The Channay Syndicate - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Channay Syndicate ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Welcome to the adventuring, thrilling world of E. Phillips Oppenheim’s modern retelling of „Monte Cristo”. Gilbert Channay is released from prison after three years. He had been framed-up by business partners in The Channay Syndicate, and sets about executing his revenge. The retired policeman, Martin Fogg, mysteriously appears, knowing too much about Channay’s business. He helps Channay escape an attempt on his life, and keeps turning up at crucial times. The plot is the story of Channay’s revenge against each of the former members of the syndicate. In various intriguing and clever ways he manages to humble them all. Fans of fiction where wronged men turn tables on foes and out-maneuver them will enjoy „The Channay Syndicate”.

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Liczba stron: 326

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Contents

I. GILBERT CHANNAY TAKES THE AIR

II. MARK LEVY PAYS

III. LORD ISHAM'S GAMBLE

IV. MARTIN FOGG PERSISTS

V. THE INQUISITIVE SHAREHOLDER

VI. THE DRAMA OF THE MARSHES

VII. THE AMAZING BANQUET

VIII. THE GREAT ABDUCTION

IX. CHANNAY THE DELIVERER

X. ERIC RODES HAS HIS CHANCE

I. GILBERT CHANNAY TAKES THE AIR

MAJOR EGERTON WARLING, D.S.O., governor of one of His Majesty’s prisons situated in the vicinity of London, was not altogether at his ease in this somewhat singular farewell interview to which he was committed. He was a youngish man who had not held the appointment very long, and he could still remember the days when the name of the departing visitor who had just been brought in for his final benediction had been one to conjure with in highly desirable circles. He stood with his hands thrust into the pockets of his dressing gown and sought for words which might not offend.

“We have acceded to your request, as you see, Channay,” he began. “One o’clock in the morning is an extraordinary hour for us to dismiss–er–a prisoner who has served his time, but, from what I can hear, your request is not altogether unreasonable. You want to escape annoyance from your past associates, I gather.”

Gilbert Channay smiled very faintly. He was a man of only slightly over medium height, inclined to be slim, but with the carriage and broad shoulders of an athlete. His features were good, but his complexion had suffered from several years of confinement and unnatural living. There were pleasant little lines about his eyes and the corners of his mouth, in spite of the hardening of the latter during the grim days of a routine-driven life. He was well dressed in clothes obviously cut by a good tailor, but now become a little large for him. He was wearing gloves as though to conceal his hands and he carried a Homburg hat.

“That was rather the idea, sir,” he admitted.

“You can drop the ‘sir’ now, Channay,” the governor remarked. “What I want to say to you is this. If you would care for police protection for the first stage of your journey it could be arranged.”

Channay shook his head meditatively.

“No one knows that I am leaving at this hour, I suppose?” he asked.

“Not a soul,” was the confident reply.

“In that case I’d rather be without it,” he decided. “When I reach my destination–well, I shall be ready for what may happen. Good of you to arrange this for me, Warling, and to get out of your bed at this hour of the morning to see me off. There’s nothing else, I suppose.”

“A word of advice wouldn’t be acceptable, eh?” the governor enquired, a little diffidently.

“It is, I believe, usual under the circumstances,” Channay conceded, with a faint smile. “Are you going to suggest that I try to earn an honest living?”

Major Warling lit a cigarette. His slight movement in striking a match disclosed the fact that he was wearing his pyjamas.

“Sorry I can’t offer you one yet, Channay,” he regretted, “but take a handful if you will to smoke in the car. What I should like to say to you is this. I have always looked upon you as a hardly-treated man. You were certainly the brains of the Syndicate which bore your name, but although you signed the balance sheets of the Siamese Corporation I have never felt satisfied that it was you who alone were responsible for the dishonest side of the affair–if it was dishonest–That’s en passant,” he went on, blowing out his match. “Listen to me, now, for a moment. I’ve got it at the back of my head that your arrest was brought about by a kind of conspiracy amongst the others who meant to profit by your absence, and that you’ve been laying it up against them all these years. Am I right?”

Gilbert Channay shrugged his shoulders slightly. He made no reply whatever. After a moment or two the other continued.

“Well, you’re not bound to commit yourself, of course. I’m going to give you a word of advice because you must remember that the whole of a great prison like this is a kind of whispering gallery. One hears everything. There’s a sort of idea about that you’re going back into the world with the fixed intention of getting level with some of these fellows who were responsible for your–er–misfortune. Kind of vendetta, you know, only it’s one against a gang. I should drop that, if I were you. This place isn’t much catch for a man brought up as you were, but believe me, Dartmoor’s worse. And there are worse things than Dartmoor,” the governor added meaningly.

Channay smiled again; a smile of a different order this time. Of the two men he seemed by far the more at his ease.

“There’s one of that pack of vermin,” he confided, “whom I shall certainly kill, if I have the opportunity, the first time I meet him. To risk my life against his, however, would be such a ridiculously one-sided bargain that I think I can promise you I shall go about my business in such a fashion that no one will ever be able to fasten the guilt upon me.”

“They all think that,” was the grave rejoinder.

“That is because most crimes are committed without due forethought,” Channay pointed out. “The murderer is generally in a passion and loses his wits. It will not be like that with me. In any case, in return for your interest, I will promise you this. I shall never again see the inside of a criminal prison, nor shall I ever risk the other eventuality at which you delicately hinted.”

“Of course,” Major Warling continued. “I am young at this prison job yet, but I do know that in here men brood and brood and brood until everything seems out of proportion. Give yourself a chance, Channay. You’re a youngish man. Enjoy yourself. Even if you find England difficult there are plenty of other countries. Give yourself a chance before you chuck up the whole thing just for an idea. You did devilish well at philosophy, I remember, when you were at Magdalen. Get back to the old aphorisms and cultivate ‘em. There are no weeds worse than the wrong ideas, and I am afraid this is a foul place for developing them. What about it, eh?”

“Is this my little lecture?” the departing prisoner asked pleasantly.

“It’s about all I have to say, except to wish you good luck.”

“It’s good of you, at any rate, to get up out of your bed to see the last of me, and not to forget altogether old times,” Channay declared. “As for your advice–well, I will bear it in mind.”

“The taxicab is waiting outside as you asked,” the governor announced. “The chauffeur has orders to take you to the garage where you will change into the car. If you would like to have a plain clothes man on the box with you, for the first stage of your journey, at any rate, you can have him.”

“I will be alone, thanks,” was the firm reply.

“Before you leave,” Warling concluded, “I have given permission for a fellow downstairs to have a word with you–used to be in the Force, but quitted when he came into a little money. He’s got something to say to you and he’s a harmless fellow anyway.–Good-bye, old chap! Good luck to you!”

Major Warling held out his hand. His departing guest hesitated.

“Don’t be an ass!” the former begged. “It’s a quaint sort of position, ours, but after all you don’t think I’m going to forget that it was you who gave me my cap when we were youngsters and my colours later on. You’ve come a cropper for a bit, but there was nothing mean about your show, anyway, and you’ve paid for it. Shake hands, Channay, and start again. Don’t you remember that famous occasion when you made a duck in your first innings for the Gentlemen and a hundred and thirty-three and won the match in the second?”

Gilbert Channay held out his hand. His voice and whole manner had softened. The years seemed to have fallen away.

“You have a good memory and you’re a good fellow, Warling,” he said. “Good-bye!”

For the last time, Gilbert Channay passed along those empty corridors and down the stairs towards the entrance hall. The warder who was escorting him pushed open the door of a waiting room.

“Some one in here to see you,” he announced. “I’ll stay outside.”

Channay, inclined to be impatient, glanced almost irritably at the visitor who was standing ready to receive him. He was certainly not an impressive-looking person. He was plainly dressed in ready-made clothes, and such errors in taste as it was possible for a man to commit in the details of his toilette, he seemed to have embraced gladly. His hair was ginger-coloured, his eyebrows sandy. His smile of welcome, which was meant to be ingratiating, disclosed rows of ill-formed teeth.

“You want to speak to me,” Gilbert Channay said shortly. “As you may imagine, I am rather in a hurry.”

“My name is Fogg,” the other confided–“Martin Fogg. I was on the Force for some years–junior detective officer. I took an interest in your case. Have you heard from any of those friends of yours lately–you know who I mean? The men who sold you, and then found themselves in the wrong boat.”

“One hears nothing in here,” was the brusque rejoinder. “You seem to have studied my affairs.”

“I have,” the other admitted eagerly. “They are interesting. Isham is in England–he is a lord now–and Sinclair Coles. They are pretty desperate; not a bob between them, and debts–up to their necks! They’re counting the seconds until they can get at you.”

“They are not the men in whom I am most interested,” Channay said calmly.

“They are the men who are on the spot,” the other reminded him, taking out a blue silk handkerchief and dabbing his forehead with it. “They expected to divide about a hundred thousand pounds when you were sentenced, and so far, I don’t believe they have touched a bob. The others may be more dangerous, but there’s vice enough in those two and they’re bang up against it.”

Channay nodded.

“I expect they’ll do what they can,” he agreed. “It wasn’t for nothing, you know, that I asked to be let out at one o’clock in the morning. I’m a few days before my time, you see, too. Somewhere about next Thursday, I imagine there’ll be a reception committee outside.”

“I’m not so sure about the present moment,” Martin Fogg declared bluntly. “I don’t want to ask where you’re going, but I’d like a front seat on your car. I’m armed and I’m semi-official, you know. You might find me useful. They ain’t easy men to deal with, those two, and they’re desperate.”

“Is that all?” Channay enquired.

Martin Fogg, who had seated himself upon a deal table in the centre of the room, swung his leg backwards and forwards and watched the tip of his shoe meditatively.

“You don’t want my help, then?” he asked.

Channay shook his head.

“I’ll look after myself, thanks,” he decided.

“Look here, do you mean to divvy up with them?” the ex-detective persisted.

“A little inquisitive, aren’t you?” Channay remarked coldly. “Still since you ask me–no. I applied for the shares in my own name, they were allotted to me in my own name, and, under the circumstances, I mean to stick to them.”

“Then let me tell you this,” Martin Fogg continued earnestly. “If you really mean that you don’t intend to part, they’ll have you. You can’t tackle that gang alone. Take my advice. Either make terms with them or leave the country. There are one or two of them might not have the pluck to get on the wrong side of the law, but neither Sayers nor Drood would stick at anything.”

Channay shook his head.

“These men,” he said, “have been my associates. They have behaved like curs. They deserve punishment, and some of them are going to get it.”

“You’re making a great mistake in trying to tackle this job alone,” the ex-detective urged. “Look here, sir. I’m not a poor man. I don’t want money––”

“Nor do I want help,” Channay interrupted. “I listened to advice once, took a risk, and you see what happened to me! I’ll take the sequel on alone.”

“Let me travel with you to-night,” Martin Fogg begged; “just to-night.”

Channay’s refusal was curt and decided.

“There was never a time when I needed more to be alone,” he declared.

“I shouldn’t intrude,” the other persisted. “I’d sit with the chauffeur and as soon as you’d reached your destination I’d slip away. But just tonight–I’ll swear––”

Mr. Martin Fogg broke off in his speech. Once more he mopped his forehead with his bright blue silk handkerchief and looked disconsolately towards the door through which Gilbert Channay had passed, slamming it behind him.

Another short walk through echoing corridors, the rolling back of the heavy doors, a breath of semi-fresh air in the square courtyard, a moment’s delay in the porter’s lodge, and then the portentous opening of the massive gates. Gilbert Channay stood for a moment upon the pavement and, though outwardly his self-possession had never faltered, he was conscious of feeling a little dazed. Before him stretched a wide thoroughfare, leading east and west to open worlds. There were other branching streets in the distance, a vista of roofs, an unbroken outline of sky, an indubitable though darkened earth beneath his feet, across which people might wander strangely at will. He pulled himself together with an effort. The emotion of freedom had been stronger than he had imagined. A few feet away a taxicab was standing with lamps burning and engine throbbing. The man who had been polishing the glasses moved aside and threw open the door.

“To Adams’ garage,” Channay directed, stepping in.

From either window, as the driver mounted to his seat, Channay looked up and down the broad thoroughfare. The night was cloudy but the lamps hung from the electric standards were brilliant, their lights reflected in patches upon the pavements, moist with rain. There was apparently not a soul in sight. The byways through which they presently passed were also deserted. In less than ten minutes they drew up outside a large garage whose great front stretched black and empty. There was a single light burning somewhere in the rear, and at the sound of the throbbing of the taxicab the headlights flashed out from a powerful car already halfway across the portals. Channay paid his taxicab and advanced to meet the chauffeur who had appeared from the gloom behind.

“You know where to go?” he enquired.

For answer the man opened the door.

“Quite well, sir.”

“And you know the road?”

“Every inch of it.”

“At what time shall we reach Norwich?”

The man considered.

“At about seven o’clock, sir.”

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