When the Gangs Came to London - Edgar Wallace - ebook

When the Gangs Came to London ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Set in the late 1920s-early 1930s, „When the Gangs Came to London” is rated as one of Edgar Wallace’s best work by fans of his genre of crime fiction. Two rival gangs from Chicago coming to London and competing to blackmail rich men into paying up to prevent being killed. When a lull ensues, Captain Jiggs Allermain of the Chicago Detective Bureau suspects the rival gangs of forming an uneasy alliance. Suddenly a shot rings through the House of Commons, unleashing an outburst of terror even more bloody. Wallace wrote this one towards the end of his life, he may even have been in Hollywood when he wrote it which could explain the very old school Hollywood gangsters!

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Liczba stron: 319

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Contents

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 1

All this began on the day in 1929 when ‘Kerky’ Smith met his backer in the Beach View Cafe and put up a proposition. This was at the time when Big Bill was lording it in Chicago, and everything was wide open and the safe- deposit boxes were bursting with grands. But to cut into the history of these remarkable happenings the historian would probably choose the adventures of a lady in search of a job.

The girl who walked up the two steps of 147 Berkeley Square and rang the bell with such assurance and decision was difficult to place. She was straight of back, so well proportioned that one did not notice how much taller she was than the average. She was at that stage of development when, if you looked to find a woman, you discovered a child or, if prepared for a child, found a woman.

You saw and admired her shape, yet were conscious of no part of it: there was a harmony here not usually found in the attractive. Her feet were small, her hands delicately made, her head finely poised. Her face had an arresting quality which was not beauty in its hackneyed sense. Grey eyes, rather tired- looking; red mouth, larger than perfect. Behind the eyes, a hint of a mind outside the ordinary.

The door opened and a footman looked at her inquiringly, yet his manner was faintly deferential, for she might just as easily have been a duchess as one of the many girls who had called that day in answer to Mr. Decadon’s advertisement.

‘Is it about the position, miss?’ he dared to ask.

‘About the advertisement, yes.’

The footman looked dubious. ‘There have been a lot of young ladies here today.’

‘The situation is filled, then?’

‘Oh no, miss,’ he said hastily. It was a dreadful thought that he should take such a responsibility. ‘Will you come in?’

She was ushered into a large, cold room, rather like the waiting-room of a Harley Street doctor. The footman came back after five minutes and opened the door.

‘Will you come this way, miss?’

She was shown into a library which was something more than an honorary title for a smoke-room, for the walls were lined with books, and one table was completely covered by new volumes still in their dust jackets. The gaunt old man behind the big writing-table looked up over his glasses.

‘Sit down,’ he said. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Leslie Ranger.’

‘The daughter of a retired Indian colonel or something equally aristocratic?’ He snapped the inquiry.

‘The daughter of a clerk who worked himself to death to support his wife and child decently,’ she answered, and saw a gleam in the old man’s eye.

‘You left your last employment because the hours were too long?’ He scowled at her.

‘I left my last employment because the manager made love to me, and he was the last man in the world I wanted to be made love to by.’

‘Splendid,’ he said sarcastically. ‘You write shorthand at an incredible speed, and your typing has been approved by Chambers of Commerce. There’s a typewriter.’ He pointed a skinny forefinger. ‘Sit down there and type at my dictation. You’ll find paper on the table. You needn’t be frightened of me.’

‘I’m not frightened of you.’

‘And you needn’t be nervous,’ he boomed angrily.

‘I’m not even nervous,’ she smiled.

She fitted the paper into the machine, turned the platen and waited. He began to dictate with extraordinary rapidity, and the keys rattled under her fingers.

‘You’re going too fast for me,’ she said at last.

‘Of course I am. All right; come back here.’ He pointed dictatorially to the chair on the other side of the desk, ‘What salary do you require?’

‘Five pounds a week,’ she said.

‘I’ve never paid anybody more than three: I’ll pay you four,’

She got up and gathered her bag. ‘I’m sorry–’

‘Four ten,’ he said. ‘All right, five. How many modern languages do you speak?’

‘I speak French and I can read German she said, ‘but I’m not a linguist.’

He pouted his long lips, and looked even more repulsive than ever.

‘Five pounds is a lot of money,’ he said.

‘French and German are a lot of languages,’ said Leslie.

‘Is there anything you want to know?’ She shook her head. ‘Nothing about the conditions of service?’

‘No. I take it that I’m not resident?’

‘You don’t want to know what the hours are–no? You disappoint me. If you had asked me what the hours were I should have told you to go to the devil! As it is, you’re engaged. Here’s your office.’

He got up, walked to the end of the big room and opened a recessed door. There was a small apartment here, very comfortably furnished, with a large walnut writing-desk and, by its side, a typing desk. In the angle of two walls was a big safe.

‘You’ll start tomorrow morning at ten. Your job is not to allow any person to get through to me on the telephone, not to bother me with silly questions, to post letters promptly, and to tell my nephew none of my business.’

He waved his hand to the door.

She went, walking on air, had turned the handle and was half-way into the hall when he shouted for her to come back. ‘Have you got a young man–engaged, or anything?’

She shook her head. ‘Is it necessary?’

‘Most unnecessary,’ he said emphatically.

In this way Fate brought Leslie Ranger into a circle which was to have vast influence on her own life, bring her to the very verge of hideous death, and satisfy all the unformed desires of her heart.

The next morning she was to meet Edwin Tanner, the nephew against whom Mr. Decadon had warned her. He was a singularly inoffensive, indeed very pleasant person. He was thirty-five, with a broad forehead, pleasant, clean- shaven face and very easily smiling eyes that were usually hidden by his glasses.

He came into her room with a broad beam soon after her arrival.

‘I’ve got to introduce myself, Miss Ranger. I’m Mr. Decadon’s nephew.’

She was a little surprised that he spoke with an American accent, and apparently he was prepared for this.

‘I’m an American. My mother was Mr. Decadon’s sister. I suppose he’s warned you not to give me any information about his affairs? He always does that, but as there’s no information which isn’t everybody’s property, you needn’t take that very seriously. I don’t suppose you’ll want me, but if you do my house phone number is six. I have a little suite on the top floor, and it will be part of your duty to collect every Saturday morning the rent my uncle charges for the use of his beautiful home–he’s no philanthropist, but there’s a lot about him that’s very likeable.’

So Leslie was to discover in the course of the next few months.

Decadon very rarely mentioned his nephew. Only once had she seen them together. She often wondered why Tanner lived in the house at all. He was obviously a man with some private income of his own, and could have afforded a suite in a good London hotel.

Decadon expressed the wonder himself, but his innate frugality prevented his getting rid of a man for whom he had no very deep affection. He was suspicious of Edwin Tanner, who apparently visited England once every year and invariably lived with his uncle.

‘Only relation I’ve got in the world,’ growled old Decadon one day. ‘If he had any sense he’d keep away from me!’

‘He seems very inoffensive,’ said the girl.

‘How can he be inoffensive when he offends me?’ snapped the old man.

He liked her, had liked her from the first. Edwin Tanner neither liked nor disliked her: he gave her the impression of a picture painted by a man who had no imagination. His personality did not live. He was invariably pleasant, but there was something about him that she could not reduce to a formula. Old Decadon once referred to him as a gambler, but explained the term at no length. It was strange that he should employ that term, for he himself was a gambler, had built his fortune on speculations which had, when they were made, the appearance of being hazardous.

It was a strange household, unreal, a little inhuman. Leslie never ceased to be thankful that she lived away from the house, and in comfort, as it happened, for most unexpectedly Mr. Decadon doubled her salary the second week of her service. She had some odd experiences. Decadon had a trick of losing things–valuable books, important leases. And when he lost things he sent for the police; and invariably before the police arrived they were found. This alarming eccentricity of his was unknown to the girl. The first time it happened she was genuinely terrified. A rare manuscript was missing. It was worth £2,000. Mr. Decadon rang up Scotland Yard while the girl searched frantically. There arrived a very young and good-looking chief inspector whose name was Terry Weston–the manuscript was found in the big safe in Leslie’s room before he arrived.

‘Really, Mr. Decadon,’ said Terry gently, ‘this little habit of yours is costing the public quite a lot of money.’

‘What are the police for?’ demanded the old man.

‘Not,’ said Terry, ‘to run around looking for things you’ve left in your other suit.’

Decadon snorted and went up to his room, where he sulked for the rest of the day. ‘You’re new to this, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, Mr…’

‘Chief Inspector Weston–Terry Weston, I won’t ask you to call me Terry.’

She did not smile readily, but she smiled now. There was an air of gaiety about him which she had never associated with the police.

For his part he found a quality in her which was very rare in women. If she had told him that she was Mr. Decadon’s granddaughter he would not have been surprised. Curiously enough, her undoubted loveliness did not strike him at first. It was later that this haunting characteristic brought him unease.

He met her again. She lunched at a restaurant off Bond Street, He came there one day and sat with her. It was not an accidental meeting as far as he was concerned. No accident was more laboriously designed. Once he met her when she was on her way home. But he never asked her to go out with him, or gave her the impression that he wished to know more of her. If he had, he might not have seen her at all, and he knew this.

‘Why do you work for that old grump?’ he asked her once.

‘He’s not really a grump,’ she defended her employer a little half- heartedly–it was the end of a trying day.

‘Is Eddie Tanner a grump?’

She shot a swift look at him. ‘You mustn’t cross-examine me.’

‘Was I? I’m sorry. You get that way in my job. I’m not really interested.’ Nor was he–then.

Leslie had little to do: a few letters to write, a few books to read and references to examine. The old man was a great lover of books and spent most of his time reading.

The second unusual incident that occurred in that household took place when she had been there about four months. She had been out to register some letters, and was going up the steps to the house, when a man she had noticed as she passed called her. He was a little man with a large, grotesque bowler hat. His collar was turned up to his chin–it was raining, so there was an excuse for that–and when he spoke it was with a distinctly American accent.

‘Say, missie, will you give this to Ed?’

He jerked a letter out of his pocket.

‘To Mr. Tanner?’

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