The Framing of Inspector Denvers - Aidan de Brune - ebook

The Framing of Inspector Denvers ebook

Aidan de Brune



„Cain”, Sydney’s most daring thief, has defeated Inspector Denvers; but can he defeat the only man to escape from Sing-Sing’s death row? „The Framing of Inspector Denvers” is a story packed with great adventure and the author Aidan de Brune keeps the action moving along swiftly, as he always did, and it highlights de Brune’s unmatched skill in setting a pulse-pounding pace. Aidan de Brune was a big name in Australian literature but is forgotten today. He was a prolific author who wrote in a variety of genres. His writing would inevitably have found a home in pulp books and magazines if Australia had any such thing in the 20s and 30s.

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Liczba stron: 251

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MARTHA TAYNE sat at her desk, close to the door leading into Luther Banke’s private office. She was leaning forward, her elbows on the desk-top, her hands cupping her chin. A heavy frown drew down her brows, half-closing her eyes. Her foot tapped, impatiently, the mat under her desk.

The office was small, though comfortably furnished. Three tall lines of steel filing-cabinets and a door occupied one of the walls. Another wall held two large windows, and under them was a long, comfortable-looking lounge. The third wall was vacant except for a rather mediocre steel engraving. Against the fourth wall stood Martha’s desk and close by it was the door leading into the inner office.

Martha had reason to frown. That morning should have been devoted by Luther Banke to the overseas mail; and Alec Kempton, senior partner in Walls, Kempton & Co., the leading solicitors of the city, had been engaged with Luther Banke for the past two hours. Impatiently, the girl’s eyes wandered to the pile of correspondence awaiting attention. The beat of her foot beneath the desk increased perceptibly.

Really, the position was intolerable! More than one business man in the city had openly stated that Martha Tayne was “Luther Banke & Co., Jewellers.” Outside her door–opening directly into the handsome, but discreetly, furnished shop–were half-a-dozen immaculately garbed assistants prepared to swear that if Martha married, handed in her resignation, or inconsistently “sacked” the firm, the shutters would have to be erected and a modest notice inserted in the Government Gazette in the section headed “Bankruptcy.”

Yet Martha was a girl and, without the present frown, a remarkably pretty one. Tall, with dark hair containing more than a hint of gold; a lithe almost faultless figure, and a clear complexion, she attracted immediate attention.

From under rather heavy brows looked out keen, brown eyes which ever held a glint of laughter, even when discussing the gravest intricacies of business. A note in Luther Banke’s private ledger informed the reader that Martha Tayne had entered the employ of the firm some three years previous and at that time had given her age at twenty years.

A little silver gong struck three clear notes as the door from the shop opened. Martha looked up quickly. A young man stood in the doorway. For a minute he hesitated then, in response to her quick nod of recognition, came to the desk and placed close to the girl’s elbow a long, narrow case. A’ quick movement of his tapered, well manicured fingers sprang back the lid, revealing six large, well-matched emeralds lying on a white velvet bed. For a moment the girl looked at the jewels a slight smile on her well-formed lips.

“Mr. Banke still engaged, Miss Tayne?”

“Yes.” The girl leaned back in her chair, letting her hands fall to her lap, in a helpless gesture. “The Montgomery emeralds, Mr. Forde?”

The assistant nodded. He placed a slip of paper on the blotting-pad before the girl. Martha scanned the few lines and initialled them.

“Very well, Mr. Forde. I will take charge of the emeralds.”

Fred Forde bowed and turned to the door. As his hand touched the doorknob the little silver bell chimed again. He looked round at the girl, a thin smile on his lips. She nodded, rising impatiently from her chair. For some minutes she paced the little room, continually glancing at the door of the inner office. Once she went to it and, after a moment’s hesitation, bent her head to the panel, to listen. She could hear no sounds from the room, not even the murmur of voices. Her hand caught at the door-knob, then dropped to her side and she resumed her idle pacing.

Luther Banke was a man of routine. Alec Kempton was a methodical, matter-of-fact solicitor. Both men well knew that Thursday morning was strictly reserved for the overseas post–that to infringe on that time meant the possibility of disorganising for that week the large interests Luther Banke & Co. had in all parts of the world, and especially in Europe and America.

Martha glanced at her wrist-watch then went to the pile of correspondence on her desk and fumbled through the papers. She had no necessity to glance at one of them, she knew their contents by heart. Again she glanced at her watch. Another half-hour and her work would be too late for that day’s mail. For the first time in the three years she had been Luther Banke’s private secretary’ the overseas mail would leave Sydney without including the very important correspondence from Luther Banke & Co. Again she turned to face the door of the inner room.

Then her eyes fell on the case of emeralds–six large stones, each about the size of a filbert. She lifted the case, letting the light from the window play on the facets of the jewels, admiring the quick changing of colours, the marvellous depth and brilliancy, then abruptly closed the case and replaced it on the desk.

Another glance at her wrist-watch, checking the time by a swift look at the clock perched on top of the centre filing-cabinet, and she turned to the inner office-door. A moment’s hesitation and she knocked. There was no response. A full half-minute she waited, then knocked again, this time louder. Almost as her hand fell to her side the door was partly opened and a short, florid man peered around the edge.

“I wish to speak to Mr. Banke, Mr. Kempton.”

Martha spoke coldly. “Mr. Banke is engaged, Miss Tayne.”

“Mr. Banke cannot be engaged.” A quick flush rose to the girl’s face. “He cannot have forgotten that this is mail-day and that many important matters require his immediate attention, Mr. Kempton.”

“It doesn’t matter if this is the Day of Judgment!” The solicitor’s florid face grew ruddy. “I have told you, Mr. Banke is engaged and cannot attend to any business just for the moment.”

Martha gasped. The door had almost closed before she regained her wits; then with a quick forward movement she pushed the door from the man’s hand. It swung back against the wall with a crash.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Martha spoke contritely, for Alec Kempton was rubbing his’ wrist. Yet the little smile on her lips detracted from the words of her apology. Her quick glances travelled past the solicitor to the man seated at the desk on the other side of the room. He was sitting well forward, his body pressed against the edge of the desk. One hand was raised to his brow, shielding his face, his elbow resting on the blotting-pad. Something in his attitude–a reflection of dejection–called to the girl.

She stepped forward.

“Mr. Banke, this is mail-day. I must have your instructions at once or we shall miss the mail this week.”

“I have told you, Miss Tayne! Mr. Banke is engaged on important business and cannot attend to the mail today.”

Alec Kempton had followed the girl into the room and now interposed between her and the seated man. “I take my instructions only from Mr. Banke, Mr. Kempton.” Martha faced the solicitor defiantly.

“Mr. Banke is not in a condition to–er–attend to routine business this morning,” the solicitor persisted. “Mr. Banke has not said so.”

The girl tried to pass the solicitor, but he moved again between her and the desk. “Will you allow me to pass, please, Mr. Kempton!”

“No.” The man spoke brusquely. “Please go back to your office, Miss Tayne.”

The girl shook her head, but the action was rather uncertain. For a moment she hesitated, then again stepped quickly to one side. Something in the attitude of the man at the desk alarmed her. She turned and faced the solicitor.

“Is Mr. Banke unwell, Mr. Kempton?” she asked.

“Mr. Banke has had a–er–shock.” The man’s reply came after a deliberate pause. “I have told you he is not able to attend to routine business. You must deal with those matters of which you are cognisant, and allow other matters to remain over until the next mail.”

Martha gasped. Bewildered she looked from the solicitor to the seated man. “I don’t think you understand, Mr. Kempton,” she said slowly. “The overseas mail of this firm is entirely apart from the ordinary shop business and local trade. Mr. Banke attends to it personally, nearly every detail of it requires his personal attention. It is quite Impossible for any of it to be dealt with without Mr. Banke’s personal decisions and instructions.”

“Then I am afraid this mail will have to be missed.” A slight smile played about the legal lips. “What is the matter with Mr. Banke?” “He–I have told you. He has received a shock.”

“A shock?”

“Yes.” The solicitor hesitated. “Do you understand now?” A little smile broke the line of the girl’s compressed lips. Slightly taller than the man before her, she looked down on him. For a moment she caught sight of steel-blue eyes that held a hint of fear. Martha moved suddenly, catching the solicitor by the arm and swinging him to one side. A couple of quick steps and she was standing before the desk.

“Mr. Banke!” The man did not look up. For an instant the girl waited, fear growing in her heart. Shaking herself, mentally, she reached forward and touched his hand–to have her wrist grasped firmly by Alec Kempton. “Mr. Kempton!”

“Miss Tayne; you must not.”

“What is the matter with Mr. Banke?”

“I have told you–a shock.”

“Then he should be attended to.” A quick movement brought the girl to the side of the desk. Kempton made a feeble effort to prevent her, but Martha wrenched her arm free.

“Mr. Banke!”

The man at the desk did not answer, or even change his position. The girl looked at him, in perplexity. Something was wrong in that room; something was wrong with the man seated at the desk. He had not moved since she had come into the room. He had taken no notice of her presence, or of her questions. Tentatively, hesitatingly, she stretched out her hand again to the man. This time the lawyer grasped her wrist firmly.

“Mr. Kempton, how dare you touch me!”

“Miss Tayne.” The solicitor’s voice held entreaty. “I ask you to be careful–to leave this matter to me. Please go back to your office.”

“I refuse.”

“I assure you that if you continue to interfere you may do irreparable harm.”

“I think–“ Martha hesitated, “I think there is something very wrong here.” Her words were spoken slowly.

“What do you mean?” Kempton was staring at the girl, his face greying.

“This.” With a sudden movement the girl released herself. She caught at the seated man’s arm, jerking it sideways. “This, Mr. Kempton. This man is not Luther Banke!”


MECHANICALLY, Martha repeated her statement:

“This man is not Luther Banke.” She turned to face the lawyer. “Mr. Kempton, Where is Mr. Banke?”

The lawyer did not answer. He was staring moodily at the man seated at the desk, a frown on his florid face.

“Mr. Banke came into the office this morning very early,” the girl, continued. “As you know, he has to pass through my room to get to his. On his way in he stopped at my desk and told me he would be ready to deal with the overseas mail within an hour. I replied that the details were awaiting him. He nodded and smiled. I know he has not left his Office since he entered it.”

“Perhaps you did not see him leave,” the solicitor suggested, his tones showing his uneasiness.

“If I had not seen him I should have heard him.” Martha continued quickly. “The door between my office and the shop is fitted with an electric bell that ‘rings’ immediately the door is opened. You know that, Mr. Kempton; you have remarked on that bell to me.”

“There may be other ways of leaving this office–” The man’s uneasiness showed very plainly.

“There are no other ways out of Mr. Banke’s office.” The girl spoke quickly.

“Mr. Banke–“ Alec Kempton paused, hesitating.

“Mr. Banke came in here this morning.”

A slight flush stained the girl’s cheeks.

“He spoke to me, as I have told you. I followed him in here. As I went back to my desk the bell on the door leading to the shop rang, and you entered my room. I came to this door and told Mr. Banke you were here. I held this door open for you to enter. You mentioned Mr. Banke’s name as you entered. I heard you speak to him as you entered the room Martha paused and turned angrily on the man. Mr. Kempton, who is this man and what is he doing here? Where is Mr. Banke?”

For a long moment there was silence in the room. Then the man behind the desk rose to his feet and lazily stretched himself. “Interesting, isn’t it, Kempton?” He yawned. “Seems to me this young lady has rather busted things, eh?”

“Me?” The man laughed. “Ask him?” He pointed to the solicitor.

Martha was bewildered. What did it all mean? She knew that Luther Banke had not left his office, yet he was not in it. She glanced about the room again. There Was no place there where a man could hide. With a swift, lithe movement she went to the windows and flung them open. The massive Ironwork protections were intact. Again she turned to face the room. The two men were regarding her curiously. Some silent message must have passed between them while her back had been turned to them. They appeared more at ease. For a moment the girl regarded them steadily, then went to the door.

“Where are you going, Miss Tayne?” asked Alec Kempton.

“To summon the police,” the girl answered over her shoulder, half pausing on her way.

“I don’t think you had better.” The stranger spoke slowly, in a lazy drawl. “You might find yourself in trouble, y’know.”

“Trouble!” Martha turned on the two men passionately. “Mr. Kempton, you know the trouble that can take place here. Why, in that shop is over fifty thousands pounds’ worth of jewellery.”

“Not to mention the Montgomery emeralds.” The strange man spoke indifferently.

Again Martha did not reply to him. The Montgomery emeralds! Were they the key to the strange happenings of that morning? The emeralds were on her desk. Instinctively, she made a step toward her room, then stopped and laughed. The emeralds were well protected. No one could enter that suite of offices without ringing the bell attached to the door between her room and the shop–and that bell had not rung since she had left her desk. She went to the door, from whence she could see the long, narrow jewel-box on the corner of her desk. A little sigh of relief escaped her lips and she turned again to face the two men, still silently regarding her, curiosity showing in their faces.

“Mr. Kempton–”

She turned to re-enter the inner office. Her words brought the solicitor to action. In a couple of strides he reached the door, Martha retreating before him into the outer office. He turned swiftly and drew the door shut, turning the key in the lock. Withdrawing the key from the lock he laid it on the corner of Martha’s desk.

“There is the key to Mr. Banke’s room.” Alec Kempton spoke in hurried, worried tones. “You are to retain it until Mr. Blake returns. Perhaps you will be able to supply him with a satisfactory explanation of your remarkable conduct this morning.”

Martha hesitated a moment, then slipped quickly into her chair. The solicitor watched her for a moment, then with a shrug went to the door leading to the shop.

“A moment, Mr. Kempton.” The girl spoke quietly. “What of the man you have locked in Mr. Luther Banke’s office?”

“Well, what of him?” The little man answered defiantly.

“Is he to stay there until Mr. Luther Banke returns?”

Alec Kempton shrugged. “That is for you to say now,” he replied, “Why do you ask?”

“Mr. Banke’s private safes are in there.” The girl spoke significantly.

“What of that?”

“Those safes hold a valuable collection of mounted and unmounted gems.”

“You examined the windows and found them secure.”

“I did not see Mr. Luther Banke leave his office.”

“What do you ‘mean by that?”

“Is there necessity for me to explain.” Martha passed her hand over her brow wearily. She let the hand drop to art open drawer of her desk. Kempton waited a moment for the girl to speak, then took a step toward the girl’s desk. Martha smiled, and her left hand slipped under the desk. There came the sound of metal clicking on metal. A startled look came in the little solicitor’s eyes, and he glanced quickly toward the door.

“You are quite right, Mr. Kempton.” Again the girl smiled. “I have a switch under my desk controlling the lock of that door. The sound you heard was the lock being shot home. Now, if you please, what of the man in Mr. Luther Banke’s room?”

“What of him?” Again Alec Kempton gave question for question. He waited a moment, then shrugged.

“I have no time for your heroics.” He moved to the door. “You will hear more of this when Mr. Luther Banke returns.”

“The door is locked, Mr. Kempton.”

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