The Road to London - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Road to London ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Best remembered for penning the screenplay for the classic film „King Kong”, author Edgar Wallace was an astoundingly popular luminary in the action-adventure genre in the early twentieth century. Wallace was a very prolific writer despite his sudden death at age 56. In total Wallace is credited with over 170 novels, almost 1,000 short stories, and 18 stage plays. Wallace’s works have been turned into well over 100 films. This traditional mystery features a girl with an unusual name, some mysterious tramps, gangsters and villainous members of British upper class. „The Road to London” is a story packed with intrigue, treachery, assassinations, and machinations, and it highlights Wallace’s unmatched skill in setting a pulse-pounding pace. Highly recommended!

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Liczba stron: 270

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Contents

PREFACE

PART ONE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

PART TWO

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

PART THREE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

PREFACE

GIVE a dog a bad name and hang him; give a woman a name which is neither Mary nor Jane, but hovers somewhere between the opposite ends of the poles, and she attracts to herself qualities and weaknesses which in some inevitable way are traceable to the misguided people who named her.

They who named October Jones were with the shades. There was only one of them had lived long enough to repent. October, under local and topical influences, had at various times and on particular occasions styled herself Doris Mabel and Mary Victoria and Gloria Wendy. At school she was Virginia Guinevere. She chose that name before she left home and had her baggage initialled “V.G.J.”

“I’m afraid I can’t get rid of the Joneses,” she said thoughtfully, her disapproving eye upon them. “That old man of the sea will hang around with his chubby little knees under my ears until I’m dead.”

“Or married,” said her parent wearily.

He had been a tall man, hollow-cheeked, long-bearded. Children did not interest him. October bored him. His wife, in those days something of a social butterfly, he seldom saw. Moreover, October had a trick of borrowing rare volumes from his library and leaving them on the damp grass of the lawn, or wherever she happened to be when it started raining.

“Jones is a miserable kind of name,” she suggested. “Can’t you change it, daddy?”

Mr. Jones had sighed, and tapped his nose with a tortoiseshell paper-knife.

“It satisfied my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather, and innumerable ancestors before them.”

Her brows knit.

“Who was the first Jones?” she demanded.

“I suppose they came out of their protoplasm simultaneously,” murmured Mr. Jones. “I wish you would get out of that habit, October.”

October groaned.

“What’s the matter with Virginia?” she asked.

There was nothing that was October in her appearance, though October is a red and brown month. She was pinkish and whitish; she had April eyes, and her hair was harvest colour, when the corn is growing red. Nobody ever called her Virginia or Alys or Gloria Wendy or Guinevere, or anything but October. The nearest she came to an acceptable nickname was when somebody, reasoning along intelligent lines, called her “Huit.” In another age she would have been a Joan of Arc. Lost causes had for her an attraction that she could not resist. She was by turns a Socialist, a Worker of the World, an Anarchist, and a Good Christian Woman. Cross October in the pursuit of her legitimate rainbows, and she was terrible. Thwart her, and you trebled her resolution. Forbid her, and she bared her feet for the red hot shares across which she was prepared to walk for her convictions.

Mr. George Loamer, who was not greatly interested in women, young or old, accepted the guardianship which came to him on her mother’s death without any idea of the complicated piece of mechanism he was taking in charge. In a sense he subdued her by his magnificent lack of comprehension. Her subtle sarcasms were wasted on a man whose subtlety was supplied by a mother of whom he stood in dread, and of whose existence October had not the slightest inkling, until one day when, crouched with a tramp behind certain bushes, she saw that eagle-faced woman pass. But that is anticipating.

This was Mary October Jones–she had acquired a “Mary” in passing–who was one day to take the London road, hide under hedges, creep into deserted factories, her companion a disreputable tramp with a black eye.

As to Mr. Loamer, her guardian…

There is a department at Scotland Yard which deals with Curious Happenings. In a big room, the double-windows of which look, across the Thames, sits a man who has no other business in life than to tabulate gossip. The by-products of fact that come into that gloomy building reach him and are noted. From the vast heaps of waste that are examined he sometimes extracts a few fine particles of golden truth which are often immensely valuable to the more prosaic branches of his profession.

Central Inspector Simpson strolled in one afternoon and found him poring over a grisly photograph which had come to him from an East London coroner’s court.

“Pity that man Quilting had no friends or relations–got an idea this is the feller.”

“Quilting?”

“In List C–Missing.”

The inspector remembered.

“Queer coincidence–five–six people all in the same class. Men with money who have flutters on the market–no friends–all operated through Loamer’s–all vanished.”

Simpson sucked at his pipe glumly.

“Loamer handles thousands of accounts. You’re thinking of Dr Elvington? Loamer reported that himself.”

“In the past twenty years–” began the patient collector of news.

“Nonsense! Loamer is a very rich man.”

“I wonder!” said the collector of gossip, who believed in nothing and nobody.

That same day Mr. Simpson had an interview with the head of the City Police, and certain investigations were put in trim–a few days too late, as it proved, to save October Jones from a great deal of fear and discomfort, and Mr. Nigel Black, that wealthy young man from New York, from several narrow escapes from death.

PART ONE

CHAPTER I

JUST as there was something about Mr. George Loamer that was wholly different from and superior to all other human beings, so there was something about his office which marked it as different from and superior to all the other offices in the City of London.

Mr. George Loamer was unique in that he was not an individual obscuring his individuality behind a corporation, a company, or a syndicate. He was just himself, a name in dull gold letters on a grey stone fascia without reservation or qualifying appendage.

The building occupied a very small plot in Lombard Street. It had four floors, on which his managers, cashiers, accountants and clerks worked in luxurious surroundings–areas of polished mahogany and plate glass enclosed within marble walls. Here they kept track of his multifarious transactions, his incursions into the rubber market and the rail market and mining market. For Mr. George Loamer confessed himself good-humouredly as a gambler on the Stock Exchange, and there was such material proof of his prosperity that the word lost much of its disreputable meaning.

He was a very tall man, stout and broad-shouldered. His face was very red and good-humoured, and he smiled most of the time. His thin, sandy hair was brushed back from his high forehead, and he wore invariably a perfectly fitting frock coat; a double-breasted waistcoat, across which looped a heavy gold chain.

He was smiling one morning in late spring when a solitary sumach tree in the paved courtyard beneath his window was putting forth its new green, and his smile had the quality of benevolence. His companion was a small, shabby-looking woman in the early forties, with a lined, sad face and a nervous trick of pinching her bloodless lips. Her faded blue eyes were fixed on Mr Loamer in pathetic appeal.

She sat opposite Mr. Loamer, fiddling with the ivory handle of an umbrella, and she was obviously ill at ease.

“My dear Miss Elvington,” said Mr. George Loamer in his most comforting tone, “nobody knows better than you how much I would give to learn your father was alive. May I suggest, as I have suggested year after year, that I am the last person in the world with whom he is likely to communicate.”

The faded woman stirred uneasily.

“My father was a very wealthy man–” she began.

Mr. Loamer closed his eyes wearily.

“Yes, yes”–his voice was little more than a murmur–“I know–I know! And an eccentric man. I have always thought that Dr Marcus was a very eccentric man. I do not wish to hurt your feelings, but–er–I have thought that possibly his mind was a little… shall we say… affected?”

“He was strange but he wasn’t mad,” she said with spirit. “He drew a hundred thousand pounds from the bank–the proceeds of the sale of his properties–and was never seen again.”

Mr. Loamer nodded. He was very patient. Once in every three months he had to endure such an interview as this: he was almost inured to the experience.

“I never saw him, my dear lady,” he said gently. “When you reported his disappearance I was the first to inform the police. He was a client of mine. I certainly had made a little money for him, but at the time of his disappearance he owed me the best part of four thousand pounds. As I say, I should be the last person in the world he would communicate with. He told me the previous day that he was going abroad; that is all I know.”

He sighed, twiddled his short thumbs and looked appealingly at the ceiling. The little woman rose, gathered up her worn bag and umbrella.

“It is rather hard living in that big house alone.” she said. “The expense is terrible.”

Mr. Loamer did not suggest that she should sell the house. He had offered the suggestion before, and he was anxious to cut short the interview. Presently, he thought, she would tell him that she had a small income inherited from her mother. She always told him that. To his relief she said nothing more except to bid him a timid good-bye. He opened the door for her and watched her disappear into the gilded elevator, and, going back to his desk, sat down to await the arrival of Mr. Nigel Black.

Nigel came swinging across the broad outer office on time; would have started his business then and there but for the fortuitous circumstance that, displaying the mysteries of his sanctum, Mr. Loamer drew back a small panel and revealed a window which gave him an uninterrupted view of the outer office.

“I like to feel that I can, by pressing a button as it were, bring my staff–my more intimate staff–under observation.”

“By Jove!” said Mr. Nigel Black, in wonder.

It was not the mechanism or the ingenuity which surprised him. Looking over the shoulder of the young man, Mr. Loamer frowned, blinked and then smiled. If there was annoyance in the smile, he did not betray himself.

“My ward,” said he, a little grandly.

Nigel Black looked through that small observation window which afforded Mr. Loamer a view of his outer office. “My ward” was standing by the desk of the cashier, and he saw at first only the graceful lines of her and the back of a biscuit-coloured toque, for her face was turned from him. A tiny diamond glittered on the white finger of the hand that rested on the desk, and he wondered, as young men wonder almost mechanically, if she was engaged and to whom. He was never quite sure which was the engagement finger. Fair… he saw the dull gold of her hair over the ears. A very gracious figure. And then she turned her head. The profile was perfect–he guessed the splendour of her eyes. In profile her lips were full and red.

“My ward,” said Mr. Loamer again, and as he spoke the girl turned from the desk and went slowly out of the room.

Nigel scratched his nose thoughtfully.

“What the devil are you doing with a ward?” he demanded, and Mr. Loamer smiled complacently.

“Her mother, a widow, was a dear friend of mine, Mrs Hallaman Jones. Rich? Oh, yes. Hallaman Jones was–um–artistic–but rich. When he died his dear wife put her business in my hands. She was my best friend.”

“Dead?”

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