The Crimson Circle - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Crimson Circle ebook

Edgar Wallace

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The mysterious Crimson Circle is a high-level protection society: pay them, or you die. Every wealthy man goes in fear of them if he’s smart, and dies if he isn’t. This is a criminal genius who recruits people in trouble, rescues them with help or cash, and puts them to work on robbery, blackmail and murder. At least one man is dead after refusing to pay L100,000. Will there be more bodies? The Circle has many minions, including the mysterious and beautiful Thalia Drummond, and many wealthy and high-powered potential victims. Derrick Yale and Inspector Parr track down the criminals in a race against time in this classic British detective thriller by the master of mystery Edgar Wallace.

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Liczba stron: 324

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Contents

PROLOGUE: THE NAIL

I. THE INITIATION

II. THE MAN WHO DID NOT PAY

III. THE GIRL WHO WAS INDIFFERENT

IV. MR. FELIX MARL

V. THE GIRL WHO RAN

VI. THALIA DRUMMOND IS A CROOK

VII. THE STOLEN IDOL

VIII. THE CHARGE

IX. THALIA IN THE POLICE COURT

X. THE SUMMONS OF THE CRIMSON CIRCLE

XI. THE CONFESSION

XII. THE POINTED BOOTS

XIII. MR. MARL SQUEEZES A LITTLE MORE

XIV. THALIA IS ASKED OUT

XV. THALIA JOINS THE GANG

XVI. MR. MARL GOES OUT

XVII. THE BLOWER OF BUBBLES

XVIII. ‘FLUSH’ BARNET’S STORY

XIX. THALIA ACCEPTS AN OFFER

XX. THE KEY OF RIVER HOUSE

XXI. RIVER HOUSE

XXII. THE MESSENGER OF THE CIRCLE

XXIII. THE WOMAN IN THE CUPBOARD

XXIV. £10,000 REWARD

XXV. THE TENANT OF RIVER HOUSE

XXVI. THE BOTTLE OF CHLOROFORM

XXVII. MR. PARR’S MOTHER

XXVIII. A SHOT IN THE NIGHT

XXIX. THE RED CIRCLE

XXX. THE SILENCING OF FROYANT

XXXI. THALIA ANSWERS A FEW QUESTIONS

XXXII. A TRIP TO THE COUNTRY

XXXIII. THE POSTERS

XXXIV. BLACKMAILING A GOVERNMENT

XXXV. THALIA LUNCHES WITH A CABINET MINISTER

XXXVI. THE CIRCLE MEETS

XXXVII. “I WILL SEE YO. IF YOU ARE ALIVE”

XXXVIII. THE ARREST OF THALIA

XXXIX

XL. THE ESCAPE

XLI. WHO IS THE CRIMSON CIRCLE?

XLII. MOTHER

XLIII. THE STORY CONTINUED

PROLOGUE: THE NAIL

IT is a ponderable fact that had not the 29th of a certain September been the anniversary of Monsieur Victor Pallion’s birth, there would have been no Crimson Circle mystery; a dozen men, now dead, would in all probability be alive, and Thalia Drummond would certainly never have been described by a dispassionate inspector of police as “a thief and the associate of thieves.”

M. Pallion entertained his three assistants to dinner at the Coq d’Or in the city of Toulouse, and the proceedings were both joyous and amiable. At three o’clock in the morning it dawned upon M. Pallion that the occasion of his visit to Toulouse was the execution of an English malefactor named Lightman.

“My children,” he said gravely but unsteadily, “it is three hours and the ‘red lady’ has yet to be assembled!”

So they adjourned to the place before the prison where a trolley containing the essential parts of the guillotine had been waiting since midnight, and with a skill born of practice they erected the grisly thing, and fitted the knife into its proper slots.

But even mechanical skill is not proof against the heady wines of southern France, and when they tried the knife it did not fall truly.

“I will arrange this,” said M. Pallion, and drove a nail into the frame at exactly the place where a nail should not have been driven.

But he was getting flurried, for the soldiers had marched on to the ground..

Four hours later (it was light enough for an enterprising photographer to snap the prisoner close at hand), they marched a man from the prison..

“Courage!” murmured M. Pallion.

“Go to hell!” said the victim, now lying strapped upon the plank.

M. Pallion pulled a handle and the knife fell as far as the nail. Three times he tried and three times he failed, and then the indignant spectators broke through the military cordon, and the prisoner was taken back into the gaol. Eleven years later that nail killed many people.

I. THE INITIATION

IT was an hour when most respectable citizens were preparing for bed, and the upper windows of the big, old-fashioned houses in the square showed patches of light, against which the outlines of the leafless trees, bending and swaying under the urge of the gale, were silhouetted. A cold wind was sweeping up the river, and its outriders penetrated icily into the remotest and most sheltered places.

The man who paced slowly by the high iron railings shivered, though he was warmly clad, for the unknown had chosen a rendezvous which seemed exposed to the full blast of the storm.

The debris of the dead autumn whirled in fantastic circles about his feet, the twigs and leaves came rattling down from the trees which threw their long gaunt arms above him, and he looked enviously at the cheerful glow in the windows of a house where, did he but knock, he would be received as a welcome guest.

The hour of eleven boomed out from a nearby clock, and the last stroke was reverberating when a car came swiftly and noiselessly into the square and halted abreast of him. The two head-lamps burned dimly. Within the closed body there was no spark of light. After a moment’s hesitation the waiting man stepped to the car, opened the door, and got in. He could only guess the outline of the driver’s figure in the seat ahead, and he felt a curious thumping of heart as he realised the terrific importance of the step he had taken. The car did not move, and the man in the driver’s seat remained motionless. For a little time there was a dead silence, which was broken by the passenger.

“Well?” he asked nervously, almost irritably.

“Have you decided?” asked the driver.

“Should I be here if I hadn’t?” demanded the passenger. “Do you think I’ve come out of curiosity? What do you want of me? Tell me that, and I will tell you what I want of you.”

“I know what you want of me,” said the driver. His voice was muffled and indistinct, as one who spoke behind a veil.

When the newcomer’s eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, he detected the vague outline of the black silk cowl which covered the driver’s head.

“You are on the verge of bankruptcy,” the driver went on. “You have used money which was not yours to use, and you are contemplating suicide. And it is not your insolvency which makes you consider this way out. You have an enemy who has discovered something to your discredit, something which would bring you into the hands of the police. Three days ago you obtained from a firm of manufacturing chemists, a member of which is a friend of yours, a particularly deadly drug, which cannot be obtained from a retail chemist. You have spent a week reading up poisons and their effects, and it is your intention, unless something turns up which will save you from ruin, to end your life either on Saturday or Sunday. I think it will be Sunday.” He heard the man behind him gasp, and laughed softly. “Now, sir,” said the driver, “are you prepared for a consideration to act for me?”

“What do you want me to do?” demanded the man behind him shakily.

“I ask no more than that you should carry out my instructions. I will take care that you run no risks and that you are well paid. I am prepared at this moment to place in your hands a very large sum of money, which will enable you to meet your more pressing obligations. In return for this I shall want you to put into circulation all the money I send you, to make the necessary exchanges, to cover up the trail of bills and bank-notes, the numbers of which are known to the police; to dispose of bonds, which I cannot dispose of, and generally to act as my agent–” he paused, adding significantly, “and to pay on demand what I ask.”

The man behind him did not reply for some time, and then he asked with a hint of petulance; “What is the Crimson Circle?”

“You,” was the startling reply.

“I?” gasped the man.

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