The Missing Million - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Missing Million ebook

Edgar Wallace

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When millionaire Rex Walton mysteriously vanishes on the eve of his wedding, a chain of strange, violent events is set in motion. Intrepid Joan Walton assists Inspector Dicker in the search for her brother. The main suspect is notorious criminal „The Panda” („The Prince of Blackmailers”). You quickly find out that Rex has his own connection to the blackmailer. This is a great example of The Golden Age of Detection. It has many more characters than the typical mystery from this era making it difficult, if not impossible, to simply eliminate the Hero Detective, the Heroine Love Interest, and the Obvious Suspect to figure out who the bad guy is. „The Missing Million” is a mystery novel from the prolific author of detective fiction Edgar Wallace.

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Liczba stron: 385

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CHAPTER XXXIX

CHAPTER XL

CHAPTER XLI

CHAPTER I

“YOU’VE dropped a flower, sir,” said the beef-eater. Detective-Inspector James Sepping blushed and looked down guiltily at the three violets that lay on the gravelled parade ground.

He did not look like a detective, and seemed too youthful to hold any such exalted rank. He had the appearance of an athletic young man about town.

“No–don’t pick them up, unless it is against the regulations of the Tower of London to drop flowers around. They look good there.”

The burly Yeoman of the Guard, in his quaint sixteenth century dress, fingered his grey beard and looked suspiciously at the visitor. Jimmy Sepping appeared to be perfectly sober.

“You’re not supposed to drop paper, but there’s nothing about flowers–thank you, sir.”

Jimmy slipped a coin into the man’s hand.

“I’ve an idea I’ve seen you in the Tower before, sir,” said the beef- eater.

“I have been here before,” drawled Jimmy vaguely.

He had brought that drawl from Oxford to the Metropolitan Police, and it had been the stock joke of the division to which he was drafted in the days when Officer Sepping wore uniform and walked a beat, reciting the Iliad to keep himself awake.

He stood by the flowers until the yeoman strolled away, for he was a sentimentalist, and every year on a certain day he came to the Tower of London to drop a flower on the spot where Fritz Haussman had smiled into a smiling sky. Fritz was a German and a spy. Jimmy had run him to earth and arrested him. Jimmy’s evidence had procured his doom. And then one fine morning in May they had brought him out to shoot him, and he came gaily.

“May I smoke a cigarette?” he asked, and the Provost-Marshal gave him permission. He took the cigarette from his case and was returning it to the waistcoat pocket just above his heart, when he stopped and laughed softly.

“That will rather be in your way,” he smiled, and, finishing his cigarette, he had walked, clear-eyed and still smiling, to the house of death, dying as Jimmy would wish to die, like a gentleman.

So every year came Jimmy to the place where Fritz had stood, and paid homage to manhood.

“Jimmy!”

He turned quickly at the sound of the voice. A girl was looking at him, amusement in her deep blue eyes, a slight figure of a girl.

“Hallo!” he said awkwardly. “You’ve got your hair up!”

She shook her head reproachfully.

“It is very bad manners to make comments upon a lady’s appearance,” she said severely. “Of course I’ve got my hair up. I’m eighteen! What are you doing here?”

He had not seen Joan Walton for two years, and the change in her was amazing. He had never realised before how pretty she was; her self-possession had always been a dominant characteristic, but it had taken the form of a gawky self-assertiveness which had been rather amusing. Joan had suddenly acquired a poise and a dignity which did not seem at all odd or amusing.

“I’ve come to see the Crown Jewels and the dungeons,” he said glibly; “also the tower where the little princes were murdered, and Lady Jane Grey’s initials carved on the wall. I’m a born sightseer.”

She shook her head.

“I don’t believe you. Rex says you are the busiest man in town.”

“Is he here?” he asked quickly.

“He is here–and Dora. He is dining with you, on the night of nights.”

Jimmy chuckled.

“Thursday, isn’t it? Yes, I’ve seen a lot of him lately. What is the matter with him, Joan?”

They were strolling across the quad, and she half turned, making for one of the benches that faced the railed-off space where so many illustrious characters had paid the penalty for treason.

“Sit down–it is an act of providence meeting you. Jimmy, I owe you so much penitence–I won’t say apologies. I used to be horrid to you about your being a policeman. It seemed so funny at the time–”

“Woman, you are forgiven,” said Jimmy magnificently. “The jibes of childhood pass me by, and the pertness of adolescent pulchritude is as the droppings of the gentle rain.”

“You are being rude–and I hate those long words … Jimmy, do you think Rex should marry so soon after Edie’s death?”

The smile left Jimmy’s face.

“I don’t know …” he said slowly. “It is nearly two years, and it would hardly be fair to expect Rex to remain all his life faithful to her memory.”

The girl’s brows knit, and he saw the little hands clench more tightly about the handle of her parasol.

“Why cannot you find this horrible man?” she demanded vehemently. “It is disgraceful that he should be at large, Jimmy! Oh, it was wicked, wicked!”

Jimmy Sepping did not answer. The anonymous letter writer was a difficult proposition in any circumstances, but “Kupie” was no ordinary criminal. The day before Edith Branksome’s marriage, she had been found dead, with a phial of prussic acid in her hand and a letter lying on the floor by the side of the bed. It had been a typical Kupie letter, setting forth cold-bloodedly an escapade of the dead girl that none suspected.

“We have done our best,” said Jimmy quietly.

“Kupie is something more than a spiteful letter writer. There is a big business end to him. He has blackmailed half the prominent men and women in town, and poor Edie is only one whom he has sent to a suicide’s grave.” And then, to change the subject: “You like Dora, don’t you?”

She nodded.

“I’m being a cat even to suggest that the wedding should be postponed. Rex is madly in love with her, and he is very fond of Mr. Coleman. But Rex is worried, Jimmy.”

She shot a warning glance at him and, turning his head, he saw Rex Walton coming toward them.

With him was a girl whose arresting beauty never failed to arouse in the heart of Jimmy Sepping a new admiration. She was tall and fair. Her hair was of that rich golden tint that mothers strive to retain in their children, the live gold of youth. Grey eyes that held the graveness of wisdom, a complexion untouched by artifice. She smiled and waved her hand in greeting, and Jimmy rose to meet her.

Rex Walton was dark, broad-shouldered, and a little sombre of countenance. He was eight years the girl’s senior–exactly Jimmy’s age–and the two men had been at Charterhouse together, had gone up to Oxford in the same term, and had remained fast friends in spite of Rex Walton’s enormous wealth and Jimmy’s comparative poverty.

“What on earth are you doing here, Jimmy?” demanded the new-comer.

“Don’t ask him,” pleaded his sister. “Jimmy has the habit of evasion strongly developed.”

“He’ll tell me the truth,” said the other girl as she sat down. “I think the Tower is wonderful, but it is a little tiring–and there are the dungeons to see.”

“See them with Joan,” said Rex Walton quickly. “I want to talk to Jimmy.”

When Rex was worried, he was brusque and almost uncouth in his manner. Apparently his fiancee had already suffered from his mood, for she accepted his suggestion without question.

“I’ve been a brute this morning,” said Rex when they were left alone, “and if Dora hadn’t the sweetest temper in the world, she would have gone home. Jimmy, I’m rattled! I wish to heaven I could tell you everything!”

“About Kupie?” asked the other quietly.

“Yes … that and more. I’ve been a fool … yet perhaps I haven’t. If I thought I had been a fool I shouldn’t be asking your advice. And I can’t even ask you now without breaking a confidence.”

Rex Walton was a queer mixture of strength and weakness. His simplicity was proverbial, his physical courage had won him a colonelcy in the war, and there was hardly room on his broad chest for the string of decorations he had earned. The only son of a steel magnate, he had inherited a fortune running to the proximity of a million sterling, and his wealth, as Jimmy knew, was one of the principal sources of his worry. Rex had inherited the fortune without a scrap of his father’s business quality. He was a mark for every swindling company promoter, a shining target which no begging-letter writer ever missed. Any plausible scoundrel was assured of his sympathy and help–any man who served with him in the war took money automatically.

“Have you had another letter?” asked Jimmy. For answer, Rex took forth his pocket-case and drew out a grey-tinted sheet of notepaper.

“This morning,” he said tersely.

Jimmy smelt the paper. It had the smoky fragrance which was characteristic of all Kupie’s epistles, and bore neither date nor address. It ran:

If you marry Dora Coleman, I will reduce you to beggary. However secure your money may be, you cannot keep it from me. This is the last time I shall warn you.

K.

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