The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation - Joseph Smith Fletcher - ebook

The Rayner-Slade Amalgamation ebook

Joseph Smith Fletcher



Marshall Allerdyke is driving through the night from London to Hull in response to an urgent telegram from his cousin. As he nears Hull, a beautiful woman stops his car to ask for directions to Scotland. Odd time to be traveling so far and in such a hurry, but Allerdyke’s mind is elsewhere. When he finally arrives in Hull, he finds his cousin dead in his hotel room and a valuable consignment of jewels missing. Allerdyke’s only clue rests with that woman hurrying off to Scotland. Written in beautifully „period” English, this mystery has many threads to solve. The main characters work wonderfully with each other to solve the mystery, with the assistance of the British police. There are enough twists and turns and revelations to keep you busy right to the end.

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About eleven o’clock on the night of Monday, May 12, 1914, Marshall Allerdyke, a bachelor of forty, a man of great mental and physical activity, well known in Bradford as a highly successful manufacturer of dress goods, alighted at the Central Station in that city from an express which had just arrived from Manchester, where he had spent the day on business. He had scarcely set foot on the platform when he was confronted by his chauffeur, a young man in a neat dark-green livery, who took his master’s travelling rug in one hand, while with the other he held out an envelope.

“The housekeeper said I was to give you that as soon as you got in, sir,” he announced. “There’s a telegram in it that came at four o’clock this afternoon–she couldn’t send it on, because she didn’t know exactly where it would find you in Manchester.”

Allerdyke took the envelope, tore it open, drew out the telegram, and stepped beneath the nearest lamp. He muttered the wording of the message–

“On board SS. Perisco

“63 miles N.N.E. Spurn Point, 2.15 p.m., May 12_th_.

“Expect to reach Hull this evening, and shall stop Station Hotel there for night on way to London. Will you come on at once and meet me? Want to see you on most important business–


Allerdyke re-read this message, quietly and methodically folded it up, slipped it into his pocket, and with a swift glance at the station clock turned to his chauffeur.

“Gaffney,” he said, “how long would it take us to run across to Hull?”

The chauffeur showed no surprise at this question; he had served Allerdyke for three years, and was well accustomed to his ways.

“Hull?” he replied. “Let’s see, sir–that ‘ud be by way of Leeds, Selby, and Howden. About sixty miles in a straight line, but there’s a good bit of in-and-out work after you get past Selby, sir. I should say about four hours.”

“Plenty of petrol in the car?” asked Allerdyke, turning down the platform. “There is? What time did you have your supper?”

“Ten o’clock, sir,” answered Gaffney, with promptitude.

“Bring the car round to the hotel door in the station yard,” commanded Allerdyke. “You’ll find a couple of Thermos flasks in the locker–bring them into the hotel lounge bar.”

The chauffeur went off down the platform. Allerdyke turned up the covered way to the Great Northern Hotel. When the chauffeur joined him there a few minutes later he was giving orders for a supply of freshly-cut beef sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs; the Thermos flasks he handed over to be filled with hot coffee.

“Better get something to eat now, Gaffney,” he said. “Get some sandwiches, or some bread and cheese, or something–it’s a longish spin.”

He himself, waiting while the chauffeur ate and drank, and the provisions were made ready, took a whisky and soda to a chair by the fire, and once more pulled out and read the telegram. And as he read he wondered why his cousin, its sender, wished so particularly to see him at once. James Allerdyke, a man somewhat younger than himself, like himself a bachelor of ample means and of a similar temperament, had of late years concerned himself greatly with various business speculations in Northern Europe, and especially in Russia. He had just been over to St. Petersburg in order to look after certain of his affairs in and near that city, and he was returning home by way of Stockholm and Christiania, in each of which towns he had other ventures to inspect. But Marshall Allerdyke was quite sure that his cousin did not wish to see him about any of these matters–anything connected with them would have kept until they met in the ordinary way, which would have happened within a day or two. No, if James had taken the trouble to send him a message by wireless from the North Sea, it meant that James was really anxious to see him at the first available moment, and would already have landed in Hull, expecting to find him there. However, with a good car, smooth roads, and a fine, moonlit night–

It was not yet twelve o’clock when Allerdyke wrapped himself up in a corner of his luxurious Rolls-Royce, saw that the box of eatables and the two Thermos flasks were safe in the locker, and told Gaffney to go ahead. He himself had the faculty of going to sleep whenever he pleased, and he went to sleep now. He was asleep as Gaffney went through Leeds and its suburbs; he slept all along the country roads which led to Selby and thence to Howden. But in the silent streets of Howden he woke with a start, to find that Gaffney had pulled up in answer to a question flung to him by the driver of another car, which had come alongside their own from the opposite direction. That car had also been pulled up; within it Allerdyke saw a woman, closely wrapped in furs.

“What is it, Gaffney?” he asked, letting down his own window and leaning out.

“Wants to know which is the best way to get across the Ouse, sir,” answered Gaffney. “I tell him there’s two ferries close by–one at Booh, the other at Langrick–but there’ll be nobody to work them at this hour. Where do you want to get to?” he went on, turning to the driver of the other car.

“Want to strike the Great Northern main line somewhere,” answered the driver. “This lady wants to catch a Scotch express. I thought of Doncaster, but–”

The window of the other car was let down, and its occupant looked out. The light of the full moon shone full on her, and Allerdyke lifted his cap to a pretty, alert-looking young woman of apparently twenty-five, who politely returned his salutation.

“Can I give you any advice?” asked Allerdyke. “I understand you want–”

“An express train to Scotland–Edinburgh,” replied the lady. “I made out, on arrival at Hull, that if I motored across country I would get a train at some station on the Great Northern line–a morning express. Doncaster, Selby, York–which is nearest from wherever we are!”

“This is Howden,” said Allerdyke, looking up at the great tower of the old church. “And your best plan is to follow this road to Selby, and then to York. All the London expresses stop there, but they don’t all stop at Selby or at Doncaster. And there’s no road bridge over the Ouse nearer than Selby in any case.”

“Many thanks,” responded the lady. “Then,” she went on, looking at her driver, “you will go on to York–that is–how far?” she added, favouring Allerdyke with a gracious smile. “Very far?”

“Less than an hour’s run,” answered Gaffney for his master. “And a good road.”

The lady bowed; Allerdyke once more raised his cap; the two cars parted company. And Allerdyke stopped Gaffney as he was driving off again, and produced the provisions.

“Half-past two,” he remarked, pulling out his watch. “You’ve come along in good style, Gaffney. We’ll have something to eat and drink. Queer thing, eh, for anybody to motor across from Hull to catch a Great Northern express on the main line!”

“Mayn’t be any trains out of Hull during the night, sir,” answered Gaffney, taking a handful of sandwiches. “They’ll get one at York, anyway. Want to reach Hull at any particular time, sir?”

“No,” answered Allerdyke. “Go along as you’ve come. You’ll have a bit of uphill work over the edge of the Wolds, now. When we strike Hull, go to the Station Hotel.”

He went to sleep again as soon as they moved out of Howden, and he only awoke when the car stopped at the hotel door in Hull. A night-porter, hearing the buzz of the engine, came out.

“Put the car in the garage, Gaffney, and then get yourself a bed and lie as long as you like,” said Allerdyke. “I’ll let you know when I want you.” He turned to the night-porter. “You’ve a Mr. James Allerdyke stopping here I think?” he went on. “He’d come in last night from the Christiania steamer.”

The night-porter led the way into the hotel, and towards the office.

“Mr. Marshall Allerdyke?” he asked of the new arrival. “The gentleman left a card for you; I was asked to give it to you as soon as you came.”

Allerdyke took the visiting-card which the man produced from a letter rack, and read the lines hastily scribbled on the back–

If you land here during the night, come straight up to my room–263–and rouse me out. Want to see you at once.–J.A.

Allerdyke slipped the card into his pocket and turned to the night-porter.

“My cousin wants me to go up to his room at once,” he said. “Just show me the way. Do you happen to know what time he got in last night?” he continued, as they went upstairs. “Was it late?”

“Passengers from the Perisco, sir?” answered the night-porter. “There were several of ‘em came in last night–she got into the river about eight-thirty. It ‘ud be a bit after nine o’clock when your friend came in.”

Allerdyke’s mind went back to the meeting at Howden.

“Did you have a lady set off from here in the middle of the night?” he asked, out of sheer curiosity. “A lady in a motor-car?”

“Oh! that lady,” exclaimed the night-porter, with a grim laugh. “Ah! nice lot of bother she gave me, too. She was one of those Perisco passengers–she got in here with the rest, and booked a room, and went to it all right, and then at half-past twelve down she came and said she wanted to get on, and as there weren’t no trains she’d have a motor-car and drive to catch an express at Selby, or Doncaster, or somewhere. Nice job I had to get her a car at that time o’ night!–and me single-handed–there wasn’t a soul in the office then. Meet her anywhere, sir?”

“Met her on the road,” replied Allerdyke laconically. “Was she a foreigner, do you know?”

“I shouldn’t wonder if she was something of that sort,” answered the night-porter. “Sort that would have her own way at all events. Here’s the room, sir.”

He paused before the door of a room which stood halfway down a long corridor in the centre of the hotel, and on its panels he knocked gently.

“Every room’s filled on this floor, sir,” he remarked. “I hope your friend’s a light sleeper, for there’s some of ‘em’ll have words to say if they’re roused at four o’clock in the morning.”

“He’s a very light sleeper as a rule,” replied Allerdyke. He stood listening for the sound of some movement in the room: “Knock again,” he said, when a minute had passed without response on the part of the occupant. “Make it a bit louder.”

The night-porter, with evident unwillingness, repeated his summons, this time loud enough to wake any ordinary sound sleeper. But no sound came from within the room, and after a third and much louder thumping at the door, Allerdyke grew impatient and suspicious.

“This is queer!” he growled. “My cousin’s one of the lightest sleepers I ever knew. If he’s in there, there’s something wrong. Look here! you’ll have to open that door. Haven’t you got a key?”

“Key’ll be inside, sir,” replied the night-porter. “But there’s a master-key to all these doors in the office. Shall I fetch it, then?”

“Do!” said Allerdyke, curtly. He began to walk up and down the corridor when the man had hurried away, wondering what this soundness of sleep in his cousin meant. James Allerdyke was not a man who took either drink or drugs, and Marshall’s experience of him was that the least sound awoke him.

“Queer!” he repeated as he marched up and down. “Perhaps he’s not–”

The quiet opening of a door close by made him lift his eyes from the carpet. In the dim light he saw a man looking out upon him–a man of an unusually thick crop of hair and with a huge beard. He stared at Allerdyke half angrily, half sulkily; then he closed his door as quietly as he had opened it. And Allerdyke, turning back to his cousin’s room, mechanically laid his hand on the knob and screwed it round.

The door was open.

Allerdyke drew a sharp breath as he crossed the threshold. He had stayed in that hotel often, and he knew where the switch of the electric light should be. He lifted a hand, found the switch, and turned the light on. And as it flooded the room, he pulled himself up to a tense rigidity. There, sitting fully dressed in an easy chair, against which his head was thrown back, was his cousin–unmistakably dead.



For a full minute Marshall Allerdyke stood fixed–staring at the set features before him. Then, with a quick catching of his breath, he made one step to his cousin’s side and laid his hand on the unyielding shoulder. The affectionate, familiar terms in which they had always addressed each other sprang involuntarily to his lips.

“Why, James, my lad!” he exclaimed. “James, lad! James!”

Even as he spoke, he knew that James would never hear word or sound again in this world. It needed no more than one glance at the rigid features, one touch of the already fixed and statue-like body, to know that James Allerdyke was not only dead, but had been dead some time. And, with a shuddering sigh, Marshall Allerdyke drew himself up and looked round at his surroundings.

Nothing could have been more peaceful than that quiet hotel bedroom; nothing more orderly than its arrangements. Allerdyke had always known his cousin for a man of unusually tidy and methodical habits; the evidence of that orderliness was there, where he had pitched his camp for presumably a single night. His toilet articles were spread out on the dressing-table; his pyjamas were laid across his pillow; his open suit-case lay on a stand at the foot of the bed; by the bedside lay his slippers. An overcoat hung from one peg of the door; a dressing-gown from another; on a chair in a corner lay, neatly folded, a couple of travelling rugs. All these little details Allerdyke’s sharp eyes took in at a glance; he turned from them to the things nearer the dead man.

James Allerdyke sat in a big easy chair, placed at the side of a round table set towards a corner of the room. He was fully dressed in a grey tweed suit, but he had taken off one boot–the left–and it lay at his feet on the hearthrug. He himself was thrown back against the high-padded hood of the chair; there was a little frown on his set features, a tiny puckering of the brows above his closed eyes. His hands were lying at his sides, unclasped, the fingers slightly stretched, the thumbs slightly turned inward; everything looked as if, in the very act of taking off his boots, some sudden spasm of pain had seized him, and he had sat up, leaned back, and died, as swiftly as the seizure had come. There was a slight blueness under the lower rims of the eyes, a corresponding tint on the clean-shaven upper lip, but neither that nor the pallor which had long since settled on the rigid features had given anything of ghastliness to the face. The dead man lay back in his chair in such an easy posture that but for his utter quietness, his intense immobility, he might have well been taken for one who was hard and fast asleep.

The sound of the night-porter’s returning footsteps sent Allerdyke out into the corridor. Unconsciously he shook his head and raised a hand–as if to warn the man against noise.

“Sh!” he said, still acting and speaking mechanically. “Here’s–I knew something was wrong. The fact is, my cousin’s dead!”

In his surprise the night-porter dropped the key which he had been to fetch. When he straightened himself from picking it up, his ruddy face had paled.

“Dead!” he exclaimed in a whisper. “Him! Why, he looked the picture of health last night. I noticed that of him, anyway!”

“He’s dead now,” said Allerdyke. “He’s lying there dead. Come in!”

The door along the corridor from which the man of the shock head and great beard had looked out, opened again, and the big head was protruded. Its owner, seeing the two standing there, came out.

“Anything wrong?” he asked, advancing towards them in his pyjamas. “If there’s any illness, I’m a medical man. Can I be of use?”

Allerdyke turned sharply, looking the stranger well over. He was not sure whether the man was an Englishman or a foreigner; he fancied that he detected a slightly foreign accent. The tone was well-meaning, and even kindly.

“I’m obliged to you,” replied Allerdyke, in his characteristically blunt fashion. “I’m afraid nobody can be of use. The truth is, I came to join my cousin here, and I find him dead. Seems to me he’s been dead some time. As you’re a doctor, you can tell, of course. Perhaps you’ll come in?”

He led the way back into the bedroom, the other two following closely behind him. At sight of the dead man the bearded stranger uttered a sharp exclamation.

“Ah!” he said. “Mr. Allerdyke!”

“You knew him, then?” demanded Marshall. “You’ve met him?”

The other, who had stooped over the body, bestowing a light touch on face and hand, looked up and nodded.

“I came over with him from Christiania,” he answered. “I met him there–at a hotel. I had several conversations with him. In fact, I warned him.”

“Warned him? Of what!” asked Allerdyke.

“Over-exertion,” replied the doctor quietly. “I saw symptoms of heart-strain. That was why I talked with him. I gathered from what he told me that he was a man who lived a very strenuous life, and I warned him against doing too much. He was not fitted for it.”

“Good Lord!” exclaimed Allerdyke, with obvious impatience. “Why, I always considered him as one of the fittest men I ever knew!”

“Perhaps you did,” said the doctor. “Laymen, sir, do not see what a trained eye sees. The proof in his case is–there!”

He pointed to the dead man, at whom the night-porter was staring with astonished eyes.

Allerdyke stared, too, or seemed to stare. In reality, he was gazing into space, wondering about what had just been said.

“Then you think he died a natural death?” he asked, suddenly turning on his companion. “You don’t think there’s–anything wrong?”

The doctor shook his head calmly.

“I think he died of precisely what I should have expected him to die of,” he answered. “Heart failure. It came upon him quite suddenly. You see, he was in the act of taking off his boots. He is a little fleshy–stout. The exertion of bending over and down–that was too much. He felt a sharp spasm–he sat back–he died, there and then.”

“There and then!” repeated Allerdyke mechanically. “Well–what’s to be done!” he went on. “What is done in these cases–I suppose you know?”

“There will have to be an inquest later on,” answered the doctor. “I can give evidence for you, if you like–I am staying in Hull for a few days–for I can certainly testify to what I had observed. But that comes later–at present you had better acquaint the manager of the hotel, and I should suggest sending for a local medical man–there are some eminent men of my profession in this town. And–the body should be laid out. I’ll go and dress, and then do what I can for you.”

“Much obliged,” responded Allerdyke. “Very kind of you. What name, sir?”

“My name is Lydenberg,” replied the stranger. “I will give you my card presently. I have the honour of addressing–?”

Allerdyke pulled out his own card-case.

“My name’s Marshall Allerdyke,” he answered. “I’m his cousin,” he went on, with another glance at the still figure. “And, my conscience, I never thought to find him like this! I never heard of any weakness on his part–I always thought him a particularly strong man.”

“You will send for another medical man?” asked Dr. Lydenberg. “It will be more satisfactory to you.”

“Yes, I’ll see to that,” replied Allerdyke. He turned to look at the night-porter, who was still hanging about as if fascinated. “Look here!” he said. “We don’t want any fuss. Just rouse the manager quietly, and ask him to come here. And find that chauffeur of mine, and tell him I want him. Now, then, what about a doctor? Do you know a real, first-class one?”

“There’s several within ten minutes, sir,” answered the night-porter. “There’s Dr. Orwin, in Coltman Street–he’s generally fetched here. I can get a man to go for him at once.”

“Do!” commanded Allerdyke. “But send me my driver first–I want him. Tell him what’s happened.”

He waited, standing and staring at his dead cousin until Gaffney came hurrying along the corridor. Allerdyke beckoned him into the room and closed the door.

“Gaffney,” he said. “You see how things are? Mr. James is dead–I found him sitting there, dead. He’s been dead some time–hours. There’s a doctor, a foreigner, I think, across the passage there, who says it’s been heart failure. I’ve sent for another doctor. Now in the meantime, I want to see what my cousin’s got on him, and I want you to help me. We’ll take everything off him in the way of valuables, papers, and so on, and put ‘em in that small hand-bag of his.”

Master and man went methodically to work; and an observer of an unduly sentimental shade of mind might have said that there was something almost callous about their measured, business-like proceedings. But Marshall Allerdyke was a man of eminently thorough and practical habits, and he was doing what he did with an idea and a purpose. His cousin might have died from sudden heart failure; again, he might not, there might have been foul play; there might have been one of many reasons for his unexpected death–anyway, in Allerdyke’s opinion it was necessary for him to know exactly what James was carrying about his person when death took place. There was a small hand-bag on the dressing-table; Allerdyke opened it and took out all its contents. They were few–a muffler, a travelling-cap, a book or two, some foreign newspapers, a Russian word-book, a flask, the various odds and ends, small unimportant things which a voyager by sea and land picks up. Allerdyke took all these out, and laying them aside on the table, directed Gaffney to take everything from the dead man’s pockets. And Gaffney, solemn of face and tight of lip, set to his task in silence.

There was comparatively little to bring to light. A watch and chain–the small pocket articles which every man carries–keys, a monocle eyeglass, a purse full of gold, loose silver, a note-case containing a considerable sum in bank-notes, some English, some foreign, letters and papers, a pocket diary–these were all. Allerdyke took each as Gaffney produced them, and placed each in the bag with no more than a mere glance.

“Everything there is, sir,” whispered the chauffeur at last. “I’ve been through every pocket.”

Allerdyke found the key of the bag, locked it, and set it aside on the mantelpiece. Then he went over to the suit-case lying on the bench at the foot of the bed, closed and locked it, and dropped the bunch of keys in his pocket. And just then Dr. Lydenberg came back, dressed, and on his heels came the manager of the hotel, startled and anxious, and with him an elderly professional-looking man whom he introduced as Dr. Orwin.

When James Allerdyke’s dead body had been lifted on to the bed, and the two medical men had begun a whispered conversation beside it, Allerdyke drew the hotel manager aside to a corner of the room.

“Did you see anything of my cousin when he arrived last night?” he asked.

“Not when he arrived–no,” replied the manager. “But later–yes. I had some slight conversation with him after he had taken supper. It was nothing much–he merely wished to know if there was always a night-porter on duty. He said he expected a friend, who might turn up at any hour of the night, and he wanted to leave a card for him. That would be you, I suppose, sir?”

“Just so,” replied Allerdyke. “Now, how did he seem at that time? And what time was that?”

“Ten o’clock,” said the manager. “Seem? Well, sir, he seemed to be in the very best of health and spirits! I was astonished to hear that he was dead. I never saw a man look more like living. He was–”

The elderly doctor came away from the bed approaching Allerdyke.

“After hearing what Dr. Lydenberg tells me, and examining the body–a mere perfunctory examination as yet, you know–I have little doubt that this gentleman died of what is commonly called heart failure,” he said. “There will have to be an inquest, of course, and it may be advisable to make a post-mortem examination. You are a relative?”

“Cousin,” replied Allerdyke. He hesitated a moment, and then spoke bluntly. “You don’t think it’s been a case of poisoning, do you?” he said.

Dr. Orwin pursed his lips and regarded his questioner narrowly.

“Self-administered, do you mean?” he asked.

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