The Oppenheim Omnibus. Clowns and Criminals - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Oppenheim Omnibus. Clowns and Criminals ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Another great collection of stories from the British author E. Phillips Oppenheim who achieved worldwide fame with his thrilling novels and short stories concerning international espionage and intrigue. A best-selling author of novels, short stories, magazine articles, translations, and plays, Oppenheim published over 150 books. He is considered one of the originators of the thriller genre, his novels also range from spy thrillers to romance, but all have an undertone of intrigue. „The Oppenheim Omnibus. Clowns and Criminals” (1931) is one of Oppenheim’s most intriguing works. Here we have all the elements of blood-racing adventure and intrigue and are precursors of modern-day spy fictions. Highly recommended for people who like to treat a mystery story as a solvable riddle!

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Contents

MICHAEL'S EVIL DEEDS

I. THE UNDISCOVERED MURDERER

II. THE KISS OF JUDAS

III. THE MENWOOD ROAD BANK ROBBERY

IV. THE HONOUR OF MONSIEUR LUTARDE

V. THE THREE MALEFACTORS

VI. THE WINDS OF DEATH

VII. SEVEN BOXES OF GOLD

VIII. THE UNFAMILIAR TRIANGLE

IX. MICHAEL’S WEDDING GIFT

X. THE MYSTERY ADVERTISEMENT

XI. THE GREAT ELUSION

PETER RUFF

I. INTRODUCING MR. PETER RUFF

II. A NEW CAREER

III. VINCENT CAWDOR, COMMISSION AGENT

IV. THE INDISCRETION OF LETTY SHAW

V. DELILAH FROM STREATHAM

VI. THE LITTLE LADY FROM SERVIA

VII. THE DEMAND OF THE DOUBLE-FOUR

VIII. Mrs. BOGNOR’S STAR BOARDER

IX. THE PERFIDY OF MISS BROWN

X. WONDERFUL JOHN DORY

RECALLED BY THE DOUBLE FOUR

I. RECALLED BY THE DOUBLE FOUR

II. THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE

III. THE MAN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT

IV. THE FIRST SHOT

V. THE SEVEN SUPPERS OF ANDREA KORUST

VI. MAJOR KOSUTH’S MISSION

IX. THE AFFAIR OF AN ALIEN SOCIETY

VII. THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

VIII. THE GHOSTS OF HAVANA HARBOUR

X. THE THIRTEENTH ENCOUNTER

JENNERTON & CO.

I. THREE BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

II. JUDGMENT POSTPONED

III. THE TAX COLLECTOR

IV. THE LION’S DEN

V. THE YANKEEDOODLE KID

VI. WAITING FOR TONKS

VII. NUMBERS ONE AND SEVEN

VIII. TAWSITTER’S MILLIONS

IX. THE MAN WITH TWO BAGS

X. THE GREAT BEAR

MICHAEL'S EVIL DEEDS

I. THE UNDISCOVERED MURDERER

Michael

The duel–or shall I call it, perhaps, vendetta–between Norman Greyes and myself–known under many aliases but christened Michael Sayers–commenced on the morning of the third of November, some years ago, when I left my suburban home at Brixton to catch my usual train to the city, and found myself confronted upon the pavement with the immediate chances of life or death.

I will admit that I was taken by surprise. Every man at Scotland Yard was known to me by name and reputation, and I was perfectly convinced in my own mind that there was no one in that much abused but, from our point of view, admirable institution, capable of penetrating the secrets of my daily life and discovering in me, the reputed Thomas Pugsley, leather agent of St. Thomas’ Street, Bermondsey, and Number 138, Woollerton Road, Brixton, the most accomplished and daring criminal of modern times. I knew at once, when I saw the police sergeant, with his two plain-clothes companions, crossing the road towards me, that some one else was taking a hand in the game. Even at that moment, when I had little time for observation, I saw the wellremembered figure of a man emerge from behind the curtains of Number 133, opposite, and it took me exactly ten seconds to realise that henceforth, after I had escaped from this present dilemma, I should have to move my pieces with greater circumspection across the chessboard of life. I recognized him the instant he appeared before the window. There were a few streaks of grey in his black hair, but his keen, grey eyes, his forceful mouth, his long, lean face were all unchanged. He was the one man in the old days whom we had all feared, the man whose retirement from the Force we had celebrated with a small but very select little dinner at the Café Royal. My old hatred of him blazed up as I realised the voluntary nature of his return to the career which he had abandoned. I made up my mind then that if ever the time came when I should be the arbiter of his fate, this man should have no quarter.

The street was a short one, and within fifty yards of a bustling thoroughfare. Nevertheless, at that early hour there were not many people about, and, as it afterwards transpired, witnesses of the spirited few seconds which followed were almost non-existent. It has always been my principle that the best form of defence is prompt attack. Whilst the inspector, therefore, stood with his mouth open ready to inform me that he held a warrant for my arrest, I shot him through the right shoulder blade. He staggered and would have fallen but for his two companions. Before they had propped him up against the railings and recovered from their surprise, I was round the corner of the street and in an empty telephone booth in the adjacent post-office.

I have always maintained that the Telephone Company is an unjustly abused institution. On this occasion, at any rate, my defence of them was justified. Within thirty seconds of asking for Number iooo Hop, I was speaking to the warehouseman whose duty it was to dust and keep in good order my samples of leather, which, to tell the truth, were rarely used. My few rapid words of instruction spoken, I turned my attention to those ingenious devices which, although savouring a little of the trickster, have on more than one occasion assisted me in preserving my liberty. I turned my overcoat, which, in place of a sober black garment, now became a covering of light grey tweed with a belt behind. I rolled my trousers up to the knee, disclosing very well cut brown leather gaiters. I left my black bowler hat in the telephone box, replacing it with a tweed cap; removed with a little pang of regret the most wonderful dark moustache which the hand of artist had ever fashioned, adjusted a pair of spectacles, and made my exit.

There was some commotion in the street outside, and the freckled young lady behind the counter paid scant attention to me.

“The telephone service doesn’t get any better,” I said pleasantly. It’s taken me nearly ten minutes to get two numbers.” She accepted my complaint with equanimity. Her attention was still on the street outside.

“What is it? A fire?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “Did you pay for both your calls?”

I assured her that I had done so and made my way into the street. There was a little crowd in Woollerton Road, and a motor ambulance came dashing by. I strolled along the broad thoroughfare until I came to a taxicab. I hailed the man and hesitated for a moment, glancing up at the sky.

“Is it going to keep fine?” I asked the driver.

He considered the point for a moment.

“Don’t fancy there’s much more rain about, guv’nor,” he replied.

“Then drive to Streatham Hill Station,” I directed.

From Streatham Hill I travelled to London Bridge by the electric railway, and from London Bridge I took a taxi to Waterloo. From Waterloo I caught the ten-forty train to Brookwood, and from the hotel there, where I paused for some slight refreshments, I engaged a taxicab to drive me to “Linkside”, the country retreat of a certain Mr. James Stanfield, situated on the fringe of Woking Golf Links. William, my man-of-all-work, was digging in the garden, and welcomed me with the bucolic indifference of his class. Janet, his niece, admitted me promptly to the house and received my unexpected visit with that respectful lack of curiosity which was a heritage of her earlier training as parlourmaid. She lit the fire in the little sitting room, and listened to my few remarks with imperturbable pleasantness. Yet on that morning, perhaps more than any other in my life, I felt a shadow of uneasiness concerning Janet. I watched her in silence, stooping over the fire, a young woman with a figure whose perfection her ill-fitting corsets and clothes failed altogether to conceal, pale of complexion, with introspective, queer-coloured eyes, closelipped, and with a mass of well-brushed, glossy brown hair. When she stood up, a little flushed with her exertions, she faced me for a moment, waiting for orders. I am not a susceptible man, but it struck me for the first time that the girl was more than ordinarily good-looking.

“Nothing has happened during my absence, Janet?” I enquired.

“Nothing at all, sir,” she replied.

“Nobody called?”

“There was a rate collector,” she said. “He wanted to know your address in London.”

“Did you tell him?”

“I do not know it, sir,” she reminded me quietly.

I removed my glasses and polished them. I am an expert physiognomist, but the girl’s impassivity baffled me.

“I will leave it with you before I go away next time,” I promised.

“Please put me out a grey tweed golf suit and stockings.”

“Shall you be requiring lunch, sir?” she asked.

“I will lunch at the Golf Club,” I told her. “I shall dine at home.”

“Is there anything particular you would like for dinner, sir?”

“I leave everything to you,” I replied.

She left me silently and without further remark. When I went i ipstairs, a few minutes later, my bedroom as usual was spotlessly aeat, my golfing clothes laid out without any single omission. I discarded my somewhat heterogeneous articles of attire, donned my golfing habiliments with some care, and made my way to the links. In the passage of the clubhouse I met the Secretary.

“Are you wanting a game this afternoon, Mr. Stanfield?” he asked.

“I should be glad of one,” I replied.

“There’s a man just come down,” he went on, “four handicap. You will find him in the luncheon room.”

I made my way there. Seated at a table alone was Sir Norman Greyes, the man who had watched for my arrest, a few hours ago, in Woollerton Road, Brixton.

Norman Greyes

I resigned my position at Scotland Yard early in the autumn of 19– for two reasons. First, as protest against an act of gross injustice which, although it did not affect me personally, was still bitterly resented by the majority of my fellow workers; and secondly because, through the unexpected death of a distant relative, I succeeded to a baronetcy and a sufficient income. I spent the best part of three years in travel, nearly half of which time I was in the United States. On my return to London I found myself, much against my will, hankering after my old profession. It was very clear to me that my old department had lost the mastery it had once attained over the criminal world. The problem of several cold- blooded murders and various large and daring robberies remained entirely unsolved. In the intervals of my country life, I began to study these from an outsider’s point of view, chiefly from the columns of the newspapers, but also to some extent from hints and information supplied to me by my friend Inspector Rimmington, who had been one of my colleagues in the old days and now held the post which I had vacated. Gradually I came to a certain conclusion, a conclusion which I kept largely to myself because I felt sure that no one at the Yard was likely to agree with me. I decided that the majority of these undetected crimes were due to one person, or rather to one gang of criminals presided over by one master mind. Purely from the inherited instinct of my long years of service in the Police Force, I set myself the task of hunting down this super-criminal. In November, 19–, I began to believe that I was on the right track.

There were three crimes which I became convinced had been committed by the same hand. The first was the great robbery of jewels from Messrs. Henson and Watts’ establishment in Regent Street, and the murder of the watchman, who was shot dead at his post. No trace of even a single article of this jewellery had ever been discovered. The second crime was the robbery of a number of bearer bonds from a messenger in a railway carriage on the London, Chatham and Dover line. The messenger was also shot, but recovered after six months’ nursing, although he could never give any coherent account of what had happened to him. The bonds were disposed of in South America at a considerable loss. The third was the robbery from Lord Wenderley’s house in Park Lane of a great collection of uncut jewels, and the serious wounding of Lord Wenderley himself, who was attacked in the dark and who neither saw nor heard anything of his assailant. There were other crimes which I thought might be connected with these, but these three, for various reasons, became linked together in my mind as the outcome of one man’s brain. I set myself the task of discovering this one man, and the day came at last when I really believed that I was in a position to lay my hand upon him. There is no necessity to detail the whole train of circumstantial evidence which finally brought me. to a certain conclusion. It is sufficient to say that after watching him for three weeks, I became convinced that a man by the name of Thomas Pugsley, carrying on business in Bermondsey as a leather agent, and living apparently the most respectable of lives at Brixton, was in some measure connected with these crimes. I discovered that his leather agency business was prosecuted without energy or attention, that his frequent absences from London were not in neighbourhoods where his wares could be pushed, and that he was often away for a month at a time, with his whereabouts unknown even to his landlady. The latter was a highly respectable woman at whose house he had lived for the last two years, and who I honestly believe was ignorant of her lodger’s antecedents, his habits and business. By taking rooms in the neighbourhood, I easily discovered all that she knew and one or two circumstances which lent colour to my suspicions. I placed these, before Rimmington and it was decided to make an arrest.

A more clumsy piece of business than this intended arrest was never planned or carried into effect. The inspector placed in charge of the affair by Rimmington, with his two subordinates, arrived at Brixton an hour later than the time fixed upon, accosted Pugsley in the street, and were very soon made aware of the class of person with whom they had to deal. Before the inspector could get out half a dozen words, he was lying on the pavement with a bullet through his shoulder. His companions dragged him on to the pavement and set him up against the railings. Then they turned to look for Pugsley. There was not a trace of him to be discovered anywhere. The amazing skill and cunning of the man was amply demonstrated on that morning. By some extraordinary means he seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. The books of his business, when examined, showed that he had done scarcely any business; his warehouseman was an honest but stupid fellow who knew nothing except that his master took numerous trips, he thought abroad, to obtain fresh agencies. There was enough money in the bank to pay all liabilities, but so far as Thomas Pugsley himself was concerned, he seemed to have walked off the edge of the world.

The morning which witnessed, however, the shooting of the inspector and the remarkable disappearance of the man in whom I was so deeply interested, was memorable, so far as I was concerned, for another noteworthy incident. Absolutely disgusted with the result of my six months’ labours, I determined to wipe the whole thing from my memory and travelled down to Woking with the intention of playing a round of golf. I was introduced by the Secretary to a resident of the place whose name was James Stanfield, and we had a round which ranks amongst the best I ever played in my life. Stanfield was a silent but by no means a gloomy person. He appeared to be about forty years of age and an absolute golf maniac. He played every shot with the most ridiculous care, but I must confess with also the most wonderful precision. His drives were never long, but they were long enough for him to escape trouble, and in the approximate eighty shots which he took to complete the course, I cannot remember one that was in any way fluffed or foozled. He beat me at the seventeenth hole, and it was whilst we stood together upon the eighteenth tee that the incident happened which was to bring still more excitement into the day. On our right was a small plantation of shrubs through which wound the path which my partner pointed out to me as leading to his house. Our attention was attracted by the continued barking of a small dog which had wandered from the adjacent foot-path. I had the curiosity to walk a step or two into the plantation to see what was the trouble. My companion, however, who was a little on my left, was the first to discover the cause of the dog’s excitement. At a little cry from him I hurried to his side. Stretched upon his back, with extended arms, and a small blue hole in his forehead, we found the body of a man. He was dead but still warm, and by an extraordinary chance I at once recognized him. He was one of the two plain-clothes policemen whom I had seen in Woollerton Road that morning, foiled in his attempt to arrest the man who had been passing under the name of Thomas Pugsley.

Janet Soale

Just before midday on Thursday, the third of November, my master made one of his unexpected reappearances. I was not surprised. Only the night before I had dreamed of him, and it seemed to me impossible that with my passionate prayers going out day by day, he should stay away much longer. When I first saw him turn in at the gate, I was filled with wild excitement. If he could have seen me at that moment, he would have known and understood everything. By the time he had reached the front door, however, and I had let him in, I had regained my self-control. I must have seemed to him just the ordinary well-mannered, wellconducted parlourmaid.

He changed his clothes and went off presently for his round of golf. When I went to his room to brush and press the clothes which he had taken off, I found, however, that he had placed them in a drawer and apparently locked it. The discovery, coming on the top of many others, gave me food for thought I resolved to watch the next morning’s newspapers. It was becoming more and more clear to me that there was something in my master’s manner of life which he was anxious to conceal from the world. I was the more convinced of this when I saw that in the top drawer, which he had opened to take out a tie, he had concealed a small revolver, loaded in all six chambers. A merchant with offices in the City and a country cottage for golf does not carry a loaded revolver about with him. My heart beat with excitement as I picked it up and handled it. I forgot my master’s indifference. I ignored the fact that, although I am well enough to look upon, and that my face and figure have won me more admirers than I could count on the fingers of both hands, he has never cast a second giance in my direction. I still had faith in myself if I chose to make the first advances. I have never made them to any man, but I have an instinct. I believe that he is cold and unresponsive from habit. I believe that if I could make him understand the fires which are burning me up night and day, he would throw off this mask of coldness and mystery, and give me that place in his life which I crave.

I was loitering about his room, looking still at that closed drawer, when to my amazement a man entered?a thin, weedy-looking person, with sunken cheeks and a straggling, sandy moustache. I am not easily frightened, but it gave me a turn when he closed the door behind him.

“What do you want?” I asked sharply. “How dare you come up here?”

He looked at me earnestly. It was obvious that my first thought was a mistaken one. This was not one of the admirers whom I found it difficult sometimes to keep at arm’s length.

“Young woman,” he said, “I am a police officer. You seem to be a sensible girl. Answer the questions which I ask, do not obstruct me in the course of my duty, and you will be rewarded.”

I looked at him in silence for several moments. I do not think that I changed colour or showed anything of the terror which sat in my heart. My master was in danger. All the time 1 stood there, I was thinking. How was I to help–How could I help–

“Your master returned here an hour or so ago,” this man continued, “and has now gone off to play golf. I want the clothes which he wore when he came down.”

“How do you know that he changed?” I asked.

“I saw him come in and I saw him go out,” was the quiet reply.

“This is his bedroom, is it not?”

“It is,” I admitted.

“Then the clothes must be here. Where are they?”

“I do not know,” I answered. “I was looking for them myself. I was just going into the bathroom next door to see if he had left them there.”

He stepped back and entered the bathroom. He was only gone for a few seconds, but I found time to take the revolver from the tie drawer and to slip it into my open pocket.

“The bath has not been used,” he said a little shortly, when he came back. “I should like you to stay with me whilst I search these drawers.”

I made no objection, and he made a hasty search of the contents of the first two. When he came to the bottom one and found it locked, he gave vent to a little exclamation.

“Have you the key of this drawer?” he demanded.

“No,” I answered. “My master has taken it with him.”

He made no bones for what he did, nor offered any apology.

With an instrument which he carried in his pocket, he forced the lock and bent over the contents of the drawer. He was a man addicted, I should imagine, to silence, but I heard him muttering to himself at what he found. When he stood up, there was a smile of triumph upon his lips.

“What time do you expect your master back?” he enquired.

“I do not know,” I answered. “He was lunching at the golf club and playing a round afterwards. About five o’clock, I should think.”

He walked to the window and stood looking out over the links. I, too, looked out. In the far distance we could see two men playing.

“Do you know the links?” he asked.

“Very well,” I told him. “I have lived here all my life.”

“What hole are they playing now?”

“The seventh.”

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