The Midnight Guest. A Detective Story - Fred M. White - ebook

The Midnight Guest. A Detective Story ebook

Fred M White

0,0

Opis

Another story where readers must solve the riddle: who is the killer. The main task: to solve who killed a fictitious famous artist Louis Delahay. Some say it’s his wife. But the clues in his past, they will help to identify the real offender.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 422

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

I. At Whose Hand?

II. No. 1 Fitzjohn Square

III. The Mark Of The Beast

IV. A Woman’s Face

V. Vera Rayne

VI. A Voice In The Dark

VII. The Yellow Hand-Bill

VIII. The Mystery Deepens

IX. The Confidential Agent

X. Ropes Of Sand

XI. The Express Letter

XII. A Speaking Likeness

XIII. A Striking Likeness

XIV. Retrospection

XV. Dallas Makes A Discovery

XVI. Strong Measures

XVII. Looking Backwards

XVIII. After Many Years

XIX. Carlotta’s Story

XX. Valdo In A New Light

XXI. To Be In Time

XXII. The Worth Of A Name

XXIII. The Next Move

XXIV. A Blood Relation

XXV. Bred In The Bone

XXVI. A Faithful Servant

XXVII. Flight!

XXVIII. Vera’s Warning

XXIX. The Message

XXX. Lost!

XXXI. A Missing Link

XXXII. What Does It Mean?

XXXIII. The Midnight Message

XXXIV. A Strange Home-Coming

XXXV. Mother And Child

XXXVI. In The Dead Of Night

XXXVII. An Unexpected Friend

XXXVIII. In The House

XXXIX. The Hound Again

XL. Broken Wings

XLI. A Ray Of Light

XLII. Run To Earth

XLIII. The Whole Truth

XLIV. The Story Of A Crime

XLV. Count Flavio’s Diary

XLVI. A Woman’s Heart

XLVII. The Passing Of The Vengeance

I. AT WHOSE HAND?

A HANSOM pulled up in front of 799, Park Lane, and a slim figure of a woman, dressed in deep mourning, ran up the broad flight of marble steps leading to the house. Her features were closely concealed by a thick veil, so that the footman who answered the ring could make nothing of the visitor. Her voice was absolutely steady as she asked to see Lord Ravenspur at once.

“That is impossible, madam,” the footman protested; “his lordship is not yet down, and besides–”

“There is no ‘besides’ about it,” the visitor said, imperiously. “It is a matter of life and death.”

Once more the servant hesitated. There was something about this woman that commanded his respect. The hour was still early for Park Lane, seeing that it was barely nine o’clock, and the notable thoroughfare was practically deserted. From the distance came the hoarse cries of a number of newsboys who were racing across the Park. One of them came stumbling down Park Lane, filling the fresh spring atmosphere with his shouts. Evidently something out of the common had happened to bring these birds of ill omen westward at so early an hour. With the curiosity of his class the footman turned to listen.

“Terrible murder in Fitzjohn Square! Death Mr. Louis Delahay, the famous artist! Artist found dead in his studio! Full details!”

The well-trained servant forgot his manners for a moment.

“Good Lord!” he exclaimed,” it can’t be true. Why Mr. Delahay was a great friend of my master up to the last day or two–”

“I am Mrs. Delahay,” the veiled woman said with quiet intentness. “Please don’t stand staring at me like that, but take me to your master at once. It is imperative that I should see Lord Ravenspur without a moment’s delay.”

The footman collected his scattered wits, and stammered out some kind of apology. There were other newsboys racing down the Lane now. It seemed all of London was ringing with the name of Louis Delahay Then the great double doors of the big house closed sullenly and shut out the horrid sound. At any other time the veiled woman might have been free to admire the luxury and extravagant good taste of her surroundings There were many people who regarded Lord Ravenspur as the most fortunate and talented man in London. Not only had he been born to the possession of a fine title, but he had almost unlimited wealth as well. if this were not suffIcient, Nature had endowed him with a handsome presence and an intellect far beyond common. Apparently there was nothing that Ravenspur could not do. He was a fine sportsman, and a large number of his forty-odd years had been spent big game shooting abroad. What time he passed in England was devoted almost exclusively to artistic pursuits. As a portrait painter Ravenspur stood on a level with the great masters of his time. More than one striking example of sculpture had come from his chisel. He had as much honour in the Salons of Vienna and Paris as he had within the walls of Burlington House. In fine, Ravenspur was a great personage, a popular figure in society, and well known everywhere. His lavish hospitality was always in the best of good taste, and the entrée to 799, Park Lane was accounted a rare privilege by all his friends.

But the woman in black was thinking nothing of this, as she followed the footman along marble corridors to a sunny morning-room at the back of the house. The footman indicated a chair, but the visitor waved him aside with a gesture of impatience.

“Go and fetch your master at once,” she said.

For a few moments she paced up and down, weaving her way in and out amongst the rare objects of art like a wild animal that is freshly caged. She threw back her long, black veil presently as if the atmosphere of the place stifled her. Her face might have been that of a marble statue, so intensely white and rigid it was. It was only the rapid dilation of the dark eyes which showed that the stranger had life and feeling at all. She turned abruptly as Lord Ravenspur came into the room. His handsome, smiling face and prematurely iron-grey hair afforded a strong contrast to the features of his visitor. He came forward with extended hands.

“This is an unexpected pleasure, Maria,” he said. “But what is wrong? Louis is all right, I suppose?”

“Louis is dead!” the woman said in the same cold, strained voice. “He has been foully murdered. I could not say more if I spoke for an hour. Louis is dead!”

The speaker repeated the last three words over and over again as if she were trying to realise the dread significance of her own message. Ravenspur stood there with his hand to his head, shocked and grieved almost beyond the power of speech.

“This is terrible,” he murmured at length. “My dear Maria, I cannot find words to express my sympathy. Could you tell me how it happened? But perhaps I am asking too much.”

“No,” Mrs. Delahay replied, still speaking with the utmost calmness; “I am ready to answer any question you like to put to me. I am absolutely dazed and stunned. As yet I can realise nothing. But, perhaps, before the reaction comes I had better tell you everything. To think that I should lose him in this way whilst I am still a bride! But I dare not pity myself as yet, there is far too much stern work to be done. There will be plenty of time later on for the luxury of grief.”

“Won’t you sit down?” Ravenspur murmured.

“My dear friend, I couldn’t. I must be walking about. I feel as if I could walk about for years. But I will try and tell you how it happened. He came back to London yesterday afternoon, as you know, and put up at the Grand Hotel. You see, I had never been in London before, and so I know nothing at all about it. If we had only gone straight to our own house in Fitzjohn Square this dreadful thing–but why do I think of that? You know the house was not quite ready for us, and that was the reason why we went to the Grand. After visiting a theatre last night Louis announced his intention of going as far as our house. I understood him to say that he required something from his studio. There were no caretakers on the premises, but Louis had a latchkey, so that was all right. I went to bed about twelve o’clock, thinking no evil, and not in the least alarmed because Louis had not come back. As you know, he had always been a terribly late man, and I thought perhaps he had met one of his old companions, or perhaps he had turned into the Garrick Club. Still, when I woke up this morning about six, and found that he had not returned, I became genuinely alarmed. I took a cab as far as Fitzjohn Square, and went into the house.”

“One moment,” Ravenspur interrupted. “I don’t quite understand how you managed to get into the premises.”

“That was an easy matter, though the front door was closed. The latchkey was still in the lock. I only had to turn it to obtain admission. I went straight to the studio, and there on the floor–but I really cannot say any more. Strung up as I am I could not describe it to you... I suppose I cried out, and when I came back to a proper comprehension of things the place was full of police. For the last two hours I have been with them answering all sorts of questions. Then something told me to come to you, and here I am. And whatever you do, please don’t leave me alone. I could not bear to be alone.”

“I wish I could tell you how sorry I am,” Lord Ravenspur murmured. “This is a most extraordinary business altogether. You say that Louis left you not later than twelve o’clock to go as far as Fitzjohn Square, and that, when he left the Grand Hotel, he had no other object in his mind. You are quite sure of this?”

“I am absolutely certain,” Mrs. Delahay replied. Well, that is a strange thing,” Ravenspur went on, “It so happens that I had an accident to my own studio a day or two ago, and until yesterday the workmen were in repairing the glass roof. I was engaged upon a small work which I was anxious to finish, and it occurred to me that I might just as well make use of your husband’s studio, seeing that he was away from home and did not require it. I obtained a duplicate key from the house agent, and all yesterday I was working on my picture there. In fact it is in Louis’ studio at the present moment. After some friends who were dining with me last night left, I walked as far as Fitzjohn Square, and till nearly a quarter past one this morning I was at work there. I might have gone on all night, only the electric light failed suddenly, and I was left in darkness. Then I came home and went to bed. And I am prepared to swear that it had turned half -past one before I left your house, and there was no sign of Louis up to that time.”

“It is inexplicable,” the woman said wearily. “When I try to think my brain seems to turn to water, and everything goes misty before my eyes. I feel like a woman who has had no sleep for years. I feel as if I must get something to relieve this terrible pressure on my brain. Is there nothing that you can suggest?”

“I think so,” Ravenspur said quietly. “I am going to take you back to your hotel, and call for a doctor on the way. You cannot go on like this. No human mind could stand it.”

II. NO. 1 FITZJOHN SQUARE

A FEW moments later and Ravenspur’s brougham was being rapidly driven in the direction of the Grand Hotel. No words were spoken on the journey, but Ravenspur did not fail to notice how his companion shook and quivered as the shouts of the newsboys reached her ears. It seemed as if all London had given itself over to this last sensational tragedy. It was as if thousands of strange rough hands were pressing upon the still bleeding wound. To an intensely sympathetic nature like Ravenpsur’s, the relief of the destination was great. At his suggestion of food his companion shuddered. The mere idea of it turned her physically sick. Utterly worn out and exhausted she dropped into a chair. There was a light now of something like madness in her eyes. The doctor bustled in presently with something in his hand. Mrs. Delahay drank the medicine in a mechanical way, scarcely knowing what she was doing. Then, gradually, her rigid limbs relaxed, and the staring dark eyes were closed.

“She’ll do now for some time,” the doctor whispered. I have telephoned for a nurse who may be here now at any moment. Don’t let me detain you. I have got my motor outside, and in any case I must remain till the nurse arrives.”

“That is very good of you,” Ravenspur murmured. “As far as I am concerned I should like to make some inquiries. I have known Delahay now for the last five years; indeed, it was I who persuaded him to take up his quarters in London. It seems a terrible thing that so promising a career should be cut short like this. That man would have come to the top of his profession, and, so far as I know, he hadn’t a single enemy in the world. Perhaps, by this time, the Scotland Yard people may have found a clue.”

Ravenspur drove straight away to Fitzjohn Square, and made his way through the crowd of morbid folks who had gathered outside. As he expected, he found the house’ in the hands of the police. Inspector Dallas came forward and greeted him respectfully.

“This is a terrible affair, my lord,” he said.

“Ghastly,” Ravenspur exclaimed. “It was a great shock when Mrs. Delahay came round to me this morning. And the strange part of the whole business is that I was in this very house myself, quite alone, till half-past one. Perhaps I had better explain the circumstances to you, as the knowledge might prove useful... And now you know all about it. Mind you, I saw nothing; I did not hear a sound. Indeed, I am quite convinced that there was no one on the premises when I left–”

“But you had no means of making sure,” the inspector protested. “The miscreants might have been here all the time. They might have been hiding in a room upstairs waiting for you to go.”

“They might have attacked me as far as that goes,” Ravenspur replied. “My word, the mere suggestion of it turns one cold.”

“At any rate, they were not after your lordship,” the inspector said, thoughtfully. “Of course, I am assuming for the sake of argument that the murderer, or murderers, were actually here when you arrived last night. If so, the whole thing was carefully premeditated. These people had no quarrel with you, and, therefore, they did not molest you. All the same, they wanted to get rid of you, or they would not have cut off the light.”

“But did they cut off the light?” Ravenspur asked. “That we can prove in a moment. I am going on the theory that these people wanted to get you out of the way, so they short-circuited the current and left you in darkness. That was a very useful expedient, and had the desired effect. I am very glad you told me this because it may be the means of putting us on the track of important evidence. But let us go down to the basement, and examine the electric meter.”

Ravenspur followed his companion down the dark steps leading to the basement, and Inspector Dallas struck a light. Then, with a grim smile, he pointed to a cable which led from the meter to the different rooms on the upper floors. The cable had been clean cut with some sharp instrument, a fracture which must have been recently made, for the main wire to the cable gleamed like gold.

“So far, so good,” Dallas said. “We have proved by yonder demonstration that these people were here last night whilst you were actually at work in the studio.”

“That puzzles me more than ever,” Ravenspur replied. “Why did they not get rid of me an hour before, which they could have done equally as well, by the same simple expedient?”

“Simply because they could afford to wait till half-past one. You may depend upon it that Mr. Delahay’s movements were absolutely known to them. They were perfectly well aware of the fact that he was not expected here till some time past half-past one. It is not a nice insinuation to make, but when Mr. Delahay left his hotel at midnight, he had not the slightest intention of coming straight here. Doubtless he had important business which was likely to last him an hour and a half, and for some reason or other he did not want his wife to know what it was. Speaking as one man of the world to another, Mr. Delahay’s excuse for getting out strikes me as being rather a shallow one. Surely a married man, more or less on his honeymoon, does not want to visit an empty house after midnight. Surely he could have waited till daylight.”

“Then you think he went out to keep an appointment?”

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.