The Spy Paramount - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Spy Paramount ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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A wonderful old fashioned spy story set in the 1930’s. Like other Oppenheim romances of diplomacy, intrigue and espionage, this latest one poses a critical situation in the relationships of European powers which threatens the immediate out-break of war. „The Spy Paramount” takes us to Rome, 1934. American Martin Fawley, a former secret service agent, is recruited as a spy by General Berati, the most feared man in fascist Italy. Suave and worldly, Fawley is quite at home in the casinos and golf courses of Monte Carlo – but he is soon entangled in a game with higher stakes. As the nations of Europe vie for power, Fawley discovers the secret weapon that will determine the outcome of the looming war. There are beautiful women, balls, attempted assassinations, fantastically destructive weapons, and lots of other skullduggery.

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Liczba stron: 305

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

EPILOGUE

CHAPTER I

Martin Fawley glanced irritably at the man stretched flat in the chair he coveted–the man whose cheeks were partly concealed by lather and whose mass of dark hair was wildly disarranged. One of his hands–delicate white hands they were, although the fingers were long and forceful–reposed in a silver bowl of hot water. The other one was being treated by the manicurist seated on a stool by his side, the young woman whose services Fawley also coveted. He had entered the establishment a little abruptly and he stood with his watch in his hand. Even Fawley’s friends did not claim for him that he was a good-tempered person.

“Monsieur is ten minutes en retard,” the coiffeur announced with a reproachful gesture.

“Nearly a quarter of an hour,” the manicurist echoed with a sigh.

The newcomer replaced his watch. The two statements were incontrovertible. Nevertheless, the ill-humour which he felt was eloquently reflected in his face. The man in the chair looked at him expressionless, indifferent. The inconvenience of a stranger meant nothing to him.

“If Monsieur will seat himself,” Henri, the coiffeur, suggested, “this will not be a long affair.”

Fawley glanced once more at his watch. He really had nothing whatever to do at the moment but he possessed all the impatience of the man of energy at being asked to wait at any time. While he seemed to be considering the situation, the man in the chair spoke. His French was good enough but it was not the French of a native.

“It would be a pity,” he said, “that Monsieur should be misled. I require ensuite a face massage and I am not satisfied with the hand which Mademoiselle thinks she has finished. Furthermore, there is the trimming of my eyebrows–a delicate task which needs great care.”

Martin Fawley stared at the speaker rudely.

“So you mean to spend the morning here,” he observed.

The man in the chair glanced at Fawley nonchalantly and remained silent. Fawley turned his back upon him, upon Henri and Mathilde, the white-painted furniture, the glittering mirrors, and walked out into the street.... He did not see again this man to whom he had taken so unreasonable a dislike until he was ushered with much ceremony, a few days later, into his very magnificent official apartment in the Plaza Margaretta at Rome.

CHAPTER II

General Berati looked at his visitor, as he motioned to a chair, with very much the same stony indifference with which he had regarded him in the barber’s shop at Nice. Their eyes met and they exchanged one long, calculating glance. Fawley felt the spell of the man from that moment. Often afterwards he wondered why he had not felt it, even when he had seen him with his face half covered with lather and his fingers plunged into the silver bowl.

“You have come direct from Paris?” Berati asked.

“Those were my instructions. I was at your Embassy on Thursday afternoon. I caught the Rome express at seven o’clock.”

“You have an earnest sponsor in Paris?”

“Carlo Antonelli. I have worked with him.”

“So I understand. Why are you not working for your own country?”

“There are half a dozen more of us Americans to whom you might address that question,” Fawley explained. “The department to which I belong has been completely disbanded. M.I.B.C. exists no longer.”

“You mean,” Berati asked, with a keen glance from under his bushy black eyebrows, “that your country has no longer a Secret Service?”

“It amounts to that,” Fawley admitted. “Our present-day politicians believe that all information acquired through Secret Service work is untrustworthy and dangerous. They have adopted new methods.”

“So you are willing to work for another country?”

“Provided,” Fawley stipulated, “I am assured that the work does not conflict directly with American or British interests.”

“The Americans,” Berati observed quietly, “are the only people who have no idea what their real interests are.”

“In what respect?”

The Italian shrugged his shoulders very slightly.

“America,” he said, “needs the information which Secret Service agents could afford them as much or more than any nation in the world. However, you need have no fear nor need you think that you are the only foreigner who is working for us. You will probably become acquainted before your work is over with a German, a Monegasque and a Dane. I am not a believer in using one’s own country-people exclusively.”

“You strip our profession of its honourable side,” Fawley remarked drily. “That does not refer to myself. I am admittedly a free lance. I must have work of an adventurous type, and since my country cannot offer it to me, I must seek for it in any decent way.”

“Patriotism,” Berati sneered, “has been the excuse far many a career of deceit.”

“It has also been its justification,” Fawley ventured.

Berati’s expression did not change an iota, yet somehow his visitor was made to feel that he was not accustomed to argument.

“The present work is worth while for its own sake,” he announced. “It is so dangerous that you might easily lose your life within a fortnight. That is why I shall give you your work chapter by chapter. To-day I propose only to hand you your credentials–which, by the by, will mean sudden death to you if ever they are found by the wrong people upon your person–and explain the commencement of your task.”

Berati touched a concealed bell embedded in the top of his desk. Almost immediately, through a door which Fawley had not previously noticed, a young man entered, noiseless and swift in his movements and of intriguing personality. His head was shaven like the head of a monk, his complexion was almost ivory white, unrelieved by the slightest tinge of colour. His fingers were bony. His frame was thin. The few words he addressed to his Chief were spoken in so low a tone that, although Fawley’s hearing was good and Italian the same to him as most other languages, he heard nothing. To his surprise, Berati introduced the newcomer.

“This is my secretary, Prince Patoni,” he said. “Major Fawley.”

The young man bowed and held out his hand. Fawley found it, as he had expected, as cold as ice.

“Major Fawley’s work was well known to us years ago,” he remarked a little grimly. “As a confrère he will be welcome.”

Almost immediately, in obedience to a gesture from Berati, he departed leaving behind him a sense of unreality, as though he were some phantom flitting across the stage of life rather than a real human being. But then indeed, on that first day, Berati himself seemed unreal to his visitor. The former tore open one of the packages the secretary had brought and tossed its contents across the table.

“Open that,” he directed.

Fawley obeyed. Inside was a plain platinum and gold cigarette case with six cigarettes on either side, neatly kept in place by a platinum clasp.

“Well?” Berati demanded.

“Is that a challenge?” Fawley asked.

“You may accept it as such.”

Fawley held the case with its diagonal corners between two fingers and ran the forefinger of his other hand back and forth over the hinges. Almost instantaneously a third division of the case disclosed itself. Berati’s expression remained unchanged but his eyebrows were slowly and slightly elevated.

“There are three of you alive then,” he remarked coolly. “I thought that there were now only two.”

“You happen to be right,” his visitor told him. “Joseffi died very suddenly.”

“When?”

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