The Squeaker - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Squeaker ebook

Edgar Wallace

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The Squeaker” is a piece of early crime writing by author Edgar Wallace, first published in 1927. This novel is a traditional mystery, featuring some crooks and some policemen, a mysterious villain, a lovely girl and a plot with many twists. It is the thrilling story of a group of London jewel thieves and the company they keep. The title character is an omnipotent „fence” who has cornered the diamond-smuggling racket. The fence travels in polite society under the guise of a wealthy philanthropist. A Scotland Yard detective pretends to be an ex-convict in order to infiltrate The Squeaker’s gang and to track down the stolen gems. An entertaining tale of mystery and intrigue in London’s underworld, this volume constitutes a must-read for lovers of crime fiction.

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Liczba stron: 275

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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

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER I

IT WAS not a night that normal people would choose for a stroll across Putney Common. A night of wind and sleet and a cold that penetrated through soddened gloves. So dark it was, in spite of the lights set at long intervals along the highway, that Larry Graeme was compelled to use his electric torch whenever he came to a crossroad, or he would have stumbled over the curbing.

He was cosy enough in his long rubber coat and galoshes, though his big umbrella was more of a liability than an asset. Eventually, after a gust of wind that almost turned it inside out, he furled it. A little rain in the face was good for the complexion, he told himself humorously.

He glanced at the illuminated dial of his wrist watch. It wanted now a few minutes of the half-hour, and “The Big Fellow” was invariably punctual. Mean, but punctual.

Larry had dealt with “The Big Fellow” before and had sworn never to repeat the experience. He was a driver of hard bargains, but he had the money and reduced risk to a minimum. This time he must pay full price–there were no ifs or buts about the exact value of the Van Rissik diamonds. The newspapers were full of the robbery; the underwriters had catalogued exactly, in figures beyond dispute, just the amount of money that every piece would fetch in the open market. And because of the very bigness of the deal, Larry had inserted the usual code advertisement:

Lost on Putney Common (in the direction of Wimbledon) at 10:30 on Thursday a small yellow handbag containing five letters of no value to anybody but owner.

The “yellow handbag with five letters” was the notification to “The Big Fellow” that jewellery was an offer. A “brown handbag” meant furs, a “white handbag” announced the fact that the advertiser had banknotes which he wished to dispose of. And the “five letters” indicated that the value of the property on offer ran to five figures.

And it was ten-thirty on Thursday night, and Larry was waiting expectantly on the Richmond road. Borne on the wind came the sound of a church clock striking the half hour.

“Punctual!” murmured the watcher.

Far away along the road, two dim lights appeared, drawing wider apart as they came nearer. Suddenly, the headlamps glowed blindingly, and the man waiting on the curb’s edge was held in the beam.

The car slowed, the long, rain-streaming bonnet came past him and stopped. From the dark interior of the coupe came a voice, a little harsh, more than a little querulous.

“Well?”

“Evening, boss.”

Larry strained his eyes to glimpse the figure inside. He guessed that the timely use of his hand lamp would not only be impolite but useless. “The Big Fellow” would hardly leave his face uncovered. But the hand that rested on the edge of the window was ungloved, and the third finger had a broken nail and a double white scar across the first knuckle–the hand was suddenly snatched away as though its owner were conscious of the scrutiny.

“I gotta deal: good stuff. You’ve seen the papers?”

“The Van Rissik stuff?”

“You’ve said it. Worth thirty-two thousand pounds–hundred an’ sixty thousand dollars. And all of it easy to market. This Rissik woman put her money into stones–none of that fancy French setting that looks pretty and sells for dirt. I reckon five thousand’s the basement price–”

“Twelve hundred,” said the voice definitely, “and I’m paying two hundred more than I intended.”

Larry breathed heavily through his nose.

“I’m a reasonable man–” he began.

“Have you got the stuff here?”

“I have not got the stuff here.” By his very emphasis the man in the car knew that he was lying. “And I’ll never have the stuff here till you talk business. There’s a Jewish gentleman in Maida Vale who’s offered me three thousand and would spring another. But I’d rather deal with you–you’re safer. See what I mean?”

“I’ll spring you to fifteen hundred, and that’s my last word,” said the occupant of the coupe. “I’ve got the money here, and you’ll be a wise man to take it.”

Larry shook his head.

“I’m detaining you,” he said politely.

“You’ll not deal?”

“We’re wasting both our times,” said Larry, and almost before the last word was uttered, the car shot forward, and before he could rightly see the number, its dimming red light was vanishing into the storm.

Larry relit the stub of his cigar and went in search of the small car he had left on the common.

“Shylock turns in his grave to-night,” was the only comment he made aloud.

Less than a week later, Larry Graeme came out of the Fiesole Restaurant in Oxford Street, and none observing him would imagine that he was anything more than what he appeared, a smart man about town approaching middle age, a connoisseur of good food and the creature comforts of life. The gardenia that he wore in the buttonhole of his dress coat seemed to advertise the buoyancy of his soul; and he had every reason to feel good, for Mrs. Van Rissik’s jewels had sold well; and nobody in the wide expanse of London should have been aware of his enterprise, for Larry worked single-handed.

As he stood on the sidewalk, waiting for a taxi, a tall, thick-set man came to his side and took him affectionately by the arm.

“Hullo, Larry!”

The long cone of gray ash on the end of Larry’s cigar dropped for no perceptible reason–it was the only evidence of that quick moment of perturbation.

“Hullo, Inspector!” he said, with a genial smile. “Glad to meet you again!”

He really wasn’t, but it was a moment for polite exchanges. His quick glance round had revealed the presence of three other gentlemen of Inspector Elford’s profession. He accepted his fate philosophically, entered the cab with the three detectives, and smoked and chatted with great calmness till the taxi drove down through the narrow entrance of Scotland Yard and pulled up before Cannon Row police station.

The preliminaries were few. Larry Graeme listened in silence, a slight smile on his dark face, while the charge was read, and then:

“I am living at the Shelton Hotel,” said Mr. Graeme. “You might get me a suit of clothes. I shouldn’t like to come before the beak got up like a head waiter. And, Elford, is there any chance of seeing this Barrabal I hear so much about? They say he’s mustard–and there are one or two people I’d like to make feel sore.”

Elford thought there was little chance of seeing that mysterious police officer, but when he had seen the steel door close on Larry, he went across the roadway and found Chief Inspector Barrabal in his room, a pipe clenched between his teeth, his mind completely occupied with certain documents that had come down from the Record Department.

“I’ve pulled Larry, Mr. Barrabal,” said Elford. “He wants to know if you’d like to go across and have a chat with him. I told him that I didn’t think you’d want to see him, but you know what these fellows are.”

The Chief Inspector leaned back in his chair and frowned.

“Asked for me, did he? I seem to be getting notorious,” he complained, and the other man guffawed.

It was the joke of Scotland Yard that Inspector Barrabal, who had been instrumental in bringing to justice so many surprised men, had never appeared in a witness box and was almost unknown, even to the pressmen who specialized in crime, except as a name. For eight years he had sat in the long room on the third floor amid banks of files, examining, checking, and comparing odd little pieces of evidence that were to bring about the undoing of many clever men. It was he who discovered the system of the Dutchman Goom, bigamist and murderer, yet he and Goom had never met face to face. An agony advertisement in a London newspaper, placed side by side with a paragraph in an obscure German sheet, had sent the brothers Laned to penal servitude for life; and they were the most skilful and cautious of all the blackmailing tribes.

“I’ll see our friend,” he said at last, and went down into the dark cell to interview the disgruntled Larry, a somewhat incongruous figure in his classy clothes and wilting gardenia.

Larry, who had an acquaintance with many policemen, both in England and in America, greeted his visitor with a twisted smile.

“Glad to meet you, Chief,” he said briskly. “You’ve got me with the goods, and I’m giving you no trouble–anyway, there’s enough in my trunk at the Shelton Hotel to convict me ten times over. Overconfidence has always been my weakness.”

Barrabal did not reply, waiting for the inevitable question. Presently it came.

“Who was the squealer, Chief? I only want to get that and I’ll go down with the band playing. I just want to know who was the squealer who squealed!”

Still Barrabal did not speak.

“There are three men it might be”–Larry ticked them off on his fingers–“and I won’t mention names. There’s the man who bought the stuff, and he’s all right. There’s Number Two, who’s got a down on me, but he’s in France. There’s Broken Nail, who offered me fifteen hundred for stuff that’s worth twelve thousand, but he couldn’t have known me.”

“Squeal yourself,” suggested Barrabal. “Who is Broken Nail?”

Larry grinned again.

“Squealing’s a grand exercise for those who like it,” he said. “I’m asking you a silly question–I know it. There never was a ‘busy’ that gave away a squealer.”

He looked expectantly at the police officer, and Barrabal nodded.

“You think one of three receivers has betrayed you,” he said. “Tell me their names, and I give you my word that, if you mention the right man, I’ll say yes to him.”

Larry looked hard at him and shook his head.

“I can’t give away two to catch one, Barrabal,” he said. “Nobody knows that better than you.”

The police officer was stroking his little black moustache thoughtfully.

“I’ve given you a chance,” said Barrabal at last. “Perhaps I’ll see you again in the morning, before they take you to the police court. You’ll be a wise man if you give me the three names in confidence.”

“I’ll sleep on it,” said Larry.

Barrabal went slowly back to his office, and, unlocking his safe, took out a steel box, which he opened. It contained numerous slips of paper on which were typed, in some cases only a few lines, in others quite long messages. They had all been typed on the same machine, and every one was a “squeal.” Somewhere in London was a receiver on the grand scale; a man with his agents in every district, his finger in every illicit pie; and these little strips of paper represented the price that thieves paid who took their loot for sale elsewhere.

He picked up the top sheet: it was the latest of all the squeals.

Larry Graeme took Mrs. Van Rissik’s jewels. He went there on the night of her party disguised as an extra waiter. He fenced the stuff with Moropoulous, the Greek, of Brussels, with the exception of a diamond star, which you will find in his trunk at the Shelton Hotel. Moropoulous would not buy the star because of the pink diamonds, which he thought would be recognized. P.S.–The star is in the false bottom of Larry’s trunk.

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