly fine example of what a page-turning thriller looked like, early in the last century. What Edgar Wallace has over modern writers is the willingness to insert a girl-snatching, sapient orangutan in his plot. Surely the seeds for his „King-Kong” screenplay can be found here.

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Liczba stron: 316

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Contents

I. THE HEAD-HUNTER

II. MR. SAMPSON LONGVALE CALLS

III. THE NIECE

IV. THE LEADING LADY

V. MR. LAWLEY FOSS

VI. THE MASTER OF GRIFF

VII. THE SWORDS AND BHAG

VIII. BHAG

IX. THE ANCESTOR

X. THE OPEN WINDOW

XI. THE MARK ON THE WINDOW

XII. A CRY FROM A TOWER

XIII. THE TRAP THAT FAILED

XIV. MENDOZA MAKES A FIGHT

XV. TWO FROM THE YARD

XVI. THE BROWN MAN PROM NOWHERE

XVII. MR. FOSS MAKES A SUGGESTION

XVIII. THE FACE IN THE PICTURE

XIX. THE MIDNIGHT VISIT

XX. A NARROW ESCAPE

XXI. THE ERASURE

XXII. THE HEAD

XXIII. CLUES AT THE TOWER

XXIV. THE MARKS OF THE BEAST

XXV. THE MAN IN THE CAR

XXVI. THE HAND

XXVII. THE CAVES

XXVIII. THE TOWER

XXIX. BHAG’S RETURN

XXX. THE ADVERTISEMENT

XXXI. JOHN PERCIVAL LIGGITT

XXXII. GREGORY’S WAY

XXXIII. THE TRAP THAT FAILED

XXXIV. THE SEARCH

XXXV. WHAT HAPPENED TO ADELE

XXXVI. THE ESCAPE

XXXVII. AT THE TOWER AGAIN

XXXVIII. THE CAVERN OF BONES

XXXIX. MICHAEL KNOWS FOR SURE

XL. “THE WIDOW”

XLI. THE DEATH

XLII. CAMERA

I. THE HEAD-HUNTER

CAPTAIN MIKE BRIXAN had certain mild and innocent superstitions. He believed, for example, that if he saw a green crow in a field he would certainly see another green crow before the day was out. And when, at the bookstand on Aix-la-Chapelle station, he saw and purchased a dime novel that was comprehensively entitled “Only an Extra, or the Pride of Hollywood”, he was less concerned as to how this thrilling and dog-eared romance came to be on offer at half a million marks (this was in the days when marks were worth money) than as to the circumstances in which he would again hear or read the word “extras” in the sense of a supernumerary and unimportant screen actress.

The novel did not interest him at all. He read one page of superlatives and turned for relief to the study of a Belgian time-table. He was bored, but not so bored that he could interest himself in the sensational rise of the fictitious Rosa Love from modest obscurity to a press agent and wealth.

But “extra” was a new one on Michael, and he waited for the day to bring its inevitable companion.

To say that he was uninterested in crime, that burglars were less thrilling than golf scores, and the record of murders hardly worth the reading, might convey a wrong impression to those who knew him as the cleverest agent in the Foreign Office Intelligence Department.

His official life was spent in meeting queer Continentals in obscure restaurants and, in divers roles, to learn of the undercurrents that were drifting the barques of diplomacy to unsuspected ports. He had twice roamed through Europe in the guise of an open-mouthed tourist; had canoed many hundred miles through the gorges of the Danube to discover, in little riverside beer-houses, the inward meanings of secret mobilizations. These were tasks wholly to his liking.

Therefore he was not unnaturally annoyed when he was withdrawn from Berlin at a moment when, as it seemed, the mystery of the Slovak Treaty was in a way to being solved, for he had secured, at a cost, a rough but accurate draft.

“I should have had a photograph of the actual document if you had left me another twenty-four hours,” he reproached his chief, Major George Staines, when he reported himself at Whitehall next morning.

“Sorry,” replied that unrepentant man, “but the truth is, we’ve had a heart-to-heart talk with the Slovakian Prime Minister, and he has promised to behave and practically given us the text of the treaty–it was only a commercial affair. Mike, did you know Elmer?”

The Foreign Office detective sat down on the edge of the table.

“Have you brought me from Berlin to ask me that?” he demanded bitterly. “Have you taken me from my favourite café on Unter den Linden–by the way, the Germans are making small-arm ammunition by the million at a converted pencil factory in Bavaria–to discuss Elmer? He’s a clerk, isn’t he?”

Major Staines nodded.

“He was,” he said, “in the Accountancy Department. He disappeared from view three weeks ago, and an examination of his books showed that he had been systematically stealing funds which were under his control.”

Mike Brixan made a little face.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “He seemed to be a fairly quiet and inoffensive man. But surely you don’t want me to go after him? That is a job for Scotland Yard.”

“I don’t want you to go after him,” said Staines slowly, “because –well, he has been found.”

There was something very significant and sinister in his tone, and, before he could take the little slip of paper from the portfolio on the desk, Michael Brixan knew what was coming.

“Not the Head-Hunter?” he gasped. Even Michael knew about the Head-Hunter.

Staines nodded. “Here’s the note.”

He handed the typewritten slip across to his subordinate, and Michael read:

“You will find a box in the hedge by the railway arch at Esher. The Head-Hunter.”

“The Head-Hunter!” repeated Michael mechanically, and whistled.

“We found the box, and, of course, we found the unfortunate Elmer’s head, sliced neatly from his body,” said Staines. “This is the twelfth head in seven years,” Staines went on, “and in almost every case–in fact, in every case except two–the victim has been a fugitive from justice. Even if the treaty question had not been settled, Mike, I should have brought you back.”

“But this is a police job,” said the young man, troubled.

“Technically you’re a policeman,” interrupted his chief, “and the Foreign Secretary wishes you to take this case in hand, and he does this with the full approval of the Secretary of State, who of course controls Scotland Yard. So far, the death of Francis Elmer and the discovery of his gruesome remains have not been given out to the Press. There was such a fuss last time that the police want to keep this quiet. They have had an inquest–I guess the jury was picked, but it would be high treason to say so–and the usual verdict has been returned. The only information I can give you is that Elmer was seen by his niece a week ago in Chichester. We discovered this before the man’s fate was known. The girl, Adele Leamington, is working for the Knebworth Film Corporation, which has its studio in Chichester. Old Knebworth is an American and a very good sort. The girl is a sort of super-chorus-extra, that’s the word–”

Michael gasped.

“Extra! I knew that infernal word would turn up again! Go on, sir –what do you wish me to do?”

“Go along and see her,” said the chief. “Here is the address.”

“Is there a Mrs. Elmer?” asked Michael as he put the slip into his pocket. The other nodded.

“Yes, but she can throw no light upon the murder. She, by the way, is the only person who knows he is dead. She had not seen her husband for a month, and apparently they had been more or less separated for years. She benefits considerably by his death, for he was well insured in her favour.”

Michael read again the gruesome note from the Head-Hunter.

“What is your theory about this?” he asked curiously.

“The general idea is that he is a lunatic who feels called upon to mete out punishment to defaulters. But the two exceptions disturb that theory pretty considerably.”

Staines lay back in his chair, a puzzled frown on his face.

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