The Mixer - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Mixer ebook

Edgar Wallace

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This is an excellent collection of short stories that include „The Silk Stockings”, „Cinema Teaching by Post”, „A Gambling Raid”, and many more. „The Mixer” is a particularly cool and resourceful scoundrel who works on the philanthropic principle of robbing only the thief and outswindling the swindler. He shows unfailing ingenuity in relieving of their ill-gotten gains the successful promoters of burglaries, sweepstakes, and financial scoops. Each chapter describes, in Mr. Wallace’s best manner, some fresh exploit more daring and original than the last, and so likeable does this engaging villain become that we are positively relieved when, realizing that he has gone far enough, he finally retires from „business” and escapes abroad.

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Liczba stron: 349

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Contents

I. THE OUTWITTING OF PONY NELSON

II. THE GREAT GENEVA SWEEPSTAKE

III. A SPECULATION IN SHARES

IV. THE BANK THAT DID NOT FAIL

V. MR. LIMMERBURG'S WATERLOO

VI. A CLOSE CALL—AND ITS SEQUEL

VII. HOW A FAMOUS MASTER CRIMINAL WAS TRAPPED

VIII. MR. SPARKES, THE DETECTIVE

IX. THE SUBMARINE-CHASER COUP

X. A STRANGE FILM ADVENTURE

XI. THE GIRL FROM GIBRALTAR

XII. A GAMBLING RAID

XIII. THE SILK STOCKINGS

XIV. THE CASE OF DOLLY DE MULLE

XV. THE SEVENTY-FOURTH DIAMOND

XVI. CINEMA TEACHING BY POST

XVII. THE BILLITER BANK SMASH

XVIII. THE SPANISH PRISONER

XIX. THE CROWN JEWELS

XX. THE PROFESSOR

I. THE OUTWITTING OF PONY NELSON

PONY NELSON had clicked, and it was the biggest click of years. It was a click that gave him precedence over all his contemporaries. It is a long story, and has little to do with this narrative, but some £35,000 was involved, and Pony, who was the prince of confidence tricksters and the greatest and most amazingly clever card-sharp that ever handled the “boards,” made a clean job of it. There were sharings, of course, but Pony had had a good season, and could afford to behave handsomely to the rest of the gang.

He had planned a summer of idleness, a motor tour in the West of England, a few weeks up the river, and was actually negotiating for a shoot in Scotland, when Bradley, of the Central Police Investigation, gave him the office that big trouble was brewing, and that the indefatigable Detective Sennet, who gave his whole time and attention to such crimes as were Pony’s speciality, was hot on his track, and needed only another scrap of evidence to put Mr. Nelson where the dogs wouldn’t bite him or the cats disturb his slumbers.

Whereupon, Pony passed the word round, announcing that his passport was in order, and that he was leaving at an early date for the South of France, his plans having undergone revision, and there assembled at the Seven Feathers in Soho all that was best and brightest and most dexterous in what was colloquially known as the “Nelson Push.”

Simmy Diamond, Colethorpe, May Bluementhal, and Chris O’Heckett were present at the sumptuous repast which Pony gave, and the wine passed freely. I give these names, few of which need be remembered, since the majority subsequently sank their identities in numbers. But the names are emphasised for the moment so that the reader may realise that The Mixer was not present. He was not a member of the “Nelson Push,” though it may be said that he had very excellent information about Mr. Nelson, his habits, his weaknesses, and his plans.

“Lucky you!” said May, who sat at Pony’s elbow. Pony chuckled.

“Well, things might be worse,” he answered complacently. “But I hate going abroad with the season opening up, and money for nothing waiting to be picked up.

He shook his head with well-simulated regret, or perhaps his regret was not wholly simulated. Pony was a poseur, as all great artistes are. He responded to the atmosphere of adulation in which, for the moment, he had his being, or, vulgarly speaking, Pony was showing off.

“Yes,” he went on thoughtfully, “there’s lashings of money for you boys and girls, and, though you’re welcome to it, I hate the thought of being out of the running.”

He stopped, and a new light dawned in his eye.

“I’m leaving to-morrow,” he said slowly, “by the eight o’clock train. My bag’s packed and at the station.”

He paused again, and the adoring company listened breathlessly, for Pony was a man of genius, and at times gave vent to memorable sayings, which were repeated even in the lower strata of rascaldom.

“This is going to be an expensive trip for me,” said the whimsical Mr. Nelson, his eyes smiling mischievously. “By the time I get through, what with the railway fares, crossing the Channel, my expenses in Paris, tipping porters, etc., I reckon this trip will cost me a hundred pounds.”

The statement was received with sycophantic smiles, for had not Pony the greater part of £40,000 stored away in various pockets, secret and open?

The girl was the first to divine his meaning.

“Don’t be a fool, Pony,” she said seriously. “Leave well alone. You go home and have a sleep and get away to France. I know what you’re thinking about.”

“What?” challenged Pony.

“You’re going to do a job to bring you in your fare,” she said. “You’ll have all the busy-fellows* in the world waiting for you to-morrow morning at Victoria Station. Sennet’s after you, and maybe a fool slip to-night will get you a lagging.”

[* Busy-fellow or split-detective.]

Pony laughed.

“The splits have been after me for years,” he said, “and they haven’t got me yet, have they? And is it likely that I should go and ask for it at the last minute? No, May, if I do a job to-night it will be a safe one, and I am going to do it.”

It was Simmy who added his warning to the girl’s.

“It’s asking for trouble, Pony,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve seen some of the best men in the business put away because they weren’t satisfied with a lot, but wanted a bit more. It isn’t as though you are unknown, Pony. Why, even the copper on his beat knows you are mixed up in these jobs, and it is only because they haven’t proof that you haven’t been pinched. Where-ever you go you’re watched, and, what’s more, it isn’t like you to do a job without a lot of preparation and fixing. How can you cover yourself when you don’t even know the kind of job you’re going to do?”

The logic of this appealed to the professional instincts of the company, and there was a murmur of approval. But Pony Nelson was full of good vintage, and was, moreover, excited by the prospect of his holiday. It was true he had made a good picking–incidentally ruining one man and two women in the process of his enrichments. It was true that he had enough money to last him for two or three years, and that before him lay leisure and opportunity for planning still greater coups.

But he felt he had a reputation for daring and ingenuity to sustain, and he had great faith in his star.

“I think some of you people want holidays, too,” he said sarcastically. “What’s biting you all? You don’t suppose I’m going to walk up to a goldsmith’s shop, smash the window, and pinch a handful of watches, do you? Or do you expect me to go into Piccadilly, where the flatties are as thick as flies in a dustbin, and knock some old josser over the head? I tell you I’m going to get a hundred pounds to pay my expenses, and I’m going to get it easy.”

He had no definite plan in his mind, but he was chockful of wine and optimism.

“What you want,” growled Simmy, “is a blinking miracle.”

And then the miracle happened.

The Seven Feathers café and restaurant occupied the ground and first floors. Pony had chosen the ground floor for his dinner, because it gave him opportunities of observation. The little dining-room was, in fact, a curtained recess, where there was only room for three small tables, or, as in the present case, one large one. The main room was occupied by a small bar, which had a reputation amongst connoisseurs for the excellence of the cocktails purveyed.

Moreover, from the ground floor, there were three exits, which was also a consideration with Pony, who, despite his apparent recklessness, was in reality a very cautious man. From where he sat he commanded, through a slit in the curtain, a view of the caf6, and even as Simmy growled his sardonic comment there passed before the field of Pony’s vision two young men, who were making an unsteady way from the café entrance to the bar. Had he not seen them, he must have heard them, for one of them at least was verging on the noisy. Instantly alert, Pony reached out and increased the gap in the curtain. He was an opportunist to his fingertips, and somehow he sensed, in these new arrivals, a manifestation of the miracle at which the sceptical Simmy had scoffed.

He raised his hand for silence, but this precaution was unnecessary, because his guests had interpreted the look upon his face.

The noisy one of the pair of newcomers was arguing loudly with the bar-tender, his companion acting as echo. It was not unusual for the gilded youth of London to drift into the Seven Feathers, for the fame of its liquor was widespread. These newcomers were in immaculate evening kit. They were not only well, but foppishly attired. Their gold-headed canes were thrust under their arms, and from the pocket of the handsome and noisy youth dangled a watch, the face of which was set about with brilliants. His companion was slightly older, less handsome, less boisterous, but obviously not less inebriated.

“Wait,” said Pony softly, and slipped out, for he saw his click.

He also was in evening dress, and wore it so well that he could never be mistaken for a waiter. He walked leisurely across the café floor, his hands in his pockets, a long cigar in the corner of his mouth, and, making no attempt to introduce himself to the strangers, addressed the barman.

There was no need to address them, for the youngest lurched towards him and laid a genial hand on his shoulder.

“Have this one with us, dear old thing,” he said. “We’ve yards of money, and the night’s young.”

Pony returned an affable smile.

“I don’t, as a rule, drink with strangers,” he said.

“Forget all about that, old bird,” returned the other. “The night’s young, and it’s my birthday.”

“So it is–let’s celebrate,” added his friend, waving an unsteady hand.

Pony demurred, but accepted. There was a solemn drinking of healths, and then the first man who had addressed him thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a bunch of banknotes of such respectable thickness and of such high denomination–Pony saw out of the corner of his eye that they were twenties –that the clear-headed man made his plan on the spot.

Conversation was easy. The handsome young man did all the talking, echoed enthusiastically by his companion, and he talked about himself and his friend. He did not say as much, but Pony gathered that they were sons of men who had trafficked wisely and well during the period of the recent war. He gathered, too, that they were both in the army, but what interested him more than anything else was a little gamble which they conducted between themselves.

The process was simple. One young man put a folded note on the counter, and asked the other to guess whether the final number inscribed at the head of the note was odd or even. Pony left them to this interesting occupation and went back to his friends.

“The miracle has happened, Simmy,” he said in a low voice, and then with a nod to May Bluementhal, “I shall want you, May. Is your flat in Albany Street available for visitors?”

She pursed her lips in doubt.

“You are not going to take them there, are you?”

He nodded again.

“I only want a hundred out of it, you understand,” he said. “These kids have got a thousand, if they’ve got a penny.”

The girl’s face changed.

“That’s a little different,” she said; “What do you want me to do?”

Pony outlined his plan briefly. Presently he rejoined the boys at the counter.

“I’m afraid I must leave you, boys,” he said. “I hate to do it, but I am dining with a lady, and if she sees you tossing she’ll never leave you, because she is an inveterate gambler.”

“That’s the kind I like,” said the boisterous one, but Pony shook his head.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said, as though a sudden thought had struck him. “Let us see her home, and then I’ll introduce you to the daisiest night club in town.”

The proposal was received with a howl of joy. Pony, going into the recess, reappeared presently with May, a diffident, modest, young lady, who had no other anxiety than to get home.

The young men, whose names Pony had not troubled to secure, had a taxicab waiting at the door, and the four drove off through the squally night, watched by the remainder of the gang.

“He’s asking for trouble,” said Simmy, coming back to the table. “I don’t like it a bit. How do we know those two chaps aren’t splits?”

“Splits!” sneered another of the gang. “Did you ever know a split that didn’t look like a split? These are mugs!”

Beyond the fact that the young men insisted on singing all the way to Albany Street, nothing extraordinary happened, but when approaching her flat (in reality it was a very long way from her flat) May expressed a desire to stop and walk the remaining distance, even though a thin drizzle of rain was falling. The young men might be oblivious in the morning to all that had happened, but the taxi-driver, at any rate, was sober, and he could give information which would be distinctly uncomfortable.

The young men readily agreed to her suggestion and stepped out, paid off the taxi-driver, and four abreast, they walked along the deserted side walk until they reached the doorway, through which May passed, followed by the others.

The visitors found themselves in a very handsome apartment, but apparently they were not impressed. Pony managed to get the girl aside and spoke to her in a low voice. He returned to the roisterers.

“Miss Johnston does not want you boys to go until you have had a drink,” he said, “but I think you’ve had enough already, haven’t you?”

“Not a bit,” said the talkative one, “and thank Miss Johnston on our behalf.”

Pony hesitated.

“She wanted to know if you would play baccarat,” he said, “but I shouldn’t if I were you. She’s awfully lucky, and, as I told you before, gambling is a passion with her.”

“Baccarat,” roared the younger, “is my long suit. Produce your cards, my lad.”

“I don’t want to play,” said Pony, shaking his head. “As a matter of fact, I don’t approve of gambling.”

They smacked him on the back and dug him in the ribs and generally gave such evidence of their good spirits that he was prevailed upon to play.

The girl produced the cards from the “box,” and the game began.

At first the young men won, but thereafter began a very steady decline in their fortunes. They paid up uncomplainingly, and the pile of notes under May’s hand grew steadily, and Pony, making a mental calculation of his winnings, saw that not a thousand but thousand was coming into the pool, and mentally resolved to amend his arrangements with May.

Presently came the inevitable moment.

“I’m broke,” said the elder of the two. “Lend me fifty, Anthony.”

But the other shook his head.

“I’ve got this twenty pounds left and I’m going to play it,” he said.

He played and lost, and for a while there was a deep silence, broken only by the rustling of the notes as the girl counted them with skillful and rapid fingers.

“Bad luck,” said Pony cheerfully. “Now you boys must have a drink. Are you quite broke? I can lend you fifty to go on with.”

But the young men waved aside his generous offer. May prepared the drink at the sideboard, and put it on the table. The young man who had done least of the talking walked slowly to the door, his hands in his pockets, whilst the other lifted his glass and sniffed it.

“Butyl chloride!” he said pleasantly, and Pony stared.

He stared more open-eyed when the other offered the glass to him.

“Drink that!” he said.

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