The Guv’nor and Other Short Stories - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Guv’nor and Other Short Stories ebook

Edgar Wallace



Fifth book in the J.G. Reeder series. When Larry O’Ryan decides to become a burglar he attends night school to study ballistics, then secures a job at a safe-maker’s. After three successful robberies Larry is caught by Mr. J. G. Reeder. An unlikely friendship develops and on Saturdays they can be seen together at the British Museum or the Tower. One day Larry rescues Miss Lane Leonard, daughter of a millionaire. The disappearance of one and a half million pounds in gold bullion and a series of bank frauds baffles Scotland Yard. But not Mr. J. G. Reeder. „The Guv’nor and Other Short Stories” is a short story compilation by the British crime writer Edgar Wallace. These are the final stories about Mr. J. G. Reeder, a police officer with „the mind of a criminal”.

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Liczba stron: 395

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THE affair of Mary Keen was never forgotten by Robert Karl Kressholm. He was a good hater, as Mr. J.G. Reeder was to say of him one day.

Yet it was an odd circumstance that Mary, dead and buried in Westbury Churchyard, should remain as a raw place in the mind of a man who was, to all appearance and certainly by protestation, madly in love with a child– she was little more–who was twenty years his junior. But Bob Kressholm was like that. He was vain, had complete and absolute confidence in his own excellences. He might congratulate himself that he was young at thirty-seven and looked younger; that he was good-looking in an instantly impressing way and looked little older than at eighteen, when Mary had chosen Red Joe Brady in preference to himself.

Mary was dead of a broken heart–she passed three days after Joe had been released from a short-term sentence in Dartmoor. If Bob could have found her he would have offered consolation of sorts, but Joe had very carefully hidden her and his boy.

Kressholm never went to prison. He was too clever for that. Banks and jewellers’ stores might become impoverished in a night, but “the Guv’nor” could not be associated with the happening. He was, he believed with reason, the greatest organiser in what is picturesquely described as “The Underworld.” Nobody had ever brought a mind like his to the business of burglary. He had his own office and plant in Antwerp for the reconstruction of stolen goods. In Vienna a respectable broker handled such bonds and negotiable stock as came his way. He could boast to such intimates as Red Joe that he was “squawk-proof” and was justified in the claim. He came down to Exeter, where Haddin’s Amusement Park was operating, partly to see and partly to dazzle Joe out of his dull but respectable mode of living. A big Rolls limousine was an advertisement of his own prosperity.

He did not see the balloon ascent, but the parachute dropped square in the road before his car, and the chauffeur had just time to pull up on the very edge of a tangled mass of cord, silk envelope and laughing girlhood.

“Where the devil did you come from?”

“Out of the everywhere,” she mocked him.

She wore a boy’s trousers, a blue silk shirt and a beret–an unusual head-dress in those days–and she’ was lovely: golden-haired, fair-skinned and supple.

This was Wenna, daughter of Lew Haddin.

He drove her to the fair and delivered her to her father. Having come for the day, he stayed for the week; Red Joe had a bed put for him in his own caravan. Joe had a second van–a motor caravan, but this was not in the fair-ground. It was garaged in the town. His guest heard about this and drew his own conclusions–at the moment he was not interested in Red Joe’s dangerous hobby.

And every day he grew more and more fascinated by the girl. He brought flowers to her, which she accepted, a jewelled bracelet, which she refused. Fat Lew Haddin offered lame apologies, for he was a good-natured man who gave things away rather readily and would have married off his daughter to almost anybody rather than worry.

Red Joe added to his unpopularity and stirred up all the smouldering embers of hatred by speaking very plainly to his guest.

“She’s only a kid, Bob, and what have you and I to give any woman? The certainty of getting her a pass on visiting day and the privilege of writing her a letter once a month.”

Kressholm answered coldly:

“Personally I’ve never been in stir, and I don’t know what the regulations are about wives visiting husbands, and that sort of thing. Are you after her?”

“She’s about the same age as my boy,” said Joe wrathfully.

“Oh, you want her for the family, eh? You think you’ve got a call on all the women in the world. You’re getting bourgeois, Red, since you’ve become a monkey dealer.”

Red Joe wasn’t quite sure what “bourgeois” meant, but he guessed it was applied offensively. Bob lived mostly in Paris and spoke two or three languages rather well. He was more than a little proud of his education, which was the basis of his superiority complex. Wenna, who had been a woman at twelve, had no doubts about Mr. Kressholm.

“What am I to do with this feller, Joe? The old man is no protection for an innocent maiden; he wanted me to go riding with his lordship yesterday, and saw nothing wrong in the idea that I should go up to London for a week and stay with Kressholm’s friends. Fathers are not what they used to be.”

Joe did not want to quarrel with his former associate; there were very special reasons why he should not. But before he could discuss the matter with Bob Kressholm, the girl had settled the affair.

There were two slaves of hers in the circus–Swedish gymnasts, who would have strangled Bob Kressholm and sat up all night to bury him, but she did not ask for outside help.

It happened in a little wood near the grounds on the last evening of the fair. She gave nobody the details of the encounter, not even Red Joe. All he knew was that Kressholm had left Exeter very hurriedly just as soon as the knife wound on his shoulder was dressed and cauterised by a local surgeon.

Wenna had learned quite a lot about knife play from one of her Swedish gymnasts, who had left his country as a result of his dexterity in this direction.

Thereafter Bob Kressholm had another grievance to nourish. A few months after he returned to Paris he learned that Mr. J.G. Reeder was interesting himself in a new issue of “slush” which, in the argot of the initiated, means forged money. And then he remembered the locked motor caravan which was Joe Brady’s, but which he never slept in, or even brought to the fair ground. He returned to London on the very day Mr. Reeder had reached a certain conclusion.


“BRADY’S work,” said J.G. Reeder.

He had fixed the bank-note against a lighted glass-screen and was examining it through a magnifying glass.

It was the fourteenth five-pound note he had inspected that week. Mr. Reeder knew all that there was to be known about forged bank-notes; he was the greatest authority in the world on the subject of forgery, and could, as a rule, detect a “wrong ‘un” by feeling a corner of it. But these notes, which had been put into circulation in the year 1921, were not ordinary notes. They were so extraordinary that it required a microscopic examination to discover their spurious nature. He looked gloomily at the chief inspector (it was Ben Peary in those days) and sighed.

“Mr. Joseph Brady,” he repeated; “but Mr. Joseph Brady is now an honest man. He is following a–um–peaceable and–er– picturesque profession.”

“What profession?” asked Peary.

“Circus,” replied Reeder soberly. “He was born in a circus–he has returned to his–um–interesting and precarious element.”

When Red Joe Brady had finished a comparatively light sentence for forgery, he had announced his intention of going straight. It is a laudable but not unusual decision that has been made by many men on their release from prison. He told the governor of the gaol and the chief warder, and, of course, the chaplain (who hoped much, but was confident of little) that he had had enough of the crooked game and that henceforth...

He told Mr. Reeder this, taking a special journey to Brockley for the purpose.

Mr. Reeder expressed his praise at such an admirable resolution, but did not believe him.

It was pretty well known that Joe had money–stacks of it, said his envious competitors–for he was a careful man. He was not the kind that squandered his illicit gains and he had made big money. For example; what happened to the hundred thousand pounds bank robbery which was never satisfactorily explained: Kressholm had his cut, of course, but it was only a quarter. Bob used to brood on this; it was his illusion that there wasn’t a cleverer man at the game than he. Anyway, the red-haired athlete, who had once been billed as Rufus Baldini, the Master of the High Trapeze, and was known in the police circles as Red Joe, had a very considerable nest-egg, maintained his boy at a first-class boarding school and, generally speaking, was rich.

He came out of prison to take farewell of a dying wife at a moment of crisis for Lew Haddin, of Haddin’s Grand Travelling Amusement Park. That fat and illiterate man had employed a secretary to manage his private and business affairs, and the secretary had vanished with eighteen thousand pounds which he had drawn from Lew’s London bank. And at the time Lew was wading through a deep and sticky patch of bad trading.

Joe was an excellent business man and, outside of his anti-social activities, an honest man. The death of his wife and the consciousness of new responsibilities had sobered him. He arrived at the psychological moment, had in an accountant to expose the tangle at its worst, and bought a half-interest in the amusement park, which for two years enjoyed exceptional prosperity.

The underworld also has its artists who work for the joy of working. There was no reason why Joe should fall again into temptation, but his draughtsmanship was little short of perfection, and he found himself drawing again. He might have confined himself to sketches of currency for his own amusement if there had not fallen into his hands the “right paper.”

Now, the “right paper,” is very hard to come by. As a rule, it does not require such an expert as Mr. Reeder to detect the difference between the paper on which English bank-notes are printed and the paper which is made for the special use of forgers. You can buy in Germany passable imitations which have the texture and the weight, and, to the inexpert finger, the feel of a bank-note. It is very seldom that paper is produced which defies detection.

Eight thousand sheets came to Joe from some well-intentioned confederate of other days, and his first inclination was to make a bonfire of them; but then the possibilities began to open up before his reluctant eyes... There was sufficient electric power at his disposal from the many dynamos they had in their outfit, and there were privacy and freedom from observation...

Mr. Reeder located Joe and put him under observation. A surreptitious search of his caravan revealed nothing. One morning Mr. Reeder packed his bag and went north.

There was a great crowd of people in the Sanbay Fair Ground when Mr. Reeder descended from the station fly which brought him to the outskirts of the town; he had not come direct from the station. He and his companion had made a very careful search of a caravan in a lock-up garage at the Red Lion.

Haddin’s Imperial Circus and Tropical Menagerie occupied the centre of the ground. The tower of Haddin’s Royal Razzy Glide showed above the enormous tent, and Haddin’s various side-shows filled all the vacant sites. The municipality did not wholly approve of Haddin’s, his band wagons, his lions and tigers, his fat ladies and giants, but the municipality made a small charge for admission to the ground, “for the relief of rates.”

Mr. Reeder paid a humble coin, stoutly ignored the blandishments of dark-eyed ladies who offered him opportunities for shooting at the celluloid balls which dipped and jumped on the top of a water jet, was oblivious to the attractions of ring boards and other ingenious methods.

He had come too late for the only free attractions: the balloon ascent and the parachute jump by “the Queen of the Air.” She was at the moment of Mr. Reeder’s arrival resting in the big and comfortable caravan which was Mr. Haddin’s home and centre.

But it was to see the “Queen of the Air” that Mr. Reeder had taken this long and troublesome journey. He sought out and found Red Joe Brady, whose caravan was a picture of all that was neat and cosy. Brady opened the door, saw Reeder at the foot of the steps, and for a moment said nothing; then:

“Come up, will you?”

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