The Shakespeare Murders - A.G. Macdonell - ebook

The Shakespeare Murders ebook

A. G. Macdonell

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An amusing thriller by A.G. Macdonell, one of six mysteries he wrote under the pseudonym Neil Gordon. Macdonell is best known for the gently satirical novel „England, Their England”, which appeared the same year as „The Shakespeare Murders” and enjoyed a great success, which probably led to his abandoning the mystery genre. In „The Shakespeare Murders”, the treasure was to be found in an English country house, and it was worth one million pounds, but what was the treasure, was it jewels or something else? Various parties were searching; American gangsters among them, and all had to unravel the clues to be found in the works of Shakespeare. Murder followed murder as the ruthless search continued... Macdonell uses his usual skill, well-dosed with ingenious twists, and a fast moving story-line, to keep the reader riveted to the book.

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Liczba stron: 310

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Contents

I. A MILLION POUNDS

II. MURDER AT THE MANOR

III. THE TREASURE

IV. SPARRING FOR POSITION

V. INSPECTOR FLEMING

VI. THE SECOND MURDER

VII. THE SAMPLER CLUE

VIII. LADY CAROLINE

IX. THE MISSING BOOK

X. WARM WORK AT CHISWICK

XI. THE SHAKESPEARE CLUES

XII. THE THIRD MURDER

XIII. BLACKMAIL

XIV. A GAME OF POKER

XV. THE DUKE GETS IN

XVI. KERRIGAN CONTRA MUNDUM

XVII. THE TREASURE

XVIII. A MILLION POUNDS

I. A MILLION POUNDS

One fine spring morning Peter Kerrigan was strolling casually along the Euston Road in the direction of King’s Cross. He saw a small man in a black felt hat coming towards him in a great hurry. The next moment a loiterer, who had been leaning against the rails and staring at the sky, lurched forward and bumped awkwardly into the small man and picked his pocket. Kerrigan, who took an interest in everything connected with his fellow-creatures, could not help admiring the dexterity with which the lounger had extracted the leather wallet and slipped it into his own coat-pocket. The next moment Kerrigan himself bumped awkwardly into the lounger, neatly removed the stolen wallet and, after many profuse apologies, turned round and walked briskly after the little man in the black felt hat.

It was all done on the spur of the moment. There was no particular reason for going out of his way to befriend a total stranger, except that Kerrigan was in a mood of general benevolence towards mankind. It was a lovely morning; he had backed three winners the day before; the state of his exchequer was prosperous owing to an amazing run on the red at a select little club off Grosvenor Square a few weeks earlier; he was wearing a new suit; and there was no pastime he enjoyed so much as stealing from thieves. “It’s not that I do it on high moral grounds,” he used to explain, “but simply because thieves never prosecute.”

So when he saw the unfortunate little man being robbed of his wallet, the temptation to recapture the swag was irresistible.

Whistling as gaily as any butcher’s boy, Kerrigan marched along in the wake of the owner of the swag, and after they had turned a couple of corners he felt that it would be quite safe to examine the contents of the wallet. There was always a chance that it might contain a thousand pounds or the Koh-i-noor diamond; on the other hand, the seedy little man, who was in such a hurry, hardly looked the type that carries riches about with him.

The wallet contained no money, but only a miscellaneous collection of used-up railway tickets, bus tickets, a card of admission to the Reading-Room of the British Museum made out in the name of Harrison Hone, a photograph or two, and a letter dated six weeks earlier. The words “a million pounds” caught Kerrigan’s eye as he was about to put the letter back, and he immediately unfolded it and read it. It ran:

“Dear Harry,–This is written in great haste. A wonderful thing has happened to me, and before long I shall be worth at least a million pounds. You may hear strange things about me in the near future, but do not worry. I shall be all right, and when I have completed the transaction we will both be immensely rich men. And then what times we’ll have. And what books we’ll buy. And what drinks we’ll drink. Give my love to Hilda and my nephews.–Yours affectionately,

John.

“P.S.–”Go, bid the soldiers shoot,’ eh, old chap?”

Kerrigan whistled. “Worth a million pounds,” he murmured. “This is a matter which needs investigating. I wonder why he wants the soldiers to shoot. Never mind, I’ll find that out later.”

He quickened his stride till he overtook the man in front, and then, bowing politely, he remarked, “Your wallet, sir, I think?”

The little man turned round and blinked rapidly at Kerrigan, and then at the wallet, and finally said, with a little stammer:

“Oh, thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed. Yes, it’s mine. I must have dropped it. Thank you.”

“Please don’t mention it,” replied Kerrigan affably, “I hope nothing of value has dropped out of it.”

“There is nothing of value in it, I’m afraid,” replied the other with a frank smile that Kerrigan rather liked. It converted the man’s face in a moment from being nervous, harassed, and middle-aged into an almost schoolboyish simplicity and candour. The next moment the smile vanished from under the brown, straggly moustache, and the careworn expression came back.

“But all the same,” he went on, “I’m very grateful to you for your kindness.” He put the wallet back into his breast pocket, murmuring something about “wondering how on earth he had managed to do such a foolish thing,” and then held out a thin, bony hand. Kerrigan had to think rapidly. Another instant, and it would have been the end of the interview. And he was interested in that million pounds. He glanced at his watch.

“What do you say to celebrating the recovery of your property with a little beer?” he inquired. “It is past half-past eleven; the taverns are open; a little judicious purchase of ale would harm neither of us, I fancy.”

“Not for me, I thank you all the same,” replied the other nervously. “The truth is, that I very rarely indulge in alcohol. Indeed I may say that I am practically a total abstainer.”

“Very well. You drink milk and I’ll support the Trade. Come on.”

The little man hesitated and then said:

“Very well, sir. But it is only fair to tell you that I–er–unfortunately left all my money on the piano–”

“That’s all right,” said Kerrigan, “I’m full up to the ears with cash. Come along. I never ordered milk before in a tavern, but we live and learn. I wonder if they’ll try to throw me out. It will be a novel experience.”

He led his still hesitating companion into an adjacent public-house, and with a mixture of easy courtesy and familiarity accosted the brilliant damsel who presided at the counter.

“A very good morning to you, mademoiselle, and perhaps you would oblige me with a large can of ale and, if you stock such a commodity, a glass of milk. You stock it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well. A glass for my friend here, and,” he lowered his voice, winked, and jerked his head almost imperceptibly towards his companion, “slip a spot of Jamaica into it.”

The damsel was as experienced as she was brilliant, and Kerrigan convoyed his new friend to a table in the corner of the room and set down in front of him a large glass of rum and milk. The practically total abstainer took a large and hasty gulp at the milk and broke into a violent paroxysm of coughing which lasted for almost a minute. The brilliant lady laughed openly, and winked at Kerrigan, who returned the greeting with expert rapidity.

“What curious milk,” the little man succeeded in saying at last, “it tastes all queer and hot.”

“It’s the Pasteur treatment,” replied Kerrigan. “They use it in all public-houses nowadays.”

“I had no idea of that,” said the other doubtfully. “I used to study Pasteurisation a good deal in the old days–”

“Oh, it’s all changed since then,” interrupted Kerrigan hastily. “This is the very latest thing.”

“It certainly has an attractive taste. But I think it requires to be sipped rather than taken in draughts.”

“That’s right. Stick to sips and you can’t go wrong. And now to business, Mr. Hone.”

“But–but–what business? And how do you know my name?” The little man looked round wildly. Possibly vague recollections of having read stories about people being decoyed into public-houses by strangers and then robbed and even murdered, flashed through his mind.

Kerrigan lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Have you heard from John?”

Mr. Hone started so abruptly that some of his Pasteurised milk was upset on the table.

“No,” he replied, “I wish to God I had.” Then he made a pathetic effort to pull himself together, and went on. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. And–er–if you don’t mind, I think I’d better be moving on now. I’m in rather a hurry.”

Peter Kerrigan assumed an air of portentous seriousness and said, “I’m on your side.”

The little man gazed at him forlornly.

“Do you mean–” he began, and then stopped.

“Yes,” replied Kerrigan, “I mean all that and a bit more. I know a good deal more about John than you think.”

“Then do you know where he is now?” wailed Mr. Hone. “He’s been away for six weeks, and I’m getting so anxious about him.”

“Six weeks! Is it as long as that? I shouldn’t have thought it was more than four.”

“It was six weeks yesterday.”

“And not a word from him?”

“Not a word. Not a line. Not even a telegram.”

Kerrigan whistled.

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