The Cartwright Gardens Murder - J.S. Fletcher - ebook
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As always, the reader has an interesting task: to solve who is the killer. An unknown man returning home in the evening clutches at his throat and dies. He died from poisoning. The police are conducting a full investigation, but no overt suspects arise.

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Liczba stron: 290

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Contents

CHAPTER I. THE MAN WHO SAW

CHAPTER II. THE MAN WHO CAME BACK

CHAPTER III. THE WITNESS-BOX

CHAPTER IV. THE AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPH

CHAPTER V. THE HOTEL NOTE-PAPER

CHAPTER VI. FACE TO FACE

CHAPTER VII. HUSH MONEY

CHAPTER VIII. THE AMERICAN CABLEGRAM

CHAPTER IX. SHINO

CHAPTER X. THE SIXPENNY SURGERY

CHAPTER XI. MYSTERY OF MISS WALKER

CHAPTER XII. MYSTERY OF THE YOUNG WAITER

CHAPTER XIII. DEVELOPMENTS

CHAPTER XIV. TRACKS

CHAPTER XV. WHAT THE PARLOURMAID HEARD

CHAPTER XVI. UNDER EXAMINATION

CHAPTER XVII. HOME-MADE TOFFEE

CHAPTER XVIII. HE KNOWS NOTHING

CHAPTER XIX. CORNERED

CHAPTER XX. OUT WITH IT!

CHAPTER XXI. THE HOODED LADY

CHAPTER XXII. THE EMPTY HOUSE

CHAPTER XXIII. WANTED!

CHAPTER I. THE MAN WHO SAW

Cartwright Gardens lies in the far east corner of Bloomsbury, somewhat south of the dreary Euston Road, and somewhat north of the still drearier quarter that fringes on the western confines of Clerkenwell. Whoever knows nothing of it and goes thither on a voyage of discovery must not expect what the name, taken literally, would seem to suggest–here are neither bushes nor brakes, flowers nor fruits. What is here is a drab and dismal crescent of houses, fronted by an enclosure wherein soot and grime descend on the London plane tree and the London turf; an oasis, perhaps, in the surrounding wilderness of shabby streets, but only, as things go, for the brave sparrow and his restless stalker, the lodging-house cat. Maybe the place has seen better days; in these it presents a frontage of mean houses, in each of which it is all Lombard Street to a China orange that you would find, if not more families than one, at any rate a lodger or lodgers in addition to the nominal tenant. The houses look as if they accommodated lodgers; the men who come out of them early of a morning look as if they were lodgers; the women, who, at one hour of the day or another, stand at the doors, to traffic with wandering greengrocers or itinerant fishmongers, look as if they lived by letting lodgings. And the young man who saw a certain extraordinary thing in Cartwright Gardens, at precisely fifteen minutes before midnight, on Monday, October 25th, 1920, was a lodger, and he saw it because, being a bit of a rhymster, he had been sitting up late to write verses, and, to cool his brow, had, at the moment mentioned, opened the window of his room, on the top floor of No. 85, and thrust head and shoulders into the silence of the autumn night.

The name of this young man was Albert Jennison, and by calling he was a clerk. He was at this time one and twenty years of age, and he had been a clerk for four years, and, as far as he could see, he was going to be a clerk for ever. There were clerkships and clerkships; Jennison’s job was lowish down in that scale. Its scene was a warehouse–dry goods–in the Gresham Street district of the city: he was in that warehouse, adding and subtracting, from nine o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon. He had begun, at seventeen, at a pound a week: now he got three pounds ten, and his relations, who lived in the country and thought rustically, told him that he ought to consider himself well off, and that when he attained to just double his present stipend he would be a gentleman for the remainder of his days. Jennison had different notions: you might, perhaps, pass as a gentleman on a pound a day, but a pound a day was not everything, and to be practical, ten shillings was precisely half, and there was neither excitement nor fun in being half a gentleman. But it was not gentility that Jennison craved for, and it was not money. Three pound ten a week enabled him to live quite comfortably, but it was that easy, uneventful, smooth-running comfort that something in him objected to. He wanted adventure; any sort of adventure. Nothing ever happened to him, either at the warehouse or at the lodgings; he was one of several at the first, and a veritable hermit at the second. With him one day was as another day, and Sundays and Bank Holidays were worse than the rest. Sometimes, of course, he got a little excited over his wooings of the Muse; now and then his heart jumped when he got an oblong envelope from some magazine editor or other, and, for a few seconds, allowed himself to wonder whether it contained a proof or an oft-rejected manuscript. And sometimes he dared to let himself think of giving the firm a month’s notice, drawing his small store of saved money out of the Post Office Savings Bank, and going boldly, rashly, adventurously, into a world of which he dreamed much and knew next to nothing. But though Jennison had been four years in London, his brains were still essentially rustic, and they cooled at the motive when he fairly faced it; after all, seventy silver shillings, paid regularly every Friday afternoon, is something that you mustn’t sneeze at–besides, there was the annual rise. No! He was tied to the warehouse, and the grip of the knot didn’t hurt... still, he longed for adventure, wished that things would happen... something... anything...

If Jennison had only known it, something was just about to happen in Cartwright Gardens when he put his head out of his window and looked round. It was a clear night–for London–and the moon was at the full. Cartwright Gardens was quiet and deserted: a light shone here and there in a window, but there was not a soul to be seen on either pavement or roadway. Suddenly a man came round the corner, out of Mabledon Place. The moon shone directly upon him; Jennison saw all of him distinctly. He was a tallish, well-built man, agile of movement; he walked well and smartly; Jennison thought he was in a hurry. He carried a walking-stick, and as he came along he was swinging it jauntily. But all of a sudden, when he was some ten or twelve yards away from the house out of which Jennison watched him, he cast the stick away from him, let out a strange, half-stifled cry, and, lifting both hands, began tearing at his neckwear, as if he was being throttled. For a second or two his actions were frantic; then, still more suddenly, his uplifted hands dropped at his sides, his figure swayed this way and that, and with a scarcely-perceptible moan he plunged straight forward on the pavement and rolled over into the gutter. And there he lay as still as the stonework beneath him–and Jennison made a dive for his door and rushed headlong to the street.

You’ll find the man dead! You’ll find the man dead! And when at last he had got clear of the house, and had rushed along the street to where the man lay, quiet enough, in the gutter, and had bent down and laid a hand on him, he knew that the man was dead–dead, Jennison informed himself, in non-original fashion, as a doornail.

Jennison was puzzled. He knew that a man can be all alive one minute and all dead the next. He had read–being inquisitive about such things–many newspaper reports of executions, and had gloated morbidly over the fact that from the moment of quitting the condemned cell to that in which death took place on the adjacent scaffold only thirty-five seconds had elapsed; he understood, too, that in electrocutions, the actual passage from life to death was even quicker–-far quicker. But those things weren’t close at hand–this had been. Three, or at most, five minutes previously he had seen this man marching jauntily, bravely along, swinging his stick–now he lay there at Jennison’s feet as dead as–again he caught at a hackneyed phrase–as dead as Queen Anne. And Queen Anne, reflected Jennison, thinking queerly, had been dead–oh, no end of time! Dead!–but she wasn’t any deader than this chap!

There had been no noise, and so no windows went up in Cartwright Gardens. And just then no one came along, in either direction; Jennison was alone with the man who lay there so quietly. He bent down again and looked more closely at him. As far as he could judge, in the light of the street lamp and the glow of the moon, this was a man of about thirty-five years of age, a good-looking, even handsome man, a man, evidently, of some position and means, for he was well-dressed in a smartly-cut suit of dark blue serge, and had good linen, and a gold watch chain across his vest. His hat had fallen from him when he fell, and lay a yard or two away. Jennison picked it up and looked abstractedly into the lining. There, without feeling that he saw, he read the name and address of a Liverpool hatter, and turning the hat about in his hands noticed that it was quite new–-perhaps its wearer had just come from Liverpool? But anyway, there he lay, statuesquely still... dead.

“Must ha’ been a fit!” mused Jennison, unable to run to great heights of speculation or theory. “A fit!–sudden. People do fall down and die in fits–die quick, too. So I’ve heard. It couldn’t be anything but a fit. And what am I to do next?”

As if in immediate answer to this question, the sound of a heavy, regular step came to Jennison’s ears. He knew that sound–a policeman was coming; he was coming into Cartwright Gardens from Marchmont Street. He came every midnight, almost to the minute, as Jennison, who often sat up late, tediously wooing the Muse, knew well. Presently he appeared, and Jennison hurried to meet him, and arrived at the point of contact breathless. The policeman halted, staring, but impassive.

“Oh, I say!” began Jennison lamely. “I–the fact is, there’s a dead man lying up there, nearly opposite our house. I–I think I saw him die. From my window, you know.”

The policeman quickened. He might have been a war-horse, sniffing the battle, or a fox-hound, catching a whiff of scent. His eyes opened wider, and he looked along the pavement, following Jennison’s ink-stained forefinger.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “Just so! And––-”

At that moment he caught sight of the dark heap lying in the gutter, and he relapsed into official silence and strode off, Jennison ambling at his side.

“Yes!” said Jennison jerkily. “I–I saw him! I was looking out of the window–my window–No. 85 I live–third floor. He came along, walking quickly, swinging his stick–I’ve an idea he was whistling or humming a tune. Then–suddenly stopped! Tore at his throat–extraordinary motions! And then he fell! and rolled into the gutter. And when I got down to him he was dead; oh, quite dead. What do you think it could have been?”

But all the policeman vouchsafed to say was in the form of a question,–put staccato fashion.

“When was this?”

“Just now, two or three minutes since,” replied Jennison. He heaved a deep sigh–a sigh of speculative surprise. “Lord!” he muttered. “It doesn’t seem–it isn’t–more than five or six minutes when I first saw him!”

“Doesn’t take long to die?” observed the policeman sententiously. “Thing is–here or elsewhere, I reckon!–cause of death.” Then having a bright notion, he added, “P’raps you’re mistaken, may be unconscious?”

But they were close to the fallen man now, and the policeman, after a hasty examination, looked up at Jennison and nodded.

“You’re right,” he said. “Dead enough! And–nobody with him, eh? No attack on him?”

“Attack?” exclaimed Jennison wonderingly. “Of course not! There wasn’t a soul about.”

The policeman began to fumble for his whistle.

and fits! However....” He raised his whistle to his lips and blew. The silence seemed greater than ever when the sound had died away. Jennison stood, still staring at the inanimate thing in the gutter: the policeman fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Suddenly he spoke, nodding at the dead man.

“You don’t know him?”

Jennison started and looked up sharply.

“I?” he exclaimed. “Good Lord, no! Don’t know him from–anybody!”

“What I meant was,” said the policeman slowly, “what I meant was–you saying as how you lived–where? No. 85?–and it being latish, and him here, I thought maybe you’d know him, say, by sight–dweller hereabouts, eh?”

“Never seen him in my life before!” declared Jennison. Then he caught sight of the dead man’s hat, which he had carefully placed aside. “That hat,” he continued, pointing to it. “I picked it up. Liverpool, it says in it–maker’s or seller’s name, you know. P’raps he’s a Liverpool man. You’d think so, wouldn’t you?–Liverpool being in the hat?”

“Oh, well, his clothing’ll be examined,” remarked the policeman easily. “There’ll be something on him, likely or not. Papers–cards–such like. He’ll be taken to the mortuary–as soon as we can get the ambulance. Doctor’ll have to see him, too. Then–”

He broke off as men came round the near corners. Jennison wondered that so many came so quickly. One–two–three–four–five policemen; a sergeant amongst them. He had to tell his tale to the sergeant; he told it in detail while others went for an ambulance. And when that came the sergeant asked Jennison to go with them: the police station and the mortuary, he said, were close together, and Jennison, as the only eye-witness, had better tell his story to the inspector. Jennison was nothing loath; here, at last, was an adventure, a mystery.

But it had drab, dismal settings, he thought, presently. The mortuary was a cold, repellent place, and it looked all the colder and more repellent, somehow, when they had laid the dead man there. A police surgeon came and examined what they had fetched him to see: he was one of those men, thought Jennison, out of whom you’re not going to extract speech if they don’t want to speak; he did his job in a silence which none of those standing by cared or dared to break. But when he had done it he turned, looking round.

“Where’s the man who saw him fall?” he asked sharply.

Jennison, who had remained hidden by the big forms around him, was shoved forward; the police surgeon sized him up in a quick glance.

“Well?” he said.

Jennison had to tell the tale again; this was the third time. The medical man listened in as grim a silence as he had kept before. But again his lips opened.

“Lifted his hands to his throat, you say?” he asked. “Suddenly?”

“All of a sudden!” answered Jennison. “One second he was walking along, ordinarily, the next, up went his hands, clutching, snatching, tearing at his throat! Like this–only worse!”

“Scream? Cry out?” asked the doctor.

“No–o” said Jennison. “Not what you’d call by either name. Made a bit of a moan–in his throat–as he went down.”

“Face first?”

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