The Valley of Ghosts - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Valley of Ghosts ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Opis

A murder is committed among the rich of a small town, and with more than one ghost and all the evidence seems to point to a beautiful young woman... „The Valley of Ghosts”, written as one of four detective novels in 1922, is set in the seemingly peaceful community Beverly Green, a place where upper-middle-class families live a secluded life. Why was Stella Nelson with the victim in the middle of the night, shortly before the murder? Who was the mysterious blackmailer who held all England in their grasp? Why didn’t the famous detective, Andy MacLeod, do his duty? A chill-packed mystery from the master of suspense. This is what Edgar Wallace is all about, a complex, old fashioned mystery, with a highly unlikely solution.

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Liczba stron: 346

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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 I

Fate and an easy-running Spanz brought Andrew Macleod to the environs of Beverley. The town itself was at the end of a reluctant branch line, and had no visible excuse for existence, or means of support. Yet, for some extraordinary reason, the people of Beverley did not starve and the queer little shops that formed its one, broad, shaded street had the appearance of prosperity. This it could not have drawn from its aristocratic suburb, for Beverley Green had its supplies from the great department stores elsewhere, and came only to the town for such stocks as had been overlooked in the ordering.

Andy brought his long-bonneted car to a rest before the post office and got down. In five minutes he was chatting to headquarters, and the subject of his conversation was Allison John Wicker, alias Four-Eyed Scottie, from his practice of wearing spectacles. Scottie was one of the few men of his profession who enjoyed walking. When the manager of the Regent Diamond Syndicate came to his office one morning and found that somebody had saved him the bother of opening the large fire- and thief-resisting safe by means of an acetylene blower, it was as clearly Scottie’s work as though he had left his receipt for the seven parcels of stones he had taken. Railway stations and ports of embarkation were instantly picketed by extra police, hotels were visited, and all constabularies warned.

Andy Macleod, spending his holiday with a fishing-rod and an accumulation of books which he had not time to read during the year, was dragged away from his recreation to organise the search.

He had started life as Dr Macleod, an assistant pathologist at headquarters, and had drifted into the profession of thief-catcher without exactly knowing how. Officially he was still a pathologist, a man to be called to the witness stand to testify the manner of deceased’s death; unofficially, though they called him ‘sir’, he was ‘Andy’ to the youngest policeman that walked a beat.

“He passed through Panton Mills three days ago on a walking tour. I’m pretty certain it was Scottie,” he said. “I’m quartering the country between here and Three Lakes. The local police swear that he hasn’t been near Beverley, which means that he must have been living under their noses. They are a bright lot; asked me if he had done anything wrong, and they have had full particulars of the theft and a description of Scottie for a week.”

A girl walked into the post office at this moment. Glancing sideways through the glass panel of the telephone booth, Andy noted her admiringly. Attractive–pretty–beautiful? To all men, all women look their best in tailored costumes of severe cut. She was tall for a woman; slim, but not thin.

“Yes, I think so,” he answered his chief mechanically, his eyes on the girl.

She raised her hand, and he saw a ring on the engagement finger; a gold ring with little emeralds, or they may have been sapphires–no, they were emeralds. He caught the sea-green of them.

He had opened the door of the booth an inch after the more secret portion of his report had been made, and with one free ear he caught the murmur of her voice.

More than pretty, he decided, and admired the profile turned towards him.

And then a curious thing happened. She must have looked at him when his eyes were turned. Possibly she asked who he was; more likely the garrulous old postmaster, to whom Andy had shown his card to facilitate his call, volunteered the information. Andy heard the word ‘detective’. From where he stood he had a clear view of her face.

“Detective!” she no more than whispered the word, but he heard–and saw. Her hands gripped the edge of the counter and the colour went out other face, leaving it a deathly white. Even the lips changed their hue queerly.

So intent, so startled was he, that he took the receiver from his ear, and at that moment she turned and met his gaze. Fear, panic, horror were in those eyes. He had a sense of something trapped and tortured as he stared at her, open-mouthed. Her eyes left his, and she fumbled at the money on the counter, the change the old man had put there, her hands shaking so that at last she scooped the coins into her palm and went out of the office hurriedly.

Unconscious of the fact that at the other end of the wire a puzzled police official was tapping the receiver urgently, having his own views to express, Andy hung up and passed into the shop.

“Who was that lady?” he asked as he paid the telephone charge.

“That, sir? Why, that’s Miss Nelson, from the Green–Beverley Green, over by the hills. Wonderful place; you ought to see it. Lot of rich people live there. Mr Boyd Salter, you’ve heard of him? And Mr Merrivan, he’s a rich man, too, though he’s a bit mean, and oh, a lot of swell people. It’s a sort of a–what do you call it? A garden city, that’s what it is. Some of the biggest houses in the country. Mr Nelson’s family lived there for years, long before there was any garden city. Remember his grandfather; a fine old fellow he was.”

The postmaster was prepared to offer detailed biographies of the favoured folk who lived at Beverley Green, and Andy was anxious to catch another glimpse of the girl, and cut short the explanation.

He saw her walking quickly down the middle of the road, and guessed that she was on her way to the railway station.

He was puzzled and irritated. How might he explain her agitation? What had she to fear from detectives? What folly, big or small, had been responsible for the cold terror that had come to her eyes?

It was a waste of time to consider the cause. The folk of these little towns, picturesque, aloof from the world, where the stream of life seemed so idyllic and unruffled by the great passion storms which lash the surfaces of the cities, must inevitably experience crises no less tragic than these which disturb the people of the greater world. But–

The word ‘detective’, implying, as it would, the secret investigations of the law, holds no discomfort for normal, law-abiding people.

“Humph!” said Andy, and rubbed his smooth chin. “This won’t catch Scottie!”

He drove the car out of the village, intending to push forward to the main road and begin his quartering of the network of secondary feeders which lie to the south from a point twenty miles away.

Slowing to take a sharp bend, a mile or more from Beverley, he saw an opening in the hedge to the right. There was a broad, gravelled boulevard flanked by trees; the paths, bordered by well-trimmed turf, curved out of view. An artistic signpost said “Private Road to Beverley Green”.

His speed had carried him beyond the opening, and he backed, looked thoughtfully at the sign, then turned into the drive. It was hardly likely that Scottie would pass into what was probably a dead end. On the other hand, Scottie was a versatile genius and a great opportunist. And Beverley Green was a rich community. So Andy told himself by way of excuse, though in his heart he knew that his curiosity had its causation in a new interest. He wanted to see the house in which she lived. What kind of style did Miss Nelson keep up?

The drive twisted and turned and at last took a sharper turn than usual, and Beverley Green, in all its summery beauty, came suddenly into view. Andy reduced speed to a walking pace. Before him was a broad space. It was almost flat, and was fringed with an unbroken border of flowering shrubs. Within a dozen yards from the drive was a tee, an indication of a golf course which probably extended along the valley. Set about the green, half revealed through the trees which surrounded them, were a dozen houses. A glimpse of a gable, a flash of a white-sashed window, a hint of timbering, the upstanding lift of a twisted Elizabethan chimney, indicated the type of architecture.

Andy looked around for somebody to question. The road bent sharply left and right from where he sat, and at the corner was a quaintly shingled building which suggested a club. He guessed it was a notice-board attached to the gatepost, and was getting out of the car to investigate further when a man came into view around the corner on which the building was situated.

“Prosperous city merchant–retired,” said Andy mentally. “Black alpaca coat, broad-toed shoes, stiff collar, and a double watch-guard. Probably pompous, and wondering what the devil I mean by trespassing in these Elysian fields.”

Certainly the newcomer eyed the intruder gravely, though it would be an exaggeration to say that he looked in any way resentful.

His age might have been anything between forty-five and sixty. The big, smooth face was unlined, and his gait was alert to the point of briskness. A big man, he supported his stoutness so well that Andy did not notice that he was inclined to fat until some time later.

The greeting he offered dispelled any doubt of welcome that the visitor may have harboured.

“Good morning, sir,” he said. “You seem to be looking for somebody. The Green is a difficult locality for strangers; our houses have no names or numbers.”

He laughed sedately.

“I am not looking for anybody in particular,” said Andy, giving smile for smile. “I was led here by curiosity. It is a beautiful spot. I heard about it at Beverley.”

The other inclined his head.

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