The Kidnapping of Madame Storey - Hulbert Footner - ebook

The Kidnapping of Madame Storey ebook

Hulbert Footner

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Love humor writing? Can’t get enough of classic adventure tales? First published in 1902, „The Adventures of Gerard” are the autobiographical reminiscences of an old fictional brigadier soldier who served under Napoleon. He never hesitates to embellish his own bravado, importance, and attractiveness to the ladies, to such an extent that it can’t help but be humorous. Etienne Gerard, a hussar of the French Army, is dashing, flamboyant, and unbelievably full of himself. The book is divided into chapters containing different segments of his life as a soldier under the leadership of Napoleon together with his personal exploits and the romance that swept his way in between. These short stories are historically interesting, the action is cleverly done and exciting, and the hero and his comic comportment are very entertaining.

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Liczba stron: 398

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Contents

MADAME STOREY’S GIGOLO

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

THE SCENT OF ALMONDS

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

PINK-EYE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

THE KIDNAPPING OF MADAME STOREY

1

2

3

4

5

6

THE MURDERS IN THE HOTEL CATHAY

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

MADAME STOREY’S GIGOLO

1

When Mme. Storey and I arrived at Monte Carlo she registered us at the Hôtel de Paris as Mrs. Renfrew and Miss Renfrew. I was to pass as her sister-in-law for the time being. She wanted to avoid the attentions of society and the press.

But she couldn’t get away with it. I noticed that the clerk looked at her hard and consulted a photograph under his desk. Presently an elegant gentleman came bustling up and introduced himself as le directeur. Bowing like a jack-knife he ushered us with his own magnificent presence to a beautiful suite on the second floor. I am sure they were the best rooms in the house; imperial suite; millionaire’s love-nest.

“Ah, tres-belle!” said Mme. Storey, looking around her. “But much too grand for me, Monsieur. I can’t afford it.”

“Non! Non!” he protested, waving his hands, “you misunderstand, Madame. Your privacy will be respected, but we know who you are. You shall be the guest of the principality of Monaco as long as you will honour us. His Highness the Prince has commanded it!”

“Nice of him,” said Mme. Storey.

When the little man had vanished in a cloud of compliments, she said to me dryly, “Something tells me there’s a nigger in this elegant woodpile, my Bella!”

However, the rooms were lovely, a corner suite with windows on one side looking out on the Casino and the gardens, and on the other the ineffable blue sea. Whatever they may say, the old Paris is still one of the hotels in the world, and they went all out for us. Bell-boys arrived in a procession bringing baskets of flowers, fruit, boxes of chocolates.

Presently, as if to give point to Mme. Storey’s words, another elegant gentleman arrived in our salon, less showy than the first, but better style. Prominent Executive was written all over him, or whatever the French equivalent may be; but I shall refer to our caller merely as Monsieur B.

He kissed our hands and when the inevitable compliments had been delivered, came right down to business. “This lady,” he asked politely, looking at me, “may I speak before her?”

“My secretary, Miss Brickley,” said Mme. Storey. “She is present at all interviews.”

“Nothing could be more opportune than your visit to Monte Carlo at this time,” said Monsieur B. enthusiastically. “I have read so much of your successes in solving intricate crimes. Of all people in the world you are the one I most wish to consult with. Professionally, I mean.”

“But I’m on my vacation,” objected Mme. Storey.

“No matter! No matter! You can deal with this affair without interfering in the least with your pleasures.”

“What is it?” she asked.

His face turned grave. “There is a gang of young men operating here,” he said, “what shall I say? gigolos. Every day ladies are being blackmailed and in some cases robbed. It culminated last week in the suicide of a lady of title here in one of our hotels.”

“I hadn’t heard of it,” said Mme. Storey.

“We kept it out of the papers,” he said, “but of course it’s a matter of common gossip. People say naturally that she lost all she possessed at the gaming tables. But that is not so. She was betrayed, robbed and blackmailed by these scoundrels, and the unfortunate lady could not face her family.”

Mme. Storey was not attracted by the case. “Gigolos?” she said, running up her eyebrows. “Surely that’s a matter for your police.”

“They are helpless,” said Monsieur B., spreading out his hands. “When we make an arrest there is never any evidence because the victim will not testify. When these young men become known to us we can put them on the train. But soon they return. Or others take their places. We can forbid them to enter the Casino, the Sporting Club or the hotels under our management, but they pick up their victims outside. And if they suspect that the eye of the police is on them, they tempt the infatuated women to accompany them to Mentone, or Nice, or Cannes, where they are out of our jurisdiction.”

Mme. Storey sent a droll glance in my direction. Evidently Monte Carlo was losing business. That was the real rub.

“The gigolos, in themselves, they are nothing,” Monsieur B. went on, dismissing them with a gesture. “What makes them dangerous is the fact that they are organised and directed by a subtle intelligence here in Monte Carlo. Find that man or that woman, Madame; break up this ring, and you may ask what you will of us!”

She shook her head. “I am on my vacation,” she said. “I am weary of crime. Better order me changed to a more modest suite, Monsieur, and forget about me.”

“Never! Never!” he protested. “In any case you remain our guest, Madame.”

He brought up all the arguments he could muster. Would she not, as a woman, undertake to rescue her fellow-woman from these birds of prey? Some of the victims had been American ladies. Did she not feel it her duty to…etc., etc. Mme. Storey continued to smile, and to shake her head quite firmly; and being an experienced man he soon saw that it was useless. He left us.

2

A few minutes later Mme. Storey and I, having changed our dresses, were seated on the terrace behind the Casino. It was in the middle of the afternoon. After the fogs and frost of Northern France, the hot and brilliant sunshine was like Paradise. Below us the calm sea was bluer than ultramarine. The fantastic architecture of the Casino; the gay clothes of the women; the profusion of flowers; the band playing a Strauss waltz; everything contributed to the holiday spirit. We dissolved in satisfaction.

“Let’s do something foolish,” said Mme. Storey.

Presently a young man came strolling by. One of the handsomest young men I have ever seen. He looked like a Spaniard or a South American; smooth, olive face; glowing dark eyes; slim and graceful as Mercury. He looked at Mme. Storey out of the corners of his eyes, walked on a little way, and came back again.

“Here’s one of them,” she murmured.

“Surely not!” I protested. “That boy looks like one of the young angels painted by the Italian masters.”

“Quite!” she said dryly. “But you never can tell about young men. They don’t begin to show their real characters until they pass thirty.”

When he passed the second time he looked directly at Mme. Storey with his velvety, compelling eyes. She smiled frankly, and he stopped.

“Charming afternoon,” he said, raising his hat. His English was as good as my own.

“Charming!” said Mme. Storey. She glanced at the vacant seat beside her, and he dropped into it. He looked about twenty-four, but may have been older. Dressed with the plainness that the most fashionable young men affect, everything about him was just right.

“You have just come,” he said.

“How did you guess it?”

His eyes were fixed on hers. “The terrace has a brightness it never had before,” he said seriously.

She laughed delightedly. “Well! You’re what we call a fast worker in America!”

He did not smile, he wasn’t looking at me, but I could feel the almost hypnotic effect of his eyes. “I mean it,” he said. “I have never seen anybody like you.”

“Compliments are so nice,” murmured Mme. Storey, trying not to laugh; “You see, they’ve gone out of fashion in my country.”

He glanced at me significantly and then back at her as much as to say that if she would get rid of me he would really tell her something. But Mme. Storey made believe not to get it.

“A woman like you is wasted in a country of business men,” he said.

“Well, one can always get on a ship,” she said. “Here I am!”

“I had a feeling when I got up this morning that something wonderful was going to happen to-day,” he murmured thrillingly.

Mme. Storey could no longer hold in her laughter. It rang out delightedly. The young man turned angry and sore. When she was able to speak she said–still rippling with laughter:

“I’m so sorry! I like you, really. You’re so easy to look at. But I can’t play up to you. Surely it must be a strain on you too, to be so romantic. Be yourself and let’s enjoy the lovely weather.”

There was a struggle visible in his handsome face. He scowled, and rubbed his upper lip. Then suddenly he joined in her laughter. It changed the whole character of his face. Made him look like one of our nice American boys. He had beautiful white teeth. I began to like him.

“You’re right,” he said, “it is a strain. But…” He finished with an expressive shrug.

Mme. Storey finished his sentence for him. “You mean it’s your job to be romantic. I know. And I ought to tell you that I am a very poor prospect. You’d better toddle along and look for some older lady who is starving for romance.”

His head went down, and a spasm of shame crossed his face. “You see too much,” he murmured. “You despise me.”

She shook her head. “I never despise anybody.”

He raised his head. He was humbler now. “I’d like to take a holiday from my job,” he murmured. “If you would let me stay with you.”

“Why not?” she said. “I’m sure you’re the handsomest young man in Monte Carlo. What shall we do?”

“Do you like dancing?” he asked eagerly.

“I adore it!”

“There’s a gala at the Sporting Club this afternoon.”

“Let’s go…But we must introduce ourselves. I am Mrs. Renfrew and this is Miss Renfrew my sister-in-law.”

“I am Raoul d’Aymara,” he said as simply as if he had been a Marquis. Perhaps he was. Spanish Marquises have fallen on evil days just now.

“We must have another man,” he went on. “There are several fellows I know along the terrace…There’s Nickol Copenhaver the Dane. Dumb, but he can dance.” Raoul signalled to an elegant young fellow who was loafing by the balustrade of the terrace, and the latter started towards us.

Raoul said hurriedly, half ashamed, “You understand, I shall have to play romantic when Nickol is in hearing. He wouldn’t understand anything else.”

The new young man came up and was introduced. He fell to my share. Tall and blonde, he seemed to be slightly in the gauze the whole time. I kept wondering if he had a real man’s feelings inside his handsome shell.

It began to grow chilly on the terrace, and we adjourned to the Sporting Club. As the old Casino begins to grow out of date, the management has provided this gorgeous new palace of amusement to keep up the tone of Monte Carlo. There is nothing like it in our country. The ceiling of the restaurant must be forty feet high. One has a grand feeling of spaciousness. And what a floor! what music! what food!

The dumb Nickol danced like another Maurice. It was heavenly, but all the time I wondered if I was in the arms of a blackmailer and a robber. Well, danger added a spice to my pleasure. I envied the other couple a little. Raoul could not only dance, he could talk. He seemed to be filled with a kind of desperate gaiety.

When the four of us were together at the table it was funny to see him start making love to Mme. Storey with a perfectly serious face. I suppose the boys spied on each other. However, as there were two orchestras, there was not much pause between dances.

Once or twice Raoul asked me to dance just for appearance’ sake. When he was out of Nickol’s hearing the poor lad seemed to be more frank and open. I liked him better and better. He said with a laugh:

“You know, I wouldn’t be let in here alone.”

“Why not?” I asked.

He spun me around. “Because of my fatal beauty…You see the management employs dancing men of their own. There’s one of them…there’s another on your left. Nice lads but a bit passé. Beginning to be a little bald on the crown, and thick through the middle. Anything as fresh and willowy as me shows up the old boys at a disadvantage.”

In all his fun there was a bitter, reckless note that made me want to mother him.

Most of the time he talked about Mme. Storey. “Isn’t she wonderful? I wouldn’t have believed it possible that a woman of brains could be so…so…well, you know what I mean; so lovable!”

“Then you know who she is,” I said.

“Of course I know. Rosika Storey. Such a thing can’t be hidden. I would be willing to bet that everybody here knows who she is. I can hear them murmuring when we dance around together.”

We danced for awhile. Raoul’s style was bolder and faster than Nickol’s. He guided me as smoothly and surely through the crowding couples as a bird goes through the branches of a tree. Presently he said with the laugh that didn’t hide the feeling in his voice:

“Meeting a woman like that has pulled me right up by the roots. I’ll never be the same man again. What is it you say in America? I’m a gone coon!”

When the dance was over we strolled out into the beautifully lighted gardens. I saw that Mme. Storey and Raoul had some sort of an understanding. They dropped Nickol politely at the foot of the hotel steps, but Raoul came up to our suite with us. There was a sharp mean look in the face of the young Dane as he turned away that I didn’t like. Raoul didn’t seem to care.

Up in our salon all Raoul’s pumped-up gaiety dropped away. His smooth young face looked drawn and haggard. He refused to sit down. “I can’t stay,” he muttered. “This place is about as healthy for me as Fascist headquarters to a Communist.” He moved around the room in a halting way, his head down, stroking the backs of the chairs.

“You said you had something to say to me,” said Mme. Storey gravely.

“Yes. I’d better say it and go….” It wasn’t so easy for him to get it out. He made a couple of false starts. “Something has happened to me this afternoon. I…I…Oh well, never mind me. I don’t mean anything in your life.”

“If you’re up against it you do,” she said quickly. “If you’re sick of your crooked job here.”

He laughed. “Sick of my job! Oh, God! Believe me, I’ve been sick of my job for a long time. But I kidded myself. Now I can’t kid myself any longer…No!” he cried out sharply. “Leave me out of it! This is what I want to say. You must get out of Monte Carlo. At once. By the first train!”

“But why?” asked Mme. Storey.

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