The Devil Man - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Devil Man ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Edgar Wallace’s 1931 novel „The Devil Man” is the mysterious and thrilling story of Charles Pearce, an small, unnerving, musician, gifted but terribly boastful. Pearce is physically repulsive, tiny in stature, but a Samson in strength. Woman can’t resist him, but they don’t know the real Pearce. He is also a burglar. And a murderer. There is a baffling mystery that someone urgently needs to solve... Full of dispense, action and amusing characters, „The Devil Man” constitutes a veritable page-turner that fans of crime fiction won’t want to miss. Interesting novelized biography of Charles Pearce, an infamous 19th century British burglar.

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Liczba stron: 423

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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 XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CHAPTER XXXIX

CHAPTER XL

CHAPTER I

On the western outskirts of Sheffield–the Sheffield of 1875–there was a dingy red factory that had seen the bankruptcies of at least three concerns which had been housed within its high walls. In this year it was occupied by the staff of a Mr Wertheimer, who produced nothing that was of commercial value, and was rather secretive about what he hoped to produce at all. He called himself and his partner, known and unknown, “The Silver Steel Company”, which, as Baldy said subsequently, was a contradiction in terms.

On a certain wintry night a young man dropped a rope ladder from one of the walls and came gingerly to the ground. His name was Kuhl, he was a Swiss from the Canton de Vaud, by profession an engineer, and by disposition an admirer of attractive ladies.

He picked his way across the uneven ground towards the road and was met halfway by two men. A woman, driving into Sheffield, saw the three talking by the side of the road where a closed wagonette, drawn by two horses, was standing. The men were talking loudly and gesticulating at one another. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw what was apparently a free fight in progress, and whipped up her horse.

She did not inform the police because, as she said, it was none of her business, and, besides, fights were pretty frequent in those days and in that part of the world.

Later she informed Sergeant Eltham, but could give no satisfactory account of how the fight finished.

This Sergeant Eltham was a police officer who never ceased to apologize for being seen in public without his uniform. But for this it might almost have been forgotten that he had ever worn a uniform at all, since he was the most astute of the “plain clothes men” that ever went on the roll of the Sheffield Police Force. He was tall, broad-shouldered, bushy-bearded, bald. Wrongdoers, who did not like him and never spoke of him except in the most lurid terms, called him “Baldy” or “Whiskers” as the fancy seized them.

He was a man who was seldom at a loss even in the most baffling situation, but he confessed to being beaten when the Silver Steel Company called upon him, for the second time in three months, to ask him to solve the mystery of a lost employee.

He came into Alan Mainford’s surgery one cold night in December to drink hot rum and water and gossip about people and things, as was his practice. The sergeant was a bachelor living with a widowed sister, and his recreations were few. Dr Mainford often wondered what he did to pass the time before the beginning of their friendship–it had its genesis in a violent toothache which Alan ended summarily and in the early hours of the morning with a No. 3 forcep and a muscular forearm.

“I don’t know about these Silver Steel people, doctor,” he said.

He had a deliberate method of speaking and a weakness for long words, was known as an orator at social functions, held important office in the Order of Oddfellows, and was a Buffalo of the highest grade.

Alan smiled as he filled his pipe.

He was a good-looking young man, who sacrificed a certain amount of confidence amongst elderly patients because he shaved clean, a habit that made him look even younger; so that people often referred to him as a “bit of a boy”, and expressed their firm determination of never allowing him so much as to bandage a cut finger. He had hardly lost the tan of India, spent more time out of doors than his brother professionals, kept a couple of hunters in the Melton country and might, had he desired, have found an easier and a more lucrative practice in more pleasant surroundings, for he enjoyed a good income and had expectations which must inevitably be realized.

“What don’t you know about the Silver Steel Company?” he asked.

Baldy shook his shiny head. “In the first place, silver is silver and steel’s steel,” he said. “It’s ridiculous and absurd to mix ‘em up. In the second place, they’re foreigners. I don’t like foreigners. Give me the true-born Briton!”

Alan chuckled. “You are what Mr Gladstone calls ‘insular’,” he began, and Baldy snorted.

“Gladstone! Don’t talk about that man! He’ll ruin the country one of these days, mark my words! Now, Dizzy–”

“Don’t let’s talk politics. Go on with your foreigners.”

Baldy sipped his rum and made a little face.

“Sheffield’s full of ‘em lately. There’s this Silver Steel lot and there’s Madame What’s-her-name over in–” He snapped his fingers in an effort to recall the location. Baldy could never remember names, that was the most colossal of all his weaknesses.

“Anyway, there’s her, and that German lot that are experimenting at what-do-you-call-the-place? Taking the bread out of our mouths.”

“We’re probably taking the bread out of their mouth, too,” said Alan good humouredly. “Don’t forget, Baldy–”

“Say Eltham, or say sergeant,” pleaded the other. “Baldy is low.”

“Well, don’t forget that Sheffield is the centre of the steel world and people come here from all over Europe to pick up wrinkles. What are the Silver Steel people doing?”

“The Lord knows,” said Baldy piously. “Turnin’ silver into steel or vice versa–a Latin expression. Only a little factory, and all the workmen sleep in cottages inside the walls–the cottages were built by a feller in Eccleshall who got sixty pounds apiece for ‘em. Foreigners all of ‘em. Can’t speak a word of English. Works guarded by men with guns. I’ve seen it with my own eyes! I’ve warned ‘em about that.”

Alan picked up a small log and put it carefully on the top of the glowing coals in the grate.

“It’s a secret process, I expect,” he said. “Sheffield is packed tight with mysterious factories trying some new-fangled scheme.”

Baldy nodded. “With electricity, according to what I hear. It doesn’t seem possible. Electricity is lights and cures rheumatism. I had a penn’orth at the winter fair. You hold two brass handles and a feller pulls out a piston and you have pins and needles all up your arm. I don’t know how it’s done, there’s a trick in it somewhere. But what’s electricity got to do with steel? It’s absurd, ridiculous and confusing. It’s against the laws of nature, too.” There had been, he explained, some rum things happening at the Silver Steel works. One of the workmen went for a walk on a Sunday night and had not been seen since. Then a month later another workman, who had learnt enough English to correspond with a Sheffield young lady, had climbed over the wall and gone to see her “clandestinely”. He had not been seen since, except by a woman who saw him in the company of two men.

“Fightin’, accordin’ to this witness, a woman named…bless my life, I’ll forget my own name next! Anyway, he’s gone. And why not? According to Mr What’s-his-name, who owns the works, this man lives in Switzerland among the Alps. Who would live in Sheffield if he had an Alp to go to?”

“I know Wertheimer,” nodded Alan. “One of his men had a hand crushed and I attended him. What do you suspect about the missing men–foul play?”

“Foul grandmothers!” snorted Baldy. “Gone home–that’s all. Run away with gels. This feller was writing to a girl–a Miss–dear me! I’ve got it on the tip of my tongue! She went away the same night. Nobody knows where. It’s the old story–marry in haste and repent at leisure.”

“Who is Mr Dyson?” asked Alan.

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