The House of Invisible Bondage - J.U. Giesy, Junius B Smith - ebook

The House of Invisible Bondage ebook

J.U. Giesy, Junius B. Smith

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Two main assistants of our hero help their friend astrologer to solve the mystery. After all, Imer Lamb was locked in a sanatorium for killing his friend. Is he mad or the victim of a devilish conspiracy? Many secrets that readers must solve.

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Liczba stron: 279

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Contents

I. THE PREDICTION

II. THE CRIME WIZARD

III. THE PRISONER

IV. MONK'S HALL

V. THE BUSINESSMAN

VI. SEMI DUAL LISTENS

VII. MORIA AND THE WIZARD

VIII. GETTING TOGETHER

IX. THE HOUSE OF INVISIBLE BONDAGE

X. UNDERCOVER

XI. INVISIBLE THREADS

XII. THE SCENE OF THE ATTACK

XIII. THE WEAVER AND THE WEB

XIV. ACTION AT LAST

XV. THE RESCUE

XVI. BREAKING UP THE HOUSE

XVII. THE CONFERENCE IN THE TOWER

XVIII. A FRIEND DROPS IN

XIX. THE SHOWDOWN

XX. AS THE STARS FORETOLD

I. THE PREDICTION

“YOU can’t always tell what a thing is by how it looks,” said Bryce.

I nodded. We had been talking over cases we had handled, that morning in our suite of offices on the seventh floor of the Urania Building, indulging in reminiscence–as much as anything.

Jim was my partner in “Glace and Bryce-Private Investigators,” and had been an inspector of police before our partnership was formed. He was a big-boned, heavy-set chap with a round head and a stubby brown mustache above the long, black cigar he was smoking. And he was a most dependable man.

He had come into my private room some half-hour before from his own on the other side of our suite, with a morning paper doubled up in his hand.

“Mornin’, Gordon,” he said, sitting down. “Well, here’s another social luminary turned into a comet, started chasin’ his tail an’ gone clean out of his orbit.”

“Yes?” I accepted his statement, which, though phrased in sidereal terms, was not at all enlightening to my mind. I had not read the paper carefully that morning, and, as a matter, of fact, Jim generally scanned the news more carefully than I.

“Yep!” He nodded, and shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. “Here’s this Johnny, Imer Lamb, actin’ a dammed sight more like a ram from all accounts–”

“Imer Lamb, the amateur tennis expert, golfer, swimmer, and general all-around, athlete–the society Johnny who took up aviation recently? What’s he done–crashed his plane?” I asked.

Jim grinned. “Not exactly his plane,” he said. “But he’s crashed all right. He’s crashed his way into jail, accordin’ to the paper. Beat up his valet over here in Monk’s Hall, that bachelor apartment on Park Drive–almost killed him from all accounts–an’ is taken to the hoosegow. Now what would a man want to beat up his valet for?”

“Well,” I said, “I can think of any number of reasons from mere incompetency to meddling with his private stock.” Actually, though, I felt my interest quicken to some extent.

Imer Lamb was a young man of exceedingly good looks and exceedingly plenteous means, who, since his father’s death some years before, had cut a pretty wide swath in the social and sporting world. He had just missed the amateur tennis championship the previous year, and was equally good at golf. He had raced his speed car in Florida, and had recently taken to the air in the latest type of rich man’s plaything-aeroplane that Hispano built. “Hasn’t he a brother in the brokerage business?” I added.

“Sure,” Jim agreed. “For that matter, he’s in it himself. But he lets George do the work. He works at playing so far as I know anything about it. But the firm name’s ‘Lamb Lamb.’ Hot name for a firm of brokers. Accordin’ to Hoyle, it oughta be Wolf Wolf.”

“This assault on the valet occurred in Monk’s Hall. That’s where Dorien lived, remember?” I said, smiling at his words.

The remark led to a revamping not only of the case in which the man I had named had been a principal actor, but to others, each illustrative of the bent of the criminal mind, the battle of wits between those who sought to detect his identity, lay him by the heels, such as Jim and I, and the criminal himself. And that led to Jim’s remark anent the fallacy of accepting the appearance of some incident at face value.

“Quite right. Then there was the Marya Townsend affair.” Marya Townsend–her picture swam before my mental vision as I spoke, dark-haired as some Oriental beauty with a hint of the Orient in her long-lashed, long-lidded, dark eyes; rich man’s daughter, orphan who had been involved in a murder mystery that had cost an old man, her guardian, his life.

Bryce and I had been to some extent instrumental in straightening out the circumstantial tangle in which she was caught, thereby saving the budding romance of her life from being blasted at the start.

Jim chuckled as I spoke. “Well, yes,” he said. “I ain’t denyin’, son, that you’re right. That case was a swell collection of cross clues from beginnin’ to end. But what’s th’ notion of draggin’ Marya in again? That’s about the third time you’ve mentioned Mrs. Harding, nee Townsend, this mornin’.”

I laughed. As a matter of fact, he was right. I had referred to the wife of Bob Harding once or twice in the course of our conversation. So I looked him full in the eye. “To tell the truth, I’ve been thinking of her all morning, Jim,” I said. “I don’t know why I should be. As far as I know, I haven’t thought of Marya for months. But she’s crept into my consciousness this morning, and, womanlike, she refuses to be put out. Ever experience anything of the sort?”

“Oh, yes.” He nodded, and grinned. “I reckon most everybody’s done that at times. Only quite frequently, the parties what insinuated themselves into my mind wasn’t such pleasant visitors as the little lady under discussion. Maybe she’s payin’ you the compliment of thinkin’ of you, an’ you’re sort of feelin’ it, son.”

“A sort of unconscious telepathy?” I suggested.

“Somethin’ of that sort.” He nodded again. “She’s thinkin’ about you, say, an’ you feel it without bein’ able to interpret her thought-waves into any definite meanin’, not bein’ a Semi Dual, yourself.”

Instinctively, I glanced at the little black box of a private telephone line on the wall of my room. It led up thirteen stories to the roof of the Urania, where the man, whose name he had uttered, lived.

Semi Dual! He was our friend. It was on his advice that Bryce and I had formed our partnership. Semi Dual, modern metaphysician, student of the higher life forces, those subtler unseen, often unsensed forces that regulate the very balance of the universe.

No charlatan, even though astrology, that older sister of astronomy, known to the ancients, in itself a manifestation of the interplay, of planetary electromagnetic energy by which the sweep of the universe is charted; telepathy, the thing Bryce had named, the conscious or unconscious perception of the interplay of thought-waves generated in human brains; psychometry, the subjective, one might almost say spiritual, recognition of the well-nigh imperceptible vibratory emanations of an object, and their translation into definite meaning–were things he recognized as refractions of universal force through different media; and used.

For Semi Dual held all force to be one. The sweep of the seasons, the fury of elemental storms, the calm beauty of a June day, or the life we mortals possess, were to him but one and the same thing, manifested each in its proper time and place.

Semi Dual then, priest of justice, since to him justice, too, was no more than the working out of the law of cause and effect, a practical demonstration of the old, old declaration, that as a man soweth, so also shall he reap, measure for measure.

Such was our friend’s creed. Under it, each man’s action became no more than a seed from which good or evil, joy or sorrow, might be raised, according as to whether good or evil were embodied in the deed. The act was the seed, and the result the fruit. It was the only justice in which he believed.

High up in the tower above Bryce and me, as we sat that morning, he had taken up his abode in the midst of a garden of little walks between beds of blooming shrubs and flowers, ringed in by the vine-clad walls of the parapet of the roof.

There was even a little fountain and a sun-dial, beside the central path that led from the top of a bronze-and-marble stairway, mounting from the twentieth floor of the building to the tower, white and classic in its outlines, in which he dwelt.

In winter, the garden was roofed with sheltering plates of green-yellow glass. And at the head of the stairs let into the central pathway, was an annunciator plate of inlaid metal and glass, bearing a cryptic motto. Being trod upon it rang a chime of bells in the tower to herald a visitor’s approach.

More than Bryce and I, Semi Dual, student of the occult–occult because not generally understood–forces of life, had been instrumental in freeing Marya Townsend from the circumstantial web in which she had been caught, in preserving her young life’s happiness.

Literally he stood in the position of a god in the machine to me and Bryce. Having advised us to enter the field of private investigation, he had never withheld his help in any matter wherein he felt that his intervention was justified. Despite any hasty assumption which might evolve in the average mind from his manner of living, and the nature of his research, he was as practical as any man in his application of his knowledge, and far more consistent than most.

With his insight into life, its purposes, its impulses, and emotions, he could scarcely be anything else. Yet he held material things of little moment, and unless some problem in which we asked his aid involved what he termed “spiritual values”–the integrity of life or reputation, or the avenging of their loss–it failed to enlist his interest.

Tall, splendidly proportioned, with brown hair and carefully barbered Vandyke beard, deep gray eyes, an aquiline nose, and a head almost leonine in its suggestion, strong as a lion in defense of the right, of innocence, and virtue, sensitive as a woman in his every deeper feeling; such was the sudden attention. As I have said, it was the lower end of the private wire to the quarters of Semi Dual. And it never rang unless there was some very definite reason, some very urgent need.

At that moment it rang!

I went toward it, and removed the receiver from the hook. “Yes. Glace speaking,” I answered its demand.

“Good morning, Gordon,” Semi Dual’s voice returned along the wire. “If Mrs. Robert Harding, who was Miss Marya Townsend, should come to you with a request affecting me in any way whatsoever, bring her, together with any one who may accompany her, to me.”

“Very well,” I said, and hung up. I was not very much surprised. Amazing as the thing might appear from any ordinary viewpoint to the uninitiated, I had, even as Jim, who still sat behind me waiting, had pointed out, known Semi Dual to give more than one similar demonstration of the uncanny ability he possessed before.

I simply turned around and told him what Dual had directed me to do, and watched his jaws tighten on the cigar between their teeth.

“An’ that does prove it, son,” he rumbled in a tone of conviction. “She was thinkin’ of him as well as us, I reckon, an’ he knew how to get her wave-length. That’s all there is to it, of course. I guess it proves that Marya’s, in need of help of some sort.”

I nodded.

“Semi said she’d have somebody with her?” he suggested.

“He intimated as much,” I said.

“Huh,” he grunted, and lapsed silent.

I said nothing more. There seemed nothing more to be said under the conditions. Apparently Jim was right; Bob Harding’s wife had been forcibly turning her thoughts in our direction, unconsciously projecting them from herself to us. And they had reached us. Only Semi Dual had been able to not only feel but read them, while I had no more than sensed their tiny fingers beating against my brain.

Jim and I sat there until, after possibly half an hour, Nellie Newel, our chief clerk, rapped on the door of my room and came in, bringing with her a card.

“Mrs. Robert Harding is outside, Mr. Glace, with another young woman. She wants to see you, if possible,” she announced.

I reached for the card and took it, and handed it to Bryce.

“Very well, Nellie,” I said. “Show Mrs. Harding and her companion in at once.”

II. THE CRIME WIZARD

MISS NEWELL withdrew, closing the door behind her. Jim and I looked into one another’s eyes. Semi Dual had demonstrated the subtle, qualities that made it hard indeed to take him unawares. Something more than a half-hour ago he had indicated the belief that Marya Harding would call upon us with a companion. She was here–would appear before us inside a minute.

“Well,” said Jim, laying his cigar on an ashtray upon my desk in expectation of her entrance, “that’s that. Now, what the devil–”

The door swung open. Marya Harding came through it smiling, together with a somewhat younger woman who did not smile.

My major attention centered on the second woman. Marya was beautiful, as always, in that dark, Oriental fashion of hers; but this second girl was like a beam of sunshine half dimmed by an intervening cloud.

She was slender and blond, with hair the color of strained honey, eyes of an almost pansy purple, and lips a trifle set now as though by the stress of inner emotion, but which one fancied could be tender on occasion, beneath a straight patrician little nose. Oh, yes, there was breeding in that face, the lines and angles that spoke of past generations of careful selection in blood. And not only in her face but in her bearing, as Marya made the introductions, were those past generations displayed. One felt it, knew that Moira Mason was a beautiful creation it had taken a long time to produce, the fruit of a family tree that had been long in growth.

And of course I knew who she was. Heaven knew her name was often enough in the papers, her picture on the society page. Moira Mason was the daughter of Adrian Mason, one of our city’s most aggressive and influential financiers.

Bryce nodded his head in recognition.

“Miss Mason,” I said, and took the slim hand she extended briefly into my own, and found its fingers cold.

We gave our visitors chairs. Marya sank into hers, still smiling. Marriage, I thought, had improved her. She had never seemed more charming to me before. But still I knew, even as she settled herself gracefully in her seat, that our interest was not with her-that it lay in Moira Mason, the clouded sunbeam of a woman whom until that moment I had thought of, if at all, as a human butterfly.

And Marya’s first words after she was seated confirmed my evaluation of the situation. She came directly to the reason for their call, though in a fashion that showed a slight embarrassment.

“I hope you gentlemen won’t think I’m forming a habit of running to you every time I’m in need of help, but will just feel that whenever there is a need you are the men I think of first. Really, though, it’s Moira who needs the sort of assistance you can render.

“And I told her I was positive you would give it. I made her come, promised her to explain, and see if we could enlist your aid. I told her all you and your wonderful friend Mr. Semi Dual had done for Bob and me in the past. I-I-thought-felt sure-from what I know of him-that if you would intercede for us-he might be willing to help her, if anything can be done. You see, she was engaged to Mr. Imer Lamb, and–”

“Imer Lamb!” Jim exploded.

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