The Red Triangle - Arthur Morrison - ebook

The Red Triangle ebook

Arthur Morrison



Fourth and last collection of detective fiction featuring Martin Hewitt, a famous private detective whose methods closely resemble those of Sherlock Holmes. The plot lines of all six linked sensation stories in this collection center on the mystery of The Red Triangle, a group of villains known only from The Red Triangle left stamped on the heads of their victims, and the actions of Martin Hewitt and his narrator, esteemed journalist Mr. Brett, in bringing the members of that group to justice. This work includes the following stories: „The affair of Samuel’s diamonds”, „The case of Mr. Jacob Mason”, „The case of the Lever Key”, „The case of the burnt barn”, „The case of the Admiralty code” and „The adventure of Channel Marsh”.

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Liczba stron: 307

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I have already recorded many of the adventures of my friend Martin Hewitt, but among them there have been more of a certain few which were discovered to be related together in a very extraordinary manner; and it is to these that I am now at liberty to address myself. There may have been others–cases which gave no indication of their connection with these; some of them indeed I may have told without a suspicion of their connection with the Red Triangle; but the first in which that singular accompaniment became apparent was the matter of Samuel’s diamonds. The case exhibited many interesting features, and I was very anxious to report it, with perhaps even less delay than I had thought judicious in other cases; but Hewitt restrained me.

“No, Brett,” he said, “there is more to come of this. This particular case is over, it is true, but there is much behind. I’ve an idea that I shall see that Red Triangle again. I may, or, of course, I may not; but there is deep work going on–very deep work, and whether we see more of it or not, I must keep prepared. I can’t afford to throw a single card upon the table. So, as many notes as you please, Brett, for future reference; but no publication yet–none of your journalism!”

Hewitt was right. It was not so long before we heard more of the Red Triangle, and after that more, though the true connection of some of the cases with the mysterious symbol and the meaning of the symbol itself remained for a time undiscovered. But at last Hewitt was able to unmask the hideous secret, and for ever put an end to the evil influence that gathered about the sign; and now there remains no reason why the full story should not be told.

I have told elsewhere of my first acquaintance with Martin Hewitt, of his pleasant and companionable nature, his ordinary height, his stoutness, his round, smiling face–those characteristics that aided him so well in his business of investigator, so unlike was his appearance and manner to that of the private detective of the ordinary person’s imagination. Therefore I need only remind my readers that my bachelor chambers were, during most of my acquaintance with Hewitt, in the old building near the Strand, in which Hewitt’s office stood at the top of the first flight of stairs; where the plain ground-glass of the door bore as inscription the single word “Hewitt,” and the sharp lad, Kerrett, first received visitors in the outer office.

Next door to this old house, at the time I am to speak of, a much newer building stood, especially built for letting out in offices. It happened that one day as Hewitt left his office for a late lunch, he became aware of a pallid and agitated Jew who was pervading the front door of this adjoining building. The man exhibited every sign of nervous expectancy, staring this way and that up and down the busy street, and once or twice rushing aimlessly half-way up the inner stairs, and as often returning to the door. Apprehension was plain on his pale face, and he was clearly in a state that blinded his attention to the ordinary matters about him, just as happens when a man is in momentary and nervous expectation of some serious event.

Noting these things as he passed, with no more than the observation that was his professional habit, Hewitt proceeded to his lunch. This done with, he returned to his office, perceiving, as he passed the next-door building, that the distracted Jew was no longer visible. It seemed plain that the person or the event he had awaited with such obvious nervousness had arrived and passed; one more of the problems, anxieties or crises that join and unravel moment by moment in the human ant-hill of London, had perhaps closed for good or ill within the past half-hour; perhaps it had only begun.

A message awaited Hewitt at his office–an urgent message. The housekeeper had come in from next door, Kerrett reported, with an urgent request that Mr. Martin Hewitt would go immediately to the offices of Mr. Denson, on the third floor. The housekeeper seemed to know little or nothing of the business, except that a Mr. Samuel was alone in Mr. Denson’s office, and had sent the message.

With no delay Hewitt transferred himself to the next-door offices. There the housekeeper, who inhabited a uniform and a glass box opposite the foot of the first flight of stairs, directed Hewitt, with the remark that the gentleman was very impatient and very much upset. “Third floor, sir, second door on the right; name Denson on the door. There’s no lift.”

“W.F. Denson” was the complete name, followed by the line “Foreign and Commission Agent.” This Hewitt read with some little difficulty, for the door was open, and on the threshold stood that same agitated Jew whom Hewitt had seen at the front door.

A little less actively perturbed now, he was nevertheless still nervously pale. “Mr. Martin Hewitt?” he cried, while Hewitt was still only at the head of the stairs. “Is it Mr. Martin Hewitt?”

Hewitt came quietly along the corridor, using eyes and ears as he came. The Jew was a man of middle height, very obviously Jewish, and with a slight accent that hinted a Continental origin.

“I have just received your message,” Hewitt said, “and, as you see, I am here with no delay. Is Mr. Denson in?”

“No–good heafens no–I would gif anything if he was, Mr. Hewitt. Come in, do! I haf been robbed–robbed by Denson himself, wit’out a wort of doubt. It is terrible–terrible! Fifteen t’ousant pounds! It ruins me, Mr. Hewitt, ruins me! Unless you can recover it! If you recover it, I will pay–pay–oh, I will pay fery well indeed!”

There was a characteristically sudden moderation of the client’s emphasis when he came to the engagement to pay. Hewitt had observed it in other clients, but it did not disturb him.

“First,” he said, “you must tell me your difficulty. You say you have been robbed of fifteen thousand pounds––”

“Tiamonts, Mr. Hewitt–tiamonts! All from the case–here is the case, empty––”

“Let us be methodical. We will shut the door and sit down.” Hewitt pressed his client into a chair and produced his note-book. “It will be better to begin at the beginning. First, I should like to know your name, and a few such particulars as that.”

“Lewis Samuel, Hatton Garden–150, Hatton Garden–tiamont merchant.”

“Yes. And what is your connection with Mr. Denson?”

“Business–just business,” Samuel responded. He pronounced it “pishness,” and it seemed his favourite word. “Like this; I will tell you. I haf known him some time, and did at first small pishness. He bought a little tiamont and haf it set in pracelet, and he pay–straightforward pishness. Then he bought some very good paste stones, all set in gold, and he pay–quite straightforward pishness. At the same time he says, ‘I am pishness man myself, Mr. Samuel,’ he says, ‘and I like to make a little moneys as well as pay out sometimes. Don’t you want any little agencies done? I do all foreign commissions, and I can forwart and receive and clear at dock and custom house. If you send any tiamonts I can consign and insure–very cheapest rates to you, special. If you want brokerage or buy and sell for you, confidential, I can do it with lowest commission. Especially I haf good connection with America. I haf many rich Americans, principals and customers,’ he says, ‘and often I could do pishness for you when they come over.’”

“By which he meant he might sell them diamonds?” Hewitt queried.

“Just so, Mr. Hewitt–reg’lar pishness. And after that two or three little parcels of tiamonts he bought–for American customers, he says. But he says he can do bigger pishness soon. Ay, so he has–goot heavens, he has! But I tell you. I do also one or two small pishnesses with him, and that is all right–he treat me very well and I pay when it suits. Then he says, ‘Samuel,’ he says, very friendly now inteet, ‘Samuel, could you get a nice large lot of tiamonts for an American customer I expect here soon?’ And I say, ‘Of course I can.’ ‘Enough,’ he says, ‘to fit out a rich man’s wife–that is, to pegin. He is not long rich, and he will want more soon–ah, she will make him pay! But to pegin–a good fit-out of tiamonts, eh?’

“I tell him yes, and I offer usual commission. But no, says Denson, he wants no commission; he will make his own profit. That I don’t mind so long as I get mine; so I agree to put the tiamonts in at a price. The American, he says, is to come over about a big company deal, and when it is through he will pay well. So last week I pring a peautiful collection all cut but unset, and I wait out in that room while Denson shows them to his customer.”

“You mean you let them out of your sight?”

“Yes–that is not so uncommon; reg’lar pishness. You see I was out here–this is the only way out. Denson was in the inner office with the stones and the American. Neither could get out without passing here. And I had done pishness with him alretty.”


“You see I wait downstairs with my case–this case–till Denson sends down. He doesn’t want me to show–fery natural, you see, in pishness. When I sell to make a profit, perhaps for somebody else, I don’t want that somebody to know my customer, else he sells direct and I lose my profit–fery natural. See?”

“Of course, I understand. It’s a point of business among you gentlemen to keep your own customers to yourselves. And often, no doubt, diamonds pass through several hands before reaching the eventual customer, leaving a profit in each.”

“Always, Mr. Hewitt–always, you might say. Well, you see, Denson sends down that his customer is in, and I come up. Denson comes out from the inner office, takes my case, and I wait in there.”

The case which Samuel showed Hewitt was of black leather, perhaps eighteen inches long by a foot wide. The arrangement of the office was simple. In this, the outer room, a small space was partitioned off by means of a ground glass screen, and it was in there that Samuel meant that he had waited.

“Well, he took the case in, and I could hear some sound of talking–but not much, you see, the door being shut. After a time the door opens and I hear Denson say: ‘Very well, think over it; but don’t be long or you’ll lose the chance. Excuse me while I put them back in the safe.’ Then he shuts the door and brings the case to me and goes back. But of course I stay till I haf looked very carefully through all the tiamonts, in the different compartments of the case, in case one might haf dropped on the floor, or got changed, you know. That is pishness.”

“Just so. And they were all right?”

“All right and same as the list–I know well a tiamont that I haf seen once. So I go away, and afterwards Denson tells me that the American liked much the stones but wouldn’t quite come up to price. That, of course, is fery usual pishness. ‘But he will rise, Samuel,’ Denson says. ‘I know him quite well, and them tiamonts is as good as sold with a good profit for me; and a good one for you, too, I bet,’ he says. I was putting the lot to him for fifteen t’ousant pounds, and it would have been a nice profit in that for me. And then Denson he chaffs me and he says, ‘Ah! Samuel,’ he says, ‘wasn’t you afraid my customer and me would hook it out o’ the window with all your stones?’ I don’t like that sort o’ joke in pishness, you see, but I say, ‘All right–I wasn’t afraid o’ that. The window was a mile too high, and besides I could see it from where I was a-sitting.’ And so I could, you see, plain enough to see if it was opened.”

The ground-glass partition, in fact, cut off a part of the window of the outer office, which, being at an angle with the inner room, gave a side view of the window that lighted that apartment.

“Denson laughed at that,” Samuel went on. “‘Ha-ha!’ says he, ‘I never thought of that. Then you could see the American’s hat hanging up just by the window–rum hat, ain’t it?’ And that was quite true, for I had noticed it–a big, grey wideawake, almost white.”

Hewitt nodded approvingly. “You are quite right,” he said, “to tell me everything you recollect, even of the most trivial sort; the smallest thing may be very valuable. So you took your diamonds away the first time, last week. What next?”

“Well, I came again, just the same, to-day, by appointment. Just the same I sat in that place, and just the same Denson took the case into the inner room. ‘He’s come to buy this time, I can see,’ Denson whispers, and winks. ‘But he’ll fight hard over the price. We’ll see!’ and off he goes into the other room. Well, I waited. I waited and I waited a long time. I looked out sideways at the window, and there I see the American’s big wideawake hat hanging up just inside the other window, same as last time. So I think they are a long time settling the price, and I wait some more. But it is such a very long time, and I begin to feel uneasy. Of course, I know you cannot sell fifteen t’ousant wort’ of tiamonts in five minutes–that is not reasonable pishness. But I could hear nothing at all now–not a sound. And the boy–the boy that came down to call me up–he wasn’t come back. But there I could see the big wideawake hat still hanging inside the window, and of course I knew there was only one door out of the inner room, right before me, so it seemed foolish to be uneasy. So I waited longer still, but now it was so late, I thought they should have come out to lunch before this, and then I was fery uneasy–fery uneasy inteet. So I thought I would pretend to be a new caller, and I opened the outer office door and banged it, and walked in very loud and knocked on the boy’s table. I thought Denson would come when he heard that, but no–there was not a sound. So I got more uneasy, and I opened the window and leaned out as far as I could, to look in at the other window. There I could see nothing but the big hat and the back of a chair and a bit of the room–empty. So I went and banged the outer door again, and called out, ‘Hi! Mr. Denson, you’re wanted! Hi! d’y’ear?’ and knocked with my umbrella on the inner door; and, Mr. Hewitt–you might have knocked me down with half a feather when I got no answer at all–not a sound! I opened the door, Mr. Hewitt, and there was nobody there–nobody! There was my leather case on the table, open–and empty! Fifteen t’ousant pounds in tiamonts, Mr. Hewitt–it ruins me!”

Hewitt rose, and flung wide the inner office door. “This is certainly the only door,” he said, “and that is the only window–quite well in view from where you sat. There is the wideawake hat still hanging there–see, it is quite new; obviously brought for you to look at, it would seem. The door and the window were not used, and the chimney is impossible–register grate. But there was one other way–there.”

The inner wall of each of the rooms was the wall of the corridor into which all the offices opened, and this corridor was lighted–and the offices partly ventilated–by a sort of hinged casement or fanlight close up by the ceiling, oblong, and extending the most of the length of each room. Plainly an active man, not too stout, might mount a chair-back, and climb very quietly through the opening. “That’s the only way,” said Hewitt, pointing.

“Yes,” answered Samuel, nodding and rubbing his knuckles together nervously. “I saw it–saw it when it was too late. But who’d have thought o’ such a thing beforehand? And the American–either there wasn’t an American at all, or he got out the same way. But, anyway, here I am, and the tiamonts are gone, and there is nothing here but the furniture–not worth twenty pound!”

“Well,” Hewitt said, “so far, I think I understand, though I may have questions to ask presently. But go on.”

“Go on? But there is no more, Mr. Hewitt! Quite enough, don’t you think? There is no more–I am robbed!”

“But when you found the empty room, and the case, what did you do? Send for the police?”

The Jew’s face clouded slightly. “No, Mr. Hewitt,” he said, “not for the police, but for you. Reason plain enough. The police make a great fuss, and they want to arrest the criminal. Quite right–I want to arrest him, and punish him too, plenty. But most I want the tiamonts back, because if not it ruins me. If it was to make choice between two things for me, whether to punish Denson or get my tiamonts, then of course I take the tiamonts, and let Denson go–I cannot be ruined. But with the police, if it is their choice, they catch the thief first, and hold him tight, whether it loses the property or not; the property is only second with them–with me it is first and second, and all. So I take no more risks than I can help, Mr. Hewitt. I have sent for you to get first the stones–afterwards the thief if you can. But first my property; you can perhaps find Denson and make him give it up rather than go to prison. That would be better than having him taken and imprisoned, and perhaps the stones put away safe all the time ready for him when he came out.”

“Still, the police can do things that I can’t,” Hewitt interposed; “stop people leaving or landing at ports, and the like. I think we should see them.”

Samuel was anxiously emphatic. “No, Mr. Hewitt,” he said, “certainly not the police. There are reasons–no, not the police, Mr. Hewitt, at any rate, not till you have tried. I cannot haf the police–just yet.”

Martin Hewitt shrugged his shoulders. “Very well,” he said, “if those are your instructions, I’ll do my best. And so you sent for me at once, as soon as you discovered the loss?”

“Yes, at once.”

“Without telling anybody else?”

“I haf tolt nobody.”

“Did you look about anywhere for Denson–in the street, or what not?”

“No–what was the good? He was gone; there was time for him to go miles.”

“Very good. And speaking of time, let me judge how far he may have gone. How long were you kept waiting?”

“Two hours and a quarter, very near–within five minutes.”

“By your watch?”

“Yes–I looked often, to see if it was so long waiting as it seemed.”

“Very good. Do you happen to have a piece of Denson’s writing about you?”

Samuel looked round him. “There’s nothing about here,” he said, “but perhaps we can find–oh here–here’s a post-card.” He took the card from his pocket, and gave it to Hewitt.

“There is nothing else to tell me, then?” queried Hewitt. “Are you sure that you have forgotten nothing that has happened since you first arrived–nothing at all?” There was meaning in the emphasis, and a sharp look in Hewitt’s eyes.

“No, Mr. Hewitt,” Samuel answered, hastily; “there is nothing else I can tell you.”

“Then I will think it over at once. You had better go back quietly to your office, and think it over yourself, in case you have forgotten something; and I need hardly warn you to keep quiet as to what has passed between us–unless you tell the police. I think I shall take the liberty of a glance over Mr. Denson’s office, and since his office boy still stays away, I will lend him my clerk for a little. He will keep his eyes open if any callers come, and his ears too. Wait while I fetch him.”


It was at this point that my humble part in the case began, for Hewitt hurried first to my rooms.

“Brett,” he exclaimed, “are you engaged this afternoon?”

“No–nothing important.”

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