The Forger - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Forger ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Forged notes have started to appear everywhere. Mr. Cheyne Wells of Harley Street has been given one. So has Porter. Peter Clifton is rich, but no one is quite certain how he acquired his money – not even his new wife, the beautiful Jane Leith. Jane, newly married to this man she does not love, is plunged into a nightmare of murder and madness. What is the secret of her husband’s immense fortune? Is he „The Clever One” who has baffled the police, the banks and the world with his clever forgeries? Or is he a homicidal maniac? Inspector Rouper and Superintendent Bourke are both involved in trying to solve the mystery.

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Liczba stron: 375

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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 I

THE big consulting-room at 903, Harley Street differed as much from its kind as Mr Cheyne Wells differed from the average consultant.

It was something between a drawing-room and the kind of a library which a lover of good books gathers together piecemeal as opportunity presents. There was comfort in the worn, but not too-worn, furniture, in the deep, leather-covered settee drawn up before the red fire. Two walls were filled with shelves wedged with oddly bound, oddly sized volumes; there were books on the table, a newspaper dropped by a careless hand on the floor, but nothing of the apparatus of medicine–not so much as a microscope or test tube.

In one corner of the room, near the window where yellow sunlight was pouring in, was a polished door; beyond that a white-tiled bathroom without a bath but with many glass shelves and glass-topped table. You could have your fill of queer mechanisms there, and your nostrils offended by pungent antiseptics. There were cupboards, carefully locked, with rows and rows of bottles, and steel and glass cabinets full of little culture dishes. But though Peter Clifton had been a constant visitor for years, he had never seen that door opened.

He was sitting now on an arm of one of the big chairs, his fine head screwed round so that he could see the street, though he had no interest in the big car which stood at the kerb, or the upper floors of the houses on the opposite side of the road which filled his vision. But he was a sensitive man, with a horror of emotional display, and just then he did not wish any man–even Cheyne Wells–to see his face.

Presently he jerked back his head and met the dark eyes of the man who straddled before the fireplace, a cigarette drooping from his lips.

Mr Wells was rather thin, and this gave the illusion of height which his inches did not justify. The dark, saturnine face with its neat black moustache was almost sinister in repose: when he smiled, the whole character of his face changed, and he was smiling now.

Peter heaved a deep sigh and stretched his six feet of bone and muscle.

“It was a good day for me when I mistook you for a dentist!” he said.

There was a nervous tension in his laugh which Mr Donald Cheyne Wells did not fail to note.

“My good chap”–he shook his head–“it was a double-sided benefit, for you have been the most foolishly generous patient I have ever had. And I bless the telephone authorities that they made 903, Harley Street the habitation of a gentleman who left the week before I moved in.”

Again the other laughed.

“You even cured the old molar!” he said.

The smile left the surgeon’s face.

“I have cured nothing else–except your misgivings. The real assurance on which your faith must rest is Sir William Clewers’s. I would not have dared to be so definite as he; even now I tell you that although the big danger is wiped out you are liable to the attacks I spoke about. I did not think it was worth while discussing that possibility with Sir William, but you may have another consultation if you wish?”

Peter shook his head emphatically.

“In future I am making long detours to avoid Harley Street,” he said, and added hastily: “That’s pretty ungracious–”

But the surgeon waved his agreement.

“You’d be a fool if you didn’t,” he said, and then, turning the subject abruptly: “What time is this interesting ceremony?”

He saw a frown gather for an instant on the broad forehead of his patient. It was a surprising expression to observe on the face of a very rich and a very good-looking young man who was to marry the most beautiful girl Cheyne Wells had seen in his life, yet the consultant was not wholly surprised.

“Er–twelve-thirty. You’ll be there, of course? The reception is at the Ritz and we go on to Longford Manor. I thought Jane would have preferred the Continent–but she seems rather keen on Longford.”

There was no sound for a little while except the soft tick of the Swiss clock on the mantelpiece. Then: “Why the frown?” asked Wells, watching his patient’s face intently.

Peter threw out his arms in a gesture of uncertainty. “The Lord knows–really. Only… it has been such a queer courtship… with this thing hanging over my head. And sometimes Jane is rather–how shall I put it?–‘cold’ isn’t exactly the word–neither is ‘indifferent’. Impregnable–that’s the word. One can’t get into her mind. She becomes a stranger, and that terrifies me. The whole thing started on the wrong note–we haven’t kept step. I’ll go on mixing my metaphors till I can get a little lucid.” The smile was twitching the corner of Cheyne Wells’s lips.

“I introduced you–here beginneth the first wrong note!” he said. “And–”

“Don’t be a silly ass–that was the rightest thing you ever did. Donald, I adore Jane! There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for her. She terrifies me because I feel that way and because I know she doesn’t. And there is no reason why she should–that’s my bit of comfort. I sort of burst into that quiet home and made myself an infernal nuisance–I almost bullied her into an engagement that wasn’t an engagement–”

His teeth came together, and again that strained, worried look.

“Donald, I bought her,” he said quietly, and this time the consultant laughed aloud.

“You’re too imaginative, my friend–how could you buy her? Stuff!”

But Peter shook his head.

“Of course, I didn’t say, ‘I want your daughter–I’ll give a hundred thousand pounds for her’; I’d have been chucked out if I had. But when, like a blundering left-handed oaf, I cornered Leith in his study and blurted out that I would settle that sum if I married… and I’d only seen Jane twice! I have an idea that broke down opposition… I’m not sure… I feel rather rotten about it. Do you know that I’ve never kissed Jane?”

“I should start today,” said the other dryly. “A girl who is going to be married the day after tomorrow expects some sort of demonstration.”

Peter ran his fingers through his untidy brown hair.

“It’s wrong, isn’t it?” he asked. “It is my fault, of course… once I got panic-stricken–I wondered if she had heard something about me. You know what I mean. Or whether there was some arrangement which I upset–Hale, for example.”

“Why should she–”

There was a soft tap on the door of the consulting-room.

“That is my wife,” said Wells. “Do you mind her coming in, or do you want to talk?”

“I’ve talked enough,” said Peter ruefully.

He went towards the slim, youthful woman who came in. Marjorie Wells was thirty-five and looked ten years younger, though darker than her husband.

“They told me you were here,” she said with a quick flash of teeth. “Hail to the bridegroom! And, by the way, I saw the bride this morning, looking conventionally radiant–with the wrong man!”

If she saw the quick sidelong glance her husband shot in her direction, she gave no evidence. There was a thread of malice–in the most innocent of Marjorie’s comments; this was a veritable rope.

He it was who took up the challenge.

“The wrong man–not Basil Hale by any chance?”

He saw Peter’s grey, questioning eyes turned in Marjorie’s direction. He winced rather easily, did this young man who had once been deputy sheriff of Gwelo and had hanged L’chwe, the rebel chief, out of hand.

“It was Basil, of course–poor old Basil! I’m sure he feels rotten–”

“Why should he?”

When Cheyne Wells used a voice that had the hard tinkle of metal in it, his wife became meek and penitent.

“I am a mischievous gossip, aren’t I? I’m so sorry, Peter.”

He was taking up his hat and was smiling as at some secret joke.

“Yes–you are,” he said grimly. “You give me more heart jumps than any woman I know. Come and dine tomorrow night, Wells.”

The surgeon nodded. “It will have to be a bachelor dinner,” he said significantly. “I can’t have you made miserable the night before your wedding.”

He walked with Peter to the door and stood on the top step until the Rolls had disappeared into Wigmore Street. Then he came back to the consulting-room.

“What’s the matter with Peter really?–he looks healthy enough.”

She asked the question off-handedly, as though the repetition of Peter’s visits had only just dawned on her.

“I have told you half a dozen times, Marjorie, that I do not discuss my patients–even in my sleep. And, Marjorie,” as, with a petulant twist of one shoulder, she turned towards the door, “don’t be–er –difficult about Peter–do you understand… Well, what is it?”

A maid was at the open door. A small sealed envelope lay on the silver plate she carried. It was unaddressed, but he broke the flap and took out a card. This he studied.

“All right, show Mr Rouper in, please. You can clear.” This to his wife. “I’ll talk to you later about Peter–and other things.”

She was out of the room before he had finished.

The man who was ushered in was tall and broad-shouldered; what hair he had was grey, but he carried himself like a soldier. Cheyne Wells shut the door and pointed the visitor to a chair.

“Sit down, Inspector.”

Chief Inspector Moses Rouper put his Derby hat carefully on the table, peeled his brown leather gloves and felt anxiously in the inside pocket of his greatcoat. When he had brought to light a fat leather wallet he seated himself.

“Sorry to bother you. Doctor,” he began. “I know that you’re a busy man, but I had to see you.”

Mr Wells waited, expectant but wondering.

“Here we are.” The inspector fished out a folded white paper and spread it on the table. “A fifty-pound note. We shouldn’t have been able to trace it only your name is stamped on the back.” He fixed pince-nez and read: “‘D. Cheyne Wells, MRCS, 903, Harley Street’.”

He passed the note to the consultant, who turned it over and saw the faded purple stamp mark.

“Yes,” he said, “that is my stamp–I use it for a variety of purposes, though I can’t remember stamping this note.”

“Do you remember passing the note–or where it came from?”

Cheyne Wells was thinking.

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