The Riddle of the Mysterious Light - Thomas W. Hanshew - ebook

The Riddle of the Mysterious Light ebook

Thomas W. Hanshew

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In „The Riddle of the Mysterious Light”, consulting detective Hamilton Cleek is en route to meet with Scotland Yard detective Narkom when he’s intercepted by a roving gang of nefarious ne’er-do-wells. Can he muster his mighty intellect and physical prowess and hatch a plan to escape his captors? Hamilton Cleek is the central figure in dozens of short stories that began to appear in 1910 and were subsequently collected in a series of books. Cleek is a detective as remarkable as Sherlock Holmes. He has, however, the prime quality of always being in an apparently hopeless tangle of circumstances, and he has also the genius of getting out. The Cleek stories were written by Thomas W. Hanshew, until his death in 1914. His wife, Mary E. Hanshew, then took over this popular pulp mystery series.

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Liczba stron: 359

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Contents

I. TRAPPED BY THE APACHES

II. A KISS FOR A LIFE

III. THE HAUNTED VILLAGE

IV. WEIRD CHURCH BELLS OF THE NIGHT

V. THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF A DUKE

VI. THE GHOST IN THE CHURCH BELFRY

VII. A GARDEN OF TRANSPLANTED FLOWERS

VIII. THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN SANDRINGHAM

IX. A FAINTLY FAMILIAR FACE

X. A WALK IN THE GARDEN

XI. CLUES FROM A DEAD BODY

XII. A JANGLE OF PEALING BELLS

XIII. THE MYSTERIOUS LIGHT

XIV. "GEORGE HEADLAND" KEEPS AN APPOINTMENT

XV. THE LAYING OF THE VALEHAMPTON "GHOST"

XVI. CLEEK EXPLAINS

XVII. THE MYSTERY OF THE "ROSE OF FIRE"

XVIII. MURDER AT MANOR LODGE

XIX. THE WINGED MESSENGER OF DEATH

XX. THE STOLEN FORMULAS

XXI. COUNTESS MARAVITZ ENTERTAINS

XXII. AN INTERRUPTED HOLIDAY

XXIII. A DIVIDED LEGACY

XXIV. "THE FIRE THAT SLAYS IN THE DARK"

XXV. THE PRICELESS STATUE THAT VANISHED

XXVI. FLECKS OF WHITE POWDER

XXVII. THE RUSE OF THE SPRAINED WRIST

XXVIII. THE MYSTERY OF THE "ROPE OF FEAR"

XXIX. THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF ELTON CARLYLE

XXX. THE SAFE WITH THE TIME-LOCK

XXXI. IN THE DEN OF THE APACHES

XXXII. THE PASSING OF CLEEK

I. TRAPPED BY THE APACHES

There are days, even in the capricious climate of London, when the whole world seems at peace; when the blue of the summer sky, the fragrance of some distant flower brought in by a passing breeze, and the contented chirp of the birds, all unite to evoke a spirit of thankfulness for the very gift of life itself.

This was the spirit of Mr. Maverick Narkom, Superintendent of Scotland Yard, on this particular day in July. Even the very criminals had apparently betaken themselves to other haunts and distant climes, and the Yard, therefore, may be said to have been surprisingly slack. Up in his own private room, seated in front of his desk–both desk and room reduced to a state of order and tidiness uncanny to behold–sat the Superintendent, if the truth must be told, oblivious to all the world; a purple silk handkerchief draped itself gracefully over his head and rose softly up and down with the rise and fall of his breath. This was his last day at the Yard, for to-morrow would see him well on the road to Margate for a blessed two weeks’ holiday with Mrs. Narkom and the children, not to mention guests who were nearly as precious to him, namely Ailsa Lorne and Hamilton Cleek.

His famous ally had himself been absent for more than two months, but was returning this very day–day, in fact, might be expected to arrive now at any minute, so it was little wonder that peace reigned supreme in the worthy Superintendent’s heart, and induced his gentle slumbers even in the sacred precincts of what has been termed the Hub of London.

But outside, in the blue azure of the sky above, a tiny cloud, no bigger than that of the proverbial man’s hand, had gathered, and as if it were a reflection of the storm-clouds of crime hovering round, there came the sharp ting-ting of the telephone bell at his elbow. For a minute, thus suddenly aroused, Mr. Narkom stared blankly at the disturber of his peace. A swift glance at the indicator told him it was a summons from the Chief Commissioner, and Mr. Narkom betook himself to the interview.

It lasted only fifteen minutes as registered by the clock ticking gently on the mantelshelf, but its deadly effect was that of fifteen years on Mr. Narkom, and when he once more entered his own official sanctum, he sank down into the chair with a groan. For he had heard the first details of that mystery of the haunted village of Valehampton, which later on was to rouse a whole county, and bring to Hamilton Cleek one of the chief problems of his career. That the strangeness of the case was apparent on the face of it could be gathered from Mr. Narkom’s muttered remarks.

“Curses!” he growled. “Suicides! Murders! Ghosts! Prophecies! It’s the work of the devil himself.” He consulted his notes again, but though copious enough, it was clear they afforded no further light. He pulled out his watch and heaved a sigh of relief. “Only half-past nine now,” he ejaculated, “and if only Cleek arrived safely by the 8:40, I think he said, at Charing Cross, there’s a chance of seeing light. I don’t know where he’s been, the amazing beggar, but he’s never been wanted so badly here in his life. Thank goodness he’s back again.”

He reached out a hand for that friendly instrument the telephone receiver; but his complacent gratitude had evidently tried the patience of the Fates, for ere his fingers closed round the familiar black handle, the door of his room was thrown violently open, and without ceremony or even apology a slim figure fairly hurled itself before the gaze of the astonished Superintendent.

It was Dollops, worshipper of Cleek and his ever-faithful assistant. His face was the colour of a Manila paper bag, and his eyes bulged out of his head as they took in the fact that Mr. Narkom was alone.

“Lor’ lumme!” he cried, relapsing into broad cockney, as he invariably did when excited. “Don’t go for to say he ain’t ‘ere, neither,” he blurted out, his eyes seeking those of Mr. Narkom with a very agony of impatience.

For both of them there could be but one “he,” and Mr. Narkom’s face became nearly the same colour as the lad’s as he realized that his famous ally was not at hand.

“Didn’t he arrive at Charing Cross by the 8:40?” he cried.

Dollops shook his head.

“No, bless ‘im, that’s just what he didn’t do, Mr. Narkom. Me and Miss Lorne waited for ‘im, me wivout so much as a bite to keep my insides from sticking together, and them blooming Apaches–beggin’ your pardon, Mr. Narkom, but they are blooming, too–merry and bright they was, I tell you, buzzing round that station like bluebottles round a piece of meat. That’s wot made me come ‘ere, thinkin’ he’d twigged ‘em as usual and come another way. But if ‘e ain’t ‘ere, ‘e ain’t, and I’ll get back to Portman Square.”

With a dejected lurch of the shoulders, he turned, leaving Mr. Narkom to make his own preparations.

Soon deep in the business of issuing orders to his underlings, despatching telegrams–one, of course, to Mrs. Narkom herself to prepare her for the disappointment of a postponed holiday–and in writing and expanding the notes of this last case just entrusted to him by his chief, Mr. Narkom for the first time in his life since he had known and learned to love his famous ally, Hamilton Cleek, once known as the Man of Forty Faces by reason of his peculiar birth-gift, his ability to change instantaneously his whole appearance by an extraordinary distortion of his facial muscles, and also as the Vanishing Cracksman, for his capacity of extricating himself from perilous positions, and now as Cleek of Scotland Yard–for the first time, we say, Mr. Narkom forgot to be anxious at his evident non-arrival.

The sound of hurried footsteps in the corridor outside struck upon his ear and he wheeled suddenly in his chair. But if he had expected to see Cleek, he was doomed to disappointment. There came a knock, the door opened and closed, and a deprecatory cough came from Inspector Hammond, white-faced and anxious, his lips set in a grim line of tense anxiety.

“Hammond–why, what is wrong, man? Speak up,” cried the Superintendent. “Come, out with it.”

“It’s ‘im, sir,” said Hammond. “A kid of a paper-boy just pushed this ‘ere paper into my ‘and as I was leaving my beat and ‘ops it before I could as much as breathe Jack Robinson.”

His hand shaking, he extended to the obviously irritated Mr. Narkom a scrap of dirty paper, and as the Superintendent gave a glance at the few words scrawled on it, his own ruddy face was drained of every vestige of colour, and it looked not unlike that of Dollops but a brief half hour previous.

The scribbled words were barely half a dozen in number but in their import they told of more dire disaster to him than could any voluminous cabinet epistle.

Irregularly penned as by one in imminent peril, the message danced before his blurred eyes.

“Come, God’s sake, 1st barge, Limehouse, Dock 3.–Cleek.„

“What does it mean, sir?” asked Hammond, anxiously, as Mr. Narkom sucked in his breath and stood staring rigidly.

“Means,” he gasped, “that they’ve got him, the devils. Dollops was right. Apaches! God, but he’s gone by now perhaps. Cleek, my pal–my––”

He wheeled on the now frightened Inspector. “Quick, man–the car. You follow, with Petrie and whoever else is off duty.”

Hammond needed no second telling. He almost fled from the room, and the dread news preceding him, Lennard was on the spot and waiting as impatiently as the Superintendent himself.

“Limehouse Docks, Lennard–and streak it. Mr. Cleek is in danger––”

“I know, sir. Hop in, and Lord help the man or vehicle in my way!” was the fervent reply as he cranked up and took his seat.

“Streak it” he did, and not a policeman on duty, after a brief glance at his grim face and that of the Superintendent within, did more than hold up every cart, cab, tram, or ‘bus that was likely to impede his way. Obviously the Yard, as vested in the sacred person of Superintendent Narkom and his prime minister Lennard, was “on active duty” and like a fire engine in speed and purpose, the Yard limousine rocked and swayed its way through grimy lanes and malodorous byways till it reached the squalid region known as Limehouse Docks. Here Lennard could go no farther, and ere the car had pulled up, quivering, the portly form of the Superintendent had thrown itself out, and was peering into the sunlit distances.

“Wait here, Lennard, and when the others come along bring them to Dock 3 and look out for Barge No. 1, if we are not here first.”

“Righto, sir,” said Lennard.

But already Mr. Narkom was out of sight, all other duties forgotten.

Swiftly he turned a sharp corner, nearly falling over a sailor leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette. At the first whiff, Mr. Narkom glanced up swiftly. It did not take his trained sense long to recognize that it was a French cigarette–hence Apache–and that Cleek must be here, in need of him!

“La, la, but you are queek,” the man muttered. “It is ze brave Super-in-tend-ent and he come for his gr-great frien’ Cleek–is it not so, my frien’?”

“Yes, yes–you know! He is here?” gasped Mr. Narkom, barely, if at all, stopping to think of any possible peril to himself. “You shall be finely rewarded for this, my good man,” he said, warmly. “Lead on––”

“But yes,” was the reply, “a brave reward. Come!” He turned silently and swiftly, beckoning to the Superintendent to follow.

Nothing loath and unsuspecting, Mr. Narkom turned and followed the sailor till they reached one of the docks–and a barge.

“This is dock 3,” he said, as he noticed the number.

“Quite right,” said his guide. “Get in, queek–ze boat–ze others, zay weel return and it weel be too late.”

That was sufficient for Mr. Narkom. Obviously, his friend was in danger; equally obvious was it that this guide had brought him as a reinforcement against returning Apaches.

“Get in” he did, and it was not until he had stumbled down a dark companionway into the grimy cabin and heard the door click swiftly behind him that he realized he was trapped–deceived by a trick as simple as it had been effective. The sweat stood out on the Superintendent’s forehead, rolling down in great beads, while his hands grew cold and clammy.

“Cleek!” he cried, hoping even now that his ally were with him to help and be helped! But a light laugh–half snarl, half sneer–caused him to turn. His guide stood regarding him with mocking amusement.

“Bravo! my frien’–so easy it was! Caught like the great big turkey-gobbler. Oh, non, non–but not so queek, my frien’––”

For Mr. Narkom had flung himself forward in a vain effort to escape. A sharp whistle and a door hitherto unseen in the darkness of the cabin behind him was flung open. Mr. Narkom was seized from behind, flung down some three minutes later, and trussed up, panting and helpless, tears of rage and mortification in his eyes.

Soon, as it grew darker and darker, betokening the fall of the summer night, he felt the movement of the boat beneath him, and even while Lennard and a posse of his own men were interviewing the officials and overhauling Dock 1, the boat with its valuable burden was drifting out to meet a larger vessel, waiting well up the river’s mouth, bearing away one of the only two men who could solve one of the greatest mysteries the Law had ever been faced with.

II. A KISS FOR A LIFE

It was just dusk when the police officials were obliged to give up their quest for the Superintendent and Hammond returned to Scotland Yard to make his report to the Chief Commissioner. Dejected of mien and heavy of heart he stopped mechanically at the door of the Superintendent’s room. He would have given worlds if he had never been the unconscious instrument of his superior’s disaster. The door stood slightly ajar and he halted with the intention of closing it.

The electric light had been switched on and he stood in the doorway. A figure sat at the familiar desk and as the Inspector gave one brief glance, a cry of half pain, half fear, burst from his shaking lips.

“Mr. Cleek–you, sir! But––”

Cleek–for he it was–switched round in his chair, exclaiming at sight of the man’s face, “Why, man! What’s wrong?”

“Mr. Narkom, sir–they’ve got him. He’s gone!”

“Got him–who’ve got him? He’s not dead?”

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