The Carson Loan Mystery - Aidan de Brune - ebook

The Carson Loan Mystery ebook

Aidan de Brune

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The Carson Loan Mystery” novel is one of mystery by Aidan de Brune, and deals with complications arising out of a loan of a large sum of money, concerned with the unscrupulous activities of several more or less shady characters. The locale of the story is Sydney, and introduces many places familiar to those who have visited that capital. The author knows Sydney, and also knows passing well the procedure in police and detective departments, besides having a passing acquaintance with newspaper staff feuds. The result is a smart novel, brightly written. Highly recommended!

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Liczba stron: 282

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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 XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER I

“IT’S the queerest bit o’ business I’ve seen.”

Constable Nicholls was standing on the sandhills that border Little Bay, looking down into a shallow depression, in which lay the body of a naked woman. His large, red, good-humoured face wore an expression of almost comical dismay, as he leisurely scratched his thinly covered head with the peak of his official cap. Nicholls was not recognised in the New South Wales Police Force for his readiness to grasp a situation.

The woman had been about forty-five years of age. The features, once possessing a measure of beauty, had been coarsened and lined by a life of dissipation and want. The hair, roughly bobbed, was sprinkled with grey, and the liberally applied cosmetics had formed grotesque channels through the action of the heavy morning dew.

The woman lay on her back, her knees slightly drawn up. Under her had been strewn a rough bed of rushes, and, for some reason, the murderer had carefully folded and placed across the lower part of the body the clothes the woman had worn in life. Her face was placid, but for a queer twisted smile that curved the thin bloodless lips.

Nicholls looked at his watch. It was just five o’clock, and the first rays of the morning sun were lifting above the eastern horizon. A haze, almost thick enough to be called a fog, hung over the sand-hills, giving the surroundings an effect of long distances. About three hundred yards north of where the constable stood the waters of the bay shone intermittently through the haze.

“They should be here, soon,” commented Nicholls, stowing in an inner pocket the massive silver timepiece he had consulted. Then he turned to his companion, a long lanky youth of about seventeen years of age: “There’s no work for you t’day, m’lad.”

Archie Clarke nodded vacantly, and continued to stare down at the woman’s body.

“She was like that when I found her,” he said, hesitatingly.

“Likely, lad,” replied Nicholls, magisterially, “Them as ‘as been treated as she ‘as don’t move much after. Leastways, not till we moves ‘em.”

“I didn’t touch ‘er,” continued the youth. “‘Struth, I didn’t. She’s just as I told you I found ‘er. I was comin’ across that ‘ere path, game as I’ve done every day this year past, to go to work, when I seed ‘er.”

“Is it more’n a year, or less’n a year, you’ve come across ‘ere’?” The constable stuck his hands on his hips and frowned down on his companion. “You’ve got ter be exact, y’know, in these eases.”

Archie looked puzzled.

“You might remember later on,” added Nicholls, shaking his head, sadly. “Go on wi’ yer tale, Archie. It ain’t many as remembers th’ exact particulars when face ter face wi’ th’ lor, Yer ‘ave ter be trained to it.”

“I’ve told you all I know about it, Mr. Nicholls,” protested the youth.

“So yer ‘ave, an’ I writ it all down,” replied the constable, “But it won’t ‘urt yer t’ say it all over agen. You’ll tell a better story when yer comes affore th’ magistrate. I does it m’self. I goes over an’ over it agen, an’ agen, an’ adds a bit ‘ere, an’ leaves out a bit there, as don’t count. Y’ don’t know wot you’re up agenst, If yer tells it wrong they may even take yer up for th’ murder. They’ve done it affore, an’ they’ll do it agen, I can tell yer.”

Nicholls paused, and looked down at his companion, now duly impressed.

“You’re a decent lad, Archie Clarke. I’ve ‘ad me eye on yer fer some time, you livin’, so t’ speak, in my district. An’ I makes no complaint, tho’ there’s them as might seein’ th’ row you an’ your mates make in Main Street ov a Friday night.”

“We don’t do no ‘arm, Mr. Nicholls,” argued Archie.

“P’haps not. So I gives yer a word of advice.” Nicholls spoke authoritatively. “You tells your tale as you told it me, an’ as I writ it down, an’ don’t yer make no h’errors. When we lays ‘ands on th’ bloke as done this, you tells your tale to th’ Judge and jury–an’ th’ Loord ‘ave mercy on yes soul.”

“All right, Mr. Nicholls,” answered Archie cheerfully. “They won’t do anythin’ to me, will they. I couldn’t ‘elp findin’ er.”

“Not if yer do as I ses,” replied the constable. “An’ there’s one thin’ more. Beware of them noospaper blokes. They’ll be all over yer, er tellin’ yer wot a fine feller y’are, an’ ow yer saved the country by findin’ this ‘ere female. Then, they’ll take yer words an’ cut an’ twist ‘em, an’ turn ‘em up-side-down an’ yer won’t know wot yer sed, an’ then th’ H’Inspector ‘ll call yer a fool, an’ worse, an’–Yes, sir.”

The constable sprang to attention as a tall form loomed out of the mist.

“There you are, Nicholls. Had a devil of a time getting here. Ah, there she is. Bad case, eh!”

“Very bad, sir. It’s–murder,” announced Nicholls pompously. “This ‘ere’s the principal witness, sir.”

Inspector Richards looked at Archie Clarke, casually; then nodded.

“I’ll hear what you have to say presently, my lad,” he said, brusquely. “You’ve not touched the body, constable?”

“No one’s been down there, sir, ‘cept th’ murderers. Clarke and I ‘ave stood up ‘ere ever since ‘e fetched me.”

With a nod of approval the Inspector walked down into the hollow and stood beside the corpse. Bending down he looked, earnestly, into the still face. Then, silently and methodically, be circled the body, carefully examining the ground.

“Humph!” Richards climbed on to the high ground, and stood beside the constable and youth. “You don’t seem to have done any damage, Nicholls. She’s dead, so we’ll leave things as they are until the doctor and others arrive. I’m a few minutes ahead of them.”

The Inspector looked down on the dead body, thoughtfully, for a few seconds. Then he turned briskly to the boy.

“So you are the boy who found her? What’s your name?”

“Archie Clarke, sir.”

“Where do you live, Clarke?”

“14 Milton Street, Maroubra, sir.”

“Good. Now, how did you come to find the body? Speak up, smartly.”

“I’ve got it all writ down, sir,” interposed Nicholls, importantly.

“Then keep it so,” snapped Richards. “We may want it later, but I’ll get my facts first-hand. Now, Clarke, tell your story.”

The constable stepped back, somewhat abashed. Archie Clarke hesitated.

“Get on with it, boy. You say you live at Maroubra. Well, how did you come to be on these sandhills so early in the morning?”

“I come across ‘ere every morning’, sir.”

“What for?”

“To go to work.”

“Early or late, this morning?”

“‘Bout usual time, sir. I leaves ‘ome about ‘arf-past three an’ gets there about four. I shall be late this mornin’.”

“Afraid you will.” Richards smiled, grimly.

“What’s your job, Archie?”

“Milk round, Walker’s Dairy, Randwick. Can I go now? Mr. Walker told me not to be long.”

“Not unless you take Constable Nicholls with you, my lad. Do you think he would look pretty on the cart. No, I can see you don’t. For the present you’d better stick close to the constable. Later, you may be able to go home or go to work, just as you please. Now, lets get your tale straight. Your name is ‘rchie Clarke; you live at Maroubra, and you work for Mr. Walker, a dairyman, at Randwick. Then you said you come across this track every morning between three-thirty and four o’clock. That right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then how did you come to see this woman? You can’t see into this hollow from that track?”

“I wasn’t walkin’ right on th’ track sir,” replied the youth. “Just alongside, an’ I saw some ov them things flutterin’. So I came over to see what it was–an’ then I saw ‘er.”

The youth hesitated.

“Go ahead, Archie,” urged the Inspector kindly. “What did you do then?”

“Ran all the way to Mr. Walker’s, an’ told ‘im.”

“And then?”

“Mr. Walker rang up the police station an’ told ‘em. Then, when Mr. Nicholls came, he told me to bring ‘im ‘ere. An’ I did.”

“That lets you out,” observed the Inspector. “Wait a moment.”

Richards left the pair and walked over to the track. There he carefully scanned the ground, walking along the pad a considerable distance both ways.

“Quite right, Archie,” he said, when he returned to the edge of the hollow. “When I’ve heard the constable’s report I may be able to indulge your secret passion for work. Yes, constable.”

“Robert Nicholls, constable, number 41,593, stationed at Randwick, sir.” Nicholls drew himself up erect, and spoke in a severely official voice. “At 4.10 a.m. received instructions from Sergeant Appleby to go to Mr. Walker, a dairyman, at Randwick, in reference to a ease of suspected murder. At Mr. Walker’s saw witness, Archie Clarke, who stated he had found the dead body of a woman on the sand-hills near Little Bay. I accompanied him to the spot indicated and investigated, sir.”

“Your investigations taking the form of mounting guard,” commented Richards, drily. “I admire your discretion, constable.”

“I was examining the witness, sir.” Nicholls assumed an air of injured rectitude. “Then I was–”

“Perhaps it is as well I arrived before the examination concluded,” observed the Inspector, grimly. “There seems to be few clues as it is, and if you had commenced tramping the ground down there–”

“What’s that?” Archie Clarke was pointing over the sandhills to where the indistinct form of a man clad in a long white coat loomed out of the mist. He was acting in a very peculiar manner, stooping low, and dodging from bush to bush.

“Who’s that?” shouted Nicholls, importantly.

The man halted, and dropped behind a clump of bushes. For some minutes the officers strained their eyes to see where he had gone to. Presently Clarke touched the Inspector on the arm, and pointed well away to the right. Richards caught a glimpse of a white coat vanishing around a clump of rushes. Beckoning to his companions, Richards led the way towards where the man had disappeared. Again Clarke pointed to the right. The man was evidently circling to get to the place where the woman’s body lay.

“Halt, or I fire,” Nicholls rushed forward, tugging at his revolver.

The man gave a swift look round and then started to run, curving around in the direction of Randwick.

“You damned fool,” muttered Richards, angrily. “If you had kept your ugly mouth shut in the first place he would have walked into our arms. Come on, he’s getting away from us.”

It was heavy running on the loose sand. Nicholls plodded heavily along in the rear, groaning and spluttering. Clarke, younger and lighter, drew steadily ahead, and noticeably gained on the fugitive.

“There’s a road over there,” panted Nicholls, heavily.

“What’s the good of that?” shouted the Inspector, testily. “A road’s not a wall. It’s up to that boy. He can run.”

The fugitive breasted a steep sandhill that slowed the pursuing officers to a walk. Archie Clarke made up a lot of ground on the climb, and was only half a dozen yards in the rear when the man reached the summit. There, the man turned and waved a derisive farewell to his pursuers, and slid out of sight.

The Inspector struggled gamely up the loose, shifting sand, confident that when he reached the top he would have his quarry under observation into the town. Once there he halted and looked around. The man had disappeared.

At the feet of the officer lay Archie Clarke, insensible, and bleeding from an ugly head wound.

CHAPTER II

RUGH THORNTON tilted his chair back and hoisted his feet on to his desk. Business was slack, and the afternoon’s Star interesting.

Twelve month’s previous Rugh had been a member of the Star’s staff. Investigations he had made into the activities of certain assurance company-promoters had attracted the attention of leading men of the assurance world. He had received an offer from a syndicate of the leading assurance companies to enter their employ and carry on his investigation work, and had promptly accepted. His work was interesting. Every new assurance company came under his review, and his keen insight into their methods and objects, as well as into the history of the men behind them, had resulted in making New South Wales unsafe for the unscrupulous insurance company promoter, and wild-cat companies.

The Star’s account of the finding of a woman’s naked body on the sandhills around Little Bay was extremely brief and pointless. Rugh was puzzled, for the Star’s criminal investigator, Harry Sutherland, was a keen and clever journalist, usually well ahead of official investigations.

In the matter of the Little Bay Mystery the Star had taken a scrupulously official viewpoint. No attempt had been made at an independent newspaper investigation, and the impression conveyed was that the Little Bay Murder was one of the sordid crimes common to large cities.

The well-trained brain of the assurance investigator refused to consider the murder in the aspect presented by the Star report. There were many unexplained points that puzzled him.

The woman’s body had been stripped. It was not uncommon for murderers to strip their victims in the search for valuables of one kind or another. Yet the police were confident the woman was one of the “lost sisters” of the city, and unlikely to have anything of value on her person.

Again, while the body had been stripped, the clothes had not been thrown about haphazard, but had been carefully folded and placed on the body. This, alone, presented a problem of an original character. Few murderers are sufficiently cool-headed to spare time and thought for such actions.

The man seen by the police in the vicinity of the dead woman, almost immediately after the discovery of the body, presented another problem. If the woman was one of the “lost sisters” of the city, and had been murdered by this man, why should he hang around the spot. Murderers usually place a considerable distance between themselves and their crimes, as quickly as possible.

While the official report strove to show the Little Bay murder as a common, sordid crime, it could not conceal the unusual nature of the surroundings. The report laid great stress on the doctor’s report that the woman had been kicked to death, as supporting their theory of thug-murder, but neglected to explain the stripping of the body, the careful disposal of the clothes, and the return of the supposed murderer to the scene of his crime.

Rugh laid the newspaper aside with an exclamation of displeasure. It was a mystery that would have appealed to him during his journalistic career. He would have thrown himself, heart and soul, into the hunt, combing Sydney’s underworld from end to end.

Those days had passed. The greater tragedies of the city were not for him. He had his work in the protection of a branch of the city’s commerce. In the hunt for the murderer in the Little Bay mystery he was now but one of the great public who stand and watch the passing show.

Not altogether. Harry Sutherland, the criminal investigator on the Star’s staff, was his personal friend. Harry would willingly give him inside information and discuss the mystery with him.

Rugh caught up the telephone. The girl at the Star’s switchboard recognised his voice, and under a minute he was speaking to his friend.

“Rugh Thornton, by the favour of the gods,” ejaculated Harry, on listening in. “The one man I wanted. I was going to hunt you up this afternoon, old man.”

“Hunt round my office, now,” invited the assurance man. “I’m not running away. How long will you be?”

“Five minutes,” replied Harry, reaching for his hat. “Dinkum.”

Less than five minutes later the Star man entered Rugh’s offices and deposited his long length in the most comfortable chair he could find. Then he took off the high-powered spectacles he wore and polished the lenses carefully.

“What’s the trouble, Harry?” asked Rugh. The careful polishing of the glasses was an unfailing sign of worry with Harry Sutherland.

“Same inquiry from the Star man,” retorted Harry. “As you beat me to the ‘phone, suppose you spill first.”

“All right,” replied Rugh, indifferently. “I want the correct dope on the Little Bay Mystery.”

“Read the Star. All the winners, spiced with political scandals, and the dinkum official dope on births, marriages, divorces, and sudden deaths.”

“Since when has the Star assumed the role of official apologists for the N.S.W. Police Force?” asked Rugh, sarcastically.

Harry pulled out his watch and studied it. Then he gave his crop of unruly black hair a characteristic rake.

“A little over three and a half hours,” he replied with a cheerful grin. “To be exact, since the noon edition, a copy of which I see on your desk.”

“Well?”

“Are you interested, old man?”

“Intensely. I em interested to know when Harry Sutherland lost his punch.”

“Your people expect you to take an interest in claims against them?” asked Harry, ignoring the assurance man’s question.

“Occasionally. You know they run claim inspectors for that work.”

“Yet, they are liable to call on you?”

“They might. In the event of their regular men falling down on it.”

“They have called on you to investigate claims?”

“What are you driving at, Harry?” asked Rugh, impatiently. “Yes, if you want to know, they have called on my services. Twice.”

“Thought so. And they’ll call again?”

“Possibly. Get on with your beans, you ass.”

“Say, in the event of a mysterious murder?”

Rugh was silent a minute. Then he got out of his chair and strode over to where Harry was seated. “There’s something on your mind,” he commanded. “Spill it.”

“The Little Bay Murder.”

“Do you suggest any of my companies are likely to be concerned in the matter?” Rugh asked, speaking deliberately. “Your account of the police investigations presumes the murder to be of an ordinary type and likely to be quickly solved by the authorities.”

“Think so?” Harry pulled out a well-seasoned briar pipe and earnestly explored the interior. “Nothing in that account that strikes you as–well, strange?”

Rugh looked at his friend, closely. Harry was intent on his pipe.

“Only that you wrote it,” he said at length.

“So.” The journalist carefully pieced his pipe together. “There’s a Chink, calling itself a Scot, in our office.”

“Name McAdoo.” The investigator returned to his seat. “What’s his latest?”

“Damned if I know.” Harry reached out a long arm and commandeered Rugh’s tobacco pouch. “He called me on the carpet this morning. Informed me space was valuable, and that an experienced journalist would not require more than a half-column for so trite an affair as the Little Bay murder.”

Rugh laughed.

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