The Table - Edgar Wallace, Robert Curtis - ebook

The Table ebook

Edgar Wallace, Robert Curtis

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Here is Edgar Wallace’s famous stage-play as told by Robert Curtis in story form with all the dramatic excitement and suspense that thrilled theatre-goers. Robert Curtis was the private secretary to British crime writer Edgar Wallace. Curtis and Wallace met for the first time in 1913, before parting following the outbreak of World War One, as Curtis had to do his military service. In 1918 he was reunited with Wallace who employed him as his secretary, he had the task of copying out Wallace’s dictations, this task he accomplished at such a speed that he was known as the fastest secretary in England. After Wallace’s death, he completed some of Wallace’s unfinished manuscripts and turned several plays and film scripts into novels in the style of Wallace as well as writing several original novels.

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Liczba stron: 389

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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 I

THREE times within three minutes Dinkie Lane looked at his watch. The watch was characteristic of Dinkie Lane. It was small, jewelled, fastened to his wrist by a thin gold bracelet, and was just a little too ornate and too delicate not to look out of place on a man’s wrist.

In the same way, everything about Dinkie Lane just missed being right. His trousers were a shade too full and too beautifully creased. The shoulders of his coat were a trifle too square, and the waist just a little too emphasised. The diamonds in his gold ring and tie-pin were too large, and the hair in front of his ears was trained to grow just a little too far down his cheekbones. He had small, delicate hands, rather too well manicured, and there was something effeminate about his thin, sallow face beneath his black hair, which was brushed straight back from his forehead and dressed with rather too much brilliantine.

Dinkie might have been taken for anything except the one thing for which he wished to be taken. No one in the lounge of the Grand Hotel, Dinneford, where Dinkie Lane was seated at a table, nervously fingering a glass of whisky and soda, could possibly have mistaken him for a gentleman.

Lorna Sherwood, who lounged in a chair beside him, might also have been taken for almost anything, and in her twenty-four years of life had been a good many things: shop assistant, mannequin, artist’s model, dancing partner. At the present moment, as she sat smoking a cigarette and watching Dinkie Lane, with the hint of a smile on her lips, she might have passed equally well as a member of any one of these professions. As in the case of Dinkie, everything about Lorna gave the impression of being just a little overdone. Her hair was too perfectly golden for anyone–at least for any woman–not to suspect peroxide. Her lips had been treated just a shade too lavishly with lipstick that was a little too vivid, and the red varnish on her long, pointed nails was slightly too bright.

None the less, Lorna Sherwood was a beautiful woman, with a face and figure at which most men looked at least twice.

She took her cigarette from between her lips, and her smile, as she gazed at Dinkie Lane, suggested an amused tolerance.

“What’s biting you, Dinkie?”

The young man, who had been staring at his glass, glanced up at her and shrugged.

“Nothing’s wrong with me, Lorna. Why?”

“You don’t seem able to keep your eyes off your watch, that’s all. You’re getting nervous, Dinkie, that’s your trouble. Perhaps it’s the district.”

Dinkie Lane frowned.

“I don’t get you, Lorna. What’s the district got to do with it? It’s all this hanging about–waiting. Why the devil can’t we get a move on?”

Lorna glanced at her watch.

“Twelve o’clock was the time arranged, Dinkie,” she said, “and that doesn’t mean five minutes to twelve or five minutes past. You can’t expect me to alter my programme just because you’re getting jumpy. The truth is, my lad, you’re not cut out for this game. You’re too sensitive and highly strung, and there’s no knowing when your nerves may get the better of you. Unreliable, Dinkie, that’s what you are. And this part of the country seems to make you ten times worse than you usually are.”

Dinkie emptied his glass and set it down on the table.

“You said that before, Lorna, and I don’t get you.”

“Princetown,” smiled Lorna–“Dartmoor. It’s only ten miles from here, and I’ve an idea you don’t like getting even as close as this.”

Dinkie lighted a cigarette.

“Dartmoor means nothing in my young life,” he said.

“No? Well, it may mean a good deal before your life’s much older. I wouldn’t forget it if I were you. Whenever you think of Dartmoor, just remember Mickey Stone. Remember, he may be in Dartmoor now, but he won’t be there always; and when he comes out, I’ll be sorry for anyone who’s tried to double-cross him.”

“Who’s tried to double-cross him? Not me!”

“No? Listen, Dinkie; I’m giving you a straight tip. Last night, someone tried the door of my room. If it happens again, Mickey’s going to hear of it. Don’t get wrong ideas about things, that’s all. Mickey’s the only man who matters in my young life, and I’m not accepting any substitute. Get that clear.”

Dinkie Lane grinned.

“Oh, come off it, Lorna. That sort of talk cuts no ice. When a fellow and a girl run around together the same as we’ve been running around–”

Lorna suddenly leaned towards him. Her eyes had lost their look of amused tolerance.

“Get things straight, Dinkie, once and for all. I’ve let you run around with me because it suited me, because I could make use of you, because I had to have a partner of some sort–you can’t get far in this racket without a partner. You’ve done your job and you’ve been paid for it in hard cash, but if you think there’s any more to it than that, the sooner you get rid of the idea the better.”

“Oh, all right,” said Lane sullenly. “There’s no need to work yourself up about it.”

He glanced at his watch again. Lorna leaned back in her chair with a smile.

“There’s still ten minutes to go, Dinkie, so you’d better use them to get a grip on yourself. I don’t want any mistake this time.”

“Mistake?”

“I don’t want any shooting–see? Shooting isn’t safe in this country. That last affair at the filling station might have landed us both in a nasty jam, just because you lost your head and fired. If you’d kept cool and done as I told you we’d have got clean away with no fuss.”

Dinkie made no reply. He tipped some whisky into his glass and was just raising it to his lips when Lorna took it from his hand and emptied the contents into her own glass.

“That sort of thing won’t help you. You’re having no more until the job’s finished.”

The man flushed angrily and his fist clenched. Then, with a shrug, he lolled back in his chair and lapsed into silence. For five minutes neither spoke. Then suddenly Dinkie sprang to his feet.

“For God’s sake, Lorna, let’s get the job done!” he exclaimed. “I’m not like you–you’ve got no nerves–and this waiting gets me down. Let’s go and get it finished!”

The girl consulted her watch.

“It’s five minutes to twelve,” she announced calmly, “so perhaps we’d better be moving.”

Outside the door of the Grand Hotel a long, low two-seater coupe stood by the curb. Lorna got into it, seating herself at the wheel. Dinkie Lane got in beside her and a moment later it glided off.

Lorna drove slowly along the High Street. Halfway along it, as they passed a building on the other side of the road, with windows which bore the lettering: “Devon and District Bank,” Lorna gave it a prolonged stare.

“It looks dead easy, Dinkie,” she said. “There are no cars outside and not much traffic in the street. But remember–no shooting. We’ve just got to walk in, show a gun, take what we want and walk quietly out, and we’ll be well away before anyone gets wind of what’s happening.”

Lane, sitting with his hands clasped together, staring through the windscreen, nodded.

“All right, Lorna. I understand,” he said irritably. “I’m not going to let you down.”

“You won’t mean to, but I’m not so sure you won’t do it,” replied the girl. “I fancy we’d be safer if I took away your gun. But I suppose I must risk it. We’ll take the next side street and come back into the main road on the same side as the bank.”

She swung the car round the corner. A few moments later it reappeared in the High Street, travelling in the opposite direction. Outside the Devon and District Bank it pulled up.

Lorna consulted her watch again.

“It’s just on twelve,” she said. “But we won’t be in a hurry.”

“Hang it, Lorna, two or three minutes can’t make any difference–”

“Two or three minutes can make all the difference,” interrupted Lorna. “This isn’t my first job, Dinkie, and I know what I’m doing. The bank messenger goes to lunch at twelve o’clock and I’m waiting until he’s out of the way. He’s got a desk near the entrance, and I’d rather know that desk’s empty. Keep an eye on the door and tell me when he leaves.”

For two or three minutes Lane sat, twisted round in his seat, his gaze fixed on the door of the bank. Then, as the door swung open and the messenger came out and went off along the street, he turned to the girl.

“He’s gone.”

She nodded.

“Then push off and do your job.”

Dinkie got out, hesitated a moment, and then turned to put his head through the window of the car.

“Leave the engine running, Lorna.”

She smiled.

“You think of everything, don’t you, Dinkie? As a matter of fact, I meant to stop the engine and lose the ignition key. Get busy–and if you let off that gun of yours I’ll let off mine in your direction.” Dinkie turned away, crossed the pavement, and, pushing open the swing door of the bank, went inside. A few moments later Lorna got out of the car, took a swift glance up and down the street, and then, at a leisurely pace, followed him into the bank.

The Dinneford branch of the Devon and District Bank was not a very large one. Its counter accommodated three cashiers behind the brass grille. At the end of the counter, farthest from the door, was a small office partitioned off with frosted glass, which housed the manager. Close to the door was a small, high desk, with a stool behind it, at which the messenger sat.

As Lorna entered she saw that the two cashiers farthest from the door were engaged with customers, and that Dinkie was standing at the counter beside the first cashier, who was absorbed in counting a thick wad of notes.

Moving slowly forward, she paused about three yards from where Dinkie was standing, her back towards the frosted window that faced the street, the door on her left and Lane on her right.

The man glanced round, saw her standing there, slipped his right hand inside his coat and rested his left arm on the counter, so that his back was towards the customers who were farther along it.

“Say, you!”

The cashier looked up with an expression of surprise on his face. Cashiers of the Devon and District Bank were not accustomed to being addressed in that way, and he gave Dinkie a look which clearly conveyed is disapproval.

“I beg your pardon?” he said politely.

“There’s no harm in doing that,” said Lane quietly. “And now just do as I tell you.”

The cashier raised his eyebrows.

“I beg your pardon?” he repeated.

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